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Blessings

The sun is shinning!

The sun is shinning!

As I come into 2014 I recognize that I have a lot on my plate.  There are new adjustments to make in terms of income and diet and services for Orion and taking care of my own health.  I have some big stressors and some exciting opportunities.  It’s easy to become overwhelmed.  When I start to feel this way I’ve learned that the best answer is to shift my point of view.  Instead of listing the “to do” and getting bogged down I find it’s more productive to count my blessings.

1. HEAT   It’s -25F  outside this morning.  There’s also a wind, so the speed at which frostbite happens is equivalent to a temperature closer to -40F.  (THAT’s what wind chill is for those of you who’ve heard the term but never experienced the sensation.)  Last week I woke up one morning to a house that was less than comfortable.  My furnace had gone out.

The fire is warm

The fire is warm

I have a fireplace so I managed to keep the temperatures stable if chilly (55F) until the gas company could come out and fix it.  I called at 830am, they arrived at about 630pm.  I didn’t get my errands run, but I do have a working furnace.  There are plenty of people who don’t and I’m grateful.

2. FAMILY My Aunt Donna died this fall and my Uncle Ronnie died just last week.  Both of them had struggled for years with the diseases that would ultimately take them.

Mom and Dad

Mom and Dad

I am incredibly fortunate to still have both of my parents.  Certainly they are aging, but they still manage to participate in their community, entertain friends and support me in innumerable ways.  I treasure every moment I get with them.

My kids are a joy.  I even like it when they grumble at me.  I’m proud to watch As they work to establish their own lives and it’s nice to know I am still a touchstone on bad days.

My sister, the one who hosted Christmas, is so open-hearted, generous and patient it humbles me.  I am blessed by the fact that family is important to her and that she’s willing to work to maintain traditions.  She’s passed those values on to her children.  Even the sister I don’t see much would show up if the situation was dire enough.  Family you can count on is a rare gift and I’m grateful.

extended family

extended family

3. FRIENDS We got to get together with my kids’ “other mother” last week.  Because of Orion’s special needs he had personal care attendants growing up.  When Kauser came into our lives she was new to the country, but she took us all under her wing.  Her oldest is the same age as Orion and they became “best buds”.  We were pregnant together with our seconds.  She went on to have a third.

When Kauser started with us Orion was 3 and over the years had my kids both on and off the clock.  Because of changes in the income stream, and her other job responsibilities everything changed when Orion became an adult.  We still keep in touch, but the day-to-day has slipped away.  Her kids are all away at college and her husband is working out-of-state.

Seeing her and her eldest this week was like coming home.  We picked up right where we left off and spent a long lunch catching up.  This family would do anything for me and my kids.  Friends like that are hard to come by and I’m grateful.

4. FRIENDS I have several clusters of close friends:  my circle, my women’s group, my business support group.  All of these (mostly women) people have supported me in various ways throughout the years.  The women’s group has been a place to explore and expand spiritually and when hard times come they are an emotional support that is invaluable.  The business group is the reason I managed to write my book and dared to see it published.

My circle includes the members of my coven and those friends who identify as Pagan who have supported me in the larger community.  I am not a strong self-promoter and it is these people who know my teaching and presentation style who have helped me make connections stronger and broader than I ever could have on my own.  I am grateful.

Community altar from Earth Conclave

Community altar from Earth Conclave

5. FRIENDS You didn’t think I’d forget you did you?  If you’ve read to this point you are indeed a friend to my blog and therefore to me.  I write for myself, but it is the support and encouragement of you, my readers, that keep me plugging away.  It’s the sharing that makes it delicious, savory, and fulfilling and I couldn’t have that without you.  Thank you so very much.

There is much more to be grateful for.  There are so many more blessing in my life, too many to count.  I am surrounded by generosity and support and warmth.  That’s a good way to start the year, and also helpful on a cold Monday morning.  May 2014 be filled with an abundance of blessing for us all.  And may we remember to stop and count them every now and again.

BB

Holidays

The Yule log is ready to light.

