Mar 222014

Good morning everyone and happy Saturday once again! As I had mentioned to some, today’s posting is an important message. Yesterday, I read the following on my Facebook feed from PNC’s Facebook page:

We have an announcement of some sad news everyone: the technical difficulties that have plagued the site finally overcame my ability to fix them a few weeks ago and myself and the other volunteers helping to keep the PNC online have decided that we’re going to wind down our operations.

I’ll be helping to keep those blogs and bureaus that want to continue to produce content going during the transition so this doesn’t necessarily mean that the blogs and bureaus that you’ve been able to access here are going to completely disappear, only that the super-feed from the main PNC site is going to go away.

Thanks for your many years of support and I’ll continue to keep you informed during the changes regarding new sites that come online.

I already know that a few of the authors are going to continue writing over at the Patheos Pagan channel, so if you don’t already “like” and follow that site, now is probably a good time to do so!

- Dashifen

To color me surprised is one thing, but this just made me sad. So I started asking around what I needed to do. After talking to a few people, I made the decision that today would be the last post I write here.

But!!! This isn’t the end! No way! There really aren’t a whole lot of people covering the military side of Paganism, so I wouldn’t just do that. Some of you may recall last year I was asked to periodically write articles for PaganSquare which is run by the good people who bring us Witches and Pagans and SageWoman magazines. Considering SageWoman has been out 25 years now, that should make folks feel pretty confident in their dedication toward keeping news not just happening but remembered for all time.

One thing you will notice is I won’t be posting on the military news quite as often, perhaps only once a month. There will be some structure set in place so that each article will be specifically written in regards to news that involves Pagan military. But, because Anne Newkirk Niven (the main lady in charge of those wonderful magazines and PaganSquare!!) and I talked in depth over the phone on what it is I do each week, she felt it should be continued but split in two. That means I will indeed be posting each Saturday as always, but in two different areas. The latter will be for an upcoming feature on PaganSquare which is tentatively entitled Chicago Witch. I’ve lived here all my life, my parents grew up here, their parents, and their parents, too. I’ve been told I even have the Dennis Farina/Superfans accent. (Da Bearz!) And, I’ve been Pagan now for nearly twenty years, so the two together makes perfect sense. Okay Anne, no problem. I’m on it.

Also, I was emailed a copy of every post I’ve ever written here on Warriors & Kin. Anne asked I sort through them, and she will put up the “evergreen” articles for remembrance for all time. And here I thought I was going to have a leisurely weekend for a change. Nope!

So, while I won’t be posting here anymore, you will certainly be able to find me and my articles, be they for a military slant or a personal one, on PaganSquare – alongside over 150 other wonderful contributors who are all also Pagan. It’s a good thing to know when a door closes a window is always open, especially when the window is a pretty big one.

Thank you all in advance for continuing to read my articles and valuing my writing the last four years. You’re all awesome people. So as always, take care, and many blessings to you and yours!

Mar 152014

Good morning everyone and happy Saturday once again! This week has been a crazy one. It started with gorgeous, then an ice storm, then cold, then gorgeous and today – just a little below normal. Ostara is Thursday, so Winter needs to back the eff off already! I’ve been seeing green grass in spots, those tiny little nubs have popped up on the tree branches and the song birds have returned. So yes, I’m good and ready for putting my winter coat in the back closet – right next to the Yule decorations.

I’m not the only person who’s noticed the change in weather, because this week has been crazy busy for me. I signed a lease last night, I have another lease signing today, plus I have three applications on different apartments pending approval. People are really starting to come out of the woodwork, because my phone just won’t stop ringing. It’s a lot better than February, where I made my personal goal, but our broker was starting to get antsy. The truth of the matter is, February was ridiculously cold, and yeah, the entire month was under a Mercury retrograde. It was what it was, but now things are going into overdrive! And too, because I feel I’ve been doing this long enough, I feel pretty good about opening up a FB page about it. So if you’re interested, click here.

Oh, and there’s one other lease signing that happened on Wednesday, and it was the easiest one I’ve ever done. The place is a 1BR/1BA gut rehab, about 500 sq ft (so yeah, big bedroom and living room), still in progress (so everything will be brand new), with all utilities included, plus laundry in the building, at the Belmont Craigin/Portage Park neighborhood border – going for $695/mo. Oh, and the street parking is superb, it’s near lots of public transportation and grocery stores, plus the landlord is my favorite client – so yes, he’s a very good landlord. Sounds pretty nice, right? It’s glassblock windows too, so that’s a strong indication of central air, since there’s no way to put in window units. (In Chicago, central air is a big deal, and free heat is an even bigger one!)

