Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The joy of giving


A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (on the west coast of Canada), I spent many years learning to be a good Wiccan High Priestess. During those years, I always had an "offering bowl" on my altar, and there were many times when my HP and I (who were a couple during most of those years, though not all) would stop and put something in the bowl. It could be a penny as thanks for prosperity, or a drip of what we were drinking, just to say hello, or a part of a ritual meal portioned off for our gods.

Several years later, in a place much closer and yet still far from where I am today (on sooooo many levels), I Circled with a bunch of self-trained Wiccans. They, too, had an offering bowl on their altar. Into it, they poured a bit of their wine and a bit of their bread (after they'd eaten their fill). Into it, they deposited their garbage (the stubs of candles, the metal holders for tea candles, etc.). I was horrified.

I found out sometime after later that many Wiccans follow the practice of using the "offering bowl" as a repository for ... stuff. And it really, really bothered me.

Fast forward another few years (yes, I realize I'm racking up an awful lot of years here, shut up) and I am a practicing Hellenic pagan. Some of what I do is sort of Wiccan in its make-up. Most is not. My practices have morphed in a huge way. The world is good, and I still have my offering bowl, and I still offer up the first of my food and drink to the gods. I do so with reverence and a silent joy. It makes me happy to share with or give to my gods.

I understand more now, about why it felt so wrong in that one coven. While I do have a place near my altar for "sacred garbage" (for lack of a better term), it is quite separate from my offering bowl. What I put in the offering bowl is... well, an offering. It is a gift to my gods. I do not wish to give them gifts of metal tea candle holders or stubby bits of wax. (Well, okay that's not entirely true; there are times when such are the correct offerings for cthonic deities like Hecate, but that's another story entirely.)

I think what was missing in that and the other covens I ran into was that they really didn't understand the purpose of the offering bowl. Somewhere in their background (either because they learned from a book that never mentioned it, or it wasn't passed down by a responsible elder, or whatever) they had failed to have that bowl's meaning explained to them.

I don't make as many offerings indoors now. I have outdoor shrines that are better suited to food and drink being left out. I have special bowls and plates that I can use for leaving offerings outside, and I utilize them frequently. Most recently, I left out offerings of peace and goodwill for the fae and/or land wights and/or spirits of the neighborhood (or however you want to describe the Great Big Thing(s) that wake up around this time of year). I've been doing it on St Paddy's Day for a while, for no particular reason. It just feels right.

This year, I left a rather pretty arrangement. I was inspired a bit by a FaceBook friend, Jennifer, who has been making a daily pilgrimage to a local park for ages now. She often posts photos of her offerings, and she does fantastic things like drawing triskelions and spirals with her grains. With that in mind, I went for a different-than-usual offering display for me.

I think it was well received. Within an hour, every last drop of every item there was gone. While I could write off bread and maybe strawberries to squirrels, I don't think honey'd milk would make their top ten list. I felt... honored. I felt welcomed. And so that was my joy of giving.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Craziness

There's been an innate craziness in the air lately. Perhaps it's spring fever, or Mercury Retrograde, or maybe it's just that I'm doing something akin to Real Work for the first time in about ten years. Regardless, my schedule has gotten busy and packed in some really wonderful, if slightly insane, ways.

Yesterday is a great example of the general insanity of my life. I can also point to days like yesterday and remind myself that "I am getting better, every day." I didn't get angry, depressed, or even all that frustrated. I talked myself through the worst parts, shrugged off the rest, and went on with what had to be done. I'm kind of proud of myself.

My schedule yesterday was pretty packed. I had several articles to write for Examiner (for both my Prayer title and my Simple Living one) because the rest of the week was supposed to be rather busy. I had two weddings that needed to be worked on (one was a first draft, the other a final draft). I had bread to bake, laundry to do, vacuuming that HAD to be done, and dinner to make.

Normally I write my articles first thing in the morning. This gives me time to track down research if needed before publishing, and also lets me have the afternoon be less hectic if the Examiner was my only 'boss' for the day. Yesterday I just knew I needed to write the weddings first.

Which doesn't make sense. The articles were the ones that needed to be done, because I had until later in the week to complete the final draft wedding, and until Tuesday (today) to finish the first draft one. It was silly of me to start with the weddings when I had pressing articles to write. I listened to my instincts, though, and went with the flow. I wrote the weddings up first.

Just about the time I finished the last of the weddings, my phone rang. It turned out to be my "first draft" bride, calling to say she was on her way over and sorry for being late. I was stunned... my calendar clearly said Tuesday was our meeting time! I modulated my voice, smiled a lot, and told her that was fine, come on over but please excuse the mess.

This is the point when I normally panic. After all, WHAT IF she hadn't called to let me know she was running late? WHAT IF I hadn't worked on her wedding that morning, and had done the articles instead? WHAT IF the house was trashed (it was messy but not terribly so)? But I didn't panic.

I started to panic, and then realized there wasn't anything I could do about it. I needed to shower, dress, do a bit of vacuuming to get up the worst of the mess (we'd been gardening on the weekend and there was tracked in mud on the carpets and floors), and just... deal. And I did.

In the process of dealing, the printer ran out of ink (but not until I had my copy of the wedding and the contract printed up!), I realized I had to tidy the kitchen at least a bit and was running around doing that, and I got the worst of the dirt cleaned up.

