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

Posts tagged “homeless

Life as a CSU Student

The last few weeks have been very intense. I’ve been attending CSU for two weeks and prior to that were many student orientation activities designed to make us feel more a part of the college. It’s been a lot of fun, but also an incredible amount of stress returning full time to classes.

Calculus was a bit of a surprise and I found myself quickly swamped. My instructor is a graduate student and this is his first time teaching. He’s nice and tries hard, but that doesn’t really take the place of experience. When comparing the learning experience of myself to that of Blue Jess who’s taking calculus at the community college, I feel she’s getting a much deeper teaching of the subject. It’s taking a lot of extra study time for me to make up for what isn’t being taught in class, but I’m getting there and feel as though I’m doing well.

Speaking of being taught in class – I found it rather odd that in every one of my classes, the first two times we met were mostly fluff. Nothing was being taught, it was all about the syllabus and how to be a student. I understand these are typically freshmen level courses, but as an experienced student ready to learn it was a little frustrating. Especially as the homework kept coming in, but no instruction was given on how to handle the problems.

Chemistry was my favorite class. The instructor was humorous and had a dynamic teaching style. Unfortunately, by not coming to it fresh from Intro to Chemistry, the homework load was enormous. A few days ago I decided to drop chemistry for this semester and try it again closer to when I’ll be needing it.

Intro to Astronomy has been ok enough so far, I think it will start picking up soon though. We have been covering the ancient Greeks and Romans and their contributions to modern astronomy.

I’ve had to pick up a one credit odd course since dropping chemistry in order to keep my financial aid, therefor I shall also be taking a class in West African contexts and perspectives. It begins in late October and will hopefully be very interesting as I hear the instructor is pretty great.

It’s been a bit of a frustrating thing to drop chemistry. I don’t like feeling as though I could have done more, done better. Truth is, there is an enormous amount of stuff going on right now in my personal life and this heavily contributed to my choice in dropping chemistry. There is only so much of me to go around and still actually feel like I’m not neglecting something important. Still… while the reasons are sound, I can’t help but wonder if I could have done chemistry had my personal life been less chaotic right now.

I have had a good time meeting some new people last week in various clubs. I’ve even volunteered to be a student council representative for SHPE – “Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers” and pronounced as “ship.” I’m curious as to where my involvement with them will go as they are a friendly group of people and I can see being with the club the next several years of my education.

Last April I began going to a CrossFit gym to do a dramatic boost to my fitness level. I’ve been pretty consistently going three times a week ever since. I love working out there, such an amazing group of people. My hope at the time had been to see my endurance raised enough to handle a full day of school and homework when I began at CSU. At one point last week, I was climbing 4 flights of stairs with a heavy backpack on my back full of textbooks and easily keeping up with everyone else. The thought struck me around the third floor that this was exactly why I’d been working out so hard all summer – I’d achieved my goal.

Even though I had to drop chemistry and feel a bit of failure in doing so, the reality is that I have achieved so much more that its time to focus on all the success. I have moved here, applied and been accepted into CSU, received residency so I could afford to attend, gotten my math skills up to the level they needed to be so I could succeed at calculus this fall, gotten my physicality up to the point where being bedbound only three years ago seems like it happened in a different lifetime, and am healthier physically, mentally, and emotionally than I have ever been before in my life.

That is a heck of a lot of success to culminate in these last few weeks. No wonder I feel so tired, it’s been a very long road to get here and now I see that this road has only just begun. Life is an adventure and I’m incredibly happy to be on this one, even when I’m feeling tired and drained by the road I’ve been walking to get here.


Goodbye to Lisa

I’ve been delaying posting this until things were in the process of becoming legal – Jeremy and I are fully changing both of our names! Not a post I thought I’d be writing when I started this blog nearly 5 years ago… wait, 5 years? Wow!

I’ve shared so much of my life here. The struggles we had living in the tent and trying to get well, but only getting sicker. The fantastic journey to Hawaii where everything changed and healing became part of our lives once more. Then now, this journey leading me back to college and a future that is opening more for me every day.

Changing our names is a pretty big thing for us. Those of you who have read through this blog know things were rarely easy while we struggled to find healing in that tent. Though this blog starts in 2009, that struggle actually began in 2001. It’s been a very long and hard road to get to the point we are at now.

