Quote of the day...er...week...umm...hey, look, a quote!!

"...besides love, independence of thought is the greatest gift an adult can give a child." - Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One

For old quotes, look here.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Clean Break

In the spirit of offering alternatives to going out into the feeding frenzy that is holiday shopping, I offer another option, an artisan who makes soaps, lotions, essential oil blends, shampoo, and more.  Her soaps stink purty!  Check out Soaps by Jan - her products are fantastic and all natural!

It's funny how priorities change with time - when I was a child, I wanted a pony, and toys, and candy, and...and...

Now?  I want to pay my power bill.  Barring that, I just want to spend a pleasant day with family and friends and store the memories for later use.  I like giving gifts, I like making gifts, I like knowing that I have made someone else smile a little.

I am, as usual, broker than a politician's promise, so this year I'm not sure what I will make/do...but I guess I'd better get at it, huh?

What sort of handmade things do you enjoy receiving? What sort of handmade things do you like to gift?

Friday, November 28, 2014

What If There Was Another Way?

Black Friday.  Sounds ominous.  Sounds like the day some calamitous event took place.  

Come to think of it...

We have a day each year set aside to celebrate our thankfulness.  Whatever the history of Thanksgiving, the holiday had come to be a time to reflect on what we have and to appreciate it. In our various ways we celebrate the bounty in our lives, however modest it may be, and seek to share that bounty with family and friends.  We fill our hearts with good will and our bellies with copious amounts of food, we fall into feast related comas, and we waken to eat again, watch football, play games, and participate in our various Thanksgiving traditions.

Then some of us spend the next day participating in what has long been called "Black Friday",  considered by many to be the official start of The Christmas Season (TM).

On black Friday, many stores open in the wee hours and offer progressives savings and deals on popular items, allegedly so that we can save money and buy over-the-top gifts for others.  On Black Friday, it seems that people forget their humanity, forget their compassion, forget their better selves and become raving, slavering, consumer goods buying monsters.

People buy cartloads of crap, caught up in the illusion of more-is-better.

 A number of memes point out the irony of this behavior...

For some reason, people are easily swayed by the belief that they MUST!  GET!!  THAT!!!  DEAL!!!! or die...or kill...trying.

Every year there are stories of mayhem and death because a certain item was sold out, or two people reached the last one at the same time, or someone tried to cut in line, or...or...or...
 What if there was an alternative, another way to find and purchase gits for your loved ones, meaningful gifts, gifts that are different, unique, beautiful, and supportive of an entirely different thought process?  What about a gift that is not only given to the recipient, but helps someone else, too?

You can support an artist or artisan - look for gallerys and art cooperatives in your area.  Check out craft fairs, which are abundant this time of year.  Don't want to leave home?  Just take a few minutes to cruise through Etsy.  There's Unleash the Goddess, a shop run by an artist who is a mother of two, a wife, a woman who is creative and encourages creativity in others.  There's amy's delight, another mom, artisan, and all around decent human being.  There's Stonekettle, etsy page of Jim Wright who also writes the blog Stonekettle Station - he's talented, funny, smart, kind to animals, and has a tart sense of humor.  His woodwork is whimsical, useful, and beautiful.

Want to help others build a better life?  Check out The Tinker's Packs, a site dedicated to selling you nifty things and donating ALL of the proceeds to supporting Heifer International.  Or take a look at Heifer International itself.

There are so many meaningful ways to show love through gifting, why on earth do any of us perpetuate this disheartening stampede of mindless savagery?  Does anyone need a new television, computer, talking doll, or hunk of cheap plastic crap that badly?  Is it worth a life?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


I have a few traditions on this day. Not many - the menu, recording the Macy's parade so I can watch it and fast-forward through all the crappy pop music, commercials, and talking heads to see the twenty minutes of balloons, floats and high school bands I'm interested in hidden among all that junk  (although I will have to forgo that pleasure, this year, alas), and my list of some things for which I am thankful, in no particular order and in no way complete:

The house in which I live
The Evil Genius
Gypsy, K2, Mizz A, Kit, Sam-I-Am, PJ, Mizz Beth, and all of my friends who put up with me when I am most myself and therefor least likable. They are the net beneath me when I fly and fall.
The scent of leaf loam and woodsmoke in the crisp autumn air
Books, music, and art
Clean, plentiful water
Clean air
Clean clothes
Nature and the way she finds to show me something new of herself every day
Adversity, that joy is all the sweeter (Okay, okay, the joy is sweet enough, so basta with the adversity for a minute, please)
Every creature and plant that I consume to sustain myself, because without the life I take, I would have no life to live
Love - that it exists at all is a wonder, and I feel blessed to know it in many forms
Chocolate, gift from the Gods (yes, even the perversion called "candy bar") (Mmm...candy bar...)
Strong hands
Strong spirit
Strong will
Cussed determination not to curl up and die just because life can sometimes be a succession of truly awful, bleak, and desolate days...but sometimes it isn't.
The Internet

I hope you have a blessed day, and that you the things you're thankful for outweighing the things for which you're not.

