Monday, November 29, 2010

Coconuts: Finding, Cleaning and Using

Eleggua is the keeper of Coconuts. He's got plans for them. Not only are they food for his Children, but they soak up negative energy, carry messages, provide protection for magical activities, and identify a person as a Yoruba, or someone who knows about our practices -all this and they're from a tree, which does what other trees do. Coconuts can travel in the ocean for years before landing and deciding to grow a new source for adventuring offspring.

You don't have to be an initiate of any particular tradition to partake of the talents of a Coconut, but it does help to know what you're doing. For reasons of keeping yous in your whole pieces, and because some things are best left for experts, I'll keep this simple. Now, if you're guided, or advised by someone you know and trust to try other things with your coconut, that's your business. Don't name me in the clean-up, and we'll be OK. :)

If you're planning to eat your coconut, you can follow these instructions, too. Your work may not be simpler, but at least you'll have less of it.(?)

My trial of late has been to find a coconut that is not molded inside and still contains liquid. It seems many stores aren't as knowledgeable about coconuts as we connaiseurs would have them be. The hallmark of a fresh nut is a full rattly feeling when you shake it. You want it to feel heavy, which means the flesh is thick, but there is fluid in there. A light or quiet nut is old, and has been working too hard already to feed or work for someone else. Should I name my source? I'll be kind to them, as they recently had a new shipment, and those nuts were great, but it took months to get fresh nuts. What I will say is that box grocery stores don't pay attention to -or maybe they don't recognize- signs that their nuts need to be replaced, and leave them until some hapless (or willing, but that's a no-no for beginners) customer has taken the last one home. 'Ethnic' stores can be misleading, as I found while hunting nuts for a specific project. You need well-trafficked stores with tastes for what you need in order to ensure it's fresh, know what I mean? I NEVER had this problem in NYC at any of my favorite bodegas. Here is another matter, entirely. So, if you notice a box of new nuts waiting to be shelved, get one of those. Guaranteed fresh. Likely no mold, and therefore no dissapointments. If you have no other source than 'big box' get friendly with the produce people and ask them how long the coconuts have been there or find out when new ones will come in. Tell them you're making macaroons... Somehow I've never gotten good results by saying "I'm a Witch, and my current coconut is worn out with all the Halloween traffic." lol

If this is a house nut, you want it whole. Once you've placed it where it can collect/protect, you don't want anything leaking out, know what I mean? So, the 'score' on a ready-to-eat nut is OK, but anything else is a reason to try another. You can wash your nut in Agua Florida so that anything it picked up from outside stays there. This will also 'wake it up' to start collecting when you place it. Resting it on a sprinkling of salt or decorating it with cascarilla designs are other options for cleaning and dedicating a new nut. Remember that Eleggua's colors are black and red if you want to make a nest for your nut (a 'nut house') or lay it on a cloth. Once you've cleaned it, pass it over the four corners of the main door of your house, starting with 6 o'clock and moving and moving clockwise all the way back to 6. Stamp your feet as the nut moves past them to stir up the energy. This tells the nut where it's working and cleans the doorway of anything 'hanging around.' Then you place your nut in it's house and go about your business.

About nut houses:
You don't need one, really. It's a courtesy, and can be an artform if you're inspired, but not a necessity. The place where your nut rests is it's 'house.' Any embellishment is per your or your Spirits' direction. Mine sits in a wooden bowl on my mantle, where I can rub it periodically. In houses past, it stayed behind my door, which is where they're traditionally kept, but sometimes concessions have to be made. If your Spirits understand, or direct, you can keep a house nut anywhere. Do consider that coconuts do other things, though, and take that into consideration before, say, putting it under your bed. :) If you're being directed to do this, give some thought about why so. You may have some Work to do elsewhere in your life or home.

It is possible to have more than one nut. A house nut, an altar nut, hearth nut... Sometimes you'll see an altar with many coconuts on it. This is a place where a lot of Work is being done. A person with need for that many coconuts is someone to be fastidiously respected. Never touch someone else's coconuts. If you find yourself needing more than one, keep them all focused on their specific tasks. Putting them together is generally not a good idea, but as I mentioned, it's done, and should be seen as Work being done by someone who really knows what they're doing. As a rule, a house nut will work within a cast boundary, or fixed walls, whichever is stronger. Other nuts can be more finely focused, but if you're working for a specific goal, keep your corresponding coconut within that smaller field. You don't want a Fertility Messenger picking up the quirks of Auntie Vernita when she visits, for example.

