"The flow of creativity feels like an avalanche of joy and wonder. Being open to that possibility creates connections with everything." - Feline Dreamers

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Active Forgiveness

The 21-Day Consciousness Cleanse is proving to be rather intense and wonderful. Yesterday's focus was on forgiveness, and I want to share what I wrote for one of the writing exercises. The exercise involved writing to God (or whatever you choose to call the Divine energy) to ask for help with forgiving old grudges, resentments and disappointments. Here's my letter:

Dear Universe,

I am writing to ask for your help on a big matter. I'm realizing that I've been holding on to a lot of old negative feelings about myself and some of the people I love. I have worked hard to find forgiveness for these things, and in some cases I've come a long way towards forgiveness.

But clearly there is still some resentment in my heart. So I'm asking you now - will you please help me to fully forgive and release these incidents? Will you assist me as I cleanse them from my psyche? I long to let go, so that I can release the blockages in my energy system and be free to follow my calling, the reasons I came here to create and explore and enjoy.

Please help me to finally let go of these burdens. I'm ready.

Thank you so much. I love you, and I'm grateful for you and your infinite joy and creativity.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Inner Journey

BlackLion and I are embarked on a journey through a book called The 21-Day Consciousness Cleanse: A Breakthrough Program for Connecting with Your Soul's Deepest Purpose by Debbie Ford. So far, so good. Day 1 included meditation, journal writing, and making collages. That works for me! It seems like it will be an interesting way to get focused.

The timing is good, too, as I'm working on creating my list of goals for the year. This book is a good tool for that process, as are the notes I've been keeping in my journal and here on this blog. I have lots of exciting projects to work on! Finishing some writing projects, getting published, practicing drumming, creating art, exploring yoga more deeply, teaching, and more. I have an intriguing list of books to read. I also want to leave space for things that I haven't discovered yet. I'm going to be participating in a study group on the elements this year, starting with North.

I feel energized and ready to listen more deeply to my inner self and enjoy the journey along my path. I'll post my annual list of goals sometime this week. Meanwhile, more listening and introspection is in order.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Sunflower Dreaming

After a delightful conversation and some inspiring reading before bed last night, I had some cool dreams. Floating through them was the image of a sunflower. Sometimes it was on its own, but a lot of the images were of me drawing or somehow creating sunflower pictures.

Sunflowers in dreams can mean abundance, warmth, and spiritual guidance. Also, the Sun is returning and I may be able to subconsciously feel its energy...even while it's snowing outside. I think the sunflower image is connected to the excitement I have about my plans for this year. I want to energize my active spiritual focus, adding new practices and learning new things as well as renewing ones that I enjoy.

I've done some journaling today about my sunflower dreams and decided that I'll make a sunflower collage. Quester is working on his holiday gift for me, which is some new shelves over my desk. So after a bit of organizing I'll have more space for art and other projects. BlackLion also has a big art table in his new space. Lots of art and writing are in the cards for this year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Things I've Learned About Stress

As I enter my fifth decade of life on planet Earth, here are some things I've learned about stress. Most of us know that stress is not good for our bodies, minds, or spirits. Yet often we think of it as an unavoidable part of life. While that may be true on some levels, for it can be stressful to learn new things, stress is not a constant. Here are my discoveries:

- Stress is temporary. If you are feeling stress, then know that it is only in this moment that you are experiencing these feelings. There's no need to be stuck where you are. You can choose to let it go and move on. There are many ways to let go of stress, and yours will depend on your personality and preferences.

- Stress is self-generated. It comes from your own mind. Stress occurs if your expectations are not being met, you are not being kind to yourself, you're denying your true desires, or you are focused on the past or future rather than the present moment. It may seem like outside conditions are causing the stress, but it is actually your reactions to those conditions.

- Stress can be used in a productive way. If you really have a lot to do and you start to feel stressed, channel that manic energy into efficiently doing what needs to be done. This also works in a crisis situation (such as an accident or illness). If you're able, perform the tasks at hand in a cheerful manner - or at least start to move in that direction.

- You may need to protect yourself from others' stress. Certain types of personalities (particularly empaths) can pick up the energy of a group of people without even realizing it. It's helpful to be aware of this if it tends to happen to you, and learn methods of shielding yourself. This can be as simple as telling yourself: "I don't need to pick it up." Meditation also helps.

- Exercise is a fast, cheap and effective way to release stress. You don't have to go jogging or work out at the gym if that's not your thing. Put on your favorite CD and dance in the kitchen for half an hour, take a walk around your neighborhood, or jump rope.

I've heard a lot this month about how stressful the holidays are. If you believe this, then take a moment to change your attitude. Maybe you do have six hours of gift shopping or a marathon cooking session before you - but can you have fun doing it? Think of the people who will open their gifts and eat those special treats. Decide that your day will be full of celebration, no matter what you're doing. Enjoy!

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Thriving Community

We had a wonderful Winter Solstice celebration last night. It's been an annual event for several years, complete with a ritual, a bonfire that stays burning all night as we keep vigil, drumming, and a big potluck feast. Everything was so beautiful. Quester built an archway into the circle (between two of the young oaks) out of faerie lights. The crescent moon peeked through the layers of clouds.

Our ritual this time centered around community. We are blessed to have an amazingly vibrant, creative and fun community. Our family made dream pillows for the kids in the community, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that there are 21 intelligent, cool and inspiring (mostly homeschooled) kids that we hang out with on a regular basis. And the adults are awesome, too!

Recently, at a monthly Pagan event, a few of us were chatting about the Pagan community here in Maine, and how lucky we are to have so many wonderful and inspiring people around us.

The success of our homeschool group's recent fundraiser shows how strong that community is, too. Our friends and family members contributed to the event's success in many ways. We have also been meeting new families, as more folks hear about what we do and decide to join the fun.

These communities overlap in a myriad of ways, and I'm so thankful and delighted to be a part of them. And I'm glad that my kids are actively involved, too. They're building many friendships and learning all the time. My two kids invited seven of their friends to stay over, and everyone had a terrific time welcoming the return of the Sun. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Our 12 Days of Solstice

Tomorrow night is our Yule celebration. I imagine we'll have something like:

12 drummers grooving,
11 singers piping,
10 logs in the firepit,
9 families chatting,
8 o'clock gift exchange,
7 late arrivals,
6 inches of snow,
5 excited dogs,
4 calls for directions,
3 bowls of punch,
2 hiding kittens,
and a big feast in the kitchen!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Crunch Time

Up until now I've been filled with joy about the holiday season. Truly. And yes, I'm one of those Virgos Who Do Too Much. I come by it honestly - my Mom's a Virgo too, and has always done a huge amount of holiday preparations, from decorating to crafts to cooking to gifts to...lots of wonderful things. Yet it can get out of balance sometimes.

Today I reached the point that seems to inevitably happen somewhere along the journey toward Yule and Christmas. I stressed out. What triggered it this time? Having the car break down while we were out shopping and needing to get it towed by AAA. Not knowing how we'll pay to have it fixed, not to mention transport ourselves around until it's healed. That led to thoughts of how much I have to do, wondering if I have enough money for the remaining gifts and foods to purchase, feeling stupid for taking on so many projects to begin with, and generally feeling sorry for myself. Ick.

OK, enough complaining. On to the solutions part. What did I do to feel better? Shed a few tears. Read articles in Yoga Journal in the backseat of the big tow truck on the way to the garage. Listened to BlackLion chat with the AAA driver, who was actually quite an interesting young guy. Confession: ate three delicious cookies that my Aunt sent over. Talked to Mom, who was full of generous offers of taking me shopping tomorrow so I can pick up the last few things I need before the Yule gathering. And after getting dinner in the oven (a veggie pot pie) I went and rested for a few minutes in my room (my sanctuary) and worked on some cutout cards (art therapy).

I guess I'm feeling better now. When ElvenTiger gets back from her evening soccer game, we'll get to work on a craft project that is about halfway done. The rest will take care of itself.

Hey, what am I doing writing on my blog, anyway?! I've got SO much to do! :)

Busy Elves

Oh, how I wish I could discuss and describe the various creative projects I'm working on this week. Alas, many of my friends and family are readers of this blog, so that will have to wait until after the gifts have been given!

Of course, I've already mentioned the cutout cards. And there is cooking to be done, as well. For our Yule celebration, I'm making warm drinks and soup. Two of the recipes are from the vegan Pagan cookbook I've co-written. On Saturday, the kids and I are going over to Mom's to decorate and bake sugar cookies. It's a fun tradition! She's been doing this with the kids for quite a while, and now that I'm not working outside the home I'm able to join them for the festivities.

Sash finished his semester of college today, so we've been finalizing our characters for the new role-playing game he's starting (Cyber Punk). Tonight we've been buying our equipment, which for my character is quite involved. I'm a street doc, which is a sort of high-level, first responder paramedic. I have a fast motorcycle to get to the scene, and a fancy full-body suit containing a computer that helps me diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses.

Last night I went to this month's Red Temple meeting. What a fabulous group of women! And during our discussion we were expressing our gratitude for the amazing Pagan community here in Maine. Speaking of which, the Winter issue of the EarthTides Pagan Network newsletter should be out soon. It has a ton of great articles!

