The Quiet Life of Cold Sores

The burden of getting cold sores has been something that I’ve experienced since high school.  Outbreaks were always something I dreaded, but I dread them even more now that I am a mother.  Not being able to kiss my child for 2 weeks is heartbreaking.

I was always horribly embarrassed to admit that I suffer from cold sores.  I will never forget my first outbreak.  It was New Years of my junior year in high school.  About a week before, I took a volleyball to the mouth during a tournament and split my bottom lip.  It was no big deal, other than the split lip didn’t seem to want to heal very well, staying pretty tender longer than was typical.  I went to a friend’s house for New Years Eve and stayed the night.  When I woke up, I felt terrible!  My gums felt like they were on fire, I felt feverish, and I had ulcers all over the inside of my mouth.  I was so miserable, and my mom was so worried about the appearance of the inside of my mouth, she took me to the ER.  The doctor said I just had some canker sores.  I had had canker sores before, but never this painful or widespread.  We went home, and I went and laid in bed.  We had people over for my dad’s birthday, but I never came out.  My mom tried to bring me a plate of food, but I couldn’t even eat.  The next day, she sent me to my pediatrician with my dad.  By this time, I also had this painful sore on one of my fingers.  The Dr. promptly diagnosed me with Herpes Simplex Virus-1, or cold sores, which is different than a canker sore.  I was horrified and embarrassed.  How could this have happened?  She gave me a prescription for an antiviral and sent me home.  I missed school and volleyball practice for probably almost a week.  I could hardly eat or drink, let alone talk.  I had a few sores on my lips that broke open, so my lips stuck together.  In order to get my lips apart, I would have to break open the sores again.  It was extremely painful.  I lost about 10 lbs that week.  When I returned to volleyball, many of the parents in the stands remarked to my mom how much weight I had lost while I was out sick.  I never told any of my friends or teammates the reason I was sick.  This breakout was considered a primary infection, which is why I was so sick.  It usually only happens during the first outbreak.

Over the years, I have tried to be extremely careful about preventing the spread of my cold sores.  If I had an outbreak, or even thought I felt one coming on, I wouldn’t kiss anyone, share drinks or utensils, and I wouldn’t share my lipgloss.  I think friends at the time may have thought I was being rude, but I was trying to spare them while never telling them the reason I wouldn’t share.  How could I admit that I had oral herpes?

When I started dating my husband, it wasn’t long before I had to tell him about it.  When I would get any hint of a cold sore coming on, I wouldn’t kiss him.  I had to tell him it was for his own protection.  It sucked having to go 2 weeks at a time without kissing the man I loved.  It still sucks.  When my daughter was born, it seemed that I was getting cold sores about once a month.  It was devastating having a newborn that I couldn’t smother in kisses.  It was also terrifying to me as a nurse knowing the vulnerability of a brand new baby.  During that time, I asked my OB/gyn for an antiviral prescription.  Now in my chart, oral herpes is listed.  I am still a little embarrassed about it.

The reason I am admitting all of this is to spread awareness.  An article I read said that antibodies to HSV-1 is found in about 80% of all adolescents, so it is a very widespread virus.  Many people are exposed to this virus, and there is no cure.  It stays in your body and lies dormant.  About 1/3 of people will suffer from relapses.  For most people, cold sores are just an annoyance.  For infants and people with weakened immune systems, it can be dangerous, so for that reason, if you have a cold sore use extreme caution.  Wash your hands frequently, especially if you touch an area where there is a sore, and do not share drinking utensils, cups, or anything else that touches the sores, and do not kiss others.  Also be aware that it can be spread to the genitals with orogenital contact.

Feel free to share your experiences with me, and try not to be embarrassed if you do suffer from cold sores.  There are likely more people that you know that also suffer with them.

Neglected Blog

Things the last few months have been super crazy, and the blog has unfortunately taken a back seat.  A lot has happened since I posted last.  Here are some of the things that have happened:

  • Savannah Banana turned 2 years old, and we had a birthday party to celebrate
  • We announced that we are having another baby…Yep I am pregnant! (Due in early February)
  • My baby sister graduated from high school
  • I worked TONS of overtime in June and July
  • We visited the Detroit Zoo a few times
  • We went to a Detroit Tiger’s game
  • Lots of time was spent in the pool
  • Savannah saw her first movie in theaters (Minions)
  • We went on a few pontoon rides
  • We went to a fun family reunion
  • We went to Indiana on a family camping trip
  • My parents celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary!
  • Most recently, I accepted a new job

I will write individual posts on some of these events, but for now, I will just post some picture highlights.

