The Cost of Connection

“You know what?” Trump added when told it appeared he had accused Ford of lying in a speech. “I’m not going to get into it, because we won. It doesn’t matter. We won.”

That quote was pulled from a recent CNN recap of a 60 Minutes interview with our President Donald Trump.

I feel like I can almost present this without adding any secondary commentary. There’s almost no need to explain the repulsiveness of this comment. Or of the man that said it. It’s like everytime you think he could be any viler, he achieves a new level of nastiness.

In this comment, he is literally saying, it doesn’t matter what he did or said, he won. It doesn’t matter how that win was acquired or what happened before or after it. It doesn’t even matter what his actions were. He’s smart, you’re dumb. He’s big, you’re little. He’s right, you’re wrong and there’s nothing you can do about it.

That’s right everyone, Trump is the living breathing embodiment of the father from one of my favorite books and movies, Matilda.

 Here's what the cast of Matilda look like now

(No hate for Danny Devito, though. He’s the absolute bee’s knees. )

And sadly, this is just the latest quib from the never-ending stream of word vomit spouted by a world leader that found it’s way into our screens, eyes, and eventually down deep into our souls. 

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First, it was breaking news scrolling along the bottom of your regularly scheduled broadcasts.  Somehow it morphed and transformed to watching live feeds as our kids play in the park. It’s gotten to the point where there are gas pumps with news anchors that are all too happy to keep you up to date with the latest. And to top it off,  we now get Presidential Alerts straight to our phones whether we want them or not.

It’s everywhere and it’s inescapable.

It’s Orwellian.

And we keep going back for more.

 

We are more connected than ever before in our history. robin-worrall-749755-unsplash

We have knowledge that has been inaccessible for centuries at our fingertips. But with it, we have more lies and falsehoods spread by people who wish to prosper from our fear and confusion. Intentionally spread misinformation masquerades as truth and people gobble it up greedily, willingly feeding it to their family and friends too.

For those of us who identify as empaths, this constant level of connection is hard. Not only is it hard, but it’s also emotionally taxing. Every hour is a new struggle. Since the recent election, it seems that each refresh of CNN, scroll down Facebook, or conversation with an opinionated relative is a new episode of a personally written American Horror Story.  

I feel the price we pay for being that connected is something akin to a constant anxiety. It buzzes behind your eyes like phone notifications during a really hot group chat. And there is no way to turn it off. The anxiety finally heats up until it boils over and you are in a full state of fear. And after a while, that fear becomes an addiction. Just like checking Facebook and Twitter, it’s something you can’t stop doing. It’s part of your life.

Everywhere you look, everything you see is a reminder of just how fucked up the system is. It can make you scared and remind you that you’re wounded. Some of us show it by hiding. Some of us by showing our teeth and flashing our claws. But honestly, there is no right or wrong way to deal. While we all wade through the muck and mire of the sensationalized tragedies we have to remember not to judge the steps of others. It is not our place to tell them how they should or should not be reacting. 

How do we survive this? Not just as a nation, (which I promise you is a legitimate concern of mine) but as individual people? How do we disconnect from this constant barrage of information that we might want, but not need?

Dear Readers, I don’t know.

I don’t have the answers for you.

I don’t even have the answers for myself.

I’m stuck on this ouroboros of the digital age along with you. I don’t need another reason to stare at the ceiling of my bedroom after I go to bed at night. But here I am decompressing from all the content I’ve seen during the day. What headlines am I going to wake up to in a few hours? What outlandish shit is the President going to tweet in the middle of the night? When is that outlandish shit going to get us nuked into a Mad Max landscape? Or when will his Presidental Alerts have America looking more like Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and less like a nation it is?

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We should be connected. We should be aware. Hell, as the young folk say, we should be woke. But we should also be whole. We should be full and centered. And above all, we should take care of ourselves. We should remember that we can not let our desire to fix the world tear us apart.

So let’s switch off the news, close the browser tab, and put the phone down. Go outside and hug a tree, worship the moon, or pet a dog.

Or we could burn this whole fucker down and start again. I don’t know. 

elijah-o-donnell-603766-unsplash.jpgLove yourself. Then, go and love each other. We are all in this together. 

Maybe, that will make things a little bit better.

It sure as shit can’t hurt.

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Better Living Through Chemistry

Yesterday I did something pretty amazing. It was amazing in that it was completely normal. For most people, it would even be bordering on the mundane. But for me, it was a pretty big deal.

I went to the doctor.

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Why is that such a big deal, you ask?

 

Because Dear Readers, I have a LOT of baggage that I’m starting to unpack when it comes to medical professionals.

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From my writings in the past, you know that my relationship with my mother was dysfunctional. One of the things I don’t think I’ve ever touched on is that I suspect my mother had some degree of Munchausen syndrome.

Munchausen syndrome according to Wikipedia is the “a factitious disorder wherein those affected feign disease, illness, or psychological trauma to draw attention, sympathy, or reassurance to themselves.” I am not a mental health professional and other than a Psych 102 class I took in college, I’ve had no training or education in any of the fields of psychology. That being said, there’s only so many checkmarks you can place on a page before a conclusion shows itself. I’m not saying she had it for sure but as a layman, I’d say it was a huge likelihood.

