Author Archives: lisaspiral

Have a Good Day

The end of a good day

I’ve been listening to some of my friends talk about the notion of acknowledging “Today was a good day”.   It’s something that one of them noticed in a series about living in Alaska.  People, who are essentially living on the edge of subsistence, finish up their day with that little affirmation, “Today was a good day.”

We speculated about whether this is an Alaska thing.  I suggested it might just be something that shifts when you’re living on the edge.  I equated it to the Native American “Today is a good day to die.”

My friends are using this affirmation to see if it shifts their world view.  They think it does.  It changes the way they approach their days.  It started me thinking about what makes a day a good day.

A day sailing is a good day

I’ve certainly had days where if I managed to get dressed or showered that was a good day.  I’ve had days where just being alive at the end of the day meant it was a good day.  I’ve had days where I’ve gotten all kinds of things accomplished be a good day.  I’ve had days where I’ve been of service be a good day.

It’s interesting to me that there isn’t any kind of personal standard for a good day.  I like that.  I like that there is room for a good day no matter what kind of shape I might be in.  I like that I can have a good day just taking care of me as well as having a good day helping out someone else.

Captain Beth ( WIMNsail.net ) pulling out of the Marina – sharing in someone else’s passion is always a good day

In thinking about a good day there is something that does stand out for me.  A good day is active rather than passive.  I don’t mean that there needs to be a lot of activity.  I can have a good day curled up reading.  But there is a big difference between choosing to spend the day reading and sitting down for a break and having the day disappear.

There’s something about a good day that requires attention being paid to the day.  A good day demands engagement at some level.  Perhaps that is the change my friends are observing.  By using the affirmation they find themselves paying more attention to their days.  Being more appreciative, living in gratitude for each day, is certainly a positive life change.

Maybe I’ll give this good day thing a try.

On or in the water sounds like a good day to me.

May Day 2017

Yes, that wet stuff falling from the sky is snow on May 1st.

Happy May Day!  We’ve been having snow flurries, which makes it a little difficult to get into the spirit of the season.  I suppose I could go on about the history of labor unions and all the benefits we take for granted because of the work that they did back in 1886 and beyond.  But you all have Wikipedia for that.

In Wicca this is also Beltane and a celebration to bless the animals and the fields with fertility.   Wicca tends to work with a male/female balance honoring the fact that union is how we all came about.  In this day and age that makes much of our ritual look particularly heterosexist and decidedly gender binary.

The thing is that many of the Gods in the Pagan pantheons are rather gender queer.  There is room in Paganism to express and celebrate fertility in many other ways.  But working in a tradition, and a Wiccan tradition in particular means honoring and holding to rites and ritual formats that, when they were written, probably do have an intentional hetero-cis bias.

Like snow on May Day, the reality is often a lot more complicated than the theory.  In Minnesota a May snow, or at least a frost is not at all unusual.  Our “late frost” date is May 15th.   But in Wicca, and through much of Paganism this is a festival about flowers and early fruits.

Food and Flowers. We tend to snack while we make our May wreaths.

Traditionally, this festival is not a calendar based festival, but one that honors the actual season in the area.  It is a time when the fields are ready for planting – not the same date every year at all.  It is marked by the white blossomed trees (usually rowan) coming into bloom (also not a calendar dependent event.)  In Minnesota this year we are having a remarkably early spring.  The ground has been thawed for some time.  In microclimate areas some of the fruit trees have started blooming.  Historically that just doesn’t happen until mid May and even that is early.

So snow is unexpected this year and seems out of place.  Our weather reporters carry on about “below average” temperatures.  Technically that is true, but if you graph 100 years of spring temperatures and do the statistics you get at least a 15 degree standard deviation.  That means that “normal” is plus or minus 15 degrees.  To really be “below average”, remarkably warm or cold, we’d need to be outside of that 30 degree swing and we are not.  At least not today.

Happy May Day!

