22. Hold Mabon

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I have no idea how to even go about describing what happened for Mabon this year.

At least, not in a way that the majority of my readers would understand and I’m not even sure that the people who have experience in the situation/skill set would get it either. But it involves a drum circle, an oak tree, and Baba Yaga’s hut.

I normally start to work with Baba in fall and winter, so her reappearance nearish the first day of fall isn’t terribly uncommon. One of her motifs is spinning [think the spinning that a person would do during ecstatic dance], and she has the infamous chicken legged hut. I have never however experienced the spinning hut myself prior to tonight and it will be interesting to see how this plays out-I don’t know what this means. It didn’t run away or get aggressive so I suppose I have that in my favor. Listen, we’re talking about a folkloric symbol that can carry itself around on chicken legs, I don’t think the fact that a house can get defensive is truly the oddest aspect of this story.

As for the mundane side of Mabon we went to the park for drum circle. Mid is trying hard to make sure I have down time that doesn’t involve looking for roaches, packing, unpacking, cleaning, and wondering if the movement I’m catching out of the corner of my eye is a roach [I have come to realize that I am getting a lot of allergy related floaters, which are slowly driving me insane, like something out of a Poe story]. I did do better with the drum circle than I did with the concert last month. I sat under an oak tree and just was for awhile.

I will do my traditional bread later this week, or next weekend, schedule permitting. Same with applesauce and my normal Mabon/fall foods, it will have to be fit in with the rest of my tight schedule. Everything has to be done by the 30th so while I’m a little frightened that I’m running out of time I also know there’s a definitive end point.

Saving Versus Hoarding: Too Much of a Good Thing

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I have been planning on writing this post for a few weeks, but I have things in my draft folder I intended on posting prior to this one.

Then I started thinking about this orange juice container.

I buy orange juice maybe 3 times a year. If that. I am really picky about my juice and I really can’t justify the price for the quality I want more than that. I’m not at the point where I think about the reusability of the packaging I buy [yet] [though I also admit that I am annoyed that Wegmans swapped out their pasta sauce bottles for plastic, at least in the bulk pack]. However, the quality of juice I buy normally comes in a bottle more often than a carton.

So I rinsed out the bottle and set it aside for the tea that Mid brings to work. We don’t know what happened to his normal Stanley thermos at this stage of the move, though I’m sure it’ll come up again at some point.

It did however get me thinking about this subject again, so I’ll touch on it tonight.

Saving Versus Hoarding

There is a certain frugality to getting as much use out of what you own as you can, instead of buying a separate product for that purpose. That’s why I use canning jars in my kitchen for storage instead of dedicated kitchen storage pieces, unless they go on deep sale.  During my research for the money saving posts, one of the consistent tips was to never throw out anything that can be used for something else.

I’m going to tell you there comes a point where you need to let things go and throw them away.

Again, I do agree with the idea-and use it-but as with the majority of things in life, it’s a matoter of degrees. You can tip from ‘frugal, green reuse’ into ‘kind of scary stockpile of old stir fry bottles.’

My system for avoiding a hoarding situation and maintaining a useful stash:

[This system takes into account seasonal use items like Christmas decorations or winter gear, but the idea is still the same. Even if the item is only used once a year, it should be getting used during that point of the year. If you have 1000 Christmas ornaments and only really use 50, it’s time to purge.]

