Monday, June 11, 2018

I Am Not A Life Coach

Every so often I get a comment or question from a consulting client that I think is worth responding to. One of the thing I make very clear on my Work With Me page and when I talk to potential clients is that I am not a life coach. Recently someone was like "but aren't you though?"

I gave it some thought, but I really don't think I am... and here's why:

First of all, it's not easy to define exactly what a life coach even is. The general consensus is that is has to do with helping people live their best lives. But there are tons of different ways that can happen apparently and different people focus on different things.

And yeah, that can includes things like goal setting and habit forming, which are things that I do. But it also includes more emotional, touchy-feeling things that I do not do. Like helping people eliminate unhelpful thought patterns or have a more positive attitude.

I'm just not feeling focused. Not that I want to make people feel badly, mind you! I just care less about how people feel and more about what they get done. I guess I really do believe -- like that chick in that batman movie -- that it's what you do that defines you.

This can be bad mind you. I express sympathy through well-meaning advice and motivation -- which drives a lot of people really nuts. And I tend to ignore feelings when I shouldn't -- even my own (though I'm working on it). It's not, I hope, because I'm a sociopath. In fact I feel things very deeply and emotional control is something I've struggled with my whole life. So maybe this rational, action oriented mindset is my coping mechanism.

In any case, while it's sometimes detrimental for me, it's more often extremely helpful. No reason you can't benefit from it.

Plus, there's such a thing as being a certified life coach -- which I am not.

What I am is a professional project manager (certified even). Which happens to be a career that takes what would be my most annoying traits like excessive pro-activity and a desire to control everything and turns them into strengths. May you all be so lucky as to find yourself in such a career.

I really do want people to live their best lives. But I guess I'm just not confident enough to assume I know what that is. What I can do though is help you think in an organized way about your own best life and, once you've made a first guess as to what it is, to help you figure out how to get yourself to that life. How to get shit done.


Friday, June 8, 2018

Talking about Organizing Enchantment with Alan Fuller

I was so pleased to be invited to chat with Alan Fuller on his Coffee with the Shaman Witch video podcast! Alan is the author of The Spell in My Pocket (a book that I highly recommend) and offers magic, tarot readings, and Shamanic training on his site, The Shaman Witch.

We talked about the intersection of project management and practical enchantment as well as being a witch, the best way to use the tarot, and how to keep your magic agile.

Check out the episode on YouTube here

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Friday, June 1, 2018

PMPM - Free! Flash Consulting Sessions

Wondering if Practical Magic Project Management consulting is right for you?
Intrigued at how the tools can be used together to solve a real-world problem? 
Like the idea, but are nervous about the cost or commitment?
Have a small issue that you need some help with?

For a limited time, I'm offering free 20-minute flash sessions. Completely free (yes really!), no commitment (I promise) trial-sized sessions.

Here's how it works:
  1. Book a free half-hour intro session below (you will not be billed but I will send you the Agile Magic Manifesto after confirming your email -- also free!).
  2. Email me a single issue or question you need help with before your session.
  3. Skype me at when your session time arrives.
Like lighting we will go over some magical and mundane ideas to get you pointed in the right direction. In 20 minutes I can:
  • Suggest ways of solving a problem
  • Help you learn how to prioritize your efforts
  • Scope a goal
  • Deal with a challenge
  • Provide a tool for making a decision
  • Throw a couple of cards to identify your risks or correct path
  • Give you hints for unblocking or road opening

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Monday, May 28, 2018

Sustain-ability: Three Big Ideas for Household Magic

I'm a big believer in the power of a household. The past four days (it's a long weekend in the US and I made it even longer with an extra day off) we've been focusing on household stuff, which means I have household magic on the brain. Here are a few things to try in your own household.

Reverse Stockpiling
You know I'm a big believer in stockpiling both magic and mundane things for a future time. However, just putting things aside is only half the work. In order to keep the household magic flowing, you have to use those things. Consider the following very simple recipe (which we made on Saturday:

Green Chili Stew
1lb grass fed beef stew meat
Frozen roasted Hatch green chili
Onion and Garlic
Vegetable broth

Blend chili, onion, garlic, broth, and salt into a thick sauce
Brown mean in oil in pressure cooker
Add sauce and cook under high pressure for 12 minutes
Natural decompress
Eat with corn tortillas

Now consider the actual steps that went into this meal:

Defrost and clean out the big freezer magically as well as physically (an annual event)
Buy a side of local grass fed beef and put in the big freezer
Get a sack of New Mexico chilies from the traveling roasters during harvest and freeze them in small bags
Save veggie ends and tips over time
Once you have filled a gallon ziplock with veggie ends, turn them into broth and bless the broth
Pressure can veggie broth and store jars in the pantry
Defrost meat and chili
Put onion/garlic skins and ends back into the veggie bag for a future round of broth
Open a jar of broth from the pantry
Continue with instructions above

Time to cook: 12 minutes
Time to make: 8 months

The stew turned out really great and we had it with a salad (with Chipotle ranch dressing which we made earlier in the week). But it was just the delicious end point of long history of kitchen management and stockpiling.

When you put something aside for the future, you have to make sure there is a future where that item is then used. It's a cycle of energy where things keep moving and nourishing the household and its members.

Corralling the Chaos
Do you have one of those drawers in your kitchen that gets filled with random detritus? Most people do. Even people who are very clean and organized (like my mom and sister) have locations where stuff tends to clump up.

The way I figure it, every household has a certain amount of natural chaos. The goal of household management is not to eliminate the chaos (which, even if you could, would turn your home into a museum and not a place where people live) but to corral it. That mitigates the chaos from taking over the rest of the house.

When we find things getting crazy around the house, it's usually because one of the corrals of chaos has gotten out of control.

For example, we have a small bookshelf "office" in the living room. It lives behind the book case doors and holds all manner of office stuff including cards and stationary, pens and pads of paper, rubber bands, paperclips, and the shredder which sits on the bottom shelf and is plugged in through the back of the bookcase. When we start finding paper lurking around the house, it's usually because we need to open those doors and do a bunch of sorting and shredding. And shredding is a perfect time for banishing magic. So you can get rid of more than just paper.

