Time to Grieve

My Dad passed away on Friday, so I need some time to grieve. Not sure when I will blog again, we’ll see.

But today, I will share good advice given me by a number of friends this week, on grieving a death:

  • Give yourself time, as much time as you need.
  • Know that grief takes energy. Rest if needed (especially with chronic illness).
  • Sometimes grief can cause physical pain.
  • Cry when you need to.
  • Realize people grieve differently, even in the same family, and that’s okay.
  • Know the pain will get less.
  • Drink lots of water (with a dab of juice for electrolytes).  When my friend mentioned water, I suddenly realize my mind was so filled with grief, I was forgetting good things for my body, including drinking water.
  • It is okay to feel strongly two opposing emotions at the same time.
  • The feeling that you or your life will never be normal again–it will pass.
  • Your relationship with the one who passed away is NOT defined by the last week, last day, last hour, last conversation.  It is the whole relationship you had with them.
  • Go to God for comfort.

What is your advice for grief?


Christa Upton    Black Hills Picture Books    Edgemont, SD  57735

Posted in Caregivers, Suffering/Grief | 4 Comments

The Odd Directions

One day, we were sitting chatting with our friend. One of our children came up and asked for an ice cube tray. We had one in the RV somewhere, I knew.

I matter-of-factly said, “Look above the sink or in the shower.”

Our friend laughed.  In the shower?

Someone had given us the RV, for which we were extremely grateful.  But the shower never worked, and we didn’t want to spend money to get it fixed, especially since it could be a mold risk anyhow. So, we had used the shower like a little storage closet, for paper plates, napkins, empty yogurt containers…and maybe the ice cube trays.

I hadn’t thought about it, but after our friend laughed, I got a great chuckle out of how funny that sounded.  The more I thought about it, the funnier it was.


Have you ever said anything that seemed normal to you but funny to others? 


Posted in Children, Homelessness, Humor, MCS/Chronic Illness, Mold/Mould | 2 Comments

Getting through Grief

One day when our daughter Sarah, who has spina bifida, was very young, we took her to see her orthopedist.  He explained that with the level of her lesion, it would be impossible for her to walk without major assistance.

He further explained that getting such equipment necessary to help would be like asking her to try to learn to walk with very heavy chain mail.

So, he recommended we not even try to help her walk but get a good stander instead. He said maybe she could someday swivel to move across the room in it.

We said okay.

Then he sat there looking at us in shock.

He said most parents of children with spina bifida fight him tooth and nail.  He said they refuse to give up the dream of their child “walking,” no matter what it’s like for the child. 

He couldn’t believe we just said, “Okay.” 

We said his reasoning made sense, but it wasn’t until later that I realized the bigger reason why we were able to accept his advice easily and give up the dream of our daughter walking.

This same reason applies to any sad thing for me, any difficulty, bad circumstance, or suffering. 

Our friend wrote this beautiful song for our daughter. It makes me cry every time I hear it.  There is something better coming.

Sarah Dances

God has made a way for us to have all our sorrows erased one day, an end to the suffering, a way to be with Him.

Until that day, I grieve, but not without hope. On that day, pure joy.

Christa Upton    Black Hills Picture Books    Edgemont, SD   

Posted in Caregivers, Children, God's Grace/Encouragement, Homelessness, MCS/Chronic Illness, Mold/Mould, Suffering/Grief | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Brand New, Free Audio Drama

We love audio dramas. I used to save washing dishes for after the kids’ bedtime (and play with them or do something fun instead) and then in the quiet of the late evening, do dishes while listening to The Chronicles of Narnia audio drama.  🙂  The kids like Adventures in Odyssey and others.  Audio dramas can be a wonderful “story time” while getting other things done or playing with Legos.  🙂 

Here is a new one, complete with beautiful, original music: 

Enjoy!  🙂 

Christa Upton   Black Hills Picture Books   Edgemont, SD  57735

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47 Ways We Reduced Mold Risk when Building our House

Video tour of the house:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRhksJI28Aw

