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Stay at Home Solutions blogs on topics such as aging in place, universal design, adaptive equipment, home modifications, accessibility, durable medical equipment, legislation, and caregiving.

Posts in retirement
Am I Really A Caregiver?

Foreword: I originally published this article in July and thought that it needed another go round on the blog. If you help out a family member, read below and see if you qualify as a caregiver. (More than likely, you probably do!) I want you to know that there are resources available to help you!

Recently, a therapist friend of mine brought up the fact that caregivers do not realize they are caregivers. My mind was blown! She was totally right. It reminded me how I used to not see myself as a caregiver to my grandparents. On a professional level, I have worked with family members in nursing homes who did not see themselves as caregivers. Lots of people do not perceive themselves as caregivers!



It seems like when people think about caregiving they imagine a kind nurse helping a sick, frail patient with some sort of self care task, like getting dressed or taking medicine. Or people think that a caregiver is a parent raising a child. Both thoughts about caregivers are correct, but let me tell you, the definition of a caregiver expands way past physically helping a person with the intimate parts of everyday life.

I talk about caregivers all the time in my blog, videos, and with clients and their families. It is long overdue for me to break down what a caregiver actually does!



A caregiver is a family member, friend, or paid professional that helps a person with activities of daily living. I understand that is a broad definition, but let me explain. Activities of daily living refer not only to self care tasks like toileting, bathing, grooming, etc., but they also refer to taking care of the home, finances, transportation, community errands, using a telephone, and so on and so on.

If you just sit for a minute and actually think about all of the seemingly small things you do a day, than you will realize that some people need help with all of those things you take for granted. Let me tell you about my first hour of a normal day. I get out of bed, put on my glasses, make the bed, go to the bathroom, brush my teeth, let the dog out, make breakfast, eat breakfast, and walk the dog. For each one of those tasks, I could go into even more detail about what I do.

There are some people who need help with every single one of those things that I do in the first hour of the day! My first hour of the day consists of my personal needs and taking care of my dog. If someone helped me with any of those things, they would be my caregiver. Is your mind blown yet?

My personal experience as a caregiver started many years ago with my wonderful grandparents. My grandmother, Granny, would ask me to help out with tasks around the house like changing the light bulbs, taking down the attic fan cover, and carrying the laundry basket up from the basement for her. (By the way, all of those things are caregiving activities!) I did not see myself as a caregiver. I saw myself as helping Granny out! I actually cherished going to my grandparent’s house and reading my list of to do’s. In my mind, that’s what you do for your family: you help your family whenever they need something.

Over time, my grandparents asked for more help around the house and going out in the community. I loved our new weekly ritual of picking them up and driving to the grocery store. Granny would chit chat with the store employees at the front of the store and at checkout. We would take our time walking the aisles while Granny asked me to reach for the products she wanted. I would push the cart and Grandpa helped me load and unload the groceries into the car and house. All of us worked at a furious pace to put the groceries away, “Hurry! The ice cream will melt!”  We ended our grocery run at the dining room table eating donuts and drinking coffee or cappuccino and catching up with each other over the past week. I had no idea that my role as a caregiver would continue to grow.

Eventually, my caregiving responsibilities included managing my grandparent’s medication and finances. I used to work as a pharmacy technician while in school, so it seemed a natural fit for me to make sure their medications were refilled and placed in their weekly medication organizer. Granny trusted me with balancing her checkbook every week and Grandpa knew I would pay the bills as soon as they came in the mail. I always made sure to do the bills and medication how they wanted to give them peace of mind.

The increase in caregiving tasks came with more time spent with my grandparents at their house. My mother and I split caregiving duties to even the load and allow us to attend to other parts of our lives, like work and school. Mom would take my grandparents to doctor’s appointments, the nail salon, the hair salon, and other errands. My grandparents were lucky enough to qualify for a personal care attendant through one of the county’s senior services programs who helped with laundry, cooking, and cleaning the house. We were fortunate to have a team of caregivers for Granny and Grandpa!

Towards the end of Granny’s life, she was able to do many of her self care tasks such as dressing, toileting, bathing, brushing teeth. Sometimes Mom helped Granny put her curlers in her hair in the evening before bed due to Granny’s arthritis in her shoulders. Granny called us when she felt sick and we would give her medicine and contact her doctor. When she passed suddenly in 2016, I felt my world shift. Of course, I missed my role as a granddaughter to Granny, but I also missed my role as a caregiver to her. I loved how Granny was my caregiver when I was a child, and I was able to be a caregiver to her in the last part of her life.

