Maya

I’m okay with posting this now. I imagine, knowing me, a lot of people didn’t know exactly how I was doing during those last few weeks. I know I put on a show, and I did so consciously with good reason. I didn’t talk to anyone about what happened because it wouldn’t have helped me, or her, or anyone else. People always say you should open up to others when you’re hurt, but there’s something liberating in getting through it on your own.

Maya was a beagle. As a matter of fact, she was this beagle.

When I first met her she was a teeny wiggly puppy that could only just open its eyes. My mom actually picked her out of a litter – I wanted a different one, but she said ‘I really think we should get this one.’ So I dubbed her Maya, after the villain from The Witches of Eileanan series which I still enjoy reading to this day, and that was that. She was born on November 28th, 2004. We brought her home in the Spring.

I was a crappy trainer at first, always getting impatient, but I quickly learned that Maya was a very smart and very patient puppy, and she helped teach me to be a good pet owner. She was potty trained within days, and shortly after she was fully capable of basic tricks such as sitting, laying down, and coming when called.  Eventually I was able to teach her other neat tricks like begging, laying her head on my lap, jumping into the air and rolling over. I haven’t met a smarter dog yet, but she was very food motivated and I would tell people that she would ‘recite the Constitution for a piece of bacon!’

I was so proud of her. She was there with me through so much – through anxiety and depression and breakups and even though you never want to show your feelings to people, don’t want them to see you hurt or weak, you don’t have to hide it from a dog. So I would hug her tight and cry into her fur when I needed her, and she would sit there very still until I was done, then she’d go chew on some cords or something. I couldn’t have gotten through some very tough situations without her. I wasn’t brave enough. She was always there, though, so I didn’t always need to be.

She was only five when a spot appeared on her eye. It was white and milky, and at first it was small, but then it began to grow. I was afraid she was going blind because that’s what it looked like, so finally we took her to the vet. That was my biggest fear, that she was going blind. I wondered if they’d have to remove the eye.

When we were at the vet, they poked around for a while until finally the vet said “Her lymph nodes are swollen, all of them.” They would have to run some tests. I knew what was coming then – I just knew. I didn’t know what she had, or even what lymph nodes were, but something in my gut told me that when those tests were done, the doctor was going to tell me my dog was going to die. I told my dad to go home. He did.

Lymphoma. I guess it’s a type of cancer in your lymph nodes. The vet’s assistant told me very sweetly, very nice, not uncaring or routine at all. Since I was alone, it was okay, and I cried. I wanted to believe that the six weeks she was given would, by some miracle, stretch into a year or two. That for that year or two, she’d still be healthy and happy and normal. I wanted it more than anything in the world. They said they could give her chemotherapy, and I asked her what Maya’s life expectancy would be. “A year if it works,” she told me. I knew it was a lot of money to prolong the inevitable. I knew chemo wasn’t fun. A year if it works.

My dad told me it was okay if I wanted to do the chemo, that he would pay for it. I chose not to, though. I didn’t want to do that to her. I didn’t want to do it to me. I’d be grieving in a year, anyway. I chose the six weeks with Maya at home. I wonder if I made the right decision.

I bought tons of wet dog food, you know, the kind you shouldn’t give your dog too much of because it’s bad for their teeth in the long term but it’s SO much tastier? That, and loads of treats, everything I could think of that she’d like. I wanted her to be happy. She loved the new food I got her. I knew she would, Maya was famous for eating anything, and all of it, very quickly. Her favorite was the Beneful Turkey wet food, so I bought all of it in the store.

But she got thinner. She had always been overweight, but suddenly she was at a healthy weight and going lower than that. One day, she started refusing the Beneful chicken dinners, would only sniff it and pick a little. She wouldn’t eat dry food at all. She would only eat the Lamb and Rice, the Turkey, and treats. Her eye completely clouded over and she lost sight in it. Her second eye began to whiten. One day she wouldn’t eat at all. I cried and begged her to eat, but she didn’t understand. All she knew is she felt sick. I don’t know if she knew she was dying. I gave her lots of treats and planned a vet visit soon.

One day, she woke up and stumbled out of the crate where she slept, looking around slowly. She tried to walk up to me, but her gait was wobbly, and she began walking into things. She walked into my dresser, my bed. I had to carry her downstairs to take her out. She walked into the couch. She was disoriented, couldn’t see, could barely feel he way around. I knew it was time.

The next day she was no better, so my mom and I went to the vet. I remember being determined to make sure Maya didn’t know why we were there. I was laughing and making awkward jokes for the entire time we were in the waiting room, petting Maya and playing with her like it was nothing. They gave her a drug to make her sleepy, and when she stumbled around and eventually laid down, eyes drooping, I teased her and petted her, smiling. The doctors expected me to be more sad, I think. I wonder if they thought I was callous. When they said they were going to give her the needle now, I said “Sure, that’s fine,” and held Maya in my arms. She only shivered a second or two before she stopped moving, stopped breathing. She looked like she was asleep except her lungs weren’t rising and falling anymore.

