Then three months pass…

Right after my last post in May my father became seriously ill and was hospitalized for nearly three weeks. Once that calamity passed it took me a few weeks to regain my bearings and stop feeling utterly drained to the core. Then we were in the full swing of swim team season, and derby event after swim team event hit us weekend after weekend. Then my dad became sick again. And we were traveling constant. And this blog didn’t get no love. No love at all for three months. I am coming to the realization that this time in my life does not belong to me, but to everyone else, whose needs supercede mine because I love them that much.

I want to write, to blog, to create, to share, to teach, to make money… but now that school has begun again my days will be broken into bite-sized pieces which leave me little time and energy to pursue my own interests. It looks like I will need to help my parents more too. It’s fine, I’m not complaining, I choose this life of servitude. In just one year my middle child will be the second to leave the nest, she plans on joining the Navy. Then it will be just the three of us, and the baby of the family will be in high school. Life will change again. It always does.

I don’t intend to disappear completely, things will quiet down now and again. Maybe. In the meantime, I’m not not livin’! Keep up with me on Instagram!

How to Host a Successful Multi-Family Yard Sale

This past weekend my family and I hosted one of our most successful yard sale events ever, a huge multi-family endeavor.  We all met our sales goals,  we cleared our homes of clutter, and we had a lot of fun. A lot of things came together to make our event work, so I’d like to teach you how to have your own successful multi-family yard sale.

Yard Sale Chic

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Yard Sale Prep:
1-2 Months Before

•There are a lot of benefits of hosting a multi-family yard sale. First, you have extra hands on deck to set-up, interact with customers, and clean-up at the end of the day. Also, you have a more impressive stock of products to display, which will bring more people in off the street. Third- you have a party going on! I usually really hate putting on yard sales but these last two times that I’ve gone the multi-family route have been much more enjoyable. Last but certainly not least- you have better exposure when each family involved is also sharing the news of your sale to their social media circles and co-workers and families and friends.

If you want to enlist the help of your friends and help them make some cash too- create a private Facebook event and invite them to help you to plan and host your own multi-family yard sale! I titled my private Facebook event “Wanna have a multi-family yard sale?”, set the date, explained what I wanted to do in the event description, and then invited the people who I thought might want to get involved. Almost everyone I asked did in fact want to get in on the action. Nobody wants to have a yard sale by themselves, and pretty much everyone needs to have one at any given time. 😉

How to Host a Multi-Family Yard Sale

•Merchandise prep is a dirty, ugly, mean job, but someone has to do it.  Items must be identified, cleaned, organized, and preferably- priced. We had a lot of stuff- like a LOT of stuff- so I got started on this about six weeks before the sale.

How to Host a Multi-Family Yard Sale

1 Week Before

•Get together bags, hangers, rope, scissors, extension cord, tape, rags, tarps, and a money box or fanny-pack for handling money. Get some change together- we started with $80: $20 in ones, $20 in fives, $40 in tens.

•Make sure you touch bases with the other families who have agreed to participate- encourage them to bring all their good stuff, and to let you know if they have anything special or popular to sell that you can talk about in your advertisements.

•Make arrangements to have someone come take your yard sale leftovers off your hands for you, unless you want to have another yard sale in the future. In previous years we have asked a local charity to come pick up items at the end of the day- but this time we donated our remaining items to SVDG for their upcoming rummage sale.

•Purchase a garage sale permit if necessary. In our town we must purchase a permit for $15 that allows us to either have one three-day sale, or Sat/Sun sales for two consecutive weekends.

How to Host a Multi-Family Yard Sale

1 Day Before

•Make very readable signs on very bright posterboard. We made eight and put them up in the neighborhood early the morning of our sale. I put my teens to this job and they enjoyed it.

•Create a new public Facebook event for your sale. Write a bit about what you have to sell, add as many photos as you can, and invite all of your friends. Share the event on your newsfeed, and also in any local Facebook groups you are a part of. Encourage anybody who might be helping you with your yard sale to share the event also.

•Create a local Craigslist ad for your sale. Add lots of details and lots of pictures.

•Make sure that you have plenty of sunscreen, snacks, ice and water bottles available to your family and the others who will be helping with your event.

•Ask your participating families to bring their own tables if they have them. The more tables, the better to put all your merchandise on!

How to Host a Multi-Family Yard Sale

The Day Of

•REMEMBER: put on sunblock, and if you are very pale like me- do it more than once during the day. Also: wear a sun hat and make sure to drink plenty of water. It’s so easy to get busy and forget to take care of yourself, and yard sales are hard work. Many of our participants were absolutely fried after our sale- and it could have been  so easily prevented!

