Sunday, May 30, 2010

Busy with the search

Just a quick note to all ...

Pete, JOTS and Mokihana are in search mode ... meeting interesting people, finding places that don't yet suit us or make us sick.  We have this current hook-up until Thursday morning next week.  So our energies are focused on 'next best home.' 

Mokihana and Pete

Thursday, May 27, 2010

MCS and the search for safe Community

In honor of MCS Awareness Month, we are posting this co-written article in order to share more deeply regarding one of the most significant reasons that we undertook our current journey around the country. Because we both live with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), finding a safe place to call home is paramount to us, and those who have MCS understand what it's like to live like a "canary in the coal mine" in a world saturated with substances that undermine our health and impair our ability to function effectively...

We offer this article as a missive of support and hope to other canaries, as well as a plea to those without MCS---especially intentional communities---to more deeply understand our plight....

Hitting the proverbial road in a 29-foot mobile home, we began to scour the country for an intentional community or eco-village that offered an opportunity for healthy living. Traversing the East Coast, Deep South, Gulf Coast and Southwestern United States, we visited over two-dozen intentional communities in more than twenty states over the course of seven months.

Many of these communities profess to live close to the earth by using sustainable building and permaculture techniques, renewable energy sources, organic gardening, and other well-meaning practices. In our naivete, we did indeed assume that “sustainable living” would include the use of earth-friendly and non-toxic products, but we’ve sadly found that many such communities simply reach for the cheapest common denominator, with Tide, Bounce, Palmolive, Cascade and other products being the easy mainstream fix.

Our disappointment and disillusionment were great when many visits to such communities revealed that people were often unwilling to “walk the talk” when it came to using safe and healthy products. As to the issue of being fragrance-free and MCS-friendly, most communities appeared oblivious at best, much to our dismay.

---Mary Rives and Keith Carlson

Mary Rives and Keith Carlson are Travellers.  Pete and I became aware of this couple months ago, when VardoForTwo was nearly finished as a safe haven home on wheels.  As Pete and I search and live from our wee wheelie home, Mary and Keith also took to the road in search of safe community doing their reassembled life from a twenty nine foot mobile home.  While the three day Canary Caravan Carnival is history now, this article which can be read by linking here or above, is an important picture of the search for safe housing and community we environmentally injured experience.

Mahalo to Mary and Keith for this real-life review of the Intentional Communities' measure of commitment to living 'safe enough for canaries.'  Read the entire article for the ICs that are living with practices that might work for some of the chemically injured folk who search for haven on a toxic planet.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Living with the Limits

Aloha all,

Pete and I have been living from VardoForTwo learning over and over again, the limits of a human reality and the the value of asking for help when the limits stop us.  There are thanks to be given, and then there is more work to do.

First, the thanks

1.  TO ALL WHO HAVE COME TO THE FIRST CANARY CARAVAN CARNIVAL.  Mahalo for making the click to our blog to read the stories, prose, tangents and angles shared during the three day MCS Awareness hoopla.  The Carnival attracted double the number of visits here ... so that's great news!

2.  IMPERFECT OPTIONS.  The library systems here in Washington and in other states we have be in, offer connectivity that many would not have otherwise.  For an EI-MCSer, the option is often difficult and imperfect ... the exposures to chemicals and fragrance are high.  With recovery and preparation (a mask, oxygen and timing and prayers) using these 'imperfect options' makes the effort of creating cyber-nections works with a price.

I am grateful to be able to do this.

3.  SUPPORT and LIFE on LIFE'S TERMS.  We are once again looking for our next safe space to live.  Our month-long oasis of a space here on Whidbey has been miraculous.  Thanks to Pete's operational skills:  this man knows how to do things ... we have successfully been in a safe place where rent is 'paid' through a percentage of cash and a larger percentage in work-trade.  Each step along the way, VardoForTwo and these two old dears with a kitty are having successes temporary though they have been, we have them to count. 

Support comes in degrees and from sources that are only as much as the source can offer.  It's not always what we hope for or need, and that's the part where we have to accept the limits and deal with them as a dealt hand and play the cards. 

We're learning more and more about life on life's terms and limits being real form and structure.  Like I know it would be great to have more time, and more freedom to keep my fingers moving on these keys/editing the blog and updating the sidebar so an Archive of The Carnival can be available for you readers and viewers.  The timer in the left-hand window ticks away, "21 minutes" and counting down.  With this mask and the stuffiness in my head today, a power greater than me is saying ... Easy Does It!  So, my spiritual progress is working if I listen to that voice inspite of my ears unable to hear much of anything from the otherside. 

Wish us good searching as we fill out applications and make connections on this island for our next successful place to be.  Gods willing the next will be a longer stay, shorter travel distance with fresh air, quiet and cooperative living arrangements abundant.

Blessed be you where ever you find yourself today,
Mokihana and Pete

Friday, May 21, 2010

The 'Ole Cycle of the Moon ... happening now

Pete and I observe and maintain a practice of reflection, review and no new posts and actions during the 'Ole times of the Moon .  Check our side bar for more information of the Hawaiian Moon Calendar.  We are in the middle of an 'Ole Cycle yet I take a minute to let our readers know we are being VardoForTwo folks here on Whidbey Island.

Thanks so much to all who participated and read the wonderful 1st Ever Canary Caravan Carnival. 

A hui hou,
Mokihana and Pete

Sunday, May 16, 2010

MAKING AN MCS DOCUMENTARY ... A Canary's Angle on the issue from Kimberly Shaw

Notes from Mokihana
Several months ago, maybe a year ago, I received an email from Kimberly Shaw saying she had gotten my name from Susie Collins from The Canary Report.  Kimberly was in the early stages of assembling a dream to create a video documentary about MCS, an illness she lives with as well.  She was writing to ask if I'd be interested in being interviewed.  I remember asking her to read our blogs to get an idea of what our story (ies) are, and then we'd chat, again.

