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The Wisdom of the Serpent

The Wisdom of the Serpent Chakra Oracle deck, box, and guidebook

Lots of people (books, blogs, influencers) talk about the chakras in an abstract sense, which makes it difficult to understand and apply in our lives.  Others approach the chakras as some mysterious force, much like gravity, and offer rituals and sacred rites to help us connect with this unseen and hidden aspect of our lives and bodies. 

The Wisdom of the Serpent Chakra Oracle

Cards associated with the Root Chakra

There is, however, an actual connection that can be drawn between the chakras, our behavior, and the characteristics of specific snakes, a connection that makes working with the chakras significantly easier and takes the mystery out of it.  I have created an oracle deck designed with this in mind (I’m also shopping a book on the subject to publishers… it’s been rejected three times but I’m not daunted; J.K. Rowling was rejected twenty times before a publisher took a chance on Harry Potter. If she can do it, so can I). This deck will appeal not only to snake-lovers but to those who are afraid of snakes as well, making snakes much more understandable and their wisdom much more accessible to our daily lives.

About Snakes and Serpent Deities

Cards associated with the Sacral and Solar Plexus Chakras

Snakes have been revered across time and across cultures.  The Ancient Maya worshipped Kukulkan, a serpent deity.  The Ancient Aztecs worshipped Quetzalcoatl, also a serpent deity.  The Asp was the symbol of supreme power in Ancient Egypt.  Cleopatra’s crown had a trio of Asps on it and King Tut’s golden headpiece features the Egyptian Cobra, also known as the Asp.  Still today, the Chinese celebrate the dragon, which is a flying serpent. What is it about snakes that elicits both fear and reverence?

That’s what this deck (and the book… I’ll share more about that in another post) is all about.  In addition to learning about these amazing creatures, their unique characteristics, behaviors, & mythologies, the deck demonstrates how the snake is related to the chakra system, and takes us on a transformative journey that will enable us to, like the snake, shed what no longer serves us.

What It Is Not

Cards associated with the Heart and Throat Chakras

This is NOT about kundalini or kundalini awakening.  There are plenty of resources about that and it is far more complicated and potentially dangerous than most people realize.  Kundalini is work that should be done with a master who is experienced at guiding others through the Kundalini enlightenment process.  That is not me nor is it this deck’s focus.  Instead, this is a deck about specific snakes, how their unique behaviors, characteristics, and mythologies align with the energies of specific chakras, and how knowledge of those behaviors, characteristics, and mythologies can help us better understand chakra energy and use the tools they offer to heal and balance our chakras. Each card in the deck also offers practical strategies that enable us to balance our body’s energy and rise above our challenges.

A Simplified Overview

Cards associated with the Third Eye and Crown Chakras

The Wisdom of the Serpent Chakra Oracle explains the chakras in a very straightforward and simple manner, and then uses the behavior of specific snakes to elucidate the information and help users easily recognize when a particular chakra is out of balance.  Instead of relying on abstract, often ambiguous information, the deck offesr a practical guide for everyday application of the tools and strategies necessary to recognize and balance the chakras.  Using known snakes and their behavior to help us recognize our own energetic imbalances, this deck enables both novices and advanced energetic practitioners to easily identify, connect with, and balance this important element of our bodies, minds, and souls.  Each card include an image of a specific serpent atop a collage of the colors associated with the chakra. The accompanying guidebook provides a description of the snake, its connection to the specific chakra with which it is associated, wisdom to help focus on the chakra, and a specific strategy to help balance the chakra.

How to Obtain the Deck

I have launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the creation of this deck. It’s an ambitious project but I believe in it with every fiber of my being. Please consider backing the project and opening yourself to the wisdom serpents have to offer us, as well as a deeper understanding of our bodies’ energy centers. There are The a few different reward levels that offer items beyond just the deck for those who are interested.

Whether or not the project is fully funded, I will move forward with bringing this deck into the world. For now, I trust that the Universe will put this campaign, this blog post, and this deck in front of the people who will support it and find it a meaningful addition to their spiritual practice.

How Do We Need and Also Manifest?  A Spiritual Redux

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links, at no cost to you. I only recommend products I actually use.

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting lately.  I’m struggling with my beliefs, my practices, my faith…  So I figured I’d share some of my thoughts with y’all and hopefully you’ll share some of your thoughts with me.

The Law of Attraction

The Back Story

In the fall of 2011, I had to withdraw from the nursing program in which I was enrolled and walk away from my plan to change careers.  I no longer wanted to be a college professor, especially because I had been living in poverty as an adjunct professor for nine years at that point.  I believed nursing would be a more stable and financially sustainable career.  But I could no longer afford tuition despite taking classes at the college where I had taught for six years and I discovered that I was smarter than most of the doctors at the hospital where I did my clinicals and I wasn’t willing to keep my mouth shut and do what they told me to do when I knew they were wrong.  Nurses are supposed to keep their mouths shut and never—NEVER—question the doctors.  Nope.  I wasn’t going to let them kill or harm my patients.  So I walked away and resigned myself to the fact that college teaching was the only option I had.

I had been an adjunct for nine years, largely because I had promised my son that we wouldn’t move again until after he graduated from high school.  We had relocated to the DC metro area four weeks before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.  Because of the attacks, my contract wasn’t renewed at the college where I had been hired and I found myself unable to secure a permanent position with any of the colleges or universities in the area.  But I had made a promise to my son and I wasn’t going to break that promise.  We had already moved four times in his short life at that point and I believed he deserved a stable education and life. 

The Implosion

He graduated from high school in 2009.  A month before his graduation I was in the hospital for a suicide attempt.  My life had just imploded… again.  Not only was I the person he was dumping all his emotions on (end of high school, end of his athletic career because of an injury, etc.), the college where I had been teaching informed me they wouldn’t be inviting me back to teach.  When I asked why, the Dean said, “Your colleagues don’t like teaching with you.”  I again asked why and he replied, “Because you make them look bad.” 

WHAT?!?!

“Wait, you’re punishing me for being good at what I do instead of encouraging them to step up their game?”  “We’re not inviting you back,” he said dryly.  It was while I was in the hospital that I decided to switch careers.  One of the nurses told me that I’d make a great psychiatric nurse because of the natural teaching ability I demonstrated during our group sessions.  And so I ran with that.  But then I realized that I wouldn’t make a good nurse.  I should have stuck with my original goal to become either a cardiovascular surgeon or a neurosurgeon, both options I entertained while in high school.  Instead, I double majored in Theatre and Astronomy/Astrophysics and completed the Theatre degree.  With which I did absolutely nothing, except it benefitted me in front of the classroom.  That’s a discussion for another day.

My Manifesting Success

The point is, I manifested the job.  I also manifested my husband.  I created a list of my ideal partner, what I would and would not tolerate, and created a vision.  And then I let it go.  I had already been single and celibate for thirteen years, though not by choice (single motherhood and a Ph.D.), so I didn’t really have anything to lose.  I mean, what’s the worst that could happen?  Nothing.  I’d still be alone.  So what? 

My husband and I have been together for nearly nine years.  I met him my first year in New York City while teaching at the ideal job I had manifested.

I believe the Law of Attraction is real.  But there are lots of things I question.  For instance, it’s easy to manifest things when I’m not invested in the outcome, when I’m willing to play with it and see what happens. 

But what about manifesting the important things? 

The Gurus

I didn’t have a golden umbrella.  I still don’t have a golden umbrella.  Although I had eight years of relative stability, I again live in poverty.  I have a roof over my head because I received emergency rental assistance.  I don’t know how I will pay February rent, though, because the rental assistance only paid through January.  I have been unemployed since August 2020, partly the result of the pandemic and partly the result of my Ph.D. and my age.

I dream of a successful writing career.  I have always loved writing, even when I was in high school.  I submitted a book proposal to a publisher last summer but it was rejected.  I tweaked the proposal and submitted it to a new publisher in November but haven’t yet received any response.  I have a Patreon but I only have four patrons.  I have never earned a penny from my blog.  But I still write because I love it. I also send out job applications nearly every day. 

The Elephant in the Room

The meme I posted at the top came across my Instagram feed the other day.  And it pissed me off.  Because here’s the thing… There are certain things we need in life.  Like money to pay rent and bills and buy food. 

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs very clearly demonstrates that at the most basic level, we all have a need for food, shelter, water, clothing, and sleep.  Without these basic needs being met, we cannot evolve intellectually, emotionally, psychologically, or spiritually. 

How do I stop needing money so I can manifest it?  Rent is due in a week.  It’s a legitimate need.  Am I desperate?  I’m trying not to be.  But I also can’t just play and hope that I manifest the money to pay my bills and let go of the outcome.  My life literally depends on my ability to earn or acquire money.

As if THEY put in the work and the rest of us—well, we’re lazy and avoidant and not magical and not strong. We are somehow magically low vibing our way to poverty or illness or what have you….while they’ve leveled up (never revealing the safety net they have or the social privileges they inhabit or the predatory courses or memberships or sales pages they use to generate all that money which they proceed to then show off….).

~Lisa Marie Basile, Instagram post, 01/17/2022

Is It All About Mindset?

