The Standard Visitor Protocol
(Your Inconvenience Politely Performed Ensures Enjoyment?)
This web page explains the routine and its origin. After learning what must be done for visiting and/or helping with construction, readers can learn what products Chris and Cassandra currently use. The latter may be helpful for readers wishing to switch products for their own health, and/or wishing to use safer products prior to arrival.
- Introduction: what is the Standard Visitor Protocol, and when is it used?
- The SVP routine and parameters
- Safe supplies and sources
What is the Standard Visitor Protocol?
- The SVP is simply a set of procedures and parameters developed by C+C to comply with a major component of Cassandra's treatment for Multiple Chemical Sensitivity illness: avoidance of substances that trigger symptoms.
- Because the SVP reduces her exposure to illness provoking substances, it is a way to maximize the potential for Cassandra's enjoyment of visits with friends and family.
- The SVP is also a way to prevent C+C's living area from becoming unsafe, such that Cassandra would continue to get ill even after visitors left the space.
When is the Standard Visitor Protocol used?
- Prior to entry into the main living space (currently the 14' yurt).
- Prior to visiting with Cassandra.
- Prior to working on C+C's future home; this is a precaution to prevent causing Cassandra illness later on, due to substances being imbedded into the home's materials during construction.
- Anytime Chris comes home from work. Also, a modified protocol is used for Chris' return home from errands and other outings.
The Standard Visitor Protocol routine and parameters:
Anyone with MCS will recognize immediately the value to the Standard Visitor Protocol, as they have likely developed similar routines. Other people, who do not know what the SVP entails, may think it mysterious and strange. The family and friends who have already been through the SVP have found that it is fairly easy and packing for a trip to C+C's is a breeze!
The following procedures and parameters were painstakingly developed over several years, after other attempts failed (see Background section). Enough trial and error has been endured to know that these steps are required; the sole reason for these procedures is Cassandra's health.
In addition to the routine for visitor arrival and departure, there are several suggestions aimed at making a successful visit as likely as possible. Many chemicals will not come out of people's skin in one washing, or even a few, especially if the person uses them day in and day out. The additional suggestions have been proven effective at giving the routine a good head start.
The following are the procedures at the rental house. Once construction of the new home is complete, these same procedures will be followed with guests arriving at the Welcome Center first, and then proceeding to the Main Living Area.
All visitors follow this routine, for helping onsite with construction and/or for visiting.
ARRIVAL AT C+C's:
- When visitors arrive, they park at the end of the driveway. They cannot visit if Chris is not here. He meets and guides them, but new visitors should be aware that he cannot offer hugs for greeting at that time due to unsafe clothing worn by the visitors.
- Visitors use the upstairs bathroom in the unsafe area of the house (i.e., Cassandra never goes there) with all air filters in the house cranked on high.
- Visitors use the personal care supplies provided by C+C, to wash body and hair thoroughly, and then wash a second time.
- Visitors don clothing provided by C+C. All clothing worn by guests must already have been cleaned and deemed safe for Cassandra. If hair has not become safe by showering, a hat or bandana may be provided.
- Once showered and changed in safe clothing, visitors can enter the safe area of the house and/or (in the completed home) proceed to the Main Living Area to visit. In the rental house, this means visitors may go to the 14' yurt out back, leaving via the front door. Chris will usually have been waiting downstairs, and leave the house with them.
- When visitors leave C+C's, they will say their goodbyes to Cassandra in the safe part of the home. Hugs can be exchanged here for Chris as well, since guests will not be able to hug him once they have changed clothing.
- Visitors return to the upstairs bathroom and change back into their own clothes. The clothes worn while visiting are left behind, and stay upstairs.
- Visitors exit, to their car, and return home.
- Chris will later handle washing of visitors' clothes, sheets and towels. By being next to guest's skin these are usually unsafe for Cassandra. Chris brings them downstairs to wash when Cassandra is safely out of the house.
- C+C will provide visitors with a place to sleep for overnight visits.
