Tuesday, December 20, 2011

2011: A Weird Year

What can I say about this year?  It was a weird one indeed.  When we rang in 2011, I was still in the midst of grieving the loss of a brother and an aunt and I had high hopes that 2011 would be a turning point in my life.  And in a way, it was.  I learned to accept myself a little more and to stand up for myself against those people who had always made me feel inferior.  So here we are a year later, 11 days away from 2012.  I will perhaps post another blog soon about my feelings toward 2012, but for now I am going to write about 2011.  I realize that I am going to miss a lot of topics, mostly due to space issues, but also because some of it wasn't important to me and I could care less about them.

In 2011, a child murderer walked free and a religious fanatic got his due.  We said good-bye to Steve Jobs, Borders Books, Harry Potter, the Iraq War and a whole slew of terrorists, dictators, and many innocent lives.    My reactions to each: Steve Jobs, not really bothered by it as I did not worship him like so many did.  To me, he was another CEO;  Harry Potter: Good series, never read the book, indeed the end of something that held people together for the last decade;  The Iraq War, another campaign promise kept, and good riddance to it.  It was a war started on false information and cost us many of our best men and civilians on both sides; Border Books, this made me sad.  I preferred Borders to Barnes and Noble.  Luckily, there is Books a Million to fill the gap. 

A Royal Wedding

For years, I have followed Prince William.  Not followed in the stalker sense, but followed out of reverence.  I saw how this young man was able to stand up under pressure when his mother died and grieved publicly.  I knew that he would grow up to be an exceptional person and would carry his mother's interests forward as he became a man.  His charities worldwide are a living tribute to the late Princess Diana.  And I knew that someday, he and Kate Middleton would tie the knot.  When they briefly separated last year, I was sad.  I felt like William would never find someone so right for him as Kate was.  And then they reconciled and announced their engagement in November 2010.  I have great hopes for their marriage.  Sometimes, time apart is just what people need.  And it doesn't always mean that they do not love one another, it is what it is.  And besides, we as Americans can hardly make it our business to judge them and vex them.  I read too many comments and posts during the wedding, mostly from Americans condemning the happy couple and saying stuff like 'it will never last'.  Yeah, Americans with your bigotry and 60% divorce rate cannot talk!

East Coast Earthquake

As if the summer-long drought couldn't make life on the East Coast any more interesting, we get an earthquake!  Of course, I grew up in California and was quite used to earthquakes.  And I didn't even feel the earthquake.  Me and a friend were driving at the time and I attributed the little shudder I felt to the motions of the car.  When my husband called me and said 'earthquake!', I thought he was crazy.  Then my friends husband called.  And when we arrived at the store, people everywhere were talking about it.  Leave the Yankees to make a big deal out of a little shudder.

World Population: 7 Billion

Say hello to Danica May Camacho, the 7 billionth person on Earth.
I have heard talk that the world cannot possibly support this many people.  I say that it can.  The world is abundant!  Those people who believe that it cannot support this many people lack two very important things: Faith and Understanding.  For me, faith is a very real and important part of my life.  The Gods can provide for any number of people.  And Understanding; the reason some parts of the world lack basic resources is the result of several factors.  Population density is one of them.  We have so many people all shoved into cities worldwide and entire countries with just a few inhabitants.  Then consumption is another problem.  'Western countries' consume the majority of the world's food, despite not being the largest countries in the world.  Rampant fast food and obesity are the consequences.  People consume more food than needs to be and therefore, people around the world go without.  And it is not just that, the tyrants have control over a large portion of the food as well, and they use it as a tool of emotional torture against their people.  If there were true equality, compassion, and understanding, no one would go hungry.

The End of an Era

Good-bye shuttle :(  This was truly the end of a glorious era.  But it meant something so personal to me.  As a child, I dreamed of going to space.  I worked hard to learn the ins and outs of the shuttle program, even tried for a scholarship to Space Camp and briefly entertained thoughts of joining the Air Force.  And now I realize, perhaps even if my dreams of joining the space program would have come to fruition, I would never have rode that great flying bird to space.  I watched all of the remaining launches and I had to fight back emotions as I watched Atlantis launch for the last time.  It was like watching the death knell of my childhood.  Perhaps those emotions run too deep for me to put it entirely into words.

The Occupy Movement

A little humor.  And I feel that is what has become of the Occupy Movement, a source of entertainment and humor for the Right and late night TV.  Their intentions were noble, but like most noble causes, have died a quick death.  The Occupy movement in my city have been there for 2 months.  They even received a permit to occupy the park from our Republican mayor.  Perhaps so he could make fun of them?  I wish they would do something more than just leave their tents in the park to kill the grass.  Maybe they should get serious.  This is some revolution...

Rapture (maybe?)

Strike one!  Strike two!  When will the fanatics learn?  Even their Scripture says 'no man will know the end of times'.  So why do they try?  All these people were good for was a laugh and clogging the entrance to my local Walmart with their leaflets.  What a waste of paper!

Weird Weather and Global Warming

Earlier this year, I posted a brief comment on Facebook about my annoyance with snow in October and someone replied 'so much for Global Warming'.  With that simple reply, he displayed to me his ignorance.  Global Warming is not just about the Earth warming up, which it is.  It is also about unstable weather patterns as a result of the warming oceans.  This year was ripe with examples of unstable weather patterns.  Crazy blizzards kick started 2011 and set records in places not usually known for their snow fall.  All through spring and summer, the country suffered from rare tornadoes, droughts, wildfires, and late season snowfall.  In my area of the country, the summer drought was so bad the farmers feared losing their crops.  And they did, just not like they thought it would happen.  Hurricane Irene skated its way up the Eastern seaboard and dumped record rain, causing flooding not seen since Hurricane Agnes.  And shortly after clean-up from Irene, a bizarre October Nor-ester came and dumped record snowfall the week of Samhain (Halloween).  I am not a snow person and needless to say, I was very much annoyed with snow everywhere when I was just getting excited about Halloween.  AND DON'T GET ME STARTED on the racks of CHRISTMAS stuff at my local stores the week BEFORE Halloween and the HALLOWEEN stuff on clearance before it was even HALLOWEEN!