Along the way, I found it interesting that the only time in my life I ever began identifying with the name “Lisa” was in the deepest and darkest part of my life story. Somehow, through all the pretty lousy stuff in my childhood (of which I’ve rarely said much, but trust me, it was not good) the name “Lisa” came to mean pain, unhappiness, sickness, and life being upside down with no easy way to right it.

As one might imagine, while my healing has been progressing these last couple of years, I’ve felt rather distanced from the name of “Lisa.” I’m just not that girl anymore for whom normal is sadness and believing that life beats up on you, never feeling like I can succeed because that only allows in more pain when you fail.

I’m on my way to being happy, truly happy and being able to feel it. Starting to believe that life isn’t only ever going to tear me down, but that instead I can trust in the foundation I’m building on to hold me secure while I build to greater heights.

It’s scary, very scary. Everything is new and different – I’m new and different.

Hence, the new name. Something that is more the me who I’m becoming and want to be in life, rather than a name that is connected to so much pain in the past. As for Jeremy changing his name too? We’ll, that’s his story to tell, but it’s much the same – just as our last names are changing to be the same too.

Who will I be? It was a hard choice, I mean – how often do you really stop to think about what name suits you best? After settling on something I liked very much, then came the trial period where I had to try on the name, much like a new set of clothes, and see how it fit. My first try at a name fit me very well – too well. I found it highly uncomfortable when people would mispronounce it or worse yet they’d make fun of it. Since the name was so close to my heart I had no armor to protect me from their words. A new name had to be found, but I already had a nickname I liked and wanted to keep.

I’ve decided to go with Catrin, but you can all call me Cat. Yesterday, someone didn’t hear me right when I said my name was Catrin and understandably they thought I’d said Cathrine. I found that I didn’t mind it so much and easy enough to tell them to just keep on calling me Cat. It also seems to help that Cat is so easy to see where it comes from with the name Catrin.

What happened to the first name I liked so much? Well, I’ve decided to keep that one too – but I’m putting it in the middle where it can be a bit more protected from the world and the evils of telemarketers who find your phone number.

Jeremy has been a different story. He simply asked me one night for interesting names starting with “Z” and when I mentioned Zain, he knew that was for him. Same with his middle name, I just tossed something out and he loved it so much he’s kept it.

We’ve filed with the county courts and are in the middle of making everything legal. Within a few weeks we should legally be Catrin and Zain and can start the task of changing our names everywhere – and I do mean everywhere. It’s a little daunting, but also exciting and fun. Think for a moment of everyone and everyplace you interact with at least once a year and that will be the list we use to change over our life to new names. Phew, it’s a big list!

Our dog Falkor, well he’ll be staying Falkor. So I guess not everything’s changing around here!


Nude Beach

Have you ever been to a nude beach? I went to my first one today!

Little Beach, Maui – Hawaii

Little Beach is part of the Makena State Park and known for being clothing optional, as well as it’s Sunday night drum parties. It’s a very nice little cove at the end of a quarter mile hike. The snorkeling wasn’t spectacular, however we saw some fish we’ve never seen before – including a small school of fish probably each the size of a large dog. As well, several sea turtles made the whole trip very worthwhile.

Yet, we didn’t go to Little Beach for the snorkeling – we went for the whales. Humpback whales migrate here each winter from December through April. According to my research, Little Beach would be just about the best place from shore to watch them passing by. Shortly after we arrived we were greeted with an amazing site. Two adult humpback whales only a few hundred feet off the shore, swimming along and doing their own thing. Though we didn’t see much more than their back spines each time they came to the surface, it was a fantastic site that brought tears to my eyes.

I mean, how fantastic is it to have seen something like that so close in the wild?

I wasn’t on a boat with dozens of other tourists or some other modern means to be out on the water with them. No, I was just standing on the shore of a beach I’d hiked out to and seeing them as I am, a human on land, and as they are, majestic beauty in the ocean. Absolutely one of the most amazing things I’ve seen in my life.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen whales, not even here on Maui – just something about them being so close I felt like I could nearly touch them… wonderful.

Have you ever wondered what whale songs are like in the wild?

Sometimes when you snorkel here during the winter you can hear them signing to each other underwater. This is the second time I’ve been lucky to hear them. Today they were loud enough to be easily heard, even over the white noise of the choppy waves we were snorkeling in. It was very magical, especially the times when we’d find a turtle to swim with. Whales whistling and calling to one another, following a sea turtle as it wandered the reef, scores of brightly colored fish swimming below us – I’ll always remember this.

