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!

Jan 042014
 

Good morning everyone and happy Saturday once again! And BRRRRRRR! I was wondering why it’s been so cold in our bedroom, so I went looking for the draft. I quickly realized the very bottom of the storm window was still open, and snow had blown in between the glass. It doesn’t help that particular window is one of the originals to this building – dating back to 1925 – and not one of those new windows like we have in the living room.

Up until recently, it hasn’t bothered us, since we have a bamboo blinds and thermal curtains over it all, and no, we can’t do the plastic. (Our cat sees plastic on windows as a challenge to gladly accept. “Bitch, please!” he says as he claws through it with a single swipe.) I’m glad I found the problem now before it really gets bad, and I also added a couple bath towels to help block the extra drafts coming in from the top and bottom of the lower window. I love our apartment, and I especially love how much less in rent we pay compared to our new neighbors (due to living here so long), but I sure do envy people who have energy-efficient windows.

sleepy cat
Our cat isn’t stupid though. He just crawls under the blankets and sleeps the winter away.

The weather will be doable today, but tomorrow it will drop, getting down to an anticipated -60-70F wind chill come Monday; the air temp will be a high of -8. That’s ridiculously cold! They’re even saying if you’re under 40, you have not experienced this before. And no, Dennis Quaid ain’t gonna save us. So because of that, I will say this: If you have the opportunity to work from home, take it, only going out for necessities, perhaps including checking on your elderly neighbors. Let the kids stay home with you and crack out the board games. (I say that, as Chicago Public Schools are famous for being open no matter what.) If you need a few groceries, get them today. If you must go out Monday, shovel where you can today (to avoid the snow turning into blocks of ice) and check your car to make sure it actually starts up. (Check the fluids, start it up, let it warm up, take it for a drive and fill it with gas.) Wear layers – even if you look a little goofy, and please, please, please, bring in your companion animals and ask your neighbors to do the same. If they give you the line about the dog being a Husky or something like that, remind them sled dogs are fed and raised for this weather regularly, and their dog is not.

And with all that said, if you go out Monday, or anytime this winter really, perhaps while you’re at your favorite coffee shop picking up something hot, order an extra cup for the homeless sitting outside. I’m pretty sure McDonald’s sells coffee for $1, so tuck a buck away for someone who doesn’t have a warm place to be. To think of all those people camped out on Lower Wacker in this weather, and even under the viaduct steps away from us, makes me truly appreciate all we have.

homeless veteran
This is a national travesty.

It saddens me too 13% of the homeless men and women are veterans and some reports say nearly 1 out of 4 – people who sacrificed so much now have so little. And what do the homeless value most? Socks. For something as simple as new socks to be so prized, something I buy regularly without even thinking that hard about it, breaks my heart. But what can we do that will directly benefit them? Like I said, something as simple as buying someone a cup of coffee is helpful. You can upgrade that to a pack of socks. You can even give away an old blanket or buy one from the thrift store for a few dollars and donate that. No-sew fleece blankets are always on sale at this time of year at JoAnn (I saw a woman there last week with a shopping cart filled with them).

Earlier this week, I caught a segment on WGN (or as we just call it, “Channel 9”) about the Angel of Lower Wacker. For the last twelve years, a wealthy oral surgeon has been going downtown at least two nights a week, delivering blankets, socks, hats, gloves and McDonald’s hamburgers and coffee, without judgment, and he pays for it out of his own pocket. You can watch a clip on his wonderful story below:

I’m not wealthy, but I can buy a cup of coffee here and there. Can you? Maybe make some at home for your local needy if you have to-go cups? Go with the old standby of offering your pocket change? I’m not big on the three-fold thing, but I do believe in basic, Westernized Karma, and furthermore, I believe we create our own – more like the three laws of motion than anything deep or spiritual. And hey, if anything else, when you do something good for someone, you feel good, and with SAD kicking into high gear for so many, we can use all the good feelings we can get. So get yourself some happy and make someone’s day a little bit better.

