Growth in Recovery

When I first got clean, I heard a lot of jokes about “growth in recovery”, usually from people that gained weight when they quit doing drugs. The longer I’m in recovery, the more my understanding of growth has changed.

When I found my way to the rooms of 12 step fellowships, I was not a nice person. I was demanding, I was lazy, I thought the world owed me everything…. Not nice at all.

As I worked steps, I started to learn to be more responsible for myself. I started learning that I actually had to put forth some effort, and not just for self-centered pursuits. I had to put forth efforts that benefited other human beings. I had to work at life.

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Obviously, I wasn’t happy about it at first. However, it eventually became a way of life for me. And I started really disliking the person I used to be; I couldn’t believe I had been such a self-centered, selfish, demanding, sorry excuse for a human being.

As I’ve started transitioning to a simpler way of life, all of that has become even more true. There is no sitting on my ass and demanding that others do all the work. There is no complaining that shit isn’t going the way I think it should go. I am not the center of the universe, and I am not god.

I don’t get to demand that Sunshine cater to my every whim. I don’t get to demand that others sacrifice so that I may get what I want. I don’t get to sit on my ass, or keep the roads hot; and I damn sure don’t get to do all that laziness and still enjoy the benefits of other peoples’ labors.

There are no trophies for just showing up. I am not a special snowflake. If I don’t participate in the efforts to build a community for all who actually want to be part of a community, then I do not get to call myself a member of that community. If I were to spend all of my time away from here, I wouldn’t get to say that I am living intentionally. I wouldn’t get to say that I live sustainably.

I am glad I have opted out of the rat race, that I quit bowing to societal pressures to have the right car and the right job and the right cup of fair trade Ethiopian coffee and the right strine green striped couch. I am glad my life is moving in a simpler direction. I am glad that, just for today, I am doing my best to be the change that I wish to see in the world instead of telling everybody else how to change their worlds to accommodate my idea of what my world should be.

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final note: ultimately, it’s nice to not have to be responsible for telling everybody what to do.  It’s nice to know that I am not a special snowflake and that I am not god. Honestly, it’s a relief. Thinking I was the god at the center of the universe was absolutely fucking exhausting.

Holiday Rush

This year, I am feeling the pressure of the holidays. It’s not overwhelming, but it’s certainly more than it has been in a while.

Our finances are tight. This time of year, that’s not unusual for us. It’s just tighter this year than it has been in the past. What I have learned in recovery is that If I just have faith, our higher power will see to it that we have enough. So I just hang in there and stay calm the best I can, and hold on to faith that it will work out in the end.

side note: sometimes that isn’t easy.

I’ve also got the gift list, all the stuff I need to make to give as gifts. I’m a little behind schedule because I had some surprise commissions come my way. I still have plenty of time to finish my list; I’ve just fallen behind some arbitrary goal that I set for myself.

side note: we humans are our own worst critics. We’re always so willing to give others the benefit of the doubt, but we are never willing to show ourselves the same mercy.

Somehow, it hasn’t felt much like the holiday season yet. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that I’m not our there shopping like a madwoman, listening to Christmas music blaring through loudspeaker systems in stores. Of course, I understand that The Christmas isn’t really about how much shit I can buy to prove my love to people; but something about shopping for gifts just feels Christmas-y.

side note: maybe going out in public and watching people get grumpy because of long lines and limited availability of products would make me feel less grinchy about how simple our Christmas is shaping up to be.

It’s also weird trying to make it feel like Christmas-time when I live in something that was created to drive to campgrounds by the beach or some some shit. I haven’t baked Christmas cookies since we moved in this magic bus a number of years ago. I haven’t been able to travel home to spend holidays with my family much over the last bunch of years, and somehow that makes Christmas a little sad for me.

Maybe after today’s chores are done, I’ll go find some Christmas music (or movies) to play in the background while I work on making gifts. Maybe that will make it feel more like the holidays.

I am a meat popsicle

I am so glad I got off my ass and did all the winterizing shit yesterday. It got cold last night, below freezing, but tonight is going to be worse. Hell, as miserable as yesterday was with all that cold drizzly shit, today is worse.

The wind is out of the north, and while the temperature is above freezing now (I think), the “feels like” is still well below freezing. My dog and I are of a like mind today; she’s snuggled in on the couch pouting because Poppy came home last night but he’s already gone again and it’s fucking cold and everybody is supposed to be on the couch together when it’s cold.