  1. Dry climate (If you follow many other ideas, you can still do well for a dry house even in a wet climate, I believe.)
  2. Ground built up higher before building
  3. Ground around sloped away from house
  4. Large vegetable garden (needing lots of watering) is downhill from the house
  5. Drainage ditch carrying water away from the house
  6. Gutters with long downspouts to carry water far away from house
  7. Gravel under slab
  8. Shallow, insulated slab (reduces risk of water wicking up through slab)
  9. In-slab heating (reduces risk of condensation on cold slab in winter)
  10. Slab cured over 30 days before building
  11. Douglas fir framing (more mold-resistant than some woods; less thermal bridge than metal framing although metal framing can be insulated. Metal framing is especially helpful in climates where termites are a problem and the house occupant is chemically sensitive to pesticides.)
  12. Metal z-piece flashing over house sill
  13. Steel siding (not a reservoir siding so it doesn’t hold water or have risk of mold growth on it in normal circumstances)
  14. Steel roof (will hold up against leaks much longer than a typical shingled roof)
  15. Steel interior ceiling (Zero diffusion of vapor into attic. It could still sneak up through openings, but we were careful with light fixtures, etc.)
  16. FlexWrap on window sills (no seam at corners where moisture could find its way easier because it is a continuous coverage/wrap)
  17. Plastic window frames (to reduce condensation risk/thermal bridging with metal windows, but there are some good metal ones out there I think, with thermal breaks)
  18. Hardly any wood outside, just around exterior doors, treated with beeswax/coconut oil
  19. No foundation plantings or watering close to the house
  20. No trees overhanging or shadowing the house (lots of sunlight for drying)
  21. No sheathing
  22. No wood sub-floor
  23. No plywood at all in the actual house materials (very little plywood in furniture either)
  24. Thorough insulation, no thermal bridges
  25. Sheep’s wool insulation (it regulates humidity)
  26. No interior vapor barrier or reducer in the walls (no plastic at all except water pipes) so that the wall can breathe
  27. No drywall (Plaster walls, which are mold-resistant. Plaster walls also reduce air leaks into walls because you can create walls with fewer gaps.)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQmdEb1ZKjU
  28. Cement-bed tiling on floor, so no thin-set (Thin-set can apparently grow mold.) Here is how to do it:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZePENUCnZcA
  29. No sealant on floor tile grout, so if a spill happens, the grout can dry out. If it were sealed, an imperfect sealing job could let water through but prevent it from drying out. This also allows us to see if water is coming UP through the tile, such as when the toilet leaked underneath.
  30. Exposed pipes under sinks, no sink cabinets
  31. Exposed pipes with free-standing tub. The supply line is in the wall, but many connection points are open to the room, so this allows us to find & fix leaks fast. 
  32. Free-standing tub fixed away from wall so there is no connection with the wall at all.
  33. Exhaust fans in bathroom and kitchen, both vented outside. Many kitchen stove “exhaust” fans vent right back into the kitchen, dispersing the humidity but not taking it outside.
  34. Ductwork for exhaust fans insulated (to prevent condensation in cold attic)
  35. No other ductwork, no HVAC
  36. Free-standing a/c unit which we dry out at least every two days https://www.sylvane.com/soleus-air-lx-140.html
  37. Dishwasher open to the room on all four sides. The back side is fairly close to the wall, however, it is still out from the wall enough to see what is going on, no hidden places that could gather water.  This photo is looking down at the gap between the back of the dishwasher and the wall.  The silver poles are the metal leg/frame of the worktable under which the dishwasher is installed.  The white “tube” in the middle of the photo is the water supply line to the sink and dishwasher. (The supply line is in the kitchen next to the wall instead of inside the wall.)   This set-up also allows airflow behind the dishwasher to reduce humidity risk.  We open windows and run fans blowing out while using dishwasher, also.       
  38. Dishwasher installed under metal worktable, no wood close by
  39. No pressboard or plywood in kitchen or bathroom or laundry room
  40. Metal cabinets in kitchen
  41. Industrial refrigerator with no drip pan and also several inches above the floor, so dirt and humidity are not trapped
  42. No freezer inside the house
  43. Plumbing all on the side of the house opposite bedrooms, so if an issue arises and needs to be remediated, it can be more easily blocked off from sleeping areas.
  44. Dehumidifier for bathroom (etc.) when it is humid outside. We clean it every two days and have recently learned that vinegar in the collection bin may help reduce mold in the bin by changing the PH of the water.
  45. One level (no upstairs plumbing)
  46. Only one bathroom
  47. House all tile, no carpet or other flooring to hide accidental moisture

(For more info, see our book:     print version     &     digital version )


Christa Upton      Black Hills Picture Books     Edgemont, SD  57735

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Back to Work on Picture Books

I took a “break” to work on the book about our house, which was good.  Then do the house video tour, then break my wrist (LOL), then celebrate our son’s graduation from high school, then celebrate with my husband our 25th wedding anniversary.  Here we are, 25 years ago.  🙂





Now I’m back to illustrating and am excited about it!  I am currently working on my humorous picture book titled The Plate.  I’m hoping it can bring laughter, enjoyment, and a time for sharing the joy of books to many children and their teachers and parents and caregivers. 