- If guests choose to spend the night elsewhere, that is possible. However, the same procedures for leaving and arriving must be followed, and the same care should be given as was done prior to initial arrival, in regards to using deodorants, colognes/perfumes, scented lotions and soaps, etc.
- C+C provide all meals. Visitors are advised to make arrangements as far in advance as possible, with C+C, so that special diets can be accommodated.
- Please be advised that Chris will refuse all requests for McDonalds!
ITEMS PROVIDED by C+C:
Each visitor is provided with some items that are individual and labeled as theirs; these will remain at C+C's for that visitor's use in future visits. Other items are available for everyone's use, as needed.
- Toothbrush (individual, labeled)
- Toothpaste, dental floss, mouthwash
- Shampoo and conditioner
- SPF sunscreen lotion
- SPF lip balm, if desired (individual, labeled)
- Bug repellant, multiple varieties available. All have been tested safe for C+C, but not all have the same effectiveness for all people. There are a few available w/o citronella for anyone with that sensitivity. A few bug hats are available too.
- Deodorant is usually skipped by visitors, but can be provided if desired. (individual, labeled) Ask in advance.
- Hair combs and hair bands are available.
- Facial care products are usually skipped, but can provided if desired. (individual, labeled) Ask in advance.
- Makeup has not been used by guests so far, and is easier for guests to skip. If visitors will not be comfortable going w/o makeup, please contact C+C well in advance to begin discussing accommodations.
- Shaving is usually skipped, but razor (individual, labeled) and shave cream can be provided if desired. Ask in advance.
- Clothing (some individual and labeled): see below.
- Hats: Team helpers are provided with their own hat (individual, labeled). Hats can be provided for cooler outdoors work also.
- If any items are needed, but not covered above, please contact C+C 3-4 weeks in advance. Due to Chris' travel schedule and Cassandra's inability to get mail or packages, coordination of supplies does take longer and is not quick or simple.
SUGGESTIONS - PRIOR TO LEAVING FOR C+C's:
- Experience has demonstrated that better success is had when visitors forego using deodorants, colognes/perfumes, scented lotions, shampoos and soaps for a few days before (or as long as they're willing to go without).
- If visitors are already using products that Cassandra is known to tolerate, the above step is not needed.
- Hair tends to retain scents. Many ingredients used in hair care products today are synthetic chemicals that make Cassandra ill. Women, or anyone with longer hair, will be provided with shampoo and conditioner prior to a visit so that they can use these instead of their normal hair care products for a few days before arriving.
- Packing: As indicated above, clothes, toothbrush, and food are all supplied. Visitors may wish to bring one set of clothes for their return trip. Some visitors simply wear their arrival clothing on their return trip (particularly for a one-day visit). Shoes will not be worn while visiting. But, bringing along shoes/boots for on-site work is definitely recommended, and safety of these will not be as much an issue and/or can be worked out if Cassandra is nearby. When guests come out to the yurt to visit, shoes are not worn. Jackets will also not be worn while visiting in the yurt. But, bringing one along can be a good idea. The visitor's jacket may or may not be worn depending on weather, activities, safety. C+C do have accommodations available for rain and warmth in outdoor activities. Visitors wishing to bring along items other than those mentioned should contact C+C prior to packing.
- If visitors are traveling by car, and normally use air fresheners in their car, removing the air freshener is highly recommended. The sooner the better, but at least for the trip to C+C's.
All clothing worn by guests must already have been cleaned and deemed safe for Cassandra. To that end, C+C have a stock of clothing bought specifically for guests/Team helpers. True...they're not the most amazing clothes in the world. But fashion is not a concern, and these clothes are already cleaned and tested to be safe, and easiest from that aspect.
- Visitors are provided their own underwear (cotton boxers) and socks (individual, labeled, new on their first visit).
- A variety of pants, short and long sleeved shirts, sweatshirts, shorts and lounge pants are all available, covering an array of sizes.
