‘Tis the Season

The gift-giving season, that is.  For our family, it starts in September, really, and runs all the way to March, after which our family gets a nice reprieve (except for Kender’s birthday).  Birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays, every month, one after another.  If you speak of friends, we have birthdays year-round, of course.  But then there is December, The Month Of Gifting in just about every major religion practiced in our country.  Except it’s not confined to December.  We must begin thinking about it now.  What am I saying? We were supposed to be thinking about it All Year Long, and feel guilty if we don’t already have a list of gifts and some of them already piled in our closets or socked away on layaway.

gift, n., something given voluntarily without payment in return, as to show favor toward someone, honor an occasion, or make a gesture of assistance; present.

Is it really voluntary?  Do you really have a choice of whether or not you show up for that holiday gift exchange or birthday party without a present?  Wouldn’t social services have something to say if you just up and decided no more presents for your kids? (Ok, maybe not.)

Some people wait all year long for these gift-giving occasions.  We’ll call them The Planner.  They keep their eyes open while they shop, tagging things in their minds (“I bet Suzy would just love that little trinket there!”), maybe even making notes somewhere if they’re especially organized and talented.  These are the people who have their shit together come The (Black Fri) Day, the ones who will have all the best presents ready to go, wrapped and tagged, special gifts for every person.  (The worst of this species hand-makes all their presents, and I’m not talking jars of brownie mix, either.  Martha Stewart, I’m looking at you.)  Those of us who can’t resist buying something “really neat” for our loved ones the instant we see it are not good at emulating this type of giver.

Then there is the person who may not have been planning all year, but who still knows their targets well enough to just pick something out on the spot.  Call them The Telepaths.  You can’t tell these two species apart at the moment of giving; the difference is only apparent by the lead time in the planning and purchasing stages.  The Telepaths can use their special talent to pick out the perfect gifts without the weeks and months of general shopping around.

There is another species: The Bulk Gifter.  This person picks one thing and gives it to everybody but their closest family.  If they are especially democratic, they might even use it for birthdays.  The item may be identical across the board (“You get a cookie mix! And you get a cookie mix! Everybody gets a cookie mix!!!”) or they may vary in detail rather than theme (a book, another book, oh look I got a book!).  Either way, this person has their gift giving solved.  Bulk processing, economies of scale, and usually they still manage to make it something that everybody likes.

I don’t think The Regifter gets enough credit.  The regift is generally frowned upon as cheap, ungrateful to the original gifter, thoughtless to the new recipient, etc.  Think about it, though.  The Regifter has shown enough appreciation for the gift that they have cared for it long enough to pass it on to what they believe will be a truly loving home.  They could have donated it to Goodwill or just thrown it away, but they hung on to it, waiting for it to find it’s forever home.  The connection in their mind to the new recipient may have been spur of the moment, or it may have been growing for months, but it does not have to be dictated by time or available funds.  What better way to show environmentally-friendly thought and action than to make sure something does not go to waste?

Then there is me.  I want to go out and give my friends and family the absolute coolest gifts ever.  I want to show how much I care about them, how much I’m willing to spend time and money on them, how much I want to hang out with them, how grateful I am that they are around.  But when the time comes, there’s always a missing component.  Sometimes I have the best idea in the world, but the available funding turns it into a crappy execution.  Or maybe I can’t figure out what to give the person who has everything.  Sometimes I just don’t know or can’t remember what my own husband would like to have.  Other times, I run through a laundry list of books, music, special trinkets, and other things, feeling confident that every possible choice that sounds new and exciting to me is going to be old hat, yesterday’s news to them, because they are just such cool and amazing and knowledgable people.  Some years I think I am going to be the Planner, making out lists of things I can knit and crochet for people.  I get a few gifts done that way, but never the whole lot, and I’m sure most of those gifts are moth-eaten and gathering dust in some closets.  Rarely, I will find something, have the funds to purchase it (or the time to make it), be able to hold on to it until the day, and remember where I hid it, and pull off a fantastic gift.  More often, I feel like the Forrest Gump of gift-giving: my heart is in it, but that’s about all you can say is there.

Oh well.  They say it’s the thought that counts, right?

