Sunday, May 31, 2009


please join me and my co-host, laura rose, for a discussion of SoulCollage, with our guest, Carla Kurt, a certified SoulCollage facilitator and creative-life coach on our show... Discovering Nature's Spirit this evening at 6 PM!

from Carla's pre-show interview:

"SoulCollage is a process by which you access your intuition and use expressive visual imagery to create a deck of collaged cards. It is for anyone who is interested in self-discovery and self-expression in a creative and non-competitive environment."

i hope that you will join us either on the air or in chat... or, hear us on archived shows if you can't make it!

thinking it through, with a nod to rose

liberally-minded people and conservatively-minded people don't just think differently about things, they FEEL differently too. according to a column i found this morning by nicholas krstof in the new york times, there's increasing evidence that the hardwiring of the brains is different.

this explains all sorts of behavior and beliefs, apparently, but in the political arena, its used to explain why it's so damn hard to make the opposing side see Reason - which is whatever your particularly-minded brain has decided is Reasonable, which partially depends on which way its wired.

according to the professor who did some of this research: "...the best way to open the mind is through the heart.”

he points to advances our gay brothers and sisters have made in terms of equal rights and explains that what's caused the shift is that increasing numbers of heterosexuals are recognizing the struggles of family members and friends.

thus, it's not reason that ultimately broadens our understanding, or enlarges our political landscape - it's love - just like rose said in her comment on my last post!! great minds (and hearts) truly do think alike! :)

and this is why i know the war WILL end. blessed be.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

mulling it over

about a month ago, i had an opportunity to experience what the good nuns of st augustine used to call an Occasion of Grace. last summer, a friend - someone i consider a dear friend - hurt me very much in a lightning stroke of a letter that left me feeling blindsided and bewildered.

when i heard from this friend last month, out of the blue, asking my forgiveness, offering an apology, i knew i had a choice. i could vent my anger at being mistreated, or, i could forgive her and welcome her back into my life.

i chose to do the latter. i accepted her apology with as much kindness as i could muster. i was proud of myself... i knew i had done the right thing.

i wish i'd known it was just a test for another, similar but far more insidious situation that's been building under my nose.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Friday, May 29, 2009

five things i've learned from watching wife swap

there's a few reality shows im ashamed to say im addicted to in a sort of peripheral kind of way. im willing to watch almost any episode of wife swap, trading spouses or supernanny.

i immediately understood my fascination with supernanny - i think jo's advice is spot-on in most instances. im sure she's not doing it all herself, but she seems to help a lot of parents and children and that can only be a good thing.

in terms of reality shows of a more competitive nature - i dont really care about competition, but i guess there's enough of the barbarian in me that i still enjoy a good metaphorical trainwreck.

like this evening's episode. the swap involves a cajun woman from louisiana and a ballerina from california, who fancies herself - among other things - as an art afficionado. (i really love that word. it impresses me no end i know how to spell it. i think i know how to spell it. i could be wrong.)

the cajun bride looks put-upon but the ballerina is coming off looking uptight and snooty and worst of all - hypocritical. but really... i can't see how she left the producers any choice. i knew it was all going to go badly for her when she announced - in voiceover - that she and her husband enjoy and appreciate (and i quote) "the finer things in life."

i don't think it was an accident that buddy chose that moment to howl.

so here, in no particular order of importance, are all the things i think i've learned from watching wife swap and trading spouses:

1. NEVER admit on national television - or anywhere in fact - that you enjoy "the finer things in life." we all like the finer things. we all just can't afford them all the time. and after all, people can differ on what they consider "fine:" there's a lot of things like whiskey and fast women - that truly are quite "fine," in their place.

2. envy is a useless emotion. the grass is not greener, anywhere, anyhow, for anyone.

3. openminded and adaptable people are not as much fun to watch as inflexible and neurotic people but are far easier to live with.

4. sometimes when you think you have something to teach, it means you have something to learn.

5. everyone is as crazy as everyone else, but in their own unique ways, and every family can at times appear completely insane when viewed from the outside.

i especially find the last one immensely reassuring.

busy busy

today and tomorrow promise to be busy. im going for a haircut, hopefully a walk or two if the weather allows. it's looking mopish this morning - the birch leaves are drooping at the same hang-dog angle as buddy's ears. i have a Writers' Circle meeting to plan, our radio show to prepare for. i hope any Gentle Readers who find themselves free on Sunday evening between 6 and 7 PM EDT will consider joining us for a discussion of a process called SoulCollage, which i find absolutely intriguing.

SoulCollage is a method of self-discovery which combines elements of the tarot, art therapy and collage, in which one's own unique deck of oracle cards are created. my friend, Carla Kurt of will be joining me and laura to talk about this fascinating work, and i hope you will too!

i invite you to check out the Eating... the Angel Way blog for a june rainbow challenge.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

i found this on stacie's blog: "high school reunion"

Name: Annie Kelleher
What year did you graduate?1976
Where do you live? a house in the country in CT
Married or Significant Other? Married
To who? Beloved
How long? 3 years
Kids? Yes, four girls, two boys, two dogs
Names? Katie, Ethan, Jamie, Elissa, Meg, Libby, Sam & Buddy
How old? 28, 25, 24, 22, 21, 16, ? & 5.
What were you like in highschool? Mad as a hatter
Are you different now? not in the least
If you could relive your highschool years, what would you do differently? I can't tell you that cause then you'd know what i did do ;).
Who do you still hang out with on a regular basis that you went to highschool with?no one - unless you count my brother LOL.
What did you PLAN to do after highschool? Go to college and become a writer
What did you ACTUALLY do after highschool? Went to college, got married, had kids, became a writer
What do you do now? i'm still a writer and now i talk to Angels
What are your future plans? see above
What are your interests? same as in high school
Will you go to your next highschool reunion? no f@#@$#@ing way

merry may

i guess if i had to pick one, may is my favorite month. i'm not quite sure why i feel this way about may - my birthday's in march. i didn't know ethan until i was 36 - long after i'd formed an attachment to may.

