Cloth Diapering - It's Earth Day!

17 weeks along with our little peach! <3

17 weeks along with our little peach! <3

      The talk of all things baby starts as soon as you find out you're pregnant. What do babies need? Where do they sleep? Let's paint the nursery! Aww and all the cute outfits. OMG I have to push a what out my what? They give us a baby when we leave the hospital? And sorry, they pee how many times a day? The constant stream of thoughts surrounding having a baby is never ending, and as I have recently found out, when they are here, it just increases tenfold.

      Before Iola was here, one of the baby topics Marty and I talked about and agreed on right away was wanting to try our hand at cloth diapering. And everyone knows the reasons for doing this are of course to save money, but for me even more importantly, it was to *try* not to add to the landfill piles of the world. Something like 18 billion diapers are thrown out every year and they take 500 years to break down and honestly it makes me sad thinking that my daughter's sh*t could literally outlive her.

      The most difficult part of cloth diapering before you start is that it is FRICKEN OVERWHELMING. It's like picking out toothpaste when pregnant. I cried. Why are there so many choices for a product that does the exact same thing? I scoured the internet for hours; watched YouTube videos, read reviews, and visited all the websites.

This is what I gathered before I started:

The cages have to be hung to dry. I use this hanging slip organizer thing that I got at the thrift store for a few dollars in my ALMOST finished laundry room!

The cages have to be hung to dry. I use this hanging slip organizer thing that I got at the thrift store for a few dollars in my ALMOST finished laundry room!

1) to clarify, we call the outer cutesie colourful diaper portion the cage (we made this up), and the absorbent pads are actually called the inserts (there's a whole other type of diaper called a prefold which I won't get into because we decided they weren't for us at all - Google it!)
2) certain brands and sizes work better than others depending on your baby and you won't know what works until you try them
3) using a few different brands at once may benefit your baby, as spots where they may rub or chafe will vary, decreasing rashes, irritation, etc.
4) some diapers are called one-size (intended to fit from birth or a little after to potty training - they come with so many sets of snaps to change size), some diapers come in different sizes (NB, S, M, etc. or size 1, size 2, etc.), some diapers are pocket diapers (they have a pocket where the insert fits into), some diapers are all-in-ones (as in they don't have a separate insert, the pad portion is sewn right in)
5) generally all the inserts can be interchanged between all the brands and you can layer inserts for more absorbancy
6) inserts are made of all different types of material; cotton, polyester, bamboo - we have some of each
7) you don't actually want to have TOO many diapers, because the more you have the less motivated you are to do laundry, and you really don't want diapers sitting for too long
8) all your diaper components should be washed multiple times before using them or apparently they won't be absorbent - I threw mine in with all our regular laundry a total of 6 times a few weeks before we needed them
9) the cages need to be hung to dry to preserve their elasticity
10) you cannot use bum cream that contains zinc oxide because it decreases the absorbancy of the diaper as well as over time the diapers will start to retain an acrid smell (you know when you leave towels in the washer for like 2 hours and then dry them and then you use them? yeah. that smell.)

So where did we start?

Our 11 diaper 'cages' from Cozy Bum Diapers - Marty and I took turns picking diapers from the website, can you guess who picked the farm one?? :P)

Our 11 diaper 'cages' from Cozy Bum Diapers - Marty and I took turns picking diapers from the website, can you guess who picked the farm one?? :P)

I found a Canadian distributor Cozy Bums Diapers and based on the above research ordered 11 diapers. We ordered all one-sizes thinking we could use them right away and into the future. We got six Funky Fluff, one Thirsties, one Imagine, one Sweet Pea, and one Easy Peasies on a Black Friday sale and the total was $239.94. According to my math that's roughly 8 boxes of disposable diapers worth. Most companies/distributors have an Earth Day sale also!
      Shortly after receiving our order, an old work friend of mine had posted on Facebook that she was selling all her baby stuff at a community garage sale. Marty and I hit it up and bought all her gDiapers for a ridiculously great price, and I love them because they were already used 100s of times (this is the whole point!). gDiapers come in different sizes and we got six smalls, seven mediums. Towards the end of my pregnancy when I really had my nest on I bought two more smaller size 1 AppleCheeks. I wasn't sure what we were going to need and wanted to be prepared.

We started when Iola was 10 days old.

We started when Iola was 10 days old.

