One of my deepest joys (and vilest disappointmetns) lies within singing.

When I was in college I had a friend who was a musician and he had the occasion to hear me singing (as part of a crowd attending a play). While walking home he informed me that I really shouldn’t sing, because I am tone deaf. It was an effective as a gag, and far worse: I felt like opening my mouth was the equivalent of having incredibly bad body odor. Offensive.

So a thing I enjoyed, had l;earned to breath correctly to do, had worked on for fun, became a torture. I no longer sang in the shower, or the car, or even while alone. My voice grew rusty, my breath shallow, and… bad.

I still liked to sing, though. I couldn’t stop forever. I just got used to a scratchy voice, gave up on high notes, and sang just every once in a while (usually along with very loud music so that I really wasn’t heard by anyone). And eventually, I got caught.

By my boyfriend (although he wasn’t more than a friend back then). A former musician with perfect pitch, no less. He stopped by to see if I wanted to go to a movie, he just didn’t call first like he usually does. I was playing my music loud, and didn’t hear the door, so he just came on in. And there I was, singing my heart out to Sinead O’Connor’s “Troy.” (If you don’t know it, find it and listen to it, and the irony of this story will go to new heights for you.)

I almost threw up, the blood rushed to my face so fast. I was mortified and I ran out of that room as fast as I could. I kept waiting for his laughter, or even the sound of him leaving, but… I didn’t hear that. I crept out. He was just sitting in the living room, reading, and when I came in he simply asked if I was alright. I stammered something taht was ehading towards being an apology when he interrupted me. “I’m sorry if I embarrased you singing, but I wanted to hear you better.”

What? You wanted to hear me better?

“You sing great. Not polished, and you could use some exercises, but you have a nice voice. Why, don’t you think so?”

No. (And I told him I was tone deaf, and why.)

“You’re not tone deaf. You can hear the difference between notes just fine. You don’t always match them, but…” (I almost fled the room again, it felt like i was being set up for a joke or something). “Stop, I’m sorry. Look — you sound fine. No you’re not a professional, but you’re not tone deaf. After all the bible said make a joyful noise, not a beautiful one, didn’t it?”

A few days ago a student shared this (and gave his permission to repost here):

Yes, yes, you are right, I suppose, yet I find it a sad thing, a 
 very sad thing indeed to see crows–innocent birds that were content 
 with their all too brief lives a moment before–flying from the 
 trees upon hearing me sing, “The Sound of Music” only to become so 
 nauseous that they cannot fly, and then to see them puking en masse 
 on the ground like a thousand ships loaded to the brims with drunk 
 sailors and sea-sick passengers. Then to see hysterical 
 cows–creatures that would be crows if only they had been born with 
 an “r” in their names–desperately trying to climb those same trees 
 that the crows so recently abandoned…But more than the pity I 
 feel, it’s the laugher that emanates from deep within me when I am 
 trying to sing during the midst of such a scene, that makes it hard 
 to go on. Yet, I must, simply must go on, because the spectacle and 
 the sense of power I feel, just knowing that I caused it all to 
 happen tickles me so that I would not trade a voice such as mine for 
 the sweetest notes the angels ever heard.

Don’t worry, dear Lady. I do sing. I sing all the time, but 
 especially when I’ve had too much coffee. A friend taught me to sing 
 years ago, so I now sing at all times and in all places. The older I 
 get, the less I care about the crows and the cows. They can buy 
 earplugs for all I care, impudent, intolerant creatures that they are.

He captured, eloquently, amusingly, and joyfully why some of us sing.

Over the years I’ve grown more confident in my voice. Oh, I’m not headed for StarSearch or American Idol. I don’t want to do karoke or anything like that. But “Walking in Memphis” sounds sweet in my voice, and although I don’t wail during “Troy” I can do all the rest.

It may not be beautiful, but it is joyful.

Friedman is one of the few authors I will buy the moment i see the new offering, beginning with her first novel, In Conquest Born in 1986 (gods, that makes me feel old). Her characters are exquisitely drawn, her worlds rich, and her story-telling skills superb. More importantly, she’s an author who fulfills the promise to take me somewhere new.

This Alien Shore opens with a young girl’s frantic escape from the Habitat orbiting Earth that has been her home, just before it is blown up in a a corporate raid. A last message from her mentor raises more questions than it answers. She learns that she’s been part of a highly secret, highly illegal experiment that “modded” the communication and data storage systems in her head. And someone is willing to kill her to keep others from getting access to it

Throughout the novel are questions of humanity via the central premise of its universe: what is human? Is it a matter of how it looks or follows social norms? Is it only confirmed at the genetic level — in which case what is the ‘baseline’ for measurement? Is it human to control sanity via chemicals (drugs or ‘natural’)? To alter the brain for maximum creativity? How can two cultures — both ‘human’ interact when their frames of reference are wildly incompatible, if not mutually exclusive.

