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!

Mar 232013

Good morning everyone and happy Saturday once again! So how has your week been? Did you attend a parade in honor of your Irish heritage? Color eggs for Ostara? Perhaps go groundhog hunting? What about tonight: Will you be shutting off the lights at 8:30pm for Earth Hour? Yep, it certainly seems like there’s lots of stuff going on.

This week (and the week before that), that’s definitely true as far as what’s in the papers, but not all of it is good. Let’s recap:

- Cyprus bailout: Bank tax plan still unresolved: Don’t know what I’m talking about here? Basically, Cyprus is the Caymen Islands of Europe, and their government is broke because of it. And, because they’re tied to the Euro, Brussells is telling them how to spend what money they have left.

The island nation is located between Turkey and Syria in the Mediterranean and is a favorite banking spot for hiding dirty money of Russian mobsters, among others. It’s usually a great place to visit, but this past week – not so much. Folks living there got a major wake-up call when the banks all closed and told them they’d be taking 7-10% of their deposited money as a tax, or as most folks call it – stealing. They won’t reopen until at least Tuesday, over a week later. The ATMs are all but dried up, and not surprisingly, there’s lots of talk about a “peasant revolt”. One guy even showed up at his bank with a bulldozer to get his money back! Check this out!

Now while I do love my conspiracy theories and would ordinarily lump “bank runs” and “bank holidays” in the mix, well, this is for real, and what’s even scarier is New Zealand thinks this is a good idea. Considering again Cyrpus has been tied to the the Euro since 2008, and that even though this is a country about half the size of Connecticut, it’s casting a gloomy shadow over all Euro countries and again, Russia, too.

So what does this have to do with us? Well, to me anyway, it sets a precedent. If they go ahead and just take peoples’ money like that, whether or not they “get away with it”, they’ll do it again, perhaps with a country people “care about”. As my techie friends would call it, this is a beta test, and I don’t like it one iota. I say they should pull an Iceland on them. What say you?

- Gun shops running low on ammo: Versions of this story have been going around since the holidays (namely after Sandy Hook though sales have been way up since the 2008 elections) and from several sources, so I’m calling it reliable. Since people are in such a panic buying mode buying up as many guns as they can, they’re finding out the bullets they need for the guns, if they can even get them right away, are becoming scarce even for cops. It’s kind of like when Santa got a kid the Teddy Ruxpin doll but with no batteries. Back then, no stores were open on Christmas day, so they had to wait – and patience on playing with a favorite toy staring them right in the face wears thin fast. It’s bad enough people have these “stupid” waiting periods (if, of course, no gun shows or buy-back programs are around):

So yeah, if you think the lines for flatscreens on Black Friday are long, head on down to Bass Pro Shops on delivery day. People used to get ammo delivered to their doorsteps, but lately, the websites that haven’t closed up shop are emailing customers with notices just about everything is out of stock – for several weeks. One could say the guys on Doomsday Preppers who make their own bullets from spent shell casings made a pretty wise investment on the machines. Me, I dunno. While I have no problem with responsible people wanting to own a gun, or several, all this mad rush business has me thinking it’s just getting the wrong people psyched up for that “something big” happening that might not be all that good of a deal for the rest of us.

- Military Tuition Assistance Funding Reinstated By Congress: Well at least I have some good news to report. It seems Congress got the memo taking away school funding for our military is a bad idea, and they’ll just have to find another area to make budget cuts. One of the recent announcements was closing 149 control towers, leaving pilots to fend for themselves. Now I’ve been following a lot of forums about this, asking folks who fly in and out of smaller airports if this is going to be a big deal, and most say no – that calling in isn’t that big of a deal. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how that pans out, hopefully with good results.

- DOD delays sending furlough notices to civilian employees: Well, this isn’t great news, but it’s at least okay given the circumstances. Unfortunately though, the National Guard jumped the gun and sent out furlough notices by mistake, causing a whole lot of needless worry. It almost has me wishing someone would send out the same notices to Congress. Maybe then they’d get the picture.

- Afghanistan, U.S. Reach Deal On Wardak Troop Withdrawal: And yes, I do have another good piece of news. It’s been ten years since the Iraq war began, which I never supported, but I had no problem with our troops going to Afghanistan to look for the rat bastard. And he’s dead now, so our troops can come home. Truly, Mission Accomplished. Thank you!

- U.S. Is Bolstering Missile Defense to Deter North Korea: So does this mean our troops get to come home only to be sent back out to North Korea? I swear, The Imp needs to just take King Joffrey over his knee and spank him with the flat side of a broadsword. Oh wait, I got that wrong – I’m all geared up for Game of Thrones! Nah, the notion can still be applied, so I’ll leave that right there.

- Bombing For Jesus: This is a couple weeks old, but I haven’t had a chance to post this until now. Many of us are well aware evangelicals are widespread throughout the military, and while mass improvements for minority faiths being represented have been made, it’s issues like this that continue to be discussed remind us there’s still a long way to go. It’s kind of funny I wrote an article on this topic about a year ago, and rereading what I wrote, it’s also funny just this morning, I heard the robins chirping again as the sun rose – the first of the year. Perhaps it’s then not at all a coincidence but a strong reminder. We still very much need representatives of our faith to be serving those who serve, and I am sure I speak for many those who are taking up the challenge the tireless work and dedication are very much appreciated. Thank you!

Well, that’s about it for me this week. I have a very busy morning showing apartments, and the first one is scheduled for 9:30am, so I need to start getting ready. Hopefully, at least a few folks actually show up!

