As life moves on and the past grows more distant, I have found it easier to let go of my experiences recounted in this blog of homelessness and chronic ill health. It has been difficult to update this blog the last couple years – I needed distance from these stories in order to continue to move forward and heal. Over the last several months, I have found my thoughts turning once again towards memories of living in a tent for so long, of how difficult the journey was, and of how much I grew and healed while living in those woods.
I seem to be at a great healing nexus in my life once more, one which is bringing together my past, present, and future. It is exciting and also difficult at times, as I bridge these aspects of my life, integrating myself into a greater whole. To understand this, I must recount some of the events since my last post in 2016.
It is hard to know where to begin, so I shall start in the middle. For about a year, I have been working hard in school to apply for nationally awarded scholarships. This is a long and arduous process for some of them, such as the Truman Scholarship, in which you must write numerous personal essays and analyze your life through their lens of a candidate who seeks to go into a career in public service. I also applied for the Udall Scholarship, an only somewhat less rigorous process. Both of these scholarships asked me to look deeply into myself, my background and experiences, and come to understand what motivates me in my career and life choices.
What I found was a strong woman who has been through many life changing experiences, however it was not my time homeless or disabled that defined me – rather its the life I have been building ever since moving to Colorado. A life filled with love and passion for experiences around me.
I discovered that I want to work in public service after I graduate and even spent last summer working for a government agency in Washington, DC. While I was in DC, I found that my passions for natural resource policy and social justice are leading me now to law school. It has only been in the last 6 months that law school appeared on my horizon, but it has really taken root in me and is surprising I had never seen how clearly it is a part of who I am. However, it is understandable because my experiences of having to fight for my disability benefits the first several years I was ill had left me with a sour taste for the law that could only pass after I had healed sufficiently from that fight to be able to see life with a new perspective.
Last April, an instructor who has been a mentor to me as asked if I had ever considered going into law. I actually laughed loudly – it was an absurd idea! But a part of me paused to listen and I asked her, “Why law?” In that moment, my life direction changed. A week later, I knew that my calling in life, the drive inside me that had pulled me out of the tent seven years earlier and kept me alive through that ordeal, it was to become a staunch advocate for the environment and social justice needs of disempowered communities. I often say: studying law was something so obvious once I saw it, like the nose on my face, but just as hard to see unless someone pointed it out to me.
This last weekend I received my score for the LSAT, the national exam required for admittance to law school, and am beginning my applications to law programs. Though the idea to study law was a seed planted only six months ago, it grew quickly in the fertile soil I had worked hard to build in recent years. I am daily filled with joy and excitement for having found this deeper sense of purpose, and watching it bloom into all aspects of my life.
Which is where the healing is once again taking place – in seeing my future build in front of me, learning to believe with every part of my being that this is where my inner calling has been guiding me since around 2007 when I first began to hear the faint whispers deep in my heart of something I needed to be doing in life – I then find myself looking back at the road I have taken to get here and can see how each step was needed, no matter how difficult or undesired, and I am finding a new level of acceptance for all the hardships and pain along the way. By accepting, not fighting against, the path that created the person I am today, I am healing in ways that allow me to walk back through those memories and heal.
I am here today, writing this update, because I came back to my blog to read through the posts I wrote years ago. To remember where I have been, so as to gain more insight into where I am going.
Small, additional updates: I became a Truman Scholarship Finalist and a Udall Honorable Mention – both of which are achievements you add to your resume, though I was not awarded the monetary scholarship. However, I did become a NOAA Ernest F. Hollings Scholar and HUGELY recommend anyone apply in their sophomore year of college if they have a love for the ocean. You can read more about my experiences as a NOAA Hollings Scholar on the blog I wrote last summer as part of my internship project: Life as a NOAA Intern
I will graduate from CSU next May and am going right into law school – though it is still unknown which school. I’ve struggled the last 1.5 years with health issues unrelated to my disability, but I have a good support system that is helping me to navigate this aspect of my healing, yet it is far from easy. I found love again for almost a year, but as is the case with many relationships, it eventually became obvious that despite a great deal of commonality, there were a few too many large differences to overcome.
Updates on Zain’s adventure – he graduated from CSU last May and I am very proud of his accomplishment. He’s setting up his own business making craft jewelry and specialty tools in the Denver area. His partner who was with us in pictures from my last post when we were dressed up for Halloween, she passed away recently from complications with her disability. It has been a hard road for him as her caretaker the last two years, but he has shown again his strength and deepness of love while caring for her as her health continued to decline. Zain and I continue to be family and see each other regularly for coffee or lunch.
And that’s it for this update!
Never give up, dear readers, on your dreams. They may be hard to follow and faint to hear calling, but if you stay open to possibility and true to yourself, they will find you.
Big hugs to all who have read my posts over the years and to new readers who find their way here. I know many find my site who are homeless or have chemical sensitivities, people looking for answers to help them in their own situation. You are not alone. It often feels that way when in the thick of it, but there are a surprising number of us who share these experiences and you are not alone.
Another year has passed. I am now settled into a degree program at CSU of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology. It suits me, though I am highly curious where my journey in the degree will take me. I sense it will not be the same as most others who graduate with a degree such as this – seasonal work in field research. No, after almost ten years homeless I have little desire to return to an outdoor setting for long periods of time. Instead I’m finding my way into more of the writing side of things – which is no surprise for anyone who has read my blog; I’m obviously a woman of many words!
Life continues to be an adventure. All those years in the tent and ill, I often dreamed of traveling to other countries and seeing more of the world. The dream helped fuel my recovery – and the dream finally came true a few months ago. In January I journeyed to Ghana with a class from CSU for a three week adventure into the Ghanaian culture. (Picture is me and a new Ghanaian friend, Eric. We were buddies for a couple days while our group was in his town.)
