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February 23, 2015

ARGGHH the itchiness. It feels soooo good to scratch but Make it stop! Make it stop!

I’m currently one week into my two-week, no-steroid-cream period and my skin has already declared a mutiny. With every brush I can see tiny deserters flaking off in dry waves.

Banh Mi

Banished from Banh Mi… isn’t this the most yummy looking thing ever? Boohoo. No substitutes.

I’m uncomfortable and gloomy. To sadden matters the first of my allergy test results have revealed… I’M ALLERGIC TO GLUTEN! Noooo… while I was prepared for this outcome I’m still unhappy at thinking of my future involving gluten-free substitutes, limiting my options eating out, and bringing my own food to parties. Why didn’t I eat all the Banh Mi in the world while I still could? I understand my limitations—I had to go gluten, dairy, and nut-free for a few months last year.

It’s been five months since I began this steroid cream on-and-off cycle. I believe Topical Steroid dependence and Withdrawal (TSW) is real so my goal is to wean myself off its use. But DARN it’s uncomfortable during my ‘off’ cycle… but it’s getting better with these cheap, homemade, eczema remedies. I’m not a medical expert and I don’t know the reasons behind the following list, but I’ve held some comfort from them. Some of these are suggestions from my allergist while others come from online communities and still others are just my own discovery.

Grip gloves

These grip gloves are tight enough to let me type easily yet still dull my nails enough to prevent some scratching.

  • Don’t laugh—I’m typing all this while wearing hardware store Grip Gloves. The cloth dulls my nails and help deter some scratching. Compared to mittens, these gloves cling tight around my fingers allowing me to still type at work. It looks silly, but I wear them everywhere including shopping at the store or driving.
    [Top] Ingredients for my mint Sugar Bath Scrub [Bottom] Ingredients for my oil-based Lotion at left

    [Top] Ingredients for my mint Sugar Bath Scrub [Bottom] Ingredients for my oil-based Lotion at left

  • Twice a week I exfoliate my dry skin away in the shower. Instead of paying $8 for some store creation (robbery!) I make a homemade scrub using the formula of one part oil to two parts particles (normally sugar). My skin feels so good afterwards.
  • Speaking of showers, I spend as little time in the water as possible and keep the temperature at lukewarm or cold. Aiiiii—this one’s difficult because I used to enjoy creating a scalding Danny-Pyra soup during showers.
  • You can’t ever have enough lotion! I have a creamy Aveeno or Vaseline lotion bottle at home, work, and car. I try to apply lotion over all parts of my body every four hours or whenever needed. I’m hoping to eventually move to a more natural, well-priced cream soon. At night I use a homemade oil-based lotion to seal in the moisture overnight. (created from Coconut Oil, Beeswax, Shea Butter, Almond Oil, and Jojoba Oil)
  • Once a week I take a bath (lukewarm of course) where I soak in Oatmeal or Chamomile Tea or Oils for about 20 minutes. If you grind the Oatmeal yourself make sure it’s ‘old-fashioned’ (not instant) and grind to a fine sand or else it’ll quickly absorb the water and sink to the bottom in an unappealing mess.
  • I ingest a tablespoon of straight Olive Oil every night. Soon I’ll be adding a dose of Fish Oil to that as well to begin moisturizing from within. But build up to those doses or else you’ll get to know your bathroom décor very well.
  • Loose clothing! Sleeveless shirts and skirts are my uniform now because sometimes my skin begins to get itchy when rubbed by the fabrics. Unfortunately I sometimes use the fabrics to further rub my itchy skin resulting in deeper scratching.

And all this in addition to my ongoing quest to eat less-processed foods, using more natural versions of detergent, soap and shampoos, and no fragrances. I only started doing all the above a month ago so it’s too early to determine results and I’m wondering whether the Steroid Cream could also be botching up results.

Whew—I’m still chugging on and trying to remain positive. My self-confidence in my appearance has taken a bit of a dive too. I feel like I look older and more tired. While BF Shoes is saddened about my inability to share certain foods with his glutton self, he’s still keeping things cheerful through compliments—I’m thankful for that. My equally eczema-ed sister has been a great support buddy to share discoveries, triumphs, and trials with.

With the bulk of my allergy tests next week let me raise my water bottle (which I’m sure is also moisturizing me inside) to changes… and hopefully changes for the better.

About Pyra-Danny
I currently have eczema covering about 80% of my skin. Despite having it for all my 29 years of life it wasn’t until last year (October 2014) I decided to really make changes to overcome it. I want to share my ongoing experience with eczema in hopes that I will learn more as well inspire others.


February 17, 2015


Below is my blog racing through my Spartan Race experience. To learn more about the background preparation, what to expect, and post race clean up just wait on my future entry.


Courtesy of the Spartan Race committee

Courtesy of the Spartan Race committee

“I am Spartan!” roared the group seconds before we were released into a race course where every muscle would be challenge and fears conquered. It was Spartan Race time!