when i was little, may was the month associated with the Blessed Mother. i used to play may-day processions and crown my statue with may flowers while singing "immaculate mary." (yeah, i was a weird little kid.) i loved the Blessed Mother and may was the month it was okay to talk about it.

may's also the month that school starts to wrap up... i used to like that about may too, when i was little. it was the month i started to see the light at the end of the long dark tunnel that was school.

it's the month of lilacs and phlox, of columbines and sweet william. around here, its the month the bad manure smell fades away like winter's ice. but it's not just the greening and the scents, the bird calling and the bear-sightings.

now that i am older, i think it's that may feels like the month most ripe with summer's promise. the next three months sprawl in empty blocks across the pages of my calendar, as grand as the view of the atlantic ocean off the boardwalk in ocean city. what the horizon offers in terms of space, may - at least in the beginning of the month - offers me in terms of time.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

save the elephants - a plea for those with magickal power anywhere

a letter from deena metzger, forwarded to me this morning, on behalf of Save the Elephants. her letter refers to a series of photos i have chosen not to publish:

I saw these photos and had a major dream – a mandate with instructions from spirit. I have been trying to distribute the dream but also to live according to its instructions. Be cautious as you open the photos. I have turned the Buddha fountain that is the focus of our summer water circles (in lieu of fire circles) into an altar for the elephants. But we have to save all the creatures. By this dream, spirit says we can.
I saw the attached photos on the night of May 24th 2009. I had just closed the book I was reading, Bird of Life; Bird of Death by Jonathan Evan Maslow because I could not bear the pain of it. At the beginning of the book, Maslow who is pursuing the rare Resplendent Quetzal in Guatemala during the maniacal regime of the evangelist Rios Montt, is photographing vultures at the Guatemala City dump: “The dogs get the short end of it. The brazen vultures had little trouble driving the dogs away from their finds, and the men, too, picked up any handy stick or rock and lit into the cringing canines. One man went after a dog wiht his belt, and administered such a savage whipping that the howling mongrel stumbled, then keeled over. Then the man grabbed a stone and bashed the dog’s brains in.” P. 39.

Close book. Pick up the email. Open the images despite the cautionary statement that accompanies the photographs. I had been teaching a writing intensive and was exhausted, also raw and heartbroken from the beauty and devotion of the writers I had been with for the last week.

I studied only the first photo of the desert elephants before being overwhelmed by grief and anguish for the elephants and every creature on the planet. I remember such grief from the year I spent reading holocaust literature of all kinds in preparation for a pilgrimage to the Death Camps of Central Europe. The Other Hand, [Red Hen Press] on the two koans of the twentieth century, the Bomb and the Death Camps, was the result of that journey. It took me ten years to write. Sometimes the grief is so great, one must pause not to become numb, before going on.

Close the book. Close the computer. Pained beyond language, I prayed for a dream that would show us a path out of the horror we have created. I prayed for a dream that might show the way to restoration. I prayed for a dream though I have never, as I recall, ever received a dream in answer to such a request.
This is the dream that came at 8:45 on May 25, 2009:

I have put out a call to gather those who carry sacred and magical powers. I have no name for them in the dream though when I want to write shamans I know it is not the correct word. It is not sufficiently inclusive. The people are coming together in a rectangular room that will allow each of us enough space to sit in an ellipse much like the loft room where we gather for the Intensive in Pine Mountain. This room, however, is entirely empty of furniture.

I have some trepidations as I am not certain I can make clear the beautiful importance of this gathering.

There is a little clutch of women at one end who know each other. They have been doing political work together for years. They gather in conversation in a tight circle that feels familiar if exclusive.

One of the women asks me if this is the way I imagined our sitting together and it is not. I had seen us spread out on cloths, kangas, lappas, the like, with our ritual items around us prepared to do ceremony. She asks me if I have a microphone. Yes, I can get one, I answer although convinced that a microphone that one has to pass and hold is inappropriate as it will interfere with the ambiance we are called to create. If we don’t use a microphone, we will have to listen deeply and project our voices to be certain that everyone hears. Without a microphone, the conversations can be more intimate and spontaneous.

We are failing to gather in the way that meets the call. We are losing the energy of what we might accomplish, of what promises a new sensibility necessary for this time. I had imagined we would form ourselves into a sacred community composed of individuals who carry magical and spiritual powers. We would devote ourselves to supporting public activities on behalf of healing the earth, peacebuilding and restoration. The thesis of the gathering is that an alliance of political, spiritual and ritual activity has the best chance of success. [Writing this now I remember that such collaboration between Native American elders, medicine people and younger Native American activists has recently, in some cases, turned years of failure to achieve their goals into success.

I am rehearsing the words that I will speak to inspire the participants. Unable, in the dream, to remember an example of a partnership that reflects the work and way of life I am envisioning, I refer to Thich Nhat Hanh. I, the dreamer, am uncertain whether he was the spiritual support for a cause or whether spiritual people did ceremony to support his work. The point is that this gathering of those who are trained and initiated and truly have spiritual powers is a call for on-going ritual and ceremonial work in support of more pragmatic social, political and environmental activities.. In the dream, I am thinking of the plight of the elephants, polar bears, wolves, of pollution of the earth, air and the waters, of global warming and its consequences. Of people driven to violence, brutality and cruelty.