•Put as many items on tables as possible, and make sure all of your items are easy to see and reach. Items piled up in boxes don’t sell nearly as well as items displayed.

•Make sure you hang up your nicest clothing, and lay out the rest of your clothes in a way that allows people to see the items and sort through them easily. We used ladders, rope and PVC pipe to create make-shift garment displays for our dress clothes. We laid out the rest on tables and tarps organized by item type:  blouses, t-shirts, denim, sweaters, etc.

If you can, take the time and organize and label your clothes by size and type. I know we could have sold a lot more clothing if I had been able to properly organize it all, but this time we really just had too much clothing to get to everything.

•Take turns interacting with customers in pairs. One person minding the customers should have a fanny pack to handle money and paper/pen to keep track of sales. The rest of the participants can either keep things tidy, offer and enjoy refreshments, run errands, or simply watch the sale and socialize. We had a lot of fun shooting the breeze under a big shade tree watching the sale together.

•Post updated photos of your items for sale in your public Facebook event while you are killing down time- we ended up selling a number of items when our Facebook friends saw something they liked.

•Don’t Forget: At the end of the day be sure to retrieve and properly dispose of your yard sale signs.

How to host a successful multi-family yard sale

The Day After

•Be sure to thank everyone who helped  you put on your multi-family yard sale! You may not want to ever do such a thing again at this point, but you will need to and these people are your Ride or Die folk. <3

•Rest up, you deserve it.

A Few More Tips:

•If I regret one thing about our sale this past weekend it’s that we didn’t price many of our items. We just had SO MUCH stuff to deal with that we ran out of time to get through it all. Because our items were largely not priced, it meant for a lot more customer interaction than we’d like. It probably lost us plenty of sales too. Many people do not really want to ask you how much you want for something, or to barter. Next time I won’t slack on pricing my items.

•Be prepared for the garage sale pros who show up as you’re setting up and fast-talk you into making better deals than you should while you are not quite as caffeinated as you need to be and harried to get things done in time. I got mobbed just as I was beginning to put our sale items out and felt a bit of regret later when I realized that one lady made off with well over $100 in easy-to-sell merch for just $40. My garage sale vet friends tell me to REFUSE SERVICE before your stated start time. Let people look while you set up if you want, but let them know politely that you will not be able to complete their purchases until you’re ready, or your stated opening time. Learn from my mistakes. 😛

•If the neighborhood drug addict wants to buy $2 of merchandise with a $100 bill, tell them no, you can’t make change. (I didn’t fall for this one, lol!)

Current Project: Operation Stop Eating Everything In The House, And In Fact The World. But really- I’m kinda just floating around today, still recovering from this weekend’s yard sale!

Today’s Soundtrack: Roller Derby Road Trip on Spotify

I’m Reading: Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

How I Quit Smoking

Let’s just begin with the truth here: I’m a quitter. I have quit, and quit, and quit again. Twice I quit smoking for more than a year at a stretch before I resumed the habit. And so far this time it’s only been a week since I quit smoking. I’m maybe not the best person to look to for advice or inspiration. In fact, I really just came here to rant about how absolutely annoyed I still feel and that I want to crush and smash things. But should you be here seeking help- I’ll do my best! I might also cuss!

I only started smoking when my kids were little and I was isolated, bored, and struggling emotionally with my mom’s rapid and frightening health deterioration. Considering that my “baby” is now thirteen, it’s still been some years that I have been a pack-a-day-or-less smoker. I did take breaks in there, quitting for 9-12 month stretches at a time, a few times. Each time vape pens helped me get through the worst of the withdrawal symptoms. Each time I did notice the health benefits of quitting smoking. And yet, each time I relapsed.

I think I understand my dependence on smoking, and it goes deeper than addiction. For me, it is a coping mechanism. A sanity saver. As an empath and a Type A personality, I believe I benefit from smoke breaks to escape the difficult world I live in for ten minutes, once an hour. Smoking time is strictly me-time, or social time with friends who smoke. No kids allowed. No interruptions appreciated. Quiet, calming, sanity. During a “smoke-break” I gather my thoughts. I make decisions. I change direction. I put things to bed. I regather, refresh, charge up. Since I have quit smoking, I kinda feel like I’m rolling willy-nilly through life. I’ll just have to figure out another way to cope.

I must have some mad motivation then, eh? Let’s talk about motivation, because you really need a lot of it to tackle any addiction. For me, the main motivation of this attempt is money.

