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In my dream I had to run errands parking in a big city

NYC is a real challenge when you just have to run into CVS to get foundation for someone else

of course they carried Fenty with 40 shades to match anyone

but as I applied the foundation for her to cover her face onto mine to test it out for quality

I don't want her to be mad

I found that it hurt my skin and was the wrong shade for me and would never cover my skin thoroughly enough to consider it a successful match for her

SO there was no point in trying and I wiped it all off 

it hurt my skin but it was easy to remove and it felt better afterwards

not to be covered for their benefit

The return on empowering your team.

I work somewhere really special, and I do mean special in the true sense of the word.  It is unique to find a workplace where you are able to do work that you only could dream about.  It is even more rare to be surrounded by people who want to support your ventures outside of work, even if they might take your mind away from work.  Being surrounded by dreamers who will dream alongside you - and even better, dreamers with motivation and passion.

What I have to say is brief, but what I'll say is evidence of what has changed my life and my outlook for over two years now.  And it's not all been easy or joyful change.  It's been hard and messy at times, and angry and self-centered.  But above that it's been full of grace and love, and for those reasons, it is why I am still in the game.

Allow those near to you to dream and stretch themselves aside from their involvement with you.  Support them where you can, and remember that everyone needs support sometimes.  Don't be afraid to lose someone to their opportunities, because if you love them and support them, you can't truly lose them.

Wait a little bit longer when others pause, because you never know what they might be trying to say.  To you!  Trusting you to care.

Give others the chance to grow (a real, true, empowering chance), and I really do think they'll help you grow, too.

Reading List Recently

One of my goals post-election was to become more knowledgeable, more attuned, more woke about marginalized communities.  And how do we learn?  We read.  I read.  Everything and anything I can get my hands on, sometimes too late at night when I should be sleeping.

When I started in Teach for America, we were given an extensive reading list prior to our training. Not only articles and interviews and chapters of books, but short videos and recommended movies were also on the list.  The reading list took me months to get through after I graduated, as I was working part-time and planning my move to Philadelphia (and didn't have wifi at my apartment since my lease was ending soon), so I spent a lot of time at the local library.  I completed the list in its entirety.

Few others in my TFA "class" did the same, and it was laughed off my senior staff as well as new recruits.  I was hurt and appalled by the lack of commitment to knowledge and to the work.

Knowledge is what makes us better.  So this is me doing better and continuing to stretch.  

So several months ago, I began with Across that Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change by Senator John Lewis.  Senator Lewis was an integral member of the Civil Rights Movement.  He is integral today, his commitment and tenacity is inspiring.  I wonder how he, at age 21, felt as a Freedom Rider.  At 21 I was not so brave or noble and don't feel that I even could be now at age 27.  So I read, so I learn, so I try in my own way.  He also wrote a graphic novel series that I am dying to get my hands on from a friend who purchased it.

Some other books I have read recently (and I generally buy books for my Kindle or borrow them from the library, so sorry there are no pictures, but this post isn't about pictures):

When We Rise: My Life in the Movement by Cleve Jones If you've seen the movie Milk, you saw Emile Hirsch's portrayal of Jones' involvement in Harvey Milk's rise to local office.  After reading this book, I feel pulled to learn more about Jones' work relating to the AIDS Memorial Quilt.

The Story of Jane: The Legendary Underground Feminist Abortion Service We are not so far removed from the struggle of safe and legal abortion.  This account of the years before Roe brought up thoughts in my mind that I hadn't previously entertained.  What does it mean to care for others?  What happens when healthcare is provided by laypeople?  What can be provided without the medical institutions that be?

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance A look at poverty in coal country.  Ultimately an interesting book, but I want to expand my reading list in this area to learn more.

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond Footnotes and references make up a quarter of this book, so imagine my surprise when I finished it so quickly.  Milwaukee is the subject of study in this book, but as I read I imagined Philadelphia as the setting, because it truly cannot be so different in the struggle of the residents and the barriers they face.

Reading is how I understand, and there is a world out there to understand beyond a book.  But books have plenty of power as incendiary devices.

 

Wards

Warding is a practice of creating protective shields or barriers around a space.  The space could be stationary, such as your apartment or house, or the space could be mobile, such as your car.  I would also venture to say that a protective barrier could be placed around yourself, or even a pet if you chose to do so.  When I envision a ward around myself, I often think of a personal space bubble that is also energetically charged to keep certain things away from me.

Force field/bubble/shield, a ward is a protective barrier that keeps something out or away.  Before warding, it is recommended to cleanse the space in order to ensure damaging or harmful elements aren't "trapped" or lingering within the ward you put up.  You can read more about cleansing in this post.

Warding can be done in a variety of ways: some people create sigils or use written words tophysically mark the perimeter of the ward, or to carry the intention of the ward in an artistic form.  Using a wand or other directive instrument is another option for warding, to direct and visualize the protection streaming from a powerful item.  I know of people who use incense or fragrant oil/water sprays to create wards, but I personally prefer this method for cleansing a space.

