Book Review: I’ll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamara

I didn’t pick up I’ll Be Gone In The Dark because I read true crime books. Out of all the genres of books in the world, true crime is one of my least favorite. I’m not a practical thinker. I’m not one for procedures. It’s hard for me to stick to the actual and not lose interest when strategies and laws and formalities start getting explained. When things get analytical, I nope out.

That’s not to say I do not love the genre in other forms though. I’m a child of the Unsolved Mysteries, American’s Most Wanted Generation. I love true crime TV shows and will spend hours watching documentaries. I absolutely love true crime podcasts. Most of my podcast feed is true crime in nature right now.  And I’ve spent a good chunk of time scrolling through online websites and forums devoted to crimes and cases, suspects and victims. But with the exception of The Devil In The White City, I haven’t touched a true crime book in years.

That was until I heard that a comedian/actor who I’ve been fond of for a long while had lost his wife unexpectedly. We’ve had some close calls recently, so the fear of losing my husband is forefront in my mind.(I’m a nervous wreck and worry all the time, so  what’s one more horrible thing to worry about right?)

As I was following that story, I found another story, tucked inside it.

It was a story about a woman who ordained herself a writer as a young teenager and was inspired to slip into the world of true crime by the nearby murder. It was about a night stalker whose 12-year campaign robbed the residents of a section of Califonia of their sleep, sanity, and in some cases, their lives. It was a story about dedication to clues and advances in science and about never giving up. It was a story about a serial killer who was obsessed. It was a story about a woman who in chronicling that obsession, became obsessed herself.

That woman was Michelle McNamara.

And her obsession was the Golden State Killer/ East Area Rapist/ Original Night Stalker.

One of the first things I said to my husband after I started reading it was “Holy shit, Michelle McNamara was a hell of a writer.” The story of the Golden State Killer (a name McNamara coined herself) is interesting on its own but has enough dates and location changes that it could read like an entry in the most boring of textbooks.

McNamara makes sure that doesn’t happen. Her ability to take police report data and turn it into a narrative that as intriguing as any classic whodunit is almost magical. She weaves the horrible crimes committed by the EAR (one of the many names for the Golden State Killer) with not only stories of the victims and neighbors, but about the officers, detectives, forensic scientists, and online sleuths that spent years if not decades on the case. She focuses not only on their methods but how the case affects them as people. How the case seeps into the pores of their careers and forever leaves a mark on who they are as people.

She doesn’t leave herself out either. She cast the lens as sharply on herself as she does the killer or any other side character in the book. She is not afraid to show her faults or the dark side of what an obsession like this does to someone. Her devotion to bringing justice is on full array, and so is it’s price tag. Tales of events left and anniversaries forgotten show the impact McNamara’s devotion to justice had on her life.

Just like the reality of her devotion, the details of the crimes are not sugarcoated either. Taken straight from victim statements and police reports, every detail of the heinous crimes of the Golden State Killer is put on display. His actions, and inactions, are laid out not as a case study but rather like a really great episode of Law and Order. The retelling of the horrible events almost feels like fictional stories sometimes while you are reading. Then it hits you. These horrible things happened. This isn’t a scripted show. This was an actual period in time when one man terrorized an entire section of California. And then, years later, mentally perplexed so many people all over the world.

That’s one of the things that kept making me have to put the book down while I was reading. I would get so invested in the story that when the people of the book would reach out and connect with me, it was like a slap in the face. McNamara stopped being just an author. I felt like I knew her after reading the book for a very short while. I felt like I was there, researching and writing along with her, as the book unfurled. So when every so often, the Editor’s Notes would start a new chapter, my heart would pause. Those would be the moments when I would have to remember that the woman I’m reading isn’t sitting on the other end of the keyboard, or at her home with her daughter and husband. She’s not on a book tour or getting ready to do interviews for the upcoming HBO documentary. She also not relishing in the fact that the man that did all the horrible crimes that her book was written about was finally apprehended.

Michelle McNamara passed away in 2016 before the book was even finished. In 2017, in the closing of the book, the editors who pieced together her work to create the finished project vowed not to stop until they got his name. In April of 2018, Joseph James DeAngelo was arrested for being the suspected Golden State Killer, thanks to new DNA information.

This story is still growing and evolving. And I feel that we owe it to the victims and their families as well as Michelle and hers to make sure we see it to the end.



The Blood Moon Eclipse

Excitement abounds!

Tonight is the night of the Blood Moon Eclipse!

