Friday, November 30, 2007

The Ghosts of Christmas Past - #2

Babies are wonderful little squirmy things. We got our newest ones just in time for Christmas, two years ago. They were born on November 1st, 2005, and so at Christmas time, they were just barely old enough to see the lights and colored bows.

Sis had a horrible pregnancy. She almost lost the twins a couple of times, the worst being when her cervix opened at 21 weeks. She ended up on bedrest, strict, for the rest of her pregnancy. I can't imagine how difficult and frustrating it would be, to be laying down for 12 weeks. In the delivery room, though, she was a real trooper. She birthed those babies like a natural! When we brought them home, she set about breast feeding, and did an amazing job of it.

That Christmas was so joyous for us. Even though we were short on sleep because of midnight feedings and late night diaper changes, we had these two amazing, miraculous creatures that smiled at us and gurgled, and waved their tiny little hands.

Gray's parents joined us for Christmas, that year. We fed them a dinner that was less than adequate, thanks to my having new mom syndrome (and I didn't even give birth!), but they took it in stride and said not a word of complaint. They're amazing people. I loved watching them with their brand new grandbabies, though. Grandma was all smiles for the little ones, counting their fingers and goes, holding them up, cuddling them close...

The only thing that could have improved that Christmas, was having my bio daughter with us. As it was, I had to make do with pictures and presents from her, and a phone call. But even that was special.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Ghosts of Christmas Past - #1

It's not yet December, but it's almost impossible to avoid the specter of Christmas right now. Most of the houses have lights up, and some even sport fully decorated trees in their windows. I find it almost depressing, in a way, and yet... the spirit of Christmas is a wonderful one.

I was reading the December '07 issue of Reader's Digest this afternoon, and in it they have several "be happy" stories about people who did wonderful things at Christmas. My first instinct was to think, "Bah. Why is it that MY life never includes these wonderful things?" I did manage to turn my head around, though. I stopped the negative cycle, and started a more positive string of thought: "Because my life is not nearly so bad as all those people in Reader's Digest!"

The entire thing got me to thinking, however. What miraculous, wonderful, or outrageous things HAVE happened to me over holidays? What ghosts of Christmas' past are haunting me, desiring to be seen? I'll try and think of several over the next few days. I'm going to start with an easy one, though... last Christmas.

......

Schools didn't let out until December 23rd. We were spending Christmas with Gray's parents, in St. Louis, a 17 hour drive away from our Maryland home. I can't drive anymore, and sis was exhausted after a full day's work (she's a teacher). We'd sent #1Daughter on ahead on the plane, and that left "only" myself, sis, Gray, #1Son, and the twins to be stuffed into the SUV. We lit out of the Baltimore area at 3:30pm, after picking up sis and filling up with (that oh so expensive) gas, and drove like stink for the midwest.

Gray was determined to drive through. Sis was worried that the twins would be stressed by being strapped in the car so long. I was worried I'd hurt someone. #1Son was worried his Gameboy batteries would run out. The twins, well, they just slept. After a while...

And then boytwin threw up. I can deal with most things - blood, severed body parts, poop... vomit does me in, though. And here was our beautiful boytwin, heaving his poor, one year old guts out, directly behind me. I was annoyed. I thought the vomiting was because sis had insisted on giving the twins milk (milk always upset my stomach when I traveled long distances as a kid). I was sullen, and feeling sick myself because of the stench. We stopped to clean the child up, and he seemed happier. The car still smelled faintly of puke, but it wasn't too bad.

Boytwin vomited again. Before we could get to the next rest stop, he vomited several times, in fact. He was projectile vomiting at one point, splattering my hair. I was fighting losing my own dinner, which had been greasy fast food designed to get us on the road quickly. We had to stop several times, changing the poor, drenched child each time. He got bathed in many gas station sinks during that long, long evening.

Eventually, Gray stopped for a few hours' of rest at a hotel. We bagged up the worst of the clothes, slept as best we could. Sis sat up almost the whole night, while the bedraggled and exhausted little boy drooled bile into the bathtub. When we resumed our trip, we called ahead to warn Grandma that we were coming in tired and sick. She readied the homefront for us, and we drove.

Gray got us there, and once we were no longer rolling down the road, boytwin seemed to rally a bit. We all were happy, and still blaming spoiled milk from a gas station. We stuck to the BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast) diet for boytwin, afraid to overstress his abused tummy. He kept down fluids, and we were pleased. After getting cleaned up, and breathing non-vomitous air for a while, things looked much brighter.

