Sometimes, it is important to stop and take inventory of your life, in order to realize all that you have.
Gardening has been my therapy for a very long time. I have been gardening since I was a kid in Redmond, Washington with my family. Though I tended to loathe the days where we all chipped in and weeded, I did learn a lot about plants and how to care for them. That continued during my college years when my Mom and I worked on a garden during the summers. It was really satisfying watching things grow.
Currently we own about three and half acres. A pond sits on some of it and part of it is wooded. I had grand ideas of a huge garden many years ago but a busy life and health issues frequently got in the way. Finally my husband built me two above ground beds that I could easily manage. We fenced in the front and back yard for the dogs and I planted in some containers. This year I have planted a lot of rosemary and lavender. I also have some things that have come up from last year that I know I will have to transplant in the fall.
The big trick for me to get the most out of my gardening is to not put a lot of stress on myself. Some things do well where I plant them and some things don’t . Though I am always careful to buy things that tolerate full sun and work with the soil that I have some things just don’t do well. Instead of fretting I just try again the following year. The pressure to have the perfect house, the perfect garden, the perfect career, and be the perfect mother and wife is something that many of us women are very familiar with. I finally have just refused to play into it. My body just won’t let me. Letting that go was extremely freeing and I really began to enjoy my garden so much more.
My two beds are flourishing this year and I have even started drying my own rosemary and lavender. I simply took a vintage wire lamp frame and hung my herbs from there to dry. I have them hanging in a visible place right now for picture purposes only:
I love the way it looks and even in my dark pantry, it makes my kitchen smell divine! There are a ton of great ideas for making elevated gardening beds economically on Pinterest. You can also get topsoil or compost delivered fairly cheaply as well. I don’t like using commercial fertilizers. I like using things like epsom salts, compost, etc. especially on things such as herbs or products that you intend to eat. There are tons of blogs on organic gardening if you are interesting. I have only started looking into those things as I have been gardening on old farm land and the soil is still very fertile.
The biggest advice I can give you is to not make your garden a chore but rather a retreat. It is for me. I love the time I get to spend working with my hands or just sitting back watching the bees and the butterflies pollinating my flowers. Plant things you enjoy looking at. Plant things that come back each year and fill it with lovely annuals. Or if you are doing a vegetable garden, plant things you love to eat. Whatever you do, start small and work your way up. Make sure it is something that you love. I can assure you it is the cheapest therapy there is.
Today I finally made use of all the Borax, Baking Soda, and other ingredients I had ordered from Amazon to make my own dishwasher tabs and my own laundry detergent. I am working hard to find my own freelance writing jobs. In the mean time, I am determined to save my household money where I can. (If you need great recipes just see Pinterest. There are a ton there. I will let you know how mine turns out before I endorse it. ) As with all my projects, including my projects for my Etsy store, I asked my two kids, almost 17 and 18, if they would like to help. I was surprised when they both jumped in.
For over an hour we worked hard measuring and mixing and overall having a great time. They were astonished when I told them how much money the end products would save us. My daughter, who is about to enter her first year of college stated, “I am going to make this stuff when I get out of school.” We both talked about going to a thrift store and looking for a slightly used food processor so she could crumble the Fels Naphtha Soap without too much trouble (both my kids love to thrift with me). My son was also encouraged by the how long the soap would last and how much money it would save.
When we finished I felt like I accomplished so much. Not only did I make enough detergent to last my family for probably the next year, but I also felt like I also managed without too much effort over the years to teach my kids the value of a dollar. My kids have never focussed on labels on clothes. My daughter was always willing to take hand-me-downs from her younger, yet much larger cousins. It saved us tons of money. Now that we are working towards paying for college for both of them, they are both planning on getting part-time jobs and are applying for scholarships.
Somehow, someway, in this materialistic society I taught my kids how to save money and I taught them that sometimes saving money can be a lot of fun. My daughter is currently working on painting projects that I am adding to my Etsy shop. She has such artistic talent and I wanted to show her that she could put that to a lot of good use, even if she does not use it full time. Most of all, I taught them that they are valuable members of my family and that it takes all of us to make our family work. My husband is taking extra shifts, making and selling his woodworking projects, and taking handyman jobs on the side. I am writing, blogging, teaching and trying to penny pinch our household as much as I can. Now our kids are helping too. It just gives me another reason to be so incredibly proud of my kids.