Overnight from January 20th to the 21st, the Moon, who happens to look a bit larger thanks to its Supermoon status, will turn a bloody dull red color as it slips into the Earth’s shadow. The event will be visible in North and South America. Parts of Western Europe and African will also get to see the event as well.  

According to the site TimeandDate, for me, the partial eclipse will start at 10:33 pm with the moon getting a little red. The party will really begin around 11:41 pm when the total eclipse starts. It will reach it peak around 12:12 am and from there on start to decrease.

(Short unsolicited plug for that website: Just plug in your zipcode and boom! It will tell you the times, direction, altitude, and give you a nifty animation of the eclipse. And if you are boxed it, there are links for a live stream of the event so you watch from home. I stumbled upon via a google search and it looks to be a really handy tool.)

I am pretty psyched about the eclipse.
One, because duh, it’s a moon event. It’s pretty common knowledge, witches love moon events. I’m totally one of those “Hey look at the moon!” type people.

And two, it gives me something to look forward to, and a small goal to set in the continued effort to make myself better.

Staying awake at night is one of my current struggles. I have never been a night person, but recently? It’s like a hundred times worse.

Not an actual picture of me, but close enough.

I don’t know how much of it is related to emotional exhaustion and how much of it is actually being tired, but once it gets dark and we get the kiddos to bed, my brain pretty much shuts off. All of my evening plans get canceled and I end up pre-sleeping on the couch before I shuffle off to bed to sleep some more. And to top it off, that sleep isn’t even restful! It’s frustrating having a sleep schedule that rivals that of a retirement community when you physically have a lot to do and so many ideas you want to accomplish.

So this rare occurrence gives me something to strive to stay up for. Unlike the 20/20 on Jim and Tammy Bakker that I really wanted to watch that other night, I really feel I can achieve this.  (Listen, they were local and it was a huge scandal. Tammy Faye and her full face of makeup can never be forgotten. Also, I love stories about disgraced pastors. It’s a guilty pleasure I will never feel sorry for.)

My plan tonight is pretty simple. Seeing as how I’m more of a play it by ear witch than a ritual specialist, I plan to just spend some time observing the Eclipse. I’m going to take out some of my crystals out for charging, burn a new palo santo stick, and, until the cold makes me too uncomfortable, recharge myself under the Blood Moon.

While I am not an astrologist, I do accept that the eclipse and the full moon are agents of change. They are symbols that everything is in flux and that sometimes we have to be open to the shake-up of cyclic nature of the world around us. They are a reminder that all things, all ideas and more importantly, all struggles, are temporary. We are forever changing and experiencing growth. And if the Moon can travel into the path of the Earth, and change her color, while in the middle of her shape changing dance, we can change the things about us that we are struggling with.

And I don’t know about you, but that’s pretty damn inspirational.

I hope no matter where you are Dear Readers, you take advantage of the Magick of the Blood Moon tonight. Even if it’s from indoors or online. Whatever you need to replenish and replace during this amazing event, whatever you need to heal or fix, I hope the Moon and her special event provide you some support and clarity.

Accepting The Approaching Crone

As this year slips quietly into the next one, I’m thinking a lot about the passage of time.  

I told you about turning another year older a few posts ago in Chapter 34. And while I mostly used that post to describe the day, I did speak briefly about how now I need to start letting go of so much of the baggage associated with my birthday. Like Elsa in Frozen, I need to Let It Go.

(I have a four-year-old little girl. I’ve seen Frozen more times this year than I’ve seen Law and Order. It’s worked it’s way into my brain. Please send help.)

Part of letting it go is accepting that while I’m still knee deep in the waters of motherhood, cronehood is within my sights.

Physically, I can no longer make babies. In August of this year, after years of struggling with birth control, I had a tubal ligation. Four months later, I am not sad nor do I mourn the loss of the ability to make a new life. Maybe it’s because I’ve supplied the population with quite a few new faces. I’ve done my part and met my baby quota. I honestly no longer get that fever feeling when I see a cute little dumpling of a baby. I’m ok with never having to carry a child again.

The three children that I am circled by are more than enough. And while they are my world, every day I can see them growing slightly more independent and getting closer to the edge of the nest. While that might strike fear in the hearts of some mothers, it makes me really happy. I want them to be free to be themselves. They have to fly away sometimes. They have to be complete people outside of me. I will be the tree they can always return to, not the anchor that weighs them down. It’s going to happen, they are going to get older.

