Banish your Bears

I recently dreamed of a bear. I was inside the trailer with Dave, and his stepmom, and we were playing cards or something on a sunny, summer day. I looked out the window and spotted three deer… no, TWO deer and one bear. He was kind of goofy looking, like he was a cartoon, but he looked mean, and he also looked directly back at me. 
I turned around and told my companions there was a bear, and he was going to be coming for us. But nobody else seemed concerned. “What should we do?” I asked, the panic setting in. For you see, I have a funny fear of bears. I’ve only seen them in the zoo, and yet, I’ve always had this little, gnawing fear of them, as if somehow, one day I’d be face to face with a bear and need to know what to do (even though I lived in the Bay Area for 28 years, and the odds of that are astronomically low). Nobody else was worried. They just looked at me calmly and shook their heads, as if to say, “I don’t know, but it doesn’t much matter.” 
I started screaming at Dave to pull the little hatch on the door closed, because if he didn’t the only thing standing between us, and what was obviously a deadly bear, was a piece of screen. Dave just stood there. I saw the bear running towards the trailer. Dave just stood there. I begged, I cried, I screamed. Finally, seeing how important it was to me, he started to slide the plastic hatch closed. 
But it was too late. The bear was at the door. And quickly working his way through that plastic hatch. I contemplated climbing out of the window as the bear was climbing in… I begged for answers, but nobody had any suggestions, and everyone else was calm. I knew that climbing out the window was futile, he’d just follow me. By now I knew, he was after me, specifically. I realized I couldn’t outrun him if he followed me. In came the bear, and I just stood there… Stunned and scared. 
Suddenly, a feeling welled up inside of me. That confident, fear-be-damned feeling. I threw myself between the bear and the door, swung it open, and quite literally just ushered him outside. He was a pretty obedient bear it turned out, and he just ran away to go do other bear things. 
When I woke up I was pretty exhausted. I felt drained. But then I realized the really special part of this dream. The meaning of it all. Why was everyone else so calm? Why could nobody else banish the bear but me? Because the bear was *my* fear. Dave tried to help by closing the hatch… but the bear still found a way in, because it was my bear to banish. Nobody else can get rid of your fears for you. Sometimes you just have to face them, and usher them out yourself. 
I’m facing a lot of fears lately. I know it seems funny that almost an entire year after my mom’s death, I’m just getting around to the fear part of living without her. There’s fear of this new disease, and living a life dependent on medication. There’s fear of real bears, now that I live in the mountains. There’s fear everywhere, and sometimes it presents itself as a panic attack, or anxiety, or bad dreams. But one thing I know for certain, is they are my fears, and I am the one who must let them go.

Mercury is Retrograding

It has just been one of those couple of weeks… The stress level is high. Communication has been on the fritz. Every time Mohawk and I speak it ends with one of us wishing the other had no vocal chords.

Then it all came to a crescendo last night. That was it. I had to look it up. And the answer was YES. yes this insane year is ending, quite literally, with Mercury in Retrograde. Poor 2016, it is like the ugly stepchild. 

Anyhow, I digress. Last night, we realized that we had no idea where Dave’s cell phone was, so we turned the entire house upside down searching, to NO avail. It is still MIA.

But in the fruitless search, more technology disaster struck…

I was getting ready to move the couch, when I felt and heard the ominous, unmistakable crunch of an LED screen. Yep, my Chromebook had ended up underfoot in the turning over of the living room. 

I would have taken photos, but my heart was just as crushed. So I did what any angry person on Keppra does, and used it as an excuse to toss it across the room. What? It was already a goner, might as well satisfy a bit of the angst. 

So, we march forward through the bitter cold, final hours of 2016, without a computer, and one less cell phone in tow. Mercury will grade, or whatever it is it does…and 2017 will begin. And in all likelihood a phone will mysteriously reappear. But this is certainly a year for the books!

Getting Ready

Here we go! Just a few days away from a new beginning. I know, I know, we don’t actually have to wait for the first of the year to set intentions, or roll out some goals and take action. And believe me, we don’t. But this year in particular, it is just going to be so symbolic and meaningful to begin the New Year.

