Summer school has been crazy paced. I am keeping on top of things, mostly, and feel fairly good about our first test tomorrow. Quizzes have gone well and homework is challenging at times, but with the help of the math center’s tutors, everything is being completed.
Scuba is going well too. It was a major challenge to overcome the smell of the chlorine at the pool – to feel safe in a place that a person with MCS would be afraid to go. However, last Wednesday night I put on all the scuba gear and happily swam underwater in the pool for a couple of hours.
Thursday morning saw me getting hugely sick, I’m ok now, but I actually had to go to the emergency room for IV fluids and antinausea medication. After several doses of meds, I was good to go home where I then slept the next 22 hours away. Needless to say, I missed math class that day.
What a weird week.
Yesterday saw me in a study group with a girl from class, Jess, who’s a surprising 17 years old. I couldn’t help but be curious about the coincidence in life to bring us together. She began college at 16 – as did I. When I was 17, I met up with a study buddy who became a friend who was older than me and married – as I am now. Its like I am looking back at time and now participating on the other side of an experience I had twenty years ago! Heck, when I was having this experience, Jess wasn’t even alive yet. Wild!
Then today was I driving to an appointment that’s a little outside of town. It’s a little more wild there, fields on one side of the two lane road, houses on the other. I do this drive twice a week and its very common to see small roadkill because of the traffic and proximity to the fields. As I was driving behind someone and seeing traffic coming my way, I spotted what looked like a very recently killed bunny in the road. It was only a few inches to the side of the center line. When I drew nearly abreast of it, I was looking at it some more because it seemed a little too upright for roadkill.
Wait! That rabbit is alive!
I didn’t have to give it much thought. Immediately I pulled over to the side of the road and went back, hoping it wasn’t going to jump into a passing car’s way because of my presence. Thankfully, the poor rabbit was completely petrified with fear and I was able to easily pick it up and hold it to my chest.
After a little searching nearby, I found a very nice spot to leave the rabbit about 50 feet or so from the road. He’s right next to some tall grass, under a shady tree, with a small pond about ten feet away. Lovely little spot. I set him down and he fell over, stiff with fear. One thing my time in those woods taught me though, is that the rabbit will be ok. The best thing I could do at that point was to leave and trust that in five or ten minutes he’d snap out of it and hop away.
As I neared the road again to cross back to my car, a large dump truck came barreling down the street. A truck that size wouldn’t have swerved or stopped for a bunny in the road. Without a doubt, I save that little guy’s life by just a few minutes.
Life is weird and then it gets weirder. This week looks to be keeping that trend. Still… at least I have this bright new memory of holding the little body in my arms and keeping him safe until I could find a good spot for him to stay while recovering.
My new camera – I love it! I’ve been having a great time photographing all kinds of things on the island.
It’s not uncommon to see me lying on my belly in the sand at the beach while trying for a different angled shot or in some other awkward pose to capture an image of a bee harvesting pollen. In a land of tourism, I blend right in!
I’ve been finding my love of photography growing again and each excursion fans the flames of this lifelong passion even higher. It feels good to be alive and with camera in hand.
I would like to have more photos to put up here today, but for now I’ll start with a cute pig who lives across the street. Occasionally him and his siblings would escape their fenced area to forage in the lush grass on the other side of their enclosure. I was lucky enough to come home for a day out with my camera to see them all running down the road. Barely waiting for the car to stop, I hopped out with a quick “Meet you at home!” tossed to Jeremy as I hurried off after the pigs.
I hope you enjoy the first of what will be many interesting shots from the island of Maui here in beautiful Hawaii.
This is what February 13th looks like from Hawaii at Waihe’e Beach, Maui. (pronounced why-hay-A)
We walked around the bend seen in this picture, then set our picnic down in our usual place. I turned around and was surprised to see this wonderful rainbow stretching the sky behind me.
The weather cleared to almost full sun, mid-70’s, and the water was warm enough for a long soak after a brief shock of cold when first diving in.
Waihe’e is one of our favorite beaches here so far. It’s a reasonable drive and usually quiet. Today it was just the two of us and a whale we saw breach the surface out past the reefs. The wave break you see in the photo (where all the white topped waves are) stretches a very long ways and provides a protected area for swimming, floating, and snorkeling year round.
So far at Waihe’e we’ve now seen many various aquatic life, a sea turtle, a monk seal, and the humpback whale.
