A blog about living outside, first in my car, then in tents.

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My 3rd Monsoons: Kissing Bugs, Ticks and Pack Rats oh my!

Where pack rats go, so go bugs that bite and suck around the nose and mouth – or anywhere – at night. Big nasty kissing bugs. I found one IN my bed when I shook out my blanket this week. I killed it. It was so full of bright red blood (human? canine?) that it’s probably permanently stained the piece of clothing I killed it with. The day before I found a tick crawling up the tent wall. The wall against which my cot is pushed. One foot above the mattress. Dwyn was sporting a cozy collection of four small ticks on his forehead, all huddled together. I’ve pulled out ticks swollen beyond belief...
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January 2014: Mold Slows Me Down

It’s early August and I’m catching up blog entries by posting monthly summaries: * January: I’ve been here close to two months when I notice my health starts declining. As wonderful as this camp site is, it is close to a creek, full of dying mesquite trees covered in lichens, on top of fertile soil covered in two kinds of mushrooms — a giant type with dark ‘dust’ inside and a smaller button-sized species. Plus, the site used to be an animal corral, so every day I walk over old horse manure. A pig, chickens and other critters also lived here. An old stock pond at the edge of camp is dried out now...
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Research Links Mold with Cognitive Function Decline

I knew mold was bad for me. I knew it was responsible for a large part of my fatigue. I did not know it could explain all the cognitive problems I’ve developed in the last few years. I also did not know until recently that one of the country’s leading medical experts in mold and health has a practice right around the corner from me (well, “around the corner” in rural terms). While looking up the phone for Dr. Michael Gray in Benson, Arizona, I found a short YouTube video interview with him that has astounded me. I urge you to view it if you have a child in school, an interest in your...
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Poor Memory for Names AND Faces: Please Re-introduce Yourself

Declining memory is a function of middle age, but one of the features of my odd mix of health problems is what feels to me to be a severe decline in memory. I have always been bad with both names and faces, and now it is worse than ever. I’ll never forget, though, the time I was walking around the block and saw a neighbor I hadn’t seen for maybe a year. I didn’t recognize her. I greeted her as if she was new in the neighborhood. She lived next door. Talk about a faux pas. Sorry, Karen! The problem is health-related. The impact is social. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen...
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Hairspray and Chemical Sensitivities

I came into the library to work on a modest writing job, but there are three people talking and I can’t focus. So I checked email and did a couple easy things. Then a woman walked in saying she had just come from the beauty salon. She smelled only mildly of hairspray. She sat down and talked with the two librarians. My whole body went hot. Sweat broke out on my forehead. Now the headache is setting in. This is chemical sensitivities in action. I’m out of here.
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A Chemically Sensitive Day: Knocked Out

Saturday at the furniture sale I’m having on weekends I had four chemical exposures. By 2 p.m. I was knocked out, closed the sale early and had to rest. I woke up before the alarm feeling well. I bathed, dressed and cooked a couple eggs on the propane tank-top pan holder. I stopped in town to pick up water and nuts for lunch. The clerk working always wears a cloud of perfume, and I always just endure the subsequent reactions. This morning a woman wearing a cloud of bug spray followed me into the store and ended up in line behind me. So as I put my selections on the counter, the clerk’s perfume...
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Mired in Depression

Despite a long history of depression, it usually takes a lot to get me down. By the time I feel crushed with despair and crashed with the physical manifestations of depression (especially fatigue), I have a list of things going wrong. Here’s the current one, other than the obvious challenges of homelessness: I can’t write for the blog because my computer is down. Writing for the blog has provided my primary daily rhythm these past months living in my car. Without my computer, I actually feel bereft. This last round of daily rain — how many days in a row? Seemed like a lot — was hard on me. Winter is coming. Fall is...
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There but for the Grace of God (“On Gratitude and Suffering,” Part I)

I wrote this essay in 1999 while living in upstate New York. These reflections, from a time in my life that many things were working well, seem relevant to “Living in My Car, With Dogs.” I have broken the essay into four parts. PART I: There but for the Grace of God I have so much to be grateful for. So many people who have had the experiences of abuse, violence, loss, and mental health challenges that I have had are on the streets, or in a brothel, or dead of suicide like two of my childhood friends, or living the life of the dead see-sawing between heroin-induced haze and prison-imposed regret like another...
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The Price of Popcorn and a Donut

I’m sweating and its only 77 degrees out. My back against the car seat feels like I’m standing in front of a furnace or like my body is the furnace. My eyes kept closing for a second too long on blinks during the drive back from the city today. My upper back is contracting, the flesh and muscles pulling in on themselves. Getting out of the car my hip and knee joints feet like they needed an oil can. And I am SO tired I feel I could fall over. All this because two days ago I ate half a bag of SmartFood (popcorn covered in cheese) and finished the bag for breakfast the...
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Displaced by Cattle AGAIN

Cattle are EVERYWHERE. I saw them in the area (i.e. between cattle guards) driving to the site two nights ago. The next morning about a dozen ambled by 50 feet from the car. I piled the tents and the outdoor rugs I use for dog beds on top of the army cot someone gave me. “Cows will walk over everything,” someone pointed out recently. Last night, after the heavy rain that left both dogs wet and me curled up around Carlos’ seat, I opened the door to let Carlos out and he immediately barked. I swore, called him back in and closed the door. A while later I opened it and Carlos exited without...
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Homelessness Among the Chemically Sensitive

Chemical sensitivity is likely among the many “chronic health conditions” that homeless Minnesotans endure (see yesterday’s blog post). People like me with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS) are at great risk of homelessness because so many houses and alternative abodes make us ill. For me, it has been easier finding housing free of triggering chemicals than it has finding housing free of mold. However, I am fortunately not as sensitive to chemicals as many people, for whom the world is an obstacle course. This brief article on chemical sensitivities and homelessness, particularly in Arizona, was written several years ago, but every word still rings true. The broader picture is this: Many of the chemicals that...
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Homeless with Health Problems: Data

This chart is from a three-year survey of homeless adults in Minnesota, found at TCDailyPlanet.net. The report also states: “Three out of four homeless adults have one or more of three major health issues: mental illness, substance abuse disorder, or a chronic physical health condition.” This provides an interesting way to predict or guess your own chances of becoming homeless, or those of someone you love. Turns out, it can happen to folks we never thought would lose everything! How many of these three factors do YOU have?
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A Senior Moment?

A customer at the weekend furniture sale dropped off two $20 bills at K2’s office for items she had purchased. When I picked it up, I needed to give K2 $10 for sold items that belonged to another person. Holding the $40, I asked K2 for $10 in change. We walked four steps to her office and she handed me a ten dollar bill. Blank. Huh? I looked at the $10 bill in my right hand. I looked at the two $20’s in my left hand. Blank. What do I do? “Is that right?” she asked, watching me. “Yes,” I stalled. It clicked. I took a deep breath, covered my confusion, handed her the…$20.
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