Then the worst happened. Girltwin began to follow her brother's pattern. Boytwin started up again. And a mere hour or two later, sis began to get sick, as well. At first, we thought she was having sympathy sickness, as she sometimes does, but after watching her empty her lunch into the toilet, we knew it was more than spoiled milk and an overactive imagination. Something was going around. Sis got VERY sick, VERY fast, and was in the bathroom moaning and crying for hours. Gray and Grandma and Grandpa and I nursed the sick twins, until Gray and I began to get ill, too.

By the time Grandma (who is a nurse) decided it was time to take the two dehydrated babies to the ER, Gray and I were ensconced in two of Grandma's bathrooms, spewing liquid out of most of our orifices. Simultaneously. It was hideous. I can give direct sympathy now, to those who died of the Black Death (influenza, aka "the flu"). There were quite a few times that I wished I was dead. The twins were rushed to hospital, and then taken by ambulance to another hospital specializing in children's maladies. They were very sick, and horribly dehydrated.

We had some sleep, and Grandma came home. Gray and I went to the hospital, and sis decided to stay and sleep there, while Gray and I returned with news, several hours later. But Grandma was upset that we'd left her, and stormed back to the hospital herself, to spend the night helping sis. I think, at the time, that Gray and I were just not thinking straight. Normally, at least one of us would have stayed, but we were still both so sick that we hadn't thought of it. It was a mess.

In the midst of all this, Gray's brother arrived, with his five kids. The house was full of people, and eventually, everyone but Grandma succumbed to the flu. Christmas dinner was put off, and no one even wanted to open stockings. The poor twins were stuck in the hospital, and no one felt festive.

In the hospital, we were treated royally by the caring people there. Not only were the staff attentive and compassionate, the volunteers made certain that, on Christmas morning, the twins each had a stocking hanging (on their IV poles), and packages and presents to open. The people there were so generous, that we can't even begin to give back what they gave to us. Three exhausted parents and two exhausted grandparents were brought food and drink, and supported 100%. The twins were looked in on regularly, and the staff made certain that there was plenty of food and drink to tempt their empty, aching tummies. They even made certain that there were fresh sheets and pillows on the beds in the twins' rooms (the couch becomes a bed so parents can stay with their children) each night, with warm blankets.

There were numerous Santas and helper elves in that hospital. Those people worked Christmas eve, and took fantastic care of our kids. When we were worried about girltwin's lack of progress, they took care of it, scheduling more tests. We were never left wondering.

So yes, there are angels in my life. I'm very glad for them.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Finding God in the Fireplace

I have been enjoying having a hearth to kneel in front of each night. With the colder weather arriving, we've had a fire going each night in the fireplace, warming the house up a few degrees, saving us the precious oil in the tank downstairs. Besides, it's much more pleasant to sit in front of a fire, than in front of a warm radiator. There's more "scope for imagination," as Anne would say.

In order to heat our house, we need firewood. That means downed trees. Luckily, we have plenty of friends with lots of downed trees, who are willing to trade us wood, for splitting labor. That's not always a fun chore, but when six or seven people get together to do it, the work goes quickly. It's very enjoyable to sit and enjoy a hot cup of cranberry tea with friends, after a hard afternoon of hauling logs.

Farnham made a comment as we were driving to Odon's house on Saturday, to split logs. He said that wood is the only fuel that heats you in all its stages. You're heated while cutting it down, heated while hauling it, heated while cutting it into manageable pieces, heated while splitting it into useable fireplace wood, and heated while it burns down. And the ashes are useful, too - we'll be saving them, this year, to make potash, from which we'll make the lye for our soap next spring! Because the trees we are using are already down, we are not destroying the environment. There's no clear cutting going on, nor any waste. We use the wood that has been felled in storms and from lightning strikes, which would have rotted. Some pieces are left, too, to provide food for animals, and homes for bugs and birds.

At all stages, the wood provides me with opportunities to find God. When cutting and splitting, I use my muscles to pull and hold and such, and I feel the energy that is created within me. I feel the stirrings of the chill, autumn air, and my legs and feet get cold. As we carry it and stack it, I get to experience the joy of community, as my friends and family help at my side. Their cheeks glow with exertion, and we can see our breath as we laugh at one another, and shout over the buzz of the log splitter. I know my own glow, too, because I can feel the burn of them.

As the fire curls up the paper, and catches into the wood itself, I feel a different kind of burn. I like to watch the flames dancing over the logs, moving fluidly between cracks and along dry spots. Sometimes, you can see faces, or hear the faint whisperings of Deity from within the pops and crackles, and the slight hiss of water evaporating. It's lovely...

