Monday, December 19, 2011

But I Just Want to Help: The Myths of Being Charitable

Helpful actions
I was reading an article online awhile ago, and something that they said resounded with me. They were talking about ways in which people try to help, but actually make things worse.

I thought to myself, 'self... how many times have we bemoaned the useless "help" that so many try to provide? how many times have we wanted to explain to people that if they would just think a few minutes past the immediate self-congratulatory feeling they were after, they would realize they aren't doing me any favors?'. Of course, myself agreed completely.

Ok, you got 2 second to get your ass across that street...
Then it's pancake time!
It started in college (well, that was the first time I articulated the feeling) when I had to cross three lanes of one-way traffic to get from my dorm to the classes I was taking. Every other day, some idjit with good intentions (road to HELL, remember?) would stop in the middle of the road to allow me to cross. Of course, with only one lane stopped, it didn't help. And the stopped car actually made it worse because the cars behind this well-intentioned dumbass would go around.

Look for the break in traffic... Wait for it... Wait for it...
This meant that a situation that would be resolved by normal traffic flow and periodic stoplights up the road, now had a frickin' beaver dam clogging things up. So, rocks-for-brains would stop, wait about 15-30 seconds (just long enough to create a clogged up traffic situation) and then keep going.

Sometimes I would attempt to wave this stupid-but-nice person along, hoping to avoid the auto flow choke, but half the time they would ignore or insistently gesture me across the street, never realizing that should I do that, I would DIE by the oncoming traffic in the other two lanes. Maybe they weren't trying to be nice. Maybe they were trying to kill me!

Anyways, the point of this is that steady and smooth flow of traffic is much more important than the empty, useless gesture of stopping in the middle of the road.

A good deed in theory...
Oh, and sometimes, if you* stop and look around, you might realize that the "nice" or "polite" gesture that you were making in a moment of superficial altruism, really wasn't at all helpful. And instead of getting pissy because no one is accepting your offer or thanking you for your effort, maybe you should think a little more carefully about your "nice", "polite" gesture - and do something ACTUALLY HELPFUL. Just sayin'.
*This is meant to be "you" the general populace, not "you" the reader necessarily.

And this advice is, by no means, meant to be limited to only traffic situations, or holding doors (which, btw, is almost ALWAYS helpful - I'm talking to YOU, idiot who always drops the door on me when my hands are full). THINK about what you are doing... not just the joy you will feel knowing that someone will "owe you one," or feel "so incredibly grateful" for your Mother-Teresa-like generosity. Because that isn't why you should do nice things anyways.

"Random" doesn't mean "head up butt"
You should do it because you can see how what you do will actually help the person. And if you don't think further than the next few seconds, and look at how your actions will effect others (not just you and the lucky recipient of your gift of niceness), then you aren't actually doing something NICE.

A little forethought is always the best gift to give.
************************************
FYI, here are some people who agree:
When Lending a Hand Isn’t Helpful
Helicopter Parenting
The right thing to do
Disadvantages of being nice

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Yuletide Greetings: Pagan-Musings

You can listen to the show here: http://tobtr.com/s/2623537

Winter King - Damh the Bard
Last Tree Falling - Cernunnos Rising
Winter Solstice - Bill Wren & Frank Ralls
Cold Winter Comin' - Bone Poets Orchestra

The Story of Mistletoe
On Midwinter's Day - Damh the Bard
Shine- Wendy Rule
Holly Lord - Spiral Dance
The Childs' Wonder
Yule Blessings
Throughout the Autumn Light - Robert Linton
Christmas in Scotland - Marc Gunn
Pagan Ways - Damh the Bard
Children’s Story for Yule
Welcome Winter - LA Hussey
Herne - Jenna Greene
Garten Mother's Lullabye - Spiral Dance
Rhymer - ElvenDrums
Blackthorn's Rune - Spiral Dance
Dancing 'Round the Fire: A Pagan Yule Poem
Cosmic Beat - The Gypsy's Ribbon
1-1-1 - ElvenDrums
Spirit of Albion - Damh the Bard

*****************
YULETIDE CHEER 
The First Song: A Yule Story for Children
Northern Lights
Solstice Fires (yuletide/Christmas poem)
Yule & Winter Songs & Poetry Page
Yule Legends, chants, stories and family crafts
Helya's Night - The night of the mother 
Symbols of Christmas The Folklore of Holly & Mistletoe
Christmas: History of Santa Claus (Photo Gallery)

Christmas. (2011). The History Channel website


Thursday, December 15, 2011

When the Economy is the Grinch that Stole Yule, Take a Lesson from Whoville

This year, as with the last few years, the holiday season is tainted with the depressing and hard-to-fix problem of economics. There isn't the money to buy the presents. There isn't the money to spring for the trips to see other family. There isn't the money for the holiday feasting. There just isn't the money...

Now my family does not do materialism very well, but we exchange a few gifts. Some people have spending limits this year of just $150-300. We stay around $25-50 no matter what. But this year, even $25 seems to be in short supply.

We scrimp and save. I gave up on a "big" gift from my parents so that Stormie could get the gift he wanted (a gun, to hunt... meat - which will theoretically help us save on buying groceries). My gift ideas for my immediate family has been completely practical - a winter coat for myself, pajamas for Bug, pants for Ladybug.

