Clutter Critters and the Hazards of Home

The haze of closing, packing up our rental, in all the extra hours outside of our (already overtime) work, was monumentally draining. To be on auto-pilot, shuffling “stuff” around while in the shadow of a looming move-in date, is more than a deadline you trudge through. The dust of your inventory, what most people never have an accurate count of, is a surreal situation once it comes time to box it together and transport them to “new beginnings”. Picking up so many objects, simply to decide what to do with them (does it “spark joy”?), is energetically draining. 

I’m a firm believer that our personal items tend to hold emotional weight. Objects are sometimes so hard to let go of because of attachments:  to a memory, a project unfinished, a regretful purchase, which seeps into our brain-maps regarding wealth, lack, loss, abundance, authenticity or lack thereof, so on and so forth.  

I used to loathe moving, getting very comfortable in my placements and routines that heavily required attention to color palettes, shapes and size. These aspects all continue to be very important to me. The older I become, I find that cohesion is key to my ease in each environment. Not all spaces can encompass too many concepts and when they do it creates an awkwardness. This does not mean I like extremely neutral spaces; I am all about bold and artistic interior design. It just means I prefer it when everything has harmony.

Thus, the idea of moving out-of-place junk extremely irked me. And yet, we spent some unnecessary physical activity towards transporting items which do not serve a purpose nor have a place. How I wish we had a more full-proof consistent stream of decluttering! The purge is a common place tradition after the Holidaze for many and charity shops were at their busiest receiving donations in January. These fresher incoming items also mean the beginning of the year is the most optimal time to thrift. With the move, I have not indulged in this beloved pastime. I am putting all my petty cash towards painters tape, “oops” paint, utility accounts, an extreme bathroom makeover (subfloor replacement and all) plus fuel line repair. Somewhere, a cauliflower blue sheer kimono or a papasan chair are being bought by someone else when they should be purchased by me!

All jokes aside, our new home has felt daunting in our decreased space and amount of “stuff” must be pared down again. So many remaining tasks, there is not one room that is unpacked after our first full week of living here, but it is Home. We may have our work cut out for us for the remainder of the month, but it will be done. With the Full Moon (and my birthday) coming Sunday February 9th (tomorrow), it feels appropriate to embrace yet another donation. With this debatable Snow Supermoon sitting in Leo, regardless of the stress, I am feeling groovily good-natured. Time to let go of even more that does not serve this new home and go forth on this new birthday with less clutter! 

Self-Helper:

Aesthetically, I am not a “minimalist”. I like detailed decor, which I once though “clutter” could fill out. In alignment with my “self-help” reading challenge, here is one new book I’ve read and two recommended in the vein of decluttering.  

  • The best in this category, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui is a small swift read, but packs a powerful punch regarding “why we hang on to ‘stuff’”. Trauma responses are known to keep us in relationship patterns, and this ideology absolutely also applies to the home. The author’s explanation about even light hoarding has deep rooting in fear and limited beliefs. The chapter about the bowel system and how it, too, can serve as a means of excess while slating how silly American society is for not being more open about digestion is on-point. The practice of flow and energy has inspired Karen Kingston to look deeper than simple “cures” or the rules of the Bagua. She is a no-nonsense but gentle guru in the art of creating Zen zones in your home while exploring the roots to our mechanisms and helping the reader to truly let go. 
  • Marie Kondo was name-dropped often in social with her kick-off Netflix series shortly before the New Year in 2018. A year later I’m in reflection of her impact. Her book of the same series name, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, was inspiring, but it is rather long-winded and intensive. I don’t personally believe in her methodology of folding clothes, and though I love her personality and approach, has her ideas worked for everyone? A balance between “loved” items, letting go, etc. and a little more creative clutter and on-hand items seems to be better for me. I cringed at this YouTuber’s massive throwing away of his paintings. It’s not environmentally sound to throw away everything, yall! Please give extra toiletries and items to homeless people, use NextDoor and curbside intelligently and don’t trash something useful just because you don’t entirely love it. There’s some level of privilege and wastefulness to Kondo’s approach that needs to be re-imagined, but there’s no doubt that she has revolutionized how we look at our homes.
  • Australian Peter Walsh is a bit of badass when it comes to explaining the deep psychological reasons we hold on to things and gets into the depths of hoarding and financial waste that comes with shopping without intention. Shopping is where the “stuff” starts. He has a plethora of decent reads with statistical information if you would like to be shocked into rethinking how you look at sales or store strange items for long periods of time. You may think you know how clutter negatively impacts your entire life, but Walsh definitely has some more information to scare you. His books are especially helpful to older folks who have been in their homes a long time and have accumulated random and outdated items that keep piling up. And a few of his books are available on Kindle Unlimited and Libby, the free library reading app. 

