Thursday, May 31, 2012

Church is Everyday

Yay, Steven Colbert. A Catholic.
So I started my job at a Director of Religious Education at one of my local UU churches. I am working almost every day getting up and running as a DRE, and it got me to thinking about that peculiar Judeo-Christian habit of "doing church" (or schule) once a week. After all, a lot of my weekly workload is gearing up for a big to-do on Sunday that includes others -in worship services or in class.

Most of the time when I have felt particularly spiritual or religious (see my earlier definition of religious to see why I equate them), it has been when I have a daily anchor in my life- a practice of sitting, devotion, a spell that needs tending daily, etc. And in all those activities, I am an active participant, not a passive observer. Yet the idea of church/schule is where we "participate" with attendance- perhaps singing along or call and response, but often never crafting the worship service per se. After all, in Judeo-Christian traditions, we have clergy for that.

 In my Witchcraft tradition, if you are an initiate you ARE clergy, and if you are not initiated then you have yet to become a part of the tradition. So I have a unique perspective coming to all of this, I realize. (Perhaps I sought out such a tradition because of my personal needs- in order to stay clean/kala and centered/aligned I actually need a daily anchor. Perhaps it is a weakness. But I find that if I do not have this anchor, I tend to get caught up in the mundane world and its trivia, people are their drama, and all sorts of things that aren't actually important.)

So the idea of just attending worship services weekly has never struck me as particularly religious (again, see my definition). Perhaps that is why I was drawn to UUs (and Quakers, among other religions other than my own) in the first place. While they meet weekly, it is more of a "touchstone" practice. They do the work of church throughout the week- focusing on social justice matters and building community Monday-Saturday, and then come together to celebrate and meditate together on results and work yet to be done on Sunday. Or at least the places that I have attended seem to do that.

It got me to thinking. Church really is every day. To "do church", one needs to have a commitment that extends beyond the "showing up phase" on Sundays and gets into a daily or every few days regularity. Church is a framework- a lens with which we see the world and a tool with which to bless it. Time to go to church.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Back to "Normal"

Totally unrelated, but I love this quote and the work
of this amazing woman!
Maybe you didn't notice, but the blog has slowed in the last month or so. It has been a combination of culminating my semester and then, once it was over a broken laptop.

I never knew how much I was connected to this machine and how much I relied upon it until it disappeared. Now that it is repaired and I am catching up, you can expect me to get back on a more regular blogging schedule.

What's been happening offline?

I have been working hard to learn my new position at the NUUC. I am working on lining up a summer and fall curriculum for the children and youth there, especially. So excited to start OWL training this fall.

My son is speaking in full and ever more complex sentences and reasoning. It blows me away. He says multiple things every day that are more complicated and nuanced in his use of language than ever before. I am amazed by him! I have been spending time with him and taking it all in.

Also unrelated, but I really am annoyed by the wealthy and
entitled of this world telling the working people that *we*
need to suck it up because they have been robbing us blind.
While we have not called it "austerity measures" in the US,
we have had a campaign waged against working people
consistently for a while now.
My gardening projects are taking off: tomatoes in the ground, peppers about to be, and a bed of medicinal and culinary herbs, too. I have been collecting bricks for my herb spiral, and beer and wine bottles to edge our beds and lawn in a cool decorative way. My worm bin has given us a bunch of "tea" that have made the plants very happy. We took a chainsaw to horrible 1970's era shrubs in the front of the house, and are using the brick raised bed for trellised plants lie morning glories, a pond, and flowers. It will look much nicer.

A group that I am working with, Art Party Columbus, has been super busy writing grants and building portable walls and pedestals for the Columbus Arts Festival show. Using power tools in this heat means not only getting super sweaty, but covered in sawdust. I haven't been this grimy and thankful for indoor plumbing in a while.

The community garden I help at did some amazing work with donated bricks- we took a raised bed and separated it into three areas with the brick and are building pathways, so the kids don't harm the plants (the garden is on a school property).

I will be actively posting again soon- stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Review: The Mary-El Tarot

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OK, I have to let you know up front. I have been a fan of the Mary-el deck for years, even before it was released. I have been following the amazing work of Marie White, who began painting her interpretations of tarot cards in 1997. I discovered her site with the paintings of most, but not all, of the deck several years ago. I eagerly waited for new paintings/cards to be released and often posted on Facebook when a new one came out.

