Sunday, October 30, 2011

Adult Expectations

Rowan, going to work.
Today was a hard day for this stay-at-home mama and her toddler son. After the fact, I realized that most of the struggle was my doing, actually. See, we are guests in a temporary home and the situation, while comfortable as being a guest can be, is not quite like how you live when you have your own space.

We have one adult in the home that does shift work- he worked a midnight shift last night and was sleeping as soon as Rowan woke and was ready for play. We have bedrooms and a bathroom of our own upstairs, but the main living space is on the ground floor- along with two other bedrooms, including the one in which this tired shift worker was trying to sleep.

Rowan's toys and books are in the living room, two rooms away from the bedroom in question, and mama spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to keep Rowan quiet. He doesn't do "indoor voice" yet- he thinks it's a silly game or joke. He speaks at a louder volume than most adults, just like most toddlers and is a boisterous and he is an active player.

He is one of the most cheerful people I know.
"Shhh! QUIET!" My expectations of Rowan's behavior was making me crazy. I felt caught in the middle of adult expectations and realities and toddler expectations and realities. To Rowan, I was being a mean and unpredictable mama. To the other adult, I was doing what needed to be done to make the household function. Rowan started acting out to my admonishments, being rough with the two dogs that we live with (who are saints, really). I was so frustrated with him, being (mildly) violent and possibly too loud for successful sleeping in the house.

I roughly brought him upstairs for a nap and yelled at him. At first he laughed at me- he didn't take it seriously. Then all at once, he did. His face went from smiling to crumpled and wailing and he did the only thing he knew how to do when he is scared and upset- he threw himself into mama's arms for a hug. Only this time, the irony wasn't lost on me that I was the one he was scared of, at least in that moment. I felt ashamed.

Fun on the "twac-tuh"
Today was a hard day for mama, because I feel like I failed today. I can't possibly explain in terms that he will understand these new temporary rules of living and expectations, so I just got angry that he wasn't living up to them. I took out my frustration of our living situation on my son. I spent the rest of the afternoon apologizing and making it up to him, not that he would see it that way. It was over for him starting with that hug. Mama was fun and playing again, like usual.

I was grateful when daddy came home from his job and took Rowan into a bedroom for an overdue afternoon nap (getting up at 5 AM means an afternoon nap for daddy, too). I had already tried and failed to get him to nap twice. This freed me to breathe, sit, and write this confessional.

Helpful baby.
The truth is, I am NOT a patient person. I have never been. But I am the adult and I need to remember that he is not used to having to be quiet. My gods, I am looking forward to having our own space with its own routines and expectations.

In what ways have you felt like a failure as a parent? How do you spring back? How do you make amends?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Occupation News

The "Occupy" movement is too large to ignore now, and too important not to keep up-to-date about. Media blackouts are lessening, but in lieu of that, we are now getting a deliberate misinformation campaign. But you still do not see the coverage that the protests warrant on the news. I have been keeping up-to-date as best I can, and feel that it is a duty of mine to spread what I have learned. Below are links and videos on this issue.

Many people are doing what they can from where they are. People are moving their money out of the big banks and into credit unions. Did you know as few as 147 companies pretty much own everything and control the economy? They are speaking out and making demands. Even if many of us are weary. You, too can make a difference. Here is what others are doing:

Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, and others join in at Occupy Columbus Circle, NYC:

Protests at Occupy Maine are disrupted by someone throwing a chemical bomb to disrupt it.

A Marketing Professional orchestrates a Bank of America Walkout:

Children's author Lemony Snicket writes about the occupation and asks other authors to join in.

Videos are being produced that tell what we want as a movement:

Meanwhile, Bank of America pushes forward with record breaking profits and a plan to charge $5 per month to use your debit card.

One Marine versus 30 cops (after he watches them brutalize protestors and bystanders in NYC):

Occupy London blog reports that many Christian denominations are with them.

