Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Year in Review


It's the last day of 2011. Tomorrow will be a whole new year. I have decided to take a trip through this year and look at the changes that have come about. Sometimes, it's important to remember that stuff, you know?

In January, I was going through the turmoil of ending my relationship with my ex-love Tony, extricating myself from his house, his life (and his wife's life). It was not pleasant, and I spent much of the month being overwhelmed, emotionally bereft, and generally broken. I really think the best post to explain it all was the one I wrote on trust. Trust was a large factor in my life, broken trust especially. It's something I still struggle with, partially because I've had trust broken so many times over my life in big ways, and partially as the blow-out from the break-up we went through. Poly "divorce" (for lack of a better word) is a highly unpleasant thing at the best of times. This one was not at the best of times.

February was a month that I didn't blog here much. I suspect I was just too emotionally raw to really do much, but I was also in the home stretch at seminary. Most of the blog posts were "writing seeds" from the book we were working through. I touched on so many subjects, all of them deep and important, but none to do with how I was truly doing, if that makes any sense.

Lent was my focus through much of March, and I wrote a lot about my impressions of it. I especially like this post because it touches on my beliefs as a "hybrid" of Greek and Christian beliefs. There's also a labyrinth poem that I am somewhat proud of for its meter and rhyme. I find myself now looking ahead to Lent in the New Year, and what sort of revelations it will bring to me...

Spring started coming in April, and I spent more time out of doors. I went for a walk at a friend's brand new land, and ended up breaking my right ankle. Ouch. That's the first bone I've ever broken, and it was not something I enjoyed at all. I felt very trapped in the house in Hinsdale, unable to leave my room, dependent on people who were not only no longer lovers or family, but who were rapidly choosing to become enemies. April was the month that I broke all of my own rules, and did something so horrible that it almost destroyed me, my family, everything I've worked for through the years. I'm still recovering from it today, which is a part of that whole trust issue I mentioned before. It's hard... it's frightening! I haven't given up, though, and I persevered through all the nastiness and pain and anguish, and I'm not in April anymore.

May was about building foundations again. It was close to graduation and ordination time, and also approaching the time when we would be leaving the house that was now owned by Tony and wife, and going to a new place. We didn't know yet that our dream house would fall through, though we had (by this month) seen the new house which was destined to be our own. We had been razed to the ground, and now it was time to lay that new foundation. The big rocks (family, relationship) had to be firmly laid at the bottom, so that nothing else could topple whatever we built. I know at the time I didn't feel as if I was doing a very good job, but I can look back now with a bit of mercy on myself and see that I was doing the best I could.

I can explain June in two words: confirmation, and ordination. The whole month seemed to be eaten up by those two ceremonies. Confirmation was fairly quiet, but very heartfelt. Ordination was a huge production number, and I loved every moment of it despite shaking in my boots throughout. I went on retreat, took my first Communion as a confirmed Christian, re-dedicated myself to my Greek gods, and accepted the anointing of myself as an Interfaith Minister.

July had me living alone in the parsonage of our church. It was a peaceful time, although I was mourning not having a garden. I tried to grow tomatoes in pots, but it just didn't work out. I had lush leaves, but almost no fruit at all. Still, I tried. It was a way of laying in my dreams (and prayers) for this winter, I suppose. I still ache that I can't open a jar of our own tomatoes in January, when I want them most, but at least I have a few dilly tomatoes and one package of frozen home-grown beans left. I plan on using them around my birthday, I think.

I spent most of August in a time of introspection. I thought about our children, about our relationships, about our life. I thought about me, and how I'd forgotten to pray for myself for a very long time. A friend got badly hurt, and some things happened that got me very emotionally hurt. It was also the time that I started to realize that I could exist outside of my relationship. I'm still not sure I like that, to be honest. I realize it's a healthy realization, and I'm not trying to bury it or anything. There's a certain scariness to it, though; the idea that even if Gray or sis were to leave, even if the kids were suddenly no longer in my life, I could continue on. It might hurt, it might ache, it might burn like the fires of Hel, but I would go on, and I would live my life. It's not a comforting thought, really, because of the pain it involves. I don't fear death; Hecate cured me of that some years ago. I do fear pain, though... and most of my life has been spent running from one shelter to another, avoiding pain. For the first time in my life, at 40 years of age, I feel as if I can walk through pain and still be standing. I suppose that must mean I'm grown up now?