The person who got the apartment… is Ryan! We’ve been waiting for so long for just the right place to come along, and Ryan got a raise the night before that. Not bad for a first apartment, eh? I remember my first apartment: It was a 2-room studio (separate galley kitchen and bath) above a 2-car garage, so that alone tells you how small it was. And, it was very 70s too, with tangerine cupboards and dark brown carpeting. Plus, there was a high iron content in the water, so the bathroom sink and tub were pure rust. I remember it took an entire bottle of Lime Away to make them white again. But it was MY space, and it went for $320/mo for all utilities including basic cable, so it was awesome for me. I tell ya – kids these days! They don’t have our struggles. Ha!

Once Ryan moves into his new apartment (and yeah, stress on the word NEW! Jeez!), we’ll be able to have our living room back, since that’s where he’s been camping out. But more importantly, Ron and I will once again be empty nesters and have to readjust to it just being the two of us again. The first time he went away was to go to the Army, and the second time, he moved in with grandma and chis cousin. But this time, it’s different, as the space is all his. (Yes, that means he can have girls over anytime he wants.) And, the main boss and his supervisor at his company really like him, too, so he’s lined up for several different promotions as they become available. We’re very proud of him!

Now because I’m in that area a lot, there’s a part of me that’s going to want to “pop in” and see if he needs anything. He doesn’t have a car yet, as he’s spending his savings on furniture first, so he’ll be hoofing it to the grocery store. I know, he can do this, but I like to be helpful. And, I told him with Mother’s Day in a couple of months, I’m expecting him to invite us over for a nice dinner. That’s plenty of time to get situated and learn his way around the kitchen more. (Which, it’s a lofty, modern layout, so the kitchen opens up to the living space, meaning there’s plenty of room for a kitchen island, and that one actually converts into a small breakfast bar.) No, no. Pull it back in. He can do his own shopping and pick out his own furniture.

Okay, well, that’s about all the time I have this week. I wish you all a wonderful first day of Spring! Take care, and many blessings to you and yours.

Mar 012014

Good morning everyone and happy Saturday once again! And as I mentioned last week, today is my 40th birthday, and I’m so gigged about going out tonight! Even the ATM wished me a happy birthday this week, which was nice and kind of creepy at the same time. (It will be really creepy when it starts commenting on my hair and clothing!) I’ve been dreading this particular birthday for several years, because I was raised that old = bad, and mean jokes (which now are recognized as bullying) were the way we expressed our love for each other. So of course, 40 = not just old but ancient. When our dad turned 40, my brother and I were especially cruel; we gave him a walker in a red bow, so I’ve been wondering when mine was going to be delivered. And to make it worse, I’ll add the back-story to where it came from:

My brother, who was in pique physical condition in high school, was hit by a car months before dad’s birthday while crossing the street. Because of that, he required a walker for a while. Coming back from the hospital, he was struggling to move an inch. At that point, a stereotypically decrepit old man, the crooked old man with the crooked smile no less, breezed past him with a cane. It made my brother’s efforts that much more pitiful, and he threw the walker to the ground in disgust. And of course, his frustration was found to be absolutely hysterical, so getting even was in the works. Hey! We put the fun in dysfunction!

So yeah, I’ve been dreading this day for a long time, and I know the “You are O-L-D!” phone call from my brother is coming. But now that it’s here, I’m genuinely okay with it. The guys are taking me out for my idea of the most awesome dinner ever, Mercury has officially gone direct yesterday morning, and Thursday, I heard a robin singing. All is almost well; Ms. Clairol is giving me the hint I’m no Rogue and cannot rock these white streaks like she can.

Which all of this has me asking a few questions for you all today:

- If you are on active duty, away from people you care about, how do you handle certain checkpoints in life? It’s hard enough to imagine being away from family and friends on your own birthday, but what if it’s the birthday of your children, especially the day of their birth? Does technology like Skype help you through?

- The older we get, especially if we broke or strained something, the less things tend to work. And yeah, we simply don’t look the same. Do you embrace your changes, fight them off or push them aside?

- How do your beliefs fit into “the new you”? Do you find yourself innately becoming more spirituality in-tune over the years or do you deliberately work harder to do so?

- It’s been said the general we (not the General Lee! Ha!) are ageists. After a certain point, has maintaining your social identity become more of a challenge? If so, at what point did you notice people treating you (slightly) less favorably, and what did you do about it?

- When some people think of veterans, they think of some old guys hanging out at the VFW, yammering on about the damn kids and whatnot. Well, except for ours, which was recently closed to make room for condos and will hopefully be reopening this month. (General public karaoke days are full of hipsters! LOL!) So my question is: What age of a person do you envision when you think of a veteran? If your response is “Any!”, how many of those hipsters do you think are vets? (My response: Check back on a member day!)

Before I leave and get ready for work (Yes! I’m working on my birthday even though I can take off whenever I want to!), I did want to remind folks about a little bet I made a while back that March, 2014 was going to feature some important news. I’ve called it as the month and year when there would be a Pagan Chaplain in the military, and I also saw it as when equal marriage would be a thing across the country.