2016 has been rough. We’ve lost some of the people closest to us. My mom, Dave’s best friend, and so very many more. It is going to be nice to have  a clean slate and move forward into this new year with their love and support behind us. We know they would want that for us.

The thing that I’ve realized about 2016 is that, while it has been sad and difficult to get through, it has been all about making room. Sometimes in order for change to happen, or for new flowers to bloom, you have to have an overhaul. You have to till the soil and start fresh if you want your new crops to be abundant. In order to ensure the access to water, air and nutrients as needed, it is important to till the soil every few years. So 2016 has been a tilling year. And we are the soil. It doesn’t feel fantastic, and it has required a great amount of strength and growth for us to adjust to new changes and the lack of so many wonderful people, but sometimes you must make room.

Sometimes, in order for a new light to shine, an old, bright light must dim. 2017 will be a year when many new people get to shine and light the way for the world. They will follow in the footsteps of the many wonderful people the world lost this year. They will pick up the torch and carry on. They will have the tools necessary, and they will shine.

Shine on you crazy diamond. Shine on.

Adjustments

December 1, 2016. My first birthday without my mom, my first seizure. I was at a restaurant with my dad, getting ready to head to a special viewing of a movie. The last thing I remember was him pulling out his credit card. Apparently I continued to talk after that, until I was on the floor.

Eventually, 911 was called, and a woman who was a nurse came and walked my dad through what was happening. I came to in the ambulance. Confused, I told the EMT I thought it was 2009. Perhaps that is because I suspected I was in the ambulance with my mom. I don’t know. But either way, the confusion took about a good 30 minutes to an hour to really wear off.

They took me in for a CAT scan, and sent me on my way. Confused, tired, and very sore. I was aware that I had a grand mal seizure, lasting approximately 4-5 minutes. Luckily, I didn’t urinate, or bite my tongue, or severely injure my head when I fell. The soreness lasted about 2 days. The day after I was weak, and so sore I could barely walk. My jaw… well that is still sore, two weeks later.

That seizure, in my mind, was brought on by lack of sleep and nothing else. I had woke up at 3 am that day, and couldn’t get back to sleep. I then went to work in the morning, traveled three hours to get to my dad, and went out to dinner. The week before I had gotten many lousy nights of sleep, so I was really exhausted.

When I got home I found myself a primary care physician, who referred me for an MRI and to a neurologist. She also prescribed me Ativan. She said she was giving it to me for anxiety, but I am curious if her real reasoning was she thought my seizure was related to alcohol withdrawal. That is how the neurologist treated it as well. Nobody else seemed to believe that it was going to end with a diagnosis of epilepsy.

I, on the other hand, knew that it would. My grandfather was an epileptic. I had never considered this a genetic disorder, nor concerned myself with the possibility that I might have it. But sure enough, my grandfather’s first seizure was when he was 28; mine was on my 29th birthday.

My MRI came back completely clear. But then the EEG results came in. Clear, unmistakably, Left Temporal Lobe Epilepsy. Immediately, my neurologist prescribed me 500 mg of Keppra, twice a day. I was disheartened, to say the least. My doctor seemed, well, surprised. I was not. Disappointed, sure, but from the moment I heard I had a seizure, I knew what it was.

So, here come the adjustments… Keppra. This medication is supposedly the least offensive of all of the AED’s (antiepileptic drugs). It isn’t safe for women to take if they are pregnant, or trying to get pregnant. So I guess that is something I won’t be worrying about for a while. It wasn’t really on the agenda anyhow, but it stings to hear that it will be complicated if it ever does become something we can afford, or desire.

But the massive, huge, glaring side effect of Keppra is the “Keppra rage.” It is so common it has a nickname. And there are streams of conversations about it online. At first, my reaction to the Keppra was a giddy feeling. I’d have fits of giggles and feel very floaty and tired. But then, on day 4 of this medication, I fell into a funk. A Massive Black Hole Funk. I was irritable, depressed, angry, frustrated, and every little thing made me feel like I needed to punch someone.

Today is much better. But I didn’t do anything differently, or significantly. So I’m not sure if I’m just in for a roller coaster, or if there is something that seems insignificant that made a big difference? Or, will it just settle down? Some people say after about a month, the side effects mellow out and you’ll be okay… Some people don’t ever get used to it and just suffer with the rage, or have their doctor change their medication.