Have a great week everyone! And tonight, perhaps you can light your candles, dust off your board games and enjoy an evening with the ones you love. Many blessings to you and yours.

Sep 082012

Good morning everyone, and happy Saturday once again! This week, I’ve been super duper busy garnering new clients, hitting the pavement and going oldschool on it. I’ve always been a walker, so it’s no big deal for me to walk around for several hours – canvassing areas I feel will serve me well, jotting down names and phone numbers off of buildings. I grew up in just about every neighborhood on the north side, so for me, it’s that much easier to know where to look. Not only have I enjoyed walking around in nice weather and doing a little sight-seeing, but it’s been a bit of a breather for me to do this kind of stuff than being glued to my phone. Besides, it’s not like I don’t need the extra exercise. I’ve collected hundreds of leads within a single zip code, and when I’m done with that, I have a couple more zip codes to work on. I trust my efforts will get me some more apartments to rent out, because I just rented my last one earlier this week. That’s right – I’m all out of work, at least until my regulars call me again or I get some new ones! Meh, it’s the beginning of the month; I have plenty of time to get in my personal quota! I just need to remember Hank Hill‘s mantra,

“It all comes in at the end of the month.”

So far, he’s been right about that, so I need to be positive and proactive. That’s my basis in my spellwork as well – to be positive and proactive, and it hasn’t failed me yet. Even little things, like my semi-weekly ritual of buying lottery tickets, has actually been fruitful for me. It’s three quarters of the year in, and I’ve so far won more than I spent, so I can’t argue. Sure, a windfall would be awesome, but quite frankly, I always wonder if winning the Mega Millions or Powerball jackpots would make me lazy – giving up on all the things I do each day that make me happy. I’ve always been a worker bee, so maybe I still would be. I wonder about that. Like Forrest Gump says, having money is “one less thing” to worry about. Very true.

So, if the weather cooperates, I might head back out for a few more hours today, but not tomorrow. We have a long-standing rule that Sundays are for ourselves, or as we like to say, “the clown is down“. Tomorrow is the tenth annual Greater Chicagoland Pagan Pride event in Oak Park, IL, and yours truly will definitely be there! I’m trying to sway Ron to come as well, so maybe some of yas will get a chance to meet the ever-elusive Mr. Dake. Last year, there were over 500 people in attendance and over 1000 food donations, and I have a sneaking suspicion they’re going to double that this time around. They say admission is a food donation, but I say make it a bag full. Clear out your cupboards and pantries, make an Aldi run – do whatcha gotta do! Ron and I are arguing about donating his yukky canned green beans; he says if they go, then my yukky breakfast cereal, sans cartoon characters, goes with it. Meh – we all make sacrifices for the common good.

One of the main presenters tomorrow is our good friend, Selena Fox, whom as you all know, has worked tirelessly for our Pagan military over the years, winning landmark cases, and hosts Pagan Warrior Radio on Saturday nights. Needless to say, I really look forward to hearing her speak once again.

Ramirez! Do everything!

Can Ramirez once again aid Sgt. Foley with his newest, seemingly impossible, mission? Perhaps one day soon!

One of Circle’s ongoing missions is to ensure our Pagan troops have at least one chaplain. I’ve stated several times before how valuable and needed such a service I feel this is, and I trust you do, too. I joke Sgt. Foley from MW2 commands Ramirez to locate the nearest Pagan chaplain, and maybe it’s a bad joke all things considered, but it’s a good question nonetheless. Where can Ramirez locate him or her? He can’t. Not for Sgt. Foley, not for himself, and not even for someone stationed within the U.S. At least not right now, and that’s the problem. I still believe we’ll see our first chaplain in less than two years (I called March, 2014 in the betting pool!), but that’s an awful long time for people to wait, and Skype and letters, while helpful, are not nearly as much as in-person interactions when they’re needed most.

Well, I really need to wrap this up. It’s actually almost midnight, trying to get this out to yas so I have plenty of time to get more canvassing done. Hope to see you all at Pagan Pride! Take care and blessings to you and yours!

Jul 072012

Good morning everyone, and Happy Saturday once again! And for those of you who are also dealing with yet another day in the triple digits… ugh. For the 4th, we got our grilling done and frozen margaritas started in the morning while it was still in the 90s – before the shade on the cement patio disappeared. And to see the fireworks, we did something a bit innovative: We jumped on the expressway and drove up to the north burbs and back, sitting in frosty air conditioning, watching all the mortars being shot off into the sky by amateurs. As someone who grew up with “that guy” on the block for a dad, the guy with a better display than some small towns and who let us kids shoot off the good stuff, yeah, the professional displays just don’t do it for me. It’s “Hold my beer!”-style pyrotechnics all the way! And on the 4th, the Chicago police turn a blind eye to such displays within reason, even though all but snakes and smoke bombs are illegal in Illinois.

Some people question how our patriotism for our nation’s birthday equates with blowing stuff up for fun, and maybe, perhaps, things are a bit skewed… just perhaps. But it is a celebration, it is a birthday party, one we’re all invited to attend, so why not? Stuffy McGrumpypants and his clan can close the blinds if it bothers them so much. It’s just one day. Sheesh! Because many of us were required to be at work on time Thursday, or else lose their holiday pay, things went back to normal pretty fast. Between grilling, sipping frozen margaritas and watching Independence Day over and over (“Oh no you did not shoot that green shit at me!“), I got in some much-needed rest. And y’know, I kind of liked having “Hump Day” off, even though three-day weekends sure are sweet. A single day is a break, a nice cat nap, whereas extended weekends always feel hurried to get in as much fun as possible. So how did you spend the 4th?