The Yule log is ready to light.

Here I am smack in the middle of holiday celebrations.  The solstice last weekend rang in a whirlwind of festivities.  I took a small part in a public Yule ritual put on by Harmony Tribe.

What's a Yule without flying reindeer?

What’s a Yule without flying reindeer?

This was an afternoon event and very kid friendly.  I think there were almost as many children present as adults.  There was storytelling about the traditions of the holiday, including flying reindeer.  It was a short and simple ritual with lots of laughter and singing.  I like the public events for the post ritual food.  It’s an opportunity to catch up with folks I don’t see regularly.   Lots of hugs and sharing.

That same evening the small coven I belong to gathered for their Solstice Rite.  The Deities we were working with are travelers, migratory and so the space was filled with carpets and pillows to make a wayside rest, a caravanserai.  The God in particular has a role as guardian for the shamans.   Think about the neolithic caves, the walls painted with stories of shamanic travels.   This God sits before the cave entrance to guard and protect those who enter to journey.  So we started the rite with drumming and guided meditation seeking help to fulfill our visions for the coming year.

Our altar set in the center of the Caravanserai.

Our altar set in the center of the Caravanserai.

Feasting is a big deal in our group and we did well this year.  We had smoked salmon and apples and hard cheese and fig whip.  We had pork roast and venison with gravy.  We had brussel sprouts and garden salad and wild rice.  Desert included baklava, stollen, and sugar cookies with a poppy-seed frosting.  Since I can’t find the cord that lets my camera talk to my computer I didn’t take many photos.  I’m not nearly as good with the camera on my phone.  I promise I’ll try to do better along the way.

Sunday was another Solstice celebration.  This time with the community at Walker church.  I wrote about them when the old building burned in a fire.  The new church is built and just opened so we got to celebrate at the new hearth fire.   Solstice is the celebration of the returning light after the longest night of the year.  For this ritual start in darkness and light candles representing the blessings that have shone for us that they may light us into the new year.  It’s a pretty ritual and it was a delight to celebrate with this community in a beautiful new space.

Being one of those folks who values spirituality in whatever form it’s offered I still have Christmas celebrations to come.  There is cooking to do this week in anticipation of the holiday.  Next Monday’s blog will give you the play-by-play of my family’s Christmas “Chopped” challenge.  I even have plans for a pajama party for New Years eve!

Hope your holidays a full of love and laughter.  May your travels be smooth and safe.  May your holiday wishes come true.  I’ll light a candle in thanks for all the warm comments you’ve left over the year.  Thank you for reading!  Blessed Be.

Paganicon

Orion 'watching the coffee pot' and taking a break from welcoming folks to the suite.

Orion ‘watching the coffee pot’ and taking a break from welcoming folks to the suite.

Orion and I spent the weekend in a hotel room.   We were there as volunteers to keep things tidy, put out food, answer questions and talk to folks.  Actually we didn’t even stay at the hotel, just spend long hours hosting the hospitality suite  – the actual con suite -for Paganicon.

Our local Pagan Pride event has been going on for years in the Twin Cities (Paganistan) area.  They’ve held events that were like weekend psychic fairs or community meet and greets.  They’ve had Big rituals and small workshops.

A couple of years ago it became clear that Pagan Pride needed to serve two purposes.  First to be “out loud and proud” in the larger community.  That’s kind of tough when your event is holed up in an odd community building off the beaten path.  The second purpose was to provide an opportunity for those who’ve been long time members of the community to network and expand their own knowledge base.  To become an event that went beyond 101.

In 2009 Pagan Pride started doing a fall event with vendors, music and public rituals in an outdoor setting.  Pride at Minnehaha Falls is an event that the general public can see and participate (or not) along with the existing and exploring Pagan community.  It’s a great idea and a pleasant historical venue.  The “meeting place of waters” is appropriate for expanding awareness and acceptance.0315132223a

In 2010 Pagan Pride held its first Paganicon.  A hotel based convention loosely modeled on Pantheacon.  This is still a small convention but it has good buzz.  I haven’t gone in years past because of scheduling and money issues but I’ve certainly heard about it from the community at large.  The convention/fair model seems like an excellent expansion of Pagan Pride for this community.

