Place Your Bets

“Well this low down bitchin’ got my poor feet a itchin’. Can’t you see the deuce is still wild? Baby, I can’t stay, you got to roll me and call me the tumblin’ dice.”  Rolling Stones

I look at how long it has been since I updated this journal and it makes me uncomfortable, but then I think about all I have accomplished in the interim. I see the road clear, Abre Camino, as my favorite shop candle says, to return to routine writing and the idea excites me.

Eric and I began the CUSP (Climbing Up the Spiral Pathway) spiritual tradition back in 1997 and each year, it seems like it becomes more defined in our lives. This year, the pattern was undeniable. In CUSP, you work hard during the “light” of the year from Spring Equinox until November 1 and then you rest for the dark of the year. Since March, I have worked harder than I have ever worked in my life. For most of my life, even in the darkest of times, I have been able to look around and think, “I am blessed.” Sometimes, I had to reach for that feeling because wow, there were some truly dark times.

Really dark.

Scary dark.

This year, however, I can feel the vibration in my blood as I process the full meaning of “I am richly blessed…abundantly blessed.”  Never in a million years would I, if I thought about it a year ago, or two years ago, expect that I would end up here. My life has been one of ongoing struggle. I am good at dealing with adversity, but in the interest of honesty, I have to admit that I have spent most of my life at the end of a fraying rope. My book Leaving Kentucky in the Broad Daylight talks a bit about growing up in Kentucky in the 1960s in a very eccentric family. For the sake of decorum, there were things I left out. That book goes up to 1978 and after that, spending time as the wife of a military enlisted man who struggled with his own set of emotional problems (<==not Eric), things were…complicated, to put it mildly.

After he and I divorced for the final time (there were two of those) in 1996, I met and married Eric and although love and faith were rarely in short supply, we worked hard to overcome the oppression of other deficiencies. The ebb and tide of depression swept over both of us, usually not at the same time. Our communication often suffered. The bleakness of ongoing disenfranchisement wore on us. Next year, we celebrate our twentieth wedding anniversary. This year marks twenty years of being together. Two decades. I was with my first husband for seventeen years, so this is my longest ongoing relationship with someone to whom I did not give birth.

This year, Eric made some career choices that took him to a good place and put his degree in Business to work, as well as his experience as an electrical contractor and business owner. His previous job was as a Veteran Service Officer, working through the Department of Veteran Affairs (the VA) to secure benefits for the clients who came through his office. When several years at that job began to trigger some of his own anxieties, he took time off to regroup, so this new endeavor was quite a change for him. It was different for us as well to suddenly not have him at home full time. I am grateful he got such intensive time to spend with our boys as they become young men. Dylan graduated from high school almost two years ago and was taking college classes online at home and Nathan is home schooled for high school, so the four of us were together most of the time. He got a unique opportunity to get to know his kids that most fathers do not have as nearly as I can tell.

Now life is very different.

Nathan is about to get his drivers license and is a senior in high school, eager to start work. He is the fourth of my six children who I have taught to drive, putting my life into their hands and sometimes hanging onto my last nerve by the skin of my teeth.

Dylan just moved out and is working full time in Folsom, California at a call center and loves it. Eric works long hours and is tremendously successful as the licensed contractor for the solar power company, Sunfinity, in North Highlands, California. He has a long commute, but has managed it with tremendous aplomb.

My time of mothering is coming to an end for the first time since January 1978 for my own children and since 1971 if you include my mother’s children. The croning is upon me and I welcome it. There are no lamentations for what was. There is joy for what is to come. I do smile nostalgically at the success of my children. I do miss their little arms around my neck, their sweet smiles, their young selves, but I do not grieve. They gave me the gift of that time and I celebrate the adults they are now.

My own shop, the Botánica de La Reina is doing very well. It is still in its growing stages, but we have a loyal clientele and we are looking to expand into a full storefront with more than weekend hours in a year or so. The shop inventory, most of which I make, is now stable and it is just a matter of showing up for shop hours and making sure the inventory is never completely depleted. It is a joy to help so many people through magical advice, cleansings, and instruction. I love what I do and sometimes, it is difficult to leave my little shop on Sunday night, knowing I will not see it again until the following Saturday.

Now that festival time is over and the dark of the year is coming, I look forward to a quiet descent and a transformative cocooning. I am paring down on obligations and energy drains. I am slowing my pace as we go into Fall and the days shorten. My focus is on writing, so I look forward to more blogging and to finishing Iris of Avalon, the fourth book in the Sisters of Avalon series. It is developing so nicely and I fully expect to hit my launch date of December 2016 or, as I did last year, maybe even publish earlier if I get through the rewrites and edits in time. I also plan a book called The Root, The Rose, and the Dowsing Rod on Southern American Folk magic. It complements my presentation of the same name that Pantheacon in San Jose selected for its agenda in February, so the clock is ticking on that one. I also intend to launch the “Little Book” series, which will involve literally “little books” on candle making, energy magic, ethics, numerology, dreams, etc. I am excited to get back into writing again.

