Monday, December 28, 2020

Another 2020 Sucker Punch

 In the grand scheme of things, losing your favorite soft drink for all time is a small disappointment. But this is 2020, Year of Horrors, and Coca-Cola's decision to discontinue production of TaB is One. Last. Kick. In. The. Keister.

Yes, here I sit looking at my last two 12-packs of TaB, purchased at great expense from Ebay. By the time the fucking assholes management team at Coca-Cola announced the discontinuation of this worthy beverage, all available stocks of it had been snapped up by opportunists.

I've been drinking TaB since the early 1970s, and it is literally the only Coke product I like. TaB was Coke's first diet cola, and it doesn't taste anything like Coke or Diet Coke. It's not sweet. It has a hint of cinnamon. And until Red Bull came along, it was the best soda to rev up the heart rate.

It hasn't been easy to get TaB here in New Jersey for the past 10 years, but if you had a good eye you could find it. And then you just bought every 12-pack on the shelf. In this way I've kept my larder stocked with TaB pretty continuously. Alas, no more!

So a big, fat FUCK YOU to Coca-Cola! You had ONE product I bought. You DISCONTINUED it. I hope it's the beginning of the END OF YOUR COMPANY!

You know who drinks Diet Coke? Donald Trump. Case closed, the company can drown in rat poison.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

A Smithsonian-Worthy Yule Navel Gaze

 We stubborn hillbillies never forget a slight. When the Smithsonian said this page wasn't worthy of inclusion in its ranks, it rankled. Take this holiday, for instance. It screams, bleats, shouts, and roars "pandemic diary."

People are getting tired of observing pandemic guidelines, and the case numbers are rising again. I'm not an ordinary person, though. I'm a stubborn hillbilly. So when my school deemed it unsafe for small cohorts of students to walk in the door, I flung them a doctor's note so I didn't have to either. I've been working at home ever since. I don't like it, but it beats getting the virus. I gerry-rigged the home office I used for so long as a writer, which is weird in the extreme. 

The worst part is having virtual teachers' meetings at home. All those administrators you can't stand? Suddenly they're in your living room. Makes my skin crawl.

The pandemic has put a lot of time on my hands with nothing to write about, so I have returned to the teenage hobby of cross stitch and embroidery. Look at this Xmas gift I made for The Fair! 

She says everyone will ask where she got it!

I've never been apart from my daughters during the Xmas holidays, and like everyone else in America, I wanted to observe traditions. But ... stubborn hillbilly. Luckily, both daughters live in Philadelphia, so on Xmas morning early (between the period of driving rain and the period of plunging temperatures) we convened on the porch of The Heir's West Philly rowhouse. Heir lives on the third floor. We used the porch.

Heloooo? Smithsonian????? How many pandemic photos do you have of ordinary families following the goddamn CDC guidelines?

The other thing I have never done without on the holidays is a Yule tree. About two weeks before the winter break, I bought a little tabletop "fresh" tree from a supermarket. By Xmas Eve it looked gray as a ghost. So I got in my old car (which needed a spin) and drove to where I knew there was a vacant lot with some pine saplings, and I ethically sourced an organic, free range tree. Third time I've done this, and although it's mean to maim a tree, it certainly cheers things up here.

These New Jersey pines aren't fragrant, but I like the long needles.

Here I am, another American affected by the pandemic, but not nearly or even remotely as dreadfully as a lot of people. Now it's just a countdown until the day the USA is rid of Donald Trump (cross fingers) forever. He's bent upon ruining the nation the way he tanked all his other businesses. What a train wreck.

The Light returns, we'll get through this mess, and the next time you hear from me it'll be from a bottomless pool of self-pity. But I'll leave that for later.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Borders Sealed

I bid you greetings from the Independent Republic of Johnsonia! We have reached out to congratulate President-Elect Biden on his electoral college certification and his strong speech thereafter. The coughing and throat-clearing were a bit concerning.

Speaking of concerning, after seeing the case counts rising at her place of work (and after hearing someone in the restroom fail to wash their hands), the Grand Wazoo put in a doctor's note that will keep her working inside the borders of Johnsonia for quite some time.

Whew! What a relief!

Actually I'm surprised how relieved I am, but I am really, really relieved. No workplace can be 100 percent safe right now, and even though mine seemed like a good bet, recently I was not nearly so comfortable.

So Johnsonia is all sealed up, not even allowing our ambassadors-at-large to come home for the holidays. We take public health very seriously in this nation.

Also, there's some kind of winter storm on the way. Since Johnsonia is in the coastal plain it usually gets a "wintry mix," which is a nice way of saying "too warm for snow, too cold for rain."

Batten down, foreigners!

Friday, December 11, 2020

In Which I Wax Emotional

 Don't know if you will be able to view this, but what the hell, I have nothing else to say today.

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

Frank Talk about Infectious Pathogens

 We all know that Rudy Giuliani is in the hospital (or was), having been infected -- who knows how -- with COVID-19.

I say "who knows how" because just about everybody around him is as daft as he is. Nobody wears a mask.

Rudy is sick, and the entire Arizona legislature is quarantined because he went out there to pull sneaky shit brief them on his unfounded views of election fraud.

So we all know how germs work. They have to be inside us, and then expelled from us, to infect another person.

Can you imagine getting sick from COVID after being around Rudy Giuliani? Something that was inside him and expelled from him got into your body.

EWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!! GROSSSS!!!!! Rudy Cooties!!! Disgusting.

Have I ruined your day? Sorry.

Friday, December 04, 2020

The Wazoo's Gambit

 Some day, 300 years from now, an earnest young researcher will go to the Smithsonian Institution and ask, "Do you have any primary source material from suburban white women in the early 21st century?" And the curator will look at the researcher with a vacant expression and say, "I don't know. Have you read Joyce Carol Oates?"

In the meantime, this fabulous blog, containing events big and small for more than 15 years, will be relegated to the landfill of American history. I tell you, I'm still peeved about it.

Take this week's adventure, for instance. It is:

a) pandemic related

b) reflective of middle class liberal female values, and

c) a subtle statement on the consumer economy.

You would think the Smithsonian would eat this stuff with a fork and spoon.

Oh well, pish tosh as I always say. Let me tell you about the Gambit that kept me from losing my online teacher mind this week.

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and Yule looms with the same horrible restrictions. The various citizens-at-large of Johnsonia already know that there will be no gathering for Yule. Household members only.

With that in mind, I set out to deck the halls with my usual holiday trappings. Except I couldn't haul them from the basement. Everything brought back memories of non-pandemic times. "I'll only be more depressed if I look at this stuff for a month," I said to no one in particular.

What I needed was some basic new stuff, a few candle holders for the mantelpiece. I could see in my mind exactly what I wanted -- tea light holders like they have in abundance at the thrift store. Trouble is, the thrift store is always crowded, and it's in a former factory that has zero ventilation. I haven't been there since August.

I started shopping online. I looked at JoAnn Fabrics, Ross, Macy's, Target, Marshall's, Williams Sonoma, and Lowe's. Not finding anything, I turned to Etsy. This is where I picked up the term "crackle glass." They have 22,000 Christmas candle holders for sale. And nothing is cheap.

All the while, the little voice in my head was saying, "You know you can get these at the thrift store, right?"

But I resisted. My county is a hot spot. It's irresponsible to put one's life at risk for a candle holder.

