14 June 2019

Searching for Purpose and Cleaning Our Ocean

Rockaway Beach

"Purpose, It's that little flame That lights a fire Under your ass. Purpose, It keeps you going strong Like a car with a full Tank of gas. Everyone else has A purpose So what's mine?"
~ "Avenue Q"

Okay I think I'm ready to go public with this on the blog now. I've been public with my friends and family about it for about a month now, so I think it's an appropriate time. I did not get into grad school. And for awhile, it crushed me. On my personal facebook, I wrote an explanation as thus:
"Some of you know this already. Most of you don’t but I think I’m ready to go public. I did not get into the doctorate program that I applied to. The initial blow was very hard on me and caused me to become depressed. I’m still grieving it - it’s hard to come to terms with being rejected from something I wanted so bad. I do not want to talk about it. I do not want to plan next steps. I do appreciate everyone’s concern - I know I haven’t been the most fun person to be around lately because of this - but I’m simply not ready to talk about it. I’m only informing people because I’m tired of people asking me about it individually."
Part of the reason it crushed me so deeply is because, well, it seemed like the logical next step in my adult life. You know, that's what archaeologists/anthropologists do. In this field you pretty much get a doctorate or you don't work as anything other than doing the grunt work for the people with doctorates.

I'd spent so long assuming I wanted this that I never once considered if I actually did or not. And - can I be real with you guys for a second here? - I'm still not sure. I have no idea if this is what I really want or if it's just what I think that I should want. Do you see the difference? Because I'm still trying to figure it out.

I know what I don't want. I don't want to be stuck working as a secretary my whole life. I don't want to wake up at 40 and realize I got stuck in a passionless life.

Right now it still hurts too much to think about any passion I may have for archaeology and the like, so I am trying to turn to other things I am passionate about:

  • I was at my happiest when I gave tours at the Winchester Mystery House and, later, Hamilton Grange, so I may try to get a NYC tour guide license at some point. I am still undecided about that. I don't have a lot of free time as it is.
  • I do want to write a novel. I've written for NaNoWriMo of course, but I want to write one that I actually manage to get published. I don't need it to be a Harry Potter-level bestseller. If just one person counts it as among their favourite books, that would be enough for me. I just... need to stick with an idea beyond a few chapters. (I have so many stories abandoned around chapter three.)
  • I am getting deeper into my own religion. I'm considering The Troth's Lore Program and - if I complete that - their Clergy Program. One of my kinsmen will be finishing the Clergy Program soon so I may pick his brain once he does so to see if this feels right for me. 
  • And, if nothing else, I am passionate about cleaning up the SERIOUS plastic waste problem that is plaguing our oceans, as you all know from past entries.
And last weekend, in honour of World Ocean's Day, the nonprofit group 4Ocean (I've really believed in their work for awhile, and I have one of their bracelets) hosted a beach clean-up on Rockaway Beach. Well, cleaning up a beach is certainly a good purpose for at least one day, isn't it? So I signed up and went.

I wasn't alone. Thousands of people showed up. Even on the shuttle over from the A-Train, the train was completely filled with people who were just as passionate about this cause! I met people from organisations such as...

Billion Oyster Project -- New York harbour used to have the most oysters out of anywhere in the world, but between New Amsterdam and the turn of the 20th century, New Yorkers had severely depleted the local supply, and in the process had also severely polluted the waterways that surround our islands. The Hudson River and the East River are still recovering. But the thing about oysters, you see, is that they're excellent natural filters. One oyster can filter 5 gallons of water in one hour. So they can naturally help clean up the water. What the Billion Oyster Project does is take oyster shells from restaurants willing to donate them and uses them to create oyster reefs around Governor's Island, Brooklyn, and lower Manhattan, then gets live oysters ti those reefs. Live oysters thrive on the shells of their fallen brethren - who knew?! (There's a metaphor for ancestor work in there somewhere.) Isn't that neat?!

Coastal Steward Long Island -- Like the Billion Oyster Project, this organisation is also creating oyster reefs with recycled oyster shells, just further out on Long Island. (If you eat oysters at local restaurants who donate, you're helping the cause too, congratulations!) They also host education programs at the Marine Environmental Stewardship Centre at Cedar Beach to educate people about local marine ecosystems, and they work with local businesses and schools on preservation and restoration events.

Oceanic Global -- This is a nonprofit currently working with the United Nations to not just raise awareness of the plastic problem, but to broaden the conversation about it into other areas of interest in order to get more people on board towards the solution. I'm making it all sound rather cerebral, I know, but they partner with a lot of great organisations (including Plastic Oceans, the organisation my facebook charity event was for last year) and their website explains so much more.