September was a month of food for me. I was at the parsonage, now joined by Gray and sis and kids. I was cooking a lot more, and I even tried some fun things like fudge. I made one of my favorite Hungarian recipes, chicken paprikash, and shared the recipe with the blogosphere. I dealt with a lot of emotional issues, some of which are still ongoing, but I dealt with a grace I didn't know I had.

We moved into our new home in October, and I learned that the land here is quite numinous. We spent hours lugging boxes, cleaning, scouring carpets, and settling in. We got children registered and going to their new school. It was a time of new beginnings, which might seem odd for October, but suited me just fine. I celebrated a number of holy days, some Jewish and some Christian, most Hellenic, and enjoyed the fact that the new house and land provided me with peace to do such things.

In November, I finally got my altars set up. For me, this was a way of saying, "This is HOME." I'd never gone so long without altars (the ones in the parsonage were fairly rudimentary, but at least they were present). It was with a sense of true relief that I pulled out all my sacred items and placed them reverently in their places. Since then I've moved a few things around, but the basic lay-out has continued to stay the same. I love it! My room is truly wonderful, a place of sanctuary for me. I look forward to spring, and the time when I can throw open both windows and let the clear, cleansing breeze blow through.

This month, December, I've found myself strangely removed from everything. I didn't get into my usual funk around Yule and Christmas. I had emotional moments, yes, but nothing like the past 9 years. I talked to my daughter, enjoyed listening to her open her gifts, had a little party with friends, and baked cookies successfully for the first time, really. It's been a good month, and a quiet one. Most of the boxes have been sorted through. Most of our things have been found (or replaced if lost). There's wood in the house, and the fireplace has been cranking out most of the house's heat for the past month.

The angst and anger of January has faded. I can't say that I've completely recovered from the blow of my relationship ending and the resulting "divorce" situation, but I have come to terms with it and moved on. I try not to think about the bad times, even when that means doing things like deleting a few pictures off my hard drive. I don't even spend much time thinking on the good times, to be honest, other than to take the lessons I learned (how to grow food in a garden, how to raise and butcher chickens, etc.) and apply them to the new life we've started here. Though we intended to stay close to where we were previously, fate has moved us an hour away, and that seems to have been a wonderful thing. Life is good. Life is good. Life is good.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Can a little baby change the world?

The question asked on my daily devotion was whether it was reasonable to expect a small baby to change the whole world. I ask in return, is it reasonable to expect a small baby to NOT change the world? Anyone who has ever interacted with a small baby will tell you that the world has changed, from the very moment that child was held in your arms. Any new parent will explain the incredible changes that they go through in order to have their child there with them in their home. Look at a new parent's eyes, at the dark circles and slightly hysterically happy smile, and you will see that the world has changed. Drastically.

There's a lot out there about The Baby Jesus. Google it and you'll find thousands upon thousands of entries, some Biblical in nature, others opinion or critique. The very fact that you have found those entries tells you that "the baby Jesus" certainly changed our world. Whether you see him as a metaphor, a borrowed god from another culture, a god in his own right, or the bastard son of a woman who didn't know what else to do doesn't really matter at this late date. Our world has been changed, some would say for the better, some for the worse. After all, the world's most horrible wars have been fought in the name of God. We must never let go of the knowledge that the world's most beautiful actions are done in the name of God, too.

There are people all around the world who celebrate something amazing in the next few days. Some celebrate Christmas. Some celebrate Hannukah. There's Kwanzaa, Solstice, Mithrasmass, Yuletide, and even New Year. Almost all of these touch on the idea of bringing something new and exciting into the world, bringing in light and joy and hope. The themes are similar, even downright suspiciously so in some cases. And it really doesn't matter at all what you celebrate.

Whether we celebrate the birth of Christ, the rebirth of light, the birth of the new year, or some other type of birth, may your winter holy days be TRULY holy.

