Friday, December 27, 2013

The Path Has Many Twists And Forks......And Scares

I've heard it said that, when it comes to the craft, you should never consider yourself learned. I think that's it's probably the same for any set of traditions, or beliefs, or religions. We should never consider ourselves "learned". You can not possibly know everything there is to know simply because that's not the way lifestyles work.

I consider the craft to be a lifestyle. I consider naturalist paganism to be a lifestyle. I think they go beyond religion. But, I could never consider myself learned, in either.

I've been pretty silent since my post on coupons. And, that post was a ruse. It was a what I call a "dummy post". I had nothing to post because I was too involved in the big vat of poo I got myself into with this shadow work....thingy. The post was valid only in the sense that I really do stockpile, although I don't call it that, I really do coupon and I really do consider both of those things fundamentals of paganism. But, that was an unplanned post, but I just figured I needed to post something.

The truth is, the shadow work got the best of me. I bit off a fair bit more than I could chew at any one time. In fact, more than I should have been attempting to chew in probably two consecutive dark half cycles. I jumped in the deep end with both feet and I didn't look to see if there was a yawning chasm waiting to swallow me whole before I did it, too. What happened was that the work started to lead itself. I was no longer in control of where it was going, and I'm not sure that's normal and I'm also not sure I want to repeat it.

I started having nightmares on a pretty regular basis starting by about the end of September and I had only been dealing with it at that point for about a week and half. If you look back at every single post I had from equinox until today, you should notice that they're pretty "off". Not only that, but they're very angsty. Even more angsty than is normal for me. By the time I wrote my Thanksgiving post, I was completely engulfed in.....I don't even know what. I like that post and it's surprisingly well written considering where my head was at during that post.

Nightmares were just the beginning my problems. I also started eating. Not eating like, "Wow, I'm hungry, I'm gonna go get me a sammich!", but, "Let's see how much fun it would be to eat this entire chocolate pie!". We are talking destructive eating, here. Destructive to the point where I gained 30 lbs. since Equinox. I can't really explain why, either. I haven't eaten sugar as a normal part of my diet since 2009! But, since I was facing food phobias, I went off the deep end. As I said, the work was no longer under my control, it was controlling me!

On top of that, if I wasn't having nightmares, I was having migraines. I've had a couple serious migraine attacks since equinox. I get these when my stress level spikes. During those attacks and during my nightmares, repressed memories of emotional abuse from my childhood came to the forefront. This is what I wanted to happen, and that's good, but the amount of it was staggering! I don't think I was quite prepared for the sheer amount of emotional muck I'd be dragging from the depths of whatever pit of hell my memory had flung them into.

I think at this point, I should just admit that this season's shadow work got the best of me and since I really had no idea how to handle it, I stopped early. I'm not doing anymore right now. I'm meditating on the problems that resulted from it, and some of the things I learned during it, but I'm not focusing on any more of my "shadows" at the moment.  I wouldn't have stopped until Midwinter (Imbolc for wiccans), but there was no way I was going to make it through another month. I'm already going to have a lot of clean up to do as a result of whatever the hell just happened.

I've been involved in paganism for almost 19 years. In that amount of time, I've seen some really dark things. But, there is nothing that I've seen that just flat scared me. But, this has and maybe that's what was supposed to happen. Maybe any other time shadow work has been done by me, I've been doing it wrong. Either way, I'm convinced that I need a new strategy for controlling my work. Because it was just eating me alive.

My path has had many twists and forks and turns.....and now scares. I'm in it for the long haul, I'm not going anywhere. I love being pagan it makes me feel more alive than any other lifestyle ever could, of that I have no doubt.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Rules of Couponing and Building a Stockpile

I was a lucky kid. I had 3 sets of grandparents. This was because one of my biological parents died when I was very young and I got to be adopted by another parent. So, I had 3 sets of grandparents. Two of those sets of grandparents were active preparedness and self sufficiency practitioners. Meaning that two sets of my grandparents, not ironically the two sets I was most familiar with, did things like garden, can their own food, and practice food storage and stockpiling.

Today, when we hear the word "stockpile", we think of hoarders. That's because this lifestyle went out in the early 80's with modern convenience. But, some of us still practice it. FEMA now recommends that you have at least 3 days of food and water in your house. I think that's a pathetically low estimate to shoot for. After 3 days, if the disaster is bad enough, you're screwed. Have a 72 hour kit, you say? Okay, I'll admit, I've got a 72 hour kit. Wanna know what it's for? It's for me getting the hell out of dodge, as they say. If I'm relying on that 72 hours worth that FEMA recommends, it means that shit has gotten bad enough for me to GTFO, so to speak.

No, my grandparents would never have sat back on their laurels with only 72 hours of supplies on hand. I can imagine the panic attacks they would have had just being that low on supplies. The apples don't fall far from the trees as they say, and my brother and I both practice preparedness and stockpiling. We don't hoard, we can actually walk through our homes and if you were to enter one of them you wouldn't really know we actually had food storage or stockpiles.

I don't do couponing the way that you see on reality TV. I don't go into the CVS, mainly because we don't even have a CVS, and come out with 17 lugs of Arm and Hammer. I don't walk into the store and load up a cart with $300 worth of groceries and walk out after paying only $11. First of all, you can't even do that here. We don't have enough grocery stores and places to shop to do that. We have Walmart, United and Dollar General. And, we stay the hell out of Dollar General, more on that later.

Here are my rules and ways of couponing and stockpiling.

1. Don't Shop During Peak Hours

Nothing pisses off an entire checkout line full of people like a woman and her coupons. Couponers are second class citizens these days. The reason for that is all the trash TV like Extreme Couponing that give honest couponers a bad name. It's all good if you take up people's time because your debit card magnetic strip is worn out and it won't read your card. Or if you take up other people's time freaking out over your EBT card, or even having them do a price check on all 400 items in your cart at the cashier. But, if you pull out a wad of coupons here, you might as well have announced to the entire store that Jesus Christ never existed. And, by the way, the machine never wants to scan the coupons. It takes the cashier like a minute and a half on each coupon to get the shitty machine to scan it. How do you make that worse? Shop at 5 o'clock on a Friday night. Or at 1pm on a Saturday afternoon.

Hell on Earth.

I shop during non peak hours only. Lately, that's been 9am on Thursday mornings. However, that's about to change because apparently there are more unemployed people hanging out in the stores than usual lately. It was packed today. That ain't right. I've also shopped after 9pm on a Sunday. By far the best time, I'll probably return to that. Bottom line is, the only time I consider it okay to even enter a store during a peak time or during any kind of rush event, is when it's an emergency.

2. Only Two Coupons For the Same Item Per Trip

We don't have extremers here in my neck of the woods. It's not possible to do that here, so I've never seen one. However, I can only imagine that gnashing of teeth involved with being behind a person in a checkout line who's got 70 coupons for the same item. Not only that, but shelf clearing is not okay, ever. I buy two like items with coupons at one time, never more than that. If I've got more coupons and it's a great deal, I do back later for two more. Never more than two.

3. Don't.Buy.Coupons!

Most of the coupon fraud going on right now is a direct result of people purchasing coupons from clipping services and ebay. I don't do it and I don't condone it. I print my coupons (this might be changing since coupons printed at home are even harder to scan than the regular newspaper coupons) and get them from the Sunday paper. I pay for 3 Sunday papers a week. This is more than enough coupons for me.

4. Don't Stress About My Percentage Saved

Times are tough. I know that. But, you know what? Adults were saying this when I was 6. That was in 1977. Times have always been tough. That's part of life. My goal is to save money. However, my goal is not to reduce my grocery bill 90%. In fact, I almost consider that highway robbery. I'm not opposed to paying for my groceries, I would just like a moderate discount.

That said, if I happen to end up getting free stuff along the way, I consider that a win. But, I am in no way aiming for free anything. It's not really even possible here, except for maybe once in a blue moon, so, I don't sweat it.

5. Buy Only What Is On Sale

This takes time. If I had more stores to pick from, this would have been easier to do. There is an initial investment to build a stockpile. And, until you actually have a stockpile, you will be paying full price for almost everything. Meal planning based on sales works, but it can work better if you have a stockpile. Today, my shopping list is built on 85% sale items. But, I didn't start out that way. I started out buying extras of everything we use. 

If I was buying toothpaste that week, I bought two. Sometimes three. If I was buying cans of tomato sauce, I bought 5. After awhile, I noticed that since I had been building the stockpile based on our menus, I had a store built up and I could add more sale items to the list. Now, I build the list almost entirely out of sale items. The items on it that aren't on sale are usually on one of my prep lists and I need to start getting them.

I do my sale lists a bit differently. I can't just write down a sale item on a list and go buy it from the store it's on sale at. If I did that, I would not be saving the maximum amount of money that I could save. Instead, I add whatever is on the United Supermarket sale ad to my list. I also write down on it the price. If I can get a better deal at Walmart, then I get it there. Sometimes, I don't get the brand name that's even on sale. I get something cheaper. I was going to get the item anyway, now I'm going to get it the cheapest way I can.

