Considering October: Update

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The October Challenge has gone okay so far. The first week went well except for the writing and exercise portion. I hit a major hiccough last weekend when first Jonathan, then I, got a stomach bug. Then a wisdom tooth that had been emerging became infected, which has put us in a bit of a financial tailspin, again, as I don’t have dental coverage.

I’ll admit–I allowed myself about 36 hours of “feeling my feelings”—i.e. crying, journaling, and just being. I have a tendency to label that as a ‘pity party’ or ‘being a baby’ but I put a stop that language. It is what it is, and it’s healthy, as long as moving forward is the goal. So on Tuesday I picked up what wasn’t washed away and decided to start changing things.

That’s one aspect of witch-ing that I love. It has taught me practice, it has taught me action, and that while the winter ground seems dead, it most certainly is not.

I pray to Brid and to Aphrodite. I light a candle for Hestia, honor the ancestors, greet the local spirits, and ask for advice and occasionally favors—but I don’t rely on it. I know that I am the agent of change in this equation. All of the favor in the world, all of the prayers and supplications and spells and ritual mean very little without a desire to act.

I evaluated our needs: money. I considered our situation. I’m a breastfeeding mother of a newborn, so I can’t go anywhere. That leaves working at home. What skills do I have? I can write, and I can sit in front of a computer. That leaves freelance writing, content mills and product reviews.  As of yesterday I’ve signed up for a few more promising leads. We’ll see where it goes.

I’m sure that the next few weeks of October will be about learning to fit it all in.

Considering October

There are roughly five weeks until Hallowe’en, another six until astrological Samhain. Like I mentioned in my What I Did This Summer post, I felt like I ‘looked down’ in April and didn’t look up again until last week. And that was fine, for awhile. I basically was in a ‘fuck it all’ period of my life, with regards to everything save keeping my family alive (read: sort of fed).

But now, it’s time for that to change.

I used to love making big to-do lists and calenders, chock full of unreasonable goals and stupid expectations. I did this for school, dieting, cleaning the house, gardening, spirituality. For many years after I realized I had Failed Perfectionist syndrome (if I can’t do it perfect I’m just NOT GOING TO DO IT AT ALL WHY ARE YOU BOTHERING ME LEAVE ME ALONE) I just let those ‘disciplines’ in life happen organically. And that’s good, too. That’s where I land most of the time, and guess what? Being an adult of sound mind, most of the time, shit gets done like it needs to. I eat well, exercise moderately, clean my dishes, love my husband and kids, observe my religion.

After such a long period of ‘fuck-it-all’ I’d like to re-orient a bit. I feel like I’ve lost True North. Also–Nano starts in November. After taking last year off, I’m chomping at the bit for 30 days of literary abandon. To be successful in November, I need to dedicate some of October to preparation.

The trick is creating discipline that I’ll implement. For me, that it means it has to be intuitive, flexible and simple. But since I want this to be more intentional (groan, I hate that word, because this) it also needs to be a bit more….set apart.

So, I did come up with a calender to post on my fridge ( I need CONSTANT reminder about these type things). But it’s pretty simple. Daily devotionals, week-long health habits, easy exercise to follow, writing prompts and household chore that repeat weekly. Here’s a screenshot:

october screenshotI’m excited. I am not putting time expectations on anything except the at-least-10-minutes of activity the first few weeks. That keeps it flexible. With the chaotic nature of two young children, I’m hoping that the daily writing exercises help me make space for writing in November. A trial run, if you will.

I’ll keep you guys posted on how things go. Things are already behind—I had hoped for a morning devotional and I have 8 minutes left—but that’s the nature of these things, no?

Recipe: Creamy Sauteed Mushrooms, a la Meagan

True story: I used to hate mushrooms. Just looking at them gave me the shudders.

My hatred turned into a hesitant like, then love, a few years ago. J and I were at an Italian restaurant, and J, being a Mushroom Lover, ordered stuffed mushrooms baked in a pesto cream sauce. They arrived at the table, the steam redolent of basil, Parmesan and Italian sausage. My  mouth watered a little bit, and as I have a policy of trying foods I hate once a year, I decided this cheesy concoction was my best bet.

