Thursday, December 31, 2009

Active Forgiveness

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

Dear Universe,

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

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

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

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

Yours,
Starcat

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Inner Journey

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

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

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

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Sunflower Dreaming

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Things I've Learned About Stress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Thriving Community

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Our 12 Days of Solstice

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

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

Friday, December 18, 2009

Crunch Time

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

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

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

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

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

Busy Elves

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Use Your Imagination

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 14, 2009

Just Trying to Help

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Drumming at the Edge of Winter

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Book Wish List

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

Shadowrise by Tad Williams

Pagan Theology: Paganism as a World Religion by Michael York

The Self-Aware Universe by Amit Goswami

Renegade's Magic by Robin Hobb

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

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

1776: The Illustrated Edition by David McCullough

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

Creative Journal Writing by Stephanie Dowrick

The Daily Writer by Fred White

Old Friend From Far Away by Natalie Goldberg

Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sweet Success!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

A Snowy Day

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Making Cutout Cards

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

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



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



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



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





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

Monday, December 07, 2009

Subaru, Come Home!

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Seasonal Favorites

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 05, 2009

A Balanced Lifestyle

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 04, 2009

Yule and Christmas Celebrations

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maine Wholeschoolers' Fundraiser a Huge Success

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

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

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

RPGs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Lightening Up

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

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

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

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

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