I shop for deals and cover my eyes before clicking the "order" button, just because I'm not sure we can afford it. I collect Swagbucks to earn gift cards to offset - partially or completely - the cost of shopping. We buy only one or two holiday decorations each year - and pack everything away carefully for the years to come. We are going to make our gingerbread house from scratch rather than buy a kit (that doesn't taste good anyways).

Some of our holiday traditions this year include (or have included): putting up and decorating the Yule tree together, burning a Yule Log candle when we eat our Yuletide feast, discussing our DYGs (Dark of the Year Goals - see my blogs on the Dark of the Year)...

The thing is, and I have discussed this with many people over the past weeks, that the most memorable holiday traditions are often the ones with little or no cost. All kids remember the times they played games all night with their family, the drives around town looking at the lights and decorations, making cookies and crafts together. Kids don't remember what they got for presents six months later. They remember the time they spent together with family. It's all about the togetherness. It's all about the love.

To this end, I've decided to not stress about presents (after all, Gramma & Grampa will certainly buy more than we have room for), not stress about parties (school parties only last an hour anyways), not stress about travel (we'll get there when we get there - why add the pressure of holiday-time travel?), not stress about what anyone, outside of me and Stormie and Bug and Ladybug, thinks of whether we are celebrating "enough" or "appropriately".

Who cares about how much money I spend on the holidays, except the giant corporations with one eye on the bottom line and their hands reaching for my bank account? Oh, and my overly money-conscious brother, but I don't care what he cares about anyways.

Speaking of Who's, I have a holiday playlist (I *LOVE* Christmas songs) that has the song of the Who's. You know, the one they sing on Christmas morning, even after the Grinch stole all the STUFF and thought that would stop the celebration from coming. Then the Who's sing anyways, saying "Christmas day is in our grasp, So long as we have hands to clasp" and "Christmas day will always be, Just so long as we have we". The singing swells the Grinch's heart destroying the grumpiness of that grump and inspiring him to become heroic and generous.

I think the way things are going, the economy's oh-so-slow recovery, the protests over corporate and government corruption, the overt, peer-pressure MATERIALISM of the holiday season, we are all in danger of becoming a Grinch, or of letting the Grinch-economy steal our holiday. But we can embrace the Who's song and declare that this holiday is about celebrating US, celebrating FAMILY, celebrating people, not STUFF.

We have hands of friends and family to hold. We have us and all the happiness that "us" can be. Pull out all the stops this holiday season and concentrate on FUN and FAMILY. The corporate bottom-line will return Christmas once it sees that we don't need the "Who pudding and rare Who roast beast" or the noise-making toys and bleepity-bling.

"Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. Maybe Christmas, he thought... doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps... means a little bit more!"

"And what happened, then? Well, in Whoville they say - that the Grinch's small heart grew three sizes that day. And then - the true meaning of Christmas came through, and the Grinch found the strength of *ten* Grinches, plus two!"
 
"Welcome, Christmas, bring your cheer. Cheer to all Whos far and near. Christmas Day is in our grasp, so long as we have hands to clasp. Christmas Day will always be just as long as we have we. Welcome Christmas while we stand, heart to heart, and hand in hand."

Lyrics to Welcome Christmas:
Welcome Christmas come this way
Fahoo fores dahoo dores
Welcome Christmas, Christmas day
Welcome, welcome fahoo ramus
Welcome, welcome dahoo damus
Christmas day is in our grasp
So long as we have hands to clasp
Fahoo fores dahoo dores
Welcome Christmas bring your cheer
Fahoo fores dahoo dores
Welcome all Whos far and near
Welcome Christmas, fahoo ramus
Welcome Christmas, dahoo damus
Christmas day will always be
Just so long as we have we
Fahoo fores dahoo dores
Welcome Christmas bring your light
Fahoo fores dahoo dores
Welcome Christmas, Christmas day
Welcome Christmas, fahoo ramus
Welcome Christmas, dahoo damus
Welcome Christmas while we stand
Heart to heart and hand in hand
Fahoo fores dahoo dores
Welcome welcome Christmas Day...
Welcome, welcome X-mas day....

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Dark of the Year: In Praise of Future (Part 3)

Part 1 * Part 2 * Part 3


During this time of year, the dark of the year, we as Pagans have a fairly unique opportunity within our spiritual wheel of the year. We have the opportunity to grow, spiritually, internally, rather than externally. The Wheel of the Year shows us how to use the energy of Nature to develop in a healthy cycle.


The Dark of the Year is the time of introverts, when humanity as a whole goes from exuberant, exo-energetic creatures to inner-focused beings who welcome the dark and calm of semi-hibernation. We don’t sleep the season away like the bear, but rather we enjoy a certain lethargy of the body, which allows us to grow our mental and emotional selves. We embrace the Yin in the world, the Feminine in ourselves, the dark/cold/wet/gestational parts of Nature.


In animals, a “false” hibernation is often called torpor or languor. I, for one, like “languor,” or “languid.” The word (words are power, remember) calls up in my mind an image of sensuality, of liquid, passive, flowing, small movements. Isn’t that what we crave during the Dark of the Year? Lying in bed, snuggling with family and blankets, lounging around the home with warm, liquid foods and drinks. Celebrating life and survival while death (dark, cold, wet weather) prowls around the periphery.


