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

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Tools for the Transition

For various reasons, my "quiet, introspective time" between Samhain (Halloween) and the Winter Solstice wasn't as deeply quiet as I'd hoped. Don't get me wrong, I don't regret anything, and I've been learning a lot. So, since I've also been busy this week, which is normally a time for evaluating the year past and setting goals for the year to come, I'm continuing the process.

As a Virgo, I enjoy creating a plan for such things. Many times I even follow the plan, though I like to be flexible and go with the flow. I thought I'd share with you the tools I'm using for saying goodbye to 2011 and setting intentions for an amazing 2012. Here's my plan (with links where available):

1. Re-read personal journals from 2011, and look at last year's goals list.
2. Make notes and compile lists (Tarot cards I drew the most, how many books I read, what my favorite books were from 2011, successes and failures, ideas for the coming year).
3. Do "Completing 2011" worksheet by Lisa Work at Visionary Mom.
4. Complete the Year End Ritual process by Sarah Susanka (for the first time).
5. Choose a Word of the Year and do the Word of the Year worksheet by Christine Kane.
6. Continue to do the Freedom Family course by Tara Mauger. BlackLion and I are doing the course together, and we'll have more to say about it soon.
7. Write out list of goals and make vision boards.

I'll be working on this project over the next two weeks, and I'll share some of my results with you here on the blog. Enjoy your own process of transitioning into the new year and its wide-open energies!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Joy Amidst the Chaos

Hard to believe I haven't written since before Solstice. So much has happened, and I've certainly needed my mantra of "let in the light."

Our Solstice celebration was wonderful. Leading up to it, we did a lot of preparing and creating. ElvenTiger and I in particular have had lots of fun making things this holiday season. We baked peppermint chocolate cookies for a cookie swap, knitted scarves and dishcloths and a hat (the hat was her, not me), and decorated the house. Our candy-making, which BlackLion helped with, involved needhams, peanut butter cups, peppermint bark, and chocolate-dipped candy creams. We used nearly all five pounds of chocolate chips I'd ordered from the food co-op! Ocean brought luminaries, and the backyard was a beautiful garden of lights as the celebration began. ElvenTiger lit the Solstice fire at sunset, as Quester was still on his way home from work; it was her first time as official deputy fire-keeper, and she did fantastic!

It was rainy the night of the gathering, so our ritual was short and sweet, between rain showers. But for us, the whole night, sunset to sunrise, is the ritual. This Solstice was particularly slow and contemplative. The teens mostly hung out in Dryst's room together, with an occasional foray out for food and fire-gazing. Some of the younger folks hung out and we made paper snowflakes, chatted, and they played Minecraft and other computer games together. Some new friends joined us and stayed late to visit and craft with us. We had lots of fun!

The day after Solstice was mellow, as always. We slept the morning hours away, then got up and cleaned the house, munched on leftovers, and watched a holiday movie together. Friday we did a big last-minute shopping run, supporting our local music store as we purchased gifts for friends and family.

On Christmas Eve, we went to Mom and Dad's, the guys watching the Patriots football game, ElvenTiger and I helping Mom get ready for dinner that night with my brother and his wife. Aunt Peg stopped by for drinks and munchies so she could see them, since my brother and family planned to stay home on Christmas Day this year. She had to leave around 4pm to go home and finish getting ready for the open house she has each year for her friends. When my brother went out to his car just minutes later, he found Aunt Peg on the ground. She had fallen on the icy driveway and broken her leg!

She was rushed to the hospital, and we all congregated there in the ER. Our family has a bit of, ahem, a history of medical crises happening around Christmas. So we were able to joke about it; the plan for next year is to stay home and Skype each other, and my brother is getting some t-shirts printed up saying "Practice Safe Christmas." Quester, Mom, ElvenTiger and I had Christmas dinner at Amato's at 9pm (just before they closed), because we left the hospital once Aunt Peg was resting in her room, only to discover we were all ravenously hungry. Those subs tasted mighty good.

Needless to say, our Christmas was chaotic. Mom and Dad came to open gifts with us in the morning, but we were all kind of distracted. Aunt Peg had surgery at noon on Christmas Day to put a plate in her leg (the bone was rather shattered). She is the primary caregiver for her husband, who can no longer care for himself, so we created a plan for folks to take turns staying with him, including staying with him at night. Our Christmas dinner was fragmented, as we took food next door to him, and to my Dad, who went and ate and watched basketball with him. Then we rushed off to be there when Aunt Peg awoke from the surgery. Poor Mom was exhausted.

