Teens and Adults with Food Allergies Part 1

Kathryn Chastain Treat:

I am so glad Amy stepped up and shared this information with these mothers.

Originally posted on Adventures of an Allergic Foodie:

Sitting at the hotel bar during a recent food allergy conference I was surprised–no, shocked– when two mothers of food-allergic children told me that adults shouldn’t need help coping with their allergies. They were wondering why I was at the conference. Now before you get angry, let me explain their side. They assumed all adults with food allergies had developed them as children. Hence, by adulthood, food-allergic folks should be experienced–physically and emotionally–at handling restrictions and reactions.

Imagine! I had no idea some people thought this way! Of course, I quickly took this opportunity to tell them how wrong they were.

I explained people can develop food allergies and celiac disease and other health issues requiring food restrictions at any time in life. I shared that my symptoms started in my late thirties, though it took nearly ten years to find out multiple food allergies, celiac disease, and

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Allergic to Life’s 1 Year Anniversary

Book Cover

What a ride it has been since Allergic to Life: My Battle for Survival, Courage, and Hope debuted last year.  I have been fortunate to have had my first blog tour with some of my amazing followers as well as through Rave Reviews Book Club. It was amazing being  spotlighted with both PNP Authors and Rave Reviews Book Club. Allergic to Life has received some wonderful reviews and exposure as well.

This past October I celebrated in a BIG way by having a book launch party at the home of my dear friends Steve and Victoria.

A book can never have too much exposure

 

A friend and classmate Jerri Hansen, author of Fences and My Life on the other side of the Tracks,  surprised me with a book trailer she had made for me.

 

 

I also had a book trailer made from Nonnie Jules, author of Daydream’s Daughter, Nightmare’s Friend and the Good Mommie’s Guide and owner of 4WillsPublishingthat features music made specifically for the trailer.  

 

 

Pattimari Cacciolfi, author of Sometimes our Greatest Misery is our Greatest Happiness and Stolen Identity, of PNP Authors made a book trailer introducing me and Allergic to Life.

To celebrate this amazing year and all the wonderful people I have met, I am giving away three signed copies of Allergic to Life (US Only) on Goodreads.  I am sorry that I can’t do signed copies for those of you outside the US.  I am going to also give away three e-book copies to anyone outside the US. To receive an e-book copy, simply leave a comment below on why you would like to receive a copy. The contest will run from August 30, 2014 through October 30, 2014.

I appreciate the support all of you have given me not only on this blog but with my book as well.  You are all so very wonderful!

Allergic to Life can be purchased at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  Signed copies may be purchased at Kathryn’s website.

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WordPress –   allergictolifemybattle or BeMyGuest

Homelessness Part 5: First Aid – could be graphic for some – revisited

In this final installment of Vanessa’s five part series, she discusses first aid and what she feels is paramount to survival on your own.  I first met Vanessa on Planet Thrive.

This is the final installment of a five part blog series on homelessness and survival.  In this section I will address first aid as a homeless person with limited resources.

Disclaimer:  the advice in this section does NOT constitute medical advice.  Please contact 911 or local emergency personnel or your physician if you are having any medical emergency that requires professional medical intervention.

Since I am now uninsured, I informed my doctors that the only way I was going into a hospital was if:

A – I have something large sticking in me.

B – I have something that belongs internally coming out of me.

C – If I am bleeding profusely and cannot stop it. (major artery)

D – If I have broken a major bone needing surgery and/or setting (toes and fingers don’t count).

E – Large open wounds that were beyond my ability to stitch shut (yes, I will stitch some of my wounds shut). i.e. large puncture wounds

F – An infection that either will not go away or is getting worse.

G – I am bitten by an extremely venomous snake or insect (Black widow and rattlesnakes come to mind)

H – I am bitten by an animal. (this includes being mauled by a bear or cougar).

I – Extremely sick to the point of utter incapacitation by pain, dementia (would I know to call for help?), or illness OR death was imminent if I don’t do something.

Everything else I will try to do myself.  These are my general rules and I do not recommend others following these, especially if you have health insurance and do not have to endure prolonging going to the hospital.

Kidding aside, I know that prolonging necessary medical treatment will make whatever I have worse and harder to medically manage, possibly leading to further complications.  The harsh reality for me is that I am uninsured and I have MCS.  I have been in a situation where I told medical staff that I had MCS and was treated like a child.  An x-ray tech that came to my room was swimming in cologne and I asked for him to open the window and he would not.  He pushed me here and there to get the x-ray while I was trying not to cough.  As he left he said, “There’s nothing wrong with you” even though I was spitting up phlegm right in front of him.  I will NOT endure this again.  This is why I came up with the above list and shared it with my doctors so if they received a call that I was hospitalized, it was serious.

I strongly recommend everyone to take first-aid courses if possible, learning CPR and the Heimlich maneuver.  Homeless people need to delve a little further by reading about wilderness first-aid when help is hours if not days away.  In many of the places I stay the best possible response time in usually 2 hours for them to get to me.  The things that I have learned are stop gap measures to enable me to get out to where EMS can reach me faster or until they reach me.

I will cover what I carry in my first-aid kit and suggestions for reading material and resources to get educated on what to do in an emergency.  Again, this is not a substitute for taking first-aid classes and/or doing your own research.

My first aid kit, left to right:

* Various size latex free band-aids (cloth), a couple of the transparent bandages.

*Quick Clot bandage for larger wounds which contains a compound to help blood coagulate faster.

* Steri-strips for butterfly closures (using the strips to close larger wounds that do not require stitches).

* Variety of tapes, different kinds and sizes.  Cloth adhesive, fabric adhesive, etc.

* Two small vials of baking soda (for upset stomachs or heartburn or insect bites)

* Cough drops

* Tincture of Iodine

* Alcohol and Benzalkonium Chloride (from Dr. Rea’s) wipes

* Latex and non-Latex gloves

* Large feminine hygiene pad (for gynecological emergencies or great for large chest or abdominal wounds as an emergency field dressing). (Should carry two)

* One roll of gauze and two rolls of adhesive wrap bandages (for sprains/strains).

* Snakebite kit

* Neosporin/Bactracin

* Excedrin and Aspirin

* Cotton swabs in a vial for applying ointments and iodine.

* Large 5×7 wound dressing

* Kit for foot injuries (blisters, corns, etc).  Contains moleskin, band-aids and a needle to pop blisters.

