Archive for the 'Environmental Issues' Category

Nice Ride MN

June 5th, 2010

nice ride
Check this out! My fair city is unveiling this new program this month that is FANTASTIC! It’s called NICE RIDE MN. Basically, they’re installing these bike kiosks all around the city. This is the first one (conveniently installed in front of my FAVORITE restaurant, the BIRCHWOOD CAFE). For a $60/year subscription, you can borrow a bike at any of these kiosks and return it at your convenience. You can also do 1 day or 1 month subscriptions!

How cool is that?! I have lived a lot of places. But Minneapolis is definitely the best city for biking!! I love this town!


Earth Day

April 25th, 2010

hub of heaven
In case you didn’t get the memo, today is EARTH DAY! We spent the day kicking off gardening season at our community garden. Last year, we planted our very FIRST GARDEN, and it went so WELL that we are on the steering committee this year.

Here is an insider’s look at the garden. There are about thirty raised beds.

digging weeds
My job was to orient everyone to the watering system and where everything is and collect the dinero. I also was digging up weeds on the fenceline. There were some pretty monster ones. It looks like an asteroid hit after I dug up some of them. Pretty massive.

team compost
Team compost did an AMAZING job of turning the compost and making the new dirt available to gardeners.

big garden
This is one of our garden beds…It’s the same one we had LAST YEAR.

We had a lot of trouble with the onions last year. They just did not want to come up. Funny thing is they’re the only thing coming up now.

lil garden
We inherited a second little bed halfway through the season that was abandoned. This one has strawberries coming up in it.

Look! They’re flowering already! This is going to be a good year. I can tell already. I’m ready to dive in. I can’t wait…


The Good News and The Bad News

September 13th, 2009

Today I’m starting a new series…MEDICAL ANOMALIES. To anyone whose ever fallen through the cracks of the modern marvel we reluctantly refer to as a medical system, I feel ya!

With debate over the future of healthcare spinning into overdrive, I can’t help but reflect on my own situation. It has without a doubt been among the most frustrating debacles I’ve had to deal with. Everyone agrees that there is a problem.  And on the surface, it seems like nobody agrees on the solution.  But honestly, I don’t know if that’s actually true.  I think that when you talk to most people, there IS some consensus.  It’s just when you turn on the TV…well that’s another story entirely.  Honestly, I try not to turn on the TV much at all these days.  I try as much as possible to form my own opinions based on my own experiences. This is a pic I took of President Obama yesterday at the Minneapolis Health Care Rally.  I was pretty proud of it.  Politics aside, I think it’s a really good picture.

Probably the most important lesson I am taking away from this experience with my health is that it’s not up to anyone else to fix what’s wrong with me.  Other people can offer guidance and support.  But that’s about all I can hope for.  In the end, it’s a personal journey. For those who are just catching up, here is a little insight into mine…

It all started about three years ago. I started developing a number of ‘seemingly unrelated’ symptoms after incurring a prolonged toxic exposure. It was the age old story of someone cutting corners to save a few bucks and creating a situation where someone else (that person being me) had to pay a dear price for it. But it’s complicated. So, I won’t get into that. The short story is that I breathed in a bunch of toxic gas. The gas contained chemicals which ate through the lining of my lungs and caused severe respiratory problems. I also developed GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS.

growing wheatgrass
The respiratory issues started to break up after a few months (though they still recur even now). The GI issues were much more elusive. But, I was able to get them under control after about fifteen months through a combination of an elimination diet and GROWING WHEATGRASS in my window. This is when I discovered raw food. It became my baseline diet.

Shortly after the GI issue began to stabilize, I was hospitalized. Essentially, I started vomiting blood one day and was having a lot of difficulty breathing. Among other things. I was in the HOSPITAL for about five days. During that time, doctors performed every test known to man while I watched documentaries about MEERKATS. In the end, nobody was able to come up with a satisfactory explanation of what happened. I had had a very severe bout of hepatitis, but it wasn’t clear what caused it. There were some different theories thrown around. The long and short of it was that there were a lot of test results that were abnormal (several of which I didn’t find out about until five months later), and none of the theories offered an explanation that encompassed them all. Whatever it was, it’s clear that it wasn’t caused by any of the ‘normal’ reasons that people get hepatitis.

weird eye
Since that time, I’ve had a range of unexplained symptoms and test results. Things like my eye swelling up for no reason, fatigue, chest pains, twitching, etc. Things that I’ve gone into more detail about in EARLIER POSTS.

