No matter what plans you have, kids or no kids, they almost always revolve around food. Food sustains us, but it also holds so much more. Comfort food is called that for a reason. Comfort food contains the five senses within it plus a sixth: memory.

When I’m eating sweet potatoes slathered in butter – real butter, stick butter, not spreadable canola, but real, all I can think of is sitting up in my parents’ bed, sick, and this was my medicine. The sweet flesh sweeter than any candy, the soft mash letting me eat and swallow without any work or pain whatsoever. Were they sweet potatoes or yams? How was I supposed to know?! I was 11 or something. It was better than chicken soup, and less messy in bed besides. Then, drifting off to sleep with the empty plate still on my lap. Empty because the potato skin is just as yummy as the rest of it. It was the one little kid yuck that I didn’t mind; eating the potato skins long before potato skins became its own food group.

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5 Free or Low-Cost Things to Do


1. Library

2. Mall – good place for walking when the weather won’t cooperate, window shopping, and taking photos for your Instagram.

3. Redbox

4. Use your Amazon Prime and/or Netflix memberships

5. Park. Yes, even in the winter. Everyone needs fresh air. Don’t forget to check your wind chills and dress appropriately for the weather.


Vacationing at Home


Times are a bit different than when I was a kid. Things are more expensive, kids are busier…parents are busier. There are divorced and single families, families with two jobs for each adult. Teenagers who work. We’re swamped. When I was a kid, I was pretty much guaranteed a winter vacation in Florida, visiting my family and going to Disney World and Sea World, Cypress Gardens and the Fountain of Youth. We never flew anywhere, so my parents would pull us out of school a day early, maybe even bring us back a day late and we’d leave at four in the morning and drive all day. We’d spend the night near South of the Border usually, once we stayed in Georgia, but there were brush fires and that put Georgia off for my parents after that.

Two days of driving, staying in a motel where you parked in front of the door. I don’t know how we survived those first floor, open windows, doors that led to the parking lot motor inns. We were sent to the office for ice, tourist information. At some point one of two of us were sent outside (to separate us from the other one) and we were expected to sit in the fresh air on the plastic lawn chairs that were paired under the big picture window that my mother always insisted we draw the drapes. Free roaming even near the swimming pool.

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Travel – Money- Saving Ideas


Taking a family on vacation can be a ridiculous amount of money. Even when I’ve traveled alone and stayed with friends, it can sometimes be more expensive than I’d like.

Car travel gives you the space to bring more with you and save money on the other end. These can all be adapted to other forms of travel. The only difference (at the moment) would be liquids on airplanes. Check the TSA website for your specific airport information.

Starting a trip, I always try to eat breakfast at home. Whether that’s picking up bagels at the supermarket and toasting them at home or using up the milk with our cereal, it’s better than getting half an hour into a trip and everyone’s starving. Frozen waffles and home brewed or instant coffee are two other ways to save money before you leave.

Once you’re on the trip, if you’re traveling by car, what can you bring with you? Sure, you can pick stuff up when you get there, but it’s not always practical. I will bring a 12-pack of soda and a bottle of juice for the kids. It really is so much cheaper than getting individual ones out of the hotel vending machines. You can always use the ice machine, and most hotel rooms come equipped with a mini-fridge and a microwave.

The microwave can be a good thing to have if you bring popcorn for snacks or microwavable Easy Mac mac&cheese. Everybody loves mac&cheese.

Other snacks that pack well include Cheerios, pretzels, crackers, and water bottles. Cheese doodles and chocolate are pretty much the worse snacks. The doodles are incredibly messy and the chocolate will melt, even in the winter.

Bring your own shampoo and soap.

Don’t buy anything in a convenience store and avoid supermarkets for anything that’s not food. Stick to Target and Wal-Mart for what you need, if you shop at those stores.

Bring an empty water bottle and fill it up at the water fountain on the other side of security. If you each have your own reusable water bottles, you can buy a gallon of water and share it around instead of buying individual disposable water bottles.

