Dovecote & My Friend, a Gifted Writer

My friend Louise is 72 years young, 🙂 lives in Canada, and is a gifted writer.  She began her writing career late in life, but that does not take away from her talent.  Sometimes her writing is so poignant that it almost hurts–a good hurt.  🙂 

She has experienced many amazing things in various countries, adding depth to her non-fiction pieces.

Her life has not been easy.  For a long time, she has suffered from extremely severe Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. This has made working outside the home completely impossible.

For a chance to bless this lady, and see some of her work, visit:  Dovecote Letter

To help Louise supplement her low senior income, you can send gifts to PayPal, using

Gift cards are also a big help:  Amazon,,,

Christa Upton  Black Hills Picture Books   Edgemont, SD  57735

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MCS Book Cover Reveal

Today, Marie LeBlanc, our photographer/artist/cover designer, finished the cover for our MCS book, which is coming out soon.

I am absolutely thrilled at how it turned out.

For more of Marie’s amazing photography, visit her at:

500px –

Arts AccessAbility Network Manitoba –

We hope to publish this book in early February, as soon as the editing process is done. It will be available in both print and digital formats. If you would like to be notified of its release, and the links for purchase, please subscribe to my blog.


Christa Upton   Black Hills Picture Books     Edgemont, SD  57735

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2nd Biggest News in 8 Years

The first biggest news was our house.  🙂 

Now, Steve has a job!!!!!!  A real job, a good one with great possibilities.

It is still going to be a challenge, but we are very grateful we are at the point he can do this.

I am not sure how much I will be able to blog, but we’ll see.  Maybe just whenever I feel like it.  LOL

I have three books almost ready to publish, and I think I can still finish them up:  The Plate–a humorous picture book for about 1st grade, My First Hungarian Words–a language-learning picture book for all ages, and MCS:Banished from the Human Race, a memoir of sorts.

I can hardly believe we are starting this new phase of our lives.  It is good.

Christa Upton    Black Hills Picture Books    Edgemont, SD  57735

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Probably my favorite date ever came shortly after our second child’s birth.  Mom had come from two states away to help, and she encouraged us to take a date while she was there.

I dressed up in my ($9 K-mart clearance sale) burgundy velveteen sheath dress, real nylons (a rare thing for me, at least post-1992 LOL), and the highest black heels I’ve ever owned.  Steve looked handsome and regal in his black suit.  We left behind the diapers, dishes, and fatigue to be a “fancy couple going to a fancy concert” for a night.

We headed to one of the most beautiful cathedrals in Indianapolis.  We sat in the worn, polished pews and waited.

Then came swirling around us the most heavenly vocal tones of a Renaissance masterpiece.  The twelve voices of Chanticleer sang as one, blossoming around each other in the most breathtaking melodious phrases soaring into the height of the cathedral’s peaked ceiling.  Most concert halls echo with the coughs and clearing throats of the audience; this audience was dead silent, all of us hardly daring to breathe.

Two hours of this sweetness later, we headed home, filled with the joy of God’s gift of music.

I will likely never have an experience like this again.  Even though I am recovering in safe housing, attending a concert with the typical perfumes would tear me down again so much that it probably wouldn’t be worth it.

But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  what did I do to deserve such an experience?  Why should I be entitled to that Chanticleer concert?  Why should I get to enjoy that while others suffer in poverty, persecution, or war zones their entire lives—from birth to death?   I am thankful for that experience, and though I grieve what I miss, I also see what an undeserved blessing it was in the first place. 


Christa Upton   Black Hills Picture Books   Edgemont, SD  57735

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How to Hear What People are NOT Saying

I am one of those people to whom words mean things, I see things more black and white, and I tend to think people actually say what they mean.

But I am learning that they don’t always say what they mean, and sometimes we have to listen to the heart instead of the words.

I’ve known this instinctively about children for a long time.  Despite my tendencies, somehow God has given me a gift to understand children sometimes, especially those I know well. Sometimes I guess wrong, but that’s what conversation is for—finding out how the person really feels.

But sometimes words can get in the way.

When a child or friend says something we misinterpret—even if we misinterpret because we simply take their meaning by what the words actually mean—sometimes we can get all busy reacting to the words and miss hearing what they are actually meaning and trying to say.

So, here are some tips from my own experience, for deep conversations or for understanding your child:

  1. Slow down and think about what they are saying.
  2. Take into account their life history. It sounds like I’m joking, but I’m not. Many circumstances and events affect how we communicate.  For instance, our daughter has been stuck in a wheelchair since birth.  She is overcoming much of the difficulties of that both physically and emotionally, but of course sometimes she still feels trapped.  Who wouldn’t?  So sometimes when something seemingly “odd” comes out of her mouth, what she is really saying is, “I feel trapped.”
  3. Ask questions. Instead of replying right away, one might ask, “Did you mean…?”  A good friend taught me this one years ago.  It helps avoid misunderstandings to put in your own words what you think someone means and ask them if you are correct and if not, to clarify.
  4. Look at their face but try not to jump to conclusions either. I used to look at one of my children’s faces after they got into trouble and see anger.  However, what I didn’t know (at first) was that the anger was usually directed at themselves for messing up, NOT at me for correcting.  That means they were repentant and needed consolation, not more lecturing.
  5. Try to hear the emotion behind the words.

