Goddess of the Week: Estsanatlehi

Different kinds of outer diapers. Baby diapers.Image via Wikipedia

No one said change was easy. No one said moving from one stage of life to the next was ice cream, daisies, and cute little puppies licking your face. No. Change is a difficult business right from the get go and it only gets harder as we age.

Of course, there are always people who make it look easy. I know a mom whose babies slept through the night at five weeks and potty-trained at twelve months. This same mom could parachute her children into Russia and they would probably be the happiest, most popular kids in the country within a week. They make change look easy. I think I kind of hate them.

Not so lucky yourself? Does your little one cling to that diaper like its money in the bank? Is she really not ready to give up being a toddler? Or what about you? Are you holding back from pursuing that new hair cut/career/relationship because change seems ominous? Then the goddess you must channel is Estsanatlehi.

Estsanatlehi is the Navajo goddess of change. A symbol of the seasons, she grows old each winter and turns young again each spring. She is the mother of creation. When she was lonely, she fashioned humans out of her own skin. She reminds us that permanence is not an option. We grow, we age, we change. That's what we do. Sometimes we need a bit of a push. Sometimes we need to give that push. But always, Estsanatlehi is there to help. She reminds us that in every stage of life there is a spring, a summer, a fall, and a winter, and at the end of each winter there is a new, glorious spring. So go ahead. Take a leap: The new grass will soften your landing.

Channel this goddess: when change lands, uninvited, on your doorstep or when you know it's time to make a change. Change happens. Guaranteed. Might as well get with the program.

Laurie: This one is for you and little bit.

Need a goddess? Tell me your need and I will find the perfect goddess for you.
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Goddess of the Week: Philophrosyne

The Twelve Olympians by Monsiau (late 18th cen...Image via Wikipedia

How's your social life? Things going well for you? Are your friends supportive and lively? No? Are they difficult and pedantic? Do they complain? Do they borrow your money? Your clothes? Your car? Oh, no. That doesn't sound good at all. Or perhaps your situation is changing. Perhaps you are moving on in your life, changing locales, jobs, schools, prisons. Whether you need to jettison old friends because they are dragging you down or find new ones because your life is changing, the goddess for you is Philophrosyne.

Philophrosyne is the Greek goddess of friendliness, kindness and welcome. She is one of the Sraces, a group of goddess sisters who went around ancient Greece encouraging hospitality. For her part, Philophrosyne basically invented those tea sandwiches that everyone likes and that are always an appropriate addition to any potluck or party. She also invented hostess gifts, friendship bracelets and pinkie promises.

Philophrosyne reminds us that while we cannot always choose the people who surround us, we can choose how we act among them. By bringing friendliness, kindness and welcome to any social situation we can, hopefully, encourage such qualities in others. Alas, it is true that sometimes our good social graces are met with rudeness, stupidity, pig-headedness, general uncouthness, and even boorish arrogance and bad taste, in which case forbearance, tolerance, and good humor will perhaps prove even more worthwhile than friendliness, kindness and welcome. But still, in the immortal words of Frank Burns "It's nice to be nice to the nice."

Philophrosyne also reminds us that we have the right to expect friendliness, kindness and welcome from our friends. If the people we choose to spend our time with do not possess such qualities, perhaps they are not very good friends, and perhaps it is time to seek new ones.

Channel this goddess: when interacting with the world at large. Everyone deserves to see the best side of you, including the very rude woman who looks like she's been sucking lemons at your dentist's office. Also channel this goddess when hosting a lovely picnic in the hills, when meeting friends for cocktails, and when learning to co-exist with a new roommate or difficult neighbor. (You can also invite Philophrosyne to brush a little friendly powder on the less-pleasant people you know.)

Kate: This one is for you.
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Wise Women Friday: Erma Bombeck

Words of wisdom from the American humorist Erma Bombeck:

Being a child at home alone in the summer
is a high-risk occupation.
If you call your mother at work
thirteen times an hour, she can hurt you.

I love you Erma Bombeck, but, alas, times have changed. Are you rolling over in your grave?

1. A child home alone in the summer? Are there still children home alone in the summer? I know the mother of an eleven year old who won't let her daughter walk half a mile in a safe, suburban neighborhood in the company of three other eleven year olds, let alone leave her at home alone when she goes to work. I've recommended she implant a GPS system in her child's neck.

