Category Archives: Today Is…

God’s Time

Standard

Beige and White Clocks on Wall

We started Daylight Saving Time yesterday. The event snuck up on me (as it often does) and I didn’t get this post scheduled to pop up before it was time to spring forward. I hope everyone remembered to update their clocks. In honor of this moving of the clocks, today I’ll tell you about my grandmother’s reaction to Daylight Saving Time becoming the law of the land.

The events I will relay today happened before I was a conscious being, but I’ve heard the story retold so many times, I feel confident I can share it as if I had been there.

My paternal grandmother was a hardheaded Cajun woman. Born in 1913, she birthed my father, her youngest child, at the ripe old age of 32. She married and buried four husbands and tried to be a good Catholic until the day she died. Did I mention she was hardheaded? Once she made up her mind, there was no swaying her.

Daylight Saving Time has existed in one form or another in the United States since the turn of the 20th century. According to Wikipedia,

Daylight saving time was established by the Standard Time Act of 1918. The Act was intended to save electricity for seven months of the year, during World War I.[3] DST was repealed in 1919 over a Presidential veto..

During World War II, Congress enacted the War Time Act (56 Stat. 9) on January 20, 1942. Year-round DST was reinstated in the United States on February 9, 1942, again as a wartime measure to conserve energy resources.[5] This remained in effect until after the end of the war.

From 1945 to 1966 U.S. federal law did not address DST. States and cities were free to observe DST or not, and most places that did observe DST did so from the last Sunday in April to the last Sunday in September. In the mid-1950s many areas in the northeastern United States began extending DST to the last Sunday in October. The lack of standardization led to a patchwork where some areas observed DST while adjacent areas did not…

According to the article “Here’s When and Why Daylight Saving Time

White Clock Reading at 2:12

Started in the US” by Kathleen Elkins,

Daylight saving time didn’t officially become a law until 1966, under the Uniform Time Act.

I can only imagine this impending springing ahead an hour must have caused much discussion across the nation. Certainly my family members were discussing it. My grandmother, for one, thought the idea was ridiculous. Nobody was really going to go along with this foolish idea. She maintained that most people would refuse to participate. She would not be participating, that was for sure.

Her kids tried to explain to her that there wasn’t a choice. Folks weren’t going to be able to choose between participating and sitting on the sidelines. People would grow accustomed to the twice yearling changing of the time. The hands on clocks would be moved, people would lose (or gain depending on the time of year) an hour (of sleep or watching TV or whatever they did with their leisure time), life would go on.

My grandmother was adamant. She was sure people would not go for such foolishness. She was sure people were not going to change their clocks and their lives, and certainly they would not give up an hour of sleep.

As the night of the change drew closer, my grandmother’s friends and family members shrugged and admitted they would move the hands on their clocks. What else could they do? Businesses were going to recognize the time change, and employees who wanted to get to work on time were going to have to recognize the change too. There just wasn’t any way around it.

My grandmother still maintained that she simply wouldn’t do it.

What about mass, Mom? one of her kids asked, pointing out that if MawMaw didn’t recognize the time change, she was going to be late for church on Sunday.

Oh no! My grandmother wasn’t hearing that. The Church was run on God’s time, she said. No way was the Church going to participate in this time changing business. The Church would not be messing with God’s time.

Family folklore holds that the first Sunday of the national observation of

Analog Alarm Clock Displaying 07:00

Daylight Saving Time was also Easter Sunday. Of course, my grandmother went to bed on Holy Saturday without touching her clocks. She was confident she and the Catholic Church were on the same page when it came to God’s time. Surely mass would start at the same hour it always did.

MawMaw woke up on Easter Sunday joyous in the rising from the dead of her Lord Jesus Christ. She put on her best clothes, applied her makeup, and styled her hair. At just the right moment, she got into her car and drove herself the few blocks to the Catholic church she attended every week. She had plenty of time to get here, find a good seat, and still be early.

I wonder if she was confused when she arrived and found the parking lot already full. Easter is a holiday when lapsed Catholics come out of the woodwork, so maybe she chalked up the abundance of cars to the yearly brief return of the lost flock. In any case, she found a parking space on the outskirts of the lot.

She must have congratulated herself on being early as she walked across the lot toward the church. Even having to park so far away wasn’t going to make her late. She had plenty of time. I can imagine the small self-satisfied smile on her face. She knew she was early enough to find a good seat.

I’m sure she expected to walk into a quiet church. Perhaps the organist would be playing softly. Perhaps parishioners would be greeting each other in whispers. Perhaps she’d hear the soft rustling of people shuffling through the church, dipping into the holy water near the vestibule before making the sign of the cross, genuflecting, sliding into pews.

Surely she was surprised when she walked in and the church was not quiet at all. The priest must have been talking when she walked through the doors because she immediately knew she wasn’t early, but late. Mass was almost over, and in my family, walking into a church after the service had started was considered one of the most embarrassing things a Catholic could do. MawMaw must have been mortified.

White and Brown Tower Under Blue Sky

I wonder how long my grandmother stood there before she realized even the Catholic Church had forsaken God’s time and sprung forward.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/ancient-antique-art-business-277371/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/alarm-alarm-clock-analogue-clock-280257/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/white-clock-reading-at-2-12-1537268/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/white-and-brown-tower-under-blue-sky-2450283/.

Marketing Fail

Standard

According to the What National Day Is It website, tomorrow is National Marketing Day. In honor of this dubious holiday, I want to share with you a total marketing fail I witnessed when I was a fuel clerk.

Closed Soda Bottles

A frail, elderly man shuffled toward the fuel center kiosk where I was working. When he got close, I turned on the intercom and asked how I could help him. I could hardly hear him when he spoke, even with the intercom set to high volume. I barely made out him asking, Do you have a Pepsi Coke?

I’m pretty sure he did not ask if we had Pepsi and Coke. I’m pretty sure he asked for a Pepsi Coke. He did not seem to be inquiring about two beverages but about some single entity.

