Tuesday, July 16, 2013

29. Basye's Misty Valley Farm

Recently I had the privilege of interviewing Ryan Basye of Misty Valley Farms. The farm is located in Dysart, Iowa and they farm everything organically. They raise and sell chickens, eggs, and other produce.

(Photos of the farm)

“Our farm is very small, with most of our 13 acres in pasture land with a creek running through it. We have a large kitchen garden and several laying hens. We do everything organically. Nothing man-made is used for fertilizer or fed to our animals, including GMO grains. We get our chicken feed from a local farmer that grows much of his own feed grains,” Ryan explained.

When we raise the broiler chickens, they are rotated everyday on to fresh grass. This allows them to eat food that has fresh omega 3 fatty acids (very important) as well as any bugs they might find. Conventionally-raised chickens will have very few omega 3's even if they have flax seed in their diet,” Ryan tells me.

(organically raised chickens)

Ryan is inspired to farm organically for the health of the community. He grew up in Iowa and loves it here: “It's home and I love being here.”

(Hoar frost on the farm)

When asked what he loves most about his work he replied, “Knowing where our food comes from and how it was raised. I feel a lot better not having to buy meat and most veggies for my family from a grocery store where the food could be from 1,000's of miles away and grown with dangerous chemicals. I also feel great that I can provide the same food for my customers that don't get the same opportunity to grow their own food.”

To purchase from Misty Valley Farm contact Ryan at
319-476-3781 or

Thursday, July 11, 2013

28. My EDS Journey: Amber Lenius' Story

My EDS Journey

I got to my appointment 25 minutes early.  It'd been scheduled six months prior and I had driven 3 hours to get there.

I was too nervous to go in, so I rode the elevators. Eventually I meandered into the clinic. It was huge, holding offices for all the pediatric geneticists and their varied academic specialties. I sat in front of a giant fish tank and waited.

The office was busy. Loud. Filled with so many families. I wondered how many of them were facing life-changing news too. I wondered if they were scared. I wondered how it would feel to be sitting here with one of my kids. I wondered if I would ever have to. (Please, please no)

"Amber?" a pretty, blonde nurse called me over. Six months pregnant with a freshly broken tailbone, I waddled after her. Pulse 134, BP 150/95. She checked twice just to make sure. "Are you nervous?" "Yeah, kinda". (Get me out of here)

Dr. Trapane and her nurse, Anne, came in soon. They were so nice, so professional, I knew I came to the right place. We talked about my history. All of it. My entire family's history. All of it. She felt my hands and took my Beighton Score. Velvety soft and 9/9. She asked about my pain, my injuries. I told her how I can't go upstairs and my hips pop out of place. And my knees. And my ankles. And all of my fingers. And my jaw. And my shoulders. She looked at my flat feet and I told her about my plantar fasciitis. She listened to my heart murmur and I told her about my blood pressure and heart rate issues. She looked at my eyes and I mentioned how I can't even read my own t-shirt without glasses on.

 She looked in my eyes and I told her how no one knew what was wrong with me. How I'd been tested for everything from Lyme disease to multiple sclerosis and it all came back negative. I told her I was scared that I'd die and no one would know why. She told me she knew exactly what was wrong. That it was Hypermobility Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, that I wasn't crazy, that I wouldn't die. She told me there was no cure, but there were things they could do to help me. Anne gave me piles of papers and talked to me for almost an hour, answered my questions.

When I got to my car, I couldn't stop crying. I'd been sick for so long and finally here was an answer. It wasn't a very happy answer, but it was an answer. (I'm infected by your genetics.)

It's been almost a year and I'm still struggling with reality. I hate my crutch, I hate my wheelchair, I hate my pile of supplements, my braces, my orthotics. I hate the uncertainty and the way I can't plan anything anymore, but must plan everything. I hate EDS with every genetically-flawed fiber of my being, but I love my life regardless. My kids are healthy. My partner thinks my crutch is a good weapon and jokes about learning crutch-fu. They all love me even when my body aches in a way that makes labor seem desirable. At least that pain has a purpose. Maybe this pain does too. Maybe it's meant to teach me not to take the little things for granted.