      We started when Iola was 10 days old. We needed a few days to adjust to our little person and new life and disposables exist because they are so dang easy, and we aren't perfect by any means. We started using the six small gDiapers and the two pairs of size 1 AppleCheeks and that's all we have been using up until now (she's 7 weeks old) plus we have 17 inserts. The 11 one-sizes pictured in the basket above were too big and actually still are, but we know that soon enough she'll fit into them, which is both sad and amazing. Child rearing is the ultimate juxtaposition.

So how do we like cloth diapering?

      Our experience thus far has been AWESOME. We change the gDiaper cage every few pees, and of course the insert every time. The entire AppleCheeks diaper get changed every time. We haven't had a sh*t-tastrophe blow-out that wasn't properly contained. (TIP: We use the open side of a hard plastic Enfamil bottle to scrap off the crap in the sink. Works like a charm.) A few times pee has leaked out but I think it was because of how we put the insert in, or didn't double up the insert, or didn't have the diaper tight enough. (You just gotta do it to learn it.) You absolutely have to be committed to doing laundry every day or two but I think I'd be doing that anyway between the spit-up, breast milk and other bodily fluids that seems to get on EVERYTHING. We have been using Dimpleskins Bum Bum Balm and Rocky Mountain Soap Co. Baby Bum Balm and love the naturalness of each product. Also note that so far we've used disposables when we go out (again, not perfect/convenience) but I do plan on completely dedicating to to cloth. That's where a wet bag comes in. Also also note that Iola cries immediately when she's wet a disposable and doesn't do this with a cloth!
      The one downfall so far; last week I noticed the inserts started taking on that acrid towels-left-in-the-washer smell when they got wet AKA peed on and I can't seem to get it completely out. After I figured out it was the diaper that smelled and not Iola's pee (after I freaked out and bawled and called my mom) I washed them on a super cycle. The smell improved but there's still a whiff, but it's a whiff we can live with. Apparently I can soak them in vinegar but haven't tried that yet. If any one has any advice surrounding anything cloth diaper I am all ears! I'd love it you left a comment below. Or if you have any questions I'd love to help as much as I can! I'll also do a post in a few months when we dive into all the other brands we have.

The  gDiaper  cage and a  gDiaper  insert that we got second hand. Reduce REUSE recycle!

The gDiaper cage and a gDiaper insert that we got second hand. Reduce REUSE recycle!

The  gDiaper  all together ready to use.  TIP : fold the Velcro over before throwing them in the washer or else they will attach to everything.

The gDiaper all together ready to use. TIP: fold the Velcro over before throwing them in the washer or else they will attach to everything.

The  AppleCheeks  flamingo diaper with a  Funky Fluff  insert. And a SOPHIE! &lt;3

The AppleCheeks flamingo diaper with a Funky Fluff insert. And a SOPHIE! <3

I mean that faaaace! What I wouldn't for this child, like try and save the planet. It is so true what they say, that you don't understand how much your parents love you until you have one of your own.

I mean that faaaace! What I wouldn't for this child, like try and save the planet. It is so true what they say, that you don't understand how much your parents love you until you have one of your own.

      I hope you know I am not trying to shame any one who uses disposables, nor am I trying to say that I am a perfect environmentalist. I take long showers, throw away Starbucks cups, heat my rather large home and use shampoo that probably throws off the whole ecosystem (but dead batteries always go to the Eco-station!) and I'm sure the extra laundering isn't that great either and who knows about the footprint the manufacturing of the diapers leaves. All I am trying to say is that in every choice I can make in the right direction for the planet has *hopefully* got to help a little bit. I think about the future more than I ever have before (remember that constant stream of thoughts thing?) and how what we are doing now will impact my grandchildren. I'm not even close to perfect, but one diaper at a time I hope I am contributing to a future where Iola is able to build a home on a little piece of green, not on top of a covered pile of garbage.

      A few weeks into our new life I asked Marty if this is what he thought it was all going to be and his response was, "I didn't think there would be this many diapers to change." Oh buddy, wait until they have real people sized craps. :D

Trying my best,
AF


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3 weeks away from social media; the why, the what and the now.

