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

Friday, December 31, 2010

Starcat's Ten Best Books of 2010

As promised on the latest episode of the PawedCats Podcast, here is my list of the ten best books I read in 2010. These are my favorites out of the 57 books I read this year. Please note, these aren't necessarily books that came out in 2010, just my favorites of the ones I read. They are listed in the order I read them.

The 21-Day Consciousness Cleanse: A Breakthrough Program for Connecting With Your Soul’s Deepest Purpose by Debbie Ford

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

The Self-Aware Universe: How Consciousness Creates the Material World by Amit Goswami with Richard E. Reed and Maggie Goswami

Schooled by Gordon Korman

Conscious Dreaming: A Spiritual Path for Everyday Life by Robert Moss

Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell

Infinite Possibilities: The Art of Living Your Dreams by Mike Dooley

The Faery Reel: Tales from the Twilight Realm, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling

Woman Who Glows in the Dark: A Curandera Reveals Traditional Aztec Secrets of Physical and Spiritual Health by Elena Avila with Joy Parker

Adventures Beyond the Body: How to Experience Out-of-Body Travel by William Buhlman

Thursday, December 30, 2010

More Cake of the Month (Seconds, Anyone?)

I decided to go ahead with the Cake of the Month project. ElvenTiger gets the first cake, since her birthday is in January. She wants some kind of layer cake with chocolate and caramel. So I'm on the hunt for good recipes.

BlackLion thought I meant that I'd be creating recipes for the cakes myself, which is certainly an option. I love taking a few different recipes and altering them to make my own unique creation. And then, of course, I could publish my versions.

Today at the Christmas Tree Shop, I saw a bunch of really cool-looking cake stands at reasonable prices. I was shopping for gifts today, but at some point I may go back and get one or two, just for this project. After all, I want the cakes to look pretty when I share photos of them!

Within the next few days, I'll post my annual goals list for 2010. I'm also doing Christine Kane's Word of the Year this time, so my goals will be centered around the central theme of the word I've chosen. I won't tell you my word now (suspense!) because I want to share it when I post the goals.

If anyone has suggestions for types of cakes, leave a comment. And yes, of course I'll share the yummy results!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Our Happy Holidaze

We had a fun and very merry holiday time here at the homestead! Well, we’re still having it, really. Tomorrow we have my sister-in-law coming for an overnight visit, Wednesday is my Mom’s re-birthday, and then Friday is the huge homeschool group New Year bash.

But back on topic...we started our partying with our monthly potluck, this time transformed into a holiday potluck! The theme was "comfort food," and we had four kinds of soup, mac & cheese, bread, lots of appetizers (including a pizza dip, since my brother’s favorite comfort food is pizza), and of course, sweet treats for dessert. Which I didn’t have, since that was prior to Solstice. We had a really fun time and lots of laughs, as usual with this crew.

Then we held our 10th annual Winter Solstice Celebration! Actually, we’ve had more than ten, because we used to have them pre-kids, too, but this is the tenth one at this home. It was a sparkly fun time! We started the bonfire at sunset, and held the ritual at 6pm. We had 30 people this year, 26 of whom were there with us in sacred space, which was a delight. I loved the ritual (if I do say so myself, heh heh). It was so reverent, yet flowed smoothly and naturally. We feasted and exchanged homemade goodies and made paper snowflakes and played the Werewolf game and enjoyed the fire and played cards. And ate some more - there were so many goodies to share! And everyone was smiling and joyful and relaxed. I thought it was one of the best Solstice gatherings in recent memory.

And then most of the adults left, and the merriment continued! We had nine kids, ages 10 to 16, staying over. Not sleeping over, mind you, though two of them caught a few winks toward morning. No, this is the night we hold vigil with the Sun, staying up all night to see him reborn at dawn. I must say, for the longest night, it wasn’t all that dark – a lovely full Moon kept us company! We played a spontaneous live-action role-playing game, vampires versus werewolves. There was X-Box playing and video watching and dice-rolling preparation for the pre-planned D&D game, which started at 3am. I made more food and cleaned the kitchen while they played D&D, then had some quiet time by myself at the fire. I was joined by a few of the girls, and we had a lovely chat. At dawn, we closed the circle and everyone crashed. I slept right through both of the kid pickups! But no one seemed to mind. While we slept the day away, there were snow flurries that gave us our wished-for white Christmas.

On Christmas Eve we had a lovely quiet evening at Mom & Dad’s. We had soup and chowder and bread, and Christmas cupcakes. The movie this year was "The Polar Express," one of ElvenTiger’s favorites. Back home, we hung up our stockings and slept cozily.

Christmas morning was a super-fun flurry of gift opening and giggles and talking and playing games and our traditional breakfast of bagels and hot chocolate. BlackLion was here with us this year, and of course my parents, too. We were joined by several other relatives at noon, for more gift exchanges and lots of appetizers, followed by a delicious feast and my aunt’s terrific Death by Chocolate trifle. The evening was spent quietly with immediate family. We chatted and watched “White Christmas” and read holiday stories.

That brings us to yesterday, Boxing Day, when we went to BlackLion’s Mom’s home for a delightful feast and more gift exchanging. We had a wonderful evening there, and went home (not too far, luckily) in the beginnings of a winter blizzard. Today the world is really white and beautiful! We’ve been resting and writing and napping and reading and playing games. The cats are bored – it’s too windy and cold and wet outside, but they can’t really find anything to do inside. We gave them treats and catnip, and played with them with their new toy. Star loves her new coat, and looks adorable in it, too. The kids played outside, but Star didn't stay out with them for long - I guess she needs some doggie boots, too.

As for me, I’m feeling content with a job well done, and extremely blessed with a loving, fun, and generous family and community. You are all simply awesome! Thank you so much!

Haiku for A Winter Afternoon

White snow blows green pines.
Oak leaves hang on, shivering -
Wind after blizzard.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cake of the Month

I've been on a sugar fast, from Samhain (Halloween) to Winter Solstice. By this I mean I've been abstaining from desserts, foods and drinks with refined sugars. I've also kept my use of other sugars (honey, maple syrup, etc.) low during this time. It's something I've done before, and helps me contain my natural inclination to perhaps overindulge in sugary treats this time of year.

Usually when I do this, I crave sugar for the first 3 or 4 days, then I'm fine. That was the case this time too. Until last week. Then I had a series of dreams that were about cake, or included cake as part of the dream. Apparently cake is the dessert I'm missing most. I'm a cake snob, too - it has to be homemade.

From the dreams, I came up with an idea to make a collage of a cake on a lovely cake stand. The entire collage will be made of pieces of cake photos from various magazines (I've already collected quite a few, because I'm looking through magazines anyway, making collage cards for my family).

Today I had an idea for one of my goals for next year: I'm going to make a new cake each month. A Cake of the Month club, although instead of receiving cakes, I'll be the one making them. What do you think? I don't have to eat it all by myself. I could invite you over for fancy tea parties. I could bring a cake to Red Temple gatherings. Mmmmm, cake... Then ElvenTiger had to remind me that I wouldn't want to be making the cakes next autumn when I'm doing the sugar fast thing. Huh. Spoil sport. Heh heh heh.

Just one week left, and then...let me eat cake!

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Birthday Tribute

Today would have been the birthday of my great-aunt, Bertha Letitia Smith, known by the family at Auntie Bee or Bee-Bee. She was born in 1902, and was one of the middle children of a family of sixteen kids. She was my maternal grandfather's older sister.

In some ways, I'm like her. Auntie Bee made some unconventional choices in her life, but never pushed her opinions on others or expected their approval. She was quiet, with a lively sparkle in her eyes. She didn't mind spending time alone. She loved cats, books, cooking, and word puzzles. Auntie Bee, like me, kept a journal for most of her life.

Auntie Bee and Quester got along great. She got to meet Dryst, but she passed away shortly before ElvenTiger was born, and never knew BlackLion. She was "old" to me the entire time I knew her, one of the respected elders of our family. When I was a child, I was eager to please others and to conform, and it seemed to me that Auntie Bee was more fond of my brother. She slipped him a dollar bill almost every time we saw her, and was amused by his unique personality and funny antics.

It was as an adult that I recognized our similarity, as I forged my own path, living a non-traditional life in many ways. I can see why she was more amused by and fond of those who showed an independent streak. When she was my age, society was more restrictive, but she didn't let that slow her down. I'm inspired by her example of quiet self-sufficiency. Auntie Bee was a strong and powerful woman. I'm so thankful that I knew her. Happy Birthday!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Life Purpose Rampage

In Abraham-Hicks workshops, they take questions from people in the audience and give advice on the person's situation. Their answers are sometimes given in the form of "rampages," which are a form of positive rant, given from the perspective of the querent and intended to help lift the energies of the situation. Here is a rampage I wrote for myself. I'm sharing it because I thought you might resonate with it, and perhaps be inspired to write one for yourself. The underlying question being addressed is that of my life's purpose and how best to fulfill it.

