futile/ thoughts of what was and wasn’t.

I wish I had lived the first part of my life differently. I wish I’d stayed in ballet. I wish I’d kept my grades up. I wish I’d had a chance to properly go away to college. I wish I could have stayed the person I was then. “As young as I was, I felt older back then. More disciplined, stronger and certain” I was very smart and I was going to go somewhere.

Except I didn’t, and it doesn’t eat at me like it used to, but I do sometimes get sad about who I could have been if so many awful things hadn’t ruined me.

I would be someone else right now, accomplished, composed. Perhaps a bit miserable but I’d at least be what I was supposed to be.

I am not who I was.

I am happy, now, but I’ll never be that person. I’ll never get to have the life that I promised myself.

/

And the AP and the test stress and the grandly excellent grades I was still getting as late as 11th  made it all feel justified and glorious, a very specific kind of romanticized-temporary-pain.

God we were fooling ourselves, then. All those dark habits and accomplished records and lives that were never intense enough to rival our fictions but we believed, we believed.

Or I did.

We were living in the sharpest angst that could ever be and we thought that it would get us somewhere in the end, or at least spill into some worthwhile chaos.

Anything but the pointlessness that we felt slowly evaporating what we thought we were.

I thought I could be that, what I’d built in my head, who I was or had known myself to be. I thought I could push forward and make all of it matter.

I couldnt.

/

I think eveything I tried after that, or at least some of it, was to try to get back.

To a place where I still had something, had a way out.

There was escapism in everything, but a deep part of it -cutting, counting calories, purging- I was trying to dig my way back to who I was at sixteen.

If I was not happy then, at least I was impressive, at least I had value in terms of letter grades.

/

I’m full now, of every good thing. I am unfractured. And i don’t miss it.

But in small moments I do.

Treachery

Perilously you buried

Lines in my flesh

The moment I was born,

Caught into my nerves so that you could yank them when you wanted, put me back in my place

And I see nothing anymore

Inside “I love you” but that ploy

 

 

Years and years,

lost to this and you still pull on those wires

And seek to twitch me like a puppet

I am flooded with adrenaline, guilt you planted

Over epochs, blooming every day within my lungs

And I still shake when I speak up

Still fear the impact

Of those stones you used to throw

 

 

And I am no longer kind, or any sort of naive and I know what to do

If I need to draw blood

To get away I will

If I need to make holes

Inside flesh or if I have cause

To level cities

Burn down homes

On my way out

Well, you have taught me exactly how to rend

And how to kill

And hesitation is not something I still have.

Ending.

I.

You wake up and you know you are free. 

That nothing will ever drag you back.

And it’s not insight this perspective grants you 

(you’ve gone over and over every part of it, and your story’s morals are nothing outside of itself).

It is space, and light, and warmth. 

You can sit where you like, breathe how you were meant to, be the kind of alone that’s empty of fear. 

You can be inelegant, bare your shoulders without a blanket nearby in case a threat comes.

You don’t have to edit your expressions before 

you let them ring free, now; they’re yours.

That self-consciousness they blamed in you, bred into you. It was no petty tendency. It was an impression left, a marker of those threats you weren’t allowed to give a name to.

Darts cutting into your being and mind, sharp, fast things that you couldn’t speak of.

Because, despite all your efforts, the language of reality was taken from you. Contorted and erased by other words. Words that were somehow so much stronger, heavier, louder.

Your effortless truth became a labor to maintain. 

You were almost made to forget,

And then 

II.

Birth is painful.

Light and Air foreign things to skin that has never seen them.

There is so much to be purged. Poison stings when it leaks from your pores and it does for a long, long time. 

The fear, now coupled with truth, swells and rages while you are asleep. You dream of everything that you could not before.

Not images, not happenings, but impressions. Vivid, sick stylized imaginings. You live hundreds of lives in your sleep, feel everything choke you and kill you, only to wake and fall again.

You sleep for hours, for weeks, in broken and inescapable spaces. You are reminding yourself what it was to be there, how it felt to be murdered again and again and again.

You come up for air, wreathed in damp blankets, and you see everything. 

It hurts.

III.

You breathed through your sickness, and for the first time in twenty-four years, it ended.

(Not buried or thrown over, unseated by plans and practicalities. Not flooded out with chemical lights, not bruised or bloodied or anchored to anything, weight to be measured in pain receptors.)

It ended.

Spring Projects: The Paperless Kitchen

Imagine not having to buy paper towels or napkins. Imagine producing less trash. Imagine cleaning and living more sustainably and frugally 
The fabled paperless kitchen

This one can be difficult, friends. But it can also be excellent, depending on who you are. I will say straight up that it did not work for me, at least not all the time. But it might work for you. 

