Jun 302012
 

Good morning everyone, and Happy Saturday once again! It’s been a very busy and HOT week to decompress after all that is PSG, and another Saturday is here before I even realized it! Yesterday, I got two leases signed, another the day before, and one more due today, and I only have one apartment left on my list. WHOA! And that one apartment? Well, it’s a new listing for this week, and I’ve already shown it a half dozen times, and I have a bunch of showings for it today. Like I said, I’m busy! LOL! Like Hank Hill says, it all comes in at the end of the month.

Besides that stuff, this past Wednesday was our fourteenth wedding anniversary. Because I hadn’t rented a single apartment all month at that time, I wanted to be super cautious not to spend any money on that stuff, leaving our savings untapped. (We’ll need that for taxes later on!) So I got creative: I hit Aldi for super cheap groceries and the dollar store for a pretty-colored tablecloth and funny card (I’m not at all a fan of the sappy/serious storebought ones). We already have nice dishes and silverware, so all I needed to do was pop open my folding table, pretty things up and make dinner, all without Ron even knowing what I was up to. (I set the table while he was in the shower.) I made a big garden salad, some garlic bread and one of his favories – pasta with alfredo sauce, chicken and broccoli, with oatmeal raisin cookies for dessert. (He doesn’t like oatmeal or raisins, and yet he loves those cookies. Go figure!)

And you want to know something? So I have a full meal spread out, we were eating on either side of the 4′ table, and Ron was like “Naw, this is silly. I’m coming to sit by you. What am I? A king or something – talking to you from the far end of the table?” So, he brought his plate and chair, made room for himself next to me, grabbed the remote and found a movie for us to watch while we ate. Yeah, that’s more like us. Oh, and what did we drink? He had a glass of milk, and me an iced tea. I know, blah, but that’s what we prefer. I’m not a drinker, and he doesn’t drink any type of alcohol during the week.

We don’t have dedicated eating space here – no dining room, no eat-in kitchen, so we’re used to fixing our plates in the kitchen and eating in the living room at the coffee table while watching TV. Or, sitting on the bed with our plates in our laps, making snarky comments during the commercials or fighting over the remote. So I thought putting up the folding table over the coffee table would be a nice surprise – something a little more fancy-like and formal. But really, it’s not us. I guess it took my little surprise there to realize we really are pretty simple people who shun even the basics of societal norms. We still eat together most of the time, I still make most of our meals, but we do it our way.

What basics do you do differently than most? Are you also TV-eating type people? Do you pray before meals other than Thanksgiving? (That’s actually not all that common anymore.) Do you wear sarongs even when not at a festival? Do you have access to a car but do most errands, including your grocery shopping, by foot or bike? What makes your family unconventional but still very close – that it just works for you? What is the most simple thing you do in your daily life that makes life worth living? And, how does your faith tie in with that, if it does at all?

For many Americans, we are defined by what we do. One of the first questions we tend to ask when we meet someone new is what they do for a living. Some of us are very proud of our jobs, and others brush off the question. In high society, that line of questioning is actually considered rude, especially for people who inherited their wealth. Me, I try to shy away from asking that, not because I’m a trust fund baby or anything, but because so many people I know are either retired or un/underemployed. Rather, I ask,

“What brought you here?” It’s a nice, open question that can have a multitude of answers or perhaps nothing in particular. Sometimes, I’ll be corrected when they respond with something like,

“Oh I came with Bob” as in a who, not a what, brought them here, and they may not even be all that interested in attending. Even so, it’s still a nice ice breaker, because then it can lead to further chit chat in a “what would you rather be doing?” type of question where some commonality may be reached.

“Yeah, I’m not a sports fan myself, but I figured a Superbowl party had the word party in it, and I wanted to spend some time with Bob.” While Bob becomes enthused with the big game, you and your new friend can talk about your interests, goals and whatnot, and who knows, you just might find out what it is Stacy does for a living. But more importantly, even if she is an independently wealthy rocket scientist, far outshining your cubicle data entry job and primary source of income, you also learn what Bob really likes about her – that she builds homes for disadvantaged people in her spare time. You coincidentally donate food to some of those very same people she helps. You exchange numbers, she flies you down there to help with the catering during a weekend construction function, and a lifetime bond is formed. That’s real magick in the making – connecting and interacting with people – people who, on the surface, seem to have hardly anything in common.

So the question is – what brought you here? What motivates you? What inspires you? What makes you tick? I’ve asked that question a million times to those who serve in our military, and yes, this applies equally to those folks out there right now putting out those wildfires. To my surprise, I’ve gotten a million answers. Some people have told me they just have an inner need to serve. Others were primarily after school money. Some just needed a job. Some wanted to learn a new skill they could carry with them into the civilian world. Some wanted to leave their small towns and/or crappy home lives behind. Some wanted a free pass to travel. And, yes, there were a few, in their angsty youth, who just wanted to blow stuff up and see cool stuff. (Huh huh huh! Fire! Fire! Fire! Rat-a-tat-tat-tat! Yeaaahhhhhh!) And one answer, which I hadn’t even considered, was to get the opportunity to meet that special someone. Interesting, no?

My follow-up question of course, which I try my best not to sound like I’m trying to interview people but just really just get to know them on a deeper level, is how your experience had changed you. All experiences, big and small, change us in one way or another, and serving in the military can take a bunch of little experiences and form them into one big change. Had it changed your outlook on life? Had it resulted in a deep, spiritual awakening? Had it caused a deep depression? Do you feel better about things? Worse? Are you now more optimistic? Pessimistic? Opportunistic? Maybe even just a little less vapid? Feel free to chime in!

Welp, before I start getting ready for another busy day, I wanted to put in a reminder about the Clip for the Troops campaign. We’re still going strong, and a lot of folks have started to send their coupons directly to various bases and posts overseas. Thanks so much for your love and support! If you want to send them to me, drop me an email at doom diva (at) ya hoo (dot) com for sorting and shipping, or of course you can visit the Overseas Coupon Program for a list and instructions on how you can get your covens, friends and family involved. The idea is to just send the coupons with no more than a simple “Thank you for your service and sacrifice” note tucked inside, but that the recipients know the coupons came from Pagans in some way. That way, we are sending a very basic, grassroots message, that we’re good, pretty ordinary folk who are out to do good. No big deal, nothing special, and certainly no strings attached.

