Elizabeth A.S. Brooke

Crafting, traveling and everything in between.

Quick update

Hi! Just a quick update. The last couple of weeks have been keeping me on my toes. Most of last week was spent painting rooms in the new house. All that is left is some cleaning of the floors and we’ll be ready to move in. I’m blessed to have great in-laws who’ve spent days helping us get it ready for us. This week has involved a lot of packing, phone calls and donating books and other items that didn’t sell at a yard sale we held this past weekend. The Final Move Date will be a lot sooner than expected.

Last week also brought along with it some unexpected and sad news. My mom’s 42-year-old boss passed away of a heart attack. I attended the funeral with several of my family members last Thursday. The man leaves behind two young kids, a significant other, parents, brothers and many other loved ones and friends.

I spent most of the following week in disbelief and shock. I’ve known him 22 years and he’s not much older than I. It’s just hard to imagine he’s really gone. I also spent a lot of time thinking how life is so fragile and fleeting. Our bodies are miraculous and can show amazing strength, but, at the same, time our life is so fragile.

Among the rabbi’s stories of our friend’s generosity and caring spirit, the assembly recited Psalm 23. I couldn’t do it. I would have started bawling if I did. I’ll end this post with it. Until next week:

Psalm 23 (ESV)

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil,

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff,

they comfort me.

You prepare a table for me

in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

What is oil pulling?

A friend posted a link to an article about oil pulling a few days ago. I’ve never heard of the practice and, like most things I read online, I was skeptical. So I did some digging.

The practice involves swishing a cold-pressed oil, such as olive, sesame or coconut, in your mouth for 15 to 20 minutes. It is touted as an ancient Indian practice of oral health that can whiten teeth, freshen breath and rid the oral cavity of germs and bacteria. The link my friend posted included claims that oil pulling rids the body of toxins and has cured people of psoriasis and other ailments.

There have been some studies on the practice, but they focused on the oral benefits. See here, here and here for some examples. The Coconut Research Center makes claims of additional health benefits for using coconut oil in the diet, but I didn’t see any research supporting the additional claims of oil pulling.

I’m late to the game as Snopes just posted an article on this yesterday. And a HuffPo author wrote about it as a beauty tip in October.

So, it looks like you might get a pretty, healthy smile after an extended, daily use of oil pulling, but there doesn’t seem to be any strong evidence for the other medical claims. You’re just gargling with oil for a few minutes everyday, so it probably wouldn’t hurt to try. You could always ask your doctor or dentist for more info to see if they’ve heard of the practice and what their thoughts are about the practice.

Racism is more than oppression

I just read The unidentified cause of one man’s hypertension: Racism, an article written by Dr. Pamela Wible and posted at the KevinMd blog.

Racism does more than oppress. It can kill. Increasing tolerance, equality, and understanding are still goals we should strive to obtain.

Recognizing the social situations people live in and helping them become well with an eye to understanding those social pressures is one of my interests. I hope to remember this article and keep it in mind when trying to heal patients.


Old dogs and their problems

I’m currently thinking of ways to accommodate our aging pup so that she gets the extra attention she needs, as well as, we get the sleep we need.

Several months ago, maybe even a bit more than a year, Sidney started acting like it hurt to jump up into the car. She chose to crawl into the car instead. If I recall correctly, the vet said it was due to lyme disease flare ups. Sidney was given some antibiotics and some pain killer. After that, she would act gingerly on occasion, but was back to her old self.

In the past few months, it seems Sidney’s always crawling into the car or onto the couch. She misses the bed more than she makes it. Chris or I usually have to pick her up. When this problem first started, she’d growl and bark until one of us picked her up. One night she did this five times. Why she didn’t just stay on the bed, I have no idea.

On a walk back in the summer, Sidney jumped up onto a footbridge and immediately collapsed. It seemed she’d hurt her back leg or hip. Chris was concerned of hip dysplasia and wanted to take her to the vet immediately. Since it was a Saturday afternoon, I told him that the vet office wouldn’t be open. It wasn’t. Plus, I said, there isn’t much a vet can do for dysplasia, sprains or other joint or muscle pain except give her pain pills.

So we googled remedies for hip dysplasia, and, sure enough, there isn’t much medical help for this problem. We decided, though, to buy her an orthopedic bed. So, instead of running the errands we planned to do after the walk, we went in search of a bed. Chris was afraid Sidney wouldn’t know what it was since she’d never used one, but after just a few days, she was using the bed most of the night. Now, instead of starting on the bed and moving to the floor, Sidney pretty much sleeps on the bed through the night. Unless, of course, she’s asked to join us on the family bed.

