Monthly Archives: January 2013

Bonus Blog

Since I missed last week I thought I’d reprint an editorial I wrote.   It’s currently published at The Pagan Newswire Collective

CROSSED QUARTERS

Most Pagans are aware that the eight sabbats of Wicca are an artificial construction.  They combine festivals of hunter/gatherer peoples with festivals of agriculture and animal husbandry.  When you add to that an international following and crazy modern scheduling you have a practice of worship that is truly Neo-Pagan.

Our quarter celebrations, the solstices and equinoxes, come to us from people’s who understood astronomy.   These are real and measurable events in time and space.  The tools and precision of measuring when these sabbats occur have changed over time.  The events that they celebrate are fixed.

The cross quarters, however, are seasonal celebrations.  They mark events of weather and harvest that happen when they happen in the local area.  We know from the names we call them by:  Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasad, and Samhein that these are sabbats from more northern climates.  These are celebrations of a people who were dependent on an unpredictable weather.

They may have marked migration cycles.  They may have marked the end of a harvest season.  They may have marked blooming plants.  They may have marked fertility of farm animals.  But these kind of events occur  at different times in different places in different years.

Our calendars come to us from the Romans and the Roman Catholic Church.  When these local festivals were assigned patron saints and attributed to saints days on the calendar they became more fixed in time.   Of course the church calendar has changed once or twice over the last several thousand years and saints come and go.

We come around again to Candlemas, or Brigid’s Mass.  This festival on our calendar at the beginning of February was not always marked by a specific date.  Even in our modern age there are those who count the days between each of the quarter events and would mark the cross quarters at exactly the halfway point.  They argue that this celebration should occur on February 1, or 2 or 3 or even January 31 depending on when the Solstice fell.

In our modern world we think of the coldest days as having been the hardest for our fore bearers.  The return of the light and the warming of the climate is celebrated for a reprieve from hardship.  The reality is that in colder climates this can be the hardest season.   Nothing is growing yet and won’t be for at least a month.  The animals are all thin from their own winter struggles and those that aren’t are pregnant.  The stores are limited with no hope of renewal for the rest of the winter and there is no telling how long that will be.

Back in the days before electric lighting cows and chickens did not produce year round.  In those earlier times there has been no milk or eggs since before the solstice.  It turns out that egg and milk production is primarily based on how much light is available.  Modern farming uses electricity to keep cows and hens producing year round.  In those earlier times it was the lengthening of daylight that made all the difference.

So this cross-quarter may have originated as a simple family feast.  The holiday fare of a cake, or a quiche when finally there is a cup of milk and an egg to be had.  This is a sabbat of promise.  Times may be lean.  The weather may be cold.  Food may be inconsistent and hard to come by.  But there is a beginning of hope that as the days continue to lengthen there will be more.

As we celebrate our sabbat, as we honor Brigid or make up our new candles let’s consider our bounty.  Let’s take a moment to think about those who struggle to find enough to get them through.  Surely we can find a way to share with those who’s hens have yet to lay an egg and who’s cows are too old to produce another year of milk.

Nothing

Photo on 1-27-13 at 5.27 PMI skipped posting last week.  I didn’t have a particularly good reason.  I just didn’t feel like it.  Oh, there was a topic I considered, took some notes down.  I just didn’t want to do it.  Didn’t want to take pictures or dig out old photos.  Didn’t want to be esoteric or write another woe is me post.  Just didn’t want to.

Some of my blogger friends take sabbaticals from their blogs.  They may be gone for a few days or a few weeks depending on how the mood strikes them.  I’d like to think it was a sabbatical, but I’m not sure that’s true.

I think it was a temper tantrum.  That doesn’t sound very “spiritually evolved” does it?  I guess we all have our moments.

I felt like a pouty kid most of last week.  I made chocolate chip cookies. (Well, they didn’t exactly turn out like cookies but the chocolate chip cookie roll-ups I ended up with were tasty all the same.)  I may have eaten the entire batch over the course of the last week all by myself.

I didn’t take a total break from writing.  I posted a review or two on LisaSpiralReads.   I commented on a few blogs.  I wrote feedback on a ritual.  I did my morning pages.  I just didn’t write my blog.  My pouting can’t be considered a bid for attention since there is no one here but me and Orion and I didn’t expect him to notice.  And with blogging it’s writing that gets comments, not not writing!

