The Cathryn Files

Being a court reporter, Celtic fiddle, organic gardening, being a Pagan, Nia, conscious dance, cataholism…

Another One for the Court Reporting Students

Well, it has been quite a busy three-or-so weeks.  I’m blogging about it in part because I want the CR students who follow this blog to know that it isn’t like this all the time (unless you make it that way or have poor time management and assertiveness skills), but it does happen that unexpected circumstance arise and things are difficult with juggling assignments, prioritizing, and the like.

So I started out with several good jobs about three weeks ago.  One hearing was more difficult than expected to edit because it had been difficult to transcribe thanks to a nervous, overeager attorney for the petitioner.  I had to check quite a lot with the audio on that one.

Digression Number 1:  Yes, it’s a guilty secret, we do have an audio backup.  It is not intended to be a substitute for the record, and woe betide the reporter who depends on it.  But when attorneys have a seven-hour limit in which to examine a witness, they tend to talk quickly and sometimes over each other.  If it is truly impossible and I have said my piece (“I need you to speak one at a time for an accurate record”) twice, I will sometimes put in the parenthetical (Overlapping voices.)  Sometimes you just can’t make them stop.  But yes, I do resort to audio, primarily to double-check numbers and the oddly-accented or unfamiliar term.  Using the audio really slows down the editing process.  And, of course, it’s part of a computer, meaning that glitches can happen with it.  So you don’t want to depend on it, but it’s forgivable IMO to be glad it’s there from time to time.  End of digression.

So I was moving through a full load at a good clip, but this transcript took a longer time because of the above-mentioned problems.   I had a minor surgical procedure for an ingrown toenail coming up, and Ted had gum surgery to complete.  And it was tax season.  So I accepted a two-day job in a Northern Virginia courthouse, meaning two long workdays and overnight stay.  At the end of the second day, the plaintiffs’ attorney came up to me and asked if he could have a transcript of two witnesses’ testimony that night.  I told him that I couldn’t do it since I was driving back to Prince Frederick.  He asked how quickly he could have it.  I told him over the weekend, thinking grimly of the two long days ahead.  Then I called the office because normal procedure is that everything sent to an attorney goes through the court reporting firm.  However, this was not going to happen, so I explained the situation.  It was verified with the owner that, yes, I could under this circumstance send it directly to the attorney with a copy to Production at the agency.  So I told the attorney that he could have his transcript.

Digression Number 2:  Never send anything to an attorney or negotiate rates, pressure notwithstanding, without talking to a manager or other authorized person at the agency first.  This is because the attorney is actually the agency’s client, not yours.  You need to have phrases at the ready that include:  “I need to check with the agency which I will do right now.”  “I’m not authorized to discuss rates.  You will need to talk to the owner/manager/name of same.  You can call the phone number on my card to talk to her.”  It is nearly always possible to do this politely as well as honestly.  When it’s not, go for honestly.  You simply can’t allow yourself to be manipulated on these issues.  The agency needs to know what’s happening with sales at all times, and rates are their call, not yours.  No, this is not the job for a chronic people-pleaser.  End of digression.

And these were not pleasant weekend days.  Already tired from two long days and finding my way in and out of an unfamiliar area, I had the added stress of anticipating Monday’s medical procedure.  My activities consisted of parking myself at the computer with the occasional foray for food and related bio breaks.  I did the longer of the two segments on Saturday, getting it to him in the late afternoon and then discovering — gadzooks! — an error after I’d sent it.  One of the witnesses had a fairly common name, but it had a double “L” in it that was not at all common.  I sent him a corrected copy.  The second day went very slowly because I recognized my fatigue made me prone to errors.  But I did get that testimony transcript to the attorney before the weekend was out.  And indeed, I did go into the podiatrist’s office feeling tired and overworked.