Here is the illustration I’m doing now, partially completed:

I draw digitally on my laptop, using the mouse pad and the program Fresh Paint.  I really like this program.  I mostly use “colored pencil” and “watercolor.”  I am truly amazed that the shading, detail, & effects I can accomplish with this program.  Also, how else can you do “watercolor” that erases?  LOL 

In addition, a young man who is still in high school but has taken art classes is working on the illustrations for another of my humorous picture books, The Clowns. It is based on a true story.  🙂  I’ll let you guess which character was me.  😀 

I’m very pleased with this young man’s work and am looking forward to publishing this book also.

I don’t have estimated publishing dates yet, but I will let you know of course.  🙂  For more frequent updates on my children’s picture books specifically, you can check out my Patreon page.

Also don’t forget to print off my free coloring pages from The Cat Race, if you know anyone who likes to color.  🙂 

Christa Upton  Black Hills Picture Books   Edgemont, SD  57735

Posted in Children, Homeschooling, Humor, Writing/My Writing/Children's Books | Leave a comment

The Results of Unprocessed Grief

Once again I am coming back from a blogging break with a “bang” and a deep subject, but it’s what is on my mind.

Unprocessed grief can result in many things. These are some. 

Please note:  in several of these categories, unprocessed grief is not the ONLY cause of these conditions!!!!  It may be caused by other things, too.


  1. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. When a person gets stuck in unresolved grief, often there is an element of lack of control.  The person could not control the circumstances of loss, so they begin to try to control everything around them.  Alternatively, some are so devastated by grief and the unfair rejection of others that their compulsions begin to control them. They feel if they could only “do it right,” things would be better. So they are compelled to keep trying to “do it right.” Sometimes it is a mixture of these, & sometimes OCD has other elements as well.
  2. Hoarding. Since this is an “acceptable” addiction, it is one people may be tempted to do if they keep themselves away from alcohol or such. Shopping may temporarily relieve sadness, guilt (false or real), and other effects of unprocessed grief. A person may even gather trash around them because they feel they are trash. They may allow possessions to take over their homes to “protect” themselves from others or to comfort them from loss.
  3. Overeating. When a child or adult is not allowed to express disappointment, to share sadness, to speak the truth about abuse done to them (which then this often causes false guilt in the victim), they may eat to feel better.  This category especially has many other causes (illnesses, metabolism, heredity, even environmental toxins I believe), but grief can cause it, too.
  4. Other mental illnesses. So many people have no one in their lives patient enough to help them through grief, validate, not minimize, and a big one—help them heal from the hurts. Particularly where hurts were caused by other people, the victim needs new friends to counteract the hurt, to speak the truth, to love them with kindness and gentleness and patience.

Let people express their sadness.  (I don’t mean whining over their coffee order being served incorrectly. I also don’t mean letting them manipulate you.) Listen and validate the unfairness of the situation.  Help them grieve losses.

With children, it can be even more tricky because their grief might pop up unexpectedly.  Some tantrums are just selfish.  Others might be like this:  their pet dies, and the child cries a little but still feels sad or angry.

This feeling grows inside (especially if an adult tells them, “Don’t cry.”) They go to the store and want a toy. Mom says no to toy. The anger from losing a pet rises up, and the child throws a tantrum.  Mom thinks it’s just a selfish kid wanting a toy, but it’s really the overflow from the unresolved grief of losing a beloved pet.

Grieve well, let others grieve well.


Christa Upton   Black Hills Picture Books      Edgemont, SD   57735

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Unusual Blogging Break

So I’m going to take a break from blogging for a while, but here’s why it’s unusual for me: it’s only because I want to and not because I pretty much HAVE to.  🙂 

In the past, I have gotten overwhelmed with having to spread my little energy so thin. Without the fairly extreme work ethic passed to me by my parents, and terrible hatred of boredom, LOL I wouldn’t have even blogged/written/etc. even as much as I did. 

I also had times camping with no access to internet, and even worse, times when my body could not tolerate the computer at all.

But today, it’s just because I want a break and (for once! LOL) can’t think of anything to say.  🙂 That’s not really true, there are things I could write about. Just not as passionately as I usually try to be, often waiting until something won’t let me NOT write it.