On the former, we’ll just have to wait and see, as I don’t have any current information. On the latter, well, that seems to have some momentum. Kentucky, a very red state, may be recognizing same sex marriages from other states by the end of the month. And, Cook County, which is mostly right here in Chicago, as well as Champaign County, are allowing same sex marriages to occur before June.

I keep reminding folks about this little bet, because in my experience over the years, magic(k) begins and ends with visualization and intent. I may be more on the agnostic side of things when it comes to the religious aspect of Paganism, but this hardened cynic knows magick is a thing. I’ve seen my personal works manifest themselves exactly as I put them out there (sometimes with “I can laugh about it now” results), but on this magnitude, it will take all of us to set things into motion and keep it going!

That’s all I have for you all today. With just a little over three months away, I am so looking forward to seeing so many of you again at PSG. Of all the fests out there, it is by far my favorite, and it’s only a couple hours away! And this year, I’ll be selling my paintings, which you can see what I’ve done so far if you’re interested.

Take care, and many blessings to you and yours!

Feb 222014

Good morning everyone and happy Saturday once again! We have a solid month yet until Ostara, and I think this year, everyone is at least twice as antsy for Winter to truly be over. It didn’t help this week, we went from a mountain of snow, to a serious warm-up, then a ton of rain came down and caused stuff to flood, and now it’s back to Winter again. Usually folks don’t experience that much difference unless they’re constantly traveling for work or something. But, at least I was able to wear a skirt with tights and boots this week – I really missed that!

What I’m really gigged for is my birthday next week. I’ve been wanting to go to Medieval Times ever since the place was built years ago, and so for my 40th, that’s exactly what we’re doing. I was able to talk Ron into it, as I found 50% off coupons for each of us in exchange for food donations, so our bill came up to about the same as any other nice (but not excessive) night out. And, Ryan wanted me to get the full experience, so he sprung for the Celebration Package. I’ve read some sour reviews on the upgrade, but I read into them as well: People expected the moon for the extra $16 a pop, and they didn’t feel they got it, so they bitched. Me, I already know it’s going to be cheesy, and the food is probably decent but not fine dining, and yeah, they really want you there early so you’ll spend more money at the bar and gift shop. I get that, and I’m prepared for it.

Me – I love cheesy! I’m all about wearing the Burger King-ripoff paper crown, waving the “special” pennants everyone else will have, cheering for my knight based entirely upon color coding and not for any particular talent or trait, and making a slob of myself because there’s no silverware. (I’m planning on sneaking in extra napkins lol.) And yes, I also am going to push for the blue section just so I can do this:

Yup. This is going to be awesome!

In other words, I’m a big kid. (Ron said as much many times hehe.) So yeah, I know I’m going to have an awesome night with my guys, and I get to help my neighbors at the same time! Win-win!

I’m also really gigged this week, because someone had reached out to me for my artwork to help another group, Hope for the Day, who helps those who are contemplating suicide. Yes, someone contacted me about my artwork and not the other way around. It makes me feel pretty special that someone saw enough value in my work that it could help their group raise money. So yeah, I got my first official seal of approval as a professional artist, but the real test will be at PSG this summer. Needless to say, I really hope you all love my booth!

With that touch of validation and inspiration, what I would love to do is offer another painting. This time, I want to do it for PSG’s raffle with a Pagan military slant. Do you have any suggestions on a theme? Things to incorporate? Active duty, veterans, family – all? Symbolism? Basically, what I’m asking is if you were bidding on a painting to take home and hang up in your sacred space, what would make you plunk down some cash and cross your fingers? Please feel free to comment and share the idea with others. I really want to do something special – something that makes my heart sing while painting it as well as yours while gazing upon it.

Well, I have another journey to the south side today, and my first appointment is at 9:30, so I need to wrap things up. I look forward to hearing back from you!

Take care, and many blessings to you and yours!

Feb 152014

Good morning everyone and happy Saturday once again! Did you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Did you work with the full moon last night? Some people who are single have called it Singles Awareness Day, but I have yet to buy into that. I know, I’m not being tolerant or whatever, but even the couple of years I was single after Ryan was born, mostly just dating but nothing serious, and of course when I was a kid, I always liked Valentine’s Day. As an adult, I see it as giving yourself a Valentine. I figure, if you can’t love yourself, as you are, right at this very second, then you don’t have much to give others. Rather, you expect somebody else to fill you up. Be happy with yourself and your current situation. Love it, even. It’s kind of like #3 of Mike Damone’s Five-Point Plan, but truly believing it:

Earlier this week, I was down on the south side doing showings, and I was having fun with it, even in spite of the heightened suspicion I created for being so out of place. Lots of hard, cold stares were directed at me, and one guy even came up to the window and started asking me who I was waiting for. (Ron thinks he was a neighborhood watch guy.) Some folks said that would have had them blasting pepper spray and burning rubber. Me, I was happy to be in a new neighborhood (for me, a Northsider) and to see different things. And, just driving around always makes me happy. I even took the streets back home the other day, just to see more newness. Like for example, there’s this one hill with a ridiculous incline, which I think is on 111th street a bit east of Western. Even a one degree incline here is rare, but one like that, where brakes are an absolute necessity? Nope! That stretch on Diversey between Austin and Narragansett is a gentle slope compared to that. And it was fun! Crossing bridges? Fun! Seeing dilapidated greystones and Victorians, wondering how they much have looked once upon a time? Fun! Watching snowflakes instantly melt on my windshield while sipping my tea and playing Freecell? Fun! And finding a cute grocery store shaped like a barn with really fresh avocados on sale in the dead of winter? Awesome! I just ignored the bleakness and took notice of the little things.

Part of what it reminded me of is when I was little (late 70s, early 80s) and Dad would stop at Maxwell Street to pick up sausage sandwiches with extra onions before heading into Comiskey Park. (Just like “Willis Tower” or “Macy’s”, I refuse to call it U.S. Cellular Field.) Even back then, you weren’t supposed to bring in outside food, but we did anyway, and I could barely finish one of them. Dad would have us sit in the car, windows rolled up, and specifically told us not to even look at anymore, much less talk to them. That was directed at me, because I had a (bad) habit of talking to complete strangers, particularly male adults. (Parents saw danger; I saw easy conversation.)

I always got bored at the game after the second inning, unless they shot fireworks for a home run, but leading up to that point was incredibly fun for me. Different food, different people, different neighborhood. Just different. The newness of it all, just like my experience this week. And yeah, to paraphrase Mike Damone, it is great!

In fact, going down there has stirred a touch of wanderlust. I can’t wait to go to PSG this year, taking a mix of expressway, routes and back roads just a couple hours west from here. I’m sick to death of Winter, but it’s almost over. We have another month tops, since the weather usually seems to be completely different by St. Paddy’s Day. I already have noticed subtle clues, like it getting dark at around 5pm instead of 4:30 and few more birds outside beside pigeons. But the real cue is when the cardinals sing their Spring song. That’s when I know it’s over. I’m really trying to be patient.

So my question for you this week is if you too at least try to live in the moment. And if so, what are the little things you pay close attention to? It must be so hard for our active duty troops to be stationed overseas, and I’ve been told numerous times just thinking of home is what gets/got them through it all. Sure, it’s easier now with computers being readily available, being able to instantly communicate with loved ones compared to waiting for the mail, but there’s no way can it ever compare to actually being at home. I often wondered if any of you astrally project while stationed, and if so, where you go. And if you do, do you tell anyone about your trips? And, to clue in your friends and family back home, what are some things you’d like to see in care packages? Things that remind you of home. Things that assist you with your spirituality. Things that help you appreciate the little things in life that make life worth living. Feel free to share!

Well, I have a hectic day today, so I need to start getting ready. I hope wherever you go, there you are. Take care, and many blessings to you and yours!

Feb 082014

Good morning everyone and happy Saturday once again! Welp, Mercury is once again in retrograde, and yeah, it’s already been causing a bit of chaos around here. Earlier this week, the furnace went out, and the maintenance guy said a new one may need to be installed. It’s working okay now, but we have a lot more Winter, and we may have less time. I can at least be happy we’re renters, and that’s part of what we pay rent for. Oh well, right?

And yesterday – that was a doosy! I had a couple cancellations, which allowed me time to swing by one of my places and check on the updating progress. It’s right around the corner from another place I had to go to, so I figured why not use my time effectively. The kitchen was completed, so I was able to snap a couple of fresh pictures. (It’s fun to compare differences! This is the updated kitchen verses how it originally looked.) When I left, I had a hard time getting out of the parking spot due to all of the snow (which was a struggle getting in it to begin with), so I clicked over the all-wheel drive feature and got out. Easy peasy like always. But when I turned onto the main street and hit the brakes… nothing. My foot went all the way down to the floor. I found myself driving straight onto a busy street!

I was very fortunate at that moment; there was no traffic or pedestrians. That corner is usually congested at that time of day, so I was very lucky. The only thing I could think of was to throw on the hazards and just let it coast. And, because I had three more showings around the corner and a lease signing at the same place (I continue to show until a lease is signed, right to the very end!), I tapped the gas just enough to allow me to coast over there. I know that building well, and the parking situation surrounding it (most importantly!), so I knew it would be a safe place to cruise into a legal spot. Let me tell you, that was the scariest driving experience I’ve ever had, only a couple blocks, and I’ve been driving for over twenty years.

