How My Shopping Habits Are Shifting | Why I Don’t Shop at Thrift Stores & Yard Sales

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My Sunburst Foldover Clutch (which I use all the time) is from Queen City Revolt on Etsy

I was raised a thrifter. Growing up, almost all of my clothing and many of my other possessions came from yard sales, Goodwill, and local consignment shops. I would estimate that I never personally spent more than $15-$20 on a particular item of clothing before I graduated from high school. My buyer mentality for the first two decades (plus) of my life was: brand-new things generally cost too much, and “the cheaper, the better” even for secondhand purchases.

Once I began working full-time and became responsible for my own finances, I gradually started allowing myself to “splurge” on new items. I realized how luxurious it is to bring something home with packaging and tags intact that has never been touched, utilized, or sweated in by another human. I also realized how much easier it is to shop for and actually find the things I wanted in the chain stores — eliminating the “hunt” for treasures on a yard sale table and the repulsive picking-through of not-so-sweet-smelling piles in a Goodwill bin. I fell deeply in love with the scent of “new.” 🙂 Still, I believed that the lowest price was always the right price for me, and I continued to pay as little as possible for the things I bought, both new and used.

Then my husband, Caleb, entered my life, and he challenged me on my “lowest price” mentality. When we shopped together, he always encouraged me to select the make or brand that would work well and last a long time, instead of the cheapest option. For us, this was one of the first situations we encountered where both of us had to adjust our mindsets in order to bring about marital compromise. However, now, almost 5 years into our relationship, I admit I’ve been largely swayed over to his side.

As a general rule, though there are certainly exceptions, we are prone to purchase high-end things like appliances, kitchen gadgets, tools, furniture, electronics, and clothing. I have learned that his idea that it’s better to pay $30 for stainless steel measuring cups that will last forever than to spend $4-$5 on plastic ones and replace them every couple years really is full of wisdom. Not only will that save us money in the long run, but it keeps all that plastic out of the landfill! On the flip side, he has learned that for things that get stained and dirty quickly and can’t ever really be restored to perfectly clean and sanitary condition, it makes sense to buy cheap ones and recycle them without guilt instead of hanging onto them.

Since I’ve begun my personal journey of minimalism, or essentialism, as I prefer to think of it, I’ve been evaluating my shopping habits more critically than ever before. It started with clothing, but is now taking root in other departments. One of the realizations I’ve made recently is: I have a hard time resisting a “good deal.” In other words, thrift stores and yard sales and the clearance sections at Target (to name a few) are danger zones for me! I tend to, without much thought, scoop things up that I think are cute and useful and interesting, just because they’re so cheap. And then I get home, don’t have an actual use for them or place to put them, and end up selling them at my next yard sale. Read, waste of time, waste of money, waste of energy.

Therefore, my simplistic + temporary solution is to steer clear of such places, at least until I’ve matured in my ability to (1) shop off my list instead of the displays and (2) shop with my heart instead of my eyes.

Now, I know there are people out there (including many of my readers) who have MASTERED the art of thrift-shopping treasure-finding. This post is a classic example of that. Also, my friend Claudia is a serious professional in that department. And I can’t tell you how much respect I have for you people! I want to be like you. I want to be able to score the things I consider essential and the things that spark joy for me for a fraction of the price. I want to contribute to the work of ministries and missions around the world instead of feeding the corporate machine. But for the time being, I’m not well-equipped to walk into the consignment shop, purchase that one awesome thing, and walk away. My shopping cart is too much of a magnet for all the other mediocre but cheap (!) items calling my name from the racks and shelves.

(My other problem is a lack of patience and diligence. I’m not a good hunter. But that’s a topic of its own.)

The second aspect of the transition I’m in stems from a desire to be more conscious of where products come from, how they are made, and how companies treat their employees. My understanding of things like small business, fair trade, ethical material sourcing, and care for the environment is growing by the day, and influencing my decisions on where to shop. I’ve been making baby steps in this direction for years, but recently my motivation has been skyrocketing. I hope to expound on this a bit more in a future post.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I have an unhealthy Target addiction. At the rate I’m going, there may come a day when I don’t set foot inside a Target store for months. And that would truly be progress. I’m excited to see where this journey takes me!