* Dental floss and Ambesol for dental emergencies

Things I need to add yet (as finances allow) – scalpel, EMT scissors (for cutting through clothing if necessary) and syrup of ipecac (for inducing vomiting if poison is ingested), suture kit (a proper one), dental emergency kit (with material to replace a lost filling, temporarily).

Some of these things have expiration dates (like the Neosporin, Excedrine, etc) and it is important to go through this bag at least once a year to ensure that everything is current.

Things I have in my car for quick first aid (not shown)

* Activated Charcoal (for stomach flu or accidental poisoning or uncontrollable diarrhea).  Warning:  drink lots of water with this and it will turn your stool black.

* Vodka (in a Witch Hazel bottle so I don’t have issues with alcohol containers in the car.  I carry the bottle in the trunk)

* A variety of band-aids and moleskin

* Cheese cloth

*Cut strips of cloth from an old shirt, preferably cotton, for making bandages and compresses

* Tweezers

* Needles (for digging out slivers or other small things in the skin)

* An antibiotic salve with all plant ingredients, Golden Salve by Equinox Botanicals

* Azulene oil (from the Yarrow plant), good for burns, wind chaffing.

* Dercut homeopathic cream for abrasions, cuts, rashes

* Traumheel homeopathic salve for bruises and sprains.

* Clay face mask cream (ready to use).  Good for applying on bites, pimples, skin eruptions (easier than making a baking soda paste)

* 100% Tea Tree oil for antibacterial cleaning and dressing of more severe wounds or infected wounds and for tick bites.

* 100% organic, extra virgin coconut oil (Barleans cooking oil).  This is great for sunburns, dry skin and small abrasions, scrapes.  Keeps skin supple and aids forming scabs on wounds.  Also helps to minimize scaring. (but not recommended in grizzly country, smells strongly of coconut).

(note:  I do not carry aloe any longer as there are no longer 100% aloe gels.  They all contain preservatives of some kind and some need refrigeration)

*Astragalus capsules for when I feel like I am getting sick.  Some people carry Echinacea as well.

I recently received an email from my Naturopaths office regarding first aid kits and equipping them with less toxic homeopathic items.  I am copying from her list and sharing this for those who struggle to find acceptable first aid alternatives.

Digestion:

- Charcoal caps or charcoal powder

- Ipecac syrup

Bites and Stings:

-Homeopathic Apis 30c (oral) – for stings with swellings (bee stings)

-Homeopathic Ledum 30c (oral) – For bites (mosquito or spider)

-All purpose herbal salve (either over the counter like Golden Salve or from your naturopath or homeopath)

Cuts, Abrasions and Burns

-Calendula Succus Tincture – dilute with water and clean wound

-All purpose herbal salve (after wound is cleaned)

Larger wounds that need more attention:

-Homeopathic Cantharsis 30c (oral)

For Burns or Sunburns:

-Lavender Essential Oil – Apply 1-2 drops topically to burns

Bruises and Muscle Aches:

-Homeopathic Hypericum 30c (oral) – for shooting pains or nerve pain

-Homeopathic Arnica 30c (oral) – for bruises and muscle aches

Miscellaneous:

-Hand sanitizer called “Clean Well”

-Epipen (prescription needed) A personal note on Epipens.  I used to carry two but they were ruined due to my inability to keep them from freezing or getting too hot or exposed to direct sunlight.  These need to remain at a fairly constant temperature to keep the epinephrine from degrading and becoming useless.  Keep this in mind if you are living outside 100% of the time with no way of keeping these safe.

-Euphrasia Eye drops – cleansing eyes.  Weleda recommended as it comes in single doses/packets.

-Electrolyte Replacement Packets

I do not recommend getting the small first aid kits that you see in stores.  These are virtually useless (except the container can be used for you to build your kit) as they only address small injuries and not potentially life threatening ones.  Outdoor stores and backpacking stores (REI comes to mind) carry more advanced first aid kits, but they are expensive.  I think it’s cheaper to make your own.)

Here are some things I have improvised:

-Deodorant for skin protection against the wind on my face.  I use Alba Botanical with baking soda and lichen.  This does have a slight odor to it even though it is fragrance free (no added fragrances, but the essential oils are what gives it its odor).  It is waxy, but goes on smooth.  It does not protect against the sun.  As always, do a small test patch to make sure you do not break out.

-Duct tape for slivers.  This is ok, but not always effective for deep slivers.

-Oatmeal for poison ivy.  What I did was break conventional wisdom and scraped the blisters with the dull edge of a knife (wiping the blade each time to prevent spreading).  I then boiled down oatmeal so it was thick.  I separated the water from the oatmeal and kept the oatmeal juice.  I placed the warm oatmeal in a cheese cloth and applied it as a dressing, letting it set for 30 minutes.  After wards I would use the water to dab on the blisters (sometimes using vodka to dry them out).  I did the dressing twice a day (or more if the itching was really bad).

-Apple sauce for diarrhea and whole apples for constipation.  The apple sauce is high in pectin and helps with diarrhea.  The fiber from the raw apples help to facilitate digestion and bowel movements.

-Pitch from either the Douglas Fir or Sub-Alpine Fir for small cuts and abrasions.  I have also used the pitch to make an improvised splint with strips of cloth and a large amount of pitch.  The pitch hardened making support for the arch of my foot and the compounds in the pitch helped with the inflammation.  I do not recommend the Yellow Pine, Lodge pole, Juniper or Ponderosa as the pitch does not seem to harden (make sure to have a tree or plant guide to tell the difference).

Again, this is not a substitute for learning first aid on your own; this provides suggestions for handling some emergencies.

Educational Resources:

Wilderness Medicine, 5th: Beyond First Aid by William W Forgey M.D. (available at Amazon.com in paperback)

American Medical Association Handbook of First Aid and Emergency Care by the American Medical Association (available at Amazon.com)

Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag:  Your 72-hour Disaster Survival Kit by Creek Stewart (available at Amazon.com)

When You Call Me a Hurtful Nickname

Kathryn Chastain Treat:

Thank you for sharing Shanna.

Originally posted on Lipreading Mom:

This week, a child who I don’t know very well called me a hurtful name, ‘Deaf F—–‘ (Rhymes with Maggot).’ Instead of staying upset at him (he later apologized), I wrote “The Power of a Name.” You are welcome to share this with anyone you think it may help.

#StopHearingLossBullying _Final Logo

THE POWER OF A NAME

Before you continue to call me by a nickname, consider the power behind it.

When you continue to call me Jerk, I may begin to see myself this way and, instead of becoming a nicer person, I will believe I am a jerk and continue to treat you this way.