Some wards might last longer than others - it depends on the situation you're warding in.  If it feels like you need any extra protection, your ward may become less effective more quickly because it's under some strain.  Certain stressful situations may warrant a shield.  Other wards might be done at specific times on schedule, during a certain moon phase with certain significance or on the same date each month.  Everyone is different in their needs, and our needs can shift.

Happy warding!

We are more alike than we are different.

Generally speaking, I don't go out of my way to interact with people that I haven't met yet.  I can be a social person if the mood strikes, but socializing feels burdensome at times.  Surrounding myself with people that I already know won't broaden my circle, but it does provide comfort.

However, I'm also a very nosy person, and I like knowing why people behave in the ways that they do.  I'm a nerd for the "why".

Among floral designers, you'll find that each person's website touts that they do things differently.  That they are special because they treat clients in a certain way, that they only take a certain number of events per year, that they source their flowers locally, etc.  The problem is, these aren't things that we know for sure.  They're quantifiable, sure, but unless we know the numbers, percentages, expenditures to Farmer A, B, and C, then they're just terms and zingy phrases.  Words have meaning, but our interpretation of words is colored by how we perceive.  Numbers are objective in a thorough context.  I prefer numbers.

What anyone wants in their business (and certainly not only just floral designers) is to have happy, grateful, and trusting clients.  I'd venture to say that floral designers also relate in that we all want the most unique and excellent product to use when we make flowers, whether it's local or imported.  We all want to create beauty, and having people recognize our hard work is something I think we all desire, too.  In these ways, we are more alike than we are different.

So how do we show that we are distinctly different?  Meaning, how do we impart that swapping one floral designer out me for another floral designer will remarkably change the experience that the client will have.  This is something I'm wondering.  How do we prove it?  Do we have to prove anything?  (To ourselves, perhaps, in moments of doubt or when we feel inadequate.)  Is this where we let our work speak for itself, and let our clients and colleagues tell it like it is on our behalf?  When we write and show our process and our numbers, how do we ensure enough context is there, and that it is actually read?

Witchcraft doesn't care about the aesthetic.

The times that I have felt most powerful in my personal practice of witchcraft have been when it's dark outside and I can feel the energy of the people around me.  Also in the times where I've sat silently at the kitchen table, completely alone.  I've felt extremely powerful when I've been angry, and sad and lonely. 

My witchcraft doesn't need crystals, candles, an altar, anything.  Those are bells and whistles.  Bells and whistles are fun and can create ambiance and beauty, and if you know me, you must know that I certainly love beauty.  I'm a fan of a good chunk of kyanite, and I've had my primary tarot deck for years.  I love the ephemeral, barely-contained brimming of feeling that comes with observing the truly special and beautiful.  But I can also feel those feelings without the equipment.  

Feelings are intangible, and you don't need the tangible to feel.

The equipment isn't absolutely necessary in order for magic to be made.  It's not what you have, but how you use what's already around you.  And the wonderful thing about magic is that you can have absolutely nothing and still do a hell of a lot.

The scowl will not make you a witch, and neither will an ornamental skull.  You don't need to wear black velvet.  Your irreverence and ignorance of the history will not make you more powerful or impactful.  The aesthetic is worth nothing.

The thing that matters is what you do and what you make.  Your intention and your strength are the power here, not the look, not the aesthetic.  I hate the fad of the mystic, of the good vibes, of the "witchy" aesthetic.  It's a trope and I'm tired of seeing it - I'm immensely irritated that what is now accepted marked me as a freak for my formative years.

...

Electricity moving through the air, perhaps guided by the wind or something more, in a pitch-black field with strangers.  Using nothing more than words and focus, humming intention into our sphere.  Sharing a familiar look with people I've never met, knowing we're there for the same reason.  Creating something palpable from absolutely nothing.  Writing sigils on scraps of paper or in the air.  Whispers to a bridal bouquet for well-wishes.  Infusing my cooking with warmth and love for those who eat it.  Casual blessings and some casual curses.  Warding.

This is my witchcraft, this is my magic.

I am learning.

I can do difficult things.  Some difficult things must be taken on alone, even if that wasn't the plan, and other difficult things become fun and wonderful things when your team carries the weight.

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I am one of (currently) 7 employees at Falls Flowers.  Only two of us, excluding my boss Peicha, are full-timers.  We're small, and even when we grow, we'll still be small - intentionally so.  

What a lot of clients don't realize about our shop and our wedding intake process, is that I am currently the only person who handles wedding clients.  This can bring some stress onto me, because the perspective of understanding how we work is not easy to communicate, especially if they don't know us in some way before inquiring.  I want clients to know who we are, but it's not easy to explain in one email.  They don't necessarily know that I'll be the one person who fields, thinks about, and responds to every single email they send, and if they don't see the shop, they don't know how warm and kind we can be.  They might not even know that all of our work is personal and custom - there are no formulas for us, there are no guarantees on any flower variety ever, and there is a reverence for supply chain ethics.  They don't know that I rarely schedule meetings past 3pm - not because I want to be inaccessible, but because I leave as promptly as possible at 5pm to pick up my husband at work on my way home, and by the time I roll to UPenn, he's waited long enough already.  

