Meditation: The dream versus reality

This image depicts a person meditating on a lotus that I made as a freshman in high school 20 years ago

As an unemployed worker in the time of Corona does, I have been ransacking my living quarters, rearranging, and purging random shit.

My quest for order and organization has been more Kafka-esque than Kondo-esque. Instead of explaining to most of my belongings that I no longer need them and thanking them for their service, I am now displaying more tchotkes than ever. I am joyously celebrating clutter and disorder, instead of joyous order and minimalism. Woops! 

It’s like I am excavating ancient ruins, digging them up, and then finding them too precious to discard. Even though they had been forgotten about for years. 

This is one collection DEFINITELY worth keeping, that is for sure!

What does this have to do with meditation? Not much. But, my re-cluttering work led me down a deep rabbit hole through my Nostalgic Paper Relic Collection © (Laura Kaplan, 2020), where I found this little note I wrote after what was probably my first ever meditation:

Sixteen-year-old me probably didn’t know what “introverted” meant, but when reflecting back on it, it’s still hard to describe what happened precisely

I’ve meditated many times since the above was written, but there are only two other experiences I remember aside from this one. And these two are polar opposites of each other.

The Dream

I was sitting down comfortably (possibly on my Wii Fit? ha), eyes shut, focusing on trying to bring my awareness to the space where my third eye resides. For me, that’s where I pluck away the hairs of my uni-brow. 

My eyes remaining shut, I began to follow a purple light deep between my eyes. It swirled around, deep into what felt like the middle of my head. Suddenly, overwhelmed by its beauty, as if I had seen the entire universe at once, I wowed so much that it abruptly disappeared. Feeling dizzy, I slowly regained my normal consciousness.  I tried to get “it” (whatever it was) back by meditating more, but it hasn’t shown itself again.

I don’t know about you, but for me, the story above is what I think of when I think of what meditation is “supposed” to be (plot twist: it’s not “supposed” to be anything). 

If that’s the dream of meditation, then this next story is more like the nightmare:

My boyfriend lives within walking distance of a meditation center. He tried to get me to go there for a long time, but I resisted.

One day I changed my mind and decided to go to the “beginner’s meditation,” with him. He gave me the lowdown of how it works there, and explained that even if I messed up a little, and it was noticeable to others, they would laugh or forgive me for my silly, cute mistakes because they really wouldn’t harm anyone.

I probably should have tried to leave after the communal dinner, where we narrowly avoided having to drink ranch dressing flavored green tea as a way to cleanse out our salad bowls without waste. 

After the dinner there was a meditation 101 type class, where the teacher said he wasn’t going to teach us how to sit properly in meditation. It turns out that was what I needed to learn the most.

There were a lot of rules.

I’m someone who actually likes rules, rituals, routines, etc, but as the night progressed and I learned more about this style of meditation, even I, a typical goody-two-shoes, was scared I would break them. The list of specific protocols we needed to follow kept getting longer. There was a certain way to chant, a particular way to move or cough so we didn’t bother others, even a specific way to wear and tie the robes they gave us. 

woman in black tank top sitting beside man in black shirt
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

When it came time to actually meditate, everything started out normal but quickly went awry. First I felt my feet start to get numb. Ok, I thought to myself, here’s where I’m supposed to move without making the tiniest disruptive sound. What was I supposed to do, again? Knowing how ungraceful I am with my body and forgetting what it was I was supposed to do, I made the decision to stay this way. Twenty five more minutes of this couldn’t be that bad, could it?

Well, by the time everyone was done meditating and began to stand up and walk out in unison. I tried to stand up. This was impossible. I had lost all circulation in my lower body. My boyfriend just stood behind me as everyone else left in an orderly fashion. I was able to put my legs out in front of me, and eventually regain feeling enough to stand and walk. 

No one there laughed at me, thankfully. But this was not cute. 

Now, I find the whole experience kind of comical. I hope you did too. 

***

Do you have any funny meditation stories? Share them with me!

Dead-ication: Cliffnotes Edition

You will not understand why this creepy clown painting is here if you just read the Cliff Notes 😆

Ok, so, I think I’ve been out of high school long enough to admit that sometimes I had to get creative and B.S. my way into writing papers on books that were assigned. I didn’t do this all the time, but my poor time management skills and anxiety occasionally prevented me from fully reading the whole book. 

Sometimes, I would read a book from cover to and still have no idea what I had just read. Good examples of this would be the Odyssey and whatever that medieval (or should I just say mid level evil?) epic poem by Chaucer was called.  

When this happened, I turned to Cliff Notes. Yes, those little yellow and black booklets that sorta suggested by their design to proceed with caution. 

Cliff Notes brought my skill for B.S.-ing my high school papers to another level. They could help me understand the archaic texts or help me in a pinch when I couldn’t read it all.

So, if you started reading my long ass four-part blog dedication (aka a dead-ication because the people I dedicate my blog to are all dead), and wanted to skip it or get straight to the point, may I present to you:

The Dead-ication: Cliff Notes Edition!

Caution, dead people ahead!

This blog is dedicated to the following people:

Lillian and Arthur’s wedding photo

My Grandma, Lillian, for inspiring my aesthetic and my taste for the finer things in life.

My Grampa, Arthur, for giving me my sense of humor and my stubbornness. He was also wrong about at least one thing: magic really is real!

I was a baby when my uncle graduated high school!

My Uncle Stephen for, well, everything! He’s my angel. Although he can’t talk back to me verbally, he always has a way of showing me he’s listening when I talk to him or feel his presence.

My Grammie with her opossum she adopted as a girl, she named him Herbert!

And finally, my Grammie, Claire, who’s birthday would have been today, actually! I am dedicating my blog to her for reminding me to be present and live with no regrets. To continue to make art, write, be one with nature, and learn anything I wish to learn, before it is too late.

So, there you have it! The gist of my 4 part story of the dead-ication.

Ah, so much easier, right? 😉 

Now that this is all wrapped up, I can gift you with more fun and magical blog posts. Check out my about page, as a reminder of my intentions for this blog.

And sign up for an offering! (most are free, but I will be offering another soon that will not be free).