I was thrilled to see the deck finally released this year and immediately asked the publisher for a review copy. I was thrilled that I managed to get one. So I am letting you know, that I was expecting a wonderful (free) deck but I got so much more than I anticipated. This deck and its accompanying book are so symbolically complete, so artistically rendered, so Witchingly accurate in its symbolic representations of the cards, that it is now going to be my sole deck.

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I expected the amazing paintings put into a deck format. And the publisher did an amazing job- the heft and size of the cards, the accurate colors on the paintings, the amount of coating- it's all perfect for someone wanting a high quality deck. But they went above and beyond and also published Marie's 192 page book, "Landscapes of the Abyss" on the deck as well and put it all in a fantastic box that you will want to keep. (Although I am still searching for the perfect bag for the deck...)

The symbolism on this deck rings more true to me than any other deck I have loved and worked with before. I am one of those people that have never found that "perfect deck" for me (until now). In the eighties, I colored my own BOTA deck as I learned the symbolism of the tarot and how to work with it. I have had Rider and Universal Waite decks that served me well. I had a "Daughters of the Moon" round deck back in the early nineties (Yes, I was a Dianic for a while there). I had an artist designed deck once before, called the Sakki Sakki deck. In the last 6 or so years before this deck, I constantly wavered between the Greenwood, the Thoth, and the Cosmic Tribe decks for different reasons.

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The Greenwood seemed to be best at representing my religion, as it had no Christian imagery in it, which cannot be said for most decks. The Thoth is by far the best researched deck in terms of symbolism and correspondences- which you would expect from its intellectual powerhouse of a creator, crazy uncle Al. And the Cosmic Tribe is pro queer, pro sex and more modern (and I know several of the models for the deck personally). But none of the previous decks suited me enough to keep me from searching. Until now. Most decks are too cutesy, too fluffy, or too cerebral (leaving the embodied experience of Witchyness behind in lieu of "high Magick" claptrap).

I needed a deck that celebrates and accurately portrays the symbolism and correspondences we all need in order to use tarot as a real tool, but never forget that the cards should also act on a gut level, too- and embody the experience of what they represent for the reader.

Marie must have had an amazing journey creating her deck these last 15 years, because in addition to the research that she did to create amazing paintings, she wrote a book that is stunning in its depth and explanations of the cards:

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Just as the Fool is nothing, the Magician is everything. It contains everything and everything flows from it.The Magician stands between the primordial mother hidden beneath the surface of the water, and the primordial father with his sun, and the infinite lemniscate. The two trees are a doorway between the spiritual and corporeal world and the Magician, cloaked in Earth, is handing you a Metatron's cube (or a Phoenix's egg)....- from the first two paragraphs of the Magician card description.
The Emperor takes the diversity and abundance of life from the Emperess and he organizes it and puts it in order, imposes law on it. He is number 4 and as such he is extremely stable and is the embodiment of the idea of earth. He is the earthly father archetype and king of kings, ruler of the four quarters of the earth, the four pillars that hold up the heavens, the four sides of a pyramid, stable and square. He imposes order and harmony on the elements. He is the manifestation of spirit into earth. LIke Kind Arthur, or the fisher King of legend, he IS the land..." -from first paragraph of the Emperor card description.

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She goes on with just enough ceremonial magick to please the geek in me, stunning visual imagery that resonates with the Witch in me, and never once abandons the original symbolism the tarot contains. Indeed, she based her paintings and deck around three important pillars of tarot: the Raider Waite, the Thoth, and the Marseille decks. It is obvious that she was working hard to create something new within a very old and respected framework, rather than creating a whole new oracle deck rooted in nothing. Her self-imposed task was much harder, and took lots of brains and passion to complete. She succeeded!

The book, Landscapes of the Abyss, is so dense it is going to take me weeks to read each page and stare at the corresponding card. And after getting such a gorgeous deck, I want to do just that. Off to play!

Friday, May 18, 2012

And I'm Off (and Running)!

On Tuesday the 15th, I had my first day of working in a job with a real job description for someone other than myself in a long time. In 1998, stopped working for others (after a long stint of non-profit work and work at worker-owned cooperatives) and opened my own businesses (and worked as a contractor for others, sometimes).

While I love the flexibility of being a contractor and the freedom of running my own businesses, I am so glad to be back in a position within an organization bigger than myself.

