In Which I Discuss My Experience with CAYA.

The Come As You Are Coven of Oakland CA has experienced a seismic shift recently, in which its former High Priestess has been outed as an abuser and manipulator.  There are many people that I trust who are coming forward with their stories.  Mine, at best, is tertiary to theirs, and I want that to be very clear.  

The former HP (FHP) started showing up at AMUH events I think a few months before my head wash to Oshun.  I asked my Mai de Santo if I could invite the FHP to my head wash because I’d been pleasantly impressed with her, and Mai said of course I could.  I bought some ingredients for my head wash water from FHP’s new shop.  FHP seemed pleased to have been asked, and presented me with a bottle of Damiana liqueur in a bottle shaped like a seated woman on the day of my event.  She seemed sweet, eager to ingratiate herself, and more than willing to share what she knew about Things In General.  I liked her immediately.  I liked her shop, too.  I never felt compelled to buy anything when I went in there, yet I often did, even if I didn’t actually have the money to do so.  Little things; small 5.00 crystals, rarely anything more than 10.00.  I remember that I ordered a specific Tarot deck and then when it arrived, I couldn’t actually pay for it, so told them to put it out in stock.  I found a pair of earrings that I liked and put them on layaway, but I never did make more than the first payment.  After 3 months, I finally told the store manager that I really just couldn’t afford them and to please put them back in stock.  Unexpectedly, the store manager refunded my deposit, even though those earrings had been off the floor for 3 months.  I found that surprising, and still have that store credit in my wallet.  It’s over 2 years old now.

One of AMUH’s Temple Keepers, a few weeks after my head wash, said something to the effect that FHP was a business woman first and foremost, and would always, only, think of herself first.

FHP and I did not get to be good friends, but I would say that we got to be good acquaintances.  I rec’d readings from her a few times and felt nothing but support and encouragement in my desire to go to school, perhaps beyond a B.A.; she offered to write a letter of recommendation to me if I decided to attend Sarah Lawrence, her alma mater.
I played with that idea for several days before filing it away for future reference.  I ended up knitting her a scarf the year she was initiating to Oshun.  I knew she was going to be heading back East to see her family and I was also pretty sure that she didn’t have a white scarf, so I knitted one, in the Peacock feather pattern, and added gold beads to it here and there.  I don’t know that she still has it, but it’s a thing I made for her.

I started going to school and had less time for AMUH events.  When I started attending Mills in 2015 my attendance at House events dropped to 2 a year from once a month:  PantheaCon, and House Anniversary, with maybe a Bembe or a dinner if my homework schedule allowed.  I was working hard at school and loving it but missing the community  and magical aspects of AMUH.  The Mills Pagan Alliance didn’t do a thing for me; but several people I knew, liked, and trusted, were getting involved with CAYA so I thought I’d try them out.  I attended several public rituals in Alameda; some I found engaging, some not.  No blame to anyone; it’s the nature of events, I think.  Everyone gets something different out of them, and events I felt separate from others felt very engaged with  It’s not a flaw or a fault in me; it’s simply how these things go.  I’ve seen this time and time again at PantheaCon, too.  I also attending some public rituals in the shop.  A note on my use of the word “public”:  not that anyone could walk by the shop and come in and join us public, but that these events were not limited to only clergy and/or members of the congregation.  I liked FHP and I liked many of the people I met at CAYA events although I never got close to them.  This has more to do with my own reticence and social anxiety; everyone I met was very friendly and willing to talk with me.  Still, I felt that I didn’t “fit”.  FHP offered classes both online and in person.  There was Tea & Chanting, there were gratitude observations, there was Initiate training.  I tried them all but something didn’t jibe for me.  During Initiate training, which was held at FHP’s home, I often felt as if, because I didn’t the money to pay for classes beyond the minimum requested donation, that I was a failure, that I was only there on sufferance, that I was a charity case.  I felt like Scarlett O’Hara during the bazaar in Atlanta when she realizes how different she is from everyone around her.  I liked them all, I liked FHP and her eventual husband, but I just didn’t fit.  Money got tighter.  I quit the Initiates’ training, I stopped attending rituals except at PantheaCon.  And now, this year, I’m not attending PantheaCon either, because the money didn’t work out.

During the course of our readings, I felt very strongly that I didn’t want to give FHP too much information.  I was trying to get her to prove how good she was from what she knew of me both from our in person interactions and from what she saw on my social media site.  To the best of my knowledge, she read my cards honestly and didn’t try to coerce me in any way to spend money I didn’t have or act in a way dishonorable to my personal code of ethics.

And here’s the thing about abusers:  if they know they can’t use you, they generally either shun you, or treat you decently.  FHP treated me decently, I believe.  I had nothing for her, which she learned after I finally disappeared from Initiate training.  It was no skin off her nose.

And here’s something else:  I’ve spent almost 2 hours writing this and giving her energy by doing so.  I should instead have long ago gotten up and gotten about my day but instead I felt it was important to put this down somewhere that wasn’t in the bright spotlight but that also wasn’t forgotten.