I have actually put some things into the garden already.   Cold hearty crops like radishes and peas.  I did sprinkle some spinach and lettuce seeds and I’m trying my hand at carrots again.  Tomatoes and basil are still a month out.  The weather is supposed to get warmer from here out so I’m hoping to get back into the dirt later in the week.  That will be a celebration in itself!   In the meantime, I’ll just take things as they come and enjoy the cool while it lasts.

 

 

Previous Posts on May Day or Beltane:

Fertility     Spring     May     Beltaine (even I don’t spell it consistently)

 

Support

This is what “I don’t have any food in the house, I don’t feel like cooking” looked like this weekend. Sometimes support means being kind to yourself.

I’ve been thinking a lot about support.  I’ve looked at some of the ways I give support, the ways I ask (or don’t ask) for support, and about the kind of support I need.   I’d like to think I’m aware of how much support I am given in my daily life.  I am grateful for that support.

I see more and more posting on social media in judgement of support.  Things like, “If you don’t march you can’t say you support the cause.” or “Marching doesn’t do anything, if you really want to support change….”  My feed is full of articles about what it means to be an ally, and what it doesn’t.  I am watching a heated and emotional battle that demands choosing sides.  Once you’ve chosen a side ANY sympathy, compassion, or points given to the other side is a betrayal.  There is no room for exploring nuance in that kind of “debate.”

I have often been offered support that really wasn’t very supportive.  There are a lot of reasons that happens.  Sometimes I’m just not ready to accept support.  Sometimes I’m not willing to be vulnerable enough to need support from that particular person.  Sometimes it’s help for something I’m quite capable of doing myself (as long as I don’t need to do that other thing I really can’t do alone.)   I have been offered support that makes demands of me.  I have been offered support that is well intentioned but not in my best interest.

Orion in his No DAPL hoodie visiting his sister at work. Sometimes support can be fun.

Most of the time I still find a way to be grateful for the intention.  However, I have also been known to explode and shut my “supporters” down.  Over the years I’ve come to recognize that most people offer support based on their experience.  They offer the kind of comfort they would like.  They offer the kind of hands on labor they are comfortable with, or skilled at.  They present things they have been told worked for other people they know in “the same” shape.

Sometimes people offer support to feed their own egos.  Sometimes people are sure they know best, and they won’t listen.  But most people are willing and able to have a conversation about support, and what that might look like in any particular situation.  The problem is, often when support is necessary the conversation itself becomes too much for the person in need to handle.

Sometimes one of the best ways to be supportive is to be willing to intervene and educate the well intentioned but misguided supporters.  I’ve done that.  This week I’ve seen that done for me.  It doesn’t always help, but it is very much appreciated.

Routine

There’s no internet at my parent’s house. But they are still there and I’m grateful for the time we have.

Routines, we all have them.  From the little rituals that get us going in the morning to the major cleaning, exercising, and vacation planning our routines help us get things done.  The problem is that we can be assured that our routines will, at some point, be disrupted.

Disruptions come in many forms.  An illness or injury can throw routines into a jumble.  Taking a trip or having guests will put pressure on our schedules.  Even something as simple as a change in the weather, or season, can throw a routine into chaos.

I feel as though I’ve been living in the land of disrupted routines.  Even when I think I have a handle on it something else seems to rear its ugly head and throw me off my balance.  I’ve been out of town (and not in a restful, renewing or inspiring way).  I’ve been dealing with allergies (spring is early this year).  I’m back into the remodeling project and even just planning has me throwing my hands in the air screaming.

I’m always willing to put off the routine to spend time with old friends.

I’ve missed two weeks of blogging.  The first week I new I was likely to miss.  Out of town and no internet handy it was unlikely I would get to it and didn’t make it a priority.  The second week I was still reeling from the effects of having my routines disrupted, again and again.

I talk about Daily Practice a lot.  Although Daily Practice can be part of the routine, I make a distinction for it.  Daily Practice, for me, is a small action with a big impact.  When I take up a Daily Practice it becomes a top priority, a commitment.  Daily Practice requires an attention, and often an attitude shift.

