It has been a whirlwind of a week with having a new column in our local newspaper, rebuilding all my websites, and traveling around on the book signing and workshop tour. This original author blog was destroyed (see details below) so we are starting out the new year with all new articles.
It has been brought to my attention by several Facebook friends that I don't share personal stuff very often. I believe that most people don't want to know the intimate details of my life, but I'd like to share a few pictures I took around the sanctuary this week and will try to be more "visible".
The sanctuary referred to is Wind "n" Wood. The name is said altogether, like fish "n" chips or rock "n" roll. We found the property in 2012 and have been developing an organic teaching garden and sanctuary ever since. Our goal is to have several cabins on the property that you can stay in during workshops, intensives, and retreats, and create a non-profit to leave it to future generations of Witches.
It has been quite a week! Chill weather kept us cool at the sanctuary, and the goats kept warm by snuggling up in sunspots. The photo is tiny because if I get any closer to them they will come for pets and hugs and I'll never get a picture of them. You'll notice there are not a lot of pictures this week, and that's because for the past three months my life has been a whirlwind (Tower card in the tarot).
It began with coming out of the broom closet.
Public appearances make me so nervous, but my policy in life is pretty much eyes closed, head first, can't lose. I'm not saying this is an effective policy, but it seems to be my tendency... and so I decide to come out of the broom closet in my very conservative community here in the southern U.S. I really had to. My name is on the almanac and it appeared at our local Books-a-Million, Target, Walmart, and great local Witchy shops like The Parlour in Hot Springs. Presenting a workshop at the Arkansas Pagan Pride brought my name into press releases, and it was simply getting too difficult to hold my tongue.
For the past eight years, I've been trying a social experiment as a way to re-home myself. The theory is that if people in my new location get to know me first, without any labels like Witch or tarot reader, then they will judge me more for who I am than for what may be a frightening label to them.
I've tried to become involved in my local community; doing volunteer work at the Chamber of Commerce or through the Master Gardener program. I've cleaned up ditches, jumped dead batteries, dropped food off to hungry neighbors, cleaned up hiking trails, officiated at weddings and performed clergy services, and joined in - full immersion - into this amazing area of the United States. I never lied to anyone about being a Witch, but I never volunteered any information. As people's suspicions grew and rumors began, I stopped biting my tongue and became very open about my path. The results have been mixed, but the villagers haven't come to the door with pitchforks and torches yet*, and I made some deep friendships along the way.
*Note that my current plan for when the villagers come to riot or burn is to run out the back door, grab my pitchfork and come around to the back of the crowd, blending in while chanting "yeah, get 'em".
Three vending events, hackers & a shake-up.
Finally out of the broom closet, I decide to vend my soap and jewelry at a quartz crystal festival at our local fairgrounds. There won't be many jobs available in my area for the local "Witch" so I decided to just do what I love and trust that the bills will be covered. This was the first vending I have done since 1988! My booth was tiny and I didn't have time to put much together, but I met amazing people. I didn't have a tent, and forgot my table!!! The community was fairly accepting and I had a good time.
Pagan Pride was the following weekend. This time I have a tent, but only short plastic shelves about knee-high for displaying items. I met a lot of incredible people and although I was not well prepared for vending my soaps and jewelry, or for my workshop, all went pretty well and I learned a lot.
Just a day or two after Pagan Pride I fell ill and developed a rash that spread to cover my entire body. I sometimes get rashes when I'm stressed, and I was definitely stressed, but this was beyond the usual. It was so bad I had to go to the doctor, and anyone who knows me will understand that this is my last resort.
Right after Pagan Pride, when my rash began, my websites came under attack. Someone very cunningly accessed my server and scrambled all my Pagan and Witch related websites, but left all the other websites I create untouched. They even scrambled backups of all my Witchy websites, destroying 30 years' worth of writing, pictures, graphics, and entire digital books. PaganPath.com, PracticalWitch.com, ArkansasPagans.com and many others all went down. No user data was compromised, as I have a lot of tricks up my sleeve to protect the information of PaganPath Members and PracticalWitch subscribers and customers. As soon as they broke into one of the inner "walls" I had in place, all user data was dumped to protect my peeps. This is my scorched earth technique! It never occurred to me that someone would specifically attack my content just for the sake of censorship, so I always focused my security measures on protecting my Members and customers. I learned a lot about locking down security for everything and keeping recent backups off-line.
Sure, I knew something was coming when the Tower card kept appearing in my tarot readings, but this?!! A lifetime of work, gone. Already feeling drained from being sick and having every inch of skin itch, losing all my websites was a heavy blow.
The very next weekend I did my first book signing at a local bookstore and met the coolest people! Now I do tarot readings at that bookstore every Saturday, and this helps me stay out of the agoraphobia trap.
The weekend after my first book signing was the third vending event in a row, the Hot Springs Renaissance Faire. This time I have my own tent, tables, and even some lighting and fabric to drape. Lugging everything around and setting up took most of my energy and I was physically drained by the time people started to come to my booth. It was delightful to meet everyone, but I'm afraid that I didn't have my best face forward.
Steroids, protection spells, rest, and a week later I delved head-first into rebuilding the websites. Spending twelve to sixteen hours every day replacing content, re-writing classes and articles from outdated backups (the only backups that were complete were from before 2011).
I looked to the Tower card for insight and remembered that the Tower only crumbles because it wasn't built on a strong foundation or we have outgrown the current state. I was inspired to re-build the websites and my life to be stronger, positive and beneficial.
The rebuilding continues and although this website is up, there are still wrinkles to iron out in the software and design. Because of the way I protect user data, every user on all my websites has to be added back by hand from a written journal. There are tens of thousands of students and members on PaganPath and thousands here on PracticalWitch. It will take me a while so if you are waiting for your login, please be patient.
Rebuilding opened up the opportunity to improve all my writing and launch the Witch Academy.
Like The Practical Witch's Almanac, the PaganPath Academy has been a part of PaganPath.com since 1996, but the website became so huge that it was difficult to provide the proper learning environment. The new Academy is in the last phases of completion as we tidy up the appearance and get everyone's login information added back to the new secure site. Every class has to be re-created from scratch. I'm looking at that as good news and an opportunity to grow. Older articles I've been looking through were not as clear or well written as they could be, and classes were often boring with just reading and then a test. Now the academy has podcasts, videos, interactive chats and forums and more. Even better, now students can become instructors so we can build this educational center together.
This week I'll be traveling to Colorado and I'll try to remember to take pictures to share!