All posts by SilverEagle

Cannabis, Chemotherapy and Appetite

Even though he doesn’t get into the relationship directly between cannabis, chemotherapy and appetite, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and CNN did a small documentary on the health benefits of cannabis (I linked to it at the end of this post). The understanding that cannabis has very good health benefits is nothing new to those who have actually been forced (due to health conditions) to research the use of cannabis. But for those who haven’t looked into it and are still of the 70 year old mindset that it’s just for stoners… well… take a look. The story of it helping a little girl is very neat and hits close to home. The story is mostly about cannabis used for targeting specific health issues such as seizures and pain, but there are other indirect health uses for it.

Chemotherapy and Appetite

During our daughters cancer treatment involving an aggressive cocktail of 5 different chemical agents, cannabis may or may not have been used to help with Miette’s loss of appetite (there’s nearly a nearly 100% chance that those receiving aggressive chemotherapy treatment experience this side effect) by putting a half of a rice grain size bead of such oil on a Hershey’s Kiss. We understood that Miette’s body needed nutrition to help restore what the chemotherapy destroyed. Every kilogram of protein, potassium, iron, calcium, etc (at the strategic times, of course) was so extremely important to stay “ahead of the game” and not have to play a hopeless game of catch up. Chemotherapy annihilates the digestive tracts ability to absorb nutrients. It causes extreme diarrhea. It also causes extreme nausea since those fast growing cells in the digestive tract are being killed. The killing of the inner membrane (the carpet like fingers called “villi“) of the digestive tract also inhibits the tract’s ability to absorb any food that ends up getting there and thus, get it in the blood stream… IF the patient can even get over the nausea! Again, the idea is to literally stay ahead of the chemotherapy effects. Prepare the body by building up the strength of the blood, the organs, the immune system, etc. Then, when the chemo agents starts killing off the villi, the “hit” won’t be as bad as it would’ve been if the body wasn’t prepared and built up.  Since the villi won’t be as badly damaged after a round of chemo, the villi can absorb more nutrients into the blood stream and help the re-building process itself and every other part of the body that WILL get damaged. The more research one does in how to combat cancer and chemotherapy agents, the more one will realize it all centers around the gut. It’s the front door to the body’s immune and healing system. If it’s closed, the body closes.

Poison

Don’t forget, chemo is literally poison. I’m not just saying that out of my dislike of chemo; it really is poisonous. You will hear me say this over and over… chemotherapy treatment is a process of killing the entire body. The modern medicine idea is to control that slow death and stop treatment just short of fatal doses. Concentrating on making sure the gut is doing the best it can will only work for a while (but that “while” is crucial to increasing the patient’s chances of succumbing to the chemotherapy). Eventually, the poison will overtake all the work one put into keeping the digestive tract as properly functioning as possible. The unknown is when will that overtaking happen? The chemo will be destroying the body faster than the body can heal… and that’s with doing everything correctly on the nutrition and natural medicine side. The “numbers” (the bloodwork numbers that show the condition of the blood and the immune system – aka, how much is the body still alive) get harder and harder to bring back up after every dose of these drugs. The more aggressive the treatment plan the faster this happens. The hope is that the cancer is gone before the chemo agents put the body into failure mode. So very thankfully, for Miette, the cancer was resolved before that happened and we were able to cut short her treatment as well. It’s nasty stuff.

Cannabis and Appetite

So back to appetite. Keeping the nausea down is crucial. There are pharmaceuticals that they give to chemo patients that are supposed to help with that (even though one of the side effects is nausea). Miette was given those drugs. She also, more or less, quite possibly, may or may not have, with any amount of uncertainty,  undeniably consumed some substance that could or couldn’t quite have possibly been cannabis – if that wasn’t what it ended up not being. But whatever it was or wasn’t, her appetite increased after possibly consuming it; even with nausea. That’s the key, being able to EAT when feeling nauseous. She still threw up at times, but she was still hungry and it helped keep her body ahead of the game.

I’m not knowledgeable of the scientific reasons cannabis increases appetite. I haven’t dived into neuroscience yet. I do know no one has ever died from cannabis. I do know the side effects of cannabis are 99% less than that of drugs like etoposide or doxorubicin and the like. But if there’s something that has virtually zero side effects and it increases appetite at a time when eating was never so important then I’m all ears, even for my 5 year old… and you should be too.

