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Old 11-24-2001, 09:57 AM   #1  
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Default ALTERNATIVE GROUP-nov 24, 2001

We are a group of non-traditional lifestyle individuals. We are partnered, single, widowed, Pagan, Atheist, Agnostic, Christian, Muslim, gay, bi-sexual, bi-colored and straight. We bask in our diversity and unite in the same goal of losing weight. If you are relatively open-minded and accepting of ALL walks of life, please join us.
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Old 11-24-2001, 09:58 AM   #2  
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Default Visions of Sugarplums

by Margaret Morrison

Five minutes before the Winter Solstice circle was scheduled to
begin, my mother called. Since I'm the only one in our coven who
doesn't run on Pagan Standard Time, I took the call. Half the people
hadn't arrived, and those who had wouldn't settle down to business
for at least twenty minutes.

"Merry Christmas, Frannie."

"Hi, Mom. I don't do Christmas."

"Maybe not--but I do, so I'll say it." she told me in her sassy
voice, kind of sweet and vinegary at the same time. "If I can
respect your freedom of religion, you can respect my freedom of

I grinned and rolled my eyes. "And the score is Mom - one, Fran -
nothing. But I love you, anyway."

People were bustling around in the next room, setting up the altar,
decking the halls with what I considered excessive amounts of holly
and ivy, and singing something like, "O Solstice Tree."

"It sounds like a...holiday party." Mom said.

"We're doing Winter Solstice tonight."

"Oh. That's sort of like your version of Christmas, right?"

I wanted to snap back that Christmas was the Christian version of
Solstice, but I held back.

"We celebrate the return of the sun. It's a lot quieter than
Christmas. No shopping sprees, no pine needles and tinsel on the
floor, and it doesn't wipe me out. I remember how you had always
worked yourself to a frazzle by December 26."

"Oh honey, I loved doing all that stuff. I wouldn't trade those
memories for all the spare time in the world. I wish you and Jack
would loosen up a little for the baby's sake. When you were little,
you enjoyed Easter bunnies and trick-or-treating and Christmas
ings. Since you've gotten into this Wicca religion, you sound a lot
like Aunt Betty the year she was a Jehovah's Witness."

I laughed nervously. "Yeah. How is Aunt Betty?"

"Fine. She's into the Celestine Prophecy now, and she seems quite
happy. Y'know," she went on, "Aunt Betty always said the Jehovah's
Witnesses said those holiday things were pagan. So I don't see why
you've given them up."

"Uh, they've been commercialized and polluted beyond recognition.
We're into very simple, quiet celebrations."

"Well," she said dubiously, "as long as you're happy."

Sometimes long distance is better than being there, 'cause your
mother can't give you the look that makes you agree with everything
says. Jack rescued me by interrupting.

"Hi, Ma." he called to the phone as he waved a beribboned sprig of
mistletoe over my head. Then he kissed me, one of those quick noisy
ones. I frowned at him.

"Druidic tradition, Fran. Swear to Goddess."

"Of course it is. Did the Druids use plastic berries?"

"Always. We'll be needing you in about five minutes."

"Okay. Gotta go, Mom. Love you."

We had a nice, serene kind of Solstice Circle. No jingling bells or
filked-out Christmas Carols. Soon after the last coven member left,
Jack was ready to pack it in.

"The baby's nestled all snug in her bed," he said with a yawn,

"I think I'll go settle in for a long winter's nap."

I heaved a martyred sigh. He grinned unrepentantly, kissed me,
Called me a grinch, and went to bed. I stayed up and puttered around
the house, trying to unwind. I sifted through the day's mail, ditched
The flyers urging us to purchase all the Seasonal Joy we could afford
or charge. I opened the card from his parents. Another sermonette: a
manger scene and a bible verse, with a handwritten note expressing
his mother's fervent hope that God's love and Christmas spirit would
fill our hearts in this blessed season. She means well, really. I
amused myself by picking out every pagan element I could find in the

When the mail had been sorted, I got up and started turning our
ritual room back into a living room. As if the greeting card had
carried a virus, I found myself humming Christmas carols. I turned
on the classic rock station, but they were playing that Lennon-Ono
Christmas song. I switched stations. The weatherman assured me that
there was only a twenty percent chance of snow. Then, by Loki, the
deejay let Bruce Springsteen insult my ears crooning, "yah better
watch out, yah better not pout." I tried the Oldies station. Elvis
lives, and he does Christmas songs. Okay, fine. We'll do classical--
no, we
won't. They're playing Handel's Messiah. Maybe the community radio
station would have something secular humanist.

