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

Merry Christmas!

(The fact that there is no picture to go with this post is my fault. Rev Zita asked me to take a picture of this amazing light display in town and I forgot my camera. I am really sorry, but hope the spirit of this post shines through. Love ya all. Rev. Kelly)

Christmas is a big deal in my part of the world, whether you are a Christian or not. You get together with family and invite the friends, talk and laugh, and yeah, sometimes fight, but it’s all a part of being family.

Here in the USA, we hang lights, buy presents and eat way too much while sharing our stories and reconnecting with those we love. It’s a time for those warm and happy feelings to be expressed, so don’t be shy about it.

Here’s some ideas to get you going, even if it is a little late:

Send Christmas cards and let your loved ones know you are thinking about them. We all love getting something pretty in the mail, but don’t add glitter or confetti! It gets everywhere and is hard to clean up.

Put a nice message on your Facebook page to let your online friends know you wish them well. Add a cute picture or cartoon to spruce it up a bit, or include a link to a fun video or song!

Go Caroling! It’s fun even if you can’t sing, and nobody will criticize your performance because it’s Christmas! (Trust me on this) You can get the lyrics and music online to make it easy.

Go sledding. If you’re not a kid, who cares?

Build a snowman! You can even start a snowball fight.

Wait until dark and then go for a drive to see all the pretty lights on the houses. Lots of communities have competitions for this, so some of the displays are pretty amazing! Take pictures and send them to your friends.

Call your Mom. ‘Nuff said.

Wrap your gifts. Don’t use those nasty gift bags, even if you can’t make a square corner and it looks messy. Use lots of ribbon and tape so you can have fun watching them try to get it open! Wrapping shows you took the time to make it special, all jokes aside.

Be nice to strangers. You don’t know what kind of day someone else may be having, so a cheery ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Happy Holidays’ could be the high point of their day. Open doors for shoppers and smile!

Bake cookies! Eat them with friends and lots of milk or cocoa.

Watch a holiday movie like ‘Miracle on 42nd street’ or ‘The Santa Clause” (a fave of mine). If you love the classics, there’s always ‘Santa Claus conquers the Martians’ for a laugh!

Whatever you decide to do, do it with people you care about and who care about you. This time of year it’s important to reconnect with one another, at least for a while. You can always fight later; but for now, this is a time of year to put aside the petty things and remember that we are all in this together. Love one another and it will be all right.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanza, Happy Yule…from all of us at Heartfelt Ministries: Rev. Kelly, Rev Zita (the author), Rev. Tamara, and Zachary (our tech assistant).

 

Happy Solstice 2011!

Today is the Winter Solstice, an important holiday for many pagans and non-christian groups throughout the world. There will be feasting and music and merriment and a general celebration of the slow, gradual return of the sun to our lives. This may not mean much to those of us living in, say, Florida, but if you’ve ever lived a Wisconsin winter, the return of the Sun is a really big deal.

In past times, this was known as Midwinter among the Anglo-Saxons and generally was the last great feast for the year. The cattle were slaughtered at this time, so it was often one of the few times in the year that fresh meat was available as well. That’s a good reason to celebrate! Gifts were given to strengthen family and clan bonds and to show appreciation for a year of service to the village or to the local ruler. The mead had finally matured and with fields covered in snow, folks had some time to party with their friends. Sweet! Everybody dance!

 The village shaman has already concluded ceremonies for the day to welcome the sun’s rebirth and now it’s time for fun. Anyone who can play an instrument picks it up and after a brief debate on what song to start, they get the party rockin! It’s the Eleventh Century and we’re gonna party like it’s 999!

Can’t you picture it? The long, smoky feasting hall with everyone you know gathered together. They’re singing songs, telling stories, and playing games. The village kids are running around screaming with laughter and chasing the dogs. The warriors are bragging and trying to catch the eye of some pretty girl who is pretending she doesn’t notice. Some things never change, hey?

While the men and the village leaders talk politics and the grandmas gossip, the women are pouring out the mead and beer and tending to the feast, roasting meat and cooking vegetables, keeping the kids out of the sweets and the teens out of dark corners.

Fast forward a thousand years: Everybody is gathered for the celebration. The Moms are in the kitchen, checking turkeys and roasts in the ovens and making sure Sue isn’t on the back porch with that boy with all the piercings. The kids are playing Xbox and yelling, the Dads are drinking beer and arguing politics. The soldiers home on leave are comparing duty stories and grinning at the pretty girls giggling back at them. Somebody throws in a CD and starts the boombox.

And the next morning the sun comes up just a little earlier, making the world a little warmer. It’s all about family, people, no matter what time or place you’re in.  To all of our Pagan readers out there, at this turning of the year, a happy Solstice to you all, and a joyous Yuletide from us here at Heartfelt!

The Parable of Virtual vs. Reality

Back in the days of the dinosaurs, when I was in high school, my family had one TV. That’s right, just one, and we didn’t have cable either. Still, we spent a lot of time around that massive cathode tube; time we could have spent on other things. The house wasn’t dirty, but it certainly wasn’t ready for a photo shoot. We ate in front of the tube, talked in front of the tube, paid more attention to the tube than each other.

Then disaster struck—the TV died. Yep, it belched smoke and went to that big electronics dump in the sky.

Ooooh nooooo! What would we do? We didn’t have a lot of money, so it would be a while before we could replace it. My mother flatly refused to use her credit card for a Television, so we would have to save up for a replacement. How awful; and it was in the middle of the Summer Rerun season, too!

It was days before my sister and I stopped whining about having nothing to do. If we whined too loud, Mom would keep us busy, I can tell you that. Oddly, we began to find things to do on our own. We actually started splitting the chores. Reading became a popular sport for us. My sister learned to crochet and I learned to garden. We vacuumed; sometimes we even dusted!

Without TV, our lives changed dramatically. We were forced to live in reality, not vicariously. We were not bound to a broadcast schedule or worrying about what we had missed last night. We hadn’t missed anything and we knew it. We even lost weight. Without the constant barrage of food commercials, we weren’t headed to the fridge every fifteen minutes.

I enjoyed that summer. We had memories of things done instead of just what shows we had watched. We were participating, not observing and it was good.

Still, Mom missed the evening news, and finally bought a new TV.  Once again that flickering blue light ruled our lives. All the benefits we gained over the quiet time were lost. We grazed during commercials and let the chores fall away. We forgot to do things for ourselves. We observed instead of living. All because we didn’t have the strength to turn the box off.

That was twenty five years ago. I don’t have a TV at all now, but I have something even more insidious: the Internet. Having always been an avid reader, I am mesmerized by the sheer volume of information to be explored and it is all at my fingertips. If I run out of topics Google will find something to amuse me.

I am soft and round and seldom out of my armchair for very long. While I am not a geek by any means, I can surf for hours, and I don’t mean waves at Waikiki.  I seem to have forgotten the feeling that being in the real world gave me. I need to be truly interactive and not with a keyboard.

Perhaps the addiction to visual stimulation is one that can be controlled. With hard work I can learnt o limit my time surfing and spend more time actually doing something. I am smart; I can build stuff, make stuff, plant and grow stuff, paint, sing, talk and do things. I am more than a data interface. There is more in life than pixels on a 10” by 17” screen. I can do that.

Atheists Under Attack

Admittedly this is another, where does this guy get off? posting, but seriously, where do these people get these ideas? OK, I need to slow down here, I am speaking of Pastor Mike Stahl of the Living Waters Church. Personally, I think this guy is on an ego trip, especially considering that the URL for his church is not anything about it, but rather the URL is Pastor Mike’s Church. That says a lot right there.

