Monsterful Monday- Two out of Seven Dwarves

I’m sleepy. I’m also Grumpy.

The last thing I feel like is writing about the things I’m grateful for, because the things that have upset me are clamouring for all my attention.

Which is precisely why I’m doing this. I need it. When I’m in a bad place, I need it so very much more than when I’m in a good place.

So: I’m grateful for good friends. For a clean, dry place to sleep- walk down Queen Street and you’ll always see at least two people who don’t have one. For restaurants that will deliver hot, delicious food to your door. For butter paneer, a butter naan, rice, and onion bhajis.

I’m grateful for how when my Best Beloved holds me, all the grumpiness goes away. For how warm he is, physically and emotionally. For how he puts up with me when I’m in a bad mood, and gives me tenderness when I’m hurting.

I’m grateful for exciting times ahead- bridesmaiding for my best girlfriend, and getting tattoos I’m really excited about. For Molly Crabapple giving me permission to use one of her stunning artworks as a tattoo. For Rock and Roll Bride arriving in the post so I can give it to the bride to be.

For considering my spending priorities, and working out what I’m really passionate about, so I can act more in alignment with the things that really get me juiced and make me happy.

Here’s to better days.

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Mid-week Joy- Tarot meditation

Tarot by Meeralee, used under Creative Commons license- http://bit.ly/1qZAXeK

What? It’s still Wednesday somewhere…

Meditation. Of the many things I’ve tried to get my mind back into a good place and recover from the depression, meditation is one of the most helpful. The quiet, the calm- neither of these things come easy to me. As soon as I’m awake, thoughts are whirling around my head.

Focusing on something, even for 20 minutes? Not easy for me. At. All. I’ve found a couple of ways to deal with this, which you may find helpful too if you’re a beginner. The first is guided meditations. Just look on Youtube. On Friday, I’ll even put links to five of my favourites for you. When I was trying to get into a proper meditation practice I found that the guidance really helped me not get distracted and start thinking about the laundry when I was trying to be still.

Admittedly that still happens. But less often.

The second, and my reason for writing this post, involves my tarot deck. Now, a disclaimer- I know I’m not the first person to do tarot meditations, and I don’t want to reinvent the wheel. There are lots of people out there with much more expertise in the tarot than me, and I bow to them. This post is intended to describe what I do, in the hopes that if you haven’t come across tarot meditation before it might encourage you to give it a try. It’s simple but very effective.

I keep one deck for readings (The Goddess Tarot by Kris Waldherr), and another deck for my daily meditation. That one is the Shadowscapes deck by Stephanie Pui-Min Law.

It was actually the book that came with the Shadowscapes deck, specifically the introduction by tarot great Barbara Moore, that led me to the meditation practice. In the introduction she advocates bonding with your deck by shuffling it, taking a card at random and focusing on the image for several minutes, then closing your eyes and ‘stepping into’ the image and, if you’re brave enough, talking to the figures in it.

I know, I know. It probably sounds odd to you. But the results of doing this- in my case I pulled The Empress- were so beautiful and calming I started doing it each day.

Here’s how it works: Every morning, when it’s time for me to meditate (not long after I wake up), I shuffle my Shadowscapes deck, asking ‘what do I need to meditate on today?’. Occasionally, if something’s really troubling me or if I’m linking it up with the weekly challenges in my Five Minute Journal, I’ll ask a different question, but ‘what do I need to meditate on’ is the go-to.

I then pull a card (use whatever method you would normally use). I look at the image for a couple of minutes (that’s longer than it sounds), get familiar with the figures in it, the background. I read the description in the book- and start to get a handle on what exactly it is that I’m really meditating about. That becomes even clearer when I actually start my meditation- closing my eyes, and stepping into the image in my mind. The conversation with the figures is a way of delving deep into myself, finding the answers that were there all along. Somehow, the meditation process makes things that have been troubling me easier to accept and deal with- because as the meditation makes clear, I already know how to deal with them. I just have to accept it, and take action.

Another hint- I use a meditation helper app on my phone to time myself (on a work morning I have to). When the final bell sounds, I say thank you and bid farewell to the figures in the image, and step back out into the room.

The final phase is keeping a tarot journal. This is something you’ll find recommendations for all over the place. For me, it’s a way of recording the insights from the meditation- which, as an added bonus, also helps me get a better intuitive sense of the cards I’ve pulled each day.

It’s that simple, and very powerful. The insights and the ‘ah’ moments happen every day with this practice, and I’m so grateful for finding out about it. I haven’t tried it with any decks that don’t have people in most of the images, so I can’t say how it would work but, if it’s a deck you feel connected to, I don’t think it matters what kind of images they are.

