Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Adventures in Religion Class

   I was sitting in religion class one day, the day the professor had finally provoked a couple of brave individuals out of the belligerent silence the class insistently stared him down with every day.  I talked in class sometimes, but avoided broaching anything too controversial.  I mean, he makes fun of people.  He literally laughed in one guy's face and asked him if he was from another planet!  But this day, he had really annoyed some of the Christians. I can't really blame them for being upset because he'd told us that to study religion, we had to be in a place where we didn't know if we would still be religious 6 months from now and that it didn't matter.  That's a pretty hefty requirement to study religion in this stupid required 101 college class, particularly if your religion teaches that it's wrong to leave(as in Christianity).   don't even want to assume that I could or could not be pagan six months from now because I'm pretty sure it would actually be unhealthy to leave my religion because of one religious class taught by one somewhat-crazy man.

  Anyway, that went on and people got offended, and then the professor thought he would improve upon matters by proclaiming that no great scientist had ever been a believer.  Speaking directly to the Christian guy who'd been talking, he told him that with his beliefs, he couldn't be a scientist.  Okay then.  That was okay, though, he assured them.  He couldn't be a scientist, or even a teacher, for that matter, since teachers must be so amazingly, supernaturally unbiased.  I'm sure the poor Christian was comforted by the teacher's further suggestion that he could, however, be....a government worker, for instance.  Phew.  Glad we've still got options.
   As class came to a close, the professor told us that next week we'd be studying Ancient Greek religion and that, next week, we would all be like, That's stupid!  Of course those gods aren't real!  I felt indignant.  I felt ignored.  So I did what passive-agressive people do on particularly assertive days.  I grinned, eyebrows raised, Ohh yeah? plastered across my face, while watching the professor continue on about our obvious reactions to next week's topic.  Apparently this Italian man has never encountered pagans, modern people who *gasp* might not think the ancient Greek gods are ridiculous and stupid.  Class was dismissed and, after wishing Zeus' wrath upon this man, I got up and walked out.

Just kidding!  I wish Zeus' wrath on no man! ;-P

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Magickal Learning at the Magical Circle School

I decided to let you in on what seems to be a bit of a secret in the pagan community. I've happened upon forum after forum of people discussing online schools of magick. They're usually talking about the College of the Sacred Mists or Witch School. There's also Oberon Zell's Grey School of Wizardry. But there seems to be a silence, and so I'm guessing a lack of knowledge, of the 100% free Magical Circle School. It's a school that focuses on magickal learning within the Wiccan tradition. While some classes do require books or materials, there is no cost to enroll in the school, which offers a vast array of classes on many magickal(and mundane) topics. If you find a class with seemingly expensive items on the Items Needed list(essential oils, for example), you are free to make substitutions with affordable items you have on hand and the teachers are easily accessible for advice. "Class packs" are available for purchase for some classes but are completely optional. Colleen Criswell, who runs the school and heads up the staff, has office hours from 10-2 EST every weekday, making communication easy and fast. The personal feedback from teachers, along with the great diversity of classes, are my favorite things about this school. I enrolled in the program for a short time once before and have recently re-enrolled. Once enrolled, you are free to choose the classes that most interest you, or take part in the Degree program, which consists of three degree levels. So if you've been thinking about checking into online schools, you might want to check it out here!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Announcing My Pagan Pages Ezine Column :-)

  What do you get when you decide to organize your city's local March Against Monsanto while going to college, all right in the midst of flying to Denver to present research at a microbiology conference? One crazy-ass month, and the reason you haven't heard from me for a while. But it's summer, and I'm rested and recuperated and back in action. Since this is a time of calm for me, I have a lot of time to think about my path and study. Which means lots of thoughts (and my Book of Shadows project) to share with you!

   In the midst of my crazy last couple of months, I was so excited to be approached through my blog about writing a regular column for Pagan Pages Ezine, which has published monthly issues since 2006. My column is called Bare Feet on an Earth Path and you can find a new issue of the magazine the 1st of every month. But, I've gotta come clean with y'all or you're gonna be confused. My name is not, in fact, Marienne. Though Marienne is the  name I've been using on here, I decided to go with my real name for the ezine, so you'll see Kalina as the author of my column. There you have it. I guess this witchy wannabe is out of the real world and the virtual broom closet now. So far I've had two articles published...


*Enjoy, and I hope you're having a magical summer!*

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

March Against Monsanto - May 25, Everywhere

 Think you have the right to know if you're eating genetically modified foods? May 25th is the day to speak out against Monsanto, the agricultural biotech company that doesn't think you do. Cities all over are planning grassroots rallies and marches for this worldwide protest. The success of this event depends And me. Which is why I've stepped up to help organize my city's event.
Click here to learn more, and to find the Facebook event page for your city.
- Click here to check out my post "Whole Foods Market and GMOs in the News."


Friday, April 19, 2013

Best Food Finds

   I've been pretty adventurous with my healthy eating lately, scrolling through my Pinterest "likes" and trying new things. I thought I'd share a few of the very best finds I've made lately.

  From Amanda's Apron comes Sweet and Spicy Strawberry Pizza. It sounds weird, yes, but it's amazing! If spicy isn't your thing, leave out the hot sauce and you'll still have a scrumptiously sweet strawberry pizza.

  I started eating Clif bars during my time as a vegan, and continue to buy them occasionally at school because they have good, real food ingredients. Or so I thought.

   Melissa, at My Whole Food Life, revealed that one of the ingredients, Soy Protein Isolate, actually contains MSG. That's definitely not good. And besides, fresh is always better for you because there's no need for preservatives to keep the food edible on the store shelves for months. I've had mixed experiences with granola bar-type recipes, but I decided to try out Melissa's homemade Clif bars. I'm glad I did! They're delicious, and best of all, you can customize them. So far, I've made them plain with chocolate chips and with cocoa powder in the batter plus chocolate chips. Be sure to scroll through the comments on Melissa's blog post for more ideas for variations.

   Okay, the last recipe I want to share isn't super healthy. It's a homemade mocha frappucino; you know, the one you may be paying close to five bucks for at Starbucks. But homemade is definitely preferable, not only for your wallet, but also for your health. The recipe is written for sugar-free ingredients, but I went with raw cane sugar and Trader Joe's chocolate syrup instead. You can also substitute whatever kind of milk you prefer(I used almond and it worked great). I've tried and tried to make a decent mocha frappucino at home, but have never been satisifed until trying this recipe from Always Chrysti. The "secret ingredient" is so simple, but makes such a difference!

