A long business overdue update

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It’s been awhile, and though I do share tidbits more frequently on social media and via my newsletter, I wanted to do a full write up of what has been going on. I haven’t published a blog post since April, so this is a long overdue update. It shares some exciting professional news, but also the personal as it relates to my health.

This community has been a huge part of what has kept me afloat during the last few, difficult years. With my limited bandwidth due to the ongoing spinal cerebrospinal (CSF) leak, I have had to cut out some of the work I want to do. The blog was put on hiatus first, because updating on social media (primarily Instagram) is quicker and less labour intensive.

But while I have not been putting out new posts here, I have spent many hours updating the backend of the website, and working on a number of other things that I wanted to share. I’ve also seen specialists and learned more about my body, enough that that information sheds a very different light on the many years of chronic pain I endured prior to my CSF leak.

It has taken time to process the thread that now connects dots I never thought to connect, and I wanted to keep my community updated.

Personal Updates

A few updates about how I’m feeling, those connected dots, and where I’m living.

Moving to Gatineau, Quebec and Living Semi-Independently

Since May, I’ve been living in Gatineau, across the river from Ottawa. My brother lives in Ottawa, and my plan is to eventually move there as well. For now, though, Gatineau has been a lovely middle ground. I got to spend a summer wandering down to the water, seeing my family, and learning how to live mostly alone, with a leak.

Gatineau Quebec
Unfiltered / unedited photo from a sunset over the Ottawa River, taken from the Gatineau side.

My brother and his partner come over once a week to help with things I cannot do, like getting groceries for me, and doing my laundry and my vacuuming. I’m lucky that I have them to pick up the slack that my leak steals away, and I will never complain about getting more time with people I love so much.

At first, adjusting to the apartment felt really deflating. There were many things that I couldn’t reach, or use. The bed was too low and very painful to get in and out of. The freezer was a drawer under the fridge, so I couldn’t open it without making my CSF leak worse. The dishes and pots were too heavy for me to wash myself, or use comfortably. The list went on.

These are fixable problems, of course. I got a mattress pad, a tiny freezer, and new lightweight dishes and a small pot to use, thanks in no small part to the Amazon gift cards you got me for my birthday.

But the initial weeks here felt really deflating. As humans we are so good at adjusting. Sometimes too good, and we forget where we really are. The perspective I lost was that I am actually more disabled than I remembered, something that hit me hard when I moved into this apartment.

Like anything else, adjusting to this new life has its ups and downs, and eventually I got past the frustration and started strategizing ways to fix the problems I was facing. I also got a kitchen rolling cart, lots of canvas storage bins since everything has to sit on counters to be reachable for me, and a few other things that make the place more comfortable.

I was never sure if I’d even be able to live independently again. So while there is a lot I wish I could do, I am very grateful that I am able to have more autonomy after years of being so dependent on others for every little thing.

jodi ettenberg gatineau quebec
It’s 3.5 km to the Ottawa River and back, and I am beyond grateful that I am able to walk there when my body allows.

Connecting the dots

As I mentioned, my spinal CSF leak is still active. But my body either seems to have produced more CSF, giving me some additional “uptime”, or it has gotten slightly better. Since my leak, I have had immune and other issues that have cropped up or worsened. I was able, with the help of labs and specialists, to finally connect the dots. You can read more about that process on my personal site as follows:

Mast cells are “sentinels” of the immune system, a type of white blood cell that helps control the immune processes in the body. They are called resident immune cells because they reside in tissues and not in our bloodstream. And they reside in tissues all over the body, from the connective tissue, to the endothelial cells, to the epithelial cells, and even in the brain.

Business Updates

Some of the projects I’ve been working on in the months since I last published.

Sharing Resources about Pain on Patreon

I created the Patreon as a way to accept support from this community, but it is slowly morphing into a place where I also share resources for people who are suffering for chronic pain, or those who know someone who is in pain.

The sad reality is that most of us are in one of those two categories.

Over the years, I’ve received many questions about how I’ve coped with my own pain levels. Now, I’m getting questions about how someone can support a person in pain. So the Patreon’s AMAs are a place where I answer those questions, and add additional resources.

The posts I’ve shared there also go into how I made the apartment I’m in accessible, and what changes to the setup allowed me to handle living alone with the disabilities I now have. Most recently, as sometimes people feel bad about asking for help or accepting help, someone asked me to talk about how to talk to someone in pain to help them get support if they are stubborn. (I’ll be answering this in the next AMA).

From feedback so far, these have been really useful. I look forward to sharing more.

Also, I’m now a Patreon ambassador! I got an email from them in the summer, asking if I’d be interested in applying for an ambassadorship programme they were building. I’m one of a small group of creators (out of their 200,000 users) who were accepted.

It’s still quite new, and thus far it’s been lovely to meet some really interesting, super artistic people. The ambassadorship is unpaid, but features workshop—I’ve attended a few so far—and rewarding breakout rooms with others in the programme to share strategies and problems/successes. Other perks include 1:1 product support, social media features, fun swag for my Patreon community, as well as paid opportunities to participate in things like product focus groups or creative collaborations with their team.

I don’t know how they found me, and it’s intimidating because many of the other creators have upwards of 2000 Patrons, but I’m looking forward to participating! Given that it was all of you who asked me to start a Patreon, I have this community to thank!