If you decide to give this a try, I’d really love to hear how you get on! Do let me know in the comments- share your ah moments! Enquiring minds want to know!

Monsterful Monday du Soleil

First up, Cirque du Soleil. Sweet Jesus. Their show ‘Totem’ is currently in Auckland, and the fun and games of getting across a raceway in the pouring rain to the Grand Chapiteau (when I say fun and games I mean wet muddy feet and, well, pouring rain) were completely worth it. It’s absolutely astonishing what the performers in Cirque can do. The aerials (especially the double act on a stationery trapeze) were a big highlight for me, but then aerials always are. And can we just talk about the pair whose finale to their act involved one of them balancing upside down with ONE SHOULDER ON HER PARTNER’S FOOT?! If you want to see what complete trust looks like, watch any of the acts with more than one person. Holy wow.

I went with my Best Beloved’s best friend, and getting to know her better and share that experience with her was an added bonus. If you’re in Auckland, or if you get the chance to see one of their shows- GO. We were lucky and got discounted tickets through Grab One,  but when they come back I would happily pay full price. And talk about inspiration for getting better at acro! And at adding sequins and sparkles to costumes…

The rest of the weekend was extremely relaxing which was good because next weekend is a big campaign game weekend, and will therefore be not even a little bit relaxing. My Best Beloved, as usual, was wonderful, letting me nap whenever I needed to, including napping on him, and giving lots of snuggles.

The two back issues of Things and Ink that I ordered arrived over the weekend, and were definitely worth it. The Art issue in particular had some really beautiful tattoos, and the writing throughout is good and fascinating. Also I now want to make an appointment with Tracy D at Kings Cross Tattoo next time I’m in the UK. This art nouveau flamingo is one of hers and I. Am. In. Love. I mean come ON- ART NOUVEAU FLAMINGO. I’d love to meet whoever has it so I can shake their hand and admire it in person. For now I’ll content myself with a subscription to the magazine, and poring over every glorious page, as well as getting super excited for Nursey No Mercy doing my next piece. It’s going to be special.

Finally, meditation. I’ve been using my tarot deck for my daily meditation practice and it’s getting me such beautiful results that on Wednesday I’m going to share how I do it, just for you. A little different from the usual set of links, but still bringing you some joy for the middle of the week. I hope you’ll join me- and join in.

The Little Things

Mongolian Barbecue at Gengis Khan (how can you not love a place where you can have as much as you want, and get your delicious Mongolian barbecue meat (mint-marinated lamb! SO GOOD) with a side of mac and cheese?), new shoes that don’t let the rain in, getting creative in a different way from usual, borrowing patterns from kindly fellow sewers, having a set of ab exercises to work on for acro, lighter mornings (so much easier to wake up in time to meditate when you’re as fundamentally lazy as I am), the Parlour, Avengers Assemble, Angelique Houtkamp, text conversations, having a view of the ocean from each of the offices I work at during the week, awesome work colleagues, good advice, and, as usual, tea.

Seeing red and being seen, part 2: The terrible teens

So from the bad beginning we’ve reached the time at which I started to look at makeup as something I wanted to play with. I wanted to, but I was terrified. By this point I had learned to hide and obey so well that I didn’t even realise that’s what I was doing some of the time. 

A side note- aged 11, I asked my Mum if it would be OK for me to kiss a boy. Yes, you read that right. A boy had asked if I kissed boys, and I went and asked my Mum. She told me no, because if I kissed boys I would have sex with them, and that was wrong. 

My parents, I think, didn’t want me to grow up. My Dad certainly didn’t want me to be more of a girl than I already was, but that’s perhaps a different story. 

Aged about 9 or 10, I got a book at the Junior School Book Fair. It was called ‘Freaky Fashions’ by Caroline Archer (you can still find copies on Abebooks). The second-to-last chapter was about make-up. I pored over the different eyeshadow combinations, longing to try out the crazy colours. Then I asked about getting some.

No, no, no! Eyeshadow was MUCH too old. Eventually, Mum relented enough, when I was about 13, to buy me some blusher. I think I used it once, but was horrified at people noticing it. Noticing me. No! Hide! So it sat in my drawer for years. 

13 was also when I got my first lipstick. I didn’t actually buy one, it was a free gift with ‘Shout!’ one of a slew of teenage magazines that were launched around that time. The only one of those I wasn’t allowed was ‘Just Seventeen’- “But you’re NOT SEVENTEEN!”. Again, I digress. The lipstick in question was from Collection 2000, and It. Was. RED. Very red. Confident, bold, adventurous, noticeable. All the things I wasn’t. I would sit and look at it in my room. From time to time I would take off the lid and gingerly twist the bottom of the tube. Just to look at it. I think once I may even have tried some on the back of my hand. 

