Sunday, September 29, 2013

My Favorite Time of Year

It's ba-a-a-a-ack!  YESSSSS!  Samhain (Halloween) is BACK!  This is my most favorite time of year!  It has been ever since I was a wee boy.  I can't remember a time of ever being afraid of anything having to do with Samhain.  I absolutely love it all: the carving of the pumpkins, the candles, the witches and ceremonies, the spirits in the wind, the autumn leaves rustling, getting door to door candy, then handing the candy out when I got older, and, especially, the COSTUMES!!!!!  Oh My Goddess!  The COSTUMES!
This might be my most favorite part of it all.  You see, I love masks.  For me masks are the epitome of power.  They are created to represent certain energies and spirits and so forth.  So whenever I put one on, my energy completely shifts.  I become the embodiment of the spirit of the mask.
Then there is the attire that goes with the mask.  After all, if one is going to wear a mask one had better dress for the occasion! 
Perhaps this all just appeals to my inner drama queen?  I don't know.  But it is more than just that.  It appeals to my inner mystic.  That part of me that sees things beyond what most people even notice, let alone what they care to notice, is very strong.  My perceptions are acute and accurate.  And when this time of year comes around the veils between this realm and the other realms are the thinnest that they are all year round.  So I love seeing more spirit things walking the roads and the streets.  I find it fun to connect with the communication of all kinds of essences. 
I guess that when one has no fear then there is nothing that will harm.  Have you ever seen the movie Paranorman?  Well, if you have not, then do.  If you have, then WELCOME TO MY CHILDHOOD!
OK, I am now going to get started on my Samhain preparations.  After all, I only have a month! 
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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

How Witchcraft has Enhanced My Life

Well, for one thing, it helped me have a much richer experience of my relationships with my grandmother and my mother.  They were both practitioners.  They helped me learn a lot of the Craft and instructed me when, back in the '60's and '70's males were considered to be incapable of being witches.  As much good as the Women's Revolution did for many things, it certainly also had its drawbacks when it came to attitudes towards males, even if that male was an incredibly gifted boy!
Witchcraft also helped me to enrich my relationship with Nature.  You can't go out gathering herbs and stones etc without actually getting in touch with the sentience of Nature.  I don't think a person can actually even go on a general hike through Nature without getting in touch with that consciousness in some way, shape or form.  But for me it also included communicating with plants, stones, animals, birds etc.  I just expanded my repertoire of languages!

It also has helped me to develop an ethical code of conduct.  This code I have also brought forth into Shamanism.  I know a lot of people try to create in their minds a clear distinction between Shamanism and Witchcraft.  But being both a Witch and a Shaman, I can testify to the fact that they can be very harmoniously interchangeable.  I don't think that I would be as good as I am at either if it wasn't for the other.

Witchcraft also has taught me how to meditate properly to go deep within and access my own inner strength, power and inner peace.  This is probably the most important gift of all.  One cannot cast a proper healing spell, for example, if one is constantly worried that it won't work.  Once the mind and heart are focused on the one goal, any spell will work.  It is about being completely congruent with the intent, while at the same time being able to get out of the way and allow the Universe to also participate and create that which you are manifesting....or to create even BETTER than what you have in mind!

I have, for many of my 50 years, been a solitary practitioner of both Witchcraft and Shamanism.  Over the last 20 years I have begun to develop a community around myself of fellow practitioners, each on their own path and each able to contribute to the whole.  I am not solely responsible for this.  I think that each of us has become open to "coming out" of the Witchy/Shaman closet and therefore have also been open to connecting with others of like mind.  The better we connect, the stronger we become both individually and as a group.  Circles of people entwine with other circles of people and before you know it, there are a LOT of people in each Circle!  The community as a whole begins to benefit from our interconnectedness and the positive ripples flow outward to enhance the lives of all whom we meet and touch.  That is probably the biggest benefit of all, not just for me, but also for the entire world. 
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Monday, September 16, 2013

Is it me? Is it ME?