Once in awhile, it happens that something is on sale and I happen to have a coupon for it. I love those times and that's the only way I use coupons. I don't use them on any full priced items. Sale items only. This means I have a lot of expired coupons that I don't get to use, but it also means that I saved when I could. Rarely, I can get cheaper store brand items for even cheaper than sale items plus the coupon. 

6. Stay the Hell Out of the Dollar General!

I used to love Dollar stores. I used to love them because everything in them was a dollar. No so anymore. Most things at Dollar General are not even as cheap as I can get them in Walmart unless they're on sale. Dollar General is like Walmart-Lite.

Secondly, our Dollar General used to occupy a large industrial type building. Then they rebuilt another building for it and moved. That building is like a match box. It's tiny! The aisle shelves are so close together that you feel like you're in the trash compactor in Star Wars! Seriously, the building isn't even 1/4th as big as the last building they were in. Why they moved, I have no idea. It was a bad idea, to say the very least. 

Did I mention they're sitting on top of a hill? And, that the parking lot is on a very steep incline? Yeah, there's that.

The third reason is the most polarizing. I mean no disrespect with what I'm about to say, but, some will no doubt take offense. Dollar General, at least here where I live, is the EBT mecha of my town. It is full of food stamp recipients from the minute the doors open until they close at night. This is not automatically a bad thing.

The thing is, once you get there for their sales, there's nothing left there. It's usually wiped out on sale items about 4 hours after their new sale ad comes out. The store isn't big enough to stock for even the population of this town. So, it sort of means, that by default, it's not worth it to go there because the food stamps have wiped out the sale. On top of that, I dare you to pull out even one coupon in my Dollar General. The slant ways looks you get are mind boggling. It's okay to pull out EBT cards in there, no one even looks at you cross eyed. Take out coupons and suddenly you're wearing a t-shirt that says, "I'm a baby eating Satanist! RAWRRRRR!". Saving money is on par with Satanism, here.

So far we have:

It's not cheaper than Walmart. It's not even a dollar!

It's a tiny building, are we about to die in here?!

What is this, the apocalypse?!

Waste of time, cats, waste.of.time.

7. Only Buy Stuff You Use or Can Donate

The bone that I have to pick with extreme couponing is that most of the time I see people just buying random shit simply because they can get it for free. I'm going to give the benefit of the doubt to those people and assume they're donating it. But, I watched a video of a girl buying Glucerna shakes and admitting she's not diabetic. I can't imagine why she just had to buy those shakes, but I'm going to assume she donated them to the nursing homes. Please. Let that be a reality.

I donate some items every week to my son's day-habilitation center. This week it's two twelvers of lime soda. Sometimes it's giant bottles of Germ-X. My son has Down Syndrome, so he goes to a day hab two days a week. These people are a great place to donate sale items. If I ever do score anything I can't use, it will go to either the day hab, his former teachers and aides at the high school, or one of our nursing homes.

Other than that, I do not buy anything that we don't use. I don't buy 15 bottles of laundry detergent simply because I make my own. I might buy 1 bottle and donate it. If there ever comes a time when I can actually do a CVS sale and take advantage of what they have to offer, I will end up buying things just to donate them.

My stockpile took me months to accumulate. And, none of it, so far, has been free. It's all cost me money, as well as, gas and time. I save about 20% on my bill right now. That will change as my stock grows and changes. There will come a time when I only spend half of what we spend right now. I look forward to that day.

So, there you have it. Those are my 7 basic rules for practicing what I consider to be basic fundamentals of cottage witchcraft. Stockpiling and preparedness. This was more about stockpiling today, but I will get into preparedness later on in another entry.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Family, Food and Football Day

Thanksgiving has always bothered me. The reasons that it bothers me have piled up, one on top of the other, over the years.

Let's cover the elephant in the room, first. Thanksgiving is one big, giant, American lie. The pilgrims and American Indians didn't share a Thanksgiving meal in 1621. Thanksgiving was first introduced in 1637, by then Massachusetts Governor Winthrop, to celebrate the troops returning from massacring 700 Pequot Indians. Gov. Winthrop decreed that their safe return from the massacre was "God's will" and therefore, they would observe a day of Thanksgiving to God for it. America as tried to whitewash that event since the 1930's and school children are taught a giant lie. All of those symbols we've seen with happy pilgrims sharing a meal with happy native indians, all bs.

Now, this is only the most recent reason I wrestle with Thanksgiving Day. I only found out the truth about this in the last 5 years. Ain't the internet a wonderful thing? But, this one is probably the strongest reason, for me. In the last 7 years, I've also learned that I have ties to two different American Indian tribes. Lakota Sioux and Cherokee. Cherokee from the 1700's, and my grandfather was 1/2 Sioux Indian. So, naturally, the symbolism that comes with Thanksgiving hits a raw nerve with me. Couple that with the fact that my damned relatives denied that we had American Indian heritage my entire life, resulting in myself and my kids never being exposed to traditions, and I get rather testy about the subject. I feel robbed, quite frankly.

Then, there's the subject of Thanksgiving food. Maybe it's just the family I grew up in, but there wasn't anything appetizing about Thanksgiving dinners. Maybe the stuffing. Maybe. Perhaps the pumpkin pie, something I almost worship as sacred, perhaps. Other than that, Thanksgiving has nothing to offer me in the fine dining department. This is how I see Thanksgiving dinner.

I don't know those people, I got this image from Wikipedia. There's probably food on that table somewhere, there appears to be a turkey up there by the man at the head of the table. But, "traditional" Thanksgiving dinner doesn't get much more interesting than this. And, these people appear to be praying to God. But, for what?? For all the "blessings" we **Washichu have been given?? Oh, that's right, this.

Lastly, how about the Thanksgiving themed PTSD? Just thinking about Thanksgiving dinner sends my anxiety into the stratosphere and I don't even live in the same state as the people who made that the case! Thanksgiving dinner in my family was the day that all my clinically insane relatives from one side of the family congregated in the same house for an entire day to argue and fight and subject my brother and I to hour after hour of crazy and lunacy. Or, alternately, the mostly normal relatives from the other side of the family congregated to make us eat all the stuff we didn't like. Like Waldorf salad and minced meat pie. From what I hear, this is the norm at Thanksgiving in more households than just my relatives, but that sort of begs the question. Why do we do this every year?! What's the point???

For the last 10 years, Thanksgiving has been nothing to me but Family, Food and Football. Five years ago, I gave up the cutesy symbols associated with what everyone else was "supposedly there to celebrate and just concentrated on the three Fs. But.......some people, Native Americans included, say that that really isn't enough. Why do you still bother with the day at all? Don't you understand that it's really just as bad as if we had a day to celebrate Adolf Hitler or the Holocaust? They have a point, but in my head, I still struggle with the issue.

A lot of people gave me endless crap over still celebrating Christmas even though I wasn't a Christian. Why do you bother with Christmas? That's a Christian holiday! You're still eating a big meal during the Christmas season, and you're pagan! Why would you do such a thing if you're not really celebrating Christmas?

The thing is, no one has a corner on the holiday market. Getting people to see this is like herding cats. Just because Christmas happens to take place in December, that doesn't negate everything else that takes place in December. Not only that, but holidays evolve. Sure, Christmas started out as a Christian holiday, but today it is anything but. Today, Christmas as a commerical holiday, mostly secular. How many people actually even mention Jesus on Christmas? Not as many as you think. Are you going to tell the majority of Christmas revelers that they can't celebrate family and giving and Santa and reindeer and trees with lights on them? I doubt it. Moreover, are you going to tell Christians that by not abandoning December 25th, which has become something else entirely from what they'd envisioned, they're showing just how secular they really are? No, you're not. No one has a corner on December 25th.

So, why can't people who aren't really celebrating genocide have a nice meal with a turkey in it on Thanksgiving Day? Why is eating a turkey on the 4th Thursday in November seen as such an egregious affront to the suffering of the Native Americans? What matters is in your head and in your actions toward others, not in what you choose to eat, or even that you chose to eat that day! Some of us really aren't giving a nod to genocide.

When you give up the symbolism, finally accept and digest the truth, the injustice, the tragedy of the whole thing, you're still left with a national holiday. The holiday isn't going to go away because people finally know the truth. It will evolve, into something else. It's still a day off of work, when family still expect us to actually be social, eat food and watch football. At some point, the day just becomes a day about eating and sitting on a couch in a food coma!

I wrestle with Thanksgiving. I was raised as a white kid. I was raised as a white kid with absolutely NO culture to identify with. My parents shunned the German heritage, they shunned the English heritage, they downright denied the Native American heritage. I had, and still have, no real culture to identify with. I have to identify with a black and white Thanksgiving dinner. I'll never get to really know my heritage. As you can probably tell, I'm pretty bitter about this.

And, don't tell me that I can identify with "American culture". There hasn't been one person, yet, who has been able to even tell me what American culture is, exactly. It's like saying, "Oh, you can just identify with European culture." Which one?? Europe is made up of many cultures.....all of which my family gave up. American culture? We don't have one. We are a giant salad bowl full of different cultures, except my family shunned all theirs and we grew up like those people in the black and white photo. It's hard to explain.