Looking back now with adult eyes, I can also see how some of her behaviors spread to me and my health care. There was a period of time when I was a little kid that I went to the doctor a lot. It wasn’t just for the routine childcare type of reasons, but for just random things that became huge ordeals. Tonsils, yeah that’s normal. But from second grade to 9th grade I had a medical issue pretty much every year. Some of them even overlapped. At one point, I had two surgeries for two different things within a six week time period. Twice I was “homebound” and had teachers come to my house because I couldn’t go to school because of medical issues.

Throughout all of this, she became exalted by her role as this super caregiver mother savior figure. She relished the concerned smiles and the pitiful nods. As I got older I started noticing the perverse pleasure she got when one of us was in poor health. Even when I couldn’t place a name to the actions, they were uncomfortable neighbors. When I was old enough to extract some control over myself, I stopped telling her about my ailments. And I made a promise to myself never ever to be like her.

That made me totally and completely gun shy of doctors for most of my adult life. I did receive the necessary maternal care when I was pregnant. But as far as other healthcare? I nope’d the fuck out of it. For years and years, I’ve OTC’d myself. For the few serious infections  I couldn’t beat into submission, I allowed myself to be dragged to a doctor. But mostly, I healed myself the best I could. And what I couldn’t heal, I just dealt with.

That was until I couldn’t deal with it anymore.

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For years I’ve seen struggling with headaches that I could not overcome. I’ve tried everything to counteract them. While some efforts brought temporary relief, nothing stuck. Seeing as they were mostly connected to my period, I cycled through different birth control options. That ended with my tubal ligation (you can read about it here). So when they still circling me like buzzards in the months since then, I decided to throw in the white towel.

I began to look for a primary care physician.

It took some calling around but I was able to get an appointment with a doctor I had seen maybe five years ago. Once the day came and I sat there on the crinkly paper of the exam table, I decided to make another brave move. Not only was I going to tell this doctor about the headaches that I’ve nursed for years, but I was also going to tell him about my depression too.

Part of me felt like a failure. Part of me felt like I was slipping dangerously close into my mother’s shoes. It probably also didn’t help that there was another voice in my head, one that belonged to someone I had once held in high regard, repeating that if I went to a doctor about depression, the doctor would report me to CPS and my children would be taken away.

Here’s the thing. I knew then, just like I know now that statement was a bunch of bullshit. But sometimes when you’re struggling, you go against your intuition. You follow the leader because it’s easier. Look, when you’re struggling just to keep your head above water, you don’t give a damn what direction you’re being towed. And that’s exactly what people who make such comments want. I know a lot about the type of people who corner you into submission for their own gain. They want you weak and powerless.

I am many things, but weak and powerless I am not. And that is what made me stand up for myself and speak my truth to the doctor.

I just told him. I told him about my struggles with headaches and with not feeling worthy. I told him about not being able to sit in brightly lit rooms when my brain decided to turn on me. I told him about my anxiety. I explained how when the pain was bad everything changed to technicolor that blurred like the lights in a 1980s recorded sporting event. I told him how the pain started in my neck then went behind my eye and lodged there like a metal spike.

And he believed me. He didn’t judge me. He didn’t think I was fishing for prescriptions.  He didn’t call CPS and try to take away my kids.

He knew what I was experiencing was real and it was a malfunction of my body and called it by its name. He said it could be treated.

He gave me a diagnosis. In fact, he gave me a few.

And some prescriptions.

And I wasn’t afraid.

I’m not my mother. I’m not held by her standard. I’m not even held by that really bad advice from someone else. I’m my own person. And right now, I need some help. And it just so happens, that help is of the chemistry kind.

The medicines were called in at the pharmacy closest to my house and ready for pick up by the time I got back in town. I started them this morning.

I don’t know if today has been weird because of the introduction of new substances to my body. Or from the weight of unpacking so much of this bullshit. Or from the impending storm (Yes! Another one!!) but it hasn’t been bad. It’s been okay. And I think I’m going to be having more okay days than I have before.

And I’m happy about that.

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Autumn Complications

It’s hard to believe if you’re living in the Carolinas like me, but it’s officially Fall.

As of today, it is October. And for all of us who relish the spookiness of autumn and winter, it’s the most wonderful time of the year.

There are skeletons and pumpkins, Halloween decorations and costumes galore. rawpixel-973117-unsplash Starbucks brought back the Pumpkin Spice Latte, Aaron Mankee is releasing weekly episodes of Lore this month, and all those great cheesy horror/comedy movies we grew up watching start airing on repeat. (Heads up, Freeform has 31 days of Halloween. You should check it out if you’re looking for something to do.)

The veil is thinning! For those of us who practice a Craft, now is like our time of the year. Mabon has just passed and Samhain is quickly on its way. If ever there was a time when we are the most grounded and closest to our beliefs, it’s this period of the year. 

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On a personal front, I’ve finally found the strength to say “Bye Felica” to my anxiety induced self-sabotage. I have actual plans to sign up for some classes at the closest witch emporium. I’m reading some kick-ass empowering books. I’m giving myself the time and space to write which in turn makes the content I’m creating better. I’m branching out and trying some new ideas which I hope will be fruitful.

Overall I think this is the prime time of 2018. I feel that’s there so much about to happen and so many things about to come into themselves.

But why am I not excited about all this?

What’s keeping me from being a witch in a crystal shop, exploding at the seams with excitement, happiness, and a sense of belonging? What name is this weight tied to my ankle, holding me back?

That weight is called Grief. And let me tell you, Dear Readers, it weighs a fucking ton.


 

November 3rd is three days after Halloween and a week before my birthday. And it’s the anniversary of the day my son died.

