Plan A and Plan B

It’s the end of August and I have not finished my series on 31 Days of Paganism. To be fair, I had some technical difficulties with my account and my phone so I ask for forgiveness and patience. I’m totally going to complete the challenge, even if it’s a bit late. But I wanted everyone to know!

Also, just an update on my wls journey– I got a call from the Kaiser bariatric program in Richmond. I’ve officially received a welcome to the program and my orientation is on the 10th. It’s  a four hour appointment, so I’m taking the entire day off from work just to be on the safe side. After the orientation I’ll schedule a consultation with a surgeon, and they will determine if I’m a good candidate for surgery. Then another appointment with the nutritionist, and a psych evaluation. After that, probably a bunch of other stuff. I don’t yet know the details, but I’m sure they’ll go over it all at the orientation.

When I got the call, I couldn’t believe it! I was so shocked that I actually got accepted to the program, maybe because in the back of my head I was still thinking all those things that society says I am– just too lazy, not working hard enough, doomed to be fat forever. Why would they allow me to even dream of this surgery? And then I thought, wow. I must be really fucked up if they actually think I need it. Because I’m supposed to be ashamed, right? Because this is the easy way out, right? But then I was like, NO! I can’t think that way anymore. This surgery, it can change my life for the better. It can be an amazing tool for my health. I’m scared, but I also still really want to go for it. I end up missing a lot of things because I’m too scared to do them. But do I want this for the right reasons? Sometimes I don’t know. For instance, I often think about my “goal weight” for after surgery. Sometimes I think that I would just like to lose 100 lbs. I would still be overweight, but 100 lbs off my body would mean I would be able to be so much more mobile! I keep thinking of all the things I could do, pain free. Without getting totally winded 10 minutes in. Without feeling completely defeated. I know it sounds like a lot, but 100 lbs really isn’t (I think it’s actually pretty realistic for weight loss surgery results– and I wouldn’t be skinny, but I would be healthier).

But sometimes I get wrapped up in the thought of weight loss, and I start to fantasize, and I take it too far. There is still a part of me that wants to be as thin as possible, even if it’s not healthy (and also probably impossible). Now, there are people out there who weighed as much as I do or more who are now like 130, 140, 150 lbs. And that’s amazing, but those results aren’t typical, and might not even be healthy weights for me– and yet I still think about what it would be like to be that small. And then I think, if I can get to 130 surely I could get to 120, maybe even 115. That is the eating disordered mind at it’s worst, because first of all there is no way I could get down to that weight at all, let alone in a healthy way, without restricting/fasting and totally fucking up my metabolism. And second of all, I know that even if I did reach that weight I would be unhappy because I would be so focused on weight and food and I would be completely lost in the eating disorder.  I don’t want that. In fact, I want to get as far away from it as I can. I want this surgery because I think that it’s the tool I need to be healthier, and if I follow the program like I’m supposed to, no only will I gain health, I will gain confidence. That’s what I really fantasize about the most– being a confident woman who loves her body at any size.

So I have to be really careful and intentional about this whole thing. I am still in recovery for my eating disorder– that is my burden pretty much for the rest of my life. I’m not letting that get in the way of my happiness or my health.

31 Days of Paganism– Day 24

What is your favorite season, and why?


Autumn. All the way. I love the way that the leaves crunch beneath my shoes! The weather is beginning to cool (as much as it can, given where I live– we don’t get so many seasons here), and although it rains it’s not everyday, and the smell of the rain mixed with grass and leaves is just so calming. Have you ever just breathed deep when you’re outside in the rain? And sometimes I imagine the raindrops as little blessings from the goddess or whoever is up there and in control of the weather.

Being in the middle of an extreme drought, I’m especially grateful and appreciative of rain since we’ve had so little in the past few years. When I get the chance to walk in the rain it feels like a baptism, or an anointing. I don’t know, it just feels really spiritual, like I’m being touched by the Divine. Perhaps that’s because we’ve been getting so little rainfall I just forget what it feels like to have raindrops falling on my face. While we’re on the subject, I really REALLY wish I lived in a place with actual seasons! I live in the Bay Area of California– the temperature doesn’t really stray from a range of 50 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit, so we never really have winters, just grey springs and foggy summers (and crunchy autumn leaves sometimes). I wanna live somewhere that has snow in the winter! I want to live somewhere with real deal autumn leaves, and a recognizable transition from winter to spring.