Kimberly Shaw has moved forward with that dream of filming a documentary, and has read our blogs.  This 'adventurous canary' has travelled and met many who live with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities and is coming to visit Pete and JOTS and me this coming Tuesday for lunch and a bit of chatting.  She has given me permission to republish the following article as an ANGLE on MCS, originally appearing on The Canary Report.

Kimberly Shaw maintains a contributing blog on The Canary Report and also has her own blog Adventurous Canary.  Mahalo Kimberly for this insight into your transofrmative art.

By Kimberly Shaw
At a recent film festival someone asked me,”What it is like to make a documentary about MCS while having MCS?” At the time I just expressed it was DIFFICULT! Making a film is a challenge to begin with then add into that the need for a fragrance-free chemical-free film crew, travel (and the stresses involved with traveling with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity!), equipment that will not bother people with sensitivities, concern about protecting and keeping safe the people we are interviewing and then planning how to keep myself safe. It is difficult!

Later, I thought more about the question. Yes, it is difficult, but worthwhile endeavors tend to be challenging. I started this filmmaking journey out of passion: a passion to have people educated and informed about MCS, a passion to have people with MCS heard, and a passion to have the change begin with us. I thought, “I may not be able to do much for those with MCS, but I can do this!”

As it turns out, though, making a documentary about MCS has been one of the greatest learning and growing experiences of my life. I used to think I knew a lot about MCS, but every time I interview someone with MCS, I learn something new. Sometimes the information coming at me is overwhelming. I wish I could do a ten-part series rather than try to convey what needs to be conveyed in one documentary.

With each person with MCS I meet, I am reminded about what is important: clean air, pure water, natural organic food, a safe place to live, community and love. The MCS community is amazing! If you are having a tough day you can always find a MCS friend on Facebook or The Canary Report. We are no longer alone and isolated! We may struggle to have a safe place to live, but we always have a home online with others who understand.

In the process of making the film, I have discovered that people without MCS are interested in learning about MCS. Most people can relate in some small way. They might have a relative or someone they work with who gets headaches from perfume or they know of someone who cannot be around new carpet. They are curious! They are ready to be educated!

Making a documentary about MCS is very inspiring. The people I have met with MCS are strong, talented, amazing people. Everyday is a battle and they are winning (well, most of the time, we all have our bad days!). It reminds me of how far I have come in my journey and that there is always hope. I used to hardly be able to leave the house and now I am traveling and making a documentary!

Next time someone asks me about making a film on MCS while having MCS, I think I will smile and say, “It has been one of the greatest blessings of my life!” However, if they ask me what it is like to attend a film festival with MCS, I will reply, “Difficult!”

Update on the documentary:

We are hoping to finish all the interviews by the end of this summer and have editing done by late October. If you live in any of the following places, have MCS and are willing to be interviewed, please contact me: New Mexico, Colorado, Florida, Texas, Seattle, Washington state, Arizona, Maui (or nearby island), California (especially southern CA) or Alaska.

Artistic Tangents: A Hidden Gift From MCS by Liberty

Thank you Mokihana for providing such a wonderful diversity of categories for this Canary Caravan!

The category that I felt most drawn to was 'Tangents' - in your words, "Tangents are the unexpected and often unplanned paths or off-shoots of a life planned; places and experiences that spontaneously happen because we are human and because MCS might have had something to add to the old 'normal.'"

Having MCS has led to a number of positive tangents in my life and my favourite is the way it has effected my art.
Prior to having severe MCS, I used acrylic paints and a number of other mixed medias - many of which were high in VOCs and contributed to me developing MCS.
When severe MCS hit, I became unable to use those mediums without becoming very sick.  I experienced deep grief over the loss of my ability to paint with the mediums that felt natural to me and with which I was comfortable.

In time, however, this 'limitation' led me to try different artistic mediums/methods such as watercolour painting, drawing, colouring, art journalling as well as learning to make my own non-toxic glue.
At first, my attempts in these directions were very disappointing and I gave up for a few years.

Eventually, however, my need to create made me try again - and persist until I became more comfortable with these mediums.
After getting over the learning hurdle, I am now in love with watercolour as a medium and I don't feel the least bit 'deprived'!  I am also growing to love many of the other art forms I've explored that I wouldn't have if not for MCS.

Even severe chronic health problems or disabilities can bring gifts if we look for them.  I am very grateful to MCS for providing the 'tangent' that led to the evolution of my art!  I now spend time being creative almost every day and it is a very healing part of my journey through life.

About this Canary Caravan Contributor:

Liberty is a 30-something Canadian who is passionate about the healing power of creative expression (in any form) and blogs at Divinity Withinity - art, creativity, fun as well as sharing her MCS improvements at Moving Beyond MCS.

Photography from the Founder of Planet Thrive... Julie Genser shares her "Portrait of a Life with Chemical Sensitivities"

This photographic contribution to the Canary Caravan Carnival is by Julie Genser, the creator of Planet Thrive

Notes from Mokihana:
Julie Genser is one more brave and creative EI-MCS siter who has created and founded an on-line community to serve in multiple ways. These photo chronicles are powerful visuals that humble me and fuel my energy to be who I am ... just as I am for my limitations are a structure that is me. It is true for all of us with chronic and all too often invisible illness and disability.

Mahalo Julie for your photo characterization ...