And you know what? I want to get older too.

But it seems that the world keeps telling me that I shouldn’t want that.

Every time I open one of the magazines that show up at my house randomly or scroll down the social media platform I’ve been meaning to quit, I get reminded of all the steps I should be taking to keep my impending age at bay.

I’m shown creams to stop wrinkles and spots, dyes to hide gray hairs, undergarments that lift, flatten and boost body parts that need to be modified. It doesn’t even end there. I’m reminded by billboard ads and radio jingles that there are plastic surgeons who can make me look younger and thinner in just a few trips. And if that’s too drastic of a change, I could always just purchase a Groupon for a spa nearby and get some Botox and eyelash extensions for 40% off. I don’t have to let time effect how I look. According to all these ads, I have the power and the opportunities to rally against it and forever maintain my youth.

(Just to put this out there, I am a huge proponent of dyeing your hair all the colors of the rainbow and I support every person that decides that plastic surgery is for them.)

But what if I don’t want to participate in that war? What if I don’t want to hold on to my youth?

My issues lie in that I do not support being told by people I don’t know that I NEED these things in my life. I do not support the idea that I must take part in these activities as some act against my body. I don’t like the idea that I should wage war on myself just because the years are changing my outer husk. I sure as hell don’t appreciate being held to a standard of beauty that I didn’t sign up for. If I want to change my hair color, fuck yeah I’m going to do it. If I want plastic surgery, fuck yeah I’m going to get it. But it’s going to me for my own reasons. Not to fit into so some “forever young” standard.

Listen, I think women are beautiful. That includes all women. From the young, shining and dewy-eyed to the old, bent, and wrinkled. I want to live a life that shows I’ve done both. I want to experience both ends (and the middle) of my womanhood with the same amount of reverence.  And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it.

By pushing us to worship youth, our culture pushes us to hate aging. And there is a huge fault in that. We demean and devalue the act of aging and of growing because we fear moving away from what is accepted. We see being old as being less. And we really fucking fear being seen as less. Less beautiful, less worthy, less important, anything that is deemed less, we strive against.  We have fought long and hard to not be seen as less because we’ve been told endlessly how just being a woman makes us such. So for something as simple as the passage of time to render us useless is unnerving. That is why there are billion dollar industries that make their money by telling women that there is only a fleeting window of beauty they can attain. They don’t want us to see the beauty in all walks of life. They want us to desire to be unblemished, unmarked, untouched maidens forever. Just the type of maidens they, conveniently enough, find attractive.

It’s a little messed up, isn’t it?

Cronehood is just as worthy as maidenhood and motherhood. It is not diminished because of the ability or frailty of the human body. It is not diminished because of the perceived lack of beauty. We are not made less because our bodies are weathered by Father Time. If anything, we are made more. The knowledge we acquire through the tribulations we face accumulates. If we mature as we age, by the time we have reached the age of the crone, we should be a wealth of experiences and knowledge. We should be a library ready to share with those around us. We should be well-written books full of adventures, ready to share our worn pages and the stories within.  

(Obviously, this is not always the case. Personality disorders, untreated mental illness, and being an asshole are a motherfucker. The inability to change and accept your faults hinders the ability to grow and learn. But that’s talk for another day.)

I don’t want to be frozen in place forever. Life was not ment to be lived in stasis. I want to evolve and grow old. More than anything, I want to experience life and learn. I want to learn all the things. The good ones and the bad. And life can only be learned by undergoing the passage of time.

Life is fleeting. We must respect and enjoy its passing.

So bring on the wrinkles. Bring on the gray hair. I welcome the bent fingers and curved spine and the age spots and the declining eyesight. I want to be the old woman with silver hair, covered in tattoos, sitting under the old oak tree teaching grandchildren how to snap peas. Or how to tell if a storm is going to be bad. I want to tell them stories like my grandmaws told me. I look forward to my older self and all the adventures that await. I don’t care what society tells me. When it’s time for me to be a crone, I will wear the title proudly.


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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~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.

 

 

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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An Illusion of (Birth)Control

 

Wikipedia says that an illusion of control is “the tendency for people to overestimate their ability to control events; for example, it occurs when someone feels a sense of control over outcomes that they demonstrably do not influence”. Typically used to describe how the superstitions and rituals that surround gambling, sports, and other such things work. For me, it’s how I’ve felt for years about birth control.

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I was laying on the stretcher, Stephen King book in hand when my doctor came through the curtain.