My trip was life changing! I had an amazing time learning how to be an international traveler. I brought my camera with me and it was my best friend there. It felt magical to see such a different, yet similar way of living. I continually had thoughts that human is human, and we are all people. White or black. Young or old. There are commonalities across the American and Ghanaian culture that go beyond culture and gave me a glimpse as to what being human really means.
As well, the trip was three weeks of living outside my usual comfort zone; in reaching beyond myself I grew immensely. The lessons I learned in Ghana have greatly influenced my life since coming home. I am growing in beautiful ways that will allow me to be a more whole and sound person. Through Ghana, I have learned how to be more mindfully present and less part of the shadows that have stayed with me through a great deal of trauma.
The last year at a glance:
- I became a runner! Last year I ran in the Bolder Boulder race (a 10k) and also the Big Gay 5k race for Denver Pride. An ankle injury in Ghana still has me unable to run this year, but as soon as possible I am going to start training again. I find a great deal of joy in running and feeling how healthy and strong my body has become.
- I also became a Blues Dancer! It became a passion for me during the summer, however is hard to maintain during the school year. I’m looking forward to another summer of dancing soon! (I’m in purple in the middle with the big grin!)
- Camping with Falkor several times. He’s an amazing dog who continues to grow and has become my best friend. Love this pup!
- Last summer I worked as a groundskeeper at a city park. It was my first job since I became disabled in 2001 and felt amazing to be productive in this way once more. (My job had a lot of fun toys… I mean tools!)
- Zain met a wonderful woman and they both live in an apartment here in town. We are more family than just friends, which brings a great deal of warmth to my heart. It was very painful to lose Zain in such a close way when we had to part ways as a couple. Having him back in my life as someone I can turn to and trust, who can still share a good laugh with me – it makes my heart happy. His girlfriend has also become someone close to me as well. She quickly found a spot in my heart too and is one of the people I enjoy spending time with the most. Even just last night, Zain and his girlfriend invited me over for a BBQ they were sharing with their neighbors. It was an excellent evening with a lot of love and laughter to fill my heart. (Picture is from Halloween!)
- I’ve been a full-time student this year at school. I am enjoying my classes and doing well. (Pictures are me in class and later in chemistry lab. We created a battery!)
- I rented my own apartment last August after a string of terrible roommates made me realize I needed to live by myself. I love this apartment. I can see the foothills out my window and walk Falkor in nature each day at the natural area next door. Last week was a milestone in my life – I renewed the lease on my apartment through July 2017. I have never renewed a lease before; I was always moving and doing new things. It feels really good to put down some roots here. Amazingly good. (Falkor and I walk along the trails at this pond at least once a day)
I wonder what another year will bring. I feel as though I’ve really found the flow of life in the last few months. It’s amazing to sense that I’m right where I need to be. I have grown the number of people I have in my life and feel love from all of them. There is a new sense of peace growing inside me since coming home from Ghana. This has the potential to be an even better year than the last one and that one was pretty darn good!
I’ve been delaying posting this until things were in the process of becoming legal – Jeremy and I are fully changing both of our names! Not a post I thought I’d be writing when I started this blog nearly 5 years ago… wait, 5 years? Wow!
I’ve shared so much of my life here. The struggles we had living in the tent and trying to get well, but only getting sicker. The fantastic journey to Hawaii where everything changed and healing became part of our lives once more. Then now, this journey leading me back to college and a future that is opening more for me every day.
Changing our names is a pretty big thing for us. Those of you who have read through this blog know things were rarely easy while we struggled to find healing in that tent. Though this blog starts in 2009, that struggle actually began in 2001. It’s been a very long and hard road to get to the point we are at now.
Along the way, I found it interesting that the only time in my life I ever began identifying with the name “Lisa” was in the deepest and darkest part of my life story. Somehow, through all the pretty lousy stuff in my childhood (of which I’ve rarely said much, but trust me, it was not good) the name “Lisa” came to mean pain, unhappiness, sickness, and life being upside down with no easy way to right it.
As one might imagine, while my healing has been progressing these last couple of years, I’ve felt rather distanced from the name of “Lisa.” I’m just not that girl anymore for whom normal is sadness and believing that life beats up on you, never feeling like I can succeed because that only allows in more pain when you fail.
I’m on my way to being happy, truly happy and being able to feel it. Starting to believe that life isn’t only ever going to tear me down, but that instead I can trust in the foundation I’m building on to hold me secure while I build to greater heights.
It’s scary, very scary. Everything is new and different – I’m new and different.
Hence, the new name. Something that is more the me who I’m becoming and want to be in life, rather than a name that is connected to so much pain in the past. As for Jeremy changing his name too? We’ll, that’s his story to tell, but it’s much the same – just as our last names are changing to be the same too.
Who will I be? It was a hard choice, I mean – how often do you really stop to think about what name suits you best? After settling on something I liked very much, then came the trial period where I had to try on the name, much like a new set of clothes, and see how it fit. My first try at a name fit me very well – too well. I found it highly uncomfortable when people would mispronounce it or worse yet they’d make fun of it. Since the name was so close to my heart I had no armor to protect me from their words. A new name had to be found, but I already had a nickname I liked and wanted to keep.
I’ve decided to go with Catrin, but you can all call me Cat. Yesterday, someone didn’t hear me right when I said my name was Catrin and understandably they thought I’d said Cathrine. I found that I didn’t mind it so much and easy enough to tell them to just keep on calling me Cat. It also seems to help that Cat is so easy to see where it comes from with the name Catrin.