Enjoy! Have you made any delicious finds lately?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Finding Hufflepuff

  Harry Potter, Ron, Hermione, they're all Gryffindors. But I do not delude myself; I'm not very brave. So Gryffindor was never really even an option. Pass.

Then there was Slytherin. Those kids scare me. Not to mention, I'm not evil, or ambitious, or whatever they're calling it these days. Pass.

  I next came upon Ravenclaw. Ravenclaw. My eyes opened wide in amazement. Perhaps I had found a home. I like to think I'm pretty smart, I love learning, and reading is my favorite hobby. I sat back for a while, starting to feel smug about myself. Ravenclaw.

  But then I realized that Ravenclaws are kind of snobby and think they're all that. We'll stealthily ignore the fact that I fell under their cocky, intoxicating spell  for a time. My husband is the perfect Ravenclaw. I couldn't be like him, God forbid. (Yes, he does read this occasionally.) So I looked around and saw...the Hufflepuffs.

       Ah, yes, the Hufflepuffs. And finally, I found my place.
      You see, though I am smart and love to learn, I always argue the
people-first position. As Pottermore so aptly asked, "Save the tomes of knowledge? Or save the people?" Puhleeze, you unethical Ravenclaw bastards, there is only one answer. (Pottermore sorted me into Ravenclaw, by the way. LIES!) And all of my other quirks would fit in here just fine.

                               We're Hufflepuffs, after all.

  Naively enthusiastic, I proudly claimed my Hufflepuff belonging.  I'd come to learn the hard truth that Hufflepuffs are, in fact, on the receiving end of a long line of mockery.

  After years of therapy and psychoanalysis, I realized that I could be comfortable with my true Hufflepuff nature, and I accepted those who find their joy in knocking us for the sad, pathetic, bitter fuckers they are.

Of course, I hold no grudges.

I still have huge reserves of Hufflepuff pride. How could I not? We're loyal, just, and unafraid of toil, after all. But best of all,

we're nice.

I concur.

I am so proud to be a badger.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

You Are Not Your Stuff

   I was listening to a speaker recently, who talked about how we are all Divine and have "god-like abilities."  And he said that we are not our stuff.  What he meant was that the limiting patterns of our lives are not a part of our identities. They're just...stuff.  Stuff that has gotten in the way of allowing us to express our Divine selves. In my case, the "stuff" that immediately came to mind was anxiety. When I think of my life and what makes me who I am, I tend to think of my struggle. It has become wound up in my identity, something that I'm almost proud of claiming. It makes me who I am, right? Well, it has played a significant role in my life, and it's probably my greatest impetus for change and growth. So I don't think it's necessarily bad that I see it as having been important. But if that identification with the struggle overtakes identification with who I am, then I need to get my self-image back on track. Anxiety is not so inextricably wound up in who I am that I am nothing without it. If I stop being anxious, I will still be the amazing person I already am...just free of anxiety. I have struggled, but that struggle is not who I am. Who I am is a being with the strength and power to overcome any struggle.

   And it's not just me. You're pretty freaking awesome, too. For me, it's anxiety, but I think we've all got that thing that gets us down that we get confused with who we are. It's easy to forget how beautiful and powerful we are, so it's a good thing you've got me to tell you. ;-) You're beautiful. And powerful.

   Don't forget it.


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Dr. Victoria Sweet on "The Healing Power of Nature"

  As I continue to read God's Hotel by Victoria Sweet, an insightful investigation into the history of medicine, I keep coming across intriguing and thought-provoking nuggets. As I was reading recently, I came to a portion of the book which addressed vitalism. Oh, vitalism. While Dr. Sweet is a medical doctor and not a naturopathic one, her perspective was of particular interest to me because the philosophy of vitalism is usually the first objection critics of naturopathic medicine bring upThis is because one of the six naturopathic principles, as identified by the American Association of Naturopathic Medicine, is vis medicatrix naturae, which roughly translates in English to "the healing power of nature." The AANP's website offers a further description of this principle: "Naturopathic medicine recognizes an inherent self-healing process in the person which is ordered and intelligent. Naturopathic physicians act to identify and remove obstacles to healing and recovery, and to facilitate and augment this inherent self-healing process." Critics of naturopathic medicine mock the field for vitalism, never seeming to stop and consider that this very general principle could be interpreted in a wide variety of ways, quite possibly including interpretations that don't even involve vitalism. I'd like to share a short excerpt from Dr. Sweet's book, in which she describes the history of the schism between mechanists and vitalists and gives her perspective on the matter.
The mechanists believed that life was mechanical, simply a series of processes that science could eventually understand and duplicate; the body was a machine that could be fixed.  For the vitalists, the body was not a machine.  They believed that life had something special about it that science could never duplicate.  The vitalists were the romantics of medicine, and in the last decades of the nineteenth century they lost their battle with the mechanists.  By the early twentieth century, any reference to vitalism or the healing power of nature was considered heretical.  Yet vitalism did not diappear.  Instead, it dived down into the subterranean rivers of Western medicine and reappeared in the many side streams of alternative medicine.
Whether there is such a thing as the healing power of nature is, perhaps, beside the point.  What I do know for sure is that it is a useful way of looking at my patients' bodies; it gives me a way of imagining that the body's natural state is to be whole, perfect, and without blemish.  And it is what differentiates the living body from a machine: because if nothing interferes, the body, unlike a machine, will heal itself.
                                                                                                    God's Hotel, Victoria Sweet

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Finding Passion

   I'm in school, studying biology. I first discovered that I might like biology when I dropped out of my last school's Education program. I was at a community college and they just didn't have that many options. So after finishing three years of an Education degree and deciding I didn't want to be a teacher, I dropped out of the program and switched to Nursing. I decided against nursing, too, but not before going through two Anatomy & Physiology classes. While in those classes, I recognized that some of the stuff we talked about was really fascinating.  To have the kind of complete understanding of the body's physiology that my professor did, I thought, would be pretty amazing. Those impressions stuck with me, so when I discovered naturopathic medicine about a year ago, things began to click. It seemed like a good fit. Damn, it seemed like a perfect fit.  My personality is such that I am drawn to careers that are full of idealism and purpose. One of my education professors once said that none of us would be there if we weren't idealists.  I can't justify going to a job every day and just working. It doesn't make sense to me, and I could never make myself do something I saw as menial and purposeless for the rest of my life. Which is why naturopathic medicine, which offers itself up as an alternative to the current flawed healthcare system, is great for me. It's the kind of career you go into to make a difference, making a statement in action.