2. A child at home in the summer? Are there still children at home in the summer, squandering their time, numbing their minds, atrophying their muscles, learning to make choices for themselves? Learning what boredom feels like? Learning -- gasp -- independence? Learning what -- horrors -- they actually care about? Sorry. That's unfair, isn't it? I'm pretty sure there is a day-camp committed to teaching those important life lessons. It's called Camp YouAreSoNotGoingToHarvard.

I don't want to read anymore articles about confused parents who can't understand why their thirty-year-old Ivy League offspring won't move out of the house. When were those children ever taught to do anything out-of-the-house or inside-the-house by themselves?


Karma Experiment

Ok. Last week when I asked the universe to surprise me, it pretty much gave me the finger. So my sister Lynne said that we should both throw some good karma into the mix and see if the universe decided to sweeten up a bit.

Here's what I did:

1. I secretly dropped off a beautiful tomato plant at the house of a friend who is having a hard time.
2. I showed kindness to my well-intentioned self by

Macarons - second setImage by esthereggy via Flickr

skipping out to see "The Hangover" with my IT department Paula Johnson.
3. I bought my family macaroons at Europane Bakery.
4. I told my beloved offspring that as long as she truly believed she had done her best, a C in English should be worn with pride.

Ok. Looking at this list now, it seems like I've been a little self serving in my universal good karma distribution system. I did get to see a movie. I did get a macaroon. But let's focus on the secret tomato-gifting -- as pure an act of altruism as you will find.

Now what about the universe? Has it held up its part of the bargain? Has it returned good intentions with good intentions? Hmmm. It's hard to say. I did hear one of my 10-year-old Girl Scouts say that her greatest fear was that someone she loved would get sick and die. That surprised me. That's a whole lot of weight for a ten-year-old to carry, but it's also a whole lot of wisdom. I saw an enormous dog with Christopher Walken eyes stick its head out the back of an SUV; I swear that dog smiled at me. And I did win a fabulous prize over at Pasadena Daily Photo.

Here's what I learned: Asking the universe to surprise you is really about asking yourself to be more observant and present in your own life. Alas, being observant means opening yourself to observing some ugly things, but those ugly things are part of life. When we witness them, we are reminded that the universe is not all about us. We are reminded that our personal pain is not so very unique, and it doesn't just belong to us. It belongs to humanity. It's all about compassion, baby. Ommm to that.

Here's the other thing. It is very hard to be observant and present in your own life. I think I managed it for three days. After that I just fell back into my bubble and switched to autopilot. Then I didn't notice much in the way of universal surprises. I just stayed on course, took no detours, made no discoveries.

So...which is better: the teeter-totter pain and joys of the observant life or the routine but familiar life of the autopiloted path? What do you think? And if you choose the observant life, how do you sustain it?

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Goddess of the Week: Demeter

Motherhood is not a television sitcom. It is not twenty-minute segments of hilarity followed by the perfect and permanent resolution of problems. Motherhood is a hard business. Don't believe anyone who tells you otherwise. Just ask the Greek goddess Demeter.

When her own brother Hades, lord of the underworld, kidnapped and married her beloved daughter Persephone, Demeter wandered the earth searching for clues to her disappearance. When she finally discovered the truth of her brother's crime, she found no sympathy on Mount Olympus. No goddesses cried for her. No gods came running to her aid. Accustomed to the sexual politics of conquest, at which most of them excelled so well, the immortals of ancient Greece threw Demeter and Persephone straight under the bus.

But Demeter was no June Cleaver or Carol Brady. She did not put her faith in laugh tracks and meatloaf. She put it in vengeance. The goddess of all green and growing things, she threatened to let the natural world die if she didn't get her daughter back. (Not a total psycho-bitch she secretly taught humans how to harvest grain so they could survive lean times.) Well, even the gods knew that there was no fun in omnipotence if there was no around to worship you, so the king of the gods, Zeus (Demeter's other brother), eventually capitulated and told Hades he had to give Persephone back.

Alas, Persephone had eaten three pomegranate seeds and once one eats in Hades one belongs to Hades. (Remember that the next time you're deciding where to dine.) A deal was made. Persephone would spend three months a year in Hades (one for each seed) and the rest of the time with Demeter. Each winter trees and plants wither and die because Demeter is once again mourning the loss of her daughter, and then Spring returns because Persephone is given back.

