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

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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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Rainy Windows

The car speeds down the highway, splashing a bit of water. I look out at the rain on the fields. Then I focus on the raindrops on the window, not sure why I am fascinated by the trails they make down the glass.  We’ll see Mom & Dad soon; can’t wait to get back home to Missouri.

This time we are driving to a concert in the city. The rain makes everything shinier. The road glistens. The streetlights drip. The rain stops just before we step out onto the sidewalk to go into the concert hall. A car goes past, splashing a puddle. Even in the city, the rain smells good.

Now I am driving to the grocery store with the kids. I wish I didn’t have to deal with rain and groceries, yet it’s a pleasant rain which is washing the earth after a cold winter. After parking, I sit for a minute and watch the droplets on the windshield.

It’s been almost 9 years since I’ve been in a car in the rain, with one or two exceptions.

This is because when I go out, it’s usually to spend an afternoon at the park or somewhere outside.

The rare times I’m headed to the doctor or somewhere, there hasn’t been rain because we don’t get much rain here–only about 18 inches a year. 🙂

So, a very weird thing happens sometimes when I’m watching TV or internet.

When I see a car in the rain, memories of my “old life” coming flooding back, almost more than any other image.

Sometimes people on TV in grocery stores will do this, too. It’s been 7 years since I’ve been in a grocery store.

But the rain on a car window always makes me catch my breath. Something about the memories plus the unique feelings one gets about rain.

Dedicated to my fellow MCS sufferers who know what I mean. 

Christa Upton    Black Hills Picture Books     Edgemont, SD   57735

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Guest Post Regarding a Surprise Source of Mold

This post is by my friends Ken & Deb from Canada. Deb has been diagnosed with CFS and is learning about mold avoidance. She is not sure if her current home is super moldy (from descriptions, I doubt it’s SUPER moldy), but she’s being proactive in this next move and unloading things she is concerned may have come in contact with mold from this home, or other homes that have been moldy in the past.

Deb writes–


Pots & Pans & Such:

When reading  The Mold Avoider’s Dilemma: What Should I Do About My Stuff?   we noticed it was suggested that sometimes pots and pans can be salvaged from a moldy home.

We had determined to follow a very solid plan of action when transporting them from our current home, to the new home. We were waiting for the weather to warm up and then we had planned to take them to the backyard where we hubby would clean them up, and then pack them in a clean, metal garbage can until we unpacked them at the new home. He would take extra care to clean them using a toothbrush and good old castile soap: scrubbing, washing, and rising many times until we were confident that he had removed all the potential mold spores.  There was just one problem.  Our pots and pans had silicone handles.

We hemmed and hawed about just washing the silicone parts too, of course.  We had decided we’d probably just put them into our rented storage unit where we could re-introduce them into our clean environment, slowly, to make sure I had no reactions. But, something about the silicone bothered us.

Google searches brought up nothing about silicone in relation to mold.  It seemed to be in the category of hard plastic (any type of plastic makes me nervous) so we decided it was best to just remove the handles. Boy, oh boy, were WE in for a shock!

Out to the garage, gloved hands, with the skill of a surgeon (in fact double gloved with the wisdom of a proctologist  😉😉)   hubby carefully cut through the silicon handle. Which by the way, was quite easy to do, the silicone let go with not much resistance.





































But what we found inside was nothing less than disgusting.  It was wet, squishy and had some nasty black stuff inside.  MOLD!   I didn’t smell it. I wouldn’t go near it.  But, I would imagine it probably reeked!









We would have never believed what had been living in those handles! And for how long!?  But, looking back it just stands to reason. The gaps between the steel handle of the pot, and the added silicone handle, are tiny, but still penetrable.  Constant washing (especially the dishwasher) where the hot water would have been expanding and letting in the water, and then contracting when it dried, must have been the perfect environment. 


This is a picture of the cleaned up handle.




