Illustration: Brian Rea

Dolly, Drag Queens and Dream Dwellings

It’s been a weird weather week in Georgia:  part beautiful Autumnal joy yet also a gloomy wet rainy mess. Humid as heck one day, then frigid and freezy the next, nothing could tamper with our enthusiasm as we take one of the biggest steps in our lives. My partner and I are making roots, beyond just our careers, clients, communities, colleagues. We are resolute to make an even stronger bond to the city in which we currently reside. Weighing the pros and cons of moving West, not only have we decided to stay, but we’ve decided to settle down in a major way. Cultivating a more decisive direction on long term goals can be a lot of pressure, but when we accidentally came across an amazing opportunity at an extremely affordable price for the area, we pushed through the motions (and emotions) of solidifying for our future security. I’m super happy to say that we are on a new, though expensive, path in our pursuit of pushing through to the next chapter.

WE ARE NOW HOMEOWNERS. 

Moments where we are not running carloads of craft supplies, chairs and tschotskes back and forth to our new abode, we’ve been in resting mode, and TV time has been divine! That which is fluffy and can make us feel fuzzy has been the order of our downtime and we’ve been drawn to sweet stories based in the Southeast as of late. When I was young, I used to hate growing up in the South, but I’ve come to appreciate its unique temperament. The progressive people are abundant in Atlanta, but with majority of GA being rural, the prime powers of Conservatism are a true threat. I have learned to embrace this space in which I reside more and more despite the turmoil surrounding. I see such sparkle within the communities that have carved a space for themselves. The picture painted by media of these struggles and differences are often radically unrealistic or steeply stereotypical, but since the South is Home for me, lately I’ve appreciated some light entertainment that has slightly reminded me of what it is to be a Southerner and not only survive, but thrive, in an environment that does not always have the outsider in mind. 

TV Eye:

Feel-good fables have started cropping up more frequently, the spirit of sappy and sweet bulking up beyond the ranks of Hallmark and their mistakes. Inclusivity shines in shows like Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings, which appropriately came out around the Holidaze. Icons like Dolly Parton adding their life-long encouragement and wisdom to fictional format is an introspective experience for television viewers. Dolly has navigated difficulties with a proud voice, much experience in her rich life (she just celebrated her 74th birthday yesterday), and is regarded by many as a wise woman who has open arms to all people. Heartstrings perhaps aligns with a culture that craves to soak some voyeuristic guidance. 

It feels appropriate that following a series like the country-encrusted dilemmas, crises and story-within-a-story of Heartstrings, RuPaul would fit right in to Netflix’s 2020 programming. AJ and the Queen was at times too cheeseball for me, but I couldn’t stop watching regardless. Tamed with the right amount of absurdity, comedy and pacing, this queer-centric “moral to the story”, dished out by Ru’s character, made for well-rounded watching, a mix between a soap, Drag Race and the silliness of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Drag queen Ruby Red (RuPaul), who had been grifted by his boyfriend, and the abandoned daughter of a drug-addicted neighbor, AJ (Izzy G.), are the odd couple travelling the country together in a camper and helping each other break down their own defense mechanisms and truths. Both characters, no matter how different, are dealing with an emptiness of invalidation and isolation. It’s funny, sweet and has a whole load of great messages tucked into each episode. A surefire recommendation if you’re looking for something light but substantial for your wind down watching!

Cinematiste:

A recent Amazon Original I really enjoyed this weekend was Troop Zero. Set in the 1970’s, two troops in a small Georgia town are competing to get to the Jamboree and be the winners to record their voices for a NASA time-capsule space project. After being rejected by the established Birdie troop, the cosmos-obsessed Christmas enlists her “sparkly” BFF to start their own with the help of her father’s employee (played by Viola Davis) as troop leader. They round up the town’s “freaks” to be in the league of Troop Zero and all encourage one another to rise above their seeming limitations, discover their hidden talents and boost their self-esteem. The solidarity they show in the end was unexpected, the writing of the script incredibly campy yet from a place of Southern sass and wit that isn’t seen frequently in modern film. And there’s lots of David Bowie in it, too, which is always a plus.

Full Wolf Moon, Lunar Eclipse, Cancer Goddesses

The Water Goddess known as Cancer is often touted as sensitive and this is true, but it’s not the cliche that society paints an emotional person to be. Intuitive individuality when met with astute alignment is a mighty force to be reckoned with. Yes, Cancer is full of feels, but she’s also wise in her understanding of the human heart. Many Cancers I know have a bright and beautiful yet collected capacity of sound support, patience with processes, and a very solid want for a loving environment that is best for everyone (and she’s right!). That being said, in weakened states, Cancers can be too forgiving, but once their boundaries are made, it’s a binding act. You mess with their loved ones or waste too much of their time and it’s bye-bye for you.

Each Full Moon tends to take on the qualities of the astrological sign in which it sits. The fact that this Cancer Full Moon will be met with an epic Lunar Eclipse is doubly intense! Around 2:21 PM EST, this Friday January 10th, the Full Moon will be tucked behind the Earth’s shadow. Forever Consciousness posted a previous article explaining the energies that happen during this time, put in short, “Lunar Eclipses signify a time of great change and upheaval”. This is an opportune time to journal and do shadow work or do detailed planning for an important advancement in your life. Being January, this could be related to measuring at goals REALISTICALLY, looking at limitations or changes that need to be made with humility and grace, boosted by a willingness to make the best of what you can work with. All Full Moons are swelled with emotion and energy and are perfect for releasing or letting go of what no longer serves, shedding a role, finishing a task or closing a chapter.