And explaining the cost of local flowers is another topic entirely, and it deserves a post all its own.

Difficult things arise every day, every week.  A snowstorm cancels your planned day off for a doctor's appointment that gets rescheduled for Thursday.  Down for the count two days before a two wedding Saturday.  Worrying that the IUD placement will take me out of commission for more than a day - thank goodness it didn't.  Feeling stressed with all of the pieces on Saturday coming together.  Managing teams of people is not a skill I've ever had to practice, so I'm learning.  But learning is made easier when the team knows this and is ready to support in any way they can.  And they did.  And it was perfect.

I am grateful for learning with this team, and I am grateful for the many hats I wear.  I'm grateful for the gracious clients who trust us implicitly, even though it makes me nervous and surprised every time (responsibility and autonomy are welcome, but are consequently something large to shoulder).  

My amazing team: Peicha, Morgan, Katy, Andy, Sarah, Jess, Erica, Andrew.  If I were to try to include everyone else who made Saturday a success, there would be at least a dozen more names - photographers, planners, coordinators, assistants, and more.  It takes a village (and even though that's cheesy, it's true), and my village is powerful.  I am grateful.

Women's Health - Resource Share

First comes the disclaimer: I'm not a doctor (in case you weren't aware).   I'm not dispensing medical advice.  Everything in this blog post is free to find on the internet, through common search engines or specific websites, such as Amazon.  I've merely collected and compiled these links and resources into one convenient location.  If you think you need medical attention, please seek appropriate medical attention.  

Over the weekend on Saturday morning, I woke up at 5:30am.  I ate oatmeal, put leggings on under my jeans, layered up with a hat, scarf, gloves and big coat, and hit the road at 6:15am.  My destination was the Planned Parenthood surgical center in the Far Northeast of Philadelphia.  I had signed up for my first shift as a clinic escort and was on my way to meet volunteers and staff.

Patient escorts serve one purpose.  You are a human shield of calm between the patient and any opposition.  In the case of my volunteer shift, the opposition was on average 65 years old, carried signs touting anti-choice rhetoric, and jeered unpleasant lies about very safe and normal (and legal, how 'bout it) surgical procedures.

I escorted with three other women who volunteered that day.  Two of them were in their mid-50's, and the other in her eighties.  She, in particular, has been a volunteer with Planned Parenthood for over 40 years.

Please let that sink in.  This woman who I had the privilege of meeting on Saturday has been a clinic escort, making patients feel safe and reassured and distracted from protestors, for over 40 years.  This means that she saw the tide turn when Roe v. Wade affected law.  She has seen stark opposition to medically accepted science.  It's likely that she remembers the days before Roe, and the horror of unsafe abortions.  And she still volunteers.  Because there is still a need, forty years later.

If you're a person who wants choice and options, and wants some information regarding reproductive health, this is a list for you.  It is by no means complete, and some of it is not for everyone.  There is nothing wrong with reading and becoming educated about options.

Nurx is for people who want hormonal birth control through the mail.  They have a promotion going right now for a $45 credit towards your purchase with the code tiny hands.

For my NYC residents (or visitors to the city), Expert Gyn offers gynecological care ranging from well-woman exams to ultrasounds to walk-in testing.  You don't necessarily need insurance to go see them.

How to choose which IUD is right for you.  Two days ago, my OBGYN office called me to inform me that my insurance just approved my IUD.  No copay, no cost for the visit, nothing.  Truly, thank you President Obama.  Do not hesitate.  Get yourself an IUD for long-term birth control, now.  

These doors stay open.  Not only does Planned Parenthood provide birth control and family planning services, but it provides a ton of other services as well.  Including but not limited to cholesterol screenings, tetanus vaccines, physical exams, testicular cancer screenings, pap smears, breast cancer screenings...I could go on.  Just check their website.

The Herbal Medic is not a book about reproductive health, but more an emergency first aid guide.  It's on my wish list at the moment.

More books.  Natural Liberty is radical and informative.  Herbal Healing for Women is less radical in content, which makes the content more applicable and relevant to regular use.

I might post another list or amend this list as it grows, so if you're interested in adding to it, please reach out via email or my contact form.  Let's help one another.

Two Months

I've taken some time away from this space.  Intentionally, but somewhat more unintentionally.  The results of the election have hit me hard.  Self care is the name of the game.  This included purchasing lots of plants when I felt sad.  I anticipate that things will be difficult to witness for the foreseeable future, and though I'm not resigned to that (deep down, I'm a fighter), I'm also not a naturally optimistic person.  And I'm not sure anyone comes here to read what might be considered the thoughts of a downer.

Even when I'm able to blog consistently, it's hard to know what everyone wants to read.  

In two months' time, several new developments have happened.  I've taken up archery as an activity, and can now kind of understand the appeal of sports in general.  I think the appeal in archery to me is that I can compete with myself, and that I can do it alone or with others if I want to.  Chris has also embraced archery with me, and we're hoping to attend Schutzenfest at Four Quarters in October.

My arrangement from Thanksgiving for my mother-in-law.

