Small Adjustments and Updates

It’s been an interesting couple of days in the H-H household.  I’ve come to the conclusion that we’re not taking care of ourselves.  I mean, we’re physically taking care of ourselves, but we’re not emotionally taking care of ourselves.  We’re stressed, and I don’t think it’s in a good way.

I finally broke last night.  Erin’s been trying to get me to meditate at night before bed for weeks, but I’ve been resisting… Saying that I don’t think it will help or I just don’t have it in me to do that.  I broke down last night, thoroughly cleaned my altar, and meditated for ten minutes.  I invited Erin to meditate with me, and she agreed.  We dimmed the lights, lit our altars and tried to force our bodies into relaxing.

It didn’t help much, but I think, over time, we’ll see improvements.  I couldn’t keep my mind from singing some obnoxious pop song I don’t know the name of.  I kept telling myself to come back to center, only to be knocked off to the right or left again.  The ten minutes flew by so quickly.  We’re going to do this again tonight, and hopefully make a habit out of it.

I’m definitely out of practice.

In other Pagan related news, Erin and I are planning our annual trip to Central North Carolina’s Pagan Pride Day.  It’s the same time as Columbia Gay Pride in South Carolina, so we’re having to pick between the two.  It wasn’t really that hard of a pick: PPD it is.  I think I’m over gay pride events.  I think I’m over the partying and all that stuff.  I don’t need a gay pride event to feel connected to the community.  I understand and appreciate their existence, but I’m over it.  Pagan Pride events usually have more to offer anyway.  There’s entertainment, but also workshops and rituals, etc.

But CNCPPD hasn’t posted their workshop lists yet, so Erin and I aren’t sure if we’re going for Saturday or the whole weekend.  We’re definitely getting a hotel, we just don’t know if it’s for one night or two.  Last year, we went two days and it was wonderful.  We got to experience everything we wanted and also just enjoy each other.  I was also on speaking terms with my ex at that point, who also showed up.  We went out to dinner afterwards (Erin, myself, my ex, my ex’s fiance, and a mutual friend of all of ours), and it was nice… but ended up a little… badly…  Erin and I were disrespected a few times by multiple people, and we had it out with each of them not too long afterwards.

My ex, the one from the previous blog, and I haven’t really spoken to each other sense.  After that e-mail, they wrote a blog putting it all on me to start this attempt at friendship over again.  I wrote them an e-mail saying I wasn’t starting it, that they could if they wanted, but I wasn’t starting it… and asked about what the fiance thought about all this… Then that short blog to me disappeared and there was another one that I’m not really sure how to interpret… It talked about being okay to try again… but then used the word “you” vaguely, and I’m not sure if the you was directed at me… or at my ex themselves.  It said, “Part of me says yes it’s ok to try again you have learned from your mistakes and you are not where you were at a year ago mentally and physically.”

Erin interpreted the you to be me, which then made the blog sound like I was the one who messed everything up, so I have to learn from my mistakes and my ex doesn’t have to learn from theirs at all… but I read the you to be towards my ex, which means my ex understands what they did wrong and have learned from it.  Either way, I haven’t gotten an e-mail back and I’m done vague-blogging and vague-Pinteresting… If my ex wants to talk, there’s e-mail.  I’m not doing anything publicly anymore.

In other news, church has been wonderful.  Erin started volunteering with the AV department, and I signed up to help with Sunday School.  The minister has been there for ten years next month, and the church is having a celebration.  We’re going to go.  There’s a drum circle.  I’m really excited about the drum circle.

So. Many. Emotions.

I’ve been staring at this blank “new post” for almost an hour now… Leaving it, coming back to it, leaving it again.  I started a blog, backed it up, started another, and erased it as well.  I don’t know if I’m suffering from writer’s block or what, but I can’t… I can’t figure out the words to say what I feel inside.  I’m not so sure there are words for all the emotions flowing over me and through me… the wave after wave of anxiety, confusion, calm, peace, acceptance, understanding, fear, stress… over and over and over again.

Is this depression?  Is this what depression feels like?  I don’t feel hopeless.  I am never without hope because I know the Gods love me and bless me every day.  They have provided for my needs since day one, and I know without a shadow of a doubt that they will continue to do so in the future.

Maybe it’s stress… or maybe in a mix of thoughts and feelings that shouldn’t EVER mix because they aren’t compatible.  Maybe it’s family history and DNA telling me things I don’t want to or need to hear while my heart sings a different song.  Maybe it’s a need to cry and scream and sleep and laugh all at once.

Whatever it is… it’s there… sitting in my chest, pressing me in from all sides.

It’s love… mixed with fear.  There’s this baby, and it’s our baby.  It’s going to be the first in a line of two… maybe three.  This little precious baby boy or girl has been promised to us, and there’s a love there so deep that I don’t know if my body can handle it.  It makes me feel like I could burst from excitement, impatience, wanting…  I want to teach this little human so many wonderful things about the world, and the Gods, and love.  I pass through stores and see the clothing all hanging there, wanting to be bought… and the books I can’t wait to read.  I want this child to have everything.   Our baby…  Our first born, not of our bodies, but of our heart.  But there’s this fear, tucked away in the back of my mind.  It’s been dispelled over and over again, but it still lingers… The “what if.”  What if the birth mother changes her mind last minute? It’s a silly, yet not silly, fear.  She’s told me time and time again that she knows this is best and isn’t changing her mind.  But it’s there… and it lingers.  And it probably will always linger until everything is finalized.