It feels good to put my intentions out there and see them unfold. I’m hoping to be as free and open as possible to the fulfillment of my requests for prosperity. It is there, and I am here, and we flow together to meet, effortlessly and naturally. The Universe knows all about taking care of the “how it happens” part, which is often where my ego-self has gotten stuck. I think part of it is sheer curiosity – “well, how, then?” – but of course there is the letting-go part, where I let go of my old needs to be in charge of everything. I am a recovering control-freak, a recovering perfectionist. Instead, I am now an artist! I create playfully. I flow with the energies of my Source, the tides of my life. My dreams light my way.

What am I a natural at? The written word, both the writing and the reading of it. I am open to inspiration. I receive it and I transform it and present it in known and unknown ways of perceiving what unfolds in time and space. I am a being of the light. I fly forth to explore the consensual reality. I retreat to my own private dreaming, and then am reborn once again, to share what I have found. I walk the paths between the worlds. I am a witch, and my powers are to observe, to describe, and to transform. All that I see and experience are a part of me. I choose, in full awareness, this life of the imagination. I am not bound to the rules of logic or safety. My flights of fancy are essential to the world’s unfolding.

Only as I allow myself to acknowledge my power as a creator will I come awake. As I awaken, I throw off the bonds of fear and pain. I can clearly see the love that I came forth to express. I see my unique self, too large for labels and boxes. There is no need to fight against those who would enslave me. I am the one who has put myself into these too-small containers, trying to fit in and get along and succeed according to a long-outmoded definition. My power is within me. There is no failure. There is no death. I am an eternal being. I awaken, arise, and bring forth my most cherished dreams! I share my beauty with the world, and see it reflected back to me, honored, cherished, and upheld, forever! I am fully supported as I share myself and my art with the world!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Paper Arts & Crafts

I really love making things, particularly with paper. Actually, if I try my hand at crafts with any kind of thread or yarn, it's hopeless. The wonderful talents my grandmother, mom, and aunt have with sewing, knitting, quilting, and so forth seemed to have skipped me and gone directly to ElvenTiger. I think it might be because I'm part feline - I just get tangled up trying to play with the nifty strings! But that's okay. I've found my niche.

Each year I make collage cards for close family members. Here's a post I wrote last year about how I do it (with pictures). I've also begun to dabble in the more traditional type of collage-making. I've been making holiday cards with Mom this season, stamping and embossing and gluing. And although I haven't done much scrapbooking yet, every time I find myself in a craft store, I'm drawn to that section like a magnet. I love to cut paper snowflakes. Another type of paper craft I'd like to explore is origami; ElvenTiger has a kit that a friend gave her, and we're going to sit down and check it out some snowy evening.

I think one of my goals for the coming year will be about paper arts & crafts. I enjoy sharing my art, yet scrapbooking is rather personal, with pictures of one's own kids and pets and vacations. So I had a thought about making more elaborate collage pieces, sort of in a scrapbook style, but intended for display. And of course, making scrapbooks as gifts for family members. That might just be next year's holiday project...

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Temperance

The Temperance card in Tarot is about moderation and finding the balance as you travel along your life's path. It describes the merging of two opposites, such as the material and spiritual realms, into a unified whole. The figure on the card, often an angel or other guide, stands with one foot in each world, and shows us how to achieve harmony between them.

The card reminds me of the work I've been doing recently. After a very busy September and October, I purposefully set aside the time between Samhain (Halloween) and Winter Solstice as a time of introspection and contemplation. It's been going wonderfully well. I've been able to balance work with rest, socializing with solitude, and family time with work on individual projects.

The most positive work I've been doing is the expansion of my daily spiritual practices. I've added a three-page daily journal writing practice each morning, which has been helpful with my other writing work, as well as my ability to stay more centered and focused. I've also integrated some exercises from the Iron Pentacle workshop I took in early November with some techniques I've been studying in Seth and Abraham books.

All in all, I feel empowered. I'm don't feel like I'm missing out on anything by cutting back on social events, because I'm choosing carefully the ones that I really want to attend. I'm conscious of making sure the kids are getting what they need in terms of time with their friends, and helping them with their projects and pursuits. Family life is going well, and my work is progressing as planned. I think I'm onto something with this moderation thing! And I've also got plans in mind for an e-book about starting and maintaining a daily spiritual practice, so stay tuned if that intrigues you.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A New Book Wish List

Last year I posted a book wish list, just for fun. An online friend recently mentioned that her son's holiday wish list was divided into two sections, books and not-books, and that reminded me to look back at my list. I'd posted it in early December, forgotten about it, and was pleasantly surprised when my brother got me one of the books for Christmas (he's always been talented at getting me books I love, even without a list, though).

Looking back at the list, I notice that I've only read three of the twelve, though only four of them will be forwarded to this year's list. My interests are constantly shifting and changing, go figure. Well, here goes:

The Complete Artist's Way: Creativity as a Spiritual Practice by Julia Cameron

Shadowheart by Tad Williams

Guerilla Marketing on the Internet by Jay Conrad Levinson

Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb

Kissing the Limitless by T. Thorn Coyle

A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin

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

Creative Journal Writing by Stephanie Dowrick

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

The Earth Path: Grounding Your Spirit in the Rhythms of Nature by Starhawk

Pilgrims by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss (this one, I'm sad to say, won't even be coming out until March...sigh)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Week Plans

How did it get to be Thanksgiving week already?! I've been enjoying a rather quiet and introspective month, by choice, but I'm also glad for the arrival of the holiday season. I thought I'd share some of our plans and projects for this week. I just posted this blog's address on a new Unschooling group in Facebook, too, so "hi there, new readers! Welcome!"

ElvenTiger and I are still working on her room renovations. Actually, I'm procrastinating just a bit while writing this blog. I'm headed upstairs to do some more painting, soon...really. We're working on the second coat. It's a lovely rich purple. ElvenTiger is also involved with indoor soccer (none this week due to the holiday, though), knitting projects, and math. She's taking a math class through our homeschool group and seems to be enjoying it. They're doing fractions right now - I think perhaps her extensive cooking experience will help her in that regard.

Dryst is involved with a new PC game called Minecraft, which is in the beta stage, or maybe it's alpha...anyway, he and BlackLion have been having fun figuring out new strategies and techniques to use. He seems to be in the midst of another growth spurt - eating a lot and feeling a bit low-energy. Though he's working on setting up a football game in our yard, followed by a sleepover. His indoor soccer season hasn't started yet.

We're hosting Thanksgiving, as is our tradition. We'll have a slightly smaller crowd this year, which is good because it means everyone will fit around the table. My brother and his new wife and step-daughter won't be joining us, as they're headed north to see some of her family. I'll miss them, but I'm so happy that my little brother has a family of his own now. Our Thanksgiving menu features seitan and vegan gravy (my Mom makes turkey and gravy for the meat-eaters), smashed potatoes, stuffing, peas, squash, the infamous slimy onions (and another onion dish that is less slimy), homemade cranberry sauce, and oatmeal rolls. Dessert will feature four pies: apple, pumpkin, chocolate cream, and raisin, plus some fudge. Wow!

This week, in place of our usual weekly gathering, our Maine Wholeschoolers homeschool group is headed out to see the new Harry Potter movie together. I can't wait! We'll also be drawing names for our Secret Santa gifts, which we exchange at the big New Year's Eve party.

My other projects include getting our Winter Solstice invitations sent out, working on some recording for Feline Dreamers, writing, and of course cleaning the house for the big day. Busy elves! I hope your holiday is fun and full of family, friends, and delicious food. Count your blessings!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Tips for Creative Entrepreneurial Types

Over the past couple of days I've come across two great articles that appeal to my creative side.

The first one I found through a link on one of the blogs I read regularly, Blog of the Zombie Princess. She's been talking about doing "Morning Pages," and shared a link to an article written by Julia Cameron, which is part of her book "The Artist's Way." This month I've been doing a version of the morning pages that I learned from a writing teacher at Vermont Witch Camp a few years ago. I find it incredibly productive and inspiring. I'm not sure if it came from the same source, but either way it was great to read about the reasons behind it and the benefits of the practice. If this intrigues you, be sure to read the whole chapter, which is provided as a .pdf file.

