My muse has forgiven me

My Muse has returned to me!

My Muse has returned to me!

I am sure my loyal followers must believe that I fell off the earth or that I had given up on writing completely.  Neither idea is completely true or completely false.  There has been a lot of changes to my life including another burned down house (I really have to stop doing that), several job changes and children who keep growing up and keep needing to be fed.  Can you believe those rugrats want to be fed EVERY DAY!?  All of that sturm and drang led to me neglecting my muse and she in her sorrow turned her face from me.

However, I have come to realize that I cannot live without my true love – writing.  So my glorious muse has forgiven me for neglecting her and she has once again inspired me.  I hope she will continue to give me her flashes of insight and wisdom.  If she does I will continue to pass them on to you, my gentle readers.

I will be posting a longer article soon.  Please read it and the rest that will follow.

All my love,
Grace Mary Kathryn.

A Parable For Life… from a Kitchen Wytch

The Zen of Kitchen witchery is key to life.

The Wytching Way

potsteaming

One day, a young woman went to her mother and told her how hard her life was going for her.  She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up.

She was so tired of fighting and struggling.  It seemed as one problem was solved, a new one arose.

Her mother took her to the kitchen.

She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil.

In the first, she placed fresh carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans.

She let them sit and boil, without saying a word.

In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners.  She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl.  She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl.  Lastly, she ladled the coffee out…

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Beauty has Her Ways

Curvy and Beautiful put this up on Facebook

Curvy and Beautiful put this up on Facebook

I have a question that has been bothering me for a while and this is as good a place as any to throw it out into the world and start a discussion.  Please give me your thoughts.

I came across the picture to the left on my Facebook wall.  (I will include as much photo credit as I have.  If someone knows the creator, please tell me and I will credit that person.)  I am a fierce opponent to beauty being measured only by how skinny a woman is.  I certainly believe that a woman’s VALUE is only marginally related to her physical appearance {say maybe 0.0002% of a person’s overall value is appearance}.  I, also, understand that instead of allowing women’s beauty to include all varieties, we, as a culture, are narrowing the allowable parameters of MEN’s beauty.  (Once again the search for equality gets turned on its ear.) {We need to do something about that, but that is not the topic today}

Here is the topic I’d like to discuss – Are we doing a disservice by saying things like “Everyone is equally beautiful”?

Yes, I know that beauty is not skin deep and yes I know that even the Elephant Man was beautiful.  Hear me out.  Beauty means “the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.”  That is a clear definition.  In order to be beautiful a person or thing must give pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalt the mind/spirit.  People do not do this in equal measure.  In other words, everybody is somewhere on a continuum between beautiful and ugly.  That being true, if you put the pictures of two different women in front of one person and said “Point to the more beautiful of the two” that person will pick one or the other.  Therefore, we as a culture use the word ‘beauty’ to classify something measurable.  The more a thing gives pleasure to the senses &/or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit, the more beautiful it is.  Therefore while beauty is a subjective quality, it is still a measurable quality.  It is NOT possible for every woman to be equally beautiful.  So my questions (at long last) are …

First Question – Are we doing a disservice to the Language by saying “every woman is equally beautiful”?  Is it destroying or neutering the word beauty by saying it applies to everyone?

Second Question – Are we doing a disservice to women by saying “Every woman is equally beautiful”?  It is a lie.  Every woman is not equally beautiful.  Furthermore it is an ineffective lie.  A woman can look around her and see that some people are more beautiful than others.   Beauty to ugly is a continuum and all people are at different places on the continuum.  Rather than lie and say everyone woman is beautiful, shouldn’t we rather say everyone woman is valuable whether they are beautiful or not?   It would be better if a cry “you’re ugly” is as meaningless as saying “You have five fingers”?  If someone whistled at a women going by and said, “Hey babe, you have five GREAT fingers!” the woman would probably think, “and your point is… what?”  She’d shrug her shoulders and move on.