In the crazy of my world, with my routines all a jumble, I hold on to my Daily Practice like a lifeline.  I may not be as efficient, or effective, but I still do it.  I may not manage to get it done in it’s “normal” timeframe, but I still do it.  I may start with “oh shit, I have to do that.”  but I do it.

Spring coming early isn’t all bad. It does make me smile.

This is one of the many reasons for taking up Daily Practice.  Those small things can keep us going when we are physically, emotionally, and mentally out of sorts.  They become a foundation from which we can build a new routine.  They are a simple constant in an ever changing complex world.

Little Things

hyacinth are peeking up in my garden

It was a grey and cold and rainy week.  I’ve got a chill that I can’t seem to shake, even when the sun peeks its head out.  I’m doing all the “celebration of spring” things you might expect, but I’m still not feeling it.

This is actually the hardest time of the year for many traditional peoples.  The stores are gone and the new food, spring’s promise, has not actually arrived.  Pulling the sap from the trees was probably originally an act of desperation.  Weather transitions are not easy either, and in Minnesota those transitions can swing very broadly and with little warning.  60 degrees one day and snow the next is not unheard of here.

Ran across this shrine down by the river.

I’m trying to pay attention and really honor the small things.  The little delights and surprises in my days.  I met a friend last week and she said, “Do you want to go out for lunch?”   YES!    I made a lovely venison stew and brought it to share for dinner with another friend.  I threw colored eggs in the river (a magical act that’s part of my Tradition’s practices for the season) and came across a lovely shrine.  I think it’s Hanuman the Hindu God who represents devotion and intellect.   Hmmmmm……..

I also saw a bunny in a knot of wood.   It made me smile, after all it is the season.  I picked up my pastel colored M&M’s the last time I went to the store and I’ve been eyeing the Cadbury eggs.

Bunny in the wood

This morning I went to http://gildasclubtwincities.org for the Euro Cafe Social.  What a treat to have breakfast made for me.  This is an occasional event for members to meet and get to know each other.  The origins of the Euro Cafe were with a member, who most of us knew as Uncle Jack.  He lobbied for more social events and cooked for the first several Euro Cafe’s.

Uncle Jack loved to cook, had a great sense of humor and always had a hug for anyone who needed it.  He was the one who noticed the day I got my diagnosis of endometrial cancer.  He didn’t ask what was going on, just if I needed anything and gave me the hug I asked for unconditionally.  Working at Gilda’s we do lose members to cancer, but Jack’s memory will live on and I’m honored to have known him.

Ryan making crepes for breakfast

That sweet bitter sweet is very much my mood of late.  It’s how I’m feeling about the changing seasons and about the world in general.  Talking to people it seems like it’s a feeling that’s going around.   How are you coping?

Inspiration

It is the spring equinox, when day and night are of equal length.  We’ve had such odd weather I’m not sure if spring is coming or going.   I’m looking at the celebration of new beginnings and feeling like I need a little inspiration.

I spent the weekend going outward for inspiration.  I went to my writers group and listened to these amazing women talk about their plans for their books and their writing.  I left feeling better, but it was St. Patrick’s Day and that seemed to be what filled the air.

I also went to Paganicon, the local convention.  I saw old friends, attended a few workshops, and escorted Orion around.  I didn’t present this year.  He really wanted to go, so this year it was his convention.  One of the unique things about Paganicon is the exhibition of Pagan artists, sponsored by the Minneapolis Collective of Pagan Artists.  There were some beautiful pieces this year.

I left the convention with some ideas about things I’d like to plant in my life this new year.  I just don’t have clarity about how I want that to work.  On the way home the weather turned again.  The sun was shining and it was 55 degrees out.  It really felt like spring.

I decided to follow an impulse and stopped to buy flowers.  I brought them home and put them around my house.  They are my inspiration.  They are a little sign that spring is really on its way.  They make me smile.

What is your inspiration?

