I’ve got my sewing machine back!

She’s been over at the parents’ since I moved, mostly because Mum’s 70s vintage Husqvarna is still broken so she used mine, and partly because I hadn’t worked out where she was going to live in my flat. I still haven’t figured that out yet, so I’ll be stepping round her in my bedroom for a while, but I don’t really care.

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So pretty, and so heavy!

She’s a Singer 128K from 1923, ‘born’ sometime after June 27th, and has been in the family for at least three generations, maybe four. Me, my mother, and my maternal grandmother have all ‘owned’ her, and it’s possible my great-grandmother did as well, although I have no idea when she arrived in my family. It’s even possible we had her from new, but as any reciept has long since disappeared I’ll never know. So why bring her home today, seeing as I’ve nowhere to put her yet? Partly because not having a working sewing machine in the house may actually make Mum get hers fixed (it’s not worked for literally years now), but mostly because I went to visit my friend Charlie this weekend and got to see her newly aquired 28K, the older sister to my 128.

I’ve been meaning to get mine back for a while so I can start quilting, which is one of the things that reading The Last Runaway has inspired me to do. I’m planning on making a purple patchwork one to start with for yoga/meditation – one that I can use in savasana to stop getting chilled and also fold up to use with my zafu instead of a zabuton. I also bought a flannel blanket/quilt kit from Hobbycraft for my goddaughter’s Christmas present, so I’ll be practicing my piecing on the kit (precut squares and simple design for the win), then making up my yoga quilt top, practicing quilting on that, and then quilting Abi’s – hopefully with fewer or no mistakes! I’ve got a few other quilt plans in the pipeline as well, but I’ll start with those two and see how I get on.

I’m also going to be making Kizzy some pattern weights for Christmas, as I found some great multi-coloured owl fabric fat quarters in Hobbycraft a while ago and Kizzy’s patron goddess Athena is all about the owls, along with crafting and weaving. Pattern weights seemed appropriate. And at some point I’m going to be making some skirts out of the fabric I snagged when Kizzy was clearing out her sewing room – cotton single bedsheets in pale blue, green, two slightly different shades of red, and brown. The brown I can use as a toile or test piece, and then use it for larp if it doesn’t got too wrong, the blue I can adapt to use in Little Woodham next year (planning on using elasticated waistbands which won’t work in the 1600s, and the blue has a few holes in it – good for re-enactment, bad for everyday wear), and the rest for wearing and feeling pretty in. I like long skirts as they make me feel feminine, which my workwear certainly doesn’t, but I only have three I can really wear outside of parties and Sidmouth Folk Festival, and two of those are very much summer skirts – thin, floaty, and translucent when the sun’s behind me. And another plus is red and green are two of what I think of as ‘Freyja colours’, along with gold and dark pink.

As for why I’ve been referring to my sewing machine as ‘she’ throughout this post, I’m blaming Charlie for that as well – she names her sewing machines, and they’re all female. I’m considering calling mine Frigg.

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Back view

Fighting apathy

I’ve reached the stage of ‘not having to go to work’ where all my ‘free time to do things’ enthusiasm has waned. Granted, I’m still getting fatigued a lot easier than I used to and the breathlessness isn’t helping any, but I had enough energy to tidy my bedroom floor so I should have enough energy to sort out my desk and the cupboard in my bedroom as well as write emails, last posts on AT, and posts for here (I have a stupidly huge backlog of those). So while I may have the energy I just can’t bring myself to do much. I’m trying, and things like the washing up and food shopping are getting done, along with small things like phoning the GP for an appointment, but I find myself putting off the bigger tasks like writing emails and sorting through things.
Not necessarily bigger as in huge/will take a lot of time, but more things that are harder to do or that I don’t want to do – sorting my bedroom cupboard for instance.

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Yarn stash, fabric stash, clothes, miscellaneous bags of stuff… There’s a reason I keep the door shut.