The Guerans were especially fascinating: a world where insanity (as we would define it) is understood and appreciated while being cultivated and controlled — by the individual, not the state — as pathways for specific genuis. (It was interesting to try to figure out what disorders these people had. I recognized people with autism, Tourette’s, obsessive/compulsive disorder, and paranoid schizophrenia.) This is a society based on polite formulas to mitigate the clash between ‘clans’ as represented by various animals — lion, spider, snake, otter, etc.

These ‘power animals’ if you will, further the mythic quality Friedman tends to weave into her novels. The anniq — the naturally occurring rifts in space-time– is described like the icy waters of the Arctic, and dragons (sana) lurk within, waiting to eat the souls of unwary travelers.

As well, we are encouraged to think about the these of ‘define human’ by the universality of ‘net access. Today’s internet has become universal — literally. Where is the line between natural and unnatural when babies have implants so they are never denied their ‘right; to net access? For me, this writing takes Gibson’s best, and makes it readable. (I love his ideas, I hate how he expresses them.) In my opinion, the way she’s thought through how a computer virus would look and act in eight centuries is phenomenal.

My company is hiring another admin person, and I’m the one to do it. (I’m HR, after all, and the person would be reporting to me.) In the past we’ve gone through a local temp agency, and their people are wonderful, but expensive and looking to move forward in their careers — but the career is NOT admin. (Another time, I’ll go off on the topic of what’s wrong with being an admin?)

So I’ve started hiring the old-fashioned way, by my own skills and abilities, with a modern twist: I post on craigslist, instead of on Monster.com or in the newspaper. Within 15 minutes of posting the ad, I received 5 resumes. By the end of the first day (today), I have more than 30 to sift through on Monday. (I have enough to do in my life, I don’t work on weekends if I can help it.)

From today’s experience, here are a few tips for getting past the ‘first round’ — you might even get a call back.

1. Read the ad. If the company is looking for a receptionist, and you’ve been doing customer service (which I know because your 3-sentance cover letter told me), the rest your cover letter should be very persuasive as to why I’m even going to take a look at your resume.

2. Read the ad, again. If it tells you the hours, the days of the week, and mentions benefits, asking me that information (as your cover letter) doesn’t get your resume read.

3. Read the ad, I’m serious. If it asks you to post to a specific email address, then why are you hitting ‘send’ instead?

4. Lose the ‘IM speak.’ You’re trying to impress me with your communication skills (because I said the ‘ideal candidate’ would have excellent communication skills — there’s that ‘read the ad’ thing again), and telling me that “U R ideal”, with a subject line that tells me you are sending me the resum (sic) does not get you anything but a delete button.

5. Be a bit clever about your search. We all use generic resumes and cover letters — searching for a job requires we send out dozens (100s!) of the darn things. But, when your ‘To:’ field has my address (the one you hit ‘send’ to get, instead of the right one, btw) and 20 others… delete is my response.

6. Maintain the basics. Run it through a spell checker. Read it for grammar. Print it and go over it, slowly, looking for errors. The time to fix it and polish it is now — not after I’m reaching for the delete button.

Losing My / Your Religion

Author: Patricia Telesco
Posted: July 9th. 2006
Times Viewed: 3,659

It has been approximately 20 years since I dove into the Neo-Pagan ideological pool. Of that, the last fifteen years have been dedicated to writing and teaching about various aspects of our faith. Like any Path, things have changed over the years. Some changes have been positive. For example, a lot of us can be more open with our faith without people hiding their children and seeking out torches, and the media is starting to realize we are more than happy to “educate” them when they portray our beliefs inaccurately.

Some changes, on the other hand, have been negative. The current trend toward even more separatism in our community, returning to the comfort of our broom closets, and the lack of energy toward truly establishing ourselves as a viable, recognized religious group qualifies. I’m honestly discouraged. Many leaders and facilitators are discouraged. They look at dwindling festivals, publishers closing down entire lines of New Age books, and the seemingly never-ending petty infighting and ask: why bother? Why continue? I think we’re in danger of losing our religion to apathy, to a budget crisis, to weariness, to stubborn egos, and to the conservative trend in this country that is neatly chipping away at the Church-State barrier…. (continued at http://www.witchvox.com/va/dt_va.html?a=usny&c=words&id=10827)

I respect Ms. Telesco, she has more than lightly earned her right to speak about being an elder, and problems she sees within our community. But is the situation truly this bad? Or ar we seeing the ‘backside’ of the pendulums’ swing? Our community has grown enormously in the last 20 years and, like most teenagers, some of that growth hasn’t been pretty.

Yes, we ask a lot of our Elders — but they also give far more than we ask for, and perhaps there is an unhealthy dynamic of need and respect and presumption? This is a bit delicate, but what does a community of (theoretically) self-responsible, direct-connection-to-the-Divine people doing demanding so much from our Elders that they cannot supply our need? Or, have they encouraged our need of them and are exhausted from trying to meet the increased demand. (I know, thats an uncomfortable and potentially incendiary thought.) Let me be clear: technically, I am a member of the pagan clergy. I teach, am available to lead rituals on behalf of my community, and I offer back to the larger community by writing. I don’t plan to ‘make a living’ by being clergy, nor do I want to. It is my calling, but not my life.