Lonely Whale -- Lonely Whale is interesting in that I'm really not sure how to describe them other than that they're not like other organisations here. They raise awareness, sure, but do so in modern ways to connect with The Youth. They organise social media campaigns, guerrilla art campaigns, and even recently hosted a pop-up experience right here in NYC called the Museum of Plastic - which I DID go to. (Did you know that single-use plastic water bottles didn't come into wide use until the early 90s? They're younger than I am!) Their #StopSucking campaign was also instrumental in getting cities like NYC to consider plastic straw alternatives, and they really REALLY pushed for policy change surrounding that. While I realise the straw issue isn't simply black and white (some disabled people do need to use plastic straws for example, and inflexible metal or bamboo ones don't work as an alternative for them), those of us who are able to go without, should. 

From Lonely Whale's "Museum of Plastic" pop-up

The Riverhead Foundation -- Another Long Island organisation, they do a lot of marine research, but they also do wildlife rehabilitation and release, so they've seen firsthand a lot of the tragedy that plastic waste can cause. Also, one of the things they help with is local SEAL RESCUES, which is definitely something I can get behind. Eventually I'm gonna make it out to one of their seal releases, and when I do I'll post about it here.

Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy -- As a partner of the National Parks Service, this conservancy helps with things such as restoring natural habitats around the Jamaica Bay region and, yes, helping to organise shoreline cleanups such as the event I was at. They are dedicated to preserving the long-term sustainability of these parklands so that generations of New Yorkers to come can still enjoy it.

And thousands of ordinary people, just like me - not just a bunch of extraordinary geniuses with doctorates (though there could well have been some people like that in the crowd), but also regular New Yorkers from all walks of life - got together and did something extraordinary. Look at how much trash we picked up all together:

4Ocean supplied hemp bags.
All that trash which may have gone into some poor seabird or whale's stomach, or which may have strangled some defenseless seal or turtle, is now going to be recycled, some of it into the bracelets 4Ocean makes for various ocean-related causes. 

Look, I may not know what I want to do with my life right now. I may have no idea what's next for me. I may not be 100% okay with that. But I am happy with the work I did last weekend. For the first time in months, I'm proud of myself. Oh, and I am starting to plan that novel. I'm not saying much about it yet except that some of my favourite Norse myths will be woven into the plot, though the main plot is all original, all me. I'll keep you guys posted if I actually manage to complete more than just an introduction.


02 May 2019

It's Hot as Hell! In Phila-del-phia! (My Recent Vacation to Philly)

Sometimes you need an escape. Desperately.

I recently received some very bad news that I'm still not quite ready to go public with on this blog. (I will make it its own separate post once I've fully grieved and processed.) My mother, my therapist, Sarah, my kindred, and my friend Eliza are so far the only ones who know. (I have two other friends I also want to tell before I go public, but I want to tell them in person, and haven't gotten an opportunity to do so yet.)

The point is that I just couldn't be in my day-to-day life in New York for a little bit. So it worked out great that Sarah had planned a vacation to Philadelphia, a city I had long wanted to visit. And with Philly so close to New York (only 2 hours by bus, about the same amount of time it'd take me to get from my apartment to the Bronx) it worked out surprisingly well.

And you guys. You guys.

Philadelphia is wonderful.

Between all the Revolutionary History (I'M ALWAYS A SLUT FOR THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION), delicious food, getting to cross an item off my bucket list that's been there since 2003, and way too many "1776" references (sing it with me now - "someone better oooooopen up a window!") Sarah and I had a much-needed wonderful time. I was able to decompress away from home and have a lot of fun, too.

Now this is going to be one of those "look at all this cool stuff I did!" travel posts. If that's not your jam, I will not be at all offended if you skip this one. (My viewcounts have been low since facebook censored me - yeah that's still not fixed - so I've made my peace with the fact that not everyone will read every post.) But if you wanna see what Sarah and I did, read on!

06 April 2019

The Serpent Man, A Cryptid Nobody Asked For

Did you know that in the Pacific Northwest, dockworkers and boat owners use those inflatable air dancer things (you know, the ones you usually see at used car dealerships) to scare seals and sea lions away from the docks?

The poor pinnipeds stay away from these giant wiggling creatures, but the catch is that they need to be kept turned on, because if they leave them turned off for long, the intelligent sea lions might figure out they're not actually alive. That they're fakes.

But what if they were real? What if the seals and sea lions know something we don't?

02 April 2019


Yesterday was April Fool's Day, a day that some modern Lokeans (I stress this is modern; this is definitely not an ancient Viking belief!!!) devote to Loki because, well, Loki loves fun and trickery, and it's a whole holiday for fun and trickery!