The second interesting link came from my Mom, who recommended a story she saw on Good Morning America about bloggers making money by writing about their passions. That story led to a terrific article about using social media to promote your business or website. Like the Christine Kane stuff, it's very "creative person friendly," and focuses on content and connecting with people.

Enjoy! I hope you find them helpful.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Art of Interior Design

In the past, I never really paid much attention to interior design. When I was younger, all my furniture came as hand-me-downs from family members. After I had kids, although we did paint and decorate a bit when we built this house, we had to deal with childproofing and messes and spills and tons of toys everywhere. My most cherished artwork consists of pieces that friends and family have made for me, which is wonderful but doesn't make for a coordinated "look," necessarily. Over the past few years, I've admired pretty homes in magazines, and realized that I'd love to live in a color-coordinated, stylish but not trendy (a style that suits me and my family), uncluttered home.

I've encountered folks who manage it, even with kids (plus, of course, the kids are getting older now). Amy puts up pictures of her lovely house, charmingly named Mermaid House, on her website. Another homeschooling Mom I know impressed several of my friends with her beautifully designed place (though I haven't seen it yet, myself).

ElvenTiger recently decided she wanted to redecorate her room. Her grandparents had given her a gift certificate for paint on her last birthday, along with some Disney faerie appliques for the walls, and she had also received some traditional faerie "wallies" from a friend. In the process of helping her with the project, I decided that it might be time to redecorate the living area. So I've been looking at magazines, talking to friends, and trying to figure out what type of "look" would be best.

I think I'm gradually heading towards the art of interior design - although on my own terms. I'm still fond of thrift-store and used items, to lessen my impact on the environment. I don't want to get obsessed with having an "image" for our house. And cleaning isn't really my favorite thing to do with my time.

Also, when I recently spoke of my desire for a decorated home, everything in its place, Quester wrinkled his nose. "I never feel comfortable in places like that," he said. Well, I guess I'll have to be sure it's homey, too...or that there's a family room where clutter is welcome. Back to the drawing board...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Intuitive Dream Healing

I’ve been working with my dreams over the past several months. I’m keeping a dream journal and noticing how my intuition provides answers, cloaked in dream images, to the questions and challenges in my life. It’s a rewarding process. It helps me to go deeper into areas where I need to learn new tools and lessons, as well as connecting me more strongly with my creativity and spirituality.

Over the past week, I’ve noticed an interesting new dream phenomenon. After my weekend intensive workshop, I noticed one morning when I woke up that I’d been dreaming of one of the other workshop participants – I’ll call her Ella (all names are changed to protect privacy). I’ve gotten to know her better over the past year or two and have done other magickal work with her. I didn’t have a memory of us doing anything in particular in the dreams, just her presence and an echo of her name and energy. It made sense at the time – I’d been thinking of her because we’d just been in sacred space together and because I like her.

A couple of days later, I had a similar experience with another woman, who I’ll call Kelly. She’s an acquaintance of mine. We met once at a party and struck up a casual Facebook friendship based on a shared sense of humor and attitude. I hadn’t been in touch with her lately, but the echo of her name remained in my mind when I woke up. She wasn’t in any of my actual dreams, but it was as if, after each dream ended, her name arose and I re-focused on her, then went on with the next dream. It’s a bit hard to explain, but she was like a thread running through my sleep time.

Last night it happened again, this time with a colleague of mine, who I’ll call Bette. This time I knew she had been in a difficult situation, but I wasn’t particularly focused on her before I went to sleep, so it wasn’t a conscious effort. Some subconscious part of me must have wanted to help, because this time it felt more like I’d been sending her healing energy as I slept. Again, she didn’t show up in the dreams themselves, but after each sequence, her name and energy returned to my dreaming self (strongly enough so I recalled it upon waking). I think I’ve been doing some kind of spontaneous intuitive dream healing.

When I do energy work, I make sure to ask for permission before sending someone healing. I guess I can’t really do that if I’m not conscious of what I’ll be doing in advance! Though I don’t think it’s harmful, because of course their subconscious selves have to allow the energies in order to be influenced by them. In fact, I think the whole experience is kind of cool. It’s also interesting that it has happened primarily with acquaintances or colleagues, rather than close friends or family members. I wonder if I could do dream healing more purposefully, by focusing on someone (who has given their okay) before I go to sleep. I think perhaps some experimentation is in order! Anyone want to be the recipient?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Iron Pentacle, The Simpsons, and a Kiss From Michael Franti

Hello, loyal readers! I assume you're loyal, since you're still here even though I haven't written for a while. October was insanely busy. I had said "yes" to a whole bunch of (admittedly fun) social events, we still had lots of soccer games, our car situation remained...interesting, and by the end of the month, I was done. I was tired and burned out. After a car accident (Quester hurt his arm, but he's okay now) and a sudden illness in BlackLion's side of the family, we canceled most of our Halloween plans and stayed in, honoring Samhain quietly (the kids did get to go trick-or-treating with their friends, though).

The first weekend in November was set aside for a two-day workshop that BlackLion and I were very excited to attend. It had been scheduled for last fall, then spring, and for various reasons had been delayed. It was well worth the wait! The workshop is from the Reclaiming Pagan tradition, and is called the Iron Pentacle. I learned SO much about myself, discovered new tools for my path, and met some wonderful folks.

As you can tell, I love to explore my spirituality, and I often (as a Virgo) have a plan - I outline goals, next steps, and practices for myself. Yet at the end of the second day of Iron Pentacle, one of the questions we answered was "what will you take away from this workshop?" In other words, what are your next steps? And I was delighted to not have an answer. I have so many rich, deep, challenging and delightful new concepts to contemplate that I just don't know yet where they will lead me. As I'm setting aside much of the rest of November for introspection, creativity, and inner work, it's great to have so much material to focus on.

After the second day of the workshop, we went to New Hampshire with some friends to see Michael Franti and Spearhead in concert. What a perfect show to close out our magickal weekend! Their music is uplifting and positive but not syrupy. It's about real people, struggling, growing, and loving as best they can. And Michael Franti is full of energy and glows with power-from-within. Everyone in the place was up and dancing! After the show, he hung around to meet his fans. I went up front to shake his hand and thank him for the show. I said "blessed be," and he replied with a kiss on the cheek and a friendly "and you." I love how he blurs the line between performer and audience. For the final song, he invited all the young kids and adults age 60 and up to come up on stage and dance. It was a very cool experience, and next time we plan to invite Dryst and ElvenTiger to come with us.

One of the things that came from the workshop was a renewed focus on my passions. Meaning the things that I love to do, that I find exciting, that I choose to do given infinite time. So I came up with the idea of only doing the things that are a passionate "yes" to me, and transforming things that are an intrinsic part of life into things I can also be passionate about. Like, being passionate about housework because I love to have a clean house.

Yesterday, I had a half-hour before we were going to leave for my parents' for dinner. I was hungry, and the kids were sitting down to have a snack and watch the Halloween episode of The Simpsons. So I joined them. I don't watch many TV shows, and certainly wouldn't have put that particular show on the list. But the "yes" was about connecting with my kids, and sharing their passions. And sure enough, Dryst started telling me about why this show was particularly interesting, and how it included parodies of several movies, and ElvenTiger and I laughed together, and we had a fun time. I like where I am right now, and can see all the amazing things I have yet to learn.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Craving...Doing...Being (Thankful)

I got tagged by my friend at Surviving the Suburbs (simply because I read her entry, heh heh), so I figured I'd play along...

craving:
- a good book (I just need to pick one from my "to read" piles, having just finished The Faery Reel)
- having the Subaru back once again (can you say, transmission fail?)
- hot chocolate (when I'm out in the chilly air)

doing:
- attending a bunch of soccer games (I only like sports when my kids are the ones playing, though)
- recording guided meditations for Feline Dreamers
- enjoying a lot of journal writing lately

thankful for:
- my delightful family
- getting to go out dancing a couple of times lately
- sunshine

If you read, consider yourself tagged. Leave a comment with your thoughts, or post your own on your blog or website. It's like a chain letter, only easier.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Fall Photo Essay

I have so many friends who are terrific photographers that you'd think I'd be intimidated. But actually I've been inspired lately, and have been taking lots of photos. BlackLion and I decided to do our own photos for our weekly e-newsletter, Dream Journal, and that's been fun. I'm a joyful amateur. So, taking a cue from a couple of my favorite blogs, On Bradstreet and Frog Creek, here's a fall photo essay on what we've been up to lately.

Dryst and ElvenTiger have been doing fall soccer. Dryst in particular has been so involved with soccer this year...
...that he's on two teams.


We've celebrated a bunch of autumn birthdays, including Star-dog, who is now seven.