When you continue to call me Stupid, I might let that word sink to my core and influence my thoughts and choices for the rest of my life.

When you continue to call me Slob, I likely will not pick up after myself any faster but…

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Inspiration Tuesday

Kathryn Chastain Treat:

I love it when Jen shares her inspirational quotes.

Originally posted on Jen's Thoughts:

Here are a few bits of wisdom and inspiration to power you through your Tuesday.

Freedom

Strong lives are motivated by dynamic purposes.
Kenneth Hildebrand

If you do not hope, you will not find what is beyond your hopes.
St. Clement of Alexandra

Dream big and dare to fail.
Norman Vaughan

We are all inventors, each sailing out on a voyage of discovery, guided each by a private chart, of which there is no duplicate. The world is all gates, all opportunities.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.
Harriet Beecher Stowe

Seek the lofty by reading, hearing and seeing great work at some moment every day.
Thornton Wilder

The only way of finding the…

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Homelessness Part 4 Survival Gear – Revisited

In Part 4 of the five-part series Vanessa discusses survival gear and what she feels is necessary when living out of your car or tent.  I first met Vanessa on planet thrive.  I have always loved her posts and comments.  When she posted her tips on living Homeless, I wanted to share them with you.

This is part 4 in a series of installments on the “Homeless” posts I have been doing dealing with issues regarding weather, gear, clothing, food, etc. Section one addressed shelter and security. Section two was on food, water and hygiene. Section three was on clothing. This section will deal with survival gear and the final installment on First Aid.

Survival Gear: If you are going into the remote places of the national forests, BLM (Bureau of Land Management areas), state lands, etc. you MUST be prepared for bad weather, breakdowns with the vehicle and/or equipment and for properly navigating the area.

* Maps of the national forest, national parks, state land, etc. You need to have these to be able to navigate the roads and not wind up on an ATV trail and get stuck. Yes, I have inadvertently took off up a mountain on what I thought was a small two-track that turned out to be for ATV’s only. It was only until it actually narrowed to one trail that I realized my error. It was rather humorous for the people going by however. These maps are available at any national forest ranger station as well as national park offices. You can also purchase them online, but they are more expensive this way because you pay shipping and handling. Outdoor stores/backpacking stores carry maps of the national forest and national parks as well. It is also VERY important that you have maps of the states you are travelling because these will show where the campgrounds are as well as the ranger stations. It will also help you navigate the pitfalls of large cities, agricultural areas, swamps, etc. Get acquainted with not only the area but the state as well.

* Three mylar (or more) survival blankets. These are best used inside a sleeping bag (or outside if you need to keep the bag dry. They also are great for signaling people if you are in distress.

* Sleeping bag. I have a preference for synthetic fill because it is easier to maintain than down since I am homeless and do not have the luxury of fluffing the down up in a dryer. Down also gets compressed which causes it to lose its insulative factor where synthetic takes longer to get compressed. The shells are typically nylon and or polyester, similar to tent fabric because of the need to have “rip stop” fabric in case the bag does get ripped. Bags come in many ratings. Usually from 45 degrees to 30 degrees below zero. A good rule of thumb is that if a bag is rated 10 below, it really is a 0 degree bag. I am not sure why this works out, but it does. The lower the temperature rating, the more expensive. So if you need to, get a 0 degree (10 degree) bag and use a mylar survival blanket as a liner. If in the north, I would not get a bag rated any less than 20 degrees below zero (which is actually 10 degrees below zero). You MUST stay warm. You can achieve this in a number of ways, but do not mess around with a “system” when the wind chill is 20 below and you’re screwing around in your car trying to get it right.

* Wool blankets (NOT cotton). Again, to each their own. If wool doesn’t work, then use a synthetic. Cotton blankets are not a good idea in the winter or damp weather because it will get damp and hold moisture there by wicking your body heat out and lowering it. There is a reason why cotton is called the “death cloth” when it comes to outdoor survival. I have an old (very old) army wool blanket. Yes, it took a while to get it usable, but the effort is well worth it. Yes, there will be all kinds of “stuff” in the blankets (again I cannot afford to get my stuff from high-end stores. I have to get things as cheaply as possible and make it work.) Best way to get the blankets off gassed and cleaned is to hang them out in the elements as much as possible. Sun, wind, rain everyday if you can. Wash with cold water and soap (I use 7th Gen or Sal Suds). I got my blanket for about $15 at an army surplus store.

* Rain gear. I have pants and jacket. You will need the pants for wading through wet foliage on your way to the “latrine”. Getting wet when you cannot build a fire can be dangerous. Should your clothing get wet, change immediately into dry clothing. If you can’t get rain gear then make a poncho out of large, contractor size garbage bags. These are huge and will cover you completely and the bonus is NO FRAGRANCES! Garbage bag manufacturers are no longer labeling their products as scented (at least some of the ones I’ve bought).

* Flashlights. A must is a three D cell Maglight. This is not only a great flashlight but it is durable and a great weapon if need be. It is all metal and fairly heavy. You should also have at least two other sources of light such as a headlamp (fairly inexpensive), which is a necessity so you can have both hands free, and a “mini-Maglight” that is a two AA cell LED flashlight. As far as those who have sensitivities to LED light, I believe there might still be some flashlights left that are non-LED. I use LED because I actually want to see in the dark and see where I am going.

* Knives (yes, plural). First, know the laws in your state. Some states have laws limiting the size of knife you can carry. Secondly, remember to take it off before going to public places, some people are very sensitive to the sight of a knife and may misinterpret why you are wearing it (unless you’re in Montana. Just take it off before going into the courthouse or bank, ha ha ha). There are a number of well-known knife makers like Buck and Gerber that make good outdoor utility knives. I have at least four. I recommend getting two knives that have 3-4 inch blades that can be opened with one hand. Gerber calls these “F.A.S.T” knives. These have a button on the handle that you press (a switch that goes up or down) and a knob on the blade that you push with your thumb and it will flick open. On the surface these look like switchblades. They are not. They have a two-step process that can be used with one hand. This is absolutely a must outdoors. I can’t tell you how many times I have had my hand caught on something (or in) and needed to cut whatever was trapping my hand (usually rope in high tension due to high winds). Another knife would be a small 2 inch blade. Lastly is the Leatherman. This is a square, metal version of the Swiss Army knife with some of the same tools. I have a “mini-Leatherman” which has been great for repairing eye glasses (small screw head), digging out slivers (and other foreign objects), etc. If you get a knife then you need to get a whetstone for sharpening them.

