Mythology has hundreds of stories of beings re-making themselves, becoming completely new, washing away all trauma and walking forth with a light heart.

It seems to be a bit harder for mortals, but we can still attempt it.

The New Year is our traditional time to take stock of our lives and decide on what changes we want to make. This year, the astrology lines up with it as well: Venus is in Retrograde and Mercury will join her soon. Retrogrades ask us to step back and re-evaluate, and Venus Retrograde especially.

What do you want out of your life? Is what you have making you happy? If not, what can you do to change it?

The part where it gets really hard is remembering to take it slow. Humans are impatient creatures. We want everything now, or yesterday, preferably. Our New Year’s Resolutions inevitably fizzle out because we wake up on Jan 1st and create ridiculous expectations for ourselves.

Couch to 5K isn’t you’re on the couch on day 1 and day 2 you’re doing 5K. It’s small changes, over time. It’s building habits.

If you’ve decided you need to make changes, what small commitments can you make to those changes?

Start small and build up. Especially in a time of retrogrades, which warn against any bold, fast-moving forward action. Be ready to pivot and keep forgiveness in your heart.

It’s easy to blame ourselves when we fall down on the job. We make it even easier by setting ourselves up to fail in the first place. “I’m going to walk a mile every day!” we say on New Year’s Day, and within one week we’re not walking at all, except in circles of self-recrimination.

This year, commit to a new you by being gentle with yourself. Make a change: set yourself up to succeed instead of fail.

Get out of the rut of setting lofty New Year’s Resolutions, doomed to fail, and start with a New Year’s Affirmation instead.

What’s the worst that could happen? Well, you just might start believing in yourself.

In 2022 I am whole for myself. I set myself up for success and forgive myself any setbacks. Changing my life takes time and I give myself the time I need.

How does that saying go? “When life gives you lemons….”

So the postponement of back-to-school has just thrown acid on your plans to return to normal life? (Normal, that is, life before 2020.)

Once again marooned at home with antsy kids, probably you’d like to throttle whoever caused this mess.

Wait a minute! Out of the corner of your eye, is that a glimpse of radical sunshine?

What if “education” could be more than “job preparation” and actually fostered the learning of empowering, life-long skills?

What if acquiring such skills could happen simply, at home or even at your place of work?

What if you, the Parent, realized that in many ways you are actually your children’s best teacher?

Imagine your grown children telling others that they learned everything important from home and family!

Home learning has been a burgeoning movement since the Nineties. Parents have shown that home schooling needn’t be a pallid imitation of regular school.

What if “education” could be more than “job preparation” and actually fostered the learning of empowering, life-long skills?

I home-schooled Grades 2 and 8 with my LD kid—great years, compared to Grade 1 in a Coquitlam public school and Grade 7 in a U.S. SpEd school.

Yes, it took work, the specialized parts of which we needed paid help for, such as piano lessons, trampoline gym, architecture, and our child’s auditory-processing deficit. Reading and math happened automatically, mostly in the kitchen, reading recipes, measuring and pouring, learning the stove, preserving food and managing tools. At bedtimes, I read aloud all seven volumes of Narnia.

Think a minute and you’ll come up with myriad home activities that can deliver life-skills training to your children—and incidentally lighten the family’s housekeeping load.

Children competent in life skills become confident adults who respect their elders and can go anywhere and do anything. Isn’t that your dream for your kids?

Take your kids to a bookstore and have fun exploring the world. Let the kids find their interests and you’ll both have fun and learn a lot. Even better, your bookstore can help with how-to and learning materials. You’ll be surprised how wonderful an educator you are.

Want another hint to prevent innumeracy (meaning, not automatically knowing how to add, multiply, estimate, and so on)?

Borrow an idea from Waldorf Schools: stop worrying about reading and teach your kid to knit! 

Think about it: knitting means you MUST count and you MUST multiply even if you don’t know what addition and multiplication are (all the while increasing your manual dexterity). If you don’t, your knitting won’t fit your teddy bear and looks like a yarn-bombed porcupine. Instant feedback!