One thing I really liked was being able to catch up on my news source articles. Some articles I came across, when placed next to each other, had me that much more confirmed on how badly we need representatives of our faith serving within the military chaplaincy:

- Chaplain Alliance Asks Congress to Investigate Removal of Military Bibles
- Evolution in the Chaplain Corps?
- Military chaplains: End of ‘don’t ask’ ban on gays hasn’t fueled turmoil that outsiders feared
- The Plight of Pagans in the Military

In the first, there is much ado about removing military edition Bibles from exchange stores. Those who want them kept are citing religious discrimination, and those who are happy to see them gone say generic Bibles are okay, but not ones where military emblems are on the covers – making it look like Christianity is being endorsed over other religions, or none at all. Me, I side on the latter, that the emblems shouldn’t be on there. They can sell Bibles all they want, if they also sell other holy books alongside them. And private stores off base, they can sell whatever they want and take preference, because they are private, provided the publishers clearly state the government doesn’t endorse Christianity on the cover. People will vote with their dollars the way I see it, me being one of those evil people who has no problem with capitalism at its most base level (supply and demand).

The problem lies in the fact exchange stores are run by the government, and they’re located on government property. So the way I see it, selling Bibles with the emblems on them does have the same vibe as kids getting Bibles at school, especially when military Chaplains are giving them out to personnel. If our service members want Bibles, they can certainly buy them, and again, I do not have a problem with them being sold at exchange stores. If Chaplains what to stock up in order to hand them out, they can do that, too. But again, I must stress no holy book should have military emblems on them, and no government entity, or the people working for such entities, should provide only one type of holy book.

Now the second article, which is an op-ed piece, argues for more diversity within the chaplaincy and a whole lot less proselytizing. I couldn’t agree more. Some people cut at the author, Mike Farrell, because he’s “just an actor” and has no skin in the game, dismissing what he had to say. To me, that’s like cutting on someone who used the wrong their/there/they’re in a comment without even discussing the comment as a whole. Are civilians not permitted to discuss military actions, especially if such actions do work their way into the civilian world? Well then, if that’s true, I guess I should stop posting each week.

I too would like to see more diversity and a whole lot less favoritism of one brand of Christianity over all other faiths. And y’know, we have seen just that… a little bit, which the third article gets into, along with many others over the past couple of years. Every stride toward diversity taken is indeed a small victory, but, and I’m sure many readers will agree with me, those small victories aren’t coming fast enough. It’s a grueling process to become a military Chaplain; you can’t just walk in a recruiter’s office and sign your name. Not only do you need to be backed by a religious collective (I hesitate to say church for obvious reasons) as clergy, but you also have to go to school to be formally recognized as clergy (those instant online certificates don’t cut it), and you have had to be serving at least two years. And of course, this is on top of all the other stuff everyone serving in the military has to do, like passing their physical, be a certain age and so forth. It’s not easy!

Currently, there are no Pagan Chaplains within the U.S. Armed Forces, though I trust this will change in the next two years, if not sooner. Rev. Selena Fox has once again taken up action on behalf of our Warriors and their families so they too have someone who can not only provide comfort to them in their time of need, but also to identify more closely with them during the most special times of their lives.

- A new recruit is having a hard time adjusting to his new life during Basic Training. He’s never been away from home before by himself, and everything seems so negative and conflicting. Letters from home haven’t arrived yet, and he really needs someone to talk to. Who can be there for him, who’s “been there, done that”, and unlike his Drill Sergeant, won’t yell at him for every little thing?

- The new recruit becomes a Private, and he gets some time off. During that time, Pvt. Right meets Ms. Right and would like to get married on post before he ships off. Who can serve them best?

- Ms. Right becomes Mrs. Right, and almost immediately after moving on post, her husband is called away. she hasn’t made any friends yet, and she feels all alone. Who can be there to provide spiritual ministry to her in this difficult time of transition?

- Pvt. Right becomes Sgt. Right seemingly overnight. Sgt. Right is scared and alone, and he is instantly struck with grief when his battle buddy is shot. Who can be there to provide spiritual comfort to him and also his battle buddy, even though he’s of a different faith?

- Mrs. Right is pregnant on post and would like a blessing for the baby she carries. Who can serve her best, especially when she’s away from home and Sgt. Right can’t even access Skype?

- The baby is born, Sgt. Right is back, and Mrs. And Sgt Right are now Mom and Dad over any other title of distinction. The happy couple would like the baby to have a Wiccaning. Again, who can serve them best?

Through these times, even if Sgt. and Mrs. Right simply become Mr. and Mrs. Right down the road, they will never forget the Chaplains who were there for them. These Chaplains were there at every pivotal point in their new lives, so it would be no surprise these people who chose to minister those who serve have become deeply important to them. Photos of weddings, Blessing Ways, Wiccanings, and yes, for funerals too – there’s always that one man or woman in the center who is there for them. What a better world it would be if there was at least one person in the center of these photos who is Pagan. Better for Pagans who serve, and better for all others who serve as well, as we Pagans don’t discriminate when it comes to other faiths, nor do we push our beliefs on others.

Yes indeed, we sure could use a few good men – and women!