And so I won't. Each day is beautiful in its own way and I'm grateful to have been given so many of them. EDS has shown me how to live in the moment and I'm so grateful for that. Having a chronic illness is difficult, but I won’t let it define my life. I > EDS.

(Photo (c) Amber Lenius. No use without permission)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

27. Keri Brecht Photography

Keri Brecht is a photographer who has been interested in her art for as long as she can remember. “I don't think there's an actual point at which I ‘began’ photography...for as long as I can remember, I've always viewed the world through a critical and artistic lens, so to speak,” she told me in a personal interview.

(Keri Brecht and one of her cameras)

Keri’s photography blows me away. I love her sense of balance and color. Her talents rest in her innate sense of perspective. She states, “Photography is one of many methods we use to share the beauties of the world. It tells stories and depicts people, places, and situations that the majority of the world might not ever experience, except through some photographer's lens. It is that means of self-expression and storytelling that fuels my passion for photography.”

Keri finds her inspiration in life itself, from the “smallest grain of sand” she says, “to the beautiful, colorful wares of a Guatemalan artisan. When viewed from a unique, appreciative viewpoint, anything can make a powerful photographic statement” She currently lives in Guatemala where she works as a nanny but was raised in Iowa and calls it home.

(Photo of a hot air balloon ride)

She values the story behind every photograph as well as its aesthetic value. Keri told me that she believes in “in the beauty of natural light, and of minimally edited photos. It's not how pretty a picture is, it is the story it tells that is most important and profound. Someday I hope to become a photo journalist or foreign correspondent so that I may use my passion to bring beauty, culture, and information to the world.”

“Right now, I am working on my personal mission to explore and share the many places and stories around the world. Currently, I am in Guatemala, working as a nanny. I continue to share my experiences here through my photography, just as I did back home in Iowa. I am writing about my travels as well in my blog: http://keri-around-the-world.tumblr.com/.”

She hopes to continue to travel in the future and take beautiful photos along the way. As she explained to me, “In a few years' time, I hope to have moved on to another international locale, from which I can continue to use my photography to explore and investigate that place's culture, sites, and secrets.”

She is also available to do photos and freelance work for anyone interested. ”I am currently working on self-inspired, freelance projects. However, I also do family, baby, and senior photos upon request. If you would like to contact me regarding any freelance writing, photography, or portrait projects, you can reach me at keri.brecht@gmail.com, or through my facebook page, Keri Brecht Photography.”

Keri is an inspiration to me as a photographer and as a person, in general. Her vibrant smile, energy and passion for the arts reminds me of why I do what I do!

To contact Keri, see below.
Facebook: Keri Brecht Photography

Saturday, July 6, 2013

26. d'Artagnan's Corner: Freedom from Self-Judgement

Freedom from  Self-Judgement
This Independence Day I tried to think about what I am learning to have freedom from this year. I've talked to several people about the topic and everyone has such interesting answers! The freedom I am learning to experience is freedom from self-judgement and criticism. I'm learning a new level of self-love and self-acceptance since my EDS diagnosis. The diagnosis has been a blessing in that way, I suppose.

Here's an example: I generally get irritated when I sleep late into the morning, even on my days off. This morning I overslept. I slept until 11am! Typically, I would be rife with self judgement and remonstrating myself for being so "lazy," "sick," "un-motivated" and "immature." How I came to associate those words and feelings with oversleeping is fuel for a separate post entirely. Today, after oversleeping, I took a step back from the judgement and thought to myself: what is the harm in sleeping late, really? Why have I labeled this so negatively? Who gets to determine how late I sleep on a day off? The answers were empowering. My body needs the rest. No harm comes from sleeping in an a day off. The labels come from outside perspectives that should have no bearing on how I live my best life. Only I get to determine how I spend my time and what I do to care for myself. Then I realized it was FUN to sleep late, and FUN to have crazy dreams into the morning and I don't have to feel bad or apologize for that. Progress made in baby steps.