How can one not find God there?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Gobble Gobble!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Be thankful for your life. Be thankful for love in your life. Be thankful for family, whether it is the biological type, or the type you adopt (or are adopted by). Remember that Thanksgiving is about... giving ... thanks. Remember to say your prayers, in whatever fashion you do so.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving Prayer - 2007

I felt the need to share my Thanksgiving Prayer with everyone. I usually just make it up as I go along, but there's just SO much to be thankful for, that I had to write it down. I've removed names, and just left initials, for privacy's sake.

Thanksgiving Prayer - 2007

This year, we have so much to be thankful for. We have freezers full of delicious chicken, thanks to T---. We have bathroom walls and plumbing, thanks to D---. C--- has built beautiful cabinets. W--- has inspired us each to embrace our inner Crone. L--- has been a dedicated and devoted grandmother, not only to A--- and T---, but to the twins, too. B---'s bright spirit and sumptuous recipes have brought smiles to us all. A--- has become an adult, and has stepped into the role of responsible member of the household with great success. D--- has worked through adversity and difficult times, and shows us what hard work can do, every single day. K--- and her family have been friends and neighbors of extraordinary love. A--- and T--- have been joining us, with their friends and family, and have brought joy to each of us. S--- and M--- shared their special day with us, and showed us the power of love. And I've been deepening my own spirituality, with the help and support of you all.

There are so many religions and beliefs, with us here, today. Rather than speak the prayers of my own belief, alone, I've chosen a handful of prayers from around the world. Please join me in a few moments of prayer, and thankfulness.

Thanksgiving

For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

We Give Thanks

Our Father in Heaven,
We give thanks for the pleasure
Of gathering together for this occasion.
We give thanks for this food
Prepared by loving hands.
We give thanks for life,
The freedom to enjoy it all
And all other blessings.
As we partake of this food,
We pray for health and strength
To carry on and try to live as You would have us.
This we ask in the name of Christ,
Our Heavenly Father.
- Harry Jewell

For Things We Give Thanks

For food that stays our hunger,
For rest that brings us ease,
For homes where memories linger,
We give our thanks for these.

– traditional mealtime blessing

Thanks to All

- by Allyson

A moment of silence is not enough
To truly be thankful for all of the things
That our friends and family do for us.
To each one of you, adults and children alike,
I say thank you, heartily.
To all our Gods, high and low,
I say thank you, gratefully.
Thank you, most of all,
For letting us all be here, together.
Amen.

Happy Thanksgiving, all. Let us feast!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Spiritual Slaughter

Yesterday was our semi-annual chicken slaughter. We killed and processed 40+ chickens (we didn't count; it could have been 38 or 42, but 40 seems about right). After watching the series Rome over the past few weeks, and doing a bit of study on Greek sacrifice of animals, I decided that since the chickens were destined to die anyhow, we would offer them up, one by one, as a "hekatomb" (big sacrifice) to Hecate and Dionysus, towards our prosperity.

I've done numerous chicken slaughters now. It's become old hat - we set up quickly, get started, and rapidly fall into a groove that works well and gets the chickens processed expeditiously. This year, things went a little slower, though, for a variety of reasons. Largely, I spent a great deal of time praying over each chicken, calming it and offering it to my Gods. Both at the moment of the first blade strike and at the moment of death, I made sure to repeat my offering words to Hecate and Dionysus. It was an extremely powerful experience!

The act of taking a life, even mercifully and quickly and calmly, has always left me drained, both emotionally and spiritually. This was true, this time, as well... However, I also felt strangely elated, happy about the sacrifices that I had done. I did this right, and well, and I had the distinct feeling that it was both accepted, and appreciated.

I am also happy that our chickens had yet another use. During their life, they are pretty and help the children learn about the cycles of life and death. Their death brings us meat which we sorely need (store bought chicken is pumped full of pennicillan, a drug which both sis and I are very allergic to). And the act of their death is now a sacrifice to praise the Gods and to bring about more goodness to us, as a family.

I am tired and sore, today. My arms hurt, from the action of killing the chickens (I try to make certain each chicken dies with a single flash of the blade, so there is no pain, no suffering involved). My legs hurt from standing for six hours on a dirt floor. My back hurts for the same reason. Yet, it is a good hurt. I resent it not one bit.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Giving Thanks

It is almost Thanksgiving, and that makes me think about ... giving thanks. Go figure.

I'm thankful for:
- babies who wrap their chubby little arms around me, and say "wuv you, Mei Mei!"
- life partners who take the time to help me relax, with words, touches, and love.
- extended family that help me understand what love is all about.
- research papers being finished, on time, and ready to hand in.
- french toast.
- multi-media pictures made by twins.
- turkey and all the fixings.
- cooler weather (even if I am cold all the time).
- Christmas catalogues to "window shop" in.
- new chickens.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Dionysus' Day

Today is the day which I dedicate to celebration of Dionysus, the 13th of each month. I don't do a WHOLE lot... I clean his side of my altar, do a wine offering, say a prayer. I think today I am going to try and write a poem, though. It feels like a poem day...