By us helping these families maintain their independence by using coupons, instead of, or at least to lessen the need of, food stamps and food pantry assistance, they see us as good people. Ordinary people. Mundane even. (Like I always say, what can be more mundane than sitting down at the table on a Sunday morning clipping coupons out of the newspaper?) And, good, ordinary, mundane people is something we generally all have in common. That connection that brings us together. Lets build more bridges and make more connections!

Off to work! Take care everyone and many blessings to you and yours! And yes, have a wonderful Independence Day!

Jun 162012
 

Good morning everyone, and Happy Saturday once again! And for my many friends heading down to Pagan Spirit Gathering, I have a fun YouTube clip just for you:

I sadly won’t be meeting up with everyone until Friday morning, but I fully intend on being there right at 9am (or 09:00 if you prefer) when the gate opens for people like me who could only swing the final weekend. I’ll be joining other folks from the Pagan Newswire Collective and doing a lot of serious catch-up! PNC members attending PSG this year are:

PNC Banner at PSG! Look for us!

PNC Banner at PSG! Look for us!

- Cara Schulz, who’s done some serious eye-opening coverage for P+P, blogs very regularly for PNC-Minnesota, founded Pagan Coming Out Day and is a multi-tasking glamper extraordinaire!

- Laura LaVoie, one of your many guides to what’s cool in Pagan culture over at The Juggler, mistress of the tiny house and whose veins pump pure awesomesauce – and beer!

- David Salisbury, chief for Capital Witch (the Washington, DC bureau of PNC), works for the Human Rights Campaign and an all-around progressive go-getter!

- Lori Dake, who’s uhhh, yeah – me! Okay, I’ll take credit for starting the Clip for the Troops campaign and is the main contributor to this bureau of PNC, Warriors & Kin, for our Pagan military – active and veteran alike, and the families who love, serve and support them. (Oh, and yeah, I dig other stuff, too.)

Many other folks will be camping with us, which I purposely did not mention as I’m not sure they wanted their names posted. (I’ll have an update from PSG next Saturday!)

One critical take-away from last year was not just meeting with other PNC folks in person last year, but getting the inside scoop over a few drinks on the backgrounds of many of the important stories they’ve published… and of course, meeting some of the people they’ve written about! That’s always a trip – meeting people you’ve only ever read about, seen on TV or watched their performances from afar. And I’m not talking just getting your picture taken with them, but in fact to actually shoot the shit with them about trivial matters and interests. That’s where a person’s heart lies, after all, and that’s what’s most important to me. I (usually) don’t get star-struck (well, there was that time Ozzy Osbourne posed with me while copping a feel and all I could say was “Hi!”), because I do my very best to put myself in other peoples’ shoes and think of them as people – as equals: No better, no worse, just more experienced/worldly than me.

Do you get giddy when you meet your idol? Does your tongue swell, your hands perspire, your eyes glaze over? Do you rehearse exactly what you’re going to say, only to blurt out a “Hi!” when you finally get the opportunity to do so? Or, if you do build the confidence to say what you have been rehearsing, do you come off as interviewing/interrogating that person rather than getting to know what is in his or her heart? That’s the beauty of PSG, and ALL Pagan festivals, that even the very Rev. Lady GreySwallow of the Crystal Badgers of the Willows becomes plain old Jessica Varnes of Boise, ID, and all she wants to do after her presentation is drink, drum and dance – the Three Ds, if you will. Get to know Jessica and her heart. You’ll learn so much from her, and likewise, she’ll learn a great deal about you!

For those of you who have/had wonderful fathers and father figures in your lives, it’s no different than talking to them. They offer some sagely advice between the beer farts and the yelling at the screen during critical games, and it’s those nuggets of truth that stick with you for the rest of your life. If there is one thing I can say with absolute certainty about Ron, it’s that he’s an excellent father. He’s not “on” as Mr. Serious Dad all that often, though he really does have a keen sense of when someone tweaked the thermostat, nor does he even faintly resemble the guys pictured in the circulars and on those self-help books. (Actually, he looks more like the offspring of Bruce Willis and Scott Ian from Anthrax.) But you know, when I see him working with Ryan, talking to him, goofing around, and even the times when he is in total Angry Dad mode, I see in Ron that wise, fatherly figure mentioned in every great story that has ever been told.

So for him, and for every dad out there who’s also just as real and as awesome, I hope you all have a wonderful Father’s Day! Some of you will be down at PSG, wrapped in a sarong or a kilt, and others will be here at home, relaxing and perhaps getting in some charred deliciousness from the backyard grill. No matter what you’re doing and wherever you are, even if you don’t live with your children, your children have grown and have kids of their own or you’re stationed thousands of miles away, do know you’re loved and appreciated for the love you give. Happy Father’s Day to you!

Jun 092012
 

Good morning everyone (though I’m writing this late at night), and Happy Saturday once again! It’s been another crazy week for me, and for Ryan, he’s looking at getting a new job – perhaps cutting the apron strings altogether and getting his own place. The other night, he asked for my help on filling out some online applications: Security companies, a railroad company, and one for a TV dish company. He really does like working with his hands, and everything he’s looking at has a potential for decent money, so why not? It felt kind of weird to be writing out cover letters for someone other than myself, that’s for sure! And, the fact that the jobs he’s looking at would provide him with a basic livable wage is kind of scary, because that would mean Ron and I would go through our guy leaving us again. But, that’s nature’s way.

And for my many friends who are getting ready to head out to Earlville, IL for Pagan Spirit Gathering (for Twitter, it’s #psg2012 in case you’re wondering!), consider this your last call for camping supplies! This last week before heading off to one’s favorite fest is always the hardest. Who the heck wants to do mundane day job work-type stuff when so much joy and merriment lurks right around the corner?

Yeah, that’s about right.

