Tag Archives: mold exposure

Allergic to Life receives a 5-Star Review


I am excited to share with you a 5-Star review that Allergic to Life just received from Nonnie Jules at Rave Reviews Book Club. I am excited to be a part of this book club. As a group we read the selected book and review it and then post our reviews individually as well. Nonnie Jules posts her own reviews on her own page of the site, Nonnie’s Reviews.  These reviews are separate from the Book Club’s Reviews, Current Book Selection, or Author Spotlights.

I am honored that Nonnie Jules chose my book as one of her books to review on her page.  Please head over and read her review of Allergic to Life.  For those of you are avid readers or authors, joining the club is free and the main membership requirement is to read and review four books during the year.

Book Club Badge Suggestion copy (1)

Allergic to Life gets a review from The-Labyrinth

I just read a wonderful review from fellow blogger Miche at The-Labyrinth for Allergic to Life.  Miche also suffers from chemical sensitivity, other allergies, and a severe allergy to mold.

I truly appreciate that she took the time to read my book and learn my story of what brought me from a regular woman who went and did what she wanted to someone who became “allergic to life”.  Please take a minute to visit Miche, read her review, and sign up to follow her blog.  Miche writes amazing blog posts and has been a champion for students with disabilities at her university in Australia.

Best of 2013 Blog Hop Giveaway

Best of 2013 Hop

The I’m A Reader, Not A Writer blog posted in October about an upcoming Best of 2013 Giveaway.  Bloggers could choose a book that they had read in 2013 and give a copy away through a drawing.  I knew which book I would be giving away and signed up to participate.  The book I will be giving away through a Rafflecopter Giveaway is “A Jane Austen Daydream” by Scott Southard.  Not only will I be giving a book away, but Mr. Southard has autographed the book for me as well.  To view the entire list of bloggers giving away their Best of 2013 click on the linky tools link at the bottom of the post.

I don’t remember reading any Jane Austen books in high school.  I was just becoming ill when my sister invited me to watch the BBC’s version of Pride and Prejudice.  She assured me that I would love it and we watched it over six evenings.  I immediately became hooked on the characters Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy and had to read the book and others written by Ms. Austen.  I think the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice is my favorite and I watch it often.

This year I read about “A Jane Austen Daydream” through a post that my friend Jennie had shared with me.  I was drawn to the title of the book because I love all things Austen but was wary of a book whose intention was to capture what Miss Austen’s life was like based on her writings written by a man.  How could a man capture the true essence?   As soon as I began reading, I forgot all about the gender of the author and became absorbed in the story.  The characters remind me of the characters in many of the Austen books and Mr. Southard uses phrases that are synonymous with these same books.

To learn more about Mr. Southard and how he came about writing this wonderful book, I asked him some questions.

1)      Tell me what made you choose to write about Jane Austen?   I first discovered Jane Austen in college. I was captivated by her voice, her incredible skill in characterization and her wit. Upon reading all of her books, I decided to learn more about her, meet the wizard behind the curtain.

It is shocking how little we actually know about her!  Whatever the case, it is obvious she sadly did not live any of the adventures she had written for her characters. That realization was the first spark that inspired A Jane Austen Daydream. I wanted to correct a wrong. So I used her own characters and plots as a template to imagine something a little more “Austenesque” for her.

2)      My image of Miss Jane Austen is of a young woman sitting at her desk with ink stained fingers laboriously writing her stories.  It is not of a young man sitting at his desk composing the story by clicking away on his computer keyboard.  How did you get your mind set to writing in the tone of Miss Austen?   Well, first I needed the courage to undertake it, because I knew right from the start how challenging it would be. I sat on this idea for years before I started it! It was actually my wife that encouraged me on, almost making me feel guilty I didn’t do it sooner.

The first thing I did was completely immerse myself in her books. I ruined numerous paperback copies of her books in the undertaking. See, in the book I draw more from her own fiction than history (this is not what I would call historical fiction, which is why daydream is part of the title).  I spent almost a year just planning it out, creating the template. The image of me hunched over a computer does come up later, but I started first in longhand, filling up numerous yellow notepads in my illegible scribble.

3)      Have you read all of her books?  What research did you do in writing your book?   I knew that if I was to do this book right, I couldn’t only dip my toe in. I had to do this fully, live in the deep end of the pool, underwater. Her books, a few biographies, her letters, her unpublished works, I even visited some locations back before I began the book looking for inspiration. Everything I could get my hands on plays a part in the work.