      Can posting on Instagram be a hobby? Cuz I think it's mine. Now gosh my 9-square ain't perfect but I love it. I love the way it looks, the way the content is organized, and I love the challenge of posting for visual satisfaction, even if it's only mine. Last summer I made a goal for myself to rev up my instagame, to make my Instagram into something that I thought truly represented how I like things to look; colourful, creative, and inspiring. I have put a lot of energy into achieving the look I have and am truly proud of how far I've come. Gosh, if you're on the porcelain throne right now scroll back a year on my page and you'll see what imma talkin bout. (If you crave a slicker Insta, I want you to know it is possible!) But, recently, there came a point where I couldn't get far enough away from all that stuff.

      I went on an social media vacay. No, this doesn’t mean Instagram paid for me to go to the Bahamas, it just means I took a total of 3 weeks away from posting content, interacting with my fellow grammers, commenting, responding or doing any Make it Franke activity on Instagram or Facebook. When I realized I was spending more daily time planning my instaposts and curating the cutest little vignettes then I was actually making things and that I was shedding a decent amount of tears over the 'cohesiveness of my brand' in 9 little squares, I also realized this was likely contributing to my creative mojo suffocation I have been experiencing for the last few months. And I finally figured out I needed a break.
      I initially scheduled a break around different events/days that I wanted to make sure I was online for, for promotional reasons. I blocked out a few weeks on my calendar and in bold letters wrote NO INSTAGRAM POSTS. This alone made me feel lighter. The thing is though, what actually ended up happening, is one Friday afternoon about 2 weeks before my scheduled break, I simply absolutely had enough, made a FRIENDS inspired flat lay, and my 3 week vacay commenced. I didn't actually know at the beginning it was going to be 3 weeks, I left that open ended. Three weeks ended up feeling right.
      So what did I do for 3 weeks without my Instagram hobby?!? Well for the fist week I didn't think about anything related to Make it Franke. I didn't paint, draw, touch the computer, or think about website content - I hardly stepped foot into my studio. With the freed up mental space I had room to focus on some personal issues and was able to figure out what direction I wanted to go in with my artwork and this blog. After that week I REALLY started to miss engaging the maker/blogger/small business side of my brain and when I did step back into my studio it was like being reunited with an old friend. I also spent some of the time getting rid of SO MUCH stuff from my house. I brought boxes and boxes to thrifts stores and the Reuse Center. I think I needed the physical space as much as the mental. Also guys, I spent WAY less time with my phone. I left it in different rooms from where I was and let me tell you while harder in the beginning it. felt. so. good. I'll definitely be continuing this habit.
      I know there may be a few people who are asking themselves, 'I wonder if she lost any followers?" And actually, I had about 10 more when I came back after 3 weeks. But I was never concerned with losing followers, as I truly believe that the people following me because they like me or my product aren't going any where. Think about some accounts you are obsessed with on Instagram... PS a few of mine are @nataliecreates, @fivemarysfarms, @mintkarla @emily_jeffords @ravenroxanne... Now what if they told you, "Hey! I'm jetting off for 2 weeks and won't be posting, see you later!" Would you then slide your finger over and tap the unfollow icon? Um no. You wouldn't. You'd say, "HAVE FUN! Bring me back a pendant flag!" So, why wouldn't people do that for you? On another related note, if people do unfollow me, I do not take it personally. Maybe they lost interest in my vibe, maybe they don't care about what I'm making any more, truthfully, maybe they were comparing themselves to me and decided to cut me out because they weren't liking their emotional response to my posts. The point is, followers come, followers go, and you cannot please everyone. Don't even try.

      Into week two I started up again. I started majorly pre-planning website posts and for the first time and made a schedule for just that. I have goals for this blog and I finally put it together that without small attainable goals and stepping stones nothing with long term productivity is going to manifest. As for the art making side of things, I went to my fave art supply store The Paint Spot, laid down a couple hundies and got myself a whole shwack of new art supplies, including some different products I had never used before. A phrase had been playing over in my head again and again as said by one of my instapals Sara, who I find incredibly inspiring, "Go with your first instinct. It's there for a reason." So for the first time in a long time I did just that. It felt so freeing and wonderful and because I wasn't worried about making something 'Instagram worthy' I just went where the colours took me. I also had time to come up with, much to my dismay, a realization that I make art slowly. Do I wish I could pump out a new design every day? Yes. Do I wish I could come up with a new series every few months? Yes. Is this how my creative process works? No. I don't necessarily want this to be the case, but I have finally come to terms with my pace and that acceptance has also made me feel GOOD.