Me, I’ll once again only be making it for the final weekend, so I will be posting from home next week – sigh. But, I’m working extra hard to show my broker come this time next year, a full week off can be managed. But ever the optimist, at least I get an extra week for prepping, practicing the lesser banishing ritual of Clark Griswold. Repeat after me: No lost luggage. No wrong turns. No breakdowns. Hmmm… I think I need to work on that – make it more catchy.

It’s almost kind of funny I’m posting a bit this week about buying up camping gear, when last week I was rambling on about emergency preparedness. But really, one hand washes the other the way I see it. Ron and I often (not so) jokingly yammer on that if we find ourselves unable to pay the bills, we’ve always got plenty of gear available to live in relative comfort in a tent city. Our pantry is always full, our emergency gear is checked on a regular basis, but most importantly, we have each other. It’s that spirit of Tribe and interconnectedness that keeps the motor running and not how many hours we clock at work.

For many of us, being so spread out from people who “get us” can be difficult even in the age of Teh Interwebz, and not too long ago, even getting someone on the phone was a luxury only those with long distance packages could afford. Because of this, many Pagans travel long distances to festivals to spend a week together and build a community, be they single or with their entire families, almost like a test run of what it would be like to have a thousand Pagan neighbors within walking of each other. And I say test run, because at the rate we’re growing, I predict (Oh there I go again with my forecasting!) in two more generations, when I’m at the age I can attend my grandkids’ weddings, there will indeed be Pagan neighborhoods in large cities and even encompassing small townships. Last year, I met a family with four generations of Pagans. That was indeed amazing!

So on they drive – off to join in the test run and head Home. Feeling they’re well-stocked after the “51 weeks of prepping”, they travel far and near, only to discover that one oh so important item was forgotten, like rain boots, a can opener or the poles that hold their tents up. But that ends up not being a big deal, because someone is always around to help out and fill the tiny (or large!) gap. Again, that’s Tribe in action there, folks – genuine community. And for a city girl like me who, after almost seven years in the same courtyard building apartment and doesn’t know any of her neighbors (they always move), to see lifelong friendships made in a matter of minutes – well, I’m truly inspired by that. (Hey, at least I know the mailman’s name!)

This year, I’m going to be on a mission, even though I’m only getting the tail end of things. Since the picture taking rules have eased up a tad this year, I’m hoping to actually do that thing they call journalism while I’m there and meet with some of the folks who’ve been working tirelessly for our Pagan military for several years now. I want to do more than just hang and chill, taking in a few casual convos while sipping from a chalice I’m sure has mead in it. And for an extreme extrovert who’s always had ants in her pants, to actually listen to people has always been a challenge for me. I’m a doer, and oh good Gods yes, I’m a talker. And, I’m traveling with a good friend of mine who, when we get together, it looks something like this, all kicking each others’ feet through our sleeping bags and giggling like schoolgirls about how sexy Eric Northman is (tee hee heeeeee!):

Peter Griffin and James Woods ain’t got nuttin’ on us! Tee hee hee heeeeeee!

Yeah, so ummm… ahem.

Anyway, so yes, I do hope I will be able to get to know these YOU fine folks a little more on a personal level. Often, just shooting the breeze about trivial matters is where the heart lies deepest. What are your ambitions? What makes you tick? Where do you see our community in the next ten years? Twenty? What’s the one big issue out right now that concerns you the most? And, which cable show do you like best: The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones or True Blood? Inquiring minds want to know! And please, don’t just tell me to “read the book“; feel free to elaborate and throw in your own two cents. I’m pretty neutral on a lot of things, so no need to sugar coat around me.

Well, I suppose I need to get some sleep. I have another early day ahead of me, and I have so much to catch up on. I have a show to prepare for the kids at PSG, and I have a mound of coupons to wrap up for mailing next week. For what? Well, for the Clip for the Troops campaign, of course! We’re getting a new PO Box mailing address for that this month, so please continue to send your coupons to me at home. (Send me an email at doom diva [at] ya hoo [dot] com for the address.) You’re also always welcome to call me at 773 (dash) 697 (dash) 4474.

G’night everyone, or good morning, depending on when you get around to reading! Thanks again and have a great week! Blessings to you and yours, and…

May 262012
 

Good morning everyone, and Happy Saturday once again! And YES! A three-day weekend for all – filled with barbecues and camping trips! It sure is a completely different vibe around here from just a week ago when NATO and the protesters were here. Which, by the way, one of the most poignant take-aways from the protesting was the ceremony held where about fifty veterans quite literally threw away their medals. Yep, things sure are different around here, that’s for sure.

Oh how I’ve always loved Memorial Day weekend: The unofficial start of summer. The beaches in Chicago open up, even though the lake is usually too cold yet for swimming, and the theme parks go from weekends only to every day. When I think about it, there’s not a single thing I don’t like about the weekend! Of course, Memorial Day isn’t about barbecues, working on a tan or testing out the new gear beneath the stars. That’s what it’s become, just like Thanksgiving these days is thought of as roast turkey and football.

Memorial Day is actually a solemn holiday in an honor of remembrance for those who have died while serving our country. It was originally called Decoration Day, started to honor those who passed in the Civil War and was later extended to include those who had fallen in all wars after WWI. Because Memorial Day is all about the grill these days, there are those who want the date switched to May 30th so as to help avoid the three-day weekend party mentality.

If you ask me, I don’t see a problem with celebrating and remembering. When I attend a wake, even for the times where it had been for someone very close to me, I attend in the mindset of celebration and remembrance. Celebrate the life that person led and remember the good things he or she accomplished. Many wakes take on a bit of a party atmosphere specifically for that purpose, though of course there is a sharp degree of sadness involved. One wake I attended, for a close friend’s mother who had passed, a woman who was for many the mother they didn’t have, there was even a group of folks in the basement of the funeral home playing hacky sack. Sure, it sounds kind of “wrong” to those on the outside, disrespectful even, but really, I don’t think so. Those are her “other children”, playing happily beneath her, coming together in her honor, celebrating and remembering in their own way.