A couple years ago, my husband and I ate our last black and white Thanksgiving meal. We haven't had another since then, much to my in laws' dismay. Every year, our meal isn't even Thanksgiving traditional. This year, we're having lasagna. We also stopped calling it Thanksgiving. We give thanks everyday. I, especially, do. Much like Valentine's Day, we feel like setting aside a day to feel thankful for your personal blessings or appreciate your loved ones means that you're too wrapped up in materialism and commercialism. We don't schedule days of "thanks".

This year, I'm going one further. I'm calling it what it is. We haven't associated it with pilgrims and indians since grade school. That's just the truth of the matter. The day has already evolved into something entirely different. We are actually going to observe two days, Thursday and Friday. Friday also has significance. While most people know it as Black Friday, it's also Native American Heritage Day. How many people knew that? Signed into law by George W. Bush.

And, since I hate "Black Friday" and everything it stands for....
(I don't know who made this, I found it. But, he/she owns it and I thank them cus it's damned funny!)

.......I'd much rather eat lasagna and Indian fry bread (I'm adding this!).

People will ask, "..but, what are you naming and celebrating on that day, if not celebrating a lie and genocide??". We aren't "celebrating" anything. We're eating food and watching football with family.

That's how it works. I know some people just won't accept that some of us aren't going to celebrate genocide, but we just aren't. Some will also think that just because we are eating on that day we're still celebrating genocide. But....again, we just aren't.

The Friday after is Black Friday for a great portion of the U.S. population. For me, it's Native American Heritage Day. Similarly, the 4th Thursday in November is American Thanksgiving. For me, it's Family, Food and Football Day.

P.S. There will inevitably be that "one guy" who takes issue with my comments about Black Friday and how I despise it and everything it stands for and will mention that I'm perfectly content to buy a bunch of food to eat that day. Here is my response to "that guy".

I buy the food 3 weeks in advance. Shut up, I was going to eat on that day anyway!

**Washichu is the Lakota word for "non indian" or "he who takes the best meat for himself".

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

Today is a blustery day in my neck of the woods. The leaves have just started turning and falling, the wind it blowing pretty good. It.......looks like Halloween!

I haven't yet seen what the town square has to offer for this fine, blustery Halloween night. But, I'm sure I'm due to find out around 3pm or so. Good luck playin that "soul-saving" Christian country music in this weather. I hope it rains. I'm pretty evil like that.

Tonight, I plan to honor the dead around midnight. Shortly before, probably. We also have an entire night of horror movies queued up on the old external hard drive. For you horror fans who don't have a terabyte of horror movies, AMC has a Halloween series marathon running all day and night tonight. You can't get better than that. The only thing missing is Trick R Treat, which needs to be a staple, now.

I don't plan on getting any trick or treaters, I think those are finally extinct in my town, but we'll see. The Jack o Lantern is lit, the candy is ready, the meditation is planned. So, I want to wish everyone out there a very Happy Halloween!

And, remember, don't put the Jack O Lantern out until after midnight. Sam doesn't like it when we put it out early.

I'll just leave this here.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Food Surprises Can Lead to Food Phobias

I would take you......on a very strange journey.

Oh, sorry. That was the beginning of Rocky Horror Picture Show. But, it's accurate. I would like to take you on a journey through the life of a person for whom the relationship with food is a love/hate thing. It's a delicate situation. Anything can set off either a "food hate" or a "food phobia". How does something like that start? I'm about to tell you.

Picture it. You're at a......pot luck of some sort. Church, school....whatever. Being a person with a lot of food dislikes, potlucks are dangerous. But, you don't know that yet. You're about to find out, but for now, all is well.

People have made relatively normal food dishes so far. You've had a surprisingly enjoyable dinner. This is significant because some people like to get creative with their potluck food and make Eggplant Parmesan or coleslaw. It's okay when it's foods you are familiar with and like. Potlucks are like the lottery, you never know what numbers you're going to get or if they're going to be winners. You don't know this yet. You are young, wide eyed and naive. To you, everything in life consists of macaroni and cheese and pumpkin pie. You are not aware that there are more foods out there. Everyone lives on macaroni and cheese......don't they?

Now, after your main courses of bbq pulled pork, baked beans and au gratin potatoes (3 things you've eaten before and like relatively well), you're ready for desserts. There are many to choose from. You scan the dessert table (this is a fairly large potluck) and you start seeing things you've never seen at any family dinner, ever. Upon approaching the table, cautiously since hardly anything on it seems familiar, the lady that is supervising it starts explaining to you what everything is. Here is when your horror starts.

We have a mixed fruit salad with these little roundish things in it that look like tapioca. She calls it "Frog's Eye Salad" and your eyes bug out of your skull. How is this even remotely appetizing?? Well, you're not eating any frog's eyes, so you say 'no' to that. Then we have another mixed fruit salad, this one is called "Waldorf Salad". You've heard of this one, your clinically insane relatives make this one at American Thanksgiving. You've never been able to actually sit down and eat a fruit salad, mainly because the only fruits you like are peaches, bananas and blueberries and you definitely don't want those in the same bowl. Remember, your food can't touch. So, you say 'no' to that.

After the lady cycles through pretty much everything on the table, including minced meat pie (ground beef, brown sugar and raisins in the same pie crust. You have GOT to be freakin kidding me), heavenly pink salad (which looks innocent enough until you notice little particles floating in it,  they're pistachios), and an assortment of cakes (carrot cake, freakin seriously?!), you eye two plates. One has the most scrumptious looking brownies you've ever seen on it, waiting for you to gobble two or three of them down. The other has what look to your untrained, young, naive eye like oatmeal cookies with chocolate chips in them. Hot damn! You love chocolate chips! So, you pile 2 of those on your plate with your 2 chocolate fudge brownies and head back to the table. Don't pay attention to your parents raised eyebrows at how much sugar is actually piled on your plate, they obviously wouldn't understand.

Your parents have taught you that you do not waste food. If you take it, you damned sure better eat it because if you don't you're going to be eating it for breakfast the next day. They don't know that this is a failed parental tactic, they won't know that until you call their bluff on it once in the future when you're about 12, but that's neither here nor there. For now, you are scared of nasty meatloaf for breakfast and you heed the warnings about eating what you take and not looking like an arse. Won't be problem right now, though, right??? A plate full of cookies and brownies? Hell, you can eat this in your sleep!

You pick up a brownie and look at it. Admire it. Covet it. It looks like any normal brownie on the outside. Nothing out of the ordinary. Just chocolate fudge and cake. Oooey, gooey, brownie. You take a giant bite out of it and for about 3 glorious seconds you are in chocolate fudge heaven. After that 3 seconds of slow chewing, your chocolate fudge heaven turns into a chocolate fudge and "something crunchy" nightmare hell. You don't know what it is at first. But, you don't dare spit it out. Your father would freak. You just chew, eyes wider than before, yet not really raising any alarm. You swallow and then take a careful look at this brownie you've just bitten into.

It's freakin' walnuts. Some sick, twisted, masochistic freak as decided to ruin a perfectly good brownie by putting freakin' walnuts in it. Holy hell. How are you going to choke down 2 ruined brownies? It's like when you make brownies but you burn them and don't know it until you eat one. Ruined. 

You manage to gag down the rest of the brownie. You feel sick. You don't want to continue, but you've got two more there. Mocking you. "Bawhaha! We've got walnuts!" Eff you, brownies! You cautiously move on to the chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. You don't know one person that's ever put chocolate chips in an oatmeal cookie, but there's always a first time. You pick up a cookie and eye it. You're looking for hidden walnuts. There doesn't seem to be any, but without deconstructing this cookie in public, you have no idea. It looks okay, take a small nibble. The nibble turns out okay, no stealth walnuts. So, you take a giant chomp and chew. Holy hell! That's......not a chocolate chip! It's a..........*gag*........raisin! Oh my god! You not only have to gag down another ruined brownie with walnuts, but now you have to eat another oatmeal cookie with nasty raisins in it!

Yep, that there happened to me at about age 6. My diet was already screwed because of my mother's fears that I wouldn't eat. I had a very hard time with food from......birth. I'm extra sensitive with food tastes. I think they now call this a.....super taster.....or something equally dorky. Super tasters can have selective eating disorder. And, I definitely have that! I've always had a limited diet, always. I probably always will. But, for the purposes of this story, there are two things I hate in this world. One is walnuts. The other is raisins. They ruin anything they're associated with. With the minor exception of Raisin Bran. I'll eat that. Why, I have no idea.

That incident there lead me to be very suspicious and cautious of eating foods that other people prepare if I'm not around to watch. I don't like to eat at other people's homes because of this. You just don't know what you're getting. That spaghetti you're piling on your plate could be full of extra hot italian sausage, which can ruin a plate of spaghetti for some. That cheese rice could have broccoli in it. That jello salad could have pistachio nuts in it, why people do that I have no idea. It also made me hate brownies. I have been unable to really enjoy brownies for most of my life. I loved them until that incident. Now, it's a flashback to the crunch, crunch of walnuts ruining. I also detest oatmeal cookies now. 9 times out of 10, people put raisins in them. 