Think of it like a puzzle, like some TV personalities figure stuff out about people.  🙂 

With children, they have not learned to express feelings yet.  Deeply listening can make a huge difference in your relationship with your child or teenager.

The main point is to understand and respond to people kindly and think of their feelings. 

But with adults, it may also help you navigate the negative things behind words—such as manipulation, narcissism, and verbal abuse. Just as something that “sounds” bad can really be good or just a way of expressing feelings, something that “sounds” good can really be bad.

As they say, “Conversation is a fine art.”  May we approach conversation with thoughtfulness and love.


Christa Upton    Black Hills Picture Books    Edgemont, SD  57735

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My Thankful List

  • light
  • love
  • friends and family
  • animals
  • joy
  • this house
  • warmth
  • indoor plumbing
  • food
  • God’s provision
  • fresh air
  • sunshine
  • chocolate
  • mountains
  • youth group for kids
  • homemade bread
  • milk
  • hot soup
  • quilts
  • encouragement
  • online Bible studies
  • sermon podcasts
  • music
  • colors
  • computers
  • clothes
  • church
  • house with no mold
  • rainbows
  • imagination
  • good movies
  • marriage
  • online support groups
  • football (okay I’m not really thankful for that, LOL but my husband is, and I like him to enjoy it)
  • good books
  • laughter
  • good jokes
  • heaven
  • Jesus dying for my sins
  • will see Dad in heaven again one day

Christa Upton    Black Hills Picture Books    Edgemont, SD  57735

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What Causes Depression, Part 2

19 years ago our baby had growth problems from an unknown physical ailment (which was found a year later). But the doctor in that city at that time could not find a reason for our son’s lack of growth.  So he took the easy way out–blamed my husband and I.  

I’ll admit that our son also having food intolerances (which he does not have anymore) confused the picture.  Two things were going on with him, and one thing wasn’t even known to the doctors at that children’s hospital at that time.

But the end result was that I was being blamed for the problems instead of congratulated for my hard work.  Hey, by the time that doctor accused my husband and I of being the problem, I was pumping milk for hours for our baby and also down to eating literally 4 foods to keep him from crying in pain from reactions to foods!

Extremely hard work + still experiencing problems + unfair blame = some form of depression

Is that a common cause for depression?  I’m not trained in psychology, and I don’t know how “common” it is, but I’m guessing I’m not the only one on planet Earth to go through this.  🙂 

For others who may have experienced this, being accused of suppressing anger (one way to “blame” someone for their own depression) would only worsen the problem.

Maybe my reason for depression is rare.  But another related reason is the unfairness of life.

We in our society like to think that “hard work pays off.”  And it does—sometimes!

However, there are many times that life is not fair.  Yes, this is something we learn in Kindergarten, but the DEPTH of unfairness can sometimes stun even a mature adult.  

I see many other examples where people work hard and then are cut down.  Others are blamed when the problem is not their fault.  Others have both happening at once, like I did when Nathan was a baby.

It reminds me of some Scriptures.

Psalm 73:12-17—“Behold, these are the ungodly, Who are always at ease; They increase in riches. Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, And washed my hands in innocence.  For all day long I have been plagued, And chastened every morning.  If I had said, ‘I will speak thus,’ Behold, I would have been untrue to the generation of Your children.  When I thought how to understand this, It was too painful for me–  Until I went into the sanctuary of God; Then I understood their end. (emphasis mine)” 


Christa Upton   Black Hills Picture Books   Edgemont, SD  57735

Posted in Caregivers, God's Grace/Encouragement, MCS/Chronic Illness, Suffering/Grief | Leave a comment

What Causes Depression?

A few years ago, I told you a story about when Nathan was a baby:

Then I got to thinking what that story had in common with some things I went through a number of years ago….

Apparently, many psychologists think (or used to think) that ignored or suppressed anger is behind the vast majority of psychological depressions (Lynch 14).  I have no doubt anger is behind some people’s depression.  (Getting rid of anger can be difficult, too!!)

However, mine was not due to anger.  (And no, I was not “denying” or suppressing anger.)

Here is probably why:  I could not be angry because it never even occurred to me that that doctor had done something wrong to me (by falsely accusing me since he had no idea what was wrong with our baby, and by falsely judging my actions to be wrong).

My inborn personality and other things caused me to “revere authority,” almost to an extreme.

When that doctor blamed me and my husband for our son’s growth problem, some part of me believed him.  This was probably exacerbated by the common misperception that “good things happen to good people; bad things happen to bad people.”  Of course this is often true in some ways, and good deeds are warranted regardless, but bad things really do happen to good people.  Sometimes even really bad things happen unjustly to really good people.

Anyhow, what is odd is that another part of me knew that our son’s problems were not our fault.  I knew in my heart I had tried incredibly hard to overcome the troubles with his digestion, and in fact, I even knew that some of the choices we had made were exactly the right choices.  Some part of me knew this doctor was wrong.