My other recent project is a different approach on my health and weight loss. A number of Universal pushes and shoves sent me to the Atkins diet, which I have tried before without success. I began induction almost two weeks ago and I have to say, after the first few days, it has been nearly effortless. I have lost five pounds, which is nothing in the yo-yo of my weight loss experience, but I can feel my body reshaping and test strips show I am in ketosis, burning fat instead of carbs. I have started taking prebiotics and probiotics to help my insides function better. For food, I have given up sugars, grains, anything that doesn’t swim, fly, run, or grow in the ground. I feel healthier and stronger. I have stopped taking supplements for heartburn and acid stomach at last. I sleep better. I have a bit of the “Atkins flu” where my energy is low while my body learns its new way of finding energy. I am good with that. My body needs “new” and needs to adapt its metabolism because the old way was getting me nowhere fast.

My father died at age 51 of a ruptured ventricle due to occluded arteries. My mother died at age 60 from a systemic infection she got from repeated stomach cauterization to stop bleeding caused by decades of pharmaceutical drug use. I turned 55 in early September and I am not done by a long shot. If I die anytime soon, do not comfort yourself by imagining that I made my peace, lived a full life, and went quietly into that darkest night. It will be a lie. I have things to do of Grandma Moses proportions and if I do not get to do them, I will be sorely irritated.

I have never had a birthday affect me before in terms of my own mortality. I love growing older and I love myself and my life more as I do. I have spent so much time in adversity that now that I am not quite so much in adversity, I want to plug into each moment and live it to the fullest. This birthday, I really felt the weight of the years. Maybe it was that I stopped bleeding shortly before. I do not grieve my fertility. Goddess knows I used it plenty. What I felt was a breathless anxiety that I might only have five years left, or ten, or even twenty. It felt like it was not nearly enough, that I had wasted so much time trying to survive that I never actually lived. Then I rationalized that any of us at any age could have only five years or five minutes left for all we know and the anxiety quieted. It did not go away, but it shuffled off into the corner, put its thumb into its mouth, and went to sleep.

I see so many of my clients who do not enjoy the blessings in their lives because they are consumed with the fear that those blessings will go away. They give over their power to the demon of What If. I have no time or patience for that. I am going balls to the wall on life from now on, even if that means going balls to the wall on getting enough sleep, saying no to jobs I would have begged for a year ago, and disappointing friends who hoped I could say yes to this request or that. I will do less, but will put great quality into what I do. I need to focus my time and energy on what creates a positive outcome for however much longer I have. I am rolling the dice and taking a chance that what I am meant to do in this life will be what floats to the surface and the extraneous time and energy black holes will fade away.

My goals for the dark of the year are to secure a working command of Spanish so I can have better communication with my wonderful customers, finish Iris, write The Root, The Rose, and The Dowsing Rod, and lose a bunch of weight. If I am going to gamble, it’s going to be on me.

“When I awoke today suddenly nothing happened, but in my dreams I slew the dragon
And down this beaten path and up this cobbled lane
I’m walking in my own footsteps once again

“And you say, ‘Just be here now, forget about the past. Your mask is wearing thin.’ 
Let me throw one more dice. I know that I can win
I’m waiting for my real life to begin”

 Colin Hay

Update: Immediately after posting this, I found this article in my Facebook feed. How perfectly perfect:  http://www.rebellesociety.com/2016/10/14/caracampbell-aries-fullmoon/

Excerpt from “Southern Conjure Woman” series, Book 1: Small Town Magic

By request. Remember that this is the first draft and is very raw. Many edits yet to come and the book is only around a third done:

“What do you mean, ‘gone?’” Cat asked, rubbing her temples and wishing she had stopped for that drink after dropping off Hunter instead of going to Lily and Dru’s. As if on cue, Dru pushed a glass of Jameson’s into her hand. She smiled her thanks and he nodded.

“Gone, like checked out against medical advice and no one knows where she went.”

Shit. Cissy Harris was their living, breathing, talking link to all that was going on and now she was out of their reach, presumably at least.

“When did anyone last see her?”

Lily shifted on the couch and tucked her slender feet up under her, then glanced at Dru, who poured her a glass of wine and passed it to her.

“I saw her before I left the hospital at 6 a.m. today. We spoke at length and then I briefed the incoming and came back here to sleep. They called me just before noon and told me she was gone.”

“No one saw her leave?” Cat asked, taking a sip of the whiskey and feeling it start to warm and loosen her already.

