Jun 292013

Warrior Blessing Ritual at Pagan Spirit Gathering

Good morning everyone and happy Saturday once again! So yes, I did something terrible; I missed writing an article for a week! I do apologize, but I came back from Pagan Spirit Gathering and got thrown immediately back to work. It took me until Wednesday (or was that Thursday?) to get the mountain of laundry cleaned and stuff put away, but it was all worth it. So let’s get into my adventures, shall we? And, I’ll go over Ryan’s status and the recent news events as well. Get your favorite breakfast munchie and a pot of coffee going, because this is going to be a long article.

The drive itself was pretty easy-going and only a couple leisurely hours long. I was able to get everything in the car without really squeezing anything, so for sure I would have been able to bring someone with if they didn’t have a whole lot of stuff. I didn’t use the luggage rack for one thing, so now I know for next year how much further I can take things packing-wise. I also have a hitch with a towing capacity of 3000lbs, so there’s always the option of a light trailer, too. Good things to know! I’ve been to Stonehouse a few times before, so I didn’t even need a map, and that’s in spite of me taking state routes and stuff. I remembered every turn without second-guessing myself.

When I got close, I realized I was five minutes early and was prepared to “circle the block”, but I was waved in. So, I got into “pole position” with a half dozen other vehicles and was witness to the official countdown to the big Welcome Home! I was very tempted to start blaring my horn, but I reined that in. I got to my designated camping area for media folks, unloaded, parked the car and spent the rest of the day slowly setting up to get things just right. Cara Schulz showed up in the late afternoon/early evening, and she had set herself up while I was passed out in my tent. Which, I think you’ll find my tent to be rather comfortable:

my bed
Photo courtesy Cara Schulz

If you look close enough, you’ll see pics of my family on one of my dressers/nightstands, my protector statue to watch over me while I slept and a stuffed animal version of our cat on the bed – the spot he always takes up here at home, crooked on my arm. I did that specifically so I could not only sleep well in strange surroundings, but to spare me from a bit of homesickness. I’m very rarely ever apart from my family, especially not for such a long period of time, so I felt I needed that – and I did. Many people had their own ways of making themselves more comfortable, and mine, well, I did it with a little bit of flair. Next year, I’ll probably take it up a few notches!

I had a wonderful time in our encampment. In fact, I didn’t really venture out beyond that too much besides showers, a workshop on homeschooling just next door and stuff like that for the first couple of days. It really did feel good to slowly acclimate and just be, especially after such a stressful week at work. I did get pretty chummy with our neighbors, and Child Center was right around the corner, which gave me a crazy sense of Baby Fever. But what I really enjoyed was the 2pm cocktails Cara put together, inviting folks over to our camp with deliciousness, and especially the Symposia she put together. And as the Shake and Bake commercial goes, “…and IIIIIIII helped!”

Now as you can gather from the very first picture that lured you in, I had the opportunity to attend the Warrior Blessing Ritual. That top pic – it doesn’t do the ritual justice, but I wanted a nice shot just to tease. Let me tell you, there was not a dry eye in the house, and that includes me, the one with the hard candy shell and yet the sweet center. It was a moving experience; I’m talking that scene in Old Yeller-moving. I really had a hard time being objective and unbiased, trying to be all professional-like, so I probably missed out on some incredible shots. I do apologize for that.

Below, you’ll find a collection of photos. Please note I have intentionally blurred people’s faces just in case there was someone who later decided they did not want to go public.

Colorguard getting things started, in which they went deosil around the main altar.

Just after they played the Star Spangled Banner if memory serves

I think this is where they were calling quarters, and allow me to show you what a quarter’s altar looked like (and I do apologize for the eastern quarter’s pic not turning out)…

This is the southern quarter, represented by the U.S. Marines.

This is the western quarter, represented by the U.S. Navy.

This is the northern quarter, represented by the U.S. Army.

This is the main altar.

This is the POW/MIA altar.

And this – I wanted to highlight the ribbon ceremony – awarding our Warriors for their service.

After pinning…

I have been Pagan now for about 18 years, and I have never, ever been completely drawn into a ritual before – not even spellworkings I’ve performed by myself without interruptions. (Isn’t there always some kind of interruption though?) I’ve never had that “peak moment” so many people talk about, and while certain aspects of rituals have felt genuine, I’ve never been whole-heartedly, completely moved by them until that point. I thank each and every one of you who put this together and who participated, for your sacrifice, your service and your continued dedication toward helping others feel whole and welcomed. My own wish is Ryan would have been able to come to PSG this year, which I’ll get into that in a moment…

The rest of the week was filled with many adventures. I did a goofy poem for the talent show, or aka the Performers Right of Passage, based on my observations of restaurant chains, which most folks thought was pretty funny. (What? You expected something deep and meaningful coming from me? Seriously?! You must be new here.) I also started a new yearly addition to Pan’s Ball by hosting a photo booth complete with designing a back drop. Here’s a pic of that:

Yup, that’s me, and yes, I’m wearing a concert shirt from the band Morbid Angel. What?! It’s Pagan-ish. That’s a dual Lilith! I guess I’m just not the hippie, sarong-wearing type (except for going to the beach – with a swimsuit).

The greatest adventure though was dealing with the horrible storm that swept through starting on Friday. In spite of our best efforts, everything got pretty soggy, muddy and rather funky-smelling by Saturday afternoon. But in spite of that, I was sad to pack up on Sunday… at least until I went to get my car. When I turned over the ignition and my favorite CD was playing, it had dawned on me how much I missed certain aspects of Mundania. Yup, Aces High will do that to a Metal girl I guess.

So that was just a smidge of all that went on for me out that way. I didn’t do a whole heck of a lot there, oh, except maybe giving Marty the Drama Llama some love, because hey – I think he’s a Drama Llama because he’s misunderstood! Now back home, I had mentioned Ryan wasn’t able to come with, and that’s because he was supposed to go to MEPS again for another evaluation to get the waiver he needs for his balance/flexibility issue. Well, that was canceled if you can believe it, so he had at home for nothing. BOO! But this past week, he got the call to go, but once again he was kicked back. They’re giving him one more chance, and he can call to schedule when he feels he’s thrown everything at it. Many people suggested in addition to his personal training at the gym, he take up some yoga for that. Hopefully that solves the problem, because wow is he getting frustrated! I ask everyone to please keep him in your thoughts, because he really wants to reenlist!

Now the other tiny, little bit of news that happened this week was DOMA was repealed! WHOA! And you all know what that means – gay partners of military personnel will now be able to get benes just like everyone else, among a million other things. I joked now gays can be just as miserable as the rest of us, which yeah, that’s a given, but at least when they’re fighting over whose turn it is to do the dishes, they’ll be recognized as equal human beings and not second class citizens. I called the repeal to DOMA to be March of 2014, so I will happily admit I was wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Maybe though, I can still save that and say gay marriage will just be known as marriage across the land by then.

Well, that was a long piece for me to write and probably a longer one for you to read. I have a lease signing in an hour, so I need to get my butt in gear. Many blessings to you and yours, and I hope your journey these past couple of weeks have been just as memorable. Take care!

Feb 092013

Good morning everyone and happy Saturday once again! For me, it’s a very happy one, because our son is home visiting. He turned 21 earlier this week, so immediately after I picked him up from the train, we paid a visit to the DMV to get his driver’s license renewed. After that, we went back home, got caught up on stuff, ordered Chinese for dinner and then presented him with the cake I made. Oh and he loved it, too: Devil’s food cake in three layers, with Oreo cookies, chocolate frosting and chocolate pudding in between, plus covered in chocolate frosting and surrounded by maraschino cherries. What’s funny is he not only loved the cake itself, but Ryan said the cake is iconic. Neither Ron or I understood that, so he said it was a video game reference, which of course I had to dig up. So it seems a mother’s love had just unintentionally proved the cake is not a lie, and here I was thinking I was just creating a decadent dessert. Silly me.

