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My Father Passed--RIP

Now the rest of the family must find peace. Dysfunctional doesn't even begin to describe our family unit, so to say that at the end of his terrible battle with cancer, we're all left with very ambivalent feelings is an understatement, at best.

At least he and I managed to forge a better relationship towards the end of his life. While I cannot say we came to complete understanding, more like an uneasy truce, I can say that in the attempt, we recognized a work of love.

Heartache: Father Thomas Quinlan passes

Believers of many faiths as well as many non-believers are mourning the passing of Father Thomas Quinlan, truly a rebel priest and firebrand who granted me an interview in May of 2008 ( He was challenging and insightful. Some accused him of irreverence, offended by his speech, which was often peppered with "obscenities." However, he was one of the most reverent individuals I've met, and I will miss his presence in this world dearly.

TQ, as so many called him, invited me back at any time for another interview or even just to chat. Sadly, our schedules were often at odds, so that never happened. At 79, when I met him, the man was teaching classes, working with charitable causes, especially for the poor, and even taking off for tasks as far away as Alaska. The poor were Quinlan's main concern; he didn't care whether or not they were religious or part of his own Catholic flock because he looked at the entire world as a part of the creation he loved.

A stand-out among most Christians in America, Quinlan did not believe in the Devil. He did not believe people needed to be saved. "These were just instruments of control," he would say.

His views on sexuality stretched farther than most priests, especially of his generation. While he said homosexual acts were not Catholic, he did not feel people should be condemned for them, and since he didn't believe in hell--except for the hell we ourselves create--he said it was stupid for people to think homosexuals were damned. He also believed that women needed to demand ordination rights.

As a result of his unorthodox views and practices, Fr. Quinlan faced a great deal of condemnation by those who misunderstood, feared or were just offended by his words and a few of his deeds. TQ sometimes engaged in cosplay to get the attention of his audience; he once gave mass dressed as Superman. Quinlan appeared on the TV show Donahue and stated the creation story was a myth. He later explained to The Virginian Pilot-Ledger Star, "I mean, people with a minimal education know that a snake didn't come up and say, 'Hi, what're ya doin' there, lady?'"

The local paper recounted some of the highlights (, even the fateful event that got him forced into semi-retirement: TQ happened to mention that Jesus emerged from Mary's vagina just the way everyone else is born. Apparently, words about body parts are dangerous for some people, because I heard stories that his word drop caused a few parishioners to swoon.

What the paper did not cover, however, was what really happened to him after that homily. The church tried to put him away. Three times they tried to deny him, his message and his sanity. And three times psychiatrists said he that while he might have been odd, he was perfectly sane. How do I know this? He eventually dug out his paperwork for me to see. I didn't ask for proof, but he wanted me to see the evidence. I would have believed him anyway. He was completely cogent.

And while some forces in the church hierarchy were working to keep his influence from their flock, many others rallied to his defense, including Bishop Walter Sullivan. Although, he was forced into semi-retirement, he was eventually allowed to perform certain services, baptisms, weddings and funerals, and was even allowed to substitute for a few masses, mainly because the people demanded it.

TQ and I spoke about many things that May day, some I couldn't fit into that interview. Maybe I'll dig out my notes and do a part II. And while I spoke with him on the phone a few times after that, we never saw each other again. Now, I'm sorry I won't get that chance.

Rest in peace, TQ. I'm glad I knew you.

Magic--Illusion as Quality Edutainment

As a follow-up to my prior post, I'd like to focus this one on magic as illusion that provides quality edutainment. Illusionists, the ones I really enjoy anyway, serve as entertaining educators, by creating and then dispelling misperception and encouraging critical thinking. For his role in these endeavors, James Randi was recently awarded a Lifetime Achievement Fellowship from the Academy of Magical Arts.

The examples of his educational endeavors are far too numerous to recount here, but one of the most accessible for teachers is the James Randi Educational Foundation where free educational materials can be downloaded in both student and teacher editions: Currently they have lessons for three experimental projects: Do You Have ESP?, The Cottingley Fairies and Dowsing.

A former teacher, I appreciate the approach they've taken as it allows the students to engage fully with these topics while learning to think critically about them. Rather than coming from a "that's stupid" approach, which many skeptics employ to ill effect, these experiments are objective, rooted firmly in the scientific method, allowing students to make up their own minds based on evidence they themselves have had a hand in generating. This experiential approach is much more effective for stimulating critical thinking and maintaining the practice long-term than lectures, which often lose students' attention in the first fifteen minutes.