I think he was using “coke” in a generic sense. For some reason, in the

Assorted Beverage Bottles

Southern USA “coke” has come to mean “soft drink,” what people in other parts of the country might refer to as “soda” or “pop” (or maybe even “soda pop.”) As a kid, I remember hearing the story of a waitress who asked, What kind of coke would you like? and being surprised that root beer, Dr. Pepper, Pepsi, and even Coke were all appropriate responses.

I didn’t quite know how to answer the old man’s question. We had Pepsi

Person Holding Pepsi Can

products, and we had Coke products, but I thought he really wanted a Pepsi cola. I covered all the bases by pointing out the cooler where we kept all the Pepsi choices as well as the one cooler where we kept all the varieties of Coca-Cola.

The fellow studied one cooler, then the other. His final choice? A Diet Coke.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/closed-soda-bottles-1904262/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/assorted-beverage-bottles-1384039/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-holding-pepsi-can-1292294/.

It’s the End of a Decade. What Have I Accomplished?

Standard

Today is not just the end of the year, but the end of the decade. It doesn’t seem possible, but it’s true. Two decades of the 21st century are gone. Wasn’t it just the other day that we were partying like it was 1999?

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

Apparently someone started a thing on Twitter in November by tweeting

“there’s only ONE MONTH left in the decade. what have you accomplished?”

According to the Mashable article “People Are Sharing Their Accomplishments of the Decade as 2019 Comes to an End” by Andy Moser,

[i]t began with the best intentions, but as things on Twitter tend to go, things quickly devolved into a mess of memes, sadness, and somehow, compassion and encouragement.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

However the answers to the questions left other people feeling, the question got me thinking about what I have done during the decade. Here’s the list of what I’ve accomplished since December 31, 2009.

  • Finished visiting all of the contiguous United States except Montana
  • Got into what turned out to be an abusive relationship
  • Left the abusive relationship again and again and again…and finally for good
  • Bought a van after hard work and lots of help from my friends
  • Went on an epic 2 month road trip with people I really cared about
  • Hit an elk and lost my van
  • Bought another van (after hard work and lots of help from my friends)
  • Worked even harder (and got some help from my friends) and bought a better van
  • Started a blog (in February 2015) and kept it up until now
  • Worked as a camp host
  • Wrote a book about my experiences as a camp host and self-published it
  • Met a nice guy who became my partner
  • Acquired a small piece of land and a small travel trailer where we live now with the dog
Photo by Crazy nana on Unsplash

Is that a lot to have accomplished in a decade or only a little? Is it enough? Should I have done more? I don’t know. All I know, is that’s what I’ve done.

I’d love to hear about what you have accomplished this decade. Please feel free to tell me about your accomplishments in the comments section below.

Thankful Thursdays

Standard

The Man and I started a new tradition on Thanksgiving Day this year. I had a small blank book a friend found on a free shelf at a local thrift store and gave to me because of the sun on the cover. I decided the book would be a gratitude journal. I asked The Man if he would participate in filling the gratitude journal with me, and he agreed.

I found “50 Inspiring Gratitude Quotes” on Shutterfly and picked four of them to write on the book’s inside covers.

Two quotes read: "The root of joy is gratefulness."-- David Steindl-Rast and "Gratitude is riches. Complaint is poverty."--Doris Day
Two inspiring gratitude quotes. Looks like I forgot to cross the “t” in David Steindl-Rast’s name. Sorry about that, sir.

Our goal is to each write five things we are grateful for every day. Some days we get busy and forget to write our gratitude, but we try to pick up the next day. The book is not very thick, but when it is full, we’ll each have a record of about 150 things, people, and experiences for which we are thankful.

A man and dog stand on the edge of a cliff looking down at trees.
I’m grateful for The Man and Jerico the dog every day.

Sometimes it seems difficult to think of new things to appreciate. I’m thankful for The Man and Jerico the dog every day. Ditto LED lights, eggs, and our 4 wheel drive truck. The challenge I enjoy is identifying new things for which I feel gratitude.

In the spirit of recognizing new things for which I am grateful, I’m starting Thankful Thursdays here at the Rubber Tramp Artist blog. At least once a month (maybe more) I will share gratitude with my readers. Sometimes I’ll give a shout out to the people who support me and the blog monetarily, either by buying my crafts, becoming my patron on Patreon, or making a one-time donation. Other times I’ll thank the people who give me emotional and mental support. Sometimes I’ll share a quote pertaining to gratitude. Will you join me in making 2020 a year of thanks?

Two more gratitude quotes read: "When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears."--Anthony Robbins and "When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around."--Willie Nelson
Words of wisdom on gratitude from Anthony Robbins and Willie Nelson

I’ll start today with this list of the people who’ve given me financial and material support in the past couple months. Thanks to all of you who help me pay the bills and send goodies. I appreciate each of you.

List of gratitude. List reads: I'm grateful for Nancy, my newest patron on Patreon. I'm grateful for Shannan who sends me a donation every month. I'm grateful for Brent who contributed financially this month and has done so in the past. I'm grateful for Keri who bought two hats from me. I'm grateful for Val who bought a hat from me. I'm grateful for Bette Rae who bought a hat from me. I'm grateful for Felicia and Liz who sent yarn. I'm grateful to Jennifer who sent postcards. I'm grateful for Keith, my computer guy who is also a Patreon patron.
My list of gratitude. Gerry sent postcards too! Sorry I forgot to put her on the handwritten list.

What are you grateful for today? Please share your gratitude in the comments section below.

I took all of the photos in this post.

If you would like to support me, click on the “Become a patron” button at the top of the column on the right, or click on the “donate” button in the middle of that column.

In Praise of Hot Water Bottles and Sleeping Alone

Standard

The beginning of winter is upon us. To help you prepare for cold weather sleeping, especially if you sleep alone in a van, car, or poorly insulated RV, here’s my story about how an improvised hot water bottle saved my cold butt.