One thing’s for sure, I’m just grateful we once again avoided any serious bad weather. Sure, we got a few inches of snow Thursday night, but it’s nothing like what everyone else is getting socked with. I’m just hoping folks in New England and the East Coast were prepared, especially after Sandy just a few months ago. I could crack a Finding Nemo joke, or even one revolving around the mannerisms out that way, or perhaps I could even throw in a Stephen King reference, but uhhh… I’ll just hold off on that until I know everyone’s okay! Please send a report on how you all are doing.

As I was doing my showings yesterday, I couldn’t help but notice the postal workers sliding around on on the sidewalks, since unfortunately, there are so many folks out here who don’t shovel their sidewalks, much less lay out salt or chip away at the ice. (And come this summer, they’ll have one less day to deal with the weather.) Oh sure, they’ll call dibs on parking spots they didn’t even shovel, but they’ll be damned if they’re actually going to do anything that helps their community. In case you can’t tell, I’m not a fan of dibs, because unless there really was a blizzard and there’s really no place for the snow to go and it’s only a temporary thing, I think it’s kind of selfish. And yes, this is coming from someone who was brought up around the notion. My dad – ooh, if you parked in his spot, never mind the fact he didn’t actually shovel it out or that it’s a public street in the first place – if you picked up his broken furniture and parked your car there, well by gawd, you were going to keep that spot. He would come out with a bucket of ice water and pour it on your locks. Nice, huh?

It’s like I’ve said before, I was raised in a Me and Mine mentality and all others be damned. We were a very insular lot with no real care for the outside world or even a connection to folks outside our small circle. I readily admit I still don’t know who my neighbors are, mostly because people move so much around here. But, I at least know some of the stationary folks like the Chris Rock look-alike mailman (Jesse), the UPS guy who’s a short-haired Antonio Banderas (Alex) and the Psychobilly grocery store cashier (Eric). It’s kind of odd how I grew up if you think about it, not even talking to anyone else, much less getting to know them, especially in this day and age where everyone is connected to everyone else. Me, I’ve upgraded that notion I was raised in to Me and Mine First, because while I do believe in helping others and being a better person, I’ll do so if I have my own shit together first. It’s like how they say on the plane to secure your own mask before putting it on the kids. Or even, how you shouldn’t offer to help someone clean their house when your own place looks like an episode of Hoarders.

But even in those examples, I do believe there is always a little bit of help that can be extended, because well, I categorize my shit. (Ha!) We’re not millionaires by any stretch, so what I can’t give in the way of money I can in explanation by way of example, labor and time. And true, my time is very limited these days, since well, time is indeed money for someone who works on straight commission, but I would like to think whatever free time I have, after I’ve made sure my family has gotten some, I help out. There’s always a few dead minutes between showings; I make sure of that so I’m never late. So if I see a beer bottle on the street (or a nail!), I’ll pick it up so someone doesn’t roll over it and get a flat tire. I say hello with a smile to complete strangers as I walk past them (trust me – this is a big deal in the city!). And yes, I do make sure my voice is heard when it comes to politics, because it all circles back to the benefit of us all.

I foresee this whole gay issue, the women in combat issue, the various minority religions issues, and so many others, slowly going the way of the Dodo. It’s not just about building Karma points, it’s not just about doing the right thing, and it’s not just a cluster of personal issues, but it’s a combined mass of good societal issues which betters us all. I came across a political cartoon the other day that sums things up well:

Distraction? Nope.

It’s like I’ve always said: Hatin’ has no business in business because it’s bad for business. And business doesn’t always mean dollars and cents, but sense.

- Two guys want to hold hands at the commissary? Okay, whatever. They’re still shopping there, right?

- A woman wants to try out for Infantry. Okay, whatever. If she graduates, maybe she’ll end up saving a life or three.

- Big Gay Al wants to be a Scout leader? Okay, whatever. His scarf may be out of uniform, but at least he’s not a pedophile!

Catch my drift?

Here in Illinois, we passed another hurdle toward marriage equality, and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta is setting up benefit extensions for partners. Unfortunately, hands are tied on equality due to DOMA, but I’m really praying that gets repealed come this summer. Even the Boy Scouts are rethinking their stance, though methinks it has less to do with doing the right thing over doing what’s right for the coffers – and so far only on a limited basis. Now some people ask me why I even care about this stuff since I’m not gay. I mean, I get that to a point. Why do I care? It’s not my thing. So if I have to go beyond stating I believe equality for some means equality for all, including Pagans being more openly accepted, well, I go back to my Me and Mine First stance and state I genuinely wish my deceased uncle was able to see this come to fruition. Fair enough? Also, yes, equal rights are good for business, which yes, that circles back to the betterment of all involved.

Just yesterday, one of the folks I rented to a few months back emailed me and the landlord a lease update request, as she had become recently engaged and her partner wants to be added to the lease. The landlord, who’s an oldschool Eastern European, caught the partner lingo, and he didn’t even bat an eye. Not too long ago, even stating something like that could raise red flags, and by certain people, it still does. A safer route would have been to say “roommate”, so I admire her for being open. Like he said, “that’s their thing”, which has nothing to do with housing. So far, the rent’s been paid on time, the unit’s been kept clean (one of his higher end units by the way which of course I’m keeping in mind!), and the current tenant is quiet. So to him, all he sees is even a further guarantee on his rent by adding a second person, which is good business sense. Done and done. Yeah, I like that landlord; he’s definitely an okay guy, and I totally dig his accent. Oh and where it’s equally important, even his cheaper, standard apartments are kept up very well. It’s little wonder why I have no problem renting them out quickly.

Welp, I’m going to wrap things up for this week, get in a shower and watch Ryan sleep. He may be a full-fledged adult now, but to me, he will still always be the little boy who picked dandelions for me.

Take care everyone, and blessings to you and yours!

Jan 052013

Good morning everyone and happy Saturday once again! I had a pretty busy week, since Ryan came down to visit us, and a lot of landlords have contacted me with new listings. Poor Ryan was sick almost the whole time, so I encouraged him to stay here so I could take care of him and help him get some rest. And that he did; I think he slept more than the cat, and the cat’s pretty old. But, when he was awake, we made sure he had a nice time here. I made Yule II dinner, he had some nice presents to open, and we got around to watching a few movies. Looper was one of them, and before renting it, Ron asked who’s in it. Ryan and I both replied “You!” in unison, since Ron really does look a lot like Bruce Willis – just with the addition of a cleft chin. Yep, it’s little things like that which makes it fun to have Ryan around.

Because Ryan was in town, and because the landlords were keeping me busy, I did a whole lot less news following than usual. (I’m just hoping I get around to tearing down the tree and decorations sometime this weekend!) But just because I was busy does not mean I don’t pay attention. A lot happened this week, so I’d like to go over them if I may:

- Tulsi Gabbard, First Hindu In Congress, Uses Bhagavad Gita At Swearing-In: This, this right here, is kind of a big deal, because it’s one of those things that proves things are indeed changing for the better. Personally, I wish everyone were to take the oath on a copy of the U.S. Constitution and not on any religious text, but I’m pretty excited about this leap forward. The fact is, we now have a U.S. Congresswoman (yes woman, and a minority woman at that) who feels confident enough her minority faith, without ties to any Abrahamic religion, is just as valid as any other and is proud of it. Testify! Every time someone of a minority faith makes such a historical mark, no matter how insignificant it may seem at the time, it opens another door for our community.