My point with this story is that food surprises can lead to food phobias for certain people. I usually tell people exactly what I'm making when I make food for others. I also tell them exactly what's in them. If the table lady had told me that those were fudge brownies with walnuts and oatmeal cookies with raisins, I wouldn't have taken them. I would have been one disappointed 6 year old kid with nothing edible on that table, but I still wouldn't have had to gag down 4 items that were pretty much useless to me.

A couple years ago, I tried to overcome this particular flaw. Well, I see it as a flaw. I decided I was going to eat as much unknown stuff as I could that year. Some of it worked, I found some foods I do like and now I can eat them without any worries. But, it also added to the problem. You know they say that selective eating disorder can be overcome. I'm starting to have my doubts about that.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Colorful Life of the Dark

My friend Magaly over at Pagan Culture is having a blog party called So Good, So Dark! Everyday from October 13th until October 21st, several bloggers will be posting things to show why darkness is not necessarily evil. This will be my contribution to that party.

Today, I want to talk about facing the darkness. In her introduction post for the blog party Magaly mentioned light being recognized as the default for good and dark being the default for evil. But, I argue that people just don't see that the dark has a life of it's own. It's completely neutral, as is light. There are just as many evil things that take place in the light as there are in the dark. Of course, we have some very dark, very evil people in this world. But, I don't think darkness gets it's fair shake.

Think about the bat. No, not the baseball bat, the flying, furry bat. Bats are nocturnal animals. While you sleep, he's up eating your mosquitoes. I'd say that's a good thing. Owls are also nocturnal. Probably up keeping the rodents at bay. Also a good thing. The physical darkness has quite a colorful life if you were to light it up with infrared and look at it. Watch it all happen.

But, on a personal note, facing the darkness within ourselves should not be seen as a bad thing or evil. At some of the very darkest times in my life, facing what was actually going on allowed me to see the light there. Think of an addict in rehab, going through the withdrawls from his addiction, dealing with the anxiety and physical implications of that. Is that evil? Certainly not. Going through this time will most likely save his life! There are scores of people, right now, in therapy for something. That can be a pretty dark time for people. But, it's in no way evil.

Inside everyone is a dark side. I've noticed that many people try to shun that side of themselves and I've also noticed that those same people are also the most fake. They haven't gone through the process of self-acceptance and facing their own inner dark. It usually shows in their language.

We can't overcome any of our own fears or flaws without going into the dark and actually seeing them. It's a hard process, but that doesn't make it evil.

There is also a lot of connection with the dark and the supernatural. Like no hauntings ever take place in the daylight, amirite?? Afterall, the witching hour is at 3am. In the dark. However, even a ghost in the middle of the night doesn't have to be evil. Obviously, I have a lot of internal struggle over whether or not I believe in the supernatural. I have personally experienced some things I can't explain. But, I still would not classify those things as evil, or bad in any way. None of my family has ever been hurt by these things. Why does everyone assume that there will be some sort of supernatural killing at 3am. They've been watching too many horror movies.

Finally, facing death. Probably our darkest moment on this planet. There is so much fear surrounding death that some people feel they can't face it without an afterlife attached to it. But, were we all miserable being dead before we were born? Can you remember any pain associated with not being here? I can't. Death will be exactly like it was before we were alive. We were perfectly content. I think facing the fear of death is probably one of the most significant things we will do as human beings. Whether it's facing the death of a loved one, or of a precious pet, or maybe of that animal you just had to kill to sustain your own life. And, facing our own demise. Certainly, none of those things I just mentioned are evil. But, they are certainly dark.

In closing, if there is light, there has to be dark. You can not have one without the other. A life with no dark, would be a life with an absence of light because there would be no concept for it to exist. If you love one, you should love and embrace the other, as well.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Difference Between Online Reality and Offline Reality: Reconnecting with Real Life

When I first got on the internet, I joined a lot of chat rooms. Remember those? LA Live chatroom was my favorite. I got into a lot of trouble in that chatroom. After awhile, though, I came to a point where I figured out that the people in the chat room weren't real people. They might be real people on the other side of the monitors, but the people they were inside the internet chat room were not real people. The things that went on inside the chat room were not real life. The internet provides opportunities for people to be someone else. Most of them are not the same people offline that they are online.

After chat rooms came forums. I joined every forum I could find for every single subject I found interesting. The same types of things that went on in chatrooms also went on in internet forums. Faceless names, trying to make people believe they were who they said they were and that they did what they said they did. Reality was far different offline than online in that instance, as well.

I used to frequent a forum for mothers. I won't name the forum because I steer people away from that forum, now. I don't recommend anyone go there for any reason. But, I was a member there for about 2 years, possibly more. I was still hard to grasp the fact that the internet would never really be real life and that the things that happen online don't necessarily take place offline.

Like Earth Hour. I know that certain groups really want this to be a real "thing" offline. But, the sad reality is that it just isn't. No one is talking about Earth Hour offline. No one in my town even knows what Earth Hour is.......

Another example, online there is a thing called "extended rear facing" in reference to how long you should keep your children's car seats facing backward before finally spinning them around so that the child faces the front. I had never heard of it until the internet. I didn't know this was a thing. So, here I was, asking everyone I knew from real life about "extended rear facing". Each one of them responded to me with some variation of, "extended what?!". Not one person that I know face to face has ever heard of extended rear facing car seats. Everyone I know did the exact same thing I did. We spun the kid around when he was too big to face the seat anymore. Once the child is uncomfortable and his/her legs are bending against the seat, it's time to face forward.

Our kids are all alive. We drive defensively, not like douches. So, even though we know accidents happen, we haven't had any.

What I found out is that "extended rear facing" has a niche following online. But, in real life, offline, in reality, extended rear facing is only now starting to be a "thing" and not in very many places. More power to you, if you feel like your kid needs that, if you live in a big city and the dangers are such that you feel you need to keep them faced that way longer, fine. But, it's not a thing for a great portion of the U.S. and never will be. However, the negativity that other mothers were getting from some of the......"women"......on that site about the fact that they didn't live or drive in an environment that would necessitate extended rear facing and therefore didn't do it, was abysmal. It became counter productive and not very constructive. Women that were really in the market for some good advice and social connection instead got some bullying from a fringe group of internet society.

Same thing happened with baby wearing. I went to school in Southern California. Only one of the greatest hippy mechas in this country. Not one person that I know face to face wears, or wore, their babies. Great idea, if that's for you and you have the means to do it, fine. But, holy cow the abuse that came to women who didn't wear their babies.....insanity. This is not a "thing" for most of society. Baby wearers, like extended rear facers, are a fringe group of society. Or, they are a fringe group of internet society. Offline society may not even know these people exist, nor do they care. The group on that site, however, was under they impression that everyone should know.

It came to the point where being on the forum wasn't really adding anything to my life. It was really just a place for trolls and I'll go out on a limb here and bet that probably 40%  of the "women" who are supposedly members of that site aren't women at all and are really men trolling other men and hoping to troll whatever women might happen to be on the site. Another 50% of the members are people who will say whatever they can to make it look like they are perfect and do all of the latest fad "things", they probably really don't do most of it, if any, offline. The last 10% are the fringe groups.

I left the site about 2 years ago. It was necessary. Internet and real life are not the same and most of the people aren't the same. They might be the same people technically, but the character they play online isn't the same as offline.

The internet kind of teaches us to self segregate. I became somewhat of a hermit when I started playing on the internet a lot. It's been work to actually unplug and disconnect from the internet and instead, reconnect to real life. Part of that is understanding that the two are actually different realities.

I left some other forums last year. One was a pagan forum and another was a forum for survivalists. I left the survival forum because they're hostile to anyone who isn't a conservative republican. I am not, I'm a left leaning libertarian. Sadly, even though I grew up in a family of survivalists and hunters, according to the internet, the lifestyle isn't for anyone who is not a conservative republican. In fact, while checking on some of the places I'd left for this post, I checked that site. There is a thread titled, "Why are there liberals on this site?!". The body of which includes, "Why would they come here other than to troll??".

The pagan forum was the exact opposite. I'll bet you're thinking I left it because of the arguments about who is and is not pagan, right? Well, you'd be wrong. I left it because of the hopeless internet liberals. According to the internet, paganism is for internet liberals. If you are anything other than an Obama fangirl/fanboy democrat, you are not pagan. If you disagree with Obamacare at all, you are not a pagan.

By the way, an internet liberal is not the same as a real life liberal. Internet liberals are only liberals on the internet and when they can troll other people with it. But, leaving those two forums became the only way to deal with the problem. It was counter productive to even stay on them. On one there was some discussion of survivalism, but more of it was just a bunch of mud slinging across party lines. On the other, there was pagan discussion in between political mud throwing. The discussion revolved around new age-y practices though and I'm not into any of that besides meditation.