You grow up with movies, books, television shows, and advertisements

Two People Laying on a Bed Covered With a Floral Comforter

telling you that when you find a romantic/sexual/love partner you’re going to sleep in the same bed. You learn the cuddling and snuggling (not to mention the s-e-x) will be amazing, and it is, until one of you (me) starts snoring and the other person (a light sleeper) can’t get any rest.

The Man tried using earplugs, and they helped for a while, but my snores apparently penetrated the orange spongy foam and hit his eardrums. I tired Breathe Right nasal strips (and their inferior competitor Clear Passage nasal strips) to stop my snoring. Again, they helped only for a while.

His tossing and turning while trying to get back to sleep woke me up, and if that wasn’t enough to disturb my sleep, him saying Honey? Honey! and asking me to roll over onto my left side certainly was.

Sleep deprivation brings out a demon in me. Lack of sleep makes me not just grumpy but downright angry. I think The Man harbors the same type of demon. We both knew it wasn’t my fault I was snoring, but he seemed to take it very personally. I knew he was only waking me and asking me to roll over out of self-preservation, but still I was furious at him for interrupting my sleep.

I went off to house sit for two weeks, and each of us got a fortnight of blissful sleep uninterrupted by snores, tossing, turning, the middle of the night bathroom needs of another person, or calls for dream analysis in the wee hours. We were both well rested and no longer angry at each other, so we tried sleeping together again.

We didn’t even have one happy night together. My first night home, I passed out and started snoring  before he even drifted off. He woke me up several times in the night asking me to roll onto my left side, which I did. I’m a natural back sleeper, so I always returned to my back (and my snores) as soon as I reached a deep level of sleep. At 4am, The Man clicked on the light and exclaimed that our sleeping arrangement wasn’t working for him. It wasn’t working for me either. Our sleeping demons were back.

During my childhood my maternal grandparents slept in twin beds across the room from each other. This arrangement always confused me. Every other married couple I knew—my parents, my aunts and uncles, the people on TV—shared a bed. Didn’t my grandparents love each other? I realize now that it’s possible to like and love someone and not want to spend 8 hours out of each 24 in bed next to that person. (I also realize that the sleeping arrangement of my grandparents may have come from the desire to be good Catholics while feeling like their seven children were all the mouths they wanted to feed and butts they wanted to diaper).

Because The Man and I didn’t have the luxury of space enough for separate beds (much less the separate rooms it would really require for him to get away from my snores), I offered to sleep in my van. He protested, but it was really the easiest solution. There was already a bed in my van, but his camp cot had been folded and taken out of his minivan. My van was a mess, and it was easier for me to clear a small space on the bed for my short self rather than clean up the whole space so he could be comfortable. Also, The Man likes to wake up early, make coffee, and meditate. I sleep late and don’t move around before sunrise, so it made more sense for The Man to stay in the fifth wheel (where we were living at the time) where he could stand up and use the stove. I had no doubt I would be totally fine in my van. After all, I’d slept in my van before, and I knew someday I’d sleep in it again. Apparently, the sleeping in it again day had come sooner than I had expected.   

Selective Focus of Frozen Tree Twigs

Unfortunately, my return to the van coincided with an epic cold snap. Down in the southern Sonoran Desert where we were staying that winter, temperatures seldom drop below freezing. However, the first few nights I slept in my van, temperatures went down to the high 20s. Brrr!

I had plenty of warm clothes. I put on Cuddl Duds leggings, then pulled on flannel pajama pants. On top I wore a t-shirt, a sweatshirt, and the matching flannel pajama shirt. I put warm socks on my feet and a warm hat on my head. I was suited up for winter.

My bed was suited up for winter too. I have a down comforter that I scored for a great price at a Goodwill Clearance Center in Phoenix. (Whoever brought it to the desert learned they didn’t need it.) This comforter often keeps me too warm if the temperature is over 45 degrees, so I knew it would keep me toasty on a freezing night. The only thing I worried about were the long minutes after I slipped into bed and before my body heat warmed up my surroundings. The mattress was going to be cold. The sheets were going to be cold. The comforter was going to be cold.

I harkened back to my days living in the Midwest. I’d seen snow there and temperatures as low as -16 degrees. I lived in a series of poorly insulated homes, and in attempt to save money, never set the thermostat higher than 68 degrees. Nights were cold, even when I dressed warmly and slept under a pile of blankets. To stay warm, especially when I first crawled into my cold bed, I’d take a hot water bottle under the covers with me.

Back in the Midwest, I used a hot water bottle I’d gotten in perfect condition

Silver Kettle over Burner

at a thrift store. I’d bring a pot of water to almost boiling (measured with a candy thermometer which must have come from a thrift store too), then carefully pour the hot water into the red container. I’d slip the hot water bottle into the polar fleece (acquired at the thrift store, of course) cozy I’d hand sewn for it and slide it into my bed to warm things up while I brushed my teeth and washed my face.

In my fifth wheel in the desert, I had no hot water bottle, no candy thermometer, no polar fleece cozy, but I knew a bottle of hot water would make the beginning of each night much more comfortable. I looked around for what I could use. Because of a lid that can be screwed down tight and the thick plastic it’s made from, a Nalgene bottle would have worked great. Alas, all of my Nalgene bottles were in use holding ice in the cooler we used since we had no working refrigerator. I remembered I’d just thrown away an empty plastic bottle cooking oil had come in, so I fished it out of the trash and washed it while my water was heating.

The plastic the bottle was made from was fairly thin, and I didn’t want to melt it, so I only heated the water until it was quite hot to the touch. Then I poured it into the cooking oil bottle and carried it out to the van. I slipped the bottle full of hot water under my comforter, then went back inside to brush my teeth. When I returned to the van, my sleeping area was nice and warm. The water bottle stayed hot for hours and if any part of me (my feet, my butt) got cold, I just moved the bottle to the spot that needed some heat. I was awake using the internet on my phone for a couple of hours, and I was perfectly warm under my comforter with my makeshift hot water bottle next to me.

I slept great that night. If I snored, I never knew. The Man said he slept great too. He got out of bed when he was ready and didn’t have to worry about bothering me. In the nights that followed, we sometimes missed cuddling, but not as much as we would have missed a night of good sleep.