Yup.  It's me.  Totally me.  This is my costume from 2 years ago for Samhain (Halloween).  I was a Gypsy Shaman.  Interesting!  I don't usually dress that way on a daily basis, but I am still a Gypsy shaman!  Cool!  This is simply my little depiction of what some of my ancestors a little farther back probably looked like.  Of course, most of them had black hair!
Somewhere along the way the gene pool got infused with some blonds and red heads.  So I am actually more blond than most of my relatives!
I know that my Druid ancestors would have looked different.  At the same time, maybe not.  I think that we are a combination of all of what has come before us.  We get to experience the good, the bad and the ugly as well as the beautiful and the divine with all of our genetic makeup.
There seemed to be somewhat of an issue of contention between the two lines....from waaaay back.  I think that I am one who is meant to bring some peace to all of the work and all of the spiritual practices from both sides.  I embrace it all.  That does not mean that I am betraying any particular tradition.  They are pretty much the same anyway.  It is people's perceptions that define something as good or bad, the same or different.  That dualistic way of thinking is just not for me, especially when it comes to things of Spirit.  I feel in my soul that if I embrace it all I will find a way to balance it all harmoniously.  That is what is most important to me.  Perhaps that way my children and their children will have a better time of it as they learn and grow and explore their own spiritual connections.
So yes, it's me.  All of me.
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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Acts of Love

OK. I will just say right now that if anyone is going to be prudish you may want to just not read the rest of this entry.
Pardon the pun!
I've been around a while now.  And I have been around the block....a few times.  So I find that when it comes to love and sex, I am pretty much open to whatever people wish to discuss.  I think that is why so many actually talk about it with me.  I probably give off that vibe of "Whatever floats your boat, baby!"  So people talk and share experiences and also share some of their sexual frustrations. 
So here's the thing.  I find that this sculpt is absolutely beautiful and erotic.  But it also depicts something that a LOT of people don't talk about.  Is it any wonder that women feel sexually frustrated if we live in a culture that doesn't talk about it?  Sheesh! 
This is something that I, personally, really enjoy doing.  It brings supreme pleasure to a woman and if I am in love with a woman I want to do it.  I have been shocked by how many women don't want that done.  I don't know if it is because they feel a sense of loss of control or what.  But I am always surprised when a lover says she doesn't want that.  Especially when it is one of the easiest and fastest ways to give her an orgasm or even to just get her ready for intercourse! 
Then there are men who have confided in me that they did something last night that they haven't done in YEARS!  I am always curious to hear what comes next after a statement like that.  Did they rob a bank?  Did they change their underwear?  What? 
No.  They then say that hushed tones....went down on their lover!  They say it like they should be embarrassed about it.  I always respond with encouragement.  When I ask them how it was for them, they say that they enjoyed it, but could only go a minute or two before being so turned on themselves that they just had to enter her.  What the hell????  Dude!  You just missed the point of that loving act!  Spend some time!  Enjoy her enjoyment!  If you lose your erection, don't worry, another one is just around the corner, bro! 
I think that a lot of men, from what I am hearing, are just insecure as to whether or not they are actually doing it right.  Well, there are plenty of books out there to refer to.  Buy them or rent them.  Do NOT rely on the porn industry for educational purposes such as this.  That is all an act, and mostly poorly acted to say the least.
Or, better still, ask HER what she would like you to do?  There is nothing wrong with talking while acting.  Do you like when I do this?  Would you like me to try something else with my tongue?  Is there anything more that would make it even better for you?  Do you like when I suck on your clit?  ASK!  She will let you know.  And she will be sooooooo thrilled that you actually ASKED!
The better a man gets at oral sex with women, the better a lover he becomes.
Now, being fair, I must say that there are also two sides to this coin.  So, ladies, when you are going down on your man (and please do because that is one of the finest non-intercourse acts that you can do) ask him what he likes.  Not every man is the same.  For example, some guys like to have a tongue run along the eye of the penis.  Some find that horribly irritating.  Some like to have you gently squeeze and tug his scrotum while sucking.  Some find that too painful.  And some guys really like nipple play while doing that.  A lot won't admit it if you ask them outright, but they actually do once you get started.  If they don't they will let you know, don't worry.
And for both parties, please don't take it as a personal affront if your partner doesn't like something that all or other lovers have liked.  To each their own.  Find out what they DO like.  It may be a bit of a surprise, like me finding some women who don't like it when their lover goes down on them, but a surprise is just an adventure in disguise!
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Monday, September 2, 2013

