Goddess of the Week: Galene

The "Bikini girls" mosaic showing wo...Image via WikipediaSusan needs a goddess who will help her stay calm in the midst of moving-related chaos. She needs Galene, the Greek nereid (or sea goddess).

Galene was one Poseidon's 50 daughters, and, like 48 of her siblings, she had a real Jan Brady, middle-child thing going on. She was always the peacemaker. Her sisters would always be like,

"Hey! That's my sea-shell bikini top. Give it back."

Which would lead to, "Yeah, but it looks better on me because you're so fat."

And then, "Oh! You so did not call me fat!"

Which would lead to waves and storms and the troubled seas that only sisters can spawn.

But Galene, would be all, "Calm down. Here! You can take my sea-shell bikini top. I'll just put these old barnacles on my boobs," and then everything, and everyone, would calm down and they'd all go drink Mai Tais and complain about their parents.

Eventually, sailors started praying to Galene and asking her for calm seas, and then-- voila!--she totally branded herself as the goddess of calm seas and started a chain of high-end spas!
But, luckily, Galene is benevolent and will help you outside of the spa as well. She will turn your chaos into the still seas of order and calm.

Start by taking a nice long bath. Then wrap yourself in something cozy, pull this out of the refrigerator, and watch this. It will make everything better.

Channel this goddess: When life is too chaotic; when you crave peace and relaxation; when boating and feeling sea sick.

Need a goddess? I got goddesses! Post a comment explaining why you need or want a goddess. Then check back in a week or two and see what you got.

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Margaret--Commerical Shill--Writes a Book Review: Torn: True Stories of Kids, Career and the Conflict of Modern Motherood

True story: A long time ago, when my kids were very young, I was conflicted over whether or not to pursue a tenure-track job as a history professor. Tenure-track professors work a lot, and I really wanted to be home with my kids. I laid it all out for my adviser--a woman and a mother that I liked and respected--and she said to me, "Margaret, you can stay home, but if you do, you'll never be as smart as you are now."

As it turned out, I didn't pursue the tenure-track job. I teach part-time so that I am always home when my kids get out of school. In many ways it is ideal. I have never missed a school performance. I am home when my kids get sick. I am not constantly exhausted by the duel pressures of fulltime work and parenting. But I'm also laughably underpaid. I have no benefits. I get little professional respect outside of the wonderful writing center where I'm based. I am one divorce/sudden spousal fatality/sudden spousal disability away from poverty. My kids occasionally smirk at my lack of professional accomplishment. And I'm not as smart as I used to be.

I have a lot in common with editor Samantha Parent Walravens and the contributors to Torn: True Stories of Kids, Career and the Conflict of Modern Motherhood. They too understand that the balance between parenting and career is fraught with the sorts of challenges and dissatisfactions that can make you feel stupid. You can be the mom who makes the homemade cupcakes or an accomplished professional, but to believe you can be both at the same time is to believe in pink flying ponies that carry you to the land of the lemonade sea. As Torn illuminates, the real choice isn't balance, it's to change your mind, over and over again: This year it's part-time. This year it's home with the baby. This half year it's work like crazy. It's flexible, yes, but it's an awful lot to ask from a person. And it's definitely not a good way to plan for your retirement.

My favorite essays are the ones that openly acknowledge how money figures into the choices women make. After all, in an age when divorce is common and recessionary pressures still loom, most women are not seeking a balance between fulfillment as mothers and professionals, they're seeking ways to stay afloat. Kathryn Beaumont knows that. She traded the artistic life for that of a high-powered lawyer. She feels secure in knowing that she can take care of her family's needs, and she's not ashamed if that means nobody will be dining on Top Ramen. Amy Hudock gets it too. She committed "financial suicide" when she gave up a tenure-track job to follow her academic husband across country. Then they got divorced. Now she's totally screwed.

Really, that's the bottom line: When you put your kids first, you screw yourself financially and professionally, but there are some emotional rewards. Funny enough, fifteen years into this parenting business I've found my peace with all of this. The trick is to avoid old career friends/generally successful people. Likewise, avoid the parents of very successful children because they'll just make you feel like shit. Also try not to think about anything bad happening to your spouse. Also, make reservations to the lemonade sea. If you can manage all this, you'll be gold! (Figuratively, of course. Even I know how broke I am.)

Samantha Parent Walravens, Torn: True Stories of Kids, Career and the Conflict of Modern Motherhood. Seattle: Coffeetown Press, 2011.

Note: A copy of Torn was given to me with the expectation that I would write a review. Voila! I have served my purpose.


Goddess of the Week: Artemis

Artemis with a hind, better known as "Dia...Image via WikipediaJess needs a goddess that will help her pursue and stay true to her dreams. She needs the Greek goddess of the hunt, Artemis.

When Artemis was a baby, her father, Zeus, told her that she could have anything that she wanted, proving that parents really do need to think carefully about their words.

Artemis said, "Promise me I'll never have to get married."

Zeus was all, "Sure."

"Oh," she said, "And promise me I can have fifty hunting dogs and a bunch of handmaidens to hang out with. And a pony."