So, today, I'm finding that I again need to disconnect from online life. Not totally, but I need to get out of some environments that aren't adding to my lifestyle or life in any way and are instead either distracting me from it, or affecting it negatively. I read Reddit, so I went through my subs and got out of a bunch of subs that were just not going to add anything constructive. I deleted accounts to several separate forums and deleted bookmarks to those and some others that were nothing but a bunch of drama or devolving into a bunch of drama. I deleted Twitter and signed up under another name to only follow breaking news.

The bottom line is that it's easy to get too wrapped up in internet life. It takes away from my offline life and it's around this time of year that I take a look at what I'm doing online and start decluttering. So that I can reconnect to real life. I consider this work just as important as the work I'm doing offline to get my house ready to be closed up for the winter.

Autumn cleaning and decluttering. Add the internet to your list, today!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Has the Label of "Pagan" Outlived It's Usefulness?

I've left paganism more than once. Each time I've left, it's because I can get right with being lumped into the greater perception of the word "pagan".

The first time I left, I couldn't deal with all the in-fighting in the eclectic wiccan groups. This was before the internet. The arguments were all the same. Are eclectics real pagans? Is there room in paganism for soft polytheism? Back then, atheists had absolutely no staked claim in paganism. You were either a hard or soft polytheist, or you weren't a pagan. End of subject.

But, everything evolves. Paganism has been no exception to that statement. Today, there are more types of pagans than I care to shake a stick at. The part that really bakes my noodle is that I'm usually seen as someone who wears all black, drips in pentacle engraved gear and wears enough eyeliner to make ancient egyptians jealous. When I say I'm pagan, people automatically think I worship Zeus, or that I am really good at dark poetry and I wave my hands mysteriously over my cauldron the stove.

Depending on what they've heard about pagans, I'm perhaps seen as an environmental extremist. Someone who rides bikes to work in the snow, eats granola and tries to reduce my carbon footprint to inhuman levels. I'm supposed to protest animal fur wearers and be against hunting for sport.

Or maybe they've heard that all pagans go to Ren faires and are member of the SCA.

My point here is that the word "pagan" has become pretty meaningless. All of those types of people are represented in greater paganism. So, when do we just become a regular old crowd of people on the street, and less a community?

John Halstead over at The Allergic Pagan has this to say about a recent exodus of hard polytheists from the greater pagan community. I appreciate his point in that post. We should embrace and appreciate our polytheists, both the hard and soft boiled versions. We shouldn't strive to run them out of the community. However, I understand why they're doing what they're doing. I understand why they're upset. I've been in their shoes. I was tired of being labeled by the mainstream as anything but what I was in reality. The "hards" are tired of the atheists taking over the term "pagan". I can 100% understand that.

I'm dodgy on the word "pagan". I've been trying to avoid it for longer than I care to admit. It's polarizing on both sides of the coin. It really means nothing. Pagans are so diverse a group of people that on the outside, we look like any other group of people. It's kind of like the work "geek". Everyone is seen as a geek now! "I wear glasses.....I'm such a geek!". No one even understand the term, anymore.

I'll wager that the same is true of "pagan". Does anyone really understand it's meaning anymore? It's been redefined so many times......

So, should we use it? Or at the end of the day, should we really just be using our specific labels and drop "pagan" altogether? I'm a naturalist. I'm a humanist. I'm a witch. I'm an atheist. I'm a naturalist witch. Maybe, I should just use that. Maybe the BTWs had the right idea when they moved away from the word "wiccan".

Here is what hard polytheist, Star Foster, has to say on this topic and I agree with her 100%. The last sentence in that post is very profound, perhaps that should happen. Perhaps we do need to re-examine how we classify our beliefs. Maybe we all really don't have anything in common aside from maybe a few holidays. Star left the pagan blogosphere in 2012. I don't pretend to know the specifics of her departure, but reading a few of her other posts before the last one, I've gathered an idea. I've felt exactly the same as she has, just on the other side of the coin.

I know what makes people disconnect from the greater pagan community. It's very tough to actually find common ground. Moreso now than before the web.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Very Merry Equinox!

Today is the Autumn Equinox! Light and dark are balanced, but the dark from now until Spring Equinox next March will be longer than the light.

I don't really feel in balance, right now. I feel like the dark has taken over a little early. This is probably not a bad thing, but it could be very exhausting.

We did our equinox feast last night. I don't do meals like this well on Sundays, I prefer to rest on Sundays and eat light.

As I reported a few posts ago, we have a grilled chicken salad. With that I decided on baked potato with butter, sour cream and bacon bits, gluten free bread and butter, and baked apples with cinnamon, brown sugar, ginger and vanilla ice cream. I didn't get a picture of the dessert, that's how good it was. But, I did get one of my dinner. Sorry for the terrible picture. Took that with my Galaxy Note II because I was too hungry to spend time readying the Fujifilm.

Before anyone asks, no, I did not manage to eat all that. *laugh* I saved some for today.

I will get my meditations done later tonight. Tonight will focus on all of the upcoming work that starts, now. The incense I decided to use was a Cinnamon/Apple.

I hope everyone is having a very Merry Equinox!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Avast! Today Be Talk Like A Pirate Day!

Ahoy, mateys!

'Twas only fittin' that I start me year 'o' dedication t' t' Flying Spaghetti Monster with this day. Today be Talk Like a Pirate Day! 'Tis a day revered by many an FSM follower and pastafarians everywhere. Basically, I be startin' me year here. I'll be havin' t' make a grimoire page for this later on.

I'll be also watchin' vintage pirate footage. "The Goonies" and "Pirates of the Caribbean". So, join me in revelin' in Talk Like a Pirate Day! Yarrrr!

Drink up me 'earties, yoho!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Facing the Dark

In my post about shadow work, I mentioned that I'll be doing some starting on the equinox. Back during the first half of the year, I discovered something about my life that pretty much put a lot of it into perspective. Or more accurately, something about someone in my life. I wasn't really able to delve into the shadow work perspective of it, but it did free up a lot more of my mind to focus on the light work.

This season I'll be going into some really dark places and crevices that I have left alone in previous years. Some of this will be done by talking about my issues on some forums. One of those forums is CrazyBoards. There are other forums, but I'm already on them. The reason for my mentioning it right now is because, I can already tell that this is going to be incredibly hard to do. In fact, it might be the most challenging dark half of the year I've ever experienced.

The thing is, I'm already finding it hard to stay on those forums. I'm finding the posts written by the other members are triggers for bringing up all sorts of memories I really don't want. They're also triggers for me to see just what type of a person I used to be. That's distressing. I don't want to see these things. But, I have to. In order to grow and become better people, we often have to face things we'd rather not face.

I have voices ringing in my head from decades ago, telling me things that scarred me. I have voices ringing in my head telling me that I was a bad person. But, I need to hear and listen to all of it. I need to be involved in these forums and I'm already wanting to leave them. I haven't even started yet.

Yoga is the other thing I'm adding. A lot of people see yoga as some type of "light" activity, but it's very challenging if you happen to be in a crappy mood that day. It can actually wring the dark crap right out of you. Ask yogis how many of them have been sobbing while posing. The answer will probably be pretty astounding. I'm already finding this addition quite daunting just from all the stuff that's come up from reading the forums I'm on!

It's not easy to focus on the shadows. It's not easy to muck your way through all your baggage you have. I'm just going to warn ahead of time, I'm not sure what my posts might be like in the next 4 1/2 months. Some of them might be depressing and triggering to others, so please take caution reading them if you've got your own battles going.

Whatever happens, this is going to be the most intense 4 1/2 months. Emotionally, psychologically, and physically. No doubt.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

51 Days Until All Hallow's Eve

With so few days until my beloved holiday, I thought I'd muse for a bit on the subject.

I am a Halloween addict. A shameless one at that. Even though I don't really have the money to do what I'd like to do, a yard haunt, I still do what I can to show the Halloween spirit every year. That's getting harder and harder where I live.

Now, most people in my state would probably argue with me when I say there's a war on Halloween. But, where I live, there is most definitely that.

The kids here haven't been able to dress up at school for Halloween since 2004. The shift away from this fun, children's holiday activity was without warning. The excuse was that the administration claimed that Halloween was a distraction to learning. This is actually hypocritical, ironic, and stupid because you should see these schools at Christmas time. I'm actually surprised they don't plant a nativity on the front lawn, a north star suspended in the air above it, and a Christmas tree in every classroom. But, you can bet your butts that there is a tree in the entrance ways of every school in this town. As reported by my kids, there are no Halloween decorations anywhere to be seen in those schools.

Each year, there seems to be more and more successful campaigns by the churches in my town to divert attention away from Halloween traditions, and place it in the churches instead. While we do have a Fall Fest every year, here, it's run by the local Christian School. As you can imagine, there's very little there that even resembles a Fall Festival of any kind. The city used to run Fall Fest until the Christian School took over some 12 years ago. Fall Fest is pretty damned boring.

We don't have any professional haunted houses running in this city. We have a couple of local people that run very benign haunts in their own homes, but nothing that I could call a "haunted house". Other cities in this state have serious haunts, some very well known. But, our city is a no go in that area. It's not that we don't have the desire. Upon talking to locals that I know, some wish that we "could" have one. The problem, it seems, it the backlash from the local churches and the complaints from religious people, here. The complaints about Halloween have been on the rise, and the war on Halloween from the pulpits has been very successful.