Mar 242012

Good morning everyone, and Happy Saturday once again! So how are you digging the weather? It just now went from the 80s to the 70s and 60s, still way above normal, and glorious nonetheless. In just the past couple of weeks, the trees have gone from barren to freckled bright green, and some of them are in full bloom, covered in beautiful white petals. The birds are loud and boisterous, and many of the flying insects have also made their return. In other words, Chicago went from a quasi Winter straight into Summer, all but skipping the step of Spring altogether. Needless to say, this image is quite apt:

Chicago Winter 2011-2012

Chicago Winter 2011-2012

For me at least, 2012 is shaping up to be a great year – Mayan prophecies be damned! I’m doing something I love, I have family who supports me fully, and through the work I do, be it paid or voluntary, I am helping others to fulfill their basic need to be happy. Yes, even in the middle of a Mercury retrograde, things are definitely going my way, though I am being cautious not to become too comfortable. How is life treating you? Hanging out on Teh Faceypagez, I do read quite a few posts where life isn’t going all that well, and many folks have called me a Pollyanna due to seeing the positive in just about everything. (It kind of ruins my street cred as a “Broodal Metal Chick”, but okay. Whatevz.) But really, I just try to take the bad things and chalk them up to learning experiences, and to be perfectly honest, I find it to be my way of coping with the dark side of life. What is your go-to method for coping?

The news has been flooded recently regarding the brutal deaths of seventeen Afghan men, women and children while they slept at the hands of U.S. Army Sgt. Robert Bales. This massacre is indeed heinous, and rightly so are people from both sides of the front line and beyond completely outraged. However, call it the Pollyanna in me, but I do have to wonder what was going on in this Soldier’s head and whether or not he was always the frothing, fanged and clawed green monster we’ve come to learn about.

Sgt. Bales was on his fourth deployment, and it is recorded he has suffered mild brain trauma in Iraq, but many will quickly argue that is not nearly enough cause to go on a late-night shooting spree. According to several outlets, he had a good life at home, with a loving wife and children anxiously awaiting his return. Some wonder if what triggered his rampage was his passover in promotion. The Gods know all too well how infuriating it can be to not be promoted for a job, especially a trying one, but yet we as civilians again do not take out our anger and frustration on others. So again the lingering question is why – why did this Soldier kill unarmed civilians in their sleep?

This important question has been bothering me since the news first broke, as I am sure it has bothered many of you. Why is there such evil in the world? What can we do to make the world a better place, especially for those whose job it is to serve us? What can we do to prevent such tragedies? I strongly believe in advocacy and ministry, because we all need someone to turn to at our darkest hour. I wonder if Sgt. Bales had confided in his chaplain, and of course in his doctor, about the internal anguish he must have been struggling with. People aren’t born bad. From what I can tell, even with his criminal past, and mind you I say this not as an excuse or a half-hearted apology of sorts, but as someone who has genuine concern for others – be it the gunman or the slain, he did seem like a regular guy going through a great deal of internal conflict.

So what can we do? How can we prevent something like this from happening again? Again, I believe we all need someone to turn to, someone who “gets us”, someone who we have no fear of negative repercussions from due to just trying to talk it out. One of the things I love about the Pagan community is we genuinely do care for one another, and at the same time, we aren’t afraid of “telling it like it is”. There’s substance there, a self-reliance intertwined with faith and personal responsibility and accountability – a chosen path for many that isn’t easy by any stretch. If Sgt. Bales did seek spiritual counsel prior to the massacre, I really would like to know if it was of the blind faith variety – the “God will provide/have faith” non-answer.

Chalk it up to a learning experience if you will, that these issues will surface for those who choose to become military chaplains. How would you, as a military chaplain, counsel those you felt may become a danger to themselves and/or others?

Mar 172012

Good morning everyone (or should I say Top O’ the Mornin’? hehe!) and happy Saturday once again! It’s March 17th once again, the day where homes all across the United States smell like ass from the boiling of cabbage, and I for one wouldn’t miss it for the world. I take my boiled veggies with red wine vinaigrette dressing, pepper and a little butter, which I know isn’t all that Irish, but hey – I’m American, and my taste buds are as diverse as the neighborhoods I’ve lived in over the years. Besides, it’s just plain good like that – try it! However you celebrate today, be it as a day for celebrating Irish heritage, honoring Saint Patrick, or even if it’s like at our home where it’s all about the food (and beer!), I hope it’s a great day for you all!

This morning for me is an especially invigorating one, as last night, I conducted my first lease signing as an apartment leasing agent! I’m still high from the experience, and at noon today, I’m conducting another one, and via e/mail, I have another coming through. I cannot remember the last time I have felt so accomplished, so independent, and so fulfilled all at the same time. Ron tells me everyday he’s proud of me, and that really means a lot to have him backing me like this. And now that we’re both seeing my hard work come to fruition, it makes it that much easier to see that working from home, driving around town (with the windows down! In March, no less!) and talking to people about a topic I know a lot about (Chicago apartments, coming from a person who’s lived in at least twenty since birth!) is an awesome job career to have! And hey, I see what the other agent makes, and it’s not even moving season yet, so I have faith we will be able to knock down some of these lingering debts.

Granted, that independence comes with a great deal of hard work and responsibility, and yeah, I have to put aside some of my commissions toward taxes for next year, but it’s all good. The thing I truly like is the fact I am directly helping people obtain a basic need – shelter, and not having a tyrant of a boss micromanage my every move is a pretty sweet deal as well. I also passed my first of five unit tests last Sunday, moving me up another notch toward being a full-fledged agent (I’m on a student license now you see). And since I’m talking about it, if anyone in the area is looking for an apartment, feel free to give me a jingle.