Here’s the video. Watch it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dy_OfmEXTm4

Airstream Renovations With Bunk Beds

Ah, the sleeping spot dilemma during an Airstream renovation project. You’re in the middle of renovating an Airstream (or a travel trailer in general) or thinking about which size of Airstream to buy so you can fit your family of 4, 5 or even 6. Where is everyone going to sleep? “The original design isn’t going to work” you say. So you ask yourself, “should we install bunk beds”? Thanks to our daughter, we’ve had the privilege to enjoy the ways of the Airstream life, even it was just for a bit. But spending a month straight in one gave us time to evaluate the layout for larger family. Based on that month long evaluation period, the following is what we’ve noticed. This article is geared towards Airstreams, but If you’re thinking about different layouts for a travel trailer in general, this article applies just as well.

To Bunk or Not to Bunk

Quite honestly, bunk beds are the way to go for Airstreamers with children, especially those who are going full-time with Airstreaming or RVing in general. Living (permanently or temporarily) in an Airstream or RV could be really fun, really bad or somewhere in the middle… depending on the layout of the sleeping quarters. If you’re in the middle of restoring or remodeling your vintage Airstream and deciding on custom building or having some custom built beds, you should really figure out how and where you want your family situated every night. Where will the kids sleep?

The 31′ Airstream Sovereign International with rear bath is a good length and layout to begin with, to redesign with 4 bunks. We have a large family, so stacking children is saving critical space. Children love the idea of bunk beds anyways; at least ours do. If there are multiple kids in your family, bunks provide them their very own bed instead of having to share a bed. I can tell you from experience, each child having their own bed is a big deal. Sharing a bed for a weekend trip might be ok, but if you’re thinking about a longer stay, the sharing gets old quicker than you’d think. Converting to bunk beds loses the original overhead storage but there are ways to make up for that (such as using the towing vehicle, if it’s a pickup, for a lot of storage). Families with 2 kids could get away with a bath in middle, but that doesn’t allow for friends to tag along.

1972 Airstream Sovereign International Layout
The layout of a 1972 Airstream Sovereign. showing the original twin beds.

The main reason for not having a rear bath (and instead, have a bedroom in the back) is for a private, always ready parents bedroom. However, that layout puts the kids towards the front and closer to the kitchen. From our month long experience in the Sovereign, the reason a front bed for parents works well is because the parents usually stay up later than kids and the kitchen is in use quite a bit (cleaning up dinner, preparing food for the next day, and most importantly, assembling adult beverages to end the day… all while the kids are sleeping or trying to get to sleep). This becomes a bit more difficult if the kids are sleeping towards the front. There is no greater space separation from the kitchen between the kids sleeping in the front section rather than the middle section. However, it is much more difficult to create a barrier (aka, door) to the kitchen if the kids were to sleep in the front. The front area and kitchen are more of a great room in these Airstreams. When it comes to noise in an Airstream trailer, every inch away from that noise is extremely valuable space and the ability to put in a door is even more valuable. Even though the doors are thin, they do take the edge off the noise being made during kitchen clean up. Also, if the kids slept in the fold out beds in the front, turning on lights to see in the kitchen would intrude in the kids sleep. Ideally, the bunks would be in the very rear with a middle bathroom. That would provide a bit more sound barrier rather than the kids being right next to the kitchen as they are now. Breaking down the dining table for the parents is a pain, but doable. We did it for a month and got pretty quick at it. The one thing we didn’t do as much as we thought we would was eating outside under the awning. Partly because the awning was a big task to set up but also because of the heat, humidity and mosquitoes. If we stayed in a cool place without the viscous, selfish, blood sucking insects, the outside table would be the main table, leaving the option to NOT convert the bed back to a dining table. When we knew we would be gone from the Airstream all day, we left the bed as-is. It all depends on each family’s “laziness” factor. Ours was probably above normal.