Visits to the Detroit Zoo

Visits to the Detroit Zoo

Savannah's first movie

Savannah’s first movie

family reunion

pontoon fun

Hopefully it won’t be too long before I am able to write my next post!

Taquamenon Falls Camping Trip

It seems like it has been AGES since I last posted.  I have been super busy working overtime, getting ready for our camping trip, taking the camping trip, unpacking from the camping trip, opening the pool, and now working more overtime.  Whew! I’m tired typing that out! 😉

Memorial Day weekend was my holiday off from work, so we planned a camping trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with some of hubby’s family.  We went up on Thursday, and we came back on Tuesday.  I have mixed feelings about the trip; we definitely had fun, but there were also some negatives.

We stayed at the Taquamenon Falls State Park lower falls campground.  There was electric hookup, but no water or sewer hookup.  My only previous camping trip in our camper had full hookups, so this was a learning experience for me (more about how quickly I learned later).  For this trip, we didn’t take the dogs because hubby had heard there was some issues with wolves attacking dogs in the U.P.  I didn’t want to ride in the car for 8 hours with a whining, panting dog either.  We dropped the dogs off at grandma’s on the way, and we were off.  The only snag we had on the way up was the RV refrigerator not running on propane.  We stopped at the RV dealer, thinking the tank was empty, only to find that we had to play around with something or other to get it to work (hubby I’m sure knows what the “something or other” is, but I have no clue!).  I slept almost the ENTIRE car ride!

When we got to our campsite, setup went rather smoothly.  We had a really nice site, but we didn’t use it much because we were always at one of the central family sites.

campsite collage


The only snag we had while setting up is when Scott asked me to run the hot water to prime the hot water tank.  I went in, turned on the faucet, and then I went back outside to put tablecloths on the table.  About 15-20 minutes later, I asked Scott if I could turn the water off.  He looked at me with a horrified expression; I emptied about a third of our fresh water tank, and filled our grey tank about 2/3.  Fortunately a family member had a tow-able portable holding tank they let us borrow on the second day so we didn’t have to pack everything up, empty at the sanitation station, and then unpack and set up again!



It was pretty chilly the first two days.  (We would later find out we preferred the chilly weather over the warm or wet weather)  The lower falls were a short bike ride from the campsite.  We could actually hear them at our campsite, that is how close we were.



lower falls collage



Day 2 we went to Crisp Point to see Lake Superior and the lighthouse.  The drive seemed to take forever!  To get there, we had to take a county road that turned into a sandy road.  It was so narrow it was almost a two-track.  I fortunately slept on that car ride too, or I am sure I would have been extremely car sick from all of the curves!  Savannah was super cranky once we got to the point, so it wasn’t the most enjoyable visit.  A highlight for me was climbing to the top of the lighthouse.  To get up there, you had to climb a winding staircase that got narrower towards the top.  To get to the very top, you had to climb a ladder.  Before working out and losing weight, there is no way I would have climbed to the top.  It was still tiring despite being in decent shape.  I am so glad I went to the top!

Savannah & Scott climbing up the lighthouse behind me

Savannah & Scott climbing up the lighthouse behind me

crisp point collage


The third day, the weather started warming up.  We went to Oswald’s Bear Ranch in Newberry.  Here is their website:  Savannah really enjoyed seeing all of the bears.  She can actually say “bear” now after visiting!  We took a family picture with a cub while some of her cousins fed the bear.  She wasn’t sure what to think about that!

bear ranch collage



Later that same day we went to the upper falls, where we saw some more gorgeous scenery.  To get to one of the viewing areas, there are 94 steps going down.  When we camped there in 2011, I remember going down those same steps.  On the way back up, I had to stop multiple times for a break.  This time I had to climb slowly, but I am proud to say I didn’t have to stop once on the way up!

upper falls collage



Overall, we had a good time on this camping trip.  By the third evening, the mosquitoes hatched, and they were brutal!  The fourth day we just hung around the campground.  The fifth day it rained all day long, so we hung out in campers, played games, and took a nap.  The sixth morning we pack up and headed home.  There is quite a bit to do in the Upper Peninsula, but everything is VERY spread out.  A lot of driving is required to see different places, and since we have a toddler who throws a fit when riding in the car, we were limited on the amount of time we could spend driving to different places.

taquamenon fun collage

Spring Slim Down Challenge

In January 2014, my husband started Isagenix.  The first month, he was in the same type of challenge I just finished.  He placed first, releasing around 33 lbs, which was 11.3% of his body weight.  He continued on the program, and by June he was 110 lbs lighter.  He looks great, and he feels good too!