I've done some scrapbooking, with a helpful assistant.

We participated in the Maine Wholeschoolers' 4-H display (and ElvenTiger also won first prize for her cookies!).


Enjoyed our backyard...

...and the river nearby.


ElvenTiger has been working on her Halloween costume. She's going to be a Mord'Sith, from the Legend of the Seeker TV series (which is based on the Sword of Truth series of fantasy books by Terry Goodkind).


We've been hanging out with friends a lot, and took a road trip to meet some online friends in person.

 Which was a lot of fun, but I was too busy enjoying the party to take pictures, I guess. The same goes for several other gatherings recently. I guess I'm more likely to take nature photos, so here are a few examples.




This was a pink house I saw on a walk, and I just thought it was pretty with the sunlight on it.

Our friends got a new kitten, Alice.

She seems to like ElvenTiger.

And not to forget...we've been lounging around, too.


(He's tired out from reading all those books!)


Well, that's some of what we've been up to. Hope you enjoyed it!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

More Lynx

I mean, links, although of course lynx are beautiful creatures. :)

Here are links to three blog posts I've enjoyed recently. I admit that I'm being lazy by posting them rather than writing my own, but hey, so what? Life calls. Today I'm making lasagna for Quester's birthday dinner, cleaning the house, soccer practice (of course), and various other things. By the way, my sweet Subaru is ill again, so send her some healing vibes. She'll be back, after a stay at the car hospital, with a new transmission to add to her new engine.

Without further ado, I give you:

An article for those who prefer online communication to phone calls (although being there in person is still best):
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-introverts-corner/201010/the-great-phone-hang

How to be a good friend (something I totally need work on):
http://christinekane.com/blog/bff-rules-how-to-create-unbreakable-friendships-with-your-best-gal-pals/

And why we should admit we're not perfect:
http://www.danoah.com/2010/09/disease-called-perfection.html

Let me know what you think! Now back to my regularly-scheduled, imperfect, fun, and blessedly incomplete life.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Hey Unschooling Types!

I just thought you might like to know that episode 4 of our podcast, the PawedCats Podcast, has some cool unschoolish content. So....check it out!

Here's how:
http://www.felinedreamers.net/pawedcatspodcast.php

I guess I'm into sharing links today. I hope you enjoy them!

The Dish About Food...

...from Abraham.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F76uoQ8a5HQ

My favorite quotes from this: "Make friends with your food." - Abraham

"We're surprised any of you can find anything to eat. Because somebody has written a book about everything, about why you should not eat it." - Abraham

Monday, October 04, 2010

Sunday, October 03, 2010

A Quiet Sunday

"Before you speak, ask yourself: is it kind, is it true, is it necessary, does it improve upon the silence?" - Shirdi Sai Baba

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

She's Back!

No, I'm not talking about me, though it's true I haven't posted here for a while. I'm talking about my beloved and long-awaited Subaru! She has a brand-new (to her) engine and has been newly tuned up and washed and vacuumed and stickered.
So the reason I haven't posted here recently is that she has been happily driving us all around the state. We've been to soccer practice, lunch with friends, soccer games, soccer practice, a kirtan, soccer practice, a Not Back to School picnic, soccer practice, the Common Ground Fair AND the Cumberland Fair, soccer practice, various friends' houses, shopping, and oh, did I mention soccer practice? Fall is a busy time, and I'm so grateful we have our dear friend the Subaru to help us move ourselves around. Thanks!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Turning 40: A Retrospective

A year ago today, I turned 40. We celebrated with a huge party for the “1969 Club,” eight of us who all had our fortieth birthdays that year. It was an awesome bash, with nearly eighty people in attendance (and several dogs, too). I love birthdays. Today I’m having a quieter celebration, with family and chocolate cheesecake. I thought I’d write about how it went, this first year of my fourth decade.

Overall, it’s been really enjoyable. For a long time, each year has been better than the last. I’m a late bloomer who was an awkward teen and young adult (no high school nostalgia for me, yuck), and I really enjoy getting older and coming into my own. I’ve had some big challenges this year and much transformation. I’ve learned a lot about myself. Here are some details of what’s been going on.

1. The unveiling of Feline Dreamers. With the release of our new website last month, I’ve experienced positive uplifting feelings as I release my creativity into the world. BlackLion and I had been working on Feline Dreamers for a long time and coming up with lots of exciting ideas. Now we’ve put many of them into place and are on track to add even more Offerings and Wares to the site. The feedback we’re getting is overwhelmingly positive. We’re writing new material nearly every day. It feels terrific.

2. I climbed Mt. Katahdin. I’m not a serious hiker, but I do enjoy climbing mountains around Maine and other parts of New England. This summer, my daughter, sister-in-law, and I climbed the highest mountain in Maine. I’m proud of myself for accomplishing it and for feeling physically strong and fit when I did so.

3. I’m learning to follow my intuition. Someone wrote that our 40s is when women learn not to worry so much about other peoples’ opinions. That’s been a hard one for me throughout my adult life. I like to please people, to keep everyone happy, to soothe and play the diplomat and the hostess. I’ve learned that it’s truly not my job. I’m here to learn and grow and follow my own inclinations. Yes, harmony is positive – and it begins within.

4. My familiar died. Last October, my cat companion Mystick Quickpaw was hit by a car and killed. I miss him so much. We welcomed two sweet cat brothers into the family a few months earlier and they have been a comfort and a blessing. I still think of Mystick every day and wish he was with us physically.

5. I’ve refined my teaching skills. I was excited to student-teach the Elements of Magick class this spring. It went well. I’ve also been teaching and working with some of the homeschooled kids in my community. I’ve learned some interesting stuff over my lifetime and it’s fun to share it. And as always, I think the teacher learns as much as the students, if not more.

6. I’m learning to let go of old patterns and the need for control. The arena for this has been primarily finances. We faced some serious financial issues this year as a family. My reaction to these problems is the key to solving them. You can’t come up with creative solutions when you’re stuck in old ruts. I’ve learned to adjust my own attitude first and then take action from a more balanced and centered space.

7. I lost a dear friend. A close friend of many years, who I thought would be around for the long haul, is no longer in my life. I’m still not sure exactly why, although I think my focus on number three on this list plays a part. Some other friends I thought I was close to have pulled back this year, too, to a lesser extent. I’ve been more inward-focused, which probably has affected the attention I’ve given to my friendships (though the part of me that hasn’t fully learned about my third list item wonders if I’ve simply become annoying). That said, the next list item is about friendship in a positive context…

8. I’ve discovered, and helped create, new spiritual community. I’m part of an Elements Study Group, originally conceived of as a year-long project to explore the elements in depth. The group is rich in wisdom, laughter, and connection. It looks like it will continue beyond the original timeframe and I’m glad. I’ve also been involved in the Red Temple, a new Pagan women’s group, for the past year. It’s been a joy gathering each new moon to share our experiences. Lately I’ve joined in Pagan pub moots and fireside gatherings. Hmm, perhaps my friendships are simply evolving along with my spirituality.

9. I’ve revitalized my dream work. I’ve always dreamed vividly and I have kept a sporadic dream journal for years, recording dreams that are particularly significant. Over the past few months, after reading an excellent book on working with dreams, I’ve rededicated myself to capturing and studying my dreams. It’s proven to be a rich source of wisdom and advice for my daily life and spirituality.

10. I’ve enjoyed my home and family. Because my car was off the road until just recently, I stayed home more this year. I have such an amazing and wonderful family and we live in a cozy home in the lovely Maine countryside. The kids and I have settled into our unschooling life together. My extended family has helped me with love, support, and transportation, and I’m very thankful. I am truly blessed.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

I'm Unlearning

“At the level of the soul, we know everything we need to know. For some reason, we have to experience physical lifetimes to learn in a different way. This is the only place where we have physical bodies and emotions. Our task here is to become more Godlike, to recognize the divine and spiritual nature of our soul. To do that, we need to unlearn rather than learn. When we unlearn fear, violence, greed, ego, and power, then kindness, joy, love, and spiritual wisdom are all there.” – Brian Weiss

Friday, September 03, 2010

Life in Harmony with the Seasons

One of the many things I like about homeschooling is the ability to be flexible with the family’s schedule. Granted, there are events that happen at certain times, like sports practices and community classes. But in general, our unschooling lifestyle allows us to live in harmony with the seasons.