As a nurse, I know intellectually that managing stress is a huge part of having a healthy, happy life. However, I have yet to figure out the secret formula. I, too often, get overwhelmed by stress and anxiety in my daily life. I can often tell patients, friends and family members what they need to do to help manage stress in their own lives. Unfortunately, it has been a life long struggle to manage my own. Part of this is that I am an anxious person by nature. I have suffered from anxiety since I was a kid and have not worked on changing my own mental thought processes until just recently. For me, managing stress in my life and work is tied directly to my health. Stress truly is a killer for me as it often brings on a flare of my disease. So managing it has become very important. Here are some tips that I have done. Maybe some of these will work for you as well. Please know that I still am a work in progress as we all are. If you have any other ways you manage your stress, please comment. I would love to hear from you!
Make Changes in your Workplace
I am a nurse, and a nurse educator. Both of these jobs can require long hours, long shifts and a high degree of stress due to the physical, emotional and mental demands. Though I truly loved working in the hospital and working with my patients, I had to stop. Working as a nurse is just hard right now. (See all the nurses marching on Capital Hill fighting for mandatory nurse to patient ratios?) So, I had to leave. Also, teaching was no different. However, I was able to find an adjunct teaching position where I was teaching online. I truly miss working in the classroom setting. However, I have found that working in the online environment really rewarding as well. I love my coworkers and I love the students I teach. Most importantly, I still have an impact on the career that I really love and still have time for my crafting and up-cycling.
You may not have to make such drastic changes as I did. Maybe it is a matter of confronting a supervisor regarding a situation at work. Maybe it is about hours at work. Maybe it is your commute. Many employers are allowing their employees to telework for at least a couple of days during the week. Perhaps that is enough stress relief. I know some people who simply get a book on tape and listen to that during their long commute. It keeps them from stressing out over the traffic and allows them to approach their work day more focussed.
One thing I will suggest is that you leave work on time. Working long hours for extended periods of time will only breed exhaustion. Sure it is okay to put in long hours every once in a while. However, working way beyond what is required rarely end up being productive.
Have an Outlet
What do I mean by this? Well, what do you do for fun? Do you craft? Do you read? Make sure you carve out some time for you. It is important to have some quiet time away from the kids and away from your spouse. I never really learned how important it was to have that time alone and get to know myself until my kids were much older. I kept thinking how much it would have helped if I had just taken 30 minutes a day for myself. I certainly would have felt less overwhelmed as a young mother with two in diapers.
Notice that I listed this one separate from the one above. It is important to exercise but I think it is also important to have a different outlet. Maybe that is because I don’t really like exercising. However, if exercising is your thing and you love it, by all means it may be your outlet. I really enjoy gardening and working in my yard. I like to walk as well. So, those are things I like to do in terms of exercise. Exercise is a great way to work through some of the stress of the day. I find when I am overwhelmed just going outside and working in the garden for a few minutes helps me clear my head. Then I can tackle any issue with a much better attitude.
Get Enough Sleep
Of course, I am writing this and it is almost 1 a.m. I am a bit of a night owl. Getting enough rest is so important. It is essential that your body has that time to reset itself so it can face the day. There are lots of things you can do to ensure you get enough sleep. One of them is to make sure you put your cell phone down and turn your computer off an hour before you go to bed. Not only do the lights keep you from falling asleep, it helps your brain settle down. Honestly, it is better to leave work at work and address emails when you get back the next day.
Eat Nutritious Foods
I admit it. I have been addicted to sugar and Diet Dr. Pepper for years. However, my recent change in my lifestyle has allowed me to stop the caffeine and the Diet Dr. Pepper. Hopefully that will reduce my sugar cravings as well. I am also drinking a lot of water and infusing it with lemon, cucumbers and lime to help detoxify my poor body. I am already feeling better though I am feeling the effects of the lack of caffeine. I know I will be okay though.