Since we are people (I’m guessing) who are trying to change how women are perceived and valued both by our Selves and by the broader society, wouldn’t it be better if we created memes/cliches that stressed that every woman/every person is valuable.  Every woman is an important, valuable treasure who brings something unique and irreplaceable to the world.  Her value is no more hooked to her beauty than it is to the fact she has five fingers or that she has freckles.

Final Question – I would like to hear people’s thoughts on what is Beauty.  Beyond the dictionary definition.  What are the qualities that bring us to that pleasurable sensation; to that exultation?  Those qualities certainly have a subjective element.  Is there an objective element?  Maybe not completely objective in the way that 5 is 5 universally, but is it, at least in part, objective?  If so what are the universal elements of beauty?  Are they universal only to a specific group or culture?  For example, good food in Alabama is terrible food in Hong Kong.  Is there even a small number of qualities that are beautiful to ALL humans?

I know that these questions are both pretty deep and navel gazing bullshit.  However, I think they are important questions to ask.  The ‘Women’s Movement’ is only in its beginning first steps.  It is going to be going on for a long time because ideas about a ‘woman’s place’ are many layered and deeply entrenched.  It is going to take a couple of generations to dig them all out.  We are shaping how this revolution will move into the future.  All of us, whether we are loud mouth liberal activists or tight-lipped, conservative homemakers, are influencing how our daughters see themselves, the world and their place in it.  We owe it to them to make conscious decisions about how we are shaping them and the world they live in.  Whatever we choose, whatever answers we find individually, as a bunch of people chatting online, as a community and as a culture, we should find them consciously.

NOTE – I know that these are hot button issues for a lot of us.  It is hard to talk dispassionately about beauty and how society measures it and how we, ourselves, have been measured.  These are very personal issues.  So I ask that we all remember to keep this abstract both in our comments and our responses. Thanks.

Music, Harmony and Heaven

lambertsblogdotcodotuk

Imagine how beautiful it will sound when we can all hear the music of the universe.

When I was in Catholic High School at Rosary, Sister Mary Paul laid out an idea that I found baffling.  It wasn’t that I disagreed with it.  I often disagreed with Sister Mary Paul.  I often agreed with her, too, but that’s another story.  This idea just confused me.  I couldn’t get my head around it.  The idea was this: People were the ones who would make “Thy Kingdom, come”.

It took me years, decades actually, to understand it.  Heaven isn’t a place where people get sent.  It’s something we make.  Living well isn’t something you do in order to get a prize at the end.  Living well helps turn the world into heaven.  That is our job as people and as a species.

I finally understood this idea when I finally made the connection between music and the universe.  Everything is in motion.  We know that.  The entire universe is in motion.  Motion creates vibration.  Vibration creates sound.  Therefore the entire universe is making noise.  We see the beauty of the motion of the stars, the changing of the seasons and other wonders of the natural world.  Therefore we imagine this noise to be in music, harmonious music.  We hear the phrase, “The music of the spheres.”

“If that is the case,” my reasoning went, “Then evil must be discord.”  Evil is evil because it throws the music of the universe into discord.  I immediately had an image of a cosmic guitar player tuning his instrument.  The image immediately inspired a vision of the Big Bang.  I saw this young male guitar player jumping up on the stage in his garage and strumming out a beautiful power cord while his band mates and their audience of parents and neighbor kids looked on.  {Yes, I imagined God to be a long haired, lead singer of a heavy metal garage band – you got a problem with that?}

So the universe is a beautiful guitar solo into which some disharmony has crept and God is surreptitiously tuning his guitar to bring it back into harmony.  We are part of that music and we honor God most when we are in harmony.  How do we know we are in harmony?  It has been my experience that if you let yourself come to a quiet place of stillness and you open yourself up with meditation/prayer, music, trance work and other methods of ‘zoning out’ you can hear the music of your Self and you can hear your own harmonies and disharmonies.  Then we can set about the business of ‘tuning ourselves’ by changing our live and our actions to bring ourselves more into

Today the part of God will be portrayed by a young James Hetfield.