Mission accomplished.  Procedure gotten through.  I got a good night’s sleep and went back to work on another transcript that was due at the end of the week.  It was an easy and productive day.  The next morning, I was just finishing breakfast, reading the Flipboard news digests on my iPad Mini, when an email came in.  Yes, an expedite was needed.  An expletive (okay, a lot of them) got uttered.  I called the Production staff member who’d sent me the email and said that I could do the expedite, getting one in the following day and the other over the upcoming weekend, but then I wouldn’t be able to get my other job in on time.  Silence.  “When can you get it in?”  I said that it was due Friday, and I could get it to them on Monday.  “Oh.”  I asked if they wanted me to send it to the attorney myself; send it via ReporterBase; or attach it via email. I was to send the first volume via ReporterBase and send the second to Production over the weekend via email.  I got right to work, stayed up until 3:30 a.m. the following morning, then submitted the first volume via email.  I caught a couple of hours of sleep before getting up to drive with Ted to his ghastly gum surgery and shepherd him home.  That afternoon, I was back at Volume II.  I completed it and submitted it at 11:20 Saturday a.m., asking to be notified when they received it, then went to work on the transcript that I said I’d deliver Monday.  Saturday 5:00 p.m., no notification. I emailed one of the owners asking if it had been received.  She said thanks, it was, and cc’d me, sending it to the attorney.  Sunday, for a change (nod to the Fugs), a lot more editing.  And I did get that transcript submitted when I said I would.

It was (insert expletive of choice) hell.  Eating right and exercise, fiddle and spending time with my husband went right out the window.  But I did it.  I had to.  This is what you sign on for, the production of work that is fundamental to the justice-making process.  The work has got to be completed and sent out regardless of personal plans or energy levels.  Diligent planning and personal organization can insure that crunches like this are rare, but they are inevitable.  If you intend to continue along the court reporting path, it’s never too early to start thinking about how you will handle the crunches.  And with every such crunch, you are thinking about how you will handle the next one in a more effective way, like getting up an hour earlier and making the time for that workout.

And yes, sometimes all that gets you through is thinking about the money you’ll be making from the expedite.  I think if pressed, most reporters will admit this!

Sharing the Garden

IMG_2207

As I was checking the front porch, hoping that my onion sets and strawberry seedlings had arrived, our neighbor Dave came running by.  Dave was literally running.  He’s a Secret Service agent, and his work demands an awe-inspiring level of fitness.  Dave’s gym is four miles away from home, and his practice is to run there, do an impressive workout, then run back.   He saw my disappointed face and stopped to ask if all was well.  I said, “No, just sad that my onions aren’t here yet.  And by the way…”  The onion sets came in a pack of 100, and I only wanted 40.  I asked whether his family would like some.  He said he wasn’t sure about doing a garden this year and asked if they could grow in pots.  I acknowledged that in theory, they could.  Dave said he wasn’t sure about starting a garden this year, then mentioned he’d seen that we’d had some work done in our backyard.  I offered him a drink and invited him in to see the new paths and vegetable beds.  He duly admired the cedar-shaving paths, selected since cedar is said to repel chiggers.  I said, “Want to see what a baby pear tree looks like?”  He followed me to the back of the yard with me and examined them with amazement.  Then he asked to see the small blackberry stubs that were poking up in front of the back fence.  We bent so I could show him the burgeoning buds close to the stems.  “This is really something,” he said.  “You’ve got vegetables and trees and berries, an herb garden.”  I interrupted him quickly to say that it was mixed flowers and herbs, that I didn’t believe in separating out different types of plants for the most part since many of them had a great deal to give each other.  I explained that basil, an herb, was planted with tomatoes because growing them staved off tomato-puncturing hornworms, probably emitting an odor that repelled them.  And I often planted a row or cluster of flowering plants among the vegetables to draw beneficial insects. I added that I’d be planting the odd onion and garlic throughout the yard since they did a good job of repelling flying insects.  “Garlic!” he exclaimed.  “You grow garlic?  I’ve never seen garlic growing.”  So I led him him over to the thriving garlic patch I’d planted last fall.   Dave examined the tall, healthy stalks, then turned to me and offered me the use of his truck if I ever needed to haul anything.  “And I’ll take those onions for our garden,” he said.