   This is the first time I've felt this sort of passion for something, the first time I've sustained that passion and worked toward something for a substantial period of time. My passion for my original purpose when I chose to go back to school one year ago is no less now than it was then. The plan gives me purpose, a goal to work toward. And not just to get through school, but to really have an enduring knowledge of the human body, the human psyche; knowledge that can make a difference and that can help people.  This sort of knowledge isn't gained at once, or even entirely before you start working as a physician. I think it's an ongoing commitment and I don't think any patient deserves a physician who doesn't make such a commitment to learning.  

 Right now, in addition to studying for biology and chemistry, I'm reading God's Hotel by Victoria Sweet.  It's a memoir by a physician who worked in one of the nation's last almshouses before efficiency experts came in and began to dictate their practices and turn it into a modern healthcare facility. The reviews are amazing and it's very good so far.  It presents the idea that short-term efficiency equals poor-quality care and long-term inefficiency.  In other words, spending more time on patients is better in the long run (and definitely better for patients in the short run!).

   I love adding medical-related books to my Amazon wishlist, books that I'll hopefully one day be able to check off.  I get so excited (and impatient) when I think about going to graduate school, where I would finally get to do clinical work.  As a long-time dabbler, it's great to finally care about something so much, to have finally found something that I care enough about, and like learning about enough, that I will choose it over other things.  It just feels good.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Broom Closet and Harassment

  The Wild Hunt recently reported that Kyrja Withers, author of the Rupert series of pagan children's books, had gun shots fired at her home after being the victim of prior incidents of harassment related to her pagan religion. (See the original story here.)  This news saddens me, but it doesn't make me regret my own choice to be "out of the broom closet."
   I was always taught that I should be careful what people think about me, that reputation is a powerful thing.  It's a viewpoint I've come to disagree with strongly, especially as I began to make controversial choices such as being a pagan.  I could hide the fact that I consider myself pagan, or I could let it be known in the same way I let other opinions and interests be known. Growing up in a generation of Facebook users who express their opinions loud and proud on the Internet, combined with the fact that we Americans tend to believe we have the right to be happy while being open about who we are, I can't bring myself to go to great lengths to keep my religion hidden. When I was a Christian, "Christian" was proudly displayed as my Facebook religion status. Now, it says "Pagan."  I don't tell everyone I meet that I'm a pagan.  It's just there on my Facebook to be found by curious profile-stalkers, and I'll mention it once in a while, if it comes up.  So it's not a choice to be in-your-face about my paganism. It's just a choice not to hide who I am and what I do.  There have been few negative implications of this choice in my own life, but we sadly live in a world where such consequences are clearly a possibility.  The choice to be open about paganism or not is a very personal one, and may take into account where you live, your professional life, etc.  In my current situation, I choose to be open and this news does not make me regret my choice.  But I'd love to hear your opinion.

Are you out of the broom closet?  And does this recent story influence how you feel about being an open pagan?

Friday, March 29, 2013

Have a Psychiatric Illness? You May Soon, Thanks to the new DSM-V

   After getting behind schedule, the DSM-V has hurried on to its original May 2013 publication date, deciding to skip a quality control review that many critics say it badly needs.  Allen Francis, who chaired the DSM-IV committee, is one of the book's most vocal opponents.  Francis argues that it contains many new diagnoses that have no scientific foundation, and which will increase the number of people facing ordinary challenges who are already massively over-diagnosed with psychiatric illnesses.  "Many millions of people with normal grief, gluttony, distractibility, worries, reactions to stress, the temper tantrums of childhood, the forgetting of old age, and 'behavioral addictions' will soon be mislabeled as psychiatrically sick and given inappropriate treatment," he says. Grieving over the loss of a loved one?  There's Major Depressive Disorder, a designation just for the grieving.  Have a hyper child?  No longer are you limited to ADHD; there's the all-new Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder.  Most of us could probably be diagnosed with Internet Addiction, according to this version, and overeating 12 times in 3 months qualifies us for Binge Eating Disorder.  If you're getting older and starting to forget things, you can be slapped with the diagnosis of Minor Neurocognitive Disorder, despite the fact that this forgetting is normal and despite the fact that dementia is untreatable.  Francis blames the APA for the book's rush, saying that the publication is an important source of expected income for the organization.  Many professionals in the field of psychology are protesting the new revisions, but it is uncertain whether these protests will make a difference in the situation's outcome.  Regardless, Francis identifies this as a low point for the field of psychiatry. "This is the saddest moment in my 45 year career of studying, practicing, and teaching psychiatry."

Learn More

DSM-5 Is a Guide, Not a Bible: Simply Ignore Its 10 Worst Changes by Francis Allen, at Huffington Post

The DSM-5 Controversy by Eric Maisel, at Psychology Today

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Earth Hour to Darken the Globe Tonight

  Earth Hour is tonight from 8:30-9:30 pm, a time when people and institutions all over the world will turn out their lights to raise awareness of climate change and the need for renewable energy sources. From individuals to the Eiffel Tower, this event that started in Australia in 2007 has spread the world over and will include hundreds of millions of people.  Learn more in this story by Aljazeera, and consider joining in by spending your evening in candlelight.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Look at Avalon Within

Click the book to see it on Amazon.
  A couple years ago I bought the book Avalon Within by Jhenah Telyndru at a local metaphysical shop, where the owner informed me that the book's author was also the founder of a tradition called the Sisterhood of Avalon, a women's tradition which focuses on the Divine Feminine. At the time, I read a little and stopped, never getting back to it until recently, when I happened to think of it and went searching through my books.

   The book describes a way of working with the cycle of the year, which involves the mythical(or historical?) Avalon, a place of mystery and spirituality, a place where priestesses came into their own. These priestesses are the same as those portrayed in Marienne Zimmer Bradley's novel, The Mists of Avalon. The book is filled with "Imrans," or medititative journeys, to different places on the island. The process focuses on inner growth and the pursuit of wisdom, taking you through the five stages of Descent, Confrontation, Emergence, Resolution, and Integration. Each step in the process is one of coming to a better understanding of both your internal and external worlds, and each is connected to a location on the Isle of Avalon, as well as to one of five Celtic goddesses: Blodeuwedd, Rhiannon, Ceridwen, Arianrhod, and Branwen. By journeying to these spots on the Isle and working with the goddesses, you embark on a journey of growth, guided by one of the priestesses of the blessed land. The book also gives an in-depth description of how to perform a solitary Avalonian ritual.

