Just Keeping it Real

Wow. I don’t even know where to begin so I guess I’ll just start by writing about the Good in my life. I have so many things I feel incredibly thankful for, but I want to share the fact that I am officially off of the opioids! Yay!

No thanks to the pain management doctor though. He was becoming less and less helpful in working with me tapering off. I think the pain clinics will take your money as long as they can while they push for you to try the “new and improved” spinal cord stimulator or another spinal injection (I’ve had 18 of those injections and they never worked, but I knew it kept my doctor(s) happy and me leaving the office with new scripts).

I had been at a standstill for months and was really, really frustrated. Then the morning of my last scheduled appointment (in August) I simply woke up and said, “I’m done.” That was a defining moment for me. Not showing up to an appointment could easily break my pain management contract. And with the opioid epidemic, it was no secret that it was getting harder and harder to find pain management doctors that would accept the responsibility of new patients.

But I truly felt those words, “I’m done”. They were Soul Words. It was a Body-Mind-Spirit moment of consciousness; the kind that can make your toes curl, like the blissful moment you fall into an orgasm. But unlike orgasms, Soul Words tended to elude me. This was profoundly different than saying “I’m working on getting off these meds that I’ve been taking for the past decade”, which I always meant each time I said it, but during that mind-blowing moment it became crystal clear to me that I would be on the meds as long as a dr. told me I needed them; that it was okay; go on, have some more. It was all simultaneous, and from the very center of my Soul, the Source of those two powerful words, I faced honesty and truth without judgement and without doubt. I was done. So I didn’t go to that appointment.

The next day I felt a little uneasy, but I put on a new fentanyl patch (which would end up being my final one) and began to take note of when I actually “needed” a pill for the breakthrough pain. I was still being prescribed 180 of the 10mg oxycodones for the “breakthrough” pain each month to take along with the fentanyl. I’ve been prescribed as many as 210 pills with the 15 patches; but this didn’t change the fact that I had way more than I should. Way more than I needed. People without the opioid tolerance are usually sent home after surgery with 30 pills of 5mg oxy, vicodin, percocet, etc. with maybe one refill, if they’re lucky. For me, that would be like getting a box of Tic Tacs, because every month the pharmacist would hand me enough opioids to kill a pack of mules.

Making the decision that I was done made me realize what a habit it had become to just take a breakthrough pain pill at the first sign of pain, even the slightest twinge. You see, it had been drilled into my head that “you can’t let the pain get too bad because it’ll be harder to get under control”. Well, of course I didn’t want that to happen!

Now I had to face the unpleasant task of re-shaping my thoughts and begin to lessen my fear of something getting out of control. Oh, the irony! At first it was awful to make myself stop each time I reached for pill and ask, what else can I try first? (and not in conjunction with?). I knew I would have to deal with some additional discomfort than what I already lived with every day.

I knew I could try an ice pack. A warm epsom salt bath. Some gentle yoga. Qigong. Meditation. The tens unit. The compound cream. Writing. Creating. Reading. Even that awful acupressure mat. I had this mental list of the things I knew I could try first and If those things failed, I took some Advil or Tylenol. Then I took an oxy. Sometimes another one an hour later. Then I began to notice that as I reached for the pills less and less, the first options were working better and better.

It took a long time though.

And I am not a patient person.

I knew I had hit a milestone when I began breaking the oxys in half. Little by little, day by day, I made progress. Then something totally amazing happened. I went a day without any pills and didn’t even realize it until I went to bed and saw half an oxy from the day before still sitting there on the shelf of my medicine cabinet.

I’m in no more pain than when I was on the opioids. I haven’t had any worse Fibromyalgia flare-ups either (my rheumatologist had once told me that long-term opioid use can actually cause Fibro). Well, no dwelling on the past decade, eh?

My therapist told me it could take another month or two to get my serotonin and dopamine levels back to normal, but at least he’s not suggesting we increase my antidepressants. I will more than likely be on the neurontin the rest of my life because of nerve damage from surgery #1. But I’m okay with that.

Moving forward, I ended up flushing 6 leftover patches and 97 oxycodones. l still have the other half of the last oxycodone sitting on the middle shelf of my medicine cabinet. When I see it every morning and night when I take my other meds, I think about how it no longer has any power over me. It’s a reminder of how far I have come.

Many Blessing on Your Journey )O(

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Preparing for a Different Kind of Storm

My life has been busy over the past few weeks. We’ve had some storms come by, along with remnants of Typhoon Songda. The Oregon Coast weathered 2 tornadoes and while we received over 9 inches of rain in two days, we were fortunate and didn’t lose any big trees, only our power.

We held onto our plans, dropping the kids off with my parents to head home to do some much needed (in my opinion) work on my studio. As promised, my husband helped me declutter and paint. I had been gearing up for this for quite some time so when the power went out we continued to paint by candlelight and ate cold pizza while listening to the giant trees outside creak and groan with the wind. It was really rather romantic, that is until our backs both ached and we joined in the groaning of the trees. My husband couldn’t help but allude to the fact that we should be groaning while throwing our backs out doing something that was actually fun. I told him to shut up and keep painting so we could both actually finish. His only response was to flick paint at me. My husband…speechless? Encouraged by his lapse in sarcastic comebacks, I told him it would be nice if he tried not to make a mess this time. A little back and forth innuendo match ensued which made for great entertainment.