What about you? What’s been influencing where, why, and how you shop lately? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Fearfully & Wonderfully Made*

*Title is a reference to Psalm 139:14.

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A couple weeks ago, the chain slipped off a bicycle my husband was riding, causing him to wreck and resulting in a sore shoulder and severely skinned knee. He was in a fair amount of pain for a few days, and of course I tried everything I could think of to bring him some relief–Deep Relief for the muscle injury, Sweet Bee Magic for the road rash–all my old favorites plus a few new experiments. I was snapping photos of his knee, thinking maybe I could do a sequence collage to show how great the all-in-one healing skin cream worked. But I decided against it, and here’s why:

His knee really didn’t need anything put on it; it would have healed up just fine on its own. My knowledge of anatomy and medicine is minimal, but our cells and skin and tissue and blood vessels have intricate protocol to follow after sustaining an injury, and they go straight to work on the healing process. Automatically. No essential oils, creams, or supplements needed. Now of course we know that some of these things can support the health of the systems that take care of these things, and speed things along, and help to prevent infection, and provide temporary pain relief, but in the end, they’re not the things that do the healing.

I thought of posting the pictures anyway, and saying something like: This is what road rash looks like after 1 day…3 days…5 days of… a magic cream? a miracle supplement? a superior brand of essential oils? Nope. This is what it looks like after sitting back and watching the incredible design of the human body, created by a divine Creator, do its job.

But, the pictures were gross, so I decided to spare you. 😉

Seriously though, this thought has been haunting me ever since. How many times do I attribute healing or other forms of betterment or improvement to a man-made product, or my own mind, rather than the Creator of all things and Author of all that is pure? It’s good for me to be reminded that every good and perfect thing comes from above.

I talk a lot, here on the blog and in real life, about products and places and activities and ideas that I think are really great. But I want my life in general to ultimately point to the One who is higher than the things or the people of this earth. And I want to consistently seek Him in and know him through the goodness and the beauty that earth contains.

A Favorite Song | Virtuoso

 
Short post for today [I’m with my sisters, enjoying the above view]…I want to introduce you to one of my personal favorite instances of skilled musicianship.

This song is so good, on so many levels. Give it a listen here.

Virtuoso

By David Phelps, lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc. 

A handful of dust a worthless piece of clay / And you breathed the breath of heaven / Then there was a soul / The heart, the hands, the voice that could sing of your perfection

Life is a symphony that only you can play / You know I can hear it through the madness everyday

Virtuoso / This heart is your instrument / This life is your song / Virtuoso

There isn’t a note of mediocrity / In all of your creation and all the beauty / We create with human hands is only imitation / Thunder crashes, waves crescendo on the sand / The wind that’s whispering can only be your hand

A timeless melody of beauty and emotion / Perfect harmony inspiring true devotion / No one else can play it’s chords so graceful yet so strong / You made the instrument and wrote the song / Virtuoso

This heart is your instrument

This life is your song

[You are] Virtuoso

Poison Ivy/Oak/Sumac Relief

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I’m one of those people who is extra allergic to poison ivy and its relatives, and I don’t think I’ve ever gotten through a Lancaster County summer without a bout or two of the miserable rash. In my 2+ decades of dealing with this little fiend, I’ve tested and tried nearly every product on the market, natural and conventional alike, for relief. If you’re a fellow sufferer, this post is for you to pin or bookmark for when you need it. These are the remedies I’ve found most effective.

  1. Gold Bond® Anti-Itch Lotion is by far the best itch relief cream out there. If you are susceptible to poison rashes or even just bug bites, you HAVE to have this in your medicine cabinet. Anything else, calamine or otherwise, doesn’t come close to the relief this offers. And the aloe in it is cooling, which is a huge added benefit.
  2. Apple cider vinegar is the second thing that’s absolutely necessary for me to have on hand for treating this kind of thing. When my hand was covered with the blisters the other week, between my fingers and the worst right around my wedding rings (which I made the mistake of not removing while I had the chance), I had my hand soaking in a bowl of ACV every chance I got.
  3. Two years ago I discovered how good a simple paste of baking soda and water felt. The baking soda really seemed to draw out the itch/burn. Only problem with this method is that it gets really messy as it dries. I just kept the vacuum cleaner closeby to sweep up the area I was sitting in.
  4. This year for the first time I had essential oils to put to the test. Purification seemed to help a bit, though Lavender and the other options listed in my reference book didn’t seem to do much for me at all. I was also washing my hands frequently with my Thieves hand soap, and my hand cleared up faster than any of the other areas, so I’m sure that was good for it as well.