My third tip for avoiding learning problems (not to mention the special hell of being designated Special Ed)? Put that toddler to music! Yes, music. Get ’em dancing, singing, tumbling, clapping, stamping…have a ball! 

Of all the multitudes of kids who have been through my program, and of the torrent of requests for help with math, I’ve never had an applicant for help with numeracy or literacy who had a solid music background.

I can understand why. You’re welcome to ask me for my theory.

My first tip for avoiding learning problems? Put that young learner on your lap and have fun together with a good book.

My second tip? Be a role model for young learners by letting them see you engaged with a book–in your hand, NOT on-screen. (There’s already research showing that on-screen learning is far weaker than the old-fashioned, face-to-face method.)

My third tip? Wait till tomorrow for that one.

As a learning specialist, I’ve learned that by far the most common block to easy learning is auditory-processing deficit: the brain just doesn’t know how to organize the sounds of the language. Something gets missed in early childhood…or perhaps some trauma or accident disrupted the learning process.

But this can be fixed! With help, even adults can install the missing piece and enjoy having a faster, smarter mind. Better yet, you can help prevent the pain of auditory-processing deficit in young children by reading to them–and with them. Reading is first-class therapy and at Wolffy’s Book Den good books won’t break anyone’s bank.

Saturnalia, the ancient pagan Roman festival from which many of our Christmas traditions spring, starts soon. And by “soon” I mean “tomorrow.”

From December 17th to December 23rd, the festival dedicated to the god Saturn goes on, and revelry and merrymaking can be expected in Roman villas and pagan communes.

Okay, I’m not sure about the Roman villas — something tells me that might not be the case — and as far as modern day celebrations of the holiday go, they’re few and far between. But that’s okay, because we’re bringing it back!

Saturnalia in a nutshell

“Help, I’m trapped in a nutshell!”

–Saturn, probably

Saturnalia: pagan festival of bad poetry and revelry. Also, merrymaking, gag gifts, role reversal, and drunken debauchery. (Though that last could refer to a lot of pagan celebrations, honestly.)

A candle in a lantern sits beside two wrapped gifts. The theme is winter and Christmas.
A large part of Saturnalia was the Sigillaria, or gift-giving. Sigillaria were small wax or pottery figurines made for the day, but other items would also be gifted, including candles and gag gifts.

Some key Saturnalia concepts:

  • Saturnalicius princeps, or “The King of Saturnalia”. Elected by lot, this person oversees the festivities and ceremonies. Likely continued as a Christmas tradition in the form of the Lord of Misrule.
  • Role reversal and behavioural license. Roles were reversed and the social hierarchy flattened during this festival, and there was liberty for free speech from slaves to criticize their masters.
  • Gambling, which anyone could partake in. Another example of the liberty of Saturnalia, as usually gambling was forbidden, or at least frowned upon.
  • The Sigillaria. A day for gift-giving, but with the twist of the season: the low intrinsic value of a gift is inversely proportional to the importance of the relationship. Verses sometimes accompanied gifts (a tradition thought to be carried on in our greeting cards), and bad poetry is famously associated with the holiday.

There is a lot more to ancient Saturnalia, but these key concepts will help you create your own modern-day Saturnalia festival, if you’re so inclined.

Io Saturnalia!

As part of my celebrations of Saturnalia this year, I’ve written a poem in honour of the holiday. I worked hard to capture the Saturnalian spirit with the poem. I hope you enjoy it.

Io Saturnalia!

Brightness wedged
among winter's darkened boughs--

Revelry, merrymaking, 
and our inner poet
to rouse.

Let a fool be king,
a CEO a wage-slave--

Misrule the day, 
give in to what you crave.

For it is Saturnalia,
a feast of light
in the dark

A time for bad poetry--
aardvark. 

Saturnalia: pagan festival of bad poetry and revelry. How will you celebrate?

Feeling inspired to join me in bringing Saturnalia back for our modern lives? Huzzah! The more the merrier.

If you’re still looking for inspiration, come on in to the shop! We’ve got (good) poetry books, in a nod to that classic gift of the season, as well as ideas and conversation.

Whatever you decide to do, we hope your season is merry and bright!