Coconuts are tenacious about their activities. If they're there to collect energy, they will soak it up until they crack open. If you have a message to send, they will do so. If it takes them years to deliver it, then so be it. Keep this in mind when planning a message. A coconut is not for impulse actions. Remember also that they serve Eleggua. They are sacred to Him. If offended, He can 'lose your mail' for years, as it were.

Changing your house nut is the culmination of your Work with this nut. Essentially, you are 'sending the message' when you no longer need a coconut, regardless of how you used it. I was initiated in NYC, and was taught accordingly that proper disposal of a used coconut was taking it to a moving body of water and tossing it over my shoulder without looking back. Believe me, the East River is Santeria Postal Service Central, as I'm sure the Hudson, any public beach and likely most sewers are as well. Arguments about pollution and littering aside, if any of them survived to find a welcoming shore, we certainly did enough re-foresting of some island to counter any damage done by those who didn't finish the journey. For those, including myself these days, without a river passsing blocks from their houses, a few ideas occur to me as I write. Composting, far from your house, and well away from your doorway, in an area ringed by white stones would be a good idea. Burying them in a forest would also be a good alternative. I don't reccommend fire. The things you'd have to do to keep it from blowing up would defeat it's purpose. If you have shell pieces, or uneaten flesh, this would be a good idea, but not a whole coconut. Returning them to as close to their natural habitat is best. If you have no other choice than the trash, apologize for the indignity. I can think of a multitude of reasons why this would be the only way to dispose of one, and I understand the necessity, but it is also necessary to be accountable for your actions. Ask the Spirits to help you find a better alternative.

Conservation ...Community nuts:
I did this with a few of my friends in college. We had one nut for a few rooms, and sometimes took turns keeping it. One little dorm room is a cake-walk for a coconut, so five or six isn't out of the question. A whole floor would have been ambitious in my dormitory, but a smaller building, or group with less diversity among the members might make it possible. The goal was to reduce what we produced in the way of Spiritual trash. NYC was going through changes on the issue of religious freedom and animal sacrifice while I was there -probably still is. As a city, we were also trying to think of ways to reduce our garbage load. Conversely, the rats were having conventions in the heaps of uncollected trash along the curbs. Still, we began to reframe our perceptions of necessity and sharing a coconut was one of the outcomes.

By the same token, consciously thinking of ways to reduce the need for interventions is a good way to reduce the need for so much Work. Intentions and actions can be retrained to promote Spiritual cleanliness. Try working at it from that angle, especially if you find yourself needing more than a month to find a satisfactory replacement coconut. Consider that in the 'olden days' a whole Village could be cleaned with ONE coconut, which was cared for by the Village Eleggua. No others were needed. Coconuts were seen as tools used by the 'higher ups' for purposes that were only known to those doing the Work. Our population is such that we need as many skilled Workers as we have -and more, really- but if we reduce the reasons for needing 'mundane' cleanings, we can focus on bigger issues. We will never be back to the 'olden days' but we can learn from them.


May the Orixas bless you and your home with health, light and love.
Daughter O'Batala

Sunday, October 31, 2010


Blessed day, all! However you celebrate it, this holiday is a fun one.

For Wiccans, this is the New Year. I have celebrated it as such for 25 years, now, though I have found myself being directed to include more and more from other traditions. We are an ecclectic lot, regardless of how fundamentalist we might think ourselves. In our centuries-long struggles to maintain a connection with our various faiths, we have mixed, hidden, or transformed our holy days to preserve their existence. This is a testament to our, and our ancestors' determination to keep our identities. It is a blessing. A distinctive trait of humanity. To be sure, things are not utopian, and we are not completely free to be us -no one is, but we are closer, even in the worst of societies, to being who our Spirits want us to be.

Halloween is an example of this process in every facet of the continuum. That's not my topic for the day, but anyone interested can send me a line, and I'll work on it.

For today, I'm going to put down what my Spirits require of me for All Hallows. There will be elements others can identify with, and maybe learn from, and others that will be 'out there' but my intention is this: to share my tradition so that others can reclaim the parts that are from theirs or learn where these ideas came from. We are all in a place of reconstruction, to one extent or another.

