Failure Mode

Well, I had intended to do #domagick, and then I didn’t have any “research” to share on what I wanted to do so I figured I’d just, you know, do magic. I’ve been working on sewing a backpack/possibles bag and the more I’ve worked on it, the more it’s taken on a life and personality of its own. She had very strong opinions about shape and structure that differed from what I’d planned, and now I’m working on a late addition – turning an old Captain America t-shirt into an applique that is being over-embroidered.

The plan is to work on it every day until it is done, because follow through is not my strong point.

So then why is the post called Failure Mode? Well, I woke up at about 4:30 AM and realized I had not worked on it the night before. It turns out I’m a great deal more okay with that than I expected. There was a time not that long ago when I would have been having a scrupulosity freakout – and a time slightly less long ago when I would have thought I was okay with it but still been worrying about how best to atone or whatever.

It was understandable. We’ve been working with Bug on self-identifying when she needs help calming down, and one of the ways we do that is by having her sit with me on the couch in the semi-dark and listen to lullaby music videos on YouTube. It’s not at all surprising that sometimes one or both of us falls asleep there.

So I woke up and I did last night’s stitching, and it is what it is.

And now I’m going back to bed.

Aspirations and Inspirations

Been a bit quiet… not just here, but it feels like everywhere in my life. I have been thinking a lot about being the kind of character I want to be, drawing on things I’ve done in the past like Working With Mary Sue and things I’ve read recently like Deb Castellano’s new book.

When I first started on Deb’s book a few months back, I started a pinterest board called #aesthetic, where I’ve been filing away things that appeal to me on a “yes I want to be the person that wears/owns/does that” level. It’s been an interesting challenge, since when I was Konmari-ing, there was a strong emphasis on facing down the aspirational things you own. Konmari says there’s no point in owning things for the person you feel like you should be or want to be rather than the person you are.

There’s a lot of truth in that, especially the “should be” part. Don’t feel obliged to own tools you aren’t comfortable using, books everyone says you should read, or things like that. Evaluating whether the things in your life are there because they’re serving you is important.

At the same time, though, aspirational things can go two ways. Yes, there’s the unhealthy one where you’re buying things you never use because you’re not the kind of housekeeper who’s going to keep up a Pinterest-worthy dry erase family calendar, or the crafter who has time for elaborate stained glass projects in your tiny apartment, or even the person who remembers to put the matching decorative pillows on the bed every day when you make it. This is the equivalent of having clothes in your closet for after you lose weight, but without any concrete plans for weight loss. They are made of spun sugar and guilt. They only sit there and make you feel bad. Why am I not a better housekeeper, crafter, parent, spouse? Fuck that. Trash the fucking decorative pillows. Trash the ritual that makes you feel silly instead of sacred. Burn all of that guilt and expectation to the ground.

The other thing you can do with an aspirational thing, though… and I suppose this would be the point where the aspirational thing gives you joy… is bring yourself to it’s level. I want to be the kind of person who cooks, who crafts, who makes his own tools. I joke that my aesthetic is solarpunk maker, but there’s no reason I can’t be that weirdo in real life. I still need to go to work and take care of the kid and all that but even when my neurochemistry is kicking my butt, I feel better when I do stuff. Even if doing the barest minimum of stuff feels insurmountable, I feel better having done it. There’s satisfaction in a clean house, in mending clothes, in making things. In doing some tiny part to make better choices.

So I have two options. Wrestle the joy from something, or admit it doesn’t fit my life and let the expectation go.

I have been using NaNoWriMo as a sort of test run for finding joy. I struggle with hobbies because I want to throw myself into them, but I also want to do everything at once, and then executive function steps in and I do nothing. This is not optimal, obviously. NaNo was a good excuse to focus on just one thing for a couple of weeks and not feel bad about everything else, telling myself everything else would have a turn also.

I am not going to win NaNo this year. I did write some stuff, though, and I’m writing a blog post for the first time in almost six months. I played with some various tools and ended up back at 750words, where I used to write years ago and drifted away from. It’s simple, I can log in anywhere, it auto-saves and there’s no extra bells and whistles and game mechanics to distract me… plus there’s a motivation to write daily but no real sense of failure if I don’t. If I can keep it that way, it’ll work well.

