What a Year! – March

Throughout January and February and now March, our house was dealing with a rather miserable cold. Somewhere in there, I developed some intense sensory hypersensitivity that was really quite difficult for awhile. But – along with March came flowers…. and the beginning of what has now been nearly a year of my oldest daughter, Anna, filling up my hard drive with lovely photography.

Here’s some of her work from March as the spring flowers bloomed:

A little bit of sunshine was VERY welcome respite from our long, gray, wet winter and we took advantage of the day and went outside:

But then…. just a bit later – winter let us know that it had one more bit of freezing left for us.

Daniel still talks about this… he says, “In winter, when it snows, then I put on big pants and I go outside and I play in the snow!” He is optimistically hoping for a repeat this winter.

We enjoyed having the doggies indoors a lot more during the coldest weather!

I was enjoying getting to groom the neighbor’s horses pretty regularly as a form of self care – on my own and sometimes with a daughter in tow:

Every time I successfully exercised 14 times, I gave myself a few dollars to purchase anything I wanted! This time – it was crafting supplies for making homemade lotion.

I also attempted my first leather journal cover…

Meanwhile, whispers of some kind of sickness in Asia are getting louder and louder and we hear that even Italy is experiencing a large impact from this Corona, this COVID, this something virus. It begins to hit here… like the sound of little raindrops on the roof getting louder and faster. Daniel’s trip to Delaware is canceled. All school and lessons are suddenly stopped. We learn what PPE means and that our commercial channels are somehow helpless to provide medical professionals with the basics and… well, enter round one of panic buying and it is, hilariously, for toilet paper.

Was my painfully hypersensitive skin caused by the Coronavirus? I don’t know!

Taekwondo was rapid in its response… training was restarted with very little break at all… via a little program I’d never heard of before: Zoom!

Even ballet was able to continue via zoom! We hoped for a very long time that we’d still be able to have a recital at the end of the year, but that turned out to be pie in the sky. Anna looked so mature and Daniel so adorable (when he joined).

We experimented with social gatherings via zoom for the first time:

And a lot of cooped-up activities were explored:

I also went on several walks. Sometimes alone and sometimes I took a daughter with me.

Finally, we began to dream of gardens… and decided to attempt a container garden. Spoiler: It happened, it didn’t work very well, but we ate a few tomatoes!

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What a Year! – January & February

What a year!

Looking at the pictures from January…. it feels like it’s been a very long time.

Brian had set me up with a workbench and a small set of leather tools for Christmas. My first project… bracelets!

We took our half-fated big family trip to a beach rental… where Jordan and Daniel barely slept and Brian got sick and the girls still managed to have fun.

Trying to keep the water hot!


Chasing the seagulls

Last months of pre-teens!


Weary at the beach

I was making packing lists for our March trip to Delaware for some serial casting for Daniel… and taking cute photos of his feet for his orthopedist.


None of us had ever heard of Coronavirus.

February 2020 rolled in without any announcement and we enjoyed a special birthday celebration for my dad at my sister’s new home – all the kids were there!

One of my favorite family photos of all time!


We mostly even get along.

And more fun.

The kids had fun.

I experimented with lipstick

Jordan survived a trip away from home!

Lots of good food!

Ballet in person was still a thing! People touched each other and didn’t wipe down the ballet bars or anything! πŸ™‚

English Country Dances were in full swing and oh, how we miss that!

We started hearing rumors about some illness in China that was causing quarantines. We didn’t think it would affect us.

A determined friend came and helped us with some yardwork… it was a treat to have him drive so far to spend the day with us!

And lastly, Brian and I were getting better at taking care of our personal health… Brian took up hiking and I began exercising frequently. Sometimes, he takes the kids along. This is up on Bells Mountain Trail.

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My Heart

I’ve been thinking a lot about self worth lately. I’ve been struggling to generalize what I happily and naturally extend to my children… to myself. It’s been hard to believe God values us while I’ve been observing the unfair suffering of my children and reading books set in WWII. I do NOT have the answers. But I need to blog… I need to talk through and think out some hope here.

Myself. Simply. Imperfect.

