Tired & Uninspired ~ by Sam

I need to figure out tonight’s dinner.

I feel like this didn’t used to be so difficult, but, honestly, my brain does not seem to be operating at full capacity these days. I have a wipe-off board that I usually keep in the kitchen on which any member of the family can dinner suggestions, should they feel so inspired. That helps. It’s also great that, sometimes, someone else takes charge of dinner…or lunch. We realized recently that, with people in the family having different schedules, commitments, etc., what works well sometimes can be for someone to make lunch (or maybe even breakfast) for the family, and then we can all fend for ourselves, or eat leftovers for other meals. I still try to cook maybe three dinners/week. Since I never learned to cook just enough for our family of five, that tends to leave us with some leftovers from which to choose for the rest of the week, and everyone else here knows how to cook, as well, so it all seems to work out fairly well…most of the time.

Lately, I have felt…uninspired.

This is Cacio e Pepe, in case you were wondering

Or, perhaps, unmotivated? Honestly, I think, by the time dinnertime rolls around, I am exhausted, physically, mentally, emotionally ~ I’m just done. I think maybe I need to plan better. Last night, for instance, I made a fairly nice (albeit late) dinner, complete with dessert. Of course, we didn’t eat the dessert until today, but that’s okay. Cake for breakfast is fine. I’m a coffee and cake kinda person, anyway. I just think, when one night, you greet the family with: “I’ve prepared Cacio e Pepe…” (which isn’t fancy, but is delicious, and it is an actual dish of food), and there’s a lemon poundcake cooling on the table, and then the next night, you’re like, “…uh…here’s a jar of peanut butter. Do you want a spoon?” They might notice some level of inconsistency. Not that they are complaining. They are capable, and happy to cook for themselves.

Which is cool, because, I will probably be napping somewhere by the time you are reading this.

That’s a lie ~ I don’t nap. I just wish I could nap, while I watch late-night TV, and curse the inability to concentrate on something meaningful like reading, or an online class, or…literally ANYTHING other than I Dream of Jeannie for the 904,000th time. (No offense to anyone involved in I Dream of Jeannie, or anyone who loves it. I’m obviously still watching it. For the 904,000th time.) I’d just like to be doing a better job with the cooking thing, you know? I actually like cooking for my family. Besides which, I keep buying food, and making plans to cook it, so, you know, I should do that.

Unfortunately, the wipe-off board was taken down when the new pantry was installed, and we haven’t gotten it rehung yet. So, I’m a running low on dinnertime inspiration. And, you know, the energy with which to actually make dinner. Other than that, I’ve totally got this.

Well, there’s always cake, I suppose.

One Tiny Step ~ by Sam

My feet, relaxing on the patio

Today, I had my first Pulmonary Rehab appointment to address long term effects of COVID-19.

Typing that sentence feels a little bit unreal as I sit here relaxing on the patio. In the same way that living this past 14.5+ months of my life has felt unreal.

Yes, I understand there is a global pandemic, and we’ve all had, to some degree, a sense of disconnection from reality, but I’d like to tell my story, or at least, part of it.

In March of 2020, I was working as a rideshare driver, doing my family’s grocery shopping, taking one kid back and forth to school & activities (including cookie boothing, because she was a Girl Scout, and band-related events), and driving another to daily medical appointments. My husband and another kid were working outside home, and one other kid was going to school, as well. Of course, as you probably all remember, March of 2020, is when ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE here in the U.S., and there was suddenly a global pandemic. About mid-month, schools and businesses shut down here. Because my health is not fantastic, we decided it would probably be a good idea if I stopped working…but, I was still doing all of the other stuff I usually did, and keep in mind, this was during the time when they told us NOT to wear masks ~ to save them for medical professionals. So, I did as I was told. I didn’t go out excessively, but I took people where they had to go, until things shut down, and they didn’t have to go anywhere.

However it happened, sometime during the week of March 23rd, I started to feel like, “Wow, my asthma is REALLY flaring up! Is the air particularly bad?” And a couple of days later, “…it’s weird, because my asthma doesn’t usually make me cough, so much as just wheeze.” By the end of the weekend, I had developed a fever, not a high fever, but…I had shortness of breath, fever, cough… I was trying not to overreact, but, with the fever, and the cough having become persistent, my husband and I made the decision that he should sleep in another room, and I should call an advice nurse in the morning.

On March 30, 2020, I had a telephone appointment with a doctor. It was very confusing, and I was given different advice, first told not to go in to the ER, then told that I should go in to be assessed. I was told that, whether or not I went in, because I had “no known exposure,” I would not be tested for COVID-19. When asked if I had a fever, I told the doctor that I did not currently have a fever, because I had taken fever reducing medication, but that I’d had a fever. When asked if I felt short of breath while seated I said yes, but not so short of breath that I would pass out. When asked if my chest hurt, I said yes. When asked if I could stand and walk about the room, I did, but, yes, it made me more short of breath. It caused me to cough more. This is when he advised me to come in to the ER to be assessed, after having previously told me not to come in. I asked him to explain where/how to come in, because I knew protocols where different, and he told me to nevermind, don’t come in, he believed I could treat at home, but that he would put in an order for a chest X-ray (which I was later told had not been ordered), and I could come in anytime to have that done ~ and that, at anytime, if my fever went above a certain point (I believe it was 103℉), I should go in to the Emergency Room. He then went on to explain to me that I was to Home Isolate for COVID-19, and told me that there would be specific instructions explaining exactly how to do this, but that it was very important that I stay separate from other people in my household, if possible (he asked me if it was possible), and that he would be sending some prescriptions to the pharmacy for me. He asked if I understood. I told him I wasn’t sure. He said because I could not be tested, based on my symptoms, they had to assume I had COVID-19, so I would have to Home Isolate, to avoid the possibility of infecting others. He explained to me again about how I should call if symptoms worsened ~ and not to hesitate to do so ~ and that Home Isolation instructions would be sent to me. He asked if I understood. I told him I did.

Because I thought I did. As much as I could.

I received a one page summary of Home Isolation for COVID-19 instructions. It was pretty intense. I followed it to the letter, for 19 days. I also received prescription cough medication, which didn’t last anywhere near as long as my cough, and a prescription for Flonase, which confused me, as I had not reported any nasal symptoms whatsoever (in fact, I had said very specifically that, no, I did not have runny nose, itchy, watery eyes, or any of those hallmark seasonal allergy symptoms), so I called to ask about that. The nurse who answered my call didn’t understand it, either, but offered to ask. The response I got was that it was for “the nasal symptoms.” I explained again that I didn’t have any of those. The nurse really didn’t know what to say, but asked what symptoms I did have. I explained. I am not 100% sure if this is when this happened, but, at one point, there was a nurse with whom I spoke who seemed to duck around a corner, out of earshot of others, and say quietly to me, “I’m so sorry. I don’t know what to tell you…just…it really sounds like you have COVID. Please, please follow the instructions you were given very carefully, and if you feel worse, please call back.” The weirdest thing about the whole experience was that, although I was given the instructions to Home Isolate for COVID-19, the doctor wrote up the encounter in his notes as though I had allergies & asthma. He reported symptoms that I did not report, and stated that I did not report any shortness of breath. And he prescribed me not one, but two allergy medications, both for managing symptoms I did not have.

