Reader of the Month: Meet Gwen!

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Here at Thrift Diving, it used to be that I’d highlight my favorite readers that makes Thrift Diving a great community. These are the thoughtful, engaged people that take time out of their busy day to leave comments here on the blog, read my posts, and who have spent a lifetime loving thrift stores, too.

For 2018, though, I’ve been so busy that my “Reader of the Month” features fell by the wayside. We can’t let that slip, now can we? It’s one of the features that makes this blog fun!

This month I wanted to spotlight one of my favorite people who has been a part of this blog for years. She was there when I first started my YouTube channel and she was there when I recently celebrated hitting 100,000 channel subscribers.

Her name is Gwen and she is one of the most positive people I have come to know over the years!

Meet Gwen. 🙂


Gwen used to be a teacher until one unfortunate day in 2008 she fell about 9 feet off a ladder, hitting her head, resulting in a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Having worked with TBI patients at a Walter Reed Army Medical Center back in the day before I became a full-time DIY blogger, I know very well the challenges that TBI patients can endure after a moderate or severe brain injury.

After that time, Gwen wasn’t able to continue working as a teacher.

She’s got an amazing husband named Curt who had been her caregiver, and who has battled his own health problems, including cancer, stroke, and partial blindness. And although he tires easily, he’s her rock. He’s the one that helps her carry out her DIY projects at times when she needs help. He doesn’t complain. He simply loves her and supports her, wanting her to be happy.


Gwen is always one of the first readers to sign up for my 30-Day Room Makeover Challenges, which is so endearing when I see her name on the Sign-Up list! 🙂

So let’s learn a little more about Gwen.

Gwen’s pretty patio makeover from our 30-Day Makeover Challenge in 2015.


Such a pretty space! Gwen's 30-Day Outdoor October Makeover Challenge in 2015.


Where do you live?

“I live at the bottom of the San Joaquin Valley in California–about 100 miles over the mountain to Los Angeles.”

How long have you been thrift diving and loving junk? Share with us your earliest memories of thrift stores and how you learned to love them.

“The first time I ever went to a ‘flea market’ was when I was ten? Nine!? My cousin and I went with our Dads who were cousins up to Yosemite in a Ford Model T. I remember we all got out on a hairpin road and D backed up the mountain curve while we walked! Something about where their gas tank was and needed to lighten the load!! We were going to stop at a ‘flea market’ before getting to Yosemite and I was scared!! I only know All Dogs Have Fleas and I did not want them! I thought it all was junk. I was still a bit overwhelmed with this new found cousin since moving to California. She LOVED all the junk! I bought a red mini old-fashioned oil lantern which I’ve displayed all my life!!

Here I am holding on, leaning out the back. My mom is outside and my Dad’s cousin is driving. My brother and sis are in back with me. We rode in this to go to my first ‘flea market’ outdoors up by Yosemite. I remember being in the mountains and there being JUNK by tall big trees!”



What’s the most prized possession you ever bought from the thrift store?

“Hmmm. A thrift store? Does farm girls vintage finds count?!!! They buy junk and resell (oh yes, Serena…many a time I’ve thought how Sanford & Son would be the ‘in’ place to shop in LA)…for today these are prized possessions but who knows??? Next year it may be something else!! I purchased vintage China plates and goblets as well as silver plates from our local thrift stores for a ‘we are vintage now’ reunion of high school Bible Study Gals that met on Thursdays our Frosh through Senior years. That was a special memory of being on the hunt.”


What’s the most expensive thing you ever bought from the thrift store? 

“Haha!! ALL my plates to make all these yard art flowers. I was newly injured and part of that is not knowing when to quit a good thing. I had friends doing the plate projects with me. It was like huge puzzles. What plates to put together?? But then I never was able to ever finish. I needed help to get the pipes and get them cut. I broke many for recycling because no one takes yard art for donations. I gave everyone one as a gift. So I shall photograph them for you and call a friend to pick what she wants and toss the rest! But it was a mental exercise that took months.”


What’s the DIY or craft project of which you’re most proud? 

“Oh dear. I think using my Dad’s pile of old undershirts, darned socks, stuff from his darning suitcase and I made chair-back decor for 14 chairs for a dinner party. I made garland for my tree that year. I sat and wept for I saw how my Dad’s darning of his socks went from fine stitches to crude as he became older. I wept for I missed my Dad. Out of rags, I made riches. Kind of a symbol of the reason we have Jesus. He came so we, who are nothing are made truly rich through Him.”



[Gwen also sent me a picture of a coffee table that her husband, who is partially blind, helped her upcycle into a sofa table! I think this is one of my favorite projects that Gwen ever showed me!]






Why do you like reading Thrift Diving and how long have you been reading? What are your favorite types of posts or projects on the blog?

“I have no memory of how long or how I got started reading but it has been quite a while!!! I truly love our [30-day room makeover] challenges. I joined and I’ve memorized Serena’s guidance lists. Her weekly checklists and prods keep us moving on, keep me moving on. I realized I could not do like in the past and do a complete overhaul of a room. But guess what?!! I accomplished, with help, some cleaning out of stuff that I don’t need. I donated, gave away, transported to my daughter and I’d have never done any of this without the challenge. Even if I get all or part of my goals met, I’m better off than I was before. Serena is an upbeat encourager. No shaming. She’s one of my most favorite people I’ve never met!!! Even my hubby knows her name.

