Monthly Archives: October 2012


weeds or ghosts?

With the storm winds blowing and waters surging up the east coast it’s hard to be in the “holiday” spirit.  With the elections looming and the mudslinging only getting worse it’s difficult to find the quiet mind for meditation.  This is the season of harvest, gratitude and remembrance.  Halloween when the ghosts walk and many cultures find themselves honoring their ancestors.

I wonder in this season what kind of ancestors we will be.  What legacy will we leave for our descendants?  Will they live in the zombie appocolypse because of some biohazard gone awry?  Will global warming change the climate so much that they will have mega-storms as part of their daily lives?  Will the bees disappear from their monoculture and pesticide laden diet and will our children follow after a generation or two of starvation and illness?

The bones of trees

The planet has seen many upheavals in its long life.  I’ve been reading the S.M. Stirling change series, which for post civilization literature is actually somewhat hopeful.  The motto of one of the surviving enclaves “the 14th century as it SHOULD have been.”  Complete with sanitation and plumbing.  Or to quote another popular culture phrase, “Life will find a way.”   On the bones of trees are already the hints of the new life of spring.

My maternal Grandparents on the farm

Such is the dilemma of working with the ancestors.  Even my Grandparents would have been hard put to imagine life as we experience it today.  Generations upon generations worked the land and even if they lived “in town” knew where their food was coming from and how it went from field to table.  The idea of spending days inside (house to car to work and back) would have made them wonder about illness and fragility.

“Size matters not, … Look at me. Judge me by size, do you?”

It’s good to be cautious about new things, to examine the possible repercussions of new directions.  At the same time, if we are to be good ancestors to our descendants it is critical for us to remain open and flexible to possibilities we can hardly imagine.  And now I’m round about to Halloween.  It is the holiday of celebrating the imagination.  Dressing up to become more powerful, or to face our fears.  We open our doors to strangers who often don’t even appear to be human.  Children costumed as animals, aliens, and nightmares offer a choice, “trick or treat?”

Ancestors and Descendants

There are many kinds of ancestors with advice and wisdom to help us through the storms of our lives.  There are the ancestors of our blood.  The legacy of our family.  We sort through the good and the bad, learning lessons from both kinds of examples.  We choose which of our family traditions to carry forward and which to let fall by the wayside.   May we choose wisely.

There are ancestors of the heart.  The souls that have touched us in our lives.  These are often people who were role models for us.  Or perhaps they were just the kind hearted souls that appeared at the time we needed them most.  They are our beloved friends and pets who we hold in our memories.  Our heart connection makes their own lives a part of our personal stories.  May we remember the love shared with these ancestors and may we further the legacy of open hearted love.

There are ancestors of the spirit.  These are our heroes.  The souls who’s stories inspire us.  They are the shining lights that encourage us to dream, to strive, to do better.  Let us our fears, make our choices, and move forward towards a legacy of spirit that continues to inspire and enrich those who come after.

Happy Samhein




Last Friday when I was on the blog radio “The Priestess Show” (the topic was talking to spirits)( I was asked if I was going to write something about the Women and Spirituality Conference.  I realized that what I wrote last week was less about the conference itself and more about my misery so I’m giving it another go.

Mankato State University Women’s Department decided 31 years ago to start a conference exploring the experiences of women in spiritual practice.  The Sisters of Notre Dame at Good Counsel got involved in supporting this conference as did the local Jewish women.  Their mission statement from their current brochure:

The Women and Spirituality Conference was born in 1981 and the purpose was to provide a supportive and nurturing setting for a dialogue of caring and mutual respect between and among women and men from many spiritual and religious traditions. The conference does not advocate or exclude any view and continues to foster an understanding and celebration of similarities and differences. May we continue to aid one another on our individual and communal spiritual journeys.

Mankato State Centennial Student Union photo pulled from the university website.

I don’t remember when I first went to the conference except that it was in the early 1980’s.  The conference then was entirely held within the Student Union building. There were a few vendors at tables in the basement and the workshops were tucked away in the various meeting rooms within the facility.    I was impressed with the openness and variety of women (variety based on a Minnesotan’s perspective which means out of 100 women maybe 2 black, 5 native American and the rest white, though if you chose to notice probably 20-30 ethnically Jewish).  The world has changed and now there are attendees of all ethnicities, and often the Keynote speakers are specifically chosen to encourage attendance by women of color.

