Sundog –noun 1. parhelion. 2. a small or incomplete rainbow.

ramblings

Winter is on the Way

I had intended to post back here more frequently, but my health has been up and down, especially the last few weeks.

We have gotten our winter preparations well under way. October saw us finish changing out the leaky tarps over our tent – a project encompassing two years while letting the new tarps off gas. There has been a great deal of catching up on other small projects around camp. Mostly projects that were unable to be done during our steep decline in health over the last year.

October also saw the end to my six month long sinus infection. It took a combination of antibiotic and antifungal treatment simultaneously, along with a few other additions to help with sinus drainage. I saw an initial surge in energy after I was done with treatment, but this has ebbed somewhat as other influences have sapped my reserves.

A majority of our state medical coverage is ending on December 31st this year. This has changed some of our plans for winter prep as we have had to fit in dental appointments while we still can. The good news is that cavities I had a few years ago have healed themselves. For more information on remineralizing your teeth, a good start would be an article by Stephan Guyenet at Whole Health Source called, “Reversing Tooth Decay.”

Our main struggle right now is with different viruses making homes in us. It feels like each week sees us with a new cold or flu bug. This could be a good thing if it is caused by our bodies waking up to the viruses it is host for. Or it could be a bad thing as our immune system is too weak to fight any of them off. Only time will tell the story.

I do have to wonder how much of our slump the last several weeks was caused by too much birthday fun. With both mine and Jeremy’s birthday’s falling less than two weeks apart, it can get particularly festive around here. It could be that too much ice cream lead to another Candida yeast overgrowth in our guts. Having cut all sugars for three weeks is helping lower many of the symptoms I would attribute to this possibility.

The weather has suddenly shifted from a warm Indian summer into a cold Fall. At its coldest point last night, it was the same temperature as you would find in your refrigerator. Come December, we will be living in your freezer – next to the ice cream perhaps!

I am looking forwards to the colder weather, because it will kill off the molds that have been plaguing me since spring. On the other hand, it also brings smoke from chimneys and wood stoves that is aggravating our asthma and making breathing more difficult at times.

It is a rollercoaster time for us right now, each up comes with a down shortly after. I am thankful to have any up swings at all, as this was not happening most of the last year. With some luck and a good amount of hope, we will see next year bringing more ups than downs again.


Happy Birthday Sundog Tales!

As the title implies, today is the one year anniversary of this blog. I’ve spent the last few days trying to decide what type of post to write for marking such a momentous occasion. I could write a review of the changes, or lack there of in many cases, seen in the last year. It could be a more typical post written about the changes Fall is bringing to the woods around me as the very landscape itself is drastically altered in an unusually brief period of time this year.

But instead I have opted for a different sort of post.

Life in the Woods:

Each day I am awakened by nature. This is much different than the life I had known the majority of my previous years. Where once there was an annoying alarm clock to call me back from dreamland and into a world of deadlines, traffic, and various social responsibilities; now there are even more annoying squirrels to jolt me from my slumber, though the world they bring me to is much kinder than that of their electronic brethren.

I have spent a lot of time contemplating this odd life of mine, for make no mistake, choosing to live in a tent year round in the Pacific Northwest is an odd and difficult lifestyle. Sometime I am very angry at how things have occurred and the small role I played in my situation developing to its current state of dysfunction. Despite the difficulties of multiple infections causing a downturn in health the last six months, those times are mostly eclipsed by how often I find myself enjoying life and where it is leading me this last year,

Overall there is this growing sense that my path was never to be an average American woman. Rather, it seems to be unfolding into something much forgotten and ignored in the high pace of today’s society, guided by a deeper connection to nature and all that thrives around me. The trials of pain, loss, and hardship I survived have brought me here, and I am a much more liberated woman now than I was ten years ago as a fiery, young activist.

I find it very freeing to be without the boundaries set by our modern society. I am coming to understand that some of these boundaries and walls are surprisingly insubstantial once you open your mind to being allowed to do something different.

Our society has made me feel less than a whole human being, less than someone who is considered a contributor with earned money as the only valuation means, and because of the label for my illness I am less in need of cures than someone with a more impressive label – such as cancer or AIDs, yet many have offered comparisons showing my labels are just as debilitating.

I am here to say I am not LESS, I am MORE!

I am more aware of the small wonders in life than your average person who takes for granted all the ease they have in each day. The warm home, hot shower each morning, clean clothing with minimal effort, and the simple ability of not having to question everything they come into contact with to find out if it is friend of foe to their body. My life has slowed down as the world I live in is timed by seasons, not calendars. This slower pace allows time to stop and enjoy a cool breeze on my face or a stray sunbeam through the trees.

I am also very aware of the changing seasons and how it affects the birds, making the young ones born this year very nervous because their world is seemingly dying around them while they are helpless to change it. “Wait until spring,” I keep telling them, “it will be alright again.” I watch all the animals and plants around me, each one miraculous in its ability to have adapted to be exactly what it is today – a harmonious part of a self perpetuating cycle of life.

And I am more because I am learning to slip the knots that society has tied around me, trapping my soul to this damaged body; always telling me that to be deeply ill is to be sad, silent, and unfulfilled.

There is a growing awareness that I have a unique opportunity to step out of the box I was born into; the box my culture built for me based on ideals and beliefs so easily conformed to. Born again out of the fires of extreme illness and hardship, I am now free to explore life from a new perspective – one of my own creation. Even though physical healing has been very little this last year – emotional, mental, and spiritual healing has progressed by leaps and bounds.

And so as I continue to explore what it means to be Lisa now, instead of living in who Lisa used to be, I will not be posting as regularly to Sundog Tales.

This blog has helped me grow beyond need of it. The people who have posted comments to it have helped give me confidence and a new sense of community, two things which have been seriously lacking as illness put chasms of distance between myself, and my relatives and friends. I will still post updates and the occasional interesting bit of life that comes from living outdoors, but it is time I turn my energies elsewhere for now.

Thank you to everyone who has made Sundog Tales mean so much to me. Lisa


Just call me Dr. Lisa

Quick news flash! Dramatic happenings going on in camp today.

A short while ago Jeremy was out washing a dish when he spotted a mole above ground seeming to scratch an itch on his hind leg.

They are pretty cute up close and it was a very rare treat to get to see one. But something seemed to be wrong with him. He kept clawing at the dirt as though swimming in a current and not going any where. I leaned over closer to him and found that a piece of thread was wrapped very tightly around his lower abdomen, which then had both ends of the thread knotted in some roots next to him.

Jeremy and I got into quick action mode, setting out to free the little mole from his predicament. Cutting one end of the thread free did not seem to do any good, it was wrapped too tight. We tried having me grasp him with a pad made from paper towels as these were easiest on hand, but they were not large enough to really get under and then around him.

At this point we started to worry a bit; the uncut end of thread had pulled free and he had begun to burrow away again while still having a very tightly knotted loop around his abdomen. I remembered where a small cloth towel was hanging nearby and quickly fetched it.

By rolling up half the towel, I was able to create a thick enough piece that could handle the strength of his legs while still reaching entirely around him. After wrapping him in the blanket, I was able to feel those powerful front legs pushing against my hands as he briefly fought his confinement.

The thread was almost invisible by this point after having tightened even further around his stomach and becoming hidden by fur. Jeremy was not able to see it, and so with a deft movement we transferred the mole from my grasp to his without letting the mole free.

With a gentle rearrangement of his rear legs, the thread became visible again along his side. A loud snip from the scissors and the thread popped free allowing the area it had been constricting to spread to normal dimensions again. Poor little guy, he’d looked like someone drew him with a wasp waist until we were able to get that off.

Jeremy set him down and he happily took off looking for the nearest easy dig point. He burrowed about eight inches along a tunnel and then seemed to have settled in for a well deserved rest.

We don’t often get such high levels of excitement around here. Though I’m sad a lost thread found its way to harming such a cute little creature, I did enjoy having a chance to flex my veterinary skills once more. It has been a long time since I had an animal to tend to and I used to take pride in being able to tend to most of my various pet’s ailments on my own. In fact, for many years I had planned on becoming a veterinarian before life’s adventure changed my path.