I recommend a hot water bottle for anyone sleeping in a cold climate, whether you sleep in a van, a house, an apartment, or an old RV. Use a bottle with a tight-fitting lid. Make sure the lid is tightly closed before throwing the bottle into your bed. Be careful that the water is not hot enough to melt the plastic of the bottle or burn your skin. If the bottle is too hot to touch, wrap it in a towel, shirt, or other random piece of cloth you have lying around. Depending on the size of your bottle, it may fit in an old (clean!) sock that’s missing its mate.

If you are living in your vehicle and are parking for the night at a truck stop, you can find hot (usually very hot) water with the coffee dispensers. If you don’t feel right about filling up your bottle with hot water without permission, ask the cashier if you can have some and offer to pay.

Please remember that Blaize Sun is not responsible for your safety. You are responsible for yourself! Hot water can be dangerous! Be careful!  Don’t melt your bottle. Don’t spill hot water on yourself. Don’t burn yourself on a hot bottle. Don’t flood your bed. Please, please, please use common sense.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/two-people-laying-on-a-bed-covered-with-a-floral-comforter-1246960/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/blur-branch-close-up-cold-436792/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/antique-burn-burning-close-up-243053/.

Angry Old Man

Standard

According to The British Association of Anger Management, National Anger Awareness Week begins this coming Sunday (December 1) and runs through December 7.The aforementioned website says,

The aim of Anger Awareness Week is to identify anger as a disturbing social issue which needs to be brought out into the open and addressed effectively. Anger Awareness Week will help people befriend anger by using the right tools to calm themselves down and to deal effectively with this emotion, be it of their own or that of others.

In honor of National Anger Awareness Week, I will share the story of a very angry man I met during my time as a fuel clerk. This guy really needed to befriend his anger, but since I was a fuel clerk and not a psychologist, I concentrated on getting gas in his car’s tank so he could take his unhappy self as far away from my workplace as possible.

When I worked at the supermarket fuel center, customers sometimes had problems using credit and debit cards at the pump. Sometimes the problem was trying to use a credit card we didn’t accept, but other times the nature of the problem was mysterious.

I usually knew when someone was having a problem because my POS (point-of-sale) system began beeping. When I looked over, I saw a yellow exclamation point flashing near the credit card icon. If I touched the credit card icon, a new screen popped up. The new screen showed what pump was having trouble and what kind of trouble it was. Whenever I heard the beeping, I tried to see who was having the trouble so I’d know what to say when the customer showed up at the kiosk. On busy days customers with trouble often made it to the kiosk before I could check the POS system.

One day an older man stepped up to the window in front of me. He was tall,

Sailboat Sailing on Water Near Island

and his grey hair was cut conservatively short. He wore shorts that hit just above his knees and a pink plaid shirt with a collar, short sleeves, and buttons. He was dressed the way I imagine rich people dress to play golf or go sailing. The guy obviously had money.

The guy was obviously angry too. I could tell he was upset by the look on his face and the way he carried himself. I did not look forward to hearing what he had to say.

Hi! I said brightly through the intercom. How can I help you today?

Pump 6 said to see the cashier, he sputtered. Yep. He was mad.

Were you trying to use [the card we didn’t accept]? I asked him.

No!  he barked. I was trying to use this, he said and showed me a credit card we did accept.

I know I made a face before I said, That’s strange. I can run it in here for you, I told the already angry man. How much do you want to put on pump 6?

I want to fill it up! the angry man said as if I should have already known that.

I’m sorry, I told him. I can’t do an open ended transaction here.

Grayscale Photo of Explosion on the Beach

I thought the old guy’s head was going to explode. Trying to avoid a meltdown, I said, I can come outside and help you if you like. He gave me a brief nod and stomped off. I took that as a yes.

When I got out to pump 6, I saw the white-haired man was accompanied by a middle age fellow—his son perhaps or his much younger lover. The middle age guy exercised his right to remain silent.

Let’s see if I can help! I said brightly.

The older man tried to jam his card into the reader, but I stopped him. We have to follow the steps on the screen or the computer will get all confused, I said to him. His head was definitely going to explode if he got any angrier. 

Do you have a rewards card? I read from the screen.

No, he answered through gritted teeth.

Then we’ve got to push the “no” button on the PIN pad, I said, reaching over to push the “no” button.

The next screen came up saying it was time to insert his credit card. I told him to insert his card now. As he did so, I told him to push it all the way in, then pull it out fast. If looks could kill, I would have been so dead.

The next screen asked the customer to enter his zip code. The customer did

Person Holding Gasoline Nozzle

so. Much to my relief and pleasure, the next screen instructed him to lift the nozzle and choose the grade of gasoline he wanted. I was tickled pink. I had saved the day!

The angry man was even angrier it seemed, although he didn’t voice his rage. Again, I could tell by the look on his face and his body language. Apparently, he’d become so invested in his belief that his credit card wasn’t going to work (and I bet he thought it was all the fault of the company I worked for!) that he got even madder when I got the card to work. Of course, he couldn’t complain because his card had worked, so his anger seethed inside of him. I figured I’d better get out of there before his head exploded and splattered me with brain matter.

As I headed toward the kiosk, I saw that the angry man’s younger companion had already wandered that way. When I caught up with him, I smiled and said, I guess I have the magic touch. The younger man smiled back.

I was glad I’d thought of something nice to say instead of Your friend is really pissed off or I hope your friend doesn’t have a heart attack or Your friend sure is an asshat. Sometimes when I open my mouth, the right words do come out.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/sailboat-sailing-on-water-near-island-1482193/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/grayscale-photo-of-explosion-on-the-beach-73909/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/car-refill-transportation-gas-9796/.

Buy Nothing Day and Gifts That Don’t Involve Capitalism

Standard

This Friday is not only Black Friday. It’s also Buy Nothing Day. Buy Nothing Day? you may be wondering. What does that mean?

