June Update – Cooking, Plotting, etc.

A tabby cat and a grey cat curled up together on a green sofa

It’s been a minute! I’ve been doing some serious soul-searching, plotting and planning, networking, and just… figuring out what I’m doing with my life. So, short version:

I gave notice at my job. Last day will be the 8th of July, just before we head to Critical NW (Seattle’s regional burn) for a week. It’s a decision I’ve mulled for awhile, and I can’t really do anything else at this point. I need something with a little more flexibility, and preferably fewer hours for comparable pay. (I’m at the super low end of the pay spectrum for my experience level – like about half of what I’ve typically made. State employment ftw! Great benefits, though.) So, that’s good.

Somewhat related, I need to figure out how to replace that income. After pondering and researching and whatever for quite some time, I think I’ve landed on a path I like – UX researcher! It will utilize my skills and experience as a UX designer while allowing me to work on a part-time or contract basis, hopefully get me more human interaction than I currently get, and allow me to nerd out on asking questions and shit. I like asking questions and figuring out the “why”. Hoping I can end up with about half my time going to that, with the rest focusing on life, the universe and everything – which in this scenario means content creation! I’m working on setting up accounts (including Patreon) and figuring out schedules and technology and all that. I probably need to hire a social media manager, because I am terrible at it.

Ivy REALLY likes the homemade food that I mix in with her crunchies.

Let’s see… Bought a bunch of pork really cheap from a farmer who needed freezer space; lots of fat to render and either can as lard or use for soap, coooking the large pieces and will chop the rest up and can it. Made about a month’s worth of homemade dog food (shut up, it’s better for her and I love my doggo an unreasonable amount); some in the freezer, some will get canned. Made some AIP foods to have on hand this week; have a bunch more to make and can (haven’t tried canned coleslaw but we will soon). Excavating our ivy-covered wilderness (for about the past decade) of a back yard and finding all sorts of interesting things. Generally making progress!

More concrete, and stepping stones?? This was all a giant mess of ivy. What other wonders await?!

I’m also working on recording video and upping my editing game. I don’t mind posting unedited nonsense, but if I’m going to do this for realsies, I should probably take it seriously. I need some additional equipment, but we’ve got enough to get started. I’ll be posting reasonably substantial videos at least once a week to start, and then adding in livestreams and such as we get going. If you feel inspired to subscribe to my Patreon once I get it up and running, I would be forever grateful – and I will definitely do my best to keep you entertained, informed, and educated on all sorts of weird things! So. Many. Projects…

Thanks for reading, if you made it this far. I appreciate you, and I’m apocaloptimistic about the future. Love you!! <3

The Opposite of Hope is Despair

Dorky fawn-colored dog gazing into the distance with a piece of grass sticking out of her mouth

I’ve always been the optimist in the group. The one who sees the silver lining, the potential, the lessons learned and benefits gained and strengths or skills obtained from any given life lesson. It’s why I named my business Back to Hope – hope has been a guiding principle through all manner of trials. It’s… a little harder to have hope these days. As many of us are, I am having a bit of a Rough Time lately.

Dark Night of the Soul

I don’t remember where I first heard that phrase; probably from my mother, who read it in a book, which I then read myself (and will probably recall the name of eventually, just give me a minute and probably Google). I’ve read a lot of books, though not for some time now. I think it’s time to start again.

Only thing is, reading books is HARD now, which is super weird and kind of depressing for me. I’m not the same me I used to be, by a very long shot. My brain no work so good. Some days, I can’t make it through a paragraph clearly – the brain fog and whatever else make it genuinely impossible to focus or comprehend; I’m not always sure which. Listening to a conversation or trying to participate in a Zoom meeting are the same. Fortunately, it’s not all of the time. See? There’s the good part. I still have days where I feel maybe not “normal” (whatever that was), but at least mostly functional. Sometimes I feel mostly good for weeks on end.

And then some days – a majority lately, even – I can’t read a paragraph or do basic math. It’s mind-boggling. Truly, you don’t understand – I have always been brilliant. Reading was a super power. I had a photographic memory, and was top of my class in my advanced algebra class years before other kids were taking it. I went into kindergarten early, skipped a grade in junior high (boy, there’s a story), and graduated the youngest in my highschool class with a terrible GPA only because I’d been able to take college and homeschool courses and spend a semester in Ireland. Granted, I was also super weird. I had absence seizures and narcolepsy, and zero friends because I was the know-it-all and didn’t understand how to interact with people my own age. Fun was teaching myself to train horses or going backpacking for a weekend on my own (yay for Xennials). Other kids were weird, and I’m pretty sure I essentially viewed most of them as infants up until somewhere around highschool. Adults? Bring it; let’s have some college-level discussions about obscure topics and books I probably shouldn’t have been reading until much later in life.

But I digress. I don’t say this with any ego, just… that’s how it was. Until it wasn’t.

