My garden this year is reflecting a lot of how I’m feeling about my life at the moment. Nothing went the way I planned it. Last year was lush and bountiful, but this year, not so much. A lot of things are inexplicably dead. The tomatoes are all rangy and bedraggled. The zucchini were destroyed from the inside before they could produce more than a singular overgrown fruit. Some of the seeds I planted turned out not to be the ones I thought I was growing. A couple of the beds have become woefully overgrown with weeds.
But there are a few bright spots here and there. The cherry tomatoes that I didn’t think I planted are starting to turn, ready to be cooked down into lovely sweet tomato jam. And here and there the dozens of sunflowers that self seeded are putting on brilliant displays. (Now that I do a little research, they may be part of the problem, but I’m going to linger in the joy of them for this season at least.) I have one lone fig on the fig tree I forgot to bundle up last year, and the apple trees are bearing their first fruit. The overgrown beds can be recovered, and one of them I plan to turn into a winter bed for lettuces and other greens. The tiny pepper plants are covered with snackable goodies just waiting to turn color.
So I cling to the metaphor. Things are hard right now, I’m not going to lie. It’s been hard to think about what to write here, as so much of it feels like it would just be me whining. But I like writing, and not doing it contributes to me feeling poorly about myself. My goal at the moment is to start picking up the posting here again, building up my stamina again until I can do Blogtober. Can’t believe that’s only 6 weeks away!
So here I am, pulling weeds, uncovering treasures, and sharing them with others. I missed you guys!
My middlest child graduates high school this year. My youngest graduates next year and then goes on to the local community college. When they graduate from there, my time here in this house is over, for good or for ill. So in three years, I’ll be starting my next great adventure.
I’ve started doing exercises to try to get into the headspace of what that will be like. The plan is to move to a farm, or at least a farm-in-the-making. I’ve been imagining this place since I was a kid. We had friends who were farmers when I was growing up, and their places were always magical to me. Especially the hay barns. Hay barns are cathedrals to me, with the same power of scent and the same transfusion of light. So I want to move to a place I can live in until they carry me feet first out the window. I’ve drawn pictures and maps of what my farm is going to look like, created business plans, collected infrastructure ideas. If visioning is creating, this place already exists in the world, just waiting for me to be ready.
I was in the grocery store the other day, buying 3 gallons of milk that will last 4 days and cost more than gas, and it hit me. In a couple of years, a half gallon will probably go bad in my fridge, as I won’t have a bunch of teenagers drinking it all. That was followed by the realization that my food budget will plummet when my kids move out. That’s kind of overwhelming to think about. I’ll be spending more to feed my animals than to feed people. Weird.
The latest thought experiment has been, “What will I take with me when I move?” The answer is, surprisingly, not much. Considering the fact that I live in a 3 bedroom, 3 story house, I think I can fit everything I want to take into one large Uhaul. I’m taking the freezer, the china cabinet, and one arm chair, but that’s pretty much it for the furniture and large appliances. I’ll take all my small appliances and cooking tools, but none of my dishes. Some special glassware pieces that I inherited from my parents, but none of my wedding china. The TV and games, but none of the Ikea shelving or the leather couch. I salvaged that in the first place, I’m sure I can salvage a replacement. None of the beds, except my old spindle bed which has been in storage for years. One dresser I inherited from my father. Probably not my fiber wardrobe, as the new house will have a whole room dedicated to my crafting. The camping gear. Maybe the books? I’ve purged my collection pretty hard, but most of those books I haven’t touched in years. My garden tools and bike. The pie safe that has been stored in the shed for 20 years.
Really, for the course of a life, the longest I’ve ever lived in one place, it’s not much stuff. But somehow, thinking about letting all that go, starting clean with only what I identify as MINE, is incredibly liberating.
Okay, not really quiet. I’ve had a lot going on. But like so many people, I’ve been so heartsick, that I’ve felt guilty about
sharing the things that I’ve been enjoying, the life I’ve been living, when so many people are under threat or literally dying.