I ended up in worse financial distress as a result of all these attempts to manifest the life of my dreams.  When I raised this issue in the various groups associated with these programs, I was told I’m not thinking positively enough, I’m not trusting, I’m stuck in lack mentality and poverty mindset. 

Of course I am!  It’s the truth of my reality.  It was then and it is now. 

No, No… It’s All About Gratitude

The block where I live in the Bronx. I live in the tall apartment building.

So what do I do?  What do any of us do?  How do we manifest the life of our dreams, lives we love living, when we struggle to meet basic needs, when we don’t have a safety net or resources like a golden umbrella?  I’m being told that I’m manifesting needing money because I need money.  Does this mean that the wealthy will continue to be wealthy and manifest whatever they want because they don’t actually need anything, and those of us who struggle to meet our basic needs will continue to struggle because we actually need the means to meet our basic needs? 

Sounds pretty fucked up to me.  I believe that there is an intelligence in the Universe.  I refuse to believe that this intelligence is a punishing and petty intelligence.

Who I Am & What I Believe

Me, April 2021

People look at me and see an incredibly strong woman who perseveres, who is resilient, who has accomplished so much, and who has been so successful.  But they only see what I let them see.  I don’t let people see the struggle.  I don’t let people see what’s going on inside.  I don’t let people see the truth of my life.

My son’s doctoral graduation, December 2017

I believe everything is energy.  I believe that with every fiber of my being.  Albert Einstein allegedly said, “Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. This is physics.”  Whether he did or didn’t isn’t the point.  Given my background in Astrophysics, I believe everything is energy.  I believe we can align our chakras with Universal energy and return our bodies’ energy to homeostasis, just as my son—a board-certified chiropractor with advanced certification in Chiropractic BioPhysics—is able to return the physical body to homeostasis through regular adjustments that allow the cerebrospinal fluid to flow freely and unimpeded through the body.

So how do I reconcile all this?  I really don’t know.  I’m open to ideas, thoughts, and suggestions.  In the meantime, I’ll continue to create my vision boards, to meditate, to balance my chakras, and to seek answers so I, too, can create a life I love living.

Full Wolf Moon Ritual for Energetic Cleansing

Photo by Jack Taylor on Unsplash

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links, at no cost to you. I only recommend products I actually use.

Full Moons are the point in the lunar cycle when we should release our expectations, release whatever is blocking us, and release what no longer serves us.  Unlike New Moons, when we call in our intentions and purify our energy to attract our desires, Full Moons are a time for letting go.  This is a simple Full Moon ritual I designed specifically for the Full Wolf Moon, the first Full Moon of 2022 that occurs on January 17.  I use it to cleanse myself of any negative energy I might be holding onto or that might linger from the previous year.

The Ritual

I’m a bath person.  I love to take long, candle-lit baths surrounded by crystals and with soft music playing.  This is a bath ritual, though it can easily be adjusted for a shower for those who don’t like baths.

You Will Need

How To Prepare

Fill a bathtub with warm water. I like my baths to be really hot, especially because I like to take my time and I want the water to stay warm. The temperature should be whatever you’re most comfortable with.

Photo by Photoholgic on Unsplash

As the tub fills, pour in the Epsom Salt and Baking Soda and swish the water around to be sure everything dissolves.

While the tub fills, set up the candles and place the crystals in whatever arrangement feels most uplifting and safe for you.

Set up your music player somewhere it won’t fall into the tub (it may be waterproof but water and electricity don’t mix) and prep the music.

When the tub is filled, add the essential oils and gently swish the water to mix the oils. 

Turn off the overhead light and turn on the music.

Get into the tub.

The Bath Ritual

As I soak in the bath, I visualize the Epsom Salt and Baking Soda pulling all impurities and negative energy out of my body.  I slowly progress through each of my chakras and visualize negative and static energy clearing and being replaced with vibrant colorful energy.  After I have moved through each chakra, I repeat the following three times:

I then sit quietly and meditate while visualizing the grounding properties of the bergamot, the cleansing and purifying properties of the frankincense, and the loving properties of the rose essential oils nourishing and healing my body and my energy.

The Shower Ritual

The major difference between the bath ritual and the shower ritual is that you’re not filling a tub and soaking in the water.  Instead, create a bath scrub with the Epsom Salt, Baking Soda, and essential oils.  Mix them well.  As you stand in the shower, use the salt scrub and visualize the water washing away the negative energy as it pours over you.  You can also make a little spritz bottle filled with 1/4 cup of distilled or purified water and one drop each of the essential oils to spritz into the steam after you have performed the cleansing part of the ritual.  The oils will mix with the steam and create the most comforting atmosphere.

The Takeaway

Many people perform a similar ritual on New Year’s Eve as a way to release the previous year and call in new energy for the new year.  As a Triple Scorpio, I am very attuned to the lunar cycle and I find it easier to perform this ritual on the first Full Moon.  The holidays are always super emotional and stressful for me, so this gives me time to distance myself from all that and truly prepare for the new year with a clear and calm mind.

Let me know if you do this ritual and how it worked for you.  Sending you all healing, positive, loving energy.

Sometimes It’s the Simple Things

First 2022 NYC Snowfall

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links, at no cost to you. I only recommend products I actually use.

A snowfall.  Raindrops on the window.  Birdsongs.  The sound of crickets chirping.  Sometimes it’s the simplest things that bring us the most joy.

We just had an impactful snowstorm in the northeast.  New York City got about half a foot.  I was in heaven. 

I love the snow.

I love weather.

The Absence of Seasons

I lived in southern California for five years and cared for my mother through the end of her life.  I’m not a California girl.  I’m definitely not a southern California person. 

I lived in Ventura County, halfway between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara.  I was less than ten minutes from the beach.  And that was nice.  But we had two seasons:  wildfire season and 70°F season.  Neither of these worked for me. 

I don’t do heat well.  Anything over about 72°F is too hot for me.  People in SoCal were wearing heavy coats and scarves when it was 60°F.  I was out in a t-shirt.  I never wore a coat the entire time I was there.  It was utter misery.

The Experience of Seasons

For the first time, I got to see fall colors.  The trees had deep red and orange and yellow leaves.  Against a gray sky and drizzle, it was simply breathtaking.  I finally understood why it was called Fall.  The leaves on the ground, raked into piles that kids could jump into, was something I had never experienced.  And fireflies!  I had never seen one, so the first time I did, I freaked out.  A friend laughed at me and explained what it was.  I guess I never thought they were actually real.

It was also the first time I ever experienced an ice storm.  Snow was nothing.  I was used to that.  But an ice storm?  That was something I’m not sure I had ever even heard of.  But I learned all about it, and quickly.

And then there was summer.  Flowering trees was definitely a new sight for me.  I don’t think I had ever seen flowering trees.  Magnolia, Dogwood, Cherry Trees… It was breathtaking.  Dogwoods are my favorite. 

The Absence of Seasons (Again)

A photo from the university where I taught. Yes, green trees. But nothing else was green.

And so, after twenty years of living in the mid-Atlantic and northeast, southern California was… brown.  Like seriously… it was mostly brown.  It rained occasionally here or there and things would green up for a week or so, and then it would go back to being brown.  Yes, we had birds.  A hawk used to visit the tree outside my living room window.  And a hummingbird.  And there were seagulls.  And crows.  Lots of crows.  And even a few mockingbirds.  That was nice.  My cat loved talking to the birds through the windows.  But outside, it was always brown.

It rained one day for about thirty minutes in 2020.  Thirty minutes of rain for the entire year!  No wonder they have such intense wildfire seasons.

The Experience of Seasons (Again)

The first rain after I got back to NYC

My mom died in June 2020 during the height of the pandemic.  In summer 2021, after Covid settled down, I returned to New York City.  The first time it rained after I returned, I opened all the windows and I just breathed in the smell and listened to the sound of the rain.  I took pictures and videos and posted them on social media.  

It seems so inconsequential to most people but, to me, it was the best thing ever.  I was so happy.

Central Park Autumn 2021

Autumn was fantastic except for Hurricane Ida.  My car was totaled in the flooding we experienced.  But otherwise, autumn was fantastic.  I made a point of going into Central Park to look at all the trees and enjoy the fall colors and the chill in the air. 

The chill in the air…  I certainly didn’t have that in SoCal.

Beautiful snow-covered tree in the Bronx

We have birds here, too.  We have pigeons or, as my husband and friends like to call them, sky rats.  But we also have blue jays and cardinals and lots of other birds, so I still get birdsong.  But it’s the seasons and the weather that make me most happy. 

I have discovered that the saying, “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone,” is true.  I didn’t know how much I appreciated the seasons and the weather until I didn’t have them. 

I no longer take the weather and the seasons for granted.  I make a point of enjoying every minute of them.  Because sometimes, it’s the simple things that bring us the most joy. 

My 2022 Wheel of the Year

My 2022 Wheel of the Year spread using my Dreams of Gaia Tarot

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links, at no cost to you. I only recommend products I actually use.