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Almost there!

What once resembled a curio/new age store now feels very “Zen” to me. A little sparse in comparison, it has become a place of serene solitude. I have organized my herbs, crystals, and tools of the trade in a way that I can actually find something easily. My craft area and supplies are separate from my writing desk. It’s a humble, quiet retreat that calms and soothes my spirit as soon as I walk in whereas before I felt weighed down in a mess of unfinished craft projects and candle stubs from a previous ritual.

Remember that binder of daily routines, tasks, and lists? I condensed things further into a Witchy bullet journal. I have my weekly plan, daily tasks, important and not-so-important tasks, weekly menu plan, the moon phase and the sign(s) it’s currently in, the weather, Tarot card of the day, spaces for quotes I like, and my long wish list of things I want to try, places I want to see, and things I want just for the sake of wanting. I have a place for my accomplishments, several pages for a brain dump, and a place for a monthly memory collage. I also made a symptom log in order to find any trends or connections to certain activities I did, and another log to track my meditation/yoga/tai chi practices. All of this easily fits in this one little 5×8 journal that will easily see me through to Imbolc.

The process of clearing out and simplifying has led me to reevaluate the other stagnant areas of my life that are in need of attention as well. One in particular I have been avoiding for some time.

It’s not easy to choose the path opposite of least resistance, but I did. I saw my pain management doctor today and I told him that I wanted to step-down on my pain meds. I told him what I wanted in the long run and the accompanying fears that go along with it.

We agreed that over the course of the next two weeks I will step-down from my current dose of Fentanyl 75 mcg/hour to a 50 mcg/hour patch. I will also go from 80 mg oxycodone for breakthrough pain down to 60. That’s the short-term goal. If things go well, the next step will be to drop down from the 50 dose of Fentanyl to a 25 mcg patch with an additional 12.5 mcg patch if needed. At that point I’ll have dropped down to 30-40 mg oxycodone.

I honestly don’t know where it’ll go from there, but my ultimate goal is to be off of the fentanyl completely by August. I haven’t set a complete shut off time for the oxy, but that will more than likely be revealed as I get closer to my goal.

My doctor and I talked in great detail about the possible hard times ahead. I have been on pain medication for so long (starting like so many others like me; with a little vicodin, on to morphine, then to oxycontin and methadone, to where I am now) that I probably won’t feel too great and I’ll have to deal with my pain spike in other ways. He paused here and there as if giving me the opportunity to change my mind. We ended the appointment with the agreement that I give him a call between now and my visit next month if things became “unmanageable”. That made me laugh. I told him that things were already unmanageable for me in the opioid department. Duh!

So there you have it. Whatever the oncoming weather, be it storm or sunny skies, whether I’m huddled in the corner in a cold sweat or sitting in a chair reading a good book, I’ll be ready to deal with whatever comes my way and stand behind whatever choices I will make. It’s up to me now.

Many Blessings on Your Journey )O(

The Swamp Thing; Sweat, Tears, and Triumph

I think back to my sappy post from a few weeks ago and am amazed at what all happened between then and now.

I will admit that yes, my husband is sweet and caring and thoughtful and good in bed. And yes he missed us like crazy while he was gone. Yet I found myself rolling my eyes when I saw the fourth text from him within an hour. Wasn’t he supposed to be busy doing all that fancy biomedical training?

He left us with big hugs and kisses and even the sweet little journals, but he also left the pool looking like shit. I mean Swamp Shit. I asked him for weeks if he could get the pool up and running before he left on his trip. I never really paid much attention to what he was actually doing, just that he was working on the pool. Besides, he knew what he was doing. And what a relief, because it was going to be getting hot and the kids were going to want to swim. Come to find out after he left (he was lucky he had already left the state of Oregon) he actually filled it with water after almost a year of non-use. My only guess was that he thought he could do shock treatments daily and the pool fairy would come in the middle of the night and voila! (I’m sure there is a pool fairy, but she’s probably a smart, sassy undine who didn’t want to help him anyway). He had to have been hoping I didn’t go and look over his shoulder or check on the progress he wasn’t making. Honestly, I don’t know what he was thinking, but I sure as hell know what I was thinking.

It was very warm that first week, and the kids were wanting to swim so badly. But after one look at that nasty water I knew I wasn’t letting them so much as dip their big toe in that pool.

So I did what any crazy Mother Bear with fibromyalgia, CFS, ruptured discs, spine hardware, and an “I’ll show him”attitude would do and spent the day draining the pool. Early the next morning I scrubbed and shop vac’d as much and as fast as I could because I desperately needed to refill it before the plastic hardened (the temperature was going to reach the high 90’s that day). I refilled it, scrubbed and rinsed both the filter and the pump and sprayed out the skimmer. For the next several days I spent hours using the broom and net. I checked the chlorine and pH, and added more chlorine. The levels were fine but there was still some debris floating in the water. The skimmer wasn’t doing as good a job as I had hoped. It was also still a bit cloudy. So I gave it a dose of shock treatment and by the next morning the water was clear but all the the debris had sunk to the bottom forming a gross sludge.