Therefore, I really don’t see a problem with the backyard grilling and such, and I don’t get upset about those who don’t do the formal solemn part of the holiday. Who doesn’t love a good summer barbecue? Even strict vegans will attest to that, provided what’s being charred is to their liking. When people gather around good food and drink, conversations happen. When it’s done on Memorial Day, at least one person will probably mention the meaning of the holiday, and the conversation will sway off in that direction.

- “Mark’s brother died in Iraq a few years back…”
- “My great uncle died in Korea…”
- “I recently learned my great-great grandfather had died in the Battle of Ft. Sumter…”

By talking, and sharing, we are indeed honoring those who have died while serving their country, which is only one aspect of the lives they lived.

- “Oh yeah, I know. Mark and Bobby lived down the street from me. I remember when Bobby…”
- “He was a hard man they say, but Aunt Maggie still keeps his picture next to her nightstand…”
- “Yep. From what I dug up, he had…”

And of course, we Pagans consider each other to be family – we’re big on Tribe like that. So I’m sure at our summer kickoff gathering, there will be talk such as:

- “Can you believe just a few years ago, the pentacle wasn’t even a part of the symbols they could use on military headstones?”
- “I wonder when other symbols like Thor’s Hammer will be added…”

So celebrate, I say! Call your friends, get those steaks seared to perfection and remember your sun block. And hey, after you’re done picking corn out of your teeth and kicking back a cold one, in your own way, however you think it’s the most appropriate, remember the purpose of the holiday. Perhaps offer a place setting for someone who you loved and miss, or even just to offer a place for a departed service member in the spirit world who may have never really had family to remember them. If pouring some libations on the ground is your way of offering, then do so. As we all know, so many have been drafted or had enlisted when they were young, sometimes fleeing one hard life and entering another. So by offering a spot for them at your table, you may very well help them heal and therefore move on into their next life – perhaps an easier one the next time around.

Now before I leave, I want to also do a little celebrating on our end as well. One year ago, a little grassroots campaign was started to promote positive Pagan awareness in the most mundane of ways. Yes, I’m talking about the Clip for the Troops campaign! Yes indeedy – we made it to our first year celebration! It’s been A LOT of work, and there were some adjustments that are still being made, and the last couple of months have been hard on me with all my studying going on (I passed my final test the other day!), but yes – we did it!
AND, I wanted to release an update on our one year grand total:

$127,843.59

No shit! SERIOUSLY! Over $100,000 in coupons was collected in the past year, helping overseas military families stretch out their budgets a little further. By us doing this, we’re letting folks who, from the inside out, that hey, we’re pretty ordinary folks just like you who want to help in the most ordinary way possible. We may not congregate every Sunday morning, we may not even see each other in person, but we are out there, and we just want to help those who sacrifice so much for us.

I want to thank all of you who have helped with sending coupons, and I also want to thank those of you who helped out with sending some much-needed cash to help defer the cost of postage. If you want to get involved, please visit the Facebook Page to learn more, or you can contact me directly. My email is doom diva (at) ya hoo (dot) com, or you can call me at 773 (dash) 697 (dash) 4474.

And now, I have a couple showings to do this morning, and then it’s off to the grocery store to take advantage of some incredible sales! Have a wonderful holiday weekend everyone! Many blessings to you and yours.

May 122012
 

Good morning everyone, and Happy Saturday once again! And for all the moms out there, I hope you’re all spoiled rotten tomorrow! I mean, it’s not like you’ve earned a single day “off work” or anything. Do you know of any plans? All I want to do is drive to the suburbs and visit Ikea; that place simply makes me happy – especially the kitchen accessories. They have so much cool stuff at prices I can actually afford, and I get to bring home some cinnamon buns and lingonberry jam. Yep, spending the day with my guys and shopping – that’s my idea of a nice Mother’s Day. What’s yours?

I hope however you spend your day tomorrow, it’s a special day. For those of you whose sons and daughters are far away from home, you are able to hear from them, even if the only chance they get to call wakes you in the middle of the night. You can always go back to sleep later, perhaps with some wonderful dreams. To help you form them, perhaps you’ll enjoy some of these clips:

Different kinds of moms, and every time the same reaction! Very cool!

Before I leave you all, I wanted to let you know while I was downtown Tuesday taking my final exam (which I got a 92% on! Yay!), I was able to visit the post office and pick up some of the coupons you’ve all sent in recently for our Clip for the Troops campaign. Thank YOU to Leadville, CO, our good friends in Addison, IL and a mysterious contribution where no return address or even a postage mark is present. My only clue on that is three red “Love” stamps in a large manila envelope. Loooove the mystery! Thank YOU so, so much! I’ll go through them later this afternoon, since it’s the first real downtime I’ve had in a few weeks to see what’s inside.

Again, if you would like to help out, PLEASE contact me for a mailing address. We’re going to be switching over to a new post office box next month, so in the meantime, I’m asking folks to send their contributions to me directly. I don’t want to publish my home address publicly, so please contact me at doom diva (at) ya hoo (dot) com or call me at 773 (dash) 697 (dash) 4474. Thanks!

And again, I hope you all have a special Mother’s Day! Blessings to you and yours!

May 052012
 

Good morning (errr afternoon!) everyone and Happy Saturday once again! It’s been an extremely busy week here, and this morning has been even busier. As I write you, I am in the middle of tracking down a deployed NCO, conversing with a landlord for a good reference and going back and forth with a property management company. You see, I’m trying to help an active duty Soldier and his new family relocate here in Chicago, so not having a long distance bill is definitely a blessing. If ever my flair for professional writing has come into play, it’s now, so I hope you all can forgive my late and brief posting. At least I know if the landlord approves him and his young family, I’ve maybe a brownie point or two, and I will definitely be saving the letter for the other agents I work with so they too will know how to phrase things with potential leery landlords.