 

Previous blogs about the spring equinox and about Paganicon:

Emotions

Happy Spring

Spring Fever

30 degrees

Paganicon Weekend

Paganicon

Grateful

 

Daylight Savings

Daylight savings time is kicking my ass.   I am not a snooze alarm fan.  However, given the opportunity I will occasionally go back to bed for 10 minutes, or 20, or 40…….    This morning I still want to go back to bed even though I’ve been really up for over an hour.

Daylight savings time is a great example of our country ignoring the facts in favor of a belief.  With daylight savings we don’t even share a common belief!  We just all have our rationalizations.  We have daylight savings because it’s better for the school children to wait for the morning bus in the light.  We have daylight savings because it save energy.  We have daylight savings because it’s better for the farmers.  We have daylight savings so that there is more daylight during our waking hours.  We have daylight savings because it “saves” daylight.

I call bullshit!   Sure it’s better for kids to wait for busses in the light rather than in the darkness.  But weigh that against bus drivers whose internal clocks are all messed up and whose sleep schedule has been disrupted.  Maybe daylight savings saves energy, maybe it doesn’t.  Turning off the lights when we’re not using them probably saves a lot more.  How much energy do we waste making our kids drive over to change the clocks on the electronics for us because we can’t figure out how to do it ourselves?

As for “the farmers” there are centuries of farmers doing what they need to do when they need to do it, regardless of the time of day.  Furthermore I know (and so does anyone whose pets expect to be fed at a certain time of day) that animals are not cool with us arbitrarily changing the schedule.  Frankly, humans are not cool with this arbitrary change of the schedule.  The entire nation has jet lag.  Coffee shops across the country have sales because they know the regular one cup isn’t going to cut it today.

I’d say it’s probably worse because of the weather.  We got a blanket of snow yesterday.  But spring and fall weather is always variable!  The stress of the seasonal changes aren’t enough, so let’s add another random factor into the mix?  Does that sound like a good plan?

But we stick with Daylight savings, because we’ve “always done it that way” (also not true) or because we believe one of those crazy rationalizations.  I’d say “wake up people” except that I can’t wake up.  My sleep schedule’s out of wack and all I want to do is curl up and go back to bed.

Renewal

Helps to burn away the everyday dreck

Helps to burn away the everyday dreck

We all need an occasional “time out” to renew our spirits.  Often times this is our hope when we take a vacation.  It’s clearly a goal when we go on a retreat.  But what may serve to renew us can vary from person to person and even across an individual’s lifetime.

I have known for a long time that I’ve needed a “get-away”.  I’ve had plenty of opportunities to travel and take a break from the daily grind.  Unfortunately for my renewal meter they haven’t really helped.  Most of the traveling I’ve done in the past 5 years has been to promote my writing.  They’ve been working vacations.  I may not have had Orion along, I may have gotten inspired, but I haven’t had that sense of renewal.

I’ve been looking at a “real” vacation for awhile now.  I had plans to go to Italy last fall, but they went by the wayside as I’ve been struggling to find a way to do home repairs.  I haven’t given up.  I’m still studying the language.  But I also know that if I’m going to spend that kind of money I want to take time.  If I take enough time then I also need to take Orion.  That’s great for travel, but it’s not renewal.

As a birthday present to myself I gave myself a long weekend.  Orion went to his Weekend Ventures retreat with Reach for Resources and to his Dad.  I just had to figure out what I needed to do to find that renewal.

I tossed around driving or flying.  How far could I go on my limited budget?  Did I really want to spend the little time I had in transit?  I looked at AirBnB I looked at package deals, I looked at the weather.

I needed options, variety, to be able to be in the moment and meet my needs

I needed options, variety, to be able to be in the moment and meet my needs

Historically my renewal/retreat weekends have involved a small (cheap) cabin in the woods, a fireplace, breakfast included and a kitchen for the rest of my meals.  I’ve sat on porches and sipped coffee.  I’ve curled up in the sunshine and read books.  I’ve taken short walks in the woods.  I’ve been alone long enough to get past the list of “shoulds” and into the bottled up emotions of my life.

