Crazy Chicken Lady

So you know that one neighbor whose garden is flush with edible landscape, where noises come from animals and kids everyday when they are outside, and whose chicken tractor moves every week to a different location to start the growth of new grass? Yup, that’s me. Hi, I’m Kristy, and I am a proud crazy chicken lady.

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I decided that since there are a million posts about chickens all over the inter web, I’d share with you all a personal story about how I found out that I care very deeply about my chickens.

It was an amazing early summer evening, the kind where the nights are still semi chilly and humidity hasn’t plagued us with it’s relentless wet blanket effect.  We had spent the day outside, ate dinner on our deck, and had just begun to doze off to a cool breeze from the open window when we heard the noise…

The horrible sound of a chicken distress call. Which, if you are so blissfully unfamiliar, is a saucy mix between a fog horn and what I would imagine would be the Blair Witch stubbing her (does this particular haunt have a gender?) long and writhing toe.

“Holy S$#&, the chickens are getting attacked!” I jump out of bed screaming to get the flashlight to shine down while my husband rushes to get on suitable clothing for saving the day. That is when we see its ringed tail dragging my favorite chicken towards the fence.

“It’s a BLEEP BLEEP BLEEPing Raccoon” This is where I feel like I must have sounded like an old lady in curlers and nightgown in a 60’s western with only a couple teeth and a shaking fist “Get that sumbitch, babe. It’s got my favorite chicken!” The flashlight scared the beast off, thankfully, and we trudged outside to see what was left of the rest of the flock.

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I heard my husband shout, shouted “She’s still alive!”. Much to our surprise, a little tan Buff Orpington was crouched down by the fence. This is amazing if you’ve ever had chickens and a raccoon attack has plagued your coop. It rarely ends well for the fowl if they even can be found.  Anyway, my husband picked her up and tried to put her back in the coop. She flailed and flapped, clearly in distress. (ummmmmmm, duh)  In hindsight she was probably thinking,

“Holy crap, dude, that’s literally the scene of the crime and you’re asking me to just waltz right back in there! NOT COOL, tall guy, not cool.”

When I reopened the door, she jumped right into my arms. I knew something wasn’t right. We made her a “coop” in the garage where she would be safe from looming mischievousness, and from her coop-mates that love to pick on an injured chicken. Assessing her injuries, we noticed a huge bite taken out of her side and her thigh with layers of muscle, fat, and skin missing. Her left side had been literally skinned down to the breast and of course, feathers were everywhere. My heart just sank. I knew there was little to no chance that she’d make it.

The next morning, I vowed to her (Natalie is her name), that I would do everything in my power to help her. I got the cat crate out, and hauled her to the only vet in town that would see her. I got antibiotics and pain medicine and had to administer them every 8 hours for three weeks. Say What now? The vet told me it was her only chance.

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A little backstory here. When I got Natalie (she was the only chick I named) she had a broken right hip. She was a hatchling that I assume got injured during transport. Normally, these chicks don’t survive. But Natalie did. She was small, hobbling, and loyal to her “sisters” from day one. She thrived despite them leaving her alone at night by herself under the heat lamp. She pushed her way into that flock, and climbed her way into the middle of the pecking order.  She was a fighter, and I was gonna be damned if I was gonna let a dumb ole raccoon take away all she worked to establish.

So, I did it. Every eight hours, pain medicine and antibiotics. Getting a chicken to swallow one, let alone TWO big pills may have been the hardest part of it all! Each day, Natalie started to show signs of progress. The wound was drying up and scabbing over. I’d talk to her and syringe her some water to keep her hydrated. She eventually began to nibble on some food.

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After about a month, we introduced her very delicately back into the brood. Chickens can be the meanest of mean-girls when it comes to re-inclusion, so we would let Natalie graze next to the coop, and visa versa. To our surprise, the other hens came running to her, seemingly as amazed as we were that she was alive. When it was finally time to move her back in, they had all accepted her and she was right in with them up on the perch during bedtime.

She is now the most vigilant hen I’ve ever had the pleasure of owning. She, long necked and eyes peering, is the first to call out to her sisters when she thinks there is danger. Although she keeps her distance from me, she always shoots me an eye while the others just devour their food as if to say, “I see you lady. And thanks”

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“You guys hide, I GOT this”

The moral of this story is two-fold.

  1. Even though most people told me to give up on her, I wouldn’t. We don’t give up on those we love. No matter what form of life they take, life deserves at least a chance to keep going.

  2. Even when you least expect it, however you hobble yourself back into your “people”, trust they will love and welcome your broken self back with open arms and a warm nesting spot they’ve been saving for you.

Who’d a thunk such great life reminders could come from a chicken?

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Kristy is a certified massage therapist, doula, homesteader and mother to 2 human children and 5 chickens in Virginia.

Grateful As a Mother: Community

Last weekend, on Saturday around 6 pm, my dog, Bella, decided to leave home.  She’s an older gal – probably around 15 years old at this point.  She’s lost furry siblings (Duke and Jackson) to doggy heaven.  And all of her friends and contemporaries that were adopted around the same time as her in 2006 have gone off to the Rainbow Bridge as well.  Suffice it to say that Bella is the “last b*tch standing.”

