10 Things I Learned in 2020

10 Things I Learned in 2020, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, 2020, 2021, new year, restrospective, learning, lessons, moving forward
Photo by Alex Green on Pexels.com

Finally– the year that we all wish had never happened is over! If you were lucky enough not to suffer the full brunt of 2020, you’re still probably feeling that the entire year was a waste. And in so many ways, it was– wasted time, wasted opportunities. It’s been frustrating, to say the least. The one thing 2020 did offer us, though, was a chance for introspection and reflection. I’m sure we’re all coming out of this a little wiser than we were at this time last year. Here’s what I learned in 2020…

1. People Are Awful

Call me naive, but I always believed that in a disaster, people would pull together and help one another. Maybe I’ve seen too many movies. But the first thing that 2020 taught me is that some people are truly selfish. They scream about their rights or pretend they don’t understand what’s happening, while blithely spreading a deadly and debilitating disease wherever they go. I don’t think I’m the only one whose faith in humanity took a hit in 2020.

2. People Are Awesome

Luckily, most people aren’t selfish twits, and many are truly amazing. Those in the medical and care fields working around the clock to help the sick and dying. Those who have kept working under trying and dangerous circumstances so that supply chains aren’t disrupted and the rest of us can still eat and get the things we need. Those who stay home, even when they really, really, really want to get out of the house. Leaders who are actually leading and keeping people as safe as possible. Thanks to all of you ♥

3. How to Be Resourceful

When some things were in short supply or unavailable last year, I found ways to manage, either by making do or doing without. If I couldn’t get help when I needed it, I worked around it or figured out how to do it myself. Going forward, I’ll be embracing more of an attitude of resourcefulness, because you never know when you won’t have a choice about it.

10 Things I Learned in 2020, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, 2020, 2021, new year, restrospective, learning, lessons, moving forward, aspasiasbissas.com, bread, baking, baking bread, making bread, cooking
Photo by Vaibhav Jadhav on Pexels.com
4. I’m More Competent than I Think

Having to be more resourceful, having to endure difficult circumstances, having to rely on myself more than I ever have– all of this has shown me that I can do more than I  thought possible. I need to remember this lesson.

5. Clarity

This past year has given me time to figure out what I’d like my life to look like going forward. I might not be able to do all of it, but I know what to work towards and what to let fall away. Having a clear direction is something I didn’t realize I needed.

6. There’s No Limit to Learning

When I decided to take French (and later Greek) lessons using an app, I approached them with a bit of trepidation. Learning a language is easy in childhood, but not so much in adulthood (at least, that’s the popular opinion). Maybe it helped that I already had a start in both languages (eventually I hope to try learning a language I don’t know anything about). The lessons have been fantastic, not only because I’m learning a lot, but also for my mental health. They keep me busy with something that’s actually useful. If there’s anything you’ve been wanting to learn, I highly recommend going for it.

7. Introverts Need People Too

I’m about as introverted as they come, which has been helpful in getting through lockdowns and avoiding crowded places. But even I miss people. I miss my family and friends, and I miss the places people gather, especially museums, coffee shops, the zoo, the mall (memories of a misspent youth), and just generally seeing people without worrying about whether they’re merely clearing their throat or are hacking up deadly germs. For someone who used to dream of the hermit life, actually living it has shown me that I need to socialize sometimes. Who knew?

8. Keep a distance

I don’t mean physical distance, which I’ve also learned to do and is important for other reasons. I’m talking about a mental/emotional distance. I’ve learned not to rely on external factors because they aren’t reliable. I don’t know if this is cynical, or if it’s something everyone else already knew and I’m just late in figuring out, but I’ve had some major disappointments this last year, and I’d like to avoid more of the same in future.

9. I Have Value

It turns out there are a lot of people in the world who can’t wait to tell you how little you matter (a lot of them are the same people I mentioned in my first point). They’re wrong. I have value just by existing, and so do you. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

10. There’s a Light at the End of the Tunnel

…even if it’s faint and sometimes flickers.