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The Finale of the “Dead-ication”: Part 4

It is finally here! The denouement! (Yeah, I’m fancy!) Denou-what? The end of my blog’s dedication! Well, it’s actually a “dead-ication“, because they are all dead.

If you want to learn about the people I dedicated this blog to so far, you can read part 1 here, part 2 here, and part 3 here

There will also be a Cliffs Notes edition coming soon, if you want to cheat. I won’t tell anyone if you do.

Last I left you, I was on a road trip to my master’s degree residency in Surry, Maine, where it felt like my Uncle Stephen was in my back seat, guiding me. 

In this post, I tried to bring you into the world of that residency in Maine in all it’s sugary-sweet yet very real glory. 

Let’s revisit the road to residency one more time.

Those Evergreens, in Acadia National Park

Somewhere along the route, surrounded by so many evergreen trees that I smelled their sappy, woody, Christmas time scent through my closed windows, I became inspired to re-examine my required presentation topic for the residency. I had already fleshed out an idea, but I didn’t really like it.

Thinking of my uncle, a new idea popped into my head. Why not lead my peers in an activity on transforming grief? This was something that I obviously had a lot of experience with and could be useful to others in the program.

When it came time for me to present, it all came naturally. I spoke calmly throughout the presentation, even through my fear and tears. 

(my Uncle Stephen as a young child, with his kitten, Menemsha)

Stephen’s life clearly inspired my desire to pursue the field of Humane Education. I wanted my peers to consider the qualities of people they love and honor and let that inform their humane education work. 

When I heard others share similar grief experiences of the amazing people who impacted their lives, my heart melted. I had to mop it up later, but that’s another story.

I believe my uncle had a cosmic hand in getting me to Maine and leading me to this experience at the residency. I felt his presence with me the whole time, and it was unbelievable. 

In the last episode of my dedication, you may have wondered if my grandmother was going to die during my residency. I didn’t think I’d get to see her again. I was wrong. 

An old photo of us together

This isn’t a very easy story to tell and her life is hard to humor-ize.

My Grammie Claire’s life was riddled with trauma. When my uncle died, she became a different person than the grandmother I knew when he was alive. Stephen was, in fact, her third son to die.  She gave birth to two twin boys and they died shortly after their birth. There was just so much trauma in her life, and I am sensitive to that. 

About three months after residency, in September of 2016, I surprisingly accompanied my mom to hold vigil for my Grammie during the last 4 days of her life. I thought that my grandmother was an example of how not to live my life. Instead, she somehow showed me how to live my life.

Her hospice nurse was awesome. Not only was she a regular nurse, but she was a “holistic nurse,” as well. This nurse believed that when people are dying, they go through something that is called a “life review,” in which the person watches their entire life like a movie. This pained me, because when I ruminate on certain parts of my own life, I cringe. 

The nurse assured me that at this point, my grandmother was able to review her life without judgment. Watching this “movie” helped her to prepare for her next incarnation. I don’t know if or how the nurse knew, but I had always believed in reincarnation, so this information helped me to heal.

The nurse explained to us that my grandmother specifically chose the life she had, to learn the lessons she needed to learn. She was responsible for her choices and actions, not us. It was not up to us to judge her life. 

She could always make me laugh

My Grammie died in the early morning, while we were sleeping at home. My mother said that when she got the call, they said that she had “expired.” We find that word choice to be so weird. Like, this person is telling someone her mother just died and now she’s like a rotten piece of fruit? (I inherited the morbid side of my sense of humor from my grandmother, so please, do not be ashamed if you chuckled at that. I am sure my Grammie would have thought it was funny too. She would often say, “don’t get old, Laura!”)

Morbid jokes aside, my grandmother’s death taught me to take action. After she died, my spirituality grew wildly. Like the tomatoes she grew, or the strawberries I savored from her bushes. Like the plants she and my mom carefully selected for their gardens each Mother’s Day.

I now noticed a deep creative energy suddenly scratching and crawling it’s way out of me. I created more art, wrote, even read more than ever. Not surprisingly, the time my grandmother spent as an artist, nursery school teacher, and knitter let her weave her artistry throughout her community. 

She often held back from expressing her love for her family and friends, rarely leaving the house, refusing to travel, avoiding spending nights at our house during holidays. She even held back enjoying the gifts that family gave her. An example of this comes from a piece of my writing shortly after she died:

She once told me she really wanted the magnetic “moon sand” that was popular with kids. Together we looked up how she could make it herself online, but ultimately I decided to buy her some of the store bought kind for Christmas. I wasn’t in the practice of buying her Christmas presents, this was the only time I ever did so. We were both really excited about me giving her a gift. But she never used it. My mom said she had said she was “saving it for later.” 

I do not want to save having a joyful life for later. I do not want to be so fearful of losing someone that I cannot love them fully. I want to be grateful for everything. Living my life, always learning, and doing what I want, when I want.

Here she is with her beloved cat, Chessie, in a sweater she likely knit herself

So, finally, I also dedicate this blog to my Grammie, Claire, for reminding me to be present and live with no regrets. To continue to make art, write, be one with nature, and learn anything I wish to learn, before it is too late. Or before I, dare I say it, expire.

My suggestion to you, my dear readers, is to make a list of the things you would save for later, and start doing them now. 

P.S.: Just like my uncle Stephen, my Grammie Claire is strongly connected with me spiritually, and has been sending me signs, signals, and visions ever since I read this story to her before she died and at her memorial service.

P.P.S: My grandmother loved animals just like me. She chose this song to play at her service. 

And Then the Laughter Stopped?

You may be wondering where I have been. The short answer is that I have also been wondering.

How Can I be funny when there is so much pain in the world?

For days, weeks, maybe even months, (who knows at this point?) I have been struggling to come back and write, in this here Witchy Humor blog.  

Nothing seemed funny anymore. The mere thought of laughing or attempting to make others laugh just seemed…cruel and insensitive.

I thought about what to write here for a long time. I couldn’t imagine going on as usual without making space for acknowledging that Black Lives Matter and doing more to promote anti-racism in this space.