It’s excitement… mixed with anxiety.  There’s nursery, and it’s occupied by kittens we can’t seem to get healthy enough to leave us.  There’s a space that needs to be nested in, and it’s not free and ready for that.  There’s the worry we won’t pass inspection for whatever stupid reason, which I know we will.  There’s no reason for us not to.  We are active in our church, we keep our home clean, and our animals well taken care of.  We eat insanely healthy, and we always live kind and compassionately as best we can.  There’s stuff that needs to be bought… but when is too soon, too soon?  We need the walk through done in November, so we have time… but when do we start buying things?  A crib, a car seat?  After the baby shower?  There’s so much to do, and so much time to do it in that my body can’t handle the nothingness.

I see all these people with their babies and their love and it eats me from the inside.  I want this.  I want this family.  I want this family so much it hurts.  I want this family so much it fills me with a feeling that I can’t describe accurately in words.  I want to raise this child to be a loving and compassionate little human who changes the lives of everyone he or she meets.  I have all these expectations, and yet none at all.

I am in love with this little peanut… this little creature… this little human that doesn’t fully exist yet, and I swear my body doesn’t know what to do.

A Letter To My Ex:

I’m taking a week off of the PBP… Mainly because Q is a hard letter, and something happened today that I wanted to address.

Dear Ex,

I saw that notification today on my phone. The one where you followed me on Pinterest, but when I went to check again, you were gone. The only conclusion I can gather is that you were checking up on me and accidentally pushed the button. Then, realizing what you’d done, undid it. It’s okay. I don’t mind if you follow me anymore. It’s better to just be honest about checking up on me then lying about it or trying to hide it, and it’s really okay. I’ve known for awhile that you were even though you said you weren’t, and I promise, it doesn’t bother me.

I know you probably will read this too, which is why I’m writing here. You found out about my adoption somehow, so it was either here or there, and my guess is here.

To be honest, I check up on you from time to time as well, like I do all my exes, except most of my exes and I are friends, and we really aren’t. We tried that, and I said some stuff and you said some stuff and it really just boiled down to neither of us were ready, and I don’t know if we ever really will be anymore. It’s been over three years.

You’ve said some fairly snarky things about me, don’t lie, and I’ve said some pretty snarky things about you as well. I’d pin something, you’d pin back. It was a game. A really twisted, fucked up, immature game you and I played against each other where no one ever wins.

The thing is, when I got that notification today, I wasn’t angry: I was shocked. I was surprised that you’d try to friend me again after how it all left off the last time we “talked,” where you said nasty things and I threatened the police on you because you claimed to have my stuff still. I’ve given up all hopes of seeing it again, but I guess after three years, I don’t really need it anyway.

Listen, dear ex, I don’t hate you. I hurt you, you hurt me back, we hurt each other a lot, over and over again. It’s been like that for three years now, but now we just do it in the shade. I think there’s an old saying that says something about we only hurt the ones we care about, and I guess that says a lot about us.

I don’t love you anymore, at least not like how I use to… Back when things were good before they got all screwed up, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still care. I don’t really care of you like me or not, and I don’t care in a “I want to be with you” way, but I care that you’re doing well and that you’re happy.

You have your fiancé and baby, and I have my wonderful girlfriend and soon-to-be-adopted child. Our lives have similarities, but they’re not identical. And they work for us. You’re happy, and I’m happy. And really, that’s all that matters.

It doesn’t matter if you follow me on wordpress or Pinterest or friend me on Facebook. It doesn’t bother me one bit. So follow away, if you want. I won’t stop you, I won’t talk badly about you and I won’t ask you why. Because it’s okay.

I promise.

Kel

It’s a Gay Thing…

The last couple of days have been wonderful.  I’ve started back at school, and the students come back on Tuesday.  It’s hard to believe that I’m starting my fourth year of teaching, but I’m glad for the distraction and routine to keep me occupied while we wait, and wait, and wait some more in this adoption.  It’s so entirely nerve-wracking with everything we have to deal with: the lawyers, the home study, the judge.  But we know it will be absolutely worth it in the end with we have our little baby home with us.

In the majority of adoptions, people decide they want to have a child and then get hooked up with a lawyer and a home study before waiting for a year or more for a placement.  It was different for Erin and I.  We wanted kids, but we were going to wait a couple of years before we started physically trying to have one of our own.  Then we were literally chosen to be this child’s parents, and we couldn’t say no.  When the Gods send you a blessing, you don’t ask why it was sent.  We talked about this process for a long time.  We were changing everything about our lives and our plans to accommodate a new addition.  I mean, this wasn’t something we went out and worked for (we didn’t find a donor, or plan out when to start trying, or look at agencies or fostering), this adoption was brought to us with a simple question: I think you and Erin would make wonderful parents, and I know that you want to have children.  What do you think about adopting?

It’s extremely powerful and flattering and amazing to be approached by someone and asked to adopt.  I can’t even fully put it all into words because my mind is still blown away by it all.

Erin and I are now doing everything we need to do to get ready for the arrival of baby H-H.  We went all of yesterday touring child care facilities, and some where better than others.  The one we really liked starts teaching children from 6 weeks old onward.  They track their milestones with weekly report cards and gives them plenty of opportunities to explore the world around them through art and water play, toys and tummy time.  There are pictures EVERYWHERE of what the kids do every day, and it’s ratio of five infants for every one caregiver.  I think it may be where we enroll.  We’ve been given some baby clothes, and we bought the first object for the nursery: a tiny little owl.

We’re hoping and prayer every day that we get a judge that allows us to do a joint adoption.  It’ll allow Erin and I to both adopt baby H-H without having to go through this process again.  I spoke a few weeks ago to an old friend of mine who had a baby.  She and her wife got married in DC, but live here in SC.  I asked her if she and her wife were both legal parents, and she told me no.  She said that since the baby has her wife’s last name just like she does, there isn’t a lot of questions asked, but legally, her wife is not the baby’s parent.  She said they have to have a home study done, and get a lawyer, and they were saving the money up for it since it was expensive.  I can’t imagine having to do this process all over again, so I’m just hoping and praying for a good outcome.

