Monday, June 25, 2012

Three Years Ago Today I Lost My Best Friend....

I don't normally do posts on death anniversaries because I prefer to celebrate birthdays but for Michael I will make an exception. Three years ago today I lost the person who saw me through each and every difficult moment of my childhood, I lost the first man I ever considered myself in love with, I lost my childhood best friend. I had never met him face to face, I never shook his hand or had a chat with him, but he was as much a part of my life as anyone "real" who has ever come into it and the day that he died he took any piece of childhood that I held onto right along with him. That man, of course, is Michael Jackson....

I was doing homework when my biological sperm donor came up and told me that Michael had been rushed to the hospital. I will never forget my reaction. As soon as he said it I felt a cold chill go up my spine and I looked him in the eye and said, "He's not going to make it." And then I laughed...I laughed at the horrible thought, at the fact that I would even think that (I mean, how many times was Michael publicly rushed to the hospital in the last twenty years of his life?), I laughed because I had no idea where the fuck the statement came from and I didn't like that one bit. Then I went back to my homework after telling him to keep me updated if they said anything. A little while later I went down to eat and the television was on....I was sitting there with my plate in my lap and it came across the screen that Michael had been pronounced dead. I gasped so loud that the guy I was with at the time came to see what the hell was wrong with me and I had jumped up so that my plate now lay on the floor. But I didn't give a shit about that. Immediately I went down to the basement and I cried. I cried so hard I could barely breathe and yes, I felt a little stupid as all of the memories rushed through my mind. Things like getting Bad on cassette as a gift because I had strep throat (again) when I was four, the first time I heard the album Dangerous, standing in line the day History came out to get my hands on it and spending the whole summer of '95 playing the tapes over and over...the joy he gave me in my darkest hours, the lessons his music taught me, the way that he had felt so real to me, his presence always there in my life....and then I didn't feel stupid for weeping anymore. Because he had been my best friend, my first love, the one who taught me tolerance and compassion, and he was gone. 

I wept on and off for weeks. It felt very much like I had lost a family member. And then the day came when the memorial service for him would be broadcast live and I knew I had to watch but I didn't know how I would do it. I did not know how I would take that step to say goodbye. But I knew I had to. I must admit that when it first began there was a part of me that still hoped this was some fucked up publicity stunt on his part. I mean, if anyone would do something that big to draw attention to their last shows, Michael would have. And yes, there was some part of me that expected him to come out with that smile and admit it was all a stunt. And then the camera turned on his children. When I saw them I knew that Michael was gone. Still, I did pretty good holding back tears. Until Jennifer Hudson came up and sang my favorite song from Dangerous and at the end, Michael's voice came on asking us if we would always be there.....So many turned their fucking backs on him when he needed them the most. They saw only what was put in front of their faces without looking at the strange way that Michael's mind operated and the fact that there was no proof that anything said against him was true. Hell, let's be honest. There was little proof that sex at all was something that occupied space in his mind. He was a child in the body of a grown man and most of those people in the audience and on the streets weeping were not there....not until they found out he was gone. Hearing his voice, those words, drove me to tears. I broke down to the point where I had to leave the room because I knew that without that knowledge that somewhere he was living, even if he wasn't physically in my life, I would never be the same....
The day that he died, a few hours after I heard the news and I thought I could compose myself enough to do it, I posted this blog post on myspace:

