De-Stressing Christmas

As of today, one week before Thanksgiving, I have bought all the presents and paid the credit card bill.  Now for the first time in years I might actually be able to enjoy the holidays.


For me, it turned out the stressful thing killing my holiday is all about the gifts.  I won’t get on a rant about commercialism of the holiday season because I actually sort of LIKE the things that come with that – I’m sorry but I do.  Crowds at brightly decorated malls with Santas and Cinnabon and Hickory Farms that I avoid all other times of year are my happy place – if I don’t have the pressure of finding the perfect gift and figuring out when I’m going to pay for it and ticking off another name on the long list of names.  I realized that pressure was hanging over me for almost the entire season no matter how much holiday fun I was trying to have and by the time I got rid of it, the season was gone.  I don’t start decorating for Christmas until the day after Thanksgiving. That’s only one month and this year I did want to enjoy that time fully with everything that comes with it.  That meant getting presents out of the way before Thanksgiving and to do that I largely relied this year on the thing gift givers love to hate – gift cards.

Yes, I’m giving the gift that says “here – figure it out for yourself”. The ideal situation would be not buying presents at all for anyone over 18 but pretty much no one on my list was down with that, especially my spouse.  Even if they understood my stress from a financial point of view, they would still end up getting me & my husband a present and I’d feel like shit. I gave up the pressure of sending Christmas cards years ago but figured maybe this year send cards to those on my present list, with a gift card enclosed.  Easy Peasy. The hardest part would be choosing good greeting cards (and holy shit they got expensive!) and getting relatives to tell me which stores they like to shop at.  There’s that icky sense of someone knowing exactly how much I spent that I have to get over and because I am the queen of bargain shopping I always want to find a great deal, but it seems that’s preferable than Perfect Present Pressure.  I do have some things to wrap for my husband but that’s okay because I’m not having to ship them anywhere, and I did get toys for the kids shipped right to their house early for my sister to stash away, but it’s done.  Just have to write out some cards when I get around to it and mail them out.  The difference in holiday stress for me has been ENORMOUS now that that part is done.  I am now totally down with all this way-too-early holiday celebrating so bring on the beef stick and port wine cheeseball.


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10 Things People with Sjögren’s Syndrome Understand (or maybe it’s just me)

  • The way movie popcorn and salt & vinegar chips burn the hell out of your mouth, making it peel two days later.
  • The disappointment of tear duct plugs that don’t work since there’s apparently not enough tears to be trapped.
  • What a letdown Restasis and OTC eye drops are.
  • Living dangerously by trying to eat crackers or carrots without getting any down your windpipe.
  • Hoping co-workers (and TSA) don’t assume you are always high because of the red eyes.
  • Shopping for “Locas” sunglasses online because only gangster glasses are dark enough.
  • The way exercise pain is NOT the same as autoimmune pain.
  • The sadness of having to stop and take a nap when travelling when you really want to be out sightseeing.
  • Debating if you want to take advantage of early boarding because you want extra time to move slowly through the plane but not wanting to be judged by people wondering why you need extra time.
  • The pain of trying to eat anything with a swollen/blocked salivary duct.

Feel free to add your own special fave.

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Making Handmade Leather Journals

Lately I’ve been obsessed with de-cluttering AND blank journals.  Especially leather ones, which can be amazingly expensive.  I horde blank journals because I can never figure out what’s important enough to write in them but then I realized I could get rid of a bag of random leather scraps by making journals.  Win-win, if I actually use some and get rid of some in the etsy shop or as gifts.  Most of what I am making is teeny and oddly shaped but of course this tutorial will help get you started no matter what size and shape you want to make.  If you want weird ones, get your 40% off Michael’s coupon and buy a $6.99 bag of leather scraps!

Some of my journals are two leather pieces stitched together with pages in the middle like a sandwich. Others are one piece of folded leather and  inserts of folded pages.  The basic stuff I used is above and I happened to have most of it because I’m crafty.  Besides leather I have some cording/ribbon if I want to tie the journals closed, several types of string for binding, embroidery needles $1.29 at Wal-Mart), exacto and scissors, pliers (in case you need help pulling the needle through the pages), and two awls.  You really only need one awl but I just happened to have two around.  And paper of course!  You can use anything and some of my books are using 100lb drawing paper from pads I haven’t touched in years.  The heavier the paper, the more of a challenge it will be to get the awl through.  