  The book contains an intriguing method of interacting with the Wheel of the year, which will be of particular interest to women interested in Celtic paganism, and the Arthurian legends in particular. Pagans frequently mention the pursuit of wisdom and inner growth, but in many sources the topic doesn't seem to receive much more coverage than that. Avalon Within takes it further, offering up a way that we can come to that wisdom and growth. The book did leave me feeling like I had a somewhat vague understanding of the process, but that will probably improve as I work with the journeys and activities in the book. Also, any lack of knowledge and understanding could be filled in with other sources, including those on working with the spirituality of Avalon, those on Celtic spirituality, those on the five goddesses, and Bradley's The Mists of Avalon.

If this type of working resonates with you, you may wish to look into the Sisterhood of Avalon. You can visit their site by clicking here.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

St. Patrick and the Snakes?

  Admittedly, I've never known much about St. Patrick or the reason he is celebrated so voraciously every March 17, so I supposed it's not too surprising that, until now, I've been unfamiliar with the story of St. Patrick and the snakes.  Apparently, Isaac Bonewitts celebrated an alternative day which he coined "All Snakes Day," as the snakes which mythology described St. Patrick driving out of Ireland were believed to be a metaphor for the Druids.  Now some controversy has emerged over whether it is appropriate to celebrate "All Snakes Day" in reaction to St. Patrick's day.  I'll leave you with three links covering the history and mythology of St. Patrick and how it relates to pagans and the snakes.

Jason Pitzl-Waters at the Wild Hunt gave the facts, along with his opinion, last St. Patty's day.

D.R. Bartlette over at Witches and Pagans explains why she still celebrates All Snakes Day.

                                                         Finally, Morgan Daimler gives her take at Woden's Wandering Witch.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Whole Foods Market and GMOs in the News

   Whole Foods, a national chain of grocery stores with a strong emphasis on natural foods, announced Friday that it will begin labeling all products containing GMOs(the deadline has been set for 2018). GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, are plants or animals which have been altered by having genes added or removed. This is usually done to make growing plants or raising animals easier, and genes used may be from a plant or animal within the same species, or from an entirely different species, as in the case of this tomato with an anti-freeze fish gene added. Whole Foods' move is an exciting development in light of the fact that California's Proposition 37, which would have required all genetically modified foods sold in retail outlets in the state to be labeled as such, failed to pass this past fall and Washington state will attempt to pass a similar law this year. A quote from nicely sums up the situation:
 Doesn't it make sense that genetically engineered foods containing experimental viral, bacterial, insect, plant or animal genes should be labeled...? Genetically engineered foods do not have to be tested for safety before entering the market. No long-term human feeding studies have been done. The research we have is raising serious questions about the impact to human health and the environment.
   GMOs were first seen in our markets in 1996, and have since become commonplace in the US. Given how ordinary they seem, relatively little is actually known about their affects on our health and, interestingly, they are not nearly as accepted in most countries. The first long-term animal study on the effects of GMO consumption was just published in September 2012 and showed an increased rate of cancerous tumors in rats who had consumed them. As with all studies, experimental design must be critiqued in order to see if the results truly mean what they seem to. But whether or not the study was flawed, the fact remains that our knowledge of GMOs is uncertain and consumers have a right to decide whether or not they wish to take part in this nationwide experiment.

   The response to customer demand by Whole Foods is both a promising and intriguing sign. While the proposed legislation would result in FDA regulation, a wide-spread response from the private sector could be even better. As a government agency, the FDA has many conflicts of interest and the interest that may not always win out is trying to do what is actually best for the health of the public. First, private companies like Whole Foods Market, Earth Fare, and Trader Joe's responded to our desire for better food. Now, Whole Foods is leading the way in responding to our desire for better information. I can see this availability of the real food we want getting better and better over time, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Implications and Uncertainty

   Lately, I've been thinking about theology. I've considered the question: If I don't feel the need to hammer out every single detail of my religion, forming a complex, literally-interpreted story frame, then what is the value of pondering theology for a pagan like me? Theology can be a way of analyzing and critiquing our theological beliefs, finding the ones that aren't logically consistent with the others and rooting them out, evolving our beliefs into a more sensible whole. But another definition I encountered recently seems particularly helpful to me. That is, theology involves exploring the implications of our beliefs. This makes sense from a pagan perspective because no matter how we feel about belief, it's clear that what we believe will impact how we live and how we think about life.

   Different beliefs cause different results in our lives. If we believe, for example, that divinity is within everyone, we are more likely to treat others well than if we believe that only the self is sacred and others are of no import. There are many different, even contradictory, beliefs that have positive implications in the lives of those who hold them. It is useful to ask ourselves, which of our beliefs(both religious and non-religious) have positive implications for us and the world around us, and which have negative implications?

  In the 1600's, Pascal came up with his famous Wager, the philosophical argument that it is most sensible to live as though (the Christian) God exists, whether He does or not. If He doesn't and we live as though he does, the logic goes, we lose only some material pleasures. But if He does and we live as though He does not, we lose your soul in the end. Pascal clearly cared about the implication of belief, rather than simply its accuracy or inaccuracy. As a former Christian, I always found this silly. If God did not exist, I'd say, I'd rather live my life in reality, rather than believing in some fantasy. I still feel this way, but what I was not taking into account in the past was that there is no way of definitively knowing whether we are right or wrong in this lifetime. In light of this, can we be comfortable with a way of looking at the universe around us, knowing that it is ultimately uncertain? Can we be content knowing that this persepective is having a positive effect on our lives in the present?

   Some may believe in an inner knowing, beyond physical experience and mental logic and this may lead to a more comfortable place between phases of greater uncertainty. Right now, I am not in a place where I hold many beliefs close to me. I use some of them as lenses occasionally, peering through them to see what tint the world takes on. For those of us who are in this place right now, let's sit with the uncertainty and appreciate the loving arms of the Universe, whether felt through the trees hovering over us as we walk in the woods, or goddesses walking by our side, whispering wisdom, or molecules of hydrogen and oxygen lapping at our legs as we wade into the ocean. Belief, after all, may be as liquid as those molecules that form, reform, and form again.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Host

   I have to admit, I'm kind of excited about The Host coming out at the end of the month (March 29th, to be exact). After seeing the trailer a few months back, I was intrigued. Having not been entirely impressed with the Twilight series, I was skeptical, but I found the book in the adult Sci-fi section of my library and brought it home. And read, and read, and read. The genre's a bit different, as it's more sci-fi, whereas Twilight was more paranormal romance. But the biggest thing to me is that it's a better story, hands-down. It's a well-written book with a unique plot that draws the reader in and plays with their heart strings. Is it destined to become a classic? Probably not. But it was destined to become an enjoyable way to spend my time, and that's enough for me.