Uber Driving

Probably the most interesting thing to happen around here in the past few weeks (besides birthdays, which really aren’t mine to tell anymore) is my new income stream as an Uber driver.  If you haven’t heard of Uber yet (or Lyft, or Sidecar), it is a ride-sharing service.  Uber provides an interface and payment system between people who have cars and people who need rides.  Ideally, Uber in particular likes to place itself as a “private driver” service rather than just “giving a friend a ride,” requiring that drivers not have others in the car and recommending minimum standards in dress and car care.  I must say that the incentive of getting paid means my car is now nicer than it has ever been.  I think my father would be impressed!

For riders, this means the ability to call for a ride anytime, anywhere, at the touch of an app screen.  When signing up, riders give their payment information to Uber.  When they need a ride, they open up the app and put a ride request out.  A driver accepts the request and picks them up.  When they are dropped off, Uber automatically transfers the ride fee to the driver.  No cash, no credit cards, and usually very little wait time.

For drivers, we can set our own hours and work as much or as little as we want.  We get paid automatically, and Uber also provides fees to cover cleaning expenses if, say, some drunk pukes in the car.  For me, this means I can take activities that I would normally do sitting on the couch or in front of the computer, like small knitting projects or studying, and I can do them in my car while waiting for a ride.  Nothing lost time-wise, and a potential gain in income–a win-win for me!

If I were to take take away from something else to go sit and wait for rides, I would have to pick carefully when I wanted to head out.  But so far I am driving in the evenings when I would be knitting or studying anyway, or when my kids are in hours-long activities where I would be wasting time and gas to drive home and drive back into town anyway.  Not to mention I absolutely love to drive, especially now that I finally have a stick shift, so I am having an absolute blast, and so far I’m making enough to help pay for the extra expenses associated with this latest vehicle acquisition.

Security issues are also taken care of by the system.  Although riders and drivers are anonymous to each other (even our phone numbers are screened through the Uber system when phoning and texting each other), we are most definitely not anonymous to Uber.  If I had a passenger become a security issue, Uber would know exactly who they were, and the same in reverse if a passenger felt unsafe riding with me.  In addition, riders and drivers get to rate each other.  A good ride should always get 5 stars, or maybe 4 at a minimum, unless there are obvious issues with cleanliness, driver knowledge, or driving skills.  Drivers whose ratings start to fall will have riders refuse to take rides with them, and they can eventually be kicked off the system by Uber.

I am really excited to finally have something that I can do, that I enjoy doing, that has super-flexible hours that I can work around family and church and school obligations, and that looks like it will bring in enough extra money each month to really ease the financial stress we’ve been under the past couple of years since I had to quit my last part-time job.  So if you want a ride, sign up with Uber.  You can use my promo code “2iscu” for a $20 credit for your first ride.  And if you want to drive, too, just let me know and I’ll get you hooked up.

Nothing to Say

I have no desire to step up on a soap box today.  There’s the whole “We Want to Celebrate Colonization of the Americas” day thing, but I don’t really feel like digging into it.  I can’t think of anything that is bothering me more than the ulcer that currently feels like it has actually poked a hole in my stomach.

I have nothing much to say about Loki.  My communication with Him is getting a little clearer, and He’s made it plain that His hand is at work in my life right now, but my path is still covered in underbrush so I don’t know quite where I’m going.

I have nothing much to say about Kender.  He keeps going forward in leaps and bounds, and surprises me both in what he does talk about and simultaneously how he won’t answer questions about the simplest things.  It looks like I might actually be able to get most, if not all, of my desired roundtable together for his IEP, but nothing is certain yet.

I have nothing much to say about school.  I keep working on my own studies at seminary, and the kids keep working (or not working, as the case may be) on their own general education studies.  Jarod wants to learn Japanese, and in the name of encouraging his interests I’m jumping off that cliff with him.

I have nothing much to say about the house.  The refrigerator is still on its deathbed and hasn’t been replaced yet.  I started working for Uber this past weekend, and I am hopeful that it will help with some of these repair/replace bills that keep piling up.

That’s a fair bit of “nothing much” for one day.

Bad Comedy

I’ve been told before that I should write a book about my life.  All the strange and weird things that cross my path and keep changing my fate ought to make for interesting reading.  Right now, I think it would make a bad comedy, to use a friend’s words.  Suspension of disbelief in the audience might be rendered completely impossible.  There’s only so many times lightning is supposed to strike one person, after all.