The 113th Congress, which just came in this week, is the most diverse ever, with more women than ever, more faiths represented than ever, and yes, it also includes another first – a lesbian. Whodathunkit? I’d love to give these folks a honeymoon period like most any new employee is graced – some time to get acquainted with their new offices in Washington, figure out the best places for lunch, etc., but sorry folks – you’ve got work to do! You’re replacing the most inept, do-nothing Congress ever, so get to work!

- Obama Signs FISA Warrantless Wiretapping Program Extension Into Law: This is one of those reasons I can easily point out to any Obama lover why I’ll never be a fan, and they’ll usually have to agree with me (usually with a but…). While this law specifically does not target Americans and is for spying on people overseas, things don’t look so hot when you mix in a few other laws. Back in May, he extended the Patriot Act and NDAA was signed into law by Obama which could allow the military to indefinitely detain Americans. Of course, this doesn’t even include things he’s in charge of like Homeland Security overstepping their bounds (really, what does a fake Coach bag have to do with national security?). Oh, and if you think airports are the only places the TSA is hanging out, places the government has a hand in, perhaps it’s because you haven’t been to a football game lately.

- Obama signs bill warding off fiscal cliff: After much sobbing and hand-wringing, everyone got together and finally got this stuff resolved… well, kinda-sorta. One of the biggest pieces of news is pretty much everyone’s taxes are going up (middle class Joes and Janes can count on their paychecks missing ~$12), and people who make more than $400k (up from the original $250k) will be sending Uncle Sam about $15k more by year’s end. However, there’s a cap now in place on those $250k+ (let’s just say rich) folks for how much they can deduct on taxes. People on unemployment who were told the extensions were being dropped will be getting them back, and it’s retroactive, so a lot of needy folks are breathing a sigh of relief. And yes, because stuff got rectified, no civilian workers for the military will be furloughed.

- US Reportedly Tested Secret Tsunami Bomb: Here’s a random article I came across I thought some of you would find as interesting as I did. All I want to know is if the conspiracy theorists have tied this into HAARP.

- Puerto Rico to Activate National Guard: The newly-minted governor of Puerto Rico is working hard to curtail the drug smuggling going on through their ports, so he’s taking this drastic measure. What’s interesting is Puerto Rico is not a state, but last November, for the first time, the majority of the people feel they’d like to come into the fold. This has me wondering how bringing in the troops is going to affect the voice of the people in the months and years ahead.

- Illinois Gay Marriage Vote: Bill Approved By Senate Committee, Floor Vote Delayed: It’s not over until the fat lady sings, as they say, and my home state has a pretty good chance of moving forward with marriage equality. Of course, the Catholic Church is none too pleased, but honestly, I don’t see it as being any of their business anyway. Well, it is their business, as far as business goes, because Catholic Charities was already told they won’t get any more government backing, namely for their adoptive services, if they keep hatin’. And sadly, they fought adopting children to gay couples tooth and nail until they just said screw it, took their ball and went home – affecting so many children in the process.

The way I see it, in spite of the Church being assholes (and people wonder why I left ~20 years ago), the U.S. majority is cool with gay marriages these days. Here in Illinois, we’ve already had civil unions for about two years now, which is a stepping stone; it gets people who are sitting on the bench comfortable with the idea. Then of course, as a cynic and a fiscal conservative, even my doubting side can’t get past the simple, hard truth Illinois is broke. So if anything, damnit, we need the money!

Let’s consider all the money full-on gay marriages can do for our state: There’s tourism for sure just in Chicago, as we have a beautiful skyline and incredible architecture. Ron and I were married at City Hall, and the marble backdrop of our wedding photos would never have people assuming it was a quickie-cheapie. If you want a more classic-style setting, Galena is a wonderful choice. From filings and tax status changes all the way down to the local florists, that’s a lot of money we could be getting that states like neighboring Indiana are losing out on. Of course, David Salisbury, who’s not just one of your friendly PNCers but also of the Human Rights Campaign, and I disagree on when the DOMA repeal is going to change that chance of extra income (remember, my call is March, 2014), but hey, even one extra summer of weddings sure could put a dent in boosting our economy.

So hey, Illinois, contact your reps and let’s all be a part of history!

Welp, that about wraps things up for me this week. Take care, and many blessings to you and yours.

Dec 082012

Good morning everyone and happy Saturday once again! So, do you have the rest of your holiday shopping done yet? We still have a few items left on the list, but the bulk of it is done. Yesterday, I paid a visit to the pet store and got our furbaby his gifts. He’s not that much of a baby these days, as this is going to be his twelfth Yule, and every one is a milestone for him. When he was five, we had to have some serious work done on him due to crystals building up. That caused a couple thousand dollars of surgery which resulted in he turning into a she, physically speaking. We’ve had many people sneer at that, saying if that was their kitty, it would simply be “time to get another one”. We certainly don’t believe that, and we’re very grateful to have had Himz in our life an extra seven years, unconditionally loving us as we love him. I believe even Tard the Grumpy Cat would have to agree on that – even if she does so grudgingly.

Welp, ’tis the season for the “War on Christmas“, which to me is such a ridiculous term. (I have attempted to reach Tardar Sauce on her stance, and I’ll let you know if she honors us with a response.) I mean, it’s not like we don’t have any real wars to concern ourselves with. And, wouldn’t it be almost funny if the Mayans were right? To me, that just means we should put that much more emphasis on our Yule celebrations and go out with a bang. I actually find it interesting both the U.S. and Russian governments have felt the need to say “Keep Calm“. Of course, conspiracy theorists say when the government tells people there’s nothing to worry about, people should really worry. What do you think? What are your plans for the Winter Solstice?

Well, if you’re looking for reasons to celebrate outside the basics, I have a few:

- Supreme Court takes up same-sex marriage: Woo-hoo! It appears my call for DOMA to be repealed in March, 2014 was being overly conservative, but that’s a good thing. “You’re WRONG, Colonel Sanders!” (Please don’t tackle me.) They’ll be meeting in March 2013 and making their ruling in June, just in time to have the results broadcast during PSG morning meeting. Even with a terrible hangover, I’d totally show up bright and early to hear that announcement. Oh yeah!

- West Point chapel hosts first same-sex marriage: And yes, congratulations to another very happy couple! A gay marriage at West Point is a very big deal, because as some of you know, West Point is known for being represented by a majority of outspoken evangelical and other Christians – so much so a senior quit over it this week at a possible tune of ~$300k.

- Planned Parenthood applauds Senate passage of National Defense Authorization Act: THANK. YOU. The “Shaheen Ammendment” ensures women in the military can get the reproductive healthcare they need, and yes, the act extends coverage for abortion. It still needs to get Obama’s signature, but considering he’s been backing this all along, I highly doubt there would be a problem with that.

And, just because I figured I should top off some sexiness to help celebrate, here you go:

Marines + Kilts = DAYUM!

Speaking of uniforms, the military has finally updated the ones for women, including body armor. This too is a very big deal, because as we all know, if something doesn’t fit right, it doesn’t work right. Men and women are vastly different in body structure. We have narrower shoulders (well, except me, but anyway), larger chests (y’know, boobiez!), narrower waists (again, except me) and wider hips, on top of a generally shorter stature. The uniforms need to fit right not just so women aren’t walking around looking like they’re wearing camouflaged tents, but so they can move better and be able to react quicker. And, the body armor needs to fit well, again, especially in the top torso region, to properly deflect bullets and shrapnel. And, with more direct combat roles being afforded to women, which has been a battle all unto itself, it’s imperative women are suited properly. In other words, it’s to save lives and limbs, sending more of our women back home whole – and it’s about damned time.