Death and gestation are two faces of the same coin. They bracket life like not-quite-identical bookends, giving us the time of dark and wet and quiet before we start going, going, going as life demands far too often. The season of winter, the Dark of the Year, allows us to pause in this rat-race of work and family and action, action, action. Winter is a small death that gives us a moment to breath, mentally and emotionally.


So how do we take advantage of this time when we can get back in touch with ourselves and those closest to us during the major holidays of the season of the Holly King?


Yule
The last holiday before the return of the light (Imbolc) is Yule, the Birth of the Sun/Oak King. This is the time when the days stop getting shorter, and begin getting longer. The promise of sun and warmth and activity is made as Mother Nature/Goddess births the God-child that will return these to us.


Yule is the time of the Promise of Life. The plants will bloom again, the birds will sing, creatures great and small will make themselves known once more. The Dark will fade into sunlight. It isn’t here yet, but it will come.

Imagine if the days didn’t get longer ever again. Imagine our sorrow if there was no promise of spring to come. If we couldn’t “see the light” of summer on the way. The promise of returning life/spring is just as important to us as the actual return. Even as the weather gets worse in the heart of winter, the sun shines a few minutes longer each day as evidence that we will not be cold forever.


Yule is the perfect time to make our own promises. While this is often done at New Years (a mere ten-day after Yule), this is when we feel the need to plan and affirm the actions we will be taking when the Oak King returns in full power. This is when we chart our course for after the thaw of spring releases our languor into animation.


Take the time to consciously prepare yourself for the coming year. You have taken the time to remember what has passed at Samhain, to celebrate your present at Thanksgiving. Now is the time to create your future at Yule. Use the knowledge of the past and resources of the present to conceive your best future, to invest those resources in the next step of your life. The Oak King will return, and as the flowers bloom, so your chosen course of action may use the energies of spring to bring your life into greater fruition.


Many blessings during your Languor in the Dark of the Year!

Part 1 * Part 2 * Part 3


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Treatise on Breaking Laws during Protest

Definition of TREATISE : a systematic exposition or argument in writing including a methodical discussion of the principles involved and conclusions reached.
*Note: I have added website links in place of citations. In several places, I have used Wikipedia, but only where such links provide a nice, readable, well-reference summary of the topic.

There is a lot of debate going on about the Occupy Wall Street protestors getting arrested and worse under the reasoning that they are breaking laws. These broken laws include Pedestrian Interference, illegal camping, and more. Not only are these laws being used as an excuse to take away the right to effectively protest, but many people make comments online similar to this: "If you are going to break the law, you get what you deserve."

The pain that these comments cause me is almost indescribable, but I will attempt to do this, as well as explain the reasons behind the pain.


First of all, I am going to approach this from a historical aspect. In the past, there have been many laws that were in effect in the US that by today's standards are simply expressions of the bigotry and discrimination of the "Legal Majority". This includes, but it by no means limited to:

Women's Suffrage: According to this site, a website outlining historical activities "On July 14, 1917, Amelia Himes Walker was arrested and jailed for picketing the White House in the suffrage cause. She was one of 16 women arrested that day and sentenced to 60 days in the workhouse for "obstructing traffic.""  Furthermore, it states "The traffic obstruction charge was a shaky pretext. The women were political prisoners, of course, and they knew it."

Sounds familiar, doesn't it? Is anyone going to argue that women's suffrage is not a "duh" movement by today's standards? And what is the difference between making sure that men could not subjugate, through legal and financial means, the rights of women to be free and independent and making sure that corporations, in the same way, cannot subjugate the "non-wealthy" of this country?

On a final note, one of the banners that the Silent Sentinals of the women's suffrage movement carried said "We shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts--for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own governments." I think that can be directly applied to the protests going on right now.


Black Suffrage: Though, at the time, blacks had legal freedoms that women had lacked during their suffrage movement, blacks suffered many indignities revolving around the segregation and Jim Crow laws, as well as the discriminatory practices that blurred the edges of legality, but were largely ignored or outright supported by the legal system.

The protests for both groups often turned violent, not because of the protestors, but because of the tactics used by police and opposition to the movements. The Civil Rights movement was, by and large, more violent, either because of the higher percentages of male protestors (eliminating a protective attitude that may have come into play with women) or because of the greater outrage at the protests and protestor goals themselves.

"Parks was arrested, tried, and convicted for disorderly conduct and violating a local ordinance." Local ordinances and "disorderly conduct" are fabulous excuses for taking away the right to peaceable protest.

"When Parks refused to give up her seat, a police officer arrested her. As the officer took her away, she recalled that she asked, "Why do you push us around?" The officer's response as she remembered it was, "I don't know, but the law's the law, and you're under arrest."(Rosa Parks Interview, Academy of Achievement, 2 June 1995, accessed 13 November 2011.) I will address the officer's attitude below, regarding the psychological perspective. However, there is little stretch of the imagination to link the atrocious behavior of police with the "It's just my job" attitude that was so common in the Nuremburg Trials of Nazi officers. ("Superior orders (often known as the Nuremberg defense or lawful orders) is a plea in a court of law that a soldier not be held guilty for actions which were ordered by a superior office.")