I think that’s the thing I like about my job more than anything – that I’m actually taking an active part in helping people. The rental market is really tough around here right now, so people relocating here have said time and again how much they appreciate talking to someone who really knows the city and isn’t a recent resident themselves. I tell people straight up I’m a native (with the hard-voweled accent to prove it!), I’ve lived in apartments all my life all over the city, and I know off-hand where they’ll be happiest based on their criteria. (Big bedrooms? Try Jefferson Park. Exposed brick and condo quality? Look by Ukie [Ukrainian] Village, Wicker Park and Bucktown. Free and plentiful street parking? Avondale and interior Logan Square are your best bets. Best bang for your buck? Humboldt Park. NOT rehabbed/classic? Rogers Park, Hermosa and Belmont Craigin have some real gems!) And of course, I know more than just where the train is; I actually know where to eat besides the trendy write-ups, where to really shop and how long of a REAL commute you can count on.

I passed all of my basic tests, and my final exam is scheduled for Tuesday at 1:30. After that, I take one more test (I know, not all that final LOL) with the state. After I pass that, I’ll be an official leasing agent, no longer showing apartments on my student license. So if I could get some extra good vibes from you all for my tests, and too for the Soldier and his family I mentioned above, I would be very appreciative. And yes, I will definitely be wearing my tiny, stylized pentacle at my tests just as I always do at my showings. One of the perks of working for yourself is you get to be yourself, but there are of course some risks involved. Being in sales, I could always be risking losing a closing due to a prejudice, which is unfortunate. But quite frankly, I see it as a small risk, since I’m offering something people not only want but need.

Other than my busy schedule, things are surprisingly quiet around here. Ryan left for a trip to New York City yesterday, so we gave him our nice camera to take lots of pictures. Even though I’m extremely busy right now, the TV’s on and Ron’s shooting zombies in the next room, without our son here, things sure are quiet and lonely. I hope he’s having a wonderful time, and his plane brings him home safely next week. He booked on United both ways, so at least he didn’t go with some no-name company – even if United Breaks Guitars. (They better not break that damned camera!) I will say though, even if it comes at the heels of much rabble-rousing (isn’t that always seem to be the case?), United recently changed their pet policy specifically for the troops and their families.

Now as far as other pertinent news stories going around, I wanted to make important mention on an article I came across recently:

- Women Sue West Point and Naval Academy for Being Awful to Rape Victims: Just days after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that the military would actually start punishing sexual assault rather than covering it up by gaslighting alleged victims with psychiatric diagnoses, two women who claim that they were raped while attending U.S. service academies sued military officials Friday for failing to address widespread reports of sexual assault at the elite schools. – Jezebel

Why does this not surprise me? And why does does it, again, always seem that in order to get anything accomplished, much public embarrassment/rabble-rousing and/or lawsuits need to happen? I’d like to think things like human decency and basic rights would be factored into things, but maybe I’m just too much of an optimist and perhaps a wee bit naive. The tick went up, Panetta said he’s going to put a stop to it, and I do genuinely believe he does care:

“Since taking this office, I’ve made it one of my top priorities to do everything we can to reduce and prevent sexual assault, to make victims of sexual assault feel secure enough to report this crime without fear of retribution or harm to their career, and to hold the perpetrators appropriately accountable.”

Of course, changing these kinds of patterns and mindsets, such as the one our buddy Liz Trotta seems to have, words don’t mean a whole lot. I’d say let’s all hope for that change to come, but ummm… hope? No – demand!

Now before I leave you all for the week, I wanted to let you know I’ve been receiving more coupons in the mail, my personal mail, for the Clip for the Troops campaign, this week coming from our friends in Leadville, CO. Thank you so much! Again, please contact me for my personal home mailing address until further notice. Next month, we’ll be getting a new post office box, one closer to our home and that has far better hours. We’ve had the box downtown for several years, but because they’ve changed their policies so drastically, it’s become nearly impossible to get down there before they start sending stuff back on us. Is it right? Of course not, but I guess with all the cutbacks, they’re just not going to be accommodating anymore.

If you ever need to contact me, you can call me at 773 (dash) 697 (dash) 4474 or you can email me at doom diva (at) ya hoo (dot) com. And of course, dropping a buck or two into the kitty for postage is incredibly appreciated!

Thanks again everyone, and I hope you and yours have a wonderful week!

Apr 282012
 

Good morning and Happy Saturday once again! And before I go any further, I sincerely want to put out a shout-out of thanks for another $15 contribution toward the Clip for the Troops campaign. This, plus the $10.30 I received earlier this month, plus of course a good portion from my own pocket, is enough to get ALL the back coupons out the door. I felt so incredibly bad for the families having to wait, but quite frankly, the sheer volume is getting really expensive for me to handle alone cost-wise. I so seriously appreciate it! Thank you!

As I mentioned prior, the post office box renewal is next month for our location downtown, and we will not be renewing it, but instead getting a new one nearby where we will have much more access. When I get the new address, please make a note of where to send your coupons. In the meantime, you can drop me an email at doom diva (at) ya hoo (dot) com where I will provide you with my home address to ensure I receive them. Or hey, give me a jingle at 773 (dash) 697 (dash) 4474. (Notice how I break stuff up there!)

And now, I also want to go ahead and wish you all a very Blessed Beltane! However and wherever you celebrate, I hope you have a wonderful celebration. For us, it’s going to be pretty low-key, including a very good polishing of our home altar. Unlike my husband, I’m not the tidiest person in the world, and I must admit I have let a few dust bunnies creep into the scene. Not. Good. My home office as a whole has gotten a little chaotic as well, with me running around ragged in combination with my studies toward getting my license, so I’m very thankful that part is almost complete.

Yep, I have PASSED all of my at-home courses and am now ready to take my final exams! Per my astrology buddies, May 8th, toward the afternoon, is recommended for my test. So, once the May schedule is up, I’m going to be booking that for the first of two tests. (Please keep me in your thoughts on that day!) Like I said to my broker, if Ronald Reagan could plan his calendar around what his astrologer told him, then it’s not all that far-fetched for me to go that route on such an important test! (He thinks I’m kind of “superstitious” but is all about doing whatever I feel is necessary to add a little more confidence.) If I pass that test, which is basically proving I actually earned the grades and didn’t have my broker turn in my work, then I move on to taking the test that will get me my sponsor card while I wait for the pocket card in the mail.