Now sadly, I do need to cover the bad news that came about this week. 38 Senators voted against the disabled, which includes vets, and they cast their ballots as they walked right on by Bob Dole in his wheelchair. Why? Because many of them hate the UN that damned much. One of the reasons they cited was for homeschooling rights, that mom/teacher will have to install ramps and such in their homes. Um, no, because this has nothing to do with U.S. laws already in place and does not supersede them. Not to mention, Sen. Marco Rubio (who voted against the treaty) even acknowledged we “set the gold standard” for how those with disabilities should be treated. I don’t get that logic in the least.

There is also talk among the gun advocates many more vets stand the chance to lose their Second Amendment rights, stating PTSD should be included right alongside schizophrenia. This comes on the heels of Bob Costas’ commentary during Sunday Night Football in regards to Kansas City Chief linebacker Jovan Belcher shooting his girlfriend and then later himself. Just as above regarding the disabilities rights, so too is this drawing a false parallel. It seems to me by that logic, because thousands of people are killed in drunk driving accidents every year, anyone who’s had a few too many on New Year’s Eve should have their driver’s licenses revoked on President’s Day, even though they were responsible and used a designated driver.

I’d really like to know your opinions on these topics this week, so please feel free to comment.

Well, that’s it for me this week. Just remember, there’s two weekends of Yule shopping/crafting left, so it’s time to get cracking. Me, I got all my cookie supply shopping done, as I’ll be damned if some Mayan apocalypse worrywarts are going to clear the shelves on me when I need them. Just like other years, I’ll be baking about a gross of cookies as gifts, so I need those staples.

Take care everyone, and many blessings to you and yours!

Nov 102012

Good morning everyone and happy Saturday once again! So now that the election’s over and the new boss is indeed the same as the old boss, we can all move on to some of the newness coming along. Let’s see: Some new states are getting on board with that whole marriage equality thing, a couple states are cool with the chronic, a binder full of women have just been elected for important jobs and a couple of folks are resigning from their rather important positions. Does that sum things up for you? No? Well, let’s recap with a little more detail:

1) Obama has been reelected: Even without Florida, which we didn’t get to see their numbers for days after, Obama won more than enough electoral votes to become reelected – the final count is 332 to 206. It was indeed a nail-biter this time around with so many close swing states involved, many just past the 50% mark. Romney didn’t even have a concession speech written; he was that sure. So, what does the future hold for the second term? Well, Obamacare is now a sure thing, although there are businesses planning ahead to get out of abiding by the law. There’s going to be at least one more Supreme Court justice appointed, if not three; they’re getting up in years doncha know. And, even if the numbers don’t seem to match up to my theory, I have a sneaking suspicion come 2014′s mid-term elections, based on how things went this time around, Obama will be wrapping up the end of his Presidency with all three branches in his court. Interesting, no?

2) More states OK same-sex marriages: Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington are now on board in one form or another, bringing the count to possibly ten states where same-sex marriages are AOK. And on that appointing topic I mentioned, picture this: All these states are swinging even harder toward civil liberties for everyone, so with some fresh blood in the Supreme Court, my call on March, 2014 as a repeal of DOMA is looking more and more like a reality. There are some states, like mine, where they have civil unions, which is good but not good enough. I think these states will see there’s no problem, and in actuality is the right thing to do, so they’ll move forward, too. And then, it’s just a matter of time to where the hold-out states will just have to get on board by the rule of the Supreme Court. Done and done.

3) Colorado and Washington OK recreational marijuana use: Why the hell not? This is a good thing! My husband has a good theory on how this will play out: More states will see the extra money Colorado and Washington are making and the problems are nil, and they’ll get on board – especially states like California and Illinois that are drowning in debt. They’ve taxed everything to death to where people are going over county and state lines to buy their wants and in turn are seeing a plateau on the taxes generated. And when enough states get on board, the Federal government will have to just accept the new reality, and then of course they’ll want to start taxing and regulating the heck out of it. So I say, smoke ‘em while ya got ‘em (or at least can afford ‘em!) and don’t forget to stock up on Cheetoes!

4) New top female politicians: Imagine that: Women can do stuff now – a whole binder full, even! In New Hampshire, women were elected for every congressional seat, Wisconsin can now boast of having our nation’s first lesbian senator, and in Hawaii, two women, one Hindu and another Buddhist, both minority religions, were elected. So, when can we expect to see our nation’s first black, lesbian Wiccan woman elected? That would be something, wouldn’t it?

5) Petraeus and Clinton to resign, others speculate: Well, CIA director and former General David Petraeus is resigning primarily because he got caught with his hand in the cookie jar and is trying to save face. But Hillary? She’s just plain tired, and who could blame her? Also, Attorney General Eric Holder may not stick around either, though Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner plans on hanging around for a few more months.

Why are so many leaving? Outside of Petraeus, is it just their time? Some speculate there’s a whole nudder reason, that Obama’s hiding something and they’re abandoning ship. What do you think is going on? Does it have something to do with the fiscal cliff? Benghazi? Holding back the drone shooting thing? Is it time to start heading to the bunkers or what?

So yeah, it’s definitely been an interesting and yes, an exciting week. Beyond politics though, since we can take a rest for a bit, I want to focus this week on an often-forgotten holiday that is deserving of so much more: Veteran’s Day. Our friends at Circle Sanctuary will be presenting Pagan Military Service Ribbons for all those who have served our country and adhere to a Pagan belief. I think they’re absolutely beautiful in their simplicity, symbolizing so much in such a small amount of space. If you, as a Pagan Veteran, would like to receive one, you may do so in person or through the power of technology. Visit the site to learn more, and be sure to listen to tonight’s broadcast.

And yes, it’s that time of year again to start getting your Yuletide shopping planned. I know – where does the time go?! In addition to your stocking stuffers and gifts for your loved ones, please consider participating in Operation Circle Care. If you want to contribute with an item or three, it can be of a gentle used nature, or hand-crafted, and not necessarily brand new. Of course, money is always good – just like that cash and card gift for your cousin who is impossible to buy for!

And for those of you who love giving toys, there’s always one of my favorite charities that allows you to do just that: Toys for Tots, run by the U.S. Marines. Call me biased, but I’m more than partial to my home town; we have Santa on a motorcycle!

And yes, before you all thought I forgot to mention, here’s Ryan’s update:
He went to MEPS on the 1st, and they have him doing a ton of paperwork since he was already in the military before. (I guess that complicates things or something, when I would have assumed that makes things easier.) They want him to go back a second time for some reason or another, so he’s waiting on that date, which his recruiter said should be by early next week. Yep, back to the hurry up and wait routine, but at least there is indeed a routine to be had.

Welp, that’s it for me this week. I’m working on a special project for my broker, so even if everyone cancels on me today, it’s happened before, I have a crazy amount of work to keep me busy. And, that doesn’t even include the two applications I got late last night that I now have to work on. I hate the paperwork, but I love the money, I love the independence even more, and I really, really love handing people sets of keys to their new homes. It’s truly satisfying work.

Oct 202012

Good morning everyone and happy Saturday once again! And yes, welcome back, Jason, to the indie side of reporting and many congratz for setting a fundraising goal and greatly surpassing it in just a couple days. Day-um! Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a fundraiser within Pagandom that has done so much so fast. You’re all friggin awesome! I imagine Jason must be doing a Sally Field impression right about now. See what happens when I only post once a week? I certainly have a lot to catch up on.