This picture is not of our mole, we were too worried about helping ours that we never thought to take a picture until after already releasing him. Ours was the same color (though covered in mud) and approximately 6 inches in length.

A common Pacific Northwest mole


10 Ways to Maximize Your Doctor Trip

It can be useful to minimize wasted time when paying out of pocket for a specialist visit, having to travel for the appointment, or not being well enough to make multiple trips to your physician. Over the years I have learned a few tricks to help us get the most we can out of our in person visits with our MCS/CFS specialist.

Here is how I maximize my visits and I hope this helps you receive the care you deserve at your next appointment.

* Come prepared. Bring a clearly written or typed list of questions, changes in symptoms, and what you want to accomplish in this appointment.

* Bring an updated copy of all medications and supplements you are taking for your file records. Should your doctor need to write a new prescription or look for problems with your medication, this will also makes it easier for them to know what you are currently on without having to flip through multiple pages of your file.

* If you’ve taken a test for a specific condition, do a little research on it before walking into the appointment. Find out the general symptoms, treatment, etc of it prior to seeing your doctor. A lot of time can be saved in a visit if you do not need an in depth explanation of things should you test positive for x condition. It allows more time to decide treatment options instead of covering the rudimentary physiology of the problem.

* Arrive early. This makes sure you are there for every minute if they happen to be running on time and allows you an opportunity to collect your thoughts prior to seeing the doctor.

* Bring a clearly printed or typed list of all known prescriptions you will need written this trip. Leave room to add to the bottom of it while in the appointment should a new script be needed that is not written up on the spot. Some doctors even prefer to write the scripts out of the appointment when they have time to look up dosages and in general don’t feel rushed. This can save you several minutes depending on how many scripts you need.

* Be prepared to take notes. This will help keep you on track and give you something to refer back to a few hours/days later if you have forgotten a dosage or treatment change.

* Be as proactive as possible about keeping on track. Sometimes doctors find a story they want to share or enjoy; it is up to you to steer them back to the next topic at hand as gently as possible so as not to seem rude with your interruption.

* Try to limit yourself to keeping on track as well. It can be easy to spend a lot of time sharing symptoms or concerns with your doctor if they are sympathetic. It is just as important to keep yourself focused on the meeting as it is to keep your doctor focused.

* Follow the list of tasks you made and make sure to hit each one. It sounds redundant, but it is amazingly easy to miss asking that one question which will keep you awake all night when you remember it again. There may be a lot of information exchanged during your meeting and it can be hard for those of us cognitively impaired to keep up with all the changes. A checked off list helps greatly with this problem.

* If your doctor says something that you do not understand, make sure to ask for clarification. This can save having to go back for a second trip later or incorrect treatment occurring because you did not understand clearly what was being said at the time. Doctors do make mistakes sometimes and knowing exactly what they are talking about is a great way to limit these mistakes.


A Choice

In life we have choices. Choosing gives us power. When we are thrust into a situation in which we have very little choice, it can leave one feeling very powerless. Thus has been my situation for the many years I’ve been homeless in this very tent.

Until now.

For years we have tried to find a way out of our situation and seem to have only dug ourselves in deeper and deeper each time.

We tried to build a house – now we are in debt we can barely cover due to our increasing medical expenses, can not finish building because the majority of the money ran out years ago, and are now left with a half finished structure too toxic for us to live in.

Three years ago we started an intensive regime of supplements which did show much promise in healing us – then a misstep with adding just the wrong type of a much needed nutrient (b12) and all our hard regained health crashed around us in a matter of a few weeks. This was the instigator of the crash from which we are only just starting to pull out of finally, a full year later.

Stuck in a difficult situation, all the motivation in the world to pull yourself out of it yet chained to a body incapable of hardly even moving at times for the most basic of needs. Its enough to drive a person nuts.

While these last few months have passed by and our health declined further and further, all thoughts turned to escape from this situation, no matter the cost. I started rooting through all the ads for rental housing, day after day, looking for the “perfect” place for all our needs – super cheap, hardwood or tile floors, no fresh paint or remodeling, no pest control, no mold, no super close neighbors, no gas appliances, and a landlord willing to work with our MCS problems … in other words, looking for the near impossible.

Even assuming we found a place that matched everything, it would still have the possibility of not being right for us depending on the lifestyle of the last few tenants. If they had been incense burners, smokers, strong laundry soap users, heavy perfume wearers, or any number of other highly toxic aromatic things in daily life, then that too would rule a place out.

Yeah.. darn near impossible at this time.

And then a few weeks ago, Jeremy and I came upon a Choice.

We could keep going crazy looking for an exit to the cage we found ourselves in these last eight years or find within ourselves the key to dissolving the cage bars surrounding us and finally be free again.

I am not entirely sure how we found the ability to liberate our minds from the cage, thus freeing our souls, but I do know it started with a choice to stay.

All these years I never felt like it was by my own choosing to be here in a tent. It was always circumstance that forced my hand, left me no other options. Left me powerless.

As simple as it seems, we decided that barring unforeseen changes we would stay here for the next solid year, work very diligently and without deviation from a healing plan we wrote out that day, and most importantly – we made a choice to stop pacing the confines of the cage but to instead embrace the life around us as our own.

And with that we were freed.
Free Wild Horses


Courage, Determination, and Selflessness

July 1st is a day of remembrance for me. It was this day six years ago when my mother passed away from complications of the same illnesses I now have – Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS).

She was only 55.

Ivanna Pausmann led a difficult but very meaningful life. It is because of her that I have had the strength to carry on my fight to survive this long. She was a highly courageous woman and through her own struggles showed me what it means to never give up hope.

I miss her terribly.

In 1976 when she found out a fun night on New Year’s Eve with her best friend had ended with her being pregnant, it was not yet common for women to be single mothers. Being a very liberal woman, she knew there was a choice for her to make and that having me would not be an easy road for a single mom without a college education. With great courage to go against her family and follow her heart, she set aside her own life to give me mine.

When I was very young, she began to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in business from California State Polytechnic University Pomona. She would get study time in whenever possible while raising me by herself. We used to laugh about my bedtime books being business textbooks she would read aloud to me every night. Instead of fairy tales with princesses and frogs, I learned about life in the business world from her upper division classes.

I was five when she married my step father. In an odd moment of fearing failure when she would graduate in a few months and newly married, she dropped out of college and began working a more traditional job as a secretary. In this fashion seven years passed.

Shortly before my 12th birthday both our lives came to a crashing halt. When our soon to be purchased house was improperly fumigated for termites, she took the brunt of the residual toxic pesticides that were left in the house which had not been properly aired by the fumigators. That night was the first grand mal seizure she ever had and would be a condition that while lessening in severity, would last the rest of her lifetime.

Her health quickly deteriorated into what at the time were mostly unknown conditions. No one had answers and few were able to help. Eventually she would be diagnosed with MCS and CFS.

Her family did not care to understand what was happening to her and left her mostly isolated with her struggles. Overnight I went from an ordinary 12 year old to an adult now in charge of caring for her, also without help by those same relatives. My step father became a monster.

Somehow, together the two of us survived and nearly five years after our lives came to a halt, they began again.

In a great act of courage, my mom left the monster of a man she was now married to even though this led to us being homeless in a nearby national park for three weeks. Her health was still not good, but it had recovered enough to allow her to drive again. With courage again at every step, she placed a map of California on the picnic table of our campsite/home and closing my eyes, I randomly pointed to the town we would move to – sight unseen.

It was in this town called Paradise that we made our home for the next several years and life bloomed into beauty for us both.

Miraculous is the only word to describe how quickly she healed after we arrived in Paradise, California. After being there only a year she was nearly fully recovered, had begun going back to school to be retrained as a respiratory therapist, and most importantly – she was happy.

She still had a dream to graduate from college. One of her biggest regrets in life was quitting so close to the completion of her degree. In July 1995 she graduated from Butte Community College as a respiratory therapist, a career she loved having because it allowed her to help people who needed her.