Computer processing power is measured in FLOPS, or FLoating-point Operations Per Second.  On Tuesday, we had an intake appointment with a new therapy center that we hope will be of use to Kender.  On the basis of that appointment, I have coined a new measurement: HPI, or Head-desks Per Interview.  The intake required detailed information about Kender’s medical history and development, and for the first time I caused a measurable HPI in the therapist taking down the information.  For example:

Yes, he’s had surgeries.  He’s been put to sleep more than 20 times now. ::headdesk:: We think he was in pain for about 1.5-2 years straight from his eyes. ::headdesk:: Oh, and there were the teeth, and the root canal he needed, and the pain from that which didn’t get fixed until this spring. ::headdesk::

I got a kick out of this, personally, because I know this is what is going on inside somebody’s head when we really sit down to tell our life stories.  With this guy, I actually got to see the headdesks and count them.  He made no effort to hide his reactions, to be polite or nod like Freud about to ask about my mother.  I thought this was pretty fantastic.

Another bad comedy in my life right now is the state of my home, its appliances and furnishings.  Every single thing in our house has something wrong with it.  I have to laugh, otherwise I’d cry.  The most spectacular failure this year, though, is the refrigerator.  Technically we have two, but the second is tiny and was only ever intended to hold corny kegs; it has only one shelf, no drawers, and now no rail on one of the door shelves.  The other is our main food fridge, a very nice 25-cu-ft Samsung with French doors and a bottom freezer.  It isn’t that old, only about 5 or 6 years.  However, this refrigerator decided to start crapping out in early September, and we have now had 8 visits from Consumers Energy to try and fix it. (Thank the gods we have an appliance repair plan with them that covers the refrigerator!)  They have replaced half a dozen parts, and every time the refrigerator turns on, works for a day or two, and then dies again.

They started sending out a Senior Technician for the last few visits, and Monday he ordered yet another part to replace.  Yesterday he came out to replace it.  The first thing we found when he opened the box was the company sent the wrong part. ::headdesk:: This part had an extra thermostat piece on it, so the tech’s boss told him to just cut it off and install it anyway.  Then he finds that the plugs don’t actually match. ::headdesk:: So he cuts off the plugs, swaps them out with wire connectors, and shoves the whole thing into the back panel so he can get the screws back in.

It’s already looking like it’s dying again.  I think I’m out of headdesks on this one.  All I can do is laugh.  Or I would, if my head weren’t pounding so hard that my eyes are already watering.

Getting to Know My Enemies

“Perfect is the enemy of good.”  That image of perfect comes from so many places.  Books and movies, holiday parties, even memories.  We whitewash our memories, change them, push away the bad parts and amplify the good parts.  When I do that, and then I try to hold up as a standard my memory of how things used to be, I’m really creating a complete fiction and pretending it is an attainable reality.  I think about five or six years ago, and I remember clean laundry and bathrooms, and checkmarks on chore lists.  I don’t remember how there were still piles of clutter that my eyes just slid past whenever I walked in a room.  I don’t remember how depressing it was every time I came home from a trip and saw my poor house with eyes fresh from a Presidential Suite at Fox River.  I don’t remember the fights and arguments and yelling over getting the kids to pick things up.  I don’t remember how I had no friends, I never went anywhere or saw anybody but Brian and sometimes Beth and Dave.

When I go to somebody’s house and they know I’m coming, I don’t know what their house really looks like in between.  I may see it for a holiday party, but I don’t see it at 10:30am on a random Thursday afternoon when the baby has been sick all night.  I don’t see the days leading up to the party spent madly cleaning everything in sight, shoving clutter where it can’t possibly be seen or escape for a few hours, scrubbing and washing and decorating, and I don’t see the days after, with the dishes nobody wants to wash and the clutter that starts creeping out again.

Nobody lives on a TV set.  Books aren’t real.  Martha Stewart is a fiction.  FlyLady doesn’t have six kids at home with disabilities, and she doesn’t homeschool.  Besides, how many science fiction novels have either of them read this year?  How many fantasy lives have they lived casting magic spells and riding flying dragons?  How many planets have they explored from the warmth of a pile of blankets and pillows?  Have they ever waited for years to hear their six-year-old finally say, “My name is —-” for the first time?  Have they ever dealt with three newborns 24/7, alone and scared?