In a way, my role as a caregiver to Grandpa has greatly reduced as well. After Granny passed, Grandpa needed physical help with self care tasks in addition to taking care of the house. Grandpa now requires at least two people to help with sitting and standing during his activities of daily living 24 hours a day. Because of Grandpa’s needs for more help, he now lives in a long term care facility where the nursing staff provides the care he needs. Now, my role is back to being his granddaughter. We still continue our tradition of cappuccino and donuts every Sunday while we visit together.



I hope my personal experience as a caregiver allows you to see your role as a caregiver to others. Do you take out your neighbor’s trash? Do you mow your uncle’s lawn? Do you show your grandma how to take a selfie or post on Facebook? Do you take down your mom’s curtains to be washed? Guess what? You’re a caregiver.

As a fellow caregiver, I salute you. Caregiving is an unpaid, invisible, incredibly important job that almost all of us do and are not recognized. Caregiving is one of the hardest experiences we encounter as human beings. It demands patience and dedication to our loved ones or people we provide services to. I would like to end this article giving you a few resources because I want to make your life easier, friend!

Here are a couple of short videos to brighten your day and show you some caregiving tips: 3 Free Tips for Millennial Caregivers, How to Install a Motion Sensor Light.

Click on these links to learn how to help yourself as a caregiver: Alzheimer's Association, AARP, Caregiver Action Network, and National Alliance for Caregiving

Thank you for taking time out of your busy day! Time is precious when you help a loved one! Please comment down below with any caregiving tips you would like to share!

Hey, Missouri! Show Me the Money: 6 Ways to Finance Home Projects!

Last week we discussed three ways to pay for home projects that help us and our families live at home safely and independently. Apparently, that article left you hungry for more information! So this week, I wanted to follow up with EVEN MORE financial resources for your consideration!

Let's do a quick recap on the who, what, and why it's important to invest in home projects, such as home modification or remodeling. We all want to live in our homes as long as we possibly can. (I have never EVER met anyone who said they wanted to live in a nursing home!) Despite us wanting to live in our homes forever, over 90% of housing in the U.S. is NOT set up for us to safely age in in place! That means every person in the U.S. needs to start investing in home modifications that will allow us to remain independent caring for ourselves, OR we will ALL end up spending more money on things we hate, like medical bills and rehab.



So you may ask, "Maria, how can I afford to pay for home modifications?" Great question! Here are six solutions for you (To see a more comprehensive financial resource list, click here.):

1) If you are a home owner, renter, or landlord with a low to moderate income, listen up! You can request home repairs or simple modifications through your area agency on aging, which is financed by the Housing and Urban Development HOME Program and Community Development Block Grants. In Kansas City, MO, you can click here to request help to fix repairs and install accessible features, like grab bars in the bathroom. 



2) Don't worry Missouri farmers and ranchers! I'm thinking about you too! The United States Department of Agriculture and Rural Development offer loan programs for low to moderate income home owners and landlords to buy, build, rehab, or improve a house! It is worthwhile to consider these low interest loans for home improvements that allow you to age in place. Before your family talks you into moving to the city for retirement, look into this type of loan for home modifications to stay safe and independent on your land! 

3) Go to your local bank or credit union and ask about the loans they provide that are insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). Let's say you take out a loan that is FHA insured and something terrible happens where you are unable to repay the loan. Not to worry! FHA will reimburse your bank the amount of the loan balance. Since the bank is guaranteed a loan payoff, they are often willing to lower loan requirements for the income and credit score. These types of fixed or variable rate loans are great for low to moderate income homeowners and landlords to make homes accessible for people to live for a lifetime!



4) Do you care for children 18 years and younger with developmental disabilities? Do they feel heavier and heavier every time you pick them up to feed/dress/bathe/toilet them? It's time for some home modifications to protect your back and the health of your child! Check out the Missouri Medicaid waiver that pays for home environmental modifications to make it safer and easier for you to help your kiddo! This waiver is available to both homeowners or renters across the state!