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

She’s having those issues that usually accompany aging, whether you walk around on four legs or two.  She has trouble seeing.  She has trouble hearing.  Her teeth aren’t what they used to be.  Walking on her hips has become a challenge, so she’s learned how to do this little hop-thing to get down the stairs.  She also doesn’t hide her feelings very well, and if she meets a dog or person she doesn’t like, will growl and huff from under the table or the stairs, two of her favorite spots.  It’s all for show, though, because she’s actually sweet as can be.  Grumpy, but sweet.

So, when we came home from dinner to find that she wasn’t in the yard or in her bed in the garage, we were concerned.  We have an electric fence that she’s had for more than 6 years, and she doesn’t ever leave.  She LOVES the outdoors and guarding our little acre of land, getting upset if we lock her in the house, especially when it’s raining because she loves sitting in the rain.  I had heard stories about older dogs who decided that it was “their time” and left to go “peacefully move on” in the woods alone.  I was heartbroken thinking that this was happening with Bella.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It was late and dark, and so we did our best to walk around and drive around and call her name, shining flashlights in the neighbors yards and into the woods.  Even though she’s pretty much deaf and blind. Because what the heck else can you do?? When she didn’t come running hobbling back in, we knew we’d have to wait until morning to continue.

The next morning, I woke up and put on my sneakers and prepped to head into the woods again.  We live in a rural/farm/wooded area right off of a river so there’re lots of places for her to adventure.  It’s a pretty small town where most of the people have lived for generations.  We’ve only lived here about 6 years, so we’re still “newbies” as far as most are concerned, despite the fact that my husband grew up in the area.  I signed onto Facebook and found “Residents of Centreville,” a page reserved for people to announce lost pets and/or complain about beach traffic, tar and chipped roads, roaming cats, or restaurant service.

I let everyone know where I lived and posted a description and picture of Bella.  What happened next, I could have never expected.  People in my neighborhood, some of whom I’ve never met, were commenting.  Then, they were going outside to look for her and yell her name.  Some drove around other surrounding neighborhoods looking for her.  A very nice woman I’d never met named Mary Margaret offered to come meet me later in the day with her dog, Jessica, who has a “great nose.”  I thanked her but had no expectation that I’d see her later.

We went searching.  1 hour passes.  2 more.  4 more after that.  It’s now the afternoon.  We’ve gone all through the woods, around the neighborhoods, through the farms, down a bunch of dirt and gravel roads calling her name.  Nothing.  With her physical limitations, I’m thinking that she couldn’t have gone very far. It’s hot, and she’s been without water. And now, with her being about 19 hours gone, I’m fearing the worst.

Image may contain: tree, plant, outdoor and natureAs I was walking through the woods (dodging spiders and their webs and praying that the skunk I could smell would come nowhere near me), thinking back on our life together.  I adopted her after I graduated from college in 2006.  A friend called from the shelter and begged me to take her, as it was her “due date”… the bad kind.  In county facilities for animals in Miami, the terminology “due date” is actually a “death date.”

She was a feisty younger dog (estimated to be 2 or 3 years old) who chewed all of my baseboards while I was at work and peed in my bed as punishment to me when I kept her out of the bedroom. I spent thousands of dollars in veterinary bills due to her skin issues and upkeep, and I would have spent thousands more.  I hadn’t even wanted a dog at the time, but… I love that strange little border collie shepherd mix.  She is the most loyal dog I have ever had the pleasure of having in my family.  Whereas my other dogs would likely leave with almost anyone who offered them food, Bella has always been my girl, and my girl alone.

19 and a half hours gone, and still nothing.  Someone tells me that yelling a dog’s name near cornfields can cause confusion because the sound bounces around, so I start to call her name more softly.  I stop and listen for leaves rustling.  Still nothing except spiders, bees, squirrels, snakes, and the lingering smell of a skunk.

Just then, Mary Margaret and her pointer, Jessica, show up.  As we start to plot our next path into the woods, the Sheriff’s deputy comes rolling by.  It’s his day off and he’s going to check on his friend’s house who is out of town.  “Oh, hi Dennis!”  Mary Margaret knows him well.  We stop to chat and he asks me about my lost dog.

Then, I see her.

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She hobbles toward us, tail wagging, covered in mud.  She’s exhausted, so Dennis offers us a ride home in his friend’s golf cart, which he quickly goes to find.  From the looks of where she was walking from, she was likely at least a mile away from home.

She’s happy to see me, but doesn’t seem to want to go home.  Maybe she’s just disoriented, or maybe she was trying to move on in the only way her independent soul knew how, and all of the commotion I’ve caused has thwarted her plans to peacefully transition. Well guess what, Bella, I wasn’t ready. She looks at me as if to say, “OK, OK, you win… Let’s go home.” When I bring her home, she lays on the kitchen floor, drinking a ton of water and scarfing down her food.

As I watched her, I was reminded of the true definition of community.  Miriam-Webster might have their definition, but I have mine.  Community:  A group of people who support and help one another without expectation of anything in return. I definitely live in one of those.  You know, we often complain about living in a “small town.”  But a lot of times, those people in our little small town will sacrifice a great deal to help us when we really need it!