Which honestly, kind of violates the essence of Strikhedonia.
A couple of months ago, the author Alexandra Rowland, ariaste on Tumbler, wrote a magnificent post that I now have hanging up in my office on the difference between grimdark and hopepunk. Grimdark is basically the idea that the world is shit and humans are cynical and selfish and there is no good to be found. Hopepunk looks at that same world and says fuck that, the world may be shit, but we don’t have to accept that. It is the belief that being kind is an act of resistance. And that does reflect Strikhedonia.
So I’m clinging to hopepunk. Even as I put my (very fruitful) garden to sleep, as we shift into a season of decay and rest, I will hope. I will plan for spring. I will resist. I will share joy.
I define Strikhedonia as the “art and joy of not giving a damn.” But that not giving a damn doesn’t mean not caring about anything. It’s about not caring when society tries to tear you down for the things that give you joy, that you are passionate about, that bring light and beauty into the world. So I urge you to care. Cry over injustice. Cheer for just desserts. Make something. Share something. Keep caring about the things you care about. Find new things, new
people, new places that make you happy. Don’t stop.
So this summer, my joys were my garden, my chickens, my new car, a trip to New Orleans for the first time, discovering
The Adventure Zone, starting to play D&D both with my kids and with actual grown-ups, and an adventurous camping trip with some of my kids.
Here, have some pictures of my joy. It was a good summer.
Those monthly blog challenges are always so hard! I did pretty well, but not as well as I would have liked. I missed a total of 7 days, most of them unsurprisingly towards the end. I’m not sure how I managed to miss two days in a row last week. I just lose all sense of time. It’s why I have to automate all my bill paying. Otherwise I think I just paid my bill when it was really three months ago… Yeah, I’m a mess.
But the itch to blog more regularly is at least there. As always after one of these things, it won’t be every day, but it will be more often.
And now it’s November. No matter how tempting Nikki makes it, I am NOT doing Nanowrimo this year (what moron put it in the second busiest month of the year, anyway?) Although I am going to start collecting ideas and possibly do my own Nano in March.
Instead, my goal this month is to track my eating every day for the month. I know how important that one simple tool is for weight loss and maintenance, and I have gotten woefully out of the habit. My weight has been creeping up, so even though this is a major eating holiday month, it’s time for me to get things back under control. Yesterday’s tracking only proved my point. I should be eating between 12-1500 calories a day. Yesterday I had 2200. Yeah, that’s a little heart stopping. Time to be a responsible grown-up again.
My strongest sense is smell. I have so many memories that get triggered by scents, real and imagined. But every once in a while a piece of music can do that for me, too. At church on Sunday, the offertory took me back to the summer of 1976, a pretty unexpected mental trip!
I was 9 years old, living in a small little town in the middle of Michigan. My baby sister had just been born, it was summer, I had a bike, so I pretty much had all the freedom I could ask for. This was back in the day when kids’ time wasn’t scheduled to the last minute. My brother and I would ride for miles in all direction. We’d go to the river a couple of miles north of us to go wading, or out to the Hush Puppy factory to steal bits of leather, or up to the cemetery to race down the giNORmous hill (Ben wiped out more than I did, but I took my falls.)
The biggest thing Reed City had going for it was the fact that it was the crossroads of two railroads, one running north/south and the other going east/west. It’s how the town got its start. There were tracks and sidings all over the place. We learned that if you put a coin on the track, when you went back the next day it would be squished flat. Much more exciting to do it that way than in one of those crank machines at tourist traps.
But that summer, the tracks brought the Art Train.
I think my dad took me the first time. It was parked on the siding over behind the Yoplait factory, three beautiful train cars just sitting there. My family has a long history with trains (my mother’s father was a railway postman), so getting to go on one for any reason was exciting.
But this one was filled with art. Real art. Museum quality art.
