mel-O-maniac

"If a life could have a theme song…mine is a religion, an obsession, a mania…" ~Ayn Rand

Samhain 2018: On Shadow Work, My Grandmothers, and Honoring the Beloved Dead (Part 2 of 3)

Today is November 18th. We just got our first big snow of the year and Baba Yaga’s candle is burning low. The autumnal spirit of Samhain— solemn, yet raw and energetic is giving way to the quiet time before the holidays. The nights feel so much longer now and the natural call for rest as we go deeper into the season seems to be shaking my sense of what was a very palpable, tangible idea at the time for how to go about writing this series of posts. I thought I knew how I was going to transition into Part 2. I thought for sure that the writing would flow so easy; quick and unobstructed on its natural path to completion. However that just hasn’t been the case— now after over a week of trying to shift from Part 1 to Part 2 with some manner of cohesion, I think it’s time to let all ideas about how I thought I was going to write this go and use this space to remember my Grandma Bond. If the pieces fall into place as I imagined in the process then great— if not, then I’ll just trust that they’re falling where they need to fall and let that be what it will be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time can be a burdensome thing. We know it’s ticking all the while as we go about our day to day and do our best to shuffle in the grind of all the things we have to do. Always a sobering reminder, we count our milestones from one decade to the next and ask ourselves all those questions about what we’re doing here and why— weighing often our obligations to our sense of purpose and finding where the pieces fall with every decision and every second that goes by. However a constant reminder it may be though, I have learned that time is never more jarring in its insistence upon itself than when we lose someone we love. It doesn’t matter if it’s someone we saw or talked to everyday, every week, or once a year— while worlds apart in difference and complexity depending upon the person and relationship, the bottom line is the same in that when it comes to the time we had, it just never feels like it was enough.

Me and my siblings didn’t really spend a whole bunch of time with our grandparents while we were growing up. We lived almost three hours away from where they lived in Clayton and our mom and dad both worked a lot when we were all still really young— life was very busy and that’s just how it was in our case. I could go on about feeling at times as though I missed out on a lot of things— but now that it’s going on almost a full month since working on this and really sitting for a long time in this space of remembrance about my grandma’s, I know that missing out really wasn’t the case. In fact there’s a kind of beauty in growing up some distance away— in how almost every memory I have with them is imprinted so perfectly and that it was all the best things that we got to experience with them, because every visit was so special. It was true when we were kids, and became true for me all over again in the past couple years.

Usually when we visited our Grandparents in Clayton we went for a day or stayed for a couple of days at the most. Once though, me and two of my brothers were there for weeks after our family lost our house in a fire. Three of us stayed with Grandma and Grandpa Bond while the older siblings stayed with mom and dad at my Aunts house. I was around six years old (I turned seven while we were staying up there) and the fire was something that in the beginning seemed to just roll off of my shoulders for the most part. It happened— but then we went to Grandma and Grandpa’s and everything seemed like it was alright. I remember waking up early every morning to hear my Grandpa Bond laughing with Grandma and some of my Aunts and Uncles in the kitchen. He had a great laugh, and he laughed a lot— really he always sounded a lot like dad to me, and I think that that’s what I owe some of my peace of mind to following the fire. His joy had a kind of contagion that seemed to just catch to the people who were around him, and where all that laughter was in the morning was probably the best place for me and my younger siblings to be at at the time.

Bonderosa

The Bonderosa

When I wasn’t out and about with my aunts and grandma during that stay or playing outside with my brothers, I remember being happy to spend my time at the table, doodling on notepads and chatting away with all the family that was milling in and around the homestead. My dad had eleven siblings—many of whom lived close by with their own families and who helped out with the cows and horses on my grandpa’s farm. That being the case the house was always busy— or full rather. Either way I was happy and contented to simply be there, and that feeling I think is what carried me through what might have otherwise been a pretty tough time for a kid.

As the weeks went on though, even though I talked to my parents and my siblings on the phone a lot and at that point I’m sure they came to visit at least a time or two, I remember having a really bad day when I sat at my usual spot at the table, and what had become the comfort and familiarity of the Bonderosa just couldn’t quite reach me. I missed my parents and my older siblings and I was terribly home sick. The loss finally hit me, and I had to come to terms then in my own young mind that the home I had lived in all my life had burned and been destroyed, and though I knew that my parents and my siblings would all be together and in a new home of our own, it wasn’t going to be the one I had always known— I would never see home again and for whatever reason, in that moment that morning, I was confronted with that. I told grandma I wasn’t feeling good then went away to the living room to have a good cry. I thought I would sit alone for a while, but grandma followed after me and she brought along a pen, a piece of paper and something to write on.

She didn’t sit with me long or fuss or say too much. She just gave me a hug and asked if I was missing home. I told her yes, and so she handed over the supplies she had brought with her and suggested that I write a letter to my family while I sat. I had been talking with them on the phone regularly, but I didn’t question her advice. Really it sounded like the best thing to me at the time and while I don’t remember at all what I wrote to them,  I just remember that the writing of it helped.

While I scrawled out all my words I could hear grandma talking to one of my Aunt’s, who I guess must have asked after me:

“She’ll be alright,” I heard her say. “She just misses home is all. I wondered when she would.” Her voice was calm and she chuckled, and I remember there being something really soothing about her ease in the face of what felt like a great deal of angst to my six year old self at the time.

My whole world hasn’t fallen apart. Everything is going to be okay— I don’t remember exactly what I thought but I do remember how I felt, and if I could put it into words, writing out that letter felt something like that. My grandma raised a lot of babies after all— I’m sure she knew that a bad day was bound to happen and clearly she was ready to take care of it. It would be some years though before I fully realized for myself why she might have gone about it the way she did.

Dreamer's Moon

“Dreamer’s Moon” Written by my Grandmother, Nancy Bond

I never knew when I was a kid that my Grandma Bond loved to write. In fact, back when I started writing I always thought it was my dad whose footsteps I was following in and where I got the writing thing from. Little did I know though that my grandma had been working on all kinds of writing for years— from poems, to stories to articles she wrote for local papers and websites. That being said I’m pretty sure now that it was me and dad both who got the writing thing from her.

Either way my grandma was a natural creative— a weaver of sorts whose sense of family and storytelling seemed to spool from some common intuitive place. When I first read her poem “Dreamer’s Moon” I realized that I never really knew what her goals and aspirations were back when she was young— she never told me. Yet her writing spoke to this ability she had to just sort of let go and trust that her life would lead her to all the places she ever needed to be. I don’t know if writing was among the things she alluded to in her poem or not but if it was, she made it abundantly clear that her family never got in the way of it— that sort of weighing of obligation and calling against the clock didn’t seem to factor in as a source of angst for her. I don’t say this because she’s a mom and a grandma and we all know how much our mom’s and grandma’s love us— but because every piece she ever wrote was based entirely on family and where she lived. Grandma Bond took a lot of pride in her creations— be they her kids, her writings or her paintings and I think that’s part of why I never really knew about her writing until I was well into my teen years. She never talked about it— to me at least it was as though she just went about her very quiet way of creating it and sending it around to people until one day there was just a whole huge pile of it sitting in front of me.

grandmagrandpabond

Grandma and Grandpa Bond

Those couple months at the Bonderosa, though during a time of hardship for my family were some of the most memorable times I spent with my grandparents. While I was growing up we would still go for our usual visits to Clayton a couple of times a year and us and our grandparents would always pick up where we left off. Yet what followed after I grew up and left home were many years in a row where I didn’t see anyone from dad’s side of the family at all. Those were the years when Facebook first became a thing, and so while I was busy with college and work, social media helped me feel as though I was maintaining some sense of connection with my dad’s side of the family. While true, it’s still nothing at all like spending time with them. Meanwhile the years went by until suddenly what happened in Clayton was a lot of loss in a very short span of time, and I realized that I hadn’t seen any of them in years. What was left was the realization that I had lost touch with them, that I no longer felt as though I knew who they were, and that I needed to reconnect with my family.

The person I reached out to was Grandma. I was nervous at first— not because I thought for a second that I wouldn’t be welcomed back, but because of what was a very acute sense that somehow I caused myself to miss out on a lot of time that I could have spent with them. Now some of them were gone, and I didn’t know anymore how or where to pick back up. First I started by just messaging grandma and writing back and forth with her. Then we started talking on the phone— usually at least a couple times a month though there was one point for a little while when it was close to every week. Eventually from there I found myself going up to visit more and more and going with my dad and my siblings whenever we could make it out there together.

It felt good and right to be back at grandma’s table again— family milling in and out of the house as always. Though a lot had changed over there years, there was something so good in seeing that that much had not. Grandma’s house was still full, and I loved spending the afternoon’s listening to her and dad talk whenever we went up.

She and I didn’t really talk much between the two of us during our visits over past few years, but we never really had to. At that point I was there to listen— I knew that she was going to tell me things, and this we understood. Our commonality has always been in knowing the importance of story and how and when to let them unfold, so I just went with dad whenever I could and listened to the two of them talk and remember about about their lives. Sometimes she would look at me with a grin during some funny story and slide a few pictures across the table while she told me about all of the people— some were really beautiful photos of family from almost a century ago, along with some love notes written between my great grandparents and some of these she let me take home—  these were such a gift. Her and Grandpa must have kept them for a very long time.

While I was there she talked a lot about Grandpa Bond, as well as Uncle John and cousin Keith also; all who the family lost during those years when I couldn’t seem find my way back to the Bonderosa. Though I missed out on a lot of years and STILL to this day have a hard time keeping the who’s who in our huge family straight (Grandma’s clock on the wall of all her twelve children with pictures as numbers according to birth order was always a great cheat sheet— now at least I think I’ve got the aunt’s and uncles sorted out) everything she remembered about them has helped me know them more than I did before, and this too was a gift— and I hope she knew just how much of a gift it was to me.

I like to think that she did, though.

One of the last times I saw her was when we spent another afternoon of pictures and coffee and lots of laughs between her and my dad at the Bonderosa. It was getting to be around 3:00pm and we planned to leave Clayton before hitting too much traffic. Dad went out ahead of me to warm up the truck— I had done a lot of listening and was struggling somewhat awkwardly to get my boots on. As I did so I caught her looking at me from the table and it felt like she had something to say.

“I don’t always know how to say things, but you’ll never know how much it means to me; you coming up here again.”

“I don’t always know how to say things either, but you’ll never know how much it means to me, too.”