"Ahora, escucharemos a Jose Feliciano canta `Feliz Navidad'."

I was getting annoyed. The radio doesn't usually get this saturated
with holiday mush until the twenty-fourth.

"This is too weird." I said to the radio, "Cut that crap out."

The country station had some Kenny Rogers Christmas tune, the first
rock station had gone from John and Yoko's Christmas song to Simon
and Garfunkel's "Silent Night," and the other rock station still had
Springsteen reliving his childhood.

"--I'm tellin' you why. SANTA Claus is comin' to town!" he bellowed.
I was about to pick out a nice secular CD when there was a knock at
the door.

Now, it could have been a coven member who'd forgotten something.
It could have been someone with car trouble. It could have been any
number of things, but it certainly couldn't have been a stout guy in
a red suit--snowy beard, rosy cheeks, and all--backed by eight
reindeer and a sleigh. I blinked, wondered crazily where Rudolph
was, and blinked again. There were nine reindeer. Our twenty-
percent chance of snow had frosted the dead grass and was continuing
to float down in fat flakes.

"Hi, Frannie." he said warmly, "I've missed you."

"I'm stone cold sober, and you don't exist."

He looked at me with a mixture of sorrow and compassion and sighed

"That's why I miss you, Frannie. Can I come in? We need to talk."

I couldn't quite bring myself to slam the door on this vision,
hallucination, or whatever. So I let him in, because that made more
sense then letting all the cold air in while I argued with someone
who wasn't there. As he stepped in, a thought crossed my mind about
various entities needing an invitation to get in houses. He flashed
me a smile that would melt the polar caps.

"Don't you miss Christmas, Frannie?"

"No." I said flatly, "Apparently you don't see me when I'm sleeping
and waking these days. I haven't been Christian for years."

"Oh, now don't let that stop you. We both know this holiday's older
than that. Yule trees and Saturnalia and here-comes-the-sun,
I raised an eyebrow at the Beatles reference, then gave him my
standard sermonette on the appropriation and adulteration that made
Christmas no longer a Pagan holiday. I had done my homework. I
listed centuries, I named names--St. Nicholas among them.

"In the twentieth century version," I assured him, "Christmas is two
parts crass commercialism mixed with one part blind faith in a
religion I rejected years ago." I gave him my best lines, the ones
that had convinced my coven to abstain from Christmasy cliches. My
hallucination sat in Jack's favorite chair, nodding patiently at me.

"And you," I added nastily, "come here talking about ancient customs
when you--in your current form--were invented in the nineteenth
century by, um...Clement C. Moore."

He laughed, a rolling, belly-deep chuckle unlike any department-store
Santa I'd ever heard. "Of course I change my form now and then to
suit fashion. Don't you? And does that stop you from being
He said, and asked me if I remembered Real Magic, by Isaac Bonewits.

I gaped at him for a moment, then caught myself. "This is like
`Labyrinth', right? I'm having a dream that pretends to be real,
but is only made from pieces of things in my memory. You don't look a
thing like David Bowie."

"Bonewits has this Switchboard Theory." Santa went on amiably, "The
energy you put into your beliefs influences the real existence of
the archetypal--oh, let me put it simpler: `in the beginning, Man
created God'. Ian Anderson." He lit a long-stemmed pipe. The
tobacco had a mild and somehow Christmasy smell, and every puff sent
up a wreath of smoke. "I'm afraid it's a bit more complicated than
Bonewits tells it, but that's close enough for mortals. Are you
with me so far?"

"Oh, sure." I lied as unconvincingly as possible.

Santa sighed heavily.

"When's the last time you left out milk and cookies for me?"

"When I figured out my parents were eating them."

"Frannie, Frannie. Remember pinda balls, from Hinduism?"

"Rice balls left as offerings for ancestors and gods."

"Do Hindus really believe that the ancestors and gods eat pinda

"All right, y'got me there. They say that spirits consume the
spiritual essence, then mortals can have what's left."