Today’s Full Moon will bring deep significance due to this Lunar Eclipse, heightened by its station in cautious but caring Cancer. Amped in abundant emotions for the first Full Moon of the year, this part of the phase is also known as the Wolf Moon, spurred from Native American tradition and now acknowledged worldwide in Astrological and Astronomical practice. Wolves represent a Loyalty in Life and Love, Courage to Overcome Obstacles, Strength in Societies and Skill in Survival… especially in Winter. These connections are the reason why the Wolf is the honored animal representing every January Full Moon. The Wolf’s practical yet poetic mythology can guide humans on how to navigate our purpose as part of a unit. Wolves are curious creatures, but also clan animals, and must do the work to maintain peace in their portion of the Forest.  

Cancer is signified by the Crab. It’s no wonder that Cancer rules all things familial and domestic, as its home is its shell, it dwells in the womb of the World known as the sea, and sometimes burrows in the Earth of sand, snug and safe. The Crab is known to retreat into its shell, but it is also swift on its feet, its claws both tools and weapons. They often can be both social and solitary creatures, communal and introspective. Two of my closest friends are Cancers, and though they are very different people, they have common traits of being genuine, caring, artistic and whimsical. They can be open in some ways and yet very private in others. They are selective about what they share. More quiet around people they don’t know, when they feel trusting, they are fun, funny and full of spirit in comfortable cajole. Their sweetness is also met with an equal sharpness of mind. They read situations well, though may need some moments to be more objective. With dreams and goals, their relationships are highly important to them and they don’t need a ton of randos junking up their lives. They want quality over quantity. I believe all of these elements illuminate what could serve us at this time. How can the strong and sensitive stature of Cancer improve your world view and the way you conduct your day-to-day? 

Sadly, the Eclipse’s penumbral presentation will not be visible for the Americas, but I eagerly await any photos from Europe, Asia and Africa! Today marks the first of 4 Lunar Eclipses in 2020:  June 5th, July 5th and November 30th, an abundance!, as according to Wikipedia:  “At least two lunar eclipses and as many as five occur every year, although total lunar eclipses are significantly less common.” These are some questions I propose you ponder: How can we be objective and less reactive? How can we be in touch with, but not drowned as empaths by, the weight of the world around us? What can we do to strengthen our resolve to help others and take care of ourselves at the same time? What do we want for our home lives? How can we have less fluff in our day-to-day business duties and get down to the heart of actions that will propel us forward? The combined energies of the Lunar Eclipse, the Wolf Moon and the Cancer Goddess all bring these things to mind. Blessed Be to you all – and may you have warmth and healing in this Full Cancer Wolf Moon!

Stay Home: The Salvation of Solitude & Self-Care

In my soul lives a homebody. Happiest, she sips herbal tea and reads fantasy novels, bathes by glow of candles made of moons and drifts of woods. Actualized, she home-makes, finds harmony in color palettes and admires the look of light in rooms as it shifts through the day. From its spread into the morning grey as pinks, bold brights of the afternoon, back to the buttery brilliance of golds as the Sun starts for sleep, I rise early. I bake, indulging my love for dessert, watching period pieces, pruning the basil who bursts forth in abundance. We cook massive amounts of produce, saving much money on restauranteering, savoring Earthy goodness that nourishes our temporal homes known as bodies. And I sleep. I sleep regular, and soundly, and softy. 

For an entire decade, these possibilities were ignored in pursuit of public music-making then documenting drag queens. I sometimes look back and wonder what was the purpose, or moreso, why I had no balance between social life and home comforts. My little mouse self had trouble in social situations without booze and, even now, that anxious little bean still lives inside me. I only embraced coziness while I was rundown from running to-and-fro in nightlife. Even the most outgoing extroverted party people likely relate to this reality. We self-care when we can’t push our bodies any further. Not really much of a life. 

We’re not all meant to be hyper-social. 

Success had little ties to my presence in nightlife community, as much as I told myself I was “networking”. Our business plan has been at a steady spot, growth only slightly rising in sloth pace over the years, nothing worth sacrificing sleep over just to show a tiny bit of support. When there is a mortgage to pay, prioritizing getting paid and honoring your emotions and environment becomes the smart move. Staying in was not what I wanted to do initially, but the quick add-whiskey-instant-fun impulses racked up more negative results, only to stand in the way of my long-term goals. I discovered I had many reasons to not go out at all. 

They say if you’re bored, you’re boring. Going to the dive bar and drinking/drugging yourself into relaxation on the regular is an easy option to be less bored. You hang out with people you don’t actually like. You waste your money to be hungover in the morning. It’s necessary to make boundaries in drinking culture if you have productivity and money goals. While I dwindled down to “going out” once or twice a month, these experiences only reminded me of how vapid and empty many of my exchanges with “friends” had been. When I stopped drinking all together, I had no use to go to certain places. My wallet bulked up, I randomly lost weight, I was significantly less stressed. It was miraculous! Or was it? 