We shared a quiet chuckle at that exchange, and that was it— I got just a couple more visits with my grandma before she passed on March 27th 2018.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Shadows can be tricky beasts— sometimes we think we know when we sit down with a pen and paper, a paint brush or a therapist how we’re going to go about illuminating all the things the lie in the darker shades of our minds. I always knew quite consciously that I harbored some guilt over not going to see grandma and grandpa Bond more. I felt that I had missed a lot and gotten to this point where somehow, I had lost touch with a wonderful family who I no longer knew— my own family, and for a long time I didn’t know how or where to pick back up and reconcile that within myself. But then I reconnected with my grandma and I thought that because I had, writing about her would be so easy. All these weeks spent sitting at my computer day after day, lost and feeling completely stuck in uncertainty didn’t have a thing to do with lack of inspiration— I’ve been writing long enough to know that where you get stuck is where the shadows of the mind come to do their own work on you, and they do it by way of lethargy, indecision and long hours of staring blankly at your medium of expression, not knowing quite how to tap into the source of what brought you to your laptop, or easel and canvas, or clay. Finally after so many weeks of sitting in that isolated and often frustrating place, it was finally yesterday (November 21st; my dad’s birthday) that I sat down and all the words flowed, just like that— all in one day. Now that they have and I’ve gained the benefit of hindsight as I bring Part 2 to a close, I know where I began to stall in writing about my grandma was rooted in some shadowy aspect that has something to do with feelings of unworthiness— not on the part of my family, but just of my own in feeling so long like I didn’t know enough or of having enough time with her to write a remembrance. Still I knew if I just showed up long enough and did the work, it would all fall into place in some beautiful way.

And it has.

When I sat on the couch and cried all those years ago after the fire, I don’t think that grandma brought me a pen and a piece of paper because she herself was a writer. I think she just always had good insights and intuition about the children in her family. For another kid she might have told them to go outside and play. For another it might have been a paint brush that she handed over. Another still, she would have asked grandpa to go saddle up the horses and take them out for trail ride.

It think all it was is that she just knew her family— she knew me too, and I knew her. Lots of time would pass before seeing her and grandpa between visits when we were kids but when you’re growing up it doesn’t matter. I always just strolled into grandma’s house like I hadn’t missed a beat. But then you grow up and you get busy— time becomes an issue and before you know it, you’re struck that somewhere along the way you’ve disconnected from some people who you love. When that happens with family it can be an incredibly disorienting realization— really in some ways it’s as though you lose sight of your own sense of self and where you came from. Then before you know it you find yourself adrift in the world without a place of returning to that brings you back to center. An actual place like the Bonderosa yes, absolutely. But I’m talking more of an internal place— a kind of knowing about family and the people you love where you understand that time really isn’t an issue at all. You are family, and you are and always will be connected.

My grandma wrote “Dreamer’s Moon” sometime in the mid 90’s— I think just a couple years after our long stay in Clayton following the fire. I hadn’t read it myself though until shortly before she passed, yet it seemed so familiar in a way that I couldn’t quite peg at the time;. There was something in her words which immediately stirred a feeling of connection and of an inner place of homecoming, though I didn’t know why. Somewhere between the time of sitting down to write this and now, it became so clear and I had to take a moment to look back on a piece of writing of my own:

The Dream Weaver

MedicineMandala_large

THE DREAM WEAVER

I fell asleep to chase the Dream Weaver,  
Since then i haven’t woke. 
The world keeps on spinning 
As i watch the lives around me grow.
Love is found, babies are born, 
Seasons change and i am witness to it all
Because i can’t stay on the ground. 
‘When will i wake up?’
The old woman at the spindle laughs. 
‘Half way in the world, always in the sky.
Life is made rich down in the dirt my dear.
How can you hope to move on Earth 
While you’re running through stars,
Chasing The Dream Weaver?

~Melissa Bond, September 25th, 2008

Blog post link: The Dream Weaver: September 2008

 Somewhere in my early twenties I lost my way back to my grandparents house, but everything was alright. Family is bound by something stronger than time, and hours and days spent within the same proximity of each other. Those things are important— they’re how we make our memories and at at no point should we ever lose out on those if we can help it. Still I’d like to think that the same intuition which lead my grandma back down that old country lane under the dreamer’s moon was the same one that brought my own gaze up to the sky too, during a time when I felt as though I had lost her somehow.

Now I know that I never did— I think if anything it was my own intuition back when I wrote “The Dream Weaver” that was nudging me in my grandmothers direction. She always was good at following her her instincts about things and letting herself be lead and wound wherever it was that she needed to be. Maybe she knew too.

She always was a weaver anyway— it took me some time to follow my own intuition, but it led me back to the Bonderosa. I sat there with my grandmother and she told me so many old stories… and now I know that it was in all the stories of all the words written down that we would always find a way meet each other again…

And the same winter moon and the same stars still shine, in my world shaped by forces much greater than mine.

“When will I wake up?”

The old woman at the spindle laughs.

Half way in the world, always in the sky. Life is made rich down in the dirt my dear. How can you hope to move on Earth while you’re running through stars….

Chasing the Dream Weaver. 

 

Samhain 2018: On Shadow Work, My Grandmothers, and Honoring the Beloved Dead (Part 1 of 3)

NOTE: Edits made to original post on 11/10/2018 due to a couple inaccuracies in the family history.

Today is November 8th and I have been working steadily on this post since November 1st— one which I thought would be written and shared in a day or two, but is actually taking up quite a lot of my time— time though very well spent. In fact you might say that the brunt of the work done in observation of Samhain this year wasn’t in the lighting of candles and the meditations done on Halloween and November 1st, but in the process of writing this post which, in doing so, I am made to look at and reflect upon over the course of many days. While Samhain has been over for a full week, in a way it is almost as though it is still happening for me as I take the time to think of and write about certain aspects of my family which are not always in the forefront of conscious thought. A lot has come up as I do my best to show them the utmost respect while doing so— as such I decided along the way that this blog post would be most appropriately presented in three different sections— The first being an introduction about this years Samhain along with some work and reflections on my maternal line (a process attempted by me in some due fashion or other every Samhain since my mom’s passing in 2016). The second part will be in dedication to my Grandma Bond who passed away on Tuesday, March 27th 2018. The last and final section will be about some personal and spiritual growth within my own path of eclectic Paganism.

The people who will be mentioned and remembered passed along their lessons in vastly different ways to me, and I do my best to be mindful and write with integrity and respect offered in every word— and with each due part of what is proving to be a lengthy piece, continue to do so over the coming days as I bring it to a close.

Thank you for your time and as always for reading; 

~Melissa ❤

 

 

 

 

 

Samhain falls on October 31st in the northern hemisphere and is most often observed from October 30th through November 1st. Back in the old days of Celtic Paganism it marked the time of the final harvest on the wheel of the year and was also said to be  when the veil between the physical world and the spiritual was at its thinnest. While a lot of the old roots of Paganism have been lost through the centuries and no one really knows for sure how the Celtic people celebrated, observed, or mourned during the Sabbats and Solstices (all completely depending on the outcome of their crops and harvests, I’m sure) there are some ancient ways and knowledge which somehow managed to either be preserved or excavated, and now todays Pagans— Celtic along with many other branches and Pantheons who have incorporated the wheel of the year into their practices— are living in a time of Renaissance of what has affectionately been deemed by many as “the old ways.”

When a way of life becomes lost, I believe that there’s something that still lives on in the genetic or ancestral memory of the people who descend from it. Though we may be far removed from a time when the global-wide practices of natural magic (witchcraft), divination and harvest ritual was a way of life— back when people were much, much newer to the world and had a stronger spiritual connection to it based almost entirely on survival— I think that there’s some residual instinct and “how to” ingrained in all of us— an inherent way of connecting to the forces that shape and govern our planet, both seen and unseen.

While many of the old ways might be lost or at best have been loosely preserved or interpreted, as all things do Paganism too has taken a modern turn with not only ritual and magic, but with the incorporation of depth psychology and this, for many who observe the day, is a cornerstone of Samhain.

Alongside the spiritual work of honoring our familial lines, our ancestors, and our carljung1beloved dead, Samhain is also a time for what Jungian psychologists and modern Pagans alike know as shadow work. Shadow work is the intricate and often uncomfortable look into our subconscious mind— the “shadow” or “the dark half of the self” is the hidden place in our psyches where all the unaccepted and ostracized pieces of ourselves have been relegated to and contained and socially, there’s good purpose for why our minds are hardwired to do this. Within the shadow is contained some of our basest impulses— lust, greed, hate, anger, fear— all of that lowly, ugly stuff that we don’t like to own about our nature is what we banish to the subconscious. We disown the things we don’t like or don’t want as a way of constructing our conscious self both to fit into and get along better in society, but also for the reason that we learn (rightfully so) that certain impulses and emotions aren’t okay to act on.

Alongside the basal, primal emotions that we store in our shadow are also trauma and shame— and, believe it or not, some good things as well. With all the repressing we do (especially in the society we live in, which shames emotion and feeling) we learn to repress things like creativity, self expression, and even confidence and self-esteem.

Because it’s our “shadow” we don’t always consciously know what is there or what triggers the repressed emotions that, because our psyche won’t own, we project onto other people. Even though we don’t know what’s there, it is still subconsciously what usually drives our behaviors and habits. According to psychoanalytical theory, it is all the repressed stuff in our psyches that is the root of our addictions, our fears, our resentments, and even to some extent, a lot of our illnesses. Spiritually speaking it’s all the unresolved stuff that’s hidden in shadow that blocks our channels of energy, locks us into old karmic paths, and impedes us on the road to ascension as we cycle through our lives and reincarnate again and again.

While there’s a lot to go on about with all of that, I’ll just get to the bottom line for now in saying that shadow work, while often uncomfortable and never really truly finished in a lifetime, can be a road to personal empowerment and a necessary step in healing ourselves in an acutely sick world that is owned by it’s shadow. Psychoanalyst Carl Jung, whose life’s work was all about teaching people how to connect with the repressed and hidden aspect of the self admitted that he never truly finished his own work on himself. Honestly I don’t think it can be by anyone. If you’re a human being then you have shadow aspects, and that’s just what it is. The healing that is done through shadow work isn’t really about getting rid of it (OR cracking open the box and allowing it to take over, which for obvious reasons is bad news)— really it’s just about shining a light on it and revealing what’s there, and the reason for that is to understand what drives us and how we’re projecting our shadow onto others, instead of making peace with it within ourselves. We all do it— projecting is as human as breathing and even on the off chance that we do actually figure ourselves out,  we still always will. However it’s that kernel of difference, that thing about acceptance, ownership and self-awareness that causes us to make that peace with ourselves and greet the world with a little less hostility and confusion— to whatever extent possible of course; which for most of us is a cycle and a work-in-progress.