So I took my little toy seal/representation of my fylgja into Prospect Park this morning to go do a blót to Loki! (For my muggle friends, a blót is the most common ritual within Heathenry. In the old days this was done by feasting on an animal consecrated to the Gods and then slaughtered. As we are no longer farmers and our needs are simpler today, the most common blót is an offering of mead or other alcoholic beverage to the deities. In my case, it was some pumpkin cider because in my experience, Loki likes sweet flavoured beverages.)

01 April 2019

Hello, Spring!

I love Spring! Can you believe it's already that time of year again? The birds are singing, the flowers are blooming, and baby Jessamyne is starting to crawl! It's made me feel so wonderfully #blessed to see the wonder in her eyes as she crawls through the grass in the local park, staring up at the blossoms as they rain down on her.

What's that? I've never posted photos of beautiful baby Jessamyne to this blog? Oh, let me show you all - gosh, you'll just wanna eat up her tiny baby face!

Her daddy's mama had this photo taken in a sweater she knit for Jessamyne (or crocheted? I confess I don't know the difference) and I just DIE every time I see it. Thank God Jessie got her daddy's eyes, right? All the boys at church will be knocking down our door to ask for her hand once she grows up!

What's that? Oh, gosh, you're right, I suppose I have been rather bad at keeping this blog updated. Surprise! I'm married now! And I bagged a man five years younger than me - guess us older ladies still got it, am I right ladies? #Cougar!!!

After the oh-so-cute Mormon missionary showed up at my door last fall, I didn't want to believe it at first, but now I cannot believe I ever denied it. Everything he said to me made so much sense - and when I looked into his eyes, he made sense too. I had thought I would always go on as I was. Living life as a lesbian in New York City had seemed so exciting on paper.

But God had other plans for me, and within two weeks Braeden's mission was over and we were flying to Utah to get married as soon as possible. And, well, the church has forgiven me for living my sinful lifestyle. ;) Luckily, Jessamyne will be raised to believe in our family values. She won't know about mommy's shameful past until she's at least 20.

And of course, I won't have to worry about getting a job. The real estate market here is so much better than New York's! No more slaving away in some job I hate to barely scrape by enough to live in a tiny apartment. Is that what feminism gets us? Borderline slave labour? Braeden says yes, and Braeden says we'll raise our daughter to know that true feminine fulfillment comes from living in a loving home with a daddy who works at his father's company and a mommy who stays home with the children. I want to be present in my baby's life the way my working parents weren't for me. Besides, with all the babies Braeden plans to put in me - I'm gonna be 28 this year, we gotta get as many buns in the oven as possible before the bakery closes, if you catch my drift - I'm not gonna have time for silly stuff like museum work. Though, maybe once Jessamyne is old enough to start babysitting her siblings I can volunteer and give tours of downtown.

I am happy that it's spring again. I'm going to bake rosy pink cupcakes with fondant blossoms on them for next Sunday. (That'll show Lynda who the best new mommy on the block is! Ha!) I'll let Jessamyne "help" by licking the frosting spoon. Show her early on that she can find fulfillment in the kitchen.

Oh, and this is of utmost importance - please, I beg of you my friends, do not tell my family I am here in Utah. They didn't approve of Braeden when they met him over skype, and they definitely didn't approve of how we got Jessamyne, saying "the math didn't add up" and "Her real parents are going to be looking for her" and other godless nonsense like that. So they can't know where I am. Okay? Okay!

Love and kisses,
~the eternally #blessed Nym~

P.S. April Fools, ya filthy animals, of course I'm not a hetero Mormon mommy who kidnapped some poor child. (Nor do I think most Mormons would ever do so - I just think most Mormons have a sense of humour enough not to get too offended by this.)

26 March 2019

On Therapy, Seals, Faith, and Good Things

Swimming away from my problems be like...

Early one morning before people had gotten up, a man from Myrdal in the east was walking past some cliffs when he came to the entrance to a cave. He could hear that there was merrymaking and dancing going on inside the hill, and outside he saw a large number of sealskins. He picked up one of them, took it home, and locked it in his trunk. Some time later, in the course of the day, he went back to the cave's entrance. A beautiful young girl was sitting there. She was entirely naked and crying bitterly. She was the seal to whom the skin belonged that the man had taken. The man gave the girl some clothing, comforted her, and took her home with him.
Later she came to accept him, but never got along very well with other people. She would often just sit there and look out to sea. After some time the man took her as his wife. They lived well together and had many children. 
The peasant hid the skin, locking it securely in his trunk, and he carried the key with him everywhere he went. 
Many years later he rowed out fishing and forgot the key at home under his pillow. 
However, others say that the peasant went to a Christmas service with his people, but that his wife had been sick and was unable to go with them. They say that he forgot to take the key out of the pocket of his everyday clothes when he changed. When he arrived home that evening the trunk was open, and his wife had disappeared with the skin. She had found the key, out of curiosity looked through the trunk, and found the skin. 
She could not resist the temptation. She said farewell to her children, put on the skin, and threw herself into the sea. 
Before the woman jumped into the sea, it is reported that she said:
This I want, and yet I want it not, --
Seven children have I at the bottom of the sea,
Seven children have I as well here above.
It is said that this touched the peasant's heart. After this, when he rowed out fishing, a seal often swam around his boat, and it seemed that tears were running from its eyes. From this time on he was always successful catching fish, and luck often came to his beach. 
People frequently saw this couple's children walking on the beach while a seal swam along out in the sea accompanying them. It would throw colorful fish and pretty shells to them. 
But the mother never again returned to land.
~ "Selshamurinn" ("The Seal-Skin") as told by Jón Árnason