Never underestimate the fallout from a bad day in the teacher trenches, though. After receiving a spectacularly lackluster score on an observation that lasted 20 minutes, I pretty much decided what the heck. After school I got in my car and drove to the thrift store.

I strode in. As I knew it would be, all the holiday swag was right in the front of the store. Bip Bip Bip, I picked up 3 candle holders (just what I wanted), a package of tapers, a fake poinsettia, and -- on my way to check out -- an ugly Christmas sweater for the ages. Fifteen bucks, and I was back in my Subaru in less than 10 minutes.

That was three days ago, and I don't feel like I caught COVID 19. In fact, every time I look at my mantelpiece, I feel damned good!

The moral of this Gambit is, when one feels underappreciated one tends to throw caution to the wind. But one doesn't really throw, one tosses lightly. No harm is done, no furniture is stained, and there are tea light holders to boot.

How's the case count where you live?

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Thanksgiving 2020

 I've spent the last three hours making side dishes for Thanksgiving dinner. Cranberry sauce too. Ever notice how these recipes make enough for a large family and friends? Yeah, well, this year it's just me and Mr. J and one poorly-behaved orange tabby cat named Gamma. The governors of Pennsylvania and New Jersey have asked residents to limit their Thanksgiving guests to people living within the home.

Every year since 1989 I have hosted Thanksgiving at Chateau Johnson (now an official government residence). That first year my daughter The Heir was 5 months old, and we invited her godfather from Washington, DC. It snowed about 4 inches. Made for beautiful photos.

There was a memorable year when I hosted a couple of principle dancers from the Philadelphia Ballet. Mr. J had just finished writing a magazine profile of Arantxa (who was practicing to be the Sugar Plum Fairy in "Nutcracker"). She and her Russian husband had never been to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner before. He ate everything in sight. She had a small portion of white meat turkey and an undressed salad. They were lovely. Literally.

On several Thanksgivings the Monkey Man has come to eat with us. Once he brought his sister and her boyfriend. Of course the monkey, Bongo, came too. Therefore, in Bongo's honor, I made banana bread.

When The Heir started working for a sculptor named Kate Kamen, I invited Kate and her husband to Thanksgiving. We learned a lot about spear fishing and other Type A behavior that would have made the ballerinas wince.

But mostly on Thanksgiving I had my mother-in-law here with us. She was an exquisite chef and often brought dishes or dessert, until she grew too infirm to cook. Must have been at least 10 and probably more like 20 years that she joined us every year. She was with us on the fateful Black Friday when Decibel the parrot died.

One year when The Heir was about 22 and The Fair about 17, I had to drive to Baltimore on Thanksgiving morning to pick up Mother-in-Law. It's a good 100 miles from Philly to Baltimore, and then turn around and drive back ... and then put the turkey in the oven. The drive down was uneventful. But coming back -- mind you, 11:00 in the morning on Thanksgiving -- we got into a whopper of a traffic jam on I-95. It was a parking lot, and the clock was ticking on getting that bird in the oven.

When it looked unlikely that I would return to Chateau Johnson in a timely manner, I phoned home to ask for assistance from my grown daughters. The conversation went something like this:

Anne: Fair, I need you to put the turkey in the oven.

Fair: Not me. I'm not touching a raw, dead bird! Forget it! Eww, gross!

Anne: Please? I'll walk you through it.

Fair: No way. I'd rather eat peanut butter.

Anne (turning to an inferior Plan B): Put your sister on the line. Heir, are you there?

Heir: Oh, hi Mom! How's it goin?

Anne: Not good. Listen, I need for you to unwrap the turkey and put it in the oven. I'll walk you through it.

Heir: Uhhhhh ...... emmmmmm ..... uhhhhhhh ...... mmmmMMMMMMmmmmm .... um, Mom.

Anne: Please?

Heir: Ummmmmmm ..... emmmmmmm ..... uhhhhhh .... oh gosh, I ..... ummmmm.

At this point the traffic moved an inch.

Anne: Never mind.

Heir: Oh! You have a great trip, Mom! See you soon! *Click*

Long story short, that was the year I learned to use the convection setting on the oven.

In the time of novel coronavirus, I will not be stuck in traffic on I-95. I won't be making salads for ballerinas or banana bread for Bongo. I won't be going to the shopping mall at 6:00 a.m. with The Fair or to a Christmas tree-lighting in Haterfield with The Heir. My county is a hot spot, so I don't even want to go to the hardware store for new outdoor lights.

But I might do that last bit. If ever there was a year when we have to beat back the darkness, this is that year. We started with the election of Joe Biden, but it's a deep hole we're finding ourselves in, what with Trump tweeting RIGGED RIGGED RIGGED and 70 million Americans believing him and another 250,000 dead of a disease no one had this time last year. 

Light is what we need. Lots and lots of light.

Four weeks until Solstice. I'm here, it's Thanksgiving, and it's just me and Mr. J and a poorly-behaved orange tabby cat named Gamma.

Stay safe!

Monday, November 16, 2020

Important Public Health Announcement for the Citizens of Johnsonia

 Hear the words of the Grand Wazoo of Johnsonia, Anne Johnson:

Effective immediately, the borders of the Independent Republic of Johnsonia are closed. No one will be allowed to leave Johnsonia or return to it except for essential travel.

No non-citizens will be allowed to visit or stay in Johnsonia. This includes outdoor gatherings and holidays.

Essential travel is defined as work-related or food-gathering-related or of medical necessity.

The Wazoo would like to take this opportunity to SCOLD the United States of America for IGNORING and SCORNING the advice of SCIENTISTS who WARNED THIS WOULD HAPPEN. May this plague fall upon the shoulders of the U.S. citizens who most resisted considering it important, while passing over good people who heeded the advice of health professionals!

Wazoo probably gonna be working from home beginning next week. Just a hunch.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Official Pronouncement from the Independent Republic of Johnsonia

 Dear Mr. President-Elect Biden,

On behalf of the citizens of the Independent Republic of Johnsonia, I wish to congratulate you on your resounding victory in the recent presidential election.

We of Johnsonia are looking forward to an era of cordial relations, productive alliances, and mutually beneficial trade relationships.

In all honesty, we're quite relieved at the outcome of the election. When it was announced, our color guard banged pans in the northern boundaries of our nation. We will be honored to send a delegation to your inauguration, if you have a public ceremony in these trying times.

With deepest regard,

Anne Johnson

Grand Wazoo, Independent Republic of Johnsonia

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Morning in Johnsonia

 It's a blustery morning here in the Independent Republic of Johnsonia, and the Grand Wazoo has a day off.  I, Anne Johnson, am that Wazoo.

I'm very glad to have my own country, because it is Election Day in the United States of America, and if I was still a citizen of that nation, I would be FREAKING THE FUCK OUT.

Instead, I'm busy with affairs of state in my own dear country.

Several prominent blue jays have hopped forward for Cabinet positions. To balance out all that blueness, I have also engaged four cardinals to dispense justice and to see to an even distribution of government-issued rations.

Squirrels are the opposition party. No surprises there.

Gamma the cat is now Secretary of the Interior. He is a known polluter, but he promises to keep Johnsonia free of disease-bearing rodents.

My firstborn daughter has agreed to be Ambassador to the United States, and her somewhat baffled boyfriend is now Ambassador to the E.U. (He stood for our national anthem but had to be briefed on the whole secession thing afterwards.)  If daughter Fair is interested, the ambassadorship to Canada is still open. If she's not, I'll appoint a blue jay.