“No one knew she was gone. She had been off of monitors and IVs for a few hours. The staff thought she was sleeping and when they went in to check her vitals, they saw she was missing. The TV was off and that thing was never off from the minute she regained consciousness.”

“So she’s walking or someone picked her up.”

“Mmmhmm,” Lily agreed. “She had no personal effects with her when she was brought in, so she has no money. There were no outgoing calls from her phone and she did not have a cell on her.”

“Could someone have taken her? An abduction?” Dru asked.

“As you saw, we had her in an out of the way room off the Med-Surg ward, so sure, it could have happened, but at that time of day, we had a full nursing staff on duty and they would have to take her past one of the two desks. The windows do not open. There are no stairwells in that area of the hospital. I think it is more likely she slipped out on her own than someone taking a drugged or struggling woman out in front of staff. How did it go with Odetta today?”

“Ah,” Cat said, tilting her head. “Guess who else is gone?”

“She’s gone?”

“AND her dogs. The place is deserted. But after Hunter and I came back in from the garden, the temperature in the cabin had dropped enough that we could see our breath.”

“Jeez, how long were you in the garden?” Dru asked.

Cat sent him an askance smirk and he shrugged.

“Only a few minutes, but when we went into the bedroom, this happened.”

She opened the gallery of photos on her phone and showed them the mirror picture, which Hunter had sent to her.

“Does that say what I think it does?” Lily asked.

“Help dark?” Dru’s eyebrows knitted in consternation.

“Help bark,” Cat corrected. “Her hounds are with her, wherever she is.”

“It says, ‘dark.’”

“I think the b is backwards.”

“A backwards b is a d. What am I missing here?” he blinked, waiting for an answer as if she had one.

“Dru, I am pretty sure it says ‘bark.’”

“And the hounds wrote ‘bark’ on the mirror?”

“I don’t fucking know, Dru,” Cat said, feeling her patience fraying. “Why would it say, ‘Help dark?”

“I don’t know, Cat. Why would it say, ‘Help bark?’ Does the mirror takes dictation or something?”

Lily and Cat exchanged a look.

“Odetta is in trouble and I have no clue what to do. None. I brought the mirror back with in case she is somehow attached to it specifically, Nothing else in our around the house looked out of the ordinary except that the gate and the door were both open.”

“What are you thinking?” Lily asked.

“I got nothing. I don’t think she’s dead. I think she is stuck somewhere. Lily, I don’t think she’s likely left that house in ten years or longer.”

“Oh, at least.”

“And why would anyone involve her in this? Who even knows she’s there? You don’t stumble upon Odetta’s place. You have to aim to get there and work at it.”

“Has anyone heard from Wulf?” Dru asked.

“Not since the meeting, at least not me,” Cat said.

“Not me,” Lily confirmed. “Maybe we should call him back into conference on this and find out what the pack knows.”

They all jumped as Lily’s cell phone rang. She glanced at the caller ID and said, “I have to take this. It’s the hospital.”

Thank You GPS

It is not yet the end of February and already, this has been a rockin’ year. Last year was a brutal battle fighting (most with myself, as these things are wont to do) for my own sovereignty and creating space on which I could stand. I have been falling down a great deal over the past several years (likely all of my adult years) and I am very adept at creating excuses reasons for my failings. We are all flawed and I get that, but these are lackings based in cowardice and laziness. I can only see that in retrospect and this is not coming from a place of self-loathing but more from the relief a person feels when they escape a particularly oppressive situation.

I had many signs along the way and believe me, I had more “buts” than a poker party ashtray. There was always a reason why I could not step up.

Late last year, rather I just did it and the Reader’s Digest version of that story is that it is working and although there are times I hear myself saying, “Wait…you’re doing that thing again,” for the most part, the progression has been forward and swift, for which I am grateful.

Google Chrome shows you a grid of your most visited websites so you can easily click on them. Mine pretty much tells the story of how my time is spent these days:

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Other than cooking for the family and going back and forth to work on the weekend, and making inventory for the store throughout the week, this is what I do. I have felt for some time that my energies are going in a lot of different directions: brainstorming and creating new products for the store, web design, Tarot readings (including the weekly general reading on Mondays), teaching, co-hosting our circle with Eric, and writing, plus being involved in the management of PanGaia Festival, trying to envision the next nonfiction book, being Mom, and working with Eric to take care of our home.

Eric retired in March 2015, so he is here all the time to help with the overall home management and parenting, plus working on product development for the shop. He also makes wonderful instructional videos in English and in Spanish.  I am blessed to have help with what I do every single day.