So I've started therapy. I've been at it for about a month and it is honestly so god damned weird sometimes but also I cannot recommend it enough. So far it's already been very helpful in getting me to begin to recognise when someone is unintentionally hurting me and how I can deal with that productively.

But it's also helping me recognise that I apologise too much. My therapist - hereafter referred to as "Dr. G" - asked me why I think this is. I guess on some level, due to past trauma, I'm afraid of displeasing anyone, but she also helped me to recognise that this fear is no longer serving me, and that I don't need to be so apologetic about taking up space. About existing. I'm not explaining this as well as she did, but I am trying to be more mindful about this, to stop apologising for every little damn thing and to stop putting myself out there and meddling in people's business every time I think there might be the smallest chance they might be mad at me. It's... easier said than done.

Dr. G, in trying to help me come up with a method of recognising when I am doing this, noticed that I was wearing my favourite socks that I own and asked "why not take on a seal as your personal power animal?"

I said "you mean like a fylgja?" because I am a white Heathen and have no right to the phrase "Spirit Animal" or its variants. (In fact, you shouldn't be using that phrase either.)

This is what I mean about therapy being weird. But what's weirder is that it's working.

15 March 2019

The Curious Case of Mary Bell

WARNING: This post includes discussion of dark topics such as murder, violence, child abuse, and child death. Please be mindful of your own mental health and if you need to skip this one, I’ll see you next time.

Fuck it. If facebook is gonna censor me anyway, I might as well do a blog entry about true crime, a subject I've long been fascinated by and that I've wanted to dip my toes into for awhile. Not in the gross 'I wanna fuck Ted Bundy' way - seriously what the hell is up with those people? No, I more find it psychologically interesting to ponder what drives someone to that.

Child psychology in particular is interesting to me. In an ideal world, of course, this would involve the psychology of how a child grows, how their brain changes and how they learn, stuff like that. Unfortunately, this is not an ideal world. Many people are completely unfit to raise children, and abuse them horrifically. Due to my own personal triggers, I will not go too into detail as to what that abuse entails, but I'm assuming you all can use your imaginations.

Children raised in such conditions often have long-term learning difficulties, problematic behaviors, and increased incidences of physical and mental health issues, all stemming from the abuse. Children learn who they are by interacting with their primary caretakers, and it's little wonder that the ignored, marginalised, or abused child has little sense of who they really are. They internalise what's been said or done to them, and lacking any healthy coping mechanisms (often they need, with their limited facilities, to quickly cobble together maladaptive coping mechanisms) they suffer greatly - and often turn to making others suffer as a way to regain some sense of the power that has been robbed from them.

The "Child of Rage" documentary about Beth Thomas is an example about how such treatment can damage a child's psyche. At only six years old, Thomas admitted to a clinical psychologist, on tape, that she would hurt her adoptive parents and birth sibling if given the opportunity. Her adoptive parents, Jill and Rob Tyler, locked their young daughter in her room at night because they were afraid of what she might do - all because of the way her biological father had abused her from infancy. (Also what kind of sick fuck abuses an infant?!)

Beth saw a series of psychiatrists who struggled to help her develop empathy, and overcome her psychopathic personality, which was the result of her father's sick behaviour. And, after years of intensive therapy, she was able to re-learn empathy and has grown to be a well-adjusted adult woman who helps others as a nurse. Her therapist, however, was one of the adults responsible for the tragic and terrible murder (and YES, I do view it as a murder, as they all should have known better) of Candace Tiara Ellmore, better known as Candace Newmaker. (Warning - That link is the most sickening and depressing story you’ll probably ever read, and not safe for sanity.)

Of course, Beth Thomas was not the first (and sadly not the last) child whose psyche was horrifically warped by early abuse. A few decades before her, in a working-class town in England, there lived a serial killing child named Mary Bell.