All in all, 2011 was a very trying year for me and I hope that I will get some peace in 2012.  I will post later on my thoughts for 2012, my goals, and most of all my thoughts on December 21, 2012.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Reflections on Samhain

Today is Samhain (pronounced sow-in), celebrated by the ancient Celts and modern Pagans as the end of the cycle, the New Year, the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter.  Those of us in the northeastern United States have already had our first taste of winter, bringing the reality of the darker half of the year even closer.  Here I will tell you what Samhain means to me.

From a religious standpoint, Samhain represents the truth of the seasons.  Seasons change, cycles go round and round.  The fields have been harvested and the food is preserved to preserve us through the harsh months to come.  The Lord, our God by whatever name has succumbed to the darkness and now journeys to the netherworlds.  This is a time to mourn, but also in a unique way, a time of hope.  Because we know that the land mourns for Her Lover the God as is evident in the cold bleakness of winter, we also know that the light will return again.  The Lord journeys but he does not go down to die forever.  At Yule, he will be reborn and the land will again grow and warm and we will return to the lighter half of the year.  I mourn the God more this year than i did the previous year.  I came to know Him more this year than I had ever known him before.  So I mourn Him, but His words give me comfort, he reminds me that He will be back and this ugly snow will not last forever.  Yes I hate the snow!

From a ritualistic point of view, the basis of Samhain also teaches us to remember those who have gone to die before us: our ancestors.  I have studied my ancestors from different branches of my family for the past 10 years.  From the Vikings of Scandinavia, to the Normans who invaded England, to the Scotman who faced exile, to the French, I have many roots.  And I yearn to know more about them every year.  And every year yields new findings and new mysteries to solve.  This is my history nerd side.  I love a good historical mystery, especially when it involves my own ancestors.

From the perspective of the last year, we lost two family members in the last year.  My brother passed away on Nov. 8, 2010.  I am still reeling from it and I have opinions regarding it that I dare not speak to anyone.  Lets just say that his crimes were unforgivable and I fully believe that he is not in a good place.  My aunt also passed away the week of Yule/Christmas 2010.  Her death was expected and I mourned for her fairly quickly, at least I feel that way.  It was something we knew was going to happen eventually, her health was already failing.  I suppose the shock of my brother's unexpected suicide the month before somehow lessened the blow of my aunt's passing.  The saddest part of that was that she left behind a teenage daughter who had just given birth to her own child and was now alone.  That was the greatest tragedy surrounding my aunts passing.

So as I prepare for the New Year in my home, I am going to remember each and every one of my ancestors, recent and distant, and thank them for their contributions to my life.  But I am also going to clear my house of unwanted feelings and negativity. 

Blessed Samhain everyone!  Good Journey my Lord!
May your New Year be filled with love, compassion, and grace.

"Fear is usually a sign that you are on the right track." - Michelle L. Casto

Monday, September 26, 2011


In my long journey as a spiritual person, one thing has remained a constant.  Prayer.  No matter who you pray to, as long as the intent is there and you are praying with sincerity and humility, the outcome is the same.  It brings peace and reassurance.  I have often prayed casually; 'please let it rain'.  I have prayed with so many tears in my eyes; 'please let her passing be eased'.  I do not feel like any less of a person by getting on my knees and beseeching my deity or deities.  I still feel like the strong person everyone tells me that I am.  I feel even stronger because I am admitting that I am just a speck in a wide universe and the beings who have existed since before time have the wisdom and courage I need to proceed with my life. 

I have also encountered deities who prefer that I converse with them in simple conversation instead of prayer, on my feet instead of on my knees.  Okay, I can do both.  When I speak with Thor, he doesn't mind either way.  He prefers that I speak on my feet, however, he understands that the human condition is weak at times and is content to comfort me when I am on the floor with no strength left.  He has been called Good Friend throughout the centuries and the title is not misguided.  He really is a Good Friend, and when my worldly friends have been far away, he was my Friend. 

It is the time of the year when the Pagans mark the weakening and passing of our Lord.  He has worked tirelessly to fertilize the Earth and give us the things we need to make it through another long winter.  Now His work is done, the harvest is coming in, and He lays down for His rest.  At Samhain we will mark His passing.  But this is not the end.  He has merely gone to seek more knowledge to share with His children, like Odin who departed our world to seek knowledge and made himself a sacrifice upon Yggdrasil and then shared that knowledge with the people of Earth.  As He journeys, His children will seek him, and He will return to use with Yule, the warmth will gradually return to Earth as He is reborn and shares His warmth again.

I own a book called "Books of Hours.  Prayers to the God." By Galen Gillotte.  It is a great book, even for Christians who only pray to the male aspect of the Divine.  I use it frequently during the Autumn and Winter.  These are the times of the year when I feel very close with God.  He brings comfort, when everything looks bleak and cold and hopeless, He will return and bring light and warmth.  It is a cycle and its a certain hope.  To me, the hope of an end to a harsh winter is more real and tangible than living a long life and hoping for the best on the other side.  My view is much more simple.  I will go to a better place when I die, all I have to do is live honestly and honorably, without harming others.  My household follows the Nine Noble Virtues and those are the only guidelines we need. 

The definition of prayer as given in Book of Hours:  "Prayer, at its deepest core, is the passionate expression of love for God.  It may take the form of formal prayer, such as those prayers offered in this book, or may be wordless and incomprehensible cry of the heart.  It matters not, for God reads the intention of the soul even before it is articulated.  He reaches out to answer our need in tender yearning and, if we are open to it, we may fall into His rapture, which is beyond all words, and even beyond all thought."