The King of Pop

Current mood:sad
There are many people out there that will probably not understand the public emotion at the death of Michael Jackson. Already I'm seeing it, people talking not of the music and the joy that it brought but of the other aspects of his life. That was not what came to mind as I sat here eating dinner and I heard that Michael Jackson, a man that I had loved, truly loved, all of my life was suddenly gone. I thought of my childhood. It was not always easy but no matter what happened in my life I had Michael's music to pick me up. Until I was around thirteen I lived, breathed, dreamed Michael Jackson. In some ways he was like my first love. I can remember coming home from pre-school and putting my mother's Thriller album (which I later claimed as my own) on her turn table and listening to it for hours. It seemed like whenever I was sick it was Bad I wanted to hear. (It was actually purchased for me after a bought of strep throat to make me feel better so maybe that had something to do with it.) When Black or White came out it was added to the list. And, of course, History. Does anyone remember the week long Michael Jackson 24/7 marathon on VH1 to celebrate the release of History? I do. My grandmother was thrilled when the week was over so she could have her television to herself again. The day it came out my grandfather took me to a mall and bought it for me. It was honestly the first brand new cassette tape I ever owned and I was so proud of it. Just three days ago I was listening to Black or White (on compact disk now...gone is the taped version that Candee pirated for me back in '91) to get me through a particlarly boring chapter of my damned science. Perhaps there will always be times in my life when I use Michael as my security blanket. To me, he was more than a talented musician...he was like a part of my life. Almost like a father figure. That may sound stupid to people, it may sound overdramatic, but I think anyone who knew me when I was a child could attest to the fact that, in my young mind at least, he was a part of my life. I spent the better part of 22 years loving him, defending him, and digging on his tunes. I have no doubt I will spend the rest of my life doing the same. Before Morrison and Hendrix, before Janis, before Patsy, in my life, there was Michael. People can say what they like. His memory and his music will live on. I can say from my heart that I will always love him and I will always cherish the memories that I have of the man he was. He paid one hell of a price for fame and today he certaintly has it. I hope that now he can have the peace he so often sought in life.

So today I remember him, the man I loved so much. I am playing his music and trying not to watch the videos as I am attempting to do homework. I remember the joy he brought to me, the comfort I sought in him, and the fact that he gave so damned much to his fans and he got back, in his lifetime, so little in return. I never lost faith in him, I never believed the things others said, I kept loving him and I will always love him and it is that that I remember every June 25th and every August 29th....He is, was, and will always be the King of my generation and my mother's before it. He was one of kind. And there will never ever be another Michael Joseph Jackson in this world. 

"Goodnight, sweet prince. May flights of angels sing thee to thy sleep..."

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Summer Solstice/Litha

Technically speaking, yesterday was Summer Solstice but this witch was too tired to blog yesterday...and there are still people celebrating it today so this isn't totally belated. In addition to this being the usual date of the Solstice (I hated celebrating it yesterday...I do not like change.) today is also the fourteenth anniversary of your's truly "officially" dedicating myself to The Gods, The Craft...all that fun stuff. Over a decade has passed and I still have not hit the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all there is to learn when you choose Wicca as your religion (or when it chooses you, however you want to look at it). So because of that anniversary, even though summer is my least favorite season and Samhain/Halloween is my favorite holiday, this day is special for me. 

The Summer Solstice, or Litha as Wiccans (and other Pagans of Celtic traditions I believe) call it, is one of the four holidays on our calender that everyone the world over can recognize. No matter how out of touch modern societies have become with nature, we still watch the seasons turn and the dates of those changes still appear on our calendars. So I don't really need to explain what the day is in the technical sense. However, in Wicca it is not just the first day of summer. It is also the day in our myth that the God reaches His full power (which makes sense as the sun is connected to the God). In the myth of the Oak King and the Holly King, The Oak King, who was born to the Goddess on Yule, battles the Holly King and loses, leaving the Holly King to rule until Yule comes around again. The Oak King and the Holly King are two separate aspects of the same God much like the Maiden, Mother, and the Crone are three separate aspects of the Goddess.

In addition to the myths concerning the God, the Goddess, at this time, is viewed as being pregnant which is seen as a promise of harvest in the months to come.

Faery lore is also attached to the Solstice much like Beltane. I am not completely sure how that came to be but it has been that way for a very long time. There were legends in England that talked of staying up all night in the middle of a stone circle the night before the Solstice and seeing the Faeries and as I recall even Shakespeare had a tendency to link the two together. This is my personal condensed version of Summer Solstice. Now, here is a comprehensive and in depth explanation that I found on