You can click here to check out   the book on Amazon.  So who's with me? Let's get us some silver, reflective contacts and head out to the theater!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Some Ostara Egg Magick

  Since Ostara is getting closer, I've been finding some time to think about what I'll be doing for the Sabbat. Ostara is a time to think about new projects. We spent the dark of winter reflecting and looking within, we spent Imbolc planting seeds, and now it's time, as spring comes near, to start growing them. Eggs are an important symbol of new life at this Sabbat, and the following spell, which would be appropriate to include in your Ostara ritual, is a great way to start growing what you want in your life this year. I came up with this variation on some other spells with the city-dweller in mind. (Burying an egg outside my apartment building door just wasn't practical...not to mention, the neighbors might have looked at me a little funny.)                                                                                                       
                          Ritual of Rebirth

Materials needed: One egg and supplies for decorating it as desired.

1. Think about what needs to be reborn in your life. It could be a quality like peace or discipline, or something more specific.

2. Cook your egg.
(Allow it egg to reach room temperature. Then place in a pot and cover with cold water. Bring the water just to a boil, then remove the pot from heat and cover with a lid. Allow it to cook in the water for 17 minutes(for a large egg).  Allow egg to cool at least 10 minutes in cold water.)
3.  Decorate your egg in a way that represents what you want to be reborn. You can color the egg and draw meaningful symbols on it.

4.  Place the egg in your hands and focus on what you want to be reborn. Imbue the egg with that energy, feeling it coarsing from your body, through your hands, and into the egg, maybe visualizing it as colored light. When you feel you are finished, crack the egg. Place the egg somewhere as an offering to your gods or the Divine, possibly in a bowl on your altar. Find a place to set the pieces of shell. You might wish to ask for a blessing over them.

5.  Later, take the shell outside and leave it on the ground. If you can take it outside your home, great. If not, just put it in a plastic baggie and take it with you to the park sometime. It is biodegradable and will break down into the soil, becoming nutrients for new life. As it slowly but surely breaks down and becomes part of the life cycle, so what you need will be reborn into your life.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Good News and The Bad News

So in case you haven't heard, Pagans and Wiccans made it into the news this week. And there's good news, and there's bad news.  First, the good news.

Fox News reported on the University of Missouri's new religious guide for professors, which includes information on the holidays of several religions, including paganism, and ideas for accommodating students of those religions. I feel that attempting to schedule around all religious holy days would be impractical, and that it would make more sense for professors to accommodate students on an individual basis. But still, it's exciting that we made it into the guide.  The original article...

No exams on Wiccan, Pagan holidays at University of Missouri?

But the good news only lasted for so long before Fox decided to insult Pagans and Wiccans with inaccurate info and portrayals on Fox and Friends Sunday today.

Click here to experience the train wreck for yourself.

Friday, February 15, 2013

An Unnecessary Silence: Why Pagans Don't Need To Keep Quiet About Monogamy

   I've been in a relationship with my husband for about five years, so my interest in committed love isn't new. I've searched for resources on the caring kind of committed, monogamous love I talked about in last week's post, the kind that is a choice and an action(See "On Love" if you missed it!), and I've noticed a trend. The people who are talking about this kind of giving love and these kinds of relationships are often conservatives of the Abrahamic faiths, most notably Christianity. Just try Googling the term "loving your husband" and several of the links on the first page will take you to Christian sites. I've gone to books and blogs of other faiths on this topic on occasion, for lack of anything else promising to go to, and some of these resources can be helpful and inspirational to a point. Ultimately, however, I come to biblical admonishments to be a faithful spouse, or to love a certain way. Even if I frequently agree with what they're getting at, the assumption that those things are mandated by the Divine simply isn't applicable to my perspective as a pagan. I'm interested in this kind of love outside of a Christian worldview.

   If I were to guess, I think the immediate reaction of some might be, "There's no place for that discussion in paganism. She's talking about restrictions, about rules." Though I'm talking about restrictions, I'm talking about self-imposed restrictions. When we enter into a discussion on this topic, we know up-front that there are no external expectations on us. The Divine's not telling me that I have to be monogamous, and I'm not telling anyone else that they should be monogamous. There's no sacred text mandating such a choice. It's simply a decision that some of us make. When we realize that the topic begins on a foundation of choice, then a valuable, distinctly pagan discussion can occur. It is this same foundation of freedom that we so value, and a discussion on this kind of love does not seek to devalue it.

   I can't accept that there's no place for a discussion of monogamous relationships in the pagan community because I know that I am not the only monogamous pagan. And as long as that is the case, there is a place to apply our spirituality to this area of our life, as to all others. Bronwen Forbes, in her article When Did it Become Unfashionable to Be Monogamous? on The Witches Voice, has written about how she felt out of place at a pagan festival because of her monogamy. Pagans are open to people of all colors, all genders, all sexual orientations. We include those who see the gods as literal, distinct beings, those who see them as hazy deities unified by some sort of great universal force, and those who believe in no god at all. It would be absurd to think that the monogamous are not heavily represented among us, and a great mistake not to also be open to all modes of being in relationship with others, including monogamous living. Whether this is truly a widespread problem, or simply the experience of some pagans, it's important for those of us in committed relationships to realize that if we opt out of potential opportunities for "free love" or tend not to flirt with others of the opposite sex, we are no less pagan.

   I feel that the silence on this topic within our community may be due, in part, to its loud expression among Christians. Many of us hail from Christianity and have no desire to go back. When we found paganism, we weren't looking for a religion for aesthetics, and we may very well abhor the idea of denial of self, even to the Divine(I know I do). If we talk about commitment and selfless love, we might feel like we're being like them. We tend to react against things that remind us of something we've tried to distance ourselves from. If something brings back bad, guilty vibes from my Christian days, I know I tend to shy away from it. This is why I have trouble with prayer, and have never felt comfortable asking the gods for help. This is how I feel, and yet, it could be argued that there is a place for prayer and the discussion of prayer within paganism and I wouldn't disagree. The Christians do like to talk about staying married and loving their spouses, but that doesn't automatically make the topic inapplicable to pagans, especially if we're already interested in staying in relationships and loving our partners.

   The reason a discussion on committed monogamy is warranted is simply because it is the experience of some pagans. To be pagan is to apply our paganism to all facets of our lives, not to confine it to the ritual circle or the Sabbats. Many of us are interested in love, no matter what manifestations it may take, and we need to explore what it mean to us as pagans. Once we begin this process, we can take part in meaningful discussions about its every facet and every type, including the monogamous kind.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Wishing You a Low-Stress Valentine's Day

   Really, we should be taking time out to be with our partner all throughout the year, not just on some arbitrary day in February. But Valentine's day is so entrenched in our culture that it's hard to escape, so here's my list of a few fun, easy activities to get into this Valentine's day. (And if you don't think Thursday is the best day for romance, just wait 'til the weekend. I'm pretty sure the Valentine's police won't come for you.)