What happened to the first name I liked so much? Well, I’ve decided to keep that one too – but I’m putting it in the middle where it can be a bit more protected from the world and the evils of telemarketers who find your phone number.
Jeremy has been a different story. He simply asked me one night for interesting names starting with “Z” and when I mentioned Zain, he knew that was for him. Same with his middle name, I just tossed something out and he loved it so much he’s kept it.
We’ve filed with the county courts and are in the middle of making everything legal. Within a few weeks we should legally be Catrin and Zain and can start the task of changing our names everywhere – and I do mean everywhere. It’s a little daunting, but also exciting and fun. Think for a moment of everyone and everyplace you interact with at least once a year and that will be the list we use to change over our life to new names. Phew, it’s a big list!
Our dog Falkor, well he’ll be staying Falkor. So I guess not everything’s changing around here!
I’m in the middle section of my math class and the topics I don’t know just keep on coming. It’s been an interesting adventure, but tiring too.
I always feel like I’m running to keep up with the class, yet I know I’m doing better than most. This last math test (number 2) saw me scoring 96% on it, which felt like a well earned grade. As I said, I’m doing better than most, but it’s at a steep cost to my time. Feels like all I do is study math, rest and eat, then study more math.
There have been so many lessons I’ve learned – most of them not math. In fact, despite how much math I do, I think only about 40% of what I’m learning right now is actually to do with numbers. That other huge portion of learning is made up of things like being social again and relearning how to take a test without my PTSD sabotaging me. Trying to keep on a schedule and most importantly, how to deal with life’s chaos while still getting my school work done.
It’s not easy, but I’m starting to see where this is all leading and how worthwhile it all is. Starting to feel like I can see many years of engineering school being possible and I could be successful with this endeavor.
Hard work, yes. Tiring, yes. Lots of fun – yes!
Time to rest, been a long day of math.
It’s fascinating to me how easily the mind can become trapped in a box of its own creation. Rattling around the walls its made, it can be terribly hard at times to see beyond the box, assuming you are even aware you are in one.
Then comes those interesting moments when something comes along and opens the box – regardless of whether its an outside influence or something from inside yourself, its just plain neat. If you find yourself being willing to let your trapped thoughts escape, there can be no telling where they will lead you. True, sometimes they can lead you into less than pleasant places as you find yourself suddenly facing the harsh reality you’ve created or allowed someone else to create for you.
Luckily, this isn’t one of those times. I’ve found the mental thinking box I was in has broken open, thankfully leaving me in a much happier place.
Such simple thoughts I had two nights ago and shared here in my last post. A realization of the incredible adventure I am having these last few years, starting with Hawaii (yay!) and coming around to me being enrolled at long last in college once more. It has changed my outlook and the last two days have been much happier, sunnier places.
Honestly, last night I think I was having such a fantastic time at Ladies Night at my gym that I was glowing from the brilliance that is my happiness right now. I think a couple lazier people who I ended up teamed with for some partner work found my enthusiasm a little intense – but whatever! I was having fun and life was filling me with beauty.
Enough poetic ramblings. My point is that between my mental box being opened and today being a long awaited day, Transfer Student Orientation at CSU, I’ve been having an incredible two days. I’ve some plans for tomorrow morning that I shall keep as a surprise until I’ve been able to see if they can come to fruition, but should they work out – wow! I’m pretty excited tonight.
I’m really thinking outside the box today and the view is incredible.
As for my orientation… great news! I met with my academic adviser and she pulled some strings to get me into chemistry without having to take a math placement exam. Woooo! Tonight I registered for two of my classes next fall – I’ll have to still wait to register for calculus. I don’t mind though, because I’m in my preferred chemistry lecture class time and instructor, along with astronomy! I’ve always wanted to take astronomy and I needed something to fill up my schedule next fall. I may change my mind and drop it later so I can take a part-time student course load instead of full-time, but for now I’m thrilled to be finally getting to fulfill my longtime desire for an astronomy class.
That wasn’t all the good news either. Part of orientation involved playing a Jeopardy style game with 48 other transfer students (all of us considered “adult learners” which just means we’re old) and my four woman team won! We really rocked those questions and had a great time too. Our prize was to each receive a 4gb flash drive with the CSU name and college colors on it. I’ll enjoy using it to bring along my homework to print (for free) at the college and knowing I didn’t buy it, I earned it! All in all, a great way to begin what was my first official day of being a full member of the CSU community.
That’s all for now. It may take until next Tuesday for my exciting (and secret) plans to come to be, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to make them happen. I look forward to writing that post and sharing with everyone the pretty cool things that can happen when you finally find the way to open that box and take a fresh look around.
Almost a year has passed since my last post here, yet I am disappointed with my lack of posting at the second blog site Jeremy and I teamed up for. In truth, though he is a great partner for many things, blog writing is not one of them. This sapped my enthusiasm for writing and over the months turned into more silence than anything. In that time, much has happened, but what brings me back here today is this blog itself. Several weeks ago I began to reread my old posts here and appreciate once more how much Sundog Tales has always meant to me. I’ve shared so much of my journey, it’s only fitting that I come back here in these final months before I begin to attend Colorado State University in August.
Where does one begin? Perhaps there is no need for a beginning, for you already know me so well. A quick catch-up then.
In short, life in Colorado has been filled with many ups and downs, as any life is – healthy or chronically ill, and I’ve been undergoing tremendous growth to overcome these challenges. I’ve had the excitement of applying for and being accepted to CSU for the fall semester. This in turn kicked off a world of doubts and fears about my capabilities to return to school, being productive once more, and in some ways more importantly – to feel successful while doing it.