Litha, or Mid-Summer’s Day, falls on the Summer Solstice and is known as one of the ‘quarter days’-Equinoxes and Solstices-that divides the year evenly into quarters. The Summer Solstice occurs when the sun reaches the Tropic of Cancer, hence this is the date the sun also enters the astrological sign of Cancer. For the northern hemisphere, this is when the planet is tilted to give us the most sunlight. Although this day is the longest of the year it is generally not the warmest. It is the day that the sun overpowers the darkness, and it is this source of energy that we use in our magic with themes of power and protection. The date of the Solstice varies from year to year, falling sometime between June 20th through 23rd. Old calendars marked time from sunset to sunset, so you may want to start your celebration on the eve of the Solstice which is after sunset on the day before the Solstice.
Litha is a celebration of the bounty of Summer. There are many flowers, with the bright pastel spring blooms giving way to the rich intensity of Summer flowers. The fields have been seeded, the plants are growing, some early crops may be harvested but most of all there is promise of the larger harvest to come in both the field and trees. Now we must trust that there will be enough rain and sun, and not too much of either or of the wind, so that we may harvest sufficient amounts to see us through the coming winter.
The youthful energy of spring and Beltane have mellowed into maturity; emotional maturity and love now matches the sexual maturity or lust of the earlier season. If Beltane was the lustful courtship of the Lord and Lady, this is Their wedding. Their passion is no less, but has increased in depth. Love is now their guiding force, and Lust is merely the spice .
This day is also known as Midsummer, because, for the pagan community, Summer officially starts at Beltane (on May 1) and ends on Lughnassahd (August 1) with this day falling in between the two. Other names that this holiday is known as are Litha and St. John the Baptist Day. For those who are of the Christian faith this the date chosen for honoring John the Baptist, cousin and fore-seer of Jesus Christ. The Christian church began doing after realizing how widespread and ingrained the festivals of this day were. St. John, the cousin of Jesus of Nazareth, was considered one of the most important saints, leading you to see the importance that the Christian church put in “claiming” this holiday. Litha is a word supposed to derive from one that is Saxon denoting the opposite of Yule.
Traditionally, Litha is a time sacred to the Sun King, for this is when He is at His strongest. The God is in his prime. He has reached the peak of His power, and His rays are such that none dare look at Him for fear of being blinded by His light. With this power comes the heat of Summer, the promise of fruit and grain, and a great harvest to come. His potency ensures the continuity of life in the face of the oncoming darkness. He is ever-living, ever-returning with virility, fertility and strength. He guides us in our own personal growth, just as he guides the crops and creatures of Earth. His marriage with the Goddess now makes Him Her protector as well as her lover. He is a full grown man, and due to the merry making of Beltane, a father.
At Litha the God can be seen in many different traditions and mythologies. In the Oak King/Holly King myth, the Sun King has two separate personalities. These personalities are so strong that, to some, they become different entities, the Oak King and the Holly King, each ruling one half of the year. The Oak King was born at Yule to the Great Mother, and in his light and splendor begins to turn the Great Wheel and start the lengthening of the days. The beginning of the sun’s decline is symbolized by the return of the Holly King, the Spirit of Winter, at the moment after the Solstice. It is on mid-Summer that the dark half of the sun god begins to gain power. Often, mock battles are played between representatives of the two gods who fight over the attentions of the lady Goddess. At the Summer Solstice the dark Holly King (to some beliefs as the Wren) slays his light twin the Oak King (to some beliefs as the Robin) and begins his half-yearly reign which ends with the Holly King’s death at midwinter when the scene is reversed and the Oak King is triumphant. The eternal dueling of these light and dark brothers gives life to the primary tenant of western Goddess worship, “there is darkness in the light and light in the darkness.” Although the Dark God is defeated, he has weakened the God of Light who has now begun to die. As everything in nature comes to its peak and then declines, so too must the God in His aspect of the Sun. With decline comes transformation, and so it is with the God, who takes on many aspects and wears many crowns.
The Earth Mother is also at Her finest at this time. The Goddess is becoming Mother, the seed that was planted earlier in her womb is growing with the son/sun. She blossoms just as the earth blossoms with abundance. She basks in the light of her lover and grows with child each day. The land is glowing with flowers and ripening fruit as the Goddess glows and ripens, as well. Like the animals and plants, we feed off of this warmth, and take a moment to rest on this Sabbat.