According to the article “The Quirky, Anti-Consumerist History of Buy Nothing Day” by Nina Renata Aron,

Buy Nothing Day is an international day of anti-consumerist protest.

The day — which now also goes by the name Occupy Xmas — was founded by Ted Dave, a Canadian artist in 1992, but it gained traction through the 90s after activist magazine Adbusters…began to promote it.

Buy Nothing Day, on which participants are urged to buy literally nothing…is now observed in over 64 countries.

Photo by Anna Utochkina on Unsplash

Some folks use Buy Nothing Day as a time to reflect on the buying frenzy large portions of Western society participate in during the weeks leading up to Christmas. It’s not a coincidence that Buy Nothing Day coincides with Black Friday, the “official” start of the Christmas shopping season.

(You can read my reflections on Christmas spending in the post I shared last Christmas Eve, “You Gotta Pay Santa Claus.”)

Earlier this year I read a zine by my friend Laura-Marie River Victor Peace. Laura-Marie creates zines (you can find more information about her self-published writing on Facebook) and blogs at dangerous compassions. The zine that I read that made me think of Buy Nothing Day is called Resisting Capitalism for Fun. In the introduction, Laura-Marie writes,

this zine is about some anarchist stuff-resisting capitalism, community, gardens, environmentalism, not buying things.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Why would I want to resist capitalism? you might wonder. Isn’t capitalism better than socialism or (gulp) communism? Isn’t capitalism about freedom of choice?

First of all, it might help to know the definition of “capitalism.” According to Webster’s New World College Dictionary, capitalism is

an economic system in which all or most of the means of production and distribution, as land, factories, communications, and transportation systems, are privately owned and operated in a relatively competitive environment through the investment of capital to produce profits: it has been characterized by a tendency toward the concentration of wealth, the growth of large corporations, etc. that has led to economic inequality, which has been dealt with usually by increased government action and control

As to why we might want to resist capitalism, I read a great summary of the system’s problems in a Teen Vogue article called “What ‘Capitalism’ Is and How It Affects People” by Kim Kelly.

Individual capitalists are typically wealthy people who have a large amount of capital (money or other financial assets) invested in business, and who benefit from the system of capitalism by making increased profits and thereby adding to their wealth.

The kind of impact that capitalism has on your life depends on whether you’re a worker or a boss. For someone who owns a company and employs other workers, capitalism may make sense: The more profits your company brings in, the more resources you have to share with your workers, which theoretically improves everyone’s standard of living. It’s all based on the principle of supply and demand, and in capitalism, consumption is king. The problem is that many capitalist bosses aren’t great at sharing the wealth, which is why one of the major critiques of capitalism is that it is a huge driver of inequality, both social and economic.

(If you can’t imagine why in the world Teen Vogue is weighing in on the pros and cons of economic systems, read the op-ed piece–“How I Can Critique Capitalism — Even On an iPhone“– Lucy Diavolo wrote for the teen fashion magazine.)

Photo by Leone Venter on Unsplash

Whether you love capitalism or hate it (or feel something in between or even apathetic), you might want to step away from the shopping frenzy at malls and big box stores this holiday season. Maybe you want to save money by making gifts to give to your loved ones. Perhaps you want to keep your religious beliefs or family traditions instead of material objects at the forefront of your holiday celebrations. Your friends and family members might not need more objects to clutter their homes, and you want to give gifts that don’t take up space and never need to be dusted. Perhaps you have chosen to support artists, writers, and craftspeople this year. Whatever your reason for wanting to take a break from capitalism, I’ll share with you where to shop, what to create, and from whom to buy so you can make your holiday season a little less corporate.

Where to Shop

By shopping at thrift stores, you’ll keep items out of the landfill and possibly help support a good cause. Look for stores that benefit domestic violence survivors, animal shelters, and drug rehab programs. In addition to presents, pick up wrapping paper, ribbons, bows, and gift tags.

Shop yard sales, garage sales, and fundraiser rummage sales. It might be too late to use this tip for this holiday season, but in the future, keep your eye out for gifts and other holiday necessities.

Search your local Facebook buy and sell groups as well as good ol’ Craigslist for gently used items that might be perfect for someone in your life. You’ll pay less than retail and help someone in your community finance their own holiday celebration.

Keep an eye on your local FreeCycle group to see if anything people are giving away fit your holiday needs.

Consignment shops tend to sell higher-end items, so check out the merchandise at your local ones when buying for friends and relatives who are perhaps a bit particular.

Do your shopping at community craft fairs, farmers markets, artist co-ops, and other places where you can purchase items directly from the people who create or grow them.

If you’re lucky enough to attend a zine fair, buy zines for the readers on your list. If you can’t attend a zine fair, look online for zine distros like the one Laura-Marie has for her zines. You can also take a look at list of zine distributors from Broken Pencil Magazine.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

You can use your points on BookMooch to get books to give to your readers. If you want to give only books in excellent condition, pay close attention to the condition notes. Alternatively, shop at locally owned used book stores. Consider looking for the childhood favorites of the adults on your list.

If you can’t find the right gift locally, shop at online stores that sell handmade products such as Etsy, Absolute Arts, Artfire, Articents, Hyena Cart, and Shop Handmade. Shopping on these sites will let you buy from creators and small business owners who will certainly appreciate your support.

Shop at museum stores. True, you probably won’t save a lot of money with this tip, but you will get high quality items for giving, and you will support the arts with the dollars you spend.

What to Give

If you can sew, make reusable tote bags. You can find lots of ideas on the All Free Sewing website. If you don’t have sewing skills, buy reusable bags at thrift stores and decorate with iron-on patches.

Sew neck coolers with water-activated beads in them. These items will help folks stay cool in the summer. Instructables offers simple instructions.

Photo by John Doyle on Unsplash

Make Christmas tree ornaments for family and friends who decorate a holiday tree. You can get more than 60 ideas for do-it-yourself ornaments from Good Housekeeping.

Make draft stoppers (also known as draft dodgers, door pillows, draft blockers, etc.) to stop cold air from coming in at the bottom of doors. You can get 20 draft stopper ideas on the Good Stuff website.

