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Going to the Japanese baths in San Francisco is like going to church and making massive kala. I am infinitely grateful that I was given a gift certificate to this place years ago. It's the most luxury I've found for the least amount of money. Today's trip was especially powerful. After meditating in the sauna, scrubbing myself clean in the steam room, drinking copious amounts of cucumber and lemon water and ginger tea, I had some pretty profound realizations about a big, painful, awkward issue in my life. I feel rejuvinated.

Continuing with the spring purging feelings, Adam and I got rid of 7 boxes of books this afternoon, as well as three bags of clothes. I have a skirt and top that I think I'm going to put up for sale on here soon, because they are just too nice to throw in a charity dumpster. One is a silk peach blouse and one is a blue and brown skirt, both by Alannah Hill, an Aussie designer.

Bennet has been a fuss pot today. Adam took him for a long walk around the lake in Oakland and the little guy got sunburned. Eep!

Tomorrow Adam and I have babysitting lined up and we're going on a date. I think we might see "I love you, man." Anyone seen it?
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I am grateful for podcasts. When I am at home with B all day long, the classical music starts to get old. I put on a podcast and - voila! Adult conversation. Very helpful while folding the laundry.

After this weekend I have decided two things:
*I want to find out more about my maternal grandmother, who is my namesake. She died when my mother was 9 and I realize I know nothing about her, not a story, not a preference, nothing. Other than her first names and her nickname - which is my given name.

*I could stand to be more fabulous. I love my jeans and tshirts, but I long for brighter colors, louder patterns and some beautiful jewelry. Being a nursing mother has necessitated certain wardrobe choices, and I do find my new shape and sizing to be a challenge [I am the size I was at 2 months pregnant, but my boobs are larger, even though I'm of a small frame, large boobie fitting clothes just hang poorly, sigh]. Still, it's time to choose to be a bit more flash, a bit more fabulous.

It has been pouring for days here. California needs the water so badly. So does my psyche and these grey wet days feel good.
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Praise Song for the Day, by Elizabeth Alexander )

When I heard it live I deliberately held my judgment in check, for I am a notorious poetry hater. Not that I hate poetry, but that I think most is crap. I didn't think that Ms. Alexander did a very good job of reading her poem. But at the end I decided that I liked it. I also thought it had a very pagan feel to it. I don't know anything about her spiritual leanings. Any one else get a pagan flavor from it?
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Two recent posts - well, one post and one forward - have gotten me thinking. First, there's that podcast from yesterday about genius and how we spend our time. I don't need to be a genius, I really don't, but I do know that I'm not using my time wisely, that I've been avoiding Things, and that I've been flirting with depression in a pretty big way. I also read a post this morning in which a woman talked about making all things secondary to her spiritual practice. Replace that last bit with what's most important to you, and I ask: are you putting first things first? I'm not. And I want to put my spiritual pursuits first. I do. But I don't. I'm scared shitless to do so. What does that look like? Will I become a crazy fruity loon? I fear that my life will fall apart - maybe set on fire, like Bennett has done? And just how DO I devote four hours to something, anything, with a child? I fear I'll become some extreme weirdo, or a nun, or something vastly incompatible with being a normal person and mother. I'm WAY too invested in being normal, so perhaps "indulging" this desire is exactly what I need.

What would four hours of spiritual pursuit a day look like? Probably an hour of yoga, 30 minutes of meditation, another 30 of prayer and tarot, two hours of academic study. Eventually, once I quit working and officially become a Student once more, the study will be its own thing, but I'm not so compartmentalized that I don't see that my academic pursuits are still a big spiritual quest of sorts for me.

Even writing about this makes my stomach knot up in fear and anxiety. Gah. It's this being vulnerable and open to mockery. Juvenile fears clutching to my guts and desires. And fear of overthrowing my life as I know it. Choosing the devils I know over the devils I don't. How dull.

What's my order of priority? I spend a lot of time keeping my house in order. Partly because I like clean, partly because I get stressed out with too much clutter and filth - it's a giant distraction and I think I can't handle external clutter because I'm already so cluttered on the inside, and partly training and judgement from my upbringing.

I'm currently working and that is sucking a lot of my energy. I think I'm going to just bite the bullet and have a heart to heart with my ED. Going into work makes me noticeably depressed. This is not good, even if I am quitting in a few months.

I spend a vast portion of my day online. This is because this is where the majority of my social life and work take place.

I want to make some changes. I'm scared. I'm dragging my heels. But I'm already throwing myself into the fire this year with motherhood and moving and going back to school. Why not harness my time and energies into what I *really want*?

If only there was some magic pill that reformed my habits and fears. But instead it's the steady, daily, messy, awkward work of one step at a time.
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This is for all those who are parents, especially those who are stay at home parents, whether that's one day a week or full time. I need your experience and advice.

