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Wheeling – uhm, winging it

19 Feb

Every year after Yule, before the new year really starts, I take some time to calculate the sabbaths. And this year, based on correlation between solar and lunar year, Imbolc does not arrive until rather late, namely on 02 March. I checked all my calculations twice. It still looked weird. But so far, the weather has proven solar and lunar calendar right, for winter is sticking around and I am oh-so-glad that I bought these cozy thermo leggings.

(They may not be pretty, but they keep me warm, so suck it!)

Anyway, simultaneously I have been reading “Oryx and Crake” by Margaret Atwood. Part of the future she describes in her novel – go and read it, I’ll wait (it’s that amazing) – is a kind of climate change scientists have been warning us about for only the past, I don’t know, twenty years? (And there are still people who don’t believe in man-made climate change.)

So, while winter is still hanging on with all its might, sending snow and ice as gifts, we also have surprisingly warm days, the first early bloomers are poking their heads out and our car is covered in pollen. Hazel? Birch? It’s yellow.

Which brings me to a new question – imagine yourself twenty or thirty, maybe even thirty-five years down the road. Still going Pagan. How are we going to celebrate the wheel of the year, this supposedly ancient system to measure the progress of time, when climate changes as it has been said it would do? There’s a good chance we will be facing draughts, or excess rain, winters have all but disappeared, and weird plants and animals will be springing up to conquer new ecological niches.

Now, for a confession: I doubt that the Wheel of the Year(TM) is very old. In my opinion, someone (possibly Gardner) took some random information on the solar anchors of the year and some lore and folk traditions he knew about and mushed them up into a calendar-like system, for we as humans like calendars and systems. This would make the wheel of the year more like a fairytale. Not necessarily less real, for so many of us use it, just not ancient, pre-Christian wisdom.

So, what are we going to do? I like celebrations as much as the next girl, and I would hate to miss out just because climate does not agree with some Pagan books. So here are a few things I have been mulling over recently:

I would totally keep the solstices and equinoxes. These are pretty fix, for the time being, universally observable from what I understand, and are celebrated in one way or another in most cultures.

And for the other four … do we need them? We could just stick with the full moons and choose themes relevant at the time of the full moon (either in our lives or in nature). Or we could try to list our observations over the next decades and come up with a new system. It’s not that unlikely that climate will stick to rules – just not the ones we are familiar with. It may possibly be a mix of both. Or something completely new and unique.

(I’ll never give up Halloween, but I may have to find a new model for Samhain and the other funny bastards.)

Thoughts? Prayers? (Just kidding, thoughts will be more than enough.)

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Best intentions and plans

5 Jan

With the help of three apps, I am trying to stick to my “newsolutions”, and I thought some of you might find this interesting as well, be it the new year or not.

Instead of going with the traditionals (more exercise, quit smoking, be a better person in general), I have made the resolution to make mor time for myself and my witching – figuring that this is completely selfless, as it will make the world a better place with less dead people. (NO, I have not killed anyone. But sometimes I wish I could. Don’t judge, we’ve all been there.)

  1. As I have not yet found the perfect spell to put more hours into the day, I must instead manage my time more wisely. Which brings me to my first app: It’s called Routines, how very boring, and it helps me break down my housekeeping tasks into daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly tasks. If I stick to it, I do not have to spend more than thirty or at most forty minutes per day cleaning and organizing stuff on work days, and maybe an hour per day on weekends – and the place looks kind of inhabitable. Basically, Routines lets you create your own check lists. Some people may find it annoying that they have to come up with all their rhythms themselves, but I liked it, because I know best what I want cleaned how often (and I had a “Housekeeping made easy” book to help me determine on my routines). I try to make housekeeping time in the morning before I head towards the office, so I come back to a cleanish place and have the afternoon and evening for more important tasks. And every time I want to procrastinate, I can pick just another task from my lists which fits my procrastination window.
  2. Then there is Streaks, where you can manage things you want to (or think you should) do regularly. The app holds up to twelve tasks, you can choose an appropriate symbol for everything and determine whether you want to do it (several times) every day, on a certain weekday or once a week/month/… – you get the idea. Of course I could have put it into my “routines” app, but I definitely wanted to keep cleaning and the cool stuff separated, so I won’t get confused. So this app is for fun challenges, such as making time to meditate or play with the cats, practice the ukulele and brush up on my Dutch skills. The app records, as the name has probably already given away, how many days in a row I have done the fun things.
  3. And in order to meditate properly, I have splurged and gotten a full yearly subscription to Calm, an app with relaxing music, bedtime stories read to you by professionals, and guided meditations on various topics as well as a breathing exercise. I like the voices, and the speed of the meditations, and they regularly put up new content. The subscription is kind of expensive, but since I have been using it for quite some time, it is totally worth it. There is lots of content for free, if you want to try it out first, too.

Of course I am still at the experimental stage, but right now it feels as if by managing the tasks and fun activities, I am actually more refreshed – even after sleeping only five hours last night because I had to have cocktails with a friend before we went to the cinema, and then spent some time with the guy watching forensic documentaries while eating cheese. I have even felt the urge to *gasp* learn embroidery. We’ll see how it turns out in a few months, when the excitement wears off and the office becomes a pit of devastation for the summer months.

(Disclaimer: I also track my food intake and exercise output, but that is definitely just a means to an end and kind of obsessive instead of fun, and totally not necessary for just about everybody.)

(Another disclaimer: I do tend ot obsess about plans and to-do lists. It’s a quirk that only makes me so much more loveable.)

Do you have any favorite apps or tricks to help keep your life on track? And, by the way, do you know any good witchign apps? ^^

New Year, new me?

31 Dec

Don’t think so, I haven’t gotten fed up with the old one yet. ^^

2017 has been an exhausting as well as amazing year – Chaospony Verlag has published my hilarious tentacle novel, I’ve done my first obstacle race, and also completed the next “Magic behind the mountains” episode, and reached the top of my goal weight range. I’ve been at a book fair with my publisher and done my first public reading, and I have made more time to see family and friends. But all these things have left me with an extremely packed schedule, and towards the end of the year, exhaustion has crept up and wrapped its spiked arms around me. Friends have died. I know that many people dear to me have had a crappy year, including break-ups and nasty health- and job-related stuff.

It feels as if we are walking into the new calendar year holding our breaths – we are hoping for a break, or maybe even long-lasting improvement, but there might be fucktons of shoes yet to drop.

Like any normal and irrational human being, I have taken the time between my birthday and the end of December to come up with things I want to do in the coming year:

  • I have registered for a Strongman 10 K (in September, stay tuned … waiting for the first panic attack!)
  • There are three more novels to finish the “Magic behind the mountains” series, which I hope to have done and published by November 2018.
  • As always – I want to do more witching.
  • AND, to make matters worse, I have to find ways to do all this – writing, training, socializing, housekeeping – and simultaneously find better ways to recover and keep my strength throughout the year.

And I have been mulling over my long-term plans. By the age of 40, I would like enough income from novel-writing that I can at least scale back to a half-time job, or maybe quit the office altogether (I love translating and am not likely to stop, but I need more free time). I would also like to at least spend my free time in the country – unless I can convince the guy that we are not going to get killed in a far-away cottage with acres of garden and our own chickens and at least goats. Five years to get this done – shouldn’t be too hard, right?

Maybe it is because I am growing older, or maybe it’s this endless well of completely unsupported optimism – but I keep thinking to myself, When am I going to do this if I don’t start now? Who is going to do this but me?

Let’s make a deal – write your hopes and plans for the coming years down in the comments, or if you have your own end-of-year blog post, leave me the link. And in one year, we’ll return and laugh at our ridiculous optimism. Okay?

If only I knew how to stop

22 Dec

Every year when Yule rolls around, I find myself in the same time – drained from taking care of everyone else’s needs, unable to catch a break or tell other people “no”. It does not help that the guy and I have very different opinions on how to spend the holidays, or what makes a holiday a good break from everyday life. Today is the last work day of the year for me, and I am truly struggling not to rip off everyone’s head when we are all in a mad frenzy to get as much done as possible before the place closes down. (And believe me, most others around here are just as worn-out, stressed and on the edge.)

Which makes me wonder – how do we stop this? It might be a great time to rest, to be merry, to do something for ourselves to “fill our cups” (with something else than mulled wine). Seems jsut too difficult to practice what everyone preaches each year.