The prescription cough meds helped somewhat, until they ran out. So did the support of a family member who was going through much the same very far away, as we virtually held hands via Facebook messenger. My fevers rose to 102.9℉ …at least, when I had the presence of mind to take my temperature. There were times when I awoke just positively drenched in sweat, and you know, you don’t usually take your temperature while you’re alone and sleeping through fever dreams ~ and nobody knows that’s happening when you’re alone in there. Don’t get me wrong. My family checked in on me, often. We had a little table set up right outside the door, and they brought me food, tea, water, notes, craft supplies, so I wouldn’t get bored. We FaceTimed or Zoomed or played online gamed together when I felt up to it…but they couldn’t be there every second. It wouldn’t have been safe for them to do that. Because I actually had COVID-19.

I got sicker. I lost my sense of taste and smell. My cough got worse. I was fatigued, confused, exhausted, panicked…and the thing was, at a certain point, kind of early on, I thought, “Holy cow ~ people are going to notice that I’m not online!” That probably sounds utterly ridiculous, but what I mean is…I am used to chatting w/ my mom, liking my cousins’ posts, loving pictures of friend’s & family members’ kids, gardens, latest projects, debating whatever the latest hot topic is… And I am not totally egocentric, but I knew that at least a few of these people, like, say, my mom, would notice if I just suddenly disappeared. At first, I thought, maybe I’ll just post a photo every now and then. I can…you know, vaguebook. Look, I’m taking an online art class. Here’s something I’m crocheting. Ah, …um…a nice photo one of the kids sent me, maybe? It became clear this was going to go on longer than anticipated, and so, I told people what was going on. Which was mostly good. I got a lot of support. It was also a really weird time to be going through what I was going through, and I got a fair amount of, “…but you weren’t diagnosed, so you don’t REALLY have COVID, right?” ~ which frankly was about like how I didn’t have epilepsy for all the years I was having seizures before I was formally diagnosed with epilepsy, BTW ~ and it sucked, especially, while I was living through having COVID-19.

The other especially frustrating thing to hear then (and now) was “but luckily, you had a mild case of COVID, right?” Luckily, I didn’t end up having to spend time in a hospital. Luckily, I survived. Luckily, I am here, to tell you this story. So many others were not so lucky. I will never forget how lucky I am. That said, I did not have a mild case of COVID-19. Maybe I should have gone in to the ER that first night, I don’t know. I am still so confused about that first appointment, and why that doctor noted things in my chart the way he did. I do know I couldn’t be tested at that time for several reasons. There weren’t many tests available at that time, so they were only testing people with “known exposure,” which would have meant I knew I had been in contact w/ someone who had COVID-19. SInce it was difficult to get tested, it was also difficult to confirm that you’d been in contact with someone who’d had COVID-19. He told me they were testing some symptomatic people in high-risk jobs, when I told him I was a rideshare driver, and he asked me when I last drove. I told him I wasn’t sure, but if he’d hold on just a sec, I could check. He told me that wouldn’t be necessary. I told him it would only take a moment, but he shut me down. I wonder if that date might have changed my eligibility for testing, but I guess I’ll never know. What I do know is that it has been an uphill battle getting to where I am today. First I had to go downhill, which I did.

The cough got so bad, at one point that I had to call my husband in to help. I couldn’t stop coughing, couldn’t catch my breath, and I was coughing up pink junk. I was terrified about having him come in to the room, because I worried about exposing him (knowing that, of course, if I was sick, the family had likely already been exposed, but, so far, they didn’t seem to be sick, and I had been told it was important to remain isolated from them), but I needed help. I texted him, and he masked up and came in to the room. He called an advice nurse, who asked a lot of questions while I continued to cough and choke on the bed. He tried to relay questions to me. Could I stand and walk? I tried. I couldn’t, and fell back on the bed. Could I…was I…I can’t remember exactly…I think the question was something like was I confused? He told me more about this later, because I honestly don’t remember much. I think I replied with something like, “I can’t. I don’t feel good.” Eventually he hung up. They had told him that, if the symptoms (me coughing up pink junk incessantly?) continued for more than 4 days, he should (brace yourselves) call back. I have to assume they were seeing and hearing so much worse in the hospitals everyday, and there just wasn’t anything they could do. But no, I didn’t have a mild case of COVID-19. I’ve heard a mild case can be comparable to a cold or flu. I’ve had a very bad flu. I’ve had bronchitis and pneumonia, at the same time. I’ve never had anything like this. One day, I collapsed on the floor at the foot of the bed ~ because the advice was to not be too sedentary, try to get up and move around a bit, so I was just walking around the bed, a tiny bit. My phone was on the nightstand on the opposite side of the bed. I wasn’t sure I would make it up there to let anybody know I was having trouble, or to use my inhaler, so I just stayed on the floor, and made a deal with God: Just please get me through this. Because, You know, I haven’t been the best mom, wife, daughter, sister, friend, person I could have been. Just, please, let me get me through this, and give me a chance to try again to be better at it, and I promise I will. And then I lay down on the floor, and cried…which frankly, was hard, since I was having trouble breathing, already, but what’re ya gonna do? (and no, at the time, I did not feel like I was being overdramatic.)

So, this has been a long post, because this has been a long road. I’ve spent more than 14.5 months trying to get better since I got COVID-19, right at the beginning of our part of the global pandemic. I’ve tested negative for COVID many times (as a precaution, before various tests). Things are opening up, I am fully vaccinated, and I am starting to spread my wings a little bit (we went to the beach over the weekend, for instance, but I stay far away from people, and wear a mask). I get exhausted doing the laundry. I wake up exhausted. I dropped 11 lbs. while I was sick, dropping from the 102 to 91 lbs. by the end of Home Isolation. I have struggled to regain weight. My seizures, which were well-controlled with medication prior to COVID-19, were not well-controlled after (which resulted in a formal diagnosis of epilepsy, at long last, so…that’s good). It still hurts when I breathe. My lungs burn when I take a deep breath. I am a tiny bit terrified of people, because one of them, somewhere gave me that horrible thing. I used to love rollerskating with my kids, riding my bike, I walked fast, talked loudly, sang along loudly with the radio, laughed loudly. I loved gardening, and building things, I climbed trees, rowed boats, went hiking, swimming (okay, I was not very good at that in recent years, but I still liked it). I love cooking, but I’m usually too tired to do it. I used to get in my walks while talking on the phone with family or friends back home ~ it kept me in better touch with people, and in better shape. Now, I get winded both walking and talking.I want to go back to work, and even, possibly, back to school, but I can barely get through my basic daily chores. I haven’t picked up my banjo, which I love, more than a few times since I was sick. I’m still the same person, and I still want to do all of those things. It’s just going to take some time. I need to have the energy to do things, and I need to feel well. I haven’t felt well in such a long time. Maybe “well” is too much to hope for. I need to feel better, at least.

Today, I had my first Pulmonary Rehab appointment to address long term effects of COVID-19. I will be going a couple of times a week. I’m not sure for how long, because I forgot to ask. Today’s appointment was mostly about getting things set up, filling out paperwork, and doing an initial evaluation. I’m told the first couple of weeks will be very hard, but, with time, and lots of hard work, I should see improvement. This is the best news I’ve had about my health in 14.5+ months. My chest hurts, just from doing the eval today, so I can imagine what’s to come will be a challenge, but I have never shied away from a challenge.