I needed to say something, to keep going with this blog. This website is a very important project to me, and so is doing intersectional activist work.

Staying silent here was a mistake. One of many mistakes I have made and will continue to make in my anti-oppression work as a white person.

I tried to respond earlier. I read this article where Trump called the enraged protesters a “laughingstock,” and the governor of Minnesota retorted, “No one’s laughing…we’re in pain.”

Words have power.

I never gave it much thought, but sharing my written words have always inspired action in me. Sharing my writing in all its forms has helped foster empathy in others during the most challenging times in my life. Writing often is my joy, most of the time. I couldn’t let fear and collective pain stop me from writing.

So, I had to take action.

When I started to plan what to write I was thinking about talking about the absurdity of Trump’s “Laughingstock” comment. I miraculously had not saved it in my millions of browser tabs open, that spanned both Firefox AND Safari. I turned to Google. Despite all my googling, I could not find it (and I am usually a good googler). 

Instead, this article was the first one to pop up. This New York Times article features high school students’ opinions on finding ways to laugh through “tough times.”

The times we are living in are more than “tough.” Hopefully we are at a point in history where our collective consciousness is on the rise, but we are currently experiencing some growing pains.

After reading that article,

I realized, no one is telling us we can’t laugh anymore.

There’s that Mugsley laughing again!

Laughter is not cancelled. Laughter has power. It can heal. It can get us through the best of times and the worst.  Laughter can even be used as revenge if you want it to. That video clip was taken from the trailer for The Last Laugh, a documentary series about laughter and comedy during the Holocaust and by Jewish people (like me and my family members), which I want to watch.

I believe in the principle of “do no harm,” but “take no shit,” also has a place.

To me this is like the idea of how “white witches” are supposed to be good, and “black witches” are supposed to be “bad” or “evil.” I myself have fallen for this either/or trap. I have learned there is more to being a witch than good versus bad, white magic versus black magic. Magic is on a spectrum, just like everything else in the world. There is room for both, and there is room for the in between.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is wicked-witch.gif

Here’s another way to illustrate the point above. Remember the Wizard of Oz? The “wicked” witches were considered ugly and evil. But they were grieving their family who were killed. The Wicked Witch of the West only wanted what was rightfully hers.

Meanwhile, Glinda over here, dressed in a pink frickin’ prom dress, with a crown and a magic wand, was considered the good one! She even led the parade where everyone celebrated the witches’ death! AND SHE FLOATED AROUND IN A PINK BUBBLE!

I used to have some trouble deciding which witch to favor. Now it is clear.

The wicked witch needs more attention. She needs her demands to be met. Glinda is not as glorious as she seems. She needs to get out of her damn bubble!

For some further reading:

If you haven’t thought about it before, here’s one of many black voices who have talked about being othered in mainstream witch culture.

Is the Term Black Magic Racist?

I also want to re-share my intentions for this blog. I think they still hold true.

I am committing to post more resources and BIPOC voices in my links/articles that I share throughout this site.

If you are a blogger, reader, witch (or anyone) who needs ideas for what you can do as a white person to support anti-racism efforts and black people, please get in touch through the contact page, or you could also comment on this blog entry. I may be able to help you talk it through.

Also, another offering of my own for you to consider:

I am teaching a 6 week, 1:1, creative writing, arts-based course with activities based around the intuitive arts. I will be donating more than half the money I make from it to a Black Lives Matter fund or organization of your choice. For more information and to sign up for the course, click here.

The Magic of Maine: A Guided Meditation

Or should I say, Maine-itation? 😆

WARNING: Though it sounds (and looks!)  too good to be true, the writing below is dead serious. There aren’t any jokes. I’m sorry. HOWEVER, there is a bonus feature at the end, where you can hear me reading this as a guided meditation. My voice does not naturally sound that way, and I am pretty sure no one speaks this way in their daily life. Unless they read guided meditations for a living. To which I ask, why? Maybe this is why I avoid guided meditations. They creep me out!

Here’s an example of what I mean by this voice (not mine, that’s at the end).

I won’t be offended if you skip reading the script and go straight to the video recording of it at the bottom of the page, not unlike those recipe blogs. I mean, you just want to get to the recipe! You don’t want to read about how the chef spent their whole week, or whatever. (I wouldn’t know what they are saying, I just scroll right to the recipe.)

***

First look at arrival

Close your eyes. Breathe slowly and deeply. Imagine that you have just arrived at a wondrous location where there is a meadow with fruitful trees. A forest filled with mushrooms.

Along the trails, you find hidden art in unexpected places. 

Lupines!

There is a beautiful field of purple lupines that brings to mind your favorite childhood book, Miss Rumphius. The lupines surround a pond. This is where you will hear peepers peeping:

The Peepers Peeping
The pond of all 5 senses

When the sun sets, your spirits are lifted by lightning bugs. These insects reflect the stars above you. They are so bright that you wonder if you are dreaming, and are now in space. You have never seen so many lightning bugs. You have never seen the stars like this before. The milky way is visible to your bare eyes.

The path to the beach.

There is a long path leading to a beach. But nobody flocks to this one except for the people you will grow to love in a week’s time. 

The secret’s out: I am also a mermaid

Up until now, you have only “met” these people in a digital world. Until now you could only imagine what they would be like. They write books. They are role models. Artists. They teach with compassion. Most of them are like you, here to learn, wondering what is in store.

Everyone here cares deeply about animals. The environment, Social justice. You are finally face to face with those who’ve you been longing to meet . In just about 5 days, you will not only know what they are like, but you will be surprised by how deeply you love and care for them.

Bathroom Inspiration

Most of you share a large cabin filled with warm blankets and sleep in bunk beds. There are comfy chairs and even the bathroom provides inspiration.

It might be uncomfortable for you to sleep in a room full of people every night. You keep waking up at the same time every morning. 4:35. On the fourth day, you grab your flashlight and walk towards the path to the beach. At dawn, walking through the wilderness, you feel alone and vulnerable, yet you are safe.

The beach at sunrise.

Arriving at the beach, you wait to see what is in store for you. There it is! The sun begins to slowly rise through the sky, painting a pastel palette like an impressionist painting (Monet comes to my mind).