In the separation from nightlife, my energy had radically shifted in astounding ways. A return to my “origins” (interests, disposition, outlook) was accruing naturally. Early-rising work and its requirement of daily physical activity meant earlier bedtimes, the sweat or cold from outdoor elements had me embracing more baths, naps… To do well at my “day job”, I needed to rest. I kept up my immunity and was choosy about how I spent my time. I cozed up in study and observation with an inquisition into what it would be to embrace a space of Magick, imagination, routine. Even the question of what it would be to save money and cook meals at home opened doors for me. This experiment paved a path towards the life I hope to live in the next decade. 

I would even argue that I’m meant to mostly stay at home. And that’s okay. I’m not content to have friends I see only in bars. I don’t want to spend any amount of money I have on booze… period. At first this transition was isolating, but certain darling dears kept in touch. I started visiting gardens, going on coffee dates, visiting museums. Once a month, we would host an intimate gathering with our closest people and the quality over quantity came alive before my eyes. I honored my instincts and the ideal social situations somehow came through for me with ease. I have no idea what the latest drama is in the scene; there are far less broken records, struggles and sordidity surrounding my life. How sweet it is to rediscover the simplicity of selective socializing! If you’re stuck within a rut, try something new, right away. You may discover that what you were doing was not really for you. Don’t let another year go by doing the same-old-same-old, especially if you’ve been running on fumes, feeling dull, depressed or worn-out. When you make more time for you, the rest will follow. 

Images: Kristin Askland

Future Fatigue

I’m beyond exhausted 5 days into 2020. My heart is aching for Australia. I’m once again infuriated with the joke we call a “President” for his callous (and illegal) actions in Iran. The sun is shining and I have visited with my half-sister and niece that I rarely see. I’ve seen one of my best friends before she leaves again for her home many states away. I feel closer to my family than I ever have, seeing them three times in the past week. I can’t help but feel a pang of panic in the Present about what the Future will bring. Hoping for a Hope going into the week, some relief for those who have lost their homes, loved ones. We need light and love more than anything. I believe in the power of escapism when it all becomes too much, for small portions when you can, though every bit of art I’ve consume lately has its part of melancholy.

Cinematiste:

Hollywood’s gloss and glitz seems to dilute any attempt at a ‘70s rock biopic, but some of these strange birds tend to work. Due to the larger-than-life fame of queer mega-legends Elton John and Freddie Mercury, my reluctance to catch-up with the recent-ish films was for naught. The musical frill of Rocketman was clever in communicating the popstar’s pursuit of validation, alienation in addiction, soirees and sexuality to the forefront of Rocketman. I appreciate Elton even more due to this glimpse into the struggles I never knew he had. Bohemian Rhapsody was criticized for lack of queer portrayal during the AIDS onset, which confused me, as it was one of the main plot lines of the story. 

‘70s rock has randomly been a subject in our streaming lately. Classic Albums‘ documentary on Fleetwood Mac was fascinating for me as a fan. My partner and I never saw Almost Famous fully and recently watched (and loved) the semi-autobiographical Cameron Crowe flick. Quite a few years past, I finally watched (and loathed) the 2013 CBGB movie. The portrayal of punk icons was shoddy, though the bar’s staff and their story kept me hooked temporarily. (Anyone with an interest should just read Please Kill Me, “an oral history of punk”, instead.) Movies about musical subculture are usually more miss than hit; trying to duplicate someone’s beloved IRL icons is trickier. 

The most memorable and moving in this specific category of film-making wasn’t set in the ‘70s, but is centered around an artist who the world regarded at her height during that decade. Nico, 1988 follows the Velvet Underground muse and underrated musician on her solo tour in the year of her death, showing the harrowing balance in working with a hired band, reconnecting with her troubled son, battling heroin yet meeting waves of hope, getting clean and promoting some of her best personal work. The acting is on point and the cinematography is painfully gorgeous. The political and cultural climate of Eastern Europe during the time of their tour is of interest even to those who are not fans. Though English language, this Italian film released in 2017 and was not on my radar at all. I happened to run across it on Hulu and loved it start from finish. 

Sipster:

My partner came up with a yummy, dessert-y drink easy to make at home. Half the battle is the powder mixture; Green Tea Latte by Trader Joe’s has additional sweetness and such, but even with the “just add hot water” instant-ness or with your own mix, the magic is in the making. Extra froth gives it the coffeehouse charm. Two scoops from a can of coconut cream, preferably the top cream of a cold can, put in a jar with lid, shake until it forms more thickness, add to top. We usually have coconut cream on hand to make curry so this is a great way if you have extra leftover. Similar recipe with protein powder above is an adorable illustration with simple steps. Sipping serenity can be yours at home.