Come at me, brah!

This past week, there was quite a bit of excitement to be had. (No, I’m not talking about the return of The Walking Dead. But if you missed it, I have three words for you: Riot. Gear. Zombies!) What I’m talking about is about DOMA – the Defense of Marriage Act – getting knocked down in New York, creating a setup for the Supreme Court and getting it repealed altogether. That followed the town hall debate on Wednesday, all looking like a scene from Fight Club. (Oh, and Mitt providing ideas for this year’s big Halloween costume was icing on the cake.) Yep, after all that, I have a sneaking suspicion DOMA will be repealed in the next couple of years. Why? Because it’s a sure bet if Obama is reelected, he will be appointing at least a couple Supreme Court justices, and that’s enough to set the stage for such a repeal. Like I said many times before, I called March, 2014 for the repeal. What say you?

I do want to remind folks again, I’m not really of any political affiliation or persuasion, but I’m not shy about expressing my dislike for Romney as a whole. Quite honestly, he gives me the slime vibes, and like hubby says, I can’t trust him to follow through with any of his promises. I like savvy business people and admire them, but I don’t like his seemingly lack of a conscience based on his track record. I would be happy to see a third party elected, such as Gary Johnson or Jill Stein. (Do you recognize anyone in that link’s pic? You go girl!) I would be cool with Obama winning, too, even if I do disagree with him on some targeted points. Maybe I’ll get lucky in 2016 and see Tammy Duckworth running, no matter what initial is next to her name, but I’ll definitely settle with her being in Congress very soon. And yeah, I say that especially after what her opponent said recently. (Yes, he went there.)

At the end of the day, I just want to see a fairness in government and in the private sector, that people I know and care about have good opportunities. And yes, I want to see our men and women in the military are being well-served. People are struggling right now, and it seems left and right, they’re getting screwed. I came across an article the other day that sadly didn’t surprise me, given my background. For those of you who don’t know, I was a paralegal for a large collections firm for seven years, where I saw people in various states of financial hardship up close and personal in open court. The firm I worked for was big on following the FDCPA, the Federal Fair Debts Collection Practices Act, for all cases forwarded to them. But, it’s been reported over and over some collection agencies themselves are notorious for breaking the rules, including some of the largest. I’m big on rules, and I do believe in capitalism in its purest form, even if I too have been screwed by it not so long ago. So yeah, skirting the rules really bothers me.

I had a hard time working at that firm, struggling with my own conscience, wondering if what I was doing was the right thing. I would feel justified when my firm would win a case against a woman who jacked up her cards by buying several pairs of shoes in the same color. Screw you; pay your damned bill! It’s people like you why we’re all having problems! But I would then be torn when, in the same morning, we would win a case against a guy who lost his job and his wife passed away in the same year. His problem? He jacked up his cards for his kids’ school clothes and whatnot. (Ummm… ahem… well… maybe you should have asked for hand-me-downs and hit the thrift store. Maybe??)

And, no matter who it was, even if it was the shoe horse, I would be sickened when certain collectors, one in particular, would do Teh Happee Dance when a debtor would literally cry on the phone. It tickled that guy even more when he learned that by freezing certain peoples’ bank accounts, the debtors’ debit cards were declined while trying to buy Thanksgiving dinner or getting their holiday shopping done. (It’s been my experience hard pushes for collections happen around the holidays, since that’s when people are likely to have the most money. That and tax return time.) Oh, how the thought of some deadbeat not buying a turkey or XBox really thrilled him to no end, and he didn’t even get a bonus for doing it. He liked being a dick, and he was good at it.

It was the reason I vowed, as a mere clerk at the time, to not accept a promotion as a collector. Yes, the position paid well, and I would have gotten out of the typing pool and into an office, but being a debt collector just wasn’t in me. And it turned out, sticking with my conscience worked out for me. I was promoted as a paralegal within my first year, even without prior training or legal experience, much less certification. I even got my own office, albeit one I created from a large, unused storage closet, and with all the running around I had to do, I wasn’t shackled to my desk all day. It made me feel good; it proved to me I really could do anything. And yes, I’m still very proud of that accomplishment, because again, I got there without sacrificing my conscience.

Unfortunately, I learned some time after the fact my promotion came at the heels of the firm’s longtime, freelance paralegal losing one of her biggest clients. I felt some undeserving guilt from that, and I wanted to at least try to make it right. I met up with her in person immediately after to let her know I didn’t seek that promotion. I wanted her to know it was not my intention to replace her, and I wouldn’t have taken the job had I known the end result. It just happened. I guess bossman felt it was a way to save the firm money and to keep a tighter grip on things at the same time. Makes sense, sure. And yes, I learned a lot of valuable skillsets and made many connections from that promotion I still use today. (As an example, I know, from direct and close personal experience, which judges and others I will be voting for and against come this election cycle.) But none of that her feel any better about the situation, and I’m sure she wanted to say to me I should go be a dick on my own time.

From my years of experience there, I could do collections myself from the comfort of my own home – if I wanted to. I would be good at it, and I would indeed be helping the economy in a small way. And yes, I have applied that valuable knowledge many times during and since. It sure comes in handy when reading applicants’ credit reports, since I can assuredly read between the lines. Seeing (tens of?) thousands of cases tends to provide that level of knowledge. The thing is, that damned conscience of mine says I need to do work that helps people instead of hurting them more, so I would have to be pretty desperate to be a collector. Not to mention, when I finally left there, it took over a year to break a great deal of the cynical, jaded view I had accrued. (I’m still pretty cynical, but I’m more calculated these days in drawing conclusions.) So I figure, let some sociopath get his giddy thrills, so as long as he’s being legit about it. Go be a dick on your own time.

But that mindset has a problem, too. Just because people are going by the book doesn’t mean the book itself is right. When the clerks deny couples of the same sex to marry and have that marriage recognized in every state, we all know we can’t get mad at the clerks themselves. They’re just doing their jobs and abiding by the laws currently set in place. These are laws passed by people we voted for, and we need to remember that. We can get the laws changed, thus allowing the clerks to accept and process the paperwork, and that falls squarely in our hands – not the clerks. Now, if the laws are changed and some of the clerks or the judges outright deny couples of the same sex to marry, then we can get mad, just like we can get mad at that collector who told the disabled vet he should have died.

My point is, when you vote, and yes, I do hope you do so if you can, vote with your conscience and make a conscious decision of who you’re voting for. In most states, you have the opportunity to vote from more than just Romney or Obama as President, and in some, you can even write someone in. (I’m still upset Captain America takes the oath in the Marvel Universe, because I think we have had enough guys with a boner for Jesus in charge – even if he does have military experience.) Go through all of their political stances and review their track records. Four very broad points I strongly consider are:

- Who’s most likely to get our economy back in shape in the least amount of time? Conversely,
- Who’s most likely to spearhead initiatives to move good financial policies well into the future?

- Who’s most likely to champion “live and let live” social policies? And at the same time,
- Who’s most likely to have a take-charge attitude with Teh Bad Guyz?

You can fill in the blanks and narrow down details however you want, because it’s your vote. I try to stay as neutral as possible, which yes, my biases do show from time to time (see above). The big difference is, I don’t like to be “that guy” who tells people who vote differently than I do they’re idiots or whatever. On Teh Faceypagez, I unfriend and block people who do that to me directly, including people I know personally and people everyone seems to love. Go be a dick on your own time. The way I see it, people have their own needs and personal experiences, and I get and totally respect that. It’s that damned conscience of mine again, though I do love a good debate – especially ones where a little Fight Club mentality gets thrown into the mix.

