I got interviewed!

When I started to train for open water swimming again a couple of years ago, I decided it would be in my best interest to become a US Masters Swimming (USMS) member. This was mostly because a lot of open water events are only open to USMS members (for liability/insurance reasons), but there are a lot of perks that come with the membership that I like, especially the forums where I can ask other swimmers questions, training programs, and their magazine “Swimmer”.

Well, a few months ago, Swimmer Magazine had an excellent series of articles about diversity in swimming which mostly focused on race, but did mention other diversity issues, except body diversity.

So, I wrote a letter to the editor, Laura Hamel, and told her as much. I basically said that while I thought their articles on diversity were really awesome, they forgot to talk about size diversity. I mentioned how hard it is to get good training swimsuits. The major swim companies don’t carry suits past size 24 (maybe) and the places where you can get suits in my size have maybe one style of suit that is suitable for swimming laps. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for cute swimsuits, but I’m not lounging by the pool when I go swimming, you know?) I also mentioned that I was nervous about going to a Masters training session because I wasn’t sure how I’d be received, or if they would take me seriously, or if they’d just assume I was there to lose weight.

The editor and I had a nice exchange of emails, and they published an edited version of my letter in the next issue. She was really awesome, and said that she hoped that any Masters event I went to that they would take me seriously and welcome me. (To be honest, I still haven’t gone to one yet.)

But color me surprised when a few months later I get an email from Laura about wanting to interview me! The journalist, Elaine, and I had a great discussion when she interviewed me on the phone, and a later I got pictures done with a very nice and body positive photographer named Mike Calabro in Lake Michigan (literally in!).

The online version came out a couple of weeks ago, but I finally got my initial hard copy a couple of days ago. I created a PDF of the article, which is below! The article belongs to Swimmer Magazine and US Masters Swimming, so, if you are going to share it anywhere online, please make sure to give the appropriate citations.

I’m still going “Holy cow! Someone thought I was interesting enough to interview!” but this is awesome!

swimmerarticle

Baked Stuffed Pumpkin with Mushrooms, Spinach, and Cheese (A Mabon Recipe)

I made this for my coven the other night for our Mabon dinner and it was an instant hit! This is vegetarian and gluten free! Yes, you can make this with regular bread if you wish, although, we all liked the texture of the gluten free bread in it (it doesn’t get as mushy). This is pretty adaptable, and according to my original sources, you could also use cooked rice instead of bread. I may also make a non-veg version of this by adding some cooked bacon. (Mmmmm….bacon!)

I was inspired to try doing a stuffed pumpkin by this blog post and video by Jas. Townsend and Son, Inc, who have a YouTube show about 18th Century Cooking.

What you need:

1 pumpkin, about 3 lbs (or an acorn squash, or kobocha)
About 2-3 cups of gluten free bread cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 8 oz package of a shredded cheese blend of your choice (you can always add extra)
1 8 oz package of sliced mushrooms
1 5-8 oz package of baby spinach
2 shallots, finely diced
2 heaping spoonfuls of minced garlic (or about 4-6 large fresh cloves diced fine)
salt and pepper to taste
heavy cream
1-2 tablespoons of butter

What to do:

  1. Cut the top off your pumpkin and scoop out all the seeds. (You can either discard the seeds or roast them.)
  2. Melt the butter in a frying pan. Put in the shallots and cook until just translucent.
  3. Add the garlic and mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms are golden brown.
  4. Add the baby spinach and cover the pan to let it wilt.
  5. While the spinach is wilting, add your bread cubes, cheese, salt, and pepper in a large bowl and toss together.
  6. Once the spinach is wilted, stir the spinach, mushrooms, shallots and garlic together until they’re well mixed, then add it to the large bowl with the bread cubes. (Some of the cheese will melt, but don’t worry, it’s ok!)
  7. Combine all the ingredients in the bowl until well mixed, and then pack as much as you can into the pumpkin, squishing it down into the pumpkin if you have to, until you can just fit the top of the pumpkin on without it sticking up too much. (The top should still fit as if you were making a jack-o-lantern.)
  8. Slowly (!!) add the heavy cream. You’ll want to do this in 2 or 3 stages. Add some, then let that soak in a bit. Then add a bit more, let it soak in, and then add a little bit more. You want to be able to see the cream come a bit to the top, but not so much that it’s drowning (with all the bread and stuff packed in, you won’t be able to add too much anyway).
  9. Put the top back on.