Starhawk was the keynote speaker at the first conference I attended, and so there was an opening and a closing ritual to the conference.  I can’t say if this was true from the start, but it has become  a conference tradition.  The opening and closing rituals tend to be very women empowering and an acknowledgment of unity in diversity.  There is often song or chanting and over the years the artistic representations have been remarkable.  There have been weavings, and puppetry and sacred hoops.   There have been multipart songs and singing bowls.  You never know what to expect when the conference opens, except that you will be embraced as a sacred being simply for being willing to join in.

This year I was helping with set up in the vendors area so I was late to the opening ritual.  The conference has expanded out of the student union and is now housed in the Union building as well as the next three attached with additional workshops in the performing arts building.  Some of this is due to the remodeling of the Student Union, but much of it is to meet the needs of the conference.  What I did catch was a beautiful chant about the power of women as the organizers paraded through the audience with ribbons and bells.  Later I heard several women describe the opening ritual as breathtaking.

Andrea Smith   Photo from South End Press author page

The keynote speaker this year was Andrea Smith.  I was not familiar with her before attending the conference but I was impressed with her talk.  She is an activist, teacher and an author who has done work directly regarding violence against women of color.

She spoke about the problems with the way non-profits are structured in this country.  How instead of changing the system they are looking to the system (the top 3%) for recognition in the form of money and grants.  That they color reality to get the grants and so perpetuate tactics that don’t work among all the non-profits in competition for the same funds.  The power to bestow or remove “worthiness or recognition” remains in the hands of the elite.  She encouraged us instead in small ways and in our relationships to become the change we sought.  I suspect this promotes her contribution to the upcoming anthologies The Revolution Starts at Home and Sovereign Acts both from South Bend Press.

There are so many choices for workshops at this conference some of which are based in specific religious practices and other which apply to many.  (pdfs of past programs are available if you google Mankato Women and Spirituality Conference.)  Often people assume based on the bios of the presenters that the workshops are for people who practice the same religion the presenters practice but I have never found this to be true.  The conference organizers are very clear in their requests for workshop proposals that even if the topic is specific to a religious practice the workshops should be accessible to the attendees regardless of their beliefs.

Because I identify as a Pagan or a Wiccan I often find people who come to my workshops looking to talk with a Wiccan High Priestess.  Still I have found that the people who attend my workshops from other religious traditions also often stop to talk and thank me for a meaningful workshop.  There is nothing more rewarding than hearing that what you have to say makes a difference for somebody.

Over the years I have attended (and presented) workshops that were lectures, rituals, discussions and meditations.  I have dropped in on a few yoga or dance based workshops.  This year I attended a workshop where we all played a board game, “What Would Goddess Do?” ( which was really fun.  It’s always amusing to me how even with the vast amount of choices often you see the same faces from workshop to workshop.  I sat to play the game with 3 people who had attended my workshop earlier.

For a woman just beginning to explore or to question their relationship with spirituality this conference is remarkable.  For someone like me who’s been doing this for years there is still always something new to try, someone new to meet, and something to learn.  There are old friends and new in an environment that encourages openness and sharing.  If you get the chance the 2013 conference is scheduled for October 12 & 13th.  Mark your calendars now.


I am late with my post this week.

Getting ready to present my workshop. All that “stuff” on the table I was carrying around all day – 15 extra pounds makes a difference!

I spent this last weekend in Mankato Minnesota at the University Women’s Studies sponsored Women and Spirituality Conference.  This event has been ongoing annually for 31 years.  I’ve attended many times and have frequently presented workshops on various aspects of spiritual practice.  Each year my experience is different.  Sometimes I’m moved by a ritual or by the keynote speaker.  Sometimes I’m all business, presenting my workshops and getting out.

The weekend was what I was hoping to write about for my Monday blog.  I had a great time.   I met some amazing women.  I got to catch up with old friends.  I presented my workshop twice and got lots of positive feedback.  I love this workshop.  It’s called “Daily Practice Sucks!”   People come in struggling with daily practice.  They say they don’t have any.  They leave with a confidence saying “I have a daily practice.”  It’s incredibly rewarding and humbling to be able to facilitate this kind of transformation.