Anyway, I digress… before I go on though I’d like to leave this article from Psychology Today that goes a little deeper into the Jungian shadow and what it means to project. I could go on about this, but at some point I really need to get back to Samhain…

samhain1

Samhain Altar: 2018

I think the reason why shadow work plays into Samhain and the traditional view that there is a kind of thinning of the spiritual veil is because the shadow doesn’t only contain our trauma’s and our pain— it holds the shadows and the trauma’s that plague our family lines, too. This is what is meant if you’ve ever heard reference to the  “family constellation”… and how, though through vast and varied different stories, we tend to play out the same narratives of our fathers and mothers, and our grandfathers and grandmothers, and our grandfathers and grandmothers before them… and so on. The simple reason is that we learn from our family— we are taught what to banish to shadow and what not to. We’re taught what and how to project, what to repress, what takes us over and what our roles are in relation to the people around us. Ultimately it’s about legacy. As the key observers in our parents lives, we tend to reconstruct our own in similar fashions in a subconscious attempt to finish what they began.

After my mom passed away a few years ago I started to think a lot about my family and I wondered about my heritage and my roots in ways that I hadn’t really ever done before. Not just all the places we came from and where we originated, but how we came to be the family that we are today. What is being passed down through my family constellation and what is our reoccurring narrative? What place do I have within it and what are some of the things that, either consciously or unconsciously, I am holding onto, trying to resolve, or bring to fruition for the people who came before me who are no longer here to do so for themselves? What among these things is it time to let go of and do my part (to whatever extent possible) to heal within the line? What is it time to acknowledge and embrace?

After considering some of these things this year, for me, was about recognition of the lessons from my Grandmothers— one being a rather abstract yet reoccurring theme of silence, secrecy and repressed emotion that is passed down strongly (I believe) from my maternal line, and another is on the importance of breaking familial isolation and reconnecting with loved ones. Though my altar dedication was to my paternal grandma who passed this year, I held space the best I could for both of my grandmothers and the overarching lessons they taught me— each in different ways— about the importance of self-expression, ownership of one’s own story and personal pain, and creativity.

grandmaquote

 

On the first point concerning my maternal line, I think that repressing our sense of pain— our loss, our trauma, what have you— is something that is strong in a lot of peoples family lines, and is in fact a big part of where we find ourselves on a large scale today. When you think about just the past century alone and what many of our families either went through or witnessed, they lived the brunt of their lives during two World Wars, the holocaust, Vietnam, and the most devastating economic depression in the history of America. For many of our family who lived and were effected by all of this, they more or less had to repress a lot to survive in the world of economic crisis and war. What that means for most of us is a kind of hangover of all of that, and our egos doing their work to shelter us in order to keep us alive and safe.

That being said, our emotions are only ever a luxury when we’re living in the heart of a crisis (think holocaust survivors, soldiers during a time of war or children living in conditions of abuse)— the blocking off of them or denial of them is only meant to be a short term means of coping and survival when living in extremely traumatizing and life threatening situations. The sad thing about that is once people get through that stuff, letting go of that protective mechanism is a close to impossible thing to do as, for most of us, our key instinct is about survival. The result for us living today who have learned from our ancestors (or who have been through our own trauma, which should go without saying but is also important) is a narrative of shame about our emotions, our grief, and our own sense of loss. On a larger scale (as we’ve already seen) is of course more war, more grief, more trauma, more sadness and so it goes and probably will for a long time, as we’re locked in a state of protectiveness and to some degree— offense, defense, denial and repression or loss of connection with empathy. And thereby, humanity.

What it has to do with my maternal line specifically is the way in which we tend to put hardships and trauma on a spectrum. If it wasn’t “bad” enough— if it’s not the most horrible thing that could possibly have happened and if someone has had it worse then you, then don’t you dare make yourself foolish by speaking of it.

Shhhhhh….. that was the projection of shadow from my mothers line, and I believe wp-1470664161578.jpgstrongly that my mom’s role within the family constellation was as a catalyst to that— she never really could stop talking and she was plagued by an almost obsessive need to understand why people were always asking her to be quiet. She talked over people when they were talking, she talked during movies…. when a room was quiet my mom’s voice would break the silence without fail, whether that silence was called for or not. My mom even talked in her sleep sometimes, and even while she read. As she flipped through the pages of books her lips would form the words she read and even sometimes, I could hear a quiet hush of a whisper escape her as she did. If there was ever an argument or a fight, she couldn’t walk away— it absolutely had to be dealt with and if it couldn’t be, then she couldn’t let it go. She couldn’t let anything go unspoken. While her mom was a first generation American, my mom was American through and through who grew up in a time of civil unrest— being the youngest child in her family also, hers was the perfect storm of rebellion. I just don’t think she ever really consciously connected with why she rebelled and this, I believe, caused her a lot of confusion, chaos, and consequential loneliness and feelings of being misunderstood through her life.

These are some of the reasons why I’ve always believed that my mothers unrealized gifts were in creative pursuits— something that she probably pushed back into her own shadow and projected with a kind of fidgety unrest, and a mouth that hardly ever stopped moving. I think so mostly because creatives are the sort of people who have a tendency towards a need to self-express, and work out their often chaotic and obsessive mental landscapes through a creative medium. But because self-expression was a thing that was rejected in my maternal line and looked upon as a kind of selfish, possibly harmful pursuit, her shadow took over in that regard, probably as a protective mechanism to avoid further rejection from family, which she had already experienced early in her life. The result of that was a kind of unhinged, all over the place emotional/verbal leak, with bits and pieces and words flying out at inappropriate people during inappropriate times…

When I think about my maternal line I can’t help but wonder about back when my wp-1477752930990.jpggreat grandma and her family came from the Ukraine to America, which we think happened around the time of World War I. The country they came from was fiercely divided preceding the Russian Revolution and amidst all the fighting between both the Imperial Russian Army and the Austro-Hungarian Army, many civilians were persecuted and killed following accusations of be aligned with opposing forces. This, added to further tensions between inherited Eastern-rite Catholic populations and Russia (who sought to convert them to the Orthodoxy) created a nation of fervent fighting between Ukrainian nationalists and communists, religious and ethnic persecutions, and tensions which followed well beyond WWI and WWII (during which time the Ukraine racked up the third highest death toll following the second World War.) Though I didn’t brush up on any history following the Ukraine and WWII, these tensions lasted well into the century, as the Ukraine never became an independent country until 1991.

I don’t know to what extent any of this effected the family who came here during the early 1900’s… but I assume that all of the fighting and unrest was a big reason for why they chose to come here; as it was for many families who immigrated to America at that time. While I don’t have a lot of concrete information on my great grandparents, I know that when they came to America they chose to shorten their name. It was something different before they became Spolio’s and honestly, I don’t even know if they were Ukrainian by heritage or Polish. When I ask people in the family they’re still not really sure. That’s how secretive they were, I suppose. That’s how important it was to keep things close to the chest for them, when coming where they came from. Even my own baboo, who was their daughter, had her secrets. No one in the family knew her real age until after she passed away— she had always passed herself off as younger than she really was.

Changing name, disowning age and date of birth… I’m not exactly sure what all of that was about after they came here. I mean there’s always the surface reasons I suppose… that in the case of my great grandparents the name was long and Polish and hard to pronounce(or Ukrainian? Anyway they spoke Polish, which is why we think they might have been), so maybe they did it to fit in better with American society. As far as my Baboo, the story I heard about her age was that she hid it/fibbed to “be” younger than her husband after she remarried. Mostly the family just chalked it up to a quirky detail about her. However, going a bit deeper into her possible reason for doing that is a kind of perpetuating of the denial of self; the same way that her own mother did. A kind of changing or sloughing off of identity to find acceptance… driven by the need to fit into a standard somewhere as a way to survive— by necessity more for my great grandma I would guess while I think more subconsciously for Baboo.

When my great grandparents changed their family name (again quite possibly by necessity or safety though it might have been) there’s something about it that connotes a kind of denial of self and denial of roots. I think that my family who came from WWI began that narrative as a means to survive in a war-torn country. I don’t know if they had to change their name before coming here or not, but my guess is that it’s more than likely. If after, then who knows? Maybe it was shame about where they came from, or just a strong sense to have to fit in because— just imagine for a second really in coming from where they came from— you’d have to wonder about what you’re getting into in going somewhere totally new and unfamiliar. I would suppose that there was fear in my family at that time that myself, my siblings or even my mom or aunts or uncles can’t even really imagine.

Baboo probably could, though.

As far as she goes, sometimes I don’t know and I struggle. All the meditation, prayers, reflections and candle lighting in the world will not help me understand her, and I wish I had the answers about some of her decisions that I came to know about later on in my own life. All of that said though, I have to suppose that if the person who needed to run away, change or deny herself and her roots to survive was as close to her as her mother, then try telling me seriously that she too didn’t inherit that lesson?

I lit a candle on Samhain and I wondered…

Shhh… ukryj się i milczeć.”

“Hide and be silent,” Said my great grandmother, to my grandmother, to my mother… if there is a concrete way to know for sure about that I can’t really say, though the message through the years has been loud and clear and as all things do in family, has shaped all of us in different ways. This primary shadow aspect is the reason (I believe, anyway) for some of the isolation, the depression, the secrecy, the self sabotaging behavior and the denial that crops up again and again in my maternal line. It’s why shaking off the survival mechanism of deep silence, the need to shrink oneself, and repressed emotion becomes essential I think… where we have to relearn that being in touch with ourselves isn’t just a luxury or a frivolous vanity. What we feel about things matter… and we matter, too. We don’t always have to run away or stuff our problems down in denial. That was the sacrifice my great grandma made when she left the Ukraine and came here, but it’s not for us to make. Living in a place where we have the privilege of being able to know our own selves without fear of persecution and to speak our truths out loud is something that can inform us about our own sense of what’s right and wrong, and it ties in also with trusting our instincts in bad situations. The people from my mom’s line are basically notorious for learning about those things the hard way— myself included. From that point of learning though, it’s a choice… you either open up, and acknowledge and own yourself, or you don’t. My Baboo chose not to… probably because she too felt that she didn’t have the emotional right to it. Her mother suffered probably more than any of us alive today will ever know or comprehend. Baboo saw it, though. She learned it.