Things have calmed down a bit. We had our Christmas with BlackLion's Mom on Monday evening, and it was very relaxing and fun. She fed us a lovely feast, and after we opened gifts together we watched my favorite Christmas movie, "White Christmas." Aunt Peg comes home tomorrow, and her husband's daughter is flying in to spend a couple weeks helping them out. We'll be over there a lot, too, helping out in whatever ways we can. One of my friends offered to cook meals for them, and has been delivering all kinds of casseroles and goodies. She's so awesome!

My favorite, and a very unexpected, physical gift was a Kindle Fire, given to me by Mom and Dad! After a conversation on Thanksgiving where Dad and I were both saying we'd love to have one, and of course the side note that Dad actually wouldn't even know how to turn on a computer, I didn't think much more about it. Dad decided that he wasn't interested in getting a wireless network and learning to use technology that he'd never bothered much with before. But apparently he wanted to grant my wish to try an e-reader. And I love it! Don't fret, dear readers, I'm not giving up conventional books, by any means. But I am really enjoying the Kindle and all its cool features, and the ability to take a whole stack of books with me anywhere, in this tidy little package.

We got lots of other awesome gifts, too, including a very cool digital photo frame from BlackLion's Mom, who is an amazing photographer. She filled it with all kinds of wonderful family photos, which made it even more special! Aunt Peg had brought over her gifts earlier, and she made me an adorable kitty napkin-holder, with the names of all our kitties past and present. So sweet! I'm so thankful for all of this abundance.

I wish I had more photos of the festivities to share, but I did get the gift of a new battery for my beloved camera, so I promise to have more pictures featured in upcoming blog posts. We made a really cool Christmas cake, and I'll be putting up the final Cake of the Month post soon.

Last but certainly far from least, Merlin cat has been healing steadily and is doing well. He's become playful at times, and he does look longingly at the door once in a while, but he's made no serious attempt to slip outside. He loves having the roam of the house, and stays close by his people much of the time.

(Merlin was helping ElvenTiger check out the Kindle. Notice her living pillow - Star dog!)

Merlin will get his wires removed at the end of next week, which I'm sure will be a big relief to him.

Both of the cats' favorite things this Yuletide, even more than the yummy treats and organic catnip, are the various boxes that other gifts came in.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Keep Letting in the Light

This is the darkest time of year for those of us in the northern hemisphere, with the longest nights and shortest days. The sun is at its lowest point. This month, it's also the dark of the moon. The solar and lunar energies are at an ebb. Your energy level may mirror this, reflecting what's going on in nature. That's the paradox of this time of year - just when you feel most like hibernating and getting introspective, parties and gifts and holiday preparations demand your attention and time.

I woke early in the morning yesterday, while it was still dark. Worries and to-do lists whirled through my mind. I tossed and turned, wanting to return to sleep, but overcome by anxious thoughts. Reverting to my most basic practice, I steadied my breathing, focusing on the exhales, the inhales. My intuition spoke to me: "Just keep letting in the light," it said.

When a cat is in the dark, its pupils dilate wide enough to make use of whatever tiny speck of light is present. We can do that with the energy around us. When you wonder how you'll ever afford the holidays, let in the light. When you feel frenzied, trying to get everything done on time, let in the light. When you're missing loved ones who have passed beyond the veil, let in the light. When you're sore and tired, let in the light. When the bills pile up, let in the light.

Soon the sun will return, and the moon will begin to wax and glow again. The days will lengthen, and our energy levels will begin to rise once more. In the meantime, consider adopting this mantra, to help you remember to open up and enjoy where and who you are: just let in the light.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Taste of Freedom

We were finally able to let Merlin have free roam of the house. He still can't go outside for a few weeks, until the wires come out of his jaw, but he seems content to have more space to roam. He asked to go out once, rather politely, but was fine when we told him he had to stay inside.

He's been exploring a bit, and finding new places to nap. He and his brother did some snuggling, something they haven't done much since they were kittens. So adorable!

We're supposed to keep an eye on him and see if he seems sore or stiff, or limps at all, now that he has access to stairs. If he does seem sore, as the vet said, he goes "back in the hole for another week." I'm hoping he'll be just fine and can enjoy his greater freedom. Maybe he'll even sleep under the Christmas tree, like Percy does.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Tree is Up!