This week we had a late-summer heat wave here in southern Maine. While most kids were putting on their fall clothes and boarding the school bus, we spent three days at the lake (one as a family, and two at a friend’s camp with the Maine Wholeschoolers). Yep, three days of swimming, playing Frisbee, having cookouts, laughing with friends, pushing each other off the float, sharing games, sitting by the fire at night, playing ball, and reading. It was fun and relaxing. One of the other parents commented to me, as we watched 13 kids (ranging in age from 10 to 16) happily horsing around in the lake, screeching with laughter, “it’s a shame that homeschool kids have such problems with socialization.”

Although September has arrived, it was still summer: blazing sun, temperatures in the 90s, refreshing breezes that played along the water’s surface told us so quite clearly. Rather than spending the best part of the day in a hot stuffy classroom (two of our schooled friends complained about the lack of air conditioning in their respective schools), we were out there enjoying ourselves. We’re living by the natural cycles of the earth, not by pages on a calendar. Even so, there will be plenty of time for us to achieve our academic goals. The cold and rainy days of November will find us reading aloud as a family, figuring out math problems, and conducting group chemistry experiments. And guess what – we’ll be enjoying ourselves then, too.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Elements, Part 2: Air

The element of Air swirls around us, unseen but essential to life. Air’s direction is East and its time is spring and dawn. Air's colors are light and peaceful: sky blue, pale yellow, and pure white. Air's essence is expressed by capricious winds, the flight of birds, and music of all types.

We need Air to exist. We can live for a time without sunlight or food or even water, but when we cease breathing for mere moments, that is the end of this lifetime. The physical process of breathing is complex, yet we do it all the time, unconsciously. Deliberate focus on the breath is an ideal way to calm our thoughts and emotions when we are in turmoil. Air brings us back to center.

Communication is an integral part of our relationship with Air. We can only see Air as it interacts with the other elements: we observe the smoke rising from a campfire, the clouds as they travel through the sky, the rippling leaves on the trees as wind moves past. Air can be tricky – when we express our thoughts and ideas, that which seems perfectly clear to us can be confusing or even hurtful to those receiving our message. We can use the power of Air to see through the illusions created by the mind.

Air brings new beginnings. Change is a constant part of our lives. We long for growth and progress, yet at times we resist it. Air brings us a reminder of how fresh and exciting a new phase of life can be. When we allow new ideas to breeze through our minds, we are cleansed and refreshed.

The tool of Air is the athame. This sacred knife slices through old energies, cuts away that which is no longer needed, and defines our boundaries. We hone our thoughts to a pointed focus, take a deep breath, and move into action. Air is our constant companion, from the first inspiration at birth until we expire and meet our death.

Tool of the Oracle: Your True Nature

I'm going to play one of those "blog meme" games, which I found here. Why? Because it sounded like fun.

So, here's the deal:

Instructions:

1. Delve into your blog archive.
2. Find your 23rd post.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.


Mine, found in this post, is: "I hung out and danced to their music." Interestingly, I think it does speak to my true nature.

Hmm, perhaps it's time to go dancing again soon...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Show Your Unschool Spirit

BlackLion and I came up with a new idea for a collective, called Unschool Spirit. As we've been busily spreading the word about Feline Dreamers, we noticed that a lot of the folks who are really interested in it are also unschooling parents. We wrote up some ideas and have been sharing them with an online friend who happens to be a well-known and beautifully-spoken advocate of radical unschooling. She's excited about the idea too, and we'll have more to share soon.

In the meantime, here's an excerpt from our write-up:


Unschool Spirit is the idea that as we unschool our children, encouraging them to be themselves by learning and growing in an environment of love and freedom, we can also learn to live this way ourselves. As we pursue the delicate and intense work of raising children in a respectful, partnership-oriented model, we find ourselves diving deeper into our own mysteries, exploring who we really are. By growing and expanding with our children, we become wholly ourselves.

By creating a community and framework to grow in, we gain valuable wisdom. We can share our own ways of spirituality in a safe and comfortable environment, garnering new insights and spreading the ideas of freedom, joy, happiness, and peace. Without limitations, fully conscious of our spiritual selves, together we create a world that we want for our children and ourselves.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mountain Time

Last month, I went with my sister-in-law and daughter on a backpacking trip to Baxter State Park. I was born in Maine and have lived here my whole life, but I'd never been to Baxter before. It was amazing! Mt. Katahdin is the tallest mountain in Maine and there are many Native American legends about the area. Along with the beautiful panoramic views, I enjoyed the powerful energies emanating from the land.

We hiked up South Turner Mountain the first day and saw a moose enjoying lunch in a pond along the way. The next day we backpacked the 3.3 miles into the Chimney Pond campsite and then did another short hike in the afternoon. On Thursday, when we were planning to hike to the top, it was too rainy, so we just did a couple of shorter hikes below the treeline. Friday we got up early and hiked up Cathedral Trail, a very steep climb that involved lots of shimmying up over rocks. ElvenTiger loved it! The views were astounding. When we were near the top, although there wasn't much wind (surprisingly), we could feel the sensation when we entered a cooler layer of air. 

Above is a picture of us at the summit. When we got there, we met two Appalachian Trail through-hikers, just completing their 2,000+ mile trek. One of them appeared to be in his 60s. Inspiring! We hiked back to the campsite and then put on our backpacks and headed back out. It made for a long day and the swim in the pond at the bottom was lovely and refreshing.

One of my favorite hikes of our trip was the Pamola Caves. There was a trail that wound in and around all these huge fallen slabs of rock that had created caves. A spring up above the caves allowed water to trickle down in and around them, refreshing us on a warm afternoon. The energy of the place was magickal and empowering. I felt the spirits of the land very strongly. On the way back down, I found out that Pamola is a Native American deity. I thanked him for making himself known to me that day.

The trip was fun and challenging and powerful. I will definitely go back again. ElvenTiger and I want to have time to hike the Knife's Edge next time!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Food Labels

Last week Dryst and I went to a BBQ sponsored by his soccer league. We knew the menu involved hot dogs and hamburgers and had been asked to bring a bag of chips to contribute. When it was time to eat, I filled my plate with green salad, a bit of pasta salad, Sun chips, and some fresh fruit. I grabbed a bottle of water and sat down on the grass to eat. While I was enjoying my simple meal, I had a realization.

I've been a vegetarian for many years now and both my kids were raised that way from birth. They've each maybe tried fish once or twice, and that's it. But a few years ago, I would have felt unfairly ignored at such an event. My friends and I would have, faced with a similar situation, brought some veggie burgers and asked the guys at the grill to prepare them for us or at least packed some food in a cooler that we could have. I was pleased to realize that, instead of making a fuss, I could easily meet my own needs at such an event, enjoying a simple salad and fresh fruits.

Rather than labeling ourselves, which is a human tendency, I think it may work better to simply eat what appeals to us. Our food needs evolve as we grow and change throughout our lives. There are many people in my life who have recently made big adjustments to their eating habits: a family who ate primarily vegetarian or vegan for years recently added local meats to their diet; my Dad changed his entire way of eating after a heart attack two years ago; and a woman now craves (and enjoys) eggs after not being able to tolerate them for years of vegetarian eating. After a recent illness, I've re-introduced yogurt to my primarily-vegan diet (see, there's that label thing again!), and it's working well for me.

I think when we limit ourselves to a label based on what we eat, while the shorthand is sometimes helpful, we can put ourselves in a box where some foods are "bad" and some are "good." I personally have no plans to eat meat (because it doesn't appeal to me at all), but the addition of some yogurt or butter to what I eat doesn't mean I'm a "bad vegan." I eat what my body asks for and, like everyone, that changes and shifts over time.

And with this relaxed self-definition, I feel more comfortable allowing myself to eat what feels right, without worrying what anyone else thinks about it. It feels great! Why stop at food labels? Maybe there are other self-designed boxes I can simply step outside...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Taking Health for Granted

Several years ago, my Mom was in a severe car accident. She was in the hospital, mostly in intensive care, for two months, followed by two more months in rehab, and some follow-up surgery a year later. As a result, she still has some trouble with her right hip and leg, and uses a cane.

This summer I went with my parents to visit a cemetery where one of our ancestors (who died around 1712) is buried. I use the term "cemetery" loosely - it is actually a burial ground on what was the family land, now privately owned and undeveloped. My parents have been working on our family genealogy for years, but they hadn't yet visited this site.

It involved a trek into the woods with two women from the local historical society who knew where the gravestones were. The entire walk to the cemetery was about half a mile, which to me seemed like a short stroll. But because of the uneven terrain, Mom had to pause frequently to rest and I could tell it was a strain for her.

After we had checked out the stones and taken lots of pictures, and after Mom took a rest on a stump, we started to head back. We realized that we'd been walking down a long gradual slope, so the journey back to the cars was uphill. Mom had an even bigger struggle getting back and was relieved when she could sit down. She took a pain pill and admitted she hadn't been sure at times if she could make it back! Yet before the medicine could even kick in, she was saying how excited she was to have seen the grave site, and how glad she was that she had come!