Suffice to say, we not salvaging the pots.  We had thought of cleaning up said pots with the above protocol and purchasing separate silicone sleeves (say THAT 3 times real fast! Haha) to use in case the handles were too hot to hold, but frankly it just seems too risky.  We may end up storing them and testing them at a future date when we are in a mold-free environment, but I don’t think I can ever feel good about these pots again, knowing what was in the them. This set is over 8 years old.  Eight years is a long time to be accumulating mold.  ☹ They should  have come with a warning label!

Moral of the story?  Never buy anything with a silicone handle!  Especially, if it comes into contact with water!

Here are some possibilities of other items that could have a silicone/plastic handles or parts.  Spatulas, the rubber in a Magic Bullet/blender (not saying these can be salvaged anyway because of the motor issue, but any new appliance with silicone/plastic parts must be regularly cleaned!), hair brushes, garden hand tools.  Many kitchen utensils.  Look around the kitchen!

As a caution, if you do attempt to remove the handles from your own pots and pans, please get someone who is not reactive to mold to do it. Do NOT do this yourself!

Thank you for sharing, Deb!! What an unexpected, hidden source of mold growth!  Icky. Glad you found this out so others could be warned!

Christa Upton    Black Hills Picture Books    Edgemont, SD  57735






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Safer Mold Remediation

Note that my title says “safer,” not safe. This is because unfortunately, for some very sick people and/or for some very bad molds, no remediation is safe. 

Some people report terrible reactions to their possessions they took from their moldy houses, even after they tried to clean the items. This is because mold in a building shoots out spores and toxins that land on everything. So some people cannot make even metal or glass items safe for themselves again. Most cannot make porous items safe again.

Now imagine all the places where mold spores and toxins could be lurking besides items: walls, floors, windows, ceilings, cupboards.

However, cleaning may help—hard scrubbing of surfaces. Painting over WILL NOT stop or even reduce risks from active mold, but if ALL mold has been removed, it’s possible painting may trap non-viable spores and toxins which had landed there. However, I do not know for sure about this—it has not been tested.

So, to remediation.

First of all, the reason for the mold must be found, whether a leak, humidity, or what. Otherwise, the mold will come back. The problem must be corrected.

Now, picture asbestos. Bad stuff. Hazmat practices needed.

Now pretend asbestos not only grows and spreads but also puts down roots INTO wood, drywall, insulation, and the like. And It doesn’t just sit there being poisonous, it actually SHOOTS OUT toxins in the air, even if it is “killed.”   see  Why is it Bad to Kill Mold?

Now you probably have a pretty good picture of what should be done. But I’ll lay it out as best as I can.

  1. Remove all possessions from the area, even better from the house. Do not bring them in again until evaluated, such as with ideas here: The Mold Avoider’s Dilemma: What Should I Do About My Stuff?  If you put them in a tightly sealed metal container, such as a good, new metal trash can with tight lid, you can store them until you figure out what to do. Just don’t ever open the cans inside the house.
  2. Set up Hazmat scene, complete with plastic on floor, negative air pulling air out of the space, plastic containment, sealing off vents, and bags to contain the waste.
  3. Mold-ill people and children should NEVER be present during remediation.
  4. Those who do the work should be fully protected with hazmat suits and respirators.
  5. Remove all mold-infected materials as possible (carpet, subfloor, drywall, insulation, etc), to about 4 inches beyond the visible mold to get it all (think like removing cancer).
  6. Sandblast, dry-ice blast, or soda blast all remaining mold off beams, concrete, bricks.
  7. Vacuum debris with vacuum including HEPA filter.
  8. Wipe down all surfaces. There is NO need for disinfectants or mold killers, because all the active mold is gone. The mycotoxins that could be left behind are not alive, so they can’t be killed. The stray spores that might be left behind will not grow and take hold if there is no more moisture or high humidity present.
  9. Let the outside of the house be “cleaned” through wind and rain a bit (2 weeks???), then:
  10. Air out the house with windows open, fans creating cross-draft.
  11. Wipe down surfaces again.
  12. Make sure everything is COMPLETELY dry before rebuilding.

Even though this remediation can still fail for a person who got sick in that environment, it may do well for “most” people. It’s the safest way to do remediation besides burning the house down, removing even the dirt the house was on, and starting over. But for “average” people, it may even be better than the unfortunately many actively moldy houses in the world.