Here’s to brighter days ahead.

My feet, relaxing at the beach.

To Post, or Not to Post… by Sam

I’m trying ~ and succeeding much of the time ~ to be better at just not responding to posts/comments on social media that irritate me/rub me the wrong way/genuinely piss me off. Most of the time, nothing I say there (or here, for that matter) is likely to make a huge impact, change minds, move mountains, and I know that. I try to avoid snarky comments, snappy comebacks, rudeness, meanness, etc. I will answer questions, if asked. I try to be polite, and to the point. I’m not likely to stop posting about things that are important to me, even if they do lean in to politics, because I think it’s okay to do that. I think it’s okay to have conversations about politics, religion, culture, community, racism, prejudice, equality, social justice/social reform, and how all of these things impact and inform our experience as humans living in the world together.

It started like this:

For Lent, 2021, I gave up arguing with people on social media.

I thought, “Eh…candy…coffee…I’ve done all that… What’s something I haven’t tried? Something that I could really offer up, and that would make a meaningful difference in not only my life, but the lives of others, as well?”

I didn’t think I argued with people on social media very much. You guys…I know. I am humbled by this experience. I have talked before ~ ‘though, perhaps, not here, about how easy it is to get caught up in arguments online. How we become disengaged from the idea that, beyond the screen, there’s another human being, just as valued and valuable as ourselves. I have tried to be careful in how I behave online…but I’ve failed, and I’ve allowed myself to fall into that abyss.

It’s a conundrum, because there are definitely times when I think it is important to counter misinformation on broad social media platforms. There is value in that. I’ve never been a name-caller, and I have tried to keep discourse polite. It gets difficult on the the internet, however, because people can’t always detect tone in the written word, and what one person types with neutral, kind, or jovial intent, another might interpret as hostile, patronizing, or unkind. I’ve found myself on both sides of this table. The problem in that situation is that the offended party might never believe the true intent of the “offender” was not malicious. I try to, if the person tells me that nothing rude was intended. Most of the time. I’m getting better at it, anyway. (There will always be “situations.”)

So, let’s examine the Lenten Experiment, and what it taught me.

I have to be honest, I thought it would be easier than it was. I honestly did not realize how often I needlessly commented on something, when I could simply choose to scroll by, or not engage. Again, I understand that some situations warrant a comment, and I will comment. For instance, tell me, a la Rick Santorum that, “There isn’t much Native American culture in American culture,” and I will definitely have something to say about it. On the other hand, if someone is posting about a topic on which I already know we disagree, we’ve already hashed it out over and over, and I KNOW I am not going to change the minds of them, or any of their like-minded friends, I can probably scroll by…most of the time (back to this later…maybe).

So, on Day One, I got up, all ready to head in to the world of kind-posting, and “only good vibes” (my kids and all of their peers are cringing ~ I promise I didn’t really even think those words) with a cup of coffee in one hand, and my phone in the other. That lasted, like, 14 seconds. Apparently, I am an utter jackass. I mean, maybe not a complete jackass, but this was much harder than I thought it would be, because, you guys, when I disagree with people, I really don’t mind saying so. I really never have. I don’t think that’s a terrible trait, but…Okay. Maybe I don’t have to quite so often. Probably not. That’s probably a good idea. I mean, it’s important to feel confident voicing your opinion when it is important, but it’s also important to know when it is important to do so, and when it’s not. Right? What was going to be difficult about the Lenten Experiment was that I wasn’t allowed to disagree with anything, no matter what. I just had to either like/love everything, or scroll on by. Luckily, I quickly devised a strategy that worked very well. When something really got my ire up, and I found myself typing up a comment (or a post ~ which hey, you know, things happen), I would, instead, copy/paste the text in to a word document, delete the text from social media, type to my heart’s content in word, and then not save. In the beginning, I wrote a lot; and drank a lot of coffee. I also slipped up a few times, and posted things to social media, and said a few Hail Marys, but didn’t worry too much about my soul, because I trust that my God is a good and loving God, and knows I am doing the best that I can, in the face of an adverse foe (that is, social media, the internet, a global pandemic, and my brain, not the other people doing the posting on the other end, btw).

As time wore on, I found myself relying less and less on this strategy. I might start to type a comment, but I’d simply remember I wasn’t supposed to, and delete. I got better at scrolling by, and not engaging. I stopped reading comments on posts I knew would only frustrate me. Life became simpler, happier; and, ‘though I hadn’t spent loads of time on social media before, I found I spent even less now. While I do enjoy using it to engage with far away family and friends, the stressful frustrating conversations it brings with it are sometimes overwhelming for me, so this was a positive change.

So here we are now, in mid-May. For the most part, I have stayed the course. While I don’t always scroll by, I am much more selective and careful about when and how I respond, when I do. I might have started to get a bit careless recently, and so I realize I have to stop, periodically, and check in with myself. I need to remind myself to really only make a stand when it’s important. Wow. That sounded so dramatic. Hopefully it makes sense. What I mean is, it’s not worth arguing with people I don’t know about insignificant things, that don’t matter; and it’s not worth arguing with people I care about on matters on which I know I can’t change minds ~ ‘though I admit, if I see misinformation being spread via social media, I am likely to share more accurate information, if I have access to it (see above Rick Santorum quote).

In the end, it’s complicated, trying to navigate social media while also maintaining relationships with friends and family members, especially if we don’t see many of them often. These are waters I find myself treading more carefully, lately, while the Gen X teen inside me shouts: “Okay, Boomer!” every time I choose to scroll by something that might have been important enough to warrant a comment.

*heavy sigh*

’21 ~ by Sam…or Kate

I didn’t post on New Year’s Eve, as I often have in years past. There’s a lot I could have said about 2020, but I’m working on learning not to say anything, if I’ve nothing nice to say. Yes, at 50, I am still working on that. Sure, there were some good things that happened in 2020. Of course, there were. As a whole, however, I feel no need to look back fondly over it and struggle to find the golden nuggets amongst the everyday struggle and outright horror that dominated much of our lives, and the lives of those around us. No, I am not exaggerating. It’s okay if you want to decide I am. I’ve made my peace with that.

The year ’21 brings with it New Hope, as new years always do, but also, for me, new responsibilities, and a renewed sense of determination. I don’t think I will write a list of “Resolutions” for the year, at this time. I thought I would just come here, and note some observations I’ve made about myself, about life, about what I’ve learned, and where I hope it leads me. Perhaps, that is roughly the same thing.

I won’t be looking to others to verify my worth. If others cannot see my value, then, I suppose, that will be their loss, and not mine. After 50 years, it finally occurs to me that I am worthy, whether others can see, understand, or acknowledge that.

No love that comes from without will ever be as deeply powerful as the love that comes from within. For me, this, and the previous statement are grounded somewhat in my faith, as I believe we are all of God, and that God lives in each of us; but I think anyone regardless of their beliefs might still find both of these ideas helpful, which is why I’m sharing them.

If you can get to that place where you love and value yourself, then I think, maybe, you can move on to achieving other things that have been eluding you. I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m not saying I’m there, or that when I get there, I will stay there. I’m not sure anyone does.

