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An Update from Cheeseville

by: Jill Richardson

Tue Oct 21, 2014 at 11:34:45 AM PDT

Hi folks,
Sorry I've been remissing in posting on here lately. I need to write up two book reviews, one on Katrina Blair's excellent new book about edible weeds and another on Gianaclis Caldwell's fantastic artisan cheesemaking book.

In the meantime, I've been kept 100% busy between teaching, doing homework, having migraines, taking care of basic needs like eating, and the occasional walk out in nature. But now that the trees here are putting on a show, I felt compelled to share some pics of fall in Wisconsin.

My Street
My street

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 630 words in story)

I Hurt

by: Jill Richardson

Sat Sep 27, 2014 at 22:45:17 PM PDT

If you want a summary of how I'm doing, I can give it to you in two words: I hurt.

This week, I tried to switch to healthier practices. And, in fact, I did do that. More sleep, healthier food, less time under fluorescent lights, some social time having fun, a massage. It wasn't enough.

I cannot even communicate what it's like to live with chronic pain every single day. Unfortunately, far too many people know exactly what it's like because they live with it too. But if you don't know, I can't tell you. There's just no way to describe it that would possibly be adequate. But I can try.

Monday through Friday of this week, I spent every single day with a migraine. They ranged in severity, but Friday's was pretty bad. So was Wednesday's.

It's anxiety-producing. Every time I think about my day, my week, and my life, I dread the future because I know it will be filled with more migraines. I feel fine right now, as I write this, but I know when Monday morning comes I need to go back to school, with its fluorescent lights, and I will get another migraine. And I will do that every day, all week, except Tuesday. On Tuesday, I have one class, which I'll attend via Skype. I cannot imagine a life like this, with a migraine every single day. It's just so hard to get up every day, often feeling fine, and go to a place that I know will leave me with a migraine for the entire rest of the day. There's a lot of dread and anxiety that goes with that.

When I'm invited to a place I want to go - a party, a restaurant, or an event on campus - first I get excited about going, and then I remember that the place might give me a migraine, since I get them from fluorescent lights and projectors. Barbara Ehrenreich and Naomi Klein are speaking on campus. I've already RSVP'd. I love them both. Then I remembered they might show powerpoints as they speak, and I'll get a migraine. Do I go? Do I skip it? Can I find out about the powerpoint in advance? (In the case of Barbara Ehrenreich, it sounds like I'll be in luck - I know someone who knows her, who says there's no way she'll use a powerpoint... but what if they set up a camera and project her face onto a screen while she speaks?) This causes a lot of anxiety.

I have to do this with every single place I go. I had to do it for a party this week. Thankfully, it was OK. The week before, another party wasn't OK. There was a TV, and I made them turn it off. Then they turned on a fluorescent light, and I made them turn that off. I hate asking people to turn lights and TVs off. I'd rather just go home and let them have their TV and their light on. Then my friends moved rooms, and I couldn't ask them to turn off the light because it was dark out, so I sat outside alone for a while, until they joined me out there and had a bonfire.

Migraines are a time suck. Think about your day, and how many things you have to do. Now imagine getting all that done while either having a migraine, or not doing it because you need hours of extra sleep to get rid of a migraine. When I'm at school, I have to stick it out with a migraine til I can go home. When I'm at home, if my head hurts, then I try to sleep. I have to get my school work done, and I have to eat and shower and things like that. Other things fall through the cracks. Fun stuff, exercise, dishes, the litterbox, some of the work I'm supposed to do.

It's a vicious cycle. Stress, poor diet, goofy sleep schedules, lack of exercise, and anxiety lead to more migraines. But the migraines lead to stress and anxiety and goofy sleep schedules and all the rest, since when do I have time to exercise and cook healthy meals if my head always hurts?

It's alienating. Everyone else goes to class and works in their offices. Not me. I skype in to many of my classes. I work from home. I can't go to movies. I don't watch TV. I don't get the pop culture references. For my Friday seminar, I sit in a hallway outside the room and listen in, while everyone else sits around a table inside the room and participates. I wish I could attend classes with everyone else, and socialize with my fellow students before and after class. I wish I could see the chalkboard or the computer for my statistics class, so I know exactly what my professor's talking about as he lectures (I can only hear it) and I could take notes on what he writes on the board.