Monday, September 5, 2011

Before I Was a Mom

It seems that 9 out of every 10 women in my life are pregnant.  It makes me remember all of the joys a new life can bring, as well as the challenges.  It also makes me miss my reproductive days.  I am not old, but I have the inability to create new life.  I do have two amazing daughters who I love more and more every day, so I give thanks for that.  Before my first daughter was born, I found this poem and I didn't fully understand then just how to true it was.  I used the poem as a favor at my baby shower.  I have included the poem below in italics and between each line, I have added my thoughts.
                                                    Before I Was A Mom

Before I was a Mom I slept as late as I wanted and never worried about how late I got into bed.

Well, I sleep a little later now that the girls are aged 7 and 5 years.  If I sleep a little bit later than normal, they make a bowl of cereal for breakfast.  But I still cannot manage to sleep later than 7:30 am every morning.   I do stay up later at night than I used to, but 11 seems to be the latest.

I brushed my hair and my teeth everyday. 

Yes, this is one that never changed.  I brush my teeth compulsively, twice a day.  Now sometimes my hair doesn't get the same treatment, but I have mastered the art of the ponytail.

Before I was a Mom I cleaned my house each day. 

This one is also true.  I didn't realize how clean my house could actually be until both children began full-day school.  My house was always health-inspection clean, but it was disorganized and there were things lying everywhere!  But, the first week of school I enjoyed a quiet I haven't experienced in many years.  And my house became so clean, but the greatest part was that it actually stayed clean all week!  Until the weekend...

I never tripped over toys or forgot words to a lullaby. 

I still trip over toys, skates, shoes, backpacks, you name it.  I still don't know all the words to some lullabies, although luckily my children were more than content with Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

I didn't worry whether or not my plants were poisonous. 

I wish I had the house that had plants everywhere, but I cannot seem to keep them alive.  It doesn't help that the entire first floor of my house has only three windows, one in the laundry room and the other two face the street.

I never thought about immunizations. 

I don't know who this hurts the most, me or the kids.  I hate watching them get the shots, but I have endured because I would rather a few hours of irritation than months of a horrible disease.

Before I was a Mom I had never been puked on. Pooped on. Spit on. Chewed on. Peed on. 

Its amazing how strong you become after enduring that.  I could probably watch open heart surgery now!  And what is with the burp clothes that they sell nowadays??  They are far too small to catch everything! 

I had complete control of my mind and my thoughts.....
I slept all night. 

Oh, I have control of my mind and thoughts, although somewhat scattered.  And I haven't slept all night in years.  Its that compulsive mother in me.

Before I was a Mom I never held down a screaming child so that doctors could do tests. Or give shots.

This ties in with the immunizations.  And the dentist visits.  Its horrible but necessary.

I never looked into teary eyes and cried.

Seeing a baby cry is one of the saddest things, but I know I have to power to ease their suffering.

I never got gloriously happy over a simple grin.

I get the giggles when my children say or do something funny.  And when they were babies, I took great joy in every little thing they did.

I never sat up late hours at night watching a baby sleep.

I still do that, day or night.  A sleeping child is the epitome of peace and beauty.

Before I was a Mom I never held a sleeping baby just because I didn't want to put it down.

I wish I had never sat my sleeping babies down.  They grew up too fast and I miss the feel of a little life in my arms.

I never felt my heart break into a million pieces when I couldn't stop the hurt.

Not being able to stop their suffering makes you feel helpless and useless.  Its a horrible feeling.

I never knew that something so small could affect my life so much.

Its amazing how much your life changes after you have a child, and after they are a little older, you forget what life was like before they came along.

I never knew that I could love someone so much.
I never knew I would love being a Mom.

You don't think you could love one person (or more) so much, but its amazingly possible.

Before I was a Mom I didn't know the feeling of having my heart outside my body.

I didn't know how special it could feel to feed a hungry baby.
I didn't know that bond between a mother and her child.
I didn't know that something so small could make me feel so important and happy.

Whether you are a stay-at-home mom or a working mother, you still get the amazing feeling of feeding a small innocent child.  Its a small miracle that never ceases to amaze.  The bond between a mother and child is an unbreakable bond.

Before I was a Mom I had never gotten up in the middle of the night every 10 minutes to make sure all was okay. I had never known the warmth, the joy, the love, the heartache, the wonderment or the satisfaction of being a Mom. I didn't know I was capable of feeling so much before I was a Mom. 

I have to constantly remind myself that being a mother is a noble profession.  It doesn't offer great pay, benefits, insurance, sick pay, or vacations.  But the education a mother gives to her children determines the next generation, and that generation can be successful and productive if given the right upbringing.  Otherwise, the next generation will stagnate and be nothing.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Addendum to Previous Post

As I like to hear both sides of the story, I would like to let you know that there is a Swiss-made documentary called Without My Daughter, which is all about Moody and his side of the story.  Moody died on August 22, 2009 without ever having seen his daughter again. 

Before anyone judges another human being, they should remember the very wise words of Jesus Christ.
"Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone."

Whether you belong to one of the Abrahamic religions who hold Jesus as a prophet or not, his wisdom was meant to bring peace to the world, not war or division in his name.

In the Name of Hate, Dramatic License Gone Too Far

When September 11 happened, it was supposed to symbolize a uniting of this country and its people under the flag of the United States.  Instead, it became a turning point in the collective hate of this nation.  Its been a long time coming, but 9/11 was the catalyst and I don't understand why.  Blaming the actions of 20 Muslims on all 1.97 billion Muslims in the world is like blaming the actions of 100 members of the Westboro Baptist Church on all of Christendom.  Its illogical, unethical, and UN-AMERICAN.  We are supposed to be the United States of America.  I do not see anything united in this country except lines on a map.

I could write a book on the recent rise of Islamophobia, but I thought I would start small and give an examination of a movie I first saw last year and comparing it to facts and the book that preceded the movie.  The movie is called 'Not Without My Daughter', starring Sally Field and Alfred Molina.  It was based on a book of non-fiction written by Betty Mahmoody, the protagonist and William Hoffer, who is known as a writer of crime dramas and biographies.  Now, I will begin with an overview of the movie and how dramatic license censured the details that can be found in the book.