* Good work or leather gloves. Get whatever you can tolerate, but I don’t recommend fabric gardening gloves because they will get destroyed after a few uses (digging rocks, roots, etc). I have a pair of pig skin gloves (Wells Lamont). These are indestructible. I also have a couple pair of Mechanix gloves that are leather and nylon. There are also cloth gloves with rubber palms and finger tips. You’ll just need to experiment with what works for you. Ultimately, you need to protect your hands.

* 100lb test fishing line and some fishing hooks. The fishing line is great for a variety of things, including setting trip lines to deter nosey people from coming in at night.

* A compass and a whistle. Quite frankly I don’t see much value in the whistle if no one is around to hear you, but I still carry one just in case I need rescuing. Learn how to use a compass so you can track your location. Should you need to call for help you need to give the dispatcher good directions on how to find you. Telling them that you’re on a forest service road out by a lake isn’t going to help. Pay attention to what forest service road you are on (they are marked in white numbers on a brown background) and how many miles back you are. Know what national forest you are in and the nearest cross roads with the highway. There have been people who have died because they could not give dispatch accurate information on their whereabouts.

* Wool vest, wool socks, wool pants. During the fall and winter months I carry these in my backpack for “just in case”. * Duct tape and surveyors tape. Get some brightly colored duct tape (Available cheap at either Staples or Walmart). Surveyors ribbon is light plastic ribbon that should be available in hardware stores or Walmart’s hardware department. If you are out in the woods for a walk and you are not very adept at reading a map or compass then tie these every 100 yards or so. This is like “bread crumbs” that the animals won’t eat (except for stupid cows, long story). Duct tape also has many other uses such as short-term repairs, reinforcing axe handles, getting slivers out, etc. *Trioxylene tablets. I covered these back in the “Food” section. They are used in the military and can be used to cook food in aluminum containers and/or for starting a campfire.

* Matches, preferably waterproof or a flint that can be used wet or dry.

* About 50 feet of 550lb parachute cord. This can be used to string up a makeshift shelter if needed.

* An axe or hatchet.

* A hand saw. Available at pretty much any outdoor/sporting goods stores and large retailers who have a sporting goods section OR hardware stores.

* A metal hand trowel and toilet paper. (covered in the opening of this section).

* Silk glove liners and sock liners. These are worn as a first layer in extreme conditions.

* Long johns (covered in the clothing section)

*Wool gloves. I have ones that have Thinsulate and are indispensible.

* Balaclava. These go over the head and cover the neck and face. They are usually spandex and nylon or spandex and polyester. You NEED to have something to cover your nose and face when the wind chill gets below zero.

* Two Shemgahs. A shemgah is what the military wears in the desert (Middle East). It is a square cotton cloth, usually 36-42 inches. They are great for covering your neck and face if you cannot use a Balaclava. These also work great as slings for carrying water jugs from a creek. Note: do NOT get shemgahs in the following color combinations: black/white, red/white, yellow/white, blue/white. These colors are used by the Wahabbi Islamic sect (Saudi Arabia), Palestinians, some other militant Islamic groups and the blue and white is Israel, respectively. Not many people are going to know this, but since I roam around a few military installations I do not want to upset people who may know this or send the wrong message, like expressing support for radical Islam. There are a ton of colors now, but beware, get them from an army surplus site and not a fashion site. The ones used for fashion are poorly made and fall apart/get easily snagged. Plus fashion ones are not 100% cotton. I got mine from Amazon.

* A mirror for signaling help. * Energy foods. Have the following tucked away somewhere for “just in case”. Nuts, energy bars (I don’t care which ones, just something with a lot of calories, fat, not just sugar), nut butters in individual packets (peanut or almond), hard candy, seeds (pumpkin, etc), granola. I also have packets of Emergen-C for replacing electrolytes in hot climates.

*Hats. Have a good cold weather hat in whatever fabric you tolerate (except cotton). It needs to insulate your head from the cold. A good hot weather hat with a wide brim (or drape in back) to protect you face and neck is also a necessity. * Iodine water purification tablets. I covered this in the “Water” section.

* A NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency) radio. I have an Eton that I bought from Cabelas that is both solar/hand crank lithium rechargeable batteries and battery operated by 3 AAA cell batteries. It also has AM/FM so I have some entertainment. This is crucial for keeping track of adverse weather conditions. I have had to move camp in the middle of the night after tornado and/or flood watches were issued for my area. You can buy cheaper ones that are exclusively for the NOAA weather stations if you don’t want to or can’t listen to the radio.

*A waterproof marker and paper. Ok, I know the marker is toxic but here is why you need this, if you leave your car for an extended period of time, write the date and time you left, your destination and your name. Place it folded over on the dashboard of your car. If for whatever reason you go missing; law enforcement will have this information so they know where to look for you. Do NOT leave it open on the dash. This will announce “BREAK INTO ME!” to someone who is tempted to do so.

* One or two garbage bags. These can be emergency rain gear or used to place on the ground to lie on to protect you from moisture.

* One gallon size Ziploc (or other type) of plastic bag. One of the uses for this is to stuff it full of snow and tuck it in your sleeping bag or inside your jacket (but NOT against your skin) so you can have water. You cannot melt snow in an aluminum (or titanium) cup. When it gets hot it will just steam and jump around. It will not melt.

* Yak-trax.  These are non-slip plastic and metal slip on “grippers” (can’t think of the word right now) to keep you from slipping on the ice.  You pull these over the bottom of your shoes and the metal on them grips slippery surfaces to keep you from falling.  A definite must if you are in winter conditions.

*First Aid kit (to be covered in section 5) This is not an all-inclusive list, but it’s the basics of the most important factors to staying safe (or alive). Keep dry, keep warm/cool, keep hydrated, keep fed and know where you are.

(My “go bag” with a majority of my survival gear)

Homelessness Part 3 (Or All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go) – revisited

In Part 3 of Vanessa’s five-part series she discusses clothing needs.  This post was originally on Planet Thrive.

This is part three of a four-part series on homelessness.  The previous versions covered topics on shelter and security (part 1) and food, water and hygiene (part 2).

