Upcycle Old Dishes Into A Backyard Birdfeeder

I’m going to be bringing you a ton of outdoor tutorials in the next few weeks. I’ve been completely obsessed with my backyard and I’ve got a million things I want to do with it. For today I thought I’d start with a simple one that will also lay the groundwork for what’s to come. I’m going to be drilling through EVERYTHING. Plates, bowls, votive holders, you name it. If it’s glass or ceramic, I will be putting a hole in it so that I can build something cool. And I’ll start by bringing the birds and squirrels to right outside my door.

Step 1
Drilling through tile, glass, or ceramic is not hard in the slightest. You just need to know the trick. Start with a tub of cool water. The water will keep things cool and lubricated so your plate won’t crack. It reduces the friction caused by all that fine dust and a drill bit. Lay an old towel or something in the tub to keep your plate stable. You don’t want anything wiggling on you.

Step 2
Drill slowly and with even pressure, using a drill bit designated for tile, glass, or ceramics. There’s a ton on the market, but the one I liked best came to a nice point which made the even pressure and not wiggling way easier. Make sure that your plate is supported while drilling, which in my case meant I had to tip it down to be surrounded by the towel.

Step 3
Drill slowly until you punch through the other side. Slow is the key here. If you try to rush things, you’ll break it. Patience. Drill two more holes evenly spaced around the rim of the plate. Make sure that you drill your hole a good 1/2 inch inside the rim so that your hole is extra stable and won’t chip open.

Step 4
Now you need to connect your two plates and hang them up. We’re going to do that with three chains on each level, but first we need a way to keep the chains in place. So I pulled out my jewelry stuff and made a couple of eyeloops. Cut a piece of wire about 2 inches long. This wire actually came from the fencing section of the hardware store, so it will face the elements well. With your pliers just bend the end around to make a loop. For the bottom plate, thread the wire up through the bottom of the hole so that one eyeloop is supporting the bottom of the plate. Thread a 12″ chain onto the wire, and finish the other end with another eyeloop.

Step 5
On the top plate, you’ll have to connect two pieces of chain. With another 2 inch piece of wire, make a loop and attach an 8 inch length of chain. Thread the wire through the hole from the top and bend the end around to make another eyeloop.

Step 6
Join the chain from the bottom plate onto that wire, and squeeze your loop closed tight.

Step 7
Take all three chains hanging the top plate and thread them onto a keyring. Then your birdfeeder is ready to be hung.

Step 8
The birds and squirrels have been having full time parties in our backyard ever since I hung this up, and the cats are pissed. Which is even more fun. Now I get to sit at my desk watching the birds flutter, and then laugh and laugh as I watch the cats fume.


Please Don’t See Me Before You

You Before Me
Me Before You is opening next weekend, and I’m begging you to ignore it. It’s a real shame because the actors are lovely and I’m sure everyone behind the production is good people, but this movie is dangerous.

Spoilers ahoy:
The beautiful man is a successful dude with everything going for him and then gets hit by a car and is paralyzed. He believes there is nothing for him but death, so his family helps him to work towards physician assisted suicide. Meanwhile, his parents hire a beautiful Manic Pixie Dream Girl to teach him how to live. But! TWIST! Instead of Manic Pixieing her way into his edification, he Magical Burden’s his way into hers. He kills himself anyway after teaching her how to reach for her dreams.

I am actually highly in favor of physician assisted suicide. I live with both mental illness and chronic pain. I understand that there is some pain that is both unrecoverable and unlivable. My problem is not that a man wanted to kill himself. If this was a documentary or a biopic or a film based on a memoir I would bring more nuance to this. But it’s not. It’s a fictionalized love story that relies solely on tropes that are harmful to humans. It sends a message that not having motor skills is to render a person a burden not worthy of life.

The character in this movie would rather be dead than disabled. I posted a link to this essay on my facebook wall and someone came back with their own experiences of facing a similar tragedy and wanting to die so as not to be a burden on their loved ones. People really do feel this way. They are out there and those are their real feelings, but what put those feelings there?