I’m not sure if you’re reading this from Cali, so just in case you’re not- we recently saw the taxes on cigarettes increase by $2 a pack here, thanks to our wise and punitive voters. I’m still kinda mad about that- I mean, we’re not coming for your sugary drinks (which kills 184,000 people every year).. or your Big Macs (obesity likely kills around 2.5 million people every year).. or your alcohol (which kills around 88,000 people a year) and ruins countless more lives….

Voters in California are total jerks!

But I admit- incentives to quit are probably a really good thing when it comes to such a destructive addiction like smoking. :/ So far only good of it has come for me and my friends. Annoying good is still good. Of my closest friends and family, more than half have all quit since the tax was imposed. It was, for many of us, a great kick in the pants.

For me, smoking was already a guilty pleasure costing me and my family about $135. But since the tax was imposed it’s been impossible to get away for less than  $210. That’s too gluttonous for me when we are living check to check to make sure our active teens have every opportunity right now. Those kids are darn expensive, and worth every sacrifice too. So, I had to do it.

I think that deep obligation you feel, the “I HAVE to do it” mentality, the one that gets us up in the morning to drive kids around, or take them to the doctor when they are sick, or show up at work when we don’t really want to- it’s powerful. I have been tapping into it this week and I think it has been the strategy that is working above all others to help me quit. I just HAVE to. No arguments, no excuses, no nothing. I can’t even consider a puff to ease the pain, it is not acceptable. I’m just DONE. If you have a deep sense of obligation, tap into that sucker, let it motivate you to succeed.

My other strategies for success have not been near so healthy. I joked with my friends last night that I have replaced one bad habit with several other bad habits this past week- and it’s unfortunately true. The worst of these bad habits is binge eating, and eating sugar in particular. Sugar is my enemy. It flares my gout, it causes inflammation and pain in my body, my weight has shot up a few pounds already, and that’s hard on my loose and arthritic joints. But SWEET JESUS it helps. Nicotine withdrawal symptoms are really freaking awful. When “I’m just DONE” crashes into “Fuck it, I need a smoke!” I just eat chocolate and feel a lot better.

I’ve said it before in other posts and I’ll say it again- don’t feel obligated to make my mistakes. I’m just flailing my way through life and probably doing it “wrong” more than I do it right… then justifying myself later by saying, “it all happened for a reason, now I’m smarter and shit.”

Told you, cussing.

But chocolate, it does in fact help. And it’s easier to ease up on later, I think. As soon as these wicked withdrawals stop I’m sure I’ll revisit my usual, healthier dietary habits.

I’ve also taken a few shots of tequila to dull the nicotine cravings, and I’m not sure that was a good idea. It’s a miracle I didn’t feel just tipsy enough to lose my resolve and smoke a whole pack at once! I was in a social situation at the time where many were smoking and I was going crazy so tequila it was. I did ok but I don’t recommend this. Do not do this. I’m going to try not to do this again.

Probably the one healthy thing I’m doing that absolutely helps with the desperation that is withdrawal symptoms is SWIM. I can feel the anxiety burn off as I’m swimming laps in the morning, and by the end of my work-out I have much less anxiety, and that feeling lasts for a while. I can’t swim all day, so I have to just keep swimming, eh? 😉

Day 7. One week. I’ve made it this far, and I intend to make it a lot farther. I’m still suffering from withdrawals somewhat and that sucks. But I was just with some active smokers and didn’t even think once, “I want a cig.” Not once. I’m getting there. I just have to remain patient.

Now, if you somehow made it this far and still want to take advice from me, this is what I’d tell you: Make the decision, be firm on it, remind yourself that “this too shall pass” each time you want to give up, indulge yourself a little, forgive yourself a lot, exercise to burn off some of the anxiety, and YOU CAN DO THIS. I can do this. I’m going to keep doing this. Let’s do it together.

Current Project: still prepping for this weekend’s yard sale and I’m bored to death but it needs done.

Current Soundtrack: Alabama Shakes Radio on Spotify

I’m Reading: Lab Girl by Hope Jahren



Vinyl Record Art!

Today I am supposed to be prepping stuff for a big yard sale at my house this weekend. I have done just 1.5 loads of laundry towards that goal so far.. because it took just one two-second look into the craft room closet for me to get completely off-track. CRAFT SQUIRREL! 😉

Stuff’s happening with my parents’ old record collection. 🤓

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I had really good intentions, I promise. Before I began to look in the closet I thought, “I’ll find some craft supplies we aren’t using anymore and sell them in the sale!” but my eyes fell instantly upon my parents old record collection and it was over. Ever since then I’ve been melting and molding old vinyl records into art. It’s so easy and fun to do, and the results can really be beautiful!