Isn't that motherhood right there? Sunny days interspersed with sadness and mourning. One day everything is lollipops and blue skies, and the next day you're cleaning vomit out of your ear or wondering how your charming offspring can be so consistently under-appreciated by teachers, peers and college admission officers. And that's if you're lucky. That's if your lollipops and blue skies aren't interspersed with demons like chemo or drugs or depression or whatever ugly hobglobbin is invading your happy home.

Channel the goddess Demeter: When overwhelmed by the demands of caregiving. She's been feeling your pain for thousands of years and she understands good times and bad times are always cyclical, which means the bad times always pass, but, then, so do the good ones.

Need a goddess? Is there an issue that plagues you? Is there a place in your life where you need more inspiration? More appreciation? More support? Tell me your need and I will find you your goddess.


Wise Women Friday: Dorothy Parker

Words of Wisdom from American writer Dorothy Parker (1893-1967):

Prince, a precept I'd leave for
Coined in Eden, existing yet:
Skirt the parlor, and shun the 
     zoo --
Women and elephants never 

Five things I have not forgotten:
1. In third grade, I slugged a boy for making first graders push him on the merry-go-round.  He slugged me back and made me cry.
2. In fifth grade, I slugged a boy because he wouldn't let anyone else on the climbing structure.  He slugged me back and made me cry.  He never returned to school.
3. In high school, this mean girl named Kris got to be a cheerleader even though she didn't have the grades.  She was really mean, venomously mean, but I later learned that she spent a lot of time trying to rescue injured wildlife.  
4. In high school, I was the lead in a play and this boy Brad Abernathy was quoted in our school newspaper as saying "it was a pleasure working with such talented performers as Margaret."  Those were his exact words.  EXACT WORDS.  
5. In college, this guy named Steve called me a "trussle head," thus insulting my hair.  I later married him.  But I haven't forgotten.  


Be Careful What You Ask For

Ok.  So we Netflixed this movie about neuroscience and quantum physics and the nature of reality.  It's a combination of documentary and narrative, and it's all very new-agey (which I like) and science-jargony (which is way over my head and pretty weird).  Bottom line: the universe is more complicated than we can imagine, reality is more complicated than we think, and we should all love ourselves.  I think. 

There's this one scientist guy who says that everyday he asks the universe to surprise him.  So today I woke and I said, "Ok, universe, surprise me."  

I'm walking my kids to school, and, of course, we have the dog with us.  This guy comes riding on a bicycle and he has this big German Shepherd.  His dog lunges at my dog, and the man comes down on his bike.  I say, "Are you ok?"  The guy doesn't even look at me.  He grabs the dog's head and starts pounding on its nose.  "No, no," I say.  "It's ok.  You don't need to do that."  The man gets up and goes away.  

I minute later a homeless man turns the corner in front of us.  He has everything he owns tethered to this shopping cart and he is pulling two big dogs.  He reaches the crossing guard, Sam, who pulls out a handful of dog treats and gives them to the dogs.  We reach Sam, who gives our dog a treat, and then the homeless man's dogs start lunging at my dog.  The man yells, "Stop it!  Stop!" He voice is cold and angry, and my dog is nowhere near his.   

And I felt: surprised by the universe.  And sad.  


Goddess of the Week: Inanna

Some people like dark.  Me?  Not so much.  I'm your basic lets-add-a-laugh-track and live happily ever after sort of gal.  But if you are brave enough to explore the dark side, if you can steady your nerves enough to read thrillers or let your mind wander down dangerous paths, then the goddess for you is Inanna.

Inanna is an ancient, ancient Sumerian goddess.  Basically, most of your old world gods and goddesses somehow evolved out of Inanna, who was one tough cookie.  She tricked her father, who was the god of wisdom, into giving her "the hundred objects of culture," which made her the supreme Sumerian deity.  Sibling rivalry being as ancient as goddesses, this did not endear Inanna to her sister, Ereskigal who just couldn't stand it that Inanna, who always got everything and who had awesome hair and great skin and a totally gorgeous boyfriend named Damuzi, now got to keep the totally cool hundred objects of culture too. 

So, one day, Ereskigal, who was queen of the underworld,  invited Inanna for a visit.  "Sure," said Inanna.  "I'll be right down."  

"Great.  By the way," added Ereskigal, "Security is pretty tight down here.  You know, all those dead guys trying to get out..."

