Saturday, February 20, 2010

Things That Make Me Smile

But America is a "xian nation" they keep telling us.

Picture found here.

Got A Bonus?

This is the time of year when some folks will get either tax returns or bonuses based on last year's work. In my never-ending quest to help more Pagans live economically-sound lives, here are some ideas for what to do if you manage to come into a chunk of change sometime in the next month or so. The important thing to realize is that the universe has just deposited a package of usable energy at your doorstep. How will you use it?

The first thing you have to ask yourself is: "How secure is my job?" If you think that you could be out of a paycheck anytime in the next year, there's only one answer to what you should do with your lump sum: bank it. Bank it in an FDIC-insured bank account, even if they are only paying about 1% interest these days. (Most standard savings accounts are FDIC insured; just ask when you walk into the bank.) You may need that money to pay rent, print resumes, buy bus tokens to go to interviews in the next year. And, once you bank your bonus, sit down and make a list of your debts and the interest rate that you're paying on each one (look at your monthly statement; it will tell you the interest rate). Then, begin throwing all that you can at the debt with the highest interest rate. Thus, if you have credit card debt at 18%, a car loan at 12%, and student loans at 9%, you pay the minimum on the car loan and the student loans and you throw all that you can get, including all that you can get from taking a second job on weekends and evenings, at the credit card debt until it is paid off. Then, you start on the car loan. Finally, if you are worried about you job, NOW is the time to use your health insurance. Get your teeth checked, have your mammogram, fill your prescriptions each month as soon as possible (most plans will let you refill a months' worth of pills in 26 to 28 days. Those few extra pills can add up to almost a month's worth of free meds to be used once you lose your job and your health insurance.)

But if you reasonably expect to hold onto your job for the foreseeable future, there are a number of things that you can do with your bonus or tax return that will really help to make you more comfortable, secure, safe.

1. Put it in savings. If, in these economic times, you don't have between 9 and 12 months' worth of your net salary set aside, you're in real danger. In other words, if you get paid two times a month, multiply that amount by 18 and that's the minimum amount that you should have in FDIC-insured savings. Some of that amount could be in certificates of deposit, which pay a bit more interest but require you to not withdraw your money for a given period, but you really don't need to worry about that until you've got a chunk set aside. It is often taking experienced workers 6, 9, 12 months to find new jobs and those jobs often pay less than their former jobs. There is a law of the universe that requires your roof, your car, or your hot water heater to die just after you lose your job. You need to be able to pay your rent for months and months in case you do lose your job. And, hell, if the economy suddenly rebounds, times are great, and suddenly your prospects are unlimited, you can always use the money to redo your kitchen or take that cruise up the Nile that you've always dreamt of.

2. Go back to school in the evenings. Can you use your windfall to take the computer courses, paramedic certification, or massage therapy classes that would allow you to make even more money, do the job you want, be more secure in your present job? Then do it.

3. Replace the weakest link. What is it that's really not working in your life? An old, fuel-inefficient car that always breaks down? A computer you can't rely on? An ancient and rusty fridge that lets the food go bad? A basement that leaks? A wardrobe that doesn't work in your current job? Do the research, buy the best that you can, and do a ritual to kiss the old frustrations and inefficiencies good bye.

4. Get yourself organized. Go buy a good file cabinet (or two), boxes and boxes of colored folders, a real desk set, a paper shredder, trash bags, and some funky pens. Gather all your stray papers and put them in a pile. Several piles. A room full of piles. Blue files are for "home": make files for warranties, home insurance, repairs, etc. Orange files are for "car": make files for insurance, loan payments, repairs. Green files are for "finances": make files for paychecks, 401(k), savings. Yellow files are for "work": make files for work expenses, forms from work, professional orgs. Pink files are for "health": make a file for each doc, a file for health insurance reimbursement, a file for your advance health directive. Purple files are for "personal": make files for passports, birth certificates, awards. Spend 20 minutes a week filing the papers in your pile. In a year, you'll love yourself for it.