Even when it is apparent and planned for a protest to occur peaceably, that isn't good enough for those who wish to punish the protestors. "After careful planning and training, nine members of the NAACP Youth Council — Meredith Anding, Samuel Bradford, Alfred Cook, Geraldine Edwards, Janice Jackson, Joseph Jackson, Albert Lassiter, Evelyn Pierce, and Ethel Sawyer — attempt to use the white-only Jackson public library on March 27. They sit quietly at different tables reading books that are not available in the "colored" library. When the nine refuse to leave, they are arrested for "Disturbing the Peace"."

Additionally, there is this: "During the next few days images of children being blasted by high-pressure fire hoses, clubbed by police officers, and attacked by police dogs appeared on television and in newspapers, triggering international outrage." Apparently, young people being attacked has become a blame-the-victim situation in the Great US of A.


Again, how poignant that such historical events should so closely match the goings-on of today's protestors and the police that arrest them. One wonders if it is a matter of using what they believe works, or if it is lack of creativity, or even lack of any REAL actions available, that causes the established system to use the same tactics over the course of an entire century.


Secondly, I am going to approach this from a legal/constitutional aspect. The question being: At what point does a legal ordinance or local law be held above the rights granted in the Constitution.

The answer, in the Constitution itself, is as follows: "This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land." For those who do not speak "legalese," that means NEVER. The local laws are to maintain peace under NORMAL, everyday situations. They do not have the authority to trump the 1st Amendment rights of the Constitution... unless the established system refuses to perform their duties appropriately and Constitutionally.

Well, this is embarrassing. I had believed that this section would require more searching and interpretation, making it longer. But that's pretty cut'n'dried, so I guess I'll move on.


Thirdly, I am going to approach this from a psychological aspect. Now I could go into the psychology of groups, mobs, officials, etc., but you can look up that stuff for yourself. What I want to focus on is the psychology of MORALITY and ETHICS.

This isn't nearly as abstract as one would at first believe. In fact, there is a straight-forward, non-dogmatic thesis on this very topic. Lawrence Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Development (For further reading, I recommend Moral stages : a current formulation and a response to critics by Lawrence Kohlberg, Charles Levine & Alexandra Hewer. I also recommend looking at the Heinz Dilemma as a further analysis of how these stages work). It breaks down as follows:
Level 1 (Pre-Conventional)
1. Obedience and punishment orientation (How can I avoid punishment?)
2. Self-interest orientation (What's in it for me?)(Paying for a benefit)
Level 2 (Conventional)
3. Interpersonal accord and conformity (Social norms)(The good boy/good girl attitude)
4. Authority and social-order maintaining orientation (Law and order morality)
Level 3 (Post-Conventional)
5. Social contract orientation
6. Universal ethical principles (Principled conscience)

As you can see, there are 6 stages broken into 3 levels. Pre-conventional stages are essentially how we grow prior to gaining a "conscience". Conventional are when we have a modern, adult concept of right/wrong. Post-conventional stages are what most consider "enlightened" (socially OR spiritually) persons.
(I should disclose at this time that I have taken the "test" for the Stages of Morality, and scored at a high 5, low 6.)

As a country, and perhaps the world, we have become stuck socially on Stage 4: Authority/Law & Order. "If you are going to break the law, you get what you deserve." This is completely legitimate in Stage 4, if narrow-minded (taking into account legality, but not necessarily the maintenance of social order that may be a part of protest situations). But the major problem with it is that it does not take into account the principals of Stages 5 & 6, the more advanced, if more abstract, stages of morality.


In effect, Stage 5 could suggest that it is the moral obligation of the protestors to exercise the rights given to them in the Constitution to make the lives of the collective community (the country) better, thereby fulfilling their duties as US Citizens. It could be said that the corporations that the protestors are working against have BROKEN their social contracts by not entirely living up to their obligations, both legal and perceived.

It could even be argued that corporations and government have gotten stuck in some limbo using Stage 4 arguments to justify Stage 2 behaviors. It could also be said that teaching lower-stage entities (persons, governments, corporations) to evolve into higher stages is another social contract or moral obligation.

Stage 6 suggests that material/legal matters are irrelevant when held up to the lives, health and well-being of individual people, with the well-being of the whole as the most important. By that concept, the ability of the 99% to function in an acceptable fashion is the most MORAL and ETHICAL tactic the country can take. A belief that I strongly suspect the founding fathers would agree with.

But more importantly, I questions the motivations, the moral reasoning, used by the anti-protestors to justify their judgments and criticism of the Occupy Protestors. Are they using Post-Conventional morality, believing that this will actually harm society or the Greater Good? Or are they stuck in the apparently abused system of Law, taking legality as dogma, never mind the intent or abuse of said Laws?


I began this treatise talking about pain.
I see the pained faces of the women's suffrage movement, the civil right's movement, even the protestors of wars over the years, on the faces of the Occupy Protestors. People attacked by "non-lethal" yet abusive tactics such as water cannons, rubber bullets, and pepperspray.
I am stung by the use of minor legal infractions being misused to bully the protestors away. I see the same legal infractions used to (ineffectively) bully the forces of justice throughout the tainted history of this (supposedly) free nation.
I ache to show people the morality issues that I see being broached with these protests. I see the way others see things from a perspective that I barely understand (from grown, educated adults, that is) anymore.

The pain I feel is that of a mother watching the news coverage of child-abuse, of the heartbreak of watching loved ones experience loss, of watching the world miss - time after time - the next rung on the ladder of its own development.