"Really?" said Inanna.

"Yes," answered her sister.  "But you know the rules.  No givebacks.  Once a dead soul arrives, a deal soul has to stay."

Well, Ereskigal wasn't kidding.  The TSA had nothing on the guardians of hell, who stripped Inanna of all her clothing and protective talismans.  By the time Inanna reached her sister's pad she was buck naked and defenseless, which was just what Ereskigal wanted.  Ereskigal killed Inanna and hung her dead body on a hook, because, really, what else are you going to do with your dead sister's body?

Meanwhile, Damuzi was all "Where's Inanna?  Anybody seen Inanna?  No?  Well, I guess that means I get to be king of heaven." And he plopped right down on her throne.  

Luckily, Inanna had some real friends.  Her faithful toady found her in hell, brought her back to life and helped her get back through security, picking up each of her personal belongings along the way.

But rules are rules, and the guardians of hell took their accounting very seriously.  Inanna died in hell.  If she left, there would be one soul less.  A deal was made.  She could return to the world of the living, but she would have to chose another soul to take her place.  

Hmmmm....Who to choose?  Well, how about the dirtbag husband who didn't even go looking for you when you went missing and then usurped your throne?  The pig.  So down goes Damuzi, up comes Inanna.  And what do you know?  There is a happy ending after all.

Channel this goddess: When you are flirting with danger, when you are feeling a little Maltese Falcon, when the shadows are a little too dark and you can't see straight.  You know how to call her don't you: You just whistle.  You just put your lips together and blow.

Desiree: This one's for you.


Wise Women Friday: Edna St Vincent Millay

Words of wisdom for a rainy day from the American poet Edna St Vincent Millay (1892-1950):

Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply....

Dear ghosts who tap and sigh upon the glass:

I get it.  You are waiting for a reply.  What do you want me to say?  "Go to the light?"  "Scooby-Doo, where are you?"  "I see dead people?" 

You poor lost souls: You've assembled the wrong cast.  I can't give you those words.  I have problems of my own. 

So tap away. I like the sound of rain.  I like the spirits it raises.  I see girls floating popsicle sticks down streaming gutters.  I see smiling, delighted desert-born faces staring up at the sky: What is this? Water?  From heaven?  Miraculous!  So, yes, tap and sigh, tap and sigh.  You don't scare me.  I'm not afraid.


Goddess of the Week: Nu Kua

What does woman want?  Perhaps Freud didn't know, but it seems pretty clear to me.  She wants balance.  She wants meaningful work, a happy family, a good social life and a satisfying relationship with her significant other.  She wants time for exercise and a healthy diet, down time, free time, me time, sleep time, oh, and also an appointment with a good hairdresser.  

Is that really too much to ask?

If you are seeking balance in your life, then the goddess for you is the Chinese goddess Nu Kua.  When the monster Gong Gong flooded the world and threw everything into chaos, Nu Kua set everything right.  She re-created the balanced order of sky and sea, mountain and valley, life and death, yin and yang.  And guess what?  Just when she got it cleaned up, some other stupid monster caused an avalanche and an earthquake.  What did Nu Kua do?  She CLEANED IT UP AGAIN!  She's still cleaning up.  

Believe me, balance is no easy task.  If balance was easy there would not be an Olympic sport dedicated to that skinny little beam gymnasts cartwheel on.  Finding balance is hard, hard work.  Keeping balance is even harder.  It's like a mother trying to keep her living room clean.  Forget about it.  One minute it's straightened and the next it's been claimed by small plastic animals with bobble heads and big eyes.  Or as Nu Kua would say, it's like keeping the planet neat and tidy.  One minute everyone's happy and the next minute you're cleaning up after a flood.

The truth is, the truth that Nu Kua and her endless battle with chaos suggests, is that life is like your living room.  You can only keep it organized for small amounts of time.  Then monsters and children turn it asunder.  If you try to keep it clean, if you try to keep things in balance, you will fail.  The best you can do is relish in the chaos.  Join its flow.  Don't dwell on when things were nice and neat.  Don't aspire to the day they'll be tidy once again.  Relish in the chaos.  Relish in its mess.  Life is messy.  Chaos means you're alive.

Channel this goddess: when your life feels out of balance; when there is too much you want to do and you don't know how to do it all; when you feel like you're being pulled in a thousand directions.  

Susan: this one's for you.