Johnsonia just celebrated its first Samhain -- Druidism is the state religion -- in a very depressing manner. While a record number of American trick-or-treaters took candy from a basket in front of the house, we citizens hunkered around a bonfire out back.  The U.S.A.'s cavalier response to the pandemic is one reason for secession, and on Samhain we felt it keenly.

Johnsonia wishes its neighboring nation a free and fair election and a peaceful transition of power. Thank goodness none of that matters to us!

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Stop a Moment

 Stop a moment and think back to April 1, 2005. Think about what you were doing, how old you were, and what your hopes and dreams were.

Now imagine that a stranger walked up to you and said, "In November of 2020, President Donald Trump will appoint a third Supreme Court justice a week before the general election in the midst of a pandemic that has taken 225,000 American lives in six months."


I'm surprised more people aren't seceding and starting their own countries.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Johnsonia Update and National Anthem

 Welcome to the Independent Republic of Johnsonia! If you recall, we seceded from the United States of America (irreconcilable differences) and became a country on 1 October 2020.

I, Anne Johnson, have been appointed Grand Wazoo. It's a lifetime appointment.

We've been incredibly busy with affairs of state, including collecting revenues through our Wazoo's unceasing labor. We have also undertaken infrastructure repairs ... and you know how that goes. Always more time and money than you expect.

We have, however, found time to write our National Anthem. It is to the tune of "O Canada," because you know it's okay to steal awesome national anthem tunes!

Ladies and gentlemen, please rise for the singing of the National Anthem of the Independent Republic of Johnsonia!


Our fertile faithful ground,

Beyond compare

The greatest land around!

From the parking drive

To the hornet hive

To the roof that needs repair,

From the sidewalk crack

To the shrine in back

We stand beyond compare!


Stand up and sing!

Johnsonia, we will let freedom ring!

Johnsonia, we will let freedom ring!

Play ball.

Friday, October 02, 2020

Well, Looky There

 Can you believe this? A guy who called the whole pandemic a joke, then said it would be over soon, then refused to wear a mask and belittled people who do? A guy who said it was no worse than the flu? Yeah. I knew it was a matter of time.

But you know, we Heads of State have to issue statements in situations like this, so here goes:

We the people of the Independent Republic of Johnsonia extend our best wishes to President Donald Trump and his wife Melania, for a speedy recovery from the novel coronavirus. We recognize that President Trump has many risk factors for having a worse case than average, and he may be laid up for quite some time, but yo. Feel better, dude!

Anne Johnson

President, Independent Republic of Johnsonia

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Declaration of Independence, Republic of Johnsonia

 When in the course of human events it becomes obvious that the nation one inhabits has failed to address and respect the well-being of its citizenry, it becomes necessary to declare independence from the same. 

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all human beings are created equal and that they deserve to be considered so throughout their lives. That the planet, being the only place these people are able to live, should be revered and protected. And that leaders should concern themselves solely with the prosperity of their citizens and the preservation of the planet.

The current governing bodies of the United States of America, including its president, are deficient in all these respects. Therefore, we the citizens of *** ******* Ave., Haterfield, NJ, do hereby declare independence from the United States of America.

We do this because our wishes as citizens of the United States of America have been belittled and overlooked for too long, and we see that this state of affairs will get far worse in the years to come.

Therefore, this Declaration of Independence will go into effect on 1st October 2020. We pick this date because it's easy to remember.

Our nation will be called the Independent Republic of Johnsonia. May it never perish until its founders do, and after that we don't particularly care.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

An Equinox That Isn't

 This is that moment in the year when light and dark are equal. We look to it for a sense of balance.

But the dark is ascendant now, and I find that the dark is so ascendant that it is threatening my health and life.

I'm talking about COVID-19, of course, which a lady of a certain age must be mindful about. I am also talking about the absolutely dire turn of events brought about by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

I cannot find balance. I cannot find equanimity.

A few weeks ago, so overcome by stress was I that I could not eat and could hardly breathe.  I said to myself, "I wonder what this is doing to me on a cellular level?" I haven't looked it up in a scientific journal, but I'm pretty much certain the answer is "Big Fucking Damage."

Therefore, I must turn off the television and listen no more.

Of course I will vote - I've never missed a presidential election. But I have to look away.

The very people I ridiculed so blithely in this blog when I began it are seizing power using any means necessary. They are succeeding. Can we infer that their Prayer Warriors have moved jealous Yahweh? Or do we owe this moment to the oligarchs?

I may be insulated from the worst damage by living in a blue state and by being past my prime. But my daughters ...

See? My mind misgives.

Therefore I am hereby declaring my 1/4 acre of land to be the Independent Republic of Johnsonia. The citizens of Johnsonia will not concern themselves with the affairs of other nations.

We will release our Constitution at a later date.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

24 Hours, 9 Emotions

 *5:25 p.m. September 18, 2020

Had chili for supper. It was good. (Satisfaction)

*6:25 p.m.

Splayed into recliner, too tired to join Mr. J on a simple walk around the neighborhood. Promptly fell asleep in chair. (Exhaustion)

*8:25 p.m.

Awakened by daughter The Fair. Looked at t.v. RBG dead at 87. Went from sleeping to full freakout in 20 seconds. (Panic)


Total freakout mode, panic attack, predicting the end of the nation as we know it. (Panic)


Congratulating self on not drinking the cooking wine, but did take a sleeping pill. (Fortitude)

*5:25 a.m. September 19, 2020

Nightmare that my daughter's car was stolen. (Fear)

*6:25 a.m.

Feeling a strong urge to engage in a fracas with fascists, knowing that there is a Proud Boy rally scheduled in Philadelphia at 1:00 p.m. (Fury)

*7:25 a.m.

Persuaded by spouse to abstain from rioting in the city. (Disappointment)

*9:25 a.m.

Bought some flowers at the farmer's market. Asked for a funeral bouquet. (Sadness)

*10:25 a.m.

Bought and drank some fresh cider and had an apple cider donut at the Berlin Farmer's Market (different from aforementioned farmer's market above) ... (Satisfaction)

*11:25 a.m.

Stood with my back to the Trump merchandise booth in Berlin so the vendors could see my Gritty cross stitch jacket and Black Lives Matter pin. Stood there awhile. Then a little longer. Then sauntered away. (Fury)

*12:25 p.m.

Sat in the sun wondering what it must have felt like in the USA the morning the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Told self it must have been worse than the death of Notorious RBG. Then told self that the attack on Pearl Harbor brought out the best in Americans, while the death of RBG will probably bring out the worst. (Pensive)

*1:25 p.m.

Saw Trump's tweet that he would seat another judge on the Supreme Court because that was what he was elected to do. Replied: "Say it louder so the moderates in the back can hear you." (Fury)

*2:25 p.m.

Got a package of new clothes and they all fit. Talked to The Fair, who is on a hike with a new gentleman caller. (Dim happiness)


Back to the recliner to read about the Proud Boys event I was dissuaded from attending. Reports indicated that over 500 residents of Philadelphia turned out to counter-protest, and if the Proud Boys even showed up at all they retreated like egg-sucking dogs without being seen. (Satisfaction)

*5:25 p.m.