"Mm-hm." Santa smiled at me compassionately through his snowy

I rallied quickly. "What about the toys? I know for a fact they
aren't made by you and a bunch of non-union elves."

"Oh, that's quite true. Manufacturing physical objects out of
magical energy is terribly expensive and breaks several laws of
Nature-She only allows us to do that on special occasions. It
couldn't be done globally and annually. Now, the missus and
the elves and I really do have a shop at the North Pole. Not the
sort of thing the Air Force would ever find. What we make up there is
what makes this time a holiday, no matter what religion it's called."

"Don't tell me," I said, rolling my eyes, "you make the sun come

"Oh my, no. The solar cycle stuff, the Reason For The Season, isn't
my department. My part is making it a holiday. We make a mild,
non-addictive psychedelic thing called Christmas spirit. Try some."

He dipped his fingers in a pocket and tossed red-gold-green-silver
glitter at me. I could have ducked. I don't know why I didn't.

It smelled like snow, and pine needles, and cedar chips in the
fireplace. It smelled like fruitcake, like roast turkey, like that
foamy white stuff you spray on the window with stencils. It felt
like a crisp wind, Grandma's hugs, fuzzy new mittens, pine needles
scrunching under my slippers. I saw twinkly lights, mistletoe in
the doorway, smiling faces from years gone by. Several Christmas
carols played almost simultaneously in a kind of medley.

I fought my way back to my living room and glared sternly at the
hallucination in Jack's chair.

"Fun stuff. Does the DEA know about this?"

"Oh, Frannie. Why are you such a hard case? I told you it's
non-addictive and has no harmful side effects. Would Santa Claus
lie to you?"

I opened my mouth and closed it again. We looked at each other a

"Can I have some more of that glittery stuff?"

"Mmmm. I think you need something stronger. Try a sugarplum."

I tasted rum ball. Peppermint. Those hard candies with the picture
all the way through. Mama's favorite fudge. A chorus line of
Christmas candies danced through my mouth. The Swedish Angel
Chimes, run on candle power, say tingatingatingating. Mama, with a
funny smile, promised to give Santa my letter. Greeting cards taped
the refrigerator door. We rode through the tree farm on a straw-
trailer pulled by a red and green tractor, looking for a perfect
It was so big, Daddy had to cut a bit off so the star wouldn't scrape
the ceiling. Lights, ornaments, tinsel. Daddy lifted me up to the
mantle to hang my stocking. My dolls stayed up to see Santa Claus,
and in the morning they all had new clothes. Grandma carried in a
platter with the world's biggest turkey, and I got the drumstick.
Joey's Christmas puppy chased my Christmas kitten up the tree and it
would have fallen over but Daddy held it while Mama got the kitten
out. Daddy said every bad word there was but he kept laughing
I sneaked my favorite plastic horse into the nativity scene, between
the camels and the donkey.

I came back to reality slowly, with a silly smile on my face and a
tickly feeling behind my eyes like they wanted to cry. The phrase
"visions of sugarplums" took on a whole new meaning.

"How long has it been," Santa asked, "since you played with a
nativity set?-"

"But it symbolizes--"

"The winter-born king. The sacred Mother and her sun-child. Got a
problem with that? You could redecorate it with pentagrams if you
like, they'll look fine. As for the Christianization, I've heard
who you invoke at Imbolc."

"But Bridgid was a Goddess for centuries before the Catholic
Church-oh." I crossed my arms and tried to glare at him, but failed.
"You're a sneaky old elf, y'know?"

"The term is `jolly old elf.' Care for another sugarplum?"

I did.

I tasted gingerbread. My first nip of eggnog the way the grown-ups
drink it. Fresh sugar cookies, shaped like trees and decked with
colored frosting. Dad had been laid off, but we managed a lot of
cheer. They told us Christmas would be "slim pickings." Joey and I
smiled bravely when Mama brought home that spindly spruce. We
loaded down our "Charlie Brown Christmas Tree" with every light and
ornament it could hold. Popcorn and cranberry strings for the
outdoor trees.
Mistletoe in the hall: plastic mistletoe, real kisses. Joey and I
snipped and glued and stitched and painted treasures to give as
presents. We agonized over our "Santa" letters...by now we knew
where the goodies came from, and we tried to compromise between what
longed for and what we thought they could afford. Every day we
hoped the factory would reopen. When Joey's dog ate my mitten, I
wasn't brave. I knew that meant I'd get mittens for Christmas, and
one less toy. I cried. On December twenty-fifth we opened our
presents ve-ery slo-wly, drawing out the experience. We made a show
of cheer over our socks and shirts and meager haul of toys. I got red
mittens. We could tell Mama and Daddy were proud of us for being so
brave, because they were grinning like crazy.