On a personal level, I'm still enjoying the introspective energies of the time between Samhain and Yule. I've been working on my list of goals for this coming year, and reflecting on the lessons from the year past. I'll soon look over the records of my daily Tarot card readings for 2009 and see which cards were a particular focus, and why. I'll also be looking over the goals I had for this year and see how things went.

It's a very busy time of year for our family, but one that we enjoy quite a bit. I hope you do, as well!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Use Your Imagination

Sometimes we get stuck in a rut of predictable thinking. I appreciate traditions and the cycles of life, but doing things because "that's how we've always done it" can cause us to miss wonderful opportunities for growth and joy. The best way to get out of this kind of pattern is to use your imagination.

We often hear about the value of visualization in creating what we want. Visualization can seem like a complicated or mysterious process, reserved for "the big stuff" like healing from a disease or finding a new job. In fact, visualization is just a matter of using your imagination. And it can be used in any situation.

I just read an excellent article about imagination in Yoga Journal, "It's All in Your Mind," written by Sally Kempton. She explains that we use our imagination all the time, whether unconsciously or on purpose. Kempton writes, "imagination always precedes transformation. Every important change you've made in your life, inner or outer, started with an act of imagination." She goes on to describe the different words for imagination in Sanskrit, detail their meanings, and discuss how to harness the power of imagination in your daily life.

I use my imagination mostly in my creative projects and with the big transformations I'm hoping to manifest, sometimes forgetting that it's available to me all the time. But reading this article and thinking about imagination has inspired me to consciously use it more often. From coming up with gift-giving ideas to helping one of the kids with a math problem to what to make for dinner, my imagination is a wonderful resource. I can tap into it anytime, and the ideas I find will enhance my experience.

With practice and regular use, my ability to imaginatively transform my moment-to-moment experience will increase. Not only that, it's fun, too!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Just Trying to Help

I have two friends, who don't know one another, who have both been having a really rough time lately. Part of the trouble they mention is that they are each lonely and seeking a companion (no, I don't think they would make a good couple), and I understand that this time of year can be an ordeal when you hear all about how the holiday is for spending with your loved ones.

My heart is filled with compassion for their plight. I wish that I could help them in some truly meaningful way. I offer what comfort, advice and other help I can (being careful to make sure it's what they want). Yet I know that ultimately they each need to use their own resources to lift themselves out of their unhappy situations.

On a smaller scale, I am frequently the peacemaker in my immediate family. My very nature leads me to seek harmony. So I am often the one to facilitate when there is conflict between family members, looking for a solution that will work for everyone. Sometimes it works, and other times they seem to want to experience their own drama until they are ready to release it. It occured to me today that the desire for harmony is only my own perspective, and might be better kept to myself. Perhaps I should only give my ideas when I'm asked.

This could be true with my two friends, as well. Maybe they need to learn the challenging lessons they're experiencing, for reasons unknown to me (or even to them, in some cases). Unless they ask, maybe my help isn't needed or desired.

Of course, sometimes it's hard to ask for help even when you want it, so I think I'll continue to make the offer, in a more general way: "is there anything I can do to help?" But my well-intentioned search for harmony could be derailing what would naturally happen in these varying situations. I want to be more respectful of each individual's lessons. Though I'm not reprimanding myself. After all, I was just trying to help.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Drumming at the Edge of Winter

Last night BlackLion and I drummed for a Pagan benefit performance honoring the Winter Solstice, called "The Longest Night." The performances, which were excellent, consisted of dramatic readings of prose and poetry, storytelling, dancing and a sing-along. As Feline Drummers, we drummed before the official start of the show and during the intermission. I had a great time! Leading up to the event, we practiced the rhythms we've written over the past year and learned a new one, which was also a lot of fun.

This reminded me that I haven't taken much time to drum lately, since the colder weather. I'm not sure exactly why. I recently read Mickey Hart's Drumming at the Edge of Magic, which was inspiring. When I do drum, I get swirled away in the music and the moment. Learning new rhythms engages both my logical and intuitive sides, which is challenging and exciting. I'm still a beginning drummer, though I think now I'm perhaps at the advanced beginner stage. I'm lucky enough to have a natural sense of rhythm, but that only takes me so far. I definitely want more practice and training.

After performing last night, we got several invitations and recommendations, along with a bunch of compliments. Two people mentioned a local drum circle that we should drop in on, we were invited by a dance teacher to drum for her classes this winter, and some folks that we work with magickally want to add drumming to our next gathering. I think I'm being gently nudged in the direction of more drumming! First, though, I need to get through the rest of these holiday preparations and celebrations. Pa rum pa pum pum....

Oh, and an addendum to my book wish list - I forgot (at least) one very important book! I really really want to read The Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewellyn.

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Book Wish List

Over at Fall Down to Fly, Miranda posted her holiday wish list. Being a deluxe bookworm, I was inspired to post my book wish list. Not that I'm asking you to do anything about it. It's just for fun - and also a good way for me to keep track of what to order when some spare book money comes along. They aren't in any particular order. Here goes:

Shadowrise by Tad Williams

Pagan Theology: Paganism as a World Religion by Michael York

The Self-Aware Universe by Amit Goswami

Renegade's Magic by Robin Hobb

Healing Light of the Tao: Foundational Practices to Awaken Chi Energy by Mantak Chia

Eating in the Light of the Moon: How Women Can Transform Their Relationship with Food Through Myths, Metaphors, and Storytelling by Anita A. Johnston

1776: The Illustrated Edition by David McCullough

Anastasia (The Ringing Cedars, Book 1)
by Vladimir Megre, Leonid, and Dr. Sharashkin

Creative Journal Writing by Stephanie Dowrick

The Daily Writer by Fred White

Old Friend From Far Away by Natalie Goldberg

Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sweet Success!

This is the final post in our 30-day blog challenge! Sweet success! I'm glad we did this experiment. I thought for the last post in the challenge I'd share what I've learned and what my plans are for the blog as I move forward.

It was indeed a challenge to sit down every day and write something for the blog. The challenging part was usually just taking the time. I found that I tend to write in the later part of the evening, because that way I can write about things that have happened or that I've been thinking about during the day. Most of the time, coming up with ideas and topics wasn't a problem. That's true for my creative work as a whole - I have a ton of ideas, but making the time to follow through on them is what I need to practice.

I also found that with the focus on writing on the blog each day, the amount of writing that I did in general has increased a bit. I more often turned to my journal to jot down ideas and thoughts, particularly when I was away from access to a computer. I enjoyed the collaborative aspect of the challenge, too - BlackLion and I edited posts for each other, and I found myself more often reading other people's blogs to see how they presented their thoughts. Reading the comments and feedback on various entries (including which ones generated more responses) was fascinating.

The next step for this blog is...to keep blogging! I don't know that I'll do it every single day, but I do enjoy it and I've had positive feedback from readers. It's easier for me to do the plain text posts than to add the pictures, but I do want to include more pictures because I think it adds depth to what I'm describing or relating. So my goals for this blog are to keep up with making frequent posts (say, five per week) and to add more photos.

My writing goal in general is to take time every day to work on my writing projects. BlackLion and I are forming a further challenge along those lines. We're still figuring out the details, but we want to focus on our shared writing projects as well as individual creative work.

I appreciate you reading my thoughts and ideas in this forum! And an extra thanks to those who have taken the time to leave comments. You rock!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

A Snowy Day

Today we got up to a pretty snow-covered landscape. That is, some of us got up. I'm speaking of Percy kitten, who slept much of the day away. Though he did arise eventually, went out briefly, and returned wet and hungry. So the kids dried him off and fed him and all is well. Merlin kitten, too, wished the weather wasn't so messy. He hung around, looking out the door once in a while, clawing BlackLion's leg with a demand that he stop the precipitation immediately. He did go out a couple of times anyway.

The kids were out quite a bit, helping with shoveling and playing in the snow. Quester ran the snowblower and cleared the entire driveway. The kids also played crazy run-around-inside-the-house tag games. Yes, teens and pre-teens still play that sort of stuff...so do some of the adults for that matter.

We had quite a big session of online gaming today, too. The team of gamers was playing D&D Online - their group of characters are elven sisters with varying specialties. Personally, I wasn't involved in that part. I was working on the cutout card project! With some help from various family members throughout the day. I also did my usual computer communications, and helped ElvenTiger with her new e-mail and Facebook accounts (which mostly involved answering spelling questions).

Sash made a delicious dinner, a root vegetable casserole with all kinds of ingredients from the CSA, including parsnips, celeriac, potatoes, shallots, carrots, garlic, and a really cool striped variety of beets. It was very tasty and is all gone. Quester and I went for a grocery run this evening once things had turned to rain (and before they iced). We brought back a bunch of snacks for the crew as they finished their D&D adventure.

It was a mellow day at home and, although we did miss our usual Wednesday routine of homeschool group, I think everyone had a fun time.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Making Cutout Cards

Every year, we make cutout cards for our family members for Christmas. Also known as collage cards, these are homemade cards, personalized for each recipient. I thought you might want to venture into this unique form of art, invented (as far as we know) by my Aunt Peg in the 1980s.

Here's how. First, gather your materials. You'll need a variety of old magazines and catalogs, sharp scissors, glue sticks, construction paper, and envelopes in which to store the cutouts.