Do you suffer this pain, too?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Belief and Eclecticism: Oxymoron? No, neither an ox nor a moron

Wheel of the Year = Pagan Holy Days
 Reposted from a reply to this blog.

"But then there are the eclectics, and this is where I get confused. Do eclectics practice in such diverse and idiosyncratic ways because it fits their beliefs? Or, and yes I know this is a touchy idea, does a lack of consistency in practice perhaps denote a lack of belief?"

As an extremely eclectic Pagan, I can answer most assuredly: Maybe.

The truth is, I cannot answer for all eclectic Pagans. I can only answer for myself, and by extension my family.

I don't do ceremony. Unless I want to. I don't use ritual tools or cast circles. Unless I want to.

Paganism should be a family affair
Why? Because I believe that ceremony is a psychological tool to help people "get their spiritual groove on." If you want to do ceremony, great! If you need ceremony, fine! If you just wrestle your mind into place, think a thought or say a word, I'm right there doing that with you.

But I think of this as more of the way my brain works (I'm never entirely "in" normal reality, so I don't really have to "leave" it to do my spiritual work), rather than a skill set.

And thoughts become reality... this is seen in most spiritual beliefs as well as quantum physics. So, yes, it is because of my beliefs.
Making magic during the holidays

As for Joe Schmoe Eclectic Pagan over there? I dunno.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Dark of the Year: In Praise of Present (Part 2)

Part 1 * Part 2 * Part 3



During this time of year, the dark of the year, we as Pagans have a fairly unique opportunity within our spiritual wheel of the year. We have the opportunity to grow, spiritually, internally, rather than externally. The Wheel of the Year shows us how to use the energy of Nature to develop in a healthy cycle.


The Dark of the Year is the time of introverts, when humanity as a whole goes from exuberant, exo-energetic creatures to inner-focused beings who welcome the dark and calm of semi-hibernation. We don’t sleep the season away like the bear, but rather we enjoy a certain lethargy of the body, which allows us to grow our mental and emotional selves. We embrace the Yin in the world, the Feminine in ourselves, the dark/cold/wet/gestational parts of Nature.


In animals, a “false” hibernation is often called torpor or languor. I, for one, like “languor,” or “languid.” The word (words are power, remember) calls up in my mind an image of sensuality, of liquid, passive, flowing, small movements. Isn’t that what we crave during the Dark of the Year? Lying in bed, snuggling with family and blankets, lounging around the home with warm, liquid foods and drinks. Celebrating life and survival while death (dark, cold, wet weather) prowls around the periphery.


Death and gestation are two faces of the same coin. They bracket life like not-quite-identical bookends, giving us the time of dark and wet and quiet before we start going, going, going as life demands far too often. The season of winter, the Dark of the Year, allows us to pause in this rat-race of work and family and action, action, action. Winter is a small death that gives us a moment to breath, mentally and emotionally.


So how do we take advantage of this time when we can get back in touch with ourselves and those closest to us during the major holidays of the season of the Holly King?

Thanksgiving
Many Pagans (and Christians, for that matter) do not consider Thanksgiving to be a holy day. But a holiday (holy day) it is.


I would argue that Thanksgiving is the natural extension of Samhain. After celebrating the time of Death and what has passed, we move on to appreciation for what we still have. We gather with friends, family and food to embrace our emotional and physical wealth. We gather in groups to pool our resources, reveling in the duel affluence of luxurious, sensual foods and the emotional plenty of friends and family to share it.


What better follow-up for the Death of the Active Year then to celebrate those who we want to be languid around?

Of course, no Thanksgiving is complete without the sensual experience of those treasured, beloved foods shared with all, and the languid aftermath of the feasting, when everyone sits around and indulges in some light conversation or gossip, or enjoying games that don’t get played during those times when we are all too busy being active.


I think that a lot of people make a mistake during Thanksgiving. They forget the purpose of celebration. This is not the time for taking up the responsibility of supplying everything; it is the time of pooling resources. It is not meant to be spent among those who bring out negative emotions; it is a celebration of gratitude and love. Pressure to be perfect has become part and parcel of the holiday season, but allowing that pressure to choose who and how you participate is still a choice. Choose to make it the celebration it should be.

Many blessings during your Languor in the Dark of the Year!

Part 1 * Part 2 * Part 3

 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Dark of the Year: In Praise of Past (Part 1)

Part 1 * Part 2 * Part 3

During this time of year, the dark of the year, we as Pagans have a fairly unique opportunity within our spiritual wheel of the year. We have the opportunity to grow, spiritually, internally, rather than externally. The Wheel of the Year shows us how to use the energy of Nature to develop in a healthy cycle.


The Dark of the Year is the time of introverts, when humanity as a whole goes from exuberant, exo-energetic creatures to inner-focused beings who welcome the dark and calm of semi-hibernation. We don’t sleep the season away like the bear, but rather we enjoy a certain lethargy of the body, which allows us to grow our mental and emotional selves. We embrace the Yin in the world, the Feminine in ourselves, the dark/cold/wet/gestational parts of Nature.