-Kat

All I wanted for Christmas in the long-ago Fifties–besides a dog, natch!–was a book. A book of my very own, in which I could escape to other worlds and play with other beings, while actually safe and secure with my family at home. My first book was Grimm’s Fairy Tales–and boy oh boy, were those stories grim! I loved the unique scent of that book as much as its iconic stories. Today Grimm’s still occupies pride of place among the thousands of nourishing books in my family library.

Best medicine to protect our kids from the nightmarish reality their parents have to grapple with nowadays? It could be as simple, inexpensive and therapeutic as a book.

Start your kids early with a family reading hour–why not? Kids imitate their parents; imagine the impact of seeing the grown-ups having fun with a book. So simple and so inexpensive–and where’s the downside? There’s no downside to a book.

Life sucks sometimes, and it’s up to us to make things better. What’s the best way to make amazing things happen?

To plan for them, of course!

Okay, maybe you don’t agree with me. Allow me to try to convince you.

Plan For The Life You Want

Image copyright Passion Planner; used with permission.

I’m a planner at heart. Always have been. When other girls were dreaming of their weddings, I had a 15 year plan that would take me through my BA, Master’s, and PhD before I was 30.

I’m 34 and only one of those happened. Which just goes to show you, you make plans and the universe laughs.

You might think that would mean I’d deride planning, or think it’s worthless. Just the opposite!

For me, planning something doesn’t mean that’s exactly what happens. Planning is like creating a road map for the most epic road trip ever — and being open to the various possibilities that might occur.

“Ok, we’ll go to Seattle for 2 days, then on to Portland for 3, and San Francisco for 5.”

But what if in Seattle you meet up with an old friend who tells you about an amazing event in Spokane (ok, just bear with me, I know Spokane has had at least ONE amazing event in the past decade), for the next 5 days? Do you slavishly stick to your road map — your plan — that you started with? Or do you let adventure take you where you least expect?

The answer, of course, depends on the purpose of your road trip (maybe if you have an actual deadline to meet in each city, you can’t just take off to a new one), and your disposition for change. (Me? Love it. My husband? HATES it. We make it work.)

But the point of this illustrative analogy is — the plan isn’t necessarily what happens. The plan is what you work out to figure out what you really want. It’s the time you take to ask your inner self what’s important to it. It’s a road map — not scripture.

Sometimes the Life You Want Isn’t What you Thought

Sometimes our plans don’t work out because opportunity knocks and we realize there’s something even better around a different corner for us. Sometimes they don’t work out for less fun reasons, like lack of money, or time, or a relative falling ill.

You need to remember two important things about this.

  1. It’s not your fault if the plan doesn’t work out.
  2. There are no grades for following a plan exactly. This is not a test.

Planning is for us.

I sit down with my planner on a daily basis — or, okay, I try; having a new puppy has made that a losing battle most days — and I use that time to get in touch with myself.

“Couldn’t you just journal?” you might ask. I could! And actually, I do use my planner as a journal in some respects — I note what happened, how it made me feel, what my original plans were for the day.

But a planner gives me more. It lets me:

  • see the day, week, and month at a glance, and know exactly what I think is in store for me.
  • decide where I want to focus my energy the most.
  • give myself permission to take days off.
  • keep my commitments — to myself most of all.
  • make a book really pretty — and if it’s pretty, I’ll use it, and if I use it, I keep my commitments.

Why I Needed a Planner in 2020

There were a lot of jokes this year about how the most useless purchase anyone made was a planner. Of course, in a worldwide pandemic where most of us lost our entire social calendar, it does seem kind of strange to have a paper planner.

But for me, the most important purchase I made this year was of my planners. (Yes, plural. I use more than one.)

The Moonology Diary I got helped me remember to note my gratitude, even if not all the time. It taught me to live with the phases of the moon, and how to manifest with her cycles.

The Witches’ Datebook I got was a refreshing window into my past — it used to be my go-to planner at all times — and it reminded me there’s magic in the world, even if I can’t see the whole picture.

The Polestar Business Planner I bought helped me plan out a year that ended up not happening, which taught me even more lessons. It helped me keep track of word counts, and it helped me realize that in our new paradigm, I need something different from my planner. (I still really love the Polestar, and do recommend it.)