I encourage you to post your links to this important movement. Together, we can stay informed.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

All About Density, Part Two

Gorgeous, isn't it?
In Part one, I wrote about what I love about cities and why I plan on raising my son in one. Here in part two, I talk about the problems that I have encountered here in a small rural town and why I will move to a larger metropolitan area as soon as possible.

My partner, who grew up here in Applachian Ohio, found this Wikipedia page on this region of the world and was stunned to see a listing of cultural values that seem to be prevalent in this area of the world. He believes it to be accurate based on his life experience, and from the limited exposure that I have had, I tend to agree. Below, I list the values and some of the issues that I have with some of them.

Appalachian writer Loyal Jones has defined traditional "Appalachian values" as the following:
  • 1. Individualism: often the most obvious Appalachian characteristic: look after oneself; enjoy solitude; freedom from external restraints; do things for oneself; not wanting to be beholding to others; make do; strong work ethic; courage; defend oneself or take revenge, rather than relying on "the law." A common value of decentralized farming cultures.
  • 2. Strong Sense of Extended Family: Family-centered, rather than community-centered; Appalachian people settled in kin-groups, not towns; loyalty runs deep; responsibility may extend beyond immediate family; "blood is thicker than water."
  • 3. Love of Place - the term "homeplace" (roughly like the German "Heimat") is common; never forget "back home" and go there as often as possible; revitalizing, especially if a migrant; sometimes stay in places where there is no hope of maintaining decent lives.
  • 4. Neighborliness and Hospitality - help each other out, but suspicious of strangers; spontaneous to invite people for a meal, to spend the night, etc. People are friendly, but not open to strangers. Trust is important. Tend not to ask your advice until they trust you. Relationships are important and deep relationships are developed slowly. This suspicion of outsiders is based on the exploitative past. Historian David Hackett Fischer pointed out it preceded the American experience and went back to the border wars in England that many of the immigrants had lived with. .
  • 5. Traditionalism – a strong love of tradition; skeptical of schemes for "progress"; love of things as they are. Change comes slowly. This is typical of more isolated areas.
  • 6. Personalism - relates well to others, but think in terms of persons rather than degrees or professional reputations; go to great lengths to keep from offending others; getting along is more important than letting one's feelings be known.
  • 7. Modesty and Being Oneself - believe one should not put on airs; be oneself, not a phony; don't pretend to be something you're not or be boastful; don't get above your raising.
  • 8. Sense of Beauty - displayed through music, folksongs, poems, arts, crafts, etc., colorful language metaphors; home and beauty are closely connected.
  • 9. Sense of Humor - seem dour (unfriendly), but laugh at ourselves; do not appreciate being laughed at; humor sustains people in hard times. Humor is often sarcastic.
  • 10. Strong sense of solidarity - Stick, together, even if you disagree, express yourself but stand together, especially against outsiders, government, or big organizations.
  • 11. Strong sense of Patriotism - goes back to Civil War times; flag, land, relationships are important.

While of course all of these values can be good things, I have found some are taken to extremes and are not the kind of environment that I want to raise a child in. Here is what I have experienced here:

The rugged individualism, while normally something I value, seems to translate into an non-empathetic, Fox-News-watching, other-blaming mentality that is problematic to me. I think this couples with the patriotism in many ways for a combination that freaks me out. It leads to closed minds and a refusal to question what they have been spoon-fed by television. There is no agree-to-disagree here in most people. This is why my local UU church is so important, it is a refuge for those that want dialogue and diversity.

I love how dedicated my partner's family to to kin. They are so into helping family and spending time with them (and we are of course benefiting from it). Rowan is thriving here, having a Nanny and Pap Pap to dote on him. But I also see that "outsiders" are perpetually outsiders, and that blends with other social issues like racism, classism, and immigration status in a way that I do not appreciate. Again, it leads to a non-empathetic response to others outside the family.