This grainy photo was taken in August on the day we bought Sidney her new bed.

This grainy photo was taken in August on the day we bought Sidney her new bed. She looks a little uneasy.

We also started feeding her dog treats made with chondroitin. I’m skeptical if they work, but she enjoys the treats and it seemed to help with her supposed joint pain. She was also more willing to go on walks, which meant I didn’t feel like I was dragging her behind me. I can’t say it was due to the treats, but she’s been out of the treats for about a month and she’s started moving slowly again. (Here’s some research on the effects of chondroitin and glucosamine that suggest that they help people with moderate to severe arthritis pain. The vets have told us they don’t notice any arthritis in Sidney’s joints.)

Another problem has now cropped up. Two times we’ve woken up to find Sidney has urinated in front of the door. Chris started taking her out for an extra evening outing before bed. That’s taken care of the accidents, but now she wakes us up around 4:30 a.m. every day to go outside. And, if we’re lucky to go back to sleep, she wakes us back up around 5:30 or so for her breakfast. She used to wait until 6 a.m., when the alarm goes off.

So, now I’m trying to figure out how to get her to sleep in a little longer. Maybe push our bedtimes back by half an hour or so? Is it time for a trip to the vet for medication? I’ve been researching solutions this morning. Here are two links about behavioral and physical changes in older dogs. They don’t seem to offer any help except advice to see the vet.

Back to the drawing board

It appears the data I have on sleep quality and cognition aren’t showing an association. At least not one strong enough that’ll qualify the paper for print. I think it’s pretty lame that a lack of association will keep a paper from print. Journals should also be willing to print papers that show no association. These papers have just as much value, in my opinion.

What that means for me is that I may not have a paper. My mentor has requested another analysis from the statistician. If that shows an association, then I can move forward. If not, I’m working on some alternative hypotheses. I spent the majority of yesterday doing that. Most of the background doesn’t look too promising as potential support  for an argument or I’m having trouble locating full articles. It’s almost like starting all over.

A friend likened it to writing an article for the paper and then it falling through after half the story is written — times 100. That’s exactly like it. Oh, well. It happens.

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Current project

Hello! Popping in to give a quick update. I do have a couple more Small Travels and Musings posts about state parks, but those have been put on hold for a week or so.

I’ve got a few things I’m working on and those take priority. Sorry! Not that y’all aren’t important or anything.

Though I haven’t posted here, I have been a busy bee writing essays for applications, a paper prospectus and, now, my paper. I’ve been interning at a local medical school since June, which includes reading background information on various topics. For my project, I selected how sleep quality affects cognition, specifically Hispanic farmworkers and manual laborers. A statistician has started analyzing the data and has begun turning out some numbers, which I’ve started to look over.

For several weeks I read through a lot of papers and found some really eye-opening information. For instance, check this out:

  • Half of migrant and seasonal farmworkers earn less than $7,500 per year. Farmworker families earn less than $10,000 per year. (1)
  • Average life expectancy of migrant and seasonal farmworkers is 49 years. The national average is 75 years. (1)
  • Children of farmworker families experience more frequent respiratory, parasitic and skin infections; vitamin deficiencies; and dental problems than other children. (1)
  • Farmworkers experience 150-300% more teeth decay than their peers. (1)
  • African-Americans and Latinos report poorer sleep compared to Caucasians. (2)
  • When education, employment and marital status are included, there is a sleep disadvantage among poorer groups, especially Caucasians. (2)
  • Poor health is associated with a 4-fold increased chance for poor sleep. (Poor sleep can affect health and vice versa.) (2)

Did your jaw drop? Mine does every time I read the first few facts. Appalling. I included the last bit of information because I’m looking at sleep and I thought you’d find it interesting, too.

It’s really exciting to think of changes that could occur as a result of such research. Imagine what good could be accomplished with some elbow grease and cooperation.


  1. Hansen, Eric and Martin Donohoe. “Health Issues of Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers.” Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved (2003). 14(2): 153-164.
  2. Patel, Nirav P. et al. “Sleep disparity in the population: poor sleep quality is strongly associated with poverty and ethnicity.” BMC Public Health (2010). 10: 475.