It was 2011 and we were still eating on the candy from trick or treating a few days before. He had been a ninja, I made his sword out of cardboard and hot glue. He had a cold. We all kind of did. He had started kindergarten and had brought home so many new germs.  It was cold that year and the leaves and been piling up for a while. Beside the small noses and straight hair, I had passed down my tree and dust allergies too.

But it wasn’t allergies. It wasn’t even really a cold. We didn’t even know what it was when we had to take him to the ER in the early morning hours.  All we knew is that he was sick. And then, a few hours later, all we knew was that he wasn’t coming home.

We wouldn’t find out it was Streptococcal Pneumonia for sure until the autopsy came back.

Those are two words that you never should have to associate together in your head. No one here should have to ever hold their child’s autopsy in their hands. It burns it’s reflection onto your eyes and deep, deep into your soul. Every parent who’s ever seen one can attest to the fact that it is not a document you every erase from your memory.


Obviously, this is a very condensed version of our personal tragedy. Every written account of it will be a condensed version.  There are words and emotions that don’t have names. And I’m not good enough of a writer to create them.

Reliving this event isn’t centralized to just November. It doesn’t just cast its shade on my birthday and Thanksgiving. The whole three month period of October, November, and December is darkened.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

October is the month of anxiety. It settles in my shoulders without my noticing. Each day that passes is a tightening of hands around my neck. I feel that it is what’s keeping me from being able to click my heels with happiness about the rolling of the seasons.

November is the month of nightmares. Each night is a drive-in theater that shows nothing but the worst day of my life. Sometimes, especially around my actual birthday day, there’s a double feature. The other movie that plays is always “A Face A Mother Wouldn’t Even Love”. It’s a biopic about a woman who does everything “right” but gets everything so wrong. My name is always the biggest in its title scene.

December is the ghost of what can never be again. It’s strained conversations over meals with a plate no one eats from. It’s choking on the well wishes and Christmas lights and trying not to cry while watching the parade in the cold.


I want to be excited and take part in the celebrations that come with this season. I want to be excited and carry on with my creepy friends.

And now, seven years later, I think I am doing better. Like I said in the opening, I’m breaking up with my anxiety. I’m exploring things I have been hesitant to before. Will I ever be the happiest pumpkin in the pumpkin patch? No, I won’t.

In the beginning of Mike Shinoda’s music video for “Ghosts,” the screen is black. You can hear him talking before you can see him. He’s sitting in front of a laptop that’s in front of a keyboard. In a rather intimate shot, his voice cracks a bit as he says, “I’ve had enough hard days. It’s like if I wake up and feel good, I shouldn’t feel guilty about having fun, ya know?”

And I feel that. I feel that in my bones. That’s how I think about the fall.

I know I won’t be able to escape this weight on my leg. I won’t be able to shake the leaves off and feel okay standing stripped down like the trees around me. Just like the eventually changing of the seasons, I won’t be able to escape it.

And I don’t want to.

I just want to feel excitement for the end of the year.

Book Review: Working Conjure: A Guide to Hoodoo Folk Magic

It’s time for another book review Dear Readers!

But before I review this book, I want to tell you how I even came to read it.

I was doing that mindless scrolling down my Facebook feed that we all do. You know the type, the not really looking at anything but not paying attention to the outside world either sort of scrolling. It’s a horrible waste of time that could be spent being productive.

One of the post I saw that day was someone talking about Working Conjure by Sen Moise. I don’t remember what page or person it was from but I remember thinking the cover looked pretty neat. And the tagline, “Find your power at the crossroads” tugged my heart a little. I briefly read the summary the person or page had included and made a mental note to try to pick up a copy when I got the chance.

Then my mindless scrolling continued. My day went on from there, taking care of people doing things, you know, the same old grind.

That night, camped out on the couch after an exceptionally tiring day of being a mama, I was scrolling through my Instagram feed when once again, I saw the cover of the book. This time it was a different person talking about it and how much they enjoyed it. Though the who’s and what’s escape me now, I remember clearly they were two different people, two different pages both talking about the same book.

Because I’m the type of person who doesn’t (often) have to be told three times, I went back to the computer and ordered a copy of the book, Working Conjure: A Guide to Hoodoo Folk Magic by Hoodoo Sen Moise

 

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It arrived a few days later and I began to read it as soon as I got the wrapper off.

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The book opens with an introductory tale about a day in the life of a Conjure man. It sets the tone for the book early. The author’s voice is personable and clear. It’s like you’re talking to an older family member around a table while you snap peas together. It reminded me of the various “uncles” that used to come around my great grandma’s house when I was a kid, but much more knowledgeable.

The book then jumps right into the meat of the issue. The first chapter answers the question What is Conjure/Hoodoo? thoroughly and with a very common sense approach. The history of Conjure/Hoodoo/Work is talked about as well as the many different aspects to it’s continued following. It’s a quick, insightful, pleasurable read.

The following chapters carry on in the same manner with the author providing personal insight and experiences that get to the heart of the practice. There’s also practical advice and instruction on how to do work. There are instructions for making mojo bags, fixing a candle for separation, a work for a simple cleansing, and a lot more.

Most of these works include the Scripture that is best used for the piece of work. This is something that threw me off a little. And I think that is a purely personal thing. I am not very close to Christianity, even though it was the religion I grew up neck deep in. Sometimes I get to black and white in my thinking.  I not sure why I was surprised at the passages being included. It’s laid out clear as day that Conjure/Hoodoo have elements of Christianity in it. Honestly, it’s feature in the book helped me tackle my own prejudice and dichotomous thinking. I’ve still got a lot to work on when it comes to that, but I think I have a good start.

