Sunday, December 27, 2009

why the irish sing about booze

many years ago, i should've realized my first marriage was doomed when, shortly after we were married, my first husband asked me, "don't you know anything other than irish love songs and irish rebel songs?"

i thought about it for a moment, and then i said, "i know a lot of irish drinking songs, too."

needless to say, mister ex was Not Amused.

some years later, long after i'd come to my senses, i mentioned to a friend of mine that irish songs are generally sad.

not all of them, he answered. not the ones they sing about booze.

i thought about it, and realized that was more or less true.

the word whiskey itself is derived from the gaelic name for the brew, which roughly translates as "water of life." the song, finnegan's wake, which inspired james joyce's novel, is about a man who literally resurects at his own wake when a bucket of whiskey is inadvertently spilled all over his corpse.

but i never understood why. in my experience, limited as it might be, whiskey was nasty hard-edged stuff that scorched like a flamethrower all the way to your belly. back in the day i could keep up with the best of them, but my preferred poisons were gin and vodka, things that more readily blended with juices and other softeners. (i stopped drinking tequila when i realized it made me take my clothes off in public.)

until, courtesy of a friend of Beloved's, i found midleton's.

in its own words, midleton's is "the most exclusive whiskey ever produced in Ireland. distilled three times by jameson and sons, whose methods go back over a thousand years to when the irish first invented whiskey, the whiskey is aged in specially chosen casks."

i remember how he poured out the liquid in clear shot glasses. you have to try this, he said.

we raised our glasses, and (slainte)... down it went.

i braced myself, ready for the burn. but this stuff was different. it didn't scorch and it didn't burn. instead it rolled, smooth as liquid velvet, all the way down the back of my throat, and when it hit my belly it exploded, in a wave of heat that didnt sear, but turned my blood to gently warmed syrup. the second shot went down feeling positively pillowy.

wow, i thought. no wonder the irish sing about booze.

what can i get you and don for xmas, asked irish moo a few weeks before she was due to come home.

well, i said. seeing that you're 21... there's this whiskey. it can be our birthday and christmas presents for both us.

sure enough, under the tree, santa left us (me) bottle number 026346.

and furthermore, the war will end. slainte!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

the weather outside is frightful

i fell back to sleep in the middle of the night listening to an icy mixture of sleet and snow falling through the rhodendron bushes. i woke up to a soft coating of fresh snow that set sam the beagle dancing in tail-wagging, ear-flapping delight.

it's warmed up even more and the precipitation seems to have stopped. im thinking soon buddy and i will venture out for a walk.

mercury is retrograde, and unlike a lot of folks, i enjoy mercury retrograde. i was born under mercury retrograde (9 of the 15 heavenly bodies used to calculate a horoscope are retrograde in mine...i think it explains, if not excuses, a lot). there's something about a mercury retrograde that feels like home to me.

for me, the experience of mercury retrograde is only difficult when i insist on forging ahead during a time best spent looking back.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

a Christmas message from the Angels

"Living against your body clock — as so many of us do — can affect your health and well-being in myriad ways." Olivia Judson, The New York Times - Dec 24, 2009

What gift will you give yourself?

It's the season of Frazzled Women, a friend of mine observed yesterday. And men, too, if Beloved is any measure - he's been running around coordinating a Christmas dinner at a Hartford soup kitchen among a myriad of other things, all while fighting a cold.

And yet, in this darkest part of the year, our mammalian bodies are telling us to sleep, to rest, to slow down and dream. It's this living out of synchrony with our bodies and our environment - our real environment, not the ones we attempt to create for ourselves - that leads to so much chronic sickness, to fatigue, and even to weight gain.

science is only now catching up to what everyone's body instinctively and intuitively knows: living out of harmony with our own intrinsic physical rhythms not only makes us tired and stressed, it makes us fat and sick in the long run.

The gift the Angels urge all of us to give ourselves is love...the kind of Love that gives us the strength to say "no" when pushed to the limit of what we can reasonably accomplish or achieve in one day, one hour or even five minutes; the kind of Love that gives us the ability to close the doors, turn off the phones, the lights and the alarms and allows us time to rest, to sleep, to simply do nothing, even as the silent trees outside my window aren't really doing anything in particular, except Being; the kind of Love that enables us to choose what we put into our bodies with the same tender care or sense of responsibility so many of us shower on those around us.