The Gold Bond lotion and the apple cider vinegar are my primary absolute must-haves. As long as I have access to those two, I can survive the worst case of the awful stuff. What about you — is there some potion or remedy you’ve found to be magical for treating a poison ivy reaction?

Giveaway 1.0 | Congratulations + Thank You

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I want to extend heartfelt thanks to each one who entered last week’s giveaway. I thoroughly enjoyed watching your entries pour in + reading your comments. What makes running a giveaway fun is seeing the response, so thanks for allowing me that joy! I am also grateful for all of the positive feedback that so many of you have offered. On the days I begin to wonder why I ever wanted to dive into this world of blogging, your encouraging words inspire me to keep pressing on. I consider each one of my readers a friend in some way, so thank you for blessing me with your friendship–whether it’s in “real life” or solely cyber-based-for-now.

Abiart cards or none, I hope you’ve been inspired to bless a friend or family member with some snail mail. I know writing about it has been an inspiration for ME to invest more time in it this month. Let’s make #bringbacksnailmail a thing! By the way, snail mail fan club members, you’ll definitely want to check out this cool blog which I just discovered, thanks to Julia’s comment on the giveaway post–Owl Simple Things.

Ahem. Without further ado, congratulations to Carrie Wagler! You are the winner of the 25 cards + silver marker + sheet of Vintage Rose Forever stamps. Please send an email to hello@therealizationofgood.com so I can get in touch with you about sending this package of goodness your way!

And now, for the rest of you, especially those of you who acknowledged the “I never win anything” sentiment…don’t go away hopeless! There will be more chances for you to win some really good things here in the future. The odds that someday your persistence will pay off are greater than you think, and they’ll be even greater if you keep on entering. 😉 (Insert shameless plug-in for my social media here, because following it is a great way to stay up-to-date with new posts + announcements…) Like The Realization of Good on Facebook and follow MelpFish on Instagram!

Thanks again, and happy Monday to you all! ❤

Minimalism vs. Essentialism

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These two words, and the concepts they represent, have been squatting on some pretty prime real estate in my heart and brain, lately. I’m still plugging through back episodes of The Lively Show and being inspired towards things like simplicity, intention, efficiency, and authenticity, and I’m reading Jen Hatmaker’s 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, and I’m having conversations with friends and family about de-cluttering and eliminating excess. I’ve been working on perfecting my summer capsule wardrobe, and helping my husband with his, and going through other drawers and cabinets and storage containers around the house, getting rid of things that we don’t love. I have a capsule wardrobe collaboration coming up, and hopefully some more similar projects. Life in general continues to invoke deeper meaning, the longer I live.

I’ll definitely have to post a full-fledged book review of 7 once I’m finished with it, so I’ll save my ramblings on that for now. But that, along with the Essentials issue of Kinfolk Magazine I was reading while we were camping the other weekend, the conversation I had with my friend Jenny on the way home from the beach yesterday, and an article I read online last evening, have distracted my thinking for much of the day.

The aforementioned article was called The Problem With Minimalism. The title caught my eye as I was scrolling through my Facebook news feed, and since it was posted by a friend whose opinions I value and admire, I decided to check it out. (If you haven’t opened that link in a new tab by now, do it before you scroll down any further!) It’s a somewhat lengthy but easy-read discussion of the elitist persona that minimalism tends to incur, which put into words some of the struggle I’ve been wrestling with as I’ve been getting rid of things. Also, as one commenter on my Facebook post noted, it evaluates both sides of the spectrum without demoralizing either one.

The Kinfolk issue referenced “essentialism” as an alternative to minimalism. It’s maybe mostly a splitting of hairs terminologically, but the difference between the two is realizing, investing in, and hanging onto the things that are “essential” to each of our individual versions of “the good life” as opposed to trying to “make do” with as few things as possible (in some cases, even assigning a number to that goal, i.e. The 100 Things Project).