And round and round in a circle we go, as I know there are others who look at my house, my kids’ education, my knitting and crochet skills and collection, my music, my sewing, my magick, and think I’m somebody to look up to.  They don’t see the days I spend in tears, from pain or frustration or just being overwhelmed.  They don’t see my crushed budget, the mess downstairs, the Fruity Pebbles my kids ate for breakfast, the thousand little failures leading up to one success.

While it’s good to have ambitions, it’s good to have goals, we all need to take our ideals down off their pedestals every so often. We need to see the cracks, chips, and dust that we can’t see when they’re way up high, being admired and all.  We need to get to know our enemies.

Living Vicariously

A friend of mine recently moved to a new house.  She used to live in our neighborhood in a tiny house, and they were getting pretty crowded with all their children and dogs.  Their new place is a beautiful house with artistic architecture on a wooded lot outside of town.  She has big, big windows with gorgeous views of her land and plenty of room for her kids.  I love seeing the pictures she shares of her view over her morning coffee.

This morning, as I was heading to the dentist for a cleaning, I passed a couple maneuvering something rather large out to the street.  I slowed down, then slammed on the brakes as I recognized the object: a concert pedal harp, completely wrapped in its case but with that characteristic lopsided heart shape unmistakable.  They were wheeling it down ramps from the front porch, in preparation for hoisting it up into the back of the waiting minivan.  (The need to buy special “harpmobiles” capable of transporting a concert harp was almost a running joke in college…although the Powers That Be know that I already have a harpmobile now…just sayin’…)  Just the sight of the harp, and the knowledge that there is a heretofore-unknown harpist lurking in my neighborhood, were enough to make me smile.

Going into Foods for Living turns me into a kid in a candy store.  Organic food! Specialty cheeses from local dairies! Fair trade dark chocolate treats! Exotic chips and teas! I have a target, I have a goal, I have one, maybe two specific things I am here to get, but the whole way in and out is a string of, “Ooohh, this looks tasty!”  When I go there, I need somebody to follow me around with a print-out of my budget, ready to smack my hand with it every time I reach out for something. It’s nice to window-shop, though.

One of my kids had to get her eyes looked at by our retinal specialist over in the Detroit area this afternoon.  He didn’t find anything actionable in her eyes, and we were in and out just in time to spend two hours in rush hour traffic to get back home.  Not a mile after I got on the highway, we overtook a gorgeous gray Maserati in the next lane over.  He had a license plate that read “GOES185”.  I turned off the radio so we could listen to his engine purr while we were beside him.  Before we got off 696, we had also seen a Jaguar, a Porsche, and a Corvette, so many fancy cars that Caitlin finally wondered aloud where they were all coming from.  What a way to make me smile about sitting in traffic!

The Crazy Season Begins

Resetting the calendars to October always brings home the fact that the crazy season in now upon us.  Here come the holiday decorations, three months of beautiful neighborhood displays that get bigger and brighter every year. Here come the birthdays, four birthdays in as many days just in our house, plus more birthdays of family and friends at the same time. Here comes Halloween, the biggest holiday on a witch’s calendar, with trick-or-treating and finding the right costumes to handle the unpredictable weather and parties and seasonal foods.  Here comes the first snowfall, the little dumping that closes the schools now but just gets ignored if it happens in February.  Time for better tires on the cars and one last cutting of the lawn before the snow covers it like a blanket until spring comes to wake it up.  Here comes Thanksgiving and all the expectations of the Norman Rockwell family holiday, with happy relatives and huge feasts and that tribal ritual of sporting events and guests expecting to be waited on.  Then it’s December with more parties, buying coats and boots for all the children again, finding and making hats and mittens and scarves and doggie snowsuits.  Time to throw the budget in the waste bin as Yule and gift-giving approaches.  What is that secret to gift giving that it seems the whole world but me has?  Presents for the children, for the husband, for the mother and the father and the brother and the new sister, for the church family, for homeschool friends, presents for everybody if only we can figure out what to give and how to procure it. Yule vigil and Christmas mess and New Year’s thaw and January polar vortex with a snowstorm on my birthday, and the world is frozen over and my toes are cold and my mind and heart are exhausted from all the social pressures.