Next, go through the magazines and cut out pictures of things the recipient enjoys: foods, hobbies, flowers, animals, quotes, phrases, cartoons, travel destinations, art, etc. You can also cut out holiday pictures and greetings for the front of each card. Try not to make the pictures too big. Put on the holiday music and sip some hot chocolate as you page through the magazines. It's OK to stop and read interesting articles, too. Note: while you're trimming each picture, be sure to capture and recycle all the little "scrids" of paper you trim off, or you'll find them all over your house.

Design a layout of the pictures and words, gluing them to the construction paper. You might want to group them in mini-themes, such as foods, hobbies, etc. We use the front cover of the card to display holiday wishes, like "Merry Christmas, Mom," and seasonal pictures. If you can't find the person's name in a magazine, you can cut out individual letters in varying fonts.

After your first session of gluing, you'll likely have gaps between pictures. Now you'll go back through your stack of magazines (get friends to save them for you, so you always have fresh material) and fill in the holes. While thinking of the person, search for the right pictures for the spaces you have, then glue them in the appropriate spots.

When the card is full and looking lovely, you're done! This process will take time, but it's a lot of fun! If you have several cards to make, set up envelopes with each person's name, so as you go through the first "cutting out" phase, you can save pictures for all of them. We keep separate envelopes for "holiday pictures" and "holiday words." For me, this is like "art therapy." It's a fun process and creates a very special card tailored to each of your loved ones. Trust me, people will save these and cherish them for years to come!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Subaru, Come Home!

In the fall of 2008, my green 1999 Subaru Outback was totaled in a car accident. Don't laugh, but we swerved while trying to avoid hitting a chipmunk (yeah, I know, soft-hearted hippies!). Luckily, none of the passengers were hurt, including our dog Star. But the poor car was not fixable.

We did have collision insurance, and the old car was already paid off, so we had some money to spend on a replacement. I started using the Law of Attraction to bring my new car to me. I knew I wanted another Subaru. I visualized myself driving a black Subaru wagon, listening to a CD on the stereo (my old car didn't have a CD player). It worked well! In fact, after I'd had my dark blue (almost black) 2002 Subaru for a couple of months, I was driving to Massachusetts for a yoga retreat and found myself living the moment I'd pictured earlier. I was so happy to have a newer and even cooler mode of transportation!

But last spring, my happily-manifested car suddenly broke down. After multiple attempts to repair the engine, I received it back, only to have it break down again the same day. Apparently Subaru Outback models from certain years have a percentage chance of this type of massive engine trouble. The saga went on. My mechanic did lots of research, trying to keep the costs down and save the existing engine. No luck.

Next he tried to find us a new (to us) engine and transmission, to little avail. This all took quite some time. I've been car-sharing with BlackLion for many months. A friend of ours who is going back to college, Sash, is living with us, and shortly before school started, his car was totaled too. Without collision insurance, and on a student budget, he wasn't able to replace it. So we've done some serious car-sharing this fall. I'm getting used to scheduling appointments and get-togethers on certain days of the week based on Sash's school schedule, and it all usually works just fine.

The latest on my Subaru has been that our mechanic can get another engine, but needs to have a pretty large chunk of money up front. Quester and I simply haven't had the cash. I've been visualizing myself in the car again, and focusing on how much I love it. And now, with the start of a new semester approaching, Sash is about to give us some money for living expenses. I'm going to hand it right to the mechanic. Subaru, I've missed you - come on home!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Seasonal Favorites

It's time for another "fours list." I'm not sure why my blog lists seem to come out in fours. They just do. So, here are some of my holiday favorites:

White Christmas. The traditional music, the eye-catching costumes, and the charming plot are what keeps me watching it over and over. And the young Bing Crosby!
Love Actually. This is such a terrific movie. The quintessential romantic comedy, with many different stories woven into one.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The original cartoon version. Though I did think the live-action Jim Carrey one that came out a few years ago was funny.
A Christmas Story. My family's all-time belly-laugh favorite from my childhood. "You'll shoot your eye out!"

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Classic.
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg. The pictures are lovely, as is the sentiment.
This Year It Will Be Different (and Other Stories) by Maeve Binchy. This Irish author is great at making you feel like you really know the characters - even in short stories.
The Wild Christmas Reindeer by Jan Brett. Check out any of the picture books by this author. Delightful pictures and fun stories for all ages.

"Holiday Spirits" by Straight No Chaser. These guys have amazing voices, and a sense of humor.
"A Christmas Together" by John Denver and the Muppets. I rediscovered this one a couple of years ago, and it brought back the feeling of the holidays as a kid, when we had the record album.
"In the Christmas Mood" by The Glenn Miller Orchestra. This CD swings!
"Celtic Christmas" by various artists (from Windham Hill). Really pretty and relaxing. Great to listen to on a snowy day.

Banana Faerie Cake. It's a recipe created by BlackLion and I, and it's a yummy vegan treat that everyone loves. One Yule, this cake was a bigger hit than the sugar cookies or the chocolates!
Truffles. These homemade treats are easy to make and very decadent.
Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Coffee Cake. I'm not sure if that's the actual name for it, but my Mom makes it and sometimes brings it for Christmas Day breakfast. Perfect with hot chocolate.
Seitan, Gravy and all the Fixings: The traditional holiday comfort foods, vegan-style. We make enough to have plenty of leftovers.

And yes, I've noticed that my favorite holiday foods are mostly sugary. That's why they're treats, people! :)

Saturday, December 05, 2009

A Balanced Lifestyle

We've been really busy lately, for various reasons, and I'm feeling a bit of strain and a desire to slow down. There are also some creative projects that I've been neglecting simply because I've been out straight "doing stuff."

It seems that our family's balance between busy and relaxed varies quite a bit. Sometimes we'll get so busy that, in reaction, we decide to cut back on some of our activities for a while. Since the kids both play team sports, there are some things they want to continue regardless, so we've incorporated practices and games into the regular schedule. As the one who does most of the family's scheduling, I try to be aware of not putting too much on our collective plates. But at certain times of year, there are so many cool things going on that it's hard to reign in our desire to participate.

This time of year is especially interesting, because I have enthusiasm about the holiday season, doing volunteer work, and celebrating with loved ones, yet there is also my connection with nature's rhythms urging me to stay still and go inward. I've always been a fan of "the middle path," and I think we can have it both ways.

Tonight I'm taking some down time, and I think tomorrow I'll continue it throughout the day. We don't have any plans on the schedule. I've been looking at some other blogs this evening (for inspiration) and came across this post about "X Days" on the blog A Handmade Life. I like the idea, especially since having a "day off" doesn't mean that we won't do anything at all. That would probably drive me crazy (I'm a Virgo, after all). It simply means taking time to slow down and focus on the projects or activities we choose, not the ones that "have to" be done in that moment so that we can move on to the next task.

I have lots of creative and joyful options! Some of the projects I want to focus on are: writing, making holiday cards, decorating the tree, and sending out invitations for our Yule gathering. Some fun activities might include: reading to the kids, creating my character for our new Cyberpunk game, reading fiction, and watching a holiday movie with the family. As well as just sitting and contemplating this lovely life I'm helping to create.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Yule and Christmas Celebrations

Today we went with my Mom and Dad to cut down a Christmas tree. It's one of our traditions. Every year, we go to a tree farm and pick out two trees (one for their house and one for ours). We cut them down and bring them home to decorate. After the holidays, we store the old tree out by the fire, and then we use it to help start the next year's Yule fire.

That got me thinking about our family's winter holiday traditions. Some of our preparations include making sugar cookies with my Mom, spending time creating gifts for people in our community, and donating gifts to a family in need.

On Yule, which happens on the date of the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, we host a big gathering of friends and family. At sunset we light the fire and begin our Yule ritual. After that we have a big feast, exchange gifts (usually homemade ones), and alternate between the fire and the house. A few of us keep vigil all night, staying up until the dawn, when we greet the newborn Sun. The days begin to get longer from that day forward, which we celebrate with a delicious breakfast. Then we head to bed and get some sleep. That evening is usually spent watching holiday movies and nibbling on some of the leftover Yule goodies.

For Christmas Eve, we usually gather with my parents and brother to watch a movie and share a meal. Our big Christmas celebration is on Christmas Day, though. Mom, Dad and my brother come over first thing in the morning. We get up early to unpack our stockings, drink hot cocoa and eat bagels, and then we open gifts. At lunchtime, some other family members join us for a big Christmas dinner. Like Thanksgiving, we have two entrees (one meat and one vegetarian) and a bunch of yummy side dishes. My Aunt usually makes one of her fabulous chocolate desserts.

The evening is spent relaxing and playing with our new toys and games. Sometimes friends will join us to exchange more gifts and share a light evening meal.

On New Year's Eve, we attend our homeschool group's annual celebration for kids and adults. It's a lot of fun! I think this is the fifth year. We have a scavenger hunt which culminates in a skit performed by each team, a potluck feast, and a Scat tournament (Scat is a card game, also known as 31). We do a gift exchange where each person is a Secret Santa for another member of the group. We stay up late to greet the New Year, playing karaoke, dancing and generally having a lot of fun. I love this time of year!

