Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Hep, Depression and Anxiety

While hepetitis may not create its own form of anxiety, certainly having hepetitis can result in anxiety. Indeed, "data suggest that anxiety disorders are not a specific consequence of CHC, but rather reflect the stress associated with the awareness of a chronic progressive disease."

While clients may suffer from this chronic disease, doctors don't seem to recognize the seriousness of the symptoms, or want to say other conditions are creating the anxiety, the depression, or the fatigue. So when a client presents, distressed and wanting treatment, the doctor may deny the client their much needed treatment out of concern for the secondary psychiatric symptoms. Yet depression and anxiety plague the population who also has Hepetitis C. Indeed, research shows that:
These limitations notwithstanding, the prevalence of psychiatric disorders is likely to be higher in patients with hepatitis C than the general population given the major routes of transmission for this virus.
So the very conditions of stress and anxiety that lead people into self medication and drug addiction may be what prevents their eventual treatment for Hepetitis C. Indeed, a recent study showed that "between 26% and 34% of hepatitis C-positive patients in this study met criteria for mood, anxiety, or personality disorders." So my client's anxiety gets hightened even more because they cannot receive treatment for their hepetitis C because the medications used can increase depression and anxiety. Hmmm.... I think my anxiety and depression would go through the roof from lack of treatment!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Having the Flu can be Quite Instructive

I've been offline, for the most part, for the last week because I have had some variant of the flu. I don't claim to be well today, only somewhat better. I only missed one day of work last week, but I had to cancel all of my appointments with my clients at the teaching clinic. One had asked for an emergency appointment, which I did not keep. I did, however, make an exception to my cancellations and kept one scheduled appointment.

Despite extensive, sensitive payment arrangements and other compromises, I have a client that is very unhappy with me. I suppose I expect too much. Or that my simple presence, coughing, hacking and blowing my nose, would be enough. Guess not. Now today I have a unique opportunity to become a target. I'm about to go completely out of my way, and with this borderline personality disorder, very likey to get the blame if things go poorly. Some days I have to wonder just what was I thinking when I wanted to be a therapist.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Cost of Insurance Outweighs Police Protection in SC

One more reason to be ashamed of being from SC. Wellford, just down the road from me, no longer allows either foot chases or car chases because of the threat of insurance claims. The mayor believes that insurance charges outweight catching criminals!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The following question was posed on my favorite egroup: Having renounced my first degree when I renounced my Wiccan tradition recently, the experience has shaped my view on initiation, and I would pose this question to everyone - what do you think about the permanence of initiations? Once initiated is it forever or can it be lost or given up?

It took five years to work myself to initiation. Started with the Eternal Harvest tradition....declined initiation. Went to the Unicorns....problems there; I had to leave due to the instability of the situation. I went to an eclectic fairey Priestess who was a part of community eldership, but not in an active coven. Did the work, and had the most amazing initiation I could possibly describe. Seven third degrees in their tradition (Cameron represented Christianity) challenged and welcomed me in a ritual drama of Inanna's journey. It was exactly what it should be...and the last sacred act of the Priestess. She was bipolar and her illness spiraled out of control. She has subsequently left Wicca. In the throws of her illness, she once said to me that she should have never initiated me and that she'd undo it if she could. Sent me into a profound spiritual crisis in which I wrestled much as I hear you wrestling.

I struggled long and hard with what makes an initiate. For me, I believe we reach that stage of spiritual growth in which we have spiritual encounter with Deity which is then honored in community. If we believe ourselves to be initiates and we have a witness or two for the ceremony in which that initiation is witnessed, I believe we are Initiates. And I believe that initiation cannot be taken away by leaving the group, changing traditions, or even by curses of Priestess. In the case of warlocking, the person does not loose their status as an initiate. They are cut of from their internal source of magic/power instead.

In the case of my friend, it sounds like she renounced a tradition. OK, wise decision if she felt compelled to do so. But her initiation was witnessed and sealed by the group. What is done cannot be undone. Indeed, when she initiated, she took back the karmic responsibility her group/priest/priestess had to her, and accepted responsibility for herself. The only way she can be uninitiated, I believe, is for her to renounce her initiation (but I'm kinda like the Christians that believe once baptized always saved--once initiated, always marked by the goddess).

I think I've gotten so distanced from working within a tradition that I've really changed my feelings about what initiation means. I once trained within a tradition that have all of these things very carefully delineated...I've been away from that space for almost seven years. Now I've come to see dedication as the time of dedicating ourselves to learning about a path. Initiation becomes a place where we meet Deity within community. Certainly, there can be additional benefits if a tradition has an inner court system.

I agree that renouncing other paths can be extremely inappropriate. Even when I was with the Unicorns, I was not not required to renounce my Christian roots. When a priestess of another tradition expressed interest in their tradition, they welcomed her and simply trained her in the things that separated their training from her previous roots. They never expected anyone to renounce anything. I think that would be a big red flag for me to keep walking!

As our discussions evolve and we grow our group here in SC, we chose the name Sacred Pathways Grove because we want to embrace each mentoree's experience. We don't want folks to renounce something they hold dear to become exclusive to our grove. Want to circle on Saturday night and take communion at the Episcopal church on Sunday? OK... Want to study druidism and circle with us too? If you can make that work, ok... not my place to dictate anyone else's spiritual journey! Just be ready for a lot of conversation as we find ways to make things work as a community! To see theory meet practice, take the case of my sister of the heart. When Verdandi takes her second degree in the spring, she's not going to be required to jump through the iniation process again. We're on the same page enough that she's simply going to pick up where she previously left off.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Initation, Status, and Eclecticism

This question was recently posted on my favorite elist:

I will also add that if you are an eclectic Wiccan than I truly don't understand why you care - if you don't believe you need an initiation to be Wiccan, than why worry about what other people say?
Hmmmm..... I consider myself to be eclectic because of having had each of my initiations with a different coven. In fact, my third degree, while conducted by a priestess who had been present at the previous two degrees, was more my elder than my "teacher". I was mentored my several priestess, actually, amidst several groups imploding/exploding. The little fledgling grove we are forming, which Cameron will initiate with, is the last remnant of any of these groups. We are not gardinarian, fairey, or any other "tradition" although we will borrow from whatever "works". If our group grows and survives, I hope it will become a tradition of its own in due time. Until we can be a tradition (meaning one of our members eventually carries our ways to another group of people), then we are a gathering of eclectic witches who have formed a grove.

Why is it important to be known as a grove, coven, etc and to have had the initiatory experience beyond the personal experience associated with initiation? I hate, hate, hate to say this, but initiation confers status. Of course you'll have to prove yourself with new people, but the simple statement "I initiated with" opens doors.

I'm not forgetting that you want to be part of the wiccan community at large, and be respected, then you better know your stuff, have some sort of credentials, be verifiable and have name recognition. I am suggesting that when we go to Goddess Fest, I want our group to be treated equal to any other group. I want our group to be a stable presence in a very unstable community. I want us to teach workshops, be present on Pagan Pride Day, help the homeless, and serve our community in whatever capacities the Goddess provides. I want the people we mentor to be able to say "oh, I got my degree/initiated with the Sacred Pathways Grove" and the folks at Goddess Fest, Autumn Fest, or any other gathering think "Oh, they know their stuff over there". I want us to be able to teach a workshop and participate in our community without a whole lot of "cat sniffing butt" behavior that usually occurs.

Right or wrong, there can be a lot of arrogance in the wiccan community. Since I want to be a part of that community, because change can't occur if I don't help work at it, then I've got to meet them on their terms. And honestly, we wiccans have to be suspicious. There are some crazy people out there that can cause a great deal of harm. And that's the end of my rant/thoughts/reflection.

Children's Altar

A fabulous friend from Wicca Place set up this altar for a child that was having surgery and added my grandson when she heard about his being tested.

My daughter-in-law sent this text message moments ago: All test results are normal, so it is not an absorption issue.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Thirsty Kitty

Domestic Abuse a Preexisting Condition for Denying Insurance

Nine states deny insurance to victims of domestic violence, including Idaho, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Wyoming. In addition, Washington DC also belongs on this list. The insurance agencies involved? Nationwide, Allstate, State Farm, Aetna, Metropolitan Life, The Equitable Companies, First Colony Life, The Prudential and the Principal.

Lawyer Jennifer Wriggins presented a paper to the annual meeting of the The Law and Society Association in which she stated:
Liability insurance of all types generally excludes from coverage acts
"expected or intended" by the insured. This "intentional acts" exclusion
operates to eviscerate coverage for domestic violence and other intentional
torts. Moreover, homeowners liability coverage does not cover claims by family
members against one another. This "family member exclusion" operates to bar
coverage for domestic violence since it often is committed by one family member
against another.

So insurance companies have come to the conclusion that if you are in a relationship with someone who has beaten you then you are more likely to be beaten again, and consequently you are more expensive to insure.

The women in my practice don't stay in abusive relationships because they like to be beaten. They stay because they need their husband's paychecks to take care of the children. They stay because they need a place to live, and their own income is inadequate in a minimum wage world to pay rent in a safe place to live. They stay out of fear. They stay for many complicated reasons. But I don't know of any who stay because they want to be injured.

In 2006 Democrats tried to end the practice of discriminating against victims of domestic violence but lost by a narrow margin. All the votes in opposition were Democrats. Indeed, opposers argued that such legislation would raise everyone's premiums. I have trouble understanding that logic when most states do not have such legal discrimination.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Prayer for Wisdom

As my grandson goes for testing today, I offer up this prayer.

Lord and Lady, bring your peace to baby Widsom's family,
Bring your grace to his doctors,
Lend your presence to the child,
Lend your stregth to us all,
We pray for best possible outcome,
So mote it be.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Disposable Grandparenting

With the death of my two beloved cats this weekend, by the time we got home from the emergency vet last night I knew I had crossed a line. I was not going to be capable of working today. So I called and left a message on the boss' voicemail, which she will have found about 4 this morning, that I had a personal emergency this weekend and needed to take a personal day. The therapist/addiction counselor didn't have anything for anyone else.

We were up very late last night as Cameron dugevening a grave in the late by the light of a lantern. I couldn't even bring myself to go out and bless the grave. Thor was very precious to me -- one of the blessed special cats that in a house of wonderful cats managed to stand out clearly. I was grieving, am grieving, hard.

So I slept late, unable to force myself out of bed. I needed to be doing all the things I skipped over the weekend because we had so much going on. Instead, I lay in the bed, unable to move. I finally managed to get moving, researched homeopathic ways to deal with a flea infestation, and then got to work on the house. I started with clearing and cleaning the altar, setting up the peace/harmony/balancing candle in hope of orchestrating a little internal peace or balance. I worked at laundry and other mundane chores, and finally went to take a much needed nap. My therapist called -- I had forgotten my appointment. So bless her heart, my therapist spent the next 50 minutes putting me back together. I was doing pretty good by the time we got off the phone.

She asked me about what lessons or gifts the cats had brought to my life. Bubbles was easy. She brought the gift of joy. Thor was tougher. I finally came to the conclusion he brought the gift of trust. Knowing who to trust. Learning how to trust. Learning to let go of fear. I talked about Thor reaching back to the time when the boys came to live with me, and being with me when it all came down around my ears. Thor was also about mourning lost dreams of parenting.

So I missed my nap. A few minutes later I was on the phone with Cameron when my daughter-in-law called. The Patient One began as if I already had information that had never been given to me. I suppose people who are actually invited to see my grandson would notice the obvious -- that at 6 months old he is the size of a three month old. Of course, since I am not really treated like a grandparent and do not have any rights to see my grandchildren, I could not necessarily notice from Internet photographs. So while I am trying to grasp this rather alarming news, which The Patient One treats as old news, she begins asking about a family history of cystic fibrosis. Of course I deny any such family history. Between us lies my true crime. Since I was nineteen, in Atlanta, and had a one night stand with my son's biological father, it's all my fault that there might be a family history of cystic fibrosis of which I did not, could not, apprise them of. Not yet grasping the true concern behind her words yet, I listen to my daughter-in-law talk about her mother offering to come out from Missouri to help. She talks about Marcus taking off work tomorrow to watch Beauty while she takes the baby to the hospital for more blood tests. I remind her we are only a few hours away, and although things are strained, I would be glad to come to help. She does not answer.

As I sit hear writing these words, a little part of my soul dies. Some part of me has hoped for reconciliation with my judgemental, foolish Marine son and his beautiful little family. Surely my grandchildren are worth whatever price I must pay to be in their lives--I have lived by that thought. I suppose it is time to give up and to let go. If my Marine son could not forgive me being wiccan or gay, he certainly will never forgive his unknown heritage. Obviously, to him it is my fault his son has physical problems.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

More Grief: In Memory of Thor

Thor, a powerful name for such a shy cat, found me ten years ago on a hot fall day as I headed into Pet's Mart. Nestled into the palms a pregnant woman's hands, she was desperately seeking a home for him. His feral mother had the kittens in the bumper of an old Edsel. When Momma cat was hit by a car, the young woman went looking for the kittens. She was too late for all but Thor. Dehydrated and starving, she nursed him back to health for several days. Crying because she loved him and crying because she couldn't keep him, she was seeking a home for the tiny charcoal grey ball of fluff. Her baby was due in a couple of days and the apartment had a no pet rule.

I told her that if no one took him before I came out of the store then I would. I had had Toulouse for two years. I had just adopted/rescued Dickens, Starshine and Firedancer. I didn't need another. I no sooner made it into the store than my decision was made. Pivoting on my heel, I went out and claimed my kitten. Terrified, he rode home between the truck door and the seat. He remained a shy, reclusive cat all of his life. He just never lived up to the towering thunder of his name. Yet he was a loving cat that grew into a beautiful Tom. Huge paws told the story of a cat who should have been much bigger, much heavier. But he was never ill a day of his life.

"Thor hugs!" was the word I would croon to him as I nestled him against my chest. He would wrap his paws around my arm, cuddling under my chin in happiness. He loved to drink water straight from the facet, and I would leave it running for him while brushing my teeth or showering. When he'd get too reclusive, hiding behind the dryer or in the shower, I would spend a few days "wagging" him. Soon, he'd be sleeping on Cameron's chest at night again.

This weekend we realized the extent of the fleas in our pets. Fairly broke, we purchased Hartz flea protection, which I have used previously with success. This morning Thor didn't drink much water when I was getting ready for church. This afternoon I realized we had a problem. Before I could get Cameron on the phone, he had two seizures. I thought he was dead after the second, but he revived. Cameron met me at the door, abandoning a buggy of cat food and cat sand at Wal-Mart, to rush us to the emergency vet. Negotiating cost, horrified at prices, we compromised, put off bills, made hard decisions. They wanted to bathe him first, finishing getting the flea debris off him. He didn't make it through his bath. Another seizure and he was almost gone. Sobbing, whispering to him to go ahead and cross the Rainbow Bridge, we asked the vet to finish the process, to not let him suffer. He was gone before the syringe emptied. Tonight Cameron has buried him next to Bubbles.

The vet told us that he had probably had a previously undiagnosed condition. He was underweight--we assured her this was good compared to what he's often been at. Indeed, as a kitten, I had to create a growth spell because the vet worried he wasn't going to make it in those early days and months. He lived a loving and happy life of ten years. Not bad for a cat that needed magic to live.

And so Toulouse died two years ago, as did the first Starshine. My familiar Bastet died four years ago. Gimli and Jason died the first year I lived here (the vet begged us to take them after they had been abandoned at his office for months). Firedancer has gone, as has Butter Cup and Brom. Butterscotch and Champagne were adopted out. Persephone the First died right after I moved here (a rescue, she never gained adult size). I once had 20 cats brought from Atlanta in another lifetime. Bridget died last summer along with her mate Bandit. Maya (born of Bridget and Baulder) only weighed three pounds and stopped growning. She lived to be three. Bubbles died this weekend and Marco died earlier this summer. By dog Brittany died four years ago at the age of 12. All came to me in time when I lived as a heterosexual woman. A time when my children still lived with me -- a time before the oldest stopped talking to me, or denied me my grandchildren. I still have Tannis, Dickens, Lotus, Xian, Silvermoon, Tully and Temptation.

The grief of loosing furbabies is profound. We've had so many of them along the way. While people often express shock or disapproval of our large number of cats, we have loved each. Indeed, when I lived in Atlanta each was fixed, got yearly shots, frequent vet visits. When my income became a quarter of what it once was, the vet visits decreased, but my love did not. Losing them is like loosing a piece of my heart.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

In Memory of Bubbles

Today we grieve. Bubbles, beloved furbaby, kitten of Bridget and Baulder, died early this morning. She was found curled up in neighbor's driveway, as if she had fallen asleep and simply stepped out of her body. She was 9 years old.
Bubbles had one litter of kittens and developed complications. She was not spayed, but never had another heat. She loved being out of doors, only sleeping in at night when we could convince her to do so. She was vocal, loving, and always greeted us when the car pulled into the driveway.
She adopted me by shear force of will. When I would go to Luna and Cameron's home for a visit, years ago while living in Atlanta, she would greet me at the door and stay in my lap until I left. Eventually, I gave in and took her home with me. Later, when I bought my trailer, after having lived at Luna and Cameron's for six months, she stayed with me but insisted on going outside. She soon learned to convince the neighborhood she would starve if not fed. She was a car slut, hopping into any car door open. Cameron frequently had to stop her from going home with anyone else. I made sure she was tagged just to keep anyone else from adopting her!

Cameron often leaves her car window down, and Bubbles loved sleeping in the car. The only thing she appreciated more was finding an unopened bag of cat food. Often Cameron would go to get the cat food, only to find one corner torn open from Bubbles having had a snack.

Blessed child of Bastet, you will be missed. We love you, baby girl.

Friday, September 11, 2009


Once again, my email list have me wonderful things to think through. This is a compilation of several emails. I was responding to a fellow list member struggling with issues to do with prosperity, asking for needs, and possible backlash from a spell she had done. The following is about three responses, woven into one. I share with my blogging friends because the things I say here influence so much of who I am:
Rather than money spells, I try to think in terms of prosperity spells. I visualize the bounty of the universe as a ocean, sufficient to all and available to all. Many of us have been trained not to be greedy, so we don't ask for the prosperity we need. I don't believe that calling to us that which is needed or desired is greedy.

Prosperity, by the way, is more than money. It is all the things we need, including a place to live, transportation, eduction, bills paid, etc. Specifically, I like to visualize myself drawing on the bounty of the universe. And sometimes, instead of the teaspoons we've been trained to use, I like to use buckets or even pipelines to draw what is needed.

Often, I have found, it's very hard to open to the bounty of the universe. For me, it comes down to worthiness issues. I have trouble internalizing that I am truly worthy of having my needs and desires met; that I am a worthy child of the universe. So when I do prosperity spells, I try to work something in to claim my place in the universe as a child of the lord and lady. I try to state my worthiness and place it within the context of calling to me the bounty available to all when we open ourselves to possibility and magic. I also place the call in the context of best possible outcome, in case there's some miracle that I haven't thought of that might answer my call better than I have envisioned.

I recongnize the right for all to decide what they may/may not do. That said, because I have worthiness issues (abused in the past and all that), I have come to believe that we are co-creators with the universe and have the right and responsiblity to see to that our needs are met so that we can then meet the needs of others appropriately. Indeed, without our basic needs met, it is extremely difficult to meet the needs of others.

it seems to me that wicca/paganism especially demands a heck of a lot of personal responsiblity. In my view, as a witch it is my responsiblity not so much to seek power, but to utilize my resources, including my own personal power, to do the work of Diety (as a priestess I see myself as a channel, but also called to use my own resources in Her service). One of things that drew me to this path, in opposition to Christianity, is that I have a direct access to Deity, and that I am personally responsible to do the work to make the magic happen. When I keep in mind the Wiccan Rede, then it all seems to balance quite nicely.

In my work, I have a responsiblity to provide whatever healing I can, for example, because that is part of my calling to this path. Indeed, I am blessed to work as a therapist and as a substance abuse counselor, so I literally consider myself in the Lady's direct service as a healer. Yes, I have gifts and abilities. I have trained and learned my art for a long time. Yet my gifts and abilities sort of co-mingle with with the priestess part of me to become something really bigger than I am alone. So when I'm balanced and functioning well, I become a channel for the Goddess' work. Perhaps power is wrapped into that work, but I just don't think of that way.

Once I have worked out a spell, I work it repetitively. Usually every night for seven nights, or even thirty. I find that the repetition gets it into my subconscious which further opens me to the possibilities of the universe...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Barack Obama - The Tide Is Turning

Because others can sometimes say it better than I can:

Backporch Priestess: When the news makes me want to tear my hair and throw things, I keep going back to this. Seriously people, no matter which side of the political spectrum you're on, it's time to help make things better or shut up and get out of the way. I...f you can't do anything but heckle (I'm looking at you, Senator Soon-To-Be-Unemployed,) sit the hell down until you have something to contribute.

I believe. Won't you?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Follow Up on President's Speech

South Carolinians that objected to President Obama's inspirational speech seem to have underestimated the power of children to tune him out. One young blogger on the Internet reports that out of 200 students, only two listened. For her account, click here.

So much for the government and Obama's plans to indoctrinate young people in his political agenda. I'm not sure now why I want to weep more...because drinking parties are more important than a president who cared enough to take time from his schedule for future voting citizens, or for the two students who wanted to hear and could not. I've emailed my son, who teaches high school, how this went in Arkansas. I'm not terribly hopeful for a better response.

I think the folks who were so worried about our children being adversely affected by the president's speech underestimated the energy/noise level/attention span of most kids!

The front page of the Harald-Journal reports first Lady Bush supported Obama's plans to encourage children to stay in school. Locally, SC state Rep. Harold Mitchell led black leaders to issue a statement critical of the seven school districts who refused to air the broadcast. While one changed its mind, the rest recorded and reviewed the broadcast for teachers to incorporate the broadcast into their lesson plans.

Uh-huh. And SC leads the nation to educational success/standards, too. Right.

Anyway, the statement reads, in part:
We are embarrassed by the decision of the superintendents of the Spartanburg County Schools not to allow our children to participate in this historic event. Many parents are insulted, as are we. This speech is not only appropriate for our children to hear, but is exactly the type of message they need to hear.
In another quote, they state:
Why was this president second-guessed? Why was it assumed that political indoctrination was his goal? By blindly following certain biased mass media outlets, our superintendents have failed our children and have missed an opportunity to teach a valuable civics lesson. A lesson that everyone, even a school child, has responsibilities as a citizen of this country, and that good citizens obey the rules and work hard.
Apparently our local news, Fox News, is to blame for this disaster. Indeed, it seems that the school has reversed its position and is broadcasting the speech today. They are justifying their decision by saying SC started school three weeks ago and teachers needed time to adjust their curriculum. They also say they have recorded previous presidents for playing at a later time.

Opposing Gay Marriage: Follow Up on Brian Brown

The ombudsman's job is to evaluate reader response. They are expected to protect the truth and accuracy of the publication, regardless of the paper's political stance or agenda. The report to the public whatever changes or responses are made following their feedback. They also assist editors and publishers in being more responsive and responsible in their coverage.

Despite the omnbusman's comments, the Washington Post stops short of holding Brian Brown accountable for a message of hate. Despite his measured speech, he still attacks gay rights and he is still homophobic. A masters degree from Oxford does not mean he understands the true basis of the current struggle for gay rights. We do not ask for special privilege. We do not ask to be treated separately but equally. We do demand that we be be granted equal rights. Brown's statement that he has gay friends does not invalidate his hate-filled stance. As stated in Queerty hatred." When will we as a nation understand that remaining silent, remaining oppressed by homophobia is wrong?

The Washington Post's ombudsman wrote the following in response to the recent story reported by Monica Hesse, previously reprinted in this blog:

'Sanity & a Smile' and an Outpouring of Rage

By Andrew AlexanderSunday, September 6, 2009

The Post recently featured a story by reporter Monica Hesse that ran on the front of the Style section while she was on vacation. The day before returning, she logged on to check e-mails -- and wept.

She was buried by an avalanche of messages angrily attacking her lengthy Aug. 28 profile of Brian Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), the group leading the fight against legalization of same-sex marriage.

Hesse was stunned. She had expected to hear from anti-gay-marriage conservatives who might view the story as "snide."

Instead, she heard from liberals who support gay marriage, accusing her of writing a puff piece about someone they believe fosters prejudice and intolerance. The story was shallow and one-sided, they complained.

Scores also contacted the ombudsman. It's "one of the biggest pieces of crap The Post has published in recent memory," wrote District resident William Grant II. "What's next, a piece on how a KKK leader is just 'someone next door' and 'really a nice person'?"

Hesse has been blistered in the blogosphere, even cast as a bigoted conservative who endorses a homophobic agenda.

I agree that the story fell short, but not because Hesse was naïve or lacked journalistic diligence. In retracing her reporting, it's clear the research was extensive. And some details about her personal life seem to belie claims she has a conservative agenda (more on that later).

Rather, this is a case where three things -- a storytelling concept, a writing technique and a bad headline -- combined to ignite reader reaction as vitriolic as any I've experienced in my seven months as ombudsman.

Hesse's profile began:

"The nightmares of gay marriage supporters are the Pat Robertsons of the world. The James Dobsons, the John Hagees -- the people who specialize in whipping crowds into frothy frenzies, who say things like Katrina was caused by the gays.

"The gay marriage supporters have not met Brian Brown. They should. He might be more worth knowing about."

The story suggested those fighting for same-sex marriage should fear Brown because he's civil, "instantly likable" and a "thoughtful talker." Brown is effective because "he is pleasantly, ruthlessly sane."

Hesse said she decided to let Brown tell his story, as opposed to extensively quoting what others say about him. Her editors didn't object to the concept. Having Brown's story told in his "voice," Hesse reasoned, would allow readers to best assess his arguments.

Fine in theory. But it deprived readers of hearing from others who have battled Brown and find him uncivil and bigoted. To them, he represents injustice. They should have been heard, at length.

"In a profile piece, for a controversial figure like that . . . there should certainly be the other side of it," said Fred Karger, head of a group called Californians Against Hate.

In retrospect, Style editor Lynn Medford agrees. "The lesson is to always, in some way, represent the other side," she said.

Karger, who has fought with Brown over same-sex marriage in California, said, "He is just as shrill, just as anti-gay as any of the leading gay-bashers" have been over the years.

Compounding the story's problems were passages like: "He takes nothing personally. He means nothing personal. He is never accusatory or belittling."

These types of unattributed characterizations are not uncommon in feature writing. But many readers thought Hesse was offering her opinion of who Brown is, as opposed to portraying how he comes across.

Finally, the headline: "Opposing Gay Unions With Sanity & a Smile." To many readers, The Post was saying Brown's views are sane. The headline, written by editors, not Hesse, should have been neutral.

Hesse is a gifted writer, as can be seen in a piece about her marriage in today's Post Magazine. At 28, she's one of Style's rising stars. But she was rocked by the angry reaction to the Brown story and spent most of last week responding to unhappy readers. Especially sensitive to accusations of a "homophobic agenda," her e-mails offered a glimpse into her personal life.

"My current partner is a man," she wrote them. "Before him, my partner of two years was a woman, with whom I discussed health insurance, kids, houses and marriage. You can bet that I found the fact that our marriage wouldn't have been legal to be wrong as hell.

"That doesn't mean that what NOM is trying to do and how they are trying to do it are not important to hear about," she wrote.

Andrew Alexander can be reached at 202-334-7582 or at ombudsman@washpost.com. For daily updates, read the Omblog.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

President's Speech to Piss off South Carolina Parents

Failure: Sometimes its hard to admit.

So President Obama takes interest in our students, and parents don't want their children to listen??? What! According to the Greenville News, the President's intention is to "challenge students to work hard, set educatinal goals and take responsiblity for their learning." So someone explain to me how that becomes a method of indoctrinating children in his poltical agenda?

Colomnist Cal Thomas wrote a column about Senator Kennedy recently, which received some harsh criticism. In response, in today's paper he writes:
Tearing down policy is fine, but diminishing the value of a fellow human simply because you don't like his politics (or his personal behavior) is not a good strategy for persuading him to change either... Public exposure of private sins reminds us of our own cover-ups.

I think his words can taken to heart in South Carolina. Worse, we are allowing our judgemental attitudes adversely affect our children.

Indeed, it seems South Carolina is determined to cut off its nose to spite its face. Refusing to listen to OUR president's speech sends the wrong message. I work in a clinic of addicts. Most don't have a high school education. When denouncing the president becomes a moralist judgement, the message becomes "education is not important" because the child is excused by parents and teachers who send their children to participate in alternative activities. It's fine if South Carolina parents don't like the president's platform. It's not fine to devalue the office of a president.

Worse, South Carolina looses 155 students per day. The graduation rate here is only 55.6%. We should be thanking our president for valueing education and looking to our children's futures.

For those who haven't already found it, the text of the speech may be found here. It's terribly political:

And even when you’re struggling, even when you’re discouraged, and you feel like other people have given up on you – don’t ever give up on yourself. Because when you give up on yourself, you give up on your country.
The story of America isn’t about people who quit when things got tough. It’s about people who kept going, who tried harder, who loved their country too much to do anything less than their best.
South Carolina could sit up and take notice; maybe make a change. But our children aren't in the room.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Sinead's Hand

Why do the majority have the right to determine the rights of the minority?

Six years. How much longer do I have to wait to get married?

Oposing Gay Marriage

I really fail to comprehend why people want to make a living at denying a minority their rights. Even more so am I confused by the obvious lack of separation of church in state in our country. It is no one's business who I choose to make my partner. Didn't we fight a war for that privilege? So why do we legislate morality?

Indeed, a recent column in the local paper stated that adultery was illegal and adequate grounds to rid the state of South Carolina of its current governor. While I have objected to Governor Sanford for years, I don't believe that this love life is my business. His location when he should be serving my state is my business. How he spends my tax dollar is my business. Where he puts his dick is not my business.

I look at gay rights the same way. I have a right to choose my partner. The gender on her driver's licence does not determine my ability to be a good citizen, pay my taxes, or support my local church. So when I encounter idiots, like the senator who recently suggest Matthew Shepherd's death is a hoax, I am horrified. I am even more horrified at the skillful rhetoric of redefining marriage as between a man and woman, which sidesteps the who "ban gay marriage" argument. The leader of this rhetoric, Brian Brown, led the The National Organization for Marriage in persuading California voters to ban same-sex marriage through Proposition 8.

Bigotry's crusader seems intent upon making a name for himself. I can't help wondering what his designated war will actually prove to be a stepping stone into. Certainly, Brown has his sights set on something much larger than simply being a leader of bigots. Pay attention to this man's name. He's got big plans. And he is very successful at what he does: "“Whenever we’ve been able to have a direct vote on the issue, we’ve won — in 30 out of 30 states."

Brown claims that his stance has nothing to do with anti-gay, but he is out to protect same sex marriage. He believes in standing up for "the common sense definition of marriage". He claims there are "real consequences of same sex marriage." Below is the latest of outrageous articles that got my ire up:


Opposing Gay Unions With Sanity & a Smile
NOM Head Moves His Cause to D.C.

By Monica Hesse
Washington Post Staff Writer

The nightmares of gay marriage supporters are the Pat Robertsons of the world. The James Dobsons, the John Hagees -- the people who specialize in whipping crowds into frothy frenzies, who say things like "Katrina was caused by the gays." The gay marriage supporters have not met Brian Brown. They should. He might be more worth knowing about.

Brown is the executive director of the National Organization for Marriage, the preeminent organization dedicated to preventing the legalization of same-sex marriage. For two years, Brown has been traveling across the country. He moved his wife and six kids to California, where NOM was instrumental in passing Proposition 8, the state constitutional amendment defining marriage as an institution only between a man and a woman. Before that, Connecticut, where his cause was hurt when the state Supreme Court legalized gay marriage.

It was NOM that Miss USA runner-up Carrie Prejean went to shortly after her infamous "opposite marriage" pageant answer. "Gathering Storm," the much-YouTubed announcement in which actors discussed how gay marriage would negatively affect their freedom of religion? That was NOM. Now NOM is moving its national headquarters to Washington.

The thing about the John Hagees and the Pat Robertsons is that some people consider them "fringe." And when they speechify, the people they're most persuasive with are the ones who already believe them. But this country is not made up of people in the far wings, right or left. This country is made up of a movable middle, reasonable people looking for reasonable arguments to assure them that their feelings have a rational basis.

Brian Brown speaks to these people. He has a master's degree from Oxford, and completed course work for a doctorate in history from UCLA. He shoulders the accusations of bigotry; it's horrible when people say that your life's mission is actually just prejudice. He tries to help people see that opposing gay marriage does not make them bigots, that the argument should have nothing to do with hate or fear, and everything to do with history and tradition.

The reason Brian Brown is so effective is that he is pleasantly, ruthlessly sane.

* * *
"The Human Rights Campaign is massive," Brown says, referring to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender advocacy group. Brown sits at the nearly empty desk in a nearly empty room -- the H Street NW office space NOM has sublet until the organization finds its own building and moves its staff down from Philadelphia. He is 35, red hair, solidly built, wearing a crisp blue shirt with a white collar. Instantly likable. He's a thoughtful talker, especially when discussing his "opposition, " such as the HRC. "They were ahead of the curve but ... I didn't see any reason why we couldn't do the same thing."

The same thing -- large, well-publicized, well-organized campaigns -- for different purposes. In the world of activism, what works for one side can work for the other. In just two years since its formation, NOM has become a leader in the fight against gay marriage, which Brown calls "the issue of the decade." "Brian has been the foremost grass-roots leader who has been involved in the marriage debate," says Chuck Donovan, a senior vice president at the conservative Family Research Council. "He's one of the more effective leaders out there."

NOM's campaigns have had missteps. "Gathering Storm," with its melodramatic dialogue and fake lightning, prompted parodies as much as panic; one New York Times columnist called it " 'Village of the Damned' meets 'A Chorus Line' " for its instant camp value. Two Million for Marriage, the organization' s push to rally online activists around the country, was similarly unfortunate: Apparently no one at NOM had realized that 2M4M, the hip-sounding tag they'd chosen for the initiative, is also the abbreviation favored by gay couples looking for a threesome.

Brown has been undaunted. Along with NOM President Maggie Gallagher, who lives in New York, he keeps putting out or starting up fires. He raises money. He organizes phone drives. He sits in the empty Washington digs and cheerfully takes conference calls about whom NOM should hire for an Iowa position ("I haven't had good luck with the Heritage job bank, but that doesn't mean anything"). He sends out regular e-mail updates to NOM's mailing list, conveying his excitement on the issues with exclamation points. Some pro-gay marriage activists then get hold of these e-mails and mock them.

But his more informed opponents know that scoffing is a response born of fear. "You have to take them seriously," says Peter Montgomery, a senior fellow for the liberal People for the American Way. "They've raised a tremendous amount of money that they're funneling into various states. They're mostly responsible for putting the Maine veto on the ballot."

Brown is confident that if people hear his message, they will believe it. "People already believe it," he says, "but the issue is so deep-seated that they've never had to create an argument for it. Now we have to give people the language to do that." Create talking points. Help them see.
On NOM's website, printable PDFs show visitors how to explain their position. "Why Marriage Matters" comes in versions for different religions: Protestant (Spanish and English), Catholic (Spanish and English) and Jewish.

Avoid the phrase "ban gay marriage," the talking points suggest, adding that opponents "know it causes us to lose about ten percentage points in polls. Don't use it. Say we're against 'redefining marriage' or in favor of 'marriage as the union of husband and wife' NEVER 'banning same-sex marriage.'"

Bishop Harry Jackson, the Beltsville pastor who has been one of the most vocal gay marriage opponents in the D.C. area, sees a happy partnership between his followers and Brown's group. Jackson says Brown and NOM "have a sense of dignity about human beings. They simply believe that marriage between a man and a woman is the best for society. But they're not gay bashers." "I believe," Brown says, "that there's a clear purpose to what I'm doing."

* * *
Is it possible, in 2009, to avoid the title of "gay basher" while dedicating your life to preventing a portion of the population from participating in a legal process allowed to other people? Does bashing require blows and slurs? Will those who oppose same-sex marriage eventually be put by their opponents into the same pile as people who think interracial marriage should be banned?

Brown worries about that, about being squeezed out of the debate. "The racial bigot comparison is the most troubling part of the argument," Brown says. It's horrible, offensive, deliberately incendiary. He thinks it is "irrational, " a word he uses often. It is irrational when the opposition points to polls suggesting that most young people support gay marriage. "People mature," he says. Their views change. It is irrational when people believe that the legalization of same-sex marriage is an inevitability: "We have the people. We have not had such an organized force" before, Brown says.

Brown is Catholic. He converted at Oxford, where he studied after a BA at Whittier College (he grew up surfing in California). He liked Catholicism' s traditions of social justice and work for the poor. Along the way, he met Sue, also a devout Catholic. After UCLA he accepted a position with the Family Institute of Connecticut, and worked to prevent the distribution of condoms in schools. "People would ask, 'What does your husband do?' " Sue says. "It was embarrassing to say he worked on condoms. But it was nothing compared to this."

His faith is important to him, but in his arguments he is ever the PhD candidate, addressing questions and dismissing counterarguments with fascination. "I have gay people who are friends and family," he says. "We can disagree on all sorts of things and still care about each other." And later, "Of course, I have to take their arguments seriously. This issue is important. Ideas have consequences. "

He takes nothing personally. He means nothing personal. He is never accusatory or belittling. His arguments are based on his understandings of history, not on messages from God that gays caused Hurricane Katrina. In short: The institution of marriage has always been between a man and a woman. Yes, there have been homosexual relationships. But no society that he knows of, in the history of the world, has ever condoned same-sex marriage.

"Do they always agree on the number of partners? Do they always agree on the form of monogamy? No," Brown says, but they've all agreed on the gender issue. It's what's best for families, he says. It's the union that can biologically produce children, he says. It's all about the way things have always been done. He chose his new church, St. Catherine of Siena, because it still offers Latin Mass. Other noted conservatives have been parishioners there; Antonin Scalia has worshiped at St. Catherine's.

"I think it's irrational that up until 10 years ago, all of these societies agreed with my position" on same-sex marriage, he says, and now suddenly that position is bigotry. "The opposition is trying to marginalize and suppress us," he says. "Usually, that happens with positions that are actually minorities. But we're the majority."

Does he ever think that what he sees as an abrupt historical shift is, perhaps, progress? Does it hurt his feelings when people accuse him of prejudice? "I think," he says, "it's irrational."

* * *
When Brown came from California a few months ago, the family moved into a comfortable house in Great Falls, surrounded by trees. His children are precocious and sweet; his wife is gracious and funny.

Sue Brown had never really thought about same-sex marriage until she met Brian. "Obviously, I always realized there were gay people," she says one Friday morning, sitting in the still-sparsely furnished living room. "But I didn't think about them wanting to get married." And once she did: "Initially, I probably thought, well, what's the big deal if they do? What does it have to do with me?"

When she and Brian got engaged, she envisioned normal family life, both of them returning from their jobs -- she was a high school English teacher -- and having family dinner. Now, while he's crusading, she deals with home-schooling the older children and caring for the younger. It hasn't been easy.

"Connecticut was really hard," she says. In Connecticut, they lived on a street with two sets of lesbian parents. One summer a mutual acquaintance threw a neighborhood party. Brian wasn't invited at all, and Sue's invitation came with a note: "We know what Brian does. If your views are not the same, you can come to the party." Sue stayed home. "I get how [gays and lesbians] feel," she says. "I get that."

She's pictured what it might be like to be on the other side of this debate. "I know many awesome women, and I've thought about what if I got together with one of them" and tried to raise a family. She has thought through it. She supports her husband. "I can only go by my own experience, and I believe there's a huge difference in gender." The kids don't need Brian "walking in the door because he's another person. They need him because he's a man."

They haven't made a lot of friends here so far. He works endless hours and so does she. Sue starts off by telling people that he's the director of a nonprofit group. If they ask for more information, she tells them it's a nonprofit dedicated to preserving marriage. And then, of course, they ask her about his position on gay marriage. Whether he's for it or against it.

Brian has come into the room. He's late for a conference call and trying to get out the door. "What time will you be home tonight?" Sue asks.

"Ahhhh . . . "


"Well... "

"Six. Just say it and do it. Six."

He doesn't quite agree, but he doesn't disagree, either. And then he's out the door, going off to quietly crusade for the hearts and minds of people who, like Brown, pride themselves on being rational, mainstream and sane.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company


The Washington Post received a lot of negative reactions to this story. The reporter admittedly had let Brown tell the story, rather than "quoting what others said about him.

“Fine in theory. But it deprived readers of hearing from others who have battled Brown and find him uncivil and bigoted. To them, he represents injustice. They should have been heard, at length.”

For a video clip of Brian Brown's interview on the Michelangelo Signorile Show, click here.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Doing "What Feels Right" in Wicca

I adore my witch study group because they make me think. I find myself challenging years of training, years of study, and many preconceived notions. Today was especially challening. One young, firey member whom I treasure questioned why she had to trust what others say when, even as a new and inexpereinced witch, she knew in the depths of self what felt right whether or not she had the experience to back it.

At the risk of painting my back with a target, I'm going to risk wading in on this one. Remember, this in only my .02 cents worth, backed by coven work, solitaire work, and my eclectic leanings after leaving several covens over the years. So yes, I know my stuff. Nope, don't know everything: )

Generally, when a new person petitions to enter a group, be it a coven, grove, or whatever, they are taught tools/associations/etc. The reason is that in order to enter the group mind, and to achieve tighter focus/results, if everyone has the same view of "green means money" or "blue means healing when we can't use green cause it would cause harm" or "wand represents wisdom/air" while athame represents "fire/will" then the group can effect stronger magic because everyone is working together with the same associations/imagery.

Now, that does not negate the use of personal associations/"feels right" kind of stuff. When that group member is at home they may choose yellow for a healing color because they gave a cool piece of citrine on the altar that works for them. The solitaire might use a piece of black obsidian instead, because they want to target cancer cells and destroy them. In each case, magick is effective. In each case, the witch had studies, prepared, and knew what they were doing.

Now, let's look at an example of the danger of doing "what feels right" without having studied or been part of a group. Let's say my friend has cancer and asks for a healing spell. I know that green is good for healing, so I use it as a part of my healing ritual. It feels right. What I don't realize is that green, as a color of growth, will actually grow my friend's cancer even faster. If she steps into my circle without special shielding, the circle energy will grow her cancer even faster. These are the counter intuitive aspects that not being a part of a group to train, or not being a part of a list like this one, or not asking those who have been around a while. I can't emphasize this enough: there are counter-intuitive aspects of magick that can cause harm.

Stepping out even further on a limb: Outside of magic, "what feels right" for a twenty-year-old is not the same as "what-feels-right" for a fifty year old. The same applies to magic. Now, on the flip side, that might mean that I, as an older memeber of the community, limit myself unnecessarily because I have developed so much caution, or because I have bought into coven teaching without questioning as much as twenty-something.

Consequently, I think that we function better in the pagan community when we discuss, share, listen to teach other. Age does not buy me respect or knowledge. Age does not negate your knowledge/experience. We learn together. Nevertheless, those of us who have practiced awhile, who are crones, who do research have an edge all sould pay attention to and benefit from. And it can be a matter, especially in a discussion group, of taking what you want and leaving the rest.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Identity v. Labels

I recently received an email from a friend regarding her identity has a bisexual woman. While she is married to a woman, she feels offended when she is identified as a lesbian. My friend questions if the morality of her Christian upbringing taints the label of lesbian, or if there is something else that bothers her. Before I answer her, however, I thought I would work out some of my thoughts here.

For forty years I identified as a heterosexual woman. I have been married four times, divorced three times and widowed once. I have two adult sons. While there had been a few women in my life along the way, I had mostly relegated those relationships to my "wilder" days. As a now post-menopausal woman, now I recognize how profoundly hormones, church and societal expectations dictated my self identification.

My first clue of at least being bisexual came when I was seventeen. My neighbor was twenty-five, and her husband close to forty. We got involved in a threesome, but my focus was much more on her than her husband. Ten years later in graduate school, although I was married, I had a two year long relationship with a lesbian. Still later there was a brief affair with a much younger woman who wasn't really ready for a relationship with me and my complications.

As the years accumulated and the damage worsened, I chose inappropriate men. By the end, I had a string of sociopaths that would make your skin crawl. It was a dark time, and I was blessed by the Lady to have survived. At forty I embarked upon a brief affair with a woman I love deeply, now as my sister-of-the-heart. In traditional lesbian fashion, my ex-lover is also my best friend.

For years I was resistant to identifying as lesbian. I have two sons that I love deeply. I have been married to men that I loved. I felt that if I identified as lesbian, I disavowed those relationships. I no longer believe that; now I believe that identities are fluid, shifting with the place we find ourselves. I was heterosexual. I was bisexual. I am lesbian.

Cameron and I began our relationship six years ago. The word bisexual is a difficult one for her, as her former lover identified as bisexual, and then proved to prefer men. The pain and anxiety of those years has left her very sensitized. Certainly the lesbian community treats women who identify as bisexual with great suspicion. The accusation of greediness, though wrong, is not uncommon.

For myself, I decided that if I am in a committed relationship with a woman, then I am going to identify as lesbian. I think I secretly like the rebelliousness of it, as well. Our society still disproves of homosexuality, and if I am bisexual, then our society will assume I haven't met the right man yet. If I am lesbian, I can be a card-carrying rainbow flag kind of girl. Yet I don't think my blatant homosexuality is as difficult of a space to occupy as being bisexual. It seems to me that no matter who your partner is, you would have to always defend that other aspect of self in order to be true to your identity.

Most importantly for me, I don't believe I could ever engage in an intimate relationship with another man. If, Goddess forbid, Cameron should cross in to the summerlands before me, I cannot see myself involved with a man. I don't find myself watching them, or feeling a pull of attraction or desire. I do find myself watching women, attracted to them, desiring them. So it makes since to me that the drive of hormones has subsided, and this place in my life is exclusively lesbian.

I wonder if my friend resists identifying as lesbian because it would require her to disavow an important part of herself. Perhaps she has had significant heterosexual relationships and she doesn't want to be accused of not letting them work out well because she was really gay. Perhaps our society's attitudes make her resistant to limiting herself, regardless of the commitment to her current relationship. Perhaps the echoes of our Christian churches cause her to be resistant of the lesbian label.

Ultimately, I think it comes down to a difference between identity and labels. How we identify is self determined. I am a lesbian whether I am with a partner or not. Labels, on the other hand, tend to be applied by other's perceptions of us. So perhaps my friend objects to the labels others apply to her, even though she is married to a woman, because the label limits her identity.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Duality in Wicca

Looking at the second question posted to my email Wiccan group:

It is stated in this chapter that the God and Goddess are equal, and that religion based entirely on feminine energy is just as unbalanced and unnatural as one totally masculine in focus. What is your view?
I am horrified that we are training newbies that just focusing on male or female energy is unnatural. Certainly, male and female energy create a balance, harmony, resonance. Male energy certainly functions differently than female energy. Male energy is projective while female energy is receptive. Certainly the traditional coven in which I trained preferred male/female duality. But this mindset is based in dualism. Being a gay woman, to me, fundamentally challenges dualism. If I don't cast my life in dualistic energy systems, and I function healthily, then I don't need to cast my religion in dualism.

Indeed, when I was struggling to recover from spiritual abuse, I had to walk away from Christianity and that meant, for me, male energy. I needed to find a healthy way to Divinity that did not involve a patriarchal approach, especially not a Christian God. By embracing a goddess-centered belief system, I claimed the feminine divinity within. In some ways, I am surprised that I did not seek a Dianic coven, especially during the years I was coming out as a lesbian. These days I find myself moving more toward inclusiveness of both male and female energy. But I strongly suspect that has a lot to do with Cameron, because she priests using male energy.

Ironically, walking the path of the Goddess has brought me full circle. Once I redefined my spirituality on the Goddess, I found new ways to relate to the God. As I worked with various gods, and found men who were trustworthy, I found healing. Eventually, that led back to a Christian church (Episcopalian). There days I don't see the divisions that separate paganism and Christianity. Instead, I see the layers that make Divinity approachable to all.

Just as there are Christian mysteries, or Wiccan Mysteries, there are also Women's mysteries and Men's mysteries. As we travel through those numinous spaces, we connect with deeper levels of self and Divinity. So it seems reasonable to me that working with exclusive groups can deepen our spirituality. And for some, it seems to me, it is appropriate to seek gods or goddesses exclusively. I don't think that indicates a handicap. I do think it simply indicates what works for the individual. I also think my beliefs are once more a reason I claim to be an eclectic witch!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Wicca and Divine Power

I love being part of an online community because they give me so much to think about. Currently, I'm a mentor for a study group that is reading Scott Cunningham's Wicca for the Solitary Practitioner. Here's the first question posed to the group and my response.

Cunningham says that the Wicca acknowledge a supreme divine power from which the universe sprang, but because the concept of this power is so far beyond our comprehension, it has been nearly lost in Wicca because of our difficulty relating to it. Do you agree? How do you personally feel about this concept?

As many of you know, Cameron and I are duel pathed. I tease her that she's a little more Christian than Wiccan, and I am a little more Wicccan that Christian. But since I'm about to join the church where she's a member, guess I best claim both equally! LOL

And yes, there's a reason for that statement that relates to our first discussion question. Bear in mind that these are my personal beliefs and by no means do I think they apply to anyone else.

Abuse characterized my early years, and patriarchy complete with the Christian church was part of that trauma. For many years I walked away from the Christian God. Instead, I sought the Goddess as a way to Divinity and healing. I knew from the first time I stepped into circle that I was called to be a priestess. Twelve years later, this third degree priestess in reconciling her faith in dual traditions.

In the big picture, so to speak, I picture "Divinity" as a wholeness beyond my understanding with both male and female aspects. I do think Divinity is incomprehensible, and that it is necessary to break it down to male and female aspects in order to relate to divinity. I also belive that divinity resides within each of us, hence we greet one another as "thou art god/dess".

On one hand, I don't picture "God" in church as exclusively the male Deity of the Christian faith. I try to think of the Christian God including Sophia, the Holy Spirit, or Wisdom.

On the other hand, I find the male aspect easily in church because that is the thoughtform fed by so many centuries of patriarchy and Christian teaching. I do tend to focus on the female aspect in my priestess role. Nevertheless, in a round about way, I have come to agree with Cunningham's statement regarding a supreme divine power. And since Cameron channels male energy, I leave all the male "stuff" to her!

As my path continues, I expect that in another ten years I will be able to find both male and female aspects of Divinity regardless of being in circle or church. I firmly believe in the necessity of balance, and expect to find the balance of male and female energy within myself as my healing continues, whether that be in this lifetime or the next.

How I actually go about reconciling my dual path is beyond the scope of this question. But I will say that thinking about this topic led me to Wiccan Place three months ago. While I was waiting to be approved to join, I started a blog, and anyone is welcome to read more there, Wicca and Christianity

Musings and Reflections upon Turning 46

Having a birthday on September first, right when school starts, meant that as a child I always claimed my new birthday much earlier in the summer so as to appear older. I found myself resuming that habit this year. Perhaps I was not seeking to appear older so much as the last year has been so full I should already be able to claim that next year!

The last few years have been quite eventful. I began working on an Ed.S. degree in marriage and family therapy in the spring semester of 2007. I am quickly becoming a dinosaur in a program that has shifted to only offering a MA. I am now half way through my practicum, and this time next year will be taking the liscensure exam and beginning my fellowship.

When I began the graduate program, I was making excellent money as a debt collector as well as receiving tuition reimbursements. My disposable income has decreased by $31,000 a year. We are barely making it, and that's thanks to whatever work Cameron can occasionally pick up and student loans. But we are still afloat, unlike so many right now with this economy.

Cameron and I have now celebrated six years together. While we continue to struggle with extreme poverty, we are rich in many thing that matter. We did finally manage to exchange our old ratty love seat (extremely damaged by cats and passing years) for a futon this week. Lovely birthday present for me!

My youngest son called me yesterday and wished me a happy birthday. The Enlightened One has landed a long-term substitute teaching position in his local school district for decent pay. His wife is finishing up her student teaching. They bring my heart joy. I also raised the idea of meeting up during my westward camping trip next summer when Cameron and I go see the parental units again.

I continue to work in my field, albeit substance abuse. Few of my peers have landed a position since their graduation. With budget cuts in South Carolina, getting a job with DSS or Mental Health continues to prove challenging. It's my hope to never have to apply for another job (except my fellowship). I hope that while working on my fellowship, I can start my own practice. At the end, hopefully I will have enough clients to work for myself.

I adore this stage of my life. The growing pains are past. Most of the trauma has settled (PTSD doesn't seem to ever go away entirely). I am in a committed relationship with a woman who treats me wonderfully and loves me well, my children flourish, and I work in my field. With the exceptions of the hardships inflicted by a shortage of money, my life is exactly what I want it to be today. Not so shabby for being only 46!