My arrangement from Thanksgiving for my mother-in-law.

I've taken several herbalism courses with Kelly of Attic Apothecary.  Having enjoyed classes on tinctures, salves, and herbal bitters, I have enrolled in her 8-month course "Building Your Home Apothecary," beginning March through October.  There's a herbalism conference that I'm dying to attend in June, but it's far from Philadelphia, and I haven't decided if I can make the commitment yet.  But I'm committed to studying, making, and learning more.  I might even have a product or two in the works to sell.

Infusing the oil with vanilla beans.

Infusing the oil with vanilla beans.

To combat feelings of helplessness, aside from learning about archery and herbalism, I am now a volunteer for Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania.  I am able to attend trainings on different volunteer opportunities now that I've made it through a first session, and I'm proud to say that I'm able to volunteer as a clinic escort, having completed the training on that position specifically.  

More developments to come.

 

Yesterday's Facebook status

Ok folks. I'm going to get personal.

I'm hurting just like a lot of you are. I'm fluctuating between feeling empty and hollow, and then full of rage. I wish I could feel something else, maybe something like love for the people I know who are with me and will support causes of equality. But I'm still having trouble feeling love. It'll come back, but I'm not there yet.

I'm fearful for those who will suffer. I don't want people to lose their health insurance, or be denied due to "pre-existing conditions" if the ACA is messed with. I feel the pain and invalidation of women, where we see a woman who is arguably the most qualified candidate for President EVER, lose to a man who spews garbage. I don't even know what to say to people of color at this point. "I'm sorry" just doesn't cut it. Never did. I stand in solidarity with those who find themselves on the margins of what this regime will accept. And I barely know what to say to myself.

In about 3-3.5 years from now, my projected plans will have allowed me to successfully pay off all of my student loans. Granted, this is without saving for much else, but this is how I'm handling it. Chris and I want children one day. But in good conscience, knowing the reality that is women's health care and child care affordability, I refuse to bear children before I personally am debt-free.

And now that plan must change. I can not subject myself to the indignity of seeking prenatal medical care under this presidency. As it stands now, it is possible that any pregnancy I carry would be a risk, due to surgery I have had in the past. And to risk my life in their regime where a woman would be secondary to a clump of fucking cells would be lunacy. 

I don't want to get an IUD - I'm a nervous patient under the most routine circumstances, but it's looking like that is my option right now. In this time more than ever, I hear myself wishing that I couldn't have children, or that we simply don't want children. This is the first step to my choices being inadvertently made for me.

I think I'm writing this because I'm trying to process. But I'm also writing this because this is the first way that they will come for me, and many of you. And I'm scared. And I'm processing. And it'll take awhile. 

I will rally. I will fight. I will use my privilege to aid others. I'll certainly cry a lot, with anyone else who needs to. I'll hold your hand when you're scared. And we'll heal together by taking care of each other.

Orange Ranunculus at a Premium

I realized that this post has been saved in my drafts for even longer than a year.  In honor of their one year anniversary (Congratulations, Katie and Will, who likely do not read this blog), I am posting it now.  The heart of this story still applies, and the littlest things are still the biggest things.  It is the people who have our backs that make our work great.  I can attest to that this year as well.  I'm thankful and grateful.  

he lucky part, about writing about a wedding a year after it happens, is that I'm fortunate to have some beautiful photos from the big day, courtesy of The Wiebners.  

In October I was fortunate to be the lead designer on a wedding that just screamed autumnal happiness.  The bride, Katie, was one of the first consultations that I conducted independently, and I enjoyed getting to know her a bit through the months approaching her wedding.  I know that my scope of getting to know her was only within the context of her wedding and the flowers, but I still love those little connections that happen sporadically, in seemingly insignificant conversations.  

We shared a love for the tiny details that can go into a celebration.  She is a pediatrician, and collects vintage medicine bottles.  We ended up using those as the main component of her centerpieces.  She provided hurricane candles that were used at her sister's wedding just eight weeks before her own.  She wore a lace gown and threw on a cardigan at the end of the night, as she made her rounds personally thanking all of the venue staff for their service.  Her bridesmaids offered to carry all of the bouquets up 72 stairs to their third floor apartment (I politely declined the offer, but afterwards, almost wished that I had not.  That's a lot of steep stairs!).  

Katie's antique bottle collection on display for guests as centerpieces.

Katie's antique bottle collection on display for guests as centerpieces.

Apart from using a rich color palette of reds, oranges, yellows, and warm tones, Katie and her fiancé, Will, made no specific requests, save for one: to please include in Will's boutonniere an orange ranunculus.  He loves them.  Their shape, how cheerful they are, all the layers of petals.  And when a groom has a specific request, and they seldom do, I think it's so important to honor it.  In any situation, really.  If the couple is overall flexible and wonderfully trusting, you want to just blow them away with their flowers.  

The time came to order their flowers.  I had a lot of fun doing this, with a beautifully organized list, stem counts neatly totaled up, pricing estimated within my spending budget, anticipation building for the time to design it all.  It's an interesting method, and everyone is different in this regard.  