I remember waiting a moment, watching her chest to make sure she was dead, couldn’t see or hear me. Then I burst into tears, sobbing hysterically. I bet I scared the doctor, going from one extreme to the other. It was SO important Maya didn’t know. I didn’t want to scare her. My mom was there but I cried anyway, because I couldn’t hold back, not that time. I didn’t sob for more than fifteen seconds before, suddenly, I was done. I set my jaw firmly and wiped the tears away. The doctor gave me a cup of water I couldn’t drink and Maya’s collar. I knelt down and stroked her fur gently just once. She was still warm, like she was sleeping. I left as quickly as I could, not saying anything, not crying. I played ‘Touch Me’ by The Doors in the car as loud as I could on the way home. I sang the lyrics a little. I walked up the steps to my room, closed my door, and turned on the TV, no tears, no pain, not feeling anything, really. You know how emo kids say they feel ‘numb?’ That’s where I was. I had lost my best friend. I’d decided when she would die. There was nothing to feel.

When I cried, completely at random and at differing frequencies, I made sure I did it in the privacy of my room and the bathroom, quietly so no one could hear. I guess I’m just like that – I don’t usually like people to know I’m hurt, unless it’s so bad I really, truly need to be heard. Over time, I cried less and less. I stopped crying altogether after a few months, although sometimes I cry when I think about her. She’s here with me now, sort of. I mean, it’s in a red wood box, and she’s very ashy, but she’s here. I never figured out what to do with the ashes, so I just keep them around in a box. Eventually I’ll find a place for it. It hardly matters. My dog is gone. Ashes =/= a dog. Still, I don’t blame myself and never have. I believe I made the right decisions for her. I believe that I was strong and smart when it would have been easy to break down. That helps, a little.

I needed to post this because I needed her to be remembered. I needed people to know what I went through, to know me just a little bit better. I will never cry in front of you except in extreme circumstances. I won’t look you in the eye and share my pain, my struggles, my fears with you. For one reason or another, I can’t. But please don’t think I’m callous. What happened hurt me so much, I couldn’t describe it if I wanted to. For those of you out there who are like me, who struggled in secret with loss of the most unique and profound kind as the loss of your pet, you’re not alone. And if you keep his or her memory close to your heart and never forget the warmth and happiness your animal brought you, you never will be.


L. Ron’s New Psychology

I was recently at Barnes & Noble to, incidentally, pick up book 12 of Fruits Basket, but it figures, they didn’t have it again. Determined to buy at least one book, I was torn between two – a beautiful copy of the Tanakh, which had loads of footnotes and the Hebrew on one side with the translation on the other, or the widely-discussed Dianetics by L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology. In the end, the Tanakh was $45 and Dianetics was $20, so swearing to dive into Judaism another day, I brought home the nearly 700-page intro to one of the most controversial ‘religions’ of the age.

Let me put this forward now – I am not a Scientologist. I have not read more than six pages of this book. I am not by any means qualified to give you accurate information about the tenets of Scientology – I am only, in this post, responding to the small amount I have read in Hubbard’s book. I do not claim to know anything about the higher levels of Scientology or even any more than the average layperson, and I have tried, in my reading, to remain objective and uncorrupted by the wealth of negative information about the Church from pop culture sources like South Park. I do have opinions about Scientology, but for the sake of good scholarship, I pushed them aside and read the beginning of Dianetics as if I had never heard of any of this before.

It's just a personality test! I doubt they're trying to sell anything. What harm could it do?

So I opened the book and flipped briefly through the pages before I started reading. Immediately a small postcard-sized leaflet fell out, asking me to mail them my name and address so they could send me a free copy of the ‘Classification, Gradation and Awareness Chart of Levels and Certificates,’ which is designed, by the principals of Scientology, to show you the steps you need to take to become what Dianetics calls a ‘Clear.’

The beginning of the book explained that everyone has things going on in their bodies that are keeping them from being a truly happy, fulfilled person. It postulates that, beyond our conscious mind, we have something called a ‘reactive mind,’ which is always on – even while we are asleep, unconscious, and yes, even in utero. It’s a part of our mind that doesn’t remember, persay, and we’re not aware of it – it’s like a tape player, that records and stores information without our knowledge or consent. The theory is that these painful experiences that occur while we are unconscious are not only being recorded, but they can come back and affect us in negative ways, keeping us from achieving total happiness. These recordings are called engrams, and they’re the cause of every ‘aberration’ and mental illness we as human beings experience.

So how do you get rid of the engrams, then, and become a mentally stable person? With Dianetics!