New Year’s resolutions? Bah! I don’t do those. Instead, every year on New Year’s Eve, I draw either tarot or oracle cards using a spread created by my friend Lionharts.  The past two years were so crazy that I drew the cards on New Year’s Eve but didn’t really analyze them.  In hindsight, I should have.  I might have managed the last two years a bit better than I did.  This year, I decided to draw cards from a deck I love but don’t often use because it doesn’t exactly correlate to the traditional <a href="http://<iframe style="width:120px;height:240px;" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" src="//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=qf_sp_asin_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=drlisarbarr0e-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=091386613X&asins=091386613X&linkId=04c23d58df9b03907fac7cbf69bb19a0&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true&price_color=333333&title_color=f25f70&bg_color=ffffff"> Rider Waite Smith card meanings. 

I chose my Dreams of Gaia Tarot because I knew it would force me to actually read the cards’ meanings rather than making simple assumptions based on my knowledge of the RWS cards. The Minor Arcana are somewhat similar in both, in that the suits are essentially the same: wands/fire, cups/water, swords/air, and pentacles/earth. The individual card meanings, however, don’t match. The Major Arcana are entirely different in the two decks. So I knew that this reading would force me to pay attention.

The spread begins at the top, with January in the 12:00 position and moves clockwise. The outlying card is the shadow card, which I pull to better understand what aspect of my shadow I need to acknowledge and reconcile during the year. The images are all from Ravynne Phelan’s personal site and are the actual artwork of the cards (which can be purchased individually), with links provided.

If you’re interested in learning more about our shadows, check out one of the following books:

Theme for the Year:  7 of Water (reversed)

The 7 of Water represents letting go and surrendering to the flow of life, and doing so with complete faith and trust.  Reversed, this card signifies an inability or unwillingness to yield and be flexible.  I am advised to remember that what does not bend will eventually break.  Circumstances over the past couple years have hardened me and I have been carrying a protective shell.  This card tells me it’s time to allow the river of life to wash away this protective shell and adopt a gentle, more flowing outlook.  I am invited to let go of resistance, become open to potentialities, and to be peaceful and gentle—with others and with myself.  So apparently, this year will be one of releasing the past, dropping my defenses, and allowing whatever flows into or out of my life to do so without trying to control the outcome.  And here I thought 2022 would be easier on me, lol.

January:  King of Earth

The King of Earth signifies success, authority, and pride in one’s accomplishments.  This card encourages me to celebrate my successes, no matter how small or large.  To be sure, I need to beware of others’ feelings and choose my moments to rejoice, I need to remember that celebrating isn’t arrogant or boastful and I have every right to celebrate my achievements and take pride in my accomplishments.

February:  Intuition

Intuition is our sixth sense, that feeling in our gut, that inner knowing that we can’t explain but we just know.  This card suggests that in February, I will be called to strengthen my intuition, to place more trust in it, and to listen, observe, and learn.  I am advised to return to a regular practice of daily tarot or oracle readings to assist with this endeavor.  I am also encouraged to think less, as my head often leads me astray.

March:  King of Air

The King of Air signifies someone who is not only a fair and just leader, but who has learned from life’s experiences.  This card suggests that in March, I may need to seek out a wise and fair expert to assist with legal or financial issues, or perhaps an infringement on my personal rights.  Hmmm… should I be worried?  This card tells me that in seeking wise counsel, I will be guided, but that I also need to present my case, be direct and to the point, and then refuse to be drawn into further debate.  In other words, stand my ground.  I can do this.

April:  9 of Water (reversed)

The 9 of Water represents a need to embrace an open heart, allow the light of love to transform and heal emotional pain, and turn it into knowledge that sets us free.  Reversed, this card signifies either an unwillingness to look at our emotional reactions and accept responsibility for them or an unwillingness to look at (or for) the source of our emotional reactions.  This is often caused by a fear of dredging up old memories and the pain associated with them.  This card is offering an opportunity to acknowledge the truth and encourages me to not avoid what needs to be done simply because I’m afraid of experiencing pain in the short term.  The pain will pass and will open me to a better and happier future.

May:  Queen of Fire

The Queen of Fire represents a strong, powerful woman who is not afraid to go after her desires.  She is focused, determined, and optimistic, but also a very primal and sensual woman who engages her senses in everything she does.  This card is asking me to be positive and optimistic in the month of May, to focus on the pleasures of life, and to enjoy whatever I do.  I am also advised to be fearless and to stop second-guessing myself.  In other words, for this month, I am encouraged to live a full life and to be present in every moment.

June:  Death/Rebirth (reversed)

The Death/Rebirth card symbolizes cycles and change, the death of the old and the birth of the new.  Reversed, this card tells me it’s time to take a long, hard look at my life and understand that it’s time to let go.  I will no longer be able to live in a state of limbo.  The life I wanted (or had) is gone and it’s time to let go.  This will be a dark night of the soul (again… *sigh*) that might last days, weeks, months, or years, but it will eventually come to an end.  I will likely find myself questioning everything, filled with doubts, uncertain of who I am, and questioning my purpose and reason for being.  I will likely even question my worth.  And all that is okay.  This card is telling me that June will be the time to let go of my attachment to what was, what I hoped for, and what will no longer be, and to accept what is and start living again.  Well this seems pretty ominous.  Geez.   

July:  12 of Air—the Scribe

The Scribe is the record-keeper—the keeper of all knowledge about past, present, and future.  The Scribe possesses knowledge and wisdom about the diversity of history, philosophy, law, the arts, math, science, and current and future events.  The Scribe is on a perpetual quest for knowledge and is often feared by those who want to control information and knowledge.  The Scribe is a true critical thinker.  This card appears to encourage me to document my life’s journey, whether through writing, photos, journaling, a blog… Whatever form I choose, I am encouraged to ensure that it is in a format that can be preserved, enjoyed, and remembered.  I suspect that, in addition to the books I have already written or am writing, I will be encouraged to write a memoir in July.  I have thought about doing this for years.  Perhaps this is the time to actually do it.

August:  Queen of Earth (reversed)

The Queen of Earth symbolizes a real, authentic, earth mother personality.  She is larger than life and possesses an abundant, generous, and grounded nature.  She is realistic but she sees magick everywhere.  Reversed, she cautions against making the home a hiding place and shutting out those who care about me.  To be sure, the home should be a sanctuary, but periods of isolation should be temporary.  In August, I will need to remember that I am not meant to be alone, that there are people who love me and support me, and that I need to let them in.

September:  The Mother

The Mother is a nurturer, protector, and creator, the very essence of non-sexual intimacy, patience, compassion, unconditional love, and forgiveness—willing to place her child’s needs before her own.  But her love isn’t limited to her own children.  In fact, she extends her unconditional love to all who dwell in the world without questioning whether or not they deserve her love.  She gives without hesitation or reservation.  The Mother also symbolizes a fertile and abundant mind, a mind where ideas take root, and she is willing to nurture those ideas and provide whatever is necessary for them to grown and bloom.  This card appears to tell me that in September, I will be asked to let go of my fears and to accept the outcome that manifests and to trust that whatever happens is for my highest good.  I will be encouraged to remember that sometimes, the outcome I desire is not necessarily the outcome that is best for me and I need to accept and unconditionally love whatever comes into my life, knowing that it is an opportunity to learn, and to become stronger and more compassionate.

October:  11 of Water—Emotion/Intellect

The 11 of Water is a balancing and realignment card that addresses any emotional disharmony that might be influencing my choices and my environment.  This card signifies a need to see that I am often motivated by dual forces at the same time—love/fear, justice/injustice, creation/destruction, trust/doubt—and that my actions are motivated by both in equal measure.  One cannot exist without the other.  October will force me to recognize that I need to find a healthy balance so that fear (or other negative motivations) do not become the dominant force preventing me from breaking free from painful situations or relationships, thereby preventing me from leading a happy and productive life.  Because this card also addresses the subject of suppression and expression, I will be forced to acknowledge that suppressing emotions can cause actual illness.  Emotional stress can manifest in the form of depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, inflammation throughout the body and, in turn, disease or dis-ease.  There are real and life-threatening consequences to suppressing fear, anger, sorrow, and other weightier emotions.  While I will not be asked to live life on an even keel, I will be asked to express the emotions so I can begin to live my life with more ease.  I will be asked to be mindful about my emotions and to not ignore them. 

November:  Queen of Air (reversed)

The Queen of Air is one who, at times, may seem cold and distant, lacking in empathy and compassion.  It’s not true, though.  She is a critical thinker with an analytic mind who is more comfortable interacting with others on an intellectual level.  She is observant and can see connections and patterns where others cannot.  Reversed, she cautions against believing that her intellect makes her superior to those who are more emotionally sensitive or compassionate, because it will result in her being isolated or alone.  This card tells me that in November, I will be asked to acknowledge that understanding and empathy will more readily open minds than will intellect.  I will be asked to accept that emotional sensitivity is not necessarily a bad thing.

December:  9 of Fire (reversed)

The 9 of Fire symbolizes attainment, the ease that comes with knowing what to do with the knowledge and practical skills earned through study, hard work, and dedication.  It symbolizes putting knowledge and learning into practice.  Reversed, this card asks if I am making things more difficult by overcomplicating them?  In December, I will be advised to remember an important rule:  Keep it Simple.  I will be reminded to not bury myself under the weight of the unnecessary.  I will be asked to simplify my life and how I do things, to declutter, and to lighten my workload.  This will allow me to focus on what is truly important.