We decided on a theme this year - all of the ornaments are either homemade or handmade. Well, except for the candy canes we added, but I expect those will be eaten before too long. I love how it looks. So festive! Merry merry!

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Merlin Report

We got a good report on Merlin cat at the vet this morning! His jaw is staying in place and healing well, so no further surgery is necessary. YAY!!! We just have to check the wire, which is around his bottom teeth, to make sure it continues to stay in place. He'll get it removed in four or five weeks.

His "cage rest" (bed rest) continues for another week, then after that he can move around the house. The doc said that if he seems stiff or sore after we let him roam around the house and use the stairs, then he should go "back in the hole" for another week. Heh. He seems to be moving around better now, so I think his pelvis is healing.

He was very feisty this morning and didn't want to be in the box heading to the vet. He had this adorable mew-growl thing going on, and was poking his paws out. He didn't feel well enough to do that before, so that's a good sign too.

Thanks SO much for all the prayers, good wishes, and healing energies for our beloved feline family member! I'm so grateful and feel so blessed.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Way Energy Can Linger

I have a tale to tell on this moonlit winter night. It's a true story, and it shows how connected we can be, the mysterious nature of life, and the way energy can linger. It's about my wonderful Mom, and she has kindly given her permission for me to share the story here.

Several years ago, my Mom was in a terrible car accident, four days after Christmas. She was in intensive care for nearly two months, had many surgeries and rampant infection, and was kept in a coma for much of the first part of her hospitalization. When she recovered, she had two more months of rehab, follow-up surgery the next year, and lots of complications that she lives with to this day. She's been called a miracle by more than a few folks, doctors included.

After she recovered, she had no memory of that year's Christmas, which we were told is not uncommon for people who have been through a serious trauma. She and Dad went to see the movie "Cold Mountain" the night after Christmas, but she didn't remember, and didn't really believe us until she later found the movie ticket stub in her coat pocket. Although Mom loved coffee before her accident, she hasn't had any since - she just doesn't like it anymore, at all. Our theory is that, since she was on her way to work at the time and always had a travel mug of coffee along on her commute, the smell of the spilled coffee must have a strong negative association in her brain.

Mom has always loved Christmas. It's her favorite holiday. Last week, she called me up and offered me a puzzle to figure out: since her accident, she's noticed, there is one Christmas task that she just can't stand. She used to love decorating her tree, but now it is something she puts off, and the feeling associated with it is one of dread and sorrow. She asked me if I had any idea why. She had also asked her sister the same question. So I started thinking about it.

The theory I came up with, upon reflection, is this: when she was in intensive care, I often did errands for Dad, who pretty much lived at the hospital during that time. After the New Year had come and gone, Dad said that he needed to take the Christmas tree out of the house, as the needles were getting really dry. He asked for help with the tree trimmings. So I went to their house, alone, to take down all the ornaments and the lights. I remember the feeling of that day. We didn't know if Mom was going to live or not. Christmas is her holiday, and I felt I might never get to share it with her again. As I put the ornaments away, recalling past holidays, I was sad and crying. I packed them away carefully, apparently along with a large dose of my sadness. I think Mom has been sensing that energy, and picking up on those feelings. She and I have always been close, and are often on the same wavelength. Long before cell phones and caller ID, we always knew when the phone rang if the other one was the caller.

Aunt Peg, who had noticed Mom's reluctance to decorate the tree, independently came up with the same theory, though she didn't recall who had put the ornaments away. She just knew that Mom hadn't done it herself, and that there was a lot of fear and sadness in the family just then.

The theory feels right to all three of us. This year, after the New Year, we're all going to gather and joyfully put away the ornaments, infusing them with new positive memories. I'll bring a smudge stick along, to cleanse the leftover sad energy. Isn't it amazing how energy can linger, and how people who are connected can pick up on each others' feelings, even many years after the event?

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Being a Heart-Centered Entrepreneur

When I don't know how to do something, I study it. I've discovered in my studies of the past few years that there are many of us out here who are heart-centered entrepreneurs, creating purpose-based businesses. We want to help others, and to find ways to support ourselves and our families while doing what we're called to do. We're creative and inspired and passionate. This means finding what is known as one's "right livelihood." It also means finding new models of doing business, as the old ones just aren't a good fit for us.