When the pandemic hit, I was lost and confused and sad — a thousand different emotions, roiling about in my skull, in my chest. Suddenly the life I knew I wanted didn’t seem like it would ever be possible again — through absolutely no fault of my own, or anyone I knew.

How do you plan for the life you want when everything is up in the air?

“When You’re Going Through Hell — Keep Going”

I kept planning. I kept at it. And slowly I realized that the life I knew I wanted would have to change, and that was okay.

Mourning was essential, of course — you can’t move on if you don’t let yourself mourn.

The truth is, if you want to create the life you’ve always wanted, you need to plan for the life you want — and a planner can help you do that in a way that a journal just can’t, in my not-so-unbiased opinion.

Mid-year, I bought a 2020 Passion Planner on super sale. And that was one of the best decisions I’ve made this year.

Getting a Passion Planner helped me realize that they are the planner for me. I’ve been flitting around like a bee for so long, trying to find the right flower, and finally I realized — this is it! I get more done with Passion Planner and I like my life more.

I’ve been very blessed this year to become a Passion Planner Ambassador as well, which means I get to share my love of the planner while making a little extra money.

If you want your own Passion Planner to see what all the fuss is about, today is the best day to get one — they’re having the biggest sale of the year on all their products, only until 10am Pacific November 23rd — and my discount code stacks with the sale.

Go here to check out the very wide range of what Passion Planner has to offer. (Seriously, they keep adding and it’s ALL AMAZING!) When you check out, enter the code KATJE10 to get an extra 10% off your purchase. You’ll be making a positive change in your life, trust me (and supporting a local bookstore while you do!).

(And yes, I still use plural planners. I have three Passion Planners — a weekly dated for business, a weekly undated for spirituality, witchy stuff, and religion, and a daily for more personal things. It works for me to compartmentalize like that, especially as it means I don’t have to cram a thousand things into one book with my terrible penmanship that trends BIG across the page.)

Planners Unite! Separately, In Our Own Homes, Over Zoom, Because There’s a Pandemic On

So, have I convinced you yet? Maybe you’re just not a planner at heart — that’s okay! It takes all kinds to make a world, after all.

(Fellow planners, though — hit me up on Instagram. I share a lot of planning stuff, as well as knitting, crochet, and books!)

If you’re still not a planner, maybe we can bond over our mutual love of wall calendars? I can’t be the only person in the world who always tries to buy three each year, right? One for every room, obviously!

No? Well, that’s okay. We’ll find something to become friends over!

-Kat, resident not-actual-cat of Wolffy’s Book Den, mommy to Sirius, Store Dog

PS: wait, don’t go, I really want to tell you about some fave wall calendars!

Mom, of course, always gets a wolf calendar, EVERY year, without fail. Sometimes more than one, because I always try to give her one as a gift, and, well, she tends to get one herself. (This one is bilingual and very pretty, but of course it’s not available online — so useful! I really wish we hadn’t lost our Coles in town. But I might get this one for her — it’s ALL pups. Puppies!)

My fave is Llewellyn’s Witches’ Calendar (companion to the Datebook — the artwork is gorgeous!), but I’m also partial to funny ones, so the Dog Shaming and “I Could Pee On This” and Other Poems By Cats ones have caught my eye.

Mind you, so has Wanderlust, the Hubble Space Telescope one, or literally anything else full of pictures of places I won’t get to visit any time soon; and then there are super practical, earthy ones like this Gardening one or the Kitchen one…

Right, obviously we’ll be here all day if I’m allowed to continue. Maybe I should do an entire post about wall calendars?

What’s your favourite type of wall calendar? Super practical, or just full of incredibly gorgeous pictures or artwork?

A note on affiliate links: every time we link to an outside store, we use an affiliate link so that if you do make a purchase via somewhere else, you’re still supporting Wolffy’s Book Den and the pack of book-loving wolves behind it! We know it may seem strange to support a small, local bookstore with a purchase at a big store, but that’s how things work these days — at least until we get all our wholesale accounts sorted out, which we’re working on!