31 Days of Paganism– Day 20

How do you navigate the Holiday Season and other holidays in an interfaith family?

Ooh, the dreaded Holiday Season. I think this one is hard for any person who has converted from Christianity to another religion or spiritual practice. Celebrating coc8Christmas is totally ingrained in my brain, it’s part of my cultural history and it HARD TO SHAKE. And when I first broke away from the church I really wanted to go cold turkey. I was ready to completely stop celebrating Christmas, and that meant no more sending Christmas cards, no Christmas carols, no tree decorating, nothing. It’s not that I didn’t like the holiday! It was really my own way of separating myself from Christianity. And what better way than to quit Christmas, the most celebrated christian holiday on the books (let’s be honest, Easter doesn’t really compare). I wanted to really commit myself to my new-found pagan religion and make Sabbats a priority over other holidays. It was really a way of saying, “I’m pagan! Not Christian!” I even wrote about it on my other blog, to really drive the point home.

It totally backfired.  Continue reading

31 Days of Paganism– Day 17

Where do you like to do ritual?


I typically do ritual in front of my personal altar. The one above is actually our family altar, which was decorated for Halloween/Dia de los Muertos (family tradition).

I would love to do ritual outside, by the light of the moon. There’s a really nice, quiet park just down the street that would be perfect for it. But it closes at sunset, and I don’t want any confrontation with the law, especially when I’m trying to do spiritual work.

Kourtney with her flower offering

Kourtney with her flower offering

Although it’s not necessarily a pagan ritual, sometimes we– and by we I mean me, Kourtney, my mom and our friends Joanne and Katherine and Tashi– go to Limantour Beach for the full moon. We get there mid-day and right before it gets dark we’ll light a fire and eat snacks and enjoy the ocean. We usually bring offerings to the ocean (like flowers or biodegradable things that aren’t like super harmful to the ecosystem there), and sometimes we’ll write something that we want to happen in the next month on pieces of paper and then burn them, so that our intent is known to the universe. The beach is a great place to do ritual, in my opinion.

31 Days of Paganism– Day 16

What types of rituals do you incorporate in your life cycle events?

I really don’t like the way I phrased this question. I think it should say something like, “tell us about pagan ritual for life cycle events” or something like that. Oh well. You can incorporate pagan ritual into any life cycle event, and there are lots of people out there that have written beautiful rituals for those occasions. But honestly, there’s not one way to do any of those events. There’s not standard book of ritual that all pagans refer to when planning a wedding or preparing for a funeral. That can be freeing, because you get to be creative and incorporate your faith in whatever way you see fit without feeling so much pressure to do it “the traditional way”. Because there really is no traditional way in modern paganism. The elaborate rituals that we imagine our ancestors doing thousands of years ago are mostly lost, so most of what we do is new. That’s not to say that there are not rituals out there that have stood the test of time, that we still use today. I’m just saying that there are more opportunities to be creative. Whatever. What do I know?

October 26, 2014. Our Wedding Day.

October 26, 2014. Our Wedding Day.

I’ve had few life cycle events happen to me since I’ve become pagan. Kourtney and I did incorporate handfasting in our wedding ceremony when we got married, which as I mentioned before was mostly her idea. But that’s not the only pagan wedding ritual out there. Now that we’re married I’ve been thinking a lot about future life cycle events like pregnancy, childbirth, welcoming new life into the community and then even farther down the road, puberty/coming of age. And of course, eventually death. There are thousands of ways to honor, celebrate and/or recognize these major events in our lives. The problem for me that I’m just not that creative! I actually prefer having just a few options to choose from, and tweaking anything that I just can’t handle as is. I can appreciate having standardized traditions and rituals for this reason– for me it’s not about everyone doing things the same way, it’s kind of about using time-tested ritual. Not having to try to create something brand new. Having something pre-made can be like a lifeboat in a sea of chaos for people going through a major life event. I mean, have you ever planned a wedding? I have. It was madness. I can’t really imagine being pregnant, trying to plan a naming ceremony from scratch at the same time I’m trying to learn all about how to be a good parent and take care of a helpless human.