It was a random, freak thing. The car was just at the shop at the beginning of last month for routine maintenance with a trusted mechanic, so it wasn’t something that happened from neglect. And, the brakes worked just fine fifteen minutes before. (Here’s all the ways your brakes can fail you.) What makes the most sense to me is when I was attempting to pull either in or out of that snow-packed parking spot, ice had cut my brake line as I was rocking back and forth, until I had eventually gave up and used the four-wheel. Why Chicago doesn’t plow alternate sides of the streets the same way they do street sweeping I’ll never understand.

Needless to say, I was going through all of the “What If?” scenarios in my head. OMG! I could have wrecked the car! Or, I could have drove straight into my client’s building! Or even the granddaddy of them all, I could have killed somebody! Amazingly though, I was able to pull myself together, deal with getting a tow (which hasn’t even happened yet, because they’re all crazy busy with dead batteries and accidents), and yeah, do those showings and the lease signing. Oh, and my hyper butt even got bored waiting on people in between, playing with the video feature on my phone, if you can believe it. And the whole time, I’ve been hoping it’s just the brake line, because that should be a quick and cheap fix. For me, no car = no job, so the faster (and cheaper!) the better.

My experience yesterday had me thinking about how the brain works during and after something scary like that happens. For me, my stress levels remained low because none of those “What Ifs” had happened. Even so, I was still pretty freaked out several hours later. I had to reschedule a bunch of important appointments I had for today, and I’m concerned about the repair cost. But, at least the tow will be covered since I have the premium AAA. There’s that, and I trust the tow truck driver, because my husband uses that guy for the fleet vehicles he manages and had never caused damage to them.

Last night, I had a nightmare about plowing into a woman with a stroller, but because I know everything is and will be fine, I can simply chalk it up to Mercury retrograde. I woke up, a bit disoriented, but I was able to I calm myself down rather easily. It’s something I can laugh off in a month, and I’ll be much more choosy with where I park from now on, even if ice wasn’t the reason. But for someone who did have such a horrible accident, those nightmares can last for years. Even with treatment, where the nightmares can be lessened and daily function can improve, such thoughts can linger on. For our service members, frightening moments can happen at any time, even during Basic. Sometimes, it can be something like temporary tinnitus from shooting a rifle incorrectly, something to learn from and laugh off, but sometimes, the worst case scenarios do happen.

It is because of the latter, where PTSD is an issue, that treatment is an absolute and immediate necessity. For those who have religious beliefs, including spirituality in treatment has been studied to be very effective. For Pagans who are on Active Duty, there aren’t any Chaplains of a direct Pagan persuasion, however, many installations do have Pagan groups and circles to attend. And of course, our troops can always contact their Elders back at home as well as the good folks at Circle Sanctuary. Patrick McCollum has been working tirelessly for Pagan Chaplaincy for years, and groups like A Circle of Warriors and The Valhallah Project are already helping those in need, Pagans and others alike.

All those I mentioned above, be they local clergy members or far-reaching groups, need our support, and our troops deserve our respect and love. Spiritual healing is a long-going and interpersonal journey, and it strengthens our Community as a whole. When I see articles like these, it’s a strong reminder how far our Community needs to go in terms of even acknowledging the many sacrifices our military members make. It is because of that sentiment alone I continue to write each week, hoping to enlighten at least one fellow Pagan of the great and many needs of our men and women and their families.

And with that, I thank you all. Take care, and many blessings to you and yours!

Jan 182014

Good morning everyone and happy Saturday once again! How has the world been treating you this week? For me, I crossed a few more professional milestones, one of which I can talk about: My totals for 2013 increased by 40% over 2012. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t proud of that, and I’m even more elated this was made known to me by the broker I work with. I knew I did better, but certainly not to that degree, but more importantly, I’m just happy the work I do is repeatedly acknowledged and appreciated. It means so much to me the people I work with thank me, give me credit and pass my name along to others. That alone makes all the difference; I’ve had some good jobs in the past but miserable doing them. Oh, and it’s nice to have a job where I can set my own hours, work from home in my jammies with very little boring, paper-pushing tasks involved, no office politics (even for the mere two to three hours a month I am there) and still make more money than at any job I’ve ever had before. Yup, that’s a combined benefit I rank higher than sick days or even a 401(k).

What’s up with Ryan? He’s a happy camper at his job, too. He left for work last night for a special overnight project and still hasn’t gotten home. They don’t ask a lot of people to work a shift like that, so I have a very strong feeling they’re grooming him for a full-time position which are only available to management. He just started there in October, which sounds crazy at first, but this is a company that’s gone from 30 to over 300 employees in just three years. And, they’re looking at expanding to a bigger location in the city but also opening a couple other locations in different parts of the country. If they go that route, Ryan would be a very good candidate to relocate. Yep, we’re really happy for him and proud of him.

