Thursday, March 24, 2016

I Can Do All Things ... With a Forced Smile

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." ~ Philippians 4:13

Whether you're Christian or not, you've probably seen this Bible verse used as an inspirational meme on your Facebook page. Just about everyone (save for maybe Two Corinthians walk into a bar Trump) has heard it, seen it.

Your reaction to it probably depends on whether you're a person of Christian faith of not. It may inspire hope if you fall on the Christian side or perhaps an eye roll if you don't.

It's actually a little of both for me.

Taken literally, it's a little silly. I can't fly. At 5 five and a whole 3 inches, I can't even dunk on my portable basketball hoop. But there's a lot in The Bible that shouldn't be taken literally.

I take it to mean, I can do more than I think I can. And when I think I can't, a little prayer and faith go a long way. (Coffee helps, too.)

This is not a come-to-Christ post, so don't exit out if you're worried about that. It's just that the verse has been on my mind as I juggle more than usual these past few days.

On Monday, my husband had surgery to repair yet another hernia, and the recovery is not going well, to say the least. Perhaps it's because the surgery ended up more involved than expected. It could be the tubing he has sticking out of his stomach for a blood pump. Maybe it was a poor choice of pain meds by the doctor. I don't know what the cause is, but Aaron's pain level has been so high he just lies in bed slightly moaning; it continues even in his sleep. Getting him out of bed to pee elicits yells of agony, and thus urination has been the only motivating factor for him to move.

I've been Aaron's wife-nurse through surgeries before, including a hernia repair last year and a gallbladder removal the year before (in which he also had a hernia repaired). So I know something is very different this time. He's not this big of a baby.

But as a result of whatever is different, I've been extra busy administering to him while attempting to keep the house clean and working from home to meet writing deadlines all at the same time. I did not expect nursing my husband to suck up so much of my time -- and my sleep -- but it has.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Let It Go: Accepting the Things I Cannot Change

My version of a selfie on my 32nd birthday.
Yesterday I turned 32. I look nowhere near my age, but I think at least now it's less likely I'll be mistaken for a high school student. It wouldn't surprise me to be mistaken for a college student.

It's happened before.

True story: Several years ago, I was writing a profile on a couple of smarty pants kids and this week of the brain they had created at their school. So I went to the elementary school to cover it. The kids' mom knew I was coming. I clearly introduced myself as the freelance writer from Sacramento Parent Magazine, and yet -- and I'm taking an educated guess here -- because of my baby face and little girl voice, she immediately pegged me for one of the student volunteers from Sac State.


But such is my life. It's one of the realities I've come to accept. I can't change my voice. I can dress professionally and wear makeup, but that only goes so far. I just have to suck it up and deal.

I don't always deal so well with things that are out of my control. It's something I've struggled with my whole life. I'm not a Type A Personality, but boy do I share some of those characteristics. I'm also incredibly self aware, so I recognize when I'm probably coming off condescending and when I'm being emotional. There's nothing like acknowledging that you're having an emotional reaction to dampen the fun of actually giving into your emotions.

I am a logical, intelligent, organized, educated and informed woman, and life would be so much easier if everyone could just be a little more like me. But since that's not going to happen, I know what will make life a little stressful.

Lord, in my 32nd year, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Simplified New Year's Resolutions 2016

2016 is going to be a productive year. I can feel it. And I'm going to make it happen. Last year I made 10 New Year's resolutions, but this year, I'm keeping it simple. I'm starting with just three.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Final 2015 New Year's Resolutions Reflections

I had a plan. I was going to check in on my last five 2015 New Year's Resolutions right after New
Year's day 2016. But like so many winter holidays before, I got sick from all the Christmas festivities. My immune system just doesn't handle all that leaving the house. Then I spent days thinking, "I should really blog on my resolutions," followed by, "Ugh, that's too much work. A nap sounds much better."

But I'm finally well, work deadlines achieved, laundry caught up, office cleaned for the new year; I have no more excuses.

Here's my final accountability report. Look back at 1 (walk more) 2 (read more) 3-5 (blog, beautify, give more)

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

DIY Tile Crafts: How to Make Scrabble Ornaments and Scrabble Pictures

Things I learned this holiday season: People hang onto their Scrabble games and get rid of brand new, unopened Glee and Twilight games.

At least that's what I found to be true at multiple thrift stores in Sacramento.

When I decided to make Scrabble crafts for Christmas presents, I figured it would be easy to find an old Scrabble game at one of the many thrift stores I frequent. How wrong I was. I found lots of sad looking Scrabble Jr. games, but no actual Scrabble. In the end, I bought a new Scrabble game, paid for mainly with Shop Your Way points, so I still got a good deal.

For my first Christmas craft, I made my mom a decorative picture, turning the Scrabble tiles into crosses.