All this to say that, I think it can be hard sometimes as a pagan to not have a standard way of doing things. Ultimately it’s worth it, because you create things that are incredibly meaningful and tailored to fit your own spiritual needs. But sometimes the time tested stuff is just as fulfilling. This post doesn’t have any ritual examples, or tips for what to celebrate and when– you’ll have to go elsewhere for that. But lucky for you (and me), there are lots of people out there who are diligently creating meaningful ritual for those of us that maybe aren’t as creative, or don’t have the energy to devote to crafting a ritual right just now.

31 Days of Paganism– Day 15

What is your favorite pagan holiday?

Not gonna lie, it’s Samhain all the way. I love its connections to Halloween, I love how it imagesmakes me feel witchy, I love watching all those cheesy movies like Practical Magic, Halloweentown, and of course, HOCUS POCUS. It’s the perfect time for a holiday because it’s the end of cotober, beginning of november, when it’s cold and maybe rainy but not too cold or rainy, and in some parts of the country the leaves are not only falling, but also in magical colors– although in the bay area they are mostly brown leaves. Still, hearing that crunch under your feet it really nice. It’s also perfectly acceptable to wear jackets and scarves by this time, so I can wear most of my clothes (I don’t really do shorts, or tank tops, or really shorts sleeves, and I love to layer). I’m just in a really good mood. I get to be festive and weird and it’s okay because that’s really the spirit of Halloween, which shares time and space on my calendar. So judgement is low around this time of year.  Continue reading

31 Days of Paganism– Day 14

What holiday schedule do you follow?

Some people think of paganism as one religion, but really it’s more of an umbrella term for many different religions and paths. Some of those paths share a holy calendar, and others do not. I personally enjoy following the Wheel of the Year.


I wish I had the skills to paint this on my wall or something like that.

The Wheel of the Year has eight holidays, and they’re fairly evenly spread out over the year. So basically people who follow this Holiday calendar celebrate a holy day every six weeks. These eight can be separated into two groups– the first group being the equinoxes and solstice. Some people call these the quarter days, or the lesser Sabbats, and they split the year into fourths based on astronomical events based on the movement of the sun. You can also think of them as seasonal markers. Ostara (or Eostre, whatever floats your boat) is often celebrated on the day of the spring equinox, Litha on the summer solstice (some people call it midsummer, although some celebrate midsummer a few days later), Mabon on the autumnal equinox, and Yule on the winter solstice (also called midwinter). The equinoxes are when night and day are pretty much balanced (although not always exact, because science). The solstices, by comparison, are not days of balance but instead one of mostly day or mostly night. I’ve heard the winter solstice be called the Longest Night for this reason.

The remaining four are called the cross-quarter days, or the greater Sabbats. They are the “in-between” holy days–  the ones in between the equinoxes and solstices. Imbolc is February 2nd, Beltane May 1st, Lughnasadh August 1st, and Samhain November 1st. Some pagans mark their days from sunset to sunset (just like Jews do), which is why some people celebrate Samhain, for instance, on the evening of October 31st and continue their celebrations to sunset on the 1st of November. I like to do sunset to sunset. da738-sshot_wheel_1_lrg

So that’s the holiday calendar I follow. Not all pagans follow this calendar, and if they do they may not celebrate all the holidays equally–  they might even skip some. It’s really up to you what you want to celebrate. Not everyone connects with Imbolc or Mabon or whatever. But I appreciate the Wheel of the Year because it gives me something to look forward to every six weeks, and it keeps me connected to others who, although not with me physically, are perhaps present in an emotional/cultural/religious sense, as we celebrate on the same day, each in our own way.

31 Days of Paganism– Day 13

Do you have an altar, and if so, what are some important altar tools?

Why yes, I do! Here is what my altar looks like right now:


The most basic tool or accessory for my altar is the altar cloth. I use a sarong that I got from Hawaii because I think it’s nice and I like turtles. Not everything is spiritually significant! But I use it specifically to honor/protect the altar as a sacred space. Since it’s on top of my dresser (small apartment, limited space), I try to make it look nice. I think having an altar cloth really makes it say THIS IS AN ALTAR. Also, it reminds me to not put other stuff there like plates or socks or whatever, because damnit this is sacred space!  Continue reading

31 Days of Paganism– Day 12

What are your beliefs on the afterlife?

Afterlife? Paradise? Who knows.

Afterlife? Paradise? Who knows.

