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Advice for Military Widows

Tombstones at Arlington National Cemetery, July 2006Memorial Day weekend has become a time for the first barbeques, outdoor pool celebrations, and huge sales at nearly every department store. For those who have lost a loved one in the armed forces, however, Memorial Day can be a difficult time.  And with thousands of young men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, there are, in turn, thousands of young widows and widowers looking for support and resources.

Losing a loved one in combat is probably the most difficult and painful time in your life. When facing this crisis, it’s important to remember to give yourself time to grieve your loss and accept any feelings that may arise, including sadness, guilt, anger, isolation, loneliness, or depression.  All these feelings, and any others, are OK: you’ll have good days and bad days, days when your grief is more triggered than others, days when you laugh, and days when you cry.  But if you give yourself time to grieve, life will eventually stabilize.

If you have children, it’s important to be honest with them about your spouse’s death.  Children know when adults are skewing the truth, so explain to them what it means for someone to be physically dead; don’t use euphemisms such as “lost,” “gone away,” or “sleeping.”  Give your children permission—just like you gave yourself—to feel grief or any other feelings, and don’t hide your own feelings from them.  Explain your family’s and the army’s death rituals to your children, and prepare them for all activities including the funeral itself, any viewings, the burial, and any post-funeral gatherings.  If the children are willing, let them be active participants in the funeral and surrounding activities, such as picking out the casket, writing a note to your spouse, selecting what clothes they will wear.

When you are ready, it’s extremely important to evaluate your finances after the death of a spouse.  As a military widow, you will receive a $100,000 death benefit from the government and professional financial advice to help you manage this money and your other funds.  You’ll need to use your death benefit and your other money wisely, to be sure you can pay your mortgage or rent, have health and life insurance as well as any other insurance, and provide for your children.  Be organized about your finances, know where everything is, and have a plan for surviving the worst possible financial situations.

Finally, many of your family and friends may encourage you to start dating.  Don’t let anyone push you into a relationship or dating; only do so when you are ready and feel confident about yourself.  If you feel ready to date, many military widows have a hard time dating because they feel that men are trying to take advantage of them or compare themselves to your late husband.  So when you’re ready to get back into the dating scene, don’t go searching immediately for your life partner (after all, were you searching for your husband before you were married?), have fun, and be confident about your self worth.

There is a great resource for military widows, The American Widow Project, with links to blogs, books, and podcasts.  Be sure to take a look at this website for fantastic online support!

Watts All This about Stun Gun Voltage?

stun_gun_actionIf I were picking out a stun gun, I would probably look for the most adorbs one. So I thought I should go on our site and see which one I would pick out for myself, and quickly got lost in the volts and amperage. What is important, and is there too much of a good thing? Turns out, electricity is a fascinating thing.

First off, brand is important, but since Safety Girl only carries well-known quality brands like Uzi and Ruger, you can ignore this component if you buy grlpprs1000022605_-00_main_sabre-800000-volt-stun-gun-with-holster_3from us. Some use replaceable batteries, and some use rechargeables. Depending on how much you use your stun gun, you may want a rechargeable one.

The power of a stun gun is specced in amperage and voltage. The voltage carries the amperage, which is what stuns the attacker. It is these two things working together that explain why a shock from your doorknob at 30,000 volts won’t hurt, but plugging a fork into your electrical socket (120/240 volts), will pack a dangerous whallop – it’s the amps! Amperage describes the rate/strength of the charge and voltage describes how far the current will jump. The stun gun should have between 2.5 and 4 milliamps, to be effective , yet not kill the attacker or melt the circuitry.

Don’t forget to look for some type of safety, be it a switch or a trigger.

Taking a Break from the House

This weekend was my graduation. I am officially an MBA. Nutty thoughts of a PhD are now swirling in my head. I also 20140915_080355got my passport – another story for many more days. I didn’t work on the house. My friend Gale came with her husband Tony, and as he poked and prodded at the Revolutionary War gun my dad restored, and the carved desk that’s been in my family, he said, “you should open a bed and breakfast.” The seed has been planted.

You will hear about my landscaping with my friend Brittany, but that’s probably it on the house for the month. I wanted to check in, though, so you didn’t feel abandoned! I have started running. I have a personal alarm from SafetyGirl because there are animals and other seedy characters along my 2 1/2 mile route. I feel much safer jogging alone, when I am not quite so alone.