I know it is know surprise that eating well is going to make you sleep well. Having a lot of sugar before bed is not the best way to promote sleep. Teas with chamomile are known to help relax a person and promote rest. Either way, an adult should get 6-8 hours of rest a night. Going to bed and getting up at the same hour are a great way to promote a restful sleep and will help a person combat stress.
Well, there you have it. Those are my two cents on combatting stress and setting yourself up for coping with everyday stress. Honestly, stress in our lives is unavoidable. It is really how we cope with it that is what is important. It is important that we don’t allow stress to overtake our lives. When it begins to effect our health it is important to make lifestyle changes. Many of these things I am working on. Let me know what you are working on to recreate your life and make it as stress free as possible!
I made a vow I would not spend a lot of time on this site dedicated to whining about my chronic illness. However, since May is Lupus Awareness Month, I did want to take some time to bring awareness to this disease that has wrecked havoc on my life and my body (and on my family, to be honest). Lupus is a nasty disease and it has been very difficult for me to cope with. Just when I have thought I have figured things out, I have had to alter my life a little bit more to cope with the challenges of it. Thus, my theme – recreate and renew. Honestly though, I am very lucky. I have a great family, husband, kids, that all support me. They get me through the times that are extremely lonely and frustrating.
Employers frequently are not understanding about the issues surrounding people with Lupus because we often look healthy and when we don’t we have pink faces due to what they call a malar rash or butterfly rash. Lupus got it’s name from the latin of wolf – in fact, if you many Lupus patient’s often refer to their disease as “The Wolf.” Instead of attacking your joints as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus attacks your organs.
Main symptoms of Lupus are fatigue (which is often debilitating – imagine feeling like you have the flu all the time), skin issues such as rashes, sores, and eruptions, joint pain and swelling, headaches, stomach issues, lung issues such as pleurisy, heart issues such as pericarditis, anxiety, depression, seizures, and kidney disease. Flares are during the worst times of the disease but most people experience some symptoms, especially fatigue, all of the time.
In addition, many patients with Lupus have many additional diseases as well. I have Fibromyalgia, asthma, degenerative disc disease, Reynaud’s, and seasonal allergies. Basically, I am just one big inflammation. 🙂
Treatment at this time is not good. All drugs involve taking immunosuppressive medications or biologics that have severe health risks. Benalysta is the last drug that has been developed for Lupus and that is still unaffordable to many people. For many people, proper treatment is still out of reach financially. Even though over a million people in the United States have Lupus, it is one of the most underfunded diseases in terms of research. So, if you know anyone who is participating in a Lupus walk this month, please donate!
This month, I am donating 10% of the profits from my Etsy shop to Lupus charities.
What I want you to take from this is to know that there are so many others like me, fighting every day and still very happy to be alive. We would love to be healthy. Many are often accused of trying to get attention but really what they want is understanding for their mood, their lack of being able to go out, their lack of energy, or their need to sleep, rest, etc. They are not attention seekers. They are seeking for understanding and acceptance in a society that really does not have much empathy for those with chronic illness, especially for those illnesses that are invisible.
If you know someone who has Lupus the best way to help them is to be patient with them. Don’t give up on them. Don’t forget them. Offer to take them to get groceries. Rent a dvd and come and watch it with them. You would be surprised how isolated those with this disease feels. Many are near home bound and rely heavily on Lupus support groups for company because old friends have abandoned them. Most of all, BELIEVE them. Do not offer them anything that stimulates their immune system. Remember our immune systems are overactive. So those antioxidants are not what we need. In fact, many over the counter vitamins, or dietary supplements really interfere with our medication regimens. We truly want to feel better and most of us are doing everything we can in order to do so.
I hesitated to post this, but above is a picture of me. It is not one of my best. It is a picture of me, during a flare, showing my Lupus rash. Each person’s looks a little different. I just wanted to put a local face to the disease and maybe make it more real. One last thing, the yellow flower was something I posted on my Facebook account a couple of years ago in honor of a dear friend that I lost to Lupus related complications. I still miss her very much. I know she is now pain free and dancing in Heaven, but boy do I miss her.