10 Things I Learned in 2020, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, 2020, 2021, new year, restrospective, learning, lessons, moving forward, aspasiasbissas.com, light at the end of the tunnel
Photo by Johannes Rapprich on Pexels.com

What did you  learn in 2020? Share in the comments…

Looking to start 2021 with a good read? I’ve got you covered…

Love Lies Bleeding by Aspasia S. Bissas, Blood Magic by Aspasia S. Bissas, Tooth & Claw by Aspasia S. Bissas, books, free books, vampire, vampires, dark fantasy, gothic, urban fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, strong female protagonist, aspasiasbissas.com

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Blood Magic: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Tooth & Claw: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

If you prefer a good paperback to an ebook, use this link to order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

Vampire’s Garden: Bleeding Tooth Fungus

Vampire's Garden: Bleeding Tooth Fungus, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, bleeding fungus, devil's tooth, mushroom, mushrooms, bleeding mushroom, edible mushrooms, gross mushrooms, tripophobia, trypophobia, plants, botany, herbs, herbalism, vampire, vampires, aspasiasbissas.com

Love Lies Bleeding‘s readers know that main character Mara is both a vampire and a botanist. Trained in botany and herbalism when she was still human, she continues to study plants and have a garden. This post is tenth in a series exploring Mara’s plants. Are you interested in botany, gardening, or plant lore? So are some vampires…

Please note: Medicinal uses are given for informational purposes only. Always consult a medical professional before diagnosing or treating yourself or anyone else.

Botanical Name: Hydnellum peckii

Common Names: strawberries and cream, bleeding Hydnellum, bleeding fungus, red-juice tooth, devil’s tooth, Peck’s hydnum, bile tooth

History: Found mainly in North America and Europe, bleeding tooth fungus forms mutually beneficial relationships with mature coniferous trees. Its spores are “on the surface of vertical spines or tooth-like projections that hang from the undersurface of the fruit bodies” (1). As the fungus ages, it dries out, losing its bloody appearance and becoming a nondescript shade of brown or black. Bleeding tooth fungus bioaccumulates the heavy metal caesium. Although documented by humans for only about a hundred years, bleeding tooth fungus’s roots (no pun intended) go back hundreds of millions of years.

Language of Flowers Meaning: None

Cultivation: It prefers to grow in mature forested alpine and sub-alpine regions, so cultivating it isn’t really an option.

Uses:

Medicinal: Although scientists aren’t sure what the red substance that oozes out of bleeding tooth fungus is exactly, they have found that it contains a pigment with anticoagulant and antibacterial properties. It also contains another substance that may be beneficial in treating Alzheimer’s disease. It is currently undergoing trials to determine its potential medical uses.

Culinary: It’s technically edible (in that it isn’t poisonous), with a peppery and strongly bitter taste that doesn’t go away even when dried. While it can be eaten, whether anyone actually wants to eat it is another matter.

Dye: The dried fungus produces a beige or tan dye. It can also be combined with iron or alum for shades of blue and green.

Mara’s Uses: Mara mentions it in Love Lies Bleeding as a potentially useful plant she needs to learn more about.

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydnellum_peckii

Further Reading

Love Lies Bleeding by Aspasia S. Bissas, Blood Magic by Aspasia S. Bissas, Tooth & Claw by Aspasia S. Bissas, books, free books, vampire, vampires, dark fantasy, gothic, urban fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, strong female protagonist, aspasiasbissas.com

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Blood Magic: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Tooth & Claw: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

If you prefer a good paperback to an ebook, use this link to order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

This bizarre B.C. mushroom looks like a tooth oozing thick red blood

What is bleeding tooth fungus?

Weird and Wonderful Creatures: Bleeding Tooth Fungus

The Bleeding Tooth Fungus (Hydnellum peckii)

Hydnellum peckii: The Ultimate Mushroom Guide

Mushrooms for Color

Mushroom Dyeing

Spooky Story

Wikipedia

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

Mental Health Break: 11 Coping Techniques to Try

Like so many people (especially those of us in creative fields), I struggle with anxiety and depression. Usually it’s manageable (I’ve actually found that some mild anxiety helps me write). Every so often, though, for reasons that aren’t always clear, the scale tips from manageable to overwhelming. If you’ve ever had severe anxiety or depression you know the feeling of deep despair that leaves you searching for a reason to get up in the morning. If you haven’t experienced that kind of bleakness, then consider yourself lucky (and also please don’t give advice on something you don’t understand– it’s never helpful).

The last while has been difficult for me, both on a personal level and because of events in the wider world. It’s no secret that Covid is having a negative effect on many people’s mental health. Just the anxiety of going through a pandemic is enough to cause widespread distress. Add to that economic insecurity; the stresses of quarantine and isolation (or going to work or school when you don’t feel safe); people spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories while displaying zero empathy or intelligence; certain so-called leaders and governments content to let the virus run rampant; and countless other things that are making life scarier and more difficult than it needs to be– and the stage is set for more people than ever struggling mentally and emotionally.