I remember how much her face would light up with happiness as she talked about her patients and what she did during the workday. Her first job was on night shift in a small town hospital where she made many friends and found where she felt accepted in life. Her favorite part of the job was when she could spend most of her shift rocking a sick baby in her arms to allow it to rest safe and well cared for between times when she had to give it lengthy medical treatments.

She was very good at her job.

Fortune would turn its back on her only a few years after she began working. An unknown birth defect in her lower back caused some nerve damage during a workplace accident which led to her living the last few years of her life in nearly constant and severe pain. She continued to strive towards recovering from her injury so she could return to work, but it was not meant to be.

Her health declined again as her previous conditions of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS) were now taking over her life once more.

It was around this time that Jeremy and I became ill – also with MCS and CFS. Within six months we were living in a tent on 10 acres of undeveloped land his mom owned that only had water to a spigot in the orchard but no electricity or place to live. With our lives in a tailspin, my mom reached out a hand and offered us help.

To this day, my mom is the only person to offer to adjust her life enough for us to live indoors with her. Even with her own serious health issues, she did everything she could to give us a safe place to live. She sacrificed many things in her life so her home would not make us ill from all the stuff we live in a tent to avoid.

Unfortunately this too was not meant to be. While seeking a larger rental for all of us to share, an unscrupulous landlord lied to us and we all walked into a rental that had been freshly painted and sprayed for fleas. This sent mine and Jeremy’s health to a low that left us feeling like we were dying from the fumes that had followed us home on our clothing and now permeated my mom’s apartment.

Hugging my mom goodbye for what we both somehow knew would be the last time, Jeremy and I returned to Washington and the current tent we have lived in for the last 7.5 years.

My mom continued to be my support and a much needed anchor in the storm that my life had become. A year after I moved back to Washington, her health took a serious turn for the worse. I didn’t fully understand this at the time. Like many moms who care deeply for their children, she tried to protect me from the seriousness of her illnesses because my life was already crazy enough.

It is for this reason that six months later I was unprepared for her to pass away. The thought of her dying soon had never occurred to me and was one she never warned me about. Since our fateful move to Paradise when I was 15, I had often been her best friend, confidant, and support. We were very close and honest with each other.

I can only imagine the strength and courage it took to hold the secret of how very ill she was from me those six months prior to her death.

A few years earlier when her father died, she saw firsthand how callous our social security system truly is. To save money when a person dies who has been receiving social security, their families may or may not have access to the last check the deceased would have been given. It all depends on what time of the month they died. This often leaves the bereaved in debt with last month’s utility bills and rent that the deceased accrued while alive, when the money expected to pay those bills is suddenly denied.

My mom was told on June 26th that she had only three days left to live before her very sudden kidney failure would claim her life. She knew what it meant with her disability payment should she die before July 1st and even though it was five days away, somehow she held on. Her last two days were spent mostly unconscious and even when conscious, very far away. Just after the clock struck midnight and June became July, I told her she had made it and could now rest. She died half a hour later.

Even as she lay dying, her last act in life was one of great courage, determination, and selflessness.

I write this story for you, mom, so everyone can know the beautiful and amazing woman you were.


Letter to a Friend

I wrote a letter to a good friend last night and oddly, turns out we both had the same ideal – that the things I said in the letter need to be heard by more than just one person. This is a very candid view of my life right now. Edited only for name, “Late night chat”

Hola! 🙂

Its about 1 am here and just killing a few minutes before Jeremy is ready for bed. We forgot our b12 shots till sometime after 10 tonight so not in a big rush for bed. Seemed like the lesser of the two problems – skip them a day or be up late.

Don’t have enough time I don’t think to reply to your email today fully so will hit it in the next few days. The simple reply – sure sounds like a lot of really fun stuff you’ve got going on! 🙂 Good luck with the relatives visiting if I forget to wish it later.

Well, Jeremy and I had a long chat tonight. Happened after I went for a bit of a walk by myself tonight. Jeremy’s ankle was kinda sore from some exercising we tried last night so he stayed home. Was good to get out by myself for a bit anyways. Granted I chatted with myself and nature the whole way I walked, but was a good chat.

Ended up giving me lots to think about and talk to Jeremy about. We ended up talking for probably 2+ hours but I think it ended in a really positive place. Not a fully happy place, but positive.

The not happy part is because of where our health is right now. Quite frankly I’m rather worried about us. We seem to have suddenly had a rather large downturn these last several weeks and we always are so dang close to that point of life being more than we can keep up with, that any downhill motion is very worrisome.

But we figured a few more things out and hopefully will have some stuff improve in the next few months from it.

Its hard coming right out and saying stuff like this, you know? Hard to admit just how low we end up sometimes. We really need more help but I don’t think there is any where to get it from. Most of the type of help we need is beyond what Jeremy’s dad can do and we are simply too broke to afford to pay someone for work.

We need to be indoors. Life is so very much hard outside like this. :/ It tears me up to see Ron’s place every day just off through the woods about 200ft and know he has a spare bedroom we could use with very little notice. But figure there’s no point to it because we get ill just being downwind of his open door/windows on sunny days so I really doubt we could live there.

You know what occurred to me yesterday? Summer 2004 was likely the last time I might possibly have been inside a house, but only for a visit. Might even have been 2003. I know 2003 was the last time we cooked inside a real kitchen and that was while sleeping in a friend’s yard and using their house one night when they were out of town, though we just cooked and watched some tv before going back outside. Was a nice and low toxic place, unfortunately they sold it and moved about a year later.

Fall 2002 was the last time I lived or slept indoors. December 13, 2002 was the date we left all that and have been in a tent since. That’s a long friggin’ time.

But aside from the length of time, its our health. We need to be indoors. I don’t know if I’m going to find a way to make that happen and the worse our health gets, the less options we have.

I’m not sure what happened, we had been doing well with the diet change for a while. But we’ve been getting weaker and more easily injured the last maybe two months. Its a real problem, we don’t have much to loose. I’m actually thinking about paying Robb Wolf for some consultation time in another month or two if we can’t swing things around ourselves. Just don’t know what to do and I think part of it might be diet. Its like – all of a sudden we just stopped getting the nutrition we need from what we eat. Will see our normal doc first and see what he suggests, but talking to Robb in a nutritionist type capacity might not be a bad thing. Might be well worth the money and at least this way we would know its a person who has some knowledge of diets like this.

Honestly, it really feels like somethings gotta change in the next few months. We’ll do pretty much anything to find that change because things stopped working right for us and in a big/bad way. I am very hopeful still that Jeremy being off his candida med will be that change, but it may have pushed our already taxed bodies too far. I’m a bit scared to be honest. Hard to admit, but I am.

We’ll find a way, we have to. I just would feel a lot better if I had an inkling of what that might be.

I know you’ve said that you pray for us sometimes. I really don’t think I’ve ever asked anyone to pray for me before, but think you could toss in an extra good word or two for us?

heh, here I had intended on making sure to write something that wouldn’t worry you and I’ve a strong suspicion that I failed on that point. I am sorry for the worry, I just really needed to tell someone these things. Well, someone besides Jeremy. 🙂 I just hadn’t wanted to add to your load and I do most certainly apologize for it. 🙂

So yeah, had a good long talk with Jeremy tonight about all this and more. Started some fresh action that should help towards putting things right for us with just a bit of luck.

Alrighty, Jeremy’s done and its very late here. I got longer winded here than planned and now he’s been waiting for me. lol I’m going to head off to bed and hopefully a good night’s sleep. 🙂 Big hugs, Lisa


A Beautiful Day

I had very vivid dreams last night of driving to town and going grocery shopping. For most people this surely would have been a pretty mundane dream and rather boring even. For me, its usually the nearest I come to living normally again because most things like this are beyond me at this time.

But apparently they weren’t beyond me today! What an exciting and wondrous day we have had.

It all started with a good night’s sleep – the first in at least a week. We both slept in well this morning and were pleased to see the first warm day without some rain in weeks. Shortly before we got going on breakfast and everything else that begins our day, Ron (Jeremy’s dad) called to see if we needed anything from town.

