Sneak Peek of House

I’ve been working on a video of the house. Hopefully it will be done in the next two weeks. Just thought I’d give you a sneak peek.  🙂


Christa Upton   Black Hills Picture Books   Edgemont, SD  57735

Posted in Low-Tox House, MCS/Chronic Illness, Mold/Mould | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Why I Won’t Be Doing Brain Retraining

There is a “treatment” for chronic illness out there called Brain Retraining. I think it can have some benefits.

The biggest benefit I see is reduction of stress. In an illness like Biotoxin Illness (from toxic mold and/or bacteria) or Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, there is a lot of stress. This is because, like few other illnesses besides severe allergies, environment affects the person dramatically. And oftentimes, we do not have control over the environment.

So, I feel that brain retraining might help calm a person who has been feeling attacked on all sides. It also might help if the person has mild PTSD related to the illness or finds themselves very anxious even if most substances around them are not harmful. And to be realistic, it is nearly impossible to avoid every single bit of chemical in our world today, so brain retraining might help for that particular fact.

On the other hand, there can be serious drawbacks, especially concerning Biotoxin Illness. Part of the brain re-training process usually includes desensitizing to the triggering stimuli. But, the body is trying to protect itself. Symptoms are the body’s warning system to get away. So, if one tried to desensitize to mold and ignore the warning sign the body provides, the mold can continue poisoning and even infect the person (fungal pneumonia or other fungal infection). This does not seem like a good idea at all.

I believe this is also true regarding chemicals, although less so. Chemicals do not infect, they only poison. Also small amounts of chemicals are not as dangerous overall as small amounts of mold, IMHO, mostly because mold spores replicate and are often active in producing toxins, whereas chemicals merely hang around (except in the case of combustion, which makes the chemicals more “active.”)

However, since MCS is a cumulative illness, I believe that every time a person avoids chemicals, they are saving their body the work of processing these chemicals. To circumvent this means to prolong illness overall, I believe.

So, while a person may enjoy “feeling better” at the moment, it may result in more fatigue later (which is truly impossible to measure because there is no way to know what it WOULD have been. 🙂 )

In some circumstances it may be worth it, because the person may have no choice but to be around chemicals, or they may want to live their life this way because their bodies are actually strong enough to detox and get through it anyway. The detox later may not be as bad as the symptom they have reduced or eliminated through brain retraining.

I am hoping to continue gaining strength against symptoms the “natural” way—reducing my toxic load so much that my body naturally lets go of the warning system little by little. I have already seen this in that I no longer get heart palpitations from a short exposure to fabric softener. But, I can see how others might choose a different path and want relief of symptoms more than they want overall energy (or whatever other benefits are reduced by reducing chemical avoidance).

Also, I am extremely truth oriented, so when I hear things like “low levels of chemicals aren’t going to hurt you,” I start getting angry, blood pressure rising, etc., which is not good for a program that is supposed to reduce one’s stress!!!!! LOL  So I’m definitely not a candidate the program might help.

Granted, a small amount of chemicals is not going to hurt anyone as much as a large amount of chemicals. However, a substance doesn’t lose its characteristic of toxicity (incompatibility with the human body) just because there’s less of it.


Christa Upton   Black Hills Picture Books  Edgemont, SD  57735

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Interview about MCS Housing; Great Photography

About 4 minutes in begins a good interview with a friend of mine, Marie LeBlanc.

 My friend has the same struggles I did for years. The same struggles that an enormous amount of people with MCS and toxic mold illness have around the world.

She has a talent for photography, which helps her cope.

Check out her amazing photos here.

I absolutely LOVE this one!!! If I had money, I would order a huge print from her for my living room wall.

You can subscribe to her Facebook page here.


Christa Upton   Black Hills Picture Books   Edgemont, SD  57735

Posted in Homelessness, MCS/Chronic Illness | Leave a comment

Life into Numbers

Just for fun, my Canadian friend’s husband analyzed my health improvements that happened after living in this low-tox house for a year.  Here is what he came up with:

“Well using the Emer method to evaluate these numbers seems the best approach.. Methodology will be explained after the analysis.

“The reduction of symptoms seems to speak to quality of life.. While the increase in out of bed hours speaks to quantity… The analysis will take this into account.

“The 8 symptoms out of 24  suggests a 33%. Improvement. However since these 8 were weighted higher in severity. We will weight these 8 at 1.5 compared to the remaining 16.  The resulting formula is thus:
Quality = (8 *1.5)/24
. . . . . . . = 12/24
Suggesting a 50% improvement in quality of life

“The quantity question needs to factor in a suggested sleeping period of at least 8 hours.. This leaves 16 hours or 960 minutes of potential time out of bed.