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all, from us at Casa de Crazy to you out in the Blue Nowhere and beyond.

Monday, November 24, 2014

What'll It Be, Hmm?

Time for the annual posting of the menu!  You've been anxiously awaiting this post all year, haven't you?  I knew it!  You may now breathe again.

Casa de Crazy presents:  Thanksgiving Dinner

Featuring: Mr. Thomas Turkey stuffed with Various Herbs

Co-Starring:  Herb and Onion Dressing, Mashed Potatoes, Gravy, Green Beans, Mashed Turnips and Carrots and a special appearance by Can o' Cranberry!

Also Appearing:  Mrs. Smith's Dutch Apple Crumb Pie accompanied by Breyer's Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, Key Lime Pie, and possibly guest starring Something Chocolate by Angie.

Special Guest Appearances by:  Pitcher of Water and Stick of Butter, and also Coffee, Tea and Cider

Cameo Appearances:  Celtic Sea Salt and Black Peppercorn Grinder

How's your Feast shaping up (if you celebrate, that is)?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Counting Down...

Thanksgiving is in four days.  Four days!  Where'd my year go?  Gah!!!


Yesterday I baked herb bread so I could cut it into cubes and let it go stale.  Yup.  That's how I do my dressing, and so far no one's complained they don't like it.  I dig bread dough - it's alive!  Watching it poof up, slowly encroaching on the edges of the rising bowl, is kinda nifty.

Casa de Crazy still smells fantastic.  I baked two batches, which yielded four loaves.  Not all of it is for dressing, but I have learned that I need to make extra - filling the house with that delectable scent and not having any to nom on is just about the height of cruelty!

I'll be doing little things all week to get ready for Thursday.  We're not having a big crowd and I'm not cooking a huge feast, I just don't want to have a ton of work to do in one day.  Also, some things do better when they've had a day or three to sit and mingle.

I have turnips and carrots to mash, the good dishes need washing, and Casa de Crazy could use a general tidying up for company.  Someone won't be here, and my heart aches a little about that, but his mother may be coming and a couple of good friends are joining us, and even T will be here (the Evil Genius is over the moon about that).

How's your week shaping up?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Dreams of Falling

Once we had wings.

Once we had wings, and oh...

Once we had wings, and oh, how we soared!

Oh, how we soared, and swooped, and looped the loop, and oh how we roared and whistled and snapped and fluttered.

Once we had wings and we flew.

We remember.

We remember in our hidden minds.

We remember when we stand in high places and look out on the far horizons and lean...

We remember how free and easy we were, riding the wind like it was ours to command, to shape, to harness, to carve through.

We remember when we dream.

Dreams of flying.

Dreams of rising upward.

Dreams of our feet leaving the ground, of the sky tugging at us, of gravity relinquishing its grasp, of thrusting ourselves heavenward on stolen breathes of exquisite freedom.

We remember and we dream and we yearn.

Then we fall.

We fall back into ourselves.

The present mind, the knowing mind, the learned mind takes hold, reminds us that we have no wings.

So we fall.

Slapping back into ourselves, wondering why...

...why we dream of falling when we know we should be able to fly.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Hunger, Thirst

At dinner time, before we eat we hold hands and share a moment of silence.  Then one of us will say "May you never hunger" and one of us will respond "May you never thirst".  Usually Someone and I will also exchange "Thank you for sharing food" and "Thank you for sharing life".  I continue this little tradition while he is away.

I've been thinking about hunger, lately.  While there are plenty of reports on the news about how unemployment is lower than it has been, and that people are doing better, here in Redneck Central it's still hard times.  Food banks are overwhelmed, as are shelters and services for the indigent and the food-insecure.