For one, I have to be clean. Salt, or Florida Water after a shower does this. I lit up some lavender and Silver Lotus incense, and a candle, too, since I like fire, and I'm still stinging that we have a burn ban in place. :(( Ideally, a fire pit, with sage, lavendar and anything cleansing you are directed to include is a good smudge. You can use the fire to get rid of old spellwork or unneeded supplies without incurring detriment. Burning the names of those passed through the year, allows further separation from the physical and can help them break from this lifetime. Don't do this without Spirit Assistance or Consultation with an Elder/ress. As a personal grief release, this is good, but for the separation aspect, Guidance is necessary. (This is where I lament that I could not cast a proper circle around my fire pit and sing the turning of the Wheel. I usually throw cards, too, and burn offerings for Souls-passed. I wear white for this. My house is still in turmoil while we remodel, so I have a limited (maybe non-existent) casting space inside, too. --wailing grief)

My house doorways MUST be cleansed. Salt is good, but I like 7 Powers water or Jinx Removing in mop water. I sweep rugs, dust and polish doors and clean nearby windows. This is needed for your altar space, too. For the Yoruba out there, I changed my coconut last week. This is a necessity for anyone keeping an Ellegua protective in their house. Do NOT bring last year's Ache with you into the next. You will not lose progress by changing it, but you can drag something negative you didn't know about. (Ideally this should be done every 3 or 7 of the increment of your choice, but definitely at the new years you celebrate... calendar, Wiccan, Chinese, or birthday, for example.) I have fresh flowers -fall colors- on my mantle, and the seeds from my moonvine drying for Winter Rest and Nerthys offering for Mother Night during Yule. Both represent the harvest of the old year, freely given to the new: one with the potential to spread into further years. Also, the moonvine seeds are white, so O'Batala likes them very much. (You're seeing the ecclecticism, yes?) Another way to really clean out a house is NOISE. The Orixas really like rattles, but even loud music will work if you keep your intention clear.

For me, 10/31 is the day when everybody's dressed up. We Elders do our workings, welcoming anyone who might be passing through. We must be careful not to harm the children, and keep a special eye out for them, since this is their time to have fun. We offer them candy as a blessing. For those little costumites who are children, they receive protection and joy from our butterfingers. Those who are Spirits in disguise receive kindness, inclusion and celebration. (Some children might be more open to the Spirit-side and need protection from the deeper workings of the day as well. Parents who know/suspect such abilities can wash their children's hands in salt water before they go out, or sprinkle salt on their costume to keep them safe.) Traditionally, 11/1 was my day for being open to communication with anyone wishing it. When I was having fertility issues, I kept my face bare, so that a Seeking Spirit would know I was willing to bring him/her through to the physical plane. Even the slightest make-up on 11/1 will block this contact, so FOR SOME WOMEN preventing communication is as simple as wearing lip balm. (Don't hold me to this. Irresponsible behavior has consequences, but anyone conscious enough to think this is a good idea will be using OTHER preventatives, too, yes? Intention is everything, but sooo few people recognize their true intentions these days...)

This year is my Croning and I was told to work Fertility for others as a part of my Transitioning. My face will be bare, but for another's benefit, not my own. So, anyone noticing that I'm naked-faced and thinking I'm looking for a be-be? No :(, but YES!!! :)!! for F and A. I have already received messages for both of them about things they need to do, but I'm sure more will come tomorrow.

Oh, and offerings!!!

Something to wash with. Something to drink. Something to eat. A comfortable place to rest. This year, I used my front porch, where I have chairs, already. I have a white bowl with salt, pepper, 3 bay leaves, 7 moonvine seeds and rain water for washing. I have a plate with bread, cheese, almonds and chocolate chip cookies for eating. I have a mug of honeyed tea and glass of water for drinking. It's in the north corner of my porch, shaded from wind and rain, too, so anyone needing a guiding hand will have it when they're finished resting. We won't be home tonight, so the lights will be off -Spirits sometimes like it better that way. This is your way station for any Spirit passing by. Asatru pay special attention to including faeries, pixies, and wights. Yoruba are very careful to recognize travellers, too, so I'm careful to keep this tradition in effect.

Blessings to all of you, for the closing of the Old Year, and the coming of the New. I have traditionally offered readings to anyone interested for this, and the calender New Year. I'm on FB at Mothersforge (religious org.) if you wish one. Be safe, and have fun!!!

Daughter O'Batala

The sad part is that I won't be slinging loot from this locale. I have appointed my son to sling from Grandma's porch while we attend a family function, so the little ones in her neighborhood will be happy and maybe we won't get egged? I regret this, but I already know my Spirits, and any others, will be travelling wherever they must to find me. Any medium will tell you, sometimes with a little wryness, how they are never 'off-call.'

11/1 is the day for messages. This is when I find out who needs help with what, maybe even get it done, or learn what I'm going to be doing for the next year.

Monday, October 4, 2010

40 -years? Really?