It was an "aha!" moment for me. I realized how much I take my mobility for granted and I made sure to express my gratitude for it. You see, I'm blessed to be very healthy the vast majority of the time. I don't take any medications, I eat healthy foods prepared from scratch, and I get plenty of exercise. I've avoided injuries and don't have any chronic conditions. And I'm thankful.

Even more so when things don't go as planned. Just recently I've been facing some health issues (let's just say female plumbing problems and leave it at that). I had to take antibiotics, which for various reasons I don't like to do, and I've felt really...well, ill. This situation has brought me a greater-than-usual dose of compassion for those who struggle with health issues and even more gratitude that I'm usually feeling quite well. As my condition has gradually improved, I've resolved to not only stay healthy, but to stay grateful as well.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

I'm That Mom, Too

I came back from the backpacking trip (which was amazing, by the way - more soon) and, after resting and doing tons of laundry, started getting caught up on the blogs I read regularly. And I found that several of my unschooling favorites were taking part in a "blog carnival," called "I'm That Mom." It was started on this blog, inspired by a post on this blog (neither of which I knew about before, but I may have to check them out - the titles alone are intriguing!). If you want to read some of the other "I'm That Mom" posts, look at the comments on the blogs above and start clicking on names. Anyway, here's my contribution...

I'm that Mom who always says yes to impromptu requests for sleepovers, unless there's something important on the calendar that would prevent it - even if it annoys the other Moms that I'm so quick to agree. At this age, my kids are all about being with friends, and I enjoy providing space for them to hang out and play. I work to help make things happen that they are excited about: going swimming, playing sports, buying a new video game, learning a new art.

I'm that Mom who trusts the process of her kids' education, of their lives and interests. Yes, I make suggestions, but I try not to push things on them that they aren't interested in. I trust that they are learning what they want to learn, not what I wish they would. I'm that Mom who encourages kids to be themselves, and to play and explore as much as they wish.

I'm that Mom who is gradually helping our family give up on arbitrary limits. Who am I to tell them when (or how long) to sleep, what to eat, or how much time to spend on one of their passions? I would much rather they discover those things on their own, with me here to advise them when they ask. Many of us in my generation have had to work hard to unlearn our ingrained desire to "be like everyone else," to conform and please others and get along. The reason I like unschooling (as a lifestyle, not just an academic choice) is because it encourages individuality and the gradual discovery of who we are. I am here as a companion and facilitator for my kids, not as their boss or taskmaster.

I'm that Mom who cringes a bit when others criticize or express doubts about her family's way of being, yet doesn't let that get in the way of following this unconventional path. I'm the Mom who purposefully lets go of the negative energies spawned by arguments or misunderstandings. I am learning to just be, in this moment, letting the joy of my life and my kids' lives unfold in ways that are eternally fascinating, whether they involve writing a paper, playing X-Box, or simply sitting in the yard and watching the clouds.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Rites of Passage

My brother, who is in his 30's, just got married. The whole family is very excited for him, both because we had hoped he would find true love and because his new wife is so sweet and wonderful! She also has a daughter who's 19 and it was so touching they included her in the ceremony. Here's a snapshot of the bride and groom, plus my brother's new step-daughter, with me clapping in the background.


The wedding was held here on the family land, and everyone came together to help out. We planned and schemed and cooked and decorated and had a wonderful time. Two of my wonderful friends and their kids came and helped prepare and serve the food. The wedding cake was made and decorated by a hand-picked team of chefs: Mom, Aunt Peg, BlackLion, ElvenTiger, and I. The bride planned a lovely black-and-white theme, with delightful decorations. Of course, the weather was made to order. And the wedding turned out just perfect!

I was honored to be the officiant. Although I've been licensed clergy since 2006, this was the first wedding I've performed. And to have it be such a special one! I had goosebumps during the ceremony (though I managed not to cry - I wanted my voice to be clear for the whole thing).

And now that everything is all cleaned up and put away from the wedding, there's another adventure starting tomorrow! ElvenTiger and I are headed off on a backpacking trip with her Aunt Molly (my sister-in-law). The last time we did a girls-only backpacking trip, I was pregnant with ElvenTiger! So it's a rite of passage for her. She'll have to carry her own pack this time.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Starcat's Top 13 Spirituality Booklist

As most of you know, I'm an avid reader and self-described bookworm. I love books of many types. But once in a while, a book comes along that just totally sweeps me off my feet. I am reading one right now (see number 13 on the list below), and it sparked the idea for this post.

The category for this list is books that have profoundly affected and influenced my spirituality. Normally I don't re-read very often (too many books, too little time), but several of these are exceptions. These books are kept near for handy reference (when they are not lent out) and are often purchased in multiple copies to give as gifts. I very highly recommend all of them.

Without further ado, here's the list. They are listed in reverse chronological order (from the one I'm reading now to the one I first read, as best as I can recall).

13. Conscious Dreaming: A Spiritual Path for Everyday Life by Robert Moss (Crown Trade Paperbacks, 1996). ElvenTiger found this for me at a recent library book sale. It has rekindled my passion for working with my dreams, which have long been a very rich creative source in my life and spirituality.

12. Old Path White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha by Thich Nhat Hanh (Parallax Press, 1991). A friend gave me this book for my 40th birthday last fall. I consider myself a Pagan, yet Buddhist spirituality is a strong influence in my life and practices. This beautifully-written tale provides much food for contemplation. I've read a few other books by the same author and they have all been of highest quality.

11. The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche (HarperOne, 1994). While I personally feel that the afterlife appears differently to each person based on their expectations and beliefs, this book has tons of useful and thought-provoking information. I especially enjoyed the sections on meditation.

10. Evolutionary Witchcraft by T. Thorn Coyle (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2004). At at time when I was experimenting with my energy system in new and fiery ways, this book cracked me open even further. The exercises are worth doing.

9. Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia by Rob Brezsny (Frog, Ltd., 2005). I am still working through this book, four years after I bought it. The exercises and writing assignments help keep me focused on the playful side of self-development and change. Brezsny is brilliant and is influencing our culture in wonderfully insidious ways.

8. The Twelve Wild Swans by Starhawk and Hilary Valentine (HarperSanFrancisco, 2000). Another workbook-style text, this one based on an old faery tale. Starhawk is one of my favorite authors and this is my second-favorite of her books (see below).

7. Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom by John O'Donohue (HarperCollins, 1998). This one is a gem. It's an intricate weaving of myth, wisdom, philosophy, poetry and connection. It feeds my Celtic soul.

6. Fire In the Head: Shamanism and the Celtic Spirit by Tom Cowan (HarperSanFrancisco, 1993). Early in my study of spirituality, a Native American author advised readers to seek out the magick of their own blood ancestry rather than co-opting native teachings. This book is a lovely text about the shamanic practices of my Celtic ancestors.

5. The Fifth Sacred Thing by Starhawk (Bantam Books, 1993). Before I read this work of fiction, I had read several of Starhawk's non-fiction offerings and loved them. This novel allowed me to vividly see and feel what she was talking about. This is my all-time favorite of Starhawk's writings.

4. The "Unknown" Reality: A Seth Book by Jane Roberts (Prentice-Hall, 1977). The Seth books and philosophies are probably the biggest influence on my spirituality. I devoured all of them, making extensive notes and practicing the exercises. I picked this one (which is presented in two volumes) for this list, but they are all top-notch.

3. Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins (Bantam Books, 1984). A fun and rollicking ride through crazy worlds full of myth, magick, and serendipity. I resonate with this way of experiencing reality.

2. The Temple of My Familiar by Alice Walker (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1989). She's another of my top favorite authors and this book weaves in many elements of my philosophy of life. And, there are big cats.

1. In the Shadow of the Shaman by Amber Wolfe (Llewellyn, 1989). This was the first Pagan book I ever read and it helped to set me on the very fulfilling spiritual path that I'm still walking today. It's also a great reference to use when creating rituals and celebrations.

If you have life-changing books you'd like to recommend, please comment here!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Full Moon Magick

Last night we participated in a global cleansing ritual, thanks to my friend Aurora over at Wiccan Life. She wrote and posted a ritual to help heal the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Since I don't currently have the resources to donate money to help with the cleanup, or go there and volunteer myself, I thought this would be a good way to get involved. BlackLion and the kids joined me in this lovely Full Moon magick.

Here's a picture of the altar we set up:

ElvenTiger cast the circle by blowing bubbles around the perimeter of our space. We mostly stuck to the ritual as written, although we did add some drumming during the energy-raising part.

