Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Sea Change: Cape Cod Summer 2018 Update

Hello Family and Friends! As usual it has been way too long since I have updated you about my life, but this time it is not for positive reasons like having way too much fun to write a blog post. As some of you know, but many of you don't, my life has changed quite a bit since I last wrote, and I haven't really felt like talking about it to anyone other than my immediate family. But now I feel the time is overdue to let you all know what's going on.

I moved to Cape Cod for a job doing shellfishing with the Town of Barnstable, and that was all going great for the first couple of months that I was here. Around that time, though, the back injury I had been dealing with when I was in Florida reared its ugly head again, and the eventual culmination was that I was let go from my job because I wasn't physically able to do it anymore. That was a huge blow at first because I had moved here specifically for that job, and I started to doubt whether I should even be here at all without it. I went through a few weeks of feeling very low and unhappy as I scrambled to find work so I could afford to keep living here. However, my fortunes were good, and I was able to get a full-time position with the company I had been doing catering for on the weekends, called the Casual Gourmet. So now I work at the cafe they run at Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis, and although it's not what I ideally would like to be doing, the work is way less physically demanding and much better for my healing process.

I have been working there for a little over two months now, and I've settled in nicely. Even though it's an entry-level food service job, it's surprisingly enjoyable, and I look forward to going to work most days. I have been going to physical therapy and a chiropractor for my back, and it has been steadily improving. I'm at the point now where I hardly notice pain at all, which is such a huge relief from the days many weeks ago when I was in constant pain, which was having a negative impact on my mental health. I am also on a healing journey with the rest of my health issues as well, and have made some changes in order to wean off the extremely restrictive diet I was on and to add more healing foods to try to use food as medicine. Overall I'm in a good place now and much happier than I was several months ago, although I still have a ways to go before I feel like my health is back to 100%.

Despite the fact that I'm no longer doing shellfishing, I have some pictures I took during my last few weeks at that job, so I figured I would share them with you now and give you a little taste of what I was doing. When they let me go, they said I would be eligible to be rehired next season, which starts in April, so as long as my back cooperates, that is my tentative plan.

Our boat out on the water

My coworker Kendall enjoying the boat ride

One of the sites where we grew oysters (you can see the racks we put the trays of shellfish into just below the surface in the foreground)

Our crew digging for quahogs

Baby quahogs (clams) are placed under nets on the sand in tidal areas, and a few years later once they are fully grown, we come back and move them from the growing areas to the harvest areas where recreational shellfish license holders can dig them up again.
Me digging quahogs. Look at those muscles! I hope I don't lose that with my indoor work. :P

Shellfisherman Lindsay
Showing off my catch

My coworker Kendall and our supervisor Liz working at the Flupsy (floating upweller system). It's basically a floating dock with containers underneath called silos that hold very small baby shellfish. We grow them there until they are big enough to be put out into trays (for oysters) or under nets (for quahogs). 

Liz pouring a bag of super tiny baby oysters into a silo. There are 250,000 babies there!
A picture of the motor on the Flupsy (hard to see because it's underwater), which pulls water into the silos to bring food in for the shellfish, plus a silo to the left.

Liz replacing the silo into its spot in the Flupsy.

So there you have it, a glimpse into what my life was like before the major changes. Hopefully that is what I will be going back to next spring, but in the meantime I have to focus on healing. My life is not terribly interesting anymore without the shellfishing, since working at a cafe is not very rugged or glamorous, so I imagine I will not be updating my blog very often. However, I do have some vacations planned in the upcoming months, so I'm sure those will get some attention on here. So stay tuned for that, and thank you as always for reading and keeping up with my adventures!

Monday, April 30, 2018

Spring 2018 Update: Return to Cape Cod

Hello family and friends! It has been way too long since I've updated you all on what's going on in my life, and I'm sorry about that. Some of you know what I've been up to but I realize that many of you don't, so here is a quick recap of my life since leaving Crater Lake last fall. 

I wish I could say that it was all good things, but unfortunately that's not the case. I returned to Florida at the end of October to stay with my mom for the winter and worked for UPS and the liquor store like I had the previous winter. I also decided to use the time of relative calm in my life to focus on addressing some health problems that had been going on for about a year. I don't remember how much of this I've talked about on the blog in the past, but for those of you who don't know, about a year and a half ago I was diagnosed with an autoimmune thyroid disorder called Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. Basically my immune system thinks that the cells of my thyroid gland are foreign invaders, so it mistakenly attacks them, leading to destruction of the gland and continuously decreasing thyroid hormone levels in the body. This diagnosis led me down a path of wanting to know what else might be going on, and I subsequently found out that many other hormones in my body are out of balance, I'm gluten intolerant (most likely Celiac) along with various other digestive complaints, have positive antibodies for several viruses my body has been fighting off, and I have Lyme Disease, and have had it most of my life. That was quite a shock to me, since I've never had any major symptoms that would lead me to suspect Lyme at all. However, this slew of diagnoses made me examine how I was really feeling and I realized that it had been a while since I'd felt 100% healthy. I just kept pushing through life, ignoring symptoms or thinking that it was normal. Everyone complains about being tired or having random aches and pains, so it didn't seem like a big deal until it was brought to my attention just how much my body had to handle. 