Sometimes kindness is more powerful than truth; but sometimes truth is essential. It’s important to proceed cautiously in these matters, and tread lightly where others are concerned. People are delicate, whether we want to believe it, or not. Sometimes, truth can be spoken with kindness. Sometimes, it is best to err on the side of kindness, while, at other times, the truth will set you (or others) free.

It will always be important to me to live up to my own ideals, in so far as I can (to paraphrase Theodore Roosevelt). I’ve always been this way, and I always will. While it will always matter to me what people think of me ~ because I genuinely do care about them ~ it won’t change what I think of myself, or whether I think I am of value. Nor will it change my ideals, my values, or my intentions to live according to them.

I will make mistakes. I will say the wrong things, do the wrong things, act inappropriately, and hurt people ~ probably both with and without meaning to (and sometimes without even realizing I did). All of these are things of which I am aware. I’m human. I try very hard to do the right things. I make mistakes, and when I do, I try to make things right. I don’t always get that right, either. I’ll keep trying.

I figure this is just how being a human works. We just keep growing, and learning, and trying to get it right. We keep failing, making mistakes, and trying again. Sometimes we succeed. Sometimes ~ a lot of the time ~ it’s glorious. Sometimes, it is absolutely stunning. For those moments, we get up every day, and keep on trying.

So, that’s my plan for the year ’21, and beyond. I’m just going to get up every day, and keep trying to get it right. I am going to keep trying to do better, to be a little bit better, a little bit kinder, a little more like the person I want to be than I was the day before.

Happy New Year to you all. May this be your best year yet.

…but not all “good exciting…”

It’s been an…um…exciting?…week. Let’s go with “exciting.” In the way Kaia used the word that time when she was little, and accidentally sledded under a truck ~ ‘though nothing quite so dramatic has happened this week, thank goodness. Just, as she said at the time, exciting, but not all “good exciting.”

Over the weekend, I was eating something fairly innocuous, like bread, and a small piece of my tooth just fell out of my head; so I thought, you know, I probably ought to call the dentist about that. It struck me as not the sort of thing that ought to happen whilst one eats bread. I figured it wasn’t a dental emergency, since it was only a very small chunk of tooth, so I waited until Monday to call, because, you know…whatever. I kind of feel like I’ve reached the stage at which little bits of bits of me are always giving out, falling off, etc. So, yeah…not exactly an emergency.

Called and left a message for the dentist Monday morning, and he called back, thinking it would be a good idea if I came in right away, so he could take a look. Unfortunately, he only had time at exactly the same time as my physical therapy (PT) appointment that day ~ and it was the first in-person physical therapy appointment I’d had in months, so I didn’t think I ought to cancel. We scheduled for the next day, instead.

At PT, I worked really hard, and made plans to work even harder at home on my own to continue my ongoing recovery from frozen shoulder. It’s been over a year now since the onset, and I have to say, I’ve worked through a lot of issues, but this one’s been super tough. The pain of CRPS has been worse, but frozen shoulder is exactly what is says it is. I mean, it just literally will not move, and your job is basically to make it move, anyway. Which, in case you have never done this before, is not easily accomplished. So, I’m doing fairly well, and recovered a lot of range of motion (but may never recover all), but still not much strength, and I still have a good deal of pain. Of course, I completely forgot to mention one MAJOR issue to him…but more about that later. Basically, it went well (except for that one thing I forgot), and I will see him again at the end of the month. I took home a stronger elastic band, and I’ll be getting an exercise ball and more tennis balls to add to my over-the-door pulley, little hand-or-foot pedal thingy, towel, light weights, the cane I use w/ ankle weights strapped on to it to created a weighted bar…and yoga. I can do some yoga, and of course a bunch of stretching and other exercises.

So, the next day, I got in to see the dentist, who confirmed that I had, indeed, lost a small chunk of one of my back teeth. It’s a very small chunk, so he’s hoping he can take care of it with a fairly good sized filling. We’ll find out next Tuesday. In the meantime, I am brushing, flossing, and rinsing with Listerine.

Then, it was home just in time for a phone appointment with my neurologist. That was just a fairly routine follow-up appointment. We aren’t changing my medication at this point, because it seems to be keeping things under control. I’m on the waitlist to see the new epileptologist at our medical center, sometime in the next few months (after the New Year, for sure). It seems like a good idea to check in, I guess, but also maybe sort of frustrating. I guess I feel like, at this point, it seems like we aren’t likely to find any new answers. They ask the same questions, I give the same answers, because they’re the only answers I have. You know, when a doctor asks me to estimate how long I thought a seizure lasted, and I say, “I have no idea…because, you know…I kind of wasn’t there.”
“Can you estimate?”
“Just give me an estimate. I have to write something.”
“Can you write that I have no idea? Because I can tell you how I felt going in, and I how I felt coming out, but I cannot tell you anything about what happened DURING that time, or how long that was…because I just don’t know.”
“Okay…and how long would you say that lasted.”
“um…I have no idea.”

“Well, then I don’t know what to put down here. Was it seconds, was it minutes?”
Usually, I give up and say something. Hence, there is confusion over what is going on with my health. I have tried to explain this problem to multiple doctors.
Their response has usually been:
“And how long would you say these episodes last?”
But, it seems like the time has come for me to give it the ol’ college try again.
I’d love for this next doctor to exceed my expectations. Frankly, Id love for any doctor to exceed my expectations, at this point. Well, that’s not entirely fair. I’ve had some very good doctors. I’ve just also had some not-so-good doctors, and some super frustrating experiences with doctors. Here’s hoping.

Wednesday was…you know, I’m having a hard time remembering much about Wednesday. I have to tell you all, I am very tired. Since I was sick back in March and April, I have been very tired. I just can’t seem to catch up. I wake up tired, then, I just get more tired throughout the day. I find it difficult to accomplish daily tasks. I try to do my PT, take a walk (even if it’s just around the backyard, because I’m not supposed to go for walks by myself, due to the whole seizure thing), keep up w/ the housework, and do something that makes me feel happy (read, play my banjo for a few minutes, cook, work in the garden, etc.), but I get exhausted and winded very easily ~ walking in the yard, or inside the house while doing chores, and especially if I try to walk & talk at the same time. This is particularly frustrating, because I used to get in a lot of my walking while talking on the phone to my mom, sister, and other far-away family and friends. Well, I’m sure I did something Wednesday. I know I talked to my parents on the phone, and that was probably the most important thing that happened. Oh, and our new pantry was delivered! …but it won’t be installed for a few more days. So, more on that in the future.

That brings us to today.

Over 1 year in to frozen shoulder recovery.

Ugh. Last night, I asked the kids for help. I wanted to be sure I could explain to the orthopedist when I saw him today what I could and could not do, so I showed them what I was having trouble with. “Oh,” they said, “You can’t Robot!” To be more specific, when my arms are outstretched (straight out to the side), I cannot bend my left arm at the elbow so that my hand drops down toward the floor, while keeping my shoulder away from my ear and my arm (shoulder to elbow) parallel to the floor, because by shoulder simply won’t rotate correctly to allow that to happen. We’re working on it. I have some muscle atrophy, and some weakness, so this is my last mountain to climb. He’s going to send some notes over to the physical therapist, and is also referring me to a neck specialist, just to be sure that none of the issues I am experiencing have to do with anything in my neck (‘though he’s fairly certain it’s all related to the rotator cuff, and muscle atrophy, of which we were aware).