Our laundry room is also a mud room and pantry and overflow kitchen supply and storage, so it's a whirl of chaos even in the best of times. But when I find that laundry is out of control, I need to tackle the laundry room (again) and put things in their place. There's a certain amount of overlap between cleaning and cleansing in the magical household, so getting that stuff in order has a double impact to the rest of the house.

And when tools and equipment start appearing in random locations, it's because the garage (which we think of as a workshop since no cars currently live there) needs a neatening.

Removing the Thorn
Speaking of the workshop... sometimes the household doesn't function because there is an ill spot in it. This goes beyond a chaos corral needing mitigation. This is about something that's so unworkable and so dysfunctional that it impacts the entire energy of the house.

Of course this dysfunction can come from the people in the home and their health and relationships. But it can also come from a place in the home that's gotten so bad that everything is else is impacted.

How many times have I mentioned or talked about cleaning a garage on this blog? An unfortunate amount actually. And that's because for a few years, the garage was the thorn in our own household's functioning. There were reasons that this happened and some of the reasons had a strong emotional component (my husband's accident). But reasons or not it was still unpleasant. And once we had the health, time, energy, and money to fix it it was HUGE.

I remember telling my friend how much better it felt and she basically said "well, you never shut up about it, so it obviously really bothered you." And it's true. It bothered all of us. Now there's an organized shop in the garage and the household is getting needed maintenance and my husband is creating amazing things using wood and metal and fire.

Wood + metal + fire

We should have tried to fix it sooner.

The illness that spreads from an unloved part of a home can be energetic (as it was in this case), it can be practical (like not having any place to fix or build things), it can even be potentially sickening (like finding that some building supplies got wet and started growing mildew).

If you have an attic that's a nightmare of spiders, a basement that has black mold, a bathroom that you fear the health inspector ever seeing, a yard that's overrun with brambles and despair? Those places can impact the household on a deep level. And it's not just about having a mess. Your kid's room can be a disaster and still be their sanctuary and safe place away from the stresses of the world. But when the mess starts to hurt the household and its human and non-human members (or the hurt in the household causes a terrible mess) it's time to take action.

A lot of people have one or more unsavory interests. Maybe you're fascinated with serial killers or infestations or medical oddities. I happen to be fascinated with hoarding. I'm not a hoarder, though I do tend to fall more on the save side of the spectrum between "we may need this" and "get rid of everything" but I still find the disorder really interesting. If you ever watch the trashy TV show Hoarders (and if you even need a kick in the pants getting your house cleaned, you should) you can see how as is interior of the home, so it the interior of these folks' minds.

No cleaning is ever entirely mundane. Creating order in your house is an act of creating order in the world and inside yourself. It's about health and safety and happiness.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

EBER Project -- Crossroads

In case you are coming in late to this, the Early to Bed, Early to Rise (EBER) Project is a three-year personal project with the goals of Health, Wealth (really prosperity), and Wisdom for our household. By the way, I reworked the overly long Index page into sub-pages, so you can see all the EBER posts right here.

I haven't blogged about this project in a bit, but that doesn't mean I'm not still working it. After my year end wrap-up I decided that an interim phase was warranted to reset my thinking. This is exactly the sort of thing that works great for really long projects. After all, if you create an initial plan and never look at it again, there's no way you'd be on target at the end. There's just too much chance for change.

I'm kind of at a crossroads in this project (and considering it's length it probably won't be the last one). I have some really good baseline stuff in place, but there are some decisions to make as to how to move on from here. Here's my process during this major project check in:

First, it's important to revisit the goals you've achieved to see if they are meeting your needs. For example, one of my goals was financial and it was a big success. But after a few months I see that there is a need to focus on follow up processes in order to make sure it stays a success and the need to set next up goals so that I don't lose momentum. So the next phase of my EBER project includes Operation Budget Analysis! (it kind of sounds better in my head honestly). The goal will be to set us up for maximum options for comparative decision making during the final phase of the project.

Next steps: implement a couple of budgeting tricks to keep our finances on track. I may blog about this because a couple of people have asked for more details on how I keep my family budget (in a spreadsheet of doom of course).

Second, it's good to make sure that your focus is correct. I had an information gathering goal that was a success, but only in the short term. So I'm dusting off this goal but setting my sights longer (not "what next" but "what then"). This is important because the end of this project has several major external drivers coming in all at once (economic predictions from Martin Armstrong, some weather stuff I'm following, and the kid graduating high school) and my work is going to intersect with all of that. Timing is going to be critical and tricky.

Next steps: it's time for me to spend some money on a qualified astrologer. The good ones are always booked way in advance too, so I'm going to try to get on someone's radar now.

Finally, a little distance is good for objectivity. While some strides have been made on the health goal, I have to admit our household as a whole has to do more work together to make sure we're all headed in the same direction. Plus I feel like I have more work to do to make sure we've got appropriate luck magic and protections in place since things have been a bit chaotic on that front. This is supposed to be a year of more illness (again as per Armstrong and other indicators I follow) and I need to keep on top of that.

Next steps: the bullet ephemeris has been working OK for me. But the gap is that it it's a daily kind of checking, where some magic I want to do relies on hour-level timing.

It seems crazy to take like a multi-month review period in a project, but when compared to the 36-months I intent to run this thing, it's not so odd. Plus I play these breaks by ear. Sometimes life intervenes with hints as to what I need to contemplate. And frankly, it's easy to burn out. The first part of this project included a huge amount of stress and work (magical and mundane) to come off correctly. We needed a break.

When you are project marathoning, this is the kind of stuff you have to consciously do to get to the finish line.


Monday, May 7, 2018

Robin Hood 2018: Thank Your Local IT Geek

We interrupt our regularly-scheduled posts to bring you a public service message on security.

A wise person once told me to always befriend your company's admins. They basically run the place and suffer under the yoke of having lots of accountability but little authority. Another person at your company you should get to know is your IT person. Because they have useful knowledge that can help keep you safe at home and at work.