See, that’s the problem with living in an “inequality state” like South Carolina: we don’t have the same rights as other families.  We pay go to work, pay taxes, live has honest citizens of the United States, and yet… we aren’t recognized as a true family unit.  Yes, the law doesn’t define what a family really is, but when it comes to legalities…  It’s important stuff.  Legally speaking, any non-legal parent of a child can’t make medical or educational decisions for that child.  They’re like a glorified baby sitter.

If we can’t get the joint adoption because we have a judge who doesn’t like it, then we’ll have a power of attorney done that will allow Erin to make all those decisions legally.  This child isn’t going to be “mine” or “hers.”  This child is ours.  Then, when things become more accepting we’ll go through this process all over again and have a second-parent adoption completed.  It’s really dumb the hoops we have to jump through.

I was thinking the other day about getting married, actually.  Now that we have this baby coming, I’m not really worried about having a ring or a fancy wedding or a reception any time soon.  Our family is what is important.  But I wondered if being legally married would help the adoption any.  Would having that paper nudge a judge towards doing the joint adoption or not?  I love Erin more than I’ve ever loved anyone before in my life.  I can’t imagine my life without her; in fact, doing so usually makes me cry.  We work well together, we support each other, we are trying to help the other be the best that she can be, and it’s an absolutely wonderful process.  We have so much love and support surrounding us as well: my family love her, Erin’s family loves me, our friends all believe that we are a shining example of what true love really is, and it’s wonderful.

So my thing was: why wait?  Let’s go to DC in a couple weeks and elope.  We have the information, all we have to do is pay the minister, and it’s a done deal.  We could drive up there, get married, and drive back.  But then what?  What’s going to change with that once we move back and could it possibly be more trouble than it’s worth?

We’d have to file our state taxes as single, but our federal taxes and joint.  If we don’t get the joint adoption, then I claim the baby on my taxes but she doesn’t?  There’s a federal adoption tax credit that we would qualify for, but if she can’t claim the baby but I can, do we have to file separately on our federal even though we’re married?  It’s all very confusing.  I don’t think we’d be able to file our taxes without the help of someone else.  If things were equal, though, I wouldn’t have to ask these questions.

In the end, we’ll probably wait until it’s legal to get married in South Carolina to tie the knot.  We know it’s going to happen, at this point, everything else is just formalities.

The Quality of a Prayer

I fully believe in prayer.  I have believed in prayer since I have believed in the Gods.

At Unity and at Jubilee, there is a poster that hangs on the wall that says, “If the only prayer you say in your entire life is ‘Thank You’ that would suffice. – Meister Eckhart”

The truth of the matter is this, though: there is a good prayer and then there is a not-so-good prayer.  It’s not about how you say, or what candles you light, or what ritual you do, or how you sit/stand/kneel, or how you clasp/raise your hands.  It doesn’t matter if your prayer is silent mediation, silent spoken words, or spoken aloud.  It doesn’t matter if your prayer is said alone or with others.  None of that matters.

What matters is your heart and where your heart is at when you pray.

The outcome of prayer is an interesting thing and changes based on who you talk to.  Some people believe that the Gods will hear our prayers and respond by doing whatever we say in them.  Some people will say that the Gods will hear our prayers, but They will only respond if it is in Their will to do so.  Some say that nothing happens in prayer and that it’s pointless.

Personally, I believe the Gods hear our prayers and will respond if it is in Their will.  Here’s the thing though: even if it’s not in Their will, prayer can have a profound effect on a person’s mental state.  Meditation and prayer have been known to help focus and calm a person, which improves health.  If nothing else, prayer can do this.  Sometimes, what we need to do is let go of any problems in our lives.

There are times, a lot of them now with this adoption, that are literally just waiting around for the next step to happen.  When this happens, I have to remind myself that this is out of my control and that there is no reason to stress.  And then I pray.

It took me awhile to figure out exactly how to pray, but now I find myself praying, mostly informally, on a daily basis.

If you aren’t sure what to pray for, check out this list.  If you aren’t sure how to pray, then start with this: “Dear (higher power), [insert prayer]. Thank you.”  Everything else is up to you.

Things I pray for on a regular basis:

  1. Emotions I feel I lack that I need (strength, courage, compassion, empathy, etc) for a certain situation.
    1. Example: “Please give me strength to get through the last days of school.”
  2. My family.  If they’re going through a rough time or need something, I’ll pray for them.  Or if something exciting is happening, I’ll pray for good things to continue.
  3. My friends, for the same reasons above.
  4. People who hate/dislike me AND/OR people I don’t get along with.
    1. This one is a tricky one.  I pray for these people to have good things happen to them because it helps me to forgive them or forgive myself for whatever has happened to get us in this situation.  I’ll pray for happiness for them, or continued success, or some other positive attribute for them.  And I do NOT back handedly insult them in the process.
    2. Good Example: “I pray that my ex continue to receive happiness and joy in her life.”
    3. Bad Example: “I pray that my ex who hurt me and lied to me see the error in her ways and start to be more honest.”

Things I do NOT pray for:

  1. Physical objects: money, a new car, more “stuff”
  2. Harm on others in any way
  3. Negative emotions, thoughts, or feelings.
    1. When I pray, I keep it completely positive.  I do not insult or talk badly about anyone I pray for in anyway.  There is no reliving the bad things that have happened in my past and there is no blame placed on anyone for those bad things that have happened.