So, how about you? Running around like mad reindeer mice? Or have you found the magic key to not driving yourself and everyone around you crazy? If so, please share. Or vent, if you haven’t.

 

The older you get …

8 Dec

… the longer the list of people who can kiss your ass. Some days I wish real life had a BLOCK button for people, just like Facebook.

It seems I made a mistake. I alerted the police that some anonymous people had smeared nazi swastikas all over our garbage collection area. (Using nazi symbolism is prohibited in Germany, for reasons.) As we only rent an apartment on the property, the police also went and spoke to several of the owners, making sure the symbols are removed.

Ever since, we have run into trouble with several of the “good people” living next to us. Some don’t greet on the stairs, some have started complaining about our holiday decoration in front of our apartment door (this is generally accepted, including reindeer and glowing santas, but supposedly our plush snowman was just “too tasteless”). The lady on the ground floor, who confronted me about “sending the police her way” has stopped taking in our post parcels (which she usually does for the whole house) – we found a parcel that had been missing for a week in the bike basement, with no notification of any kind in our post box.

I am starting to assume that some people around here have less problems with teen nazis with sharpies roaming the streets than they have with people who are NOT okay with teen nazis with sharpies roaming the street.

The guy thinks I should just have stayed out of everything – not alerted the police, kept my head down. “It’s probably just teenagers, they don’t mean anything by it.”

Yeah, I beg to differ.

Ever since Germany started taking in refugees in larger numbers, there has been a scary rise in right-wing rethorics, political parties (the AfD, a far-right party that wants to ban all Muslims, most foreigners in general, and also wishes to return women to their proper place in the home, where they should remain as devoted mothers in monogamous, heterosexual marriages), attacks against foreigners. A very dear colleague – a Tunisian grandmother, who has never said anything against her in her whole life, and has raised her children to be good Muslims AND good German citizens – has been harrassed on the street about her head scarf. When I go down the street with “headscarfed” friends, people talk about “those Muslims” – just loud enough so we can hear, never loud enough to actually confront them about it.

And every time someone from a foreign country commits a crime in Germany, the online comments start.

“All refugees are criminals!” (All Germans are morons.)

“They are sending their strong, young men to take over the country!” (Please, send only the goodlooking ones.)

“Well, I am still allowed to voice my opinion!” (literally, “Das wird man ja wohl noch sagen dürfen”, which has started sounding ridiculous even though it is a perfectly fine German sentence.)

“When you welcome refugees, you actively suppress their poor women!” (So suddenly the good German men care about women’s rights? Hooray!)

Let’s just say, I am not impressed. Even less with the openly expressed, “I wish all you good-meaning hippie Muslim-welcoming sluts get raped!” Or the accusation that all women who defend refugees have converted because they have a fetish for exotic men.

Good gods! Have these people learned no empathy? Can’t they imagine what it must be like to leave their countries, their families, their lives – basically everything they know behind to go to a country where about a third of the population either hates or at least distrusts you? That’s not something you do easily.

I think we have more than enough to share. We are incredibly blessed, and I think the gods – whichever one(s) you choose to follow – expect us to share our blessings with those in need. I’ve volunteered as a translator for our muinicipal refugee office (they need interpreters rather than translators, but I do what I know best), I’ve donated clothes and kitchenware, I give money to “Jugend rettet“, an organization actively saving refugees drowning in the Mediterranean. And I speak out against people making racist remarks – not to convince them, but to show that they will not go undisputed.

If only Western cultures had a seasonally appropriate story about people from the Middle East who were persecuted and had to flee to a different country …

Some random day-to-day stuff

11 Nov

First, Greebo is down about half a pound. Hard to tell with a squirming minitiger on your arm. His revenge will be terrible.

Second, I am preparing my first real public author-reading-for-people event. It’s about my tentacle-alien book, which has come out in German via a small publisher. No one of us has any idea what we are doing, but we have plenty of ideas.

Third, we went to see a men-strip show. It was our unofficial team-building event, and fun was had by everyone. I hear some of you thinking, are feminists allowed to enjoy something like that? And after brief thinking – of course most of the thinking was done before we got the tickets to the event – I can say, yes. Especially witchy ones who think that nudity is natural and that life is there to enjoy yourselves. So, as long as everyone has consented and sticks to the rules, I am fine with almost everything. (Of course always under the assumption that no one is pressured into coming along, or shamed for not joining.)

And we saw a kind-of famous German medieval fun rock whatever band at Cologne. I was supposed to go with Richard – LAST YEAR – but first the singer was sick and then someone close to the band died, so the ocncert was postponed by altogether eleven months, and he did not get a day off under the week, so I took a friend instead. We still had fun.

Finally, the holiday season is looming ahead, and already I feel the pressure from all the appointments and obligations. I want to go and see two of my sisters, which basically blocks out two weekends already, the holidays themselves are largely reserved for Richard’s family, and he has already told me of two holiday markets he would like to see this year (one in the Netherlands, one a bit closer by), which will each take up one weekend in effect. After all, we also always have to reserve time to get everything ready for the week, as he usually heads out the door on Monday morning: Laundry, groceries, paperwork, … It feels as if January will be the next time I get some time to myself. But as these are mostly fun events, I feel bad for complaining. (Still do it.)

Oh, and I do of course want to see the Victorian holiday event held in the next town on the other side of the river, we only went there briefly last year. I promise to bring plenty of pictures, as I can’t take you with me in person.

How about you? Holiday plans? Traditions? Escape strategies?

How we treat our pets vs. how we treat ourselves

1 Nov

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This is Greebo. Greebo is about eight years old. Also, Greebo weighs fifty percent (!!!) more than he should.

I feel bad that I let it come to this – mostly out of laziness. A hungry cat will let you know, in no uncertain terms, that it wants to be fed NOW. Which is annoying if you want to sleep in on weekends. So we got a dry food dispenser, and I never wasted a second thought on how he might just eat and eat and eat.

Studies suggest that obesity in mammals reduces life expectancy as well as quality of life in aging mammals.

Basically, what I did to the poor tomcat is bodily harm due to negligence. (Note: His sister Ronja, under the same circumstances, eats less, she is a bit pudgy but in upper normal weight range for a cat her size.)

I bet if Bastet were here she’d bust (bast) my ass over this. How dare I treat her precious feline friends like that?

Anyway, this train of thought has brought me back to the way we, as mammals, often treat our own bodies – stuffing ourselves with (oh so tasty!) garbage – or excess prime quality food – keeping ourselves from exercising and putting all that weight on our joints even if we know that it is bad for us.

I have an easier time talking about it right now, as I have lost almost one third of my body weight so far, going from “obese” to “upper normal” weight over the course of several years. And you know, I am all for body acceptance. But just as you hopefully got outraged about my negligence of Greebo’s health, I would like to think that people who cared about me got outraged when I put my own health at risk by going up to two hundred pounds.

Yeah, that was not the case. No one ever mentioned my weight. When I started exercising and reducing my calorie intake – the oldest diet known to mankind, I would guess – on the other hand, I got lots of worried remarks. Running would destroy my knees (so would all that excess weight, and running is way better for my cardiovascular system and depressive episodes, thank you very much!). I would stop looking good if I lost “too much” weight (as if I care – my physician and I have everything in check, we’re aiming for a healthy weight range with adequate body fat percentage), I was making myself unhappy by “depriving myself” (while I was still eating burgers and pizza and ice cream, only not as much … and health and exercise surely do make me happy!) etc. pp. ad nauseam. Just last week a few female colleagues ganged up on me and told me they were so worried they would start sending me care packages.

At that point I had had enough. With a big smile I offered that we could just calculate the group individuals’ average weight (total group weight/number of group members), which would surely turn out healthy for everyone. Then I left, before I could embarrass anyone any further. What can I say? My patience for bullshit is limited.

And what about body acceptance, you ask? I do not jsut accept my body, I love it – hair, stretch marks, pale skin, zits, scars, the whole bunch. I like to think of it as just another pet I have been trusted with for this episode of human existence (this sounds so weird, sorry! ^^ ), and I hope to take the best possible care of myself while I am here.

Just as I hope to take the best possible care of my beloved fluffy cats, who are planning to murder me in my sleep RIGHT NOW.