And it has me thinking too – what I do isn’t all that hard. If one were to really think about it, all I’m doing is taking pictures, writing up an article, booking appointments, unlocking a door and letting people see an apartment. (And yeah, there’s some paperwork involved. Doesn’t every job have that?) Sure, there’s a lot of fancy words I’m learning, and I do have to maintain a schedule, and yes, this is the kind of work that really requires a great deal of dedication and organization, but it’s not really something many people couldn’t do. I know there’s a leap of faith involved, especially since it’s going to cost me about $400 and a couple months of education to get my license, and the income is never guaranteed, but in comparison to the (hundreds of!) thousands of dollars and hours people invest in themselves for college, what I’m paying in time and money is a drop in the bucket – or in some cases, a reservoir!

Therefore, what I’m doing may very well be something our troops may want to consider when they come home. The job market for vets is supposedly getting better, but I think having a few alternatives to a standard day job is a good idea. (And too, I actually worked with a Wiccan woman last week. It’s pretty cool to make a new friend who shares some of my beliefs through work!) And even if it’s not your cuppa, there are quite a few jobs and careers out there that perhaps aren’t being considered for whatever reason. I know I’m not all that fond of the medical profession, as the scent of rubbing alcohol brings back quite a few bad memories. However, not all positions in that industry are out of the question. If something came along in administration, as long as it wasn’t where people were getting stuck with needles, I as a job hunter would certainly take it. Keep an open mind and maintain a positive attitude when hunting! Just like working magick, the key phrase is I WILL, not I hope.

Getting back to last week, I wrote about the movement toward introducing Pagans to the ranks of the military chaplaincy, and it was pretty cool Selena Fox gave me a shout-out on the Pagan Warrior Radio show, now aired on Saturday nights. Thanks, Selena! See ya at PSG! But what I wanted to get at was one of the comments left after last week’s article. If you didn’t catch it, click back; it’s a real eye-opener and is in stark contrast to what some Pagans in the military are now experiencing.

After reading this vet’s comment, it’s painfully obvious how valuable a chaplain who “gets us” can be, especially for those who are open about their beliefs. As I’ve said a million times over, it seems to be par to course when the military starts making changes, so goes the rest of the country, though it’s we civilians who get the ball rolling, many times via grass roots efforts. Hand in hand, changes for the better are being made, but we must be vigilant there is going to be a push-back by those who don’t like change. So how do we go about it? Do we demand, or do we request? While it’s true gentle ways are often stronger than hard ones, it’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease. (Or more recently for me, it’s the squeaky car door that gets the WD-40.) Please share your thoughts so we can get the ball rolling.

Well, that about does it for me this week. As always, I like to remind folks about the Clip for the Troops campaign that’s going stronger than ever! Please visit the Facebook page, Like! it, and share generously. And also, I hope you and yours have a wonderful and blessed Ostara! I love hard-boiled eggs, and I love coloring them even more! (This link has some adorable egg holders you can print out and color!) It’s already very Summer-y here, to where I was able to get ice cream off the truck yesterday, though I have a sneaking suspicion we’ll get socked with snow at least once more before Nature is done with us. Nothing this good lasts forever!

Blessings to you and yours!

Mar 102012

Good morning everyone and Happy Saturday once again! It’s been another crazy week around here, and one that has been quite fruitful. I suppose that’s a good way to work into the looming Mercury retrograde come Monday, right after setting the clocks ahead and throwing people off – natch! I’m getting everything situated and doubling my bets. My calendar is booked solid Monday, doing showings at a single unit one after another. I’m counting on at least one cancellation, which will give me an opportunity to grab some lunch, but I’ll be packing some granola bars and a few oranges just in case. With my luck, I’ll put that bag on the counter but forget to take it, so I guess I better make a checklist.

There have been a couple gorgeous days this past week, offering a glimpse of warm days ahead. For me, there is nothing more invigorating than to drive around with the windows down and my tunes jammin’, with one exception: To walk around the neighborhood and listen to the first songs belted out by the robins. That definitely is tops. It’s funny because every year, I go through the same ritual of being taken completely by surprise. It simply never ceases to amaze me how much I miss hearing the birds sing until I hear those familiar chirps and whistles. I’ll just be running an errand, scooping up the paper, something… and then I have to pause – stop dead in my tracks even – just to listen to their song.

This year, that surprise happened yesterday while I was sitting in the car waiting for my next appointment, minding my own business and checking my emails. The street was quiet, the wind had died down, the sun was setting, and that’s when I heard it. tweet-tweet-tweet-tweet-tweet Needless to say, I totally had my game face on when I showed the apartment, which just happened to be one of my favorites, therefore making the entire experience that much sweeter. While my favorite songbird is the fiery red northern cardinal with its boastful “Hey you! Hey you! I’m so purty-purty-purty-purty-purty!” pickup line, its the song of the more subdued robins that truly draws my attention. I guess it’s the same way I like my men: I love the Rawk Stah types, and the more hair the better, but for anything meaningful, I prefer the quiet cool.

I’d like to believe this mentality is not all that different than from most folks, that while we whole love excitement from our sometimes seemingly vapid lives, its the little things that truly draw our attention. It’s no wonder then the evening news is played out in just that sort of way. Call it dark or even a bit morbid, but when I flip over to the local news, I utter the running joke,

“Let’s see who died today!” And unless it’s a truly slow news day, the first segment is one of three things:

- Someone died (or is missing and perhaps presumed dead, especially if that person is attractive and/or important)
- Someone got busted (the bigger the corruption, the better!)
- Impending doom (will it affect YOU?! Dum dum duuuuum!)