Today is a particularly off day for me, because I'm tired: it's been a busy week at work and last night had me at work (with B) unexpectedly for 5 hours. Then, I hit the grocery store and came home to roast a chicken for the potluck we hosted. I was beat and remain so today. I don't want to do anything expect veg out. But I have a baby who doesn't play by himself - sometimes he will for at most 10 minutes. Being held, touching and eye contact, are his most favorite things ever. I love this about Bennett, but I can hardly get anything done - either home-wise or personally.

When I introduced All About Bennett Thursdays, this was a revelation. A day wholly about Bennett was a load of fun, but I knew that it was only once a week. For one day I could go completely according to B's patterns and desires. Super fun and actually pretty easy.

But I can't do that every day. One, because stuff needs to get done, and two, because I am freakish about Plans. I don't like this about myself, but I will say it is what keeps me organized and way more productive than a lot people. I'm doing a better job at lightening up on things like the a perfectly clean house, but this having a baby gig is revealing the depth of my neuroses.

My questions: For those of you at home with your kids, particularly babies, what do you do? Do you create a schedule? I assume toddlers might thrive on this, but what about babies? How do you meet your needs AND do stuff around the house? There are naps, but if I work through all of those I feel WIPED OUT at the end of the day. Do you have help? Either a nanny/mother's helper? Do you have a house keeper?

I think I'm asking the big parenting question: how does one take care of responsibilities, meet one's own needs, AND provide a rich, loving, interactive space for one's child?

Personally, I think having Bennett is a tremendous spiritual practice in letting go and re-prioritizing. My previous post of being on fire relates. I feel like if I am all about Bennett all the time my life will burn down to the ground entirely and I'll live in filth, be crazy, friendless, and hungry.
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I haven't been posting much or anything of meaning lately, because I've been having a very difficult time. The sleep deprivation has been severe. Bennett has been waking every 1-2 hours at night and even when Adam decided to take a shift, Bennett often only wants boob or just to be near me. It's exhausting. Add to this my normal tendency toward anxiety and depression, a busy time at work, as well as the normal major life shift adjustments and well, it's been me staring at the abyss.

However, last night B slept for 5.5 hours straight and WOW! It's amazing what some sleep can do.

Bennett is an arsonist. Having him is like setting my life on fire. That phrase is very deliberate. My life is aflame and I have no idea what needs to burn to the ground or what I should douse and save. The flames throw much of the shape of my into relief, for better or worse. But the flames also throw shadows; sometimes I'm not sure what is real and what isn't.

It's been suggested to me that I get some sleeping pills to help at night, but that's not really the problem. I could go on anti-depressants, because yes, I am depressed. I know this. Is it post-partum depression? I've been struggling since February when I was 5 months pregnant.

While I hate the roller coaster ride of my mental state, I think that depression is useful. Clearly, something needs to change and I am not happy. I need to find ways to get more rest and more physical exercise (I have never in my life been this out of shape and unfit) - two things that help with self-esteem, mental health and general happiness. I know I need to get back to my (currently painful) practice of meditation. I know I need to figure some stuff out: job... PhD.... place, both temporary and longer-term... community...

2008 has been a hard year - not just for myself, but for most people I know. I am looking forward to starting 2009 with a vacation. An honest to god vacation. I will be with my family, in a quiet outdoorsy place. I can go walking in the morning with the kangaroos. I will have loving people around to watch Bennett so Adam and I can have some time together and I can have time by myself.

I don't feel very clear at all right now. Everything is a muddle. I want to *solve* this. I want to find the answers and get on with "it" already, but that's not how these things work. I'm tired of forcing the issue and Working Hard and Being Awesome, so I'm just gonna be over here burning up in the corner.
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I am back to the quiet though tedious rhythms of my working week. After a crazy over-stimulated weekend spent at Pantheacon (largest pagan conference in the world I think?) I need all the quiet and stillness I can get. I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun I had - it helps to have friends there! I was not surprised at the amount of crap presented, but I am getting better at detecting such things. I mostly had good experiences, including one well deserved nap (it was a guided meditation, I wasn't being discernibly rude). Margot Adler's discussion of the sociological changes in paganism over the last 30+ years was just fantastic. There was also a Feri ritual on Saturday night that was really silly and yet felt every bit like any good church experience I've ever had. (That's praise, for those who might be confused!) It was a large spiral dance with drums and a little sung phrase that repeated. I quickly got over my self-consciousness and just enjoyed myself - everybody else was in a similar state. It was this wonderful moment where I caught myself spinning and singing with punks and fairies/feris/radical faeries and druids and old ladies and all sorts. Afterward I felt high. I've been experiencing that a lot lately. Partly due to my singing practice - the amount of oxygen taken in can sometimes cause that feeling, as can singing into the stratosphere where my head starts ringing and I feel like I'm going to lift off into space, such an exhilarating feeling! But the spiral dance thing was strangely invigorating and meditative at the same time. It's completely dorky but I liked it a lot. I even found myself wishing I had had sparkles and some kind of festive costume. My god what's happening to me?!