So, that’s been my “exciting” week, so far.

Lost a chunk of tooth, gained a pantry (sorta…almost?), was put on the waiting list for yet another epileptologist, and learned I can’t robot.

Exciting, but not all good exciting.

How was your week?

Good Morning!

Today is Kaia’s first day back at school after a break for Thanksgiving week, and Shane’s first day back at work. I got up with Kaia this morning, and, while she was taking care of some business that needed to be attended before school, I made her breakfast, and made myself a cup of coffee. This all seems pretty normal and mundane, so far, I know. The thing is, I don’t work in mundane. That would be too boring, I guess.

Instead, here’s what I did.

I shook the bottle of green juice, loosened the cap, and set it on the counter in front of the toaster. Brewed my coffee, grabbed butter and creamer out of the fridge. Popped an English muffin in the toaster. Added a little creamer to my coffee, put the creamer away in the fridge. So far, so good, right?

Went to cook some veggie sausages, then back to the toaster to grab the English muffin. I’d already gotten the butter out of the fridge, so that was on the counter right there by the toaster, as was my coffee, so I paused to take a sip. Then I opened the dishwasher to get a clean glass; but before pouring, I thought I’d better give it another shake, since it had been sitting for a while, and I figured it had probably settled. So, I picked up the bottle of green juice, and gave it a good, swift shake.

Did you catch that? Do you want to go back and read it again?

I’ll wait here.


I shook it again. After I had already loosened the cap. Green juice went EVERYWHERE ~ including all over the counter, down the wall, on the woodwork, the floor, and even inside the open dishwasher full of clean dishes. And into my coffee.

None got on me, or on the sausages or English muffin, so I guess that was a bonus. Some did get on the butter, but it was still tightly wrapped, so that was the easiest part of clean-up, and the butter, itself, was spared.

I finished making breakfast, and made sure Kaia got something decent to eat, then poured a disgusting cup of coffee w/ green juice down the sink, and cleaned the kitchen ~ which is fine, because the kitchen pretty much always needs to be cleaned ~ and re-washed the dishes (which sucks, in a way, because they were already clean; but, let’s be honest, it’s not the end of the world).

As I was doing all of this, it occurred to me: I watched a lot of I Love Lucy when I was a kid. I think there must have been some sort of misunderstanding. Lucy’s madcap misadventures were not supposed to be used as a blueprint for how my adult life should unfold. So, I’m not sure who needs to hear this, but, if you’re listening:

…eh, nevermind. Who am I kidding? I’d probably miss the comedy.

Besides, one corner of my kitchen is cleaner now than it was when I woke up. Who knows, after I finally manage to drink some coffee, I might whip the rest of it into shape.

Routines & Motivation ~ by Sam

I feel that title is lacking, but I did the best I could. I keep thinking I should come here and write something meaningful about things that are going on in the world ~ because so many things are going on in the world ~ and then I keep thinking, “Wait, what? It’s what time? I have to make dinner…or…Oh…you all already had dinner? I guess I should eat dinner. And like…do…something…” It’s been…you know…weird around here, as I am sure it has been for most people.  It’s been weird in ways that aren’t worth writing about, because there all the same ways it’s been weird for everyone: our 16-year-old is learning remotely, husband is working from home, all 5 of us are here all the time, it’s hard to keep track of the days, the time, etc.  It’s been weird in other ways, too.

I spent 19 days home isolating under doctor’s orders for symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath from late-March through mid-April. It was…strange, and sometimes scary. I wasn’t hospitalized, and there was no known exposure, so I wasn’t tested. It got pretty bad, but not hospital bad, and for that, I thank my lucky stars. I may never know for certain if I actually had the virus or not, but , more than a month later, I still don’t feel fantastic.  I lost about 10lbs I didn’t need to lose while I was sick, and I’ve only gained back 2-3. I still get tired, and easily winded. It’s…well, it is what it is. I expected it to take some time before I felt up to speed again, but I am starting to feel a bit daunted.

On May 8th, while watching TV with two of the kids, I had what turned out to be a complex partial seizure, and ended up taking an unscheduled field trip to the ER. Not my favourite way to spend a day, by a longshot, but, after a few hours there, lots of tests, a consult w/ the attending neurologist, and a follow-up with my regular neurologist, I do FINALLY have a diagnosis. (Some of you might remember that I have in the past eluded to some unnamed medical issues ~ this is that.) So, yes, I have epilepsy. It wasn’t a great surprise, and I have been taking an anti-seizure med for some time now, but, hey, now, when filling in forms, I know which box to tick when I get to the question about whether I have epilepsy/seizure disorder.

So, now, officially, I have CRPS, fibromyalgia, Raynaud’s Disease, IBS, asthma, and epilepsy.  And I’ve been trying to recover from frozen shoulder since November, and, I have to say, that one is starting to get on my nerves, which I think might indicate progress.

I have a couple of meds I take to manage some of this stuff, and then there are some lifestyle changes that help.  Things like physical therapy, keeping a somewhat regular schedule, taking my meds on time, exercise, good nutrition, good sleep habits…Of course, the caveat is that some of these things interfere a bit with things like regular sleep, exercise, good nutrition, but, look, I’m not here to argue about this.  I’m just trying to do my best to achieve these things.  Really, I am.  I swear.  It’s just…I’m having a hard time, y’all.

Boy, I feel this has turned into a much whinier post than I intended.  Sorry about that.  I logged on here in the first place to talk a little bit about how I have been feeling unfocussed/unmotivated.  I want to establish a better daily routine. In my dreams (not the real ones, but the ones I make up) I want to get up every morning, take my meds, start my day w/ yoga, followed by a healthy breakfast. Instead, I hit the snooze button too many times, sometimes forget to take my medication until after breakfast (getting kid to school, when that’s happening), have nothing but coffee for breakfast, realize I am running around in yoga pants at 3pm, but haven’t actually done any yoga, feel light-headed, eat something stupid, because I have forgotten to eat all day, look at my messy house, get irritated and start trying to accomplish something ~ anything ~ get distracted and start doing something else, still don’t do any yoga, maybe realize it’s time to make dinner, if we’re lucky that day, but, more likely, there’s been some small disaster (a cat knocked over something and I have to clean it up, or the fence fell on the apple tree, or I took a jar of sauce I’d made out of the fridge for dinner, but didn’t have a good grip on it, dropped it on the floor, had to clean that up ~ bonus: floor’s clean), and whatever it was, there’s not going to be time left to make dinner.  I’m still wearing yoga pants.  I haven’t done any yoga. Or done my physical therapy, which I’m supposed to do every day. Or gone for a walk (which is also supposed to happen every day).  Or done any sewing, or worked on the blanket I am supposedly crocheting…and I keep wondering what it is I DO all day long.

Right now, for instance, I am sitting here doing this, and I know I need to pay bills and balance the checkbook. On the up side, at least later I will be able to look at this and know what I did ~ and I put in laundry earlier, so that will be done, assuming I remembered to start the machine.

I’ve been trying, in the past few days to “just do it,” but my body is still adjusting to a higher dosage of anti-seizure meds, and it’s kinda like, “HAH.  No, seriously.  Where’s the coffee?”

