Lighter Shade of Gray

Gray or grey?  I’m on the hunt to find an amazing lighter shade of gray.  I kind of experimented with paint colors in this rental unit b/c I’m still searching for the perfect color and I figure the tenants won’t mind if the rooms are slightly different colors, right? They may assume it’s just the lighting b/c they are so subtle-y different.  Or maybe they’ll go crazy walking from room to room tilting their heads and whipping their heads around suddenly like I do trying to catch the color changing or something..

The colors I used are all along the lines of Fixer Upper – like a grayish white. I read an article that the up and coming colors trending in the home decor world are closer to white so that’s the kind of colors that I picked. I’m learning that lighting and the placement of the man on the moon (kidding) drastically affect what paint colors look like. Actually, I have no idea why paint colors look so drastically different in different places – to me, it’s like one of the mysteries of the universe that I just have to accept and remain permanently confused about.

I used some of the colors that I used in the other unit we updated in this same building and they look completely different – go figure. I thought I’d found THE color and it looks totally different in this unit. Whatever. I suppose it’s still acceptable just not exactly what I thought it would be. I need to quit being so picky about colors for a rental unit. Most landlords just use antique white and call it a day.

I actually have this problem with everything – I’m constantly searching for the best thing that’s going to top all other things (when picking books, trying recipes, etc – always on the hunt for the magical unicorn that doesn’t exist – or maybe it does but I just haven’t captured it yet (see! it’s a problem)).  This should be a disorder – we could name it Magical Unicorn Disorder – I’m sure the drug companies would be all over it if they ever read this post.  We’ll start seeing infomercials about a new drug that will quash Magical Unicorn Disorder.  Are you constantly searching for the magical unicorn?  Take this drug 3 times/day with koolaid and you will no longer believe unicorns exist – you will be dead on the inside.  Side effects may include adult diapers, the shakes, a severe addiction that you can’t kick, etc – you know the standard list.  :-p  I digress.

Here’s the colors that I tried:

Glidden’s Silver Birch @ Home Depot:  I LOVE this color.  It’s my favorite!  It’s light, bright and neutral gray with not much hint of other colors.  I like that.  I hate to look at a gray and think that it looks blue or purple.  I wish I would’ve used this one everywhere I like it so much.

Gracious Greige HGTV by Sherwin Williams (HGSW2456): I’ve already reviewed this one in another post: 5 shades of gray on this website.  But it happens to look completely different in this unit.  🙁  I still like it but it’s not my favorite in the lighter shades of gray category.  It’s still neutral, but when compared with the other shades it’s not my favorite anymore.  It seems like it has a hint of purple when it’s in this unit which kind of throws me off – again probably the lighting.  There’s LED lighting everywhere. In the other unit, there was no hint of purple. UPDATE: Found out why this color was looking purplish – we bought cheap blinds from Menard’s that were slightly blueish in tint – once we replaced these the purple tint was gone. Love this color much more now! Very neutral yet still retaining some warmth.

Basalt Powder HGTV by Sherwin Williams (HGSW2457): I like this color.  It’s very modern looking and nice and bright.  It really brightens up the room.  It does seem like it has a hint of purple but it’s not overpowering – it’s very neutral.  Maybe the hint of purple keeps the gray from looking too cold – not sure.  It’s just a hint though – still very neutral.  I give it a thumbs up.  We used this color for the living room and dining room area of the rental.

Benjamin Moore’s Halo: This color is really nice too.  It has a hint of green to it but it’s very neutral.  I used it in the master bedroom and the kitchen.  I actually got this at Home Depot!  Did you know that you could get different brands of paint at Home Depot?  I just found out and I’m so excited about this!!!!  I never used to get other brands b/c I didn’t want to have to go to special paint stores and make a separate trip – my kids can only handle one stop when it comes to “boring” stores.  But now that I found out that Home Depot will make other brands of paint as long as they are in the system – I can broaden my horizons!  This particular paint color was recommended on some web sites by design pros so I decided to try it out and it’s very classy, classic and safe – nice color.  I would use this all over too b/c it’s pretty safe and nice.

Sherwin William’s White Duck SW7010:  This is not actually a gray color but it is an off white type of color so I thought I’d include it.  We used this in a bathroom instead of antique white and it looks really nice.  It’s more of a yellowy cream color that is slightly darker than antique white and therefore a little warmer.  It gets a thumbs up also.  It would be another good allover color if you were looking for a white-ish color but not white.

