This morning I got up to log onto work for the day, and I noticed an anomaly that I haven’t seen in these parts in a long time. SNOW. Now sadly, I didn’t get a chance to take a picture, because quite honestly, my brain was not at normal functioning levels for me to even think to do that. For the last 2 ½ years, my wake up call was between 9-9:15AM. Now, it’s 7:30AM. That 90 minute difference is a bit much for this soon-to-be 47 year old. Hopefully after a few months of this new schedule, I will be more cognizant in the morning.
Winter has finally arrived here in Southeast Pennsylvania
We haven’t seen snow in my town in a couple years. Call it climate change, call it global warming. But the last couple years, snow has been almost non-existent in my part of the world. And for someone that has had some serious difficulty with snow/cold temperatures in general, I’ve been completely A-OK with this. Yet, if this year has taught me anything, it’s to appreciate the present and stop thinking/worrying about the future.
Honestly I cannot even believe I’m saying that! If anyone knows me, you know that Winter is extremely difficult for me. My Seasonal Depression (also known as SAD), is usually over the roof between now and Mid-March. My energy levels plummet, my motivation is practically non-existent. And yet, 2020 showed me that it is NOT worth it! The warrior in me wants to fight this. Until I get to my Heavenly home, I need to understand that where I am living at right now, I need to deal with the good AND the bad. So I need to make the most of the time I have here.
Lately I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries about my ancestors from Ireland, Scotland and Scandinavia. I’m a Scotch-Irish Viking, dangit! And let me tell you, they did some really cool stuff back in the day when it came to Winter. Without getting in all the magical properties of their culture (I cannot go down that rabbit hole for personal reasons), I’ve been mainly watching the culinary and domesticated ways my ancestors handled the cold. Especially in that part of the world, there are areas that sees the sun rise and set and only a few hours from each other. Darkness for most of the year sounds incredibly upsetting to me. But I like to think of myself as a domesticated pet who has NO idea how my feral brethren did it for as long as they did. In many ways, the Industrial Revolution made many of us lazy. As easy as it is to switch on a light, or turn on a fireplace heater, I can easily say 90% of this population would die in the event of an EMP disaster.
How much would I love to have a wood burning stove in my house, as well as a window in my kitchen, part of my deck covered, and a cobb stove outside? These are things on my wish list, and until then, I need to work with what I have. We are planning on staying here for a while, and until then, we might as well really get into the nesting process that I ignored when I moved in here 5 years ago. The moment cold weather hits, I retreat into my own depression, and it’s really easy to just stay there. This year, I am going to press on through that and force the change that needs to be made. There’s a big difference in hibernating during winter and retreating. In my eyes, when you retreat, you walk away, you surrender. When you hibernate, you go into quiet mode for a temporary amount of time. Retreating is permanent, whereas hibernating is temporary.
So, this year, I’m going to hibernate.
Taking from my Scandinavian ancestors, I turn to the old tradition of Hygge. (pronounced Hoo-Ga). It is the tradition of nesting, getting cozy, hibernating. There are amazing YouTube videos that talk about Hygge and what it entails. SLOW AND SIMPLE LIVING. If you want to understand my need for slow and simple living, go check out my blog post here.
The Lord created this world for a reason. There’s a reason why we are born to a certain country, race, culture, climate, etc. I have spent countless years trying to get away from a season that I never really got to understand. Why would God have me live in the North if I’m not supposed to enjoy it? There’s no doubt I LOVE the change of the seasons. Even Autumn into Winter, there is a small period where my body, mind and soul enjoy the change. But it’s a very short time, and I spiral quickly afterwards. So, how does one try to keep the joy for that entire season, like I do the other three?
This is my quest.
Now that I am working from home, I have the ability to nest a bit more. Before, I was out of the house somewhere between 6:30AM and 9PM, depending on where I was working. No more! Linus is quite happy that Mama is home every day, and if a puppy’s love is not motivation enough, I’m in big trouble!
How do you hibernate in the Winter? I’m legitimately curious. This is a big challenge for me, so any advice would be truly appreciative!