With the help of an auditor, the individual accesses his or her unconscious, or reactive mind, and comes into contact with those engrams that, before, he didn’t even know were there. The act of going back and encountering those unconscious engrams is called ‘returning.’ By encountering your engrams, you’re making it so they’re not unconscious anymore -you know they’re there! This causes them to be ‘refiled.’ as Hubbard put it, into your conscious memory banks, rendering them harmless. Once all your engrams are refiled, you’re Clear, having no aberrations or mental illnesses to speak of. Sounds awesome, let’s do it!

I do not actually have any idea who Mark Plummer is.

I’m not finished.

The very first thing I noticed was the abundance of absolutes in the Synopsis, the only section I’ve actually read so far in its entirety. What I mean are statements such as: “The various axioms [in Dianetics] are not assumptions or theories…but are laws which can be subjected to the most vigorous laboratory and clinical tests,” “That is now an estblished scientific fact, not an opinion,” and “The discoveries and developments which made the formulation of Dianetics possible occupied many years of exact research and careful testing.” That the first two statements are self-aggrandizing isn’t up for debate – the third shows you why. In the entirety of this enormous book, not a single source has been cited – not one footnote relating to where and by whom these world-shaking studies and discoveries were made. Not a single outside source that a Dianetic scientist might have turned to when developing this incredible psychology hailed as “greater than the wheel or fire.”

The fact that no sources for these studies, no information as to who or where they were performed, is listed, renders every one of these statements meaningless. Let’s remind ourselves that gravity itself is a theory, not a law. Clearly Mr. Hubbard hasn’t the slightest clue what theories and laws actually are or what they do – something you learn in a half-decent fifth grade science class.

...Just forget I said anything.

The synopsis itself was enough to convince me that, on the list of ‘examples of embarrassingly bad science,’ Dianetics is very, very close to the top. Tack on the price tag and you get an obvious scam – although auditing sessions are required in order to free yourself of aberrations and become Clear, they cost more money than most of us who blog from a bedroom in our parents’ house will ever see at once in our lifetimes. Operation Clambake, a website devoted to debunking Scientology as a scam, postulated that it could cost up to $380,000 to reach OT9, the highest level offered in the Church of Scientology. It isn’t a cheap journey.

I won’t go into the famous OT3 materials here – the supposed point at which Scientologists learn about Xenu and all that. I don’t have proof that it’s true, but many sources do, so you could find them just by Googling ‘OT3 materials.’ I think it’s true- that is, I wouldn’t put it past the world today – but the whole idea of an organization the size of Scientology actually handing out information about a galactic alien overlord is so absurd I’d have to personally reach OT3 and read it myself in order to believe it. And I don’t have that kind of money.

If you’re interested, pick up a copy of Dianetics or visit http://www.scientology.org, their main website, for more information. Another great website for the skeptics out there is http://www.xenu.net, the homepage of Operation Clambake. I don’t recommend only visiting OC, though, even though it’s a very interesting site, nor do I recommend only visiting the CoS homepage. Look for neutral sources too, learn more, and formulate opinions of your own, rather than letting others convince you one way or another. I did, and I think I made my opinion quite clear. Get informed! Your kid might convert to this one day.


GLSEN National Day of Silence: April 15, 2011

Lawrence King. Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover. Nick Kelo. Billy Lucas. All children from different parts of the country and different walks of life. The only thing they have in common is that they were all bullied for allegedly being gay, and all four of them are now, unfortunately, deceased. Many more that remain unnamed here have suffered the same fate – some were murdered, while others killed themselves – because of homophobia in America and abroad.

As a human being, I just can’t tolerate that there are children who are taking their own lives because of the taunting of other children. I can’t even begin to comprehend the kind of hatred it would take for a child to bring a gun to school and murder another child because he’s gay, like in the case of Lawrence ‘Larry’ King.

RIP, buddy.

This doesn’t have anything to do with my sexuality. This has nothing to do with politics. You don’t have to be gay or even agree with homosexuality to be appalled by the fact that people all over the world are being emotionally and physically harmed because of their sexual orientation. One child’s suicide is one too many, and this doesn’t just affect gay children – homophobia in our school systems has resulted in the tragic suicides of straight children as well, tired of the constant accusations of being gay. Don’t ignore this because it’s a ‘gay problem,’ and you’re not gay or don’t agree with the gay lifestyle. This is an American problem. This is an everywhere problem.

The problem is hate, and the solution starts with us.

The GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network) is sponsoring the National Day of Silence, a day on which Americans take some sort of vow of silence intended to echo the silence of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people who are afraid to ‘come out’ for fear of verbal or physical abuse. By being silent, we are effectively speaking out against bullying and other forms of harassment in our schools and places of work. We are letting our gay peers, whether open or closeted, know that we support them. And sometimes, that’s all it takes.

This year, the Day of Silence is taking place on April 15th, 2011. This event has been going on since 1996 and is largely a student-coordinated endeavor – it exists mainly in the elementary, middle, and high school systems, as well as on college campuses across the United States. The GLSEN has provided handy note cards for any participants to give to people who ask ‘Hey, why aren’t you talking?’ as well as advice for coordinating an event in your area and communicating your intention to protest in a polite and positive manner with your school administration. A handy FAQ on the Day of Silence can be found here.