5) If you have trouble getting in and out of your home, take a look at the Missouri Residential Dwelling Accessibility Tax Credit. This tax credit is for people with disabilities who have an income of $30,000 or less a year. You can be credited up to $2,500 for modifying your entryway (i.e. garage, front door, back door, side door) to make it easier to enter and exit your home. Personally, I love being reimbursed by the government for doing something good for my home and my physical health! No more worrying about accidental injuries when getting in and out of the house!



6) Veterans! You have sacrificed your time and lives for our country's independence! Now, it's time for you homeowners or renters to maintain your independence in the community! Go to this link to apply for housing grants to adapt your home! You deserve to live in a home that is set up for you to complete your daily activities. Also, click here to learn more about the Home Improvement and Structural Alterations Grant for veterans that focuses on home modifications specifically for bathrooms, entryways, and kitchens. In my humble opinion, those are the top three places in your home that you should address first!

The time for home modifications is now! I don't care how old you are! I'm looking at you all in your twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, or above! I don't care if you can still walk or drive at night! I don't even care if you think you can rely on your kids in your golden years! People of all ages need to make changes in the home now to live at home for a lifetime. All it takes is one project at a time, folks.

After you find out which financial resources above will work for you, call an occupational therapist, like me, to guide you in creating home modifications custom made for you. Occupational therapists understand that people have different wants and needs in their home. We love working with people to tailor their home environment just for them! In fact, check out the research showing that occupational therapists are the most effective at home modification recommendations!

Lastly, I know that you know people who could benefit from this information. Share this article with every veteran, grandparent, parent, farmer, neighbor you know! Click on the links above and learn more about these grants, waivers, and loans for Missouri residents! Consider this: if you clicked on one link a day, you would be finished in one week. Take notes on which financial resources will and won't work for you to stay organized. If anything, remember that you better do it before you need it!



I Need a Bidet for Me and Bae!

This past couple of weeks, I have worked with two clients with chronic back pain and osteoarthritis. These types of conditions can make it hard to twist and bend to thoroughly clean yourself after going to the bathroom.



Whoa! I know that is extremely personal! But it can be devastating and life altering to not be able to clean your private areas. So what did I do for my clients?

I showed different types of bidets! Bidets clean your private parts with a soft stream of water after you toilet.

Personally, I did not know bidets existed until I was in my late twenties. I have seen a bidet in a bathroom in Europe, but I have never seen one in the U.S. Side note: I was too scared to use the bidet in Europe even though I knew what it was. I would definitely use a bidet now! It’s on my to-do list for our future home remodel.

Pexels: This bathroom has a toilet and bidet.

Pexels: This bathroom has a toilet and bidet.

Toilet manufacturers reported an increase in sales in bidets and bidet seats in America. It’s not hard to see why. The benefits include being more gently effective with personal hygiene compared to the skin irritation that can come with toilet paper or wet wipes. Bidets also cut down on use of toilet paper.

Save the trees and save the butts!

My clients needed their backs saved as well. So I suggested a bidet seat or a hand held bidet. I would not install a separate bidet in a bathroom because that would take up too much space. Plus, try to squat on a bidet when your back is killing you! 

You can find electric or non electric bidet seats to install on your existing toilet. The electric bidet seats are kind of fancier in that some brands offer the option to blow warm air on your bottom. Many bidet seats have controls that allow you to change water temperature and to aim the water stream where it needs to go.

Hand held bidets are typically less expensive. You can hook them on the toilet tank or on the wall next to the toilet if it’s within reach. If you have a hard time moving your shoulders and arms back because of arthritis and pain, this may not be the best option for you.

The hand held bidets can have multiple functions besides personal hygiene like: cleaning the floor, cleaning a bathtub/shower, cleaning a cotton diaper, filling a bucket, watering bathroom plants, filling water balloons. . . The list is endless. Get creative, people!

I hope you think or rethink thoughts on bidets! Your private areas will thank you. The trees will thank you. You will thank yourself for maintaining your independence!

Hey, You Might Have Visitability Disorder!

Do you have a couple of family members who cannot visit your house because it’s hard for them to climb stairs?

Do you accidentally strain yourself at home while carrying things through narrow doorways and stairs?

Have you or a family member broken a bone and were forced to completely change where you sleep, bathe, and toilet in the house?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, you suffer from “Visitability Disorder”. (Gasp!)