All those years living in a tent, day dreaming of being healthy again, working or going back to school – the reality is both much more fantastic and also more difficult that I had imagined. Somehow in each of my daydreams, the me I would become when well was the same me I had been before becoming sick. Other than knowing I was mentally a lot stronger and physically a lot weaker now, in my mind’s eye I was still the same 24 year old woman I used to be.
Boy was I wrong!
I am vastly different than who I had been. Though the tent felt like time was suspended within it’s walls, it was in fact not a time machine at all, waiting to deposit the old me 13 years in the future the same as I’d been before, but instead a device slowly molding me into a more mature and motivated person.
This is ever so obvious when I attend functions at CSU, surrounded by undergrads who are often half my age with problems I no longer identify with, such as which party to go to or who is dating whom. Worse yet are the functions for incoming freshmen and transfer students. The freshmen are often accompanied by parents who are the only ones asking questions, a glazed look on the kid’s faces, and everyone wondering where the dorms are. These are not problems in my world. My world is about paying rent, walking the dog, spending time with Jeremy, and otherwise devoting myself to my studies.
No, the me of 2001 who would have been only a bit older than these kids is as surely gone in the past as VHS tapes and a world without cell phones.
This morning I was writing an essay for a scholarship (something else past me had never done) and one of the questions was on how have I grown as a leader through my leadership activities. Well, as someone who was bedbound much of the last decade of my life, let me tell you – there wasn’t much call for leadership activities. Then I woke this morning with the thought on my mind, this right here is a leadership activity. I have reached lives I have never known, inspired people with my words to be more than they were before reading my stories, and that to me is a leader.
It reminded me of how much this blog and all my readers have meant to me over the years and I realized that at one of the greatest points in the story – I left. I went elsewhere and was hardly there too. It’s time I remedy this and finish this story, you all deserve nothing less.
So pull up a chair and settle in, because there will be more blog posts to come over the next few months as we count down to the first day of school – August 25, 2014.
It’s been almost two months without Tashi and I still miss that little girl. She was a great cat to have around, lots of personality and love. In this time without her I’ve asked myself if there were something I could have done differently, and while there always will be that question, I know I did my best. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to let the pain go and be happy for her. She is doing well in her new home and I wish them all the best in the world.
Meanwhile, Jeremy and I have started some at home Crossfit workout programs again. If you aren’t familiar with them, google them! They kick your butt and keep kicking. However, at the end you feel pretty good for what you’ve done.
How can two people with CFS do Crossfit? Aren’t they too strenuous and tough? Aren’t we pushing for a crash or setback?
Nope, not a problem. Just determination and a lot work on the Gupta program to get me here. I’ll talk about it more in the future, this is just a quick update before I run off to go soak my very weary muscles in the cool ocean.
“Dumbbell Bear Complex”
5 Dumbbell Deadlifts
5 Dumbbell Hang Clean
5 Dumbbell Thrusters
All 3 together = 1 set.
Do 1 set each minute for 20 minutes or as many rounds as you can.
I used 10lb Dumbbells and managed 9 rounds, a new personal best!
It seems I have finally accomplished another dream today. For the last year I have wanted to open my own etsy store just as Jeremy had done for his steampunk jewelry business. I’ve seen him excitedly checking his email and finding that he’s sold something, it looked like a lot of fun! Problem was, I didn’t know what I wanted to sell…
Then last March I bought a nice DSLR camera and started taking pictures. It seemed pretty obvious what type of etsy store I would be opening up, it was now just a matter of time. In less than a week we found out had to move out of our apartment and the rental search began. As mentioned in previous posts, life with moderate MCS can be difficult – having to find safe housing that didn’t make us ill only made this more so.
As the months went by and we still were unsuccessful at our rental search, my ability for photography greatly declined as every bit of energy went into finding us a safe place to live. I would take my camera out for a trip perhaps once or twice a month, but anything more was beyond my physical abilities.
Then we moved! This is a wonderful apartment we have lived in these past 3 months and I often find myself thinking about how much I love it here. My energy came up a bit and again I began my day dreams of an etsy store of my own.
My last post told of winning a prize in a photography contest, it was the first step I took towards my store. Before preparing that photo for the contest, I still hadn’t readied a single photograph for printing. Many show how much I have left to learn about controlling my camera and setting up the shot – which means most photos need a lot of post processing work in Lightroom. However I didn’t let this deter me from my goal of starting up a store, just means I have opened it with less photographs than I had originally planned.
Which brings me to my grand opening of UNTAMED Photography! 😀
I hope to add to my store over the next few weeks and am very happy to have finally gotten through the steep learning curve to finish opening today. I hope you all enjoy the couple of pictures I have put up there already and I will be writing about new ones as they are listed.
Welcome to my poorly photographed Hawaiian lanai – aka my porch!
Good lesson to be learned here – never try for a picture during mid-morning sun. I didn’t even think about the bright sunshine lines when taking the photo, I was just excited to share my garage sale findings this morning. So on with the show!
Here is my lanai at our new apartment. On the other side of the green fabric is the main house’s lania which is used by our landlady, Gigi. It’s mostly a private area with only occasional use of the hose or trimming of the plants by the landlady sending her over this way.
As you can see, it gets a lot of nice sunshine throughout the day. We are currently growing cilantro, dill, and hot peppers – along with a pulmeria tree and several orchids. In the background are banana trees and several other native plants.
But what I really wanted to share is the stuff in the foreground of the photo – today’s garage sale finds. Gosh, these tables are hard to see with all the bright sunshine lines in the background. Anyways! You are looking at 3 tables we found at a yard sale this morning – one end table which oddly is from the same design as a kitchen table/chair set we already had, one folding plastic topped table for Jeremy to use for selling jewelry at the farmer’s market at some point soon, and one sort of coffee table that is exactly the size table we really needed right now.