My garden is nemeton, sacred space where I marvel daily at the timely union of the elements and see my love of the land reflected back at me a hundredfold.   But I don’t garden in a bubble.  The floral plantings are designed with the bees and butterflies in mind, and the birds are welcome to a share of the berries.  Human visitors are welcome, as well.   At Imbolc, I start to collect small containers from products like salsa and hummus and keep them handy for guest berry pickers.  I have explanations at the ready about my compost pile, intensive gardening, and why the bees are not pests, but friends to be welcomed and nurtured.  The garden rule is that visitors may pick the flowers and food crops as long as they’re interested.  I well remember my own excitement circa age four when berries I’d picked appeared in my breakfast cereal.  It is a great pleasure to watch the discovery, to see Dave and others begin to sense the primal alchemy that brings us nourishment.  A neighbor stops me on the street to tell me that her son never ate apples until I invited him to pick one from our tree.  I see children whose toys mostly contain microchips get excited about picking tomatoes and corn for their family’s dinner table.  I get email from friends, online and real-world, telling me they’ve put in a garden plot and are now composting.

I get, I see, I revel.  Our gardens continually give to us.  When we eschew the use of pesticides, seeking out practices renew the earth, they pour out even more.  When we are inspired to open our garden gates to others, the giving increases by leaps and bounds.  We pass on our love for the earth and sky as we bond and build community.  Remember to share the garden!

Court Reporting Students, This One’s For You

IMG_2124

Those files aren’t going anywhere.

So I’m here with my office cat, riding out the storm.  We have had snow and dark skies, but now it’s just rain and wind.  Solangecat does not like wind, so I think I will be well-supervised today.  It is not a surprise to me that Shakespeare set Caesar’s assassination in March.  March is as trustworthy as Caesar’s coterie, at least when it comes to weather, and I am not surprised that he used this month as the backdrop for a playing out of skullduggery and treachery.

Yesterday can be turned into a great teaching moment for the future court reporters I know.  Yes, I will name the firm privately, but my point is not so much to avoid this particular agency as to identify what they did wrong, why it’s wrong, and why you shouldn’t work for a company who does these things even when you’re brand-new and eager to get your career started.  Aleece, Leah, Anastasia, Terri, Maurice, et al., if you see this type of thing, walk on by.  Please.  You all have excellent potential.  You don’t want to put yourself in a position where you’re providing services and not getting paid for them, expected to do tasks not related to taking the record and producing a transcript, and having your work product handled by firm employees who are not knowledgeable professionals.

It began with an email from a certain national firm asking if I could cover a job for them on Friday.  I indicated that I was available, but I would need to know their rates and cancellation policy before proceeding.  Their response was that they paid the going rate for given areas, and I should email them what I wanted.  Unusual but not unreasonable.  So I did email them with the rates I am paid by my favorite agency, including that I needed payment if a job cancelled less than 24 hours before its scheduled start time (more on this later when I really get up on my soapbox).  I also put out the word on Facebook, asking if other reporters had worked with them.  Someone whom I respect highly emailed me to say she hadn’t been able to reach agreement on rates with them, and also, they automatically wanted a rough draft “just in case.”  I gather nothing was mentioned about payment for that rough draft which is a standard policy in reporting. They sent me back a reporter information form which I filled out, scanned, and sent back to them.  That is, I sort of filled it out.  I could not fathom why they wanted to know whether I had any health or medication allergies, so I wrote, “No comment.”  I was very uncomfortable with the level of detail they wanted.  The birthdate was justifiable, certainly here in the DC area where security checks are the norm rather than the exception.  And the questions about my writer, what software I used, where I’d gone to CR school, etc. were not all that unreasonable, but I wonder why they want to know that.  I am guessing it’s for networking purposes within the company — like I want a total stranger calling me up and asking me to help with the Lightspeed or Total Eclipse?   Anyway, I sent that off.  Twenty-four hours later, I got an email announcing they’d booked me for the job on Friday.  What?  Without my knowledge and consent?  Without written confirmation of the rates I’d be paid?  I was leaving Whole Foods in Annapolis when I got that message.  I thought about it, decided my visceral indignation was well-supported by logic, and pulled over to send a quick email that I would not take the job and would not be able to take future assignments for them.  Of course, I got a message saying that was an “about-face” and asking why.  I told them the truth in as few words as possible:  I had not received confirmation of the rates they would pay; I had not committed myself to the job, only said I was available and asked questions, and submitted their info form which I found intrusive because of (see reasons stated above).  So I get back another email saying that since they had given me the assignment, they’d assumed it was understood my rates had been approved (!) and because I said I was available, they assumed I wanted the job (!!).  Then I get another long, emotional email from management that was just weird.  She wanted “in my heart” for me to know why they were doing what they did and wrote three long paragraphs about why they needed an emergency contact.   Seems they had reporters in the WTC during 9/11, and there were problems with getting hold of their relatives to let them know they got out safely.   Item:  I hadn’t balked at the emergency contact info.  It’s standard stuff.  But I never did find out why they wanted to know about medications.  As far as food, turns out they sent food on the job, and they didn’t want to include anything that the reporter might be allergic to.  Gee, wonder who is expected to pick up and set out that food?  I have heard at conventions about firms doing this, and it is agreed among absolutely everyone in reporting whom I regard as credible that when an agency expects this, it’s a show-stopper.  You are a reporter, not a host or food server.