So I tried one. I hesitantly moved it onto my appetizer plate. Cut into it with my steak knife. Dipped the slice in the cream sauce, and haltingly (this sounds dramatic, but I kid you not—I really hated mushrooms!) moved the fork towards my mouth.

Then? Well. Earthy, herby, creamy bliss. I started to like them then—on a trial basis—but my affection has grown steadily ever since.

Now, mushrooms remind me of autumn.  They pair well with traditional autumn seasonings like sage and thyme. They’re even nicely symbolic of the dark season, since they grow without light. Since it actually feels like autumn here (I’m continually amazed!) I picked up a huge box of Baby Bellas at Costco and have been enjoying them for days.

Here’s my favorite easy mushroom recipe, which is less of a recipe and more of a…method? Enjoy.

Creamy Sauteed Mushrooms, a la Meagan

Ingredients:

(This is a very elastic recipe–do with the amounts what you like)

2 tbsp butter

8 oz. (ish) Baby Bellas, de-stemmed and sliced

1 clove garlic, smashed and minced

Generous sprinkle sea salt, thyme (fresh is best, but dried is fine). Fresh parsley is a nice finishing touch if you have it.

Splash of red wine, dry white wine, or cognac

~1 tbsp Whole grain or dijon mustard

2-4 tbsp Heavy cream

Directions:

1. Melt butter in pan.

2. Add sliced mushrooms, toss in butter. Add salt and herbs.

3. Add a couple of tablespoons of wine. Be aware that mushrooms expel water as they heat, so don’t add too much liquid or it’ll get soupy. Let it cook for a few minutes.

4. Finish it off. First, stir in the mustard.  Then add 2-4 tbsp. of cream to thicken the sauce. Cook for another minute or so before taking off the heat.

—–

Note: this recipe is AWESOME when made as a topping for steak. Simply pan-sear a steak then continue this recipe in the pan with the steak drippings.

Note 2: I tried taking pictures buuuuuut….the lighting in the apartment kitchen is terrible. Plus, the mushrooms were so good that I only got two horrible photos before they were gone. Rest assured, they’re delicious.)

Note 3: The Kitchn’s What Are Cremini Mushrooms blew my mind.

What I Did This Summer.

Quote from the last post, April 23:

And really, it is. If all we ever wanted to do was pay the bills. We were young and naive when we bought this place. It’s not more than we can afford—it is exactly what we can afford, with just enough to save a bit. And by a bit, enough to keep us afloat whenever we have an extra medical bill or car repair, but no more than that. And what with life teaching us some (harsh, valuable) lessons in the past year we’ve realized that if anything truly catastrophic happened we’d be shit-outta-luck.

Ah, words of divine-knowing.

The good news is that we sold our house, very quickly, in May. We closed in the beginning of June, moved into an apartment and planned to keep waiting for a lot that we wanted to build on to pop up in the listings. It was a stressful time, to sell the house, to sell half of our stuff, to move/downsize, to be pregnant and have a toddler. But as we settled in I knew, J and I knew, that we had made the right decision.

On July 2nd I was at a good friend’s house (who is a part-time coworker of J’s), watching our kids knock around the backyard, when she got a phone call from work. And I knew. I just…knew. She looked at me and whispered, “Call J.”

I called him. But I already knew. His workplace was shutting down on July 31st. I laughed, at the time, because it was one of those things that was such a long time coming that you think it’s never really going to happen. But it did. We drank watermelon margaritas with good friends, and our children ran amok in the sprinklers. If you have to take news of catastrophic job loss, that’s the way to do it.

Soon after, my mom began telling me that my uncle, the one that helped my Mom and Dad with taking care of my grandma (their -only- help taking care of my grandma), was having a lot of pain. Long story short, he went into the hospital on July 4th. He left for the Otherside on August 9th. It was fast, and it was painful, and it was hard.

During this time, I was 36, 37, 38, 39…40…41…and finally, 42 weeks pregnant (again—I apparently have a very comfy womb). I rolled into the hospital on September 4th with my orders of induction and demanded to get this baby out of me NOW!

Which they did. In the midst of a lot of shit, I had the exact labor I wanted. It was beautiful, peaceful and short (comparatively–only 13 hours!)

I went home with a beautiful newborn. With two nights at Hospital Hotel under my belt I felt pretty refreshed.

