Last Confession: Use Me! I Will Not Die an Unused Life.
My brother turned me on to a lot of musicians after the Beatles came to A starting when Dylan came to Raleigh, D worked concessions. Of course it progressed from there. One of the earlier ones was Dave Bromberg, a great musician who played with many other famous musicians from early 1960’s. He got tired of the road and travel, so he took a 20 year break while learning violin making. Recently he had an idea for a new recording, and went to his friends and asked them to use him in the best possible way. In his words: “It’s an interesting record because what I did was, I called up a bunch of people, and I asked each one of them to write a song for me, and then to produce a recording of me doing that song. Thus the title of the CD: Use Me. I had songs with Tim O’Brien, Levon Helm, John Hiatt, Dr. John, Los Lobos, Linda Ronstadt, Vince Gill and others. A lot of people actually consented to write a song for me. It was phenomenal.”
So I am saying to you all, USE ME (in the nicest possible way of course). Use all of us who have been doing aromatherapy before, use the pioneers and the vintage Aromatherapists. Write me a song and produce me, so I won’t die as Wayne Dyer says with the “song still in me.” Ask me a question and do something with it so I will not die with an unused life.
In Summary: To the Pioneers, thank you from the depths of my heart for your contribution to the world we know as aromatherapy. To the newbies: you are the force of the future. Take the torch forward. In ten years you will be up here running the organization, doing the work, presenting new research, and starting new opportunities! Take the lessons of past, educate, move us all forward.
Carry on in “co-opetition”, share the word with others; we are all in this together. Instead of competition which separates us as mine and yours, co-opetition calls us to work together, support and help each other, and unites us together. Stir up your passion of possibility, and see what your contribution may end up being. Don’t be afraid to think big, silly, or small and local and see just where your path takes you. I am proof that even the smallest, seemingly strange or crazy thought or idea can turn into a book, organization, or an aromatic contribution that helps others. Keep the faith!
“Faith: sees the invisible, believes the incredible and receives the impossible.” (author unknown)
And lastly I will leave you with the advice of my guru, Paramhansa Yogananda:
“Learn to keep the perpetual smile of balanced recklessness.”
During the Purdue classes in 1996, we went on a field (peppermint!) trip to the Lucac farm to see peppermint distillation. While we were there, we met Rob Brown of Lebermuth, who had with him their new chemist Rob Pappas. Rob was new to the industry, and our meeting that summer day sealed his fate with aromatherapy. You can read about his history here and here.
Rob and I became great friends and aroma colleagues as I dragged him kicking and screaming into our field of aromatherapy. He cleared up a lot of the mystery for us surrounding chemical components and distillation, and he helped bust essential oil myths with rational science. I was able to arrange for him to come to the Part II Essential Oils Purdue class so he could teach the chemistry portion (the previous professor unfortunately had such a thick accent that we couldn’t understand the lecture).
He joined with the Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy to teach Chemistry of Essential Oils classes in Florida and other locations for many years. We co-authored a home study course on chemistry and perfumery, as well as two articles for publication on separate essential oils. See them below.
I visited his home several times and met his beautiful wife Buffi and their beautiful children (very young at the time, but now they’re adults!). He showed me the gigantic dunes in the Indiana Dunes State Park on Lake Michigan. Who knew that was there!? He also gave me an essential oil sabbatical by letting me spend time in his lab and see the GC/MS equipment; he even let me mix up some formulas on the scales. I had the most fun smelling and tasting all sorts of varieties of oils. Oh yes, I like to taste to get the true sense of an oil, much to the horror of the staff!
I’ve learned so much from Rob over the years and had a lot of fun, too. He helped me with my computer skills and issues, once remotely taking over my computer to fix something. He added “Witchy Woman” music to my first website. Once, he sent me a chemical structure picture that I opened early in the morning, before the sun had come up. I was so excited to see it and print out the image that I tripped and fractured my hand! It was my first fracture, and and I still blame it entirely on him!
We both obtained one of the first Internet phone systems with an eyeball camera, so we sat up late many nights talking about stuff. For fun, he showed me Diablo, an early interactive internet game that was very exciting for those who don’t play games—me, in other words!