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Photo by Stokpic on Pexels.com

It’s easy to forget in this fragmented, digital world that community comes in many forms. I’ve got the ladies of this blog as my long-term long-distance community. There’s my actual family. My work community. And also, in this case, the often-criticized social media community which connected me to my local community in my time of need. I’m thankful for all of them.

xoxo

Margo is a married mom of 2, financial advisor and dog mommy in Maryland.

Labor Day 2.0

If I found myself unexpectedly on a trivia game show, I could probably have told you Labor Day was in some way a holiday to honor the struggles of those in the Labor movement in the late 1800s-early 1900s ish. I knew there had been strikes over working hours and conditions. And yet… I didn’t reallllllly know why we had this day where so many people were off work and stores offer awesome sales. I wanted to know how we, today, could best understand and honor this day. So I put on my nerd hat and started reading.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I stumbled across an article by Jay Zagorsky, “The Eclectic Economist”, titled Have we forgotten the true meaning of labor day? In it, he says, “Labor Day came about because workers felt they were spending too many hours and days on the job.” He describes the working conditions of those laborers – 70 hour work weeks, 7 days a week, few if any holidays.

wait…. is he talking about parenting?

He suggests, “If you work all the time and never really take a vacation, start a new ritual that honors the original spirit of Labor Day. Give yourself the day off.” … tell me more!

Now, I’m not saying hard labor in a late 19th century factory is the same as raising kids and maintaining a household amidst admittedly first world problems. And probably someone’s going to get on a high horse and ‘educate me’ on the insensitivity of this post.

On the other hand… 70 hour work week?? wow! sounds luxurious! If you are lucky and your kids reliably sleep 8 hours a night, you, as a parent are still left with 112 hours a week of duty. Repeatedly doing the same actions, in a single work environment, over and over and over… few if any bathroom or lunch breaks. You have to admit there are some major parallels up in here. Labor comes in lots of different forms these days. We are all more worn down, more disconnected, more at-the-end-of-our-frayed-and-breaking-ropes than ever.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t celebrate the work done by those early activists to fight for safer and more humane working conditions. Of course that should still be part of the day. But, can we not also update this holiday like we have for so many others?? How many of you still light a bonfire and sacrifice an animal on Samhain (Halloween)? Who’s asking the town bum to order around the wealthy people to celebrate Christmas (Thanks History Channel for that crazy info)? Holiday celebrations change as we do over time.

I propose a new kind of Labor Day celebration. Whatever your “Labor” is – do the opposite. Are you slaving your days away in an office away from your family? Stay home. Turn off your computer and phone and just be with them. Are you a stay-at-home parent, never getting a minute away to breathe? Get the grandparents over or hire a babysitter and go do something utterly selfish that feeds your soul.

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Photo by Artem Bali on Pexels.com

And then, make time to think like those early activists and plan how to make your laboring life more humane, more healthy, more supportive of a whole YOU. Write it down, then plan how you will make it happen – like a better version of New Year’s resolutions. Because you’ll keep this one, right?

Labor Day: Because you’re worth it

Happy Labor Day 2.0 people!

DSC_4458BWDr. Annie is a family physician, mom of 2 with 1 on the way, married to a busy doctor and dedicated to fending for her own non-laboring self-care time.

How to Calculate the Value of a Stay At Home Parent in YOUR household

It’s that time of year, friends!  No, I’m not talking about back to school.  (Even though this post is related to it tangentially).

I’m talking about the time of year when you are staring down the barrel of kid-related expenses like daycare, parties and events, and kid-related transportation thinking, how on earth am I going to manage this with all of my other responsibilities?

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It’s usually this time of year where parents start to evaluate the economy of their home and think to themselves, does it make sense if both of us work outside of the home?  Should one of us stay home?  How will that impact us financially?  What costs will we be saving vs. take home after the fact?  How will all of this affect my sanity?

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I’ll give you an example from a friend of mind, who submitted this question:

Dear Margo: Johnny has soccer twice a week, and Sarah has voice lessons and tai kwon do.  Suzy is 2 and still in daycare.  School lets out at 2:45 pm but husband and I can’t get out of work until 5 pm.  After school care has a cost, too.  Then, I get home after picking them all up and am scrambling to cook dinner.  Husband arrives shortly thereafter to help with homework.  The house is a mess but we are too tired to address it until the weekend.  Same with laundry.  Then, the weekends don’t feel enjoyable because we are too busy catching up with household items and shuffling around to sports games.  What’s the best way for me to figure out how our household budget would change if I decided to stay home instead of continuing to work outside of the home?

As most of you already know, I work outside of the home.  I also have the UTMOST respect for my friends who work inside of the home because I strongly believe that their day is phenomenally harder than mine.  After all, I can actually take a break from working to use the ladies room without worrying that the building is going to be set on fire or… something like the below occurring…

kids GIF by Cheezburger

But, back to the topic at hand: Salary.com estimated that the value of a stay-at-home mom in 2018 is $162,581.  While I think we all agree that stay-at-home parents are invaluable, completely priceless in fact. However, there is also a functional pricetag of this kind of career decision. And on that note, you might be thinking that number is kind of high… You probably wouldn’t hire a private butler or groundskeeper, right?

They are basing the value of the stay-at-home salary on expensive assistance like this that may not be in the cards for you depending on your individual situation.  So how can you figure out how your household would be financially affected if one of (presumably) two parents were to stay home.