In order to please the women who want the microphone, though they are insisting on the old political school through which they have attained a modicum of influence, I set off at a run down the steep streets to First Street where the microphone is. But the street is further away than I remember and I soon recognize that it will take too long a time to retrieve it. I turn around and return with the intent of realizing the original vision, which is different from how we normally do things, and so derives new content from its new form.

When I return, I try to begin our meeting, but everyone is distracted and I don’t know how to gather them together. A younger dark skinned woman with dark hair lying on a low couch or mattress, raises herself on her forearms and begins singing a chant in a foreign language, a Balkan song perhaps. It reminds me of a song I heard during the retreat in response to a story of war that referenced Georgian music. The young woman’s voice is deep and resonant and the song gathers us to attention and creates the field in which our mandate, for it is a mandate, can be articulated.

As I write the dream, I am aware that this call is not a suggestion but is spiritual instruction that can help accomplish our deepest hopes for the future if we make these activities the very core of our daily lives. This is the labor that calls to each of us even as it entirely transforms and refocuses our definition of work. It is not that we are called to do this work together in a group but that we are each, in the way we are trained, called to it as our primary activity while the same is true for everyone else. Each of us devoted and alongside each other. The very definition of work and making a living is altered by the requirement to put ritual activity and prayer first before our work, before our personal concerns and lives.
Writing the dream has the quality of articulating the call that I was to speak and make known in the dream. Might the telling of the dream be the calling of the circle?
This was, it seems, spirit’s answer to my prayer to be shown ways to end the horror.
In order to know how to meet the dream mandate, I cast the oracle:

The I Ching: Hexagram 49 Skinning – Context Hexagram 30 Radiance

Skinning: Strip away the old. Let the new life emerge. …It focuses on ritual transformations that occur as the wu, the technicians of the sacred, put on the animal mask to call the spirits and change the time. … Perhaps the most dramatic and secret of these rituals are the dances and ceremonies that lead up to melting the metals to cast a new vessel. … The Vessel is a ruling image, a sort of grail that establishes the time and the connections to all the various spirits. The time of Skinning is great indeed. It is a time when the basic images of our lives go into flux and renewal. … Radically change and renew the way things are presented. Eliminate what has grown old and useless so that the new can be seen. … Great people change and renew the Mandate of heaven.
9 at 5th The Great Person makes a tiger transformation. Even before the omens are cast, he is connected to the spirits. This is transformation at the core of your being. Take a quantum leap.
6 above. The Nobel One makes a leopard transformation. Change your life with grace and elegance. This is a transformation that can realize things and ground change in the life around you. … Give people a common purpose.

Radiance: Radiance is the Bright Presence of things … a part of the Axis of Change. Awareness and coherence. Illuminate, articulate, discriminate, make things conscious. Bring together what belongs together. This is a time of intelligent effort and accumulating awareness. … You have fallen and found bottom. Not the time calls for bring things together. Radiance shines above you. Connect your idea with the brightness and use it again and again to spread clarity and care to the Four Corners of the world. Radiance means connecting and illuminating. …This is how change occurs in the world.

When I asked the Shining Tribe how to meet the mandate on behalf of the Desert Elephants, I was given 4 of Stones: "To look at this card is to look backwards into time, from our own modern culture through the ancient temple and then through the prehistoric opening to the light of the Spirits. ... Despite the openings to other realities we are solidly in the world of mater here, of earth.”

Dreamer and Shaman Valerie Wolf suggested that we meet the mandate by beginning with ritual prayer and ceremony -- whatever our spiritual powers and gifts might be ...on behalf of these thirsty, threatened beings....

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why im coming back as a dog ...

sam and buddy sleeping off breakfast. note the toy between buddy's paws.

debts and other perceptions

my dear sister-in-spirit, laura rose posted an interesting message from Spirit yesterday on her blog, suggesting an upside-down look at whatever you might be presently perceiving as a negative. instead of being upset over the amount of debt you have, for example, you might try being happy about it.

hm, i thought to myself. Angels, i'm not sure i understand this. isn't this just calling a sow's ear a silk purse?

i happened to be weeding at the time.

Annie, i heard Them say, how do you feel about the weeds?

well, i replied, not so great. i've been out here almost a whole hour and i've managed to clear a plot the size of the kitchen table. at the rate im weeding and the weeds are growing, i'll be weeding from now til doomsday and i'll never be done.

you could try, They gently pointed out, being grateful for the weeds.

grateful for the weeds, i wondered. how do i do that?

in that instant, i understood exactly how. i could try being grateful i had land to pull weeds out of. i could try being grateful for the lush fertility of that land, of the bounty She so generously spills forth. i could try being grateful that i have so much time available to me that i can revel in being out of doors on one of the most gorgeous days ever created for as long as i please, and to the weeds for providing the purpose to keep me out. the longer i looked around, the more i saw to be grateful for.

i went inside feeling considerably humble and grateful for the weeds.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

busted... twice

a new book by the new york times' economics reporter edmund andrews reveals how even smart people who should've known better got sucked into the financial mess. BUSTED is the story of how andrews, even in the process of covering the economic meltdown from a journalist's point-of-view, allowed his heart and his doinky to get in the way of his wallet and his common sense.

it's a tale all too commonly told but not as well or as intelligently documented. however, how this could've happened is revealed in andrews' answer to a question asked by another journalist, in an interview i happened to read online this morning.

it's sad and it's funny and it's pathetic, all at the same time, and it reveals in the most telling way EXACTLY how this family found itself in the mess it's in. the lessons that this question and answer contain speak to the very heart of what needs to be addressed about our society in order to really bring about true change.

so here's the question (emphasis mine) which was part of an article by Tom Barlow, posted this morning on

Q: How do you imagine your marriage would have fared if you had lived within your means from the onset?