Cooking method 1 (which is how I cooked it for our dinner):

Wrap the pumpkin well in heavy duty aluminum foil so that it won’t leak. Get your grill set up and start your coals (you could probably even use a regular campfire for this method!). We used mesquite coals, but I’m pretty sure you could use regular charcoal for this, too. The goal is to have a very hot set of coals to nestle the pumpkin in to. When your coals are ready, make kind of a well in the middle, and carefully set the pumpkin on them. Bring up the coals around the pumpkin (kind of like using a dutch oven), and cook for about an hour and 15 min (or longer, depending on how hot your coals are). You can tell it’s ready if you can poke the pumpkin from the outside and it feels like it’ll squish if you poked it too hard. Carefully remove from the coals into a heat proof dish, unwrap, and be ready for awesomeness!

Cooking method 2 (for the less pyro among us):

Put the lid on the pumpkin and bake at 350 degrees F for approximately 1 – 1.5 hours. Basically, when you can stick a knife in the pumpkin without resistance, it’s done. To make it fancy, you could take the tops off, add more of the shredded cheese, and put it back into the oven until it’s all good and bubbly.

Blessed Mabon everyone!

WIP snippet “What is most feared: Church burn and the Neo-Pagan”

This is an excerpt from the book I’m writing on radical inclusion for the pagan community. Given some of the posts I’ve seen floating around recently, I thought I’d post this here. (I’m hoping that I’ll finish this book in time for Pcon next year.) Also note, that this is from very much a first draft…

“Before we can dig deeper into questions of inclusion, we need to understand how people convert to paganism. Most people who are in the pagan community are converts, or people who have come from a different religions or atheism into paganism. This creates a challenge to paganism as a whole because much of the outer work that groups have done have been reactionary to mainstream religion, and Christianity in particular. As Yoda says: “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

What I see a lot in the Pagan community as a whole is a strong backlash against anything remotely Christian. It’s really not surprising, especially since a lot of new pagans come from Christian backgrounds where they have experienced significant “church burn.” Church burn is a concept that I learned from Bishop Yvette Flunder, and it is the result of abuse caused in a church or spiritual environment. This definition is used particularly in reference to Christianity, and is what will make up the bulk of this chapter, but it’s important to realize that “church burn” isn’t exclusive to Christianity. In fact, when talking to most people who are involved in coven-based traditions, you’ll inevitably have the conversation about coven explosions and most people in the room will roll their eyes and nod in understanding. These explosions can be just as damaging as any of the abuse coming out of Christianity. The difference being that Christianity has more history of it and on a larger scale. In other words: witches, Wiccans, pagans, etc are not immune from their own extremism. We are a group of humans after all.

But back to those who come into witchcraft from Christian traditions. There are a few stages that I think most people go through when finding a new spiritual path that fits their particular needs. The first stage is a honeymoon or zealot stage where one is learning all they can about their newfound religion and is super excited to tell everyone all about it. The second stage is where it becomes incorporated into one’s identity as part of their sense of self and is also incorporated into one’s uniqueness. And third is the integration stage, where the tradition is a part of one’s identity, but they have a more expansive worldview, tending to regard it as one of many aspects of their being. In other words, their sense of self, while strongly influenced by their tradition, is not reliant on their tradition. In my experience, it’s easy for many people to get stuck in the zealot and identity stages for a long time, sometimes never managing to get to a more tolerant and expansive worldview. This, I think, is highly influenced by past religious experience, particularly if one has experienced a great deal of church burn. Also note that these phases aren’t necessarily linear. A person can revisit these stages at any time when new knowledge creates change. There are plenty times in life when a person can find out something new about themselves that they didn’t have words for that can set off the process anew.