About a year ago I tried Isagenix for the first time.  Savannah was 10 months at the time, and I decided to wean her from nursing so that I could do the entire program (many of the Isagenix products are safe for nursing moms, but not everything).  I made a half-hearted attempt at the 30 days.  I did one 2 day cleanse, and I binged the second night.  I often cheated, stopping for fast food.  I felt terrible.  My hormones were all over the place, I felt guilty for weaning Savannah, and I’m sure my body was extremely confused by the combination of healthy and cleansing nutrition mixed with fatty, fried foods.  I quit after the 30 days and quickly gained the weight I had lost back, and then put on about ten more pounds throughout the year.

30 days ago, I decided to give Isagenix another try.  So with the start of the 30 day challenge starting, I began this lifestyle change.  I joined Planet Fitness, and I committed to give the next 30 days my all.  I am an extremely picky eater, so I knew from the beginning I wouldn’t be able to eliminate all of the foods that aren’t recommended, but I made healthier choices.  I am so happy that I stuck with it this time!  I am going to continue to do Isagenix because I feel so good, and I want to continue losing weight and eating healthy.

Here are my results:

On April 13, my starting weight was 292.9 lbs.

starting weight collage




This morning, I am down to 258.3 lbs.  I have released a total of 34.6 lbs!

30 day collage



The competition results will not be announced until Friday, but I already feel like a winner!  Even if I don’t earn a spot in the top 3, I am proud of what I have accomplished!  I am so excited to continue on this journey!


**For more information about Isagenix, email my husband: Scottstiegemeier @ gmail (dot) com**

Non-Scale Victories

I honestly cannot wait until the weight loss competition I am in is over.  (Today is the last day; I will weigh in first thing tomorrow morning) Normally the reason for that is so I can have some of the junk I am craving, but that isn’t the case this time.  The reason I can’t wait for it to end is because I want to get my focus off of the scale.  The winner of the challenge is the person with the highest percentage of weight loss.  It looks at nothing but the results on the scale.  I feel that I have been extremely successful the past 30 days.  I have become healthier.  When I find something to be proud of, the scale knocks me down.  It is toying with my emotions!  Sunday, I was so proud of myself.  For Mother’s Day, my family and I went to dinner at my favorite Italian restaurant.  Normally I leave there feeling STUFFED!  Not Sunday.  I made a plan before I went, and I stuck to it.  My plan was to have 2 breadsticks (normally I have probably close to 6-10), I would get the chicken noodle soup that comes with my meal, and I would ask for a box to come with my dinner so I would only eat a small amount.  I think that is one of the first times I was able to stick to the plan!  I had just 2 breadsticks, despite the waitress filling the basket up with fresh ones several times, I had my soup, and I only ate about 1/4 of my gnocchi.  The box didn’t even come with my dinner, so I had to have some serious self control in order to not eat more!  I felt like a winner after walking out of the restaurant.  Monday morning, that feeling quickly vanished when I weighed myself and discovered I had gained 2 lbs.  😦  I could have let that defeat me, but I moved on.  I am doing my 2 day cleanse anyway.

I think a lot of people feel controlled by the scale.  I am ready to take back that control!  There are things that I have done since the start of the challenge that I can be proud of.  I am going to start focusing on the non-scale victories because they have so much more meaning!

Here are some of my non-scale victories:

  • The gloves I wear at work are getting loose.  I have always had to wear a size large glove.  One day, I put one on and thought I had put on an XL size because it went on smoother and felt baggy.  I quickly realized we NEVER have XL gloves and that my hands were actually shrinking!
  • I wore 2 different scrub tops that I haven’t been able to wear since the summer of 2012 because they had gotten so tight!