A: I've asked myself that question many times. The toll this took on both of us, and on our marriage, was horrific. But there was one major benefit in all the madness: the house and neighborhood provided an anchor of stability for our children at a time of enormous stress for them. They loved the neighborhood and made really good friends here. They're happy and well-grounded. That is a huge deal for us as husband and wife.

i've never met mister and mrs andrews. i've never met their kids. but i can tell you right now as sure as the sun came up in the east this morning and its heading into the west tonight that if this man really believes was he says about his kids, he's smoking something stronger than i ever have. his kids are NOT well-grounded, or happy, or thrilled about having the most intimate details of their parent's f^#$-ups revealed. anyone who would stay in a neighborhood so his kids could have "really good friends" DOESN'T have his priorities in order and doesn't understand what kids REALLY need from their parents.

it'd be hysterical, if it weren't so freaking sad.

oh, what a beautiful morning

there are many beautiful places on this earth and this morning, right here, is surely one of them. this is the view looking to the right from my front door... the path leads down to the herb beds. along the path i grow motherwort, mugwort, sweet annie, betony and anise...along with a wildflower called indian paintbrush.

this is my pink-and-blue garden... the phlox just finished blooming...but the sage is in full form. you can see the echinacea leaves poking up on the one side.

here's where the fairies live...can you see the entrance to the Hall of the Fairie Queen?

say hi to the pansies... can you see the faces?

and the zen garden...that Beloved just finished weeding and resanding yesterday...

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Monday, May 25, 2009

back from the bash, but alas...

not the beach.

we didn't make it to the beach, because it thundered and threatened and even tornados were predicted.

instead we made vessels and laughed and ate and cried and drank. (i stuck to water - i had a long drive.) my friend is a gracious, charming hostess (she did not pay me to write that) and her friends are delightful, intelligent, thoughtful, caring women in whose company i felt honored to be included.

im tired today, but it looks like a good day to be tired... the sky is soft and gray as worn flannel. i changed the sheets yesterday, and my fresh bed beckons. i won't see meg and libby yet for hours. the puppies are snoring in perfect counterpoint to each other, even sighing in synchrony. the bullfrogs bellow and burp. Beloved is romping through PimpWorld like the Joker on crack-cocaine.

for right now, here, in this little corner of the world, as robert burns put it, "god's in his heaven, all's right with the world."

today i'm reminded that such peace has only come at great cost, and i am grateful to all those who have made it - and continue to make it - possible. i understand that the peace and freedom my family and friends and i all enjoy is not, at least under our present conditions, free. may these sacrifices ultimately be for the good of all beings, without exception.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

hot flash bash

every time i say this i have a vision of Beloved cavorting in his bathing suit around an open air hot-tub at a hotel we stayed in in key west, doing his best impression of james brown's "hot-tub dance." im happy to say he won himself some anonymous applause.

i may find myself similarly cavorting around a beach fire this evening, at a friend's "hot flash bash" - she's officially entered menopause and she's getting a bunch of her girlfriends together to celebrate.

what's making this doubly-different is that i will co-hosting our blogtalkradio show from her house on the connecticut shore - a place, believe it or not, in all my years in connecticut, i've never been. i hope all my Gentle Readers will tune in to join us for a discussion of Manifesting - How to Make It All Real... 6 - 7 PM eastern daylight time on Discovering Nature's Spirit.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

summer rain

i love the sound of summer rain. it woke me early, a steady drumbeat on the rhododendron leaves, punctuated by trills and chirps. Beloved and i are looking forward to a three-day weekend.

the girls are going to a coldplay concert tonight with brad and kate - leaving baby jake in the care of my son, uncle jamie. i don't think he's ever had sole charge of his nephew for any length of time and baby jake is squarely in terrible-two country. im thinking i should probably stay close to a phone.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Friday, May 22, 2009

technical difficulties AGAIN!

i believe this time it's blogger's fault - when i try to open blogs, including my own, internet explorer keeps aborting the operation and shutting them down. id love to read and comment cause i see you all wrote some fun stuff... but i can't :(! so im thinking of you all and will catch up when i can!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

rolling with the punches

i heard from my agent regarding the partial submission i sent in last january and she was lukewarm, but honest, at best. it's okay because for right now, i want to focus on the Angel proposal, and if she'd been positive, i may have been attractively distracted. aren't the Angels good to keep me on task?

we have a few tweaks to make to the proposal, and there's a chapter to be written, and an introduction to be edited, but for the most part, we are in good shape. i think we're going to meet our self-imposed deadline of june 20... the first day of summer seems like a good karma day.

as i've been lying on the couch staring up at the ceiling, babying my neck, i am reminded that every obstacle, every set-back, every challenge isn't meant to stop us... its there to show us how much we really want something.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

chick chat - confessions of a write-brained mommy

1. when im writing, i tell my children not to bother me unless there's blood involved.

2. even when there's blood involved, i have been known to make a child walk around the house to come in the front door because i didn't want him dripping blood on my freshly scrubbed kitchen floor.

3. i'm a sucker for buying books so my kids learned early that while i more often than not said no to candy or toys, if they asked for some sort of reading material, i always said yes.

4. i don't believe in censorship, and i think violence is far worse an influence on anyone than sex, so i've always let my kids watch any movie or read any book they wanted. this has led to some interesting situations with other parents. for example, when my middle daughter was four, her favorite movie was pretty woman. "annie," said a concerned friend of mine at the time, "aren't you a little worried about your four year old daughter prancing aorund in your black boots pretending to be a prostitute?" i remember i blinked and said, "but isn't everyone, to some extent?" and on a side note, if my parents are quietly embarrassed, my children find it appalling i write sex scenes.

5. when i find pictures of my children in comprising positions i laugh and put them back.