I don’t know if I would have made it to the convention this year either.  Money is tight since I came back from California.  Orion is not too keen on sitting through the workshops I’m interested in, and he’s not quite independent enough to manage a convention on his own.  We come as a pair most of the time and for a weekend long event I certainly couldn’t afford to get away.  At the last minute the Pagan Pride committee discovered their regular “Suite Goddess” was swamped at work and were scrambling for someone to take her place.  It sounded like the perfect solution to my predicament so I signed us up.

"Push for Cheese"   What could go wrong?

“Push for Cheese” What could go wrong?

Someone asked me how I managed to deal with “missing” all the workshops and stuff.  Essentially ‘why would you do so much work when you don’t even get to go to the convention?’   My feeling was pretty much that the convention came to us.  Sometime during the weekend almost everyone attending made their way through the hospitality suite for a cup of coffee, or a snack or to sit for a minute and chat.

It’s not like we were all alone.  The roving volunteer crew – the “Flying Monkey Squad” – were available if we needed help lifting heavy things (like coffee urns).  Often they sat “on call” in our suite knowing that when they were needed this was where people would look.  If nothing else they swung by to get those fabulous capes to wear during their shift.

Two particularly gorgeous "Flying Monkeys"

Two particularly gorgeous “Flying Monkeys”

There were several times during the weekend when we were “standing room only.”  People would come in crowds talking about the workshop they’d just attended.  Or they’d sit for a minute before the vendor room or the ball opened up.  I did manage to stick my head into the vendor room (and immediately left lest I be tempted.)  I also got to wander through the art exhibition which was a new and delightful addition to this year’s convention.

Yet another opportunity for me to explore community and my relationship to it.  Again I got to meet new people and visit with old friends.  It was nice to have an opportunity to be of service to something I support and still reap the benefits of the social support of community.  I’m pretty sure Orion had a great time too.  Win/Win.

Solstice

The longest night of the year will be upon us on Wednesday.  I’m celebrating the night itself alone this year.  I’ll go outside in the dark and cold and light a candle to bring back the light.  I’ll spend some time in quiet contemplation and meditation under the stars.  I’ll enjoy the pause in the midst of a hectic holiday season.

I’ve already been to two Solstice celebrations.  Both of them were focused on remembering the community of support that surrounds each and every one of us.  I was also reminded that often times when I don’t feel like I belong or like I’m getting the support I need, it’s because of something I am or am not doing.

For instance, it’s very hard to feel a part of the community when the only time I leave the house is to go to the grocery store.  I get postings on facebook and in my email all the time about activities and gatherings going on.  There are book signings and pot lucks along with open invitations to parties and ritual celebrations.  If I don’t feel included, it’s probably because I don’t show up.  You need to be a part of a community to feel like a part of the community.

When I’m not feeling supported chances are I haven’t asked for help.  I don’t get drop in visitors, not just because I live in an inconvenient spot, but because I don’t really encourage them.  If I’m busy and don’t answer the phone and don’t return the calls people assume I’m not interested.  If I ask for help with a project and get referred to a company that can help, I have to count that as lending a hand.  If the one person I ask is the person I already know can’t do it who’s setting themselves up for failure?

I’ve learned that I don’t have enough respect for people taking care of themselves, including me taking care of myself.  I’ve learned that there are plenty of people willing and able to lend a hand, who offer, that I don’t ever call.  I’ve learned that please goes almost as far as thank you.  I’ve learned that any help counts as help, even if the whole job isn’t finished.  These are all problems with my perception and expectations.  They don’t actually reflect the world I live in.

So in my quiet and solitary celebration on the night of the Solstice I have quite a lot to meditate upon.  As the light returns to the world, I would like to find better ways to nurture my own light.  To truly welcome joy and friendship into my life.  To recognize and appreciate all the gifts that surround me.

Happy Solstice!

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