Whenever I hear the term “Slow Living”, I think of my favorite TV show “As Time Goes By”, where Jean (portrayed by Dame Judi Dench) and Lionel (the recently late Sir Geoffrey Palmer) argue about her retiring from work. Lionel’s publisher Alistair speaks about her upcoming retirement and going on with Lionel in the “Slow Lane of Life”, to which Jean becomes incredibly irritated over the fact that everyone wants her to slow down.
I always found this funny, because when one thinks about slowing down, you picture an older couple, retired and walking the malls or boardwalks at the beach, possibly taking a stroll through the park hand in hand, or even thinking of an older woman sitting by the fireplace kitting a blanket. Wait….
None of this strikes me as “old”. Maybe it’s just that I AM getting older, and moving onward to the slow lane in life seems really, really appealing. I have a few friends who live by this rule of simple and slow living, and watching their videos on YouTube really captures the spirit I am willing to take part of.
What is Slow Living, exactly?
It’s actually quite simpler than one would think. The problem is, getting there. We, as a society, and especially in the United States, have this ideology of “bigger, better, stronger, faster”. And yes, I believe at one point in my life I not only lived this way, but encouraged others to do so. My Mom always says to me, “If its meant to be, it’s up to me…”, which is really an amazing philosophy to live by when holding oneself responsible and accountable for the life led. However, for years I always looked upon this philosophy as living in a fast paced world. To me, it always meant, don’t expect someone to do it for you, you’ve got to get it done yourself. And for some reason, my brain interpreted that as “get it done fast”. No wonder I still have problems following directions at 46 years old. I remember being in first grade, and Sister Joseph Timothy telling me I REALLY need to learn to follow directions. I would become so exciteable about doing something, I tended to look over the what I was SUPPOSED to do, because I was SO busy trying to get to the end result. And at the end of the day, it was never done right, because I was always skipping important steps. Life is the exact same way. Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look every once in a while, you could miss it…”
So, how do I live in this society and live a slower way of life? Well, it can’t happen overnight, that’s for sure. But people like my friend Lea and other Youtubers like Katelyne from Girl in Calico, and Jonna Jinton, I have some ideas on how to start. For one, make time for the Creator who gave us all of this. I have found when I am living in a faster pace, I tend to never have time for prayer and meditation. And that HAS to change. How can I be happy living this way if I cannot even take some moments during the day to thank the One who gave me this life?
One of the things I need to make sure is that I keep to a schedule. I have a type of personality that I cannot just go on a whim; I NEED a schedule. Thankfully, I am embarking on a new journey that will FINALLY give me a set schedule. So, once that gets going, my next step is minimalization and organization.
The thought of that next step just gives me anxiety, even as I type the words out. As much as I love to organize, I will admit I absolutely suck at it. I know I will need help in this area, and I’m grateful for my best friends who have offered to come to me and help me out in this time of need. I know I’m going to need it.
I truly believe that once these three factors kick in, I will be running like a fine oiled machine, or more or less, a content middle aged woman longing for the slow lane in life.
What does slow living look like for me?
Waking up and being able to be in prayer without interruption. Making wholesome, good food that makes me feel good. Taking time to keep up my home, inside and out, with an absolute peace of mind. Being able to take a walk and listen to the trees and birds and hear God’s gentle whispers in the wind. Reading a book in front of a cozy fire with a large cup of tea, writing in my journal, and feel my mind, body and soul slow down to a peaceful rhythm. I want more than anything, to enjoy and live in each of the seasons, without feeling depression. This will be another big challenge. Embracing the deep, dark of winter where my brain puts me in a state of sadness and despair. I actually told my husband recently of my need to move to the Pocono Mountains (the mountain range a couple hours from my home). He of course became very confused, because why would I want to live in a place where the winters can be downright brutal? Who knows? All I know is that I feel I’m being called there. So, no better time to learn about slow living than right now.
I feel the muse within me beckon whenever I talk about the mountains. As if that’s where her soulmate lives, and I hope my husband and I follow her one day, to be reunited with her long lost love, and I can begin to create the art that I know is still deep inside of me.
I would love to know YOUR ideas of what Slow Living means to you. Please feel free to comment below, as I am always looking for new ideas!