Still sitting in recliner, writing blog post, wondering why my words aren't historical enough for the Smithsonian, wondering if I'll die of COVID seeing as how I have hired a Goddess who presides over the death of women. Wishing I had asked my parents how they felt when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. (Sadness)

Monday, September 14, 2020

Artemis Brauronia Reports for Duty

 I've interviewed quite a number of bored deities over the 15 year span of "The Gods Are Bored." I've had chats with my great-great-grandmother and heard stories from Anansi the Spider. But never have I ever needed a Goddess more than at this present time.

Funny thing is, when I need a Goddess to perform a specific task, I often get help from the Graeco-Roman deities. And that is what has happened just now.

Some people have ecstatic religious experiences where a God or Goddess reveal themselves after long periods of preparation, devotion and study.

Me, I open my monthly Patreon mailing from Thalia Took.

For a very modest donation, the talented Ms. Took will send you a Goddess card every month in the mail. I have amassed quite a stack.

Last week I came home from the first day of school, and there sat an envelope that was clearly from Ms. Took. Being a super religious and deeply studied individual, I said to myself, "Whatever Goddess is in this envelope will be my protector in the COVID trenches."

Wouldn't you know, there were three cards in the envelope! I think Thalia missed a few monthly messages.

Thank all the bored deities of all the pantheons I already had Thalia's Hel card! Because there was another Hel card in there -- I would have curled up in a ball and cried. But since I already had a Hel card, I could pass Her along to the stack. Whew!

The second Goddess was Korean. I wasn't feeling Her. Now that I've said that, I'm determined to have Her in for an interview, because I don't want to feel like I'm discriminating against Asian deities.

The third Goddess was Artemis Brauronia.


Artemis Brauronia is the Goddess Artemis as She was worshiped in the ancient Greek city of Brauronia. In that city's festivals, young girls would go through stages in a ritual that at times required them to dress like bear cubs and at other times required them to wear saffron-colored robes. It was a coming-of-age thing, so to speak.

The minute I laid eyes on Artemis Brauronia, I knew She was the perfect Goddess for my current needs. I mean, look at that intense gaze, that saffron robe, that gentle cradling of a baby creature! And wowsa, is She ever bored! Her chunk of the Acropolis is all that's left of Her influence. She's keen for an assignment as challenging as keeping an older school teacher safe from a novel plague!

I have taken my image of Artemis Brauronia in to my school and installed her at my right hand, literally. I even went to the thrift store and got a beautiful jeweled frame so She will be protected from the mice and the elements.

In the past I have called on Queen Brighid the Bright in times of need. But there's something so much more intense and fierce about Artemis. Right now I feel like I need a fighter in my corner. Here's another Thalia Took image of Artemis that I just love:


Nobody's going to mess with this Goddess. Nope.

Now, for those of you who Take Your Religion Seriously Thank You Very Much, don't look askance at me. It's a grand hillbilly tradition to stick your hand into a deck of cards and draw one out as an omen. It's just the way mountain people do things. You get an envelope and you need some help? Might be something in the envelope, if you intend it to be so.

I intended it to be so, and Artemis Brauronia has arrived to help me through these troubled times.

Monday, September 07, 2020

Labor Day 2020

 Dear Pandemic Diary,

Today is Labor Day, and on every other Labor Day since 2008 I have marched in the Philadelphia AFL-CIO Labor Day parade. One year I made the march (about a mile and a half) one week before a total hip replacement. That's where I got this bag.

Last year it was hot as ever loving fuck. I think I got a touch of heat stroke. But even that was better than sitting on my front porch doing yet another virtual holiday on the computer. One can only click the heart button so many times, you know?

And speaking of virtual, my new life as a virtual school teacher begins on Tuesday. I had all last week to prepare ... except not really, because the district scheduled 3 hours of meetings a day, and on Friday they had a 90 minute meeting about taking attendance. Therefore I did not get the kinks ironed out of the dodgy technology they gave me to use. It worked on Thursday, but not on Friday. So I'm not going to trust it on Tuesday.

The district offered us the opportunity to come in on Labor Day to prepare. To which I say

I. Will. Never. Work. On. Labor. Day.

United we bargain, divided we beg.

Saturday, September 05, 2020

Pandemic Jean Jacket Done!

 I should have been out walking. I should have been working on my memoir. Instead I slid into the comfort of cross stitch, a talent my dear grandmother gave me back in the 1970s.

Mr. J gave me a jean jacket for my birthday. A nice one. And then, just a week afterward, we were in lockdown.

So I went to work.


I actually got permission to use this design from its creator.

It says "No Grit No Glory." The green strip just above the bottom is my name, with a snowflake. More about the Phoenix in a moment.

After I finished Gritty, I thought, "It would be really cool to make this jacket monster-themed." And that's what I did.


I'll bet some of y'all remember this hot rod mascot from the 1960s. This is an iron-on patch, and I must say they adhere better than they did in the past. Technology isn't totally a waste. To the left of Rat Fink you'll see more snowflakes. They are buttons I sewed down the front.


Iron on patches are kind of cheating, but I could never have done this amazing Phoenix on my own, on a jean jacket. I have plans to add some words above it, but other projects come first.


I really enjoyed working on Mothman. Above him is my WVresist button I got from the Women's March on Washington and my "My Heart, My Soul, and My Grave Are In Appalachia" pin. Under the arm is a pin that says "Tax the Rich."


My daughter The Heir drew the murder hornet. It is straight-up embroidery. Above it is a pin featuring Otter the River God (long story), and a Jersey Fresh pin. Cthulhu is a patch. And I've never been able to spell his name without looking it up.


So this jawn has pins and more pins on it. In no particular order, Union Yes, NJEA PAC, BLACK LIVES MATTER, SEPARATE CHURCH AND STATE, and the others previously mentioned.

When my daughter The Fair was snapping these photos, we totally forgot to take a picture of the Flying Spaghetti Monster patch I sewed on the back at the top.

There's one last monster, and it's the absolute worst of all.


This says, and I quote, "Any protesters, anarchists, agitators, losers or lowlifes who are going to OKLAHOMA please understand you will not be treated like you have been in NEW YORK, SEATTLE, or MINNEAPOLIS. It will be a MUCH DIFFERENT SCENE."

Followed by the monster's name, the date, and #notmypresident.

Counted cross stitch and embroidery had gone by the wayside, being considered an obsolete granny-driven art form based on platitudes and pretty flowers. But a new generation has taken it up and given it a whole new direction. I'm so glad, because it never would have occurred to me to bend such a floofy hobby to novel ends.

I haven't done this one myself yet, but it's on the radar. Don't you love it?

And fuck the Smithsonian Institution too. To me this post screams "pandemic diary."

Friday, September 04, 2020

The Only Thing Worse Is Death

 If I could inflict a punishment on Donald Trump, I would make him a public school teacher. Yes, that's exactly what I would do.

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

How Do I Do a Magic Spell against Donald Trump?

 Hello and welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" My name is Anne, and today I'm going to be talking to all of you who put this question into a Google search and found me here in my throne room. Not gonna beat around the bush here: If you can't imagine another four years of Donald Trump, you can help defeat him. You can do magic, beautiful you!

Before you doubters say, "How is one little person going to shift the tide of an election?" This is akin to saying, "How come people who do magic don't win the lottery?" You can't beat Trump all on your own. But you can add to the spirit and magical currents already out there. You're not alone in wanting him to lose, and you're not alone in working magic toward that end.