While Jeremy was chatting away with him on the phone it just suddenly occurred to me that it would be a lot of fun to go in to town with Ron for some fresh produce. I mentioned it to Jeremy who immediately liked the idea and he asked Ron about it because we’d have to keep the trip short and he had plans for several errands.

In one of those moments that makes me really thankful for how cool Ron is about helping us out, Ron spontaneously changed his plans and in less than half a hour we were all piled in his car and off to town!

It was a beautiful day, warm with a lot of sunshine. We went first to the Farmer’s Market where we turned in some paperwork for purchasing a CSA share at a local farm. This is a program many small farms offer of letting you buy a membership that will provide one box of produce a week throughout the summer of all the fresh stuff they are growing. It supports the local farmers, in this case an organic farm, while also letting us diversify our veggies. I was very pleased to see that the produce stocked at the booth was the best looking stuff compared to several other small farms with stands at the market.

Next we popped over to one of Ron’s favorite burrito joints, a new place that has opened in town. Remembering to go with tacos instead of burritos because of corn vs. flour tortillas with wheat/gluten, we got our food to go. It was the first restaurant we had gone into since Jeremy’s mom took us to lunch on the way home from a long distance drive to see a neurologist in 2003. Seven years went by with an amazing amount of speed.

Steak tacos with extra veggies instead of cheese.
Steak tacos with extra veggies instead of cheese

The trip to the restaurant highlights how odd life has become. It was loud with voices all around me as many people enjoyed their lunches. I found I no longer posses the automatic noise filtering I never knew I had, as it was very hard to focus just on Ron’s speaking – all the voices in the background were just as much in my attention as his was. The air felt very stale and the acoustics of a high ceiling were a bit disorienting.

Even the trip to use their ladies room was strange to me. They share a hallway with a next door cantina and its down this hallway that I found the bathroom. As soon as I stepped into the hallway I was surrounded by familiar smells from just about every bar I’d ever been in and memories of times past flooded in. I found it interesting these odors were comforting and inviting even though usually when suddenly surrounded by strong scents I react with anxiety and concern for my health.

Another thing I’ll share just because of its unusualness. That was the first toilet I had the chance to use since last October. Think about it next time you are using one yourself – months have passed for me without one. Its been seven years since I have used one more than a half dozen times in any give year. As odd as that must seem to you, it was just as odd to me today in using one. This was a first for me as in the past its always still felt normal. Perhaps its the length of time passing or just me having accepted my current state of life more, but it was definitely odd for me.

We made one last stop on the way home – our normal grocery store where Ron buys for us the majority of our organic produce. It was a bit surrealistic there because it was the same store I used to shop at while going to college and working, but it had been heavily remodeled a few years ago and this was my first trip in since. Nothing was recognizable as the old store after I walked through the front doors. The sights and smells were very strange to me as well.

All the soda, candy, chips and just plain junk that I was so used to seeing around me before, it now stood out to me as very odd things to consume. I have eaten quality food for many years. Since going paleo there hasn’t even been anything processed as we cook everything from scratch. None of the brightly colored boxes and giant logos looked like anything editable to me. While in the aisle at the checkout counter I innocently sighed a bit and was revolted by the sweet and cloying taste to the air from all the candy, gum, and mints next to me.

So many things today are so foreign to me now. When I do go into town and am active in normal pursuits there instead of only seeing a doctor, it feels like a different country. Some days a different planet even. I don’t feel entirely the same as everyone around me, in fact I feel fairly different. They all belong to a culture that is not mine now.

I am now part of a tribe of people spread all around the world who share in my hardships and joys, our one joining feature being a deep understanding of living with chronic illness. We are all very different from each other – even our seasons can be completely different with me just going into summer and them going into winter. Yet I feel distinctly more a part of the tribe that has formed on the internet of my fellow chronics than I feel while walking the streets of a town I’ve lived in for most of the last 11 years.

It has been a very interesting day for me and there is only one last thing to share. Today really showed me just how much improvement Jeremy and I have seen since going paleo and starting the b12 shots. We reacted much less to all the stimulus around us regardless of if it was loud sounds (live band at the farmer’s market), crowds of people, scents, perfumes, and lots of walking on cement (normally just on dirt paths in camp). We even had a chance to see improvements in how our bodies handled us skipping breakfast and only grabbing a small, quick snack before leaving. Being active without breakfast would usually have our blood sugar plummeting quickly, but today we did well despite the lack of food until 2 pm.

I am pleased with today and how my body handled it. Its been years since we spontaneously went to town just to have a good time. This speaks volumes for the mental changes taking place along with the physical ones. I deeply believe that part of getting well is mentally wanting to be well and being willing to accept change. It pleases me to see a trip like today because its a very real symbol of how ready we are for change to come to our lives.

I look forwards to taking more trips like today’s as the summer comes upon us!


Happiness Award is Here!

I had a nice surprise yesterday. My friend Jody Smith over at Ncubator passed the Happiness Award on to me. Thanks for the award Jody, I shall see if I can spread some cheer in kind!

Without further ado – on with the show!

The rules for the Happiness Award:
1.) When you have received this award you must thank the person that awarded you this in the new post.
2.) Name 10 things that make you happy.
3.) Pass this award onto other bloggers and inform the winners.

Rule number 1 – check! Muchas Gracias la Senora Jody… and with many festive hugs!

Rule 2 – As it is my style to be ramble along, this may end up a bit longer than just 10 things. Hope the award doesn’t get revoked for me already breaking the rules! I’m such a rebel! In no order:

Native wildflowers with a wonderful scent.

Being surprised with flowers Jeremy finds and picks because he knows I love getting them.

Little race car, baby bunnies who dart back and forth under our tarps at night because its the only dry place to play.

A hot cup of cocoa made by my sweetie.

Planting onion seeds on May Day that a friend had sent from Australia, despite the customs restrictions against doing so. (no worries, they will not grow well enough to be invasive in the spot I garden)

Having more friends who are in foreign lands than those who are from my own country – no wonder I never fully fit in here!

My spirit rock.

A sun warmed rock to lay topless on and sing off key very loudly while soaking up the heat of a beautiful day.

Hearing the geese circling overhead while trying to figure out which way is North every spring. First gaggle of them was yesterday and it always means summer isn’t far behind!

Cuddling up with Jeremy to watch The Muppets together.

A really good movie that we have saved for a few months until just the right occasion to see it for the first time.

Poking fun at my friend Grant when we instant chat, he’s such a good sport about it! *Poke!*

Finding odd little animals, like salamanders and tree frogs, who make in front of our tent their home for a night before moving on the next day. I love having animals feel safe here for the night.

Silver dollar sized frog and computer cables.

Watching first the parent birds come to feed at our oat pile in front of the tent and then later the fledgling birds. Mom and Pop have to teach them how to eat and its exciting as they learn not to eat rocks but instead the food.

A hot shower outside while big, fat snowflakes are falling all around me. Along with this is listening to the hush of snowfall and watching it blanket the woods.

Jeremy reading to me every night before bed.

Watching my garden sprout from seed, grow, and then fill our bellies.

My garden two years ago.

Clear nights with many stars.

The rare days when I wake up feeling refreshed and good.

Daydreaming of all the things I will be able to do, because I will be getting well again.

Listening to the birds signing every morning. Also with this would be the owls hooting at night near us and coyotes howling at the moon.

Last for this list and saved for the end because it is the very best – Jeremy. All the wonderful things he does, his love and kindness, and his fight to never give up seeing us through everything that comes our way.

Rule number 3. I’ve had a bit of a hard time deciding who to pass this on to as I know several other bloggers who immediately sprang to mind for this. I will send this award on to Laurel of Dreams at Stake because she never stops fighting and keeps finding ways to pass that strength on to others.

That’s it for this brief… er… wander down the lane of Lisa’s happiness!


Hurray for Sunshine!

I am finding it difficult to obtain time to write here as I would like. Jeremy’s computer broke down about a month ago and while he is without it, I don’t really have the same amount of free time to delve into my writing.

We are still on the way to it being fixed – but the motherboard we bought was a DOA and getting the warranty filled on it is taking time. In our slow fashion though we are getting through all the hurdles to finally having it running. Once everything works, we will be turning it on away from camp in a safely covered spot next to the refrigerator and letting it off gas for what will likely be 4-8 weeks before it is ready to come back next the the tent.