Sally Field plays Betty Mahmoody, an American woman who mets and falls in love with Iranian-born Sayyed Bozorg Mahmoody, or Moody for short.  He has lived in America for 20 years and works as a doctor.  Together they have a child, Mahtob.  A little bit of trivia for you, Mahtob is the Farsi word for moonlight.  Basing on the events of the Iranian revolution of 1979, Moody comes under pressure from both sides of his life, the family in Iran and the people of his hometown in Michigan.  The pressure eventually becomes too much, he finally caves to his families wishes and convinces his wife Betty that they should go for a 2 week visit to Iran.  When in Iran, we meet Ameh Bozorg (which is basically a title meaning Dear Aunt), Moody's sister and many members of the extended family.  From the beginning, they all hate Betty because she is an American.  We see Ameh Bozorg and her husband and Moodys other relatives always yelling at her and making her life miserable.  Long story short, the whole movie is full of cliches, stereotypes, and Betty's desperate attempt to leave Iran.  She eventually does with the help of some American sympathizer, Iranians who fund and aid in Betty and Mahtob's escape back to the USA.  One of the things that surprises me the most is that in the movie, it looks so easy to escape across the desert of Iran and into Turkey and she just walks up to the embassy and cut to credits.  She could not have escaped the way she said because that time of year is like winter anywhere.  There was snow all over the mountains.  This is a detail that she talks about in this book but is nowhere portrayed in the movie.  Did she make the story up to gain compassion or publicity?  Who knows, nobody will ever know the truth.

Now onto the little details that were conveniently left out.
In the book, there is a lot of background material concerning how Betty and Moody met and the life they led prior to going to Iran.  Whether or not Moody was right in his decision to go to Iran, there were signs for many years prior to their feigned vacation that Moody was becoming fanatical.  He hosted meetings in his house for the local pro-Iran extremist groups for the local college.  Betty knew that he was considering going to Iran, and even actively planned the trip.  Upon arriving in Iran, most of what is seen in the movie is true.  However, there are lots of exaggerations.  One of the persons from the film, an American-born friend of Betty's who lived in Iran, Ellen, is portrayed as a betrayer of Betty's trust.  In a later interview after Betty's return to the states, Ellen denies her portrayal as a two-faced woman.  Another fact you learn from reading the book is that Moody's family in Iran were not as bad with Betty as they were portrayed in the film.  Nasserine, who in the film is portrayed as friendly and sympathetic is actually one of the worst persons to Betty.  Another character oft vilified in the movie is Ameh Bozorg, but she is in fact one of the persons who began seeing Moody's descent into madness and keeping him away from Betty when he has a temper.  She also stalls Moody while Betty escapes.

This movie plays on all of the typical stereotypes of Islam and of Iran.  Nobody is perfect, but it is very UN-AMERICAN to vilify anyone or judge them on the basis of what they see in the media.

But it seems that hatred and ignorance have become common place, despite the fact that this is the 21st century.  There is NO excuse for ignorance.  You have books, internet, smart phones, and plenty of innocent people who are willing to share their knowledge with you.  Don't close yourselves off and give in to hate.  Nobody gains anything from it.  Muslims died in 9-11 too, and I don't mean the terrorists.

Oh, and one last rant.  All of this controversy over the Ground Zero mosque and the one in Tennessee is rubbish.  If people would actually read the articles instead of the headlines, they would know that there is no plan to build a mosque at Ground Zero or in Tennessee.  There are already mosques in those two locations.  The mosque at Ground Zero was housed in a small space that had been in the same location for many years before 9/11 and was also damaged during the terrorist attacks.  Plans to expand it were underway since 2009 and didn't make national headlines in 2010, only to be used as fuel for the anti-Muslim Right.  The plan at Ground Zero is the same as the plan in Tennessee, to build a multi-use center akin to the Christian YMCA, a space that can be used for meetings, classes, children's activities and day care and will have a worship space as well.  The Muslim community in Tennessee has been there since 1997 and has always been welcomed and treated as equal.  With more than 200 Muslim families in that community, many were praying on the sidewalks because they have ran out of space in their mosque.  So they bought some land and planned a similar project that would house classrooms, a gymnasium, and a prayer space.  No minarets, no prayer calls at dawn, just a normal looking building.  Instead of support, they have received death threats and even arson committed on the site of the new building.  Is this what the Christian right want in this country?

This is all that hate can bring.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Wheel Turns

Has it really been almost 2 months since I last posted?  Shame on me!

In the last two weeks, my region of the United States has been experiencing some pretty funky phenomenon.  First, we had an earthquake.  Who woulda thought that the east coast could have earthquakes?  Well they do, but they are usually so small that nobody notices them.  This one, however was a 5.9.  It was enough to scare the bejeezus out of the locals and prompt 'its God's retribution' rhetoric from certain political figures.  That really bothers me!  Michelle Bachmann said that the earthquake and later the hurricane were God's way of punishing America for its tolerance of a black president and its liberal ways.  Really?  First, you know the mind of God?  Yeah right.  Second, you are saying that God decided to kill innocent people to get your political message across?  Yikes! 

Now, about that hurricane.  Irene made three landfalls along the east coast.  It was a monster of a storm, spanning 500 miles across at its fullest, and striking my home city of Lancaster, Pa which is a full hour and a half west of the coast.  It wasn't too much damage, just some wind, rain, and 4 hours without electricity.  But I learned long ago how to live without electricity.  Its not hard, it just takes a special kind of discipline that few in this capitalist country of ours lack.  And you do know what I did?  ...

I thanked the hurricane.

Yes, you heard that right, I gave thanks for the hurricane.  Not for the people who lost their lives or the properties that were destroyed.  I thanked the hurricane for the simple miracle of fresh air.  It washed away the pollution in the air and dropped our temperatures back to a seasonal level.  The air smelled so fresh the day after the hurricane, the streets were clean of all trash, and our temperatures were so comfortable, we have since retired our air conditioners and now sleep with the windows open.  That to me is a simple miracle.  And its in those little miracles that I find my faith.  The title of this post is The Wheel Turns.  The Great Wheel of the Year is turning once again and thanks to the cooler temperatures, I can remember that the wheel turns and will always turn.