People ask how are you and the right answer is "fine." But I'm not fine. I'm on the verge of tears much of the time. Can I make myself just say fine and pretend? It's gauche to say otherwise, to tell the truth. "I'm not fine, I'm a mess. I'm desperately looking for someone or something that can help. Is it you?" Then the person who was just being polite is stuck hearing my sob story and that's not what they were committing to with the simple question "how are you?"

It's expensive. For years, I spent a fortune on full price prescription drugs and I could not get insurance (pre-existing condition). Then I got insurance. Still, I need weekly or biweekly massages, and those aren't covered. I need healthy food. I'm having a hard time taking the bus to school and might have to pay for parking. Cars are key to making a quick escape when your head is killing you. There's nothing worse than waiting an hour for a fucking bus when you've got a migraine. Add to that all the jobs I cannot do because of my migraines. Anything with a projector, TV, video, or fluorescent lights, basically. As much as I'm struggling with school, at least they are putting up with me because I'm a student. A corporation would want to fire me. I'd be earning a lot of money if I was still in software consulting, with a migraine every day. But why should I get a migraine every day to earn a living?

It's maddening. I'm too disabled for many jobs, but not disabled enough to be officially disabled. I am capable of doing work - from home - but so far have not found a way to make enough money to live on that way, despite five years of trying.

There's one thing I haven't tried yet: botox. I'm going to try it. As soon as possible. I've gone to my primary care doctor and I've gotten a referral to neurology for botox and everything else related to my damn head and all this pain. Apparently it takes six months to get an appointment. I've called the neurology department several times to ask to speak to a nurse to see if she can get me in quicker. Apparently, she's just now working on scheduling patients who were referred in early September, and my referral came in much later. Because why would there be any urgency to help patients with daily head pain? They can wait six months. Right?

Sometimes people think my problem is made up. I've had bosses ask me "If you could make your headaches better, would you want to?" as if I'm doing this on purpose. To inconvenience them.

Lots of people want to help. They tell me to drink more water, try Imitrex, chant a Buddhist mantra, give up gluten, try acupuncture, and on and on. I've tried 20 different medications by my last count. They don't work. None work. Except for Percocets, which is addictive, so you can't take them frequently. I save them for emergencies and never use them more than once every two weeks no matter what.

Many times I feel lazy. I am embarrassed. I sleep a lot. I never have enough money. I must be doing something wrong. It makes me ashamed of myself. But the truth is that I am not lazy, I am disabled. Despite this, I hold myself to the same standards as everyone else, as all of the able bodied people. And I don't measure up.

I couldn't make my life work as a freelance journalist. I was happy for the most part, but did not earn enough money to live on. I thought grad school would be a solution. I knew it'd be tough. I knew I'd have to move away from California and to a place with cold weather and no mountains. I knew there would be a lot of reading, and a lot of work. Fine. I can do that. But I can't do it with a migraine every single bloody day. Nobody could.

So where am I now? I hurt. Physically, emotionally. I hurt.

Discuss :: (4 Comments)

Grad School Kicking My Butt

by: Jill Richardson

Mon Sep 22, 2014 at 12:00:21 PM PDT

Hello from freezing Wisconsin. I'm told the weather here is actually pleasant and that it will soon get worse. I think I will have a nicer fall if I just remain in denial about that until it happens.

Grad school has been kicking my butt, but not in the normal ways that it generally kicks butts. For most people, it's just the work that gets them. I can handle the work. For me, it's the lifestyle and migraines. Thus, I have not been blogging - but I also have not been doing anything blog-worthy. Mostly, I've been getting to class, getting home from class, doing homework, eating, sleeping, and having migraines. And petting my new kitten.

Sierra
New kitten. Her name is Sierra. Sitting still enough to pose for pictures is not one of her skills at present.

There's More... :: (4 Comments, 1094 words in story)

Quick Update

by: Jill Richardson

Sun Sep 07, 2014 at 20:02:14 PM PDT

First off, this blog has a sponsor for this month and the next, so I want to say thanks. The blog costs $15/mo and I don't know if the sponsor wants to be named so I will keep it quiet for now - but thanks!

Second, I apologize for my absence on here. This month's been nothing but stress. I left California on July 29 and arrived in Madison on August 3. The move stressed out my cat Meg, who stopped eating and became ill. I wrote an article about what happened, because I could see it happening to anyone. Or any cat, rather. If a cat stops eating for a few days, he or she can become ill like Meg did. I did not know she was sick until I took her to the vet August 15.