Bedding

After spending a month straight in an Airstream with bunk beds, one recommendation we would make is to have the bedding custom sized for that bunk. We used twin sizes and even those were really too big. It made it difficult to really keep the bunks looking kept up because there was so much bulk to the bedding. Custom sizing the bedding is something we need to do to our sleeping arrangements. We suppose sleeping bags would work well, but probably not for a long term solution. One our favorite types of bedding for an RV or Airstream is a nice wool blanket. Not only do they keep a body warm, they aren’t bulky. Bulky items become really exaggerated in cramped spaces. That -20 degree rated Mountain Hardware mountaineering jacket the size of Rhode Island ends up looking like Texas in the closet of a travel trailer (unless you get the pack-able version for $800 more). This applies more so to bedding. That queen sized down comfortable that looks so fluffy on your bed at home all of a sudden becomes a giant space eating monster.

Lighting

With our setup, we have 2 bunks on either side of the isle with only one overhead light to provide the light for all 4 beds. This doesn’t really work well. We would like to add a small separate light for each bed, so one kid can use their light without lighting up the whole “room”.

We have a wide range of ages, so the 12 year old might stay up a bit later reading than the 3 year who is zonked out. The center overhead light has its use, but if a kid isn’t feeling well and needs to have a one-on-one with the puke bowl or change clothes or etc, etc, etc, it would be nice to limit the amount of light emitted on the rest of the clan. Routing the wiring is the challenge for us now, since the bunks are already installed. If you have yet to build out your bunks, we recommend working in the electrical for a light for each bunk in the design. Yes, you could use battery powered LED lights with double stick tape, but replacing the batteries will get to be a pain when it comes to 4 lights and it also doesn’t have that custom built-in look.

Stop Debating

If you’re considering installing bunk beds, we say stop thinking about it and go for it! They look cool, they are very practical and functional and it’s an excellent use of space. Our kids love them and all their friends that see inside the Airstream are completely drawn to them. They are like little forts. They can custom decorate their own bunk space and with the 31′ Sovereign and they each have a part of a window they can look out. Only the bottom bunk can open the window though but that was never a problem, since we used the air conditioner a lot and the windows weren’t allowed to be opened. Unless they wanted the air conditioning police (dad) to take them to air conditioning jail.

So again, this was our evaluation from living in a renovated Airstream that had bunk beds installed. Not everyone might think the same. For some reason, those rear bedrooms are popular. When it comes to privacy for the parents, it definitely provides that. But a well rested child increases the parents chances for better behavior the next day – privacy for the child also has it’s rewards.

Or just throw the kids in a tent outside and call it good.

Leaving Vermont and Starting the Trek Back Home

We started our trek back home, leaving Vermont yesterday, after gathering our endless scattered belongings from Aunt Karen’s house, saying our goodbyes, loading up and making our way down Highway 7 towards Albany. The day started reasonably enough, but we quickly ran into a long traffic backup in Albany, getting onto I-90 (known to New Yorkers as the Thruway). Once we past that, we were making decent time. We knew it was going to be a long travel day; our goal was to make it to the other side of Cleveland. We arrived in Avon, Ohio around 11:30 pm, pulling into the local Wal-mart. Again, under construction.  There appears to be a nationwide WalMart expansion.  Be afraid, people.

This was the beginning of an excruciatingly long night. It was 76 degrees outside and the wind was not blowing at all. Inside the “Silver Oven,” it had to be at LEAST 90 degrees.  I bet these Airstreams are great in the winter for staying warm.  We pretended to sleep for a long time, but despite a pathetic little 12 volt Wal-mart fan teasing us with hints of a slight warm breeze, we were each stewing in our own juices. We admitted defeat around 2:30 AM. Smart phones to the rescue. Red Roof, $66 and 45 minutes later we were all lying in a cool hotel room. Unfortunately, the adrenaline of hurriedly trying to get the family to a cool place (and sipping on iced tea since Erie, PA), Kelly ended up not sleeping at all. But time doesn’t wait for anyone and the morning came real fast; so off we went. We cruised through northern Ohio and then snaking our way through the Chicago badlands (aka, the toll freeway system – we lost count how many times we paid $2.25 cash money). After the 62 miles of narrow lanes and heavy construction we made it to Wisconsin. There are two states that should fire their entire DOT staff. Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Wow, Wisconsin roads are bad (but at least we didn’t have to pay to drive on the bad roads like we did in PA). Right now, we find ourselves in a campground just outside of Wisconsin Dells with the AC blowing cold… with time in the evening to roast a chicken. We’re not exactly sure how the family next to us is tenting in 82 degrees, 70% humidity and with giant, hawk size mosquitoes of prey. Us northwesterners must be humidity whimps. Yes, that’s exactly what we are. Give us the 8,000 feet up a northwest trail, cold temps at night and zero mosquitoes over a hot and humid Wal-mart outing any day.