I feel I would be there to support Ryan for any choice he’s made, even if they were stupid, awful or truly terrible ones. My dad disowned me the last ten years of his life over $180 that I offered to pay in a few days, and in that ten years, he missed a lot. He missed our wedding, as simple as it was, vacations and holidays over his stubborn bitterness. He died from lymphoma in March of 2005, missing his beloved White Sox winning the World Series (and the whole damned season in fact), and he died alone. Dad would have celebrated his 61st birthday this past Monday. And so because of that, there isn’t much Ryan could do to make me not want him in my life, though I have to wonder what that tipping point would be.

Some of you may laugh, some may roll your eyes or even scoff, and some may just chalk it up to being a human news aggregator that I have such bookmarks as People Magazine, World Net Daily and TMZ. Sure, I can rely on RSS feeds and what my varied Faceypages friends share, but I still like clicking through all my bookmark tabs and looking at the homepage headlines. Then again, I also read print newspapers, so maybe I’m just showing my age. I admit it – I like gossip! And I like designer fashion. And, if anything else, there’s always the deal that even a broken clock that is the Daily Mail can be right twice a day.

Well, this week’s broken clock is TMZ of all sources, as they got an exclusive on some rather disturbing photos I will NOT be posting.

Pics of Marines Burning Bodies Trigger U.S. Military Investigation [PHOTOS]

While I’m betting dollars to donuts TMZ got the exclusive because they paid the highest price, unlike the WikiLeaks-Assange-Manning deal that was supposedly done on pure principle, it’s hard not to see the relevance of the photos themselves. Oh, but this was in 2004 – a year into the war and only three years after 9/11 – when many Americans were of a “Fuck those guys!” mentality, perhaps not unlike Google employees’ response to the NSA snooping. And, these pictures were supposedly taken in Fallujah in 2004, which we all know was all shades of awful and the same year the four Blackwater contractors, civilians with kitchen supplies, were burned, dragged and hung. And, 2004 was also the same year where all those Iraqi torture pics and stories surfaced. Putting all that together, one may be inclined to ponder how much, if any, of a pass we can give the Marines in those photos. Oh, and that was back when enlistment requirements and standards were a lot more lax, because civilian jobs were more available than now and troops were getting killed and injured left and right.

With hindsight being 20/20, one can kind of put all of these things into perspective, but of course it also depends on when these photos were taken. A lot happens in a year. When were the Marines in the photos deployed? Under whose orders were the bodies burned? And so on. We can do the same reverse chronology with many atrocities. People were pissed. People wanted to get even, and the media certainly didn’t make things better. It also has me thinking: If one of the pictures TMZ released had been of our son, would that be the tipping point I mentioned above? Would I try to rationalize what the hell was going through his head? I would still love him of course, but would I be ashamed of him – not just disappointed? I try my absolute best to care for everyone equally – a homeless guy on Lower Wacker the same as I do our son – but that’s asking a whole lot. I don’t know random homeless people. I didn’t give birth to them, walk them to school, console them, nurture them.

And that’s my take-away from those pictures: I wonder how the people who love these Marines feel about what they have done. And more importantly, I wonder how those Marines feel about that. That’s ten years to think about something you’ve done that, with glancing at mere pictures, can easily be construed as inhuman. But one thing we don’t know is this: Of the bodies burned, who were the spirits that were once housed in those charred vessels? Were they monsters that deserved inhuman treatment? I don’t have the answer to that, but I will be pondering questions such as those for a while.

Let’s make things perfectly clear: I truly respect what it takes for each and every man and woman who has ever put on the uniform, be it by enlistment or draft. Yes, even the Marines in these photos. I honor that. However, as a civilian playing Captain Hindsight based on a smattering of photos sent to the highest bidder, I cannot respect what I’m seeing and feel, at least the ones where they’re grinning, they have disgraced the uniforms they’re wearing.

That’s all I have for you today. I promise next week’s article will be much more uplifting and vibrant as we approach Imbolc.

Take care, and many blessings to you and yours.

Jan 112014

Good morning everyone and happy Saturday once again! Well, we survived the polar vortex, and now we’re dealing with slushy streets, burst pipes, flooding and potholes. If there’s a bright spot to be had in all of this, it’s that extreme cold kills the invasive insects attacking our trees. Perhaps our friends in the southern climates, who also dealt with much cooler temps than normal, got some of that benefit too when it comes to nasty, invasive species like fire ants.

On Monday, the worst day, I drove Ryan to work downtown and back. My car started up with little effort, but it took over twenty minutes before it was drivable. It’s said you don’t have to warm up your car if it has fuel injection, but the real problem was chipping away at snow that had turned into solid ice, doing that in two minute shifts in order to get out of the wind, on top of getting the inside warm enough so I could see out of the windows without pure fog/interior ice. So yes, it was necessary to idle before driving off, as we park on the street.