Halfway through the month, I went to Wordstock looking for inspiration and I found it in the Laika exhibit. Not writing but I found myself wanting to get back to dolls, to sewing, to miniatures. So writing is good solid practice but it doesn’t quite fit into all the small niches of my life right now.

What’s next then? Well, #domagick’s theme for December is meditation, and I’ve got some magical stitchery I’ve been plotting out, so I’m thinking meditative needlework is a good way to go. I’ve got time to do some research and I have a project in mind to start so that’ll be fun.

Ostara, Easter, Beltane, Overwhelm

Originally posted on Pagan Bloggers.

Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems. -Rainer Maria RilkeOne of the hardest parts of starting from scratch is having to evaluate absolutely everything to decide if we want to include it or not.

Holidays are complex and mysterious things for me. Left to my own devices, almost everything creeps up on me without giving me a chance to get much planning done, even for holidays I enjoy like Halloween and holidays that I have off work like Thanksgiving. If I was on my own, I’d probably just enjoy the quiet day off a national holiday offers. However, holidays are important to my spouse, and I want my kid to grow up enjoying them if possible, so I continue to think about it.

There are going to be holidays no matter what- the ones we already celebrate, yes, but also the secular and dominant-faith-narrative holidays. Some things are outside of our control. Bug goes to a secular daycare, but that means there’s Christmas and Easter celebrations at school… and Christmas in particular is hard to avoid. The Universalist Unitarian church we attend has an Easter egg hunt every year as well.

Good holidays require planning. Lent and Advent were great for that when I was a kid (plus, let’s be honest, my mom did all the work) and I think it might be nice to bring some of that sense of anticipation in. Adapting an Advent calendar would go over well, I think, as well as stuff like “looking at lights” and “engaging in service opportunities” that put one in mind of it being an important time. I’ve actually got a full twelve days of Yule that I’ve been doing in a religious sense for several years now, as well as my other two New Years, but almost none of that translates well to celebrating with a toddler.

This year, Ostara came so far ahead of Easter that it wasn’t even on my radar until I started seeing posts from other pagans about it. Ostara is a great holiday, and one that really ought to be celebrated for Mara, thematically. But it didn’t happen. I let it go and resolved to do a bit more with Easter instead, to make up for it.

Lent is harder than Advent since the dates don’t like up well at all, but something like that would not be inappropriate for that time of year… Ostara is Mara’s emergence from the Woods. We thank and celebrate Brhenti’s aid through the winter at Imbolc, but while the ground has thawed, there’s not much in the way of fresh fruit between Imbolc and Ostara (unless your grocery store is importing it from Mexico). It’s a time of reflecting on what strength we’ve left to carry us out of the winter.

We did manage some Easter for Bug. It was very basic, mostly an egg hunt on Easter morning. It was hard because Easter was the same weekend as her birthday, so there was already plenty of excitement to go around. (I’m honestly not sure if she understood where ‘party for her’ ended and ‘party about bunnies’ began.) In fact, this would have been an ideal year to celebrate Ostara instead… but of course that didn’t happen. No use crying over spilt Cadbury eggs.

Beltane… well, we did sort of celebrate Beltane, though it was largely by accident. May is when the city we’ve moved into starts coming alive for the summer, so the first weekend included a First Friday celebration with local businesses, musicians and artists, a Mayfair at the local Waldorf school, and the First Market on Sunday. We went out after work on Friday to look at the sights, and on Saturday spent some time at Mayfair until Bug got tired. I brought home flowers from First Market for my spouse, who immediately placed them on the new altar.

Ah yes, the new altar. I’m working on a project for my spouse the next two months, and this kicked off with repeating the ritual for Juno I did last year. I had some pokes from Star Wars day and some pokes from Juno and I ended up with the sketched outline of a syncretization of Juno-Leia I’m calling the Juno of Alderaan.