My goal was not just to write about her, but to have her be a part of it. So references and quotes from her classic works are sprinkled throughout it. The trick for me was though writing a book that could work for the casual fan as well as the obsessed reader. Again, it all comes down to planning, which means I had to find a narrator voice that was between Jane and my own. If I did this right, there is something for everyone in this book and it is readable even for those not used to reading regency novels.

4)      What was your greatest inspiration in writing this book?   I would point to three inspirations. One, I already discussed; the fact that she didn’t find love like all of her characters did, dying tragically at only 41. I wanted to fix that, give her an adventure.

 The second was the big twist in the book, which I won’t ruin here. I wanted to see if I could pull it off in a book and what the reaction would be. I’ve spoken to quite a few fellow readers and writers and I think I might be the first that has attempted such a surprise. The reaction to it has been a lot of fun for me to read (like when a reviewer at the Jane Austen Centre called me cheeky); and it’s nice that so many reviewers are passionate about keeping it a secret.

 The third inspiration was my wife. She has asked for me to write this book for years! And after giving birth to our first child I wanted to give her a thank you that only I could, something very personable.

5)      This is the first of your books that I have read but I currently have downloaded on my Kindle your book Maximillian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare.  How many books have you written and are any of them similar to “A Jane Austen Daydream”?  One of my goals as a writer has always been to surprise my readers. Which means, every time I undertake a story I am aiming to do something new, not only for myself but for the reader. It’s why there is the big twist in Daydream, for example.

So when someone reads one of my books they can’t be guaranteed what they will be getting. With Daydream, I have four books available right now. Megan is a dark contemporary fantasy about the power of the imagination; My Problem With Doors is a time-travel adventure; and Maximilian (which you mentioned) is probably my most experimental. It pretends to be a gothic period mystery, but underneath it is a very different book about the idea of creation and fiction.

6)      What do you most like about writing?   Writing has always been a lot of fun to me, and I have always been drawn to the idea of being an author.

I love every step of it, the spark of the initial idea, the frantic energy of having to write it down before it is lost. And then watching it grow and evolve over time as new chapters emerge and plots develop. When done right it is all very organic. There are few things I have found in this world more satisfying than the feeling of completing that first draft and holding it in my hands.

A Jane Austen Daydream was a dream project of mine for many years. It is truly satisfying to know that readers, like yourself, are enjoying it as much as I did creating it.

I would like to thank Scott Southard for sharing a little of himself and the book with us today as well as agreeing to sign a copy of the book for one of my lucky readers.

The giveaway starts tomorrow but my Rafflecopter link is live and ready to go now. You can enter my Rafflecopter giveaway by clicking the link. All you need do is enter your name, email address, and follow the options for entry.  a Rafflecopter giveaway

VIEW other blogs giving away books below.

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The Virtual Bookcase

Allergic to Life:  My Battle for Survival, Courage, and Hope has the honor of being featured on Glynis Smy’s The Virtual Bookcase.  Allergic to Life is listed in the memoir/biography section. Glynis lives in the UK and is an author as well.

Please stop by and check out not only my book but the many books that Glynis has chosen to showcase.

My First Royalty Check!


Yesterday I received my first royalty check in the mail.  It wasn’t very big and only covered the month of September but it was a check nonetheless.

My First Royalty Check

My First Royalty Check

I have sold books to family, friends, friends of friends, through word of mouth, and through my book launch.  This check, however, was a royalty check and made me truly feel like an author.

A BIG THANK YOU to all those who have supported me and purchased copies of my book.  For those who have been waiting to purchase my book, there will be a special coming up next week.

I would also like to thank all my new followers.  If you haven’t checked out the Holiday Virtual Book Fair and entered for a chance to win a free e-book of Allergic to Life, please check out my blog post here.

There is also a Kindle Fire HD Giveaway that I am involved with as well.  If you haven’t entered, the information is here.

Holiday Virtual Book Fair

Book Cover

Book Cover

Starting today and running through Saturday, November 7th Allergic to Life will be featured on Black Lilac Kitty’s Holiday Virtual Book Fair.

I am excited once again to be featured on this site along with some very wonderful authors. In celebration of Allergic to Life’s Holiday Online Virtual Book Fair appearance, I am giving away two e-book copies (Nook or Kindle compatible).  To enter, please click on the Rafflecopter link below, enter your name, email address, and earn as many entries as you can.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Dragons Loyalty Award


I was nominated today by the lovely Jenny at My Fibrotastic Life for “The Dragon’s Loyalty Award”.  Jenny is the proud nominee of this award four times already.  For this reason I am not including her in my nominees – but I want to state that she has been a great and loyal follower.  I have had several nominations over the last few months but have been so wrapped up in all things book and other issues that I have not taken the time to honor them.  Today I am turning over a new leaf and promise to be more diligent when it comes to responding to awards given me.