Unfortunately, the apathy extends into my spiritual life as well. That’s not to say that I’m completely ignoring it like I am the cupboard, but I’m only really managing the little things – daily prayers, finding something to be grateful for each day – and not managing the bigger things. Grounding for instance. Before I got ill I was getting really good at grounding – I was doing it every day and I had three different visualisations I could use that I was getting pretty good at. But then I got ill, and grounding just wasn’t happening while I was in hospital, even the last couple of weeks I was in rehab when my brain and body were mostly working like they’re supposed to. Since I’ve been discharged I’ve tried to ground every day, but the times when I’ve been able to are far outweighed by the times I either haven’t been able to or haven’t bothered. Part of it is I’m just out of practice and part of it is probably because I’m usually trying to do this just before I go to bed, but even today when I was at the park near my flat I found it hard. I spent a while standing on the riverbank with my hand on a horse chestnut tree trying to ground through the tree (which I’ve had success with in the past), but while I could visualize the green Earth energy inside the trunk I couldn’t connect to it.

I’m not sure how much of my apathy and procrastination is due to the muggy heat and the fatigue that comes from walking a couple of miles in it most days (part of my ongoing recovery), how much is due to the feeling I’ve got a load of time still left as I have no idea when I’ll be signed off as fit to work again, and how much is me not having enough structure in my days. I’ve got some – I’m getting up at eight and (mostly) in bed by 11, lunch and dinner happen at the same times as when I’m at work, and I’m usually out walking between 2 and 5pm, but that’s about it. So one thing on my to-do list, which I haven’t done yet because ugh, effort, is to write up a daily schedule with a mini to-do list for each hour I’m awake. I’m not going to follow it slavishly as that way not only madness lies but also the inability to have flexibility when friends come round; but I think knowing that for example 10-11am is when I do housework or 9-10pm is when I write emails and having timers set on my phone will help me get things done. And hopefully getting things done and ticking them off my daily and general to-do lists will get me out of the doldrums I appear to be in.

I’d love to be able to go back to work as I really miss being on site, and it would also mean that I’m healthy again with working lungs and a normal heartbeat, and my old strength back. But I have to admit there’s a part of me that wants to be signed off for longer, which I try to justify as ‘well that way I’d definitely have enough time to do all the things I’ve been meaning to do for ages’, but which I have a feeling is just my brain going ‘be lazy longer’. Because brains hate you being proactive.

Here’s hoping a new week will help me make a newish start, beginning with more grounding practice! Because right now I feel the way these rabbits I saw in the park today look:

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Apathy bunnies.

I am in a state of shock

Aeclectic Tarot Forum is shutting down.

This news has shocked me, and made me sad and upset as well. I’ve been a member of this forum since May 2007, and for ten years it’s helped me learn and grow as a tarot reader. It’s one of my internet homes, and now I won’t be able to live there any more.

I got an email today notifying me of a new PM, and as I so rarely get messages on AT I went to have a look. It was from one of the members,  just a regular member – not a mod or administrator, giving me a heads-up that the site was shutting down. Now while there’s a banner across the top of the forum announcing the closure I don’t go on AT every day, and week if not months can go by without me visiting, so if it wasn’t for that PM I may have missed the deadline of the 14th of this month. I will be forever grateful to missy for that.

Now the site’s not going away completely, thank the gods; the main Aeclectic site with details and reviews of decks will carry on as normal, and the forum will still exist, but it will be frozen – no new posts, no login ability, that sort of thing. And you have no idea how grateful I am for that – the forum has seventeen years’ worth of accumulated knowledge on all aspects of tarot and oracle use, as well as other divination methods, and the thought of all of it disappearing scared me no end. After all, I’ve had to live through that once already when the old Magicka School forum shut down; as far as I can tell none of it was archived anywhere, as the new forum attached to the school was a completely fresh slate, I can’t find it on the Wayback Machine, and after the changeover none of the other students could find any of the information either. There was so much magical and spiritual knowledge on that forum, and I really wish it was still available.