Goodness! What is that?

It is the inability for people of all ages and abilities to visit your home. It is a terrible affliction that affects more than 90% of current housing in the U.S.  (Journal of the American Planning Association).

I will confess to you all today that I too have “Visitability Disorder”. (Sobs into a handkerchief.) I feel your pain.

However, I have great news! There is a cure for “Visitability Disorder”! outlines what builders can do with new construction using three very important and INEXPENSIVE tactics:

Innovate Building Solutions

Innovate Building Solutions

1) Make one entry into the house a zero-step entrance. It can be the front door, side door, back door, from the garage, secret entryway, etc. Just choose one entry with no steps whatsoever! Bonus tip: you can add a zero-step entrance whether your house has a basement or not!




2) Build all doorways and hallways 32 inches wide or greater. This will eliminate the funny bone pain you get after slamming your elbow into the door frame while carrying groceries or a baby carrier inside the house.


Functional Home Living

Functional Home Living

3) Construct a half bathroom, preferably a full bathroom, on the main level of your house. Family and friends won’t have to trudge up the stairs to use the bathroom or shower.

Please please look at the other tabs and links on! It also provides stats, costs, resources, handouts, and real world applications. How cool is that?


Next, you may say to me, “Maria, I am not planning on building a new house. What can I do?” Unfortunately, the costs of retrofitting a house with these features is more expensive than new construction. That is the reality. BUT the benefits of having a bathroom on the main level, zero-step entry, and 32 inch wide or greater hallways and doorways are long-lasting for everyone!

If you are planning on remodeling parts of your house in the future, ask your contractor to widen the doorways and hallways 32-36 inches.

Add more space to a half bathroom by allowing at least five feet of turning radius to move around easier.

Create a gentle sloped sidewalk from the driveway to the front or side entry for a zero-step entry.

For more great ideas specific to you, call me! I’ve got your solution!


Do You Really Know ADA?

The Americans with Disabilities Act has done a wonderful job of helping people visit public spaces. From baseball stadiums to public libraries, Americans of any age and ability have more opportunities to experience what everyone else takes for granted.

By Hayden Gascoigne [CC BY-SA 4.0  (], from Wikimedia Commons

By Hayden Gascoigne [CC BY-SA 4.0  (], from Wikimedia Commons

Without a doubt, there is still room for improvement! I’m looking at you worst offenders, restaurants and retail stores!

By the way, I’m going to throw a Field of Dreams quote out to you, “If you build it, they will come.” (Contact me to help you make your business more accessible!)

The more I talk to people, the more I understand that MOST people think if you want an accessible home, it NEEDS to use the same ADA standards as public spaces. Well, I am here to challenge your assumption. The answer is: ADA standards are NOT to be used in your home!

I know you are shocked, but let me explain. When you go to city hall or any other public place, they must follow the ADA Accessibility Guidelines, which were created based on research looking at what works for most people. ADA is NOT required in your home because your home is not a public space. This means that you CAN customize your home according to your needs.

You can create an accessible, lifetime home without using ADA guidelines.

You definitely want to create an accessible, lifetime home without ADA guidelines.



If you are considering making some changes in your home, hire an occupational therapist to work with your contractor. Your occupational therapist will make sure that the home is personalized and accessible for your life. For example, a 4’10" adult does not need the bottom of the bathroom sink 27 inches from the floor in their home. The sink can be lowered to help that person from leaning too far forward every single time they want to wash their hands!

Having a home tailored to you leads to less injuries, less falls, less wear and tear on your body, and more happiness!

Do it before you need it! Set yourself up for success in a home for a lifetime by contacting me today!

Do It Before You Need It!

How old are you? Never mind! Doesn’t matter! Want to live in your home for a lifetime regardless of your age or ability? I DARE you to start making changes to your home today! Either watch this short video or keep reading down below!

Check out AARP’s HomeFit Guide by clicking here. It gives suggestions room by room to improve the safety of your home. The guide ranges in simple do-it-yourself tips to more complex ones that you may want to leave to a professional. My most favorite part of the HomeFit Guide is the recommendation for an occupational therapist to come to your house (That's me. Don't wait! Click here!).