6. when i was a single mother, at the end of particularly long and grueling days, i'd take them out for ice cream sundaes for dinner. :)

and that's probably enough for most of you to know.

more from Ask Annie

Question: I've finished my manuscript, I've gotten feedback and polished it until I'm sure it shines. I know i want to submit it for publication, but I have no idea how. Now what? What do I do next?

Answer: Hopefully, along the way, you've begun to attend writers' conferences, lectures or book signings at bookstores and libraries and maybe even joined a writers' group or two. As in any other profession, it helps to network. You never know who the person sitting next to you knows, either, so be nice to everyone.

One of the first places I'd go to find out how and to whom to submit my work is to writing magazines and books on writing and publishing. Bookstores, libraries and even online communities have great advice on what proper manuscript format looks like, and directories where you can find out who is acquiring what and in what format they'd like to receive it.

Depending on what you've written and to whom you want to submit it to, you may or may not need an agent. Children's literature and short fiction, for example, are traditionally not handled by many agents. And, in this brave new world of Internet communities, you may decide to that a non-traditional route - e-publishing or Print-on-Demand - may be right for you.

So keep an open mind, ask a lot of questions and never take "no" for a final answer. Happy writing!.... annie

from Sited & Blogged's Ask Annie column

Question: I realize that scenes of dialogue and action are the key to moving the plot along and developing the characters. But how do I handle dialogue? I'm afraid mine sometimes sounds almost too natural, and the rest of the time, I'm afraid it sounds stilted and artificial.

Answer: Dialogue can be tricky, because it IS artificial. It's not real speech, any more than your characters are "real" human beings in the flesh and blood sense. Dialogue, as already noted, is a technique used in drama and fiction to move the plot along and to reveal character. Because it's a technique, it's something all writers can learn how to do effectively.

For each scene, as much as you are able, decide who knows what, who wants to know what and who needs to know what. Decide if there's someone who's deliberately withholding information, or if a character is lying. Think about who has the most to lose in any given scene, because that's the point of view that's usually the most compelling. Write all the information down if you must - I like to keep a legal pad beside me as I type so I can jot down things I need to remember. Post-it notes are great too, but be careful not to lose them :). Create or edit your scene with all this information in mind. Don't worry about the dialogue, just get the characters talking to each other.

Then comes one of the best parts of writing - for me, anyway. Read your dialogue aloud. The key to effective dialogue is how it sounds. Remember that it's not real speech - it's mimicking speech. You'll leave out all the ums and ahs and a lot of the social interaction stuff we spend a lot of time doing.

Dialogue is different from speech because it has a purpose other than simply communication or connection. It's an integral part of the story. But the best dialogue "sounds" right. It gives the characters unique and distinct voices. It allows the reader to "hear." So shut your door, close your windows, warn your kids that they might hear you talking to yourself and answering yourself, maybe even in three or four different voices. Effective dialogue is a subtle combination of information and sound.

Happy writing... Annie

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

dreaming of Bear*

in response to my last post, a friend of mine mentioned a recurring dream she's had of being attacked by a Bear. Bear is a very powerful symbol in native american spiritual beliefs. i first encountered Bear when i delved into shamanic work a few years ago, and realized that not only was Bear one of my "power animals," it was the first power animal to have come to me, and it came as a gift of my great-grandmother. to be "attacked" by a Bear in a dream feels very significant to me.

a few years ago, i had a dream that i was standing in my living room overlooking the ponds. it was early morning, and the television was on, as always, but the channel wasn't tuned to the financial channel - it was a show about a tree, a huge tree with an extremely thick trunk and many thick branches.

i was looking outside and looking at the television and trying to pay attention to both, when i noticed a young, native american woman in a beautiful white leather dress with beads and fringe standing by the side of the pond. "look," i said to Beloved, who was in the background somewhere, "that's White Buffalo Maiden - let's go join her."

but before either of us could move, the woman jumped into the pond and swam across to the point where there's a large rock on the opposite side. she got out, apparently not wet at all. she raised her arms and bowed once to each of the four directions, and then a fifth time directly at me. then she unzipped her white dress, and stepping out of it, turned into a bear. she placed the white dress on the rock, then bounded away into the woods.

and on the television, doors opened up in this gigantic tree and out stepped men in black suits and white shirts.

this dream has remained with me ever since, providing fodder for meditations and journies and all sorts of introspections. but among other meanings, native americans teach that the appearance of Bear in any dream is a powerful symbol with a powerful message. i would venture to guess that the fact my friend is being attacked by Bear in her dream represents on some level the degree to which Bear is trying to get its message through, as well as the defensiveness my friend feels toward this OtherWorldly messenger.

Bear is a symbol of the Sacred Feminine, spending much of its time sleeping deep in the womb of the Earth. thus, it suggests a way to seek wisdom through stillness and meditation. Bear also appears when we need to take time to nurture ourselves.

But Bear is a powerful animal, and will not be denied. When the Bear comes in dreams, it indicates a need to connect to our most inner depths, where our true Selves reside. Bear can stand on her hind legs, Bear has large claws and big teeth and isn't afraid to use them. Thus, when Bear appears, it's also as a reminder of our own innate power - we have the resources we need to help ourselves and to stand on our own two feet. it resides within us, a gift of the Great Spirit - no rule or law or scripture can possibly bestow upon us what is already ours to use.

Bear is particularly associated with dreaming because of their long deep sleep. When Bear sleeps, she is connecting with the Great Spirit and so too, do we connect in our deepest sleep. Bear reminds us not to ignore our dreams.

and furthermore, the war wil end. blessed be.