Thinking of future Pantheacons, I plan to present next year. Something on Mary, of course. I think it'll be a good goal for me.
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I've been studying yoga pretty seriously for almost a year now. I've been attending an Iyengar style class and an Anusara style class. I get a great deal out of both, but in the last couple of months there's been something about the Anusara style that just seems to click with me. Iyengar feels much like the technique to Anusara's expression. Technique is important as a foundation, but I am really trying to move away from a tendency to rely on technique, which often leads me down the path to perfectionism. Anusara is based on a more Tantric, heart-opening philosophy. At first I found it to be a little hokey, but it's been growing on me. I now prefer it over my intense 2 hour Iyengar class.

Recently, my teacher gave me a copy of her Master Immersion booklet, so that I could learn more about the Anusara philosophy. While reading I kept thinking "This sounds like Feri! No wonder it's clicking!" And then I came to this excerpt, which just lays out the similarities between the Feri witchcraft stuff I've been studying with T Thorn Coyle and this style of yoga:

"You can be deeply soft and open, or deeply focused and strong. Performing fully means to play the edge or the threshold of our potential. The edge is where the alchemy or transformation takes place. It is the critical point where a quantum shift from one level to another occurs instantaneously. Performing fully in any moment expands the middle space of balanced action.... By playing the edge, the boundary line of our potential moves further out, so our capacity for our individual expression and knowing of Shiva/Shakti within us grows."

Feri is all about expanding to the edges and walking the line there. It's unsettling in a completely fascinating way. I'm not very articulate at talking about the stuff that I practice. It's much easier to discuss religious and spiritual things kept on a theoretical level. What's kind of neat about this Feri stuff is that there's very little "magic" in that casting-spells and conjuring kind of way. It's really about intention and experiencing the Divine. And yoga also seems to be all about that too.What I find really interesting in all of this is that as my yoga practice deepens and as I study Feri more, I am increasingly interested in finally getting my ass into the Orthodox Church.
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"...Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

From 'A Return To Love' (1992) by Marianne Williamson
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I have been reluctant to post. Basically, all the stuff that is interesting in my life these days seems too personal to post. However, I realize that the people I have been filling my life with these past few years aren't the mocking kind. They give me a hard time, but not mock. It's amazing how much support and room to be weird I get from my friends. The encouragement to be even bigger is a gift.

Last weekend I attended what I've been calling a "pagan workshop" but really it was the first weekend of a two year process. I have been hesitant all of my life to discuss two aspects of my life: singing (well, I discuss it a lot and sing very little for others) and religion. I can wax academic no problem. But discussing my own personal spiritual leanings and practices is another story. I'm sure this comes from a family for which I was always too loud, no one wanted to hear what I had to say, and practicality was valued over something as irrational as faith and religious experience. In any case, no one has looked at me askance when I've talked about my pagan weekend. Mostly friends just want to know more. I think this speaks highly of the people in my life. They are secure enough in themselves that others have room to be different from them. Yay!

Back to the weekend itself. It was fantastic. Weird, of course, but it exceeded my expectations. It's taught by a woman who I respect a great deal, T. Thorn Coyle. She's incredibly grounded and has done a lot of spiritual seeking and learning herself. She practices and teaches a form of witchcraft called Feri. I am intruiged for several reasons. One is that, while I am grounded in Christianity, I've always felt "Christian, and...." There are many things about paganism that I've been especially drawn to, the nature aspect and the recognition of experiences that are beyond explanation. Christianity just wants everything so rational, save for that faith part. However, with paganism I always feel "pagan, but....." I've decided to quit trying to choose and just explore what the intersection looks like in my life. Academically, I've been very interested in the pagan underpinnings of Christianity. But the only way to really know something is to experience it. One other interesting thing about Feri is that it is one of the only American-grown pagan traditions. Most other neo-pagan religions are European.

One of the things that was so extraordinary about the weekend was the people involved. Honestly I expected mostly Berkeley nutbags. All tie-dye and goth and all the other stereotypes that pop up when you think "pagan workshop in Berkeley." And yet, only one person really fell into the stereotype. I left the weekend thinking "Why couldn't my grad school have been filled with people like this??" Most were thoughtful, educated, curious, articulate, gracious, grounded. My experience has been that many pagans are reacting against bad Christian experiences. Everyone last weekend seemed to be actively choosing action and a belief system that genuinely spoke to their souls. I outed myself as spiritual hybrid and no one gave me grief. Several people told me they thought that was interesting, they wanted to know more, and in general thought it was positive work to be done.

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