I wasn’t a complete hick. We’d been to museums before, but mostly history museums. I don’t know that I’d ever been to an art museum at that point. Which of course was the point of the Artrain project, to bring art to smaller communities that didn’t have their own museums.
I was entranced.
The tour started with a movie about all sorts of art, with a backing track of classical music I hadn’t heard before. Every time I hear Satie, I’m instantly 9 and wide eyed again.
I can’t even tell you now what the pieces were they displayed. I think there was a Mondrian, and Tiffany glass, and Calder. I couldn’t tell you what was actually present and what was in that movie. I can tell you that I rode my bike back there every day for the whole two weeks the train was there, just staring at everything and feeling the world open up for me.
Reed City has of course changed since then. The Yoplait factory is still there, but in a different location. The east/west train line is now a rail trail (if we knew it came out near our favorite ice cream parlor, I think Ben and I might have walked along it a lot further than we ever did!).
I spent half of yesterday hanging out in a tattoo parlor.
Stop right there. You can forget all the images you currently have of what a tattoo parlor looks like. No blood red walls, no windowless rooms, no rows and rows of flash on the walls. Woodstock Tattoo Studio is bright and airy and clean, with bare pine board floors and burlap-covered counters. The walls are white, as is the shop dog Betty, and the images on the walls are vintage post cards and botanical prints. Not your grandpa’s tattoo place.
I was there for Nikki, who was getting work done on her shoulder. I’ll let her tell that story (I’ll link it, I promise). It all started a couple of months ago when we both separately saw an article about pilgrimage tattoos and a man in Jerusalem whose family had been doing them for 400 years. It got me thinking. I knew she’d been wanted to get a crow tattoo. She’d been collecting images for a couple of years. And we were going to Woodstock anyway. So I suggested it to her. And then, as is always my way with something I think someone else might be interested in, I started doing some research. There are a couple of places in town that do them, but when I saw the line work Felix does, I just fell in love. Nikki agreed, and the rest is history.
It got me thinking about myself. I’ve always been a “my body is my temple” sort of person. I was absolutely phobic about surgery until I had my c-section with Morgan. Even after that, the idea of doing anything elective to change my body seemed sacrilegious. And then I had a hysterectomy. And then I got cancer. The temple had already been violated, but more importantly, my perspective changed. As I was going through radiation, I decided that when I beat this, completely and totally, I was going to get the Queen of Swords from the tarot deck tattooed on the breast that tried to kill me. Not a traditional one, but my interpretation of her, which is going to end up looking like Alex Kingston as Boudicea, I suspect.
I’ve also been wanting to get a phrase on my left arm. “Intellect and Romance over Brute Force and Cynicism.” Craig Ferguson used that to describe the main premise of Doctor Who, but my brain has latched onto it as my own life mantra. Hopefully you can see that play out a lot here in my blog. It’s been chewing around in my head, the need to wear these words, for a while. So after Nikki finished today, I asked about it. Because of the length of it, Felix couldn’t do it that visit, but I left him my details and we’re going to start laying it out. We’re talking about coming back up in January or February for Nikki to get the rest of the shading done on her crow, and he said he could do it before or after that. And then I will set up to get my Queen of Swords when we come up for Rhinebeck next year. It will be five years and time.
But I don’t think I’m done.
I’ve already started thinking about getting a half sleeve on my right arm. There’s a character in one of my favorite Sherlock fics who has a tattoo sleeve he’s grown on his arm over time, made up of elements that he’s passionate about as they develop (the most recent addition being hops vines as he’s gotten interested in brewing). I’ve been thinking about what I would include in mine. The things that are most important to me are my family, my identity and my faith. So I’m trying to come up with elements to represent those.