The other girls at school, of course, didn’t have the same fears I did. Or if they did, they had worked out what I hadn’t- that now was the time to rebel against the rules laid down by your parents. To buy things you weren’t supposed to. To make mistakes. To kiss boys and stay out late, and wear wild colours on your face.

Then the Body Shop opened a branch in our town. The excitement! What was (to us girls in a small commuter town in the 1990s) fancy bath stuff, and perfume, and, yes, make up. Designed by a make-up ARTIST no less. A girl in my class, Anna, showed me her All-in-One Face Base and my goodness, I was envious. I watched, fascinated, as Kelly Bond applied BRIGHT pink lipstick in class. As Mia used a stick of concealer all over her face as a concealer- and didn’t get told to take it off. My heart fluttered when I saw other girls wearing makeup- and I thought it was fear. No, no, no. Mustn’t. Shouldn’t. Can’t. 

I got brave enough, on a rare random time when my Dad offered to buy me a book, to get a book on make-up. The Usborne First Book of Make-Up, no less. I read that over and over, looking with longing at the least terrifying of the tutorials- the natural look. Tinted moisturiser, clear lipgloss, mascara. Yes. That I could deal with. I’d be wearing it, but nobody would know! 

After some persistence from me, and I’ve never been quite sure why she agreed to it, Mum allowed me to book in for a free makeover at the Body Shop. To say I was excited was an understatement. I fantasised about getting lipgloss, the all-important All In One Face Base. Things that people wouldn’t see. 

What I got was the one-size-fit-all makeover. EVERYTHING layered on. It was the greasepaint all over again. I felt horribly self-conscious and I was wearing too much on my face and then my brother said my eyelashes looked too dark. To be honest, if Mum hadn’t been there with me I might have been brave enough to tell the assistant exactly what I wanted to try. But she was, and I wasn’t. Not for the first time, or the last, I sat there and accepted things I didn’t want.

At 17 I discovered Britpop and finally, FINALLY, got a Just 17 Yearbook, with advice on how to look like Justine Frischmann. Who didn’t wear makeup, just Vaseline on her lips. And so I hid without realising I was hiding, behind a facade of not wearing makeup, just as so many other girls hid behind a face of tinted moisturiser, and mascara, and lipgloss. Like every other lonely, awkward teenager, I had found a mask to wear. It was just that mine was petroleum jelly and, aside from occasional medicated tea-tree-oil concealer, bare, acne covered skin. 

But I still looked at makeup. From then until really quite recently, I would pore over the beauty section of magazines, of the Avon catalogue, of any special offer that came through for lipstick once the internet took off. 

And do you know what? I was always looking at the red lipsticks. (Except when I was eyeing up glitter eyeliner but that’s another story). 

And then, to coin a lyric from a Pulp song (part of the soundtrack of those awkward hiding years), something changed. 

But you’ll have to wait until next week to find out what. 

Links of Joy: Giggles

For this week, despite the temptation to yet again link you to a bunch of pretties you might also like to buy, I’m going instead with a few things that have been making me laugh.

Lets start with, imho, three of the best celebrity Ice Bucket Challenges (yep, I went there. What can I say? There’s a Zeitgeist and this time I’m jumping in.)

First up, the Otter King himself, Benedict Cumberbatch (or as he’s known to me and my ex-flatmate J, Bundaberg Crumblybumbly. Why Bundaberg Crumblybumbly? Blame this text conversation (not mine, one she read to me))

And then there’s fantasy author Patrick Rothfuss, taking it to a new and scientific level. That’s how we do it!

I think, though, it’s Patrick Stewart who nails it.

The Out of Context D&D Quotes Tumblr has been making me snork rather more than I really should be doing at work. One of my friends has now announced that ‘first of all, how dare you‘ is her new battle cry. As for me, I plan to steal this name for a future campaign character as insurance against my current one being offed by the GMs. What? It’s a totally valid strategy. 

RIP Joan Rivers.

And yes, I know this video of a baby getting his hearing aids switched on for the first time has been everywhere but it gave me such warm fuzzies. Yeah, I’m a sap. And proud of it. 

We made it to Wednesday! Go us!

Monsterful Monday against Humanity

It’s been a rather beautiful week.