There is also a three tier wire shelving unit for the kitchen, two nice table lamps with light bulbs included, a small backpack for my camera equipment on beach or hiking trips, and a set of weights to get Jeremy going on regaining his strength after so many years of illness.
You might think to yourself, wow – that’s a lot of stuff, I wonder what they paid for it? I got us a good bargain and love the negotiating part of any garage sale. Twenty dollars, for everything! I really enjoy the days I can feel like we found a good deal.
Maui is fantastic for garage sales. They run year round, every Saturday – usually several dozen on the island. We stick to a 20 minute drive radius most of the time and have found the best bargains at moving sales. When you consider people moving back to the mainland, or even a different island, can’t simply rent a truck and move their belongings – it makes for lots of good condition things at cheap prices! I love it, I really do.
It is now an hour later than in the picture and the clouds have rolled in, making for much better lighting on my lanai. I suppose I could go retake the picture… but who wants to move all those weights back again! Enjoy the sunshine!
Looks like another dinosaur has escaped. Maybe we’ll go to a different beach today…
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.
I could not have imagined a winter as warm as this. Today has felt more like summer than it has winter. Around Christmas we had 3 weeks of Autumn-like weather – seems that was our winter!
Along with the warm weather is more air pollution in the winter from VOG – volcanic gasses which are heavy in sulfur. They tend to linger at times due to lower Trade Winds and cause the air to feel heavier, more polluted. How polluted? Well, I’d take VOG any day over all the wood smoke we’d have this time of year in Washington. Not to mention the presto logs – those things were toxic to be stuck downwind in their smoke! On the other hand, we are more sluggish on VOG days and it can cause headaches at night for me.
Sunshine – we are in the midst of a lovely period of sunny weather. Weeks of it even!
I remember in Washington we had two warm winters when the winds came up from Hawaii bringing sunshine and zero snow. We always daydreamed about how wonderful it would be to live someplace where it was always that warm – now that I’m here I must say it’s a fair bit warmer than I would have believed possible!
T-shirts and shorts are the norm and still you’ll find yourself a bit hot by noon. I love it!
In fact, I love it so much that I did something today which exemplifies winter in Hawaii better than anything else I could say at this point.
I went skinny dipping in the ocean!
It’s been years since I last stripped off my clothes and hopped into a body of water. Doing so today felt like gaining back a small part of myself which was lost when illness struck.
I may still be tired and sick, but I can swim naked in the ocean with the warm sun upon me like a younger me once enjoyed.
That makes me happy.
There have been many changes brought to my life since leaving the tent three and a half months ago. Some are obvious such as indoor plumbing, a full kitchen to cook in, even a table with chairs to sit at while eating a meal. A few things haven’t changed – sleeping on the floor for example.
When thinking of which change I enjoy the most it’s impossible to really place an order as each one is magical in its rediscovery. Is it the hot shower on a morning when I can’t get the chill out of my bones or maybe instead the yummy dinner while sitting at our table and enjoying a rainbow on the horizon.
Some days it’s simply the act of riding in the car while Jeremy drives us along the coast towards a morning swim in the ocean before doing errands later that day. A massive weight of illness, wrapped so tightly around me as to leave me claustrophobic in its suffering, has been removed at long last.
In fact not a day goes by when I don’t at some point marvel and wonder as to how all this has come to pass, while at the same time being enormously grateful for the life saving miracle.
One change to take place is an ability to read books again – not just e-books, but a hold it in your hand, turn the page, quickly skip back to catch that last word you turned the page to fast to read, ink and paper, smelling of adventures yet to come and fond memories of journeys past … a wondrous book.
I love books, always have and no doubt I always will. I’ve worked in three different bookstores and they were the jobs I enjoyed the most. The last bookstore is even where Jeremy and I met. He started coming in every Saturday morning to browse the science fiction/fantasy section and I happened to work that shift, also with a love for the same genre of stories.
I deeply mourned the day my MCS closed my ability to read books, the inks and paper making me ill regardless of how aired out they may have been. Over the years I began to read e-books and again found joy in an old friend, but still I longed for the real book in my hands. The sensory experience was lacking and the electronic text difficult for my fogged brain to hang onto. Plots blurred, descriptions were lost, and over time reading was becoming extinct despite my desires to the contrary.
Then on a whim I had Jeremy pull into the library here in Maui on a particularly beautiful day. Cautiously we entered, unsure if we would be able to stay for more than a few minutes. As the doors slid open before us and the air conditioning greeted us I felt a great joy begin to stir within me – this might be possible.
I imagine we look rather odd in the library as we search first for a book we are interested in reading, then cautiously fan the pages before our nose while lightly sniffing for lingering odors which would make us ill. Often times we then place the book back upon the shelf, but occasionally you’ll see our faces light up with delight at having found a gem to take home.
Over the last six weeks I have been voraciously reading all different types of books, finding a fantastic word of opportunity opening before me. Even though my health has again been on the low side the last several weeks, it is much easier to rest and recover with a good book. I feel less anxious about missing out on life because I am incredibly grateful for the gift of reading again. It makes passing the times I am again bedbound a joy instead of a jail sentence.
Yesterday I read a good book. Today I did the same. Tomorrow I think I’ll read another!
I just finished writing a postcard to send to Dr. Buscher, the physician we have been seeing these last 7 years. It was a surprisingly emotional experience.
He is a man who stood by us when many a doctor would have walked away. We were never made to feel like we were the reason our health was failing, but instead he understood that we did everything we possibly could to become well again. Considering the months it would take for us to go from him handing us lab work papers and the tests actually being run, months again between visits, and a severe lack of money complicating things further – he never gave up on us.