Amid all the stories of struggle, I was slapped by a headline discussing how a certain shelter is refusing to help gays.  Another headline lead to a story about the Salvation Army and its refusal to assist homosexuals, even going so far as to spend money donated in those holiday buckets on lobbyists to support anti-gay legislation.  So...these supposedly Christian, supposedly charitable organizations are refusing to help certain people because...why?

When, exactly, did Jesus say "Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the poor, but only if you think I like them"?  When did he say "Oh, no, it's okay to let the fags shiver and starve because they don't have sex the way they should with whom they should"?  In any of his teachings, sermons, rants, whispers, prayers, or other communications, did he ever once mention lesbians?

Granted I'm pagan and have been for a very long time, and granted it's been a minute since I read the bible or studied Christianity as a whole, but even with my faulty and aging memory, I don't recall Jesus ever mentioning that compassion, charity, or kindness were reserved exclusively for those in his father's house or who followed himself.  He certainly never said anything to ME about that...

To the contrary, he seemed to go out of his way to be inclusive, to the point of often distressing the people who thought they knew him best and followed him around soaking in his teachings and trying to understand his radically different way of seeing and doing things.

I still wonder how anyone can call themselves "Christian", a follower of Jesus, when they seem to so readily set aside the teachings of the man they laud as their "Lord and Savior" even as they act entirely against his teachings.  Most of the alleged Christians I know aren't.  They're church people, and they follow the bits of the Bible that fit their world view, but actually Christian?  No...not even close.

A Christian?  Would ask "Are you hungry?" and then feed a person.  No strings.  No questioning the religion or politics.  Just...fill an empty belly.  A Christian?  Would ask "Are you cold?" and offer clothing, a jacket, a blanket, without judging how the person came to be so cold.  A Christian?  Would ask "Do you need a place?" and help find shelter from the elements.  No demands that the one in need first attend a church service.  A Christian?  Would ask 'Are you sick?" and then offer medicine without demanding that the person who is sick convert to one particular church before they can receive aid.

Plenty of pagans don't give freely of themselves or offer succor to those in need...but then, those same pagans don't claim to follow the teachings of a peaceful healer who DID offer help, hope, and boundless love to any who reached out to him.

I'm NOT Christian...but here's my deal - if you are hungry I will strive to help feed you.  If you need clothing, I will strive to help you dress.  If you need shelter, I will work to help you attain it.  That's it.  You don't have to be pagan, or Christian, or anti-Christian, or straight, or gay, or bi,or whatever.  It doesn't matter your age, nationality, skin tone, or what music you listen to.  As long as I don't feel you threaten my family's well being, I won't turn my back on you.  As long as you are not doing me harm, I will try to help when I can.

You are a living being.  You carry with you the seed of life.  You are imbued with the same energy, the same spirit, that I am steeped in.  You are worthy of compassion, of love, of kindness.  You and I and all other beings are made of light and matter and vibrations and illusions.  We are the sum of the Universe.  I greet the divine in you.  I honor the journey you are on.  The sun that shines on me, shines on you...

So tell me, fellow sojourner, how can I help?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Small Things

Whenever possible, Someone calls twice a day.  We write each other several times a week, and Sprout and I go visit him once a week.  We're lucky to have that contact that we do - plenty of people over at the jail have no family, or at least no one who keeps in touch.

I think it's awfully important to maintain contact as much as possible, to remind the person in that strange and horrible pocket reality that there is this world out here and people in it who love and value them.  Every time Someone calls or receives a letter or sees us, it helps him remember himself and his connection to us.  In the jail is it far too easy for people to lose...lose themselves, lose their families, lose hope, lose touch with anything but the walls, the windows, the fear, the anger the unhappiness...

I miss him here at the Casa.  It's chillier in the house, quieter, less...vital...

It's funny, there aren't any great big things I miss, but rather a collection of small details that mean he's with us.

I miss waking in the morning when Sprout crawls in the bed with us and wedges herself between us.  I miss hearing him get up, shower, shave, dress for work.  I miss the sound of coffee beans pouring into the grinder, and Sprout's excited egress from the bed as she scampers into the kitchen to help her Papa make coffee - she like to run the grinder and help him dump the grounds into the filter - and then the smell of the hot beverage wafting through the house.

I miss sleepy morning greetings, the kiss as he leaves for work, the occasional call telling me he'll be home for lunch, hunting for his coffee cup (my goodness, but the man can find all kinds of places to put it down and forget it!).

The sound of him breathing in his sleep, and the sound of his heart as I lie with my head on his chest, drifting.

How warm he is.

The smell of him.

Sharing funny stories or bits of news, moving about the house in tandem, watching a movie together.

Sprout's giggles and squeals when he grabs her and hugs her or tickles her with his beard, and her excited exclamations over going outside and riding bikes with him, or playing tee-ball or soccer, or raking leaves, or gardening.

Most relationships cannot survive incarceration.  We've every intention of bucking the trend.  I don't give up on people.  Jail...it changes things.  It's not just the one incarcerated who is held captive.

We'll be here when he gets out, ready to continue piecing together the mosaic of our lives one little detail at a time.  Meanwhile, I am doing my best to keep it together in the here and now.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veteran's Day*

If you served, or if you are serving, heartfelt thanks.

If your feet walk foreign soil, I wish you a swift and safe return home.

If you came home broken, I wish you swift and full mending.

If you suffered loss, I wish you the softening of grief, and abundance in your future days.

Thank you Dad, Big Brother, Uncle, Cousin, Basque A, Ed, Danny, and all of those who step/ped up and put on a uniform.

*For those who didn't know, Veteran's Day is for the living, Memorial Day is for the dead, which is why this post only mentions people still walking this Earth.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Growing in the Cracks

In the movie Jurassic Park, the chaotician Ian Malcom, played by Jeff Goldblum, warns that life will find a way.  What better example in our daily lives than the little bits of nature that thrust themselves upward through cracks in the pavement?  I adore them, these wee warriors.  I cheer them on, hearty growing things that surprise me in the midst of a parking lot, sidewalk, my driveway.  I know that as a human living in a quasi-urban setting, I should abhor them, yank, rake, chop, and poison them, but how can I?  I can't bring myself to remove these reminders of living entropy.

They put me in mind of compassion, taking root in places where it shouldn't thrive, but...somehow...it blooms.

Someone is currently in jail, serving his sentence for the drug related charges he was arrested for last winter.

Through him, I have had some opportunities to be compassionate, and I have taken them.  No one should be without contact with their family, so I make phone calls, let family and friends know that their person is in jail and how to remain in contact with them.  I have talked a few people through court proceedings so they'll have an idea what to expect.  I've given a ride or two to people who had no means of transportation.  I even, once or twice when I could, put a few dollars on an inmate's books so they could get soap or deodorant or envelopes and stamps from the commissary.  You see, when they enter the jail, men and women alike are given nothing but the inmate's jumpsuit and a pair of pseudo-Crocs.  They have to purchase underwear, paper, pencils, stamps, soap, shampoo, deodorant, comb, toothbrush, toothpaste, socks, and if it's cold they can either shiver or buy long underwear.  No money?  Too bad for you.


There's another well of compassion, one inside the jail.  It's an unexpected thing - we are taught that people in jail are a bad lot, the worst, that they fight and hate and steal and bully...and sometimes that does happen.

More often, though...

There's V.  He's in his fifties.  Never been in trouble with the law before.  Served in the military.  Got into an argument with his wife last March.  Reached for his keys so he could go for a drive, cool off.  She got them first, wouldn't give them to him.  He reached for them in her hand.  They bumped their heads together.  She called the police and he was charged with domestic violence.  Am I minimizing, sugar coating?  Nope.  Even the wife, now the future ex Mrs. V, says that's what happened, now that she's had time to cool off, realize what she's done and what she stands to lose.  She's sorry she ever called the cops and would love to recant...but here in Redneck Central, even if a partner/spouse withdraws their complaint, a person can still be prosecuted...because there are plenty of victims who will change their minds out of fear.  This is not such a case, but the DA doesn't much care...it looks good on their record, doesn't it?

Anyway, there's V.  Arrested, sitting in the booking/processing area, he tried to call his ex/first wife, but she doesn't answer strange numbers, so he couldn't get through, and the jail phones don't allow one to leave a message.

He was dumped into the population with nothing but a tremendous sense of bewilderment and prison issue jumpsuit and shoes.