We also connected through music, most especially the Dave Matthews Band album “Crash,” and I still think of those times when I hear those songs. For example, Celebrate takes me back to us riding through the Colorado mountains with Laraine Pounds and Michael Scholes, singing along on the way to some hot springs before a chemistry class weekend. We were known to sing karaoke in bars from Indiana to Paris. He introduced me to distillation and set me up with my first stills, including the StoveStill that he designed himself. It’s very efficient and uses the cold finger condenser. And he, along with others, remotely supported me through my cancer experience.
He debunked a lot of myths on aromatherapy through the old idma internet list, and he still does so on social media. He was the first to expose a major supplier’s jasmine as being synthetic, and he recently debunked myths like the idea that oil was used in the Bible, and that irritation is detox, and many more on Facebook here. He is not afraid to speak his truth.
We traveled similar paths and had great fun in many places at conferences, from across the USA and Canada and to Europe (Paris, Nice, and Cannes). He introduced me to Tony Burfield in Cannes at the World Perfumery Conference, which began years of collaboration–but that’s another story! Along with Rob Brown, Rob Pappas and I traveled into the high mountains outside Nice, France to find the home of some wild crafters. Together we saw how they lived, collected and processed aromatics. Our friend Michel drove us around Paris to see the sites, ending up in a park where we smelled the loveliest oils of Haute Provence from Michel’s distillations.
Once I found a eucalyptus tree in my neighborhood, and when I distilled the leaves, I realized it was different. During a chemistry class, we harvested some, distilled it, and Rob analyzed it. It was unique because it was a camaldulensis species with cryptone, a component not usually found in this species. So we decided to find out more. Tony Burfield had connections in Australia for species identification, so we sent the plant leaf/flower specimen for authentication and wrote about it. Our article was published in Journal of Essential Oil Research. You can read about that here. We also presented a paper in Grasse on a high chamazulene Artemesia from the Pacific northwest, which you can read here.
Rob started the first Chemistry of Essential Oils course for college credit (C390) at Indiana University South Bend. He arranged for a separate Introduction to Aromatherapy course, which we did together and imported various experts. Both of these courses are landmarked as the first university credit courses focusing on essential oils and aromatherapy. He still teaches Chemistry of Essential Oils at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany, IN and offers an online course as well.
Rob, Sylla, and George Nazaroff, Head of Chemistry IUSB
These days when he’s not teaching, Rob is busy with his analysis business Essential Oil University, and he maintains one of the best databases for essential oils. The Essential Oil Chemical Reference database contains thousands of literature references and GC/MS reports for almost any oil you need information about. Each citation will list the title of the article, authors names, title and page numbers of the journal referenced, and the complete chemical breakdown of the oil as reported in the article. We in the industry have found this database very useful because it’s the largest online essential oil chemical reference database in the world. Visit his Facebook page for more information.
Rob has been a major factor in my life in many ways, and this is just a little slice of why I love him so much. He has always been our aromatherapy champion, bringing in science and rationality, fighting for what is right and good. A true Aquarian, he brings water to thirsty aromatherapists and shines a rational light on irrational claims. We are very blessed to have him on our side in the fight for truth and justice in the essential oil realm.
So thank you, Rob, for being a special part of my life and giving the gift of truth to the aromatherapy world!
I confess. I’ve said many negative things in the past about the multi-level marketing (MLM) companies that have sprung up in the last 20 years. I don’t like the way they operate using “pseudo” science, promoting extreme undiluted use and daily doses in water or capsules. I’ve accused them and judged them and called them names, and I’ve walked around with my feathers ruffled for some time. But I realized that this toxic anger actually harms me, and I’ve been learning how to release it. In doing so, I’ve come to understand how important this process is to my well-being. I’ve also discovered a few good things about these companies that I’ve treated like enemies, and it feels so much better to think about them in this light. The truth is, I’m actually thankful for them for several reasons.
First, they have been the single most influential factor in the exponential increase of people using essential oils throughout the last 15 to 20 years. I thought we did a good job after 9/11 of spreading the word on how helpful oils can be daily, but these companies get the award for inspiring the most widespread use in the masses. In a way, they’ve stolen my dream. I decided a long time ago that I wanted to help the world through aromatherapy, and these companies are so big now that my education has become a drop in the bucket. I still don’t agree with their methods, but they’re able to appeal to and introduce aromatherapy to people who may not have ever tried it, and thus they have opened a new population to the oils that we love.