The morning of September 30, 1970 was a rough one for my mother. I don't have a lot of details, but even with the drama of my mother's telling cleared from the picture she painted, she was not well. I was her first child. I was two weeks 'late' and she was extremely hypertensive. Being a midwife myself, and knowing the structures of healthcare around here, I can tell you her care was not up to the standards of the day. That she was blind, well educated but unemployed, ferociously unliked by her in-laws, and quasi-abandoned by her husband were qualifiers for her quality of care, but the 'that she was blind' at the beginning of this sentence tells volumes by itself.

My growing-time was misery for her. She was a hurling dervish for most of her waking hours. My eating habits were limited to strawberries, chilidogs and occasional ice cream. I expressed an early interest in dance, which she managed with regular daily 'beer therapy' to calm me down. I don't think there was a time during my stay in her womb that a competent care provider would not have seen her situation as anything but high-risk. From her telling, I would have found -then- toxemia (now it's called pre-ecclampsia) at the start of her second trimester. She had no interventions.

My last day in there, I was making her life particularly unhappy. She'd been to her OB once a week for months by then, and that day, they'd taken her blood pressure and told her to lay still for half an hour and they'd try to take it again. The nurse said she was going to turn the lights off so mom could rest. Mom admitted being terrified at overhearing the nurse tell someone "I can't get a pressure. It's too high to read."

I'm not clear on the sequence of events after that, but she was admitted when they discovered she was having contractions. I think she'd been having them off and on for a week or so, but she was never clear on that with me. I'm sure the 'beer therapy' was interfering with that, too. She remembers having 'two shots' for 'ecclampsia' and a 'saddle block' during the evening. She used to describe well the stirrups, her positioning and her eventual decision that she didn't care who walked through, that she was there to have a baby, and nothing would deter her from that activity.

Somewhere amid that, she had a confrontation with her OB about 'when' she would give birth. She told me she felt I was coming and the OB told her he'd be back 'tomorrow.' It was very late in the night when she told the nurses they 'really should get somebody in here' to which they scoffed, saying "Why don't you let us tell you when things are happening?" Nobody would tell her what time it was. The closest she got to knowing when I was born was mentioning a confrontation with a nurse when she took her hands out of the wrist restraints to read her watch. The nurse was furious and warned my mother she'd be 'tied down' if she did it again. It was 11:45 at that time. I was born a short time after that, to the outspoken anger of staff, who said there was no doctor present and made no effort to shield my mother from their distaste with her, or discomfiture with the situation of having to be alone with a 'difficult patient'. The OB was in time to cut my cord, I think. Mom remembered him cursing upon entering the room.

My mother, and various astrologers along these 40 years insist my birth chart is incorrect. My birthday is 'supposed' to be 1 October, some few minutes after midnight. Mom didn't make a move to find out what time it was for obvious reasons. One theory was that staff changed it so I'd fall before the delay entry date for school. October 1st meant waiting a year. If this is so, I owe them a debt so humongous it fails description. I was miserable enough in school as it was, waiting another year to start would have gotten me committed. That's another blog, though.

There are a million directions possible with this, but the one I'm going with is that a woman's birthing experiences tell us so much about our society. They reflect the social mentality toward women and birth, yes, but the qualifiers of economic status, race, education, geographic location, ethnicity, religion, and disability all play into that framework. Therein comes the complexity, and to our shame, the disparity of care. Any woman with a disability is going to fall below any non-disabled woman in assessment of value of outcome or ablility to participate in her birthing, for example. My mother, for example was first and foremost, BLIND. Her education and determination to participate in her pregnancy/birth were ahead of her time in that being blind was a reason to not have a family in the first place, but she was vocal about wanting a better experience than her mother had, even if classes weren't open to her, or her family didn't support her choices. Certainly, no one was looking to her for guidance on where birth could be re-shaped into an experience more acceptable to moms of the day. Mom's intention to simply know the time was distressing to her care providers. Any other mother would have been stripped of jewelry, etc, before entering the delivery room. They hadn't thought of checking for her watch, so she still had it on. (Apparently the clock was hung above the head of the delivery table, so no mother would be able to see it.)

She was an enigma to hospital staff, wanting her baby with her after I was born. For that matter, wanting her baby at all was a point of distress. A nurse from cardiology summoned social services when word got out that a blind woman had 'successfully' delivered a baby, and was planning to take her home.

For all that attention, her physical care was extremely lacking. No attention was paid to prolonged bleeding, persistent fevers and severe anemia. Her recovery was not complete until after my brother was born two years later.