Make cards or bookmarks decorated with pressed flowers. (Better Homes & Gardens will tell you how.) Use flowers you grew yourself or those picked on private land. You can also ask a florist for discarded flowers or check the dumpster behind the shop.

Make melt and pour soap for everyone on your shopping list. If you have more time and energy, make soap the old fashioned way. The Spruce Crafts will tell you how.

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

Use yarn purchased at thrift stores and/or garage sales to knit or crochet hats, scarves, mittens, socks, or blankets.

If you have one of those small looms, make potholders for everyone you know.

Recycle old candles bought at thrift stores and garage sales or collected from FreeCycle into gift-worthy items. Get the candle holders for free or cheap too. Add flowers, seashells, stones or other small decorative items to the candles.

Use hemp to macrame necklaces, key rings, and bracelets. The Spruce Crafts will teach you the seven basic knots you’ll need to know. Buy supplies from a local small business or from an independently owned company like Hemp Beadery.

Compile recipes (especially favorite family recipes) in cute notebooks or on recipe cards.

Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash

Homemade treats are usually a hit and less expensive than buying mass-produced yummies, especially if you shop sales. In addition to baking cookies, try puppy chow (aka muddy buddies) snack mix, Christmas crack, buckeyes, Chex mix, popcorn balls, Rice Krispies® treats, fudge, chocolate covered pretzels, haystacks, no-bake cookies, and rosemary thyme spiced nuts. You can also give homemade pickles, preserves, jams, jellies, and canned fruits and veggies. If you don’t like to cook, buy yummy gifts directly from the makers or give friends and family honey bought directly from a local beekeeper.

If you’re a gardener, grow loofahs or gourds that can be turned into birdhouses. If you grow houseplants, propagate new plants from cuttings. Repot the new plants in pots and jars you get from thrift shops or FreeCycle and give them as gifts.

For the kids in your life, make sculpting dough, sidewalk chalk, bubble solution, rainbow crayons, moon sand, wooden blocks, and/or bean bags.

Most grandparents love photos of their grandkids. Assemble photo albums with pictures of the kiddos and some of their artwork as well. Use goofy candid shots as well as serious, posed scenes. This gift could also work for great-grandparents, godparents, doting aunts and uncles, and a parent who is often away from home for work.

Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash

If you’re a visual artist, give your art as gifts. Turn artwork into notecards, postcards, or bookmarks or give original pieces.

If you have nice handwriting, write inspirational words on cardstock or pretty paper.

Give a membership or passes for a special excursion to a museum, science center, animal park, or botanical garden. A season pass for a family of four may be less expensive than four individual gifts, the family can enjoy good times all year, and there’s no stuff to clutter the house.

Give an annual America the Beautiful Pass to an individual or family that likes to visit federal recreation areas (national parks, forest, monuments, etc.). A lifetime Senior Pass is also available.

Write letters to everyone on your gift list. Tell the recipients everything you admire about them or recount a fun or special experience you shared.

Create handmade books from scavenged or leftover materials.

Writers and students can always use notebooks. Buy spiral notebooks or composition books at thrift stores or during back-to-school sales. Update the covers using contact paper, stickers, chalkboard paint or chalkboard contact paper, or heavy craft paper and spray adhesive. Sometimes you can find brand new blank journals at thrift stores too.

Make coupon books redeemable for your services (such as a night of babysitting, doing the dishes, washing the car, giving a foot or back rub, scrubbing the bathroom, mowing the lawn, cooking dinner, taking down the Christmas tree, vacuuming the living room, raking leaves, doing the laundry, etc.). The Spruce Crafts collected 15 sets of free printable love coupons to help with the project.

Give certificates promising to teach a skill (such as how to bake a cake or bread, how to change the oil in a car, how to sew on a button, how to build a fence, etc.).

Of course, even do-it-yourself projects require materials. It you’re trying to avoid capitalism this holiday season, don’t rush out to buy new supplies. Do an inventory of what you have on hand. Perhaps old supplies can be used for new projects. If you must buy materials, shop at thrift stores first. You might be able to get what you need via FreeCycle or you could trade supplies with a crafty friend. If you must purchase new materials, try to buy local, from small businesses.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Hopefully you’ll be able to use the ideas in this post to remove at least some of the capitalism from your holiday season. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Las Posadas, Solstice, Hanukkah, Festivus, or Kwanzaa, you’ll be able to give meaningful gifts that won’t line the pockets of the already rich.

I realize the first part of this post focuses mostly on Christmas. I understand that other holidays are also celebrated during the winter season. However, Hanukkah, Las Posadas, Solstice, Festivus, and Kwanzaa are not known for their contributions to rampant consumerism. Also, the gifts mentioned in this post (with the exception of Christmas tree ornaments) are suitable for all gift-giving occasions.

I have not tried any of the projects to which I have linked in this post, so I cannot vouch for instructions given. The links are simply starting points for your own research. I hope they help. Also, I have not and will not receive any compensation for linking to other websites in this post.

Sandwich

Standard

According to the National Day Calendar website, this Sunday, November 3 is National Sandwich Day. What will you do to celebrate?

In recognition of this popular food, today I’ll tell you a little story about a sandwich. It’s kind of a gross story which also involves pit toilets. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

I’ve heard it said that humans can grow accustomed to anything. Anything? Well, probably most things, including the gross and the stinky.

Pit toilet with lid down.
This photo shows an actual pit toilet.

When I worked on the mountain, pit toilets at the very busy trailhead and the campground next to it had to be pumped several times between the middle of May and the middle of October. The truck that came up to pump the toilets was the same kind that removes the waste from porta-potties. A long, flexible hose was dropped down into the chamber (also referred to the pit or the vault) below the seat. A pump on the truck sucked up all the waste materials from inside the chamber and deposited everything into a big holding tank mounted on the truck. When the tank was full, the truck went down the mountain to deposit the waste I-don’t-know-where.