Anyone else have lighter shades of gray that they like – please comment below.  Help me find my unicorn..  I won’t stop – can’t stop..

See my other post on other shades of gray:
5 shades of gray

Here’s some pictures below.  I tried to post several so you could see it in different lighting:

Benjamin Moore’s Halo:

Gracious Greige:

Basalt Powder (in the Dining Room):

Basalt Powder (on the left) & Silver Birch (on the right):

Silver Birch:

White Duck:

Screening Tenants

Most screening is intuitive.  You go with your gut on this, mostly. How do they talk to you on the phone?  Are they nice, bossy, demanding, already negotiating about the rent?  True character shines through in those first phone conversations.  These are some of the questions I like to ask:

When are you looking to move in?
Why are you moving?
How many people will be living in the rental?
Where do you work?

Though we use a screening company to verify employment, credit, landlord history, etc, we don’t always go with their suggestions.  Screening companies are good for providing information though (b/c sometimes your gut is wrong).  We’ve gone with a person that the screening company recommended and not had the best experience and we’ve gone with a person that the screening company didn’t recommend and they turned out the be great tenants.  It’s important to take the screening companies advice and combine it with what your gut tells you.

The screening company is great at digging up information that you might not have access to so I still recommend using them.  And the screening company has their own rental applications, etc so you don’t have to worry about coming up with your own (not that it’s that hard, but just another plus). We use Credit Verification, LLC:  The application fee is $55 for singles and $65 for a married couple – you need to have them pay you the application fee up front when they fill out the application.

Note: If you do decide to do the screening yourself and not use a screening company, then I highly recommend that you have access to CaseNet – this reports any previous landlord judgements or actions. This has saved us tremendously from bad tenants!

I also like this article on screening tenants:

Have qualifications for the tenant. These are some of ours:
1.) Tenant should have a gross income that is 3 x rent.
2.) Credit score > 600, preferably – some exceptions can be made based on situation.
3.) Good debt to income ratio.
4.) Good rental history – current and previous landlord (beware of them using a friend as a landlord – there are ways to check this out).
5.) Let them know that you use a screening company, if you do.
6.) No cats or dogs. (we don’t allow pets b/c of the smell that lingers sometimes)
7.) No smoking.

Usually a tenant that you don’t have a good gut feeling about will fail one of these qualifications.  But sometimes a tenant fails one of these qualifications (credit score, for example), but you still want to take a chance on them b/c they seem like they have good character.  I usually don’t overlook the rental history though – that rule is hard and fast – we don’t want any drama.  :-/

How to clean ceiling fan that is greasy and caked with dust (tarred and feathered)

You might think that it’s easier to replace the fan which we’ve done in the past but that’s an extra $70 that you shouldn’t have to spend.

Ceiling fans are a pain to clean especially when they are near the kitchen area b/c then they get tarred and feathered or grease builds up on them and then dust sticks to them – yuck!  And it’s already hard to reach them so you are in an awkward position when trying to clean them.

Here’s the trick – Goo Gone!  It wipes the grime off like a charm!  Put some Goo Gone on a white rag and wipe away – it’s really simple and works so quickly.  I’m going to try this on the dirty, greasy microwave vents next!  Wish me luck!!!

Doll Face

doll-clipart-doll_13Anyone ever get hit on by a Contractor? I’m sure many women (and even men?) have experienced this in the home improvement industry. I got called a doll by one over text. I’m like hmmm. What kind of doll – there’s such a variety:

Raggedy Ann – this is what I feel most like – raggedy explains it all.

Cabbage patch doll – I eat a lot of cookies and junk food while I renovate and Chinese buffet, of course, which could fill out the face from sodium bloat.  It’s a definite possibility.  I especially love those Mother’s brand cookies which are frosted animal shapes with sprinkles – yum!  I know even an ant wouldn’t touch those, but I love them..

Barbie – I definitely don’t have the dimensions for Barbie so we can rule that one out. :-p

Cute little porcelain fragile doll – eh, probably not – I have big German bones and broad shoulders.

Teddy bear – could be b/c I don’t have time to shave my legs as often while renovating.