If the process of letting go of material possessions in order to create more time and energy for people, for the things we really love, and for the Creator and His Creation is something you’re intrigued by, that particular article and that particular magazine (Issue 16) are some of my most highly recommended reading. You can also click here for a few other resources I referenced a couple weeks ago.

What’s been inspiring you towards a higher quality of life lately? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Easy DIY Homemade Beard Oil

My husband’s beard is growing full and healthy these days, and I couldn’t love it more. I can’t say if I ever met a beard I didn’t like…I really do love me a good set of facial hair. It’s been a process though, talking Caleb into letting it get as long as it is. I understand that the growing-out process can be quite uncomfortable at the beginning…itchy, sensitive, and downright unpleasant.

A beard of such epic proportions necessitates dedicated maintenance and tender care. A soothing, moisturizing, cleansing concoction is key to any beard’s health, growth, and general well-being. I bought one online a couple years ago, and when it ran out recently, Caleb talked me into making one myself, using essential oils. I cleaned out the bottle he had been using and recycled that, but here’s a link to this type of bottle, if you want to buy empty ones. Lemon essential oil worked like magic for cleaning off the persistent residue from the original label after I peeled it off. (Seriously, if you haven’t tried lemon for this purpose yet, go find some stickiness on something somewhere right now — it’s that fun.)

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And the recipe is this simple:

  • 2 drop Lemon essential oil (for scent + purification)
  • 6 drops Tea Tree essential oil (for healthy skin)
  • 6 drops Lavender essential oil (for soothing, healing, and even an aphrodisiac)
  • 12 drops Cedarwood essential oil (for cleansing + manly scent)
  • grapeseed oil to fill the rest of a 2-oz. bottle (full of Vitamin E, sweet-smelling + non-greasy)

(Learn more about essential oils and sign up for a wholesale membership from Young Living, where I purchase mine, here.)

Graphic for your pinning convenience:

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And there you have it! Long live great beards.


On a completely unrelated side note, get ready for The Realization of Good‘s inaugural giveaway, coming soon! I love giveaways and am sure this will be the first of many. Stay tuned next week. 🙂

The Most Important Part of Wedding Planning | A Plug-in for Engaged Encounter

It’s no secret that I love weddings. I’m a romantic at heart, and I spent a good 5+ years of my life investing in my passion for all things love, wedding, and marriage. For a while, I was being enlisted as a vocalist for friends’ and acquaintances’ ceremonies, and later, my attentions shifted to the coordinating aspect of the industry as I helped my best friend plan her wedding, coordinated a few others, and executed my own big day in 2013. Now that I’m a couple years in, I understand more fully than ever before how much more important preparations for MARRIAGE are than for the wedding day itself.

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One of the very best things Caleb and I did during our engagement period was attend an Engaged Encounter seminar. I blogged about it then, on the wedding-related blog I was writing at the time in conjunction with my wedding coordinating business. Today I’m basically just reposting that account of our experience, in hopes that it will inspire you to consider attending a Marriage or Engaged Encounter weekend, or to encourage someone you know to do so!


April 18, 2013 – Caleb and I, along with fifteen other engaged couples from PA, MD, NY, and VA, traveled to Kenbrook Bible Camp in Lebanon PA this past weekend, with a common goal of gaining insight and skills that we hoped would help build a solid foundation for a healthy and happy marriage.

Our pastoral team recommended that we attend one of these weekends, known as “Engaged Encounter,” and since we’ve also heard lots of positive comments from family and friends who’ve attended in the past, I’d been looking forward to it ever since we got engaged.

You can read all about the history of the Marriage Encounter/Engaged Encounter movement here.

Before I go any further, let me just say that, on our way home on Sunday, Caleb and I agreed that this weekend was one of the best things we’ve experienced since we got engaged, maybe even since we first started dating. And for us personally, the timing couldn’t have been more right, the material more relevant, or the time/money any better spent. We also agreed, even before the weekend was halfway over, that we’d be singing the praises of this seminar for probably years to come and that we definitely planned to recommend it to our siblings and other friends who aren’t married yet.