Here’s a few pictures I took to explain just how cold it was:

snow pic
Here’s the snow that came down last weekend before the big chill arrived. Oh yes, very pretty and picturesque! I can turn this into a greeting card!

winter shopping (2)
I actually did try to grab the milk and bread, and well, all of the 1% was gone, even the expensive kind, and half of the bread was cleared out, too. Apparently, everyone else got the memo about how cold it was going to be!

frost on window
When Monday morning arrived, it had gotten so cold the frost was forming inside our apartment! And note too, this is a south-facing window in the kitchen, which is usually a pretty warm spot!

no produce3
The next day, I decided to visit the grocery store to pick up a couple things. Due to the extreme cold, the produce truck didn’t arrive, and I was left with a sad, empty shopping cart. (There were non-perishables and frozen foods available though.)

I thought these pictures tell a pretty good story, and they remind us to Be Prepared. Fortunately, we always have plenty of food on hand, so we didn’t go hungry at all. (Beef stew is the go-to recipe on days like this, plus I made a yummy vegetable soup from the leftover gravy the next day!) Many people called in to work, which was advisable, though it was a boon for those who came in. For Ryan, he got major kudos from his supervisor, and he helped train a few dozen temps.

Well, I know this is a very short article this week, but I have a early start and a long day ahead of me due to no one wanting to see places in the cold. I hope you all fared well! Let’s look forward to Imbolc with its promise if light and warmth, and yes, let’s all pray together the groundhog doesn’t see its shadow. I think we’ve all had a very concentrated dose of Winter and have earned an early Spring!

Take care, and many blessings to you and yours!

Dec 212013

I post this every year on my Faceypagez!

Good morning everyone and happy Saturday once again! And yes, yes, yes! A Blessed Solstice and Yule to all! The sun just made its appearance and we’ve already torn into our presents – we didn’t even hold off any for Giftmas this year. Ryan got a fancy new HP laptop that he really needed plus Chicken in a Biscuit crackers (he loves those!), Ron got some video games with a PS4, Reese cups and the last two Trooper ales in the whole city (at least at the time of purchase), and I got a body wash gift set, a box of Ferrero Rochers and, well I already got this, not only my registration for PSG paid for but also a vending booth with electricity. And, all three of us went to see The Hobbit 2 last Sunday. So no, not a lot of gifts, but they were quite hefty in worth and exactly what we felt we needed. (Yes, PS4 is a necessity. Ron sez so. Don’t argue; you won’t win.)

Really, the reason we opened our gifts now is because I got super sick Wednesday afternoon, which got Ron sick, and I’m just now borderline functional. Without going into details, what I have is the worst symptom from every cold, fever and flu you’ve ever had – in phases. Yep, this will go down as the year we were sick as hell but had a wonderful morning anyway. (I just wish my stomach would allow me to eat at least one of those chocolates!) So honestly, while we won’t be having a fancy meal or delicious cookies baking in the oven, we’ve always got yummy Chinatown Chinese food to look forward to this coming Wednesday. Yep – we’re going all Ralphie on the deal for sure.

“That’s right, America. Your beloved holiday movie is incredibly racist.” – Peter Griffin
Gee, thanks Family Guy for the reminder, but I still like the movie anyway.

Well, I’m signing off super early today. I’m honestly not feeling all that well, and I do have a bunch of showings to do later, so I want to get in a bit of rest.

I hope you all have a very Blessed Yuletide, a Wonderful Stolstice and yes, a very Merry Christmas. Take care of you and yours!

Dec 142013

Good morning everyone and happy Saturday once again! At this time next week, many Pagans will be celebrating the rebirth of the sun, perhaps incorporating the Hoo-Hoo! Hee-Hee! Push! Push! Push! laboring techniques into their rituals. And of course, tearing into presents is always awesome, especially for children. We adults, anything we want, we can buy it anytime throughout the year, whether we have the cash or can save up for it. At least that’s how I see it. So, because of that, Yuletide/Giftmas just isn’t as special as it is for children. For them, it’s about sending out a wish list to a benevolent, jolly, magical elf who flies around the world via special reindeer and delivering toys to good children. Just about everyone I know did the Santa thing when they were little, and the wonders of it all is a feeling I wish I hadn’t lost.

I know exactly when I stopped believing in Santa – at least as a physical being living in the North Pole. I was seven, my brother was six, and that year, Santa missed our apartment. I knew Santa knows everything, so I didn’t buy the bs story he didn’t have our new address – especially because the year before, we had lived in several places, crashing at one friend’s house to another, and Santa found us then. So that morning, when we woke up and our tree had no presents beneath it, my heart sank, but I didn’t cry. Instead, I tore open the trunk we kept the ornaments and leftover wrapping and tissue paper, and my brother and I wrapped each others toys and gave them to each other. Christmas was not going to be canceled on my watch, damn it!