      During my time away I met up with another instapal Alyson of @herautumnleaves as she had contacted me after my exit post and basically said "OMG ME TOO." We spent about 4 hours in a Joeys to the almost-awkward-amount-of-time-in-a-restauant point. We drank SO many glasses of water the staff kept bringing us and eventually our server let us know she was going home and if we needed anything to not look for her. *haha* My point is Alyson and I were able to spend so much time talking all things social media; comparison, internet fakeness, SM exhaustion, themes, cohesiveness, branding and basically the shear energy it takes to keep up with the Kardashins, because it's such a relevant topic in our small business/maker culture. Did we solve any of our major problems in 4 hours? No. Did we both feel so much better because another human being feels the same way? Yes. I encourage you to interject a little honesty into your post(s) if you feel the same way because chances are very high that someone out there feel the same way you do.
      So what am I going to do now? Well for starters I am making the conscience choice to go. on. my. phone. less. If I want to waste 15 minutes on social media as 'a break', I force myself to go outside for 10 minutes instead. I also set a 7 o'clock PM alarm on my phone labelled "Get the f*uck off your phone" and don't touch it for the rest of the evening, not even right before I go to bed. I have also decided that I am taking a break from everything Make it Franke every single entire month of April. I was already toying with this idea this past spring during the weeks all our goats were having babes when keeping up with posting was difficult, and now that there's a 2-fold reason it's defineitly happening. Next year I am taking the pressure off completely and vacationing away from posting for a full month. I can already taste the creative recharge.

MORAL OF THIS LONG-WINDED POST:

If social media has got you feeling low, take a break. We'll all be here cheering loudly on your return.

Refreshed,
-A.F.

A year+ of markets, mistakes and mostly learning.

      Make it Franke has been kicking around since February 2015, but I really got it up and running January 2016 and this past March, doing the Curated. Spring Market, marked one year of being involved in the crazy beautiful, crazy stressful, crazy amazing world of makers markets. I thought I'd share with you what a year+ has taught me about product, market set-up, and picking a focus. I'll explain why I made some of the decisions I made, critique my own mistakes, and share a little bit of what the future possibly holds. I also want to write this down so I can remember and appreciate my journey.

      During the fall 2015, I was in Value Village (with a 30% off coupon in my pocket, of course) when I kind of had a breakdown. I was so, so, so unhappy with my current job as a registered nurse because I simply never found joy in the job and I needed a way out. At that time, I had only ever sold my art work at a few Whyte Ave Art Walks, and I also just started getting prints of my work made through a gallery. Through sharing my artwork and furniture on Facebook to an audience simply made up of my friends and family, I knew there were customers out there. It was just a matter of product dispersal. Being out on the farm was very inconvenient for any one to come by and grab a quick birthday present, shower gift, piece for themselves, etc. I also really needed (and still DO! need) an Etsy shop or some other online way to sell my product but woah woah woah a girl can only do one thing at a time. This is when, in the Value Village aisle between the long sleeve shirts and the sweaters, on the brink of a nervous break down, I thought about applying to the Old Strathcona Antique Mall. I thought, "Hey, I bet I could sell my art work and refinished furniture there if I also sell some vintage swag." I already had a love for vintage and could pick a vintage item out from of any shelf at a thrift store or garage sale. I phoned my mom, kind of asked if she wanted to get in on this with me, and the conversation turned into "YEAH and maybe we could turn vintage fabrics into cool things like pillows and stuff?!" My mom is an incredibly skilled sewer so this was definitely something we could collaborate on. That night when I got home I applied to be a vendor at the antique mall and basically decided to quit my job. (Marty and I had also just bought the farm AND still had our renovated acreage home for sale. This also may have contributed to my mental state.) At the time sweet places to buy locally made products like The Makers Keep, Made Local, and Majesty and Friends were not around - if they would have been - my entire business path would have likely carved a completely different trail.

Here is an example of one of my tags. Definitely not one of my HILarious ones, but it seems to be the only photo of any of them I could find!

Here is an example of one of my tags. Definitely not one of my HILarious ones, but it seems to be the only photo of any of them I could find!