So, for now, I’m trying to take things slowly.  Of course, if you know me, you know this is driving me nuts. I’ve done yoga twice this week. That’s better than never. When I sign off here, I will probably do it again, and I might even practice my banjo, too (which would be the second time this week ~ and is a big deal, because I only started being able to hold it again last week). Maybe I’ll sew. Or maybe not. I did at least cut one of the curtain panels that needed to be hemmed yesterday, and I made dinner.

One evening recently, while I was washing veggies to prep them for the grill, I felt the ground swell under (and then kind of up through) me, and I had to call the kids to ask if we’d had been a tiny earthquake. We hadn’t, it was just me. I’m luckily everyone is here, and someone was nearby so I could go sit down, and the veggies got prepped.  We had fantastic veggie kabobs, tiny earthquake notwithstanding.

Veggie Kabobs

Unfortunately, I’m not here to give you any advice, or tell you that I have solutions to your organizational, health, or daily planning problems. Ultimately, my goal would be for things like taking my meds, doing my exercise and integrating the necessary healthy lifestyle habits into my life that will help me feel my best to become so much a part of my routine that it feels effortless. Maybe that’s a a lot to wish for, but I’ve always believed in aiming high.

Our Baby Blue Baby Waffle Iron

Yes, I’m back again, already.

When you visit our blog, you might notice this line, right under our name (The Low Life): Low stress, low budget, low impact living for a family of 5 in L.A.  And you might think to yourself one of two things.

a) Yeah, right.


b) What ever happened to that?

So, to answer the first part: yes, it’s possible.  All of it.  (really)

On to part B:

You know…so much happened.  Life happened.  Things got super busy, and super stressful; and, honestly, we kept doing a lot of the things we were doing, but…you know…well, we also might have fallen off the wagon in some ways.  In other ways, we were still doing pretty well, but just not really blogging about it.  And, while I am not going to necessarily EXCLUSIVELY write about those topics here, I thought, since they are among the things to which I am recommitting myself in the new decade ~ it’s a new decade.  fight me.  don’t really.  I’m scrawny ~ I might as well write about them.

Okay?  Okay.

Anyway.  That brings us to today’s post.  (At last.  Sheesh.  I’m sorry.  That was A LOT.)

Today, we decided to FINALLY break out the minuscule waffle iron I got ages ago.  To be specific, this is the Mini Maker Waffle by DASH. I’m not sure why it’s a Mini Maker Waffle, instead of a Mini Waffle Maker, but there you have it.  Technically, it reads: Mini Maker Waffle, so I think it is the waffle variety of Mini Maker, which implies there are other Mini Makers, and now I am very intrigued by this possibility… Anyway ~ I think I got mine at Target for about ten bucks…but not really, because it was on sale, and I get the 5% discount, and I might have had a $5 gift card that I got for a previous purchase, so the thing was practically free, you guys.  Importantly, it is robin’s egg blue, tiny, and undeniably adorable.

Not only that, but it came with this equally adorable envelope:
Which contained all sorts of important information, as well as several simple, easy-to-follow recipes.  Kaia and I decided to make the Classic Waffles on page 20 for our first foray into Mini Waffle Making. (Mini Maker Waffling?  Probably not.)
The ingredients were all wholesome, whole foods that we already had at home: flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, egg, milk, butter.  We could easily have made it dairy-free for me by subbing the butter with oil, and the milk w/ a dairy-free milk, but for the first try we kept it like this.
Kaia did all of the measuring and mixing…
…then cooked herself two perfect mini waffles.
Then Justice then went out and made herself a tiny waffle, too, and covered it with peanut butter, of course; but, sadly, I didn’t get a picture of them.  In fact, when Shane gets home, I plan to offer him one (not covered in peanut butter).

We’ve been buying the frozen waffles, because, honestly, a toaster waffle is a quick grab on a school morning ~ or any morning ~ and it’s nice that it’s not something sugary; but, obviously, something less processed would be a healthier choice.  It’s just, I’ll admit it, we’re not always up and lugging out the big waffle iron to make a passel of waffles at the crack of dawn on a school day (or any day).  Enter our new tiny friend.

Kaia has suggested we make up some batter and keep it in the fridge so we can pull it out in the morning to make fresh, hot mini waffles, instead of buying the frozen ones.  As she she pointed out, this will save all that packaging from the waffles we’ve been buying (reducing waste FTW!).  I like that they contain just a few fresh, whole ingredients, too.  For what it’s worth, I am sure it costs less to make waffles with a handful of flour and a few other ingredients I already have around my kitchen than it does to buy them frozen.




It’s the ’20s. Where’s your roar?

Nah, I’m not challenging you.  It’s me.  I’m challenging me.  And maybe the 2020s.  I’d like to see what I’ve got ~ and what they’ve got ~ to offer.  I’d like to challenge myself to be bold enough to bring all that I’ve got to offer to the table.

I’ll turn 50 this year, so I figure I’m reaching just about the top of my arc ~ oh, don’t worry, I plan to spend A LOT of time at the top ~ so I need to figure out exactly how I want to spend that time, and what kind of person I want to be.  For me, this might mean some reevaluating, and a lot of holding myself accountable.  Much of this is personal, and introspective, and probably won’t make it onto the pages here…as far as I know, at this time, anyway.  Some of it might.

You see, I’m not sure exactly where this will go.  It could be that I’ll figure out I’m doing all right, generally speaking.  Don’t get me wrong, there are things I know I need to work on, but I don’t necessarily think my life is on entirely the wrong path or anything like that.  It’s just that some of what makes us who we are will always be very personal, and, in what has become a very public world, outgoing as I may always have seemed, I remain a very private person in many ways.  So, hopefully, I will continue to grow, and learn, and improve in measurable ways…whether or not I throw it all up on the wall for everyone to see. I might not make any major, life-altering changes that would be noticeable anyone but myself, or those closest to me.  But who knows what my future will bring?  That’s the incredible promise of the future.  It’s the promise of newness, of opportunity, of endless possibilities.  After all, it’s the Roaring ’20s again, and I have to tell you, after the past decade, I am ready to roar.

I just have to figure out what, exactly, that means for me.  Don’t worry.  I have some ideas.

I can leave you with some of my tangible goals for the New Year, and while none of them are especially earth-shatteringly “new,” or exciting, they’re mine, they’re attainable, and I’m achieving them.  That’s something.

In 2020, I will:

  1. Reduce my use of single use plastic:
    a) Fewer carry-out coffees, & bring my reusable cup/straw
    b) Bring my own shopping bags
    c) Use bar soap/shampoo. Shop for products in larger size and/or refillable containers. Look for more sustainable/non-plastic alternatives
  2. Reduce overall waste; use cloth instead of paper towels, reusable containers. Shop smarter/more carefully to reduce food waste.
  3. Make a schedule for household chores, and try to keep it.
  4. Make time to exercise & time to relax.
  5. Work on patience, gratitude, and leading w/ kindness ( which I know sounds hokey, but I’m trying to refocus my own lens: how I see the world & the role I can actively play in my life)

So, that’s my jumping-off point.  I’ve got a few kinks to work out ~ nothing to worry about ~ before I can really dig in to the “exercise” and “household chores” as much as I’d like, but I am making a solid start on all of these.  I’ll be back to share some tips and info that might be helpful to others who are trying to reduce waste/save money, because that was one of the reasons we started this blog together as a family many years ago.  It will be nice to get back to that.  Of course, I’ll continue to share other parts of our journey as well.