I found myself at one point being struck by how diametrically different my life is now compared to March in Washington while living in a tent. Almost every year the last snow of the season would be sometime in the next two weeks. We’d be completely and totally exhausted from surviving another freezing and snowy winter only to look forward to a ridiculous amount of rain for the next two months, praying this summer would be warm and sunny. Often times it would be a wet summer too with nary a good, hot day to burn off winter’s chill before turning into Autumn and starting the cycle all over.

Instead, here I was snorkeling nude in the ocean, warm sunshine on my backside, while swimming with whales and turtles!

If life can change so dramatically for me in such a short period of time, just think of what else I can do. I am getting healthy again, there is no doubt about that, and sometimes like today I can really feel just how possible it is to change my situation for the better. It has taken an enormous amount of hard work and tenacity, but just look at where I am now!

I used to feel like I could inspire others to follow their dreams, grow as individuals, and reach places they thought were too distant – but sadly, I couldn’t do that for myself. Now I look at how life has changed me…I can be my own inspiration and reach my own dreams.

If I were to be able to speak to the illness that has stolen so many years of my life, I would have to quote one of my favorite movies – “Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take back the (life) that you have stolen, for my will is as strong as yours, and my kingdom as great — You have no power over me.”


Metamorphosis

I feel as though life is currently lived in a haze of passing moments. It is difficult at times to capture what is going on around me as I’m still trying to adjust to their speed. Living in the woods for nearly 10 years was a different world than the one I life in now.

I rose when the sun was up and the animals made enough racket to wake me. Life followed the seasons and weather, Each winter I rested while dreaming of warmer days. I would initially welcome spring bringing new life back into the forest around me, then curse it for the alder tree pollens that nearly crippled me with allergies each year. Summer would come as a blaze of warmth and sunshine, drowsy hours spent resting in the sun and locking away the memory to be cherished next snow storm. The autumn would bring a welcome crispness to the air and spur me to finish all my winter preparations.

Life was much simpler as each season had its own pace and little to hurry me before the next season began to make itself known.

Over the years I would often dream of once again living indoors. Things would be easier, I would feeling safer – being warm. One thing I always forgot to add into the details was the flow life takes when you have places to be and things to do.

I feel as though time stood still while I lived in a tent, events moving around me to change the world I live in, but ultimately not touching me. I saw a war, a new president, our economy plummet, avian flu bugs, cellphone use explode to a way of life, gas prices sky rocket, the internet become a culture – all of this and more as though looking on through a one way mirror.

Now life feels considerably different. Trying to reintegrate with a world that has flown by me, it can be … tricky. Things others take for granted after years of living in the American culture of the 21st century, I am coming into having read about it, but not personally experiencing it. It’s like reading a guidebook before you get to your destination – things are familiar, but you still have to learn your way around.

While the last 10 years of illness are hazy in my memory (its surprising how quickly the tent is fading away), the previous healthy years of life as a college student and bookstore clerk are surprisingly clear and sharp. This has caused an odd juxtaposition of lives to needing to be merge: The one knows how to live in a fast paced world, but approached it as a healthy and vigorous 24 year old; verses the one who knows how to live with chronic illness and in sync with the seasons of life.

Trying to merge these two dynamic halves into a whole has been both invigorating and stressful.

Last summer I awoke in a new world and a new place, considerably changed from when I fell asleep 10 years ago. As I move through my new surroundings, I am letting fall behind the shackles that bound me, and stepping forth into the rainbow of possibility before me to discover who I have become.


A Doctor and a Friend

I just finished writing a postcard to send to Dr. Buscher, the physician we have been seeing these last 7 years. It was a surprisingly emotional experience.

He is a man who stood by us when many a doctor would have walked away. We were never made to feel like we were the reason our health was failing, but instead he understood that we did everything we possibly could to become well again. Considering the months it would take for us to go from him handing us lab work papers and the tests actually being run, months again between visits, and a severe lack of money complicating things further – he never gave up on us.

And when times became darkest last year, I couldn’t find my way out of the nightmare my health was plunging into – Dr. Buscher was there to light the way and guide me back.

Without his help over the years, it is unlikely we would have made it to see this wonderful island of Maui and find joy in living again.

Thank you Dr. Buscher for everything you’ve done and my only regret in moving to Hawaii is that I couldn’t take you with me!