I’m going to focus on one little piece of the puzzle that is broken, missing, or malformed in my life. I’m not sure which.

This piece is disguised as:
Difficulty accepting compliments
Hunger for affirmation/praise
Self sacrifice to others
Difficulty recognizing personal skills
Giving but never receiving

For me, personally, it often looks like:
Working too hard
Self condemnation
Self damnation for mistakes
Expectation of rejection
Impression of being invisible

It’s the piece of me that, deep down inside, when push comes to shove, believes I am special, beautiful, valuable, important, of note, and at my core… good.

That piece… is broken.

I have done work to fix the surface. I accept compliments. I try to think and move as though I am beautiful. I look at the things I do well and allow a sort of self pride. I try to recognize and acknowledge my better character traits. I have begun putting a serious effort into taking care of myself and my own personal needs.

But… but if the compliments are genuine and about something deeply personal… an impenetrable wall flies up and I feel a slice of fear or pain.
If I have depression that day/week/month, I can only take care of myself in solidarity with things I believed before I was depressed, because it doesn’t make sense any more.

Last night, I did some qigong before bed. It tends to “flush” my depression and refresh me in general.
When I did the following qigong movement… hands to heart… I was surprised by a powerful internal grief rising up. I’ve done this movement before… with the same experience. Even just watching it, I feel an echo of the ache of yearning and loss. Please… watch for a moment or participate.

Start at 10:25

A gift? For me? For my heart? The things my heart needs most? My hands… giving gifts to my heart…
My whole chest clenches and feels fragmented.
Tears are hot and stinging.


Why have I trained myself to be so unkind to myself? I grew up constantly hearing people tell me not to be so hard on myself!
It alternated with instruction to better myself. My parents, whom I love and who love me, are more likely to verbalize criticism than praise.
Was this the beginning?
But, I have a husband who is more likely to praise than to be critical and I’ve been married for fifteen years in my own home.

I grew up in a church culture that celebrates the beauty of self-sacrificial love… without the balancing wisdom of self love and kindness, appropriate boundary setting, or self care.
But I’ve been a rebel and haven’t wholly swallowed church doctrine since I was in Kindergarten. Also, I have been completely outside of the church for several years now, learning to take care of myself and to see myself as God sees me.

The short, glorious life of the honeybee.
Photo: Anna

I see myself being critical of my children… demanding, correcting, judging. This is the easiest mode for me to interact in.
It doesn’t bear good fruit. Even though they need instruction, this is creating results I grieve rather than celebrate.

I see myself being loving toward my children… accepting, supporting, validating. This is hard to do.
But this is bearing the fruit relational closeness, though I don’t know if the needed guidance is getting through.

I dislike the dissonance of be hopping between the two.

The beauty of an aging poppy at dawn.
Photo: Anna

But I want to go back to the “Hands to Heart” movement.
Giving to myself.
Those things that I need most.

Random strangers tell me that I am their hero, just because I’m a mother to children with special needs.
People who know me a bit tell me that I am skilled and that I do ___ really well.
People who know me intimately tell me that I am kind, generous, a good listener.

These compliments rub up against a big, raw wound that is where life and other people both close and distant have told me that I’m unwanted, unloved, unimportant, and rejected. In truth, I am socially isolated. That I have tried to develop in-real-life community, but have been largely (though not completely) unsuccessful is fuel to the fire of self damnation.

Deep down inside, I want to have confidence that when God made me… he made something good. Something that He looks at and smiles with warmth, delight, desire, and pride. To know without a doubt that I have been made for a purpose that is good. To believe without hesitation that he considers me perfect even in my very-obvious imperfections.

I see beauty here.
Photo: Anna

Does He accept me like that?
Can I accept me like that?

How do I see it here?