In this chapter we’ll look at these phases and how they can be good and detrimental to the individual, the group, and the community as a whole. We’ll also look at some of the hypocrisies that arise in the pagan traditions around these phases that can lead to conflict. Yoda’s words at the beginning of this chapter, while simple, are quite correct. And the suffering that comes from it does more than just harm others, it harms the self.”

2nd Week of Lent: Pantheacon and What I’m Doing This For

I’ve tried to start this a couple of times because, well, Pantheacon is always hard to sum up in the week after and 2016 is no exception. In short, it was a really good convention all the way around. Time seemed to warp around the con and this week it’s been really difficult to get back into “normal” time. I know next week things will settle down, especially after I catch up on my sleep debt.

The big things:

  • My coven is super awesome, and I’m excited we’ll be adding more awesome people to our little family of weirdos.
  • “Crossroads of Memory” kicked some serious ass, and CAYA Coven was awesome! Hopefully we’ll be able to collaborate again! (Dobby is a free elf!)
  • Many excellent conversations were had in the suite and I was really happy that the Body Policing/Body Shame panel on Saturday became a really deep discussion. The gender discussion on Sunday was also awesome, and moved from gender issues to a deep discussion about gender, race, and intersectionality.
  • My workshop on radical inclusion went really well, although we ended up going overtime a little. The best part was seeing light bulbs go off in people’s minds about what radical inclusion is. That is the awesomest thing about teaching, I think.
  • We had a beautiful 2nd Degree ritual on Thursday night, and it seems it be becoming a tradition to initiate someone at con.
  • Great dinners and chats with new friends, old friends, and seeing folks I haven’t seen in a long time.
  • Much priesting of one form or another.
  • Helping out some folks when they experienced some not so nice things at con and being a safe place for people to just be.
  • Learning not to apologize for doing self care.

One thing that was difficult for me was trying to do my meditations during the con, especially since, except for Thursday, we stayed up until well past 1 AM. Hecate said not to worry about it since I was doing a lot of priesting anyway and I was following other aspects of my agreements (She had me wearing all black for the con, taking care of the north altar, and I was doing daily meditation times publicly).

I was still worrying about it when we got home, and one of the things I remembered was Sarah telling me not to apologize for doing self-care. In my meditations this week Hecate has been telling me that the point of what I’m doing is not necessarily about what I actually do in my meditations, but learning the discipline of daily practice. I’m doing this to get closer to my deities, but I’m also doing it to create the foundation for doing the other work I want and need to do. The meditation is really helping me a lot, especially in the anxiety department (although cutting out caffeine hasn’t hurt, either!), and I’m also learning a new grounding technique that was really helpful during the con and is still helping post-con to bring me more down to earth.

I also needed to change out my Hecate statue. One of the problems with being someone who works with the dying is that sometimes I can get stuck in that mode and forget that there’s life out there, too. The Hecate statue I was using was one I made when I was still doing ceramics and sculpture at home and it is Her in Her role as Death (it’s a bit similar to Santa Muerte in that respect). I needed to remember that She has other aspects (Goddess of Initation, of the Crossroads, etc), and I needed some other representation to reflect that. I got the new statue today, and we’re both pleased (if you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you’ve already seen it).

On Monday I’ll be switching over to the Dagda part of the working. It’s been interesting because there’s more logistics required for this part of the working since it requires making meals for others. I’ll be re-doing my altar for it, too. It’s always interesting to compare what kind of altar bling each deity likes when I offer it. All three have relatively simple tastes, which is a good thing!

Could I do this working without the bling? Sure. The bling is mostly for me as an outward representation of what I’m doing, but it’s nice when the Deity in question happens to like it, too. It’s also a place for me to focus, and sometimes it really does take the bling to make it work when I’m feeling scattered. Candles are useful, too, when it comes to that.

It also makes me think about the how all things can be sacred if you let it. The kitchen stove will be my altar for a couple of weeks. My altar is a repurposed microwave stand. I use coins for offerings. If it’s a sacrifice I can make, I will. If it something I need to negotiate, I will. If it’s something I can’t do, I’ll tell my deities so. This is a relationship, and relationships are meant to be based on communication and respect. And so it is…