I’ve been catching up laundry today, since Sunshine came home with two loads worth of dirty clothes last night, and I’m afraid the pipes will freeze or I will freeze tonight and the man needs his clean underwear and long johns to go bury my frozen body in the backyard or whatever.

Laundry sucks ass today. I have to go outside to get to the unheated laundry room off the side of the pink house and it sucks.

Later today, after we run the dishwasher and take our showers, the tanks will have to be dumped again to make sure nothing overflows when we leave a drip tonight. Because overflowing holding tanks are bullshit. I’m kind of regretting that extra block of foam I put against the northern side of the magic bus, because it means it’s going to be extra work to get to the dump valves and I’ll probably lose some toes to frostbite while helping Sunshine move the foam blocks I rearranged.

I’m wearing my flannel lined jeans and two polar fleece sweaters and I am still freezing my ass off. What makes it even worse is the fact that I’m wearing so many bright colors that I feel like I look like Walt Disney threw up all over me and all I want to do is pile on all the black clothes because it’s cold and gross and gloomy and I am grumpy as hell about it.

Sorry for the whiny rant, but this is my place to be honest about the realities of simple living.

final note: I’m about to make good use of that full tank of propane and crank the furnace. Fuck being cold.

Winterizing

I hate to abruptly switch to posting about something so boring and practical as preparing for cuper-cold (for us, anyway) weather, especially after Tia’s wonderful DIY post yesterday. But this blob is supposed to serve as our record of what we tried, what worked, what didn’t, and how frustrating it can be at times. Today is one of those days when it just ain’t simple to live simply, and it needs to go down in our permanent record.

Sunshine is out of town working. He’s hoping to be home tonight, before the hard freeze sets in.

side note: hard freeze are some frightening words to RV dwellers. We’re not insulated as well as a house, and shit is so hard/expensive to fix when it goes wrong in an RV…

Sunshine took care of a lot of stuff before he left; he really did a good job of setting me up for success. He winterized all of our vehicles. He switched out the propane tank that feeds our stove and furnace for a full one so I don’t wake up in the night with a furnace working overtime to warm a house that is being pumped full of sub-freezing air by that same furnace.  He leak proofed the windows again, as the brutal Texas sun and heat had destroyed the sealant we had previously put around them. He got our hose heater plugged in so that the hose that supplies our water doesn’t freeze. He even put his Jeep in front of the RV, with jumper cables at the ready in case we lose power and I have to jump start the bus to get the generator going so I can have heat and shit. He thought of just about everything.

side note: we had previously put all those giant foam blocks around the bus to serve as skirting to keep the wind out, and I feel like I can already tell a difference even though it hasn’t gotten below freezing yet this winter.

There hasn’t been a lot left for me to deal with alone, which is why Sunshine is a total keeper in spite of the fact that his hoard takes over all the available space.

That doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been anything to do. It’s a misty, drizzly day, which means that the roads could easily turn to shit tonight. If he isn’t on the road early, I’m hoping he plays it safe and stays at his sister’s for the night again tonight and heads home after sunup.

side note: not that Sunshine can’t handle shit road conditions. He did grow up in the high Uintas, and he’s been driving on Louisiana roads for decades. Still, I’d rather face the hard freeze alone than risk his safety.

I’ve gotten out and found a way for the cats to stay plenty warm tonight. I snatched up that travel kennel that Mr B wound up with after he brought us those 6 kittens and 4 chickens in it. I brought it up from the distant reaches of the backyard; I put it in between our magic bus and the pink house. It’s snugged up to the house as close as I can get it, covered with a blanket, and facing so that the door (that I fixed open so they can come and go as they please) isn’t in the wind. I layered the bottom with some old sheets and blankets that Sunshine’s kid took home from hospital last year. I’m laundering some old towels to stuff in there for them, too. I feel assured that the cats have a way to stay nice and warm tonight.

side note: this is where my interest in weather has come in handy. I know that our prevailing winds are from the south around here. When the weather changes, the wind can shift and come at us from the north, sometimes the west. We almost never get winds from the east, so that’s which way the opening on the cat house is facing. I did make sure that there is stuff to block the wind, just in case; but I’m figuring it’s not likely. Science is useful, y’all.

I’ve rolled another half sized foam block over close to the magic bus so that I can use it to plug the one gap we still have. It’s going to have to wait until just before sundown, since it will block my access to the tank dump valves. I’m going to need to dump both holding tanks so I can leave a drip without overflowing any tanks (because even the grey tank stinks like hell when it overflows).