Some details from the above image:

Saturday, May 15, 2010


iT's been years since I've been at a carnival ... I believe it was Waimanalo on the windward coast of Oahu when last I enjoyed the thrill of a ride on the ferris wheel.  Seated with my dear Pete, we rode the ferris wheel and saw the tops of the iron woods and the inimitable turquoise of ke kai (the ocean) that is Waimanalo.  A ferris wheel is the most risky ride I take at carnivals, enjoying the slow pace of the merry-go-round my usual choice.

MCS would create new limits and structure to my adventure at a carnival; and yet here at the Langley Library I have ventured into public space to set up the Tent for The Canary Caravan Carnival.  It's a miracle I'm able to do this, I can tell you.  This library has been a god-send ... with low exposure I work the computer and don my mask to get through the scents.

A SPECIAL THANK-YOU GOES to Liberty, my MCS friend from Ontario for helping me to ride out the final day, Sunday, May 16th.  There are photos and posts that I cannot do from this library computer, and Liberty has offered to help me out.  She has a beautiful creative post to enjoy ... and will try to get a second photo-focused post up as well.  It's an exercise in trust for this old gal and to all who wonder how it's done all I can say is ... practice, practice, practice.

Hope the Carnival has something for your taste ... a tool to try, an angle or angel to invite into your practice, or a bit of prose, a photo or prayer that might be what you seek.  Many thanks to the seen and unseen guides that make life wonderful and diverse.  Or like Pete said to me as we were falling to sleep, "Hey, there are 7 dwarfs right?  NOt all of them is "Happy." 


MORE T A P for the Canary Caravan Carnival ... Saturday's Tools, Angels and Poetry

Four more grand submissions grace VardoForTwo with Tools, Angels and Poetry for our second day of MCS Awareness Month here under the tent of the Canary Caravan Carnival.

T is for TANGENT

"Cosmic Pie" is a piece I wrote a while back here on VardoForTwo.  Astrology has become a tangent and a tool that I am inspired by and infused with when others ways of understanding fall short.  This nibble at the twelve houses of the Natal Chart or "Cosmic Pie" is a tool that helped me to transform despair into a lesson not yet understood.  I weave astrology into all parts of my life today.  Read it with an open mind, and see what you think. 

A  is for ANGELS

cj Wright does not live with MCS, I discovered her when I first found astrology bloggers a couple years ago.  Over the while I have come to consider her an unexpected, and delightful ally.  cj's article, "Entertaining Angels Unawares" is a heart-warming offer of hope.  When an eternal optimist looses hope, angels cluster in tight and loving circles.  Read this and feel the love that is always present.

P is for POETRY

Daisy O aka Anita Freshair is a Canary living in Olympia Washington.  I was first introduced to Daisy when I learned she and her husband were going to build a safe haven home on wheels.  Canaries on wheels share a kindred spirit and the process is unique for each of us.  Daisy authors a blog documenting her wheelie home progress, and she includes beautifully heart-felt poetry ... like the one she allowed me to republish here on The Canary Caravan Carnival. 

P is also for PROSE

Susie Collins is founder and blogger of the online support community and network The Canary Report.  I asked Susie to write about her passion that fuels the heart of The Canary Report.  Her prose speaks about her collaborative history and gives the online world a look at what makes a 'Canary' such as she.  It's a look at an activist and community builder that inspires and serves to make an online personality more real.  Thanks, mahalo for this view of yourself, tita.
Many, many mahalos to "Anita Freshair" and Susie Collins for these submissions!

Cosmic Pie: An Astrological Tool for the Canary Carnival

Author's note:  This is an article written in July,2009.  I have edited it, refreshed a bit for the Canary Carnival.  What was the core of it remains true for me these months later. 

Astrology is a life navigation tool that serves me well.  The Natural Zodiac with its cycles based on time (movements through the months and the signs of the Zodiac beginning with Aries) and the character of each of the Houses (reflecting the psychological and physical energies of a person's nature) offers me, and generations of cultures on Earth a valuable guide to real life.

The Natural Zodiac

Cosmic pie in twelve pieces

I'm moving forward in clearing the pockets of pilau (crap) left from herbicides and fragrances from scents. Plenty of good stuff is happening. The fact that there are rough patches through which we scrape our way is part of the whole, and in light of all this evidence of positives it helps to acknowledge how I get through the rough spots ... part of the process of opting out of suffering. In addition to the helpful treatments and caring ways in which I malama this makua, there are the cosmic pies like astrology. Let's see if I can translate the use of astrology and the natural zodiac to get at the bigger picture. I'll start with this comment I left over on this morning and let the story unfold. Link on that highlight above to get a full picture of the astrology of things.

"This is a big piece of Cosmic Pie and this ole girl she loves pie. I’ve been following the thread and watching the vids to eat just one more piece of Cosmic Pie. I am in the 12th house phase of my understanding and ultimate acceptance of the reassembled truth of my health. I am affected by the whole and after 15 years of trying to out run the natural zodiac I get that my plane is down, the losses are great, the grief exists, I have been pissed with the gods and they still hang in there to wait it out with me. I’m cappy moon in the the 12th living in a moon shaped house on wheels smaller than plenty of folks’ walk-in closet. I get to accept my fate and grow gardens where EVER my wheelie home rolls.

The Cosmic Pie you’ve served up here Elsa and the wonderful conversation that was shared because someone (Double Cappy, thank you:]) asked is so perfect. I’m gonna try to translate this onto my blog today, maybe a great thing for a solar eclipse that is supposed to be easy on the Scorps. Thanks a million Elsa and all."