Though this place is the happy place we often dream of, you still sadly cry sometimes. But you also cry out of joy, realizing your true self-someone you have not spent much time with before.  When it all feels like too much, you take time to reflect and relax in a hammock. You LOVE hammocks. You are mesmerized, swaying between the trees, the sun beating down on you, enlivening you. You embrace your inner child when your deep emotions get the best of you, by imagining you are a tree. You are grounded, from your root to your branches.

Trees on a mountain YOU climbed but doubted you could

You climb mountains with your peers, literally and figuratively. They give you presents in the form of lessons and speeches. You find out what is most important to them. You know what is most important to you. When it is time for you to share your gifts, you are nervous, but ask for the support you need. It is freely given to you. Despite having a shaky voice, you speak calmly and patiently about transforming grief into love and inspiration. 

No caption needed

In your conversations, you have been talking a lot about how you want to make people laugh. So you gather around the table in the cabin one night, and deliver that laughter. The laughter continues to reverberate even after you leave.

Awe-inspiring

Throughout this experience, you have become one with your surroundings, nature, people, and animals. Every day you have sat in the same place, for a while, looking at the same purple lupine with great attention. You are opening yourself to witnessing the smallest, yet most profound developments in real time. You never knew that simply staring at a plant for so long could connect you to so much. A beating drum off in the distance calls you back to more experiences and opportunities to learn and grow. 

The sound of that beating drum will bring you back here. Mentally, and even physically. This is one time in your life that you will never forget. However, you can come back here, any time you want.

Give yourself some time to become adjusted to your present surroundings. Take a few breaths. Your normal life might seem different now. Savor the time you had in such a magical place. Be grateful for the time you spent here.

The window where your instructors and peers share their gifts with you, and you share yours.

Whenever you miss this place, spend time in nature for as long as you can. Be present. Remember who you really are, deep within your soul. Share laughs with strangers, and friends. Remind yourself that any grief, sadness, or despair you feel can and should be felt, but know that it can be transformed into a force for goodness and change.

!!! Here is the Recording of this post, read by me in my best fake calming and weirdly seductive sounding meditation voice. There is even a slideshow with bonus pictures!

In all it’s glory!

You may find it hilarious or helpful, who knows?!

Comment to tell me which it was.

***

This meditation was inspired by my Master’s Residency, in Surry, Maine where I shared five amazing days at Zoe Weil’s home, with my instructors and fellow students from the Institute for Humane Education (IHE)

I now have a tattoo inspired by a photo I took during residency, when my friends and I climbed a mountain at Acadia National Park (called Bubble Rock), in honor of this experience. I came back to this part of Maine with my boyfriend Ryan after graduating a few years later.  The trip was my graduation present to myself.

Picture of myself with said tattoo at Acadia when I came back to visit Acadia

Part 4 (the finale) of my blog’s “dead-ication,” is coming up next. You can see part 1, part 2, and part 3 respectively, by clicking these links. Or you can wait for the extra “Cliffnotes Edition” of Magick Brouhahaha’s Dead-ication,” to follow. 

Part 3 of the Dead-ication: My Personal Guardian Angels

I LOVED Lamb Chop!

So sorry (not!) to keep you waiting again with the cliffhangers. Maybe you’re just like, come on witch! Let’s get this longass story over with, already! Well, we’re nearing the end, so buckle up, because you’re in for a wild ride! 

In the first part of this saga, you saw me dedicate this website to my grandma Lillian who gave me my aesthetic and an appreciation for the finer things in life:

(I really hate having to post this again for you, but you know, I am going for the comedic triple and the rule of threes! Hopefully I won’t be karmically lured in by a red balloon sticking out of a sewer.) 

Then, you learned in part two that my Grampa didn’t believe in magic. He may have never been able to experience magic, which I find unfortunate. However, I am grateful I forgave him and didn’t stop believin’ or let him crush my dreams of being a magickal witch! 

He didn’t care much for spirituality or religion. Having an audience laughing at his jokes was his synagogue. He made my life lighter with laughter. He would be happy to see me continuing his comedic tradition.

Despite my Grampa, I knew magic was real because of my Uncle Stephen. He WAS my everything, he IS my guardian angel. 

I told you some of my favorite memories of him: how he made thunder and lightning no longer frightening, the precious, priceless treasures he gifted me, his acknowledgment of the everlasting joy of a sparkly, shiny, colorful rock. I mean, I could write a book about him here, but that’s not what you’re looking for. Or are you?

No, no you’re not. You’re looking for the solution to the cliffhanger…And I already shared some of the amazing ways he reached out from beyond his grave…but wait…there’s more!

sorry to all the arachnophobes here

Like a spider weaving her web, my last post, “How a Lady Doing my Eyebrows got me into the Grad School of my dreams,” was actually leading up to the resolution of this soap opera of a Dead-ication of mine. Bet you had no clue

After I was accepted into grad school, I was given an exciting piece of information from Mary Pat (who had now become my academic advisor aka the Empress of Academics). As a requirement for the program, I needed to visit Maine for a week-long residency. 

“What part of Maine?” I asked, knowing Maine was a vastly big state compared to tiny Rhode Island. 

Mary Pat replied, “Surry, Maine, near Acadia National Park.”

I was ecstatic!  I had never stayed in Maine before, but I loved the day trips I had taken. In all of my adult life, I’d never been able to afford to travel overnight. So, this was like being given a cupcake with a huge heap of swirled buttercream frosting covered with rainbows on top. 

Cupcakes I actually made as part of my cookbook filled with unicorny recipes and the like

Not only was I required to travel, but it would give me academic credit and my financial aid would cover most of it!  That was exciting enough in itself. 

Overjoyed, I went to tell my mom about this. She gasped when I said, “It’s near Acadia National Park, in Maine.” Her face suddenly became pale as a ghost. “That was your Uncle Stephen’s favorite place in the whole world. It was also one of the last places he visited before he died.