Even if you don’t want to participate in the Day of Silence or are unable, you can help combat anti-gay bullying in easy, everyday ways. Homophobia is something that’s deeply ingrained in our society, and has dug itself into the flesh of this country so deeply, half the time we don’t even realize it’s there. Jokes about that guy and his skinny jeans, or that butch chick with the shaggy haircut, or even phrases like ‘That’s so gay’ are homophobic – things we don’t even think about when we say them. I say them myself, without thinking that in a roundabout way, they could hurt someone.

Just because you and your friend support gay rights doesn’t make phrases like ‘That’s gay’ acceptable. I don’t intend to offend or hurt anyone when I say it (and I do catch myself saying it) and maybe the person I’m talking to isn’t offended. But when you use the term ‘gay’ to describe something lame or stupid, what message does that send to those who ARE paying attention?

If we want to make the world a safer place for all sexual orientations, we can’t skip the small stuff. Think B4 You Speak is a website that hopes to raise awareness about how the little comments we make in passing could be hurtful or encourage others to think about gay people in a hurtful way. You can say ‘But gay means happy!’ or ‘It’s not offensive, it’s just a phrase,’ all you want, but in the end calling something stupid ‘gay’ IS wrong, and you know it. Making up an excuse so you don’t have to put in an effort to stop saying it isn’t cute, or clever. It’s lazy and absurd. I’m calling myself out for being both lazy and absurd, and I won’t say it anymore.

As a matter of fact, if you ever catch me calling something stupid or lame ‘gay,’ call me out on it. I’ll owe you a dollar.

I hope that you realize how important an issue this is. Please do your part to help our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered friends feel more safe and welcome in school at at work. I’ll be participating in the Day of Silence this year – hope to see (but not hear) you there!

Links:

GLSEN Main Site

Think B4 You Speak

National Day of Silence

Ellen DeGeneres on Lawrence King


My Top 5 Horror Movies!

Let me start this with – I am in no way a horror genre expert! I haven’t watched every obscure horror ever – I’ve never even seen the Exorcist. But I’ve seen a few in my time, some just hilariously bad and others epic beyond belief. I’m not just listing here the scariest movies – that’s a completely different list. These five are my favorites, not just because they are scary, but because they are personal, relevant, or just plain different.

5) A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

The most WTF-inducing scene in this movie.

A Nightmare on Elm Street was a favorite for me because of the premise – Freddy could only get you while you were sleeping. It struck me as incredibly creepy that the teenage protagonists had absolutely no chance from the very beginning because of one simple fact – you WILL fall asleep eventually. No matter how much I rooted for Johnny Depp in that movie, his earliest performance on the big screen, you had to know that, as a movie noob, the kid was going to die. I mean, Kevin Bacon was a noob once too, and remember what happened to him?

Allow me to refresh your memory.

There was something special about A Nightmare on Elm Street in the simple fact that your worst fear is falling asleep – and you know you will. That stuck with me.

5) The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

I couldn’t decide on which of these two amazing movies were my number five, and quite frankly, didn’t have the heart to bump my favorite movie… villain? of all time.

The Silence of the Lambs delves into the psychotic, genius mind of Hannibal Lecter, but Hannibal himself is not the reason I chose this movie as one of my favorites. The movie also has a knack for delving into the minds of its viewers, revealing the chilling contents of our own psyches in a Natural-Born Killers sort of way – we LOVE Hannibal Lecter. We love the way he thinks, we love his charm, we love his attitude, and nothing he does can keep us from loving him. He can tear a man apart and eat his liver, and we’ll cheer him on because something about him draws us.

The Silence of the Lambs made millions of people fans of the insane, the fantastical, and the frightening, and its very success raises questions about how sane WE are.

4) Carrie (1976)

Your prom did not suck nearly as much as hers.

Carrie’s story isn’t really all that unique (minus the telekinesis part). This socially awkward girl, rendered thus by an overzealous, fanatically religious mother,  only wanted to fit in, but the girls at her high school would have none of it. Her life was a constant stream of psychological torture by the ‘mean girls’ at school, followed by more of the same at home, where she would be forced to pray for hours in a tiny closet, asking forgiveness for imaginary sins. Carietta White tried her hardest to break free of the cycle of pain and mental trauma, finally managing to attend her senior prom with the boy of her dreams and be voted Prom Queen.

It went downhill from there.

After a disgusting show of pure malice on the part of the school meanies (including the very, very doomed John Travolta), Carrie snapped, and the powers that had been growing quietly inside her were unleashed in one final act of revenge. Sissy Spacek did something amazing here, by portraying a character that was simultaneously unique and awkward as well as relatable. You want to befriend Carrie, to help her, because everyone has felt like her at one time or another. So when Carrie finally wreaks her vengeance, we cheer her on because she did something none of us had the power or the balls to do. The iconic death of Carrie’s own mother in a crucifixion-style is simultaneously horrific and triumphant to viewers, who had been waiting for it the entire movie. If there is one thing Carrie is not, it is forgettable.