One of those crazy ones from the movie Dolls that murder people – I would hope not, but I can be a grouch while renovating so we can’t rule that one out.

Blow up doll – b/c I’m usually spaced out on paint fumes – jeez I would hope not this one. :-p If so, I need to change my blank, zoned out, paint fume stare to make sure my mouth is closed. I hope I’m not looking at people like that actress Kristen Stewart. I can’t even watch the Twilight movies because I feel like she looks at everyone like she’s about to kiss them – and when she looks at her Dad – that just creeps me out.

My husband doesn’t mind at all which is funny. He just says he doesn’t necessarily agree with my tactics at getting stuff done. :-p But he really likes a good price. I think he’d sell himself for that if he could – just kidding! I actually don’t really mind it too much other than that it just makes it awkward. I am kind of flattered to be called a doll as long as it’s one of the cute ones. I am approaching forty – I’ll take all the compliments I can get! :-p

My Testimony: Three Answered Prayers

testimonyMy journey to finding Jesus emanated from three answered prayers.  You might think that those three answered prayers are my kids, but they’re not.  I actually didn’t have a chance to pray for kids – we got blessed and they came soon after we married even though I was told at a young age that I would have trouble having kids – hence, don’t listen to everything doctor’s say.  My kids are truly a blessing but these answered prayers that I’m talking about all came about at some critical points in my life when I was down on my knees, face on the floor (figuratively), asking for help such that the direction of my life depended on it.

The first answered prayer happened when I was working on a project in Chicago.  I was at a place in my life where I had just gotten out of a long term relationship and had kind of lost who I was.  I got wrapped up in the party scene or I got everyone else wrapped up in the party scene.  I was the “party girl”.  If you meet me now, I’m sure you could never imagine this.  :-p

I had just gotten out of an 8 year relationship.  Somehow, after being in a relationship for so long I had just decided that I was going to live life to the fullest.  I didn’t realize that living life to the fullest didn’t have to mean sinning to the fullest.  I was drinking too much and staying out way too late and, needless to say, that can lead to bad things.  As they say, nothing good happens after dark.

A friend of mine happened to be a devout Christian.  She ministered to me on our plane rides to and from Chicago since we were both from Houston.  She didn’t forsake me or give up on me.  She continued to minister to me and be an example to me and even quote scripture to me when we would go out for lunch.

Which, I, by the way, can still not quote scripture.  I know everyone is supposed to be able to – that’s what my pastor says.  But you really don’t want me quoting scripture – I would be the Tommy Boy of scripture quoting.  Like, the only way a rich person gets to heaven is if a camel pokes itself in the eye with a needle type of thing.  But I am familiar with scripture and could look up a verse that would apply to a situation maybe via Google then read it – that is within my realm of possibility.  I just think some people have better memory than others.  And maybe if I had learned more at a young age – I would’ve been able to retain more – but maybe not.  Though, I do have really good situational memory but just not word for word memory.  I digress.

All of her ministering finally sunk in.  One Monday morning on a plane ride from Houston to Chicago (my friend was not with me on the plane that morning), I prayed that the plane would crash (no, I wasn’t thinking about the other people on board – shame on me – but I really didn’t think it would happen either) so that I could get out of this situation I was in.  I told God that there was no way that I could do it on my own.  I asked him to help.  And thank God the plane didn’t crash – God had a better way (as he always does).

Three days later, it was announced that the multi-million dollar project that I was on was being cancelled.  They were going to just scrap the work and write it off.  We were to get a flight home effective immediately and find new projects.  What a shock that was to everyone, especially me.  But what a relief too – I had a way out that I never would’ve been able to create for myself! Sorry for all the people that lost jobs that day but I do believe everything happens for a reason – the good and the bad.

The second answered prayer happened when I met my husband, Bryon.  I had just gotten on a project in St Louis and I knew no one.  Well, I knew many of the people that I worked with already because we tended to be on the same projects but they were all from out of town so for the weekends I was alone.  I had been getting lonely for a while with all the traveling around and living in hotel rooms out of my suitcase.  The travel kind of wears on you after a while and I was looking for a place that would be more stable.