Here I was at the end of week one and also at my wit’s end. But I wasn’t about to give up. I began rigging a pool vac. I had no idea what I was doing other than slowly morphing into an absolute lunatic; but I was cleaning that pool even if it killed me. I had wielded my nightmare into becoming my quest and I spent 5 hours, a ton of duct tape, an extra garden hose, pool hose, and shop vac hose…. and after a ton of trial (the original pool vac was completely useless by the way) and error, cuss words, and more trial and error, I must say I’m proud of the crazy looking thing I thought up. With a good siphon trick, (with a little added suction boost from the pool fairy who had been watching all of my hard work and was obviously now on my side) I was well on my way to victory. I was going to conquer the monster from the bottom of the pool and the demon within.

Towards the end I felt a burst of much needed energy as I pictured my significant other sleeping at the Marriott getting fresh towels daily and his bed made for him. I was sure he had already swam plenty of times while I had been here working my butt off so that our kids could get the chance to. He was fed meals during his classes and given a $27.00 per night dinner allowance while I was too tired and in pain to cook, doling out freezer meals to the kids that I had warmed in the microwave.

Several hours after I had finally finished the pool my husband called. He asked why I hadn’t answered any of his texts. I curtly responded that I hadn’t had much of a chance to look at my phone. Without much pause he told me about his Sunday afternoon. He went for a walk to the city center where he decided to watch the new Star Trek movie and then wandered around the mall for a while. Then on his leisurely stroll back he sent me pictures of the scenery, the park, the neat statues, etc. He then made an offhand comment about me sending him some pictures of myself later on.

That was it. I felt like an enraged cartoon character (think Tom the blue cat or Wile E. Coyote) red with anger, whistling like a steaming hot tea kettle about to blow. I had held it together, kept my complaints to a minimum, was supportive of him. But now all bets were off. I spoke through a clenched jaw to keep my voice down as I explained to him what kind of Hell I had been living in. My fingers were cracked and raw from all the stupid tape and I had a horrific sunburn. And on and on went my tirade. I felt so much better afterwards and had a good cry. All while he was still on the phone.

I had done one of my crash and burn cycles plenty of times before, and I spent the next 7 days recovering from the pain flare that I caused myself. The kids did get to swim a lot the next few days while I lounged in the adirondack watching them splash each other and play “shark”. All I needed then was a cute straw hat and an ice cold lemonade.

And as much as I hated to admit it, I also felt a deep need for my husband. Maybe it was my triumph. Maybe I was proud to prove to him I could do it. Perhaps it was because I realized I had the strength to do something so physically challenging by myself. Or quite possibly it was after faithful daily Qigong practices of the 8 Brocades, some heartfelt journaling, meditation, a myofascial release massage, and extra helpings of pain medication and supplements. Maybe a combination of all those things. All I knew was that I actually missed the lazy ass.

Many Blessings on Your Journeys of Triumph )O(

Find Your Voice; Light Your Future

Speak, Listen, Watch, and Learn from your past experiences; all of your triumphs and mistakes. If you didn’t like the outcome and you feel that your present course is once again leaning in that direction, then it’s time to Reflect. Reflect your inner light upon your gained knowledge and look to your future; for this is wisdom and your future will shine as bright as you are willing to let it.

-Journal Entry August 2015

This morning I drew two cards from my Thoth tarot deck and placed them in front of me while sitting on the bed. The Nine of Wands and Adjustment. How succinctly put. To the point. I expected no less from the Thoth imagery and yet I only grab this particular deck when I’m feeling bold and courageous. After surviving a day like the one I had yesterday, I woke up feeling a simmering frustration within, an annoyance that felt like it was going to boil over at any moment. It was residual negative emotions and I knew I needed to direct the energy, but where? What lesson could I learn from yesterday that could make me stronger today? And better still, what about stronger tomorrows?

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9 of Wands. Today the 9 of Wands represents both the reflective and reactive parts of me. The Sun stretches high towards the sky, his masculine energy represents taking action. The Moon reaches far into the depths of the soul, her feminine energy represents intuitive realization. It’s about blending action with realization to complete what is necessary for success. These aspects are both powerful on their own working within their elements, but here they bring their energies together by reaching across the card to become balanced with one another. As Above, So Below.

VIII – Adjustment. I look at her and I see honesty and integrity in the face of adversity. She is about standing up for what you belief is right. She is a reminder to me that If I feel the need to change something in my life, something I am not satisfied with, then I have the freedom of choice to change it. She is Justice and sheds light on the path towards balance. She speaks of being objective in the face of adversity and trust that the universal law of balance will adjust accordingly. This is also represented by the Sun and Moon, Masculine/Feminine energies intersecting in the 9 of wands.

I meditated a while on these two cards and I journaled. I wrote about how I am blessed with many things in my life, but strength and balance are hard to come by. Those two things are easy to forget when I’m living in pain and feeling the fear that I feel during a pain flare. But strength and balance are the two thing needed most during those difficult times. When I don’t have both strength and balance within my life, I begin to suffer beyond the physical symptoms. The pain then begins its personal attacks on my emotions. I start to question everything I feel is wrong in my life, wondering if maybe I deserve all of this because I’m weak. Then my self-esteem plummets.

Yesterday’s experience was a rather frustrating one as it was my monthly check-in with my pain management doctor. I needed a prescription refilled for a special compound cream. The doctor’s office had partnered with a new pharmacy and she was adamant about me using it instead of the usual place. I told her I had been trying to get it refilled there for two months but there were always excuses as to why they couldn’t. They didn’t have all the ingredients, they were too swamped, they were in-between pharmacists, and my all-time favorite: The pharmacist didn’t know how to make it.