“Previously out of bed was 15 minutes or 1.5% of waking hours spent out of bed.

“Currently out of bed is 240 minutes. Or 25% out of bed…

“Using simple math we see a 23.5% increase in quantity of time out of bed.

“In summary.. 50% improvement in quality plus 23.5 in quantity… Results in a overall average improvement of 37.65%

“The Emer methodology used in this analysis came from going “Em…. ER… and then making some formulas up…. However in hindsight I might actually have come up with something as your improvement is quite impressive and probably can be described as priceless.

“This analysis has not been reviewed by the food and drug administration (thankfully) nor Health Canada.. And should not be construed as containing anything more than entertainment and encouragement.”

I LOVE it!!!!  🙂 


Christa Upton   Black Hills Picture Books   Edgemont, SD  57735

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MCS & Biotoxin Illness: Evaluating Progress in Health

An engineer, whose wife had MCS, told us you can never know you have removed enough chemicals from the environment for the body to recover until you see the body recovering.

(So, they built a house absolutely as low-chemical as they could without compromising certain goals they had for their house. Which is what we did, too.)

Sometimes recovery is very obvious. You feel better immediately in a new environment.

But sometimes, when you have been sick as long as I have with a lot to detox, or when you have other health problems contributing, or when certain body systems are severely affected, or when certain substances are being detoxed, recovery is harder to gauge.

Is the environment good enough? Have I removed enough chemicals? Have I found everything that was bothering me? Did I get rid of all the mold and moldy items? Did something new come in that is affecting me?

Sometimes evaluating the environment feels like a full-time job!

Anywhere along the journey can become confusing, partly because things change so quickly. Among things that can change which can affect healing are: outdoor environments and air, new things brought into the home, new mold growth, other health factors, emotions, stress, even your perception of your health.

But, I feel one of the most important things I have learned along the way is:

When detoxing in a decent environment, generally try to evaluate progress only once every 1 – 3 months.

This does not include huge, sudden declines in health or new smells or new circumstances.

I also do not mean for anyone to take this 1 -3 month suggestion legalistically. There may be other factors, and this time period is NOT based on science, just my own experiences and observations. Please DO deviate if you need to.  🙂

So new smells: Toxins can NOT always be identified by a smell, but smells can be a good indicator.

A good example is a couple weeks ago, when I smelled a cologne/fabric softener smell coming in my east window.

I calmly began to investigate  Okay, I freaked out and tore through the house and yard in search of the problem. LOL

It turned out to be the plastic food cooler sitting at the end of the house, on the east side of the house, outside. Apparently it had picked up enough cologne, from tiny amounts in the car from what Steve and the kids’ clothing had picked up, and other scent from grocery bags, that it became toxic. I bent over and took a sniff and about threw up on my shoes. Then I gagged and coughed for the next 30 minutes.  Yup, the cooler is the problem. For some reason, cologne in plastic like that in particular affects me like this. I feel miserable for 30 minutes. So, out by the shed it went.

So yeah, you don’t want to ignore signs that something might be affecting you.

But otherwise, progress with an illness like this is tricky. This is for at least three reasons:

  • Apparently, the body stores toxins in fat. As you heal more and exercise more, these toxins can apparently come out more and more. Sometimes it causes effects, like headaches from whatever substance the body has turned these things into in an effort to “metabolize” them and/or get rid of them.
  • If the toxic substance is fungal, HERX reactions (feeling ill as bad microbes in the body die off and release toxins) can happen as the fungus dies.
  • The body is working to heal and rebuild many parts of the body as it detoxes. Sometimes in the process, it seems the body just needs to rest. This doesn’t necessarily mean a “decline” in energy, it’s just part of the process.

So, you may have your energy continuously rise for months, like I did at first in this house. Or, you may find yourself in the situation I am now—great rises of energy followed by much need for rest. Sometimes it’s 5 good days followed by 2 bad days. Sometimes it’s 10 great days followed by 10 horrible days.

Of course, the goal is not just stability but progress. But, evaluating more often can lead to discouragement. Day-to-day, it can seem like very little progress, if any at all.

It can be good to write down some personal statistics to evaluate over months rather than days or weeks. Is there an increase in energy over 3 months? Energy is one of the easier ones to evaluate, because again, “symptoms” can be tricky.