But yet, in my strange way of operating with people (that I am trying to overcome), the truth didn’t matter.

This is extremely startling for me to realize, given my passion for truth.  Why did I set truth aside and react somewhat as if this doctor were correct?  Why was “his truth” (which was actually false) “more important” to me than the actual truth?  I’m not sure.

I often (very often) consider other people’s opinions to be of more value than my own.  I hope that this leads to humility in operating my life.  But it is dangerous to accept falsehood in the name of “humility”!!!!!

It’s taken me over 40 years to realize this.  I should know better, because my wonderful Dad told me that after you’ve seriously considered someone else’s opinion and come to the conclusion that it is wrong, it is okay to not consider it again.

So what actually caused my depression?  It took me 15 years to figure it out, but I think I have the answer.

Continued next post….  (Yes, I’m going to be really mean and make you wait for the answer.  🙂   Especially because I’ve hit the “maximum ideal” word length for a post according to the gurus.  LOL)

Work cited:  Lynch, Dr. Chuck.  I Should Forgive, But….  Kansas City:  Dr. Charles Lynch.  1998.  Print.

Christa Upton   Black Hills Picture Books   Edgemont, SD  57735

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8 Household Cleaning Tips

Cleaning—ugh, it never ends, right?  But think of all the calories you burn—cleaning day is a great excuse for chocolate cake after!  Besides rewarding yourself with cake, here are some ideas that might help.

  1. Start from the top down. Dust the highest things first.  Clean higher items and work your way toward the floor.  That way any dust or whatever that falls can be swept up.
  2. Once a month or two (or three), de-clutter. The less clutter, the easier it is to clean quickly.
  3. If you want to clean “green,” use only baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice, and essential oils. I have extremely severe toxic injury, so I don’t have a choice—I have to stick to these.  But if you try also, you will help save the environment from harsher chemicals.  And they are so safe you can literally eat them!  Except some of the essential oils.  Plus, you will burn more calories scrubbing harder.  (How about ice cream with that chocolate cake later?!)
  4. Spray cleaners on the surface (such as a sink) and let it sit a bit before scrubbing. This helps loosen the grime.  If the vinegar does not keep the surface as wet as you need, use paper towels and soak them.  You can “line” the tub with vinegar-soaked paper towels or the toilet with vinegar-soaked toilet paper pieces.  You may even want to do this several times if using vinegar and baking soda.  Spray vinegar, wait (go on to cleaning other things or even an adjoining room or de-cluttering), possibly add baking soda, wipe/scrub, spray, wait, sprinkle, wipe, rinse. Vinegar is a nice cleaner, but baking soda will add a bit of abrasiveness for scrubbing.
  5. If you have children, let them help. Turn it into a game, like Mr. Miyagi from the movie The Karate Kid.  (“Wax on, wax off.”)  If you are younger than I, you may be saying, “Who?” “What movie?”  LOL  You could watch the movie with your kids after chores some week! 
  6. Turn on music. If you have kids who are helping, let them choose the music, and the louder the better.
  7. While doing dishes, listen to an audio book.  Get your entertainment and work done at the same time! If you have children at home, you can still do this sometimes by waiting until after they are in bed to do dishes. I found it kinda peaceful to do dishes in the quiet nighttime while listening to audio books.  Or, you could choose a book everyone likes.
  8. Remember you don’t have to do it all in one day and it doesn’t have to be perfect. 

Happy cleaning! 


What are your favorite cleaning tips?

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Sick in the Fall

It seems that some people with mold illness, and even some people without mold illness, get suddenly sicker in the autumn weather.  Various hypotheses have been presented on this.  Here is my hypothesis on the mold/chemical aspect.

My “main” super huge crash began in the fall, also, in the mold house.

1. All the mold growth outside all summer culminating in very high mold counts until the first freeze, exacerbated by fallen dead leaves growing mold and autumn rains makes for a lot of mold. Nice little combo for feeding and watering mold.   Moving to a semi-arid climate made a huge difference for me.

2. If there is hidden mold inside, and/or even other toxins (pesticides–which by the way, many people treat for spiders in the fall, carpet, pressboard, propane heat, paint, scents, etc.), with the house shut up more, the person can notice the effects. For me, it was the hidden mold by far that caused my super huge crash. I don’t think we treated for spiders that year. After leaving the mold house, I definitely noticed being shut up in rentals over the winter versus camping in fresh air in the summer.

3. Cold seems to keep pollution hovering on us. In the summer, I can handle small towns (if no mosquito spraying) without too much trouble. In the winter, every town smells like one big collection of car exhaust–nasty. Not to mention the odorless but harmful propane or natural gas coming out of people’s vents. Why do we think we can vent something harmful like that outside, multiplied by many houses, and think it’s no longer harmful? Obviously, people aren’t dying from it because the outdoor air dilutes it “enough.” But it’s still unhealthy.

Christa Upton   Black Hills Picture Books    Edgemont, SD  57735

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