Maine Wholeschoolers' Fundraiser a Huge Success

Thanks to the generosity of our wonderful community, the Spaghetti Supper was a huge success! We raised over $400., and the discussions at our celebration tonight have been about a trip to the Boston Museum of Science, helping our new Drama Club put on a play they write in a real theater, and investing in a community service project to help disadvantaged girls & women (among other things).

Thank you all so very much for supporting this very cool and creative group of kids in their chosen education!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


I never really got into the whole video game thing. I love reading fantasy and sci-fi books, and watching the movies, but I can't really seem to connect with becoming the figure on the screen. However, I love RPGs (role-playing games). You know, like Dungeons & Dragons. You play a character in a fantasy world, with your actions governed by various rules and rolls of the dice. You work with a team of other players to accomplish whatever objective the person running the game - the game master, or GM - sets for you.

I first encountered RPGs when my brother and his friends played them in high school, but never got seriously interested until a group of new friends in college got me involved in their games. My favorite characters are spellcasters: wizards, druids, the occasional cleric. Go figure! The stereotype is that geeky teenage boys are the only ones who play RPGs. But I have quite a few friends my age of both genders who play - it's a fun thing to get together and do for an evening.

A couple of years ago Quester started up a campaign for the family. We're playing 3rd edition AD&D (Advanced Dungeons & Dragons) set in the Forgotten Realms world (for those who don't know how it works, each campaign has its own imaginary world - some are made up by the person running the game, and others are published in books and game sets, called "modules"). Since ElvenTiger was new to the concept, she and I decided to play sisters, both elves. She's a rogue, and I'm a wizard, and we help each other out as we move through the game.

BlackLion decided to run another game about a year ago, based on the Amber series of novels by Roger Zelazny. This game is diceless, and thus relies more heavily on each player's imagination and creativity. Again ElvenTiger and I are sisters, this time a set of twins who specialize in mind-related skills (as opposed to combat or endurance). It's a different type of game, and it was a bit of a challenge for Dryst at first because everything is based on the actual role-played conversations you have with other players and characters. But we're all getting the hang of it now.

Our friend Sash GMs a game he made up, set in a "steampunk" world. We play that one occasionally. He also runs a D&D campaign with BlackLion and the kids. See, if you start playing with a certain group of people, you need to convene that same group to continue the game the next time. You can add in a character, but more often you keep the same set of people because they're working within the same story until their quest is fulfilled or the objectives are met.

Right now we're creating characters for a different type of game. While he's on vacation from college, Sash is going to start a Cyberpunk game. The closest thing to my usual style of character is a street doctor, someone who can heal others through traditional medicine as well as dealing with cybernetic parts. Should be exciting!

I like RPGs because you contribute to creating a story. You work with others cooperatively, working together to solve puzzles and mysteries. The game requires imagination, flexibility, and usually a sense of humor. There's a lot of freedom. To me, it's much more fun than choosing from the limited options programmed into a computer game.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Lightening Up

I’ve been experiencing negative self-talk lately (inside my head), and some of it is about my current weight. I’m about fifteen pounds overweight and have been for several months now. Just a couple of years ago, I was at what I consider my ideal weight for the first time in my adult life. I was certain that I’d continue to maintain that weight indefinitely. So what happened? And how can I get back there?

On a logical level, to get back to where I want to be I simply need to consume fewer calories than I burn. But like most women (and many men) in this culture, I have a complex emotional web surrounding my physical body, weight, and self-image. A wise healer, who also happens to be a skilled chiropractor, told me that holding on to extra weight is connected to an emotional need to feel protected from something.

In my case, my fears have surrounded money and financial security. Last year I left my longtime career (by choice) and began to rely primarily on others in my family for financial support. I never realized that it actually felt good being the breadwinner, having spending money in my pocket, and knowing that I was providing for my family’s needs and wants on a regular basis. Also, since we are now a family of self-employed workers, we no longer have the security of knowing exactly when the next direct deposit is coming and how much it will be. I’m an Earth sign, and I like to be prepared, especially when it comes to the basics: food, clothing, and shelter. Maybe I’m having a hard time trusting that my needs will be met. But they have been, for the most part, despite my worries.

I think now I’m ready for a change, ready to let go and release the pounds I’ve added through worry and fear. I’ve recently been purposefully letting go of worrying, and that’s working well. I’ve stopped eating sugary sweets as a way of dealing with stress. But I guess I also need to deal with those old worries that manifested as the additional weight. While I’m not adding new ones any more, I still need to consciously release the old ones.

I’ve done this before and can get there again. I know I want to be more consistent about my yoga practice, and get outside more often to go for walks. I already eat a healthy vegan diet; I just need to watch the frequency of snacks and my portion sizes. This will totally work, as long as I’m aware of supporting my emotional needs without relying on overeating or fretting about things I can’t control. It’s time for another transformation!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Notes and Quotes

This is a busy week! Tonight we signed ElvenTiger up for basketball, and attended her year-end banquet for soccer. It was amazing to see the girls on her U-11 soccer team, then look at the girls who were on the next couple of age groups, and how girls grow so fast at this age! She'll be a young woman before I know it. She has a great team to play with and loves to be the goalie.

This Thursday night is our homeschool support group's Spaghetti Supper fundraiser, so we're busily gearing up for that. Please support these wonderful kids! We've had friend and family members who can't attend buy tickets anyway, just to support all the cool stuff going on with this group. So, consider making a donation if you can! For all the details click here.

Today I was so excited to pick up our second round of vegetables and fruits from our CSA at Wolf Pine Farm (in Alfred, Maine)! I love receiving all this local organic food, and then planning the week's menu around them. Coming up: a root vegetable casserole, and brussels sprouts as a side dish - plus we made a salad for the soccer banquet potluck meal with some of the greens. The kids have already polished off half the cider!

It's December as of tomorrow, so we're gearing up for Yule and Christmas. Time to start (and finish) a bunch of projects, decorate the house, and so forth. I love this time of year! The kids are hoping for snow soon.

I came across a couple of really great quotes today, so I thought I'd share them with you:

"We expect more of ourselves than we have any right to." - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

"Our word religion comes from the Latin and means 'to bind together.' A working religion, then, might be one that binds together the many rhythms that affect us by creating techniques - rituals - that attempt to synchronize the three dances, the personal, the cultural, and the cosmic. If the technique works, the reward is a new dimension of rhythm and time - the sacred." - Mickey Hart

That's all for today. By the way, this is day 20 of the Daily Blog Challenge! How am I doing? Sick of me yet? :)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Reiki Healing

Several years ago, a dear friend who has admitted (with a smile) to being a "Reiki pusher" became my Reiki Master. I was attuned to Reiki I first, and then a year later, to Reiki II. Since then I've mostly done Reiki for myself and my family, plus a series of sessions for a friend who was going through chemotherapy and radiation. Then there was a year or so when I didn't do much Reiki, or at least give sessions. Not for any particular reason; I was changing careers and a lot was going on.

Within the past few months, I've gotten back into doing Reiki for others. It's been a joy! For my Mom's birthday, and the 40th birthday of a dear friend, I gave the gift of a year's worth of Reiki (a session every month). I've also given sessions to a few new friends who were in need of some healing. Next month I've volunteered to do Reiki at a local college, as part of a "stress relief during finals" event.

Reiki energy is universal energy. When you give a Reiki session, you're transmitting that energy, which is healing and renewing, into the body of the recipient. The energy then goes wherever in the person's body that it's most needed. I love the fact that when you give a Reiki session, you're also receiving Reiki energy in your own body. Rather than being drained or tired, I feel refreshed after a session.

Reiki is a tool that was given to all of us, and isn't part of any religion. Even so, I see my Reiki healing sessions as part of my work as a priestess in the community. I've given some thought to becoming a Reiki Master myself (which is Reiki III). My Reiki Master has encouraged me to do so. I have another close friend who recently became a Reiki Master, and there are several other practitioners in the community. When my Mom was in the hospital due to a car accident, I gave her Reiki there, and many of the nurses knew what I was doing. It's becoming more common as an alternative and/or complement to Western medicine.

If you've never received Reiki, give it a try. Even if you're not suffering from any illness or stress, getting a session is relaxing and calming. It's perfectly safe to do any time, with no side effects whatsoever!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

My Media

I thought it might be fun to list what "media" I use regularly, and why. I'd love to see your list, too. Put it on your blog if you have one, or just leave a comment. By sharing, we might discover new interesting things to inspire us! (Note: I haven't included books, simply because I read so many. I do have a list of my current reads on the sidebar)

Magazines and Newsletters:
Yoga Journal. After I attended a yoga retreat last year, the retreat center sent me a free one-year subscription. It's a great magazine, and I do want to renew for another year.
Home Education Magazine. I've read HEM for several years now, and I'm still finding useful ideas, book and website suggestions, and fun articles.
EarthTides Pagan Network newsletter. I'm a volunteer for EarthTides and I write for the newsletter. But I also read it, and enjoy hearing what other Pagans in Maine have to say. Lately we've been adding new writers and more content.

My number one station is MPBN. My favorite shows are A Prairie Home Companion, World Cafe, and the Friday night jazz lineup. I'm not keeping up with the news as much lately, but when I want to do so, MPBN is my favorite source. I also listen to WCLZ sometimes, and this time of year I listen to WHOM because they play Christmas music. I don't like the commercials, though.