And when times became darkest last year, I couldn’t find my way out of the nightmare my health was plunging into – Dr. Buscher was there to light the way and guide me back.
Without his help over the years, it is unlikely we would have made it to see this wonderful island of Maui and find joy in living again.
Thank you Dr. Buscher for everything you’ve done and my only regret in moving to Hawaii is that I couldn’t take you with me!
Life can be unexpected, especially when you suffer from deep bouts of brain fog. The problem with brain fog is the heavier it is, the less you are aware of it.
As I’m sure most of you have noticed, I tend to keep my hair short. This is done with a pair of hair clippers and a 1-inch blade attachment to lengthen the cut. Well… sometimes mishaps can occur, such as forgetting to put on the blade attachment due to heavy brain fog.
Starting with my usual gusto, I ran the clipper up a long path along the back of my head and up to the front. As the hair fell to the floor at the end of my arc, I thought to myself, “Wow, it sure grew a lot since my last haircut!”
It was then when I realized what had happened. I’d left the blade attachment on the kitchen sink next to the coconut oil used to oil the blades before running the clipper.
Once Jeremy got involved, one thing led to another and next thing you know a mohawk was born!
However it was short lived when we saw it was off center. My first swipe of the clipper blades had taken me too far across the top of my scalp. There was no rescuing the mohawk without it becoming too narrow or being uneven.
Now I’ve a freshly shorn head with a very white scalp. Luckily I have a nice hat purchased for a $1 at a yard sale last week. I’m sure it will become a semi-permanent fixture on my head until my hair grows out again in another couple of months – or at least until my scalp tans!
Oddly, I’m surprised to find myself rather disappointed at losing the mohawk. I had it for only 20 minutes tonight, but in that time I grew attached to it, though knowing I’d likely shave it off in the morning.
Who knows, maybe there will be another mohawk in my future…
Our big snorkeling adventure was a blast!
It’s also a lot of work on this previously bedbound body. Amazingly we snorkeled for about an hour before needing to get out of the water. I spent a fair bit of that hour simply floating while watching the fish on the coral below me. I have never snorkeled before, only wore the gear in the swimming pool a few times and the bathtub as a kid.
It was just as peaceful and relaxing as I had always dreamed it would be. I think the experience will only get better as my physical conditioning improves and I can move around easier. Though we spent an hour in the water, we both would have been happy staying in there all day.
My mom always said I was part fish because I would often be the last kid left in the pool or river even after everyone else was long since out. It was nice reconnecting with the part of me who adores swimming and feels incredibly one with the water.
We did learn one interesting fact shortly after we were done swimming and went onto the beach to dry off – there is a price to be paid for that much fun. Not only have we both ended up with sore muscles all over and various light sunburns, but apparently the ocean water is going to stimulate heavy detox.
The sore muscles and burn was expected, but the detox was a big surprise. Complicating things for me was having water trapped in my ear making me even sicker. Luckily some of it passed within an hour out of the water, but the majority of detox symptoms persisted all day and into the next.
While detox is a good thing, it can be a little overwhelming at times – especially when caught completely by surprise. We will be more prepared next time and recover quicker. In time, this detoxing should allow our health to improve considerably as long as we do not push our bodies too hard, but instead keep it slow and steady.
Again I find myself wondering where our health will climb to in the next several months as everything seems incredibly promising for the first time in a decade. If ever there was a doubt moving to Maui was going to be a life changing adventure, those doubts are fading like fog hit with the first rays of a welcoming sun filled morning.
Here’s a few pictures Kimberly took of the trip:
The good news – yesterday we bought a car! It will need some work to be low toxic and fully comfortable, but for now it is enough to get us to the store without problems. We just won’t be going on hour long trips in it for now.
Within five minutes of paying for it, we were on the road heading back to Baby Beach. It was nearing sunset and we wanted to explore what having the freedom of a car felt like again.
It was great.
The bad news – while we played in the waves and walked along the beach, someone was stealing the last couple gallons of gas from our car. We naively left the car open, windows down, so it could get fresh air through it. For the thief, this plus the cover of near darkness made a tasty target to get easy access to our gas tank’s lid release lever and our gas.
It was a bit hair-raising on the way home when we noticed the gas light on – tank nearly empty!
Luckily we did make it back, but the nearest gas station is further away than we feel comfortable driving to on an unknown amount of gas with a car we are not familiar with. And so our first adventure turned misadventure in the end.
We will find a friendly bit of help somewhere to get a gallon or two of gas brought home, then make it to the station to finish filling up. This is the first time we have driven a car since gas prices became over twice what I remember last paying, a good lesson was learned last night and won’t be soon forgotten.
Meanwhile… off to snorkel today and another adventure!
A few photos to show we really are in Maui! I have many more I will work on uploading over the next several days.
First up – we have gecko lizards who hang out on our windows, especially the bathroom window. They have learned light attracts moths and moths are a good meal. It is interesting to watch them hunting at night. They mostly stay on the outside of the window, but this guy decided to go for a walk around our apartment before scurrying back to the bathroom window after I took his picture.
It seems to rain at least a little every day here in Haiku, Hawaii. Our first day here was a beautiful sunny day and then it rained the next 6 in a row! This picture was taken a couple nights ago off our front porch. Fantastic to see a double rainbow out our windows!
Next is a few from our big day out today. I met Kimberly through an MCS forum, The Canary Report, and she lives here on Maui too. She offered to take me and Jeremy around to the farmer’s market in Makaweo for some fresh produce then into Paia to Mana Foods for the rest of our grocery shopping as we still don’t have a car.
Kimberly brought her daughter Emily today and it was a blast meeting them. This is the first time in a huge number of years I have had a friend I could actually walk up to and give a hug.
A hug was the first thing I did too!