But right now, I hear other activities calling me that don’t involve my head in the computer. My best guess is that I’ll blog again in the fall.

I hope you all are well and have a good summer!

Christa Upton    Black Hills Picture Books   Edgemont, SD  57735

Posted in MCS/Chronic Illness | Leave a comment

Guest Post–The Crock Pot Method

Guest post by a friend of mine

The Crock Pot Method of Sharing Ideas with Others

I really love these ideas!  And it could apply to much more than just mold illness or MCS. My friend writes:

I’ve been discouraged lately. I have tried to share with friends and family what I have learned about mold avoiding. I’ve emailed them articles, and shared links, and talked about my own experiences with mold. I’ll admit that having them understand would be wonderful for me, but some of these people are also mold affected and don’t realize it!  It’s tough knowing your friends are sick and believing you could have the answers for them. If they would only listen. But, they won’t.

I put it all in their microwave (brain) hoping that they will quickly come up with the same conclusions I did. Somehow, between the text I type, and their understanding, they must hear: “Sell all you own, shave your head bald, and join the circus.” I swear, I never once mentioned the circus 😉.

Seriously, and as frustrating as I know it is, they are not going to hear us.  Not until they are ready. And they may never be ready.

So, stop thinking of this as a microwave: instant on!  Think of it more like the crock pot method of sharing. You add an ingredient, it cooks, and then you add another ingredient and that stews for awhile.  Not too quickly, or all at once, but a little at a time as they can receive it.  Eventually, one day, you hope that person will lift the lid and say: “Oh, my goodness, it’s what you’ve been saying all along, it’s a STEW!”   But, it might be a slower process than you had hoped!

In my case, the first day I heard about mold injury, I was convinced and ready to dump all my stuff and move to the next phase of my life. But, the only reason I was ready to hear was because I had spent so many years as a chemical avoider already. Having CFS/Fibro/MCS for 30+ years had prepared me.  I was constantly looking for answers and ready to try ANYTHING to get better.  When I heard about mold, it was like: “FINALLY AN ANSWER!”  This will not be everyone’s experience.

The other night while chatting with a friend it came to me – we aren’t going to win them by expecting a microwave response, but, we may win them by using the crockpot method.  S-l-o-w-l-y, p-a-i-t-i-e-n-t-l-y.

Here are my best words of advice suggestions when trying to convince people that mold is dangerous and could be causing their health problems:

  1. “Would you like to hear what happened to me in my moldy house?”  I didn’t mean WAIT to be asked before you share what you know. I am saying when an opportunity comes up, ask the person if they would like to hear your story.  Waiting for a response and reaction will help you to know how much, and how soon, to share.  Recently, I met someone who had health issues who shared with me that her husband grew up in a home with mold issues that was eventually condemned because of mold. I assumed she wanted to hear my story. Actually, she didn’t. She told me even if it was mold, they were not prepared to change their lifestyles.  I needed to accept that. I had given her a little, but only as much as she was willing.  Hopefully at some point I can give her more, but it must be her choice.  I am learning not to push.  So, always ask for permission to share.


  1. When they ask you a question, try to answer only their question. It’s tempting to send them 400 articles and two documentaries and links to Mold Avoidance Forums the minute they ask you a question.  If they have asked you how long you were sick, try to answer the question –  “I was sick for 12 years, until I got out of the mold.” Giving them too much, too soon, will only sent them scampering away.  Ask me how I know this!


  1. Resist the urge to preach.  “You know, you will NEVER get better unless you do  x, y, z.” That may be true, but using crockpot method, you want them to come up with this themselves once they have all information.  If it is their idea to join the circus, er um Mold Avoider’s Forum, then they will be much more receptive.

I know that not being understood and worse yet, trying to help people who seemingly do not want your help, can be so frustrating, but don’t ever give up.  Slow and steady wins the race.  Determine to add a little to the pot at a time.  I can’t guarantee that they will get it one day, but I can guarantee they will not, if you try to push too much, too soon. Put the microwave away and get out that crockpot.

Thank you so much, my friend!!!  This is brilliant.


Christa Upton  Black Hills Picture Books   Edgemont, SD  57735


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

Just Photos

April 25th  🙂











Sherlock and Watson watching the butterflies we hatched:












Teenage son made beautiful popovers:











Son took this near where they get our water because he knew I would like it:











First produce from the garden, volunteer cilantro from last year:












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