Trick or treating tradition is all but dead in this city. In 2004, Halloween was rained out. And postponed. I must live in the only city in the world that postpones Halloween.....successfully. Kids didn't get to go out until the first week in November. We got a lot of trick or treaters and my kids got a lot of candy. The next year was a bit lower key. They got a decent amount of candy, and we got a decent amount of kids coming by. It was the years after that, where we really started to notice the toll that the churches were taking on the holiday.

They had already started their preaching against the practice. In 2007, we noticed a shift in the amounts of people giving candy and those coming around. We bought a bunch of candy based on years previous, we ended up having about half of it leftover after the holiday was over. 2008, and 2009 showed a noticeable decline in people participating as well.

By 2009, our churches had started "Halloween on the Square". That's a Halloween event that happens in our town square every year where local businesses come out and give candy to the kids. It was organized by the largest local Baptist church organization. They used "safe candy" as an excuse for this. It was BS, the candy in this area isn't even at risk of being tampered with. Small towns, everyone knows everyone. We started to see more and more people show up at the square, some dressed in costumes and some not even bothering, collecting their "safe candy" and then hanging out for the other things it provides. Local Christian band playing, BBQ, etc.

2010 and 2011 were the eye openers for us. We lived in a central, high traffic area of town. Both years, we got maybe 5 trick or treaters. I only had one trick or treater left in my house and we both noticed that a great many of the homes we used to visit on this night had gone dark for the holiday. He came home with a pretty paltry haul in 2010. He didn't even bother in 2011.

Last year, we had moved to another location. Same city, different part. We're right across the street from the elementary school, so you would think this would be a high traffic area for Halloween. On Halloween night, I went to Walmart just to make sure I had enough on know.....just in case. What I saw that night was very disturbing.

Our square has 4 streets along it's sides with businesses on two sides, and churches on the other two. The two churches on one side had totally blocked off the streets around their buildings and had signs inviting people in for Halloween church functions (I'm sure those were a riot and a half) or directing people to the square for the "safe candy". The only way by the churches was to pass the Square itself. The entire town had to be crammed into these two locations. There were people milling around in the streets at the churches and milling around in the square. I had never seen that many people at these functions previously.

When I got home, I told everyone what I'd seen. My youngest took it the hardest, I think. Even harder than I did, which is a pretty big feat. My middle son left the house with his friends and we just decided to turn the lights off, eat our own candy, and watch horror movies. When the middle came home, he reported that no one he knew even went trick or treating at all. No one went. They all just hung around the square and the churches. Eating food, listening to Christian country music (dear gawds, the pain must have been INTENSE), and eating safe candy. They said no one really had any decorations up in the houses that used to have them. He said hardly anyone even had costumes on, unless they were a tiny kid.

I was depressed. The next couple days after Halloween were grueling here for me. Halloween is big, it's THE holiday. It's like Christmas for all the Christmas freaks. It's dead, here. The next few weeks I talked to some of my local contacts (I don't get out much, "friends" would be a stretch.), the same ones that had wanted haunts years back. They all said that the pressure from the pulpits is why people are not participating, now. Sermons about demonic connections and the like are standard, but they are nothing compared to the psy-war that went on in the last 8 years against Halloween traditions.

In this town, if you're not religious, you're friends with people who are. Or your families are. If you are doing something that the churches are preaching against, you are going to hear about it from those religious people. That's just how it is, here. People were getting pamphlets on their doors, I guess, in the days after Halloween. From people who were telling them how wrong they are for participating in Halloween. Now, these people both people who were visiting houses and people who were giving out candy! Both! From what I heard, some people were even answering their doors on Halloween and handing out pamphlets similar to the ones handed out in Ohio in 2011. I have no idea if that's actually true, that's second hand information. My son never got one of those, so I can't attest to the validity of that claim.

I can attest to the peer pressure that went on here in the years after 2005, though. It was not a secret that the churches do not want Halloween to be a thing in this city. The same as they don't want our county to have alcohol in it. I live in one of the only dry counties left the U.S.! If they can't get ya by law, they'll find ways to get ya. It looks like they've succeeded in driving Halloween out of this city, almost entirely. It will be interesting to see whether they finally axe the Halloween part out of the square event altogether. My bet is on, yes. It's already been successful enough to become just a regular event, just held on Halloween.

Whatever the case may be, this city isn't one I like being in. Being a small town is great, when you aren't a Southern one. I am a bit melancholy about Halloween this year. On one hand, it's a fresh start for me in several areas. It's the time of year when a lot of my personal work is done. It's the time of year when I can set new goals for the next year. The time of the year I most look forward to. But, part of it is missing, now.

It's 51 days until All Hallow's Eve. But, is it really??

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Shadow Work and Introspection Season

I'm soon to begin work on my dark half for the year. This is the time of the year when I retreat inward to muck out my hidden issues.

I suffer from quite a few....neurosis? I have not been seen by a professional since 2002, but I know enough about my past and some of my life long problems to know that I suffer from things that I need to face.

I have food related phobias and OCD. I have generalized anxiety disorder (this was why I was seen from 1996 - 2002), social anxiety and panic disorder. Also, from talking to a therapist friend of mine, it's very probable that I have PTSD (no idea how badly, and I can't afford therapy to find out) from my childhood and an abusive parent. I am thankful that none of the above issues is as bad as I've read from some other people who suffer from them, but I do have a lot of muck to deal with. The food related phobias have caused me the most problems. Having a couple of actual food related physical problems (allergies, etc), it's really caused me to go off the deep end about food. I had lost an obscene amount of weight in 2011 and I was actually starting to get very scared about my health. Me being scared about my health is a bad thing because I teeter on the edge of legitimate concern for my health and full blown hypochondria. I can't watch health programs on TV or shows like House or ER. Those are damned death sentence for a person like me.

I watched a show about hantavirus once. Just once. And, then I saw a mouse and about had a damned heart attack and was convinced for about 4 weeks that I was going to die of hantavirus. My husband had a heart attack in 2008. I'm so glad he survived and is doing well, now. But, I've been waiting for my heart attack ever since. Every twinge on the left side of my body is an oncoming heart attack.

As for my generalized anxiety, it's mostly controlled now. But, I have to do a lot of work to keep it that way. I have to plan absolutely every single social interaction. Nothing can be spontaneous or it sends me into fits. I shop during off hours because going to the Walmart or grocery store is an exercise in control that I'm only now starting to get good at. Crowds make me want to vomit and I'm very uncomfortable in them. Where I live, there is no such thing as person space, the people here will crawl right up your leg until you can smell what they've had for lunch. I also don't do very well with small talk. If I don't know you well enough to have a full on conversation with you, I'd rather you just nod and move on. Stopping to talk to obscure people I don't know well makes me want to run for the truck and I'll return at midnight when everyone should be sleeping.

It takes me days to recover both mentally AND physically from social gatherings. I recently went to my in laws' for 5 hours. It took me 5 days to shake the "social gathering hangover". My panic attacks are caused by stress and too much anxiety. If I get worked up without a break, I have attacks. I also can have random attacks for no reason, but those are rare now.

The food thing is....actually kind of funny in a way. I've always been really weird about food, even as a toddler. I wouldn't eat anything. I ate 3 things for like 4 years of my life and none of my food could touch. Ever. I'm still like this, only am a little better about it. If it's meat and potatoes, it can touch. If my dessert touches my gravy, I will squeal like a stuck pig. It grosses me out. My mother puts fruit in her salads. In her green, dinner salads! Those are two flavors that shouldn't even be in the same room at the same time, let alone in the same bowl! Gross. I'm very close to divided plates.

I also have this crippling fear of food allergies. I have some legitimate ones. I'm allergic to melons. Deathly. That one allergy has caused me years of torment. Not because I like melons, I don't. But, because my mother used to torture me with this phrase: "You can develop an allergy at ANY time." Now, I'm afraid to eat. All the time. I've got IBS, so this doesn't help. Gluten intolerant doesn't help either. I haven't eaten seafood since 2000. Not because hate seafood, I love it. But, because my mother told me I could be allergic to it at any time. Haven't eaten it since.

Trying new foods? Nope. No can do, Chief. I might be allergic to it. What's that? You want me to try frog legs? Not only is there the chance of an allergy, but yuck. No. You can imagine what it's like to live with me. Here's the cruel twist to this. It's coming up to pumpkin season. Each year, I must fight my food related OCD and phobias to eat my favorite veggie, the pumpkin. I might be allergic to it, now.

I'm also deathly afraid of under cooked food. Chicken, pork, both deadly. I love both chicken and pork. But, either me or someone I trust must cook it! I would never order pork at a restaurant, and very rarely order chicken. I'll get steak all day long, med. rare please (this is an enigma to me, I don't know why I can eat almost raw steak). But, chicken just isn't something I will do when I go out to eat. Fish? No.

These are the things I work on during the dark half of the year. I don't face any of these to any serious degree until Autumn Equinox and after until Mid-winter when I take 30 some days off to switch to the light self. The time between Mid-summer and Equinox is my time off , as well. I just meditate for peace during that time.