02 Sparta - Start signWhen two of my girlfriends announced they were attempting the Spartan Race in Tampa I had to join. Sure it was Valentine’s Day, but with BF Shoes working I had no plans and no excuse. Even with a Groupon this race cost over $60 so I didn’t want to waste my money by being unprepared. I wanted to tackle everything! Mind you—I’m not a sporty, barely go to the gym, and don’t juice—but the challenge of doing a “3.1 miles with 20-25 obstacles” was too tempting. (Ahem—lies—it ended up being 4.2 miles with 24 obstacles)

That’s how my Harley Quinn-costumed self came to stand next to a couple Ninja Turtles and a friend to form team ‘Happy Feet’– because even if we performed horribly at least we’d have some awesome photos. Under the Raymond James Stadium’s shadow, we were pressed against 50 others as part of the 2:15 pm wave.

“I am Spartan” we roared and suddenly we were climbing up the arena’s ramps and through the walkways.

03 Sparta - List of obstacles

List of obstacles during the race


From there about every 1500 feet revealed an obstacle. Some obstacles involved a static mechanism (using a pulley to lift a 50-pound bag) while others tasks involved you carrying a heavy object for part of the track. Refusing or failing to complete an obstacle required you to do 30 burpees under the watchful eyes of the volunteers at each station. Seriously—you paid a lot of money for this race—at least attempt every obstacle or live haunted in a “what if…” stasis. I didn’t know what I was capable of until I did it; with my poor upper body strength a Climbing Wall (it seemed like it was 20 feet high but it was probably only 10) surely would scare me into burpees… but I climbed over it!

04 Sparta - Obstacles

Saving grace came in the form of team work especially if you’re a bunch of short, petite ladies. Half the obstacles can be accomplished using team mates. We were able to climb those tall walls because total strangers were offering to boost us up (guys AND ladies helped us). Even with the abundance of willing strangers, try and have your own team. Not just because it’s fun but some team work can get pretty personal; to accomplish a couple Monkey Bar-type obstacles I had to straddle the shoulders of my friend who later told me I was squeezing her head with my thighs. Oops.

05 Sparta - Stairs Stadium

Making use of the stadium’s layout. [Left] If you look carefully you can see lines of runners coursing through the stadium seats on various levels

The Race worked with the Stadium’s layout. I swear the first two miles involved going up and down stairs, in between seat aisles, and more stairs (my team mates complained these were the most difficult parts) with the final two miles leading us to the grounds surrounding the Stadium for muddier challenges. Although the course was longer than expected, I barely felt the distance. I felt more exhausted from previous straight-5K races. The obstacles provided mini breaks from running. That plus waiting for my stairs-exhausted team mates.

In the end, I surprised myself by only failing at two obstacles. In climbing the Rope Climb over the mud pit, I got within five feet of the bell at the top before falling. At the Spear Throw I managed to throw my spear straight, but fell short of the target.

06 Sparta - Fire jump

I just really like this photo of me (^_^)

The final obstacle was almost ritualistic—jumping over a line of fire. The line is relatively thin, and more smoky than fiery but made for a great photo and finale… and just like that we were done! Despite having water-logged sneakers and suddenly shivering from the cold air, team Happy Feet was too pumped and excited to notice.

No matter where you are in your fitness level, I totally recommend doing an obstacle race. The only real challenge is yourself. It’s a great way to see what you or a group of friends can accomplish.

Forget Go-Pros- I recorded segments of the Race through a good ol’ point-and-shoot, waterproof Panasonic. Unfortunately it kept hissing ‘low battery’ at me (therefore making me get stingy and frantic in recording) before finally dying during the final mile.

Stay tuned for another post to help all you first-timers (like I was) prepare and what to expect during and after your race.

Spartan Race

February 14, 2015
Raymond James Stadium
Tampa, FL


February 15, 2015

I love life. I’m a self-proclaimed ‘Experiencer.’ I love experiencing new things, places, and events both local and far. No matter the situation or location I think everyone can be an Experiencer—and I think it’s the secret wish for everyone to be one. That’s why I believe everyone should at least be given a chance at it.

Kinda hard to do if you’re dead huh?
(Whoa—does this suddenly feel like that SuperBowl commercial with the dead kid who left many viewers thinking “WTF just happened?”)

Prolife - Promo PosterAt Tampa’s Bay’s recent Celebration of Life Rally it wasn’t so much a celebration than a teaching of the importance of every life. Instead of using this blog post to debate on Pro-Life versus Pro-Choice (Woohoo that’ll be a website on its own) I’ll simply say I’m Pro-Life and I believe in every position held at the Rally. But true—I’m human, have failings and it’s been difficult, but I still strive to follow this movement.

Inside Calvary Chapel’s large lobby, I browsed the tables set up by different ministries. Radio station Spirit 90.5 was present as well as smaller but familiar groups like Tampa Bay Pro-Life Alliance and Restore Culture. Teen-based Silver Ring Thing was rocking out in an adjoining room while promoting its values to the teens.

I wasn’t sure what to expect as I sat in the church. I’ve heard the names of Abby Johnson and Alveda King before but I’ve never heard them speak. From the sides Abby Johnson (former Planned Parenthood Director) just looked like a school mom dressed in jeans while Alveda King (niece of Martin Luther King Jr.) looked like a mellow southern Grandma.