I feel very  muddled, still.  What was the point of all of this, again?



In Which I Learn, Hopefully, To Get Over Myself.

I had a disagreement with a friend today, that shocked in its surprise and miffed in its perceived viciousness.  I want to be very clear about that word “perceived”, here.  The perception was mine, and it was not the intent of the speaker, to the best of my knowledge.  The viciousness is assumed on my part, as ancient tapes in my head always, initially, lead me to believe.

So I’ve been pouting and flouncing about that all day.  “This person has known me for decades!  How could they so mistake my meaning?  It’s clear as a bell, to me:  They asked a question, I answered with each word capitalized as it would be in that circumstance they asked about!  And then the question:  “I’m doing X thing.  What are YOU doing?'”
And that’s an issue for me, because I don’t go out and do stuff, and I often feel guilty about it as if I”m not pulling my weight for whatever the cause is and am just paying it lip service.  I’m a fake and a phony and undeserving of respect because I’m not out on the front lines, as it were.

So it was an ugly afternoon, as I ran through all of this in my head, over and over and over again.

Putting dinner together later, I got some clarity:  1.)  This person has no idea what goes on in my head.  I am silent much of the time; how can anyone know what goes on in my head unless I say so?  And 2.)  While I think it would be fine and brave of me to say to them in IM “You know, I felt really bad about that exchange we had earlier, and here’s why, and you never really apologized beyond a compulsory “Sorry” which didn’t address that the misunderstanding in question was yours, not mine,” I know that I probably never will.  It’s too… fraught.  It’s too deep, it’s too intimate, too exposing vulnerability, too easy to be misunderstood and hurt again by this person whose clarity and energy and drive and focus I have admired for 2 decades now.  And 3.), for all those brain weasels in there, what I’m DOING is going to school and learning – about me, and about the world we’re currently living in – so that I can then turn around and hopefully instruct someone else, just one other person, to see what the world is like behind the green silk curtain hung for our distraction by the winners and the advertisers and the people who want a docile proletariat – it’s uneven and unequal power structures, it’s lies, and it’s dangers – while simultaneously showing them that there’s good and magic in the world as well, through poetry and art and standing on their heads and rolling down hills and struggling up the other side and whatever ways they can think of make magic in a world that seems more and more as if it’s slipping into Banality.

So thank you, friend, for helping me to achieve this clarity!  This was a kindness on your part, and I’m very grateful indeed for the insight you’ve gifted me with today.


In Which I Discuss My Privilege

My youngest nephew has just graduated from Cal Poly this past weekend.  It was lovely to see the family; we haven’t gotten together since Dad passed (Sept. 2016).  Everyone is the same; the few minor differences, such as Charlotte is now a year old, Jan and Lenny’s son Chris is getting married and having an In-n-Out food truck at his wedding, Jeff and Trish’s son Toby has recently graduated from the Maritime Academy here in the city, Elizabeth & Andrew’s son Ian is now old enough to Facetime his favorite people, and Austin’s first job out of college is not in his major of Ag-Business, but in real estate, are the things that mark the passage of time.  Don reminds me more of Dad; Charlotte looks like Mom’s side of the family as Austin did when he was young; Jill I swear never changes, and will be beautiful and capable ’til the end of days.  Her children take after her.

Beautiful and capable people are required to make the world go.  They are the ones that provide the “normal” in our society.  My brother, his wife, and their family are the people for whom the service industries exist.  They are the ones for whom fashion is created, movies and television shows are made, restaurants are started, housekeeping and gardening and remodeling businesses stay busy, and investment firms remain solvent.  They’re not the 1%, but they are the 20%.  They have to be beautiful – or at least, attractive – in order for the world to know, at first glance, that they’re also capable because it’s funny about our world:  we equate attractiveness with being good at things.  And “being attractive” means, in part, that the people around us look like us, reflecting back to us in their clothes, and words, and mannerisms, what matters to us.

San Luis Obispo is a comparatively small town (about the size of Menlo Park as I remember it) that is predominantly white.  The people of color that I saw were concentrated mostly on the campus, or on my hotel’s groundskeeping and housekeeping staff; the nail salon I went to was owned and operated by a Vietnamese man.  The wait people at the upscale restaurants we ate at; the front desk people at Le Petit Soleil and The Apple Farm; the Uber and Lyft and taxi drivers; the counter folk at 7-11, were all white.  This is not to say that there weren’t other people of color around in the many restaurants and stores that I didn’t go into; these are just the examples I saw, a small sample taken in about a 5 square mile radius of the campus.

At least once a day I found myself thinking “where are all the black people?  Why is this town so WHITE?”  It felt creepy watching the cooky-cutter people go about their business.  It’s a world I can pass in, but it’s not where I’m comfortable.

If that means that I’m on my way to becoming a race traitor, then so be it.

How do I associate myself with people who are rich, and compassionate, and trying to make the world a better place?  Who are those role models?  And can I please start being more like them?

In Which The World Seems Like A Howling Wilderness.