I forgot I had the camera for the first half of our day and will post pictures of the Farmer’s Market next time I go. It was a very small one compared to others I have been to, but the produce looked really nice. Good prices too – we picked up two cabbages probably close to 5 pounds each and they were only $3 a piece! It looks like the market will be a good spot to order organic, free range chicken once we get a car and can pick it up after it grows from a young bird.
We also stopped at a small produce stand on the outskirts of Paia. It did not have much variety, but the proceeds go to help the disabled people who are being retrained to grow and sell their food through the stand. It gives them good jobs and is nice to know I’m helping to support them.
Paia itself is a cute little community right on the Northshore. Kimberly had offered to treat us to lunch at one of her favorite places here – The Flatbread Company. It turned out we were early and so to kill time Emily drove us all to Baby Beach.
Finally after 9 days on Maui, Jeremy and I met the ocean. The sand was warm, but not to hot. As the water lapped at my calves it was refreshingly cool. The wind was a bit strong today and a constant force to stand upright against.
I washed sea water over my face and head, wishing I could find a deep area to jump into full body. As nobody had brought a towel and much of the trip was still ahead of me, I opted to keep everything but my legs dry. Thank goodness Jeremy and I bought shorts before coming here!
I manged to come home with only a few pieces of coral in my pockets, Jeremy had a few shells to share from his. It was with great effort I resisted the temptation to fill every pocket I had with bits of wonder found in the sand.
Next stop was for lunch. Did I mention The Flatbread Company is a pizza joint? Fantastic, fire oven pizzas on the only gluten free pizza crust I have actually enjoyed immensely. I’m not usually a fan of thin crust pizza, but I was aiming for the crust on this one!
I had thought the pizzas were small personal ones and so Jeremy and I ordered one each. It was a surprise to see they were approximately a foot in diameter each. While we were there, Kimberly had another daughter join us and she brought a friend so the extra food worked out well. Kimberly even let us take the leftovers home – yay! I must say, this pizza is worth stopping for if ever you find yourself in Maui. The pepperoni and mushroom is killer – all organic and super yummy!
Our final stop was at Mana Foods to finish off our grocery shopping. One thing we forgot to pack had been our toothbrushes, they were left behind in our rush to make the plane. We did pick up a pair from the local store in Haiku last week, but they were lousy ones. I am thankful Mana Foods carried everything we needed today from MCS friendly laundry soap to toothbrushes and canning jars – along with a huge assortment of produce for rounding out our next couple weeks of eating.
At the end of the journey we had a bag for Kimberly of fresh limes, guavas, and a couple bananas we picked ourselves yesterday. It felt really good to be able to share some of the fruits growing here around our apartment in thanks for the trip today.
Another hug and plans to meet up again next week, this time likely for snorkeling, saw Kimberly and Emily on their way.
For those who have been long time Sundog readers or browsed back a ways, you’ll know how much I have longed to be free to hug those around me. It has been a bane with my MCS to be unable to do so all these years other than the rare occasion I was in my ‘town clothes’ and could come in contact with whatever toxic products were on the other person. I don’t know what has happened here in Maui, but from the moment I set foot off the plane my MCS has been considerably improved.
Today I hugged a friend for the first time in years and I am sure it won’t be the last.
It’s another sunny day here in the Pacific Northwest. Starting into the best time of year – not too cold, not too many bugs, and a few more sunny days. It only lasts about a month, usually most of April though this year it is late.
Life has been moving quickly for us the last few weeks. It seemed a slow, sluggish mire we had fallen into over the winter was going to plague us all spring. Then one morning someone turned the “LIFE” switch from ‘off’ over to ‘on’ and life began to take form around us.
It’s odd to say life started when obviously I’m still breathing and getting into mischief. However there is a difference between being alive and living.
This last 18 months I have found myself learning to live again and growing beyond my physical boundaries. Then the late snows in February and March crashed our health; it is very physically and mentally taxing to live in a tent during frequent snows. My world narrowed again to survival – just getting by for another week, another month, waiting to feel less awful. Thankfully an easy allergy season helped and in April we started to move past survival and back into living again.
As I am happily remembering, there is also a difference between living and thriving.
Two weeks ago everything changed in 24 hours. Living became Thriving. I think the last time we found ourselves thriving was in 2005. Before that… 2001, during the few months before life took a nose dive into the world of chronic CFS/MCS.
It’s been a long, hard road we walk in this life of illness.
The big news going along with this change is that we finally will have the means to find indoor housing. Yup, this couple in the woods will one day soon become homeless no more.
I find the prospect both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.
Where will we go? What sort of place will we rent? I honestly don’t know, though we are planning on answering those questions this summer. With a bit of luck, we’ll be indoors by November; we’ve had enough of living outside during Winter.
Times like these it is hard not to jump into the first opportunity that comes along. Our health concerns and the restrictions it places on housing means we must move slowly to ensure a safe living situation is found.
It also means we opted not to see the naturopath last week. As we are not certain to be staying in the local area, we didn’t want to establish care with a new doctor (a costly endeavor) and then repeat the process in another few months. However, we have followed up on a considerable amount of blood work through Dr. Buscher and will know the results in a few weeks.
Where to live when the world has suddenly opened itself up to you once more?
How to get there and more importantly, how to find safe housing?
What type of change will all this have on our health?
I am looking forwards to finding the answers to these and other questions, which swirl around in my waking and dreaming thoughts.
I’ve had Irony on my mind much of the last month. Less than a week after my last post on healing, I injured my dominant hand. Now several weeks later I am still not recovered and have had troubles with stress injury to my other hand as it tried to pick up the slack.
