Spell for Overcoming Obstacles

Domestic witchery is a fascination of mine, I think because it seems like it would be the oldest and most common form of witchcraft.  Or maybe it’s just the lazy part of me that appreciates being able to accomplish two tasks in one.

This spell is one I’ve been working with over the last year or so, no only as I write Sew Witchy, but also in my daily life.  When you are facing a great task ahead—a job interview or a court case, say—the odds can feel overwhelming.  Using the spell below and visualization you raise energy to overcome all the small obstacles that can come between you and your goal and also provides you with a magickal talisman attuned to your task.

Materials

  • A wrinkled piece of fabric or clothing*
  • Steam iron
  • Ironing Board

*Circumstances should dictate the fabric you choose.  Clothing that you will be wearing during your challenge is ideal.  For example, a skirt you’ll be wearing to a court case or a shirt you’ll be wearing to an interview.  You could also choose a fabric scrap; about 18″ by 18″ is ideal.

Cotton and linen are best for this spell as they tend to wrinkle naturally.  Synthetics and non-wrinkle clothing is not recommended.

Spellwork

Clear space and cast a circle according to your tradition.  Call on any spirit helpers or deities you wish to aid you in the spell.

Place the wrinkled cloth on the ironing board.  Use a heat setting that is appropriate for the cloth you are using (consult the iron’s operators manual to find out what that is).

As you iron see the wrinkles as the obstacles you face.  See the steam and iron as you press as smoothing out not only the physical wrinkles, but those obstacles.  Visualize the obstacles clearly.  Name them as you work: people’s preconceived notions are smoothed away, distance becomes a non-issue, doors that were closed will now open, even traffic will not be a problem.

Continue working, ironing out all the wrinkles.  See the path you are treading becoming smooth: the road you travel is paved, the ocean you cross is calm, the sky you fly through is clear.  Everything is crisp and pristine, just like the cloth is after you press it.

When you are finished, hang up the clothing, or cloth.  Wear the piece of clothing to the event you are preparing for.  If it is a piece of cloth, hang it near your altar until the event—and your need for it—has passed.

Make your spell more potent by using a linen spray.  Before beginning, make a spray by mixing 1 ounce of witch hazel, 3 ounces of water and ten drops of essential oil together in a spray bottle. Choose an oil aligned to your goal. Spritz a light mist onto the part you are going to press then go over it with an iron.  If using on an article of clothing, test on a small, inconspicuous part first, like an inside hem, to make sure it won’t stain the fabric.

Making it Work: When it Doesn’t Work Out

Yesterday was the pre-trial hearing and the judge has said he won’t be ruling in favor of my petition to relocate.

To write that this is devastating is an understatement.  I’m still processing my grief.  I couldn’t even offer my daughter comfort as I had to turn her over to my ex a couple of hours after I heard the news.  She’s crushed, too.

So this is where I am: broke, homeless, separated by 1,000 miles from my husband and seven-year-old son, and trapped in Illinois for another four years.

I’m going to withdraw my petition to relocate.  There’s no reason to go through the expense of a trial now.  Next I face my ex’s petition for more parenting time, as well as his petition to throw me in jail for losing the house.  The absolute worse outcome sees me in jail and having lost my daughter in a year’s time.  So, you know, good times.

While I await for those load of bricks to fall I have to find housing for me and my daughter.  Since the judge could limit me to staying within twenty-five miles of my ex, I am really limited in where we can settle.  I’ve already started the process of signing up for food stamps.  I looked into Section 8 Housing and found that the wait list to get on the wait list has closed.

I also have to finish up pictures for the book.  I’m halfway through and should be finishing them up in a week or so.  Getting those turned in will trigger the release of the rest of my advance which will be used immediately for my legal fees.

I have also started the process of reporting my ex for his predation of an underaged girl.  It might have happened eighteen years ago and isn’t an issue as per my ex’s lawyer, but that is the sort of thing that doesn’t happen just once.  There has got to be someone out there who will take it seriously and look to see if he has harmed any other girls in the intervening years.

I am not okay.  I am upset and gutted by all of this.  My anxiety has been high and I’ve had to dole out my medication in dribs and drabs because when it runs out I’m done.  My depression has raised its oozing arms to drag me back into a world of remonstrances and accusations of worthlessness.  None of this is fair.  None of this easy.  None of this is going to be okay for a very long time.

No Easy Beauty

Charlotte and I pulled into Bolingbrook just before midnight last night. It was the end of a 2,400 mile journey that took us to Wyoming and back again. With the exception of the 2 1/2 hours we sat in traffic due to construction and accidents it was a good trip.  We drove out to Laramie to drop off my husband, son and the cats.