What we pray for can and will manifest itself in our lives.  If we pray positively, we will have a positive outcome, even if it is only emotional.  If we pray negatively, we will have a negative outcome, even if it is only emotional.  Our negative emotional prayers will manifest negative emotional thoughts and feelings through out our day, just as positive one will manifest positively.

The devout have a lot of power in prayer whether they realize it or not.  For example, yesterday was a rough day for me.  I am living on a mixture of stress, anxiety, and fatigue surrounding the start of a new school year among other things.  I let all my worries out to Erin, who responded with some worry, but mostly reassurance.  She held me while I cried and told me everything would work out like it always does for us.

She finished by saying she wanted to spend some time in prayer at her personal altar.  We took care of the animals and got ready for bed.  I laid in bed, stressing about everything.  I felt the anxiety pressing on my chest while I tried to suppress the panic attack that I new was waiting to happen.  I get overwhelmed, but I don’t take it out on people, especially not my girlfriend.

Erin settled in to her meditation.  I watched her for a second, but my heart started hurting, so I rolled over and away.  My thoughts didn’t change, but Photo Aug 13, 11 46 02 PMsuddenly I felt so calm that it took me by surprise.  I thought, “What the hell just happened?”  I wasn’t complaining, obviously, but I was really confused.  I looked back over at Erin, who was deep in her meditation/prayer, and thought, “It must be her.  She’s prayed for me or prayed for something that’s affected me and the Gods have immediately responded.”

She looked so peaceful, amazing, beautiful and strong that I had to sneak a few photos.  I air dropped this one to her just now and asked her if I could post it, and she agreed.  It was an extremely private and personal moment for her, and I didn’t want to post without her consent.

I knew the Gods were one our side.  I knew They were with us always, but I didn’t realize just how true that was until last night while Erin was praying/meditating.  I didn’t realize just how much the Gods listened to her and to us, and how close by they were until she sat down to pray and got immediate responses.

I have no clue what she prayed for, and I wouldn’t dare ask because it’s personal for her and none of my business, but whatever it was… I fully believe it worked.

Thinking About the Letter Q

This is about to be a ramble-y jumble of thoughts, and I’m sorry for all that mess.

This week in the Pagan Blog Project is the first week of the letter Q.  I can’t believe we’re already at the letter Q.  I was thinking about words that start with Q… like Quarters, Queens, and Quality, among others.  The word “quality” led me into thinking about things that need to be “of a higher quality,” like education.  (School started back for teachers, too, so this also spurred me into this thought process.

A quality education.  It’s something that I feel that I have.  It’s something that I feel I strive to give to my students.  It’s something that I wish for my kids.  Education is something that is important to both Erin and myself.  Erin grew up knowing that if she wanted to “get out” from the town she was living in, that college was the only way to do it.  I grew up in a family where education was the number one priority: it was expected that you go to college, which I did.

With the upcoming adoption, Erin and I have talked a lot about our parenting philosophy, which, for the most part, we agree on.  We both want to raise our children with the expectation that they will go to college, just like I was.  Education and school always come first for us after the Gods and family.  Erin is working on her Master’s degree, and I already have 12 hours past my Master’s degree.  There’s a lot of research out there that says the higher educated parents are, the better the child fares in school in regards to behavior and academic achievement, and some of it is because of that expectation that their kids will go to school and being role models for their children.  Children see the expectations of college as the understanding that their parents believe they can do it and support them in doing it, so they strive to do better.  The role-modeling by being higher educated gives the kids an example by which to live by.  I hope this is making sense.

Insert a better transition here, but we were going through our home study packets the other day after sending off the consents, and one of the questions on the survey asked us about childcare if both parents are working, which we will be.  I love my job as a teacher, and Erin is working her way through graduate school right now (she still have another year and a half left before she’s done), and she loves her job as well.  This means that we’re faced with having to find childcare for Baby when he/she gets here.

Side Note on Baby: Went to the OB on Monday with the birth mother.  The baby’s heart rate is 140.  A lot of people are saying we’re having a boy, but we won’t find out until September 4th, which is the next ultrasound.  We don’t plan on sharing the news until the baby shower so we can get as much gender neutral stuff as possible, and because a gender reveal baby shower sounds like a lot of fun. :)

When I saw the blank for the child care, I started thinking about what would be easiest to do.  Erin and I decided together that a child care/preschool center would be the best option for us, and one that is close to where I work.  My schedule this year allows for a little more time in the morning and a little more time in the afternoon, so I could easily leave to pick up baby and bring baby back to school with me to finish out the last class (which I don’t teach; it’s a planning period).  We wanted to make sure that we have the absolute best quality of child care that we can get for the best price.  Child care is NOT cheap.

I was really concerned about all the negativity that was surround so-called “day care” centers.  I kept reading article after article about “behavioral problems” in children and “home schooling is better.”  But what I started realizing is that most of these places that were “bad” weren’t technically preschools, which is what Erin and I are looking into.  Preschools in the area start teaching your child communication and developmental skills from day one that they start coming there, and then add on more structure and lessons as they move forward.

I ended up contacting five different potential places.  We have tours with four of the five (the fifth is brand new and not even open yet) on Friday, so it’ll be a fun and busy day.

Each of these places offers a lot of stuff, from baby sign language, to reading and music.  There’s a lot of enrichment for all age levels, and they start teaching and helping kids from day one.  One lady I spoke to said, “We start signing with your baby from the first day they come to us.  This isn’t a day care, it’s a preschool, and all of our teachers are required to hold four-year college degrees.”

