Categories
Emotional Work

Day 635 and Wide Horizons

I am absolutely wiped at the moment as I rode a wave of enthusiasm all day. I felt focused, energetic and free of self doubt. I felt like my life was open to possibility.

Perhaps it’s the regular reminders of personal responsibility I get in therapy. Perhaps it’s it’s the sense of accomplishment I got from completing my wilderness medical incident certification last week. The case of the Yips that I felt a few days ago is swiftly resolving.

The strength in my marriage with Alex has always been our commitment to working through our emotional journeys together. He was able to be reassuring my through slow climb back from the depths of my health challenges. He helped me turn it into a source of strength. Next year will be ten years together and Alex really got the “in sickness” portion of the vows a little earlier than anticipated.

This is the first time in both of our lives we’ve ever truly been stable. And that’s a strange thought. That our lives have been so chaotic for so long. We finally have money and a home we own and good health and it’s all at the same time. All of the instability of startups and limited resources and bad health are over. And only really in the last six or seven weeks has that been true. As we just finally bought our first home. We moved to Montana in August.

We climbed through the aftermath of the Great Recession together, made our first angel investments together, raised venture capital together, and now finally thanks to the pandemic we’ve been able to secure a place to live and a wide horizon to plan how to use our resources and time. I am responsible for talking this blessing and letting it provide the foundation for our long term goals. Millennials might just accelerate in middle age just yet! I know it feels like I am.

Categories
Aesthetics Travel

Day 633 and Hospitality

One of the things my husband Alex and I were most excited by when we bought our homestead in Montana is inviting our friends and family to stay with us. We have an entire floor of the house dedicated to guests and have plans to turn part of our barn into a separate guest house as well.

We’ve begun the process of designing and furnishing our guest floor. We have two rooms, a bathroom and a separate living room. The furniture is slowing turning up. Which means it is time to work on the details of making it as comfortable and hospitable as possible. Naturally we asked Twitter to weigh in on what makes people feel at home in someone else’s house. And you did not disappoint.

Toiletries

Traveling with full toiletries and skincare can be a challenge especially when flying. Here is a list of the most requested grooming items and toiletries

  • Hairdryer
  • Roundbrush & Styling Tools
  • Shampoo & Conditioner & Body Wash
  • Lotion & Body Moisturizer
  • Skincare Basics (SPF, Face Creams)
  • Skincare single use masks for face & under eye bags
  • Dental Care (Brush, Paste, Floss)
  • Small Individually Wrapped Soap
  • Q-Tips & Cotton Rounds
  • Tampons & Pads
  • Tissues
  • Bandaids & Pimple Patches
  • First Aid Items (Headache, Allergy)

Bathroom Comfort

Grooming items isn’t the only thing that you need in the bathroom. Personal hygiene requires some thought.

  • Trash Bin
  • Dark Towel for Makeup Removal
  • Plenty of Extra Bath Towels
  • Wash Cloths
  • Hair Towel & Turban
  • Extra Towel Hooks
  • Plunger & Brush
  • Bidet and Squatty Potty
  • Septic Care Sign
  • Cleaning Items
  • Extra Toilet Paper
  • Tissues
  • Poo-pouri or matches to mask smells

Organization

Keeping your personal items from overflowing can help make a guest room feel more comfortable. Remember power strips & plugs! Some of the most requested items include:

  • Pens & Notepad & Scissors
  • Desk Power Station
  • Bedside Power and USB
  • Hangers (including pant & skirt)
  • Trays/Landing Zones for small items
  • Coat Hook
  • Dresser & Closet Space
  • Full Length Mirror

Bedding and Sleeping

Getting a good night sleep in a new place can be very challenging. Providing for your guest’s sleep and relaxing needs was a top request.