Once again, thinking back to our ancestors, we know that they found this to be a peaceful time. The crops were planted, their animals had usually birthed by this time and they had a slight lull as they awaited the time of the first harvest. Among humans there is change in the type of energy. Where spring made us sprightly, Summer makes us passionate. Flesh is revealed; sensuality is at its highest expression; heat makes us languid, yet the cooler nights are energizing.
Mid-Summer is said to be a mystical time when the forces of magic are increased and fairies roam our world. Fairies, elves and sprites are purported to be most easily seen at Mid-Summer, dancing in fairy rings. As portrayed in Shakespeare’s “A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream,” it is a night much like Samhain, when the veils are once more thin between the realms of the Sidhe (or fae) and the world of mortals. This is the night when mortals have strange experiences, and when faeries troop across the land. Litha is a “day outside of time,” and the strange experiences one might have are likely to be comic, harmless, or even beneficial. Litha has an “upside down” quality about it – things are often reversed or mixed-up. It is a time for merriment and the wish making. There is a tradition of celebrating Litha where one makes wishes after gathering flowers(especially St. John’s Wort) either to hang in your home as protection amulets or to tied onto the tops of roofs as a symbol of a wish that you want carried into the next world.
The Sun festival was a noisy time, with singing, dancing, and drumming lasting the whole night through. In some places in Germany, tall fir-trees were set up in open places and decorated with flowers, and red and yellow eggs. The younger folk danced around these trees during the day, and the older ones during the evening.
Homes would frequently be decked with such plants as birch, white lilies, roses, and Saint John’s Wort. Saint John’s Wort was of particular importance to the Mid-Summer celebrations and in addition to wearing it and spreading it about the house, young girls would often use it to help divine the future of their love lives. Mistletoe, Mugwort, Vervain, Basil and many other herbs are harvested in ritualistic manners to preserve their energies for use in the colder times on Litha. Amulets of the past year are buried or burned and new ones, often for protection, are made for hanging around and outside the house.
Mugwort, in particular, was gathered on the mid-Summer’s eve, to be worn as head wreaths during the next day; these were then hung on the house or barn to act as protective charms for the ensuing year. To gather this herb today you would be barefoot, ideally, and cut the stems with an iron-free blade or “snip” them by pinching with your fingers. First ask permission of the mother plant, explaining why and how you will use the plant; then offer something in exchange. Custom says silver, but compost, fertilizer pellets or a special stone are also fine “payment”. Don’t let the herb touch the ground once it’s cut, but place it on a white cloth. Act quietly and with reverence.
As the days start to lose their light from this point, many cultures encouraged the Sun to return. Bonfires were representative of the Sun and they are still used on this day for that reason. Other sources of flame would include lanterns carried by revelers “walking the march,” who were often attended by dancers and costumed players dressed as a variety of costumes. Flaming torches were carried around the fields and orchards to drive off insect infestations and other detriments to a good harvest. In Germanic countries smaller lanterns were set afloat on rivers and lakes as well. In other areas people would extinguish their home-fires, and then re-light them with a flaming torch or brand from the Mid-Summer fire.
In many cultures the bonfires were attended by all the villagers. Each person who attended would have contributed to its blaze. Besides adding light for the nighttime festivities, the fires where thought to ward off ill-meaning spirits and leaping of bonfires for purification, health, fertility, and love was common with the height of the leap thought to govern the eventual height of the crops in the fields. The bon fires are traditionally kindled from fir and oak with assorted herbs throne upon the flames. This was a time that might also entail the members of a village straddling brooms, pitchforks or other tools and jumping as high as they could to show the crops how high to grow while circling the bonfire or the fields themselves. In Germany, Mugwort and Vervain were tossed into the Mid-Summer fire upon leaving it, with the words, “May all my ill-luck depart and be burnt up with these.” Herbs were also used by some peoples as a smudge, the smoke clearing bad influences from crops, animals, and people. Pigs and cattle would be driven between two fires to preserve their health and ensure their fertility or they might be driven through the fires to cure the sick and protect the sound. Afterward, some of the ashes from the herbs and charred wood of these huge fires would be taken to spread in the gardens among the cabbages. These ashes would keep the cabbage worm under control and it is not known if it was done for this purpose, alone, or if this was merely a beneficial “side effect.”