And started feeling…weird once I got home.  Sweats. Cold flashes. Weird dreams about Eric Northman (no joke–and I haven’t watched True Blood for a year!). I had been home for one day, behaving all sorts of weird, when I finally decided I should take my temperature. 101.4. No way this is not happening can’t one thing just go right goddammit! I took it again. I took the blankets off (I was having chills at the time), drank some water (yes, I know, cheating the test) and…100.8. I called the doc. They told me to go back to the hospital, two days after being released.

I admit. I cried. Ugly cried. And eventually we cobbled together the help we needed to watch C, and J, Eleanor and I headed off to the hospital, again.

—–

I have been struggling this summer with expectations. Expectations of how life was going to happen and how it spectacularly did not turn out the way I imagined. This lesson began with my first miscarriage in March 2012. And continued with the second in September 2012. And the lesson continued, and continued, and continued. We, I, would make plans and they’d just blow up in our faces.

I don’t feel like I lived this summer really as much as survived it. I looked down in mid-June and looked up and it was September 21, the night before Autumn. And when I looked up again I had another child, a three-year old I’m not sure how to parent, an apartment (with not-a-yard! this is hard with a toddler!), my Uncle is dead, and our future, as a family, is uncertain. Will we move to Seattle, San Antonio, Houston, California, Virginia? Will we move in with one of our parents? Shit, are we going to go broke?

During all of this…chaos?…I have reminded myself to be thankful. We had some DIVINE good timing in selling our house. We made a nice profit which we are now living on (though we had plans for it to be a down payment on property–whatever, thankful we have it). Thankful that we have parents that would welcome us if things got dicey. Thankful that we don’t have debt, that we have friends who love us, that our marriage is strong.

But I’m not going to lie and say that I just feel so thankful-zen. I’m not. Most days, I work through whatever emotions I’m having. There’s gratitude, contentedness and a lot of happiness. The bitterness I felt in July has subsided into determination, which is much more pleasant and proactive than hating the world. But I’d be lying if I said that there aren’t some dark places, and dark days, when it feels like we’re on the edge of a chasm with no rope.

—–

I’ve thought a lot about what Paganism/polytheism/whateverlabel has to offer in times like this. It’s something that I’m interested in exploring in the coming months. Way too complex of a topic for this already-too-long post. Suffice to say sometimes I’ve found an abundance of wisdom, sometimes I’ve felt disconnected and cold. Mostly that’s just being human. But it’s a topic worth exploring—what is Paganism/whateverlabel when times are hard? Is there comfort from the gods? Should I expect there to be?

—–

It’s been six months and two full seasons since my last post. Spring and summer disappeared in a blur.

But now it’s Autumn. It even feels like Autumn, which is crazy for Texas. Usually Mabon is hot and muggy. This year it’s crisp and cool.

Autumn, even with its associations of harvest and dying, is a happy time for me. It’s a spiritually potent time, a time to lay to rest the previous year, a time to rest and recoup. I’m planning on enjoying it.  Honestly, I’m trying not to have any expectations of what life is going to bring. I’m just going to try to let it go, for now, and see what comes.

The Wind, The Wind.

The wind is blowing. I’m home alone, drinking a nice glass of wine from the winery I work at. The TV is off. The husband is gone. The babe is asleep. I think if we had our Yule tree up the twinkle lights and resinous aroma would make me feel cozy. But being alone, in the quiet, with the restless wind and the fat red waning gibbous (the fourth night in a row the moon has hung low, fat, and red) makes me feel…un-quiet.

When I listen these days I feel that there is a sense of unease in the land. I’m always hesitant to do anything about it, because what do I know of the bigger picture? I’m a peon, at best. But still, we had a mild, wet summer and now we’re having a hot, dry winter. The winds blow at night. There is dense fog and mist in the morning. The afternoon sun is bright and intense, even as we wane into Winter Solstice. This is unusual, even in a land of variable weather. It’s not winter here. We’ve been in a liminal state since July.

The restlessness of the land, of the spirits, dawned on me a few nights ago. Maybe it was the fool moon, or the high clouds racing across the sky, but as I looked up into the night I had the distinct thought that…the ancestors would be easy to hear tonight. The veil is still very thin.

And maybe that is one blessing of such a topsy-turvy year, is that through this whole season, even when I haven’t been seeking them out, everything—the very atmosphere—has felt thin, permeable, evanescent. Like the seasons are having a hard time transitioning, something is having a hard time letting go, giving up, surrendering.