  • Extra Pillows
  • Hypoallergenic Options
  • Duvet Cover
  • Robes & Slippers
  • Dirty Clothing Bins & Laundry
  • Dimmer & Good Bedroom Lighting (not too bright, preferably lamps)
  • Books & Reading Materials
  • Nightstand Space (w/ power & USB strips)
  • Eye Masks & Earplugs (ideally also blackout curtains)
  • Water Glasses & Jugs
  • Wifi QR Codes
  • Speakers or White Noise Machine

Other requests including desks and working areas. Our current plans are to have adjustable standing desks and ergonomic work chairs in each bedroom. Plenty of landing spaces and areas to keep your items visible but not cluttered (including luggage stands) is also commonly requested. Separate sitting, sleeping and working areas is best. Also a surprisingly large number of people suggested a white board. So clearly our friends like to brainstorm on the road. External monitors and keyboard were also mentioned.

We have plans to write a basic FAQ document that includes things how the house works. We will include details on water filtration (we have an expensive filtering system so you can drink from any tap in the house), where food is kept and expectations on hours and interaction. Also details on things like heating and cooling are crucial for comfort. People should be able to maintain their ideal temperatures for sleeping and working.

We are also planning to outfit the guest common areas (private to guests and separate from the house common areas) with a mini-fridge stocked with favorite beverages and snacks. Having a coffee maker and tea service was a popular request as well. We are also considering extra boots and outdoor gear for city guests that do not have country gear or simply cannot travel with Wellingtons and barn coats.

Another huge area of interest was maintaining health and fitness. We have a full gym including squat rack, pull up bar, treadmill and a Pilates reformer along with mats for stretching and yoga. We’ve got a Theragun, medicine balls & foam rollers. I am also keen to have supplements for basics to keep your immune system happy like Vitamin D, C and Zinc. We also have a hot tub and have plans for an infrared sauna (might even include a cold plunge).

If you’ve got hospitality suggestions we’d love to hear them. And of course if you are one of our many virtual friends we’d be delighted if you’d consider becoming an “IRL” or in-real-life friend by coming to visit us. We are booked through October but would be thrilled to have you come for ski season!

Categories
Medical Preparedness

Day 630 and Sympathetic Nervous Response

One of the downsides of having any kind of medical bullshit is having to keep an eye on yourself. If you over do shit you’ve got no one to blame but yourself.

I’ve been doing a wilderness medical incident first responder course this week. I initially went into it slightly concerned with my ability to physically keep up given my ankylosis. I was easily the odd duck out in a group of former military folks, paramedics and wild land firefighters. If I’m honest I didn’t want to embarrass myself by showing too much frailty. I was already the only woman in the class. I didn’t need to be the cripple on top of that.

But over four days I’ve managed just fine. I did wound packing and splints. I did a number of incident scenario responses ranging from anaphylactic shock to heart attacks. I even did multiple mass casualty response drills. Today I managed one as a triage incident deputy and comported myself quite well.

I was feeling pretty cocky about how well I’d managed through the week. I was enjoying that sense of accomplishment right up until 5pm or so today when we had our last assignment of the day. We’d just finished up a drill with five patients who had been caught in a tornado. It was an hour of field work and triage outside. I was thinking alright maybe I’m getting the hang of thing. But no I was about to embarrass myself on one of the easiest tasks in the course.

It was time to pack up our own medical kits. We got a big baggie with all the supplies we could possibly need for our our first aid kits and dumped it out on the desk. Our instructor began going over all the items and how to pack them up into the bright orange brick that serves as your kit bag. I was doing my best to follow along but my brain was just not having it. I kept trying to figure out what items went where and how it was meant to go. And I was not remotely keeping up with the class or the instructions.

I’m starting to feel overheated and I’m struggling to concentrate. And it’s then I realize “oh shit I’m in a bunch of pain” and I realize I haven’t taken my pain medication for hours and it is starting to show. I just ran around in a big field doing triage for an hour. So I think to myself well I’m having a sympathetic nervous system spazz out. The pain and fatigue is sending me into fight or flight and I’m losing decent coordination and fine motor skills. I am becoming one of my own patients.

I didn’t finish packing out my kit. I had to excuse myself. I briefly considered if it would be funny to have a medical incident in a first responder course. But I was fully capable of treating my own acute stress response. I was getting worked up by an inflammatory response from my ankylosis and low and behold the pain in my spine was going to spike.