Fall is upon us, and it brings with it all of the wonderful things I love so much about this crisp time of year.  Apple picking, pumpkins, leaves, cool air, cinnamon, baking, need I go on?  Its an amazing time of year!  And the stores now carry all of the things I need to make my house inviting and smelly.  Did I say smelly?  Haha!  I meant smelly in a good way, like pumpkin-scented potpourri and freshly made applesauce and apple butter.  Yes, this is my favorite time of year.  I give thanks for it! 

I can begin my preparations for the long months of cold that await.  I can fill my soul with simple joys now so that I can find the strength to endure the hardship of winter.  September is a crafty month for me.  I begin crafting my wreath for the fall months, I begin brainstorming and buying supplies for the homemade Christmas gifts I will make, I will pick apples at the local orchard to prepare yummy treats for my family.  In October, Halloween comes! :D  I love Halloween for many reasons.  I love to dress up and take my children trick or treating and I love to decorate with combwebs and skeletons and spiders.  Then there is the other side of Halloween.  Samhain (sow-en) is the end of the Pagan year.  Its a time when our Lord leaves this world to begin his journey on the other side.  This is marked by the dying of the trees and the colder air.  As He leaves the world, so does the light and warmth.  Its a reminder that all good things must come to an end.  But never fear!  He will be reborn at Yule and light and warmth will return to the world.  Yule was once widely celebrated and today bears a modern name, but it celebrates the exact same thing, the rebirth of Light and Warmth in the world.  Today, it is called Christmas.

So to you, I give my blessings and love and I hope you have as much fun this time of year as I do!

Happy crafting!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

No Justice for the Children in America

In January 1996, a little girl was doing what other little girls have done safely for a long time. She was riding her bike through her own neighborhood with her little brother.  This little girl attended C.B. Berry Elementary school.  She was in 3rd grade.  I, coincidentally, attended C.B. Berry Elementary also.  I was in 6th grade, a student mentor who worked with younger grades helping them with homework and passing out balloons and pencils on their birthdays.  So in November 1995, on this little girl's 9th birthday, I delivered her birthday gifts.  I am sad when I remember this.  I am sad because that little girl's name was Amber Renee Hagerman and that was her last birthday.  As she rode her bike, a man in a white truck approached her and pulled her into his truck and she was never seen alive again.  A few days later, she was found lying face down in a local creek.  From that moment, children were no longer safe.  Children cannot ride their bikes unsupervised anymore, they cannot walk to school safely anymore.  Childhood died collectively for America. 

This event shocked America.  But even more shocking is that no one has ever been brought to justice for her murder.  It has been 15 years and there is no justice.  The only good that came out of all this was the creation of the Amber Alert, through combined efforts from law enforcement and Amber's mother Donna. 

Now its 2011.  Are the children safer?  No.  I wish I could say yes, but that is sadly not the case.  And today, America became an even scarier place.

Casey Anthony stood trial for the death of her 2 year old daughter, Caylee.  Casey waited 30 days before reporting her daughter missing.  There was a stain in the trunk of her car that turned out to be that of a decomposing body.  She was searching for 'chloroform' and 'neck breaking' on the internet.  Despite the overwhelming evidence presented in the long trial, Casey was found not guilty by a jury.  Not guilty?

This jury has opened the door for many parents who abuse their children or plan to kill them.  It is now easy to cause them harm and get away with it. 

I want to offer up a prayer to the highest deity who is listening.  Please save our children!  This country's so-called justice system fails them on every horrible level.  Abusers and pedophiles walk free everyday.  Please save them!

Rest in Peace Caylee Anthony, Divine Justice will prevail and there is a special place in Oblivion for the one who hurt you.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Communal Living

A few days ago, Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods traveled to Suriname.  Suriname is a country in the northern South American continent.  There, he stayed with a group of people who rely completely on the Amazon rainforest and local rivers for their livelihoods.  I admire groups like this.  They have avoided colonization and modernization in favor of a more simple way of living.  They all live and work together for the greater good of the group.  The women share cooking space and the men hunt and fish to provide all the food the group needs.  This idea of communal living fascinates me. 

I have always hated the way society in the West lives.  Material wealth and technology are more important than neighborly relations and gratitude.  After all, if we can go to the grocery store and buy a bushel of corn, we think that we do not owe gratitude to the Mother for providing it. 

Where I live, neighbors actually fear each other.  I always dreamt of moving into a neighborhood where a welcoming committee would visit your house and bring baskets of food, and I could do the same for new people who move into my neighborhood.  That is no longer the case.  I couldn't even tell you the names of my closest neighbor.  The only thing I know about them is that they are not very nice, are abusive to their children and keep their music up loud all night.  And that is the case with most of the people who live in my neighborhood.

I want to live in a commune.  First thing in the morning, I can walk outside and give thanks for a new day and the beauty all around me.  Then I can greet my neighbors, who are no doubt already out and about working in the commune, whether it be maintenance or cooking or working in the community garden.  I want to spend the entire day doing my chores along side people who can provide stimulating conversation and social interaction.  I want to prepare meals with them.  I have always been better at preparing large meals than just a few smaller meals anyway.

The closest thing to a commune around here are the Amish.  And I love driving through their farmland, which borders the town I live in.  I love to see them outside working together as a family.  I especially love going out to their towns and buying their produce and eating their ice cream.  They have it figured out.  Why can't the rest of us seem to?

I think, if it wasn't for the philosophical and religious differences, I wouldn't mind joining an Amish ordnung.  At least life wouldn't be so complicated.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Cue the Lynch Mobs

Quick, someone call CPS.  I did a horrible thing last night!
I let my child watch an R-rated movie!