Shadow Card:  The Sage (reversed)

I decided to pull a shadow card, which was from the bottom of the deck, to determine what I might need to work on throughout the year.  The Sage is one who is entertaining, expressive, knowledgeable, and just a bit mystical and wizard-like, one who is perceptive and who is a storyteller at heart.  The Sage is a master communicator who is passionate about sharing knowledge.  Reversed, the Sage can be absent-minded and a bit self-absorbed, preferring to talk rather than listen.  Reversed, the Sage also hates to be wrong and can appear to be arrogant.  Throughout the year, I will need to work on accepting criticism, acknowledging when I’m wrong, and learning humility. 

Some Observations

was initially quite distressed about my interpretations, fearing that the wheel is predicting the dissolution of my marriage, so I sat down with my husband to discuss it. His interpretation, his “vibe” from the cards was very different than mine. He believes it has more to do with the path I have been walking and the business goals I have been pursuing. He interprets the spread as an indication that I need to make a choice to narrow my interests and to be open to opportunities I may not have considered.

Admittedly, it’s difficult to read for oneself because we tend to jump to conclusions or, in my case, automatically think the worst and then begin to catastrophize. I’m trying to keep an open mind and have decided to focus on my writing (I submitted a book proposal) and my deck creation (I’m creating two oracle decks), and to forget about the products and services I have been trying to create, at least for now. There are some chakra gift cards I created in my shop but that’s it.

Happy New Year! I hope this year blesses you with abundance, health, and happiness.

My Butterfly Epiphany

If we’re willing to listen to the quiet whispers, if we’re willing to be open to receiving the messages we need, they come.  They often come when we least expect them.  Like at 3:00am.  But they come.

My Truth

Photo by Ian Chen on Unsplash

I have struggled in 2021, especially the last six months.  I believed 2021 was my year, especially because I was able to leave southern California and return to New York City.  California was supposed to have been a fresh start for me but it turned into a nightmare.  Add to that the fact that I moved my mother in with me and cared for her through the end of her life, the last few months of which was extremely difficult, and I wanted to get out of California. 

I missed the seasons.  I’m the type of person who needs four distinct seasons, especially autumn.  In Ventura County, where I lived, there are two seasons:  wildfire season and the rest of the year.  It only rained once in 2020 and that was for about ten minutes.  It affected me. 

I had planned to return to NYC in 2020 but the pandemic put all that on hold.  I had traveled to NYC in early September and found the perfect apartment but then everything shut down and I was stuck in SoCal. 

I had submitted my resignation in January to the university where I taught because I had planned to return to NYC, so when I was unable to return to NYC I found myself unemployed and stuck in SoCal.  Fortunately, I was able to receive unemployment because I also taught part-time at a community college for extra money but the pandemic resulted in classes being cancelled, so that qualified me.  My unemployment didn’t even cover my rent but at least it was something.

I was able to take a disbursement of $20,000 from my retirement because of the CARES Act, which covered me for a while.  Around New Year’s Eve, things got really bad.  I ran out of money.  I was unable to pay rent from January through May and had received a Pay or Quit notice.  Fortunately, the updated pandemic assistance legislation provided rental assistance, so I was able to apply and was approved.  The problem was that part of the agreement required me to vacate the apartment by the end of May.

My block in the Bronx.

So, I returned to New York City.  Combined with my tax refund, I was able to crowdfund the money I needed to pay for the moving expenses and returned to NYC in May.

The rent for my apartment in the Bronx is significantly lower than what I was paying in SoCal, so my unemployment actually covered my rent.  But pandemic unemployment was scheduled to end in September so I actively pursued employment, including applying for positions outside my career field.

I landed what I thought was the position of my dreams but that turned into a disaster.  Check out my post about that here.  After six weeks, I was unemployed again.  I immediately started sending out my resume and got a couple interviews but no job offers.

In the ER. Edited to remove any personally identifying information. I love Photoshop!

Then, the week before Thanksgiving, I ended up in the hospital with a suspected heart attack.  I was experiencing supra-ventricular tachycardia, my heart rate was over 230 beats per minute, my heart was jumping around in my chest, and I was vomiting.  After forty-five minutes of trying to calm it down, I called 911 and was transported to the hospital by ambulance. 

I was in the hospital for a week and was discharged the day before Thanksgiving with a Holter monitor attached to my chest so the cardiologist could monitor what my heart was doing because, of course, it didn’t do it while I was in the hospital.  Because I did nothing but lay in that damn bed and sleep.

Photo by Stormseeker on Unsplash

I’ve been home since then, unemployed, with zero money coming in.  I don’t qualify for unemployment because I only worked for six weeks.  I was denied food stamps and other assistance because they kept trying to call me for my interview but I was in the hospital so I had no clue they were calling.  I tried and tried to call them but either received the message, “All agents are currently busy.  This call will disconnect at the end of this message.  Please try again later,” or I would get through, sit on hold for thirty minutes, and then get that message.  So I have to appeal, but in the meantime, I have nothing.

I was able to apply for rental assistance here as well and was approved.  My rent is paid through the end of January.  Thank goodness for that.

I actually had to put out a request on Instagram asking for twenty dollars to buy some groceries. 

The holidays haven’t been filled with joy and good cheer.  I have been sinking in a morass of depression. 

Fortunately, I have one of those friends who is willing to call me on my shit.  She came over a couple days ago and literally said I need to get help.  I have medical insurance, thankfully, so she insisted I find a psychologist immediately.  She insisted that I do basic self-care.  She told me to clean my apartment to shift the energy.  I know I need to do these things, I just haven’t been able to motivate myself to do them because of the depression.  But something about her saying it shifted something inside me. 

She’s my ride or die.  We have been friends for over a decade and she is one of only three people  I can honestly say I trust with my life.

My Shift

While she was here, she forced me to leave my apartment, something I hadn’t done since before my trip to the hospital.  Together, we walked to the pharmacy and I picked up my thyroid prescription, which I had needed since my return from the hospital but hadn’t taken in a month.  We stopped in at the grocery store and I bought an apple, an orange, a banana, and some saltine crackers with the money I had remaining from my Instagram request.  We walked to the post office where I tried to return the Holter monitor (the new mailboxes don’t actually have a handle to pull open anymore and it wouldn’t fit through the narrow slit so I still have to return it).  And then she bought us Chinese food for dinner and made me get large sizes so I would have food for a few days. 

She really is my ride or die.

And something inside me shifted.  My perspective, my outlook, my ability to hope.  I’m not sure what, exactly, but something shifted.

I have spent the past three days creating.  I have been working on the oracle decks I’m creating.  I submitted a story to a challenge on Vocal, where I receive $3.80 for every 1000 reads (I have earned about $0.53 so far, lol).  I have focused on my writing career.  And I have felt fulfilled despite my precarious financial situation. 

My Epiphany

My husband was transported from work—he works overnight—to the hospital on Wednesday night (we don’t currently live together; that’s a story better left for a different post) and diagnosed with a suspected pulmonary embolism.  I got no sleep.  I was awake until 8:30am.  I finally slept for a few hours but that was it.

I was so exhausted last night that I went to bed at 9:00pm, something I haven’t done since I was working for those few weeks because I have struggled with insomnia.

I woke up at 2:30am.  I remembered my dream, wrote it down in my journal, and did some research to better understand it.  I then received a notification on my phone that it was snowing.  Yay!!  I got up and looked out the window and took a couple pictures because I knew it would end by daylight.  And since it’s supposed to rain on Christmas day, I figured it was my chance to see snow, something I hadn’t seen since I left NYC back in 2016.

I climbed back into bed and, as I was laying there, I had an epiphany:

Butterflies have to struggle to get out of their cocoon. It’s really difficult. Instances when someone has tried to help them have resulted in their not being able to fly because their wings didn’t develop the strength they needed through the struggle of emerging from the cocoon. I need to make it through my current struggle on my own in order to develop the strength I need to spread my own wings and achieve my dreams.

Whoa!  This seems so simple, so common sense, but it hadn’t occurred to me.  But there, in the silence of the middle of the night, while snow softly fell from the sky, the message I needed came to me.  I wrote it down so I wouldn’t forget it.

My current struggle won’t last forever.  I need to work through it to develop my spiritual, emotional, and intellectual muscles so that I can emerge from it strong enough to take flight.  And I will take flight. 

2022 is a 6 year in numerology, which aligns with the Lovers card from the tarot.  That card is about partnership, relationships, and not necessarily intimate relationships. “The trust and the unity that the lovers have gives each of them confidence and strength, empowering the other.” My intuition tells me I will find a mentor who will help me rise to the next level in my writing career.

I decided to also find out what 2022 means for me, specifically, using numerology.  To do that, I add together the digits of my birth month, birth date, and 2022.  My numbers are 13 and 4 because the numbers add up to 13, which is Death in the Major Arcana, but those two numbers also reduce to 4, which is The Emperor in the Major Arcana. 