We go out to the movie theater occasionally. Some of the things I've seen this year are: New Moon, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Julie & Julia, the latest Harry Potter movie, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. My favorite genres are fantasy, science fiction, comedy, adventure (though not the really gory violent stuff) and cartoons. We'll more often use our Netflix account to get those types of movies.

I don't have regular TV, but we do watch a few series on Netflix and one with my Mom. With Mom, we've been watching Dancing With The Stars, which is a fun thing to do as a family. The kids got me really into the series Avatar: The Last Airbender, and we've seen all the episodes (there will be a movie of the series next spring!). I watch the series Heroes with BlackLion. Now that we've seen all of the Avatar shows, we're trying to decide what series to watch next as a family. Our close friends recommended Legend of the Seeker, so we may do that one.

E-mail lists:
My favorite by far is the Radical Unschooling with Law of Attraction list run by Dayna Martin. It's a very positive and supportive online unschooling community. I also get daily Notes from the Universe, weekly horoscopes from Rob Brezsny, and a weekly Live Creative newsletter from Christine Kane. Another great list is the e-newsletter from my friend's Rite Food & Company website - her articles are super, as is the podcast she does with her daughter. I get the daily public radio show The Writer's Almanac as an e-mail, too.

Websites and Blogs:
I'm most often on these websites: Yahoo (to get my e-mail), Google (for online research and our family's shared calendar), Webkinz (I love my cute virtual pets!), Facebook (a cool way to connect), MPBN (mostly to get the weather) and Blogger (to post here).

The blogs I follow more or less regularly are: BlackLion's Den, our own Feline Dreamers site, The Sparkling Martins, a friend's blog that she hasn't made public yet, Nurtured by Love, Do Life Right, JWL, The Pagan City, Wiccan Life, Snowhawke's Druidry Blog, Surviving the Suburbs, and Witchy Mom's Homeschool. There are some others I look in on occasionally, mostly unschool ones. Oh, and as a bonus for fans of Garrison Keillor: The View From Mrs. Sundberg's Window.

OK, that's all for now. I hope I've provided you with some inspiration, food for thought, and entertainment!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Not-So-Sweet Emotions

I have an ambivalent relationship with sugar. My family has a history of adult-onset diabetes, and I've wondered if that's part of it. It happens to be a food that I'm sensitive to, and interestingly, it's my emotions that seem most affected. Sometimes I feel like I'm addicted to sweets, and crave them as a relief from stress. Once I go without any sweet treats for three days in a row, though, it seems I'm released from that cycle and am just fine without sugary foods.

On Samhain (Halloween), I gave up refined sugar and most other sweeteners (maple syrup, honey, etc.) until Winter Solstice. I've done this before, and I find it gives my body a break and a chance to cleanse. This time around, it was easy to stop eating it. I rarely had a craving, and when I did I ate a piece of fruit.

Over the weeks, I felt great. I was more centered, and had fewer instances of irritation or feeling upset. Sure, my emotions still rose and fell, but the waves seemed calmer and I rode along smoothly on top of them.

This week, I relaxed my sugar fast in recognition of the Thanksgiving holiday. I attended two celebrations, one on Tuesday evening and then Thursday's Thanksgiving dinner at home. Tuesday night I ate a piece of chocolate pie and a few toffee bars. I felt fine at the time, but in the middle of the night I was hot. I threw off most of my blankets, which helped some. Then I woke up with my mind chattering away, worrying over things that wouldn't normally concern me. Waking up in the night is very unusual for me; I'm normally a deep sleeper. Oddly, there was a part of my mind that was observing, and that part recognized the worries as somehow "artifical." They seemed to be a clear result of the sugar I ate.

Yesterday I had dessert again, this time during the day. After everyone left, I felt kind of restless. I remembered something I had forgotten to do, and instead of shrugging my shoulders about it, I got really annoyed with myself. Again, pausing to reflect on my reaction, it seemed like part of me was just roaming around looking for something to be upset about. I'm thinking that it was the sugar again, agitating my feelings.

Now I'm back to the sugar fast. Though I'll most likely indulge in some sweets at Yule and Christmas, I'm planning to make them an occasional holiday treat, and avoid sugars much of the year. It's not that big of a sacrifice, especially since I feel so much better without them.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Attitude of Gratitude

Happy Thanksgiving, to those of you celebrating today. It's a lovely practice to be thankful for blessings every day. I also enjoy having a national holiday when many people are focused on gratitude. Here's what I'm thankful for today:

- My family and friends. They're a wonderful group of fun, quirky, smart, creative and crazy-in-a-good-way people. They like me even though I'm weird.

- My kids. I'm so glad I helped them into the world! There was a time when I thought I didn't want any kids. I'm thankful that I changed my mind. I'm learning so much from them, and we have lots of fun together.

- The kittens! And Star-dog! Our four-legged companions really light up our days. Both of the kitten boys are snuggled up on the bed right now, being thankful the dogs who were visiting us today have gone home.

- Community. I'm blessed with a vibrant community (both in person and online). You are all so friendly and creative. I'm honored to be a part of it. Seriously. Keep up the good work!

- My home. I love this place! We are in a cozy house, surrounded by gardens, fields and woods. There are many books here to enjoy, and it's warm and comfortable. Our well-loved furniture and the artwork by friends, augmented with candles and faery lights, make it a great place to gather.

- Good food. We had a delicious feast today, and the fridge is stuffed full of leftovers. Our menu? Homemade seitan and veggie gravy, stuffing, squash, smashed potatoes, broccoli, garlic monkey bread (yeah, really - no monkeys were harmed!), veggies and dip, 3 kinds of cranberry sauce, stuffed mushrooms, sweet potato & apple bisque, miso soup, slimy onions (a family recipe that tastes much better than it sounds), and olives. Dessert was apple crisp, pumpkin pie, apple pie, pear pudding and yummy potato fudge (sort of like needhams). Wow!

- Did I mention books? I'm so thankful for them! (I just updated the "what I'm reading" section over on the side-bar :)

- I'm thankful that I got to know Mystick during his brief lifetime. I'm sad that he left so soon, but I'm very very grateful that he was with me at all. He was a beautiful cat, and I hope he's off somewhere in the spirit realm having marvelous adventures.

- The readers of this blog (and my other writings). You guys rock! Thanks so much for reading what I have to say.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Spirals of Life

It's time for Thanksgiving once again, and then the winter holiday season will be fully upon us. I have to say - I love holidays! I often enjoy the preparations as much as the celebrations themselves. The holidays are a time of traditions, and although things may seem the same each year, if you look closely they differ slightly as we spiral around and around.

I just started listening, while driving, to one of the radio stations that plays Christmas music. Yes, we're Pagan, but we celebrate a secular Christmas as well as Yule/Winter Solstice. When I grew up, my family were atheists and agnostics, so our Christmas has always been about family, sharing, and fun without the religious focus. Anyway, as I listened to the familiar and much-loved tunes (I especially enjoy the ones from the 1940's and 50's), the first thing that came to mind was all the fun times I've had at this time of year. Next, I thought of last December, which was tough because of the death of our cat Huzzah and my Dad's heart attack (on Christmas Eve) and resulting surgery. I'm thankful that this year Dad is doing well and getting great reports from his doctor.

Tonight I was in ritual space with a lovely group of women. I commented to one of them that I was glad we've been in circle together twice within one month, after a long period of not seeing each other much at all. She agreed, and pointed out that we'll be doing it again at Yule. It's wonderful to reconnect with her; we used to be in a circle together that met regularly. That circle disbanded, and as we both have homeschooled kids and full lives, we just got busy. It's lovely that we've spiraled around again to a place where we're sharing sacred space.

We're welcoming some new people to our Thanksgiving table this year, too. My brother has fallen in love (I'm SO excited for him) so his beloved (who is very sweet and fun) will join us, along with her college-age daughter. And BlackLion invited his Dad and step-Mom to feast with us, since his brother is out of town and they hadn't made other plans. We'll also have most of the usual clan, and I'm sure it will be a delicious feast with lots of laughter and joy.

As I get older, I now worry less about having everything perfect for "the big day" and focus more on enjoying the time spent with friends and family. I'm glad the spiral has brought us back around to the winter holidays. I wish you and yours health, happiness and bounty. Blessed Be!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

On Tolerance

Acceptance and tolerance are sometimes harder than they would seem on the surface. Many of us who are liberals talk about acceptance of diversity, and I think that on many levels we're doing really well. But I'm talking about something a bit closer to home - accepting the ways your friends and loved ones differ from you.

Having many different types of friends does make life more interesting. A vibrant, diverse community is a blessing. At the same time, though, doesn't it sometimes leave you scratching your head, wondering "what were they thinking?"

The thing is, everyone is different. Even your best friend, who agrees with you on most topics and really understands you, will sometimes do something that leaves you sitting there mystified. That's because each person is unique, and each of us has different priorities. When people make their decisions, they're coming from their own point of view. A determining factor that you would consider obvious may not even occur to them.

When someone from another culture or generation makes a choice that you don't understand, it's easier to chalk it up to having a different upbringing. When it's a peer, though, you might have a harder time accepting that their decision works for them. Or even if it doesn't ultimately work out, it's their learning experience.