After we were done, we went outside and frolicked under the moon's lovely light. The clouds parted enough to see the orangey moon, and it was so warm and gorgeous out! We saw fireflies, and bats, and heard the frogs singing. Earlier in the evening, ElvenTiger and I had gone out to blow bubbles for the cats, who were relaxing under a big fir tree, where they like to hide and watch the birds.

We had also hosted a family potluck, which was a lot of fun! One of the attendees brought the bubble stuff. The theme was International Cuisine, and we got to sample all kinds of delicious foods. We made two Indian entrees, chana masala and samosa curry, and also a big batch of fresh salsa. There were Italian drinks and appetizers, Caribbean punch, taco salad, smoked Swiss cheese and French bread, lots of fruit, and more. Dessert was tiramisu and Mexican chocolate cake. Yum!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Self-Discipline

I go back and forth with self-discipline. It's a good thing to have, I think, and yet if I go too heavy on myself, there's a part of me that rebels. I think what I've settled on is a flexible mental list of things I'd like to accomplish each day. The list includes yoga, other forms of exercise, healthy eating, my daily Tarot reading, housework, writing, and the like. But if I don't get to all of it in one particular day, no big deal.

Dryst has been playing a lot of X-Box since he first got one, nearly six months ago. At times he's mentioned that he thought he was getting too much "screen time," though he does love playing online with friends (some who are friends he already knows, and others he's met online). Over the past few weeks, he's been playing lacrosse, and he decided he wanted to scale back on some of his academic pursuits during the lacrosse season. That made sense to me, and since our unschooling goes on year-round, it's not like we have to pack a certain amount of math and writing into a set schedule.

Today Dryst went to work with his Dad, doing some landscaping and running errands for the landscaping business. When he got home, he took care of some chores around the house, then came up to me and said proudly "Mom, I did great on my first day of not playing video games until after 5pm." This was the first I'd heard of it. "Cool," I said, "is this something you just decided on?" "Yep. I'm going to do that every day unless it's raining or I don't feel well or something." "Well, since you're done with lacrosse, let me know if you want to sit down for some studying in the afternoons again." "OK, sounds good."

That was it. Nothing imposed from external sources. No coercion. No guilt. Just a bit of self-inspired, self-motivated...self-discipline. I love this child-led education stuff.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Field Tripping

Later this week we're headed to a local amusement park for a day of exploring physics. We'll find out how the rides work, and also have a great time experiencing them. That's right, a field trip which combines fun with learning. It happens all the time. Instead of packing a bunch of kids the same age onto a bus with one or two adults who end up trying to keep them calm and all accounted for, we head off as a family, sometimes with other homeschoolers, to enjoy learning about some aspect of the world. These field trips can be formal events or informal jaunts that turn into learning adventures.

In fact, when you homeschool, a trip to the credit union or chiropractor can be a field trip in itself. It would seem that this would be more true for the younger kids, who are still learning about the basic setup of their world. But with older kids, the things we encounter as we move through life can spark wide-ranging conversations. These discussions lead to more learning, as we research new topics and share our opinions on current events.

What kind of field trips do we enjoy? Over the past few months (within the traditional "school year"), we've explored archaeology at a local university, talked with a web designer about the process of setting up a new website, seen several plays (and in one case, gone backstage to find out about the special effects), learned about the benefits of raw foods, voted in the fall election, volunteered at a community art fair, visited the planetarium, gone hiking, picked out our CSA veggies at a local farm, shopped for supplies for art projects at various craft stores, gone skiing and sledding, learned about investing, taken many nature walks, and more.

Even though it's called "homeschooling," there's no need to limit our learning to the things we do at home. The whole world is our classroom, and we have the time to enjoy it whenever we like. As the kids get older, I'm sure the list will grow. We'll add internships, jobs, more volunteering, visiting colleges, and who knows what else. I'll just have to wait and see where our interests take us...

Saturday, June 05, 2010

"The Beast"

Here is a brief horror-comedy film the kids made recently with their friends. They want to make more movies, with better lighting and audio, in the near future. So stay tuned!

The link is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0YF-gYHQwQ

Or you can also go to YouTube and search for "Maine Wholeschoolers" (that's the name of our homeschool group). We plan to ask our other friends to post some earlier films they made for the Midyear Review. There's one that features zombies and is hilarious.

Enjoy!

Friday, June 04, 2010

Feels Like Summer

It feels like summer out there! Although it won't be official until Monday the 21st, the Earth is green and flowers are blossoming everywhere. I love summer. The warm weather is so delightful. This is a great year for birds. I can hear their beautiful songs everywhere, and we've seen lots of cardinals and blue birds, and even heard catbirds and a whippoorwill.

Here's a taste of what the family has been up to lately: reading the last Harry Potter book, playing with friends, doing some gardening, camping in the backyard, making movies, having fires in the fire pit, drumming and dancing, learning card games (like Whist and Pig), working on our new business, watching "My Name is Earl," learning about quantum jumping, taking walks, and cooking out (the veggie kabobs were awesome!).

We haven't been to the beach yet (since Beltane on the Beach, anyway) but I'm sure we'll get there soon.

We're looking forward to: a "physics of Funtown" field trip next week, when we get to explore how the rides work at our local amusement park; our Summer Solstice ritual and celebration; my brother's wedding in July; visiting the medieval world at the SCA campout; and a backpacking trip to Baxter State Park.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Lights, Camera, Action!

On Friday night, the kids had some friends here for a sleepover. ElvenTiger and her friend A. wanted to sleep in a tent in the backyard and we decided to have a fire in our fire pit. We had the ingredients for s'mores and once it started getting dark, the adults started the fire and gathered the camp chairs.

The kids had been playing together over in the softball field then they came back and sat by the fire. Dryst was lagging behind and we soon figured out he had circled around to sneak through the woods to startle us. He gradually lured the other kids out to find him and, from this game, an idea surfaced.

They got out the video camera and decided to make a short horror video to put up on YouTube. Soon they were in full production. Costumes were quickly designed (luckily we had leftover fake blood from Halloween), scenes planned, and extra lighting found. Dryst was the director and they recruited BlackLion to film the scenes (he's also helping with the editing process). I did some drumming for the soundtrack, at their request. Rehearsal was done on the fly, so there are probably more "blooper" tracks than good takes. We all laughed a lot.

I'll post the final results when the film is done. This was a spontaneous project that they were all excited about and focused on. It was inspired, planned, and carried out by the kids, with adult involvement when they asked for it, but led cooperatively by all four friends. A fun time was had by all!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Love Is Action

“I’ve heard people say that they cling to their painful thoughts because they’re afraid that without them, they wouldn’t be activists for peace. If I felt completely peaceful, they say, why would I bother taking action at all? My answer is, because that’s what love does. To think that we need sadness or outrage to motivate us to do what’s right is insane. As if the clearer and happier you get, the less kind you become. As if when someone finds freedom, she just sits around all day with drool running down her chin. My experience is the opposite. Love is action. It’s clear, it’s kind, it’s effortless, and it’s irresistible.” – Byron Katie

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Quantum Metaphysics

Quester came up with a saying that he wants to have made into a bumper sticker: “Now that science has proven that magick works, I’d like an apology.” The particular science he refers to here is the non-linear behavior of photons in quantum mechanics. I’ve been studying the intersection between the discoveries of quantum physics and consciousness, from a spiritually-minded layperson’s perspective, for quite a few years. If you’ve ever experienced mysterious synchronicities or phenomena unexplained by conventional Newtonian physics (no matter your belief system), it might interest you to know that science is still in the process of learning how the universe actually works.

Many scientists in quantum physics and related fields describe the non-causal behavior of tiny particles, with the caveat that atomic events don’t apply on a macro level, such as in our daily lives. Just recently an experiment at the University of California showed the laws of quantum mechanics at work on an object visible to the naked eye, but this new and controversial research is an exception. There are some leading-edge rebel thinkers, though, who have opened their minds and are exploring the possible ways our non-linear experiences might be operating under quantum-type principles.

I recently finished reading a couple of books that fit in this category, both published in the 1990s. The first is The Self-Aware Universe: How Consciousness Creates the Material World by Amit Goswami, Ph.D. The author, after exploring the history of quantum physics and detailing many of its basic theories, posits a philosophy that encompasses quantum mechanics as well as classical physics. Called monistic idealism, Goswami’s proposed philosophy posits that “both the world of matter and the world of mental phenomena, such as thought, are determined by consciousness.” He goes on to detail a fascinating story of hard science woven with discoveries of mystics throughout the ages.