Numerous nurses had been in and out, checking my temperature and blood pressure, bringing me warm blankets and chamomile aromatherapy in a little sniffable vial. One even gave me an EKG for some reason. The nicest ones came in as a group of three, armed with IV needles and a syringe full of the equivalent of “a big nice glass of wine”.

When he entered the small cubby of a room, I knew it was Go Time.

I don’t know if it was because of how the light emphasized his hairline or if it was the fact that his last name ended in a vowel. Or if more realistically, it had something to do with the fact I’d had been marathoning the first season of The Sopranos at home, but suddenly, instead of just an OB/GYN, he was a man that could make me a very good deal.

“Are you sure about this?” He asked after the usual “hey, how are you”s. He was calm and pretty cool for it being so early in the morning. I could picture him meeting up with Tony at the Bada Bing after his shift was done at the hospital.

Feeling just a little less anxious and a little more sure of myself, I responded with a half laugh, “It’s a little too late to change my mind now.”

He responded by telling me it was never too late. If I needed an out, this was it.

Even though anxiety was tugging at the edge of my tie in the back-show your butt to the world gown, I shook my head.

I was here. Might as well do the damn thing.

A few minutes later I was wheeled into an operating room and switched over to a very cold metal table. Then after one of the nice nurses from earlier placed an oxygen mask on my face, everything went black.

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The first time I had seriously thought about birth control, I was 17.

For years prior, always in the company of others mind you, my mother would go on and on about how when I was ready, all I had to do was ask, and she would get me birth control. No problem right? She was the cool mom, remember? She would do anything if it was the best for her girl. She was the best mom. The number one mom. No other mom could mom like she did.

The actuality was when I had my first real boyfriend and decided to ask her for help in obtaining birth control, her response was different. Almost 16 years later even when I can’t remember the title of that song I just heard on the radio, I remember her answer.

“So what are you, a slut now?”

Quicker than a hiccup, the bravery I had pulled together to ask the question eroded. For the next few weeks, she acted as if I was contagious. Oddly enough, she did become a lot more handsy with my then boyfriend around that time. She’d chat with him endlessly while icing me out. A few times, she tickled attached him.

It was a really confusing time.

I did end up sleeping with that dude. We were safe. As safe as public high school Sex Ed classes could teach us to be. We broke up my first semester of college. He wrote goodbye letters to my mother and sister and never returned my calls.

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This event really peppered my lifelong birth control experience. Between that first boyfriend and when I got married to my wonderful husband, the only other experience I had was a trip to the campus Health Clinic for the morning after pill.

After having my first child at 21, I started THE PILL. For the next 9 years, we would have an off and on again relationship that was as rocky as the one I had with my mother.

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All the usual side effects happened to me that happened to thousands of other women. To use a clinical term, I became a basket case. My libido fell into the Mariana Trench. I got acquainted again with the migraines I had as a pre-teen. It literally was a little pill of Hell that I swallowed every day.

During the time of popping birth control pills like they were party drugs, I had four more pregnancies which gave me three of the coolest kids on the planet. It was also during this time that my first born, my beautiful long-haired son, passed away. That tragedy was followed by a miscarriage.

It was not an easy time.

I bounced around between types of hormonal pills before getting the Nexplanon implant. Three years of constant coverage seemed like a good way to tame my rabbit like fertility.

And for two and a half years, it was awesome.
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The decision to remove Nexplanon from my arm and being fertile from my life was made in my living room on what we call “The Little Couch”. I had my head wrapped in a blanket to block out as much light and sound as possible. My stomach rolled with nausea from a migraine roaring through my head and an almost Keith Richard’s amount of Excedrin.

I spent most of the days that week writhing in a pain I couldn’t touch with my hands. I felt that if I could just get my hands in behind my eye, I could dig it out, like the worms I dug up as a kid. The pulsing behind my left eye made me want to high five Odin for plucking his own eye out. It seemed like a logical and reasonable choice.

I didn’t pluck my own out obviously. My courage is way less than my imagination.

It was then that my husband and I decided that now was the time. We had a houseful of children. I wasn’t getting younger. And the side effects of hormonal birth control were getting worse. We like to pride ourselves on being logical people. Not Vulcan logical, but the basic human kind of logic.

The only clear answer was sterilization.

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I called my could-be-a-Soprano’s character doctor and made an appointment. There was no hesitation. There was no period of mourning. There were no tears shed about interrupting my biological imperative.