About five months ago, I was sent to yet another specialist to see if he might be able to cast some light on the situation. The waiting list was very long, but that appointment finally came due this week. Needless to say, I was a little nervous about what the doctor was going to say. He put me at ease, right away.

‘I know what you’re worried about. And you don’t have lupus…’ I breathed a sign of relief. ‘…At least not YET.’ Not exactly what I wanted to hear, but I appreciated his honesty. There was one really good sign. There is a screening test for lupus, the ANA, which I’ve tested positive for twice. Well, this time, I was NEGATIVE!

lupus recovery dietSeveral months ago, I read a book called the LUPUS RECOVERY DIET by Jill Harrington. She was diagnosed with lupus and recovered fully by switching to a raw vegan diet. She mentioned in the book that she was able to not only reverse her symptoms but also her ANA test. Interestingly, shortly after I got my first positive ANA, I encountered another person who was in remission from lupus. She told me the exact same story. I’m not sure if that’s what happened here, but it’s a very interesting coincidence at the very least.

mad scientistThere was some bad news. There are some abnormal tests that he said ‘they weren’t smart enough to figure out’. Some strange antibody problems. According to my blood tests, I should have arthritis and mono. I’ve been testing positive for mono for a long time. With most people you can see a spike in certain antibodies followed by a recovery. But mine are just stuck on. This doesn’t necessarily mean I have mono. And in fact, it means that I probably never had mono. Sometimes people with immune system issues make errors in their immune response and this causes them to react positively to lots of things they don’t have. At least, this is how it was explained to me. I was also missing some antibodies that everyone has. This may or may not become an issue. He wasn’t sure what to make of the arthritis test. Apparently, I had high levels of rheumatoid factor. Usually, this means arthritis. But it can also mean lupus, hepatitis, liver damage, or mono. Things which are all kind of suspect.

So, all in all, I think it was a good visit. The way I’m interpreting it is that things are getting better. I’m doing all the right things. They said that my immune system suffered a very big insult and it might just take a while for it to recover.  He also said he thought it was time to start thinking about changes that I could make with my work environment.  This I’ve heard before and have been stewing on for a while.

It’s starting to feel like the beginning of a new era.  For the last three years,  I’ve been very open to everyone’s advice. I’ve tried a little of everything without making any judgements. Just observations. But now, I have a pretty firm idea of what’s working for me. And what’s not. Now it’s time to cut out the flack and really get focused on what IS working.  I suspect there will be some big changes coming soon.  I’ll keep you posted…

ADDENDUM: About five minutes after I posted this, I found an ARTICLE ABOUT AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE that pretty much sums it up. It’s the first article like this I’ve seen in a mainstream media outlet.


My Misadventures with Autoimmune Disease

April 30th, 2009

weird eye
Well, it started innocently enough. My week. I’ve been having some issues with my eyes recently. One of the other of them likes to swell up/get red for no obvious reason.

weird eye 2
I wouldn’t have thought much of it particularly except that the last time I went to see the dentist, she made a point of mentioning to me that if I had any issues with my eyes I should bring it up with my doctor right away. That given my health history of late, this would be an important development.

What health history you ask? Well, that is a rather involved story. I haven’t been talking about it much. Partly out of hope that it would go away. Partly because I was waiting for an official confirmation of my suspicions. And partly because I was worried it might jeapordize silly things, like my job. But as I mentioned, this is a long story. You might want to sit down. Make yourself a cup of…well, MEXICAN HOT CHOCOLATE.

mex hot cho
OK. Comfortable now? Alright then…Where to start? Well, it all started about three years ago when I discovered that I had incurred a prolonged TOXIC EXPOSURE. I had been feeling not quite right up until then, but I didn’t know why. Well, not quite right evolved into a whole host of problems which I’ve posted about more EXPLICITLY in earlier posts. But essentially, my body went into a kind of severe detox mode. Violently purging things every which way…until I landed in the hospital with a liver gone haywire.