Today I decided to do more frequent short updates because the longer or more polished stories I would like to write take far too long in the time I have.

Jeremy started some candida killing medicine a few days ago. He’s taking about a 6th of the full dose and will slowly be working his way up as his symptoms from the candida die off abate some. It is rather surprising how much he is reacting to it. I would have thought three months of him without any sugar or fruit would have had more impact on his candida problem just as it has on mine, even with me eating a little fruit the first two months.

My sinus infection still persists though I really am unsure what is going on with it. I had been feeling as though it was improving, then about three days ago I crashed fairly hard with it. Was thinking I would be here writing about how much crashing sucks when next thing I know, today I’m doing the best I have in weeks.

Perhaps it is the weather as today is the first clear blue sky with lots of warmth that I have seen in several weeks. I think Spring might be making a come back after we just had a few weeks of near freezing temperatures, snow, lots of hail storms, and a ton of rain.

I planted the first part of my garden today! Not much, about a 2’x2′ area of garlic in which I only turned the soil well before planting. It is a start though and felt rejuvenating to my soul.

It was wonderful with the sun warm on my back, sitting down on this nice rock we actually moved here with us six years ago because it is fairly comfy, and peeling the garlic cloves that had already begun to sprout. There is much of my garden left to be planted and I am curious to see what goes in the ground as much of it depends on how my energy comes or goes.

For now, I shall hold with me the memory of my first truly warm and sunny day this year, being able to shuck the outer two layers of clothing I have worn since last November, and soak up the energy of life around me.


Afk

Quick update. I have a gnarly sinus infection going on this last week and its still plaguing me. Sapping most of my strength and leaving me with varying degrees of a headache is making it very hard to think well enough to write all the interesting bits of info I have been waiting to post here.

Fingers crossed this passes soon!


Alder the Red

I don’t seem to be the only one noticing a very early spring around here. My springtime nemesis, the red alder tree, has begun a very early pollination cycle.

Every spring, usually around late March to early April, each mature Alder tree begins to ripen their hundreds of pollinating structures known as catkins. The catkins produce an amazing abundance of pollen each spring. Within a few weeks from now the tent tarps will have turned yellow from the pollen accumulating between rains.

Alder catkin on ground in front of tent feb 17, 2010
Unripe red alder catkin I found this morning on our main path.

Since becoming ill nearly nine full years ago, I began to develop an acute allergy to the Alder pollen and it has grown in intensity each subsequent year.

At this point it turns a lovely spring day into a hellish nightmare.

My eyes will become too swollen and light sensitive to see from but water and itch like mad, sneezes so loud they echo back from the trees in the small valley below our tent and go on for usually 7-10 in a row but have been known to last 30 minutes straight, sinuses that somehow never run out of snot, ears which become very tender and painful from the backed up sinus pressure, raw throat and chest due to the power of each sneeze, and heavy sleep deprivation because the severity of these symptoms prevent all but 4-6 hours of sleep at most each night instead of the 9-10 my body requires.

Over the years we have developed wartime strategies for getting through the 4-6 weeks of this Alder induced nightmare. Last year it was not as severe because of a few newly implemented weapons we found to add to my arsenal of allergy calming remedies. Though the difference was small, last year was finally a tolerable miserableness instead of something that pushed the boundaries of my sanity.

Xena battles Red Alder
Today I feel like Xena, armed and ready to battle Alder the Red who lurks above our tent.

My nemesis has started to wage an early war this year, several weeks earlier than most years, and it has caught me unawares. Luckily I am quick and have already begun my preparations for hunkering down and riding out the storm for the next month and a half or so. I think this will be another tolerable spring. I also have a bit of hope that somehow it will be easier even than last year.

This last week has seen some remarkable improvements in energy, endurance, and strength from the Paleo diet started seven weeks ago. I am hoping these improvements lead to me being better able to fight a winning battle in this ongoing war. The last four mornings have consistently seen me feeling physically better and generally even more upbeat than normal. Despite the allergies that pounced on me when I woke this morning, right now I feel surprisingly good!

I shall focus my mind on the garden I will begin to plant as soon as the pollen levels drop enough to allow me outside. Even though our tent windows are open (but have screens down), it does provide a small buffer from the raw windblown pollen lurking to strike the moment I leave for water, facilities or any other reason.

My posts will likely be more infrequent and hopefully being doped up on antihistamines and sleep deprivation will not adversely affect what I do write to more than a somewhat humorous extent. Don’t blame me if my jokes are not funny, if you were as sleep deprived as I am soon to become I am confidant you would find me funny too!


Of Butterflies and Chaos

Detox.

Most people are familiar with the word, products on store shelves promising to detoxify you from last night’s party or flush the junk food out of your system.

But what does it really mean?

The body has several pathways by which it will detoxify everything from that extra couple of shots last night to the cellular wastes produced by many biological processes which keep us alive. This system is also responsible for making sure the smog you inhale in big cities, the fabric softener used on the person’s coat standing next to you in line, or the remains of some pest spraying in your office over the weekend are all filtered out of your body without causing you to notice anything has occurred.

These substances can be removed or rendered safe by our bodies in many ways. The liver, kidneys, bowels, lymph, and skin are all major contributors in this vital process.

When something goes wrong in these pathways of toxin removal it can have disastrous effects.

Why would something go wrong?

Humans have not evolved around the byproducts of big industry, chemical fertilizer and pest controlled farming, artificial everything, plastics, car exhaust, etc – the list of new things introduced in the last two hundred years would feel endless were I to detail it here. Because we have only been polluting our environment and lives on such a mega scale for a very short amount of time in our evolutionary line, less than even 10 generations, we have not had time to adapt.

Many of us (some studies suggest more than 50% of the population) are born with various genetic divergences that impact in varying degrees just how well our bodies can cope with the 21st century.

If so many people have these gene divergences why aren’t more people ill from living in an industrialized society?

Because just as a butterfly beating its wings in a far off country can lead to a hurricane here at home, so too can it lead to nothing at all. It takes many other factors for that butterfly’s fateful flight to lead all the way to a hurricane and it usually takes more than one event to lead to a person being as ill as I am now due to problems with detoxifying our modern world.

Chaos theory, the butterfly effect.

Chaos theory, the butterfly effect.

In my case, a seemingly random combination of events led to this health and living situation I currently find myself in.

In many ways it could be said to have started with a bathroom exhaust fan that made noise when switched on but did not actually work. It should have removed the steam from many hot baths taken to relieve the stress of a particularly heavy class load while also working part-time. Instead it led to the proper humid conditions for black mold to proliferate behind a wall hanging over my bed and also inside my mattress, out of sight like a predator waiting to strike.

Add in a ten day field trip six months later with my class in which we go to the desert, live outdoors and use lots of mosquito repellent at night while enjoying each others company while sitting around a fire. Yet unknown to me as I added the repellent to the toxic load my body had to cope with, over those intervening six months the mold had been growing, spreading, and slowly poisoning me every night while I slept.

A week after I arrive back home my apartment became enshrouded in toxic fumes. The police thought it likely to be from a next door neighbor starting to produce methamphetamine with fumes that seeped into my home. Our apartment manager did not care so refused to allow us to switch apartments before it was too late. In a very short time, my furniture and everything inside the apartment, carpeting and the walls included, soaked up the fumes and produced a toxic environment every minute of the day.

Just as a butterfly’s flight to the next flower for nectar can cause a hurricane thousands of miles away, so too can a broken bathroom exhaust fan cause a cascading reaction in which the body is continuously overburdened by toxins and finally… loses… the… battle.

Would I be here now had there been no black mold? There is no way to know, that apartment was toxic all on its own. But one thing is a certainty, one of the main things that has kept my health poor is the low volume of toxins my body is able to detoxify on its own.

Many call us canaries of the modern world. I think this is very false.

Unlike real canaries in the coal mines which the miners put their faith into and cared for because their lives depended on them, those of us who are now the would be canaries of our hazardous world are ignored, ridiculed, and left to live outside of life because too few people care to listen to our urgent cries.