Day after tomorrow is Election Day.  I’m so tired of politics.  It’s 08:40 on the first morning of Daylight Standard Time and my soul feels weary and my heart feels weary I don’t want to just go to sleep, but I wish that things, including me, were nicer.

As of… Hallowe’en?… I’m on a leave of absence from school.  I couldn’t keep up.  I couldn’t concentrate.  I did poorly on the mid-terms (well, I think I did; I never got to see them, and haven’t emailed the teachers) and as the days continued to get a little more grey in my mind & heart, it started becoming such a chore to get up on time & I dreaded the thought of going to school because I felt I was so far behind.  This semester was just a wreck from start to finish.  So I am dropping my French minor and the intention to study abroad, and will be declaring English/Creative Writing as my new major although at this very specific moment I have no idea what I’d write about.  Concentrate on my gen ed reqs and spend my limited time more wisely than I did this semester and hopefully I’ll be able to graduate “on time” in Spring 2020.

In Which I Show My Predilection for Gallows Humor.

My father was a life-long Republican.  Lest that frighten you away, think of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower instead of… well, just about any member of the recent Republican party.  Dad was a member of the Grand Old Party when it still really was The Grand Old Party; and while he was very clear that the party had been changing in recent years, he was loyal to it even though it has ceased being loyal to him oh, back in the 80’s some time.  *cough*trickledowneconomics*cough*

He didn’t seem to mind John McCain so much, or Mitt Romney (remember, total party loyalist), but Donald Trump was just a bridge too far.  He said earlier this year, his voice oddly heavy with regret, that he was just going to have to vote for Mrs. Clinton because “that Trump is just so awful”.

And then he died.



In Which My Father Has Passed.

I didn’t keep such a careful watch on this as I did with Mom over on Dreamwidth.  I’m not sure why.

When I left San Diego in March of this year I had a morbid feeling that that was the last visit I’d have with Dad.  He was sleeping a lot, and he seemed to have shrunk, although he was still fairly strong.  We did all the usual things – dinner in the dining room, dinner and lunch out – but he just seemed to be… withdrawing.  I chalked it up to fear, and kept calling him every Sunday night.  Some weeks he was good, some weeks he was… less good.

He had several melanomas removed from his scalp over the spring, and started the Jimmy Carter Cancer Drug, Keytruda.  It seemed to help, but he was always very unwilling to talk about it.

I called him on Sunday Sept. 4 as usual.  It was a short call, but that’s nothing out of the ordinary.  He was…. sad, I thought, but later learned that he was also in pain.  Monday he called 911 because the pain was so bad, and they took him to the hospital where he was given a bag of antibiotics for what they thought was a UTI.  He picked up after the IV, and joked about how he wished it had been a Manhattan, instead of ABs.  Tuesday they were talking about getting him some physical therapy because he said he was so weak.  Wednesday his nurse saw a change and called Jill (who told me all of this) to have his family come down.  She called me, I emailed my teachers and packed, Don got me a ticket while flying home early from his business in Australia, and I fussed about on Facebook, unable to sleep.  Around 01:00 I changed my profile picture to one of me and Dad.  Thursday morning literally as I was walking out the door to go to the airport, Don called, saying not to come down, Dad had already passed. (typical, of him, to slip away with no fuss.)

So I was able to attend MTW classes the next week, then flew down to San Diego on Wednesday the 14th to stay with Don and Jill.  Austen was there as his classes didn’t start until today.  Thursday we went to the mortuary to say goodbye, then spent the afternoon at Dad’s apartment going through things and separating what to keep from what to donate.  Friday was the service at the cemetery (I did not put my hand over my heart during Taps but was very intent and as respectful as possible in all over ways except for trying to video it, which failed).  Dad, as a vet, received a military burial, and Don got the flag, which I think is right and proper both as the eldest, and as the head of the family.  We had hamburgers and milkshakes at Jack for lunch, which was one of Dad’s favorite meals; then we went back to the  Remington with the kids and went over who wanted what (I’m delighted that Frankie wanted the ceramic cat!).  At about 2:45 we all headed downstairs for the memorial.  It was quite lovely; much nicer than Mom’s, which seemed a little slap-dash.    After that there was a reception and I got to meet Dad’s childhood friend “Hammy”.  They’d known each other since kindergarten, and Hammy, Dad, and Gene Lowry were often called The Three Musketeers.  That’s so odd to think of.  It also seems that Hammy told Don, although not me, that the “family” Dad lived with while he was attending college in Mexico City was actually a couple of girls – the implication being that there was more going on than just studying.  This does not surprize me so much; being an athlete, Dad was a big man on campus, and he was a pretty good looking fellow as well.  Too, I seem to recall that he was something of a lady’s man before he met Mom, so there’s that to lend credence to Hammy’s implication.

And now this man who so many people remember as genuinely nice and caring is gone.  His life, which was a good one, is complete, and I think that, taking one thing and another, that if there is a Heaven, he is there without a doubt.

I love you, Daddy.