Which has me thinking back to when Ryan had to take his MEPS and other tests before taking the Oath, how hopeful and also concerned I was for him. I hate taking tests, because I build up a lot of anxiety. So knowing how important those tests were, it surprised me he was so much more casual about them than I was. How do you fare with test-taking? What test drove you to near insanity? What do you, or have you done, to get through your hardest test with confidence? And, have you ever taken a test where you know in your gut you nailed it only to find out you failed? What did you do then?

Well, I need to wrap things up early this week. I know, this isn’t the 2000-word weekly article you all have become accustomed to, but with this being the end of the month, I have a very busy Saturday of apartment showings. I almost scheduled some for tomorrow as well, and I’ve been trying my hardest to reserve Sundays for myself – all work and no play, and all that.

Thanks again for visiting, and again, I hope you all have a wonderful holiday! Many blessings to you and yours!

Apr 142012
 

Good morning everyone, and happy Saturday once again! It’s been a very productive week here for me, and quite frankly, I can’t believe how fast the time is flying. I just got notice I passed my fourth (of five) unit test, which means very soon, I will have my real estate leasing agent license. I just have to pass one more unit, which is a tough one, and then I move on to take the city (CAR) and state (AMP) tests after that. I’m well ahead of schedule, which is a blessing, because I really need the extra time to pass this last test then study hard to pass the final exams. I pray the Lord and Lady give me a little extra oomph! so I can pass these tests. C’mon – three more times – I just need a 75% three more times. I’m not asking for the world here – just to get three quarters of the answers right on the next three tests! YES WE CAN!

So, my question to all of you who follow the stars is this: Which days in the upcoming month would you suggest I take my exams?

One other thing I learned this week, which many of you may find interesting, is while the world of real estate is very tight on fair housing and extremely proactive on anti-discrimination matters, it also applies to those on the working end of the spectrum. My last unit covered, in great detail, all the things that can get my ass “fired” (lose my license) as well as cost me a small fortune in fines and legal fees. Scary stuff indeed! (Yeah, needless to say, I was elated to find out I passed that unit test! Whew!) So it had me wondering if my religious beliefs would somehow trigger a discrimination filing. So yesterday, I dropped a line to get some clarification. I specifically asked if a leasing agent could wear religious jewelry while showing apartments to clients, and the answer was that wearing religious jewelry is entirely up to me – no rules against it.

Now granted, the pentacle I wear is very small and stylized and therefore not blatantly obvious, but anyone who gets my business card can easily Google my name and find out a lot about me. So the way I see it, my beliefs are no big secret, but as long as I keep my business life all about business, it’s all good. I do need to take extra precautions in the matter of course, but my religious beliefs are a big part of me, and I am glad I can be myself – even if I am dolled up, covering my tattoos and driving around town in heels n’ hose. I suppose the “My other car is a broom”-type bumper stickers should be kept off the car as well. (I do have a Misfits license plate frame, which I should probably trade in for something more mundane, but I doubt most people look that hard.)

Now before I discuss our Clip for the Troops campaign, I wanted to fill you all in on a wonderful project that is helping our returning troops decompress and begin anew in the civilian world: The Valhalla Project. No, it is not a Pagan-run organization, but its philosophy certainly is. In just a little over a year, these fine folks, led by retired Lt. Colonel Gordon Cucullu, U.S. Army Special Forces, have taken a brainstorming idea while out in the desert of the Middle East to an amazing reality. 200 acres of farm and woodlands have been purchased, farm animals and crops have been planted, housing has been secured and improved upon, a fresh water pond has been constructed and plans to take the property completely off-grid and eco-friendly are in the works. Wow – just wow! I can’t tell you how absolutely amazed I am at so much progress in so little time!

So who is welcome? Per the website:

Valhalla is all about Soldiers and their well being. It will be a facility designed to accommodate individual Soldiers and to hold small unit gatherings. Because of the warrior emphasis on Valhalla, it is envisioned that primarily members of combat units in the Army – active duty, National Guard, Reserves and their retirees who have survived combat – would be principal users. Due to the warrior emphasis, presence of those suffering from PTSD, and other issues, Valhalla would further be designated for adults only. Procedures for selection will be established in time as the demand increases.

Initially it is thought that volunteers will constitute the initial resident population, but all must come with a recommendation from unit leaders supporting their application. A screening committee comprised of the Valhalla Board operating with recommendations from the Valhalla Governance advisory committee will make final decisions.

Now true, right now, their limited scope is focused on working with post-9/11 combat Soldiers (meaning Army, Reserves and National Guard), I read it as being that’s the branches they know best. Start with what you know and all that. As stated,

…to open up Valhalla even to all post-9/11 veterans of all services is a physical impossibility – we are limited in scope and funds. The idea of a facility that serves ALL military veterans would be overwhelming to a small organization. After all, we are new, growing, and trying out a largely experimental project. We are not a mandated governmental program operating with millions of dollars, we are simply ordinary citizens attempting to make a positive difference in the face of an overwhelming challenge. We had to start somewhere and this is our selected starting point. At the same time, we are dedicated to constructing a prototype that will inspire and encourage the start of similar facilities serving other military branches — or other generations of veterans — by anyone who wishes to take on such endeavors.

So what to do to ensure the doors start flying open to ALL vets? Hard work and generosity are needed, of course! This is a 100-year ongoing project for our veterans suffering from PTSD and those who are having a hard time adjusting to civilian life, including those who are having difficulty finding gainful employment. In its current state, Valhalla is “…designed to be a pleasant, refreshing, but ‘tough love’ activity for those Soldiers with issues that a few days or weeks in a work-play environment can help correct…”, and I trust as they grow, they will be able to expand their offerings. I’m sure as the weeks, months and years go by, after the mistakes are made, clarified and rectified, these wonderful people will be able to move forward in their mission.

It appears they’ve taken a liking to updating on their Facebook page, so I encourage you all to Like! the page and keep tabs on their progress. And of course, if you want to become involved, there are several ways to do so. While monetary donations are certainly welcome, it seems they prefer needed materials donations. I, for one, am very enthusiastic about this project, so I have already liked the page. And, after scouring through their website and postings, since I know some of yas are curious, not once did I see any reference to a particular deity or belief system. Good on them for being religiously neutral from the get-go!