"Go out to the garage for apples." Mama told us, "We'll have apple

I don't remember having the pancakes. There was a dollhouse in the
garage. No mass-produced aluminum thing but a homemade plywood
dollhouse with wall-papered walls and real curtains and thread-spool
chairs. My dolls were inside, with newly sewn clothes. Joey was on
his knees in front of a plywood barn with hay in the loft. His old
farm implements had new paint. Our plastic animals were corralled in
popsicle stick fences. The garage smelled like apples and hay, the
cement was bone-chilling under my slippers, and I was crying.

My knees were drawn up to my chest, arms wrapped around them. My
Chest felt tight, like ice cracking in sunshine. Santa offered me a
huge white handkerchief. When all the ice in my chest had melted, he
cleared his throat. He was pretty misty-eyed, too.

"Want to come sit on my lap and tell me what you want for

"You've already given it to me." But I sat on his lap anyway, and
kissed his rosy cheek until he did his famous laugh.

"I'd better go now, Frannie. I have other stops to make, and you
have work to do."

"Right. I'd better pop the corn tonight, it strings best when it's
stale." I let him out the door. The reindeer were pawing impatiently
at the moon-kissed new-fallen snow. I'd swear Rudolph winked at me.

"Don't forget the milk and cookies."

"Right. Uh, December twenty-fourth, or Solstice, or what?"

He shrugged. "Whatever night you expect me, I'll be there. Eh, don't
wait up. Visits like this are tightly rationed. Laws of Nature,
y'know, and She's strict with them."

"Gotcha. Thanks, Santa." I kissed his cheek again. "Happy Holidays."
The phrase had a nice, non-denominational ring to it. I thought I'd
call my parents and in-laws soon and try it out on them. Santa laid
his finger aside of his nose and nodded.

"Blessed be, Frannie."

The sleigh soared up, and Santa really did exclaim something. It
sounded like old German. Smart-aleck elf. When I closed the door,
the radio was playing Jethro Tull's "Solstice Bells."

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Old 11-24-2001, 10:12 AM   #3  
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That story took up a lot of space. Glad I made a new thread. I liked the story. I got it on some online newsletter that I never contribute to, I just like the tasty tidbits that I occasional get. They sometimes tell me stuff that is happening in our community but I rarely have the money. But it is nice to know what I am missing!

I did well with excersice yesterday. I walked twice. Gonna go walk in a few moments. My sis's dogs need to be fed. I have to walk fast or my legs will freeze. I need to find my full length sweats for morning walks. I am still feeling good. I am remembering to eat S L O W l Y . It is hard. All the years working in retail, or at college and you only had 15 minutes to order, pay, eat and clean up before time to get back. And all the times as a child, I stuffed my face with oreos or chips a hoy cookies and had to get rid of the evidence before anyone came down stairs. Even now, I gulp down a treat so I can enjoy it before the baby comes and steals it. Why the hurry? There will always be more food. I gotta really work on this!

I am in search for a weight bench in the classifieds. I see them from time to time dirt cheap from people who gave up on the quest to get more toned. I know I wouldn't use a gym enough. That requires finding transportation, childcare, time ect. Nope...

I was fantisizing about moving up North to that small town. I think I am going to clean up the house and call the city and have them come give me an estimate on repairs. There is an emergency grant available to fix repairs of 2500$. Or you can get a loan that you do not need to pay back until you sell the home. No intrest. It is to better the property values. I have a back door that is plywooded up and a bathtub surroud that needs to be replaced and a sink that has broke so many times the wall behind it is falling apart. I need to fix these things before I can consider selling. Even if I decide to stay, it sure would be nice to live in a home that there wasn't any off limit rooms. Gotta get these things done.

