Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Etiquette Lesson: I'm addicted to you/ Don't you know that you're toxic?

Before we get started, it's vital to note that this lesson is not about victim blaming. It is never okay to engage in behavior when it is non consensual such as striking a person, demeaning a person, or sexually assaulting a person. If anyone is abusing you using items listed on this checklist, please call 1-888-7HELPLINE and get help.

This is something that's been rolling around in my head for a long while. I've noticed that when wounded and likely broken up (this applies to friendship and relationships), people have a tendency to call the other person in the situation toxic. In our post-pop-psychology world, people like to grandly say that they're keeping toxic people out of their lives.

To me, this only devolves one way:

"You're toxic!"
"No, you're toxic!"
"No, YOU'RE toxic!"
"No, YOU'RE toxic!"
"You shut up!"
"No, you shut up!"

So what exactly do we learn from this situation besides moral superiority? Not a whole lot if you ask me.

I think it's much harder to look at the real issue at hand, that neither party is toxic per se, but that you both managed to put yourselves in a toxic situation. Yes, this is much less satisfying than simply declaring the other persona non grata, but it's a lot closer to the truth of the matter. The other person didn't come into your life all oozing superfund while you were a hapless victim lying on the train tracks with nothing to do but feebly cry out while this person cackled evilly and goozed all over you. Whatever toxic cycle you found yourself in didn't happen in a vacuum. It's harder and much more important to look at how you found yourself in this situation. Usually it takes years to get into a really toxic cycle, so it can take a lot of soul searching, journaling, and possibly therapy to figure out how you got there and what you did to contribute to the situation.

Towards the end of my marriage, Kate Nash describes my relationship v. aptly in her song, Foundations. When it finally imploded, he didn't leave me in a particularly kind way and it was really messy. He did a lot of really uncool shit at the end of our relationship and it would have been easy for me to start screaming about what a victim I was, how I had nothing to do with what happened, how toxic he is and how defenseless I am, etc. But you know what? It wouldn't have been true. I wasn't standing on the sidelines of our relationship, not contributing anything good or bad. Where would I be if I acted like a blameless victim? What would I have learned from the relationship? How could I improve as a person?

Steps I Took to Get Past a Toxic Relationship

1. Took time to be shellshocked because it was a *SURPRISE!* (to me) divorce.

2. Took time to be really fucking sad and devastated. I even did rubber band therapy.

3. Took time to be really angry.

4. Took time to do as much shit talking as I needed to do to those close to me.

5. Started to be really functional again. This took mmmmm four? five? months before I started to really genuinely be myself again and started really functioning past doing the bare minimum to survive.

6. I started before step 5. but especially after step 5. to really take a good, long hard look at what I did to contribute to the disintegration of my marriage, because it didn't happen in a vacuum and it wasn't something that Wasband (he WAS my husband) was solely responsible for. I thought about what things I could have done better in that relationship, what I could improve on, how to be a better person, etc.

I really think giving myself time to get through all of that and take a really honest personal inventory of myself and reflect on how I could improve as a person has made it so that nearly two years later, I came out the other side landing (mostly) neatly on my feet, dare I even say better for it?

Now my partners and I fight with each other easily 85% less now than when I was with Wasband. When we do it's generally pretty calm which has made a huge difference in my life/fibro management. When I was with Wasband I was yelling and screaming often several times a week about various things to various people. Now I think in my relationships we've raised voices maybe . . .six times? in the last two years. Again, this isn't just a situation where I cut him out and maaaaagic! I made a conscious decision that I didn't want to live like that anymore. Wasband and I also both liked to wind each other up which didn't help matters in attempting to resolve things calmly, now I try really hard not to get into that cycle with anyone.

At the end of my marriage I was stress eating constantly, dependent in so many ways, unable to care for the ginormous apartment we lived in, eating out (and eating too much) all the time, fighting with Wasband all the time, in debt up to my nose, and completely stressed out, hardly ever writing or crafting.

Now I own a condo I can clean myself easily, focused on my relationships, independent, debt is 30% paid off on track to be paid off completely in 2013, I write all the time, I go to the gym, I'm not very stressed except when there's reason to be (*coughcoughsummerofninemillionweddings*), I'm self supporting, I cook at home, I don't stress eat nearly as much, I'm in charge of my health care, etc.

The problem I see a lot of people having is they get to step 5 and then it's just all OMFG! The other person was so TOXIC! I'm so glad I'm away from that person! Think about it this way: you are giving that person far too much control and power. If that person really had that much power that you cut her out of your life and voila! everything's perfect again without you having to do anything but cut that person out, well that person much be a pretty formidable opponent. *So* formidable that they must be like Godzilla stomping through various innocent bystanders' Toyko.

Is that *really* what happened? Really? You had no control, no power, no voice at all in that situation? Or maybe, just maybe, you did some shitty things too or at the very least went along to get along? It's okay to not have done things perfectly. It's okay to have made mistakes. If you can acknowledge that you did, this gives you *more* power because you can fix a mistake a lot easier than a random Godzilla lurking about ready to cause problems at your ramen stand at any given moment. Were you too selfish? Did you sometimes like to wind the person up? Did you yell a lot? Did you rather be right than happy? Awesome! That's all shit you can work on.