Until then ~ Have a Blessed & Happy New Year.

Knit dress tutorial ~ by Sam

What I want to do here is attempt to walk you through the steps I used to make myself a cute, easy-fit knit dress based on an existing dress I own.

I have a cute dress that fits me well, and I had some knit fabric that I loved (I want to say I had about 2.5 yards of it, which was plenty. The amount you need will vary, and I wish I could tell you exactly how to figure that out, but I am not sure, other than laying out the pieces and seeing if it will work. Maybe read through this and see what you think. It will depend on a) your size, b) the style and length of your dress, c) features like the length and cut of your sleeves and skirt.) The point of this post is to give you an idea of the process I used to make my new dress. Hopefully, it will be helpful should you decide you want to try this.

I started with a dress that was fairly simple in shape, and also knit. I like sewing on knits, because it is forgiving, but some people find it challenging. I’ll offer a few tips I’ve learned as we go.

The fabric I chose was lighter weight than the fabric of the existing dress, but I thought it would work out all right (and it did). I decided to make a few changes in style to my new dress: I wanted the neckline slightly different, the sleeves shorter, and I decided to skip the pockets. My sister may never forgive me for purposely making a dress without pockets, but I felt the lightweight fabric would hang better without pockets, and I wanted simple, clean lines. I also decided to make the dress slightly less fitted…but only after I accidentally made it that way and decided not to adjust the size because I like it. Sometimes, an accident turns into a design choice.

Here we go. I took lots of picture, which I hope will help clarify the process.

Here’s the dress I owned. It’s cute, comfy, and fits me well.

The first step is to wash and dry your fabric exactly as you intend to launder the finished article of clothing. Always prewash you fabric before you sew to take care of any shrinking before you start cutting and sewing. If necessary, iron your fabric. You can find washing instructions on the end of the bolt of fabric when you purchase it (I sometimes snap a pic).

Now, fold your fabric lengthwise, so the selvage edges are together on one side (I hope that makes sense ~ you should have a fold on one side, and both selvages running the length of the other side). It will be a long, narrow rectangle.

*For all of the the cutting steps, you could, instead of placing the dress directly on the fabric and cutting around it, place it on paper, draw a pencil line around it, and create actual paper pattern pieces you can use again. You can buy a roll of paper that is specially made for creating patterns ~ or you can tape together smaller sheets of paper, ask for paper bags at the grocer store and cut them open, or (one of my favourite low-cost options) pick up a roll of wrapping paper at the 99-cents store. I sort of wish I had created a paper pattern for this one, and I might have to draw up one for future use. But ~ here’s exactly what I did:

You are going to cut your skirt front and back first. turn your dress inside out, so you can see all the seams. Carefully fold it down, right where the skirt meets the bodice (at the waistline), tucking in the sleeves. Trying to keep everything as flat and even as possible. It helps to work on a flat surface. I used my floor, because it is the largest flat surface I have. Next, carefully fold your skirt (because it is now basically a skirt) in half lengthwise, tucking all of the other bits (bodice, sleeves, the whole shebang) inside, being extra careful to line up side seams, hem and waistline, as best you can. Place the fold of your “skirt” right on the fold of your fabric, and cut all around the shape, being sure to leave a seam allowance (How much seam allowance? What do you like? I usually leave about 5/8″ seam allowance, but I think I cut about a 1/2″ here, which is how I got a more relaxed fit. I just kind of eyeballed it. After you’ve cut one this way, move the skirt down, being careful not to unfold it, place it along the fold of the fabric again, and repeat the cutting process. Congrats ~ you have cut your skirt front and back!

Place folded “skirt” along fabric fold

Cut skirt leaving seam allowance
Move down, repeat

The bodice is a bit trickier, but you can do it. The first thing I had to do was figure out where on my fabric I could cut two bodice pieces. I unfolded my fabric and folded each selvage edge in toward the center. (Sorry, I don’t have a picture of this: open the fabric out flat, and then bring the selvage edged to meet in the center, instead of meeting on one side, so you now have a fold on each side to work with)

Unfold your dress. Tuck in the sleeves. Try to get them as flat as possible, and really isolate the shape of the armhole. Now, fold your dress in half lengthwise, again, trying to get it as flat as possible. Place it on your fabric, so the fold of your dress lines up with the fold of your fabric. Remembering to leave a seam allowance, cut around the neckline, armhole and sideseam. Then, fold the skirt up and out of the way, so you can cut along the waistline. I feel bad that I somehow neglected to get a picture of cutting along the waistline. If I make another dress soon, I will add a pic here.

Fold dress and place on fold of fabric
Leaving seam allowance, cut around edges, folding skirt up and out of way when necessary ~ you’ll get a shape that looks like this.

You’ve cut your bodice back. Now, I cut my bodice front differently. I should probably have folded it in half, just like I did the back, but that didn’t occur to me, so I’ll show this method, and you can decide which you prefer. Depending on the style and fit of your dress, you might find this method works better.

I unfolded my dress leaving the sleeves tucked in, and lay it halfway on top of my fabric, using my tape measure to make sure the neckline and waistline were both resting at their midpoint on the fold of my fabric. Then, I cut around it exactly as I had cut the bodice back.

This is how I cut the bodice front. This is also a good pic, because you can see how the fabric is folded ~ see the selvages meeting in the center?

Now, I had to cut the neckline for the front. I decided I did want kind of a V, but slightly gentler, and not quite as deep. So, I measured the original neckline, and then, based on that measurement, I made some adjustments. I measured down from the center of the neckline and made a mark (use tailor’s chalk or a pin), then folded my front bodice in half lengthwise. I then cut a line from that point to the point where the original neckline I had cut (which was actually the back neckline) met the shoulder. I gave my line just a tiny bit of a curve, rather than making it a straight diagonal. You can draw your line first, if that helps. I just cut. (I also forgot to take pics before I cut, but hopefully these ones help)

Measure, and draw a line where you want your neckline to end (how low you want it)
Fold bodice lengthwise and cut neckline
Ta-da! My finished bodice front!

Next up: Sleeves! We finally get to pull out those sleeves. Leaving your dress inside out, pull out your sleeves. You should now see your whole dress, inside out. For your sleeves, you will need to find two places on your fabric that you can fold and place your sleeve on the fold to cut. I cut mine one at a time. You might be able to cut both at once, but I found this easy. Lay your sleeve so that the top edge is right on the fold of the fabric. (I knew I wanted my sleeves a little shorter than the original dress, so I let the sleeve hang over the edge of my fabric, and cut my new sleeve a little bit shorter. If you want yours the same length, obviously, you will need to cut around the entire sleeve, and add a hem allowance.) Leaving a seam allowance, cut along the bottom and wrist edge of your sleeve. Now, carefully flip the rest of your entire dress up out of the way (you can pin the sleeve to the fabric, if you are afraid it might move) and, leaving a seam allowance, cut along the curved edge of your sleeve (this is where it will attach to the armhole).