And speaking of work, one of the most important ideas presented in the book is the idea that your practice is not just reading and thinking. It’s doing. Rootwork is work. You have to get your hands dirty, you have to put yourself out there and be active in your practice. You have to know your roots and know your surroundings. The chapter that goes in depth on the powers that locations have is one of my favorites. Especially the focus on graveyards. I don’t want to tell you too much about it, but there are some very good ideas and precautions in the book about doing work in and around graveyards. If you use graveyards ever in your Practice, you need to read these pages. 

The book also talks about spirit work and emphasizes the importance in the connection to our ancestors. This part of the book hit close to home for me. I have been feeling tugged towards finding out more about my ancestors. Its almost like I can feel them calling me but am not quite able to hear it. The reverence this book places on our relationships with those that came before us has inspired me to listen harder and connect better to those whose blood I share.

Working Conjure: A Guide to Hoodoo Folk Magic is a wonderful book. It does something that for me, not a lot of other books do. It gives you the tradition of the work as well as a way to implement it in the present day. And that I think is a perfect balance.

 

 

 

Diverging

I had set the alarm to go off thirty minutes earlier that morning.  I’ve never been one to sleep hard, so I chose a light twinkling sound that would be just enough to wake me up. I gathered the clothes I had laid out beside my side of the bed the night before.

You know how when you’re trying to walk quietly but it sounds like you have tap shoes on your feet? That was my struggle as I walked down the hall. I held my breath as I passed doors with sleeping children behind them.

It wasn’t until I was in the living room that I allowed myself to breathe. I quickly pulled on pants and slipped shoes on my feet. The dog lifted his head from his pillow, decided I wasn’t worth moving for and went back to sleep.  I grabbed my purse and keys from beside the door and quietly locked the door behind me.

I walked to my car in the dark. The day was more than a handful of minutes away. If I could get out of the driveway and on the road before anyone in the house realized I was gone, I’d be okay.

The car was unlocked and started easy. The shifter was stiff as I slid it into reverse and backed out of the driveway. I popped it up into drive and just like that, after all that quietness, I was gone…

To Wal-Mart.

Wait, you thought this was the story of me leaving my family and running off to be a free woman?

Oh no, this is not that story.


This is the story of waking up early to go to Wal-Mart to get cleaning supplies and some cash for yet again another school fee.

Why didn’t I just go to an ATM and get the cleaning spray later, you ask? Because my dumb bank, Bank of ABunchofFuckingIdiots, doesn’t have an ATM in my backassward town.8d1 

And when it comes to service fees I get possessed by Red Forman from That 70s Show. I will go out of my way to keep the $3 ATM fee for trying to get my own money. I shouldn’t have to pay for my own money! Or pay extra for a company to accept my payment online!

 


Now that my rant is over. I’ll be honest with you.

While driving in the dark and quiet of the predawn hours, the idea of leaving did dance in my head. I was a little dazed by how easy the idea came to me and how easy it would have been to execute. I could have just taken the car and all the shit in my purse and just keep going.  I have a phone with Google directions on it, I could have just gone anywhere. In the three-mile trek to the local superstore, my life could have totally changed.

In my life, I’ve seen a number of women who have done this very thing. They’ve uprooted themselves from their lives and just…fucking left. Like just up and, POOF, gone.

Not all of them did it with a car on a dark road. Some did it with a bottle of pills. Some did it with hookups from Craigslist. Some even did it with nothing more than their own ego. They decided one day to separate themselves from their families. And more times than not, they never came back.

And the longer you think about it and the more you tilt your head to change your view, blame becomes hard to stick on them. Being a mother is hard. It’s really fucking hard.

You take your life and you use it, for however many years it takes, to help guide someone else into theirs. You’re on call continuously. Personal time is almost nonexistent. Hell for the first nine months, your body isn’t even yours anymore. Then they spend the next forever coming into the bathroom when you’re trying to pee. The definition of personal time gets changed a whole lot.

The definition of responsibility gets changed too. Because suddenly, you are responsible for so much more than yourself and your path. Mothers are often solely responsible for the upbringing and strategic planning of that upbringing. We sign forms and check temperatures, change diapers and administer medicine. We are the boo boo kissers and the nose wipers. We encourage, discipline, maintain and inspire. And we are expected to do that all the time, as needed, every day.

So the fantasy of wandering out of frame or driving off into the sunset is a real thing. And I for one don’t feel guilty about it.

I would never leave my family. I don’t need to justify my love for them by telling you here that I love them. I would do anything for them. And in a lot of ways, I have. I lost myself in them. I’ve forgotten myself for them. I’ve taken every “right” path even when I didn’t want to or knew it would do me harm. And that’s okay. That’s what my role is. I know what my job requirements are.

But there’s still the feeling sometimes that I’d like to get away. Runaway to somewhere no one knows me by the name of “Mom” and start over. The desire to be wholly independent is sometimes palpable. The hand I got dealt in life had me being a caregiver at a young age. It’s not surprising that by now, three decades into being alive, I want to taste the lightness of being free from caregiving. I’ve been doing it for a very long time. Everyone needs a break.

But life doesn’t afford us those breaks often. And when it does, it pretty much always feels too foreign to enjoy. That’s why the fantasy of taking off and walking away is so tantalizing. It’s our little taste of escape, that when tempered correctly, hurts no one. It’s an indulgence we need to try to keep our wits about us. And with the weight we have to carry constantly, we need that help.