And of those three things, it’s the first one, “someone died”, that draws the biggest amount of attention, especially if it was due to a murder, a tragedy or the person was a celebrity or politician (especially under less than natural causes). If it’s a very big news day, the second and even third segments will be inundated with these stories, luring you in deeper so you won’t click over to another channel during a commercial break. “2 dead, 20 wounded in gang crossfire!”, “5-Alarm fire kills 3 children, 12 families homeless!”, “Rock Star found dead in hotel room!”, and of course, our collective favorite, “Governor sentenced to prison for corruption”, with some of us hoping to hear later, “Disgraced governor commits suicide”.

When that commercial break is over, which attempts to stimulate you into buying something you probably don’t need, you’ll be rewarded with the weather. Then, an exclusive investigation story will come up that usually makes you feel better about yourself via Schadenfreude (or a scary-sounding health segment), the sports wrap-up and finally, finally, a human interest story – one that will stick with you as you wind down for the evening. That is what I usually stick around to see – the human interest story. While I like to shake my fist at the TV, and I like to shake my head even more, I truly love to learn how people have done good for others… and usually for complete strangers at that. “Man donates kidney to grocery store clerk”, “Lottery winner gives prize money to charity”, “Girl grows garden for food pantry and feeds hundreds” – that sort of thing.

We haz a happee when we learn of such stories, and we cheerfully pass them along to our connections online. What I’ve noticed too is of all of the news stories I’ve seen passed around, it’s these that garner the fewest comments. Why? Because there’s nothing to argue about. People did good unconditionally, which gives us nothing to flex our virtual muscles. That’s why they’re at the end of the news segments, because there’s usually no follow-up – nothing controversial. Cynics and trolls can (and often do) say selfless people are either stupid or somehow out for themselves, but hey – haterz gonna hate. But what’s lacking in most of these stories is the back story – how they got to that point, other than a sentence or two. Nevertheless, they inspire us to do good in our own way, and one budding human interest story is this:

“U.S. Military inducts Pagan Chaplain” It hasn’t happened yet, but you can call your bookie on it, because it will happen, and my bet is on the table for this news segment to appear in the next two years. So my wager is on the table for March, 2014. Where is your money riding? If you would like to learn how YOU can become a part of this sensational future human interest and international news story, your first steps should be to listen to tonight’s podcast on Pagan Warrior Radio:

Join the hosts and special guest, Rev. Selena Fox, senior minister of Circle Sanctuary, as we discuss the history of the on-going Quest to have a Pagan U.S. Military Chaplain. We will also discuss the requirements for those interested and answer questions regarding efforts to have Pagans serving in the US Military as Chaplains.

Ah-haaa… so that’s what I was getting at with this week’s ramblings! But seriously folks, this is a monumental task at hand! And knowing full well it took almost a decade to get the pentacle on military headstones, I’m still betting on two years for this. Why? Because that happened – literally set in stone! We already have trained Pagan clergy, and I personally know of people who also already have military backgrounds, so I really don’t see how this could not happen in two years’ time. Our brothers and sisters who are serving need someone to confide in who truly gets them on a spiritual level, and to become a chaplain is a calling like no other. You, as a military chaplain, would be there for our troops at their most trying and joyous times when you are needed most – deaths, injuries, illnesses and indeed celebrations – and you would be serving your Deities fully in a way that hasn’t been done in hundreds if not thousands of years. It would truly be a revitalizing of the Gods themselves!

Welp that’s about it for to…

WAIT! Before I run off for the weekend… you folks are probably wondering about February’s final coupon total for the Clip for the Troops campaign! (Thought I forgot, didn’t you?) Well ladies and gentlemen, February’s total is $28,453.96! I gotta tell ya, I almost didn’t get to finishing the count, especially with this leasing agent stuff and studying for my license tests. (I’m running on a student license right now!) But yep, another NEW record! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! I’m going to try to get these packets mailed next week, somewhere between showings and other errands, and by try, that means I tend to do. I rarely fail on my efforts.

Thanks again everyone for reading my weekly postings and for your continued support. It’s very much appreciated! Blessings!

Jan 282012

Good morning everyone and Happy Saturday once again! And yes it is happy for me, because some of the frigidness has passed. Yesterday afternoon, it was warm enough to walk without buttoning my trench coat, which seems awful funny for this time of year. After all, next Thursday is Imbolc, also called Candlemas, usually the coldest time of the year, so to not be complaining is a good thing.

How will you be celebrating? Will you be honoring Brigid? Will you be attending a gathering? What special meal do you have planned? Will you be making candles? I have heard it mentioned candles are a precious commodity for our active troops out in the desert, even the flameless variety. So, I’m genuinely curious how someone celebrates a holiday – one that celebrates the promise of light returning and is symbolized with candles – when there aren’t (m)any available, and making them is pretty much out of the question. I suppose one would have to be even more creative if he or she was in prison, unless there was perhaps a visiting chaplain who was permitted to bring them in.

While it’s true ritual items like candles aren’t necessary for practicing our various and collective faiths, but to me at least, not having candles for Imbolc is like not having a tree for Yule. It just seems… incomplete. Lacking. Missing that certain, special… something. It is for reasons, even simple ones, such as this, it is important for our Warriors, and equally for those paying back their debt to society, we have clergy available for them. As many of us know, there are currently no Pagan chaplains in the military and very few are working in the prisons in comparison to other faiths represented. While I get it we as Neopagans as a whole are a minority in this and every other country around the world, and thus the demand for chaplains of our own are much less than for those for other faiths, they are still needed. Pagans have children. Pagans get married. Pagans die. And, Pagans celebrate their lives and collective faiths between those times. Therefore, yes, there is a demand, and our brothers and sisters shouldn’t have to rely upon, say a Christian chaplain, to minister to them.