For the teeny gray guy below, I cut some scrap copy paper into pages slightly smaller than the leather covers.  

This is a small enough book that I worked the sharper awl through everything at once but you can also work in stages.  Just use one page with holes on all sections as a template.  The number of holes and stitching patterns are up to you and I’ve seen some pretty fancy patterns that confuse the hell out of me.  Just do what you like and what works.  For this type of book without folded pages, the knot will be on the outside.  

For the slightly larger green journal I am using a single piece of leather that I will fold over.  I’m using 100lb paper and will fold those as well.

I poked the smaller awl through everything but using the larger one would have made stitching much easier. I used waxed cotton cord which is thicker than my other options so using pliers to pull the needle straight though was a huge help.  For stitching folded pages the knot can be on the inside.  With this folded type of book, I like to add a tie to it to help hold it shut.

Just cut two small slits in the back and weave a tie of some sort – in this case faux suede cord. Ta-da, you can even remove and add new pages when it gets used up. Now force yourself to write in them! 


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A Cluttered Post About De-Cluttering

Organizing. Minimizing. Simplifying. That’s been my obsession lately. For some time now, I’ve been trying to re-train my brain to understand that more is not necessarily better and just because something is on sale doesn’t mean I need to have it. Spending money on a bunch of junk because it’s cheap is a waste of money, which is what I’m trying to avoid by sale shopping, right? It totally undermines what I’m trying to achieve! This feeling goes way back to growing up with little money, trying to make it stretch as far as possible and accumulate as much as possible, as if possessions could increase my worth. Many of us are trying to do that with or without realizing it. I knew I was never going to be one of the popular preppy girls in their Limited sweaters, spiral perms, and popped collars (late 80’s dude, don’t judge) and I became obsessed with estate sales, flea markets and thrift stores. I still love the treasure hunt of second-hand shopping (and I still don’t have much money) so the challenge is learning to shop with control. Buying only what I need and nothing more and realistically, I don’t need a lot. Also by this age, I’ve figured out some things about myself like I do not wear loafers or scarves so I need to stop buying them from thrift stores, even if they are Italian leather and silk. I don’t have much space to put anything so that’s the other impetus here besides being smarter with my money: we are overcluttered and I can’t stand it. I say “we” because I don’t live alone but the added complication here is that only one of us is on the declutter bandwagon.
I call my husband a hoarder but really, he’s not. He worked hard for everything he has and doesn’t want to get rid of any of it – even if he hasn’t used something in years and probably never will again. He’s still attached to the idea that getting rid of things is throwing away money. I’m over that but I would never be the spouse who throws out things that don’t belong to me because a: I’m not an asshole and b: without a person changing their mindset regarding acquisitions, it does no good to get rid of things because more things will come in and take that space back. So when it comes to things like tools and fishing equipment, I have no power. Le sigh.

I fight my battles where I can, getting cutthroat with things in drawers and closets that can be donated but skirting around his items and trying to gently suggest which things could maybe do just as well in the upstairs storage room that we are lucky enough to have. (Don’t think I haven’t been trying to clear that out as well.) When all else fails, I’ve been throwing things in shelf-sized totes so at least if I have to deal with all the junk existing here I don’t have to dust it. By the way, when did plastic storage containers get so damn expensive??? This latest round of decluttering really took off in August, after yet another flood from a broken valve on our building’s chilled water line which gave us an hour of pouring water out of the fan coil unit from our kitchen ceiling. This has happened several times over the years and each time I try to move more and more things off the floors and into plastic containers. In fact, one of my two dressers is actually a stack of plastic Sterlite drawers and the other dresser is up on wheels. Storage container lids on the closet floor and under the bed keep our shoes and boots dry in the event of wet carpet. The legs of my cedar chest nest in little clear plastic dollar store storage cups. My husband tries to act like I’m the crazy one but I just disaster prep for the type of disaster we have most often. Then I don’t have a heart attack about property damage when a valve blows out in the middle of the night (it’s always the middle of the night for some reason), I just call maintenance and start setting trash cans under the water.
When the house is clearer I can think better. I don’t get frustrated going into that cupboard where everything used to fall out on me. I can find important paperwork. On the rare occasions I’m in the mood to clean it’s so much easier. I can BREATHE. I don’t know if I was ever the kind of person who was comforted being surrounded by mass quantities of “stuff”, but I know now that less is more. If I could just get others around me to believe it, like my parents who also love bargain shopping (especially auctions) and love to bring us tons of things we don’t need when they visit. I’ve told mom only edible presents are welcome from now on but she seems to not hear that…