Vinyl Record Art
These are just the initial pieces of what will be an wall art installation in our new rec room.

All you have to do is pre-heat your oven to 200°F, turn an oven-safe bowl upside down on a cookie sheet, place a clean record on the bowl and let it warm up for about 4-8 minutes, or until you see the record begin to droop with the heat. Then you’ll quickly pull it out and begin to mold it as desired. I say quickly because you really only have a few seconds before it begins to harden again, so don’t hesitate to begin shaping when you get it out of the oven. And don’t worry- if you don’t like your initial design you can pop it back into the oven for another 4-8 minutes and reshape it! Told you it was easy, quick and fun!

I got really excited about this find because it was the perfect excuse not to work on my yard sale. 😛 Also, because these are really all the best old records- Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin, Bob Segar, Golden Earring, Meatloaf, Eagles- the real good stuff. The music of my childhood. The actual records we listened to in my childhood home. My parents loved their 60’s and 70’s rock n’ roll! Forever, I will too. I’m a sucker for sentimental stuff. I knew right away what I wanted done with it.

Vinyl Record Art
This is such an easy, quick, fun, cheap project.

I made five of these today. My daughter and I are going to melt all of the rest of these suckers up and mount them on the wall as an art installation in the rec room she’s going to design this summer. More on that project soon. 🙂

So, do you happen to have some old records laying around that you’d like to melt and play with? They can be made into some really great things- bowls, wall art, garden flowers, plant pots, bookends, and more. A perusal of Pinterest can show you about 101 things you can do with old records. I can’t wait to show you guys this project, finished and mounted. Likely it won’t be until summer, so check back if you wanna!

Today’s Project: Vinyl Record Art, obvs.. and some yard sale prep.

Today’s Soundtrack: Kendrick Lamar’s new album Damn. Yo. People keep saying crazy things like Kendrick Lamar is the “greatest rapper of all time” lately. I just don’t get that. I’m trying to acquaint myself better with his music so I can decide what I think about it.

I’m Reading: Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

A Happy Accident – It’s It Cookie Bars

Creamy, messy, chocolatey, chewy It’s It ice cream bars are just one of those special treats that I really enjoy once in a blue moon. They take me back to happy summer memories spanning a lifetime. I remember saving my change and enthusiastically picking them up at the little mini-mart down the road from my house on hot summer days growing up. Ice cream trucks that sold them were golden. As an adult we get them so rarely- sugar is my enemy.. but YOLO! Here and there I really enjoy one. They’re just so satisfying to eat!

So it was in fact a happy accident when I managed to ruin oatmeal cookies this weekend by leaving out the flour in the recipe (dur)- and used the results of that failure to make cookie bars that turned out tasting a whole lot like an It’s It.

I was aghast when I pulled the trays of cookies out of the oven and found the cookies flat and mushy. What kind of a baker forgets to put flour in the cookie dough?! Me, that’s who. But I couldn’t stand the idea of throwing all of that goodness away. I had used up the last of my mini chocolate chips and walnuts in that darn recipe!

I thought for a few minutes about how I could still use the ruined cookies- they did not rise and wouldn’t hold together in cookie form, but they were still delicious! I decided to press them down into two greased 8×8 square pans and top them with melted chocolate chips. I really thought my family would think it a wasted effort- but they loved them and have requested I make them again.. this time on purpose! And a new recipe was born.

I regret not photographing the debacle turned miracle for you all- but I was in a hurry to bake up a bunch of stuff for our Game Night: 17th Anniversary Edition. That’s right- I’ve been married 17 years! It’s been real, it’s been good, it’s been real good. We had a great time celebrating the event with friends over a dirty game: Drawing Without Dignity. It’s like Cards Against Humanity crossed with adult Pictionary. I can’t recommend that game to you unless you have really chill friends with no filter. Ha. I do. It’s all about the right crowd. 😛

17 Years Ago

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There are some really great photos of our game night here– thanks to the amazing photographer Adam Freidin. 🙂

But anyway, here’s the recipe!

It's It Cookie Bars - A Happy Accident
A happy accident!