Honestly, I don’t know. I’m not sure what happens when we die or where we go. I feel like we probably go somewhere, I mean the energy that keeps us alive, our spirits, they have to go somewhere, right? Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but it can change from one form to another, or transferred from one object to another. So Where does it go when it leaves our bodies? And is that our soul? Our spirit? Continue reading

31 Days of Paganism– Day 11

What are your thoughts about prayer as a spiritual practice?

I’m definitely a proponent for prayer. For me, it’s one of the easiest ways to connect with the Divine, and it’s a practice almost anyone can relate to because it’s a practice many religions use– they may use it differently than I do, but they still use it. For instance, Judaism has prayers you say by yourself and prayers you must recite in a group, but all of them are formal prayers, ones that you learn when you’re young. Knowing the same prayers, even if you’re from different regions, is a way to connect as Jews. On the other side is the church I grew up in, which emphasized prayer as having a personal conversation with God, where there were no real rules except to say what you feel, and then say Amen at the end. You didn’t have to say the words out loud. In fact, most of the time it was preferable for you to say your prayer in your head, to keep it between you and God (unless you had a prayer request, meaning other people prayed for you). Arthur_diehl_pagan_prayer

As I explored Judaism, I was really interested in formal prayer. I liked the fact that even though I was the only one in my house saying Shabbat blessings, I was joined by thousands of people across the state, more around the world, all saying the same blessing. I felt connected. It was like the world stopped for just a few moments and that  time was for us. At the same time, I’m all for impromptu, personalized prayer. I do it quite often, mostly when I’m anxious about something, because it calms my nerves. I’m a nervous flyer, and every time I get on a plane, right before we take off I say a prayer. It’s usually something like, “God, Goddess, everyone and everything out there, please don’t let me die on this plane. Please keep my family and friends safe on our journey. thank you for you protection and love. Also, please please don’t let me die on this plane. I would prefer a long and happy life with my friends and family if you would grant me that. Amen, blessed be, thank you!” Continue reading

31 Days of Paganism– Day 10

What does “earth-based” mean to you, and how does it relate to your path?


Beltane 2013

Earth-based really just means that your path centers around not just the earth, but to nature– meaning the environment of course, but also us. We are part of nature. And if you are on a earth-based path you might also believe that the Divine is in all of us, in all of nature, meaning that the Divine IS nature (and also not nature, and both and neither and so much more). Earth-based also means that, knowing this, that you incorporate the earth into your worship and practices. For me, that means recognizing the ways in which I use the earth to survive and honoring that– thanking the earth for the food I eat, the water I drink, the tools that built the apartment I live in, etc. Really, any ritual I do or prayer I say involves thanks for the natural processes that keep my alive and thriving. I mean, not just the chemical reactions going on in my body to keep it functioning at optimal levels (or even just basic levels), but also the outside factors that shape who I am– even if those factors are created by humans. Humans, after all, are part of nature.

What I am trying to do more now is to incorporate more nature into my life. I have always done my rituals inside, and I’m starting to find it stifling and confining. I want to go out into the world and feel the wind on my face as I do ritual, feel the grass under my feet as I call the four directions. I want to bring more nature to me, as well. So maybe some more plants in the house. I want to start composting. Don’t know if that’s really a spiritual thing, but I’m sure it can be. I want to make flower garlands for Beltane and light a real Yule log at the Winter Solstice. I just want to feel like I’m more a part of it, ya know?

31 Days of Paganism– Day 9

How do you navigate interfaith relationships?

I have many interfaith relationships. I’m not just talking about my marriage, but also my friendships. I don’t really know any other self-identified pagans, although I do know a few people who incorporate earth-based spiritual practices into their own paths and call themselves whatever they damn well please because I don’t get to tell them who they are. I used to be part of an interfaith group at Mills that included some pagans, and I’ve been to two Beltane celebrations there, but I don’t really know anyone on a personal level. Most of my family would identify as christian, and many of them go to church on a regular or semi-regular basis– some of my family are quite devout and can be really conservative which puts me in an uncomfortable spot. And not just as a pagan, but as a queer woman. So yeah, sometimes Thanksgiving dinners are a bit uncomfortable.SIC-LOGO