TV Eye:

Thanks to numerous ads on IG, I checked out the Margot Robbie produced Dollface on Hulu. After all, I have watched all of Sex and the City, Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce and other hyper glossy girly series with a squad of 4 or so ladies going thru break-ups. It makes for some easy peasy background goodness while couching around. Revisiting relatable dating experiences that can be sources of pain yet dealt with in irony and slapstick is somehow weirdly comforting. Fluffy but the social commentary combined can be some great (and not-too-serious) viewing. The slight surrealistic alternate reality of Dollface sets it apart from other similar formulaics. Mocking cliche processes and traditions in girl friend groups, along with the current climate of digital communication, the main character’s laid back humor amidst the LA landscape that honors appearance more than substance, has a realistic attitude at how ridiculous women can act when trying to process an unexpected break-up. I can’t deny the love of a makeover, empowerment through embracing change, stepping out of one’s comfort zone. 

Praylist:

Ironically, the decadence of ‘70s soft pop is a bit granola and/or smooth stoned in mood. Easier on the ears, grooves with slight soul, twang, demi-disco, a little sparkle and synth, heartbreak heavy yet composed. Yacht rock in particular was the with interjections of some recent decade darlings (Ariel Pink, Cate le Bon) makes up my Polyester Pantsuit playlist… this has been my go-to driving music for the past few days and it’s guaranteed to lift one’s spirits without being too saccharine.

Ipsy Pixie, The Perks and Irks

I’m my Ipsy-versary! It’s been 4 years since signing up January 2016 and Ipsy has come a long way since. Though its branding has been identifiable the whole way through, I’ve enjoyed their themed month-to-month quips. I’ve had better realization of how my own makeup and skincare changes with the seasons. Most importantly, my need to spend a lot of time throwing away funds on full size products and shopping around has completely come to a halt. Ipsy has saved me money and time by delivering a curated pick of products to try, a happy package of delight in the mail every month. Here are some pros and cons of using Ipsy:

Pro:  For $12 a month, the Glam Bag is cost effective for anyone who has an urge to buy and try new products. Within the past year, Ipsy has offered a Plus ($25) for 5 full size (usually includes an eyeshadow set) and Ultimate ($50), a mix of full and smaller, for diehard makeup users. I can not imagine wanting full sizes of things I have not tried before. With the original Glam Bag, I’ve noticed a formula. You often receive a full size eyeliner or lipstick each month, each which would normally be priced in the $20 range individually. You are already getting your money’s worth with this one product. As my go-to beauty product, I’ve loved their selection of liquid eyeliners. Being able to try brands like Eyeko and Ciate has led me away from cheaper brands like L’oReal and NYX forever! I rarely ever look at the make-up section in big box / drugstores anymore. 

Con:  That being said, it’s mandatory you fill out the quiz of your skin tone, coloring, likes, what you use more of and less of, in order to be receiving what you want the most. Take two minutes to review your bag each month. This feedback will ensure you are not getting a ton of types of product or shades of colors that you will not use. Some people don’t use nailpolish or hair products often or do not want a ton of bronze shimmering eyeshadow. 

Pro:  Your reviews also will help you accumulate points you can redeem every few months for an extra sample. Ipsy offers Add-Ons for $3 sample sizes and $12 for full size products on the 2nd day of the month before your bag ships out. Every item in your monthly bag is also available in a full size at a discount if you really like a product! Their Shopper section is full of deeply discounted sets and tools and changes daily which causes users to look frequently (and likely buy more). However, it’s been great if I’m looking for a specific kind of product I’ve run low on. 

Pro:  It’s a bag, not a box. I’ve been able to use these bags for other items:  tampons, nail tools, stickers, craft supplies, etc. As someone who travels frequently, it’s nice to have these bags with mini versions of skincare and makeup to put inside them and use while away! Ipsy’s signature electric foil pink mailers have been reused to send out care packages to friends. 

Con:  Some of the designs are amazing, but some are not as cute or follow a trend that is here and gone again. Anytime you go to a Goodwill, you’ll see many Ipsy bags in the wallets bin for this reason.

Pro:  Mini mascaras are amazing for someone like me who wears makeup 2-3 times a week. YES, you are supposed to throw out your mascaras every 3 months! Even when I wore lots of makeup EVERY DAY it still took an incredibly long time to use a whole full size mascara. With mini high quality versions, you get a high-quality product, use it in a decent amount of time before it dries out or gets gross. 

Con:  Mini versions of skin care sometimes are too small to know if they make a difference. However, you can gauge the scent, consistency and a product sits on your skin. It’s also an argument that sample size products bottles are a waste for the environment. Ipsy does seem to support some organic lines and some come in glass bottles or jars. I’ve re-used to make cream eyeshadows (better for aging skin and richer tones) or lip pots (so many berry tones look better with a bit more brown in my opinion, also great for broken lipstick or to turn a shade into a gloss). 