I finally gave in and left the doctor’s office knowing that she didn’t really listen to me at all. It was all a waste of time, now I was running late and had an hour drive home ahead of me. I hurt all over and I felt drained, beaten down, hopeless and even worse, helpless. I was lucky to even have a pain management doctor; a doctor that some people will wait years to get. She could end our contract at any time and I was afraid to push the envelope. I drove away without a new prescription for the compound cream and in my frustration and rush, I forgot to get the referral to the doctor she had mentioned at the beginning of the appointment; a rheumatologist that specializes in lupus and MS and might be able to help me more than my current rheumatologist.

I am not one for confrontation, and I know I have a tendency to avoid it to a fault. But just imagining myself spending another day and another dreadful night dwelling on my lack of assertiveness was incentive enough to make changes. My fear the day before allowed me to feel bullied by someone who is supposed to help me and support me in effectively dealing with my pain. The contract between us goes both ways. Where was my voice?

I looked at the cards again. There was a difference between causing conflict and being assertive. Finding my voice doesn’t mean I have to yell to be heard. I can be effective in expressing myself, my feelings, my emotions, and my needs while at the same time being mindful of the sensitivity of others when choosing my words. I brought my thoughts back to the cards. I took a deep breath and felt my inner struggle begin to cease. What was I fighting so hard against anyway? These were simply situations that I could deal with effectively, or not. It was my choice. I just needed to find my voice.

To deal with the important matters in regards to my health, I would have to make phone calls. More than likely a lot of them. This is something I avoid as often as possible, but if I wanted things to change I needed to dedicate the day to making those calls. I spoke with doctors and their assistants, pharmacies and my medical insurance company and got some things sorted out. After the first few calls I learned the truth about the price differences between the pharmacies for the same exact medication and that the “new” pharmacy wasn’t the “preferred” pharmacy as far as my insurance company was concerned.

The phone conversation with my pain management doctor took longer than it should have as I kept trying to explain the issues I had with having the special compound cream filled by the new “preferred” pharmacy. Not only did I feel uncomfortable about the lack of knowledge and organizational skills of this new pharmacy, it was going to cost me $70.00 for 60 grams when the original pharmacy only charged me $35.00 for 240 grams. This difference was huge and could not be ignored. She was insistent on using the “new” pharmacy and I kept telling her that option wasn’t going to work for me, and on and on it went. But I stood my ground and calmly persisted knowing that there was no justification to have to spend that kind of money. I had found my voice and spoke with confidence in being my own advocate. She finally accepted what I was saying  (I had been heard!) and we ended the conversation on a positive note.

There’s now a new refill order phoned in to the original (non-preferred) specialty pharmacy and the compound cream will be here at my doorstep within the week. I also got the referral to the rheumatologist and spoke to the new patient coordinator there; the paperwork will be here the day after tomorrow. This prompted me to go ahead and switch my primary care doctor with a different doctor within the same clinic; something I’ve been wanting to do for quite some time. He has always been unfriendly and cold towards me and I choose to no longer put up with that sort of treatment in regards to my health care if I don’t have to.

I had a long overdue conversation with my oldest child’s doctor and even compromised diplomatically with my ex-husband about the bill for her latest hospital stay. I spoke to a medical billing office and we are now getting reimbursed for charges that should never have been paid for out of pocket in the first place.

Finally, and without guilt, I made one last phone call to secure a time slot this Saturday for a floatation therapy session (I have yet to try this) after my acupuncture appointment.

I accomplished so much in one day and at the moment I feel power over my life. I had tied up loose ends and dealt with the things I had been consciously avoiding. All of those little things were causing me big stress and that stress was slowly bleeding into all other areas of my life. It spiked my pain levels and dropped my self-esteem.

Later today I cleared the deck, thanked its imagery, and put it away. It was the beautiful imagery in the cards that spoke to me at a time I was willing to listen. They reminded me that I had a strong voice, I just had to make the choice to use it. I’m glad I did because It felt liberating to finally be clear and assertive in expressing my needs, especially to those I have sometimes felt intimidated by in the past. I had a right to be heard, truly heard by others. I took what I have learned over the years since my pain began and turned that knowledge into action by weaving wisdom into power. Yes, I made the right choice and have had a say in how I light my path towards a brighter future.

May you always find your voice.

Many Blessings on Your Journey )O(

Baring it All

This morning, after my shower, I wrapped a towel around my hair and another towel around my body. As I was about to leave the bathroom I stopped, because out of the blue, like a slap on the butt, I decided to do something completely out of character. I dropped the towel I had wrapped around my body and courageously stood in front of the bathroom mirror naked as I wiped the steam from the mirror unveiling my body; baring it all.

I don’t spend a lot of time looking at my naked self. I’m not sure if it’s pure avoidance, some kind of shame or form of embarrassment. Maybe it’s simply fear, because fear will branch out into all of those other things; (avoidance, shame, embarrassment). But there’s a part of me that is downright angry at my body because when the pain flares up and things seem like they’re spinning out of control, I feel so fragile; like a raw egg that could crack at any moment. But I was tired of looking the other way unless I was clothed and in front of a full length mirror.

On the contrary, at this moment I stood facing myself, looking into my own eyes. Was I seeking an ally? Some sort of approval? Would I find that part of myself that sees beauty in all things, even the physical me? I think I did find it because I took a deep breath and relaxed, allowing my eyes to move slowly along my body.

