Good tidings to you all, and welcome to December! December is the planet’s party destination, as it hosts the most multicultural celebrations of the year. So many festivities take place in this last month, it’s oft called the “World of Holidays.” If you turn on a radio or TV, go into any variety of store, or step outside your home in December, you probably know about the Christian blow-out that is Christmas. While Christmas traditions vary from country to country (from Christmas trees and Santa Claus in North America, to bonfires of dried thorn branches lit by candle in Iraq and Syria), the gist is usually the same: Jesus’ birthday party extravaganza, which includes worship, gifts, food, and family and is celebrated by most on December 25. Hanukkah, a global celebration which means “dedication” in Hebrew, reaffirms the ideals of Judaism and commemorates the recovery of Jerusalem and subsequent rededication of the Second Temple. This Festival of Lights lasts eight days and always takes place on the 25th day of Kislev in the Hebrew calendar. Since Judaism follows a lunar calendar, the date of Hanukkah varies from year to year. This year the candle lighting begins at sunset on the 7th and ends at nightfall on the 15th. The celebration is filled with sharing yummy food, prayers, and gifts with family and friends. While it doesn’t fall in December most years, Eid al-Fitr is a Muslim holiday that marks the end of Ramadan (a month-long period of fasting, worship, service, communal gatherings, and spiritual development dedicated to Allah). Eid al-Fitr a.k.a. “The Festival of Breaking Fast” always takes place on the first day of Shawaal, but the date varies, because, like Judaism, Islam follows a lunar calendar. Eid al-Fitr is a joyful, resplendent occasion during which feasts, gifts, good tidings, and special prayers are shared. Mark your 2033 calendars for when Eid al-Fitr next falls in December! Being that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are Abrahamic religions, there are many similarities in what and how these faiths worship and celebrate. So this month, let’s toast to our commonalities and appreciate our differences. Let’s share, empathize, and be kind to one another. As residents of the same struggling little planet, we really are all in this together. Peace, shalom, salaam.

What is the best way to clean a toilet?
Seeing that I own a cleaning service, I have cleaned A LOT of toilets in my day. Because of this fact, I am an expert at scrubbin’ a pot. Because this cleaning adventure involves getting up close and personal with excrement, I advise that you wear rubber gloves. Did you know that bacteria, viruses, mold, and yeast can live on your terlet (as we like to say in the 9th Ward) for up to nine days? It’s true. So these phalange prophylactics are important infection protection. First, grab a wad of toilet paper, , wet it, and do a preliminary pee/poop/pube wipe of the ENTIRE toilet; you’d be surprised at all the places our waste hides. I always do this, because it gives me a blank cleaning canvas to work with and prevents me from dirtying a bunch of rags with visible bodily deposits. Next, make a mixture of 1/3 isopropyl alcohol, 2/3 white vinegar, and about 10 drops of a citrus essential oil to add a pleasant smell and a boost of antimicrobial killing power. Spray every inch of the toilet with this mixture and grab a moist, clean rag. Start by cleaning the lid of the tank, flush handle, front of the tank and sides. Now spray a little more of your alcohol-vinegar mixture onto the side base of the toilet, making sure to get around the cover of the bolt that secures the toilet to the floor. Wipe every inch of this area. I recommend removing the bolt cover by twisting and pulling it up (sometimes you’ll need to shimmy it off with a paint scraper or other flat implement) and cleaning under it. Urine tends to hide there, and that’s gross. Now spray the front of the toilet again, and wipe that area well. Spray the area behind the toilet seat, focusing on the seat bolt covers. If possible, lift the bolt covers and clean underneath (the covers are usually easy to pop up using your fingers, but you might need to use a flat implement). Spray all areas of the toilet lid (top, sides, underneath) and wipe thoroughly. Now it’s time to clean the seat. Give it a spray and wipe the top, sides, and underneath. Don’t forget to clean the top and sides of the seat hinges. You might need to use a scouring pad to remove the shellacked poop fragments that you’ll surely find. I recommend removing the toilet seat once a year and cleaning it outside with a hose, vinegar, and dish soap. Spray the toilet rim once more and wipe the top, sides, and underneath. Yay, it’s time to clean the bowl! I recommend cleaning the toilet seat, rim and bowl last; this prevents you from dirtying your rag with toilet seat-rim funk and then cross contaminating. Give it a good spray, grab a toilet brush, and scrub the hell out of it. Don’t forget to scrub under the rim; mold likes to chill there. Is there stubborn, yellow calcium build-up in the commode? Are you having trouble removing it? Don’t fret. Pour some white vinegar into the toilet and let that sit for about 30 minutes. Now get back in there and scrub with your toilet brush and a pumice wand (this porous igneous rock magically removes calcium deposits with very little effort and without leaving scratches). Flush away the dirty water. If you want to go even deeper—and who doesn’t?—pour some bleach into the toilet and scrub with the brush and pumice wand. (PSA: If you decide to go the bleach route, DO NOT pee into the toilet when the bleach is still present. Our urine contains ammonia. When ammonia and bleach interact, they produce chloramine gas. Chloramine gas can cause symptoms such as irritation of the nose, eyes, and throat, nausea, wheezing, coughing, and chest pain.) Dry all parts of the toilet. It’s a good idea to clean around the base of the toilet, where it meets the floor. People (men) often sprinkle pee all over the floor when urinating. The sulphury smell of bacteria-laden, dried human pee in a bathroom makes me want to barf. If you don’t take care of the wee-wee floor immediately, the smell will become unbearable pretty quickly. To tackle this stinky dilemma, you’ll need the following ingredients: two gallons of hot water, 1/4 cup of vinegar, 1/4 cup of baking soda, 1/2 cup of Borax, and a small squirt of your favorite dish soap. Now you’ll mix the baking soda, Borax, and water together to create a paste. Use a sponge to scrub this onto the floor and the base of the toilet. Be sure to scrub the caulk and tile grout too—the funk hides there. Let the paste sit for about 30 minutes. Now you’ll spray the area with a mixture of half water and half vinegar. Let the paste and vinegar simmer for about 20 minutes, then rinse with water. Enjoy going #1 and #2 in your squeaky clean toilet!

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illustrations by Ben Claassen III

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