For readers who are new to this blog, welcome to our world where solutions are wide, deep, broad and linked together in an eccentric way. Astrology is one of the many tools I use to make sense of the nature of human. I don't always get the 'why' unless I go way out there, and really have a newbie sense of 'how to be human' so much of the time. Living with Multiple chemical sensitivities, allergies has been a struggle. The recent exposure to herbicides has tripped the lever on healing at a deep level for me. I used the holistic/Pythagorean explanation of retracing to sort through the process of re-living the aggravations and illnesses/symptoms. It helps me. I seek the personal stories of others who have found solutions to their exposure symptoms.

Astrological insight gives me a view beyond the physical and taps into the Cosmos where words are fleeting, and navigation more ancient. The thread of comments that grew from Elsa P's videos suggesting the use of the Natural Zodiac to opt out of suffering included some very personal insights. I especially liked this comment from Toni, and with permission from Elsa (thanks, EP) I am rewriting it here as a way to connect the journey through the zodiac with my own experience accepting chronic illness and multiple chemical sensitivities. The clan of canaries who live with or support the lives of canaries with chemical sensitivties and environmentally induced illness find relief and solace in diverse ways. Health is defined in so many ways. Here's one way of reckoning truth.

Thanks, Toni

The Houses start with Aries in the 1st House, found at lower half of the chart in the 8:00 position, and continue counter-clock-wise in turn.

1st house- Fighting physically/emotionally.

I return to Hawaii after a 23 year marriage ends. Childhood asthma shows up in reaction to mock orange blossoms and fireworks. I am shocked! I fight back, go to the emergency room and get oxygen, inhalers and a diagnosis that "You have asthma!" Ha? No asthma for 23 yrs away ... then I do. Talk about retracing.

2nd house- Saying ‘no, this isn’t happening.’

Exactly! 2nd house is all about action and anger. I went through lots of that, years of it. Anger directed at my ex-husband, and then the flowers, my past. Things just kept irritating me. I keep fighting, take the medication, and try to get my way.

3rd house- Thinking of a way to get out.

I have a large head, and a history of thinking or reading my way through problems. I had no idea of what 'multiple chemical sensitivities' was or that I was headed down that track. There was surely something else going on with me ... a fix was some where I was not! Emotions, relations and communication get tangled up and crazy.

4th house- Grieving.

New love had come into my life. I grieved the old, yet the hope of new love fueled my sinking ship, my diving plane. There was no doubt my health was tentative, I was moving more in one year than I had in 23. Places weren't safe for long, that hurt, I didn't know how to 'do' this. Where was my place called home?

5th house- Searching deeper in your inner self.

I turned to yoga and supplements to heal me. I walked into the rooms of Al-Anon for a spiritual practice that would tie things together and turned my life over to a power greater than myself. Thing is, I thought the 'cure' would kick in and level life out. I was still doing the control it bit, but I was doing it with grace and Mountain Pose.

6th house- Thinking of the details in order to get out.

Health crises increased even with my yoga and Al-Anon foundations. I began writing more and more. Used words to craft a world that comforted me, explained the inexplicable. The teacher me sought service to others as a way to make things better.

7th house- Weighing both sides of the plan.

My thyroid expands, swelling to the point of undeniable 'issue.' I look at all the possible solutions and decide not to have the glands surgically removed. I still hold fast to the belief that the body - mind - spirit will heal. I begin a raw food life, see healing results and continue to be on the move from one more toxic exposure to herbicides and VOG. We move back to where we started ... and begin spending summers on the continental USA. My relationship with Pete changes, we marry.

8th house- Psychology. Why am I feeling this way?

HERE'S WHERE A LOT OF TRANSFORMATIVE POTENTIAL LIVES ... I come to this very question ... "Why am I feeling this way (after all the good stuff have been doing to make it different?" Saturn and Mars play significant roles in my 8th house. Saturn is about the step by step slow and steady process and no short-cuts allowed reality. Mars is the way a person acts. Together I began seeing that something was missing from the view-master. Pieces were missing from my jigsawed life. There was no denying some things:

1. pesticides and herbicides are bad period.

2. people use them and won't change their habit even when they see how it made me sick. Bad People!

3. moving from house to house/island to island/island to continent was wearing me out.

4. what were the options?

9th house- Why is God doing this to me? What’s the meaning of all this?

At this point Pete and I have bottomed out significantly. We are living in the car, being rousted by the cop, and keep getting poisoned by herbicides. While living in the Subaru we come to sleep nightly at the Tide Pools near Sandy Beach on O'ahu's west side. This is a major healing spot for me. Of the many places on the Earth, these Tide Pools have been a source of care for me since I was a small girl. Night after night we pull into our parking spot after dark and set up our car for sleep. Unsure of our 'safety' yet given no other place to be surrender waits and we drop into it.

Meaning comes from the humiliation, and soon we find that indeed, 'our plane is going down' and there's no stopping it from crashing. We become nomads with a diagnosis: nomad with multiple chemical sensitivities. The illness is not just in my mind, it is in my body.

10th house- Limit the problem.

Six months of living off and on in the car gives you a set of boundaries that could come from no other experience. We know a few more things, and have left behind most of our former chattels of living. We know mobility is a good option for us. We suspect we could build something safe and mobile. We begin to recognize the limitations of a 'formerly normal house' and use surrender to craft a land ark.

11th house- Hoping and wishing. Praying.

Friendships and hope come in such different packages during this stage of our process. In a year we live with or in the general vacinity of eight different friends or family members for as little as a few hours to as much as six months. We do more praying than we'd ever done. We hope for guidance when decisions don't make sense. Some people 'get the conditions of this illness' most don't. I learn to hide from old friends who knew me 'before.' It's easier to not explain.

12th house- Surrendering to the universe and believing there is a bigger plan.