I haven’t gotten baby rabies for years. The sight of a newborn does nothing but remind me about how fucking hard babies are. I get giddy over puppy videos now. I go all gooey when I see a doggo doing doggo things. While I still take pride and enjoy (most days at least) being a mother, I am over becoming a mother.

The appointment came faster than I thought it was going to. I sat with my doctor and we talked about options before he dug the Nexplanon out of my arm. I told him I was done, I wanted out. He looked at my chart, then looked at me, asked me if I was sure and then said ok.

After talking all the obtains, we decided that a tubal ligation was the way to go. It was covered by our insurance and it supplied the lifelong low failure rate that I needed.
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That’s how I ended up naked and asleep in an operating room on a Tuesday morning. The surgery was uneventful and went pretty much as planned. I was taken to recovery and then, when I was able, I was reunited with three of the coolest kids in the world and my husband.

Since the surgery things have gone well. It’s been about a week and most of the pain had dissipated. The first few days were the worst, but that’s normal. I’m able to do most things and feel in the next week, I’ll be back to my normal self.

But it won’t be my old normal self. I don’t know if getting put under anesthesia is the human equivalent of turning something off and then back on again, but I feel a lot better mentally and emotionally. Maybe it’s the absence of extra crazy hormones in my body.

I’m not a doctor, I can’t really say for sure.

All I do know is that I feel like I’m actually in control now.

And that’s pretty nice.

 

Sources
Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash
Photo by Atik sulianami on Unsplash

Tahlequah’s gift

If you’ve been active on social media for the last couple of weeks you’ve no doubt seen the story of the killer whale known as Tahlequah.

Tahlequah is a member of the smallest of the four residential communities of killer whales in the northeastern part of the North American Pacific Ocean. Called the Southern Resident Killer Whales (or SRKW), the group swims the waters between Vancouver and San Juan Island bordering the Pacific Northwest.

The group is unlike other residential killer whale communities. Its population, cut down by food limitations, contaminants and vessel traffic disturbances, has been slashed to just 75. That 75 is made up of only one clan that contains three pods. Tahlequah’s generation is feared to be the last of her family. The youngest of her pod mates, a 3-year-old named Scarlett, has been seen to be extremely emaciated.  Scientists are struggling to track the young whale to try to feed her antibiotic-laden fish in hopes of keeping her from starving.

To describe this group as endangered would be an understatement.

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Photo by Ghost Presenter on Pexels.com

In SRKW, 20-year-old Tahlequah was set to birth the first calf in three years. After about 17 months of gestation, on July 25th, 2018 Tahlequah gave birth.

For 30 minutes, it was a glorious occasion. Another life had been added to the diminishing pod. A new generation has begun. The struggling 75 had become a hopeful 76.

And then, the calf, small for its size but huge in it’s potential, died.

As of this writing, it’s been 17 days since the death of Tahlequah’s newborn. And in a move that’s caused the civilian and scientific worlds to both gasp in awe, it’s been 17 days of Tahlequah pushing and carrying her dead child with her.

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It has long been known that whales and their sea-dwelling neighbors, dolphins, are intelligent. Crafted in July 2012 during the Francis Crick Memorial Conference on the Consciousness in Human and non-Human Animals, The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness was signed by participating neuroscientists. The Declaration states:

The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states. Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Non-human animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.”

This evidence shows that not only are whales and dolphins conscious, they are also self-aware. They have complex brain structures to use on complex functions, just like us. They live in complex societies, just like us. They are capable of experiencing a range of emotions, just like us.

And, as Tahlequah’s actions have shown, they feel grief and sorrow, just like us.

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Grief is only one size fits all in the way a straight jacket is.

There is no way to compare it among people. The only similarity is an emptiness that wraps itself around you and hugs you so hard you often have trouble breathing. You become stuck in that weird space between fear and familiarity. It hurts, but you’re used to it. The pain is rooted so deep, it has become one of the cores of your foundation. You don’t want to feel it but without it, you feel empty. So with bloodied paws, you continue your march.

We are seeing now the same is true for the grief struggle in animals.

In Tahlequah’s quest, I see a reflection of myself. Since the morning of November 3rd, 2011, I have been swimming, just like her,  against the tide of child loss. Controlled not by the gravitational forces of the sun and moon but by the weight of love and loss, I have been struggling to move forward. I have often forgotten my purpose in life and just reacted on muscle memory. Like Tahlequah, I have abandoned everything that was normal about my life and turned my whole existence into carrying the memory of my child.