My husband, Stephan, has a new job in Laramie and we’ve signed a lease on a house.  After a day of getting them settled, Charlotte and I loaded back into the Jeep and headed out on the road again.  We swung up through Worland to visit my grandmother.  That added half a day to our trip, but I hadn’t seen Grandma since 2008 and I wasn’t about to skip a chance to see her.

Charlotte and roach in Wyoming
Charlotte and I take a selfie in the Big Horn Basin.

Driving through Wyoming I got to show my daughter all the things I loved about my home state.  I wasn’t trying to convince her to want to move there, I just wanted to give her an insight into where her mother came from.  Charlotte kept pointing out places where we could set the castle I plan to build one day.

The drive also gave me a lot of time to process what’s been going on.  Where I grew up is not an easy place to love.  You have to look for its beauty and if you can’t find it, the land doesn’t care.  I watched the landscape roll past us, desolate but dotted with life determined to thrive.  I thought about how I had been raised to know that life isn’t easy and won’t hand anything to you.  With that in mind, I was taught, I was supposed to be grateful for anything life gave me and not complain.  Never ask for anything more, was the prevailing wisdom.  It took thirty plus years for me to unlearn that second lesson.  Life might not be easy, but that doesn’t mean I can’t fight for what I want.

Grandma, Grandaughter & Great Grandaughter
Grandma, Grandaughter & Great Grandaughter

I’ve got two more weeks before I get an idea of whether or not my relocation petition will be granted.  I’ve spent almost six thousand dollars on this fight, and I will spend thousands more to finish it.  I am not trying to take Charlotte from her dad, I’ve been adamant from the beginning of this legal battle.  I’ve stated that I would work with him to make sure they have time together.  But I can’t let him have full custody of her.

My ex-husband is a homophobe who has not supported our daughter since she came out as a lesbian last year.  He hasn’t taken her mental health issues seriously, ignoring and denying her repeated requests for help for months until I intervened and got her into therapy and on medication.  In the past he preyed on an underage girl, chatting with her about masturbation and being “friends with benefits”.  The list of reasons why he can’t have her full time goes on and on and on.  Charlotte needs to have a relationship with her father.  She also needs to be protected from him.

Life isn’t easy.  Neither are the decisions I have to make.  If the relocation isn’t approved I will remain in Illinois.  I’ll get a studio apartment for me and Charlotte.  My husband will remain in Laramie.  His new job pays more than his previous one.  There are opportunities for advancement there and he will be enrolling in the Masters program for Health and Kinesiology at the University of Wyoming.  My friends and family in Laramie have already set to making my guys feel welcome and loved.

Charlotte and Ben scrambling over rocks. My kids are part goat, apparently.
Charlotte and Ben scrambling over rocks. My kids are part goat, apparently.

This will be an extreme hardship on all of us.  I’m going to suffer financially.  Charlotte will still have to deal with a move as we won’t be able to stay in the surrounding area.  My son will not have his mother.  My husband will have to be a single father.  My daughter is worth fighting for, though.  She is worth suffering for.  I’ll be beside her, looking for the beauty in the bleak scenery for as long as she needs me.

Sew Witchy: Shooting the Book

My new best friend, a baggie of rice
We’re going to Vegas some day.

If anyone had told me in March that my new best friend would be a bag of rice, I wouldn’t have believed them.  But after my marathon photo session for Sew Witchy I’m ready to name that bag Wilson and get matching tattoos.

The thing is, I’m a writer, not a photographer.  That didn’t stop me from saying, “Yes, of course,” when Llewellyn asked if I could supply the step-by-step and finished project photos for the book.  I’d snapped pictures for this blog and Instagram before with my phone.  How hard could it be?

Oh ho!  Let me tell you: I was woefully unprepared for how hard it was.  And while I think the final photos turned out all right, I have no desire to do this again.  (Famous last words, I know.  Although they’re easy to write now as I don’t have any ideas for another craft book.)

I went into my photographical journey thinking that the hardest part would be how much longer it would take to complete each project.  I figured it would take twice as long so that’s what I planned for.  Instead, I quickly realized it was taking more like three to four times as long.  I was photographing each step, even if I didn’t think it needed to be documented because the book was meant to be accessible to new sewists.

As an aside can I just talk about what a trip it is to write a book about sewing book when you are self-taught?  Several times I would stop in mid-stitch and question if my technique was “proper”.  Was this the sort of thing a beginner should start with?  I had to look up terms to make sure they meant what I thought they meant.  At every step I had to stop and make sure that I had adequately explained what to do.  Just writing instructions and then photographing the various stitches used in the book was a process that took days.