Then I gasped, and turned into an even paler version of my mother. Like, I don’t know what’s paler than a ghost except this photo of Stephen underwater before he came a real ghost:

I’ve been obsessed with this picture for as long as I can remember

This news of travel felt divine in some way, but I had no idea of all the surprises in store. I hoped that this could bring me closer to my Uncle in some way. The Spring semester flew by and suddenly I was ready to leave for the residency.

Surry, Maine is about a 6 hour drive from my house, and I was going on my first solo road trip all of a sudden. At the time, driving gave me a lot of anxiety. I didn’t know if I could do this all on my own. I had to drive through Boston! The place I had always avoided driving in! 

My mom was probably more scared for me than I was. Forty-five minutes after leaving my house, I passed through Sharon, MA, to pee and get coffee that would just make me pee more.  I found myself seeking reassurance from my mom on the phone. This was the most familiar part of my trip, so I was still confident. I’d soon be entering Boston, though. I continued on. Dun dun dun…

My Stephen senses were tingling. I felt his presence in my backseat. When I got into Boston, there was an important intersection I needed to cross. One would bring me where I wanted to go, and the other to a panic attack. I had no idea what I was doing or which fork in the road to take. I realized at the last possible minute that I was about to go the wrong way.  I was on the median, trying to get over to the left side, back onto the road. So many possibilities could have occurred, but I emerged unscathed. I breathed a sigh of relief, and my confidence grew. My Stephen senses weren’t just tingling anymore. I had goosebumps.

This solo road trip that ended up spanning about a total of 8-9 hours because of all the stops I took to pee (plus a visit to a fancy raw vegan restaurant in Beverly MA,an impromptu hike in the woods with my friend Rachael in Gray, ME, and more snacks than I needed) could be 2-3 chapters in a book about me and my uncle’s connection, but I’ll try to spare you that for now.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I was legally driving 80 mph down a long stretch of highway with Moose crossing warnings (okay Maine, let’s advocate hitting a moose at 80mph!) when I unexpectedly got a call from my mom. “Your grandmother is in the hospital. She has something called delirium. It’s not looking good. What do you want me to do if she dies?”

The last time I visited my grandmother, she watched me color mandalas while she breathed with the support of a can of oxygen pumping into her nose. My mom left us alone to do errands, and I was glad I got to spend that alone time with my Grammie. I assumed that was the last time she would be the woman I knew. So, when I left that day, I tearfully told her I loved her. “I love you too, Sweetie,” she responded. I wanted to hold onto that memory of her forever. I had the foresight even then to know this was the start of the end of her life.

The FOMO (fear of missing out in millennial-speak) on this residency experience filled me with dread. I felt my uncle’s presence so strongly, sending me a message that I NEEDED to stay through residency, even if my grandmother died.

So, I asked my mom to withhold any unnecessary information (unless I asked specifically). I asked that if she died, not to call me until I was safely back at home. “But please, if she does die, and you can stall the funeral, do. I already said my goodbyes to her the last time I saw her.” She questioned this, but I reiterated it. 

Ugh, sorry guys, I swear to the Universe that I did not intend to have another cliffhanger here…but it looks like that’s going to happen…now.

Stay tuned after a few unrelated posts for the fourth and final installment (please!?) of this long ass dead-ication. Like, I think this is the longest dedication ever to be written… if this was the Oscars the symphony would start playing and the curtains would be coming down on me or something. The award presenters would be forcefully yet gracefully taking my arm and escorting me backstage. And then I’d get yelled at by the producers of the show and there’d be Hollywood gossip about me everywhere. Headlines like: “Why did Laura Kaplan have to dedicate her award to so many dead people?” 

That juicy gossip will all make sense, I promise. The best part is coming next.

You’re dying to hear more. If you want notifications when I make a new post, follow me on Facebook or get them emailed to you (put your email into that rectangular box and hit the blue button already!)

How a lady doing my eyebrows got me into the graduate program of my dreams

I wanted to apply to a Masters of Arts program in Humane Education before I had any undergraduate degrees. I first learned of the Institute for Humane Education at a table at a VegFest in Massachusetts. My associates degree was still in progress at that time.

After graduating from my community college in 2014, I expected it would take me at least another 3 years to transfer and get a bachelor’s degree. I knew I wanted to get a master’s degree when I graduated high school in 2003. Yet I didn’t  finish my bachelor’s degree until 2015! 

After I graduated from the Community College of RI, I had some choices to make. I was accepted into a well-known culinary school. It seemed like the obvious choice because of my vegan cooking blog. After registering, I couldn’t shake off the alarms going off in my head telling me not to go . Instead, I found myself at an open house offering non-vegan free pizza, in a building at the MET school, for a program called College Unbound. I immediately felt at home. I applied, enrolled, and started classes. I could make a long story short here, but the story of my time there WAS short.

I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in a YEAR! At age 31! But who the F cares! I made it!

yes, I made this giant vegan cookie pie (and everything else including Rhode Island Pizza Strips) at something called my final exhibition, which was basically me giving an accidentally too long speech, stalling because my friend was stuck in traffic driving all the way from Maine to see it, while all the important people from my life watched me


Walking onto the stage during the graduation ceremony with my favorite therapist waiting in the wings to give me my diploma, my college advisor Leann praising me, ugly tears started to fly out of my eyes.


My tears represented the culmination of my struggles, but also pure, unadulterated joy. I never believed I would have a bachelor’s degree. Desperately trying so many times, I always gave up. Grades were not the issue.  It was just me and my fear of failure. Me and my self-doubt. 

I stepped on to the podium, with the microphone in front of me. I had no plans of what I was going to say (all my classmates did). I tried to wipe my tears away but they were still flowing. The large crowd stared at me, and so did the silent microphone. Suddenly, the crowd began to chant, “Laura! Laura! Laura!” and I began to speak. I can’t remember much of what I said.

All of us were on display around the theater our ceremony was held in. I still have this giant poster of me ha


Never had I felt so celebrated in my life. Maybe my birth was more celebrated than my graduation, but, I don’t think I have a memory of that. Or do I?

I applied pretty quickly to graduate school after graduating from CU..