The point, the Angels say, is that without the experience of true Self-Love, a person will have a very difficult time being truly loving to anyone else. how can you know how to treat your neighbor like yourself, after all, if you've become so used to denying, to denigrating, to punishing your own Self, you've become innured to your own pain? if you don't accept your own needs, it can become difficult to understand anyone else's.

it is in this way that we inflict the numerous thoughtless hurts all of us do. we're so used to treating ourselves badly (or allowing ourselves to be treated badly in the name of whatever virtue we think we're serving) that for the most part, we don't recognize when we're being unkind to others. i have seen time and time again that most people i know don't set out intentionally to do harm or to cause pain - it's that so innured are we all by our own pain, our own calluses and scars and missing pieces, we cannot recognize the suffering we inadvertently cause.

if we want peace for the world, say the Angels, we can begin by making peace with every aspect of our Selves - including our appetites, our hungers and all our physical needs. if we would be healers in the world, begin by loving the individual wounds each of us possess. the more we work to accept - not necessarily to heal - our own woundings, the more aware we become to how our actions and our words affect others.

some people - like mother theresa and nelson mandela - are called to work for peace on a global scale. right now, many people i admire and a few i know personally are preparing to go to one of the most historically war-torn and wounded areas of the world and march for peace. however, peace is not something that can really be imposed from outside. real peace, true peace, the peace that leads to not wanting to harm one's neighbor in the first place, comes in some measure from a deep sense of self-acceptance....of one's WHOLE self, not just the socially acceptable or more readily controllable parts.

the Angels urge all of us to take some time in the midst of the lights and the caroling and the gifting and the gratitude and the chaos to do something kind for yourself that no one else knows to do as well as you. sink and relish and revel in that experience ... give to your Self some of the energy you are doubtlessly expending on everyone and everything else on your lists. throughout the days ahead, be kind and gentle to your Self. listen to the Child who lives in you, and allow her or him to have her holiday, too.

the Angels are all around us and we truly are Loved.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

silent night

... but for the churn of the dishwasher, the washing machine and the dryer, that is. the puppies are walked, the tree's watered. the only thing left to do tomorrow is vacuum, fold clothes, wrap presents and bake.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Monday, December 21, 2009

hark, the herald angels sing

the longest night of the year is behind us. dawn glimmers on the horizon, a pale gray streak brightening to blue even as i type. from here until next june, the days will lengthen, the sun will strengthen, and the light will return. it won't matter how cold it gets, how blustery. this half of the world, from here on out, is literally growing brighter.

whether or not it grows metaphorically brighter is up to us.

last night our sleep was disturbed by one of those phone calls parents hate to get. i was grateful that no one was injured and there was no loss of property. still, it's the sort of incident that can serve as a serious wake-up call to the young person involved.

hopefully, out of this particular darkness will come a great light.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

letting in the Light, or how one witch contemplates christmas and celebrates winter solstice...

despite the dire forecasts - i swear the predictions are getting higher by the hour - i went out and cleaned my front window this morning. as the willows danced in the gusts, and cold nipped at my fingers and ears, i dusted and sprayed and scrubbed and swept last year's dirt away.

it seemed to me a fitting ritual for this time of year, a literal releasing of things that have shriveled and died, so that the light of the newborn sun may better illuminate the space inside the house. i put away the last of the summer decorations, uncovering the pine cones that lay covered in the flowerbox. i replaced them with a fresh layer that jake and i gathered a few weeks ago. the scent of pine still clings to my fingertips. i sprinkled salt across the ledges, across the threshold of the door.

the window, like my world, feels cleaner, fresher, barer, a blank slate ready to be written upon. despite the sound and fury of a culture that would tell me this is the season to spend, spend, spend, the brisk air and soft gray sky whispers to me that this is the season to shed, to release, and to dream.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

starry starry night

i started to write a blog last night about the progress of my holiday preparations, and then i went outside to walk the puppies.

the sky was absolutely black, the moon a thin silver sliver. the stars glittered like magic dust. i stood and stared, until the cold glazed my cheeks and crept inside the crevices of my clothes, until nothing i thought i had to do seemed very important - or even very pressing - any more.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

into the deep

libby had to create a project around a list of virtues or other things she valued. her list went through some iterations, and it was interesting to see what she added or eliminated.

one of the changes she discussed with me was whether or not imagination was a worthy substitute for passion, which was on her original list. i don't know that much about passion, she said, with the unconscious wistfulness of someone who is sweet 16 and never been kissed. but what do you think about imagination, mommy? is that something to be valued?

i think its the most important thing there is, i said. without imagination, nothing that humans make could ever exist. everything, even passion, begins in someone's imagination first, as an idea or an image first. everything - even those things that are the most technical or concrete - begins in someone's head long before anyone attempts to turn it into physical reality.

i'm glad you think i made a good choice, said libby.

and that's why the first candle i light, three days before the "official" solstice, is a black one.

and furthermore, the war - all of them - will end. blessed be.

vaulting into christmas

sometime early last week it occured to me that while my attention was wholly absorbed in redecorating meggie's room and finishing up her bathroom, for the rest of the world, it's the "holiday season." gifts, baked goods, decorations, stockings, cards,... all these things are appearing at an alarming rate in the wider world outside my front door.

today meggie and i made what i would consider a serious inroad into the detritus that's clogging the lower level of the house, and through which anyone entering has to navigate. i have my Master List in hand, i have perhaps two-thirds of my presents bought and wrapped.

in recognition of the solstice celebration which i begin tomorrow, i swept the threshold and the entry way of the house and sprinkled salt across the threshold. mindful of the bitter turn the weather has taken, i also spread birdseed along the edge of the woods. tomorrow i'll hang some evergreens around the door... i've got to get up to the attic to find the ribbon :).

for a pantheistic neo-pagan witch like me, the solstice begins tomorrow at dusk with the burning of a black candle. why black? come back tomorrow, Gentle Reader, and i'll explain.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

what meggie saw

finally i can show's meggie's new room!!!

happy (belated) birthday, libby jo

where's my birthday blog, libby wanted to know.

i couldn't blog about your birthday, i said. i was keeping too many secrets. the trouble with secrets is that you need a really good memory, and the older i get, the more i see the remnants of mine disintegrating. its the reason my blog has been so neglected of late - keeping the secret of meg's room, AND the secret of her early return on libby's birthday - strained my old dendrites to the breaking point.

and really, who expected my kids actually READ their birthday blogs?

it tickled me no end to know at least one of them does.

a few weeks ago, we found a cache of pictures stuffed into an old envelope. i'm not sure where they came from, but when we looked through them, most of them were of libby's birth. there was katie at 13, jamie at 8 and meg, nearly 6 and a half. and libby, of course, tiny and red and wrinkled, and me, glowing with the joy that only a new mother knows.

it tickled me to see how happy i looked, how interested the kids were as they gathered around the newest arrival. it tickled me to see the faces of the old friends who witnessed libby's birth - since all the kids were there, they needed support people of their own. the father, theoretically, was there to support the mother. (and theoretical is the only kind of support the kids and i got from mister ex.)

i think it tickled libby, too.

so happy birthday, libby jo, from the mommy who's glad you showed up.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Monday, December 14, 2009

first peek!

detail of the tile:

view into moo's room:

the shower:

what moo will see first:

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

im so excited...

...and i just can't hide it... not for too much longer, anyways.

one of the hardest things about keeping secrets is remembering who not to tell. when you're in the habit of spilling at least a part of your guts every morning on your daily blog, it can get hard to remember what not to tell. so that's the main reason for the long silence...i haven't wanted to accidentally spill any of the proverbial beans.

but... but... meg's soon to be out of computer range... libby's turning 16 tomorrow. Beloved's downstairs, obsessing over lines involving paint. i told him to call me when he was done. im thinking i'll be posting pictures soon.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

in thy mother's womb

four years before my brother was born, my mother got pregnant. i was 13, and i remember being very upset.

it wasn't because i was jealous, even though i knew immediately that everyone would think so. it was because i knew my mother was going to have a baby with mental disablities, and i had enough to cope with. thirteen was a very turbulent year in my world and i remember being angry not at my mother, but at God.

You can't do this to me now, i remember thinking with some awareness of my temerity. i'm not ready for it and neither is anyone else.

the Powers That Be must've agreed, because a few weeks later, my mother had a miscarriage. i remember feeling three things. one was a sense of relief. the other was the knowledge that i could never share my feelings with anyone. and the third was that this was only a reprieve. Heaven had heard, and Heaven had agreed that the time was not yet.

but i knew what was coming.

the next year, my sophmore year in high school, i walked into the first day of biology class, and i opened the textbook lying on the desk. the page fell open to the section describing human genetic anomalies, and the first caption my eyes fell on read "Downs' Syndrome." i heard the Little Voice say clear as a bell, "That."

the year after, my mother got pregnant again. i was junior and had hit my stride. school was good, life was under control. i remember how the world seemed to pause when she delivered the news, at the top of her lungs. "will you kids stop bickering? im pregnant and expecting a baby!"

shocked into silence, my brother john and i just looked at each other. but i knew. and yes, i remember thinking, im ready. i didn't exactly know what i was ready for, but i knew there was an element of my consent involved. yes, i said to the Voice, which seemed to suddenly be very Present, and waiting. yes, i said, i will.

my little brother, david, and i have a special relationship. on the surface, we would seem to have little in common - he's 34, a life-long bachelor, into bowling, horseback riding and opera. i'm a serial monogamist, never picked up a bowling ball in my life, am allergic to horses, and opera makes me itch. and then there's the fact that david will never read above a 3rd grade level.

