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Autumnal Equinox Ritual

Just in case anyone was interested in how we celebrate the Autumnal Equinox.

I identify as a skeptical agnostic pagan (or a SAP). In our home we have a fairly detached form of ritual. Kiddo and I attend ritual with the Earth Centered UUs a few times a year and we do our own thing a few times a year. I like the lessons and the idea of forming connections even if we aren't super devote.  A lot of people don't really get it, and it is hard to articulate as an elevator pitch. So I thought maybe showing rather than telling would be the way to go. I wrote up this ritual for just Kiddo and me. 


Autumnal Equinox Ritual

Smudge ourselves: how do we enter the circle? In perfect love and perfect trust.

Create the space: call the quarters:
We call to the guardians of the North:  Spirit of Earth and spirits of our bodies. Be with us now.
We call to the guardians of the East:  Spirit of Air and spirits of our breath. Be with us now
We call to the guardians of the South: Spirit of Fire and spirits of our individual sparks. Be with us now
We call to the guardians of the West: Spirit of Water and spirits of our living selves. Be with us now
           
Light the candles: By the air that is her breath, the fire of her bright spirit and the water of her living womb, by the earth that is her body, by the spark of spirit that resides in each of us, the circle is now cast.

Hard to tell, but Air is yellow, Fire is red, Water is blue, and Earth is Green... and Spirit is the big white one. Water is in the place of honor as this is the start of its season. 


Spoken Word: Today is an equinox ritual, today we remember that
Air moves us,
Fire transforms us,
Water shapes us,
Earth heals us,
And the balance of the wheel goes round and round,  

(point to the representations of each that have been chosen for today, the sage, the candle, the water, the salt in wood)

Pagans use all sorts of diff things on alters. I like the simple uncluttered look and mine changes every time. 


Today’s ritual is about the half way point between high summer and high winter, it is a time to think about harvest and what we are doing to take care of ourselves and the world as we head into the darker time of the year. We know that balance is important. We can't only eat ice cream... we need green beans too! We can't always watch TV, sometimes we have to fold the laundry. Our lives need balance but it cannot happen without a good foundation

Activity: Practice standing on one foot, tip toes, etc to illustrate the complexities of balance.

Spoken Word: This is also a time of reflection in conjunction (connection) with the harvest. We are very blessed in our lives but there is always room for improvement. As we get ready for the darker months, the colder months, we must make sure we are storeing up not only food but also energy to last us until the spring.

Let’s discuss the following questions:
1.     What am I reaping (gathering) in my life right now?
2.     Are there aspects (parts) of my life that might need more balance?
3.     What is changing for me right now?
4.     What things should I let go of?
5.     How can I be my best self during this time of the year of harvest and reflection?
6.     Where should I focus my attention?

My  / Ella's answers:
1.     M: I have worked on building new friendships, I have set myself up for a good school year. E: New friends and lots of Spanish words
2.      M: I need balance with my leisure time and my working time. E: Eating my lunch and playing a little while doing my homework
3.     M: My daughter is getting older, more independent. Schoolwork is a new challenge. The loss of the GCV and that community is a challenge E: Going to school every day and getting up early. And all my homework
4.     M: It is time to accept that I won’t be able to watch as much TV, read as many books, or go on as many coffee dates because of time constraints. I also need to let go of some writing projects. Lastly, it is time to clean out my closet and donate things from my summer clothes that I never wore or that don’t fit. E: I can take some of your old clothes and give some of mine to my cousin. I can give up my old school since I have a new school
5.     M: I can practice self-care and work on sticking to a schedule.  I can cut myself some slack and also not judge others for being different. E: I can go to bed on time and do my homework and play fast games and practice my Spanish
6.     M: I need to focus my attention on my school work and my creative endeavors. E: homework (sigh) and also making friends and spending time with my friends and sleeping. And eating good food.

Story: Tell the story of Persephone

Snack: Share apple slices

Symbol creation / craft: Today we will paint wooden picture frames…. At some point in the fall we will find and collect the “perfect” leaf to put inside the frame. We know that all things come and that patience is a trait best practiced.



Meditation / Charging the Craft:
"With memories of the summer, least I never forget,
And with an aspiring heart for the colder months to come,
Least I never stop striving, reflecting, and showing gratitude
I honor myself and all of nature with this symbol,
Keeping it  in my home and heart,
That I may see it and pause,
To reflect on the Ancient Mysteries,
Leading me to a better understanding of myself,
And of others, and all that is Life." 

Release the quarters:
Guardians of the North:  Spirit of Earth and spirits of our bodies. Thank you and go with peace.
Guardians of the East:  Spirit of Air and spirits of our breath. Thank you and go with peace.
Guardians of the South: Spirit of Fire and spirits of our individual sparks. Thank you and go with peace.
Guardians of the West: Spirit of Water and spirits of our living selves. Thank you and go with peace.


Break the circle: By the air that is her breath, the fire of her bright spirit, the water of her living womb and the earth that is her body, by the spirit that resides in each of us, the circle is now open but may it remain unbroken and may the peace of the Goddess be forever in our hearts. Merry meet, merry part, and merry meat again, So mote it be, blessed be.

The end!


Here is my little explanation why I use "Goddess"... ask any number of pagans and they will use any number of words or symbols. For me "Goddess" is my way of attempting to name/understand/interact with the universe. I don't know if there is something larger than us humans out there, I sort of feel like there might be... and that IF there is, that thing or energy or whatever is probably way outside our ability to understand. But, I feel better when I remember that we are all connected (that interconnected web thing that the UUs have really resonates with me). In order to even begin to think about that entity or whatever, I need to put it into a form that my brain can understand and that my heart responds to... for me that is a Goddess Maiden, Mother Crone figure / energy. I feel connected to the world and to others by focusing my personal energy on my own femininity and the cycle of life that the Triple Goddess represents.

I know it sounds weird.. and I'm ok with no one else understanding or feeling the same way. It is what works for me and it harms no one but rather helps me focus my compassion and is my own way of making sense of the world and finding something I can focus on. 

ANYway, there it is. Hope that helps some of you understand and not be so freaked out by the word "pagan".  Quick note: I don't often snap photos during, but I did today as I knew I was going to want to share
.
Lastly, our finished frames waiting for their perfect leaves.






Freedom to Say "No"

It can be hard to say "no"
It can be especially hard if you have low self esteem and anxiety that saying "no" will end friendships or make you the bad guy.
It can be hard when your heart strings are pulled or when you feel a sense of responsibility.
It can feel like you are being selfish.

BUT

Image result for No

It is so darn important to be able to say "No" even though it can be one of the hardest words to utter.

One of the things I am trying to learn is how to say "No". How to disengage from toxic people, how to set up professional and personal boundaries, how to manage my time, how to think about my self as a finite resource and how to be aware of my needs.

It is a dificult journey.

I left GCV in part to be able to focus on other things. I made a promise to myself that I wouldn't accept any new responsibility for another year (other than the things I had already signed up to do: school, etc.

Since then, I have said no to the following things

Organizing a clothing drive
Being a camp consoler
Running a once a week day care out of my home
Being a full time nanny
Being a part time nanny
Running a Girl Scout Troop
Being the 2nd in command of a Girl Scout Troop
Running a fundraiser
Writing a weekly blog for an established platform
Writing a recurring blog for an established platform
Being on the board of another nonprofit
Being on the advisory board for another nonprofit
Being a district representative for my daughter's school
Organizing a protest
Spearheading a boycott.


Which makes me feel better about saying yes to the following:
Teaching Sunday School 2 times a month
Joining a Parent Involvement Team
Getting elected School Site Council

So... progress!

As school starts in a few weeks and I get back to my more rigorous writing schedule, I only hope my ability to say "No" to things stays strong.


Fingers Crossed!


530 AM Feminist

I attended a boot camp with a friend last weekend.

It was one of those things where you do a bunch of cardio and weight training in a circuit while a trim little lady in spandex yells encouragement at you and you wonder how 30 seconds can last So Damn Long.

Anyway, before we started we had to fill out a few forms... basically promising that we wouldn't die during the session and that if we did, we wouldn't sue.

And of course part of the forms were "general info" that they use to then try to sell you a membership to the gym.

A few things to remember before I share with you some of the questions and my answers.

1. It was 530 in the morning. Legit. Too early.

2. I hate exercise of all sorts but I was there because I am almost always up for an adventure and I really like this new friend. Plus I wanted to ear extra helpings of French Toast later.

3. I'm a pretty hard core feminist. In case you hadn't noticed.

Ok...

What do you hope to get from working out?

Ability to humble brag on facebook without fibbing

What is your goal weight / size

155 (that's 5 lower than now) and size 8 (I am a size 8-10, it depends on the time of the month)

Why is that your goal?

I have soooo many clothes in my closet I want to wear!

If you hit your goal, how will your life be better?

I will have more clothes to wear!

When you think about your body, what sort of things do you think?

Thank god I have a body and am not just a head in a jar!

When you see photos of yourself, what do you focus on?

The lighting and the background people who might be famous. You never know. Also, do I need a haircut?

What part of your body do you like and why?

My boobs are awesome and my bladder is like a steel trap. 

What part of your body do you dislike and why?

My eyes. Glaucoma is a bitch.

Overall, how do you feel about your body?

I'm a fan

How does your spouse of partner feel about your body?

Damn lucky... not that it matters.


I don't think they will be calling me. But it got me wondering... the questions seem tailor made to make you doubt yourself and worry. I get that they might want to make sure you have realistic goals and don't think that dropping 20 pounds will magically fix your life... but seriously the whole thing bugged me.

Oh well, the circuit was difficult (which was both nice and painful) and we sweated like pigs. I got mixed up like three times and lost my place... and totally phoned it in during the final Burpee Challenge part.. (why is it called a burpee? That's gross!)

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, eyeglasses and closeup
Post workout rawr face! 

Then we went out for breakfast!

All in all, a pretty damn fun way to spend a Saturday morning.

...

and yeah... I was SORE the next day... that means it's working right?


Heroine Worship

What is a woman hero anyway?

Is she strong?

Is she driven?

Is she brave?

Yes.

Is she hard and calloused?

Sometimes.

Is she conventionally beautiful?

Sometimes

Is she gritty and dirty and rough around the edges?

Yes.

But she can also be articulate, classy, and well bred.

A woman hero is a woman who acts like a hero... and that means sacrifice, speaking truth to power, heart, and acting like a role model.

At least that is what it means to me.

The point is... it's subjective. And it shouldn't be limited by what one man thinks. There are plenty of male heroes of all types. And there should be lots of heroines for little girls to look up to as well.


TLDR: James Cameron and his antiquated definition of women empowerment being limited and excluding the likes of Wonder Woman is pure misogynistic BS.

Patty Jenkins laid the smack down on him pretty hard as well.



Thank you Patty.

And for fun... here are a few of my favorite heroines. And yeah, one of these is my mom.









Ten Things You Should Know About Ashjian

Photo published for Ashjian’s sex education remarks spark a clash of views at Fresno school board meeting

1. Brooke Ashjian is president of the Fresno Unified School District Board

2. He has a history of being anti-LGBT including accusing a local LGBT organization of pimping him out... Yeah, it makes no sense to anyone else either.

3. There is a CA law that went into effective in 2016 that requires that middle and high schools teach unbiased and medically accurate sex education, including lessons on birth control and abortion.

4. Conservatives are not happy about this law... and in a recent interview Ashijan gave the following quote: “My biggest fear in teaching this – which we’re going to do it because it’s the law – but you have kids who are extremely moldable at this stage, and if you start telling them that LGBT is OK and that it’s a way of life, well maybe you just swayed the kid to go that way,” Ashjian said. “It’s so important for parents to teach these Judeo-Christian philosophies.”

5. Yeah. Not shockingly, Ashjian is a Trump supporter who also is on record for saying that the psychological ramifications of abortions are on par, if not worse, than the psychological fall out from being raped.  “There’s certainly a lot of psychological effects that come from abortion that people need to be aware of,” Ashjian said. “Your life is a lot easier by not doing it. Look at these poor girls who get raped and have to have an abortion. If that’s the way they’ve got to go, God bless them. But think of all the repercussions that come later in life, mental and psychological.” Source 

6. So... naturally the LGBT community came together to call for his resignation. Including EQCA and the HRC There is also a petition to remove him.

7. His reply was one word: "No"

8. Last night community members attended a five hour meeting where dozens of LGBT supporters and community members plead with the other board trustees to remove Ashjian. No decision was made. Coverage from the Fresno Bee. 

9. In a long strange statement Ashjian compared his plight of being called out to the suffering of the Armenian people by the Ottoman empire. For reals. It doesn't make any more sense if you watch it. 

10. Another lovely thing about Ashjian: apparently he doesn't see the local paper The Fresno Bee as a legit news organization... which is straight out of the the Trump playbook. “I don’t acknowledge The Fresno Bee as a legitimate news source.” Source 

The work is far from over. Rest assured, we won't stop calling for equality and safety for ALL FUSD students. 

Special Thanks to all those who attended and stayed at the meeting last night. No lack of chairs or AC will keep us silent. 

Resignation Acrostic Idea (aka The F U Trump letter)

Last week the entirety of the President's Committee On The Arts and Humanities resigned with a letter containing a now famous acrostic. (The first letter of each paragraph spells out RESIST)



Yesterday Daniel Kammen (State Department science envoy) followed the acrostic trend and resigned with a related message. This time: IMPEACH was the message readers found.



Since the acrostic resignation is sure to become even more widespread, I have helpfully created a "Fuck you" version for the rest of the White house staff and any GOPers who might grow a backbone and posted it on my Twitter profile. (Although it was originally posted in a comment thread and that is where most of the trolls have been showing themselves calling me ugly, fat, a bot (?), talking shit about my mom (!?), and all the usual not-at-all-creative insults from the Trump supporters.)

I'm a giver.

My little note has gotten a fair amount of attention on Twitter, but I know not everyone is on that platform... so here it is again.


For what it's worth: I wanted this job 
Unfortunately I can't stay here 
Considering how inept you are, I have made a decision 
Knowing this is for the best, I must resign. 

You have left me no choice. 
Obviously I'm not giving two weeks notice. 
Understand, it's not me. It's you.


It really could be used for so many situations.
You're welcome

Review: We Are Water / Lamb

I recently read "We Are Water" by Wally Lamb.



This book is huge in scope and page number. It is also heavy in terms of characters and subject matter.
I am so glad I read it.

The story is far reaching and profound full of unforgettable characters... almost too many, but thankfully Lamb skirts past that line time and time again. While the "off screen" aspects of the novel's actions (showcased often by flashbacks and the use of italics) could sometimes be overdone, on the whole I really enjoyed the highs and lows of the very complex and beautiful story.

The main characters are sympathetic although complex and the variety of supporting characters are given enough attention as to make them three dimensional in their own rights.

I will say that getting into a character's head can be a dark and uncomfortable thing and there was one character who's portion I had to skim with half closed eyes because of how disturbing I found his part of the story.  There is also a very well written and horrific scene of a baby dying that left me shaken and in need of a break despite the fact that I had known it was coming for over a hundred pages.

I think what sets this story apart from other long intertwined sagas is the attention to detail and Lamb's willingness to grapple with the character's motivations as opposed to simply letting us watch the drama unfold.

I'm not sure I will ever reread this book, but it was compelling and worth the word count.

TLDR: Not for the fain to heart or those needing Trigger Warnings: a saga story about how past trauma can really fudge up the present.


Back to school.... and the gym

Yes, it is that time again. Our social media is inundated with photos of adorable children posing next to walls, doors, gates, and signs holding backpacks, chalkboards, or lunch bags.

Back to school.

Image result for brace yourself back to school photos are coming

It's a rite of passage preparing us for the upcoming onslaught of kids in pumpkin patches... and then kids in holiday PJs.... and then posts about going back to the gym...

I have decided, because I am a giver, to combine a few things. You know, to save time and such.

So, yes, today was Kiddo's first day of Kinder...

zomg she is the cutest thing EVER

It is also the day I dust off my work out DVD (serious dust), find my hand weights, join Weight Watchers, and vow (again) to get serious about eating healthy and getting a decent amount of exercise.


Not cute, but sweaty and that's almost as important! 

My goals are simple... nothing says setting yourself up for disappointment like trying to have lofty goals you have never ever met before. This time I am aiming for more realistic goals.

Goal The First: Get back into wearing my size 8 clothes comfortably.  I can get into my size 8s..... mostly. And with only a bit of squeezing but there is always that risk that today will be the day when they won't fit. And some days they don't. I am far more comfy in my size 10s, but I have vastly more clothing in the size of 8 and thus, this goal is practical as well as vain. I want to be comfy in my size 8s. I do not want to have to buy more 10s.

Image result for michelle obama arms
One can dream though...
Goal the Second: I would like (some) muscle definition in my arms so that wearing sleeveless things doesn't make me cringe at the mirror. I don't need to go to the "gun show" but I would like a bit more tone.




Goal the Third: I would like my muffin top to be more of this:

Image result for mini muffin
MINI Muffin









Rather than this:

Image result for panera muffie
"Muffy"... All top, no bottom! 














I don't think that is too much to ask. Seems like kicking up my exercise a bit, making healthy choices regarding food,  and doing some weight training will get me there.

It's not like I am trying to turn into a super model... and I have finally moved past the number on the scale. It has been over a year since I have weighed myself.

Anyway, there you have it: First Day of School and New School Year Resolutions all in one post!

You're welcome!