Secondly, I have met some wonderful people who started in these companies but moved on when they realized something was missing. Many of my first-timers went through introductions and then became seekers of truth and knowledge. This makes “IPC’s” or “wellness consultants” a tremendous source for new students and customers for the educators and businesses in our field. Sure, some of these beginners may never move from their start, but plenty will, and they need the quality education and products that we already provide. Ideally, we should let go of the idea that it’s “us” against “them” and see that we’re all in this together. One by one, I’ve helped so many students see that education is empowerment, and that we make good choices once we realize what we don’t know!
Third, I’ve found that once these new students have some knowledge to work with, they begin asking great questions. They make us research and look into their claims, and that process can impact all of us in a lot of healthy ways. The whole industry has experienced a growth of knowledge and information in the last few years because of this. They also keep me on my toes, and of course they gave me a great lesson on anger, frustration, and finally learning to let go. Now whenever I hear them make a claim, I go look at the research for myself, which gives me a good mystery on which to follow up.
Lately, I’ve been thinking of a new idea about being in “co-opetition.” I thought I had invented the word, but here it is on Wikipedia:
“Coopetition occurs when companies interact with partial congruence of interests. They cooperate with each other to reach a higher value creation if compared to the value created without interaction, and struggle to achieve competitive advantage. Often coopetition takes place when companies that are in the same market work together in the exploration of knowledge and research of new products, at the same time that they compete for market-share of their products and in the exploitation of the knowledge created.”
We are all involved with our own businesses and careers, and with that there’s the tendency to be territorial and competitive. We all want to stay in business. And there’s always a hierarchy in competition, and everyone is always working to get above and ahead. In co-opetition, we see everyone as being on the same level and work with each other to bring up the quality of the whole industry!
Each new idea adds to our collective knowledge, even the challenges, and that means we all grow. And as we grow, we help each other by working together. So, instead of being against everything and seeing the situation as us against them, I propose we start seeing ourselves as one entity, working together in co-opetition.
So, let’s work together for the greater good of aromatherapy, and for the future of our freedom to use oils responsibly! and let us please support each other in our paths. The time has come for CO-OPETITION!
Spread the word.
I’ve accepted that at the awesome age of 63, my silver hair is lovely and I have thin skin that shows experience and feelings. I’ve learned to appreciate the joy in the beautiful experience of “croning,” or becoming an elder. I have a new appreciation of where I’ve been, and I can marvel in gratitude at the changes.
I wrote already about my early life and my brother D here. My brother Don, or D as he came to be known (short for Deetle), was my “Irish” twin, being only ten months older than me. We grew up very close, and he was always very curious about nature and showed me snakes and such from an early age. I looked up to him as my constant companion.
We were a year apart at school and had some of same friends—especially girls who wanted to be my friend because he was so cute! I really hated when he went off to Army boot camp for six months while I was a senior in high school. But he came back and then I moved on to Florida—but I still loved everything he did. He showed me the great Bob Dylan and other musicians from the 1960s, and by the 70s he had gotten into bluegrass music, and of course I followed. I got a fiddle and he patiently taught me songs like Old Joe Clark. We would play together when I made trips back to NC.
We both got married and had our baby girls, Katie and Nyssa, around the same time (1984). He moved to Florida eventually, and after finding a great job for him, we flipped two houses in our spare time for extra money, which he used to get a little house.
It was really great to have him close by; we had lots of family time with our East Coast family, especially with our nephew Jim who had just returned from Afghanistan (more on that story here).
But we weren’t meant to grow old together. He always called on weekend afternoons to say, “No news is good news!” or before going to sleep after a night shift to tell me, “I’m tired and wired and uninspired.” Then one weekend he didn’t. No returned calls at all, and no emails. So, after not hearing back from my brother by Tuesday, I finally discovered he had not been in to work on Monday night.