That’s all I have for this week. Stay warm everyone, take care, and many blessings to you and yours.

Dec 282013
 

Good morning everyone and happy Saturday once again! How have the holidays been treating you? Are you looking forward to 2014? New Year’s Eve is a special holiday for me, as that’s when I met Ron. We don’t go out like we used to, but we certainly do celebrate at home. All year long, Ron’s been working on building up his bar, which is small but at this point, it’s significant. There’s a good selection of the dark liquors there (Jack Daniel’s, Jim Beam, Captain Morgan, etc.), so the next step is to start adding in some of the clear ones (Absolut, Bacardi, Beefeater, and so on). No rush of course, as we don’t entertain like we used to, but it’s been a nice hobby for him, and it’ll be nice to have for New Year’s this year.

The hobby I’ve been working on is my paintings. I never really spent much time on painting while we were raising our son, but now that he’s an adult, I have my own office and business has been much slower (it’s just that time of year), I’ve found myself needing something to do. So, I took up painting again. And, I figured since I don’t have enough wall space to hang them all, I can paint them, snap pictures of them and hopefully sell the bulk of them. If you’d like to see what I’ve done so far, this is my link – nothing special. Feel free to download and share; I really don’t mind. It would of course be nice if you credited me and “Liked” the page. And yes, I have a long list of things I will be painting in 2014 before Pagan Spirit Gathering, since I will be vending there this year. Right now, I’m working on a series for the holidays, then I want to do some fantasy stuff, and I also plan on doing some military-related works and even some fun stuff. And yeah, knowing me, there will be at least one Eddie. (Ron said my Metal card would be revoked if I did an Eddie in a drum circle, that there’s a lot I can do, but that’s not one of them. But what if it was funny, as in other drummers sitting on either side of him with a WTF look while he’s going Cornholio on the deal? “Someone’s Inner Warrior needs to go back to Basic Training!” LOL)

Anywayyyy…

So what plans do you have for 2014? Any goals? Resolutions? Everyone and their mom is doing a 2013 Year in Review – and thank you, Dave Barry, for also saying how nasty kale is! LOL. It’s interesting to look back to see what accomplishments have been made and how much further we have to go. I’ve been predicting for the last couple of years March, 2014 would be when DOMA would be repealed, but of course I Was Wrong, as in, “You’re wrong, Colonel Sanders!” On top of that happening, 2013 had quite a few states join in on marriage equality, including Utah. Let’s think about that for a moment. Friggin Utah! Utah one of the most religiously conservative states out there, dominated by Mormons. Sure, true, that didn’t happen by votes like my home state of Illinois (about time, people!), but hey, a win’s a win. So the way I see it, with all this momentum, maybe I can keep my March, 2014 goal and just tweak it to say marriage equality across the board. I don’t think that constitutes as cheating.

What I would like to see happen too is a Pagan presence in the military chaplaincy. I’ve had the pleasure to meet so many of our Warriors in person this year, and many, many others online, and it’s sad to even think about the fact none of them have/had a military chaplain to confide in during their service. True, many chaplains are trained to be truly open to all faiths and those who don’t have one, but they don’t get us on a cellular level. I will never get what black people go through. Or gay people. Or those with disabilities. Or what it’s like to serve. I can sympathize and empathize, and I can be supportive in their causes, but I don’t truly get it. To say I do would be an outright lie. While a chaplain who is Baptist can pray for a wounded Wiccan Soldier, how does the Soldier feel about it? That’s the heart of the matter. What are your thoughts?

Well folks, it’s the last weekend of the month, and I do have appointments scheduled. I’m just about completely over the flu that’s going around, just light congestion, so I’m still a bit sluggish and need a little extra time to motivate myself. Take care everyone, many blessings to you and yours, and Happy New Year!

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.