Look around when you’re packing and see what you can bring instead of buying. By the same token, be careful not to overpack. Weigh out what’s worth buying.

UFYH – A Site to Help Organize and Clean Your Habitat


UFYH stands for Unfuck Your Habitat. It’s a great place for real solutions to real problems of all sizes and clutter levels using real talk. This is your warning for language as you can see by the site’s name.

Some quick links, but visit the site yourself to get the most out of it.

About UFYH – as it says in this about section, this Tumblr (and related app for $.99) is for motivation, support, and accountability.
Welcome Packet

One good start is what the blogger calls a 20/10. Twenty minutes cleaning/ten minute break.

Start with small chunks and you’ll be on your way.

Good luck to getting your life (and stuff) more organized and less cluttered.

Make Self-Care a Thing


Why is so hard to put ourselves first; to take care of our own needs? Most of us usually wait until the stress has hit its boiling point. Instead of letting it go that far, it would be better to take care of ourselves along the way. That won’t eliminate all the stress and angst, but it can go a long way in alleviating those feelings of being put upon.

Some things that might work for you:

  1. Tune-out. Turn off the television, the internet, the cell phone. Find a quiet spot to just close your eyes for at least ten minutes. [Note: I have to mention that when I wrote this in my notebook, I wrote ten months. That might be a bit excessive. ;)]
  2. Re-read a favorite book. The one that I go back to every year or so is Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman.
  3. Go outside and sit. If it’s a cooler day, wear a lightweight jacket, gloves and a jaunty hat. Watch the wildlife scurry by and the birds glide, counting leaves, following the branches as they reach towards the sky.
  4. Listen to music. Mumford and Sons, Adele, Classic Rock – whatever floats your boat. Pop in your earphones and put your playlist on shuffle.
  5. I used to love this and you could do the pages as backgrounds without even having the pictures ready. Check out Creative Memories for supplies and ideas.
  6. Wander around a local museum or a large library or other interesting places in your local area.
  7. Take yourself to the movies. Have popcorn.
  8. Netflix. Catch up on a series you’ve always wanted to watch. Orange is the New Black anyone? Or re-watch a childhood favorite. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Escape to Witch Mountain are two of my favorites; or catch something new like Catching Fire.

One of the things that I do in an attempt at taking care of myself is my recent retreat. That’s a week while the kids are in school, but I also take a day and attend a local flower show in the spring.

As I’ve mentioned before, I visit Starbucks, less now because of finances, but it is still something I consider a special treat and self-care place.

My attendance at Mass will usually put things into perspective for me as well as centering my spirit and preparing me for the day.

I feel sometimes that I don’t have the time for me, but I think the bigger problem is whatever I’m doing gets interrupted and restarted and usually I’ okay with that kind of multi-tasking, but sometimes I’m the guy from Network.

I think I’ll take an hour and catch up on Constantine.

Rec – Mental Health Resources


First and foremost, if you are in immediate danger to yourself or others, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

After my best friend, this was the second number in my speed dial directly after my diagnosis. My doctor told me that the medicine would help, but first, I would feel better about suicide and to be sure to have that number handy. Depression is a scary place, but it is much less scary in the light, and diagnosed and treated than hidden away or hiding from it.

Second, I think that these resources can be used successfully by all varieties of mental illness and mental health issues. We are all individuals and react differently to different stimulus. Try it, and if you don’t like it, try something else. You will find the support you need.

Some of the other resources/strategies I’ve found helpful:

1. I found wandering into church a good place to sit and contemplate. You don’t have to be a Christian to do this by the way. I knew, but it was confirmed the first several times I went during an off-hour that no one will bother you. No one will interrupt your contemplation, meditation, prayer. No one will ask you to leave and no one will ask you why you are there. It gave me a place to go when I had nowhere to go just to be, and to think.

2. Be alone in a crowd. I’ve recommended Starbucks before, and for a $2 cup of coffee you can sit and sip as long as you like in most places.