I drove over and found him on the sofa, as if asleep, having peacefully left his earthly vessel a few days before. Needless to say, I was devastated and severely traumatized. My recovery included therapies in Rapid Resolution Therapy (RRT) and Heart Forgiveness, both of which were crucial to my initial healing process. We went to the mountains of North Carolina, our home, and with his best friends Graham, Steve, Sam, and Linwood, his family put his ashes in the New River.
I once again received help from Robbi Zeck, who had just done her newest Blossoming Heart reflection on Spikenard, which helps us move from grief to resilience.
When your heart is cracked wide open, with grief flowing like a river, place Spikenard on the crown of your head, at your forehead, over your heart and on the soles of your feet. It will bring you relief and create inner calm…Spikenard with its grounding earthy qualities will help to create closure so that regret and sorrow gently slip away…build resistance and access your innate strengths and use the affirmation: breathing in I feel, breathing out I flow; my heart is cradled.”
Since then, I’ve used Spikenard and my other tools to restore my peace and build resilience, release the past in a loving way, and be here now in the present. I took time to do my grief work, and during this time, a poem emerged:
A Morning Mourning
A morning alone becomes a mourning to myself
Alone to indulge in needed release of feelings held in for the moment, my heart cracks wide open and spills new rivers of tears gushing down my face leaving no trace of what I release as grief
Breathing in, I open to the Light
Breathing out, I release the heart light
The heart light switch is on again
Breathing in these mournings alone, the light of Love nourishes and settles my emotional heart
Breathing out I gather my heart back unto myself
Having hit the wall where resilience abounds, the mourning light becomes the Light of Love restoring strength and courage to my soul
Breathing in I feel; Breathing out I flow
My heart is cradled.
This blog goes out on the three-year anniversary of D’s passing, and I’m grateful to have had him in my life. I remember him with love and feel his presence daily. I know he’s cheering me on, so I’m ready to restart my aromatic journey and rejoin my friends, colleagues and students on the path to finish what I started. Karmic gravity calls me back; I’m not done yet. Being asked to create the paper from which this confession comes tells me I’m needed, and that helps me to pick back up and restart, so I can be called to action once again.
But I know that I can’t do this alone. My daughter Nyssa has stepped up to help my work continue on, but she needs help too. In all my years, if there is one this I have learned, it’s that life is short and that we get a lot more out of working together than we do working alone.
Doug E. Rasmusson was my inspiration to get involved with disaster relief. Affectionately known as “Doug E”, he had over the previous years become a very good friend, mentee, supporter and instructor for the Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy. We first met when he came to my class in Tampa, 1992. He sponsored aromatherapy classes in the Florida Keys and sold his own oil line. Together, we travelled to many conferences within the aromatherapy community. He formed the first Florida massage team before moving to NC and in 1998 where he developed Carolina Emergency Response Massage Team (CERMT). They provided relief during hurricanes and other disasters in North Carolina.
In 2001, after the tragedy of September 11th, I wanted to do something to help those affected. As a cancer survivor, I couldn’t donate blood so I decided to join “Doug E.” and his team who were preparing to venture to New York to participate in the disaster relief.
Before leaving, I had the idea to take some aromatherapy to help with the smell and other issues. Thanks to the internet, the call for donations from all my friends and colleagues in aromatherapy produced a miracle. The first trip in November we carried $10K worth of supplies to give out. DougE led us back 3 more times, with help from therapists from all over the USA and the REST-UK, the teamed formed by therapists in England. He took good care of us as we worked daily and earned himself the name “Daddy Brother” pronounced “brudd-ah” Brooklyn style. Often taking the night shift at St. Pauls church at Ground Zero, he scheduled us from his bed before he got his sleep.
We all had New York nick names like Queen Mudder, Loving Mudder, Spinster Sista, and others. (Feel free to remind me in the comments what your name was!)
After seeing such a drastic difference in the lives of those we were helping, because of the immense support we got, we decided to create the United Aromatherapy Effort, Inc.: a non-profit for collecting and disseminating aromatherapy products for first responders after disasters. Eileen Christina and I created the “Adopt a Station program” over bacon and eggs before our daily rounds. Our complete history and pics are on the site UnitedAromatherapy.org and our Facebook Page. We also have an amazing Tribute Video you can check out.