Dec 072013
 

Good morning everyone and happy Saturday once again! This past week has been a cold one for sure; even my Texan friends are getting a taste of what winter is really all about.


Don’t be a hero, Hank!

Oh sure, us folks up north can roll our eyes at “a little bit of snow and ice”, but that’s because we’re prepared for it. We have plenty of warm clothes in our closets, the cities have salt loaded up on plows ready to go at a moment’s notice, and the further remote you get, the more often you’ll see tires with small spikes in them and/or chains wrapped around them. When I lived in Wisconsin, people would take advantage of the Fox River freezing almost solid and would use it as an expressway for their snowmobiles, ATVs and snow bikes. (I’m guessing they still do that.) Right now, there’s a posting on my Facebook feed from someone from the Northwoods who reported a -9F air temperature, which once again solidifies my disinterest in moving into even colder climates than I’m already in. Brrrrrr! No thanks. I’ll visit The Dells in summer and embrace my FIBiness.


Oopsies! Sorry, my bad. I was looking for Paul Bunyan’s and missed my turn.

So, is winter fun for you, or is it a big headache? Or worse? For my military readers, how did/do you handle colder climates while on duty? When I was in my first year of college, one of my Communications classmates was a Marine who had spent some time in the Middle East. For a presentation, he passed around some pictures of himself in the desert, posing with camels and stuff. I noticed in many of the pictures, he was wearing wool caps and padded uniforms. Showing my ignorance, I asked why he was dressed so warmly, and he said the desert gets winter, too, and they made the best of things like we do here. Kind of like this clip I just found:

Of course, this was just a year after I had learned there was a whole religion out there called Islam, so I’ll cut myself some slack for asking such a dumb question. In hindsight though, don’t we all ask dumb questions at one time or another and have therefore donned the N00B hat? What’s important really is how we treat the people asking “dumb” questions, and what the people asking do with the new information. Yes, it can get frustrating when people ask the same things over and over when you known they have Google in their pockets. And, because people have been given the eye roll or even a serious tongue-lashing so many times, they don’t even bother asking questions a search engine just isn’t going to satisfy.

My classmate, standing at the podium, didn’t roll his eyes at me, and I have to guess before he got there, he hadn’t realized how cold it gets out that way, either. So, with my question, instead of going “Duh!”, he took the cue and went with it. I don’t think he was able to cover the topics he had on his cards, because his story went from “I did A, B and C”, which would have been interesting enough, into something a whole lot more. He shared personal experiences we, his classmates, would probably never know without going through it ourselves – like how homesickness didn’t officially kick in until that evening, lying in his bunk, after the snowball fight he and his fellow Marines had earlier that day. In fact, he was such a quiet, kind of emotionless guy, always sitting in back and never saying much of anything. I remember thinking he looked like a lumberjack with those flannel shirts he always wore. In fact, I don’t think any of us had known anything about him other than his name. (Robert, by the way. His name was Robert.)

For the rest of the course, Robert went from just being that big, quiet, serious guy in the back to a bit of a celebrity. He definitely carried himself differently, participating and smiling more. People liked to be around him. And, his Beavis impression was pretty funny, too.

Really this week, that’s pretty much what I wanted to cover: If you ask “dumb” questions, and/or if you’re tired of answering them. When people ask you about your service, what is your response? Do you take cues and run with them? Do you share a bit about yourself? Do you change the subject? It seems to me when a person shares a bit about him/herself, the entire topic can be humanized. You’re not just a guy who’s good at taking orders. To the person asking the “dumb” questions, you’re also now the guy who likes snowball fights and watching campy cartoons. The person asking may want to know what’s your strategy for winning the snow war: Do you build a fort? Do you line up a bunch of snowballs or make them one at a time? Were you home for that blizzard a couple years ago? And so on.