The vast majority of AT will still be there though, only a few of the forums will be locked as private after the shutdown. So tomorrow I will be copying all the threads I started or posted in in the reading forums, and also writing those posts that have been on my to-do list for a few weeks. It’s not like there was any urgency in posting after all, the site wasn’t going anywhere…

And I’m going to say some goodbyes as well. While I spent more time lurking than posting there are several users who helped me along my tarot journey through their contributions, and I want to thank them while I still have the chance. I don’t know where exactly I’ll go after the 14th, as there are several other forums out there, some started recently by AT members, just none (as far as I know) with as large a membership as AT or as long and rich a history.

I still can’t quite believe it. There may well be tears when it finally sinks in.

Midsummer already?

I know this particular Sabbat always sneaks up on me, but after losing two months of my life in hospital the longest day has appeared even faster than it usually does. I haven’t done much to celebrate this year, despite the fact that being signed off from work means I’ve had time to plan, organise, and arrange something. Partly due to the sneakiness, but mostly to do with the heat and trying to get other stuff done. Oh, and partly procrastination – lying on the sofa reading a new book is very time-absorbing. Although it does deal with the conflict between Summer and Winter and is set around Midsummer’s Day, so I can at least claim that Summer Knight is relevant reading.

I’ve just finished my ritual celebrations, somewhat late in the day I know, but although it’s dark now there was still daylight in the sky when I began. I say ritual, but there was very little to it. As ever, what I did was based on the Pagan Dreams Litha celebration kit but a much abridged version because a) tired b) hot. My bedroom’s quite large, but when you’ve got nine candles on the go in weather like this you want to spend as little time sitting next to them as possible. I didn’t rush through things or cut corners, I just did less in circle than I would have done otherwise. I lit my altar and Deity candles, cast circle as usual, lit the quarter candles and the greyish votive I poured for my Imbolc ritual, read the poem on the ritual sheet, captured the last of the daylight in the citrine, listened to the guided meditation, and then shut everything down. No incense, salt, water, herbs, or anything. Not great, but it’s the longest I’ve concentrated on anything spiritual since getting ill in April so I’m quite proud of that. Ok, yes, I’ve been to church since then as well, but it’s a lot easier to concentrate in the morning and when the heat isn’t draped over you like a slightly damp blanket. I was getting quite good at visualisation before I hit A&E, but I am sorely out of practice now making the meditation twice as hard to do, as I couldn’t close my eyes during it either. I say couldn’t, I could have, but I wasn’t going to with that many candles lit. The votives and tealights in their holders probably would have been fine, but there was no way I was going to be able to shut my eyes for twenty-five minutes with two lit taper candles.

I don’t feel too bad about it though, as it was lovely to be able to sit at my altar again and I’d kinda done most of my celebrating earlier in the day. The past week or so we’ve had really hot weather (for the UK) with temperatures in the high twenties/low thirties. Now I am not good with the heat – I blame the fact I was born on the Winter Solstice – and whenever it gets really hot it also gets humid. If it was a dry heat I might feel better, but when it’s muggy like this you just feel sweaty all the time, even when you haven’t been doing anything strenuous. It’s just unpleasant. However, the weather isn’t allowed to get in the way of my convalescence so this afternoon my parents and I went for a walk with my godfather. He lives near the Thames at Windsor, and the heat was still very noticeable, but easier to bear by the river where we were walking. There were also a lot of trees shading the path, so in between the shade and dappled shade which cooled me off I was able to bask in the sunny patches as I walked through them, feeling the heat of the Solstice sun soaking into my skin and enjoying being out in it before the nights start closing in. Granted, we’re (hopefully) going to get a lot more hot and sunny (but preferably slightly less hot) weather over the next couple of months, but there is something in the knowledge that this is where the dark half of the year begins that makes me appreciate the sun that little bit more.

There were also loads of dragonflies darting all over the place and landing on the grass and plants either side of the path. The ones I saw most commonly were about an inch and a half long, and a gorgeous deep electric blue. They were even flitting about the graveyard we walked through on our loop back to my godfather’s house, which was quite a way from the river. Dragonflies are one of the animals associated with Freyja, and seeing so many of them (roughly one every ten to twenty paces) made me feel closer to Her. Walking through the cemetery also gave me the chance to say my prayers for the dead which brought back memories of the last site I was on – the area I was on before I got ill was full of skeles so I was saying dead prayers every day, and the weather was warm and sunny then as well. That period of time was an enjoyable one, and I still miss being around the guys in my work team and my housemates. I made some good friends on that site. All in all, a very enjoyable Solstice day.