      FAST forward a few months later. Our house sold. I handed in my resignation. My mom and I started thrifting the world like crazy for the booth that I did in fact get at the antique mall. I spent SO much time making tags for all the items because 1.) I thought it would be interesting for people to get a little history lesson about each item and 2.) I always have so many good jokes and puns I needed some where to write them down. :P (But actually though, the tags were such great pick-me-ups and I had so fun making them but they were hella time consuming.)
      SO. The booth was doing okay. I was selling a decent amount of vintage goods, my mom's sewn items were selling, a few art prints sold (which I had just started making on my own after buying a monster printer) and a few small pieces of furniture did too. In hindsight, and that's what this whole entry is all about, what the actual eff was I thinking. Why did I think it was sustainable and marketable to have all of these different things that truly don't fit together. Things have changed from this beginning time because it proved to be impossible to keep all these different creative tracks open and maintain them properly. Also, eventually I could not maintain the booth because with markets I was always pulling items back and forth and financially it was not worth the hassle.

Here's my booth at the mall!

      Then I did my first market. Back a year ago Curated. was called Vixens of Vintage (BTW Candace, love Curated!) and I brought with me all the same things I was selling at the antique mall to sell in person at the market.

Here are some images from my very first market set-up!

      I don't like brown. Brown has nothing to do with my business, branding, colour scheme or anything. I don't even put brown in my house .. so why is my entire backdrop and shelving unit a moody and dark brown? I have no idea. I think I thought that it would be covered up with so many colourful things that it wouldn't really show. SO problems with that thinking: as things sell, it's harder and harder to hide the brown, also, UM YES it shows through. It took me a few markets until it dawned on me that the reason I wasn't liking my set-up was because of all the brown. (It later got beautifully white washed.)

      Another market I did a total of three times last summer was the White Barn Market (which is absolutely lovely!) as well I was an outdoor vendor at All Things Pretty (and let me tell you it's a very pretty market!). I love colour, that's what I'm all about. But my biggest mistake with this outdoor market scene, was using a blue tent. With a blue tent, yellow display pieces and a decent amount of red mixed in there, my whole set-up felt very, very primary thus very much 'for children'. My artwork is definitely for kids, but that doesn't mean that's the way I necessarily want to market myself, and it doesn't mean that it's not for adults too. (Put an owl in your office or craft room!) Again, this primary colours thing only came together in my mind after the fourth set-up at outdoor markets. AND everything was still brown. :]

So here's the White Barn Market

Here I am at the Whyte Ave Art Walk. Photo cred to my BFF Patrycia &lt;3

Here I am at the Whyte Ave Art Walk. Photo cred to my BFF Patrycia <3

      When I did the Whyte Ave Art Walk after a few art-work-furniture-vintage-swag-and-sewn-goods-markets, I absolutely loved it. All I brought was art, because obviously that's what the market is all about. Not only did I not have to pack up a small apartment and unpack it for the show, art is what I want to do. Art is who I am. Art is why I started Make it Franke. After the art walk, I knew focusing on art work was what I needed to do.
      I knew I had to phase out the sewn goods (so sorry mom!) because when people would come by and want to buy a pillow and ask me technical question about sewing, I'd have to say "Er I don't know, I'll have to ask my mom." Or if they wanted custom work done, "Er I can ask my mom?" It took the connection between maker and customer out of the equation. And that's not what buying local at markets is about.
      Phasing out the vintage swag also had to happen. Thrifting is A LOT of work when you are looking for consistent amounts of things. It also took FOR EVER to pack and unpack for market. Each piece had to be individually wrapped and unwrapped. SO time consuming.
     So besides all the already mentioned reasons to solely focus on art (I am also going to keep doing furniture) is because when people would walk by or visit my booth I KNew they were somewhat confused. Explaining how the menagerie of items came together was often more work than it was worth.

      My last two markets were the winter and then spring Curated. Market, the latter of which was just a few weeks ago. My backdrop got white-washed, there was no primary colour problems, and I did not bring sewn goods with me. I also added a checkout station to my booth so I had somewhere to keep my purse, jacket and of course my snacks. At the end of the spring market a few weeks ago, I started giving vintage swag away for free because as of that market I officially retired. :P I also had an INcredible prints display unit that I had Marty build for me. I had wanted something of the type for for a very long time, again, why did it take so long to figure out? No idea. I also improved my packaging, labeling and sizing of my prints.

Here's a few images from the Curated. Holiday Market!