First Week in Maui

I have been here in my new apartment in Maui for a week now. After 9 years, 6 six months, and 1 day in a tent we are finally indoors.

Maui is a beautiful place and it already feels like home. There was about two days of culture shock in which I had to adjust to wild chickens and many close neighbors, though I am more accustomed to it now. Hopefully in the next few weeks I will learn to sleep through roosters at 6 am and neighbor noises through the walls.

I have many pictures, but have not located the cable to download them from my camera. Most things have arrived in the mail unharmed, though my pc was not one of them. For now we are back to being a one computer family and I find it to be rather pleasant. It encourages us to interact together instead of being less than a foot apart physically yet miles away mentally.

I find myself feeling no worse than I would have mere weeks ago and often I feel noticeably better. This is very promising of future things to come for healing. Our apartment is steadily airing out and has promise to be an MCS safe haven despite having semi-toxic neighbors.

The rigors of a month to pack and relocate thousands of miles away have left me easily fatigued the last couple days. Next post I’ll hopefully be able to share some pictures!


Take a Deep Breath, Now LEAP!

Today is my last morning with a computer before it too is packed away in a cardboard box and sent ahead of me towards my new home. Over the past four weeks, I have evaluated each aspect of life I collected around me – weighed and determined if it was valuable enough to warrant shipping or if I would finally part ways with it to lighten my load.

It is surprising how little I chose to keep.

I have always been a packrat by nature. This enthusiasm to keep things that might one day be ‘useful’ has still persisted even living in a tent year around, but what is useful here is not always the same as what is useful indoors in Hawaii. Certainly the sharp axe used to split small logs will be left behind, while our amazingly comfortable camp chairs have passed inspection and are already at our new apartment.

I find as our camp dwindles in clutter, a great deal of contentment begins to infuse my being. It is as though I am washing away a decade of grief and pain caused by a dramatic loss of health, family, and nearly everything I once was.

The woman who sits here today is a very different person to the one who walked into this exact camp site 7 years ago. Before now, I had never lived in a single place longer than a few years. How odd that I finally found the stability in housing I always longed for by living in a tent.

Am I scared of these new changes to come? You bet I am. It is all unknown – this will be the first time Jeremy and I will live outside of a tent on our own while ill.

But I am also hugely excited. Despite the fear, I will be stepping out of darkness and into the bright world beckoning me the last several years. I will walk with my head held high, the strength and courage I found in these dark years supporting me when my knees are weak with fear.

And so this is my last post from a tent – as always I am full of hope and determination to see myself and Jeremy walking forward into our future instead of looking back at our past.

Good bye tent. Hello Maui!


Imagine

Imagine living 20 minutes away from here:

Ho'okipa Beach Park, Maui

Ho'okipa Beach Park, Maui

Imagine sitting one sunny afternoon on a sandy beach and watching the windsurfers play in the dancing waves:

Wind surfers at Ho'okipa Beach, Maui

Windsurfers at Ho'okipa Beach, Maui

Imagine feeling the spray misting from this meeting of rock and wave, blown by a sea breeze across your face:

Lava Rocks at Ho'okipa Beach, Maui

Lava Rocks at Ho'okipa Beach, Maui

As I sit here and imagine all this I begin to feel my eyes tear up with overwhelming emotion because for me this will be my reality in four weeks.

There is no doubt I am currently living a rare and beautiful moment in my life; when it feels like the heavens are shifting the world around me in order to lay a wondrous path at my feet.

My time is now.

My time is here.

Together, Jeremy and I are seizing this moment and riding the wave of change out from our tent and into a new life filled with sunshine.

These events are nothing short of miraculous and I thank the spiritual path I follow for guiding me here.


Life is an Ever Changing Wonder

It’s another sunny day here in the Pacific Northwest. Starting into the best time of year – not too cold, not too many bugs, and a few more sunny days. It only lasts about a month, usually most of April though this year it is late.

Life has been moving quickly for us the last few weeks. It seemed a slow, sluggish mire we had fallen into over the winter was going to plague us all spring. Then one morning someone turned the “LIFE” switch from ‘off’ over to ‘on’ and life began to take form around us.

It’s odd to say life started when obviously I’m still breathing and getting into mischief. However there is a difference between being alive and living.