My husband and I are working hard on becoming a debt free household. I am also working hard to teach my kids (now teenagers – almost college students) the value of money and how to live frugally. To me, it is so important to live within my means. When I first went through my divorce it was so important to me to be able to find a way to care for my kids and still make a good living. Initially I bought my kids everything, mostly out of guilt. I felt terrible because I could not give my kids a the storybook two parent home that I had dreamed about. However, it didn’t really do anything for my kids and it certainly did nothing for my budget.
After a year I finally decided I would do much better giving my kids the gift of life skills. As my chronic illness increased in severity I just had this sense of urgency that I needed to teach my kids how to be self-sufficient. I needed to make sure they would be okay if something ever happened to me. It was a way I dealt with the huge amount of anxiety that comes with being chronically ill and dealing with a serious illness.
So, how does this relate to saving money? I do not have a housekeeper. All members of my family contribute to household chores. My kids are almost 17 and 18 and they have been doing their own laundry since elementary school and have been helping me clean since that time as well. We all work together to clean. I do not believe in slave labor. Though there are times when I am so sick my kids do a whole lot. They are both pretty amazing.
That being said, my husband and I made a point of not buying a large house. I am not talking about the Tiny House craze that appears on television. Our house is approximately 1500 sq. feet. We are probably going to have a house that size or a little less when we move. (Though my husband may have a shop the size of a small house). For me, I cannot see making myself house poor. Having a huge mortgage just is not smart anymore. I would much rather have a small house and not spend all day cleaning it. A smaller house will also save you money on heating and cooling cost, cleaning products, furniture, and time. If I have learned anything in my almost 44 years is that life is not about the stuff. It is about living simply and asking less of life. So, start with the big stuff. Do you need a fancy new car or home? No. You need a roof over your head with enough room for your family to live comfortably. You need a reliable vehicle that gets decent gas milage. If you are upside down on your mortgage, think about paying off credit cards and and selling high priced vehicles and buying more practical cars and then paying down your mortgage if at all possible. It takes some sacrifices but it is worth not having the anxiety of debt. Your credit score will love you!
The other thing I did was learn to cook. My first marriage we ate out a ton. My kids were used to ordering what they wanted for dinner instead of eating what was on their plate. it was just a bad precedent to set. So, I learned some of the basics with the help of a few wonderful friends. I was amazed with how easy it was. I actually started to enjoy it. I have had my share of fails but it is something I am going to continue to work at. I love crock pot cooking. I also like cooking whole roasters and eating off of them all week. My family has even started requesting a lot of the things I make. Either way, it was a huge money saver. What is cheaper than jambalaya cooked in a crock pot? Whole roasters give you more meat, flavor and leftovers than chicken breasts alone. They really are not that intimidating to make either.
That brings me to coupons. I do coupon, but within reason. I have done major coupon runs but mostly to stock up on deodorant, laundry detergent, and things like that. I also own store cards that I can load coupons on from the store. It is a quick and easy way to save money on groceries. I do use Amazon Pantry quite a bit as well. Sometimes I am not feeling well enough to go to the grocery store. It just takes a lot of energy. I can save money on shipping with an Amazon Prime membership and I can even apply manufactures coupons from the site right there. I do find that they do have some great prices on drinks, snacks, and some beauty products. You just have to be willing to shop. They even have automatic shipping on things you use often such as toilet paper or diapers. I have friends that use that and say it is well worth not having to run to the store. If you think about the gas money you save it likely all balances out.
It seems each year I take on another money saving activity and this year it has been to start selling my arts and crafts on Etsy, selling goods on local garage sale sites, as well as buying things at auction and reselling them for a profit on Ebay. It takes time and work but if you take it a piece at a time, it is not too overwhelming. I even started selling some used books back on Amazon as well. It just is not that hard. Throughout this process my kids continue to be involved. My daughter helps me clip coupons. My kids go through their stuff and help me list things online and they even help me cook.
I have also started a small garden. Again, this does not have to be something huge. If you find you cook with onions frequently, why not grow them? If you have the room you can also grow your own tomatoes for salads. You will be surprised at how much you save. You do not have to can if you don’t want to, though I know a lot of people who do and make some great chili and spaghetti in the fall and winter. You will be shocked at how much better they taste when you grow them yourself. Tomato seeds are extremely inexpensive when you consider how many you get from one packet.