This alarm even has a pedometer!

Have a great summer, and I will check in from time to time.

It’s Mowing Season in PA

20150426_135642…and I thought last year my cleated tennis shoes would do the job on my multi-acre hillside, especially with a new self-propelled push mower. Not so! Even the propulsion wasn’t enough for this little girl. I used to watch my dad mow the entire yard, with seemingly little effort. Then he’d come in and take a drink of the sun tea he had made. I remember the first time I tried to tackle the job, after over an hour later with the upper hill still untouched, gritty and breathless, I thought, “he probably would have liked if one of us had made the tea and had it ready for him.” In later years he attached a piece of rope to the mower, to stand up a few feet and allow the mower to slide down on its own, then pull it back up with the rope, so he didn’t need to bend or walk so much. He did this the fall he had to have had the cancer, before we knew it. A dying “old man” still did a much better job than this relatively in-shape girl could.

I bit the bullet and put on my pristine pink Safety Girl boots, knowing the pretty toes would green up pretty quickly from grass. I was able to mow more of the hillside (all the way up to the second garden!) with these babies. I still can’t do the full job my dad did but I think he would have been proud of what I can accomplish.

Stairway Reveal

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Before photo, hallway carpet

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After photo, hallway carpet

So I took a bit of a weekend break from Andy to finish this project so I can move outside for the summer. I touched up the edges where the walls meet the ceilings, with white ceiling paint. I scrubbed and scraped the beautiful wood steps. I couldn’t bring myself to re-glue the stair post that had been loose since I was a toddler. I think it may have been a product of my sister or I getting our head wedged in there (I’d bet it was me).

I ordered some nice laminate plank flooring from BigBox because it was a superb price and debated laying it in the hallway, but the pine of the bedrooms would have been juxtapositioned against the Brazilian cherry all wrong. So I took the remnant from carpeting the new room and got to work. I removed the old carpeting, and was again glad I did, because my parents’ Yorkiepoo Tebow did indeed mark it in at least four places. As I rolled it and bundled it for the garbage men, I rolled my eyes at my mom’s insistence that her dog did not have accidents.  I remember telling her a year+ ago, as I cleaned up after him, “of course they’re not accidents. They are ‘on purposes.’ He doesn’t know he’s not supposed to use the house as his personal bathroom.” The last of all possible rugs and carpeting  have been removed. Good riddance!

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Tracing the new carpet using the old carpet

For this I definitely used my Ironclad TuffChix gloves from SafetyGirl. They kept my hands clean, as well as kept them from getting chewed up by the rough carpet backing.

Before I tossed the old carpet, I used it as a template for my new piece. Since this pattern has sculptured squares, it was very important to keep it straight. I think I did a good job. I replaced the brass threshold trim pieces and tacked the end piece over the curve of the first step. Here are the before and after shots. I did keep to budget very well on this, using leftover paint, carpet, and padding from the other rooms. The only things new I used were some rollers and a brush.

For the rest of the summer I will be headed outside. I have a dilapidated chicken coop stuffed with junk, a shooting range, storage barns, a greenhouse, a mancave, old dog houses, gardening sheds, etc. to go through. Lucky for me I have men friends who are eager to look through these in exchange for taking off my hands the things I can’t use. I will be salvaging what I can at a local scrap dealer. I will also be listing a girlfriend to help with yardwork in exchange for helping her with her own.

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Before photo, stairwell (looking up)

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After photo, stairwell (looking down)

And I’ve been largely silent on Andy lately. He’s been super-busy with Lucy’s end-of-season hockey, and now both Lucy and Grace are involved in many spring events – softball, honors bands and concerts, track, you name it. Lucy is a viable driver now so buckle up! We were lucky to wrap the weekend up with a wonderful turkey dinner, with two sets of mashed potatoes – skins on for Grace, and skins off for Lucy. And because Andy broke the serving bowl full of veggies, no broccoli and carrots.

Hard Hat Hair

msavgft_-06_brown_v-gard-fas-trac-slotted-protective-capWe recently got a question from a reader on how to avoid hardhat hair. There are a few options, and none of them is difficult or expensive, but none of them is going to have  you looking like you just stepped out of a salon. Sorry! Consider it the cost of the job.

