Author Archives: revkelly

Merry Christmas One and All!

It’s the time of year when we are all looking around and saying “Bless it, I forgot to get a gift for… (insert name here)!

Yeah, we all do it and more often than we want to. I’m doing it right now and trust me it’s a total panic attack since I have a pretty big family. I’d love to lavish them all with whatever their little heart’s desire, but that just isn’t possible until I win that darn lottery. Then you’ll see some Christmas presents, I tell ya!

So here are some ideas to take some of the fear out of forgetting a special someone, or at least to let them know you actually did think of them, even if it was at the last minute. The craft store is your best friend right now, so here are some ideas before you jump in the car.

For the thinker in your circle: make them a PDA! Not the electronic kind, this one fits in the back pocket and uses a more traditional interface. Get a small notebook that will fit in a pocket and a small craft pencil. Wind ribbon in a bright color around the pen and glue in place, leaving two lengths about 4” long to attach to the notebook. The tails can be used to tie the book shut. Now they can keep their day organized. You can decorate the book as well with fancy inks or stamps. Make a few, since these are good for men or women.

Decorate a pen for your favorite writer: Choose a pen that is a little thicker than normal. You can wrap it in fancy ribbon or fabric trim (check out the remnants sections of your nearest craft store for some good deals) hang chains with charms from the top, strings of beads or pearls, or paint the barrel of the pen with glue and roll in seed beads for a mosaic effect.

Make a necklace for your beloved fashionista: Mix and match different sized chains from thin to thick and add chunky beads, sea glass pendants, wood and ceramic to create a drape she’ll be proud to wear.

Bracelets: These can be done with leather thongs, chains, braided colored cords, you name it. If you can tie a knot in it, you can make a bracelet out of it. Add steam punk charms, lockets, watches, dog tags, mini bird cages, whatever looks fun and wild. Great for the teen emo in the family!

If you can sew or know someone who can, get a plain rayon scarf in their favorite color. To this you can add coin or bead trim, fringe in the same or a contrasting color (black and white is always good).

A custom T-shirt: stamp it with fabric paint in a cool design or use a bleach pen to write their name on it over and over again (works better on cotton fabric, and remember to rinse with a vinegar solution to stop the bleach from eating the fabric)

We love Christmas and we love our families, but sometimes life just gets in the way of showing that. None of these quick crafts require a lot of time and all will be appreciated! Merry Christmas, Happy Yule, Happy Hannuka, and a Blessed Winter Solstice to everyone out there!

Rev Zita.

The Post-Election Blues

It’s all over and for once there isn’t much shouting. Obama is once again the President, but sadly the Congressional roster didn’t change all that much. The Democrats have hung on to the senate but the Republicans have kept the House. It may be silly of me but I choose to be cautiously optimistic.

For the last four years we’ve heard the Republicans declare that defeating Obama was their highest priority. Not being wise legislators, not creating good laws and not balancing the budget.

While the overall makeup of our government has not really changed that much, the Republicans have suffered some pretty serious losses in the public eye. Democrats as well have been smacked in the face with the realization that this is a new political game out there. They, however, do seem to be far more adaptable than the Republicans.

As a voter and a citizen of the United States of America, I have some hopes for the next few years. I don’t think they are outrageous or extreme, I think they are fairly reasonable. Here they are:

  • Party infighting has got to stop. Congress has done nothing but stall and create a vicious cycle of fiscal difficulties and then tried to blame it on the other guy. I don’t care who started it, clean it up.
  • Compromise is not a dirty word. It also is not treason to make a deal that will benefit the entire country and not just your political party.
  • Pragmatism has its’ place, and it is definitely in politics. Be practical and you can get a lot more done, no matter which side of the aisle you are on.
  • Obstructionism is the political name for whining and throwing a temper tantrum when you don’t get your own way, and that is how our senators and congressmen look while doing nothing. See also filibustering.
  • Pump some money into the small business sector.
  • Get some basic manufacturing back on home soil. Right now we can’t make our own toothpicks, for gods’ sake. Get some agribusiness and biotech in the pipeline.
  • Improve the school system. Smart ideas have to come from somewhere.
  • Take care of our own, first. We’ve spent sixty years being the helping hand all over the world, but we have forgotten to take care of ourselves.