My eyes were immediately drawn to the deep surgical scar that ran vertically from my navel down to my pubic bone. The evidence of a failed back surgery. My gaze then wandered across my lower abdomen, along the faded yet thick scars from two C-sections. Just above those were five small incision scars scattered across my lower belly from a laparoscopic uterine lysis surgery to remove scar tissue adhesions.

Then across my torso were four puncture-like scars from when I had my gallbladder removed. There was a small scar that ran under my left breast from a cyst removal when I was fourteen. I knew without looking that I had a five inch scar down the middle of my back from another failed back surgery; the one that caused permanent nerve damage.

Ah yes, I mustn’t forget the faded stretch marks that had inched their way across my belly and ended in thin tendrils along my hips.

What I was looking at was a roadmap of my life.

Then in a flash of clarity, like another slap on the butt, came the realization that my avoidance of looking at my body wasn’t just the physical scars, my widened hips, my enlarged breasts that fed and nourished my children, or the little laugh lines forming next to my eyes.

It was the lack of willingness to really see.

Each of those things are filled with strength, hope, survival, nourishment, laughter, love, and life itself.

Each one of those things are a facet of me.

I looked again, this time more closely at myself and searched for the strong woman that I know I am. I want to get out of the habit of feeling like a failure as a wife, a mother, and a witch. I must truly look at myself and honor my many strengths while acknowledging my many weaknesses. I know in my heart that I need to surrender and trust in the fact that my physical body, even though its limitations and pain, holds me and supports me through the good times and the bad.

I want to enrich my life and let go of The fear, judgement, and the ugliness of self-doubt that holds me back from living my life to the fullest. Gazing into the reflection of my own eyes, I saw the warmth and comfort within. Now is the time to shed away all that doesn’t serve me. This will be a perfect starting point on my journey towards re-balancing and repairing my body, mind, and spirit.

I am not a failure. I am a strong, independent, loving woman and I need to be proud of all the things I have lived through and fought for in my life. It’s time for me to be proud of all the things I am currently living through and fighting for at this moment and those moments yet to come.

I then spoke gently to myself.

“You will no longer be a victim. You can face your pain and fear head on because you’ve done it all of your life; you just didn’t realize you were successful at it. You now know you are. You no longer have to pretend you’re not in pain or overwhelmed. It’s okay, and it doesn’t make you a failure. It’s time to claim loving acceptance of your physical body, trust in the knowledge your mind now holds, and align with your spirit exactly as you are.

Only I have the power, knowledge, and control to overcome the obstacles in my life to promote healing on every level.

Now, where do I begin? Hmmm….Actually, I think I already have.

Many Blessings on Your Journey )O(

The Comfort Zone

You have probably heard that getting out of your comfort zone is a good thing. Stretch your wings. Aim high and venture forth.

But honestly I don’t want to.

I like it here in our little house in the trees, where I can’t see the road, or neighbors, and where the deer bed down in the meadow at night. It’s comfortable, it’s isolated, and it’s far removed from the outside world. Yes, I am a hermit, one who imagines herself being just fine with living out here in the woods alone. Someday I want to be the crazy old woman in the forest with a big cauldron in her front yard and everyone will think I’m completely nuts. Even the UPS driver will wish I wasn’t on his delivery route. Of course I’ll have a few cats and a pet crow that likes to perch on my shoulder and whisper secrets in my ear.

And if that’s all I had for companionship I think I’d be alright. Besides, other than my cute cats and cool crow, I’d have myself to talk to.

Anyone like me who suffers with Social Anxiety Disorder, whether it’s from chronic pain, anxiety, depression, PTSD, etc. can relate to what I’m saying and know how debilitating it can be.The truth for me is the longer I stay away from people and public places, the more I stress about doing so. The more I don’t want to. And there are more of us than people think there are.

Over the entire month of January I left the house for only what was necessary; my kids’ basketball practices & their Saturday games, which of course puts me in a social situation with other parents who (more times than not) are overly aggressive. I’ve been to doctor’s appointments, and the grocery store. That pretty much sums it up. I don’t think the art studio counts.

This is coming from a woman who traveled to Europe to meet up with her girlfriend back in the day. Wow, a lot has happened over the last 15 years.

But I ventured away from my house last night, just for fun, which was something I fought really hard against. I knew this outing would put me in a public setting that I wasn’t used to. It was far away from my comfort zone, like the little town 12 miles up the road. It wasn’t the elementary school gym and it wasn’t my doctor’s office. I was headed into the metropolis of busy freeways, lots of bridges, and narrow city streets. There would also be people. A lot of people. My level of anxiety was high when I put on my coat and several times I wondered if I could just maybe, somehow get out of it. But I sucked it up and spritzed on my best perfume then smiled at myself in the mirror because my husband and I were going on a date. The first one in many moons.

We saw a movie at a theater downtown then walked along Hawthorne where we spent way too much time in Powell’s Books. We skipped the trendy restaurants and Portland’s food trucks and finally settled in at our favorite burger joint. We both ordered pepper bacon cheeseburgers and waffle fries. We kinda shared a large milkshake- I say “kinda” because I slurped down way more than my fair so I could get the most (I’m bratty that way). It was an absolutely disgusting meal, and I enjoyed every bite.