“The philosophy of the award is: The Dragon’s Loyalty Award is an award for the loyal fan/commenter, whether the recipient is a fellow blogger or just someone who follows and comments regularly”. 

There are some rules that one must follow in order to fully accept the award and they are as follows:

1. Firstly, display the Award on your site. You earned it and you deserve it! (check)

2. Link back to the person who gave you the award in your acceptance post; (check)

3. Nominate 15 well deserving bloggers for the Award and let them know the wonderful news by sending them a message on their site;  (this will be done as soon as this link is posted)

4. List 7 interesting facts about yourself” (check)

I have done these awards before and don’t know if I can come up with 7 facts that you don’t know about me but here goes;

  1. I have never learned how to skate.  I remember trying a few times at the roller rink but was so bad (uncoordinated) and embarrassed that I quit going.
  2. When my left hand gets cold you can faintly see a scar across my fingers where I grabbed a fresh cup of hot coffee on the table and spilled it on my hand when I was a baby.
  3. I didn’t get chicken pox as a child no matter how many times I was exposed but instead got them when I was 31 from a child who was visiting my daughters’ preschool on the day it was my turn to volunteer and then gave them to my own daughters 21 days later.
  4. Since we are about to celebrate Thanksgiving – I will tell you that I came down with the mumps on Thanksgiving Day.
  5. I chose to walk nearly two miles to school during high school because I didn’t want to walk 1/2 mile and then ride the bus.
  6. I was in Whose Who Among Junior College Students.
  7. My favorite toy was a stuffed dog with bells in his ears that I for some strange reason named Gas Pipe.

My 15 nominees are:

  1. Sondasmcschatter
  2. Fergiemoto
  3. Sensitivetochemicals
  4. quirkywritingcorner
  5. boredsick
  6. acflory
  7. outshineovariancancer
  8. lifeinthecitywithafuture
  9. jenniesherwin
  10. spruestory
  11. addercatter
  12. tissuetales
  13. adventuresofanallergicfoodie
  14. doilooksick
  15. theallergista

Catch-Up Mondays – I knew I was Sick But – revisited

This post was first shared here on November 2, 2012.  I don’t even think I have mentioned my entire diagnosis in my book.  My letter with the diagnosis would have been a good thing to have added. 

Someone asked me a short time ago to tell more about me.  Rather than go from the beginning I am going to talk about being sent to Dallas and getting my diagnosis.  I knew I was sick but had no idea how far-reaching the mold exposure had been in terms of my body.

I had been sick for about 2 1/2 years when I was finally sent to Dr. William Rea at the Environmental Health Center-Dallas through my ENT.  I arrived on a cold day in February 2002.   After meeting with Dr. Rea, doing lots of tests and being observed, a letter was written for me to submit to my doctors here and to my attorney for my workers’ compensation case.  Dr. Rea wrote an extended letter and I am going to try to give a synopsis of what he found wrong.

Toxic Encephalopathy secondary to mold, mold toxin and chemical exposure (when I was moved from the school with the mold to a new school being painted, etc. while we were trying to set it up for school to start)

Toxic Effects of Petrochemicals and Solvents

Toxic Effects of Mold and Mold Toxin

Immune Deregulation

Allergic Rhinitis

Food Sensitivity (only safe foods at the time were rabbit, venison, deer, elk, cranberries, acorn squash, eggs, raspberries)

Mold Sensitivity

Pollen Sensitivity

Chemical Sensitivity

Chronic Sinusitits

Chronic Fatigue


Autonomic Nervous System Dysfunction

Multi-organ system dysfunction

Neurotoxicity based on SPECT scan

Hyper metabolic and hyper reactive state

I couldn’t sleep, I was on a nebulized antifungal, I was on so many medications when I arrived.  I would sit and look at the television and it was as if the screen was narrowing and moving toward me (a very strange sensation), my depth perception was a mess.  I would be in the testing room, take a drink my from glass water bottle and then set it back down.  Bam, glass and water would be all over the floor.  I couldn’t gauge when the bottle was on the floor unless I slowly lowered it and listened for it to touch the ground before I released it.  My short-term memory was just that, short-term.  My husband made me walk from our condo to the center so that I would be able to find it because I would not have a car when he went home.  Every morning we would walk the four blocks and when we got to the parking lot I wouldn’t remember where I needed to enter the building and my husband would once again have to show me.  Once in the building when I would leave the testing or exam rooms to go to the sauna, I would invariably turn towards the exit.  I just couldn’t keep my directions straight.  So much goes on at the center.  There is doctor appointments, lab appointments, provocation/neutralization skin testing, sauna, IV’s.  I soon learned that my weekly appointment calendar was my only salvation.  Every Friday I would schedule all my appointments for the next week.  I lived by that appointment book.  It was the only way I could remember where I was supposed to be at any given time as long as I could remember how to get from point “A” to point “B”.