3) Rosemary’s Baby (1968)


It is possible that you have to be a woman to be freaked out by this movie, but don’t quote me on that. This movie is an amazing adaptation of an even scarier book by Ira Levin, the author of other classic creepies such as The Stepford Wives and A Kiss Before Dying. It is what I call a ‘pregnancy horror,’ of which there are very few, because it plays on every marginally-maternal woman’s worst fear – that someone is out to get your baby.

In Rosemary’s Baby, Rosemary (Mia Farrow) and her husband move into a beautiful Gothic-style apartment and we are invited to watch as they begin their lives together. The couple seems unimaginably happy, until one night the young ex-Catholic Rosemary has a terrifying visitation, and the horror begins.

The story is a maze of accusations, suspicions, and conspiracy, where everyone is involved and no one can be trusted. Mia Farrow is extraordinary in portraying a mother driven by her most primal instinct – to protect her unborn child. Any woman over the age of sixteen will be able to empathize with Rosemary, and feel the same, wrenching terror in their gut as they imagine themselves in the same position. The twist at the end is a surprise only to Rosemary, since the audience was aware of what was REALLY going on since the beginning, but this is still an incredible movie. If you are a sensitive current or expecting mother, I do NOT recommend it! It was a ride even for me.

2) The Shining (1980)



The thing about The Shining is that it could have been a thirty second clip of Jack Nicholson walking into a hotel saying ‘This place looks nice,’ and it already would have been a creepy movie. Look, I love you, Jack – I do. I know that you’re a really nice guy and all that, but, well… you have a LOOK. So don’t take it personally, but you just make things creepier. Fortunately for us, the movie was longer than thirty seconds and although Jack Torrance (Nicholson) DID walk into a hotel and remark upon its niceness, but he did a lot of other stuff, too. The Shining is an example of what happens when you let Jack Nicholson walk onto a set and do whatever the hell he wants.

After all, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

The reason The Shining is creepy is, quite simply, the stellar acting and directing. Stanley Kubrick took a lot of liberties with the book by Stephen King to the dismay of fans, but the movie he seemingly pulled out of thin air was extraordinary. Complimenting Nicholson’s in-your-face acting was Shelley Duvall’s portrayal of Jack’s timid wife, Wendy Torrance. It would have been easy to suck at playing Wendy – she comes off as a weak sort of character, so if the acting were anything other than what it was, we would have hated her and wanted Jack to bash her head in. Fortunately, Shelley Duvall is a genius and her head remained unbashed – largely because despite her timidity, she was not weak at all.

The Shining was fun because it toed the line between understandable and ‘What is this I don’t even.’ There are times when you find yourself thinking “What the hell is happening right now?” but it’s never so absurd that you tune the plot out entirely. You KNOW what happened – the last caretaker went nuts and murdered his family, and you’re pretty sure it’s happening again. It’s like a hipster Christmas tree – even though the decor is nigh incomprehensible, you still get that it’s a tree. If anything, the bizarreness of some of the movie’s elements just give it more flavor. If you can’t think outside the box, then go watch a slasher, because you’ll hate this movie.

1) Rob Zombie’s Halloween (2007)

I hope you weren't expecting the Exorcist - I told you I haven't seen it!

I’m not going to do justice to this movie. I know that already, largely because I have no idea why I loved this movie as much as I did. I remember first watching this movie all the way through, on Halloween. When the movie ended and the credits began to roll, I remember gaping at my television screen for a while before actually moving – I was so stunned at how amazing the movie I just saw was.

I want to tell you what’s so great about this movie, I really do, but I can’t. I wouldn’t know where to start. I do sense a pattern in my favorite horror movies, though – I tend toward films that are not particularly gory, have a deep plot, and that make you empathize with the killer. And you empathize with Michael in this movie! You feel terrible for this kid, you really do, and even though you know that things don’t end well for young Meyers, you really wish they could have.

I didn’t like the original Halloween – yes, I said it. I thought it was boring and slow, and although that’s largely because I saw every Halloween wannabe ever made since then, I still thought that the idea was dull and it could have been done better. Rob Zombie read my mind, and created a film that was exactly what I wanted the original to be. Since I don’t really know what to say about this movie since I haven’t been able to stop gaping since last October, all I can say is WATCH IT ALREADY!



Prayer Beads, from Christianity to Paganism

I am the owner of two rosaries – okay, I borrowed one. The older is actually my father’s, who got it from his grandmother. It’s a beautiful pewter (I think) piece with a Miraculous Medal and the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary on the reverse – a wonderful, classic rosary that inspires a feeling of awe when you hold it. The individual beads are somewhat blackened, as if tarnished by the hands that gripped them in devout, prayerful meditation every day. It could easily be over a hundred years old, possibly even carried over from Ireland by my immigrant great-grandparents, and I am honored to have it.