2020: New Year, New View

Welcome to 2020! I’m so grateful that my life has been lush with atmosphere and rituals. Though much due to my own doing, as homebody at heart, I am being plunged even deeper on a domestic path this New Year. Equally exciting as disruptive, we are priming for a major move in the next month. Thus, the domestic domain is at full focus, doubled during a time in which decluttering is standard everywhere. We are attempting to pare down more than ever before. Behind closed doors, Americans are pulling out their unused items, assessing how poorly they spend money and how little organized and messy they actually are. I’m feeling all this and more with a time-sensitive deadline for donations, inevitable disorganization filling me with anxiety at lightning speed.  

This private part of my life has been the basis for this blog and, admittingly, it feels odd to share my feelings about my domestic journey after years upon years of ghostwriting, interviewing artists and covering releases and events. The personal can be shared in blips on Instagram stories with ease, but to delve into the inner world of my home and habits at a longer word count is quite vulnerable. I’ve received encouragement and personal comments in the short month-ish of posting, so it must resonate to some! Thus, I have decided to commit to the mission and expand.  

The rift between consumer politics and individualistic curation, even as the fairly frugal frauline I am, has plagued many others like me who take joy in personal environment yet have issues with capitalism. Working through the chaos of my choices in consumption has brought light to the emotional manipulation and false promises I see constantly in advertising. How can we enjoy imagery without putting pressure on ourselves towards the perfectionism that ruins the ability to remain present? Why are we so harsh on ourselves regarding presentation? Our digital presence, communication style, measurements of “success” and even something as basic as our physical embodiment is always up for critique by the most harsh critic of all:  ourselves. 

Though people cling to privacy about personal issues and the nitty gritty of their day-to-day, you would think we are fairly open to exploration since social media is overfraught with confessionalism and reposts about mental health. There exists a great divide in the embrace of “self-help”. Sometimes I’m not even sure that all the individuals who share their woes online are really looking to move towards change. Self-depreciation has been more socially attractive than transformation. In rejecting this stigma, I am going to be reading a self-help book a week (if I can manage, in alignment with my GoodReads yearly challenge) and sharing my findings. 

Self-Helper:  

Books can not help with everything. Support systems, therapy, health care and medication are valuable. Topics of insecurity, procrastination, ailments and recovery, however, can be aided with a bit of guidance. There are certain books in this ilk I have been a fan of throughout my life that I recommend to anyone in search of empowerment, healing and change. Here are a few of my favorite impactful reads before I can delve into some new findings:

Books that offer insights and hands-on ideology to solving problems, reprogramming our perspective and focus on goals, I welcome everyone to the idea of being helped by another’s experience, open-minded to opening horizons, and reducing shame about seeking resources that may help us see solutions. 

Sipster:

Genmaicha. How warming a hot cup of tea is when the immune system is low and the cold is creeping in. Little bits of “popcorn”, the brown rice bits with green leaves, loose leaf is the loveliest. To enjoy its steep in the French press with vigilance and virtue, genmaicha is the afternoon check-in that has helped settle my stomach after rich holiday foods. A little honey goes a long way for this nutty mixture I’m introducing into my daily routine. 

ASMRtist:

I’ve reacted to ASMR ever since I was a child and am so glad there is a huge community devoted to the art of triggering tingles. In fact, the community is so huge that the oversaturation can be quite immense and I would love to occasionally share some of my favorites. This new notification hit a strong chord with January reflection on how I’d like the year to go:

To quote the strong message from one of my favorite ASMRtists, Witch Mountain:

“We deserve to acknowledge our efforts, feel proud of all that we’ve done, how far we’ve come, and it’s simply a choice that we’re allowed to make. Instead of seeing our flaws and feeling embarrassed by them, we can see them simply as who we are, part of what makes us human. If these are flaws that are truly holding us back from who we want to be, we can choose to work on them.” 

Michelle ticks many boxes in my interests outside of ASMR:  witchcraft, herbalogy, Reiki, spiritual and social wellness along with other subjects I’d like to talk about on this new format list. Please check out her array of inspired content on YouTube and Instagram. She is full of wisdom… a welcome and uplifting social media presence!

Illustrations by Rune Fisker (aside from tea)

20 Years of Social Media

Like many others at the end of the year, I am reflecting upon the past. 2019’s whirlwind of personal progress, regarding everything from physical wellness to financial awareness, merge of vision with colleagues to alignment with my partner… I have seen more changes in one year than the last 10. If that wasn’t enough, coming up to the monumental numeric year of 2020, I am thinking VERY FAR BACK as we approach New Year’s. 

I graduated high school in 2000 and remember the Y2K scare that came shortly before it. Masses feared the world’s computers would completely destroy modern society as the digits switched to 00. We rolled our eyes at the craze on New Year’s Eve, my friend and I parked up on a hill to watch fireworks, but there was admittingly a flash of fear. While hanging out on his ‘80s Volvo sedan, blasting My Bloody Valentine through his newly installed CD player, we felt relief to see the electricity grids would remain in tact, the lights from street lamps and houses a reassurance.

Ever since toddlerhood, my life has been steeped with computers. My father spent much time in the basement with only a few programs, including an archaic black-and-white version of Tetris. Later, with the dings of Brian Eno’s Microsoft opening, I immersed in the 8-bit sparkle and sounds of Legend of Kyrandia and Simon the Sorcerer.