Okay, so not so dramatic, but that is the reaction some parents these days might take.  I understand that there are certain things that children shouldn't see before a certain age, but that mentality was more acceptable in the early 90s.  Now, there isn't much you can hide from children.  They are not stupid and they notice a lot more than they lead on.  And besides, even watching any regular TV exposes them to the harsh reality of life in the 21st century.  If you shield them completely from these things, they will grow up helpless and vulnerable.

Let me make it clear that, despite the things I allow my children to watch, I draw the line in certain scenarios.  I will not let them watch movies with sex in it, and I am choosy when it comes to movies with violence.  The movie they watched last night was full of violence, but it wasn't zombies-eating-my-brain violent.  It wasn't cadavers being ripped apart or guts flying everywhere.

The movie was Terminator 2: Judgement Day.  I believe I was about my oldest daughter's age when I first saw the movie and I didn't grow up to be a crazy psycho killer.  It just happened to be on TV and I let my 7 year old daughter and her 4 year old sister sit with me and watch it.  It had an interesting effect.  Like most children their age, they provided commentary all the way through the movie.  Asking questions allowed me to give explanations for some of what they were seeing and to help them understand that it was only a movie and not real life.  I also got to see them making commentary stating that "the bad cop is doing very mean things" and "thats not nice" and "thats so sad".  My kids have compassion and common sense and for that I am grateful.  Some movies like this provide a very good lesson:  There is no fate but what we make for ourselves.  If you don't want bad things to happen, you have to work to prevent them.

We all know the outcome of the Terminator movies, but they haven't seen the third one.  I think that one is still a little too high on the violence scale for them, and I don't want to have to explain to them what a nuclear holocaust is.  I'm not out to scare them about the world, I want them to understand that the world is a cruel place, but you do not have to be cruel to live and survive in it.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

My Near Extreme Couponing Moment

Okay, I'll admit that I watch Extreme Couponing and drool.  I wish I could spend $500 and only pay $5, but hey.  Whatever I can save works.  I don't dumpster dive for my coupons.  My approach is that couponing is all about timing.  Collect any coupons you find, even if you don't need them right away.  Keep an eye on your stores ads because they are the key.  My store runs a lot of specials on a weekly basis, like 10/$10 and BOGO.  The best part of the 10/$10 specials is that you do not necessarily need to buy 10.  You could buy 2 and they will still be $1 each.  So I used my stores specials and coupons and I beat my all-time savings record.  I want to share it with you, I am so proud of myself!  I have picked out some of my best finds.  I will post commentary where relevant, but everything I bought was on special and/or had a coupon.

Sierra Mist 20 oz. 1.49 retail, was 1.00
Suddenly Salad various types 2.19 retail, were 1.00, bought 6
Folgers, had a coupon for 1.00 of two items
Nestle Candy Bars .79 retail, bought 4, had coupons for 50 cents off two, coupons double; retail value: 3.16, price I paid: 1.16
Knorr Rice Sides, retail 1.33, were 1.00 each, bought 8
Pancake Mix, retail 2.69, were 2.00
McCormick Seasonings, retail 1.12, were 1.00 each, bought 4
Wacky Mac pasta, retail 1.35, had a 40 cents off coupon, paid .95 cents
Ace of Diamond tuna, retail 1.49 each, were on sale for 10/$10, bought 8; store had a special that if I bought 8 of a certain item from a certain list, I would save $3, so I paid $5 for 8 cans
Store brand croutons were 10/$10
Store brand pasta was 10/$10
Sausage links and patties were 10/$10
Chicken leg quarters were on sale, and I paid between $2-3 for each package of about 5-6 lbs. each
Another cool sale was the Mrs. T's Pierogies, I had a coupon for $1 off and I bought 3 boxes.  My store had a sale that went with it, giving me a box of ice cream sandwiches (12 ct.) free when I bought three boxes of Mrs. T's.
Another special they had, that I also carried coupons for was buy 8 of a particular group of items and save $5.  So off of their list, I bought 6 different types of Dannon Danimals yogurts (6 ct.) and a tub of Country Crock butter.  They were both on sale, the Dannon at 2/$4 and the butter for 2.99 so I ended up paying $8.59 for all after the special and two coupons.
5 of the coupons I used doubled.  My store doubles up to .50 cents on coupons.

Grand total retail price of my trip:  $233.57
TOTAL I PAID:  $160.78
68% savings, or $72.79

My record was $52 off a purchase of $230

I love saving money!

On top of that savings, I also earned 40 cents of a gallon of gas. :D

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Young Women's Sexuality

I'm sure there were mothers 30 years ago who would have been appalled at their daughter's choice of apparel.  That is a common complaint of all mothers.  But I think I can safely say that this generation has gone too far.  Now you can buy padded bras for 8 year olds, low-cut jeans that have to be pulled up often, and dresses to short to squat in.  As one writer for my local paper said : "But it's parents who hold the purchasing power when their kids are young, so if they don't want their 7- and 8-year-olds in padded bikini tops, they shouldn't buy those bathing suits. It's up to parents to hold the line..."  It is very true!  If there weren't morons buying this stuff, it would not be sold.  A parent can stand their ground and say 'No!' when their pre-pubescent daughter begs for the latest 'Miley Cyrus' fashion.

Now, wait just a minute.  I know you are going to catalogue me as one of those up-tight, anti-sexuality, ultra-conservative moms who want my daughters to wear floor-length dresses and braided hair.  Let me make on thing perfectly clear:  I am a Pagan.  As a Pagan, I believe in the stages of life.  For a woman, the stages are maiden, mother, and crone.  As a maiden, you have innocence.  This is the stage of your life when you live carefree and plain.  You are learning about life from your mother 'hopefully'.  In todays society, too many mothers are taking a hands off approach and are letting their daughters be raised by 'Teen Mom' and 'The Jershey Shore'.  Just the thought makes me sick.  When a maiden becomes a mother, she has learned the basics of life and is ready to embrace the new stage.  But do not interpret this as meaning actual motherhood.  In most cases, the earliest phase simply means the nurturing stage.  A young maiden has become a woman and begins to explore those more passionate feelings.  Passion can take many forms.  To be passionate is to want something so much that you would do anything within reason to get it.  Its not necessarily a sexual thing.