You can…

Wrap a bandana around the suspension unit to lessen the marks left behind by them.

Wear a natural-fiber hat under the hat in the winter – synthetic fibers will create static and fly-aways.

Never start with even damp hair. Wet hair will exacerbate the condition!

Style your hair while you wear the hat! If it’s long, wrap your hair into a loose bun or twisty pony shoved under the hat, and let the hat set the curl. If it’s short, carry a volumizing product with you and when you remove the hat, rub just a bit of the product between your hands and fluff your locks.

Don’t wear metal barettes, which can conduct electricity.

If you wear a ponytail down, make it low!

And here’s my personal favorite: if you part your hair on the side, start on the opposite side, and part low. When you take off the hat, flip the part to its typical position and the worst of the dented hair will be under smoother hair.

Stairway Risers

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Before stairs

This weekend I had a decent chunk of time but it was too nice to spend most of it indoors. I had a nice lunch with a college friend Brit, and as we were eating Lebanese food at a new eatery, it wasn’t long before we each took out our phones to show each other our remodels. She mentioned that she has a pink tool belt – probably ours! I told her she can get a pair of workboots to match. Later I took advantage of the warm and sunny Saturday to get my mower out and make sure it was ready for the year. I also scrubbed out my kitties’ litter box. Both of these tasks were well-suited for my Safety Girl pink work boots. I was able to wash my sheets and hang them outside to dry. I love clothes dried on the line!

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In progress stairs, carpet coming up and first coats of paint down.

Sunday my friend JD came and helped me go through the garage. We cleaned, cleaned out, and organized, and I sent him home with whatever he wanted that I didn’t need, for his help. In about an hour and a half, it was still cluttered, but it was cleaner and more organized clutter. This will be an ongoing summer project, and will definitely require Safety Girl’s Tough Chix gloves. And a tetanus shot.

After the sun went down both Saturday and Sunday I forced myself to paint the stairway. I am still working on the trim. I removed the runner because I love the look of the bare steps. Prying out the staples in the carpet again required the gloves. I will still need to put another coat on all the trim and clean the steps well. I am debating whether to shampoo the landing carpet, which is still in decent shape but isn’t the most contemporary, or replace it with a leftover piece of the sculptured gray carpeting from the music room. I’ll let you know.

One more weekend here (two if I do the carpeting) and I should be ready to reveal it.

Brit is going to come help me with the flooring someday this summer and I will buy her those pink work boots for her effort!

Cutting in Like a Pro

20150411_064059I’m still moving slowly, and working in the darkest, smallest area of the house was not fun on such a gorgeous weekend! Because this is a small area and I wanted to marry the upstairs and downstairs with the colors, I am using the downstairs trim color (lightest creamy white) and a mix that I made of the green (living room and library) and all the gray paints I have thus used (purply from the music room, and dark and light colonial in my guest room). Since this is my own creation, I needed to make very sure that I mixed enough to do the entire space.

I started painting the stairwell this weekend, and again refuse to use masking tape. With a very precise brush and steady hand, it’s always not necessary. In the stairwell, unfortunately, I had to switch from right to left hand to keep my line of vision clear, or paint downhill (not smart).

These illustrations aren’t very good because the lighting in the hallway is shadowed by the hand rail, and the color of the paint is the same saturation as the old color.

Start with a very sharp-edged angled brush like Construction Gear’s line of Purdy and Merit Pro brushes. Load the brush with paint halfway up the bristles and remove the paint from the right side of the brush if the long end of the brush angle is pointing away from you. This will leave paint on the side of the brush you are going to press against the wall. Position the brush a couple inches up and out from the point that your wall and trim meet, and press the brush against the wall to fan out the bristles and push the paint to the tips of the brush. Drag the brush down to the wall/trim junction and use that fanned-out brush to get as close to the edge as possible. Drag the brush smoothly towards yourself. Fill in this arc with the rest of the paint on the brush. Move forward on the wall about a foot and repeat. If you are left-handed, reverse the paint loading.

20150411_063954Use the brush to go over spots that will need more attention, due to imperfections in the wall, or to put another coat on any spackle you used to patch the wall.