Edited Nov. 16th, 2007, 12:15pm

Here's the poem:

Dionysus Sees Her

He sat amongst his friends, his family, his loved ones,
His precious and precocious maenads dancing wildly.
Fragrant, amethyst-hued wine filled amphoras about them,
The heady scent and headier spirit filling their souls with joy.

The Lord Dionysus paused, mid-sip,
His wine crater a hair's breadth from his lips.
Was that a cry?
He leaned his ivy-crowned head closer to the grapevines,
Listening intently to the message they relayed.

His strong, lithe body rose from his seat,
And he stood, looking over the cliff edge,
Dark eyes sweeping the wave-struck sand below.
A pale figure lay, collapsed, on the beach,
Wearing only tattered cloth that was more net than dress.

The vines whispered to him, of Theseus and his crew,
Leaving the poor, wretched girl, sobbing, alone.
Vengance rose in the Great Lord's soul,
Burning within him, like flames in his eyes.
Waving away his attendants, he went
To she who mourned the loss of her life.

When the stare of a God touches your form, you know.
She knew, and looked up, stunned by the beauty of him.
Like a rabbit, caught at night, she froze.
Tiny hands clasped uselessly at shredded clothing,
Vainly attempting to hide her nakedness from that piercing stare.
Yet, in that instant, she knew all was lost.

And for Dionysus, all was gained,
As the swell of unconditional love filled his mind,
O'ertaking all else.
This maid, used and left for dead by ruthless adventurers,
Would now be his, for all time.

Always, he had brushed near the briefness of mortal life.
Their lives were over in a beat of his ecstatic heart,
Vibrant and vain, soulful and slothful.
But this one... She was his queen.
For her, he would die. For her, he would be mortal.
For her... he would set starts in the heavens.

(c) 2007 Rev. Allyson Szabo

Monday, November 12, 2007

Hearthfires


I have an altar in my bedroom. I light candles there, when I do my evening prayers and meditations. They are a modern representation of the original hearth fires of Greece and Rome.

But now it is fall, and weather is cold. Oil costs a lot, and to save money, we are utilizing our fireplace to warm the front half of our home. Farnham has given us wood as part of our Yuletide gift this year, and it's piled neatly by our front door. Gray starts the fire each evening, much as our ancestors may have.

As I sat, last night, in front of the fire, I watched the living flames flickering energetically. They licked hungrily at the logs, occasionally snapping as they reached some bit of trapped water, or perhaps a bug or two caught inside the wood. Its heat caressed my skin, warming me physically, but also warming my soul.

Instead of worshipping at my altar, last night I chose to kneel before the hearth, as many people of old have done. I made my offerings of barley, to Hecate, and rosemary, to Dionysus, and I fed them into the flames. The little sparks felt so right, it was wonderful. I enjoyed it, greatly.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Noumenia and Thanksgiving

It's Noumenia, or New Moon, today/tonight. It's a time for a special offering, time to reflect on the month to come, and make a few goals and decisions. I will be at Farnham's tonight, and I look forward to spending some quiet, meditative time with him. We've been sorely lacking in meditation time, of late.

Thanksgiving is coming up. We'll be celebrating on the Friday rather than Thursday, and will use Thursday as our preparation day. I'm looking forward to it a lot, this year! It will be at our house, and we have an extensive (as usual) menu. I'm roasting up both a turkey and a chicken (one of our own, slaughtered the week before!). The turkey will be stuffed with my Nagymama's stuffing (soft white bread, 12 eggs, beef liver, and a coronary... lol), and the chicken will get a wild rice and sausage stuffing. We'll have yam balls, a la sis, and mashed potatoes with gibblet gravy. Green bean cassarole, curried squash soup... Delicious. I love cooking turkey!

I'm making a recipe book for people for Yule. There are 32 recipes slated, some from me, some from sis, some from Gray, and a few from our family members. We're very much looking forward to putting it together. Gray suggested we put pictures of the twins in it, "cooking" and "helping" and I think it's a wonderful idea! We made soap, from lye and oatmeal and honey. We also made a spice mix. I think the wine will be ready in time, too. So we'll have quite a lot of gifts to give to people, and I feel very good about it. For me, the making of gifts is the best thing to do at Yuletide!

Now, I have a little girl who needs to be changed, so I'm off...