Meg's condition took a severe turn for the worse the evening of August 16. The vast majority of cats who suffer this problem recover, but Meg did not. I spent 10 days doing everything I could for my cat around the clock - literally - and she did not make it.

The day Meg died was also the first day of grad school orientation, which lasted a week. Then this past week was the first week of school. Calling it a disaster would be an understatement. I think some things have been resolved, thankfully. But this will be a wild ride. It's the first time I've ever been assigned a research paper in a math class.

Just a reminder - this blog is set up for anyone to write, not just me. So please feel free to post whatever you'd like on here.

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Weed Rage

by: Jill Richardson

Sun Aug 24, 2014 at 21:33:30 PM PDT

If you know me, you probably know I am passionate about my love for edible, medicinal weeds. There are a lot of reasons why I'm bummed to move from San Diego to Wisconsin, but one of the few things that are better in WI than in CA is the ample supply of useful weeds.

In my yard, I've got plantain and dandelion. I've found curly dock, thistles, burdock, black mustard, wild oniony something, and poke growing around town. (Note: Poke is toxic unless you know what you're doing with it.) Another friend has lambsquarters and mallow in her yard. She's even got lemon balm and catnip growing in her yard as weeds. And one lucky neighbor had an enormous supply of purslane (probably my absolute favorite edible weed) growing under their fence in their front yard.

Unfortunately, my lawn was mowed shortly before I arrived. My edible treasures were cut down to nothing. I was waiting for it to grow out to go nuts gathering dandelions and plantain. Then I'd occasionally walk past the neighbors to gather purslane to eat - and to gather the seeds and broadcast them in my yard. And I got a lemon balm start to see if I could establish it in my yard too.

Then, two days ago, the owner of my place (I'm renting) had a lawn mowing service mow the lawn - and all of my weeds. And my lemon balm. I am pretty upset about it.

Today I went for a walk to gather mallow, purslane, and lambsquarters. Thankfully, some neighbors do not mow their lawns too regularly. But the neighbors with the purslane apparently weeded it all by pulling it out by the roots.

This is, honestly, upsetting. I realize these people are normal and I'm the aberration. But we as a society are using lots of resources to grow and transport and buy food and then were are using more resources to get rid of the free food growing right in our own front yards.

Not to mention what we do with medications. I'm not against Western medicine, and I rely on prescription drugs for my migraines. Sometimes, I have not had the best luck using herbs. But sometimes I have. Odds are you have too if you use aloe on your sunburns. The other day I was picking up some stuff at Walgreens and the person in front of me was getting some dyed red probably ineffective and bad tasting god knows what for colds. And that's where herbs are really your friends. A good herbal tea and some homemade soup can do far more for your upper respiratory symptoms than the bullshit stuff you get at Walgreens. And here we all are going to lengths to eradicate these helpful plants from our yards.

Thank goodness echinacea comes from an ornamental flower. At least people around here cultivate that instead of mowing it down. If only they could reform their attitudes about dandelions too!

One more complaint? There are several trees in the neighborhood sporting signs saying they were treated with pesticides. Great. There goes my hopes for getting a beehive and raising my own honey. Because you can't control where your bees forage for pollen and nectar, so if anyone uses pesticides it can spoil it for everyone who wants to raise bees within several miles.

Stay tuned and very soon I will have a book review of a new book about edible and medicinal weeds. I'm just finishing up reading it. It's called the Wild Wisdom of Weeds by Katrina Blair.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Gardening in the Frigid North

by: Jill Richardson

Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 21:48:58 PM PDT

After moving from California to Wisconsin, I decided to start a garden ASAP. Why ASAP? Because if I don't do it now, I can't do it until the spring. I mean, I'm sure I can plant garlic in October to harvest next summer, and I can plant a cover crop of some sort... but if I want to harvest something before 2015, I better get planting now. And for some things, it's still too late.

Even so, gardening here is like night and day from California. My entire world has turned upside down, garden-wise. For example: If I put worms in my compost bin, will they freeze and die during the winter? I don't know the answer. I have a hunch that with enough mass, a compost pile could generate enough heat to keep worms alive through the winter, but how big does it have to be to do that? My new one isn't the generally accepted 3x3x3 size that a pile ought to be, since it's just a little bin outside my door. The exact size my worm bin has always been... in California. Where it doesn't freeze all winter long.

Here are some thoughts.