You don't need to know anything and everything about magic to practice it. I'll keep specifically to this topic: using magic against Donald Trump.

First, protect yourself! Don't do magic aimed at killing him! You just want him out of office, not off the planet. I personally don't believe that hexing people in extreme ways has a karmic backlash, but I think that level of spell isn't necessary here. You want him gone, not dead.

And it's so simple.

Magic is all about symbolism. It's about taking an everyday object and charging it to stand for more than itself.

The easiest spell you can do to thwart Donald Trump is a freezer spell. You will need:

1. A Ziploc freezer bag, and

2. A piece of Trump gear -- baseball cap, t-shirt, campaign literature, or even just a picture of him.


1. Cut the object into strips using a scissors. As you do, say, "Scattered forces win no wars."

2. Put the strips in the freezer bag and place the bag on the bottom shelf of a freezer, preferably underneath some really cold stuff. Say, "I freeze the support for Donald Trump."

It's that easy.

Now, maybe you live in a household full of Trump faithful who might find your spell in the freezer and ask you to explain yourself. In that case, hide a few strips at a time in your pockets or a backpack. Whenever you pass a trash can, throw one of the strips into it, saying, "Scattered forces win no wars." Do this until all of your strips are gone. Don't put them all into the same trash can! You want to scatter them.

I'm not encouraging you to buy Trump merchandise at a retail price. And be really careful about stealing it from your pro-Trump buddies. You want to make sure no one misses it! I got my MAGA t-shirt at the thrift store for two bucks. It has been in the freezer for over a year.

Some magic spells are incredibly complicated, but as I said, you don't have to be a PhD to take part in a righteous battle for the soul of America. You just need to want to do it, like so many of your fellow citizens.

So, go do magic, beautiful you! Add your intentions to the wide and deep spiritual ocean that stands opposed to this dangerous despot and his cronies.

Friday, August 28, 2020

It Didn't Take Long

 My gut told me not to do it, but it's so hard to leave good money on the table when you're a teacher in the summertime.

So I went to a professional development meeting of 2 days duration in a room with 8 other teachers and a consultant.

I took my own hand sanitizer and never removed my mask while there. I didn't share pens or eat in the room, which was air conditioned to near-freezing.

We had ample room to social distance.

Ten days after the meeting, I got a notice from my district that a teacher who was there tested positive. Ten days. No contact tracing in all that time.

I had no symptoms, so I decided to ride it out.

Wednesday the 26th was the two-week marker for this event. Some of the other teachers got tested, but no one else tested positive.

This was 8 teachers. I can hardly wait for September 1, when I will be reunited with the other 60 teachers at my school. On September 8, students start arriving.

It's easy to be hyper-aware when you're bored and cold and well spaced. What about when you have 10,000 things to do, it's hot and humid, and you haven't seen your pals since March?

Well, at least I know that masks work. But now I have to buy plain-colored ones. I'm so bummed. I had a friend make me some beautiful weird ones. Can't use them.

Please continue to petition the Gods and Goddesses for me and all public school teachers. As far as Covid goes, I think it's when and not if.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Coronavirus Navel Gaze: I'm Scared, I Tell Ya. Scared.

 I woke up this morning and realized that two weeks from today I will be going back to work as a public school teacher in a district serving low-income, minority students.

I'm terrified.

Of course I am afraid of catching the virus, but it's not just that.

I'm 61 and I am tasked with teaching 14-year-olds online (from my classroom!) so that they don't fall behind their peers academically. Never mind that my students are already two or three years behind their peers. It's my job to catch them up.

It's my job to compete with PlayStation, TikTok, Discord, Netflix, and Instagram (to name a few) and to inspire young teens to read and write in plain Google docs. And get this: The students in my district have to log in at 7:34 a.m. and go through their whole school day online as if they were in class. What do you think Period 1 will be like? What do you think Period 9 will be like?

*I can't use Personal Choice reading, the backbone of my curriculum, because the students can't touch the books.

*Any literature I use will have to be in the public domain.

*Any YouTube I want to use must be approved by my supervisor. Even a one-minute clip. All approvals must be done individually.

*I will not see my students except as little thumbnails on a Google Meet.

A majority of my students will be baby-sitting younger siblings, who will also be learning online. There will be no "pods" for my kids, no tutors to help them in small groups. They can't afford it.

Anyone who has done it will tell you that great teachers are more or less performers, entertaining the audience and also providing emotional support and personal interaction with each student. How can I do this online? I don't even like talking on the phone, let alone on Zoom.

At age 48 I had to pivot into teaching because I lost my job. I can't pivot again. In any other profession I would be almost ready to retire. Instead I have to work another 9 years. I will be 71 when I submit my papers. If I live to do it.

Usually in late August I'm pleasantly looking forward to meeting 70 new young people and learning about them through their class work and their reading choices. This year it feels like that dreaded First Year of Teaching that shows no mercy and takes no prisoners.

Oh yeah, and Covid. People have already tested positive in the building.

Anyone have any ideas about how to make this work? Bueller?

Saturday, August 08, 2020

Tired of Rejection Slips, I Fight Back

 Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," coming to you more than 250 times a year for 15 years and counting! I'm Anne Johnson, and I have been some places and done some things. Lots and lots and LOTS of things.

Every morning I read the New York Times front to back. A few months ago I saw an article about the Smithsonian Institution soliciting "pandemic diaries." It was a gushy article about how the S.I. wants the experiences of ordinary Americans.

"Well," thought I. "I have been writing about the quarantine AND I have written about everything else going on since 2005 on 'The Gods Are Bored.'"

The Times article did not include a helpful link to where one could apply to be in the Smithsonian. So I researched and researched. Finally I found an email address that I thought would do the trick. I introduced myself, described "The Gods Are Bored," and said it includes entries about the quarantine.

I got an automatic reply that indicated my email had found its mark. So I waited.

Yesterday I heard back from a Dr. Lord, Smithsonian Institution. After careful review, my contribution was deemed unworthy of the august museum.

At my age I thought I'd seen my last rejection. But flick the ol' Smithsonian right on top of the pile ... if you can find the top. I'll lend you a ladder.

Have you ever been treated the same way for so long that you respond to the current case as if all the other cases could be avenged in that one brief moment?

Long story short, I replied to Dr. Lord. To whit:

"Hi Dr. Lord, thank you for getting back to me. I know that every human being alive thinks they have created something worthy of historic preservation. I have done it. Since 2005 I have written a blog called "The Gods Are Bored." It includes political satire, personal experiences (I live near Philadelphia, I protest frequently), and commentary on current events. I'm not unwashed and untutored. I graduated from Johns Hopkins University, Phi Beta Kappa. I know how to turn a phrase and report on historical events. Okay, I'm not Samuel Pepys, but he wasn't Samuel Pepys when he started out. If you have a list of blogs that document life in the United States of America, my blog ought to be there."

Tsk tsk, I didn't hide my light under a bushel, did I? Oh well, like I said, it was a comeback that reflects all the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, from that first short story I sent with an SASE (self-addressed, stamped envelope) to a small literary magazine in 1980, to the unannounced classroom observation by the vice principal at my school last spring. One can only be dismissed with a flick of the wrist so many times.

Dr. Lord suggests I contact my local historical society to see if they would be interested in my oeuvre. That would be Snobville/Haterfield. What do you think? Yeah. Me too.

I'll bet they didn't keep my sign from the Women's March either. Hmph. My tax dollars at work.