However, I had forgotten to describe how to dig a latrine/cat hole/pit toilet.  If you are eating right now, I recommend coming back later to read this.  First, I strongly recommend getting an army surplus folding shovel that has both a shovel and a pick (also known as a trenching tool).  The pick cuts through rocky soil, saving the shovel from being bent.  These are also fairly cheap on eBay (don’t get suckered into buying “Official Marine” shovels for $25 and up.  Yes, these are of great quality, but my experience has been that a $10 one does just fine and I am not expecting any insurgent attacks in my camp (but then again stranger things have happened).  Make sure you get one that is steel, not some other metal or alloy.  I bought a cheap one made of pig iron from China and the shovel broke only after three uses.  All components must be metal otherwise they will break or jam if they are plastic.  You can also opt for a metal hand trowel that is sold in virtually every sporting goods, outdoors store as well as the big box stores.  They are small folding trowels that are good for digging small “cat holes” when you can’t dig a larger waste pit (mine is called “U-Diggit” and it metal).

The standard depth of a latrine, etc. is 6 to 8 inches deep.  In the woods and mountains or any place where the soil is rich with decaying plant material you can get by with digging a 4 inch deep hole.  This is soil rich in microorganisms that will break down the waste efficiently.  Be sure to cover the hole with plenty of dirt and plant material so that it can’t be seen or stepped in.  Yes, I have stepped into someone’s disgusting poo where they just crapped on the ground and left it there.  A side note, Arizona was the worst for people just leaving their waste on the ground and not burying it.  Really, out of all the states I have travelled, Arizona has the horrible distinction of having people with the worst hygiene and outdoor etiquette.  The desert or arid areas are a different story.  The sand and rocks are lacking enough microorganisms to properly break down waste.  It is not recommended that you cover your waste with just rocks above ground because it will become a petrified turd and dried out toilet paper for some hapless individual to find while picking up rocks for a fire pit or tent site.  But there’s always a chance the animals will eat it, but not likely.  If you absolutely have to do this because the ground is too rocky to dig a deep hole, then dig a shallow one, place dirt over it and whatever vegetation is around and then top it off with rocks.  The decaying vegetation will help in the decomposition of the waste.

In some areas of the desert you are required to pack out your toilet paper, but can leave the solid waste behind (pun intended) so long as it is properly buried.  In the desert you may have to dig up to 10 inches to ensure the elements will not uncover your waste (i.e. sand).  However, in some national parks, national forests, BLM, you are required to pack out all of it.  Yes, you will have to poo in a bag.  Gross, but necessary.  Outdoor stores do carry solid waste bags (There are “Biobags” made of biodegradable material for handling waste, see http://www.biobagusa.com/ .  Backpackers who plan on going to these areas use these.  They are durable, but some are scented.  You can always opt for a garbage bag, but I recommend double bagging the waste so that it does not leak.  Baking soda or clay kitty litter can also be added to keep the stench down.  That’s the basics for pooping in the woods or desert.

Now, onto clothing!

Clothing:  This is another “to each his/her own” situation since people with MCS tend to have different sensitivities to various fabrics and materials.  There is a wealth of information on Planet Thrive regarding material choices and ways to mitigate/treat the fabrics to make them tolerable.  No need to rehash all that here, so I will simply list what I use and hopefully this will be of some help.

Most of my summer clothing is cotton.  Not organic cotton, just plain old shirts from some of the stores like Walmart, Shopko, etc.  Some are easy to clean and get prepped for use, others sometimes are trash.  It’s a crap shoot.  Why am I not buying organic fabrics?  Quite simply, cost.  I do not have the money to shop stores (both online and in store) that sell organic or exotic types of fabric (i.e. hemp, bamboo, etc).  I can afford a $4.00 shirt, not a $11.00 to $25 one.

I do tolerate some synthetics like nylon, polyester/nylon blends, cotton/spandex blends and some sport blends (usually wool/polyester or other wool blends).  I do not tolerate rayon and acrylics.  After becoming injured I put a top on that was my favorite top and started itching horribly with my face turning red.  I pulled it off and checked and it turned out to be 100% rayon.  Later, after the reaction subsided, I tried a different top that was also 100% rayon and the same reaction happened.   So I purged my wardrobe of all rayon or rayon blends as well as acrylic (mostly sweaters).

Living outdoors all the time you need to strike a balance.  Synthetics are great because they retain their warmth even when wet and can be layered with cotton for good breathability during the winter.  Wool is great too, but you need to get the “fisherman’s sweater” that still has high lanolin content to get a naturally water proof sweater.  This is not recommended if you have sensitivities to lanolin.  Other wools are good too, but I love my sweater because the water beads up and runs off without soaking the fabric (or me).  These are expensive, but it is an investment to keep well during freezing cold weather.  I have had mine since about 1995(?), before being injured.  This sweater was from Eddie Bauer.

The stores I shop for outdoor clothing are:  Cabelas, Sierra Trading Post, Campmor and Amazon.  I do not recommend getting clothes from eBay because people will saturate the clothes in either Febreeze or fabric softener instead of washing them which renders them toxic and not salvageable.  One pair of jeans I bought (cheap) were so bad I literally threw them outside on the ground.  I could not touch them.  I soaked them in white vinegar and water for three months and a weird yellow substance kept coming out of them.  Never again.

Basically for summer you need light clothing that can be layered in the evening.  Light fabric as well as light-colored long sleeve shirts are a must for sun protection as well as light weight shorts and pants.  From the mountains to the deserts the weather can turn very fast and temperatures can drop 30-40 degrees in a matter of hours.  Have sweatshirts, wind proof jackets and hats available at all times so you can start adding layers as the weather cools.

I have an alpaca wool sweater that is very warm for its weight.  In addition to the sweater, I have alpaca wool socks and leg warmers.  I have found that alpaca is very warm and light weight.  I wear the socks at night in the winter to keep my feet warm and add the leg warmers when it gets below 20 degrees.

Here’s a short list of what’s in my wardrobe:

* Several short-sleeved cotton shirts

* A couple of light weight/light colored long sleeve shirts that are polyester or a blend of polyester.

* Several pairs of shorts from cotton to polyester.

* Several wool blend socks (Smartwool, but Sierra Trading Post has some great deals from time to time

on other companies wool blend socks)

* A couple of alpaca wool socks and leg warmers

* Several turtle necks, cotton/polyester blend

* One padded compression bra (by Champion).  This is great on the chilly nights to keep you chest

warm.

* Several pairs of long john tops and bottoms.  I use 100% silk which is the lightest and can be easily

worn under clothing.  I have one pair of medium weight from CuddleDuds (nylon/polyester blend).

Two expedition weight (heavy material) to wear under my fleece leggings I sleep in.

* Three wool sweaters of different blends.  Two 100% wool and one 100% alpaca.

* A pair of fleece leggings (outer wear) for sleeping in.