I had to climb a ladder with a push broom and sweep the water off the top of our slideout living room. I do NOT need water freezing and damaging any roofing or seals at openings.

I’m certain I’m forgetting something, and I’ll keep wandering around looking at shit and thinking about it throughout the day. I’m concentrating on the magic bus first, because later on I might have to help Mrs B with the pink house and their RV. See, Mr B is out of town also; he seems to think he’ll be back before nightfall but who knows what can come up to change his plans, right?

Later, before it gets too late, I’ll make sure to get both the electric and stovetop coffee makers ready for the morning, just in case we lose power overnight. I don’t really want to go fire up the Jeep to get the generator going before coffee, so I’m preparing for anything and everything.

final note: if we really do lose power overnight, my ass will be quickly opening up our low point drains and heading into the pink house, where there is a woodburning stove ready to crank up and save us all from hypothermia.

And that, folks, is one of those things I was sure I was forgetting. I should make sure we have plenty of shit to burn in that wood stove, just in case. Off to the treeline I go to gather limbs and sticks that I can chop with an axe by myself. Shit that isn’t bois d’ arc or cedar, because we can’t coat the chimney with sappy stuff that could catch fire itself in the future.

DIY Fabric Wreaths

*waves*
Hey there peeps! It’s Tia again, here to share one of the crafts I’ve been working on with some of the goodies Miss Cindy sent me in that truck load she told ya about.
Now I know I said before that we’d be making some junk journals but it’s almost time for The Christmas and so I wanna show you these cute little wreaths instead. We’ll make those journals in January, just in time for your New Year’s Resolutions.
I won’t pretend I’m some sort of craft guru no matter what Cindy says. Mostly I just like to see if I can make things instead of buying them. I’m thrifty like that. Or cheap, whatever.
So these little wreaths are amazingly easy, they’re cute and customizable, and you can make them with stuff you have in your craft stash or that you can find at your local thrift store. And it all costs less than half of what these cost at those fancy pants stores like Pier One.
What you’ll need:
Scrap fabric
Metal hoop or embroidery hoops
Ribbon or twine (to make a loop to hang the wreath)
Ribbon, pinecones, flowers, or whatever else you’d wanna decorate with
Hot glue gun or an equivalent adhesive to attach said decorations
First you’ll need to cut your fabric into strips. The metal hoop I’m using (found at Michael’s a million years ago for another project…) is about 5 inches in diameter. So I cut my fabric strips about 4-5 inches long and about an inch wide. As you can see in the photos, this is not a project where measurements need to be absolutely precise.
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I chose to use two different fabrics simply because I like the contrast but you can do whatever is pleasing for you. The fabric I’m using came from Cindy’s truck load of goodies but if you don’t have any on hand, you can grab some fat quarters at the craft store for a buck or so a piece.
Now I’m dealing with some brain fog and didn’t remember to count how many strips I cut nor did I measure the fabric ahead of time. My bad. Sorry! I will say I wasn’t more than a yard total.
After your strips are cut, you’ll knot them around the hoop. I chose to do two of the red check pattern for every one of the white with red pattern. By all means, play around with what looks good to you! To make the knots, fold a strip of fabric in half, fold over the hoop, and pass the ends of the fabric strip through the loop made where it’s folded. (I tried to show you in the photos.) Pull the ends tight and that’s it! Keep tying knots until your hoop is covered and your wreath is as full as you’d like.
And that’s it. If you’d like to hang up, tie a loop of twine or ribbon at the top. You can also bust out your hot glue gun and add all sorts of decorations: jingle bells, pinecones, plastic snowflakes, glitter, dried or fake flowers, the possibilities are endless.
tias finished mini wreath.jpg
Oh, and these cuties are good for all kinds of things, not just The Christmas. You could do pastels and make one for Spring/Easter. Or use orange and black and make one for Halloween. You could make them in coordinating colors for a new baby’s nursery even or to show support for your favorite sports team.
One last thing, I did go back through and trim my ends at an angle just to give it a more uniform look. Obviously you don’t have to do that.
Now go forth, my friends, and decorate with all the little wreaths! And yesterday Cindy was telling y’all about how we’ve been craft swapping. If any of y’all would like to join us, please comment or email Cindy. We’re pretty low key, just trying to offer goods/services and share our talents while making connections with like-minded people. Crafting makes me happy, it’s a form of therapy that helps me deal with life with chronic pain. If I can make things for others and trade for something to help me out? That’s cream cheese icing on the proverbial red velvet cake.
Until next time peeps, be good to one another. Spread kindness like confetti. Hell, spread confetti like confetti. That shit will make anyone smile!