To see and share pain is the most honest form of connection. It is the ultimate namaskar of souls.

It’s saying “Yes, I see your pain. Yes, I feel your pain. I see you. I accept you.” And that connection, be it between humans or animals or any combination of the two, is something that is revolutionary.

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On a personal note, I think it is wonderful that the whole world has been so touched by Tahlequah’s journey. The stories, the poems, the art, and the political change her story has produced has been uplifting and heartwarming. It’s important that we see and celebrate the connection between and us (humans) and the animal kingdom. To understand how important these animals are to our shared existence is something that I think we need to feel down deep in our bones. We need to continue to realize that there are more things on this planet than us. We need to respect their feelings and do better in accepting them as the rightful heirs to this spinning hunk of rock.

At the same time, I’d like for you to remember that there are people in your circles who are carrying the same weight as Tahlequah. But they won’t be the focus of a national news story anytime soon.No website is going to run the story about how hard it is to listen to the favorite song of someone who isn’t there. A picture of a grief-stricken parent, smile tense and eyes hard because s/he has to exist in such an unfair situation isn’t going to be a viral story.

Often times we forget about those people and their struggles. It’s easy to chastise these people when they are not being their best self. It’s easy to expect them to follow your guidelines and timetables of grief. What’s hard is to acknowledge them and their pain and give them reverence. What’s hard is to accept that grief is a weight that will be forever carried and a fire that will never be extinguished.

Maybe by acknowledging and accepting the pain that Tahlequah is showing in the waters off Vancouver, we will be better able to acknowledge and accept the pain of our human friends. When we do right by the planet and our animals brother and sisters, we do right by ourselves. Expelling empathy to all of the creatures around us, from those in the oceans to those sitting beside us in traffic, is the key factor in keeping this planet and each other alive.

And in the face of tragedy, maybe that is Tahlequah’s gift.

Sources:
Time.com
Fisheries.Noaa.Gov
Washington Post
Us.Whales.Org
Cambridge Declaration On Consciousness

Stop Using That Broom Just For Sweeping. Get Flying, Witch! : Reconnecting To Your Craft

Heraclitus of Ephesus once said, “You could not step twice into the same river.”

Angela of Conjure and Coffee is saying now “You can not meet the same witch twice.”

One of my favorite things about Witchcraft is how individual our paths are. There are no two witches who are alike.  Even though you and I might believe in the same concepts, we will not have the same journey within them. There is no “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander” here. Because we are all different, our practices are all different as well.

But the one thing that is similar all across the board, is how it’s damn easy to get unplugged from your Craft. There are many reasons for this. Location, work, family demands, monetary demands, health. The list is endless. For as many desires to practice there are that many things standing in our way.  My personal struggle involves caregiving and family obligation. I am currently a stay at home mom. You’d think that would allow me plenty of time and chances to incorporate my practice into my everyday life. But honestly, it doesn’t. Finding time for myself in the hustle and bustle of this life is very hard. And I’m sure for so many others, maybe even you reading this right now, it’s the same.

How can we change that? How can we throw back the layers of the mundane to find the magick in every day?

Here’s a handful of ideas for reconnecting to the magick you are missing.

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Stay Lit

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Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

 

Fuck “Chill Out”.

Fuck “Keep Calm and Carry On”.

Double fuck “Calm down. Everything is okay”.

Stop letting someone else tell you that your fire is not appropriate. It’s that fire that connects you to the Universe. That burning in your soul fuels you to live the authentic life you deserve. When we are told to sit down and be quiet, that is the lesson we feed our soul. We dampen it until it becomes nothing more than an ember.

And why? Why are we so ready to diminish ourselves to fall into line with what someone else thinks is okay? It’s important to remember that “okay” and “normal” are social constructs. They are ideas we’ve all accepted because it makes life easier for those who are in power. They want to you to be separated from your flame. It’s easier to rule the pacified.

Stop living your life for the ease of others. Find the things that ignite you and douse yourself in them. For some, this may happen with meditation. For some, it might be shadow work. For others, it might be blowing everyone off for a few days and playing hermit. Introspection is one of the most powerful ways to replenish.

The fire that sparks inside you will fuel your journey. Once you allow it to burn out all the expectation and obligations you hold for others, your magick will be in clear view.

Up, Up, Down, Down

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Photo by Linda Xu on Unsplash

It is common knowledge that the moon controls the tide. It’s also common knowledge that humans are over 50% water.