Note, I'm not currently wearing a hoodie

Disclaimer, I'm not a security expert nor do I play one on TV. You may disagree with some of these points, however the advice was given to me by people who should know, including my workplace, my bank, etc. Here's a short todo list for those of you don't have as much exposure to or tolerance for IT security:

  • Call your cell phone carrier TODAY and restrict number port access with some kind of long and hard to crack passcode. There's an exciting new scam going on where someone will steal your phone number by porting it to a different carrier. They then use your number and other information they have nefariously found out about you to reset your passwords and steal your money. You know how if you forget your password, places will offer to send you a text to reset it? Yeah, like that. This happened to me on Wednesday, though they didn't have a chance to steal any money because I reacted fast. But it was an epic, epic pain in the ass nonetheless. You need to do this because you also need to...
  • Turn on dual factor authentication for everything you can. This is that thing where it will text you a code to type in in addition to your password. Give me access to your email and I can figure out where you have accounts, reset all your passwords, and steal all your cash. Your email is probably the most valuable thing you have. Gmail is one place that does this and I recommend that you point all your password resets to this account and then turn on dual factor authentication using the phone app. 
  • Speaking of phones, make sure yours is encrypted. This is where the information on the phone is munged up before you put in a passcode, so if someone got your phone and pulled your chip they still wouldn't get anything. I'm skittish of biometrics, though the jury is out. If you regularly go to protests you should to turn off iris scan or facial recognition because cops don't need a warrant to use them to open your phone (or leave your phone / take a burner -- talk to the experts who are probably coordinating the protest). I'm more paranoid about things like iris scanning because if someone stole your digital iris (not your eye mind you, but the picture of your eye the computer uses to compare to) they could get into your stuff and unlike a password you CAN'T CHANGE YOUR EYE.
  • Monitor your credit cards for small, innocuous-looking charges (like .99 to iTunes). Scammers run this kind of tiny charge to test the CC numbers they've stolen to see if they are live. If the small charge goes through, many larger ones will follow. If you see a charge like that, call your bank immediately and put a lock on your card. This happened to me some years back, which is why I know about it. But it might be passe' since recently they don't even do the small charge anymore, they spoof your electronic card onto a fake card and buy stuff in person. This happened to me last year. Someone walked into a Walmart in Arizona and bought a bunch of stuff with the physical card I had in my wallet at the time. You need to be checking your accounts every couple of days and as soon as you see a weird charge, call your bank's fraud line. This happened to our family THREE TIMES in the past 18 months.
  • For credit cards you don't use (like emergency cards) have it text or email you when a charge is made. That way you don't have to remember to keep an eye on the account. Some cards even allow you do turn them off when you don't need them, so they won't actually work. Remember, someone doesn't have to have your physical card to use the card data to steal all your shit.
  • Turn off overdraft protection. Based on a recommendation from my bank, our family currently has two household checking accounts. One account is used for paying all the household bills every month. These are auto-drafted out of the account and paychecks are auto-drafted into the account. These transactions are slightly more secure than day to day spending. Day to day spending is a separate checking account that gets a certain amount of money every other week and no more. Neither account has overdraft protection. Why? Because if someone gets your card number they can quickly clean out your account, and it can take weeks so sort it out. Image how much worse that would be if they also cleaned out your savings account through overdraft protection.
  • Change all your passwords. It's probably long overdue. And note that really long passwords made up of tons of words strung together like "HorsesAreSomeOfMyClosestFriends4Ever!" are currently considered more secure than short l33t speak ones (NE1410S?). I have a password I use for stuff where no money is involved and there's a low risk to account theft -- like my Ravelry password (a knitting site, don't judge me). I have a password I use for stuff where money is involved that's much longer and newer. I have a password I use for critical accounts (bank, email access, etc.) that's redonculous and a huge pain in the ass. They all recently got changed after the phone number issue so fuck you scammers. 
  • Consider locking down your credit reports. This is where no one can attempt to do anything that requires pulling credit (like get a new credit card using your information) without you unlocking it first. This is an epic pain in the ass as there are three credit reporting agencies and they are all different and, frankly, all suck. Should I be elected potentate, I would immediately outlaw them.
One of my wise readers sent me the following and was kind enough to give me permission to include it here:

Regarding passwords, they should all be different and add spaces and special characters (Shift + Number keys) in there as well. As an example, "HorsesAreSomeOfMyClosestFriends4Ever!" might change to “Hor#sEs ar* sOme $f my Cl&sEt Friends 4(ever!” Put spaces in at different intervals (i.e., don’t do 4 characters, space, 4 characters, space, etc. – mix it up). I know that banks and some security people tell you that you shouldn’t write your passwords down. I’ve read more arguments to the opposite and I’m very pro-writing down because it allows your passwords to be bigger and more complex (i.e., more German-like!). Also, the only way that you can have a different password for each login is to write it down (unless you’re a total memory geek – which I’m not!). I’m also NOT a fan of those on-the-computer password keepers. Only 1 password would have to be decipher to get the keys to the kingdom!

Secondly, and this is my own kinda thing, you know how you can set up those security questions where they ask you personal information like your pet’s name, your father’s oldest sibling’s name, etc.? Select as many of those as you can and fake it! Make up a fake life. Make up names that have no connection to your past. Hackers can dig up your life on the web and the dark web, but they can’t dig up a fake life that didn’t exist! If your dog’s name is Fido, then call him Peter on the question! Obviously this would also have to be written down so you don’t forget! Whatever you do, write it on paper, not on the computer

So, that's all boring and tedious and a huge pain in the ass. But you should probably do it anyway.

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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Sustain-ability: The Dishes of Life

When I was a young woman, I had this theory that I called "the dishes of life." It was a modern take on the Zen "before enlightenment chop wood, carry water...." The idea being that no matter what weirdness or enchantment or, yes, enlightenment was going on in your life, the dishes still had to get done.

It just resonated more with me than chopping wood. And it was also closer to how to be an adult in our modern world. Yes, the dishes "have to" get done, but not because you'll freeze to death or go thirsty without them. It's because being in the world requires a certain amount of ongoing order creation to be manageable. You don't really have to wash the dishes, right? You can use paper plates or get takeout or just scrub the one pot or plate you need when you need it. Doing the dishes is about maintaining order in your life.

After a recent post that talked about my various personal maxims, a dear friend of mine jokingly suggested that I make a Dishes of Life post. Now, I wasn't really going to make this post because there's not a lot else to this idea. You want to live a magical life? Great, but you don't get a pass on doing all the other grownup things that have to get done. Simple.