Zeus was all, "Doh." Because fifty dogs is a lot of dogs even for Olympus.

Artemis never did marry, and she always did have her gaggle of hounds and handmaidens. She lived life on her own terms, and when people tried to take advantage of her good nature she turned them into stags.

This is not to say that partners, children, careers or whatever has put a leash on you should be banished or turned into wild beasts. (Although, let's face it, who hasn't had that fantasy?) Instead, you need to take a page from Artemis and remember that your talents and dreams are gifts. Would you really throw out a diamond bracelet if someone gave you one? Your talents and dreams are worth way more than a diamond bracelet. No one has the exact set that you possess! Ignoring the things that make you you is both ungracious and cruel. And who is going to give you presents if you just throw them away? Hold onto the things that give you meaning. Pursue them like they are your prey. Be like Artemis. Take your talent. Now hunt.

Channel this goddess: When you feel like you are losing yourself, when you find yourself putting yourself last time and time again, when looking for a new dog, when hunting.

Need a Goddess: I got goddesses. Post a comment explaining what you need or want a goddess for. Then check back in about a week or two and see what you got!
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Margaret Finnegan: Commercial Shill!

Exciting news! I'm a shill! I got a free copy of the book Torn: True Stories of Kids, Career and the Conflict of Modern Motherhood in exchange for the promise of a review. That's right, I have become the man. I have sold out. I have finally made a profit on my blog. So here's a big HA to you Altadena Hiker, you of the million commenters. This book is worth $18.95! Psyche! !!!

Here's what happened: my blogger friend Windi, who blogs here, contributed an essay to Torn, and she suggested to the marketing people at Coffee Town Press, who published Torn, that I might be a good person to review it. So they contacted me, yadda, yadda, yadda, and now the book is in my hand. And HA to all of them too because being torn between motherhood and work is the story of my adult life. I would have bought the book anyway. So double Psyche!!

To be honest with you, however, I am actually feeling pretty conflicted about this. One the one hand, I want to be the person people give things too because I am considered so influential. And, of course, I want to support Windi, who is a fabulous writer and deserves many accolades. But, on the other hand, I want to feel above any sort of crass commercialism. You'll notice, for example, that there are no Google ads on my blog. That's because I don't want them there; it has very little to do with the 2.34 cents I would likely make annually. I don't want people to think, "Oh, Margaret, her blog was cool until it was all 'Tampax presents the Goddess of the Week.' What a sell out!" Then again, Tampax Presents the Goddess of the Week seems like a lucrative opportunity for me. I'm not sure I would say no. I guess I really am cheap. I just didn't know it because no one ever wanted me before.

But rest assured, I will not let my commercial ambitions dilute my good name. NO! I will be completely honest with you (unless, of course, I'm offered a whole lot of money. I have teenage girls. They are rare and expensive flowers.) Margaret Finnegan is a brand you can trust (by which I mean, of course, if you pay me enough you can trust me to say anything). I still have my standards (the prices of which are getting higher all the time so get on the train now).

By the way, have you heard about AOL's Patch? This hyper-local newspaper site is just the thing to help you feel connected to your hometown. And what great writing! Have you seen this?


Goddess of the Week: Sarasvati

Painting of the Goddess Saraswati by Raja Ravi...Image via WikipediaLindsay, a very talented writer, needs a positive and inspiring creative muse. Let me tell you, folks, this was hard because there are a lot of goddesses dedicated to creativity, which only goes to show that creativity is as vital and basic to human survival as the sun and the moon. Still, one must choose, and I choose the Hindu goddess of language, art and learning, Sarasvati.

Sarasvati invented the Sanskrit alphabet. At first, the gods were totally unimpressed. "What's the point," they said, "when we can just remember stuff." But then they all got middle-aged and were like, "What the heck was I supposed to buy at the grocery store?"

"Duh!" she said, "Write it down."

At first, everyone was all happy again, but then the novelty wore off and they were all, "Gee, couldn't you get us something more fun to read out by the pool?"

So she invented prose and then poetry--which actually started out as dirty limericks for the gods--and then, of course, to really get the party going, she invented music.

Pertinent fact: Sarasvati started out as a river, so she really understands the concept of flow, which, of course, is so crucial to creativity. At some point, as an artist, you need to stop observing and judging and just jump in the water and let the river take you where it wants you to go. That takes a lot of trust, faith and courage. It also takes perseverance because rivers take detours and you will feel tempted to follow those detours. Personally, I'm ok with that because my detours inform my creative process. But if they don't inform yours, your creativity may stagnate. Even then, however, at least you'll be in the water. It's when you get out of the river, it's when you become a bystander in your own life that your creative process, and everything else, falls apart. So remember: stay in the river and trust to its flow.

Channel this goddess: when embarking on a creative journey; when your art feels stagnant, when you are going to the grocery store.