As the new Director of Religious Education (and Administrative Assistant) of a local UU church, I have a wealth of gifted and experienced volunteers to assist me. I am free to fulfill my vision of multi-religious, multicultural education and have people cheer me on!

I am on my way to a training this weekend in Pittsburgh. It is for the Our Whole Lives sexuality education curriculum designed by the UUs and the United Church of Christ. It is one of the most comprehensive and thorough of its kind. I am thrilled that I get to teach this curriculum!

I am currently working on a summer curriculum that includes Midsummer, Father's Day, and the value of asking questions.

I will report back next week! Until then, have a great weekend!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Inspiration for my Unschooling

I sway back and forth in my head between homeschooling and unschooling Rowan. I love the idea of unschooling, and how it give a child more autonomy over their learning process. I tend to think that my predeliction to choose homeschooling instead of unschooling is a controlling instinct. So I waiver- assuming that I will unschool unless I see obvious deficits that need to be addressed. Anyone who has experience with either model and has something to say, please feel free to leave a comment. I would love to hear from you.

On top of that conundrum, I am considering part time preschool. My son is so social and gregarious that I wonder if I should start homeschool AFTER a preschool experience. He loves seeing other kids so much and talks about all his friends incessantly. A good preschool would give him the social time that he needs while freeing his father and I to get stuff done (without worrying about Rowan not learning anything).

Why am I not giving my son the experience that I had, in a decent public school? After all, I was a public school teacher... Frankly, my experience does not exist any more- even in the school that I attended. I am often horrified by stories coming out of public and private schools these days. The bullying, the metal detectors and locker inspections, the teaching to standardized tests, the inequality of schools within a state based on class and race, and the drilled forced compliance and obedience that often is the focus more than exploration and inquiry. And that makes me confident that homeschooling or unscholing is a better option for my son.

So I know what I do not want, but what do I want? Recently, I read a great article that talks about the positive reasons to homeschool, instead of focusing on the negatives. And it got me to setting goals for my education of Rowan.

There are so many things that I want for him. I want him to be a free thinker and to love learning. I want him to get the best education, regardless of current politics that affect the currricula du jour. I want him to challenge and question everything. I want him to love to read- for pleasure as well as learning (and to see the two as intertwined), and not dismiss it as a "girly thing". Indeed, I don't want him hyper-indoctrinated into the "boys do/wear/act like this and girls do/wear/act like (the "opposite"). I want him to be creative and expressive without being ridiculed for it. I would love for him to play music, to dance, to take martial arts, to be a visual artist, to love science and the natural world, to understand people's history and the world around him, to value diversity and experience it every day, to travel, and to love life. I want him to be happy, healthy, and wise. A school room just seems so restrictive, given that tall order! I want the world to be his classroom- so I want to travel the world with him.

Every once in a while, I read about an awesome kid and think, "I hope that Rowan does something like that one day." Like this boy, who loves history and isn't afraid to challenge authority. He is a great role model for my son.

What are your educational dreams for your child? How are you working towards them?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A more sustainable life

We moved to Ohio because we wanted to have a lifestyle that was still urban, but slower.We wanted to make time for living sustainably- in harmony with the earth, its cycles, and its other inhabitants. You know, like a Witch should!

Since moving to Ohio in mid-February, we have started the following:

We are making our own kefir.
At the rate my son drinks it, it is more economical
and healthy to make it ourselves.
Organic raw milk!
Plus, no more plastic bottles from the store!

Speaking of bottles, in addition to recycling, we are saving
our glass bottles to edge our garden beds.

We have started wildcrafting walks as a family.
This bouquet came from our last walk, where
I discovered delicious sassafrass! 

My library is mostly unpacked...

Herb books, mushroom books, lots of reference guides!

We obviously need to drink more wine.

Seedlings. These are thyme, cilantro, and tomatoes.

This pond will be cleaned and moved into a huge front box
along with morning glories, trumpetvine, and other decorative plants.
It's gonna be so much better than the ugly bushes that are there now.

Rowan on the porch.

Our current wild side yard, which will become raised beds.

Rowan "helping".

Putting the plants debris in the compost pile

Our first cleared out area on our side of the yard.
It was totally overgrown.

This is one of the few heirloom organic seed companies
that isn't owned in any way by Monsanto.
Their stocks go back to the 1700's and are
amazing in their variety.
Order a $5 catalogue to help support their efforts, please!

Seedlings for kohlrabi, peppers, tomatoes,
sweet potatoes, potatoes, peppers.

Seedlings for basil, rosemary, strawberry, echinacea,
parsley, and more.

This awful 1970's era bush is going to go.
It will make room in that huge brick planter box
for a pond, gorgeous vining flowers and trellises.
On the rim will be containers of even more flowers.

The bush, partially cut back, reveals trash. Boo!

My latest order from Landreth Seeds:
lots of herbs and pollinator attractors!

My worm bin has some "tea" to use on my
plants already!

Using the dryer less. When I do, I am saving my dryer lint and
putting it in egg cartons with beeswax for firestarters.
The neighbors have a lovely firepit that they share.

We are using soap nuts now in cotton bags instead
of clothes detergent. We can compost them when we are done.
We have a compost pile in the back, as well as the worm bin.

Worm food!
All over, people are starting to do more sustainably-conscious things. What are you doing?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

I am a DRE!

Before moving out to Ohio, I met with my former grad school advisor one last time. I explained that I have not been pursuing a ministerial credential. I realized it was not my calling about a semester into my master's degree. But I was unsure about what I wanted until right before we left. I wanted to work with kids again.*

While I was evaluating my career goals, I volunteered. First, at First Unitarian Church of Oakland (which was so inspirational and awesome that it inspired me to become a member of their church, a first ever for me) in the Religious Education (RE) program. I helped out in the nursery, where my son played and also took on the "Club UU" kids- who were from 4th-6th grade. One RE position led to another as I asked to be a (paid!) RE summer school teacher at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists. It was a one room school house for all ages of kids. Those two experiences helped me decide that working with kids and youth again was for me.

Then we moved to Ohio, and I was delighted to join First Unitarian Universalist Society of Marietta. It is a bastion of progressive religious thought in its area and I was blessed with the 4th-8th graders and we had lots of fun. They were cool with my Witchy self and let me create my own curriculum! This was great, because I have been working on a curriculum for Rowan and it gave me a chance to test some things out.

When we finally made it to Columbus, I wanted to continue to volunteer, become a part of a church, and hopefully find a DRE position one day. I had 4 churches within 25 miles to choose from. I started with North Unitarian Universalist Congregation, as my current grad school advisor (Rev. Dr. Ritchie) is the minister there. When I met with her, I told her that I ultimately wanted to work in RE, and she offered me a volunteer position in the already established teaching schedule. Together, we worked out a grad-school-credit-for-volunteer-DRE-duties arrangement in the fall. Their church no longer had a DRE. Rev. Dr. Ritchie had taken on that role when the last one left, and she had stopped looking for a replacement, assuming one would "fall out of the sky" when the time was right. I was excited about proving myself within the congregation as a volunteer and hoping that they would want me and create a budget for the position one day.

Then Rev. Dr. Ritchie emailed me about a great opportunity at *another church*.

The biggest church in the Columbus area is here in my very own neighborhood- First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus. It is on par in size with Oakland's church and is very active. I interviewed there last month to be a summer Sunday School teacher, much like I was in Berkeley (but with a lot more kids!). But a couple days before my exciting interview, I got an email from Rev. Dr. Ritchie- there was a sudden opening in her staff, as her Administrative Assistant (AA) just gave notice. Was I interested?

Well, yes. We are just getting on our feet here in Columbus and a part time job (especially one that can mostly be done from home!) was most welcome. Then she let me know that she was re-crafting the position I would be the AA as well as a DRE- and as the position grew I could get more DRE hours. I had to interview with the Board of Directors of course and get their approval. I was so nervous!

I put on my only suit (a pinstripe skirt number) and reviewed the job description, the church's website and newsletters, and the UUA's guidelines for becoming credentialed in Religious Education. So long story short., I got the job!!!

I start May 14 and that following weekend I head to Pittsburgh, PA for a training in the Our Whole Lives (OWL) program. This training alone is super exciting. This is hands-down the BEST sexuality curriculum around. I wanted to get certified as an OWL educator even before I wanted to be a DRE. (I took a Sex and the Spirit class at seminary where I learned about it and was seriously impressed.)

Flow brought me here to Ohio for a reason. And I am following the Flow and benefitting from it.

*I say again because I have been a public school teacher, a youth mentor, a tutor, and a girl scout leader.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

General Strike!

Today, I do no Work. No School. No Shopping. No Chores. No Banking.

Won't you join us?