Whether you’ve never heard of Engaged Encounter, have heard of it but are wondering how relevant it would really be for you, or are already planning to attend and are just curious of what to expect, this post is for you!

We had been told to arrive at Kenbrook by 7:00 p.m., so we rushed there directly after work last Friday. Signs directing us towards “Engaged Encounter” as we navigated our way through the entrance to the camp gave us a first glimpse of how detailed and thorough preparations had been made for the weekend. We parked our car and as we stood outside debating whether we should carry our suitcases in or walk in empty-handed at first, a voice called to us from the doorway with the answer. We were given nametags and shown to our rooms. Caleb and I shared two rooms which were directly across the hall from each other with another attending couple, the girls in one and the guys in the other. I was delighted to recognize familiar names on the doors of a couple from our area who we didn’t know well but at least knew “of.”

Once all the couples had arrived, the “presenters” (Nevin & Denise Horning of Lititz and Joel & Anita Zeiset of Ephrata, speakers for the weekend) began the weekend by introducing themselves and then having us introduce ourselves. We were instructed to share one of the first things that we’d found attractive about our fiancé(e), along with our names. From there, we delved into the first two sessions of the weekend, “Encounter with ME” and “Encounter with WE,” which were, as the titles indicate, basically self-analyses of ourselves as individuals and as couples.

These “sessions,” of which there were about fifteen throughout the weekend, each consisted of maybe 20-30 minutes of speaking by the presenters, after which each couple would split up for a time (around 10-15 minutes) of solo writing based on thought-provoking questions in our workbooks, then come together for a time (maybe 15-20 minutes?) of intimate discussion. Each couple had one room assigned to them as their “discussion room,” and the guys and girls would take turns writing in either their own discussion room or else spread out within the larger meeting room. Then, at the signal of a bell, each would join their partner in their respective discussion rooms.  The topics included Openness in Communication, Signs of a Closed Relationship, Sex and Sexuality, Family Planning, Finances, Loss, Marriage is a Vocation, Decisions in Marriage, Betrothal, Wedding – The Beginning of our Covenant, Two by Two, Sharing the Vision, and Forgiveness and Healing in Marriage.

All were well thought-through and well-executed. Nevin & Denise and Joel & Anita both shared many, many personal stories and experiences and we so appreciated their willingness to be so humble, open, and honest. I think we finally began to realize the reality that marriage is hard work!

Meals took place in the dining hall in another building just a short walk down the hill. And I must say, Kenbrook served to us better food than I’ve had at any other camp/outdoor retreat center! The presenters set nametags on our tables for each meal so that we sat with different couples each time.

That was a highlight of the weekend for us–meeting and learning to know and spending time with so many other couples who were in the exact same stage of life as we are. Such a feeling of camaraderie! We swapped wedding dates and details, proposal stories, honeymoon plans, and our future homes, all weekend long.

Halfway through Saturday afternoon there was a break in the schedule from sessions and a chance for recreation or relaxation. My own sweet Caleb was gracious enough to let me nap, but others enjoyed volleyball, pool, and Kenbrook’s hiking trails. (Note: if you’re the athletic type, you’ll want to bring athletic clothing along for this time!)

After supper and the last two sessions on Saturday, we all gathered in a less formal setting downstairs, with pillows and candles, for the “Wrap Session.” There was a time of discussion of several questions that had been submitted by the couples earlier in the day, and then we had a time of symbolic candle-lighting as couples, and a chance to be prayed over by one of the presenting couples. This was a special, intimate time for us as couples to be “alone” even while we were surrounded by other couples. Afterwards, everyone enjoyed ice cream floats together before retiring for the night.

Sunday morning began with the final four sessions of the weekend and ended with a special worship service that included singing and then sharing Communion together with our future spouses. This signified our place and calling for our marriage relationships to be like “little churches” and was very meaningful and special.

The whole weekend was so well thought-through, so well-executed; the time frames were just right, never too long, but not much too short, either. The entire structure could hardly have been more perfect or more fitting.


If you know a newly-engaged (or almost-married) couple who would enjoy a weekend like this, or if you’re already married and are interested in learning more about a Marriage Encounter weekend, check out the Mennonite & Brethren chapter’s website.

