Category Archives: winter

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.

 

2017

resized_20161231_190721It’s a New Year!

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions for a lot of reasons.  The biggest is that I don’t keep them, so why make them.  Not that I object to having goals and dreams, but that success builds on success.

I’m much happier with big dreams and small achievable goals than with the notion of creating a resolution for change at a time of year when I’m already reeling.  I find it difficult to start something new at the same time that I’m trying to re-coop – (physically and financially) from the holiday hoopla.

This particular year, this particular “cultural transition” from 2016 to 2017 has been filled with a lot of public angst.  The notion that 2016 was “so bad” that 2017 “has to be better”.   I’ve always been reluctant to tempt fate that way.

There’s a lot of fear going into 2017.  I’ve written about a shift in tone in human interactions.  I’ve talked about the disenfranchised who feel particularly targeted and threatened by the new political climate.  I’ve got personal fears as well, with aging parents and tightening purse strings.  My “safety nets” are not what they used to be.

Our host with a wonderful root vegetable bisque

Our host with a wonderful root vegetable bisque

Sometimes I think I talk because I need to hear what I am saying.   I talk (and write) a lot about practicing gratitude to fight depression.  Fortunately I got to spend New Years Eve with some lovely people who chose to apply that practice.

It was an event designed to set the tone for 2017.  The dinner guests were chosen specifically to suit our host’s preferences.  No one was there “just because”.   The decor was elegant, the food abundant, exotic, and heart warmingly delicious, and the atmosphere both festive and a little nostalgic.  There was warmth and laughter and acceptance and I was grateful to be included.

When the champagne was poured we went around the table and each had to talk about something wonderful that happened for them in 2016.  There were several people who had milestone moments that they could point to.  A few of the guests spoke of unexpected opportunities that had become available to them.  Clearly, Facebook memes aside, not everyone had a horrible year.

I didn’t have a “horrible” year either, but I did have a really difficult time finding something to be grateful for.  Then I stopped going over the events of the year that I recalled (most of which were attached in some way to a funeral) and looked at the room.

The chef extrodinaire (and my daughter :)  )

The chef extrodinaire (and my daughter 🙂 )

I got to have a night out.   I got to have a few days without Orion in tow.   I got to have a beautiful fancy dinner that I didn’t have to pay for.  I got to have an opportunity to dig up the dress-up clothes.   I got to reconnect with a friend (our host) and acknowledge that connection with hope to deepen our relationship in the future.  I got to have fun.   I got to be in the room.

Then I looked back at the year at all the other friends I’ve connected with.  I looked at the new friendships I’ve worked at strengthening.  I looked at all the “rooms” where I’ve had the privilege of being included.  There have been a lot.  Even those funerals provided opportunities for me to reconnect.

This is what I’m grateful for and what I hope to find more of in 2017.  Connection.

Desert - a butterscotch silk with sparkles.   Hope 2017 sparkles as well.

Desert – a butterscotch silk with sparkles. Hope 2017 sparkles as well.

Happy New Year!

‘Tis the Season

resized_20161207_093548It’s cold and it’s dark.  Thanksgiving was late, so it feels like the other holidays are coming early.  I’m having a hard time getting into the holiday spirit – for any of the holidays.   Yule is fast approaching.  The winter solstice, the longest night of the year, is this week.   All I want to do is crawl under the covers.

Maybe it’s the politics.  Maybe it’s the news stories.  Maybe it’s just a general sense that certain people feel like they now have permission to be rude, racist, misogynistic and all together nasty.  It definitely feels like the longest night.

The thing is, most of the winter holidays are celebrations of hope.  They are a coming together of families, of communities.  Many of them are directly linked to survival, either as an acknowledgement of the ancestors surviving or as a sacred working towards surviving the rest of the winter.

41182543-jewish-holiday-hanukkah-celebration-with-vintage-menorahBoth Hanukkah and Kwanzaa celebrate the faith, perseverance and fortitude of ancestors in the face of insurmountable odds.  Even the Christmas story has Mary and Joseph finding shelter where there was none to be had.   If our ancestors beat the odds, so can we.  We have their support, their example, and when our own faith wains we can lean on theirs.