Today is day 5. All I can tell you is that I will certainly keep an eye on it, track how I’m doing day to day, and see about what I can do to ease things. It doesn’t help that there are a few major issues I have to tackle this month. My stress levels are through the roof… there will be a lot of playing of mantras in my brain.

I have to say, I’m so grateful to have a partner that is sticking with me through it all, and trying his best to remember that I may not be in control of my moods at all time (talk about frustrating to be around!)

Changes

We’ve been away again… we’re sorry! We miss writing for you all and staying connected, but lives have been busy, and we’ve been going through so many changes.

A new school year to say the least, has required a lot of adaptation! Early alarms buzzing, trying to balance working out and eating right (still haven’t gotten the workouts down yet!), and being present in our personal lives. Despite the fact that teaching middle school is a very natural fit for me, it is definitely a new beginning, which means a lot of learning!

We’re also just adjusting to life in a small town – it is so different living in a rural area, when both of of us have spent our entire lives living in the urban hubs of the Bay Area. When we first got here in April it wasn’t so obvious because we spent most of our time on Dave’s family’s land and exploring the natural wonders we are so lucky to live near. But now, we are integrated into the community, and it definitely comes with its own personality! I don’t think we’d ever go back, small town life is for us!

Adjusting to grief in its many forms has also been consuming. Time has definitely eased the pain, though everyday brings its own feelings and its own challenges. While time eases certain feelings, it also seems to dig a little deeper into my psyche in certain respects.

To further add to the many changes we have gone through, I’m currently dealing with a new medical venture. On my 29th birthday I experience my first grand mal seizure. I want to share this new adventure with you. It isn’t fun. It certainly was NOT how I planned to spend my birthday… but I think there are important stories to share in this. Perhaps lessons I can share, so you don’t have to learn the hard way. So stay posted – I’ll be sharing my journey through doctors visits, medical tests, and life after a seizure, soon!

Much love to our dear community. Thanks for all of your support in our ever changing ventures!

Handheld GPS for Geocaching

When I first heard about Pokemon Go! My first thought was that it was an awful lot like geocaching. Funny thing is, just before it came out, I was busy researching what GPS I wanted to buy to make my geocaching even better. For the past few years I had been using the free app C:geo to make my finds. And that worked really well…until we moved out into the redwoods! We rarely get a decent enough signal on our phones to actually track a cache down. So Mohawk and I decided we needed to get a better tool so we could continue to build our Geocaching habit.

After reading many reviews online, and trying to weigh the various issues like cost and functionality, I settled on the most basic handheld GPS, the Garmin Etrex 10. It’s black and white, and doesn’t have tons and tons of bells and whistles. But let me tell you what we love about it so far:

👌Price! The price for this unit is on point with our limited budget, especially because we are also trying to build up our camping gear, which takes some major 💲! We paid around $100 after taxes. I saw it online between $80-100, and it just depends on s/h and taxes at the end.

👌Signal. This thing connects fast, gets a strong and consistent signal, and we LOVE it. It’s nice being able to really hone in on GZ, and spend our energy actually finding the cache, not questioning if the coords are bouncing.

👌Trip Odometer – this is a fun feature for us on a number of levels. First of all, it lets us know how soon sunset is (1 hour 9 minutes away), so we can gauge if we have time to complete our walk before dark. Out here we don’t like to take chances because of the night crew! 🐺 It also tells us our speed, time spent moving and still. This is super cool because it doubles as a fancy device to help us towards our fitness goals. Two-for-one?!? Heck yes!

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👌Easy to download geocaches! So, at first, I thought I was going to be sad because my primary device to use at home is a Chromebook. I logged onto geocaching.com and I clicked “Send to GPS,” and it turns out I have to download the little plug-in thing, which my Chromebook isn’t beefy enough to do. 😞 BUT, wait! Don’t lose all hope yet, because the fabulous InterWebz helped me out, as always. I realized I could simply download the GPX file, and transfer it directly to my Garmin. Easy – extra step, but easy. No paper needed, no signal on my phone needed, and I’ve got everything I need to grab those caches!