- Women's note: Obviously, women's underwear and pants are not as simple to provide as having stock boxers and jeans for men. Some women have worn the cotton boxers. There are also some knit boxer-briefs kept available for women. There are a few sports bras available. Some women guests have simply not worn a bra during their visit. Once worn, these underwear items are no different than the men's in that they will be labeled and kept for the individual. For women's pants, sometimes unisex type lounge pants are worn. Also, the men's sized jeans have been worn with a provided belt and rolled up as needed.
- If visitors desire specific clothing that is not already available at C+C's, or simply prefer wearing clothing they know will fit them best, this should be reviewed 3-4 weeks in advance as it will take time to work out. Send an email to Chris or Cassandra to further pursue this avenue.
- Chris' Airport Routines: (if arriving at the airport with Chris, accommodations will be made for guests to do similarly)
- ARRIVAL: Once in Hartford (airport), in the parking garage, change out of work/travel clothes into "safe" travel clothes for the ride. All clothes and gear go into a trunk, so the truck doesn't get contaminated. At the house, shower as described in main SVP.
- DEPARTURE: Same as described in main SVP. Back at the parking garage, change back to work clothes, head to flight.
- Chris' Return from Errands Routine:
- If Chris has been out doing errands and/or met with other people, prior to seeing Cassandra and/or entering the safe main living area, his outer layer of clothing is removed and put in the wash. He washes his face, hair, hands and any exposed skin. He changes into other clean clothes.
Background: (Why and How):
Chris and Cassandra are well aware of how unusual the Standard Visitor Protocol is to anyone who does not have MCS. The procedures for handling visitors has only one reason: Cassandra's health. While C+C buck norms in other areas of their lives, implementation of the SVP is definitely not one of those situations. They would much rather the SVP was not required, and get no enjoyment from insisting that these procedures be followed. Quite frankly, it is a hassle. Be that as it may, having visitors without the SVP definitely doesn't work. So, until that day when C+C can go back to hosting friends and family in the "normal" manner, they will maintain a clothing arsenal for guests and continue with their SVP, in hopes of having the best visits possible.
The SVP was refined to its current state, through trial and error, over the past five years. As a part of Cassandra's treatment for Multiple Chemical Sensitivity illness, she was told to evaluate her home and life, and remove exposures to triggering substances. Called 'Avoidance', this commonly prescribed treatment component involves avoiding exposures to triggering substances as much as possible. This is done to both alleviate the symptoms of MCS, and to prevent further damage to the body that happens through continued exposures.
By the time Cassandra was diagnosed, the list of her triggering substances was long. C+C implemented many changes in their own home life to remove exposures for Cassandra. (Years later, this has led to YIPPEE, as they are still continuing in their attempts to create a safe place for Cassandra to reside.) Practicing avoidance becomes a really big problem when a multitude of daily chemicals are the triggers. Cassandra had already left the workplace because of the exposures involved there. She had also been reducing her excursions into public places because of the sickness those exposures caused. (She and Chris clearly remember the day when Chris said "you're not going grocery shopping anymore", because she got too sick during and afterwards.) As a safer home was created, and the nature and extent of Cassandra's illness became more obvious, visiting with other people (who did not have MCS, and therefore continued using everyday chemicals) became increasingly problematic. Cassandra and Chris do not wish to avoid friends and family, even though the chemicals those people use should be avoided. There were many times that Cassandra got sick, tried her best to grin and bear it, and spent time recovering later. Eventually, as C+C began understanding how detrimental this was, and as Cassandra became less and less able to handle coping with the exposures, a change was needed. The SVP routines resulted gradually, as C+C learned what worked and what did not work, to accomodate their desires to visit with people, while also keeping Cassandra from getting sicker.
Here's a basic overview of the steps leading up to the current SVP:
- In the beginning, there was no routine. C+C simply asked that guests refrain from wearing perfume/cologne and any strongly aromatic scents.