I used Super Glue to secure the letters into the cross shape. I immediately discovered that the glue bled onto front of the tiles, darkening parts of the light wood color. To remedy this, after gluing, I used a light peach nail polish to coat the tiles for a more uniform color.

For the picture, I searched free images and then did a little editing to make this particular sky image fit my vision. I printed it onto card stock.

Hot glue provided a quick way to affix the crosses to the card stock.

To fit the finished picture into the frame, I had to remove the glass. I could have purchased a shadow box instead of this frame from Kohl's, but I like that the letters pop from the sky and add dimension to the decor piece.

For my second DIY Scrabble project, I created 6 ornaments, working with the remaining letters from the Scrabble game. 

Again, I used Super Glue (in most cases) to seal the letters to one another. I did manage to glue my fingers to objects a few different times, but thanks to my bottle of acetone at hand, I was never stuck for long.

For the 2 NOEL and 1 LOVE ornaments, my husband sawed the tile racks in half. Then we sanded the edges before I painted each rack red.

To attach the hanging string, we drilled a hole in the back of each tile rack, right in the middle, near the top of the rack. Then we fed the string through the holes and tied it to create a loop.

I used ornament string from unused, second-hand ornaments leftover from my ugly Christmas sweater project.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Blogging, Beautifying and Giving: New Year's Resolutions Realized

As the year comes to a close, I'm checking in with the New Year's resolutions I set for myself. I've already made my Get Fit! goal, and I'm sadly behind on my 20-book goal; however, since my last update, I finished two more books: All the Light We Cannot See and The Color Purple, bringing this year's tally to a paltry 13 books. At this point, I'm aiming for 15 finished books, but hoping for more.

Those were Resolutions 1 and 2; here's 3, 4 and 5.

3. Blog more: My blog has been a little quiet lately, but I did succeed in blogging more, just not as often as I should. Still, thanks to my most popular posts, I get a steady stream of visitors and the money continues to trickle in. My crafty Halloween posts really drive traffic, so that only motivates me more to create more for next year. Plus, I just love having such a festive, popular house for trick-or-treaters.

4. Beautify more: My skin is happy to report I've put a little more effort into beautifying this year. I tried these cruelty-free products to mixed results.
  •  The Yes to Cucumbers line left me with one of the worst reactions I've ever had to a beauty product: burning, swollen, red skin.
  • On the flip side, I've come to love Burt's Bees Sensitive Skin line of products. I use the face wash and moisturizing night cream and found the products at 30% off through Target's Cartwheel app. Sweet!
  • I also rediscovered Sally Hansen's facial hair remover cream, which is the absolute best. It doesn't burn, it doesn't stink, and it works in one quick application. It's pretty much the opposite of Nair, at least for my skin and hair. 
5. Give more: My soul is joyful to share that I got a little more involved in my community this year and gave of my time, in addition to the money and goods I always give. Again, my husband I prefer to do charity privately, but I can share a few of the ways I gave back. 
  • I helped collect donations for the Butte Fire victims. After socializing the event and improving the donation database, I was able to stuff my Mustang full of requested items and had so much to donate that the volunteers at the donation site thought my husband and I were with a specific organization rather than just two individuals. That felt great.
  • I also got down in the mud (yes there was mud in the middle of the hot, Sacramento drought, go figure) and helped clean up Rusch Park with other volunteers from my mom's church. 
  • Finally, thanks to our friends Elena and Sam, we were able to help out more needy pets through their dog food donation. Passing out dog food to homeless pet owners is something Aaron and I have done for years, but we don't always have the extra dog food on hand to help. I believe we passed out more baggies of dog food in 2015 than ever before.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Reading Resolution Reflections

 "I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one's head pointed toward the sun, one's feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death."

With the recent world events and alarming responses by many Americans, I've been reflecting on such passages from Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom.

Finishing Mandela's autobiography was one of my New Year's resolutions, and I finally completed my goal during Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon on October 17. To my recollection, the only book that took me longer to read from cover to cover was The Bible. I believe I spent 2.5 years reading The Bible straight through and over 1.5 years reading Long Walk to Freedom.

Fittingly, I find myself looking to both epic stories for strength during these times. I find myself asking "What would Jesus do?" and "What would Mandela do?" Before anyone gets their panties in a twist, as a Christian, I am not equating the two by any means. I just think think back to Mandela's words, and I am inspired to try to act in kindness and love to those whose behavior is fueled by fear, ignorance or hate.

“I always knew that deep down in every human heart, there is mercy and generosity. No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite. Even in the grimmest times in prison, when my comrades and I were pushed to our limits, I would see a glimmer of humanity in one of the guards, perhaps just for a second, but it was enough to reassure me and keep me going. Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished.” 

I realize if I, and those like me, continue to just remove the racist, xenophobic and otherwise prejudicial people from our lives, those angry people will only associate with and be influenced by the like-minded, hateful mob. Divisions will only grow deeper.

