Find Your Traditions
Your thoughts become your words; your words become your actions; your actions become your habits; your habits become your character; your character becomes your destiny.
The intro of this post features my shortened version of this Lao Tzu quote:
Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.
Currently one of my habits is not writing here as often as I desire to but I’m doing what I can.
The holiday season is upon us. I kind of happened on traditions while I was busy doing stuff.
I’ve been sending out holiday cards to personal & even online friends for about a decade now - it used to be a much smaller crowd (10-20 people) but it became a thing for me particularly because I moved 3,000 miles away from most of my friends & family. About 5-6 years ago I actually created a Google form for people to fill out with their updated addresses & information.
At this point, I send out anywhere from 75-130 cards to family, friends & strangers alike, with a little origami crane & an annual letter updating the highlights of my year in my life.
I’ll be posting my annual letter here around the holiday. Before that, actually, I may post last year’s, and talk about why I write them the way I do, and follow up on some of the things I mention in that letter. We’ll see what I actually get to. However, I love actually sending the letter to people.
This year I actually had custom cards made with a lovely Winter Solstice message. I grew up pagan, so my family celebrates Yule/Winter Solstice. However, it tickles my atheist heart since the Solstice is an actual astronomical event referring to the distance & placement of the Earth to the Sun. I do sort of celebrate secular Christmas because even though I didn’t have any literal belief in Santa Claus growing up, I appreciate the stories, the spirit of gift-giving, & the general way the various mythological trappings (trees, lights, Santa, reindeer) create a completely secular but unifying tradition for us non-Christians as well.
I’ve advertised my holiday cards to my Twitter & Facebook audiences, however if anyone follows me here and would like a card, you are welcome to fill out my form and receive one! We don’t need to know each other! You don’t need to send one back! I do send internationally (they never arrive on time though)!
If you feel inclined, you can send one to me:
2309 Santa Monica Blvd #207
Santa Monica CA 90404
If you’d like to include the “family”, it’s my partner Judd Weiss, my parrots Petrie & Justice, his cat Abby, and my gecko Mochi.
I am sending out the first round of cards in Tuesday’s mail, but if you fill out the form by 12/21 you WILL receive one (possibly late) this year.
For The Pagans or Culturally Curious - Music!
Growing up pagan, I had totally different holiday music than most people. By totally different I mean actually a lot of pagans just came up with new lyrics to traditional Christmas songs, like “Gods Rest Ye Merry Paganfolk”, “O Solstice Night” and more. There was one group called EarthSpirit that recorded a beautiful Solstice album, called This Winter’s Night, by their ritual performance group, MotherTongue. This is the album I remember best from my childhood, and set a magical mood for the holiday season.
You can stream it on Spotify or find the whole album on a YouTube playlist here:
Every year I make sure to gift out at least one copy of my very favorite book. That book is The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon, a book I fell in love with at age 14 & literally reread at least once a year (I often remember a favorite scene, pick it up and start there and read through again). I can’t believe I’ve loved this book for 20 years, but I have, and nothing ever comes close to it for me.
Deed of Paksenarrion is an epic fantasy saga originally published in 3 volumes in the late 80s. It follows a teenage girl, a sheepfarmer’s daughter, in a land somewhat like Middle Earth, who runs away from an arranged marriage to join a mercenary company. The writing is gritty and intense - following her training, development, adventures and then her desire to seek a more meaningful reason to fight - and her journey to become a paladin.
It’s a great story, generally follows its own universe’s rules (the magic has its own laws, the cultures are pretty well defined), and it at times joyful, inspirational, realistic (as much as fantasy can be) and harsh - there are scenes of torture and rape which are brutal, I cry every single time I read it. I also weep with joy for her as she overcomes great adversity. I utterly love this story, and it is genuinely a formative novel for me - I could probably write an entire essay on how it impacted my moral compass and view of the world and a purpose driven life.
The nice thing is - Deed of Paksenarrion by itself (the omnibus version of all three books) is a complete story, and absolutely perfect to me the way it is. However, a few years after writing it, the author published a two-part prequel set about the life of Paks’ guiding saint. I don’t like the second part as much, but the first is fantastic, and it fills in some of the story very nicely. It gives more depth to the world.
THEN, if you LOVED it and you want MORE from that world, in 2010, Moon began publishing a series that takes place immediately following the events in Deed, five volumes called Paladin’s Legacy, that follow the various characters from the original story with more depth and intimacy. I’ll admit that the sequel series is a little fan-servicey but screw it - I’m a fan and I like being serviced. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable adventure. Finally in 2014, she released a small book of short stories following a few more characters, sometimes wrapping up things hinted at in the other three sets of stories, called Deeds of Honor.
I will say, if you’re not into fantasy as a genre, it might be hard to take, and there’s a lot of military detail in it, so that can bog people down a little bit, but it’s SO worth it.
But if you or anyone you know is a hardcore Lord of the Rings fan or Jack Vance fan, or just generally loves high fantasy, I give it my highest recommendation, and think it would make an excellent holiday gift to someone.
Some of my friends and supporters have been kind enough to ask for a list to get me gifts. That’s utterly unnecessary but totally appreciated, and if you’re so inclined, my wishlist is up on Amazon and regularly updated with things. You can find the link here.
I’m perfectly content with cards, or well-wishes and you spending that money on people who really need something. I have been trying to be more generous this year for those who are in need or struggling, as many have been very generous with me in times when I have struggled to juggle my bills and any little bits of joy.
Another thing you can do, is follow my projects on social:
Instagram: @JustABirb & @YourTripSiste & @avensobrien
Tiktok: @YourTripSister & @applesobrien
Twitter: @avensobrien & @yourtripsister
Subscribe here or pick one of your favorite of my pieces and share it with your friends.
Your support and love is appreciated! Thank you!
More to come. Have a lovely week.