But none of our wholesalers had orange ranunculus in stock.  Nobody.  We couldn't even order them in from California.  They weren't on any availability lists, but every other color was.  Red, yellow, cream, white, the whole Crayola box, was available.  But no orange.

I panicked (internally).  I called every Whole Foods in Philadelphia and the outlying suburbs.  No orange ranunculus.  I called florists in the city, and only one of them could maybe get them in for me, at way too much per stem.  A day or two went past.  And the availability online from our wholesalers hadn't changed.  But one of our sources for flowers did have but ONE BUNCH of orange ranunculus.  Ten stems only.

It's a small glimpse of the orange ranunculus, but it is there!

It's a small glimpse of the orange ranunculus, but it is there!

The man who saved the day, and my conscience, was Ted of the Cut Flower Exchange in Conshohocken.  He's a longtime friend of my boss', and was actually the person who referred me to contact her seeking a job.  And he was the one who came through in a big way with ten flowers for my first wedding as a design lead.

The littlest things are sometimes the biggest things.  

But more on that in an upcoming blog post.

I lucked out with this couple as my first full-service client at the shop.

I lucked out with this couple as my first full-service client at the shop.

The Turning

Under the leaves, insects are taking shelter and mushrooms are growing.  And decaying, and spending spores, and growing.  Salvaging more catmint from the garden before a hard frost.  Watching several flower farmers experience a frost, while others do not.  Getting a few more weeks of dahlias.  Bringing the herbs inside, and hoping that they get enough sun.  The urge to make wreaths with all the amazing dried plant material abounding.  Peeling pomegranates.  The urge to stay underneath the blanket just a little bit longer.  Feeling ahead while feeling behind.  Crowns of lunaria (not unlike a wreath).  Root vegetables as the best comfort food.  Thanking the ancestors.  

And then, there is Four Quarters.

Happy at the Farm.

Happy at the Farm.

Traveling to ritual; to several types of ritual.  The labyrinth.  Measuring the path where we dig to put stones in the ground.  Re-measuring.  Taking the stones out.  Precision.  Measuring again.  Finally putting the stones in the ground.  Eleven in the ground, completing the fifth ring.  Three rings to go.  This is the work for our descendants.  

Coffee dragons.  A Croning celebration.  Bunking in the dorms.  Viewing the changes to the land after six years, and hearing the history of change in people and structure.  A hayride to view the new land acquired and feeling just as at home as the first time I set foot in the Farm's office as a freshman in college.

Dumb Supper.  Offering tobacco.  Approaching the Ancestors cautiously.  

Elemancy as ritual.  Walking into the circle, second participant, at that.  Being sent to the North when your Aries husband is sent to the South.  Asking, and being told "Balance."  Chuckling a bit (I'm a Libra, don't you know) and knowing that this means to go slowly.  

Always wanting more answers.

Drinking mead.  Smoking clove cigarettes.  Attending the Dead Poet's Society, and enjoying the performances and recitations of the writers, poets, musicians, and bards who have left this world.  Already thinking about what to read aloud and share next year.

Watching one of your dearest friends become a Member of the Church.  Crying.  Feeling really proud of her.  Really proud of her.

Participating in closing ritual.  Serious grounding.  Being challenged in the circle, and taking the challenge to the world outside of the Farm, the family.  Being unsure if you have enough love in your heart to carry out the work.  Hugging strangers that you've seen all weekend.  It makes you feel a little stronger.

Gratitude.  Clichés about it taking a village.  Learning to sit with clichés that feel right.

Merry Samhain.

Peace on the Rocks

My mother in law lives on a really wonderful piece of land.  For those local to the Philadelphia region, it's off the beaten path once you get off of 422-West.  She and her husband, Tom, live in a house that was once the office for those who operated and worked at the quarry down their driveway.  If you get to digging on their land (and people have trespassed to do so), you'll find calcite, pyrite, chalcopyrite, and other minerals.

There are lots of interesting structures on the land, including a few outbuildings and a smelting tower.  The property is large, and there are garden vignettes tucked in all corners.  My mother in law, Kelly, always buys plants in the "adopt-a-plant" section of nurseries, and fits them into the land in the hopes that they'll grow strong.  Tom has fruit trees lining the left edge of the lawn, near the vegetable garden.  I can see him becoming an obsessive dahlia grower, he marvels at the blooms when I bring them over as a gift.

The space pictured above is a wide, cleared path that drops off steeply at the end.  If you look down over the edge, you can see more land that hasn't really been explored, but probably has a lot of great minerals.

Chris and I visited on Sunday, after I attended an herbalism workshop on all-purpose healing salves.  Similar to when I drink enough water and eat healthy food, I always feel more motivated and clear-headed when I work with herbs.  And it was a wonderful head space to be in to visit the land.  And I couldn't stop thinking of things I want to do there, people I want to bring there, and things I want to find and make.  In the spring, I harvested wild violet blossoms.  That has to be just the tip of the iceberg there.

Perhaps one day I will bring friends to this land.  I want to have a tent village and a campfire, and I want to eat food with friends here.  It doesn't hurt that Kelly and Tom (and Chris and I, for that matter) are all good cooks.  There are mushrooms to look at and paths in the forest to walk.