In between events we celebrated ourselves at the NAHA Raleigh conference, where we raffled off strands of DougE’s long hair for fund raising, and we partied hard with lots of aromatic friends and supporters! Michael Kirk-Smith holds the first of many strands sold that day.
Many of us also served in CERMT by helping Doug E break the worlds record for chair massage – 52 hours- in order to raise funds! First hour, followed by last hour with Nyssa in the chair and Sylvie cheering him on. He did it!!
After NY, we served in Biloxi after Hurricane Katrina for many weeks.
Our grand finale was supplying aromatherapy to the armed forces in Afghanistan. My nephew Jim Baucom was called to duty in Kabul and he helped us get the donations dispersed at Camp Phoenix by acting as our Soldier on the Ground, receiving and distributing supplies to other soldiers on duty.
For this great feat we got a flag flown over Camp Phoenix in our honor and this plaque, along with a letter from the General. See it here.
Several companies including Nelson Bach Co, and Nature’s Gift shipped direct to Afghanistan on their own in our name so we passed the flag around for photo ops! Here it poses at Samara Botane!
I’m so thankful for all those who helped us help others on our disaster relief missions. It is still hard to believe the small idea to take aromatherapy to New York became a successful non-profit organization lasting 10 years. Last year, we officially closed, but the UAE had a great run, having served two major disasters and many minor ones. All of our accomplishments are archived at UnitedAromatherapy.org. We were able to disperse any leftover donations and have distributed remaining funds as gifts to NAHA and Alliance of International Aromatherapists.
My greatest thanks go to DougE, my forever Daddy Brother, and the gift he gave me by being in my life. DougE now resides in France with his beautiful wife Sylvie (formerly Grosjean, Nelly’s sister, who he met because I introduced him to Nelly!!). You can see the awesome location in Provence where they live here.
In this fragrant and relaxing location just 45 minutes northwest of St. Tropez, he is busy training people in Massage Cupping. In addition they host wellness seminars and have a SPA, where he still does massage and still plays lots of music. You can visit in Provence! See the awesome location where they live here and check out their Facebook page.
I cannot finish this blog without mentioning the Most Honorable Outstanding UAE Volunteers:
-Nyssa Hanger, who went several times wrote this piece and won YM Magazine Coolest Teen award for her work with us during her last year of high school. She was inspired to become a massage therapist and has a successful business Upward Spiral Center; and she is teaching aromatherapy as Assistant Director with Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy.
-Geraldine Zelinsky gave her loving support for many years running from the start. Most especially from Katrina on to the end she kept us going. From being VP/Assistant Director and overseeing all donations, shipping to Afghanistan, arranging for PR, to additionally keeping all our books and records, and so much more. I cannot thank her enough for her time and energy!!
-Karen Romanchek was a faithful volunteer extraordinaire for all trips.
-Mynou DeMey was logistics and liaison for our deployments.
-Sara Holmes served as Secretary, gave continuous support and supplies made by her students.
Thanks to all the LMT helpers who worked with us. Please share with us in comments your experience with this project!
Finally, a big THANK YOU to my brother Don Baucom or “D”. He kindly allowed us to raffle him for fund raising several times! including the first time when Jane Buckle wrote a poem about it.
This work may have been the greatest gift of my life. The knowledge and experience I gained was incredibly valuable. I learned so much, most importantly that giving back feels better than receiving. I also learned that one has to receive in order to ‘fill the cup’. My dear friend and colleague Trevor Stokes said during my cancer recovery, “you have to let people help because it is giving them a chance to do something, and they need this gift”. And so I did. I got what I needed and gave them the gift of helping me. When we help someone, its a win win. Giving makes the giver feel good, the receiver feels good for receiving, and anyone watching also feels good too because of the endorphin release which can occur for observers witnessing a good deed too! To keep it going now we local therapists volunteer with the James Haley Veterans Hospital here in Tampa, so we continue to accept a chance to give to the wounded warriors , and their caregivers too.
The moral of this tale is you never know what a random thought can do, even though it seems silly or impossible at the time! Go ahead, fly with it! It could become an important move. You could help a lot of people including yourself and if nothing else you will have a grand story to tell later.