In animals, a “false” hibernation is often called torpor or languor. I, for one, like “languor,” or “languid.” The word (words are power, remember) calls up in my mind an image of sensuality, of liquid, passive, flowing, small movements. Isn’t that what we crave during the Dark of the Year? Lying in bed, snuggling with family and blankets, lounging around the home with warm, liquid foods and drinks. Celebrating life and survival while death (dark, cold, wet weather) prowls around the periphery.


Death and gestation are two faces of the same coin. They bracket life like not-quite-identical bookends, giving us the time of dark and wet and quiet before we start going, going, going as life demands far too often. The season of winter, the Dark of the Year, allows us to pause in this rat-race of work and family and action, action, action. Winter is a small death that gives us a moment to breath, mentally and emotionally.


So how do we take advantage of this time when we can get back in touch with ourselves and those closest to us during the major holidays of the season of the Holly King?

Samhain
Samhain is the Final Harvest in the Wheel of the Year. This is the time when we finalize our homes, families, selves, and plans in preparation for the Dark. We get that last little bit of psychological food in our metaphorical bellies before we chill out for the season.


It is also the Death of the Sun/Oak King, a god that represents produce/production/action/Yang. He is that force that gets us out of the house on the first Spring day, who has us doing sports, crafts, and vacations with rock climbing, water slides and snorkeling. Now, he’s dead, giving his body as the Final Harvest to supply our Languor during the Dark of the Year. His death gives us permission to be languid, to do nothing more (physically) than get by.


Samhain is the time for looking back and celebrating death and those who have died, apropos for the festival of the Death of the Oak King. It is the season for remembering what and who has come before. It is the time for embracing those people who have changed you, for better or worse, and have passed on, either in death or simply by moving out of your life.


It is especially appropriate to look back at the “life” of your personal Oak King, your activities for the year, and remember them and how they have changed you over the course of the year. It is a good time for assessing what you’ve done and how that is working for you, or not. It is a time of recollection and evaluation. It is time to appreciate how you have grown, by your own motivation or by the influence of people and circumstances.


Many blessings during your Languor in the Dark of the Year!

Part 1 * Part 2 * Part 3

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Don't be friends with fat people

This is more of an annoyance than anything else... You look at a "Top 10" ways to keep on your diet/cut calories/lose weight in one week type of list, and there is always something like it. It's the advice that you eat like your companions, so don't eat with fat people.

What?!?

The size of your waistband is
directly proportional to
the number of days
you will live when
Starbucks runs out of foamed milk.
There are many reasons this is a load of crap, and the least of them is that it's dead wrong. That advice makes many assumptions that may or may not be the case.

Assumption #1: Your fat friends are fat cuz they have no will power/self regulation about eating.
This is wrong simply because apparently whoever came up with this gem has never heard of the concept of different metabolisms. Never mind the slew of metabolic disorders that can result in someone who eats only 1500 calories a day ballooning to over 300 lbs. That's right, some people cannot eat the same foods as those skinny-minnies and keep their weight stable. Some people can eat just enough to stay alive, but put on weight. And as much as modern society doesn't want to believe it, some people are just weight gainers.

In fact, historically, humans BRED for that. You heard right. We bred obesity into our genes. How? Well, back in the eras of Raphael, feudalism, and regular food shortages (most of human history) the attractive ones were the ones who had the resources to pack on a few extra pounds. Those who had caloric reserves carried around on their thighs and butts were more likely to weather famines. So, who has babies and passes on their genetic joys? Chubby, survivor chicas!
Yeah, NOW I feel like
downing a pint of B&J's...

Assumption #2: When you see someone eating more, you will eat more.
Or maybe you just give yourself permission to fill up instead of maintaining an iron fist on your eating so that YOU don't look like the over-indulging one. Maybe?

Assumption #3: You are just one subconscious stimulus away from ending up on the Biggest Loser.
That's right, your body and mind are conspiring against you being the stick-thin hottie you know you can be, if you can just turn off those stupid "you're hungry, EAT!" signals. Or maybe you should take a lesson from this:
This is the picture of a
TEMPTRESS!!

A show that I forget the name of that got cancelled pretty fast had this character, a young, pretty actress who was trying out for a part in a movie. This part required her to gain about 30 lbs., so she started eating, and eating. This character was also the token bitch, and while she was eating someone commented that she was being a really nice person during this time. The response was (paraphrased): "Yeah, I thought she was a mean person, but it turns out she was just hungry!"

I died laughing. But seriously, I get grumpy when I'm hungry. Stormie gets grumpy when he's hungry. I can safely assume that many people (if not all) get grumpy when they are hungry. Don't be grumpy, hang out with fat people (cuz they MAKE you eat).


Enough with the assumptions. Two points to make:
Really? Now maybe you don't want to listen to me, seeing as I'm capable of surviving any famine Mother Nature can throw down, but is life so unbearable as a non-model-skinny person that a couple extra calories once in a while is going to be enough to throw away what is very likely a decent friendship? Really?

And, is that the kind of superficial biased attitude that we should in any way allow our kids to grow up with? By limiting our friends either by their weight or by the weight they will "MAKE" us, doesn't that mean those little observing everything, missing nothing rug rats should be picking up on the message of "Don't be friend with fat people."