This last 18 months I have found myself learning to live again and growing beyond my physical boundaries. Then the late snows in February and March crashed our health; it is very physically and mentally taxing to live in a tent during frequent snows. My world narrowed again to survival – just getting by for another week, another month, waiting to feel less awful. Thankfully an easy allergy season helped and in April we started to move past survival and back into living again.

As I am happily remembering, there is also a difference between living and thriving.

Two weeks ago everything changed in 24 hours. Living became Thriving. I think the last time we found ourselves thriving was in 2005. Before that… 2001, during the few months before life took a nose dive into the world of chronic CFS/MCS.

It’s been a long, hard road we walk in this life of illness.

The big news going along with this change is that we finally will have the means to find indoor housing. Yup, this couple in the woods will one day soon become homeless no more.

I find the prospect both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.

Where will we go? What sort of place will we rent? I honestly don’t know, though we are planning on answering those questions this summer. With a bit of luck, we’ll be indoors by November; we’ve had enough of living outside during Winter.

Times like these it is hard not to jump into the first opportunity that comes along. Our health concerns and the restrictions it places on housing means we must move slowly to ensure a safe living situation is found.

It also means we opted not to see the naturopath last week. As we are not certain to be staying in the local area, we didn’t want to establish care with a new doctor (a costly endeavor) and then repeat the process in another few months. However, we have followed up on a considerable amount of blood work through Dr. Buscher and will know the results in a few weeks.

Where to live when the world has suddenly opened itself up to you once more?

How to get there and more importantly, how to find safe housing?

What type of change will all this have on our health?

I am looking forwards to finding the answers to these and other questions, which swirl around in my waking and dreaming thoughts.


Irony

I’ve had Irony on my mind much of the last month. Less than a week after my last post on healing, I injured my dominant hand. Now several weeks later I am still not recovered and have had troubles with stress injury to my other hand as it tried to pick up the slack.

I have wondered at times – just how does a person end up homeless for 9 years with strange illness? By a random chain of events that seem ludicrous when looked at fully, but which have a large amount of irony to them.

And so, Sundog Tales will be continuing to be on hold for a time as my injuries heal enough for me to type without strain.

Happy Spring to all!


Winter Arrived Early

An early snowstorm and cold front brought some amazing weather this week. This time I decided to capture it on film!

Last week Planet Thrive published an article I wrote on how to survive in a tent during winter. I found the last few days entertaining as I had to live the same advice I had just written about … especially the times I blatantly went against my own advice! Such as eating half frozen paleo pancakes for dinner when I had no way to get warm afterward – but ohhhh, they were good!

While going through all this, I came across an article about Leonid Rogozov, a Russian surgeon who in 1961 had to remove his own appendix or die. Admittedly, it made me feel like my own experiences of the last 48 hours paled in comparison, but I also felt a kinship to him.

People tell me that they can’t imagine living as I do with these difficulties and hardships. And yet, the same drive to look outside the box for ways to survive and take them in stride is the same drive Leonid would have felt fifty years ago.

I wonder sometimes – is this imperative to live genetically coded in our DNA, or is it a function of something more ethereal and hard to define?

There are many people out there who quickly buckle under stress and become hopelessly lost in a crisis. What is different in my life compared to theirs that has prepared me to be calm and decisive under pressure? As far back as I can remember, I have always been this way.

When I was 9, there was a large earthquake in Los Angeles; it was my first. I went to school like normal and to me it was just another day, more exciting than most, but nothing to worry about. Later that night, my mom told me she had gotten a call from my teacher. I’d been so calm and helpful with the other kids who were crying wrecks, that on a hectic day she was impressed enough to take a few spare moments and tell my mom personally.

Have the same genetics that cause me to be toxically ill from everyday life also given me the strength to survive the devastation they cause? Or maybe the human spirit for survival resides in a less well defined place.

My accomplishments are less dramatic than the stories told of legends and heroes, but it is with these people that I feel a hard won kinship. It fills me with a warm joy and chases away some of the loneliness life has brought me, because I know my feet walk the same path theirs once did.

And I have to wonder, did they also feel the same loneliness that I do?


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


A New Chapter Begins

My life has been led by far too much fear.

If you had asked me ten years ago while I was still healthy, I would have been very sure that fear played little role in the direction life was taking.

I would have been wrong.

Over the last several months I have been thinking about fear’s role in my life. Its not just the fear I felt every time I stepped out into the darkness at night alone the last eight years, but also the fear that has unknowingly held me back from jumping in and living life instead of life living me.