However, this is not a ticket for sex.  When a woman enters this stage, I believe that she can have fantasies, but I do not think that sexual relations should develop at such an early age.  When I see young girls wearing a padded bra or string bikini, I see a defiance for the laws of nature.  I see pedophilia being enabled and encouraged.  Even if you are not a Pagan, you can plainly see that a woman reaches different stages of her life at different times.  Its universal knowledge.  When a woman is mature enough and established in her own life, then she can seek the companionship that sexuality brings.  Relationships take a lot of work.

Sadly, this new generation lacks maturity.  When I became sexually active, it wasn't uncommon for women to be more mature.  What has happened to this generation?  Young girls are idolizing 15 and 16 year old tramps who got pregnant because they niavely thought that you couldn't get pregnant on their periods or some other stupid idea.  Nonetheless, they got pregnant and had a child for no other reason than to keep their boyfriends, or sympathy, or simply to pass around a helpless and adorable child so people could 'oh' and 'ah' at it.  They have no idea that the child will soon grow up and require more guidance and affection than that teenager is willing to give.  By nature, teenagers are selfish creatures and are not capable of compassion.

I hope that I have the right idea and that when my girls come of age, I am able to explain what sexuality is in a way that will glorify it as my faith says, but also to learn to control it and use it only when it is appropriate.  It is the most sacred thing we have.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

For my brother

I never said goodbye.

 The Fall

Forever seems so far
Forever seems so cold
Forever cries the heart
Forever yearns the soul
When all the angels
Fly far from thee
When demons dance
In dream….
When all these words
Don’t seem to form
What are these words
Without your soul
Forever lights the stars
Forever haunts the ghost
When all the angels
Fly far from thee
When demons dance
In dream….
Fall down on me
We’ll fly into the night
Fall down on me
We’ll fly into the night
And now it seems our worlds have grown
We’re in a place we’ve never known
Just know where darkness falls
Then forever comes the stars
When all the angels
Fly far from thee
When demons dance
In dream….
Fall down on me
We’ll fly into the night
Fall down on me
We’ll fly into the night

Monday, January 17, 2011

My Wonderful Husband

Despite my previous posts, let me state that my husband has in no way ever held me back from doing anything I felt I needed to do.  I have held myself back.  My husband has encouraged me to follow my heart, he has supported me and has had immense patience with me during my darkest hours when I have not wanted to be touched or bothered.

As a friend of mine so perfectly put it, I won the lottery with my husband.  We first met when he replied to a discussion that I was involved in on a Metallica website.  I was a sophomore in high school and I was just discovering different kinds of music.  It has been so long now, I cannot remember what the discussion was.  Later that same day, he wrote me an email.  The email detailed a dream he had about me and a dragon.  I was a little spooked at first.  After all, this seemed a little crazy.  But I have never been one to judge, so I wrote back.  That first email began a long conversation that lasted many years.  We talked about everything; our tastes in different kinds of music, religion, philosophy, history, life in general.  After a year or so, we sent each other our first snail-mail letters, including pictures.  This was before the days of Facebook and MySpace, and sharing pictures was not what it now is.  So I sent a silly picture of me wearing a NASA shirt standing in front of my high school.  He sent me a picture of him standing in his living room in front of a very beautiful wallpaper that showed a mountain stream.  My first impression was excitement.  A man who fit my ideal physical desire was interested in me?  He was tall, had long dark hair, the features you read about in romance novels.  I thought this was too good to be true, so in my mind it remained a fantasy. 

I know what you are thinking.  Long-distance internet relationships never work out.  Well, we did not want a relationship in the beginning.  We were just good friends.  I had about 100 good internet friends back then.  I even had a globe on my dresser where I would put pushpins in the locations of the world where I knew people.  I know, I'm a geek.  So this internet friendship continued and I dated other people, as he also did.  It wasn't until my senior year of high school that it had become more serious.  It was at that point that I begin to feel the pull on my heart.  I had just emerged from a year long relationship that I thought had been going good.  So, being the curious person I am, I began talking more and more with my exotic friend in the Caribbean.  Fate must have stepped in, because we mutually decided to finally meet each other.  It was a perfect time, I was graduating from high school and he was about to begin his yearly vacation period from work.  So he bought me a plane ticket, and very nervously I boarded the plane and went to Puerto Rico for a planned 6 weeks vacation.  He was going to show me the sights and introduce me to his family.  I stayed at his families house during the whole trip.  There isn't many words I can use to describe my trip except breath-taking.  It was stimulating to me in many ways.  I was in the oldest city in America visiting my idea of a dream man.  I know, silly little girl talk but all true.

To make a very long story short, after my trip I returned home, but that tug never went away.  I moved to Puerto Rico, got a job and began building my future.  A year after arriving in Puerto Rico, we were married on August 15, 2003 in Ft. Myers, Florida.  People said it wouldn't last.  Those same people who said that it wouldn't last suffered divorce and hardship in their own marriages.  Karma?  Perhaps.  You cannot judge what you really do not understand.

7 years later, there is no doubt in my mind.  We will spend the rest of our lives together, and I regret that we will not have more than one lifetime.  I love him more than anything.  He has helped me through every aspect of our lives.  He has been a wonderful and very active father to our beautiful daughters.  Intellectually, physically, sexually, everything, he is my match. 

I look forward to growing old with you, my love.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

My Life, Or Lack Thereof

Its the year 2011.  I am 27 years old.  If you looked at me from an intellectual standpoint, you would think I was the CEO of a major organization who helps third world countries develop sustainable resources, or an astronaut working for NASA.  I wish. 