This past weekend, I went to an event called Panthacon, which is an annual Pagan event; four days of workshops, rituals, gatherings, fellowship, and spiritual exploration of all kinds. Thousands of people attend this event. I was honored with an invitation to present on Friday and Monday. In fact, I had the first presentation slot of the con and the last, which was a lovely bookending. I was available to read Tarot cards on Saturday and Sunday outside the vendor hall and I had a book signing on Friday afternoon. I presented on my books Weather Witchery and Goddess in the Kitchen: The Making and Magic of Food. I had an excellent turnout for both. The attendees were interactive, interesting, and plugged in. It’s always rewarding when the people appreciate and seem to get what you’re saying. Both went exceptionally well.

So throughout the weekend, I had plenty of opportunity to take the pulse of the Pagan community and to see what interests people and what doesn’t. More specifically, I wanted to see where I should put my energy and where I should pull it back. I am spreading too thin to fully invest in anything and I wanted to know where my greatest success would lie. I already gave up writing my Patheos Pagan column, but I need to tighten up the reins even more.

Before the weekend began, I asked that I be shown where my greatest success lies and where my energy could best serve the Goddess. Typically, those are one and the same.

The results were overwhelming.

Tarot: I got zero reinforcement for Tarot readings, so I will dial that back to my current clients and not aggressively market that side of what I do. I will keep the option available on the website, but not pursue that avenue to any tremendous degree. Current clients: I love you! I am still here for you always!

Non-Fiction Writing: Got some redirects on that. I might work on one book for the year if I find inspiration, but I will wait for it to find me and not go looking for it myself. This one is a no-go unless something in particular strikes me.

Teaching/Presenting: I love public speaking and teaching and interacting on that level. Pantheacon reminded me all the more of the reasons why. I hope to find a venue where I can teach in Sacramento and El Dorado Counties. That one is a go.

Botánica de La Reina*sigh* I so love my shop and I missed it this weekend, even though I had a great time. LOTS of positive feedback about the shop and people interested in finding it, so that is a definite win. The customer base is growing steadily and I have a ton of fun, interesting people coming through the door every weekend. There was some interesting input about my pricing, which I will explore with deeper consideration.

One interesting development that I did not foresee was that at a couple of points, Eric got uncomfortable with me telling people, “I own a botánica in Roseville…” when he was there with me. He wanted me to say, “WE own a botánica in Roseville…” I struggled with this because my impression was that I had built up the botánica and it was my heart and soul. He mostly runs the computer side and makes a few things like the cedar horns and the coffin nail crosses. I felt our egos each getting “all up ons” and yes, we had words about it. His position was that he found the business we purchased that became the botánica. He makes items for it. He is there every weekend just like I am. He is as qualified to answer any of the questions as I am. He is on the bank account. He is on the business license. All good points, but I could feel myself grasping for something in this world to be mine that I created and for which I could claim success. My interim argument was “I do own a botánica” and “You also own a botánica” and that it is not inappropriate for me to claim that I do, even if he is there. He disagreed and I clung even harder with mine, mine, mine.

After I had too many hours some time to step back and think about it, I remembered my goal for the weekend, which was to get some strong direction for where to put my energy and here was Eric stepping up and saying that he wanted to be fully involved and engaged as an equal partner. With that in mind, I decided that I would not personally work on developing additional products for the shop for the time being. I will continue making what I do with Eric stepping in to work on the incenses, the powders, the candles, or the other items as he wishes. That will potentially free up more of my time while still letting me pursue the parts of it I love.

So Botánica is a big yes, big win, but with me investing less time.

That takes me to the major revelation that wow, just could not be denied.

Those Avalon Girls: I got a reading from a wonderful card reader on Saturday night using a deck she designed herself, so there was no way I would know what cards were in the deck since it was a nontraditional deck. I chose three for her to read (from a face down fan):

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The reading is self-explanatory, but I was especially moved by the first card I drew considering that the best selling books in my thirty-two book collection right now are the Seven Sisters of Avalon books which take place forty years after King Arthur’s death.

Later, Eric and I were taking outside stairs from one wing of the event center and I found these:

ribbons

At this con, people attach ribbons to the bottom of their con badges until they have a huge bandoleer of ribbons trailing down their front. These were ribbons someone lost off of their string and yep, they both happened to mention Avalon.

When we left the event to go home, we stopped by Denny’s to get lunch and the woman at the table beside us was reading Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

When we were leaving town, we passed some sort of establishment, don’t know what, but it had AVALON on its sign in big letters, just in case I missed the message the first three times, which is a reasonable concern.

So most of my energy will go towards writing. I am about a third of the way through the Southern Conjure Woman first book. I am not sold on the title or on it being a series, but it is a lot of fun to write. As soon as it is published, I will get back to writing about my Avalon girls again.

And that, my friends, is how magic works.

My theme for this week has been:

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At least none that do not point to Avalon.

Plus I am glad to be home despite a wonderful time.

Be well, my friends.