At the time, they told me that I just had a bunch of viruses…hepatitis A and mono. And this is what had caused my liver to malfunction. (What they forgot to mention to me at the time was that I had also tested positive for an autoimmune antibody, ANA.) Things seemed to be getting better for a while. I took a bunch of time off and really rested. This did a lot for me. But as soon as I went back to work, new issues started to emerge.

I was being really proactive about my health and doing everything I could, but I was still having problems. Chest pains. And these strange body twitches. Plus, I was still tired all the time. So I went back in to get checked out. To my surprise, I found out about the (whoops we forgot to tell you about this) positive ANA result. I also found that I was still testing positive for mono. Six months later. They repeated the ANA test to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. Lo and behold, it was positive AGAIN. At this point, I got passed around to a few doctors who came to the conclusion that they weren’t sure what any of this meant. So the best thing to do would be…nothing. So, I waited. All the while stewing about little things that doctors/nurses had mentioned to me in passing. Things like …’You probably don’t have this but the ANA is positive in people with autoimmune disease’ … ‘permanent liver damage’ … ‘hepatitis A doesn’t make people vomit blood’ … ‘Is there anyone in your family who has lupus?’ … ‘i really don’t think there’s anything wrong with you’… ‘YOU have an AUTOIMMUNE disease and THEY need to diagnose you!’..’You didn’t want to have kids, did you?’. Needless to say, my experience wasn’t doing much to dissuade all the horrible things that people say about our health care system.

Anyway, to get on with the story, I went in Monday about my eye. This doctor I went to see is actually my favorite of the twenty or so that have examined me over the last few years. He seems the most well intended and willing to stretch. Meaning that he recognizes that there are weak points in the architecture. Cracks that people fall through. And he seems the most willing to try to reach for us. Anyway, he told me what I had long suspected. He thinks I should see a specialist. An autoimmune specialist.

I haven’t fully processed what this all means yet. And I can’t even get in to see him until August. Honestly, I’m not even sure if I want to see him. But at the very least, it means that I’m not crazy. And that things are starting to change. I’m starting to find some answers finally. Which also means that there is a whole host of issues that I need to consider. Things that I think might be best left to their own post. Lots of complicated issues. But, at least I’m out of the closet now.


Bikram Yoga

February 28th, 2009

bikram yoga
I tried something new this month. My journey to better health began after I started having lots of issues related to a toxic exposure. My doctor recommended making a point of sweating a little every day and eating well, of course. A friend recommended Bikram Yoga, and it sounded right up my alley.

I have to admit, it was INTENSE. The first class I went to was really hard. I really felt overwhelmed. I think I have a long way to go on the detox path.

The camel pose is my nemesis. Every time I even think about doing the camel pose, I feel like I’m going to hurl. I wonder why my body is so sensitive to the camel pose? I suspect the answers will come with time. Anyway, I’m going to take my time and take it easy. But I definitely feel like Bikram Yoga is going to play a role in my recovery somehow.



August 1st, 2008

So, for those who haven’t been following my medical drama, I am smack dab in the middle of a major breakthrough. It’s funny. Because often these things don’t necessarily look like that at the time. To recap, I’ve been sick FOREVER! Well, not literally forever, but for 2 years, I’ve been feeling like CRAP and nobody has really had much of an idea why. Well, that’s not exactly accurate. EVERYBODY has a pretty good idea why. But nobody had a good theory as to why my overexposure to toxic gas and sewage was causing the problems I was having. What kinds of problems you ask?

Well, initially I was having a lot of trouble breathing. And when I say a lot of trouble breathing, I mean asthma attacks that would last for days, strangers on the street asking if I was okay, having so much trouble breathing that I couldn’t even cry, and a cough that was so disturbing that it would melt the heart of even the meanest person. I was also having diarrhea. And when I say diarrhea, I mean 15 MONTHS of diarrhea. The kind that makes you wonder if it will ever end. The kind that makes you so exhausted that you literally are unable to get out of bed for a couple days. The kind that you would rather I did not go into further. I was definitely stuck in a rut.