Have things changed? Women with disabilities are still greeted with skepticism -even outright resistance- when they choose to have families. I suppose mom was lucky in that she had private insurance and was married, if only on paper, when I was born. Disability is always first in the ranking of 'marks against' a person, but those other issues would have doomed her to death, rather than the lifetime of intermittent suffering she endured because she chose to become a mother.

So, on my 40th birthday, I consider whether I've done anything useful in gratitude for her suffering. On an empiric level, has my life merited her trials bringing me across? I have tried, at every opportunity, to make a difference in the lives I touch. I don't keep a count of those I've saved, or lost for that matter. I am certainly not complacent with the status quo, nor will I be, if I find it lacking. I will never ignore degradation of dignity or propogation of fear. I will never allow someone to suffer in silence if I can do something to change the situation. Someone greater than me will have to decide if that's a fair trade.

My next question is whether I've done anything to change the situation for women like her -and myself, for that matter? I can say, definitely, yes, I have. I am not a shaper of the world by any means, but anyone who knows me has seen me speak out for moms, babies and safer or more satisfying birthing. I'll continue teaching, healing and empowering women and their families. I'll always be a midwife, no matter how I womanifest. :)

Thank you, mom, for your hard work, determination and cooperation with the Divine. I'm still here, and grateful to be so. Blessed Peace, Edna Mae.

Monday, September 6, 2010

My First Chip

Labor Day Eve, 24 years ago, I was stoned out of my skull. A then friend and I decided to let my brother get us pasted. It was a neighborhood event, with my brother announcing that I was finally gonna smoke weed, and all his friends chipping in on the stash that would get the job done. We had spectators, though I'm sure they were there for a share of the offerings as much as to see what I'd be like. I was a vocal assailant of anyone smoking my brother's product, and all of them were itching to see me 'blend' with the crowd I'd snubbed for years. My brother is 2 years younger than me, and back then had a thriving business from his homegrown. His customers, the local rif-raf, and anyone who'd heard the news was either in the room, on the porch, or somewhere nearby.

My mother was sitting in our living room, knitting. There's no way she couldn't have known what was going on, but she spectated, too. My friend spirited me out of the house, when I nearly fell over the couch into my mother's lap. We decided that a mutual boyfriend's house was the place to be, so we walked that way. He wasn't home. We sat there for hours, in his porch swing, hallucinating and sharing what we saw. At one point, we noticed his rubix cube and decided to fix it for him. My friend began peeling the stickers off and sticking them to my fingers. So, there I am, swinging, with colored squares on my hands, observing that it's wild how the world is completely still, but I'm moving back and forth. Yeah, my brother did a really good job...

I didn't have words for my psychological structure back then. I didn't know what shamanism was, or that I was a 'we' and that these two factors, more than any others, were how I'd stayed alive, and would continue to do so. I just knew that at that moment, I heard a very familiar voice ask me "Is this what you expected?" "Well, I didn't really know what to expect." I answered. "Are you safe?" I focused past the red and green squares on my fingers and spied my surroundings, "That's why we're here. It's safe, here." I went back to my squares, but Voice wasn't done, yet. "Would you be safe is he got to you?" I froze. "Or anyone else for that matter? Would you be able to defend yourself?" The 'he' in question was someone my mother was dating, who was obsessed with sexually assaulting me, to the point that I slept with knives, behind locked door and windows. He was as determined in his intentions toward me, as he was an angel in my mother's eyes. An image of the policeman standing in front of me, the only time I called for help, flashed. My mother's ensuing rage... I was straight and sober then, and it was a bad situation, but if it was now? I'd be just another hood whore arguing about something I forgot he paid for. Forget the police, I was too whacked to know how to dial the phone. I'd be completely on my own, and I definitely wasn't able to function. I'd be toast. I shook my head, forgetting my friend was there, "No," I answered, "I would not be safe." "How do we resolve this?" I didn't have to think about that, "Don't do this anymore. No drinking, no drugs. Nothing."

And so, with this clarity, I turned to my friend and said, "Ya know, this isn't so great, after all. We should swear never to do anything like this ever again."

She thought it over and nodded, "You're right. Let's swear."

So we did. We shook hands and everything. I cleared up a little after that, but I wasn't completely straight until the sun came up. We decided our friend wasn't coming home sometime after 0500, and migrated to McDonald's, two more stoner munchkins putting our coins together for a McMuffin. After that we went home, telling our parents we'd been at each other's house.