A long, meditative rest followed by a good soak in the ocean left me feeling recharged and somewhat centered for the first time in weeks.
The new year has been one of great healing for me, but this is a painful healing of old emotional wounds, both from before I was ill and after, that have their thorns in daily life. It has left me drained and on the edge of slipping back into the crash of November/December. Though it is frustrating to have had only a week or so in early January where I felt as though the crash was finally lifting, it is hard to find fault when the culprit is healing.
Healing is not always easy or happy making, but as long as one is willing to embrace it, then with time you will find a rainbow has sneaked up behind you to brighten your day.
It has been a long several days but I’m finally feeling a bit more normal today.
Last Sunday night we had a big windstorm in the area which felled a tree onto some power lines and knocked out our electricity. It happened just after midnight. All night the wind waged war in the tree tops overhead and we had a very fitful night of sleep.
Monday morning we awoke to find the power still off which is actually a little unusual. We also found only six hard boiled eggs remaining and no other precooked heavy protein sources for meals. Though we are well prepared for going several days without power (as has happened a few times in the past), it was with foods dense in starchy carbohydrates remaining from our past style of eating.
On the prowl for food.
For a Paleo diet, the cupboards were largely bare. And so the hunt began.
Jeremy’s father could bring home something from town after he was off work but he needed to know what to get and where to go. Given that until four months ago I had been a vegetarian for over 12 years and so had never gone to a restaurant and ordered a meat dish in this town… it proved rather difficult to find anything to eat. Add to this difficulty a national holiday leaving half the places we called closed, we were lucky to find one place after two hours of searching.
Or at least we thought we were lucky at the time.
This brings me now to saying how absolutely burned up with frustration that I still am today at what follows. We called one of the local grocery stores that tends to try and be a bit more upscale and I spoke directly to someone in the deli department. I asked her very specifically if their rotisserie roasted chickens had MSG in them. She claimed to go find out, came back and told me they did not.
There is not a doubt in my mind that that bird was covered in tons of MSG and I have paid a steep price for having eaten it.
My goodness, I have never been sensitive to MSG before. I knew we wanted to avoid it based on a number of things I have read over the last year that said it wasn’t a very good thing to ingest if you have chronic illness, hence the hours of calling around looking for food that did not contain it. But it was just a precaution; I had no idea that it would make me this ill if I did eat it.
Less than a hour after eating I began to have my first symptoms. The first two days were the worst. I had difficulty breathing at times and a lot of shortness of breath all other times, a huge amount of exhaustion, nausea, intestinal cramping, my emotions going very haywire, large amount of water retention (also from the added salt at the store), headaches, greatly increased allergy symptoms with my sinuses, really scary stuff going on with my ears, and just in general a strong feeling of my body systems being really messed up.
Why did I react this way to MSG while others can safely eat it? MSG is an excitatory neurotransmitter which means it excites nerves and makes them fire more frequently. It does this in your mouth and your brain first so that your taste buds are triggered to enjoy the food more. Problem is that it doesn’t stop there. In an already overly stimulated nervous system such as mine, it is like adding oxygen and gasoline to a fire barely under control.
The chaos of an overly stimulated nervous system.
Everything goes haywire. Brain chemistry gets wonky, felt like my body was utterly exhausted yet I had done nothing to cause it, and there are studies showing MSG increases histamine by 150%. Histamine is responsible for allergy symptoms amongst having other biological roles.
As time has passed my symptoms have slowly been lessening in severity. The first three days I could not walk to our ‘facilities’ and back without nearly collapsing in a breathless heap on the ground partway back, willpower the only thing that kept my feet under me till I could fall into bed with my heart pounding and dying for air. Luckily that has passed fully. To take its place is a light rash over much of my skin. The gastro-intestinal problems have mostly gone away too. Allergies are still hyperactive but slowly going back to normal as is the myriad of other symptoms.
All of these symptoms (minus maybe the water retention) can be traced back to how MSG allergies/sensitivities present themselves. This could have been prevented were it not for one incompetent worker telling me there was no MSG in the food. Grrrr!!!!
Today I am very happy to say that I am finally starting to feel a lot calmer in mind and body again after a very chaotic week. Jeremy also had some troubles with the food, but not to the same extent as I did though the first two days were also pretty rough on him and he is not fully recovered from it yet either.
Half of week four down and we are very much still eating strict Paleo and gradually feeling a bit better with it. The only bump in the road was that chicken… El Polo Diablo.