(An aside:  I did work for a firm in San Francisco that kept a nice luncheon spread on hand.  This was because because SF was something of a legal hub for the area, and it was not at all uncommon for lawyers to fly or drive in from the day from places including Sacramento, L.A., or western Nevada to conduct or attend depositions or hearings.  I was a bit dubious about this at first, but I saw how much easier it made things for attorneys not to have to leave the premises for lunch.  It really was more efficient for everyone; the depo got done, and they could make their plane.  The reporters’ entire relationship to the lunch buffet was that we could help ourselves if we wanted to.  I was never asked to so much as pick up a dish the entire time I worked for that firm before it was sold. )

The upshot was that I sent back an email saying that I understood that their policies worked for them, and thanks for the explanation.  However, it had further shown me that we would not be a compatible team.  Thank Goddess, I haven’t heard back from them again. And here is where I mount the soapbox and tell the students exactly what I want them to know, step by step:

– There is no assuming in business, period.  You get your rate sheet, whether prefab or individualized, from them in writing, whether snailmail, email, or fax, before you agree to take a job.   This point is absolutely not negotiable!   An assumption on either side in this area can, frankly, lead to you not making what you know you’re supposed to make from the job.

– There is no presumption.  You are committed to the job when you sent back an email, spoke to someone, or left a phone message that says, “Yes, I can cover this.  Thank you.”  Everyone understands where you will be going when.  Again, not negotiable.  An assumption on either side is simply too open to misunderstanding.

– An emotional outpouring of the sort in the manager’s email does not have a place in business, particularly when you don’t have a longstanding relationship with the recipient.  It is not professional and may well be an attempt to manipulate.

– You are there to report, period.  You don’t pick up and deliver food, deliver transcripts for your firm (except in the rare instance that it is ridiculously easy for you to do this), drive anyone anywhere (except in the odd emergency, and it’s okay with all the attorneys), or spend your evening at a copy center doing photocopying for one side or the other, a request that was actually made of me in one of the last jobs I did in the SF Bay Area.

– A rough draft is a service.  Lawyers don’t want it all that often in my experience, but this may vary according to location and what type of case it is.  You are paid for providing this service.  It’s not a good idea to discuss specific rates publicly, but if an agency wants you to give away your rough draft, well, not only is that wrong to start with, but they’ll undoubtedly be pushing you for more and more waiving of usual and customary fees for the services you provide.

Yes, you really have to do this!  If you submit to mistreatment, they’ll just do it to another reporter — and another — and try to get more and more out of you without compensation.

Dismounting soapbox now.

Guess What I Have

IMG_2158Bodacious the Firecat checks out the workers who are coming to shore up the fence so she can’t dig her way out from under it.

I am rapidly reaching the conclusion that I have acquired a Doppelgaenger, a creature who personifies a tricky (okay, bloody unacceptable) part of myself in the classic Jungian sense.