Christa Upton    Black Hills Picture Books   Edgemont, SD  57735

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Tips for Finding Hidden Mold in a Building

5/1/2017 update, adding ideas from people in the Mold Avoiders group.  🙂 

I wrote this from the perspective of trying to find a new rental or house to purchase. But these might help find hidden mold in a current residence, too. 

Also thanks to my friend D. P. for helping me brainstorm and come up with these.

Besides normal things one would look for (roof damage, signs of water damage on drywall, musty smell, etc.), here are some things to check:

  • Ground slanting toward the house (it should slant away for drainage)
  • Dense landscaping near house that someone may have watered a lot near foundation
  • Downspouts emptying water too close to the foundation. Look for signs of “moss” etc. around/near downspout opening and on the foundation there. It can even affect basements or anything near there inside.
  • Even worse, no gutters at all. Amazingly, this can create serious foundation problems.
  • Driveways that slant down toward attached garage
  • Many trees over house, causing too much shade, wet leaves, etc.
  • Mobile homes tend toward mold problems possibly more than stick built, because they may have insufficient insulation, insufficient ventilation, and cheaper materials. If they have been moved, it is possible this has compromised materials causing small leaks, too.
  • It may be a good idea to check into the flooding history for the town. Floods can cause major problems in MANY buildings and even in the outdoor air quality.

Maybe the two most important ones???  These mean a very serious, continuing problem.

  • Humidity above 60% in any room, area, basement, etc. Humidity should really be preferably below 50%. Any dirt anywhere and paper and other cellulose can start to grow mold around 67%, and you don’t want “pockets” of humidity close to this. You can carry a humidity monitor with you. It should register a new room within 5 minutes. Humidity above that or above 40% in winter usually indicates a hidden leak somewhere or a major construction mistake, especially if the house has been empty for a while (no showers & cooking recently). A moisture meter may be helpful, also, in case there is moisture within a wall that is not affecting room humidity for some reason.
  • Condensation in a house anywhere, any season.  This usually indicates too high of humidity, usually due to hidden leaks or construction mistakes causing high humidity. If a basement, it can be “naturally” higher in humidity even without a leak, but if a dehumidifier cannot keep up, THAT usually means a leak. The dehumidifier should be able to keep it below 50% humidity. There should be no condensation on windows unless someone has just taken a shower.

But also, old, dry mold can be a problem.  🙁 

  • Ask about prior leaks, which they may not know.
  • Under the bathroom and sink cabinets, look for dripping or evidence of someone putting something under the drain, or wrapping with a rag, etc.
  • Carefully inspect the corner of patio door windows and windowsills. Mold or water damage can indicate condensation in the wintertime, which is a sign of high humidity from something.
  • Check out corners in closets. Humidity can collect here.
  • Try to avoid fireplaces, skylights, and ice-makers in fridge if you can.  These all tend to leak. 🙁  
  • Avoid crawlspaces unless encapsulated but find out if it had ever NOT been encapsulated. If so, proceed with caution. Check subfloor if you can for any signs of mold, water damage, or discoloration.
  • Smell behind dishwasher and clothes washer. Try for a place with no carpet especially in these areas & bathroom.
  • Try to avoid tiled showers. They are notorious for getting water through the grout into walls or subfloor.
  • Be very careful with a brick-sided house, because brick holds water. Some other sidings do, too, like manufactured stone.
  • If caulk ANYWHERE looks bad or old or cracking, imagine water getting behind there. What would happen? If it seems like it could be bad, test humidity, smell, etc. It only takes 48 hours of a hidden material inside being wet before mold can take hold and grow.
  • All bathrooms and drier should have vents, with insulated ducts and vented OUTSIDE. If anything is vented in the attic, the attic will have mold. If no vents, the bathroom will have mold.
  • If new paint, especially a smaller area, check to see if there are pipes, etc. nearby. Also remember water from roof leaks can travel far and wide, going places I never thought possible. Un-insulated duct-work can also drip water in odd places.
  • Check under wall-to-wall carpet for mold in padding or on subfloor.
  • Ask to have A/C and then heat turned on WHILE you are there, and smell, etc.
  • Run showers for a couple minutes & smell. Humidity in the bathroom can activate mold you might not smell right away.