Its been almost 10 years since I graduated from high school.  During my junior and senior years at Arlington High School, I was full of hope.  I was almost 18, that magical number that every teenager yearns for.  "Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, I'm free at last."  I was courting many different colleges, all of them out-of-state of course.  I dreamed of going to college in a new city and making a great life for myself.  Marriage and kids wasn't in the picture, or so I thought.  Its funny how life works out.  A year and some months after graduation, I found myself married and pregnant, with no immediate plans for college.  I had let my best friend in the whole world go off to college in a new city without me.  And I moved to a tropical island that I thought would be the start of a new life for myself, but I wasn't too sure.

Long story short, here I am at the age of 27 and the only thing I have to show for it are 7 years of marriage and two kids.  I look at people who graduated from high school with me and I see things like engineers, teachers, chefs, film makers, nurses, football players, musicians, financial counselors, naval officers, marines, (did I miss anyone?).  In comparison, I feel like a big nobody!

I choose to be a stay-at-home mom (or did the universe choose it for me?).  A noble profession?  Perhaps.  They say the children are our future.  I hear stories all the time about mothers who work full time doing what they love and their children are being raised by nannies, and as those children grow they become strangers to their own parents.  There are good days and bad days.  There are days when I want to hold my children close and I am extremely proud of myself for making the enormous sacrifice to stay at home with my children (and the weak economy has kept me unemployed).  Other days, I want to kick myself in the ass for not staying single and living life to the fullest and doing whatever I wanted to do.  I would have loved to work for NASA, although now I would be looking for another job.  I would have loved to be an archaeologist or a writer, or something that would make me famous.  I want to be remembered for something spectacular.  "Hey, it's Catherine, remember her?  She was the one who discovered that lost tribe in the Andes."  Wishful thinking I know, but I still want it. 

In an effort to prevent myself from being a total loser, this fall I have plans on enrolling in Respiratory Therapy.  Its a 2 year program that could yield 45K a year starting.  That would be more money than me or my husband have ever made in one year combined.  I think I could live with that. :) 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Finally Recovering

I finally know why I have been so sick these last two weeks.  Yesterday, I felt like I was going to die so I went to the ER, despite not having health insurance.  They must have thought it was pretty bad, because they wheeled me back pretty fast.  Next followed blood and urine tests, a sonogram, and a CT scan of my abdomen.  Within 2 hours, they had a culprit.  I had a urinary tract infection and a blockage in one of the arteries leading into my left kidney.  They set me up with an IV of antibiotics and sent a urine sample to a lab to determine what bacteria caused the infection in my kidney.  My own research into the condition has shown me two possible causes, Staph or E.Coli bacteria.  I won't know until my tests come back.  So for now I am resting and taking my medicine.  Its very hard to rest when I have so many responsibilities, but my girls have been great and Arwen even made dinner for herself and her sister.  I love it that they are older now!

I hope everyone is doing good.  Say your prayers of thanks tonight for health, happiness, and prosperity.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Some Days, I Really Hate My Life

Today was one of those days.  I have been sick since Christmas Eve and without health insurance I cannot even go to the doctor.  So I have been trying to use a combination of Pepto, chicken brother, and rest.  It was okay over the holiday because I had the time I needed to rest.  There were days I could get out of bed and do stuff and other days where I was either confined to the bedroom or the bathroom.  Well today was just a sad sign of things to come. 

I am the only person in my household who drives.  My husband knows vaguely how to drive, but he doesn't not have a license.  I have been okay with doing all of the driving because it means that I have the car in case of emergencies.  But today, I just needed to rest.

I went to the grocery store and I felt like I was going to faint.  To make matters worse, the cashier was very slow in ringing up my order.  I have been a cashier before, so I usually cut them some slack but today I felt like death was breathing down my neck and all I wanted to do was finish up and drop my husband at work so I could go home and lay down.  I didn't have many things, and half of it was WIC.  Now, in case you don't know the WIC voucher procedure, its simple.  You take the WIC voucher, make sure it is still valid by verifying the dates.  Next you check the items you have with the items on the voucher.  You enter the "First Day of Use" and then the "Last Day of Use".  Then you scan the items, write the value on the voucher and done.  All I had was 2 gallons of milk, and $6 worth of fruit.  This guy took 20 minutes to figure out my WIC, and this was before he even touched my other items.  I was standing there the whole time trying not to pass out.  I was with my little daughter Selene who is only 4 and I don't want to know what would happen if I fainted in the store.  My husband was over in the customer service counter, so I was alone.  He finally finished ringing me up and I hurried out of there as fast as I could wobble.  I took my husband to work and went straight home.  I took my remedy of chicken broth and laid down.

The point of this rant is that some days, I am tired of being the only one who manages the entire household.  Errands, bills, to and from school/work, more errands, more things to do.  And I do them single-handedly, which is usually fine.  But when I am this sick, the world does not stop for me.  I must do my duties, no matter how badly I feel.  Its despairing to me and I hate it.

Maybe tomorrow will be a better day.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Some Much Needed Energy

At last, I have come into a day where I had all of the energy I needed to finish up some projects, some chores, and still had some energy left over.  Normally, by this time of night I am ready for it to be 8 so my girls can go to bed and I can cuddle up on the couch and watch a movie.  But its 6:17 P.M. and I am still energized and want to do something else.  And I think I know where this boost came from. 

I spoke earlier of the vision I had of converting my attic into sacred space.  Well, that same day, we moved the computer out of their and I started working.  This morning I woke up feeling much better and motivated.  I got some laundry started and I went upstairs with my radio in hand to begin my work.  I thought I would get a small portion done.  But to my amazement, I finished phase one!  I cleaned the floor and folded all of the summer clothes and stored them away, and made a huge pile of donations.  Then I vacuumed the floor. 

The next phase of this project will be to find a suitable table to be the altar and find any other artifacts that will make the space peaceful.  I believe that I was given a little boost of divine motivation, and with it I ran!  I think that if I put even a little bit of effort into my devotion, I will see great things in return.

2011 looks to be a great year.  I am going back to school this year, my youngest one will start kindergarten and as long as our finances remain as they are, both girls will start extracurricular activities at the recreation center in the spring.  Life is looking good.