I’m not actually sure where it started. The physical issues were always there on some level, though I was able to push through them a lot of the time and actually was in pretty great physical shape for a while. Then I got married, and my first husband was an asshat, and I started developing some physical and emotional symptoms I hadn’t had before. I ended up diving into medical research and genetics to figure out what the hell was wrong with me and the rest of my family (mom and my two daughters, specifically), because it sure as hell wasn’t all in our heads. Wonder of wonders, I ended up landing on Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) – which has since been confirmed by multiple medical professionals. It’s part of a trifecta of issues – EDS, Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS), and Dysautonomia/Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) – that a growing number of people appear to have. It’s genetic, manifests somewhat differently in every individual, is not well understood, and does a WHOLE HOST OF STUPID SHIT. It sucks, and there isn’t a “cure” – just… things you can do that will hopefully make life better, and possibly someday a genetic fix.

(Funny enough, POTS/dysautonomia is essentially what Long Covid is. We’re starting to see some truly great research happening since Covid hit, so again, silver linings? LOL)

Anyway. Enter the brain fog and cognitive decline, never mind the chronic pain and things falling out of place. It’s a thing that’s been happening slowly for awhile now, and it’s somewhat recently become incredibly impactful in my day-to-day life. I literally don’t know that I can function professionally, except at a level of mind-numbing boredom. Which I am literally unable to force myself to do every day. I would rather stab needles into my eyeballs.

sigh

Which brings us to the Now.

Hope and Despair

I’m not as optimistic as I used to be. I’ve gotten older, and tired, and been bruised and battered by life to the point of being more than a little broken multiple times. I embrace it – scars are sexy, we patch things together with gold and are better off for it, and growth is neverending and all that – but I’m depressed and exhausted and I hurt everywhere and the realistic side of me is far, far beyond the point of worry or pessimism. Humanity has me feeling awfully cynical at the moment; I don’t think I need to elucidate the reasons why. There are a lot of big emotions taking up way too much space at the moment – grief, despair, rage. Anhedonia has thoroughly set in; I derive joy from seeing others experience joy. Watching Ivy (my doggo) be her silly doggo self is top of the list at the moment. And while that’s always been true, that’s… pretty much my sole source now. Appreciation for the things we still have, the natural beauty that surrounds us, gratitude (and guilt) for the Things we have and the fact that we can afford a house, and food, and air conditioning, and new clothes and books and baubles… And utter gut-wrenching sorrow that so many cannot, and that many of those are currently or will in the near future suffer, often to the point of death, because of it. Realistically, that is even happening here. Seen the living conditions on a reservation or in a poor neighborhood lately?

Good god, it hurts.

It’s impossible to make sitting at a computer working on trivial bullshit make any sense at all.

My soul is screaming at me. I NEED to do something different. Whatever time, energy, brainpower, passion and ME I have left needs to be used in service to the greater good. Urgently and without haste. WHY ON GOD’S GREEN EARTH WOULD I EVEN CONSIDER DOING ANYTHING ELSE?!

Capitalism is a thing, for sure. I’ve got a mortgage and kids. I’m not stupid or irresponsible, just… honest with myself. Listening to whatever – my higher self, the collective, the universe, mother earth, you name it. It’s too loud and too urgent to ignore. And those voices? They are telling me to LEAP. Like I’ve always done. The fork in the road is here. We’re hurtling down a river at high speed; quick split-second choice – which branch do we take? We don’t have the luxury of hitting “pause” and taking the time to ponder – we just need to act, and we need to do it now. There is absolutely a way to do both; I just need to figure out how.

I think I’m getting closer to figuring out my piece of that.

It’s All Just a Little Too Much

Giant dorfy fawn-colored dog lying asleep on the kitchen floor

The flood of links shared on Facebook and Twitter; the news headlines that seem too dire or farfetched to possibly be real; the sheer number of THINGS that are both Urgent AND Very, Very Important. It is overwhelming and exhausting and, more often than not, both completely surreal and far too real.

I hear people, especially those of an older generation, say, “Yeah, we’ve always lived during the end of the world. This too shall pass. Everything will be FINE.” … And I wonder who they’re trying to convince. There is absolutely truth to that statement, and as I am now one of those “older generation” in many ways, I get it. We had our world-ending shit to deal with as kids, too.

And then life was quiet for awhile. It was nice. Normal ups and downs, life insanity, the occasional small scare… but overall pretty freaking good.

In retrospect, I’m not sure what the turning point actually was. Covid? Trump? When Bush stole the election from Gore? Whichever it was, while one of a great many milestones along the way, this one signified something a little different. This time, it really *is* kind of the end of the world, at least as we know it – and in a decidedly less pleasant way than most previous world-changing events. I want my Berenstein Bears back.

Don’t believe me?

Someone I once knew taught me to look for the patterns. The commonalities, the associations, the threads, if you will. The easiest place to see those is by reading the news. Yeah, media is often biased and propaganda is sometimes spouted and we tend to dwell in echo chambers… but those are all just things to be aware of. Remember Library 101 in college? (Turns out, there were a few useful things we learned in school – it was just really hard to see the point at the time. That’s another topic entirely.)