Even for “normal” healing, like from surgery or something, a wise nurse once told me it is 2 steps forward, 1 step back, which seems to surprise most people. I believe this phenomenon is exaggerated even more in a detoxing-illness, because the body has to detox (take care of bad substances) AND heal.



Christa Upton   Black Hills Picture Books   Edgemont, SD  57735 

Posted in Caregivers, Low-Tox House, MCS/Chronic Illness, Mold/Mould | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Wonderful Book Free Through Sunday

Really excellent book, FREE through Sunday. Highly recommend, especially for those struggling with mold or migraines or those who just like a good story!!! Touching true story by a gifted writer.

Her other book is wonderful, too: Camp Like a Girl: Finding Health and Wellness in Nature. A cargo van conversion story.

Christa Upton   Black Hills Picture Books   Edgemont, SD 57735





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PS on Lemon Water

Someone recently told me that lemon water can be hard on the teeth enamel. (My water is pretty alkaline spring water I think, so maybe that helps, maybe not.) Anyhow, the suggestions are:

Drink quickly rather than sip, to minimize contact with teeth.

Or, use a straw.

Do not brush teeth immediately after drinking lemon water, as tooth enamel is more vulnerable at that point.

So far I have not noticed any effects on my teeth, but (in case it makes a difference), I do not use toothpaste.


Christa Upton  Black Hills Picture Books   Edgemont, SD  57735

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More on Loop Scheduling

So this might be something everyone else already thought of, 😀  but I finally divided my house into “zones” for deep cleaning–15 zones not including mudroom (because I can’t go in there) but including windows as the 15th zone.

(This also doesn’t include the bathroom, because the bathroom gets deep cleaned every week.)

In the Loop Scheduling, I listed each zone on the monthly list. When I get one zone done (whether it takes a day or a week), I move onto the next one. This is working extremely well for me!!! Sometimes I ask the kids to help, sometimes I don’t. Most of the time, the dog and cat “help.” LOL For some reason, they love swishing rags, moving brooms, stuff I’m organizing which they think needs to be sniffed.

(Here they are quietly watching a bunny outside, but I wanted to add this photo just because it is so cute.  🙂  )

005 (2)

So far, it’s worked well because each zone has only taken me a day or two. If I start hitting the end of the month, I will probably reduce (merely dust and straighten the zone rather than completely re-organizing it) or skip (who cleans all windows every month, right?  LOL)

Each month would give opportunity for doing more in a zone–getting to another drawer to clean out, etc. Yet, with the goal of getting at least somehow through each zone in a month, one zone does not bog me down and stop me from making the whole house nice.

With a 1,200 sq. ft. house, each of the 15 zones is small, which is what makes it manageable. I love this, because it’s easier to work on each small zone thoroughly. I like being thorough but just do not yet have the stamina to be thorough in a large spot or whole house at once.

And maybe getting through everything will help me find those Columbo DVDs I somehow lost!!!  🙂 How I could lose them when we really don’t have that many places for them to be, I don’t know.  LOL

Anyhow, I learned from some wise and experienced ladies about cleaning–start at the top and go down. As I dust and organize high shelves, stray dust will be taken care of as I dust and clean and organize right down to the floor and sweeping.

I remember a lot of great, organizing ideas from my Mom, who is so good at this. Put like items with like items, get rid of unnecessary items, find containers for small things, put most-often-used stuff in the handiest spots, etc.

I like cleaning, so that and the exercise for me are added bonuses. I feel grateful.

I guess it’s like the old saying: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”


Christa Upton    Black Hills Picture Books    Edgemont, SD  57735


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ONE YEAR in the Low-Tox House