Pastor Mike, and I use the title loosely, wants to create a national registry of atheists; just names, pictures, and general locations, not actual addresses, to inform the public about the atheists that live in their neighborhoods. His claim is that this registry will allow “true Christians” to minister to atheists and warn them about the “dangers” of the atheist lifestyle. Instead, I see this being a trigger to vandalism to local businesses, violence to people, and another way to spread hate in our communities.

This view is not just from the announcement of the registry, but from Pastor Mike’s comparison of atheists to sex offenders and extremist terrorism. I just can’t understand where Pastor Mike gets the idea it is OK to belittle a group of people for their beliefs. Nor can I think of any religion that teaches that this type of behavior is OK.

Pastor Mike, if you find this blog posting, I beg you to stop what you are doing and let people be. Instead of spreading poison and hate, spread love and peace. It better fits the role you are trying to fill.

When Did Socialism Become a Dirty Word?

Most, if not all, of us had American History at some point in our education. We were taught that America was made great on the backs of those who worked hard, served their country and communities. Of course there are other things along the way, such as hard times, social changes, and wars, but the details of our history is not what concerns me so much as the big picture.

Going back to the birth of our country, there were a few things that England, our then ruler, was imposing on the colonists that really stuck in their craw. Religious suppression and unfair taxes seem to come to mind to me. When the time came for the leaders of the American Revolution to start making their own rules, a little document called the Bill of Rights was created. Part of the number one Right is the freedom to of religious exercise. Part of almost every religion that I can think of is to help your neighbor.

Jesus stated that one must help the poor and a rich person has about as much of a chance of entering heaven as a camel has of passing through the eye of the needle. Buddha stated that attachment (to things) causes suffering, One of the five pillars of Islam is Zakat or to give a portion of one’s riches to care for those who are in need (read the poor). Judaism has Tzedakah or charity as one of their founding principals (in spite of the jokes). I could go on.

Here is where my confusion comes in. Most Republicans want to get rid of public programs like Social Security, Medicare, Disability, current health care legislation, and other resources that have been established by past government officials to help the needy, the poor, and those less fortunate. Most Republicans also claim to be fundamentalist Christians who follow the Word of God and Jesus among a small following from other religious sects.

So here is where my confusion sets in. If Republicans are so Christian why are the programs developed to help those in need under attack while tax breaks for the rich and greedy corporations passed into law so easily? Even the Tea Party, that ultra right wing Republican group is doing the same claiming that the Constitution and God are the basis of their movement support breaking the common man to forward their own agenda to get richer and fatter. I just don’t see the work of God, Allah, Jehovah, or any other god in that agenda.

To be fair, this trend is not just followed by the Republicans or the Tea Party, but is across the board. I just see the vocal Republicans who use their religious memberships to further their career as much worse than those who do not wave the flag of “belief” to gain popularity with the general public.

Honestly, if any political leader truly believed what their religious beliefs stated, they would be for the social programs. They would want to help America out of our current crisis and not bail out the fat cats, but instead develop programs that will actually put us back to work and care for those who simply can’t work. There would have been no bail outs for the fat cats when they got themselves in trouble.

So, really when did socialism become a dirty word? It is not a dirty word, it is a good thing that shows that the government and the nation’s communities have a heart and want for society to be healthy.

And before you comment, yes, I know that there are those that abuse the system and take when they shouldn’t. But the vast majority using the system are doing so because they have been left no other choice.

Let’s be proud of being socialist and mark it up to being religious or to being a good person. Your reasons for helping others does not matter; what truly matters is that we as people and as a government show mercy and caring to those who are in need.

Scandals and Politics

Here’s a note from a truly jaded and disinterested voter.

Just another sex scandal. Ho-Hum.

In the last few years we’ve had more than the usual number of sex scandals going on, from sexting to congressional pages to illegitimate children and beyond. And as always, the spin doctors are out in full force acting like somebody’s Victorian maiden Aunt, which means that the Republicans and the Teabag—er, Tea party members are doing their usual song and dance of “ooh, look at the bad, bad Democrat!”

Yeah, right. It’s all pot and kettle, as far as I’m concerned. We’ve heard it all before. The last time somebody tried this, Bill Clinton got another term.

Do you have any idea of how utterly bored we are with continuous scandals? I’m starting to think that even rock stars behave better than professional politicians. It’s all pretty routine, after all.

Democrats are always accused of sex scandals. That’s the way it is. I’m not sure if that means that they are having more sex than the Republicans or if they are just not as good at hiding it. Somehow I have the feeling it is probably both. From the last few scandals, I can say that at least they pay their child support, even if they have to use campaign funds to do it.

Republicans are generally accused of misappropriation of funds or cronyism, insider trading, or something of that nature. They seem to like their stuff rather than sex. They do seem better at wiggling out of it, however. The fact that a lot of Goldman Sachs officers are now working for the Federal Government shouldn’t be a source of concern, should it?

Scandals. Politicians have been creating them, using them and hiding them for as long as politics has been going on. We, the voters, no longer care. I am not so naïve as to believe that my elected representatives are pure as the driven snow. However, there is a limit to my patience and it has been reached. So listen up, ALL of you:

Knock it off and get some work done, damn it!

I don’t care if you are Republican, Democrat, Tea Party, Libertarian or a cross-eyed Jedi. Stop acting like college students at a kegger, for God’s sake. Get your sticky hands out of the cookie jar, it’s empty. Settle down and figure out how to get us out of this hole you’ve dug us into or you can go out and get a real job just like the rest of us!

Professional Politicians don’t seem to be getting the job done at all. Maybe we need to do something both drastic and sensible, like setting term limits for them? After all, we do it for the Presidency, maybe it’s time the Senate and House had to deal with the same limits on their power.

Sounds good to me.

Rev. Zita

Note from Rev. Kelly: If politicians stopped worrying about what happens behind closed doors and started worrying about the condition the country was in, we might see our economy turn around. Instead they are trying to keep us distracted with bullshit.

Do We Need a Manual for Living

Have you ever wished that somebody out there had written a guidebook for life? Heaven knows I do. I look around at the stuff going on around me and I just get confused. They say that with age comes wisdom, and I’m old enough to admit that there needs to be some sort of instruction manual.

Doesn’t it just make sense to have one? I mean come on, we have manuals for gaming stations, and that’s trivial! I think we need a practical, pragmatic, down-to-earth common sense guide to handle the crap life throws at us.

Now before somebody tells me to go read the Bible, let me tell you that I have already, three times, cover to cover, and including the Apocrypha. I’m not talking about a religious guide, I’m talking about one that goes over stuff like doing laundry, how to clean; to cook, controlling your money, managing time, taking care of your body and your mind, etc.

You know: all that stuff you were supposed to learn in high school and never did because you were being all angst-ridden like a good teenager.

I know there are already guides out there that cover everything I’m talking about, but it’s time we had something comprehensive; something that pulled it all together into one package that made sense. You can find books that will tell you how to do everything from change your oil to choose wine; from how to trim your own hair to choosing a lawyer. What we need is something that will pull all that information together into a cohesive encyclopedia of living, a compendium of domesticity.

We need of Universal Field Theory of American Life! (Cue thunderous applause)

What do you think it should contain? I’m thinking things like basic household skills: cooking, cleaning, laundry and organization. Then we can add things like basic manners and courtesy, the principles of respect, how to make a budget, manage your money, pay bills and keep your credit rating up there.

Should we include tech skills as well? They change so quickly that I’m not sure about that.

What about dating? Do we need a section on dating etiquette? Birth control should also be covered and there is bound to be a few folks with their own opinions about that subject. That’s fine, let us hear from you!

Accounting? Business? Auto repair? What subjects do you wish had been taught in school that weren’t? What do you need to know now to make your life run more smoothly?

Please let us know. I f we get a large enough response, we may even consider making this a series or an ebook! It all depends on what you want us to research for you! Let’s make the Practical Heretic live up to its’ name!

Rev Zita