The Nuptuals

On Saturday, August 24th, I asked my Love to marry me.  It wasn't the usual down on one knee sort of proposal.  I am NOT that type of person.  She came home from her workshop and told me about how it was, and then I asked her if she would like to elope.  She asked where I would be taking her, and since we can't afford an exotic holiday I suggested either Swift Current or the back yard.  She chose the back yard.  Seeing as how the 27th was a day when Mars was the closest it has been to the earth in thousands of years, we chose that day.  So that gave us three full days to plan a wedding.  That should do it!
1. Contact my friend and Commissioner of Marriages, Lorna Davies.  check
2. Find out what all we need. check
3. Contact the Jewelry store and see if they sell marriage licenses (one of the things on Lorna's list).  check
4. Pull the Divorce Certificate out of the safe to take to the Jewelry store so that we can get the marriage license.........SCREECH!  Where the hell is the divorce certificate????
5. Monday, after driving Vanitha to dialysis, tear house apart and find divorce certificate.  SCREECH!  Where the heck is that thing????
6. Head down to Family Court and get a copy of divorce certificate.  9:30am.  They don't open till 10:00.  Go for coffee at Mystic Java on 4th ave.  check
7. Head back to Family Court and get searched and scanned for weapons before entering (the guards were not all that cute so I am happy in ended there and did not go into a strip search). check
8. Get someone's attention because I am the only person standing at the counter and no one is even noticing my presence....YOU!  check
9. Pay for certified copy of divorce certificate (do I have enough cash on me now that I bought that coffee?)....check  Whew!  They only take cash.  I ROCK this stuff!
10. Pick up Vanitha from dialysis and head to Jewelers to get marriage license.  check
11. While there find set of estate jewelry matching wedding bands.  check
12. Put a rush on the sizing for Vanitha's band so it is done and ready by tomorrow afternoon.  SCREECH!  It could take 3 DAYS????  Nope.  Cancel that thought and put a rush on.  check
13. Tuesday morning: Phone my friend, Ryan (loading gravel at work) and ask him to be my best man.  "You're WHAT???  Ya!  Sure I'll be there by 6:30." check
14. Hand the phone to Roanne as she is coming in the door, prepared to do our house cleaning for us in a way that only she seems to be able to, and let Vanitha ask her to stay late and be her maid of honor.  "You're WHAT????  Are you kidding me?!  OMG!  Have you seen how I am dressed?  Have you seen my HAIR???!!!  Yes, I'll be there!" check
15. Receive phone call from Vanitha's parents:  THEY ARE BACK IN TOWN. check
16. Phone Vanitha and tell her to let them know and to invite them.  check
17. Vanitha phones her brother Indren and tell him to phone his parents and let them know that she is getting married and that they should call her for details.  (He had her tell them he and Anna eloped years ago!  Turn about is fair play.) check
18. Receive a phone call from Jeweler's that ring is READY!  check.
19. Go get ring. check
20. Summon daughters to come over for 20 minutes so that I can let them know I'm getting married.  check (they thought we already were...!)
21. Set up back yard for ceremony.  check
22. Assemble in back yard.....well that would be check but her parents were 15 minutes late! the dog was getting impatient)......check
23. Parents' last minute touches....Hindu tradition stuff, champagne, Red Velvet wedding cake....Thank you! and check
24. Get married in front of the Maple tree that we planted 2 years ago and is now taller than me.  check
25. Photos and toast and cake.  check

Well, that was easy!   Thank you to Roanne for remembering that the bride needed a bouquet!  Thank you to Roanne and Ryan for standing up for us and signing our marriage certificate!  Thank you to Lorna for officiating our wedding!
Personally I think that I totally rock at this last minute wedding stuff!  I don't know any groom who has put as much work into it as I did and I pulled the whole thing off in just 3 days! 

Next year we will be having a Hand Fasting ceremony with the big party to follow for 200 friends and family!
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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Full Moon Drum Circle