This is what Jimmy gave me: His Mighty Mo fire truck. It was the best toy evah!

Even when we were 15 and 14 living with our dad, and he said Christmas was canceled that year, I wouldn’t let that happen. It just seemed wrong to even say such a thing. Since I was working, I bought about a dozen packages of cards and a ton of miniature candy canes. I was very popular in that high school, for that year, so I gave out cards with candy canes attached to anyone who was even remotely pleasant to me. It was a big shift from previous years in school, going from not having a single friend at all throughout grade school, then to having friends my first year of high school (but most of them didn’t attend the same school – if they went to school at all), to having what seemed like a million friends. So the way I saw it, the fact I had lots of friends was presents enough, and I was going to pass it along.

But imagine the scene: You had me, a total 80s Metal chick, wearing a leather jacket and kutte vest over it, with big, bleach-blonde, Kelly Bundy hair, tight jeans, a flannel shirt wrapped around my waist, a tight concert shirt with the tummy and cleavage cut out (barely held together, in fact) and my Chuck Taylors, handing out a couple hundred cards and candy canes to supposed thugs and nice kids alike, and teachers, too, in a tough, Chicago public high school. Oh, and I did the same after school at my favorite hang-out – a big mall where my other gazillion Metal friends were at.

This is pretty much what we did, concert or not. I’m… I should be ashamed, but I’m not. Haha.

And that’s where I find myself today. While I don’t believe there is a physical, benevolent, jolly, magical elf who flies around the world via special reindeer and delivering toys to good children, I do believe there are benevolent, jolly, magical people in the world who do good deeds for others without wanting for themselves, hoping to see the recipients happy. (Of course, I’d never tell a little kid that.) These people I’m talking about, they come in all shapes and sizes and come from from vastly different backgrounds and beliefs (or lack thereof). That’s what’s so special about the holiday spirit, if you ask me. You can be yourself, and give of yourself, and that judginess that’s so prevalent throughout the rest of the year seems to just go away – for a little while. Well, mostly, anyway.

Time Magazine, whether you deem them to still be relevant or not, named the Pope as their Person of the Year, and I have to agree with their choice. I may have given up on Catholicism back when I was a kid and just went through the motions for a few years, but this man really does seem to envelop the spirit of what I found a good Catholic to be when I was little. Maybe part of why even many Atheists like him is in contrast to the last guy who quit, but I’d like to think it has a lot more to do with the fact he walks the walk. We need more everyday people like him – one of whom we said our joyful good byes to this week.

But neither Pope Francis and Nelson Mandela, to me at least, still don’t hold a candle to the greatest person to ever walk among us: Fred Rogers. If you ever wanted to believe in a benevolent, jolly, magical person whom everyone, everyone, truly loved, Mr. Rogers was it. I don’t care who you are, you liked Mr. Rogers. If you tell me different, I’d call you a liar, because I don’t believe those words can be used together in a sentence. He was everyone’s real life Santa Claus, and the world is a sadder place without him.

But the thing is, we can all be him, and we don’t even have to wear the sweater, nor do we need to wear the Santa suit. In fact, to contradict Megyn Kelly from earlier this week, we can even be Santa if we’re black or women. How? By giving the good that is within of yourself without expecting anything in return. (There’s nothing wrong with hoping for a thank you or even a smile, but just don’t expect it.) When I give gifts, I go out of my way to try to make sure what I give is something the recipient truly wants, to the best of my abilities. If it’s a charity, I give money if it’s what they ask for, but my preferred charities are ones where they ask for items or time. It’s why my favorite charity is Toys for Tots. Not only do I get to play Santa, but as a recipient of their generosity, it’s my way of giving back. Because of Toys for Tots, my younger brothers did not ever have to go through the experience of Santa missing their apartments, and they were able to cling to the notion that there is a benevolent, jolly, magical elf who flies around the world via special reindeer and delivering toys to good children just a little while longer. They filled that role when our parents couldn’t, or even when I couldn’t.

So this week, if you feel charities like the Salvation Army or Goodwill are not doing the most good, but you still want to ensure the neediest people will experience a pleasant holiday, you can always opt to donate an unwrapped toy. The Marines who put this together even visit some families’ homes and give the toys to the children in person, getting to be Santa while in their uniforms. And, as their website states, “97% of your donation goes to our mission of providing toys, books and other gifts to less fortunate children. The 3% spent on support principally covers fundraising expenses – not one donated dollar goes to pay for salaries or any other manpower costs.

Well, that’s all I have for this week. I’ll be back next Saturday to wish you all a wonderful, Blessed Yuletide and a very Merry Christmas. Take care, and many blessings to you and yours.