When you don't know your ancestors.

This weekend, Chris and I are going away for Samhain to Four Quarters Farm.  In college, this was the typical call to us at this time of the year.  If you're not familiar with what Samhain is, take a look at this brief primer on Samhain.  At the farm, the legacy that we're part of includes the Labyrinth at Four Quarters.  This labyrinth is a guide for meditation and has been built by volunteers since 2005.  It's not easy work - the granite must be set deep into the ground, and the weather conditions aren't always ideal.  But the student group at Penn State that Chris and I met at, Silver Circle, has a long legacy of leading the labyrinth dig twice each year.  

This is absolutely the first photo of Chris and I together.  Taken Samhain 2008, we had met about a month beforehand.  This was our first visit to Four Quarters.

This is absolutely the first photo of Chris and I together.  Taken Samhain 2008, we had met about a month beforehand.  This was our first visit to Four Quarters.

Traditionally a time when ancestors are venerated and spoken with, Samhain is a favorite of many Pagans.  I think Samhain is really special to us, since we're able to be more socially "out" than other times of the year.  It's not during every holiday that our observances so neatly line up with more mainstream (read: acceptable) cultural celebrations.  Granted, Halloween barely touches the surface of Pagan practices.  It doesn't mean we can't enjoy a reprieve from appearing as secular as possible.

For me, Samhain has always been enjoyable.  The problem is, I've never felt truly able to connect on a deep level with Samhain rituals or practices.  I participate, I pay respect to those who have passed on, but there's a block for me nonetheless.  

What are you to do, when you don't know your ancestors?

Some of you may know this already; my father died when I was seven years old.  His mother, my grandmother, died in 1985, four years before I was born.  When my father died, there was a falling out between my mother and his father, my grandfather, because she decided to move us away from the town we all lived in.  This was a complicated decision, I'm sure.  I was too young to truly understand the dynamics of my family, and the issue is that I still don't understand much more than the basic facts, and that my mother needed to leave the house that reminded her of my father.  My Grandpa Yukevich died many years later, in 2012.  What I do understand is that aside from distant descendants who are still living (and possibly close to me in age, or at least in my generation), the death of these people left my sister and me as the last two Yukevich's we knew of.

The simple solution to this problem, the struggle of not knowing who I came from, would be to ask someone about the ancestors.  But I will tell you that this solution is easier said than done.  There's never a good time to bring this up to your mother, who lost her husband swiftly and unexpectedly, and is likely still grieving in some way.  I don't quite think we ever stop grieving those that we lose.  Everyone is different in this regard, but out of respect for her heart, I can't at this time bear to ask her for a history.

So.  If I can't talk to anyone (at least just yet), what do I do? 

First, I need to stop feeling like it's my fault that I don't know my ancestors.  It would be my fault to not learn about them now that I've felt the pull, but it's not anyone's fault that they cannot easily learn from someone who is no longer living.  We are only human, and we cannot control these things that make us the most human.

At the farm, I'll be participating in many rituals in many forms.  In the Stone Circle there is an Ancestor Table that attendees decorate with tokens of those we wish to remember and honor.  I'm not sure if dinner this year is a Dumb Supper, but we will at the very least be feasting with the Dead.  A ceremony in the evening will occur in the Stone Circle, and afterwards, we will undoubtedly share stories and reminisce with mead and more at the fireside. I don't know what I'm in store for in the ritual, but I am ready.  

A hope of mine is to create space to talk with the ancestors more regularly.  I'm imagining that I will consistently make offerings to them in my home, and to speak with them more frequently.

Another move that I'll be making to supplement the knowledge I've accumulated from Ancestry.com is to take a DNA test.  While I know many broad details of my family history, and some smaller details as well, there are gaps.  I'd like to fill as many gaps as possible.

And of course, there will come a day when I have to ask the questions to those it will hurt the most.  I'll get there.

If you're wondering more about Samhain, look at the two links below for more perspective.

Pagan Authors at Samhain

Ancestor Worship in Modern Witchcraft

Four Quarters Farm - Samhain

Making a Protection Jar

Without going into so many identifying details, there was a situation where I felt I needed a buffer between myself and another person several months ago.  I needed a safeguard, a warning, a "hey, stop that!" to go between me and an individual.  A reflex, when you touch something prickly or sharp, and you recoil.  You don't touch it again without a really good reason.  I wanted distance, and I wanted that person to realize that I was serious, and their treatment of me hurt and shouldn't happen again.

More generally speaking, another component of the protection jar was to stop people from intruding on my schedule - I felt really crushed by expectations and needed a little more sensitivity in regards to time.  I'm not always good at standing up to people, and I didn't think that this particular person would be empathetic to me.  

I collected all of my components, and the jar was made on a full moon, so it could work during the waning moon as a banishing.  The jar I used was a simple spice jar (now holding cat whiskers that the girls have lost through normal shedding).