This is the altar that I created for the Full Moon Drum Circle last night.  It was one of the better circles.  Not that there are bad circles, but sometimes the synergy surpasses previous circles.  This one's synergy did just that.
The altar was placed in the centre of the Medicine Wheel in my back yard.  It consisted of a bird bath that doubles as many things but is no longer used as a bird bath.  Into the centre of the bird bath I placed a concrete globe, which I use to represent the Moon.  Then Holy Water was put into the bowl and then flower blossoms were added to the water.  In the four directions there was a crystal placed on the ledge, directing the energy of the blossoms to each direction. 
The ceremony was simple.  The moon is associated with the Divine Feminine and with emotions, the water element, and the soul.  Over the last number of months I have been noticing that many people have been "soul searching" and trying to find out who they truly are on a deep soul level.  So the ceremony was honoring that search, but from a different perspective, that being the perspective of who we already KNOW we are on a deep soul level.  This then serves to assist in the further search for who we are and who we are becoming on a soul level.  Each individual took turns going up to the altar and stating, "On a deep soul level, I know myself to be ..... "  (fill in the blank).  As they did so they put drops of Holy Water onto the Moon stone.  Those drops absorbed into the stone or drizzled down the stone to become one with the pool of Holy Water in the bowl.  Then we drummed that energy to Spirit in celebration!
At the end, we also took turns placing our left palm on the Moon stone with the right palm placed on our hearts and affirmed, "I follow the Path of the Heart", which is the path of personal authenticity and integrity.  Over the next 24 hours after the ceremony the evaporation process would take all that positive energy into the Air and spread it all around our community and the world at large!  This would create a ripple effect to help all those who are on the soul search but who were not a part of the drum circle or who don't even know that such circles exist.  It is always important to have that positive energy ripple forth!
The added bonus: A beautiful Hawk flew over us twice at very low altitude, checking us out!  This is very fortuitous, in that Hawk is the Messenger of Great Spirit on a spiritual level.  I just LOVE IT when the power animals take part like that!
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Thursday, August 15, 2013

All Inked Up

So these are my tattoos.  So far.  They are both located on the inside of the forearm.  I never thought that I would be the type who would get tattoos.  Then one day I was told that some of the symbols and images that I have a habit of drawing on my body should be there in a more permanent way.  Who told me that?  Spirit of course.  These are the first 2 of a few that I will be getting.  They are unique and totally my design, although the tattoo artist can now say that the images belong to her because she has put them on my body, which is her canvas.  I don't really care.  It is not like they will be useful to anyone else who puts them on their bodies.  Not in the same way they are useful to me.  You see, they are not just images.  They access certain energies that then emit from my being.
That is why I have not had any of my power animals tattooed on my person.  I don't want to anchor them when in ethereal format they can move around and leave me and then come back to me energetically.  But these ones actually activate certain energies withing me.  Those energies then get put to use and when they are done they become dormant once again until the next activation. 
I know that this sounds hinky for some.  I don't care.  The proof is in the pudding.
I am happy with them and that is what counts.  Anyone who has a negative opinion about them can keep that opinion to themselves because I don't need their approval at all.  As my eldest daughter says, "At fifty years old, Dad, I would think that you know what you are doing and that this is not just a phase you are going through."  Gotta love that logic!
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Sunday, April 7, 2013

