Friday, February 25, 2011

How May I Service You Today?

Today Thorn Coyle blogs about Service is Power which is something very near and dear to my heart. I've considered myself a v. service oriented person and all wink wink Secretary references aside, it can be challenging to explain how and why this is part of my spirituality.

I think service can be a difficult concept to our community because there are obvious services that many of us do not do. Helping at a soup kitchen or a domestic violence helpline, volunteering in Haiti, etc. If you do those things, you are truly an angel. But many of us get too bogged down in our daily lives and it can be challenging to get involved in a larger more global cause. To that I say two things:

1. Think globally, act locally.

2. What do you give a fuck about?

The first one is to indicate that you need to think about all the things you hopefully do for your more immediate family, friends and community. Maybe you don't volunteer at a shelter, but unfortunately, most of us have known friends who got themselves into a situation they can't get out of. And sometimes, for some of us, there is a light of some kind that we happen to be in the right place at the right time and the other person is in the right mindframe so that when you say, Honey, this has got to stop. Right now. The other person replies, You're right. And it's going to, right now. Maybe you don't volunteer at a soup kitchen but you take your unemployed friend out for dinner. Or maybe you volunteer your time and energy into your local pagan community and you make the feast or offer to do registeration for a larger pagan event. Think carefully about all the small kindnesses you do in a day - when you listen to a friend cry, when you help a sibling move, when you watch a cousin's baby for an hour, all of those services big and small that you do. And ask yourself, could I do more? Because . . .you probably could. Make your mom dinner one night, buy your friend her coffee for no reason, watch a coven mate's kid for two hours so she can sleep, all of those things that we do out of love and out of kindess are some of the best human experiences there are. And if you grit your teeth and do something nice anyway when you don't feel like it? The Jewish faith calls that a mitzvah and it counts even more. I believe that, I really do.

The second part is what my first year women's studies class professor very exasperatedly said to us when she had enough of us that day. And I find it guides my life. What do you give a fuck about? What is more important to you than anything? What do you believe in more than anything? What is your driving force? What gets you out of bed in the morning? It forces you to cut through the bullshit and focus on what is really important. You can't save all the starving orphan nuclear whales in Africa. So what is more important to you than anything? For me it was Hurricane Katrina. So important that I signed up for the Red Cross and was willing to go, even though I was shit scared and didn't know what to expect. I went to my training, I got all my paperwork done and I was ready to do it. I talked a lot to my exbf who was home from Iraq briefly and I felt stupid about being scared, I wasn't even going to leave the country. But he said there's always someone who got there before you, who managed to make an IV out of duct tape and a ziplock bag. That's okay. You'll be there when you go. I didn't get called, but I did fund raise for Katerina. And if abortion became illegal, there are a lot of things I'd be willing to do there. Where will you lay yourself on the line?

Finally, as Pagans and magic users, I think service can be sort of . . .pushed aside. It's not cool, it's not cynical, it's not furthering whatever your Master Plan for World Domination (tm) is, it's not something you can really sneer while doing. We're all adrift anyway, man. Service forces us to look beyond ourselves. Service forces us to wear our hearts on our sleeves. Service forces us to be sincere. And frankly, as a whole, these are things we are not good at. And we need to be. Service isn't v. glamorous, it's generally doing shit work that no one wants to do, but man, it recharges me way more than anything else, way more than ten episodes of Degrassi, way more than Drawing Down, way more than High Priestessing, way more than meditation. I would really honestly and truly rather be washing dishes in the back than leading a rite. Service really and truly is where my heart is, I feel like I am as close as I possibly can be to touching the gods when I am serving others. Honestly, I think at the end of the day, service is what binds kitchen witches together because it tends to be something we all do, no matter if we're a witch in the woods or a soccer mom with 2.5 children and a white picket fence. What's more beautiful than that to bind us all together?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Retro Recipe Monday: Woodstock

The full moon inspired me to partake in a Goth version of NJ Amazon Rites as I spoke about on my tumblr, so back to our old friend, Cooking for Company.


You can also serve this colorful dish over fluffy rice or baked potato

1/2 lb sharp Cheddar cheese, cut into cubes
2 c. Thick White Sauce
6 hard-cooked eggs, sliced
1 (6oz) can whole mushrooms and liquid
2 tblsp. sliced pimiento
1 (5 1/2 oz.) can chow mein noodles

Add cheese to white sauce and heat in double bolier over boiling water until cheese is melted. Add eggs, undrained mushrooms, pimiento and green pepper. Heat. Serve ov er crisp noodles. Makes about six servings.

Thick White Sauce: For a thick sauce use 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 c. flour to 1 c. milk. Double this amount to make 2 cups thick sauce.

Note: Double this recipe to serve a crowd.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day Recipe Monday: Commentary and Molten Bittersweet-Chocolate Cake

Okay, let's get started with my two biggest pet peeves:

1. Valentine's Day is a "Hallmark Holiday".
2. It's Valentine's Day! The only way to show love is to be taken hostage by commercialism.

Okay, first off, Valentine's Day is far from a Hallmark Holiday because last I checked, Hallmark wasn't in business selling ye olde cardes in the 15th century. That's right, kids, Chaucer is credited for choosing St. Valentine as the patron of marriag, which translated eventually into being the patron of love. So to be completely honest, I get really sick of people being dismissive of Valentine's Day as a "Hallmark Holiday" because really, it's a celebration of acknowledging the egregor of love and to me, you're a pretty fucking embittered person if you don't like the idea of that. And it's not just for lovahs in my opinion, I have fond memories of my girl friends and I dressing in black years ago because, fuck boys, and exchanging flowers and chocolates as well as last year going to see the movie Valentine's Day and she got me this stuffed bee with a heart headband that had this maniacal "cute" laugh which made us laugh all day.

I also get annoyed by feeling like we are held hostage that the only things that will make women happy are five dozen roses, three dozen chocolates, a stuffed animal that's bigger than my cats, a "journey" blood diamond, and a super expensive dinner where we're charged twice as much as usual for a "special" menu where you're herded like cattle. Um, that stuff for most of us sucks (and if it doesn't for you, you have a right to like whatever you like, so rock out).

Valentine's day to me is about exchanging tokens - something that is meaningful to you and your partner(s) or is a cute practical little something or whatever. We go to our favorite restaurant which has their regular menu *and* a special menu so you could get something veg, a lobster or a burger. "Deb's Special Day" has been translated into me drinking as much wine as I like, eating as much cheese, red meat and chocolate as I like and then getting to watch something I like. So far, Jow has given me a bone resin crow skull necklace that I have been coveting, a small bouquet and a nice card. For this girl, that's romance.

Still feeling unhappy about Valentine's Day? Check out Jow's suggestions.

Today's recipe comes from the current Feb 2011 issue of Martha Stewart, so you know it's good because Miss Martha doesn't mess around with her holiday issues.

Molten Bittersweet-Chocolate Cake

Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour 20 Minutes
Makes: 6

Sink a fork into these warm cakes to find a puddinglike filling.

1 stick plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for ramekins
1/2 cup all purpose flour, plus more for ramekins
5 1/2 bittersweet chocolate (70 percent cacao), chopped (1 1/4 cups)
5 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt

1. Butter and flour six 6-ounce (2 inch deep) ramekins.

2. Melt butter and chocolate in a double boiler or a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Meanwhile, whisk together eggs and sugar until pale and thick, about 4 minutes. Sift flour and salt into another bowl.

3, Fold egg mixture into chocolate mixture. Immediately fold in flour mixture. Divide batter evenly among ramekins, filling each three-quarters full. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake until just set, 14 to 16 minutes. Let cool for three minutes. Turn cakes out onto plates.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

More on Songs and Spells

I was going to try to write two entries for the next two weeks, but somewhere along the way on the way home to do so, I got distracted by Kings of Leon's Sex on Fire. I couldn't figure out the words but I really liked the beat and the voice, it was sexxxxy. So, coincidentally are the lyrics. Naturally, I was then curious about the video. Dear lordess! Why was I not sent the memo on how dirty/sweaty/sexy hot the lead is, all writhing around on a mattress? (I'm looking at you, Gordon, you're remiss in your platonic husbandly duties, they're super popular in the UK)

So, um, yeah let's pretend this is a legitimate magical entry and not an excuse to stare at my new pretend boyfriend. Right then. A while ago, I talked about Songs as Spells which also was totally not an excuse to listen to more Florence and the Machine. In case my entry titles and general rambling doesn't make it obvious, I'm obsessed with music which is sort of funny since I as only passable in playing the flute and my voice resembles my totem, Crow (which is why I think the story about the crow and the cheese I read as a child resonated and my first memories are of crows as well as my unrelenting desire for cheese, but that's neither hither nor thither). My senior druid noticed I seem to see ritual through popular music a lot. I thought everyone did that, but apparently it's weird enough to notice in a grove full of weirdos. I make mix cds for the gods and rituals (I know other people who do it too so that part is less weird) and significant others.

In my other sekrit life, I'm totes a smut riter (digression: writing the pr0ntastic parts after the first few times is totally a drag fo' real. People who don't write smut think that opinion is strange and means I'm in the wrong field. People who write smut Get It because basically it's like trying to have sex while whistling the entire time. Yes, it's still sort of sexy but it's also about choreography, making sure if the skirt came off it stays off, word choice, how many synonyms can you find for "hard" "vagina" "pleasure" "cock", do men wear buttons on their trousers at that time do women wear panties, etc., etc. So I dread writing them like a dreading thing and put them off like whoa but once I successfully execute it, I'm like, I'M THE QUEEN OF THE MOTHERFUCKING WORLD! I PWN ALL OF YOU! ALL OF YOUR ORGASMS BELONG TO ME! Like normal writers do) and I knew I wanted this scene to have a certain feel to it, like Florence's Drumming Song so I played it over and over again on repeat while writing it and now I have a completed Steampunk romantica (which is super popular right now for the curious) to submit for an anthology with plenty of time to edit again just to make it perfect before submitting it.

So if music can work as spellwork and getting one through porn writing, wouldn't it stand to reason that it could also be integrated into one's serial killer board/transformative process? I mean, Grant Morrison manifested some truly freaky shit when working on The Invisables even by freaky shit standards and now he has hordes of fangirls throwing panties at him, partly due to his work where he told himself he was as cool as James Bond. I've been trying to tell myself I'm as cool as Joan Holloway with only marginal success. So I started thinking today when I was inspired by another song, maybe for me, a theme song would be more helpful. I have decided on Cake's Short Skirt, Long Jacket because of these lyrics:

A girl with/ the right allocations/ Who's fast and thorough/ And sharp as a tack/ she's playing/ with her jewelry/ she's putting up her hair/ she's touring the facilities/ and picking up slack/ a girl with/ Uninterupted prosperity/ who used a machete/ to cut through red tape/ with fingernails that/ shine like justice/ and a voice that is dark/ like tinted glass. . . .

Which basically describes a modern Joan Holloway. So that's going to be my theme song and we'll see where that takes me. This is a Charmer experiment! Pick a theme song that describes what you want to be as a person, something you're trying to achieve, about rabbits, whatever, play it semi regularly and see what happens in addition to your other magical workings.

Which song are you going to use?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Popping Pills and Practice

Since writing my latest article for WitchVox (btw, I tried to write back to you, Carol but it bounced! Hopefully you'll see this instead?), I've actually been getting the same question a lot which makes me think it's on a lot of people's minds:

Do you think that taking medication affects your magical practice?

For the TL;DR crowd, my short answer would be: no. For those of you interested in a discussion, I will share my thoughts with you here. Firstly, I'd like to say that I really dislike it when people are made to feel like they need to engage in secrecy and shame. If that happens, something has really gone wrong in my opinion and the fact that apparently a lot of Pagans/Magical Practitioners feel that they can't talk about taking prescription medication and need to hide that from the community makes me really sad. Taking care of your health and taking advantage of modern medicine shouldn't be something you have to feel shame about in spiritual circles in my opinion.

So let's start kicking down some walls and lay it all out there. I have depression, anxiety, anemia and fibromyalgia. I currently take the following medications to make it so that I am a productive member of society: Prozac, Xanax, Remeron, Savella, Celebrex, Vitamin D, Multi-Vitamin and Birth Control. In the past, I have: gone to therapy and tried Kava and St. John's Wort to help. The therapy helped immensely, the Kava and St. John's Wort significantly less so. In addition to my medication I use yoga, stress management techniques, japa/self guided meditation, massage, journaling and talking to loved ones to manage my conditions. I see my doctor regularly. She is v. tight fisted with all the "fun" meds and I don't think I could get a Vicodin out of her if it meant she could retire on a island of her own. But at the same time, she treats my conditions very aggressively.

Even with good coping mechanisms, good medication and a good support structure, I still have days where I'm anxious and can't sleep and occasionally have days where I am depressed for no reason, sometimes my fibromyalgia causes me so much fatigue and pain still that I can't get out of bed. Despite these aspects, I still feel the normal human range of emotions and generally only feel sad or stressed when I'm "supposed to". I've worked since I was fourteen, I pay my taxes, I write, I ran a con, I go out and have fun doing all the things early thirty-somethings like to do, I have loving relationships and I own a car and a condo. My medication makes it so that instead of being too depressed to be motivated or paralyzed with inexplicable fear and anxiousness or too bedridden with pain and fatigue on the regular, I can lead a fairly "normal" life.

Which is why at this point I get confused about why shame needs to be implemented for taking advantage of first world medical care in order to lead functional lives. Are there people who abuse prescriptions? Um, yeah. They're addicts like the people who are alcoholics and have other drug abuse problems. Is that the majority of people who take meds? No. There's this idea that bugs the shit out of me that there are all these people who take medication they don't really need and this medication *magically* takes away all of their problems and they don't need to deal with them. Last I knew, you needed to take like a fistful of Xanax or are shooting H to get that effect. Which . . .see: addict.

Medication (and therapy) helps get you to the point where you're not in a full blown chemical freakout so you can effectively solve your problems and live your life. If you can do that for yourself without meds, rock out, you have an awesome immune system and brain chemistry. If you can do that solely with homeopathic methods, rock out. If you feel taking meds makes *you* a lesser person somehow then that's your business. But I start to get *real* touchy when you try to lay your trip on me. I get *even more* touchy when you start to try to tell me what to do with my body because I have a real problem with that. Control over my body goes way beyond whether or not I decide to have an abortion, it's also about having agency over the decisions I make regarding my health care.

And this bullshit that some people in our community put on others about how taking prescription medication is selling out, supporting corporate evil and bringing our community down and how you don't "believe" in the pharmaceutical industry so neither should anyone else and positive energy/crystals/herbs/alternative therapies would work for everyone regardless of their brain chemistry and body systems and personal desires is just that- bullshit.

With all that out of the way, let's get to the nuts and bolts of the question asked. While I haven't been completely unmedicated in roughly ten years, there are times where I have a little time in between prescriptions due to various reasons (mostly due to the length of time it takes for my prescriptions to arrive to me via mail) where I am in a quasi-unmedicated state and/or if my fibro-flare is that impressive that it punches past my meds that I feel able to give my own take on whether or not my medications have affected my magical practice.

When I was unmedicated/quasi-unmedicated, it was significantly easier for me to be in touch intuitively. What that means to me is that Tarot reading was easier to "pull", getting random psychic impulses and having an easier time seeing what's going on with what I call The Tapestry. The Tapestry refers to everything that's happened in the past, everything that's happening right now, everything that will happen and everything that never happened. To me it looks like a huge tapestry constantly weaving and unweaving itself in bits and pieces. Typically I could see about like one billionth of the whole tapestry, it was mostly my little corner of the world.

However. And this is a big however, my magic has significantly improved since medicating. My spells are much more effectively, I have the focus to have a personal practice and my rituals are more effective and meaningful.

So while yes, my general fuzzy random psychic ability was better unmedicated, having the ability to cast better and have a better personal practice *to me* (and YMMV) far outweighed my unmedicated abilities. While yes, my unmedicated abilities were more "traditional" psychic aspects, the ability to get the perfect condo through my targeted magic work far outweighed the benefit of being able to say, "Gordon! I think something is going to happen to you on Wedne- Thursd- No, definitely Wednesday. No idea what though. Cheers!" So for me, being more functional in my daily life and being more effective in my targeted magical practice far outweighed being unmedicated.

Discuss among yourselves.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Retro Recipe Monday: Italian Spaghetti with Chicken Liver Sauce

So, according to The General Foods Kitchens Cookbook, this is an Italian dish. Allow me to express that as an Italian-American who has also been to Italy, I can't say that I've ever seen them served. I'm sure they are somewhere, but I've never eaten chicken liver as part of my Italian experience. I have recently eaten various liver because I'm on a Girls Who Eat Guts Tour and I did a thorough tour of the "liver" section and a good run wit the "sweetmeats" section. My verdict on liver is that I like liverwurst still, cow's liver is gross (pink milk from blood *shudder*), duck liver is good, pate is good, fried chicken livers are . . .okay. Not something I would order but would not turn away at someone's house. It tasted like KFC skin with a dab of liverwurst in it to me. I liked sweetmeats a great deal.

So without further ado, here it is. As usual, pics/blog post from making this or any other of my recipe Monday recipes = guest spot.

Italian Spaghetti With Chicken Liver Sauce

5 tablespoons salad oil or olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 cans (1 lb, 13 oz. each) Italian tomatoes - about 6 1/2 cups
1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
1 1/4 cups water
1 1/2 tablespoon salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon oregano or sweet basil
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound chicken livers, cut in 1/2 inch pieces
1 1/3 cups sliced canned mushrooms, drained
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 packages (1 1/2 lbs) uncooked thin spaghetti
3 tablespoons butter

Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large heavy pot. Add onions and garlic and saute until golden brown. Add tomatoes, breaking slightly with a fork. Add tomato paste, water, salt, pepper, oregano, bay leaves, sugar and cheese. Mix well. Simmer over low heat 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Saute chicken livers and mushrooms in remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Season with 1 teaspoon salt. Add to sauce and cook 1/2 hour longer.

Cook spaghetti as directed on the package. Drain. Add butter and mix, tossing spaghetti lightly until butter is melted. Serve with hot sauce and sprinkle with more grated cheese if desired. Makes 8 servings of spaghetti and sauce.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Not sure if I mentioned it . . .

But my article on How to Make a Mojo Bag is in the current issue of Witches and Pagans (#22). It's the first article there!

The Secret, Serial Killer Boards and You

So, as usual, Gordon and I are thinking about the same thoughts across the pond, though perhaps coming to different conclusions (don't worry, I bought the Cupcake wine today so I'll be safe during the latest snowocalypse). Today he's pondering The Limits of Visualisation: Why You Still Need Magic. A lot has been made of The Secret's many flaws and issues. As Kathy Griffin said when her assistants made focus boards and then attributed her recent uprising in success to said boards, "I'm so sure it was the two of you and your Secret boards that did this, not, like, my many years of constant work." So besides taking away that you should never get into a sweat lodge with these people, as Gordon said, visualization is not enough.

So don't do that. Instead, as Gordon advises in a previous post, create a success map.

Or as I call it, a serial killer board. I watch *a lot* of crime procedurals and inevitably, a serial killer has a board that looks like the picture I have in this entry. At first, Jow desperately tried to get me to stop calling it that. But he eventually succumbed to my irrefutable logic. A serial killer, at least a tv fictional serial killer, has a Miss Martha level of organization and attention to detail. A tv serial killer takes a long time to catch (usually a whole season at least) by a crack team of one of the best groups of CSI agents/detectives/forensic anthropologists that can usually solve a case in about 35 minutes but s/he manages to stumps them for 25 episodes and generally can even up the ante by becoming personal and killing something that this said team loves and *still* not get caught for 25 episodes because of their drive to succeed and attention to detail. This fictional serial killer has an implementable long term plan. Is that or is that not the point of a focus board/success map?

Now, I am definitely not telling you to become real life serial killers. Real life serial killers aren't anywhere near as fun or cool as the fictional ones because of the whole morality/hurting people/having massive psychological issues/winding up with a needle in your arm and the long sleep issues. But a fictional serial killer is written by a team of writers, very carefully so as (if written correctly and no one is asleep on the job/phoning it in/being super half assed about it) there are no plot holes for the show.

And that is actually the point, Charmers. There should be no plot holes in your magic. There should be measurable goals, magical work and mundane work to make sure that your magic is doing what it's supposed to be doing. If it's not, you need to re-evaluate what you were doing and who you were working with and if your goals were reasonable and achievable magically and mundanely.

A focus board is not going to do this for you.

But what it *will* do is keep your eye on the prize and in my opinion, that's the real purpose in having one. You might be easily distracted like myself and get sidetracked from all the important shit you're actually supposed to be doing and instead watching back to back episodes of Bridezillas in your pajamas and/or drinking French Greyhounds and getting sucked into Facebook for nine million hours or maybe you're reading too many self improvement books and can no longer sleep like a grown human adult. It's easy to get completely and utterly off track.

That's why you need a serial killer board.

How to Be as Organized as a Television Serial Killer and Keep Your Eye on the Prize

1. First, think about what you're trying to accomplish in your life. For me I started by thinking of words because my brain sees words before pictures. My words are: Aspire, Create, Live, Serenity, Serve and Want.

2. Now find pictures that you feel are good representations of what you're trying to accomplish. Mine are:

Aspire: Joan Holloway (Mad Men)(she is curvaceous like whoa and Queen of the Secretaries), black and white picture of the Eiffel Tower (to remember to find my inner french chick) and Erzulie's symbol (to remember to drop it like it's hot)

Create: Typewriter (i is a riter noaw), a spinning wheel (I spin yarn as part of my income) and Mnemosyne (she's the mother of the Muses).

Live: Rolling pin and cookies (making things from scratch), a bedroom from anthrologie (keep my house in a way that I like) and a champagne cork (enjoy the good things in life)

Serenity: Crow Yoga position (yoga helps me feel centered), candles (make me feel calm) and roses (remember to find beauty)

Serve: Parvati and Shiva (remember to be a divine housewife and be present romantically) and Leigh from Secretary (draw your own conclusions, Charmers)

Want: Bank vault (to have money saved), a Saab convertible (I really want my next car to be a convertible and I could afford a used Saab and they're supposed to not be horrific to work on or horrifically expensive to repair and they're safe), passport (to keep traveling)

3. Get a smallish cork board and push pins. Pick a font if you want to print words, I find Fiolex Girls conveys the fictional serial killer intensity I'm trying to go for. I also used good quality heavy paper for my pictures and scrapbooking scissors to cut out my pictures so they had pretty edges.

4. Arrange. This is an awesome meditative stage where you get to play god of your own life and arrange all the pictures in a way that makes sense to you. I grouped my pictures according to each word.

5. The finishing touch. All serial killer boards have yarn connecting pictures and articles together. To be completely frank, I have no idea why that is. It looks cool? But magically speaking, it's useful as weaving the yarn through the push pins and connecting them together can be a magical act if you use your intent. You should also think carefully about which pin to connect to which pin. For me, It was even more magical because I got to use the (pink) yarn that I had spun myself for this.

6. Place in a position you will often see. If you're constantly glancing at it for a quick second at a time, I think then putting the pieces together internally is more of a subconscious versus conscious act. Mine is in my office, just out of direct eyesight which helps too. Plus when I get bored working, I tend to look around a lot so that adds to the occasionally seeing it but seeing it often aspect.