In Europe, it was a festival of lovers as well as that of fire. As each young unmarried couple leapt the flames, others speculated as to who would marry within the year. In other traditions lovers would leap fires together, or throw flowers to each other across the fire. Both flowers and fire were used to give omens for love and marriage. It is not surprising that roses, which bloom at this time, were used in many festivals and divination rituals, for their fragrance was said to be as sweet as love.
In many places sun-wheels were common on this holiday and that of Lughnasadh. They were wheels that were often rigged with straw and pitch, set aflame, and sent rolling down the hills toward a stream, pond or other body of water. Two young men would do their best to guide it, while one or more followed with torches to re-light the wheel should the fire die out. . The longer the blaze, the better the harvest. A successful roll, extinguished in the watercourse, guaranteed an abundant harvest, as well.
Saint John the Baptist also has much importance in relation to this holiday. It was the custom in England, on St John’s Eve, to light large bonfires after sundown, providing light for the revelers and warding off evil spirits. There would be feasting and partying, dancing, games, bartering and all forms of celebration and, as in other areas, leaping the fire was a common practice. It should be noted , interestingly enough, that St. John, though a Christian figure, was seen by the early Celtic-Catholic people as a very pagan one. He was known as “the Oak King” and had a strong connection to the nature in the wilderness . He was often depicted as a horned figure and, at times, with the lower portion of his body as a satyr, as though people regarded him as a Christian Pan. This may seem very odd to a modern person, but keep in mind the fact that the early Christians, particularly those it the British Isles often simply put knew names to old deities. Modern day Christians celebrate mid-Summer is Saint John’s Day and celebrates his birth, much as Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ in coincidence with Yule. The reason given as to why Saint John’s birth is celebrated when every other Saint’s day occurs at death is that John is a special case since he was born exactly six months before Christ to announce the coming of the Messiah.
In ancient Rome, a “festival of jollity and drunkenness” was celebrated by the Plebeians and slaves in honor of Fortuna, the Roman Goddess who was the personification of good fortune. She was originally a Goddess of blessing and fertility and in that capacity she was especially worshipped by mothers. Because she was considered the Goddess of Luck the word fortune comes from her name. At first, she was regarded as a kind of fertility Goddess or bearer of prosperity but, gradually, she was invoked exclusively for good luck-or lamented to for the lack of it! As the Goddess of Chance, she was consulted about the future at her oracular shrines in Antium and Praeneste (now Anzio and Palestrina). A favorite subject in ancient art, the Goddess Fortuna is usually depicted holding a rudder in one hand and a cornucopia, or horn of plenty, in the other. The rudder signified that she guides the destiny of the world; the cornucopia, that she was the provider of abundance. Known as Tyche to the Greeks, Fortuna was worshipped extensively throughout the Roman Empire and had oracular shrines at Antium and Praeneste (now Anzio and Palestrina). . The festival involved features of both fire and water. (The water link is noticeable in the Church’s choice of St. John the Baptist for this day.) Events included foot-races and boat-races, and plenty of wine and merry making. During the Middle Ages, she was depicted as Dame Fortuna who, spinning the wheel of fortune, seemingly at random, would grant goodness to one while she beset others with misfortune.
In nearly every culture, the Summer Solstice has been recognized, revered and even feared. The Sun is at its height, but at the same moment begins to decline. Only hope, ritual and belief would ensure its return at the Winter Solstice to our ancestors. Litha is a time for healing of all kinds, and protection rituals. This is a good time for clearing away non-useful energies, and establishing a stable base. Litha is about joy. It is about being completely alive, as the earth is at its zenith. Everywhere you look, it is green and life is abundant. Weave flowers into your hair – dance and frolic, take a big, deep cleansing breath of Summer air. Pick summer strawberries or other early fruits and vegetables. Know how fortunate you are to be a part of this wonderful circle of life and the turning wheel of the year.
If you just read that, I assure you that you know more about this holiday than I did fourteen years ago when I was dedicated and celebrated it for the first time. lol
So again, I apologize for the post being a little late and for those of you who celebrated it today, Happy Litha. :) I am going to leave you, as I usually do, with pictures and music. Have a beautiful week, blogger people, and remember to smile. :)
Lisa Thiel-Litha