Sorry, no photographs today. There isn’t much time for photos when we are busting our behinds trying to make good time. Our plan to is to hit Yellowstone on Thursday so stay tuned for some excellent media over the weekend.

Visiting Montpelier and Vintage Trailer Supply

Soo, we were off this morning about 9:30 AM (no small feat) to take a short trip to Montpelier, Vermont, which is pronounced mont-PEEL-ee-er, by the way.  I (Lisa) can’t get the French pronunciation* out of my head and Mont-PEEL-ier sounds like a cheesy English way of saying it.  We were headed to Montpelier on a specific mission; to meet and thank the crew at Vintage Trailer Supply for their thoughtfulness in providing parts and decor for the Airstream.  That great dishtowel map of Puget Sound on our Airstream door is courtesy of Steve and crew at Vintage Trailer Supply.

But first, lets take Route 100 and stop off at the Warren Country Store.  There’s a charming saying in Vermont that my sister has made me aware of:  “You can’t get there from here.”  Meaning navigation of the Vermont infrastructure is challenging.  Route 100 is under serious construction and we spent much of the time in stop and go traffic on gravel.  The Warren Country Store was wonderful, albeit pricey, with a plethora of organic, artisanal goodies, handmade or hand-grown by locals.  Upstairs, Esme gasped at the price-tag on a small leather purse she spotted – $138.00.  One of the conquests of the Warren Country store was a four-pack of elusive “Heady Topper” beer; also known as the Beer Advocate’s #3 beer on the list of Top 100 Beers of the World.  With our prize in tow, we left for Montpelier.

We pulled into Vintage Trailer Supply later than expected (shockingly) and got to spend a good half hour with the crew.  Thank you, Steve, Mark, Mike and lovely lady who’s name escapes us, for being quite gracious to the 7 kids who were quite antsy from the drive.  We talked plumbing and poop with Steve, the owner and mastermind behind VTS and chatted with Mark, the parts guy, about his kiddo’s fight with leukemia 14 years ago.  Mark’s son was also a Make-a-Wish kid, so he knew that journey all too well.

We romped around Montpelier and ended up on the capitol lawn, picking squash and basil from the vegetable gardens that grace the front entrance.  Vermonters, please go harvest from your capitol gardens— there is Swiss chard in abundance, patty pan squash ripening, peas are on, herbs galore and more.  We took a more direct, less arduous route back home and after a quick Sabbath dinner on Karen’s screened in front porch, hurried kids off to bed.  Oh, one lovely note…  Karen’s neighbor across the street has built an impressive brick, wood-fired bread oven and has been gifting us glorious loaves of bread during our stay.  Today’s variety was rosemary/olive oil.

A Special Video Treat

This is a special post for us. Miette does not like to be photographed that much nor does she like to be videotaped. However, upon cleaning out our digital video recorder this evening we came across a video Miette took of herself. We thought we would share this, since to us it’s like finding gold. Just don’t tell Miette we are posting this! This was the day after her guinea pig, Tina Turner, unexpectedly died.  “I am a famous singer but I am also a famous pet owner.”

Meanwhile, we have spent most of this Vermont trip relaxing and enjoying the company of cousins; even with the relentless barrage of mosquitoes. Its interesting to see the dynamics of who hangs out with who. Miette is reveling in her cousin Emma’s extroverted personality.  Indy and Carter spend time together, then go their own ways; Indy sneaking off to fly fish, as we are in the backyard of the Orvis company.  They are very similar critters, those two.  Esme is collecting hardback Nancy Drew books, haunting the thrift shops of these little Vermont towns.  Signing off to get some shut eye— busy day tomorrow, with a field trip to Montpelier on the agenda.

 

Out With PA, In With Vermont

The day started with coffee (of course), packing up the Airstream and the crew, performing the always delightful tank dumping (sorry, no photos), saying our goodbyes to the PA family and hitting the road once again in the Airstreaming fashion.

