My Battle with Lyme Disease All Began When I Met a Paraplegic Sheep

paraplegic sheep

If you’ve read my blog more than a couple times, you’ve probably come across some stories on my battle with Lyme disease.

I’m now entering six years (!) since my diagnosis. The journey has been painful, exhausting, and frustrating but never discouraging–for which I owe a great deal to a paraplegic sheep named Rocky who taught himself to walk.

To read about how Rocky helped me get through my first six months and beyond, read my article here that was recently published in Wide Open Pets, a worldwide website dedicated to all things animals.

If you’re battling Lyme, chronic or not, know that you’re not alone, and that even though the road gets rough, you always have the strength within you to persevere.

UPDATE: My story was picked up my Daily Mail UK! Check out their third-person narrative of me and Rocky, and learn the facts about Lyme disease.

This Is My Greatest Accomplishment, and It Might Be Yours, Too

Earlier in the week, I came across a list of questions on the Internet intended to engage two people in meaningful conversation. The questions are deep, thought-provoking, probing, and personal.

I tried to think of my answers as I went through the list, but one stuck out at me:

“What is your greatest accomplishment?”

I’ve been reflecting a great deal on my most recent accomplishment–becoming a published author. My initial thought was to answer with that.

But then I thought of all the solo female travel I’ve done. Maybe independent travel is my biggest accomplishment.

Yet I couldn’t choose between the two.

So I dug deeper.

I remembered the many hardships I went through to write my book, many of which are outlined in its preface. And then I remembered how I fought through a knot in my stomach each time I set off on a solo excursion abroad.

And then I remembered what it was like to go to my first professional acting audition, to send in my first freelance writing query, to get my first official rejection. But beyond that, I remembered pushing through the rejections, time and again, to follow my passions, my dreams.

In all of my accomplishments, I’ve never been fearless. But I have stared fear in the face and persevered. Courageous people aren’t fearless people; they are the ones who are scared to death but go head to head against their fears anyway.

My greatest accomplishment? It’s believing in myself.

On the days when writing a 254-page book seemed a daunting task, I never doubted that I could and would do it. All the times that I hugged my backpack to my chest on sketchy bus rides, homesickness creeping in, I still trusted in my instincts and personable nature to embrace the culture I was about to immerse myself in.

Every rejection I received after an audition or writing submission was a challenge to press on.

Believing that I can do whatever I set my mind to is, hands down, my greatest accomplishment.

Think really hard about what you consider your greatest accomplishment to be. If you find that you can’t decide between two, reflect on the journey that led you toward each of these.

I’ll bet you’ll find that believing in yourself is your biggest accomplishment, too.

A Look Back at My First Book Signing

My life seems to have more or less gone back to normal after my first mini book tour. I’m basking in Seattle’s brilliant summers, still working my 3 careers. I do have to pinch myself every once in awhile when I forget all that I’ve been through and accomplished in the past 2 years, and the long journey before that to get me where I am today.

Every few days it seems like a friend calls me or texts me or stares at me and reminds me: “You’re a published author.” And hearing that feels so stinking good.

I’m so goddamn happy these days sometimes I think I’m dreaming. Sometimes I think, It can’t really stay this good, can it? I find myself waiting for the other shoe to drop.

author

But then I listen to the words of the people who have been there with me on this journey. I hear them telling me to continue basking in this feeling and to stop waiting for it to end, because I deserve this. Because I have worked so freaking flipping hard for this, for so long. And it’s all finally, FINALLY, paying off. Because the sacrifices I made and the trying times I faced to follow my dreams were, hands down, 1,000 times over worth it.

 

Reflections of a Global Nomad: A Decade, From the Beginning Til Now

I intended to give myself a break from work today. No writing, no researching acting gigs, no scouring the Internet for animal opportunities. But I’m not very good at doing nothing. So I started cleaning.

While sweeping, the broom brushed out a rolled up scratch off map my sister and brother-in-law had given me for Christmas. I’d been putting off hanging the map on my wall because I wanted to be reflective during the time I spent scratching off the countries I’ve visited, the cultures I’ve experienced.

Today, I made time for that. And then, naturally, it inspired me to write so here I am at 9 AM on a rare day off that turned into not a day off because, well, I’m writing.

Writing is like an extension of my being. It’s hard-wired into my soul. I was born a writer; I can’t not write.

And just like writing, I’m a born traveler. The world is literally my stage (and I am literally a vagabond actress gallivanting across it, collecting parasites and scars and countless memories).

My first taste of international travel slammed into my heart 10 years ago when, college freshman year, I went with my roommate and a handful of girls from our floor to her home country in the Dominican Republic.

That original passport has since expired, but I was quick to renew it six months prior to the expiration date. I had no set travel plans, but when you’re a nomad at heart–well, you never know.

Today, I continued researching flights for my next international excursion, and I couldn’t help looking at Panama on my map anticipating using a penny to scratch it off. One of my flight options routes me through a layover in El Salvador, and I thought, okay, so I stay a little longer and see El Salvador.

But I don’t want to just see a country. I don’t want to just visit. I want to immerse myself. I want to jump head first into the unknown. I want to get lost and trust my gut and the kindness of strangers to help me find my way. I want to eat foreign foods and struggle to explain veganism to a waiter that can’t fathom it. I want to sleep on lumpy beds fending off cockroaches and humidity that make me toss and turn. I want to hitch hike and swim in new waters. I want to hear laughter and see smiles in a land that is so different from my own, full of people that are simultaneously unique and just the same as me.

As the years have passed and turning 30 looms closer, I had this little checklist in my brain, pushing me to hit 30 countries before I’m 30, so that I could feel like I knew a good chunk of this world. But I’ve stopped counting countries.