For faith, I want a pentacle. Something intricate and not necessarily Celtic, as I’m not necessarily Celtic. And maybe some representation of Athena and/or Hephaestus. They’ve been my patrons almost the whole thirty years I’ve been pagan. The great blue heron is my totem, so maybe some of that. For identity, I have always tied that in with my astrological sign, so some elements of that. My brother did a gorgeous drawing for me of my signs that would make a gorgeous tattoo on its own, but I’m not sure. Pens for my writing. Yarn for my fiber crafts. For family, I’m not sure what I would do for my kids. For my parents, I would do iris for my father and California poppies for my mother. As Time goes on, I hope to add in elements from the farm. I should probably include fannish elements as well, since they are so integral to my identity.
There’s lots of time to think about it. But I know where I’m getting it done.
For those of you who’ve been around here a while, you will know that WW is a staple of my mental health system. 4-5 days every late winter to get away without the kids and the daily stress and just recharge. But for a lot of reasons, mostly scheduling, we just couldn’t make it happen this year.
I think that’s part of why I went so far off the rails this summer. Vacations with my family are good, but they are a certain kind of stress on their own. I need that away time to regroup, and when you travel with other adults, and especially other women, it’s just so much easier. We take turns cooking, and who ever doesn’t cook cleans up. Everyone cleans up after themselves, and offers to get things for the others while they’re up, and are otherwise pretty quiet. It’s calm I didn’t have that calm grounding me this year, and as things spiraled out of control over the summer, I craved it desperately.
The New York Sheep and Wool Festival, colloquially known in fiber communities as Rhinebeck, is coming up next weekend. Nikki and I used to go up and stay with my mom until she moved to Virginia, and then 2 years ago we stayed with Gabe. A couple of months ago as we started making plans to go this year, I had the inspiration. What if we rent a house up there and stay for a long weekend? Maybe do some workshops, definitely do some sight seeing, and otherwise just chill. Nikki, thankfully, thought this was a great idea, so I went on HomeAway and AirBnB to look for a place. We found a cute little house just up the road from Woodstock that we would have all to ourselves, complete with fireplace, fire pit, and a sweet little kitchen. We booked it Wednesday to Sunday, and I got the time off from work, so now we’re just counting the days!
Obviously we’re going to the fair on Saturday, and Gabe and Pam are coming up for dinner on Friday night. Thursday will be an adventure because Nikki is getting a tattoo! I’ve never seen one done, and she’s been working with the artist long distance, so she doesn’t even know what the design will be other than involving ravens, her totem, so it’s very exciting! And maybe I’ll get one, too… Probably not, because that’s money I could be spending on fiber, but we’ll see. In the meantime, I have 5 days to finish my sweater to be able to wear to the fair. So I’ll be spending a lot of time in front of the TV knitting this weekend. Good thing I still have 8 episodes of Luke Cage…
So expect lots of Rhinebeck/Woodstock talk over the next week or so!
(Those of you who read both our blogs won’t be surprised to see we blame each other for everything. Because it’s true. We’re co-enablers.)
Actually, I should probably thank her. A couple of months ago, she started pinning a bunch of blog posts about journalling on Pinterest, and since I follow her, I saw them all. Curious, i checked them out. And promptly went, “no, no way, nuh-uh!” and backed out of there fast. These weren’t journals, they were works of art, and I just had no time for something that looked so impractical. Plus, frankly, I’m a crap artist.
But the damage was done, and occassionally bullet journal suggestions would crop up in my Pinterest feed.
Summer went on, and I felt so out of control, for lots of reasons. Lists and notes started piling up, lost or forgotten. I had my cell phone, but I had one app for this and two for that, idea lists on Drive and household project specs on Evernote and recipes on Pinterest. My phone has limited memory, so I can’t have all the apps I use to keep organized. I’m not sure what made me think of bullet journalling. But I had a quiet moment at work, so on a whim I looked up “how to start bullet journalling.” 4 minutes and 12 seconds later, I grabbed a notebook and got started.
Bullet journalling is the perfect Strikhedonista tool. Because it is what you make it, organized in a way that works for you. You don’t have to fit someone else’s idea of organized or useful, and it doesn’t have to be perfect right out of the gate. It’s kind of like the game Go. Five minutes to learn, a lifetime to master.