Today the part of God will be portrayed by a young James Hetfield.

harmony.

So God is a heavy metal guitarist.  The universe is the music He plays.  Evil occurs when the guitar slips a little out of tune and God has to tune it.  Goodness is everything that brings the universe more into harmony.  Evil is that which further slips it out of harmony. When everything is in tune again, that will be heaven.  This metaphor makes so much sense to me, I am baffled why I didn’t think of it before.  It fits my Catholic faith like a glove and it fits my pagan beliefs the same way.  It is why “man is not saved by faith alone.”  And it is why recycling and trying to live in tune with Mother Earth is a sacred responsibility.

The reason we do this is because if all of human kind can come into harmony at the same time.  Even if it just for a nanosecond, we might be able to hear that which we have only heard the faintest of echoes of so far.  If we can create that harmony we might be able to hear, in all It’s Glory, the music of the Universe.  If we can do it, that nanosecond will be heaven and it will last an eternity.

*** The use of the male pronoun to describe God/dess does NOT indicate a belief on my part that God/dess is male or has any other human limitations.  It is merely the image that came with this metaphor.

I Coulda Been a Lexicographer

When I was growing up nearly everything that interested me was ruled out as a possible life path with the words, “You’ll can’t make a living

I think I would have been a wonderful Mud Pie Baker.

I think I would have been a wonderful Mud Pie Baker.

doing that.”  I couldn’t be a ballerina. I couldn’t be a gardener.  I couldn’t be Wonder Woman.  I couldn’t be a mud pie baker.

Like every high school student in America, my last two years were filled with the question, “What are you going to major in when you get to college?”  Once again everything that I found interesting enough to spend time studying was dismissed with slightly more sophisticated versions of the same statement.  “What can you do with that degree?” or “You won’t make enough money doing that.”  So writing was out.  Acting was out.  History and Literature were out.  When I discovered philosophy that was out, too.  Because I am rebellious and stubborn, I got my BA in Theatre.  I love theatre and was sure that I could ‘make’ it.  Whatever that meant.  A combination of a fear of sexism and a fear of economics kept me from making a serious stab at an acting career.  That will be the subject of another blog.

Time has past and I have seen a lot of the world.  I have met a vast array of interesting people.  In that time I discovered a secret that is so secret even the NSA doesn’t know it.  Here it is – If you are passionate about something you can find a way to make a living doing it.  You may not become rich and famous, but you can support yourself and a family.  The thing is, there are millions of careers out there that require obscure knowledge, unusual proclivities and bizarre skills.  There are people who get paid to tell you how old a rock is.  They are Geochronologists.  There are people who get paid to make food look pretty.  They’re Food Stylists.  There are people who get paid to travel around and watch high school and college sports.  They’re Athletic Scouts.  There are people who collect the venom from snakes.  They’re Snake Milkers.  Ant Catchers dig up the ants for ant farms.  Odor Judgers smell armpits to see if a new deodorant works.  An Ethical Hacker is paid to hack by companies who want their systems to be hack proof.  This last one is my favorite – a professional Cat Catcher is paid to come to your house and get your cat into the cat carrier for you.

Furthermore, just because the chances are slim that you will get the top job in your chosen field doesn’t mean that you can’t earn a living in that field.  Not everyone who studies archaeology gets to become Harrison Ford.  Ooops, I mean gets to become an archaeologist.  However, an archaeologist needs an amazingly big support staff.  They need people to help dig, to clean the items they find, to analyze what was found, to catalog it.  There are a lot of people who work in archaeology who are not archaeologists.  I know a man who got a degree in zoology.  He doesn’t work in a zoo.  He works for a college in the biology department.  He takes care of all the animals that the biologists are studying.  I know a woman who used to get paid to measure the cracks in the bodies of airplanes.  I know a person who has made an entire career of traveling around to beautiful nature places all over the US and Canada.  He takes pictures of place, animals and things that he thinks look cool.  He prints them as posters and sells them all over the world.  How’s that for a cool job?