After I applied, I started to get some information from Valparaiso University (the school who hosted the humane education program) about mandatory interviews.While anxious about the future, and my possible acceptance, I took a long, 30-minute drive to Warwick, Rhode Island to get my eyebrows waxed. (Rhode Islanders think any drive over 15 minutes is unacceptably long.) 

So here I am, getting my eyebrows done by this lady I had never met, but who thought she had met me before. “Have I told you that I do angel readings for people?” I was like, “W-w-what? No, you didn’t tell me.” “Well,” she said, “You have unicorns surrounding you right now. I’m not sure, but I think unicorns reflect your pure innocence.” 

This was before the Millennial Age unicorn craze really kicked off. If only she could have known how these unicorns would influence my life..like…that’s a cliffhanger in itself. But I won’t do that to you here!

Basically, I took this as a giant neon sign that I was on the right path. If I believed in myself, remember that I was gifted, and relaxed, everything was going to be okay. More than okay.

I found these unicorn oracle cards by Doreen Virtue much later

Shortly after the eyebrow lady waxed and trimmed my brows to perfection, I set up my graduate school admissions interview.

I would know, 

Whether I was accepted.

The night before my interview with a goddess named Mary Pat.  I had a weird and vivid dream:

In a little food market resting on the slope of a hill, I saw a chinchilla running up the hill past the store. Then the chinchilla was hit by a car. When I woke up, I knew this dream had significance for the outcome of the interview. As you might know, I am a fan of dream interpretation, but my usual sources were failing me. 

I found this website which explained,

“Seeing a dead chinchilla in a dream implies that you’ll get a rare opportunity to gain what you’re dreaming of. It is a unique one and among thousands of people, only you are [sic] a lucky dog to achieve it. So, be very attentive not to miss it!”

So obviously, I knew my interview with Mary Pat would end with the answer I was looking for:

So, you can’t make this shit up! Of course, I got in!

There was a lot that happened over the course of the two and a half years of studying with IHE (Institute for Humane Education). Some of that you will hear about in later posts. 

But the biggest task I faced was to:

No, not whether I was going to register!

It was the decision of what my thesis topic would be, you silly witches!

I wasn’t required to pick a topic until much later in the program. But being the planner and anxietress of the future that I am (anxietress: my made up word that combines empress with anxiety but is somehow not saying it’s a misspelled word?), I was plotting it all from day one.

 Here were some of the ideas that I explored:

Making music and illustrations that gave a voice to animals and other natural elements. Like, what would a turtle’s number one hit song be? Just think, you could have been rocking out to a giant rock singing in the ocean while the tides let him play hide and seek. This would’ve been super frustrating because I can’t play any instruments proficiently and my singing voice is worse than Ursula’s before she stole Ariel’s voice.

A writing project about finding happiness and exploring that concept (spoiler alert: you can’t find happiness, and you can’t always be happy)

Compassion fatigue and self-care for activists

Pet therapy a.k.a. an excuse for getting a dog

A community project around building accessible food sources through vegetable farming (yeah right, I can’t even keep my houseplants alive!)

Educating against ableism and for human rights for folks with disabilities

Writing children’s books

Humane life coaching

Humane end of life care, green funerals and alternatives. Becoming an end of life doula or hospice volunteer, as if I wasn’t morbid enough already.

Humane Library/cafe

Ultimately, the winning decision was a rainbow-filled, sugary, sparkly, ethical, and vegan cookbook and kid’s party planning book narrated by a unicorn named Justice

It sounds like a fluffy, B.S. thesis, right? (Fun fact: before my unicorn was named Justice, their name was Fluffy because I wanted to have a body positive unicorn. Turns out there was already a famous unicorn named Fluffy.) 

Here lies Fluffy’s moderation in moderation “diet”

My formal research was on Influencing Ethical Choices in Cooking and Crafting. It was not Fluff. It was 112 pages of beautifully, ethically, extracted unicorn tears. 

Despite the beauty behind the official document, I was afraid the thesis committee would reject it for its magical absurdity.

But then this happened:

Photo Credit: Stacy Hoult Saros

My parents had decided to help me get to my actual graduation in Indiana. I was very grateful for this experience.

That special moment!

I guess the unicorns really did choose and guide me to get this vision out into the world!

In all honesty, though I may need to do an activist spell to cancel my student debt, I got WAY more than I paid for. From the aesthetician who did my eyebrows, to the people who guided me and counseled me to stay in school at CCRI, to the absolutely supportive and community centered environment at College Unbound, to meeting so many amazing people I still connect with regularly at IHE, I wouldn’t change my educational journey at all.

Special shout outs to: Goddess Mary Pat, High Priestess Zoe, and Magician Kris at IHE. Sir Adam, King Dennis, and Lady Leann, from College Unbound. Queen Billie Jane, Empress Camille N., and Princess Jackie at CCRI. Plus all my classmates and friends I made along the way through this magical journey.

Thank you for all your help and unwavering belief in me, because we all know I struggle with believing in myself sometimes.

Do you like me (and by that I mean my blog), I mean, really really like me? Get my humorous and spellbinding blog entries sent to your inbox, as if by magick!

The first Ever Dream Interpretation from the mind of the “Supermoon Supervisor”

It’s already in…space… it’s the…SUPERMOON!

The Supermoon Supervisor sent me this dream in her own words (with a few tiny edits by me to it make a little more sense to my readers): 

“First, I was basically part of a Chopped competition (Food Network Chopped).  I lost the first round, stayed in for the rest of it, and then moved on. I thought I was going to make salmon, in the basket there was a pork belly.  Basically I started cooking the protein too late.  

Then I was visiting the art school I graduated from. Not as a student but as an alum.  There was a drawing competition with three rounds and I started the first round.  I drew two pandas and the judges put me onto the next round.  This round we had to use color instead of just black and white.  They gave a sentence we had to do a drawing based off of.  I had to draw a “Conquered Conrad” whatever that means.  I drew 3 flying eagles.  And then I made it to the last round.  The last round was the next day, and you had to draw based off of some tough imagery they provide you.  My tough imagery was someone giving birth.  So I used it as a reference photo.  I did most of the challenge without looking at the references.  Last minute I realized I didn’t follow the prompt.  Then I woke up.”