Measuring the tea pot
Other things I learned: double sided tape is super helpful when taking pictures.

So, back to the pictures.  I had sent sample photos to the art director months before and was told I needed to use a tripod and provide photos in both horizontal and vertical shots.  My local library had tripods I could check out which addressed the first issue.  The second was a bit trickier.  The tripod couldn’t hold the camera vertical leaving me at a loss of what to do.  I came up with the brilliant idea to shoot step-by-step photos on a white piece of foam board.  I’d take one shot and then rotate the foam board 90° and take another “vertical” shot.

I only got through the first day of that when my friend Randy, who does photo art layout and design for a living, kindly told me that my brilliant idea wasn’t really.  He’s the one who clued me in to the bag of rice trick.  (Actually he suggested a bag of beans but I’m more of a canned beans kind of witch, so I instead filled a sandwich baggie full of rice.)  I would take the horizontal pictures, then balance the camera on its side on top of the rice, which was balanced on the tripod.  This added to the time each picture took, but it meant that there weren’t as many pictures that looked like I had taken them during an earthquake.

As difficult as all the above was, getting shots of the finished wearables was an experience on a whole ‘nother level.  The sample robe was modeled by my son Benjamin.  He is a ball of chaotic energy, rarely able to stay still for even a microsecond.  A good 99% of the photos I took were blurry.  Eventually Ben ran out of patience and refused to pose any longer, leaving me with exactly two pictures I could use.  To all the child photographers out there, you have my utmost respect.

In the end I took over 1000 pictures.  (Not counting the pictures I lost one day when I returned the camera to the library without transferring the day’s photos over to my computer. Fun times.) Of those, about 350 were sent on to the art director.  By the end my everything hurt: back, legs, feet, head and hands.  My house looked like a tornado had hit a craft store and dumped the debris all over it.  Dishes didn’t get washed.  Floors had gone unvacuumed.  Cats had not been pet.  If my husband hadn’t stepped in to take care of things while I toiled the family would have been wandering around hungry and disheveled.

I’ve always been the type of person who learned by diving in the deep end.  This is no exception.  And I did learn.  The pictures I took at the end are world’s better than those I took at the beginning.  I’m in no hurry to put my newfound skills to use, though.  I’m going back to amateur camera phone photos.

UPDATE: After writing this post, I got word from my editor that I need to reshoot all of the finished project shots.  I sort of took their comments on my first sample shots a bit too far and ended up with very sterile shots.  Fortunately, the editorial team sent me a document with notes for each shot.  And, a friend offered me the use of a tripod that can do both horizontal and vertical shots.  So my best friend will be retired and I’ll be able to get the pictures done faster.

Making it Work: Marking it Alllll the Way Down

I’m getting accustomed to the unknown.  I have no idea when the bank will kick me out of my house.  I e-mail my contact there and don’t get any response.  My most conservative estimate is June 1.  But it may be a little later.  I don’t know when things will be settled between my ex-husband and myself.  We are arguing over where our daughter will live once I have to leave my house.  He’s also petitioned the court to throw me into jail and fine me for losing my home.  The legal wrangling has no end in sight.  I don’t know when I am going to be allowed to start the new chapter of my life, one where I am living back in the mountains, back on familiar territory, with my family.

With all that uncertainty around me, I am tackling the things I do have control over.  I’ve begun the process of packing up the house.  I am assigning my possessions to bins and boxes and piles labelled “Keep”, “Sell”, “Donate”.  I have gone back to the library for research material, this time on book promotion.  And I’ve spent the last two days listing every bit of inventory I have on Etsy and marking it down 50% in a sale that is meant to raise money for moving and legal fees as well as to help pare down what I will be taking with me.

So should you be in the market for a bag or skirt with pockets, some jewelry or a pencil roll, head to my Etsy store and you can find everything there 50%, no coupon necessary.

When the Deadlines Are Done

The first months of 2018 have been the busiest that I can remember.  January was taken up by finishing the Sew Witchy book manuscript for a February 1 deadline.  And then February and March saw me:

  • Sewing up a box of projects from the book to get out to my publisher for a cover photo shoot (deadline April 1)
  • Editing the manuscript per editorial input (deadline April 2)
  • Prepping to vend at C2E2 (deadline April 6)
  • Taking photos for the book (deadline April 16)

At one point I was awake and working for 48 hours to meet the photo deadline.  And in between my professional obligations I had to fit in being present for my family, dealing with the loss of my house, and defending myself in court (along with the custody issue, my ex is petitioning the court to punish me for losing the house, including asking for me to be incarcerated). Fun times.

