Sleeping cat with paw on shoulder

Welcome to our little corner of the internet! I’m Briana. My husband Damien and I have a budding urban homestead in Portland, Oregon, where we’re raising three teenage girls, a couple cats, a couple dozen quail, and a constantly growing amount of garden. The world is a little crazy right now, with a global pandemic and climate change vying for attention, just for starters. While there’s not a whole lot we can do to fix most of it, we wanted to start where we could – increasing our own self-sufficiency, building community, improving health, developing and teaching life skills… So we did! In addition, we’ve dealt with some interesting challenges along the way and have learned a few things about thriving with chronic pain and health issues.

Grey cat looking up from box of packaging

Growing up, I went to the doctor a lot. I had aches and pains and weird health issues that other kids didn’t, and nobody ever seemed to have a good reason as to why. I learned what “normal” was for me, and went on to have two lovely daughters of my own. My youngest daughter was diagnosed with eczema and atopic dermatitis when she was very young, and went on to develop Kawasaki disease and life-threatening allergies within the first couple years of life. My eldest had chest pain and occasional fainting spells. Continuing health challenges ensued, and my own health began to deteriorate. The aches and pains got worse, and I was diagnosed with Idiopathic Hypersomnia (medical jargon for “I’m always really tired and they don’t know why”) and Fibromyalgia. Over the years, the diagnoses for both me and my daughters continued to grow. A disconcerting number of medical professionals chalked it up to anxiety, depression, or dehydration. Concurrently, my mother was facing substantial health issues of her own – and nobody seemed to be able to figure out what was wrong with her, either. There were some very striking similarities between her challenges and ours, and I started to wonder if there wasn’t a genetic component.

Table full of fresh produce and meat from the grocery store

At some point along the way, genetic testing became a thing. I ordered us all 23andMe tests and began researching in earnest. Between test results, symptoms, and genetic interpretation, I started to connect the dots – and ended up self-diagnosing us with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), a rare collagen tissue disorder that can manifest in all sorts of ways. Gastrointestinal issues and Mast Cell Activation Disease (aka MCAD or “Allergic to Everything”) are two of those ways. The diagnosis was eventually confirmed for all of us by multiple medical professionals, which was at least validating and somewhat helpful – but didn’t do much to alleviate the problems, as it is not something that can be cured or treated. We had to figure out how to manage the physical issues on our own. That translated to lifestyle change – diet, exercise, and environment:

  • Cooking pretty much everything from scratch (with various unique food allergies and sensitivities, including Celiac disease)
  • Avoiding environmental triggers, including chemicals and fragrance, and learning to make our own body care and household products
  • Learning about genetic mutations and other conditions that affect nutrition and physical/mental health, and how to eat and supplement accordingly
  • Figuring out how to stay physically active in a way that doesn’t make things worse
  • Discovering how to limit the impact of stress in our world (stress is BAD for you)

So, we find ourselves here, in a little house in SE Portland, learning how to live our best lives while the world goes mad around us – and sharing what we can with you. As a 3rd generation herbalist, I’ve learned how to make body care products, teas, and the like over the years – and am offering recipes, instructions, and products for sale now. Crazy allergen-free skin care or dietary needs? We got you. We’ve been making things gluten-, dairy- and egg-free since before it was cool. I’m also a 5th generation native Oregonian, and grew up pretty close to the land – so sustainability has always been a thing for me. We do what we can to minimize our footprint and live sustainably, and our business reflects that. Back to Hope LLC is a certified B corporation, and we use recycled and compostable packaging and labels, shipping materials and the like. Ingredients are sourced carefully, and are sustainably grown or harvested at the very least. You won’t see us using things like Palm Oil, as the industry is simply too destructive for us to justify it. The only fragrances we use are essential oils. You get the idea. 😊

Dark red sunflower

The world needs us all, now more than ever, to tread gently while living our best lives. We want to help be a part of that, and build a reality together that future generations can enjoy. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and out of control right now, and it seems like most folks I know want to do all sorts of stuff but don’t know where to start. There is so much we can do, especially together. We want to help show everyone how to find their way Back to Hope.

With lots of love,