Into the jar went thistles for protection and severity, mint for invigoration, yarrow for protection of psychic boundaries, a charged quartz crystal, and "Please Go Away" incense that I was gifted by a Silver Circle member over the summer.  

Tiny thistles in a jar.

Tiny thistles in a jar.

Yarrow.  Extremely multi-purpose.

Yarrow.  Extremely multi-purpose.

A note: the thistle, mint, and yarrow were all grown organically and locally.  Since I wasn't ingesting any of these items, the argument could be made the need for them to be organic isn't strong.  However, I feel committed to using sustainably and joyfully grown, small batch plant materials whenever possible.  The plants are more powerful and happier in their soil, and I feel a difference in these from the imported alternatives.  

I don't have any photos of the finished jar - I'll leave that image to your imagination.  Making the protection jar was cathartic for me, and I have no doubt that there was an affect.  This was witchcraft as recourse.  

What protections have you done for yourself?  

 

October: 10 of Pentacles

The final card in the suit of pentacles, and it’s almost difficult to see the illustration behind the pentacles on the card itself.  If the ten of each suit indicates completion or fullness, then the ten of pentacles is abundance upon abundance. 

Ten of Pentacles from my Rider/Waite/Smith deck.

Ten of Pentacles from my Rider/Waite/Smith deck.

When I drew this card for October, I was really excited about it.  This card depicts bustling activity, and the suit of pentacles relates to fullness and richness of the material realm.  This card also served as a bit of a gentle warning to me. 

My card for January was the Page of Pentacles, which I took to be the beginning of an internal journey through my relationship with finances, provision, and my home.  To see that the suit has been completed in October (not December, the end of the calendar year) stood out to me.  In regards to the calendar, this shows an early finishing.  It can be excellent to end a journey early – you really pushed forth and went for “it” full throttle.

And sometimes, you need to take a break because the striving and hustle becomes overwhelming, even if it’s exactly what you wanted, and even if you’re receiving lots of good results from the hustle.

This is where I’m at right now, and though I am enjoying some slight periods of rest, I want to make sure I’m also out enjoying what my hard work has afforded me to do.  I’m going to get a hair cut this week, which probably doesn’t seem like a luxury to some of you, but I haven’t had a professional cut my hair in about a year and a half.  This was partially by choice, but I would rather spend money on chiropractic care than hair care, since my ability to stand comfortably was more necessary than my aesthetics.  I’m also thinking about buying a new pair of jeans.  (At the time of publishing, I confirm the purchase of new jeans!  THANK YOU, LL Bean, for your dark wash, straight leg, not-too-tight-but-not-too-loose, conventional, un-trendy jeans.)

Chris and I are also going to go camping for Samhain this year with some of our closest friends – it’ll be his first time back at the land since 2009, mine since probably 2010 or 2011.  It’s time. 

Link Round Up 10/15/16

It's been a busy week.  I hate saying that all the time, but it's true.  We're winding down wedding season at the shop, and we had our last large rush of weddings over the weekend.  Five of them.  This might not sound like many to some of you, and it may sound ridiculously hectic to others.  For us, it was wonderful and fulfilling, but we're ready for a break.  Luckily, there is just one amazing wedding tomorrow.  We're psyched.  But we're also ready for some quiet time.  

A kind bride from August sent me this photo last night, along with her words of thanks in regards to the flowers on her wedding day.  I absolutely love this shot, and am waiting to hear back from her about which amazing photographer I need to credit!  I can't wait to see more photos she sends me.  Luckily, these clients are local to the neighborhood, so we'll be seeing them again!

A kind bride from August sent me this photo last night, along with her words of thanks in regards to the flowers on her wedding day.  I absolutely love this shot, and am waiting to hear back from her about which amazing photographer I need to credit!  I can't wait to see more photos she sends me.  Luckily, these clients are local to the neighborhood, so we'll be seeing them again!

Pittsburgh is known for the very distinct dialect that its residents have, so I thought I would take this quiz to see if I could be "read" over the internet.  My top three results: Dayton, Des Moines, and Pittsburgh.  Spot on!

If you love cats, then this online shop is for you.  I'll take one of everything.

I will share cafe au lait dahlia photos until the frost pries the blooms from my chilly fingertips.

I will share cafe au lait dahlia photos until the frost pries the blooms from my chilly fingertips.

A magazine about anxiety: Anxy.  What do you think?  I am interested, as a person with some anxious tendencies and as a person who likes to know about other people.

This article directly relates to my desire to take courses on herbalism and medicinal plants.  I've re-read it twice and surely will at least once more.

Open-Source Magic.  Yes.  Open source everything.

It's easy to fall in love with dahlias.  

It's easy to fall in love with dahlias.  

Link Round Up 10/7/16

Hi kittens!

Crooked glasses and my favorite scarf.  

Crooked glasses and my favorite scarf.  

Yesterday I turned 27.  I celebrated with cake and friends and family and flowers and crying happy tears and dahlias and homemade pizza and cats and...it was a good week.

Cake surprise at work!.  The people I work with are some of the best people I know.

Cake surprise at work!.  The people I work with are some of the best people I know.