In the life that lies on the other side of the left-hand turn I never take, I am a professional writer. Maybe for VICE, maybe for Rolling Stone. I live in a small apartment with a pug named Deadpool. I have no children, I fill out no school forms, I have no husband. I’m happy, but it’s in a differently shaped way.

Making up the world Alternate Angela lives in does not mean I don’t love where Actual Angela is. I very much do. This life is hard and sometimes unfair. But I don’t want it to be anything but what it is.

No one has better summed up these feelings than everyone’s favorite red haired country singer, Reba McEntire. (And if she isn’t yours, go listen to “Fancy” until she is).

lyriccca


 

~Exciting News~

I’m so excited to share something with you Dear Readers!

But first, a bit of backstory.

Since before I can remember, I wanted to be a writer. Like I talked in a previous post called I Remember, I grew up thinking that I was going to be a songwriter. I spent most days jotting lyrics down in spiral notebooks. I was so sure I was going to move to Nashville once I graduated high school and get a job writing for a living.

Then the fact that I couldn’t sing or play guitar kicked that dream in the teeth.

Soon my brain put together that lyrics and poems weren’t that much different. Around the same time, I entered the dark swampland of being a teenager and had a lot more to write about. I spilled every drop of my soul I couldn’t express out loud on paper. I invested myself in stories and poem. It sounds cliche but they were my escape. So I wrote a lot.

My writing got me into Advanced Placement courses in high school and won me a few awards. Then my home life took a nose dive and I had to get a job. It was a rough time with very little room for writing. Finally, I graduated, went to college and did okay. I’d sit in the cemetery near campus and write. (Yes, I know, I’m a walking cliche) It seemed I was finally in a place to expand and explore writing.

Then I dropped out of college and into a domestic life.

It’s been a struggle getting back to what I love doing. Almost like a Lifetime movie, I had to strip away the layers of being a mom and find the woman inside. (See, I was totally not joking about being a cliche.)

That’s why what I’m about to tell you is SUCH a big deal.

I am now officially a published poet.

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Haunted Are These Houses Vol.1 is an anthology from Unnerving Magazine full of dark tales and poems all dwelling within the storytelling realm of haunted houses.

It features 22 poems and 12 short stories of creepy, disturbing goodness. And one of those poems, entitled Four Locks and Sunday Hair Pins was written by me!

My words are in there! My idea! The little universe I created is printed on those pages (and available in digital form)!!

I was also on Unnerving’s Interview Series podcast. You can find the episode I was on here.  My part starts around 40 minutes in, but you should really listen to the whole thing. Amy Lukavics is an outstanding author and last year was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award. Her new novel is called Nightingale.  It sounds incredible and I’ve added it to my To Read list.

I don’t think I can fully explain how excited I am over this.

Since I was young, I’ve wanted to be able to call myself an author.  I wanted my words to be out there. And this blog does that. The various websites I’ve had pieces published on do that (check my About Me). But this, this is a book.

I’m in a book.

I’m in a fucking book!!

This satisfies an itch I’ve had since I was just a weird little girl. It’s validation that all my daydreaming and world building has paid off.

It’s something I’ve wanted for such a long time.

And now, I want more.

I want to write and create. I want to develop and publish. I want a full book of my work.

In sports, they call it staying hungry. Now that I’ve had a taste, like a vampire locked in a crypt, I’m starving.

 

 

My Take on Starter Witch Kits

If you are part of the IWC (Internet Witchcraft Community), you’ve been seeing some drama lately. Not ever being a group that could be called boring, the latest drama circles around a witch starter kit, a makeup store, cultural appropriation and something called “gatekeeping”.
Earlier this month, make up giant Sephora and perfume brand Pinrose joined forces to publicise the launch of their new collaboration. Packaged in a shiny pastel box was Sephora’s official Starter Witch Kit.
Inside were nine tiny scents, one white sage smudging stick, a rose quartz crystal and what looked to be a pack of tarot cards.
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The kit was supposed to drop in October (cause you know, that’s basically All Things Spooky Month) and was to be priced at $42.
Sephora pimped this product hard and good. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, the seeds for excitement for the Starter Witch Kit were planted far and wide. Before long, a buzz developed.
Then that buzz turned into a roar. And that roar was from pissed off witches.
Before I go over what happened next. Let’s bring up a term that we’ve heard a lot of in the past few years.
According to Wikipedia, cultural appropriation is:
“the adoption of elements of a minority culture by members of the dominant culture. It is distinguished from an equal cultural exchange due to an imbalance of power, often as a byproduct of colonialism and oppression Particularly in the 21st century, cultural appropriation is often considered harmful, and as a violation of the collective intellectual property rights of the originating, minority cultures, notably indigenous cultures and those living under colonial rule. Often unavoidable when multiple cultures come together, cultural appropriation can include using other cultures’ cultural and religious traditions, fashion, symbols, language, and songs”
Basically, it’s that thing that Katy Perry does really, really well.
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So let’s say, you are not of Native American blood, but you put on a war bonnet because it looks cool while you’re at your shitty music festival. Or let’s say you want to fit in with the cool kids, so you go from the chick from Clueless to the girls from Friday. When you use the cultural or religious traditions of a minority culture for your personal, popularity or monetary gain, you’re appropriating it.
Now the line between appreciation and appropriation is pretty thin. What some people call appropriation others often see as the appreciation and celebration of ideas and customs. The line is thin and sometimes not always clear.