Miette and Emma each with their own birthday cake. Yes, you do see a giant rooster in the photo.
Miette and Emma each with their own birthday cake. Yes, you do see a giant rooster in the photo.

We arrived in Vermont this evening after a leisurely stroll through northern Pennsylvania, middle New York and the western edge of the Vermont countryside. We arrived in Wallingford. I think there’s a Wallingford in every state. This one is a little version so far. This Wallingford also had a birthday cake waiting for Miette and one for her cousins since their birthdays are close together.

An update on the coffee situation: We have been able to use our old Rancilio Silvia espresso machine and Rancilio Rocky grinder while in Oakland Mills but now must revert back to the Moka Pot and the hand crank conical burr grinder. I’m not entirely upset since the Moka Pot is another coffee skill that needs to be added. Maybe I’ll try and make a how-to blog post on the Moka Pot. It would fall under our “Natural Family Living” category of course, since coffee is, well, natural. Snapped some photos of Vermont and the towing rig windshield setup. Off to bed…

Wrapping Up in Pennsylvania

So Miette and Kelly buried her guinea pig, Tina Turner Friday morning in front of Meemaw’s shop where there is a flower bed. Later that day, Lisa found Miette laying next to her grave crying :( Later that night at bed time, when we all know its the toughest to not have something we miss so much, she cried herself to sleep, wanting to hold Tina. Its been a rough couple days for Miette.

Miette showing me her new pierced ear.
Miette showing me her new pierced ear.

However, on Friday she went thrift shopping with Lisa, her aunt Loretta, aunt Rydell and Meemaw. She got her ears pierced while they were out and was very happy about that. She’s been wanting to do that for quite some time.

Kelly and the boys went and got the oil changed and on a search for a fly shop. We found a sporting goods “store” in someone’s detached garage up in the hills. They had everything you could think of for bow hunting, guns, fishing… all crammed in a small shop. With our Keen’s and flip-flops, we were a little out of place with the local folk. If you could imagine fella’s coming out from living in the deep backcountry Pennsylvania hills for 5 months and then reappearing into society, that’s who we were waiting in line with. It was very interesting. The three of us were the only ones without at least 5 inches of facial hair. We think we saw bigfoot in there as well, waiting for his hunting license.

The awning was blown down from a thunderstorm.
The awning was blown down from a thunderstorm.

There must have been a thunderstorm that rolled through while we were gone; when we returned to the Airstream the awning was mostly pulled out of the railing and collapsed. It’s a beast to setup so we just folded it backup rather than setting it up again.

On Sabbath, Lisa got to see a lot of old friends she hasn’t seen in a while. The congregation over her has a lot of children in attendance, so once again, our kids were not lonely. Last night, we all hopped in the cars and drove to a local movie drive-in theater and watched double feature (Sorry, no pictures). Its been hot and humid the entire visit her and last night was no exception. A double feature makes for a late night so we all slept in a little longer this morning. It was the kids’ first drive-in experience.

Today will be our last full day in Oakland Mills. Tomorrow we load back up and head north to Vermont. It will be a full day of driving. We will opt out of stopping over in New York City, even though it would be cool to get a photo of the Airstream in Times Square… just don’t think I’d be able to get it back out.

A couple photos from before…

Indy getting up close...
Indy getting up close…
We acquired a needed entry mat while at the Airstream headquarters.
We acquired a needed entry mat while at the Airstream headquarters.

A Good Day… Until…

Today was a very busy day in central Pennsylvania. We took the kids to Lake Tobias Wildlife Park. It is a privately funded wildlife preserve outside of Halifax.  The kind where you ride on a safari-type converted school bus and get up close and personal with the wildlife.  Watusi cattle are rather intimidating as they lumber within inches of impaling you with their horns, approaching dinner plate size in diameter.

Checking out the Water Buffalo at Lake Tobias Wildlife Park
Checking out the Water Buffalo at Lake Tobias Wildlife Park

 

Lake Tobias Wildlife Park Its a great park that takes extremely responsible care of their animals.  It was difficult to really enjoy the day, though, with extreme heat and humidity melting even the sturdiest of us.  Bring on the reptile show in a delightfully air-conditioned auditorium.  Love those reptiles.  We ended our afternoon at Little Buffalo State Park.  A summer storm was upon us and the grownups at least spent the entire time under a pavilion.  Indy, however, who is half duck, reveled in the deluge.  A very tired bunch piled into the truck for the trip home.