I see fear in my choice to stop following veterinary medicine after a negative experience while observing a surgery on a large dog in my 2nd year of college.

There was a great deal of hidden fear that caused me to be content with stoner friends who rarely did anything but sit around and have a good time.

In fact, an amazing amount of my life decisions have been chosen based on an unknown fear of failure. Much easier to set expectations of myself lower so that I can be the superstar I want to perceive instead of merely being average at something I put a lot of effort into.

I have done a lot of really great and brave things in life, but there was so much more I would have done had fear not gotten in my way. I wish I had known this years ago, before illness took away huge chunks of my ability to live and follow my dreams.

After becoming ill, my fear took on a whole new dimension as there was suddenly a tremendous amount of things to be afraid of. Overnight I had to become hyper vigilant of toxic exposures which could severely impact my quickly diminishing health.

These could be found hiding in plain sight on any stranger I passed on the street, in any building I entered, any street I walked down, a shift in the breeze, a box in the mail, and many other places. Perfumes, fabric softener, car exhaust, fresh paint, solvents, pesticides… so many things and more to be wary of.

Suddenly everything I knew about being safe in the world was turned completely upside down and every where I turned was another dangerous situation that had to be avoided or minimized at all costs.

My world had become a battlefield in a hostile and foreign land.

Even at home I was not necessarily safe. Living in a tent with nylon walls does not offer much protection against anything. I found myself fearing mountain lions, bears, trees falling on our tent in a wind storm, heavy snow storms, power outages, people not respecting our privacy and strolling into camp at their leisure, shifts in wind bringing toxic fumes from neighbors into our tent, neighbor dogs rooting through our stuff, and raccoons doing the same. Worse yet was all of the above, but in the dark where I could not see it coming.

evil raccoon

"My evil plan is working."

This fear had made me unable to leave the comfort of our lighted tent at night without Jeremy nearby, even for a simple trip to our ‘facilities’ because it meant being completely enclosed in the dark with nothing but my flashlight to see by. I used to go backpacking alone overnight and now I could not even tolerate 1 minute in the dark by myself without a panic attack overwhelming me.

Then a few months ago something began to change.

At first it changed so slowly I didn’t even see a difference until last month. I was up at our refrigerator area (about 70 ft from the tent) and using my sinus medication. It takes about 20 minutes for the whole process and it was quickly getting dark. Oddly, this hardly bothered me at all. I stayed the whole time and then calmly walked back to the tent. First time in eight years I have been able to do anything like this.

Over the last few weeks I have even gotten to the point where I have wanted a little quiet “me time” some evenings. I walk up to the chair we have by the fridge, have a seat, and just relax for a while – after dark. Critters rustling around in the bushes, breeze making strange noises in the trees – none of it freaks me out anymore.

When I do get spooked a bit, it is a pretty simple matter to calm my mind and body back down to a place where I can continue to enjoy the time spent alone, in the dark with only my flashlight. I have actually turned it off a couple of times. Only briefly off, but I still had the courage to do it.

Almost exactly what it looks like 20ft from our tent at night.

I am seeing this same shift away from fear in many aspects of my life and how I look at situations. Such as making a very important and empowering choice to stop fighting my situation and working with it instead.

To fully explain what brought about this change would take at least one more article, very possibly more. In summary, I have been utilizing alternative mind/body healing practices for nearly a year, specifically EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) and Reiki. It is these practices to which I attribute many of these massive changes.

I have not spoken of these things here in my blog because of my fear that at even merely mentioning I am finding healing in alternative means, it would damage my credibility and the degree my chronic illness is taken seriously.

Having one’s integrity and mental soundness questioned goes hand in hand with a diagnosis of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I was reticent to add to that by opening the door for further skepticism with alternative therapies. It appears that in writing this article, I am again seeing the same shift from a fear led life to one I lead on my own.

Too much of my life has been governed by fear. That chapter is now closing and it is time for me to write the next chapter in my own words.


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


Some New Hope

Had another phone appointment yesterday with Dr. Buscher our CFS/MCS specialist. Seemed time to consult him since Jeremy and I had tried everything we could think of doing on our own but to no avail.

It didn’t take Dr. Buscher long to figure out what is very likely happening to us. This year has seen a particularly wet and warm winter/spring which has mold numbers very high. In people with low health, mold can actually take residence in your sinuses and other parts of the body. This leads to all kinds of trouble.