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Craft Swapping

My girl Tia does a lot of awesome shit with her mad craft skills. She makes confetti to stuff into cards so I can confetti-bomb my OCD-clean mom. She makes custom greeting cards. Scrapbooking supplies. Ornaments. She sews stuff. In short, Tia is amazing.

I would buy up so much of her finished objects if I had an unlimited supply of cash.

I do not have an unlimited supply of cash. Yet Tia has found a way around that problem. See, I have skills that Tia doesn’t have. Like, I can crochet. And I have a yarn stash that’s pretty extensive, even after all of the cleanouts and purges this year.

So Tia and I swap crafts. I made her a basket, she made me a custom-painted wall hanging from an old record album. We did a swap for a bunch of supplies I snagged her out of that estate sale. I shipped her a semi-truck-load of goodies and she made me some high end gift tags. I’m making her a scarf and earwarmer set, I forget what I asked her for in return.

Gratuitous pictures of my finished objects:

It isn’t just Tia. Mrs W recently asked me how much I would charge her to make some Christmas stockings in LSU colors. I told her that if she’d pay for the yarn, we could swap skills. Mrs W can sew. I need sewing done. I haven’t decided what to send her to help me with in exchange, but I’ll make sure it’s easy. I don’t want to be rude, or take advantage; it’s not like the stockings were difficult. I’m also sending all the leftover LSU colored yarn to her, since she knits and might want to make her little dog a sweater or something.

My friend Dawn made me a thank you gift for some yarn I sent to her. This whole craft swapping idea is going continental, and that’s cool.

I like this craft swapping idea that Tia came up with. It goes hand-in-hand with the idea of time-banks and bartering. These are all ideas that are perfectly suited to localized economies and simpler living. Craft swapping keeps me from buying as much mass-produced stuff. I wind up with one-of-a-kind items, items that have meaning to me beyond their mere function. The meaning behind each of these items keeps them from becoming more stuff in a landfill.

The benefits go beyond just sustainability and simplicity, though. There is a connection that is forged between us, a common bond of sorts. Even though our craft skills are different, they’re all artistic and beautiful and we connect in deep, lasting, and meaningful ways through them.

I’ve always had a hard time connecting with people and making friends. I like that crafting helps me make meaningful connections with other people. To me, connections are central to simple living. Connecting with others; connecting with the land, my food, my clothes. I spent a lot of years in active addiction, and those years were devoid of any deep connections. Today, I celebrate the opportunity to connect, and I’m grateful for it.

Weekly Progress Report: The Sunshine Edition

Sunshine took his last dose of his treatments this week. I’m hoping that, as the meds cycle out of his system, he starts getting some energy back. These meds have been brutal, sapping him of a lot of energy. Even though he takes them at bedtime and therefore sleeps through the worst of the side effects, he’s slowly gotten more and more easily tired over the last few months.

I’m also hoping that once the meds cycle out of his system, he gets to start enjoying the benefits of being cured. Most people who have been through treatment for the same condition say they felt better afterward than they had in years or even decades.

We made it through the treatments. In the beginning, I had my doubts. It did get better after he quit taking the meds every morning, thank heaven; but there have still been a lot of headaches like dealing with insurance companies, patient assistance programs, and multiple trips to the tribal clinics and pharmacies. There’s been paperwork, and testing, and more paperwork, and more testing….

It’s over. Barring any unusual test results in a few months, his treatments are over. I would cry with gratitude but I can’t afford to cry. It makes me have snot that settles into my lungs and causes a cough, and that ain’t good with my COPD.

There’s more good news about Sunshine’s health, though. His diabetes is controlled so well that they’re kicking him out of the diabetes clinic. They’re going to let his primary doctor manage it unless things get all out of order in the future. They say they need to devote their time and resources in the diabetes clinic to people who need help controlling their diabetes. Sunshine has been trying to tell us that he’s the healthiest person in the diabetes clinic; I guess he was on to something.

I’ll probably spend the rest of the holiday season overwhelmed with gratitude for Sunshine’s improved health. It’s one hell of a gift.

final note: of course, this isn’t all that’s happened this week. It’s just all I care to write about. This shit is huge.