Your Only Job During the Holidays

The number one reason that folks feel depressed during the holidays is because they do not feel welcome, a part of a village, or loved as they are. There are habits that have been acceptable for a long time that we as parents and friends must change. If this is the season for kindness, than we must go beyond random acts of kindness to strangers and really be kind and absolutely loving to those around us.

From top left: my husband, Doug, my oldest granddaughter’s dad (and Emily’s ex), Bret, my son-in-law, Reed (Emily’s husband), my son, Andy, his girlfriend, Bree, my granddaugher, Maryjane, my daughter, Emily with Ayla, Bret’s brother, Bailey, me, Shyanne’s boyfriend, Jake, and in front is Shyanne. They are all apart of my family.

Now, this is important- Number One- no nagging. For god’s sake, we don’t really think that nagging will endear our children to us, do we? Your grown children make decisions every day- hard ones- and are becoming the people they are meant to be (whether they are eighteen or fifty-five!) and they need support, not “advice.” Once they head out that front door as a young person setting out into the world, their business is no longer yours. They are more likely to come to you for advice and friendship if you are not already badgering them. The way they raise their children is not your business either. They can homeschool, travel the world, be strict, have no rules, or send them to private school. Our only job is to show by example unconditional love. Unconditional love. That is what this world needs more of, especially around the holiday table.

Perhaps your daughter brings home a young man with a mohawk or her new girlfriend. Or your son brings home a woman your age, or someone of a different religion. Maybe your child quit college to your dismay and your daughter moved in with her best friend who has less-than-admirable habits. (None of that is your business.) Our job now is to be undeniably loving, welcoming, supporting, hugging, happy and accepting examples of love. That is what people need. Unconditional love.

I adore all of my kids’ friends. Many of them call me mama. Everyone knows that we can squeeze in more chairs. I will have plenty of food. Everyone is welcome at my table- mohawk or not. They also know they can call me to talk or if they need advice.

My mother used to say (following the advice of many parenting gurus) that she is not our friend, she is our mother. That is too bad, because she is still not my friend, sadly. Be friends with your kids, their friends, the neighbors down the street, the woman who just lost her husband, the coworker without family here, the people that Creator sends into your life. They are not being sent to you to be saved, they are being sent to you to be loved.

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Let’s make this holiday season a bright one for others by accepting them as they are, opening your home and table to them, offering respite from expectations, and offering unconditional love. See how that doesn’t just change your world and the world around you.

What Samhain is all About

The sun hasn’t risen over the horizon yet and the cedars and houses are but silhouettes. It is a lovely time of day. A time of contemplation and memory. And today is Samhain; an entire day of contemplation and memory. So many have lost touch of what this holiday is really about. Candy and ghouls didn’t come until much later.

Samhain is the last harvest festival in the agricultural calendar. Also known as the Day of the Dead in Mexico and by many other names by the thousands of spiritual paths around the world throughout time, Samhain is the name of the Celtic festival. It is a day of remembrance.

Samhain is the last of the three harvest festivals. In August, we celebrated the harvest of grains and herbs. In September, we celebrated the harvesting of autumn crops and the joy of filling our larder. In October, the animals that would be used as sustenance to get through the cold months are harvested.

Now, the days are shorter and colder and the farm work is done. Days went by in a whirl and it is already October. The deaths of loved ones the previous year stay heavy on our hearts at this time with less to do. Their memories with us and grief present.

I find it rather difficult not to believe in spirits and ghosts doing the work I do, but many people shut it out. Perhaps Hollywood movies have scared us too much. But our loved ones are within earshot and all around us, in a slightly different realm, but sometimes still visible. They come to us in dreams and sometimes you can hear them. As I was moving, I was so overwhelmed with packing and stress. Twice right before we moved, as I walked through my garden, a strange white mist filled an area near my Hawthorn tree. All we have to do is pay attention.

Well Dears, today the veil is thinnest. One might note that a lot of folks seem to pass away this time of year. One also might note cupboard doors open, strange songs playing, and lots of “coincidences.” It is Samhain and our loved ones are very, very close.