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So, if you are wrestling with this, and considering having one of you stay home, allow me to share my financial methodology to calculate the straight monetary value of a stay-at-home parent in your household.  (Also, notice I said stay-at-home PARENT not MOM because Salary.com needs to realize that these days, women are becoming primary breadwinner more and more often and may not be the one who sacrifices a salary to take care of the kids… But I digress.)

  1. First, start by creating a monthly budget using excel if you haven’t already.  Start with your “Fixed Expenses.”  Think of your fixed expenses in the following way:  These are the expenses that do not change on a month-to-month basis, and that likely would stay the same no matter whether one of you or both of you were working (unless you downsized your home).  Below is a form for you to follow, if you’d like.
FIXED EXPENSES
Monthly Annual
Housing
    Mortgage P & I/ RENT 0 0
    Home Equity Loans 0 0
    Property Taxes (Front Ft) 0
    Real Estate Taxes 0 0
     HOA/Condo Dues 0
Total Housing 0 0
Insurance
    Life 0 0
    Disability 0 0
    Medical Premiums 0 0
    Long Term Care 0 0
    Homeowners 0 0
    Automobile 0 0
    Umbrella 0 0
    Other 0
Total Insurance 0 0
Consumer Debt
    Auto Loans 0 0
    Term Loans 0
    Credit Cards (Fixed Pmts) 0
    Education Loans 0 0
    Other 0
Total Consumer Debt 0 0
Savings
    Retirement Plans (A) 0 0
    Retirement Plans (B) 0 0
    Pension 0
    Other Tax-Deferred/Tax-Free 0 0
    Other Taxable Savings 0
Total Savings 0 0
Other Fixed Expenses
Other 0
Other 0
Other 0
Other 0
Other 0
Total Other Fixed 0 0
Total Fixed Expenses 0 0

2. Next comes estimating your Variable Expenses if both of you were to work outside of the home.  (I’ve included some sample costs for folks living in Maryland, since that is where I reside, as an example.  However, you’ll want to be realistic about how much you spend.)

It’s very important in this section that you estimate:

  1. Cost of before-care and/or after-care from school/daycare if necessary
  2. Cost of someone to pick your kids up from school and watch them at home OR cost of after-school-care for your kids until you can pick them up from work
  3. Cost of someone coming to clean your house at least once a month (because if both of you work, you deserve to spend on this service, believe me).
  4. Cost of someone handling yard work for you (because, see above)
  5. Higher cost of meals out because I’ve found in practice that when two parents work, they generally spend more on meals out due to schedules, prep and tiredness.
  6. Higher cost of cleaning/tailoring because you likely have double the professional clothes to keep clean.
  7. Higher cost of professional fees related to any assistance you would need other than those I have detailed here (like a plumber, gutter cleaner, etc.)
  8. Higher cost of gas because you would have to drive to and from your workplace in addition to transporting kids around
  9. And of course… the COST OF DAYCARE.  I put this in capital letters because if you have a child who is younger than school age, this can be the highest cost you experience when having both parents work outside of the home.
VARIABLE EXPENSES MONTHLY (Adults) MONTHLY (Dependents) *MD Averages
Age 25-40 41-60
Food 2 adults, 2 children
   Groceries  $  $ $250 $350
   Meals out  $  $ $250 $400
Clothing
    Purchases $ $ $125 $225
    Cleaning/Tailoring $ $ $10 $20
Household
    Maintenance/Repairs $ $ $50 $80
    Furnishings (Purchases) $ $ $200 $150
    Services (cleaning/ lawn) $ $ $30 $50
Utilities
    Oil, Gas, Electric $ $ $225 $250
    Phone/Internet/Cable $ $ $130 $180
    Water & Sewer $ $ $55 $70
    Home Security $ $ $50 $50
    Other- $ $
Recreation
    Vacations $ $
    Entertainment $ $ $200 $300
    Subscriptions $ $ $10 $20
    Sport/Hobbies/Activities $ $ $50 $100
    Membership Dues $ $
Personal Items
    Gifts to family $ $
    Charitable Donations $ $
    Tobacco/Alcohol $ $ $100 $150
    Pet Care $ $ $30 $30
    Personal Care $ $ $50 $75
    Professional Fees $ $
   Other $ $
Education
    Private Schools $ $
    College $ $
    Professional Education $ $
Health Care
   Prescriptions/Vitamins $ $ $20 $40
   Medical-Out of Pocket $ $ $80 $160
   Dental $ $
   Other $ $
Transportation
    Gas $ $
    Repairs/Maintenance $ $ $50 $75
    Commute/Parking $ $
    Other $ $
    Other $ $
SubTotal  $                              –  $                              –
Misc Expenses**
Variable Exp. Total $0 $0

3. Ok, once you have all of this in your spreadsheet, now comes the next step.  I want you to create a *separate* Variable Expense Sheet imagining if one of you were to stay home.  You’re going to reduce and/or eliminate many of the costs listed above, like eating out, daycare, etc.

4. So… What’s the monthly differential between your variable expenses if you stay home versus go to work outside of the home?  Now, take this number and increase it by the amount you’d pay in taxes on your income.