Welp, that’s it for me this week. Keep it civil, folks, and many blessings to you and yours!

(And yes, this week’s post has been edited. Fortunately, I caught the now glaringly obvious word misuse, repeatedly, before a grammar Nazi called me out on it first. LOL!)

Feb 182012

Good morning everyone and Happy Saturday once again! It’s been another very busy week for us, especially with Valentine’s Day being part of it. Ron made us a lobster dinner with lots of everything, even dessert, and as we ladies all know, there isn’t anything more sexy than a guy that can cook! (Well, except maybe a guy who cleans, which, yeah, he does a lot of that, too. I’m a very lucky woman!) He also bought two boxes of chocolates for me to choose which one I wanted. I went with the assorted over the Turtles, because I knew I’d eat those all up in one sitting. My rationale was best to give them to Ryan so I will get some “duds”. That way, while I will eat them (it’s chocolate, damnit!), I’ll do so much more slowly throughout the week. (And yep, it worked!)

Meet Pinchy, Clicky, Big Red, Spike, Shorty and Bob.

The next holiday coming up around here is my birthday in a couple weeks, and I’ve been thinking hard as to what I truly want. This may sound cheesy to some, but I actually want to go to Medieval Times. I’ve never been there, and I saw a commercial for $29.95 a person – much less than usual. I didn’t get to go to the Ren Faire last summer, so I figure too, it might calm a craving a bit until I can go this year. Ryan seemed gigged on the idea, and Ron and I agreed it’s a really good price. But, if we don’t go, there’s always a number of other interesting things we can do together.

The thing that’s always kind of sad is after a special day or event is over, because it goes from a high, especially on the anticipation level, to a low after it’s all over. When I return from fests like PSG, it takes a day or two to settle back into Mundania/reality. The Real World just doesn’t run like that, but at least I’m home again, back in my big, warm bed, and I get to start planning for the next fest, building up that high once again. It’s somewhat akin to when I check out the news but in reverse, as the top news stories are almost always lows. A running joke is when I flip on the evening news, I say,

“Hmmm… let’s see who died today.” Isn’t that how it always goes? The top news stories feature a tragic fire, the death of a celebrity, political corruption in one way or another or the general rebranding of the epitome of human evilness. A “slow news day”, where the first segment is a “fluff piece” rarely happens – at least not in a major city. Somewhere in the world, something bad happened, and it’s the job of the news anchors to either scare the crap out of me, tick me off or completely enrage me. If they didn’t do that, they couldn’t push whatever it is their advertisers are promoting.

Well, two pieces in this week’s news did just that:

- Fox Pundit: Women in Military Should “Expect” to Get Raped: What, what WHHHAAAAATTTTT?! That’s right, FOX political commentator Liz Trotta said our men shouldn’t expect to have any self control over their own bodies, and any women within arm’s length of them should count on being a forced piece of ass. Because, hey, it’s there. Why not go for it, right? All’s fair in “love” and war, especially when now women are getting more opportunities to serve in more direct combat positions. (Infantry and Special Forces positions are still not available to women, but I’m sure that will change in the coming years, once the DoD sees women are perfectly capable of doing the job.)

That rationale not only demeans the brave women in combat to little more than an appetizer tray at happy hour (and slut shames them at the same time for daring to “be a man in a man’s world”), but it equally demeans our men as clawed and fanged monsters by default. How DARE she? And Liz all but glorifies our military the rest of the time, so what’s the problem?

Don’t believe me? Watch for yourself what she said:

- Justice Department Will No Longer Defend Law Blocking Military Benefits For Same-Sex Couples: And yes, after I got enraged at the news once again, along comes a piece that built me up. It’s not a victory in the final sense, but it is a good sign that the times and overall climate are indeed changing. This also opens the door toward equal marriages within the military – a sovereign state.

The benefits in question, according to Holder, are “medical and dental benefits, basic housing allowances, travel and transportation allowances, family separation benefits, military identification cards, visitation rights in military hospitals, survivor benefits and the right to be buried together in military cemeteries.”

Did you catch that one benefit – housing? It’s basic housing benefits being discussed, which I am seeking clarification whether that includes housing on installations, but even if it is not, that’s an excellent start. And visitation rights in military hospitals – yes, yes and astoundingly YES! This should go without question! No one should be denied the right to be with those they care about the most at life’s most trying times – the whole “in sickness” part of any standard marriage vow. Even our simple city hall marriage had that included by the judge sitting at his desk.

And the other one right there at the end, the right to be buried together in military cemeteries – whoa! Jaw agape! Cue applause! This one I am especially fond of, because it allows a couple, any couple, to eternally rest together, perhaps strengthening their bonds in the hereafter. That benefit to me is one out of love more than anything else, and I applaud the fact the military is realizing that hey, people really don’t choose who they love – it just happens.

“And now for the weather – Tiffany?” (Heh, I just had to toss in a True Blood reference joke there!)

Well ladies and gentleman, that’s about all I have for you this week. I do have quite the busy weekend planned, and I need to get back to it. I hope this year’s PantheaCon is going well, and I also hope I will be able to attend next year. (My brother and his wonderful family lives not too far away, so I’d probably want to extend my trip out there to see them!) I’m working on something really big in the upcoming weeks that will grant us a lot more opportunities, and I have confidence in myself and in the Universe that everything will fall into place.

So have a wonderful week everyone, and don’t let the news get you down. Remember, there’s always a positive piece in there someplace!

Sep 242011

Good morning everyone, and Happy Saturday once again! And yes, I hope you all had a wonderful Mabon celebration as well! Pumpkins and apples and pomegranates oh my! Yesterday couldn’t have been a more perfect first fall day, and even getting stuck in serious Friday rush hour traffic didn’t phase me much. I fist-pumped the ride home while rockin’ out to some old Metallica (the good stuff!) to help me zigzag through the colorblind zombies; green means Go!, people! No Remorse! (Yes, I sometimes put on quite the road show LOL!)

Actually, this whole week has been pretty solid for the most part, thanks to the death of DADT and the wonderful Pagan Pride event held here last Saturday. (Why oh why didn’t I buy those Pagan holiday kitchen towels? Why?) The food collected was enough to feed 1,000 people for the Chicago Food Depository* – awesome! I even discovered I have an incredible, authentic Italian deli two doors away from my office, and not since my uncle’s place (the Original Godfather’s Pizza!) have I had such deliciousness.

But not everything was all rainbows and unicorns, of course. There’s a guy who (re)started last week who’s as cocky as they come, so I’m trying not to let his lack of professionalism get under my skin too much. My car was blocked in Wednesday to where I couldn’t go home until over an hour later. And, nonsense like this (in Stars and Stripes, no less!) and this have made me a little stabby. But, just like my new boss says I seem to be the ever-chipper, eternal optimist, I try to make sure the pros outweigh the cons. (And let me tell you, after seeing this video, which brought tears to my eyes, I know there are a lot harder things to deal with than getting out of a damned parking spot!)

So yes, DADT is dead, and haterz gonna be hatin’, so let’s collectively move onward and upward and focus on DOMA – the “Defense” of Marriage Act. (Why does marriage need defending anyway?) Gay men and women can now be themselves, and a scenario I said a long time back can now be a reality:

Private: Drill Sergeant, I am a black, Wiccan lesbian.
Drill Sergeant: Good for you, Private! Now get back into formation!
Private: Thank you, Drill Sergeant! That’s all I’ve ever wanted!

