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

Thursday, May 31, 2012

It's Manuscript Day

Today's the day I'm finishing up my book manuscript (Starcat's Corner: Essays on Pagan Living) and submitting it to my publisher. It's my deadline, not theirs. The publisher said that whenever I get it to them, they'll start there and get rolling on putting it into production. But I know myself, and if I don't have some kind of deadline, I can procrastinate indefinitely. So I decided to finish the book in May. Which means, today being the 31st, that I'm frantically working on getting all the details straight (or I will be, once I get home to my laptop, clean the kitchen, and get dinner made).

One thing that's been surprising and rather pleasing is that, throughout the process of putting the essays together and editing them (multiple times), I still enjoy reading them. I'm proud of these little creations, and glad that they're book-worthy. I'm so much looking forward to sharing them with you! And despite the title, I'm sure that the book will appeal to a wider audience than those who consider themselves Pagan. In fact, I think anyone who is looking to deepen their personal spirituality in the midst of day-to-day life would benefit from reading it.

Of course, I'm also beyond thrilled to be on this path to fulfilling a lifelong goal! I'll soon be a published author. I'm loving it already! And believe it or not, I'm already thinking ahead to my next book, and the one after that, and...

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Honoring Creative Expressions of All Stripes

BlackLion and I have recently, through our drumming with the Dark Follies vaudeville troupe, gotten involved in the steampunk movement (click here if you'd like to learn more about what that means). We attended the Steampunk World's Fair in New Jersey last weekend, and had such a fun time! If you link up with me on Facebook, you can see my photo album. The costumes are so creative and fantastical that I could have sat in one place, just people-watching!

Not only did we enjoy performing and hanging out with the troupe, we also got to connect with some unschooling friends.When we returned from the trip, I was looking through Facebook at the pictures other people had posted. My friend Dayna, who was there because of her son's passion for all things steampunk, had posted a picture of him in his costume, which included a replica of a flintlock gun. I noticed there were a lot of comments, and started to read them. I was amazed to find that a couple of people were objecting to seeing a young teenager in a "warlike" costume, and even offended that she would "let" him be part of this type of event. They seemed truly offended by the photo.

Why was I so astonished? I'd attended the full three days of the festival, and despite the presence of weapons as part of some of the costumes, I'd seen nothing at all to indicate violence or conflict. The vast majority of the folks at the festival were polite and jovial. Everyone seemed to be enjoying the shows and vendors, and although alcohol was being served and consumed, I never witnessed any fights or altercations. The festival attendees were there to have fun, show off their creations, and connect with others.

I'm a very peaceful and non-violent person, and it never occurred to me to look askance at the stories that were being spun as part of the steampunk genre. ElvenTiger and Dayna's son hung out together at the festival, and part of their play was having mock battles. In fact, when we were getting ready to leave, they said farewell by staging a "big final battle," which took place on the midway, with BlackLion providing a dramatic drum soundtrack. They were so clearly playing, having fun exploring ways of being in the world, that it never triggered any fears or worries that they would bring real violence into their experience. They, like the other attendees, were exercising their imaginations.

As someone who values peace as well as imagination, I strive to honor creative expressions of all types and stripes. I don't think that playing violent video games, re-enacting historic battles, or role-playing swords and sorcery leads to more violence in the world. In fact, I see these as healthy ways to channel the natural aggression that we brought forth from our earlier days as humans. We are evolving, and by expressing ourselves creatively, we unlock new ideas and ways we wish the world to be. Rather than fearing the actions of those who act or dress differently than we do, particularly teens and young adults, let's look deeper and honor their unique self-expression. We teach by example, and what better lessons than living our ethics and valuing the diversity of human experience?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Why Drumming Helps With My Writing

Feline Drummers at the Watch City Festival in Waltham, MA
photo by Jennifer Wright Owen

Elven Tiger and I are taking a drawing class at our homeschool co-op, based on the book "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" by Betty Edwards. At this point in my life, I've done lots of meditation, yoga, and other practices that enable me to enter the alpha state at will. So I'm finding it relatively easy to slip into that right-brain mode as I draw, even though I'm far from an accomplished artist. I'm having fun sketching, with no expectations about the outcome.