At the time of publishing, I have submitted my application to this floral design workshop.  Fingers crossed!  If I were to win, my reaction should probably be filmed.  It'd be something truly special.

I want to try making this bread sometime.  Any bread, any time.  I'm down.

I'm not into the "hashtag blessed" idea, but THESE I can get behind.

I'm not into the "hashtag blessed" idea, but THESE I can get behind.

Happening upon one of these daily blessings from Briana Saussey was a highlight of my week.  I haven't had a moment to peruse her website yet, but the daily blessings just seem right for me at the moment.  I needed them.

I attended a workshop a few months ago with sweet Marlee of Have Company, and she has written a book about her daily dance practice - here is the Kickstarter!  She's been fully funded, which is awesome.  I am thinking of either pledging the level where you get two books, or the level where you get the book and tote bag.  Check her out, she's doing some interesting things up in Michigan (that is, until she does interesting things during her move to California).

Flower. Shop. Cats. (Sent to me on my birthday from Hayley, one of my closest friends.  She's wonderful.  We share an affinity for cats and a distaste for convention.)

Flower. Shop. Cats. (Sent to me on my birthday from Hayley, one of my closest friends.  She's wonderful.  We share an affinity for cats and a distaste for convention.)

These earrings are calling to me...along with everything else on Bethany Yellowtail's website.

My sweet friend, Brooke, wrote a beautiful blog post regarding her ancestral beliefs and modern influences.  If you read through her archives, you will not be disappointed.

"Insights Had While Harvesting Lisianthus"

My sweet friend Annie sent me an email a few weeks ago, and while I wanted to recap the main points of what she said here, I couldn't.  She works with Cassie at Jig-Bee Flower Farm here in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia.  Her words say it best.  I asked her if I could share what she said to me, and with her permission, you can view her kind gift of words that made me cry.  I'm a crier.  If you weren't aware, stick around for awhile.  It comes up a lot.

Hello, my dear! 

So I was harvesting out that awesome rosanne brown and rosanne deep brown lisianthus for you today, and I found myself thinking, "This is so great that Alyssa is using this, because it looks great, and it's crazy to me that no one is ordering lisianthus from us anymore." I also thought about the arrangements that you were making for your friends and the selection that you had made today, and how sort of random the combination of lisianthus, dahlias, cosmos, and ruffled purple basil, etc., might look on paper to a designer - but having put them all together today, I had no doubt that you were going to come up with something organic and wonderful and wild. 

And then it sort of hit me. This is what I imagined working with designers would be like. That they would come to the garden and see what looks good and base their arrangements off of what was naturally occurring in the garden. As you know, I'm not a huge fan of the wedding industry, in large part because it demands a level of industrialization - that you decide "oh, cafe au laits should work," and then you order them and you expect to get exactly what you had in your head. But that's not what it's like for us on the local, organic, small batch farm level - some things are unpredictable. Like I thought I'd have a bumper batch of cafe au laits to harvest today but I didn't. But I did have some awesome lisianthus and peachy celosia. 

Basically what this made me realize is how grateful I am as a farmer to have someone like you to work with. Because the way you approached your design today really honored what we do and honors our garden. Because we try our best but we can't always predict that we'll have as many CAL's as someone wants, but we also can't predict that we'll still be having amazing lisianthus in September. So it's a give-and-take, and the fact that you based your order today on what you saw in the field, made me really happy and glad to be doing this. 

xo

Annie

Link Round Up 9/30/16

Some relaxation tea.  PSA: Seasonal changes, such as the movement of summer to fall, can affect brain chemistry of individuals who are sensitive to large changes.  If you're someone or if you know someone who has a brain chemistry issue, such as depression or anxiety, it may be more harsh to cope right now.  Let's remember to be gentle with people who are getting their bearings in this shift.

Some relaxation tea.  PSA: Seasonal changes, such as the movement of summer to fall, can affect brain chemistry of individuals who are sensitive to large changes.  If you're someone or if you know someone who has a brain chemistry issue, such as depression or anxiety, it may be more harsh to cope right now.  Let's remember to be gentle with people who are getting their bearings in this shift.

If you're a crafty person, this Etsy listing for leather scraps might be of interest!  I have one bag from Jenny's shop, and it was a huge investment that paid for itself in the first year I owned it.

This flower arrangement from the shop is really special, because it went to a prospective client from her fiancé in celebration of their wedding being a year from today.  We haven't even had our formal consultation yet, and she intends to book.  I am so excited to officially meet her next weekend and really get down to business!

This flower arrangement from the shop is really special, because it went to a prospective client from her fiancé in celebration of their wedding being a year from today.  We haven't even had our formal consultation yet, and she intends to book.  I am so excited to officially meet her next weekend and really get down to business!

This article about purification really resonated with me.  Even if you're not a person who participates in ritual, this might relate to you in your personal practice.

I really want to make these veggie pancakes!  Unfortunately, we didn't have the time to this week since we made lots of other delicious food.  Next week!

As if I need another tarot deck to lust after.  And yet...

From the Linestrider Tarot.  Keeps coming up for me.

From the Linestrider Tarot.  Keeps coming up for me.