For the last twenty years, I have been studying and researching the basic necessities for survival. I had no idea what I was doing at first, it really started with my first marriage and my first home. My next door neighbor, Tina, was one of the smartest people I had ever met, and she was the one who put the tiny bug in me regarding sowing, growing and preserving my own food. I had gardened in the past, mainly with my father and one of my grandfathers, Leon, when I was little. I even had a toy house my father built for me when I was very young, where I would play “house” and keep silly things like linens and wood, old plates and glasses in there, in case I was in need of them. Who knew these tiny little things would one day become integral in my adult life. Sure, it sounds simple, if not a little silly to talk about such things, but our children today have NOT a clue about these things. In fact, the school district where my children go to high school do not even have a Home Economics class in their curriculum. No, it is actually called “Smart Consumerism”, which I later found most school districts in the country have. Most have not a clue how to sew, cook, clean, or budget. They only know how to make money and how to consume it. My sons actually had ONE cooking class, where they learned to make mini pizzas with mini bagels. No learning of preserving foods, growing them and harvesting them, and our town is actually listed as a rural area! This is what society is today. We have been taught not how to fend for ourselves, but that others do it for us, and we just pay them for their services.
A subculture decades ago started forming, many of which would be called “Preppers”. Those not in that frey joke and call them alt-right wing conservatives, gun toting born again fundies who live off grid and wait for the apocalypse to arrive. Sure, I am sure there are those who meet those characteristics, but the majority of these preppers are just individuals and families who have been quietly preparing themselves in the event an event would come about that would cause us to revert back to a more rustic way of living.
I am one of those people.
I dove into the world of survivalism many years ago, and with the state of our society today, I’m all the more glad for it. Even though I’m not the greatest gardener, not the greatest cook, not the greatest organizer, I DO know that if our world comes to a halt, we’re going to be okay for a bit. Deep in the recess of my mind, I think I really wasn’t expecting this outbreak of the COVID-19 to happen. Well, at least, not of this magnitude. Our country has come to a halt, and because of this, many who do not know these skills were forced to spend most of their money to buy supplies, causing the supermarket to become bare of these supplies. People hoarded these supplies, taken over by greed and fear, price gouging others who didn’t get there quick enough. When in a state of fear, we revert to animal instincts. What happens, though, when our instincts have gone to the back recesses of our mind because society taught us these instincts were useless?
Survival skills are not on most of our societies’ minds today. This is precisely what should have been instilled in our children at a young age, a proactive approach to preparing themselves so that in times like this current crisis, chaos and fear would not be the leading emotion in our society.
We have to be better than this.
We have to be smarter than this.
We have to stop blaming others for what’s happening and take accountability for our behaviors, and learn from this.
We have to stop expecting someone else to take care of the issue because we were not prepared for it in the first place.
We live in an age of amazing technology, where so many resources are at the palm of our hands. Videos, articles, books, seminars, they are everywhere. Yet, most people turn a blind eye. I cannot necessarily blame them, many were brought up in the age of consumerism, where the free market has given us a way to live a life of privilege. And guys, let’s face it, most of us live in a privileged society. We have the privilege of buying what we need when we need it. From something simple like a candy bar to a case of bottled water.
Sooner or later, though, time was eventually going to be used up and we would eventually have to fend for ourselves. I believe this pandemic we have been facing is just the tip of the iceberg. If anything, maybe it is God telling us to stop playing around and get ourselves in order.
I want to tell you some of the things I have been doing over the last several years to prepare for these types of times that will be eventually coming to pass.
Wealth to me is more than money. It’s a fully loaded pantry, it’s a bountiful garden, it’s the knowledge I gave myself when others thought I was crazy for learning it. No degree will give you these skills, and no one can take them away once you acquire them.
When my Mom-Mom was alive, she lived with us for the last 6 years of her life. And every Christmas, she would request the largest bags of flour and sugar imaginable so we could bake our yearly cookies, cakes, pies and other desserts. I remember many years ago thinking how nice it was we had so much of these ingredients, because it resulted in less frequent trips to the grocery store. And we all know with the holidays, trips to the market can be tedious and overwhelming.