Kudos then to Mr. Randi. Thanks for getting our attention, spurring our imagination and for doing so much to motivate lifelong learners.

I am an acknowledged oxymoron, but I'm fine admitting that. I am a demystified mystic, a gnostic ignostic. And yes, I know precisely what I mean by that.

I have no need for supernatural concepts to explain the world around me or to assuage my existential anxieties. Still, I am profoundly moved by and grateful for the beauty that exists all around me and for my life within that existence. I am so moved, that I enjoy symbolizing this gratitude through creative ritual expression. Of course, when existential anxieties and life woes do seem overwhelming, ritual can help me process and release the stress. So even though I don't feel the need to be a true believer in any one thing, I do not underestimate the role that ritual and myth can play in life.

The inspiration generated through ritual helps motivate me towards action in the community and/or the family. Ritual often helps to reinvigorate me for those tasks. Likewise, I find many magical systems, in general, help to cast the conscious and semi-conscious states of mind about in manners that may not be typical to the daily experience before individuals take up the practice, and by engaging in them, practitioners gain inspiration for creative acts.

Personally, I am freestyling because I am a free spirit. I need my ritual work to be more improvisational, a creative act in itself, rather than imitative. I see magical systems, as well as religions*, at the very least, as templates for guided imagination and behavior, which allow the practitioners to get their creative juices flowing and provide motivation for all sorts of creative change, in themselves and for the world. Their greatest expressions foster both personal and social growth and cohesion. And while I appreciate this element of group work, I suppose my brain simply gets very bored of templates, which tend to lose motivational charge for me after a while. I prefer to craft from scratch.

*I include religion in this discussion simply because I was brought up living a rather religious life and find the dynamics to be very similar in terms of techniques used and the states achieved. The religious templates generated for me were often at odds with my life experiences, and while they gave me great sources of inspiration, they are the results of carefully cultivated motivational experiences designed by and for other people in dramatically different times, so my growth was both fostered and then, ultimately, limited by their constructs.

It may seem ironic then, that I am still capable of being quite reverent. I don't worship in the classical, often slavish, supernatural sense of the term, but I do celebrate and I do pray. As a gnostic ignostic, I have had amazing experiences that have left me with the profound sense of interconnectedness and, indeed, holiness of existence, but I know that logically proving the origin, substance or even value of these experiences to another is not possible.

So, who do I pray to, then? All who listen--no one, anyone--even if they're just the voices in my head. It cleanses me, even if only psychologically, and allows me to focus on the healing work I need to do.

For a more archetypal example, the Holy Mother as Mother-of-God, is a good focus for nonbelievers as well as believers. How? Think of necessity as the mother of invention. A mundane interpretation might see human need as the mother and our imaginations as the vehicle for what some experience and define as divine.

The belief in a deity is not essential here, it is the act that brings us closer to this feeling of connectedness, and this feeling can help provide the groundwork for amazing things. It is perfectly reasonable for people to assert that this is all just a product of the imagination, and this is fine, as long as people realize just how powerful a tool the imagination really is.

Faerie Fun Fundraiser--Faerie Escape 2012

For those looking for something great to do on June 15-17th, grab your wings check out Faerie Escape 2012 ( in Atlanta, GA. No, you don't have to be a faerie fan to enjoy the fun, all sorts of mythical creatures are welcome. The video for the convention's fundraising campaign is pretty fun, too, so if you can't make it to the convention, at least check out the ad: (

Poor little lost faerie!

What to do, what to do


My distant and virtual friends: anyone up at this hour?

I suppose those half a world a way are, but here it isn't yet four in the morning. I'm not sure how many nights I've had insomnia, but I'm up once again writing because I feel I'm at least doing something.

I'm not a professional writer, a fact which is probably obvious to those who are. I have written copy a few times as a side project, and I did some grant writing and research for educational institutions, but I've never been hired specifically to write.

However, writing does help me process life events. Sometimes I HAVE to write and have bouts of hypergraphia. This doesn't happen often, but when it does, I can't seem to do anything else. I journal, I write essays and poetry, but I rarely post online or keep up with correspondence.

I feel like this isolation is somehow selfish, that I should be able to maintain at least written communication with my friends. But when life gets complicated and overwhelming, I just find it exhausting to correspond. And, I don't really do much small talk, especially not when I write. I suppose I could call, but then there's the same problem of too much drama to wade through--at least for the moment.

In any case, I am trying to get more productive with my writing. I do want to get back in touch with distant friends. So, hopefully, those who've been waiting for me to get back in touch will at least see an email soon, probably time-stamped o'dark-thirty AM. There's so much to catch up on!