   Warm Bodies is out in theaters and it's a fun and kooky alternative to all the seriousness we so often partake in on Vday. This horror/comedy/ romance offers something for everyone, including both you and your partner. Click here to watch the trailer!
(Rob and I saw it this weekend and we both loved it!)

   Make a special treat for a night in. This fluffy raspberry mousse has the added bonus of being pretty darn healthy. If you're loving the chocolate hearts, but not the idea of all the extra work of making them, just grab a bag of Dove hearts and plop one on top. (Seriously, don't make Valentine's day stressful for yourself. There's no love in that.) Get the recipe here!

   What simpler way to show the love than by writing a short note for your significant other? Leave it somewhere your partner will find it throughout their day, or, if public professions are more your style, post a Facebook status about what they mean to you for all your friends and family to see.

   Ah, the blanket fort! Construct a simple fort of sheets over your bed, if you can, or over piles of blankets on the floor using chairs. You can order in and enjoy your time together in your fun, romantic fort, remembering that good to be silly sometimes.

   Not everyone's in a relationship, and Valentine's day can feel pretty rough if you have to be in the midst of people professing their love for one another all day long. Remember that love isn't the exclusive domain of couples, and use Valentine's day as a time to share your love with family, or to show yourself some love. You could bake a special treat and take it to loved ones, or plan a special night for yourself. Movie, hot bath, massage, chocolate? It's up to you! (But I'd definitely recommend including the chocolate.)

   All it takes is a little imagination(and possibly some Googling) to find easy, fun ideas to celebrate your relationship and make time together special. Choose something simple that both of you can enjoy, and focus on what you have together that is so special.

Hope everyone has a wonderful Valentine's day!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

A Question of Belief

  Over at The Wild Hunt, Sabina Magliocco has answered criticisms of her recent presentation"The Rise of Pagan Fundamentalism," which she presented at the Conference for Contemporary Paganism this past January. Some readers seemed to misunderstand her intentions, though she specified that she was using the term "fundamentalist" to apply only to those who believe that others should hold the same literal beliefs they hold, not simply to anyone who holds literal beliefs. Still, some have justifiable misgivings about whether it is a good idea to use the term, fearing that it could come to be used to describe any pagan who holds such distinct beliefs. Magliocco's original presentation, as well as her remarks on the blog, are being discussed widely throughout the pagan blogosphere, not only stirring up discussion and debate about use of the term "fundamentalism," but also about the very place of belief in religion in general and paganism specifically.

  In regards to most spiritual things, I hold an agnostic stance. I simply don't know the answers, and I don't have strong enough feelings on those matters to warrant the adoption of specific and distinct beliefs.  I do interact with multiple deities, but I choose not to worry too much about whether or not I believe in them, or whether or not I need to.  Don't get me wrong, it's that I'm too lazy to bother considering belief at all. I enjoy pondering theology alone and discussing it with others. The issue is simply that, though I'm most definitely not a materialist, I sometimes feel a skeptical lack of certainty.  It doesn't stop me from having experiences of divinity, but it does affect how I might explain my religion to others. If asked, I would point out that the deities are not seen only as hard-and-fast, literal beings, but also as containers of energy which we have created with our collective consciousness, and also as archetypal beings.  These multiple explanations allow me to to work with these deities no matter which explanation I accept, or if I accept them all.

  There are two distinct beliefs I do hold. I believe in a supernatural force that created the universe, and I believe that we do not cease to exist when our body dies. These beliefs are true of practitioners of a wide range of religions and spiritualities, and they could just as easily land me in Christianity or Hinduism as they could in paganism. They can therefore clearly not be said to be the thing that distinctly identifies me as pagan.  For some, belief is essential and central to their practice.  But for others, like myself, it is other factors that include us in the pagan community. It is our connection to the earth, our connection to something bigger than ourselves, our identity with certain social ideals, the fact that we find meaning in the archetype of the ancient pagans or the gods. It could be any of these things and more.

  As a pagan who does not place particular emphasis on belief in my personal practice, I tend to identify with Magliocco's concerns. I want paganism to remain a "big tent," as some have put it, a community that I can continue to feel that I belong to in spite of my beliefs or lack of them. I feel that it is both natural and justifiable for those of us who fall into this category to be particularly sensitive about the issue of "fundamentalism" because we would be the first pagans to potentially have our "paganness" called into question if such a perspective became widespread within the community.

  The bottom line is that I don't care what you believe or don't believe. I might sit with you at the riverside discussing theology for hours, but at the end of the day, we are pagan and we are in this together.

Marienne's Bookshelf: One of my favorite pagan books is Witch Crafting: A Spiritual Guide to Making Magic by Phyllis Curott.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Getting Acquainted with the Lorax

  Since watching The Lorax on Netflix the other day, I've been constantly singing songs about Thneedville. I thought the  movie was a lot of fun, complete with full animated musical numbers. But besides that, the theme of the movie is something I've been thinking about. I've always been a little...okay, very skeptical of environmentalists. They just always seemed so indignant about every little thing, and I wondered why they weren't more worried about all the suffering humans than all the suffering trees.

   For the record, I still believe we need to keep a balance between our concern for the planet and our concern for those of us on the planet. But that said, I'm a pagan, for Pete's sake. I can't get away with not even considering the environment. Eventually the contradiction inherent in that proposition pops up its annoying little head and yells, "Hey YOU! I'm herrree!"  A lot like the Lorax, now that I think about it.

   There's a lot for me to learn and I'm not going to try to learn it all overnight. I mean, I'm not a total failure. I think littering is abhorrent. But I'll be giving thought to issues as they come up. Starting with the fact that the typical paraffin candles I use in ritual cause indoor air pollution, a topic brought up in this recent post over at Letter from Hardscrabble Creek. I'm pretty partial to real candles, so soy or beeswax may be viable alternatives for me.

How has identifying as pagan affected your views on environmental activism?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Remembering Bob Marley

   Yep, if you didn't guess, today is the 68th anniversary of Bob Marley's birthday. I just watched Marley, the documentary, this week. If you have access to Netflix, be sure to check it out!

   I thought I'd share a link to "The 100 Best Bob Marley Songs," which was posted on this date last year. Each song has a description and full audio. Just click the image below, and enjoy!

"One thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain."