So now I have started taking an interest in making my own cleaning products. I am not sure if you have noticed how incredibly expensive cleaning products have gotten. I have stopped buying cleaning wipes and have now started making my own. I have found that I can tightly stuff a paper towel roll (I use any kind – the cheap ones work just fine) that is about 3/4 its full size. Instead of sawing it in half as I have seen in some tutorials, I actually keep it whole and put it in a Swiffer refill container and pour about 1/2 cup of Pine Sol and 1/2-1 cup of water in the bottom of the container. Sometimes I add a little vinegar as well because it works well on my floors. It works really well for me. I just roll the paper towel roll around and it absorbs the whole thing. If there is any left over I just rinse it out and start all over again each time. Make sure you rinse out each time. (That is the nurse/germ-a-phobe in me coming out). If anyone has another idea for wipes, please let me know! There are a lot of variations on this recipe floating around!
Another great cleaner is baking soda. It is great in the wash and great for dishwasher soaps. There are a ton of great recipes on the Pinterest. It costs a little bit to get the supplies but they last much longer. Again, you do not have to be Martha Stewart to do these things. I am about as far from that as they come! These do not take a lot of time and effort and can help you and your family. Involve your kids (if they are old enough). Not only will you be spending quality time with them, but you will be teaching them valuable life skills.
Got any other great money saving ideas? I would love to hear about them!
Maybe I am weird, but I absolutely LOVE making soap. It is one of those crafting projects where I can completely zone out and create something lovely. Now I am not here to give you tutorials of how to make soap. For that, I defer to the experts. If you are working for an internet expert and, in my opinion, THE expert, please see The Soap Queen. She is amazing and will give you video tutorials on everything you need to know from melt and pour to cold process from beginner to expert. She also has great tutorials for bath bombs, bath salts and all sorts of fun stuff. She even sells all sorts of soap making supplies that she stands by as far as quality goes. She has been doing this much longer than I have and she has convinced me that I can do it. Honestly, I have her to thank for giving me a hobby that I love.
Right now, due to my asthma, I do not mess with lye so cold process is out for me. I simply do melt and pour and I experiment with lots of types of melt and pour soap bases and scents. I have a ton of fun with this very simple process and the creativity it gives me. Colors, molds, and lots of scents and colors and types of soaps. My family are my testers and I truly enjoy it. It gives me time to zone out from the craziness of my life and just make something pretty. Mine are incredibly simple and do not have mixed colors but my family and friends still love them and I sell them for enough that I can support my hobby. What else could I want?
I have learned a couple of things that I think may help the very novice soap maker about saving some money when buying supplies. For instance, the supplies at craft stores, especially big box stores are usually pretty expensive. I melt my soap in the microwave in a big pyrex pourable glass dish that I got at Goodwill for $1. I love it. It cleans up very easily and I can pop it in the dishwasher if I am especially lazy. The silicone molds are easy to find on sale. I have found fun molds on sale at Target, Walmart, and I have found some of my best molds for great prices on sale from third party sellers or vendors on Amazon. I just search “soap making” or “silicone soap molds” and you will find a ton. You can also find fun single molds on sale as well. Take note, some of those are from overseas and can take a while to get. They are good quality, and a good price so I don’t mind waiting for them. I have a cat, owl, flowers, and I scored dolphin ones. It has been fun. Being a nurse I am heavy into hand washing. So I make a lot of fun soaps for my friends and clients to help encourage kids to wash their hands and sell them for a very low price or give them way to clients that buy my stuff.
The most economical and best quality melt and pour soap bases I have been able to find have been online through third party sellers on Amazon as well. The reason why I like going through Amazon is because I have Amazon Prime and I can often save on shipping or pay nothing at all. Just please make sure you fill out the product and customer service evaluations. Their small businesses survive off of those! I have tried lots of them and I cannot say anyone is worse or better. I simply go back and forth and try and spread my business out among the companies. Also, it depends on how much soap I want to make. Some places will sell their soap in 2 pound blocks and others sell them in five pound blocks. You just need to pay attention so you can get the best price. I have bought goats milk glycerin soap base, shea butter, cocoa butter, olive oil, honey, and oatmeal. I have had fun offering different kinds to my customers. They often like the variety.