But as soon as they stood on stage I was blown away. Johnson focused on abortion’s tie with contraception—the white elephant in the pro-life room. King tied abortion with other social taboos but zoomed in on the race factor. Johnson was funny as she delivered the stories of her past yet also used her tone to come off as the ‘stern mom’ who was still very approachable. King was surprisingly very amusing in her feisty, southern way of speaking.

Wave 'em like you don't care

Alveda King leads the crowd in an impromptu arm-waving song

Both women had their own stories of abortion and healing.
But I was most impressed with the strength they had in their stance against other “things that come from the same place as abortion.” They managed to tie poverty, gay marriage, pre-marital sex and divorce all into their talk. Using the Christian views both women stood on the same side. And I agree—there’s no way to cleanly fight against abortion if you’re wishy-washy on those other topics. And I understand how difficult it is to be as strong as those women in those stances… I know. Besides the Christian views Johnson and King also delivered simple scientific reasoning for their positions as well.

Q&A between the two ladies. Alveda on left and Abby Johnson in the center

Alveda King [left] and Abby Johnson [right] share a Q&A with the crowd

But these women were speaking to the choir so not much reasoning and debate was needed. We were there to learn the importance of each life. Of merely even being alive. Of course Johnson and King were aware there were many people opposed to their beliefs. They also had friends and family who didn’t agree on their every point. I say at least those friends and family were ALIVE to disagree on those points.

Prolife - Poster and meI left the Rally motivated to stick closer to my conservative beliefs. I’ll admit it’s difficult because it seems the motto of “do what YOU think is right” has gotten skewed because it seems not many people have learned any more the structure for what’s right or wrong. But thankfully I have my God who has transcended man-made structures.

And I’ve been blessed to have this life so I’m going to experience all that I can from it and work so that others have that same ability too.

Celebration of Life Rally

February 7, 2015
Calvary Church in Pinellas Park
St. Petersburg, FL


February 10, 2015

Holding Localtopia mapI tried to drive around the exodus of people crossing the Downtown streets but traffic (traffic in Downtown St. Pete? Unthinkable!) kept me in place. I was mere blocks from a festival celebrating local businesses. No way would I give up.

Merely in its 3rd year Localtopia hugely promised to be a party of all things St. Pete. During my few years of living in the ‘Burg I’ve watched this city evolve. I love how much this place has embraced the food, arts, and independent culture. Of course I wanted to celebrate that! So I braved the crowds who had descended upon Downtown for the gorgeous weather, museums and food and made my way to Williams Park where rocking music greeted me before I even stepped onto the grass.

With no set plan I wandered up and down the booths barely reading the map provided to me and instead getting lost in all the colors, laughter, and smells. A few stands flaunted the same businesses as those found in the nearby, large Saturday Morning Market (another cool way to celebrate local business but weekly). Half the stands represented businesses with well-known stores (Mazzarros, The Burg Bar and Grill) next to smaller businesses such as the ‘online and booth only’ Hole Donuts. The outer areas featured artists and their ongoing projects with many having an interactive theme. Additionally the Indie Market was present (an eclectic art and culture market typically found on Central Ave on certain Saturdays). The longest lines led to the semi-truck providing Beer from local breweries (like Cycle and Green Bench).

Things to see

[Top] Have some local Beer [Bottom left] The Indie Market Village [Bottom right] Nomad Art Bus – driving art to the masses

From the host’s large booth, I purchased raffle tickets from Keep St. Pete Local and dropped it into the bags of interesting vendors in hopes of winning each booth’s displayed prize. (So TBT… I won that Beer basket right?) Shopping local can work up an appetite so I grabbed a Beef and a Spinach Artichoke Empanada from the Latin Lunch Box food truck before settling in front of the grand stage to rock out to the powerful jazzy vocals from the always-awesome Betty Fox Band.

Betty Fox band

Betty Fox band

Although the obvious fashion presence leaned on red lipstick, nose studs, plaid and beards, the event was still a melting pot for all people and all ages. The kids enjoyed the interactive art areas while teens browsed stalls for unique items like it was the mall. The elderly still nodded their head to the music and bartered with the vendors. With every square foot conquered by a body or a booth I still don’t know how we all fit into that park. Many times I could not move forward due to the crowd blocking me.

The Latin Lunch Box running out of items

The Latin Lunch Box running out of items

With two hours left to the event it was almost bittersweet to see a handful of vendors placing ‘sold out’ signage. Through Localtopia’s exposure, I circled several vendors on my map for me to chase down later and shop some more.

Perhaps my change request would be in the form of more ‘ethnic’ booths. St. Pete contains the historical Deuces area as well as concentrations of Vietnamese business– all missing. Anyway I can only see next year’s event becoming even bigger, better, and more popular. It certainly outgrew its current location last weekend. Thank you both to the city of St. Petersburg and Keep St. Pete Local for this awesome event and making me more aware of cool businesses to check out. I’m hoping more people storm these local places and in turn that’ll just encourage more growth from that cool scene.


February 7, 2015
Williams Park
St. Petersburg, FL



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