Earlier this week, Ron and I watched a documentary on Netflix called The Man with Half a Body. Talk about humanizing someone! At first glance, Kenny’s disability is all anyone notices. The camera showed people literally pointing at him at the mall and giggling, or worse, turning away out of their own embarrassment. But because Kenny is accepting of his situation, he has people all over the world who are truly inspired by his life. He’s really a simple guy who has a lot of the same struggles as the rest of us, but of course he has a ton more. And what’s the first thing we noticed about him? He’s an Iron Maiden fan, too! Awesome! After the show, I looked him up on Facebook, and not only was I happy to see he’s in a new relationship, but the guys from the band posed for pictures. How cool is that?! (Okay, some of you aren’t as impressed. I get that. Hehe.) But how about the honor of carrying the Olympic torch? Not everybody gets to do that. It’s because he chose to share so much of his life people genuinely like him for himself. Kenny’s an awesome dude for sure, and I’d like to go hang with him sometime. S’up, bro!

The same can be said about your beliefs. When someone just learning about Paganism asks basic questions, how do you answer those? I’m not talking about proselytizing, I’m talking about people who genuinely want to know what’s up with that table in the corner full of weird stuff. How do you respond? Are you guarded? Perhaps even a little embarrassed for being different? Or, are you proud of your beliefs and share a little too much, scaring people off before they get to know you for everything else about you as a fellow human being? That’s pretty much what I’m getting at this week: Humanizing yourself. Let people see you for who you are – all of your many shining facets. Once people get to know you, they’ll want to know other people who have the same basic experiences as you do. That’s how stereotypes are broken, a little at a time – that gentle, non-activism activism I wholly endorse.

Well, my phone’s starting to ring and it’s after 9am, so I do need to wrap things up. Yule is just around the corner, so feel free to share a bit about yourselves along with the gifts. Take care, and many blessings to you and yours.

Nov 302013
 

Good morning everyone and happy Saturday once again! So how has your week been? Busy? If you’re American, probably so. Thursday was Thanksgiving, and yesterday was Black Friday, which once again had people charging the gates at stores all across the country on deals. We took a long drive to the northwest suburbs to visit family for Turkey Day, and yesterday, since Ron’s company was giving out frozen turkeys (and we don’t have a freezer), I cooked that as well for a scaled down Second Thanksgiving, vacuum sealed the bulk of it.

For shopping, I have been stalking Amazon for their Lightning Deals, which I did find a crazy bargain on a needed item on Ryan’s list. And last night, we did necessarily visit Target, as we were completely out of garbage bags. All the bargain hunters were long gone, so it wasn’t bad at all – just like a regular Sunday afternoon. Ron already got his presents, and Ryan is just about done, so all that’s left is me. And me, all I want is to see the second Hobbit movie, at the theater (a place we rarely ever go), and maybe some camping gear. Pretty simple. I can be smug and say at least we aren’t these people:

Black Friday Zombies
Aw, c’mon. That picture has got to have been staged! Right? Right?!

Oh and in a few weeks, we’ll see the kids of these parents on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and whatnot, bitching about what they got (and didn’t get):


Hmmmm… what will be the gift to bitch about this year? iPhone vs Galaxy?

But of course, I’ve been out-smugged by folks who purposely did not even make a last minute run to Walgreens for a can of cranberry sauce (because they made their own from organic, locally-sourced berries, natch) and are only buying hand-crafted gifts from local merchants today – if they’re buying anything at all. Really, the biggest thing that will be putting a dent on my credit card, besides that one thing Ryan really wanted and needed, is sometime today, it was announced registrations will be open for Pagan Spirit Gathering 2014. I just visited the site, I scrolled down and found this:

PSG Not Open
Soon. Very soon.

The past two days, I haven’t even answered a single phone call. Wednesday night, right after 7pm, I set my voicemail greeting to the holiday version, and I physically turned my phone backwards so I wouldn’t even know it if someone was calling. Because yes, I’m that kind of person who would jump into work mode between the dinner and dessert. It’s just so ingrained in me! I spent yesterday working on side projects, and I will be returning every call later this morning. I still have a project left to do sometime over the weekend – designing the holiday cards for the office, which means I really need to finish our Yuletide decorations in order to snap some closeup pics for the card itself. (I’m usually done by now!) I thought it was funny the broker sent me a text to remind me to say “Happy Holidays” on the card instead of “Merry Christmas”. No problem, Bossman. I got that memo!