*i love little synchronicities... just as i was finishing this post, i got a notice that Ted Andrews' Animal Speak Pocket Guide is now available on!

seeing the Bear

the first time we saw a bear, Beloved and i were coming back from dinner and i saw what i thought was a big black dog standing on its hind legs beside the bookcase i'd been painting, about five feet from our back door.

"wow," said Beloved, "look at the BEAR!" and all of a sudden the dog morphed into a big black BEAR and lumbered away into the woods at the sound of our car. i have no idea what attracted the bear to the bookcase... maybe he was looking for something to read.

Beloved and i were so excited we called the police to tell them there was a bear wandering around town and they told us we were lucky. "to be alive?" i asked Beloved as he related the conversation. "no, to have seen the bear," he said.

a year or so later, Beloved was barbecuing outside the front of the house, and we saw a small brown bear with an orange tag in her ear wander out of the woods and take a hopeful sniff. she lingered for a long time on the other side of the pond... or at least long enough for us to decide to move the grill.

the following spring, libby and i were on our way out somewhere when libby said, "oh, mommy, look at the bear... it's got a cub!" fortunately the door was still closed, and we waited until mama bear and her baby diappeared.

one morning in late fall, i was coming back down the driveway (in my car) after taking libby up to meet the bus, when i saw what looked like a large black shadow blocking my path. the shadow shifted, moved to one side and vanished into the trees. i wasn't sure what i'd seen, until buddy and sam discovered the large pile of poop in the middle of the drive.

last night we were relaxing after dinner when ethan saw a big black bear wander out of the woods and along the perimeter of the lawn. it strolled over to Beloved's art house, sniffed the woodpecker's woodpile, and meandered deeper into the woods, until we couldn't see it anymore.

"do you think i should call the police?" asked Beloved, "and let them know there's a bear the size of gentle ben wandering around town?"

"nah," i said. "i don't need the police to tell me how lucky i am."

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Monday, May 18, 2009

happy birthday, etharoni

my stepson ethan turns 25 today. he's a nice young man with his dad's broad shoulders, brown eyes and sweet nature. when Beloved and i first started seeing each other, ethan was 11.

i first got to know ethan over a set of Magic cards. i don't know if anyone remembers, but there used to be a game called Magic: the Gathering, and for a bit, i toyed with the prospect of writing a novel based on its magic system and within its world. although i eventually declined, when i met ethan, i'd been sent a pack of Magic cards and i had no idea what to do with them.

my son wasn't interested and besides, mister ex was making it hard for me to spend time with him. but ethan was into the game, knew how to play, and spent a considerable time the first weekend i met him teaching me the game. come to think of it, i don't think i'd be wrong to say that Magic brought me into ethan's life.

so happy birthday, etharoni.. thanks for sharing all the Magic.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

sweet relief

i woke up this morning to continuing improvement. the feeling of a brick instead of my head sitting on top of my spine is gone. some of the pain has shifted, as musclar-skeletal pain is sometimes wont to do, into my middle back and right hip.

yesterday i did a quick five minute run to the grocery store, and i'm glad i decided not to drive to oxford. im thinking of not going to wethersfield, much as i really want to. i may try a trip to staples later this morning before i decide.

i plan to spend the morning catching up on the blogs i love to read, working on the Angel material and preparing for my interview this evening with Dory Dzinski of The Door Opener - probably the single-most important publication in Connecticut for new-age and wholistic health.

Dory herself has an interesting practice and i look forward to sharing more of her story with laura and our listeners. im also looking forward to asking her for some insights on this situation with my neck! please give us a listen this evening from 6 to 7 PM EDT on blogtalkradio's Discovering Nature's Spirit.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

what to do, what to do

my dilemma about whether to go to the festival - or not - was resolved when i found a way to contact the coordinators. fortunately, this particular festival is run by the most go-with-the-flow folks in the world - and hopefully next year, i will be able to join them.

so today i stayed home and laid low - i planted a few things, weeded a few beds, and mostly restrained myself from grabbing the clippers and the pruners. mostly.

i picked up my sunshine-yellow beetle from the garage where its been on the sick-and-injured list - sort of like me - for the past week or so since meg scraped its bottom over a bump.

i iced my neck - a lot - but didn't need either ibuprofen or the muscle relaxer, which meant i felt a lot less sleepy than i have the past few days.

tomorrow im supposed to go to wethersfield and meet with my research assistant on the angel book - which seems to be coming along almost of its own volition. i suspect i probably will go - the Angel project is something i really want to finish, and wethersfield isn't quite the hike that oxford is.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Friday, May 15, 2009

chomping at the bit

i've spent the last couple days mostly nursing my neck and i'm seeing a slow improvement - not as fast as i'd like of course, and not fast enough to assess how much of an impact my neck is going to have on my weekend plans to lead two workshops at forest folk festival.

fortunately, my dear friend laura is willing and able to jump into the breach, but i hate to leave her in the lurch, not to mention miss the good time. people will be there i haven't seen in a while and i was looking forward to seeing them again.

on the other hand, i can't let myself aggravate my neck. so today i'll cautiously try to expand my activities to include something other than lying on the couch, alternating hot and cold packs on my neck, drinking blueberry tea, and ingesting herbal muscle relaxers*.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

* the herbal muscle relaxer prescribed by my chiropractor is an over-the-counter supplement called Formula 303. it contains valerian root, passiflora and magnesium. i find it works very well for me, but i would advise anyone to check with their health care practitioner before using it!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

learning to listen

i know enough about the way energy works that when i looked outside my window this afternoon and saw, of all things, a woodpecker busily pecking through the woodpile on the ground, i recognized a Messenger.

i've had a sense that this whole issue with my neck contains a Message - a message that requires close and careful attention.

interestingly, woodpecker appears prominently in both native american traditions and roman myth. a woodpecker fed romulus and remus - the original founders of the city of the rome - along with a wolf. the woodpecker's rapid-fire rapping suggests a messenger from the Upper World. and woodpecker, like the ram, resonates with aries energy of initiative, persistence, and sheer willfulness of action.

for jung, woodpecker is a symbol of a return to the womb. the woodpecker makes its home within a tree, which like the womb is earthy, grounded, sturdy and secure. as some of my Gentle Readers may remember an issue Beloved and i have been carrying for many months is the weight of my mother’s family house at the Jersey shore. like my grandmother herself when she was alive, it hangs around my neck like an albatross. it's time to release it, to allow it to pass out of my hands, out of my family, to allow whatever bitterness and emptiness remains to pass. all things end. perhaps the woodpecker comes to lend me strength and perserverance, as well as some of that dogged determination.