Nothing sounded more stable to me than a good mid-western town so I really liked the idea of coming to St Louis.   Anyway, I prayed that I would find my future husband and I was open to whatever God had for me.  Of course, I mentioned some of the qualities I was looking for which were reasonable not superficial and God actually brought me my husband and he had all the qualities I was looking for in my prayer.   Actually, some of the qualities might be considered negative to others (frugal being one of them) but I felt like they were complimentary to me.  It turned out my husband had also been praying before he met me.  So, that’s the second answered prayer.  Ever notice how it feels like finding a needle in a hay stack when you meet the right person?  It’s got to be divine intervention IMHO.

The third answered prayer happened when my Dad got sick.  He was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.  By the time I got to TX after I found out, he was in the hospital and he didn’t even seem to recognize me.  He used to always call me, “Stinker”, and this time he seemed to look right through me.  Well, it turned out that the cancer was already in his brain so that’s why he wasn’t functioning cognitively too well.  He ended up having a seizure while I was in the room.  I just remember 2 nurses jumping on him to try to keep him from hurting himself while he was having a seizure.   But also in that moment, I saw a glimpse of the old him.  His last name was Hellmann.  When the seizure ended and he saw 2 women on him, he grinned and said to the nurses – “I’ve still got it – Vernon Hell of a Man”.  His first name was Vernon.  That was the good old upbeat attitude he always had.  It always seemed he was unbreakable.  And here he was broken physically but yet still not in spirit. That left a huge impression on me.

He never allowed us to see him broken – he always had a smile for everyone no matter what he himself was going through – that’s the epitome of strength to me.  He was always our rock.  The doctors told us he didn’t have long to live and that he wasn’t going to get any better from the state he was in – which was barely functioning.  I prayed that night if we could have just 4 good (meaning he would be his old self) months with my Dad to say goodbye.  My sister was coming into town from California and I was hoping we could just have a chance to say goodbye.  God answered my prayer.

After undergoing radiation on his brain to shrink the tumors, they did shrink and he did return to normal.  He could walk, talk, and do everything he used to do again.   We were able to move him out of the nursing home and back into his trailer.  They gave us seizure medication so he didn’t have any more seizures.  He was back from essentially the dead.  We got to spend almost exactly 4 months to the day.  My dad took us on 4 wheel drives through his land and he took our kids as well.  He showed us the farm and gave us a little history on his family.  And we got the chance to take care of him in those last 4 months which was very therapeutic to give back to him at least a fraction of what he gave to us.

Then, he died the day after my oldest daughter’s first birthday – I think he held out so as not to die on her birthday.  I was 3 months pregnant at the time with my second daughter – he didn’t get to find out what gender she was but I think he’d have giggled from Heaven – the reign of girls continues (he had 2 girls, my sister had 2 girls and now I was going to have 2 girls (eventually I went on to have 3 girls – girl power!)).  He died in peace – he was in hospice care for the last 2 weeks so he didn’t have to feel any pain.  My prayer was answered so that was the third answered prayer.

I now knew that God existed, but I had no idea about Jesus until I was given a book called, “Letters from a Skeptic: A Son Wrestles With His Father’s Questions About Christianity”, from my husband’s grandma.  I know that’s not the most exciting way to have learned about Jesus, but that book laid it all out there on why he exists and why he needs to exist.  We really got it after that.  We decided it was time to attend church.  And we eventually got baptized shortly after.  Our journey with Christ continues and it’s a daily struggle between good and evil.  We try to keep our eyes on Christ but of course every one falls short.  The goal is to sin less but not be sinless because that only Jesus could do.  I know not everyone’s prayers get answered and I’ve had many a prayer not answered but it’s like that country song says, “I thank God for unanswered prayers”.   These three answered prayers were life changers for me – I believe he’s answered when he could and when he knew was best for me.  God’s plans are greater than ours. We just have to trust that.

Move Out Letter/Email to Tenant

Here’s an example of the letter we send the tenants about a month before their move out date.  How you send it depends on how you normally communicate – we tend to communicate over email where possible but some of our tenants never check their email so in those cases, we have to use snail mail.

Dear Tenant:

Please keep the following in mind for your move:

  • Please make sure you do your best to clean up the apartment after you move your belongings out.
  • We will need an address in which to mail the security deposit.  You should receive the deposit within 30 days as long as the apartment is in order.
  • Don’t forget to transfer the utilities out of your name on the day you move so that you don’t continue to get billed
  • Send the post office a change of address form.
  • You can leave the keys (including the mailbox key) and garage door openers in the apartment.