And then I ended up with a felted doll of her, because that’s what happens when you’re me. One of the ways I understand things is through craft, so I spent the hours shaping the body form, choosing the colors, studying Leia’s hair styles to decide what I wanted to do…

I’m very pleased with the result, actually.

Mostly I’m trying to get my head on straight. I’ve been making my offerings to the local spirits and to Mara every day, and I’m hoping to try some more organized magical work for the household in June. Summer is full of festivals and holidays and at the same time they feel much less formal, less set in stone. There will be a pilgrimage to the ocean, there will be fairs and fiber festivals, there will be the tracking of which foods come and go at the farmers’ market. All of these things matter, but the precise dates matter less than knowing when they happen in relation to each other.

I’ve got my rough shape. Some of the work to be done is hammering in details; some needs to happen when it happens. All of it will come in time.

Fallen Off the Earth?

Not quite, though I’ve been trying to be more mindful about my social media and computer usage in general. April is for poetry, so I’ve been poeming.

Most of my poetry so far has been related to one of my fiction projects and posted on Dreamwidth as a collection and a second, longer piece. I also wrote a sonnet about lunch.

I also published A Home Made of Bells over at October Country.

Day 31 – Building On


I had a conversation today that reminded me that recovery is complicated.

Given that this started out being about re-learning how to think about wards and shields, it was appropriate timing to be talking about my ex and the effects she had on people.

Often I don’t think about my ex very much, but this was a very strong reminder that there are still places where, instead of working through difficult things, there are still areas where I put up a hasty drywall patch and moved on instead of addressing the structural issues caused by support beams she pulled out when she was renovating. If this was an episode of Property Brothers, they’d have discovered they need to pull out the whole ceiling or something.

(Following that metaphor, I guess the OCD would be like… Knob-and-tube wiring that couldn’t be replaced? I dunno.)

If I’m going to be a project, I think I prefer a metaphor like This Old House or maybe Rehab Addict: one of those shows where a whole season is spent taking the house down to the bones, figuring out what is worth keeping and improving and what shoddy work along the way did more harm than good. I’m not perfect; the ruts worn by choices are etched into me. But etching grooves into hard surfaces is how we get records and CDs and hard drives. We turn the scars of mortality into music and memory.

Fridays are for Brhenti, and so for today’s handcraft I needle-felted a pincushion. Felting is a lot of detail work and can be almost meditative, but sometimes that means I end up ruminating on unhelpful things. As always, I need to find the middle ground.

Today’s coin is a St Anthony medal. St Anthony has a personal symbolism for me regarding my relationships and how hard it can be to recognize an abusive relationship for what it is when you’re in it, but on a simpler level, the image represents finding what has been lost, especially with the help of higher powers. I found several things that I’d thought lost this month, so even though I’m still unsure whether I actually did this the way it was “supposed to be” done, I’m glad I jumped in and did it anyway.

Day 27 – Dark Lady 

img_20170327_235106_991.jpgIt was never really about the candles. Even when I was lighting them every night for Mara, even when it was the only thing I seemed to be able to do, it wasn’t the candle that mattered. It was the remembering to do it. The attention. The energy they represent can be offered in other ways.

Representation and symbology is at the heart of not just sympathetic magic but many other techniques as well. I’ve been thinking about this off and on. Much of what I’ve been doing from Project Protagonist on has been about figuring out what symbols resonate for me and what they mean – not for other people, or according to this or that source, but what clicks in my head. Frankly, the more I play with divination systems, the harder a time I have with popular systems like tarot and runes.

img_20170327_235106_989.jpgI was reading this post on divination systems from Kylara earlier and her system of charms reminded me of the Magpie Oracle, which reminded me of the Found Objects oracle (the link for which is unfortunately offline) which in turn reminded me of Felix Warren’s Road Bones.

I feel better when I can point to the chores I’ve done. I feel better without the daily “frog” hanging over me. (And I know Bug’s been watching a lot of Doc McStuffins… I feel better, so much better, thank you Doc for taking all the ouchies away.)  This isn’t perfection and it doesn’t have to be, after all. Systems like the road bones and the found object oracle are meant to be actively changing systems, just like us. Pieces join. Sometimes pieces leave. The symbols we need in our lives change over time. Father means something very different now than it did five years ago.

I pulled a coin from Mara’s bag tonight. It was a charm from an old tourist attraction that reads “Frontier Town USA Salutes the Man of the Past.” A lot of the pieces in the Calvinbag set, as I’m calling it in shorthand, are pieces I’ve had since I was a kid. They have layers upon layers of meaning thanks to my past selves. I know at a touch which of those star charms represents space and science and which represents magic and fae and yet it’s only the current me that can draw the connection between them and conclude that stars represent knowledge.

The Dark Lady reminds me that this evolution is necessary and important. Who I am in the dark has never been who I am in the light, and both of those people are constantly changing. I am a shapeshifter, after all.




Day 24 – Craft Time With Brhenti 

The to-do list project is to-doing along. It’s not perfect yet but I’m trying to be more aware of how I’m spending my time. 

Friday is for Brhenti, so after dinner and playing with Bug it was project time. I decided to try this easy plan for making a tote bag from a t-shirt (verdict: super easy!) and then started on some hand stitching. 

Jewelry is really a thing I need to work on at my desk because of all the small pieces and pliers and things, so I’m liking the experiments with things like sock darning and hand sewing that I can do on the couch with the family, and pick up or put down easily depending on what’s going on. 

We’re far enough into this project now that I have pretty solid prayers for everyone. I’m making daily offerings but they vary depending on who they’re to, and that seems sensible. 

There’s been a lot of medical foo and illness this month, though, enough that I’m wondering if that means I’m still fucking up something in the warding process. Of course, it’s also been widely acknowledged in town that there’s been more and worse winter bugs than usual this year, so maybe I’m being paranoid. 

I haven’t actually celebrated the equinox yet, and that actually is a holiday – we should be celebrating Mara’s return from her winter hunt now. Oops. Frankly I think I lost track of it because I knew Easter was so far out. I found a bread recipe that I want to try but I need to find the yeast. 

Not an exciting Friday, but I’m looking forward to the weekend. 

Now Entering October Country

originally posted at Pagan Bloggers

That country whose people are autumn people thinking only autumn thoughts - Ray BradburyWhat I believe has always been an intensely personal thing for me. Growing up Catholic, I would pick the brains of my Sunday School teachers, read my way through my small-town library, and borrow the mythologies of TV shows, comics and Edith Hamilton’s Mythology before I had internet. I lived in my head and in the woods, and I was spirit-taught, and I was satisfied with that.

What I do, on the other hand, has long been separate. When I started pinning photocopied pictures of Artemis and Athena on my bedroom wall, I was a lector at my church, involved in Sunday School, bible study, choir and social outreach. I didn’t see any reason not to do the latter just because Jesus and I seemed to be on the outs. I liked serving the church community and doing charity work regardless, and it was no different than liking scouts or any of my other extracurriculars.

When I tried to reach out to other people who seemed to have similar, or at least compatible beliefs, it tended not to go well. On a surface level, I met local pagans, learned to read tarot and playing cards, and took up tabletop roleplaying. I met people who shared my taste in movies and books and comics, but not people who understood where I was coming from. Either I held back, trying to fit in, or I overshared and got hurt.

I’ve found a very small number of people who I would call co-religionists and adopted family, but we all tend to be pretty quiet about what we do and believe. I wasted a lot of time trying to find people who believed what I did, as if figuring out how to describe it using other peoples’ words would make everything okay, and finally pulled back and spent a couple of years unpacking my actual beliefs out from under the weight of other peoples’ paradigms.

I poked around here and there looking for conversation, but for the most part my spouse and I had resigned ourselves to solitary work. We were outsiders, queer as in something not quite right, and I had begun what I would end up tagging monsterwork.

“October Country . . . that country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights linger, and mid-nights stay. That country composed in the main of cellars, sub-cellars, coal-bins, closets, attics, and pantries faced away from the sun. That country whose people are autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts. Whose people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain. . . .”
― Ray Bradbury, The October Country

Then we had a kid.