So who has taken up the call to champion this cause and serve? One such lovely woman, Kidril Telrunya, has spoken with me on the topic, and I’d like to share her works with you. Her duty as a Wisconsin representative for the American Pagans n’ Witches Association, founded in 1973, is to update the information on Pagans referenced by the military and prisons for their chaplains. She is seeking volunteers to help with the collection of information throughout all of the counties in Wisconsin and will be collecting all of the gathered info and will create a database. She will submit that information to the proper authorities to get it placed into the system.

The local volunteers she is seeking will be in charge of two to three Wisconsin counties each, to gather info and create a database of all federal, state and county government departments. Most information can be found in the local telephone book the rest of the information shall be found online, especially the jails and prisons.

- Business names, complete addresses and contact information.
- All city/town/village/township facilities.
- All county facilities, including the local jails.
- All state government facilities.
- All united states federal government facilities, in each volunteer’s area, including local jails.

Ms. Telrunya notates there are only a few people who run the main association, and there is one representative per state, with volunteers helping gather the necessary information. Should anyone wish to contact her who is interested to be a volunteer for Wisconsin or would like further information, her email address is lady kidril at gmail dot com.

Ms. Telrunya also states,

…as far as the Pagan military chaplains go, there is no set guideline on how active they have to be, but it would make sense that they would want to be active. It’s not going to be easy being a Pagan chaplain, lots of downs, but lots of ups, and to change the face of what Paganism is and can be in the military, it’s going to take a lot of hard work. Laying low on the back burner and letting people come to you wouldn’t really be the best method.

I applaud these efforts tremendously, and I trust the rest of our Community does as well!

Now as far as the efforts we have going on here with our Clip for the Troops campaign goes, this month is going to be yet another bell ringer! I have word there is another huge package of coupons waiting for today’s monthly pickup at the post office of over $20,000 worth! HOOAH! Those totals will be made available hopefully by next Saturday, and yes, I have someone who stated she would be volunteering to help with the sort. THANK YOU! I’m definitely going to need it! And too, tomorrow’s paper will have four inserts, which is a huge bonus. (I certainly do love those weeks, especially when there’s promise of plenty of food coupons! Show me the savings!)

So allow me to wrap up our housekeeping so we can high tail it to the post office and get to work. I hope you all have a wonderful Imbolc, watch those flames around curtains, little fingers and whiskers, and I’ll be back next week! Blessings to you and yours!

Jan 072012

Good morning everyone, and Happy Saturday once again! So how was your New Year’s? 2012 is already gearing up to be an interesting one (be it good or bad), and with it a Presidential election this year, it’s sure to be one of many ups and downs – with a lot of dirty laundry being aired out. So I’m sure the blogs and news articles will be filled with political slants and views, W&K included. Just puttin’ it out there, as they say.

So many people have said their one-word description of 2011 is “sucked”, and there’s a topper that came on New Year’s Eve: The potential for indefinite detention of U.S. citizens. I’m pretty indifferent to our President for the most part, as I voted against Palin when I cast my ballot for Obama. Among other things, I’m one of those crazy people who think people should only be hired if they have prior experience instead of “learning as you go” or relying on book-smarts or others. Therefore, I wasn’t cool with voting for someone without any military experience to become the Commander-in-Chief. Some days, I think he’s a pretty awesome guy, like the repeal of DADT, and other days, I wonder what the heck he was thinking. Yes, yes, he needed to get some funding for our military, but at the cost of our freedom? Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.

An article that appeared yesterday in conjunction with the cutbacks he made in signing the National Defense Authorization Act points out concerns a smaller military will put us in jeopardy. I’m all for a leaner, meaner military, but is it really feasible this late in the game? Reminders have been posted for Soldiers considering re-upping there will be fewer opportunities after January 31st due to some of these cuts. Again, just puttin’ it out there.

Now as far as a couple good changes for this year, I did want to share these:

- New law will expedite Soldiers thru airport security: This will include a family member as well, to the best extension possible, so yeah, I think this counts as not only a good thing, but one of common sense. My only hope is more common sense will be extended for everyone, because frisking Grandma is ridiculous.

- 2% increase to BAH: Good! Excellent! Fab-U-Lous! The increase is on an average, but most families should see some help coming down the pipeline very soon, if not already. As I’ve posted before, many folks are under the assumption the military takes care of every need, with the paycheck being almost like bonus cash. Ummm… errrr… not so much. Yes, Tri-Care provides free medical care, the commissary (grocery store) costs are slightly above wholesale with no sales tax, and BAH helps a good deal on housing costs, but ask any young family on a tight budget how much diapers and peanut butter costs. And as I’ve pointed out too, a spouse trying to get a job is extremely difficult due to all the moving around. Many employers don’t want to hire someone they worry will up and leave on a whim, because hey – no one likes training new people. (I’m sure the folks training me, while they do seem to like me, get annoyed with me constantly asking “dumb questions” and hope I’ll be out of my honeymoon period soon.)

- And lest I forget to mention, a new friend I’ve made at last year’s Pagan Spirit Gathering (which is now OPEN for registration!), Kidril Telrunya, announced she is “…now leading the State of Wisconsin in revising United States Military/Prison Chaplains Manual”. This is awesome news, especially for our military, because it sure would be nice for our Warriors to have a chaplain to confide in who truly gets them. I asked her to provide further details on her mission, which she was more than obliged to do once the dust settles. I’ll keep you all posted.