But isn’t it funny that in 2013, in America, people still have to be reminded not everyone celebrates Christmas or that others celebrate that holiday on top of others? (The War on Christmas wages on, doncha know. Uh huh.) Our clients, the landlords and property managers we work with, are quite varied indeed, and I know for certain there are three who aren’t Christian. (I have a suspicion on a few others, but it’s not my place to ask.) Honestly though, even for me, who has been Pagan now for 18 years, the hardest part of designing the card is not the pictures I’ll be taking (I’m good at visuals) but the message I want to convey inside. I want to be inclusive of course, and since it’s a company card, which the back will have our logo, it should also be one with a slant for business. Last year, I wrote,

May the spirit of the season provide you with wellness and great success.

Simple, inclusive, business-y, in a Christmas Carol-type font. I need to come up with something different, and in that same vein, but what? What have some of your favorite cards read?

This whole “remember not everyone is the same as you, and you should at least tolerate that” notion is just so hard for some folks to fathom. Why are some people so determined to force their beliefs on others? And what’s really wrong with people who simply enjoy the secular parts, like Santa Claus and presents, and not get into the baby Jesus story? The way I see it, the holidays are for everyone. Who doesn’t like presents, especially gifts that were really thought out and/or hand made? Who doesn’t like the notion that one time of year, we’re nice to each other? And, what’s really wrong about letting the rest of the world in on the fun? Exclusion is simply a kind of a crappy thing to do, some may even call it a form of bigotry, and it happens every year at that one time when we’re all supposed to be basically on the same page. Just think of the way poor Kyle feels.


Yes, I know, it’s silly, but it’s kind of sad at the same time.

While I’m deciding on just how to sum up our sincere sentiments in about 100 characters, being inclusive and apolitical without coming off as completely generic and cheesy, I’ll also be thinking of what I have to be truly happy and grateful for and what others wish they could. I know the number one wish many of my friends who have served was, at this time of year especially, to be home with their families. They didn’t care so much about the toys as much as they did about eating a home-cooked meal. One of my friends said his mom was pretty much a box-cooker, but because she made the Stove Top stuffing, somehow it just tasted better. Isn’t that how it goes? You can have the blandest food in the world, but if it was made by someone who truly loves you, and especially if it’s served on your favorite plate from the mismatched and chipped set in the cupboard, that makes it all the better. (Our dishes match, but the silverware is from many sets. Ryan has a favorite spoon, and he said he’s taking it with him when he moves. That’s his spoon, doncha know!)

Well folks, I have a ton of calls to return, and a long day ahead of me. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season, however you celebrate. Many blessings to you and yours.

Nov 232013
 

Good morning everyone and happy Saturday once again! And, I hope all my American readers have a wonderful Thanksgiving. How will you be celebrating? What do you look forward to the most? Will you be doing Black Friday? We’re going to Ron’s sister’s house again this year; they go the formal and traditional route, complete with people dressing up and the guys watching a bunch of football. Very picturesque area, too. And as for Black Friday, I’ll only be doing that sort of thing online. Kohl’s has theirs starting on Thanksgiving Day, but the online deals start the Tuesday before. And of course, I’ll be on Amazon stalking their “Lightning Deals”. The way I see it, if I’m going to be in a mosh pit, Slayer had better be on stage. At least then I walk away in a good mood, smelling like a combination of blood, sweat and beer instead of pepper spray and cheap perfume. But mostly, I just really dislike being cold, so standing in line for several hours is not my idea of fun.