When I look at a map and see the big countries I’ve embraced, like Brazil, and then itty bitty ants of a country, like Luxembourg, they are of equal significance to me.

When I scratched off Brazil on my map, I remembered my first trip to the Amazon, something I’d dreamed of since childhood. I could see the faces of the children who helped me build their school. I pictured Bruno’s smile as he stole my bright green hat and taught me “Happy Birthday” in Portuguese, which I still sing a decade later. I felt how sore my muscles got mixing cement by hand in 100+ degree heat.

When I scratched off Luxembourg on my map, I remembered getting caught in a rainstorm and taking refuge in an old museum with a new friend I’d made from Australia. I could see the blood moon hovering over the capital city, brighter than I’ve ever seen it before. I remembered turning down an alley and running into a Serbian I’d met in Germany.

As I scratched off each country, my brain was flooded with memories–the good outweighing the bad, and the bad being mere life experiences that I learned from and laughed at–getting robbed in Ecuador, getting stalked in Canada, getting locked out on a third story terrace in Peru. (Oops, didn’t tell my dad about all of those…)

Scratching off my vagabond adventures, my gypsy life, my nomadic wanderings, I reflected on how many lifelong friends I’ve made all across the globe.

I notice the scars on my legs. I remember the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach with my inaugural adventure alone in a foreign land. I taste the salty tears dripping into my mouth the first time I set off with a beginning and end but no middle. I see the teenager I was and the woman I’ve become.

And I’m so damn proud of that woman.

She is the woman I’ve always wanted to be but needed to find the courage to become. She is someone who knows herself better than she ever thought she could, who believes in herself, who will try and fail and consider that succeeding. She is someone who knows how to plan and how to be spontaneous, who never stops dreaming and doing and dreaming and doing. She is the type of person who values face to face conversations and snail mail and nostalgia and blasts from the past and out of the blue honesty. She is the woman who loves humanity and this earth and will always do her best to spread love and happiness and the greater good.

Travel made me that woman, the woman I am today.

Looking up at my scratch off map now hanging above my bed, I am humbled. I’ve worked hard to experience so much of this world, yet this map reminds that I’ve still so much to experience. I’ve still so much to do, to learn, to see, to live.

So I’ve stopped counting countries, because I’m the kind of woman who chases meaningful experiences over fleeting moments, who values time over money, and who knows that no matter how small this world sometimes seems, it really is a great big world out there.

Blueberry Vegan Protein Smoothies–With No Protein Powder!

If you’re pumping iron and want to bulk up on your protein for mega muscles, this protein smoothie is both delicious and nutritious! The best part about it? It’s free of any protein powder!

As any healthy vegan knows, the Where do you get your protein? question is mind-numbingly exhaustive. The myth that meat is the only source of protein can make us want to pull our hair out.

My sassy vegan friend, who stopped eating animals when she was 8, pointed out that she should have been dead from protein malnutrition two decades ago based on the protein myth. But alas, she is an energetic vagabond much like myself. People don’t really know how to respond when she points all that out. (I recommend you try it out; the reactions are priceless.)

Beans, leafy greens, nuts, soy, and more can get you your daily recommended value (DRV) of protein, which is roughly 45g for women and 55g for men.

If you drink two 16-oz servings of this smoothie a day, you’re getting over 65g of protein. SAY WHAAAA!?! One 16-oz smoothie will bring you more than halfway to your DRV. Again, SAY WHAAAA!?!

Also, for reference, an empty jar of peanut or almond butter is usually 16 oz. Mmmmm, almond butter.

20170601_091015_HDR

Ingredients:

1 block extra firm (not silken) tofu (45g protein)

4 Tbsp almond butter (13+g)

1/2 c dry oats (5+g)

1/4 c almond milk (<1g)

1 c fresh blueberries (1+g)

1 large banana (1+g)

Makes: 32 oz

Directions:

1. Mix all that protein-rich goodness in a blender.

2. Drink up! Have one with breakfast and another for a snack! Store in fridge or freezer.

I’m Going to Meet Dr. Temple Grandin!

When I was rescuing animals in the Ecuadorian Amazon, sitting in a monkey-poo stained hammock in a bamboo hut after a 12-hour work day, I read Dr. Temple Grandin’s Animals in Translation by candlelight.

The book details how Dr. Grandin’s autistic mind allows her to understand animals, literally putting herself in their shoes. She crawled through mud down cattle chutes to revolutionize the livestock industry. Half of the slaughterhouses in the U.S. and even more throughout the world now use her humane design, giving respect and dignity to these farm animals up to their predetermined end.

Dr. Grandin’s book was pivotal in my decision to commit to a vegetarian (and now vegan) lifestyle. It is a conscious choice I make every day to offer respect to the beautiful, entertaining, comforting, inspiring, impressive, and innocent animals that make up this great big world.

And now I get the chance to go to a Q&A and book signing with one of my idols, a woman who has battled countless odds to give a voice to those who cannot speak for themselves or are misunderstood. Not only is Dr. Grandin world famous in the livestock industry, but she is also a leading spokesperson for autism.

I received a press pass to go to the Vashon Sheepdog Classic (VSDC) this summer. Read more about Dr. Temple Grandin and the VSDC here.

“Animals in Translation” was a reprieve each night from the manual labor I put my body through in the Amazon, and helped me escape my anxiety and homesickness after being robbed on my first day backpacking solo in a foreign country.

When I was back in Ohio, I used to pull the book out from the shelves and stick my nose in the pages that forever captured that distinct and remarkable rainforest smell, transporting me back to the first glimpse of both my addiction to solo female travel and my future animal career.

never stop dreaming. never stop doing.