But then the other day, the Daily Stoic shared the following with me in email:

The Taxes of Life

...People have been complaining about their taxes since the beginning of civilization. And what has become of it? Taxes are higher than ever and they’re dead. Death and taxes. There is no escape. So let us waste no time and create no misery kicking and screaming about it. Let us not add to our tax bracket the cost of frustration and resentment.
Taxes are inevitable part of life. There is a cost to everything we do. As Seneca wrote to Lucilius, “All the things which cause complaint or dread are like the taxes of life—things from which, my dear Lucilius, you should never hope for exemption or seek escape.” Income taxes are not the only taxes you pay in life. They are just the financial form. Everything we do has a toll attached to it. Waiting around is a tax on traveling. Rumors and gossip are the taxes that come from acquiring a public persona. Disagreements and occasional frustration are taxes placed on even the happiest of relationships. Theft is a tax on abundance and having things that other people want. Stress and problems are tariffs that come attached to success. And on and on and on.
There’s no reason or time to be angry about any of this. Instead, we should be grateful. Because taxes—literal or figurative—are impossible without wealth. So what are you going to focus on? That you owe something, or that you are lucky enough to own something that can be taxed.

Now, in case you don't know, Daily Stoic is awesome and I highly recommend you sign up (it's free!). But it was also really relevant to, and resonant with, my original point. You do the dishes not only because it's part of being a functional adult, but because you have dishes to do and you have food to eat off of those dishes. Looking beyond the chore and the maintenance of order is gratitude that you have those dishes in the first place.

In fact, this hit me personally because a couple of years ago I decided that instead of the random assortment of chipped IKEA plates we had, I wanted NICE DISHES. So our household holiday gift was a set of plain white bone china dishes and serving platters. So how fortunate am I do be able to wash these lovely plates and bowls? And how blessed that washing in this context just means putting them in the dishwasher and letting it do the work?

Seneca was right and (unlike wood chopping for most of us) his point is still highly pertinent today. Everything we do has some kind of tax -- it can't be helped and in the end there's no point complaining or stressing about it. In fact, if looked at the correct way, we can celebrate the annoyances that are born directly from the good things we have. 


Saturday, April 14, 2018

Gentle gentle gentle

Sometimes Mercury retrograde is an annoyance that I barely notice. Sometimes it comes with challenges, but only of a certain flavor (like miscommunication or technological glitches or travel annoyances). Rarely they are very, very hard on a number of different levels. I'm sure that a competent astrologer -- which I am not -- would be able to explain why a particular retro impacts someone a certain way.

I don't know my own planets well enough to give a reason, but this past week has just beat the hell out of me.

Monday the whole household woke up out of sorts: particularly the budding psychonaut who's "why should I care about school when we're going to get nuked soon" attitude is both relatable and annoying. All things electronic were completely unreliable, including the ice maker to our still newish fridge (how a broken ice maker can defrost the entire freezer, I don't know).

The festival of fun continued through the week. I suffered a series of daily migraines. People at work were anxious and cranky. I forgot important planned magic. I mishandled a potential new client. No one slept well. Friday I came home from work early and, while standing in the kitchen trying to decide between tea (smart!) and coffee (not so smart), realized that my eyes would not stay open another moment. I laid down for just ten minutes and woke up two hours later, groggy and confused.

And this morning I woke to discover that, contrary to all sanity and logic, the government had once again decided that bombing someone was the very best way to deal with with things. I'd say we're psychic except that there's no one who didn't see this huge mistake coming.

In the newsletter this week, I talked about things to try when you are not at your best. And certainly my recent post on Making Your Own Sense is apropos at this time. But sometimes, no matter how much you try, it's just going to be a challenge. This is the time when I try to remind myself to be gentle with myself. Because being practical and proactive can't always mitigate everything.

Gentle gentle gentle -- let us all be gentle with ourselves and each other... and pray a prayer for peace.

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Friday, April 6, 2018

Mind War: Part Eleven -- Making Sense

You didn't think the mind war had ended, did you? (Note: to see parts 1 through 10, go check the Index.)

Reading an article recently I was struck by the English language idiom "make sense." This phrase has three definitions:

make sense

a) to have a clear meaning and be easy to understand
Read this and tell me if it makes sense.

b) to be a sensible thing to do / it makes sense (for somebody) to do something
It makes sense to save money while you can.
Would it make sense for the city authorities to further restrict parking?

c) if something makes sense, there seems to be a good reason or explanation for it
Why did she do a thing like that? It doesn’t seem to make sense.

So if something makes sense, it is clear or logical or reasonable, right? "Does that make sense?" is a common followup to an explanation or plan (I will stop by the grocery store on the way home for pasta sauce and you get the pasta started -- does that make sense?).

Making sense is a judgement then: on behaviors, actions, or beliefs. And it has a positive connotation too. We want other people's plans and ideas to make sense. We want to make sense. We want the world to make sense.

But it occurred to me on hearing this phrase that there's another way of interpreting it: not judging the logic of others, but crafting it for yourself. Literally making sense as in creating structures that foster logic and reason in your own life. Because it's increasingly apparent that if we want stuff to make sense, then we'd better get busy making some for ourselves.

The last year plus in global politics has brought the lack of sense to the forefront of everyone's minds. A whole lot of people have been spending a whole lot of time and energy trying to make sense of what's happening -- and not just in the US. Now, I like to feel informed as much as the next person, but honestly? I don't think there is sense here to be made. It's not logical and it's not sensible, and it's not easy to understand. There's no reason or explanation.

I actually suspect that the current political environment makes as much sense as it has for a generation or two. It's just that while before we distracted from the illogic of the system, now we are bombarded by it.

You think this is because we're uninformed? Anti-intellectual? Distracted? Or is it because part of the power of the abuser is to steal the power of making sense from the abused. To gaslight, to confuse, to obfuscate... to make things so crazy that somehow it starts to not seem so crazy anymore. It starts out OK... maybe... at least they tell you it's OK. But so much crazy and so much confusion starts coming at you that you start to forget what sense even is.

Perfectly normal people, people who used to MAKE SENSE, driven to the point of senselessness. The crazy just gets worse and worse over time. Things that used to be inconceivable are now business as usual. This is how it works in too many abusive households and relationships. And this is how it's working for us now.