There's More... :: (6 Comments, 1251 words in story)

Keeping the Lights On

by: Jill Richardson

Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 12:15:55 PM PDT

You might have noticed that this blog was down for the past few weeks. What happened? Quite simple. The bill came due and I didn't have the cash. I hopefully will in the near future - that's why I'm going to a grad school where I've got free tuition and guaranteed funding for 5 years - but I don't start getting paid for being a TA til October 1, and I just moved from California to Wisconsin, which wasn't cheap. I mean, it was as cheap as I could make it, staying in Motel 6's and only taking what I could fit in my car, but it still cost something. Plus today's fun: taking the cat to the vet since she keeps peeing outside her box. Cross your fingers that she isn't diabetic. Whatever that would cost, I can't afford it.

An angel swooped in and paid the $60 owed on this blog, which is why it's up and running again, but it costs $15/mo and they bill me monthly. I just received a bill for August. I'm going to try to stay current with the bills, which will be easier once I start getting paid regularly from my teaching assistantship. This month's going to be rough financially, thanks to the move. If anyone reads and appreciates this blog, or perhaps writes on it and gets value from that, you can help keep the blog up by sponsoring it for a month.

If you would like to sponsor the blog for a month, you can send me money on Paypal to the email address OrangeClouds115 at gmail dot com, and I will send it directly to the blog people as payment. As a thank you, I would love to recognize you by name on the blog or post an ad of your choosing (it can be for a product but it can also be for an event, a website, or just a bit of text saying whatever the heck you want) on the top left corner of the blog for the month.

Thanks,
Jill

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Backpacking Food: Successes and Failures

by: Jill Richardson

Fri Jul 25, 2014 at 13:00:44 PM PDT

I recently posted about my attempt to eat "real food" while backpacking for 4 days in Yosemite. I feel a follow-up is in order.
There's More... :: (0 Comments, 715 words in story)

The Best Way to Hike Mt. Whitney

by: Jill Richardson

Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 15:53:33 PM PDT

This past week, I hiked to the top of Mt. Whitney. Depending on who you talk to, it is either 14,496 ft, 14,497 ft, 14,505 ft, or 14,508 ft. No matter what, it's the highest peak in the lower 48 states. And it requires no technical climbing or mountaineering skills to get to the top. Which is why people come from all over the world to hike it.

I think that's the wrong reason to do the trail. Don't hike it because it's the tallest; hike it because it is GORGEOUS. It's an incredibly pleasant, relatively easy trail (with the exception of a part near the top), and it's a really worthwhile hike even if you don't plan to go to the top.

Read on to find out why most people hike Whitney the wrong way (in my opinion) and how to do it right.

Mt. Whitney
Whitney's summit is smack in the middle of this pic.

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 2961 words in story)

Yosemite Wildflowers

by: Jill Richardson

Mon Jul 07, 2014 at 15:28:24 PM PDT

I'm told that this was a lousy year for wildflowers thanks to the drought. It was certainly a lousy year for waterfalls. On the flipside, there were fewer mosquitoes than usual (don't worry, there were still plenty and they ate well this weekend).

Lousy or not, the wildflower display was spectacular. Here are my photos. They are mostly taken at altitudes ranging between 7000-8000 feet, although a few come from lower altitudes as I descended the Yosemite Falls Trail. We backpacked from Porcupine Flats at Tioga Rd, past Yosemite Falls toward Eagle Peak, and then backtracked to the Yosemite Falls Trail, taking that down to Yosemite Lodge in the valley. I also did a day hike to North Dome and hiked along Indian Ridge and on the trail toward Eagle Peak.

Trip 2 Group Photo
Here we all are, ready to go!

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 891 words in story)

Putting It All Together: Backpacking Meal Planning

by: Jill Richardson

Thu Jun 26, 2014 at 10:23:38 AM PDT

As always, attempting to eat real food while backpacking is an uphill battle. To date, I've only done overnight backpacks, never multi-day trips. I've also never ventured into bear country. But I am about to do both.

There are some things that work in hiking and backpacking, until they don't. My old hiking boots and insoles were fine, until I began doing longer hikes and carrying a 20 lb pack on my back. Then I got tendinitis. Bringing fresh fruit and peanut butter sandwiches works on an overnight trip. For a longer trip, you can bring them for the first day - but after that you need a different plan. And don't even get me started on bathroom strategies that work for the very short term but prove catastrophic if attempted on longer hikes.