The concept is simple enough: replace all of your napkins and paper towels with towels and cloths, save money and produce less waste. It’s an excellent idea that got me excited.

I even went a step further and stopped using paper tissues, which was great for the skin on my nose. I cut up several old shirts to use as napkins and tissues, and I bought a 34 pack of cheap, scrubby paper towels for wiping down counters and drying spills. I hung a bag to use as a cleaning-cloth-hamper on the wall of my kitchen. I was prepared. I was excited.

It went really, really well for a week or so, until a friend and I made cauliflower wings, and I realized that hot sauce on my cloth napkins was something I could not abide. And there were some other things – the grime behind my bathroom door, goat cheese, that I just felt I needed something disposable to clean. This is primarily because I don’t have access to my own washing machine, and secondarily because I happen to have obsessive compulsive disorder. Anxiety levels vary, but the fact that I wash everything by hand…not so much. Lacking a proper way to get the gross stuff – sometimes actual food pieces – out of my cleaning cloths, really was in some cases deal breaker for me. I ended up tossing out a few because of it.

But in other cases, cloth cleaning is perfect.

I still use cloth to dry damp counters, wipe up water spills and sometimes to clean sinks, floors and surfaces with soaps  baking soda or cleaning sprays. But I do not use them to clean up food, or anything particularly grimy. 

It’s a part-time compromise that allows me to decide when to use paper and when to use cloth, depending on my anxiety level.

So that’s where I am.

If you happen to be interested in eliminating or reducing paper from your house, I encourage you to try it! Let me know how it works out! 

A Recipe for Bad Money Weeks. (And how to eat well on a small budget.)

If you can’t buy groceries this week or if you find your food budget suddenly shrunken, this post is for you. Here you will find a recipe, and some other ideas for eating well on very little money. You can look up statistics on millenial poverty and the inadequacy of food stamp benefits on your own. Today it’s just practical advice.

This is a bean soup. It is cheap. It is filling. It can easily be vegan. And it tastes really, really good.

At least I think so.

No measurments here. Because, well, in this particular recipe they don’t actually matter. It’s less about precision and more about making whatever you have work- in a way that still manages to be tasty. It does presuppose that you have a few things…pepper, oil, boullion, access to clean water and a stock pot or similarly giant soup making vessel, but all in all you can make it with next to nothing, and it will fill you up with warmth and food and cozy feelings.
(I didn’t take any pictures while cooking today. I’m sorry. I’ll try to paint a picture with my words.)

Ingredients:

An onion, some dried beans, water, oil or another shortening, pepper, a little garlic powder, and some boullion.

That’s it. You might think such a sparse list of ingredients wouldn’t yeild a hearty meal, but it does. Oh, it does. Trust me there.

Here’s how you do it:

First and foremost, soak some dried beans. You can do this overnight or over a few hours, depending on how much time you have to actually cook the soup. Mixed beans (or “16 beans”) are the best for this soup, since they come in all shapes and colors and have some texture and flavor variety. You will need about half a bag.

Take your onion (i used a gigantic red onion, but any kind will do) and chop it into pieces. They can be as large or as small as you like, but i prefer to have bigger pieces, since they’ll add more color and shape to your soup.

Put your onions in your soup pot with a little oil, butter, or really any shortening you like and fry them until they are barely softened and perhaps a little browned, but not anywhere near mushy. Keep those guys a bit crisp.

Next, add as much water as you will need – depending on your pot- and a teaspoon of boullion paste. (I used Better than Boullion’s vegetable base, which happens to be vegan.) If you’re using a premade broth or a dried boullion cube, prepare your liquid soup base ahead of time.

Stir in your boullion, as much pepper as you like and anywhere from 1-3 teaspoons of garlic powder. At this point you should start to see it turn into soup. Add the beans, turn down your heat, and simmer forever. I cooked mine for about two hours.

There will be bubbles and perhaps some foam on the top. It won’t hurt you (it’s a normal bean thing), but feel free to get rid of it if you want. Stir occasionally and taste to see if you want to add any spices.

When the beans are soft enough to eat, it’s done. If all goes well you’ll have a somewhat thick, brown soup full of gorgeous beans and softened onions. It will taste as good as it looks (or better, depending on your definition of comfort food).

And that’s it! You have a full pot of 2-5 meals, depending on the size of your family. Enjoy♡.