Tummy Trouble! 
This week started out normally health-wise but Monday night I ended up sick which started a new leg in my EDS journey. Monday after dinner, it felt like my stomach was just not digesting. Food was just sitting there, hanging out, not doing what it was supposed to be doing. Bothered by these deviant tenants, my system decided to give the food an eviction notice and I ended up sick Monday night.

I didn't have a fever or any other symptoms; my tummy just did not want to digest any food. So, I went to my online EDS groups for advice. As of now, the signs are pointing to gastroparesis, but I can't say that for sure. The symptoms fit, but I'm not a doctor, so I don't for sure know what is going on with my system.

What I do know is that what seems to work in getting my digestive system back in balance is eating teeny meals of semi-solid foods: mashed potatoes, cottage cheese, yogurt, applesauce, mashed bananas, etc. Doing this was helping with my tummy problems, but I was getting so, so, so tired from being malnourished. My online EDS friends suggested I supplement with Ensure shakes. Once I started doing that, the fatigue went back to normal levels.

I've been doing this since Tuesday and I think my system is slowly getting back into balance. I had my first solid meal last night at a restaurant with my Boo. I was able to digest it, but still had that overly full, slightly nauseous feeling this morning. So, I'm doing Ensure today until I'm able to eat solid food again. I feel good about it even though I'm not totally back to my normal status. Progress is progress and even the smallest baby step is worth being thankful for.

Other Miscellany
This week my strawberry plant produced some of the first strawberries of this growing season!

I had to switch to container gardens this year. I tried to maintain a plot in a community garden last year but it was too much. So I compromised this year and planted a garden in containers on my deck. Here are my pretties.

My new-to-me car is registered, insured and drivable! Here's a photo of the car, the latest member of my family. Her name is Champ.

I had a good 4th of July. Because of my tummy trouble, I took it pretty easy. I took the dog for a walk around my neighborhood which was very quiet. The fireworks aren't happening until tonight (Saturday) so there wasn't much going on around town, even on the 4th. I topped off the day nerding out with a Harry Potter movie marathon. How was your holiday?


Thursday, July 4, 2013

25. Film Recommendations from June 2013

Hello Fremily,
I still haven't had much time for watching movies this month--at least not as many as I usually do. Here are films that I saw, some for the first time and some for the hundredth, that I love and recommend.

1. Men in Black 3

I saw this movie in the theaters last year and it cracked me up. I watched it again on DVD recently and it still cracked me up. That's a sign of a good flick to me because I am a tough crowd--it takes a lot to make me laugh!

2. Flushed Away

I love this animated film. I seem to watch every time I'm feeling under the weather. 

What movies would you recommend that you have seen lately? 


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

24. On the Bookshelf June 2013

The following books were reviewed on my blog The Write Reader. Check them out if you are interested! 

1. Insomnia by Stephen King. A friend of mine recommended this book because I'm not well read in King's body of work. You can read my review here.

2. The Crush by Sandra Brown. This is the first in my stack of "beach trash/beach reads" (for a definition of the previous term, read my review!). I purchased this giant stack of beach reads to widen my reading horizons and to be less of book snob, to put it bluntly. You can read my review here.

3. Women, Food and God by Geneen Roth. I read this book because a friend highly recommended it. You can read my review here.

What have you been reading lately?


Monday, July 1, 2013

23. Shameless Self-Promotion June 2013

Hello my lovies,
Here is a list of what I've done this month in terms of blogging, photography and other goodies. I admit, this is shameless self-promotion, but in today's world this is a necessary evil! 


Posts on Living in Iowa (with links to the posts)
12. EDS Awareness Month Part 3
13. On the Bookshelf May 2013
14. Film Recommendations from May 2013
15. Shameless Self Promotion May 2013
16. Kristy Cutsforth
17. Topped Doughnuts
18. My EDS Journey: Dianne Connelly's Story
19. My EDS Journey: Yours Truly
20. Douglas Spotted Eagle 
21. My EDS Journey: Russel David Lewis
22. d'Artagnan's Corner: An Overview

The Latest on  Studio d'Artagnan (with links to the posts)
11. Teddy 1 Year
12. My and Madasyn Plus Mommy