Those options just aren’t available anymore.  All the places I used to go have gone out of business.  Any places I could still go seemed a little more structured, or a little more primitive, than I wanted.  Even visiting my parents house (which used to be a cheap get-away) has become focused on helping them out.  I can’t just sit and read undisturbed, or take a long soak in the tub.

Staying at home became more appealing, but I know myself well enough to recognize I’ve had plenty of weekends home without Orion that were not about renewal.  It’s very easy to be distracted at home.  It’s very easy to do the things that NEED to be done rather than the things that WANT to be done.  It’s also very easy to bury my head to avoid the whole issue.

So I made an attitude adjustment plan.  I know if I keep a fire going it shifts my focus.  I know if I stay off the computer (read internet) I’m less likely to waste my time off.  I know if I prepare ahead I can eliminate any URGENT household tasks.

So I cleaned the bathroom, changed the sheets on the bed, went to the grocery store and had a lovely renewal weekend at home.  I did get on the internet, but it was to write book reviews because I felt like writing.  I did light a fire one evening, but only because I really wanted to have that grounding task.  I took several long leisurely baths – book in hand.  I even took a walk.  I didn’t take phone calls, didn’t check email, didn’t read Facebook.

Staying gave me a lot more flexibility with leftovers too. (lobster risotto)

Staying gave me a lot more flexibility with leftovers too. (lobster risotto)

It was different than a retreat, but in some ways it was better.  Now I know I can have a renewal in my own home.  I can make choices that are about taking care of myself rather than just indulging the whim of the moment.  I can make myself get out the door just because it’s a nice day.

Those insights alone make taking a break well worth while!

Happy Birthday to ME!

This is my parents at Thanksgiving. Silly me didn't take photos when I was up.

This is my parents at Thanksgiving. Silly me didn’t take photos when I was up.

I’ve maintained for some time now that the older I get the longer I get to celebrate.  This year I’m pushing that edge with everything I’ve got.   I’ve got a lot to celebrate!

I feel good.  There have been many years where I haven’t.  Two years ago I was recovering from surgery.  Five years ago I couldn’t move.  25 years ago (or was it 26) my birthday party felt like a wake because I was in chemotherapy.  Feeling good, willing to go out, having fun finding dress-up clothes, those are all worth celebrating.

I still have family.  I started celebrating my birthday at the beginning of the month when I made a cake and packed it up to my parent’s house.  My Mom and I share a fondness for german chocolate and a homemade cake is particularly appreciated by both of us.  At this point neither of us needs a cake to ourselves so we share.  Her birthday is in December and mine is the end of February so there is usually a freezer involved along the way.  Having her around to share and appreciate the cake she taught me to make is definitely worth celebrating.

Karina, Orion, and Dakota took me out for restaurant week.

Karina, Orion, and Dakota took me out for restaurant week.

My kids seem to like spending time with me.  I got Orion buying me flowers for valentine’s day and Karina’s “step-son” picking out roses for Oma’s birthday.  We all went out to dinner (restaurant week falls close enough to my birthday to make that easier).  Karina has also just said “hey, want to go out for drinks” and swept me up late night just because it’s my birthday.  Orion and I have been to the movies, twice, and he’s also joined me out to brunch with friends.  All worth celebrating.

My friends are finding time to “catch-up”  I’ve had three brunches this month.  I’ve had lunch and a trip to the Swedish Museum.  I’ve had dinner with some old friends, and am still making plans into March.  I’ve spent a lot of time on the telephone.  Birthday presents have appeared unexpectedly.  I have acquired a significant amount of birthday cheesecake.  It’s really nice to know that people I care about are thinking about me.  It’s great to touch base and reconnect.  I’m not good at reaching out so having people reach out to me is very much worth celebrating.

The Swedish Institute is beautiful and the immigrant and refugee exhibits were powerful!

The Swedish Institute is beautiful and the immigrant and refugee exhibits were powerful!