For us, this was a great first GPS purchase. Basically we decided to go with this one because it was simple, doesn’t have a ton of bells and whistles we wouldn’t even know how to use anyway. Someday, we plan to purchase a second one, and by then we will be a little better versed in how the handheld GPS works, and we will know exactly what features matter to us. I’m also super thrilled to get out and adventure in the acreage here at home.

Let us know if you have a recommendation for our next handheld GPS, or if you have any tips and tricks for us as we learn how to use this great gadget!

 

 

Make your own cheese

Dear Friends, if you know anything about me, you know just how much I LOVE cheese. I love it all – the sharp cheddar, the freshest mozzarella, the tangiest-bluest-blue cheese, the creamiest brie with a little slice of prosciutto. I can even dig on some Laughing Cow. I mean, guys and gals, I have an unhealthy cheese issue.

And I might actually mean unhealthy. Sadly, we inadvertently cut back on cheese consumption when we moved. We’ve been eating a much better balanced diet following 21 Day Fix (if you want to know more, ask us, we’d love to share!), but following that means less “blue” containers, which are dairy products.

Recently I bought a bag of cheese chunks – OMG so good – and my face broke out in big teenage girl sized zits, I was bloated and gassy, and I realized – cheese is not my friend. 😦 At least in large quantities. So guess what makes me super happy? The idea of making my own small batches of cheese!

Dave’s dad, Threecrows, passed on an extra 1/2 gallon of milk to us recently right before we were supposed to take a trip. I was thinking about what to do with this milk when it hit me – MAKE CHEESE. So friends… here is how I made paneer and ricotta cheese all in the same night, with just 1/2 gallon of milk, some vinegar and some cheese cloth.

It was *surprisingly* easy.

First,  you put the milk on the heat. I kept it at a medium high,  because you don’t want to boil it,  you are going to bring it just under a boil.  You will want to have a wooden spoon handy to scrape the bottom,  too prevent scorching.

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I used a little thermometer to keep an eye out,  and get my milk just to 200 degrees.  I chose to add some fresh rosemary and oregano.  You could leave it plain. I suppose it depends on what you plan to do with your paneer.  I knew we would just be munching it,  and given the fact that it can be very bland,  I thought I’d like to give it a boost.

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Once the milk hits 200, you can kill the heat,  then add 1/4 cup vinegar,  or lemon juice,  to your milk.  You should notice the curds and whey separating pretty instantly.  Put a lid on it and let it do is science thing,  while you go put your feet up and peruse facebook for 15 minutes.

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Once you’ve run out of fresh content on facebook,  you are going to carefully pour the curds and whey into the cheese cloth.  For this step,  you need a pan that your strainer can fit inside.  It will take about 10 minutes to drain.  You can help it along by maneuvering the strainer. After 10 minutes you are going to give your curds a good squeeze.

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Then form your paneer into a round,  flat, hunk of burning love….er, cheese. You will need two plates, and something to weigh it down.  You will want to leave it pressing for a couple of hours.  Then you will be ready to refrigerate the cheese.  Enjoy within a week!

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Here is my finished product.  We had no problem eating this all up within a couple of days!  I cannot wait to make some more and cook some Indian food with it.

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So,  as I went to put away my cheese,  I realized I had a ton of whey left,  abd that I really couldn’t stand to just toss it.  That defeated the purpose of trying to use the milk! So I turned to my handy dandy Internet,  and found out I could basically follow the same process to make ricotta using the whey!

Granted,  with the little bit of whey I had,  it only made a small dish of ricotta,  but it was truly some of the best ricotta I’ve had!  The whey needs to get a heated a little less,  just to about 180 degrees.  And for ricotta,  you are finished after you strain and squeeze!

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Let me know how your cheese making adventures go!

 

 

Lazy Days of Summer

We were putting down the road, when a Speedy little car came up behind us. We pulled off the road to allow the car to pass, which they wasted no time taking advantage of. The narrow two-lane stretch of highway between 101 and Covelo is full of interesting people seeking refuge from the heat. As we proceeded down the road, we noticed Speedy McSpeederson had gotten stuck behind someone else. And as we inched closer, we could see they were behind an awesome bike with a sidecar.