Monday, August 03, 2020

Prayers and Petitions To End the Presidency of Donald J. Trump

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," Hurricane Isaias Edition! Ah, 2020! Not even gonna ask if it can get worse.

Yeah, so we're in the bulls-eye for a tropical storm. Earlier this year we had a straight-line-wind event that cost me the ancient oak under which I worshiped. Weather, murder hornets, seeds from China, pandemics ... Gaia is pissed. Yep.

As anyone who has eyeballs and the ability to read the English language knows, I detest Donald Trump. I detested him in 1985 and detest him tenfold now.

What happens when citizens hate and fear their leader? They petition their Gods to dethrone the chump and send him to the landfill.

Did you see that despicable moment when the Orange Menace ordered the use of tear gas to disperse a peaceful protest in order to heft a Bible in front of a church for a photo op? I did, and I about flipped my lid. We Pagans have been experiencing "Tower Time" for a while, and this seemed to be one of those moments when the Tower lost another six feet of foundation.

(For those of you unfamiliar with Tower Time, it's an event that features the crumbling of norms and a shifting of realities, both mystically and in the apparent world.)

While watching the Menace grand-standing with his book, I took to social media and said something like, "All you Christians, your children are watching this, and they are going to be looking for a whole new religion, where shit like this doesn't happen."

I got a huffy reply from one of my closest local friends, to whit: "Not all Christians support this horrible man!"

And I replied: "Well, they might as well, when he does something like this." And it's true.

Fast forward a few fraught months of pandemic, and my local friend sent me a message that she would be in my neighborhood and would like to stop by. I am blessed with a gigantic front porch, so I fluffed the rocking chair cushion and rolled out the red carpet. She visited this week.

Of course most of what we talked about was the election. But the conversation took an interesting turn.


Friend: Oh yes, I have a Christian friend, and she is very, very devout. She knows her Bible front-to-back and quotes it frequently. She goes to a prayer group every Saturday morning, and all they pray for is the defeat of Donald Trump.

Anne: What a coincidence! I know any number of Pagans who are working on the same thing, But we're not doing it in such a nice way as a prayer circle. We're howling at the moon and building bonfires and pouring libations and making freezer spells.

Friend: What's a freezer spell?

Anne: Never mind.

Friend: Well, the important thing is that good Christians are opposing Donald Trump and will be voting against him.

Of course that is important. If some Christians don't oppose Donald Trump, he'll be re-elected by a landslide. But I stand by my original social media post. Those church ladies sitting in a circle on Saturday morning and praying for Trump to be booted to the curb in November are doing a righteous thing. However, they are not doing everything they can do, or even a modicum of what they should be doing.

Trump will go, one way or another, and the "evangelical base" will remain. It's a voting bloc, and I can assure you that it would never listen to a Pagan perspective. The only people who can curb the evangelical base is other devout Christians. And they aren't doing it. They're sitting in their well-appointed cathedrals on Sunday, singing "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" and listening to center/left sermons. Oh yes, they vote. But how many of them, when given the choice between a radical left wing candidate and a radical Christian zealot, will choose the r.l.w. candidate? It's a toss-up. Maybe not even.

My friend fails to see the danger for her faith going forward. Her own son is an atheist ... but would he be if he heard Other Voices in Other Rooms?

Listen, you heard it here first: When your faith group behaves in a way that brings harm to others and to the planet, you best get in there and do some in-house discipline. I don't see mainstream Christians having the spines to take this step. And when you don't take this step, when you tsk tsk and pray in a little circle of close friends, you inherit the wind. Your children will look elsewhere for spiritual guidance, or they won't look at all.

Altar Call: If you find the Christian church and its jealous God morally and spiritually bankrupt, fling Witch Annie a comment! You have choices. Can you feel them in the air? Yeah, we call that Tower Time.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Gritty's People Are Amazing

Hello from "The Gods Are Bored" on this day that begins with Y! Don't ask me which day it is. There will be time for that in late August.

Every now and then I do something that I know isn't right, but I do it anyway. This makes me human.

A few months ago Mr. J gave me a jean jacket for my birthday. It's not one I would have chosen myself, being kind of heavy and clunky. But pish tosh, I'm not looking a gift horse in the mouth! I decided to make the jacket more appealing by covering it with embroidery and cross stitch and patches and pins.

So I went to Etsy, and I searched "Gritty Cross Stitch," and the most badass Gritty cross stitch came up. Sadly, it was for a finished cross-stitch made by the artist. There was no offer of the stitch chart by itself, which -- if you do cross stitch you know -- is a necessary element of the proceedings.

I loved that Gritty, though. I loved it so much I downloaded the photo and drew my own chart.

"Now Anne," you say. "That's copyright violation!"


Yes, it is theft of intellectual property, and I felt sorely bad about it. How would I feel if some up-and-coming humorist cribbed this blog for pithy sayings?

Before I mustered enough guilt to message the creator on Etsy, the entry was gone. Gritty had been pulled!

But all was not lost. There's a badass page on Facebook called "Gritty Memes for Philly Teens" which of course features Gritty in all his Anti-fascist glory. Lo and behold, someone posted iron-on patches that use the same Gritty as the cross-stitch.

I left a comment on the post: Are you the artist of this Gritty?

No, the poster was not the artist, but she knew the artist and gave me the artist's name.

I sent a private message to the Gritty artist, to whit: "Hi, I used your Gritty design on my jean jacket, and I feel like I ought to give you $---. Do you have a PayPal account?"

Two days later, I got a reply.


Oh, readers. Sometimes the world gives you bliss. Especially if you are a disciple of Gritty.

Now I can proudly wear my Gritty! And if the slogan around him was a bit unnerving to you, well, it was to me too. Here's my jacket:


Best part is, Gritty gave my jacket a theme; namely, monsters. I have since added a Flying Spaghetti Monster patch, a Cthulhu patch, I'm halfway through a Moth Man cross-stitch, and I put a nasty Donald Trump tweet on the side with the hashtag #notmypresident.

Monsters. All monsters. The word of Gritty for the people of Gritty, thanks be to Gritty.

Friday, July 17, 2020

The Magic Boost

My friends, I sit here every day doing more or less the same thing, which is next-to-nothing. My state is open, but I don't go anywhere except the grocery store and the pharmacy.

That will change when September rolls around. I will be expected to report to my classroom. There have been no plans revealed about what that classroom capacity will be and how my students and I will be protected from the novel coronavirus.

Having worked in a school for 15 years, I'm here to tell you it's a swirling miasma of contagion. In January, just before Covid, I had a virus that had me coughing for weeks. My English department colleagues all caught it too.

I listen to the news obsessively, so I know what I can do to protect myself: masks, hand-washing, face shield, hand sanitizer, don't touch face, social distancing. I'm prepared to do all of that.

But one never wants to leave any tool on the table, so I have turned to magic for a boost in my protection. Magic doesn't replace the mundane safety measures, but it can enhance them.

If you're looking for a good place to start learning about a magical practice, I highly recommend John Beckett's new online course Operative Magic. John is a Druid and a very reasonable, approachable person. His course is six sessions, homework optional (mostly to get his very helpful feedback). John gives a nicely-done history of magic, the philosophy of magic, and then concrete information on how to create a spell. The course is $50, which I call money well spent. I only have one session left to complete, so I've gotten a good view of it.