  • On one type of bra I wear, I have always had to use the last clasps.  The other day, I put it on and skipped the middle row all together.  I can now fasten it using the tightest clasps!
  • I rode my bike to visit my grandpa.  It wasn’t a very long ride, only a little less than 5.5 miles round trip, but it was the first time I had done it.  I felt great when I got done!
  • I have consistently gone to the gym the last 29 days.  It can be hard to force myself to go some days, but I feel AWESOME after a workout!
  • I have not had fast food or pop since starting the competition.  That is a huge accomplishment for me!
  • I can walk up and down the stairs without being extremely winded!

Anything that you feel proud of can be a non-scale victory.  Share some of your victories in the comments!

How I passed the NCLEX-RN

I cannot believe it has been 3 years since I graduated from nursing school and took the NCLEX-RN.  With many of my nursing assistant colleagues graduating and preparing to take the NCLEX, I thought now would be a good time to share my plan for studying.  **Using this plan does not guarantee you will pass; this plan is what I found to work for me.  I passed the NCLEX on my first try with just 75 questions.  Only you can know what will work for you**

The best advice I have for anyone preparing to take the NCLEX is to learn to dissect the questions.  There are going to be questions that you just do not know the answer to.  By learning to pick apart the question and really identify what it is asking, you will have a better chance with an educated guess.  The thing I found most helpful was to answer as many NCLEX questions as I possibly could.

I mostly only used two resources when preparing.  I used the book Saunders Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX-RN Examination and Saunders Q & A Review Cards for the NCLEX-RN Exam, which was a box of flashcards.  First, I took the review exam at the end of each chapter of the Saunders book.  For any chapter I didn’t score an 85% or better, I read the chapter.  After reviewing the chapter in depth, I took the exam again.  I originally wanted to read each chapter as a review, but I received my Authorization to Test a lot quicker than I had expected, and I scheduled my test for right away, so I didn’t have enough time to read each one.  I think I got a pretty good grasp on each subject with this method.

Saunders Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX-RN Examination (this is the version I used, but they have new additions)

Saunders Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX-RN Examination (this is the version I used, but they have new additions)

I used the flashcards a lot.  I reviewed EVERY SINGLE CARD.  First I would answer all of the questions on the card.  I would then look at the answer and the rationale of each question.  I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to read the rationale, even if you answer the question right.  Trust me, it helps!  The flashcards have different formats of questions in addition to multiple choice: multiple response, prioritizing, fill-in-the-blank, chart/exhibit, and figure/illustration.  A huge bonus when using these is they are very portable.  I used them when I had down-time at work, on my lunch breaks, while cooking a meal, before bed.  I’m even took them to restaurants when eating out (fortunately my family and friends tolerated my obsessive reviewing).  I probably would have taken them on car rides if reading didn’t make me horribly carsick!

Saunders Q &A Review Cards (there is a new addition of this as well)

Saunders Q &A Review Cards (there is a new addition of this as well)

I bought the Saunders book new about halfway through nursing school.  The review cards I bought used from a student a semester ahead of me.  For any review materials you choose to use, you can usually get them gently used.  I loved for my textbooks.  I discovered it when I started having to buy huge stacks of books when nursing school began, and I wish I had used it sooner.  I cringe when I think of how much money I spent on books in college!  When you are done reviewing, you can sell them and lose very little money.  Before I sold the review cards, I let my friends borrow them in the order they were taking the exam, since I was one of the first to take it.

On the night before the exam, DO NOT CRAM!  It will not benefit you.  The best thing to do is have a relaxing dinner, and get to bed early.  In the morning, make sure you have a good breakfast.  Go in to the testing center with a positive attitude.  Don’t be alarmed when you feel like you are being treated like a criminal. 😉  They are very strict at the center in order to prevent cheating.  Just follow the rules and you will be fine!  Make sure you read each question completely, and try to think about what the answer may be before reading any of the options.  Also, go with your first instinct.  I find that on any tests I have taken, when I changed my mind about an answer, I was usually right the first time.  Don’t panic when the computer shuts off.  I walked out of the testing center sure that I failed, but in reality, I passed.  Make sure you treat yourself in some way after!

If you have any questions about the techniques I used for preparing for the NCLEX, feel free to ask!  If you have taken the NCLEX and have any advice, leave it in the comments section!

Our First Camping Trip

When my husband and I were still dating, we went camping in a tent a few times.  Most often it was rustic camping, and I would have to drive myself to the bathroom (I have never been able to pee outside!)  There were no showers, and we spent most of our time canoeing and drinking.