Fighting my demons.
Not giving up.
Believing that I am created for life, not death.
Choosing hope.
Choosing, in the absence of natural understanding, to believe that God sees me like I see my children, like I see the wildflowers, like I see other people:
With purpose
At the core… good.

p.s. If you, like me, are struggling with mental health and emotional intelligence and self worth or depression… I was recently amazed to watch this self interview of a man and his life partner who has multiple mental health diagnoses. (SBSK is a pretty fantastic resource for getting to know people with a wide number of diagnoses and life experiences. It’s like the “Humans of New York” with a focus on people with diagnoses. In this case, he is interviewing his life partner.)
Alyssa’s 5 Mental Health Disorders (The Truth About our Love and SBSK

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Long Term Food Storage in Pictures – Emergency Food

Motivation: Popular phrasing is SHTF Prep. (S&*! Hits the Fan) Between social stress/unrest in our country, the pandemic, the potential for a major earthquake in my part of the country and the fact that I just read a book set in World War II France with food rations and starvation… well, I feel motivated to save some food the same way I try to save money in case of emergency.

The Long-term Goal: Save 1 year’s worth of food, which does not have to be rotated or replaced for many years, to feed each member of our family 1,500 calories a day or more. Include water-purification supplies and a few non food essentials.

Short-term Goal: Save 1 month’s worth of food and a little bit of water.

Plan/Process: Save a little at a time, as I am able, focusing on staples that will last a very long time. I will NOT be rotating through this food and using it regularly. Instead, I will label the foods with the expiration date and donating or using it a year before expiration.

Supplies and storage area: An unused basement, an unused shelf, 5-gallon buckets, 5-gallon-sized Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers. May also purchase some pre-packaged #10 cans. More shelves will follow… I hope.

You can view the live document where I am collecting my research about what to store and what I’m storing.

DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH… I’m doing most of my research (reflected in this blog and on my living document) by googling and searching a variety of prepper web pages. A great, long-standing resource is the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS).

My process, in pictures, for long-term food storage (my first time!):

Collect buckets. They do not have to be food grade, but I decided I wanted mine to be.

Collect Mylar Bags made for 5-gallon buckets. If you don’t have a Winco, the cheapest I could find online was $1.40/bag (when you buy 50) but most online options were closer to $2.50+ per bag.

Stuff your bag into the bucket.

As you pour in your dried food, shake and tap regularly to settle the food. More will fit and there will be less air left in the bag… which is important.

Keep filling!

Pull the top of the bag to make it flat again so that you can seal it shut.

I did five buckets for my first day.

A nice feeling of accomplishment!

Recommended amounts of oxygen absorbing packets for 5-gallon bags according to USA Emergency Supplies, a commercial company (not government) is 2,000-4,000cc oxygen absorbers. The Winco package had instructions for 1500cc per 5-gallon bucket.

You’ll need to have oxygen absorbing packets available for this style of food preservation. The lack of oxygen is what makes the food last longer.

Ready to iron shut. Flat irons (for hair) or other heat sealers might be easier. This was easy once I got the ironing board the right height.

It was fast. After this photo, I pushed out the majority of the air and finished sealing it. I’ve heard that the melted seal is an area that sometimes fails, so I made my seam fairly wide and went back and forth twice.

Closed up! I’m going to wait a day to make sure their seal holds . They should look vacuum packed tomorrow as the 20% of oxygen in there is absorbed by the packets.

Labeled with:
Packaged date
Expected expiry date

Looks great the next morning!

Ready to put the lids on!

I used bucket lids with a rubber gasket to further reduce air flow. The mylar bag is the important part, but if it fails, the bucket will still slow the aging of the food some and keep it dry.

Note: This shelf has a much higher weight limit if I take the casters off…. but it’ll be alright (barely) on the casters and more convenient too.

All shelf life expectations below assume best case scenario storage: No oxygen, no light, cool temperatures.