There are also two books I will recommend if you feel any affinity for organic magic stemming from Appalachian traditions. The first is Staubs and Ditchwater by Byron Ballard. Byron is a hedge witch working as a Pagan. The other book is Backwoods Witchcraft by Jake Richards. Jake works through the Christian tradition, which is to be expected -- generations and generations and generations of Appalachians have been Christians. But what's interesting about Backwoods Witchcraft is how ancient and British Isles it feels. Both of these books show you how to do spells using items you have all around you in your house and yard.

Skeptics might say, "Why turn to magic? Isn't that just a bunch of superstition?"

My answer is, "Why not? And what you might call 'superstition' I call 'covering the mystical bases.'"

This pandemic is the most dangerous existential threat to my existence since I was a blithe teenager doing stupid, reckless stuff. I'm not leaving tools on the table. That would be foolish.

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

When the Battle's Lost and Won

In the freezing cold, in the relentless heat, in the broad daylight and darkest night, people have been protesting new natural gas pipelines all over the place. And after being arrested and tear-gassed and shot at and half-starved, they have won.

On June 5 came news that the infamous Dakota Access Pipeline and the contemptible Dominion Energy's Atlantic Coast Pipeline are both now in no-go mode.

Oh frabjous day, calloo callay!

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline project cancellation is particularly welcome, in that the Supreme Court ruled quite recently that Dominion Energy could put the damn thing under the Appalachian Trail and through two national forests. But the company had already thrown tons and tons of ducats at legal fees and was facing yet more environmental impact statements.

What kind of name is "Dominion Energy" anyway? Sounds like something that would be run by Galactus or Magneto. Fuck domination! You wanna put your pipeline under the Appalachian Trail? I can tell you better places to put it. To shove it, actually.

The Dakota Access pipeline is better known because it runs through Native American lands and is strongly opposed by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. This pipeline had been ordered to shut by President Obama in late 2016, but then the Orange Menace got elected and ordered the damn thing back into business.

But much of what the Menace has done to scuttle Obama's legacy has been done so stupidly and shoddily that it doesn't stand up in court. The DAPL is just another of these dumb-ass deals ... same as DACA.

Oil and natural gas are finite resources. Extracting them is costly and damaging to the environment. Wind and solar are infinite resources with much less environmental impact -- and it's not like these industries don't need workers!

Of course some fat cats won't rest until the last drop of oil is potentially sucked from the fossilized ground, but there is some dim hope that gas and oil are becoming as passe as land line phones.

And this hillbilly right here is rejoicing that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline won't wreak its devastation under the Shenandoah National Forest, the Monongahela National Forest, the Appalachian Trail, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and even the Chesapeake Bay. For the love of all the Gods and Goddesses, busy and bored, can we just leave those mountains alone?

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

How To Build an Outdoor Pagan Shrine

Here's a timely little post for all of you who are basically stuck on your own little plot of land. Which  should be all of us right now. So weep not for your lost freedom! Today I'm going to tell you how to build a backyard shrine!

The dictionary defines a shrine as "any structure or place consecrated or devoted to some saint, holy person, or deity." Any religion qualifies! Or none at all. I've seen shrines to Elvis in Baltimore. Shrines can be very comforting -- places to meditate, commune with the deities, Ancestors, and Nature Spirits. They need not be large. Here is mine:

You can see a conch shell on there that helps for sizing.

Looks so complicated, but trust me. I have no building skills. You can do this, fabulous you!

When I decided to build a shrine in my yard, I did what every sensible modern person would do: I Googled "backyard shrine" in the Images tab. Of course all the photos are of Catholic shrines, but hey. Go ahead and appropriate. The Catholics sure did.

So when I looked for an image, this lil puppy showed up:

My shrine is not this high or wide, but it's built on this principle.

First I put down a sheet of plastic, so that weeds wouldn't grow up through the shrine. This really works, and it doubles as a nursery for mosquitoes. Hey, bats gotta eat! If you don't like mosquitoes, skip this step.

Next I gathered up bricks I already had in my yard, including some of those nice pavers. I laid them in a semi-circle. Then I went to the landscape store and bought a flagstone and two bags of gravel. Put the flagstone in the semi-circle and poured the gravel around it. This is what it looked like at that step:

As you can see, it was Samhain when this photo was snapped. You could easily stop right after this step and have a tidy and wonderful shrine.

Me, I had some extra ambitions.

I grew up on Polish Mountain, as had seven generations of Johnsons. I miss that mountain like a lost lover. So I drove to Polish Mountain and loaded my trunk with rocks from the mountainside. I took one really nice flat stone from behind my great-grandfather's house to use as an Anchor Stone. I also dug out some little pieces of crumbly shale to put over top of the generic gravel. I placed these mountain stones over and around the bricks. No mortar. No cement.

Voila! Done.

Except this is just the beginning. This is where you really begin to personalize your shrine, so that it is pleasing to your Gods and your ancestors and the spirits of your place.

You can see that my shrine looks bright and shiny. That's because I went to the beach and collected white pebbles and sea glass to put on it. (There are sea shells too.) I put marbles on there, and crystals, semi-precious stones, trinkets, Mardi Gras beads from the Mummers Parade, silk flowers from the Fairy Festival, and souvenir rocks from hikes. Please note: If there are signs on your hike that say "Don't take the rocks," don't take the rocks! You don't want a sneaky shrine.

A shrine should be fluid. You put new things on it and take the worn-out things off. You re-arrange the rocks and add seasonal garnishes.

Once a year I gather up all the shiny stuff and give it a good bath. Last year when I was doing it, my phone fell into the bucket of water and was in there for awhile before I noticed it was gone. I pulled it out of the water, and it started right up. Not a single problem. When you seek to honor entities on a shrine, They will appreciate it.

When it's not too windy or too dry, I light a candle on my shrine at night. On the solstices (weather permitting) I let the candles burn overnight or for 24 hours. I use jar candles and hurricane globes that I buy at the thrift store. On Samhain I always put a jack-o-lantern on my shrine.

I tend this shrine gently almost every day and do my devotions there on full and dark moons, on holy days, and when I need to petition the Gods, Ancestors, and Nature Spirits.

You know what's the most brilliant thing about my shrine? It's portable. I can pick it up and move it anywhere. No mortar, no cement.

So ... you've got a little piece of ground and a lot of time on your hands, right? Building a shrine is the perfect way to spend a long afternoon outdoors! Go forth and give it a try! And share your results with me. I would love to see them.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Okay, I'm Prejudiced

One of the pleasures of summer vacation is my ability to sit out on my front porch with my breakfast and the paper edition of the New York Times. Usually I position my chair so that I can't see the monstrous rich-people houses across the street.

But over the weekend The Heir and The Fair both came for Father's Day, and we all sat out on the porch (it's big) at a social distance. So my favorite chair is still turned so it faces sideways, and I can see across the street.

This morning, as I was taking my tea, I saw the 3-year-old across the street shove down his pajama pants, whip out his junk, and piss on the flower bed. Now, I know, kids will be kids. But there were two adults on the porch, and they ignored the kid and just let his actions pass without any comment.

Yeah, kids will be kids. But there are fucking 5 bathrooms in that house. How far from the front door can one of them be?

When I notice at all, I am aware that a certain permissiveness pervades both new households across the street, but especially the one where the kid was watering the flowers.

Again -- little boys (never girls ... need I say more?) sometimes do such things. And adults can be indulgent. But they should have said something. I mean, gently?