How does that play into Sephora’s Starter Witch Kit and why were all those witches mad?

The insult came from Sephora and Pinrose so blatantly taking something from Witch culture and mass marketing it. They took things that are quite often part of the being a Witch, threw some pretty shiny colors on it and had the intent to make money off of it. They chose not to cater to the people who believed in those parts of being a Witch. By calling it a “Starter Kit” the audience they targeted was one that did not and had not ever identified as witches.
Let’s take a second to break that down. There is said to be one million Pagans in America. We all know that not all Pagans are Witches and not all Witches are Pagan. So it would be safe to estimate the number of Witches in the United States is much less than one million. In contrast, the number of Christians in America is nearly 240 million. Some of those Christians might be Witches, but I’m willing to bet my left ovary most of them are not. So according to the definition of cultural appropriation (especially the “the adoption of elements of a minority culture by members of the dominant culture” part) the actions of Sephora were clear cultural appropriation.
But wait, I hear you yelling from the back, who are you to say who can and cannot use and have access to Witchcraft! Why are you gatekeeping?
For those not up with all the current Tumblr friendly lingo, gatekeeping, according to the definition that Google spat out, is “ the activity of controlling, and usually limiting, general access to something.” 
After the initial complaints about the Starter Witch Kit started popping up, other groups of people online, some witch and some not, started yelling back about gatekeeping. They used the argument that witchcraft was not a religion but instead a practice. And you can not claim ownership over a practice. Everyone should be free to have personal experiences with the practice.
They also brought up the idea that restricting the production of Witch influenced items might keep young witches from finding The Craft and discovering themselves. There could be thousands of people out there who might be inspired by the kit and go and learn about witchcraft that way. (As a personal side note, the only thing a scent collection has ever inspired me to do is throw up from a migraine, but hey, your mileage may vary)
What has been dubbed gatekeeping by those people is from a personal standpoint, something else entirely. It is not a restriction, it is a protection.
The depictions of witches and witchcraft in modern culture have very rarely beenadult-15620_640 positive. From Disney and slutty Halloween costumes to prime time TV and shitty Hobby Lobby decorations, witches hardly ever get adequate representation. Not only are we often the villains but almost every aspect of our beliefs (and there are so many to choose from) are stomped on and disrespected.
This Starter Kit is another branch of inadequate representation. Smelling pretty and burning sage does not make you a witch. Thinking you can make someone a witch with mass-produced products that carry with them no actual knowledge is problematic. There’s a lot of study and dedication that go into witchcraft. It’s not an episode of American Horror Story or Charmed. A person can’t pick up a kit and suddenly start doing spells. You aren’t a normal person one moment and a witch another. It just doesn’t work like that.
The idea of money being made on this misrepresentation feels wrong. It feels like a big company who has no idea about or real interest in the importance of history trying to make a quick buck. I shouldn’t have to remind you of all the struggles Witches have had in this country. I shouldn’t have to remind you of the struggles we still face. I also shouldn’t have to remind you that right now, in 2018, people are murdered for being Witches in this world. The seriousness of being a Witch is lost on Sephora by choosing to have a product as silly as a Starter Witch Kit. Its tone deaf and out of touch, which just feeds into the misrepresentation that the world already carries.
There were also arguments that we should support any small business (like Pinrose) ran by women who are getting a break. And by being upset over this Starter Witch Kit, we were turning our backs on those people. This is a hard pill to swallow. I totally and firmly believe in supporting small business. But when that small business is doing something I don’t believe in, or that offends me, don’t I have a right to not support them? If we can stop going to restaurants and put people on blast because of their political persuasions, shouldn’t we also be able to choose which company’s products we support or not? Is being in the “Girls Club” more important than listening to your own feelings?
For every argument raised by the people upset about the kits, there is a group who has a counter argument. I, personally, was pretty upset over these kits. I felt they were disrespectful. The whole idea of them making money off something so close to so many people’s hearts and souls felt gross. Using something so personal and so important for monetary gain without actually honoring those that live it leaves such a bad taste in my mouth. This whole experience is a great example of something sacred being diluted and deformed for masses. And that, no matter how you cut it, is wrong.
In the end, Sephora and Pinrose canceled the product. The Starter Witch Kit will not be popping up makeup shelves near you in the future. Sephora will have to reach their October “spooky” quota by other means.
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The debate it’s caused, however, will live on. Where is the line between appreciation and appropriation? What is being protective and what is gatekeeping? What are we going to allow the mainstream to define us as? What are we willing to accept before we say enough is enough?
All I want is that we as a community work together to make strides in being taken seriously. We need to focus on how to find our place in mainstream culture and, more importantly, among ourselves. Our magick is bigger and more important than a poorly thought out product.  We don’t need Starter Kits.
We’re witches. We’ve been it all along.

 

Magickal in the Practical: Storm Water

As of the date of this writing, the Mid Atlantic states are preparing for what could be a catastrophic hurricane. Florence is scheduled to hit later this week with winds in the 140+ mph range. Since flooding and damaging winds are almost a certainty, some coastal areas in North and South Carolina are being evacuated. Interstate 26 east, the artery of traffic that takes you from Columbia SC to Charleston SC, closed early Tuesday to allow for the reversal of lanes to expedite in process. That’s how serious this is.