Helpful guidelines (as I thought them up) if you are trying to declutter:

* Can’t get rid of it but use it once every 6 months? Put it in storage (garage, attic, basement). Get it out of your daily living situation and don’t let it creep back in.

* About that storage space.  It’s the last place something lingers before it goes out the door.  Really assess what you have there and why.  If you forgot you had it, get rid of it.

* Keeping something because it belonged to a loved one is great if you use that thing on a regular basis (grandma’s kitchen towels), but the bag of costume jewelry that’s not your style? Grandma’s okay with you not keeping it. Giving it away does not diminish your love or your memories.

* How many of your childhood and high school trinkets do you REALLY need?

* If you aren’t planning on having kids, maybe give up most of your stuffed animals and children’s books.

* Don’t keep something just because it is old.

* Don’t keep something just because of nostalgia.

* Don’t keep something just because it is valuable (and don’t keep a pile of things you think will sell on ebay – you won’t get much money for them if you ever really do get around to listing them).

* It’s easy to overlook things you see every day but get in your way. It is really adding value to your life or just clutter?

* If you keep instructions/warranty paperwork in one place, go through it and throw out expired warranties and manuals for things you no longer own.

* You have things in your closet that you say you loooove – but there’s always something else you want to wear more? Those things should go. Ditto with shoes and purses. I know it hurts to admit because I too love shoes and bags.

* Start writing in all those blank notebooks or stop buying them! Sorry, that might just pertain to me.

* If you’ve kept something for 15 years “just in case” and never used/worn it…

* You own a pie dish but know damn well you will alway buy a pre-made crust…

* It’s more important to have a few things you are in love with than 100 choices that you feel “eh” about.

* There are plenty of people who could use what you don’t need. I have a free box outside my office where I put a lot of things that disappear. I know they are being used by others. I try to donate to small local charities instead of Goodwill and Salvation Army because big organizations often have more than they can use.

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A Blessing for New Student Move In Day

On this, the most Holy of Residence Life Holy days, we ask you

Oh Creator, Creators, Flying Spaghetti Monster or Mysterious Scientific Processes that brought us life,

Bless us in our trials with new students, parents, rain, broken elevators, heat stroke, lost keys, panic attacks, e-cigarettes, comfort animals, fan coil leaks, and nasty roommates.

Deliver us from bed bugs and may no personal emergencies befall us upon this day.

For nothing is more important than the student experience today, the day we hope they remember fondly for the rest of their life – especially when they become old and wealthy and want to donate to their alma mater.


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In My Defense, it Probably Wasn’t Even a Swingline

I killed the stapler.  It literally saved my ass and I killed it.  We had JUST had the conversation yesterday about how these folks order all sorts of expensive office supplies like staplers every year like they are running away from the desks or somehing – now I have to get a new one for the hall office because I dropped it on the bathroom floor.

I should back up.

It turned out to be one of those days (happens a lot in student affairs) where you dress nice because you are, you know, a professional, and then it turns out you are running around sweating, climbing, dragging, and otherwise being very messy and unladylike.  Sometimes I know when those days are going to happen but mostly I don’t.  Usually happens when I’m not wearing sensible shoes.  Long story short – I crouched down to pick up some things and forgot I was wearing a shift dress with not a lot of give. RRRRIIIIIIIIIPPPP!  All the way up to There.

I’m not in a building with my office or my apartment.  That would be too convenient.  My co-worker who does live there has ONE safety pin.  How does one live in a place with only one safety pin? This is at least a three pin job.  The office staff finds no safety pins in the office but she rattles off the supplies and I hear stapler.  With a MacGyver glint in my eye, I grab the doomed stapler and run in the bathroom.