Grandma Nancy and Aunt Donna

Today we remember those that we have lost this year. Last Halloween morn, Doug and I heard and saw two small owls screeching and making quite a racket outside our window. The owls only come to me when there is a big event. Great-Aunt Donna had died. Grandma waited until after Ayla was born on her and Grandpa’s 70th anniversary, then went and joined her sister. For them and the countless other loved ones we have lost in our lifetime, we will light candles and place an extra plate at the table. A candle will go into the west window so that the wandering spirits out visiting will be able to find their way home. A fire in the wood stove with chairs around to greet those that come. That is what Samhain is about.

May your loved ones visit and your heart heal from grief. May your pantries be filled with food and your homes filled with laughter and family!

Halloween Through the Years (and tons of easy costume ideas!)

Going through photos can be bittersweet. My babies have grown up! We sure had fun over the years and there is more fun to have.

My son, Andrew, is now 26 years old. Shyanne is turning 24 in December. The baby is Emily, 22 years old, a new bride and the mother of my two beautiful granddaughters, Maryjane, who is six, and Ayla, who is turning one in three weeks. They are all creative, fun, holiday loving kiddos. Add me and my husband, Doug, in, and we have had some fun costumes!

We used to traipse all over town to visit grandparents with the children in costume. Doug’s grandparents, my grandparents, and Doug’s folks all knew to be ready with the candy and the camera.

In front of Grandma’s lake.

At home, the house was set with fun-scary decorations and orange lights. Spooky sounds wafted from the CD player and “Halloween Hamburgers” thrilled the young goblins before trick-or-treating. Around our suburban neighborhood we would go, laughing and begging for candy; the kids all hoping for a big candy bar. The neighbor across the street gave quarters. (Not cool.)

We had a large bin of clothes in the playroom. The kids might get a new costume one year but then it would be replayed year to year as something else. We had a lot of fun with costumes and never spent very much.

Then Maryjane Rose was born and the fun began all over!

And then her sister came last November! They are going to be Joker and Harley Quinn. So cute!

And the fun continues! Happy Halloween!

Homemade Christmas Presents (planning now!)

I know no one likes to speak of Christmas before Halloween, y’all, but for us that like to make homemade presents, there is a bit of panic in the air. How close are we to Christmas? Nine and a half weeks! That may seem like a long time and there is still plenty of time to pick out costumes and plan Thanksgiving dinner, but I am wondering how I got so far behind! (Oh yea, I moved.)

The sewing machine has taken up residence on the dining room table and will probably stay there on up to Yule. There are lists of yarn and fabric still to get. Things to create. People to make presents for! And as you all know, nine weeks goes pretty darn fast.

My grandmother made many homemade gifts. She made this doll for Shyanne that year.

It is easy to go pick up something from Walmart, wrap it up, and say, “Here ya go!” But said item may inevitably break, homestead budget rarely allows for elaborate and multiple gifts, and a homemade gift speaks volumes. Wrapped in a homemade gift is poetry and love songs and a recipient can feel the affection from the giver (too romanticized?). A homemade gift is usually useful and deliberate.

So, what can you make?

Do you sew? You can make any number of things, from quilts to aprons. Maybe cloth napkins or place mats.

Do you crochet? You can make shawls, scarves, blankets, candle or cup cozies.

Do you paint? You could paint a wooden box for keepsakes or a painting of a favorite pet.

Do you weld? My daughter’s boyfriend welded together car parts to make me the most charming snowman I have ever seen.

Do you wood work? Crates and boxes and furniture are all amazing gifts.

Do you cook/bake/preserve? Jars of preserves, homemade wine, and bread are wonderful to receive.

Christmas shopping is kind of fun, so maybe get someone cast iron. Cloth napkins with good wooden spoons. Candles or an oil lamp. Antiques that are still useful. Or if all else fails, no one will balk at a gift card to Lehman’s!

I will be thinking of what I am going to dress up as for my friends’ Halloween party but I will also be busy creating gifts. What great gifts do you like to create?

Shyanne’s Halloween House

For a long time, my daughter, Shyanne, had a life-sized faux skeleton posed in the passenger side of her jeep. It was hilarious watching people walk by her car and suddenly take a second look and a jump back! Victor proudly held onto the front seat until Shyanne got another car. Victor seems to have found a new place, this time on the front porch, sunning in the autumn rays and scaring playfully in the evening haze.

Our family has always gone all out for holidays. On October first, the children would arrive home from school to find the house joyfully decorated (I am not much into real fear and gore, more Disney Halloween) and I would be standing at the stove with an outrageous witch hat on carefully stirring my pot of witch’s brew. (Apple cider with pumpkin pie spice.) The dollar store, spider webs and cardboard cutouts graced the house and a large witch on a broom, that we named “Grandma,” hung from the ceiling fan above the dining room table.

“Grandma!” the children would all greet her.

The children had a great bin of old clothes, past year’s costumes, and lots of dress-up in order to create the perfect Halloween costume. We made veggie burgers with American cheese that had eyes, nose, and mouth cut out of the slice to make a face. They melted onto the patty in fierce/darling images of scarecrows, vampires, and ghosts.

Yesterday, I went to my daughter, Emily’s house to help her with her girls so she could clean out a closet and so that we could put up spaghetti sauce. Their house is cheerfully decorated for the spooky season. A mask was on their scarecrow, and each time that ten month old Ayla Mae saw it, she began to laugh. That cheerful-baby-laugh continued every time she saw something scary. She will be like her Auntie.

Shyanne needs a job with Martha Stewart, I have always said. She is brilliant with crafts and baking and bringing to life fun and creativity. I am bringing you scenes of her yard today to inspire and enchant you; and maybe scare you just a bit!

Shyanne hand crafted this spooky arbor. Enter if you dare!
Victor’s new girlfriend.

Imbolc- Following the Agricultural Calendar

The agricultural calendar has eight farming and community holidays and celebrations making a wheel.  Every six or so weeks is a corresponding holiday that helps denote the time of year and gives us space to receive blessings and to show gratitude.  These holidays are Celtic historically but they are celebrated still.  The first of these holidays in the year is Imbolc.  Pronounced im-bowl-g.  It begins the eve of February 1st and sometimes goes until February 2nd.  It is not too late to bring back some of our most beloved traditions and wisdom.

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It is interesting to note that in each culture around the world, the gods and goddesses looked very similar and had similar roles.  Brigid is the goddess of spring.  She brings back the light of the sun.  She awakens Mother Earth to warm and bring spring.  She travels through the night on January 31st blessing articles of clothing that are left outdoors.  In her wake life is sparked. 

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Now as Christianity came rolling through, destroying cultures and people in its wake, the church demanded that the peasants (another word for peasant is Pagan) stop worshipping gods and goddesses.  But the people so adored Brigid that the Catholic church finally made her a saint so that the people would at least be praying to a saint.  St. Brigit was born.  Her Celtic cross is not a crucifix, it is a symbol of the four directions. 

Imbolc is one of four fire festivals.  The elements are revered in every original culture for their power to destroy and renew.  Fire warms, awakens, enlivens, brings life. 

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Imbolc translates to “In the belly” or “Ewe’s milk” depending on text and is the celebration of lambs being born.  Fiber, milk, and meat were of course ways of survival before we could truly choose compassion completely.  This is a time to bless seeds.  And each day gets a little longer and a little warmer and gives us hope for spring and a break from the cold. 

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Ways to Celebrate and Prepare

Sweep out the house and set out a bouquet of fresh flowers. 

Mix in a small spray bottle a blend of essential oils along with witchhazel or vodka to suspend.  Try lavender, cedar, sage, orange, frankincense, sandalwood, vanilla, rose, or other intoxicating, cleansing scents and smudge your home and yourself with the oil spray.  Your house will smell fresh, negativity will be released, and a fresh start will commence.

This evening, start a fire or light a candle.  Ask Mother Earth and Brigid and Creator to bless your seeds and gardens. 

Prepare a glass of warm almond milk with herbs steeped in it like lavender or green tea and enjoy before the fire. 

Place a scarf or hat or other article of clothing outdoors to be blessed. 