Within 24 hours, some thirty different men asked him if he was okay, made sure he got food, showed him the ropes, made sure he had a shirt, some socks, hygiene items, even coffee (prisoners can order instant coffee from the commissary...they prepare it with tap water, or, if they're lucky, warm water from the shower).  When Someone learned that V couldn't get through to his first/ex wife, he called me, gave me her number and V's information.  I called her, talked to her, explained what had happened and what she could do to let him call her, when his preliminary hearing was, what the charges were, and how to put money on his books, and how to arrange bail and what it would likely cost.  I gave her my contact information and told her to call or text any time she had a question and I'd do my best to help her.  Funny, at first she thought I was one of the deputies from the jail.  I set her straight - they don't do this kind of thing...helping the families is NOT in their job description.  The ex/first wife and I text back and forth all the time, now.  She and V came to see me when Someone was taken to serve his sentence...they were worried about me.

Neither V nor his ex/first wife could believe that Someone or I would reach out like that.  Neither one would ever have thought that there, in jail, where there is so little...strangers would offer whatever small comforts they could spare.  True, sometimes there's an expectation of repayment or of paying it forward, but more often, it's just people offering their fellows a hand.

V isn't an isolated incident.  Someone and I are not an isolated incident.  In one of the darkest, dirtiest, grittiest, ugliest places humanity can wedge itself, there are many spots of beauty, so easily missed...so often uprooted and torn up by the keepers of the jail...but they grow, regrow, refuse to give up, refuse to let go of that little spark of spirit, of kindness, compassion.  Thank the gods for that.

Despite they way the world seems to be turning of late, I believe in the good and loving heart in all people.  Funny that it's a bunch of inmates in the local jail who are helping me hold on to that belief, f
lowers poking through the cracks of the pavement.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Olive Trees

I recall reading once, a long time ago, of people who would plant olive trees knowing that the trees would not fruit in their lifetimes, but rather that their grandchildren would see the first harvests.  They were not looking only at their own lives, their own wants or needs, but at what future people would benefit from their present actions.

Oh, how I adore that.

I don't know if we will experience the positive social and legal changes I hope for in my lifetime.  Perhaps it will be my children, or grandchildren, who benefit from the writing and exhorting I do now.  I can live with that.  I can live with knowing that some future generation will pluck fruit from the trees I am planting now.

Change is inevitable.

Why are we humans so fearful of embracing it?  Especially when that change is towards compassion, kindness, caring?

Yesterday I voted.  I did so as a compassionate, kind, and caring being,  I did so thinking not of myself and what I want or need now, but of the people around me, the next generations, of how I could help make a stronger tomorrow.

Idealistic?  Yes.  Foolish?  Perhaps.  But you know what?  I felt better about voting than I have in years.

I think I will continue to buck the trend.  I think I will encourage my fellow humans to do the same.  Who knows, perhaps we may start a whole new trend?

Are you in?  Let's plant some trees...

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Alright, Already!

Dear Republican Party,

Leave me alone.  Quit calling me a dozen times a day.  Quit mailing things to me.  Quit telling me how important it is that I am faithful to you and only you.  If you were a person, you would be guilty of stalking me and  would have a restraining order against you.
Dear Democratic Party,

Leave me alone.  Quit calling me a dozen times a day.  Quit mailing things to me.  Quit telling me how important it is that I am faithful to you and only you.  If you were a person, you would be guilty of stalking me and  would have a restraining order against you.
Dear Libertarian Party,

Thank you for not calling me a dozen times a day, mailing things to me, telling me how important it is that I am faithful to you and only you, and generally acting stalkerish.  Or was it simply that the Republicans and Democrats so stuffed my mailbox and clogged my phone line that you couldn't squeeze in?
Believe it or not, political parties, I do pay attention to what you are doing.  Your candidates actions are what help me decide how to vote, not some damn fool party line or loyalty.  Calling me at all hours and playing insincere recordings at me won't endear your party to me, most especially when you interrupt meals of time with my children and the recording say things that are decidedly contrary to your candidates' behavior.

Also, continuing the robo-calls on voting day, even after the polls have closed?  Irritates me.  You don't want to irritate me.  I'm already trying very hard not to go all Krakatoa on a minute-by-minute basis.  You're not helping.  

Don't make me got the chicken foot...

Monday, November 3, 2014

You Don't Have To...

I'm feeling melancholy today.  hardly new.  I am feeling as though I have lost myself, or given myself away bit by bit until there's not enough left of me for me.  I feel bent and broken and wrong.  I'm cold outside and in.

The world is still beautiful, and I cannot bear it.  I have things to do and I am doing none of them.

Music, instead.  Song after song, helping me tick away the hours until tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow, on and on...

Last week was death and anger and hurt and struggle and loss and hunger and cold.  This week looks like much the same.  How dare the sky be blue?