I kid you not, I have sat next to Klan members in a restaurant and heard them wax poetic on the good old days before integration of schools and use words for people they do not know that I do not want my son to be exposed to right now. He picks everything up and repeats it now and that is not something he needs to repeat. I have had to ask relatives to stop telling racist jokes anywhere near my son, for example. I personally don't care about "cuss words", but I'll be damned if my son uses words only meant to harm someone of another race, religion, or ethnicity. HELL NO.

Lest you think that all is horrible here, I assure you that it is not. It is easy here, perhaps too easy. I think I need a little more friction and edge, personally. I have been treated well here and welcomed. I have experienced that Appalachian neighborliness and hospitality first hand- especially at my newly-adopted UU church. I have social engagements in my calendar already. Rowan has been gifted an awesome John Deere child-sized tractor that actually runs using a gas pedal from a neighbor down the street! It has helped me feel more welcome.

As a Witch, I also appreciate the love of place. Honoring spirits of the land and listening to them is important to me and something that I will be teaching my son. It is easy to do here, they are very vocal. Having a place to return to for gatherings and a sense of history is of value to me. I am happy that Rowan will be able to return here for holidays. It is a gorgeous land.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

All About Density

My beloved Oakland.
I grew up in a small town that was very much a suburb of Chicago, Illinois. As a kid, I would play outdoors for hours on end in my neighborhood until mom would call us in for supper. I had room to roam as a kid and it was great. But as I got older, there were less and less opportunities and experiences that my town offered to a teen. So I yearned to get away- to the city.

So I did. I first went to Chicago, then Austin, then Philadelphia, then Boston, then San Francisco, then Oakland. I have lived my entire adult life in cities. If I were to give my top three reasons for wanting to live in a city it would be (in this order): the diversity, the culture, and the lifestyle. (More on those things later).

Now, I am in a small rural town that is 20 minutes from the county seat, which is a slightly larger town that looks and acts like something out of the Andy Griffith Show (I don't say that mockingly- I always liked that show). I am in a temporary limbo until I move to Columbus, Ohio. (Another city!) I am experiencing, for the first time, rural living, and small town living.

My upbringing was nothing like actual town living- everything in the suburbs is oriented towards going elsewhere to make a living and get your culture- a bedroom community. Here, the small town I live near makes its own culture and has its own businesses. While I am enjoying the slower pace of small town living and the amazing beauty of the landscape (and the farm fresh eggs- yum!), I am bored. While I pine for a slower, less stressful life- I don't know if I am cut out for anything THIS slow.

I have always been involved in many projects and have something to do. I like to organize things and events. And while I am getting involved at the local UU church, the opportunities are less than I am used to. What I crave are those three "city reasons": diversity, culture, and lifestyle. I know that I will be happier in Columbus. And I will be happier to raise my kid there, too.  I now see a small, culturally vibrant city as THE place to raise a child- mainly for those three "city reasons".

One of the sculptures in the town I grew up in,
which shows its early steel worker heritage.
Diversity: I love learning. I want to learn something new every day if I can. Nothing is better than having someone teach you something new. And as someone who has not had the money or opportunity to travel abroad, living in a city is the next best thing. Oakland, my adopted hometown is the most diverse city in the nation, possibly on earth. I loved walking down the street and going about my day and hearing multiple languages, eating foods from places that I have yet to visit, and attending religious services at so many different places. I value diversity, which is so much more than mere "tolerance". I want my son to be a citizen of the world, pledging his allegiance to nature, people, and the planet's non-human inhabitants- not some artificially fly-by-night operation we call a "nation". Living in a city and ultimately traveling with him will help him see the world is so much bigger than his block or even his own head.  My son will know people of all religions, races, ethnicities, sexual and gender orientations, and physical shape and abilities.

Culture: Art and live performance are things that I crave. I used to organize a poetry slam for years, and booked bands at nightclubs. I helped found a collectively-run gallery and performance space still operating today. I founded and ran a performance festival of local artists for several years. I have an appreciation for people who put their heart and soul into their creative work. And I want to be (and have my son also) surrounded by these creative folks- these culture-makers. I want him to realize that he can do anything- he can play any instrument, dance, tightrope walk, eat or walk on fire, or anything he chooses- and there are people out there who like to do things he has only yet dreamed of. He may like those things, too! I want him to learn that there are many ways to shape and change the world- activism, organizing, art, and performance are a few.

Lifestyle: a higher density lifestyle leads to an appreciation for diversity and empathy for others. I do not want my son to live in a closed off way, where we go from our home to our car and back again (never making contact with others). I want him to go to the neighborhood park and play, ride the bus and meet people, ride a bike to the library and discover people and places that he would not see from the backseat of my Honda Civic. I want him to make friends in music (or dance) class and offer our neighbors some of our homesteading bounty. I want him to see we are all connected, which is easier in a city- which is a human's habitat.

Yes, a connection to nature is important too. Which is why we will be camping, hiking, and fishing regularly. But nature is in the city, too.

Stay tuned for part two, where I talk about how this particular part of the world (Appalachian Ohio), while beautiful, is NOT for me. I need a larger city, I'm afraid.

Where do you live, and what do you love and hate about it? Is it good for raising kids? Why or why not?

Monday, October 17, 2011

More on the Occupation

I have been accumulating photos and information about the growing "occupation" movements that originated in New York City and now have spread worldwide. It behooves all of us to seek out actual information about what is happening, and not be passive about getting news, especially on this.

As Gil Scott Heron quipped, "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised". Here is a video that talks about the gap between US domestic policy and foreign policy when it comes to people's movements:

Saturday, October 15, 2011

National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day

Today, October 15th, is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day.

My heart goes out to my friends and others who have lost a child, whether already born or during pregnancy. That is a pain that I can only imagine.

According to I Am The Face, "One out of every four women will experience the loss of a baby at some point in their lives. That’s right–25%! Pregnancy/infant loss is an issue that while very common, is rarely talked about. Because it’s become such a “hush-hush” and taboo topic, those who experience it are often left to grieve in silence, alone." More facts are available here.

No one should be left to grieve alone. I encourage anyone affected by this silent issue who cares to share to do so, either in comments, or linking to a post of their own. This is a story that should be shared, so people can understand how best to help.

Folks can also add their voice to one of two websites: I Am the Face and October 15th.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

My Son Is Not a Billboard, Nor Is He a Market!

Adweek has reported that by the time an American child is three years old, s/he will recognize, on average, 100 brands. This has to do with television and movies, of course, but also the burgeoning "digital device" toys that have now targeted the 0-3 "market".

This disturbs me greatly. As readers of my blog know, I am no fan of capitalism, particularly the imbalanced capitalism of the U.S. that has "socialized losses and privatized gains" (see left for full quote). Companies will do anything, it seems to suck us dry- even acting as parasites on our babies.

So I am firming up the rules surrounding my son starting here and now. Before moving to Ohio, there was no TV in our home. Now it is a focal point in the main living space. It will be either off or he will be in another space during waking hours. There is plenty of time for him to be exposed to what television offers- but all too often, he has witnessed glimpses of human cruelty, crass commercialism, or age inappropriate scenes before we manage to change the channel. And frankly, most of the problems I see are from commercials! What they are selling, this family is NOT buying.

We already have a firm rule that we do not want ANY licensed characters (be they Elmo or Spongebob- doesn't matter) in my son's life- no toys, no clothes, no books. We are not going to the children's parades that only serve to promote these characters and push more things for us to buy. No thank you. If he receives a toy, clothing item, or book with a Disney, Pixar, or any licensed character on it, we donate it to a homeless shelter or other charity. We have already offloaded 4-5 items he has been given, despite telling people of our preferences.

It irks me that often on the news, human beings are referred to as "consumers" as a matter of course- as though that is our sole purpose and activity. I certainly do not identify that way, and I want to keep my son in an ad-free zone as long as possible. I want him to learn actual human values first, before being exposed to exploitation and competition over cooperation all in the name of the all-mighty dollar.

Anyone else out there taking a stand like this? How do you navigate the outside world, which seems hellbent on indoctrinating our children?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Carnival of Natural Parenting: Money Matters

Welcome to the October Carnival of Natural Parenting: Money Matters
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how finances affect their parenting choices. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

Dr. Cornel West, occupying Wall Street
I hate money.  I know all the self-help gurus tell me I need to cultivate a "healthy, respectful relationship with money" if I ever hope to make peace with it and make a decent living, but that's a load of crap, as far as I'm concerned. It assumes that nothing in the world will ever change- that we will live in a capitalist, exploitative society forever where most people work hard and get scraps. The fact is, I hate the whole system. The fact that it seems to be going down the tubes right now, while scary in the short term is probably the best thing for the vast majority of people.

Wall Street Occupiers.
I struggle to make ends meet, like most of us (some of us more than others). I am in grad school and my partner has been unemployed for three plus years, like many folks across the country. We have a toddler to support and raise. How do we do it? We get food stamps and other assistance in addition to my financial aid. It's not glamorous* and it doesn't pay all the bills each and every month. Am I ashamed? Absolutely not. I would rather my taxes pay for helping hungry people than killing people abroad. I say my taxes because I paid more in the last two years than Bank of America. (See what I mean about hating money? Click here to change where your money is kept and who gets access to it.)

How do we do it? We are currently staying with my partner's parents (also very unglamorous) while my partner finds a job in Columbus. Once he does, we will move there and be self-sufficient. Some of my less-frequent readers may not know that we moved from the (very expensive!) Bay Area last month in order to get our finances in order, as well as make deeper connections with family (Rowan's grandparents love that they get to spend so much time with him now). We were able to put much needed money into our aging car and pay off bills because we are not paying rent. I am ever-so-grateful to them for opening their home and hearts to us and allowing us to make a new start in a new (more affordable) state.

I moved to Ohio, gleefully and gladly, for my son's future. It will be easier here. Family to help with child care, cousins to play with, a lower cost of living, and cheaper homes when the time comes for us to settle down and buy a place. This is the one thing I wish we had the money for now- a down payment on a home with a small parcel of land to homestead upon. I yearn for things that are not luxuries- instead, they smack of stability, tradition, and finally a place to call HOME.

Anyone who talks about people "sitting on their butt and collecting welfare" (and being able to actually live with a roof over their heads, feed their family, and have a phone and transportation like everyone else) doesn't know what they are talking about. 

There is not a state in the United States that allows people to stay at home and collect welfare anymore. All recipients are required to report to a "job center" and put in 40 hours a week of resume prep, job hunting, and workshop attendance until a job is found. And no job can be refused (no matter the hours and if it works for your family or the pay), or welfare benefits will stop (most do anyway- once someone starts making minimum wage). 

My schooling, which applied towards these required hours in California- do not count in Ohio. Ohio is a state that would rather see people languish in minimum wage jobs for a lifetime, creating a permanent underclass of people, rather than allow them to get job training or attend school and lift themselves out of poverty. To get cash aid of $500 per month, they want BOTH of us to report to a job center for 40 hours a week and place our son in daycare (which we cannot afford). So we declined cash assistance from Ohio. Pray or light a candle for us that my partner finds a job soon.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama Visit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon October 11 with all the carnival links.)

  • Money Matter$ — Jenny at I'm a full-time mummy shares her experiences on several ways to save money as a parent.
  • A different kind of life... — Mrs Green from Little Green Blog shares her utopian life and how it differs from her current one!
  • Show Me The Money! — Arpita of Up, Down & Natural shares her experience of planning for parenting costs while also balancing the financial aspect of infertility treatments.
  • Material v Spiritual Wealth - Living a Very Frugal Life with Kids — Amy at Peace 4 Parents shares her family's realizations about the differences between material and spiritual wealth.
  • If I Had a Money Tree — Sheila at A Gift Universe lists the things she would buy for her children if money were no object.
  • Financial Sacrifices, Budgets, and the Single Income Family — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks at the importance of living within your means, the basics of crafting a budget, and the "real cost" of working outside of the home.
  • Overcoming My Fear of All Things Financial — Christine at African Babies Don't Cry shares how she is currently overcoming her fear of money and trying to rectify her ignorance of all things financial.
  • Confessions of a Cheapskate — Adrienne at Mommying My Way admits that her cheapskate tendencies that were present pre-motherhood only compounded post-baby.
  • Money MattersWitch Mom hates money; here's why.
  • Money? What Money?! — Alicia C. at McCrenshaw's Newest Thoughts describes how decisions she's made have resulted in little income, yet a green lifestyle for her and her family.
  • What matters. — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life wishes parenting through play was her only responsibility during the day.
  • Making Ends Meet — Abbie at Farmer's Daughter shares about being a working mom and natural parent.
  • Poor People, Wealthy Ways — Sylvia at MaMammalia discusses how existing on very little money allows her to set an example of how to live conscientiously and with love.
  • The Green Stuff — Amyables at Toddler In Tow shares how natural parenting has bettered her budget - and her perspective on creating and mothering.
  • Jemma's Money — Take a sneak peek at That Mama Gretchen's monthly budget and how Jemma fits into it.
  • 5 Tips for How to Save Time and Money by Eating Healthier — Family meal prep can be expensive and time-consuming without a plan! Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares five easy tips for how to make your cooking life (and budget) easier.
  • Belonging in the Countryside — Lack of money led Phoebe at Little Tinker Tales towards natural parenting, but it also heeds her from realizing her dream.
  • Total Disclosure and Total Reform — Claire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl gets down to the nitty gritty of her money problems with hopes that you all can help her get her budget under control.
  • Save Money by Using What You Have — Gaby at Tmuffin is only good with money because she's lazy, has trouble throwing things away, and is indecisive. Here are some money-saving tips that helped her manage to quit her job and save enough money to become a WAHM.
  • Two Hippos & Ten Euros: A Lesson in BudgetingMudpieMama shares all about how her boys managed a tight budget at a recent zoo outing.
  • ABBA said it — Laura from A Pug in the Kitchen ponders where her family has come from, where they are now and her hopes for her children's financial future.
  • Money vs. TimeMomma Jorje writes about cutting back on junk, bills, and then ultimately on income as well ~ to gain something of greater value: Time.
  • An Unexpected Cost of Parenting — Moorea at MamaLady shares how medical crises changed how she feels about planning for parenthood.
  • 5 Ways This Stay at Home Mom Saves Money — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares 5 self-imposed guidelines that help her spend as little money as possible.
  • Frugal Parenting — Lisa at My World Edenwild shares 8 ways she saves money and enriches her family's lives at the same time.
  • Conscious Cash Conscious — Zoie at TouchstoneZ shares her 5 money-conscious considerations that balance her family’s joy with their eco-friendly ideals.
  • Money, Sex and Having it All — Patti at Jazzy Mama explains how she's willing to give up one thing to get another. (And just for fun, she pretends to give advice on how to build capital in the bedroom.)
  • Money could buy me ... a clone? — With no local family to help out, Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama wants childcare so she can take care of her health.
  • Spending IntentionallyCatholicMommy loves to budget! Join her to learn what to buy, what not to buy, and, most importantly, where to buy.
  • New lessons from an allowance — Lauren at Hobo Mama welcomes a follow-up guest post from Sam about the latest lessons their four-year-old's learned from having an allowance.
  • How to Homeschool without Spending a Fortune — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares tips and links to many resources for saving money while homeschooling from preschool through high school.
  • It's Not a Baby Crisis. It's Not Even a Professional Crisis. — Why paid maternity leave, you may ask? Rachael at The Variegated Life has some answers.
  • "Making" Money — Do you like to do-it-yourself? Amy at Anktangle uses her crafty skills to save her family money and live a little greener.
  • Money On My Mind — Luschka at Diary of a First Child has been thinking about money and her relationship with it, specifically how it impacts on her parenting, her parenting choices, and ultimately her lifestyle.
  • Spending, Saving, and Finding a Balance — Melissa at The New Mommy Files discusses the various choices she and her family have made that affect their finances, and finds it all to be worth it in the end.
  • Accounting for Taste — Cassie at There's a Pickle in My Life shares their budget and talks about how they decided food is the most important item to budget for.
  • Money Matters... But Not Too Much — Mamapoekie at Authentic Parenting shares how her family approaches money without putting too much of a focus onto it.
  • Parenting While Owning a Home Business — In a guest post at Natural Parents Network, Lauren at Hobo Mama lays out the pros and cons of balancing parenting with working from home.
  • Crunchy Living is SO Expensive...Or Is It? — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy talks about her biggest objection to natural living - and her surprise at what she learned.
  • Mo' Money, Mo' Problems — Sarah at Parenting God's Children shares how a financial accountability partner changed her family's finances.
  • The Importance of Food Planning — Amanda at Let's Take the Metro discusses how food budgeting and planning has helped her, even if she doesn't always do it.
  • Kids & Money: Starting an Allowance for Preschoolers — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings discusses her family's approach and experiences with starting an allowance for preschoolers.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Indigenous People's Day

Sounds about right...
Many people across the country only know this day as "Columbus Day", but there has been a reclaiming by the indigenous peoples of this continent to start calling it Indigenous People's Day. Why?

Far from the clean cut hero that children's books make him out to be, Columbus' legacy also includes genocide. 

Here is an excellent compendium of articles that will help illuminate the less publicized opinions on this day.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Question From a Reader Regarding Samhain

Last week, a reader asked, "What is the best way for a fledgling solitary to celebrate Samhain with little supplies and practice?"

I know how daunting it can be to keep up a religious practice alone with little or no encouragement and/or community. I have been there! I was solitary from 1989-2006 (2006 is when I found and was accepted as a student into the small Witchcraft tradition to which I now belong). During that time, I experimented with practices, traditions, ideas, and communities. My practice was unsteady and fluctuated from extremely devout to practically non-existent in those 17 years.

When I was a solitary, "gear" seemed really important. It was my connection to the Craft because my other connections were tenuous. Having no coven or community meant I read what I could get my hands on and took what public rituals and workshops that were out there, regardless of whether they felt "juicy" or "true" to me. It also meant I felt much more need to have lots of supplies and gear.

Having been a Witch for quite some time now, and now being one that is initiated into a specific tradition- I don't see that expensive gear is all that important. What is important is your connection to what you do have and what you bring to your workings. That means you do not need a candle in every color, fancy elementally corresponded altar items, or an expensive wand that you got over the internet. A branch that you, yourself, took while on a hike from a willing tree serves as the best wand. White candles do everything that colored ones do, I promise.

These dead people could really use some attention!
What Samhain (and similar autumnal holidays in many cultures across the globe) is all about is ancestor work and connection to the dead. Witches work on this day involves honoring those who came before- whether you knew them personally, or you feel a connection with them because of who they were or what they stood for.

My suggestions for things that you could do as a solitary are in bold italic.

One way to do this is to build an altar to the dead in your home. I actually have two altars dedicated to the dead in my home:

A beloved dead altar- for dead folks in my family, friends, and people I have been inspired by and wish to honor. Uncles, grandparents, companion animals, famous people like Keith Haring, Oscar Wilde, and Hildegard of Bingen live here. Pictures, mementos, ashes, graveyard dirt, and more are all stored here. I personally keep this altar in the main living area of my home- usually the dining room, so the dead can get offerings regularly and they are a part of the routine of the home.