Can anyone really remember what, say, 2014 was like? Not like it was a Golden Age or anything, but can you remember what we worried about? What the news was like? How public officials comported themselves? Yeah, maybe that was a polished mahogany veneer over a rickety pressboard contraption, but there was some semblance of sanity and self-control in evidence... at least for the public. In fact in some ways it's better now because the we can actually start to see the monster under the mask -- a painful but ultimately necessary process. The polite and polished facade is crumbling and we are reeling.

Let me tell you now that what's going on doesn't make sense. That doesn't mean there's no agenda or plan, there probably is and it's probably evil. But evil doesn't mean logical -- and evil can be the opposite of sensible.

If you want your life to make sense, then roll up your sleeves and start making some sense for yourself. Because you are not going to find it watching the news. Make your own life logical and understandable for you. Make reason a priority and attempt to live and act in a way that you can explain to yourself. Remember that you can't explain or control the crazy that's going on.

Disclaimer: this doesn't mean you don't care or fight! It just means you stop trying to explain. Stand up against the crazy, but keep yourself protected from it. It's never going to make sense because there's no sense to it. We've all known bullies and abusers -- there's no point to trying to make sense of them. You're not an abuser, so you can't comprehend how they think. All you can do is identify them, call them out, and be the kind of person it's harder for them to victimize.

Here's my recipe for making a big old batch of sense:
  • The big four: sleep, exercise, nature, vegetables. Just start there and you will be surprised at how much easier the rest gets. I know, it's not sexy. People want complex and easy (the system that will change your life) instead of simple but hard. But it really is that simple (and hard! I know).

  • Healthy connections: you need people in your life who lift you up and support you, not people who drag you down. And that goes for family and friends. Drama is a choice and you can choose not to engage. Also, please note that activism and positivism are not mutually exclusive -- you could argue that being joyful is a form of powerful protest, a big FUCK YOU to the powers who want to drive you into despair.

  • Integrity and internal logic: When the rest of the world is going crazy, having your own moral compass and sense of right and wrong can keep you sane -- and keep you from ending up in a real-life Milgram or Stanford Prison experiment. We think of values is something that right-wingers use to oppress people who they don't like. But tolerance, kindness, equality, and fairness are fucking values too. Don't let them corrupt the idea.

  • Inner silence: we are inundated with noise -- both the literal din of the modern industrial world and the endless screeching of the politicorporadvertainment machine. You don't have to meditate (though meditation is awesome of course). All you have to do is find some stillness and listen to your own self for a bit.

  • Preference ownership: stop waiting for other people to decide what you want and like. There's a pretty horrible movie called Runaway Bride where the central premise is that this women keeps jilting men at the altar in this small town (only Julia Roberts could get away with this). The reason is that she doesn't know who she is or what she likes or wants. This is symbolized in the movie by the fact that she claims to like her eggs cooked in the same way as each each of her various exes do (note the movie would have been much better if it had ended with her giving Richard Gere the finger and staying single, but no one ever asks me).

    As banal as this is, have you ever thought about how much of what you like and value and care about comes from outside yourself? And not just from a person who you care about (I've been married for 23 years and let me tell you after a while your tastes do converge) but from some faceless corporate stooges?

  • Locus of control: This came up in a recent newsletter (if you sign up to the left, you won't be left out) but having an internal locus of control is way psychologically healthier than an external one. In the end though, you only control yourself. I'm reminded of the litany of far-fetched scenarios for how Hillary could still end up as president after the election. None of those things were remotely likely and certainly none of them were under our control. So why would we spend time winding ourselves up emotionally over them?

    Also, if you only control you, then you should not hand over that precious control to anyone else -- let alone the monsters in suits who are running things (into the ground).

We need to quit justifying and explaining away the craziness and start nurturing sanity. We need to be mindful of the state of our own minds. And we desperately need to stop trying to make the outside world make sense and instead actively prioritize making our own sense.

Ivy's personal maxims (v 4.0, April 2018):

1. Religion that's easy is wrong
2. Don't get offended, get pissed off
3. Life is too short to eat shit
4. Look where you want to go
5. It's better to look ordinary and actually be interesting than the reverse
6. Make your own sense

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Sunday, April 1, 2018

The Big Empty

Those of you who've followed CircleThrice long-term know that I make an annual trip home to the desert in order to see my family. And as challenging as these visits can be, there's usually some useful lesson or perspective that I get from going that end up here. For example:

2015: In the Wilderness
2016: Stars in the Desert
2017: On Age and Time

Canyon Lands Park, UT

This year the visit was a little different. Usually, the budding psychonaut and I fly in and out for a week and take some time to have a day-trip adventure. This year we flew in, rented a car, and after our visit drove 2500 miles through AZ, UT, ID, and home again.

I grew up in the desert, but have lived on the West Coast for 11 years now. It's easy to forget just how empty the landscape in the Southwest really is. This is Trump country (for the most part) sparsely populated and with low economic mobility and high independence. Tourism is the primary industry and in this way the area does better than the true fly over states, but not much.

This is the country that's ignored by Washington and Silicon Valley alike and whatever tech there is is military tech. I forgot how odd the proliferation of military equipment and attitudes is to someone who never came from the area. Where I'm from they close the highway for hours during missile tests and you just don't get to go to the next town over until they are done. Border checkpoints are also common and I grew up stopping and answering the question "are you all American citizens?" One time my dad looked at my mom and said "she isn't" and she was so pissed at him for making her dig out her Green Card to show the guard -- who really didn't care about her German immigration status. There's a certain amount of blatant racial profiling that goes on here, but hey you don't fuck with the border patrol or they will take the opportunity to search your car to pieces.

NM to OR is a LONG drive -- real power road trip distances, even as we stopped at some of the most beautiful landscapes I've seen in the world (rivaling the Swiss Alps for sheer stunning vistas, though it's like comparing snow apples and dried oranges). I wouldn't have been able to manage by myself, but the kid is permitted now and got his driving time in.

In this country you have to get gas (and pee) where you can, as you don't know when the next stop will be. You see these exit signs that say "No Services." And you see glimpses still of a world that no longer exists, but that you sometimes wish did.

This was our room at the Wigwam Hotel

The emptiness and stillness had the effect of making me feel fuller.

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Monday, March 12, 2018

Robin Hood 2018: Keep Your Certification Up

As a career PM, I have a certification from the Project Management Institute as a "Professional Project Manager" (PMP).