I'm telling you, I'm an awesome friend.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Keep an Eye Out: Adventures in Keeping Glasses in One Piece

"DS got glasses at 2 years old. We reinforced that he had to wear them for about a month, then he was fine. We get the cheap ones at Walmart, cuz he is a 5 yo boy and there is nothing on this earth that will keep him from being hard on his glasses. Walmart fixes them for free when he breaks them in less then a year. I would die from a heart attack if they lasted a whole year."
"Oh, I'm sure his glasses are just FINE..."
I wrote this to reassure a fellow mama about her young child getting glasses "already." And it's true, but a very brief look at the situation. The whole situation involves some very delicate maneuvering around family perogatives.

You see, bug does well with his glasses, but he is still a little boy with all the tendencies of a little boy to break EVERYTHING! So we get inexpensive glasses from Walmart where we can get them repaired every time they break.

We still have to buy a pair every year or so. This is where it gets tricky. See, once I picked up a pair of glasses from memory - Bug was not with me for sizing. They fit perfectly.

Enter, the problem. Now, others who contribute to the glasses adventure think that they can do the same. And they FAIL. The glasses were WAAAY too big. However, they were what we had, and not being wealthy, we used them. This means that Bug had glasses that fell down on his nose (until he started to grow into them, at least).
They aren't too big,
his FACE is too SMALL!

So these "others" took Bug to the eye doctor (because of his particular issues, he sees a specialist 4 hours away) and were informed that Bug was looking over his glasses (not often) and he would have to get a patch if he kept it up (YAY for fear-tactics).

So they went and bought a VERY expensive, name-brand pair of wire-rims. These were broken within two months... and not from Walmart, so we weren't even sure they would fix them (at no charge - remember, not wealthy).

Hey, this is what the top of
Bug's dresser looks like...
Long story, short... Walmart has fixed all Bug's glasses, we now have three pair of glasses for him, only MAMA can judge Bug's size, and name-brands don't protect against 5-year-olds/acts of Gods.

The lesson I've taken from this? I may despise Walmart with all my heart (more on that later), but they get my business for glasses. Well, Bug's glasses... only cuz this site doesn't have kid's glasses.
(Update (7/9/12): that site now DOES include children's sizes!)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Magickal Tools: If you use them, they will work...

The high chair tray is
being put to good use!
There is a half-finished staff by my front door. There is a mostly-done wand on the entertainment center. There are several skull-bead and bone pendant necklaces scattered about the house.

And this is just the stuff we make for sale, never mind the staffs, swords, wands, Tarot, and ritual jewelry and statuary on and around our altars.
Our side-by-side altars (pic taken in
the wee-small hours of the night).

The funny thing about this stuff being all over is that the kids ask about it.

"What is it for?" "Why do we have it?" "How does it work?"

Having the extra kids around, we also get the disbelief questions, also: "You can't REALLY cast spells with a staff... Can you?" To which (witch, haha) I gleefully respond, "Um, yeah, I can."

Or turn your brother into
a pink bunny...
I guess we could be like some people and keep all the precious and/or possibly harmful objects (hey, a wand is dangerous... you could shoot your eye out!) away from the kids until it is determined that they are old enough. But we would miss out on the everyday conversations about our religious beliefs.


I have to admit, one of my favorites is the periodically recurring "witches are evil" discussion. First of all, claiming that you are a witch to small children who are convinced that all witches are of the green-skinned, Wizard of Oz, gonna-getcha variety never fails to evoke a facial expression of epic hilarity.

Not a comfortable fit...
Just sayin'
Personal humor aside, most religions have some way of periodically exposing their children to the expression of their beliefs and practices. Why should we be in the broom closet to our own kids?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Mercury Retch: Flying Backwards May Induce Nausea

He races in reverse; like un-drag...
A week ago, Mercury went retrograde. I should have gone back to bed then.

The problem with Mercury retrograde is that it is the time when you are supposed to take a break from moving forward and solidify your position, assess your direction, and reinvigorate your energy levels. You aren't supposed to begin new projects, sign contracts or initiate new contacts.

Not THAT Mercury...
The problem with Mercury retrograde is that there is no job in the modern economy that allows its employees to "take a break," to slow down, to *gasp* reassess the purpose of your work.

Made to be a warning,
not a guidebook.
Gods forbid we stop for a minute to check our collective direction. Maybe then the financial industry wouldn't have screwed up so badly BETTING on the housing bubble. Perhaps we wouldn't have had to spend my retirement funds bailing out CEOs who might have otherwise gotten fired for being STUPID. It's even possible that my children would not be in danger of losing all hope of going to college so that we could make sure that big companies that screw us up one side and down the other can use loopholes and tax breaks to boost their profits (which they do NOT trickle down).

Maybe someone would have said, hey, wait a minute, this isn't right. Maybe someone would have remembered the golden rule, or how their mother taught them to play nice with others. Maybe someone would have realized that, if they had the chance to take a minute, they would have to face their conscience during that minute and that they couldn't treat their fellow Americans with such disrespect.

Maybe we should stop fighting Mercury when he decides to run backwards like Kindergarteners at recess. It might be just what we need.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Glory Days

I was thinking about being in high school the other day. Just meandering through nostalgia-ville while on my front porch, where I escape from the children and indulge in my outdoors addiction (smoking).

I thought about the way we approached life back in the day. I thought about responsibilities and the ability to be carefree (and job-free!). I thought about hanging out and going swimming, biking through town, getting ice creams and sodas, eating until we were about to puke.