Death isn’t anything to be afraid of because it isn’t literal.  Instead, it portends a major transformation and the end of a cycle, a metamorphosis, if you will.  It suggests that I will lose/release the old me and my beliefs and behaviors, and will transform into a new version of me, kind of like the caterpillar that goes through its dark night of the soul and experiences a metamorphosis to emerge as the glorious butterfly.  The Emperor signifies stability.  “To see him in a reading presents a chance to grow in terms of the goals that you have set for yourself. It presents a successful future as long as you pursue your goals similar to the fashion that the Emperor does, methodically and strategically.”

So, I am transforming.  I will emerge as someone entirely different from the self I have known.  That’s kind of exciting.  In the meantime, I will continue to put one foot in front of the other and trust that everything is happening exactly the way it’s supposed to.

The Holidays and the Heart Chakra

How to get through the holidays when the holidays are tough

This is the background for an oracle card I have created. Stay tuned for that!

It’s the holiday season, time for joy and cheer and… for many people, overwhelming emotions, depression, anxiety, and a desire to hide from the world.  We can make it through the holiday season relatively unscathed with just a few energetic rituals.

Ho-Ho-Horrible Holidays

The holidays have always been a time of stress, anxiety, and depression for me for as long as I can remember.  My parents divorced when I was seven years old and my mom moved from California to a little Colorado ski resort town when I was nine.  Because of their custody agreement, my father had visitation, so my brother and I had to fly from Colorado to California at the beginning of the winter holiday break, usually missing a week of school to extend the time with my father, and then back at the end.  We did this at the beginning and end of summer break as well. 

Back when I was a kid, the holiday break was three weeks long, not the one week to ten days we have now.  By adding another week, my father got an entire month with us. 

The problem was that we spent little time with my father and, when we did, he was drunk.

My father was an incredibly violent, blackout alcoholic.  It’s why my mother divorced him.  And because I was the reason my parents had to get married, I became his punching bag.  The thought of visiting him was filled with fear, anxiety, and a deep knowing that I would be harmed, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

The Big Lie

My son and me in Kona, Hawaii for Christmas 1991. He was 13 weeks old. It was my college graduation present from my mom… and an excuse for her to get to spend time with him.

I became a single mother in 1991 and, for many years, I was able to focus on making the holidays special for my son.  I loved making homemade ornaments with him, something my mother and I had done throughout my childhood.  He hated Santa Claus, so we typically didn’t include a visit with photographs.  He didn’t like anybody whose face he couldn’t see (Chuck-E-Cheese, Mickey Mouse, Santa, clowns, etc.).  I loved seeing his excitement at the presents under the tree.  And I loved getting gifts for him and putting them under the tree. 

When he realized that Santa isn’t real, he questioned everything I had taught him. 

You have taught me my whole life not to lie but you have lied to me about Santa since I was born.” 

Ouch.  But he was right.  That compounded my negative feelings about the holidays because now I had all the guilt and shame associated with lying to my child.

A Brief Respite

When my son left for college, the holidays represented the few times each year I would actually get to spend time with him.  I missed him terribly, though he texted me nearly every day (he still does), so the holidays were a brief respite from that emptiness.  I was still filled with anxiety, though, because I always wanted to make it perfect for him, enjoyable enough that he would want to come back the next year.

Christmas 2015, I think at my mom’s place in Maryland. My mom and two of her trees, my husband (black hat) and step-daughter, my brother (kneeling), and my son. We all converged on her place for Christmas. Last time we were all together.

After he graduated from undergraduate and embarked on his Doctor of Chiropractic, the holidays lost their magic, as if they ever had any.  I met my now husband in 2013 and enjoyed the holidays to an extent because of his daughter.  I met her, now my step-daughter, when she was fourteen months old (he had been awarded full custody of her at ten months old because of her biological mother’s medical neglect).  Her eyes lit up when she saw the Christmas tree.  For her, it was magical.  And because he is Dominican, the holidays were all about family, something that had never really been a thing in my family.  I felt uncomfortable.  But seeing the holidays through her eyes made it infinitely more tolerable.

The Big Pause

In 2016 I left New York City to move to southern California (long story that I’ll tell another time).  It was the opportunity to relocate my mother from the DC metro area to southern California to extend her life, to get her out of the humidity, and to assume 24/7 responsibility for her medical care.  She could no longer take care of herself, so it was my opportunity to give back despite the troubled relationship we had always had. 

My son at the age of one, visiting my mom in Colorado, in front of one of her many trees.

Christmas was her holiday.  She had SO MANY decorations, many of which she had made herself, others she had collected from her travels around the world.  I think she had over one hundred nativities, many of which were from other countries and cultures.  And she put them ALL up.  She always had three Christmas trees:  the traditional family tree with all our homemade ornaments, her “around the world” tree with all the ornaments and key chains and collectibles from her travels (she literally visited every continent, including Antarctica, and traveled north of the Arctic Circle on three different continents/countries—Canada, Norway, and Russia), and her “Hawaii” tree, with all her Hawaii ornaments and tropical stuff because Hawaii was her favorite place. 

Also my son at the age of one, same holiday, visiting my mom. You can see the flocked tree in the background and other tree on her landing to the right.

I put a stop to that.  I didn’t have room for three trees plus my own.  In fact, I typically didn’t even put my own tree up.  But she insisted, so I would at least put her family tree up and sometimes my own. 

She was hospitalized in February 2020, right at the outset of the pandemic, though I’m fairly certain she didn’t have COVID because, given her emphysema/COPD and other health issues, it would have killed her.  It didn’t.  Of course, they weren’t testing for COVID yet at that point because it hadn’t yet become a pandemic.  She was in the hospital for ten days and was ultimately discharged to home hospice.  The blessing is that the pandemic allowed me to keep my job because all teaching moved online and I was required to stay with her 24/7 during hospice.  But her health deteriorated and in June 2020 she died. 

I haven’t put up a Christmas tree or decorated for the holidays since her death.

One of the last pics of my mom when she was still slightly ambulatory before her death, accompanied by my kitty Cleopatra who didn’t leave my mom’s side while she was deteriorating.

When I left California to return to New York and to my husband and step-daughter (they stayed in New York while I was in California… a five-year separation that also included our wedding), I donated all my mom’s Christmas decorations. 

The Heart Chakra

https://atomic-temporary-100629659.wpcomstaging.com/product/chakra-note-card-heart-chakra/The Heart Chakra gift card I created. Check it out in my shop.

I want to be happy and joyful and full of cheer for the holidays, but I just don’t feel it.  For me, the holidays are dark.  I lost my job because I stood up for what was right at the beginning of November and was hospitalized for a week due to a cardiac incident the week prior to Thanksgiving, so this year has been especially difficult. 

The way through the darkness is to nurture the Heart chakra.  The Heart chakra is our energetic center for love, both love of self and love of others.  Love of self is especially important during this time of year for those of us who dread the holidays.  If we can love ourselves and offer ourselves some compassion, we can weather the storm and emerge on the other side of the holidays intact.

Healing the Heart Chakra

One of my favorite ways to balance and heal my Heart chakra is through cooking.  I love artichokes dipped in some tarragon butter and roasted asparagus and broccoli.  But honestly, sometimes preparing these just takes too much energy, which I don’t often have during the holidays despite my love of cooking.  Green tea is fantastic for the Heart chakra.  My personal favorite is green tea with jasmine, which also boosts our Crown chakra and our connection to Universal energy and our higher selves.  But my fool-proof method for nurturing my Heart chakra is my homemade puréed vegetable soup, which I have previously shared for the lower chakras. Fill it with lots of green vegies and it’s perfect for the Heart chakra. It’s such a flexible recipe! 

It takes very little effort and my recipe makes a huge batch that allows me to freeze a bunch to eat at a later date.  And let’s be honest, soup is comfort food for the soul.

It’s All About Love

Photo by Fadi Xd on Unsplash

It’s important to love ourselves.  It’s even more important not to neglect ourselves in favor of loving others, especially during the holidays.  Balancing and healing our Heart chakras will do wonders for us and will help us survive the holidays. 

I am sending everybody healing and protection energy, as well as love. 

A Rusty, Old Airplane: Dream Interpretation

Found this image on the internet from Crush Pixel and edited out the sexy girl that was modeling the plane. It is simply to illustrate the colors from my dream. Original image is portrait-young-girl-with-mimetic-819971

I dreamt I had to get on an airplane.  It was old.  It was rusty.  I was terrified that it wouldn’t survive the flight and that it was going to crash.  And yet, I still boarded the plane and it took off.  I remember during the flight, looking out at the wing and seeing bits of metal flapping in the wind.  I wondered if they were supposed to do that.  I was flying from one island to another, though I don’t know which islands or why I was there.  They were dense jungle, though, and it was a small, dinky airport with only one runway.  I was really trying to keep my fear contained.  But I was so terrified.  And then, suddenly, we had landed and I didn’t even realize we had landed and I was shocked that we were on the ground and that the plane had survived the flight.