Our community is not built by clergy, by directive individuals; it is built by the larger group who identify as similar to us. When we reach out to each other, instead of to an individual, we grow our community, we connect, we grow stronger. Yes, we need clergy. But a crisis of faith does not need to be dealt with within the hour. It can wait, at least a few hours (right?). Rituals are rarely done on the spur of the moment. Health-related crisis do happen suddenly, but no matter how respected, clergy can only attend at visiting hours — and those tend to be after work hours. Being pagan clergy is not a full time occupation, even as large a group as we have become in recent decades can not support clergy.

(Notice how I’m side-stepping the issue of charging for services? Even though it is one way to earn a living as clergy.)

Yes, 70% (or so) people who identify in some fashion as ‘neo-pagan’ practice as solitary. They do not do this because they can not find clergy, locally, so much as they haven’t enjoyed the groups they found. They don’t need to know where the ‘witch church’ is — they need to find people who are a pleasure to be with. They don’t necessarily want to be public about their beliefs and going to ‘church’ is the last thing they want to be seen doing.

I think its insulting to label 90% of our community as gripers, lacksadaisical, people who want ‘drive-through enlightenment.’ I think its enough to practice quietly, with faith, and pass on our knowledge in smaller numbers. Doing so will not relegate us to a historical footnote, or a fad. We do not need to imitate other religions to co-exist with them.

Another day where I will spend most of it working for my mundane job — about 6 hours worth, to be exact. The rest of my life is falling ‘behind.’ I know I’ll catch up, but its making me a tad crazy in the moment.

(Full Disclosure: I am the Book Review Coordinator for TBP)

The Beltane Papers, an all-volunteer magazine, has been in service to the Pagan Community for more than 20 years now. In that time it has weathered fair times and foul and succeed in producing a beautiful, scholarly journal of the Mysteries. Now, with the severe illness of the editor, Marione and a distributor’s bankruptcy (after we paid them $3, 000) Issue #38 hangs at the edge. The issue is complete, it is at the printers, and if we don’t find another $2000 we simply won’t be able to go to print (we need $4200, and have $2400, the additional $200 is to help with mailing costs).

We are reaching out to our community.

If you can spare even $5 it can make the difference between a success print and yet another Pagan magazine falling by the wayside. (How many of us still miss Green Egg?)

Major contributors’, individuals or businesses will be listed on our website and in a future issue with contact information (unless, of course, they request anonymity).

Our website (www.thebeltanepapers.net) has a link to PayPal, making a donation quick. But we can also accept checks at:
The Beltane Papers
P.O. Box 29694
Bellingham, WA 98228-1694

If all goes well, we will print and mail this issue.

But what about the future? Yes, we *are* looking to the future of this magazine. We can’t (and have no desire to) come begging to the community every time we need to make up the difference.
An immediate help would be an increase in the number of subscribers. We need to double the number of people receiving The Beltane Papers primarily because our printing costs would nearly halve. It would also allow us to work with larger distributors and you might actually see our beautiful magazine in more local stores.

We are also assembling an aggressive marketing campaign to reach out to new subscribers (and advertisers), but our editor’s illness has hindered our efforts in that direction. We expect this to be a one-time need, and we honor our responsibility to produce a beautiful, factual, fascinating Journal for our Community.

We look to our community for assistance, and are grateful for all help — even if it’s just spreading the word.
Thank you, profoundly.
the All-Volunteer Staff of
The Beltane Papers: A Journal of Women’s Mysteries
Website: http://www.thebeltanepapers.net

… but a state of being.

Yesterday (7/1) I worked 16 hours. All told, my work week (starting on Monday) was 60 hours long. Amazing. I haven’t done this ot myself since I was in college and combining part-time work with an over-full class schedule.

My company moved from our quaint, but expensive and poorly designed office space inside a semi-converted house in a sweet neighborhood to a ‘regular’ office space on the fringes of downtown. We now have private offices and cubicles, as well as a real kitchen (seating for more than 12!), a library (which may actually get organized, now) and an environment where we all can see one another, daily.

I have to say, I’m pretty convinced that I’m going to get crap about the new space. The people I work with (and have ‘gone to bat for’ on numerous occasions) don’t think well of me. They are fools, as I am generous with those I manage and am always looking for a way to promote people into better places. Amusingly, they think the grass is greener elsewhere, but won’t just leave to find out. I’m going to get shit for having an office, and a corner one at that (although I didn’t choose it, but the Founder asked to switch with me and I said yes). I say: put in 15+ years of excellent, focused work in one area of expertise and then tell me I don’t deserve an office. In the end: I’m not sure how much longer I want to stay, even if the benefits are great and the pay is very good.

The sad part: I have to be at work on Monday, a day when everyone else in the company has off because I committed to making the common areas fully functioning for them. Will I get thanks? Maybe. The IT lady will be with me, because she’s a trouper and ‘gets’ the need for a functioning office when we start up again. One other person in the company offered to help with the move.

Oh my, I’m grumpy about this.