The other book is The Dreaming Universe: A Mind-Expanding Journey Into the Realm Where Psyche and Physics Meet by Fred Alan Wolf, Ph.D. I was first introduced to Wolf as the crazy professor who appears very entertainingly in the DVD “The Secret.” I wasn’t surprised to learn that he’s a friend of Robert Anton Wilson, another pioneer in consciousness studies. In this book, Wolf takes us on a journey of discovery that ranges from quantum mechanics to neurological experiments, sleep studies, aboriginal beliefs, and near-death experiences. His ultimate conclusions, or perhaps questions, center on the imaginal realm, which lies between conscious awareness and the world of physical matter. Materialist philosophy says that consciousness arises from matter, yet there has been no satisfactory theory about how this happens. Wolf comes up with some thought-provoking ideas about how the universe dreams itself into existence.

Both of these books begin with explanations of significant research and experiments in the field of quantum physics, written such that a non-scientist reader can grasp the implications. The authors then proceed to pose more questions than they answer (which for me is a good sign), making tentative connections between quantum principles and many aspects of human consciousness. The most interesting part for me, however, is the speculative material. Each author describes his ideas of how the universe might operate, being clear that they are just theories. There is much delicious and satisfying food for thought contained within both texts.

If you haven’t explored the world of quantum metaphysics and would like to dive in, here are some books I’d recommend to get you started:

The Dancing Wu Li Masters by Gary Zukav
The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra
The Holographic Universe by Michael Talbot

On the other hand, if you’re a fellow student of this line of thought, please suggest your favorite books in the Comments section.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Proud Mama Moments

Last weekend we attended an annual Pagan event - a Beltane ritual and celebration, held on the beach at a state park. This was the 28th year! We haven't been attending quite that long, but we've been going as a family for the past several years. There were probably about 150 people there this year.

At the beginning of the day everyone gathers in a big circle for the ritual. The leaders of the ritual cast the circle, other Pagans help by calling the quarters, and the ritual basically gets everything magickally prepared for the main event, which is dancing the maypoles. This year there were 4 maypoles, with about 10 percussionists providing the music.

As head of EarthTides, I was asked to call North, and a few of us gathered before the ritual started, to make sure that we were all on the same page. The High Priestess for the ritual, a well-known and respected witch, decided she needed a bit of a helping hand to mix the salt and water and then sprinkle it around the circle. I did what we usually do in our community, which is to ask a young person to lend their aid - I asked if the Priestess would like ElvenTiger to come up and help out. I knew ElvenTiger would be glad to, and sure enough, when I asked her, she readily agreed.

ElvenTiger has been a Pagan since birth, and has worked with a few different circles, as well as apprenticing with a local Priestess of Brigid. So of course she did a great job, and had fun, too.

My proud mama moment happened after the circle, when the High Priestess thanked me for lending her my "wonder child." She had worried that ElvenTiger (who is 11) might be uncomfortable being up in front of such a big circle, in a setting with adults and kids of all ages. But when she asked ElvenTiger about it, she said calmly "it'll be fine." And when they walked around the circle, sprinkling the blessed salt water on the participants, the Priestess lost her place. She asked ElvenTiger if she recalled where they had started, and her reply was "oh, yes! I'll tell you when we get there." ElvenTiger later told me that they had started with the person next to Dryst, so she knew her brother would be the last one they sprinkled!

I'm so happy that ElvenTiger has matured into a graceful young woman who enjoys being helpful to people of all ages, and is comfortable in many different settings. She is unafraid of being in front of others, this child who was once very shy and seemed velcroed to my hip in social situations. She is beautiful and wise and kind, and I'm so proud and lucky to be her mother in this lifetime.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Writing a Paper

As well as unschooling with my own two kids, I'm now teaching and tutoring other kids in our homeschool support group. As the kids reach middle- and high-school age, some of them have requested more formal learning, particularly the kids who are interested in attending college. The other parents and adults in the community are offering math, art, and science courses. My best subject is language arts, and sure enough, I'm the English teacher. And I love it!

As part of this process, I've been helping a couple of the older boys with their writing. Dryst has started a blog, and a young man I'm tutoring is involved in an umbrella high school and needs a boost with his writing assignments. To help them with their projects, I've written a one-page list of guidelines for writing a basic academic paper. I thought I'd share it here:

Guidelines for Writing a Basic Academic Paper

I find it interesting that I don't remember how old I was when I learned these tools. I went to public school, and I'm guessing kids start this type of formal writing around 6th or 7th grade. I don't recall for certain, and things have changed since my school years. Anyway, it doesn't matter when, or even if, our unschooled kids learn these skills. The point is that they are ready for them, and asking for them.

I know that not all of my readers homeschool, or have kids. Even so, if you're someone who isn't naturally drawn to the written word but needs to write once in a while, these guidelines may come in handy. Or perhaps your public-schooled child needs a bit of assistance with their papers. Feel free to share these guidelines as you see fit!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Renaissance Woman

You may have heard the term "Renaissance Man," applied to someone who dabbles in many different pursuits. While there is certainly something to be said for those who apply themselves to one skill and become a master at it, I am more of a "Renaissance Woman," myself. Life is fascinating, with so many different things to learn and practice. I enjoy exploring a variety of hobbies and activities.

Even in my previous career in public broadcasting, my job evolved gradually, such that I was doing many different tasks each week. Now, as a self-employed homeschooling Mom, my schedule is very flexible. On any given day, I might be working on one of my writing projects, learning about investing, doing math with Dryst, riding bikes with the family, doing an art project with ElvenTiger, gardening, reading about quantum physics...and of course there is the ever-present housework.

Of course, the challenge of pursuing this lifestyle is that of "getting things done." If I was focused exclusively on finishing my book of essays on Pagan living, it would probably be done and sent off to the publishers. But I prefer to find balance in each moment, day by day, because I've learned that the process is what's most important to me. In projects, as in life, I prefer to enjoy the journey rather than worry about the results. That doesn't mean that I don't have goals, and complete tasks. It does mean, though, that I'm focusing on being joyful no matter what I'm doing in each moment.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

On Spiritual Teachers

I am listening to an audio book that an online friend gave me, "A Thousand Names for Joy" by Byron Katie. It's awesome! She intersperses quotes from the Tao Te Ching, but this quote is actually from Katie herself:

"I don't ever see myself as a spiritual teacher. Of course, you can use me by asking me a question. I answer you. You hear what you think I say, and you set yourself free, or not. I am your projection. I am, for you, no more and no less than your story of me. You tell the story of how I am wonderful, or how I'm terrible. You see me as an enlightened being and make me into an all-knowing guru or faerie godmother. Or you see me as a Pollyanna-ish New Age flake, or simply as a good friend. You give me to you or you take me from you... I know what I am. I know what I'm not."

If you want to find out more about Byron Katie, click here. As for some thoughts on New Age practices and how they fit with my Pagan spirituality, I wrote an article about it, which you can find here.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

What We've Been Up To

It's been a busy and fun April so far! Here's an update.

On the last day of March, our homeschool group had its annual Midyear Review, which is comprised of presentations by the kids on something they've been working on this school year. Each kid chooses a topic or skill that they're excited about and shares it with the group. This year we had 14 kids presenting! It was a fun evening.





Dryst introduced the group to his new blog, Gameophyle. Check it out!



ElvenTiger performed a song she'd written, with the Feline Drummers as backup percussion.



She also wrapped up her basketball season. Her team went undefeated. Here are the first-place champions! Yay! (ElvenTiger is on the far right of the front row).



After the game, she celebrated with friends. One of her sweet best friends bought her a cake and decorated it!



Next for ElvenTiger will be travel soccer, starting this summer. She's already signed up.

Dryst has started lacrosse season, and he has a scrimmage tomorrow. He's still finishing up the indoor soccer season, too.

Math, art, and English classes are going well, as is our new 4-H club. Dryst was elected Vice President of our 4-H group. We've started watching another season of Dancing With the Stars with my Mom. We took a field trip to USM's Knap-In, put on by the anthropology students. Dryst made a flint arrow and learned to start a fire without matches.

Last week my brother gave us tickets to the "Stars on Ice" show, so we got to see Olympic figure skaters doing their routines. We went with some friends and had a wonderful time.

I've been doing a lot of yoga, writing, bike riding, contemplation, and reading. BlackLion and I are studying personal finances and investing. We're about to take a seminar called "Learn to Be Rich," presented by Robert Kiyosaki's Rich Dad Academy. And I've been jogging - yes, jogging. Dryst and I have started running together. I went to a lovely spring mini-retreat yesterday at Sun Salutations Yoga and Wellness. And I've set up my Air altar: