Tuesday, December 21, 2010

in the bleak midwinter

im listening to the frosty wind alternately roaring and moaning in the trees. sitting here, in the darkness, the sky outside my window is black as night. if the calendar says winter begins today, the wind sounds as if its been winter for a good long time.

according to the ancient celts, winter began on hallowe'en - on samhain - on the night that literally means "summer's end." this is why the solstice occurs at "mid-winter" - we are now half way from the end of summer to the beginning of what's considered spring in the celtic countries...imbolc, the feast of the first milk.

but here, now, as we have done in the northern hemisphere ever since we marched ourselves out of africa, im huddled around a flickering light - even if it is my laptop - with a dog cuddled around my feet and a blanket around my back.

it feels like midwinter.

all around me things are changing - my life next time this year will most likely be very different. in just about nine very short months, my youngest will leave for college. an ocean of time and energy as i have never had available to me in my life stretches before me, a void that begs to be filled. it would be easy - and tempting - to focus on what will be lost.

and yet, what will be gained tantalizes, just like the sky has brightened in the time it's taken me to type these words, turning from inky black to milky blue in a shift nearly imperceptible until after its occured.

for the last 24 hours, a song has been running through my head, an american folk hymn that i think perfectly describes where i am at this moment in time:

my life goes on in endless song
above earth's lamentations.
i catch the real though far-off hymn
that hails a new creation.
through all the tumult and the strife
i hear the music ringing;
it sounds an echo in my soul -
how can i keep from singing?

what though the tempest round me roars
i hear the truth it bringeth
and though the darkness round me grows
songs in the night it giveth.
no storm can shake my inmost calm
while to this rock im clinging:
since Love is lord of heaven and earth
how can i keep from singing?

may all your songs be merry and all your knights be bright...blessed solstice, everyone!

Monday, December 20, 2010

oh, holy night

brightest thoughts on this darkest of nights...blessed, blessed be!

Monday, December 6, 2010

grow 'em up, move 'em out

my third baby is graduating from uconn this month - with honors no less. she was just offered her first "real" job and is making plans to move to boston. my son is buying his first house this month. my youngest was just accepted into the national honor society.

no one has ever mistaken me for a helicopter parent. my attitude toward parenting, in fact, has sometimes been described as casual to the point of laissez-faire. but whatever it is, im doing...i'm growing more and more certain i've done it right.

so for all the parents who are worried about your precious little darlings in a mean old world - this is how it's done.

1. The goal of every parent should be to put yourself out of a job. Repeat that after me, boys and girls.... YOUR GOAL IS TO PUT YOURSELF OUT OF A JOB. to this end, everything you do, every decision you make regarding your offspring should be made with the primary consideration - will this foster independence or will it foster dependence? Consider that by the time my son was four, he was capable of getting a simple breakfast together not only for himself but for his little sister. One Saturday morning, while lying in bed listening to the sweet sound of little feet running around the kitchen, my exhusband asked me if I didn't feel guilty lying in bed while the kids were fixing themselves breakfast. "Well," I said, after a moment's consideration. "I suppose I could feel guilty about it. Or, when i get up, i could congratulate Jamie on being so capable he can not only feed himsefl, he can feed his baby sister, too. So instead of feeling guilty, I'm going to lie here and feel proud." (Shut the husband right up.)

2. Keep the rules simple. I've only ever had two. 1 - You're not allowed to do anything to hurt yourself and 2 - you're not allowed to do anything that will hurt someone else or someone else's property. If you think about it, these rules cover all contingencies. One of the psychologists my ex tried to get to say I was unsuitable parent actually congratulated me on what he characterized as "the simple elegance" of these rules.

3. Set high standards. Provide all the help and support needed, but do not ever do the work. I never help with homework beyond a few edits. As I explained to all my children, I did my time in grade school, high school and college. They let me out. I didn't have to repeat any grades and I certainly didn't intend to repeat them four times. When it was time to do homework, either the kids did it themselves,or they didn't. If they didn't, I allowed the teacher to set the consequences.

4. Speaking of consequences, make them count. As my oldest daughter once said, the wrath of God would be preferable to what could happen if I had to mete out the punishment. When Katie was in kindergarten, she decided to walk home from school one day with a little friend. When she didn't get off the school bus as expected, her nanny pressed the panic button. When she and her little friend sauntered down the street, she was greeted by not just her nanny but also by me. Katie was grounded for two weeks. The other child's mother actually called me to talk me out of the punishment but I stuck to my guns and little Katie sat inside for two glorious weeks watching the other kids play. But I NEVER had to ground her again.

5. Don't pretend to be perfect. If you allow your children to see your limitations, they will be free to be less than perfect themselves. I don't have perfect children - I just have amazing children. They're no more perfect than I am. If you're not room mommy material, say so. If field trips and bake sales and cub scouts are your thing, go for it. But if they're not, don't feel obligated. It's far more important that your children understand that you are a person with needs, wishes, desires and limitations than that they think you're infallible or even interested in the stuff they are. Trust me, they'll figure out that you aren't on their own soon enough.

Don't get me wrong - it wasn't easy to raise four children, mostly on my own. It got easier of course, after I dumped mister-ex (and yes, its MUCH easier to raise kids when you're not saddled with a dysfunctional partner, but that's a topic for another blog.) Right now, I'm going to pour myself a shot of Middleton's and toast myself - and my wonderful, amazing kids.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

as requested...recipes

nothing tickles me more than to share a recipe. here's the two requested by Gentle Readers of yesterday's blog:

Cranberry-apple-cornbread stuffing

1 cup dried cranberries
2 apples, peeled and chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 bunch celery, chopped
1 bag cornbread stuffing crumbs
1 bag cornbread stuffing cubes
1 32--oz box vegetable broth
2 Tbs olive oil
4 Tbs fresh sage, chopped
4 Tbs fresh thyme

saute the onion and celery in the olive oil until soft and mostly transparent. in a large bowl, combine the cranberries, apples, onion, celery and cornbread crumbs with the broth. when all ingredients are moistened, add cornbread crumbs, sage and thyme. this is enough to stuff a large (22 lb) turkey plus a 8x8 inch serving dish. feel free to use real cornbread - if you do, use half the loaf cut into cubes and toasted, the other toasted and torn into rough crumbs.

baked pineapple-butternut squash

1 stick salted butter
1 box dark brown sugar
8 cups butternut squash, cut into cubes
1 can crushed pineapple, drained
2 Tbs orange peel
1 Tb cinnamon
1/2 Tb nutmeg
maraschino cherries, if desired

in a saucepan, melt the butter and sugar together. add in the orange peel, cinnamon and nutmeg. in a greased baking dish, combine the squash and crushed pineapple. pour the butter-sugar mixture overall and stir to coat thoroughly. dot the top with the cherries. this will bake gently for three hours or more in a slow oven (325) right along with the turkey. it can be made in advance and reheated in a microwave as well. it's done when the squash is soft.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

on the menu

this year thanksgiving at my house was delayed...Beloved and i were up at five am on thanksgiving morning making green bean casserole and candied yams for the soup kitchen in hartford. we got home around 1 pm, collapsed and slept til 5. i like the way this enables our children to meet other obligations with other parts of their families: my son hosted his dad, my oldest daughter went to her brother-in-law's.

but as my kids once told me, it's not really thanksgiving til i cook the turkey dinner. today is my day.

here's what's on the menu:

roast turkey with cranberry-apple-cornbread stuffing
mashed potatoes
cranberry sauce
baked pineapple butternut squash
string bean casserole
baby peas
crescent rolls, courtesy of mister pillsbury

and for dessert:
apple pie
pumpkin pie
frozen chocolate creams with cherries on top

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

i have a question

when it comes to privacy, i'm usually all for it. what i choose to do behind closed doors to my body and with my body is nobody's business but my own and i am quite comfortable with the prospect of someday Answering to any Higher Authority for any use i may make of said body.

im also not a exactly a touchy-feely person - unless tequila's involved. so i totally sympathized with the passenger who told the TSA agent "don't touch my junk." i totally get why a female passenger might describe a TSA pat-down as "practically a strip-search." i would object to that, too.

but what i don't get...what i really don't get...is why anyone would object to the full body scanners.

so what if they're like x-ray machines and people can SEE your junk? we ALL have junk, right? we ALL have nipples and butt-cheeks and belly buttons and pubic hair, right? so so freaking what?

in the name of security, i think i'd rather sashay clothed through a full body scanning machine than have ANYONE touch any part of me. and so what if some TSA agent in some distant room gets his jollies off by watching me? so freaking what?

i mean, seriously, Gentle Readers, have we really LOOKED at each other? sure, i understand there's questions about what the TSA could "do" with those pictures, but what does anyone think they COULD do? does anyone find those images sexually appealing?

and if they do...well, to that i say, whatever gets you through the night.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Monday, November 15, 2010

falling like an axe

summer's crumbled into fall all of a sudden this year...autumn crept up on me, seemingly by surprise. The colors were so bright and so intense, i guess i didn't notice the leaves falling. this morning i looked out and over the ponds and into the woods - a view i haven't seen since mid april.

a few patches of emerald cling to the lawn, the dark green pines stand sentinel, but mostly the world's gone bronze and copper. even the silver willows have turned to gold.

the Angel chapters are falling into place. libby was accepted into the National Honor Society, my son's in the process of buying his first house. my grandaughter kicks and rolls in DreamTime, growing the seeds of the next generation, even as i so very briefly carried hers. my mother is going back to the hospital, Beloved wrestles with his own demons.

the crows on the newly bare branches are screaming this morning, the sky is turning pewter gray. the world is turning all around me. in the reflection on the pond, however, everything is still.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

updates in annie-land

suddenly winter feels like more than just a distant memory.

i walked the puppies yesterday morning in the middle of howling storm filled with hail and sleet and snow.

it's too cold to walk barefoot any more inside,let alone outside.

i've been working hard on the Angel book. so far, i've been really pleased with the progress. i hope you do check out our blog, Gentle Reader - karen my co-author has really spruced it up and i've been adding posts daily.

at the same time, other stories are running rampant through my head and i've found myself keeping a couple files open "just in case."

at the same time, i've been doing some deep work on myself - burrowing under and deeper, peeling away more and more of that which no longer serves.

it's been painful at times, but mostly it feels good.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

worried about holiday over-eating?

...join me and my co-author, karen m. rider, on our blog - Eating...the Angel Way - for a gentle approach to food and body image as well as tips for how to manage holiday eating...

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

please join me...

and my co-author, Karen Rider and i, on our blog...Eating...the Angel Way...for a gentle and loving approach to food and body image.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

old friends we have

i remember my high school graduation. i remember the long green shoots of spring grass under my shiny shoes, i remember how my panty hose sparkled in the sun. i remember the long march down the quad to the chapel and i remember how the line snaked around the mounds of doggy poo left by mister von's big st bernard, lady.

i remember the interminable speeches, i remember the final hymn. but mostly what i remember is walking away when the singing and the processing and the speechifying was finished. i remember thinking, even then, how quickly those four years were over, that a whole new chapter had opened in my life and a whole enormous one was done.

it was the first time i was aware of such a stark demarcation between what was Then and what was Now.

last night, a friend from high school and i got together for the first time since that june day so long ago. instead of nearly 35 years, it felt as if i only blinked.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

thinking of voting for linda mcmahon?

have you seen The Wrestler? it's a movie with mickey rourke and a great song by bruce springsteen. to my way of thinking, it illustrates more perfectly than anything any politically-minded pundit might have to say about the worthiness of linda mcmahon to represent me in the senate of the united states.

notice i said ME. i don't know about the rest of the residents of the state of connecticut. they may all disagree with me - after all, she's got a gazillion dollars and all i have is a Story.

but as every writer knows, Stories are all about Truth. at a recent debate, another Grandma asked how mcmahon could justify the systematic dehumanization of women in which her organization continues to indulge. mcmahon replied with some waffle-mouthed answer straight out of the Army Manual on Prognisticating to the Press.

but let's face it, boys and girls. the people the WWE exploits mercilessly and without quarter aren't primarily women ... they're men. i dont care how big and strong a guy is, or how staged the fight - that shit has to hurt. as the mother, stepmother and mother in law of three beautiful young men and grandmother of someone who will be, i value male flesh because it's part of my flesh. i wouldn't allow my sons or my grandson to so abuse themselves for any amount of money. no matter how great you might think our healthcare system, original parts aren't interchangeable with man-made ones. since i've had first hand experience, so to speak, in the creation of those original parts, i feel highly invested in preserving them. pregnancy is too big a pain in the ass not to cherish the final product -whatever its sex turns out to be - for life.

and thats the reason i say we don't vote for linda mcmahon. voting someone into office who has made a veritable fortune off the destruction of the literal flesh and blood of another human being - be it male or female flesh - is like turning over the keys of a blood-bank to mr and mrs bedbug.

everyone says we want Change in washington. the only people who will vote for linda mcmahon this november are the ones who believe politicians are all blood-sucking parasites. and in her case... they'll be right.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

the sound of dialogue, or thoughts on dialogue, part two

more than any other part of a story, my experience as a reader is that i "hear" dialogue spoken aloud in my head, even if i'm reading silently (as i usually am.) consequently, one of the ways i use dialogue is to introduce and maintain each character's individual "sound" in the reader's mind.

the best way i've found to do this is to read your dialogue sections aloud. i actually recommend you read ALL your writing aloud - to see if you've captured your unique "voice." but when it comes to dialogue, this step is one of the most important. just the words the character uses, and the way in which the character chooses to express her or himself will reveal a lot about the character, for example.

it's also important to get the "sound" right because dialogue mimics conversation. you want the words to flow in the reader's head as naturally as a line of conversation flows off a person's tongue. having someone else read your piece, especially if they read it aloud, can be even more helpful when it comes to capturing the right tone of "voice" for each character.

in terms of when and how to use dialect, my feeling is to use it sparingly. people dont think they have accents, first of all - no one hears their own. dialect is like pepper - sprinkle it judiciously but don't let it overpower the stew. you don't want your reader wading through paragraphs of 'dinna's' and 'fashes' and 'lassies' for example. establish your character as whatever it is she or he is and then allow the reader to fill in the accent. accent is as much a question of cadence as it is of funny words and spellings- capture the cadence of an irish brogue, for example, and you will never have to use tortured english again.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

thoughts on writing dialogue

a mistake that writers sometimes make is to believe that dialogue and conversation are analogous. in other words, if this were an SAT question, it might look something like this:

Conversation is to people as Dialogue is to characters.

i think this analogy is wrong, but i think it speaks to why writers – especially novice writers – can feel dialogue is somehow “difficult.” it’s not enough to say that dialogue and conversation aren’t quite the same thing. dialogue and conversation are as different as a flower from a farm implement.

for me, the relationship between conversation and dialogue is more like that between poetry and language in general. or, in other words:

Dialogue is to conversation as Poetry is to language.

as i have come to understand dialogue, it's the deliberate distillation of conversation into an artificial form with the purpose of evoking meaning and feeling in a reader. poetry attempts to do the same thing with the language as a whole. poetry, too, is a distillation of the language into an artificial form with the purpose of evoking meaning and feeling.

dialogue should be used by a writer to do two things: reveal character and move plot. if a line of dialogue is not doing one or the other, or even possibly both… i get rid of it. so the next time you find yourself evaluating a snippet of dialogue, whether yours or anyone else's, ask yourself - does it reveal character or move the plot? if it doesn't, consider if it really needs to be there.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

little libby's big adventure

it isn't always easy for my kids to have me for a mother. im very aware of my limitations, and i've generally always tried to make sure my kids are aware of them as well. most of the time, the children have learned to make accomodation. they look the other way whenever i do, say or wear something embarrassing. they learned not to expect certain typical mom things from me - like participation in the PTA, bake sales, rides to practice or interest in wedding attire.

mostly they've grown to tolerate, if not love, my differences.

but every once in a while, one of them puts their feet down and insists i toe the line.

if it were up to me, each of my kids would simply apply to the university of connecticut and go. their grades are good enough to get in, the price is right and dollar for dollar, i think its one of the best educational deals in town. utilitizing my approach saves energy, money and that most precious resource of all - mommy's time. my older three saw the light and did just that.

and then there's libby.

libby's friends are being hauled up and down the east coast on that annual exercise in parental insanity called the College Tour, and thus libby decided she should be, too. normally i'd be highly resistant and do what i do best when confronted by something my children want to do and i don't: delegate it.

but to libby's credit, her grades are better, her SAT scores higher than her three sibs. she wants to explore Other Options and there's no one around to delegate. and thus, thirty years to the month i became a parent for the very first time, libby and i set off on a College Tour.

so far we've seen four schools in two states. may goddess have mercy on my soul.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Friday, October 1, 2010

nice matters

as a writer, i've been conditioned to avoid "nice" like the plague. nothing should ever be described as "nice" - except in dialogue - because "nice" is vague, ineffable. you can't point to something and say "that's what nice is."

but maybe, come to think of it, you can.