Caleb and I are currently serving on the Board of Directors for this ministry, and we count it a privilege to be involved in furthering the Kingdom by building strong marriages. If you have been blessed by this ministry or want to stay in touch, you can follow along on Facebook: Marriage Encounter and Engaged Encounter.

The Art of Discipline

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This statement is one of the best things I’ve read this year. Since I stumbled across it, I’ve started thinking about the choices I make, concerning what to do with a free minute, extra hour, or cherished day at home, in a whole new light.

I mentioned previously that I’m currently enjoying The Lively Show, a podcast by Jess Lively featuring interviews with various entrepreneurs, authors, and world-changers that aims to inspire people to “add intention to their everyday.” Hence the word intention has been on my mind a lot lately, and I think that intention and discipline, if not completely synonymous, go hand-in-hand.

One of the tangible things that’s resulted from this thought process so far is my time management plan, which has, though not perfected yet, vastly revolutionized my ability to budget hours and prioritize the tasks that I most want completed. I’m not following it to a “T” quite yet, but I’m definitely getting more accomplished in a week’s time. Having a visible schedule to look at eliminates the tendency for me to waste time + helps me avoid burn-out.

Asking myself whether I want something now or whether I want it most has also been an aid in empowering myself to make smart choices pertaining to diet, fitness, finances, relationships, and more. Reminding myself that…

  • while I may want to eat that cupcake now, what I want most is to feel energized and to have a flat stomach 🙂 …
  • though staying up to accomplish a semi-clean house is something I want badly, what I want even more is to get enough sleep to be able to perform well at work the next day…
  • while staying in bed a few extra minutes feels like the best thing in this moment, what I really want is to be able to come home to a made bed this evening…
  • though Netflix on the couch on a Sunday afternoon seems a viable choice, a bike ride would solicit more benefits + valuable results…

…really does dissipate the struggle.

A pretty life-changing little question, if you ask me. What do you think?

The Life-Changing Power of Chiropractic Care

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Chiropractic care is popular in our area of the country. Here in Lancaster, we have plenty of practitioners to choose from, and I’ve always known a number of friends and relatives who get monthly adjustments. But I’d never been to one myself until just five years ago, after I suffered a concussion during an intense game of volleyball.

Since I was still complaining of headaches more than a month after the incident had occurred, friends urged me to try a chiropractor. I was reluctant, believing that if I went once, I’d become “addicted.” I wasn’t interested in making room for such an expense in my budget, especially since the modest salary I received from my employment at a small Christian school at the time didn’t allow for many “extras.” But once I gave in, I quickly realized how worthwhile the cost would be.

A co-worker and close friend of mine referred me to Family Chiropractic of Lancaster, a father/son-owned practice near my home. On my first visit to their office, I easily sensed their commitment to holistic health (of which I knew very little, at the time) and natural well-being. My doctor and his staff take the importance of education very seriously, and that day began my journey of learning the role of the spine and its effect on the rest of the body and on general health.

In a nutshell, here’s what I’ve learned about chiropractic care:

  • Varied, frequent stress on our incredible backbones (because our bodies work so hard!) cause minor misalignments in the spine.
  • These subluxations, as the misalignments are called, affect every system of the body — causing pain and dysfunction, and generally impairing the body’s ability to heal itself.
  • Regular chiropractor adjustments to the spine help to restore the spine’s proper alignment.
  • A properly-aligned spine is a key element to living a healthy life.

Needless to say, my fear of needing to return to the chiropractor regularly was realized — but I don’t regret it. Not only do my monthly visits relieve my muscle tension and stiffness, but my immune system is much stronger and my body recovers from illness and injury significantly faster. And when X-rays are done, I can see the curve in my spine caused by the scoliosis I was born with receding!

Chiropractic care is something I highly recommend when I hear about things like debilitating headaches, frequent cold/flu viruses, and fussy newborns (yes, that arduous journey through the birth canal can and most often does put a baby’s spine out of alignment)! If it’s something you’d like to hear more about, I’m happy to share more of my experience.

What about you? Have you had a positive experience with chiropractic treatment?