  1. Figure out when you use the items you already own-if you already have a stash of 50 bottles and only use 10, it’s not time to start hanging on to more bottles. It’s time to purge at least some of those overflow bottles.
  2. Determine how much storage space you actually have to put towards saving-not what you -think- you have, not what you -might- have if you were to clean things out, what you have right now.
  3. Occasionally deep clean-go through and clean out cupboards and closets and drawers. Get rid of things you haven’t used in an allotted amount of time. For example, if you haven’t used something in a year, at the very least put it into more remote storage like an attic or store room, or purge it.
  4. Forget how much you paid for it-with some exceptions. If the item was truly expensive, try to sell or trade it to recoup some of the costs. But if it was a normal sized purchase, the money is already gone regardless of whether or not you keep it.
  5. Once you have an idea of actual space, have cleared out your stashes, and know what you have-only keep things that you can name a use for. Try to avoid ‘but I might need it some day’ if you don’t have any idea what you’ll be using it for on that random future day.,
  6. Don’t keep items that need more than light repairs. A box that can be taped is one thing, an engine that needs to be completely overhauled is another.
  7. Stop saving when you stop using-every so often I have to go through and purge small bits of yarn. I do a lot of scrap knitting, but there comes a point where my small bit collection outsizes the amount of time that I spend scrap knitting. Don’t save more glass jars than you will ever feasibly use.
  8. Only keep things to ‘upcycle’ if you actually intend on upcycling them. I feel like upcycling is my generation’s answer to the Depression’s keep it because you may need it and not have resources to get it. Upcycling is awesome, but if you don’t know how to sew, now is not the time to start holding onto piles of old blown out jeans. You can certainly try to trade or barter them to someone who can upcycle them for you, and you can definitely work on learning to sew so you can eventually upcycle old denim-but there will be plenty of old denim available to play with when you get to that point. Basically, don’t start holding onto items for skills that you don’t actually have yet.

5. Bake an Apple Pie

breakfast

We are finally sleeping at the new place. We’re not fully moved out of the old apartment, but we have officially started living in my new home.

The shininess of it all is still shiny enough that I feel special and sort of woo woo positive about setting up new housing and home based rituals. I have not had a formal kitchen table since I had an on-campus apartment in grad school so I’m still enjoying the ability to actually set a table and eat at a table. We made a rule based on both an attempt to keep our new furniture as nice as possible for as long as possible, and the summer of bugs, that we wouldn’t eat in the living room. We have a small space built into the kitchen that’s big enough for a small table to act like a separate dining space.

I needed a break from packing last night, plus it was raining and already dark by the time I got out of work [I’m one of those people who work four ten hour shifts between Wednesday and Saturday]. I hadn’t tested the oven yet and decided it was time for a pie.

pie

I don’t scratch my pies, not really. Pie crust is one of the products I fully admit to buying in a box. Mine are terrible, on a level where the amount of years necessary to improve them daunts me and I just find it easier to buy a box of crusts. I don’t peel my apples unless I’m really bored or looking for ways of filling time. I normally toss them with sugar, flour, and pumpkin spice but I just went with cinnamon this time [better quality cinnamon than I normally have in the house, however]. A little bit of butter.

It came out of the oven around 11 last night, and I went straight to bed. This morning I got up before Mid, set up his plate for breakfast, made his coffee. Wandered off to do whatever.

When I came back into the front of the apartment he was sprawled in front of Star Trek, on the couch. With the pie.

Our plan of not eating in the living room made it a full 24 hours.

The Broken Teapot-Mental Health, Homesteading, and Self Care

This one was hard to write.

There is a meme that goes around Facebook among the more woo woo set that talks about how empathy and the self are a teacup, and you can’t pour from an empty teacup so take care of self first.

However I’ve also seen a great many of the same people who share that meme share another meme that basically says give…and give…and give, and keep giving in effectively thankless situations because you’re a Good Person and Good People are just compassionate perpetual motion machines.

I am deliberately posting this entry after the Great Roach Confession for a reason.

I pretty much lost my mind this summer. Over a bunch of cockroaches.

This is not an exaggeration. This is where I get really, really honest, and very bare and very direct. So consider this your trigger warning if you need one, for discussion of self harm, depression, anxiety, and mental health.

I have written in the past with my long lasting battle with my mental health. I had a very bad winter and my housekeeping slid backwards to where the apartment really, truly did need work. That, I will not deny. There’s an article going around social media about ‘depression did this to this woman’s bedroom.’ That’s….basically what my mental health did to me. A situation developed to where I -had- to start taking care of my physical surroundings and I sort of wrote it off to personal woo woo the Universe is giving me a kick, I can start over again.