It’s It Cookie Bars
3/4 shortening
1 cup brown sugar (packed)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup water
1tsp vanilla
1tsp salt
1/2tsp soda
1/2tsp cloves
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1 12oz bag of chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350°. Mix thoroughly shortening, sugars, egg, water and vanilla. Stir in remaining ingredients (saving the 12oz bag of chocolate chips for later.) Grease your pans- I’d use either 2 8×8 pans or 1 9×13. Press the dough down into the bottom of the pans and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven and cool for 10-15 minutes. Pour the remaining chocolate chips over the top and toss it back in the oven for 4 minutes or so- until you can easily smooth the chocolate chips with a spoon. Let cool completely, until the chocolate topping solidifies, then cut into bars. I put mine in the fridge for an hour or so after the pan had completely cooled to speed up the process. Then, I just cut long horizontal bars and broke those into jagged pieces like candy.


Today’s Project: Prep for our upcoming yard sale… lots and lots of prep.

Today’s Soundtrack: Roller Derby Road Trip on Spotify (recently updated!)

I’m reading: The Stand by Stephen King (still. My goodness it’s a long book! But soooooooo good. It had been some years since I’d read it.)

Roller Derby Road Trippin’

Last night we got in from a roller derby road trip to Los Angeles, where my daughter Lil Aly Cat’s travel team California Mayhem Girls took on Angel City at Angel City’s Tinseltown Smackdown tournament (and WON!) It was just the latest in many amazing roller derby road trips we have taken in the six years my daughter has been playing junior roller derby.

California Mayhem Girls take the win vs Angel City! #ftw #rollerderby

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Can you imagine it? Kids playing roller derby? It’s not anything I ever imagined for my daughters when I was thinking ahead about what life with kids would mean for us. It has become my single favorite extra-curricular activity they are involved in.

Coach Nacho Mama & Lil Aly Cat #californiamayhem #rollerderby

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I love the game, which is fierce and unique and fun to watch. I love the people who make roller derby happen, they are open-minded, inclusive, intelligent, and creative. I love the events, which are always colorful, lively, and friendly. I love the schedule, which is year-round and usually only requires a couple practices a week.. so my academically-focused daughter can enjoy having the time she needs to keep up with her studies. I love the focus on community service, both teams my daughter is on are active in the area, always doing good and making important connections. I love derby moms (and dads). They are just so cool. They’ve become my family. I love the travel! We’ve been to so many places we never might have gone.

Things that happen in LA!

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And it’s not just good fun and good people, it’s a legit sport these days. When we first started even the kids were wearing fishnets and booty shorts and bout make-up, which we still see sometimes (and enjoy- roller derby is the one sport that celebrates diversity and allows everyone to express themselves.) But in the last six years I’ve watched the sport go from a spectacle to a much more serious sport. Players train hard and show up to compete. They wear professional looking uniforms now, mostly. Coaches innovate. Games are sanctioned, we have rankings and nationals now. We have US teams who travel the globe. You even see roller derby references popping up more and more in commercials, tv shows, movies and some bouts are even televised by ESPN.

I haven’t seen my cousin Ben in yeeeeaars!! Lookit us!

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Our lives would be completely different without roller derby. We had such a blast traveling with our derby friends this weekend. We watched some of the best derby I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a LOT of derby in 6 years. We walked the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and visited Universal’s Citywalk. We met up with family in the area. We ate great food, we made new friends, and we came home spent and broke. So now I’m back to hustling, it’s certainly not easy to afford all of the gear and travel- and we’ll be in Utah in just three weeks! But it’s totally worth it for our family, and we can’t wait until the next roller derby road trip. 🙂

Butterflies On Your Window – Free Pattern

I love paper. Paper-crafts have always been among my favorite projects to work on and display, and I’ve owned several paper-centric websites over the years. For a while I sold custom invitations and announcements, and once upon a time I worked as a photographer which gave me the opportunity to see my art printed on some of the most gorgeous paper in the world.

I like to make paper flowers and disks, paper corsages, paper confetti, and paper garlands- and you will always find them on display in my home. I find satisfaction in working with paper, and love that I can recycle so many common materials to make beautiful paper art.

What I Did Today

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I have occasionally purchased beautiful and unique papers for use in my paper projects, but for the most part I find that reusing papers found in our home makes for the most sentimental results. My favorite papers come from old family books, travel maps from our road trips, comic books, and envelopes. Each year’s calendar comes down and lands in my paper stash. I found old sheet music that belonged to my husband and his siblings when they were children, and that’s just about my favorite find ever. I like to go through old coffee table books and find beautiful pages to repurpose as art.