This is the old one - I like how the beads have roses on them.

The second one is definitely from Ireland – I know because we bought it there! I was in Christchurch Cathedral in Dublin, a beautiful church with an old stone bridge connecting it to a neat little exhibit with lots of interesting stuff pertaining to Irish and Viking medieval history. I knew that I didn’t want to leave Ireland without buying a rosary to compliment the one I already had, although I didn’t particularly know what to buy or where. While we were in the little gift area at the front of the cathedral, my grandmother approached me with a box in hand – it contained a beautiful mother-of-pearl rosary with an ornate, fleur-de-lis-tipped crucifix.

She said she was buying it for me. My grandmother is not very religious, although I imagine she would classify herself as Catholic, but she does have a deep sense of the spiritual that I don’t argue with. Psychic ability in older people tends to wear the trappings of Christianity, especially if they grew up religious, and when she said she was buying me that rosary, I knew that was the rosary I was meant to have. She had that look. Not all of you will understand what I mean by that, but those of you with deeply intuitive family members know exactly what ‘that look’ is. In any case, when I stepped back out onto the grassy courtyard of the cathedral covered with surprisingly tame and pretty pigeons, it was with a mother-of-pearl rosary in hand.

If you're interested, this is what the cathedral looked like. The exhibit was the building on the left.

This is the rosary I received there.

Those of you who know me relatively well know that although I am a practicing Pagan, I have a very deep and profound respect for the Catholic faith. I don’t agree with everything they teach, but I see the Virgin Mary as a figure of great strength and grace, and get the same heavy, solemn feeling from the ringing of the bell during the  rite of transubstantiation as I do from an act of magic or a Sabbat ritual.

Some people will fault me for that, or think it’s a strange feeling for a Pagan to have, particularly one that was not raised Catholic, but I have my reasons, as do we all.

I’m writing about beads because I was Googling (Googling – it’s a word now) pentagram necklaces. Not because I need another one – I love the one I have! But the leather cord was getting worn, and it seems easier to buy another necklace entirely than to find a cheap length of leather cord that’s the right thickness and softness. While I was searching, I found this:

They’re being marketed as a Pagan Prayer and Meditation Rosary. The first thing I thought was that the word ‘rosary’ seemed a bit out of place in that context, and the second was ‘How do you pray a Pagan rosary?’

I know how to pray the Catholic one – mostly. It’s mostly a repetition of prayers, starting with the Sign of the Cross and Apostle’s Creed, an Our Father, then a marathon of multiple Hail Marys with an intermittent Glory Be.  There are other prayers at certain times, but the purpose of praying the rosary isn’t to mindlessly repeat words. For each section of beads, the faithful are meant to meditate on a certain Mystery of the Catholic faith. Just like Pagan Mysteries, a Catholic Mystery is any concept that one cannot understand by having it explained to them – it must be meditated on, or experienced – it takes a profound and deeply spiritual event to truly understand a Mystery. The word in itself is a Mystery – I can’t explain it very well in words, either! Ask a priest.

The point is, the Rosary uses words to put the faithful into a state of mind that best facilitates meditation – in the case of the Catholic, this meditation is on a Mystery related to the life of Jesus Christ.

So as pretty as it is… what the hell am I supposed to do with Pagan prayer beads?

We don’t have set prayers, unless you count things like Inkubus Sukkubus’ Goddess Chant, or the famous command given by Aradia to the Italian Witches in Leland’s “Aradia, Gospel of the Witches.” We have Mysteries, but they are many and personal to each of us. We don’t have a Pope to tell us what to say – we only have ourselves.

Pagans are a self-reliant bunch in general. Without a leadership or a holy book, we tend to borrow traditions from our Pagan ancestors (or other people’s ancestors!) and create our own. We tend to be guided by the Gods and Goddesses of ancient times, the concept of duality, the turning of the seasons and the cycle of life in general.  What we do tends toward an environmental theme, and although Wicca, my particular branch of Paganism, is quite new, the concept that we believe in is one of the world’s most ancient. With that in mind, can Pagans use prayer beads effectively? Sure we can – with a little creativity!

We can compile our own prayers for our beads – I have seen prayer beads organized around the Elements, with four elemental-colored sections, and beads for the Triple Goddess, where each bead is a prayer to the Maiden, Mother, or Crone. If you’re creative and can write your own prayers/borrow someone else’s, you can create a prayer necklace for just about anything. Ultimately, it will come down to the same thing – using the cadence of words and the texture of the beads to focus our minds on an idea. Praying with beads can inspire us, calm us, or guide us when we need answers. Sometimes we just need to clear our heads – quiet, structured meditative prayer can do just that.

