Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Year of the Snail

Heavy loaded snail by Bartosz Makara, on Flickr. Used Via Creative Commons.

As 2016 was drawing to a close, I was searching, as I do every year, for my One Little Word for 2017.  And I was not having very much success at finding it. 

The last 6 weeks of the year were some of the most difficult weeks I've endured. They were ruled by survival mode as I struggled through illnesses and injuries from 2 rounds of strep throat, a re-flaring up of my occular herpes, a cough that still hasn't entirely quit, to a fall that left me unable to walk for several days while all the tendons and muscles in my right foot recovered. They were further marred by grief, sleeplessness, fear, and anger. 

I was basically in survival mode, but I was railing against it.  I was making insurmountable to-do lists in my head for when I was better. I was beating myself up for the amount of television Orion was watching while I was laid up on the couch so often and so completely. I was berating myself for the take out, for the money I was costing. I was reading and watching far too much news and growing increasingly afraid and hopeless and angry as I went down the rabbit hole of "what ifs" and "what's the points" and "for fuck's sake, whys". 

And so, the initial, knee jerk reactionary word I chose for 2017 was "Survive". A harsh word that I knew folks would misunderstand, that I wasn't really 100% happy with myself. But, my body had knocked me cleanly on to my ass in a big way and was letting me know that I needed to pump the gods damned breaks. I wanted to wrap the word around the lessons and feelings that I knew I needed to embrace to get well. And I was in the midst of a gigantic, depressing, pity party.

But. It was too harsh. It was a snarky, sarcastic snapping back at the situation and current world. And I brainstormed with a beautiful friend of mine over the feelings and lessons that I wanted to wrap a word around, she giving me some softer synonyms and suggesting I pick 3 words (3 is the magic number, after all.) And I thought and thought and the word prevail stood out to me as a juicy, softer, synonym. And so, I tried it on for a few days.

It still didn't fit. There was still too much fight in it, and fighting is not what I need right now. I tried on "surrender", "prevailing surrender", "prevailing presence", and a whole slew of other words. But none. of. them. fit.

So frustrating.

Which was a lesson in and of itself. The acknowledging how crazy I make myself, how wrapped up I get in the doing, and how bad that constant frustration is for me. So, I opted to let go of the idea of One Little Word and wrote out a list of what I needed to call in to me this year. 

My body is telling me in no uncertain terms that I need to slow the hell down. To learn how to not be constantly doing, to embrace the pause. To be steadfast against my urge to be negative about how much I've accomplished or am currently doing. To hit the breaks on the constant expanding, healing, digging, growing, and searching I've been doing for the past 3 years and bring it back in for a bit. It's been a hard scrabble fight against PPD, Anxiety, to find my own authentic voice and methods in the noise of modern motherhood, to try to make art as a job work. But now, it's time to hit the huge red cosmic pause button that's flashing 3 inches from my face.

It's time to truly allow the old selves to die off and fall away. To call my tribe in closer and shelter closer to my proverbial home, bring it back to what I know. To unplug and be present in my own ordinary life and truly experience the magical every day. 

And once I stopped actively looking, Snail found me. My guiding totem and teacher for this year. Who embodies the brilliant cosmos in the spirals of her shell, who is of the humble holy bones of Earth. I need to surrender to the slow. To embrace presence. To invite in steadfast patience, to get close to the minutiae and therefore, truly inside of this imperfectly ordinary life. To pull myself in to my shell when needed, and pause. No shame, no guilt, no pressure. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

On Sickness and Death

That about sums up my feelings about this past year. Expectations versus reality, and this year shall henceforth be known as "The Year that Shall Not Be Named" in my book. Since early November I've been feeling like I'm living in some surreal universe, and since Thanksgiving I've been hermiting and hiding out as the waves kept pummeling me over the past 3 weeks.

Over Thanksgiving, I had a cold. No big deal really. It did the usual cold thing of making me boogery and sleepy and sneezy and coughy. Then it stretched on for 12 days before petering out in to a mild, annoying cough. I thought I was on the mend, until we went and got our Christmas tree and saw Santa (I'll share those happy events in a different post) and was knocked flat on my ass that afternoon with fever and lethargy and a cough so bad I could barely breath.

It being the weekend, I had to go to an urgent care clinic to be checked out. Most of you already know the long saga of the shitty doctor and staff who were less than kind, completely unsympathetic or willing to listen to my concerns, made off color political comments about the color of my throat, failed to give me a proper exam, gave me a steroid when he shouldn't have (I found this out after calling them to verify I was given and NSAID - Joke was on me, I guess!), and prescribed me a medication I was unable to take. Thankfully, I did the very intelligent thing of reading the paperwork that came with it.