When my couple arrived, I was in "minister clothes" and smiling calmly. On the table was a copy of the first draft of their wedding, and a copy of the contract ready for signing. We went over everything, talked about various changes to the ceremony, made some notes and tweaks, and all was well.

After they left, I managed to get the rest of the dishes loaded and ran the dishwasher. I got my articles written in a timely fashion, if a bit later than intended. I no longer had to write articles for later in the week because my Tuesday was now free and clear, unexpectedly. I admit, I never made it to the bread baking, but I'm okay with that. I can do that today, too!

So thank you to the gods for tweaking me to write the weddings early. Thank you for my bride and her groom calling to let me know they'd be "late" so I had time to get ready. Thank you for mysteriously having an extra copy of my contract already printed even though the printer was not usable. Thank you for the support of Gray, who came home to the tail end of the whirlwind cleaning spat. Just... thank you.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Joy in the simple things.

I'm sitting here in the living room, enjoying what will probably be one of the last fires of the season in our wood stove. It's kept us warm and cozy all winter, and provided us with a central place, a gathering spot that brought us together in camaraderie and happiness. Children basked in the fire's warmth after getting out of the bath, and we've watched movies as it crackled in the background. I probably don't need a fire - the house is pretty warm as it is. Yet I don't quite want to give up that deliciousness right now. It's a comfort thing, I suppose.

So... here I sit, warm and cozy, staring out lazily at the overcast day and dripping trees. Beside me I have a tall glass of mandarin orange iced tea (home-made, I might add, from home brewed tea chilled, and mixed gently with the liquid from all natural canned mandarins) and a plate of peach slices. The flavors are simple, being unmixed with sugars or sweeteners or carbonation. At the same time, their complexity is wonderful! I feel truly blessed to be able to be here, on my couch, in my living room, taking in the day.

I've been writing for Examiner.com (here, and here), and both sections of the paper that I write for seem to call to me in similar ways. Prayer is a bit part of my life and always has been, and simple living (the 'backyards' topic) is what I strive for. Of course, I don't always live simply (says the girl who's eating peaches in March in a northern state), but I do work at it. I make choices based on what's best for me and my family. These two topics seem to weave around me, though, and I love that.

Right now, I'm spending my mornings writing and my afternoons doing house chores and research for the following day's writing. By 3:30pm the kids are home and I'm spending a bit of time with them then getting dinner cooking. If I'm lucky, my talented (bio) daughter will pop online and I'll get a chance to tell her I love her and listen to what's going on in her life sometime during the day. The days that I feel a bit down, I'm blessed with the ability to lay down and take a short nap, recharging my spiritual and physical batteries alike.

I have so much coming up in the next few weeks. Two weddings, several interviews for a new book that's coming out (and which includes one of my seminary classmates/friends as an author!), interviews for Examiner, a May Day celebration to plan... So much but still, I am loving the simplicity. Do this, then that. Then move on to the next item. I try to avoid stressing over things (though I fail at that, too, frequently). Mostly, I try to remember that even when my emotions are out of whack, I'm still loving and IN LOVE with my family members and myself.

Oh... and of course I joined the Pinterest community... which eats my soul. Perhaps that's why I've been so calm?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Penacook: Prayer and protons | Concord Monitor

Penacook: Prayer and protons | Concord Monitor:

'via Blog this'

If this young girl can find joy in life, then the rest of us should be able to do so that much easier. Ambar may have cancer, but she isn't suffering from it. This is what the power of prayer can bring to people. Miraculous cures may not be around the corner, but the strength and determination, the goodwill and love that is shown through the prayer of Ambar's family and followers has a cumulative effect on her health.

Say a prayer; save a life.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Moments of Joy

For Lent, I gave up processed food. By that, I don't mean pasteurized milk or canned tomatoes, but I do mean anything that has ingredients that I can't pronounce or that are patently not natural. So... soda is out (high fructose corn syrup in the regular ones and sweeteners in the diets), and so is a lot of other stuff. I've been doing alright, as I've never been a big soda drinker, but once in a while I get a real craving. Earlier in the week, Gray took me and the kids to a vegetarian deli for lunch (they carry "real" food which I can eat, and which tastes REALLY good), and I discovered Boylan's cane cola. The ingredients are pretty simple, and they use cane sugar instead of any of those other fake sugars. This made me happy. I still only do a soda a week, but this means I can still have one over Lent, and I can feel not guilty about it!

This week we spent time with the children. It was their "winter break" (as separated from their "March break" which happens at the end of March) and we wanted to do some fun things. They got to do a lot of shopping and picked up some neat things (a new skipping rope, a nice bouncy ball of the volleyball size, some spring clothing, etc.). We also took them bowling. Of course, their momma snuck in some math skills in the process, and they happily added their scores and bowled their little hearts out. I had fun too, feeding quarters into the digital juke box and playing 80s tunes from my high school years. After bowling, we hit the game center attached to the bowling alley, and sis and I watched the kids play video games galore and even did a round on Dance Dance Revolution, which was hysterically funny.

Despite her feet hurting (she has severe arthritis and needs surgery this summer), I think sis had almost as much fun as I did. She even managed to find pink balls, which made me giggle. She's so into pink! It was a lot of fun, and it got the kids up and out of the house, moving and jumping and dancing, and away from computers and televisions. After bowling we ended up going to Big Lots, and I got some seeds (check out my post over on The Freehold later today) and some yummy organic treats. It's been a wonderful week!