In fact when I returned home after a long stay in 2003 and moved into my “safe” home my memory was still a mess.  One day I got up and put a pot of beans on to cook in the kitchen and then went back into my bedroom.  I still had no furniture in the kitchen or living room.  I pretty much lived in my bedroom with my army cot and blankets, my CD player and my television.  One afternoon my smoke alarms started blaring (all four of them from the entrance to each bedroom).  I began to panic!  MY HOUSE WAS ON FIRE!  Was there a wiring issue?  What was going on?  What would I do if my house burned down?  Where would I go?  I began walking through the house looking for any signs of trouble.  Then as I walked towards the kitchen it dawned on me that I had beans on the stove.  The beans had boiled dry and stuck to the bottom of the pan.  Since that time I have to set a timer whenever I put something on the stove.  The caveat to that is that I have to be within ear range of the timer.  I have turned the timer on and went outdoors only to see smoke coming out of my kitchen vent.

My autonomic nervous system was a mess too.  I would go to bed and the slightest movement (me rolling over or me just moving in the bed) would send me into horrible state.  Imagine being at the top of one of those rides at an amusement park where you are raised to the top and then dropped.  That is what it felt like to me.  And this would happen over and over again all night long.  If I tried to get up and go to the bathroom the mere act of lying back down would set it off.  This went on for months and months.  I haven’t had a severe reaction like that in a very long time.  I still get that sensation occasionally but thankfully it is not my nightly companion.

My life has been turned upside down and inside out.  I say I live in the Twilight Zone or Bizarro Land.  I make the most of what I can do and have to accept my limitations and my losses.  The depression was eating me alive from the inside out and I had to make a decision.  Either I let the depression and loneliness and sadness take over my life or I had to learn to change the way I perceived this invisible illness.  I have chosen to try to change my perspective.  I try to stay positive, I try not to feel envious of what others can or are doing, I try to be grateful for what I have and not dwell on what I don’t have.  When friends tell me they are going on a cruise, or going to another country or on some long weekend, jealousy starts to set in and depression rears its ugly head.  Sometimes it is hard to hear the stories from their trips when they return.  I had been home from Dallas for about a year when my husband had the opportunity to go to England as a chaperone with his high school.  Oh how I was envious.  I wanted him to go, but I didn’t want him to go.  I didn’t want to participate in the plans, didn’t want to hear where he was going, didn’t want to think about being here alone at home with him far away having fun.  Once he was gone I decided that this allowed me the freedom to watch whatever movie I wanted to watch or watch movies all day.  I could sit in my bed and read all day if I wanted to.  I ate when I wanted to.  I got in my car and drove around just for the sake of driving around.  I was good until he came home with pictures from the trip.  Sadness welled up inside of me as he told me where he had gone and explained what he had seen.  I wanted to just bolt.  I didn’t want to hear the stories, didn’t want to see the pictures, didn’t want to feel the sadness.  Finally I realized I wasn’t being fair to him.  He was excited about this amazing journey and what he had seen and done.  I listened and I looked and I put on my brave face.  I have to say, however, that I haven’t looked at those pictures since and hate it when we are watching a movie and he tells me that he has been to that fountain or that museum.  I may be getting stronger every day but the realization that I probably will never make that kind of trip is hard but I am becoming more okay with it as time goes by.

Thank You

I have noticed today that I have several new followers to this blog.  I would like to take a moment to welcome you and say thank you.  Please feel free to comment on blog posts and ask questions. 

You will see that I have a great group of followers who are amazingly helpful as well.

To all of you, both new and long-time followers, I say thank you for wanting to learn more about my story and environmental and chronic illness.  Your support and encouragement mean a lot to me.

WEGO Health Activist Nomination

I was shocked recently to find an email in my inbox stating that I had been nominated for  a WEGO Health Activist Award.  I was nominated in the “Best In Show Blog” category.  I completed the required information and it is now up on their website.  I am honored to be included with so many other bloggers for this title.

Best in Show: Blog

I have no idea who nominated me but am very excited to have my blog thought of in this way.