I spent Labor Day sorting which alcohol bottles were mine, from which were those of people I 'kept' liquor for. Since my room was usually locked up -and of no interest when I wasn't in it, anything anyone wanted to keep 'safe' was stashed in there. My drinking was with friends, or in secret, so few people even knew I drank, never mind how much.

I was 15. I was adamantly unwelcome at meetings, and my mother was so vocally hateful toward AA, that I'd be killed if she'd caught me. I never got a white chip, or sponsor, or help, aside from my Spirits, and Us, that is, which seems to be enough. I didn't celebrate birthdays, or even know the actual date of my sobriety until my husband asked me to look it up. There were many years when I forgot I had a birthday, and others when I couldn't do the math and know how many had passed. A Labor Day birthday was fine for me, and -somewhat- easy to remember, yes? My sobriety is marked by a national holiday. Cool, right?

So, this year makes 24. It was September 1, 1986 that I swore sobriety, and I keep my promises.

This year, my husband surprised me with my first chip. It's got 24 in Roman numerals on it, and comes with it's own case. My precious husband. He knows how I feel about the Program, and has witnessed how some in the rooms feel about me. His gesture of inclusion, acknowledgement and kindness has touched me in ways I haven't found words for, yet. I put my gold and silver XXIV chip on my altar, with O'Batala and my Spirits, since it is They who brought me to the point of earning it. "Are you safe?"

Safe, sober, loved, and loving.

Blessed Be

Sunday, September 5, 2010

280 Days

I've been trying to come up with a way to get this point across for twenty years. I can't say this one will work any better, but if one mom gets it, and her baby has a better start, then I've done something, yes?

Let me start by saying that if you're reading this and you know or suspect you have an addiction, you need help, preferably before getting pregnant. AA, and many other recovery programs do work, if you do the work, and your life will be a whole different experience without addiction controling it. If you are pregnant, and that statement applies, inform your care provider immediately. Any intervention is better than none at all.

The other thing is this. I'm not getting into the scientific evidence -prolific that it is- of what alcohol or drugs, or even diet soda can do to your pregnancy, so don't expect me to list footnotes. I could, and do, sometimes, with individual patients, but I've seen absolutely NO positive results from this approach. So, here's my new tactic for getting this very important and life-changing (sometimes saving) point across.

280 days.

From conception to birth, 280 days.

Now, if you want to be really on task, you could be taking vitamins and exercising well before conception, but that's not a world most of my patients live in, so we'll keep it simple.

280 days.

We can't control destiny, or basic genetic contributions. We can't control all sorts of other things that can go right or wrong during a pregnancy. This is a given. And, yes, the line of what is, and is not in our control is changing with IVF pre-screening and genome charting, reproductive surgeries, hormone interventions, etc., but all that's an aside.

Women, you have 280 days in which you lend your body to another human being so that it can be created, grown and birthed into this world. How much of that time will you waste?

For this example, I'm going to use alcohol. You can substitute anything you want, but the formula holds the same.

Consider the last time you drank. How much time did you stay buzzed? (Relaxed, trashed, or passed out could be other words for 'buzzed'. I'll leave that to you.) Consider that alcohol passes through the placenta, so a hypothetical baby would have been drinking with you. How much time was your hypo-baby impaired?

People can tell you exactly how they felt when they got drunk. The police and MADD can demonstrate the level of impairment at different stages of drunk. Physicians can tell you how the alcohol chemically affects neurotransmitter function, cholesterol synthesis and cell replication, among the total picture of intoxication. It's not a pretty scenario.

Babies don't have a fully developed body to process all this raw toxicity. Their response is that they simply can't do the task set for the period of time that alcohol is affecting them in the way it needs to be done, or at all, depending on the fetal age, and amount of toxin. An adult can 'sleep off' a night of drinking, but a fetus doesn't have that option. They lose womb time. Some part of their development doesn't happen, and there is no make-up. We know so much about fetal development that we can match up what hypo-baby was doing at the time the drinking happened.

The levels or kind of impairment are defined by amount of alcohol and fetal age. Let me assure you, there is NO SAFE LEVEL of fetal alcohol exposure, just as there is no level of alcohol that has no effect on you. You may not feel it, or sense the real impact of it, but you are affected by the drinking you do. So is your baby.

So, I ask you. What part of your baby's life do you want to limit? Brain development? Intestinal function? Reproduction? Intelligence? Drinking at a given time during pregnancy will do any or all of these things. What mother wants this for her child? If given a choice, would you check off an item from a list of lifelong issues that your child could suffer? Would you choose a few hours a week of 'buzz' for your child's ability to do math, pay attention, or digest food? If you drink alcohol during your pregnancy, you are.