By extension, whittle away at it though we might with each passing generation, so did we.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

IMG_20181017_104543322As already mentioned the shadow I often try to do some work on during Samhain is the one I carry through my matrilineal line, and a symbol of that particular work for me stems in the fairy tale archetype of The Baba Yaga… for which I have profound (to me at least) reason.

One night during a time when I was thick in some trials, projections and shadows of my own, a scary and deeply disturbing figure showed up in a dream I had. She was an old woman— very frightening, who had a kind of look of decay about her and that seemed to surround her. The strangest thing about her appearance (and what convinced me just a few days later that she had to be the Baba Yaga) was that she stumbled around on three legs— one of which was clawed, skinny and scaly looking, like a chicken leg. This one seemed to work almost as a cane as she limped and hobbled around. In the dream I heard her breathing before I saw her, and I was terrified to move. I was in my own room, sleeping in my own bed, and this I think is part of what made the dream feel so real at the time. I turned to face the source of the unsettling sound, I  yelled as loud as I could in her direction, and it was only after the yelling that I saw her. She was eerie and frightening looking… but after I finally turned around to confront her I wasn’t afraid anymore, even though she was pretty messed up and scary looking.

During the time that I had that dream I was reading “Women Who Run With the Wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola Estes for the first time… and it was only a short time following the dream that I got to the chapter called “Vasalisa the Wise”, whose central archetype was The Baba Yaga. Struck completely by some of the eerie similarities to the fairy tale figure and the menacing old woman in my dream (the most obvious one being that the fairy tale Baba Yaga lived in a house that stood on a chicken leg, which definitely hearkened back to my dream.) I researched Baba Yaga and made some interesting finds. Firstly is that she has her roots in Eastern European myth (found earliest in Russian, Polish and Ukrainian folklore). She is the hag archetype who represents the learning of hard lessons and of gaining wisdom through emotional pain, isolation, rejection and hardship (again, strong elements in my mothers line). She is also the matron/goddess figure of grandmothers and matrilineal legacy and is also cited as a death figure— not only of physical death but of transformation death, which makes her an appropriate archetype for Samhain. As a Goddess figure in Pagan mythology, she’s neither a welcoming or unwelcoming sign; but if she shows up for you then it means she’s there to teach you something— usually the hard way, so it’s time to pay attention.

All having been said, she was then and has ever since been duly noted by me.

babayaga-forestrogers1

Vasalisa and Baba Yaga.

While I was in Salem, MA a few weeks ago I happened to find a Baba Yaga pillar candle… she’s not the most popular of goddesses and I seldom have found things in the shops around Rochester that have much to do with her— at least not as far as her imagery is concerned. (Do an image search and you’ll see why, she’s not the most appealing of goddesses and/or archetypes, which is why I think she proves to be a hard sell for business people.) Anyway, there she was on a shelf of deity candles on Essex St. I bought the candle, brought it home, lit it on Samhain and placed it in the kitchen.

Baba Yaga’s source of magic is in her own kitchen, where she cooks up blessings and hardships alike to bring learning to the people who cross her path. It seemed the appropriate place for her also as women traditionally gather and share their stories, wisdoms and secrets in the kitchen. As this Samhain is mostly to do with Grandmothers and she being a representation of crone wisdom, it seemed most appropriate to have her and reminders of her energies there. Particularly for my mom’s line, who share roots of home and heritage with this strange, often unsettling figure. May she continue to help me and any others she might have (or may yet still) drop by on with some hard won knowledge.

I hope to have Part 2 of Samhain up as soon as I can… for now, thank you for reading. I hope, especially so for any and all in my family, that there is something of value and of resonance here that you might find. Something which I hope warms your hearts in someway, as usually I’m not always sure how else to go about that outside of words and writings. 

Thank you for being my family and for living with me and growing with me in this strange and confusing time in the worlds’ story that we’ve found ourselves in. 

I love you all so very much.

Love always;

 ~Lissie ❤

A Relaxing Getaway to Clearwater, FL

beachquote

This quote showed up on Word Porn the same exact day that I arrived in Florida… it couldn’t have been more timely.  ❤

I’m a couple days into my vacation and so far it’s been great! It’s a lot quieter and very different than my last trip to Clearwater. August 2014 was all about boat rides, beaches every day, traveling outside of town, restaurants, and go-go-go. This time it’s all about kicking back and relaxing— and while I love a go-go-go vacation, I am definitely in my element most when I am able to relax and slow the pace in life a bit. Sam and Randy have made a lovely abode for themselves here and I feel very much at home. The weather has been windy and kind of chilly and the beaches are a bit crowded because it’s spring break season. We stopped at Honeymoon Island a couple hours after I got off the plane but it was so windy that the sand was flying in our eyes and it was cold unless we were in the water! The beach actually wasn’t too crowded there that day but I suspect that was because of the weather… that and because Clearwater Beach tends to draw more of the spring-breakers.

I did manage to snap a couple pictures, because beach pictures are always the best. 🙂

honemoonisland2017

Honeymoon Island: April 5th, 2017

Hardly a foot model but I gave it the ol’ college try… lol. 😛

Though it hasn’t been the best weather for the beach Samantha’s parents have the most amazing pool ever so we spend a lot of our time at their house. Even on chilly days it’s good for swimming because they can heat their pool up and keep it at a warm temperature when it’s cold. You would think that a Rochestarian like me wouldn’t be bothered by some wind after getting out of the water on a 70+ degree day, but even to me it’s still a bit chilly!

(Sorry about that to everyone back home who is getting snow. I’ve seen the pictures…. bleh! )

Pizza has been a daily staple so I vow to eat at least a couple helpings of nutritious food before my time here is over… or maybe not because pizza is what I love and I’m on vacation.

Get it together Melissa, you are not 20. 

Today we’ve got more swimming on the agenda and then we’re going to see a movie after. Either the new “Pirates of the Caribbean” if it’s out (which we still have to check on) or if not then “Beauty and the Beast”, which we’ve both seen already but loved so much!

It’s almost 11:30am and we’re just getting ready to head out soon… it’s so nice to have time in the morning to catch up on some reading and writing! I’m almost done with “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert and I’ve also started plugging away at my own story again, which I had up on the shelf for a long while before I came here.

It’s amazing what a change of pace and scenery can do for inspiration. ❤

Much love always;

Melissa ❤

Bloom Daily Planner: August 2016-’17 Vision Collage and Some Thoughts on Self Talk

1stplannercollage

A couple days ago I was feeling really down for loosing some of the pace and motivation I had kept up through January. Last month I got really into hooping and I spent a lot of time at the gym practicing. After almost two weeks strong of no practice whatsoever, I couldn’t understand how I could feel so great and have so much fun doing something and then just suddenly stop doing it— then my mind got stuck on a loop where I just kept thinking about things that way and I fell into this spiral of self-criticism.

All I could think was, why do I always do this? I don’t ever finish anything that I set out to do.  

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past couple years, it’s that it is so important to pay attention to thoughts like that and flip a switch ASAP once they start taking over in our heads. Usually our own toughest critic is ourselves, and I know we’ve all heard that before but in my experience it’s true— and it’s also the most relentless. Negative self talk is a total energy sapper, and I think that when we get into that frame of mind it’s good to gain some perspective and shut it down before it gets the best of us. ❤

So while I was indulging these feelings of criticism and defeatism (all over a simple two week break from hoop dancing) it  dawned on me that February is the six month point in my Bloom Daily planner— my general planner which started in August 2016 and goes on until August 2017. I had some really specific goals mapped out for the year so I flipped back to August 2016 and took a look at my first collage and bullet point list of goals that I wanted to accomplish for the year.

To my complete shock I’ve already accomplished some of the biggest, most challenging goals that I set out to do, but somewhere along the way I totally put them out of my mind because of all of the focus I was putting on my momentary slump— which really wasn’t even a slump because though I wasn’t hoop dancing I was still keeping active in my artistic hobbies.

To give you an idea of what I’ve been up to in the past six months here are some of the things I’ve completed on the list so far— or if they’re not quite complete yet they’re set to be soon!

  • 1stplannercollage

    August 2016-2017 goals

    Write a novel length manuscript— I did that in one month during NaNoWriMo.

  • Hoop dance— still a long way to go, but it’s a thing that can take a long time to master and learn. The point is I started, spent a lot of time on it and learned a lot in January, and I will resume spending time on it again very soon. 😉
  • Buy a new car
  • Visit Samantha in Clearwater— My trip to Clearwater is planned out for April
  • Fly on a plane for the first time— Also happening in April, I  bought my tickets yesterday. This might not sound like much but I’ve been afraid to fly (or more specifically afraid of chaotic airports!) for a long time, so this is actually a big goal for me and a big one for facing fears.

So there it is— all of my biggest goals of the year are finished with six months to spare. There’s a spattering of other goals like read this book and that book and keep track of my diet. Lose 40lbs in twelve months was a goal too but at this point I don’t think I will by the 512z0qkidfl-_sy344_bo1204203200_end of July unless I put some serious effort into it. And honestly I’d rather focus my efforts on all of the other things so I guess I’ll just have to let that one go for now and keep up with my other plans. I’ve had a change of heart in trying to obtain a certain number on the scale anyway (if you haven’t read it yet, pick up “Body Kindness” by Rebecca Scritchfield and you’ll know what I mean, it’s a phenomenal book with a really refreshing perspective on health, self care and diet) so at this point I’m just hoping that weight loss, whatever it ends up working out to be, will fall into place as I focus on decent activity and being mindful of what I eat. Focusing on lbs lost can be another self esteem killer as well as an energy depleater, and I’ve come to learn to look at pretty much everything in how it impacts my daily energy levels— you would be really surprised at some of the things that do once you start paying attention.

Now that I’ve looked back on some of the goals I set out to achieve I’m feeling much better about finishing the things that I start— even if only because I realize now that I actually do more than I think and that’s already giving me some motivation and inspiration for more goals! Staying positive sounds easy enough but it’s tough to put into daily practice; especially if you’re like me and you’re more prone towards a negative outlook when not being especially mindful of your thoughts. It’s really a skill more than anything else and that’s where visuals have turned out to work quite nicely for me. The planner, the collages, the bullet point goals. Some months I keep up with my planner and get really into decorating it and making a daily plan and other months I’m not (probably because I’m actually really busy with doing the things, like writing a 145 pg manuscript in a month that I neglected to consider in my insistence that I never get anything done) but the point is that somehow I made a plan and things are coming to fruition even though it doesn’t always feel that way.

I’ll be back another day with more on the Bloom Daily planner— it’s been quite a project for me and there are a few reasons why I think it’s carrying so much significance in my life this year. But to go into all of that now I think would be to digress, and the important thing that I hope to leave you with right now is to check your self doubt and self criticisms when you can— especially once you get to the point where you’re beating yourself up over nothing. I think very often that  a lot of us believe that there’s always more that we could be doing and usually it might be true; but focusing on your accomplishments, be they personal, financial/career, domestic, relationship or what have you— is so much more helpful and inspiring than focusing on the things you haven’t done, or have yet to do, or have not yet finished. It’s important to have some perspective on what you do and what’s behind you, because that’s all the difference between “my lazy ass is in a slump again” and “I’m taking a break/focusing on other things for a while.” It might sound like trivial semantics but when it’s how you talk to your own self, it’s really not.

Be kind to yourselves… I’ll keep trying to do the same as well.

Peace;

Melissa ❤

New Moon in Scorpio and Samhain 2016: Altar Dedicated to Laura Lee Bond (Peets)

wp-1477754382479.png

Samhain Altar 2016

Today is October 29th. It’s the day before the new moon in Scorpio and though my Samhain altar is just about finished, there are a few things left to do before I bring in the Sabbat; which for me will start tomorrow. Something I have yet to do is write out some words in dedication to my mother, who passed away three months ago.

I have never built an altar quite this elaborate before, written out a ritual or celebrated any of the eight Sabbats. I’ve had an interest in Neo-Pagan spiritual practice for about five years now and have done a lot of reading on it, however I never quite got to the point where I felt inspired to create a full ritual in observation of one of the eight seasonal holidays.

wheel-of-the-year

This year is a different story however. My mother passed away three months ago and since then I’ve had trouble processing my grief. Neither up or down at any point, I often just feel flat. While I know that grief is something that can’t be judged, rushed or bypassed, this feeling of not feeling is unsettling to me. It’s my hope that doing something cathartic will allow me to confront grief and mourning in some way where I can bring it to the surface with some intention and meaning.

Once October rolled around I started thinking more and more about Samhain and the symbolic significance of the holiday. The closer it came, the more I couldn’t help but notice some spiritual synchronicity (some might call these signs) that made me feel as though I couldn’t let it slip by me without commemorating mom and remembering her in some way.

Samhain (pronounced Sow-ain) is a harvest festival which was historically observed in the old days by Gaelic and Celtic traditions. Today it has been adopted by various Neo-Pagan groups which are often (though not always) eclectic and who express their spirituality through various religions, practices and pantheons. Samhain represents the third and final harvest of the year (the word literally means Summer’s End) and it falls between the autumn equinox and winter solstice. It is one of two Sabbats of the year where it is believed that the veil between the physical world and the spiritual is at its thinnest. As such there’s a lot of death metaphor and symbolization. Skulls, ravens, jack-o-lanterns, fallen leaves and autumn foliage are some of the imagery and symbols used by people who observe the holiday. Often they will remember the dead and honor their ancestors, sometimes by leaving out small plates of food or drinks that the friends and family members liked. The energy of that food is what feeds the ancestors and deceased friends and family members, and it’s common practice that after the Sabbat is over, the food is brought outside and buried or given to nature in some way or form.

There’s a ton of literature and websites out there that go into more detail about Samhain and the mythology surrounding it than I have here; however as I don’t have much time to get ready and do all the things I’d like to do before I get started in my own observation of the Sabbat I’ll leave that to you readers to look into if you’d like. Before I move on from this post I want to share a bit about the astrology behind my mother and how it’s syncing up with the Sabbat this year.

Laura Lee Bond (Peets) was born under a Scorpio full moon on May 23rd, 1956. 

moon phase calendar: May 1956

On October 30th, 2016 (Samhain Eve) the moon will be in Scorpio, just like it was on her birth.

The difference between the Scorpio moon during mom’s birth and the upcoming Sabbat is that when she was born the moon was full. Tomorrow will be a Scorpio New Moon— the full moons opposite, when it is completely dark in the sky and reflecting no light.

Mom’s day of death (July 31st, 2016) was in the final day of the waning crescent, which is the day before a new moon begins. July 31st is also the Eve of the first harvest according to the wheel of the year.

Moon Phase Calendar: July 2016

In other words, she passed on a Sabbat. Sabbats don’t always happen to fall on new moons, it just seems to be the case for Lammas and Samhain this year.

The moon is considered full or new just three nights a month. The sign that it’s in at any given time lasts for a day and half. When I looked up information on the moon elements for these days, I found the astrological patterns jarring and significant where my mother is concerned. Even the sign Scorpio corresponds to death and mystery, so as soon as I researched this information, I knew I wanted to plan something for the Sabbat where the dead are honored.

As I collected items for the Samhain altar I built for mom, I found even more interesting parallels between her and some of the things she enjoyed or were meaningful to her in life— some of it though is significant just because it reminds me of her; and that’s really all it needs to be.

Lavender:

wp-1477780289934.png

Lavender Essential Oil

Lavender was a scent and a flower that mom loved. She often had lavender candles as well as bath soaps and mineral baths, and she liked the purple shade of the flower (her fondness for the color is why I chose purple for an altar cloth as well). I have lavender essential oil at home already because I like it too, so I knew that I would use it to anoint my Samhain candles with.

Earlier this week I went to a metaphysical shop to pick a white sage smudge because I usually burn white sage while I cast a circle (also known as opening sacred space) when I meditate, but while I was in the shop I caught sight of a couple lavender bundles. I immediately thought of mom when I saw them so I picked some up to use on Samhain.

When I got home I looked up the spiritual significance of lavender smoke. As it turns out it is associated with the element of air (my mother’s sun sign was Gemini which is an air sign), and it is often said to ease the suffering of depression, grief and sorrow which makes it perfect for Samhain; though I had never seen Lavender in correspondence with it before. I also learned that lavender is sometimes called Elf Leaf because it is traditionally associated with elves and fairies; which in turn are also associated with Samhain.

My mom’s nickname when she was little, interestingly enough, was Pixie.

Online source: Lavender smudging

Christ and Christianity:

wp-1477780295464.png

There was a point in mom’s life when she had a lot of religious décor (most memorably an elaborate glass case with a statuette of The Madonna inside and a prayer written on a plaque). She was never openly religious or much of a church goer that I can remember, but I know that she thought about God and Jesus sometimes because she would talk about it. Some of my most memorable conversations with her were about religion and I know that she believed in things, though she never really said what. One of my Aunt’s told me that she was talking about God and Christianity before she died, so I’m choosing to take that to heart when considering the upcoming Sabbat.

If you look at the photo of the whole altar you’ll see an angel who is resting over a waterfall with a lamb at her feet. Inscribed under the statuette is version of proverb: 23 titled “Serenity— ‘Trusting Soul’.”

The Lord is my shepherd,

I shall not want.

He makes me lie down

In green pastures,

He leads me beside the still waters,

He restores my soul.

He leads me to paths of righteousness

for His name’s sake…

Surely goodness and mercy shall

follow me all the days of my life,

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

The releasing of Burdens:

wp-1477780275473.png

I was watching a YouTube video of someone elses altar tour (Charlie from CharleSaysGo) and during her video, she talked about the significance of the Burden Basket in Apache tribes. It’s the idea of placing a small basket out for the dead so that they can lay the burdens that they’ve carried through their lives down and be free of them. The burdens are emptied of the basket in some form of spiritual ritual; though I’m not exactly sure how as a lot of Native American spiritual practice is kept closed to their communities. Charlie made a great point about being careful not to rip off of indigenous spirituality as much of it is kept closed. There’s a lot of turmoil in our country regarding appropriation and the issue of boundaries and respect in religion. This gets complicated in Neo-Pagan practice as a lot things are borrowed from various spiritual paths that have either been long forgotten or kept closed to certain communities yet are taken, commercialized and sold for profit.

My own take is to be conscientious of why (and how) you borrow and include elements from other religions and practices. The fact that God, Christ and heaven was something that mom was thinking about in the months before she died (as well as during other points in her life) makes me feel validated in placing a psalm and a cross on my altar because it was (is) significant to her through her life. As such they are significant in my commemoration and the respects I pay to her. As far as Christ goes; though observing a Sabbat is Pagan in execution and aesthetic, I bar no God, Goddess, Mesiah, spiritual teachers, prophets or archetypes from my meditations or practice; however it evolves and changes over time. Because this is how I feel, the fact that Paganism is often eclectic is what drew me to it to begin with.

When it comes to the Burden Basket, all I know is that it has a specific design that isn’t quite like an ordinary basket; I know nothing else about it except what it is said to be used for. Whatever rituals are involved in its spiritual uses are a mystery to me.

What I do know is that my mother carried many, many burdens throughout her life. If there was anything I ever wanted most for her while she was alive, it was for her to let go of a past which haunted her constantly. She never did.

While Charlie talked about the burden basket it felt so right in my heart to find a way to implement that idea on mom’s altar somehow. While I was at Goodwill one day I went to the back of the building where they keep their shelves of baskets to look for something that I could use for mom’s Samhain altar— not knowing if using a basket (even just a regular one) was “ok” by some peoples standards or not. All I knew was that it felt right to find something that could symbolize the releasing of burdens for her.

Eventually I found this jewelry box sitting on the shelves with all the baskets. On the jewelry box there’s a little door that flips up that looks sort of like a bread box.

The first thing that I thought of was a bread box that mom used to have with a door that flipped up just like that. Synchronicity rules again with Christ symbolism. I decided that for mom, I’m going to leave the “bread drawer” open with a written intention inside for the releasing of old burdens, along with a small piece of bread.

wp-1477754390872.png

Some other things on the jewelry box include a precious moments knickknack that belonged to mom with her birthstone on it, stones in a purple bag that correspond to Gemini (citrine, tigers eye and agate) a cat candle and knickknack, and two blue glass bowls. Tobacco will go in one, coffee grounds in the other.

I’m running out of time to explain everything in detail and this is getting very long… but to anyone who knew mom, that’s all her.

There will be another blog post for my plans for Samhain night if I can find the time. October 31st won’t be quite as intense or mom focused; if anything it’ll a night to just simply meditate and decompress from what I feel is going to be an emotional night.

I really hope to have a good cry… I feel like I just need to.

Happy Halloween and Samhain.

~Melissa ❤

The Soul’s Journey: Reading for August 25th, 2016

wp-1472212978908.jpgI picked up a new pack of oracle cards while I was at Barnes & Noble last week. Getting a new pack of cards is always a role of the dice because sometimes these cards resonate and work really well with me and other times they don’t at all. In the past I would usually pick them out based on aesthetic. There are some really gorgeous decks out there and that just always seemed like a reasonable way to pick them out. However art has a way of getting to us subconsciously. Colors, shapes, imagery, archetypes, themes— though there may be certain understandings about anything which artists might use to create these decks (for instance what is masculine, feminine, warm, cold, etc) they all still tend to feel a little bit differently to each of us due to whatever personal meanings they might have also. I’ve tried using decks which to me are really beautiful; but then either something I see in the artwork or read in the guidebook (another post for another time) will just sort of make me go “eh”… so then I don’t end up using them very often.

Though I have a few decks already, I haven’t used them in a while either because they ended up not really appealing to me as much as I thought they would, or they’re a little more complicated (such as tarot) and they take a lot of time to learn.

Since my mom passed away I’ve been feeling really disconnected, disoriented and not especially up for any in-depth work with imagery, themes or suits. However since I’m not really a stranger to cards, for me they’re an obvious step in both the psychological and spiritual processing (for me those go very much hand in hand) of the loss of my mom.
I knew I wanted something simple and straightforward for this, so I
decided to go with “The Soul’s Journey” deck by James Van Praagh. It’s a 44 card deck which features mandala’s and what the author calls a “soul lesson” on each card. Underneath each soul lesson there is also an affirmation:

wp-1472351853844.jpg

COURAGE: I find the inner strength to face fear with confidence.

 

After I got the deck home I cleansed and consecrated the cards. Cards in and of themselves are nothing of course; just images on glossy paper which has been mass-produced and sold in retail stores like Barnes & Noble. For me, there’s really not much I can get from them until I do a little bit of energy work. They’re stagnant as is right out of the box and it takes a little while to create a flow or vibe between myself and the cards.

Some of these decks will come with suggestions for how to cleanse and consecrate and others don’t. Really it’s just a matter of doing your own thing to create a connection. This deck advises to remove the plastic from the cards then hold them in your non dominant hand (that being the hand that receives energy according to some energy workers) and say a prayer or affirmation over the deck as you hold it. The booklet comes with a sample prayer but I’ll very rarely use a prayer written by someone else when I work with cards. It’s not because I don’t think the their prayers are good or well written— it’s just that I think if what is trying to be achieved is an energetic connection, the more work you put into establishing that (via your own words, prayers, thoughts and so forth) the better.  

The author’s advice about the non-dominant hand being more of an absorber of energy worked for me at the time, so I added that bit into the process. I guess if you think about it we use our dominant hand for writing which is a kind of outward flow and transference of energy from to mind, to hand, to pen, to paper. Even though both hands transfer and receive energy, the idea that the opposite is more suited for absorption clicked for me at the time. I tend to go with my gut when I work with cards and that day I had to consider the fact that I was trying to work this all out while feeling weary and sapped of energy. It’s like I’ve been on power save mode since losing mom and it takes all of the fortitude I have to simply get through the day and function normally while I’m at work and around other people. It’s getting a little easier with each day that goes by but for the most part, exhaustion seems to be how I’m processing this grief. The day of this reading I felt physically worn down and not especially interested in what I was doing at first even though for some reason, I wanted to. At this point in the cleansing process everything still felt mechanical; like I was going through the motions of this thing I used to do a lot but not really caring about it at all. That being the case the author’s suggestion that my right hand (my non-dominant hand) was primed to receive a cleansing affirmation was helpful so I went with it.

Next the author advises that all that needs to be done to consecrate the cards (infuse them with your own energy) is to simply flip through the edges of the cards, shuffle, say another prayer to set your intentions for the reading and proceed from there. What I did instead was lay all 44 cards out in front of me at once, read each one to myself, consider the mandala art briefly before placing my hand, palm down, over the card. This was a longer process compared to what the author suggested, but I like to see the whole deck out in front of me before I get started, read any words that are printed on the cards and see all of the artwork at once. After that I shuffle them all up until it feels right to lay the cards out.

Anyone can make up their own spread with Tarot or oracle cards if they want to (a spread is the order in how you lay out the cards and the meaning of each placement) but that day I used two which were suggested by the author. After that I put the book away and resolved to be on my own from there. I learned this lesson a few years ago with another deck (The Wildwood Tarot), and how the writers’ perceptions and attitude about the artwork can sometimes ruin a deck which is otherwise resonating and beautiful. A lot of the time the author of the booklet is also the artist of the cards. Whenever that’s the case it’s difficult for me to separate their applied meanings from my own interpretations— so for me it’s just better to work with them and invest time and thought into analyzing them for myself and leave the authors interpretations out of it.

I chose to use two spreads in conjunction with each other. First was the three card spread:

Card one “represents a lesson that has already been made evident but may not have been embraced or learned. This card… signified the essence of the query, and progress cannot be made unless this lesson has been addressed and dealt with.”

Card 2 “represents the energy that is currently present. This card is significant because if you’re not prepared for this lesson, it could prove to be a stumbling block impeding your progress.”

Card 3 “suggests what long-range lesson is to be learned… It may relate to the situation at hand, or it could be an ultimate life lesson of which the situation is just a piece of the puzzle.”

I laid out my cards and they read as such:

wp-1472212728283.jpg

I took a picture of the cards so that I wouldn’t forget them and shuffled them up again. As I did Pete came into the room and we chatted for a couple of minutes. I explained to him what I was doing and as he does, he sat down next to me and he listened. He kissed me on the cheek then went back out into the livingroom. I shuffled and shuffled and wondered about the three card spread and my initial feelings about the lessons contained therein. I completely bristled at the first card, abundance. Mainly I think because I wasn’t feeling abundant in anything at all that night. I was preoccupied with the recent loss of my mother and the desperation I felt for some kind of solace from the situation; a sign from her, a dream about her or even some inkling that I would feel her presence at some point. Other family members had mentioned noticed traces of her after her passing; dreams, wisps of feelings, signs. I hadn’t at that point and I haven’t still. I felt a twinge of bitterness and even silliness that part of the reason why I got the deck in the first place was hoping that she would chime in at some point during a reading. I’ve heard of people using cards for ancestor work and contact with the spirits, but I personally have never been sure of what I really believe as far as all of that or what my earthly capabilities actually even are in that arena. That being the case, self-analysis and art analysis is the extent of my own practice in divination. Still, I think a part of me hoped that spiritual contact through the cards could feel true for me, even if only for only a second. As I shuffled and shuffled at some point I spoke out into the empty air and said “mom”. The word fell hallow from my lips and nothing at all stirred within me which felt like a sign or a presence or even a simple thought. I didn’t feel like I could really call on her or ask her for anything at all.

One of my family members says that she talks to mom since she passed and that it makes her feel better because she feels as though she is listening… but I simply can’t feel that way even though I’ve tried. When I say her name or try to talk to her (cards in hand or not) I don’t feel like she is there. I haven’t the slightest inkling that she is around somewhere, watching out for me, waiting for my call or guiding me. It feels only like she can’t anymore. It feels like she is gone.

After saying her name once and feeling only apathy, I let the idea of reaching her go completely. If mom is out there in the cosmos or Heaven or a spiritual plane or wherever it is she might be, then she’s on her own journey and at this point it doesn’t include me. If there is a sign waiting for me then that wasn’t my time to receive it. Like everything else I had to follow my gut on this and let the idea go. I was on my own in the reading.

The card abundance irked me to no end for all the loss and emptiness I felt in that moment— that I had been feeling consistently for three weeks straight and still feel even now. The bright red hue and the affirmation (I am a limitless being, and I can manifest whatever I desire in this physical reality) felt so completely out-of-place with where I was spiritually and emotionally that it felt almost like a cosmic slap in the face. But then I considered the abundance I felt in my life before mom died and it made sense as a lesson which had been presented before so I decided to continue on with the reading and give it a chance.

I reflected similarly on card 2, relationships as well as card 3, perseverance and scribbled some thoughts down about the soul lessons in my journal later that night; after the reading was through. 

I shuffled the cards and prepared myself for the following seven card spread. I went about this for a while and just sort of zoned until a card slipped out from the deck. Going with my gut I used the fallen card as the first of the seven card spread and laid them all out from the top of the deck from there.

In the seven card spread the first three cards (bottom row) represent energies which are currently at play in life. The fourth card (middle) represents a transition and/or obstacle between the present and the future, while the top three cards represent energies which will be at play after. It doesn’t get much more specific than that in the guidebook so needless to say, I’ve got my journaling cut out for me as I work through this reading.

wp-1472212733214.jpg

I don’t know where your beliefs lie or what opinions you might have about this kind of thing… I myself am never 100% confident in making up my mind about what is true and what isn’t. I think what it boils down to is what is true for each of us and what we chose to make of it. Either way I’m just a 30 year old woman with a deck of cards trying to make sense of the most difficult thing I’ve ever been through. For all I know mom was with me all a long and she knocked perseverance right out of the deck as I shuffled.

This one Lissie,” maybe she said.

Maybe it was just me and the powers that be— God, Source, Spirit, whatever— on August 25th. Or maybe it’s all just a silly coincidence and it was just me, sitting in my room feeling lost and desperate for answers about things which are completely out of my hands and always have been. Who am I to say? I can’t really rule out any of it and I don’t care to. All I really know is that I have just experienced the most profound loss of my life so far and the cards I laid out read as such:

Perseverance, Growth, Death, Abundance, Relationships, Self-Esteem, Blame

Though some of these read as pretty obvious, I think I would have found meaning in any of the cards that I might have laid out that day. The ultimate giver of lessons in any daughters’ life is always the mother. I didn’t consciously think about it that way when I bought this deck— all I figured as I walked aimlessly around B&N is that I wanted something simple for my tired mind to work with. Now that I have worked with these cards, I know that nothing else I could have picked out that day would have better suited the task of processing the loss of her. From August 25th forward “The Soul’s Journey” its always going to be Mom’s deck and for me, that’s just how it is.

wp-1470664161578.jpg

 

Melissa ❤

 

 

Eulogy: The Music and the Wave

This is a eulogy for my mother. I shared it with family and friends during a gathering in celebration of her life on August 7th, 2016. In time I want to expand upon it as I continue to process the grief of losing her. For now though, I want to share it as is once more in written form so that if they want to my dad, my siblings, or anyone who loved my mom can visit this page and read it.

I’m not sure if sharing a eulogy in a blog post is at all appropriate or keeping with proper etiquette. If there’s anything I’ve learned over the past week though, it’s that I don’t think that there is an appropriate way. We move forward and deal with things as we must. While this eulogy was a send off and a gift for my mother, I would like to think of it also as a gift for my family. This belongs to you. It is here for you to read at anytime. I hope that the sharing of words and memories of mom can provide some small measure of comfort and peace for all— especially for Dad, Kelly, Kevin, Michael, Jimmy, and Billy. ❤

~Melissa   

 


 

wp-1470664172648.jpg

Mom

For the past week I have been looking through old photographs of my family. They range from about ten to fifteen years old and go all the way back to when my mom and dad were kids. Some were even from when my grandparents were young. I found these pictures in a trunk at mom and dad’s house, where they were stored for safekeeping until someone could get around to organizing them into albums and frames. The person who I  know for sure must have had plans for these pictures was my mother. I know because when I opened the trunk I smelled the lasting scent of smoke and singed paper. Some of the older pictures inside survived a house fire that happened when I was about six years old, and they did because of her. After she made sure we were all out of the house she stayed behind to throw albums, baby books and framed photographs over the deck railing from the second floor of the house. For years my mothers actions that day were a puzzle for us all. Though we understood the significance of old pictures, they were only that. Pictures. How could she have even thought about them at such a time? The house went up in flames almost as soon as we got out of it. I wondered why she would have risked herself for things which, though precious, were only things that could still be held in our memories and told in stories.

Just as soon as I opened the trunk on July 31st 2016, I looked down at all the many pictures as though they were buried treasure. For the first time in my life I truly understood why those pictures were worth saving, and it is one of many reasons why we owe mom more thanks than we could possibly ever give her.

Since that day I have looked over photo after photo. The smell of smoke lingered and

wp-1470664312860.jpg

Wedding Rings: Mom and Dad’s wedding day.

followed me home like an old ghost as I spread them out across my living room floor. These were the earliest ones— baby pictures, baby books, my parents’ prom, wedding day, and honeymoon. Others were more familiar and memorable to me, and these were from after we moved to the big brick house in Marion. I thought for the first time in a while about what our house was like back in those days. I remember walking in the kitchen door after school and seeing mom standing at the sink, table or island making a delicious dinner of lasagna, pork chops, macaroni soup or any number of other delicious favorites. She would often have scented candles lit, and there was almost always music playing on the huge five disc CD player and stereo in the dining room. She was a country fan, but sometimes mom liked to

wp-1470664190983.jpg

Mom dressed as Alice Cooper for Halloween

listen to oldies; usually in the summertime when we went garage saling. Other times it was rock and roll— Alice Cooper or the Doors. I felt a keen connection to mom through her music, and often noted the patterns of what she would listen to based on her moods or even time of year or day. I liked a lot of the music that she did but sometimes I would try to get her to listen to bands and singers that she didn’t know too well. She was stubborn and always insisted that nothing could top the music that she had known and loved for years. Still, she would always listen to a new song when I asked her to. Mostly I would get a nod of approval or a headshake if it was a flat “I don’t like this.” Right now I can only think of one 90’s band that she really liked. It was Oasis, and one night we listened to “Be Here Now” all the way through from track 1 to 12.

 

 

“These guys are good,” she said at one point. “So what, are they like The Beatles of your time?”

“I’m not sure, but no. I don’t think so.” Is what I said.

 

Sounds, sights, smells, music. They all came back to me with every picture that I flipped through. The candles, the food, the smell of leather, tack, coats, boots and hats that we got after mom and dad bought the horses, the trip we took to Niagara Falls. There were so very many heartwarming memories which I hadn’t thought of in years. When she was well mom was the light of our house. It was both of my parents wish to see us living out a happy childhood and together they succeeded; but mom was the artist in her vision and at the helm of every family adventure. She was the listening ear, the silly laugh, the knowing smirk. She was the reason why sometimes when I was at school and had a sniffle, I wanted to go home even though I wasn’t all that sick. She was the shoulder I cried on after a bad day, and the “I love you” after every phone call.

The timeline of the pictures from the trunk came to a scathing halt at somewhere around ten or fifteen years ago. I’ve been sitting here frozen for some time now trying to put into words the years that followed, and just how much I came to realize the powerful effect my mother’s health and state of being had on our home down to every last family member, frame, fabric, and brick. As she changed, so too did her Household. That was how powerful and intense my mother was. All that was internal for her was echoed outwardly into every facet and fiber of her surroundings, no matter what stage of life she was in. Though the past decade was not without its moments of joy and happiness also, I cannot talk about them without getting into the complicated, multi-layered nature of mom’s illness. Today as we gather to celebrate her life, we will remember instead her vibrancy, her light, her love. We remember her Rock and Roll, her laughter, her hugs. We remember the smell of her cooking as we walked through the door after school, and her favorite candles. We remember Thanksgiving turkeys, Easter egg hunts and presents piled high under the tree on Christmas morning. We remember heart to hearts on the porch as powdery moths fluttered at the light and listened to long conversations on summer nights. We remember coffee and cigarette’s, we remember chicken soup and tea when we were sick, we remember the parrots, parakeets, horses and baby deer that she sought to love and save. We remember the person she was, and for us her children we remember her as a parent as well. Dad has always been the rock and anchoring beat, but she was the music and the wave who moved us. Until we meet her again someday, we are now tasked with learning how to dance without her.

Always remember, “Though she be but little; she is fierce!” I never thought in a million years that Shakespeare would be who I would quote to remember my mother by, but fierce is exactly who she was; transcendental and far reaching. My mother knew how to make herself known. As long as we keep her in our hearts, she will echo back at us with every beat.

wp-1470664151868.jpg

On Wellness <3

I think that when it comes to change, what it all boils down to is being really, truly ready for it. Over the years I read dozens of books, joined a handful of gyms, bought GNC supplements and protein powders, went on juice fasts and detox cleanses, tried out a few diets and enrolled in fitness classes all in the pursuit of weight loss and adopting a healthier life style.

If all of that that sounds miserable to you, then you’re absolutely right. It was. But an important thing I’ve learned through all of this is that not only did my back and forth with some of this stuff screw with my body— as well as my self esteem, as I failed to maintain any of it for very long— but being healthy simply doesn’t have to be so hard. It’s just not. True I don’t have a glowing, impressive weight loss “before and after” number or picture for you. I am only just starting out— but I can tell you how I feel, and it’s really amazing! My energy levels and mindset have improved; but it’s also incredible to feel as though I’ve broken through a cycle finally and come to certain realizations about things which have been a long time coming.

I’ve only recently learned the importance of taking time for myself— taking time ON myself, and caring for myself. When I tried to get healthy before, it was all for aesthetic. I had this image in my head of being lean and strong and standing tall in an athletic, intimidating body and that somehow, achieving that would make me happy. It would make me feel invincible, which was appealing during times in my life when I felt totally vulnerable. I’ve always had this way of putting myself at the mercy of other peoples opinions. I was a person who cared very much about what others thought of me, and to some extent I still am and probably always will be. I’ve always been perceptive of the nuances in what people say and how they say it— I’ve always been sensitive, easily hurt and eager for the approval of others. No one likes to admit that about themselves in a world that values alpha attributes and the “fuck it, I don’t care what anyone thinks” attitude; including me. Honestly I don’t think I’ll ever be that person, because I do care about what people think. I genuinely value the insights of other people and if something is wrong for them, then I want to know what can be done to reach a mutual solution that makes everyone happy.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being that way— but being too much that way is extremely stressful, because it’s impossible to make everyone happy. What’s more is that you put your own happiness on the backburner while trying to appease everyone and that just sort of kills your spirit after a while. A really great thing about growing up and getting older though is that you learn that you simply can’t make everyone happy. Not everyone is going to like you, or agree with you and vice versa. Not everyone is going to return the same feelings that you have for them and vice versa. Not everyone is going to appreciate your viewpoint— like everyone, you have a personality and for some people, your personality will be extremely annoying and aggravating. Eventually you’ll encounter people who will take advantage of your trust and kindness and screw you over. You will never understand why, and it’s going to hurt. Badly.

The point is, there are a million and a half reasons why you simply will not get along with certain people. It is impossible to jive with everyone and be friends with everyone, and your interactions with people— no matter how hard you try— will not always end well. For those who are sensitive and peacekeepers by nature, I’m convinced that after a while of feeling rejection and failure to communicate with all the intensity of a knife through your ribs; something or someone might eventually drive you over the edge. You’ll loose it for a while and it’s going to suck. But if you really want to, you’ll get through it and you will realize that you simply cannot lower yourself to feeling that way for what is essentially your own feelings of powerlessness.

I keep writing “you” but this is of course all me. I’m speak to those who might feel the same at times, but will never presume to speak for you.

My point is that no matter what it is that eventually takes you down and sends you into a SPIRITUAL WELLNESSdescending spiral, it gets easier once you learn to let it go. Not bury it or pretend like it doesn’t exist or never did for you; but really truly come to a place where it no longer has power over you— whether it was a toxic person, a traumatic event, a negative mindset or all of the above. You take whatever measures you have to in order to start taking care of yourself. You begin to heal, and then you grow. I believe that that is what happens when we allow ourselves to move forward and that’s what I feel is finally happening for me now.

I know that our tendency to throw around words and phraseology like “letting go”, “healing”, “personal/spiritual growth”, “self love” and the rest sound tedious, impossible and even stupid when battling depression, anxiety, anger or any other low vibrational feelings which make us feel drained and hurt— buy they are real and powerful things if you allow them into your life, and they are key to being well, both physically and otherwise.

I cannot stress enough that it is not my intention to preach— only write about my experiences and how I’m coming along lately. Either way; looking back on how I felt through the majority of my twenties it’s no surprise that I wanted a body like Jennifer Garners! Lol— I’m sure that subconsciously my desire to be strong on the outside was stemming more from some need of internal strength more than anything else.

This started out as a post on fitness and I’ll tie it all in later. For now though; I have to get to work so it’s time to wrap this up.