So, here’s how to start your own Strikhedonista bullet journal. First, watch this video:
Now, and I cannot stress this enough: DON’T LOOK AT ANYTHING ELSE. Trust me, the information you get from these three sources is plenty, and anything more just gets really overwhelming. Find your own groove, then see what other people are doing.
Grab a notebook or a blank book. Most of us have something lying around the house, whether it’s a remnant of our last attempt at journalling, a composition book the kids never used, whatever. It should be big enough to write everything you need but small enough for you to carry with you everywhere. And a pen. Don’t forget a pen. Any pen will do, but if it’s one you really like, so much the better. You do NOT need to spend $20 on a German-made blank book and $30 more on fancy pens.
This is what I started out with:
Exciting, huh? Just a basic 8″x5″ spiral notebook with lines and a felt tip pen. Standard office stock. Literally, in this case. I grabbed these out of the supply cabinet at work. You can get fancy later, but until you know if this is going to work for you, why waste the money?
Now, go back and rewatch the video, following along with each step. Once you get to the end of the video, you have the basics of the bullet journal set. But that’s just the beginning. The video only briefly touches on collections, but that’s really where your personalization will blossom. As you add bullets in your rapid logging, start to keep an eye out for patterns. Are you writing down authors or books you heard about? Turn to your next blank page and start a To Be Read log. Keep forgetting birthdays? Why not keep a Birthdays collection? I created a Running log, a Knitting projects log (so I knew where all my needles were), and a Fall Garden job list. I also put the notes from the kids’ IEP meetings in here. I created a special spread (two facing pages) for our trip to Woodstock next week, with contact details for the house we’re staying in, our schedule for the week, shopping lists, whatever. While we’re there, I’ll handwrite notes and observations in the bullet journal, which will then go in the index.
My current index.
If something doesn’t work, stop doing it. You aren’t stuck with it if you don’t use it. I have half a dozen pages already that I may never actually use. Need something more? Add it! After the first week, I realized I need to see my week at a glance so I know what’s coming over the next few days, more than the Monthly Log gives. So I created a rough Weekly Log spread that’s gotten fancier as I’ve found what I need to keep track of. I also realized I needed a 4 month at a glance working calendar for scheduling appointments. So I printed out 4 months of my Google calendar and pasted it in the book. I still keep the calendar in Google because I can add appointments and reminders to the kids’ calendars, but it’s so much easier when I’m scheduling appointments to have it in print. Other people have habit trackers and gratitude logs, menu planning and watch lists. Find what is your. Make the system your own.
But now all these pages are in the way of your Daily log! Now what? Just turn to the next blank page. Always just turn to the next blank page. Don’t try to segment the book ahead of time, because you don’t know what you’re going to want or need. Just turn to the next blank page. If you don’t want to keep your Daily logs in your index (I don’t), an easy way to keep track or where those pages are is by “threading”. Find the page number for your new daily log page. Then go back to your previous page. draw an arrow away from the existing page number and write the new page number. On the new page, write the page number you’re coming from and an arrow pointing to the new one.
Now you can find your way back, no problem!
And don’t go bonkers on stuff! You really don’t need a lot. There are a ton of printables and stamps and templates and decorations and whatnot out there. You don’t need it. My second week, I bought a dozen different rolls of washi tape, but got rid of half of them a week later. I just don’t use it. Washi tape=fancy, expensive masking tape. You don’t need it. Here’s my current kit:
One set of colored pens (Pilot Razor Point V, $8). These are my favorite pens for writing. Not a huge color range, but enough to play with.
Washi tape. Yes, I have some. But I really only use one of these, the teal watercolor one in the front row. If you love them, use them. Otherwise, get 1-2 that you really love and step away from the rest.
A straight edge. I can’t draw a straight line to save my soul. I have one in my box and 1 in a pocket I put in the back of my journal. With washi tape.