It’s times like last night that I’m reminded of the good things that exist outside my comfort zone. There’s no guarantee in life that I won’t be in a car accident, mugged, or worse. But then again there’s no guarantee that I won’t slip and fall in my own home while holding scissors the wrong way or not get trampled by a deer (that actually injured me once, but that’s another story) while wandering along our trails.

Ask me today and I’ll tell you I’d love to see an old friend and catch up. Hell, I’ll even drive to the mall and do some shopping in the Macy’s store where that horrible shooting happened a few years ago. If I keep pushing myself, especially in times I don’t want to, I may begin seeing the world from beyond my comfort zone as somewhere I sometimes would rather be!

As much as the eccentric crazy old woman who lives deep in the forest spending her time conjuring magick and the occasional mayhem just to keep things interesting sounds fun, maybe I don’t really want to be alone. At least not yet.

But if I finally do find myself there I really hope I will have earned it. That I’ll have come full circle by venturing out of my comfort zone. I’ll travel and do great deeds. I’ll meet new people and hopefully share lots of laughter and joy. I’ll spend years and years loving my grandchildren, and teaching them the Ways of the Witch.

And there’s so much more. I want to give more time and energy to charity. I want to sew quilts for the newborns in the neonatal unit (I’ll never forget that small yet caring gesture from a stranger and how it gave me and Atticus so much comfort when he spent his first month of life there). I want to spend oodles and oodles of time with my husband, walking on the beach, playing chess, watching stupid movies, and laughing together until it hurts. And of course making love. A lot.

I want to see Greenland one day. I want to watch a play on Broadway. And while I’m at it, I want to have backstage passes to a Duran Duran concert and a private dinner~and stuff~with John Taylor (hey, a girl can dream)….He’s the one “free pass” *wink, wink* that my husband has given me, no questions asked. I only said okay because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings (another *wink, wink*). But gosh I love my man.

I want to keep making time for my watercolor painting and Soulcollage work. I want to continue guest speaking at Tarot workshops and at the University. I want to write a book. And I want to blog.

I suppose I have a lot of living I want to get done.

I know there will be bad bouts of pain where days and weeks will easily slip by, but I know that I have to fight to be a part of the outside world and push through my comfort zone once the pain episode subsides. Who knows? Maybe something greater than I ever thought possible will come out of it all. But before I get busy, I think I’ll go and call my friend and catch up. Maybe meet for lunch…. In the city.

Many Blessings on your Journey )O(

It’s a New Moon on Monday (but I’m too tired for a Firedance Through the Night.)

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Monday Mornings are a prime example of why I should follow a routine.

I Know This and yet…

We were up until 10:00 last night finishing an All About Me poster and essay for my daughter to turn in to her teacher this morning. If I had only looked through her backpack Friday afternoon I would have come across the assignment much earlier (but at some point my fourth grader needs to take on a little more responsibility, this I know).

Then my husband and I stayed up way too late watching the premiere of The Walking Dead (we all have our guilty pleasures) and I ate way too much ice cream (another one of my guilty pleasures). I know better than to eat ice cream at 11:00 at night… I didn’t sleep well, (surprise surprise!) and had hot flashes all night long. Now I’m wondering if maybe my body was fighting a diabetic coma after all that ice cream. Like I said, I know better.

My husband woke me when he was about to leave for work. I found myself sprawled out on the bed face down and I think I was drooling. This was going to suck. I never sleep on my stomach because it makes the hardware in my back lock up therefore it’s a very unpleasant position to try and get out of. I felt my husband kiss me on the top of my head and heard him leave the house before I could put any words together. Nothing like oversleeping on a Monday Morning to get your blood pumping for the week. Ugh… After spending several minutes trying to flip myself over and then finally stand up, I spent another 5 minutes shaking the kids awake and giving the dog the command to lick their faces and toes. Finally, the grumbling creatures rolled out of bed only to argue about who got to the bathroom first. (I love our old home with all its charm and character but the one bathroom is totally ridiculous!) So I was judge and jury on who tagged the doorway first before I shuffled my way to the kitchen.

I was grateful school picture day was tomorrow….Right? Wait a minute…I double-checked the calendar (like I should have done last night, I know better) and of course it was this morning. I wrote the checks and filled out the forms, (well one of them because the other one got misplaced somehow so I made one on an index card and put it in an envelope with the check).

I heard the school bus come and go while I was brushing my daughter’s hair, trying to figure out how to fix it in a way she wouldn’t complain about. I didn’t have time to make their lunch and shooed them past the lunch menu I had posted on the fridge when they asked what hot lunch was going to be. Monday’s are typically the worst as far as what they consider ‘gross’. I inwardly cringed, but oh well, there’s always a fruit and salad bar and they can drink the milk. I quickly rinsed out their water bottles and filled them while they put on their coats and backpacks. I gave my son cough syrup (yes, he’s sick again) put the dog in the crate, threw a couple of cereal bars at them (they’d be eating breakfast on the way) and drug the two bleary-eyed beasts to the car. It was a very chilly morning and the kids were complaining about how cold it was. I secretly switched on my seat warmer, feeling a twinge of guilt.

The Poster!