Society. Media. Every message we ever get that says we are only worth anything if we are thin enough or pretty enough or white enough or rich enough. Because all of society makes it so. It is internalized ableism. There are black people who hate black people, women who hate women, gay people who hate gay people. This is what happens when you live in a bigoted world and you are from an oppressed group. You get the same messages as everyone else, and some people believe them. People who would rather be dead than disabled believe the lie that they are a burden not worthy of life. This is what oppression looks like.

So here I am, trying to raise this beautiful brilliant boy. This boy who most days doesn’t want to leave the house because people look at him funny. Who has been invited to two birthday parties in his whole eight year old life. Who is constantly being ignored and talked down to, spoken about as if he’s not in the room while adults guess at what his future will look like. “He’ll be lucky if anyone ever marries him.” they say. Or “You should be happy if he can ever learn to make change.” Who has a handful of people in his life he can count on to treat him like a human being. And THE ONLY TIME he ever sees anyone like him in his entertainment, is when they exist to make other people around them be better people, and then they die.

I’ve written and spoken about this phenomenon, calling it the Magical Burden. (Based on Spike Lee’s idea of the Magical Negro).

Whether it’s Cuba Gooding Junior in Radio teaching a football coach how to feel or Walt Jr. in Breaking Bad giving his father motivation to get money, you won’t see a disabled character actually having their own story, and they’re almost never played by a character with a disability (Breaking Bad did get that part right). They are played by actors chasing prestige and Oscars. These characters only exist to teach lessons and give people without disabilities some perspective. And that perspective is always “It could be worse! You could have a disability!” In the case of this movie, the perspective is “Better live life to the fullest! You could get hit by a bus tomorrow and be crippled forever which is a fate literally worse than death!”

What I need you all to understand is that that attitude hurts my son.

It actually compounds disability. I’m trying to teach Atti to have faith in himself, in the world, that it’s all worth the effort required for him to engage. I’m trying to coax him out of his shell and keep him motivated and every time he turns around all he hears is “Why try? It’s better to be dead than disabled.”

Please think about that. Think about what that would do to you. If every message you got was that it was preferable to be dead than to live the way you live. How could you find the motivation to keep going? As an eight year old child? As a parent, how would you feel if you knew your most important job was to keep your child from believing in the worthlessness the whole world tries to sell him?

This movie is not about a man who wants to die with dignity and control his fate. It’s about a man who believes it’s better to be dead than disabled and a family who agrees with him. It’s about the ugliness in our society that believes self-sufficiency and contributions to the economy are the highest virtues a person can attain. That belittles the soul and the heart and the humanity of people who function differently from the norm.

Please don’t see this movie. Watch Atti on my YouTube channel as he fights to be seen. Watch Zach Anner or Becoming Bulletproof or Josh Blue. Make a friend who uses a wheelchair or crutches. Fight to make sure that all your spaces are accessible. Invite a kid who moves differently to a birthday party.

There is something worse than being disabled. It’s believing that the whole world only sees you as a burden. Do something to prove that’s not true.


3 Simple Steps to Craft Organization

Organize Craft Supplies
Keeping your supplies organized is a problem for every single creative person. And there are so many “solutions” on the market it can make your head spin. In fact, back in the day when I appeared on QVC, that’s what I was selling: a line of craft organizing tote bags. A company hired me to consult with them to develop the perfect system for organization that could go from home to crop night and back again. It was amazing, and then never ended up getting developed. But it doesn’t matter because you really don’t need all that stuff. A trip to the dollar store will work just fine.

Messy Beads
Because I craft using every possible method, I’ve got a whole lot of stuff to keep organized. And that means I have to do it in a very small space. I can only have one drawer full of jewelry supplies, because all the other drawers have to go to sewing stuff, painting supplies, glitter, all my many types of glue, polymer clay, stickers, diecuts, embellishments, fabric, yarn, blahblahblah. I have to be super strict with how much I keep around.