Once you have finished cleaning and removed all of your belongings, let me know.  Thanks for taking care of the apartment and let us know if you have any questions.

We have set up landlord agreements with most of the utility companies so when someone moves out it automatically switches back into our name and gets billed to us.  This is important to double check because it can be costly if something gets shut off and you have to get it turned back on.

 Also, this website has a great, more formal move out letter:



Non-Renewal of Lease Letter

If someone does not pay rent on time or is not following all the rules outlined in the Lease agreement, you can choose not to renew their lease at the end of the term by sending a Non-Renewal of Lease Letter.  Just make sure you give proper notice.  We have had to do this.  For many of my forms, including our leases, I like to use:

IKEA Kitchen Install Part Uno – Planning Design

We just got an IKEA in St Louis – yay!!!!  I’m from Texas and we had an IKEA in Houston so I know how wonderful it is and I’m over the moon excited about this.  There are so many cool organization items there and affordable furniture – I just love it.

We have a tenant moving out end of May and their apartment hasn’t been updated since 1969 so the whole thing needs to be overhauled.  Since we are on a budget, we are going to attempt to do the kitchen ourselves with IKEA cabinets.  I’ve heard they are easy to install with the rails that are leveled on the wall for both the top and bottom cabinets and the adjustable feet so you don’t have to deal with shimming.  I loathe anything that involves shimming.  We shall see.  I’m going to document it here.

First, we designed the kitchen in the IKEA kitchen planner online tool.  This online tool can be glitchy so be prepared for a little frustration but over all I LOVE having access to a design tool online – LOVE diy stuff in general so this is great.

We have already renovated a kitchen in a similar unit so we had a head start on that but the cabinet sizes are slightly different for IKEA so that made it a little tricky.  For example, they don’t have a 33 inch wide cabinet. The upper cabinets are also 3 inches deeper than standard cabinets which I like – more space..  So, here’s our design from the online IKEA 3D planning tool:

3D Line View in IKEA software:



Floor View in IKEA software:


On the left side of this kitchen is a window and a door leading out to the deck and on the right side is the entry from the dining room.  The details of the cabinets from Left to Right, Top to Bottom (spacing may not be perfect in the tool, but that’s ok):

36 inch wide cabinets (top & bottom),  Bottom cabinet has 2 drawers on top and doors on the bottom.  We did this because there is a window sill there and the drawers can’t pull out all the way so we figured if the drawers were smaller in height, they could at least pull out the top drawer all the way.

30 inch wide cabinets (top is 20 inch in height – slightly shorter so you can have breathing room while washing dishes and bottom has a 1 bowl sink),

24 inch wide cabinet on the top and dishwasher on the bottom.  The dishwasher is only going to be 24 inches wide but we need to put a panel between the dishwasher and oven in order to support the counter which would be about a half inch and we’ll add a cover panel on top as well so they are symmetrical. UPDATE: the dishwasher panel is actually more like 5/8 inches.

30 inch wide cabinets on top (15 inches in height so that we can put a built in microwave underneath – because their cabinets are slightly deeper than the regular cabinets they have special tools we can use for the built in microwave to make it level with the cabinets as far as depth goes) and oven on the bottom. The oven is about 30 1/8 inches so we left a space of 30 1/4 inches for the oven. UPDATE: this extra space was unexpected because ovens are normally 30 inches or less so we added a full cover panel to the side of the 12 inch wide wall cabinet mentioned below in order to make up for the extra space in the base cabinets.

12 inch wide cabinet on top and 12 inch wide cabinet with a door on the bottom (they didn’t have one that was 12 inches with drawers. UPDATE: we added a full cover panel to the side of this 12 inch wide cabinet to add 1/2 inch of space to match up with the base cabinets.

Next, is a pantry 24 inch x 80. But there will be a cover panel on the side of the pantry which will add an extra half-inch.

We have about 4 inches of extra space that we are going to put fillers on each end to fill. We’ll probably do 1 inch on one side and 3 inches on the other side because we realized we need to keep the existing venting duct work within the cabinet that is over the microwave (there was an oven range hood that vents outside and we want to reuse this for the over the range microwave) and that is cutting it REALLY close. :-0 UPDATE: we ended up putting 0 inches of filler on one side and 3.5 inches on the other side.

