First day of Blogtober leads to absolute mental vapor lock. I either have to much to talk about or not enough. I’m still not sure which!
I think sometimes about what I want this blog to be. Of course I’d love it if it went viral, generated a ton of hits and a bunch of followers, but I’m just not interesting enough for that. And this isn’t a traditional journal. I’m not sure what a journal entry should be but it doesn’t feel like what I do somehow.
In a lot of ways, it feels more like a correspondence, me writing one sided letters to the universe. I always wanted to live that kind of literary life, sharing letters back and forth, documenting the lives of two people separately and together. I email a thousand times a day with Nikki and Deb. This is how we stay connected and in each other’s lives. But they’re more like snatches of conversation without the gravitas of the written word.
This blog is more like all those letters I imagined sharing with some unknown someone. If you’re reading this, you are who I want to share with. You don’t have to write back. It’s enough for me to tell the story, share the thoughts, put it out there.
So we’re off with Blogtober. Don’t know what I’ll talk about, because that would require more planning than I’m capable of at the moment. But I hope it’s entertaining anyway!
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.
As you might have been able to tell by the radio silence around here, the end of the year was not an easy time for me.
Don’t get me wrong. We had a lovely Thanksgiving, and Christmas at the cabin was the best ever, with no drama or disasters. I attended church and small group ministry as usual. I got involved with the local progressive group. I bought a mandolin for my birthday.
And yet things didn’t feel quite right. Like I was holding my breath. Waiting.
Apparently I was waiting on hope. Hope can be debilitating when there’s nothing for it but to wait. Hope when you can act is a different thing, empowering, energizing, but hope you can’t act on? That’s hard.
After December 19, things started to break free. There was no hope to wait on anymore. It would be four years of struggle, of fighting and defending and supporting. Four years of action. I could do action. And just as suddenly, things started to break free in my own life. I started setting up my bullet journal for 2017, looking ahead at what was to come. I recommitted to my weight loss (albeit AFTER all the goodies at work had done their damage.) I used the money Mom gave me for my birthday to sign up for mandolin lessons. I’m going to the Women’s March in Philly. (I can’t do the DC one because I have to serve at church the next day.)
Probably the most metaphoric thing of the whole period was that I learned how to bank a fire overnight. This is probably one of those generational things that we’ve lost out on. My mom never could explain to me how to do it, although she seemed to know how instinctively. But as a society we don’t need to tend fires anymore, so we’ve put aside that knowledge. I was reading a book on cabin building from the 1940’s, though, and there was the nugget of knowledge I’d been looking for since I was a kid. Bury a log in the ashes and coals of a dying fire and close all the dampers. In the morning, you will still have coals to start the new day’s fire with. I only used 1 match our whole 5 days in the cabin. My fire died, but the coals lingered to flare again the next day.
I’m ready to relight my fire for 2017. And I have coals to share.
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.
(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.