Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Where Has My Country Gone?

I wonder sometimes if it even existed. Is our ideal of what America is supposed to be some sort of hoax? Growing up, did I only see what I wanted, what white America wanted me to see? History can be toned-down or blatantly altered for someone's agenda. Cops are killing children and getting away with it. That doesn't jibe with what this country is supposed to be about. The decision in Ferguson was infuriating and still so hard to accept. The events in Cleveland are shaping up to be just as asinine. How do two grown-ass men kill a twelve year old child, a baby, and still sleep at night? How do thousands of Americans get online and demonize that same child, call him a "thug" or an "animal," and blame him for his own death? He was a child at a park playing with a toy gun. Let me stress that one more time because I don't think some people are getting it. HE WAS A CHILD!!!

Naturally there are people criticizing the fact that he had the toy and that it was altered to look more real. For as long as I've lived, kids have played with toy guns. And when they play with those toys, what is the most likely game? Cops and robbers, if I recall from my childhood. We all wanted to be Adam-12 or CHiPS. Never did we want to be the robbers. Kids are raised to believe that the police are the good guys, the ones to protect us. So it's only natural that kids will want to emulate their heroes, to be the one to beat the bad guys. Tamir was growing up with heroes like this, honorable men and great role models:


We try to teach children these days that they can be whatever they want as long as they work hard and get an education. We show boys like Tamir that it is possible for black men to achieve positions of authority and earn respect. Then when they do what kids do and emulate those same heroes they pay for it with their lives. He was probably at that park with his toy gun in hopes of finding another kid willing to play with him. He wasn't threatening anyone. He wasn't putting anyone's life in danger. He had no clue to expect adults to see him as a true threat. He was a child out to play for the day. Why else go to a park?

The part about this whole situation that is the most disturbing is the lack compassion from the cops after they shot him. They knew the gun was fake (or at least no longer being wielded by a "suspect"). They could tell by then it was not an adult. They were no longer in immediate danger since the 911 call only said one person possibly with a gun that was "probably fake." Instead of rendering some sort of medical aid, they hid behind their squad car and waited almost four minutes for a nearby FBI agent to respond and begin helping the boy. Let me put it to you this way.

Put yourself in Tamir's place. You've just been shot twice in the stomach, an unbearable pain like you've never felt in your life or could imagine possible. You're lying on the ground, probably crying and probably begging someone to help you. He might've called out to the cops. He might've even cried for his mother. He was only a CHILD after all. Imagine the absolute terror it must've been to hope for help and have to bleed out because the only people nearby can't be bothered to try to stop the bleeding or at least offer some kind of comfort. His last few moments of consciousness would've been of pain, fear, and confusion. That situation is unfathomable. More so for a child. My heart breaks for that poor child. I can't begin to understand exactly how horrible his last moments must've been. I wouldn't wish that on a grown man much less a child. No matter who was at fault or who gets or doesn't get blamed, no child should be forced to endure something so heinous, so very cruel. Rest in Peace, Tamir. You were a precious child who died entirely too soon because people fear and hate what they do not understand. And they respond to such hatred and fear with violence.

If imagining for yourself how terrible his last moments were does not elicit an emotional response, try imagining a cop doing that to your child. Imagine your little baby bleeding, hurting, and alone. Maybe that will help others to see Tamir Rice as the child he was and not some suspect to be dealt with using maximum force. Maybe more people can admit that these cops screwed up and should pay the consequences of taking an innocent life.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Slow going

3277 / 50000 words. 7% done!

Circumstances conspired against me today in getting the word count needed. But I won't give up. It just means busting ass to get caught up. It can happen. It will happen. For those who might want to add me as a buddy or just check my progress when I forget to post, here I am on the NaNo site. Off to sleep for a few hours. Then writing commences again.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

NaNoWriMo has begun! and Epic Blog Fail

Once again I'm going to attempt to write 50k words in 30 days. I haven't won the challenge yet but I feel good about this year. Instead of trying to write one long story, I'm going to attempt several short stories, hoping to come through the month with a nice anthology. I'll post a word meter regularly so everyone can see how I'm progressing (see below). So far, I have 1711 words going into Day Two. Starting Monday I'm on vacation for a week so I can pad the word count for later in the month when retail hell ramps up for the great consumer holiday known as Christmas. Ugh! Hate working retail at Christmas.

1711 / 50000 words. 3% done!

I haven't been able to stick well to the Pagan Blog Project this year. It's really a failing on my part. I always try to write something that hasn't been done before, which is virtually impossible, so I scramble to find something that fits the letter of the week. When I can't do it, I just don't write. No blog post at all because there are no unique topics to cover. Stupid, huh? So from now on, when I have something to say, I'll say it. If it fits in with the letter of the week, then BONUS! I'm a champion at making excuses for why I don't finish things. But they're beginning to sound pathetic even to my ears. Starting next year, I plan a book review series specifically on witchy or paranormal cozy mysteries. They used to be hard to find but publishers realize we witches spend money too. So why not take advantage of that by letting the witches, psychics, diviners, and ghosts be the protagonists of the story. Some are kinda cheesy but fun. A few of the better ones (written by actual Pagans) are a true delight. Eventually I will introduce my own Pagan cozy mystery series.

Be back very soon with updates on NaNo and to share whatever my heart needs to say.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Job as Obstacle

I've spent so many years working in retail, bookstores primarily, that I've allowed that to define not only what I do but who I am. When I first got a job as a bookseller at a Borders, that was a wonderful thing. I could say, "I am a bookseller," and feel proud, like I was contributing something helpful. I was imparting knowledge, sharing the joy of stories. That is no longer the case.

Between as-yet unfounded fears over e-books killing print and trying to compete in too many alternate markets (mostly online), I'm watching a job I loved implode slowly and painfully. That imploding has had a dramatic effect on my own well-being. I've come to realize I put too much of myself into what I do to earn a paycheck. And worse, I've also used that job as an excuse for not accomplishing more. I am so afraid of leaving my safe yet miserable rut.

Will I be able to find another job in this unstable economy? Can I afford another pay cut starting over at a new company? Am I even capable of doing anything other than retail? My mind is so certain that the answer to all of those is no that it overpowers the heart that slowly shrivels and dies, desperate for a risk on something better. Those negative feelings work their way into the rest of my life, especially my magick. We all know it is hard to build energy for proper work when you feel drained or depressed. And when you can obtain the energy, the thoughts going into that work will affect the outcome, for better or worse.

On the up side, I've started a home study course in genealogy. Working on some ancestor magick will help that along and maybe boost my confidence. On the down side, the course can take months to years depending on how much time I can devote to learning proper research (including trips to out-of-state libraries and archives). I need to leave retail before that is done if I intend to keep my sanity intact. And retail schedules don't generally include weekends off or pay sufficient to travel regularly. So, I'll do what I have to do, what I've always done; tackle one hurdle at a time and hope I can survive to see my big plans come to fruition. Right now, that is surviving the worst part of the year at a used bookstore (the summer selling season) or starting over somewhere, anywhere else.

Monday, February 3, 2014

C is for Cats

As Bast is one of the Goddesses I try to honor I think it is time I shared the cats she has left in my care, all rescues. And I just love the furry darlings and love to show them off. :D Though truthfully, I came to Bast because cats have always been important to me, since long before I found my spiritual path. I'm still trying to figure out which one might be my familiar. Welcome the seven cats who own me, in order of addition to the household:

First we have Aku, the old lady of the house at about 14 or 15. She's part Scottish Fold and all crabby attitude when I kick her out of my chair. That's what I get for having a pet named after the villian from Samurai Jack Her favorite things to do are eat and sleep. She definitely doesn't care much for the younger cats. She's seen here with Bert the Farting Hippo. We both love watching NCIS. Or I love watching NCIS and she loves sleeping in my lap.

Then I have Willow (named for Buffy's pal) who is a little younger and a lot more bitchy. She's part ragdoll and VERY jealous of all of the other cats. If she had her way, she'd be the only cat in the house and I'd pay her constant attention. She still plays with her toy mice like a kitten, especially at three in the morning in the bathtub at the top of her lungs.

Next came Gryffin (go, go Gryffindor!) who was doubly rescued; first from the street and then from his first owner. She was not good for him. To this day he hisses when anyone, myself included, approaches him too quickly, but he LOVES to have his belly rubbed. He has a quiet little squeak until he hears the can of gushy food or the bowls for wet meat. Or if he's put in a crate. Then all bets are off. His previous owner used to take him to adoptions at PetsMart and he's terrified that's where he's going even after all this time. I've had him at least 5 years. He's part Siamese and the sweetest cat I've ever had.

I have a pair of spotted siblings who, when I lived with friends on their small farm, were supposed to be barn cats. We got Bobbi (at first Bobby until he was really a she) and Corbett from a guy at a feed store when we asked if he knew of anyone who had a barn cat as ours had rats that were killing the chickens. He said he had just the thing and came out with a box containing two tiny kittens, barely weaned from their momma. Naturally, they never left the house to hunt rats. Spoiled little brats is more like it. Corbett is the one with more black while Bobbi is the smartest one in the house, myself included again.They are named after characters from Supernatural which is why Bobbi is the smartest in the house. She just knows we're all idjits. I'm kinda hoping she's my familiar as I can use all the smarts I can get where magick is concerned.

After that I ended up with one more spotted devil named Dave, also known as Shithead. He actually answers to both names. He's only a few years old and a transplant from my family in Florida. He was "living" in a house with five adults, a toddler, and two massive dogs who terrorized poor Dave. He spent his time either hiding in the garage or under the covers in my mom's room. I think that might be why he handled the 13 hours drive back to Texas so well, only crying the first 30 minutes and the last hour. Now, he snuggles up next to my head. His favorite pastimes (which earned him the nickname of Shithead) are pulling artwork off the wall, destroying blinds, picking on Aku, and sitting outside on the screened-in patio. Before he moved in with the dogs, he was indoor-outdoor right on the beach. He misses having the whole beach as his litter box, but he loves playing with Corbett.

Last and certainly not least is Coco, or as I like to call her Foo Foo. I always swore I'd never end up with a Persian as the smooshed faces make them look pissed off all the time. That was until I ended up with my sister's cats. First I had Chanel and Coco went to a friend. Chanel passed away last year from renal failure which is normal for Persians. Then the friend who had Coco couldn't keep her anymore. So I took her in. She was very skittish and didn't like to be approached or picked up at first. Any cat that lives with me learns to like (or at least tolerate) being handled so while she isn't 100% there she doesn't run every time. She will get in my lap for attention and purrs like crazy. And she has the cutest little habit. If you reach for her from the front, she will swat at you with only her paw, no claws to let you know she's startled. Then she'll box with you. I'll have to record that sometime and share it as it's adorable.

And because I'm always a sucker for a cat, here's a bonus photo of my favorite internet superstar, Tardar Sauce aka Grumpy Cat.


Monday, January 27, 2014

B is for Betting on Myself (finally)

I am a writer. There, I've said it. Not, "I want to be a writer" or "I'm going to be a writer" anymore. I AM a writer. I spend so much time planning on doing that I never actually do. I tell myself that I'm not as good as others so I don't even try. I have so many ideas bugging me, so many stories waiting to be told. I am doing those ideas a disservice by fearing, doubting, and procrastinating. My life has been a long series of putting off my dreams for just one more thing to do before I take the risk and trust my art. As soon as I move, as soon as I finish school, as soon as I find a better job...