In between this, I thought about my current, adult schedule, and whether we would be able to find time to take the bug fishing. Could we get the lawn mowed this week, cuz we skipped it last week... Would the back room ever be organized? What about vacations, which we never take cuz we have too many little things to take time off for?

Would I like to go back to the days of no responsibility? Of having no more obstacles in life than the word of my parents? Wait... What?

Did I forget about that? Just for a minute, did I go all Alzheimer's and miss the fact that with great freedom comes great responsibility? Did I misplace the knowledge that I have to work for MY home, MY car, MY time off, MY children, MY choices?

Why, yes; yes, I did. But I'm better now.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Warlock: To Be or Not To Be

“Some men who are Wiccans are reclaiming the name “Warlock” in the tradition of women reclaiming the name “Witch”. Warlock is commonly said to mean oath breaker. What do you think? Can it/should it be reclaimed?” - Pagan Blog Prompts
Cute, but evil... right?
 Wow, what a topic. I decided to weigh in on this mostly because of how solid my answer is, though it is usually mitigated by the "politics" of other people's beliefs.

To me, the answer is simple: use whatever you want to; just don't complain about it when you have to explain YOUR meaning to everyone and their dog.

There are many people, particularly Pagans/Wiccans, who have this firm idea that certain words mean just one thing. This, I understand, to a point. Using just the right word for the meaning you wish to convey is a practice I fully participate in.

Whatever you do, don't
call him a "wanker"...
seriously, do you SEE
the gun?!?
The issue I have is when this is taken to the point where words are not allowed to evolve. I speak English, a language that wouldn't exist without the evolution of words, by co-opting words from other languages, stringing multiple languages together (which is pretty much how English originated), or using words that mean one thing and using them to mean another (fat/phat, anyone?).

We use phrases and words in ways that, literally, make no sense. We get used to slang from one generation and invent new slang for the next one. Even someone from the early 1900s would have a difficult time understanding us today. The deviation of the English language in America vs. Britain is practically a one-liner joke... to both sides of the Atlantic.


I am woma-an, hear me roar!
We have "reclaimed" words throughout civil evolution, including the feminist sisters: "witch" and "bitch." Why shouldn't we reclaim warlock?

If words have power, their power is in the meaning and imagery that the word invokes. This is why words can cut you down or build you up. Why "\ˈī\ \ˈləv\ \ˈyü\" can heal all wounds, rather than being a string of less-then-random syllables. When we talk about "reclaiming" words, we are talking about CHANGING the meaning and imagery, the POWER, of those syllables that make the word in question.

"I was once asked why I don't participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I'll be there." Mother Teresa 
If words have power, wouldn't the most powerful thing we can do be to change the meaning, the power of words to something better?
The old meaning for "witch"...
The new meaning for "witch"...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Spartan Family: Too Much Fun!

This looks uncannily familiar...
Like... Bug's room...
 We live in a small house. It is a 3 BR/1 bath on a large plot (about 3/4 acre). But it is a small house.

There are four of us in this small house. Each of us has a place to sleep and (more or less) a place for our stuff.

Stuff. (Insert sigh here.) Lots of stuff.


We have clothes, books, toys, appliances, work & craft stuff. We have a lot of stuff, and it all needs to go somewhere to avoid the Clutter Monster! (Insert dramatic music here.)
The Clutter Monster Under the Bed...
aka, dust bunnies and toys.

In an ideal world, I would be in a position, both locationally and financially, to hire an organizer. Organizers are those mythical, other-worldly creatures that LIKE to clean other people's houses. They get a thrill from neatly placing toys onto shelves and arranging knickknacks and bric-a-bracks. Weirdos.
See! He wants to eat my COOKIES!!


But I want one, even for a weekend. And she (or he) would do battle with the evil Clutter Monster and tame my household into a nice, neat living space... even for a week... or a day. She would be my super-hero for EVER.

Doing battle with the Clutter Monster
is not for the weak-of-heart.

The biggest problem in my house (and the houses of many a parent) is the grandparents.

No, they don't sneak into the house in the middle of the night and throw keggers, nor do they toss things about with wild abandon. In fact, my parents almost never step into the house these days (perhaps in fear of the Clutter Monster - I'm telling you, it's real!).

My parents instead sabotage my plans for clutter-free existence by... wait for it... BUYING my kids stuff. They love to love my kids as though they were little Madonnas singing "Material Girl" (or boy, as the case may be).

Show thine affection to the almighty child through purchasing power! Shower gifts of cheap plastic and/or sugar upon them at all times! Praise them with thy credit cards!

Ok, that may have been a little over-the-top. Maybe.

But, in a sense, it is very true. My parents show how much they love my kids through tokens of affection. And, particularly at their current ages, price is no matter. Cheap stuff works as well as anything else.

But Kalisara, you say, how does one combat this great evil?
That's easy, I respond, sagely. You wade into battle using threats. And, keep in mind, the small victories are worth it.

My parents bought riding toys when I was living in a 2nd story, 2BR apartment. I told them they would have to keep the riding toys at their house, or I would have to throw them away. They bought Bug another pair of sandals. I told Bug to leave them at Grandma's or he would have to throw his other pair away.
Chi Monsters eat clutter!

I'm evil like that, but it works. Establish the fact that you have no room for stuff, then viciously throw out anything that threatens your sacred space balance.

And remember, chi doesn't like clutter either.