When we got back to Meemaw’s house, Lisa went into the Airstream to check on Tina, the guinea pig, who was not acting like herself this morning.  We had doctored her up in our usual fashion and hoped that a day of quiet would do her some good.  She did not look very lively at all on our return and Lisa gave her more doctoring, then took her to Miette for some cuddling.  Sadly, Tina died in Miette’s arms about a half hour later and of course, she immediately started crying when Kelly had to softly tell her Tina had died. What do you say to a seven year old whose beloved guinea pig dies on her birthday??  She didn’t want to stop petting her and kept encouraging Tina to wake up. She cried for a good while… it was really tough on her. It’s amazing how a girl can go through cancer treatment for 9 months, endure the things she went through (losing hair, eye lashes, finger nails, pain, sick, surgery, etc)… yet losing her guinea pig was much harder on her. It was hard on mommy and daddy as well, to watch her come to the realization that her beloved little Tina was gone. Miette will bury her in a nice flower bed at Meemaw’s house in the morning, but she wanted to spend one last night with Tina (who is now wrapped up with a cloth in a box) beside her. It will be another tough one at the grave side, we’re sure.

With that, it’s time for this day to end. Here are some photos from the day…

Misc Photos

Here are a few misc photos from the trip. Having time to take photos and get them internet ready is a challenge when traveling. There’s barely enough time to eat, use restroom services, clean up, etc

Mark and Ralph with Miette and her Airstream (RV Specialty and Supplies in West Richland).
Mark and Ralph with Miette and her Airstream (RV Specialty and Supplies in West Richland).
This was our first Wal-mart campout. Not too shabby of a back drop.
This was our first Wal-mart campout. Not too shabby of a back drop.

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Reflection of an Airstream from the hub cap of another Airstream.
Reflection of an Airstream from the hub cap of another Airstream.
A row of Airstreams waiting to be serviced. There was another row just as long.
A row of Airstreams waiting to be serviced at the Airstream Service Center. There was another row just as long.
The story is Jesse James bought a custom made Airstream for Sandra Bullock and in return he made this chopper for them.
The story is Jesse James bought a custom made Airstream for Sandra Bullock and in return he made this chopper for them. It’s on display in the Airstream Service Center.

Pennsylvananiaia

We arrived in Oakland Mills, Pennsylvania around 3:00 am this morning. It was the longest day of the trek so far but we were not going to stop for another night. We decided to make a small (seemed small at the time) side trip about 45 minutes up I-75 in Ohio to the small town of Jackson Center… where the Airstream headquarters and production facilities are located. We arrived at 2:20 p.m. just as the only tour of the day was heading outside to the service center. Nothing but Airstreams. Nice ones, not so nice ones, small ones, big ones, vintage ones, motorhomes, choppers (courtesy of Jesse James), etc, etc, etc.

Miette walking back from the the Airstream production building.
Miette walking back from the the Airstream production building.
Trying to imitate the mean face of the 1931 Clipper.
Trying to imitate the mean face of the 1931 Clipper.
Leaving the factory in Jackson Center, Ohio.
Leaving the factory in Jackson Center, Ohio.

We toured the production line (long tour) and got to see how they make the $80,000 new models. The kids were done with the tour about 20 minutes into it so after the hour long tour was done, we bolted for the store, where they had cookies and other goodies. We picked up a few relatively inexpensive things in the store (hats and caulking), lusted for more expensive items (solar panels, air vent fans, rock protector, new Airstream, etc), repented of the lusting and then had to get going.

Overall, the kids did excellent on the trip. They were the ones we were worried about the most with the 50+ hours in the truck, but they were great. What caught us by surprise was the condition of the roads and the amount of construction. Thankfully, we never ran into delays, just a lot of rough surfaces. Don’t get me started on the aging U.S. highway system. I gave the roads a harsh talking to while navigating what at times was the Oregon trail.

You know you’re on a cross country trip when you start out in Illinois during a huge hard hitting continuous thunderstorm, see the Airstream factory, drive by 3 huge Honda factories, cross over 5 states and finally pass a horse and buggy on a curvy narrow two lane Pennsylvania road at 2:00 am to end your day.  Whew!