Place the sleeve…
Cut along bottom and wrist edge of sleeve…
Carefully flip the rest of the dress out of the way, so you can see this curved seam where the sleeve meets the armhole. Leaving a seam allowance, cut along this line. This is the same method used for cutting the bottom of the Bodice Front & Back

After you have cut one sleeve, you can use it as a pattern to cut your other sleeve. Simply place it on your fabric, making sure the fold of your sleeve is right on the fold of your fabric. Remember, this sleeve is cut to exactly the size you need, so there is NO NEED TO ADD SEAM ALLOWANCE. Cut the 2nd sleeve exactly the same size as the first.

Use sleeve 1 as a pattern to cut sleeve 2. Cut them exactly the same size.

Well, I think this is cause for celebration. You have now cut all of the basic pieces for your dress. You can lay them out and admire them. I did.

Wow ~ it resembles a dress!

So, now you get to pin it together. Right sides together.

Pin skirt front to skirt back, just on the sides.
Pin Bodice Front and Bodice Back together at the sideseams (under the armholes), and the shoulders.
Pin the sleeves just across the bottom.

This is when I realized I had one piece left to cut. I needed a facing for the neckline. So I measured the neckline as best I could with my measuring tape, and added two inches. I think I should have added more. I decided, to cut a strip 22.5 inches long and 2 inches wide for my facing, but I think a 1″ wide strip would have worked better because I ended up trimming a lot later. In the end, I wished I had cut a separate facing for the front and back bodice, and, although this worked, I did find it a tad fussy. I’ll give directions for what I did, but I might come back later with an update on a better way to finish a neckline like this.

Measure neckline to determine length of strip needed for facing. (You want to measure the entire neckline ~ I multiplied this by 2, the measured the back and added that number.) Add a couple of inches, because it going to need to move around curves
Here it is, my fancy strip.

And NOW, you can finally start sewing!

Here are some tips for sewing on knits that I have found helpful:
I use a zigzag stitch, and that works just fine, but I know there are other stitches that work well, too. You can check your sewing machine’s manual to see what is recommended for knits
Use a needle that is made for stretch or knit fabrics.
Do not push or pull your fabric through the machine ~ both can cause bunching.
If you’ve never sewn on knits before just try a little scrap first to get a feel for it. It’s really not that tricky, but if you’ve never done it before, it might feel different.

You just need to sew everywhere you’ve pinned: Skirt side seams, Bodice Front and Back (side seams and shoulders), and sleeves (just the bottom seam). When you’re done, you can turn it all out, and hang it, or put it on a dress form, if you have one (I pinned the sleeves in place to get an idea of how it would look). Alternatively, you could try it on. This also gives you a chance to check and adjust the fit, and make decisions about things like skirt length, sleeve length, neckline and collar, should those things need to be adjusted.


Sew everywhere you’ve pinned
Check your dress for fit & style, and make adjustments as needed

Sewing in sleeves can be a bit tricky, so I had Kaia help me take pics. I will try to explain, too. Start with your bodice inside out, and your sleeve right side out. It will be helpful to mark the center top of each sleeve with a pin, tailor’s chalk, or something similar. Hold the armhole of your bodice open.

Hold armhole of bodice open
Place sleeve inside armhole

When you get the sleeve inside the armhole, match the sideseam of the bodice to the seam of the armhole, and match the center top of the sleeve to the shoulder seam of the bodice. Pin those in place first, then pin the rest of the sleeve in place inside the armhole. If you find the sleeve gathers a bit that is okay, just distribute the gathers as evenly as possible between your pins.

It’s hard to show this, but this is the sleeve down inside the armhole.

Once you get it all pinned in place, you can sew your sleeve into your armhole. I sew a 5/8″ seam, then move in and sew another seam inside the seam allowance very close to that one, because sleeves sleeves take a lot of wear and tear, so I like to give them a reinforced seam.

Sewing on a sleeve
The finished sleeve, reinforced w/ two seams

After you get both of your sleeves sewn in, turn your bodice right side out again. I found it easy to work on my dress form, but you could hang your bodice, or place it on a flat surface.

Fold the long strip you cut in half, and pin the center to the cent front of your bodice, with the right sides together. Now, carefully work the facing to fit around the edge of your neckline. You can stretch the facing to fit, but DO NOT STRETCH YOUR NECKLINE. That’s a little bit tricky. Use LOTS of pins and make sure it is laying flat against the neckline. (I overlapped my ends and sewed right through them, because they didn’t overlap much at all. If yours do, you can cut off the excess.)

Pin center of strip to center of front neckline
Continue pinning strip in place all the way around neckline
Stitch in place.

You can release tension and help your facing turn and fit better by clipping the curves. Make small vertical cuts through both layers of fabric, within the seam allowance, and not all the way to the seam, as below.

Clip curves like this to release tension. You can make many little clips like this along the curved edge.

Turn facing to inside and press (iron). I found that, in order to get my facing to lay perfectly flat, I had to make a vertical cut in the facing right at the point where it met the V of my neckline (but not all the way up to the seam), and another vertical slit near each shoulder.

                                  Facing turned to inside

Pin facing in place along edge of neckline.

Pin facing in place all around the edge of neckline

I stitched 5/8″ from the edge, using a straight stitch.  Then, I moved over and added a second row of stitching about 1/4″ inside that seam (closer to the edge). Trim close to stitching.

                 Sew two rows of stitching about 1/4″ apart, then trim off excess facing.

Mark the center front of your skirt (with tailor’s chalk, or a pin.  I did this: 

           I marked the center front of my skirt with pins (you could use tailor’s chalk)

Turn your skirt inside out.  Turn your bodice right side out.  Now, fold your bodice in half lengthwise and turn it upside down, so the waistline of the bodice and the waistline of the skirt meet, and the top of the bodice is down toward the bottom of the skirt.  IMG_3336
   This is how your pieces should be lined up ~ Waistlines and center fronts together.

Pin center front of bodice to center front of skirt, then slip the bodice inside the skirt, and unfold it.  IMG_3337
               This is the best picture I could get of the bodice inside the skirt.

Pin side seams to side seams of bodice to side seams of skirt at waistline, then pin the bodice and skirt together all along the rest of the waistline.  IMG_3338
                  Bodice and skirt, all pinned together and ready to sew.

Now, all you have to do is sew all around the waistline, and your dress will be pretty much a dress. 
                                 Sewing the waistline.

Well, I’m at the end now, and I realize I got no photos whatsoever of hemming the sleeves and skirt, but that’s what you have to do now.  So, turn your dress right side out and take a look at it.  Try it on and/or put it on your dress form.  Decide how long you would like your sleeves and skirt.  My skirt was already cut to just the right length, so I turned it up about 1/2″, used my iron to press in place the hem, pinned, and stitched it in place.  For the sleeves, I decided to go with a slightly shorter length than the original dress.  I cut an additional inch off my sleeves, then turned them up about 1/2″, pressed in place, pinned and stitched.  

                                        My finished dress! 

I decided to use a contrasting colour thread so the stitching at the neckline and hems would stand out instead of blending in, and I like the effect. My stitching is not perfect, but I’m still happy with the finished product.  
   I used contrasting yellow thread to add a subtle detail.

I was able to finish this project in a day, and I am very happy with the result.  I hope you will find this tutorial helpful.  If you decide to make a dress of your own, I would love to see it.  

         Me in my dress, the day after I made it.