Tips & variations: More beans = more food, since they are the most filling part. Adding cloves of fresh garlic to your onion sautee is delicious (just skip the garlic powder). Mushrooms also taste amaaazing  when added at this step. Rice or barley would be a great way to give it a little more heart. Canned tomatoes, diced or pureed, will shift the flavor a bit if that’s your thing 

Some other tips for eating well, inexpensively:

  • Lentils. Lentils!! LENTILS. They are tasty, inexpensive and good in soups, salads and wraps as well as alone. 
  • Pasta. A broke-young-person stereotype for a reason. Always keep a few boxes in the back of your cupboard.
  • Couscous. It grows exponentially when you cook it, and a box is cheap and usually serves two.
  • Frozen vegetables. There are real possibilities here, if you can stop steaming them plain. Frozen corn can become cajun with some butter and spices. Squash or zucchini can be roasted. Carrots are wonderful with a little butter, honey and parsley. Stir fry mix, with a little effort, can actually become a spicy noodle dish. You are missing out, friends.
  • Frozen fruit. Sounds terrible. But frozen fruit actually come in a lot more variety than you think, and maintains its texture if you thaw it corrwctly. Put frozen mangoes and blueberries in your yogurt, make strawberry smoothies- either with a blender, or a fork and some determination, put  mixed berries on your pancakes. It’s good for you.
  • And the usual tips: buy in bulk, less packaging is cheaper, try the store brand, use coupons, etcetera. These common wisdoms are not baseless, they do work.

Do you have any thoughts, tips or opinions? Let me know in the comments.

Spring Projects: The New Washing Machine

I’ve always dreaded doing laundry. I’m one to accumulate heaps of dirty clothes in shockingly brief periods of time, only to do more stressing about it than cleaning. So when I learned that my new apartment wouldn’t have a laundry room, I made a resolution to rethink my process of dealing with my dirty clothes.

First, I did a purging of that laundry pile – I put on Archer and discarded a metric ton of old and worn pajamas, crappy socks, ripped tights, and day clothes that no longer felt like they matched my aesthetic. This article and a few others like it helped me assuage the guilt that (at least for me) always comes with getting rid of old clothes.

Then, I bought this:

It’s a tool for actually making machine-less laundry practical and doable, and it cost me $25. $30 if you count the plastic tub I bought at walmart to do my washing in. And it’s awesome.

I’ve washed a myriad of things so far- towels, delicates, sweatpants – and I can vouch that they’re just as clean as when I used a machine to wash them. And the whole process is freeee. No trips to the parents’ house or weird monetary alchemy required to turn debit cards into quarters.

Majorly important for me, however, is that it’s taken the anxiety out of doing laundry, and given me control over how my clothes are washed. I don’t intend to pull damaged or shrunken clothes out of archaic driers ever again.

So, on to the tutorial:

You will need a bathtub, one breathing mobile washer, some laundry soap or baking soda, and a plastic basin big enough to fill with water and clothes (using your entire bathtub is an option, but if your tub is old or hasn’t just been cleaned, your clothes will be soaking in whatever is stuck to the sides).

1. Fill the plastic tub with water and a very little bit of soap- much less than you’d put in a machine. I use about a teaspoon per load, and usually put it in first so that it mixes well with the running water. Depending on how big your container is, adjust accordingly.

2. Splash it around to get some bubbles going, and put in your clothes. Mix them around a bit, and let them soak for 15 or 20 minutes, or about the length of a half hour netflix show.

3. This is the fun part. Once they’ve soaked, take your mobile washer and put it on the surface of the water, then plunge down. Again. And again. This will take some effort if you’re out of shape like I am, but it’s a free workout!

If your clothes are really dirty or if at any time the water looks gross, feel free to dump it out and refresh, then keep washing. You can repeat this step as many times as it takes, but it really should only take one vigorous wash or a few gentle ones (be nice to your delicates!) to get everything clean.

 

4. Rinse. I’ve found that it’s best to do this in your plastic tub as running your clothes under the faucet can stretch them. Just fill your tub with clear water, and rinse out each item until the soap is out. You might have to rinse, dump and refill if it’s a big load.

5. Hang them to dry! Carefully and gently squeeze out most of the water – consequences from roughly wringing out some sweatpants proved to me this part is essential- and hang them im a way that supports the item’s shape. The top of a drying rack is good for shirts or sweaters that might stretch when hung vertically. You can also lay fragile garments out on a towel, preferably near an air vent or fan.

6. Drying will take so time, so be sure you have clothes to wear in the meantime.

7. Celebrate the fact that you’ve just done laundry the old fashioned / green / frugal / minimalist/ [insert trend here] way, make some tea and relax.

♡♡

I actually really love doing laundry this way. It’s somehow calming to me, and it eliminates a lot of stress that I would ordinarily have in dealing with layndry. I may have wet clothes hanging in embarrassing places – like the top of a giant box I’ve yet to recycle- but that’s a small price to pay for a simple laundry process that doesn’t overcomplicate my life or aggravate my presently miniscule budget.

This is the first of a series of revolutions in how I live, clean, and manage my life. Stay tuned for more practical-green-frugal-&-sorta-minimalist posts.