I woke up the next day feeling even worse. Went to a different clinic, where I was treated with kindness, empathy, and very importantly, was given the correct tests and properly diagnosed with strep. I was sent home with antibiotics that could choke my neighbor, Hank the Horse, and was on the mend.

Until that fucking steroid shot woke up my ocular herpes and caused a legion of blisters to erupt under my eyelid. Hence, why I'm not supposed to have steroids. Unless it is properly discussed with me, so we can create a contingency plan to help. My condition's been dormant for 2 years. *sigh* So, I had to call my eye doctor as soon as they opened, explain that I couldn't come in because I was still contagious with strep and ask for yet more prescriptions to be called into the pharmacy for me. Luckily, my eye doctor and I have a great relationship, and are a very good team, so they did exactly what I needed and when I got in to see him he said I look like I am well on my way to a short few week recovery. So, fingers crossed.

Obviously, I wrote several very angry letters to the original clinic's manager and corporate offices, and surprisingly have already heard back. I was given a formal apology and a promise that this behavior would be brought up to the board of directors. Here's hoping that I am able to spare others this abysmal level of care.

But, as angry as I am about all of that, and as tired as I am of being sick after 3 weeks of it, the biggest heartbreak of this year and the thing that is currently causing me to feel terrible and hiding from everyone, is saying goodbye to my beautiful boyfriend, snuggle buddy, and familiar Mister Molly this past weekend.

The last time I lost a pet, people felt the need to question if I had done everything I could for my beloved Chico. And I did. And always will do everything in my power to make my pets well, and to keep them with me for as long as they are happy and healthy and it is feasible. So if you are one of those sorts people, you can fuck off right now.

Mister Molly, whose real name was Flogging Molly McGee, has grown up with me. He's been with me since before I was even engaged to Joe. He was a terror of a kitten, whose needle claws were always looking for something to swat, climb, or snag. He was the monster who hid under beds and would rake at your toes and ankles for fun when you'd unsuspectingly get up to get a drink in the middle of the night.

He was named Molly because he was incorrectly sexed by everyone as a kitten, including his vet. His tiny little hairballs barely descended when he was 6 months old. And at that point, he knew his name. Being a cat though, he never seemed to mind being mistaken for a girl, and it was always funny to introduce new people to our Boy named Molly.

He loved on me and was there for me as I grew and changed, and went through all manner of health issues both mental and physical. Purring and head butting my chin. Or pinning me down in the bed by laying all 15 pounds of giant cat body on my chest while I slept. He made the 700 mile, 12 hour move South with us, protesting most of the way. He kept our shit hole apartment mouse free, and we know this to be factual because we saw him catch mice a few times. He was the first critter to properly investigate and cuddle up with newborn Orion. He was always curious about my rituals and liked batting at my oracle cards.

He was Joe's first pet, the one who opened his heart to the love and joy animals can bring to your home. He was an excellent companion to Chico, and later, Luna. And he was so patient and kind with Orion, allowing him to use him as a purring pillow on several occasions. Something that dignified (and cranky) Luna would never allow a human to do.

I've been praying as hard as I could for months that things would get better. Realizing they wouldn't nearly robbed me of the faith I've been clinging to and trying to reweave in to my life.

It's been 3 days, and I miss his midnight yodeling. I miss shooing him away from Orion's bedroom door when I was trying to sneak out after getting him to sleep. I miss him sitting at the window chirping at all the cardinals. I miss the warm furry body on my lap as I crochet or read. I just miss him. So, so much.

We buried him in our beautiful backyard on the chilly afternoon that he passed, right next to his partner in crime, Chico. Truth be told, Molly hasn't been the same since his brother passed. I think his heart never quite healed. As I shoveled the first scoops of dirt on to his grave, the crows flew in to the yard, singing a croaking dirge. It felt fitting, like my backyard crows were sending my magical partner off.

Goodbye, my sweet Molly. I love you so much.

And I'm really, really fucking tired of this year.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Friendsgiving 13

Sounds like the name of a holiday movie directed by Quentin Tarantino, doesn't it?

This year we carried on our annual tradition of inviting our friends to join in our celebration with us, and ended up having 13 people around our table. More or less. The kids were sort of all over the place, since we ate outside.

While I typically bitch and moan about the Eternal Summer around here, I'll never tire of these mild Thanksgivings where we can throw open all the windows and move all the chairs outside.