The weather for the weekend was perfect.  It was high 60’s-low 70’s perfect fall weather, even on the day there was a hint of dampness in the air.  It was great to be able to walk outside between the buildings on the University of Mankato campus.  I walked quite a bit and I sat quite a bit and there is the problem.

“Ember’s Bait Shop” She was selling aprons (like the one I’m wearing) and tutu’s and let me sit when I couldn’t stand any more as long as I’d pass out her cards.

I have some significant chronic pain issues, currently centering on degenerating discs in my low back.  Walking too much, especially in dress up shoes, especially carrying “stuff” is really not good for me.   Sitting too long in uncomfortable chairs with my feet on the floor (rather than elevated) is also not really good for me.  Spending hours driving in the car (even with the heated seat, which helps more than you can imagine) is not good for me.

By Sunday afternoon the drive home was done with grinding teeth and drifting attention.  There are days when I really shouldn’t drive.  Sunday was probably one of them.  When I got home I brought in my purse and a wheel of cheese.  I took a long hot bath and brought my clothes in from the car.  I took a nap and brought in my bag of promotional materials for the book. (Manifest Divinity available at  I left everything else in the car. I went to bed as soon as I could and was up every few hours to refresh my pain meds.

I got to visit my nephew and his wife who live in Mankato. Great Aunt time! Wouldn’t trade it for the world even if it did set my back to spasming!

Monday morning it was all I could do to get Orion out the door.  I had tears in my eyes, not because I was crying but because my body needed to react to the strain I was putting it through.  As soon as he was gone I went back to bed and slept until half an hour before he was due home.  I NEVER do that.  Pain is exhausting!

I sat down three times to write my blog.  I even got my photos from the weekend onto my computer.  But I couldn’t concentrate.  You’ve seen how my literary skills deteriorate on my “bad” days.  Yesterday I couldn’t write a paragraph.

I didn’t just sit and sleep.  I finished unpacking the car.  I took Orion to the grocery store (I needed stuff for his lunch).  I took things very slowly and asked for help.  I put the last of the groceries away this morning.  (It’s no problem leaving the box of kitchen garbage bags out overnight.)

They say that “motion is the lotion for the joints” and apparently it’s true because I am doing better today.  It’s a balancing act between not enough movement and too much.   The weekend was both.  Yesterday was apparently just right.

So you don’t really get a blog about my amazing weekend – I really did have a great time.  You don’t get a blog on Monday.  But you get a blog with much gratitude for feeling up to writing it.


There is something special about sharing a cup of coffee with a good friend.   I’ve been lucky enough to have the opportunity to do this several times recently.  I got to meet a good friend in the coffee shop just to do some “catch up”.  We see each other plenty.  We talk on the phone regularly.  It just seems like one or the other of us is always distracted.  There isn’t enough time or there are people around who need our attention.  It was really nice to have a chance to feel like time was unlimited (which it wasn’t but it felt like it) and just talk.

I went to lunch with a friend that I see about once every 2-3 months.  We’re close, but not in daily contact.  She’s a friend on Facebook and I’ll occasionally shoot her a message or an email.  I think about her when I run into something I think she’d be interested in and she does the same for me.   She’s not a phone person so when we do talk on the phone it’s short and to the point.  After eating we sat and drank several small pots of coffee.  We got to talk about what’s going on in our lives, giving each other support and advice.  It felt really good to touch base.

This weekend I was running errands with Orion.  On the list was getting to the library before it closed.  Also on the list was dropping off some donations at ARC, right next to the movie theater/draft house.  It just seemed sensible to treat ourselves to dinner and a movie after a busy day of running around.  Unfortunately that left an empty hour in the schedule.

I gave Orion some options, including going to the coffee shop.  You have to understand that Orion doesn’t drink coffee.  When his sister was in high school he and his father used to sit in the coffee shop and wait for her during choir rehearsals.   Orion said it had been awhile since he’d been to the coffee shop, and I think he knew I needed a cup.  I did make him drink a steamed milk, and he almost liked it once I took of the cover which was making him spill.  I sat and read my library book and he eavesdropped on all the other conversations around us.  It may not have been the same kind of bonding as with my friends, but it was still a pleasant and cozy hour together with no pressure.

