Mike and I have been out on the road for a few months now and are busy learning the ropes of our newly nomadic lifestyle. Colorado has been just like a dream, and we really think we could live here someday. We are adding this state to the current top of the list of possible places we could land when we are ready to settle. The view from the Casita has been spectacular no matter where we have parked, and we just can’t get enough of the mountains and the wonderful people who call this place home. It is no surprise that Colorado is full of relocated Texans!
We have so many reasons to be grateful, and we lean into this traveling life happily. We can’t tell you how much it has meant to have all of the love and support of each of you. As we have adjusted to our new life out on the road, we find that days traveling are very much like days at home-your car breaks, your new buddies invite you over to have great food and to meet THEIR buddies, you worry about your kids, what’s for dinner…and you see things that cause your heart to expand in ways you never thought possible, and you eat, plan, dream, and lay your head down to rest just like you would at home. And you love, and you LIVE, and hopefully you share your gifts and talents, hopes and dreams and the important daily stuff with the people who love you.
Many choose to work, come home, shut out the world and say there is nothing they can do for themselves, let alone anyone else. Mike and I found out very early in life that there were things every single person could do to ease the suffering of another, and with that knowledge we have chosen to live our lives in service to others. I was a single parent for many, many years, and I was busy and stressed, but always found a way to make sure everyone around me was patted down and their needs were met. I often had very little time or energy left for my own needs. I worked several jobs simultaneously and went to college at night to ensure that my kids would have what they needed to get a decent start, but my body and spirit really paid a heavy price.
In 1999, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. At the time, I was managing a dental/surgical office full time, doing custom wall finishes and working as a gopher for a plumber/appliance/fix anything repairman at night while also attending college for architectural drafting. I was ten (or barely over five, lol) feet tall and bulletproof, or so I thought, and I was pulling it all off on two or three hours of sleep a night for years on end. My ten year marriage had ended, but not without the added bonus of homelessness and a very difficult struggle to create stability for my kids. In three months’ time, I had walked away from my marriage in Texas with two suitcases and two children and ended up living in a shelter and in my car (in winter, in Michigan), eventually finding an apartment for the kids and I where we lived for 12 years, enjoying the support of a close-knit Michigan community. I was a Cub Scout leader (and then Pack Leader) and I continued to do the volunteer work that I had always loved and to be involved in school activities to support my kids like tutoring and the After School Program. Those years were difficult, but rewarding. My kids and I learned to be resourceful, and I was able to really show them many practical ways to help others in need-both very valuable life lessons.
I had been through heart surgery a few years earlier, but I was feeling strong and able to keep moving at this pace endlessly. I was busy and tired, but willing to do most any kind of work to support my family. Once, I was climbing scaffolding to paint an elegant living room with a very high ceiling. I was excited because I had a vision, and I had a plan. I had painted nearly every other room in my client’s house with all sorts of fancy special effects, and now she was trusting me to have my way with her family room and to choose the color and finish I thought most appropriate. One step up, then on to the next-but my foot would not bend. It was as stiff as a board. At first I thought it was funny, and then I thought I might be experiencing a muscle spasm as I often had them at night from all of the ladder climbing. I took a minute to massage, beg, and threaten my foot, and eventually it budged and became flexible again. I wasn’t too worried about it at that point, but ended work for the day anyway. I had been feeling run down and I was experiencing the symptoms of a bladder infection.
I woke up to increased bladder pain, so I saw my family physician for an antibiotic. Unfortunately, the antibiotic gave me a horrible case of the hives. All at once and everywhere, the relentless itching ensued. I ran down to the urgent care office in the building where I worked, hoping for some relief. The doctor started poking and prodding and taking blood and such, and I itched furiously while awaiting the verdict. My hands had been pretty swollen for a few days but I thought it was related to all of the handyman type work I was doing on the side. He ran a SED rate test that checked for inflammation. I can’t remember the number, but I know it was sky high and he was very concerned. He told me that although it was not his place to say as he was not trained to diagnose autoimmune diseases, he felt strongly that I had rheumatoid arthritis because of the heat and swelling in my knuckles and the results of that day’s blood work. I had heard my mom talk about different types of arthritis that had run in the family but had no real experience with this disease as the relatives who had it had passed long before I was born. I gave her a call when I got home and she fell apart, bawling, reminding me of great-grandmothers on both sides who had “crippling arthritis” and were completely incapacitated by the time they reached 40 years of age. I took this seriously and made an appointment to see a rheumatologist.
Whatever was going on was severe from the onset, although thinking back I realize that I was often very ill as a child. It takes 6 months to a year (or it did back then) to reach diagnosis and to firmly entrench oneself in the endless exploration of ever more toxic substances to try to stop the progression of an autoimmune disease. At first they thought I had polymyalgia rheumatica due to extreme weakness and the fact that I would just fall over often and for no apparent reason. We tested for MS, and for one thing after another, but I had some overlapping symptoms and test results that suggested more going on than just RA. A diagnosis of mixed connective tissue disease was next, or the big “we aren’t sure”, whichever you prefer.
I continued to work and to take handfuls of daily medications, weekly injections, 5-6 hour monthly I.V. drips, and to read every single book I could find and all of the medical abstracts my doctors would give me to gain enough knowledge to make informed decisions about my health. Every drug that was available at that time was offered to me and I was the front line guinea pig for several very new and very dangerous medications. I developed a staph infection following an I.V. drip that took me over a year to resolve. I was very close to death several times during those years, and on a family trip eight hours from home I lost the use of one side of my body and had to get real with my kids about my mortality. My adrenal system failed at one point and my bones were dissolving from the heavy cortisone treatments that helped unfreeze stuck joints. I was dragging myself around with a cane, sometimes two, and hiding it as much as possible in an effort to keep my job.
Every doctor’s appointment brought a new and more frightening diagnosis. I developed lupus, degenerative spine disorder, epilepsy, osteoarthritis and osteoporosis and scleroderma, to name a few. I am surprised I do not glow in the dark from all of the x-rays and dye injection studies I agreed to over the years. I gave myself a Methotrexate shot for every week for 12 years that left me puky and exhausted for a day or two. The remainder of the week I struggled to recover from the effects of the shot and to adjust to ever changing heavy medications, severe pain, and relentless fatigue. I worked as hard as I could under the circumstances and felt guilty for not having much energy left for my kids. My weeks were filled with appointments, medical tests, and plenty of backed up work. I rested and slept with piles of work and homework on the bed next to me. My kids were often part of that pile, and I slept three hours at a time at the very most, and only if I could get any relief from my pain and obligations.
Things reached a head the day I was involved in a serious car accident that left me unable to lift my left arm due to a torn rotator cuff, whiplash, soft tissue injuries, and newly diagnosed fibromyalgia. My fear and pain were off the charts. My RA and other illnesses were already considered severe but I was working through it with my employer. Now I needed to miss work three days a week for physical therapy. My boss was not pleased, and when I had to have an emergency hysterectomy due to advanced endometriosis (which I had also ignored for years) and needed 6 weeks recovery time, I was let go. He told me he was afraid I would die in his office. I was forced to come to the realization that I had nothing left for work or school, and in 2004 I went home to wait to be declared permanently disabled.
It was a horrible time in my life. I spent several years in bed reading, sleeping, hurting, and begging God and all of his angels for relief from the unrelenting pain and constant worry I was feeling. I went into therapy to try to understand who I now was now that I could barely walk or dress myself. I read every single book I could find and did (most) everything the doctors said, but the diagnoses just kept coming. Many dear family members and friends turned away from me because they just could not watch me actively decompose. In hindsight I understand because it must have been horrible to watch this once cheerful girl fall into ruin. I kept my chin up in public but I spent a lot of time alone, crying, full of anger, and immersed in visions of what I thought would be my fate.
In public I was determined and flippant, often joking about my broken body and really developing a serious hatred towards this machine that was failing regardless of my best efforts. I was bitter, angry, tired, and grouchy. I had applied for Social Security Disability and had been denied. I filed an appeal and waited three and one half miserable years with no income other than child support. My daughter was a few months away from leaving for college and I had nothing to give her but my worn out used car. I felt hopeless and helpless, and even after I was awarded disability and my back pay check came, I was no better physically. My health was what I wanted more than a monthly check for my broken body.
My ace in the hole was the fact that when I say I read everything I could find about my illnesses, I mean I cleaned the library and Amazon OUT. I started really looking at alternative solutions and added them a little at a time. I was still willing to take dozens of daily pills and to be managed by seven head-scratching doctors. This photo of me and the kids at my daughter Courtney’s high school graduation speaks volumes. The ceremony was just across the street from home, but getting there and sitting for the ceremony was excruciating and there was no way to hide my pain. I cried through the whole ceremony because I was in so much pain that I was afraid I would not be able to walk up the stairs to leave the auditorium after sitting for several hours. I was very grateful to see Courtney graduate, and certainly there were tears of joy, but I didn’t know if I would be around to see Jon’s graduation day and that was very much on my mind as well.
In my search for peace and pain relief, I explored meditation and realized I had been practicing it in some form all of my life. I leaned into it and started finding little pockets of peace to cling to. I was only comfortable flat on my back on the floor, so I started doing small stretching exercises and really working on my flexibility which helped with my stability and stress level. I took hot Epsom salt baths and rubbed crystals into my aching muscles and started really thinking about what got me into this condition. I was carrying a lot of anger from the past and I was allowing people to take advantage of what was left of my good nature. I had to do some really intensive self- examination to start exploring the root causes of my illnesses. Was I truly a victim in all of this, or was there something I was doing or thinking that was causing these issues? I had walked away from many situations and many people that I never thought I could detach from in my quest for self-healing, and I was ready to LIVE instead of just give up and give in. It was painful, and many do not understand my decisions to this day. I saved my own life, though, by peeling off layers of anger and resentment that were causing physical illness to manifest in my body.
I realized that my idea of nutrition was eating a handful of Cheerios or the random saltine cracker just to take my medications, and I was seriously overweight and yet starving my body of what it needed to heal and function on a daily basis. The Prednisone and other meds had added lots of water weight to my body and had stolen my appetite for healthy food. My struggle with money had caused me to develop a habit of self neglect in many areas of my life. I was involved in another 10 year relationship with a man who loved me but was terrified of my illnesses and couldn’t bear to hear any more bad news. I was alone and hiding the reality of my situation from everyone except my closest friends, painting on my brave face and trying to make peace with my plight in private.
Eventually, the tipping point occurred, and I began to really put more work into getting better than feeling sorry for myself. I took energy healing classes and became a Reiki Master. I worked intensely on myself-mind, body and spirit-and leaned into the love of wonderful friends who supported my efforts and cheered me on. I left that 10 year relationship and took my son and headed back to where my heart will always be-Texas, my Texas. The three years we spent there were really hard physically and financially, but I had a mission, and I had help.
My son Jon was my closest ally and I will always be so very grateful for his help and encouragement during the time we lived back home in Texas (and every other day of his young life). I was having lots of weakness and instability, and my fatigue was at an all time high. My legs had atrophied and I was afraid every time I went out that I would fall so my world was a little condensed at that point. I started walking daily, sometimes only a teeny bit of the distance to the mailbox which was through my yard and across the parking lot, punctuated by long sits, and it seemed a million miles away on bad days. With every step I gained confidence (and muscle mass) and my outgoing personality slowly returned. I still had many bad days, but eventually I started venturing out of the bed to do creative projects like jewelry making and writing and also found nearby meetup groups to attend so I could make some local friends. After one crystal healing meetup, the group leader offered the leadership of the group to me. It was something I had been studying for years, so I was happy and grateful to share my knowledge and to get out of the house AND out of my own head. I started leading my own crystal healing meetup group. It offered me the chance to meet some fascinating new friends who were willing to hang out on the edge of my huge oak bed and talk, or to pull me out to the park to sit or to try out my little baby deer legs to see if they would work. I also agreed to co-lead a metaphysical speakers group, and an on-line crystal company found ME and offered me a job helping manage their content writers and consultants for their website, newsletter and other projects. I was getting paid to share my interests and to lead a group of talented, kindred spirits who didn’t see me as that lady with all of the horrible illnesses. I blossomed and really began to heal.
I had already begun tapering off some of my medications and was starting to feel my oats. My son decided he would like to attend college in Michigan, so I decided to head that way as well for a year or so to help get him settled in. There were days when I could do nothing but sleep, but I felt like I was starting to really heal and I steadily worked on feeding my body healthy foods, clearing my mind, and staying positive. I had avoided the I.V. drips and the shots at first, and now I was down to the smallest amount of the Prednisone, the drug that they said I would take for the rest of my life. In fact, many of my medications were considered to be lifelong medications in my case. I was busy breaking pills in half and trying to keep up my strength training through the bitterly cold winter. I was eating lots of fresh veggies and fruits, getting good rest and exercise, and seeing positive results. I was feeling very hopeful and optimistic.
I planned to share a booth at a local metaphysical fair with a few friends and was hoping to sell my jewelry and to advertise the paranormal investigation team I was part of. I was down to a very small number of daily pills, much, much less than the 20 plus different kinds I had been taking daily for many years. It was February and I was having some pain because of the cold, but I was determined to deal with it without the 8 Oxycodone tablets the doctors felt I needed per day. I had been in Michigan 6 months and had not yet filled a pain medication prescription. I still had half a bottle from Texas and I was happy that day to be sitting at our table virtually pain free, which had not been the case in years past.
It was the last day of the fair and we were getting ready to pack it all up and head home. We had seen many local friends and shop owners and had really connected with some interesting and talented people. There was a pleasant vibe in the room, and I was working on adding to it by spinning energy in the room like I always do, making sure everyone got a little “happy” stuck to them to take home to share with their loved ones. I was mentally creating little pink bubbles of light and sticking them to the heavy-coated folks milling around and watching the ease and peace ooze throughout the room.
I glanced up and saw a very handsome man talking to my friend and was immediately in awe of the beautiful golden light around him. He had his portfolio with him and was discussing business cards, banners and such, but I only heard a word or two here or there. Something about him just brought me a feeling of great peace. I am not sure whether I mumbled my name right away or not. I know he said that he was hoping to buy an RV and to travel the country, and it was at that point that I missed the rest of what he was saying. Before me was a gracious, lit up, very familiar gentleman. When he hugged me and said “hugs are the best thing in the world!” I knew that to be true. I felt like I had just hugged a very old long lost friend.
My friend and I spent a little bit of time talking to him as we packed up our vehicles. I told her something had just happened and I didn’t know what it was. It was the bite of the loooove bug, as I would soon learn. I can tell you that I went home and thought of nothing else but him, and was thrilled when he called to make plans to hang out the next day. We talked long into the night and found much common ground.
I asked Jon to drive me out to visit him at 58 Mile Rd (actually, 23 Mile Road, but he exaggerates). There was a dangerous snowstorm that night and I stayed over. I literally never came back home. I continued to pay the rent for the upper flat Jon and I rented so I could stay with my Mike and Jon could live near his school. Within 24 hours, Mike had gotten down on one knee and asked me to marry him. I said yes, yes, YESSS! I had already told him everything about my illnesses, as well as the fact that I was down to very little medication, and was now taking a holistic approach. It was my personal choice to eventually stop taking traditional medications altogether. I also told him that I had no idea what the outcome would be, but I had to do something different because the meds were doing more damage than good. He agreed. I let him know that I was seeing steady improvement with the alternative solutions I had chosen, but I could not necessarily guarantee a long lifetime of love and laughter. I tried every single pill, doctor, and procedure while I had kids at home, but I was tired and just couldn’t keep risking my life with these medications and finding myself getting sicker. This man looked in deep into my eyes and told me that if he only got a year with me, he would be the happiest man alive and would make sure I was just as happy as he.
Flash forward one year and five months, and he has absolutely delivered on his promise. This time in my life has been the happiest that I have ever experienced, and I am officially feeling healthier than I have in many, many years. I take over the counter anti-inflammatory medicine for pain when I have to, and I MOVE MY BUTT every day to stay flexible and keep the more than 50 lbs. I have lost off my body and my joints for good. I eat live, healthy food and I rest often and find many, many reasons to laugh and smile that contented smile that my Mike craves so much. I have days when I am really tired or sore, and on those days the fear sets in and I have to remember how far I have come and honor the blessing of improved health. I had years when I could not feel my hands, but now I am able to make healing gemstone jewelry with hands that feel and work and legs that hold me up and help me move around. How could I not share my joy at having this second chance at life, and how could I deny anyone the opportunity to hear or feel something that might change their life completely? Healing is an ongoing process, but I am all in.
Now that you know a bit of my story, I hope it helps you understand why we are out here living like feathers on the wind. We are out here on the road hoping to inspire people to begin their own healing journey because we want to pay it forward and do the right thing by sharing anything we can that will help someone else explore their own personal path to wellness. We love having the opportunity to speak one on one with folks in their natural environment, to hear their concerns, and to offer whatever help we can or to share the wisdom we have gained in our own quest for better health. We want to share our own healing stories and to gather the stories of others we meet along the way inspire people to consider a variety of ways to feel better. Mike has written a book about Oneness and how we are all connected. It is also contains parts of his own miraculous healing journey, but he needs a little time to add the finishing touches before he can move towards self-publishing. I am starting to write my own book, one that would flesh out so many more details of my healing story than are mentioned here and would share the stories of others I have met along my path as well as those we are meeting on this cross-country trip.