North American Prairie tribes had a myth that the title of protector of humankind was once vied for by the turkey and the woodpecker. the woodpecker won the title because of her ability to make such marvelous nests wherein the spiritual seed of humankind would always be sheltered from predatory threat. this tickles me, especially in light of my almost-instinctive flight last night.

and last, but never, especially in my case, least, woodpecker reminds me to be mindful of my words. its narrow tongue, so effective for picking up food in narrow places, is symbolic for finding the most delicate means to achieve the most profound impact.

she's gone now, having pecked her way through the woodpile, leaving only a spray of woodchips behind.

team mommy to the rescue

i got a call last night from my oldest daughter while i was lying on the couch in the most agonizing pain ive felt since i gave birth to libby.

"i think jamie needs help, mom," she said without much preamble. "he was talking just now about food stamps - he and cj are having celery and peanut butter for dinner."

i believe in raising children to be independent. i believe in raising children to make their own way in life, and to pay their own bills. but sometimes, when making one's own way and paying one's own bills is new, a child is still a child, no matter how old he is. i also don't believe in letting children starve if there's any other alternative.

and so, at 715, libby and i threw on some more or less presentable clothes (hers more, mine less), flew to the grocery store and then to my son's - about a forty-five minute drive to the other side of hartford. jamie took the stuff with tears in his eyes.

"i feel a lot better," said libby, on the way home.

"that jamie won't starve?" i asked, between clenched jaw and gritted teeth.

"no," she replied. "that now i know you'll never let me."

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

pain in the neck

my achilles heel is in my neck. the right side of my neck, to be precise, at the juncture where my shoulder meets my neck. its the angle a sword or ax blade might come down and sever a head from a torso, or deliver a mortal blow. more than one past life regression has suggested ive lost my head any number of times in a myriad of similar ways.

so this is a very sensitive region for me... one easily activated and aggravated. sometime late last week i slept in a funny position and woke up with a slight crick. i picked up something heavy - i think it was the 30lb of dog food - or maybe 34 lb baby jake - and further irritated it. now my neck is screaming and im aggravated... just as i was getting a grip on the garden. i've spent the better part of the last two days clutching my ice bag, channeling reiki, rubbing in the st john's wort oil, and taking copious amounts of ibuprofen just in case.

when i was very little, i was prone to suffer an ailment i remember my mother calling "stiff neck." i wasn't able to move my head at all and i would spend hours lying in bed with a heating pad on my neck. i dont remember how i'd get better but just magically my neck would be fine. none of my kids ever suffered in this way and i wonder now what in the world i had then.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

on the menu

i like to do things my way. that's why, on my special day as a mother, i like to take charge of the food. i like to cook, and this way i make sure i get to eat what i like to eat. this year, it's brunch, and i'm making:

apple bread pudding with maple syrup
fresh fruit (blackberries, strawberries, bananas and apples) with cream cheese-marshmallow fluff
orange juice and lemonade
coffee and tea

i got the recipe for the cream cheese-marshmallow fluff at a bed & breakfast my children and i stayed in when i was still married to mister ex. the fluff stuff was served to us at breakfast on top of blackberries and bananas. my kids and i loved it so much we practically licked the bowls clean. it's really simple to make - the only trick is to beat the cream cheese smooth. if you omit this step, you end up with lumpy fluff.

1 brick cream cheese, softened
1 tub marshmallow fluff
1/3 cup milk

beat softened cream cheese by adding half the milk, a small amount at a time until smooth and thinned. add the marshmallow fluff by spoonfuls, alternating with milk to keep from clumping. you may need a bit more milk depending. the fluff will be the consistency of soft serve ice-cream when you are done. chill or serve immediately over fruit.

from "Time for Me" at Sited & Blogged

over at Sited & Blogged, i share a weekly column with Dina called Time for Me. our topics range from mindful meditations to herbal pedicures and i hope you will check us out there some sunday. this is the column i wrote for today:

For most people reading this, today is a day for flowers, brunches, long-distance phone calls and family visits. Lots of us will wake up to sticky fingers and sloppy kisses, homemade cards, uncertainly-wrapped presents and maybe even burnt toast.

But what about those of us who don't have such fond memories of our mothers, or those of us for whom Mother's Day is an annual reminder of something we've lost or never had a chance to have? How can those of us with less-than-ideal mother-memories cope, or those of us who've lost kids or find them faraway today? How about those of us who are lonely, and alone?

One of the things I often hear myself saying to people who come to me for intuitive readings is to tap into what I have come to think of as our "inner mother." Our "inner mother" is the one who knows how to take care of people - and the person she knows how to take care of best is YOU. all of us - and men, too - have an "inner mother."

So today, whether you have ten minutes to yourself or ten thousand, find a quiet spot, settle yourself into a comfortable position, take a few deep breaths, close your eyes, and ask your inner mother to come forward and help you to feel her presence. Ask her to turn some of that attention she most frequently turns to others onto YOU. Ask her to show you how to nurture yourself. Listen carefully, because what she may say might surprise you. Ask her to help you take care of YOU.