El Polo Diablo

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.

latimesblog 11/10/09
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.

firestorm
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, my photoshopped image
El Polo Diablo aka “The Devil Chicken”


Lousy Chicken

Today is the first day of week four. Will write more about week three in a day or two when feeling better. Had a long power outage yesterday and ended up with some chicken that has left both Jeremy and I feeling very lousy. It wasn’t spoiled, but seems to have had a lot of nasty stuff added to it to enhance flavor. We only bought it because of not being able to cook at home without power.

Still going strong on the Paleo. Will update more later. Have a fantastic day everyone!


End of Week Two: Awesomeness Comes Forth

Today is day fourteen on the Paleo diet and I woke to this incredible feeling of fabulousness in my life.

I feel FANTASTIC!!

But in my excitement I’m getting ahead of myself. Last I wrote things were not going so well due to the toxic solvents that had been wafting through our camp earlier this week.

I had ended my last entry by sharing my hope that tomorrow would be a better day. Each of the two days following that article was just a tiny bit better. Less fatigue and less pain but the brain fog was still thicker than normal again.

Yesterday I had some physical work that needed completing; a daunting task because I knew it would take me a long while. It involved very strong mental focus and physical coordination or I would likely cut myself pretty badly with the knife I was using to prepare the next two weeks worth of chicken before it was frozen.

I am actually physically sore today because of having to use my leg strength to keep the upturned bucket that was my working surface from rocking around. Arms and shoulders are sore today from the effort of cutting only chicken and not myself. I did not even have the energy to stretch my muscles out after finishing the job, all I could do was come back to bed and collapse in exhaustion with a niggling worry at the back of my head that I may have pushed myself too far.

the end of a long day
The end of a long day.

Sometimes when I have done too much, my CFS behaves strangely. Every now and then my body decides to actually start working better instead of doing worse and this time I think I have my new diet to thank for that. Once in a blue moon, I can push myself just a little too hard like yesterday and the following day I wake – energetic. Not completely wasted with fatigue as is much more usual, but full of energy and ready to start working on the next project sorely needing attention.

By no means do I recommend anyone with CFS try pushing themselves in the hope tomorrow they wake feeling energetic, but now and then when I have no choice except to push myself it is a very nice surprise the next day if it happens.

This catches us up to today. I could hardly hold my eyes open last night and went to bed surprisingly early for me. After sleeping five hours very soundly, the rest of the night was much more fitful as I kept waking up with this thought running through my head that my body was finally burning its own energy stores (fat) as it is supposed to now.

What a strange thought to keep running through my head in the early morning.

Along with that thought was an increasing amount of nervous energy I noticed each time I stirred briefly awake. Nervous energy is a great sign for me because for some reason it is where I channel extra energy, should I ever have any, until such time as I can find safe outlets to release it. I’m like an excitable little puppy dog at these times who just needs a long walk to calm back down.

air puppy
This flying puppy and I had a lot in common this morning.

When I say safe here, I mean safe for me because right now I would love to go dust off my 3lb weights and start working out, but experience has taught me that my fragile body would likely pull a muscle or something because its simply not ready for that yet.

Finally at first light I could not contain myself any longer and woke Jeremy up to start our day. I have helped with breakfast, done my daily yoga stretching, drank a very surprising amount of water, and written the rough draft for this article. All that before breakfast and I still feel amazingly awesome.

Another very interesting aspect of this change today is my own mental perception of myself. It has long been my practice to try and see myself how I want to be, healthy and fit, instead of how I currently am, chronically ill and out of shape. I believe it is much healthier to think of where you want to go than the ditch you find yourself currently in.

When I would wake briefly in the early morning today with all that nervous energy and thoughts of my body working properly, I would also have this distinct impression of being in that very same fit and healthy body I have visualized so often. So vivid was this image while I was still mostly asleep that even now I can not shake the feeling of that having been the real me, nor would I want to. It gives me a more solid picture to hold as a destination and one that feels so much more possible now.

ready to go
Looking out upon a future of health and wellness.

The road that leads to better health is a very rough and long trek after all these years of chronic illness. However, this morning I can look upon that road with a great energetic enthusiasm to lace up my boots and continue on towards that mountain’s peak I see in the distance.

Tomorrow was a much better day and will be again, of this I am sure.


WTB: Dolphin Jockey

It has been another three days on Paleo since I last wrote. These have actually been a hard three days, but for some very interesting reasons. I am learning a lot in these last three days, things that I think had always been obscured from me before by a body that ran on carbohydrates for fuel instead of proteins and fats.

Two days ago on day nine, I woke up feeling absolutely great. Had somehow slept for 12 hours straight and were it not for some annoying logging in the distance I likely would have slept another hour or two at least. Was just what I needed. Felt like my body had taken that next step in switching over to what it burnt for fuel and was humming along nicely.

I was feeling energetic and alive. My brain fog was noticeably less and it felt like just out of the corner of my eye I kept catching glances of what it would be like to have no fog at all. That little glimpse you catch of something that is mythical and mysterious but no matter how quick you are to turn and look you always just missed it. But I knew it was there and almost tangible.

As I was thinking of all the things to do that day with my new found energy, fate stepped in and said it wasn’t time yet for feeling this good.

dolphin jockey
Something I was considering doing that morning.

We have a neighbor who isn’t much of a problem for us and our illness, other than a yipping dog some mornings before seven and losing us needed sleep. She doesn’t have a yard and garden that gets weed killer or bug spray applied every few weeks, doesn’t paint her house every year or any number of things that could happen in an average neighborhood.

What we think she does do however, is occasionally toss some sort of solvent she has used into the woods instead of disposing of it properly. Worse yet, we are typically downwind of such activities.

As it so happened, Wednesday morning would be a day this would again occur.

While munching my scrambled eggs with a variety of veggies, I began to smell the dreaded odor. Near as I can describe it, it has always smelled a lot like Simple Green to me, or rather what I remember Simple Green to have smelled like before I steered very clear of such substances. It is cloyingly sweet and sticks to the back of your throat, leaving an odd fake pine and mint taste to the air.

And so in the space of half a hour I went from feeling splendidly on top of the world to being swamped by toxic fumes and a body that felt anything but well. Yesterday and today the fumes have decreased to an almost undetectable level but it will take a few more days at least for my body to recover from the tremendous blow.

Oddly enough, this is where the interesting part comes in.

This new diet is apparently effecting how my body reacts to such chemical exposures. For years it has been running one program of what to do when hit by an overload of something toxic. I am very familiar with how the MCS (multiple chemical sensitivity) feels to me at this point – but this time things have been just a bit different.

Near as I can tell, the lack of easy carbohydrates to burn is changing how my body can react. I am hoping this is a very good thing because the stuck groove my body has been operating in these last eight years just isn’t working out for me. It would seem like any change would almost have to be a good change. I never knew just how much what my body did in these situations depended on me supplying some form of easy to burn fuel.

I also never knew just how badly my body starts running at a core level when dealing with a large MCS problem. After feeling how it was humming along that morning just before the fumes started descending upon us, I can feel the huge change that has occurred. It is amazing and very interesting to me to not only feel the symptoms I am used to and feel like periphery items, but to also now pinpoint a few very core things that go wrong as well. Its almost a relief to actually feel something much deeper being wrong than just having a laundry list of things that reduce functionality.

As for having felt like my body finally figured out what the Paleo diet was about and adjusted to burning the proteins/fats instead of carbohydrates… that lasted only about as long as the rest of that great part of the morning did. I’ve been back to feeling like an engine coughing and stalling out these last three days.

However, I have still been sleeping deeper and I think more restfully the last two nights. I am hoping this will be a continued improvement from the diet as I have also read others mentioning sleeping better too.

sleeping puppy
Me sleeping much better the last three nights.

It is very frustrating to go from feeling so very good to feeling completely lousy in such an incredibly short amount of time. There is no way to predict when something outside my controlled environment will push its way in and start going on a rampage. Words really can not describe these feelings of helplessness to the whims of someone else, such as a normally unobtrusive neighbor, and never knowing if you can trust that one moment you feel good as being real or transitory.