Then the roaches came. And it turns out I’m phobic to roaches.

By the time the dust settled, I had thrown out close to half of my personal belongings (though in fairness, this is not inherently a bad thing), calorie restricted and otherwise self harmed myself out of two dress sizes, stopped sleeping, and basically got obsessive with cleaning my kitchen. Which didn’t even necessarily have the decency of completely stopping the bugs, because it became obvious that they’re probably traveling in from a different space. I admitted to myself that for the first time in a decade my actually well developed self treatment system wasn’t going to be enough anymore. I wasn’t suicidal-but I had stopped caring. If you had tried to hurt me, I would have let you. It would have been better.

If this sounds extremist, remember that this is what mental illness does to a person. You lose your compass, and your ability to stay whole.

Bear with me, I am getting to the homesteading in all of this.

There is trying to pour from an empty cup, and then there is trying to serve from a broken teapot.

An empty cup is bad enough, but when you’re trying to sure that you’re taking care of a large, carefully balanced interplay of a tea party inside a tempest inside a ballroom, and your teapot is cracked with tea dribbling everywhere and the guests staring at you wondering why you’re not performing at top level and you’re wondering what the hell is wrong with you, every other tea party seems to be going okay…you really need to understand that it’s time to work on fixing your teapot before going ahead with more serving.

By the end of this whole situation, I ended up breaking lease, finding a much, much nicer, much larger apartment with a functionally designed kitchen and storage space and light (glorious light for two people living with SADD), and a landlord with a written extermination policy. And minimalism is looks good on me and I want to keep purging, because purging means less stuff and less stuff means less to clean and less places for bugs to hide. Things will be okay, they will be work because the new place is that much more expensive but they will be okay.

This is what the Summer of Bugs has taught me about self care and attempting to restart a homestead, even an urban homestead like I’m doing in Buffalo:

  1. You have to eat. That is non-negotiable, even for the mentally healthy. It is absolutely pivotal for the mentally ill. I have both an EDNOS plus at least one anxiety disorder. I have literally never flared to the point where my blood sugar triggered my anxiety until this summer. I am still waking up having to try to decide if I’m hungry or having a panic attack. Eat something small once an hour or whenever you can fit it in if you can’t fit in a full meal.
  2. You have to sleep. I understand that sleeping on a homestead is often a matter of working around your homestead’s schedule. But you must do it when you can.
  3. You have to stay on top of your meds if you have them. Herbal, mainstream, mental health or otherwise, you need to stay medicated if they’re prescribed.
  4. You need to learn when you’ve had enough, You have a natural limit, and then a point where you’ve overworked, and then a point where you’re actually damaging yourself. Try to set up a system to avoid causing more problems in the long run by overextension.
  5. You need to try to engage in basic levels of physical care. I get that this one is hard when you’re depressed or exhausted, or both. But try to brush your teeth. Try to wash your hair. Try to remember deodorant. I see this a lot as an idea that gets interpreted as ‘making it easier to socialize’ but it’s helpful for grounding out back into yourself. And it feels good.
  6. Ask for help. Ask for help if you need a task done, ask for help if you need a mental health professional. You don’t need to work under extreme duress. There are even places that do mental health work online.
  7. Learn when it’s time to say no. You don’t need to do every project the Internet suggests for your homestead, and you don’t need to listen to people when they tell you what a perfect homestead should look like. One of the best pieces of homesteading advice I’ve seen lately was ‘there’s no brownie points for misery.’ Don’t work yourself into exhaustion just because you feel like it’s more noble or more authentic. It’s wonderful to have goals and vision, and compromise is certainly a valid option, but don’t come down too hard on yourself for not being able to be Little House on the Prairie all the time.
  8. Shit just happens. Animals die, fires happen, rivers flood. Your building gets cockroaches from some unknown source because humans and vermin have lived in tandem for thousands of years. Sometimes life is going to knock you on the ass. Sometimes just acknowledging that things are beyond your control is enough to knock your head free.
  9. Tomorrow is not certain, place 95% of your energy into today. I don’t like never planning ahead. Assuming my head is in the right place, I function better knowing what the absolute worse case scenario is. When I was potentially facing housing instability over this whole mess [seriously. Things got that bad. It was truly bad.] I came to realize that the worst case scenario was moving back to Central New York, renting a house, and truly homesteading. That was very calming, to have a mantra of ‘the worst case scenario is home.’ Then in the space of 24 hours I had the money to move, found a new apartment, applied for it, got approved, signed paperwork, and told my old landlord I was leaving. A day can and sometimes will change everything. So let tomorrow take care of itself, as long as you’re not so caught up in today that you forget that painful situations will end.
  10. It is better to make consistent 1% changes over time than it is to try to change everything and burn out. This has been a very firebird summer, a lot of hot burning to ashes and rebuilding in a better place. But the greatest success has come from training myself to be at least a consistently mediocre housekeeper than keep cycling between spotless and chaos. Very little change on a day to day basis needs to be extreme, fast, and intense. Be kind on yourself and let it be a journey. [Not my original idea. I’m not sure where it comes from, but it’s not my original phrasing.]