This is a SERIOUS CERTIFICATION. By that I mean:

  • I had to have new and old bosses sign off on my work experience to apply
  • I needed 40 hours of training
  • It required passing a brutal 250-question exam with an estimated first time failure rate of 40-50%
  • The certification lapses unless you prove that you are keeping up with your career education over time

It was quite a bit of trouble to get, but it's worth it. Why? Because it has value. Having a PMP attached to my name increases my employability, opens new job opportunities, and improves my salary.

Considering the benefit and what I went through to get the darned thing, there is no way I will ever let it lapse. That means attending conferences, logging mentoring and reading hours, signing up for webinars, and so on.

Turns out that this is true of a whole lot of worthwhile things in this world. Are you unofficially certified as:

  • A trusted friend
  • A reliable employee
  • Wise counsel
  • A leader in your community
  • World's best Mom/Dad/Kid/Sibling/Spouse
You need to keep those certifications up. That means continuing to put in the effort those things take. But one key point -- the only certifications worth keeping up are those that provide value for you as well as for others.

You have an emergency and you need to leave work suddenly? Your certification as a reliable employee will come in handy. You need to have a serious conversation with your teen about their choices? That's going to suck no matter what, but it may suck less if you can leverage your "best parent" title. You are going through a rough time and need some support? All those folks who look to you for friendship and advice should be there for you too.

And the reverse holds true as well. Does your title as "best daughter" rely on you putting aside your own happiness for no reward? Does your "always there for his friends" pin seem less shiny when you discover your friends aren't there for you in turn? Certifications that have no value aren't going to be worth the effort to keep up with.

Now, I don't mean to get overly transactional here. When it comes to human relationships it's way more nuanced and complex. We all need to step up and help others out. But in the end, we are a network of connections that require effort to maintain.

Let's take this a step further though. Beyond your social interactions, your certifications can benefit you in other concrete ways. Your certification as "expert tinkerer" or "power couponer" can save you money. Your title of "animal whisperer" can connect you with the world of fur and feather. Your skill at "articulating clearly in writing" can change hears and minds. Your well-honed "psychic instincts" award can save your life.

Certifications are typical for things we do well. I wouldn't be able to get an advanced auto mechanic certification (nor do I want one). Similarly, I'm not going to get good at mediumship any time soon (I can hear my dead, but no way I'm hearing yours).

What are you good at? What skills can you leverage? And how can you turn those into informal or formal skills for your life? 2018 is not going to be the year to let your skills slide. Whatever you are good at you need to build on that. Consolidate your most valuable certifications and keep working on building those up. Find connections in order to apply leverage (if you have skills in writing, speaking, and presenting you can open many doors that would otherwise be closed to you -- in both the spiritual and mundane worlds). Keep learning and stay fresh. 

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Monday, March 5, 2018

The Liminal Landscape

Growing up, I lived in the same small town from the age of three to 18. Since leaving I've never lived in any one place for that long. While there were certainly negatives to growing up in such a small town (though our primary youth hobbies of cow tipping and road sign shooting have been replaced with, well, meth I think) there were also benefits.

One of those was the peace and quiet required to see the liminal landscape. In fact, I still dream of the land beneath the land of that place. From the river that doesn't exist, to the cliff dwellings where there is no cliff, to the non-existent pass where the observatory really isn't. The most potent one for me is the boring suburban backyard that contains a doorway to fairy. It's potent because at one point, as an adult, I revisited the old neighborhood and peeked into that yard. Sure enough, there it was, not visible to the naked eye, but not only accessible in dreams.

Unfortunately, my ability to access the liminal landscape has atrophied somewhat with age. This is in part because I'm usually traveling by car or public transport (mostly car) instead of walking. But it's also the creeping busyness that comes with adulthood. I have to make time for magic and often, practical magic concerns are top of my priority list.

A young psychonaut of my acquaintance recently had a first experience with the liminal landscape and that inspired me to do some additional work in this area. So I was out walking with the dogs and found that with a bit of perspective shift, I could still sense the land below the land. It's a good reminder that I need to spread these skills a little more widely (not just during the monthly Depinon, for example). Because otherwise, it's not that magic stops working, but that it becomes just another task to make life turn out right. And that's not all that magic is about.

Never fear, I'll still be a source of practical enchantment advice and tips. I'm afraid I'm not capable of really being impractical for very long. But I'm also approaching a powerful crossroads in my life, and I think my ability to experience the liminal landscape is going to be an important part of navigating it.


Thursday, February 15, 2018

Every Little Thing She Does is Magic

I hunted down this old post today because it said something I needed to hear. Interesting how we can need reminders of even the things we already believe?

There have been some significant changes in the way magicians view magic in recent decades. Chaos magic in particular has moved away from a spirit-driven model, or a will-driven one, to a probability-driven view of magic. That is, magic's effects are on the probability field around various results. This view accounts for a lot of the actual limitations we see with magic (the core example is why your spell didn't win you the lottery).

The chief complaint about this model seems to be that labeling all magic as 'probability shift' makes the results of magic very small. That is limits magicians to only those changes that already have good odds. If you can't affect major changes, then what's the point?

I think there are two answers to this objection:

First, who gets to say what the odds really are? The lottery, for all that it's crafted to be random, has an extremely low level of actual chaos. There's just not a lot of flexibility in the system that you can take advantage of magically. Everything about the drawing is highly controlled -- sure, the actual drawing is random -- but the lottery commission makes sure that it's a pure, laboratory-controlled form of randomness.

Nassim Taleb argues that this kind of randomness (of casinos and lab studies and Monte Carlo simulations) rarely occurs "in the wild." And that our ability to predict odds in real world scenarios is hindered by this blind belief in the laboratory math (for more, see the Ludic Fallacy).

In truth, the odds of situations in the real world following these perfect rules are very low. Very small changes can have huge results and very large changes can have zero results. Or as Taleb puts it, we live in Extremistan rather than Mediocristan -- normal probability distributions just don't apply. I will be digging deeper into this, but the most important immediate point is that if you know where to apply the pressure, you can affect huge change with tiny effort. Magic smart, rather than hard, you know?