It is hard not to rail against the fortunes that let me have an hour long sample of how good I could feel before plunging me into a world of pain, increased fog, greater fatigue, nausea, headache, faintness, volatile emotions, restlessness, and difficulty breathing.

During toxic times like this, I often I find myself repeating “Tomorrow will be a better day.” I do believe it will be so.


The First Week

Today is day eight on a strict Paleo diet. I have noticed that despite some very stressful events yesterday and subsequent lack of sleep last night, I actually feel surprisingly good today.

I had said I wanted to write about my first days on this diet and it seems a great place to start this tale.

Our first day passed pretty easily. It felt good to be eating this way after the splurging of Christmas goodies the week before. It was very deceptive of what was yet to come.

Day two we began to feel the lack of carbohydrates from the oatmeal we have eaten at least once a day for probably the last six years at least. Our bodies were still wanting to primarily burn carbohydrates instead of the proteins and fats we were giving it as its main fuel source. We had decreased our carbohydrate intake from hundreds of grams a day to less than a hundred in the produce we are eating. I’ve seen people estimating it to be around 40-60 grams of carbohydrates a day as veg is mostly fiber, not fuel.

We started having a brain fog roll in like pea soup, body aches, and several other symptoms appeared along with a huge fatigue. It began to feel like life was lived trying to move through a sea of honey, every step pushing against a huge force and dragging at our feet.

Day three was even worse.

Fog in Badlands, By Extreme Intensity
The fog rolls in…

I don’t quite know how we made it through day three; it was certainly discussed that perhaps we needed to at least go back to having that one bowl of oatmeal a day because as things stood we barely were able to get food cooked this day. It is a hard feeling to describe, the sense of fear that comes with having chronic illness to the degree that we do and having a change suddenly make all your symptoms intensify tremendously.

You never know for sure that this will be temporary or not till after it has passed. Life becomes a limbo while waiting and holding strong to the thought that it will get better. With nothing but faith in your body to pull you through, a faith that by now is badly shaken because you wouldn’t be in this spot had your body not massively failed you already… Well, it is a hard place to be.

On day three we found ourselves plunked right down into that limbo world and wondering if we had made a gross error trying this new diet. What got us through were some brief moments, no more than 15 minutes two times a day at most, where we would feel good all of a sudden. Much better than we have at almost any time in the last few years even.

It was these moments I held onto and let pull me through.

We started experimenting with eating a few different things and off a few threads I was reading at a forum with other people on the Paleo diet, we began to add a lot more fat into what we consumed. It was wild, we could eat a small bit of coconut oil, solid at our ambient temperature and very tasty of fresh coconuts, and almost immediately many of our symptoms would start abating. The moment it hit the tongue our bodies would be very clear to us how very much it wanted that oil and within five minutes we would be considerably better.

This started a new chapter in how the diet change was for us.

foggy night
A light in the foggy darkness.

Days four and five saw us increasing the amount of oil we put on everything, starting to have hard boiled eggs handy for a snack with their high protein/fat ratio, and eating a lot more nuts. Adding in some raw broccoli at the same time increased the effectiveness of the other snack foods but alone did next to nothing.

Slowly we were becoming more clear thinking, the pain levels were dropping back down to normal levels and we were no longer moving through honey, weak with fatigue. Our bodies were starting to make the switch to burning the new fuels.

On day six I found again the forum threads where people suggested increasing the protein intake when feeling badly during these first few weeks on the diet. We increased it to what seemed a proper amount after seeing what we had been eating the last four days. Then I broke out the calculator and did the math, with the added eggs at snack our protein was right in the proper range now for this diet.

I think a lot of our trouble with too little protein is that we are not used to eating this much of it and so didn’t understand just how much is needed. It is hard at times to eat enough, I am finding that I tend to become full much quicker while eating than I had before. Where a three quarter bowl of food was right before, now half a bowl is nearly too much. Jeremy is seeing the same thing happen to him too.

Also on day six I started seeing a very noticeable decrease in brain fog, almost down to where I normally am on bad days. But what really surprised me was that my reflexes where suddenly heightened. As foggy as I was, twice in a row I had a clothing item tossed over my shoulder while walking and stopped to look at something, the clothing falling to the very wet and puddled ground. Yet it never touched the ground because quick as lightening my hand would shoot out and pluck it from the air.

ninja cat
My new Ninja-cat reflexes

Small things like this are showing me that I am indeed seeing some positive changes in my body already. I also seem to need less sleep – something almost anyone with CFS can relate to being a very big deal. I seem to function much better on the seven hours I am averaging a night, I simply am too wired to sleep till near midnight at earliest most nights. Usually this sort of wiredness would leave me very anxious, but after the second day I have felt surprisingly calm.

As I said in the beginning, today is day eight. I’m feeling strongly that this diet is a good direction for us and seeing both Jeremy and I improving from our low on day three by about 5-15% each day. I would estimate that we are three quarters back to how we felt before starting this diet and can only wait with a bit of excitement to see what happens when we are one hundred percent back to where we started.

Will we continue to see improvement after that or will we just stay there with little noticeable improvement? I have high hopes that we will see this pendulum swing towards feeling much healthier and more energetic.

More to come on this in the following days…


Me Jane, you Tarzan.

I have been eagerly awaiting the chance to write this blog entry for the last few days. Though I know I will be tiring myself out greatly, I just can’t wait any longer – it is just too exciting!

Today has been day six of what I hope to be a major victory in our search for better health. Over the last month, Jeremy and I have been slowly implementing a massive dietary change. Based on some of the test findings at our last doctor appointment in October, we found out several things that could use changing in what we were eating on a daily basis. Various foods that changed our hormone and vitamin balance, promoted fatigue, spikes in blood sugar with later crashes, and were contributing to Jeremy’s large Candida yeast problem in his gut.

After a lot of research largely on how to cure the Candida outbreak that Jeremy has, my path led me to what is known as the Paleo diet. Long story short, it is the diet our ancient human ancestors used to eat prior to refined grains and legumes being cultivated. Sounds like a fad diet right? True, I was skeptical as well when I first came across it. I had only read further about it because most of it was formed around the same sort of foods of a typical diet to help with Candida problems but sounded a little better balanced for nutrition.

Lascaux, France cave painting
Cave painting at Lascaux, France

Thing is, there is just something about this diet that grabbed the little scientific researcher that still thrives in me and made it take notice. Another long story short, there is lots of solid research to show that grains and legumes have low levels of toxins designed to do various things for the seeds but that are not healthy to be ingested by humans. It is not as much of a concern for an average person, but for me and Jeremy who have very sluggish toxin removal systems as one of our dominant health problems, those minor amounts of toxins just add to the overall body burden.

The basis of this diet is that you eat a phenomenal amount of vegetables and a bit of fruit, about a matching amount of lean animal sourced protein, and then fill in the gaps with healthy oils and fats. Nothing made from grains, dairy, legumes, or potatoes is eaten. It is not one of those protein only diets, the vegetables and fruit are a huge portion of what is eaten in a day and provide ample carbohydrates. Preferably everything is organic produce or range and grass fed animal products.

The general idea is that we evolved burning fats and proteins for fuel instead of starchy carbohydrates like pasta and bread. People who have made the change to the Paleo diet, or some variation thereof which they can do on a regular basis, have reported huge increases in energy and feeling considerably healthier.

Not trusting to anything that might be a fad diet, we have spent the last month slowly trying to ingrate it into our lives with the intention of for sure staying on it till Jeremy’s Candida problem was cleared up and then seeing how we felt after that. But even during this last month when we were only eating about half paleo we were noticing some substantial increases in energy and stamina. Then Christmas came and with it too many goodies to eat. The change in how we felt after a couple of days less paleo and more average western diet was extremely noticeable and we felt awful!

Six days ago we woke up and decided it was the day to begin the Paleo diet 100%, while the Christmas goodies hangover from the carbohydrates was still lurking to help with motivation.

Nat Geo baobob tree
A brighter day on the way.