Of course there are also autumn days when the light is soft and there is a chill in the air when making a cup of coffee for just me is nice too.

When was the last time you got to sit with a friend and have a leisurely cup (or two, or a pot) of coffee?

COFFEE IN A CARDBOARD CUP From the musical 70, GIRLS, 70

The trouble with the world today, it seems to me,
Is coffee in a cardboard cup.
The trouble with the affluent society
Is coffee in a cardboard cup.
No one’s ever casual and nonchalant,
No one waits a minute in a restaurant,
No one wants a waitress passing pleasantries
Like “How’re you, Miss?”
“How’re you, Sir?”
“May I take your order please?”
The trouble with the world today is plain to see,
Is everything is hurry up.
It’s rush it through, and don’t be slow,
And BLT on rye to go,
With coffee (I think she said)
Coffee (I know she said)
Coffee in a cardboard cup.

The trouble with the helter-skelter life we lead
Is coffee in a cardboard cup.
The trouble, the psychologists have all agreed,
Is coffee in a cardboard cup.
Tell me, what could possibly be drearier
Than seafood from the Belnord cafeteria?
Seems to me a gentleman would much prefer
“How’ve you been?”
“Would you like the special, sir?”
The trouble with the world today is plain to see,
Is everything is hurry up.
There’s ready-wear, and instant tea,
And minute rice, and my oh me,
There’s coffee (I think she said)
Coffee (I know she said)
Coffee in a cardboard cup.

The trouble with the world today, beyond a doubt,
Is coffee in a cardboard cup.
The trouble is the way we like to take things out,
Like coffee in a cardboard cup.
No one knows the meaning of utopia
Is dining at the corner cornucopia,
Seems to me we wouldn’t be such nervous wrecks
With “Hello, there!”
“Be right back!”
“Would you care for separate checks?”
The trouble with the world today is plain to see,
Is everything is hurry up.
It’s all become looney tunes
With sugar packs and plastic spoons
And coffee (I think she said)
Coffee (I know she said)
Coffee (I’m sure she said)
Coffee (She must have said)
Coffee in a cardboard cup.


Can a tree be proud?

Pride is something I’ve always struggled with.  It seemed to me growing up that any time I felt proud of myself I was warned not to get to big a head, not to get too full of myself, not to brag.  I was told that people were proud of me, but often for things that required no effort on my part or that I wasn’t especially proud of myself.  Sometimes it felt like someone else being proud of me was like them taking credit for something I had done.  All in all a very complicated word.

Orion and Karina

As an adult I’ve had the experience of being very proud of my children.  I probably didn’t tell them so often enough, but it certainly gave me a new perspective on the emotion.  It’s not so much that I’m proud of myself for what I may have contributed to their upbringing.  It’s more that I am proud to know them as independent of me.  I am proud that there are things that they do that I couldn’t have, or wouldn’t have done.  I am proud to watch them come into their own.  I am proud to see them meet the challenges life tosses their way.

Now I’m learning again, about how to be proud of myself.

Manifest Divinity (by ME!) available at Amazon or Immanion Press

It’s the book,  Manifest Divinity.  I have something concrete I can point to and say, “I did that.”  I also have a responsibility (to myself and my publisher) to promote my work.  There’s a conundrum!

September has been quite the adventure.  I’ve got a new interview posted with my publisher An Interview with Lisa Spiral Besnett.   I’ve done a book signing.  I’ve been doing podcasts on the blog talk radio at The Priestess Show.  I have had to stand up and be proud of my work.  I’ve had to talk about it with humility, but not shyness.  I’ve had to say with conviction, “You should go buy my book.”

So here I am filled with gratitude for all the support and attention people have shown for both me and my work.  I am humbled by how many people will stand up for my book without even having read it, just because they know me.

Orion with Star Foster (formerly) of Patheos

The best of course

is that Orion says I’m his favorite author.  I am proud.

I am also continuing to ask for help and support.  To encourage people to get the book, spread the word, write reviews and send me hints about marketing.  In the meantime I suppose I should get to work on writing a book proposal for the next one.

Look at me signing a book.

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