So many expectations.  I remember the years I actually handmade costumes for all my kids, real sewn costumes for Peter Pan and Captain Hook and princesses and Pooh and Piglet and Tigger, too.  I remember the times we had parties and I made beautiful cakes, hand made and decorated, for all my birthday kids, with a pinata and party games and even decorations in a clean house.  I remember sending out holiday cards once upon a time, hand-addressed cards to everybody I knew, to addresses I still have but which probably aren’t good anymore.  I remember putting up the tree the weekend after Thanksgiving along with decorations, outside lights, the works, and then taking it all down and putting it away after my birthday.  I remember making a full Thanksgiving feast by myself, with a turkey and dressing and sweet potatoes and rolls and mashed potatoes and green bean casserole and fruit salad and pumpkin pie.  I remember attending holiday parties at friends’ houses, so neat and clean and perfectly decorated despite the residence of homeschooling children.  I remember years when the tree was dwarfed by the present pile on Christmas morning, one year  by donors, one year by grandmas, but no year recently.  I remember going to New Year’s parties with social clubs, leaving the kids with grandma and staying in the hotel, drinking and dancing and more all night long.

Every year I go into October thinking all these things are going to happen, that this year is going to be the year that all my ducks are in a row, the stars are aligned, everything works out.  I can’t avoid the crazy season altogether, but how do I avoid the minefield of expectations and experience that comes with it?

A’Kos Visits the Renaissance

The Michigan Renaissance Festival is open for only one Friday each year. It is School Day, an opportunity for area schools to organize field trips in the name of history. Tickets are half price for groups that purchase in bulk ahead of time, coupon books provide a little food discount, and the actors tone down the bawdiness a little to keep it more child-friendly.

For the past few years I’ve taken advantage of this to head up a Lansing Homeschoolers field trip, bringing the price within reason for our large family. The kids (and I!) look forward to this trip all year. Allowance and spending money is squirreled away, costumes are put together, and attack plans are often made to strategize all the things to do and eat.

For me, the attraction lies in people-watching, a day free from chores and school, and a rare purchase of something difficult to find elsewhere. Sometimes I eyeball the clothing shops for ideas of things I could make for myself. Otherwise, I generally drift with Jarod and Kender, mostly happy to do what they want. This year, we had A’Kos along for the ride, which put the finishing touch on my day off, as the frustrations of Kender screaming, fussing, running, etc., were virtually nonexistent.

Most of the kids run off on their own, in twos and threes. The girls had a couple of friends along, and they spent the day getting pretty and buying clothes.

Liam also had a friend along. They bought weapons, ate constantly, and delighted in sending each other and others to jail.

A rare shot of Kender showing his face!

A rare shot of Kender showing his face!

Kender was very good about wearing his tethering vest today, which was a huge relief since this was one of the main places I needed it. Even when I took it off so he could play on the playground, he calmly let me put it back on when it was time to move on.

The first thing I did after the playground was head to Son of Sandler for some boots. I have gotten down to having only my summer Unshoes and my super heavy snow boots as the sum total of my intact shoes. I have gotten several recommendations for Son of Sandler’s shoes and decided to make the investment in some shoes that would cover the gap. With the rave reviews and the lifetime guarantee, I hope the investment will pay off. I ended up with some ankle boots, since they were near the bottom of the

My new warm shoes.

My new warm shoes.

price range and had lesser soles. I wore them all day and felt very comfortable in them, so I think they will work out!

Kender laid with A’Kos while Jarod made the acquaintance of a couple of Great Pyrenees in the store. Later, a woman came in with her pet fox on a leash, something I had never seen before. A’Kos was rock solid the whole time, staying with Kender until I was ready to leave.

My favorite job for our service dog: a place for Kender to hang out while I do something.

My favorite job for our service dog: a place for Kender to hang out while I do something.

At lunch, A’Kos stayed with Kender and Jarod so they could sit and eat while I fetched drinks from the huge drinks line. I love how calm and sedate A’Kos is. He doesn’t budge from a down unless Kender or I run off.

Unknown by me, Kender was busy stealing my burger bun!

Unknown by me, Kender was busy stealing my burger bun!

Such good boys

Such good boys

After picking up some smoothies, it was time to catch a set with Tartanic.  While we waited, Jarod got into a shouting contest with the local pickle vendor over who was louder.  This caught the attention of Tartanic’s lead man Adrian, and Jarod was drafted into the band for the whole set, playing a tambourine.