So I guess I’ll just start from the beginning.  Once she got over her initial fearfulness at being in a new place, Bodaciouscat promptly began living up to her name.  Supervised forays into the yard became difficult because she figured out how to dig her way out in back so she could get to the birds who hung out in the poplars, laughing at her.  She also systematically dismantled my attempts at hole-plugging and reinforcing.  Hence the workers today.  Pete and crew are installing paving under the gates and rocks around the inside perimeter.  That wasn’t the only problem.  She’s a yowler and a something of a urine-marker.  (She is also an extreme love bug, and an adorable one at that.)  The yowling stops when she gets attention and reassurance.  Anxiety.

The second reason why I think Bodacious is my Doppelgaenger, sent to me in a dazzling display of co-inside-dance: I realized about a week ago that she was exactly like the cat on the album cover Teaser and the Firecat, a Cat Stevens album that was extremely important to me circa 1972.  Some of its imagery is part of my personal mythology.  For example, I call the immutable fact of having being abused past the point of legality as a child and teenager my Moonshadow.  “Well, I’m being followed by a moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow.  Leaping and hopping on a moonshadow…”  I am not sure I totally understand the rest of the song, but it has always seemed to me to be about making the best of what is out of your power to change.  Anyway, her middle name is now The Firecat.  One more sign that we are supposed to be together.

Bodacious had another night in her saferoom last night, complete with litter box, food and drink, toys, a blanket, and her beloved sister Moniquecat.  So we didn’t hear her yowling until the door was opened and the cats’ day began.  I had a bit of a crisis with a demonic security package called two-step verification which I’d installed on my iPad and iPhone.  Turned out it was so secure that even I couldn’t get into my email from either device.  True to form, I got horribly upset, which upset Ted and called forth a lot of anxious yowling.  At that point, it dawned on me that Bodacious really mirrored my feelings, that the general, free-floating anxiety that I do such an abominable job of controlling was playing out in her.  The yowling stopped pretty much at that instant.  It hasn’t resumed.  I went in and disabled the two-step verification, and everything was fine.   And so is Bodacious.  She’s meditating and pressing some of Ted’s clothes in the bedroom.  I just went in and petted her and told her that I knew who she was.

I have a Doppelgaenger, brought (called?) to me to deliver the message that fanning my own fears needs to stop.  Bodaciouscat just came into the room and settled down without so much as a squeak.

The Wheel Turns to the Light

IMG_2123

The hollyhock seedlings not only made it through the darkness of winter, but they’re thriving!

Somehow, despite it being winter, the garden is growing!  I had Pete Merski and crew out to make cedar paths and dig two big vegetable beds.  It came out very well, though things are a little more square than Ted likes.  But I will be softening the lines with plants and curved pathlets of steppingstones.  Our California garden was always a bit of a metaphor.  When I was building up the soil and planting perennials, I was struggling to become a court reporter.  The garden filled in and blossomed as I passed my first exam, grew fuller as I developed a successful CART career, and became spectacular as I was finally passing the California Certified Shorthand Reporter exam, surviving my first, awful agency and moving on to success in reporting.

Similarly, I see the garden before me as symbolic of life in Maryland.  It’s just bare, nearly raw land that I need to bring things to, energy and know-how and even some outside help.  Today is going to be interesting.  Ted is off to a conference with his friend and work cohort Matt.  I rather wish I were going somewhere for a few days.  Pleasant as the house is, I have some end-of-winter cabin fever.  But today should be interesting, assuming the weather doesn’t keep me from doing what I want to do.  My reporter friend Cassandra is having a first birthday party for her granddaughter; surprised and pleased to be invited!  Ted and I were going to go to the Medieval Feast of the Celtic Society of Southern Maryland, a group that interests me.  Since he couldn’t go, I asked Matt’s wife Melinda.  Don’t know her well, but she seems pleasant.  After dropping off Matt this morning, she came in for coffee.  Although we didn’t spend a lot of time together, it reinforced my opinion that she is someone I would like to know better.  So today should be interesting.  I did email someone about an Irish session up in Baltimore, too.  Weather permitting, I may visit them tomorrow sans fiddle and see what they’re like.

Onward.

Sprouting

2013-01-06treeletA living Yule treelet settles in.