On the other wall from Left to Right is:

15 inch cabinets (top is the extra tall 40 inch height and bottom cabinet has 6 drawers- I love this idea of having several skinny drawers for utensils, hand towels, junk drawer, etc – feels very organized).

36 inch wide cabinets (top cabinet is the extra tall 40 inch height (because there is no soffit on this side of the wall – hopefully this doesn’t look funny to have taller cabinets on one side than the other – we shall see) and the bottom cabinet is 36 inch wide and has two drawers on top and then doors on bottom.

36x24x20 over the fridge cabinets with doors.  We also bought panels to cover the sides of the fridge (not pictured here).  These were the ones we weren’t originally going to get. UPDATE: We decided to return the over-the-fridge cabinets and get a dishwasher instead to stay above the $4,000 mark.

We left 1 inch of space between the cabinets and the walls at the ends and on the one side where the counter will be sticking out we left 3 inches for the overhang of the counter.  We knew to do this b/c this is what we did for the other kitchen we updated and it worked out just fine.  You want to leave some space in case the walls aren’t level, etc and you don’t want anyone bumping themselves on the edge of the counter if it’s sticking out.

The lady that worked at IKEA told us that we don’t need to put the fillers in the picture, fillers are just cover panels which you cut to size so you can order whatever you need in whatever size later.  These cabinets are shaker style in off-white (GRIMSLOV).  I figure you can’t go wrong in white for a rental and shaker style is my favorite.   Another great thing about IKEA is that it’s relatively easy to replace parts when they break because everything comes in pieces that you assemble yourself and you can buy several components individually if you need to.

We did have a hard time getting to the $4,000 mark for the IKEA sale because we got our appliances at Home Depot (for their July 4th sale) and we didn’t want to buy the counter tops at IKEA since they were a little pricier than Home Depot for stone.  You have to reach $4,000 before taxes in order to get the 15% off gift card.  Also, they were out of sinks or in transition on sinks so we couldn’t get a sink there.  We already had a faucet.  I’d heard about people buying kitchen cabinets for the bathroom but we just had our bathrooms renovated and didn’t need it there.  Well, we did need over the toilet cabinets, but 15 inches deep would probably be too deep and look funny.

So, we ended up buying over the fridge cabinets which we weren’t originally going to do – we were just going to have a stand alone fridge, but it’ll look nicer so we’ll see.  UPDATE: we returned these and got a dishwasher instead – we were going to keep the existing dishwasher but it was going to look like an eyesore with everything else being updated.

Definitely make sure you allow enough time for the ordering of the cabinets – it takes a LOOONG time – like several hours.  We decided to pick them up ourselves instead of choosing the delivery option.  The delivery option was only $60 – should’ve done that.  Everything fit in our mini-van with all the seats taken out (except passenger and driver seat, of course), so that worked out (even the pantry – which was VERY close – we got the 80 inch tall pantry), but we were there until 11pm waiting for them to bring down all the furniture pieces.  The building closed at 9pm so we were just sitting around with stir-crazy kids – not good.

One thing we didn’t have in the 3D planning tool b/c we didn’t know about was cover panels for the exposed areas of the cabinets.  You have to add those on so that the gap in the back of the cabinet is covered – adds a little bit more to the price.  Every little bit counts to get to the $4000 mark.  We also added some molding at the top and bottom. UPDATE: we are going to have to return the molding – it is too thick (1.5 inches on the thin side) and reduces the space too much between the upper and lower cabinets – we are already a little bit less than 18 inches – about 17.5.

Read on for the rest of the install:

IKEA Kitchen Install Part Uno – Planning Design

IKEA Kitchen Install Part Dos – Cabinet Assembly

IKEA Kitchen Install Part Tres- Cabinet Install

IKEA Kitchen Install Parto Quatro – Finishing Touches

Squeaky Joints

Arthritis and renovating do not go hand in hand.  I have gone through back and hip surgery in the last 4 years so I’ve definitely had my time feeling like I was the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz needing some oil in my joints.

I haven’t been officially diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis maybe b/c those tests are not always accurate, but I have enough pain in my joints to know that something is not exactly right there.  But there’s not a whole lot that the doctors can do about it from what I’ve been told.  The medicines they give you for that tend to cause other problems.