Around 2:30, Kender had finally had enough, and he fell asleep while I was in the privies.  So I left him where he was sent Jarod off with a friend to finish up his activity list.  Kender was quite the spectacle.  Every passerby was cooing and adoring, and quite a few were just walking up and taking pictures, making me regret not having bought business cards for times like this.  I must say I definitely prefer being this kind of spectacle with Kender over the spectacle we presented the past few years of kicking and screaming and running off!

Kender slept for over an hour and a half, and by the time he started waking up everybody else was ready to leave.  Although I was still tired when we got home, I think that is the most relaxed and enjoyable time I have ever had at the Renaissance Festival with Jarod and Kender.  Thank you, A’Kos!

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Sleepy

Getting up at seven in the morning really doesn’t agree with me, and yet I keep making commitments that require this ungodly hour of rising.  All the right people sleep until noon.  What am I doing getting up at seven?  Classes for this, classes for that, appointments, field trips.  I really think the Renaissance Festival would be much more fun at night.  Just think how cool the guy who juggles fire would look then!

I was so tired this morning that I didn’t even bother to put shoes on the little ones or a harness on A’Kos.  I just loaded them up as they were and dropped the big kids without going inside.  It’s one of those days where I sit here at the computer for as long as I possibly can get away with it.  I’m not sitting here uselessly, but I’m scanning through my to-do and dailies lists looking for things that can be done from this chair.  Anything that doesn’t require rising suddenly gets priority.

The refrigerator repair man is coming again today.  This will be his fourth (fifth?) visit to our house this month.  I really hope this time is the charm, because this is what we’re working with for a refrigerator for a house of 8 people right now:

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Purchased cheap and dedicated to containing corny kegs and not much else, this fridge has only one shelf, no drawers, and the racks holding stuff in the door are bent and tend to pop out with no warning.

I don’t even want to think about what’s going to happen if/when the big fridge can’t be repaired.  I know the stove can’t be repaired; we found out Kender has actually bent the oven door, so it will never close right again.  We still don’t know where the explosion came from.  I just found out that the art studio my girls have been going to for free for several years wants me to pay them $240 every ten weeks now.  Remember what I said about feeling pinched because of how things add up?  There’s cheer, which is now costing us $29 a week, plus $40 for stunt clinic and probably another $20-30 for special practice and $200 in uniforms before the end of the year.  $120 just went to the class to teach three kids how to repair bikes and bring one home, and $157 just went to our homeschool co-op. Wrestling is coming up, which is $100 up front, new shoes for about $70, and helping to feed a whole team of hungry teenagers every weekend.  All of that is less than one sport and one (one!) class per child. Five birthdays next month, one of them for my brother who still hasn’t gotten his wedding present from me.  Nevermind my dad’s birthday yesterday; he didn’t get one either.  I feel like I’m slowly strangling.  So much for that out-of-the-cage feeling I got on Mabon, that lasted about 24 hours.  Every direction feels like spinning down the drain, with no good options.  Blech.

Maybe more coffee will help.  Will it make the to-do list shorter?

Mabon Reflections

 

Fall color leavesToday is Mabon, the celebration of the fall equinox in the Northern Hemisphere.  The world sits at the balance between the summer half of the year and the winter.  Now the days begin to grow shorter, the nights longer.  Now we reap the fruits of the harvest, the corn and the wheat, the apples and the pumpkins, all the things that have grown through the summer.  Now we stock up, canning and preserving, preparing for the long, cold winter ahead.

In Wicca, now is the time to take stock of our year.  It is time to look at what our plans for the year were and how they went.  It is time to prepare for a period of rest and rebirth as we head into the death of Samhain and the birth of Yule.  It is a time to look at things in our lives that can be sacrificed, spiritual fetters and garbage that are holding us back from growth and progress.

This year, I had a few goals.  I wanted to do more things with the kids, more of the things they want to do instead of only focusing on the things I think they need to do.  I wanted to work on connecting with and building the Wiccan community in Lansing, building up the numbers that would be attending rituals here.  I was also given a heads-up this year that I should expect a period resembling initiation (or possibly hazing!) in my priesthood and in my relationship with Loki.