And, if I wanted to be funny about it, I could always change the response to:

Drill Sergeant: Well la de freaking da! I’m a white, Lutheran Cowboys fan. And somebody had better be dyin’ if you interrupt me during kick-off!

But all joking aside, this isn’t just “a gay thing” either; DOMA stands in the way of all healthy relationships being legally recognized, including those who choose to have more than one partner. What – wait? Does that mean I’m cool with the likes of Warren Jeffs? Oh hellz naw! But I am totally cool with two men and a woman, two and two, three and one, etc. Now me personally, I readily admit I’m too selfish to bring in a third party to my marriage (“That’s my man!”), even if there was more help with the housekeeping and finances. But hey, who am I to say it’s not cool if folks want to take communal living to the next level? When a friend of ours introduced his second wife (and equal party) to us a few years back, I blurted, with all sincerity and my ever-beaming smile,

“If you can make it work!” I know, I need to watch that sometimes, but hey, that’s the first thing that came to mind. I don’t think it’s “wrong”, I don’t think it’s “immoral”, and I don’t think it’s “damaging” to a marriage or to children. It’s just different. Many Pagans I know are poly and have been for several years, many of whom have (ZOMG!) children involved, and no one seems to be worse for wear. In fact, their families seem to be quite healthy inside and out. Just like a gay marriage isn’t the thing for me, neither is a poly one, but far be it from me to want a road block in there. It ain’t none of my business. And it shouldn’t be anyone else’s.

Abner! Aaaahb-ner!

So my feeling is now that DADT is a sad footnote, let’s move on to DOMA. That way, our service members and civilians the country over can get their families the same benes others already enjoy and be allowed to simply live their lives the way they want to. After all, doesn’t that fall into that whole “pursuit of happiness” thing politicians love to talk about during election cycles? Gladys Kravitz can bite me (and I think many Witchy folk can agree on that!)

And with that said, let’s move on to some couponing news!

Last Sunday, there were two inserts, but I managed to get my hands on ten copies! Yes indeedy, the paperboy loves me, because he (or she!) tends to leave lots of extras out there for me. All I can figure is either I got it going on at 6am with smeared makeup, tussled, knotty hair and faded concert shirts (I’m bad and often crash out before washing my face), or I’m at the end of his route. Yeah, I think it’s the fact I’m a hottie. That’s gotta be it.

So needless to say, I amassed quite the hefty bundle of coupons for the Clip for the Troops! campaign, and there’s still tomorrow and next Sunday to go! Tomorrow’s paper will also have two inserts, and don’t forget to flip through the copy of Parade, because there’s usually at least one decent clippable in there as well. That stack is getting HUGE, and I have a lot of calculating ahead of me, and by the first, we just may have that third adoption in line. Please view the adoption list and choose one!

No, I haven’t made it to the post office yet downtown this month, as their hours are pretty stifling these days. I’m going to try to get down there this morning, since we have some running around to do. The Target downtown has the best kitchen section anywhere, and well, I always seem to be in need of that sort of thing. A Kitchen Witch needs kitchen stuff. Go fig! And, our favorite place for breakfast is down there, too, so I can usually sway Ron into going if I mention his “gourmet dining establishment” with tongue firmly in cheek. (It ain’t fancy, and the menu isn’t exactly what foodies would consider quality by any stretch. But we like it a lot, because it’s cheap for what you get, it’s cafeteria style so it’s quick, and we like the overstuffed, tall [p]leather booth seats and chairs only seen otherwise at oldschool steakhouses.)

You see, I need the guys to go with me to the post office, as there’s never anywhere to park. And, President Obama’s local office is right around the corner, so what little parking is available is nil when he’s in town. So even though there is metered parking available, which runs about a couple bucks for fifteen measly minutes, it’s almost impossible to nab. Boo! But that’s what having a partner is for – to play race car driver in slo mo, turning to the left over and over until I get those coupons.

So yeah, I’ll remind Ron I got a raise yesterday, so we should go get some breakfast this morning. “And hon, why don’t we go to your namesake to celebrate. And since we’re there…” See folks, that’s part of what goes on in a typical, perhaps boring, but loving, enduring and healthy relationship. “Hon” can be a man, or a woman, or maybe even a couple of them, especially when it’s pronounced Hoooonnnnnn… and followed with a “can we…“, ala Eric Cartman. (LOL!) No seriously, it does work, but only if it’s used sparingly.

Have a great week everyone, and please continue to send me those coupons! It was awesome I got a bundle hand-delivered to me at the Pagan Pride event last Saturday, making me able to give thanks in person. So yes, THANK YOU to Addison, IL! Keep ‘em coming so we can continue to spread positive Pagan awareness without the proselytizing! Mail your clipped, manufacturer coupons to:

Lori Dake – PNC Military
PO Box 306
Chicago, IL 60690-0306
United States

Thanks again and take care!

* Have you ever wanted to host a food drive, but because you’re solitary and are terribly separated by distance from those you know who would definitely contribute, you didn’t think it was possible? Well here’s a terrific solution: Host a virtual food drive! Follow the info in the link, and your group or coven can get the word out worldwide and help feed needy people!

Just like how our couponing campaign has no borders and only takes a minimal amount of effort, so too can you do good without having to sacrifice a bunch of time, labor or cross any borders. The holiday season is quickly approaching, as are the lean, cold winter months when people are in the most need, so please learn how you can do your part. Thank you for your kindness and generosity!

Jul 222011

Good morning everyone and Happy Friday once again! I have a lot of exciting and important news to share with you all this week, so grab yourself a tall glass of something cool, crank a fan and let’s get to it!

Electrical Grid Strained – Be prepared!
And yes, let’s get that topic out of the way first and foremost: It’s friggin’ HOT out there! Squirrels carrying their nuts with oven mitts, birds frying their eggs on the sidewalks… okay, enough bad jokes. This whole week has been putting a great strain on our power grids from all across the country, even up north in Minnesota. Because of that, I’m very concerned about the health and welfare of people at large, namely those who can’t handle repetitive heat and humidity or the threat of power loss.

Last week around here was bad because of that freak storm we had, which knocked out power to many people until this Monday morning – a full week out! And this past Wednesday, a busy neighborhood here went out for a few hours, which may or may not be a one-off deal. I’ve been making sure we’ve been flicking off any non-essentials, since we’re already running three window units and box fans to keep things cool. And yeah, we’re taking things s-l-o-w. There’s a mean storm coming in as I type this, so I hope the grid here holds on. (I’m saving drafts often in case the electricity goes out like it did on me last week.)

OMGs! Ryan just called in and said his 40′ ladder was hit by lightning! Fortunately, he wasn’t on it (it was on the van’s rack still), but he says it’s smoking. We need to see it now to check for damage. Yep, his crew, and all of the crews actually, are clocking out for the day. It’s definitely bad out there.

I would highly suggest folks stock up on a few no-/minimal-cooking, non-perishable necessities just in case and make a plan now about where to go if you get stuck. My Floridian friends know all too well about what I’m talking about, but emergency preparedness may be a bit of a foreign concept for some. That includes bottling up at least a few gallons of water (recommended one per person per day) if you live on well water that requires electricity to pump it, and pack a few items in your car, backpack/purse or desk at work (granola bars are cheap and small).