Hang in there, it’s about to get math-y

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Photo by energepic.com on Pexels.com

For example:

Let’s say the differential (how much more you spend working vs not working) is $2000/month.  This is $24,000/year.  However, if you live in Maryland and have both state income taxes (of about 5%) and federal income taxes (or about 28%), take home of $24,000 per year is the equivalent of a job that pays about $35,000 per year. You can make excel do this calculation with these numbers for you by typing:

= your differential yearly salary/(1-tax rate as a decimal) or with our numbers =24,000/(1-0.33) which gives you the 35,000

But… we’re not done yet.  Let’s say if you stop working, your family’s Federal tax bracket moves down – from 28% to 25%.  Let’s assume your spouse makes about $100,000 in income.  So, you are also saving about $3,000 per year in taxes from your spouse’s salary by not working (3% less on $100,000).  So, for argument’s sake, we’ll say it’s now $38,000 per year.  (You can find the federal tax brackets for 2018 here.)

Now, let’s say you make $55,000 per year at your current job and you are considering staying home.  In our sample scenario, the difference between $55,000 and $38,000 is $17,000.  However, $5,440 is taxes (total of 32% combined federal and state), so let’s subtract that out, too.

So, in our case, $11,560 is how much more you take home working outside of the home compared to staying at home.  That translates to a little less than $1,000 per month.

This is less than you may have thought, right?

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5. Now comes the hard part.  The part that is difficult, if not impossible, to quantify:  How do you FEEL about staying home?  Sit and close your eyes and truly imagine yourself working inside of the home.  This sounds cheesy, but it really does work.  Try to tune into the feeling in your gut.  Are you confident, happy and less stressed by staying home?

For some, staying home helps their mental health.  For others, staying home is bad for their mental health.  This is a very personal decision that only you can make.  For example, does staying home with your kids make you feel like this?:

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There is no shame in admitting that you aren’t cut out to handle working inside of the home.  It’s hard work, y’all.  Really, really hard work.

Finally, as yourself how you would feel if you had $1000 per month less to spend on vacations, gifts, personal care, professional fees, entertainment and the like.   (Don’t forget that there are LOADS of side hustles you can pick up if necessary, and I am not just talking about the ones you see all over social media.  Photography.  Consulting.  Tutoring.)  So this $1,000 may be able to be made up some other way that still allows you to be at home.

Most of all, remember that nothing is permanent.  Working outside of the home doesn’t have to be permanent.  Working inside of the home doesn’t have to be permanent either.

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Trust yourself, and share the #financialfacts with your partner so you can make a decision together about the best set up for YOU.

Wishing you good fortune!

Margo

HEADSHOT

Margo is a financial planner and investment advisor, software developer, mother of 2, and wife.  She also is a nonprofit consultant, so if she can manage a side hustle, so can you.

At Home with Christiana: Quick Style Fixes

While this is the Home Renovation and DIY section of our blog, there are many reasons and different stages in our lives where we may not have the ability to take on major home renovation projects. Be it time or budget constraints, or simply living in a rental where making permanent changes isn’t an option, sometimes the dirty work just has to wait.  This post is a nod to some of my favorite, time-tested quick style fixes for the home in times or situations like these. Big style, little effort. No sledgehammers, no permits, no construction loans required. Promise.

brown wooden center table

These simple tricks of the trade are great tools to make a temporary house feel like home, stage a home for sale, tap into design trends without commitment, or bring style into your home without investing a lot of time and money. 

Make a Gallery Wall

For those big, empty walls in your home, a gallery wall can make a big impact and really personalize your space without making any permanent changes or dropping any serious dinero.  Use your own photos, or print some cool stock images that speak to you. You can download some beautiful botanical prints for free from Botanicus.org.

art black and white decoration design

I love the clean, simple look of black and white photos in matching frames. Or for a more colorful look, I love coordinating images to create a theme for a space, as below.

apartment bed bedroom chair

Improve Aesthetics with Lighting

Shed some light on your situation. Literally. I mean “wow this room is so great and dark” said no one, ever. Dark rooms feel smaller. Period.

bed bedroom comfort contemporary

Adding lamps to a space can not only brighten it, but add an instant element of style to it as well. Rental properties, in particular, often lack quality lighting (think harsh, fluorescent lights) and softer light from accent lamps can provide a nice alternative.

Rule of thumb for table lamps: Always, always, buy a PAIR. Even if you only need one lamp at the time of purchase, someday you will, without fail, need two and you will hate yourself for not buying the pair while you could. Trust me.

Play with Pillows

Let me start by saying that I have a definite love/hate relationship with throw pillows. In the sense that I hate how much I love them.

brown and grey leather sofa with throw pillows

Like, I recognize how completely frivolous and unnecessary they are. I do. Remember that pillow scene in Along Came Polly?

amazingunsunglamprey-size_restricted

I want to embrace that minimalist “who-needs-throw-pillows” mentality in theory. But in reality… pretty, soft throw pillows got me like…

Because really, comfort is a thing. Fluff has never, that I am aware of, ever made anything less comfortable. And from a design perspective, throw pillows can totally change the look of a piece of furniture and/or update accent colors in a room for a fraction of the time and money required to replace large furniture pieces or paint walls.

ashtray book cushion decoration

You can easily change them when you’re tired of them, or even swap them out seasonally if you’re so inclined. Major pointer for pillows: Unless you are buying for staging purposes only, spend the money for pillows with removable, washable covers.