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Love and the Committed Pagan

   If you search the word "love" on, you'll get definitions like "a profoundly, tender passionate affection," "a feeling of...deep affection," and "sexual passion or desire." Merriam-Webster gets a bit closer to the complexity of the word by covering all types of love, including love of your old schoolmates, love of your children, love of baseball, and love of the sea. Love is defined in many ways by many people, and since it's a descriptor of the immaterial, no one can really proclaim that one is right and another is wrong. But for the purpose of exploring love in the context of a committed relationship to another, some sort of definition is in order. We know that we're talking about a romantic relationship. We're talking about a relationship with someone who we hope to spend some significant part of the foreseeable future with. We experience some kind of warm feelings of affection for this person, we find sexual satisfaction and pleasure with them, and we act as one another's companions. If this is the relationship, what is this thing we're supposed to be looking at, "love"? Is it the feeling of affection? The companionship? For this month's series, I am going to define love as "devotion."  I think this is the most meaningful definition for a committed relationship because I believe that love within such a relationship is both a choice and an action.

  First, let's talk about "choice." Oftentimes, individuals don't consciously choose the initial feelings that they have for their partner, so the idea of choice with regards to love is pushed aside altogether. This initial chemistry may be the result of endorphins, pheromones, common ground, and who-knows-what-else, but the simple fact is that feelings are constantly in flux. Some individuals gauge the strength of a relationship (and whether or not they should remain in it) by their feelings toward their partner, but it is my belief that it's impossible to maintain a long-term relationship with this standard.  Emotions are changeable even from minute to minute. If we don't accept that keeping a relationship strong long-term involves making a "choice" to love our partner, we will inevitably feel forced to exit the relationship at some point out of the belief that we are not being true to ourselves. I'm not talking about anyone forcing themselves to stay in a relationship that is extremely damaging, either physically or emotionally. No one deserves to be berated, cheated on, physically abused, or miserable forever. What I'm talking about is maintaining a relationship between two people who are both willing to work to keep that relationship strong, in spite of the ebb and flow of your emotions toward one another.

  The second part of our definition is action. If we think about love as an action, your interpretation will be a little different from mine and mine will be a little different from the next person's. That's because it will naturally be based on our life with our individual partner, and what we know about them. If your guy loves jogging and has always wished you'd come along, suggesting a jog could be a way for you to actively "love" him. If I suggested this to my guy, on the other hand, he'd think I was trying to think of ways to actively torture him. This kind of love is about doing things, big or little, that will make them feel appreciated, loved, or happy. Because these things could involve compromise, this kind of love might be seen as "selfless." That's not my favorite word because, as a pagan, I'm not really for denying the self. But it is about using moments to really try to care for your spouse, making that moment less about you and more about them.

  With this definition, we have a foundation to work upon. We know that love can be both a choice and an action, and these identifiers will be useful to us as we work to strengthen our relationships. Next week, we'll consider the pagan community's outlook on the ideas we've looked at so far, and ponder whether or not there is a place in our community for this type of discussion (see An Unnecessary Silence: Why Pagans Don't Need to Keep Quiet About Monogamy). Until then, happy loving, and can you guess what tomorrow (Feb. 6) is? (I'm not telling you. You have to wait 'til tomorrow!)

Marienne's Bookshelf: I'm currently reading The Real Witches' Craft by Kate West.


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Imbolc Blessings

   Remember, if you live somewhere where it is snowy and cold and nothing like spring right now, that there is life even in death, even beneath the layers of freezing snow. And be sure to check out Teo Bishop's reflections on this Imbolc season.  He encourages us to "Keep vigil to the fire in your heart."

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Different Perspective: Featuring Rob

My husband Rob and I are on parallel, but distinct, spiritual journeys. While I tend to yap on to him about this or that pagan practice, or my opinions on certain theological matters, he tends to think to himself and stay silent unless asked. I got him to grace us with his lovely presence, and share his thoughts about his non-pagan spiritual journey.

Q: Do you currently consider yourself of a specific religion? If so, what religion?

A:   No, nothing specific. It's hard for me to be specific because there are too many grey areas in religion and faith, and most religions tend to always want to fill everything in with definite beliefs. The closest I come to anything in particular may be Unitarian Universalist because they don't tend to be very specific.

Q: What is your religion of origin(if you have one)?

A:   I was raised Catholic. In my teen years I moved to various New Age spiritualities, then, unsatisfied by those, I became an atheist. More recently, I was a born-again Christian but have since left that faith for various reasons.

Q: How do you view God?

A:   This is a hard questions to answer because my view of God is simultaneously both concrete and abstract, which is amazingly difficult to explain in words. Coming from a traditional Judeo-Christian background, I have found it difficult to not give God a personality. The problem is that I'm not convinced that the personality given to God in the Bible would be accurate. To me, that version is too human and that's understandable because humans wrote it and it's very difficult to attempt writing a personality outside of your own knowledge. And even if you could it would be so esoteric that no one would even attempt to follow such a God. So, I think that God has a conscious form, a thinking, knowing form, but I do not have the slightest clue what those thoughts may be, what knowledge may exist, or if my puny human brain could understand even a fraction of it. In a way, I assume that God has knowledge that I do not, and whatever that is, it probably knows that I don't know, and that that's probably OK.

   On the other hand, I think that there is some portion of God (see question 6 about the "Multiverse" to better understand the "portion" part of this) that isn't sentient, that just exists in all places and in all things and isn't judging or even really caring about what we're doing, but that is with us in some way. There is the idea that if you try to connect with this bit of God, that you can feel it; if you can connect and you do feel it, that feeling is tantamount to knowing all of the answers, even if just for a moment.

Q: What things do you place the most emphasis on in your spiritual path?

A:   Knowledge, or at the very least, the process of knowledge, is most important to me. I don't imagine I'll ever fully settle on answers to spiritual questions, but thinking about the spiritual is an exercise I find both frustrating and highly fulfilling. At various times I hit points of spiritual exploration that I would describe as having a profoundly calming effect on me, where things in the spiritual world make a degree of sense which seems to transcend the overall thought process. These moments are the ones that make it worth it.

Q: Is "belief" important to you? Explain.

A:   I'm not sure, honestly. "Belief" tends to describe something very concrete, something that you can quickly describe or quantify, and I can't say that at this point in my spiritual journey that I have too many of those. The only one that I'm sure of is that there is something greater and more profound than myself. I guess I would say that this one belief that I do have is important to me.