I enjoy Serena’s DIY projects at her home. I like how she shows us power tools. I like how she’s so famous but doesn’t forget us–her regular readers!!! Her posts are diverse and relevant to a changing ‘market’. That’s what keeps me reading her blog all these years. I watch her YouTube videos. I’ll stay on as a reader!”

Gwen’s “Grandma Room” makeover she completed for one of our 30-Day Room Makeover Challenges.


What other DIY blogs do you like to read? Are there other blogs that you love to read outside of the DIY niche?

“I like Stone Gable, Blesser House, Hymns n Verses, Sincerely Sara D., and Bright Green Door, plus a blog in Sweden, Norway and also one in France. I like to see how Scandinavia decorates. I like to see the mountains of France!! I like Bible hand lettering blogs that I usually follow on Instagram.”

What DIY or crafting tips do you have for others?

“Do what YOU want to do. I was severely made fun of by others and constantly questioned why I was doing this or that. Do not listen. Some like to craft. Others do not. Try again. You can’t mess up in art. Hey, do not be so critical of yourself. It is okay to gift your labor of love to someone but it is then theirs to do whatever they want with it. Keep trying new things. Don’t always copy someone. Try to create with what you have sometimes!”


Thanks, Gwen for being August’s Reader of the Month! I appreciate your friendship and always look forward to seeing you around the blog and on Facebook! 🙂

Want More? Check Out the Previous Readers of the Month!


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  1. Hey Gwen! Im loving all your answers. The coffeetable turned sofatable is so cute and creative!

  2. Susan Schneider says:

    I really enjoyed getting to know Gwen. She and her husband are such an inspiration. I have been noticing lately how many people have so much struggle in their lives and how they cope. You are so kind yourself, Serena and it shows in how you run your business and how you treat others.

    1. Aww, thank you so much, Susan, for taking time to learn more about Gwen! That means a lot to me, and I know that Gwen and her husband Curt appreciate it so much! šŸ™‚

  3. Hello Gwen! It’s nice to “meet” you and to hear about your journey. I’m sorry to hear about the terrible fall, but it’s good to know you’ve come back from that with such a positive attitude.

    I too love Serena’s 30-Day challenges. She’s the real deal, and that’s what keeps me coming back (and her amazing projects, clever tips, and a glimpse of her sweet young boys.

    Wishing you all the best with all future endeavors. Alys

    1. Oooh, Alys, you are such a doll! I’m so glad that you’re a part of my blog because it makes me happy reading your heart-felt comments! Gear up, because I think we’re going to do an October challenge! Perfect for right before the holidays!

  4. Wow, Gwen, you are an inspiration!
    I love the Model-T trip story <3 I am absolutely going to be putting a pumpkin in a planter! <3 Lovelovelove, the t-shirt garland! While I don't put up a tree, my crazy re-cycle/re-use brain is muddling some new wayd to utilize the fabric and old clothes I have recently begun saving for projects….
    I got a little teary reading the story of the sock darning…. my mother was an artist and created constantly, as she aged and rheumatoid arthritis inhibited her ability to create work she never stopped. I miss my Mom, she showed me to never stop creating.
    This brings me to your final words, "You can't mess up art". Women like you and Serena who mentor us and share your successes and not-so-much successes give us the freedom and courage to try something without being afraid of 'doing it wrong'.
    Also, it is much easier to take a risk with a thrift store buy and some oops! paint!! šŸ˜€

    1. Hi Laura! Such kind words for Gwen and me! šŸ™‚ You are right about that–when you buy thrift store things for reasonable prices, there’s less fear of messing up. When I built my vanity for my bathroom from scratch–not THAT was nerve-wrecking because the wood was so expensive that I was afraid of having to come out of pocket for hundreds more due to mistakes. But that is how we learn. And Gwen is right–you can’t mess up art. It’s all about how YOU create it!

      Thanks for such an awesome comment and for supporting this blog and for supporting Gwen!

  5. Serena, last week, I helped my daughter move into a new apartment. After we got all her stuff in, we realized that she could use a few storage things and other things before I headed home. We saw a thrift store and decided to check it out. We found a few items–a basket to store her kitchen towels, a canister to hold some cooking utensils, and a couple of picture frames for some art that needed framing. She was excited, and I think she will be visiting the local thrift stores again. By the way, one of the items was marked half price, so that was an extra perk of our visit. Thank you for all you do, especially encouraging your readers and viewers to try something new.

    1. YAY! That’s awesome, Shana! Have you gone to thrift stores much before? If not, I’m happy to hear that you may have just converted, along with your daughter! It’s fun seeing what treasures will be there that day you happen to stop by and getting them for reasonable amounts of money. Thanks for sharing that fun story!

  6. I love your blog for many reasons but the reader of the month is a favorite. You are genuinely supportive of your readers which is a wonderful trait. I read and follow all that you do but am shy about interacting/commenting. Thanks for all you do and share.

    1. Awww….Trena! So great to hear that you love the Reader of the Month feature! I worry that some people will get annoyed with it, especially new subscribers who think I’m ONLY about doing a tutorial in every post. But comments like this let me know that these features are important. šŸ™‚ Thanks for that feedback, Trena!

  7. Gwen’s the best. So positive in the face of all the medical issues she and Curt have faced just in the few years we have “known” each other through Serena. Her faith is strong and it shows in everything she does.
    The best thing on Serena’s blog is that regardless how different we are, we all love home and family and that unites us.
    Diversity training with power tools!

    1. You are so right, Letty! She’s always positive when many others would be sulking and complaining. And I’m sure she always has a smile on her face! Love that!! Thanks so much for commenting!! Hope you’re doing well and enjoying retirement!!!!

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