So what makes people think the moon doesn’t influence human behavior? Ask any EMT, police officer, ER nurses, or mother and they will tell you that the full moon totally affects human behavior. Our connection to the moon is much more than it just being a satellite. Hell, even the term “lunatic” comes from the Latin word “luna”! There’s no doubt that the moon is a heavy influence.

For us witch folk, the moon is so important. It’s a constant agent of change that we use to chart our cycles, cleanse our crystals and even power us. The phases of the moon and the phases of our lives often fall in step with each other. In the midst of the chaos of our lives, the moon is there.

So if it’s good for empowering and charging our crystals, it has to be good for us too right?

But it doesn’t end with the moon. The elements around us are the elements IN us.

We are Air.

We are Water.

We are Earth.

We are Fire.

We are Spirit.

When we connect to the elements around us, we connect with the elements that make the magick in us. And when we awaken them, the magick they produce is outstanding. We can not be whole with ourselves and deny the elements.

A trip outside can do wonders to help center yourself.  Whether it’s among the trees, or in the dirt, or sitting by the crashing to sea, any place where you can let the earth restore you is the right place. It doesn’t have to be a great mythical journey either, even a quick sit outside with an open heart will count. The intention to bond with Mother Earth will be noticed, no matter where or how.

Talk To The Past

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Here’s something you may not know about me. My paternal grandmother’s name is Jerushia. We often talk when I am driving around town. She’s stubborn and has some extremely outdated opinions. She also thinks I’m a bad driver. (To her credit, I totally am.)

The kicker? Jerushia died in 1978.

Her and my maternal great-grandmother, Katie, are the two main connections I have with my ancestors. When I’m driving or cooking, or about to make a mistake, it’s usually their voice I hear. They aren’t fairy tale guardian angels, but what we have works.

For better or worst, the family we are from influences who and what we are.  We all have our fair (or unfair) share of influential ancestors. Some of them act as an inspiration to be a better person, to reach our full potential. Some of them show us exactly what not to be.

The connection to your ancestors can be a great way to open up the avenue to magick in your life. I have a big deficit in maternal figures. So being able to connect to the ones I can means a lot to me. Most of our talks are through meditation and random pop ups. Like sometimes they will just pop up and into my daily life. The car being Jerushia’s favorite place to make an appearance.

For as many different relationships there are, there are ways to communicate with the ones beyond. Spirit boards have long been the way to breach the divide. If that doesn’t work for you, there are so many different ways. All you need to do is find the one that works best for you.

Sidenote: Please don’t think I am advocating for everyone to reach out to every member of their family and take them in. Yes, we are all related to some bastards. We all have people we’d rather not have under our umbrella whether it be in this world or the beyond. I am not saying open the door to the people who have wronged, hurt, or abused you. All I am saying is that the people of our past can hold the key to so many things we don’t understand. They can be a reference for us to learn and experience more. They can even just be figures of guidance and love to help us in the moments we need someone.

Don’t Be A Drag, Just Be A Queen (or King)

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Photo by Pro Church Media on Unsplash

Ever have a really bad argument with someone one day and then still feel it the next? Even though you resolved the problem and made amends, you wake up the next morning feeling like you are neck deep in hangover mode? You drag your feet through the day, spreading that nasty hungover feeling around like a virus? You act short with someone and get a rude reply. You get pissy about that person being rude and end up being rude to someone else in return. The circle goes on and on, drowning you and all those around you in negativity.

When you are negative, the things and people around you become negative too. While I am NOT a follower of the rule of three, I do think the nastiness you send out, you get returned to you somehow. It feeds on itself and multiplies. When you drag it out, when you’re a drag, it builds and builds and pollutes everything.

The longer you hold onto it, the longer it will stay with you. The pains of our past, the bruises of our egos, the unravelling of our threads, are all things we have to eventually let go of. Those feelings will dampen any chance at magick inside you. They are the mortar that holds the bricks together in the wall between you and your magick.

Breaking free of that, breaking apart that wall comes at a cost. You have to be ready to put yourself in a leadership role and take control. You gotta put on that crown and rule over your kingdom. Owning up to your own negativity is a big job. But heavy is the head that wears the crown. Being strong enough to acknowledge that you might be the thing holding yourself back is worthy of a storybook legacy.

Once you clear away the comfortable but problematic skin of being negative, magick will be much easier to find. The restrains will fall away.