As soon as the yellow line broke into sections, Speedy Mc Speederson took his opportunity and proceeded around the bike, but didn’t take off right away, instead rolled down their windows and let out a few waves of excitement. I thought perhaps, they just admired the bike and sidecar, but as we closed in on the couple in front of us, I realized they were waving them congratulations – the bike had a “Just Married” sign with cans and all in tow. 

It was a sweet sight to see, and we can only imagine that this lovely couple was headed to the Mendocino National Forest for their honeymoon. They had some camping gear in tow, after all. They eventually pulled off the road to allow us to pass, though we weren’t in any kind of hurry, and were very much enjoying speculating about the couple and admiring their bike.

Just as we were passing, I got my phone and snapped a quick picture of the couple. Ahh, love.

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We finally got to our favorite spot along the river, and drug ourselves down the hill in the heat of the midday sun. It was a scorcher, though a bit cooler than the past two days. As we approached our favorite stretch of the riverbank, we realized we weren’t alone. Another couple had already been enjoying the sun, without their clothes! So we figured we better give them a bit of privacy and head down the bank.

We found a little beachy area and set up an encampment. And as soon as our feet hit the sand, Bette Midler’s voice popped into my head, “Oh when the sun beats down and burns the tar up on the roof/ And your shoes get so hot you wish your tired feet were fire proof.” We ventured into the water to discover that just down a short walk, the river was more stagnant, so had more algae and fish. We kept our eyes on the Naked Folk, and decided to move in on the spot as soon as we saw them retreating up the hill.

We set up our encampment once again, and this time we were joined by a couple of kind gentlemen looking for fish. I didn’t think they’d find much, as we’ve been to this spot a couple of times, and there just isn’t much in the way of fish, but they hung out for a while and chatted with us. We got to meet Willie Nelson, a sweet boxer pup of just a few years, and watched him as he would approach the water and quickly run away. Poor scaredy cat!

One of our newly found friends pointed to the sky, “Look at the hawks! And one has a snake!” So for a while we watched two hawks, circling and diving, attacking and maneuvering, as the one attempted to protect his catch.

Eventually, we were greeted by two more gentlemen seeking to beat the heat, and Mohawk quickly recognized them. We had met them a week or so before, and we were happy to share their company again. J kindly let me borrow his inner tube, which I’ve never had the sheer joy of lazing about in a river in an inner tube before, and if you haven’t, I HIGHLY recommend it. ASAP. Talk about all of your troubles just melting away, as you stare at the bright blue sky and just feel yourself being.

We finally decided it was time to head back to civilization after the other guys had all long since left. We packed it in, hiked up the hill, and came home, sun soaked and happy.

Please, feel free to share this image, as we are hoping it can find it’s way back to the newlywed couple to enjoy.

Choosing to be Gluten Free

Okay, I know already that I have a lot of skeptical friends. And that’s why I love you. You aren’t jumping on the bandwagon, and if everyone jumps off of a bridge, you won’t be right behind them (unless its to laugh and point).

And I know that many of you might be rolling your eyes and sighing, “Gluten Free? That fad? Hasn’t that died out yet?!”

But you love me, so I know you will at least hear me out, right? 😉

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The “fad” is dying out a bit, but that’s because a lot of the people that choose to be gluten free for health purposes, have found the resources they need, and are just rocking and rolling along. And a lot of times, nobody is any the wiser. Did you know we’ve been gluten free for 2.5 years? That’s a while – half of our relationship now that I think about it! Whoa.

Neither of us are diagnosed with Celiac’s Disease, though neither of us were tested. My understanding is you have to have consumed wheat products within two weeks of testing, so I’m just going with, “No thanks!”

Okay, so the backstory: I decided to try going gluten free based on a conversation with a dear friend, who had done it for about a year. It helped her clear up a lot of issues, including some gut-related stuff, so I decided it was worth a shot. Dave decided to join me, I think mostly out of love and convenience.

At first, we didn’t really succeed at being gluten FREE. We were gluten REDUCED. And that just doesn’t cut it. So for about 6 months, we noticed nothing. Then we took a look at our diet, and realized just how many gluten products we were still consuming (namely beer). So we agreed that if we were going to take the Pepsi Challenge, we had to actually be all in. We buckled down. We became “label readers.” We discovered that gluten is snuck into so many products.