Christa Upton   Black Hills Picture Books     Edgemont, SD  57735

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A Pretty Head Wrap for Health

Last month I broke my wrist, which has meant three doctor appointments so far. (It’s healing great, though! Not any slower than normal! 🙂 )

But the normal scents and unavoidable chemical cleaners/disinfectants at the hospital were really tough to get out of my hair.

So I decided to try a wrap after a friend suggested it.  I found a wonderful video and showed it to Steve so he could help me until my wrist is better.  For some reason, I can’t get the video to embed here, but there are many videos you can find on YouTube on head wraps that are very helpful.

Here’s how mine turned out:  🙂 

It really helped!! As soon as I got to the car after the hospital visit, it took it off (along with other outer layers of clothing with clothing underneath still not too contaminated). Then of course bath at home. I keep forgetting that you can also blow-dry (outside!) your dry hair even before washing, and that helps. too.

And I thought this looked much nicer than the time I tried an appointment with a towel on my head.  LOL

I cannot tolerate any masks (long story), but I can help protect my hair; hair is so absorbent of vocs.

When I get better and can go out more & more, I am thinking I will probably do this type of head wrap all the time. It would be fun to try different colors and styles and techniques.


Christa Upton     Black Hills Picture Books      Edgemont, SD  57735

Posted in Caregivers, MCS/Chronic Illness, Mold/Mould | Leave a comment

Mystery Book Free on Kindle 4-18-17 Thru 4-22-17

Starting TOMORROW (4-18-17), my digital mystery book for kids is FREE!

Free promotion goes through Saturday (4-22-17).

Can be read on any device including laptops (just need the free Kindle app.)

For ages 5 – 10, can be read aloud or read independently by older kids. Summer reading fun?

Includes comprehension & discussion questions.

The Disappearing Snacks (Mysteries with the Willow Street Kids, Book 2)

Christa Upton    Black Hills Picture Books   Edgemont, SD  57735

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

A Great Surprise


We’d been camping for two months for my health. Someone had given us an old RV (somewhat offgassed but not moldy!  🙂 ) in addition to my aluminum camper (which was not big enough for all five of us). All of our stuff (that didn’t fit in the RV) was in storage until we figured out where we would live after the RV.

With three young children and the youngest in a wheelchair, it wasn’t terribly easy. Multiple Chemical Sensitivity brings daily challenges no matter where you are living. Special needs are a constant no matter what else is happening. But we were trying to enjoy the adventure, make the best of the situation.  But, we were weary.

One day we found the RV needed to have the brakes fixed. We’d have to take it to Rapid City (South Dakota). I couldn’t even go into the city limits without getting sick, so Steve set me up in my camper, in a quiet, hidden spot in National Forest that was open to camping. He arranged to have a friend bring me ice every day and be “on call” if I should need anything. I was pretty disabled at that time. He hitched the camper to the van should I have to drive out in an emergency like a forest fire. Then he and the kids headed up to the city.

Steve explained the situation to the RV repairmen, and they promised to get right on it so we could have our “house” back.  🙂   A relative graciously housed and fed Steve and the kids for the night and next day.

The next day around suppertime, Steve & the kids went to pick up the RV. Somehow a couple of the repairmen seemed to be acting funny, like schoolgirls with a secret, holding back smiles. Steve paid the bill and went to the RV and opened the door to help the kids inside.

There sat bags of groceries, canned goods, soda pop, napkins, and hot pizzas!!

This was 5 years ago, and it still touches my heart and brings tears to my eyes to think of it. How did those guys pull this off, and why did they go so out of their way to bless a little family? They might never know how much it meant to us, but I hope they did. A huge gesture of caring from strangers, a balm to our tired souls.


Christa Upton   Black Hills Picture Books    Edgemont, SD  57735



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