Dream Interpretation

Now, according to most dream interpretation websites, a dream about an airplane symbolizes a spiritual journey.  Or perhaps some endeavor or goal.  And given the circumstances of my life right now, that makes sense to me.  But it’s the fear about how rusty and old the plane was, my fear that the plane would crash, that I’m struggling to interpret. 

Is it that I’m terrified my life is about to crash and burn?  Is it that my spiritual journey is old and rusty and about to fall apart?  Is it that my goals and dreams are old and rusty and that I should abandon them for something else?  Or is it, as my husband said, that I need to stop being so damned afraid and paranoid about failure and just keep pursuing my dreams?  After all, he said, the plane didn’t crash.  Even though I remember nothing about the descent, I found myself safely on the ground questioning how we landed because (in the dream) because I didn’t remember landing.

I truly believe there’s a message for me in this dream.  The fear was palpable.  I dreamt in color (I usually do), so the rust was pronounced on the plane’s fuselage.  Looking out the window and seeing the rusty wing with the flapping metal against the white wispy clouds and vivid blue sky made the rust even more ominous to me.  So I’m thinking the color—the rust—is significant beyond the fact that rust represents decay. 

What About the Chakras?

From a chakra perspective, rust is an amalgam of red and orange (and brown, which is the Earth chakra in a 12-chakra system), which correlates with the Root and Sacral chakras.  The Root chakra is about whether we feel safe in the world and the Sacral chakra is about our passion and our creativity.  The message I get from this is that pursuing my passion and my creativity—my writing, my jewelry-making, the gift cards I created and have listed for sale on my website, the oracle cards I am creating—aren’t safe for me.  What I mean by this is that I’m not making any money.  I am not financially secure and the things I have created haven’t generated a single solitary penny. 

Black Mamba-Root Chakra from my forthcoming book and oracle deck
© Dr. Lisa R. Barry, 2021

My book proposal was rejected by the publisher I sent it to, a publisher I was convinced was the perfect place for it.  I need to send it to a different publisher but I have been paralyzed with fear that it’ll be rejected again.  I know that’s all part of being a writer.  But I’m struggling financially and I think I’m putting so much hope and pressure on myself to get a publishing contract that will provide me with some money that I’m undermining myself.

Sacral Chakra-Thai Bamboo Ratsnake from my fortocoming book and oracle deck
© Dr. Lisa R. Barry, 2021

My fear is that I will continue to pursue my dreams but that I will continue to struggle.  I may not crash and burn but I won’t thrive, either.  I see everybody else doing well with their endeavors, making money, getting support from the metaphysical community and wonder why I don’t get the same support. 

I need to stop comparing myself to others.  This has always been one of my character flaws.

Healing and Moving Forward

So it’s time for some grounding work and truly tapping into my passions and creativity.  Red and orange… Perhaps I’ll make a pot of homemade Bolognese sauce tonight and have a big bowl of pasta for dinner.  And I’ll drink some tea, either Blood Orange Hibiscus or some Mango Hibiscus from my Spices and Tease (which I discovered years ago at the Columbus Circle Holiday Market and, although they won’t be there this year, they have a website. Yay!).  That sounds delicious.

Thank you for accompanying me through my dream interpretation.

Missing My Mom

Today, November 15, is my mom’s birthday and the second of her birthdays since she passed away in June 2020.  Because it has been eighteen months since her passing, I didn’t expect today to affect me.  But it is.  Add to that the fact that I’m currently unemployed (again) and my emotions are all over the place. 

Whenever I went through a rough patch in my life, my mom was always there to help, especially when finances were difficult.  I’m not going to lie and say that we had a fabulous relationship.  We didn’t.  I left home at 17.  We were two Scorpios and we butted heads.  A lot.  I could write a book about our relationship.  Suffice it to say, although I know she loved me with all her heart, she did nothing but criticize me, even when she was complimenting me.  And so I resented her for most of my life and had to do a lot of work to be able to forgive her, especially when I assumed the role of her medical caretaker for the final five years of her life.  But the truth is that she was always there for me when I needed her.

In addition to mother-wound work (I still have much work to do with this), and as the result of shadow work, I realize that lack mentality, scarcity mindset, poverty, and financial struggle are ancestral wounds I need and want to heal.  I just haven’t figured out how to release all that.  I have been tapping to release inter-generational trauma, especially around money, but I’m still in the midst of the struggle so it’s difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Still, I persist.

Mediumship Tarot Spread

I decided to do the Mediumship Tarot Spread:  Connecting with a Deceased Loved One by my friend Emerald Lotus using my Mystical Shaman Oracle (the deck I am most aligned with and that I always use for ancestor work) to connect with my mom and to seek some guidance.  Many people who have done this spread consciously chose a card to represent their loved one.  I did not because I couldn’t find one that I felt really suited her.  I see her as a wounded, traumatized, lonely, scared little girl and none of the tarot or oracle cards I have accurately represent this.  So I just went with whatever card pulled.

1—Card to represent the loved one who has passed: The Child.  Well shit.  I guess I could have just pulled this card for her.  The Child knows the way to joy and happiness and allows me to correct my course, to release me from the habit of being myself, to help me acquire a beginner’s mind, and to offer me a second chance so I can see life as if for the first time.  The Child brings me the possibility of redemption and entering Heaven while on Earth.

2—A message this loved one wants to give me: The Mystical Shaman (reversed).  The Mystical Shaman (reversed) cautions me against relentless attachment to a certain form that I think will make me happy, prosperous, famous, loved, etc.  I have been telling myself a certain story for so long—the story that only when I reach a particular goal will I be happy—that perhaps I haven’t even noticed I’m no longer the person who wanted those outcomes.  Maybe I have moved beyond those stories.  Perhaps it’s time to admit to myself that I need to imagine a new story that is more in alignment with who I have become.  Let it go and move on.  Better tales are waiting to be told.

3—Something this loved one thinks is important: The Giveaway (reversed).  It is difficult for me to set limits on how much of myself I give.  If I continue to give more than is healthy, I won’t be able to give for long and yI’ll end up resenting mu husband and my friends, feeling like the world owes me something in return.  I am invited to ask myself if I’m giving for reasons other than pure generosity (e.g., to be liked or accepted)?  Don’t be like she was; give to MYSELF first and foremost.  Offer myself the love, the time, the care, and the acceptance I long for.  Once I experience plenty, then I will truly be able to give to others.

4—How the loved one is doing on the other side: Standstill (reversed). Taking the time to pause, to observe, and to finally learn how to release the unnecessary burden that she took on without considering the toll it took on her.  Learning to pause and to take deep breaths.  Well that makes me happy.

5—How the loved one will communicate with me in the future: The Gatherer.  (Damn!  I wanted the Hummingbird, which I’m convinced is. sign that she’s visiting me.)  Not sure I really understand this one, though.  I am invited to look at the resources I already have close at hand.  This is a time of abundance.  Everything around me is ripe and ready for harvest.  Banish the notions of scarcity that have limited my choices and colored my destiny.  The Gatherer is the provider.  So… does this mean that whenever my needs are met my mom is with me?  Like, if I suddenly have money for food or to pay my bills?  Hmmm…

Chakra Focus

I also pulled a card from my Infinite Wisdom of the Chakra oracle by Alison DeNicola with my mom’s guidance to determine which chakra I most need to focus on today (and this week):  Heart Chakra—Camel Pose (Opening).  “Your heart is ready to open and receive love, appreciation, gratitude, and healing.  As you do, be ready for old energy to pop up in the form of memories or remembrances.  Acknowledge, feel, and release to move through each of them.  Then, see what is waiting for you underneath.  You may discover that there are pearls of wisdom, unknown gifts, and untapped possibilities waiting for you there.”  Power Statement:  I now release all hesitation and become fully open to my heart’s desire.

In order to nurture my heart chakra, I will brew some jasmine green tea and I will likely eat an artichoke with tarragon butter for dinner.

What I Did Mattered

The Consequences of Speaking Truth to Power

“Rainbow Chalk on Black” by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash
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Full disclosure:  speaking truth to power and standing up for what is right and just is not only absolutely the right thing to do, it is difficult.  It is consequential… and not necessarily in a good way. 

I loved my job.  I was earning a salary nearly twice what I had ever earned throughout my previous career.  I was truly making a difference. . . and it breaks my heart.  I worked at a Blue Ribbon charter middle school in Mott Haven Bronx as a Social Worker/Teacher/Guidance Counselor where I served predominantly economically-disadvantaged and under-privileged Black and Brown kids. 

This was a new career for me.

WHAT I DID

After twenty-five years, I left my career as a college professor.  I loved teaching.  I loved working with the students.  I did not love the politics of the academy. 