And apparently, the Black Friday/mosh pit combo isn’t just my own observation:


I hope this made you laugh and shake your head as much as it did me.
“Ain’t gonna live my life this way!” at 1:04 – LOL! Classic!

But seriously, the crass commercialism is a bit much. Many people are choosing to even bypass the online shopping for shopping local and/or purchasing items online from small businesses and one-man operations via Etsy. With us, we do Giftmas and Yule, so I do a little of both kinds of shopping. PS4 and games are for Giftmas. Going out to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and hand crafting gifts are for Yule. Both are presents, but they’re on a completely different level when it comes to the giving. We only go to the theater maybe once a year because it’s so expensive anymore, so it’s something really special to me. So all year long, I look forward to the traditional date night of going to the movies. And for Ron, he already knows what I’m giving him: I’m making him a Grumpy Cat painting. Maybe something like this:


I feel ya, Tard. I feel ya.

Starting later today is when I start putting up my Yuletide decorations. I know that sounds nuts, but it comes from when I used to host Thanksgiving. I have always had full time jobs, and to put out a feast for a couple dozen people, by myself, required lots of catering-style prep work on top of making the home feel festive – just so I could enjoy the meal and everyone’s company. So yes, it’s our tradition around here. I have a bunch of showings scheduled for today too, and I need to stop by JoAnn’s to pick up stretched canvas for Ron’s painting afterward, so yes, it just makes sense. That, and I put in so much effort toward my decorating, so I want to enjoy it as long as I can.

Decorating for Yule puts me in a good mood, too, even when I’m fighting with the lights. When I was a kid, even if Santa “missed our house”, just having the place decorated from the trunk full of items amassed over the years made me happy. One year, I worked the kids room at a Pagan convention, and it was held over Thanksgiving weekend. I had a small, dedicated conference room, and I showed up with an artificial tree and lots of craft supplies. By the end of the convention, the kids had fully decorated the tree and room with ornaments and other things they made themselves, and the room smelled like cinnamon. It was a lot of hard work, since I had the room available every day from 10am – 6pm with an hour break for lunch, just by my lonesome, and it is still one of the best memories of my life. I hope the kids enjoyed their time as well.

That’s what the holidays are all about to me – doing for others, making them happy, and in turn it makes me happy. When you give something, be it food, presents or your time, do it not out of obligation but because you want to. If writing a thousand cards puts you in a foul mood, don’t do it. If baking a couple gross of cookies does nothing but tires you out, don’t do it. If writing a check to a charity has you second-guessing where the money’s going, find another charity. Find something that has meaning to you. I can name a thousand charities and a thousand more gift ideas, but if they all feel like chores, then there’s really no point. Maybe what you need is simply someone’s company. There are a lot of groups who do just that in a bunch of ways, too. Maybe offer a place at your Thanksgiving table to a lonely Soldier or even hosting a Misfit Thanksgiving for everyone you know who has nowhere to go. (I used to love making take-home plates.) Perhaps visiting a nursing home is more your thing. Dropping off a tray of your family secret recipe at the soup kitchen is a good idea. Visiting a no-kill shelter and playing with the kitties is always nice. Maybe even just making a phone call to someone you lost touch with is just the trick to put you in the holiday mood. That’s the secret to the spirit of giving.

Well folks, I have a busy weekend ahead of me, so I do need to wrap things up. I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving, however you celebrate, and a fantastic kickoff to the holiday season. Many blessings to you and yours. Take care!

Nov 162013
 

Good morning everyone and happy Saturday once again! Welp, Mercury retrograde is officially behind us (though its shadow is still lingering for another week or so), and it’s a full moon tonight. I don’t know about you, but I’m taking full advantage. This last one was more of a pain than others, so I’m glad to be shaking it off. Do you have any formal plans this evening? Do you do any workings on full moons? If you do, are you elaborate, simple or something in between? Feel free to comment!