Need a goddess? I got goddesses! Post a comment explaining what you need or want a goddess to help you out with. Then, check back in a week or two and see what you got!
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On the Other Side of Pretty

Juliette Gordon Low Category:Girl Scouts of th...Image via WikipediaSo we took the Girl Scouts for a tour of a skid row homeless shelter for women last week. I had worried that we would come off like disaster tourists, but that's just my narcissism talking. Because we quickly realized the tour wasn't about us at all. It was about the Downtown Women's Center and the amazing work they do. They provide permanent housing for about 70 women. Most of the women who live their will stay their until they die. Most have mental or physical disabilities. Many have had substance abuse problems. Many have been victims of domestic violence. Many just had too much bad luck all at once. The residents can have cats, which I thought was nice.

This guy, Steve, led our tour. He was the volunteer coordinator. He was young and energetic--maybe 25--with a degree in psychology. And as I watched him I was simultaneously inspired and ashamed. Inspired because, in the face of hopelessness, he was so peppy, hopeful and respectful of the people he worked for. Ashamed because never in my wildest dreams would it have occurred to me to build a career around this sort of service. My narcissism would not have dug that at all. I think we can all agree that Steve is the better person here.

On the way home, one of our girls said, "I just don't see how you can end up homeless. My brain just can't wrap around this. Wouldn't their families take care of them?"

I tried to repeat what Steve had said..."Blah, blah, blah...mental health...disabilities...drugs...bad luck..."

"But...I just don't get it."

Unfortuntately, I think I do.

(We're making the residents hygiene kits. It's literally the least we can do.)

(The picture is of Juliette Gordon Low, who founded Girl Scouts. But I don't know which one she is!)
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Goddess of the Week: Gaia

Gaia (Greek Mythology)Image via WikipediaEsther needs a goddess, and I'm giving her the Greek goddess Gaia.

Actually, Esther is a character in the novel This Vacant Paradise. It is by Victoria Patterson, who I love, and who wrote the short story collection Drift. The mother in me can't stop thinking about this character. I think it's because she reminds me of so many young women that I've taught, women who, to this day, think their primary talent is looking good on some guy's arm. Their biggest ambition is marrying well, and yet, every once in a while they'll turn in some essay about how spiritually empty their lives are or how afraid they are of thinking too deeply because then their entire worlds will explode.

So for Esther, and all those young women like her, I give Gaia. Gaia is mother earth. Lonely, she created Uranus, the sky, and he became her partner. They gave birth to the Titans, a giant race of gods. Beautiful and strong, she loved them because they were her children. Her next children were not so beautiful: A giant cyclops, a beast with fifty heads, another with 300 arms. Uranus called them monsters. He thought they were so ugly that he hid them in the depth of Tartarus so they couldn't see the light of day and so that he wouldn't have to look at them.

But Gaia loved them. They were her children. Their appearances meant nothing to her. She worked with her youngest Titan son, Cronus, to destroy Uranus so that she could free her children, but then Cronus deceived her and kept them hidden. So she worked to topple Cronus, and she did, with the help of Cronus's own son Zeus. Zeus put the cyclops to work in his own forge, Gaia's other children he left hidden so that heroes would be able to fight them and earn glory (which seems kind of a bum deal for them, but I guess they saw it as noble work because Gaia seemed ok with it).

Gaia reminds us that the real monsters are those who conflate wholeness with beauty. Shame on Cronus, and shame on the fathers, mothers, and institutions who still tell girls covertly or overtly that they are nothing more than commodities. The smaller the nose, the slimmer the waist, the higher the price. Believe this lie all you want, but it is a game you cannot win. Good genes or plastic surgery may let you pull ahead for a while, but time will beat you. Guaranteed. You can age with dignity and looked regal, or you can make your lips look like sausages and pull your face so tight that you can't cry. How sad is that?

Channel this goddess: When your culture is lying to you and telling you that your looks are your currency, when it's tell you aging is a disease that must be stopped, so, basically, all the time.

Need a goddess? I got goddesses! Post a comment explaining why you need or want a goddess. Then check back in a week or two and see who you got!

PS: Read This Vacant Paradise. It's got some of the best, most elegant writing you'll find, the story is terrific, Esther will make you cry (and I'm always looking for excuses), and it will give you a lot to think about.
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New Moral Dilemma. Involves cats (or possible opossumss, maybe even skunks.)

Drunk CatImage by javierespada via FlickrNew moral dilemma. Very flummoxed.

New to gardening, I followed my neighbor Peter's advice and made a slug trap thusly: I took an empty can of tuna, buried it up to the rim in my raised bed and filled the can with beer. The slugs, being genetically predisposed to frat party antics, drink the beer, fall in the can, and drown. I have to admit that I feel bad about my murderous behavior, but that is not my dilemma.

Here's my dilemma: Every morning I check on my slug trap and half the beer is gone! Granted, there could be some evaporation, but not that much! No! I think animals are drinking the beer. I think I am contributing to the delinquency of some neighborhood cat, although it could be an opossum, skunk, or even a raccoon! We have them in our suburban jungle.

The question is: how much beer can a cat drink before it becomes a lout? Before it starts making bad personal choices or weaving on the sidewalk? I don't want to corrupt any animal, but I don't want slugs eating my basil! So, as you can see, I'm in a bit of a pickle.

Hmmm....Thoughts? !!!
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