The biggest takeaway from trying to serve with a broken teapot is this: it is very sort of woo woo but you are the pot and the pot is you. You need to do those things that keep you both physically and mentally well enough to not let reality feel like a horror movie. Very little, precious little, of what the Universe throws at you will need to be addressed so completely and so quickly that you can’t care for self first.

If you do feel like you need help preventing self harm or addressing suicidal ideation, please contact 741741 via text if you are in the United States. 

30. See What Target Has for Halloween

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Checking out the Target Halloween section has become a seasonal tradition. I almost never buy anything but I do it every year, on the off chance that this is the year I have to have whatever they’ve put out this year.

I have been trying to keep myself pretty level with the move and the associated stress. I only have until the 30th to get everything done, but at the same time, I don’t need have everything finished by the end of this week either. I think it’s partially my own fault. I’m terrible about putting off moving until I have to do everything in the space of a week, so I have myself trained that moving means tight schedules and high stress. In other words, I think I have to have everything done by tomorrow and I need to panic. So I have been trying to make sure I hit self care in some way every day.

I gave myself a rough budget of $5 a piece for Halloween decorations for the new place. I actually assumed that this would work out to one, maybe two pieces from the dollar store, a lot of photos for future ideas, and not much else. I was okay with that, actually.

But this year is weird at Target. Weird, in a good way. I swear they’ve lowered a lot of their prices on decorations. I feel like there may be less of them this year than normal, but I also think I hit the displays right after they flipped from school supplies [in fact I know I did. I was there on a Tuesday and they were just putting up the signage and then was there on Saturday and suddenly Halloween stuff]. But the stuff is really, really cute this year. Sort of quasi-gothic for the main line, and then there’s this adorable folk art/retro inspired line that seems to be really popular, even with the people on my Facebook who don’t normally like Halloween.

Basically I went home with a cup, a bird, and a pumpkin. All under $5 a piece.

birdcup

birds

ghosts

skittles

target

Routine Makes it Easier 

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So this one time my apartment got roaches.

There’s an interesting split on the Internet regarding bugs. Actual, scientifically driven or professional sites are basically like ‘sometimes bugs just happen. They come in on a box or up through your drains or on some dog food.’

…Unfortunately at least some bloggers imply that roaches mean you’re filthy. I won’t name names, because I don’t have them at this point, but nothing like adding shame to the mix.

Guess which one my anxiety disordered brain internalized.

However, both camps both stressed the same thing: roaches mean you have to have a pretty intense cleaning routine in place.

That apartment has been sprayed, rapidly is becoming ‘my old apartment’, and it’s been 11 days since the last roach sighting.