But getting the word out about one's business still involves some form of the dreaded "marketing." The whole concept pushes my buttons a bit. It runs up against my long-held issues about being liked. I've released a lot of those concerns already, particularly as I entered my fourth decade a couple of years ago. Yet for some reason, selling my wares feels like a whole new level of vulnerability. I worry about upsetting my readers, my cherished audience, my "peeps." I don't want to be sales-y.

BlackLion and I are following the teachings of respected folks who teach about purpose-based business, like Christine Kane, Jonathan Mead, and Mike Dooley (we found some of Robert Kiyosaki's material interesting, but a bit too ruthless for our taste). We've been gradually working to build the trust of our readers and listeners over time, giving away lots of terrific free content, and creating products for sale that are targeted to the needs and desires of our niche audience.

Some people have told us that the economy just isn't good, that no one has extra money for luxuries like self-help kits. That may be true for some folks, and I certainly empathize, but it's not the whole story. Christine Kane herself, and many of her clients, are successfully making a living while helping uplift others so they too can live their dreams. We've learned so much from just the free material Christine Kane offers, and you can bet that when we have the spare cash, we're going to invest in her programs as well. We already have our own plans in place for how we'll continue to serve the community once our coaching services take off - a certain number of paying clients each quarter will be grouped with free and sliding-scale coaching that we'll make available. The plan is to make a good living in an ethical and caring manner.

Yet still I hesitate, which it comes to the part about asking folks to spend their money on us. It won't do any good to be well-liked if I'm out on the streets with no home in which to base my business - and those wolves seem to be getting ever closer to the door. In the survey we're doing, healing sessions are right up there in terms of valued services, yet I've had almost no response to my Reiki business. It really must be a matter of getting the word out more. If this sounds like I'm giving myself a pep talk, I am. But I'm not the only one who has these fears of self-promotion, particularly among the women I know.

I don't think Brent and I are overly pushy, and perhaps we're not even close to assertive enough. As the deadline approached for the initial discount we were giving on the 30-Day Core Belief Kit, I ramped up my courage and wrote direct e-mails to a few folks who I thought might really benefit from the kit. I was apologetic about even mentioning it, and one friend replied, "Whenever you worry about this, I hope you remember that some form of horn blowing is the only way to get the word out about this terrific resource."

I think people do understand that online contacts and social media are often used to promote small businesses. When I get free e-newsletters or read blogs, I enjoy the content, and the part where they make the sales pitch doesn't bother me. Many times I'd purchase the e-book or kit or whatever myself if I had the means. And I will, when I have the means. As Christine Kane points out, we're creating the new economy here, skipping the heartless big biz plastic products and selling to each other. Building ethical businesses, reaching out online, buying fair-trade and organic, shopping locally, and treating each other with respect. There must be room for positive marketing in this new, awakening world view.

Monday, December 05, 2011

It's Update Time

First things first - Merlin cat had his jaw repaired this morning. They are finished, and we're supposed to call back in a little while to find out when we can pick him up. Thanks SO much for all your good wishes for our sweet black kitten! Please keep the healing energies coming as he continues on his path back to full wellness.

I also wanted to update you on a new hobby of mine: knitting. My Mom and her sister are excellent at knitting (and sewing, crocheting, and many other creative arts). ElvenTiger learned how to knit when she was six (from Grammy, of course) and is co-teaching a homeschool knitting class. Me? I'd been convinced for a long time that anything involving thread, string, or yarn is beyond me. Not that I don't have my own crafty talents, mostly involving paper, pens, glue, and scissors, but I thought the gene for fiber arts had skipped me entirely. Or that my cat nature made me tend to tangle up string rather than organize it.

But ElvenTiger insisted that I keep trying, and now I must say I'm starting to enjoy knitting! I'm on my third project. I can't tell you what they are, or share any pictures, until after the holidays. But I'm merrily humming along making knitted gifts. They're not perfect, but they're made with love!

In other homesteading updates, BlackLion has been making our family's bread for the past couple of months. He has a wonderful sourdough starter that he's been nurturing, and I've gotten into the habit of buying flour rather than loaves of pre-sliced bread. His bread is far more delicious, and has less ingredients. A friend pointed out to us one day this summer that the "healthy" whole wheat bread we were buying had high-fructose corn syrup in it. Huh? That was when we got interested in making bread for the family once again.