So I'm still very much dealing with all of those issues, and it certainly will not be a quick fix. Sometimes it can be extremely discouraging, but I try to stay positive and not feel too sorry for myself. Healing is a marathon, not a sprint, and I just have to keep reminding myself of that, even when I feel like my progress has regressed or I have to say no to yet another delicious-looking baked good because my body doesn't know how to handle itself around gluten. Health problems can feel isolating, but I'm lucky to have my family there to support me through this whole process. 

And now onto the happier news...I yet again have a seasonal job for the summer in an amazing place, and this time I'm returning to somewhere I've been before: Cape Cod! It was 5 years ago that I was a member of AmeriCorps Cape Cod, and ever since then I've thought about returning some day. This was the year that I felt especially pulled to come back, and I also just generally wanted to be on the east coast closer to family after spending the last two summers out west. My job is with the Town of Barnstable Natural Resources Department working as a Shellfish Assistant. This entails helping the Shellfish Biologist and the Shellfish Technician with the town's aquaculture program. We grow oysters and quahogs (hard-shell clams) in order to keep a sustainable population for recreational and commercial fishermen to catch. The work can be strenuous, but the people I work with are fun and the atmosphere is relaxed. We get to be out on the water everyday to check on the shellfish, and I'm very happy to be back in a job where I work outside. There have been some ups and downs, such as some days that I don't feel as well as others, or the first few days of the season when it was in the 30s and I had just come from 80 degree weather in Florida, but for the most part I'm enjoying it, and it's great to be back at the beach. I will try to write more details about the work soon, but for now, here are some pictures from one of our boat rides last week. 

Me enjoying the view in my full work attire (waders, gloves and life jacket)

Loving life

My two bosses, Liz and Tom. You can see my feet too as I laid down and relaxed at the front of the boat.

Me with my boss, Tom (left), and my coworker, Paul.

Thanks for reading and following along on my next adventure!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Oregon Update: The Smoke Continues

In my last post I wrote about how smokey it was from the fires burning in the park, and how much of a relief it was to take a trip to the coast to escape from it. Little did I know, that was just the beginning of our smoke problems. Since then, we have had many days that the smoke settled into the park and did not dissipate for a long time. Air quality has been so bad sometimes that we have spent the whole day doing office work instead of going out into the field, and even inside we could still smell the smoke. The amount of smoke in the air changes day to day, and even hour to hour, but for the past several weeks it has basically been fluctuating between various levels of terrible. Words can only go so far in describing the situation, so here are some pictures to help.

This was our view while driving to our work site the first day that the smoke was really bad. 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Oregon Update: Sea, Sand and Smoke

A lot has been going on here at the park recently, but I'm still a bit behind on writing about what I've been doing the past several weeks so I'll give a bit of a recap of that first. 

Me in my official Park Service uniform

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Pacific Crest Trail: My First Solo Backpacking Experience

As I mentioned in my last two posts, I went on my first solo backpacking trip over 4th of July weekend. It's something that I've thought about doing for years now, and I finally got up the nerve to go for it. Part of the motivation came from finding out that Anette, the woman I did WWOOFing with in Norway when I traveled in Europe a few years ago, was starting to hike the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) that week in Ashland, OR. For those of you who may not know, the PCT is a long-distance hiking trail that runs from the Mexican border to the Canadian border through California, Oregon and Washington, and it just so happens to go right through Crater Lake National Park. It was perfect for me because I don't have a car so I didn't have to worry about getting to some far away trailhead, so I decided I would hike south for a day (my plan was about 10 miles), camp for one night, and retrace my steps the next day. I was hoping the timing might work out for me to meet up with Anette on the trail and we could hike back to the park together, but I also knew that might not happen, so I was equally prepared to do the whole trip alone.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Oregon Excursions, Part I: Silver Falls State Park and Oregon Coast

Here is the first of hopefully several posts about trips I take while I'm in Oregon. This one is about my trip a few weeks ago to Silver Falls State Park and the coast with two of my coworkers. We had a great time, and I enjoyed getting to see more of Oregon. It's a beautiful state and I hope to see as much of it as possible while I'm here for the season.

So our first stop on the journey was Silver Falls State Park, which is several hours north of Crater Lake. The hike we did was called Trail of Ten Falls, and it was a a loop of about 8 miles (exact distance is questionable because none of the maps and signs at the park seemed to agree with each other) that passed ten waterfalls along the way. The scenery was amazing lush greenery which was reminiscent of a tropical landscape and reminded me of Costa Rica in certain places, and some of the waterfalls were breathtaking. Here are some pictures of our hike (the following group of photos is courtesy of my coworker Tara Chizinski).

This waterfall was the main attraction (I believe it was the tallest one) so there were lots of people around. As soon as we got past the first few falls, the crowd decreased dramatically and the hike was very quiet and calm. 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Life at Crater Lake

I have now been at my new job at Crater Lake National Park for 5 weeks (time sure does fly). I'd hoped to work for the National Park Service for years now, and it's so exciting that it's finally a reality! I work for the Botany Division as a Biological Science Technician on the Invasive Vegetation Management crew, which is a fancy way of saying we remove invasive weeds. The first couple of weeks involved studying for our pesticide applicator exams, since we will be using herbicides to treat some of the weeds later in the season. Once we all passed our tests the job got much more exciting because we actually got to do field work instead of sitting in the office all day. Now most of what we've been doing is going to sites with known populations of weeds and hand pulling them, and the other part of the job is surveying burned areas to see if new populations of weeds are establishing. You could say it's not the most glamorous of work, but I don't mind because we get to be outside all day and basically get paid to go hiking.

My first glimpse of the lake on my first day of work. Beautiful!