Convalescing sucks

So, I was discharged from hospital Wednesday last week, much to my relief. Yes, I needed the rehab, but after I spent last weekend at home on weekend leave I realised I was seriously suffering from cabin fever – I spent a lot of each day walking up and down the ward and corridors, couldn’t settle to read, and pretty much counted the hours to visiting time and bedtime when I could escape for a while. But I’m out now, and all that is behind me. I’m also back in my flat, as by the time I left I was mobile and independent enough to live on my own rather than at the parents’. I’ve still got follow-up appointments to attend and I’m getting outpatient physio, but I’m on the home stretch to being back to where I was before I got ill.

So why the suckage? Aside from I’m being paid ESA rather than wages. Yes, I get to stay in bed longer, I have a lot of time to do the things I’ve been avoiding unable to do while I was working – sorting my boxes of paperwork and dealing with the boxes of random stuff in my bedroom that I haven’t unpacked since the move – as well as stuff like start on the quilt I’m going to be making, finish the spring cleaning, catch up on my blog reading, post more here, get back into my spirituality, read my pile of To Read books… The list goes on. And as I’m signed off from work for two months I don’t even have to worry about looking for work, which part of my brain keeps thinking I need to do. But frankly I’d rather be getting up at 6am again and going to work up in town like I should have been doing before I got ill.

Part of that is because I’m still a lot weaker and get fatigued easily, but a lot of it is also looking at the boxes of stuff and the piles of crap in my room (there are areas of my life where I am not organised, my bedroom floor being one of them) and whining ‘do I have to?’ at myself. Yes, yes I do. And not just because I’ve got Kizzy and her old flatmate visiting for several days next weekend and they need somewhere to sleep, or because even if I moved the alcohol collection off my desk I still wouldn’t be able to use it because the footwell’s packed with stuff, but because the reason I haven’t dealt with that stuff yet is because I was working during the day and therefore tired during the evening, and at weekends I was either busy seeing friends or similar, or wanting to rest and self-care for a couple of days. I just didn’t have the time.

Well now I have the time, and my friends are providing the pressure I need to actually get me started. Another of the things I’ve been meaning to do during my convalescence is seriously do more to enrich my spiritual life – meditate, spend more time at my altar, carry on with my 366 project, use my tarot decks, make use of my prayer bead collection – partly because I want to, partly because it should mean that when I’m back working I’ll have a foundation of daily practice that I can (hopefully) build on when I start work again that won’t just disappear when things get hectic, but also because I need to. I have had so many kicks up the arse from my Deities over the past few days it’s getting ridiculous, and a lot of it has been through the content of the books I’ve read recently. So from the religious discussions taking place in C. J. Sansom’s novel Lamentation to the descriptions of magic in the Dresden Files series, to wanting to reread the All Souls’ trilogy next I’ve got both God and Freyja poking me to, y’know, actually get off my arse and start doing things again. Planning is all very well, and I’m good at planning what I’m going to do, but it’s the starting of it that I’ve never been very good at. Take (somewhat embarrassingly) most of my uni essays for example – I could write up the plan of what I was going to write, I could go through all the books and pull out quotes to use in my essay, and I would put off and put off actually sitting down and starting to write. Once I’d got about 500 words in I was fine, and could write for hours at a stretch, but it was that avoidance of first beginning that meant I was usually writing for hours at a stretch due to pulling all-nighters with said essays being due in the following day. I was a terrible student sometimes.
So, another reason to tidy my bedroom – my copies of Methodist Worship and Wicca: A Year and a Day are buried somewhere in there.

I’m alive, thankfully

At least this time I’ve got a reason for not posting for ages that isn’t me being lazy or tired. Back at the beginning of April I got a cold, and after a few days my breathing got bad enough I went to A&E where I was admitted with a severe chest infection that turned out to be double pneumonia.