I downloaded the entire Cocteau Twins discography (including their Fruitopia commercial and Christmas numbers) on UseNet. Loving the increase of customization on MySpace over Friendster, I learned code by hand for LiveJournal and HTML-ed an entire portfolio site for my collages and poetry. As Moderator of the original GetCrafty.com, I was delighted to share ideas and beta-test for a new online shop platform called Etsy. Possibilities felt endless, even in retrospected limitations.

Not only did my Computer World spark imagination in me like nothing else, The Internet allowed access to more info on interests and hobbies than any library ever could. It also created connection. My first long-term boyfriend may have been an anonymous passerby if it weren’t for AIM, his CancerUSA2001 to my MissAnnieThropic. I uploaded a MakeOutClub.com profile at 16, smoking a cigarette in the shadows with a heart and an X crossed over it in lipstick on my chest to promote my zine. It’s crazy how much connection I have done through Facebook, my original expansive account now deleted. We all wonder if there will ever be a new iteration of extended profiles in that ilk. Inevitably, there will be. There always is.

Social media has been helpful:  my half-sister connected thru FB, I kept in touch with my bestie in Japan thanks to Messenger. The negative has often outweighed the small blessings. Using Instagram often, I’m delighted to hear “likes” will disappear (though still waiting).

I’m sure we’d all be disgusted to hear how much time we’ve individually spent endlessly scrolling, no matter what era or age of our Internet onset. 

What personally stands out to me as a defining platform of the past decade is one that has been absent in my life for the past few years. Yet, at the turn of 2010, at lightning speed, I was reblogging certain themes unknowingly:  Flora and Fauna, in greyed pastels; the femme and the fatale, Thierry Mugler and girls with knives; ironic mishmash of corporate symbols in witty and/or unnerving juxtaposition; retrotastic cultural conglomeration and music/movie icons. I loved that aimlessly scrolling unearthed discovery of obscurity, that I could curate a feeling through collection, a diary communicated through aesthetic, invisible meaning strung throughout the subconscious. A bit more esoteric than most personalized social media, though nonetheless meaningful, taking a look at my old Tumblr recently had me in awe of its poetic honesty. Aside from posting randomly 2 years ago and a name change, recent reminiscence reveals so much about who I used to be, with a little foundation of who I will always be peeking thru, too.

Granted, the over-use of Nike, eggs, holographics, anime stills, etc. are not missed , the “movements” of “vaporwave” and “seapunk” a memory. I do appreciate that aesthetics, design, placement and color palettes were likely brought to a focus socially thanks to Tumblr. It was a quiet escape, a less loud form of social media, that was rooted in taste or tone, rather than direct online communication. What a meditative sweetness, brushed into the dust of the Past!

In Between (Holi)Days

It was Christmas Eve and all through the house, dirty dishes were piling attracting the mouse. We didn’t get a tree, but strung up lights and garlands instead, to watch Disney+ (only free trial) with bellies full of bread. The kitties sniffed our Indian takeout, trying to steal the naan, and we hopped from family to family, holiday party, horderves and so many sweets. We broke out in zits and farts and lazy bones, unsure of what day it is even though we’re still doing work for home. Or something like that!

What a haze! I am ready for the Holidaze to be over, though grateful for all the desserts and casseroles and meats I’ve imbibed in. We enjoyed our Tropical Winter-themed Tiki Kiki, and are in the steep of decluttering. Normal for the season, it’s extra extra for us, with an unexpected move around the corner giving us urgent reason to get rid of a hefty portion of our belongings. There’s still a few more friends and family to see, sparkly things to wear and probably calorie-rich dishes to eat, but we’ve also enjoyed the free time we have had. Here’s some spirited goodness I’ve enjoyed recently! 

Cinemaddict:

Billy Wilder is Hollywood gold. He co-wrote and directed Sunset Boulevard along with tons of noir films in the ‘40s and ‘50s. However, Wilder’s strongest suit, in my opinion, are his romantic comedies. As the mastermind behind Sabrina and Love In The Afternoon with Audrey Hepburn and 7 Year Itch and Some Like It Hot with Marilyn Monroe, his particular brand of kitsch but tinges of realism molded the genre ahead of its time. The inner-workings of accepting less than we deserve, while navigating our “place” in society, is the basis of my personal favorite film of his. The Apartment not only uses business men in positions of power as the enemy, this 1960 classic is uplifted by the superb delivery of both leads played by Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine. 

Wilder was the first individual ever to win at Academy Award for Producer, Director and Screenwriter for this film. It is a delicate balance between satire and dark comedy with social commentary galore and also takes place around the Holidaze. As Roger Ebert eloquently puts it: “There is a melancholy gulf over the holidays between those who have someplace to go, and those who do not. “The Apartment” is so affecting partly because of that buried reason: It takes place on the shortest days of the year, when dusk falls swiftly and the streets are cold, when after the office party some people go home to their families and others go home to apartments where they haven’t even bothered to put up a tree. On Christmas Eve, more than any other night of the year, the lonely person feels robbed of something that was there in childhood and isn’t there anymore.”