Like I said, I feel these are reasonable expectations for the new congress for the next four years. The tragic thing is that I really don’t see any of them happening in the near future without some pretty serious attitude adjustments taking place for both republicans and democrats. I can only watch and hope and plan for the next election.

Find your peace, friends.

Rev. Zita

A Few Thoughts on Samhain and Halloween

It is October, the wonderful month of color and spooky events. Winter is coming and we are getting ready for our long cold months by insulating the house, covering windows, getting our cars serviced, etc. Samhain is coming, too.  Most people call it Halloween and celebrate by buying candy and costumes and going to bars and parties.

I loved Halloween as a child; what kid doesn’t? I would agonize over my costume and wonder how much candy I was going to get and be annoyed when my brothers made me go home after a couple of hours of raiding the neighborhood for goodies. C’mon, there are lots of houses we haven’t hit yet!

When I got older I envied the little kids who still got to go Trick-or-treating. It didn’t seem fair that they could do it and I couldn’t just because I was taller than they were. To add to my dissatisfaction, I was a tall kid; I got my growth spurt early and it never let up. It may have saved my teeth from all that sugar, but it definitely messed with my morale.

To soothe my angst, I started to look into All Hallows Eve. I learned the history. I studied the myths and the social meanings and the religious significance of the holiday. I discovered the thrill of ghost stories and a love of low-budget horror movies. OK, I watched them from behind the couch because it was past my bedtime, but Vincent Price was my favorite actor almost until puberty was over.

I loved the idea that Samhain or Halloween was when the veil between the worlds thinned and the spirits could visit again, if only for a little while. The idea that those who loved us might pay a visit made me happy, it made me feel that someone was keeping an eye on me in a good way. I felt connected to family who had passed long before I was born. The Celtic custom of leaving food out for the ‘visitors’ made perfect sense to me. You should always offer your guests refreshment; that is what a good hostess does, after all. My mother didn’t agree and I had to settle for hiding cookies on the porch with a note. The cookies were always gone in the morning, though and I hoped that they understood.

Ghost stories always got my full attention. After a while, though, I realized that all too often the people who got hurt in those stories generally brought it on themselves. If you know an old building has a history of strange and bizarre events, why would you deliberately go there? Doesn’t that seem as if you are giving the disembodied occupants permission to hurt you? If there is an old asylum where people died and investigators have been injured, it seems pretty stupid to hold an all-night party there. So I tend not to watch those cheesy teen horror movies any more—after all, most of them don’t have much of a plot these days and they do seem to be what Stephen King called ‘torture porn’. Yuck.

But I still love Samhain. This Halloween I will light candles and pray for those who have passed on. I will make dinner and leave flowers and food out on the porch for them, even though I know that the food will be eaten by stray animals and the flowers will freeze. I will give candy to the little monsters and Disney characters that come to my door and I will decorate with pumpkins and spider webs and severed plastic body parts.  I will love every minute of it.

Find your peace, friends.

Rev. Zita

Pop culture is the same as it always was…

I love to watch pop culture. People love magic, and we are always looking for more. We want that sense of wonder, the opportunity to gaze in wide-eyed wonder and go “Ooooh!” From UFO’s to Pyramids, magnetic bracelets to chain letters, we have this odd need to believe these things will actually influence our lives one way or another.

I find it really funny that a society that has been to the Moon and has created the most massive communications and information network in history and stands on the verge of defeating diseases that have plagued mankind for millennia, still thinks that not passing on a chain email will bring Bad Things into their lives.

Hey, I do it too. I don’t pass on or even open the stupid emails that threaten me with consequences; I delete those and if the threat is really bad I pass them on to law enforcement. I do pass on the good luck ones, and I hope my friends don’t mind—some of them are really funny. I’m just sharing the joke. Of course there is always that thought in the back of my mind: ‘Couldn’t hurt and it might even work, you never know…’

That’s the secret to these things, after all is said and done.  There may be only a one-in-a-million chance of a magnetic bracelet helping Aunt Stella’s arthritis, but it is still a chance, isn’t it? It is the newest magical talisman that appeals to our primitive hopes and beliefs. When science has failed us we turn back to the concepts of our past, to the magic and rituals that have prevailed for centuries. It’s exactly the same as the medieval Pilgrim buying a saint’s medallion, secure in the belief that his souvenir will protect him from disease and misfortune.