another hate crime is splashed across the cyber-scape: this one culminated in a young man's suicide. he was a college student, was good at music. his room-mate thought it would be funny to film a sexual encounter between this young man and another. when it was made public on the web, the young man killed himself.

whoever turned the webcam and thought it would be funny to film such a thing wasn't nice. that person was low and petty and mean and small-minded and deserves everything i hope the DA is about to throw at him. and her, because there was more than one person involved. but the question is, where did these kids - because they are kids - learn such behavior? where did they learn it's okay to be mean to someone?

my suspicion is they learned it from their parents.

my book club recently read a book called You're Wearing That? by Deborah Tannen. far be it from me to dispute ms tannen's findings, but if that's really how most mothers talk to most daughters, i guess i understand why the world is such a despicable place. there's a difference between disciplining a child and being mean to a child and if you're not sure what that difference is, here's a clue. put yourself in the child's place and imagine yourself on the receiving end of whatever it is you're saying. and for mothers with daughters - especially the ones who participated in ms tannen's study - here's another: as long as the child is dressed appropriately for the weather and her basic hygiene needs are met, allow her her own choices in clothing, hair and overall appearance. it's none of your business how anyone chooses to wear their hair, and that includes your kid's.

because mean matters. and nice counts.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

suffer the little children

for what feels like weeks now, the first of the "cheshire home invasion" trials is underway. day after day, WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT labels are springing up like fruit flies all over the front pages of newspapers and on tv and computer screens. the testimony is so graphic, the pictures released so horrifying, a lot of people i know are refusing to look or even follow the story with more than glancing interest.

the cheshire home invasion is a horrible story. that it could happen here, in the mind-numbing land of steady habits, is even more horrible. that the state's wasting good money trying to get the death penalty when all you'd need are ten minutes, the petit family men and a few baseball bats strikes me as not quite as horrible but almost.

but what saddens and scares me even more are the people who are taking their children to see this trial. i can't imagine the lesson these parents are hoping to instill in their children. the justice system grinds on in all its majesty every day of the week. if you want to show your kids what the law really looks like, go down to your local courthouse. mostly its tedious and a lot of details and people sweat a lot so they smell bad. that's what the legal system is really like so i don't buy the rationale that this is a good introduction to Law in America.

don't get me wrong. i think you have to raise children who understand that the boogeyman is all too real and that little girls CAN die in awful ways. but i think these parents are doing something truly cruel to their children and i hope they're only doing it because they don't realize the damage they're inflicting. i dont believe in censorship and i think if you want to - god help you - encourage your kids to follow the trial in all its gory glory, go right ahead. but its not really a trial - everyone knows the murderers would've pled guilty if the prosecution wasn't so set on the death sentence. so it isn't really a true example of the american justice system - the facts of the case aren't at issue; the only issue is whether or not the defendants "deserve" to die. this isn't a pivotal matter being decided or a watershed case in state law; this is our legal system at its most sensationalized, at its tawdriest, if you will. a family's pain is being dragged into public viewing - must we all look?

and there's a difference, too, i think, in recognizing that every human being has the instinct to revenge a wrong - which is why i happen to think it would be okay in this case to give doctor pettit's family a few baseball bats, put them in a locked room with the two defendants for about ten minutes and dont ask any questions later about what happens in the room. however, abrogating that instinct and assigning that responsibility to the State is another question all together. just because there are people who do things that make others want to kill them - even for justifiable reasons - doesn't mean i think its okay for the State to put people to death. how many of the children who have attended this trial are going to be able to see THAT distinction, after viewing and hearing such graphic evidence first hand - EVER?

it seems to me fairly clear that parents who would inflict such experiences on their kids are engendering only one outcome, whether they know it or not: to scare the hell out of their children, to sear into their souls not only the idea of the boogeyman, but the memory of one of his faces.

damaged human beings are what got us to this horror in the first place.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

under an aries moon

the conjunction of the fall equinox, the full moon in aries and a precipitous return of summer weather brought on a migraine like i haven't had in months. but i woke up feeling better today, and charged with aries full-moon energy. since my sun's in aries, i feel all activated and charged, rather like a crystal all raring to go.

how do you feel facing Fall, Gentle Reader?

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

another poem ... just because

The Invitation

Come walk with me into my madness
Where dark and light and up and down
Mold and fold into each other
Where before and after have no meaning
And in and out are all the same.

Come peer with me into the pit
Where monsters squirm and demons dwell
And laugh and cry with me
While we poke at them with
Sticks and spears made out of words.

Delight with me where flesh is formless
Blow fire on the cinders of my soul
And kindle therein a conflagration
That some new Light might shine
Upon the world.

Come dance with me upon the precipice
Of what is real and what is not;
As defined by choices only we decide;
And diving, fall, until we reach that place
Where everything is nothing inside out.

April, 2010

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Monday, September 20, 2010

how to prepare to write the (pagan) novel

its getting to be that time of year. jack o'lanterns, falling leaves, and back to school can only mean one thing... NaNoWriMo is JUST around the corner. i haven't decided yet whether or not to attempt it again, mostly because november is usually a very busy month for me. however, when a Facebook Friend who runs the Pagan Writers' Community asked for contributions to inspire newbies, i put a few thoughts together.

- Clear space
Before starting work on a new project, I like to take a day or two to clean my desk and make space for whatever books or research materials I might need. I also like to take some time to make mental space for the time and effort I’m going to have to put forth. I try, as much as possible to carve out at least one hour of writing time a day no matter what else might be going on. If you have a particular time of day you know you write best, try to make as much time to write as your schedule allows.
- Spend time out of doors, or commune with your deities
For me, nature is our great nurturer. I observe what’s going on outside my window as source of comfort, energy and inspiration. Notice the phase of the moon, pay attention to the season. What’s going on in the animal world around you? How about the plants? Consider how you might harness your creative energy so as to be most productive, and enlist the help of OtherWorldly energies. For example, I don’t write well under full moons, so I tend to use the days immediately before, on and after a full moon as days to do anything but write. I find I frequently do a lot of planning under a waning moon, and write best under a new and waxing moon. You may find your energies are aligned as well to such natural rhythms. Now is a good time to strengthen your relationship with a goddess, god, or nature spirit to help you achieve your goal. Consider your relationship with your writing “deva" and consider how to strengthen it. This might lead you to my next step.
- Create a ritual to use every day
By bringing our attention to the words and actions associated with a particular ritual, the ritual creates focus, which creates energy, which creates the intention and thus manifests the goal. I use a simple ritual every morning to bring my attention back to whatever story I am working on at the moment. My ritual includes ordinary actions like going to the bathroom, washing my hands, and getting a cup of coffee. However, by using this time to envision myself releasing toxins and things I don’t need any more, cleansing my hands and fueling my creative fire, by the time I sit down at my desk I’m usually feeling quite productive. I also light some sage and a candle and sometimes draw a Tarot card if I’m seeking inspiration or feeling blocked.
- Set intention
My intention this summer was to take all the old ideas I’ve had kicking around in the back of my computer, put them into proposal form and send one a month to my agent. So far, I’ve sent her four proposals. My actual writing goals varied depending on the type of story I was telling and how much old material I had to work with.
- Take focused action
All the planning, ritual work and intention setting in the world will do you no good if you don’t take action. The art of writing is as much the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair as it is about anything else. Set a reasonable goal for yourself – one thousand fresh words a day is reasonable - ten thousand is not – and stick to it as much as you possibly can.
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Saturday, September 18, 2010

for my friend, debbie... and her dad

How did it happen that the sun
Could choose to rise today?
How can the sky be bright and blue,
And all the world so gay?

The trees remain in full green leaf
The cars buzz to and fro.
The world remains as just it was,
A day - or less - ago.

But now you lie so still and cold,
Your race forever run,
Your eyes forever closed to mine;
Your suffering finally done.

Thus it is that mine begins;
I wonder how it is
That everything seems as it was
Before my world went black.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

finally free

i wore a jacket this morning when i walked the puppies and the light has a distinct gold glow, the air a sharp edge. but for the calling of the crows and the tap of Beloved's keyboard, sam's snores and buddy's sighs, the house is silent. silent, still, and empty.

these are the hours i crave. the grandchild is tended, the children are occupied, Beloved is otherwise engaged. even my friends, most of them, are off and busy. these are my hours, my days, the time i truly relish. some days im busy and productive and some days, to tell the truth, i do what i do best... which is nothing.

here's to a nothing kind of day.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

angels and other visitors

from the time i was very small, i was aware there are other energies besides the ones we can all see and hear and experience with our five senses. as a child, i saw my room fill up with light every night just before i fell asleep. as a very young child, i thought this was normal - after all, everyone told me i had a Guardian Angel and i even said a prayer to her every night.

shortly after i started going to school, however, i quickly learned this wasn't the case for everyone. i was also sick quite a bit and missed a lot of school. one day a little girl from my class, Lucy, and her big sister, Grace, came to bring me my schoolwork. while Grace talked to my mother, Lucy sat next to my bed in the chair my mother had moved from its place under my desk. she asked me when i thought i would come back to school.

i told her in great seriousness that the night before, my guardian angel had told me i would be better on wednesday (which was the following day) and i would be back to school on thursday. i could see from the expression on Lucy's face that this wasn't something she had experienced for herself and i quickly learned, from that time on, that it was probably better not to admit i listened to angels, even if what They said turned out to be true.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

putting summer to sleep

there's a definite chill in the air, and the sky's dismal gray reminds me of november. it isn't raining, but it looks as if it wants to. the trees droop their leaf-laden branches over the ponds, as if they've grown too heavy to bear. another season, another summer is passing. i feel it in the air.

its a fitting day for a funeral.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

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Thursday, September 9, 2010

yo audrey

audrey's the name of a "friend" of a friend on facebook. when my friend shared my blog about my wish for jesus's immediate-if-not-sooner return, audrey took quite an exception to it. what follows are her comments, and my responses. i let her have the last word on the comment thread because i felt her comments deserved a fuller answer than facebook's comment space allows. and in case audrey doesn't read my blog - why would she? - im sending this to her personally as a facebook message because despite audrey's undoubted inability to allow for such a possibility - and to my own shame - i used to think just like she does.

this is her first response to my recent blog about the second coming.
AUDREY: funny, the last Christian I saw was in the Sudan, burning in a pile of wood & leaves while a muslim was beating his on the back with a stick. Maybe he's just one of those horrible delusional freaks she spoke of. Tolerance works both ways.

wow, i wondered, where does SHE live? then i wondered where i'd mentioned "delusional freaks." so i checked my blog and i couldn't find any reference to freaks of any kind, delusional or otherwise. my curiosity piqued, i read her next comment with even more puzzlement:

AUDREY: course I wasn't actually IN the Sudan, thank GOD.

well, of course not, audrey, i thought. so you'd have no idea whether that "christian" was a catholic priest who'd been caught molesting that "muslim's" child. (not that that's how i think priests who molest children should be treated - im just saying i can imagine circumstances under which anyone less civilized than i am might feel such behavior is justified. which is probably a big part of the problem with my communication to my friend's "friend" audrey. i CAN imagine things.)

now, Gentle Reader, you have to understand that i hold the person who shared my blog in the highest regard. she is one of my dearest friends, a person who mixes integrity with compassion. anyone who is a friend of rose's, in my usual estimation, must have some redeeming feature to them, even if - as it sometimes happen - that feature is not always immediately apparent to me.

so i thought i'd give audrey the benefit of the doubt and replied:

ANNIE: of course tolerance works both ways. and where did i speak of delusional freaks?

to which she said:

AUDREY: I didn't quote you, but your tone is sarcastic and largely derisional. As if we're all loons who actually think in the way you portray. I find it condescending, self righteous and typical of poking at an easy target, the only PC one left to poke at. So I'll just ignore these posts from now on.

her tone to me just drips with the milk of loving-kindness, doesn't it? audrey is smart enough to understand that something is going on for her, but perhaps not smart enough to understand what. although she obviously shares fundamentalist beliefs with the "delusional freaks" and "loons" she doesn't understand that she has to do more to differentiate herself from them than just calling them names. nor does she pause to consider that while my tone might be called satirical, almost in the vein of Swift's "Modest Proposal," her tone back to me might be considered almost combative. since im not a christian, i don't feel the need to turn the other cheek. instead, i decided to speak my piece, and leave her alone:

ANNIE: if you dont like being tarred by the same brush with the delusional freaks (remember, that was audrey's characterization, not mine. nor does she apparently see anything in the least derisional about referring to anyone as a "delusional freak."), perhaps you and your kind will speak up more loudly. i hear a most deafening silence coming from any reasonable voices from the religious right. if you all have something helpful to say in the debate, i hope you start saying it. ignore my words if you will but please dont be silent about the delusional freaks on your side of the aisle.

AHA! so much for being ignored. the coffee must've kicked in, because her response to that was this (cue the Battle Hymn of the Republic):

AUDREY: the way you paint it, we're all delusional freaks, you make no distinction. If it's ok to believe in nature's spirituality, it should be ok to believe in angels, white robes and Heaven. Since you don't know me or what I stand for, I'll clue... you in. I stand for the right to live according to the Natural Law. I believe in each person's ability to be the best they can be. I believe in God, the constitution, the bible, the family and the rule of law. I believe in loving your neighbor, not looking down your nose at them, charity, good stewardship of what we have. I believe that putting people in slots and sides is small, and the government has no business telling me how to live. If you listened to phlem feck instead of jumping on a bandwagon, you'd maybe be a little more accepting of other people's views. I see nothing constructive here. Sorry, Friend.

okay, the Battle Hymn reference was mean. but it adds something if you imagine it in the background while you read that, doesnt it? however, i digress. if you're wondering why i'm doing this, Gentle Reader, it's because, as i said in the beginning, that while audrey may not believe this, i used to think very much like audrey.... frighteningly so. but what my life and experience has shown me is how wrong those views are, how limited and small-minded and mean - and how deeply i misunderstood all those things that audrey, goddess bless her, purports to hold so dear.

i thought about not responding at all, but since audrey seemed to be so insistent that i understand where SHE was coming from (never mind anyone else) i felt she deserved a response - especially since audrey is sure i can't possibly imagine where she's coming from. what audrey doesn't know about me is that not only do i understand her point of view more intimately than she can imagine, i used to share it. in the dark days of my mispent youth, i used to be - as my friend described audrey - very very conservative and very very catholic.

dear audrey - i think you were the person who used the words "delusional" and "freaks." if by "we" you mean everyone who shares a belief in the second coming of jesus, you may wish to take a closer look at what exactly differentiates you from the ones you clearly find distasteful instead of just calling them names. if you can do that, you may have a reasonable voice to add to the public discourse, but based on the facebook status you posted (you're bringing the marshmallows to the koran-burning? oh, for shame!) i doubt it. however, since you took the time to share with me where you come from, i thought it only fair i should share with you where i come from. i think it might surprise you.

and of course there's nothing wrong with believing in angels, etc... i talk to angels all the time, but my robe's going to be tie-dyed. sorry - that WAS a joke. i really dont expect to be sharing any aspect of my heaven with you, mostly because im fairly sure if i showed up in yours you'd insist it couldn't possibly BE heaven if they let riffraff like me in.

what i don't completely understand is the anger my post provoked, because clearly you ARE angry - justifiably so, to my way of thinking. you just don't understand what to be angry about in order to really change things. but it's okay - im presuming you are younger than i am and there is still plenty of time for you to wake up to the fact that the very Systems you hold so dear (the bible, the cross, the flag) are the very things eating your soul and sapping your blood.

i won't bore you with all the details of my spiritual-socio-political journey (if you know anything about liberation theology you might find some similarities to the way i think now) but i will tell you i was born into a family where you didnt come home for dinner if you voted anything but republican on election day. my mother supported barry goldwater and my great grandfather believed the unions were the ruination of the america. we were also extremely catholic and my great grandfather's company literally laid the foundations of every church, rectory, convent and catholic school built in the town in which i was born.

he was also an illegal immigrant so by the "rules of law" you doubtless support with all your might, i shouldn't be here. but the money he made and the taxes he paid and the sons he gave to the war should count for something, don't you think? not to mention all the law-abiding citizens his progeny's produced... too many, now, for even me to remember. but i digress.

the only other detail i will share in my long journey from you to me was that i am - and always have been - a writer. and the thing about being a writer is that you understand the value and the limitations of words. all of those things you mention you "stand for," that you "believe in," with the exception of "natural law" - whatever the freak that is - are created out of words. the bible is written in words, the laws are written in words. everything you say you believe in are created out of words.

and being a writer - whose only tools are words - i have learned first hand their limitations. anything created of words must in some sense be limited, flawed, because words are only the flimsy creations of our limited minds. they're a semblance, a representation, an attempt to capture some essence of something we can only experience, never contain.

the rule of law you speak of? sure, im all for it... as long as i agree with all the laws. but whose laws and whose rules and why must my mind or soul be fettered and shackled by fifth century nomads, first century political freedom fighters and eighteenth century farmers? im sorry, audrey, but i think i've evolved beyond that, and so have a lot of people i know. if you haven't, as far as im concerned, unfortunately it's not just your problem, the way i see it. i have four children and one grandson and another grandchild on the way. my stake in the future is huge, at this point, even greater, i dare say, than yours. after all, you think the world could end any day. please understand i am not calling you delusional. im simply acknowledging how your beliefs must shape your world views, and, as a result, your politics. but my question to you, and everyone on your side of the fence still remains - if you're not part of the lunatic fringe, how are you different?

to your other points of "... loving your neighbor, not looking down your nose at them" - there is a deep vein of class discontent to your anger, isn't there, audrey? it really sucks to perceive that you could easily become one of the have-nots - hell, you might already BE one of the have-nots. sucks rocks, doesn't it? now you know how much of the rest of the world feels. and yes, audrey, we ARE our brothers' keepers.

"...charity" - it's one thing to believe in it, audrey; but do you practice it even when you're vexed? the marshmallow comment in your facebook status would seem to suggest otherwise.

"...good stewardship of what we have" - which would include the invasion of other countries to protect our access to natural resources?

"....putting people in slots and sides is small" - so is calling them names like "delusional freaks" and "loons."

"...and the government has no business telling me how to live." - a government that would insist a woman bear the offspring of an act of rape or incest is sure telling that woman how to live, though, isn't it? i haven't heard the government offering to tell me how to live. what i have heard are a lot of republicans trying to scare me into believing that it might. but what if we had a really nice government based not on a rule of law, but on a rule of kindness, of love, of do unto others as you would have them do unto you? i might be willing to live the way that kind of government might tell me to live. wouldn't you?

"....If you listened to phlem feck instead of jumping on a bandwagon, you'd maybe be a little more accepting of other people's views." - my dear audrey, i HAVE listened to PHLEGM FLECK - get it right - and all i HEAR is a lot of fear. the trouble is that all the things you cling to - that he's clinging to are made of words, words created out of the minds of men. maybe some of those men were inspired, maybe some of them were true prophets and maybe some of them were - to quote you, audrey - delusional freaks. but whatever they were, all that you reference are only things ultimately created out of words - words that change, that become outdated, that pass into the mists of time.

of course you're afraid, poor audrey and everyone else who thinks like you... and that includes my mother, by the way. your views are like houses of cards built on foundations of sand. in the final analysis, the only thing you can really count on is love. love, as a very wise woman once said to me the first time i met her, IS the answer.

and here, at last, audrey, is where we might find some common ground, because what i believe (not that you asked, but i didn't either, and you felt free to share with me) is that the only things jesus said that really should matter to anyone - if he really said them but someone did and thats all that counts - is "love your neighbor as yourself," and "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." and that's it.

that's all you need. i believe that were the human race to ever embrace and vote in accordance with those two reasonably simple principles, the government generated by such a collective mind and heart and soul would be too enlightened to ever impose anything that might generate fear on its collective body, or any other. what i came to understand is that people who espouse beliefs like yours have twisted the central message of jesus into something monstrously self-serving - and not for the majority of those who believe them, either. jesus's teachings are now being used to support out-moded and out-dated ways of thinking and seeing the world that encourage tribalism and isolationism. what's sad is how misguided and misplaced your anger truly is. Phlegm Fleck, Lush Limpball and Caribou Barbie ARE the false prophets, sweet pea. nothing they preach is in accordance with love for anyone but one's self and the almighty us dollar. if i were jesus, i'd come back just because i'd be so pissed at how the message has been corrupted and perverted.

but i have hope. i also believe in reincarnation so i have no doubt i'll be back. to paraphrase my mother when she asked why i don't believe in mammograms - with all the shit that's going on, you think anyone is letting any of us off the hook very soon? thank you for the opportunity to articulate my views, audrey. i hope you appreciated the opportunity i afforded you to articulate yours. pax....annie

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

the problem with end times theologies, or why no one should count on jesus coming back

because it gets you off the hook.

people who think the world is coming to an end and jesus is coming back don't have any reason to make things better. if you truly expect the world to end any minute - or even within a generation - why waste the time and energy? if you don't see any long term future, how can you be expected to have a stake in it?

since it's clear to me that these kinds of beliefs can lead to such short-sighted, narrow-minded world views such as those espoused by Phlegm Fleck, it's equally clear (to me at least) that these beliefs are better off consigned to the dust-heap of history. because these beliefs mostly evoke fear, this becomes a path easily manipulated by those false prophets jesus himself warned about - especially if you lack the critical and analytical thinking skills that used to be encouraged in education.

or, in the alternative, we can always hope they'll be raptured out of existence.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

if jesus is really planning to come back...

... i wish he'd hurry up. if there's at all a possibility that an event called the Second Coming could be part of the Eternal Plan, i think it's time (past time, actually) for jesus to come back and take care of all his self-proclaimed followers. i think if he raptured them right off the planet to whatever reward he's got waiting for them, as they think he promised, it would be doing the rest of us a huge favor.

seriously. it would even be okay with me if it turned out that heaven is just what they think it will be: angels, harps, white robes, old men, gold halos and wings. let them spend forever floating around in puffy white clouds listening to the mormon tabernacle choir as conducted by lawrence welk.

just get them all off our front pages and internet news-streams.

i really don't think that's too much to ask.

because then the rest of us could get down to the real business of actually making things better for everyone without having to contend with the sound and fury of idiots who can't be reasoned with because their minds are just too small and too poisoned.

optimist i might be, but i'm sure we can fix things - everything -because i truly do believe that there's enough reasonable, progressively minded, great-hearted people on all sides of just about every problem. but having people clogging up the debate who want to burn the koran, who embrace the politics of fear and the rhetoric of hate isn't helping and it is hurting. people like Phlegm Fleck and Lush Limpball are actually getting in the way of the very political process they purport to uphold, as they fill the airwaves with idiocy and stoke the fires of revolution.

if jesus really does show up, im going to suggest he take all narrow-minded fundamentalists of every ilk and creed with him. i just hope he gets here soon.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

happy last first day of school, libby jo

i have a photograph of my oldest daughter's first day of kindergarten. in it, she's wearing a lands' end polo dress and white socks. you can't see the color of her sneakers but the backpack strapped behind her is almost as big as she is. she's clinging to me for dear life, her head tucked into the hollow of my hip, and the expression on her face is one of pure terror.

that photo was taken just about 25 years ago, on a rainy september morning in pennsylvania. katie's all grown up now, and baby jake is turning three this fall - he's clearly not a baby any more. it won't be long before katie's taking jake to kindergarten and giving him her first last hug good-bye.

i don't remember much about that long-ago morning, but the rain and a general rush. this one's much calmer - there's no bus to catch, no frantic dash for last minute signatures or lunch money. libby's a pro by now - she's well-organized, and she drives. as with so many things, this turning comes as gently and as quietly as the tide.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

tales from a writing weekend

the assignment was to write about a character we observed from real life. i thought it was a fun exercise, mostly because it encouraged me to keep my eyes open for interesting characters. this is my response, based on two people i observed at the waldorf-astoria when Beloved and i stayed there earlier this month:

I notice them first because they’re both wearing orange. I’m wearing orange, too – a low-cut, empire-waisted pima-cotton coral number I picked up at Marshall’s on two-for-one clearance. When the pair of them push themselves onto the seats beside me, at the lobby bar of the Waldorf-Astoria, we look like a row of orange paint chips. In the city where everyone wears black, that can’t happen very often.
I sneak a glance at them out of the corner of my eye, trying to peg them for the kind of tourists they are. Honeymooners, wedding guests, reunion-goers like us? I hope they’re not as loud as the color of their shirts might imply.
The woman catches my eye but doesn’t hold my glance. She doesn’t want to talk to us, and I look a little harder. Her orange, a lighter version of my own, verges sweetly into peach. She doesn’t look old enough to need make-up, but she knows how to use it: her eyes are smudged sultry, not slutty. Her hands flutter with her purse, and she gives her order with a little trill that suggests she might be nervous.
In the seat next to mine, the man hardly notices me. His attention is focused on his companion. He gives his order to the bartender in a voice so low the bartender asks him to repeat it three times.
He looks – and smells – as if he’s just stepped out of the shower. The ghost of his after-shave wraps him in a pine-scented mist. His hair’s dark brown and neatly slicked back. It curls over the collar of his creamsicle-colored window-pane checked shirt. It’s a pretty shirt, in a loosely woven fabric that suggests some ruggedness despite the pastel color. Then I notice the tag. It’s sticking out of the collar, attached to one of those clear plastic things I sometimes miss myself. I recognize the red sticker, the block print. He got his shirt same place I got mine.
On the other side of him, the woman glances over her shoulder, fusses with her purse. “You ever stay here?” she asks.
“I like to come here and listen to the piano,” he answers as the bartender comes back with their drinks. He’s drinking beer, she’s got something frothy and orange in her martini glass. What’s with all the orange, I wonder. I think about tapping him on the shoulder, about offering to rip the tag off. I think about ripping the tag off without tapping him first. That would get him to notice me, I bet.
“I like to come here on first dates,” she says. “It’s a pretty place and I live right around the corner.”
So that explains it, I think. The fresh scrubbed looks, the brand-new shirt, and most especially the orange. It’s a second-chakra color. First dates are all about the second chakra. I decide to leave the tag alone.
“Maybe we got a match made in heaven here,” he says. He raises his glass and tips it toward hers. “Maybe this is our last.”
Color rises in her face, a flush that makes her glow. “To our last first date? I’ll drink to that,” she says.

you think it lasts forever

... at least, that's how it feels when you're slogging through the rain to deliver the upteenth forgotten homework assignment/lunch money/science book. that's how it feels when you're dragging out the door at some ungodly hour with a kid who might be coming down with something/doesn't like her teacher/just plain old overslept. that's how it feels when you are running between practices and lessons and appointments, and someone asks you what's for dinner and even though its 445 PM, and you hear yourself say, "i haven't gotten that far yet."

for the last 24 years, since my oldest daughted entered kindergarten back at Nether Providence Elementary School, my life between september and june has mostly been dictated by the tides of the school year. in the years that i was working, there was dropping off and picking up and in the years that i wasn't, there was getting to the bus and running down to school when we didn't make it. some years it's been lunch money and some years it's been brown bags. some years it's golden grahams and some years honey nut cheerios. in the winter, its brown sugar oatmeal.

through much of it - sick days and snow days, teacher conferences and random half days - it felt like it was going to last forever.

now, suddenly, this year it doesn't.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

surviving mercury retrograde

mercury retrograde occurs every few months when, for about three weeks, the planet mercury appears to move backwards in the sky. since mercury is the planet that governs communications, communications between individuals or organizations are most often perceived to be affected. depending upon one's sensitivity to the energies and one's understanding of how to manage them, a mercury retrograde can feel like a mild hiccup, or a periodic unleashing of the chaotic forces of hell.

one of the first things that i think is important to remember when considering how to manage the energies of a mercury retrograde is that all planets go retrograde. in my astrological chart, in fact, nine of the fifteen astrological bodies used to calculate one's horoscope are retrograde. for me, mercury retrograde isn't so much about disrupted communications, as about a chance to revise.

as a writer, i spend a lot of time revising. i spend more time revising than i do creating - revising is easier. for me, a mercury retrograde is an opportunity to do some revising - not just in my manuscripts, but in potentially all areas of my life. it's also a time to check my grounding. buffeted by airy mercury, i like to pay attention to my feet. it may seem silly, but i find a pedicure - even one i give myself - can be energetically soothing. it's also a good time for me to weed through my shoes and pay to attention to my socks. bribing my children to give me foot rubs is helpful as well. the nicest treat is a reflexology appointment.

mercury retrograde is not a time when it's easy to move forward, especially on written or other communications projects. and yet, this is the very kind of energy this story (Stud Farm) seems to demand - two steps forward, six or more steps back. as much as part of me would like to rush forward more impetuously - my aries sun is all about the rush - there's another part that recognizes that this is exactly what this story requires. there's a fine line between schlocky and well-done in science fiction. for me, it feels like a razor thin edge, and the energy of the mercury retrograde is helping me stay focused and aware of what it is that i am trying to accomplish, even as i revise the same lines repeatedly. this is a story that demands constant revisioning even as i move more deeply into it, and i am grateful the Universe has provided the appropriate energetic conditions.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Monday, August 23, 2010

blessings of rain

we've needed the rain, and this one feels particularly sweet. it's coming just as the brand-new gardens and the baby grass need it especially, just as the lower pond was very nearly completely dry.

right now, its falling straight down, a heavy, soaking mist that penetrates both muddy brown ponds and parched yellow earth so effortlessly, it scarcely makes ripples on the water. the grass is turning green before my eyes, the weeds are springing higher. the trees just drip.

for me, this is the kind of day that makes it easier to turn inward, to focus on the unseen, to be still and allow the world to wash over me like the rain down the windows. i've lit a piece of white sage and a candle. a few evenings ago, my critique group gave me some great suggestions on how to improve stud farm. this story is coming much more slowly than the others but that's because, i think, it's a Bigger Story. much Bigger, in fact.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

grannie annie's buttermilk-cream cheese cake

this is an adaptation to a receipe i found a few years ago in The Joy of Cooking. it quickly became one of my go-to cake receipes, even though there were occasionally complaints from the peanut gallery that it was "too dry." the original receipe calls for butter, and i found that the simple substitution of cream cheese makes for a moister, if somewhat denser, cake.

preheat oven to 350. grease a 9 x 12 pan.

1 cup buttermilk
3 eggs
8 ounces softened cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 1/3 cups cake flour
1 1/3 cups sugar

cream sugar, cream cheese and eggs together until light and fluffy. add the rest of the dry ingredients, then beat in the buttermilk and vanilla. bake for 25-30 minutes, or until fork inserted in middle comes out clean.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

this is not your country (or why i think its okay to build a mosque "near" ground zero.)

"this is not your country." that's what the young woman's sign read, in big red letters. the accompanying article was about "islamophobia." (i think its interesting how our language has such an easy way to coin new words for new fears. tells us something about ourselves, i think.)

islamophobia is not new. it swept across northern europe in successive waves throughout the middle ages, and if you look back far enough, you can see that the seeds of the emnity now erupting between the fundamentalist arms of the world's two biggest religions were sown somewhere between the eighth and the thirteenth centuries of our Common Era. the restablishment of the state of israel, taken in the context of the last two thousand years, was simply, to my way of thinking, only the latest opening salvo in a conflict that's been going on between christian europe and the moslem middle east for the last fifteen-hundred years. (knowing a lot of history may make for a lot to remember, but it provides one hell of a context.)

but people don't generally look back that far. the rallying cry for the anti-moslem hysteria sweeping some parts of the country seems to be "remember september 11." given the fact that countless millions across the last fifteen hundred years have already died in the cause of just this very conflict - christian west vs moslem middle east - i would think it should be easier for us as the forward-thinking society we tell ourselves we are to come to the obvious conclusion that its time to stop drinking the kool-aid, or in this case the Tea.

september 11th was a terrible event in our national psyche and i experienced deep shock and horror and i feel great sympathy for the families of all the victims. certainly there was great heroism and loss and we should remember that day forever.


we should not allow that one watershed moment to shape our collective psyche to the point where we as a culture can never move past it. we should not allow people whose world-views are not much more sophisticated than twelfth-century crusaders and whose religious ideologies are yoked to the minds of fifth-century BCE desert nomads, to shape our national policies. the lense of history also shows that the first step to the gulag or the concentration camp is taken when groups are allowed to identify and target other groups for the purpose of projecting onto them their own angers and fears.

to the angry, fearful young woman with the big red sign, i say - this isn't your country, either. not yet, anyway.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Friday, August 20, 2010

number one thousand

this is it. blog post 1000. one of the benefits of blogging is that i can look back over the last three years (has it really been three years since i started blogging?) and i see how much and how little my life has changed. so much is essentially the same... and yet so much is fundamentally different.

on the same side -

i still have both parents and both step-parents. i haven't lost any sisters or brothers or sisters or brothers in law. step-sibs are doing fine. children are still children - older and more or less wiser. like me and Beloved. we still live in the same place, in the same time and occupy our time doing more or less the same things. many of my friends are still the same.

on the different side -

my grandmother's gone. im a grandmother, myself. the house my great-grandfather built nearly 100 years ago belongs to someone else. i've made some new friends, explored some new places, and read a lot of new books. i continue to learn about myself and the people around me.

so what about you, Gentle Reader? what's the same in your life as three years ago? and what's different?

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

how to strengthen my witches powers

i'm sometimes surprised by the search terms that bring people to this blog, sometimes confused, and sometimes, intrigued. a few days ago, someone came here looking for "how to strengthen my witches power."

since this question seems to relate to my last post - how to deal with the dead - i thought i might sum up some of the advice i've heard and - in some cases tried - over the last ten years or so.

the best way i know of to strengthen one's intuitive or psychic abilities is to pay attention to them. note the days and times when you receive intuitive "hits" and note how or in what way they're accurate. keeping an actual record of your hits will help show yourself you aren't crazy when you know who's calling before you look at the caller ID, or when you have a "feeling" you should take a certain route home. it will help you to trust the information you're receiving.

the other reason to keep a log is that it can help you recall how you felt when you received the hit. this is very important, because although different people have different abilities and receive information differently, everyone FEELS the intuitive hit somewhere in their physical bodies. it's important to identify the physical feeling that accompanies the intuitive hit, because this is one way you can be sure you're receiving intuitive information and not simply making something up yourself. some people feel it in their bellies, in their guts, or in their hearts. i get a feeling in my solar plexus that feels like a great bell. occasionally i get chills or goosebumps. knowing that these are the physical sensations that accompany the reception of psychic information helps me know when to be sure.

another way to strenghten your psychic senses is to pay attention to what you eat. you are what you eat, and eliminating toxic foods is a quick and easy way to raise your vibration and energy levels. drink spring water and herbal teas, limit the amounts of caffiene and other additives. follow a healthy eating plan (such as Eating... the Angel Way.) respect your body as the miracle it is, nurture it and nourish it and your intuitive senses will respond accordingly.

a fourth way to strengthen your psychic snenses is to spend at least a short time meditating every day. meditation doesn't have to happen seated before a statue of the buddha. it's possible to meditate while washing dishes or folding socks or taking a walk. there are many ways to meditate - in a later post i will share some of mine. however, making time for and allowing yourself to open yourself to receiving information from your Angels and Guides is a wonderful way to raise your vibration and strengthen your intuition.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.
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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

how to deal with the dead

three times in the last three days someone has approached me with questions regarding what to do when the dead make their presence known. one person reported not realizing the dead were dead, one (my stepdaughter, no less) reported knowing they were dead but not knowing what to do about them once she saw them. the third person was just "freaked out."

so here's what i do...having lived for years in a haunted house and having dealt with the dearly departed in various places i've either entered or stayed at.

first of all, most intelligent spirits respect boundaries. if you tell a spirit to stay away, or not to scare you, generally, in my experience, it will. when i was packing up my grandmother's house, the presence of numerous family members was very clear to me, but after catching a few human-size shapes out of the corner of my eye standing uncomfortably close, i told them all they could follow me around and watch whatever i did, but to please not scare me. and they didn't, even though i continued to be very aware of them in other ways.

in the same way, the ghost of the original owner of Pond House frequently used to make his presence known by methods that were downright theatrical at times. however, after making it clear that while none of us minds sharing the space, we do resent being intruded upon given that we all live here now, we have reached a state of mutual cooperation. the only times i've encountered steve the ghost recently is if someone inquires about him...and the results can still be quite spectacular at times. (like the time my friend susan mentioned him, and all of a sudden, a guitar that had been leaning on the back of a chair lifted up about five feet in the air and landed on its back about ten feet away.)

one thing i think it is absolutely critical not to do is to react with fear. fear is a very low-vibration energy, and when someone is beset by fear, it can attract energies of similarly low vibration. these energies are not always formerly human entities, and this is where i feel people can run into trouble with a "haunted" house.

in this case, calling in someone who specializes in cleansing properties and people of low-vibrational energies could be necessary. however, before one resorts to calling in an outsider, it can be very helpful to cleanse your property yourself with salt and a high-vibrational smudge such as sage, sweet grass or cedar. various indigenous cultures have their own methods and ceremonies and one can find many suggestions by doing a little research. if you're confused by all the suggestions, remember that here in north america, the cultures of the indigenous peoples are acutely attuned to the energies of this particular part of the world, and so you might find inspiration among native american practices. on the other hand, if your lineage is asian or african or northern eurpean, among others, you may find that you resonate with the practices of your own ancestors. do what feels most natural to you.

however, i have found that generally a ritual cleansing, involving salt water, a white sage smudge, rocks or crystals and a firm and clear intention to fill a given space with love and light is sufficient to raise the energy so that lower-vibrational entities won't remain. the key, in either case, is to remain strong in one's own space, and to refuse to give in to fear. it can also be helpful, in truly disruptive situations, to take a look around at any situation in one's life or in the lives of family members that might be fueling such energies.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.
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Monday, August 16, 2010

writing in the rain

one of my earliest memories, when i was a very very little girl, is of my parents coming to get me one rainy summer afternoon when i was supposed to be napping. im not sure why they brought me out of my room - i remember being sleepy and not at all afraid of the sound of the weather that was happening all around our little seashore bungalow. what i remember is being stood in front of the screen door to watch the most torrential rain i'm certain i'd ever witnessed sluicing off the awnings and running in rivers down the sidewalks and the street.

maybe it was the fact both my parents were there, one on either side of me. i was so little the top of my head didn't reach the top of the bottom screen in the door. watching the storm, i wasn't afraid in the least. i felt cocooned by the two people i loved best, and safe. whatever was going on Outside couldn't get me, not while i was surrounded by my parents' arms.

some part of every rain evokes some aspect of that memory, i think, because i love to listen to the rain. i like to wake up to it, i like to fall asleep with it. and what i like best of all is to write with the sound of it in the background.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

pussycat, pussycat....

...where have you been?" ...."i've been to London to see the Queen..."

i'm a writer because my mother is a character. literally. its not so much watching her work a room that i enjoy, i realized today at the tea. its watching the expressions on the faces of the people to whom she's talking.

people love my mother. some people, that is. (some people despise her, but we won't go into who those people are or why that might be.) however, what i have noticed is that people who aren't captivated by my mother are usually threatened by her. and there is definitely a side to my mother that IS threatening and even downright terrifying and many other things besides - not all of them nice.

but whatever she is in any given moment, there is always a passion and a rich juiciness about how my mother embraces life that has never once dimmed, despite daunting challenges. she is the same force of nature at 75 that i remember when i was 5. she gave me many advantages, but the one she gave me that matters most is the image she continues to provide of Goddess Incarnate. in all her manifestations, my mother is never less than a Force to be reckoned with. even in her most human moments, my mother is magnificent.

its a quality you just don't see in a lot of people.

so happy birthday, once again, mommy... forever may you reign.

high tea

today meg, libby and i are attending Mother Superior's birthday tea.

*i* wanted to hire a stripper who could dress up like johnny depp as the mad hatter in the most recent version of alice in wonderland. my sister - who, after a brief stint as a worse Bad Girl than i ever was now puts more effort than i ever could into being a Good Girl - put the ix-nay on that Great Idea,on the grounds that there were going to be children under the age of 13 present. (make them leave for a few minutes, i suggested. you can imagine how well that went over.)

so there will be no high jinks at this high tea. at least, none that i'm responsible for.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Friday, August 13, 2010

honoring hecate

i spent the day gathering items to be recycled, given away or sent to consignment. this evening, as the sun was setting, i gathered an offering of sweet annie (the herb that encourages friendly spirits); white sage and dead roses that i'd been drying on my hearth since the solstice. they were a particularly pretty peachy-pink color, and i thought the Goddess might find them especially pleasing.

i took my offering down to the stone pillars where the driveway crosses a brook that runs from the chrysanthemum fields next door. i lit my candle - dark purple - and threw my offering into the waters in hecate's honor. then i carried my candle and placed it in front of the buddha statue on our front porch.

the dogs are curled beside my feet, im sipping a cup of sage tea. the smoke from burning herbs curls beneath my nose. the peepers are noisy but the air has a hint of that unmistakable chill. blessed be.

holy hecate

the weather turned last night - when i woke up at four am and ran outside to check for meteor showers, not only was the sky shrouded in dark gray clouds but there was a distinct chill in the air as well. how appropos for the dawn of Hecate's day.

how appropos Her day falls on Friday the 13th, a day even our own culture recognizes as fraught with the unexpected.

Hecate, goddess of gates and crossroads, chaos and trash, is a goddess to whom i find myself increasingly drawn. Her day falls at the end of a week bracketed by my grandmother's death and my mother's birth.

She's not a goddess to dance with lightly - in my early wiccan days, i was constantly meeting women who would proudly proclaim they were worshippers of Hecate, and then bemoan the fact their lives were full of chaos. part of her Power - and possibly Her attraction for disaffected souls - is that She's one of those Deities that don't seem to care whether you engage Her or not.

maybe because in the end, She's the One to whom we all belong.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.
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Thursday, August 12, 2010

happy birthday, mother superior

"all that i am, i owe to my mother." - abraham lincoln

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

a farm grows in brooklyn

probably one of the most gratifying sights on the tour of Beloved's former high school last friday was the school farm growing on what used to be the front lawn of the school.

i don't think we were ever allowed on it, reminisced one alumna, wistfully. the principal explained that the school was in what's considered an urban food desert, a place where access to fresh food is extremely limited due to many factors, but among them is that the environment is far away from fields where food is produced.

but that's changed now, at least in this brooklyn neighborhood, thanks to the vision and the energy of the principal and the people who work with him. the farm produces enough food to host a farmers' market that feeds the neighborhood, and the kids who attend the new and improved george s. wingate high school campus get to take home all kinds of fresh veggies.

Beloved was completely dazzled.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

blueberry-buttermilk muffins

preheat oven to 350 degrees. grease muffin tins or line with cupcake cups.

2 cups cake flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 oz cream cheese, softened and cut into pieces
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1/4 cup salted butter, melted
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup fresh blueberries, washed and patted dry

cream together the butter, cream cheese, buttermilk and sugar. add in vanilla and eggs, then dry ingredients. fold in blueberries carefully. spoon into muffin tins.
bake for approx 30 minutes, or until pick inserted in center comes out clean.

this receipe will make 9 large muffins, 12 -15 medium muffins and 24 gems.

grannie annie's blueberry butterscotch pie

preheat oven to 400 degrees. grease two 9 inch pie shells.

for the bottom crust:
3 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 sticks salted butter, melted

for the filling:
12 oz cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
5-6 cups fresh blueberries, washed and patted dry

for the topping:
1 stick softened butter
1 cup cake flour
1 cup oats, whole, not instant

in a separate bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs with melted butter. divide between the pie shells, pressing gently and evenly to form the bottom crust. set aside.

in a larger bowl, beat together eggs, cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and salt. when smooth and creamy, fold in blueberries carefully. when blueberries are coated, spoon into pie shells. bake for 25 minutes.

in separate bowl, cut butter into oats and flour to form rough crumbs. after 25 minutes, remove pies from oven. spoon crumbs evenly over tops to coat. return to oven and bake another ten minutes more, reducing heat to 300.

meggie moo's mocha cake

preheat oven to 350 degrees. grease cake pans or line cupcake cups.

2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 2/3 cups sugar
2/3 cup cocoa - i used gharardhelli
1 1/4 tsps baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 cup hot coffee
1/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup softened salted butter
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Cream together butter and sugar. When light and fluffy, add eggs and vanilla, beating to a light consistency. Alternate adding in dry ingredients with coffee and buttermilk. Beat 3 minutes at high speed. Pour into pans. Bake 9 x 13 45 minutes, layers 30-35 minutes, cupcakes 18 minutes, or until a pick inserted in center comes out clean. This is a dense, rich chocolate-mocha cake that is wonderful paired with buttermilk-cream cheese icing below:

2 boxes confectioners' sugar
1 brick softened cream cheese
2-4 tbsp (approximate) buttermilk

beat together above ingredients to desired consistency. make sure cake is cool before you frost, otherwise, this will make a yummy glaze, too :).

blessed lammas, meggie moo

i like to cook when it's cold. for my daughter, meg, born in the summer, her birthday has frequently fallen either when she was visiting her father for the summer when she was younger, or during a heat wave when the height of my culinary inventiveness peeks at making reservations at her favorite restaurant. consequently, meg sometimes complains she gets short-changed in the Birthday Cake department. however, even meg understands no one wants to heat up an oven to 350 degrees when it feels like that outside.

but this year, meg's birthday celebration not only coincided with the first real chill of the season, but also a trip to Costco. when i asked her what kind of cake she wanted for her birthday, she said she wanted blueberry pie AND blueberry pancakes instead. however, after i had already brought home two large tubs of blueberries,

she changed her mind and asked for a cake TOO.
this year her birthday celebration happens to coincide with lammas or lughnasa - which, as celebrated by neopagans like me, is a celebration in thanksgiving of the first fruits of the harvest. combined with the crisp, clear air, it seemed like a perfect excuse to indulge in an orgy of baking:

receipes to follow...

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

next up... stud farm

as i've mentioned earlier, one of my goals for the rest of the year - the solar year, anyways - is to work through ALL of the ideas i've had kicking around in my brain and my computer for the last ten or twelve years - yes, it really has been that long - and send them off, one at a time, in as decent a form as i am capable of making them, to my agent.

so far, i've sent two already. next up is stud farm, a story about a planet where only women are allowed to make decisions that affect others and unattached men are relegated to places euphemistically referred to by the heroine as "stud farms."

for the last couple days, although ideas about the story are percolating merrily in my head, im having a hard time actually working on the manuscript. this frequently happens to me as the moon grows full. unlike other kinds of work, i find this is the time when i have to turn my attention away from writing, and pay attention to Other Things.

and in more than one way, that's a good thing, because for the next three days, i have a Writing Retreat to plan for... fifteen women are gathering here on sunday.

all her bags are packed

libby leaves today, courtesy of a friend's family who are taking her with them on their trip to a lake in new york state. i must be a nice kid, said libby when we were out yesterday, trolling for last minute supplies like Bug Stuff.
of course you're a nice kid, i answered. but what makes you say that?
im the go-to friend to take on vacations, said libby. and we laughed because it's true.
and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

cancer new moon collage

part of my online course includes making collages as a way of focusing one's energies and intentions. as one of my favorite mentors and teachers, Vicki Noble, says,
"The making of shamanic art is a way of ritually coming into contact with the spirits of the unseen world and enlisting their support in our lives." and as the mentor for this particular course, Kathy Crabbe, says, "Collaging can be remarkably helpful in many ways. It can help you strengthen and awaken the intuitive, playful side of yourself in concrete and visual ways."

the assignment is to create a collage for each moon cycle from new through waning. however, because this is the first moon cycle i've done this for, i decided to do a full size collage for each phase of the moon. this isn't too difficult - i have lots of images and as i culled through them the other day, i was surprised to see how easily many fit into the various phases.

for the past few days, as i've been ruminating on the newest version of Stud Farm - oh, i'm so happy with the new direction - i've been working on my new moon collage. each image speaks to me of some aspect of the new moon:

the bleeding yoni at the center and the empty, blood-colored sky and the empty chair overlooking the water reminds me of the time when women bled together, frequently under the dark of the moon. cancer is also a watery sign, and i wanted to include an image of water. the racoon to me is a creature of the night, and her sharp, beady little eyes see directly into the Dark. the two little boys on their potties remind me (as i so frequently need to be reminded especially when it comes to writing) that what comes out first is usually pretty stinky. the butterfly reminds me of the power of transformation. the young woman emerging from the cleft in the rock reminds me of the sacredness of the Divine Feminine, Her connection to the earth. the eggs and the baby and the archway, which could also be a fireplace mantel, seem to speak for themselves.

today i plan to write an intention on each of those eggs.

what about you, Gentle Reader?

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

what do the words "Divine Feminine" mean to YOU?

one of my first assignments as part of the online course im taking at the WiseWomanUniversity was to write an essay on what the words "Divine Feminine" mean to me. while i'm accustomed at putting such a concept into an image - Pele, the Blessed Mother, Kali-Ma or Kwan Yin are all images that spring readily to mind when asked to consider the Divine Feminine - to verbalize what those images to mean, to me and for my life, was quite an interesting challenge.

here's my answer. Gentle Reader, what's yours?

For me, the Divine Feminine is the Image of the God-Goddess-Source that I, in this present incarnation, most closely manifest. I have this understood about myself – and every other woman - for a long time, mostly because from the time I was very small, I had a Little Voice that “corrected” whatever spiritual teachings I was taught with a kind of running commentary if I dared to pay attention.

The Divine Feminine is a “whole” Feminine. It is the energy of being comfortable with who you are every moment of your life, magnified to an infinite degree. My connection to the Divine Feminine has at various times infused and informed my life with a grace and power I am not always humble enough to tap into. But it is Her energy that allowed me to stop coloring my hair when I turned 40, it was Her energy that allowed me to birth four babies without so much as a bullet to bite on, and it's Her energy that infuses my approach to sexuality.

There is also a “dark” side to the Divine Feminine which I feel is mostly either ignored and misunderstood by our culture and unfairly labeled as “negative.” Sometimes you have to draw boundaries. Sometimes you have to end things. Sometimes you have to let things go in order to have other things. I know it was that energy that I drew on when I left my abusive ex-husband, and it’s that energy that helped me raise my four children as a single mother. It’s that energy that enabled me to survive three lay-offs in five years, and to find other work far more satisfying to my soul. It's that energy that allowed me to sever the relationship i had with my former business associate when she became abusive.

The Divine Feminine as manifested by the Moon speaks to me of being comfortable with transitions and transformations, to ride the tides of all of life’s changes, and to finally, gracefully, sink into her last embrace. Even when I don’t consciously align my energy to the moon’s I am aware of her influence upon me – I never write very well under a Full Moon, for example, and the time of the New Moon is usually the easiest moon for me to write under.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.