This week, the folks at Circle Sanctuary put out a call for people who would like to receive their Yule care packages known as Operation Circle Care. And of course, they are also asking for items to put into the packs. So, allow me to merely copy and paste their request:



occ

For the seventh year in a row Circle Sanctuary will be sending pentacles, CDs, incense, copies of CIRCLE Magazine and other items in Yuletide gift packages as spiritual support to Wiccan/Pagan service members stationed overseas and on deployment. Last year, we were proud to send packages to service members stationed in countries such as Afghanistan, Kuwait, Germany, Japan and to Sailors & Marines at sea around the world. What has always made the Operation Circle Care (OCC) project so special is its personal touch. Operation Circle Care contents are always made up of personal gifts donated by the Pagan and Wiccan community.

Ways to Help!
(1) SEND US CONTACTS: If you know of Pagans serving overseas or on deployment, please send us their contact info or have them be in touch so that we can send them a care package. Please send us contact info by November 20th to ensure we have time to get a package together to beat the USPS shipping deadline. Names received after November 20th will receive packages, although they cannot be guaranteed to arrive by Yule.
Email: circle@circlesanctuary.org
Please copy occ@circlesanctuary.org

(2) SEND ITEMS: Please visit our web page at http://tiny.cc/operationcirclecare to view the recommended list of items to consider donating. In particular, please consider donating:
• Pentacle Pendants and other Pagan related Jewelry,
• Divination items (Tarot, Runes, etc.),
• Small God/Goddess Symbols
• Stones
• Pagan Music
• Handmade small craft items
• New Pagan related books
• Personal Care Items
Please contact the coordinators at occ@circlesanctuary.org to obtain the address to send donated items to.

(3) DONATE FUNDS: In addition to contributions of items, funds are needed to help us cover postage, shipping and other costs related to supporting our Pagan Military members. For example, it costs us about $14.85 per package to ship by priority air mail overseas.

Donate On-line: to our Operation Circle Care fund with a credit card at our secure on-line site. Please donate in the column on the right under “Special Fund Donations” and use the drop down box to choose “Operation Circle Care”: http://www.circlesanctuary.org/donate

Donate By Postal Mail: Send a check or money order, payable to Circle Sanctuary – OCC to:
Operation Circle Care, Circle Sanctuary
PO Box 9
Barneveld, WI 53507

MORE INFO:
Operation Circle Care:
Contact David & Jeanet Ewing, Operation Circle Care coordinators
occ@circlesanctuary.org

http://tiny.cc/operationcirclecare



Do you know someone who is stationed and would like such a package? Yule will be here in just six short weeks, so be sure to contact them right away! Unlike many other Pagans I know, Yule is my favorite holiday. I begin decorating the weekend before Thanksgiving, and I keep it all up until New Year’s Day (sometimes a couple days after, depending on my work schedule). I know, I’m a rule-breaker when it comes to decking the halls too early, but I just love the season so much, I want to get as much out of it as I can.

I also wanted to send a congratulatory shout out to our friends at A Circle of Warriors. They received the funding they needed to get their 501(c) certification and are busy with all the fun times that entails. I’ve always said the easy part is starting something, but seeing it through is the hard part. Obviously, they will continue to need funding to keep things afloat, so once the paperwork is all official-like, every contribution you make to help combat PTSD will be tax deductible. And yes, the folks putting this together are our own, so you can be assured their efforts are done with a Pagan mindset.

And before I leave you today, I wanted to send a big raspberry to Jon Stewart for going on a dissing rant about Chicago deep dish pizza. His rant made me incredibly hungry, so that was our dinner last night. Just look at this magnificent thing of beauty!

Pizza1

I wept softly as the delivery guy brought it and opened the contents of the 14 inch, 10 pound masterpiece. It’s just so beautiful that I had to place it, with a knife and fork (how dignified human beings eat), on the altar to be blessed before consuming.