Last summer, a friend and I had a brainstorming session about a series of Pagan eBooks we want to write. Between health issues and holidays in retail our list still sits untouched. I created an outline for a Pagan cozy mystery for NaNoWriMo 2013. I even started the first chapter. Then I started what will possible be a Pagan science fiction story. I have a general idea where I want that story to go. It, like all of my other ideas, sits all sad and neglected. I have a very hard time letting go of insecurities. I'm getting older and starting to worry that where I am is where I'll always be.

I work retail, selling used books. I've worked for almost 19 years selling other's stories. It's something I'm very good at. Always have been. But it no longer makes me happy. And it leaves me so tired and sad at the end of the day, sapped of the energy to create. While I know a retail establishment is supposed to worry about profits, some of them used to care how they treated their employees. We were considered a valuable resource, an asset to company. Now we're just cogs in the moneygrubbing machine. And completely interchangeable. Individual knowledge of a subject has been replaced by keyword searches in a database. I won't even go into how the attitudes of the customers has changed. It wasn't until I started working on this post that I realized exactly why I stay even though the job is not what it used to be. It is simply because I am so good at the job. It was the one thing at which I felt absolutely confident I could succeed. It was my "sure thing" to always have a paycheck. As a Taurus I got comfortable in my rut. Now I spend my time fearing I'll never get out.

I've consulted my Tarot deck, my pendulum, and done spells for guidance. Then ignored the answers when they seemed too scary. My deities have all let me know that I need to take the risk, to trust that if I follow my heart as well as my head that the means to pay the bills will come. I hear it. I do. Then I freak out at the idea of not being able to feed my kitties. So I stay at the miserable retail job. Not anymore. One last "as soon as" and I'll take the jump. It is time to bet on my heart instead of my finances. I put my hands in my fictional Pagan graphic designer living in a small town (and in the broomcloset) in Texas. Sophie's stories need telling.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Book reviews

I should have known better than to make a specific plan about posts. That usually means something else will come along and beg to be written instead. I will try to post about music once for each letter, but will no longer make promises. ;)

This week I'm making good on a promise made months ago. As a bookseller, I like to keep up with what's new and popular. I signed up on a site called Netgalley to receive advanced reading copies (in eBook format) to be reviewed on my blogs. Llewellyn was one of the first publishers to give me automatic download rights to any books available on NetGalley. I was very excited and chose several books that seemed interesting. Then nothing. I've read a couple and never blogged about them until now. I'll try to post reviews in a more timely fashion (and not only Llewellyn titles). This time I'm reviewing one book I received free and one I purchased.
http://www.llewellyn.com/product.php?ean=9780738735443First, I'll talk about Rituals of Celebration: Honoring the Seasons of Life through the Wheel of the Year by Jane Meredith. It is like others in that it talks about all of the Sabbats; their histories, what they mean, and ways to celebrate them. A major difference here is that the author starts each with her own experiences. She talks about her most memorable ritual with each Sabbat. Then she includes a full group ritual and activities. Her rituals are described in a way that you almost feel like you are with the group, celebrating as well.

I will admit that I didn't read the entire book, though not due to poor quality. It is geared to covens or group rituals and I am very much a solitary, rarely including more than a couple of people in my magick. I would still gladly recommend this to fellow Pagans who love to work in groups. The whole book gives the celebrations a very intimate and personal feel.

The other title is Llewellyn's Complete Book of Correspondences by Sandra Kynes. I learned about this title through an e-mail I received from Amazon about upcoming books I might like. They don't always get those right. I immediately added it to my wish list and bought it shortly after it was released. I LOVE this book. The subtitle, a Comprehensive & Cross-referenced Resource for Pagans & Wiccans, is exactly what this book is. I'd recently been trying to compile for myself and my website a list that gave all the different correspondences for the intentions I use the most; candles, incense, herb, stones, deities, and more. Now I have that and more in a handy resource that I access regularly. The seven chapters each cover the different correspondence lists, starting with Intention. This is the perfect first section, as we tend to have a reason for a spell and then search for the perfect tools to help. The cross-referencing goes way beyond that. It includes sections on the plants, minerals, animals, deities, astrology and time, and other miscellaneous options. If I want to know what to use when working with Artemis, my primary Goddess, the chart will show everything from element and Sabbat to herbs, animals, and intentions. Or I can see the way to use my hematite or patchouli incense. It is indeed the most comprehensive list I've seen.

I do have my own ideas about some correspondences, some that make more sense to me. And I think everyone should choose what feels right to them. A wonderful example of this is a blog post I read recently when looking for tree correspondences for a novel I'm working on. The author adjusted her use of certain trees to reflect her local area. Like me, she's from Texas. We don't have some of the trees typically suggested for certain correspondences so she revamped her list for her location. The state tree of Texas is the Pecan, so naturally that will have more significance for a Texan than it might for others.

This is book is a great starting point and what every beginner could use to try out tools and see which ones work best for them. It puts lots of information in one easily-accessed location.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Awakening 2.0

Last year, I talked about not feeling energies. A friend talked with me about it and helped me to realize that maybe I do feel the energies, simply in a different ways than others. Because my experiences were not like the ones I've read about, I assumed it was something wrong with me. I do still believe that I am missing something, but it can be fixed. Looking back on my path, I figured out that I took many shortcuts. Simply reading about practices and rituals is not the same as actually putting them into action. I thought I could skip the "easy" steps and move onto the spell work. I tried to build a Pagan practice without creating a foundation on which to build. And now I'm paying the price.

So, time for Awakening 2.0, the right way. I kept a few of my beginner's books and plan to work through those again. This time without skipping the important basics. I am learning the deities I'm meant to work with and how to work properly with Artemis, the goddess I've been drawn to since childhood, long before I knew I was Pagan. I will build proper altars and use the tools. I will try other forms of divination aside from tarot, though I will continue with it as well, starting with the pendulum. It is something I can practice anytime, anywhere as long as I have on my pentagram necklace. My main pendulum will be a moonstone point I bought to honor Artemis. And a friend and I are working with "Empowering Your Life with Wicca" by Sirona Knight. It has twelve steps of empowering to reach my goals of love, health and prosperity. We'll take a week for each step (unless more are needed) and hopefully take control of many pressing issues.

While I know I can do the occasional quick spell for small things, I'll take the time on important work to call a circle, to work with all of the elements. I can only awaken my gifts and potential if I'm willing to do the work. All of the work. No whining that it's not working. No shortcuts. I'm very excited to begin to get to know my deities and what I can do with (and for) them. Another post last year mentioned a MAJOR problem I want to work on; the fracking in my area. That problem is too big for me alone. I will need to call on all who will listen, human and Goddess alike to repair such damage on a global scale.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A is for Arkona and Amorphis

Last year I wrote a post about music and how little Pagan music I really know. I think this year I'll do my music research along with the Pagan Blog Project. I'll learn new artists for each letter of the alphabet for the two weeks we post that same letter. I plan to try out all kinds of genres and music from all around the world. My choices for the letter A are both metal bands.

I think I'll like Arkona a little better than Amorphis, but I've only sampled a few songs from each group. I can imagine using some of their songs in spells that need a bit more passion and energy than I can muster on my own. Arkona is a Russian Pagan metal band whose lyrics are influenced by Russian folklore and Slavic mythology, using some traditional instruments to create a unique sound. Amorphis is a Finnish death metal band and while not specifically Pagan that I can tell, they use the Kalevala as inspiration for a large portion of their lyrics. The added bonus to learning about new bands is that I get not only a new kind of music in my already eclectic mix, but I'm picking up new cultures and mythologies. Very cool!