Bring the Green in

Indoor plants are another quick and simple way to warm and bring style to a space. (And I’m talking REAL plants here folks, none of your granny’s faux flower arrangements) With the added benefits of purifying your air, plants are a design multi-tasker for making your home both prettier and cleaner. A few personal favorites are the fiddleleaf fig, palms, succulents, and orchids. The fiddleleaf fig (shown below) is having a major style moment as of late, but is also a notoriously slow and finicky grower.

green indoor plant in a room

Orchids are a design classic often written off as pricey or difficult to maintain but at around $15 for a medium sized plant, which should last you a few months at minimum (even if you kill it) I would argue they are more cost-effective than buying cut bouquets. I’ve had a few re-bloom for 3-5 years, which is like $5 a year. Definitely less than most fancy design items, and I swear that maintaining them is as easy as just watering less than usual houseplants. (You can find straightforward orchid tips from the pros here.)

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For the non-plant people out there, succulents are the lowest maintenance way to bring the green in. (Bonus points if you coordinate your plants and your pillows.)

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Temporary Wallpaper

Temporary wallpaper is a great non-permanent alternative to traditional wallcoverings and is a quick way for renters and commitment-phobes alike to tap into the current wallpaper trend. Put it on an accent wall, on stair treads, in a closet, on a door, in cabinets or on shelves, and make a statement with it.

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Expressive Palm Removable Wallpaper, Urban Outfitters

Available in a variety of price points and design styles from mainstream retailers like Amazon, Wayfair, and Target. (Fixer Upper fans check out the shiplap print from Home Depot!)

Soften your Surroundings

Quality flooring is another element that is often lacking in rental properties and is generally difficult to install in homes without major expense and time. Area rugs provide a quick and easy way to add style to a space and cover less than desirable flooring.

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Soften tile and vinyl floors wherever you can with rugs. Heck, I’ve even used area rugs over carpeted floors to define spaces and well, just to cover up ugly carpet. General rules for rugs: don’t float a rug in the middle of a room. Always buy a rug big enough that it reaches your furniture. If that’s not in your budget, I’m a big fan of layering smaller plush rugs over a more affordable natural fiber (jute) rug for a clean look with softness where it counts. Apartment Therapy breaks down how to layer rugs with style here.

Window coverings

Let’s be real. Curtains are about as fun to shop for as socks. They’re not exciting, but they’re style necessities. Vertical blinds never helped noooobody. The short and simple truth of window coverings: buy the best you can afford, and hang them as high as you can. You won’t regret it.

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That’s it. A quick and dirty on the quickest style fixes in my book. What are your favorite ways to add style to your space? And what style problems do you need solved on the cheap and easy? Shout out!

Cheers to happy homes!

fullsizeoutput_658Christiana is a Navy wife and mother of 3, attorney and former realtor, world traveler, home renovator and decorator, yogi, fitness enthusiast, and recipe and fine wine explorer. (Photo credit: Tara Liebeck Photography)

Dear Mom, I see you.

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My mom and my son.

Mom,

Gush-y-ness is almost bursting out of me just when I phonetically begin to say the word. The smile of endearment that presides every time you enter my thoughts, blows the whistle on the teenager you once knew, who would protest your protection and tell you to “go away”. The one who knew better than you, and the one who stubbornly and willfully “went my own way” in times you wanted me to go yours because you knew I’d benefit from your wisdom. The confident lioness of young womanhood who played all the sports, had the lifelong friends she’d always wanted, and the family that was nuclear.

That smile has a second agenda. It also reveals the broken, battered, unappreciated, rattled, and worn-too- thin woman that currently calls herself a young mother of young children. Ok, maybe not so young at 34, but young-ish. A woman drowning in her responsibilities, not gracefully, and making ultimate mistakes that may or may not be founded in anything but simple selfishness. The one who is struggling and cautiously pacing through learning the necessary lessons in respect, gratitude, positive parenting, and overall happiness from the foundation of family, unconditional love, loyalty, and respect that you have given me.

The one who has the uncanny ability to forget who she is, guilt herself, and throw away remembering the DAILY good she performs in order to feel the almost masochistic weight of the “it wasn’t good enough.”

The one who is now referring to herself in the third person, because maybe that part of me, isn’t really real.

Scratch that. she IS real. And she is enough. And she is beaming with pride to call herself your daughter.

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That I can open my arms to that part of me, is because of you. You love unconditionally and accept all of me at a capacity that I am so profoundly lucky to know. I see you.

I am writing to you, about you, so you can see who you are in my eyes. I write of my brokenness so you can KNOW that you had every part in creating the strength in me to see the imperfection, and tackle it. To fall onto that foundation that you’ve so preciously and delicately worked with me to build.


4151_683495597259_329027_nI write to you to show you that you are my way-shower, my example of what defines grace and sacrifice. But who also personifies a silent power that I never knew existed until I became a mother. I see you.

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I often hear people refer to you as “angelic”. Your heart is both understanding and practically constructive in the same breath. It is peacemaking, authentic, and wise. It is all shades of happiness, and dynamically persistent in the acceptance of all with which you are facing.