It's totally okay to:

Call the *situation* toxic! When you say this to yourself or others also add, And I know I contributed to it too. Try it, it's liberating! Taking responsibility for your actions is probably the most liberating awesome thing you can do in life because then you own them and they're yours to fix and learn from.

*Still* be angry, sad, and whatever at times. Being over it doesn't mean you're over it 100% of the time all the time. That's called denial or sometimes depending on the situation, compartmentalization. You can ask Don Draper how well that's working out for him.

Have some choice words about your ex. Hey, you don't have to approve of what happened on her side, you don't have to wish her well, you don't have to not call her some kind of terrible mean pet name. The caveat there though is that you need to be careful not to fall into the Mean Girl trap, I could hear people getting bored with me. But I couldn't stop. It just kept coming up like word vomit. When it starts to feel like word vomit, you need to stop because it's starting to eat you from the inside out, yo. And you do not want to give that other person that kind of power over you.

Charm to Stop Word Vomit

Put a rubberband on your wrist. When you feel the word vomit threatening to spew, snap it sharply and say this charm:

When I snap this rubber band,
I will not word vomit just as planned.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Panic, Meditation, and the Dilettante

Many parties on my blogosphere talk about how meditation is the cornerstone of their practice. And I really respect that, but it's not the cornerstone of mine. And at first I felt like a complete dilettante about that. What? Sit quietly for an hour? What kind of girl do you think I am? I don't *do* that!

It's not that I haven't tried. I have, meditation was part of my ADF druid dedicant program. The issue, the real issue, that took me years to get to the heart of is that I can't do traditional meditation because of my panic disorder.

I've done what I'm supposed to do, I've sat on the couch, I take meds (delicious, delicious meds! O how I love thee!), I've found god(dess)(es), I've come to terms with the things that caused that in me. But here's the thing, it doesn't go away. Some people think that's what therapy/meds is supposed to. Congratulations! You're healed of years of abuse, bad relationships, bad decisions, and living with a debilitating condition! Go! Be free! Live a normal life!

It would be kick ass if it *did* work that way, but it doesn't. I get better at living with it, at managing it, so much so that people who've only known me as an adult (especially past the age of 25) forget how damaged I am, which is flattering. But it's still there. And real, true, emptying my mind meditation triggers a panic attack in me every time. I don't know all the hows and the whys, but I do know some, just like I know some of why going to the movies at a theater does the same and drinking caffeine. At the end of the day, this isn't something you can always logic your way out of. Your body is reacting in a real, visceral, primal way and it doesn't care if you say, "Oh no body! We're not *really* in danger! It's fine, really." Because often, your body's response is, "OMFG!!!!!!!!!!! ARRRRRRRRRRRRGHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!! OMFG!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" until it's done.

Some magic users have gone so far as to say they didn't think you could be an effective magic user without meditation. I've asked what should I do due to my body's chemical reaction (also? Fibro? Not the greatest for long term meditation) and no one had any kind of answer for me. This was devastating to me. I wanted to be a real live girl and no blue fairy had any sort of answer for me as to how to get past this.

So for a while I gave up. That's right, I gave the fuck up. It was exhausting enough trying to lead a "normal" life, if I couldn't ever do this, well it's unlikely I'll ever run a marathon either or be president.

I don't have the answers for everyone, I can only speak for myself. But I don't think really many people have talked about what to do if you have a disability(ies) that prevent you from having a full, rich meditiational life. So, let me tell you what I've found for myself.

How to be Magically Delicious Without Emptying Your Mind Meditation

Why can't you meditate? If you don't know why, really know why, you're not going to be able to figure out the actual heart of your magical practice so do some serious soul searching to figure out why. Even if your reason is "I don't want to", go deeper than than and think about why you don't want to.

Redefine meditation for yourself. My japa practice has been something I've done every night without fail since late December. It gives me the benefits that meditation is supposed to give people - relaxing, focusing, clearing my mind, etc. My brain/body can handle a full 108 every night and it's really helped my personal practice. Guided meditation such as the IPM and visiting my own internal hearth can really be helpful for me. When I am not strong enough to clean my actual hearth, cleaning my internal hearth really helps keep me sane, I can also visit with my god/desses there. Other things that help me: cooking, cleaning, baking bread. Don't discount those practices, they can really help you develop your magical practice if you treat them as meditational practice.

What is it you're trying to accomplish with magic? I have to be blunt, I'm not looking to talk to angels. I'm not looking to call in any kind of super serious spirit that needs to be confiiiiiiiiiined by my dark aaaaaaaaaaaaaaarts! I like having an occasional meditation chat with my god/desses, I like trying to build a better me on my path - to be faster, stronger, sexxxier. For me that really equates to: having a magical practice to call my own, having enough money to pay my bills and occasionally travel and buy a ridiculous purse, get in better shape, writing, and crafting. All of this can be accomplished with low magic. So if I personally don't need or really even want anything that can be accomplished with higher magic, why do I keep torturing myself? It's ridiculous. I personally have yet to go into any situation that could not be solved with mundane means or low magic. It could happen, but . . .it hasn't. So why am I preparing for some kind of magical apocalypse if I don't need to? For me, it has been far more beneficial for me to stop torturing myself about things I wasn't trying to accomplish in my practice anyway and get better honing my practice to accomplish the things I *am* trying to accomplish, none of which require a huge meditational practice.