The molds release toxins and then these toxins are in you. No having to inhale them in a sick building or ways to prevent exposure – its already inside. Add to this a bodily reaction to the mold infection taking root in you and causing your immune system to ramp up – inflammation, swollen glands, low fevers, brain fog, memory problems, greater fatigue than normal, and body aches all abound.

We had a mold sinus infection for several months in 2006 and in comparing symptoms it is nearly exact to what we are going through now.

He has us rinsing our sinuses twice a day with oregano oil very diluted which wowie does it burn. This should pass as the sinus tissue begins to heal with the lessening of the infection.

We will also be starting a nasal glutathione spray soon as I can get it made/shipped from the compounding pharmacy as its not something you’ll find at the local drug store.

Dr. Buscher said we should be having noticeable improvements within 2-3 weeks. Fingers crossed!

Its such a relief to have an avenue of recovery planned.

Words hardly express how frightening and overwhelming it can be to see the fragile strings of your life snapping one by one while you are desperately trying to stop your life from dissolving more each day.


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


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!


and the march continues on…

Have I mentioned that I love my doctor?

I had an appointment with Dr. Buscher this morning, by phone because of the great difficulty in personally seeing him. It was time to check-in with him as to our last six months and go over what testing Jeremy and I should have before seeing him in person this summer.

It was exciting to have a lot to tell him about and the whole appointment helped put the last six months into perspective for me. The last two months have left me feeling pretty lousy at times because of all the allergy and sinus troubles, along with Jeremy’s candida treatments causing a lot of MCS troubles for both of us.

Talking to Dr. Buscher today helped me to see that we have been incredibly busy on improving our health these last six months and that we have actually seen a lot of improvements from it all.

It can be difficult at times to set aside a few months of feeling worse and realize that there have been a lot of abnormal circumstances, one after another, which has been greatly influencing our health. Having Dr. Buscher ask a few key questions along the way helped to remind me that prior to all this odd stuff going on for us, we really were seeing substantial improvements.

Our MCS reactions had been getting noticeably less and our energy had been improving. I was feeling much less brain fog, enough such that I was looking forwards to having our car fixed and renewing my driver’s license.

Most people do not know this, but I had even begun trying to find us housing that would be safe for us and on our budget. I had one very possible lead with a man who owned an organic farm and wanted to talk with me about some housing he could offer.

Then allergy season hit weeks early, my health dropped quickly and we had to go right back into survival mode because there was no other option. Driving, moving indoors, or anything of that nature had again been pulled out of our reach.

Remembering the improvements we had made, albeit briefly, helps to renew my faith that we are on the right path and doing the right things. We just need time to recover from all that has happened these last two months and then I have little doubt that we will be seeing big improvements once again.

As for my doctor appointment this morning, Dr. Buscher sounded enthusiastic about the changes we have made on our own since last seeing him – the largest having gone paleo. He approved of the tweaks I have made/will make on my own to our supplements – our increased fish oil, beginning some iodine, changing up the type of magnesium we take, calcium, and doing our vitamin b12 shots every three days instead of 1-2x’s a week.

He also gave me the reassurance I needed to hear that my thinking had been sound in not supplementing with thyroid medication after we had a large reaction to it the first day we tried it and instead waiting to see how our thyroid changed on its own after we got our diet and supplements changed up.

We will be retesting our levels of vitamin D, hormones, thyroid, and a new one – vitamin K. Jeremy and I will also be finishing up with an amino acid panel from last year. I’m curious to see how some of these numbers have changed with all that has been improved upon since last October.

Dr. Buscher is a wonderful doctor who is incredibly supportive. He really cares for his patients. This is very obvious in the questions he asks and the excitement he shares when hearing of improvements. Most people who have CFS, MCS, FM, PTSD or other odd illnesses know how rare it is to find a doctor who is supportive, caring, and knowledgeable. I am incredibly lucky to have found one and always enjoy my appointments with him.


A Few Paleo Thoughts

Tuesday will be exactly four months since we made the switch to a Paleo lifestyle.

I can still hardly believe how much meat we consume each week because I have never in my life been a huge meat eater. The previous 12.5 years of vegetarianism, over a third of my life and nearly all of my adult years, has been thoroughly tossed out the window in favor of meat, meat, and meat! Combined with this is the greatly increased fat intake which is just as huge of a change from how I ate all those years.