TV Eye:

I have been down with Season 3 of series:  it tends to bring in a bit more atmosphere, introducing new characters, settings and possibilities while digging for deeper development and understanding of the main players. Season 3 also has brought more kitsch to series I’ve enjoyed as well (this particularly divided fans of Stranger Things). Miriam’s residency in Miami’s pastel terrain, Joel’s excursion into Chinatown, the brief visitation to Texas, Season 3 of the Maisel installation really exemplifies what it is to not have a clear path for multiple characters finding footing, in-between homes, relationships, clients, jobs. 

Praylist:

In theme with our Tropical Winter party, the jet set of the times comes with an imagined playlist:  French pop, lounge, funk, Samba. Tiki Kiki has some of these originals: Astrud Gilberto, Martin Denny, Bossanova greats. Being a young impressionable music lover in the ‘90s, this playlist also seems perfect for incorporating the subset of musicians during that decade who embraced tomes of ‘60s and ‘70s aesthetic and sound. Mixing trance, techno, indie rock, trip hop and heavy sampling, I adored Beck, Stereolab, Cibo Matto, Pizzicato 5. It’s a shame barely any Towa Tei exists on Spotify as he is one of my top favorites, not just of this vibe or those times, but in general. In the modern, Yaeji and Stevie Dinner are a continuation of these wonderful sounds.

Surfing Santa's Tropical Winter

With both of my divorced parents non-religious, my two grandmothers (one modern Quaker, one Baptist-converted-to-Catholicism) brought the only presence of Christian God into our household, usually around Christmas time. We celebrated with the tree and dinner, no church-going, Jesus barely mentioned. Santa was our Savior afterall, the King of Kitsch, bringer of gifts, decorations and delicious foods. The latter was my peak Winter Holiday perk; The Nutcracker Ballet mesmerized me solely with its Kingdom of Sweets. Much older, though kid-powered to the core, my non-Christian belly looks forward to celebrating common party snackage, the Tradition of Treats, what Christmas has become for me. 

I do have spiritual affiliations that observe the cold end-of-year onset which extends into the dreary first months in the New Year. Winter Solstice honors hearth, a vigil togetherness in waiting and wishing on the Sun’s cycle for the arrival of a fruitful Spring. Differing from Baby Jesus’s birth date, the simple seasonal observation of Winter Solstice is Nature’s own perma place-marker as the longest night of the year. All the Season’s holidaze emphasize light for a reason. Hanukkah (translating to “dedication”) focuses “the miraculous light” with much political symbolism of past journeys for the Jewish people. In November, Hindus celebrate Diwali, a tradition I stumbled across picking up my friend in high school, the whole living room full of lit candles, delicious smells wafting from the kitchen, absolutely beautiful. To shun darkness and draw in light (metaphorically), these are just two examples in the major world religions.

Luckily, in the Southeast, it never gets too cold. I comfortably wore a t-shirt outside last week.  Our lack of a proper winter doesn’t take away the darkness of Daylight Savings. A temp drop still results in a dimming of spirits. Working year round with rare breaks, and working more frequently during the festive season, I make space for chosen family. Sparked by a colleague’s song, we’ve hosted a Tropical Winter party of tiki drinks in sweaters, alluding to global warming or a Southern Hemisphere Christmas, for a decade now. It’s a ridiculous adult re-imagining of an alternate reality, no skimping on the sweets and treats. Alongside maraschino cherries and flamingo swizzle sticks in crazy cups full of rum punch shimmering in the fairy lights, this year we made Hummingbird Cupcakes, a Southern staple of pecans and spice cake with the flare of pineapple and coconut, and Frank’s Buffalo Chicken Dip. Both require so much cream cheese:  my grown-up version of indulgence!

With mango, pineapple, orange punch set aside sans rum, I added some cranberry Sprite and ate a snicker-doodle pot cookie instead of drinking. Along with tons of cookies from my partner’s work parties, I’ve consumed multitudes of hot cocoas with whipped cream and marshmallows. For moments, I’ve been in the bliss of best buddies, good bud in my system and savoring the sugar high of curated close-knit congregation. I get why people make health goals when January hits. I’ve craved more produce and water daily, feeling deprived of both of them. Too many treats makes my energy levels a real Grinch, my digestion more often naughty than nice. 

Still, the thrill of a Winter tiki party, especially before there were any bars of that theme besides Trader Vic’s in my city, has felt like a welcome replacement for Santa, the Pro-Capitalist Papa of Christianity. Retrotastic with escapism from the droll of pineneedles in a landlocked town, there is irony in sipping fruity frosty drinks when it’s freezing outside, but nothing says celebration better to me than a parrot mug brimming with hibiscus and silly straws. Pair that with an ugly sweater and you’re all set for a party that doesn’t make much sense but has no shortage of merriment. Perhaps in 2020, we will think again about another more elegant event, especially in lieu of sobriety, but I’ll always cherish the silliness of how I’ve spent the Season, tiki time in tow.