If what you are trying to accomplish does require it, it's going to be a difficult path so make sure it's worth it to you. You may want to start looking up Rinpoches who have experience with disability and meditations.

You still need a cornerstone in your practice. If meditation isn't your cornerstone, what is? Really stop and think about it. My cornerstone is my hearth. My magic happens in the kitchen, in the dining room, in the bedroom (if you know what I'm sayin!), using household tools. It's my chantry, my sanctuary, my safe space, my temple. So I need to focus on making sure my hearth is in order, which is where the majority of my magical practice lies with offerings being a second and spellwork being a third.

Welcome to the Blogosphere!

I'd like to welcome new friend Jay to our little place on the blogosphere! His blog, A Magician Without a Cause is new and has a lot of really good thoughts on kitchen/hearth witchery.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Moar on Kitchen Witchery

Let us continue with our discussion since austensibly, this is what this blog is supposed to be about.

It's okay to have untargeted kitchen witch practices.

Look, I'm the first to say my pew! pew! pew! is lacking. I think if you have a blog though that is magically focused (and if it's not then it's moot, n'est-ce pas? You can talk about whatever you damn well please then!), then you need to tie it together for your readers.

I thought thegreencall made a beautiful point about bread baking. S/he doesn't *have* to say and then I used cinnamon and drew sigals, blahblahblah. S/he could talk about how and why it's a kitchen witch meditational practice to zir, that's perfectly valid! Talk about why whatever is you're doing - baking, cooking, cleaning, sewing, whatever is a magical experience for you. This is a free form essay, you're not being graded, whatever reason you have for it being a magical experience for you is right. There are things in everyone's life I think (I hope!) that are magical to them but not targeted for results. It's good to have and share those experiences too.

You need to know how to do this stuff. That does not mean you need to do it all the time.

I had suggested a base education in house wifery, but that doesn't mean that you're responsible for it all the time in some kind of psychotic Valium laced Stepford scenerio. I know how to do laundry, but Jow does it in our household. If he ever said, do your own fucking laundry, I could.

If you know how to clean your house sparklingly clean but chose to not live in a constant Miss Martha police state, that's okay. If it's part of your strategy as a hearth witch, well then you must be a clever kitchen witch! My house would not pass Lakshmi inspection at all times (or really like 29 days out of the month) either. If you have the means to send out your laundry or order take out every night, rock out. You just need to know how to perform these functions should you ever need to. It's sort of like knowing how to do long division. It's good to know how to do by hand, but the gods made calculators for a reason.

Sometimes, simple is best.

I suggested a basic practice in kitchen/hearth witchery for people who work primarily in "higher" magic because like a proper dilettante, I believe in being well rounded. And frankly sometimes if you need to do something on the fly, it's a lot easier to pour some salt into a bowl and spit into it than to do a long formal practice. I also think it's good to know simple magic in order to be able to obtain simple things. You need fifty bucks to make your bills this month? You could do something v. formal or you could do something quick and get on with your life. Formal magic often requires a lot more time, energy, and effort. And there are certain things that are better suited to those practices, but you need a quick little something, low magic just seems like a better way to do so.

Furthering the math analogy, you may become so accustomed to Calculus and using a calculator to do so, you forget how to do basic level math. This is not going to help you when it's your job to do bistro math for the table 'cause you're the math chick and you left your cell phone at home.

Some of what I suggest needing to know may seem unnecessary and sort of Mr. Miyagi, but look at it from a kitchen witch's perspective: You claim to be a kitchen/hearth witch, I'm supposed to trust you to do a love spell for me using hearth magic, but . . .you don't know how to take care of your hearth which functions as your temple, your magical work space? Fill in your own mechanic/gyno joke here.


Monday, June 14, 2010

Cooking Dinner Does Not Make You a Kitchen Witch (subtitled: Making Friends Where Ever I Go)

Perhaps I am a miscreation,
No one knows the truth,
There is no future here.
You never know who's still awake,
You never know who understands and

Are you out there, can you hear this,
I was out here listening all the time,
And though the static walls surround me
You were out there, and you found me,
I was out here listening all the time. [Dar Williams]

DISCLAIMER: If I follow your blog, if I've made nice comments to you, etc., etc. I obviously don't mean you in this entry.

I'm having a shitful day today, so why not alienate some readers!

I sort of spent my twenties fighting against who I really was in oh so many ways. I didn't want to be a kitchen witch. I thought that was the least impressive, most Holly Hobby branch of magic there is.

Jow and I were talking about why I fought this yesterday, he said it doesn't make me lesser. But I said, it does. I've just grown not to care and to honor who I am. It makes me LESS formally educated, LESS full of hermetic/goetic/golden dawn occulty goodness, LESS theory based magic, LESS plugged in to having 24/7 chitchats with my gods, LESS inclined to have some kind of formal magic fancy dance, etc., etc.

Now, I've never felt in this fabulous blogosphere that any of *you* have ever made me feel this way, but you have to picture me from ten years ago: I'm constantly listening to NIN! I wear boots with sparkly laces to my corporate gig! I'm thrashing around on top of tables pumped full of piss and goldschlagger! I'm trying to break glass ceilings! I'm smoking cigars with the boys! I'm demanding my place at the occult table at occult events! I'm getting tats! I'm going through Shamanic trials! I'm fucking punk rock and . . . you want me to bake a cake? Really? Really? So I fought against it for while which is why I wasn't terribly successful in my own personal magic for quite some time. Somewhere around 27? 28? I started really embracing it. Once I bought my own home, my own hearth, I *really* started embracing it. I had the tools all along, it turns out, I just needed to know how to use them.