The doctors were out of ideas. I got diagnosed with IBS because they couldn’t find a bacterial cause for it. Out of desperation, I started reading about ANN WIGMORE and I decided to try her plan of GROWING WHEATGRASS.


Well, guess what? It worked! The diarrhea finally started getting better! But then, in it’s place I started having having some visits from a strange type of FLU – a really intense, debilitating flu that would come and go. This went on for several months (4 or 5). Nobody had any idea what was happening. I was exhausted. I had to take 3 hours naps every day, and I had no idea why. I was going out of my way to be healthy. I didn’t understand how this could be? It didn’t make sense. I was ready to give up. Then, something wonderful happened…


My liver died, and I had to go to stay in the hospital for several days.

I know what you’re thinking. What’s wonderful about that? Well, I admit. It didn’t seem wonderful at the time. Not at all. In fact, it was a wee bit unpleasant. I was having trouble breathing because my liver was so swollen, I was barfing up blood, and the pain in my chest was so intense I couldn’t sit up or stand or lie on my back. All I could do was lie in fetal position. But guess what! It was progress! I think my body was purging some really evil things while I was in there.

It turned out that I had a bunch of viral infections. I had hepatitis A and mono. The doctor told me to take it easy for a while to get my strength back. So I went to Seattle to visit some friends. Somewhere in the middle of that trip, something magical started happening…I started to feel good. Really GOOD! I didn’t need to take naps everyday. I started to feel like a normal person again. I started to have ENERGY!

All this time, I had been taking such good care of myself and wondering why nothing seemed to be happening. Then, all of a sudden, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I think I just needed to reach a critical mass where my body had enough support to do what it needed to do.

All I can say is I’m on my way now, baby! I can’t BELIEVE it! I thought it would never happen. I had given up hope. But, the light is starting to shine through me now. That’s for sure. Now, it’s just a matter of re-equilibrating and catching up. I might have to start a new blog soon. One about a really healthy girl! Because the sick one went away.

Well, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some bike riding to catch up on!


King Corn

January 22nd, 2008

king corn

I watched a great movie last night – KING CORN. It was a documentary about industrialized agriculture. Two friends from college came to Iowa after graduation to grow an acre of corn. Interestingly, both men had great grandfathers who came to the east coast from the same small town in Iowa where they were both in the corn business. While they focused on a really controversial topic, the two maintained a sort of impartial observer status throughout the movie allowing people to draw their own conclusions about their findings. It was really tastefully done.
ellis and cheney

What they did find was both disturbing and enlightening in that it shed light on the roots of our system of industrial agriculture. The system was developed and refined not with with nutrition or food quality in mind. Rather, the system is set up to yield the highest quantity of food commodity ultimately serving the interests of multinational corporations before those who would eat it. The byproduct is that the system is ironically setup to select against the nutritional value of not only the corn that results but also the animals and livestock that are forced to eat it having far reaching consequences that are as shocking as they are unexpected. This movie will change the way you look at corn! One of the most interesting moments of the movie was when they interviewed Earl Butz, a controversial figure in modern farming. He was the architect of the modern farm subsidies which many believe has fueled this imbalance in the system. It was really interesting to get his perspective and to put it in the context of an earlier generation – how their struggles would ultimately shape the problems that we face today. Almost as if the generation that had survived the great depression were fueled by this desire to create an overwhelming abundance. And their dreams have now become our reality – for better or for worse.