Starting on Equinox, I'll be meditating on my mental hang ups, on my generalized anxiety, etc. I will be socializing a lot more than I do during the light half of the year. I will be facing some of my very crippling fears about food and actually, I usually try a new food during this time. I will be having a few panic attacks I would imagine. I usually do when I do shadow work. Nightmares, too. But, I wouldn't be as far as I am in dealing with all this stuff without meditation and exercise. Those are two life savers, believe me!

I'll also be dealing with something that only pops up during the winter. Germ related OCD. Now, please don't get the wrong idea. I don't have this as badly as a lot of sufferers do. I don't suffer from this like some people I've read about and I'm both thankful for that and sad for those people. My problem with this is bad only because I have to go places where sick people are. I have to take myself and my son to the doc's office at least once during this time of year. That place is a death factory. I don't touch anything in doc's offices. I won't use their pens, read their mags, touch their chairs with my hands, nothing. I bathe in germ-x so much during the winter that we go through 2 gallons of the stuff. Every time I get a virus, it's very tough to keep myself calm because I'm convinced it's going to turn into pneumonia and kill me. Or, that one of my kids will get sick and die, I'm really anxious about my kids, too.

These are not fun things to deal with. Back when I was kid, most of this stuff was already making itself apparent. Instead of helping me like any normal parent, my mother would chastise me and call me a faker or a hypochondriac. Hypochondriac isn't a slur, it's very real disease and it's not funny. But, for some reason, she finds it hilarious. Even though I have had some very real health scares that could have been very deadly and serious, and still have a couple, she would call me a faker, or a hypochondriac. She would never give them any real thought, or care. So, my work to overcome my mental hangups is pretty daunting. But, the first step was even admitting I had these. That's been in the works for years because I denied them for a long time.

I'm hoping to include drawings with some of my shadow work. I don't know that I will be able to, or can. I'm not a good artist and never have been. But, we'll see.

What will you be doing for the dark half of the year? What "shadows" plague you?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Use of Divine Images in Spirituality

I don't know what it is about atheistic paganism that gets people's hair all in a snit, but it seems as though someone has taken issue something I said my first blog post. This post was republished on Humanistic Paganism dot com, so, I'm not sure if the emailer I just heard from read it here or on that other site.

In the post, I mentioned that just because I don't believe the Gods exist in physical, sentient form that doesn't mean that I won't use their images in my own spiritual practice. I had a commenter over there ask me about how I use the images or would use them, but I don't think this email came from that commenter. I will redact the personal information and just give you the gist of the email.

The emailer wanted me to know how off putting it is to hear that other pagans are "using" images of deities in their practices while not actually honoring or believing in said deity. One example was that if I used the image of Bast either on my altar (I do have a mildly functional altar) or in my rituals, if I don't really believe in Bast and am not living my life in honor of Bast, I am actually at risk of offending deities. The deities "don't like this".

No offense intended, but........I find that laughable, frankly. I'm sure that I've done a lot more in my life that would be offensive to Bast than using a cat image in an occasional ritual or on my altar. Like, I don't know, running a stray cat out of my yard and away from my truck, or, not feeding a stray cat. And, how exactly does one live their lives in honor of Bast?? Does anyone really have an answer to that? Or are you all just making this up as you go along the same as the rest of us?

The thing is, I don't believe people who say, "I work with Bast." Because, no deity, if they were real, would have any real reason to "work with" a human being. I have always wanted to ask them, "what kind of work does Bast do, exactly? Do you show up at the homeless shelter and try and save all the homeless in the name of Bast?" My hunch is that's a big "no". You just live life. You might worship Bast, you might honor Bast. You might believe in Bast, 100%. But, I just have always highly resented the "work with" phrase when dealing with deities. It's not convincing, especially not while telling me that the same deities would have a problem with me "working with their images."

So, I suppose that makes us even. Mr. or Ms. Emailer? Doesn't it? You take issue with the fact that the face of the deity I see as representative of the holiday or practice in question and not as something that requires my worship or belief or undying fealty, and you believe the opposite. You believe you've got a personal window into Bast's psyche.

I don't care what other pagans choose to do. I'll freely admit that in the back of my mind I'm questioning them the same as I'm questioning any Christian or Muslim or Jew who claims their God is real and claims to know what these deities would want if they were real. Their images aren't that important to me beyond how they fit into my daily connection with the Wheel of the Year. How their images have, for centuries, been associated with certain aspects of the seasons and of nature. The thing is, I just don't really care about the deities beyond that very elementary connection.

And, just to prove that it doesn't really matter which deity you choose, I'm going to do something. I had toyed with this idea back when I wrote the first post and even more when I wrote the Grimoire post. This email just basically made the decision for me. Not because it made me angry, because I wouldn't give it that much credit, but because I actually found it funny enough to do this.

Each year, I'm going to use a different deity as my symbolism. Some of them might be known to a lot of people, but the one I'm going to start with isn't a deity of old. He's a totally made up deity. I'm going to show that the spirituality doesn't change even if the face of the deity does change. I'm going to prove that Bast isn't going to come out and bite me if I use her image, or that lightning bolts aren't going to shoot me in the ass if I use Zeus without actually believing in Zeus.

This next year, 365 days starting All Hallow's to All Hallow's, I'm going to be dedicating everything to the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Pastafarian paganism? Could be fun.....! I'm even going to tailor my holiday menus to include a pasta dish. All my Grimoire pages will be connected to incorporating FSM into naturalist/atheist paganism. I'm going to show that naturalism is the same regardless. That one doesn't need to concern themselves with the offense of the deities, Christian, Pagan, Pastafarian or otherwise. The offense comes from people not deities. When we live life, we're just living life according to our individual set of values and morals and none of it really has anything to do with deities.

I actually look forward to this. I plan to explore all sorts of different deities over the next few years and devoting 365 days to incorporating their image into naturalist/atheist paganism. Complete with prayers and rituals and incense offerings. Should be a lot of fun and will be a great way to learn the mythology behind the deities from an atheist perspective.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Mid-Life Crisis

It seems my in laws might be in the midst of a mid-life crisis. We visited over the weekend. That's unusual because they don't live in town and we don't like to go out much. But, some things were said while we were there that gave rise to my post today.

My sister in law apparently wants to die. Both hubby and I were pretty shocked at that revelation since she's one of the happiest people we know. I don't think I've ever met a more jovial person in my entire existence. But, she was saying some pretty strange things. Like she wished she had cancer, and that life sucks and she wants to die. The really strange thing was that she said it while laughing and smiling and we thought she was kidding. Then she said, "No, really. I'm serious."

When we got home we sort of mulled over the topic of the "mid-life crisis". What does this have to do with paganism, naturalism or atheism? Well, my in laws are Christians. And, that got me to thinking. Every time I hear about someone having a mid-life crisis, they're always Christian. I think I have yet to hear about a pagan having one. It almost makes me want to poll pagan forums to ask if any have ever had one. I'm sure they have, they have to have. But, why do we only hear about religious people having these things?

Then we kind of touched on the issue of ourselves. Because the in laws are that much older than we are. We both agreed that we kind of had the crisis already. We did that stuff when we were in our 20's. It's true, as weird as that sounds. We both just went off the deep end and did all kinds of stupid garbage in our 20's. So, that leads me to wonder whether we will ever have an actual mid-life crisis, now. Better yet, what in the world would we do that we haven't already done if we have one???

I don't know that there's a point to this entry, just rambling. Maybe a pagan who's had a mid-life crisis can weigh in on it. I'm kinda worried about my sister in law, now.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Ponderings on Lughnasadh

Yes, yes, I know. Lughnasadh is over, but I want to direct attention to a post I just read about this holy day. I've often said that I have some very fundamental issues with the eight pagan holidays and this post basically outlines a lot of them. The author articulates what he's trying to say far better than I ever could. The author is John Halstead who writes "The Allergic Pagan" blog on Patheos.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Planning for Autumn Equinox

I know what you're thinking. "'s only August!", right? Yes, I agree. But, if I don't plan these things, they always get fouled up in the details. And, when you live on a budget, you have to plan. Thoroughly.

School starts here on the 26th, and the stores are full of Moms and Dads taking little junior around to get his clothes and supplies for the year. Now, that none of my kids are in school anymore, I get to use these times to stock up on crafting supplies. Mainly for this Grimoire I'll be doing.

Remember when I said that I had tried the Grimoire thing before, I just couldn't get into the digital type media to create the thing. Old habits.....they die hard, isn't that the saying? I bought a new printer, and I have things in mind for how I can incorporate digital art into my book. For some reason, I just have a fire under my butt, now.

So, Equinox. It's still going to be over 85 degrees here during that time, so the traditional food of the Wiccan Mabon has never made sense. It did when I lived up north, but I've been down here for 10 years, and no one is eating stews and soups in September. I also have little to no ties or connection to some of the more traditional foods that pagans serve on Autumn Equinox.