Have a great Saturday everyone! ~flower
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Old 11-24-2001, 12:04 PM   #4  
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Flower, I'm in tears [happy tears!] from reading that story. That was so beautiful--thanks!
This seems a good place to share that my best friend, a long-time pagan has converted to Catholocism. And since we're both passionate women we've had our ups and downs but we've always had our spirituality in common that kept us together. So I'm a bit weirded out by her conversion and sometimes I feel like I'm walking on eggshells but I'm sincerely happy that she's found peace. [That's my story and I'm sticking to it! ]
I told her that in the little circle of our friendship lies an opportunity for the pagans and christians to finally get it right and she likes that idea so I pray that we stay friends.
I'm going to share this story with her!
Old 11-24-2001, 01:59 PM   #5  
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Angry Thanks, Flower!

I loved that story! Teary-eyed here too... Thanks so much for posting it. It was sweet (but not too sweet to be wholesome, as my dad used to say).

Eydie, I know what you mean about the weirded-out thing with your friend's conversion. One of my sisters has just become a born-again Christian and I find it a little hard to communicate with her now. We used to have deep conversations about life and spirituality, but now it just drives me up the wall when she talks about God & Jesus (which she does pretty frequently). She was actually trying to get another sister and I interested in a workout tape she has where the instructors yell out things like "Jesus is lord!" constantly. I thought she was kidding! I hate to be intolerant, but Christianity bugs me on a number of levels, from the patriarchal (and hierarchical) structure to the claim to absolute truth. I believe that there is truth in Christianity, but also in every other religion, that these are simply different perspectives, like narratives that we use to describe our understanding of the world. Anyway, I just feel like she's suddenly revealed herself to be a pod person or something... Hope you and your friend find some common ground!

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Old 11-24-2001, 03:45 PM   #6  
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This seems like a good time to post. I havenít for a long time. I totally understand being irritated with Christianity. Iím going to be a Christian pastor. I just came out as gay this October. Iím in the process of changing denominations in hopes of finding an accepting space.

In any case, I feel like my coming out, being honest with myself, has a lot to do with my weight loss process. I believe that food, like alcohol, can be used to numb feelings and keeps us from becoming our full selves. Plus, there is that added factor of being less attractive to most people when fat. Iím 31 years old and I think Iím finally ready to face myself.

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Old 11-24-2001, 05:15 PM   #7  
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Babette, I'm so glad you know what I mean. I guess to get a real picture of my friend I should say that before she was rabidly anti-Christain, almost scary, you know? And now to see her have this complete conversion blows my mind! And she uses phrases like Christain people, good Catholics, etc. and it makes me feel very seperate from her and I don't want that. But she does seem changed in a good way. It's strange to go to her house and see gargoyles and goddesses replaced by crucifixes and saints....oh well! My big fear is she'll voice that she's concerned for my soul, etc.---that would hurt--a lot. Because every day I try to be patient and compassionate and helpful, many days I fail miserably but I do try! What's that bumper sticker I saw once, "Lord, save me from your followers!"

Fran, I remember you! Good to see you back; it's been awhile! Is there a denomination that would accept you fully? I hope so. It would be the Christian thing to do!

Oh, I almost forgot--This is a weight loss board so let me say that I've recycled all my Thanksgiving leftovers into other clever things otherwise I'd just keep having Thanksgiving flashbacks and keep overeating. Ick, I hate that feeling. Got in a good 3 mile treadmill walk today too---after that I just laid around like a sock! Hey, I'm on vacation!
Old 11-24-2001, 05:55 PM   #8  
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Default stormy in las vegas

Hello Fran and Babette and Eydie. Modivation kinda went out the window when the storm came in. I have been feeding my sisters dogs the last 3 days while she is in LA. They have been outside the whole time but I was to bring them in if it was to rain. Nothing worse than a wet dog! Well, it has been cold all day and then the wind picked up and it got dark and down right scary. I called them on the cell and they were still aways from Veags so I decided to get down there before it poured. I don't have the car today. So I got baby in the stroller and we all ran (both older boys too) to my sisters. 2 blocks away. My butt has never shook so much in my life. It was as if it was a pair of boobs. I am completely winded. I brought them in, avoided the attack cat and ran back home. We put a fire in the fireplace and now it is relax time. Kinda cool since this doesn't happen very often! I really need to firm up this behind, add it to my ever expanding body parts list I hate!!!!
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Old 11-25-2001, 06:58 AM   #9  
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Hey, Flower--consider yorself cyber-pinched for saying you hate any body parts! That kind of thinking doesn't work--believe me , I know from experience. I could rattle off all the particulars of things I hated about my body for years and after 38 years of being on this planet I feel like maybe, just maybe, I'm starting to like myself. And this way's better!
Look at it this way, you have a strong capable body that works. Of course, all of us should strive for improvement all the time but you got yourself and baby to your sis's house and back before the storm broke. Flower-Nurturer of animals who outruns the wind! Sounds like a goddess to me!
Old 11-25-2001, 10:44 AM   #10  
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Okay okay. That hurt. It's not nice to pinch!