The Cats Love Their New Bench

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One of my favorite paper projects to complete with my family (when they cooperate, they are all teenagers or beyond now) is to redecorate our windows with the change of seasons. In fall we put paper bats and leaves up in the windows. In winter we put up snowflakes. In spring we put up butterflies, and they usually remain up until fall comes again. I can often reuse much of the paper pieces from year to ear, only replacing pieces that become damaged. It has come to pass that an undecorated window seems naked and wrong. 😛

The Process

1- Gather materials: paper scissors, scotch tape, used calendars, old maps, old books, sheet music, scrap paper. Hint: if you don’t have these things on hand, you might hit a thrift shop for some old maps, sheet music or books, and you can find calendars at the dollar store year round!

2- Download and print this pattern: Butterflies for your Window – Free Pattern, or draw your own butterfly, fold the paper in half, and cut it out. Use this butterfly as a template to make more. I like to cut out at least 3-5 unique butterfly shapes/sizes to give the final piece some interest and realism. Hint: keep the shapes simple to save your hands and some time- intricate designs can get really bothersome to cut out.

3- Cut out a lot of butterflies! I have a very large front window, and I like to continue my design from that window to the next window over, which also shows from the street. I also like to put some up on my french patio doors. Some years I end up using around 150 pieces, but 25 butterflies in a smaller window is probably quite adequate. Any leftovers you have can be stored in a ziploc to replace damaged pieces next season.

4- Plan your design.. I like to create a swoop or a surge of butterflies that all seem to be traveling in the same direction to give drama and movement to the final result. Sometimes I want to change it up and to gain inspiration I will visit Pinterest and search something like “butterfly wall decoration” to see what others have done with flocks of paper butterflies. I get an idea of how I want it to look and then I get to work.

5- Application: I like to use good old-fashioned scotch tape fashioned in small tubes to affix butterflies to my windows because they do not leave behind adhesive that is difficult to remove. One year I used double-sided tape and had big regrets. I will tear a bunch of tape pieces at a time, or have one of my daughters making me tape rolls to use while I am putting up butterflies. When I begin affixing butterflies to the window I take care to stagger my butterflies so that they don’t look like they are traveling in straight lines, and work to keep their spacing pretty even. I put some up, take a step back and look at them to make sure they are looking like I want, and then return to my work. Sometimes, if I feel that my design isn’t looking like I want I take a nice break and come back later, which always seems to refresh my mind and help me find the next steps to make it just right.

Spring Window

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Project time: when I have to make all new butterflies I might spend an entire afternoon at this part of the project, maybe even two. I always have to take old paper pieces down and store them, clean the windows, and then put new pieces up, so I spend an entire afternoon on the application itself.

Project cost: almost nothing! I can easily kill half a small roll of scotch tape, but because I recycle papers found around the house this is a low-cost or no-cost project!

I’m always so happy to see my butterflies up in the windows because it means warm weather and good times out in the sun! Goodbye and good riddens, winter! 🙂

Today’s Project: I’m listing a bunch of old football cards on eBay.. it’s destash season!

Today’s Soundtrack: Top of the Charts on Spotify

I’m reading: The Stand by Stephen King

A Perfect Storm : Life with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome

Sometimes I get pretty smug about how well I live my life with a connective tissue disorder, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. See my post: Swim and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome for an example. I am pretty proud of myself for regaining my health after a long six or seven years spent disabled by the condition.. it took a lot of research, and then a lot of grief, and then a lot of work and commitment to get to the place I’m in now, which is mainly healthy and pretty active. But every now and then I’m humbled by the power of this condition to take complete control of my life when I least expect it.

No matter how hard I try to remain healthy, now and again I get sidelined. Most usually it is stress, or a simple virus, that knocks me down and puts me out of the game of life for a while. I recently wrote about stress and how I manage it, after what was an incredibly emotionally exhausting saga in my life. I know how important it is to manage stress because this isn’t my first rodeo. I knew at the time I wrote that post that I would be paying for that stressful experience, and I was trying to be proactive to minimize the damage. And still, here I am, in severe pain, contemplating a long recovery from what began as a common cold.

As I feared might happen, extreme stress likely led to susceptibility to infection, and a simple annoying cold caused the perfect storm. I caught cold a week ago and it has been pretty nasty. I ended up laying around for several days (bad, bad, bad when you have EDS.) I violently sneezed a lot, which caused me to dislocate my shoulder and aggravate an old back injury. And so on top of a wicked cold all of the muscles in my shoulder and upper back are spasming. There are hot knives in my back and neck now, and it’s hard to sit, hard to stand, hard to sleep, hard to move. I know from experience that I should move anyway, but there’s nothing like severe pain to discourage that nonsense! If I don’t move, my recovery will be longer. If I do move, it’s agonizing and slow. I know from experience that I will not likely feel 100% again for days if not weeks. It’s frustrating.