I’d love to hear what others think about praying with beads outside of Christianity. How do Buddhists and Hindus do it? How can Pagans integrate that practice into their own religion? Can beads be used in a secular way? If you’re artistic, I dare you to make your own set! If you have prayers, affirmations, or mantras you’d like to repeat, why not try doing so on a necklace? Call it peer-pressure, but everyone else does it, so why can’t we?


When Your Mind Says ‘Yes!’ But Your Heart Says ‘No…’

 

What then?

It’s usually the other way around, right? You’re totally in love with someone but your brain is screaming ‘He’s so wrong for you, he’s a liar, he’s a cheater, he’s a (insert attribute here)’ and usually you end up listening to your heart and wishing you hadn’t. Not this time.

Let me tell you something personal. Recently I’ve been in… well, a bit of an emotional rut. I can’t actually fall for someone. Not ‘won’t,’ not ‘don’t want to,’ but ‘can’t.’ I’ve dated people who have been great, but I just can’t get into that ‘crush’ phase. I can’t go ‘He’s cute… I LIKE him!’

The thing is, I USED to be able to like people. I used to even love people – the wrong people. I would get too attached and be the girl every guy hates – the clingy, picky, needy, haranguing witch. Okay, I was fifteen. I’d never been in a relationship before, I had serious social issues as well as mental health issues, I didn’t like myself, and I was very, very stupid. Later I got into another relationship with someone I fell hard for, who treated me like garbage. I spent five months putting up with it because I loved him and thought that, after being the horrible girlfriend I was in my first relationship, this was payback – I deserved it.

Now I can’t seem to feel it with people. I can meet the coolest guy ever, someone who three years ago I would have fallen for instantly, and just think ‘He’s cool.’ What happened? Well, I figured I’d just live with it. Never get married, have a killer job, maybe travel, and put those dreams of having a kid or two behind me. No big deal, right?

It’s become a big deal.

Even though there’s a very good chance that the target of this next paragraph will READ this, which of course is horribly embarrassing, I’m going to write it anyway. I’d probably just TELL him all this later, and it’s better he read it then sit through me trying to explain it in words. I’m unimaginably bad at telling people how I feel (just ask my mom) and it usually sounds very stupid, unintelligible, or I will get through with it realizing that I didn’t actually say what I was trying to say at all!

So anyway, for those of you that don’t know me, I’m a big nerd. Superheroes, video games, lots of books, you know, nerd stuff. I love going to tea places and I love foreign food. I love hanging out in bookstores with my anime pile here on the left, and my cultural/religious pile on the right. I’m like a hipster gone horribly wrong.

Because of my little romantic quandary, now is not a good time to meet someone awesome. I mean, wouldn’t that suck? You meet someone who is mostly perfect only to have to tell him that you can’t even love him? That’s more horrible for ME than it is for HIM! Having to do that would be an absolute NIGHTMARE.

Except that it did, and I did.

He’s a nerd. He likes superheroes and video games. He’s socially capable enough to go out into the world, and he wants me to go with him. He’s honest and he’s the only person I’ve ever met that I’m 100% sure would never ever lie to me, or hurt me intentionally. He’s patient and is always thinking of ways to help me. When I have a problem, he has a solution. I know that if I ever was upset about anything, he’d be there, listening… and probably thinking of a solution!

GOD DAMN IT.

This WOULD happen to me. And it pisses me off! What am I supposed to do? Ask him to wait around until I fix this little problem? I can’t do that! And the worst part is, he probably would wait – he’s probably waiting anyway!  It’s certainly incentive for me to find out what the devil is wrong with me – and fast! Is it my social issues catching up with me? The latent inferiority complex that stuck around since elementary school, finally wheedling its way back into my brain? Is it the jackass I dated last time? Something I haven’t even thought of?

My rational mind says ‘Do NOT let this guy get away!’ but my heart apparently took a vacation, because I’m not getting any responses from it. If it were just this guy I’d say it’s him, but it’s not – I haven’t felt this way about anyone for a while, save my non-romantic relationships like family.

…I’m dreading hitting ‘Publish’ on this one. Posting my personal feelings is always something I regret later, because I’m always convinced that people think I’m a dumbass. It bothers me that people are thinking about me, judging me.  But why the hell not, right? Maybe all you loonies out there on teh interwebz have some sort of advice about this situation? Maybe? Please?


My Top 7 Hottest (Or Otherwise Cool Enough To Be Classified As Hot) Video Game Guys

And before you ask, no I have NOT played every video game ever so I will not list from Final Fantasy Eight Thousand because I haven’t played ANY of them. I’m listing from the games that I HAVE played. Hot does not necessarily mean most muscular or best hair or even particularly good looking. Hot is how you hold yourself and present yourself. Hot is your intelligence, your class, your high morals… or lack thereof. Hot is relative, but to me… hot are THESE guys.