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  • I resented colleges and universities that wanted to spend tons of money to offer capital improvements like fancy gyms with climbing walls. 
  • I resented colleges and universities that wanted to bring in millions of dollars in grant money to launch fancy initiatives like business incubators. 
  • I resented colleges and universities that wanted to raise tuition and increase enrollment by thousands of students but who did not want to provide additional office space, which resulted in many faculty having to share office space. 
  • I resented colleges and universities that wanted to raise tuition and increase enrollment by thousands of students but who did not want to pay to create additional parking so the students and faculty actually had a place to park. 
  • I resented colleges and universities that wanted to raise tuition and increase enrollment by thousands of students but who did not want to hire additional faculty and so demanded that we teach larger and larger classes without increasing our salaries. 
  • I resented colleges and universities that wanted to raise tuition and increase enrollment by thousands of students but who did not want to pay faculty a livable salary. 
  • I resented colleges and universities filled with students who felt entitled to not actually do the work but then wanted to negotiate extra-credit at semester’s end to boost their grades. 
  • I resented colleges and universities that wanted tenure-track faculty to bring in grant money and do amazing research but left the teaching to lecturers and adjunct faculty to do the teaching while paying them significantly less than tenure-track faculty despite demanding a heavier workload. 
  • I resented colleges and universities filled with Ph.D.s whose egos were so out of control that they resented their colleagues if students liked them without acknowledging that students can like more than one faculty member and that it was never a competition. 
  • I resented colleges and universities filled with Ph.D.s who thought they were better than everybody else. 
  • I resented colleges and universities that enabled male faculty and male department chairs and program directors to bully their female faculty without retribution. 

WHAT HAPPENED

I was bullied. 

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I was harassed. 

While teaching at a midwestern college during my first tenure-track position, my department chair decided that I must be a horrible person because students liked me and my classes always filled first.  He began showing up at my house, uninvited, to berate me and belittle me and insult me in front of my then-seven-year-old son.  I followed protocol.  I filed a complaint.  It went all the way to the college’s President.  He continued to berate me and belittle me in the meeting we had with the Dean of Academic Affairs.  And nothing happened. 

I reached out to organizations like the American Association of University Women to seek legal help but was told that because I was new in my career, if I pursued legal action, I would be labeled a trouble-maker and would have difficulty obtaining other tenure-track positions.  I was advised to resign.  I did. 

It took two more years of female faculty filing complaints against him and resigning, as well as the Human Resources Director resigning in protest about the college’s inaction before the college did anything.  They encouraged him to take early retirement without penalty.

While teaching at a community college in New York City, my department chair physically threatened me in my office in front of students.  I filed a complaint with campus police.  My students filed statements with campus police.  We submitted copies to the Provost and Dean of Academic Affairs.  But the department chair and the new Human Resources Director were buddies, so nothing happened.  No investigation was conducted.  Neither I nor my students were ever contacted.  I received a letter from the college’s President stating that my complaint was being dismissed for lack of evidence. 

While teaching at a state university out west, a female colleague decided she was jealous that students liked me and began filing complaints about me claiming I was creating a hostile work environment despite the fact that our scheduled did not overlap, we were rarely on campus at the same time, and that I consistently received awards and recognition for my teaching and my work with students outside the classroom.  Apparently, she picked a new target every couple of years.  My department chair did everything in her power to protect me but the colleague cozied up to the Dean of Academic Affairs and convinced her that I was trouble.  Because the Dean was new, she was unaware of this colleague’s history of making bogus claims about department faculty over the years.  So I resigned. 

AND THEN…

My mother, who I had been caring for and for whom I had relocated out west to become her medical caretaker, was hospitalized.  It was the beginning of the COVID pandemic.  She was not tested for it and I’m sure she didn’t have it; given her pre-existing emphysema and COPD, had she contracted the virus, she would have died quickly.  She was tested for Influenza A and B but tested negative.  They were convinced it was just a bad exacerbation of her COPD.  But she didn’t get better.  She deteriorated rapidly. 

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My mother was released to home hospice and I cared for her twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.  A hospice nurse visited twice weekly to monitor her vital signs and her condition.  A home health aide visited once weekly to give me a break, usually only for an hour.  My mother always insisted that I stay with her but we tried to explain that I needed a break, I needed the opportunity to take a bath or a shower and to walk to the mailbox. 

I couldn’t leave her unattended for fear something would happen.   She could no longer stand and had difficulty feeding herself.  Her mental capacity dwindled.  Yet she would try to climb out of bed.  One morning I found her on the floor of her bathroom covered in feces because she had tried to get out of bed to go to the toilet despite having a bedside commode.  I had to call the hospice and then 9-1-1 to help me get her back into her bed and to check her out to make sure she didn’t have any injuries.  Another morning, I found her on the floor next to her bed, her face bloody and her shoulder bloody and badly bruised.  She had tried to climb out of bed again.  I had to request the hospice nurse come help me examine her to make sure her injuries didn’t require hospitalization. 

We ultimately had to get full bed rails and place an alarm pad under her so that if she tried to move off the bed an alarm would sound and I would be able to respond immediately.  I finally started sleeping on the floor of her room.  She died four months after being placed in hospice. 

I had planned to return to New York, to my husband and step-daughter (we lived on opposite sides of the country while I cared for my mother), but COVID prevented that.  Because I had resigned my position, I was unemployed for a year.  And while it was financially difficult, it gave me time to rethink what I wanted to do with the remainder of my life.  I knew I didn’t want to continue as a college professor.  But I knew I wanted to serve others, to use my gifts as an educator, and to make a difference. I applied for hundreds of jobs during my year of unemployment.  Toward the end, I even began applying at colleges and universities because I needed a paycheck.  I was earning bits of money here and there offering tarot and oracle card readings, doing reiki chakra balancing and healing, and writing.  I love writing.  But I needed a real paycheck.  I had a dream of becoming a spiritual entrepreneur and running an online business but I didn’t enough money to survive. 

WHAT I DID

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One day, I was scrolling through Craigslist and saw a post seeking a Social Worker/Teacher for a Blue Ribbon charter middle school in the South Bronx.  I have always been an outspoken ally, advocate, and anti-racist.  I have always championed society’s marginalized.  So, despite the fact that I am not a state-certified K-12 teacher, I applied for the position.  I was hired within two days and began working the day after my final interview. 

And then I panicked.  I am not a trained social worker nor have I spent much time working in Middle Schools, save for a brief stint as a long-term substitute teacher back in 2004.  Imposter Syndrome hit me hard.  But I love a challenge.

I spent much of my time in classrooms working with small groups of students who needed extra academic support, as well as students for whom English is not their first language and who needed guidance to acquire language proficiency.  As someone who taught Communication for Non-Native Speakers for ten years in colleges and universities and who has a Diploma in TESOL, I loved working with these kids.  I also spent much of my time working one-on-one with kids who needed other kinds of support.

I was always in the cafeteria in the mornings for school arrivals.  The students often came through the door and ran up to me to give me hugs.  They knew I actually cared about them and would always take the time to talk to them, to listen to them, and to honor them.

One day, a seventh-grader came up to me and she was so sad.  The day prior, she had been in the eighth-grade room to escape the chaos of her seventh-grade class (the teacher stopped showing up the week prior and then showed up the next week only to quit as soon as she arrived).  She spent much of the day doing eighth-grade math worksheets with the class, specifically working on scientific notation.  Of the twenty-five worksheets she completed, she earned 95% on one and 100% on the other twenty-four.  She was so proud. 

Her mother wasn’t interested.  Her mother, an elementary school teacher, had apparently obtained a second job as an Uber Eats driver and the student spent the evening in her mother’s car while her mother made deliveries.  No opportunity to complete any homework.  No interest from her mother about her accomplishments.  She arrived at school the next morning absolutely dejected. 

WHAT HAPPENED

I asked the student to show me her worksheets.  She showed me every single one.  With each worksheet, her smile got bigger and bigger.  I was so proud of her.  When she finished, her smile dissipated.  “I just wish my mom actually cared,” she said.  I told her to look at me.  She did.  I said, “I’ll tell you what.  I will celebrate you.  I care.  Whenever something happens, whether it’s good or bad, come talk to me.  I will always be here for you.  I will celebrate your successes and support you when things go wrong.”  She gave me the biggest hug.  Every day after that, the first thing she did when she got to school was run over to me and tell me about her day, night, and morning.  She shared her joy and her frustrations.  She knew she had someone who was there for her.

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She was not an isolated case.  One sixth-grader admitted to me that she had been drinking alcohol from her parent’s alcohol cabinet, that she was pretty sure she was non-binary but that her parents were constantly making fun of her about it, criticizing her, and demeaning her, and that she had been cutting.  Another sixth-grader told me she was terrified to be at home because her parents were fighting all the time, her father was super-violent, and he was dealing cocaine out of the house, which meant strange people were showing up at all times of the night; she didn’t feel safe.  Several female students felt unsafe at school because one of the boys was constantly making lewd comments to them, running his tongue over his lips and making kissing faces towards them, and touching them inappropriately.  A seventh-grader was so desperate for any validation of his existence—he received absolutely nothing at home—he constantly acted out at school, disassembled his pen and pretended to smoke a blunt, talked crap to all the other students, and was physically-aggressive, claiming he was “about that life.”  He wasn’t.  He just wanted someone, anyone, to pay attention to him.  One day, he did something in the gym and, at the end of the day, he was given a suspension.  He was beside himself.  As we all stood outside for dismissal, I saw him crying.  I walked over to him and asked him if he was okay.  He said, “no.”  I hugged him and he sobbed into my shoulder, insisting he would never do what he was accused of doing.  I gently explained to him that his previous behavior was the reason nobody believed him.  I told him, all the while hugging him tightly, that he was going to be okay, he needed to breathe, and that when he returned to school we would talk.  He didn’t want to stop hugging me.  When he finally walked away, a couple of the teachers asked me what I said to him.  I told them.  They looked at me and said I had done the one thing he probably needed most in his life:  I showed him that I actually cared about him. 