But this is symbolic of what this little white boy with 5 bathrooms is going to grow up to be. He won't have to challenge authority, because he will be the authority. What he wants to do, he'll do. He's yet another Future Kavanaugh of America.

And yes, I am deeply prejudiced against his family. I hear the parents work hard. If they do, it's not in a meat-packing plant.

Oh yeah, it was the kid's 3rd birthday last week, and the parents paid to have their whole front porch swathed in balloons, some of which came loose and wound up in my yard. No big deal, right? Except shouldn't they pick up after themselves? Do you let your trash blow across your neighbor's yards?

Eat. The. Rich.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Summer Solstice 2020

The longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere means that now the wheel will turn, and we begin our descent into the darkness.

And this time, we need to rage against the dying of the light, because there is important work to do. Work that requires energy.

There's a great evil afoot in the land. It's bigger than Trump. It's the Earth herself crying out against the destruction wrought by thinking apes.

It's time to ward our houses and tend our gardens. As you work on your land, say the following petition:

"I'm doing this for Gaia. I'm doing this to counter the evil afoot in the land."

So now you're saying, "But Anne. I don't have a garden!"

A house plant in a pot counts as a garden. Anything that grows from dirt counts as a garden. Even a sky plant is a garden!

We've got to tend the Land. It's practical and symbolic. The more growing things we cultivate, the more oxygen goes into the sky. Every dandelion counts. Grass counts too -- just ask Walt Whitman.

Go to ground. Go to Gaia.

Solstice energy.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

So Done with "Benefit of the Doubt"

I have always wanted to believe the best about people. Give them the benefit of the doubt, so to speak.

So when Donald Trump was elected president, shortly after I emerged from the Well of Despair, I said to myself, "Maybe he'll rise to the occasion and be a dignified chief executive."

BAMP! Wrong.

And then I thought to myself, "Well, maybe he'll stop holding those loathsome, hateful rallies."

BAMP! Wrong.

And then I thought, "Well, he's such an embarrassment, the rest of the Republican Party will not support him."

BAMP! Wrong.

Then the coronavirus began to spread, and I said to myself, "Well, this would be a challenge for any president. You can't blame him for floundering a little."

BAMP! Wrong.

So after he was caught off guard (having disbanded a pandemic task force he inherited from the previous administration), he has not only never caught up, he is now actively promoting further infection.

If I die of this virus, let it always be said of Anne: She was murdered in cold blood by Donald Trump.

My faith in human nature has been torched. Not giving the benefit of the doubt any more.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Mosquito Massacre

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" You've tried swatting them, you've tried screening them out, you've cursed and reviled them. I'm talking about the state bird of so many states -- the mosquito.

Who hasn't had a lovely summer evening ruined by these pesky pests?

I went hiking in a salt marsh once and got swarmed. But I was prepared with long sleeves, one of those screen hats, and long pants stuffed into boots. Still it was unnerving.

And now these little winged brutes carry Zika virus. It's really dangerous for pregnant women.

The other day I heard a motorized din. I looked across the street and saw a pest control service spraying the shrubs and lawn of one of those despicable McMansions. The sign on the truck said MOSQUITO/TICK PROTECTION.

This morning at 9:00 the same din sounded again, this time next door: MOSQUITO/TICK PROTECTION. I looked out the window, and there was a guy with no face mask, just showering the shrubs and house with pesticide.

I might have expected this from the pampered one percenters across the street, but I was pretty shocked to see my next-door neighbors, who have always shared my laissez-faire attitude about plant life, doing the same.

Readers, there is such a dearth of insect life in my yard now that I am beyond alarmed. My lawn is all-over speckled with clover flowers. Not a single bee. I have native wildflowers in full bloom in my micro-meadow. Not a single pollinator. No grasshoppers. No beetles. No June bugs and moths beating against the porch light when I sit outside. No little white butterflies.

No mosquitoes.

Are there any benefits to mosquitoes and ticks? Only if you care about the food chain.

Putting aside their gastronomic choices, bats eat mosquitoes. The fewer mosquitoes, the fewer bats. Possums eat ticks. I know, I know, we could all do without possums. Or could we?

Many serious media outlets have written stern warnings about the catastrophic decline in the number of insects on our planet. This is a huge problem, my friends.

In my childhood long, long ago, the world teemed with bugs. I'm not just talking about the wilds of the mountains. I'm talking about ordinary suburban blocks like the one I live on. I can remember a time, even here in Haterfield, when a lawn full of clover had a pleasant number of bees on it.

Want to bet on the End Times? Encourage all your neighbors to get professional pest control companies to come and spray for mosquitoes. The shrubs in my neighbor's yard are now "protected" from mosquitoes, but they are also "protected" from every other kind of winged thing. I wouldn't trust the wild birds around that stuff. I wouldn't want Gamma Cat rubbing against it. And even though the guy spraying it wasn't masked, I don't want to sit outside with that poison so close to me.

A world without bugs is unsustainable. Our whole ecosystem will crash. Yes, the crawly blood-suckers are annoying and dangerous to the health ... but killing them off will be worse.

Please let me know if you still have an abundance of insects where you live. I am so very alarmed by the lack of them in my world. It's mid-June and I haven't even seen a firefly.

Gods ... I'm going to leave standing water on my property. Bats gotta eat.

Tuesday, June 09, 2020

Black Lives Matter Here at The Gods Are Bored

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," tracking a worsening Disturbance in the Force for quite awhile.

Have you felt it? Like, even before the coronavirus, there's been some deep evil afoot in America. I don't even put it at the feet of Donald Trump. I think he's a symptom. If you were to ask me what's at the root, I would say our cavalier attitude towards climate change is the precipitating factor.

At any rate, I continue to mourn the loss of the champion Black Oak (see below). It has indeed been sawed up and mostly carted away. Friends, I miscalculated its size. It was 6 feet or more in diameter. Standing next to its sawed-off self, it was at least a foot wider than I am tall.

I brought home a box full of sawdust for ritual purposes and a Talking Stick for the Heir, if she wants it. Some of Haterfield's wealthier actually pinned their names to big chunks, "property of" or "save for." Must be nice.

While I've been crying over a tree, my fellow citizens have been marching and protesting about the treatment of African Americans in this country. This is a deep and long-lasting problem, and the advent of cell phones is shining a light on it. Thank the Gods. It's time for a reckoning.

So when the protests began, my daughter The Fair was staying here in Haterfield with me. (The Heir participated in an early march and narrowly missed being tear-gassed.) The Fair feels that white people should financially support the protesters and the Black Lives Matter movement. I don't disagree, but I just see financial support as having a broader scope.

Last summer I asked my readership to help me buy books and school supplies for my classroom. Many of you responded either with money and/or the supplies. I got all the books I needed for the year, paper, and a lavish supply of pencils.

Make no mistake: If you participated in my little fund-raiser, you were saying "Black Lives Matter." You helped young people of color that you never met. This is a holy thing, recognized by the bored Gods and Goddesses of pantheons of color, known and unknown. You are held in the Light by the Orishas. And I am grateful to you for your gesture.

There are many ways, large and small, that we can support our communities of color. Buying books may seem like a small way, but improved literacy -- to my mind at least -- is one way to empower people. Not the only way, but definitely a way.

So again thank you for demonstrating that Black Lives Matter even before any feet hit the street.

Blessed be.