I turn off the car because I need the house keys, run in and pull the giant cumbersome poster off the kitchen table. I rush back out to the car but the back corner of the poster gets smashed in the door and tears when I try to yank it free. I’m glad we live out in the sticks because I’m still in my slippers, wearing sweatpants and a sweatshirt with an ice cream stain on the front from last night. My hair is pulled back in a headband and I look like I just woke up. Which I suppose is kind of true.

Back in the car my youngest is crying out of frustration because the seat belt was twisted and he couldn’t get it fastened. I snapped at my daughter to help him.
When we pull up to the school I apologize for being a grumpy Momma Monster this morning and ask them to please forgive me. Their sweet, understanding smiles would nourish me all day long.

So I’m back home in a quiet house sipping on some tea, thinking about all of the things I should be doing today. There’s no way I’m going to get it all done, and the big challenge is for me not to try. I have learned from experience that to try and clean the whole house will wipe out an entire week for me because cleaning like a madwoman will only lead to a severe pain flare-up. No thanks.

I’m finished with my tea so I think it’s time to set my intention for the day, even though it’s after 10:00 in the morning. Better late than never I suppose. So I ask myself a simple question; How do I want to feel today? Well, I’d like to feel calm and centered. I want my home to be a place of peace that embraces my loved ones when they return from their long days. How can I bring calm, centered peace to myself and my surroundings?

  • First things first: Shower and get dressed. I can’t truly function until I take a shower.
  • Start a load of laundry. If I do one load a day I can easily fold and put it away instead of letting a mountain of clean clothes collect on the couch.
  • Load dishwasher. The kitchen doesn’t look too bad so this won’t take long at all.
  • Change sheets. I have been doing this every Monday for years. There’s nothing quite like sliding into bed with clean sheets.
  • Sweep/vacuum. This is a quick job because I am physically unable to move stuff around. Hubby does the big job on Sundays.

Wow, that feels better! I can now take a moment to calm and center myself so that I can do a Home Blessing Hour. I like doing these on Mondays, but I will admit I have recently skipped a few weeks. It’s pretty obvious that it’s way overdue and I feel that the added chaos in this morning is a direct reflection of that. Besides it’s a New Moon on Monday. Maybe I’ll shake up the lizard mixture…please forgive me for all the Duran Duran references; for some reason I can’t seem to help myself.

My simple way of blessing our home

I have a large stash of clear quartz crystals that are usually in circulation between being used and cleansed. So I gather the “used” crystals and place them in a bowl and set them outside to be cleansed later and wash my hands. I then gather cleansed crystals and place them on the main altar to be placed in each room of the house after the smudging. I anoint white tealight candles with sandalwood, rosemary, and lavender essential oils and place them in holders in each room of the house. I prepare my incense (today I feel like Palo Santo) in my abalone shell and take my eagle feather to distribute the smoke. I surround myself with a protective white light and ask the Universal Divine for guidance and protection from negativity. I then ask for assistance from my Guides and totem animals to bring/lead new powerful light energy into our home. After giving myself a good smudge, I start at what I consider to be the center of my home, which isn’t exactly the physical center but the center of our “Home” and in a clockwise motion swirl the incense up and down each wall, along the baseboards, back up along corners, paying special attention to doorways and windows. As I move through the rooms I say something like “I ask that the breath of light shine brightly in this space and that it neutralizes any negativity. I welcome positive energy, and as I will so mote it be.”  I always keep moving and swirling in a clockwise motion. I do this because I am not really “banishing” I am cleansing and welcoming in the light, the brightness of which dispels the accumulated negativity. As each room is completed, I light the white candle and move on to the next room. Some rooms need more smudging than others, and I also spend extra time on my children’s dream catchers. When I have made my rounds, I place a cleansed quartz crystal in each room, although the exact location may change from time to time. I don’t usually plan to run errands on Mondays so I am able to allow the candles to burn down completely.

When our home is cleansed and recharged with positive energy my loved ones will breathe in deeply and sometimes let out a little sigh when they walk through the door. It is a touching moment that makes my insides glow. This House Blessing will make tonight the perfect night to set up our Samhain altar and some of our favorite decorations throughout the house. I’m glad I waited.

I think tonight should be a caramel corn night! 

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This recipe is a bit time consuming, but well worth the wait!

Caramel Corn Recipe 

Ingredients
7 quarts plain popped popcorn
2 cups dry roasted peanuts (optional)
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup

1 teaspoon salt
1 cup margarine
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions
Place the popped popcorn into two shallow greased baking pans. You may use roasting pans, jelly roll pans, or disposable roasting pans. Add the peanuts to the popped corn if using. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F (120 degrees C). Combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, margarine and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring enough to blend. Once the mixture begins to boil, boil for 5 minutes while stirring constantly.
Remove from the heat, and stir in the baking soda and vanilla. The mixture will be light and foamy. Immediately pour over the popcorn in the pans, and stir to coat. Don’t worry too much at this point about getting all of the corn coated.
Bake for 1 hour, removing the pans, and giving them each a good stir every 15 minutes. Line the counter top with waxed paper. Dump the corn out onto the waxed paper and separate the pieces. Allow to cool completely, then store in airtight containers or resealable bags. Enjoy!

What are some of the ways you bless your home?

Many Blessings on Your Journey )O(

Forgive the Pain

Guilt. It’s a nasty word that seeps deep into the pores of even the most thick-skinned of people. I can personally say, without a doubt, that my biggest guilt issues have occurred since becoming a parent.