Actually I don't hate any part that much, it is just that they are covered with so much fat that I can't see the origional characteristics!!!

It was so windy last night. That always freaks me out. I love the rain, unfortunately that stopped before I went to bed. The wind was so strong they closed freeways. I ended up being blown to bits going outside to close a gate at midnite. The slamming was driving me nuts and I didn't want my elderly neighbor awake because of it. Grif went to bed early so he arose early. I have been up 3 hours already. And it isn't even 8 am yet!

There isn't alot in this world that is better than crusty french bread dipped in turkey broth. Heavenly! I made turkey noodle soup yesterday. It was suppose to last a week but everyone has had at least 3 bowls each and I doubt it will last thru the day. How come healthy grain breads don't taste as good?

I suppose I gotta find somekind of excersice to do indoors. Chris went to the outdoor flee market with his dad and it is just too cold to take the kids out. Maybe I will fit a walk in when he returns. He doesn't go to work till 4 pm. He is gonna be so sleepy tonight.

Well, thats all from my neck of the woods. Hope you enjoy the last day of this extended weekend. I am so ready for my children to return to school tommorrow. Even if that means me going back to work too! ~flower
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Old 11-25-2001, 06:22 PM   #11  
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Had my first bad food day in a while. Ick...Just ate for no apparent reason at work today. I don't like the way that makes me feel and I don't like the way it makes me feel about myself and I've got to get back on track 'cause I want my wits about me for Christmas!
Old 11-26-2001, 08:49 AM   #12  
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Hello everyone, still mild here in Ontario. This time last year we had snow.

We have this cool minister here in Hagersville (very small town) who just came out to his congregation, and has invited his partner from Toronto to come live with him in the manse (gorgeous huge old house). I thought this was so cool I may hit the good old United Church for a service closer to Yule. We are a blended-religion family, with John a recovering Catholic, me a Pagan, my eldest a kind of Agnostic, my daughter a lasped Catholic turned Pagan (she wanted the party and the dress for her 1st communion), my two other children more Unitarian. Lol.

I was raised a pretty tacky christian, with all the sing along with Mitch records, and I'm a sucker for Carrols. I listen to Yule songs, decorate my Yule tree and (gasp) have a nativity, really old, that I can't not put up because my kids are really into things being the same year after year. I go easy on the angels and heavy on the santas.

Eating has been a challenge, but not too bad.

Must go, it's my morning to observe the Kindergarten class, instead of a report card we get to see them in action.

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Old 11-27-2001, 09:34 AM   #13  
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Now where in the world is everyone!? Thanks Eydie and Lamorgan for not making me talk to myself!

I don't have lots to say, just feel empty in the morning if I don't check in with my friends. Did I tell you all I broke out of the 180's. I am 179 now. Yipee! Took me all of November but I did it!

My hands are stained black from cleaning out the ashes in the fireplace before I lit another log. I think I shall wear black to match!

Hope everyone is doing well. ~flower
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Old 11-27-2001, 03:53 PM   #14  
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Yes, i was beginning to think that I had killed the thread! Paranoid or what!


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Old 11-27-2001, 06:00 PM   #15  
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Height: 5-5


No LaMorgan, it is me. Haven't you noticed if my name is on the thread, noone comes and post!? Am I paranoid or what?

Actually I bet everyone is stuffing their face with pastries and pies and other sinfully delectable treats and are too ashamed to come and post! Am I hitting a note with anyone. Come and post if only to post, "Yes, I am alive, I am just saying hi cause I am so busy with my own life I can't come and post."
You can clip and paste if you'd like. Ultimate timesaver. I miss you all! ~flower
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