The Islamic calendar is lunar, without some of the “corrections” in the Jewish calendar that keep festivals seasonal.  Currently Muslims are also celebrating the birth of the prophet, not Jesus but Mohammad.  Along with the longest night comes the birth of the sun.  In Christianity the savior is born.  There is hope in the metaphor of birth.  There is potential for something better to come along.  There is a new way of approaching the world being born.resized_20161218_142133

During the longest night people came together to share stories.  Like Hans Christian Anderson’s the Little Match Girl they create visions of the futures they wanted to see.  Dreams of sugarplums dance in their heads.  They’re visited by ghosts, ancestors, departed friends, spirits with teaching visions.  Hearth fires are tended, and gifts are exchanged.

In O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi it is the wise (or foolish) sacrifice that is a gift of love.  Yet some of the pressure of our season is that consumer culture that measures how much or how many above how thoughtful, how generous.  Finding the “right” gifts, or making them, is often how I come to the spirit of this season.  And again, this year that has been more difficult.

I’m finding more seasonal joy in sharing a protein bar with a homeless man on the street corner than in exchanging packages.  I’m finding more seasonal joy in being able to encourage a teen I’m driving to school than in writing a holiday letter.  I had more fun shopping for my women’s group ritual (where the presents represented themes rather than being for specific people) than I had baking for the family.resized_20161219_102719

I’m hoping for the hope.  I’m leaning heavily on tradition to see me through.  I’m going through the motions, believing that movement brings movement.  I am reminded of being 9 months pregnant, miserable, impatient and not really knowing what the future would bring.

Let the bells ring out.  May joy and peace be shared with all.  May love and kindness fill the world and vanquish cruelty and hatred.  May you all have a blessed holiday season.

 

Previous blogs about Yuletide:

Yuletide Greetings

Gifting

Holidays

Merry Merry

War on Christmas

 

Adjusting

20160212_113753So I missed last week’s blog because I was still in California – giving my presentation.  I had a great trip.  I talked to some fabulous people.  I learned some things and was inspired.  I also hope I taught some things and was inspirational.

I think I’m pretty much back in Central Time, but even that’s challenging.  My darling daughter wrenched her ankle in a bad fall coming home from work this weekend.  2am in Urgent Care doesn’t help me adjust.  But the sun has been shining, the days have been warm.  (In Minnesota if the snow is melting it’s warm – even at 39 degrees.)

Looking at traveling as part of a career I’m going to have to find a way to do the body/time adjustment thing a little more gracefully.  At least I was kind to myself with scheduling.  Aside from the unexpected (there was a trip to the Apple Genius Bar as well) I haven’t had any “extras” on the calendar.  That’s about to change!20160214_103212

One of the things I got to do at Pantheacon was Tarot readings.  When I do readings I always get good feedback from the clients.  This was no exception.  But I also had some down time with the cards, so I asked a question for myself about preparing for my presentation.  That was a little frustrating.  I was committed to being “on my game”.  I wanted to be a professional level presenter.  I’m invested in preparing to do my best.  The cards kept saying, “Give it up.  This is something you can’t prepare for.”

My time slot was unfortunate.  I presented early in the morning on the last day of the convention.  Most people are packing to check out or catching early flights.  The audience I was targeting are, as a rule, worn out by this point.  I had no idea what kind of crowd to expect and the cards were not helping.

However unhelpful, they were correct.  I had a small enough group that sitting down and having a discussion, a personal conversation, was much more appropriate than a presentation.  In that kind of setting my goal is always to address the specific needs of those present.  It’s not something you can prepare for.  You just have to know the material inside and out.  I do and I thought the workshop went really well.20160214_174214

I didn’t take a lot of photos.  I did get a lovely sashimi dinner one evening.  My roommate (who I met when I arrived) was fabulous and we had a pleasant evening together over dinner as well.  I sat in on conversations about accessibility for People of Color and for the Gender fluid community.  I actually went to one of the ritual presentations (something I’ve not had the energy for in previous years) and enjoyed myself.  I spent some time with old friends and made some new ones.

I still have to finish unpacking.  I need to sort through all the cards I picked up and find new contacts on Facebook.  I need to remember to check my email and gather all my receipts.  It’s less than a month until the next one.  At least I won’t have to change time zones!

Happy Imbolc

20160201_105835I’ve written several posts on this Sabbat in the past (links at the bottom).  It’s the time of year when we notice the days are getting longer.  Back before artificial light cows and hens stopped producing in the dark time of the year so it is a time to celebrate the return of eggs and milk.  Many animals are at the “birthing” time in their cycle.  It’s a good time to start things.

