Monday, November 30, 2009

Notes and Quotes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Reiki Healing

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 28, 2009

My Media

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 27, 2009

Not-So-Sweet Emotions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Attitude of Gratitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Spirals of Life

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

On Tolerance

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 23, 2009

Confession Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Life at the Home School

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Feline Divine

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 20, 2009

This Is a No-Yelling Zone

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A General Update

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

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

How about a goals review?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Mmm...Pasta (for a Good Cause)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Psst, Pass It On

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Red Temple

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Original Bliss

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 14, 2009

My Creative Process

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 13, 2009

Why Worry?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Self-Reliance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

It's All Connected

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 09, 2009

It's List Time - in Fours Again

Things I'm releasing:
worry
fear
sugar
extra weight

Things I'm encouraging:
joy
quiet time
yoga
meditation

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

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

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