In our world of science and seriousness, we have lost the enchantment of what was.  People would not have been doing these traditions and celebrating these holidays for thousands of years if there was nothing to them.  Accept your blessings, feel renewed, and enjoy the warmth of Imbolc. 

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2019- As the Wheel Turns

My friends, we are on the cusp of 2019.  It is not a new thing to be thinking of what we want to change, manifest, or release.  This is a wired into us.  Before the modern world, the people knew that the wheel was turning.  The twelve days of Christmas was originally the twelve days of Yule and it ended on the 1st of the month, right when the wheel turns.  It is the thick of winter, a time of deep contemplation.  A bright new beginning.  A time of rebirth from the solstice when the sun begins to shine a bit more each day.  The light in us grows ever more as well.

Halo (Icebow or gloriole).

My work is as an herbalist, a clairvoyant reader, medical intuitive, and spiritual guide.  This is an unusual time.  Most everyone is in great transformation.  It is as if the universe is plucking things right out of people’s hands; relationships, jobs, identities.  Our worst traits are being exposed to the sun in order to change.  Our paths are being laid out in drastic form.  It is best if we just release.

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We are in a time of great change.  We are in a time when the young have more intuitive and sensitive people among them and they are struggling to understand why they are the way they are and are looking for mentors…or masking medications.  We are all being called to find our path.  To release our bad habits, fears, and ego and to embrace a better sense of self.  2019 may be a miraculous year for us all.  There are whispers and questions in the air that need answers.

What relationships cause you pain and stress?

Are your food choices compassionate, healthy, and karmically sound?

Are you honoring your body with movement?

Are you honoring your spirituality by being open to listen to truths being taught to you?  Are you taking time to honor that which you believe in?

Are you emotionally taking wellness breaks?

Are you working yourself every minute of the day for the car payment, for the dishes to be done, for the endless errands and hours at work to be done?

Your passions and desires are the road map to your destiny.  What do you dream of?  What does your life look like in your ideal world?  Who are you with?  What do you do?

What fears need to be released?  What negative habits need to be let go of?  What regrets do you carry?  Forgiving yourself is as important as forgiving others.

Listen.  Be brave.  Let go.  Release.  Embrace.  Smile.  Hope.  Surround yourself with your tribe.  Take up yoga, or walking, or Zumba.  Eat food from the earth.  Open doors, compliment, teach.  Love!  Take hot baths, meditate, light candles, read books.  Make steps towards your goals.  Breathe.

Laugh.

The wheel is turning.  Let us become our brightest, truest, happiest, most intensely magnificent selves.

(Let’s say it is the end of your days, look back, is that how you want to live?)

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A Peaceful Holiday

The full moon hovered brightly over the land last eve and Yule was nigh.  The 12 days of Christmas was originally the 12 days of Yule.  Festivities, bonfires, hearth fires, the yule log, the decorated trees, feeding the birds and other wildlife, exchanging gifts, and checking on the elderly and homebound fill the days of Yule leading to new year.

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It is a quiet morning here in my cozy home.  Father Sun peeks through the windows while climbing to start the day.  I sip my warm coffee, the earthiness and steam filling the air.  We keep the lights on the tree on often.  Just sitting in my rocking chair watching the glimmering lights, scanning the many ornaments that hold place as story tellers, makes me joyful and calm.  I put a Christmas album on.  My favorite is Andy Williams.   The presents are piled on the bed ready to be wrapped in paper and bows.

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Christmas past when my children were very young. (1999)

The birds outside sing and dart about.  The fat squirrel looks at me through the window.  She is out of bird seed.  Sweet thing; I wish blessings on all the wildlife.  A young eagle landed in the tree the other day and we sat together for some time.  The geese fly overhead noisily, their synchronized flying like swimmers in the sky.  Upon this great landscape of earth is such a lovely place to live.  I am thankful each day for health, for life, for family, for this cozy home where the hearth fires burn.

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Dreaming of Christmas cookies

Yesterday I did ceremony on my friends who are getting married beneath the full moon by a fire outdoors.  Today I get the honor of officiating their wedding.  Tomorrow we are off to my cousin’s, the next day to our friends’, home again for Christmas eve and my children will all gather here.  Santa knows to come to Grammie and Pa’s house.  Christmas morning will shine bright with the love of family.  A late Hannukah celebration with family and my daughter’s birthday round out the festivities before the new year dawns with promise and light.

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Christmas present. My beautiful granddaughters, Maryjane and Ayla.

What are your plans for the holidays, my Friends?  From our home to yours, I wish you the happiest Christmas and a blessed Yule.  May you be with those you love and may peace fill your home.

The Magic of a Yuletide Card

Thanksgiving eve.  There is always so much to be thankful for.  Health, family, security, home, and an inspired life.  These things I think of and am thankful for each day of the year.  As a vegetarian and a history lover, Thanksgiving isn’t really my favorite holiday.  And this year my children will be other places.  So, I have put up my Christmas houses and am clearing a place for the tree.  Yes, Yule is my very favorite holiday of the year.  The lights, the charity, the music, the wrappings, the trimmings, the beauty and joy that surrounds Yuletide is intoxicating for me.

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My grandparents with their great, great granddaughters. So much to be thankful for.

Now, I feel like we are all old friends here.  Just like you are over for coffee this pretty morning and I am telling you about how I, on a whim, just registered for a full load of classes to pursue a teaching degree (yes, I did that the other night) or am showing you photographs of my new granddaughter.  Over the years we’ve have had some laughs, we’ve had some tears, we’ve had some wine.  But I like the tangible as well.  I would love to be on your Christmas card list this year and I will add you to mine.  Let us pen old fashioned wishes and hopes for the new year.  I love hearing from readers and responding.  It makes us friends out there in this big, small world.

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Christmas cards may seem old fashioned, but they are a link and a wish to family and friends, old and new, and a moment of your time and love.  There is no greater gift than that.  Christmas cards have led to a few really fabulous pen pals for me.  I enjoy so much that moment of peeking in the mailbox and finding a card or letter.  Placing the envelope in my apron pocket as I make a cup of tea.  Sitting down to savor every word.  To be there.  To listen.  To read.  To pull out a few pieces of beautiful stationary and respond.  Yes, it is one of my favorite things.  Send me a card and I will send you one as well filled with good wishes and cheer, from my cozy home to yours.

Mrs. Katie Sanders

1901 Brown Ave

Pueblo, CO 81004

Wishing you a joyous Thanksgiving and a happy beginning to your Yuletide festivities.

Samhain and the Owls

The owls returned this morning.  Two owls bantering back and forth outside our bedroom window in the early morning hours.  If you know me quite well, or if you have read my memoir (The Making of a Medicine Woman; the Memoirs of Bird Woman), then you know that that is quite fateful for us.  My spirit animals only arrive when there is a profound shift in our life occurring or about to occur.  Our moves, my shop closing, and many other events were heralded by my guardian messenger.  I smiled and pulled the covers up closer as my half feral kitten licked my hair as a sign of love.  I felt in that moment profoundly grateful.

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It is Samhain.

Pronounced sow-wen, Samhain is the last agricultural holiday of the year.  Tomorrow is New Year in the old ways.  Samhain is the third harvest festival and one that is near and dear to many souls across many continents over many thousands of years.  From those celebrating Day of the Dead to those Scottish farmers lighting candles in their cottages, this time of year is bittersweet and filled with love and great memories.

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The sky grows dark earlier now and the harvest is in.  The air grows colder and the fireplace is lit.  The veil is quite thin and the things you think are coincidental are not.  Our ancestors, our beloveds, our friends and family that crossed over this year make their way visiting.  Cupboard doors creak and electronics have a mind of their own.  But it is not a scary time.  It is a time of comfort and remembrance, and most of all, gratitude.

For those lives that have touched us over the years and the people and animals that walk our journey with us for a time, we are grateful.  So tonight, put out a few chairs around the fire for the weary souls and light a candle in the west window so they can find their way.  Know that in your life, you are not alone.  There are spirits and messengers and an entire universe opening and closing doors, sending hope, arranging meetings, and helping you maneuver this lovely path called life.  So put out some old photographs, light a few candles, pour a glass of wine, take a deep breath, and know that all is well.

Happy Samhain