I try to not step on too many toes. Familial harmony is sometimes more important to me than being a flamboyant pagan. I also really believe in interfaith work, so I don’t get uncomfortable around other people’s traditions or practices most of the time– I’m not a fan of any isms, so as long as we stay clear of those I’m fine with whatever. So being open is my approach to my interfaith relationships. Another thing is using my past as an advantage. I was raised in a Christian household, and I still remember many of the traditions, rules, and teachings of my childhood so I can relate with people who practice them, if that makes sense. And honestly, my history with Christianity shapes the way I approach paganism and how I choose to worship, so it’s no surprise that I can still relate to Christians. I didn’t leave Christianity on bad terms, so unlike some who experienced a lot of  trauma because of the church I don’t feel any animosity or anger towards it. I choose to remember how it helped me rather than how it hindered me, and I especially keep that in mind in my interfaith relationships.  Continue reading

31 Days of Paganism– Day 8

Do/will you teach your children paganism?


Interfaith Shelf!

This question is important because I know a lot of pagans are vehemently against raising their own children in ANY religious practice, preferring that they choose their own path if that’s what they desire. I understand the ethics behind that. Many (but not all) pagans have experienced the pain and frustration around being forced to practice what you may not believe in, and everyone deserves a chance to explore their own spirituality, ask questions, and think critically about religion and theology. I agree with that. On the other hand, I do have a desire to teach my children what I’ve learned and to live a spiritual life with them I would find it really strange to be a committed pagan, and do ritual and celebrate Sabbats without my family. I want to be able to pass down my knowledge to my children, but also share spiritual experiences with them.  Continue reading

31 Days of Paganism– Day 7

How do your friends and family feel about you practicing paganism?

My friends and family are mostly okay with me being pagan. Actually, most of them probably don’t even know that I am pagan unless they read this blog. It’s not that I’m “in the broom closet” or anything, it’s that spirituality and religion are things we don’t often talk about, so it’s never really come up. My mother’s side of the family is Catholic, although my mother is not– in fact, I don’t think she identifies as a Christian at all. She does, however, believe in god in the sense that she believes in a higher power and she is a a proponent for prayer. Any time I’m having a hard time with something, you can bet her advice is to pray about it (or stop caring so much about what people think, that’s a big one). That’s not to say that she thinks prayer is the answer to everything! She really sees prayer as a way to lift the burden of worry and anxiety, and get yourself to a place of action. Give your fears to god, so your mind is clear enough to do something about whatever is plaguing you. That’s an idea I can get behind. Anyway, the whole point of that paragraph was to say that even if she isn’t a Christian she is certainly Christian-like, and many of her values stem from that tradition and history. However, my mom is pretty liberal and even if she doesn’t understand paganism, she certainly isn’t afraid of it and I don’t think she believes that I’m some kind of devil worshiper or anything like that. So I suppose that’s good. Continue reading

31 Days of Paganism– Day 6

How do you like to worship?

I worship mainly through prayer, I suppose. I’m real big on prayers of thanksgiving, basically showing my gratitude to the Divine for a pretty good life. I have a great job, clothes on my back, a home to rest my head, and food to eat everyday. I have great friends and family who support me and believe in me. And my wife….. she is truly a gift from above (not sure how I got so lucky!). Really, I consider any conversation to the Divine as prayer, but I’m sure others would disagree. I also have an altar set up (so far it’s pretty lackluster since I’m not able to afford everything I would like to have on said altar, but it is functional!), and I use that as my space for ritual work. Again, my ritual work is very simple and is mostly prayers of adoration and thanksgiving. I try to turn off anything that is distracting, and light a candle to focus my energy. Ritual time is for me and the Holy Ones, without distractions, so I try to create an environment of quiet. That’s surprisingly hard to do– I live close to an airport, so there’s a lot of airplane noise around the neighborhood. But I think I should get an A for effort, right?

I’ll talk more about prayer later this month (there’s another question about it in this series, so I don’t want to give too much away), but I will say that I use prayer in formal and informal settings, pretty much anytime and anywhere I feel the need to do so.

I always imagine myself doing grand, formal ritual (like at night, under the moon, with people in cloaks and “the grandest of wordsmithing” to cast a circle and call the four corners and it would be beautiful and tears would run down my face because of the intense moment I shared with the Divine. But yeah, that never happens (not that it will never happen, I still have hope). But I try to at least try to make a habit of doing some kind of ritual at home, even if it means lighting a candle and saying a prayer. I would love to perhaps meet with a group for Sabbats and Esbats, but that is a whole other conversation, for another day.