I will write more tomorrow (hopefully) on what will then have been the first week on this new diet. It is a very interesting process our bodies are going through while relearning how to be more like our caveman ancestors. As this process of adjustment is going on, I have wanted to write about these changes and many of the things we are learning to help ourselves adjust.

I do know one thing for sure and this is where all my excitement is coming from. Over the last six days there have been brief bits of time when suddenly everything just clicked right for anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour. Despite some intense brain fog that has plagued me since day two of this change, during these moments I would feel incredibly better than at almost any other time in the last several years.

It is these moments that have spurred me to write this long article tonight, knowing with a certainty that can’t be explained that these brief moments of improved health will not be the only ones this diet change brings. I want to be able to write about this amazing process as it occurs because it might, just might, prove to be something very huge and beneficial in our lives.


Snowy Updates

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.
View from under our tarps.

Jeremy getting jars for us to stay warm.
Jeremy having to keep dry while getting hot canning jars for us to stay warm.

The beauty of the snow.
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.


Stars Brightly, Brightly Shining

We have been having some surprisingly cold weather here in Washington State. Given that Jeremy and I live up in some foothills in our tent, its gets just a bit colder still because of the elevation and being on the frozen ground. I think it has been at least four days since it got even as warm as 32 degrees Fahrenheit, the freezing point of water. Most days it’s been hovering in the low 20’s and drops almost ten degrees more during the night.

Two nights ago the power went out for about four hours. Those were a very long and dark four hours while we wondered when it might come on again. It was very good luck to have power back so soon, usually it takes a few days this time of year for it to come back – a few days with no heat but our body warmth. I am very thankful to have gotten power back in four hours, with these below freezing temperatures life would become incredibly difficult without it.

But even with power and heat, not everything is a piece of cake. Anything with much water content is freezing solid; some supplement bottles have been bursting from the expanding liquids inside as they freeze. Cooking is made much more difficult; imagine if you stored all your food, including vegetables, in the freezer before using it. You can cut the vegetables into a hot skillet but they actually freeze back together again before they can be stirred. We can hear the buckets creak outside from where the rain water that was accumulating in them is now freezing solid and expanding. Even a glass of water half drunk and left sitting till next time I am thirsty will freeze before I can get it finished.Ice that was in a bucket
Ice that was in a bucket

The worst of it though is what Jeremy must endure many, many times every day. His boots are always wet because of our poor dish washing facilities. When it is cold like this they freeze and get caked in ice. Imagine having to put frozen, heavy boots on your feet every time you left your bed to do anything at all. Washing dishes, getting a drink of water, cooking, even going to the bathroom all get done with frozen boots on. He could put a different pair of shoes on, but they would just start to freeze too after the first time they got the slightest bit wet.
Jeremy’s Frozen Boots
Jeremy’s Frozen Boots

The good news so far is that the weather has been dry, the nights absolutely breathtakingly beautiful as the moon waxes darker every night and the stars shine magnificently. However, the forecast is for snow in a couple days and I can fully believe it. Any precipitation right now is guaranteed to snow. We have already had a minor bit of snow about a week ago but it was warm enough that the snow did not stick, that will not happen again this time.

After a small reminder of how incredibly cold it can be without power to provide us with means for heating, I find myself praying several times a day right now that our power stays strong till this cold spell is over. Meanwhile, I will enjoy the dry weather, clear nights for brief glances towards the heavens where the amazing stars are reminiscent of a more primal era long past, and the excuse to stay cuddled up to my Jeremy most of the day.


Tides of the Storm

Approaching Storm by Nuno Milheiro

Crashing is synonymous with CFS, a state of bodily destruction for which you often do not know the cause but that can come upon you with little regard for what you might have planned in life.

Pulled under by the unrelenting tide of another crash, it is hard not to at times feel suffocated by the merciless pressure exerted against my fragile body.

Time crawls by while still I tumble about in this ocean of madness for how could an illness such as this be anything sane.

Day blends into day as time passes along without me. Now and then I come up for air, the gasping of breath painful in my ears before I feel the tug of the tide pulling me down once more.

This limbo of increased pain, fatigue so great I feel hardly able to sit to eat most meals, and incredible cloudiness to my thoughts all blend into a background mosaic upon which is seen the anguish of my homelessness in sharp relief.

Life passes on, the tide rolls in and with it I am consumed once more.


Ex nihilo

From the outside, my life would seem very simple. I do not work, there is no place I must be more than a couple times a year, my income is steady, and my needs predictable. Yet in this simplicity there is a large void that comes from not feeling as though I have accomplished much in any given day.

When life itself is a daily accomplishment, there is little satisfaction in it because tomorrow it will be as though today hardly was; in that the exact same things will need doing again. Little carries over because I do not have very much to show for all my spent energy in any given day. It is so frustrating to have such a small amount of energy to give life because I still remember the feeling of having completed something after a hard day’s work.

The simply joy in having worked till I felt as though I was going to drop, then looking around me to see the world was transformed by what I had done. My house would be clean from top to bottom, everything at work fully caught up and running smoothly, or my feet carrying me miles into the backcountry with nothing but a heavy pack on my back and a dog by my side. All of these things I took for granted when I had them, never seeing how precious this sense of having done something ordinary could actually be extraordinary in the size of feat accomplished.

Twenty minutes of cleaning up is now infinitely harder, equal only to the most taxing days before. My great trips to the backcountry are a walk to the end of my driveway and back. I never have the feeling of being caught up in my work or it running smoothly, as I now lack the capacity to do more than those things which are vital or time sensitive. Everything else must wait until they fall into one of those two categories, otherwise I will crash from over exhaustion and be unable to complete even the little I do now.

I really miss that feeling of accomplishment that was so easy to come by when I had more energy. It is very difficult even after these last eight years of CFS to accept that being able to wash one plate is a worthy goal. Paying one bill online actually is a day’s work well done.

Now managing to pace myself, to conserve energy every day so my body has some with which to bring about healing and a means to wellness, is the greatest accomplishment I can do and it involves me doing absolutely nothing.

Whoever originally said “Nothing comes from nothing” obviously never had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.


A Windy War is Waged

I love the wind. The wind is power. The wind is a vital energy force that moves through the body when it gusts against you. I have stood upon bluffs where the wind is whipped into a frenzy, so strong that one can briefly lean into it without fear of falling.

Now my experiences with the wind are limited to the forests surrounding me yet I am still awed by its primal power, the massive force that wages war upon the tree tops above.

As a gust blows through the woods you can hear its advance in a light breeze that sets the leaves to chiming as bells announcing the approaching wind. When the full force of the air sweeps through, the tree branches above sound as though they are locked in battle with each other; forever vying for space to sway against the mighty force threatening to topple them down.

The clacking sound of the tops bashing together can be very loud at times and spur a moment of fright as I brace for the impact of the defeated tree’s lost branches. Sometimes it is only a small twig which smacks with the sound of a larger impact upon my tarps. At other times you can hear a large crack followed by a thump in the woods nearby as a much bigger piece of wood has fallen from the sky.

Yesterday we had a small branch come ripping through our tarps after a large gust tore it from one of the alder trees standing watch over our camp.

Alder branch through tarps.

In wind storms such as this, I am constantly reminded that even larger things have the possibility of also falling upon us, yet I can not move as there is no place better suited for our needs while living life from this tent.

Last winter, a large and outwardly healthy limb fell from a maple near our cook tarp. The branch is at least nine inches in diameter and broke in half upon the old chicken coop that sits nearby. I was outside and watched it fall, sure the coop would be the loser and crumple from the thirty foot long tree limb that was quickly descending towards it.

Both Jeremy and I stood in awe to the fortitude of that old coop, before turning and looking at our plastic tarps which cover a fragile tent. We couldn’t help but picture what would have been if the branch had grown out of the tree in a slightly different direction.

Maple limb broken on chicken coop.

It is this maple limb which has haunted me in every wind storm since. I can easily look out the door of my tent as I write this and see the branch where it still sits resting against the roof of the chicken coop. A reminder that there are forces much greater than me at work in these woods.

I fear someday that I may be the unknowing contestant in a mighty duel with an even mightier tree. And I know that my frail body is no match for the strength and weight of the wooden sword that will come down upon me.