For all of us who may be raising children or grandchildren, taking care of parents or grandparents, siblings or other dependents, while maintaining healthy adult relationships and juggling a myriad of responsibilities, it's critical that we spend some time nurturing ourselves because, as unique as we are, only we can know exactly what it is we need.

As my very wise father once told me, "Honey, you can't take care of anyone until you take care of yourself."

i wish all my Gentle Readers a very loving mother's day! please tune in this evening at 6 PM to Discovering Nature's Spirit on blogtalk radio. laura and i will be discussing the Sacred Feminine... call in to join the discussion or to receive a free on-air reading.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Friday, May 8, 2009

i started...

... a new post yesterday because i figured thousand-word thursday would be a good place to start, but i never had a chance to finish it.. it seems i've been THAT busy.

i'm nearly finished the chest of drawers that serves as Beloved's nightstand. i decided not to distress it the way my mother's old dresser and mirror are, but to paint it the darkest shade of green im using in the room, and then to stencil ivy in cream and gray and green on it. i think it will look really nice once im finished.

i finished painting and bought the stencil paint and stencils yesterday. this morning, as soon as it warms up, i'm going out to do the really fun part of refinishing furniture, at least for me - the stenciling and final finish. it feels like its going to be bright and dry today and if so, i'll be able to put a coat of polyurethane on as well.

and then the last piece of furniture i have to deal with is the bed - which is a crazy mish-mash of Beloved's old waterbed headboard and platform and a piece of plywood from home depot we've never gotten around to so much as sanding the edges smooth. i've decided that the place which serves as the Altar of our marriage deserves something a bit more ... put together? is that the word? at any rate, Beloved agrees so the search is now on for a kingsized bed with underbed storage.

the rain was gentle enough yesterday afternoon that i got quite a bit of weeding done. there's plenty of space for the weeds to run rampant all over the place around here - i feel the least they can do is cede me a few flower beds for a few pretty guests who don't necessarily grow wild. and i am careful to devote certain areas to wild-growing weeds with uses - mugwort and yarrow along the drive, for instance, and plantain a little further down, and cinque-foil just about anywhere it wishes - not only does it hug the ground in a most endearing way, it increases the magical force of its neighboring plants five-fold.

Beloved and i had a funny conversation regarding the plantain. "what's that gorgeous plant, with the big broad leaves and the ruby veins," he wanted to know, "those two you planted along the driveway?"

"i didn't plant them," i said. "they just grew, all by themselves."

"they spaced themselves so nicely," he said. "they should stay there."

"i was thinking of letting them be," i answered, mildly surprised. "they'll grow all over that patch though - most people think of them as weeds. but they're the herb i use on baby jake...that's what in the stuff that made his rash get better."

"and they're gorgeous," said Beloved.

now if only i can convince the plantain deva to confine herself to that patch.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

ive been hijacked...

... by the Angels. visit me on my other blog. i'll be back here as soon as the Voices stop talking.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Friday, May 1, 2009

where i've been and what i've been doing

i blinked and the week went by.

on the homefront, Beloved and i are Working Things Out. i'm feeling less bruised and more heard, which is always a Good Thing. i think he's feeling better. we played around this morning with a quiz meg gave me about Love Languages. i'll post the link if she gives it to me, because its a really cute idea that has a lot of validity. she learned about it in one of her classes this semester. the basic idea is that everyone speaks at least one of five "love languages." if you know what yours is - how you communicate and understand love - as well as your partner's - then you can speak each other's "love language."

i took care of baby jake three days this week, and saw him yesterday because yesterday morning when i was taking a break, meg told me that at breakfast, when she asked him what he wanted to do that day, he said, "na-na." and when she said, "no, na-na today," he started to cry and kept saying, "na-na."

so what else can a grandmother do?

bring the kid over, i said, but you have to watch him like a hawk.

i understand why he likes it here. the farmer next door is doing amazing things with big trucks in the fields along the drive. the brooks are babbling, the waterfall is tumbling and there's frogs and snakes and turtles sleeping the sun, not to mention a nest of a least a dozen ducklings. there're rocks to be thrown, sticks to be gathered, puppies to be chased, cookies to be found in three different places. (no wonder steve the ghost doesn't want to leave.)

so yesterday afternoon baby jake ran around in the sun, and i pulled weeds and raked and clipped and dug, and in general tried to address the mess that's running rampant in the gardens. i've got nine more areas yet to do, but the one's i've finished look really nice, if i do say so myself:

this is a large round planter in what i think of as the fairy garden. this year, there's blue forget-me-nots in the center, surrounded by pink coleus and dark pink sweet alyssum. there's a few stray pansies left over from last year that have seeded themselves in it, too, but they're tiny yet.

i've also been refinishing furniture - i finished the bookcase, the mirror and the corner cupboard, and am now working on the small chest of drawers Beloved uses as a bedside table. the bathroom is completely finished but for the mirror - im still toying with the idea of painting a faux stained glass frame around it. but perhaps that's project for another season.

here's a peek at the bathroom... the sink skirt is the same fabric as the shower curtain and the window ruffle. i made them out of curtains i found on clearance at tar-zhay for 12.99 each. i lined them with plain white muslim i found at a consignment shop for 10 cents a yard. i painted the countertop to match the floor and the walls with sponges and paint i got at michael's for ten dollars, tops. the faucet represents our big splurge - $99 at home depot - but i like it and we will use it somewhere else when we redo the bath. so i brightened up my bathroom for less than $200.00 and even if it took longer - okay a LOT longer - than i hoped it would to do it all - i'm really happy with how it turned out.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.