Another complication of the common cold for me is a flare-up of my dysautonomia symptoms. Dysautonomia is the malfunction of the autonomic nervous system- which controls your “automatic” body functions like blood pressure, heart rate, digestion and temperature control. I nearly faint every time I stand, I’m freezing and my arms and legs are ice blocks. My heart races and palpitates. I can’t think clearly, I forget words and sometimes even slur. I’ve been “lucky” to find much relief from this common comorbidity of EDS through swim. But I haven’t been swimming lately, and for whatever reason these problematic symptoms always comes back with a vengeance when I get sick.

So here I am still sick with the remnants of a cold, hot knives in my back and neck- dizzy, cold and exhausted, wondering how long this flare-up is going to last. In the meantime I’m darned near useless as a human being and there’s nothing I hate more than doing nothing. Productivity is very important to me. If nothing else, when I’m down I like to knit- but looking down at my work is impossible when my neck is spasming… and so I read and watch Netflix, taking frequent breaks to stretch- and work hard at being nice to myself. Patience is what I must practice, in times like these.

One thing I have learned is that I will recover, even if it takes a while- I will wake up pain-free once more, I will be back in the pool in time, and I will be smug about my good health again. And then, when I least expect it, EDS will strike again.

Today’s Project: Family history research on

Today’s Soundtrack: Coloring Book by Chance the Rapper

I’m Reading: The Stand by Stephen King. For the third time. It’s been a while.

Limes: Lesson Learned

Last year our new-ish lime tree didn’t produce more than a few pieces of fruit so I was really very excited to see the tree loaded with fruit this year… but alas, instead of making limeade and fresh salsa with our home grown limes we learned a hard lesson instead. Turns out that you are supposed to harvest limes BEFORE they are ripe, while they are yet green, before they turn bright yellow and look just like little lemons. I did not know.

You should pick your limes before they turn yellow. I didn’t do that and now I’m sad. #gardeningfail

A post shared by Phaedra (@phaeriedust) on

These past few weeks I’ve been utterly distracted from home and garden chores, focusing instead on caring for my ailing mother and maintaining my sanity as thing after thing went awry… so I only noticed the limes this week at all because they had turned yellow. Super yellow. Gorgeous yellow! I thought to myself, “I did plant a lime tree there, didn’t I?” and then I googled. Yeah- limes do in fact turn yellow, and yellow limes are no-good limes. Turns out they get hard and taste bad once they fully ripen. And so this week I will be picking a lot of limes.. and throwing them in the green bin. Bummer.

Lesson learned! I hope, dear friends, that you can learn from my many mistakes. I know I’m always learning- often the hard way.

Today’s Project: Today I replaced some very old and unattractive houseplants with pretty, young, shiny houseplants. Why do I feel so guilty?

Today’s Soundtrack: This is: Otis Redding on Spotify

I’m Reading: Angels and Visitations: A Miscellany by Neil Gaiman

How I Manage Stress

In my last post I mentioned that my mom had been in the hospital one week. One week became two. Then fifteen days. And yesterday, finally, mom came home. I’m here to say that that was THE MOST stressful fifteen days of my life. This is significant as mom’s hospitalizations are not rare. She has been hospitalized dozens of times in the past twenty years, sometimes for good stretches of time. One time she was hospitalized for a month. It’s never easy to see her sick, or to have to visit her in a hospital, but this time was different for a number of reasons.

My mom suffers from a number of complicated conditions including Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, peripheral vascular disease, and diabetes. She has suffered almost two dozen amputations. If you cannot imagine that, don’t try- it’s worse than you can fathom. I’ve never known a human being to suffer physically as much as or more than my mom. The amazing thing is that she still has a smile on her face, optimism for the future, and a love of life. She has made all of this easier for us all by remaining peaceful in her heart, no matter how bad things got.

The reasons this hospitalization was so stressful are numerous- she was deathly ill, and many days we weren’t sure if she would recover. She had contracted an infectious disease, and we all had to be careful and wary not to spread it around or catch it ourselves. She was hospitalized in an unusual place- she usually would have been sent to a different facility but they did not have available beds. And then there were the numerous outrageous failures that occurred at the hospital almost every day… she suffered misdiagnosis x2, which delayed her treatment and risked her life. There were failures in training, failures in proper procedure, miscommunications with doctors, every day came with something to worry about!