Joe, our Thanksgiving maestro, really outdid himself on the organization and running of the show. This is his favorite holiday, and he always takes charge of cooking the turkeys (we always end up with 2) and the ham. But this year, he turned our microwave in to a white board, and took charge of all the sides we were making (aside from the cranberry sauce) and the last minute tidying too, because I wasn't feeling well and wanted to be fit for company by dinner time.

None of that canned stuff, thank you very much.

I didn't take many photos this year, nor did I drag out my dslr. I just did the super modern thing of using my phone and a selfie stick to snap a picture of everyone before we dug in.

There was good food, great company, and better conversation. The kids ran amuck. Orion pretty much ended up having just pie for dinner, the grownups stayed up well past bedtime sharing stories and laughing.

I always center this holiday on gratitude, family, friendship, and food over any tall tales of Thanksgiving's origins. And this year, I have so much to be grateful for. A warm home. Food in my belly. Clean water that's easily accessible. A curious boy, a loving husband. Good friends. Art, and magic, and honest discussions that have helped me grow over the past year... even when it was uncomfortable to do so.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

This Little Light of Mine

Despite the thick haze, I was able to see the moon last night. From my vantage point, she didn't look much larger than usual. But there was a definite hush outside; it was so incredibly quiet. Everything was completely still. It was just the moon and the wood smoke, and it made me whisper to the quiet two words: Phoenix Magic.

Waxing poetically in text about how I'm going to tear things down and start over, is the easy part. Even the realization that I need to tear down pedestals, let go, burn it down, and rise again wasn't too difficult.

The hard part is in the follow through. It's frightening. When I think too much about it, I feel as if I'm on a ship at sea and can't find my bearings. So I hold tight to something solid and reliable, even if that doesn't serve my best interests.

So, last night, under the super moon, I cleared off and cleaned up the altar for the first time in months, and began to rekindle my light. And I found something heavy that I can hold on to when I need to be grounded, something to help point me in the right direction: a compass.

Often I've felt that my husband knows my heart and can feel the way the winds are blowing me before I'm even aware that there's a breeze. He gifted me this beautiful brass compass, and a wee anchor, for our anniversary last month inside of a box he made and inscribed himself.

Last night wasn't all about me, though. This has been such a hard and heavy few weeks for so many people that I know and love, and a lot of us are having trouble remembering to shine right now. So I'm holding the light.

For myself, and for all of you, too.

Let it shine. Let it shine. Let it shine.

Monday, November 14, 2016


My backyard is hazy and smells like a long burning campfire, smoke from the fires blazing in the nearby mountains is shrouding the area and making it unwise to be outside. 2,200 acres are ablaze just about 45 miles north of me, and beyond that, there are even larger patches of land caught up in wildfire. And while it's terrifying, there is good that comes from the burning of the forest. New life that springs up from the ashes.

 And so it is, that on a day I've been preoccupied with the decimation and the cycles of destruction, death, and rebirth that I came full circle back to blogging. And, as old friends will no doubt notice, a revival of the old blog name.

It's hard to put in to words why I left it and why I came back to it, but I'll try. Because while it doesn't require explanation, it is important to me.

When I shed the old name, I was in a place of tremendous transition. Having just become a mother, battling the fucking demons that are post-partum depression and anxiety, trying to narrow down my creative endeavors in to a polished shiny business, and trying to reclaim some semblance of intimacy and privacy with my readers now that I have this little life to tend to.

There's a lot in a name, even a virtual one. And it seems to me that as I tried on and shed names, I was trying on and shedding labels for myself. I was lost for a bit, undeniably, and searching. And discovering. And what I learned is that shiny and polished isn't for me. I love what I love, and it's not easily marketable and to try to force it to be was stealing my joy in creating. Having a shiny polished name and streamlined creative focus spilled over in to my home life. I've been putting all sorts of things on to big ass pedestals and setting myself up for unhappiness and failure.

So today, on this super giant super moon day, I'm going to burn those towers that I built down. And start over, back at the beginning. I'm going to re-embrace the whimsy, the magic, and the simplicity of life, creativity, spirituality, and all the things.

And of course, because I've so missed writing, I'm going to start writing about any old damn thing again. In this new space that I haven't quite turned in to home yet, because I'm not much chuffed about the quantity of followers, so much as the quality.

I'm back, Witches. *cackle cackle* Make yourselves at home and I'll snazz the place up as life, and a 2 year old, allows. ;)

P.S. My old blog will remain up as an archive, and can be found here