Another side note:  I am in no way diminishing the struggle that is depression. I understand, very very well, the struggles of battling depression. I know how it drains the color from everyday life and highlights the negative. It filters everything you see and do through its monochrome lens. Living with depression isn’t what I’m talked about in this section. That’s a whole different demon to battle.

Blessed Be All The Things

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Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

Our surroundings influence us away more than we admit. That’s why we decorate our homes with colors that feel right, keep photographs of those we love, trophies from our accomplishments. That’s why stuffed animals keep their place in our beds way past childhood and why our favorite hoodie just makes us feel so safe.

If you follow the belief that magick is everywhere and in everything then the things around us are open conduits for it to move through. Why not make sure we are surrounded by magickal things and they are clean, charged, and blessed?

Your favored aesthetic can lead directly to inspiration. Being surrounded by things that make you feel magickal will lead you back to being magickal. Wanna wear black on Wednesdays? Do it. Want your living room to look like a Victorian seance? Do it! Having the area you reside in feel magickal to you will allow you to connect with your inner magickal.

There are so many magick tools that have a perfect fit for everyday life. These items can be special occasion pieces or just mundane things you’ve designated just for magick.

Let’s say you surround yourself with candles, incense, besoms, and/or crystals. At a glance, these are just items. But you and I both know they are full of potential energy when it comes to practicing your Craft.

From your atheme to your tablet, the contents of your altar to your phone, any and everything that you use throughout your day can benefit from being cleaned and repowered. So every time you touch or use the item, you’re getting an extra boost of magick.

Take A Look, It’s In A Book

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Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

I’m going to be a little bit pompous and say we are living in one of the greatest time for obtaining knowledge. Yes, we here in America may be teetering on the edge of an Orwellian ultra-pasteurized world. It’s scary and confusing. But honestly, never before has so much information about witchcraft, magick, history and women’s mysteries been so easily available.

Books about magick, witchcraft, and all sorts of Pagan ideas are everywhere these days. There’s no more secret meetings or newsletters. You can walk into any bookstore and find hundreds of titles. If you let your fingers do the work, Amazon has more books on these subjects than Carter’s has little liver pills. There are some amazing authors who are putting out some outstanding work.

Personally, Lisa Lister’s Witch was(and still is) a huge inspiration to me. It’s the book that, without doubt, kicks me in the ass and pushes me back to where I want to be. It’s inspirational in a way that works for me.

Books aren’t the only place you can expand your knowledge.

The internet is full of resources that we may never be able to visit them all. There are so many personal blogs and websites that are amazing!! It’s a brilliant time to be alive and Pagan online. I’ve learned so much about myself and my personal Craft by reading the knowledge others have decided to share. As with anything, there’s bullshit. Just like publishing and face to face interacting, not everything is going to be a fit for you. The great thing about having all this information is that you are always able to move on and find something else.

The magick in you is only a few clicks away.

You Do You

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Connecting to your craft is in essence, reconnecting to yourself. There’s a part of us that just is magick. It’s the part that tingles your fingers when you touch a deck of tarot cards or the voice in your head that tells you not to take the shortcut home. We are the magick that has flowed through our ancestors’ veins. We are the magick that fills the air and causes the leaves to fall.

Like I said earlier, WE. ARE. MAGICK.

But here’s the problem. We live in a society where even though we can be different, it’s not always easy or safe. And while it would be easy to say “Fuck ‘em”, sometimes that’s just not the answer.

So what do we do? Like Shakespeare said, “To thine own self be true.” Your life has to be YOURS. It has to be painted with your brush and in the colors you chose. It’s not going to always be easy. The world will constantly stand in your way because you’re going against the grain. You’re trying to be something outside the conventionally accepted normal.

Let me tell you this. Normality is simply a cultural construct. And you don’t have to play by their rules. Your magick is what makes you whole. Live your magick out loud. Take action each day to make sure you are living the most authentic life you can. Once you allow yourself to fully and truly live out loud, your magick will be bursting at the seams.

Let go of the restrictions you think you have to abide. Let go of the stress from the obligations you take on. Whether that be through meditation or medication. YOU DO WHAT’S BEST FOR YOU.

And fuck ‘em if they try to tell you different.

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Being in touch with our inner magick is important. But trust me, I know it’s not easy. Life gets in the way. Obligations get in the way. We get in our own way. Breaking all those walls down and reigniting our inner pilot light is the only way we can heal the wound the emptiness causes.

Reconnect to your magick, dear reader, any way you can.

It’s all we really have.