* Three cotton hoodies (for layering).

* Several pairs of jeans, cotton/spandex blend.

One final thought on clothing, if you are a woman buy men’s outerwear or t-shirts whenever you can.  It is usually of heavier material and is cut to allow more freedom of movement.  Don’t ask me why some women’s clothing is cut so snug with such flimsy material that it’s virtually useless.  I have gotten some great deals on men’s sweatshirts and hoodies that were far more superior than the women’s equivalent and much cheaper (Cabela’s is a good one for this as well as Amazon.com and HanesOnePlace,  http://www.onehanesplace.com/ ).

This is getting lengthy, so I will stop here and discuss Survival Gear and First aid in the fourth (and hopefully final) installment.

I asked Vanessa for another photo to include with this post.  She chose the Mountain Death Camas due to its beautiful design and deadly poison.  As the name implies, its poison is equivalent to strychnine poison. 

 

 

Homelessness Part 2 (not so graphic but not for the squeamish) – revisited

This is the second in a five-part series by my friend at Planet Thrive on surviving homelessness.  In this post, Vanessa talks about food, water, and hygiene.

(my current digs, one person bivy tent with tarp)

Food, Water and Hygiene

This is a continuation of the blog post on June 1st.  These are difficult topics to cover since I have found almost every person is different with respects to diet, containers used for storage, etc.

Food:  Since I spend a majority of my time in the woods, my diet consists mostly of canned foods and dried foods so they do not spoil.  I have a small insulated cooler when I do get produce, but the ice melts fast and I have to eat the food within 2-3 days otherwise I will risk a food borne illness.  Because of my space limitations in the car I cannot have a plug-in cooler or a larger one, it’s just not practical.  Some things to consider when looking at keeping perishables:

* If you opt for some kind of plug in cooler you need to keep track of your usage otherwise you will completely drain your car battery.  I have gone through three batteries since 2009 just from charging my cell phone, laptop and camera batteries.

* Keep your cooler from direct sunlight to keep the ice from melting too fast.  It is best to cover them in blankets when possible; clothing is ok but not optimal.

*Always clean you cooler after every use and wipe down with whatever you use as an antiseptic.  I use Dr. Bronners Sal Suds and then wipe down with 80 proof vodka (40% alcohol).

I try to keep my dry foods light and quick to cook.  For example, you will use at least half a canister of propane to cook dried beans.  Canned kidney beans cook in just 5-10 minutes.  Raw potatoes (red or white) need to be boiled for about 15 minutes, not including the time it takes to heat the water to boiling. Forget about fresh meat unless you have at least one and a half canisters to do this properly.  Canisters can be expensive running about $2.50 per generic brand canisters.  These can be purchased virtually anywhere from Kmart to Wal-Mart to any hardware store (if you can tolerate them).  I also have a small Snowpeak, Gigapeak backpacking stove.  This is extremely valuable and necessary for survival in remote areas and is not a luxury.  Many times weather conditions are so bad that a regular kitchen cannot be set up.  When the weather is cold you desperately need hot fluids at the very least to keep you warm (and keep your morale up).  A backpacking stove can be set in small sheltered areas like rocks, downed logs, behind snowdrifts, large trees or you can build a small wind break out of limbs and boughs and rocks.  I have to add the following disclaimer:  DO NOT use your back packing stove near grass, bushes or other dry material in the spring, summer and fall.  You need to clear an area around the stove free of combustibles to prevent starting a forest fire.  Portable propane stoves can be one burner or up to four.  The larger stoves however take larger propane tanks, not bottles, and would not be practical for stowing in the car.  I have a cheap knockoff of Coleman called “Century” that my Mom got from a garage sale.  That would be the best thing is to get a lightly used stove from a garage sale.  If you need to buy new there are many generic brands that are just as good as Coleman.  Here is what you need to look for:

*   Portability and weight.  Will the stove fit in your car and be easy to retrieve, especially when you are not feeling well.

* Easy to use.  A portable stove should be easy to set up and take down with as few components as possible.

* Durability.  The Century stove I have has a lid that lifts up vertical with two metal “wings” on each side to provide some protection from the wind.  The metal is mostly painted aluminum with a steel grate.  It’s been holding up nicely.

Affordability.  Do shop around a little bit and see what is out there.  Online you can check out Campmor, Cabelas, Sierra Trading post and some of the outdoor outfitters like REI, North Face, MSR and Snowpeak.  I’ve found buying the backpacking stove, esp. MSRs, can be affordable in outdoor sporting goods stores.  I have also seen them in army surplus stores.

I also carry trioxylene tablets in my backpack/go bag.  These are sterno type tablets that ignite quickly and burn very hot.  You can use these in extreme circumstances by placing the tablet on a non-combustible surface (ie. rock) and use a small aluminum container (about 1-1 ½ cup) to heat water or cook canned soup or noodles.  These do not last very long so whatever is being cooked needs to be non-perishable food.  The trioxylene tablets were (and might still be) used in the military to cook MRE (Meals Ready to Eat) in small aluminum containers the soldiers carry.  In dire circumstances you can also use them to start a campfire.  Yes, these are more than likely toxic, but you always need a contingent plan should you get stranded and your fuel canisters run out.  These are available in most army surplus stores and maybe some outfitting/outdoor stores.

As for pots and pans, I have a mix of aluminum (I know, gasp, aluminum but I am not cooking acidic foods most of the time) to high-end titanium.  It’s best to get small to medium size pots because they heat faster, requiring less fuel and you’ll need one that fits on you backpacking stove.  Again, places to find these are the local outdoor stores, REI, Campmor, Sierra Trading Post, North Face, MSR, etc.

Here is a partial list of what is in my pantry:

Canned Kidney Beans, Black-eyed peas, Garbanzo beans, Carrots, Potatoes, tomatoes

Sardines

Canned chili, soup

Instant Brown Rice

Uncle Ben’s instant brown rice meals in pouches (teriyaki rice, Spanish rice, etc.)

Instant noodles

Apple sauce in individual servings

Canned peaches, pears, fruit cocktail (In water)

Olive oil, Canola oil

aluminum foil, one gallon baggies, plastic wrap (all of which can be purchased as “non toxic”)

A whole bunch of different spices, salt

A variety of teas

Unsweetened cocoa

Sugar (honey in the summer)

Coffee (decaf and caffeinated)

As you can see the nutritional value is sorely lacking in this list.  This is why I wanted to let people know the reality that their diet is going to change and they will have more limited access to fresh produce.  This greatly impacts health and ability to heal.  Those who are living in trailers have many more options.