Halloween/Samhain

Today is Halloween. Obviously.

Halloween and Samhain are two of my favorite holidays of the year. But this year…not so much. This October I haven’t had time to think about Halloween or Samhain (more important, in my perspective) at all. I went from working one weekend this month to four, both days (that’s 14-20 hours added to each week, no break), add-on to that your usual life stuff, plus renovating the dining room, planning a party, and making Claire a costume…I mean, right now, as I’m writing this, I’m exhausted. I’m pissed/hurt because C didn’t want to wear the costume I spent precious time and money making. I’m on a bit of a sugar crash….and…well, the thought of a ritual, anything beyond…I don’t know, sitting outside in the dark, seems overwhelming. These aren’t ‘excuses’, yes, this stuff is in my control, but what I’m saying is…I let this month get completely out of control. Seriously. I’m sitting here kind of wondering what the fuck happened.

So I was trying to get in the right headspace to do something when I came across the first few lines in *this* blogpost: I would like to start off by saying that Halloween is NOT the “Witches Holiday”. Halloween is a holiday for little children to get candy, and for Adults to decorate their houses with scary witch and ghost figures. —Steven Day

And then I thought, Duh, Meagan. Just…just, duh. Calm your silly, stressed out, tired ass down. Tomorrow is Samhain. Tomorrow is the Day of the Dead. Tomorrow, not tonight, not when I have to crowbar justonemorething in. It’s not that profound a sentiment, it’s one that I’ve always operated on. Halloween is for kids, Samhain is for spiritual/religious purposes. It’s not either or. It’s not black and white. And your practice, which you love, shouldn’t feel like another weight on your shoulders. Another have-to, another gotta-get-it-done, another check on the to-do list. Blech! Yuck! I’d rather not practice anything than for it to become so rote, so tedious. And really, it’s not. One of my greatest joys, deepest pleasures, is my spiritual practice. To say that one reason October became so out of control is because I largely abandoned it, abandoned the bigger picture, probably isn’t far off the mark.

Tomorrow will be my ritual, tomorrow will be the day that I honor the ancestors and say goodbye to summer (though you wouldn’t know it here…it went from chilly to hot). Tomorrow night will be the night that I sit in stillness and contemplate the Great Silence that is death.

Tonight? Tonight is for looking at the moon in the after trick-or-treat stillness. Tonight is for catching up on Supernatural, washing the hairspray out of my hair, thanking the household spirits for their good work this past month, reading a book…

And drinking a big, Tami Taylor-sized glass of wine.

Blessings on your Halloween night. Dark blessings as your honor your dead tonight and throughout this week.

 

Cinnamon Sugar Pecans

Cinnamon-Sugar Pecans—the stuff that dreams, Renaissance Faires and Roquefort-Pear Salad are made out of (please, try that salad–it’s absolutely divine, no matter what pantheon you worship).  Lucky for you, and your post-Renaissance Faire budget, they are very easy to make. They’re also a tasty gift, a nice touch to add to salads and sweet casseroles, and an easy, appetizing dish to include in your upcoming holiday parties from Samhain to Imbolc. Really, you can’t lose.

Cinnamon-Sugar Pecans (or any nuts)

1 pound pecans*

1 egg white, whipped till frothy

1 c. sugar, white

1 to 2 tsp. cinnamon

generous sprinkle sea salt

Directions

1. Set your oven to 200. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.

2. In a large bowl, whip the egg white until frothy. Add the pecans, toss to coat.

3. In a separate bowl, mix together the sugar, cinnamon and salt.

4. Add the sugar mixture to the egg whites and pecans. Toss until thoroughly coated. Spread evenly on the baking sheet. Bake for at least an hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Remove from oven when the pecans are very fragrant and the sugar shell is hard.

* You can definitely size this recipe for whatever amount you need. I’ve quartered it, halved it, etc. and it’s always turned out great.  Just remove the amount of egg white or add an egg white per pound.

*Also, you can apply it to different nuts, but be aware that because of varying fat content some nuts (like cashews) might burn easier, so check more often.

Enjoy! I know that I’ll be giving these to friends as gifts around Yule and Christmas and adding them to any dish that I can possibly get away with!