Second, even if you can only make small changes, multiple small changes is how major goals are typically met. Everyone forgets that in order to sell millions of copies of the Harry Potter books and make a billion dollars, JK Rowling had to first sit down -- every day -- and write the darned things. One word at a time. In terms of lifestyle magic (building the life you want for yourself) ongoing incremental change is the best way to make sure the results actually meet your expectations and don't destroy you in the process. This is agile development and it's a very useful paradigm for this kind of change.

PMPractical Magic is about probability stuff. That's the place where that kind of planning and organization works well. In fact, I find the probability model of magic extremely useful. However, that doesn't mean that's the only definition of magic that I ascribe to.

See probability magic is all in front of the curtain. It's ON STAGE, so to speak. The laws of cause and effect still apply (though in a more wobbly around the edges form than we usually think of it). Probability still matters (even if we tend to measure it wrong). Time (even if it's stretchy) marches on.

There's another class of magic that's behind the curtain. It takes place back stage, where the clockwork is. Temporal magic takes place here. As does major healing. Spirit flight, shamanism, soul retrieval, night battles. This is the place you go through to interact with the ancestors and spirits. There's no such thing as probability here, or cause and effect. The normal rules don't apply. Maybe there aren't any rules or maybe just the ones you bring with you.

Work done behind the curtain tends to get smoothed over on stage. No matter what's going on backstage, in a well-run show, the audience never knows that one of the props just caught fire, the lead dancer twisted her knee, and director is still changing lines for the second act. Of course, our show isn't perfectly run. Paranormal stuff showing up in our regular world (alien sightings, ghosts, monsters) are examples of stuff backstage interfering with the show and disturbing the actors. If there's a boundary between magic and psy, it might be right there at the curtain.

Working backstage, you can affect some pretty amazing change, and never cause a ripple on the visible surface. Temporal magic might be the best example here. But this kind of work is much harder to describe. I think that's why so much of it gets bound up in religion and spirituality. First, because backstage is weird and can be dangerous and one common way to visit is with a guide. Second, because the work you do on this side of the curtain with those beings (offerings to gods and spirits, ancestor altars, etc.) is quantifiable, even if the backstage results aren't. Finally, getting behind the curtain typically requires altered states of consciousness -- many of which are impolite, illegal, or uncomfortable to discuss.

Sustainable sorcery tends to delve more deeply into this kind of work. Not because there's no practical aspects to it (one thing you're going to see about me it that I'm inherently hyper-practical), but because our current onstage world is SO unsustainable, that in order to escape those patterns and that kind of thinking, you have to go very far afield. Trying to survive in the world we have while keeping ties to the liminal, the Earth, the Universe -- the things that deeply sustain us -- can break your brain (in a bad way).

To me, these ideas aren't contradictory but form a continuum that informs my way of practicing and thinking about magic.

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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Robin Hood 2018: There is no ASS in Assessment... Oh Wait

Recently I mentioned that I took the Clifton Strengths Assessment at a PM conference. I really liked the assessment because a) it has a ton of data to back it up b) it's useful for a host of purposes and c) it's relentlessly positive. I used it to look at my future career goals and to overcome challenges in my current position.

Of course, this isn't the first assessment I've ever had as part of my career. I've done the DISC Assessment and the Keirsey Temperament Sorter as well. I've also done ones for more specific purposes (like measuring Intercultural Aptitude). The only one I've never done as part of a career activity is the Meyers-Briggs. This is good news as of all these squishy psychological tests, Meyers-Briggs is the most based in pure, unresearched BS (sorry Facebook!).

Why do I take them? Well, sometimes it's because I'm in a room full of colleagues and HR is there. But mostly it's because I've learned interesting things about, not just myself, but people in general from these assessments. And knowing about how people tick is useful not just for my job, but for life and magic in general.

But there's just one caveat. Most of these tests are based on your own self-assessment of your feelings or behavior or preference. Therefore they are hugely open to personal bias. If you really want to be seen as an aggressive go-getter, and therefore answer the questions that way, it's totally feasible that you can skew the results.

Which brings us to the use of personality assessment for hiring. A lot of companies are doing this now and I find it extremely problematic. But since no one's asking me...

If you are on the hunt for a job, it could be useful to review common types of personality assessments that might be used by the HR department of the place you are hiring at. Not that I recommend you cheat, mind you, but forewarned is forearmed. If you do decide to adjust your natural answers on one of these for the sake of getting hired (if you know the kind of person they are looking for) be warned that some of them have honesty metrics that can determine whether you are trying to fool the test... or even yourself.

And that's the rub, isn't it? Even if you take these tests just out of curiosity, they're only really interesting if you are as honest as possible on them. For example, my strengths assessment led me to examine certain career paths more closely, and to express that examination to my boss (and his boss). This is a career guiding move and I wouldn't want to base it on wishful thinking.

That said, it's also important not to take these things too seriously (especially ones that you find on Facebook or that try to squish everyone into a handful of dimensions. Understanding people -- including yourself -- is a useful exercise. But some combination of letters isn't all that you are. Don't let your assessment results limit you.


Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Agile Magic Manifesto -- A Guide to Agile Magic

Hey all, as part of the work I'm doing on my course, I wrote a 15-page guide to working agile magic based on the Agile Magic Manifesto. It's a quick start to approaching your magic (and your life) from an agile perspective.

In addition, you'll get the CircleThrice newsletter, full of practical advice on PMPM and agile magic.

My newsletter is WAY less crumply though

Subscribe and get your copy of the Agile Magic Manifesto and the CircleThrice Newsletter:

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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Steal from the Rich -- Robin Hood the Shit Out of 2018

One of the most interesting types of feedback I get on CircleThrice (sometimes directly and sometimes obliquely) is that people don't think my stuff is relevant to them because they aren't "corporate." Now certainly, not everything I write is going to make sense for everyone out there. But I want to be super clear here, if you think that something doesn't benefit or impact you because it comes from some big money-making entity -- you are really, really wrong.

Just because something is "corporate" doesn't mean it's not important for you to know about. In fact, just the opposite.

First, because when you use some technique for process or project or efficiency or management that comes out of corporate-land to re-enchant and empower your own life... well, that's some rebellious, subversive, Robin Hood shit right there.

After all, corporations are some of the biggest, most powerful entities in the world right now. And they are entirely invested in being productive, making money, and meeting their corporate goals. You don't think you can't steal that stuff for your own plans?

