For this month’s Ten Things, we are featuring our lovely friend Heather Jean Skalwold, unstoppable human creator, art director at DellamorteCo. and chief coffee pusher at Banshee + Cinder Coffee. I began chatting with Heather a few years ago, either for interview purposes…or…something else (I don’t even remember now!) and our friendship has grown and blossomed to the point where sometimes I find myself texting or DMing her about this, that, or the other thing on a daily basis. Sometimes frivolous or ridiculous, and sometimes more solemn, weighty matters–I think we’ve found in each other a kindred soul with whom to share our thoughts, no matter what form they take.
When I reached out to Heather to ask if she’d be interested in contributing a “Ten Things” installment, she suggested “Ten Things That Got Me Through 2018”. Though I was sorry to hear that she–or anyone– had a rough go of it last year (mine wasn’t so hot, either), I felt very passionately about giving the opportunity to someone who had a painful, challenging year, to share a few helpful things that alleviated their suffering during that time.
At the same time I have been talking to Heather about this post, reading her words, formatting the images she had thoughtfully chosen, and thinking about her experiences overall, I have also been reading Megan Devine’s It’s OK That You’re Not OK, and in this wonderful book and excellent resource, Megan talks about pain versus suffering, how to tend to your pain and adjust your suffering.
“There’s so much helplessness inside of grief, so much pain that cannot be fixed. Suffering, however, is optional. That distinction can help you figure out what things can be changed, and what things simply need to be supported.
In grief, pain gets tended, suffering gets adjusted.
You might ask yourself, where is there suffering? What tangible problems could be solved in order to reduce suffering? Are you eating, sleeping, moving enough? Can you spend more time with people who support your pain, rather than try to talk you out of it? Are there any places that induce even the smallest bit of calm inside your heart?”
I like the idea of knowing the things that induce calm in your heart while the rest of your world is in turmoil. The things, however small or inconsequential seeming that may relieve the pain in some small degree, or introduce a modicum of peace and stillness when everything feels like it is falling apart. Thank you, Heather, for sharing the things that made your world a little better last year
1. Awesome Underthings
TomboyX Iconic Briefs
Something about women’s underpants really pisses me off. I like a pretty bra, sure, but I do not want all that lacy, frilly crap on my butt. It’s also difficult to find good women’s underwear with a Halloween print. TomboyX has catered to all my desires and they have these y-front briefs that really tickle my fancy. I bought 2 great Halloween prints, a pack of black briefs, and then went on to get a pair with an octopus print, and one with cats! Normally I’m all black everything, but for these underpants I’ve gladly made an exception. AND the Iconic Briefs are built with a front pocket so you can pack! So cool! If you don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t worry about it!
I redecorate every year, but it generally consists of shifting my generous collection of art and oddities around the house. This year I indulged myself, embracing the modern, stark tones of Blade Runner and Delia Deetz. My living room is shades of grey with shots of red, ivory, and black. It is eclectic but clean, minimalist, and unapologetically not Victorian or witchy.
A big change that you have control over can be incredibly cathartic.
(You get to see my living room as a fancy collage because I haven’t finished painting the walls yet and I’m terrible at taking interior design photos.)
3. This sculpture by Kiki Smith at Grounds For Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ
4. Sawbones & Science Vs Podcasts
Sawbones is hands-down my favorite podcast. It’s the only podcast I listen to consistently. They are funny, witty, informative, and talk about one of my favorite topics, messed up medical history. They tackle important modern day issues as well, and being a liberal, science minded couple from West Virginia, things can get pretty interesting!
This podcast is therapy for me. I turn on a new episode while I work and I can just focus on their stories. My anxiety from the day subsides. My overactive, ruminating, worrisome brains finally shut up. This podcast is part of my self care, and something I really, really look forward to every week.
I occasionally listen to Science Vs when the topic intrigues me. Their The Science of Being Transgender which aired in December was eye opening. I’ve struggled to understand my gender identity since I was 10 years old. It feels a little ridiculous to have an epiphany because of a podcast, but there it was. All my confusion was simply because I don’t have a gender. Like a person’s sexuality, gender is something that is instinctual. Most people just know that they are a girl or a boy, whether that matches their sex or not. I don’t have that instinct. I don’t suffer from dysphoria either, though. I think I would have been okay in whatever body I was given. I’m perfectly comfortable with my body and my sex. I can identify with being a woman because of my sex, but I just don’t “get” a lot if things. I suppose like being colorblind, you don’t know you’re missing something until the world (people, society, podcasts, whatever) makes it glaringly obvious. Hey! Guess what! You’re agender!
5. Online Support Groups
In May my mother was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer, out of the blue. I thought she was going to die. Her doctors thought she was going to drop dead at any moment. It was the single most horrifying thing I’ve been through in my entire life – the idea of losing my mother. Friends helped find me an amazing resource for those going through treatment and their loved ones. I was able to join a group for caregivers and close family almost as soon as I signed up. And it helped. The moderator was knowledgeable and sympathetic and just urging enough to get a bunch of strangers to open up and start talking to each other.