3. My Resource List (link here and on the left). There are phone numbers for depression hotlines, suicide prevention, grief support, and I hope to add more websites. Please comment with those that have helped you, and I can add them to my list. Currently, it’s exclusive to the US, but if my readers are from elsewhere in the world and want to share their resources, I will be glad to add them.

4. I get a lot out of writing therapy. It’s not necessarily a diary or journal, but all kinds of writing makes me feel alive. Is there something that you love to do? Try it again.

5. Later on this afternoon, I’ll be posting a Coping Skills Toolbox that I found online. This is an excellent resource and a positive thing you can do to help for those rough patches.


Good luck and my best to all of you.


You Clean Up Good – 8 Hygiene Tricks for People with Body Issues


This was written by a friend of mine, and he’s given me permission to share it with you.

For whatever reason that you find it hard to clean up (one of my sporadic issues (I do have more than one) is that I have a water phobia, and the act of getting in the shower is just too much sometimes, and to be honest, that is minor compared to others’ reactions), these eight tricks and tips might be helpful.

PTSD, traumatic memories, abuse, scars, eating disorders, phobias, delusions, anxiety, body image issues, gender or other dysmorphia…there are plenty of reasons that for some people, naked is HARD.  And forced to confront your naked body directly enough to clean it is HARDER.  But life doesn’t have a lot of room for people who struggle with basic hygiene, and even if you don’t deal with other people, there is a point where if you don’t clean yourself, you become at risk for skin infections and other issues, so I thought I’d offer a few tips, some from personal experience, some from my therapist because this is a thing I’ve struggled with myself:

  1. Love your products.For me, it’s LUSH stuff.  I love the way that shit smells, the way it feels, the textures, the colors, everything.  Even the company policies and marketing.  I want to smell like that and put it all over me.  If you’re already struggling, you don’t need to be gagging on the smell or shuddering from the texture of dollar store body wash.  If there’s any way you can afford it or find free samples or anything, use whatever products you love most.
  2. Distance yourself.If touching your body bothers you, use a loofa, a puff, or a brush instead of your bare hand or a thin cloth or mitt.
  3. Turn the lights off and cover the mirrors.It may seem silly, but sometimes just not seeing can help.  If you can’t do it in the dark or if total dark freaks you out, try a candle (outside the shower) or nightlight. Mirrors should be self explanatory, especially because bathroom light is often very unflattering.
  4. Don’t tempt yourself.If you have a history of or urges towards self harm, don’t have razors, scrubs, or harsh sponges/scrubbers in the shower or in easy reach after.
  5. Distract yourself.Get a waterproof case for your phone.  Sing in the shower.  Draw on the wall with soap crayons.  Draw on YOU with soap crayons.  Have an audiobook.  Use the time to drill yourself on trivia, prep for a test, or work on that thing you’re writing.  Try to remember the alphabet backwards in another language.
  6. Ink up.If you can and are so inclined, consider getting one or more tattoos.  They can give you a real sense of positive ownership of your body, and you can focus on the art and its meaning when you see yourself naked rather than paying attention to the canvas.
  7. Set a timer.  Things are often a billion times more endurable if you know when they’ll end, having to rush can sometimes help keep you from dwelling on emotions, and it helps prevent zoning out and getting the shitty surprise when the hot water runs out.
  8. Make it necessary.  Paint on yourself or sharpie on yourself.  Pour on something with a gross texture like lube or vegetable oil.  Put paint in your hair.  The focus on getting ____ off can help, and it makes it harder to keep finding reasons to not.

Sometimes, though it’s not going to happen.  So consider a dry shampoo or dry body wash, a quick change of clothes, some extra deodorant, a spritz of body spray, some powder, and try again tomorrow.  You’re not a failure because today didn’t happen, and succeeding tomorrow is not lessened by today.

And if you do it, reward yourself.  You deserve it.  You did the thing and it was a hard thing, and that’s awesome.


Source: Andrew Blake (