My beading drawer had gotten completely away from me, so it was time to take action. Anytime you organize anything, you should start with doing a purge. For me and my craft supplies, that’s tough. Crafting is all about using materials in interesting ways, so since I can do something with just about anything, it’s hard to let go of something you see potential in. My rule is just to ask: Do I even like this? If the answer is no, I donate it. If the answer is yes, or even, “yes, if…” then I keep it and find a way to use my space more efficiently. Which means we’re ready to get to my organizing steps.

Step 1
Step 1: Use your space efficiently by using containers that fit your supplies.

The wrong size bin can eat up a tremendous amount of precious space, but without bins or containers you’re left with an unsearchable mess. So the trick is to find a container that is big enough – but no more – to hold what you need it to hold. For a long time I was sorting my loose beads in embroidery floss containers, which worked great for awhile. But I was wasting a ton of vertical space because each of those cubbies was barely 1/4 full. I found the rainbow pill cases at the dollar store and they were perfect for holding beads in without any extra room. If I had more beads than could fit in one cubby, I just added a second, and each one was still small enough to fit in a much more compact space. I can stack these pill cases all the way to the top of the drawer and still access them easily without taking every other thing out.

The caddies I also got at my dollar store and these work beautifully because they solved a bunch of problems at once. When I buy beads in a tube, I like to keep them there. All the information is on them in case I need to buy more, it’s a container that fits the beads exactly, and they’re really easy to work with. But the tubes are a pain to store in a drawer because they roll everywhere and get lodged in crannies. The caddies keep them altogether, and they’re easily portable. The tube beads tend to be the ones I use when I do bead weaving, so I can just pop out that caddie and take it where I’m working without having to have a secondary organizational trick to keep them together outside the drawer.

Step 2
This bead box is one I inherited, and I decided to keep it because it was using up all the space it was taking up. You can see how each of those cubbies is stuffed full with faux pearls, and it’s great to keep them altogether in one place.

Step 3
Step 2: Divide your supplies by how you would go looking for them. 

Here’s how my organizing hierarchy works. FUNCTION -> MATERIAL -> COLOR.

First and foremost I consider what I’m using the item for. For the seed beads I mentioned above, I kept the ones I use for weaving separate from the ones I use for stringing. They have different purposes, so they shouldn’t get mixed together. This box contains all my findings. All the little pieces that aren’t for looks, but for making the jewelry funtion. Closures, earrings, jump rings, etc. They are all metal and so could go in a metal section, but if I need to find a closure, my instinct would not be to sort through metal beads, it would be to look for the closures. Function usually trumps material.

Step 4
But if you have enough of one kind of function, then you can divide them further according to material. Like I have here. Two bins full of materials I use for stringing. Wire, elastic, threads, and more. Since I have a lot of them, I add a secondary system of organization by dedicating one bin to wire, and one to everything else.

Step 5
I used one of these little tubs to hold all my chains.

Step 6
And then these three tubs hold the beads that are already strung. I could separate them by material if I was being strict, but when I want a bead I almost never go looking for a ceramic bead or a glass bead. I look for a green bead. So these tubs are organized by color.

Step 7
Step 3: Arrange things based on how often you’ll use them.

Pride of place should be given to the items you use everyday. If you put something you reach for often in the back of the drawer, you’re going to be wrestling with that drawer a whole lot. I like to think of the space as having three levels. Everyday, I’m Working on it, and I’ll Get to it.

These tubs hold wooden pieces and metal pieces that aren’t ready to be strung. If I go looking for these it will be to transform them before making something with them, and I don’t have any immediate plans for them. I’ll get to them, so they get put in the back corner of the drawer.

Step 8
In the center section I put a bag full of my works in progress. I’m working on them. So they get to be closer to the front.

And then right up front are the beads I reach for first for my most frequent projects. They’re pretty much everyday, so they get right up front.

Step 9
But even more common than the beads are my tools. There was just enough space left on top of the beads for my tray full of tools so I stuck those right on top. I could tuck them in somewhere if I really wanted it to look neat above all else, but I was much more concerned about workflow than looks. I never make a bead project without the tools, so it makes sense to put them in a place where I’d have to remove them before I looked at anything else, which also happens to be the most convenient place to put them away. It’s way easier to keep your workspace tidy if thing are easy to put away.