Its really no wonder that it takes a body time to make such massive shifts in how it processes food. I think it is safe to say that our health is playing a key role in how we adapt to this new lifestyle. Provides some answers for why we have more ups and downs, even now four months in, than others who are healthy and make the change.

Overall impression of having shifted our diet this dramatically?

I think the long term benefits will be stellar. We are already seeing small improvements that are a little hard to define, largely because our memory has become so poor as to make any sort of quantitative analysis extremely difficult for minor changes. But in our world any improvement is a vast step forward after having been stalled out at such a low level of health these last several years. These improvements feel more solid and less likely to give us the house of cards effect we had last summer – one very bad thing causing us to crash and loose two years of improvements.

My pseudoscience guess is that the changes in us are slow because of how far down our health has fallen. I distinctly feel like my nutrition is greatly improved and my body feels calmer because of this. It just feels more ‘happy’ eating this way and I have the distinct impression that much healing is occurring behind the scenes and waiting to make a spectacular debut someday.

This has been a very life changing event for us and one which I am still awed by our ability to make it work so well from a tent, two burner hot plate, and a small refrigerator/freezer.

I can not speak highly enough of giving this diet a try if anyone has major health problems. As with us, the benefits might be slow in coming but in the long term will provide a huge increase to quality of life. It will likely seem daunting at first thought (I know it was for us!) but we started one step at a time and never gave up.

This change was six months in the making for us and most of that time was spent feeling very overwhelmed with the knowledge that we had to change our diet but not knowing in what way. I am incredibly grateful for Jeremy’s hard work and willingness to try something new.


Ever Onwards

The allergy season marches onwards while I remain hunkered down inside waiting for my chance to spring forth and begin my garden in a few more weeks.

The alders above our tent have not fully started pollinating yet, though they are no more than two weeks away from turning our camp yellow with pollen. For the first and only time each year, I find myself hoping more for rain instead of sunshine as the rain cleans the air and brings a few moments peace with it.

cute puppy 1
Enjoy the cute puppy photos this week!

I have had a few people ask me what I do during this time of season. The more conventional stuff sees me taking nearly double my normal prescription antihistamine, 2-3x’s a day over the counter allergy eye drops, and I wear a face mask to filter pollens 24 hours a day when not eating or showering.

I also add in approximately 18-25,000 mg of Vitamin C taken in 1-2,000 mg doses through the day. The C helps more than any one other thing for me. It varies what form of C I take at different times of the day, but each one gets taken at least twice a day. Sometimes I take a buffered powdered form, occasionally one mixed with some quercetin, but mostly just a cheap C with few extra ingredients.

A little meditation each day to help keep my body and mind in a calmer state also helps keep the stress of this season much lower. This is new for me this year as I had not started meditating until this last fall.

Lastly, I make sure to rinse out my nose at least once a day and preferably before breakfast in the morning. I’ve found doing it earlier helps keep my symptoms more calm throughout the day as opposed to doing it the once at night.

cute puppy 2

I am finding this spring season to be a little easier than the last few have been. Though it is possible it is a lighter pollen count this year, I think more likely is the fact of many diet and supplement changes having helped my body to heal more prior to allergy season beginning. Either way, I am happy my allergies are a little better than normal this year.

These are the things I do specifically for my allergies. I also have trouble every spring with my lymph stagnating more than normal which causes a great deal of pain. The pain begins first behind and under my ears then spreads throughout my body. Very little has helped in the past and the size of pain can only be described by saying all I can do when it hits is lie on my side and quietly cry. Pain killers do nothing for it and I have had to wait till it passed on its own.

This year I found some really good exercises to help keep the lymph moving and they take very little energy to do. The difference is astounding. I must remember to do them at least once a day (which can sometimes be harder than it sounds) but usually the pain starting will remind me if I have so far forgotten that day.

Only once did I have any significant amount of pain from the lymph nodes behind my ear this season, an even more welcome change than the lessened allergies thus far.

roxy the pit bull from upside down dogs

We have some stormy weather moving in for the next week or so, a blessed event which I am looking forwards to. With everything extra I must take to keep my symptoms tolerable right now, it has me even more foggy than normal. Some rain should allow me to slow down on the supplements I must take and possibly clear my head for a few days.

Posts will still be sporadic for a few more weeks. A big thank you to everyone who has offered me support during this time and let me know you were looking forwards to the next post here.


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”


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.