We follow the ideas of UFOs or angelic visitations because the concept of the powerful strangers from outside our territory is actually normal—strangers do bring new things to us, but they are usually from another country, not from another world. Strangers are often hostile or their motives are at best obscure, so fear and fascination are a perfectly normal response. UFO’s and Angels have a lot in common, really: powerful beings that are mysterious, incomprehensible and bizarre in appearance. We have no idea why they are here or what they are doing, but it must be important, right? UFO’s are still magic, just with space ships substituted for the wings and halos.

Of course we are ambivalent about the entire concept of magic in the first place. Books and shows like ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Charmed’ are wildly popular, but they demonstrate our need for that sense of wonder. Religions have always held that magic is evil, unless it is being done by their own, approved outlets and then they do a spin on it and call it a ‘miracle’. Tales of the old saints commanding strange beasts and healing the sick or causing earthquakes to level an enemy city are just stories about magic by an authorized practitioner. It’s a lot like a trade union, if you think about it.

 What most people won’t tell you is that these things are normal. We pass on the good-luck emails because we all want bit of an advantage in getting through our lives, whether that means carrying a rabbits foot or just ‘hoping for the best’. We tell stories of ghosts and UFOs interchangeably because we are creating our own cultural archive; these are our new mythology. The image of the Scientist has replaced the image of the Witch or bearded Sorcerer; Merlin wears a lab coat and glasses nowadays.

In a way, pop culture hasn’t change in several thousand years. Whether it is Sindbad or the late Neil Armstrong, the adventurer is still going to new and exotic places and bringing back tales of wonder and danger. Poltergeists and EMF fields, Hackers and Wizards are all part of the collective mind; we love these images and use them almost interchangeably. We will still buy and use our talismans and good luck charms even as we check the NASA website for the latest pictures from Mars.

Pop culture isn’t a bad thing, unless you become obsessive on your favorite topic, but that holds true for anything you enjoy.  Pop culture is just us, as we always have been and probably always will be. Enjoy it.

Is Religion Bad for Your Brain?

Science and religion have always had a very tumultuous relationship. If they were married, I’d be recommending lots of counseling and calling divorce attorneys for them. Science is always attempting (and often succeeding) in disproving some of the more flamboyant claims of religion and Religion is persistent in decrying the ‘faithless’ efforts of science to explain the world around us in reproducible terms.

While reading some random news posts, I ran across an article in Philly Health that suggested that some of the more extreme evangelical religions may reduce the size and capabilities of the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for memory.  You can read the entire article here: http://www.philly.com/philly/health/132456883.html?c=r. The tests were done on older adults and were more geared to be part of an elder care study, from what I read.

I don’t think they were trying to insult anyone’s religious beliefs, but it got me to wondering: If a religion that prefers you to seek all answers to all questions in its sacred texts can lead to atrophy of a key area of the brain, would a religion that encourages analytical thinking and exploration actually prevent some forms of degeneration?

I admit that I am reaching , here. The study was not geared to the biblical literalists in any way; I just took a faint concept and ran with it. On the face of it, it does make sense. If you are restricted in your source of information and have little contact with external stimuli, the brain would have no reason to maintain or renew neurological connections associated with memory. An extreme example would be completely cloistered religious or isolated groups that severely restrict contact from ‘outside’ their immediate environment. All responses would be entirely by rote rather than requiring new solutions or analysis to be created in response to new situations or information. Sadly, I do not know of a study that has been done on member of any cloistered groups in this area, so it is pure speculation on my part.

Unfortunately I also don’t know of any religion that insists on and encourages continual learning and questioning, either.

The conflict between Science and Religion is based on their fundamental principles. Religion on the whole is based on Faith with a capitol ‘F’’: believe in what has been revealed to you without question. Science is based on the idea of questioning everything from the very start and takes nothing on faith. Both have their place and should not attempt to usurp the other’s place or function, since that usually leads to very bad things happening. If you doubt that, I suggest you look at the rigors of communist anti-religious purges or the current series of religious wars going on.

As a last note, I’d like to recommend a look at the ‘Aphorisms for Heretics’ in our archives here on this site, especially aphorisms 5 thru 8 and number 25. I am a proponent of continued education, but I also encourage belief in that which brings you comfort. Just don’t overdo it and remember to keep your brain healthy.

Find your peace, friends.

Rev. Zita

A letter I sent to the Friends of Scott Walker

Dear Governor Walker,

 

Today my husband received a letter from your campaign asking for our household to support you and send you money to defeat “Big Government Labor Unions”. We are not supporting you, and here is why:

  1. In April, you repealed the equal pay act of 2009 making it easier for women to get the equal pay for equal work. As a woman and my husband whole heartedly agrees this is discriminatory and insulting.
  2. You are looking to increase premiums and drop women, children, and families enrolled in Badger Care making it impossible for them to obtain quality health care.
  3. While the unemployment rate in Wisconsin has dropped, you do not have a comment or even mention that we have replaced living wage jobs with jobs that pay only slightly better than minimum wage, yet have the nerve to complain about people using public assistance to make ends meet. Minimum wage is not a wage that a family can live on.
  4. Wisconsin is still dead last when it comes to unemployment numbers, so if you are creating so many jobs, why is that?
  5. You would like to end a woman’s right to birth control and the right to choose. This is America, and if you do not like abortion, don’t have one.

Governor Walker, you do not have my support, I will not send you money, and frankly I will not vote for you either. From what I have seen of your term as governor, you do not represent any Wisconsin value that I know of.

Sincerely,

Reverend Kelly K Hunt

Has the Republican Party lost its collective mind? Act 219 and Wisconsin women.

With a Governor facing a very hostile recall election and the overall poor performance the party has been showing they have done it again: repealed the Equal Pay act of 2009. This law allows women the right to sue their employer when pay discrimination is discovered. It counters the restrictive sections of the Ledbetter act by making it possible to sue after discovery, rather than suing when the discrimination begins, as in Federal Law. If you want to check out both, just Google ‘Lily Ledbetter’ and ‘Act 219 Wisconsin’. You can get a list of the Senators who sponsored and seconded the act as well.

219 has other results as well: it bans coverage of abortion or birth control by any insurance obtained through an exchange, and keeps workers from suing over the results of genetic testing by employers. It keeps teachers from discussing any form of birth control or STD prevention other than abstinence.

 Back to my question, however. Are they crazy? The Republicans have completely forgotten that 52% of the population is female. Yup, that’s right, more than half of Americans are women, and they are voters as well. The very same voters on which the republicans depend to attain their positions in the first place. These same female voters have husbands, boyfriends, fathers, brothers and male friends that might also dislike what is happening. Husbands don’t like it when their wife’s pay is cut. It makes them change political allegiance to protect their womenfolk.

Those same women voters are patient people for the most part. We don’t like to make a fuss; we just want to get on with our lives. But everyone’s patience has an end point, and it is starting to look like the Republicans are getting on our last nerve. I’m having enough trouble making ends meet and they are making it harder than it needs to be. I intend to take some practical action.

I’m not going to start camping on the steps of the state capitol and whine about how unfair it is. That is not an effective tactic. Instead I’m going to vote the crazy people out of office and get someone in who is actually going to get things done properly and fairly. I’m checking out the voting records of incumbents and looking at the histories of new candidates to determine who will do the best job. That’s the person I’m going to vote for and from what I have seen so far, it will never be a Republican.

Find your peace, friends.

Rev. Zita.

Note: In addition to voting them out of office, write, no flood the offices of your state representatives with letters and emails. Find out how to contact them here: http://legis.wisconsin.gov/w3asp/waml/waml.aspx They only will listen if we make them.

Love to all,

Rev. Kelly

Diaries and Journals: Creating a record of your own life.

Creating a diary or journal used to be an everyday kind of thing. You went about your day, working, eating, cleaning, socializing and shopping. At the end of the day you would take a few moments and use the simple task of writing to clear your mind. The entry might just be a recitation of facts and events, or you may include the latest gossip, your descriptions of what one of your friends wore during a lunch date, the reprimand you got from your boss for slacking off, or the bonus you got for doing a good job. Maybe you saw a movie and want to mention your impressions of it or you ate at a really good restaurant and the food was wonderful.

Whatever it was, you wrote it down and it became the record of your superbly ordinary life. It meant that you were here, and not because you carved your initials into a tree somewhere. The creation of a journal puts your life into context; it shows how you interact with the world around you and lets those who come later know the real you, even if they can’t meet you personally.

One of my co-workers is very interested in history, especially local history. She once made the comment that it was interesting to read excerpts from her ancestor’s diaries, and how it made them more ‘real’ to her. Reading their own accounts of their lives brought them back to life in a sense. It turned history from a dry collection of facts to an intimate experience of daily life for her.

I mentioned this to another friend, who told me that when she was pregnant she kept a daily journal for each of her soon-to-be children so they would know what was going on in the time before they were born. She said she wrote the entries as if they were letters to the child, detailing each and every test result, including things like morning sickness, the first time she felt them move in her womb, the first ultrasound, adventures in decorating their nursery, and reactions from relatives and friends. When her kids are older, she plans to gift them with the diaries so they will see what an impact they had made even before they were born.

Still another friend does what is called ‘Art Journaling’. She uses not only words, but paint, ink, pens, collages, and a host of other techniques as well as the written word to create very lovely and expressive records of her impressions of life. Her sketchbooks are fascinating individual creations that truly blur the lines between personal recording and artistic expression.

It really doesn’t matter what form your diary or journal takes. It could be online in a blog, on computer in a private file or on paper with ink and paint. You might set up a camera and make a video diary to be saved to DVD. The important thing is that you take a moment to record your life for yourself. Use it to clear your mind of those nagging worries by putting them down to be looked at later. Make lists of the things you want to do with your loved ones or plot world domination in your favorite MMORPG. It’s your diary—use it to save what’s important to you, about you and for you.

I think I’ll grab some of the blank books I’ve been buying all these years and put them to use. I may write bad poetry, create new wedding ceremonies, religious rituals, bad limericks or draw a few pictures. I may create scurrilous tales about fictional adversaries. Or not. No matter what, it will be my journal and it will be fun!

Find your Peace, friends.

Rev. Zita

Carry a Little Good Luck with You as You Go

How many people carry a good luck charm? Here we are in the age of computers and rationality and I know lots of people who own a certain ‘lucky’ item that they will carry when needed. Sports fans especially will speak of wearing their lucky jersey to help their team with that big win on game day.

I wanted to take a look at some of the more popular good luck charms just for the fun of it.

The Rabbit’s Foot Charm: this is a very old charm that harks back to the idea that carrying a part of an animal would give you some of that animal’s attributes. In this case the rabbit or hare was believed to be clever enough to survive any misfortune, as well as extremely fertile and sexually potent.

The Horseshoe: It was a reminder of the horse-goddess Epona; the material was the height of high-tech back in the day, and if it protected a valuable animal like a horse, it should protect your home. Placed over a door with the points up meant it was gathering blessings and goodwill. Placed points down was generally done over a forge to pass energy back to the ironworker who made the original.

The Hand of Fatima: This represents fertility, faith, and protection, as well as the five major virtues of Islam. To wear it or have it displayed is to invoke blessings, strength, good luck and family. It is very popular throughout the Middle east, southern Europe and with any number of celebrities.

The Four-Leaf Clover: Finding a fourth leaf on a clover is relatively unusual and makes it more effective as a talisman. The leaves represent wealth, love, health and blessings for the finder. It should be carefully dried and preserved to keep the leaves from falling off the stem. Giving them away is frowned upon, since who would be stupid enough to give away their good luck?

Frogs: The symbol of a frog or toad is a popular symbol in the Asian world. It is especially powerful for prosperity, fertility and protection among Feng Shui practitioners. In Egyptian symbolism it represents the Goddess Hekt, protectors of mothers, newborn children and goddess of magic.