 

Much love, best, and to be continued. lol. 😉

~Melissa ❤

Achieving Healthy Habits Over Time: Thoughts on Repeating Old Routines and “Health Kicks”

Before I started making some recent changes in attitude about food and exercise, my days were generally very much the same as far as what I ate. I’d grab a bagel or a breakfast sandwich for breakfast while I was at work— sometimes whole grain cereal if I got up early enough to eat it but usually not. I would have a slice of pizza or a sandwhich for lunch, and a dinner of meat and vegetables. I would feel bored and hungry when I watched TV so I’d make myself a plate of cheese, crackers and grapes with a glass of red wine or eat chips, candy or popcorn. Sometimes these things would be just a quick, small snack and in which case, no big deal. Othertimes though, not so much. Netflix marathons are dangerous things! Once I got a little too comfortable with watching too much TV regularly my snacking habits went hand in hand in excess with that. I would get home from work, shower, then plop down on the couch and barely move for the rest of the day, and I didn’t think twice about any of it until very late at night. I would wake up with anxiety over something or other, and my thoughts would eventually go back to what (and how) I ate that day, and how I chose to spend my time.

Why did I do that again? I would think. I’d resolve to make better choices through the next day and most of the time, I did. Eventually though I ended up right back on the couch, watching episode after episode of some show or another and wondering why I was doing that as hours passed me by.

I fell in and out of healthy diet and excercise kicks many times before this, and while that in and of itself can be an unhealthy pattern I think that each time I did it I learned something new. I learned about what my limits are as far as excercise and starting right off the bat when I’m not in shape. I learned about what activities I loved and which ones would ultimately leave me feeling bored, and introduced better and healthier foods to my

wp-image-1479716733jpg.jpg

Recent food prep: red leaf lettuce, plum tomatos, cucumbers, red grapes, beef strips, brown rice, vegetable mix and winter squash.

palette each and everytime. So even though I eventually fell back into old routines and poor eating habits, I still gained some new and better ones which overtime gave me a leg up.

For instance— through most of my teenage and young adult years, I never really cared for vegetables. I didn’t hate them, but if I had other options I would always chose something else. After changing it up and eating more vegetables though, I began to enjoy them and actually crave them. I have a wide range of foods that I like and am at the point now where it’s more a matter of cutting certain things out or cutting back on them rather than introducing whole new foods into my diet, which I think is much harder to do— but worth it!

There’s been a lot of trial and error as far as exercise too, and I’ve found that I am happiest when I am outside hiking through woods, swimming in lakes, oceans and pools and climbing hills and waterfalls. I’ve tried the gym memberships a few times and I always start off loving them. Eventually though I get bored with 40 minute elliptical sessions and lifting weights, and those activities start to feel like a chore.

For me, excercising outdoors never feels like a chore. It feels like play and that’s what I love about it. Yesterday when I went to one of the wooded parks where I live I ran, walked, jogged and sprinted my way through it until I had gone about 3 miles. I checked my Fitbit and between my run around the park and some walking that I had done earlier in the day, I was almost up to 4 miles.

Why not go for 5 before I leave? I thought, so I did. I stayed close to the front of the park and took a couple laps around the shorter trails, sometimes vering off the path to sprint up steep inclines. It was such a beautiful day! A little humid as it sprinkled on and off; but a pleasant temperature and nice breeze which would sometimes kick up to a stronger wind.

Being outside makes me feel happy and energized. I will seldom go that extra mile (literally!) on a treadmill or elliptical. But if I’m outside I’ll do it everytime. Again, it’s just a matter of making sure that I choose one activity (excercise) over another (marathon Netflix).

 

Healthier changes always make me feel better— so what is it that causes me (and others I suspect, though I will not at any point pretend to be an authority on this stuff) fall off the wagon and return to bad habits which always end up making me feel tired, miserable and ultimately unhealthy? I’ve had a lot of thoughts (and breakthroughs, which have been the result of a couple years of hard work) as far as mindset and mental state recently and I’ll delve into that later. I have a feeling that it’s going to take up a lot of space so I’ll save it for the next post, lol!

Some parting thoughts before I go, though. If you’re like me and you tend to fall in and out of excercise and healthier dietary “kicks”, be easy on yourself about it. While these changes are better for us and necessary if we want to improve our quality of life, like everything else it’s about learning, and that takes time. Changing our minds and our bodies takes alot of effort and it’s a process, because those two things are not exclusive if our goal is to be healthy. They go hand in hand and more often than not it’s about healing than it is about kicking our own butts until we’re fit. It’s true that there are people who are able to get up one day and resolve to change all of these things about themselves at once and that is incredible and wonderful! We hear about those stories all the time on TV and in magazines, but I suspect that that is actually pretty rare and not a very fair expectation for ourselves.

Still, for me I’d rather that not be an excuse to dabble in healthier exercises and never really make an effort to change, either. That would be really disappointing after a while. If you feel that way also my suggestion is that as you learn and grow, focus on what you’ve gained in your efforts as far as knowledge and habits no matter how small; even when you lose sight of them at times. They’re there and you’ve aquired them— I think it’s just about how willing we are to focus on the the positive takeaways rather than some of the less than desirable routines we might fall back into along the way.

Much love always;
~Melissa ❤
 

On Health and Fitness: Maintaining Daily and Weekly Goals

I started my day by opening up my planner and jotting down some notes and goals for the week— I haven’t always exactly been Type A in my habits, but since I’ve started keeping an agenda for myself there is something almost meditative about the process of getting up in the morning and planning out my chores, exercises and to-do lists over my first cup of coffee. It’s really rewarding to go back to my planner and cross off all of the 13628361_564938033677368_1524879850_nthings I get done, too!

As of today I’ve just about depleted my stock of fresh fruits and veggies so tonight I’m shopping and prepping meals. I’m working a mid-shift today so to me, that’s really perfect timing. I’ll have just enough hours in the day to stock back up on fresh produce and grains then get home and prep everything. I usually get more done when I have smaller windows of time. Maybe that sounds backwards, but I’ve found that on my days off when I have whole hours stretched before me to do all of the things I have planned, I tend to dawdle more. I’ll get up and tinker on my blog and Instagram, browse through Facebook, watch T.V, putter around and then before I know it I’ve wasted whole hours of the day without having completed much at all.

I’m ok with that though. They’re days off for a reason so as I’m trying to build up my schedule and get into habits which are more fulfilling than how I’ve generally lived over the past few years—which consisited of going to work and waiting to go back to work— I don’t mind letting somethings slide if I lose track of time. The problem is that what I usually let slide are my chores, so laundry tends to pile up and my apartment isn’t as tidy as how I kept it at first. But the way I see it is that those things can be done at anytime. As long as I’m doing enough to where I’m not living like a total slob, it’s more important to me now to stick to the things which will bring me closer to my personal and creative goals. Cleaning can wait if it has to.

My Fitbit has been a huge help in keeping me motivated in staying on top of exercise and diet. I’ve got to hand it to the creators of that thing— I’m not OCD about most things but whatever tendencies are there, the Fitbit plays on them brilliantly!

On days that I work I tend to get anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000 steps in. I have a job where I’m active and on my feet the whole time so if that sounds like a lot to you, I don’t think that that high of a number is necessary if you have a desk job and are starting out with a Fitbit or any pedometer. I’ve worked that way for years and my body has become accustomed to being on my feet all day, so to me, the first 10,000 don’t really count for much. I usually hit that number right after my lunch.

Days off are a different story. When I first started tracking with my Fitbit I’d get all those steps in on days that I worked yet clock out on my days off at like 500 steps! Which of course was indicative of my generally sedentary lifestyle outside of my job. Those 500 steps where just slight meanderings around my apartment and not much else. So on my days off now my goal is to get out and either walk, run or both until I reach at least 10,000 steps. It may not be much now as I’m first starting off, but it’s much more than I’m used to doing when I’m not at work.

Yesterday was really hot and I almost called it a day after my 2500 steps or so around the block. But if I don’t meet my number goals it drives me crazy! So I went to a nice, shady park and hiked around for about an hour until I reached my 10,000.

Whether or not the Fitbit is a healthy way to stay on track is arguable. I know some people don’t believe in being number oriented in health and diet, but I think that as long as you don’t get carried away and can maintain a sense of balance in approach, it’s a really helpful tool in holding to your goals because you see exactly what you’re accomplishing. To me at least, that is a motivating and powerful thing.

Yesterday I almost gave up on my step goal because it was too hot for a run, and I maintain that that was practicing good judgement! I’m not a very fit person and am only just starting off with making some healthier changes. Running out in the hot sun would have likely been a disaster for me. I know from past experience that running in those conditions leaves me feeling exhausted and depleted of energy for the whole rest of the day. That is not what I want for myself— because I have learned through trial and error that after I feel like that I tend to avoid exercise; which results in me falling off the wagon once more.

But those steps, though! Those happy faces, green lines of accomplishment, and moments of activity tracked— I don’t mind falling short just a little; but when whole days go by and I’ve barely reached my goals then that feels like a problem to me. So I thought about it some more and figured that if I took to a shadier place (where I live is very woodsy so lucky for me there are lots of places like that!) and kept it to a walk I would be fine.

I reached my goals for the day and I felt great afterwards… which of course is the ultimate goal that will keep me going! There are always solutions if you want to achieve something, and I believe that they don’t always  have to including pushing yourself to exhaustion.

13556964_1042210089165691_698240544_n

The day I almost gave up. 🙂

13561666_1249653335047937_960832883_n

 

I am very grateful for the life that I have and the opportunity to work on myself and building a life that I want and can be happy with. For a long time I worked multiple part time jobs, went to school, and kept myself busy with things which, though rewarding in their own way left little time for me to pay attention to how I was actually treating myself. It’s easy to say that if you put your mind to something you can do anything. I think that there is truth in that, but time is a real issue also and when we don’t have any to spare it’s understandable that we let ourselves go at certian points in our lives— both physically and even mentally at times. Our time that we have flucuates and changes as our lives and daily demands do. I’m trying to be mindful of the fact that I am in a bracet where I’m not working quite so much, school is on hold until I decide to go back (should I decide to) and there are no little ones to take care of. While all of those things are wonderful opportunities and blessings— especially having children, which maybe someday I will be ready for and lucky enough to have— I’m looking at the time I have now as a gift as well. I’m trying to make the most of it while I can and form habits which will help to keep me healthy and happy through most of my life. Maybe once I do, I won’t even need the Fitbit anymore to keep me at it! It will just be my life, and how I learned to live it every day.

Best and with love;

~Melissa ❤