I didn’t exactly do nothing.  Over the course of the week I’ve seen 3 doctors (two of mine one of Orion’s), managed to get the laundry through the wash, dealt with Orion getting his antibiotics back at his day program, talked through an Imbolc ritual, held a class, done some meditation work, played cards with friends and gotten dinner on the table every night.   I also spent a lot of the time being a zombie in front of the tv or playing video games.Photo on 1-27-13 at 5.29 PM

Like most temper tantrums by the time I got to the end of it I began to think this was harder on me than writing the blog would have been.  Maybe it was.  Still, sometimes I just need a good pout.  At least I don’t feel like I need a vacation from my vacation.

I can’t say I’m rested and rejuvenated, but I am ready to face the world again.  So today a blog about Nothing.

Do you ever find yourself taking an unscheduled time out?  Have a temper tantrum?  Pout just for the sake of pouting?

Ups and Downs

The saga of the house of sick continues replete with great drama.  There are also long periods of absolutely nothing getting done including posting a Monday blog.  Luckily there are occasional bright spots as well.

Kuan Yin from wickapedia

Kuan Yin from wickapedia

The second Thursday of the month is GOM (Goddess of the Month).  My women’s group has been getting together exploring myth and ritual for almost 15 years now.  We pick a theme at the beginning of the year, divide up the months and show up.  Whoever’s month it is is in charge and the rest of us are all in for whatever our hostess has in store.

We go back and forth with more or less structured themes.  Sometimes we’ll follow a book chapter by chapter.  Our founding was to take a year and go through Ladies of the Lake by Caitlin Matthews, exploring one Goddess at a time.  Hence the name of the group.  Other years are less structured and this year is a free for all.  We spent a day at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and picked a piece that inspired us.

Our first ritual this year was inspired by a statue of Kuan Yin, bodhisattva of compassion.  What a lovely way to start the year.  What a really necessary reminder to get through the rest of my weekend!

GOM is usually a late night, because we’re women and we chat.  I was awakened at 5am the next morning with Orion hollering “Mom, I threw up all over myself.”  Poor dear was so miserable and achy.  Once I got him cleaned up he literally slept the entire day.  I had to wake him up for Tylenol and fluids.

This may not sound like such a difficult day, but my entire to-do list involved shopping.  I still need the groceries and cat food.  I did manage to swing past the post office when they were closed on Sunday and drop off mail, but haven’t hit the Goodwill or the library, also on my list.  Saturday Orion was better but still dragging and I certainly couldn’t take him out to get my ingredients to make something for Sunday.

Sunday Orion was feeling well enough to send with his father (they over did it).  I managed to find the stuff in the house to make baklava.  I was free to attend Pie Day.

Pie Day was apparently inspired by Dan Pierce at Single Dad Laughing.  I missed the post but my friend Michelle didn’t.  She encouraged us to bring any kind of desert. We’d all cheer up from the post holiday blues and end up in a sugar coma.  It was a sugar orgy!

Which brings us to Monday.  Monday morning Orion woke up with a headache.  Orion has hydrocephalus and has a shunt that drains excess spinal fluid from his brain into his abdominal cavity where it can be absorbed.  When it gets blocked, clogged, infected, pinched off or stops working Orion gets a headache.

Sometimes that can be fixed externally.  Often it involves brain surgery.  Orion is 24 years old and I stopped counting brain surgeries before he was 10.  He had 4 before he was six months old and although we’ve gone years without one we’ve also had years where he’s had 5 in 4 months.  An infection is even worse and he’s had those too.

When Orion is sick I watch him like a hawk and when Orion says he’s got a shunt headache I take him very seriously.  So after getting showered and dressed (pointedly in clothes that did not need to be removed for radiology) we were off to the ER.  You all know that every ER in the country is full to capacity with the flu right now and ours was no exception.  There wasn’t even a parking spot in the ER lot!

Where we wait.  Orion's usually happier in his chair than on the cot and just as easy to transport!

Where we wait. Orion’s usually happier in his chair than on the cot and just as easy to transport!

We know the drill.  First you talk to the triage nurse.  Then you talk to the intake nurse.  Then you talk to the nurse assigned to your case.  Somewhere in there you talk with registration and pull out the insurance cards.  Eventually you get to talk to the ER doc, or on Monday the physician’s assistant, who can actually order something to be done.  You tell them all that they need to call the neurosurgeon’s office and let them know we’re here.  (It is protocol to let them make that phone call although there have been occasions when I’ve just gone and made it myself.)

Then you wait.  You wait for someone to come and draw blood.  You wait to get in line at radiology where you will need both Xrays and a CT scan.  You hope that the radiology techs are willing and able to deal with Orion’s other structural anomalies (the one’s that make it hard for him to get into the “right” position for the pictures).  You wait for a radiologist to come by and actually READ the pictures.  You wait for the ER doctor to report what the radiologist report says.  Then you wait for neurosurgery, which has finally been called, to make their way down to the ER to decide what to do.