There is a lot of flack surrounding child care centers, but I don’t see what the big fuss is about.  Would being a stay-at-home mom be better?  Probably, but my mom worked until my sister was born, and I have turned out perfectly fine.  Then I see some students who have stay at home parents who don’t help them, and they end up struggling a lot in school.  Personally, I think it all comes down to what’s right for you, your child, and your family.

Are these centers raising my child for me?  No.  Not any more than any public/private school is raising anyone else’s child.  A lot of teachers in my school have young children in child care during the school year, and then keep them home during the summers just like any other parent with children in school.

One thing I’ve noticed is that when you start having kids, a lot of people start having advice.  I’ve heard everything from avoid centers and go with family care places to avoid X place all together… to you shouldn’t put your child in care at all.  Some of the advice has been good, some I can just say “thank you” and forget about it.

The thing is: the baby is due February 3rd.  I’m going to go out on a limb here and say the baby will probably be born at the end of January.  (January 25th keeps popping into my head for some reason.)  With how it falls with my school schedule, this means that we’d basically need 9 weeks of child care before I’m out for the summer.  If the baby is born later than that, we’d need less.

While this isn’t such a big deal with the infants, if we don’t like the level of education as our baby grows, we can change schools or supplement what he/she is learning in school with stuff at home (which we plan on doing anyway along with learning about our faith from us and our church).  We’re working on a book registry for children’s books we want in the house because reading is going to be a priority. My cousin read to her kids daily from day one of bringing them home.  When the oldest, Lillian, started K-5, she was reading at a 3rd grade reading level.

Especially with the adoption, reading will be so important for the baby to learn our voices and for bonding.  I’m really excited about getting some adoption-themed and same-sex-parent themed kids books so that the baby can grow up learning and reading about all different types of families.  Everything is so exciting right now.

We got a bag of baby clothes from a friend: everything from newborn to 2T (all gender neutral) and we bought a little owl for the nursery from our church.

I’m going to keep thinking on this Q thing and come up with my PBP post for Thursday… Q is just a difficult letter to write about.

Juicing, Blueberry Picking, and Mega-Church Sunday

Here’s a couple of updates before I tell you how someone thought I was a Kemetic minister in their Christian church:

August 8th was day two of juicing.  In that last blog, I was an absolutely dismayed.  I felt sick and guilty and an emotional wreck.  Erin got home, and I finished up some couponing before we went to the store for face wash and whatever other good deals we could find, and I had a complete and total sob-fest break down at the kitchen table.

Photo Aug 09, 11 21 26 PM

Fridge so full of goodies, we ran out of space. Whoop Whoop!

I told her everything: how I felt gross and sick, how I felt like we were spending all this money on good veggies… a fridge full of veggies… that should last us well over a week… and how we were going through, juicing them, and throwing out the pulp, which felt like the bulk of the veggie.  I told her how much it felt like waste and it filled me with so much guilt to just throw it all away….

I didn’t mean to bring the entire operation down.  I didn’t mean to end it all, but I did.  We stopped juicing that evening.  We went to the store, loaded up on even more fruits and veggies, and rather than juicing all those wonderful things, we’re eating them all raw.  We had quinoa with a salad and homemade dressing.  It was amazing.

The last two days, I’ve felt so much better about everything, and I think it’s because I actually have food in my stomach.

——————————-

Saturday, Erin called a local farm that has farm fresh eggs for $3 a dozen.  These are free-range organic eggs, and happen to be the ONLY type I can eat.  Generally, these suckers cost a lot of money, so finding them for $3 is a steal.  (Side Note: I had my gallbladder taken out a few years back.  Before that, I would eat eggs at least once a day.  I loved eggs in all kinds of ways.  After my gallbladder was removed, my body stopped processing lipids easily, and eggs are high in lipid content.  I could eat egg whites, but the yolk was out of the question.  One day, Erin brought home free-range organic eggs that she got from one of her client’s family, so I tried them and prayed I wouldn’t get sick because I really didn’t feel like having the feeling someone had stabbed me with a jagged knife and spun it around it my gut for a couple hours.  The eggs didn’t make me sick, and apparently there’s been some studies done that show they have less cholesterol in them??  So maybe that’s it… but whatever it is, we hunt these suckers DOWN now.)

Anyway, we went out to the farm to get eggs and go blueberry picking!  We got two dozen eggs and a quart of blueberries, so I ended up making whole wheat blueberry muffins, and they were absolutely fantastic!

———————-

Today was a mega-church day.  Erin and I went to church with a couple of friends.  It was wonderful, as usual.  We took our free gift cards to their little gift shop and they gave us a cookbook for free packed with tons of recipes of all sorts.  I’m excited to look through it and see what is good (and what might be modified to make it a Photo Aug 10, 11 01 19 PMlittle healthier)!  We also bought a small owl figure from the store, which has officially become the FIRST thing we’ve bought for the NURSERY!

We’re doing a Harry Potter theme, and you can’t say that is not the CUTEST little owl you’ve ever seen???  It’s absolutely adorable!!

After church at Unity, we signed up to volunteer in the back.  Eventually, I want to maybe look into teaching there, but I need to figure out more about it.  I want to get more involved, so right now, we’re looking at volunteering in the back doing sound and video.  We might also start looking into membership classes soon, but I’m not sure.  I want to at least ask next week.

Then, we left, picked up the puppies we’re dog sitting until the 13th, took them home, gathered a few belongings, and headed out to another church service that my friend, Tara, asked me to participate in.  She’s heading to seminary in California on the 15th and this was her “farewell service” where she was giving the message.  She asked me to do the opening prayer and meditation at the start of service, and I agreed.

But I agreed so long as I could do a Kemetic prayer, and not a Christian one.  She had no problem with it.