   I think that "faith" is more important than belief, however, and I would say that it is important to me. To some people, "faith" and "belief" are fully interchangeable, but to me they describe very different things. I think that "belief" is more thought-focused and that "faith" is more focused on feelings. To me, "faith" is actually kind of a vague proposition; it is one of the things that keeps me searching for answers, and maybe it's the thing that will move me towards definite beliefs. At the moment, I'd say I see "faith" as the feeling I get when I experience the spiritual.

Q: How do you view other faiths?

   The way I think about various religions and faiths is similar to the concept of the "Multiverse," the hypothesis that there are many parallel universes all existing at the same time, and in some way existing in the same physical space. I would say that all religious beliefs are infinitely possible and also infinitely impossible, meaning that all beliefs have the same likelihood of being true as being false, and that there is even some likelihood of all being true or all being false.

   So, given that, I think that all faiths inherently offer something of value and that I can learn something and grow from the knowledge of all faiths. And while I personally don't accept all of the doctrines of many faiths, I do respect them and I do think they are all valid, if not on a personal level.

Thanks so much to Rob for taking out the time to give us such thoughtful answers!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Looking to the Moon

  I took my cakes and ale, and a prayer written on an index card out into the dark of the cold, cloudy night. 

Wondrous Lady of the Moon,
You who greets the dusk with silvered kisses;
Mistress of the night and of all magics,
Who rides the clouds in blackened skies
And spills light upon the cold Earth;
O Lunar Goddess,
Shadow maker and shadow breaker;
Revealer of mysteries past and present;
Puller of seas and ruler of women;
All-wise Lunar Mother,
I greet Your celestial jewel
At the waxing of its powers
With a rite in Your honor.
I pray by the Moon,
I pray by the Moon,
I pray by the Moon.

Monday, January 21, 2013

My Quick Guide to Going Vegan (Or Vegetarian)

Actually, I'm not. Please don't throw things at me.
  Last January, I went vegan after watching the documentary Forks Over Knives. I switched over pretty fast because I'm sort of impulsive and very impatient, and gradual shifts just aren't my style. I made the change for health reasons, but switched back about seven months later, wondering if the evidence for going entirely vegan was strong enough. Honestly, I'm still not 100% sure what to make of the evidence that both sides so ferociously present. But I have been able to draw the conclusion that eating significantly less meat than the average American eats is a good, healthy thing. I now eat meat occasionally, but most of the food I fix at home is either vegetarian or vegan. Flexitarian, anyone? There's a label for everything, isn't there? Anyway, I thought I'd share what I thought would be the most helpful tips to someone switching to a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle. Whether it's because of your feelings about animals, or because you think it may benefit your health, I hope these tips help out a little in the transition.

Repeat after me: veggies and legumes. 

If you've never been a particularly adventurous eater, particularly within the world of veggies, now's the time to start. Find lots of recipes with different veggies and various kinds of legumes. These things will be very important to you now. I didn't realize this, and so I basically lived off of pasta and salad for like three months. Not. Good. First off, salad isn't very filling and you'll find yourself feeling like you're being starved and that there must be some fundamental flaw in this vegan thing, when, in actuality, it's your insane version of the vegan thing that is the problem. Second, eating pasta all the time to make up for the lack of sustenance salad provides ain't healthy.

Get cookin.'

If you can't afford to live off of ready-made vegan or vegetarian meals from Whole Foods, you're going to have to cook. This can be tricky if you're not used to doing much cooking, but it's definitely doable. You'll just need to do some planning and keep at it. I like to plan out dinner recipes for a week at a time and then go grocery shopping for that week over the weekend. This keeps things pretty simple. When searching through recipes, if you're fairly new to extensive cooking, need to stay on a budget, or both, look for recipes that don't have too many ingredients. That's a big one for me because I don't have the time or money to be making recipes with twenty ingredients every night. Especially watch out for recipes with four or five fresh spices, as those tend to be pretty pricey(unless you grow them yourself!). I like to browse through Finding Vegan and Pinterest for recipes.

Don't be caught empty-handed.

Carry edible things with you, especially snacks. You're gonna be out and you're gonna get hungry, and there isn't going to be one single thing you can have. So make sure you have some tasty goodness on you so you won't be either starved or tempted. This especially goes for potluck style dinners and events. Bring a veggie-based main dish, and you'll be good to go if there's nothing else there. You may also have to start packing a lunch for school or work if you usually buy from the cafeteria and they don't have meatless options.

They just don't understand!

First, don't be a dick to the people around you. You don't need to convert your hostile Uncle Jimmy to the cause. It's not going to work, and he has as much right to an opinion as you do. Second, don't let other people be dicks to you. If your mother-in-law delights in serving nothing but meat and cheese, it's up to you whether you can make an exception to keep the peace. If not, there's nothing wrong with that. Try to be respectful and explain as nicely as possible, but don't let other people make you feel bad for keeping your commitments.

Find your eating-out hot spots.

Depending on where you live, there may be quite a few vegan/veg-friendly restaurants, or there may be hardly any. Once you figure out the places with veggie options, you'll know what to suggest when going out with friends or family. The best places are places that make it obvious which things are which. You can also get online and do some research on the ingredients of menu items from fast food chains.

Supplement B12.

You'll hear a lot about protein when people find out about your switch. "How do you get enough protein?"  Blah blah blah. Plant foods, including legumes and greens, have protein. B12 is the real concern because you can't get it from plant foods. Luckily, it's easy to find. Just browse the supplement aisle at your local drug store or Walmart. Kris Karr's book Crazy Sexy Diet is a great resource if you're interested in learning more about how to maximize your health on a vegan diet.

Keep an eye on the subs.

You know all those nifty-looking vegan substitutes at your health food store? Vegan mayonnaise, soy cheeses, and soy meats can be intriguing options, but they're not necessarily the best choices when it comes to health, as many of them are highly processed. Try making your own instead, or use them sparingly. Some people recommend using them as a transition tool, and cutting down on them eventually. Nutritional yeast is a completely healthy alternative to Parmesan cheese, though. (I know, I know. My husband says we really need to work on naming things. Doesn't sound all that appealing, huh? Sort of like textured vegetable protein...oh well.)

Don't give vegan cookies a bad name.

One last thing. You'll happen upon some "vegan cookies." They'll taste like someone barfed up beans and then added some mashed banana and rolled it all out into sticky little balls. It'll make you think you're never gonna be able to eat a decent dessert again, but it's all LIES. I honestly don't know why these exist when fluffy, amazing vegan cookies exist in the same world. Check out Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. Non-vegans think they're awesome and have no clue they're vegan. Honest. You'll thank me for that tip.

   Those are the main things I think you deserve/need to know as you head off into this exciting new world, and I know you guys can figure out the rest and make it from there.

  Happy Veggin'!