Interesting Article about Food Allergies

January 9th, 2008

super size me

There was a very interesting ARTICLE in the New York Times today about food allergies…specifically about the alarming increase of food allergies in children.  It spoke to me, because as I MENTIONED a few days ago, I suffer from a number of allergy-like symptoms which started after a prolonged exposure to toxic sewer gas.  To me, as a person suffering from this problem, it is more than obvious what the cause of the problem was.  But it’s interesting that our medical community often has trouble connecting the dots.  It’s often not until they are confronted with overwhelming evidence that they are able to look beyond their established paradigms.  I thought it was interesting that in the article they easily drew the connection between food allergies and asthma and the strong role our intestinal system plays in our immune function.  Here’s hoping that the medical community will figure it out soon enough.  Until then, I’ll be drinking organic fruit and vegetable smoothies and toasting myself for being on the right track despite them.  🙂


My 'friend', Darryl

January 8th, 2008


Well, I finally got it…my diagnosis. I’ve ELUDED to this somewhat previously and you can get an inkling from what propelled me on this journey in my ABOUT page. But essentially, I have a few chronic health problems which started after I unwittingly lived over an open sewer main for four years. In the beginning, things were much more acute. I had a horribly persistent cough which was very very loud and made it very difficult to breathe and very persistent diarrhea. Since then, things have broken up a bit. Now, I experience the problems more as flare-ups whenever I breathe some bad (to me) air or eat the wrong thing (and often even when I don’t). Noone can say specifically what is causing the problem. The way I experience it is like an immune system issue. As if my immune system is extremely overly sensitized and will blast off at full guns from the slightest implication. The way that it has been categorized by the doctors is that I have asthma and IBS. IBS is kind of a catch-all diagnosis – like bronchitis. It basically just means that I have chronic diarrhea and they don’t know why. I feel weird talking about this on the internet. But what I’m finding is that people who haven’t experienced this problem really don’t want to hear about it. And while I do my best to suffer in silence, I’m feeling overwhelmed lately with how to deal with it. I feel like it’s slowly taking over all aspects of my life and ignoring that it exists is not going to make it go away. Still, it’s not exactly the most sparkling topic of conversation. So I’ve started referring to it as visits from my friend, Darryl.

Well, Darryl has really been on a rampage this week, and I’m feeling a little worn out. So, we’ll talk more later…


The Economics of Health Care

August 29th, 2007

The number one question on people’s minds when they get sick, I think, is what’s wrong with me and how can I fix it?  Definitely, the best thing a person can do for themselves is to live a moderate lifestyle and stay away from ‘trouble’.  I think for the first 35 years of my life I espoused this philosophy and got along pretty well.  Unfortunately, sometimes things which are beyond a person’s control, and they get sick.  Sometimes it’s genetic.  Sometimes it’s an accident.  Some old habits die hard.  In my case, I was living in a place with a really negligent landlord and an open sewer main.  Now I have a slew of elusive/allergic/immune system types of problems that everybody seems to know something about but very few people have actually experienced.  I have found some things that have been helping, but I am still finding my way.

The biggest obstacle I think to finding your way is that there are so many people out there who are trying to make a living off of making other people better.  Sometimes it’s very straightforward.  I’ve been told that my problem was so severe that I would need to take drugs to live a normal life.  It’s interesting because that doctor, in particular, had such a starkly black and white perception of reality that my gut feeling warning bells were blazing.  He seemed to also have a very vested interest in me taking the drugs and was not very subtle about it.  I’ve been given oodles of bad advice.  Not just from doctors.  But from friends, co-workers, neighbors, strangers on the street, and even raw food experts.  It’s often frustrating.  Because other people can only understand your issue within the frame of their own reality.  And when something really weird happens to a person, that experience is often outside of the reality of most of the people who are offering their advice.  Usually, the advice given is more a reflection of the person giving it, than the person receiving.  People make assumptions about you which are wholly inaccurate based on their own experiences.  They have strong feelings about their own experiences.  And when you don’t conveniently fit into their model of reality, they take it personally.  Ultimately, all of this takes away from actually getting better.

Getting better requires focus.  It requires tuning into your own personal journey.  It’s ultimately not a social activity.  Maybe that’s what the universe is trying to tell me now.  I think that eating a lot of the recipes I’ve been reading in raw books is helping a lot.  But being on a ‘program’ is less then helpful.

I am making progress, and I am getting better.  I’m not an expert, and if I were, I would maybe stop listening to myself.