I have found a supplement that has helped me.  It’s called Arthri-D-3:  It’s kind of a hodge-podge of different things you read about that help arthritis all included in one place.  That’s why I like it – I don’t have to buy a bunch of different supplements though I sometimes also take a fish oil supplement.  I’m not getting paid by Arthri-D-3 or anything and I don’t sell it – just thought I’d post this information here in case it helps anybody else suffering with arthritis.  Feel free to comment with any other tips for arthritis management.

I also try to do my back exercises that the physical therapist taught me every night.  I lay on my stomach and push up off the ground (leaving my hips touching the ground) with my arms 20 times.  And then do a plank for a minute.  Then I repeat both of those exercises one more time.  After that, I do a series of back crunches – about 40.  This where you basically lay on your stomach and put your hands behind your head and lift your torso off the ground.  At the end, I go into the superman pose – put arms straight out in front of you and lift both arms and legs – like Superman!  Hold for 20 seconds.  Then do some swimming after that – air swimming – not the real thing in an actual pool.  It’s alot but it really helps to strengthen and decompress the spine – all good for disc problems.

I also, personally, wish that marijuana would get legalized in the state of Missouri because I think it would be helpful in dealing with arthritis pain.  I have been against marijuana all my life until I got crippled by pain when my disc ruptured – that changed my whole perspective.

I had no idea that the only thing they had to give you for that type of pain was opioids and they were so strong and made me sick I could barely take them – especially while raising little kids.  I do mean – little.  Because at the time my youngest was only 15 months old and I could no longer lift her.  I basically couldn’t leave the house b/c of it.  It would take me at least 30 minutes to get out of bed in the morning – just a like a lightning rod of pain down my back.  It honestly felt like I’d fallen off a 50 foot cliff and was lying at the bottom with a broken back every morning when I woke up.

Once I got up and started moving the pain would get slightly better but it was still really bad – I couldn’t completely straighten my back.  My husband actually bought me a cane with roses on it for Valentine’s day (isn’t he sweet? :-p).  And I’d really gotten to the point where I wanted to wear a grey wig and stop lotioning so people would mistake me for my kid’s grandma – this way I wouldn’t get asked so many questions when they saw me walking hunched over with a cane.  Since I was just barely handling the pain but I couldn’t handle questions on top of it – it would bring tears to my eyes.

So, I had to take hydrocodone (opioid) just to semi-function.  And I didn’t get addicted.  My opinion is not that opioids should be taken off the market b/c some people hugely benefit from them like I did.  I am no longer on them but I used them to be able to take care of my kids during that difficult time.  It was the only way for me and for many people out there.

Though I do look forward to a time where they have different medicines to offer that aren’t quite so potent and I think medicinal use of marijuana could be a starting off point for that.  There have been many studies showing that marijuana cream helps relieve the pain in arthritic joints.  I do hope they make more advances in this area and that more people would become open to it b/c the alternative is opioids – and that’s pretty harsh – we need an in between.  Again, not getting paid by the pot lobbyists – just my own personal opinion.  I, personally, wouldn’t use it for recreational use, but for medicinal I think it could be beneficial.


Suzy HomeMaker

When I imagined becoming a Mom, I imagined being Suzy Homemaker, of course.  I imagined perfection – fun days at home playing with the kids, cooking magnificent meals, in a clean and tidy house, etc.  That’s the sort of good stuff I quit my job for.

When in reality, the house is always dirty b/c with kids it would be impossible to keep it clean all the time unless you plan to have a knee replacement at the age of 40.  There’s just too much stuff to pick up all the time and stuff gets dirty immediately after you clean it.  It’s funny how me and my husband are constantly saying, “But the house was just clean 2 days ago, what happened?!?I”.

As far as dinners, I’ve made some pretty magnificent meals (and some doozies) – I love to try new recipes (well, I used to – the kids have sort of broken me for now but I will rise again.  :-p) only to have the kids hate them.  My least favorite thing to hear when the kids come home is, “Mommy, what’s for dinner?”.  I tell them that’s a loaded question and I won’t answer it b/c there is no right answer.  No matter what I say (unless it’s Mac N Cheese – the boxed kind not my homemade kind), they are going to say, “Ewww!”.  They each have their own hang-ups regarding food that it’s impossible to please everyone.