In recent years I've become pretty pleased with my writing ability. (It still makes me squirm a bit to even say something like that - but I've got a book contract, so I guess I can toot my own horn just a bit). Of course, there's always room for improvement, and that's part of the fun of the writing craft. Interestingly, the thing that has had the biggest impact on my writing lately is my drumming.

I started playing the djembe a few years ago. Self-taught (aside from a couple of workshops here and there), sitting round the fire, groovin' in a hippie drum circle sort of way. Then BlackLion and I got asked to drum for the first Dark Follies street performance in 2008. At first playing with Dark Follies was perfect for our improv-style messing around, but then some of the dancers wanted something a bit more traditional. Other drummers came in, and one excellent drummer, Stephen, became the lead musician. He's done a lot of training and practice, and it shows. The quality of Dark Follies' music improved. At that point BlackLion and I almost quit, both because of our lack of experience with the more traditional tunes, and also because we got busy with other things, like writing and creating offerings and wares for our business.

BlackLion had done more drumming than me, so he wasn't really intimidated. I was frustrated with my seeming inability to remember the various beats by name. "We'll play a slow maqsum, then transition into masmoodi" sounded Greek to me. My left brain just wasn't getting it - but if they could show me the riff, I could play along with no problem. With BlackLion's urging, and being drawn in by the cool folks in the troupe, we got more involved again last year.

This fall, our fearless leader decided that we should form a real band, and add melodic instruments. Thus we became the Dark Follies Not Just Rhythm Orchestra. It's been a truly incredible learning experience! I love playing with a band. I've never considered myself a musician - that was always Quester's realm, and BlackLion's. But now I'm feeling it. And the lessons I've learned are invaluable in boosting my other creative pursuits - including my biggest passion, writing. How?

Well, what I've struggled with most in becoming a "real" drummer is the connection between the left brain and the right brain. Both are needed in this gig. The right brain stuff is easy for me. I can keep the beat and get into the groove (Quester tells me that keeping a steady beat is a fairly rare talent, but I just feel it in my body and go with it). The left brain connection to that has been a challenge - learning the various beats by name, primarily. When I say a challenge, I mean one of those fun brain-bending "I can do this, I know I can!" sort of challenges. And it seems to be working! The connection with writing is that it's becoming easier for me to move from the idea phase, where I'm imagining a piece and brainstorming its components (right brain), to the actual execution of it (left brain).

I feel like I'm a symphony, sometimes, as I open up and creatively express what's in my heart. And whether my composition is made up of words or drumbeats, I'm in the moment, awake and aware, yet deeply immersed in the flow. I have a long way to go with my music, but again, that's part of the fun of the craft. I'm excited about the expansion and discovery - and delighted that all parts of my life are being uplifted in the process.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Cleanse Complete!

Oops. I guess I've wandered away from the regular updates about the raw food cleanse! Well, it was a busy but fun week, and it's been going well. Now we're on day ten of ten, so I guess it's pretty much complete.

On Monday, I got a bit bored with the food I was eating, but just shrugged and went along with it. My Mom was so sweet. I had asked if we could have a big salad when we came over for dinner, and not only did she do that (along with making soup, rolls, and pudding for the rest of the crew), but she also made me a lovely and delightful fruit plate for dessert. Asian pear, Grannysmith apple, Empire apple, and red grapes. She's awesome. But I knew that already.

Tuesday and Wednesday were fine, and I made up a new recipe. I was making our usual spaghetti sauce for the family and some friends, so I also made a raw version for BlackLion and I. It had tomatoes, onion, garlic, olives, mushrooms, a touch of olive oil, and spices. I put it in the food processor, then chilled it for a while so the flavors could merge. Because of the black olives, it looked like some kind of raspberry sauce! We ate it over spiralized zucchini, and it was delicious. We had the leftovers on Wednesday.

Today was co-op, and I was busy running around. We had a smoothie in the morning, and for lunch we brought dehydrated kale chips with a tahini-based dip, and some dried fruit. For dinner I had an avocado and some leftover raw strawberry pie that BlackLion made.  I'm eating a lot less than I used to, both in terms of calories and actual portion sizes.