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Hurricane Florence

I live in South Carolina. I’m about 2 and half hours from the coast, so we are pretty far inland. Basically, if you look at a map of both of the Carolinas and go about a half of pinky fingernail south from Charlotte, NC that’s where I am.

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However, the forecast for my area is still warning of potential flooding and damaging winds. Like all things, forecasts change. We could see nothing but drizzle from this storm. Or like Hurricane Hugo in 1989, we could get swapped and be without power for days. Mother Nature works in mysterious ways.

Since it’s looking like we are going to get enough rain over the next week to end the slight drought we’ve been in, I figured this would be a great time to talk about magickal uses for Stormwater.

Storm water, simply, is the rain collected during a storm. It sounds simple enough. Put a jar or bucket outside during a rainstorm and gather the water. Or build a system of pipes to collect the runoff from your house. Either way the how is not the biggest part. The what and the why are.

As a side note, some States do have laws that restrict the collection of rainwater. I don’t think anyone is going to bust you for a few Mason jars worth of rain, but it might be wise to check with the laws in your area.

Different types of storms produce different types of storm water. Each type of storm water has its own usage.

There are typically three types of storm water: calm water, thunderstorm water, and fierce water. Below are explanations and uses for each other.

Calm Water

“All I can say is that my life is pretty plain, I like watching the puddles gather rain.”

Calm water comes from those showers that come in easy and leave the same way. The nourishment from these pleasant interludes of rainfall keeps the green things green and the soil moist. This is the same type of water that lulls us to sleep on a rainy night. Just as it is in the physical world, in Magick calm water works the same way. This water is best used when your work needs calming energy. It can be used to ease emotional issues, encourage peaceful sleep, and to stimulate growth. I personally collect water every time there’s an easy storm and use it to water my indoor plants with.

Thunderstorms

“Lightning crashes and a new mother cries”

Thunderstorms typically straddle the line because beautiful and terrifying. Ranging in intensity from low rumbles to sound so loud that your heart skips a beat storm water from a thunderstorm can add an extra boost of energy to any work you are trying to do. The power boost of being from a thunderstorm can aid in protection work. It’s good whenever you need a powerful boost and a neutral energy.

Fierce Water

“Am I the calm or the hurricane?”

Falling from the angriest and most powerful of skies, the water from tornados and hurricanes is fierce water. It’s powerful water. In it is the displacement of so much energy and motion that it’s perfect for darker, left hand magick. (Save your fluffy judgment. It’s all about balance, baby). If your work involves breaking or asserting control this is the storm water to use. If you are looking for extra power to break or cause (once again, the right and left hands work together) manipulation and/or confusion, fierce water can be used.

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Storing storm water is easy. The stereotype that witches love jars is funny because it’s often true. After collecting your storm water, you can keep it in any of your favorite jars. You can even keep it in plastic jugs if that’s all you have. I personally have an overabundance of glass spaghetti jars. That’s what I often use.

Because storm water is so powerful, you don’t need to use a lot at one time. A little bit will do what you need to do usually. So what you have on hand will last for a long while.

While storm water is one of the easiest things to harvest, it can also be one of the most powerful. The power that lies within Nature and the elements is so strong and wonderful that harnessing it only makes sense. Appreciate the power in storm water and use it wisely.

Lyrics quoted:
“No Rain” by Blind Melon
“Lightning Crashes” by Live
“House on Fire” by Rise Against

Hobby Horses

You’re probably wondering why I felt the need to write about a child’s toy. Seeing as I’m surrounded by them constantly, maybe the title leads you to think I am an aficionado. That’s not quite the case.

The only thing I am an aficionado of is messes. So clearly, this is not about stuffed horses heads on sticks.
In this context, hobby horse means a preoccupation or a favorite topic. It’s something you’re excited about, something you’re always thinking and talking about. It is that one thing you devote what little and precious spare time you have to.

For some people, it’s sports. For other’s its music. For some, it’s art or working out, or celebrity gossip. For some weirdos, it’s watching buff dudes in usually small tights throw other buff dudes around.

Whatever it is, whatever spark it lights in your emotions, it’s important. And I’m going to explain why.

I was having a conversation the other day with my #bestwitchforlife (yep, that’s our thing, lol) and she was very excitedly telling me about the beef between Eminem and MGK. Neither one of us are big rap fans, but she was really really into this. And because she was so excited about it, I was too. I spent a good few minutes watching diss videos and reading background info on the situation.

At one point during the conversation, she apologized for being so wrapped up in it. And that was something that got my attention.

Why do we feel the need to apologize for being really excited about something? Why do we feel guilt over our hobby horses?

Everyone has a hobby horse. Like I said earlier, it could be sports or art or vintage talking boards. Sometimes it’s as mellow as gardening and sometimes it’s as loud as motorcycles. We have things that we like and that excites us. So naturally, we want to share this with the people around us. And when we do, we shine. Our excitement and happiness raise us up.

But it seems, that the moment you express it there’s someone standing there ready to tell you how stupid it is. There are naysayers that want to snub out your excitement over something the way they would a cigarette. They don’t want you to enjoy one second of spreading the name of your hobby horse. And I think I know why.

There is a huge amount of society that has no desire to see someone else succeed. And that’s because they feel inadequate. They might say they want you to do and be good, but what they really mean is they want you not to be better than them.

It’s not even business or monetary success they are jealous over. It’s that shine. That feeling you get when you’re excited with the pleasure of your hobby horse. When you’ve brushed it and watered it and gotten it all saddled up to go. That’s when they reach out like a viper and strike it down.