Wow, what a year!!! It’s been amazing to feel safe from pollution, gain strength, lose symptoms, help around the house, feel safe, spend much more time with the kids. Did I mention feeling safe? 🙂
The last couple months, my peaks and valleys have been more unpredictable–higher peaks (9 hours without having to lie down ) and not exactly lower valleys but more of them. It appears that detox is causing some more headaches and need for rest after long days, while the windows closed during cold weather may be contributing to the overall struggle. I’ve had to reduce my use of books (ink) in particular since airing out the house has been reduced.
But our conjecture is that things IN the house (books, non-perfect chairs, scents on the wheels of our daughter’s wheelchair from errands, maybe even my mattress) are more of the culprit than the house itself.
Anyhow, then this month I had to renew my driver’s license. It would be my first time in a public building in a long time.
As soon as we reached town, the Reactive Airway Syndrome began, likely from wood smoke and car exhaust, although propane could have contributed. But I did not get nausea as in the past.
The people at the DMV were amazing–very kind, let Steve do my paperwork, helped me quickly, etc. (When’s the last time you heard of a wonderful experience at the DMV?  🙂   Our people are special.)
When I entered (using my cotton washcloth as a mask–the only kind of “mask” I can tolerate), my lungs protested. “What in the world is this air we’re getting?” LOL It was so foreign to my body–the typical cocktail of fabric softeners, cleaners, inks, and building materials found in most buildings. My chest felt heavy and I was extremely dizzy. However, once again I did not get my typical nausea, nor did I get heart palpitations I used to get with fabric softener. I was ecstatic.
A trip like this used to cost me between three and ten days of recovery.
This time, it took less than a day!!!!!!
I came home and showered and spent the rest of the day in bed. But I woke up feeling normal.
I couldn’t believe it. This improvement means I absolutely have hope of going out regularly again one day. I honestly didn’t know if my body was too damaged to expect this.
Our son, Nathan, gave me permission to share his analogy for MCS. The body is a castle, and chemicals are the enemy. When you first get MCS, your castle gets torn down.  So then until you can get it completely rebuilt, it is vulnerable to attacks from the enemy, aka the chemicals. The only way to rebuild the castle is by avoiding the enemy, i.e. living in a low-tox house. You can’t keep building a castle if the enemy keeps attacking and destroying it. But once it’s completely built up and “perfect” again, it’s going to stand up to attacks a lot better.
I love this analogy.
So, I will be continuing to rebuild my castle, getting stronger until I can take care of the household and withstand the arrows of the chemical enemy.
Christa Upton   Black Hills PIcture Books   Edgemont, SD 57735


Posted in God's Grace/Encouragement, Low-Tox House, MCS/Chronic Illness, Mold/Mould | 6 Comments

Finally a “To Do List” Method That Works for Chronic Illness

(But you don’t have to have chronic illness for this to be a good method for you!)

It’s called Loop Scheduling!  WOW, I love it.

You can learn more here and in Tauna’s other posts about this.

Many with chronic illness face limited energy and even harder to deal with for planning–unpredictable energy. Many of us never know whether we will be able to accomplish hours worth of things in a day or nearly nothing. Though I am healing tremendously, I still face days where my body just has to catch up with rest, make up for a bad night’s sleep, or make it through a simple virus which knocks me flat rather than just giving me a runny nose.

Loop scheduling allows one to save energy by not constantly re-writing things that didn’t get done on the next day’s list. It also helps save over-analyzing what to do next. This is extremely helpful on brain-foggy days.

The short explanation on Loop scheduling is this: Have several lists (Daily Dos, Weekly Loop de Loos, Monthly Loop de Loos). Do your daily list, then go to the top of each other list in turn. When the top thing is done, do the next one (no matter how many days or hours in between). When you get through a Loop de Loo list, start over!

If you find you are not getting through your Weekly Dos (for instance) in only a week, then either call it your Bi-Weekly Dos 🙂 or take some things off the list or re-prioritize knowing you could skip the last few things on the list if you need to.

I adapted the concept in several other ways also.

First, I react to printer ink & paper, so I put mine on my laptop. For each list, I have a different digital “sticky note.” I put everything needing to be done in bold and change to regular font when done. Every day, my Daily List gets to regular font. The bold on my other lists tells me where to start that day (since I changed the day-before’s accomplishments to regular font).

I put ALL my Daily Dos, Weekly Dos, etc. on each list, without separating out a separate Weekly Do list for the house, school, blogging. With limited energy, this works very well for me.

So my Daily List includes such tasks as school with each child using their lesson plans, wiping out bathroom sink, taking a walk (or sweeping etc. for exercise inside if cold outside), and possibly doing some mending (patching quilts or whatever).

My Weekly Loop de Loo Do List includes clean bathroom (twice), write blog post, clean out e-mail, plan school, listen to sermon with Alyssa.

My Monthly Loop de Loo List includes Black Hills Picture Books finances, some monthly cooking (stuff the kids like to have stocked in the freezer), and deep cleaning like the stove.

I also added another list called “One Time Tasks.” This is for things such as thank-you notes or projects. I do one a day or one every few days, whatever. If there is an urgency to the top few tasks, I might type the “due date” beside it.

I am so excited–I love this system. It is really helping me save time, energy, and frustration. I’m so glad Tauna posted about this!  🙂

Posted in Caregivers, Children, Homeschooling, MCS/Chronic Illness | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments