windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (pentacle heart)
I wrote this back in 2012 for Nature Nurtured. That website will be dissolving into the ether in the not-too-distant future, so I wanted to preserve this here. I believe it more than ever.

I wish you a weekend filled with the peace and serenity of being with those who truly love and support you. <3

And, also, maybe some mashed potatoes. :D



Backing Away from Black Friday
Growing up, my parents had a gift closet. The storage cubby operated eleven months of the year as a wonderful lightless cave of flashlight shadow puppets, glow sticks and Lite Brite peg placement but in December, it became the domain of Santa’s helpers and therefore entirely off-limits to me and my older brother. Around that time, I’d be flipping through the catalogs of big chain toy stores and creating elaborate lists of what I wanted, starred and circled with varying degrees of excitement. We were a comfortably middle class household and Christmas, in addition to some quiet carols about Jesus and the presence of the very breakable nativity pieces on the sofa table, was mostly about toys descending en masse down our chimney. Our family photo albums have page after page of me showing off the latest arrivals—the Cabbage Patch doll that looked like me (and which my mom won a foot race against another shopper to snatch up), the big plastic playsets for my armies of plastic toys, and an ever-increasing library of video games for our Atari and, later, Nintendo systems. We had so much that our spare bedroom was a dedicated toy room.

That sort of consumer-driven holiday seemed perfectly natural to me. As a teenager, I spent hours in the mall (and an impressive amount of discretionary income) to ensure that I’d bought a lotion and bubble bath basket, a classic red sweater, a heating pad, a reading light, a gift card, or somethinganything—for every member of my family and my circle of friends and acquaintances. Only a Scrooge would forego that time-honored tradition of giving!

As a pagan parent, though, I’m beginning to doubt the whole endeavor. I’m the sucker who cries at every ‘spirit of Christmas’ movie that’s ever been created and yet, I wonder what the myth of Santa does to the hearts of children whose parents and caretakers can’t afford piles of presents. Do they worry, even subconsciously, that they’ve ended up on Santa’s naughty list when they get a package of dollar store crayons instead of the bike they’d asked him for? Do they feel abandoned by the Divine when the all-knowing, all-seeing jolly old elf fails to appear at their home? Can Santa’s largesse feel exclusionary to those who witness classmates bragging about what they got under the tree? These are questions I’ve really struggled with.

I tried keeping Santa out of our home, along with Christianity, and I discovered just how omnipresent the guy in the red suit is. He seeped into my son’s life when I wasn’t looking—in stores, on packaging, and even through playground conversations with other, Santa-savvier toddlers and preschoolers. I’d loved the part the Christmas myth had played in my own childhood—was I right to try and bar it from my son’s? Maybe some happy middle ground was called for.

I’m ever a work-in-progress when it comes to parenting according to my values as a pagan, living mindfully enough that my choices line up with my beliefs. Some years, I’m better at avoiding the trap of heightened name-brand consumption and some years, it is too tempting and feels infinitely easier to visit Target to buy something mass-produced for every loved one on my list. I don’t always meet my goal of giving thought-filled gifts of true value and significance. I don’t always get around to making something or finding just the right artisan to purchase from, but there is one simple thing that I’ve done that makes sure I start the holiday season with an act of powerful intention.

I’ve ditched Black Friday completely–that day of attractive sales, early hours, and shopping mania that occurs right after Thanksgiving’s feasting. I don’t read the sale flyers. I ignore the ‘door buster deals’ and the free-with-purchase snow globes and lap blankets and dancing, burping reindeer toys. I choose not to participate in the frenzy of buying. I’ve happily opted out of the whole experience. Instead, I enjoy the entire holiday weekend with my family in the cozy comfort of our own home. I have enough to be thankful for without needing to fill the car with more. I embrace the holiday by decorating my house, putting out corn for the deer, and watching those Santa films that make me cry instead of waiting restlessly outside a store to snag the latest in things-I’m-told-I-can’t-live-without. I choose to slow down, instead of speed up, and to give myself the chance to make different, more soul-fulfilling choices in how I express my love, my thanks, and my friendship to those around me. I want my son to experience winter as something sacred, spiritual, and special. I want Yule to be the warmth of a shared meal, the dawn of newfound hope and goodwill, the crackle of a comforting fire and the solidarity of a renewed family bond. Those are the things I’ve never felt amidst the loud bustle and over-bright displays of retailers vying for my money.

I wonder if it’d do us all a world of good if we, as a community, backed away from Black Friday…if we dumped the catalogs into the recycling bins and started from scratch with our children on their winter wish lists. What do they really want? Do they want a Dora the Explorer backpack or do they really want to go on adventures in the out of doors? Do they want a karaoke set or do they really want a way to feel their voices are heard? Do they want the latest greatest video game system or just a way to spend time together with someone? Do our loved ones really need whatever the big companies are selling this year—or do they simply need to know that we value their place in our lives?

In my family, we’ve chosen to believe in the spirit of Santa. He isn’t at the mall, for us, but rather part of our home, our hearth, and our hearts. He doesn’t buy the magic he distributes each year—he makes it.

This year, I’m attempting to do the same. I aspire to staying out of the big stores and making different choices with my money and my time. I might not succeed, entirely, but I’ll start by embracing Thanksgiving weekend as an opportunity to spend a gloriously long weekend at home with my family and all that we have, already, to be thankful for.

windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (peace goddess)
I have a couple days to plan menus, wrap, and finish cleaning the house in advance of our Christmas houseguest. :) It seems a wonderful time for me to take an internet hiatus. :) I hope that the tail end of 2010 treats you well! :) Get outside, see the sights! :) Here's some from my neighborhood:


(No more hunting for seaglass here!)


Blessed, Blessed, Blessed Be!
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Default)
In the vein of [ profile] holiday_wishes, and to help a few of you who've asked-- here's my ten item holiday wishlist. :) This year is interesting because of our move last month. We were reunited with about four years of boxed clutter that includes some things we really love, like our books, and some things we have too much of because we bought duplicates or forgot we already had more-than-enough. We haven't unboxed everything yet and we're short on storage space. We already have too much stuff. We're also recovering from an expensive move and a few months of financial uncertainty with Daniel's company. So, we're planning to have a very small Yule celebration. We'd rather give than receive, so I hope you'll post your wishlists in return. You never know--we might have just what you were hoping for or needing, languishing away in a box somewhere, waiting to be loved. :) And really, we need nothing. We'd be thrilled with a letter or a recent photo. With that said, here's our family list! We prefer used, thrifted, regifted, reloved items wherever possible. :)

1. Feed the birds! After six years living without so much as a balcony, I suddenly have a yard teeming with little woodland creatures. A family of chickadees has taken up residence in a run-down birdhouse on the property and three or four pair of cardinals have been spotted flitting around in the evergreens. We have grackles and ravens and blue jays--not to mention squirrels and chipmunks and deer visiting daily. I bought a 'ranch style' hanging bird feeder which I'm stocking with an experimental rotation of seeds and feeds to see what the 'neighbirds' like best. So I'd love bird seed, dried corn, salt licks, bird baths, additional feeders, advice, recipes, peanut butter pinecones, whatever you'd like to contribute to my new friends and their winter welfare. :)

2. Credits Most of my book collection came from I am frequently out of credits when a book on my wishlist is posted, so I'd love, love, love and get a ton of use out of additional credits there. Graeme loves to browse for Blue's Clues books to order there.

3. Sea Shepherd T-Shirt for Graeme Sea Shepherd, one of my favored charitable organizations, recently introduced toddler-sized t-shirts in their shop. I *so* want this one in a 4T size for Graeme.

4. Viewmaster Graeme adores his Viewmaster. We'd love to repurpose one of those big zippered CD wallets as a Viewmaster reel organizer, if you have one. We also would love additional reels, if you find or have any. Older animal or natural settings images would be the most used.

5. Glamourkin I'd love for my friends, Sarah & Jenn, to have a great season this year at their shop, Glamourkin. Whether you buy Glamourkin items for me, for yourself, or for someone else--I'd consider it a big wish answered. :)

6. Beanie Babies I'm collecting (gently) used Beanie Babies to send overseas through the project. Basically, U.S. service members who are stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq request the Beanie Babies which they distribute to local children in the course of their patrols. If you have any unloved Beanie Babies, with tags or without, in good condition and would like them to join the box I'm sending overseas, they'll be ambassadors of love to a child in a war-torn country. (Please nothing USA or religious related. I've also been told to avoid pig and shellfish Beanie Babies--so there you go. :))

7. Schleich Animals Graeme loves his collection of Schleich animal figures. He has plenty of them, no doubt, but they are all well-loved and they spend hours a day talking with each other. His favorite is a glitter and paint-speckled dinosaur figure we found in a thift store--so any condition is fair. :)

8. An Airplane Toy Graeme already has a diecast airplane--a small United jet replica, but he says he wants to have *another* airplane in his toy collection. That's the only thing he's asked for this year.

9. Pajama Program Donations Every year, I collect and donate a large number of new (with tags) pajamas and comforting story books to Pajama Program. The organization, which operates nationwide, distributes new pajamas and storybooks to children living outside of the comfort of home. Many of these children--in shelters, foster care, and group homes say these are the first pajamas they've ever owned. It gets really cold here, so warm pajamas are great. They can be any size--newborn through adult XL for the teenagers. If you'd like to send pajamas or new storybooks, make your own donation to the program directly, or suggest good, warm and wonderful storybooks for children in hard life circumstances, we'd love it. :)

10. A Fair-Trade Holiday Ornament Our favorite fair trade shop in Chicago, Greenheart, has all sorts of beautiful fair trade holiday ornaments. I'd love one, or many, to add to our tree this year! Alternatively, you could make me an ornament! :D

What's on your wishlist this year? :)
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (underworld fae)
Halloween 2007 (0 years old)

Halloween 2008 (1 year old)

Halloween 2009 (2 years old)

Trick or Treat!

Halloween 2010 (3 years old)
So now this year, the elephant costume is sadly outgrown and Graeme had to pick a new outfit. I took him to eBay, brought up every costume for auction in his size, and he got to pick. He chose a green and brown Peter Pan costume from the Disney Store that, in his mind, would be an elf costume. It's pretty fantastic. So that was all set until he saw a pair of bright green fairy wings in the store that he wanted *desperately* for his costume. I said, "Well, I thought you wanted to be an elf?" and he said, "I can be an elf and I can wear wings and I'll be a cricket fairy!"

Which, really, I can't argue with. So cricket fairy it is. Can't wait to take pictures. :D Like last year, he wants to hand out treats to other people--not interested in going trick or treating much himself. Sweet boy.


Dec. 12th, 2009 08:51 am
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (sad fozzie)
Something I've been trying to express adequately to Daniel.

I have a real problem with the Santa Claus myth and how pervasive it is in our society. I imagine any child, no matter their socioeconomic position, is exposed in some way to images and ideas about Santa. The basics are that there is this benevolent man who lives far away and yet knows, intimately, about your deeds and your wishes. If you're good, he rewards you with fantastic toys on Christmas morning. If you're naughty, you get nothing or something worth nothing to you. In a lot of ways, he's God, right?

Only the problem is that it is us parents and caretakers who are playing God, playing Santa, by answering these prayer/wishes. And sometimes, no matter how deserving a child is, their parent cannot afford the burden of being a wish-granter.

So if we are telling our children, collectively, that Santa brings presents to the Good then what happens to the children of the poor? What happens to the children who wrote letters asking for bikes and got, maybe, a box of off-brand crayons from the dollar store? What happens to the children who believe in the magic, believe in their own worthiness and then have to watch as only the rich kids get showered with gifts and amazing surprises? Do their parents have to break it to them early and painfully that we parents are Santa? Does the impact of that good/naughty judgment break something inside of them? Does that put an impossible burden on those who can't afford to play Santa for their children? Does this only reinforce within some children the devastating idea that Santa/God is out there and just not answering their letters/prayers or just not there at all?