Blackberry whiskey and ginger ale
Blackberry flavored whiskey and ginger ale tastes like freedom after months of work.

Now, after meeting my last deadline, I have found myself suffering from temporal whiplash.  As soon as I uploaded the photos we climbed into the Jeep and headed to a camper owned by friends for a weekend of campfires and whiskey.  I spent a lot of time Saturday and Sunday just sleeping.

Come Monday morning, after I had gotten Charlotte off to school, I found myself at sort of a loss of what to do.  I cleaned the kitchen and family room.  I did the dishes and made dinner.  I spent a lot of time thinking about all the stuff I had to do and realizing that I had plenty of time to do it in.  The rest of the week has been the same.  I have stuff to do.  But there is no urgency.

It’s a strange position to be in.  In fact it weirds me out not to have a deadline constantly pushing at me.  I don’t have to rush my kids through bedtime so that I can get back to work.  I’m not staying up until three in the morning sewing.  Right now my To Do list is full of items like “make dinner” and “pack up one shelf of books”.

A friend posted a link to the article “This is the Reason So Many Unbound Women Fear They’re Lazy” on Facebook the other day.  Reading through it, I found myself nodding in agreement.  I’ve spent so much of my life trying to fill my every waking hour to justify my existence, especially once I stopped working outside of the house.  Shifting to a focus more on what I and my family need done to serve our lives is a big, scary step.  Many times throughout these first few days I have found myself sitting down with nothing that needs my immediate attention.  My busy brain would kick into gear those times, trying to kickstart anxiety over the fact that I was just sitting there.

I am working to reconcile my busyness with this lack of deadlines.  I am trying to actively enjoy, rather than making a show of tolerating, this less frantic pace.  I still have a move thousands of miles away to arrange.  I still have legal wrangling to deal with.  I still have a book and family that needs my attention.  That is more than enough right now.

Intentional Energies

” … it is important to keep in mind the Aristotelian notion that ‘nature abhors a vacuum.’ When we have emptied a space of that which once occupied it, if we aren’t intentional about how we want it refilled, we are simply leaving things up to chance. So after intentionally clearing a space, it is just as important to be intentional about the energies that will fill the area.” — Clearing Spaces, Khi Armand, p. 28

Making it Work: Updates

I can’t believe it is April already.  January seemed to drag on forever, and now it is Spring (well, in theory, it’s still occasionally snowing and cold here).  I spent much of the last three months waiting on one thing or another, working towards deadline after deadline.  Now, with the last deadline almost here, I have a moment to catch my breath.

My house is still working through foreclosure.  I’ve made plans to move in June, presuming I can get things settled on the custody of my daughter.  By the time of my hearing later this month I’ll have spent nearly $4000 on legal fees to sort things out.  It might end up costing me even more and drag on past June.  I’ve contingency plans for housing in case that happens.

The housing and custody issues have only occupied 3/4 of my time.  The rest has been spent on my book.  The publisher, Llewellyn, has given it a new name: Sew Witchy.  I spent most of February and March making edits.  I added a whole new section on sewing basics, including descriptions of various stitches use throughout the book.  My editor also requested that I add a few more projects so I spent several weeks buried in mountains of muslin to make a robe and hooded cape pattern.

It’s eye-opening to write about basic sewing stuff when I’ve been sewing for so long.  Stopping and having to describe things that I do automatically now required a lot of effort on my part.  Fortunately, my editor is a self-proclaimed sewing newbie, so she pointed out all the spots that needed expansion.  Even so, I spent a lot of time second-guessing my writing, wondering if I was explaining things adequately.

This week I’m busy taking the last of the photos for the book.  I understand now why so many sewing books rely on illustrations rather than photos for step-by-step instructions.  You don’t have to deal with lighting or fabric that won’t lie flat or wrinkles that won’t release no matter how much you press them.  I have an even greater respect for people who can work a camera now.

I’ll be posting over the next couple of weeks about the book.  I figured people might be interested in reading the proposal I sent out when I was looking for a publisher, and how I got my agent.  There will also be more customer profiles and book reviews and sewing weirdness.

Making it Work: Myself Amplified

Well, we survived 2017, a feat that I think deserves a round of applause, or a stiff drink.  While last year was especially tough because of a few things I’ll get into in a minute, it was also a year of good things for me personally, professionally and mentally.

On the professional front, 2017 saw my best income ever.  I grossed $10,000 from sales at conventions, commissions, work on e-book and book layout projects and the sale of my first book.  And while my net was a little less than half that, it still is better than I have ever done.  I really wasn’t doing anything different from what I’ve done in the past, so I think this is more a result of the other gains I made over the year.