Pizza2

Am I being silly here? Perhaps a little. But really, doncha all be dissin’ my pizza! Oh. No. You. Did’int! And as I ate the glorious pie, it reminded me of another charity for our troops that’s out there – Pizzas for Patriots – started by a vet just west of the city. It’s a super awesome gesture to remind our troops the little things that make life worth living – pizza being one of them. Hundreds of thousands of pies have been sent over, which is just so awesome. I wish them all the best to keep doing what they’re doing!

Welp, that’s it for me, and I hope it put a smile on your face. Have a great week everyone, and many blessings to you and yours!

Nov 092013
 

Good morning everyone and happy Saturday once again! And yes, a special thanks to our vets! With Monday being Veteran’s Day, a lot of restaurants and retail shops are offering free meals and other discounts like free amusement park admissions and B&B hotel stays, and discounts on groceries, hardware, etc. Even Guitar Center is offering a discount, which sells more than just guitars – like these beautiful drums. (I’m wagering you’d get a better deal in-store by combining their Veteran’s Day sale with your ID, but be sure to visit the website Monday to compare.) I snooped around and found a pretty good list that’s actually three pages long. Most of these places expect ID but not coupons, some also include active duty and/or family members, with few exceptions like Golden Corral (at least that’s what I read on several websites during my snooping, so be sure to call ahead if you have misplaced your ID). I think it’s a wonderful gesture with the deals, especially these days, and hey, it’s good for business, advertising-wise.

Veteran’s Day is a lot more than a good bargain or perhaps a day off work; it’s a day set aside to thank those among us who have served, young and old alike. This page shows the tally, with the rates predicted to fall by 2040 but a steady uptick in women and minorities. This does not surprise me, as more and more of the vets I meet are among the two. It’s one of the perks of my job actually, that I get to meet such a wide demographic of people, shake their hands and help them with a basic need, on top of hearing little bits and pieces of their service. I really do learn a lot. Come to think of it, in the last few months, over half of the people I’ve rented to were vets, and they were all women and minorities, most with young families. And yes, I always mention their service on my reports, as the landlords I work with love vets. And thankfully, it seems more and more employers do, too.

And this is where I’d like to put a focus on this week: The forgotten vets. Yes, many folks have gone out of their way to thank the returning vets, such as the story recently from right here in Chicago. But when they don’t acclimate back into civilian society well, for whatever reason (physical injury, trauma, dependency, etc.), their service isn’t honored the way it should be. I saw this video earlier this week, and, well, let’s just say those damned invisible ninjas were chopping onions again.

The end of the video is very telling, as he doesn’t smile until he sees himself in the mirror. While I watched it, at first, it was, to me, just a nice gesture. I even grinned a bit when his eyes were shut while they were touching up his hair. I do that too when I’m dying mine, so it was cute. But again, when he finally smiled, in came the ninjas with a 20lb sack of Spanish onions – the big yellow ones. You know what’s I’m talking about. I see him seeing himself, and he smiles, and all that was there was just a couple of bottom teeth. Not what I was expecting, and it shook me. Until that point, it was just another makeover to me – just another one of those feel-good videos I click through and then go on to the next cute kitty picture. His smile was just so hauntingly beautiful, sad and amazing, as it had me wondering how long has it been since he smiled. Jim (that’s his name by the way, Jim Wolf), I hope your recovery is going well, you are happy in your new home, and you are smiling.

Many groups put together projects like this to help our vets – public and private, military and civilian. Back in January, I introduced one of our own to you, Debby Morris, who put together projects such as this through the VA to help our vets with haircuts, clothing, shelter, counseling and job assistance. And as regular readers know, A Circle of Warriors is working hard. They’re a mere ~$60 away from getting their 501(c) funding and is already assisting vets struggling with PTSD. And of course, Operation Circle Care is always on hand for our men and women in uniform through all stages of their lives through ministry and Yuletide givings.

Well folks, it’s after 9am, so I do need to get this posted to you and get ready for work. Thanks again for reading, take care, and many blessings to you and yours.