Lisa Thiel-Spirit of the Plants
                                            The Oak King and the Holly King

Blessed Be!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

I Know It's Been Awhile....

I suppose my list of excuses concerning the nearly-month-long gap between posts would be pointless. Things have been weird and crazy and at times super challenging...all that shit that life so typically is. I've been writing and then taking long breaks from it because my mind is concocting something I am not sure I am willing to delve into (Yes, it is a different story than the last one I mentioned and no, I won't go into detail until I am much further into it because I seem to have crappy luck with that). I took a two-day vacation to a little town I lived in briefly on the Ohio River to just get away from home for a while and I found that it was the most relaxed I've felt in a long long time. But when I came home I had to go to the hospital because I thought something was wrong with my gall bladder. Turns out it is only a new spot of Crohn's that is causing inflammation all around my gall bladder and pancreas. I was relived that it wasn't something that was serious but disappointed that it isn't something that can be fixed any time soon. And in the middle of all of this life stuff I have been working on trying to change the way I look at my body, accept...actually, really accept...its problems and learn to live with them as peacefully as possible. That has not been easy and it is still a work in progress but at least I am working on it. I am on the edge of truly realizing that this stuff isn't going away but that I can still find a way to be alright with that most days. 

I've also had a couple of epiphanies where magick is concerned and I am sharing them because I've been a witch for fourteen years and these concepts just came to me randomly about two weeks ago so maybe by sharing them I can save someone else the fourteen year wait. haha And these are not things that can be used only to strengthen spells but to also achieve goals in general.  Tip 1) When possible, live as if the change has already occurred. Example: I wanted to get away with my little two day trip but for many reasons (mostly linked to the fact that I am a nillionaire...I have nothing when it comes to money) I chalked it up to something that I could keep right on wanting. And then I just started to prepare for this trip like it was already set in stone. I finished all of my homework for the weekend, I cleaned (because I wouldn't leave dirty dishes if I were going anywhere overnight), I made sure my stuff was in my purse but I didn't pack my clothes (because I always do that last anyway)....I did everything the way I would do it if I was sure I was going. And as I was doing I thought to myself, 'I am doing this because I am going'. I started this Friday night. By Sunday my mother had contacted me and told me she wanted us to go down and by Sunday night we were there. So I think it worked. I didn't do a spell or anything to make it happen. I just believed it would. 
The second tip is for those bigger goals you have in life. I don't know about you but when I daydream, I daydream huge. I daydream scenarios where all of my work and effort has already paid off and I am enjoying the end result. Well, I think I might be doing that wrong. I am now trying the new approach of daydreaming in steps. For instance, if you are working on degrees so that you can graduate and build a career than visualize yourself getting through your classes one at a time. Once you are doing well with that, imagine you've completed your first degree. When you are close to getting your degree (or your last degree or the degree you need to begin your career) start visualizing yourself happy in the job you want after school. Now, I have just started this one and my goals I am working on are fucking big and time consuming so I will have to get back to you on progress made with this but I have all the faith in the world that it will work. And again, both tips will work with magick or just with goals in general. At least that is what my guide said and I tend to believe her. haha
On a completely unrelated note, I have been thinking heavily about pulling Castles Made of Sand from Amazon and looking for agents to take it again. If I knew that Rapunzel was going to be picked up by an agent and that the agent would also want Castles I would wait but I don't know how that works. What I do know is that of everything that I have ever written, Castles is the work that I have the most faith in. When I read that book I actually forget that I wrote it. I have heard it said by authors before that they are simply vessels that their stories come out of and in this case, that is exactly how I felt when I was writing it and it is how I feel when I read it. I mean, Rapunzel is a great story, it is an entertaining story, and I know that there are many people out there who would enjoy reading it. But Castles Made of Sand is more than that. It is someone's story in a way that a vampire novel will never be. Someone out there could pick it up and think, 'Wow, I lived this. I went through this.' It was the first novel I ever wrote like that because before it all I had ever written were vampire novels and as far as I know, no one has ever lived a vampire's life. Even though the bulk of the book occurs from 1964-1971, the main issues in it are still so relevant today. And I did some of the best writing I have ever done so far within the pages of that book. It deserves to be printed and read far more than I, personally, deserve to be published for it, if that makes any sense at all. And if I could, if I had the means to do so (again, going back to being a nillionaire...), I would bind up copies of it and sell it for the cost it took to print it alone just so people could read it. Since I can't, I have been known to give it away in its Word format. Because, like I said, it deserves to be read. And I do not want to deny it that chance. So I don't know what I will decide on that in the days to come. In the meantime I am still accepting rejection letters as they come for Rapunzel. hahaha

These are the things that have occupied my mind lately. I hope everyone out there in the blogger world has been well. Sorry the post wasn't all that interesting and it had no real point to it but Summer Solstice/Litha is two days away so you will all have a post with a purpose then. Until Thursday...