So there’s my big contribution in written form for this week. I would like to feature even more good works like these, be they great or small, so please do share so I can pass along the message as well. What programs do you know of which serve our military? You can drop me a line at doom diva (at) ya hoo (dot) com or even give me a jingle at 773 (dash) 697 (dash) 4474. I’d love to hear from you!

And yes, okay, back on to our campaign. I sincerely, from the very bottom of my heart, want to thank you for helping me raise some much-needed postage money so I can get out these coupons! THANK YOU! A few more bucks for the kitty would be much appreciated, so if you want to send some cash via PayPal, send it to my hubby’s business verified account ron (at) rotting corpse records (dot) com. Just be sure you notate it’s for the Clip for the Troops campaign and not for a CD order. I know, you all just love your extreme Metal bands as much as we do, but seriously, we don’t want to take the chance of mixing up the cash. This week, $10.30 was collected, enough for two Priority envelopes! Thanks so much! And of course, if you want to send coupons, because the post office people are jerks, if you email or call me, I can give you my home address. The PO box expires in June, so we’ll be getting a new box near us here so we won’t have that problem anymore.

Well, that’s about all I have for you this week. Thanks again everyone and have a wonderful weekend. Take care and many blessings!

Apr 072012
 

Good morning everyone and happy Saturday once again! It’s been another busy and productive week for me, and from here on out, I’m sure it’s going to be almost maddening until summer ends. I passed my first and second unit tests for my leasing agent license, and I’m waiting on the test results from unit three. While I wait on that, I’ve been studying for the fourth test, which is on business ethics, rights and legalities, which I’m already very familiar with. Really, except for memorizing a few specific court cases names, some of which I already know well (take Plessy vs. Ferguson for example!). An interesting one I discovered is 40 years old is considered elderly according to the Illinois Human Rights Act. Really?! I guess that makes our son middle-aged! So see there, I just gave you something new to learn today!

Last Saturday, Ron and I took our monthly jot downtown to pick up the mail like we do every last Saturday of the month for the Clip for the Troops campaign. We were very upset and disappointed to learn the post office has made some major changes (again!), one which directly affected our campaign: Mail not picked up from the box in a week will be returned to sender! While we were able to retrieve the little bit that fit inside our mail box slot, the rest of it we usually need to pick up from behind the counter was sent back! Unbelievable! Because of that, I am very sad to report we only have about $2,000 for the month of March.

I know there must be a few of you who sent large amounts based on what we’ve seen come in the past few months, and I am extremely sorry this happened. You can call me directly at 773-697-4474 if you received your mail back or drop me an email at doom diva (at) yahoo (dot) com. I’ll find a way to make this new rule work, and in the meantime, I’m chalking that up to the Mercury retrograde that has since passed. I do want to acknowledge coupons received from Leadville, CO and Westminster, CO. Thank you very much!

I also want to discuss another issue that’s been building up over the last few months – a desperate need for postage funds. I have not been able to afford to mail last month’s haul, simply because it’s nearly $100 worth of postage I simply do not have. I was planning on combining last month’s and this month’s together, and perhaps funds were in the envelopes and packages mailed back. I can’t do this alone, folks – it’s getting too expensive. So while I hate to do it, I’m begging people to please chip in a buck here and there so I can get the coupons to the troops overseas. While it’s true they take coupons up to six months’ expired, which I figured gave me a little extra time to get them out, the clock is definitely ticking at this point. They need time to receive and sort them, which cuts the time back further. So please, if you can help, mail me a buck or two, call me, email me, or send some extra to my husband’s PayPal account ron (at) rotting corpse records (dot) com (that’s his verified business account – he sure loves his zombies!).

And, for those of you who are just hearing about this, allow me to fill you in on what it is we do here:

We started out on Memorial Day weekend last year and steadily grew, collecting over $50,000 worth of coupons last year. This year, we’ve already exceeded that mark, and we continuously grow, grow grow! How do we do it? Lemme tell ya -

We’re helping military families stretch their budgets while maintaining their independence, and by doing so, we’re promoting positive Pagan awareness without any proselytizing going on. After all, what could be more mundane than clipping coupons? We don’t proselytize, we don’t hand out religious information, and we certainly don’t judge. We’re just good, ordinary people out to do good. When the couponing chairpeople receive our envelopes, all that’s included is a sticky note thanking them for their service and sacrifice, and the return address is from the Pagan Newswire Collective’s military beat in care of me. That’s it. We as Pagans love and respect those who believe differently, or choose not to have a faith at all, as we love and respect people simply for being people and wish to extend that love through a bit of a leg-up.

Some people don’t realize just how badly our military families struggle with the basics. It’s true they get free healthcare, cheap housing and the commissaries (grocery stores) only charge shoppers ~5% over wholesale with no sales tax – so what’s the problem? Well, consider this: A Sergeant earns about $26,000 a year, and feeding a family on that is very hard, and spouses generally cannot work due to no fault of their own. Many employers don’t want to hire someone who may get up and leave on a moment’s notice, and a language barrier may be an issue. (In Germany for example, where many posts and bases are located, I’ve learned many refuse to hire people who don’t speak fluent German.) And, the civilian jobs on the installations are usually spoken for. So what’s left? Pyramid schemes, a few online programs and the old standby of babysitting. It’s no surprise then to learn even here in the United States, many military families rely on the food stamp program and food pantries.

Therefore, by sending them coupons, we’re helping the people who sacrifice so much to maintain (some of) their independence and again, we’re running a grass roots operation that says hey – we care, and we’re actually pretty normal folks just like you. We just have a different way of praying is all!

Would you like to get involved? There are many ways!

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 (and obviously now, I need to find a way to visit more often, or get a new box, or something!) If you call me, I can provide you my home address where you can send your coupons directly to me.

4) Drop a buck or two into the pot. Mailing little slips of paper doesn’t seem like much, but paper is heavy, even newsprint, and each package has been costing me $5.15 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!)