AARP HomeFit Guide

AARP HomeFit Guide

The Lifetime Home by USC Leonard Davis

The Lifetime Home by USC Leonard Davis

Next take a look at The Lifetime Home by USC Leonard Davis. This website is for anyone, including professionals! Show it to Joe or Josephine, the handy person, for them to understand the work you want them to do. It tackles common problems in each room of the house and provides solutions in an easy to understand manner.

Lastly, give me a call. If you live in the KC Metro area, you have no excuse not to contact me. I am here to empower you! Allow me to come over (I am very courteous and tidy), do a quick evaluation, and give you tips to transform your home into a home for a lifetime.

That is a MUCH better option than moving into a facility.

I don’t care how nice the facility is. It’s still a facility. Let your home maintain your freedom, not dictate what you can and can’t do!

Make this a family affair by sharing this blog with your family members! I tell people, “Hey, I’m in my thirties and making changes in my home. Why aren’t you doing it?” Do it before you need it!

Nursing Home Experience

Dear friends,

I am a professional who helps people live in their homes for a lifetime as a viable option compared to a nursing home/ assisted living facility/ independent living facility. This career was inspired by my grandparents when they expressed their desire to live in their home and never to live in a nursing home. I have worked in nursing homes and agree that the quality of life is profoundly better living at home compared to living or rehabilitating in an institution.

Don’t get me wrong! For families with no choice but a nursing home, there are amazing companies like Prairie Elder Care who provide excellent care. (No, they did not pay me to say that!) 

Because I come from a strong-willed family, a.k.a control freaks, we would all die quickly if we had no choice when we woke up in the morning, ate meals, brushed our teeth, changed into clean clothes, took medication, bathed, went to sleep, napped, visited a doctor, etc. Imagine having minimal to zero say in who you shared your room with or where your room is located in a facility.

Attempting to change the status quo to your preferences may result in a long wait time or no change at all until you discharge home (if you are that fortunate). Most people have to settle with the rhythm of the facility and change their perspective to go with the flow.

Privacy is a relic of the past when living in a nursing home. Although many employees are well-meaning, they tend to forget that they are working in your home. If you are a modest person, you will experience incidents of exposure to people you do not know. Sometimes staff will forget to shut doors while assisting you with self care activities such as toileting, dressing, or bathing. Other people's family members may take your picture without permission because you were in the same frame as Grandma and they did not want to "move you".

There are some people who thrive in nursing homes or assisted living facilities due to the fact it offers them more opportunity to visit with others and make friends. However, I would often hear those same people say, “I never thought I would end up here like this.”

Pexels: Friends planning their future to live at home.

Pexels: Friends planning their future to live at home.

The number one reason that brings people to nursing/ assisted living facilities is the fact their homes are not set up for them to independently take care of themselves. The bathroom is too small. People cannot get in and out of their shower safely. They cannot climb the stairs to their bedroom. Washing and drying clothing is impossible when the machines are in the basement. It is difficult to keep snow off the front stairs to walk to the driveway.

Pexels: stairs

Pexels: stairs

Want to avoid living in a facility? I can help everyone prevent the experience of living in a nursing home! I can extend your ability to live independently and safely in your home regardless of what your future looks like. Living at home saves you money! You can enjoy your time, schedule, needs, and wants in your home without the disruptive nature of an institution.

BUT you need to start planning now! Do not put it off until your children graduate high school or college. Do not wait until you start collecting social security. Do not wait to receive your pension. Plan today! Make your future happiness a priority!

Just take five minutes of your time to call or message me. Ask me any questions, hang up the phone, and call me back with more questions. I promise that I am a friendly person who wants to help other people.

Please leave me comments or questions on this article below. I will respond to you!

Never Give up Sports! Ever!!

On Friday, I posted a video on Facebook that gave tips on how to “Never Give up Sports! Ever!!” Kaitlyn McManus graciously shared her experience with helping children with low vision ski independently. She wrote an article for OT Practice detailing how she assisted one particular child in his goal to ski on his own using supports tailored for him. Kaitlyn also discussed a couple of simple ways for people of all ages to continue cycling and playing tennis to minimize stress on body joints.