And here's my sweet arse display unit!

      Looking back on some of these pictures definitely makes me cringe. But guys, without them, I wouldn't be able to see how far I've truly come. There is so much in this world that will never get figured out unless you just jump in and do it. There is no better teacher than learning from your mistakes and as you can see I made my share over this past year+.

Looking forward to the whitewashed year ahead,
- A.F.

Our 9 day renostaycation.

Staycation: adapted from the word vacation, a staycation implies that an individual, couple or family is choosing to stay home during their allotted vacation time instead of going on a far away trip or adventure. Staycation activities include but are not limited to; watching Netflix, tackling mounding laundry, running some long over due nagging errands, baking, finally hitting up a local restaurant you've been meaning to get to, etc. A staycation is a time to nest and enjoy your home. Taking an extended staycation is a sign of growing older. You are at a point in your life where wet t-shirt contests at Señor Frogs are trumped by onsies on the couch. Playing poolside beer pong with palm trees in the background is trumped by a quiet card game with the family. Romantic adventures on tropical beaches are trumped by going to bed at 8:30 PM, and wanting to. And now it’s not to say that staycationers never want to actually vacation again, it's just that their grown up jobs/lives/responsibilities only give them so many windows of actual 'free time' and the rest/party balance has to be had. The older you get, the harder it is to find your party pants.

Renosatycation: variation of staycation. Includes a defined number of days in which you don't go to work, and not only simply stay home, but stay home to renovate your house. Elements of the traditional staycation will be peppered throughout, but the goal of said time at home is to complete a list(s) of home improvement related tasks.

      Over the next 9 days Marty and I are taking a renostaycation. We have 9 days off and we are staying in! We have have a hefty list of things to accomplish on the house as we want to take a break from renovating over the summer - so we have to get projects done now! We are also in the thick of kidding our goats, so it will be nice to have these 9 days to really look after the critters together. I know I'm getting older but who new this would be the new face of fun... Not only are we going to stay home but we're also going to work. (?) My 19 year old self would be so confused.

Stay tuned on Instagram Stories for our reno updates and progress - oh and of course some amazing reno-related puns! A friend of mine recently told me my puns were RENOLUTIONARY! Thanks Geoff, I can't take credit for that one.

Signing off as my excited-to-stay-home 28 year old self,
-A.F.

POST-RENOSTAYCATION UPDATE:

Holy. Dyna. You guys. In terms of the renovation, we got very, very, little done. Months ago we devised a master renovation plan that all came to a wrap on April 1st, when we would then take a few moths off of home improvements and focus on other things ... sadly we are still so far away from that goal. :S During these 9 days we managed to scarp the master bedroom/bathroom stipple, paint a few coats of flat white on top, lay all the vinyl flooring throughout the same space, and do a little bit of drywall work - but we MOSTly spent our time in the barn with all our goats, who were all having babies this week. In hindsight, like most things, it was rather foolish to believe we could be master renovators and super farmers in the same week, but at least we tried. All we have to do know is pick up the reno-slack, push the end goal date for finishing the upper level of the house and, for next year, kid all of our goats without planning ANYthing else at the same time. Lesson learned. Thanks, Murphy.


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Let's talk.

      Bell's Let's Talk initiative, and all the different stories I have read about today on Instagram because of it, have given me the courage to open up about my struggles with mental wellness. The whole idea behind this campaign is to shine light on mental health issues, end the stigma surrounding them and essentially to start ACTUALLY talking about it all. What a time to be alive! I love it.

      Why is this stuff so hard to talk about? There are a lot of factors that go into this I think, but for me personally it has always been fear. Fear that I won't be seen as a productive member of our world. Fear that others will pity me and not trust me. Fear that I'll be seen as a "fake" when I am feeling happy, bubbly and positive (which is 99% of the time). I have dealt with the depressive spectrum since I was in high school. The first time I talked to a therapist was in my first year of university. In my one and only session that year, the therapist had me map out my family tree, provide a brief description of my childhood and state what I was currently doing with my life. He then went on to say, "So, what's the problem?" He didn't see any reason why I should be so sad. UM my first mistake was not going to see a DIFFERENT therapist right away and my second mistake was waiting a few years to go again. (The few times I have went I am glad I did, though it was never something I felt I needed ongoing. The only thing I need is to just TALK to someone.) The cycle that I face is extreme negative self talk, followed by immense guilt over many things, followed by embarrassment over the whole situation all balled up into not being able to get out of bed or spending a lot of time doing absolutely nothing. Like nothing. There have been times that I have sat in a chair for hours because I did not know where to start the day. 