I think we're here now. The blogs we began writing back in October, 2008 are the musings and reality of a surrendered life. Multiple chemical sensitivities is a real day to day, night through the night reality. It is not going to go back to being 'like it was before.' And, it's not likely we would be able to live as we have lived before. My search for transcendent truths take me from fairy tale maker to astrology student, raw food and organic gardener to writer of eccentric blogs and lover to a mate who came to me later in the Cosmic Pie Eating process.

Chronic illness is the universe's ultimate practical joke. It might not seem fair on most days, and probably isn't. Just the same, it does something to my evolving sense of surrender to consider that possibility. If you've made it through and have some energy for a comment, I'd welcome it.

Entertaining Angels Unawares by cj Wright

Notes from Mokihana

My wanderings have led me many places on this Planet.  In years past, my wandering has been spurred by that Venus in Sagittarius in my natal awareness that I did not have early on.  My mother called me 'auana' (one who wanders from the ancient ... as in, 'auana' style or modern style hula versus the 'kahiko' ancient form of hula).  I have been called restless, impulsive and other things.   Astrology had been an entertainment or a side-dish to my full course of meanderings as a younger woman.  When MCS became both a diagnosed truth and an experiential reality for me, astrology began to seep into all facets of my philosophy.  The old chart readings I paid for from unknown astrologers turned to cyber-connections with astrologers who spoke to the need for me to make sense of nonsense.  Ruby, my former laptop of a decade allowed me access to the world of astrology that I needed.  Real people made sense of things and used the prototypes and insights of stars, positions, angles, transits, and astrological houses.  I was bewitched in the best of ways and my relationship with Hina, the Moon was at the core of my astrological spine.

cj Wright author of AUNTIE MOON is one of the astrologers who has become a friend and inspiration.  I have been fueled and tickled with her wit, intelligence and skill at weaving astrology in practical broth for this old gal.  I asked cj to contribute to the Canary Caravan Carnival as an ally and an angel.  She does not live with MCS herself.  What she does is offer universally tacit and funny views on the human condition.  The piece that follows is an example of cj Wright's value as a human connected with source.  I am thankful to have found her through another fine astrological site,  Angels are in it for us, and "Entertaining Angels Unawares" is a precious reminder to treat all as angels.  xo cj!

Mokihana and Pete

Entertaining Angels Unawares
© cjwright 2010

My mother passed away in 2006 which was ~ without a doubt ~ the worst year of my life. There was a Fixed Cross in the sky at that time which hit the MC/IC of my chart, sat right on my Moon/Jupiter, squared my Mercury/Pluto, and had great fun throwing grenades through my 7th house windows. If you're not familiar with astrology, let's just say it's one of those times when life seems to fall apart.

For most of my life I was a die-hard optimist. I firmly believed that something good always happens in our lives when things are at their worst. The Summer of '06 changed my mind about that. My personal life on all fronts was in shambles and my deeply beloved mother was in the last weeks of her life. When she passed away, I never felt more alone in my entire life. I grieved without ceasing and cried daily for more than a year ~ for my mother and for myself. While driving one day, I heard these words come out of my mouth, "There's not a reason in the world for me to be on the planet."

There I was, a woman blessed with the optimism of Jupiter on a comfortable Taurus Moon, feeling absolutely hopeless and defeated. The world was desperately dark, and the future was some alien force that I wished would just go away.

What I didn't sense during the overwhelming drama of that slice of time ~ and that took me quite a while to understand ~ was that I was never alone. Never. Maybe it was luck ~ my Jupiter still grinding away behind the scenes. Maybe it was a much needed blessing ~ Uranian Angels holding me up with the backward fanning of their wings. Whatever it was, I doubt I would have made it through that period without them. I didn't recognize them till they were gone ~ if they've gone at all.

It started with poetry. I was reading The Book of the Rotten Daughter by Alice Friman, a recognized and recently relocated poet who wound up in my neck of the woods. I had booked her for a reading into a little theatre I had at the time.

Funny how things break down,

like when wires cross in the phone

and the conversation you bargained for~

the one life you sunned

and watered like a petunia~

splits into two.

The Fall, Alice Friman

Two lives ~ the blessed and the broken, the shards of one overpowering the light of the other, my blurred beacon.

Several months before my mother passed, Angels entered my life. I never saw wings, there were no trumpets, no celestial music, no flowing robes. They entered my life as a bank teller at the drive-through who insisted I take the line of credit available to me for an unexpected emergency. "You don't have to use it, you know. But you'll have it when you do." My messenger.

There was the odd phone call from a stranger, a retired General who told me the story of how he was forced to push all his favorite belongings out the back of an airplane over the ocean so the plane wouldn't go down. "Life continued," he told me, "without the extra baggage. Sometimes we just have to let it go." My messenger.

Frank ~ dear, sweet, broken ~ who entered my life briefly with roses and soft eyes, assuring me through his new-found life that we can pull ourselves up from the very depths of despair and be all we never thought we could be. Beautiful messenger.

There was Alice, the poet, of course, whose book walked me through the last days of her own mother's life in a nursing home.

And then there was the letter from my Dad, who passed in 1989. It wasn't written to me. He wrote it to my mother on June 10, 1949 while he was on the road doing migrant farm work. A very important date.

Before my mother died, she had been admitted to emergency from the nursing home. Ninety-three and frail from a long struggle with Parkinsons, she wasn't expected to live for more than one or two days after she came for hospice care in my home. Yet she did, keeping one foot in this world and one in the next. She was a very practical woman who had planned and paid for her funeral many years earlier. She'd had her outfit picked out for almost 10 years, something soft and comfortable. The clothes, important papers, and the letter were in her traveling bag, ready to go when her final moment on earth arrived. She had other plans, as well, as yet unrevealed.