‘Sup with that dream, Supermoon Supervisor?

You’re obviously feeling like you’re in some kind of competition(s) right now. They could be your own internal competitions, but could be external too. All these battles you’re fighting leave you confused. You don’t even want to be fighting them. You don’t understand why you are still a competitor on the field. Others, or maybe even yourself, are contradicting everything you feel, say, or believe.

When you believed you had the salmon to cook during Chopped, it represented your determination and strength, and that even though you lost the first round, you were still going to be the champion anyways! 

But, to your surprise, when you realized you were actually supposed to cook the pork belly (do you really know how to cook pork belly, Supermoon Supervisor?) it reminded you of the competitions in your waking life.  Because you were thrown off by the pork belly and cooked it “too late, hot plate,” (that’s a saying from my boyfriend Ryan that seems appropriate here) what would have been a great success story was crushed like a hammer hits a cantaloupe. It’s too late to fix that situation. You might not be able to go back to normal, but you want to. You want routine again so badly. 

The art competition is a whole other story. It’s very interesting. This competition is the reverse of the first one. I feel like this epic art battle is more your speed in terms of what you really want to be involved with. You want to be in a more realistic and fun environment. You still want a challenge, but in a different way. Try to test the waters with your own art or work by competing with yourself. And try new forms, new subjects, don’t play it so safe. 

I was always told that looking at pictures or videos of people giving birth was the best form of birth control for horny teenagers. I can’t blame you for not wanting to use those reference photos. I am pretty sure WordPress would not forgive me for posting such a picture here, and rightly so.

But I see why you were disappointed when you realized that you failed to follow the rules/prompt of the art competition. Since you woke up right after that, you were afraid of losing something you put a lot of effort into and really loved. Your art represents you. You couldn’t (panda) bare to see what happened next, because it might have involved failure.

My take is that, unlike the Chopped competition, you still would have won the whole darn thing. Being challenged in the art world is what you need as a person to grow and learn. So face your fears. The most beautiful art can be incredibly grotesque, even ugly at times. You know this. Next time, draw those gruesome birth photos, dammit!  Don’t look away. I will look away, but you can’t. 

The art competition also references back to your dreaming about Chopped. It suggests that these are both tied together somehow, serving as a contrast…Dreaming of drawing the pandas suggests you are struggling to come to a compromise with yourself or others. You and whoever you are competing with need to find the median and not the mode or the mean (I’m sorry Supermoon Supervisor, do they teach you statistics in art school?) I just mean middle ground.

I made this picture to represent that Wikipedia image associated with one of the Conrad’s that I linked below because it’s EVEN WEIRDER and more magickal than the original.

The “Conquered Conrad” and the three flying eagles are VERY interesting to me. I wonder how that even came up in your dream. After some sleuthing around on the google, I found a Conrad who was literally a conqueror in the crusades, and who is associated with this image. According to the experts at Wikipedia, the image depicts a triple headed eagle. However, when I look at that image, I see two eagles with one head, and one double headed eagle. Not three eagles. So, it’s a little off, but what the hay. 

“Conquered Conrad” could also have been referencing this Conrad, who was a roman emperor. I didn’t want to read it all because it was too dang long for my attention span, but it appears he was never conquered per se. 

But since you were asked to draw a “Conquered Conrad” instead of a “Conquering Conrad,” you need to stand up so you don’t get yourself conquered.

Eagles represent nobility and pride (which duh, that’s why that Conrad was associated with them, and why you drew them). They represent how fierce you are. You are smarter and have more powerful intellect and magic than you think. People around you don’t always get to see or enjoy your power. But you have the force of three powerful, badass eagles behind you. So don’t let your eagle-ness get attacked by some low life seagull trying to steal your food when you’re soaring in the air with that under-cooked pork belly you found in your talons. 

(Hey, I’ve been to Maine. I’ve seen some real shit go down with wildlife. Like a motherflowering Bald Eagle being chased by a measly seagull for the Eagle’s fresh kill. Apparently it happens to Eagles ALL.THE.TIME. Come on Seagulls, don’t be so lazy!).

Thank you, Supermoon Supervisor, for being the good friend who shares with me all her wacky and awesome dreams. And the first one to volunteer for this! To that, I share with you this kinda creepy hugging yet thematically appropriate gif.

Terrible Tarot Illustrated Reading: Miss Solar Eclipse

Miss Solar Eclipse found me from my first tarot card reading recipient, Tawanda, who shared her reading on Facebook. “I want one!” Miss Solar Eclipse said, kind of like Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, although this was better and much more important than candy.

First, Miss Solar Eclipse actually asked me three questions all rolled into one:

“Will I find love and marry again or have I already “been there done that”?” Whoa there, that’s complicated!

So I guided her to simplify it a bit, and gave her a few examples.

She went with: “What’s in store for my love life?” 

My tarot cloth is from Goddessprovisions.com

The card I drew with her in mind (and thank you, Miss Solar Eclipse, for sending some of your own energy my way since you couldn’t be here in person) was the Eight of Cups.

My interpretive illustration of the eight of cups.

When I picked up the card, I was surprised.  I wasn’t sure whether it was on its reversed side or its upright side. Some people don’t read the reversed cards because they have different meanings than the upright version. I didn’t want it to be confusing. But given Miss Solar Eclipse’s question, and even the original three point question she had initially asked, I believed both meanings (upright and reversed) made sense to understand her situation. 

Upright, it looked like Miss Solar Eclipse was feeling rejected and ready to give up on love. She was considering turning her back on what she used to really care about, in love, and maybe even in life. Like, she may have been thinking that finding love should not be her priority. However, I believed she would find love, because the reversed version of the card seems to suggest a joyful celebration of love is coming. This love will look very different than she imagined it would look like when she was younger. And she will be content with that. 

There was also something interesting I noticed on the card. The sun and moon are together as one, like an eclipse. So it looks like, in the future, this partnership will be more harmonious and more equal than previous ones. 

After I explained my interpretation of this card to Miss Solar Eclipse, she thanked me and told me it was “spot on”. She wanted to talk to me more about the situation, and I learned that she has been in a wonderful relationship that is all she could hope for and need, but was starting to be concerned about where it was going because her partner seemed distant recently. I tried to access my third eye and give her some more advice. 