A sign  reads, "For better smelling restroom keep toilet seat down." Two drawings of the side view of a pit toilet show that with the toilet lid down the "smelly" stays below the toilet and then vents up and out of a pipe, but when the lid is up, the "smelly" fills the toilet room.
Even keeping the lid down couldn’t control the bad smell after the pit toilets were pumped.

The pumping process stirred up all the decaying waste material and created a HORRIBLE smell. If you’ve never encountered a large concentration of decaying human waste, let me tell you, it smells really bad. It stinks to high heaven. To put it simply, it smells like death, and death does not smell one bit pretty.

I wouldn’t say I grew immune to the stench of toilets being pumped, but at least after the first couple of times I encountered the process, I knew what to expect. As GI Joe taught us, knowing is half the battle.

Most of the visitors to the trailhead and campground were city folks; many of them had never encountered a toilet that didn’t immediately flush their waste away. On a regular day, the smell from the pit toilets was often enough to make them mighty uncomfortable. When the city folks were present for the pumping or its immediate aftermath, they were quite surprised and quite disgusted and quite unhappy.They had no idea shit and piss could smell so nasty.

One day the pump truck came up the mountain. We could practically smell it before we saw it.

Small building with two doors, each with a restroom sign next to it. Two metal trash cans sit outside the building.
This is the building in the middle of the parking lot that housed the pit toilets.

Here we go, I thought. I knew the visitors were going to be melodramatically grossed out, and I was sure to hear complaints.

The pump truck went down to the middle of the parking lot where the two pit toilets were located. I couldn’t see the two men at work, but I could hear the pump and smell the funk. Yes, as always, the churned up human waste smelled horrific.

Finally the pump was switched off and the quietude of nature prevailed. I knew the stench would settle, but at the moment the entire parking lot was enveloped in an awful aroma.

The truck came around the curve leading to the parking lot’s exit, and the driver stopped it near me. Groan. The driver hopped out with clipboard in hand and asked me to sign the form stating he and his partner had been there and done the job. I agreed, wanting the reeking truck away from me as soon as possible.

Sign reads, "Keep this toilet clean." The sign gives instructions (with corresponding drawings) on how to properly use the pit toilet. Instructions include "Sit on the toilet during use. DO NOT stand on the toilet. DO NOT use the floor. Use the toilet. Put used toilet paper in the toilet. Do NOT put trash in the toilet. Use the trash can."
My favorite sign explaining how to use a pit toilet.

Just before I signed the form, I glanced over at the truck. What I saw gave credence to the idea that humans can grow accustomed to anything. The other pump truck worker, a young guy probably in his early 20s, was sitting in the passenger seat munching a sandwich.

The tourists were reeling, practically dry heaving and passing out, and this guy was sitting in the stink truck, nonchalantly having lunch. I wondered if he had no sense of smell or had simply become so accustomed to the stench that it was basically background noise–or perhaps more accurately, background stink. In any case, he seemed to be enjoying his sandwich, not at all bothered by the odor that was causing the rest of us so much grief.

I took the photos in this post.

Halloween

Standard
Two Jack O'lantern Lamps

For the last four years Halloween has snuck up on me, and too late I’ve thought I should have written a post in celebration of the holiday. The problem is, none of my Halloweens memories lend themselves to a good story for a blog post.

I didn’t trick-or-treat much as a kid. There are photos of me as a tiny child holding a plastic jack-o-lantern that doubled as a treat collection device, but I have no memory of that night. The only time I do (vaguely) remember trick-or-treating as a kid was probably fourth grade. I don’t know why my parents let me and my sibling go that year. I do remember my “costume.” I pulled long white tube socks over my pants and up to my knees, carried my catcher’s mitt, and called myself a baseball player. It was enough to get me candy, so it was enough for me.

Woman Making Trick of Treat in Front of a Girl

There were Halloween parties through the years. My parents organized a Halloween party and haunted house for my Brownie troop when I was in first grade. Because I was present for the planning and setting up, I was privy to the secrets of the haunted house. The “eyeballs” in a bowl? Just peeled grapes. The mound of “veins”? Simply cold cooked spaghetti. The scary gorilla creature pounding on the door, trying to escape the tiny room that confined him? Only my dad in a rubbery mask with bad hair. I don’t know why the adults thought it would be a good idea to scare the bejesus out of little girls. My favorite part of the celebration was the costume contest where I won 2nd place for my portrayal of a nice witch.

Years later, on the cusp of teenagehood, the neighbor girl my age had a Halloween party and I got to go. I wore a strange dress, a hand-me-down from my older cousin. It was loose and long and somewhat reminiscent of Little House on the Prairie although I can’t say exactly how. Wearing that dress, along with the pink circles of lipstick my mother drew on the apples of my cheeks, I made a passable rag doll. I remember having fun, but I can’t recall a single game we played.

White and Black Panda Plush Toy

Of course there were Halloween celebrations at school every year up until junior high. Those parties were really just excuses to goof off for most of the afternoon and get sugared up before going home. I do have the vaguest recollection of wearing one of those costumes that consisted of a mask and a plastic smock at school. I was a ghost in some elementary school production, but I have no memory of a plot, and, appropriately for a ghost, I had no lines.

In college, after moving out of the dorm and into a place of my own, I started having Halloween parties. My dad helped me decorate for the first party by building a small coffin as a centerpiece. My best friend and I taped out a crime scene outline of a body in front of the entrance door. I dressed as a harem girl (ugh—cultural appropriation and the glorification of sex slavery) in a costume my mother must have made for me. My friends (and some people I barely knew) came over. We ordered pizza. We drank too much beer. I went to bed alone.

I threw other Halloween parties after I graduated. The year I was skinny, I

Photography of Cat at Full Moon

wore a pointy hat and a black slip with no bra and called myself a sexy witch. Again, there was too much drinking of beer. Again, I went to bed alone.

Eventually the Halloween parties stopped. I’m one of those hosts who gets really excited to throw a party. I like the planning stage. I invite everyone I know, buy a bunch of beer, make some food. Then on the night of the event, I get really anxious and uptight and wonder why I ever thought having a party was a good idea. One year I just decided I had enough stress in my life without throwing a Halloween party.