Lastly, do not cook in or near your tent, especially in bear country.  Change out of the clothes you cooked in to different clothes at bed time if you are sleeping in a tent.  Ideally you should cook at least 50 feet from your tent.  However, I have broken this rule while in the middle of a three-day deluge and needed to keep out of the rain as much as possible.  I cooked outside my tent in the vestibule (the part of the rain fly that extends out from the door).  Always store your food in the car at night and do not take food with you into your tent.  This is not only for your protection but for the animal as well.  Animals habituated to human food are usually destroyed by Fish and Game.  I was charged once by a black bear while backpacking and it followed us for over a mile.  It had become use to human food and was trying to get at ours even though we had our food packed in wet/dry bags in our packs to minimize the scent.

Water.  This is second to shelter for surviving outdoors.  I carry 13-16 gallons of water.  You will need to ration using the following priorities:  drinking, cooking, washing and washing clothes.  If you are near a reliable water source (campground, river, stream) you can be a little lax, but when in remote places with no water this is a precious commodity.  You always have to have a contingent plan and never let your water supply drop to less than two gallons before resupplying.  If something happens and you are stranded, these two gallons can save your life.  In the desert they say a person needs a gallon of water per day to survive.  I figured a person can go with a little less if they remain inactive during the heat of the day, stay in the shade and sip the water.  There is also a technique of sucking on a pebble to help satiate thirst.  You also can hold the water in your mouth and swallow a little at a time.  In the woods you can stretch it out a little more, but not much.

Always carry iodine tablets.  I don’t care about toxicity when my life is in danger and I need water to survive.  This last winter I was forced to get water from a questionable source and boiled 3 gallons of water to a rolling boil for 10 minutes.  Then I purified it with iodine tablets.  I did this for every use, including washing, because I didn’t want any bacteria (ie necrotizing fasciitis) to get into a wound (which by the way, you will get a lot of cuts living outside).

Hygiene:  All I can say is, “to each his own”.  Everyone has their soaps they tolerate so I am not even going to cover the breadth of what is out there.  As for myself I use Dr Bronners Almond or Tea Tree oil liquid Castile soaps.  I sometimes switch to coconut oil based soap when the air is drier.  I use EarthScience’s fragrance free shampoo and conditioner.  I have a fifth of vodka to make an antiseptic toner.  I mix it with Tea Tree oil and it’s a damn good astringent and wound cleaner.  I think my wounds heal faster with that than with anything else.  Lastly, if you live outside 24/7 and cannot tolerate campground showers, you will have to accept the indignity of taking sponge baths a majority of the time.  Many of the times it is cold, rainy, windy, etc and not good for completely stripping down to bathe.  Then again if you’re feeling adventurous, try taking a dip in a mountain stream year round.  That will test your resolve.  Also you have to consider the human factor and make damn sure no one is around to see you.  Not only is this awkward, it can be dangerous or possibly lead to being arrested for indecent exposure.

For a quick bath, just target those areas prone to stinking (you know what I mean) and folds in the skin where bacteria accumulate.  The face is also very important because you want to keep healthy looking and not disheveled d and greasy.

In the next installment I will cover clothing and survival gear.  I am saving first aid for the last part.

The photo below is from Vanessa’s photographs.  It is part of a series of chair photos to show these places are her home. 

Homelessness Part 1 (Warning Graphic Language) – revisited

A few days ago my dear friend and blogger, Sonda (Sonda’s MCS Chatter) wrote a blog post in tribute to her Homeless MCS Sisters. It got me to thinking about a series of guest blog posts on Living the Homeless Life with MCS by a Planet Thrive friend of mine, Vanessa.  In honor of Sonda’s tribute and Vanessa, I am sharing this six part series again.

This is Part 1 of Vanessa’s posts on Planet Thrive related to living homelessness.  Her bio and history were posted yesterday in Living the Homeless Life with MCS.

This is a subject near and dear to my heart, for obvious reasons.  Given the recent posts by fellow PT’rs (referring to Planet Thrive members)  I feel compelled to write about the realities of homelessness.

It is not an adventure.  Yes, sometimes people talk about it this way, including myself, but this is a defense mechanism to keep sane when your reality sucks.  You have to have a sense of morbid humor when you are forced to shit in a hole year round, pee along roadsides (in bushes) because the rest stops are too much to bear.  It is hard to laugh though when you become violently ill, by yourself, in the middle of nowhere and sometimes without cell coverage to call for help.  I have had full body neuralgia while lying in the front seat of my car and not able to move at all.  I have puked on myself (and yes, shit myself) when I had the stomach flu and no amenities.  All I could do was to clean myself in the break of the stormy weather as best I could with cold water and change my clothes.  These are just a few of the indignities I have endured.

I understand the fear and frustration that comes with facing the prospect of becoming homeless.  I remember clearly in May 2009 as I was coming to grips with my worst nightmare.  I could not sleep for days prior to leaving for the desert.  I finally sucked it up, left and never looked back.  I cried in my tent that night, alone and afraid of what was to come.  I still have moments when I try to envision my future as being healthy, independent and no longer homeless.  I envision myself working and supporting myself once more.  But then the grave reality of my present circumstance comes over me like a frigid tidal wave, dragging me back into the open sea of despair.

I can’t emphasize enough how deciding to live in your car, tent or whatever in the woods is dangerous.  I have read the statistics and the news regarding just how brutal people can be to a homeless person.  The psychology is that the homeless are perceived as weak and that they have no one who cares about their welfare, making them easy targets for harassment.  I have experienced firsthand the degradation of being talked down to by law enforcement.  I remember one officer contemptuously asking me if this was a “lifestyle”.  I simply replied saying “no” when I wanted to say “who the hell chooses to freeze their ass off as a lifestyle.  Get real.”

I could go on about the other perils of living/surviving this way.  This is no way to live and the fact that some people are forced into this standard of living is unconscionable in our nation.  Yes, there are those who really do choose to live homeless, but I think they are the minority.  Any sane, rational individual will not choose this for themselves, their families and friends.  Safe and affordable housing is a necessity, not a luxury, and is one of the pillars needed to facilitate healing.  To obtain and maintain good health the basics such as a safe home, clean water and clean food are essential.  Why this is so hard for some to grasp is beyond me.

I am going to list by category what is necessary to survive and give some resources on where to find supplies.  These things are imperative to survival.