Oo-de-lally and Shit
It's like when pharmaceutical companies spend billions of dollars researching the medicinal benefits of plants. Sure, they want to use that knowledge to weaponize what they find and overcharge sick people in a sick system. But if you steal their data, you can use it to heal yourself without their interference.

When it comes to risk analysis, productivity, and human resources tools, companies don't even bother to hide what they learn! No, they brag about it and publish it in smarmy management books and blather about it in TED talks and keynote speeches. They're practically begging you to steal it.

Plus they have the best clipart!

Second, because those same tools will be mercilessly used against you so you better know how they work. And you need to realize that even if you don't think of yourself as corporate, you are likely impacted by corporate interests.

Yes, maybe you are a pagan poet who works as a barista to pay the bills. Do you work as a barista for the green mermaid people? If so, you work for a major corporation, and if you want to keep paying those bills, you need to keep on top of corporate trends in your own industry. Ones that might make your job disappear or open up new opportunities. Interestingly, I don't know anything about the coffee sales industry. I found this information through about 15 minutes of Googling so it's not like it's time-consuming or hard. I've paid money for access to information that might impact my job -- and I consider it money well-spent.

Or maybe you want to find work in an office. Have you researched the completely unscientific and bogus personality assessment tools that HR departments are using to qualify -- and disqualify -- employees? If not, I recommend you do because you may be asked to take one and your answers could keep you from getting a job.

Not to mention the literal weaponization of these techniques that might just destroy the world: "...the flexible nature of hybrid warfare allows for more of a “trial-and-error” approach to foreign intervention, not unlike the agile development process used in marketing and technology firms."

Which is why this new series for 2018 (which I'm getting a late start on, please see previous post) is going to be all about digging deep into the tools and techniques that come from the corporate or government fields, analyzing how they are used and misused, and figuring out how we can jailbreak them and steal them for ourselves.

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Monday, January 15, 2018

New Priorities in the Face of Change

Hey there. So, the past two weeks have been an absolute shitshow in my life. Technical glitches, lots of illness, discovery of antibiotic allergies (the hard way) and so forth and so on. It's been exhausting and we're only just coming out the other side.

As is my habit, when bad stuff happens I like to consider what useful lessons or feedback I can take from it. OK, it's mostly after the dust settles, I admit. During the bad stuff, I'm scrambling and freaking out just like anyone else. Now I'm not in the habit of beating myself up because, hey, shit happens and it's not anyone's fault. But if I can glean some kind of actionable lesson from it, well, that's at least something.

In this case, it seemed like the week contained some interesting takeaways directly related to the big changes in planetary alignment that started on Dec the 19th. Here's my short list of lessons -- items that I'm considering serious advice for the coming year(s):
  • Follow the rules that matter: don't half-ass stuff and follow the process if there's a process
  • Be disciplined: particularly in taking care of ourselves and sticking to our goals
  • Be proactive: take care of things when they arise and don't put things off
  • Don't overreact: take things one step at a time and add new things (like medication) judiciously
  • Stay positive: manifestation is rapid and direct, so watch what we say, think, and do
  • Keep moving forward (or Just keep swimming if you're more Finding Nemo than Meet the Robinsons): don't let everything else get derailed when something goes wrong
Fortunately I'm having a long weekend to catch up on sleep and other projects. This includes creative stuff like coursework, practical stuff like budgeting, and prosaic stuff like sorting and organizing my dresser and catching up on -- you guessed it -- laundry. I'm also doing some planning (you know when I feel low, what I really want is a good dose of planning to lift my spirits), in this case short term magical planning to assist with the lessons we just learned.

I feel like this period of time is going to require, not so much new values and focus, but a re-prioritization of existing values. Because it's clear to me that behaviors in alignment with the astrological weather will cause better results than those that aren't.

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Monday, January 8, 2018

Something Special I've Been Planning

I am super excited about a project that I've been working on since back before the new year, and something that I've been thinking of even longer. And I just can't keep it to myself anymore...

My hair is better though...
When I work with clients one-on-one, they get a very personalized level of service. Everything we do together is tailored specifically to that person. But I appreciate that it's not feasible for a lot of people to engage with me that way. And frankly there's a limit to the number of personal clients I can commit to as well.

So I've been taking the most critical elements of my PMPM practices, the things that can help the broadest number of people -- regardless of their goals -- and organizing them into a set of lessons.

It's one part agile project management and one part magic and it's going to have audio and written content (slides!) and probably a workbook too. And I think it's going to be awesome! Plus I'm planning some cool bonuses (that all my private clients will get too because I love and appreciate you all!).

When you find something you really love to do and people tell you that it's useful -- well, you want to reach out to as many people as possible. Keep an eye on the blog or shoot me an email at and I'll let you know when it's ready.

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Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Cheater's Resolutions -- Kicking the Year off Right

I'm offering a $20 discount for a consultation you schedule during January (see details at the end).

So, did you end up making new year's resolutions or did my previous post scare you off?

This year I made some cheater's resolutions instead. What's a cheater's resolution? It's the equivalent of finishing a task and then writing it on your todo list just so you can have the satisfaction of checking it off. It's when you trick yourself into doing something by just making it super easy to do -- the opposite of applying willpower.

Which is why, since the first week of December I've started working on a couple of goals that I wanted to do for the start of 2018. By starting early, I gained a couple of benefits:

  • No pressure! New Year's Resolutions are kind of fraught. In addition, they often hold the seeds of failure within them. If they were so important, why did you wait until Jan. 1st to start them?
  • No hard deadline! Some things are easier if you ease into them. Like a change in your eating or stopping smoking. So you get going and it takes time to figure out what works for you. There's not one moment where everything changes... it's a process.
  • Time! The end of December is often a time when people have days off. I had a number of them this year. That leaves time for making changes and getting them set as habits before the busy start of the year.

So for this New Year, I got to write down resolutions knowing that I'd already made headway on them -- I am a complete cheater!

But what happens if you didn't make cheaters resolutions? Well, make them now. Decide that you will do something for Groundhog Day / Imbolc / Candlemas... but start now so you can cheat when you get there!

And to help you with your cheater's resolutions (or any other goals you're working on) I'm offering a $20 discount for a consultation you schedule during January. This is for new and existing clients (I hate when people do promos only for new folks) and yes, it includes my clients who've already made January appointments (you're welcome!). Only one discount per person please.