On Tuesday, my new Shadowscapes tarot deck arrived, and I’m so glad I got the set with the book. In the introduction, Barbara Moore (whose name is popping up all over as I start to learn more about tarot) gave a simple exercise for connecting with the deck involving drawing a card and meditating on it. The meditation I did on the Empress card as a result was something really special, and in fact I’ve done the same thing with a different card from the deck each morning as my meditation practice (which I like to switch up from time to time). So good, and it’s teaching me a lot about the meaning behind different cards for me. There may be more on that to come in the future. 

On Thursday, my first-paycheck-treat, the Luscious dress in sky blue with pirate skulls (because pirate skulls!) arrived. I tried it on immediately and I think I meeped when I saw myself in the mirror. It’s super comfy t-shirt fabric (I love things you can just pull on and relax in, while still looking good), and has already gotten plenty of compliments. Hurray for a dress that makes me feel a million bucks!

Friday saw what I suspect will be the first of many Girls Nights with some of my Auckland girlfriends. Partly to get to know my ladies outside of LARP scenarios, we all got together for a potluck and Cards Against Humanity. Damn, but these women can cater! Slow-cooked beef stew, mexican lasagne, dauphinoise potatoes, pizza, cheese log, chocolate truffles, Margarita cupcakes (my offering), salad, passionfruit ice cream and several cheesecakes. As for Cards Against Humanity… “I never really understood menstrual rage until I discovered an M-16 assault rifle”. Yep. 

Saturday involved significant napping and snuggling (things I am always thankful for), and a trip to a sale by Paddywhack at which I spent more than I intended to on things like this elven throwing knife but my costume for the next big weekend game is coming together nicely. Then in the evening at a housewarming my friend L told me about Tragic Beautiful and if I wasn’t already saving up for my next tattoo (which I’m getting done by Nursey at Dr Morse Tattoo in Wellington- her enthusiasm and general awesomeness is something else I’m grateful for), you’d better believe I’d be buying this pink leopard print bedlinen just as soon as I had the money. 

Little things:

Tattoos and tribal bellydancing things on Pinterest (so many ideas), tea, awaiting fun things in the mail, being advised to lower my expectations (a weight off my shoulders!), friends who get as excited as I do about stuff I find on the internet, vanilla milkshakes and drive-thru enabling of my hash brown habit, deciding that the only way to better Mac and Cheese would be baking it in a pie, Cetaphil lotion (which is healing my first tattoo beautifully), super-badass sunscreen, and the prospect of a hair appointment on Wednesday (what can I say, I love head massages).

How about you? What are you grateful for this week? Let me know in the comments.

Seeing red and being seen: How I learned to stop worrying and love lipstick, part 1: The Bad Beginning

All the red lipsticks

Yeah, so this still life ended up a bit 80s-tastic-vaseline-on-the-lens. It was my first attempt at one!

Make-up used to squick me out. I’m not kidding. Especially lipstick. When I tell you that the above is just a small selection of the lip colours I now own, and that of those about 75% are red, red, red, the fact that for a very long time I didn’t wear any may surprise you.

I blame ballet. 

Actually, it would be more accurate to say that I blame the stage mothers who used to volunteer to help with the ballet concerts my dance school would put on every second year. Somehow, it didn’t matter which of the Mums I got doing my stage makeup- and stage makeup was my first experience with putting stuff on my face that wasn’t just itchy-scratchy face-paint crayons. The result was always the same- they felt the need to lay on the greasepaint with a trowel. And that wasn’t something they did to everyone. 

This told me, aged about 6, two things. One: that makeup felt absolutely disgusting, thick and self-conscious-making and Too. Much. Two: that I wasn’t as pretty as the other girls. They didn’t have huge balloons of bright pink blusher on them, or inch-thick deep pink lipstick. Yuk. 

My mother almost never wore makeup. In fact, I would bet you could look in her makeup bag now and she would still have the same makeup in there she had back in the 1980s when I used to, occasionally, out of curiosity, take it out and look at it. And I mean the exact same- not thrown out and replaced. The Almay eyeshadow in ‘Peacock’, the ‘Honey Beige’ frosted lipstick, the concealer. I can remember the precisely two times she wore it when I was growing up. Both times I got upset- I wasn’t used to seeing her with makeup on. It didn’t look like her. She certainly didn’t encourage me to wear it either. I tried on lipstick only once growing up, and that was my Nan’s. A mistake- it was the same bright pink as that greasepaint and I wanted it off halfway round our shopping in the town where my grandparents lived but couldn’t take it off until we got home. 

I’ve since realised that what put me off wearing it was, at least in part, being terribly shy. I was often told off for being too loud- being seen and heard was a Bad Thing. Makeup made you seen and heard. Therefore, I avoided it. 

But I still longed for it. And then, as you’ll see, came being a teenager.