I know that I have blogged here and there about guilt; little snippets of should’ve, would’ve, could’ves in my parenting strategies, coping skills, chronic pain, depression, and all the rest of the ugly mix-matched and beat up baggage I have acquired over the years.

Ugh.

I pressed a new page down in my journal today, but not before reading my previous entry from the week before. This entry compels me to readdress guilt and particularly the release of it during this New Moon.

Below is my journal entry from Monday September 7, 2015:

I sit here in bed, propped up by pillows, trying to write as much as I can before my muscle relaxers and oxycodone set in. Need I mention it’s been a horribly painful day? Again? The aches, the burning, the locking up of the hardware in my back…none of that compares to the agonizing feelings I have over the loss of my children when they return to school tomorrow. Another summer has come and gone and it’s time for them to enter a new grade.

Please Universe, I’m pumping the brakes as hard and fast as I can, but it only seems to cause the opposite effect.

I’m so pathetically sad and tearful as I look back over this past summer and all the things I wish we could have done. Oh how I hate writing through the blur of tears! There’s so much guilt over spending afternoons in bed when I should have been teaching my daughter more about the Tarot or encouraging my son to look more closely at bugs. Summer is now over and what have I got to show for it?

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Memories…yes I know there are the memories…and photos of course…but…

I’m afraid of all the time wasted and opportunities lost. Things my chronic pain takes from me. From Us.

And it pisses me off!

After reading that entry I thought long and hard about that day, remembering very well how I felt both physically and emotionally. I was a total wreck. Unlike that awful day, today has been good to me. I feel functional, happy, productive and my pain level is manageable.

But the words that kept playing in my mind over and over again were, “I’m afraid of all the time wasted and opportunities lost.” By typing those words right now I find I have to fight back the feelings of sadness and guilt. As today went by I paid close attention to each time those words and feelings sprung up. When they did I would gently remind myself that there’s absolutely no proof that my children are suffering or living in constant disappointment. There’s also no evidence that they feel unloved or ignored. I know this in my heart of hearts because I do the best I can with what I’ve got to give on any certain day. Every choice I make for my children I make with love.

What we do is what we can do, and there have been many days where my children will climb into bed with me and we will watch cartoons, read silently, talk, laugh, discuss spirituality or even play cards. Those may be the bad pain days, but the day itself remains positive, supported by love.

When I reflect on this past summer it becomes clear that some of our best moments were the quiet ones. It didn’t matter how often we traveled, how many things we went to, or even how much money we spent, all we really wanted was to be content; to just ‘be’. Sometimes that included travel and money, but it didn’t have to. Enjoyment came from lots of different things, and I am now beginning to question my feelings of guilt caused by my fear of what we weren’t able to experience together as a family.

So to put it into perspective I’m going to start typing out everything that pops into my head that we did this past summer, and I’ll stop when I begin to slow down. So here goes…

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We went camping, spent a week at the beach, took several long nature walks, went fishing, horseback riding, out for dinner at our favorite pizza place, then a fancy restaurant, and a greasy diner. We did a picnic lunch in the backyard, and even celebrated several birthdays.

We stayed up way too late to watch the stars and satellites move across the night sky, took time doing a family collage, baked all kinds of delicious awful-for-you goodies, had a lemonade stand, colored with crayons, painted with water colors, walked underneath a giant waterfall and had a “Fairy Tea” in the garden.

We researched animals that interested us then talked about what we learned. We played board games, went to the movies and watched movies at home. We did hilarious shadow puppets on the ceiling before bed, read lots and lots of books together quietly and to each other. We roasted marshmallows and told ghost stories during the backyard bonfire. We harvested herbs, had a puppet show, and spent countless hours on our fairy garden.

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Oh, and we swam. A lot!

So when I look back on this past summer I can quickly and easily tick off many of our adventures. Some required travel, and some had to be rescheduled several times due to my health. Some cost money, but a lot of them didn’t.

I can say with conviction and honesty that all in all we did what we had set out to do this summer, even if sometimes things had to be modified. I would even go so far as to say that we had a successful summer with moments of fun, travel, and loads of laughter. What matters most was the time we were able to spend together. It’s okay that I wasn’t always on my A-game especially on those painful days that were spent mostly in bed. It’s okay that I felt the need to sleep or not up for company. It’s time to release the guilt about all of that.

What touches my heart the most is my husband and children’s natural compassion and understanding. Were there times of disappointment? You betcha. But the good definitely outweighed the bad, and maybe I shouldn’t say ‘good’ or ‘‘bad’ because no one else in my family would describe those times as such. So let me rephrase that, we did more things together than we did apart, we smiled more than frowned, we enjoyed more than we lacked, and we most definitely loved the whole time.

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It’s more than time to release the guilt and I think I’m finally ready and capable of doing so because I’m ready to forgive the pain. It’s time to forgive the pain. That statement might not make sense to some, it’s even a bit foreign to me. But right here, right now, as I come to the end of this blog post, in this quiet moment of writing and solitude, those words made themselves to my fingertips, where i pressed the keys and then shared them with you. I ask that you please read those words again and allow your heart to lead them to the right place and that you freely accept what they mean to you.

Let this New Moon be a time of releasing guilt and/or shame for the things you had no control over. Let go and freely forgive yourself, in all the ways, in Perfect Love and Perfect Trust.

Many Blessings on your Journey )O(