50 Truths about ME.

1. This was inspired by my friend, Glo.
2. I am not sure how well I will do getting up to number 50, but I thought that when I was 49.
3. I have a huge heart that breaks easily.
4. I have a strong heart when others need strength.
5. I love my daughters from here to the end of the Universe and back.
6. I love my partner to the deepest part of my soul.
7. My absolute best companion is my dog.  She adores me and never disagrees with my wishes.
8. I sing Jazz very well.
9. My voice is best used for healing chants.
10. I like to wear a bit of bling, but always take one piece off before leaving my bedroom in the morning.
11. I love receiving flowers...for no particular reason.
12. I was one of the most incredibly shy children in the world.
13. You would never know that by how I am now.
14. I am still shy and like to have my quiet moments.
15. I think the last one should count as 2 things.
16. I am an artist and I have always been artistic.
17. I think that a creative mind is the only kind that will adapt to circumstances and come out on the other end of change having changed.
18. I like Zen gardens.
19. I like soft music.
20. I like candle light.
21. I play piano.
22. I also play drums and percussion instruments as well as a Shruti Box.
23. I have never had a quiet laugh, which has annoyed many and delighted some.
24. I am almost halfway to 50 and I think that this is going better and faster than I imagined it would.
25. I am a crack shot with pistol, rifle, and FNC1's and FNC2's.
26. One of my many jobs growing up on the farm was to shoot the millions of pesty gophers.  This is why I am still a crack shot.
27. I speak to dead people on an almost daily basis.
28. I don't believe in any religion as much as I connect with every spiritual path.
29. I love to garden and growing flowers in my favorite type of gardening, although I think that there is also a lot of value in growing your own food.
30. I am omnivorous and will eat anything that I define as "food", whether it grows in dirt or moves around on stilts and, yes, I DO know the difference between a pet and a steak on stilts.
31. I enjoy watching TV.
32. Yes, I am a shaman who also enjoys watching TV.
33. I love presenting talks to groups of people and educating folks on how to connect with their OWN path instead of a path that they are told they must follow.
34. I tend to defend people who are underdogs or in some way viewing themselves as powerless to change their situations.
35. This has gotten me into hot water a number of times and I don't care and would still do it again and again until all the idgits of the earth finally get it through their thick skulls that oppressing people is NOT COOL.
36. I have an eye for women's fashion and sometimes help female friends find clothes that work really well on their body types.
37. I wish I was as good at finding men's clothes that look good on me as I am at finding women's clothes that look good on women.  I think I live in the wrong area of the world for that.
38. I used to have very long curly blond hair.  Then I cut it shorter....then I had kids.  You can draw your own conclusions about that one.
39. I often feel that I am not doing enough and that my best is not quite good enough.
40. I have had to learn to stick up for myself as much as I stick up for others....and that has not been easy.
41. I have a belief that people just need to be honest...mostly with THEMSELVES...and then the world would be a much more harmonious place in which to live.
42. In my alternate reality I am a gentle and regal prince who likes to spend his time meditating on an ocean beach at sunset and communicates with a beautiful spirit guide who sets him straight when he is messing with his own mind.
43. I think that my alternate reality is what helps me get through my current reality....many times.
44. I believe in magic as it expresses itself to us through spirit and nature and that it is an avenue to God/Goddess consciousness because it forces us to take responsibility for our own thoughts and deeds.
45. I lost my voice for 16 years.
46. I found my voice when singing lullabies to my babies.
47. I found my courage when I became a father.
48. I found my personal path when I let go of everything that everyone ever taught me about who I was supposed to be and how I was supposed to be that.
49. I am grateful every single day for the many family and friends that I have in my life and whom I love and who I know love me.
50. That's how old I am.  AND I am looking forward to the next 50 as well.
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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Our Time with Jax

This is my 5 month-old grand nephew, Jax.  The other day his mom and aunties went to a Billy Talent concert and, because 2 of them are from out of town, I got to spend some time taking care of the little guy.  I haven't had a baby to take care of since my youngest was a baby, and that was 14 years ago!
It went very well, considering it was the first time that he and I met.  But I knew that we were going to be great friends by the end of it all.  He doesn't like a sling, according to his mom.  But after the first hour of walking him around the house to show him stuff and keep him entertained, I decided that the sling really wasn't for him.  It was for me. So I made a sling out of a massage table sheet that I had.  Then the challenge was to figure out which way he would rest in it best.  After a number of configurations, he finally decided that he liked having his face to my chest the most.  Most likely he liked the sound of the heart beat.  Or maybe he just didn't trust me enough to let me out of his sight.  It is hard to tell.

By the end of the evening he was very ready for his mom to return.  And she did.  Of course, he was all smiles and giggles for her.  That made me feel good.  I didn't want her to feel bad about leaving him with me.  And really, he is a very easy baby.  Babies cry.  Sometimes they get upset for reasons other than fear, like hunger, teething, gas, wet diapers etc.  So once all those things were covered in the arsenal of supplies that she left me, he was able to let out a really good vomit of his bottled breast milk (all over me I might add!) and then get on with having fun singing and dancing (wait a minute....that was ME) and sleeping (that was him).  I also had to have a little talk with him about his tendency to flirt with my girl.  Of course, he is related to me, so I knew that everything that I had to say about that was going to be completely ignored.

I love babies.  They smell good (most of the time) and they are fun to cuddle and kiss and buzz with the lips.  Their giggles are completely contagious and they tend to think that I am the oddest thing that they have ever seen.  And they would be right about that.
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Sunday, March 31, 2013

I know It's Coming!

Eventually!  Spring will be here.....eventually.  The weather has finally begun to warm up and the 6 foot snow banks in my front and back yards are beginning to melt away.  I am very grateful for the fact that we have a sump pump that we installed 2 years ago.  We are gonna need it!