When I first joined the blogosphere, I wanted to bff a variety of people in the magical world. But let me be honest, most of all I wanted to befriend fellow kitchen witches. Sisters/brothers unite! Let's get some spit, blood, hair, dirt, and basil and get this party started!

But I didn't find too many. The fabulous Mrs. B of course. A little later I demanded an introduction to my PEH, who while not a kitchen witch per se, at least does magic similarly, Lavannah who has land that I covet.

I googled. I tried tracking down people. I tried a lot of different key words. And honestly, I found a lot of people who claimed to be kitchen witches, but in scanning their blogs all I generally found were recipes and chatter about their kids. Now, there's nothing wrong with any of that. But that doesn't make it a magic based blog because you need, like, magic in your blog at least some of the time to qualify.

What Doesn't Make You a Kitchen Witch Per Se

A recipe isn't magical in and of itself. Just dumping a bunch of recipes on your blog doesn't make you a kitchen witch anymore than it makes Wolfgang Puck a kitchen witch. If you said I use honey in my Chocolate Lavender Mousse to sweeten my mother-in-law towards me because she's a complete bitch on wheels to me by that point in the meal or I put menstrual blood in my spaghetti sauce so my husband still thinks I'm dropping it like it's hot even when I'm tired and in sweats, rock! Those are magical acts. Bring on the recipes!

Having children. While yes, it is a v. specific way to mark your transition into motherhood (sometimes), kids don't really make you a practicing magic type person any more than it makes SuperNanny Mary Poppins. It's okay to talk about other things in your magic based blog besides just a never ending compendium of your magical practice, but if you're not talking magic at all then . . . it's not really a magic blog then, is it? Things that would: Using magic to help soothe a baby/get a baby to sleep (I will only slightly guiltily confess to having done this before), protection magic, detailing tiny rituals you do with your kids.

Being a Homemaker. I do very much think that unpaid labor in the home needs to be appreciated and ideally compensated (please see here for more clearly articulated thoughts on the matter, it's applicable for both mono/poly people), but it's a job. And just like going to work in an office is not a magical act in and of itself, neither is taking care of your home. If you were talking about cleaning/organizing in a magical blog and discussing how to be more green (because we need to take care of Mother Earth of course and she's a goddess in and of herself), discussing what oils you use to scent your house and why, what you do to keep the house spiritually/magically clean, rock on.

What Qualifies You as a Kitchen Witch/Hearth Wo/man/Someone Who Does Hedge-Like Magic

If the Personal is Political, then the Every Day is Magical. Look, you don't have to cast +5 magic every time you make hotdogs for dinner on a Tuesday night. But what can you be doing in your every day life in your hearth to make it more magical? Smudging with sage every few days to clear out the energies? Spray bottling your bed with a water based mist you made that has come to me oil in it? Choosing your cooking herbs based on magical purposes? Go crazy.

Deb's Example Rit for Making the Every Day Magical
I had been hemming and hawing about starting my current novel because (a) I've never finished writing one and (b) it's a little silly in a genre that's already a little silly. But it came to me in a dream and it feels right. So I started by not just slapdashing it together, I took my time. I did research on names, other books in the genre, brainstormed and I made a mood board for it. When I knew it was time to start writing, I wanted it started right. I wanted my surroundings perfect, like giving birth (which is what I do with writing). We've been getting pretty awesome about keeping the house tidy. We made sure everything was clean, went to brunch (appropriate for the kind of novel it is) and then I put on mood music and wrote, drink in hand. When I finished the beginning, I sealed it with eating a really posh chocolate (salted dark chocolate with balsamic and caramel) from the best chocolatier in NJ which was also appropriate for my novel's genre. It wasn't about me putting together a mojo bag in this case, it was about choosing my actions carefully and doing everything with intent. There would have been nothing wrong with making a mojo bag, but it was more important to write in a magically charged environment for me to get this show on the road.

Get a Base Education in the Lower Arts. Yeah, yeah, you like to put on your robes and call on all the archangels and whatever. Cool. But sometimes for whatever reason, you'll need to know how to do things quick and dirty, so learn how. Learn what salt and kitchen herbs can do for you, learn about mojo hands and honey pots and spirit bottles. I recommend of course the incomparable M. yonwode's Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic as your Idiot's Guide. Test yourself if you're super structured magically, pretend a friend needs a fertility charm tonight and you need to get to her just using stuff around your house. What do you do?

Get a Base Education in House Wifery. Some men back in the day got married because they had no clue how to take care of themselves. While that's not so common in this day and age, you still need a base education in house wifery to be a successful hearth wo/man. Thanks to most of the first world being a conveience culture, you may have been getting by on relying on take out, a dry cleaner, and a cleaning service. That's all well and good, but you're missing pieces you need to be a successful hearth wo/man. If you are missing any of these things, that's okay, don't feel bad about it. But a lot of people cry, Oh I'm no good at it! Or, I don't know how! Ignorantia juris non excusat. Ignorance of the law excuses no one, so get to work. It won't be perfect from the gate, but nothing is. Ask someone better versed for help, if you know someone. Worst case you burn a few casseroles and shred a few shirts, it's no big deal. Even if you won't use it for a while or you think ever (though you'd be surprised), these are all good life skills to have that will translate over into your magical life. Think of them as Hearth Meditations.

Can you:
* Do your own laundry?
* Have your house clean enough to have your mother or mother-in-law or Miss Martha over without them making a face?
* Cook a dinner for yourself and others?
* Meal plan?
* Budget and financially plan?
* Be able to make a casserole quickly for an emergency?
* Host/ess a party?
* Know how to bake something from scratch?
* Know how to do your own grocery shopping that's more than just "box food"?
* Know how to do basic clothing repair?
* Know what to bring as a hostess gift?
* Know how to conduct yourself socially at various social obligations?
* Know how to give yourself self care?
* Know v. basic first aid?
* Know how to care for small children for a day?

Hearth Wo/man's Tool Kit
* First aid kit
* Disposable tupperwares
* A bottle of wine in a festive bag, ready for a party
* Generic gift for a male and female recipient just in case
* Funeral clothes, hung up, pressed, ready to go
* Small bits of flannel for mojo bags
* Empty, clean, and lidded bottles and jars for spirit bottles, honey pots, etc.
* Cooking herbs including: bay leaves, cinnamon, basil, dill, allspice, sage, lavender, etc.
* White candles (can be used for anything)
* Pins for inscribing candles
* Olive or Grapeseed Oil (for making dressing oils)
* Fragrance warmer (for making dressing oils)
* Sewing kit
* Sterile disposable lancets for any blood offerings needed
* Tealights for deity offerings on the fly
* Grave yard dirt
* Calendar
* Notepad
* Hand Sterilizer

I will be expanding on some of this in future entries. If you have any specific questions, shoot!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Building an Amazon Bad Ass . . .Through Books.

My PEH, Gordon asked us what 10 books would we use to try to build a mage/witch/magic user/whatever of a specific bent. I decided to build an Amazon Bad Ass (specializing in Hearth Witchery). I liked that Gordon allowed for fiction. In the comments, as you can see, everyone (my Jow included) picked v. lofty books for their lists, I only really overlap with people on my choices for #2. and #6. I would be curious to see what would happen if the challenge happened (someone has access only to the books we've given them and no previous knowledge of what we're trying to impart onto them). I'm guessing she would be confused by my choices, probably. ;p But it's a sincere look into my brain and how I became the kind of pagan/magic user/hearth woman I am.

I am building a Bad Ass Amazon (specializing in hearth witchery)

1. Someplace to be Flying (Charles Delint) (fiction) - a must have for the urban shaman

2. Evolutionary Witchcraft (Thorn Coyle) - her Iron Pentacle Meditation is unbelievably hard core. An amazon needs some reclaimst in her.

3. Eat, Love, Pray (Elizabeth Gilbert)(memoir) - for her inevitable identity meltdown. It made me want to run off to an ashram and started me on my daily japa practice.

4. Palimpsest (fiction) (Catherynne M. Valente) - a book about a sexually transmitted dream city you visit in your sleep. Need I really say more? Okay. It opened my heart up in ways I can't even describe. I tell Cat she makes me cry more than anything else. It was a bit embarassing seeing her tour with SJ Tucker when they read a piece from the book about the opera and Sooj sang and I just cried and cried in a full room full of people. It made me see the world more magically again.

5. D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths (Ingri d'Aulaire & Edgar Parin d'Aulaire) (children's book) - This book made me a pagan, it planted the seed in the children's room in the library. Other pagans have said the same thing. Concisely lays out the Olympians.

6. Hoodoo Root & Herb Magic (Cat Yronwode) - A must source book for all of one's charms and hexes

7. Miss Abernathy’s Concise Slave Training Manual and Training With Miss Abernathy (Christina Abernathy) - Even if you're not kinked, it's a good primer on how to be service oriented. As someone who has kitchen witched for rituals, Thanksgivings, and funeral repasts great and small, it helps to get organized.

8. Real Simple magazine: A monthly magazine that teaches organization, budgeting, meal planning, etiquette, and other day to day life must haves. I cut out articles and recipes. You will need this for anything from knowing what to bring as a hostess gift to what to make for dinner on a Wednesday on a budget to how to start investing.

9. The Spirit Ways (Eric Taylor, Rachel Barth, Scott Cohen, and John Snead) (WW RPG) - How shamanism makes sense to me.

10. Spiral Dance (Starhawk) - You always remember your first. I *love* that she revises it every five years to be like, this was wrong, this was totally fucked up, I do this now, etc. It's also a really good Dianic primer.

What would you pick?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Your own . . .personal . . .cosmogram

So, my PEH (platonic Euro husband) Gordon was recently talking about Cosmograms and I was super excited because lately my blagosphere has been v. v. theory heavy and . . . I have nothing of import to contribute there due to my lack of book learnin' and my complete inability to retain any of the information involving very theory heavy discourse in magic. So I've been feeling sort of uninspired and lackadaisical in posting, as my little piece of the egregor is basically out to lunch while the rest of the egregor is working like busy worker bees. Also, my sister pulled a triple word score (she's buying a house/getting married/having a baby) which has been distracting though happy making for all involved.

And like so many other things that he talks about, Gordon talked about something that I've had lazily slowly drifting through my habitrail brain for quite some time. In ADF/GoG, we talk about spirits of place. And I've gotten a pretty good handle on the spirit of New Brunswick, NJ but the rest of it for me . . .is sort of lip service (for me! Others seem quite sincere which is why I always feel like a bad pony there!). And I think that's because I haven't drawn a map. And OMG, I love maps like whoa.

New Hope, PA: My first exposure to magical stores, an lbgt/alterna friendly (though now more yuppie) boho place that has restored my faith in magic and the cosmos 75% of the time I've been there. In that 75% of the times I've been there, I've felt my heart open up in ways that I hadn't felt. I've fallen in love there numerous times. They made a New Orleans style restaurant out of an old church that still has the church fixtures in them, only now (gently and politely) saucy. Whatever clothes I wanted to wear, whatever person I wanted to be, I could be there. Also, a v. kink friendly area with the gorgeous Chateau Exotique. I would be remiss in not mentioning Wildflowers, which will always be *my* restaurant, not mine and another person. And the Wildflower Preserve, just big enough and woodsy enough for an indoor cat like me to feel outdoorsy.

Cafe du Monde, New Orleans - I love New Orleans, all of it. The glamour, the rundown, the ecstasy, the sadness. Loved it so much I volunteered with the Red Cross to go and help after Katrina, even though I was scared shitless to. Cafe du Monde is where the whole world meets over beignets and everyone goes, no matter how fancy or plain or rich or poor you are.

Avebury, UK - I thought my mind was blown at Stonehenge, but Avebury is way better. You can touch all the stones and see all the covert offerings left, sheep run through all foot loose and fancy free, tourist dowsing just for the hell of it, teenagers were doing a ritual in another language when I was there and they sounded like fairies singing.

The Maze in the Garden of Versaille, France - In my first big European adventure after college, we managed to have a picnic there inside it. Bottle of wine and cheese and meats and pastries, it felt so glamorous and grown up and the world felt so impossibly big and wonderful.

Palmyra's Teahouse Boundbrook, NJ (now defunct) - So glam and goth with a whole library of books and new bands for us to listen to with wall scones and damask everywhere and an art gallery always full of outsider art. All my teenaged dramas happened there over pots of oolong. My friends that I still have from that time still day dream about it.

New Paltz, NY/The Hudson Valley Wine Trail - J. and I love to pretend to be posh and go wine tasting. It's a boho town with lots of local and organic food and beautiful beautiful scenery.

The Sea Gypsy, The William Morris Loft, Wildwood, NJ - It was such an amazingly romantic suite in the attic with lots of cozy window seats and romantic but not fussy furniture. Though we were already in love, the Loft sealed it for Jow and I.

The Rutgers Gardens - A place for wine tasting, cutting class, rolling down hills, and falling in love.

Mahogany on Walnut - An old boys' style club that enjoys it when girls go to smoke a stogie and toss back some kind of port or whiskey. L. and I liked going there.

Little Italy in NYC - Because we all need to eat until we die and light some candles at the church and go to a seperate restaurant to be stuffed full of desserts sometimes.

My nodes all seem connected to: eating, drinking, falling in love, glam'rous (as my tiny charge used to say when I was a nanny), boho, and breaking the rules. That seems about right for me.

Etiquette Lesson: How to Conduct Yourself When Someone Dies

When someone v. close to you dies, it's relatively easy to know what to do - be a hot mess and go through the motions of putting together whatever kind of funeral rite the person would like to have. When you're not immediately tied however (immediate family, best friend, etc.), I have noticed a lot of times, this is when shit falls apart.

I think a big part of this problem is that the first world is v. shielded from death. I know people in my age group (30 something) who *still* haven't lost someone close to them besides perhaps a grandparent (and old age makes it somewhat more expected, though no less grief intensive) and . . .I can't relate to that at all, honestly. My first memory is at age six losing my grandma and seeing my dad cry for the first time (quelle surprise I'd be picked up by M. Corbeau). I lost my dad at 18 through a very long, painful battle with cancer (We were both struck silent/ me from the grief/ him from the throat cancer) and the hit parade sort of goes on from there. I've been to significantly more funerals than weddings, the piece de la resistance being my engagement year where I put seven people in the ground, the last being my cousin Anthony a week before the wedding. He was only five years older than me, his widow was my age.

So, having a vast array of funeral rites in every stripe and color that I've attended, I've had plenty of time to be appalled by my generation and the generation after me. Less strict parenting has led to some teens thinking it's okay to do anything from read, text, have a toothpick in their mouths, pants that reveal one's boxers, be overly boisterous, etc., etc. (oh yes, this has all happened in my family. There was a lot of talking through my teeth to them and reminding them that x family member may seem old to them, but s/he was my generation's mom/dad/etc. We're Italian, in my family it's always appropriate to step in if the parents are otherwise occupied and you're the closest elder).

If you've had the fortune to not have to go to many wakes, funerals, memorial services, etc., that's a blessing. But it may make you unsure what to do in that setting when you do need to go. If it's only been people you've not been close to, you likely know to slap on a suit, shut off your cell, pay your respects and then go about your business. But it can get stickier if it's someone closer to you, or if it's someone close to someone close to you (best friend's parent, boss' spouse, etc.).

Tips on How to be a Standup Person During the Grieving Process:

It is always the right thing to do to send a sympathy card. It doesn't matter if you were fighting with the person who passed or their loved ones or if you're not sure how close you are to the deceased or the grieving. It's very hard to offend someone by sending a sympathy card.

Pick a card with an appropriate sentiment. This might sound confusing, but if you aren't close to the bereaved or the deceased, a more generic card is appropriate. If you were close to the deceased or the bereaved, you may want to pick a card with a more personal sympathy sentiment. If you're not sure what to say, it is always appropriate to say, "I'm so sorry for your loss. I am thinking about you and your family in this difficult time." Grieving people are preoccupied with their grief, they're not grading you on your creativity. Don't over think it, just send the card. They probably won't remember what was said, just that you were kind enough to think of them in their difficult time.

Inquire with the family about the arrangements. If they say it is a very small service for close family and friends, don't be offended. Everyone grieves differently. Inquire if the family is receiving donations to the deceased's favorite charity, mass cards (if Catholic), or flowers. If yes, then find out the funeral home's information so that you may do so. If no, simply send a card to the family, as outlined previously.

Generally, there is some sort of wake, shiva, or calling hours for people who want to pay their respects to the family or the deceased. If you do not consider yourself very close to the family or the deceased, but still would like to pay your respects (and your respects are welcomed by the bereaved), you would attend the most public part of the funeral rites. For example, the wake but not the funeral, the shiva but not the funeral, the memorial service but not the funeral, etc. Generally the funeral is the most private part of the rites and it's typically by invitation only.

It is very important that you are dressed properly for this. Many times, the death of someone comes as a surprise which is why it may be helpful to have an outfit for death rites that is always ready to go. Dress in a dark color and make sure all of the lines of your outfit are conservative. Women, no cleavage, knee length if wearing a skirt. Men, no white socks, no "fun" ties. Suits for both genders are always appropriate. I personally always have a long black skirt, an appropriate neckline black short sleeved top, and a black wool cardigan with pearl buttons. I always wear this for death rites only (I find that it helps me to not have the jhor/death energy on my other clothes, but that's a personal choice. I also don't like having psychological associations with death on my other clothes), I dry clean it/hang it up immediately after and don't touch it unless I need it. It's always appropriate year round and it's one less thing for me to stress about.

Keep yourself grounded. It may be helpful for you to have a hematite stone or a small pouch of salt on your person. A family piece of jewelry can also do the same thing for you. It's okay for you to be sad, feel grief, etc. too! The tricky part is managing your own grief while still assisting the grieving family. Processing your grief with someone else prior to the wake may help. Doing something you find comforting after the wake may help too. Personally, what keeps me somewhat sane is going out the night before, drinking two or three martinis, having a big piece of red meat, and smoking a few cigarettes. All the things that could kill me bring me a strange sort of peace in dealing with death.

If it is a religious rite, do a quick search on what is typical for that religion so you know how to act appropriately.
Follow the lead of the bereaved at the rite is the best course of action. Some families prefer quiet and some prefer to be more boisterous to remember the deceased. Again, everyone grieves differently. Obviously, this is not the place to try to impose your personal religious views on others. If you don't feel comfortable participating in any of the religious rites going on, just sit quietly. If you want to say a little prayer in your head in your home religion, feel free.

If you are close to the bereaved family or to the deceased and you decide to attend the burial, follow the instructions of the funeral director for the procession. Find out beforehand if the cemetery is far from where the wake/memorial service/etc. was held. Make sure you have enough gas beforehand and that you've used the restroom so that you can follow the procession without needing to stop elsewhere. Get directions too just in case.

Help the living. This is probably the hardest step. Often, if we ourselves are somewhat removed from the grieving process (if it was an acquaintance, or a loved one's deceased we didn't know v. well, etc.), once we work through our own process (which will be faster than the bereaved's), many of us want to go on with the business of living. For the bereaved, just because it's been a month or two doesn't mean that their worlds still aren't shattered. This is where being helpful is critical. The transition back to daily life after the acute grieving stage is very difficult. The modern world expects people to go back to "normal" after a few weeks - working, taking care of the house, paying bills, taking care of themselves and their children (if applicable), etc. If you are nearby, ask if they need any help running errands, if you can do their dishes or walk their dog, or if they need someone to talk to. Look at pictures and photo album of the deceased with the bereaved (*if* the bereaved wants to), offer to help pack up the decease's personal items and help figure out what can be kept and what can be donated. Take the bereaved to do something fun but low key - mini golf, dinner out, for a drink, etc. If the person seems receptive, talk about your life (but keep petty grievences about the bereaved or the bereaved's family to your damn self), talk about the book you're reading, celeb scandal, whatever. A lot of times they want a distraction. But you need to judge this carefully to see if the person wants a distraction or wants to talk about their grief or the deceased. Just being present helps a whole lot, even if you don't know what to say. Ask if it's okay to drop off a casserole. Many people make food for the grieving in the first week or two, but many people aren't ready to make dinner every night for themselves in the first month or two. Dropping off a casserole three weeks after the deceased passed can be really helpful. If you're far away, you may want to consider having a food service deliver to the grieving family. I personally use this one (US based) when I need to send food.

Most of all, don't be an asshole.
This list includes:
* Having your cellphone on at the wake/funeral/etc and/or texting
* Trying to pick up any of the bereaved
* Being overly self absorbed during this difficult time (admittedly, this is another tricky one, especially if you're part of the bereaved's primary support structure. It's a delicate imperfect process, but it's okay to draw boundaries so your life doesn't completely fall to shit in the process too, it's okay to vent to close friends or family about the bereaved when you are stressed and upset, it's okay to take care of yourself. You need to or you're no good for anyone, yourself included. See here for articles on caregiver stress and here for an article on caregiver burnout)
* Chewing gum, having a toothpick in your mouth, being inappropriately dressed
* Appearing bored at the wake including asking people "what are we doing after this".
* Starting fights of any kind with any of the bereaved
* Calling undue attention to yourself, including starting "pity party" wars (it was worse when MY dad died)
* Not calling or showing up or sending a card
* Not following up with the bereaved with at least a text/email/phone call
* Any behavior you even *think* for a second would be questionable and/or you wouldn't want someone to do when *you* are the bereaved, don't do it.

Fail-Safe Vegetarian-Friendly Super-Fast Barely-Homemade Ziti
The death happened v. quickly or unexpectedly? Need to be part of the first rush casserole brigade? Don't know what the bereaved's family eats? Need to get a casserole done in a hurry and on a tight budget? Ziti is the thing. Again, you're not being graded on your creativity here, the bereaved is barely going to remember to eat let alone what they ate. Unless the bereaved is vegan, Celiac, or has a tomato allergy, this is the thing.

1 box ziti pasta
1 jar tomato sauce (I prefer Francesca Rinaldi's Sweet & Tasty)
16 oz shredded mozzarella
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pack disposible containers (Gladware, etc) Big Bowl: 3 Containers & Lids
(6 CUPS / 48 OZ) or Entrée: 5 Containers & Lids
(3 1/8 CUPS / 25 OZ)(I prefer this over the huge aluminium tray because it takes up less space and can be heated in the container and the bereaved doesn't need to worry about returning it to you)

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Make ziti according to the directions on the box. Add olive oil and salt to the water so your pasta is flavored and it doesn't stick together.
3. Drain pasta.
4. Mix pasta with sauce.
5. Mix pasta with 3/4 of your shredded cheese. Put the rest of the cheese on top.
6. Bake for 20 minutes.
7. Put into containers.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

We are not alone/ in the Mortal City

Oh Blogosphere. You are abuzz with god talk and Gordon, my separated from birth twin/platonic Euro husband has double dogged dare us to talk about god.

I have been reluctant, and not really commenting on any of the god talk because . . .I can't even fully commit to agnosticism. Capital-G God, I have issues with. Because, around 13 I started to kind of be like, hmmmmm. Heaven? Not so sure about that. And then I bought in again when my dad died 'cause I needed to in order to get through it and then Mothra made the mistake of sending me to college where I decided that I should be able to *intellectually* wrap my head around Big-G and Catholicism. Instead I left the Church.

I am at heart, a boring ritualistic (not quite OCD) girl who deals with her control issues by planning and making things nice and neat. I don't like my antfarm shaken. Which is why sometimes I make the mistake of getting into sort of a pissing war with Big-G internally. I DEMAND ANSWERS! I DEMAND ORDER IN THIS CHAOS! And Big-G who can kind of be a jerk sometimes, laughs.

But I do have questions. What happens when we die? Why do some people suffer so terribly? Is there a meaning to any of this? Do we just rot in the ground, in the darkness? What makes life happen?

I don't have fancy answers or concepts or even a word to call myself. When I need to make order for myself, I consider that maybe people have voluntarily reborn into a life of suffering to get some perspective and to hash it all out with your after life guidance counselor. I don't think it's wrong to come back as an alpaca, I think maybe alpacas have their own sets of rules and standards and I don't think it's a step down. In fact, watching my useless cats makes me wonder if it's a step *up*. Reincarnation makes sense to me, but in a way different than most of the world. I *like* being a hamster on the wheel. I *like* being a human and being entrenched in all of its wonders, sorrows, and absurdities. The idea of not eating, playing, laughing, crying, fucking, etc. is traumatic to me. People keep trying to entice me with god world, evolving, etc. and I'm honestly not interested. I *like* all of this visceral experience and I'm grateful for it, even in my worst moments. There is a kind of ecstasy in real, terrible suffering but only (imo) if there is something to counter it.

I don't know that I believe in Big-G. I don't know that I don't believe in Big-G. I don't really know what happens when we die or any of the mysteries. This is where I am an agnostic, filled with equal amounts of trembling hope and doubt.

I know I believe in the gods, they've done much for me. I don't believe we have an equal relationship, sorry. But I do tend to see it as a parent amount of power verses an ant crushing amount of power. Little-g gods are easier for me to wrap my head around. They have personality quirks, specific appearances, stories, loves, hates, families. I can relate to that. Little-g gods aren't wish granting genies, but I believe that they can love us and want the best for us. I also believe that like Mothra, we may not agree on what's right for me. But sometimes she will be right (and some times she won't be).

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

All the cool kids are doing it. . .

go ahead, ask me if I care/ I got the answer here/ I wrote it down somewhere/ I just gotta find it. . .