Practicing acceptance begins at home. When a situation comes up where my partner does something I wasn't expecting, or doesn't do something that I thought was self-evident, I have to stop and regroup. My expectations of someone else, even a close loved one, are purely my own business. Unless you've specifically made an agreement with someone, it's not fair to make assumptions. And even if you have, there's always room for change and renegotiation. If I'm going to consider myself a tolerant person, then I need to let it start with those I love most.

And indeed, perhaps it should even start with having tolerance for myself.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Confession Time

I am an unusual person, with an unconventional lifestyle. I'm a legally licensed Pagan priestess. I'm a vegetarian who eats mostly vegan food. I do Reiki healing. I radically unschool my kids. I dye my hair strange colors, just for fun. I have three tattoos, and want more. I practice yoga and meditation regularly. I read Tarot cards. I'm a nouveau hippie chick who has been to 10 Grateful Dead shows and seen Phish a few times. I spent my summer vacation dressing up and re-enacting life in the Middle Ages. I love barefoot hiking. I don't take any medications (prescription or over-the-counter). There are no TVs in my home. I shop at Goodwill, and enjoy it. I recycle avidly, and prefer to use Earth-friendly products whenever possible. I am (gasp) a flaming liberal.

That was not the confession. That's pretty much me, living life out there, being who I am and not caring much about the mainstream Western consumer lifestyle.

Now, it's confession time. Some of the highlights of my week are:

- Cooking food for the big Thanksgiving feast I'm hosting at my home. Granted, I'm not cooking or eating turkey, and my dishes will be vegan. But it's comfort food, nonetheless, and I'm getting my house all ready for the big day, washing the cloth napkins and tidying away the clutter.

- Seeing the opening day showing of the movie "New Moon." And I loved it! I loved the Twilight series of books, too. I think they did a terrific job capturing the books in the two movies that they've made so far. Bella's birthday is the same day as mine, and I totally get her character. Yep, I'd be a vampire girl, too.

- I make a pretty good pie crust. My Mom taught me, and I use her recipe. But today she told me her new technique, and after trying it for the first time, I'm so psyched! You just put all the ingredients in the food processor and let it do all the work. Perfect pie crust, ready to roll out! No mess, no waste, no pastry blender. Yes!

- We just watched the finale of this season of Dancing With the Stars. No, I don't have TV, but my Mom does, and we've been watching the show together for three or four seasons now. Mya is a beautiful dancer. Donny Osmond is a consummate showman. But I must confess, I really dig Kelly Osborne. Perhaps because she's a bit freaky herself? Could be.

Now you know my dirty little secrets. Hope I'm not getting too June Cleaver for you...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Life at the Home School

I stand at the counter in the kitchen, cutting up peppers and onions to sauté and add to the black and pinto beans on the stove. As I work, I’m listening to my two kids and Sash play “Dungeons and Dragons Online.” They have a PC and two laptops going, so they can each play a character and join together as an adventuring group.

They bounce ideas back and forth, each person adding their suggestions and describing what they’re noticing, in real time. There’s a lot of teasing and joking, of course, and the occasional disagreement, but ultimately each of them takes into account the other players’ ideas and the strengths and weaknesses of their characters. As a team, they work to solve the quests presented at each phase of the game. I let the conversation wash over me, my thoughts drifting back to the many other times I’ve stood in this kitchen and listened to my kids play and learn.

A lot of cooperative computer-game-playing takes place, but also board and card games, craft projects, math worksheets, imagination games, sports strategy sessions, and discussions about books, movies, history, politics, etiquette, and a multitude of other topics. Sometimes I join in, and other times I just observe, enjoying the way their minds work and the “aha!” moments when they catch on to a new way of perceiving or doing things. I’m here as a facilitator, to answer their questions or point them to resources when they ask for them.

I feel truly blessed to be spending time with my kids every day. I get to share their childhood, their education, and their unfolding as fascinating, funny, intelligent beings. Homeschooling is a choice which does involve some sacrifice: we could certainly make more money, and have more adults-only time, if we did things conventionally. But for this family, it works. I can see the results every day, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Feline Divine

I'm always telling everyone how much I love cats - and it's all true. But why do I have such an affinity for them?

When I was a very small child, my Dad helped me start a campaign. At the time, Mom didn't care for cats (though she loves them now). Dad said, "every little girl should have a cat." We soon won her over, and they took me to a neighbor's house to pick out my very own kitten. As soon as I saw Blacky looking up at me and blinking his wide eyes, that was it. I was enchanted.

What do I love about cats? Here are just a few things, among many:

- Cats are excellent sleepers and dreamers. These babies don't mess around. They shamelessly sleep as much as they want, in the most comfy spots they can find.
- They are genuine. Cats won't come when you call them, unless they feel like it. They do whatever they want to do. Cats never do things they don't want to, just to please someone else. I admire that.
- Cats are so very beautiful! I find the feline form to be the essence of grace and poise. They are the original yogis.
- I love their soft fur and snuggles and the sound of their purring. So comforting!
- Cats are healers. If you're feeling sick or sad, they'll come and curl up close to you and prepare for a nap. They send special healing vibes through their kneading paws.
- They are royalty. The ancient Egyptians knew this. Some of us have not forgotten.
- Cats are playful. Even the oldest, most dignified cat will sometimes act like a little kitten when the mood strikes them or the moon is full. They play just for the sheer joy of it.
- All cats are independent. They enjoy their human companions, but they are also just fine on their own, thank you very much.
- They love freely. Cats aren't afraid to show you how much they adore you. When they feel like it, of course.

Friday, November 20, 2009

This Is a No-Yelling Zone

Being an empath has its good points and its downsides. I’m afraid of other people’s anger. It doesn’t much matter if it’s directed at me or not – if I’m in the same space as someone who is venting their anger, I get scared. My breath becomes shorter, my stomach tenses up, and I may even start to shake. I never learned to “not take things so personally.” My answer to that has been: “how could I not? I’m a person, aren’t I?”

I don’t know of a logical reason for my fear of anger. I’ve never been abused. I don’t go around trying to provoke people or make them upset (to the contrary – I’m more likely to try and keep the peace). For my own part, I very seldom get angry. And when I do, I make an effort to work through the emotion on my own rather than becoming confrontational.

Anger seems like a particularly volatile emotion to me. If someone is feeling sad or depressed, I’ll certainly feel those vibes, too. When that happens, I feel comfortable offering them a hug or some words of sympathy. Yet, isn’t an angry person also in the throes of some intense feeling? Couldn’t they use some assistance, too? But anger seems to be made up of a wave, pushing outward, containing a strong “don’t mess with me” message.

In the chakra system, anger is related to the solar plexus chakra, which is connected to will and fire. I’ve had an ambiguous relationship with fire. It’s an element I’ve noticed to be a bit lacking in my personality. A few years ago, I was doing some introspective work and decided to “turn up” my fire. It took me a long time to recover from the repercussions. When I more strongly asserted my will, a number of people I was close to got very angry with me and the choices I was making as I changed my approach. These were some of the same folks who had previously encouraged me to acknowledge and use my power.

Perhaps the reason I’m more sensitive to anger recently is that my inner power seems to be gaining strength once again. I could be manifesting old fears of what might happen when I assert my will. I guess that’s a pattern that I need to focus on and consciously release. I feel threatened by anger; is it because I fear my own inner power? Perhaps the fact that I seldom feel strong anger means I’ve somehow been blocking it, which could in turn be the reason that my will hasn’t been as strong as I wish. Time for some further meditation. In the meantime, this is a no-yelling zone!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A General Update

Well, it finally happened. Day 9 of the blog challenge, and I'm at a loss for what to write about. Huh. I guess I'll just give a general update, for you, my loyal readers.

The kittens, Merlin and Percy, are now 10 months old. I think they're nearly full grown. They're beautiful! They like to snuggle, explore the outdoors, and they still enjoy playing. I can't tell if they miss their Uncle Mystick or not. But I sure do.

How about a goals review?

So, here are the things I decided to focus on this year:

1. Writing. This is the year to become a published author. The vegan pagan cookbook is finished, as far as content goes, and will be sent out to prospective publishers soon. BlackLion and I will be publishing our core belief kit this spring, and we also plan to finish The Book of Ing. More to come! So far, so good. I don't know if any of the books will come out this year, but I hope that we'll have an offer from a publisher by the end of the calendar year. I've certainly been doing more writing this year than before, which is cool in and of itself.

2. Yoga. I will continue to focus on and refine my daily yoga practice. I will include more meditation as well. I'd like to try new types of meditation, and attend more yoga workshops and retreats. Yoga is going very well. I've included some meditation, and I've been learning a lot from my reading about the Buddha. No workshops or retreats as yet, but I'm working on prosperity, so that will help.

3. Drumming. I will practice my drumming regularly, and perhaps take some lessons. I plan to play more gigs as well as play for friends and family. We (Feline Drummers) have played a bunch of fun gigs, with more to come! I love to drum. I had a couple of informal lessons from the Freakwitch drummer, which was fun.

4. Art. I am going to explore my creativity through various arts. One that I really enjoy is collage. I'd like to try some new forms, too. I've made several collages this year, and had fun doing them. I did explore a bit of other arts and crafts, but would still like to learn new methods.