My one child loves cheese, but hates it melted unless it’s on pizza.  I use melted cheese quite a bit b/c I love it and when I make a doozie dinner – melted cheese makes it tastes better.  I’m thinking, really kid, you do not want to eat this meal without a ton of melted cheese on it – trust me.  My other child hates everything that is edible unless it’s candy or shrimp (??? – which I love but I never make it b/c my husband hates it).  And the youngest won’t eat anything unless you feed her and she’s 4!!!!  Aye yai yai.  So, as you can see, motherhood quickly becomes overwhelming and this is just one area – food.

And fun playing with the kids sounds easy doesn’t it?  Well, it’s just as complicated especially if playing with all three kids and even with just the one kid.  They either don’t want to play by the rules, are mad b/c they are not winning (and I’m talking actual anger or tears – like bring down the house drama), or they keep kicking the board over b/c they can’t sit still (like literally spinning around on one knee in the middle of the game – and I wonder how their pants all have holes at the knees..).  And you will spend the entire game telling everyone who’s turn it is, else they will literally stare at the wall for minutes before you say, “Your turn!” then everyone jumps out of their daydream – trust me, I’ve tried not saying it.

I didn’t start out feeling like that.  When I had my first child, I lived the idealized life and I still had my positivity in tact.  Back then, I still had relative control over the house and our life and what the baby ate, etc.  But then they get older and start talking and making their own toast (aka mess) and slowly you lose control of everything.  And it’s a challenge.

I believe that’s why God wants us to have kids – we learn how little control we actually have over things.  Because when I think about it – before I had kids – I actually acted alot like a kid.  I’m embarrassed by some of my behaviors pre-kids and still I struggle, to be honest, but not nearly as bad – ask my husband.  When I first met my husband, I was a bit of a pill.  Ask him about anytime he got my order wrong getting takeout.  Now, I’m happy just to get food that I don’t have to cook and if it happens to be warm when I eat it -even better.  Parenting completely changes you.

What also happened when I started to realize I had no control over things is that we started having more fun as a family.  It was not fun in the beginning, it was controlled.  But now life is more spontaneous and fun.  And I don’t know if that’s b/c I don’t have to change diapers and wipe butts anymore or if it’s just because I’ve finally been broken in as a Mom and as a person.

At some point, you realize you have to let go and let God b/c it’s impossible to have “perfection”.  You start to realize that you already have perfection in this messy life.  If you have God in your life, you have perfection.  Those little faces smiling up at you are perfection.

I imagined a Suzy Homemaker life, but that is a life (without kids – just kidding!) without emotions.  When you think about it, emotions are what make life fun and worth living, but they can also make life a bit of a roller coaster.  We can’t take those out and we wouldn’t want to if given the opportunity.

We’d be robots.

The same emotions that make your child cry when they don’t win a game are the same emotions that make your child cry for someone who isn’t included in a game.

The same emotion that caused your child to drop their toys all over the living room floor to run outside and see a bunny rabbit in the yard is the same emotion that’s going to drive them to do great things in this life.

Emotions are passions and we should embrace them.  When used toward positive ends, they can be amazing.  So, the goal would be to direct our kids and ourselves to use emotions for good not bad.  The key would be not to suppress them but to redirect them in a positive way.  Suppressed emotions can be a very bad thing and toxic to boot.

When focused in a negative way, emotions can cause depression and heart break.  When focused in a positive way, emotions can bring about healing and connection.

I struggle with this plenty.  I’m a strong Feeler on the Myers Briggs spectrum.  And there have been many times that I’ve cursed my emotions and just wished I could get off the roller coaster and not care so much.  But, in the end, I’d rather care than not care.  Because you can’t force someone to care – they either do or they don’t.  So, better to have it and control it than not have it at all.

And as long as I can pray about it and ask God to help me to use my feelings for good and not bad – that is the ultimate goal.  I’m trying to teach my girls the same.  At this point, it looks like they are all on the Feeler side of the spectrum as well and it’s looking more like a good thing than I originally thought.  Because feelings that are used for good are the most beautiful things in the world, IMHO.

One last point, and maybe most close to my heart, without emotions, we wouldn’t have laughter.  I love a good time.  One of my favorite quotes is, “Life’s not about waiting for the storm to pass…  It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”  Let’s dance and have fun with the imperfections – b/c often times those are the best part.