Mike and I sacrificed many of our personal belongings during several months of garage sales and the clearing out of my storage room to rid ourselves of much of our accumulated stuff in order to gather funds to make this trip a reality. We are not wealthy people, and we have found that we spend most of our time out here on the road working or looking for work so we can keep ourselves moving. We regret that we don’t have as much time as we would like to connect with people because of this. We would very much like to do more volunteer work, and we are hoping that those who support our mission will take the time to share our story, our blog (brendalovesmike.wordpress.com), our Facebook page (brendalovesmike) and my Etsy store (http://www.etsy.com/shop/StoneGlow) so we can reach more people. You will find more about our story through this link to our “about” page: http://www.etsy.com/shop/StoneGlow/about/.
We work as we travel and will head to any place where we can inhabit a guest room, driveway, or piece of land and plug in our little 1979 Sunline Travel Trailer (the nearly-famous Casita del Sol) and park our 8 passenger van. Mike is an awesome handyman who can fix just about anything needing repaired and is quite the carpenter. He can also help you promote your business or event in a professional manner by providing printed materials of many varieties-hats, t-shirts, business cards, vinyl graphics, etc. We both love kids, dogs and all kinds of animals and people, and really enjoy sharing our travels and the people we meet with you through our blog. It is a labor of love, and one that we would like to have more time to develop.
The picture on the right is one that was taken a few days ago. Clearly, I am on the right track and looking happy and well, and I sometimes I just don’t recognize the smiling face I see in the mirror. The love between Mike and I has grown deeper than we ever thought possible, and I am so happy to have this strong, resourceful man right by my side each and every day. We are still working on our crowd-funding platform (Kickstarter or Indiegogo) to help generate funds for our mission and hope when we get it completed you will remember this story and share the link to our proposal as well. In the meantime, consider the type of people we are and what you know about us and you will see that this grass-roots type of service to others is very much part of our life path already, and a worthwhile cause to support.
We are always happy to work for our money and have a variety of skills that may help you with any projects you may have in the works. Let us work for you, or simply consider adding a buck or two to our traveling funds by clicking on the “donate” button on the upper right hand side of our blog (www.brendalovesmike.wordpress.com). We are very frugal and stretch every penny to help move us forward from place to place, and we will use these funds for traveling expenses and to allow us time away from finding constant work to help, volunteer, and to work on our books and blog. We have already purchased and handed out hundreds of crystals and dozens of handmade crystal pendants and have helped quite a few folks in a variety of ways as we have journeyed across Colorado. You can also have a peek at the handmade healing jewelry I have for sale and learn much more about us in the “about” section of my Etsy store, StoneGlow (http://www.etsy.com/shop/StoneGlow). I am happy to create a Custom Crystal Profile for you that can also be translated into a beautiful piece of jewelry for yourself or someone you love. Think Christmas, birthdays, something cool for yourself! It’s a good time to order those gift items and have that task behind you so you can relax this holiday season.
We want to have more of an opportunity to share our story and offer our assistance and wisdom to those who might need it. We want to show you through our blog posts and photos how we are out there living our dream so you will have the courage to live YOURS. We know that if we had the opportunity to talk to more people one on one, we could be very effective in helping them to develop a new, positive outlook on life and to explore new possibilities to improve their situation. If you cannot find a way to BE the change you wish to see, be the kind person who helps fund those who have figured out what they have to contribute and are out in the world making it happen every day. We are out here with everything we’ve got, and we ask you to keep following our blog and cheering us on, and SHARE OUR STORY, por favor!! If you are having fun reading about our travels and seeing the amazing pics, SHARE it with someone else who would enjoy it. Ours is a fledgling journey, kind of like a fawn stepping out on wobbly new legs, but we plan to grow and strengthen as we go. We intend to accomplish great things with this opportunity. We will keep blogging and posting to show you some spectacular places and interesting people, so follow us as we continue to make our way across the USA!
Much, much love and many blessings,
~Brenda (and Mike)