This past winter, we bought a camper.  It is a 24 foot Coachmen.  It has no slides, 1 bedroom, a set of bunks, a bathroom with a tub, a kitchen and a dinette.  Here are some pictures of the camper.


Kitchen area

Kitchen area





More of the bedroom

More of the bedroom





While we would love to have a little bit more space with a bigger camper, this one is just big enough.  If it were any longer, we would have to pay for storage.  I made the divider curtain for the bedroom, the curtains for the bunks, and the sheets for the bunks.

For our first trip, we went to a private camping resort.  When we bought our camper, we received free nights of camping at the resort.  They of course attempted to sell us a membership which is required to camp there, but it comes with a big price tag!

We left on Friday morning.  We brought the dogs with us and had to figure out how we were all going to fit in the truck.  The plan was to have one in the back seat and one in the front seat.  We didn’t even make it off of our street before we realized that wouldn’t work.  Neither dog was willing to lay down when they were in front which meant my husband couldn’t see the trailer in the mirrors.  We stopped and squeezed them both in the back.  It looked like it would be tight but it ended up working out.  We had given our white dog Maverick an anti-anxiety medication from the vet before we left because he has so much anxiety with car rides.  It was the first time we had given it to him and they said to start with one.  It did not help at all.  (We ended up giving him 2 on the way home which worked much better!)  We had some trouble during the drive.  We had a guy pull up in a trunk and honk.  When we rolled down the window, he told us our bike was dragging!  Hubby pulled over and said the bike rack was broke (it was the first time we had even used it, and we only had 2 bikes on it).  Hubby put one bike in the bed of the truck, and the other inside the camper.  Fortunately, my bike was okay despite dragging on the freeway!

wpid-20150501_095334.jpgAt this campground, you pick your site when you get there.  There weren’t many people there when we arrived, so we had almost too many sites to choose from.  I saw a couple of young kids running around near a few campers, so I suggested picking a site near them.  We also needed a site with the one next to it available for my husband’s cousin and her husband.  For our first time setting up, it went rather smoothly.  After we thought we were hooked up to power for an hour, we realized the fridge wasn’t working.  It turned out the breaker we were hooked to didn’t work.  I then realized that hubby had plugged in to the wrong site’s power.  We switched it to the one that was for our site and the power worked.  I had to use my critical thinking skills to hook up the awning tie-downs since we couldn’t find the directions.  Hubby was proud of me for figuring that out! 🙂  We brought a big screened in tent to put the picnic table under.  After setting it all up, we realized it wouldn’t fit well anywhere on the site.  It was also pretty windy, so we were getting frustrated.  Hubby decided that we just weren’t going to use it, and he took it down.

Surprisingly, we only forgot a few things (hubby’s deodorant, baby sunscreen which we actually did have but hubby couldn’t find, and second stake for the dog tie outs).  Fortunately for us, my mother-in-law doesn’t live far from the campsite and she was coming to visit anyway, so she offered to stop at the store for the things we forgot.  We also had to have her pick up bigger trash bags because the ones we had didn’t fit our outdoor trash.

Once we were all set up, we had a great weekend!  The weather was incredible: sunny and warm with a light breeze!  We had friends and family come visit, we went on walks and bike rides, went fishing (we didn’t catch anything), played tennis, ladderball, and euchre, went on a paddleboat, and went swimming in the indoor pool.  We also spent each night around the campfire. Here are some pictures from the weekend:


Savannah got to meet a state trooper.  He gave her a sticker and coloring book!

Savannah got to meet a state trooper. He gave her a sticker and coloring book!

Savannah trying her first s'more.

Savannah trying her first s’more.


I gained a pound and a half after the weekend.  I am not super upset about it because I know I didn’t follow the program 100%.  Overall I did well, but I wish I had done a little better for the sake of the competition.

I learned a few things from this first camping trip:

  • A toddler is always going to be dirty while camping.  We just made her use some hand sanitizer before she ate.
  • Use the least amount of dishes possible.  Washing dishes in that teeny tiny sink isn’t fun.
  • If the bathhouse is nice, plan to shower there.  The shower in the camper is super tiny.  And it is impossible to shave your legs in it!
  • We need to get something to make our bed more comfortable.  The mattress is awful!  My back hurt so bad from sleeping on it!

I can’t wait for our next camping trip!  We plan to bring a little bit less stuff this time though!

What are some tips you can share that you have learned from camping?