5. I'm not sure what to call this one, though it encompasses love, joy and gratitude. I will tune in to the sacredness of everything. I am further exploring my spirituality, and having fun doing so. I will ENJOY life! This is going particularly well, especially over the past few weeks. For Samhain, I released fear and worry, and that's helped me to relax and enjoy myself more.

OK, if you're bored by this entry, I formally apologize. I'll have something more interesting to say tomorrow. Promise.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Mmm...Pasta (for a Good Cause)

Our homeschool group is called the Maine Wholeschoolers (see below for more information about who we are and what we do). On Thursday, December 3rd, we're having a Spaghetti Supper as a fundraiser. We're great cooks, and the menu will feature a delicious tomato sauce, meatballs if you want them (kept separate so we can serve vegetarians and vegans too), pasta, bread, butter, a green salad, and a delicious dessert buffet. Yum!

The Supper will be held at the West Gorham Union Church (190 Ossipee Trail/Route 25, Gorham) starting at 6pm. We'll have a couple of different seatings, so if 7pm works better for you, no problem.

The price is right: advance tickets are $6/adult, and $2/kid ages 3-12 (kids under 3 eat for free). If you buy your tickets at the door, it's $8/adult and $3/kid.

We also have raffle tickets available ($1 each, or 6 for $5). The winners will be drawn during dessert (but you don't have to be present to win). The fabulous prizes include a professional massage from LaWind Wellness, gift certificates from WholeHeart Yoga Studio and Sun Salutations Yoga Studio, paintings by local artists, toys, and much more.

As promised, more about us: Maine Wholeschoolers is a Gorham-based weekly support group for eclectic homeschooling families in southern Maine. We believe children learn best when they live full and active lives as part of a supportive culture of all ages. We’re raising money to help fund field trips, finance community service projects, provide scholarships for classes, and purchase supplies such as lab equipment and books.

If you want to attend the Spaghetti Supper, buy raffle tickets, or make a donation, please contact me. You can leave a comment here, find me on Facebook, or e-mail me at starcatdreamer at yahoo dot com. We do take Paypal! :) Please help support a great community of families!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Psst, Pass It On

I’m blessed with a vibrant community. I know many types of people who have a wide variety of interests and outlooks on life. My Facebook friends list tells the tale. Look closely and you’d see overlapping ripples of people who know each other in varying contexts.

There’s a core group of homeschool families, the Maine Wholeschoolers, who meet weekly (and often more frequently) for fun and learning. There is the wider group of homeschoolers in our geographical area of southern Maine, who stay connected by e-mail lists and share information about classes, play dates, and other events. I’m also part of an active online group of unschoolers who share an interest in alternative parenting and using the Law of Attraction in our lives.

My group of friends who were in the Unnamed Coven for several years still celebrate some of the Pagan holidays, along with getting together individually or in smaller groups. I’ve been active in the Maine Pagan community for two decades now, and I’ve met numerous people through my membership in groups and attendance at events. Some of these are the EarthTides Pagan Network, Spiral Scouts (some of whom also fit into the homeschool category), the Maine Pagan Clergy Association, Popham Beach Beltane, and more recently the Red Temple.

I’ve gotten to know several of the members of BlackLion’s Goth and SCA communities. These folks are very creative, strange and fun to hang out with. Some of them are also Pagan and/or homeschool their kids.

Add to that my family connections, their friends, and people I went to school with years ago – wow! What an amazing network of cool, creative and truly interesting beings. There are commonalities; most of them are liberal, arts-minded, progressive folks who like to read and value education. Which brings to mind yet another set of people – my former colleagues at MPBN, and the listeners and volunteers I got to know during my years working there.

As a writer, and a friend to artists, musicians, activists, actors, and others whose work involves sharing their creations with others, I see a huge potential for networking and sharing those creations (as well as information and other resources). I’m excited about the way things are going on the internet, with people connected through Facebook and similar social networking sites. Rather than the top-down method of broadcasting entertainment and information from the few to the many, do-it-yourself tools like YouTube and weblogs are enabling us to share our creativity to a wider circle, without having to wait until we get noticed by the “big” media guys.

Yes, I’d love to have my books picked up by a big publishing house and reach the New York Times best-seller list. And now I’m more empowered to work up to that by writing blog entries and articles, working with smaller publishing companies to help market my own projects, and coming up with an exciting website or e-mail newsletter that will spread virally through the appropriate niches on the internet. That’s what Mike Dooley created gradually with his “Notes from the Universe” e-mails, and his latest book hit the best-seller list practically the moment it was released.

I want to tap into that energy, and be able to share my work with those who would be most interested in it. That starts now, with you, the wonderful readers of this blog. Thanks for being here, and stay tuned!

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Red Temple

I just came home from the third meeting of a new group for Pagan women here in Maine: The Red Temple. It was started by a friend who decided to invite a diverse group of women to get together each month on the new moon. We gather for conversation, group projects, and (of course) snacks.

I love being involved in a women-only spiritual group like this! I met some wonderful new women tonight, and was delighted to catch up with a woman who had been in a 6-week class with me last spring. The meetings are set up so that you can attend when it's convenient, and there's no problem missing a meeting if that day doesn't work for you. The meeting is held on whatever day the new moon happens to fall on; I love having it based on the lunar cycle rather than an arbitrary day of the week (which might be a day when some women have ongoing commitments to another activity).

Our founder and hostess is thoughtful and kind, and she always has interesting questions to spark discussion. The women are wise and funny and willing to share themselves and their stories. Sometimes we do art projects together, or meditations, or just sit and talk (and laugh). I've learned something new at each of the meetings, and am able to share information that I've encountered on my path. One of the new women found us online as she was seeking for local Pagans, and it was cool to see her taking in the vibes.

I'm thankful to be part of this new group, and I hope it will flourish!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Original Bliss

I attended the fall meeting of the MPCA today. One of the things we talked about was the need for the leaders of groups and rituals to be responsible for the well being of all the participants. The discussion was sparked by the events at a sweat lodge in Arizona last month, where two participants died and several others were injured. We wondered how to help raise awareness of the responsibilities of clergy. I volunteered to write an article for the MPCA website; it will include a list of questions for Pagan clergy to reflect upon as they plan an event or start a new group. We’ll also, thanks to another member of the community, provide links to other useful resources.

As part of our conversation, we talked about the differences between Pagan religion and New Age spirituality. As it happens, I’ve written an article about the similarities between the two, which I’ve posted here. To me, the most obvious similarity is the impulse to explore a personal, individualized spirituality, rather than adhere to religious dogma.

In exploring the differences, though, Pagan scholar and author Michael York was cited at the meeting. He apparently (I’ve yet to read his work) divides religions into four groups: Abrahamic (Christians, Jews, Muslims, etc.), dharmic (Buddhists, Hindus, etc.), secular (which would include New Age philosophies), and Pagan. The difference between Pagans and those in the other categories, according to York, is that we don’t believe in the idea of original sin, or that there’s anything inherently wrong with creation.

That gave me some food for thought, and explains in part why I’ve long considered myself a Pagan who studies Buddhism and New Age practices (among other things). I believe that everything is as it should be. We are, of course, capable of self-improvement and aspiring to create more positive experiences for ourselves and others. But I don’t think there is anything wrong with being ourselves and living our lives on this planet/plane of existence. We don’t need to be saved from ourselves or from evil forces.

I don’t buy into the concept of “sin.” The challenges that we face and the actions we may take that we later view as “mistakes” will help us learn new lessons and become more complex beings. We humans have a natural impulse to learn and grow. We are, at the deepest levels, full of hope and joy and love. Yes, it may be buried under despair and rage and hatred. Yet even the darkest lessons, I feel, can inspire us to change, to reach out, to open ourselves to the beautiful Universe that surrounds and suffuses us. Instead of original sin, how about original bliss?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

My Creative Process

Throughout the course of any given day, I’m busily cooking up creative ideas. It happens spontaneously in the course of living my life. The ideas are often related to writing, which is my primary art form, but aren’t limited to that milieu. Some drift by, perhaps never to be recalled. The ones I find particularly cool I’ll jot down for (possible) later use. Other ideas will insist that I do something with them on the sooner side. This method of inspiration works better for me than trying to do it the other way around (deciding to write an article and then deliberately figuring out what it’ll be about).

Usually when I write a short article, essay or blog entry, it’s something I’ve started thinking about a day or so before putting pen to paper. Then I’ll sit down with an actual pen and my journal or a pad of paper, and write down what I’ve come up with so far. Sometimes I’ll start by jotting a list of things I want to include, and other times I’ll just start writing the article.

When I type the article up, that becomes the first edit. I’ll change words, correct my sentence structure, and sometimes add or cut phrases or sentences. I’ll often flesh out the examples I’m using, or paint a more colorful picture of what I’m describing.

The second edit comes when I have my writing partner, BlackLion, take a look at the article. We work well together. He’ll make suggestions, remove commas (I tend to be liberal with them, which I blame on my career in radio), and generally do a final cleanup. Then it’s pretty much ready to publish.

If I’m working on a longer article or paper, I get a bit more formal. I’ll take notes over a period of several days, then use them to create an outline. The writing might happen over a period of a few days (or at least separate sessions on the same day), and I’ll incorporate research as needed. Again, I usually like to use paper and pen first, before heading to the computer. Something about the tangible act of writing, of feeling the pen in my hand and seeing the words flow onto the paper, helps me to focus on the subject at hand.

