Giving Thanks

I like to practice gratitude regularly. I feel really blessed, and I’m very thankful for all my family and friends and a lovely place to live, and creativity and abundance and health. Thank you Multiverse!!!

We had a fun time celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday yesterday. Fourteen of us gathered here. The company was terrific, the food was delicious, and there was a lot of laughter. The cooking and cleaning wasn’t too hard, either; our meal was in the evening this time, which I liked because it gave us more time to get ready. Plus I’m a night owl anyway. A few of us stayed up late and played cards, and giggled a lot.

Here’s the meal we had. This is the vegetarian portion; we also had meat for those who like it. Everything was homemade – even the bread for the stuffing! Quester taught BlackLion how to make bread on Wednesday.

stuffing (aka dressing, for those of you in the southern U.S.!)
mashed potatoes
butternut squash & apple bake
sweet potato pudding
green bean casserole
oatmeal rolls
cranberry relish (which BlackLion’s Mom made; it was awesome)

chocolate creamy pie with soy whipped cream (delicious)
apple pie
pumpkin turnovers

and the appetizers were nuts, olives, veggies, crackers and dip

It was a bountiful feast! I love it that most everyone cooks and seems to have fun doing it. We give my brother a break because he cooks for a living. He’s working today and wasn’t looking forward to how busy they’d be – his restaurant is right by a mall. Ick. I’m staying far away from those places today, just hanging out playing games with the kids. We’re enjoying some games that we just got, including Pente and Phase 10.

Weekend in the Life Of…

So, just what does a Starcat do on the weekends? Well, being a soccer Mom (not to mention basketball and other sports), I often attend a lot of games. Right now we’re in between sessions, so we didn’t have (much) sports-related activity this weekend.

Friday night I had dinner at Mom and Dad’s – they’d been watching the kids, and I went to pick them up and stayed for delicious soup and biscuits and pie. We had a good visit. I was feeling a bit under the weather (I caught a cold), so we went home and I rested and read Harry Potter to the kids. On the way home, we saw Holmes Comet!!! Very cool. Later that night I gave BlackLion a Tarot reading with my new (since my birthday in September) Mystic Faerie Tarot deck.

On Saturday I did more resting. Listened to some of the Pathway to Happiness material. This latest one was about acceptance, and is really useful. Read a bit, and hung out. Then we did grocery shopping, followed by a bunch of cooking: tempeh salad, fruit salad, vegan pumpkin pie (ElvenTiger had a craving) and, later in the evening, pad thai. Also cleaned some. Quester and I took Crow to his soccer team’s pizza party (see, I said not much sports stuff). Then worked on some cutout cards (collage-type cards that we make for Yule/Christmas), and ate dinner. We all played SkipBo after dinner.

Sunday morning I slept in, and stayed in bed for a while, just reading and doing some more cutout stuff. Did my morning meditation and Tarot cards. Played online a bit with the kids, taking a quiz about our learning styles. Then we all went over to BlackLion and Raven’s home and had lunch (leftover pad thai and pie) and helped them do some more moving in. We unpacked boxes and sorted out stuff, and just generally helped them make it more their own. The place is looking good! BlackLion and I need to organize his office space soon. We want to use it as a place to work on our book and other writing projects together.

We came back home and now I’m updating this blog, then we’re going over to Aunt Peg’s for the monthly family potluck. Yum! Quester made some garlic bread for the festivities. That should be fun. Then we’ll come home and read to the kids and the usual routine for bedtime and such, and perhaps I’ll even get some time for yoga.

So a full weekend, with fun and rest both included as well. And the bonus is, this is a short week at work! We’ll be hosting Thanksgiving for a big crew on Thursday. I like fall.

The Minds of Homeschooled Kids

Homeschooled kids are so interesting to interact with. I enjoy talking with all kids, but I’ve found that with kids who are homeschooled, the barrier between kids and adults simply isn’t there. They are conversing with you as a fellow human being, they have curiosity about your ideas, and they assume that you’ll be interested in what they have to say. They are thoughtful and respectful of ideas, no matter whose.

I’m not just talking about the “prodigy” kids who are studying advanced math and writing their own operas at age 10. I’m talking about the way homeschooled kids explore the topics that interest them. The other night, my kids were playing video games at the home of their best friends. On the way home, they were telling me about the game and how it progressed. They collaborated with each other on remembering the sequence of events, and speculated on how things in the game might unfold based on the choices they could have made. The conversation soon evolved beyond video games (for which I was grateful!) and the bombs being used into a discussion of comets and meteorites, the types of metals they contain, and what could be made with them, both now and in the past. Homeschooled kids are genuinely interested in exploring the world around them, and conversation is an important part of that process.

In a way, homeschooled kids are akin to preschoolers, who haven’t yet entered the world of tests and cliques and correct answers. They ask a lot of questions, and allow themselves to be led off on interesting tangents. They may create lots of messes, as they jump from one project or game to another. I recently went to a friend’s house during the day, and she apologized for the mess. But to me, it looked like a rich and rewarding homeschool environment. Her older child was just sitting down with his dad to do a science project at the kitchen table, her younger child had blocks and games spread out over the living room floor, and there were books and artwork all around. The perfect place for exploring many facets of the kids’ world.

I think that kids who are allowed the space and time to explore their own interests and passions are not only receiving an education, but they are also becoming well-rounded and fascinating people. They will continue to interact with the world in creative ways, and their explorations will bring them joy throughout their lives. Here’s a related quote I ran across yesterday:

“Vocation happens when our deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.” – Frederich Buechner.

I also did some recent writing on unschooling for the Feline Dreamers website; check it out if you’re interested.

Thoughts About Eating

Over the past couple of days I’ve encountered three mentions of the movement to eat local foods. Apparently there is a challenge going on this month in Maine, where you can sign up to prepare and eat at least one meal of entirely local foods. Some people are doing it for Thanksgiving; an acquaintance of mine and her family were featured in the local newspaper. More of a challenge in New England in November than it might be in, say, California. I think it’s a cool thing. Focusing on sustainability, and eating foods that haven’t been shipped hundreds or thousands of miles using fossil fuels, is a good practice.

BlackLion has been interested in starting a garden next spring, and we’re planning to do that on the family land here. Our soil is very acidic, which is partly why our gardening project a couple of years ago didn’t really work. So we need to treat it with lime and manure this fall. He’s been talking to organic gardeners and doing a bit of research. I imagine we’ll get the kids involved, as part of their unschooling.

I’ve been eating a mostly vegan diet for quite a while now. It feels much better to me, both physically and emotionally, than when I ate more dairy and eggs (I’ve been vegetarian for years, though I did eat fish occasionally up until about 2 years ago). I think that everyone needs to figure out the food that makes the most sense for them personally, and also take into account where the food is coming from. Each body is different, and what works for one person might not work for the next person.

But I would urge everyone to be aware and conscious of what you’re choosing to put in your body. I like to bless the food before I eat it. We do a gratitude blessing at dinnertime as a family, and at lunch I have a little blessing I say. I think the energy with which the food is eaten (and prepared, for that matter) contributes to the nutrition and pleasure it provides.

Many people eat so automatically and without considering what value it brings to them, where it came from, or its impact on the environment as a whole. I’m glad that more of us are becoming aware of the fuel we choose to give our bodies. Even just the awareness that we do have a choice, for those of us fortunate enough to be able buy or grow the foods we want, is an important step.

I’m baaaaaack!!!

Hello there, readers. If there are any of you still out there. Heh heh heh. I’ve been choosing to do other things than write on this blog, obviously, over the past year. I’ve definitely been doing a lot of creative work, though.

BlackLion and I started the Feline Dreamers website, which is worth checking out and has lots of cool articles. We’re also writing a book, which is really exciting and is a big focus for my writing. A dear friend and I are writing a vegan pagan cookbook – we don’t have a website for it yet but we will before too long, and I’ll link to it when it’s up. It’s fun inventing and perfecting recipes and writing them down; it’s something I’ve just been learning about over this past year. I’ve also been keeping up with journal writing, and have been writing poetry sporadically. I received a djembe in May and have done a bit of drumming off and on. I’m still writing the Starcat’s Corner column for the EarthTides newsletter (it’s been 10 years now, wow!), and for the past year BlackLion and I have been writing a Faerie Tidings column for the same publication. We’ve also been published in Faerie Nation magazine, and have plans to submit articles to PanGaia and possibly other publications.

I also started a brand-new creativity coven that is meeting each Full Moon (get in touch with me if you live in southern Maine and are interested in being a part of it). I’ve been giving Reiki sessions, which has been really rewarding. I went through some health challenges over the late-summer and early fall; I’m feeling better now and have gotten back to my yoga practice, which was neglected for a while.

The young ones are doing well. Crow is doing soccer and basketball and writing and reading and video games. ElvenTiger is knitting and doing art and did soccer this fall and is constantly making up songs and imagination games. Mystic Quickpaw is a year and a half old and is fun and loving. Huzzah is our old-man cat and is slowing down quite a bit, especially as cold weather comes in. Star dog is having fun doing her canine thing.

Quester is focused on writing new songs with the latest incarnation of Freakwitch. He and Raven are spending a lot of time together and seem to be having fun. BlackLion is, as mentioned above, working on a lot of writing, and he’s also making a transition in terms of becoming self-employed and pursuing his bliss.

That’s the update. Now back to our regularly scheduled study of the Multiverse!

Wannabe Drummer

I’m sitting here typing and listening to Freakwitch practicing in the basement. I wanna be a drummer! I need to somehow make it a priority (i.e. find the money) to get the djembe I’ve been talking about getting for months. B. is going to give me some lessons. And my Mom is going to learn, too – we both want to get a drum soon. I really like B.’s drumming, both kit and doumbek. And I just feel like I have a natural affinity for rhythms and beats. That’s always what I follow the most when I’m dancing. Sure, I groove to the melody, but the rhythm always calls to me. Ah well, for now I’m just a wannabe!

What to do with Strong Emotions

I’ve been feeling a lot of strong emotions lately, and trying to figure out what to do with them. Ideally, it’s best to feel the emotion fully in the moment, and let it flow through you, not becoming attached to it. Sometimes, though, I’m in a situation where it’s not appropriate to cry or show anger, such as in the workplace. In that case, I tend to supress the feeling, but then find that I do have to deal with it sooner or later, and sometimes it has grown bigger in the interim.

The emotions that I have the most trouble with are ones that are essentially reactions to other people’s strong emotions. I am an empath, and when someone around me is feeling something very strongly, I tend to pick up on it and either share the feeling, or blame myself for it in some way, which can cause other emotions to arise. Usually if it’s a situation that makes me upset, I can let go of it pretty quickly. But dealing with others’ feelings is more difficult.

In the past I tended to process my emotions internally, in my head or in a journal, rather than speaking out loud about them with others. More recently I’ve been in situations where I’ve been doing a lot of verbal processing, which has been both good and bad. Good, in that I can get ideas and new perspectives from talking with friends. Bad, in that it tends to tire me out very quickly. And it can also be a burden on the friends.

So now I’m trying to find a good balance for all of this. To be open and honest with those I love, without overburdening them with my emotions. To process things internally, without hanging onto them in an unhealthy way. To express my emotions authentically as they come up, but not let them control me. As I write this, it seems to me that what I’m working with is a basic aspect of being human, and learning to be a better person.

Touching the Ancestors

As the Wheel of the Year winds down and the earth prepares to sleep, it’s time to turn our thoughts to Samhain. Traditionally, this is a holiday when pagans honor our ancestors and beloved dead, while the veil between the worlds is thin and the dark nights grow longer. Often this means cooking their favorite foods and setting a place for them at the Samhain feast. But what are some other ways to honor and connect with those who have crossed over?

If you have friends or family members who have passed away within the past few years, perhaps you wish to create something new to honor their memory. Writing a poem or song, embroidering a wall hanging, or building a rock garden are some examples of a creative tribute. Use your imagination, and as you work, focus on happy memories of times you spent with your loved one. If you like, charge your creation in sacred space, dedicating it to the spirit of the person it’s made for.

Another way to honor your ancestors is to find out new things about them. Ask your elders about people in your family or community you were too young to know or remember. You may discover many funny or poignant stories by asking questions and then sitting back and just listening. At a recent family gathering, I discovered that the cat symbol I have drawn since I was a kid (and which contributed to my choice of pagan name) came from times I spent drawing with my Mom’s favorite eccentric aunt, when I was really little. I’ll certainly be honoring Great Aunt Ruby as part of my Samhain ritual this year!

You can also, with a little research, discover something new about your family’s culture of origin. Go beyond the stereotypes of what it means to be of French or Celtic or African descent, perhaps unearthing an old song or folk tradition that you can use in your Samhain celebration. Or dig a bit deeper, and discover the reason *why* a particular custom or tradition was handed down as part of the culture’s lore.

Many of us also honor spiritual ancestors, who may or may not be blood-related. Who are those who went before, whose lives have brought meaning to your own? Women during the Burning Times? The anonymous “conductors” for the Underground Railroad? Native Americans who walked this land centuries ago? Find a way to honor them this Samhain, perhaps leaving an offering in the woods or garden. Find or create a piece of jewelry to wear as a tribute to them, or burn a candle on your altar in their memory, on the days leading up to Samhain.

There are many ways to honor our beloved dead. Samhain is an especially good time to do so, but it’s also important to remember them throughout the Wheel of the Year. Perhaps you could set up an altar or shrine of photographs and special items passed down from past generations. Or simply send them a prayer, song, or mental “thank you” when you think of them. By remembering our ancestors and paying tribute to them in some way, we continue the thread of love and magick woven through the tapestry of our lives, passing it along eventually to those who come after us, and continuing the legacy of our evolving spirituality. Blessed Be!