A Return and a Blessing

You may have noticed I have not been around for a bit (which is a bit of an understatement, since I’ve hardly posted all year). So, I’ll get right down to it:

I have cancer.

We discovered it in mid-February, and since then my life has been a whirlwind of surgeries, repeated hospital trips because of complications, chemo, and more medications than I can keep up with. Plus, there’s that little thing of facing one’s own mortality at only 46 years old.

(My Stage IIIb  colon cancer has a pretty daunting survival rate; it’s better than Stage IV, but it’s serious. By the way: GET YOUR COLONOSCOPY!)

I’ve been out of work on disability since March, and have found myself with so little mental and emotional energy that I spend most of that time just lying in bed, watching a gazillion hours of Food Network. At least, I’ll be a great cook when I have the energy again.

But, slowly, surely – with the help of my family and my wonderful house mates – I’m settling into this new reality. I’ve always said that ‘I bloom where I planted’, and while I usually mean that in reference to physical location, I’ve decided it now means where I stand in the universe, too.

I’ve been doing this with the help of my patron god, Mercury, and a return to shamanic journeying. Which brings me to the blessing.

Trigger warning: If you have issue with spiders, you may want to end here.

In shamanic work, it’s always a good idea to have a guardian during your journeys. This usually manifests as a totem animal, and my totem has always been a spider. Specifically, a tarantula. He has been my guardian and my friend, and has stood beside me through many worlds.

Today, I was lying back in my chemo recliner, staring at the boring ceiling tiles, waiting for everything to start when I pointed out to my housemate, Ryan, a black spider on one of the tiles. He was hanging out, peeking in and out from the metal rail.

He made me smile.

My chemo lasts a long time because of the amount of meds I get, so after we eat our takeout lunch together, Ryan goes home before returning to pick me up. While he’s gone and the poison medicine is dripping into my veins, I curl up on my side and sleep. Today, I woke up suddenly…

…to find the black spider sitting on the white blanket that covered me. It skittered across my body and disappeared.

My eyes filled with tears.

I felt protected and safe.

Someone was watching over me.

Now, I get that most people wouldn’t have been too thrilled to wake up to find a spider on their shoulder, but for me, it was a blessing…and a message from my old friend:

I’ve got your back.”



A Different Take on New Year’s Resolutions

I’ll be back to posting more regularly after the holidays, but wanted to share a different – and, I think, more positive – approach to the yearly resolution bit.

The truth is, I don’t really do resolutions.

As an adherent of the Law of Attraction, they seem a recipe for failure. What message are you sending the Universe ?

What you think you’re saying: “I am overweight and haven’t lost the weight I want. I must lose weight and this year will be different; I will make myself lose weight, I swear.”

What the Universe hears: “I didn’t lose weight before and therefore I won’t lose weight this year.”

Instead I’ve replaced resolutions with two annual habits that help me enter the year with an air of acceptance and gratitude, and that truly set me up for success.

Habit One: The List
On the last day of the year (or as soon as you can), take a few minutes to sit quietly and make a list of 25 things you accomplished this year. They can be big or small. (Some years, getting through a rough year in one piece is an accomplishment). The only rule is that these have to be things you did, not that were done for you, and – while you can go higher if you like – you must get to 25.

I’ve never not reached 25, and even in rough years, my list is always more impressive than I thought it would be. It’s a good, neutral look at all you really accomplish during a year, and if that doesn’t put you in a grateful spirit for the upcoming year, nothing will.

Habit Two: January Challenge
While I’m absorbing the lessons of The List and thinking about what I want to apply from it to my year, I do a January Challenge.

This can be anything. Two years ago, I went vegan for January. Last year and this, I’ll be doing a “No Spend January”, using up everything I have already and cutting out unnecessary spending.

Unlike normal “resolutions”, these monthly challenges work because they’re “SMART”:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Actionable
  • Reachable
  • Time Bound

Say “I resolve to lose weight in 2016” and see how far you get. But say “I won’t eat meat in January” and you’ve got a much better shot.

A “cheat” here and there doesn’t have the resolution-ending impact it might otherwise because your goal has boundaries; if you’re doing your challenge 90%, you can still have a very successful month.

Besides, you can do anything for a month.

End of January
At this point, I reevaluate my list and see what I want to start, stop, or continue. Then I launch into the New Year with an air of gratitude for the year past, and one major accomplishment already under my belt. Strangely, I find it much easier to keep improving.

This year, I invite you to try something a little more gentle than “I RESOLVE TO BE BETTER” and see where it leads you…

Freeze Out Charm Using Yule Ornaments

I’ve posted this before, but this is a good time of year to dust off this great little charm for “freezing out” someone who is giving you grief. I like to collect shiny ornaments at this time of year (especially toward the end of the season, when they’re on sale!) for use in this charm all year round.

I learned this charm when I was going through a tough time with a former friend who was making my life miserable. I didn’t want to hurt them, but I wanted to end the relationship clean, so I could get on with my life. Another friend taught me this:

You start with a simple holiday ball ornament meant for your tree. The color doesn’t matter (though you could probably use green for healing, or red for protection), as long as the interior of the ball is “mirrored”.

  • Remove the hanger.
  • Focus your intention on separating yourself from the person involved, without wishing them harm. You simply want to “freeze them out” of your life so you can move on.
  • Write their name on a thin slip of paper in red ink. Roll the paper up and put it inside the mirrored ball and replace the hanger.
  • Say a prayer of thanks for the good things in the relationship, but state – out loud – that you’re no longer affected by this person.
  • Put the ball in the freezer, and walk away.

The freezer will help to “freeze them out” of your life. The mirrored ball will reflect back on them any negativity they send out to you without it hitting you. This will not harm them (unless they mean real harm to you), but it will protect you and allow you to move on.

As with all charms of this nature, it doesn’t work if you’re doing it to be vindictive (in that case, it might come back to haunt you) or if you obsess over the ball in the freezer.

Let go.

Walk away.

Move on.

Winter Solstice Brew

Infused liquors are great around the holidays, and require basically nothing more rigorous than a bit of chopping and some pouring.

This vanilla and citrus infused brandy will be perfect around the Yule fire, and will also make a killer sidecar.

Now, truth be told, I may have left this a bit too late this year. It needs 2 weeks of brewing, and then 1-3 weeks of mellowing after it’s strained. So, if you start now, it will be just about ready for Yule. But then again, it’s not like you won’t want to drink it after the holiday, because you will.

And did I mention how easy it is?

The ingredients

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You’ll need a bottle of decent brandy. Don’t feel like you need to go crazy (probably won’t want to use a bottle of $80 cognac), but you’ll want something that’s fairly good quality because this isn’t like cooking. You’ll definitely taste a poor brandy in this. I used Courvoisier, because you can’t really go wrong.

You’ll also want an orange, two vanilla beans, some star anise, half a cinnamon stick and a clean quart mason jar.

Making the brew

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Cut the orange into fourths and drop it into the jar. Add your cinnamon and anise, then slice open the vanilla beans and   pour in the brandy. Yeah. It’s that easy.

One important note, though: Make sure you pour enough brandy to cover every bit of the fruit and spices, particularly the ends of the vanilla beans. Exposed spices might mold.

Let it mellow

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Once you have it all put together, cap the jar tightly and put it in a cool, dry, dark place. I put it in my pantry. For the next two weeks, take it out and shake it once a day.

At the end of the two weeks, strain out the fruit and spices, and then return it to the jar and back into the pantry (or wherever) to mellow for 1-3 weeks.

Enjoy on Yule, New Year’s Eve and whenever you need a nice pick me up.

Holiday Simmer Pot

There is no better time of the year for simmering up some magic – and some great scents – on the stove.

This holiday simmer pot not only smells heavenly, but is chock full of all kinds of good stuff that you want to draw in at this time of year (or any time of year, really).

As always, keep safety in mind and don’t let your simmer pot go unattended or let the water get too low.

You can get creative with what you use in your simmer pot, depending on what you’re trying to manifest.

Here is what I used for this pot:

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Orange – Used for drawing and attracting, it’s also a symbol of abundance. I cut up a whole orange for this pot.

Cranberries – The quintessential American holiday fruit, cranberry doesn’t have a huge history of magical properties, but as a water fruit, it’s considered to have some of the same feminine properties of assisting with communication and emotions. It’s also considered protective. I tossed in a handful of fresh cranberries.

Cloves – Since I made this pot right after a thorough space clearing, I tossed in some cloves for not only banishing negativity but attracting what I want to bring in. It’s got a bit of protection, too, so that’s always good.

Rosemary – I added a sprig of fresh rosemary from my garden for remembrance, as a reminder of those who aren’t with me at the holidays anymore.

Cinnamon – Since I’m looking for a bit of luck and prosperity, I tossed in a stick of cinnamon. Cinnamon is also activating, helping all the other fruits and herbs to do their jobs.

Vanilla – I always add a glug of my homemade vanilla extract to a simmer pot, because I like having something that I made myself as a part of the spell. Plus, it smells yummy.

Sea Salt – This is another usual ingredient in my magical simmer pots, adding a grounding element.