It’s a cliche that people go back to church when they have kids. My mom did, when she had me. My sister did, when my niece was born. My spouse and I did too, in large part enticed by the local Universalist Unitarian church’s offer of childcare during service. More than that, though, we talked about the importance having that “Sunday school” structure and community had held when we were kids. We wanted to find something that would serve as a scaffold for our kid when she’s ready for one.

It was at about that point that I realized I had no idea how to raise a child in my faith. I barely knew how to childproof my living room. Our kid was the product of magic and prayer as much as medical science, but I didn’t know how to introduce an infant or a toddler to a goddess. Would she pick it up by osmosis? What did I even want her to pick up?

The UU church had an awkward tension between humanism and Christianity. There was very little discussion about what we believed in on a metaphysical level. There wasn’t really esotericism or mysticism.

But there were potlucks and choirs, and kitchens where I could pitch in with the dishes. There were candles that needed to be lit and walls that needed painting and tables that needed moving. There was charity work and discussion about applying our values to political and social choices. It was all the parts I’d liked about church as a teenager, with shared values but no expectation of shared belief, and that was like a revelation.

Since then, I’ve been putting my effort into doing as the primary way I understand religion. It’s a huge paradigm shift, but I have much more success finding people who share my values and actions than I do people who share my faith. It’s also much easier to explain what I’m doing and why I’m doing it than trying to put into words the vaguaries of my understanding of divinity.

Last year I was asked if I would train to teach Our Whole Lives for the young adults at my church. It’s not a small commitment, but the timing made it a clear manifestation of something I could do in service of one of my powers. It feels tangible where a lot of other things have felt abstract. That gave me a point of reference to find other things that felt tangible and real, actions that could be fit together like puzzle pieces to build a functioning religious household.

Bug is old enough now to be interested in what I’m doing at the altars. She likes to help light the candles, and she’ll join me in giving thanks if I prompt her. If I’m going to raise a child to understand her parents’ faith and values, I have to be able to demonstrate them to her, to live them and to point them out to her. For her, I’m figuring out holidays and how to celebrate them. For her, I’m figuring out how to explain magic and gods to a toddler. For her, I’m learning to understand the act of service that is being a better self, that is taking care of others, that is building something other people can depend on.

While there are pagans raised in the faith, most of us are still converts. We have to figure out what we want to pass down. My other blog ranges in topic all over the map, but this one will be about building those traditions from the ground up, figuring out what is meaningful and why, and hopefully finding ideas that are useful for other people too. I arrived in the October Country young, but I’m still learning what it means to be here.

Day 22 – Getting Specific

I was walking on my lunch hour, running through the daily prayers and thinking about some of the different ways I’ve been asked to do offerings last week by various powers. When I stopped by the creek to do today’s prayers to Pillai and Bluebird, I got a response from Pillai that was essentially ooh, we can ask for other things? I wanna ask for something different too.

 I’ve been enjoying the practical offerings, so I didn’t even whine about it.

I want you to write for me!

You know, there’s a lot of things I know I’ve been slacking on. Cooking. Laundry. Paperwork to update my birth certificate. And I’m not writing fiction the way I’d like to, sure. But I’ve blogged literally every day this month; writing is a thing I am actively doing every day. Surely there’s something else…

Picture, if you will, the sensation of someone giving you a skeptical eyebrow, and you can’t see or hear them, but you know the eyebrow is there, and it is arched.

The certainly is something I was meaning to work on, after all. And while it doesn’t have a due date, this was the best time to do it.


The result is my opening post on Pagan Bloggers: Now Entering October Country

Day 18 – Not Much

Tzymir remains quiet. I’m having a hard time picturing myself having an ongoing relationship with him, which is frustrating. I’m not sure if I need to step back or just try to relax about it or what.

Probably relax about it. Usually I need to relax about things.

Today was mostly errand running and starting to re-organize my jewelry stuff. I got some new offerings into the dollhouse and some more fiber for felting. I need to get some more work done on the Redbird doll; I picked up some wool with a different texture today that I think might work well as hair on her.

Not much else to talk about; some days are just the weight of habit and that has to be okay or I’ll never actually build the daily practice back up again.