Blessings!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

All I want for Christmas...


Dear Santa, Jesus, Holly King, Dionysos, Strega Nona, and whoever else might be listening...

I like this time of year. Even though there are a few blowhards who are so "bah humbug" that they ruin it for themselves, the majority of people of ALL religions and none are happy and humming around this time. I like that people tend to actually remember their pleases and thank yous. I like that politeness sneaks back into a lot of people's daily lives. It might be fleeting, but it's nice that this time of year encourages everyone to think of others rather than of themselves.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about others the past few months, and a bit of time thinking of myself, too. I've tried to make sure that my thoughts on myself have been of the more altruistic variety, though I know I've had a few "me me me!" moments that I'm less than proud of. Still, I don't think I've done too badly this year.

I do have some things to ask for, though.

Peace in our country. That one tops the list. I get scared when I read about our politicians changing the Constitution, sidestepping it, or just plain ignoring it. I get scared when I hear about possible loss of rights, like the right to a swift trial and to a lawyer, and the loss of the right to freedom of personhood. I'm terrified when I get told that having more than a week's worth of food is now considered a terrorist activity by some. I'm worried about myself, my children, my family... my country. It's a scary time. I'm not asking for instant peace, mind you. A gentle up-swing in sanity would be awful nice, though.

Self-esteem. Yeah, I know this one's mostly just for me, but it does affect my family a lot. I'd like to know that I'm worth what I use up around here. I'd like to know that my contributions make a big difference. I'd like to be comfortable in my own skin.

Food. We always have food, even if it isn't necessarily what everyone wants to eat. But I have friends who have real problems with finding enough to eat, who live on food stamps or hand outs, who struggle to make every single penny count. I'd like to know that the people around me aren't starving. I'd like to know that my friends and neighbors, and their friends and neighbors, can grow and raise enough food to feed themselves healthily. I'd like to live long enough to see the world NOT be starving over vast acres of its surface.

Inner silence. Another one for me, Santa. I'd like to close my eyes and not hear bickering or crying or upset or heartbreak or grief or worry or concern. I'd like to close my eyes and know that everything is right around me. I'd like to sleep each night aware that at least in my corner, the parts I have the ability to touch, are just a little bit better today than yesterday. I'd like to go to bed with silence and joy in my mind.

Enough. I want enough. I can't quantify "enough" for you, but it means not being concerned that we can afford to pay the water bill. It means not having an emotional melt down because one of the kids left a heater running all day. It means looking outside to see enough wood to make it through the winter. It means looking in the fridge and finding food that is healthy, plentiful, and that tastes good. That kind of stuff.

I know those are tall orders, Santa. But they're my wishes. I want my family to be truly, deeply happy. When they are happy and relaxed, I tend to be, too. I truly love seeing the smiles on the faces of those I love, excited for the holy days just over the horizon.

Blessings, Santa... Blessings!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Hermes Devotional


Guardian of the Road: A Devotional Anthology in Honor of Hermes

Call for submissions!
We are interested in a wide variety of pieces, including (but not limited to) scholarly articles, short fiction, poetry, original translations of ancient texts, hymns, rituals and artwork.
Submitters are strongly encouraged to explore the many facets of this complex god in their work. Syncretisms between Hermes and other gods, such as Mercurius, are acceptable. A good starting point for ideas can be found here.
All works must be original, not public domain. No plagiarism. Previously published submissions are acceptable, provided the author retains all rights to the work. Authors retain all rights to the submission. Upon acceptance, the author will be sent a permission to publish form along with a request for a short biography to include in the anthology.
The editor reserves the right to make any minor changes in the case of grammar, spelling and formatting concerns. The editor also reserves the right to request modification of submissions and to reject submissions as necessary.
No monetary compensation will be provided. Proceeds from all sales will be divided between charitable donations in the name of the God, and production costs for future publications from Bibliotheca Alexandrina. All contributors will receive a coupon code which will allow them to purchase three copies of the anthology at cost.
Acceptable length is anywhere from 100-10,000 words, and the submissions period will run from 1 August 2011 – 31 January 2012, with the projected release date of March 2012. Please send your submission either in the body of the email or as a .doc/.docx or plain text/RTF attachment (for Mac users) with “Hermes Devotional” in the subject line to Kadynastar78@yahoo.com. Any artwork submitted should be scanned in or created at 300 dpi and sent as a .jpg or .tif file. Please remember to include a by-line in your email: your name as you would like it to appear in the book!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Chicken Parmesan