So, I started buying large quantities of flour, sugar, oats and rice. These four ingredients can make a multitude of things from breads, cakes, pie crusts, cereals, granolas, puddings, etc. I also started buying spices in bulk. If it was a dry good, I was buying a lot of it.
I also started collecting mason jars and canning pots. I began with a simple recipe, sauerkraut. But I have also learned how to pickle everything I could possibly pickle. Fermenting foods are not just good economically, but in health as well.
We also invested in a chest freezer, to keep meats and other goods preserved, so we could buy these things in bulk.
Did you know that cloth and beeswax can actually do away with tin foil and plastic wrap? And cloth without the beeswax are great alternatives to paper towels and napkins. Can you only imagine how simple it is to get a piece of fabric, scissors and a needle and some thread? The possibilities are endless and you aren’t contributing to the excess waste that is killing our world.
I just informed my husband that my main project for this year is creating and building a cob oven for outside. It’s not a necessity, mainly because we have a charcoal grill that can easily be used with wood. But economically speaking, imagine how low your gas or electric bill would drop if you spent more time cooking outdoors? We have a chiminea and a fire pit, so no matter what, cooking will always be an easy task for us. To make a cob oven, all you need are bricks, glass bottles, soil, sand, clay and water. Most have all this already at your disposal.
Gardening and Foraging
I don’t think anyone needs to be an expert to understand the necessity of gardening. Sadly, we have grown weak in the mind from the daily convenience of going to the grocery store and getting whatever produce we need. I feel I need to tell you, things are gearing up to change in this world, and the current pandemic is just a slice of what’s to come. I know plenty of people who have no desire in the world to garden, but I implore you, you will NEED to know this very thing in order to survive. Right now, imports are being put on hold, so many of our tropical fruits and vegetables will be less available, if any at all soon enough. What happens if grocery stores close? How will you feed yourself and your family?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Convenience has made us a very lazy society. We want what we want when we want it, and all we need to do is click on something from a smart device, or jump into a vehicle and go somewhere who has it made already for me. What will you do if these conveniences were no longer available?
Think about this – Look at our domesticated animals. Especially the new “toy” breeds that are out there. For society’s own self-interests we created these beautiful little beings. But if humans were no longer here, what group do you think will be the first to die from the feral population or just lack of supervision? We create things out of convenience and sometimes selfish desires, and we forget the consequences if something bad were to happen. It was easy before to look away from this possibility, but seeing where we are now, we can no longer ignore what’s staring right in front of us.
So, whether its food waste, plant waste, human/pet waste, almost everything that is wasteful can be composted one way or another.
What would happen if water was no longer available? Meaning, the water company no longer worked and there was no water in the pipes for disbursing…What would you do? Did you know flushing toilets didn’t come until 1596 but honestly didn’t even become mainstream until the late 1800’s. Think about that. How did people go to the bathroom? Currently, many people living off grid/camping, etc use a tool called composting toilets. There is NO smell, and actually more hygienic than flush toilets. Unfortunately, our convenience-based minds cannot understand this concept because flushing toilets means that flush makes it go away from you. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Seriously, all you need is a bucket, toilet seat, toilet paper and saw dust, and you’re all set. Sure, it’s not pretty, but it works and it’s a lot more hygienic than water flush toilets.
There are so many home products you can make on your own with just a few ingredients you may already have in your home. From detergent, toothpaste, soap, hand sanitizer, lotions, salves, balms, you name it, you can most likely make it.
At the end of the day, you HAVE the ability to make life easier for yourself and your family by knowing these skills:
Light a fire
Tying a Knot
Also, look into the concept of Bug Out Bags. These are emergency bags used for just that: Emergencies. I am in the middle of creating one bag but I need 4 for each member of my family. It’s just a simple backpack with clothes, food, first aid, and survival tools like a compass, batteries, solar chargers, knives, cooking equipment that can fit together if the need to vacate your home arises.
At the end of the day, these skills WILL get you through tough times. No, we are not at The Walking Dead level yet, but if we continue to turn a blind eye and continue to make ourselves believe everything will still be at the tip of a finger/delivered to you when and where you want, you will be like the toy breed animals who will be naturally selected first. You’re better than that! So go learn these skills! Like I said above, NO ONE can EVER take that away from you!