I know that extending my birthday celebration means sometimes I decide it’s about me when really it’s not.  Today (Monday 27th) I’m having “birthday breakfast” at Gilda’s Club.  It’s really the monthly “Euro-Cafe Social”, but hey for me it’s birthday breakfast.  I’ll get to visit with people I work with and when I call it birthday breakfast they’ll all say happy birthday.

It feels good to be acknowledged and it gives me a lot of reason to be grateful.  I have places to go, things to do and people to do them with.  I have generous friends and family.  I have enough energy to go out and enough control to bring home leftovers.   Extending the celebration means I get to really spend time with people rather than being overwhelmed by a crowd at one big bash.  I am truly blessed.

Happy birthday to me.

Birthday cheesecake from a friend. I didn't have to make it so no complaints.

Birthday cheesecake from a friend. I didn’t have to make it so no complaints.

 

My People

My people PRIDE

My people PRIDE

There is a lot of research being done about the “information bubble” or more specifically “filter bubbles”.  The idea is that our view of the world is being filtered so that the only information we receive (from social media) is information that will not challenge our existing world view.   It certainly does happen, and it can be an issue  especially for those people who tend towards highly biased, badly vetted, and heavily self- referential information sources.

Many of us are aware these sources exist.  Many of us are not aware of how many of them we follow.  Because we agree with them they seem reasonable.  There bad sources coming from ALL points of view.  Liberal, conservative, religious, fiscal, civil rights, you name a point of view and there is someone on the internet writing (loudly) with no basis in actual facts.

My people - Orion's Transition graduation

My people – Orion’s Transition graduation

On the other hand there is the world we walk in.  This is the world where we are not umbilically attached to our electronic media.  It is a place where people talk to strangers.  The “real world” is where we have to get along with our co-workers.  We can’t be anonymous in this place when we shut up, stand up and sometimes get blindsided in our interactions with actual human beings.

I talk to strangers.  I chat in line at the grocery store.  I comment on reading material in the waiting room.  I drive for those ap based services and sometimes the passengers are up for conversation.  I also listen to stories from those strangers and from my friends about their experiences.   Sometimes they’re not friendly.

My people - Parliament of World Religions SLC

My people – Parliament of World Religions SLC

So what do we do when we are trapped in a conversation (on an airplane, in a doctors office) and suddenly it takes a turn.  The pleasant person we are talking to starts: quoting “fake news”, promoting a religious viewpoint we can’t support, making racist or sexist assumptions, belittling “my people”?  What do we do when the person who was a work friend is suddenly assuming we agree with them about a political viewpoint we find abhorrent?  What do we do when the customer we are serving starts spouting hate speech?

Those situations shake us up.  They make us question both our positions and our responses.  They can be threatening when they are clearly directed at us.  They can be threatening AND unnerving when we find ourselves “passing” instead of being representative of our group.  These kinds of occurrences seem to be happening more frequently, and more aggressively.  I think part of that is the “filter bubble”.  Strong language against another group can be “acceptable” within the filter, and so it is unquestioned in the world.

My people - who I call family

My people – who I call family

But when that world comes at us with active hatred we need to find some time with “our people”.  We need that sanctuary to regroup and reassure ourselves that we are not alone in the world.   Unfortunately I’m finding even in the most broad thinking sanctuaries there is little or no compassion for differing viewpoints, and so the aggressiveness becomes justified and reinforced.

Yes, bad behavior should be called out.  Yes, we have a right (and often a responsibility) to defend a point of view.  We need to remember that someone questioning a position is not the same as someone invalidating our existence.

Bad behavior does not always imply a bad intention.  Ignorance (even willful ignorance – which is where my tolerance explodes) is not improved by being demeaning.  Someone asking me for my sources is not a  “threat”.  It’s certainly not a threat equivalent to saying “my people” should be:  locked up, thrown out, burned at the stake, not allowed to participate, or somehow “put away”.   Defensiveness is not the same as defending a point.

We have the opportunity to practice these skills with “our people”.  Let’s do that, instead of just closing those doors and creating another version of “us” and “them”.

 

 

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