Halloween Candies

When my nephew was in elementary school, I visited his family one fall. My visit coincided with Halloween, so I went trick-or-treating with the family. My nephew was dressed as a mad scientist. I’d scored a mermaid costume at a thrift store, so my sequins sparkled and shined in the night. My nephew’s mother threw together a roller derby costume made authentic by the roller skates she carried slung over her shoulder. My nephew’s father got into the spirit (no ghost pun intended) of things by putting on a robe and shower cap and going as a guy about to take a shower. We walked around the neighborhood and admired the Halloween decorations while my nephew collected candy. The most fun I had that night was watching the boy who was usually limited to one “sweet thing” per day devour as many treats as he wanted.

A couple of years ago, I was invited to attend a “red” Halloween party where attendees were supposed to either wear the color red or dress as a communist. I wore a long skirt, a Guatemalan huipil, and large fake flowers in my hair and called myself “Frida Kahlo After She Fucked Trotsky.” My costume pride was shattered when a wisp of a woman arrived wearing a vintage dress of Frida’s era and braids wrapped around her head. She actually looked like Frida Kahlo. As for the party itself, it was kind of boring, although I did enjoy spending time with the friends who had invited me. The refreshments were delicious.

Halloween-themed Jack-o-lantern Lamp Near October 31 Calendar

In 2016 my dad died on Halloween, and October became Dad Death Anniversary Month. It’s not that I couldn’t go out and celebrate Halloween if I wanted, but I really have been over the holiday for a while. Now at the end of each October, I find myself pondering the loss of my dad instead of looking for a party.

Oh my dad…

He never met The Man, but I think they would have gotten along. They could have discussed carpentry and car repair, shared the details of their latest projects. They could have talked about God too and discussed spirituality. Those two would have had some common ground for sure. I think they would have liked each other, respected each other.

It’s not like I spend time every day thinking about my dad being dead.  It’s not like I’m still mourning. But sometimes I want to ask for his advice or share a victory. I’ll be about to call him, then remember: still dead.

I have a photo of my dad taped to the refrigerator. I figure it’s only fair that I see him every day and remember him, as it’s only because of his death that we have this tiny home, these physical comforts.

Photos courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/close-up-creepy-dark-darkness-619418/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/adult-celebration-child-costume-220426/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/black-and-white-blur-close-up-dark-237205/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/light-landscape-sky-sunset-35888/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/halloween-candies-3095465/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/halloween-themed-jack-o-lantern-lamp-near-october-31-calendar-1480861/.

Nevada Day 2019

Standard

Today is Nevada Day. If you don’t know the first thing about Nevada Day, see the post I wrote about the holiday last year.

Sign reads "Nevada Car David Best with Patrick Dailey Bisbee, AZ."

To celebrate Nevada Day, today I will share with you photos I took of Nevada Car at spark! Mesa’s Festival of Creativity that I attended with Nolagirl in the spring of 2018. Interestingly, Nevada Car hails from Bisbee, AZ. The Art Car Agency website says the art was created by David Best and is owned by Patrick Dailey.

It turns out that David Best is a big deal when it comes to art cars. In the 2015 article “David Best: the Man Who Builds Art – and Burns It” author Geoff Dyer writes that Best got into doing art cars

in the early 1980s, in Houston, right at the beginning of the art-car craze but – in a way that is typical – is careful to emphasize that he was just one of a number of people involved at the time, that the first art car was actually done by Jackie Harris.

Here’s a front view of Nevada Car.

Art car covered with beads and poker chips and all manner of things. No surface is left uncovered.

It was really difficult to get a photo of the full view of this car with my camera. In my opinion that’s actually ok because the beauty is in the details.

An old gaming device and a million other little things decorate an art car.

Here’s some sort of gaming device attached to the car. In the same photo I see about a hundred tiny white buttons, a plastic sea turtle, a stack of smaller-than-life traffic cones that were maybe once bright orange but are now faded and dingy, a toy baseball batter, a combination lock, and a dozen rusty bottle caps. What do you see that I’m missing?

In this photo it looks like a dozen gumball machines and a kindergarten class worth of Happy Meals upchucked onto a relatively small area of the car. All of these crappy plastic toys merge into such a cohesive whole that it’s hard to pick out individual objects. Look! There’s Buzz Lightyear! To the right, a dozen plastic crabs! I see a leg! I see a lion! I see creatures I can’t identify.

In an article on the KQED Spark website, Best’s process is described like this:

… Best strips vehicles down to the core before reconstructing them, striving to make the car’s original form unrecognizable. Rather than merely gluing objects to the body of a car, Best, who religiously goes to the dump, likes to use found object materials that ultimately take on their own personality. After making 30 art cars and 2 buses, Best has worked with over 10,000 people.

Discarded objects including a visible man, a toy baseball batter, and small traffic cones decorate an art car.

It’s easy for me to imagine an artist finding these items at the dump and being delighted to add them to an art car work in progress.

I’m not sure why this is piece is called Nevada Car. Because of the gaming devices? Because of the gaming device that says “Nevada Club”? I wish this exhibit of art cars had included statements from the artists.

Saints stand next to an old gaming machine.

I like the juxtaposition of the statues of saints next to this old gaming device. Is it a commentary on praying for luck? An observation of the degree to which our society treats money as divine? A mere putting-together of objects in a way that looked pleasing to the artist’s eye?

I found my favorite feature of Nevada Car, and it didn’t have much to do with Nevada. I’m not talking about the BMW emblem either.

Photographer is reflected in chrome. Face is blocked with camera. A BMW emblem and a red Grateful Dead dancing bear feature prominently.

I’ll leave you with a wish for a Happy Nevada day and a self portrait with dancing bear in chrome.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also want to read about the J Gurl and Zalafayra art cars and the art vans California Fantasy Van  and Camera Van that were also at the spark! Festival.

I took the photos in this post.