I have wondered at times – just how does a person end up homeless for 9 years with strange illness? By a random chain of events that seem ludicrous when looked at fully, but which have a large amount of irony to them.
And so, Sundog Tales will be continuing to be on hold for a time as my injuries heal enough for me to type without strain.
Happy Spring to all!
What is Healing? I have pondered this question many times.
Recently, I have begun to see signs of deep physical healing at long last, but why? What has changed?
I now sleep 12-15 hours a day. That’s a 10-12 hour night and one or two naps during the day. Until last November, I could sleep no more than 9 hours a night and never napped. How can this be good?
As well, I have seen signs my digestive system is healing. The same amount of digestive enzymes I took two months ago is now too strong. I have reduced them by 25%. This means for the first time in 10 years my body is producing more stomach acid instead of less. Until you’ve suffered from long term digestive problems it is hard to understand how large of an impact quality digestion (or lack of it) can have on your entire health. This is actually an impressive improvement for me.
But what does digestion have to do with me sleeping over half the day away?
There are a lot of mumbo jumbo scientific words I could toss around right now to describe what essentially comes down to a simple concept. Inside each one of us is an ‘on/off’ switch. It toggles between the flight/fight response and being restful/calm. This is part of the autonomic nervous system.
In CFS and MCS, evidence shows that some of the cause behind these conditions is likely the flight/fight response being stuck turned on. This means the body is always ready for a lion to try and eat you so it only worries about keeping you alive another day, not what will happen after that. To do this, it supercharges some systems – like making you run faster, but this has a price. It has to take away from other systems – like digestion and immune functions, because they won’t matter if the lion eats you.
In other words – sleeping more and digesting better means my ‘on/off’ switch isn’t stuck on flight/fight anymore. It means my body is finally able to put energy toward healing instead of running away.
But why has this happened now? What is so different today compared to the last 10 years?
I think this question has a few answers. There is the obvious one – I’m taking herbs and vitamin supplements that have been slowly tailored to my specific needs and it took 10 years to figure those needs out. We are also spending a considerably larger sum of money on those supplements now compared to when we were trying to build our house and pinching pennies from every place we could.
But that answer is boring. The intriguing answer is much harder to define because it isn’t a pill that is popped or anything which can be seen with the eye. Nor is it the excellent diet we’ve been eating since going paleo. Though paleo is making good progress in lowering systemic body inflammation, providing materials for building muscles, strengthening joints and ligaments, and it just plain tastes better!
No, I think the main answer lies in the emotional and spiritual healing I have been discovering for almost a year and a half. I have been practicing EFT, reiki, qigong, meditation, and learning to listen with my heart as well as my head for guidance. Gradually, these techniques have been re-balancing my turbulent body, mind, and spiritual energies.
I’ve been releasing trapped emotional energy by letting go of old fears; learning to fully let go of painful past events and forgive those who caused them, including myself; and in general finding an inner calmness I have rarely known before now. It is a lot like time travel, change the right thing in the past and the ripples have an impact on the future. Although I can not go back in time and change what happened, I can change how my body reacts to those memories. Over time this is positively changing how I react to similar events when they occur.
Stagnant body energy is balanced through meditation and movements which directs my body’s yin and yang energy into healing pathways. This energy flows through each of us and everything around us – plants, trees, earth, sky…
Basically, I’m learning to harness the power of the Force!
I suspect this is the key to my flight/fight response beginning to turn off at last, thus allowing physical healing. No matter how many pills I took to support and heal my body, it could do little good if my body’s own healing systems had been turned off by a wonky ‘on/off’ switch.
As I find an ever deepening sense of peace in life, my body is waking from its shadowy slumber into the new day of better health.
What is healing? I still am not fully sure, but I do know there is no simple answer. The human body and mind are a mysterious place, no less grand than the mysteries of the Universe itself.
Some have a path we are meant to follow. I think great sickness and tragedy has led me to mine and though it sounds odd, I am grateful.
With the holidays upon us, seemed a good time to share our recipe for Paleo Pancakes. These are a bit different than many similar recipes online as we designed them to be high density protein with a good dose of veggies – basically, a balanced paleo meal for times without the ability to cook. Turned out, they are tasty anytime!
Better yet – they taste a bit like cookies!
They are a sugar free, gluten free, organic, ready to go meal.
I’m sure the hemp powder we use can be substituted for other nut flours, we just needed the big protein gains during cold times without cooking.
Paleo Cookie Pancakes:
1 cup mashed squash
1/2 cup hemp powder
1/2 cup walnut flour
1/2 cup coconut milk
Lots of cinnamon (to taste)
1 tbl ginger powder
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
Mix the hemp and walnut flour with the coconut milk. Mix in the mashed squash. Add eggs and mix well. Add spices or substitute for pumpkin pie spice.
It should have the consistency of thick pancake batter. Can add a few chopped nuts or berries to the batter for texture and bursts of flavor.
Scoop 1/4 cup of mixture onto a hot skillet or griddle, use plenty of butter or coconut oil to prevent sticking. Cook on a low heat, they burn a little easier than other pancakes.
Flip each pancake when the bottom side firms up, like normal pancakes. Cook some more until done!
These tend to be thin, but fluffy due to the egg content. Two pancakes each makes a filling meal for us. I did not write down how many the recipe makes, but its around 9-12 cakes.
We usually eat these plain, but for special occasions (like birthdays) we’ll put a little vanilla ice cream on top. Wow they are good!
It would be easy to substitute many of the ingredients. The squash helps balance the acidic nut flours, helps provide carbohydrates, and keeps the pancakes moist. Bananas, pumpkin, yams, etc would all work well in its place. There are different types of nut flours, you can experiment with finding the one that suits your taste buds the most.
Enjoy and Happy Holidays!