Scents and coloring I have had the same luck. One note of caution: If you plan to sell your soaps, make sure if you buy a scent, make sure you do not tout it as essential oil unless it really is. With the regular scents, you have to use much more to get your soaps to have a scent. With essential oils, they are specially prepared (and should say how on the bottle) and you have to use much, much less. Also, you might be using a tincture instead of an essential oil. Please make sure you clarify. Those of the essential oil community are very passionate about what they do and you must make sure you identify the difference.
Essential oils are also touted for their therapeutic properties. I have bought and used essential oils for my soap and I can really tell the difference, especially with the lavender soap. If you ever get the chance to look at the healing properties of herbs, I highly recommend it. I plan to blog on that at a later time. They truly have wonderful healing properties – for instance, tea tree oil or rosemary is a great substitution for those who do not like the chemicals in antibacterial soap. Both have natural antiseptic properties.
Below are just a few pictures of my first attempt at soap making. I wanted to show you how easy it is to have a great product right from the start. You can make them more and more complicated as you get better and feel more comfortable. I am currently growing my own lavender and rosemary. I am going to wrap a fresh sprig with each bar for Christmas gifts. If I get more adventurous, I will let you know.
My life has been a series of stops and restarts. (Hasn’t everyone’s?) After a very bitter divorce I really had to reinvent myself. I had no credit of my own, and I had a chronic illness that was beginning to go completely out of control due to the incredible amount of stress I was under. In addition, that chronic illness was making it very difficult for me to continue to work as a floor nurse. I knew I had to make some changes. So, I went back to school and got my Master’s degree in Nursing Education so I could teach. I am now teaching online. However, it is not paying all the bills. So, I really wanted to do something more creative.
My kids are getting ready to leave the nest and my husband and I are looking to start some new adventures of our own. I am looking to leave Virginia for the first time in 25 years in the next year. So, enter in up-cycling. I was first introduced to up-cycling from my mother. My mom and I would go to garage sales on my summers back from college. She also was notorious for picking things out of dumpsters and refinishing them. I actually have a beautiful buffet that she got for free and refinished. I always loved the transformation. That tradition continued when I remarried and my husband renewed my love of garage sales and thrift stores. He is also an amazing woodworker so many times he was able to help me transform things. He also helps me determine if I should refinish wood or just go ahead and paint it. He is a lover of all things wood so I am really not allowed to paint nice wood. For that, I am thankful.
So I found this pine nightstand at a thrift store. The only thing I liked about it was the size and the handle on the door. When I got it home I repainted the whole thing a light blue (Schoolboy by Valspar) When I finished my husband said the door just needed to be replaced so he was able to make a new door and put screening on the door for a more country feel. (I am a country girl. I love country decor and I make no apologies for it.) I love the result. It is so sweet and versatile. Changing the door was just a minimal cost and it makes the whole piece much more functional. I see this in a bedroom, in a screened in porch or in a casual living room as a side table.
In a way, this little table is a metaphor for my life. Life can get ugly and can always be a struggle. However, I have been forced to step back and reinvent myself and my life. At this stage in my life one would think I am done reinventing and learning, however, I am doing it again. I am scared. I get frustrated and it is always a challenge but I know it will be worth it in the end. It will add years to my life. I will smile more and find a new sense of satisfaction in my life. I am not one to preach to others about how to do things, but I will say don’t be afraid of change. Change can be a very positive thing and often leads you on a path you never could have imagined. You can transform yourself and your life into something beautiful. If I can do it, you can too!
Hello, My name is Heather Cannova. I am a wife, mother, soon to be empty nester, nurse educator, crafter, diyer and upcycler. I have a chronic illness that has forced me to reinvent myself several times over throughout the years. For that I am actually thankful. It has helped me grow and learn so much about myself. I have created this blog to help inspire others and let them know that change can be a positive thing. I am getting ready for another big change in my life and my kids are getting ready to leave the nest and I am getting ready to move from Virginia to Georgia in the next 18 months. It is a huge undertaking – packing up 30+ years of memories here and moving on to our next great adventure. I am very excited (and a tad nervous). I hope you will join me on my journey!