This spring, I had the kids draw up “bucket lists” for the year.  I told them to put anything and everything on them, no matter how silly.  I wanted to have things to aim for with them, a direction to follow.  I do not feel that I made as much progress down this goal as I had hoped, but we did a few things.  We took a hike down the old brick factory trail.  I will have at least one and possibly two microscopes by the end of the month.  The girls are taking a thrown pottery class.  We went to Pagan Fest.  I spent a day with the younger three visiting seven playgrounds in a single afternoon (the goal was 10, but they got worn out).  Now that I see that list, I guess the idea worked better than I expected!  We’ll continue working on those lists, and next spring we’ll make new ones and work on those.

I’ve been convinced for years that there were more pagans and witches in Mason and the greater Lansing area than I already knew.  This year, it seemed like every ritual and event brought me into contact with at least one.  I led two rituals in the Lansing area, and participated in a couple more.  I went to Pagan Pride Day, got in touch with a local chat night for a while, and got the word out about Crossroads.  I think the progress on building community was perfectly acceptable given the limitations I work in (namely, very little extra free time to network!).  This goal is now going to be tabled until I get further directions from my high priests, I think.

This year, I was raised to Second Degree Priestess with Crossroads.  I was encouraged to take a more active role in leading the church, both in rituals and elsewhere.  I explored some possibilities for clerical work outside actual rituals, things that might lead me to or become the Great Work I will need for Third Degree.  And then I jumped head-first into seminary training with the goal of finally getting a degree, hoping that having that degree be in something I had already spent most of my life studying would make it easier for me to finish.  This was entirely an impulse decision.  I can’t recall even a few minutes of thinking before taking the plunge.  I say a prompting made me do it, because really, what could be crazier?  Signing up for seminary when the year is half done (assignments must be completed by Yule to move ahead, and I haven’t gotten any passes for being second degree in an ATC church), with everything else I have on my plate?  Crazy or not, I have been enjoying my time there so far, and I hope that continues.  Maybe this is the “initiation” period I was warned of back in February.

Not that the year has been lacking in hazing-type events.  After (let’s be honest) living on credit cards since Kender was born, that well finally dried up this year and we’ve been forced to live within a budget tighter than any I can ever remember.  It feels tighter to me than previous low-money periods partly because of how many of us there are now, making every little expense magnify by a factor of 8 (or more, sometimes).  It doesn’t help that it seems like everything in our house is breaking at once.  All the appliances, our cars, the computers, the furniture, even parts of the house itself, everything is broken, worn out, falling apart, molding, losing its stuffing, leaking, in one case catching on fire (!!).  So at the same time that we have no extra money, we need a ton of it to keep functioning.  Yes, I know where (or who!) this lesson is coming from, but I don’t have to like it.

Every year at this time I am asked to make a sacrifice.  A few years ago, I consciously let go of my breeding status, placed within a corn dolly holding a baby that I burned in a fire.  Another year, I offered up my roots, thinking that if I distanced myself from my Texas family, friends, and background it would help ease my longing to leave this place.

This year, I am letting go of my expectations.  I want to formally release the idea of what my life should look like, all of the “supposed to” and “have to” and “everybody else” that puts boundaries and strictures on my life.  I want to release the idea that I have to know every detail of the path I am about to take before I ever step foot on it.  I don’t mean that I will have no goals, but I do mean that I want to have fewer preconceptions about what achieving those goals will look like along the way.  I want to focus on my destination, and I want to focus on what I see along the way and enjoying the journey.  I don’t want to walk my path worrying about whether the right trees and flowers are growing there.

I’ve spent a lot of time recently feeling like a rat in a cage, scurrying back and forth, back and forth, screaming and seething with rage and tears inside (yes, even when you saw me laughing) because I want to find a way out but I am trapped.  I believe this is my door, to simply have the confidence to walk forward, not just to keep swimming in place but to move forward, regardless of whether I think it will work, regardless of whether I am confident that it is the best path.  I’m tired of standing still, tired of feeling trapped.  Maybe I’ll end up someplace unexpected.  At the very least, I won’t still be where I am now.

Hopefully it won’t mean I’ll end up running off a cliff.

Have a happy fall and harvest and all that goes with it.  Happy apple picking, happy hayrides and corn mazes, happy cider and mead and festivals.  We had our ritual this past Saturday; next weekend we’ll be off to the apple orchard.

Happy Mabon!