Yesterday ElvenTiger and I made laundry detergent, something we learned at our homeschool co-op. We added some lavender essential oil to make it smell lovely. I'm very pleased with it. We were gifted with a bunch of late-season apples last week, and Quester made applesauce. Almost everyone is getting into the homesteading thing - except Dryst, who isn't much for cooking or arts and crafts. He's a teenage boy, though, so he's an enthusiastic consumer of all the foods we make! Last night we made Indian food, sort of a nav rattan korma (mixed veggies), which everyone loved. I made my own curry blend, but of course I just did it on the fly, without measuring or writing down the recipe. It figures that would be the one everyone likes best! Perhaps I can replicate it, if memory will cooperate.

The cutout cards are coming along nicely, and I've started thinking about what edible goodies I'll make for the holidays. Quester has been working on candles, and BlackLion is contemplating some cordials. Oh, and we just released a new e-book over at the Feline Dreamers site. We're feeling rather creative around here! Hope your holiday preparations are going well, too.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Making Holiday Cards

Yesterday ElvenTiger and I went to my Mom's to make holiday cards together. In the spirit of the Saturday's Artist project on the Ordinary Life Magic blog, I thought I'd share some pictures of the results. Yes, I realize it's Sunday so I'm a day late, but that's just the way I am. And the actual crafting was done on Saturday, so maybe that counts!

Mom and Aunt Peg have gathered a wonderful collection of stamps and papers and cutting tools and ink and all kinds of other terrific stuff. I'm so glad they're happy to share it with us. We were laughing about Mom needing to add on a whole new room in her house just for card-making supplies!

Here's a sampling of the cards ElvenTiger and I made together. I apologize for the not-so-good photo quality. My camera needs a new battery, and the one I was using (BlackLion's) isn't as familiar to me.

First a couple of Winter Solstice cards. I love this one, although the photo doesn't really do it justice. To get the sparkly effect, we stamped and then embossed.

For this one, we created the 8-pointed star using origami paper and a technique a new friend just taught us.

Here's a Christmas card we made using the embossing technique, stamps and some ribbon.

My Mom got a cool new jingle bell punch. I wish I had photos of some of the great cards she's been making with it! Here's a holiday card I made with it.

And finally, here's me having some fun with a more contemporary look and a snowflake punch.

Making cards is so much fun, and an awesome way to get your creativity flowing. It was especially joyful hanging out with Mom and ElvenTiger, and enjoying a yummy lunch break (make-your-own sub sandwiches, salt and vinegar Kettle chips, and sugar-free apple tart for dessert) in the middle of our day of crafting.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Survey Says...

As a Virgo, I love filling out surveys. I know, it's kind of odd. I even love those just-for-fun survey type things that get passed around on e-mail every so often. It's just about the only type of e-mail forward I'll take part in, unless I'm feeling insecure and pass one along to avoid the curse that comes with some of them. I wish they wouldn't do that. But I digress.

So imagine my excitement now that BlackLion and I have just created our first survey for Feline Dreamers, using Survey Monkey! What's even better than taking a survey? Creating one and then checking out the results!

If you're interested in personal growth and spirituality, and enjoy filling out surveys (or perhaps don't mind giving up a couple of minutes of your time to help us out), please click here. We're using the replies to craft the offerings and wares we create for you in the coming weeks and months.

Thanks! And blessings to you whether you play along or not. No curses here!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Journal Writing and Self Expression

I've been teaching a journal-writing class at our homeschool co-op. I've been a journal keeper for years and years, and have written about it a bit, but never taught a class before. It's been a lot of fun putting together the classes and exercises. I'm thinking of teaching the class for a potentially larger audience, maybe as an adult-ed offering first, to fine-tune it further, and then perhaps as an online course. The topic matter would be an easy one to do online. I could make videos and provide worksheets and readings (and a playlist for the class where we wrote to various types of music, which the girls seemed to enjoy).

It's a topic I know a lot about, and have experience with, and one that I don't really need credentials for, other than my years of hands-on practice. What do you think? Would any of you be interested in such a course? Leave a comment or drop me a line.

I'm still gaining experience as a heart-centered entrepreneur, and want to find things that will serve a need as well as help me with making a living. I really want to make this work! I have no shortage of ideas, it's just a matter of 1. finding topics that fill a need, 2. finding the people who are interested in them, and 3. making time to create them. I can handle #3 with no problem. I'm still working on the others. In the meantime, I'm letting my creative energies flow.

P.S. Thanks for all the good wishes, prayers, and energies for Merlin cat! I truly appreciate it and am very touched by the response. He is doing well today and sleeping a lot. He loves it when we cuddle him and give him Reiki. Sweet cat boy.