The morning of her death, I spent some time on the phone with my best friend who was a thousand miles away. She said, "Read her the letter." It didn't matter that she was between worlds, she would hear.

"Momma, it's June the 10th. Daddy wrote this letter to you fifty-seven years ago. I'm going to read it to you." And I started to read.The date of the letter was June 10, 1949.

She passed that evening, June 10, 2006, into the new world she had been striving toward for her entire life, a sweet smile and the joy of homecoming on her face. My messenger, dear father. Wise mother, wise messenger. She probably never knew how to tell me she had packed a ticket of sorts and that her departure was destined.

There was yet another blessing on the night of her passing. I stepped out into the dark and was greeted by a Full Sagittarius Moon which fell softly on my Part of Bereavement, a point of sorrow in our natal charts. With each Full Moon, I remember her sweet smile. Lady Luna, dear mother.

There's a beautiful scripture, "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." We never know when they'll arrive or what stories they may bring. I could have ignored the bank teller, the retired General who had a story he needed to tell and that I needed to hear, the beautiful young man who got his life back and helped me regain mine, the poet's words, and the wise counsel of my dear friend. Listen, always listen. There's a message waiting just for you.

A fantastic interview by Lana Wooser with cj Wright links here ... learn more about cj.

Poetry from Anita Freshair ... "Sad Songs not by Elton John

A Canary's song is sweet

Usually it's true

Her rolling chirps and tweets

So nice to listen to

But Karen sings a sad song

While in her cage she sits

"I can't stay here for long

This place is just the pits"

Crowded out by toxic scents

In a toxic neighboorhood

She must move to the country

Where the air is fresh and good

Karen's song's more sad these days

She'd like to tell you why

It's tough to maintain her chirpy ways

She doesn't want to cry

But one by one

She lost each one

Who once had said

They care

It hurts a lot

Hope's all she's got

They'll stop

Wearing what they wear

Would they ask her to walk

On her broken bird leg?

Or stick sweets

In her diabetic beak?

Would they force her to cheep

With laryngitis?

Give bird blood when she's

Already weak?

She's invisibly ill

So she let's out a shrill

'Cause it seems like

No one can see

Would you care if it was

Your daughter or son?

Would you care

If you were like she?

She awaits her new home

It won't be too long

She'll keep having hope

She'll sing a new song

Daisy O authors a blog about her life with MCS, and the building of a safe haven of a tiny home on wheels.  Her poems penned as "Anita Freshair" are the heart-felt renderings of a young woman in the process of reassembling her life. 

Mahalo, Daisy!

PROSE from Founder of The Canary Report ... Susie Collins writes about her passion

Notes from Mokihana

The Canary Report is a very successful and collaborative example of resourcefullness and service with its focus on MULTIPLE CHEMICAL SENSITIVITIES.  "The Canary" is the creation of founder Susie Collins, who lives and blogs from the island of Hawai'i.  I found Susie and The Canary in the early days of living back on the North American continent when the symptoms and despair of MCS had us in a swhirl.  The blog was smaller then, yet there was support and wide-open arms with the flavor of Hawaii that is always a core of nurturing for me.  Here is a piece of prose that I asked Susie to contribute.  It's a view of this wahine that fills out the hard-working public relations that she does with the online community that swells with spirit.  Susie likes to say, "Together, We are stronger"  in Hawaiian that would be Onipa'a Kakou.  Mahalo Susie for your expression ... your mana'o.

Aloha Mokihana!

Thanks for inviting me to join your Canary Caravan Carnival! This has been an amazing MCS Awareness Month, full of fun and creative activities, and I think this 1st Annual Canary Caravan Carnival is the most fun idea ever!

You’ve asked me to write about the passion that fuels my work at The Canary Report, and about my passion for collaborating with other bloggers to create resources for people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. I’m happy to share some thoughts on that.

Throughout my life, I’ve had a passion for activism and community work. In high school, I went door to door with petitions about water rights on the island of Molokai, and while at university I worked on a 65-foot schooner that sailed inter-island teaching kids about ocean resources.

Later, when I owned by own bookshops, I started a women’s group where we gathered every full moon to dance on the beach to the beat of our own drums. That morphed into local community work, which evolved into local political work and getting involved in the 2004 election season, where I then ventured out of my comfort zone to work on the presidential campaign in Boston and DC. For the past few years, I’ve been part of a group fighting the development of a veneer mill and power plant planned for our tiny village.

Meanwhile, in 1995, I’d developed MCS, and as time progressed, I became less and less able to work out in public. I’ve been incredibly lucky these past 10 years to work as an assistant to the chancellor at the local university, where I do communication materials. The incredible thing is, my boss allows me a home office. I used to go into the chancellor’s office every couple of weeks to meet with her, but after they renovated the building with new carpet and furniture a couple of years ago, I couldn’t even do that anymore. Exacerbating the problem was the toxic emissions from our active volcano, called vog, further restricting me from venturing out.

So I knew that if I wanted to continue with some sort of public service activity, I was going to have to figure out how to do something online, where I could do good work, but in the safety of my home office.

And that’s how The Canary Report was born. I thought I could take all the skills I’d developed throughout my working life and public service activities and apply them to creating a super online resource about Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. Plus, I really love social media, and I wanted to start my own blog and online social network. I thought all those factors might be combined into creating an exciting and worthwhile online project about MCS.

If you look at the way I’ve done public service, community work, and activism throughout my life, you’ll see a pattern of teamwork and collaboration in everything I do. I love organizing things for others, helping with documentation so everyone is informed and included, creating schedules and goals so everyone can participate, helping the group create a common vision. I believe that leadership means listening to all points of view and inspiring all group members to participate. I love empowering people to fight for what’s right, fight for the underdog, protect the weakest of the group, and work hard toward improving the quality of life for everyone. And I love giving people a platform to be heard, to be respected and honored for what we in Hawai‘i call their mana‘o, their opinion.