The end of the story is that I’m in bed and the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs have kicked in. My pulse and respiration are fine. I’m no longer in fight or flight. And yes I’m a little embarrassed that packing a bag is what did me in. But on the other hand, that’s a very “Julie” way to learn a lesson.

Categories
Medical Preparedness

Day 629 and Working in Chaos

If you have been following along for the past couple of days you may have noticed I’m at a wilderness medical first responder course. I’ve been soaking up an inordinate amount of information. Part of the reason I am here is personal enrichment, but equally I am here because I’m working to understand chaos driven industries and the opportunities they present.

And the class is not disappointing. As we’ve have absorbed more skills and are moving further into the course, the chaos factor is being ramped up. The particularly enjoyable aspect of the specific course I am doing is that it is not just imparting book smarts. It’s designed to be much more hands on.

If it were a business school class they would probably refer to the methodology as case studies. But instead of ruminating on what you would do if you were management you are reacting as if you were the actual first responder on the scene. And the cases are getting more and more complex.

We started out with with the basics. We were deducing issues and imparting stabilizing treatments. But as we got more comfortable with figuring diagnostics and rendering basic aid the complexity ranked up. At the end of the day today we were presented with a car accident and four patients.

As we ran (literally) onto the scene we had to not only unravel what had happened but also treat several patients in varying degrees of distress. One of our patients didn’t make it. There was nothing we could have done. But we didn’t know that going into the scene. When we arrived we had no idea what happened and had to untangle the triage ourselves.

I was surprised at how challenging it was to leap into action. As the chaos of the accident presented itself our group of first responders had to decide on organizing ourselves and our resources. But the instinct is to simply begin rendering aid.

And that tension between acting and organizing in a crisis never goes away. You just get better trained at how to approach it. Working in the chaos is the job. I honestly thought I’d be better at it. Taking charge and working in uncertainty is something I enjoy. But as with any new skill, it takes work and practice. A certain amount of pressure is the only thing that teaches you how to work in chaos. And I’ve still got a long way to go.

Categories
Aesthetics Community Preparedness

Day 628 and Intensity

If my brain is a sponge I think I’ve been sopping up more than I am designed to handle. But I am holding on and facing a lot of new information and acting on it quickly.

I’m at a wilderness medical first responder class. And I’m the odd duck out on the class. Everyone else is living with much harder realities than I do. They are the ones that fight our wars. Provide our security. Fight our fires. They keep up with where our most vulnerable live. It’s an on the margin make your best call world.

My body can feel that this reality is very different from what I live with and on different class and wealth bands. People that are more buffered from harsh realities often don’t want to face the costs of our lifestyles. But we are not in a morally neutral systems. And a lot of violence still happens on the margins.

I feel somewhat invigorated by the immediacy of decision making in these chaotic environments. If you are in a natural disaster like a wildfire your capacity to react calmly under extreme conditions is a given. So naturally we arm these people with more agency and skills as it’s a set of problems with a lot of nuance and grey areas too.

I am frankly exhausted even though I didn’t do anything that intense. I did some traumatic brain injury drills. And I worked on how to properly stint and secure broken bones if you are in the back country and need to hobble back in to society. I learned a lot about agency and context and the need for high emotional intelligence as you cope with those who are in need or duress.

I suppose with that in mind, it’s no surprise that I’d like to enjoy a good long night of sleep and a big breakfast in the morning. One has got to enjoy living when you have the chance.

Categories
Medical Preparedness

Day 627 and First Responder

My hands are stained blood red. Despite a good scrubbing, my cuticles definitely show that I spent time packing wounds today. Ok, fake wounds. And it’s fake blood. I am taking a wilderness medical incident certification course. And it is very hands on. Literally.

A firefighter packing compressed gauze into a femoral artery simulator

I got the opportunity to take a spot in a course that one of my friends teaches. I’ve got so much exposure to medicine after the last several years of health challenges that I’ve been yearning to upgrade my knowledge to something more practical than my own personal biohacking. So when Tom offered up a spot in his medical incident certification course for wilderness response, I said you know what fuck it I’m going to do it.