That was Friday 7th, and by the next day I was in ICU as my body had (through sheer inexplicable bad luck) very rapidly gone through septicaemia to sepsis and then septic shock. I spent two weeks in intensive care, most of it sedated, and for the first few days of that it was touch and go whether I’d actually live through it. Once you get to septic shock there’s a mortality rate of 25-50% with treatment, and the two steps after that are multiple organ failure and death.

Thankfully I lived, spent two weeks in a respiratory ward, and have now spent another two in a rehab ward back in London as I lost a stone of muscle in ICU and as a result couldn’t stand, let alone walk, when the sedation wore off. I’m slowly building my muscles back up and gaining the ability to do things like pick stuff up off the floor, but it’s going to take months before I’m back to normal, and even longer until I’m fit to go back to work.

I’m currently on weekend leave from the hospital, which means I have access to my computer which the parents have been looking after for me, hence this post. Next weekend I’m hoping to stay over at home rather than the parents’ place, and then I hopefully get discharged the weekend after that. So yeah – not dead, not on fire. Literally.

[EDIT]: Turns out I did, in fact, have multiple organ failure. While I was in hospital I was told I had septic shock, which I assumed was the worst my body had gone through, which is what sent me to ICU. It was only when I read through my copy of my discharge notes that I realised I’d gone to the ‘more than one of your internal organs will decide to pack up’ stage.

Waiting in expectation, and tiny things making a big difference

Yesterday I joined my local Quakers at Meeting for Worship, which is something I’ve been meaning to do for a while now. I first started going to Meeting in early 2014, albeit sporadically, when I was both unemployed and suffering from clinical depression, and as a result spending a lot of time staying with my friends in North London who are not only lovely people but also have two cats. If I was there over a weekend, and awake early enough on Sunday mornings, I’d go with J to her local(ish) Meeting, at Hampstead. Going to Meeting the first time was very different from any other religious service I’d ever been to, and took a bit of getting used to. Quakers have no priests, no worship leader, no order of service – they sit in silence, waiting to see if anyone is moved by the Spirit to speak. I knew what to expect, but it still took most of the hour for me to settle, and the subsequent times were almost as bad. After all, the other times I’d been silent in worship was during period of silent personal prayer, or when asked to actively think on something, rather than try and clear my mind and listen – not to someone or something, but for something, inside.

I’d known there was a Quaker Meeting House near me for years, as there was a signpost for it off one of the main roads I used to travel down a lot when I was in high school, and since going to Hampstead Meeting I’d always meant to go. But, as with most things I intend to do, it didn’t happen until much later than I planned. So why now? Because I read a book which inspired me. Several Christmasses ago, Mum put The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier in my stocking, but while the blurb on the back sounded interesting I was never in quite the right frame of mind to actually start reading. Roll on my current job, where for five months I’ve been travelling up to Lincoln every Sunday afternoon and returning home every Friday evening. It’s an eight-hour round trip door-to-door, and as I’m on the train rather than driving it leaves me with a lot of time to fill. So I’ve been using it to good effect by making my way through the pile of books in my To Read/Haven’t Read Yet pile, one of which was The Last Runaway. It’s an amazing book that I highly recommend, which has inspired me to do more than just go to Meeting again, but there were several passages which made me rethink my approach to the silence found in Meeting, and have really helped me get the most out of my experience there.