That’s why The Canary Report has so many contributors and guestbloggers. And that’s why I love our online community so much, there’s so much wisdom there! Providing a platform for others to do good work, to dialogue, to share all they know about MCS makes me very happy. I’m driven with a passion to do all I can to help people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity get the information and support they need to live the healthiest, most productive lives possible. So it makes me very happy to see our thriving network of hundreds of people helping each other cope with MCS.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who is part of The Canary Report’s blog and online social network. I am so proud of our canary community! I’m proud about how kind everyone is to each other, how supportive, wise and compassionate. I want to thank everyone for all your support. Together, we are stronger!




Susie Collins

The Canary Report

Friday, May 14, 2010


Three wonderful submissions to our first VardoForTwo Canary Caravan Carnival for MCS Awareness Month are posted here for Friday, May 14th.  The posts were 'supposed' to be posted as scheduled using Blogger ... however, I probably didn't do it quite right or something!

Here I am at the Langley library, first on the steps waiting for the 11am opening.  The posts are there, and with a little moving things around I will make them a bit more accessible to you, dear readers.  Thanks ... hope you find something that is useful here in the Carnival Tent.


Poetry ... reflections and feelings about my life with MCS now


I hope this is not too late to enter for the event. I don't think I'm good at poetry, but this reflects my feelings about my life with MCS right now.

The ache, the pain,

Invisible ills,

All thanks to the



The CEOs keep facts

Under lock and key

We know the truth

Whatever else we see

Deny it

Twist it

Dye it

Any color you want

The truth will be

Set free

We yearn for a place

On our finite earth

A place to call home

To breathe and live and love

Free of chemicals

Free to be productive

In society

Free to Be.

Chemicals have caged us

Too long

But now we know

And we will sing

Unitl the world hears our cry


And will quit poisoning our planet

With the modern miracle

Of chemistry.

Katrina Kluzik

Thank you for hosting this event!



Let's get it together and let's get it done!

Finding your Path ... A Visualization from an ally

Notes from Mokihana

Building upon the foundation of support suggested in Kay McCarty's article "The Impact of MCS on Self-Esteem" the following guided visualization as a 'form of meditation' raises the vitality of hope here in The Canary Caravan Carnival.  Joan Tucker is an ally, a friend to me before MCS can to stay.  We have been down paths together and separately.  Through the vessel of the internet, she viewed my changed life without commentary, and then with time, her 'following' became known.  We slowly reconnected and our alliance is new today.  Joan Tucker authors two blogs where her Taurus energy finds adventure and space for her creativity.  The guided visualization here, was customized for the Canary Carnival.  Joan's career as personal and professional coach and facilitator of wonderful gatherings and workshops is gratefully offered here as a TOOL from an ALLY.  

Mahalo Joan!
Mokihana and Pete 

The Impact of MCS on Self-Esteem

Notes from Mokihana
MCS Multiple Chemical Sensitivities is an illness that has changed my life.  MCS has changed the lives of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people on The Planet.  Some of us know that we have been affected by exposure to chemicals, toxics and toxins and the work of readjustments to a world and society with values that need to be chucked, recycled or amended begins/continues; and there are many more of us who remain unaware or unwilling to accept the reality of a very 'preventable' illness.  This first Canary Caravan Carnival is a celebration and a documentary on the reality of life with limits and structure incited by MCS.  The motivation for me to organize such a hopeful and unstructured event comes from two places:  first, MAY is MCS Awareness Month throughout the Earth; second, my personal passion for teaching where I find myself remains intact despite the odds.  Readers here at VardoForTwo have read and seen the stories that make up the truth of life for Pete (my dear man), JOTS (our dear kitty bump) and me. 

More than two years ago, when all hope dried up for me, I was guided to begin a relationship via the cellphone with a person who has been angel, guide, sister-in-recovery and skilled therapist.  Wherever and whatever I was experiencing or being challenged with I was supported by the thoughtful, compassionate skill of a woman who has worked the walk and could talk me through many rough spots.  Kay McCarty offers hope, humor and tools for times that have tested my inventory of self-worth and self-esteem.  That test is common for those who live with MCS.  The article that follows is an article that succinctly and compassionately describes the work of self-care that is so vital as one refashioned a value system that supports life with MCS.  I am grateful and appreciate of this guidance, and offer this unedited version of "The Impact of MCS on Self-Esteem" as the opening 'act' on VardoForTwo's First Canarary Caravan Carnival.

Mahalo nui loa, Kay
Mokihana and Pete

An edited version of this article appears in CIIN's "Our Toxic Times" April, 2010 edition. 

WELINA! WELCOME! ALOHA, The first Canary Caravan Carnival BEGINS

MCS Awareness Month throughout the Planet is in full-swing.  MAY is half way through it's calendar days, the real lives of all sentient beings are being lived in magnificently unique fashion.  Those of us who live with the reality, limitations and structure of environmental illness (EI) or MCS are a minority often silent or invisible to the society of humans in all corners, cities and environs. 