 

You will most likely need to trim this out two or three times to get good coverage and remove brush streaks. When painting the main surface with the roller, get as close as you can without going over. This will also help with coverage and to remove brush streaks. Next week I will show you the finished paint job.

When I’m done with this area, I will have three more rooms to paint in this house, out of ten. I admit, I am very much looking forward to the end of painting, and if I ever paint again, I will never decide to paint the entire interior in a year. I am thinking of putting the house on a rotation of one room updated every year. That way, some (like the laundry room) will be done on a good weekend while others (like the living room) will take a month and new furniture.

Stairwell Repairs

Easter’s been here and gone, and it was a wonderful holiday. We had Good Friday off so Andy took me to a very rare dinner. We only have time and money to go out a couple times a year. He spent a good bit of the weekend with Lucy’s hockey, then on Sunday we and the girls all went to church together, and spent the day with his extended family. We had started shopping for Easter basket goodies about a month ago and probably had more fun stuffing and hiding them, than the girls did finding them! One of the places we thought to hide a basket was in the ceiling joists, as part of his drywall has been ripped down due to a second-floor tub leak. We didn’t hide anything there but if I can get him to guest write a blog, you may hear more about his drywall work. It was a great holiday.

20150403_11112120150404_155123I removed the extra handrails. Then I finished scraping the wallpaper and had two small DIY projects: drywall patching and stucco repair. You can see from the photo on the left, how horrid the wall was behind the paper. I remembered a trick from my days of actually building rooms from scratch. Smooth on a light coat of spackle to fill nail holes and other imperfections. When it is dry but not cured, run a damp sponge over it to wipe off excess paste and to get rid of the spackle edges. When it’s cured just a swipe of the sandpaper will do this way. Less dust, less work. I used a double-sided scrubby sponge for this task.

20150403_133552When I was removing the wallpaper, some of the DYI spray ran down to the first-floor ceiling, creating water marks. When I tried to wipe them off, the stucco itself came off! You can see the photos in this post. 20150404_173523To patch quickly and easily, I just took the scraper I was using to spread spackle, loaded it up with the spackling paste, and dabbed it overhead onto the ceiling to blend in. Since the ceiling was white, there was no need to paint. Another way of doing this is mixing the spackle compound with water until milkshake consistency and dab with a large-holed sponge. Unfortunately I didn’t have that type of sponge and had to make do!

I also deglossed all the doorway and baseboard moulding this weekend. The products from our stores that made this weekend easier were the ever-famous rubber gloves for the deglosser, and glasses and a half-mask respirator for the drywall. Even tho the sanding was minimal, there is dust all over the area. And you know if it’s on the wood, it would be in my lungs if not for the respirator!

Next weekend is yet another busy one. I sit for my graduate exam and Grace has a PMEA music concert. But I hope to start painting the walls.

Stairwell Assessment

20140719_132619The stairwell seems like a small area at first blush. I am in my final quarter of my MBA and the holidays are almost here, plus I will be having houseguests. Soon I will be heading outside to mow and assess the landscape20150314_151938. I figured this would be a fairly quick area to do. The stair chair and second hand rail had to be removed, and the handicap grab bar at the top of the steps will be removed, but not yet on that one. I will remove that after my family gathering at Easter so my mom has a bit of an easier time going upstairs.

This wall also was not sealed before the wallpaper was put on; it appears it was patched before that layer went on. I spent about 4 hours this weekend and only got a few square feet removed. I am using DIY gel remover, a paper tiger, and a scraper.

In this area I intend to patch and paint the walls, reglue a baluster in the banister, remove the stair runner, and hopefully have enough of the music room carpet remnant to put a piece in the upstairs hallway. The paint will be the creamy white from downstairs and then a mix of the gray upstairs and the green downstairs. The ceiling looks fairly good, and a gentle washing will probably brighten it up.

I am happy it appears I will not need to use any scaffolding or ladders, but the work will tax my shoulder muscles, to be sure!

20150314_151912I will be using the standard gear from Safety Girl, Construction Gear, and Discount Safety Gearpaint brushes, rollers, coveralls, respirator, and gloves.

Here are the before shots so you can see what I am working with.