There are literally dozens of talismans used to bring good fortune. Many are very personal, such as the kid who always wears a necklace given them by a favorite relative, the pretty stone you picked up while hiking, or a photo of a loved one you feel protects you.

If you are looking for a charm of your own, I suggest that you follow an old folk magic method. Go somewhere you don’t normally go, such as a park or walking trail you don’t normally frequent, or a public event such as a concert. Just make sure it is outdoors and a place relatively new to you.

Once there, keep your eyes open for anything that attracts you. It may be a penny on the ground, an odd-colored pebble, a piece of broken jewelry you find, or maybe the hot dog vendor gives you a strange coin with your change. You might even find it in a souvenir stall!

That said, I want to point out that good things happen to people who believe they are worthy of them. If you believe you are a lucky person, then you are lucky. A good attitude will go farther to change your life than any rabbit’s foot! Leave a comment and tell us what your good luck charm is: is it one of the classics or do you have something more unique? We’d love to hear about it!

Find your piece, friends!

Rev. Zita

Survive the Winter!

Winter has actually showed up here in Central Wisconsin and being forced indoors creates its own challenges. ‘Cabin fever’ is a real hazard and can lead to frayed nerves and tempers. We all miss the sunny days of summer, and not all of us enjoy winter sports. Personally, I am one of those people who are more inclined to curl up with a good book and a cup of hot chocolate than to go ice fishing. In the spirit of surviving the snowy months, I offer up a list of things we can do to make the winter more enjoyable.

  1. Join a book club. This is great because it gives you literature and socialization in one. If you can’t find one, talk to a few of your co-workers and see about setting one up.  You can even choose a theme such as romance books, novels, or non-fiction. You can even devote the club to a person such as JFK or Abraham Lincoln. You could also combine this with the recipe club below and learn about the foods mentioned in the books you read.

 

  1. Start a recipe club! Meet friends to share a potluck dinner of new and old favorites. Make copies of the recipes for each member. Or each person can bring a dish for each course of the meal: one for the appetizers, one brings the main dish, another brings the side dish, and the last brings the dessert. What variations can the club come up with for future meetings? The possibilities are huge!

 

  1. 3.       Exercise. EEEEWWW! Yeah, but you’ll feel better, look better and it keeps those winter blues to a manageable level. Hmm, I should take my own advice. Get a few DVD’s and find someone to work out with and keep you on track.

 

  1. 4.       Take up a hobby. Make fishing lures, beaded jewelry, sew clothes or stuffed animals, research your family history, knit, crochet, make birdhouses to put up in your yard, sculpt little clay figurines, etc. Lots of possibilities out there so google it and see what you might like.

 

  1. 5.       Start a blog. Blogspot.com is free and you can write anything you like. Share your politics, religion, personal philosophy or your experiences with UFO’s. It’s all good.

 

  1. 6.       Home repair. Since you’re in there anyway, it might be a good time to fix those little things like loose cupboard or closet doors, sticky drawers, that squeaky floorboard or stair tread. Save the huge remodeling projects for warmer weather, though.

 

  1. 7.       Start spring cleaning early. Wash the walls, scrub the floors, clean out the attic and tell stories to the kids about the things you find. Save the garage for summer unless it’s heated.

 

  1. 8.       Plan a trip, even if you don’t go. Have the kids pick any spot in the world and plan a trip there. Learn about the locations, the climate, what there is to see, the language and the customs. Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Russia, central and south America are all great places to learn about and even better to dream about seeing.

 

  1. 9.       Game night! Once a week invite friends over to play games. Board games, card games, video games, it doesn’t matter. Bring food and beverages and have a good time!

 

  1. 10.   Movie night! Pick a theme for each week and make lots of popcorn. Horror movies, thrillers, chick flicks, Viking week or bad monster night. For a totally camp experience, try running a few of the 1950’s drive-in movies. So bad even MSTK 3000 would have problems watching.

 

Winter can be a trying time for everyone and I hope this list gives you some ideas. I’d love to hear any and all suggestion you may have for winter activities or if you can help us expand our own lists, so leave us a comment below. In the meantime, stay warm and enjoy the snow!

Find your peace, friends.

Rev. Zita