I wish I knew how to break the cycle of depression and anxiety. I do my best to deal by working on it when I can and trying to work around it the rest of the time (with varying levels of success). If you’re suffering from any kind of mental illness or distress, the first thing you should do is see a doctor and get a proper diagnosis. Don’t be afraid and don’t be ashamed– there is help, from support groups to therapeutic techniques to medications, and more.

If you’re in crisis, you can get help right now (always keep your local hotline number nearby).

In the U.S., the National Suicide Prevention number is 1-800-273-8255 (find out more here: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org.)

In Canada, the National Suicide Prevention hotline is: 1-833-456-4566, or text 45645. You can also chat here: http://www.crisisservicescanada.ca/

There’s also good info here: https://suicideprevention.ca/need-help/
If you’re not in crisis but are having a hard time and need something to help you through it, here are some things that work for me. It’s a good idea to experiment to find what works best for you.
Read a Book: I know, I suggest this a lot. But a book can help distract you, and provides a feeling of accomplishment when you finish it. Make sure to pick one that interests you, preferably something lighthearted or uplifting. If you’re feeling up to it, try a book designed to help people cope with mental illness (there are many to choose from, but Mind Over Mood is one that’s highly praised by mental health professionals.)
Shower and Get Dressed: It might not seem like much but it can make a noticeable difference to your mood. And if nothing else, you can say you got up and faced the day. On bad days, that’s a major accomplishment.
Leave the House: Many people (myself included) withdraw when they’re depressed, which isn’t helpful. If you’re isolating due to COVID (or feel like you can’t deal with other humans at the moment), go for a walk on your own. Somewhere green and peaceful is ideal.
Get Something Done: Pick a task to complete, no matter how small, and do it. It can be anything that makes you feel like you’ve achieved something. To avoid being overwhelmed, keep a short and easy to-do list handy for times like these.
Indulge Yourself: Do something you enjoy (as long as it’s nothing harmful). If you have a tendency to feel guilty about “doing nothing,” then try interspersing the fun with simple, but productive, tasks (see above).
Spend Time with Pets: You’ll both feel better. If you don’t have a pet, try hugging a plushie. Don’t underestimate the therapeutic value of a soft doll or pillow.
Avoid Things (and People) that Make You Feel Worse: This won’t work long term, but for a day when you’re already feeling crappy, it’s a necessity.
Write a Letter: Sit down with pen and paper and write a letter to someone you like but haven’t spoken to in a while. Think of some positive things you can share (they can be as simple as a great movie you saw or your thriving houseplant). Or, if you prefer talking to writing, give them a call.
Plan a Trip: It doesn’t matter if you can’t go because it turns out planning trips makes people happier than actually going. So distract yourself by planning your dream vacation (or research anything else you’re interested in).
Find the Humour: Being depressed, down, or anxious doesn’t exactly lend itself to laughter, but a bit of dark humour can actually help lighten the mood. Try looking up memes about anxiety or depression, or chatting with a funny friend who gets it. Darkly humorous shows and movies can also be good (I like the 1964 Addams Family TV series, as well as the movies from the early 1990s, and the “Adult Wednesday Addams” series on YouTube.)
Mental Health Break: 11 Coping Techniques to Try, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Create Coping Cards: This is an idea I got from Unf#ck Your Brain. When you find a technique that works for you, write it down on an index card. When you’re struggling, you’ll have a handy set of coping techniques ready to go. You can even put the cards on a key-ring and keep them with you.
Have you tried any of these? What works for you when you’re having a hard time? Share in the comments…
Stay safe,
Aspasía S. Bissas
PS: Apologies for the spacing issues–they’re thanks to WordPress’s fabulous new editor that no one asked for. Hopefully such issues will be ironed out over time.

Welcome to Vancouver

0 welcome

Since travelling is off the table for the foreseeable future, I thought I’d share some photos from a past trip. I was lucky enough to visit beautiful Vancouver on Canada’s west coast back in April 2018. If you ever have the chance to go, I highly recommend it. Mountains, ocean, gorgeous gardens, good coffee, friendly people. Some take issue with all the rain Vancouver tends to get, but I found it cozy (I also noticed it tended to clear up by early afternoon on most days anyway). I hope I can go back again– there was so much I didn’t get to see last time (like whales!)

These were taken in the north end of downtown Vancouver and the Gastown neighbourhood. Vancouver has one of the only steam clocks in the world.

0 tower0 steam clock0 mountain0 building

I got these shots (and the “Welcome to Vancouver” sign) on the way to Stanley Park…  Continue reading “Welcome to Vancouver”