In the meantime I am preparing myself for the surge that happens to me every spring.  I get the garden goobledygooks!  That's right.  I think that it is somewhat equivalent to, and yet much more mild than, "Farmer Fever".  I am itching to get into the garden and greet the flowers as they pop up and express themselves in the most luscious and aromatic ways.  The bright colors of the Tulips and the deep rich colors of the Monk's Hoods, and everything in between.

I have also decided to put some of my photos of my garden flowers onto canvas!  That way I can enjoy them throughout the year.  I can hang them in my bedroom, in my living room, in my kitchen, in my bathrooms and so on and always have my garden with me.  That just might help me keep my sanity when we get another long and harsh winter like the one we just came through.
I may even decide to sell some of the canvases and share the vibrations of the medicine of flowers with whomever wishes to embrace it.
I am curious is anyone else out there has the garden goobledygooks?
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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Spirals have often been in my life.  Spirals are actually what make up the cycles of birth, life, death and rebirth.  Since I was a small child I have been attracted to spirals.  I remember the first time that I saw my mother carve a spiral design into the pastry for the top crust of a pie.  It was fascinating!  I then made spirals out of my mud pies, set up my toy towns in spirals, and even began dancing to music in spirals.  Things were completely spiraling out of control!

In winter, I like to make a spiral in the snow to walk.  This winter it has been impossible, as the amount of snow we have received, when piled up, is over my head in places.  Imagine trying to cut a spiral path out of that!  So I have been missing the spirals.

The spiral in this photo, however, is at my front door in a garden ornament that we decided to just leave outside this year.  I love it.  It catches the light and sparkles and shines and reminds me of my spiral nature.  It also gives me hope that next winter may be different in terms of the amounts of snow.  Perhaps I will get my snow peace spiral again...
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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Farewell Dear Friend!

I have often said that Pumpkin Pie is my favorite desert next to ice cream.....RIGHT next to ice cream!  It continues to be my favorite desert, which is a problem.  You see, I have had to change my eating habits.  This is frustrating.  The first thing that I had to do was to change the groceries I was buying.  If I were living alone, that would not have been such a big deal.  But the reason I am changing my eating habits is because I have found that I have food sensitivities that I did not realize I had.  Ignorance was indeed bliss.....for 49 years!
Now, I realize that I have what is called "Leaky Gut Syndrome"  Sounds just as ugly as it is.
So here I am, for the first time in history, READING LABELS in the store to make sure that stuff doesn't contain dairy, soy, peanuts, corn, sugar, eggs, gluten etc.  It took me three times as long to shop for groceries!  First off, since when is it legal to have ingredients on labels in micro-print????  My neck hurt from positioning myself so that I could see through my bifocals!  Secondly, when it says that something "May contain traces of peanuts", then is it safe or not?  I don't take the chance.  I have found ONE almond butter brand that does not contain ANYTHING other than almonds and water, and I am NOT telling which one it is because the store I get it from is constantly running out of the stuff.  I think others have found it, but I have not found them at the store as yet and when I do there is gonna be a scuffle!  And then there is the moment when, once you have it completely cased as to where you go in which store to find whichever product is compatible with your body.......the STORE REARRANGES THEIR SHELVES!!!!
It feels at times like a three ring circus.  And to top it off, when you are one of more than just one person living in your home, and the other person doesn't need/want to make the switch, it gets costly to by two kinds of things.  The good thing is that we are now down to just a couple of those things.  My Love is perfectly willing to use rice flour instead of wheat flour, and rice pasta instead of gluten pasta.  So that is awesome!  She still "Needs her milk chocolate to keep her color", so I buy milk chocolate for her and Dark Chocolate for me.  Now THAT was an adventure!  Dark Chocolate covered Almonds.  I was completely unsure as to whether or not I would even be able to stomach the bitterness of Dark Chocolate, but I guess that my system had done enough self-diagnostic cleaning that my taste buds had changed.  Even though I had all my wisdom teeth removed last month, before I even had that done (I was convinced that they WERE my sweet teeth), I no longer craved sweet stuff!  So Dark Chocolate it is!
And then there is the fact that I am losing weight in the process!  I knew that there HAD to be some benefits to all this hassle!  Now I need to go and find smaller pants to wear.  Shopping trip, here I come!
As for Pumpkin Pie.....farewell, dear friend!  Until I can find someone who can make you without dairy or soy in the pastry, I will just have to eat your out of the can!
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