Monday everything actually looked pretty good.  The blood work was normal.  The radiology was close to Orion’s baseline.  The neurosurgeon tapped the shunt to make sure it was working and even that didn’t indicate any excess pressure.  The CSF (spinal fluid) looked clear and although they will culture it, that will take over a week.  The neurosurgeon suggested an eye exam and sent us home.

I suppose a headache from eye strain probably does feel a lot like the beginnings of a shunt headache.  I suspect Orion is still a little dehydrated from Friday which will also cause a nasty headache.  In 24 years Orion has never been wrong about calling a headache for what it is.  Maybe this time he just doesn’t feel well enough not to blow it?  I’m keeping him home again today, pushing fluids and keeping fingers crossed.

May Kuan Yin look down upon us in compassion.  May we call on her to help us maintain our patience and good temper throughout our trials.  May we rely on her mercy as we work our way through our own dharma.  May we be blessed by the compassionate Kuan Yin.

Eggnog malaise

Mom and Andrea

Mom and Andrea

This post holiday blues thing is getting to me.  It hasn’t helped that Orion and I have been passing a variety of versions of “ick” back and forth.  Currently he’s complaining of a sore throat.  It seems as soon as one of us is feeling better the other one is feeling worse!

I would bet there is a small portion of that “just don’t feel right” that can be attributed to over indulging.  I know that New Years Eve meal – the egg nog challenge – can’t have been great for my system.  All by itself I probably would have been alright.  The problem is that it comes after the alcohol and appetizers.  I’m not sure I can even name all the appetizers!

Darcy and Danny at the Appetizer buffet

Darcy and Danny at the Appetizer buffet

My attempt at a list: There was spinach dip with my Dad’s homemade bread, gravlax (also courtesy of my father) and his famous carmel corn.   There was shrimp cocktail, “sheep dip” (it’s really a crab and shrimp on cream cheese but if you call it that no one wants it and there’s more for you.), and the caviar and oyster thing.  There was chocolate (Lindt truffles) and my sister Andrea (or her beau – Butch) made a lovely brochette with tomato and pesto.  I suspect someone threw out some pickled herring at one point or another.  There were probably cookies somewhere as well.

Karina and Danny with hot sugar and hazelnuts

Karina and Danny with hot sugar and hazelnuts

Our host and hostess (we’re talking again about  Andrea and Butch ) were delightful, helpful and a little overwhelmed with everyone trying to cook at once.  It was Karina teaching Danny how to candy hazelnuts that really got everyone in the kitchen.  We all wanted to try our hand at it.

Zac plating his salad

Zac plating his salad

I didn’t take a lot of photos.  My batteries were acting up and it seems the spares I brought were old as well.  Both Karina and Darcy  made a point of taking photos of each course to “help” our judges.  Thanks for sharing!

My Father made the first course, a rustic pumpkin soup with a side of corn bread topped with melted cheese.  He used the eggnog in both the bread and the soup.

Pumpkin eggnog soup

Pumpkin eggnog soup

Then my nephew Zac presented the salad course.  The orange and spinach salad was topped with a truly amazing citrus and eggnog dressing.  The judges said his was the course they would definitely eat again.  Me too!  He actually won with the salad and as a “prize” got to take all the leftovers home.

The winning salad

The winning salad

Mom and Darcy (Zac’s finance) had the main dish.  This was a lovely chicken with a lemony gravy but the only place the eggnog was used was to dip the chicken before breading it and frying it up.  As much as we appreciated the break from the eggnog and as tasty as the chicken was,  the judges ruled it was a little bit of a cop-out.

Lemony chicken

Lemony chicken

I had the side and made au gratin potatoes with egg nog, lots of cheese a little bacon and some scallions.  It was good, but the sugar of the eggnog made it a little sweet.  I also didn’t have the pan I wanted so the potatoes were a little under cooked.

potatoes

potatoes

We took a little (much needed) break before tackling Karina and Danny’s desert.  She made a chocolate Frangelico pudding with eggnog and then topped it with those candied hazelnuts.  It was really good!  It was also really pretty and really rich.  I suspect part of the reason she lost to Zac is because everyone expected her to do well.  I also think that by the time we got to desert we were all too full to appreciate anything properly!  When she found out the “prize” Karina was happy to concede.

Not just any pudding

Not just any pudding

Is it any wonder I wasn’t 100% the next day? I wouldn’t want to eat (or cook) like that everyday.  It was great fun though and I’m finding myself missing everyone.  I’ll just have to get out of the house of “ick” and appreciate the sunshine!

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