Oh, I’m so clever.  This is going so well.  Four staples and a safety pin, I am GOLDEN.  I can even run some errands around campus and no one will ever know!  Then I stand up, readjust my dress, and promptly drop the stapler on the tile where it smashes into more pieces than a healthy office supply should be.  You ever look down at something that has broken and somehow feel if you pick it up really fast it will be less broken?  Exactly that.  Which popped ALL my fucking staples out.

But I still had that solo safety pin.

It didn’t really cover enough to pretend that something hadn’t gone horribly wrong back there, but at least I could make it home with leas shame.  Not that I really feel shame anymore.  I work in housing – weird, embarrassing, ridiculous stuff is what we do.

“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” -Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

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How is This My First Comic Book Convention?  Easy Costume Time!

I love an excuse to put on a costume, I have no idea why I’ve never been to one of these shindigs before.  I attended HeroesCon 2015 Saturday and it was pretty overwhelming.  I can’t even imagine going to something on a huge scale like the one in San Diego.  

Am I a comic book fan?  Is “sort of” an answer?  I was kind of dragged into the scene in high school by my boyfriend, spending all his money each week when the new issues came out.  Hours spent in local stores pawing through boxes, and then hours spent at home studying the price guide and figuring out what to sell and what to hoard.  Bored to tears, I picked up my own appreciation for Lobo and anything drawn by Bill Sienkiewicz.  I tried to like Sandman but it was too emo for me.  Didn’t like Fantastic Four but loved when Thing would be peeking out from something on the cover saying hi.  

These days, I know nothing about con characters other than going to the lastest blockbuster movie (who doesn’t cheer when they spot a Stan Lee cameo?  NO ONE.) and what I grew up watching on TV as a kid (Justice League of America! Wonder Woman! The Incredible Hulk! Doctor Who! Star Trek!).  I started brainstorming costume ideas on Thursday for a Saturday event and it was quickly obvious that I wasn’t going to know most of what people were into.  So I did what I always do when I need random advice: I put it out on facebook.  Most ideas involved way too much work or some kind of face covering that I don’t have the patience to wear all day but then my crafty friend posted one of her aprons…

JACKPOT.  It was out of the question that I was going to get an exact correct costume of any character with no time and little money but THIS I could work with.  I would be Housewife Wonder Woman.  I crossed my fingers that WW fans wouldn’t be pissed about my version and proceeded to gather accessories. (BTW, my crafty friend makes and sells all sorts of delightful aprons including this model so if you are jealous and want your own, you can contact her on etsy at The Googerhopper Shop! 

So here’s what I needed:

  • Apron (got it!)
  • Red boots (got it!)
  • Blue short skirt (got it!)
  • Red tank top (Goodwill)
  • Red blue and yellow mini backpack (Goodwill)
  • Bag of red white and blue felt star stickers (Hobby Lobby)
  • Official DC Wonder woman patch (Hobby Lobby)
  • Yellow hankerchief (Hobby Lobby)
  • Yellow dish gloves (Dollar Tree)
  • Yellow jumprope “lasso of truth” (Dollar Tree)
  • Red spatula (Dollar Tree)
  • I wish I could have found a feather duster to carry

With a caribiner I hung the lasso (handles removed) and spatula on my waist on the apron tie.  I stuck white stars on the butt of my blue skirt and a red one on each dish glove.  I folded the yellow hankie in half, stuck a red star on top in the middle and tied my hair back with it.  Sewed the WW patch on the backpack over the Jaguar (?) tag. Ta-freakin-da. It was a hit, although I kind of forgot to get a picture of me and when I remembered, of course the picture looked terrible.  So I present to you my costume taken in a dark parking garage  by my friend’s phone which is nice and blurry.  Not suprisingly, I think I look best when blurry.

Right?  Blurry rocks.

The con was a lot of fun, but so much to look at I never got to go to any sessions that sounded interesting like Violent Images or Race in Comics.  Next time, I promise.  And maybe I’ll spring for the photo with Stan. 

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