 “And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Get Fit 2015 Progress

Thanks to stores filled with holiday decorations and manufactured "war on Christmas" stories already spreading around social media, I was reminded of how little time we have left in 2015. With 50 days until the new year, I realized now would be a good time to check in with my resolutions.

I think I set my sights high with 10 different resolutions, but overall, I've made progress on each one.

One of the accomplishments I'm most proud of relates to my first resolution: Walk the dog more. Although we haven't walked Gizmo five days a week, we do take her for longer and more frequent walks.

As a result of walking more, as well as exercising more in general this year, I've lost 7 pounds while gaining a little muscle.

Granted, 7 pounds isn't a big number, but I'm a small woman who wasn't medically overweight to begin with. I just have room for improvement. I have made my personal goal for the year!

In total, I'm down roughly 16 pounds from my heaviest. Self-five!

My chronic health problems combined with my back problems (including but not limited to: a spinal compression, a disc extrusion, wedging and one crooked spine) limit my actively greatly, but I've resolved (and promised my mom) to make getting orthopedic help with my back a priority.

I just finished a fitness feature for a local magazine and had to decline offers for workouts at the cool places I covered due to my back problems. But working on the story, and especially being back in a gymnastics gym, has only fueled my motivation to remedy my back and continue on my get-fit goal.

Hello, new (second-hand) skinny jeans and top!

So a striped shirt isn't the best way to show off my weight-loss, but it's my new favorite fall fashion, purchased while Halloween costume hunting. It reminds me of something my Gramma wore, but in good way. The memory just adds to its coziness.

Tan and black striped Dress Barn top with gold buttons: $4 Deseret Industries
Elle dark wash skinny jeans: $1.50 Thrift Town (half-off sale)

Thursday, November 5, 2015

DIY Thrifted Bride of Chucky Halloween Costumes

Hi! I'm Chucky. Wanna play!?!

For Halloween 2015, Aaron and I dressed up as the killer dolls Chucky and Tiffany.

A look into our respective closets and Halloween costume stash inspired the costumes. We already had the blue overalls from our Super Mario 3 and Princess Peach costumes, and I already had the motorcycle boots and leather jacket; Aaron gave me the jacket when we started dating over 11 years ago.

We hit up a number of Sacramento-area thrift stores on the hunt for the two key missing ensemble pieces: Chucky's striped shirt and Tiffany's bridal gown.

We found both items right away at Mary's Thrift Store in Citrus Heights, but we tempted fate and waited to buy them until we did a sweep of 3 Goodwills, 1 Eco Thrift, 1 The Thrift Store, 1 Deseret Industries and 1 Thrift Town to ensure we bought the best.

What can I say? I'm obsessive and thorough. Luckily our items were right were we left them when we returned to Mary's on the weekly half-off Wednesday sale.

My Jessica McClintock dress was $4 and Aaron's shirt was $1.50 at most. Aaron didn't want to roast on Halloween in a long-sleeved shirt.

For the final touches, I added fabric paint and Sharpie to color in some thicker stripes on his shirt and made him a "Good Guys" patch from jean scrap.

Aaron covered a pair of old Vans in red Duck Tape, and I fashioned a choker out of tights and a gemstone from my craft stash.

For the makeup: Aaron first applied mineral powder foundation to color his face more orange and doll-like and then created the signature scars. He used a red Halloween makeup crayon and then went over it with liquid bandage and clear top-coat nail polish. A dust of mineral powder over the scars reduced some of the polish shine.

My makeup was simple mineral powder foundation, heavy eyeliner and eyeshadow. I used my crayon eyeliner to really accentuate the eyebrows. For black lips I used a cranberry red lipstick combined with black shadow. You can also mix black eyeshadow and lipgloss or even mix shadow with petroleum jelly to create a black lip when you don't have black lipstick.

For the final touch, I got the Chuckey heart tattooed with Sharpie.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

DIY Halloween Decorations on a Budget

Every Halloween I get a little more crafty and the house looks just a bit more awesome as my outdoor Halloween decorations grow in number and size.

This year, I added the Nightmare Before Christmas Jack Skellington garage, a large garbage bag spider for the porch, new garbage bag ghosts, a duct tape Ghostbusters logo ghost, a garbage bag grim reaper silhouette and tombstones made from political yard signs.

The only outdoor Halloween decorations actually purchased this year included two packs of candy corn lights from Home Depot and a foam skull from the 99 Cent Store at half off for about $9 total.

Here's the rundown of my decorations:

Michael Myers: Old Halloween costume stuffed with furniture foam.

Grim Reaper Silhouette: Black garbage bags. I looked at pictures and then free-handed it with scissors.

Ghostbusters Logo: Duck Tape, cardboard and furniture foam.

Window Lights: Repurposed Christmas lights passed down from Aaron's childhood Christmas decorations.

Spiders and Web Netting: Free from Aaron's old work, originally 99 Cent Store.