I've been working my way out of quicksand for the last six months or so. So much has been going on with me and around me that I've felt completely stuck. I've been completely unsocial. As much as I miss people, I haven't had the time or energy to reach out before now.

My family is dealing with life and death issues once again. I have my own health issues to manage. And I'm worn out from the struggle. Of course, the thing I have to keep reminding myself about quicksand, is that struggling only makes it worse.

But, by focusing on just trying to deal with each moment as it comes and letting go of plans and expectations, I find it possible to get unstuck. Before I realize it, I'm moving again. That motion is what makes me feel alive, connected to the cosmic dance.
Giving thanks seems to be good for your health according to a University of Miami study. Professor Michael McCullough states that gratitude can interrupt negative emotions. Just simply listing a couple of things you're thankful for when ticked off can switch the mind out of that hurtful state by quickly engaging the left prefrontal cortex which has been associated with feelings of love, compassion, connectedness and gratitude.

Furthermore, according to Professor Robert Emmons at the University of California, gratitude is a real stress buster. The same area of the brain seems to be pivotal for the practice of Buddhist monks. They may not know all the hows or whys about gratitude and the role of the left prefrontal cortex, but psychologists are finding observable, positive effects.

While it seems pretty obvious that gratitude is a positive emotion, psychologists for decades rarely delved into the science of giving thanks. But in the last several years they have, learning in many experiments that it is one of humanity's most powerful emotions. It makes you happier and can change your attitude about life, like an emotional reset button. ~Seth Borenstein, AP science writer

I had a chat with a gentleman a few weeks back who said his family hadn't planned anything for Thanksgiving because he was not 'a believer.' If he had meant not a believer in consumerism, that would have made sense to me, but I've never associated Thanksgiving with a requirement for belief. A person can certainly be thankful without having to worship or direct thanks to a deity/deities.

I spend a bit of time every day in a kind of thankful meditation. And when I give thanks for a meal, I'm not just thankful for the food, but for the cook; the farmer; good weather for crops; the earth; sun; wind; rain; etc.; you get the idea. This keeps me mindful of all the connections I have, even ones I might not yet realize. None of this activity requires religious belief of any kind. When I am thankful, I am content. It really is that simple.

Thank you, friends, for reading. Have a wonderful day!

Beading: String Theory

Now that I'm doing a bit of beading again I'm facing an old issue, the pros and cons of the materials used for stringing. Some threads are too fat for my beading needles, so they must be reserved for larger scale projects. Other threads tend to get shredded by the two-cut glass beads.

Occasionally, I prefer to use waxed dental floss, if I can hide the color. Because dental floss is waxed, it knots very well. Although, the floss can still be deliberately untied if need be. It is stronger than many threads used for stringing; however, it can get shredded by glass beads when reworking a piece. I have used it quite successfully for making beaded fringe.

Monofilament cord is strong, hides well and doesn't require a needle to string beads. However, the main problem I have using monofilament is that it doesn't knot very well, and, when it is finally knotted, there is no room for error. Monofilament gets permanently creased when knotted.

Of course, my current project, some simple star-like and snowflake-like ornaments, requires the use of monofilament. So, finding a solution to this knotty problem will make my work so much easier. I've tried other materials, but none do the job as well for this project.

I've used wire for many projects before, but wire has the same problem of creasing. Plus, wire is as difficult to hide as thread. I do like it for certain projects, but I don't think it will solve my problem here.

I've forgotten how much trial and error is involved when I'm not using another person's pattern. I'm not complaining, though. This process is all part of the aggravating fun of crafting. That said, I'm still glad to get constructive advice.

Boycott the Bullies!--Join Me!

With all the focus now being placed on the evils of bullying behavior, has anyone thought of boycotting watching any talking heads who behave like bullies? Wouldn't advertisers get a bit spooked if suddenly people switched off any news or news-like show that featured bully behavior? What about sending the same message to politicians--a no dough for dopes campaign?

To be an effective message, the anti-bullying campaigns can't just focus on the bully at home or at school, we must also shine the light upon the bully at work, behind the pulpit and even more especially, the bully on TV or radio who encourages the same bullying behavior among their fans.

Please join me in boycotting these bullies. If you have the time, please write to the stations hosting the bully and tell them exactly why you won't be watching. Even more impact can be made by writing to the show's sponsors. The time is now to turn the tide of bullying behavior encouraged for far too long by our social history and relegate it to the flotsam and jetsam of failed behavioral relics.



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