I'm not sure what possessed me to make chicken parmesan tonight, but I'm certainly glad I did! I had three chicken breasts defrosted, and it just sounded like the right thing to try. This is my own recipe, created after reading a variety of recipes online and deciding that I didn't really like any of them. Feel free to try it out, and add your own touches to make it yours!

Ingredients, sauce:
* 2 large cloves garlic, minced
* 1 medium onion, chopped
* 2 cans crushed or diced tomatoes
* 1/4 cup red wine
* 2 bay leaves
* spices to taste

Ingredients, chicken parm:
* 3 large chicken breasts, boneless and skinless

* approximately 1 cup bread crumbs
* 2 eggs, scrambled with a touch of milk or cream
* olive oil for cooking in
* salt and pepper to taste
* one slice mozzarella (or other) cheese per piece of chicken
* 2 cups shredded parmesan

Method:
Make your sauce first, as it will need time to reduce. In a large sauce pan, pour about a tablespoon of olive oil and your chopped onion. Saute on medium high heat until the onions are just starting to clarify, but before they become mushy. Add the wine and garlic, stir well, and saute another few moments. Reduce the heat to medium and add the tomatoes and bay leaves. Spice to taste; I use a sprinkle of salt and pepper and nothing else.  Lower the heat to allow the sauce to simmer but not boil. Stir occasionally as you allow the sauce to reduce.

Take your chicken breasts and slide them into a plastic baggie, or wrap in saran wrap, or put between two pieces of wax paper. Using a meat hammer or rolling pin (or even an empty wine bottle), pound each chicken breast until it is about a half inch thick. Try to stop before the breasts fall apart, but for flavor's sake it's better to go a bit long than a bit short. Set the breasts aside on a plate while you prepare the breading. While you are doing all that, heat another tablespoon or two of olive oil in a cast iron or other good quality fry pan.

Pour the breadcrumbs into a large flat container (I usually use a straight edged pie plate) and add salt and pepper to taste. Some people also like to add oregano, but I didn't this time. Mix well with a fork. Cut the chicken into serving size pieces (about the size of your palm) and dip each piece into the egg mixture. Lift it and allow it to drip and then dip it into the bread crumbs, flipping to coat well on both (all) sides. Place the chicken into the fry pan and allow to cook about two to three minutes per side (you want your chicken mostly cooked, but NOT completely!). Preheat your oven to 375F.

As you're browning the first batch of breaded chicken, check your sauce. It is probably still very liquid, which is fine. Into the bottom of a casserole dish or high sided baking pan, pour some of the liquid. You don't want to drown your chicken, but it should cover the bottom of the pan just barely.

As the chicken pieces are cooked, place them into a single layer in the casserole dish. Once all the chicken is in the dish, pour the rest of the sauce over the top of the chicken, being sure to cover all of it. On top of the sauce, add a slice of mozzarella (I didn't have mozza so I used provolone, and it was DELISH). On top of the entire thing, sprinkle your parmesan cheese. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the cheese is just beginning to brown and bubble.

I served this dish with a mix of jasmine rice and orzo, which I cooked separately and then mixed together with a tiny bit of olive oil and salt, and a side salad. I must say, I'm very pleased with the results. The chicken was tender enough to cut with a fork (easily), the sauce was very tomato-ey and flavorful without being too tart or watery. My family gave me feedback that included the phrases, "restaurant quality" and "gourmet." Yay for me!