Have you been alerted to any new changes for 2012? Please do share!

And now onto couponing news!

Coupon Haul for December, 2011

Coupon Haul for December, 2011

Well folks, fiscal fourth quarter is officially over, and I’ve been very busy here at home getting up December’s coupon count for you all. I have everything sorted and separated, but I will need a few more days to count everything up. My canvas bags overfloweth! Just judging by my sorting and eyeballing, I can safely say we’ve at least come close to matching November’s totals of over $13k if not surpassing it, and I really thought it wasn’t going to happen. There were two weeks without any newspaper inserts, so my portion was on the slim side by comparison. Therefore, I’m counting on our end-of-year total to be around $50,000 worth of coupons! How cool is that?! It was our first year, and we didn’t even start until Memorial Day weekend, so I can only imagine what 2012 will be like!

I want to take a moment to thank the following who’ve generously donated for December: Leadville, CO, Frederick, MD, Westminster, CO, Gardena, CA, and of course Addison, IL (including the retirement community contributing to those batches!). In the batches, there was also $11.00 in cash, which I greatly appreciate, as it helps defer the cost of the packages I send out. I also wanted to share with you a thank you letter *we* received from the Army post in Wiesbaden, Germany. I scanned it into PDF format, which you can read by clicking here. (I Haz a Happee they addressed us as “Pagan Newswire” – proof our generosity does indeed garner some positive Pagan awareness without proselytizing in any way. We’re just ordinary, good people out to do good.)

I hope we’re able to make another new adoption! But what I’d really like to know is if U.S. commissaries accept coupons up to six months expired. The FAQ reads it’s true for overseas, but it does not specifically state what the policy is within the U.S. When it comes to coupon policies, I’ve come to find ambiguity means me winning at the register!

And I’ll go ahead and post again how YOU can get involved!

1) Like! the Facebook page and let your friends and family know what’s going on! This is an exciting venture that more people need to know about!

2) Help me spread the word by mentioning the campaign in your blogs and posts. If you do a podcast or are running a festival, please feel free to contact me (doom diva [at] yahoo [dot] com). I can go on all day about how couponing not only helps ourselves to great deals (including savings on organic fare and fresh and frozen fruits, veggies, dairy and meats!), but again, it actively helps those whose mission it is to serve and defend our country.

3) Send coupons! This is a campaign that is national, meaning you don’t need to even live near a coven or group to get involved, and you don’t need any real ability or skill. Kids can do this. Disabled people can do this. Our Elders can do this. All it takes is a little time and a stamped envelope. Mail your unwanted/expired manufacturer coupons to:

PNC Military – Clip for the Troops
Attn: Lori Dake
PO Box 306
Chicago, IL 60690-0306

I check the post office box downtown on the last Saturday of each month.

4) Drop a buck or two into the pot. So far, I’ve received $21 towards the postage, which is greatly appreciated, and I have received word a check for $80 is on the way. THANK YOU!!!! Mailing little slips of paper doesn’t seem like much, but paper is heavy, even newsprint, and each package has been costing me $4.95 to send. If you would like to donate via PayPal, please email me so I can provide you with the email account (my husband’s verified business account, so you know it’s safe!). Again, my email address is doom diva (at) yahoo (dot) com (I’ve had that address since ’98).

5) If you’re local, contact me about stopping by for a sorting party! We continue to grow, and I am having a harder and harder time doing this by myself. I live in the Logan Square area of Chicago right off the boulevard (by the “Christmas House“!), right by the expressway, with ample free street parking and plenty of nearby public transportation. I’m an awesome cook and would be more than happy to share a meal for your efforts. (Psst! We always have beer in the fridge and herbal tea on the kettle!)

And now, before I forget to mention too, since this always makes me happy, I received a couple more thank-yous from military folk in private emails. This is for another charity I’m involved in, Operation: eBook Drop, which provides free eBooks to military personnel. To date, over 100 free downloads of my book have been received, which is more of a light-hearted, how-to book on festivals. I hope more Pagan authors sign up for the program, because it’s another great way to gently promote positive Pagan awareness as well as provide something for our Warriors to read. If you want to sign up for free eBooks or want to donate your works, check out the site!

Have a great week everyone and until next Saturday, take care!

Jun 092010

Today on Beliefnet, we have a report that the House voted to reject an amendment to the Military Construction Act that would have allowed military chaplains to close prayers “according to the dictates of the chaplain’s own conscience.” Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn, was responsible for introducing the amendment. She is well known for her links with evangelical Christianity. She has previously attempted to insert Christianity and creationism or “intelligent design” into school curricula, has acted to attempt to ban same-sex marriage, and is a vehement climate change denier, like many others of her ilk.

This amendment was a specific attempt by the Christian religious right to get around restrictions on public invocations in the military to avoid an establishment of religion. Since the vast majority of military chaplains are evangelical Christians, passage of such an amendment would have virtually guaranteed that all public prayer in the military — invocations at change of command ceremonies, retirements, or other events at which attendance is mandatory — would have been specifically Christian.

Former military chaplain Rabbi Israel Drazin said the chaplains’ role is different than a civilian clergy like a rabbi or priest. “They are addressing everybody. They are there for everybody,” he said. “They should not give a prayer that addresses a particular group.”

It is absolutely necessary that public prayer in the military be nonsectarian if it is to happen at all. There seems to me no reason for prayers to be offered at change of command ceremonies, retirements, or other activities; they are not inherently religious events and religion should not, therefore, be forced upon those in attendance. The rights of atheists are as much violated by public prayer as any Pagan’s are by public Christian prayer.