I've lost five pounds over the ten days. I'm not ready to commit to going all raw food, mostly because it's a lot of work, especially when the family isn't eating the same way. But I'm definitely going to keep a lot of raw food in my diet, and will continue to eat less in general and focus on healthy eating. I've been reading "Three Steps to Incredible Health" by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, and learning a lot about nutrition. I'd say this has been a successful cleanse. Thanks for reading along!

Sunday, May 06, 2012

A Blessful Weekend

Well, I was going to write either "blessed" or "blissful" in the title, and ended up combining the two. I think it works well as a description. I've been having lots of fun!

Saturday BlackLion and I celebrated our anniversary, and also Cinco de Mayo! We started our day with a yummy green smoothie. We did a bit of shopping for fruits and veggies, then headed down to Exeter, NH to the Grand Opening of the Good Karma Cafe! It's a new vegan and raw cafe that is just delightful. BlackLion and I are going to blog about it tomorrow over at the Feline Dreamers website, if you'd like to know more. Suffice it to say that we had a very tasty raw Mexican-themed lunch (with a decadent raw dessert), and then walked all around the adorable town of Exeter.

We came home and hung out with the kids after that, and had some light raw snacks for dinner. We watched the movie "Green Lantern," which was fun. We've been enjoying the superhero movies lately, and are looking forward to going to see "The Avengers" soon.

Today was the annual Beltane on the Beach celebration at Popham Beach State Park. The whole family went. We had a fabulous time enjoying the wonderful people, the gorgeous sunshiney day, and some groovy drumming. There was also a bardic circle, and we got to see a lot of folks we haven't seen in quite a while. I was happy to see that, alongside the pasta salads and desserts, a lot of folks had brought fresh fruits and veggies to the potluck. We brought a green salad to share. After a whole day at the beach, BlackLion and I had rehearsal with the Dark Follies troupe. Also fun, but after such a busy weekend I'm feeling like I need some down time!

Having just about completed day 6 of the raw food cleanse, I'm feeling great. Took nice walks both yesterday and today, and had plenty of energy. I haven't kept track of my water consumption, but I feel like I've had plenty of liquids in general. I'm off to bed to rest and read. Sweet dreams to you!

Friday, May 04, 2012

Am I Rusty?

Woke up to lots of rain again today. The trees and plants are loving it! I enjoyed giving a Reiki session this morning, followed by doing some chores and then working on my book. The cats were in and out, and Percy came and snuggled on my lap for a while when I was writing. Rainy day bliss!

Later in the day I felt a bit physically weak, like I was perhaps low on iron. Perhaps my iron doesn't like the rain - maybe it got rusty. Anyway, I snacked on some dried fruit, and had a spinach salad for dinner, and that helped.

We had a lovely Full Moon ritual tonight, even though we had to be indoors and couldn't actually see the moon's light. We'd made a yummy fruit salad to share, so that's what we had afterwards, along with some almonds and dried apricots. The bread and cheese that were also available looked good, but I chose to stay raw. Oh, and by the way, I've already lost four pounds! Off to bed. We have a fun day planned for tomorrow, but you'll have to wait and hear about it later. Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Resting Today

It's day 3 of the raw food cleanse, and you might be sick of hearing about it already, heh heh. This morning I woke up feeling a bit dizzy and not really ready to face the day. But it is Thursday, which means our homeschool co-op day, so I got ready and we headed out. I was feeling very low-energy for much of the day. Some of it is probably due to the time of the month (sorry if that's TMI), as well as detoxing because of the cleanse. Or perhaps it's just the combination that got me down. I was in good spirits for the most part, just moving more slowly than usual. Breakfast was a smoothie, and lunch was salad and a banana. It wasn't even a big salad, but I felt super full after eating it, and even a bit nauseous. I'm not sure what that was about.

After a busy day at the co-op, I came home feeling very tired and hungry. BlackLion made me a smoothie, and then I took a nap. When I woke up, I did some meditation while I was still lying in bed. Then I got up and made vegetable curry for the family. It wasn't hard to cook it and not eat it. It smelled good, but I didn't really want any. Brent and I had kale salad and a piece of a raw frozen pie that he created. It was good. It tasted kind of like oatmeal with fruit. It was one of those nut-and-date crusts, with bananas and strawberries as the filling. Yum!