Removable index tabs. I use these to mark the pages I go to a lot. In my case, the monthly, weekly and daily pages. Use more if you want. These three work for me. Other pages I go to often but not every day I mark on the edge. With washi tape. Don’t be like me.
Doublesided tape. this I absolutely recommend. I got mine for $1 at AC Moore, but it’s worth its weight. Great for sticking anything in your book you want to keep. I used it to stick the 4 month calendar in.
And obviously your notebook and pen. Once you decide if the system works for you, then you can start playing with the fancier stuff. I don’t know if I’ll ever get the schmancy German book everyone else uses. It’s expensive, first off, although once I sat down and calculated it, per page it’s not that much more expensive than the other things I’ve looked at. But I want it spiral bound. That is purely a preference thing. I have a couple of options to test, which I’ll probably report on here. And pens. I have a set of pens that I love, so I’m not going to go chasing around, but you can explore all the various options out there (Staedler and Sharpie ultrafines seem to be the most popular). Find what feels good. Don’t break the bank.
That’s it. That’s all you need. I fancied up the cover of mine with scrapbook paper (and washi tape), and I’m playing with prettier pages, but it will never be a work of art. That’s okay. It’s more important that it’s functional, and mine has proven itself as all that and more. To the point where I now get as twitchy without it as I do if I forget my cell phone.
Bullet journalists talk about it being a tool for mindfulness, and I am finding that, although maybe not for the reasons other people do. For me, my journal is a brain dump, a place I can keep all the thoughts and ideas constantly jockeying for may attention When I write them down, I can forget about them for a bit and focus on whatever task I have at hand. I’m forgetting things less and accomplishing more. It really is helping me be more organized.
Like I said, I had intended to blog every day in June. Daily blogging, while unsustainable (at least for me) in the long run, is a great way to build the blogging habit. But it can also be a stress. When I asked Deb if she wanted to do this with me, her response was, “No. No. HELL no.” Which I totally get. It takes time to post a blog entry. Maybe only half an hour, but some days that half hour is hard to carve out. I had also intended originally to make 31 daily challenges for the month, like I see all over Tumblr and Instagram. But as I started making the list, I realized I didn’t really want to respond to any of them, because they weren’t relevant to me or were just fatuous or pretentious.
So who knows what you’ll get this month. There will definitely be sheep at some point, as Nikki and I are going up to New York Sheep and Wool in two weeks. There will also be knitting because same. There may be pictures. There may be a vlog, who knows. But I will share something, somehow, every day this month.
Sometimes deciding what to write for a post is a challenge. The conventional wisdom says that a blog should be focused on one topic, and you should present yourself as an expert on that topic. Frankly, for the most part I find those blogs boring. There are a couple that I read, like Lovely Bicycle and Food in Jars, that are single topic but that I love because of the writing or the topic itself. Otherwise, though, I’ll hit a focused blog when I’m doing research on that topic, but once I’ve gotten what I needed, I’m gone.
The blogs I like best are the ones about a life. Obviously I come to them initially for a shared area of interest, but I stay because the blog is a story rather than a manual. And I don’t want that story to be a forced way to get me to a recipe or to order something. Just…a life. Cold Antler Farm and Yarn Harlot are like that. One’s ostensibly about homesteading and the other about knitting, but those things are intertwined into their lives. I know about Jenna’s dogs and falcon’s and Stephanie’s kids and parents. There are times it’s like reading a novel, and I can’t wait for the next chapter to find out what happens. Sometimes I don’t get to know, because those things are private, not meant for public consumption. Which I respect. I care. I want to know about what happens next.
I hope that’s what this blog is like. This is the story of my life. My life is messy and convoluted, and my interests shift week to week, month to month, year to year. But all the pieces make up me. I am not one thing, and neither is this blog.
I hope you enjoy the next chapter. I can’t wait to see what happens myself!