It turns out her partner has a valid reason to be distant, because he is grieving. I advised Miss Solar Eclipse to continue to be compassionate towards his grieving and do what she can to support him at this time. I knew it would be hard, but she needed to try to let go of the questioning and doubt. His pulling away seemed like a normal response. 

The next morning, I awoke to another message from Miss Solar Eclipse. She told me she had to take her lover to the hospital this morning. He was hiding how sick he was, so she wouldn’t worry.

I believe everything will be okay for Miss Solar Eclipse and her wonderful relationship with Mr. Lunar Eclipse, as long as she keeps her doubt in check, and Mr. Lunar Eclipse is able to heal. 

I am sending love and healing to both of you, and wish you that joyful celebration the cards suggested will come true  in the future <3

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Um, I know I said that these tarot readings would be written by an insecure person…but…as cheesy as this one is, it’s a testament to my intuition and full heart. I guess my tarot readings and intuition are more secure than I thought, because…Miss Solar Eclipse asked me to do a real in person reading when it’s safe to go outside and meet with strangers again. Honestly that scares the bajeezus outta me, but I will definitely try it. In 2023?!

Part 2 of the Dead-ication: My Grampa’s teeth weren’t real AND…

Sorry to keep you waiting. That is how cliffhangers work, afterall. 

On the last episode of “All About my Ancestor Angels,” I spoke about my dad’s side of my family. I didn’t get a chance to know my Grandma Lillian very well, but I wanted her to be included in my blog’s dedication for “inspiring my aesthetic and giving me an appreciation for the finer things in life.” 

Exhibit A

Then I told some stories about my Grampa, Arthur. I left you there, in the story where, upon spying on him in the bathroom, I saw him suddenly reach into his mouth and take out his teeth!! In two rows! What the heck? My Grampa had fake teeth?! 

“Is this magic?!” I blurted out as he put his dentures into a glass of water. 

That is when he said the words, the words I will never forget.

“Magic isn’t real, Laura.”



WHAT???! I had already made countless magic potions by this age. And even if no one tried them, I still knew they were magic. And what about the magic of Christmas and Santa Claus? Well, he was Jewish, so he wouldn’t know what he was talking about there.

What of the magic of playing outside? Of nature? Of the universe? Of the beautiful things that show us we are all connected, when we take the time to look for them?

It’s magical having ancestors who pass down their gifts to you. Magic is transcending generational struggles as well. Magic is leaving the world a better place than you found it, for your children and everyone.

Magic is to be born, and to experience your death. Magic is what we all share, and all have in common. Whether we believe it or not. 

At the age where my Grampa crushed my magical dreams, I wasn’t yet capable of spewing out the kind of wise gal, sappy stuff I just said. But deep inside I knew he was wrong. I knew he was missing out on magic, and I felt sad for him. 

I dedicate this website to my Grampa, for giving me my sense of humor and my stubbornness.

I was shocked when my grandfather said that. But I still believed in magic, because of my Uncle Stephen. 

He was my mom’s younger brother (by 10 years). He had died of a traumatic brain injury shortly before I got the shock of my life by seeing my Grampa’s dentures.

My Uncle Stephen was my everything. He still is.

He taught me about what it meant to be an environmentalist before it was cool. To him, every day was Earth Day. I know this because when I found a treasure trove of his belongings in my grandmother’s house (when she died), I found a pin that said this. It came from the late 80s.

Right before he died, he graduated college with a degree in Geography.  He was an environmentalist before it was hip. And he was hip!

In the history of MTV, I was probably one of the youngest people to be allowed to watch it, because my Uncle was glued to the channel, as I would be years later

Stephen loved to be by the ocean as much as I do. Though most kids would be super excited when they got a gift box that is made to look like a treasure chest, I think a lot of those kids would be disappointed when they opened mine up. Inside the box, I found a dead horseshoe crab body, fully intact. A mermaid’s purse (which is actually magickal, I wish I still had it!). And a plethora of sea glass, rocks, and shells. I don’t know how he fit it all in there!

I think the other kids would have dreamed for the box to be filled with fancy precious gemstones and such…but don’t worry, he gave me those too. His selections of rocks showed that he clearly knew I would never outgrow glittery, sparkly, bright colors, so he gave me a piece of Peacock ore, which I still treasure today:

He also gave me many others such as:

Amethyst, which is still to this day my go-to favorite quartz crystal 

AND

Pyrite. He knew it would impress me because I was a fool, for gold! 😆

So, here’s the first reason I am dedicating this blog to him: he made me into the fearless, eco-feminist, crystal & sea witch that I am today. But wait, there’s more.

The epic yet tiny squirt gun fight

He showed me the magic of turning my fears into superpowers. One night, after an epic yet tiny squirt gun fight we had together, a thunderstorm was a-brewin’. I was shivering in my little little timbers.  

You’re scared of thunderstorms?!” Uncle Stephen exclaimed, in shock, like no one in my family ever had been.

He took me out of the bed my mom had already tucked me into, and sat with me out on the steps of our back porch. He held me close as I jumped at every rumble.  Eventually, we were both oohing and awing at the bolts of lightning as if we were watching a Fourth of July fireworks finale. 

“See, there’s nothing to be afraid of,” he said. “You’re safe.” 

It was true, because my great grandmother was struck by lightning twice as a child, and she lived well into her 90s! 

Now, every time I am afraid of something, I think of him, and within no more than a few days, a thunderstorm will approach. If he can’t make that happen for whatever reason, then my mom and I will hear this song in the car. 

I know his presence is always with me, but sometimes I feel him more than other times.  One time I was in the car with my mother, and I said, “I wish I could feel Uncle Stephen all the time. I don’t think he is here with me right now.” I started to cry. I still miss him everyday after 30 years of him being gone. Merely a minute after I doubted his presence, a small rainbow appeared over our destination.

But the time I felt him with me the most was when………………………..

Yup! You guessed it! Another cliffhanger! 

Until next time, my pretties!

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