Independent Goddesses Devotional


Unto Herself: A Devotional Anthology for Independent Goddesses

Call for submissions!
We are seeking submissions for a devotional anthology for a cross-pantheon look at virgin Goddesses. This includes Goddesses such as Artemis, Athena, and Hestia, but also those from other pantheons. Pieces in honor of any Goddess from any pantheon who operates without a male consort are welcome, such as Anahita, Anat, Gefjon, Kumari, The Morrigan, Skadhi, Vesta, The Zorya, and others. We are interested in a wide variety of works, including (but not limited to) short fiction, poetry, original translations of ancient texts, hymns, rituals, artwork, personal stories, and scholarly articles — particularly those that compare or contrast the idea of virginity across cultural lines. We are especially looking for submissions that focus upon the Goddesses’ self-reliance and independence in some way, regardless of Their physical virginity.
All works must be original, not public domain. No plagiarism. Previously published submissions are acceptable, provided the author retains all rights to the work. Authors retain all rights to the submission. Upon acceptance, the author will be sent a permission to publish form along with a request for a short biography to include in the anthology.
The editor reserves the right to make any minor changes in the case of grammar, spelling and formatting concerns. The editor also reserves the right to request modification of submissions and to reject submissions as necessary.
As this is a devotional work, no monetary compensation will be provided. Proceeds from all sales will be divided between charitable donations in the names of the Goddesses and production costs for future publications from Bibliotheca Alexandrina. All contributors will receive a coupon code which will allow them to purchase three copies of this anthology at cost.
Acceptable length is anywhere from 100-10,000 words (with the exception of poetry). The submissions period will open November 1, 2011 and close March 31, 2012 with a projected release date of May 2012. Please send your submission either in the body of the email or as a .doc or plain text/RTF attachment with “Parthenos Devotional” in the subject line to rian3x3@gmail.com. Any artwork submitted should be scanned in or created at 300 dpi and sent as a .jpg or .tif file.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Athena Devotional from Bibliotheca Alexandrina


Shield of Wisdom: A Devotional Anthology in Honor of Athena


Call for Submissions!
We are interested in a wide variety of pieces, including (but not limited to) scholarly articles, short fiction, personal experiences, artwork, poetry, rituals, hymns, and original translations of ancient texts.
Contributors are strongly encouraged to consider the Goddess Athena’s many aspects and epithets while creating their submissions. Athena is a Virgin Goddess of Wisdom and War, as well as a Friend and Champion to Heroes. Bearing aegis and spear against her enemies, Athena is a Protector and a Guide, of both cities and individuals. She is a Goddess of Justice and Transformation, as well as Arts such as weaving and pottery. These are but a few of the many aspects of this Goddess, and contributors are encouraged to explore these and other aspects. While this rich mythology involving Athena is an excellent resource, contributors are also encouraged to make use of archaeological, linguistic, philosophical and other resources. Entries focusing on other deities shall not be accepted, unless said entries specifically focus on the deity’s relationship to Athena (ie: Athena as the Daughter of Zeus, Athena in her contest with Poseidon for rulership of Athens, Athena in comparison to the Roman Minerva, Athena and Hephaestus as patrons of handicrafts, Athena and Ares as Deities of War, Athena in comparison to the Egyptian Neith, etc.).
All works must be original, not public domain. No plagiarism. Scholarly articles must properly cite sources where applicable. Previously published submissions are acceptable, provided the author retains all rights to the work. Authors retain all rights to the submission. Upon acceptance, the author will be sent a permission to publish form along with a request for a short biography to include in the anthology.
The editor reserves the right to make any minor changes in the case of grammar, spelling and formatting concerns. The editor also reserves the right to request modification of submissions and to reject submissions as necessary.
No monetary compensation will be provided. Proceeds from all sales will be divided between charitable donations in the name of the Goddess, and production costs for future publications from Bibliotheca Alexandrina. All contributors will receive a coupon code which will allow them to purchase three copies of the anthology at cost.
Acceptable length is anywhere from 100-10,000 words (with the exception of poetry). All artwork must be at least 300dpi. The submissions period will run from October 1, 2011 – March 31, 2012, with the projected release date of May 2012. Please send your submission either in the body of the email or as a .doc/.docx attachment with “Athena Devotional” in the subject line to athenadevotional@gmail.com .