If you’re interested in joining the Patreon community, you can do so here.

A One-Time Support Option

When I launched my Patreon, I received messages from readers who wanted to contribute and/or support me in my work via a one-time payment. I did not have that in place, but do now.

Many of you asked for a one-time support option

The Curious About Everything Newsletter

Despite all this excitement of moving to a new place, I’ve managed to keep my newsletter running. I’ve been playing around with format (and emojis, I can’t help myself), and primarily spotlighting a few important reads each month, along with more fun photo-essays and quirky pieces I find. I sometimes include personal updates, but the focus of the newsletter is on talented and/or important writing worth reading.

While it is on Substack, and many writers have moved to a paid newsletter model, I do not plan to do so. The Patreon is the primary support system for my income, alongside celiac cards and the food maps shop. The newsletter I plan to keep free.

Even if this site has been more dormant than I would like, I feel happy that CAE has gone out every month for the last 11 months.

You can sign up below if you are interested in receiving it.

A Big Piece about Mental Mindset (Coming Soon)

I had a post called How to Get Through Terrible Times that I had on this site, but I have temporarily taken it down as I planned to publish it separately. I’ve been working on this piece during the last while and it’s still in editing, but I am excited to share it on the new JE site.

Redesign of Legal Nomads:

You may have noticed that the site is a little different!

Arthur the raven, my mascot, is very prominent. Ravens are such incredibly curious birds, and I chose one as my site’s throughline in order to highlight that I still am too, albeit in a different way to before.

arthur the raven legal nomads
Yay, Arthur the raven!

And, a new slogan: curious about everything. I am no longer telling stories through food, so that slogan had to go. The new logo reflects a divergence from my prior life of travel and food, but also the truth of who I always was: someone who wanted to learn as much as possible.

I started to feel really dissonant when I looked at the ‘old’ Legal Nomads, so this reflects more of where I am in life while still maintaining a similar structure.

I’ve added health and chronic pain to the main categories on the home page, too, since they are now a bigger part of what I write about.

I had really specific ideas of what I wanted, so as with the last redesign to the site I provided the assets (new logos, Arthur the Raven, etc.) to a web developer instead of hiring someone who did branding as well as development. The assets were inked by my artist-in-Legal-Nomadsness Ella F. Sanders. The redesign was done by a web developer who works for fellow travel blogger Mike’s web development company. While her work was paid, he donated his own time pro bono to help supervise the project.

Post Overhauls and Page Updates:

My morning routine is to get up, make coffee, and then do some work on the website until I need to take a break.

This has allowed me to slowly update pages and posts over time, and keep Legal Nomads more current.

Among them:

  • The gluten free guides are updated for 2021. They’re here.
  • The gluten free New York City guide has also been updated to reflect restaurant closures and some newcomers to the scene that are 100% gluten free.
  • I added a history of Belize section, and a “where is Belize located” section, because believe it or not that’s the most common search term for this post. It’s also got COVID-19 rules for visiting, if you were choosing to risk going now.
  • I updated the Vietnamese Egg Coffee Recipe with places to get it in North America, and new pieces and videos about the sweet treat.
  • I updated my piece on sleep issues and jet lag with information about how to sleep better, and new studies about chronomedicine and Covid-19.
  • I updated my Vipassana Meditation retreat experience with some new data about the dangers of those kinds of retreats, and how in some cases they can lead to a mental break.
  • The Alternative Careers for Lawyers page has been updated to include pandemic information, the rise of consultants in the legal field, and a more clear breakdown of how to go about shifting careers when you feel overwhelmed thinking about how to do so.
  • In November 2021, I updated my history of chili peppers post to include the 2021 Nobel Prize winning research on capsaicin, somatosensory receptors, and pain.

RSS-to-Email Changes: Feedburner is no more. RIP Feedburner.

Google has been threatening to cut RSS-to-email options for Feedburner for many years. The service was deprecated years ago, and this July they finally said that they were done supporting that option. So I had to figure out what service to use in order to get those people their emails. (Since I barely write here, I had lots of time to do this!)

For those of you who opted to receive Legal Nomads updates via email, new posts will be sent by a company called ConvertKit. I was planning on switching to them right before my CSF leak happened, so it only took me an extra few years. My friend Nathan started the company and is a really lovely human being; I’d much rather give my money to talented friends than strangers!

If you’re not getting Legal Nomads via email, you can sign up via the form below. This is just for LN posts (about every six months, in terms of publishing schedule these days!). My monthly newsletter above is separate.

If you were already subscribed to get Legal Nomads posts by email, you do not need to do anything. I wanted to explain why the emails look different, and let everyone know they can also sign up that way if they prefer.


That’s it for now!

While the pain I’m in never goes away, these projects and my newfound autonomy have helped make these last few months some of the best in years. I may not be mobile or traveling the world anymore, but I believe that I’m able to help more people than ever before.

Whether it’s helping navigate tough times, understanding pain and loss, or just giving more context to the illnesses of loved ones, this work feels useful.

And feeling useful goes a long way toward life satisfaction for me.

Thank you for allowing me to share this journey with you.

Until next time,
Jodi

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