El Polo Diablo aka “The Devil Chicken”
It has been a three days since the cold front finally broke. When it did we got a couple inches of snow, not really all that much for around here. I expect a couple more snow storms before winter is done. This one only lasted a day this time which was very nice. Luckily behind the snow was a warm front and now it’s a balmy 50 degrees today, though it does come with the price of heavy rain showers. Such a huge change from our well below freezing temperatures less than a week ago, feels almost like spring! Here are a few pictures I took of the snow:
View from under our tarps.
Jeremy having to keep dry while getting hot canning jars for us to stay warm.
The beauty of the snow.
The rest of this is just a quick update to my previous blog articles.
For almost the entire month of November both Jeremy and I had a really difficult time around here. I wrote about the crash in “Tides of the Storm” and “Ex nihilo”. It was probably one of the hardest months we have had since moving into this tent and very possibly the hardest in the last 2.5 years. November ended with me having one of the worst flu bugs I can ever remember having and Jeremy having a tooth extracted that had been abscessing for the last several weeks at least. But with the first week of December we both started feeling slowly better and getting our feet back under us solidly. We decided that a rest was much needed and are taking a month off of all detox inducing supplements so our bodies can heal and be ready for the next round.
I have written a few times of the animals we have around here in “A More Simplistic Life” and “Squirrels!” We still see our little Winter Wren friend and he has become much braver in the last couple months. Just a week ago he was hopping around and looking for a tasty bug to eat when he got some crazy notion in his head that the pill Jeremy was handing me must have been for him. Right as I grasped the capsule I suddenly see this little form dart from the corner of the tent and do a quick swoop past my hand. As he went by I felt his little feet grab my finger nearest the capsule and quickly let go as his momentum carried him onwards. What he was thinking, we will never know but it did provide for a nice bit of comedy.
Our squirrel friends (or annoyances as was the case for several months) have been quieting down as the winter progresses. Surprisingly we saw one just behind the tents digging in the snow on Sunday, looking for some maple seeds. I wouldn’t have expected to see them out on the one day of snow, but can’t argue instinct with something who’s vary life depends on it. Luckily they have been much quieter in the mornings and so we get to finally sleep as our circadian rhythms need. I think this is certainly one of the big things that is helping us to recover from our crash in late October and all of November.
Also, an update on our progress after the big doctor visit we had early October and written about in “Back from the Wizard”. We have been taking our b12 shots every three days, using the hormones as prescribed, and taking all the additional vitamins suggested (vit D, more C, more Selenium, and more CoQ10). I have changed several of the brands we used for our vitamins. Where monetarily possible we are now on food based vitamins which feel a lot better to be taking. I wasn’t sure if there was a real difference between food based and something developed fully in a lab. However, when I had the nasty stomach flu a few weeks ago I quickly felt the difference between the two types as the fully lab manufactured ones were not even able to be tolerated by my stomach for five days, while the food based ones caused no stomach trouble.
That affected a lot of my decisions when it came time to buy our vitamins the following week and I think I have us on substantially better vitamins now because of it. I also was disturbed to find a possible source of mercury ingestion in our fish oil, apparently at some point it changed from “free of mercury” to “lower than industry allowable limits.” Ack!!! We now take krill oil and it is worth every extra penny to know it will not be adding to the abundance of mercury we must deal with.
In small ways we are seeing the benefits of these changes. It is very likely that the crash we just went through was brought about by some of the readjusting going on in our bodies to the new therapies. Certainly the vitamin b12 shots (administered at home) would be a huge catalyst for change even if nothing else was. I have noticed some good changes in Jeremy as his hormone levels are going back to normal and some positive things as mine do as well.
Within two days of our doctor trip we also stopped eating all soy products, though I did just find a couple supplements that had some soy still in them. These are now gone too. We have stopped being vegetarians, something which was hard from me as I had been one for 12.5 years, but can feel a lot of benefit happening from now eating animal sources for protein. I think this is also responsible for some of the good changes taking place in us. Currently we are working towards a large change in diet and are excited to see what might happen once we have fully made the change. We feel better in small ways every meal we eat differently now, I have high hopes for what may occur when all meals are changed.
As for our house… well nothing seems to have come of all my efforts to find help finishing it and described in “To dream of a Home” and “Fate’s Quirky Sense of Timing.” One woman at the NW EcoBuilding Guild did seem receptive to talking about my situation but after hearing how bad things are she completely disappeared. It is unfortunate she couldn’t at least have been kind enough to say she couldn’t help, but to act as though we do not exist anymore is pretty ridiculous.
I also spoke with the president of the guild who upon learning that we were not paying members she immediately became very aloof and wanted nothing to do with us either. I had tried to explain that being almost completely housebound, on a fixed income with high out of pocket medical costs, and scrimping every cent we could to finishing building our house that it just hadn’t made much sense to pay monthly membership dues for meetings we would never be able to attend.
But it did not matter at all. Unless we had been paying for services we were too disabled to use even once in the four years we have been trying to build, she wanted nothing to do with us. If it were me, I would have looked at an opportunity to get us as new members and make a statement that it is an organization not just about recycling building products but about the people who live in the world we are claiming to want to save. I have to wonder who they are trying to save the planet for if not for the people who are in their community.
There are a few other exciting bits of life that have been going on around here but I will save those for later as they develop more fully. I am starting to finally feel like there is some progress being made from all the hard work we have been putting into life for the last four months since starting the climb back up out of the hole this summer’s crash left us in.
Ok, maybe this wasn’t such a quick update after all. Surprising to see how much has been happening when most of the last few months I often felt as though very little was going on. Small things have a way of adding up over time to much bigger things.
Two years ago, a little Winter Wren started frequenting our camp. We often see them in the bushes in the woods, flitting from one spot to the next without ever a having a care for the giant who stands watching them. They are so small, other than hummingbirds they are one of the smallest birds we have locally. Yet they are also the bravest. As though they trust themselves and their own abilities to escape danger much more than the larger, often times more clumsy, sparrows and juncos.
The wee one who became our regular visitor during winter a couple years ago was a small bit of joy every day. It did not matter what we were doing, when he came around we would pause life for a moment while we watched his beauty.
He moved on during that next summer as bugs became more plentiful and easy to find. We briefly saw him again in the fall but then he disappeared one day. We would allow the spiders to make homes in the corners knowing the wren would find them a tasty snack. But eventually, we had to start clearing them out ourselves and accept that our friend was not coming back. This made us sad because of how easily it could mean he was no longer alive. Old age, a predator, starvation, or the elements could all have taken such a small being.
Now and then we would see a wren in camp and always wonder if he had found his way back to us, but when the little bird would only briefly stay and look in the obvious places for bugs, we knew it was just another traveler passing through. Time passed and we stopped looking.
A couple days ago another wren came through camp. It did not stay long before flying away. Then we saw it again later that same day. This was new; they don’t usually come back twice, not since our wee friend left. Then there were two of them at the same time, both looking for bugs and double checking where each had just been, that a morsel was not left behind.
You learn personalities of birds when near them enough. Based on this, I can say that the second one has not come back through having only found the remains of the first one’s feasts. But the first wee wren we saw that day has been back many times since.
He visits at least twice each day, hopping around and eying every surface under our tarp for prey. At times we are treated to some amazing acrobatics as he snatches a bite to eat. Jeremy’s monitor is beside an open window in our tent and our bird has found this to be a good resting spot for spying around inside. Never any fear from him, you can see this when he looks right at you from atop the monitor.
As with our first wren, this one also is learning all the spots bugs hide that the other, less curious wrens always miss. I love watching him hop around on the outside of the tent, his antics when he spots something but it turns out to be on the opposite side of some screening and out of his reach. Sometimes his little feet will make small scratching noises on the nylon walls as he scales the side seams of the tent. A quizzical look will appear on his face at times, as he peers around looking for his dinner. You can almost see his thoughts… “If I were a spider, where would I hide?”
I do not think this is the same Winter Wren we had two years ago, but I am very quickly finding myself growing fond of the newcomer to our home. I am looking forward to my wee friend’s visit today and the bit of peace he brings. That ability to take me out from my own world and step into his much more simplistic life for a few minutes.
Eight years ago today saw one of the worst days of my life. The last two months had become an ever increasing nightmare as life started to plunge into the icy depths of serious illness. With chronic fatigue making it increasingly difficult to work even part time and chemical sensitivities springing up like wild flowers in some twisted tormented garden, my world was definitely crashing down around my ears.
It all began from something in an apartment I rented. Whether it was from a toxic mold problem I had apparently brought with me from my last rental or from some other toxic chemical source inside the apartment, it hardly matters all these years later. But on this very day in 2001, it mattered greatly because whatever was causing my health to dramatically drop, it was now all too evident it had also soaked every single belonging I owned turning each beloved item into what was beginning to feel like a little bit of hell when around them.
The nature of this illness left others able to still use the things I owned, as I saw when a friend came with me to the storage locker I had rented in the hope of one day soon recovering and reclaiming all that was mine. It was during this trip that I came to a horrifying revelation. Although others had no trouble from being near any of the treasures I had gathered in my life, I had become so sensitive to each one’s remaining toxic soup that I could no longer be within even twenty feet of them. And so out of desperation, a plan was formed to cut my losses, which were daily growing larger, and try to restart from scratch. Hoping maybe my illness was being caused by the trappings of my former life that I had continued to hold on to and that once removed entirely, as one would do with a rapidly spreading cancer, my health would have a chance to recover.
Eight years ago today was a Saturday. It was the worst Saturday of my life and I hope it remains that way. With an inner strength I did not know I possessed, this day saw me holding a yard sale of my once normal life and everything that had ever been in it. Strangers pawed through my belongings while looking for fabulous deals that they could brag about to friends and family later. I had started the day with at most a hundred dollars to my name and so with a great weight in my heart I haggled each price higher, for I knew my only options for rebuilding would come from having the money to do so.
Eight years ago was my birthday, as it is again today. A birthday of great loss and sorrow, spent with vultures and hyenas feasting on the wreckage of my healthy life.
Today will be different. There is already more hope and happiness than I have had in years. Some early birthday wishes from friends I have only recently made is adding a sweet reminder that I am becoming human again. It seemed last night that even the woods around me sent out a shout of greeting just after midnight as animal after animal briefly called out into the dark night around me before quieting again as though nothing had occurred. That was one of the more odd things I think I have heard all these years in the forest. Deer, owl, coyotes and a raccoon all within mere moments of each other, outside and raising a ruckus each in their own turn, it was very odd indeed.
And in one of those rare moments when you see fate’s quirky sense of timing, yesterday saw what seems to be an almost unbelievable miracle. I received word that a letter I had sent to the NW EcoBuilding Guild was being taken seriously, that my request for help to finish my home and leave this tent had not fallen upon deaf ears. I do not know what will become of this; I only know they read my words and have passed them on to others to read as well. But the hope blazing in my chest is a vastly more wondrous feeling than the despair of so many years ago.
Today is indeed a very Happy Birthday for me filled with much anticipation and excitement for life and what the next year may bring.
After living in these woods for five years, I had thought I had seen just about everything nature would throw my way. I have seen four foot snows dropped in three days, rain torrents that last for weeks without more than the briefest of breaks, and winds rattling the tree tops around me in a cacophony of sound. None of these can compare to the three furiously driven squirrels that have made their home in the trees surrounding us this summer.
Each spends his days collecting coniferous cones in preparation for the long winter months to come. Sometimes they will sit low in a tree, skillfully stripping each individual scale off the cone and leaving a shower of debris on the ground below them. Inevitably, one will stray into the other’s kingdom of branches and a chase begins. They spiral around a tree trunk in frenzy, their little claws making loud scrabbling noises on the bark, until finally the intruder escapes with a daring leap from one tree to the next and jauntily scampers away.
All this would be very entertaining to watch were my nerves not raw and my eyelids heavy from yet another morning awoken by the piercing voices of these very same critters.
Sleep. The nectar of life when you have CFS. Without proper sleep life slowly grinds to a halt. On a daily basis you will see your projects decline, needed tasks sit half finished while you start walking around in a zombie stupor of sleep deprivation.
With the first hint of dawn of the horizon, all the squirrels of the forest wake and greet each other with an intensity unlike any other. You can hear their greeting sweep through the woods, an approaching wave of chatter breaking the silence of night as it crests upon my sleep and continues on. As if by their very cries they could banish the night and bring in another day for gathering.
Never before have they woke us up like this day after day.
I am a semi nocturnal creature by habit and by need. The squirrels are strictly creatures of the light and they make sure to drag me into the new day with them every morning during their daily greetings of the new dawn. My flimsy tent window does nothing to diminish their voracious cries.
Oh how I long for the days when I will be able to once again sleep past day break with a secure knowledge that nothing shrill will be shouting at the tops of its little furry lungs, ”GOOD MORNING WORLD – STAY AWAY FROM MY TREES!!!”