People always say, “What until you have kids.” And they are right. I could never understand what blessings could lie behind the characteristic of beautiful patience. I have always watched, in awe, your ability to quiet your mind, and open your mouth to reveal the most perfectly and divinely guided words. A shining example of outwardly expressed love. I see you.

You’ve walked with me through all of my trials and tribulations. First, through childhood, through shyness and tom-boyhood. Always holding me close, and letting the leash out little perfect inch by little perfect inch. You supported me through adolescence, finding the most subtle and gentle ways to nurture me into this new body, and to tell me that I needed to actually shower every once in a while.

Drove me, every day, to school (piano, basketball, lacrosse, dance, music, variety show practice, games, tournaments, etc)from the country, just so I would get to have the experiences I deserved. These were the memories for which you sacrificed your mornings and afternoons. Hell, your whole weekend sometimes. I never once saw the wear of that sacrifice of time on your face. I saw a woman who, without a shadow of a doubt, would always be there for me. Whose pride for her kids, for her life, for her part in the decision to give us this opportunity to have the world more open to us, overshadowed what I know now was ultimately painstakingly sacrificially beautiful.  I see you.

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Who was it that yelled to (not at) me to please take care of myself after surgery, and not overdo it? I saw it then as trying to control me. I see it now for it’s pleading love. The resonance of experienced nursing knowledge in your voice that I had a future in front of me. I had college sports at my feet, and not to ruin my chance to have that opportunity.

I see your sleepless nights of worry through college. Your courage to let me go. A brave mother who let me make my mistakes to learn to truly live. Mistakes in love, in education, and in life.

You walked with me in the journey through Massage School. Learning a new passion for energy work and discovering that you’re pretty badass at trusting your intuition. You showed me that I have an outlet for my human angst in prayer and meditation. And most importantly, in God.

It was you that introduced me to the concept of soul family so that I never have to feel alone, so long as I have a moment to reach out to them. You’ve only grown stronger in that ever since, making spiritual and soul connections that feed you, and build you stronger. Making your faith a priority among a lot of things. Not just a faith in Spirit. A faith in yourself, your family, and your son and daughter. I see you.

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And you did all this through the debilitation of your own pain. You never ever left my side as a mother. Even when the worries of your body’s betrayal left you emotionally weathered and physically exhausted, you never left our side. Not once. I so see you. This was the greatest lesson I ever could learn about the breadths of self that had been undiscoverable to me until my blinders were removed. You courageously walked down an aisle with stairs one gracefully and smiling step at a time, to watch me marry the man that reminds me so much of you and your strength. You didn’t even flinch. You were in so much pain but I never saw it. Sweet sacrifice. I see you. You were so amazing that day, and added everything to the happiness and whimsicality of it.

You gave me the greatest gift I’ve ever been given the day you told me that you, too, have been broken. Someone who seems to me to be the portrait of perfection. To know that you felt anything but that, in body and mind, and came out of the other side not only stronger and more sure of who you are, but also posturing towards happiness, was everything to me. You shared that you came out with a bigger capacity for compassion for others. If actions speak louder than words, then your day to day must be pretty loud, Mom.

Somedays, I feel as though I am that little girl who cried on the bus in first grade, homesick for my mother and my bed. Homesick for her soft hand stroking my head and back. Homesick in this big and scary world for what would make me feel whole, safe, and loved. But then, I remember you. I remember that I don’t care if you hate the photos I am posting, I want to share with the world the person who reminds me of all that I can be capable. Of the qualities that are within me, ready to be utilized at any moment.

I see you, Mom. You were are there, so vividly and immediately, in the moment that I became a mother myself; honoring my strength and wistfully studying your grandson in your arms. It was that day that I knew that I had always had the person I want to be in front of me. It is now that I finally know, I have that person IN me, as well. I am a part of you, as you are of me. I can be enough. I am enough as a mother, because I have been learning its embodiment from birth. My vision is loaded with images of what it looks like to be a mother, memories that create feelings of just what exactly that word means to me. What you, mean to me.

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I wish I knew then what I know now. As I try to stay above water in a world that seems judgemental and impossibly navigated as a mother of two, every bump and bruise I receive that sends me running back to “home”. That place I wish to run now lies within me. It is the part of me that is you. That is brave, silent and patient, strong yet gentle. Angelic, warm and inviting. Open and divine with ambitiously positive and fervent nurturance. Glowingly proudly with a heroic view of the world she has helped build, and hardworking to adjust to its ebbs and flows. You are timelessly beautiful. Breathtakingly loving, and kind just on time. That is who I see. Both in you and now, in the mirror. This bond of sisterhood, of soul connection, runs deep within us.

My proudest moment of my life will be the day I can say,

“My God, I am becoming my mother.” with a grin of resilience, fortitude, and pride in my co-creation, as I cannot think of anything better to be in this whole world.

Because I am your daughter, I see you alive in me.

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Yours with benevolence,

Your daughter.  Kristy

Dr. Annie Answers: Water Safety

TRIGGER ALERT, Child loss and drowning discussed in this post. It’s not fun to read about but it might, just might, save your kid’s life.

Yesterday, we got to enjoy a rare hot and sunny Washington day on our friend’s ski boat. After the husbands took turns reliving their glory days on wakeboard and mono-ski, we put out the “Sidewinder” tube and my good friend went out for a much more tame go with her son and our two girls.