Staples with a 25+ year shelf life:
Dehydrated Apple Slices
Beans, Pinto
Dried Carrots
Corn Meal
Corn Starch
Popcorn (to pop or grind)
Rolled Oats
Spaghetti (or other pasta)
Split Peas
Wheat Berries
White Rice

Other Essentials – life span not researched by me yet
Baking Soda
Coconut Oil
Cream of Tartar (for making baking powder)

Other “good ideas” in my opinion – life span varied, but most 15-30 years
Cocoa Powder
Dried Peanut Butter
Dry Milk (nonfat)
Flour (all-purpose)
Hard Candy
Meat (freeze dried beef)
Meat (freeze dried chicken)
Potato flakes
Powdered Eggs
Powdered Fruit Drink
Taco Seasoning

Non-food items I’m considering:
Cat and dog food
Cold medicine/Benadryl
Dish Soap
First aid kid
Grain mill, manual
Iodine,Calcium Hypochlorite (pool shock), or some other chemical water purification method
Kleenex or cloth tissues
Laundry detergent
Light bulbs
Menstrual pads (fabric?)
Playing cards
Prescription meds
Sewing kit
Soap bars
Thieves or other cleaner
Toilet paper
Tube feeding backup
Water purification filter system

    Still Researching:

  1. Volume reducing: If I’m successful in a year’s worth of food, that’s 7 people x 1500+ calories/day x 365 days = 3,832,500 calories. That much would take an enormous amount of space. I am interested in researching to learn which long-term-stable foods are more compact.
  2. Fats/Oils: Finding any oils that store long term
  3. How to know if something is rancid
  4. How to use Pool Shock for water purification
  5. What cleaning agents will last a long time? (Bleach lasts less than a year!)

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Middle Years Finances

I am often a micromanager of our household and was pretty successful at it when the kids were younger. I like organizing the home to be most efficient and comfortable and I like prepping events or activities to be orderly and enjoyable. With money, I like it going where I expect, doing what I want, and not running out. Early on, we had a really small income. And now that our income is larger, the volume of expenses is greater. My early money-management techniques and decision-making processes need to evolve with my family! And… so I’m blogging to try and do that.

Shopping with the girls recently.

For several years, I’ve struggled to keep my spending within the budget plan that I’ve set for myself.

Aside: I love budgeting. I use a program (used to use Microsoft Money but now I use AceMoney Lite) to track my expenses. I sit down at my desk about once a week and copy every transaction from my bank account to AceMoney. I double-check that the balances match and I assign a category and subcategory to every transaction. These are the best way I’ve found to keep track of what I’m doing with my money. Once a month, I run a report from my program that shows the totals for each category/subcategory. Those values get entered into my written budget. My typed budget. Whatever. I use excel to write my budget numbers down and transfer my monthly totals there once a month to see how I’m doing.

And how I’m doing is consistently overspending in most of my discretionary categories. (Mortgage payment, phone bill, water bill are not discretionary. Grocery choices, household supplies, hair cuts, hiking gear, etc…. that’s where the problem lies.)

I save all year to be able to buy fresh, local produce in the spring and summer!

So I’m sitting down to think out loud. Why am I struggling to limit my spending? What changed that made this harder? What thought processes have I added or abandoned? What can I do differently?

-Making more money means I can buy things I couldn’t before.
-Buying things I couldn’t before makes me think that I can afford to buy ALL the things I couldn’t before.

β€œAnnual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds nought and six, result misery.” Charles Dickens

-Being overspent or overburdened emotionally, physically, schedule-wise, or in any other way means something has to give and support is needed.
-Healthy eating, home cooking, careful prioritizing, etc….. are the give.
-Fast food, easy food, activities of respite and relief are the support.

Once again… overspending.

-Prioritizing expenses is how we have always decided where our limited, finite money will go.
-The amount, the volume of expenses has increased tenfold at least as the number of children has increased, the ages of the children has increased, and our own adult lives have gotten more complex too.
-I’ve gotten lost in the sheer volume of options and given up prioritizing carefully.

It’s been tricky to “find” the money in the budget for backpacking, but it’s been SO GOOD for our family’s health. I need to give it a permanent spot in the budget to make more careful decisions in the future.

Hey – that’s pretty good progress for one morning of journaling/blogging!

Self reminder: Just because we have more income than early in our marriage doesn’t mean we can afford everything!
Self awareness: Stress makes me reach for expensive solutions. Choose the less-expensive option more often.
Preparation: Attempt the list-making solution for complex priorities. Write down what I think I need and refuse to make the purchase until 1 week or more has passed. Choose a good place to keep this list.

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