Thus, my overnight trips prepare me to a certain extent for my upcoming trip to Yosemite, but I'm basically wading into unfamiliar territory. And I'm almost guaranteed to be the only one in the group who doesn't simply pull out a plastic bag of freeze-dried god knows what, pour boiling water in, eat it, and then pack away the bag as trash. At the end of the meal, I'm the only one with dirty dishes. So here's my plan.

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 897 words in story)

Camp Food Product Review: Larabar, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Flavor

by: Jill Richardson

Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 14:35:48 PM PDT

Prior to a long hike, I ran to the store for energy bars and went with the brand that was cheapest, thanks to a sale. In this case, it was the Larabar. I got two flavors, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, and a chocolate coconut flavor. The latter did not taste good. The former was delicious. I went back and bought about 10 of them.

But how does it stack up nutritionally?

The following nutritional recommendations are made assuming one is doing strenuous exercise for several hours. In fact, if you are sitting on your tush at home, then following this advice would be very bad for you.

My backpacking class recommends energy bars that are no more than 8 to 10g protein and no more than 4g fat per 230 calories. It also recommends 5g or fewer of fiber - and says to drink lots of water with your bar. The upshot of all of this is that your body isn't doing much in the way of digestion while you exercise, so you want to give it an easy job (i.e. refined carbs).

  • Product: Larabar
  • Flavor: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip
  • Price per bar: $.99 on sale
  • Selling Points: Gluten free, non-GMO, kosher, with fair trade chocolate. NOT organic.
  • Weight: 45g
  • Calories: 220
  • Protein: 6g (good)
  • Fat: 11g (way too high)
  • Fiber: 3g (good)
Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Trail Eats

by: Jill Richardson

Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 18:04:49 PM PDT

I don't know about you, but my entire mindset as an adult and even before that has been about limiting my calorie intake, limiting the calorie dense foods I consume, and limiting the amount of refined carbs I eat. And throw in limiting salt and NOT drinking my calories. I don't always succeed at this, and I have several pounds of fat on my body to prove it, but I try.

With that kind of a mindset, it's a bit disconcerting to switch gears and plan what to eat on a long hike or an overnight backpack trip.

All of a sudden, you're burning 1000 or 2000 calories per day by hiking (or more even) and you NEED to eat a lot of calories. In fact, it's dangerous not to. You're losing salt through your sweat. And you might even feel nauseated or not very hungry while you are exerting yourself. Digesting protein, fat, and complex carbohydrates isn't easy, so refined carbs and sugars are the way to go. And, for a backpack, whole foods like fruit can be heavy - not to mention perishable if it's a longer trip - so now you're really limited to the stuff that you normally try to avoid eating. In fact, suddenly drinking your calories sounds like a downright great idea!

I'm interested what others eat in such a situation.

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 679 words in story)

San Jacinto, Sort Of

by: Jill Richardson

Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 23:59:18 PM PDT

Yesterday I hiked up most of Mt. San Jacinto. It's the second tallest mountain in southern California, located in between Idyllwild and Palm Springs, and it stands at 10,843 ft. From the peak, you can see all the way to the Salton Sea. Or, I should say, from near the peak, because I did not get to the peak.

Yesterday I learned a very important lesson. There are times when you are aiming to hit the summit and, at a certain point, you need to realize that you aren't going to the summit and your new goal is to save your own behind and get off the mountain while you can. Which I did. I was 0.3 mi from the summit when I turned around.

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 2079 words in story)

Weight Loss, Diet, Exercise, and a Thank You

by: Jill Richardson

Wed Jun 11, 2014 at 22:50:57 PM PDT

Since I moved to San Diego, I've gained 50 lbs. That's five-oh. And I'm 5'3". I came here weighing less than I usually do, but then I got a job at a bakery, gained it all back, and then kept going.

This year, I've started losing it again. I don't know what I weigh. I don't own a scale. But I do know that I now fit into a dress I haven't worn since 2007. And a male acquaintance I ran into this week was totally checking me out all of a sudden. One person I had met once before and ran into again said she didn't even recognize me. And I know that my body feels GREAT all the time, and I'm suddenly capable of doing amazing things I couldn't do before, like going on 11 mile hikes up steep mountains while carrying a heavy pack on my back.

So this blog post is about what happened. And it's also a thank you to someone who deserves a lot of credit for helping me find my passion and believing in myself.

There's More... :: (7 Comments, 2044 words in story)
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