So, in lieu of continuing to post the doom-and-gloom shit on social media (where everyone really just wants to see HAPPY and PRETTY, because who the hell doesn’t right now), I’m going to provide frequent updates. It’s not all apocalyptically dark comedy; I’ll throw the good stuff in too (when I find it). Hell, if I’m feeling particularly spry, maybe I’ll even add headers and images and format things all pretty. But at the moment, ain’t nobody got time for that. Read it if you want to. LOL Maybe this is a good time to bring back the weekly vlog, too. Because what else can I possibly do that actually, truly matters? (Spoiler alert: it turns out maybe a lot. But also probably not in the way you think. Another time.)

You ready? I apologize in advance. Here’s the last few days (mostly, with some background links thrown in for context). This is the shit I’m thinking about on a daily basis, in addition to job and family and community and new house and puppy and my own/family health stuff… Also, to any international readers (assuming anyone ever reads this), extra apologies – much of this is focused on an audience in the United States. I do realize these are global problems and we are super, super privileged in so many ways. That applies as well even within the United States, but I’ll go into that another day.

It’s early May of 2022. It is actually, literally, now or never in terms of our ability to limit global warming. We’re starting to see the tangible effects of climate change now, and it’s not pretty. Heatwaves that are testing our ability to survive. The West coast of Los Estados Unidos is on fire, once again. And Siberia. It’s a bit early, but we’re in the midst of a 1200 year megadrought that’s expected to intensify and expand east, so this is probably actually just sorta… normal now? Anywho. I’m not sure the fires are quite as big a deal as the water shortages we’re starting to see. Los Angeles has declared a water shortage emergency, and somewhere around 6 million people could lose all hydropower and/or water from Lake Powell – which is a whole big thing, especially considering our power usage in the summer and our desperately aging infrastructure. That will impact agriculture, which is especially fun considering all the rest of the supply chain issues and inflation. Oh yeah, and did you know we’re living in the midst of a likely human-caused extinction event and that it’s accelerating? That’s fun. Ahhhh, the dominoes.

And we wonder why people are stressed and overwhelmed and going nuts. Add to that housing and food costs and shortages, inflation, low wages, lack of medical insurance, chronic health issues (including long covid now, which is essentially a post-viral syndrome that causes dysautonomia and such – also another topic with which I am intimately familiar and will cover later lol) – and so many other things. People are getting scared and desperate and also starting to give up, I think. That’s not a good combination.

Then there’s Ukraine, and our general global march toward fascism.

But hey, we’re developing enzyme variants that can eat plastic in hours. And we’re going to figure out how to essentially suck carbon out of the air. And solar panels that work at night have been developed, and also salt batteries!

… That’s probably enough for now. Just thinking about it all is exhausting, but that is kind of the point, isn’t it? It’s not enough to say, “Yeah, I know this stuff is going on, but I am le tired!”

FUCK THAT.

I don’t know about you, but I think there’s a lot to like about this world. I’d kind of like my kids to be able to breathe, too. Fallout’s a fun game, but not really what I envision as an ideal future. You want to live?? You embrace the suck, you find the joy and things worth fighting and loving for, and you do what you can to fix it. Moping isn’t going to get us anywhere, and neither is sticking our heads in the sand. It’s time to dig in and work together and do what needs to be done.

… We really did have it all, didn’t we? Things may never be the same, but I think we can still salvage something pretty awesome from all of this insanity. We’re running out of time, though.

What Reality are we Creating?

Smiling fawn-colored dog with brown eyes looking into the camera while laying against a lap with a laptop on it

I’m not sure how it’s April 2022, but here we are.

It’s been an interesting ride, folks – and I suspect we’ve barely gotten started.

Not gonna lie; day-to-day is pretty rough for me – and for most of us, if I had to guess. The future isn’t looking super hot at the moment. It’s just one existential-level crisis after another. LOL

HOWEVER, we do not go gently, do we?! While it’s occasionally tempting to give in and just be fatalistic about it all, that’s… not how we roll. It’s not how I roll, at least. I think, and I strategize, and I build community, and we FIGHT for the future we want to see.

At the moment, that fight in my corner of the world looks like:

  • taking care of way too many people
  • turning our yard and the neighbors’ yards into shared garden space
  • building out the intrastructure in our new home to weather climate crises and food insecurity and late-stage capitalism potentially collapsing
  • building community and creating a community hub, including getting more involved with local mutual aid projects and people
  • scaling the soap business up to a whole ‘nother level
  • studying and planning for a massive career shift, however that ends up manifesting
  • really thinking through what I need, and what WE need; on a day-to-day basis and forecasting well into the future

… So, let’s chat. What future can we create together? What is the world we want to see and be a part of? And what can we do NOW, individually and collectively, to make it happen? I know a lot of super smart, talented, creative people.

We’re running out of time and excuses.