This first time for us on VardoForTwo bloggers carnival began weeks ago with a dream inspired by other blogging communities as a way to express the resilience, challenges and realities of Multiple Chemical Sensitivities.  When I introduced this project, I did it knowing the possibility that we would be 'on the move and limited in our access to resources' ... The possibility is here.  I blog from behind my "I Can Breathe" carbon-filtered mask seated at the shared library computer in Langley, Washington on Whidbey Island.  The Carnival continues with adjustments.  The horns, bells, and whistles of the internet are a bit limited and yet, what I can do is being done.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mercury getting ready to I MUA (go forward) ... and so do we

It's a life filled with more unexpected whats, whos and wheres.  I am at the submerged screen of work station #4 in the Langley library here on Whidbey Island.  A corner of preschoolers are gabbering, and a mom is reading "The Pirate and the Penguin."  It's not easy to concentrate on my 'mission' yet, that's okay ... my mission is a morphing thing I think.  Mercury, the planet of communication has been in retrograde, so the action of forward motion has reserved for the past three weeks.  That changes after today; and that is good.  We have taken advantage of reviewing and readjusting ... finding ourselves on an island in the middle of the Salish Sea, in Washington State ... or in the land of First Peoples who call it other names.

Our VardoForTwo is happy being under a starry starry sky surrounded by dark nights and tall trees.  The conveniences of modern life avail themselves to us ... we have electricity to heat our tiny home, a washer, kitchen and bathroom all of them shared resources that we rent and work for in exchange for a place to be anchored to Earth-time.  JOTS is at home alone, out and about in the woods in the bright of day; and at night we pour her into her carrier and lock her in.  There are large hootie owls and coyotes among the predators of a real and wild forrest.  One owl stocked our dear dear JOTS the other night, and the message became clear:  "Keep her safe at night inside the warm carrier.  That is as much as we can do." 

That is what we do with our own dear selves and our recreating life.  The community of stars and astrology give me an angle that opens positive options when I am in despair, and the work and program of the Al-Anon 12 Steps provide me tangible spiritual discipline when I slip into old and non-functional habits.  MCS is a vehicle of incredible structure making.  PErhaps my six decades have fashioned something that makes my deep searching native disposition ever resilient and hopeful.  I am learning at this later stage, to really accept my life as I find it.  That would be 'humility' the First Step in becoming intimate with a power greater than the losses, challenges, limitations, unexpected exposures, choices that are out of my control.

The corner filled with pre-schoolers is quiet.  Oh, how I am grateful that the sounds did not make for a judgemnt of 'noise' and interruption.  It was a brief and fully alive few minutes. 

I have a few precious minutes left at Work Station #4 ... 33 minutes by the clock in the corner; and there is a CANARY CARNIVAL TO ORGANIZE AND PREPARE.  I'm leaving this post here, to say ... bear with me as I adjust to the limitations that are real in my ability to take the submissions including beautiful photos and artwork that might not be easy/possible for me to manipulate from the library.  There is still time to figure it out, and however the final posts appear, a huge MAHALO for the work and the heart that has gone into the submissions.  They are valuable and I so love the creativity expressed in each of them.

It is a lovely day, and with gratitude and appreciation I enjoy my own company and send these words/thoughts to you who visit here at VardoForTwo and hope the company you are in values you, too.


Friday, May 7, 2010

Back on an island again and CANARY CARNIVAL update

We - Pete, JOTS and me, are living on an island again, at least for the next while.  With lots of help from friends and neighboring contruction dudes, Pete was able to maneuver Bernadette the Beast of a WorkTruck and our VardoForTwo from its parking place in the Mill Town of Everett, Wa.  Several months ago I began communicating with MCS friends who own a cottage on the south end of Whidbey Island, just across the Sound from Everett.  The slow and clear communication process has paid off; we have an arrangement that suits the four people involved.  Our vardo is parked in the most level landing pad to date, our extension cord plugs into the east-side of the cottage and we are again parked in beautiful Northwestern woods.  This time, the tree-skins are those of cedar in the main with fir and pine to round-out the company.  A settled home where all the conscious choices of a fragrance free and chemical free environment are intact is a big first for us!  We are renting and working in trade a cottage with kitchen and bathrooms and a laundry set-up with no one else.  We are in a place alone, for the first time in years.  Our vardo continues to serve as safe and predictable sleeping haven and place of refuge and JOTS is a woods kitty again.

Our six-month stay in the Mill Town ended with new and evolving awareness.  MCS is a complex illness that requires such diligence and the energy to maintain stability and recovery is hard work.  The emotional-physical and relationship dynamics of living with multiple chemical sensitivities is difficult.  There is no way 'round it.  Each time we move our selves and the Vardo, there are expected and unexpected costs, losses and triumphs.  We give thanks to the friends who offer their space and their friendship on this journey of extremes and pray for the courage to make changes to ourselves one day at a time, one experience at a time.

In the next few days (in a week!) the first CANARY CARNIVAL will happen here on VardoForTwo.  The diverse experiences, Tools, Allies and Prose from people who live with this environmental illness will be posted on Friday, May 14th, Saturday, May 15th and Sunday, May 16th.  The inspiration and energy for this three day project began before our move from the Mill Town.  The project will happen ... yet, there will be adjustments because I am on the move and my access to blogging and internet is subject to 'the public.'  That is ... I use this library computer 59 minutes at a time and IF there are no scents or fragrances to prevent it.

HERE's a SHOUT TO ALL OUR CANARY FRIENDS AND ALLIES, who have been working on a submission for the three day Canary Carnival.  Please try to get your writing to me via email by Monday MAY 10TH.  I have less time to do individual emails to followup so, I hope you're following us here.  I know things will work out just as they ought with this Carnival ... so no pressure, no worry.  I'm excited to get the Canary Carnival Tents up next week ... and whatever we have under those tents will be perfect for awareness comes in degrees and that's just what is needed more and more degrees of awareness about WHAT IS MCS?

My 10 minutes warning flashed, so it's time to say a hui hou (till next time). 

Take care,
Mokihana and Pete