Instead of merely visiting and supporting my mom and family during her hospitalization, I had to expend additional emotional resources and time fighting with the hospital to ensure she got the care she needed to survive, and to protect not just her- but other patients at the facility. I met with admins all the way up to the CEO of the hospital over several days. I argued with five doctors. Five. When a few of those doctors would not listen to us or help my mom I had to go above their heads to complain and plead for the treatments she needed. It was insanity. I spent every ounce of energy I had these past few weeks, and so today I am simply spent. Emotionally exhausted. DONE.

I know that I need to recharge, so today I will begin to heal my heart and rest my mind by employing some tactics I use to manage stress and protect my health. These are the strategies I find to be helpful:

Make noise. Talking to a friend, loved one,  a therapist (or even a pet) is probably the very first and most important thing I do when I am going through something stressful. Not only does it help me “get it all out” and process events, but it makes me feel like I am not alone, that I have support.

There are times when I don’t have anybody easily accessible to talk to, but I’ve found that simply making noise is also beneficial to relieving tension. A really cool friend of mine taught me this trick, she told me that one of her stress-relief strategies was to “Let it out your mouth”- meaning to speak, yell, groan, shriek, whatever you feel like you need to do to release the pent up frustration you feel. I have found this to be very good advice. In overwhelming moments when I don’t have anybody to talk to I might just simply groan, “uhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” and find some immediate relief. Even though this is a private activity I would do in my car or somewhere where nobody else can hear me, I still felt strange and embarrassed at first- right up until I realized that it helped. Now I have no shame.

Writing. For me writing is an excellent way to unload all of the things on my mind that are bothering me. It’s not always enough to talk to a friend, though that helps and I’ve been lucky enough to be able to do that. When I write down my thoughts I almost always feel an immediate release of tension in my body, and those pesky swirling thoughts begin to dissipate. When I read back my writings, I find it helps me to process difficult experiences and come up with solutions to my problems.

In case you do not like to write, I would recommend you try a very simple exercise I learned decades ago from Oprah. Try keeping a gratitude journal, listing just three things a day that you are grateful for. Write those things down, re-read them. Review your entries weekly, allow yourself to smile.

Rest. I make sure I’m getting eight hours of sleep a night at minimum. This often means that I cannot agree to take on extra responsibilities or make fun evening plans with my friends- but when I am rested I feel better both emotionally and physically. Since I get up very early to deliver my daughters to school I must adopt a very early bedtime. Sometimes I struggle to let go of things still undone by bedtime, but the dishes will be there for me when I wake up. As will the laundry, and anything else that I might have to put off to make sure I get enough rest.

Fuel. When life is crazy and you’re running around a lot or exhausted, it’s easy and sometimes even necessary to eat fast food. I did it sooooo much more than usual these past few weeks when I felt that I had no other choice. I didn’t have the emotional energy to care about what I was putting in my body.. in a pinch I selected chicken sandwiches, fries and a soda with caffeine just so I could remain upright. I consumed more than one Snickers bar in a pinch for time and out of desperation for comfort. But I won’t hold that against myself now, it’s done. Now that the danger is past (I’m hoping), I will think more about fueling my body and make healthier choices: real food, real ingredients, very little processed stuff, less meat and more fruits and veggies. I’m never perfect in my diet but I’ve learned that small changes made frequently add up to make big improvements in my health and wellness.

Movement. For two weeks I haven’t been to the pool once. I never felt that I had the luxury of an hour to myself, I always felt that I needed to be ready to be there for my family at any moment. I spent the majority of the time sitting- mostly in my car or in a chair at the hospital. As a result I had no way to burn off stress or remain fit. My body aches, I can feel the high hum of anxiety in my chest. When I regularly swim I notice that I hurt so much less, and I can burn off some of that tension. Tomorrow I will resume my usual habit of swimming 3-4x a week, and I can’t wait. I don’t love having to exercise, or having to go to the gym to do it, but with much experience at it I know that movement is medicine.

Acknowledging reality. Today my mind is racing back through everything that has happened and I recognize that this is my brain’s way of recapping events so that I can make sense of them and put them to rest. I will choose activities that allow my mind to wander so that I can process this important information. Some might believe that NOT thinking the tough stuff through is what is best, but I know that even though it might hurt- acknowledging my problems and thinking through them is the only way to come up with solutions and finding a sense of resolution.

Creativity. As long as everything goes good I should begin to have time to myself again this week to do with what I will. I look forward to posting here about some of my recent projects, and to starting some new projects. It always makes me feel awesome to produce something beautiful and new.

Today’s Project: Stress Relief

Today’s Soundtrack: Roller Derby Roadtrip Playlist on Spotify
*Oooh, I need to update this! Maybe I’ll work on that some today.

I’m Reading: The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison