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Unexpectedly Magical

finding the magic in everyday life

Summer Solstice 2017

Three years ago was the last time we truly observed the summer solstice as a family. I was pregnant with Little Brother at the time; after his birth I struggled with trauma, postpartum depression, and the regular craziness of new motherhood plus caring for Big Brother’s special needs (undiagnosed at the time).

Here we are three times around the sun later, celebrating in much the same way as we did before:

We wrote our intentions and wishes for the future onto paper and then folded those up into boats. We dipped the boats in oil and lit them on fire and then I sent them down the river. We also sent sunny flowers down the river and I made a flower crown. It was lovely. Afterward the kids waded in the water and tried to convince us to let them go full-on swimming. At home Hubby built a gorgeous fire in his grill and we shared a late supper and marveled at the length of the day.

After the boys were in bed I settled into my crafty/witchy corner and did a spread.

VIII Strength really stood out to me. Looks like I need to keep at the being strong thing, but I should temper it with patience and gentleness. My time to break free isn’t here yet – again with the patience thing. Overall it was a cohesive reading that delivered its message clearly.

Next year Hubby wants to add canoeing out on the river or lake and releasing the paper boats via canoe; that way we can follow them. I look forward to what another trip around the sun brings us.

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Social Media

This season of life has made blogging challenging, so I’ve been scarce in posting. I have a zillion blog posts running through my head at any given moment, but I rarely manage to write more than a social media sized post. Speaking of social media, I’d like to invite you to follow me at:

Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/unexpectedlymagical/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/funnyfacejess/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/unexpectedlymagical/

Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, and…Fertility Awareness?

body language

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (as is frankly very tempting these days), you know all about the Black Lives Matter movement.  You also know all about the Blue Lives Matter movement.

But have you ever even heard of the Fertility Awareness movement?

Didn’t think so….and I know why: even most of us who have dedicated our careers to the fertility awareness field don’t think of it as a movement.  Not yet at least.

Right now, there are wonderful pockets of wonderful people who work hard to educate people about their fertility and promote this kind of knowledge.  It’s time to begin thinking of these pockets as the growing and critical infrastructure of a movement that will change the culture and transform lives.  If this sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it will be a lot of work.  Fortunately, our first step is clear-cut and simple.

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What Pro-Life Feminism Means to Me (in Pictures)

Pictures in order of most recent to oldest.

Fight for the rights of ALL human beings.
Speak out for ALL life.
Help children learn how to make peaceful choices; demonstrate that we CAN all get along.
Expose children to diversity through media, books, and everyday life.
Support local, small businesses as much as possible.
Regularly volunteer with the local pregnancy helpline, raise awareness of diaper need, help connect other volunteers with the opportunity to help, and spread the word to families who need it.
Organize work parties for the local pregnancy helpline/diaper bank/sharing center. And sing Christmas carols!
Stand tall by refusing to accept the violence of either political party.
Engage others in conversations about what it means to be a pro-life feminist. Click for story.
Raise awareness of perinatal mental health problems and support mothers as they struggle to adjust postpartum.
Fight for little lives by raising awareness about the lifesaving abilities of human milk by leading a Miracle Milk Stroll in 2015.
Love and raise a child I didn’t give birth to.
Support and represent causes that matter to me.
Love Mama Earth and all her people, places, creatures, plants….
Image of the 1st UU principle from the UUA website.
View every human -at all ages and stages – as having inherent worth and dignity.

Triple Goddesses in the Celtic World by Judith Shaw

Very interesting!

Judith Shaw photoMany neopagans and modern Goddess worshipers mistakenly equate the triadic nature of some Celtic Goddesses with the Triple Goddess concept first popularized by Robert Graves in his book, The White Goddess. Graves stated that Goddesses were frequently found in triplets as Maiden, Mother and Crone. But there is nothing found in the ancient stories of Celtic Goddesses to indicate that they were known as Maiden, Mother and Crone. 

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Seven Years Toward Healing

Stopping to enjoy a cup of homemade, vegan hot cocoa in this cute little vintage mug from the thrift store (hopefully there’s no lead paint 😳). Yesterday I spent most of the day recharging: I managed to meditate multiple times (yay!), I covered my head whenever I felt my brain going foggy or my stress levels rising, I read some in my new book (Tarot for the Healing Heart), and I watched Poirot on Netflix (my favorite!). Today I’m feeling the benefits of my day of rest and have managed to balance out productivity and pleasure. It feels good! I’m a far cry from where I was seven years ago when I first fell ill with fibromyalgia. 

Seven years ago I was a second-semester Sophomore at a small Fundamentalist Baptist college, over a thousand miles away from home. A year before, I finished treatment for my acne with Accutane, a high-powered drug originally used as chemotherapy; it’s now banned in the USA. While on Accuraine I was required to take hormonal birth control. For almost two years I worked as a janitor on campus and constantly came into contact with strong chemicals. I was also involved in multiple highly stressful friendships at the time, in addition to the stress that is college life and the extreme stress of living in a cultish environment. I believe these things, on top of my (undiagnosed at the time) Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (which predisposes one to fibromyalgia), combined to make me sicker than I’d ever been before. 

I thought I had done weird case of the flu, except it never went away. My joints felt like they were on fire and I suddenly had what felt like shin splints. I began having the most awful headaches and lived on Excedrin. I was constantly dizzy for a year straight and still have difficulty with my equilibrium. I began suffering terrible abdominal pain and irritable bowel syndrome. My hormones were out of whack and I developed insulin resistance. 

Seven years later I’m greatly improved but not as “normal” as I was before. It took a year  of tests and scans to receive the diagnosis offybromyalgia; it took three years to find out my underlying condition is Ehlers Danlos. Along the way I’ve developed intolerances to gluten and sulfurous foods (eggs, onion, garlic), highly-acidic foods, and developed an allergy to casein (the protein found in dairy products). I’ve also experienced pregnancy and an emergency cesarean section, followed by postpartum depression and subsequent treatment by antidepressants. 

I’ve spent seven years figuring out what was “wrong” with me and how to “fix” it; my views now are so different from my views as a scared, ignorant Sophomore. This journey of living with chronic pain has truly taught me how to live, even if my life is not as easy as expected. The hours upon hours of research and study I’ve logged have taught me so much about my body, the modern state of humanity, and both the compassion and corruption that simultaneously exist amongst medical professionals. I’ve learned to think for myself  and take NOTHING for granted. I’ve figured out my problems over and over again when the average doctor had no answers for me. I’ve tried many kinds of treatment and am still learning how to create a state of healing. So, what has worked for me?

1. Reducing stress as much as possible. Life seems bent on sending me stress, but I feel best when managing it through meditation and activities like walking, yoga, and dance.

2. Eating a solid diet. I focus on eating as free of chemicals, preservatives, additivites as possible. I also try to balance between a vegetarian diet and a traditional foods diet. The less sugar I eat the better, but I struggle with this area. 

3. Avoid caffeine and other stimulants.

4. Use herbs to make nourishing teas and infusions. The more I study plant-based medicine the more I seek to use it to keep myself well. 

5. Maintaining a steady treatment of an antidepressant. This has been surprisingly helpful and has allowed me to sleep better and be far more active than before. I currently have no plans to remove this treatment from my life, even though I would prefer not to be taking a prescription. I find this medication to be extremely helpful and value my state of health over the “purity” of using only all-natural treatments.

6. Covering my head. This is a tool I have only discovered within the last year and have been surprised at how helpful it is been for my fibro-fog. Securely wrapping up my head, thereby covering my crown chakra, has eased my anxiety, lifted headaches, and helped me maintain a general sense of calmness. Feeling balanced and calm is hugely important for someone with fibromyalgia because how you feel mentally/emotionally is so readily translated into pain, fatigue, and malaise. 

7. Ditched hormonal birth control for a fertility awareness method of family planning. I’ve used hormonal birth control for two different periods of time in my life; never again! I felt terrible on the pill! Synthetic hormones = 👎 (thumbs down).

8. Remove emotional blockages through talk therapy, writing, and spiritual practice. 

This is a brief overview of the last seven years and what has helped me survive those years. I plan to revisit this topic at a future date. Thanks for reading; I’d love to hear your stories and what has helped you find healing.

Ponderings 

No church for us this morning. Last night the 6 year old managed to sneak the tub of chocolate ice cream down and eat half a quart in one sitting. He also got down the half a candy bar I was saving for a special treat and ate that all gone. I’m still scratching my head over when he found an opportunity to manage all that. 

It was a terrible night for the whole family; the only person who got any sleep was the 2 year old, but even he ran wildly around until midnight (what on earth!?!?). This comes on the heels of almost a month of sleeplessness due to Halloween and then most of us getting colds. Lack of sleep has me frazzled and feeling ill. I’ve never coped well with lack of sleep, but fibromyalgia has made it an even bigger problem. 

What bothers me most is that he chose to sneak and eat not one but two things he knows he shouldn’t. He’s tried to do this with jars of honey and even jelly in the past, but this chocolate stuff puts it to a whole new level. Locking away every sweet thing doesn’t get to the root of the problem… but what is the root? How do I navigate this as a parent? 

Between illness and official Thanksgiving break, my son will have been out of school for 11 days straight. During this time I’ve watched his behavior spiral back into extreme anxiety and aggression – shouting, screaming, scowling, flailing, acting like a control freak… it’s all back. His complete dependence on the rigid structure school provides is obvious – we made the right decision to put him there – but this dependence on structure scares me. Christmas break is going to be a horrible nightmare unless I find a way to plan every second of every day. Summer break is going to be hell. 

This last month has left me questioning my beliefs in so many ways. I’ve lost my belief that people are inherently good. Now I’m pondering something I was sure I’d never consider again – a sin nature. The level of evil, selfishness, and depravity I’ve seen in the world has shocked me to my core; even more shocking is seeing glints of that same depravity mirrored in the eyes of my children. I see it in myself as I struggle to parent gently in the face of sleeplessness, chronic illness, and high needs/special needs demands from my children. 

As this season of Advent begins, I find myself looking for hope and love in new ways. Hopefully we can gather enough sanity around here to light the first candle and share a moment of peace.

Consumerism, Self-Control, and Christmas

As I sat in my therapist’s office the other night, chatting about how complicated life is, the topic of self-control came up. It was refreshing to hear someone else who found our culture of instant self-gratification to be disturbing and unhealthy. We were specifically talking about porn and the demonization of sexual self control, but the more I think about it, the more I see how our modern culture promotes unhealthy levels of self-gratification. If people have the money, they can go shopping and find exactly what they want without ever having to consider the laborer, laboring, and materials used to create these items. We can go to the grocery store and grab whatever we need without having to consider the farmers, earth, processing, and transportation that went into putting it in the store. We can consume anything and everything our heart desires without ever realizing the history behind the items.

If you walk into your closet and look at the clothes hanging there, do you see the people who made them? Do you feel their labor? Do you know if they were paid appropriately for their work? What about the food in your pantry and fridge? The tea or coffee in your cup? What about the furnishings in your house? The sheets on your bed? The electronic device you’re using to read this right now? Perhaps if we could comprehend the human and ethical costs of the many things surrounding us, we’d feel more kindly about paying the true cost to the people who make them. Of course, for those of us who struggle to get by, we often have to choose between buying cheap or simply doing without. I would love to purchase a pair of fair trade/handmade pajamas, for example, but the cost is more than my budget can currently sustain, so I will likely look for a nice pair at a thrift store (which is where 90% of my clothing comes from anyway).

I’ve been working on crocheting gifts for people in preparation for Christmas, and my hours of work and love have illustrated to me the true cost of things. Machines may be responsible for knitting and making so many things nowadays, but people operate those machines and are responsible for growing and preparing the fibers used. People are sitting in sweatshops around the world stitching up clothes that they will not be fairly compensated for, but those clothes will go in shiny department stores where other people will buy them and add to their already-stuffed wardrobes. We are consumers. There is no perceived reward for exercising self-control and taking only what you need. There is little thought given to the spiritual harm being done to oneself and others when we become consumers, not to forget the harm being done to Mother Earth.

As we head into the season of buying buying buying, pause and consider the real cost of your purchases. Are you supporting consumerism and modern day slavery? Could you make it yourself or support a small business by asking them to make it? Could you purchase it from a fair-trade rated company? Do you need to buy it brand new or can you find it secondhand? Do you or the person you’re purchasing a gift for really need more stuff? Could you gift an experience (special trip or activity, etc.) or food item instead?

Resources:

Fair Trade Certified: Your Purchase Matters. Quality products, improving lives, and protecting the environment.

Catholic Relief Services Fair Trade helps Catholics live their faith in solidarity with farmers and artisans through fair trade crafts, coffee, and chocolate.

Trusted Clothes is an organization linking people, organizations and brands that are ethical, environmentally friendly and health conscious.

Buycott App: Vote with your wallet

WorldCrafts: Bringing hope and dignity to impoverished people around the world, WorldCrafts is a fair trade nonprofit importer of beautiful handmade crafts.

Good Vibes in Unexpected Places

The local pregnancy helpline my family volunteers with had a crafting event last weekend; folks were invited to craft ornaments that would be sent out to donors. I took my oldest son with me because I know how much he enjoys crafting; I also brought him because I think it’s important he regularly do things that are for others. I was surprised to see the church’s parking lot packed with vehicles, but even more surprised to see the throng of people inside the building working on projects. The space was abuzz with happy chatter, children playing, people working… the sounds of community. Most of the people were putting together blankets (the kind you tie around the edges) for a local charity; we found the group making ornaments and joined in. My son excitedly began smearing glitter glue around and making small talk with the kid sitting next to him. Parents supervised while also working and teenagers went back and forth from minding the younger children and helping with the crafts. Nobody was stressing out about the toddlers running around or babies screaming – it was clear that families were welcome and children were loved. Nobody gave us strange looks for being the obvious outsiders; everybody smiled and was kind.

The good vibes in that space were amazing! Even my son picked up on it and asked if we could start coming to this church on Sundays. If it weren’t almost a 30 minute drive away, we probably would try to attend. As we were leaving we explored more of the building and peeked into the sanctuary; the beauty of Catholic churches still shocks me. I realize some people find aesthetic beauty to be frivolous, but for me, a beautiful space allows me to open myself better and experience the spiritual power found in holy places. My son seemed to be feeling much the same and stood in hushed awe as we took in this place.

As I’ve studied Catholicism, I’ve sensed that the orderliness and predictability of liturgical worship will be a good fit for my son. He struggles horribly with anxiety and a need to be in control/know exactly what is going to happen. He had a meltdown before his birthday that was triggered by his anxiety over not knowing exactly what was going to happen on his birthday and what presents he was getting. The kid does NOT like surprises. A church service like I grew up with, which often included shouting from the pulpit, was relatively unpredictable and would surely send him into fits of anxiety. As I look back on my own experience with those kinds of services (which I attended a minimum of three times a week) I can see that they caused me anxiety as well. Yes, in comparing the two forms of worship, I can wholeheartedly say that liturgy is my preference.

This Sunday, if nobody is sick or otherwise indisposed, I’m going to take the oldest to church and see what he thinks of Sunday school and possibly Mass. He’s expressed a lot of interest in attending some kind of church, and is generally very interested in spirituality, so it feels right to help him embrace that interest. Our local parish is well-respected in the community and the religious education program has high praise from the therapist my son sees, so I don’t have many concerns about my son’s wellbeing or safety. This whole thing is kind of strange still, but discovering the Catholic community has brought a lot of joy into my life and helped me grow spiritually, even if I’m going into this as a ChristoPagan witch. 🙂

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