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Everyone was safely ensconced in life jackets. My husband, ER doctor and former lifeguard, was perched on the back of the boat ready to leap in if anyone was jostled off. Both girls know how to swim without floaties. We never went over 15 mph. And still, with every bump, every turn over the wake, my heart was in my throat imagining one of them popping off into the water and drowning.

As a doctor, I know that drowning is the leading killer of children aged 1-4. If there is only time for 1 thing to talk about at the end of a well-child visit, that’s the one I target. It’s something most parents worry about whether they know the statistics or not. And yet – we still miss the biggest risk most of the time.

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Kids are not at high risk of drowning when we are all playing together in the pool. They’re not at high risk even when bouncing along in a life jacket behind a boat. It’s when we don’t think they’re going in the water at all that the danger is highest.

The day before our boating, I had lounged and gabbed with our friends on the beach – Rosie and Mimi 200 yards down the empty shore collecting seashells and I was honestly more worried that the bald eagle we kept spotting would come carry one of them away than the very real danger they could wander down to the water’s edge without us noticing and drown in moments. We ALL forget that it’s these unguarded moments that are the real danger. Even the professionals. 

The recent stories of toddlers drowning in the media – including the tragic loss of Bode Miller’s daughter and Nicole Hugh’s son – have started a new fight to promote water safety with the AAP and in the public eye. They highlight just how quickly the lives of even the best parents can be changed by drowning. And also, that you can do things to decrease the risk and improve chances of survival.

So, what can you do? Should we all keep life vests on our kids 24/7 when we are in walking distance of water? Should we just give up and never let them around water deeper than an inch? Leashes? Well…. I mean you could. But, there are more practical solutions.

1) Education

Talk to your kids about water safety from the beginning. I have erred on the side of scaring them about it because I’d rather they be a little timid as swimmers than over-confident.

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Strongly consider enrolling them in ISR Self Rescue classes sometime after age 6 months and before 6 years old. These classes teach infants to toddlers how to roll over and float safely if they fall into water.

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Photo credit: Brendan Nicholson

I think my friend, the super smart mama Dr. Elizabeth Nicholson (that’s her cutie above), says it best:

I’ve seen conflicting opinions of ISR over the years … As an Emergency Medicine physician, I am painfully aware of drowning risks. Each summer, I console at least one family after the loss of their child. Primary prevention, such as locked fences and sturdy pool covers are the most important, but we all know that even the most attentive caretakers have escape artists for children. It takes only seconds.

I wanted to have extra seconds to find my kids. I viewed drowning prevention through ISR like buckling a car seat or holding my hand in a busy parking lot. It might not have been fun every minute, but crucially important.

Our instructor is wonderful. She pushes the kids in a safe a supported manner. They are reassured during class and proud after learning new skills. Even with vastly different temperaments, both of my kids have learned the skills AND love the water. See for yourself!

 

 

Want to see it in action? Check out the video of the “final lesson”, falling in with clothes on below:

Look up the closest certified program to you here.

2) Tools

  1. Barriers: If you own a pool, a pool fence or safety-focused pool cover is a MUST. We moved into the gorgeous backyard oasis above, but all I saw was drowning risk until we got our All-Safe Pool Fence. If you’re inside and not in “swim mode”, keep the kids behind locked doors – make sure the locks are child-proof. A hook lock at home or simple stick-on child lock at a vacation rental can be applied to most sliders above child’s reach to be safe.
  2. Lifeguards: If you’re at someone else’s home or on a watery fun vacation without a fence, treat watching the kids like lifeguards do. Someone should always be the primary observer. If that person needs to go, they need to actively and explicitly hand off duty to another adult. When you’re in a group setting without this designation, it is WAY too easy for everyone to assume someone else is watching the kids – which is what happened to this family
  3. Life jackets: If the kids are just playing in the yard around an open pool or on the beach near the waves, they still need life jackets on and/or an adult “lifeguard”. 20045346_10100140255349096_1854036280355769801_o.jpg
  4. Pool alarms: Again, if this is your home or somewhere you go frequently, a good back-up measure is an alarm so you know it they’re in the vicinity.

3) Rescue

If you haven’t already, enroll yourself and your adult family members in a CPR class. Make sure to continue updating it when it expires. Drowning happens quickly and silently and you can’t be sure how long the kid has been in the water. If you get to them quickly, rapid initiation of CPR while someone else calls 911 can absolutely save their lives.

Adult & Child CPR Anytime Kit

You can look up classes in your area here or get at home kits. Don’t let this be one of those, “well I was meaning to do it, but we were just so busy….” items. Look it up today. Put it on the calendar for within the next month. Chances are you might literally save a life.

4) Spread the word

Tell. Your. Friends. If you see unsafe practices around water – say something. We can’t know how many lives have been saved by the preventive measures above, but it’s definitely significant. Not sure where to start? Send them this blog article or post a pic on social media saying “PSA: pool fences save lives” or whatever speaks to you. Just keep people talking about it. We should be talking about this AT LEAST as much as preventing SIDS or the proper carseat positioning in your vehicle or which screen time is the least evil screen time because it still remains the leading cause of early childhood death.

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Alternatively… stick to inland splash pads.

Dr. Annie is a married mom of 2 plus 1 on the way and family physician in the Sacramento area.