In addition to the video, I wanted to share inspirational stories from older adult athletes from this Reader’s Digest article. I am particularly fond of Anna McGowan, an avid participant in long jump, shot put, and discus. She has competed in the National Senior Games since 1987 and took up sports to help cope with the loss of her husband at the age of 50 years old. Anna McGowan said the secret to healthy aging is, “doing what you feel like doing.” Another great article is from CBS, which highlights 43 athletes from the 2011 National Senior Games. After reading these stories, I personally felt my heart strings tug and a strong desire to take my dog on a brisk walk in the neighborhood.



If you consider yourself a beginner at working out, Reader’s Digest published an article encouraging people to first talk with your doctor and complete a physical exam to rule out any conditions that may put you at risk for harm. Your doctor will suggest certain physical activities and ways to monitor vitals such as your pulse and breathing. Next, consider consulting with a personal trainer to find exercises or group classes that meet your interests and physical health. Beginners are invited to go slow during workouts to build endurance and strength and to avoid injury. For more tips on how to make exercise a lifestyle change, check out the National Senior Games Association and American Council on Exercise portal at

Video Doorbells

Video doorbells are a combination of a doorbell and video camera that syncs to your smartphone and allows you to see and speak to the person at your door. Video doorbells are rising in popularity and largely viewed as a form of security for people's homes. This allows people to answer the door virtually from different parts of the home or work by using an app on a smartphone. When the visitor rings the video doorbell, you can see them but they cannot see you. If someone is delivering a package, you can instruct them where to leave it to prevent theft from "porch pirates".

Last week, Amazon announced the purchase of Ring, the video doorbell company, for over a billion dollars. Amazon is looking for strategies to deter people from stealing packages delivered while the recipient is not home. The company is hoping to integrate the technology of Ring's video doorbell with Amazon Alexa to make it even easier for home owners to track and receive Amazon orders. According to Statista, there are 90 million Amazon Prime members in the United States as of September 2017. Amazon and Ring could make it safer and easier for millions of people to receive orders from delivery workers.

Adults of all ages will benefit with the Amazon and Ring merger. In January 2017, Pew Research reported 42% of adults 65 years and older own a smart phone. Without a doubt, that number has already climbed higher since last year. Personally, I have noticed an increase in my clients using smart phones to purchase items and services from Amazon. I know that the next step is for older adults to use their smart phone to monitor who is visiting at their front door. Video doorbells can bring peace of mind to family members concerned about their loved ones being potentially taken advantage of at all hours of the day.

Amazon and Ring are encouraging the path towards consumers setting up their homes with smart technology, otherwise known as home automation. Smart home technology allows people to use their smart phones to control smart devices throughout the home like turning lights on and off or changing the temperature. It is easy to see how this would help a wide variety of people such as a person with chronic back pain. The possibilities of video doorbells and smart devices are endless! Stay at Home Solutions can help your family members choose the most appropriate video doorbells and smart home devices for their needs. We also provide installation services to make the process easy and quick for you.

Stair Lifts Costs

[This article was initially published on the blog August 15, 2017. I checked current payment options for residents of Missouri and Kansas.]

I recently encountered a client who was unable to walk up the stairs in her home to access her bedroom and bathroom. Unfortunately, my client has no bathroom on the main level of the house. My client has the following options: 1) Use a bedside commode and portable shower in the living room. 2) Install a stair lift or inclined wheelchair lift to access the second floor. The client opted to remain in a facility until gaining more independence with her ability to care for herself.

A stair lift or elevator is a viable choice for people who want to remain living in their home. However, lifts can cost thousands of dollars and can be difficult for most people to pay up front. For adults 65 years and older, Medicare will only pay a small sum if the stair lift has an elevated seat. People eligible for Medicaid will find coverage varies by state and may not cover the entire cost of the installation. Read my blog post, "Payment Options for Home Modifications" to learn more about Missouri Medicaid.

Lastly, the Veteran's Administration will pay for a stair lift or inclined wheelchair lift for a veteran who is a wheelchair user with a service connected disability. This will occur after a home visit and functional skills assessment by an occupational therapist. 

It is important to note that I always recommend using a company who specializes in lifts and elevators, such as KC Lift, in able to assure you purchase the most appropriate and safe lift for your needs. If you purchase a lift off of the internet, you do not have the guarantee the lift is properly installed.

If you were unable to move on your own, would you be able to live in your home? Please contact me on Facebook (@stayathomesolutionskc) or email me to let me know what your options would be!