- Next, C+C tried sending safe products (such as laundry, soap, shampoo, deodorant) to other people for their use prior to and during C+C's visit and/or their visit to C+C's. Through this experience, they found out that having people wash their clothes in safe laundry products before a visit was definitely not enough. Once clothing has been washed and dried in unsafe laundry products, it is virtually impossible to be made safe. This jived with experiences C+C were having at home on their own clothing. Many of their clothes had to be given away or sold because they could not be made safe: the unsafe chemicals were too imbedded in the materials.
- So, next, C+C added the component of having guests change clothing before coming inside. But at this point, guests left on their own undies and did not have to shower or clean off. The visitor would be met by Chris, given a bag of clothes (pants and shirts). Chris came inside, leaving the guest to strip and change clothes outdoors. The guests' clothes and shoes were left outside in the bag. This helped reduce problems due to clothings' laundry contaminants some. But, not enough. Through these times, C+C realized that leaving the guests' unsafely laundered underclothes/socks on wasn't working. This is when they started purchasing new underwear/socks for guests. They also began realizing that guests' skin and hair was retaining chemicals from personal care such as deodorants, soaps, shampoos, lotions.
- So, next, C+C started having guests come in to shower before donning the provided clothing. Visitors still had to strip and leave their clothes and shoes outside (or in the garage), in a bag that stayed outside until they left. Cassandra remained sequestered away in a safe room until the steps were completed and guests were showered and changed. This is the routine Chris had already been using for leaving and arriving.
- Now that Cassandra is living in the 14' yurt, visitors (and Chris) are allowed to wear their clothes and shoes into the house. They now leave the unsafe clothes and shoes upstairs (an unsafe area of the house, where Cassandra never goes).
- Note: Once construction of the new home is complete, these same SVP procedures will be followed with guests arriving at the Welcome Center first, and then proceeding to the Main Living Area. C+C established the Welcome Center specifically for visitors and Chris, to be in a separate building, far away from the main living building, with its own shower/bathroom and washer/dryer. This was done because C+C found that Cassandra is far too sensitive to have visitors (and Chris) decontaminate in the same building as the safe living spaces. Even with all precautions, Cassandra experiences illness when Chris and guests first arrive. It is not quite as bad now that she's outside in the yurt when they arrive and leave, but it will be significantly better once she's living in a building separated by more space and more trees.
- The SVP is now fairly well established, as included in this document.
- Ideally, after the SVP, guests are safe for Cassandra to be around. The best results have been had with guests who normally use safe or safer products, in particular laundry detergents and fabric softeners. Completely safe visits have been enjoyed. There have also been visits where the guests' daily chemical usage is unable to be removed and Cassandra is sick during the visit and after. For other guests, a safe visit can be enjoyed until goodbye hugs are exchanged. Despite best attempts, the SVP doesn't always work. Many chemicals (from deodorants, soaps, lotions, laundry, etc.) just will not come out of people's skin if they use them day in and day out. At hugging time, this fact becomes obvious. Over time, C+C began providing the additional suggestions for guests to do before visiting, to give the routine a good head start.
An Overview of MCS
Supplies and sources:
The list below shows products that will be provided for visitors, along with sources C+C use. This information may be helpful for readers wishing to switch products for their own health, and/or wishing to use safer products prior to their arrival. This is not intended to be a comprehensive listing, there may be other products that are also safe for Cassandra. There are also many other products that have been tried and found to be unsafe. Furthermore, the fact that a company is listed below does not mean all products made by that company are safe; in fact there are many examples where other products made by that company don't work. Anyone wishing to inquire as to whether a certain product is safe or not can email C+C. Here are the products in current use:
- Toothpaste: Jason All-Natural Chemical-Free Power Smile. Available in most co-ops or stores.
- Dental floss: Ecodent or Desert Essence Tea Tree. Available in most co-ops or stores.
- Mouthwash: Tom's of Maine Baking Soda. Available in most co-ops or stores.