280 days. It's all your baby gets. His or her only chance to get their work done to prepare for life on this planet. Is that such a long time to abstain? Absolutely, sober gestation is the BEST gift any mother can give her baby.

With all the other things we ban from our diets while we're pregnant, with all this talk of 'doing our best' for our babies, why are so many women still drinking? Why is the topic even being debated? If we know how alcohol affects us, why can't we see what it's doing to our babies?

So, this is my challenge. You're going to get pregnant? Put your baby first. Not just in words, but in deeds. It's only 280 days. Keep away from drugs and alcohol. Get help if you can't do it on you own, but get sober before you conceive, or as soon as you find out you have. Give your baby a clean start.

I know this is a hot topic. I know I'm going to get a lot of resistance to my ideas. I'm not concerned, and I'm not going to respond to hostility. I have no expectations of acceptance or popularity, either. I simply want to try to find a way to end the suffering we can control. Humanity has too many hurdles. Fetal alcohol and drug exposure is one that, in some cases, can be prevented.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mother's Day

It's May? The year's nearly half over? When did this happen? Why wasn't I told?

I don't make yearly plans, anymore. Since my son was born, I've noticed that my attention span matched his, at whatever age he happened to be when I was trying to get something done. He was an infant when I started a file called 'shorts' which became a lengthy string of glimpses of scenes, which could stand on their own, but were really a way of keeping track of ideas for longer works. I could write a couple in a sitting, and then he'd need something, and off I'd go.

He's 12, now. Not only can I sit for a couple hours and do ONE thing, but I can -most of the time- remember what I was doing so I can return to a project and -sometimes- finish it. I've been looking forward to this for YEARS! BC (before child) was a time of prolific production for me, and I've been nostalgic about the lists of things I wanted to get done since my tummy was big enough to block my access to my computer.

Don't get me wrong, here. I wanted to be a mother. I trained for the responsibility I fought for the ability. I wept when I failed, and more when I succeeded. I altered my Contract for this experience. This was not a simple process for me, and many were the opportunities to decide not to continue trying. I do not regret the outcome. My son is a blessing.

So, for this Mother's Day, I thought I'd try to put into words the ways he has brought blessings into my life. I am grateful for all of them.

I am truly grateful that I chose to stay, and was worthy of such a gift. I am grateful he chose me. I am grateful he stuck with me when his little bodies died, and kept coming back. I am grateful for my Spirits, who held me when no one else was there, who kept encouraging me, who told me the outcome when I was in surgery and wouldn't let me forget it. I am sooo grateful for my OB, who kept me strong, healed me, and kept the little body that finally survived alive even though I couldn't. I'm grateful that he watched all this, and still stayed. I'm glad he likes his name, though he still asks me what it means. I'm grateful he's healthy and cancer free. I'm grateful he likes some of the things I do, like painting and writing. I'm grateful he's strong and funny, and likes my stories. I'm grateful he and I are still here to celebrate Mother's Day.

I haven't stopped training for this responsibility, so maybe I'm prepared for adolescence. I'm grateful for the humility to know I've missed something, and the willingness to hunt it down when I figure out what it was. It will be something I really need, I'm sure. I'm glad I can see the humor in whatever. That's been a Goddess-send.

This is the second Mother's Day I've also been a wife to Joe. He's needed more mothering than my son lately. The infection is on the run, the PICC line is out, and I'm not on 'tiller patrol, but those months of convalescence... There's a spot I missed in my training, and I did have to hunt for the answers. (The bit about a sanity transplant is still out, though.) I'm really glad he's feeling better. I am grateful for the reality check that my Contract can be altered for something so sweet and joyful as the love of my sweet husband. I was beginning to wonder what I was going to do when I finished with raising this boy.

As soon as the question was asked, here comes Joe.

Answers rarely come in words, but part of the skill in 'presence' is recognizing them. Mother's Day is a day that reminds me that I've been answered more than I realize. I am grateful for the whole of that process. My own adulthood. My fertility. My child. My husband. Shade under this beautiful umbrella held by Creator, made of Orixa and shared with Spirit. The sum of a life-gift of -now- 32 years I didn't expect. We remind each other daily how grateful we are to be together on this journey.

Mother's Day may be a whole day set aside to say/do things we don't usually think of. As we mothers get gifts, accolades and a break from the usual, we can be mindful of how we came to be in such a venerated space. As we children give our gifts and accolades, we can be mindful of the continuum we are a part of, and how we can integrate the Sacred in a form of gratitude we carry and share every day. It's good that we have days set aside for such things, but they are reminders of how we should be living daily.