A mighty dead altar- these dead folks are Witches, magicians, and root doctors who I feel represent a line of Witch knowledge that has contributed to my upbringing and education as a witch. All the dead in my Witchcraft tradition are represented there (the ones that I do not have personal effects for have a sugar skull that I myself made and decorated, meditating upon them and their gifts to the tradition).

 Which brings me to something I do every couple years (including this one): I make new sugar skulls for my altars and for ritual. It allows me to commune and think about the dead that I am honoring. It's not expensive at all to make them- you just a few specialty items, all of which are available here. what;s great about this project is that you make the skulls, then must allow them to dry before decorating them, which is at least a few days. This period of limbo I use to contact these dead and get visual inspiration as to how to embellish their skull. I always make extra skulls for Samhain rituals that I attend- that way people can bring home a skull and decorate it themselves.

Another activity that is completely appropriate is to visit the graves of the dead, clean them, and decorate them. Many people across cultures make offerings of food, liquor, and flowers on graves at this time and staying and picnicking at a gravesite is common.

Anyone else out there have suggestions for a solitary Witch on Samhain?

Monday, October 3, 2011

October fun!

Now that I no longer own a business and am not paying rent, I have tons of time to spend with Rowan (and to implementing fun craft ideas). I have pinned tons of things on my Pinterest (feel free to follow me there!), including the pictures/ideas below. Here is what will fill fill my spare time in October!

1. Needlecraft
I am delighted to have some time in the evenings after Rowan goes to bed to embroider, cross stitch, knit, and crochet. I just finished my first cross stitch and am about to embark upon another (the "wild rumpus" scene from Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are, for Rowan's future room). I also plan on doing this hat for Rowan for the colder Ohio winters:

2. Nanny is making Rowan's costume for trick or treating (he will be an elephant this year), leaving me time for other Halloween/Samhain craftyness (like this):
Yes, that's a carved butternut squash. A squash that is now awesome!

3. Rowan is learning his colors and is starting to really love coloring. I bet he'll appreciate the tactile aspect of finger painting even more! I am going to be creating colored iced cubes for his bath fun time and making my own finger paints for him.

Do you DIY? What are you making these days?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Real Witches of Halloween!

Welcome to day one of the The Real Witches of Halloween Blog Tour! All month long, you can click on a blog about Halloween written by actual Witches. You can learn what it means (and doesn't mean) to us as a holiday, how we celebrate or ritualize this day, and much much more. Click here for the Witch_Blog page, so you can read us all, one day at a time!

For me, there's Halloween (a secular fun holiday that I love) and then there's Samhain (the actual sabbat on the Wheel of the Year that I celebrate as a religious holiday).

Halloween is going to be so much fun now that I have a kid. (How cool is it that I get to re-live all the best stuff again?!) Halloween is an awesome holiday- adults love it, but kids win on this day in a huge way. Dress up, sweets, pranks, parties, and decorations all make this day a boatload of awesome for any kid. This year, we are teaching Rowan how to say "trick or treat" and have a little pumpkin basket for him to gather candy in that he has been playing with. Because of his obsession with elephants (he asks to see them multiple times a day), his Nanny is making him an elephant costume. We are going to take him trick or treating on this small Appalachian town. He's gonna love it.

Halloween is a holiday that most Americans understand and participate in. It is a cultural touchstone that he can share with his peers.

Conversely, for me- Samhain is a religious holiday. It is when we Witches commune with the dead- the veil between the worlds is thin and we rip it down completely to allow the dead to come through to commune with us and experience corporeal existence and its pleasures once more. We prepare foods for our ancestors that they loved, for example.

I will be teaching my son about Samhain as well as Halloween. We have a dead altar to feed and clean, and then we will be picnicking in the cemetery where generations of his relatives reside.

How do you celebrate Halloween and/or Samhain?