Erin Mckean's TED talk explores how much fun an evolving language can be.

Erin Mckean’s TED talk explores how much fun an evolving language can be.

Today, thanks to a wonderful woman named Erin McKean, her TED talk is Erin McKean: The Joy of Lexicography, I learned that there is such a thing as a lexicographer.  That is some whose job it is to study words.  They study spelling, pronunciation, meanings, etymology and everything else you can possibly imagine relating to words.  Usually they take all that knowledge and compile a dictionary or edit one.  For someone who loves word play as much as I do, this would be a really cool job.  When I was in college I never even knew it was an option.

During this back-to-school time of year when many people I know are starting high school and college, I have heard a lot of people dismiss a subject they love because they do not believe they can make a living with the degree.  They reject archaeology for accounting; creative writing for education; geology for healthcare services.  They are being practical and have an eye on their future.  Practicality in important.  Earning enough money to survive is the first job of an adult.  However, it breaks my heart to see bright talented young people turn away from what they love in the name of being ‘practical.’  It is important to feed the spirit as well as the body.  I believe that we need to remember that doing something we love and doing something practical are not mutually exclusive.  There are people all over the world doing work they love and getting paid for it.  Typically, they are happier and more fulfilled than people who do a job because it pays the bills.

So if you are a young person trying to decide “What to do with your life’ or if you are an adult trying to decide what to do with the rest of your life, follow your heart.  When some grey unimaginative person asks you, “What can you do with THAT degree?”  Tell them, “I don’t know.  That’s the point.  I’ll find out when I get there.”

What is Success?

The World from the Morgan-Greer deck

The World from the Morgan-Greer deck

What is the value of your life, Grace Mary?  You don’t have any money and you live just on the edge of poverty.  Without the help of your friends and family, you never would have survived.  So how can you say that you are successful?

The fact is that material possessions and social status and salary have never been my chosen measuring sticks for determining success.  I developed a different measuring stick at Rosary and Loyola.  I mention the names of my schools because I believe that those two institutions had a profound influence on the measuring stick I developed for my life.  My journey is not about acquiring stuff.   It is about self-actualization and trying to find Truth and understanding it and trying to serve the Good as best I can and trying to enjoy myself in a deep and meaningful way.

I have gotten lost many times.  The times when I have been most deeply lost have been when I have misplaced my measuring stick.  Often I have accidentally picked up the measuring sticks of salary, material possessions and status.  I used to move from house to house (and I moved a lot – sometimes twice a year) carrying truckloads of boxes of stuff.  So many things I thought I would die without.  Souvenirs of my life.  Things that belonged to my mother.  I clung to her things as if they still held her scent and I would somehow keep her if I just kept her stuff close.  That, of course, was an illusion.  Mom’s presence in my life was not and is not contingent upon holding on to that green bowl with a pear on it that she bought when she and my step-father went to Texas that one time.  She is with me and I am with her.  She is alive inside me and her voice comes out of my mouth all the time.  With my voice she passes on her wisdom to my younger brothers and sisters and to my children.  This is good because we all still need her wisdom.

I carried boxes of souvenirs from my childhood.  Records I rarely listened to, books I enjoyed, but probably wouldn’t read again, knickknacks whose meaning I barely remembered.  Jewelry, make-up and elegant dresses which no longer fit me.  It was not just my body they didn’t fit anymore.  They didn’t fit me anymore.  They belonged to the teenaged Grace and the college girl Grace Mary.  They were not the dresses of Mom.  Nor were they dresses of Grace Mary Kathryn.  But I couldn’t let them go.  So I dragged them from place to place.  Until Oshun reminded me to not make promises and forget them.  She stripped me of most of my stuff and in doing so she showed me that I still had my mother, my family and my younger selves even without the tangible objects to which I had tried to anchor them.  I have collected another houseful of stuff, but I hold it more loosely now.  If all of it was taken from me tomorrow, I would not lose anything that matters.

I spent years ashamed of my failures.  Ashamed of my poverty especially since so many of my peers made more money, had more stability and had more of the souvenirs of status than I had.  I have yet to go to one of my class reunions even though I loved the women with whom I went to high school.  I have been afraid of the looks in their eyes when they see my old clothes and my beater car.  There are two problems with that.  First, my high school sisters would see the true me immediately because they always did see her even if they didn’t understand her very well.  I am, in fact, insulting my Rosary sisters, by believing them to be so shallow.  The second problem with those fears is that I am only a failure when I measured my life by those foreign measuring sticks.  In reality, I am as successful as any of them by my own standards.

Miserliness is always about fear.

Miserliness is always about fear.

The false measuring stick I pick up most frequently is the measuring stick of salary.  I carried this one for years after I had children.  I felt I had to focus on making X amount of money because I had kids to support.  So I focused on finding jobs that would pay me X amount of money, which gave paychecks every two weeks because kids need stability, which were reliable and practical.  The big joke, the cosmic joke, is that because I was pursuing the wrong kind of success those jobs never fit me and I never kept them.  So we never had the income or security that I was trying to provide.  I was so lost.  I say that with a rueful chuckle.  I was.  That time wasn’t completely wasted.  I learned a lot and tasted an array of flavors of life.  My children never starved and we usually had a roof over our heads.  Thanks in large part to the generosity of my friends and family and the tax payers of the state of Illinois.  However, I was lost and miserable and stressed and angry and my children felt those things and it hurt them.  They all bare the scars of those lost years.

It took me a long time to put down that false measuring stick.  A large reason it took so long to put it down was fear.  I was afraid that if I followed my own desires, that if I lived as I believed I should, that if I used my own measuring stick, my children would starve.  That I would fail and I would face the judgment of all the people disapprove of or don’t even see my measuring stick.  Some of these people where real people.  Many of them were just in my head.  The judge, jury and executioner named ‘What other people think.’  All my life I have denounced paying them any heed, but they are hard to exorcise from one’s own mind.  Finally, in the end, I realized I was too unhappy for words in my latest ‘sensible’ job.  I was angry, stressed and hateful both at work and at home.  It was making my family miserable and it was a terrible example for my children.

I woke up and realized how wrong I had been.  I realized that my failures were all coming from using these wrong measuring sticks and I realized that there would NEVER be any happiness for me working in the white collar sweatshop.  I quit my job with nothing else lined up.  I quit my job with only a vague promise of writing work from a friend.  I told my family and they were thrilled.  They knew we would be a lot poorer than we already were.  They knew we might get evicted and terrible hardships might come, but they wanted me to be happy and they wanted to be happy.  So all together we took this great leap out of this airplane of faux security hoping our parachutes would open.

Happily they have.  We are still crazy poor.   I make a hodge podge of a living as a freelance writer and massage therapist.  I have needed a lot of help from friends and family.  We are back in a communal living arrangement.  None of that matters.  We are all happy.  We are all

When a person finds balance, she really does have a chance to achieve the World.

When a person finds balance, she really does have a chance to achieve the World.

focusing on becoming our finest selves.  My work feeds my soul and my happiness makes my family happy.  Plus, I am a better mother.  I am no longer angry all the time.  I have the energy to help with lemonade stands and home work.  I can spend an hour discussing which character in The Lord of The Ring each of us would be.  I can watch Total Drama Action and care about whether Cody will win.  (He didn’t and I was seriously bummed.)

So to answer the question from the top, a question which no one but the ghosts in my head has ever asked me, ‘What value is my life?’  It is of tremendous value.  I live according to my principals the best I can.  I search for Truth and try to understand it.  I try to find Joy in life and drink deep from its cup.  I am working on becoming the truest Self I can be and I try to serve the Good and teach my children to do the same.  If, when I die, it can be said that I gave the world a little more Wisdom and I made the world a little Better, then I will count my Self successful.

Where I Have Been

I have been locked in the habit of rejecting what I have and focusing on what I DON'T have.

I have been locked in the habit of rejecting what I have and focusing on what I DON’T have.

I haven’t published a new blog since February.  I want to apologize to my three or four readers.  I did not mean to abandon you.  Many things have been happening in my life which have distracted me from writing.  Ironically, one of the things distracting me from writing has been worry over the fact I am not writing enough.  At least not writing for money enough.  I felt guilty about spending time on either of my blogs.  If I wasn’t getting paid up front for it, I had no business writing.  However, I forgot that just like a musician has to practice whether he is getting paid or not, a writer has to write in order to keep her skills honed.

Other more tangible, pentacle-like things have kept me from writing as well.  My whole family moved the first week of June.  Now one might think that an event like that would take up the first week of June.  Maybe a few days before and a few days after.  Not so, gentle readers.  From April on we have been focused, almost to the exclusion of all else, on figuring out who is moving where.  We had many hours of discussion about will we stay one household or split into two.  Then there were hours to find an affordable place which would accept us, our bad credit and our poor work records.  Once we found that place, there was packing, finding vehicles to move, finding strong people to help.  We, also, had to clean out the place we found.  That was a Herculean task which isn’t quite finished even now.  All in all, I expect us to finally be settled in by Labor Day Weekend.  Hopefully.

At the risk of boring you, I will tell you a bit about our new house.  It is a small house on a very busy street.  I think of the line from “Pink Houses.”  “He’s got the interstate running through his front yard. You know he thinks that he’s got it so good.”  Well, I do think I have it so good.  For one thing, it’s a house, not an apartment.  If you have ever lived in an apartment for any length of time, you know what a luxury that is.  For another, our landlord is a laid back kind of guy who is going to let us do anything we want to the place.  We already have a lot of plans.  “Why would you do all that work on a place you’re just renting?”  I hear you ask, gentle readers.  We’re sort of looking at it as a dress rehearsal for when we each get our own place.  Another thing I love about our new place is that what few neighbors we have leave us alone.  There is, also, the deep back yard.  When you go back behind the garage it is easy to forget there’s a highway in the front yard.  We, also, have a large front porch where we can sit and watch the world go by.

As you can tell, I love my new house and am excited about our future here.  There are some downsides to it.  Nothing is perfect.  The

We have a lot of plans for the new house.  We are just going to have to be patient, work hard and wait for the fruits of our labor to grow.

We have a lot of plans for the new house. We are just going to have to be patient, work hard and wait for the fruits of our labor to grow.

downsides are deal-able.  Especially since I am trying to reprogram myself regarding how I look at downsides.  I am trying to let go of what is NOT and focus on what IS.  This house does NOT have the exact number of bedrooms my large family needs.  Okay, that’s something to work on.  Everyone has a place to sleep and that will work for now.  What this house DOES have is an affordable rent.  I choose to let that make me happy and I choose to NOT let the lack of bedrooms make me depressed.  I choose to savor the fact that I have a front porch to sit on during summer evenings and I choose NOT to dwell on the fact that mosquitoes are eating me alive while I sit there.  Finally, I will focus on the fact that I am writing and worry less about getting paid for every word I type.

It is challenging to maintain my mental space in this new frame work.  I am sure that I will fall back into obsessing about what we don’t have.  When I catch myself doing that I will have to force it back into the new pattern until it becomes my default settings and obsessive worry becomes awkward and uncomfortable.  Wish me luck.

Thank you for your patience, my loyal three or four readers.  I will post a new article soon.

A word about the pictures.  The first is the work of the very talented David Groehring and can be found at http://www.flickr.com/photos/carbonnyc/5188219293/in/photostream/

The second is from the Spiral Tarot; both the deck and companion book were created by Kay Steventon.