Some of the things that surprised us, or at the very least snuck up on us:

  • licorice/Red Vines/other gummy type candies
  • soy sauce/teriyaki sauces
  • mustards
  • lots of canned foods, like chili and soup (soup is less surprising)
  • lots of foods that have soy sauce as a part of their ingredient list, which you may not realize at first
  • probiotic yogurt smoothie drinks

I could continue, but it’d require more thinking than I feel like doing at the moment. It’s a warm day. Brain needs breaks.

Ultimately, once we actually checked all of our labels, and really had extended periods of time without gluten in our diets, we discovered we were feeling a lot better in a myriad of ways:

  • No more nightly antacids to attempt to alleviate the heartburn. I mean, this was so bad I thought I had an ulcer once! Now, I really only need to reach for Tums when I’ve cheated and eaten a bagel.
  • Reduced odor flatulence. No joke. I mean, we still fart. They just don’t make the cats leave the room.
  • No more injured wrist and back. I have arthritis in my wrists from old injuries. I used to need a wrist brace one or two weeks out of every month. Now, I’m not even sure where my wrist brace is. And Dave injured his back in car accidents back in the day, had to have surgery, and since then has had a sensitive back – to the point where it could go out just lifting a basket of laundry, and he’d be laid up in bed for a few days. Guess who doesn’t have a valid excuse to laze about anymore? 😉

We also see side effects when we sneak, knowingly or unknowingly, gluten into our diet:

  • Diarrhea. A couple of days.
  • Heart Burn. Almost instantly for me, but Dave gets it sometimes.
  • STINKY gas. I mean. EW.
  • Lethargy and Irritability, and a severe penchant for snapping at each other.
  • Bloating, massive huge belly bloat. Can you say uncomfortable?

See, gluten is a great thickening, binding agent, so it gets used in a lot of things as filler, or as a binder, or a thickener. It’s also an inflammatory. I don’t expect these products to change to meet my needs, but there are so many available products that naturally don’t utilize this cheap ingredient, so we just go with those. We avoid buying products that are processed specifically to be gluten free, but occasionally treat ourselves to some pasta, bread, crackers and the like. We’re only human. But honestly, for the most part, we just switched up our diet to include other sources of carbs, including more veggies. Actually, that’s recent. At first, we just switched up our diet to include ‘TATOS. Tons and tons of potatoes. I’m Irish ya’ll. That wasn’t that great for its own reasons. Like, 50 pounds worth of reasons, HA! Anyway, here’s some of the products we do dig, and might even eat if we weren’t gluten free. They’re THAT good:

  • Van’s Gluten Free Waffles
  • Tamari Soy Sauce
  • Koop’s Mustard
  • Annie’s Gluten Free Bunny Cookies
  • Mary’s crackers
  • Breton GF crackers
  • Glutino’s (lots of stuff, some better than others, but overall good)
  • Udi’s frozen thin pizza CRUST (they changed their recipe for their pizza and now it’s too soggy)
  • California Pizza Kitchen GF frozen pizzas

So if you are contemplating giving gluten free a go, I hope these resources are helpful. If you are experiencing IBS, heartburn, inflammation issues, it might be worth a shot. Give it a good two months before you discount it, and again you have to be diligent. But I see no turning back in our future. When you find something that alleviates so many symptoms that you have put up with for so long, you stick with it!

 

 

Arrrr…thar be pirates in Santa Barbara!

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We’ve been in Santa Barbara for a week now,  helping out Captain Jack Spareribs (AKA M.E.’s dad) at the Santa Barbara Fair and Expo.

We got some geocaching done at the Wharf,  stayed at a super cool Airbnb location at the top of a huge hill. Beautiful views morning and night. 

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We also caught a great band at James Joyce,  called Alistair Greene. Very fun guys,  with a great rock and roll sound.  Nothing better than tossing peanut shells on the ground to make you feel like you are at a real pub! 

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Next stop will be Universal Studios to check out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!

It’s been tough to stay on top of our healthy eating habits,  but I’d have to give us a part on the back for effort!  We’ve been doing the best we can,  as we face a lot of deep fried good smells at the fair!