I was revived a bit after that, and did some stuff online. I don't think I drank as much water today, but I was already feeling pretty liquidy, so I think that was fine. It's been nice having an evening of rest. Leave a comment and let me know what you think of the daily updates. It's a different format for me, but I'm finding it fun to blog about the process I'm going through. Blessings!

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Cleansing is Going Well

I had the thought that the raw food cleanse might be hard for me to do. But so far, it's been easy and wonderful. I think my body was really ready. All of the foods I'm eating taste so delicious, and I'm feeling perfectly full even though I'm eating a lot less than I have been. I had a salad for dinner. It was spinach, tomato, cukes, avocado, red onion, and olives, with a homemade dressing, and it tasted like the most fantastic thing I'd ever had!

The water drinking is also going just fine. Yesterday I had 64 ounces, and today I easily drank the whole 100 ounces which is sort of a goal ("sort of" because if I don't do it, no big deal). Yes, I'm visiting the bathroom a lot (the tiny bladder thing), but I figure that means I'm getting rid of a lot of toxins, so that's fine.

Emotionally I've been doing well, too. Yesterday I felt great all day and got a lot done. Worked on creative projects, did housework, all kinds of stuff. I felt joyful and light. This morning I woke up feeling energized and positive. I had a busy day of house stuff and errands, which all went smoothly.

Tonight was our weekly homeschool group. It was a bit overwhelming being around lots of people, but nothing I couldn't handle. Lately I've been better able to stay true to myself in a crowd than I used to be, anyway. Being an empath, I used to absorb a lot of the energies of others and be drawn away from my center. But for the most part I've learned not to do that, and now I enjoy hanging out with friends in groups. It does take energy to maintain, though, so as I write this, I'm feeling a bit tired and ready to chill out for the evening (especially since I have homeschool co-op tomorrow, so even more people!). I thought I might feel triggered about food, since we do a big potluck dinner on Wednesday nights and everyone would be enjoying various cooked and sweet foods. But that was no big deal at all, and as I mentioned above, I loved the salad I brought for myself. That's all for now. Good night!

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Crafting a Spring Cleanse

Today is Beltane, or May Day, which I think is a rather auspicious day to begin a spring cleanse. What cleanse am I doing? Well, one that BlackLion and I are making up as we go along, of course (we invited Quester to join us too, but he politely declined).

When we went to the Life Rocks! conference, we encountered a whole lot of folks who are interested in healthy eating, with a focus on raw foods in particular. We'd experimented a bit with raw foods a few years ago, but not for long, and not in any big way. At the time, it had felt like a huge commitment, with lots of rules and judgement, extra work, and hefty financial costs. I just wasn't up for that. But now I'm realizing that, like anything, we can take on raw foods and cleansing on our own terms, in our own way. So we're going to do just that.

We're starting with a cleanse of ten days. We'll eat raw foods - veggies, fruits, nuts - with a particular focus on liquids - smoothies, fresh juices, water, perhaps some raw soups (warmed to 105 degrees in the dehydrator - which will be an experiment). We don't have a high-speed blender, but we do have some other cool stuff, like a nice dehydrator (purchased used during our first raw food foray), a veggie spiralizer, and a good food processor. I also plan to drink a bunch of water. One person recommends 100 ounces of water per day, but that seems like a bit more than I can manage with my tiny bladder. We'll see.

My goal is to bring my physical energy into better alignment with my whole being. I gained quite a lot of weight over the past three years or so, and much of it was due to emotional crisis. I've moved beyond that set of feelings (which centered around the transformation into following my calling, and releasing related doubts and fears) and my life is a lot of fun, full of creativity and joy. So I want to release those old toxins, patterns, and pounds. I figure a cleanse will help jump-start the process, and then I can move forward with healthier eating habits from there.

I believe that the physical realm is one aspect of the wholeness of my spirituality, so there are other things I'm doing to support myself during the cleanse: yoga, continued meditation practice, reading inspiring books, listening to my affirmations, speaking kindly to myself and others (the being kind to *me* is the hard part, sometimes), and getting plenty of rest. Wish me luck!

Oh yeah, and here are a couple of links to blogs that I'm using as inspiration:

The Macro-Raw Foodist
Raw Envy with Dayna Martin

I'll be posting updates on how it's going, so if you have particular questions, please leave a comment! Blessings!