      In a weird way I am very lucky because my best friend goes through a very similar thing. It's amazing having someone who somewhat understands what you're going through in your corner, but it is still immensely difficult to say, "Hey, I can't get out of bed". So instead we text each other the phrase banana hammock. Way easier, right?? If you go through any thing like we do, maybe there is someone in your life you can set up a system like this with. Once a conversation gets flowing everything becomes much easier to deal with. I don't want to make this sound like a magic system that makes all your problems disappear, but little can change if you don't start the conversation.

     Over the years I feel like I have learned a lot about how to keep myself mentally healthy. I absolutely have to get enough sleep. I have to be around people. Staying at home by myself for long periods at a time is hard on me. (Now add in being a stay at home artist/entrepreneur! More on that in a later post.) I need to feel the energy of others, even if it's not in a social way. Even if it's just small talk with a cashier and someone in the Michaels aisle. I socially surround myself with people who build me up, and positively influence me, who encourage me and genuinely want the best for me. Coffee dates with my people seem to do the same for me than any therapy session ever did. Do you know what being kind can do for your own mental health? A random act of kindness can turn your whole world around. When I feel crappy, I buy the next person's double-double or pay someone else's $5 fee at the ReUse Center. I also pick out the positive in everything and let it sink in as deep as I can, almost as if I'm saving it up for the next time I need it. All these things seem so small, but they really do make a big difference in my life.

      Writing this wasn't the easiest thing for me and I know the stigma I have towards myself contributes to the problems we are having with society and mental health. Please know that you are not alone and there are so many ways and things out there to help you feel really, really awesome.

I hope I have helped shine a little light on mental health because we all deserve to be our brightest (most colourful!) selves,
-A.F.


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Stay on schedule (but don't).

      This time around, Marty and I are approaching our renovation with a bit more of a structured schedule and a pact to one another that we would be somewhat socially reclusive for the next few months. Not only do we simply have more going on in our lives and require an agenda to organize it all, but I NEED to feel like constant progress is being made or else I will pull my hair out. (Literally, actually just plucked my first grey hair New Years Day. Blaming it on the reno disaster.)
      This past weekend we had a list of what we should be able to get done by Sunday evening so that next weekend we can move forward and the weekend after that we can too, etc. You can call us renovation weekend warriors for sure! Saturday afternoon, at about 1 o'clock, Marty's Oma and Opa called us up and asked if they could come for a visit. It's not too often we get to see them as they live a few hours away so we were thrilled they wanted to make the trek. I popped a mango + blueberry crisp in the oven, cleaned the sandpaper/screwdrivers/saw blades off of the kitchen table and threw the schedule out the window. Sunday rolled around, we saw them off, and went back at 'er. This is when my fam came for a visit. My mom brought a brisket, the boys had some shooting target practice and again, the schedule was thrown out the window. It's definitely my gut reaction to want to halt everything that isn't progress aimed but with out-loud-to-myself reminders I can truly embrace: family > progress. In 20 years we aren't going to remember that we didn't get to grout the tiles on this specific weekend. We are going to remember the stories Oma and Opa tell, the hilarious banter between the two and how much we appreciated their visit that frosty weekend back sometime winter of 20-something. We will remember all the days when my parents were young, when we didn't have any kids, and including my brother, it was just the 5 of us around my parent's old oak table that Marty and I may have stolen from them and replaced it in their kitchen with their outdoor patio table set... once upon a time. ;)

      Reaching various finish lines of this renovation will allow us to move our focus/energy/time/money to other things in life but getting to the end won't magically make us happier and there are definitely things I will miss about it. Some of my favourite moments with Marty are spent after supper, sitting in different parts of this current house and our last, dreaming up what we are going change and how we are going to tie together function and style. I know that when Marty and I are in an old folks home, still playing cribbage, still drinking dill pickle caesars, that we will reminisce about the 'good old days' when we spent so much of our early married days painting, laying flooring, installing new showers and building our life together.

It's a slow sailing ship but at least we are enjoying the scenery,
-A.F.


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