1.  Shelter.  This is the first rule of survival.  You need a place to keep out of the elements.  Getting cold and wet can lead to hypothermia, even if you are in a car.  The car is the obvious shelter of choice, but sleeping in it constantly can lead to back problems (which I have found out the hard way).  You have to come to terms with the fact that sleeping in your car constantly will also ruin the interior making any chance of resale difficult.  There are many styles of tents and many pricing options.  I recommend middle of the road tents.  You don’t need an expedition style tent, but you shouldn’t go for the ones at Walmart either.  You need a tent that will stand up to high winds and the weight of snow.  Tents were also not designed as permanent shelters, they are recreational.  I have two, a one-man bivy tent and a two-man tent.  I wanted a backup for one or the other in case one got destroyed.  Each has its pros and cons.  One person tents are light and compact, however they do not have a lot of room for extra gear inside.  Two person tents are roomy, allows to stow stuff in there with you but are a little more bulky.  Look for the following qualities:

- What seasons are they for?  Are they three season or four?

-Material.  Most tents are made from waterproofed taffeta or nylon/polyester fabrics.  The floors are rubberized for waterproofing.  It took a few months to air out one of my tents.  For a while it smelled like jet fuel whenever it got hot in the sun.  With sufficient airing out, washing/rinsing and hanging in the sun (and rain if need be) it should off gas nicely. (but do not use soap, it will ruin the waterproofing).

-Tents that are for all seasons are more expensive than those used in just three seasons or for the summer.

-Durability.  Keep in mind you are living in this tent, not camping, and need to gauge on the description if it will hold up to the demands of being used constantly.

-Ease of set up.   You don’t want a bunch of pieces to put the tent together.  Keep it simple.

The tents I have are:  Mountain Hardware bivy/one person, three season tent and North Face two person tent, three season.  Places where you can get deals are Campmor, Sierra Trading Post, North Face website, Cabelas.  Campmor usually has some of the best deals.

In addition to a tent you will need at least two tarps, thick grade or “mil”.  The lower the “mil” the thicker the tarp material and vice versa.  I have a 20×20 and 8×10.  The large one I use as a shelter or privacy screen and the smaller one acts as a privacy screen and can be placed under the tent to keep the floor dry in heavy rains (but this can also be accomplished by using two large garbage bags as well).  Along with the tarps you will need at least two ropes, 50 ft  nylon and any longer length of 550lb parachute cord.  You will also need bungee cords (of various sizes) and metal stakes.  You will also need a hammer to drive the stakes into the ground.

2. Security.   You need to be prepared to defend yourself against any aggression whether it is from a person or an animal.  I have heard that some EIs travel with firearms.  I am totally against this not because I am anti-gun, but because I am for responsible gun ownership.  As an EI it is doubtful that the cleaning solvents and lubricants used to maintain a firearm will be tolerated.  To be proficient in the use of a weapon in self-defense, you need to practice with it.  If you don’t practice you might as well throw the cartridges at the aggressor because you’ll have a better chance of hitting them.  As a homeless person, there is no way of properly securing a firearm to prevent it from being stolen.  Hiding it somewhere in the car is not enough.  Any burglar can easily find it and you also don’t want it so well hidden that you can’t get to it in an emergency.  Some have commented that they feel the mere sight of a firearm will deter a criminal.  No it won’t.  It will only draw unwanted attention and create a dangerous situation.  Others have talked about having BB guns or toys as a means of self-defense.  Shooting a would be assailant with a BB gun is like swatting a bull with a fly swatter, you’ll only piss them off.  If you are serious about defense consider these:  Pepper spray or a Taser.  You need to make sure that whatever is coming at you gets no closer than 12 feet.  Pepper spray comes in 30 ft,  12ft and 8ft ranges.  I don’t know what the reach of a taser is, but it probably is less than 12 feet.  There are many places that sell these products.  I purchased my pepper spray kit (all three sizes) from Cabelas.  The manufacture is UDAP based out of Bozeman MT.

Know your territory.  Know where the party spots are and talk with the forest service about potential problems with drugs or drug manufacturing in the forest.  They will know the areas that are questionable.

Do not act like a victim.  Stand straight, look people in the eye, do not disclose too much information about yourself or your circumstances.  This is not the time to serve as an ambassador to spread the information about MCS/EI.

Anything can be used as a weapon.  Your hands, feet, knees, elbows, teeth.  You can pickup rocks, sticks, forks, knives, pots/pans, hot grease, hot water.  The combinations are endless.  You do not have to be trained in self-defense to defend yourself, you just need a good understanding of the human anatomy and the confidence of how to take advantage of it.  However, if you do ever get a chance to take a self-defense course I strongly recommend it.

I am going to stop here for now as this is getting pretty long.  The next segments I will cover are food, water, hygiene, clothing, survival gear, and first aid.

Living The Homeless Life With MCS – revisited

A few days ago my dear friend and blogger, Sonda (Sonda’s MCS Chatter) wrote a blog post in tribute to her Homeless MCS Sisters. It got me to thinking about a series of guest blog posts on Living the Homeless Life with MCS by a Planet Thrive friend of mine, Vanessa.  In honor of Sonda’s tribute and Vanessa, I am sharing this six part series again.

Vanessa and I are friends on Planet Thrive.  Vanessa is in search of a safe place to live.  In the meantime she lives out of her car and her tent year-round.  Vanessa has posted a five-part series on Living Homeless on  the Planet Thrive website.  I have spoken with Vanessa and received her permission to post them here on my blog.    Vanessa is a true survivor with a vast knowledge of living outdoors. I asked Vanessa to write a short bio to give some background before I begin the five-part series.  This is what she wrote:

Vanessa is presently living in the western U.S. in search of places to live relatively free of herbicides, pesticides, wood smoke, vehicle exhaust, etc.  She lives in her car and tent (as weather permits).  She has depleted her life savings waiting for assistance so she can move on with her life by affording housing and medical treatments.  Vanessa is a strong advocate for preventing people from becoming homeless which is why she wrote the five-part series on being homeless and coping with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS).  Prior to being re-injured in 2007 she was employed with the State of Montana, practiced martial arts, beading, camping and going out with her friends.  She also has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration with several years in the insurance industry and business licensing.  Having several years experience in camping and hiking, this has helped her to survive living outdoors for the past four years.  Vanessa writes blog posts on Planet Thrive documenting her journey of survival, coping with humor, interactions with people, law enforcement and animals, while dealing with MCS.  In addition to blogging her new hobbies include reading, studying botany and photography.”

I have asked Vanessa to allow me to also include some of her photography  in my future pieces.