And I’m so glad I did. Not because I anticipate needing to apply a tourniquet in the back country of Montana. Or that I’ll be faced with packing a groin wound to stop someone from bleeding out when they are hours away from the hospital. Though I am glad I now know how. But because I think hands on experience with a rougher world is experience I need to do my job investing in an increasingly complex, chaotic and unstable world.

I was absolutely enthralled by the first day. It was me and a bunch of other much more experienced EMTs, paramedics and wildfire fighters. I also met a number of extremely savvy folks who special in fire and emergency incident response.

I was very much thrown into the deep end of first responder world and I’m not ashamed to say I “died” on the very first scenario test as I’ve got no idea what I’m doing. But I’m soaking up as much information as I can as fast as I can. Though not quite as fast as arterial blood gushes. Yet. Ask me on Friday if I’ve improved.

I couldn’t tell you precisely why I think this kind of hands on exposure to emergency response is so crucial but something deep in my gut says that I cannot possibly invest in a changing world without having some on the ground exposure.

The folks who are fighting our worst wildfires and responding to our most intense natural disasters know something visceral about chaos and the fragility of modernity that the rest of us do a lot to suppress.

Just casual conversations as we went through lessons and practice opened up my mind to new areas of opportunity. I found half a dozen blind spots I didn’t know I had. The world is much more chaotic than the media and our social channels let on. But it’s also possible to tackle them head on. We are not helpless. And it’s not hopeless. And I’m feeling fully empowered to deepen my relationship to chaos as I learn just when and where I have more agency.

Categories
Preparedness

Day 626 and Learning

I’ve been slowly making my way through a Korean show on Netflix called Extraordinary Attorney Woo. It’s about a young woman with autism who has a gift for the law. It’s warm hearted and charming and a bit of a relief to watch if you have autism or are on the spectrum. I highly recommend it.

The show really pulls on my heartstrings. The episode I am currently watching features the struggles of 10 and 11 year old kids who are at after school academic centers. I won’t ruin the plot but a young man sets out to “liberate” the kids by letting them play. I found myself tearing up the show went about discussing the need for healthy playtime.

I hated going to school even though I love learning. I found so much of the pressures of school upsetting. Being inside, being around lots of people and loud noises, and just generally being obligated to things like homework and deadlines to be exhausting and anxiety inducing. I found myself tearing up watching these Korean kids in similar situations.

I was quite lucky to have a mother who sent me to Waldorf schools and even the occasional home school year. When I could pace myself I’d would rapidly out run the curriculum. I just needed breaks and playtime and my own opportunities to self direct. I hated discipline from the outside but had plenty of my own if given the chance to be self directed.

I’m still an autodidactic type as an adult. This week I am taking a wilderness medical incident certification course. I’ve got some strong sense that this is meant to wrap around some wider learning experience about the practicalities of living in a more chaotic world. It’s a bit of learning by doing. Some perspectives have to be unraveled first hand.

Categories
Chronic Disease

Day 621 and Pain’s Anxiety

Before I was diagnosed with my spinal condition ankylosing spondylitis, I didn’t really understand that I was in pain. I know that sounds weird, but I just knows I felt like shit. I hadn’t yet pinpoint the origins of the crisis in my own body. I was a stranger to myself.

Back then getting a diagnosis involved a lot of questions about my mental health. Are you anxious? Would you consider taking an anxiety medication just to see if it help? Are you sure it’s not all in your head? No doctor I’m not sure of anything that’s why I’m asking you.

The thing is I did feel anxious. My central nervous system was in a perpetual state of fight or flight from the pain. I had tachycardia. I was twitchy. I wasn’t a sleeping well. I didn’t want to be touched. It hurt too much. I was exhausted all the time and felt overwhelmed that no one seemed to know what was wrong with me. I’m lucky no one asked me if I was depressed or I might have been put on Prozac.

I’m one of the lucky ones. My chronic disease has a simple blood panel and physical exam to diagnose it. It only took me a few specialists to get to a rheumatologist.