- Soap: Pure Soap (bar) and Seafoam Pump/Concentrate (handsoap) by Cal Ben Soap Co. www.calbenpuresoap.com 800-340-7091 -or- www.gaiam.com
- Shampoo and conditioner: Stonybrook Botanicals Unscented. www.veganessentials.com -or- www.internatural.com
- Stonybrook Botanicals Unscented. www.internatural.com
- SPF sunscreen lotion: (1) Azida SPF15 www.azida.com -or- www.veganessentials.com (2) Alba Botanica "Chemical-Free" SPF 18. Available in most co-ops or stores.
- SPF lip balm: EcoLips www.internatural.com
- Bug repellant*: All Terrain Herbal Armor (has citronella, but this lotion is best we've found for keeping black flies and skeeters from biting) www.allterrainco.com -or- www.internatural.com
* Update - we determined that this isn't safe for Cassandra but have left it here because it contains natural ingredients and does keep black flies and mosquitoes from biting. Cannot be used on YIPPEE site but definitely better for YOU than DEET-based products. We are still trying to find a safe and effective bug repellent for Cassandra, for now we wear mesh/screen bug hats & shirts.
- Deodorant: Thai Crystal Stone or Liquid Rock (unscented) by Kiss My Face. Available in most co-ops or stores -or- www.veganessentials.com -or- www.internatural.com
- Facial care products: Paul Penders. www.paulpenders.com
- Lily of the Desert- Aloe Vera Gelly: Used as a hair gel. Also for skin healing on bites/cuts/burns. It is also used in a homemade citronella-free bug repellant. Available in most co-ops or stores.
- Cotton Rounds/Balls & Q-Tips. Organic Essentials, avail. in most stores -or- www.internatural.com
- Benzalkonium Chloride Antiseptic Towelettes: Cassandra needs these for her shots. Non-alcohol towelettes can be difficult to locate. www.aehf.com 800-428-2343
- Bandaids: Eco-Guard (the only safe version found to date) www.veganessentials.com -or- www.allterrainco.com
- T.P. and paper towels: Seventh Generation www.seventhgen.com 800-456-1191 -or- www.gaiam.com
Laundry products used by C+C:
- Seventh Generation Free & Clear Laundry Liquid: Available in most co-ops or stores. Make sure 'Free & Clear'. www.seventhgen.com 800-456-1191 -or- www.gaiam.com -or- supposedly is being sold in Target stores now.
- Seventh Generation Non-Chlorine Bleach: see above
- Natural Choices Safe'n'Soft Fabric Softener: Natural Choices www.oxyboost.com 414-421-9394
- Atmosklear Odor Removal - Original Formula: is added for washing new items, Chris' travel clothes and guests' clothes/towels/sheets. www.atmosklear.com 800-977-4145
- Baking soda +/or borax has been used successfully for all sorts of cleaning jobs.
Please note that people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity are not all the same. Although some substances are universally unsafe, each person w/MCS will have a different list of specific substances which are unsafe for them. No guarantee is made other than that these products are acceptable for Chris and Cassandra. The products on this list have been painstakingly "researched" in that some took quite a long time to locate. Many other products were tried and rejected prior! Some products have not always been safe for Cassandra, but became so after NAET treatment(s) for either general substances (i.e. minerals) or in a few cases, specifically for that product.
Since the move to Park Avenue, the visitor procedures have to change somewhat. Visitors still arrive at Poocham and follow the Standard Visitor Protocol.
Chris will go over to Poocham to greet guests. (this could be combined with a trip over for doing Poocham weekly tasks, if that will fit with the guests' arrival schedule)
When guests arrive at Poocham, they follow normal SVP. Chris drives back over to land with guests.
At end of day there are three options, varying according to circumstances and guest preference:
- If visitor is here only one day, Chris drives them back to Poocham for showering and heading out. Chris does laundry as needed and returns to Park Ave.
- Visitors staying longer than one day could use the outdoor shower at land, camp in provided tent, and be onsite for working the next day. This option requires adequate clothing changes since not going back to Poocham.
- Or, Chris drives visitors back over to sleep at Poocham. Chris does laundry as needed. He could also spend the night there himself. Or, if he returns to Park Ave for the night, he would return to Poocham again in the AM to pickup the guests for transporting back over to land for day.