For many people who make New Years Resolutions it’s the time to recognize failure.   This is why I don’t do New Years Resolutions any more. Who needs to beat themselves up?  Not me!  But it is a good time for me to recognize where I need to get “back on track”.20160201_110101

Sunshine and winter thaw is a good motivator.   But I’ve got an even better one.  My copies of Pagan Leadership Anthology: An Exploration of Leadership and Community in Paganism and Polytheism  came in the mail!

This anthology, edited by Shauna Aura Knight and Taylor Ellwood and published by Immanion Press, includes a piece I wrote.   That’s where I need to get “back on track”.   I’ve kept up with the blog, but have been actively avoiding other writing – for no good reason.

Getting the books in the mail reminds me “I am a writer!”   I have authored 2 books  (Manifest Divinity and When Gods Come Knocking) and have published works in 3 anthologies (Pagan Leadership, Bringing Race to the Table, and Rooted in the Body Seeking the Soul).   Writers Write!book_when_gods_come_knocking_small-1 Manifest Divinity Front Cover hi res

The season marks the time to get back into the daily practice of writing.  For me, I find that it helps to set aside a particular amount of time I MUST write each day (with an eye to when I might squeeze that in).   The amount of time can be minuscule.  10 min, 20 min, an hour, how much doesn’t matter.   I need to sit down and do it.  Once I start I’ll write until I’m done, sometimes all day.  It’s the getting started where I need help.bringing race to the tableRooted in the Body

This time of year is the “housekeeping” time of year.   What have you been avoiding that really needs to be done?   Just do it.   Think of it as preparing the way for spring.

https://lisaspiral.wordpress.com/2015/02/02/hope-2/

https://lisaspiral.wordpress.com/2014/01/27/stir-crazy/

https://lisaspiral.wordpress.com/2013/01/30/bonus-blog/

https://lisaspiral.wordpress.com/2012/01/30/light/

 

Making Memories

"Christmas" this weekend with my parents

“Christmas” this weekend with my parents

My parents are 80 years old.  My Mom had her birthday last month and my Dad is this spring.  It is becoming more and more apparent I won’t have them around forever and so the time I spend with them becomes precious.

My blogging buddy Andra Watkins speaks about the importance of making memories.   She walked the Natchez Trace with her Dad, and then wrote a book about her experience:  Not Without My Father.  She’s got a twitter feed at #makeamemory where people share their stories."Christmas" with my parents

When we asked my Mom what she wanted for her 80th birthday she said she wanted to go out with just her girls.  This isn’t as simple as it sounds.  There are schedules to shuffle, kids to arrange for, and some history of unpleasantness between us.    But it’s what she wanted, so I got on the phone.

We kept it a secret until Mom’s actual birthday.  Then my middle sister (the one who lives closest) gave her a card with an “invitation” inside.  Lunch with your daughters, January 2nd.  She was SO excited!  We didn’t “do Christmas” until just this past weekend so it was nice for her to have something to carry her through the actual holiday.

Even on the day we had a few minor scheduling issues.  I volunteered to pick up my little sister and forgot she’s outside of the GPS maps so we were a little late arriving.   My middle sister was babysitting and needed to drop off her Grandson “on the way”.   She was driving Mom, who also wanted to stop and pick up a few groceries.

Drinks first, then a LOT of food!

Drinks first, then a LOT of food!

In the end we all made it to lunch.  The waitress snapped a photo to prove it.  It was a pleasant leisurely afternoon.   We sat and ate and chit-chatted about nothing important.  We kept it all light and friendly.

My Mom was thrilled.  She still talks about how wonderful it was for us to do that for her.  She says finally, for the first time in her life, she got exactly what she wanted for her birthday.  We made her a memory.

For me, it’s not the lunch that’s the memory.  It’s being able to make my Mother so happy, with such a simple thing.  Aging is hard for her.  She struggles to continue to be relevant, to be heard, to participate and she does better than she thinks.  But this day, for her birthday lunch, she could be the center of attention, “the Mom”, and not have to work at all.

Priceless

Baby it’s Cold Outside

January morning out the back door

January morning out the back door

It’s finally starting to feel like winter.  We’ve had enough snow to cover the ground and temperatures are falling.  In Minnesota we are known for being the “frozen North”  but most of December our temperatures remained above freezing.   This is nice in theory.