I fear I would have been given an anxiety diagnosis and told it was all in my head if I’d had something more complex. But thankfully we untangled that any anxiety or depression I felt was simply a function of being in an inflammatory condition so acute every movement was painful. You’d have a racing heart and a fear of movement or touch too if everything was painful to the touch

The thing is I am scared of my pain. I do regularly get caught in fight or flight fear responses if the pain appears and I’m not prepared for it. I am militant about certain aspects of self care and my biohacking as I fear flares. I fear the drugs that are required when it isn’t controlled. It makes me anxious to need drugs at all to control my symptoms. Especially in America where a war on drugs has made it hard to need anything stronger than Advil.

Everything about pain and it’s treatment is anxiety inducing in America. And that’s a hard comorbidity to live with in a disease. As if pain wasn’t enough, the latent fear that you might not be believed lingers.

Categories
Preparedness

Day 620 and AQI

I am in the throes of a horrifying migraine. The take two Imitrax and pray type. It’s also the nausea inducing type so I’ve not eaten all day. I feel awful. And it’s mostly not my own fault even though I often like to blame flares in symptoms on my own lack of discipline or purity in maintaining some Platonic ideal of lifestyle or wellness regimen.

It is fire season in the west and I’m sure some, if not most, of my migraine is tied to the horrifying air quality that is choking out thousands of miles of California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.

An AQI reading of western America on September 12th at 3:48pm Mountain Time from PurpleAir

The AQI or air quality index in my neck of the woods is 160. Unhealthy for sensitive individuals is the coy and somewhat misleading phrase used. It means in practical terms visibility is so bad I can’t see the mountains a few miles away.

Montana is at the moment free of any major fires. Our colder temperatures, lack of pervasive fire beetle blight, and reduced density makes it statistically safer than the Colorado front range when it comes to total fire danger. But it’s no safer from prevailing winds and the pollution from fire in other states. In order to escape from it entirely I’d probably have to leave the continent.

I’ve obviously opted not to leave my home region of the mountain west even if I have accepted moving to a more northern and protected corner of it. But there is a certain existential “No Exit” sense I have with AQI and fire season in general. It may just be my lot in life. Maybe it’s everyone’s lot. To give up your homeland is a complicated fight. I expect for some of humanity it must involve either certain death or the prospect of great riches

Categories
Aesthetics

Day 619 and Indoor Clothes

I have one issue on which I am a little obsessive compulsive. I hate when someone wears dirty clothes on a clean bed. It just drives me absolutely up the wall.

I suspect this is born of some totally rational preferences. I am very outdoorsy and always have been. As a child I spent as much time as I could negotiate at the barn. I worked as a stable hand as part of keeping my own horse’s board and feed paid. If you’ve ever kept animals or worked on a farm you know how barn clothes smell at the end of a long day. You don’t wear your barn clothes except when you are choring. It’s rude.

Then when I left Colorado for New York City I found another reason that your work clothes should be taken off at the door. Instead of smelling like manure, urine and stale sweat after a long day mucking stales you’d smell like shit, piss, the subway and traffic exhaust. City smells are no more polite to bring inside than barn smells. Getting splashed by a cab or sitting too close to someone who hasn’t showered in a while on the subway is just normal life in a city.

You can probably imagine now a routine in which I take off my outdoor clothes and swap them for my clean indoor clothing. I try to do this as fast as is possible. I can’t fully relax unless I know I’m in my indoor clothing. Because unless I’m clean I cannot get into bed. And there can be no dirty clothes on clean beds.

I simply will not let myself even get on top of the comforter of my bed with outdoor clothing on. If I want to get under the covers and fully relax at home, I better be in clean designated “indoor clothing.”

It still upsets my brain when I see a teenager on television lounging on their bed with shoes and jeans on. Maybe suburban sitcoms neighborhood are a cleaner environment than the one I grew up in?

Or when an adult couple is about to get it on and then tumble into bed with their coats and jackets and high heels. I just hate that. I shudder. I don’t want to bring dirt and shit into my love making. Sorry it’s just my preference no shame if that’s your kink. But absolutely not in my house.

I’ve finally fully trained my husband on this quirk. He keeps a clean set of pajamas to change into and is careful to keep barn clothes to the barn. As for me, I like this quirk. I keep a cleaner house because of it. Sure it’s a little weird but I love a nice clean safe place.