This naughty/nice thing is an ugly bit of social pressure we need to do away with. :/ It sends the message that yes naughty=no gifts but conversely, no gifts=naughty.

If wishes were reindeer and teardrops gifts, there would be a Santa and he would have enough in his bag to visit everyone.
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Default)
For those who asked...I'm taking the lazy route. ;D I'm trying to make up for that laziness and impersonality by giving you lots of options.

This Yule, I'm wishing for:

~handmade bookmarks

~small stones, shells, sticks, or other earth-treasures from your local environment

~crystals, minerals, or other sparkly whatnots to add to my collection

~meditation messages or psychic/tarot/astrology/you-name-it readings you might have for me.

~a copy of a favorite inspirational poem or story

~icons of my family, thrifting, the ocean, or anything else I need to match my journal entry themes.

~a recommendation or copy of a song/songs you love.

~spools of old curling ribbon. You know the kind you wrap presents with? The narrow, ridged kind? Yeah, that. The new, cheaper made stuff doesn't work for my strange purposes--it isn't thick enough. What used to be the norm, five-plus years ago, is awesome and much needed. :D So yeah, if you have old curling ribbon laying around, it'd be worth gold to me. It is too weird to explain.

~pagan-appropriate ornaments for our Yule tree. Stars, pentacles, hearts, animals, snowflakes, stags, suns, leaves, pinecones. Bonus if they're homemade or thriftily found.

~holiday feel-good charitable stories from your local paper or the story of something charitable you did for the season. The more sappy details and photos, the better. :D

~something from a thrift store that cost less than a dollar. Candlestick, old holiday ornament, wooden spoon, small altar bowl, used book-- I don't care. It'd be fun to see what you came up with. :D
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (animal drumming)
This four-day weekend was our best ever. I cannot say enough about the benefits of staying home for once. We got so much accomplished, spent glorious amounts of time together, and were able to celebrate the transition from autumn harvest to winter celebrations. We dined! We cried through A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa! We wrapped dozens and dozens of gifts and bought dozens more. We're pretty much set on that whole Yule gifty-gift thing and that gives us the luxury of an entire month to relax and enjoy the fruits of our labors. :) Last year, we didn't even have a tree up in our last-minute scramble, so this feels really good.

We use and reuse an artificial Yule tree but this year we brought home some greenery from the florist--fresh-cut boughs of holly and a beautiful evergreen and pinecone wall arrangement of sorts that just has to be misted on occasion. Sunday, we hit up our storage facility and dug around for that box of ornaments and a few other seasonal odds and ends. Here are the festive results of our decorating!

Holiday Decorations

Holiday Decorations

Holiday Decorations

You can see a lot more photos, including close-ups of some of our ornaments, at our Flickr page.
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (fallfam)
* Thanksgiving was so pleasant. It is the first year since childhood that we stayed home for the entire weekend and we're reveling in the quiet freetime. No family drama, no suitcase lugging, just the three of us hanging out together. We took Graeme to the park and then headed home to cook once it got dark. It has finally been dry after a week of rain and the air smelled, on Thanksgiving, like burning leaves and snow. Knowing that I'll be spending most of the winter in Florida, I'm able to really enjoy these cold days, this transition into winter now. After dinner, we cleaned up all our autumn tokens and decorations and replaced them with a fresh sheaf of holly in an ice blue vase. By the end of this weekend, we plan to have our tree up, too!

* It has now been eight days since Graeme nursed. I've been sleeping by myself in our guest room downstairs and it has been glorious. No offense to Daniel, but I don't sleep well with someone else. And no offense, Graeme, but you've kept me up for two years. I'm not sure how long this sleeping arrangement will last, but plentiful sleep (and maybe not having the nutritional demands of nursing) have reversed a lot of my seasonal depression. I'm sleeping undisturbed enough to have dreams return, full-force, which is such a relief.

* So my latest dream, I was back in my show choir days and for whatever reason, our director had to separate us into two separate choirs. It was clear, as he was assigning people one-by-one, that Choir A was all the talent and Choir B, not so much. When it was my turn to stand up and be sorted, I gave a rousing argument why the uneven distribution was unfair and that the less-talented, less-disciplined singers would never grow if they weren't surrounded by those better than them. I sorta knew where my impassioned argument was going to lead me but I was still gut-shot when he said, "Fine. You can be in B." We were so bad, we had to stay in an amusement park cave world not totally unlike Goonies. I was herding cats, trying to get everyone to practices so that we could beat Choir A or at least put in a respectable showing next time we met. Then I got word there was some sort of leadership position, over both choirs, up for grabs. I was going to use it to reintegrate the choirs. I signed up, along with a bunch of people from Choir A. We had to sight-sing in elimination rounds but a lot of the music was fevered orchestral stuff, to throw us off, where we'd have to imitate various instruments. Finally, it was down to me and a blond guy who was, frankly, probably better than me. The final challenge format was a weekly showcase from different musical styles. Somehow, I got the pick of the styles, so I knew the only way to beat him was to pick styles that wouldn't mesh well with his Broadway training.

I picked reggae, jazz, and a few other styles. I had a week to (faux)dread my hair and prepare before our first competition--reggae performed on horseback. I killed it. ;) I felt pretty confident that I was going to squeak through as the winner when I woke up. :D

* Today, we plan to finish our Yule shopping. Against my plans to not shop yesterday, I did end up going to Division Street to support some of our local businesses. I bought hoodies from Threadless, a few fair trade gifts at Greenheart, and a bunch of toys for all the kids in my life at Building Blocks. Today we're going to visit the Illinois Artisans shop downtown to pick up some handmade things for the various women in our family and then, with the exception of Daniel, we're done! I've been gift-wrapping for a week, so things are piled up and I hope, by Monday, to have most of it shipped out. This way, we plan to really enjoy the holiday season without the rush, able to sit under our tree and drink cocoa, have dinner together and watch Elf. It'll be nice. I've had presents cluttering up the joint since probably March. ;)

* We're leaving, in less than four weeks, for Florida. The concept of packing our car for a weeklong road trip and then three or more months in Florida is overwhelming. Daniel will be flying back and forth every week, which is good, but I still feel the need to organize and pare down the house in our absence. We considered starting a packing list this weekend and Daniel just closed his eyes, covered his face, and said, "Yeah, let's not." :D I mean, do we have to bring all our kitchen stuff? Bedding? Toys? Who knows. So yeah, we'll get to that later.

* On the perfume front, I've been living in holiday chocolate bliss with BPAL's hot cocoa El Dia de los Reyes and Misery Love Company's dark chocolate and orange Inigo Montoya. Mmmmm.
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (veggie love)
Whatcha having for Thankgiving? I was inspired by a trip to a different grocery store than I usually shop at and their very well-stocked produce department. We're having:

*Gardein Santa Fe Good Stuffs--a marinated meat-free chicken-like protein stuffed with black beans and corn

*fingerling potatoes in like four or five different colors

*Road's End Organics Savory Herb Vegan Gravy

*cranberry sauce (the real kind, made from organic cranberries)

*steamed baby yellow and green summer squash

*sweet peas

*spring mix salad with candied walnuts and dried cranberries

and, for dessert,

* Talenti Sorbetto's "Hill Country Peach Champagne" and "Roman Raspberry" gelati topped with fresh raspberries.

Here it was! :D

Vegan Thanksgiving

We found an awesome thing at the store--a bread-basket filled with bread rolls! Mmm. So that, along with all our autumn dishware, leaf-shaped placemats, and porcelain pumpkins (along with some hand-made gratitude mobiles from Mabon) made for a very festive spread. :)

Vegan Thanksgiving


windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Default)

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