I’ve been taking this Kemetic Orthodox class online the last few weeks, and during the chats, they open up with a prayer and libations, which I really liked, so I thought it would make a good opening to this service.  I had to modify it slightly so that it made sense to people who didn’t understand the vocabulary, but I think it’s really pretty:

Opening Kemetic Prayer and Meditation

Hail Akhu, our ancestors, known and unknown, I pour cool water for you.  May you be cooled.

Hail Wepwawet, great God and Opener of the Way, I pour cool water for you.  May you be cooled.

Hail Sebau, our guiding teachers, I pour cool water for you.  May you be cooled.

Hail Ma’at, Goddess of peace and justice, a thousand times pure, I pour cool water for you.  May you be cooled.

Netjer, higher power beyond all knowledge and existence, hear now all the prayers in the hearts of your children.

***Pause for silent prayer and meditation.***

May all these prayers be heard, and become.  Thank you.

We got there about 3:20, I was barefoot.  It’s my belief that you never go into a prayer that you are doing with the Gods with shoes.  You need to be connected to the Earth.  I took the pitcher they gave me for the water, cleansed it in their kitchen with salt, filled it with water, then took it to a side room the bless it where I wouldn’t be disturbed.

I took out a spare altar cloth we had at home, place my idol of Bast out, lit a candle with some incense and then meditated and prayed while I charged the water with the Gods’ energy and light.  Then I set the pitcher next to the bowl (that was blessed enough for my liking) and started to go over the prayer a few times to get out some nerves.  Erin and I walked around a little before I decided I’d had enough with the bare feet on gravel or concrete bit and we went to go sit in the sanctuary.

This church is, without a doubt, a Christian place of worship.  There was lots of talk about Jesus, and there was communion out to be had, and crosses around necks.  I don’t have a problem with Christianity, especially in a Christian place of worship, it just wasn’t something I was use to.  And I was about to deliver a decidedly NOT Christian prayer to a group of (even though they’re liberal) Christians.  I had some nerves.

There was a welcoming, and a short song to meditation before it was my turn.  I got up with my bare feet, felt like my heart was going to explode from my chest, said my Kemetic prayer, did the moment of silence, closed it out, and sat back down.  It ended up being followed by probably one of the most powerful messages I’d heard in awhile, but that’s Tara for you.  She either does something perfectly, or she doesn’t do them at all.  I was not the only person left in tears at the end of the service, and no one had any tissues.

Afterwards, we had food waiting for us to celebrate Tara’s move for graduate school, but before we went into the social room, Erin and I were sitting.  I was trying to Facebook my thoughts on this service when I was approached by a woman who was a member of the church.  She asked me what my name was again before truly and deeply thanking me for coming and sharing the prayer that I did.  She asked me where it came from, and I explained to her the history and modification of the prayer.  She asked me how I came to that path, and I explained my coming out, my rejection by the church, and my coming home to the Kemetic faith.  She said, “It was absolutely beautiful.  You opened this service up into a place that it’s never been before.  Your voice was strong and steady, and you really got the images from it.”  I told her thank you, and that I’m glad my nervousness didn’t show.  She said, “Nervous?  Really?”  I said yes, that I had never done this before.

“Really?  Because you sounded like you were a minister.”

Best.  Compliment.  Ever.

After that, I had a few other people, mostly those I knew, come up and tell me that I had done wonderfully and that the imagery was excellent.  It really put me on cloud nine to know that I was able to express the Gods’ light and work through me to these people who welcomed me and thanked me for my time and prayers.  It was absolutely wonderful.

 

Adoption Blog

Hey everyone! If you didn’t already know, I’ve been keeping another blog about the adoption in greater detail. If you’d like the link and don’t already have it, drop me an email at Kel.henry85@gmail.com.

Let me know who you are, and I’ll send the link your way!

Not-So-Extreme Couponing 101

We interrupt this not-regularly schedule blog to bring you another blog that was demanded of me by my peers on Facebook because of my new hobby: couponing.  Couponing, I swear, is a sport.  A very Southern sport.  From what I’ve read, most places outside of the Southern United States don’t have the ability to coupon like we do down here.  If you’ve ever seen the show Extreme Couponing, this is sorta what the blog is about, but not that extreme.  I haven’t managed to get my skills up that high to be able to get 500 things of mustard for 10 cents, and I don’t really know if I’d want to.

I picked this hobby up from a friend of mine, Brandi, when Erin and I stayed the night with her and Lindsey awhile back.  She gave me some pointers, and then I started looking into it and decided to give it a shot.  I’ve posted some pictures on my Facebook about my couponing trips, and this most recent one made a little bit of a stir because I saved 53% of what I purchased.  Now we have the blog on how to get started couponing!

1) Decide what you want to coupon.

There are some people who coupon EVERYTHING they buy and then there are some people who coupon very little.  Erin and I try to buy as little processed foods as possible (we buy our food along the edge of the grocery store rather than the middle aisles), so we coupon everything else.  We will occasionally buy milk, tuna, etc with a coupon if the deal is good, but usually we stick to non-food items, which tend to be more expensive anyway.  This includes: paper towels, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, drier sheets, face wash, body wash, shampoo, conditioner, tampons, etc.

2) Review couponing policy.

Each grocery store in the area has a different couponing policy.  Some stores are better than others.  Erin and I use Bi-Lo.  They take up to five of the same coupon with unlimited numbers of different coupons.  They’ll take a manufacturers coupon and double it up to 60 cents every days, and they’ll take competitor coupons as well.  Plus, their prices are relatively low already, so it packs on the extra savings.  If you have a store you usually shop at, do a quick Google search by saying “Bi-Lo Coupon Policy,” and you’ll get all the information you need.  Don’t worry about understanding it all right now, but you want to make sure that the policy for the store includes the following:

  • Accepts manufacturer AND competitor coupons
  • Doubles coupons, the higher the better
  • Has a high or no coupon limit

3) Get your coupons.