The warmer temperatures did make getting out and about a little easier.  Navigating sidewalks wasn’t a problem as there was no build up of snow.  On street parking was available and none of the commercial spaces need to use their handicapped parking spots as the “logical” place to pile the snow shoveled off the lot.

On the other hand, there was no White Christmas.  The magic of the season, the lights the sounds, are all shifted when there is a crispness in the air and snow on the ground.  Instead of clear starry nights we had clouds and sleet.  Many people I spoke with were having a hard time finding the spirit of the season, and I blame that on the weather.

The snow cover protects our plants in the frigid cold that January often brings.  Because most of our precipitation has been rain, that snowy blanket isn’t as effective.  We can hope that we will continue to remain warmer this season, but there is a difference between climate and weather.

The climate is shifting.  The lines for gardening zones have moved quite notably in my lifetime.  But in any given year we can see any kind of weather.  I complain that the forecasts often compare our temperatures to the “average”.  Here that is meaningless.

When temperatures on any given day from the highest high to the lowest low range anywhere from 40-80 degrees what’s 5 or 10 degrees above or below “average”?   I suspect there are days when the “average” high or low is a temperature than doesn’t exist in the historical listing for highs and lows on those days.

This chart from KORD shows how broad our extremes can be and how "normal" doesn't look much like what actually happens.

This chart from KORD shows how broad our extremes can be and how “normal” doesn’t look much like what actually happens.

January often sees days below zero.  It is not uncommon to see weeks where temperatures never rise above zero.  We’ve had three-week stretches of unrelenting, bone chilling weather.  Finally we’ve dropped the temperature to a point where maybe we can remember what winter is really like.

I’m not the only one blogging about the weather this week.  If you want a warmer POV check out Monica’s Tangled Web.

Time Paradox

20151207_094624We live in a world where time is measured with precision to the second.  Even so, our experience of time seems much more subjective.  In this season when the nights are long and dark there is a natural slowing down.  In this season when the holiday rush is upon us there seems to be an imposed speeding up.  Maybe it’s this juxtaposition that has me struggling to make a schedule, stay on track and get anything accomplished.

I love the nights at this time of year, especially when there is snow on the ground muffling the sounds.  There is a peacefulness that descends with nightfall.  Lighting a fire in the fireplace and wrapping up in a warm blanket, hot drink in hand is clearly what’s called for on evenings like this.  I look at my “to do” list and think that all I really want is to curl up with a good book.0106141015

I have shopping to do.  Of course there is holiday shopping, but there is also the every day kind of shopping that is somehow more complicated this time of year.  Even the grocery store seems more crowded, parking is harder to find and stopping in anywhere requires shopping to a soundtrack of carols.  Getting anything seems to take forever.  In addition to these complications are my allergies.

Thankfully I’m not allergic to pine, as are several of my friends.  They come out of the stores stuffy and sneezy and it doesn’t let up until January.  My allergy is cinnamon, and it’s bad.  Even the scent of cinnamon will puff up my face and start my tongue swelling, my throat closing.  At least it’s easy to identify and I can usually walk away.  But the grocery stores have started stocking cinnamon brooms and cinnamon scented pine cones!

SO many good spices that aren't cinnamon!

SO many good spices that aren’t cinnamon!

Maybe if I should start exploring grocery delivery.  Then I could stay home curled in my blanket while the delivery drivers did my shopping.   But I don’t want to return to the days when I couldn’t do anything.  I enjoy being able to be out and about (and carry my 1 grocery bag to the car rather than going to drive-through).  I have the energy to spend browsing the shelves for gifts.  I just don’t have the time.

Hope

The thaw sometimes confuses the plants

The thaw sometimes confuses the plants

It is that time of year when it becomes really apparent that the days are getting longer, light is returning.  Groundhog’s day may be a big deal in some places, but here we are pretty well guaranteed another 6 weeks of winter.   Usually we see a “midwinter thaw” around this time of year.  With climate change it seems that thaw is coming earlier.  Much of our snow cover melted a few weeks ago with temps in the 40’s.  Now it’s cold again.

I’ve written blogs in previous years about the light and about seasonal celebrations.   I’ve written about our long winters and how easy it is to get cabin fever.  What I haven’t written much about, at least not here, is hope.

This is a time of year when hope is in short supply.  Historically, stores are starting to deplete and some household rationing sets in.  In the natural world food is scarce.  It is not uncommon to see herd die off in this late winter season, before the new shoots sprout.  Likewise, in a harsh year predators will struggle to find enough calories to continue to hunt.