Creatively, this was the most full-filling year I’ve ever had as well.  I took on lots of commissions that required me to learn new skills and level up in my sewing technique.  I felt confident in my abilities and really enjoyed the work and the challenges it presented.  And getting back into writing with Sew Craft was like coming home.  I have wanted to see my work published since I was a child.  So fulfilling that goal has given me a boost that no amount of money can match.

It hasn’t all been awesome commissions and writing about magickal properties of fabric, though.  Emotionally, this year was rough.  My depression and anxiety are being controlled, but are still present and not being helped by the monthly uncertainty of whether or not I’ll have health insurance.  Also not helping is the situation with the house, and the custody battle with my ex-husband it has triggered.  I have spent a ridiculous amount of time pulling together documentation, talking to lawyers, and sitting in courtrooms when I could be working.

With all of those external stressors, it would be easy to write 2017 off as a bad mental health year.  I have had one success, though.  I have, for the most part, killed off my Jerk Brain.  It hasn’t bothered me for months, and the couple of times it has reared its malicious head, I have vanquished it easily.  This bugaboo has plagued me my entire life (my first memory of it comes from kindergarten) and I had resigned myself to living with it my entire life.  So to say that getting ride of my Jerk Brain has helped my overall happiness is an understatement.

It’s been mostly the happenings in the larger world that have been awful and taxing.  I’ve tried to not let things like the recent passing of the tax plan, or the repeal of net neutrality get me down.  I keep thinking about places like Puerto Rico and Flint and the people there who are living with far more imminent dangers.  The events of 2017 have pushed me further left, to the point where I am no longer coy about my more “radical”* beliefs: Universal Basic Income, universal healthcare, federal legalization of marijuana, federally mandated equal pay and family leave.  I used to keep these beliefs to myself, and I understand now that doing so has contributed to where the country is now.**

Overall, what 2017 taught me was that I needed to embrace what makes me happy and act on it apologetically.  The world as it is will put pressure on me to give up on my happiness.  It will be unmovingly cruel, it will try to break me financially and emotionally.  But I owe it to my past self to stick to my happiness.

I’m not the same person I was a year ago.  I am myself amplified.  That is what I take with me into this new year.


*”Radical” to the conservative members of my friends and family who still believe in prosperity gospel and bootstraps and the like.

**Not that I am blaming myself, individually, for the current state of affairs, but there seems to be a large, silent majority willing to let bigoted family members go unchallenged, for example, just to avoid confrontation.

Event Report: Geek Craft Expo

Last weekend I headed over to Madison, WI for the Geek Craft Expo‘s Midwest market.  I had heard of the show from crafters I met at the Made in Nerdwaukee event, and it hit all of my buttons, vending wise.  Geek Craft Expo is a series of craft fairs around North America which focus on handmade geekery.  It’s the sort of craft fair where you find crocheted Yoda ears, dice boxes, fandom inspired bath bombs, and jewelry made out of circuit boards.

This was one of the best planned and run events I’ve ever attended.  There was a score of volunteers who helped vendors unload.  The background music that ran the whole gamut of fandom musical tastes: from “Real Folk Blues” to the Quantum Leap theme music.  The room was decorated with standard Halloween fare, there was a scavenger hunt for the kids who came by, as well as trick-or-treating, a make and take, and costume parade.  More importantly, for me, was the well-stocked vendor lounge with snacks and bottled water.

The last bit was important because I managed to lose my voice for the entire weekend.  I had been sick for the week leading up to Geek Craft, yet still managed to drag myself out to vend.  I spent most of the weekend behind my table, communicating with customers through notes and pantomime.

As well-run as the event was, traffic and sales were disappointing.  I don’t blame the event runners at all; their March expo was a huge success.  This time around, however, they ran afoul of football season.  I estimate that the total crowd over the weekend was a little under 1,000. By contrast, the crowd at their March event was somewhere in the neighborhood of 4,000.  On the one hand that meant I didn’t have to interact with as many people while sick and speechless, but that also meant lower sales than I had expected.  As my booth neighbor, Moira, pointed out: “The conversion from browser to buyer is right where I expected it, but there just aren’t enough bodies coming through.”

And to their credit, the people in charge acknowledged the low attendance.  When the show closed and people started packing up they made the announcement that future shows would be scheduled well outside of football season.  I appreciated their candor.

I barely made booth, which means I lost money once I took gas and expenses into account.  I am honestly not as upset as I otherwise would be about the low sales.  Everything else was so nice about the event, that it sort of washes out in the end.  If I end up being in the area when the next expo is planned, I will definitely be signing up to vend.