 

7) Varian Wrynn – World of Warcraft

 

We start our list with King Varian Wrynn, ruler of Stormwind, proud capital of the Human race and the Grand Alliance. Some say he has a giant chin. Others say he’s a douchebag. I disagree! (He does have a giant chin, though.) I think he’s a sweetie in a gruff body. Sure, his obsession with the methodical extermination of all things Orcish is a little bizarre, and his dissociative identity disorder which instantly turns him into a megaviolent rampaging monster is something of a problem, but he loves his son and his people, and would do anything to keep them safe.

 

6) Walter Sullivan – Silent Hill 4: The Room

 

We’re first introduced to Walter Sullivan in Silent Hill 2, in the form of a newspaper article found in a dumpster: “The police announced today that Walter Sullivan, who was arrested on the 18th of this month for the brutal murder of Billy Locane and his sister Miriam, committed suicide in his jail cell early on the morning of the 22nd.” In Silent Hill 4, the player delves deeper into the mind of this madman and learns about his disturbing obsession with awakening his birthplace, room 302, by ritually murdering 21 different people…

He’s still hot, though.

 

5) Reaver – Fable 3

 

In Fable 3, the immortal gunslinger returns as a business tycoon, hell-bent on turning the lush, idyllic Albion into an industrial paradise. Bowerstone now has an Industrial district thanks to our friend Reaver, and greatly resembles the soot-choked skyline of London in the 19th century.

Slightly more androgynous in this game, Reaver is still a sharp, smart businessman who will do whatever it takes to make a buck – as if he needed it. Despite his snappy wardrobe and flirtatious turn of phrase, the player learns quickly that if there’s anything you need to know about Reaver, it’s this – don’t cross him.

 

4) Kael’Thas Sunstrider – World of Warcraft

 

Kael’Thas is the leader of the High Elves, or Quel’dorei, in the World of Warcraft series prior to the Burning Crusade expansion. Although his official title is Prince Kael’thas, he is often referred to as the ‘Sun King,’ which indicates that either Quel’thalas is a principality or he had no official coronation.

When the Sunwell, the source of the High Elves’ magic, was destroyed, the Prince became a hero by bringing his people a new source of power – M’uru, a Naaru. The High Elves of Silvermoon City (recently renamed Blood Elves) immediately began leeching power from the sentient Light-being, but it wasn’t long before Kael’thas, in a grand betrayal of his office and people, stole M’uru away from the Blood Elves and turned toward darker, demonic magic to feed his insatiable lust for power.

An enormously powerful sorcerer, Kael’thas is a force to be reckoned with and is a raid boss in the Burning Crusade expansion.

He’s also a Blood Elf, which makes him dead sexy.

 

3) Reaver – Fable 2

 

Some people are so hot they deserve to be on this list twice. Such is the case with Reaver, who made his cameo in Fable 2 as a debonair, gun-toting pirate. The narcissistic criminal is actually something in the vicinity of 500 years old in Fable 2, making him one of only four characters in the entire Fable series to be a true immortal.

When Reaver was a youth, he made a deal with the Shadow Court which would preserve his youth so long as he sacrificed one person every year for as long as he lived. The arrangement came at a terrible price – his hometown, Oakvale, was destroyed, as was his family and the woman he loved. Forever changed, the Hero of Skill took the name Reaver and became an amoral, heartless socialite with an insatiable lust for drink, women, and murder.

Despite all this, Reaver has continued to be the most lovable character in the series with his constant charm and quick wit. If anyone can appear on a hottest guy list twice, it’s Reaver.

 

2) Ben Finn – Fable 3


 

Ben Finn is a recent addition to the Fable franchise, with a relatively minor role in Fable 3 as a soldier in the Albion Royal Army who joins the Prince/Princess’ rebellion against Logan (who also should have made this list, but I forgot… damn it…)

There’s just something about Ben Finn. Originally a rogue and a scoundrel, Ben forswore the life of a criminal by enlisting in the army. His character is teddy bear-like, adorable and quick with jokes. You can’t help but want to hug this guy. It helps enormously that the brilliant voice acting is done by the extremely talented Simon Pegg, star of many pictures including Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. You just have to love Ben, and if you don’t, there’s something wrong with you!

1) Ganondorf – The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

 

Ganondorf was never hot until Twilight Princess came out. The artwork is extraordinary, and where previously he looked like someone puked green pixels and threw some orange ones on top to fix it, he now looks like exactly what he is – the rightful King of the Gerudo.

If there’s one thing I can say about Ganondorf, it’s that he tries hard. Nothing can stop this guy from trying to turn Hyrule into a land covered in darkness – not even death. His portrayal in Twilight Princess was particularly brilliant, and his regal poise and single-mindedness are so alluring that you find yourself rooting for him even as you’re laying on the hurt with your Master Sword.

He could beat everyone else on this list in a fight, if that puts it in perspective for you.

In the end, every one of these men belong in my virtual man-harem, but if they all got together and nominated a king, the title would go to (after an hour of bitching from Reaver) Ganondorf Dragmire, bearer of the Triforce of Power.


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