Like, Colcannon. This is a traditional Irish dish, a great many pagans list it as one of their traditional recipes for both Lammas (Mid-summer for me) and Mabon (Autumn Equinox). Sometimes it seems like some people just reprint some of the recipes they see on the correspondence list on someone else's site and you wonder if they're really serving that. I used to get stuck behind that barrier. Colcannon is traditional, but my family has never done any traditional Irish or Celtic cooking. What to do.

Since it's still hot here, the last thing I want to be doing is cooking a stew all day. Or eating Colcannon. So, we will be having a roasted chicken breast green salad with homemade ranch. For dessert, it will be baked cinnamon apples. There will probably be ice cream involved in this, also.

My meditation for this holiday will be similar to what we do in America on Thanksgiving. Except, instead of giving thanks with a prayer to God, I'll be giving thanks by meditating on all of the good that has happened this year and saying good-bye to the light half of the year. I'm also going to try and convince my husband to drive out to the lake for some "Welcome to Fall!" photos. We'll see. The colors don't like to change here until around Halloween.

I'm also planning something else, this has nothing to do with Equinox, though. I am planning to make Egyptian Kyphi. With my trying to transition into making my own loose incense, it made sense to try this. It's only in the planning stages right now, and I can't get some of the ingredients until I save the money to do it. But, I'm excited. I've wanted to make Kyphi for years and just didn't think it was the right time. When it gets closer to the time I'm going to make it, I'll post the recipe I'll be using. I really hope it turns out!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Astrology and Naturalism

Someone asked me, about a year ago, if I also believed in astrology "like most New Agers do". Once I finished wincing at the term "new ager", I told them that I didn't. And, then I told them that "new age" has nothing to do with me, I'm an atheist.

I revisited the question a couple of times wondering if I actually should believe in it, though. I mean, my path really revolves around the Universe and how it affects everyone. So, why not believe in astrology? In the end, I still don't do astrology.

I'm a Scorpio. I've had my chart all mapped out. Scorpio sun sign, Pisces rising sign, Capricorn moon sign. Plus a bunch of planets in various places. The description of my character based on the very generic descriptions given by astrology is really only vaguely accurate. I suppose it would be easy for anyone to believe astrology works when the information is as generalized as it is.

At the end of the day, I do believe that planets and the sun and the moon have a lot to do with people and affect us greatly. Just not on a personality related level. I don't believe in horoscopes, or that I should be hard to get close to because I have a scorpion for a leading constellation. I am.........hard to get close to. But, not because of my astrology, it's because I'm a giant introvert. And, many Scorpios I know aren't introverts at all.

I guess I just don't see a reason to believe in categorizing people based on star alignments. I see personalities as random occurrences and I think if most people looked at other people on an individual basis, instead of a generalized one, they'd see that there is no real way that astrology works.

Then there's the fact that "new age" is attached to it. A whole other problem in and of itself.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Mid-summer is Here!

For most pagans that I know, last Thursday was when they were all celebrating Lammas or Lughnasadh. For a lot of traditions, this time of year is the time to celebrate the first harvest and I always got a "beginning of fall" undertone from Lammas when I first got into the pagan lifestyle.

And, actually, I never heard the term Lammas spoken or saw it written until I found the pagan community on the internet. Lughnasadh is what this time of year was always called in the circles I was in.

But, in every place I've ever lived, August is certainly not the beginning of fall by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it's 101 degrees where I live right now and tomorrow it's supposed to be a whopping 107! It's the hottest part of the summer, here. Kids are now beginning "hell weeks". Hell week means 3 different things where I am. One group uses it to describe the 3 weeks of football camp at the local high school for this year's upcoming football season. Another group uses it to describe cramming all the swimming, BBQing, boating, camping, etc., that they can before school starts the 26th. And, the local Christians use it to describe their local push to get the local youth into youth camps and groups before school starts, keep the sheep well guarded.

Today, I got sidetracked. This is usually a day where I would be preparing the roasted chicken feast to welcome the peak of summer! Unfortunately, it didn't quite work out this way. This morning, I found out that brown recluses like to make homes in cardboard boxes and it just so happens that I have a bunch of those storing things in this house. Needless to say, I'm on a mission to unpack from cardboard and repack into wood or plastic tubs. I've been mindfully using this time as my ritual for preparing my home to be closed up for the cooler months. I normally wouldn't even be doing this stuff until October, here. But, I guess now is good and I can always repeat it. It's good for the soul!

My meal will have to wait until tomorrow, but tonight's offering of incense will be a spectacular apple/blackberry scent and I have been burning an oak and pear scented candle today. My meditation today was focused on switching to my dark self. I've got some things to work through this year, it will be quite a task, I'm sure.

So, Happy Mid-summer to you. And, Happy Lammas/Lughnasadh!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Insincerity in the Community

I lurk on quite a few forums. Some of them are dedicated to paganism and some of them are not.  Out of frustration, I've stopped reading a couple of them in the past due to what I see as an epidemic in the paganism communities. Insincerity.

It seems as though the pagan community at large has a high volume of people who put forth an air of "shiny, happy people" and of being above the natural responses people have toward annoyances or hostility or silliness. It's seen as PC for them to sugar coat the world, so that paganism is seen as "above" everyone else and all the drama.

But, there are weeds in every yard and they can't escape the fact that it's not really all that believable and some of us can see through the veneers that they erect to fool people. This whole "epidemic" is why I left the greater pagan community awhile ago. I don't want to be associated with people who lie to put forth a different face.

Recently, there was a question posed on a forum that asked, "Do You Accept Other People's Religions?". This question has been posed in many forums, not all of them having to do with religion. I posted that the word accept really wouldn't be the correct word. If we use the word accept we are setting ourselves up for a loaded world. That would mean that we accept those beliefs that space ships are going to come and pick people up when the comets come by. Or the belief that we are all going to hell for not accepting Jesus Christ as our savior. Perhaps a very few people do accept those beliefs, but I doubt many of them are pagan. The correct word we want is tolerate.

Yet, that doesn't stop them from saying that they do accept it. Why? Does anyone really think that by saying the accept these things they are showing that pagans are more accepting than other people? Because that's what it seems like. It seems more like people are too afraid to say what's real and instead and just saying anything so that they don't draw attention to themselves. I don't believe that these people really accept everyone's religions, unwaveringly. That would go against out very human nature. Are we suddenly evolving past rudimentary skills like judgement? I would highly doubt it, and I really hope that's not the case.

It kind of seems like pagans have decided to one up the Christians by showing them what "Judge not, lest ye be judged" really means. Sadly, I just don't believe that it's genuine and I never have. I know how people talk when they're around like minded kind. I saw it all over eclectic wiccan groups and I still see it today. Say one thing when you're in public and then say what you really think and feel when no one's looking.

Can you really say that you don't judge those people who protest funerals of fallen soldiers with greatly offensive signs?? Can you really say that you accept their religion? They're a completely extremist branch of Christians, you accept this?? Does that mean you accept extremist Islam, too? The Boston bombers for instance? 9/11? Or is it that people just don't think before they speak anymore? You're setting yourself up for a giant can of worms bursting open if you put forth the opinion of acceptance.

One person who commented mentioned that they wouldn't want to subject another human being to the word tolerate and instead would rather use honor. Again, I have to raise eyebrows at this. It's a very loaded word when it comes to just what kinds of ridiculousness there is in the world, today. People honor killings in the name of religion?? That's what you get when you take religion wholesale and not use judgement on it. You get extremism. Do you really honor that??

I'm sorry. I apologize to whomever I many offend, but I don't buy it. I just flat don't buy it. No one is saying to themselves, "You believe it's okay dominate women because your prophet says to do so?? Alright, I can honor that." Rational people aren't doing this. The only people who are doing it are people within that religion. Don't sugar coat things to make them more in line with the erroneous assumption that pagans have to be more passive and accepting than other groups do. I don't know where this incorrect assumption got started, but it needs to die. Now, preferably. No one is honoring WBC. And, if they are, they need some professional evaluation. No one is accepting WBC, except WBC. Why do people feel the need to give off the illusion that they are?

It's these insincere perceptions that have kept me from really connecting with pagan community as a whole. Twenty years, and I still can't take most of them seriously because not very sincere. Pagans are just like any other group of people in reality, everyone. We use judgement. We do it every day. The ones that say we don't judge are lying. The ones that say we do judge, we just do it in favor of the oppressed, are still lying. We also say what we really mean when the PC police aren't listening. I will flat out tell you to your face, but I guarantee you, most people who look overly PC on the outside aren't like that on the inside. They're making the same judgements everyone else is making when faced with silliness and extremism. I just don't believe they really accept any of it. It makes no sense to say they do.

This brings me to my point. People have got to stop whitewashing and sugar coating in paganism. I've seen so many people ranting over the years about how the fluffy bunnies have whitewashed their Gods. Turning dark skinned Gods into light skinned beings, turning dark Gods into huggy, loving beings, and trying to make the public at large believe pagans are only really singing kumbaya by that fire in the forest. People have got to stop sugar coating everything they say to make it go down the PC gullet easier. The bottom line is, if you really aren't using any judgement, you're pretty dangerous.