Hens start laying again with the return of the light.  Some of us think of this as the dairy fat, fish and smoked meat sabbat.

Hens start laying again with the return of the light. Some of us think of this as the dairy fat, fish and smoked meat sabbat.

In the British Isles and in the Southern and Eastern United States this marks the time of year when there are signs that spring will come again.  Siberian squill, crocus, magnolia – the early bloomers are sprouting.   None of these first blossoms are food plants.  They are precursors.  Signs of hope.

In an interfaith analogy I liken our northern climate Imbolc to the story of the rainbow after the flood.   There was no land in sight, but there is a promise of hope in the light.  It is a time to prepare, a time to invite hope in.  The cleaning that goes along with this time of year is a little like Field of Dreams.   “If you clean it, spring will come.”

There is a metaphor that circulates in the Sufi and the Buddhist communities about hearts breaking open.  The notion is that it takes experiencing true heartbreak to be open to compassion, to shared human experience.  If you’ve never felt it, you are not fully human.  Those breaks, those scars, become the windows in your heart and soul that allow the light of the sacred to shine through you.    By allowing the pain, and not resisting, you also allow the opening.

Spring will come again

Spring will come again

The midwinter thaw is like that for me.  The days are so dark and so cold and everything is frozen into ice.  And then the ice breaks, and the light seeps in and the warmth can begin to reach the waters.  It is a moment.  The ice will come again, just like heartbreak will come again.  But it is also an opening to hope, that after the ice there will also be spring.

It’s a good time to have that reminder of hope in the world.

New Year

When the year starts off in ways that are difficult or annoying I like to think of it as though I’m getting the “bad stuff” out-of-the-way up front so the rest of the year can go off without a hitch.   I don’t really have anything to complain about.  I’ve not lost a family member, or been diagnosed with a terminal illness.  There have been years like that, but this isn’t one of them.

This year has simply set off the desire to throw a huge pity party.  Old habits I suppose, but the new lifestyle doesn’t allow for eating to solve those emotional problems.  This of course frustrates me even more.  Maybe the stress of the holidays and making choices and being challenged by food (and cold!) has just caught up with me.  Or maybe I’ve just spent a little too much time being sociable with my ex.  (Family gatherings and all that.)

New years day – evening – put the final cramp in my style.  I’d been sitting most of the day.  Too tired to move and too stupid to take a nap.  When bedtime finally came around (or rather when my ex finally came by to bring Orion home, and left) I stood up.   Then I walked around the house going “shit, shit, shit, shit……”

Looking good, but a little run down.  Is that right calf a little swollen even before Christmas?

Looking good, but a little run down. Is that right calf a little swollen even before Christmas?

I’ve had a blood clot, a DVT, before.  20 some odd years ago, in that same leg, as a result of my colon cancer.   With the calf swollen to the point the skin was tight (and I’ve got plenty of excess skin these days) and pain to stand or walk it sure looked and felt familiar.    I also knew that at that time, on that day, with the ex just out the door and Orion looking forward to going back to his day program in the morning it was pointless to do much that night.

I walked around a little more.  I packed a bag, knowing that a day in the ER was a distinct possibility and that being admitted, though less likely, wasn’t out of the question.  I brought my phone into the bedroom (because if I wasn’t going to be able to walk in the morning I needed to be able to get to a phone.)  I elevated the leg and tried to sleep.

The risks that come with a clot are a little lower for me than for most.  Because I had one, and still needed the surgery to remove the cancer, they installed a device designed to keep clots from traveling through the main vein into my heart and lungs.  It’s not the sort of thing you can have removed – I’ve asked.  Elevating the leg did seem to help, it wasn’t quite as swollen in the morning.

None-the-less I am starting off the new year with a “medical complication” and a whole bunch of new meds.  I have just doubled the number of doctors appointments I need to have in the next few weeks.  I have reduced mobility (just when I was enjoying being able to get around more!) because it still hurts to walk and stand.  It’s also bad to just sit so there’s a lot of up and down.

Maybe this is just a little wake up call to remember to continue to pay attention.  It’s a reminder to stay active and not fall back into old habits.   It’s getting all the bad stuff out-of-the-way at the beginning of the year so that the rest of the year can go swimmingly.   When you start from here the rest of the year is likely to go up!

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