WHEN I SPOKE TRUTH TO POWER

Things were going well… I thought.  And yet, I was constantly criticized by the Principal and the school’s Founder, both of whom were rarely at the middle school; they spent most of their time at the elementary school.  I continually received emails from the Principal telling me that I needed to create lesson plans and submit them to both her and the school’s lead teacher.  The implication was that I was a classroom teacher.  I was not. 

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When I was in classrooms, the teachers always asked me to work with small groups on whatever the entire class was learning, but to provide the one-on-one guidance and assistance the students needed to succeed academically, whether it was reading, writing, or mathematics.  I simply followed the teachers’ lesson plans.  I routinely covered the eighth-grade class for forty-five minutes so the teacher could get a lunch break.  I always had lesson plans for that class.  Whenever I had to cover another class, for whatever reason, I always had lesson plans.  But my lesson plans were bibliotherapy.  The majority of my position description focused on bibliotherapy, which is using reading and writing to help children and adolescents address and deal with social, emotional, and behavioral issues. 

One set of lesson plans asked the students to read the poem “sometimes,” by Jacqueline Woodson.  I actually read the poem to them—cadence mattered, as it is not a rhyming poem—and then discussed what the poem was about.  In this poem from Woodson’s award-winning book brown girl dreaming, the narrator talks about being one of only two kids on her block without a father.  The other kid’s father died.  Her father?  Mom left him in Ohio and moved back to Brooklyn to live with her grandparents.  She dealt with the questions about her father by making up stories, but her older sister always said she was lying, making up stories, and that they no longer had a father, that their grandfather was their father now.  “It be like that sometimes.” 

We discussed how we all want to fit in so we often tell stories or hide the truth in order for others to like us.  I then asked the students to write their own poem to describe someone, something, or some aspect of their lives to the reader.  It didn’t have to be sad.  One kid wrote about the first time he actually made a three-pointer while he was playing basketball.  But the majority wrote really deep stuff.  Across all the grades (I covered sixth, seventh, and eighth grade classes that week), students excelled with this activity. 

I got an email from the Principal:

I noticed that you submitted a few non-fiction articles and poems as part of your plans for the first part of the week. I am unsure where the Poems are from but please be sure that the poem itself does not take up a full 45-50 minute lesson. If they are part of a larger theme/unit/article, incorporate it within that lesson. Also, I do not see any fiction stories. These should be planned as well.

To begin, brown girl dreaming is required reading for the sixth-graders and we have shelves full of the book in our book room.  How does she not know this?  Second, I was not a classroom teacher.  I was hired to work with specific students to help them succeed academically, as well as to work with larger groups to help them socially, emotionally, and behaviorally.  And Common Core requires that students be able to interact with a variety of texts, including poetry and nonfiction. 

This email cemented my suspicion that the job for which I was hired was very different from what Principal was expecting me to do.  Except she never communicated that to me.  Never once during my interviews was it suggested that I would be a regular classroom teacher. 

Even more problematic for me was the fact that my position description made very clear that I was charged with working with IEP students.  Individualized Educational Plans are created for those students who have special needs, students with learning or other disabilities, students who are English Language Learners, and students with mental or emotional challenges.  One of the bullet points in the position description specifically indicates working with the IEP Coordinator to develop strategies and interventions to help the students succeed academically, socially, and emotionally.  The problem was that there was no IEP Coordinator.  The bigger problem was that neither I nor the classroom teachers had been provided with any IEPs. 

Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a federal law that protects qualified individuals from discrimination based on their disability and requires school districts to provide “regular or special education and related aids and services designed to meet the student’s individual educational needs as adequately as the needs of nondisabled students are met.”  In order to accomplish this, each student is assessed and receives an IEP, which specifies the accommodations, strategies, enhancements, or interventions required to ensure the students receives the educational benefits of nondisabled students.  The law demands that teachers are provided with their students’ IEPs within thirty days of its creation or at the beginning of the school year for continuing students.

We were not provided with IEPs.  Apparently, the Principal had previously run afoul of the Department of Education because she did not want to accept IEP students.  That form of discrimination is prohibited by federal law.  And yet, it seemed as though the Principal was intentionally ignoring federal law by withholding IEPs from those of us charged with teaching and working with the students.  Unacceptable.

I had a conversation with the Speech Therapist, one of the few people who had access to student IEPs simply because she was contracted through a different agency.  She expressed concern about the fact that teachers were asking her for copies of IEPs.  The problem was that she only had IEPs for those students who required speech therapy.  Her list was not inclusive of all IEP students.  She also said there were more students needing speech therapy than she could reasonably accommodate by herself but said the Principal had told her that if she couldn’t accommodate the students then she should just not provide services.  When she questioned that and indicated that parents were being led to believe their children were receiving services and accommodations, the Principal suggested parents were okay with what was happening.  Equally unacceptable.  The Speech Therapist sent an email to the Principal outlining her concerns but said she had gotten no response.

As the result of that conversation and the email I had received from the Principal, I decided to draft my own.  I wrote it over the weekend and I was very thoughtful, presenting it as simply seeking clarification on the expectations for my position.  I addressed each bullet point in my position description and discussed what I was doing, what I was unable to do and the reasons for that, and I indicated that nowhere in the position description did it suggest I should be creating lesson plans like a classroom teacher nor that I should be teaching entire classes.  I focused heavily on bibliotherapy and indicated that the poem I used was from a book that is required reading for all students and that the activity was aligned with specific Common Core Standards, which I linked in the email.  I wrote it and edited it several times to ensure that it contained nothing inflammatory nor accusatory, that it was devoid of any and all emotion, and that it was simply seeking clarification.

I never received a response from the Principal.  The person who usually responded immediately did not respond at all.  That Monday at school was normal.  The next day was a remote learning day because it was Election Day.  Everything progressed as planned.  Early Wednesday morning, as I was preparing to head out the door to the school, I received a termination email:

We thank you for your time at our school but unfortunately, we will not be continuing your employment with us. The role and experiences we hired you for and the initiative and follow through required for the job are not evident. Not having lesson plans for teaching children is unacceptable.  Your last day of employment with us was Tuesday November 2nd, 2021. We wish you the best of luck.

I was terminated for not doing a job I was not hired to do.  I did provide lesson plans.  But that was not my job.  The Principal never addressed my email nor the specifics of my position description.  Instead, the email presented itself as retaliation for questioning the manner in which she and the school were adhering to (or not, as in this case) federal law. 

WHAT I DID MATTERED

My focus throughout my time at the middle school was the students.  In most cases, I was the only advocate they ever had.  My job was to ensure they were receiving a quality education and receiving the services to which they were entitled.  They were not.  And I was helpless to do anything about it.

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It’s worth noting that between the elementary and middle schools, three teachers have quit since the beginning of the academic year.  In other words, within the first two months of the school year, three teachers quit because of the lack of support, the absence of communication, and the toxic, retaliatory nature of the environment created by the Principal.

I filed a whistleblower complaint with the State Attorney General’s office, as well as with the Special Investigator for the Department of Education.  I included information about the retaliatory termination, but my focus was on the fact that this Blue Ribbon School is failing its students by not accommodating their learning needs and, as a result, is violating federal law.  My own fourth-grade step-daughter has an IEP; she is on the Autism spectrum and requires very specific interventions and strategies.  Were she to not receive them, we would file a lawsuit against the school, its leadership, and the public school system as a whole.  She is brilliant, completely fluent in both English and Spanish (her family is Dominican), can write computer code, was reading middle school chapter books at the age of five, and currently wants to be a neurosurgeon when she grows up.  But she can’t handle loud noises, she is emotionally-fragile, and she refuses to be touched by anybody but her father, her grandmother, her aunt, and me.  She also beats herself up—literally—when she makes a mistake because she holds herself to excruciatingly high standards.  Because she was born prematurely at 24 weeks of gestation, she has fine motor skill deficiencies and has difficulty writing.  One of her accommodations is either a laptop or tablet on which she takes notes and completes her work.  Another accommodation is individualized education, removed from the larger class, which is often overwhelming for her.  She thrives in an individualized, one-on-one setting.  She also thrived during the remote year that was the pandemic because she was in a quiet environment and was provided with individualized attention.  She would not be thriving academically if she did not receive these accommodations.

Children deserve a quality education that meets their needs.  Parents deserve to have their children receive the accommodations and interventions they require.  To pretend that the children are receiving services they are not is criminal.  Period.

I spoke truth to power and I lost my job as a result.  All I wanted was what is best for the students.  In an area notorious for its social problems—gangs, gun violence, marginalization, economic hardship—I was a champion for the students and I celebrated and encouraged their potential.  Knowing I am no longer able to be there to prop these kids up and show them the love and validation they so desperately need breaks my heart. 

What I did mattered.