Once you figure out what you want to coupon and what store you want to use, the next step is to get your coupons. Erin and I have a newspaper delivered to our house daily.  I’m not sure if this is part of the HOA fees or if it just never got cancelled, but we have the paper delivered every day.  The SUNDAY paper is the most important.  We also get the coupons from my parents, who don’t do much couponing, and on occasion, we get a hook up from a friend who buys the inserts for 35 cents a piece, which seems extreme… but I just saved $120 on my last trip, so you tell me: what’s the better deal?

In the paper, there are different inserts you want to be aware of that have coupons.  There will always be more manufacturer coupons than competitor or store coupons, but that’s okay.  The inserts you need to look out for are: RedPlum, SmartSource, P&G Brand Saver, Walgreens, Target, Publix, and Bi-Lo.  Not every week will include each of these inserts, but these are the ones I’ve found to have coupons on a regular basis.Photo Aug 09, 2 10 12 AM

After those inserts (or instead of), you can also visit places like Target.Com or Coupons.Com for more coupons.  These websites will probably want to install coupon printing software on your computer to track your printing.  You can usually print two of the same type of coupon per computer. This means if you have more than one computer, you can print more than just the two.

4) Get Organized!

So now you have all these coupons… What do you do with them?  There are a couple methods that go from the “least organized and least time consuming” to the “most organized and most time consuming.”

The least organized method would be to label the inserts, file them away, and then only clip what you need when you need it.  I decided against this method because I was worried about missing out on deals; however, SoutherSavers.Com goes through all major deals at the different branches and tells you where the coupons are all located.  Just be warned: sometimes, sales can vary based on where the store is, and they don’t go through ALL the deals, just the ones they think are the best.

Photo Aug 09, 2 10 18 AMThe most organized method is the one I use.  I have a binder with baseball card holder inserts, and every week, I clip out the coupons I want, pull out any expired coupons, and organize the new ones in the old one’s places.  Depending on the week, this can take me anywhere from an hour to four hours (the four hours is rare).

The picture to the right shows you what I do to keep myself organized.  It helps me remember what I have in my binder, where it’s located, and what it’s for.  I’ve gotten to a point where I can walk through the store, see a deal, and know exactly if I have a coupon to go along with it.

It’s the most complex way of doing this because you have to go through each week or so and remove any bad or expired coupons.  It CAN be somewhat time consuming.  My Sundays revolve around church, couponing and baby-sitting our God daughter.  Damn. When did I get so Southern?

 

5) Get yourself a membership card or discount card to that store.

Most stores in the area will have cards that give you extra sales.  This is extremely important that you get one of these cards for whatever store you are going to be shopping at.  Erin and I BOTH have Bi-Lo bonus cards.  These cards get us all of the in-store sale prices, any gas discounts, and we can load coupons directly onto the cards.

6) Understand the cycles.

Everything in the store that goes on sale will go on sale every six to eight weeks.  For the most part, you can guess what’s coming up in the rotation by the coupons you find in the paper.  For example: coupons for our almond milk have cycled back around, so I am assuming that the sales are coming back around soon as well.  But don’t be fooled: just because you have a coupon for something does not mean that it will be on sale that week.  It could be two weeks from the time you get the coupon, but you just need to be on the look out.  And if something is on sale and you don’t get it, it may not come back up for sale until six to eight weeks later.

Next, understand that stores usually cycle their sales weekly.  Some will go from Sunday to Saturday, some (like Bi-Lo) will cycle Wednesday to Tuesday.  This means that you should expect to look at shopping at least once a week for deals since the sales will cycle through that way.  It also means if you go to the store without your coupon book and you see a deal, if you don’t get back soon enough, that deal will be gone within seven days (and that’s assuming you get there on day one that the sale began.)

7) ONLY buy what is ON SALE

This is the most important part of the whole process: you only use your coupons on items that are CURRENTLY on sale unless you are desperate for some toilet paper.  When you buy something that is on sale, it is important to STOCK UP because you won’t see that deal again for another six to eight weeks.  This does NOT include perishable items unless you will use them all before they go bad or if you can freeze them (like meats).  This is why it’s important to get multiple coupons for each item.  The larger your family (or the more people using the time you are buying), the more coupons you will need.  I usually say 1/person OR n+1, where n is the number of people in your family.  For Erin and I, this means I usually try to get two to three of every type of coupon that I clip.

8) Important Vocabulary

Here’s where I tell you what the policies all mean:

  • Doubling: Some stores will double manufacturer coupons up to a certain amount.  Bi-Lo, for example, will double up to 60 cents.  This means that if I find a 55 cent coupon for hand soap, it’s actually $1.10 off.  Some stores double more, some don’t double at all.  This is why it’s important to read your store’s policy. Please note that competitor coupons generally do not double.  I haven’t found a store yet that will.
  • Stacking: This is the process using a manufacturer coupon AND a competitor coupon on the SAME ITEM.  For example: I had two coupons for my allergy medicine.  The manufacturer was $7.00 off and the Target was $5.00 off.  Bi-Lo ran a sale on the medication that week.  It was usually $21.xx, and it was on sale for 17.xx.  I scanned my bonus card, stacked the two coupons for a total discount of $12 off, and BAM: my allergy medicine went from $21.00 to $5.00.
  • Fine Lines: Some coupons have some nasty fine lines, and it’s important to READ what you clip before you go the store.  Some coupons won’t let you double them, and some limit the number you can use.  It’s very important to look at see if the coupon is for one item or two, because if you don’t buy what the coupon says, then you’ll end up not being able to use it at the register.  Usually, I won’t clip coupons for items of three or more, and I won’t clip items that won’t double for two items.
  • BOGO/X for Y: Buy One, Get One Free deals (BOGO) and “X for Y” (read: 10 for $10) deals are hidden gems.  Not all grocery stores do this, but Bi-Lo doesn’t make you buy everything to get the deal.  If you have a BOGO on shampoo (say you pay five bucks and you get the second one free), but you don’t want two.  The first one isn’t actually five dollars, it’s $2.50.  BOGO might as well read “50%” off.  The same goes for “X for Y” deals.  Bi-Lo does tons of 10 for $10, which means each one is really a dollar.  Hand soap is 10 for 10 and you have a 50 cent manufacturer’s coupon?  Surprise: your hand soap is FREE (remember, that manufacturer’s coupon will double!)
  • Coupon Limits:  A lot of stores now are limiting the number of “like coupons” or “competitor coupons” that the will accept during a transaction.  This is to keep people from going through and cleaning out the shelves, but it can also be annoying in that I actually had SIX coupons for cat litter (don’t ask me how that happened), but I could only use FIVE on my last trip.  Sad, sad day.

9) Review that Policy!

After you’ve read through all of this, go back over your store of choice’s coupon policy.  Do they limit coupons?  Do they allow the stacking of e-coupons? (Coupons on your store discount cards that you loaded online; most places won’t let you use e-coupons and paper coupons in the same trip, so I usually avoid them).  Make sure you are familiar with the policy.  If some of the wording confuses you, leave me a message.  I had to ask a lot of questions when I first started this whole process too.

10) And Finally: MAKE ROOM!

If you are stocking up like you should be, you’ll need space to put your items so that you know what you have and how much you have left.  We are thinking about using our spare bathroom for our “over flow” once we start getting to that point.  You want to make sure you keep track of what you have so that you don’t keep buying stuff you really don’t need or you miss out on a deal thinking you had enough and didn’t.  Organization is key with couponing.

 

Let’s take a look at my last trip just give y’all some pointers and explanations further, if you’re interested (AKA, the part where we do math):

Photo Aug 08, 10 22 16 PM

Cost: $228.xx Paid: $107.xx (Savings: 53%)

First of all, everything you see in this picture was already marked down from it’s original price with a sale, except for the milk (we were desperate), and I’m not going to go through everything, because that’s a little dull, but here are a couple highlights to get you started:

The kitty litter (in the blue capped jugs) usually sells for $8, but it was marked down to $5, and we had a dollar off coupon for each, so it became $4 (or 50% off).

The Colgate toothpaste is usually almost $4.  It was on sale for $1.99.  We had three 50 cent manufacturer coupons.  Bi-Lo doubled these, so they became a dollar off.  Each of those toothpastes were 99 cents.  That’s a savings of 75%!

The VS Shampoo and Conditioners (the red and white bottles, six) are usually around $5.00 each.  They were on sale for 3 for $10, which makes each about $3.33.  We had three coupons for $3 off two.  This mean that rather than those six costing $30 (without the sale) or $20 (on the sale alone), it only cost us $11.

 

So!  There you have it!  That’s the basics of Not-So-Extreme Couponing 101.  This should help you get started, but you can always ask me if you have questions OR check out Southern Savers online for some online tutorials as well.

Really, all you need to coupon is the desire and the time.  I absolutely love couponing.  It’s been like a game of trying to find the best deals on things that we need for the house.  At this point, I can probably go the rest of the year without needing to buy shampoo or conditioner or dryer sheets.  This means that I bought enough of these items at a discounted price that I won’t have to buy them if they aren’t discounted.

But I won’t lie: it does take dedication and time.  If you skip a week, you miss out on a lot of coupons and/or deals in the stores.  Once you have your items stocked up, you can do what I do and only buy things that are a dollar or less if/when I find them (like the toothpaste).

And maybe you’re like us and don’t really need to coupon, but really?  Who wants to pay $228 when you can pay only $107?  No one, that’s who.

Happy Couponing!

Adventures in Juicing: Day Two

I’m trying.  I’m trying really hard to stay strong and do this.  I don’t know if it’s stress, or hormones, or hunger, or a mixture of both, but I feel absolutely horrible.  I keep reading and hearing that the first three days are the worst.  I’m now on day two of an absolutely horrible headache, and I’m exhausted.

All the juices still taste the same to me.  I really don’t think that there’s any difference in any of them, even though they have all different veggies in them.  I’ve been told that it’s cause my “taste buds are messed up” and because I’m “addicted to nasty fast food” (the second one was because I jokingly said that I wanted a cheeseburger).  These comments kinda piss me off.

I’m not “addicted” to fast food.  Erin and I almost never eat fast food.  Our diet consists of mostly veggies and the occasional lean meat.  We eat healthy.

The thing that is killing me about this process is the guilt.  I feel like we’re wasting the veggies by turning them into juice.  Yeah, we’re getting out the vitamins, but the pulp has a lot of nutrients in them too, including fiber that helps lower blood sugar and regulate your digestion.  We don’t have a compost, so all that “pulp” is going into the garbage.

This is expensive… and it feels wasteful.  I hate that part the most.  I hate feeling like I’m being wasteful.  Erin suggested we save the pulp, but it won’t keep for seven days AND it’s so mixed up with everything, that it probably won’t taste very good.  I mean, these juices don’t taste very good.  Even the one that was supposed to be sweet didn’t taste like it was very sweet…

I just feel gross.  I don’t like feeling this way.  Is this week over yet?

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