Before, I was waiting in expectation like everyone else, but I was always waiting for something to happen – waiting for someone to speak, or offer a prayer – which meant I was in a more-or-less constant state of anticipation. Every time someone shifted position, or cleared their throat, or picked up a copy of Quaker Faith & Practice, I expected them to offer ministry. And being on tenterhooks the whole time meant I very rarely found peace in the silence, even when a Friend did speak. After reading Ms. Chevalier’s book, I was still waiting in expectation, but waiting for something to happen. Ministry doesn’t happen at every Meeting, and weeks can go by when no-one is moved to speak. That doesn’t mean the Meeting has failed, just that the coin has come down heads rather than tails as opposed to coming down edge, or not at all. So on Sunday I found myself able to sink into the silence, and at times feel connected to everyone else there waiting as well – the lightbulb moment/s I had when reading being put into practice – we weren’t waiting for something to happen inside the Meeting room, but for something to come in from outside. I think the best way of explaining the difference I felt is by analogy of waiting for the post. Say you’re only going to be at home for three hours on a Saturday morning, and you’re waiting for the postman to come. When I started going to Meeting it was as if I had a parcel coming sometime that day that I had to sign for and had to be in to recieve, when I was only going to be at home for a while. Every time someone moved it felt like hearing footsteps coming along the pavement – is it the postman? Will my parcel arrive in time? Is this it? But now I’m able to relax into the waiting silence – knowing that there’s a parcel on the way, but that if it hasn’t arrived by the time I need to go out then it will still get delivered and be there when I return. Still waiting, still wondering if the footsteps belong to the postman, but not concerned if they don’t come to the door.

As a result I felt at peace during Meeting, and was able to empty my mind more than I usually can, even when meditating. It was a wonderful experience, helped along my the ministry that was offered by three of the Friends there. Each ministry was only a couple of minutes long, but gave us a lot to think about. I’ve no idea how much time had passed when the first Friend got up to speak, but maybe half an hour. He gave a ministry inspired by a Quaker conference he’d recently been to, about working to solve environmental and social issues, such as climate change and immigration. The image that he was told and shared with us was that of a tree – each leaf/person is very small in relation to the tree/problem, and as people we can feel very small when set against a problem such as climate change – there is a feeling of not being able to do anything, that whatever contribution we can make is so small it won’t make a difference, and even though we’ll do it anyway because we should, such as put things in the Council-collected recycling, it doesn’t feel like we’re helping. Same for the leaf – it’s so small, and its contribution is so tiny. But with enough leaves doing minute amounts of photosynthesis the tree will thrive. And with enough people doing whatever tiny bit they can, even if it’s just donate £2 a month to an aid charity, it will make as much a difference to the problem as the leaves do to the tree’s growth.

Several minutes after this ministry another Friend got up to speak. Inspired by the previous ministry, he shared something a colleague who works as an analyst for peace processes across the world told him, which is that they fail the first time. And the second. And often the third, and more. Until one day they don’t, and the peace process holds. And every time the process fails we learn something – something about how the participants think, or how things got to this state of affairs, or what might work, what doesn’t work, what people actually want, that sort of thing. Which is then used the next time to try and get closer to resolving the issue. The thing to remember, he said, was to try not to be discouraged when the peace process fails. Every time it doesn’t work, people get closer to finding a way to make it work, and that it’s worth making the attempt every time, even if you know you may not see the results in your own lifetime. If I wanted to more fully tie this second ministry with what I heard in the first, or to carry the analogy over, it would be like the leaves on a sapling – they’re never going to see the tree in its full majesty, with a mighty trunk and branches casting shade over a wide area, but the work they do before they fall enable the sapling to grow, and give it the potential to become a mighty tree.

Then, in probably the last quarter of Meeting, a third Friend stood and spoke of something she used to do as a child, which she was inspired to share by the previous two ministries. She spoke of having to do a fiddly, annoying task which seemed to take forever – when she was younger one of the jobs the children would have to do is pick out all of the little stones and bits of dirt from the lentils that were to be used for that day’s dinner. After being harvested they would be taken from the farm to the market, and the market to home, and all sorts of debris would end up in the lentils as a result. And when you’re cooking for a family that’s a lot of lentils to pick through. But even though picking out tiny bits of stone took ages and felt like it would never get done with so many lentils to sort, she knew that afterwards it would provide a good meal for everyone and that it would be worth it in the end. She also said that when all the children were out and it was just her mother working, the job was still done in the knowledge that dinner would be made and the family fed. The idea being that even when a task seems thankless, and annoying, and insurmountable, and it feels like it’s just you alone in the world doing it, it’s still worth doing for the benefits provided later down the line.