My mother survived her first chemo treatment, barely, and then her second, and her third, and then surgery, and then more chemo. My mother is still going strong and the doctors call her a rockstar. My mother IS a rockstar.
Connect with others in support groups for cancer patients, loved ones and people who have lost a loved one, led by oncology social workers. https://www.cancercare.org/support_groups
If you are troubled by a death, illness, disorders, trauma, social issues, identity issues, severe depression, anxiety, the loss of a beloved pet/familiar, anything… there is help out there, people who have been or are going through what you are. If you are troubled I urge you to please put google search to work. You are not alone.
6. Mab’s Drawlloween Club 2018
Daily art prompts for the entire month of October, hosted by Pop Surrealist painter Mab Graves. I’ve never done anything like this before and it was an incredible challenge that pushed me to my limits. It usually takes about a week for me to complete a full collage! I am so proud of myself for finishing, and I swear, I have never been so productive creatively in my entire life. Art is therapeutic for me, and while it kept me busy as hell, I absolutely loved the challenge.
You can check out my artwork on instagram: http://www.instagram.com/saintcalluna
Did you vote? I voted twice in 2018 – legally!*
We finally made a change and I have a little hope where there has been none in two years. We have got to put this dumpster fire out!
(*2 different elections, no voter fraud here…)
8. A Mourning Tattoo and Mourning Jewelry
In 2018 I got another tattoo! My cat, Banshee, died in October of 2017, and I have never mourned for another living soul the way I mourned the loss of my sweet jerkface of a familiar. I was devastated. Distraught beyond measure. To celebrate our relationship, and keep her with me, I drew one of her owl like eyes and had it tattooed on my left hand. I am not hiding my love and my pain, and I am definitely too old to be squeamish about visible tattoos.
Then fate brought Copperelegy of The 8th House Collection to me. She inquired about an art trade… in return she created this this sterling silver urn bracelet containing the ashes of my dearly departed Banshee. It is gorgeous and perfect and fills me with such sorrow and joy. I was blessed to have had 11 years with that troublesome, possessive, mouthy, and loving little creature.
I had to stop drinking booze early in 2017 because of new medications. I quit smoking over a decade ago because it’s gross and cancer sucks. I’ve never been into the recreational drug thing, and they probably wouldn’t go well with my meds now anyway.
So what have I got??
I love coffee and you’d have to pry it out of my cold, dead hands before I give it up. I find pure joy in that first sip of the day. I love the aroma, the complexity of the flavor, the warmth on a cold morning. Or afternoon, or night… you know how it goes.
Coffee became a new focus for me in 2018 when I opened Banshee + Cinder Bespoke Coffee Co. Yes – I love coffee so much that I started selling it.
Sometimes when the world is bleak, you have to remember the simple pleasures to help get you through – because this bullshit lately is overwhelming…
I really tried to make this last thing not be Instagram, but here it is. Instagram is one of the things that got me through 2018. I have my own little community of amazing people who have supported me through all my struggles, my new ventures, and random art attacks. This past year especially I have made some incredible new friends and acquaintances, and even met a couple of them in person!
I have been inspired, comforted, made to feel like I’m worth a damn. Thank you, Instafam, for getting me through 2018.
My 10 Essentials
Bombas Merino Wool Socks
So soft, so comfortable. I smile every time I put a fresh pair on my feet, and since I switched to wearing wool over cotton I no longer struggle with foot odor! Additionally, Bombas donates a pair of socks to homeless shelters for every pair of socks they sell.
Neutrogena Revitalizing Lip Balm SPF 20
I can’t find a tinted lip balm with an SPF anywhere. I keep buying all these fancy tinted balms and I keep coming back to Neutrogena.
Nizoral A-D Shampoo
The only thing that has worked for my itchy, flaky scalp, and I have tried everything. I just wish I found it sooner!
Urban Decay Brow Beater Microfine Brow Pencil And Brush
The right size, the right color, and easy application. Seriously, all I want are good brows…
Goth/weirdo staples. With my Dada Donuts and my Derby Swirls I go from vamp to Brando without missing a beat.
I went to being someone who thought cellphones were a leash, to someone who can barely live without their better than Star Trek pocket computer.
Bird Ov Prey T-shirts
I live in these. Softest and coolest looking t-shirts ever. Jordan of Bird Ov Prey is an insanely talented designer, working out of Brooklyn, NY.
Batwing Sunglasses from La Femme en Noir
It took me two years to find the perfect damned sunglasses. I am finally satisfied, and I have a pile of sunglasses that I don’t know what to do with now. These suit my vampire aesthetic perfectly.
Eggo Gluten Free Waffles
The best gluten free waffles ever! I can’t find them sometimes and it makes me fantasize about buying a big freezer so I can store bulk quantities.
Hello Activated Charcoal Whitening Toothpaste with Fluoride
Black black black fucking toothpaste, I love it… I used to get charcoal toothpaste shipped from Japan because you could only get powder in the US. Finally someone has hopped on the activated charcoal craze, and lucky for me, their headquarters are 2 towns away from me!
(FYI they also make a black toothbrush.)