I have been a part of the Chicago Pagan community for nearly sixteen years, so feel free to ask around for my creds if you’re at all concerned about contributing in any way. My books and doors are always open, and I would be delighted to answer any questions you may have. My service is toward the community and the Gods.

Well, that’s it for this week. Please help anyway you can so we can make it to our first anniversary at the end of next month! Blessings to you and yours!

Mar 312012
 

Good morning everyone, and happy Saturday once again! Well, we didn’t win the $640 million Mega Millions jackpot last night, but that’s okay – it’s fun to daydream. Of course, we’d take the lump sum (twenty-six years is a big gamble on kicking off at any age!), which after taxes would still be quite hefty at about $125 million take-home, much more than any of us could figure out how to piss away in a lifetime. After all, there are only so many trips to take and islands to buy. And, they say that kind of money changes people and turns people around them into guilt-tripping gold diggers, so having a ridiculous amount of wealth ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.

So what would I do with sick money? I have a few ideas:

- I’d start a Pagan planned community, in which I’d buy a town and take a gazillion applications from folks who want to settle for $1 per home in exchange for ten years’ worth of building up the home and the town. (That’s just a guesstimate in how long it would take from practically zero to bona fide hero.) And yes, each adult would take on a job which would create and enhance a vibrant community, be it a municipal job or private – at a livable wage, of course. I’m sure I could find a few hundred people willing to get in on that, and I doubt I’d have a problem locating a team of lawyers to handle the paperwork.

Part of the town’s purpose would be to help spread positive Pagan awareness without proselytizing. So, while it would be a planned community, it would definitely be open to the public. The best way to do that would be to have a dizzying array of shops and such, but without a lot of competition, just like how well-planned festivals are set up. I would like to see a studio in the town, creating radio and video programs that are both entertaining and engaging. Some would say that sounds awful tourist trappish, but if done right, the town I envision would be a safe haven for those who perhaps have always wanted to live their faith openly without fear of persecution. No fear of job discrimination would be a blessing in itself for so many of us.

- I’d definitely want to spend a year traveling, hitting every fest (both Pagan and MetaL!) across the country and around the globe, hitting a bunch of scenic and historic locales along the way. I readily admit I’m jealous as all get-out about how wonderful of an experience Peter Dybing must be having!

- Ron and I both have already said our moms would get a house, with the taxes, utilities and maintenance bills being sent our way. Like Forrest Gump says, it would be one less thing for them to worry about – shelter. Food and clothing would be up to them, which their social security can cover that thanks to working for so many decades.

- Of course, we’d pay off our lingering debts, which would be the easiest thing to do, as we don’t have much.

- And yes, 10% would go toward “mad money” – the pissing away money one does need with any type of serious windfall. I’m sure we could handle that during our travels.

- Now as far as charities go, I have a few in mind, but I generally don’t put out my list, outside the ones you all already know about, like Toys for Tots. The reason is, all charities are in need, and many are quite deserving, but listing them tends to stir up political arguments. I’ll leave that one for you to ponder.

So the question I leave you with may or may not be easy:
How would you spend sick money, and how much of it would go toward your faith and convictions?

Since I’m calling myself a loser in the jackpot sense (meh, I callz ‘em like I seez ‘em!), I question if I’d also be a loser if I took the military’s “Spiritual Fitness” test. W&K received an email this week on a survey request which, while it certainly applies to Atheists and Agnostics who serve in the military, it may very well apply to Pagans as well. This request came from a doctoral student counseling psychology at Iowa State by the name of Joseph H Hammer. He and his colleagues believe it is important for our troops to add their voice to the project, and I would like to agree. Some of the rank-style questions on the computerized test can be construed as unconstitutional at best (separation of church and state and all that) and prone to push evangelical Christianity at worst, such as:

- “I am a spiritual person. I believe that in some way my life is closely connected to all of humanity. I often find comfort in my religion and spiritual beliefs.”

- “In difficult times, I pray or meditate.”

- “I believe there is a purpose for my life.”

While some of the questions may seem innocuous to us as Pagans, as we do have religious beliefs, and questions like “I believe there is a purpose for my life,” can apply to anyone, it’s the virtual Bzzzzt! for those who “fail” the test that can be rather troublesome. Atheists such as self-described “Foxhole Atheist”, Justin Griffith, a sergeant at Fort Bragg, N.C., checked 100% un-spiritual. When he submitted the computerized survey, the auto-response came back:

Spiritual fitness may be an area of difficulty… You may lack a sense of meaning and purpose in your life. At times, it is hard for you to make sense of what is happening to you and to others around you. You may not feel connected to something larger than yourself. You may question your beliefs, principles and values…Improving your spiritual fitness should be an important goal.

So here’s the survey information as provided to W&K:

U.S. Military Personnel and Veterans’ participation wanted for national online Spiritual Well-Being survey

In October 2009, the Army began measuring the spiritual fitness of troops with the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF) program’s Global Assessment Tool. This Tool is an online survey that asks a series of multiple-choice questions about a person’s well-being.

Our research group is conducting an online research study on the validity of this spiritual fitness Tool, and on the spiritual well-being of U.S. Military Personnel and Veterans.

If you are a member or veteran of the U.S. Military, you are invited to participate in this survey study, which has been approved by the University of Tampa Institutional Review Board. The survey takes about 15 to 35 minutes to complete.

To participate in, or learn more about, this survey please visit:
http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/militaryspiritualfitness

If you would like to speak with the principal investigator, Dr. Ryan Cragun, about this survey, please contact him at rcragun@ut.edu.
Thank you again for your consideration.

Ryan T. Cragun, Ph.D.
Joseph H. Hammer, M.Ed.
Karen Hwang, Ed.D.

Welp, that’s about it for today. I’m going to sulk at my lottery ticket a bit, get dolled up, head downtown to check the post office box for this month’s Clip for the Troops haul (the count will be posted next week!), then I get to bust ass on passing the next at-home test for my leasing agent license. I’ve passed the first two, and no, I didn’t take them open book, and I certainly didn’t hand off the sheets to the broker. If I did, I would not in any way be prepared when I have to take the city and state tests while being watched by instructors. Derp!

Have a great week folks! Blessings!