Dull people, those without a shine, often try to find a way to make themselves better than those of us that shine. It’s a way for them to distract from the fact that they don’t have something to shine about. But like putting lipstick on a pig, it does nothing to cover up the fact that they are sad people.

Some of us have been so inundated by the reactions (or in some cases, the none reactions) of those around us who want to snuff the shine, that we keep our hobby horses in their stables. We feed and water them still, but we only let them out when we’re alone. We devote time to them, but only undercover. So when something happens and that hobby horse shows up in conversation, we are quick to shoo it away, put it back in the closet. The pain of getting manure thrown on your shine radiants long after the incident.

And I think that is one of the greatest travesties of our time. We are made to feel that we can’t share our passions, of any degree. We must dampen ourselves because our excitement offends those who don’t shine at all.

There is no guilt in being a fan. There is no guilt in being passionate about something. There is no guilt in being slightly obsessed with something.

Read the books, watch the sports, get lost in the juicy slices of celebrity beef.

Our time on Earth is limited to just a handful of years. We must be the ones who decide how we spend it. Hard drugs and acts of violence and cruelty aside, there is no wrong way to live your life. There is also no right way. There’s just your way.

So keep on shining.

One Week Down

Let’s take a break from the heavy hitting posts and talk about the fact that the Conjure and Coffee Crew has made it through the first week of school.

I don’t know the schools for the area you are in, Dear Reader, so all these whinings and observations will be about the district we live in here at Casa de Conjure.border11This year, our little dude, who I introduced to you about a year ago as D-Man, is a kindergartner! He is a very quirky, smart, and funny little dude who has a love for Minecraft, video games, and coloring inside the lines. Yes, I said inside the lines. It’s crazy, I know. He’s so good at problem-solving it astonishes me. He is a really big fan of puzzle games and often when he asks for help, I just am not able to help him. He’s also kind and emotional, like any 5 year old is. As a middle child, I think he has a tendency to feel he has to be loud to be heard.

As much as I love him and believe in his intelligence, I really was fearful that going to school would be hard for him.

Like the other children, he’s never been to daycare and honestly, hasn’t even spent many nights outside the house. We aren’t isolationists by choice as much as by circumstance. The Husband has been a night worker since before the babies were born. Coupled with having one car and very limited child care resources, we’ve just kind of always lived in our own world.

And with things this year being so stressful with my husband and his illness battle, I was worried that the adjustment to being a more formal setting would be hard on him.

However, it seems that he’s doing pretty well. The school the kids attend is pretty damn great and has made him feel empowered and at home. The teachers and administrators there are some of the best I’ve ever encountered. I have connected to his class via the Class Dojo app so I can check in on how his day is going and communicate with his teacher whenever I need to. So I can see when he gets a =1 for helping others or a -1 for hallway behavior. Both of which happened within the same day.

I suspect that there’s going to be some bumps in the road at some point. And that’s ok. That’s expected. Honestly, it’s something I think is encouraging. Finding the right fit for a child in the world of academia is important. It’s not easy, it often doesn’t feel good, but by the gods, it’s important.Text Dividers_Part 2-11JoBean is now 10 and an official 5th grader. And I feel that if he knew I was referring to him as JoBean he’d roll his eyes at me. This is his last year in elementary school. And man, what a time it’s been. I feel that we are at a place where his ADHD is being controlled pretty well. I think he has emotionally matured a lot this summer. I do know he’s got the pre-teen angst down pretty well. He only thinks I’m embarrassing about 40% of the time.

He hasn’t had any emotional breakdowns so far. For the most part, he has done well at following directions. He did manage to forget to bring home important things twice in the first week. At some point, I think I’ve just accepted that he’s someone who needs constant reminding about things. I think the teachers and counselors at the school understand this too.

This will be his last year with a group of people who know him, his inner workings, and know how to handle them. Next year, it’s a new school a new set of rules and a new group of teachers and administrators. That scares the shit out of me.

All the progress we have made fitting him into his educational family is going to be erased and we will have to start over. There’s also the chance that the school will have a larger population of students. Next year for sure is sink or swim. And I’m not letting my boy sink, no matter how hard I have to swim.

But that’s all next year. This year, we’re going to focus on what needs to be done. For JoBean, school is like an archaeological dig. Each time he’s there and applies himself, we find out something new. Inspiring him to keep digging is going to be hard work, but I can be pretty damn inspiring when I need to be.

Text Dividers_Part 2-07Little MarMar is slowly adjusting to both brothers being gone all day. She’s been a little clingier, a little more attention seeking, and a little wilder. I had thought that with both boys out of the house during the day she’d be rolling in enjoyment. I guess she’s adjusting too. While she is usually at odds with at least one of the boys at any given time. They are her best and truest friends. And while its true that it won’t be much longer until she’s in school herself, right now it’s a little difficult. But we will get through it. Even if it means watching Moana every day. E.V.E.R.Y.D.A.Y

You’re welcome.Text Dividers_Part 2-04The movement of time is never more evident than it is in the growth of the children we love. We must remember they are not ours. We do not own these little personality machines. To us, they are borrowed until they find their way and learn the notes to their own song of life.

This first week has been a good start on them finding their vibe. I hope that for the rest of the year, things go the way they should. I do not wish them, and the rest of the students, the best. No, I wish them enough. Enough to keep working, dreaming, and searching.

 

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Keep grinding, kiddos.

One week at a time.

I’ve got your backs.

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