One of the odd things to come out of it is the realization that routine is pivotal for us mediocre housekeepers.

-Do a serious deep cleaning. Whether you’re just establishing habits or fighting pests, housekeeping will be easier if you’re not fighting backlogged grime. I actually hired someone to help me and it was money well spent.

-Make small changes and build on them. I started by sweeping and taking the garbage out daily, then worked up from there every few days. Don’t expect to go from nothing to everything overnight.

-Spend serious time looking at your schedule. Watch how your day flows and what is best accomplished when.

-Find the best tools for the job. Taking the garbage out at night is easier on me mentally with half sized bags.

-Try to keep the same order. It will start to feel familiar and almost like muscle memory.

-The more you do it, the faster it gets. The days you have to do heavy cleaning like floors will move slower but normal days will speed up.

-Buy supplies you like to use. It’s simple and obvious but if you’re not fighting your toolbox, you’re more willing to do the work.

-Work out a schedule for the big cleaning. I started out trying to bleach my cabinets daily. Unless there are many hands to help you, don’t try to do deep cleaning every day. Set up a monthly schedule.

-It’s okay to fall. Don’t sleep in the ditch. I don’t take out garbage when the skunks are out. I bought a garbage can with a lid. It gets bleached weekly. It’s okay if the bag has to wait overnight, but it has to go the next morning. It can’t just sit there, waiting. Life will happen. Let it.

-Sometimes stuff just happens. If roaches are a pure filth issue, then a chunk of New York City and multiple American Southern states are gross places. Life will do things like encounter pests, experience depressive episodes, or family deaths. Deal with it, calmly and quickly. I don’t mean to sound harsh, truly, but getting on top of the situation will be easier if you don’t blame yourself or panic. Figure out what habits need to be shifted and do it.

-Ask for help. Seriously. Ask someone to come in and help you get going, or teach you new ways of cleaning that might streamline the process. Turns out I’ve been doing my floors wrong and that’s why they’ve always looked terrible. Who knew.

The Halloween Mask Effect

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This is a repost from 2014, but in light of it being Halloween season again, and actually an election year, I’m pulling this one out again. No, I have no idea currently which mask is selling better this year, and I would be surprised if that data is out yet-but I might check in a few weeks.

I know that we’re now in November and therefore past the point where this is relevant, but at the same time, I really like this quirk (assuming this is true, and I sort of want it to be true).

It’s claimed that you can tell who will win a presidential election in November by what masks are sold for Halloween in October. This claim holds true for American society, but I’m not sure if it’s limited to Americans, if it’s because Halloween is currently a heavily American holiday, or if no one’s bothered paying attention to anywhere other than the States.

But it’s apparently accurate with a fairly freakishly high success rate-you can tell who will win by who is the most popular candidate to dress up as.

However, that’s probably the key word: popular. While the ‘nasty’ costumes for less than loved politicians are common, people like to collect and surround themselves with images of things that they like. Therefore, they’re going to be more likely to buy a costume of someone they are more willing to vote for than those they have no interest in. It’s an extension of popular culture; the images that people like are the ones that they want to dress up as (I read that Ryan Murphy was startled to already see Twisty the Clown costumes on the street this year-and multiple of them, to boot). The trend supposedly dates back to the 1988 election, with Reagan being the successful candidate and the highest selling mask. Or 1980, depending on source. However, the basic idea is still the same-for the past 30 years or so, the American election can be predicted by the sale of Halloween costumes.

This is one of those trends that is weird enough that pop culture loves it. It makes for a wonderful headline (Halloween predicts presidents! Next it’ll rain frogs!). I like it because it starts getting into those interplays that make sociology fascinating.

Strange Election Indicators: Halloween Masks

6 Bizarre Factors that Predict Every Presidential Election

Halloween masks predict Obama win 60-40

Halloween makes predict elections?

For Halloween 2012 prognosis, look to…Halloween masks?

Halloween Presidential Mask Sales Have Correctly Predicted Last Five Elections