You do NOT want to be like the folks I saw on the news last week who had nowhere to go. They had no food or water, the grocery, gas and convenience stores had bare shelves and no ice, and yeah, the ATMS and gas pumps weren’t working, either. Even the area food pantries were depleted, and additional help was all focused on getting the power on. Oh and yeah, looters were breaking into peoples’ homes while they were there. Not. Good! So please – Be prepared, folks! And yeah, having some cash on hand would be a good idea. If the ATMs and credit card machines go out, little stores might be open but only accepting cash.

Here at the day job, it’s been hell on our fleet vehicles. Wednesday, three of our vehicles needed service, one of which kept a three-man crew out until 10:30 at night. Since Ron manages all these guys (I believe 35), he was on the phone calling people all over the place trying to get the vehicles serviced so the guys could go home. The tow trucks and on-site repair guys are all tied up, because a lot of cars and trucks are dying in the heat. I saw a forensics truck on a flatbed yesterday, and I shuddered a bit hoping its cargo was relocated before towing. Yeah, and that’s me saying that, the one who loves gory movies. Fiction is one thing, but even the thought of the real thing… not so much.

And now for the news:

- DoD: No trouble for troops in pride parade: This was a momentous occasion, where our men and women can finally be who they are with such openness and no longer fear losing their careers over it. WOW! And what’s cool too is San Diego is where large Navy and Marines installations are located, so being out and about in such close quarters makes it that much more impressive. Be sure to click the link too, because it features a YouTube clip! CONGRATULATIONS! And for added measure…

- Pentagon Chief Panetta to OK lifting gay ban, officials say: “Obama is also expected to certify the change. Repeal of the ban would become effective 60 days after certification, which could open the military to gays by the end of September.” Just thought I’d add a little icing on the cake. However…

- Gay couples denied military spouse benefits: “The Pentagon says the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act — which defines marriage for federal program purposes as a legal union between a man and woman — prohibits the Defense Department from extending those benefits to gay couples, even if they are married legally in certain states.” So it’s now on to repealing DOMA. I have a strong feeling DOMA is going to be easier now that DADT is getting wiped off the books and states are opening up gay marriages more and more. Sadly, I believe it’s going to take a minimum of five years, but more like ten, to finally see an end to such legal bigotry, but it will come. It will come.

In other news…

- Army on brink of new ways to fight pain: I’ve been saying for years that we all need to lessen the dosage and stop popping a pill for everything. The military as a whole is looking to become much more healthy, and exploring alternative medicine is a great addition to reaching that goal. Now of course, I believe if morphine is indeed the better painkiller, then morphine it is. No one wants to see people in agony, but no one wants to see people doped up and addicted when gentler and more natural options are out there. In addition…

- Army device will gauge blast hits on soldiers: While this is kind of scary to think about, at least they’re looking into trauma as it happens to it can be treated better, especially if head trauma results in PTSD.

In religiously-themed news…

- Army says conscientious objector now AWOL: Two questions:
1) Why did he enlist if he knew his religion wouldn’t be cool with it?
2) Are the charges legitimate, or is it retaliation for getting his status?
I can’t form an opinion on the matter until I can get some clarity on that. Your opinions?

- Pastor John Hagee: We’re Not Winning Any Wars Because Of Pagan U.S. Soldiers: Yep, that’s the problem all right. I trust he’s using the term P/pagan to lump in anyone who isn’t his brand of Christian, including those shifty Catholics and their idol-worshiping ways. (Please note the sarcasm.) The question is: Should we be paying this bozo any heed? It’s not like it’s the first time people got all bent out of shape about Pagans being in the military before, but it stings to have people like him believe the efforts of ALL our troops aren’t appreciated.

And last but certainly not least…

- Iraq: Obama Administration Debates Continued Troop Presence In Face Of Withdrawal Deadline: “Several Iraq experts and former defense officials, including people who were involved in the formulation of the original 2008 agreement that permitted American troops to remain in Iraq, said the administration appears to be wary of the consequences of leaving Iraq in full, or with too few troops left in place – and is in the process of seeking a new pact with the Iraqi government.” Yes, let’s bring our troops home, but let’s also make sure we’re not going to have to go right back over there.

And now onto the PNC-Clip for the Troops campaign update!

This week, I’m proud to say we’ve surpassed last month’s total with a couple weeks yet to go! At last count, it was past the $1,530 mark, and I have plenty more to add to the batch. I don’t know if I’ll be able to hit the post office this weekend (they have such goofy hours anymore due to cutbacks), but I’ll definitely be down there by month’s end to get your coupons included. If we get at least close to $3,000, I’ll go ahead and adopt the runner-up post from our initial vote and split up the donations.

Now keep in mind, the coupons you collect aren’t just for the troops, but they’re for you, too! If you see a few that can help out your family, by all means retain them. If your local food pantry is in need of some items you have a coupon for and is also on sale, go for it! Jason highlighted a couple Pagan food pantries that can certainly use your help, and I’d love to hear of more opening up. It’s good for us, and it’s definitely good for the people in need.

As I’ve said before, it would be great if Pagan groups were to apply “super couponing” skills toward setting up a food pantry, as long as it was done ethically of course. I’m not a big fan of the shelf clearers, but at least I have the luxury of visiting at a later time or going to another store all together. If you are looking for tips on how to do this, I really like Jill Cataldo’s site. She’s local to me (but writes for a massive national audience in many newspapers), and she’s a big KISS fan. What’s not to love?

Thanks again for reading, and again, please take a few precautions in this heat. Take care!

Feb 252011

Good morning everyone and Happy Friday once again. Well, it’s morning to me anyway, as Ron and I have been up all night working on my upcoming book. (The ebook version should be out by next week actually.) So yeah, I do apologize for posting a few hours later than you’ve grown accustomed.

We’re also preparing for a little road trip, and I would greatly appreciate it if any of you Weather Witches out there could keep the snow and rain around us to a minimum. This will be the first time in three years we’ve had an opportunity to visit the land we purchased downstate – beautiful old growth trees with an abundance of whitetail deer and all kinds of other woodland critters. The immediate area appears to be rather fundy and lacking in diversity, but there’s a college town just a half hour north and a couple small cities are only an hour away each, so it’s all good.

First signs of Spring!

With the spring thaw finally appearing, this is a great time to head down there. I snapped a pic of the first buds on a tree earlier this week (as you can see), because nothing gives me more promise of things to come like Spring arriving! What’s interesting is the same day I took that pic on my cell phone is the day the Obama administration released it was no longer going to defend DOMA – the Defense of Marriage Act, which states a marriage is between a man and a woman. Oh my yes, the heads were once again a-poppin’ louder than an oldschool popcorn shaker – Ohhh rabble rabble rabble rabble! With the recent DADT repeal, this to me this is the next logical step toward true equality for everyone, including our men and women in the military.

I wondered aloud before if repealing DADT would make it so couples who are recognized in their home states as married (or joined in a civil union) would be extended the same benefits in the military. I specifically wondered about housing, as I feel it’s the one benefit that would raise the most issues. Oh noez – a gay couple are on post, one dressed in uniform, walking hand in hand, and they’re pushing a stroller to boot!

Can’t. Stop. Head. From. Exploding.
Can’t. Stop. Gawking.
Must. Turn. Away.
Too. Much. Love. Being. Thrust. Upon. Me.

Haha! But all joking aside, I really do foresee this happening within the next ten years. Ten years? Yeah, I think it’s going to take that long, but then again, I’m cynical like that. I also think it’s going to take that long before the old guard are retired and everyone else has gotten used to gays and lesbians in the military. There’s that, and with more states gaining ground on even civil unions, it will happen, but not right away.

Well, I unfortunately do need to cut this short, but I wanted to make sure I left you all with some more good news and something to ponder. Have a great weekend!