in actual fact, however, david and i have a lot in common. we both love irish music. we both like to spend the mornings writing. he is the most easygoing of spirits, the gentlest and the kindest of souls. he is the bellwether by which i may judge every other human being. those who are unkind to david are likely - sooner or later - to be unkind to me.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

full court press

the clock is ticking and the countdown begins. i have to be out of here by eight am on wednesday morning. half of the items on my list are accomplished, the other half await the assistance of a Strong Young Man with Power Tools.

as i observed to my friend, allison, once, the older you get, the harder it is to rustle up strong young men with power tools. this is yet another reason why it is good to have straight daughters or gay sons if you are going to turn into an old lady like i am.

at any rate, i've accomplished much:

meg's closet is painted, reorganized, and a new curtain installed - one that doesn't drag on the floor :).

meg's dressers are painted and polyurethaned - with acrylic this time, so they won't yellow.

the mirror is hung, the paintings have been picked - many of them already hung - and where the wallshelves are to be arranged has been decided. there are new baskets and boxes and dried flowers. another day or two (or three) and she'll be able to walk in and see a whole new room.... less than two and a half weeks at this point... she will.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

two tickets to paradise

the air was balmy this morning when i walked the puppies, the wind roaring in the trees all bluster, no sting. this afternoon promises to be mild and sunny.

four years ago this morning, Beloved and i went down to the beach, and at a spot where a fresh water river spills into the ocean, promised to love, honor and cherish each other (foresaking all others)until death we do part. no one knew what we had planned... our hawaiian vacation was just a vacation, as far as anyone at home knew.

and yet, as reverend koko, the hawaiian kahuna who married us, declared, when you do it the way we did, you do it in front of Everyone.

no one, least of all me, expected the experience to be as transcendent as it was.

the sun's shining now, soft and gold as in hawaii, and the wind is balmy as the trades that blow ceaselessly across the islands. the trees are dancing. it's like a kiss from mama pele.

and furthermore, the war WILL end. (i wish someone would put a copy of the Art of War in the presidential potty. mister obama could use some impartial advice.) blessed, blessed be.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

deep december

the days have been mild, but the sky is black as midnight by five pm. there's three more weeks til the turning point of the year. i've been grateful for the mild temperatures.

i've put in MY request for a reasonably mild winter. let's have a few snow falls... call them dustings... nothing more than two or three inches so it can melt during the day and not be a problem to people who have to drive at rush hour. the older i get, the less i like the concept of slippery surfaces.

among the challenges i've been facing in the last few weeks included dinner for 23 on thanksgiving. i didn't cook as much of it i might normally - my mother assured me that my sister didn't want to feel left out and so i had her bring a lot of dishes, including stuffing, home-made cranberry sauce of the sort my kids refuse to eat, butternut squash and a broccoli-cauliflower casserole. andi, my brother in law, also made focaccia bread.

we had two turkeys - one my son and son in law deep fried and one i roasted. my mother peeled a mountain of potatoes and we had mashed potatoes to feed an army. i made peas and the gravy. a dear friend who was brave enough to join us brought a wonderful mango tart AND a chocolate raspberry tart. my friend ric the chef (he would be quick to tell you he's not REALLY a chef - but he cooks like one) sent mini pumpkin cheesecakes and maple sugar cookies. the beer, wine and apple cider flowed copiously and i think it's safe to say a grand good time was had by all. it took me three days to recuperate, but thanks to my mother, i didnt have to worry about cleaning the house.

in terms of decorating, meg's room is finally getting underway. joe the builder was under the impression she was gone all YEAR. however, my friend karin is coming over to push the project even further along - she's painting the room today. im really excited to see the color... its a fresh, clean aquamarine color is how i think i would best describe, more blue than green, but with just a touch of teal to make it interesting.

i'm up to ten chapters and nearly 30,000 words in the novel i've been working on. im trying not to get too excited but i'm really liking the story. (of course, i like all my stories.) im keeping my fingers crossed that karen and i get some positive news on the Angel book soon.

in terms of the Angel book, as soon as i stop following the Guidelines, the writing pretty much grinds to a halt. so here i am... climbing once more back on the Angel wagon - karen has developed some cool new charts and i am eager to put them to use. i've been doing a fair number of readings, and was asked to come to the granby village health shop in granby on thursdays, to do the same kinds of readings and reiki sessions i offer at Passiflora in new hartford.

we've scheduled a two week vacation in hawaii in january with a few extra nights in san francisco with my daddy. last weekend we bought our christmas tree. i have a box of christmas stuff to put up and soon we'll do the tree.

i have a Big Surprise brewing for libby's 16th birthday... but please, if you know it... don't blow it!

and furthermore, the war will end - despite our corporate-military complex's best efforts to continue the conflicts. blessed be.