I’ll type the article up, then walk away from it for a while. A second or third session of editing will happen before I’m ready to show it to BlackLion. And with a longer piece, I’ll often go back to it yet again after he’s made his changes and suggestions.

I feel blessed with an abundance of ideas, but sometimes the follow-through is a bit shaky. Sometimes things I write will be started but then abandoned, or at least left alone to hibernate. I write primarily non-fiction. I do have the impulse to write fiction now and then, and have started many stories and novels, but for some reason I haven’t (yet) finished any of them. When the time is right, I’m sure they will come to fruition. My poems have a mind of their own; I only write them when I feel inspired in the moment, and then I’m capturing them as a whole entity. Very little editing happens with my poetry (at least the poems worth keeping).

My creative process is a lot of fun! I love sharing ideas and thoughts with others in this form. I can see my writing improving over time, and I’m thankful to be practicing my chosen craft. My daily journal keeps me in the writing mode even when I’m not working on a particular project. My next big goal is to have a book published. Wish me luck…and skill!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Why Worry?

It seems to be part of our human nature to worry. In my opinion, it’s largely a waste of time and energy. If we’re creating more of what we focus on, then why manifest these unpleasant thoughts in our experience? However, “don’t worry, be happy” is much easier said than done.

This Samhain I decided to release my worries. How? When those thoughts arise, as they inevitably seem to do, I stop and notice that I’m worrying. That’s perhaps the most important step. Then, instead of allowing the thought to spin off into further upsetting thoughts and scary scenarios, I use mindfulness to let it go. The practice of mindfulness meditation, as I understand it, involves being fully present in the “now” and releasing any attachment to our transitory thoughts and feelings. If I’m truly present in this moment, then there is no space for “what will happen if…” daydreams. Not that I’m disparaging daydreaming in general, but most of us don’t enjoy the ones that leave our teeth clenched and brows furrowed.

One of my yoga teachers, when instructing her class in meditation, asked us to picture our thoughts as clouds floating by. When you notice one of them, she told us, simply tell it “thanks for sharing!” (which she said in an upbeat, pleasant voice) and then return to a focus on the breath.

These techniques will help you worry less, especially if you practice them when you’re already in a fairly relaxed state, like after exercising or before you go to sleep. That way, when something in your life triggers a worried state, you’ll have new tools in place to help you quickly emerge from it.

Even if you’re normally pretty calm, sometimes you’ll find yourself, for whatever reason (too much caffeine or sugar, PMS, lack of sleep), in a particularly worried mode. Worry can build up over time if you let it, and when these thoughts start to prevail, worrying becomes a habit. That’s why I decided to “kick the habit.”

What’s helped me most is realizing that there is a difference between the worried thought and my true self. I am not my thoughts, and I have no need to be attached to them. In fact, deliberately putting space between “me” and “a thought” has been quite freeing. That seemingly simple moment of recognizing the separation is key. A feeling of pressure lifts away, and I release a big sigh. Then I’m able to move on to more positive thoughts, to take joy in what I’m doing in that moment, and perhaps even to find a proactive solution to the perceived problem.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Each time someone asks Abraham a question about a relationship or job, or anything that has to do with another person's actions or beliefs, the reply is the same: the only thing you can change is your own vibration.

On one occasion, Abraham replied to a questioner about her partner, who wanted a divorce. Their answer, which did contain helpful suggestions on how the woman could change her vibration, noted something that seemed a bit cold: that the man in question was "irrelevant." They were trying to convey the idea that the woman holds her own concept of her ideal partner, and ultimately, whether her former husband chose to return to the relationship, or she found a new partner, didn’t matter. She was told to focus on becoming a self-reliant and positive individual, and then the right love interest would show up in her life.

On an abstract level, it is a lovely concept: souls that are doing their spiritual work and have found a way to let their lights shine will naturally come together and share that joy. Yet in a daily life setting, being mindful of compassion and love, how do we find our self-reliance and still be in healthy relationship with our loved ones?

I don’t care to think of my family members as “irrelevant.” They are important to me, and I care deeply about their well-being. Yet I’m learning recently about self-reliance, and discovering that I am the only one who can create my experience.

For example, in the realm of finances, I’m a stay-at-home Mom, and I’ve been relying on others to pay my expenses. This has been a recent source of stress, particularly when things don’t go as planned. So I decided to take charge of my own prosperity. Not only through physical action, such as finding paid work, although that is certainly a part of it. But also in the realm of changing my vibration and being more positive. I practice gratitude for that which I enjoy: a warm home, good food to eat, books, my laptop. I work toward feeling more abundant.

Yet in this process, I realize there is a certain reliance on others once again: namely, the people who employ me and my family members. Another layer to peel away. We can’t “count on” these sources. My thoughts continue to ripple outward, and once again, the answers I receive are abstract.

I rely on and have faith in the Universe to bring me that which I want and need. A good belief, but how does it manifest in actual practice? If the only thing we can rely on is our own individual vibration, how does that translate to daily action? We are out there on the edge, balancing on the vibration we’re creating in the moment. Surfing the waves of the Universe, as it were. Again, I like the concept, but my earthy self, used to a reality made up of tangible things (grocery shopping, electric bills, a furnace to fuel), balks at the perceived precariousness of such a position. As a friend of mine queried, “how do you make a budget when you’re in the process of creating unexpected funds from unknown sources?”

As you can probably tell, I haven’t found my own answers yet. I’m exploring the complex dance between self-reliance and living in a family and community setting. Part of it, I think, is being open to constant changes. If some money I’ve been expecting doesn’t show up, I’m learning to go with the flow rather than letting myself worry or panic. In the same way, I’m being open to unexpected resources. I want to be proactive and joyful in my exploring of options. Mike Dooley calls this “knocking on doors.” I have faith and will also take action.

I’m also practicing being actively grateful for everything I experience. I’m reading a tale of the Buddha’s life, and he was a very thankful person. He relied on offerings of food to feed himself and over 1,000 disciples. He offered his thanks at every meal. And guess what? Buddha and his monks were always well fed.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

It's All Connected

This is the first day of a new “blogging challenge” that BlackLion and I have set up for ourselves. We’ve decided to each write an entry every day. We’re already planning to redesign our website, and have an artist friend working on some cool new graphics for us. The blog challenge idea came out of a conversation and brainstorming session we had yesterday.

I’ve been looking into finding some work that I can do at home, to add to our prosperity. I’d been thinking of it as sort of “separate” from my own callings, like “oh, I can do 10 hours a week and still have time to do my own stuff.” But, after doing some research, what appealed to me most from the options I found was doing… (drum roll) freelance writing. Well, duh! And in thinking about it further, I realized that by taking that path I can have fun, make money, and practice my craft at the same time.

BlackLion and I were talking about ways to reach more people with our ideas and writings and other creations. We want to publish our books, certainly, and we’re working on that – but what else can we do? Rather than trying to fit ourselves into existing categories or niches, we decided to embrace the idea that we both enjoy the “Renaissance Man” approach to life. We have many interests and passions, so what if we use our website as a portal for…everything that appeals to us?

That way we can continue to do what we love, and disseminate it to others who might be interested. We can practice our writing by composing daily updates, share our research on our resources pages, and post pictures of our adventures. Any particular person probably won’t be interested in every item, but I think there are enough freaky folks like us (freaky in their own way, of course) to make it a fun destination.

That in turn will help create awareness about what we do and publicize our books (or CDs, workshops, and other projects). And, ultimately, it’ll help us to make a living doing what we love. It’s all connected!

Monday, November 09, 2009

It's List Time - in Fours Again

Things I'm releasing:
extra weight

Things I'm encouraging:
quiet time

Projects I'm working on:
making collage cards
finding some at-home work to increase my prosperity
putting together a Starcat's Corner book of essays
lesson plans for the Maine Wholeschoolers' English class

Things I'm sitting with:
desire for abundance
healthy eating

What I'm reading:
Home Education magazine
Old Path, White Clouds by Thich Nhat Hanh
The Wizard of Oz (aloud to the kids)
a novel my Mom's going to give me tonight

Monday, October 05, 2009


The essence of grace
And independent spirit -
Mystick will be missed.

Our dear young feline friend and companion, Mystick Quickpaw Followcat Shields, has suddenly left the Earth plane. He was born on April 8, 2006, and was killed by a car in the wee hours of Friday, October 2, 2009. Perhaps he's now frolicking with Huzzah in the green fields of the Summerlands.

Mystick was a majestic and elegant tuxedo cat who was the guardian of Whippoorwill Lane. He was the king of the barn, and adopted Aunt Peg into his immediate family. He liked to follow us when we went for walks in the woods. Mystick was an accomplished hunter, and kept the barn and grounds (mostly) free of rodents.

When Mystick came home from one of his many adventures, he always smelled really good - like pine or woodsmoke or flowers, or even chocolate chip cookies. He loved catnip, and playing with his canine friend Star. When he came in, he'd race us up the stairs to get his dinner. He had a beautiful long black tail, and expansive white whiskers. Mystick liked to have the area around his whiskers scratched, but he would let you know when he was done being petted. There are so many things I love about sweet Mystick, but the suddenness of his departure has left me at a loss for words. Instead, I'll let these pictures speak for me.