And yes, now that they're older/healing, a little trickle of creativity that has nothing to do with dinner, laundry, a clean face or weed-pulling is flowing back into the keyboard and paintbrush. I'm back to studying, reading like a fiend, and actually have finished some things I've wanted to do for a while. I don't plan to give up this mothering day job, but I'm grateful I have re-found my old ways of occupying myself now that he's too big for fingerpainting in the bathtub. This time next year, maybe I'll be finished with Kethiny's Mural, too. :)

Monday, March 15, 2010

2012: The Mayans, their calendar and the movie.

We're seeing a lot about this infamed date. My husband and I just watched the movie, and I must say my thoughts were provoked.

Let me start with a question. Why are all these Christians so worried about something on a Mayan calendar? This facinates me. I'm not Christian, and don't pretend to be, so I need some help with this. My Catholic husband has made this point a few times, in his dealings with other Christians, too. Why does it matter what the Mayans thought? Were they Christian? I've read the New Testament, and nowhere in there does it mention "Beware thou of the Mayanst calender for it portendeth the end of the world for thee!"

See this as a farce if you will, but I'm serious. It bothers me to see so many otherwise sensible people freaking out about this.

First, for the Christians I'm sure are flocking to this blog as I type. If you pray, why worry? If you worry, why pray? Simple plan, I know, but think about it. The Bible says plainly enough that a person with faith has no need fear life, death, or the afterlife. What ill could a calendar from an 'extinct' civilization truly wield on such a person?

Now, for the rest of us, and any Christians willing to come along. 2012? Truly. If it's the end of the world, what can we do about it? Prevailing theories say that possibly a solar flare will take us out. It could also be the CERN chain reaction thing the SciFi channel put across. I don't see global warming escalating to that degree in two years, but hey, ya never know, right? If I may be so bold, I might have suggested to the inscribers of the Prime Document a notation about WHY the calendar ended when it did. Too bad nobody thought of it back then, eh? So, we have plausable science, mediocre science fiction, no clue from the author, half-baked hysteria from this author, and a reasonable explanation from a group of anthropologists who say that the calendar represented a SECTION of the whole Mayan calendar and that possibly -if they hadn't been exterminated- the Mayans would have added another chapter to the future of the world.

Empirically, we have no idea what outcome awaits us. We must also accept that we have no control over anything but global warming, and we haven't done anything about that yet, so why start now if the world's gonna end?

What do I think?

How have you lived your life? How have you left a mark on your world, family, community, etc? If you knew you had two years to live, would you change anything? Seriously, people. If you knew the end was truly upon you, what would you do? This is one of those times when the doctor says "You have a brain tumor we think we can treat with this new proceedure. You won't know if it worked for two years. We can't do anything else for you if this doesn't work, so prepare for the worst, and we'll hope for the best."

We're going to see a lot of deviant behavior in the intervening time. People are going to decide the world will end, and that they should do everything they were afraid to do before because nobody's gonna be around to arrest them come the 22nd. We'll see as many evangelists trying to prepare us for the Mayan Judgement Day. We'll see people doing good deeds because they want to improve their Karma before they hit the scales. We'll see apathy, too. Fear is a strong motivator, though an unpredictable one. The most vocal on the subject will undoubtedly be the ones thinking themselves the most pious, which is where I started this chicken-egg-chicken.

Personally, I'm going to keep working on reducing my debt, raising my boy, working on my garden and maybe -if I'm lucky- writing an autobiography AND this blog. I'm going to pray that others find peace, without wreaking havoc on everyone else. I'm going to let go of the things I can't control and steer clear of fruitcakes. I'm going to continue to help others heal, learn and thrive. If I frizz out via a massive sun-zap, I'll know I didn't waste my time here. If nothing happens, and the 22nd's sunrise is similar to the 21st's and something is left after all the hysteria, fatalism, and mass who-knows-what is said and done, then I'll be glad I paid Bank of America down, kept my pantry stocked and have clean socks. Those are things I can control. The 'me' things.

As for the movie. The FXs were terrific. The acting, passable. The plot? Well, the Russian gazillionaire was stereotypically seemingly-evilly materialistic, most of the 'chosen' live, and their mode of survival is oh-so-X-Files possible. Like I said, it provoked thought. If you see it, and you find yourself gripping an armrest, willing people to MOVE, you weren't alone.