5. Go pay a lawyer to write your will, your power of attorney, and your advance medical directive. I don't care how young you are. You'll feel all kinds of better once it's done. Have fun with it. What causes should get all your money if you die after everyone you love? What songs should be played at your memorial service? It's your stuff. Do you really want your fundie cousin to get it all and give it to her fundie minister? If you have kids and you haven't spelled out exactly who will be responsible for them and how they should spend your money on them (College is ok, but funds to tour with the band aren't? A year to hike around Europe is ok but an MBA isn't? It's your call, but only if you make it), you're being negligent. Do it now. Go out for dinner and a nice glass of wine afterwards. Now, you really can die happy.

6. Go get one of those "executive" health exams. Have your damn mammogram. Buy a home treadmill, or a membership in a gym, or a new pair of glasses. Get your teeth fixed. Buy a mountain bike, a set of free weights, some sessions with a personal trainer who will help you develop a regular exercise routine. Buy a good pair of walking shoes. Finally learn to fence.

7. If you can do it and it works in your life for all the right reasons, now is a good time to make a down payment on a home. Do the research first. Make sure you know about every government incentive program that's out there. Make sure you get a fixed-rate 30-year mortgage. Make sure you get the home inspected. Make sure you've negotiated hard for the lowest price. And, then, throw your bonus into the pot of money you've already saved and do it. There's nothing like committing to a very specific piece of land.

8. Green up. Can you use your windfall to install energy-efficient windows, buy new appliances that use less energy, install a green roof, invest in solar panels that will allow you to sell power back to your local utility? Get on the web, spend an hour doing research, and then go for it. Buy a rain barrel, pay a green company to install insulation, buy some mesh bags that you can use every time that you go to the grocery store.

9. Spend the money on plants. Buy, and get a gardener to install, some trees that will give you shade in the summer so you can cut down on your air conditioning bills. Buy a few fruit trees that will give you fresh fruit for years to come. Put in a vegetable garden that will cut both your carbon footprint and your grocery bill. Buy into a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group and have a local farmer deliver food to your door all year long. Pick a color scheme (black/white, orange/yellow, purple/pink) and put a cottage garden outside your door.

10. Prepare for an emergency. You should have at least a few days' worth of food, water, and meds set aside. Take your windfall and buy canned foods, bottled water, basic meds (aspirin, antiseptic, bandaids, etc.), vitamins, etc. Find a good place to store them. I buy one can of something on sale each time that I go to the grocery store. A can of beans, tomatoes, tuna fish. A bottle of vitamins, a box of powdered milk, a few extra batteries. It can, as it has here in the MidAtlantic, snow quite a bit, but it will be a long, long time before I'm starving. Make a list of what you'd like to have on hand in case you are confined to home for a week or two and then go shopping.

11. Finally, here's my one hard and fast rule about bonuses and tax refunds. Set aside 5% for fun and 5% for a good cause. You've got to feel like you're enjoying the money, a little bit. So go buy a lovely scarf and give some money to a candidate you like. Take the family out to dinner and give some money to a homeless shelter in your area. Buy yourself a camping trip and make a micro loan. Buy a tree for your yard and a tree for the local hospice, library, school. Do what will make you feel good.

Money, especially money that shows up as a lump, is just a form of energy. Witches are good at directing energy. How will you direct yours?

Picture found here.

Saturday Poetry Blogging - Black Heritage Month Edition

Ego Tripping (there may be a reason why)

by Nikki Giovanni

I was born in the congo
I walked to the fertile crescent and built
the sphinx
I designed a pyramid so tough that a star
that only glows every one hundred years falls
into the center giving divine perfect light
I am bad

I sat on the throne
drinking nectar with allah
I got hot and sent an ice age to europe
to cool my thirst
My oldest daughter is nefertiti
the tears from my birth pains
created the nile
I am a beautiful woman

I gazed on the forest and burned
out the sahara desert
with a packet of goat's meat
and a change of clothes
I crossed it in two hours
I am a gazelle so swift
so swift you can't catch me

For a birthday present when he was three
I gave my son hannibal an elephant
He gave me rome for mother's day
My strength flows ever on

My son noah built new/ark and
I stood proudly at the helm
as we sailed on a soft summer day
I turned myself into myself and was
men intone my loving name
All praises All praises
I am the one who would save

I sowed diamonds in my back yard
My bowels deliver uranium
the filings from my fingernails are
semi-precious jewels
On a trip north
I caught a cold and blew
My nose giving oil to the arab world
I am so hip even my errors are correct
I sailed west to reach east and had to round off
the earth as I went
The hair from my head thinned and gold was laid
across three continents

I am so perfect so divine so ethereal so surreal
I cannot be comprehended except by my permission

I mean...I...can fly
like a bird in the sky...

Picture found here.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Follow Me Down (The Rabbit Hole)

I am so there.


My Sun is in Pisces and my Ascendent is in Gemini, so I can always see many sides of each argument. And, as we move closer and closer to the Vernal Equinox, it's good for us to seek, like Mama Earth, balance. Consequently, I offer you both John Michael Greer's ArchDruid Report and Phila's Hope Blogging.

Actually, they're both positive, in their own ways.

Photo by the author; if you copy, please link back.

The Safe Island Of Mindfullness

A Warm Embrace - The Great Bell Chant from R Smittenaar on Vimeo.

A friend of mine posted this a while ago and, I have to say, I love it. I am jumping off the mainland of monkey mind and swimming for all my life is worth for the safe island of mindfullness. You come, too.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sadly, I Missed This Conference

Discussion starts at about 3 minutes in.

Damn. If only I'd taken off from work.

It's Easy; Anyone Can Do It

NTodd describes the completely unscary, not-intimidating, and v American act of having a meeting with his representative's staff. More of us should do this. I'm going to commit to do it twice this year, on issues that really matter to me: the environment and women's rights.

Will you commit as well? It's easy. They come to your area and you can schedule 15 minutes with them. You can precede yourself with an email discussing the points you want to make. You show up at the local office with some cookies or muffins or photos of your area for the rep's walls, you make some small talk, and then you tell them what you want your rep to do and what you'll do to back your rep if they do the right thing. You say, "Thanks," and you follow up the next day with a nice email. You can do this, and you should.

A lot of 18 year olds died so that you could. So you can do it for them, if for no other reason. Email me when you do it and I'll go put a flower on a grave at Arlington for you.

Picture found here.

Early Writing, Early Magic

Here's a fascinating article about French cave art. I don't know about you, but I've always felt a deep connection to those amazing paintings of horses, rhinos, cows, and human hands, likely viewed in flickering firelight by our many-times-great-grandmothers. Now, there's evidence that some of the smaller symbols that generally accompany the paintings may have been an early attempt at writing.

While some scholars like Clottes had recorded the presence of cave signs at individual sites, Genevieve von Petzinger, then a student at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, was surprised to find that no one had brought all these records together to compare signs from different caves. And so, under the supervision of April Nowell, also at the University of Victoria, she devised an ambitious masters project. She compiled a comprehensive database of all recorded cave signs from 146 sites in France, covering 25,000 years of prehistory from 35,000 to 10,000 years ago.

What emerged was startling: 26 signs, all drawn in the same style, appeared again and again at numerous sites (see illustration). Admittedly, some of the symbols are pretty basic, like straight lines, circles and triangles, but the fact that many of the more complex designs also appeared in several places hinted to von Petzinger and Nowell that they were meaningful - perhaps even the seeds of written communication.

A closer look confirmed their suspicions. When von Petzinger went back to some of the records of the cave walls, she noticed other, less abstract signs that appeared to represent a single part of a larger figure - like the tusks of a mammoth without an accompanying body. This feature, known as synecdoche, is common in the known pictographic languages. To von Petzinger and Nowell, it demonstrated that our ancestors were indeed considering how to represent ideas symbolically rather than realistically, eventually leading to the abstract symbols that were the basis of the original study.

And, no surprise, this early writing may well have been associated with early magic.

One huge question remains, of course: what did the symbols actually mean? With no Rosetta Stone to act as a key for translation, the best we can do is guess at their purpose. Clottes has a hunch that they were much more than everyday jottings, and could have had spiritual significance. "They may have been a way of relating to supernatural forces. Perhaps they had special symbols for special ceremonies, or they may have been associated with the telling of special myths," he says.

The whole article is well worth a read. And I had to laugh, knowing how possessive the French are about their language (which I love), thinking of those early French women and men, writing the first French on cave walls. I'm betting the signs say: D'abord, vous faites un cercle.
Picture found here.

No, Really, We Are Laughing At You

Women's Laughter

talking the night away
kitchen sink humour
laughing like drains
cackling like crones

hooting like owls
howling like wolves
gut wrenching
belly laughs

filthy jokes
spitting it out
old bags and bad girls

table thumping
trivial, tribal,
the power

of women's laughter.

~Cora Greenhill, quoted in We'Moon 2010

Picture found here.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Here's my 4001st blog post:

Tarot never lies to me.

Picture found here.

May The Goddess Guard Her. May She Find Her Way To The Summerlands. May Her Friends And Family Know Peace.

American poet, Lucille Clifton has taken the ferry ride.

She lived in St. Mary's County, Maryland, and she wrote:

blessing the boats
by Lucille Clifton

(at St. Mary's)

may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that

Picture found here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Can We Live Through February?

The Devil Is In The World -- Weird

I have to say, it can't be much fun, always having to be so paranoid and upset.

Surviving Breast Cancer

There's new information indicating that a daily dose of baby aspirin can have important benefits for women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Aspirin may help save breast cancer patients
Aspirin may offer a powerful way to help breast cancer patients survive the disease, according to a large new study.

An analysis of data collected from 4,164 breast cancer patients participating in the well-known, highly respected Nurses' Health Study found that those who took aspirin regularly were about half as likely as those who did not to die from the malignancy. They were also about half as likely to have their cancer spread elsewhere in their bodies, according to a paper published online Tuesday in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Previous studies examining whether aspirin use may reduce the risk of getting diagnosed with breast cancer in the first place have produced mixed results. One earlier study found that people with colon cancer who took aspirin lived longer than those who did not. The new study is the largest to examine whether aspirin could help women who had already been diagnosed with breast cancer.

It remains unclear how aspirin may have this benefit. But researchers suspect it may be due to the drug's ability to reduce inflammation in the body.

MIchelle Holmes of the Harvard School of Public Health, who led the study, cautioned that more research is needed to confirm the findings before recommending that breast cancer patients take aspirin to increase their chances of surviving.

While the study was big and well conducted, it is an "observational" study, which means it can only suggest relationships, not prove them. The only way to do that would be to give some women aspirin and others a placebo and follow them over time to see if it works.

Several other experts concurred, noting that although aspirin is available over the counter and used casually, it can have serious side effects, most notably increasing the risk for dangerous bleeding.

Obviously, talk to your doc. But, if yours, like mine, recommends a daily aspirin, anyway, to protect v. heart disease, now there's an even better reason to remember to do it. I sprung years ago for one of those little weekly-pill-boxes at the drug store, the kind w/ a tiny little compartment for each day of the week. On Saturday, I refill it w my vitamins, aspirin, and any other needed meds and do a serious bit of reiki on the whole thing. I keep it by the coffee pot and it's easy to remember to take the meds first thing in the morning (and to check and see if I forgot).

Picture (and instructions) found here.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Because Empire Is The Methamphetamine Of Nations

Greer's generally quite good, but this week, you should definitely go read his entire post.

It may never have occurred to you to wonder why it is that the 5% of the world’s population who live in the US get to use around a third of the world’s production of natural resources and industrial products – certainly it never seems to occur to most Americans to wonder about that – but the economics of empire are the reason.

A century ago, in 1910, it was Britain that had the global empire, the worldwide garrisons, and the torrents of wealth flowing from around the world to boost the British standard of living at the expense of everyone else’s. A century from now, in 2110, if the technology to maintain any kind of worldwide empire still exists – and it can be done with wooden sailing ships and crude cannon, remember; Spain managed that feat very effectively in its day – somebody else will be in that position. It won’t be America, because empire is the methamphetamine of nations; in the short term, the effects feel great, but in the long term they’re very often lethal. Britain managed to walk away from its empire without total catastrophe because the United States was ready, willing, and able to take over, and give Britain a place in the inner circle of US allies into the bargain; most other nations have paid for their imperial overshoot with a century or two of economic collapse, political chaos, and social disintegration.

That’s the corner into which the United States is backing itself right now. The flood of lightly disguised tribute from overseas, while it made Americans fantastically wealthy by the standards of the rest of the world, also gutted America’s domestic economy – the same economic imbalances that funnel wealth here also make it nearly impossible to produce goods or provide services at home at a cost that can compete with overseas producers – and created a culture of entitlement that includes all classes from the bottom of the social pyramid right up to the top. As always happens, in turn, the benefits of empire are failing to keep pace with its rapidly rising costs, and in addition, rising demands for imperial largesse from all parts of society are drawing down an increasingly straitened supply of wealth. Meanwhile other nations with imperial ambitions are circling like sharks; the wisest among them know that time is on their side, and that any additional burden that can be loaded onto a drowning empire will hasten the day when it goes under for the third time and they can close for the kill.

Meanwhile, our media distract us with missing white women, whether Angelina and Brad are splitting up, and "reality" tv. Maybe we should bomb Iran.

I will say that I differ with Greer only concerning his optimism that various states, such as China, will win out over large multi-national corporations. I suspect that things may work out in quite the opposite direction, but the overall difference may be rather less important than we suppose.

Picture found here.

Winter Doldrums?

Although the weather wizards are calling for a bit more snow to fall on us, here in the MidAtlantic, where we're still not able to travel completely normally or to look outside and see anything but feet and feet of snow, if you "listen" with your body, you can feel the Wheel turning, sense the coming of Spring. The Sun's up earlier every morning and its light is stronger, especially, it seems to me, in the early evening when it hovers, more and more reluctant to go, on the Western horizon. The buds on the trees are bigger and bigger and, every few days, some new kind of bird returns from the South. It reminds me a bit of those moments when you're not quite awake, and, indeed, you could almost fall all the way back into a dream, but when you also know that soon you're going to wake up and start the day.

I think, and YMMV, that there's an advantage for Witches to being in deep relationship with a particular place, in order to appreciate fully the Turning of the Wheel of the seasons. And that takes time. It takes, as most relationships do, time spent with the beloved, both when it's pleasant and when it's not. It takes daily and hourly attention, not simply an attempt to reconnect 8, or 13, or even 21 times a year. It takes being open to the pain and degradation that the land has experienced and is experiencing, as much as it takes being open to delight in the blossoming of flowers or the warming of the soil. It takes turning off the tv, or the computer, or the cell phone, or your monkey mind, and, ok, it must be said: Going Outside.

Now, we all know, the problem with Nature Religions is, well, Nature. Snow and freezing cold in the Winter, rain and mud in the Spring, heat and mosquitoes in the Summer, wet leaves in the Autumn. And, so, one of the more practical parts of this religion can be learning how to be outside in each of those situations. Boots and shawls and Yax Trax in Winter, a mosquito repellant, discovered after trial and error, that works in the Summer. But if you're serious about being in relationship, then you have to do what's necessary to allow you to spend time with the beloved. And the rewards are substantial.

I was over at G/Son's yesterday, for the first time since the crushing snow that we got here, and he and his 'rents were showing me some v. large trees of theirs that came down in the snow. G/Son said, "Look, Nonna! Our trees came down, just like this!" and then he lay, face down on the floor, arms and legs spread out. The fall of those magnificent trees was too intense to discuss with mere words, it was, for him, a full-body experience. That's relationship.

May it be so for you.

Photo by the author; if you copy, please link back.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Best DiL In The World

Patriarchy longs to set up a rivalry between Mothers of Sons and our Daughters-in-Law; it's one of patriarchy's most toxic myths. My mom and her mother-in-law (my paternal grandmother) managed to dislike each other and to snipe at each other for decades and decades, to neither of their benefits, making my dad pretty miserable in the meantime. (Sometime, I'll tell you the story of the year's-long Battle of the Thermostat. It's not pretty.)

Luckily, I don't believe the lies that patriarchy tells, and, besides, Son married a woman so cool, so grounded, so kind in every situation, so witty, so kick-ass, so generous of spirit, so Alia-of-the-Knife in the courtroom, so beautiful, so creative in the kitchen, and so flat-out-fabulous as a mother, that I simply adore her.

Today is important to our family not so much because it's Valentine's Day, although we love Valentine's Day, but because today is DiL's birthday. I'm lucky that she came into the world and lucky that she married Son. She's a true Aquarian and I love her very much. Her birthday this year has been marred by the snow; none of us could get out and shop as we wished. But I hope that she knows that we love her and I thank the Goddess for her every single day.

Fuck the lies of patriarchy. Two women who love the same guy ought to be good friends.

Happy birthday, DiL!

Picture found here.