Organized Drawer
Now, without getting rid of nearly anything, my bead drawer is beautifully organized and accessible, and easy to keep that way. Because it makes sense according to how I work. If you have oodles of space then everything can just be pretty, but most people don’t have the room for everything to be displayed in its own mason jar. In the real world things need to be easy to find and easy to put back. And if you organize according to your workflow, they will be.


The secret to quality healthcare


In December I had major abdominal surgery to treat my endometriosis. My stomach was expanded with air to a truly alarming size and then each of my internal organs was lasered clean. Including all whatever long feet of my intestines. You might imagine this kind of surgery would require a minute to rebound from, and you’d be right. Digesting is still a trick I haven’t remastered, and my abdominal muscles are shredded wheat.

And then just over a month later Atti had double hip reconstruction, rendering him completely immobile for 8 weeks. Getting him home was so horrible I was *thisclose* to laying down in the parking lot and waiting for a hospital van to run over me. Bathing, feeding, changing diapers, all had to be done without moving his hips. He was a 50 pound sack of potatoes that screamed when you carried him.

So with only shredded wheat abs to rely on, it was only a matter of time before I hurt my back. Luckily I managed to get through the worst of Atti’s recovery and now he’s back at school for most of the day, but for the past several weeks I’ve been doing everything I can to avoid anything heavier than my cats and trying not to scream every time I had to shift my weight.

I went to the doctor, bracing myself for another round of “Pat Tresa on the Head” as another invisible complaint rendered me unbelievable. But I had an entirely different experience. My doctor shot my back up with Lidocaine and then handed me a GIANT bottle of Tramadol since I refused her offer of Oxy.

All I have to do is mention that I’m taking care of a kid with cerebral palsy and the prescription pads come flying out. I have more drugs at my disposal than at any point in my entire career of sickness. There was one point when a gynecologist was prescribing me one pill at a time and insisted that he would not treat me until I went to a therapist. When I start giving my history to a GP, I can feel them pushing me off to the side the more I talk.

But now I know. All I have to do to get pain medication is not chalk it up to a lady disease.


My Mother’s Day Gift

Mother's Day

Atti has gone back to school. Finally. He still has a whole lot of recovery ahead of him – he can’t scoot yet or sit up unassisted – but he’s back in his red wheelchair which is what we needed for him to be able to get back to his routine. Lucky for me, it […]

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Building our Family


When I imagined my family, I always had this image. I was standing at the head of a Thanksgiving table loaded with food, raising a glass to offer a toast of gratitude. I look around at every seat filled with someone I love, and I see the love they have for me reflected back. I’ve […]

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Year of Pleasures: Seeing Atti’s Future

At 8 years old, Atti is starting to cross over from the little kid phase to the big kid phase. And with that comes all the development that starts to freak parents out. All the development that will eventually wind up in independent adulthood, but right now is just kind of scary. And for a […]

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One foot in front of the other

Snuggle Party

If you’ve ever experienced deep grief, you know this. If you’ve mourned a parent or spouse or child, been intimately involved with the care of someone fighting cancer, survived an attack, had a sick kid, dealt with some kind of grief that came out of nowhere and upended your whole world, you’ve seen that there’s […]

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Welcome to Bummertown

Atti in recovery

My life has always been relentless. But this is ridiculous. Everybody suffers in this life, and I really really dislike it when people stay stuck in their pain and treasure it. When they insist that their pain is THE MOST SPECIAL PAIN. When they refuse to gain empathy or perspective and just canker. I’m not […]

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Full Circle Moment

Sesame Tweet

This is what I woke up to this morning. I’m going to try and explain how this is a sea change for me. It’s going to be a total bummer of a story, but hang in there. There’s a happy ending. I’ve written and spoken pretty extensively about my abusive childhood, but I rarely tell […]

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