The work has been so intense that I got the transcripts in and then didn’t schedule for the rest of this week.  That was Monday, and it was Wednesday, yesterday, before I felt like I had any energy to do anything!  I am two pounds lighter at the first of this month than the first of last month.  I have semi-failed the complex Weight Watchers Online program, but I am not willing to give up on it.   I’m registered and paying for the thing and really, it’s a good way to go even if the recipes so far that I’ve tried have not been very good, nor has the online support on the WW site.  So yesterday, I started a Facebook group, a secret one, for court reporters who want to lose weight.  Within hours, I had a really great little group, and I think it will be helpful.  We’ve agreed on two things: no pyramid schemes and that we will unanimously approve all members in future.

Finally got myself to the Old Time jam south of here in St. Mary’s County.  I will be going back even though I kind of rate it three out of five stars.  Most players are beginners to intermediate, but what a fun, intelligent, and personable group!  I also found the tunes catchy and fun.  This is something I want to do.  But this also reinforced my sense that, “I want to go somewhere and play fast!”  Finding the right Irish group (or two) is going to be a project, but a fun one.  Sunday is really the best day for me time- and energy-wise, and I am definitely going to have to drive (sigh).  I need to go listen first and get a sense of the group and talk to the leader at the break; there is a more formal etiquette for Irish sessions than other Celtic groups.  Unfortunately, I just didn’t like the Scottish fiddlers.  There were a few nice folks I hope to see around again, but there was a lot of the same dynamic I disliked in the SF Scottish Fiddlers, e.g., turf, passive aggression, folks wanting to be important like in the Pagan groups I’ve seen.  No stage mothers, though; in SFSF, they were ruthless, and that was not fun to see.  I also didn’t like how unfocused the group was, drifting on and on in conversation between sets.  The patrons aren’t there to watch us talk.  It just didn’t fit the way the Old Time group did.  I need that feeling before I commit myself to a group.  Interesting life lesson.

Very much looking forward to Sunday when I will meet another OBOD member and a friend of hers that I am now FB friends with, as well.  We have had online discussion, and they are seriously interesting ladies.   Speaking of OBOD, almost immediately after writing the last post, I began thinking of counterarguments to not applying to go past the Bardic grade.  I don’t like it, but the group is set up as a correspondence course.  And I began seeing ways that it had changed me, ways that I liked a lot.  For example, when there was a program on fracking at the library at a time when I was able to go, I didn’t make any excuses.  I just went, and I got resources for writing letters on the issue.  There is no fracking in Maryland, yet another reason why it’s a cool state, and I want to keep it that way.  One of my projects for this week is to get those out.  Like I used to say when I did the animal rights newsletter, our elected representatives are our employees.  We hire them with our votes and pay them with our tax dollars.  So let’s give them some supervisory direction!  I know my OBOD course’s influence inspired me to do that.  And studying the elements has been tremendously enriching.

Tomorrow is Imbolc, feast of Brighid, my matron goddess who has always given so generously to me.

In with the new

   2013-1-7bodacious      Meet Ms. Bodacious Bauer-Kahn, formerly of Rude Ranch Animal Rescue.

So it has been an eventful two weeks!  I have not been the only blogger who is feeling a lot of New Year optimism, a sense that there is growth ahead.  A lot of if is, I think, is the results of the presidential election which I was not really expecting.  Mr. Obama has a tough row to hoe, but I think he steers straight on this most complicated of courses.  I am really looking forward to the headlines of the coming year.  Of course, the House is going to fight him on everything, but I think the Right has been dealt quite a blow this year, and some collective sense of self-responsibility is slowly gathering and growing.

It was warm enough this morning for Solangecat and I to go out and greet the garden this AM.   It gave me a lot of energy.  As raw as it is to date, there is still that sense of sacred space that I had in California, the sense that I am given energy and hope when I step into that space.  I think the land spirits appreciate that I thank them for having us here and ask their guidance on building up the space.  I am slowly but surely getting that meadow bed dug.  I will only get the heart of it this year, not what I think it will eventually be, but I am determined to get that.  We are going to hire Pete Merski’s company to dig some beds and make some paths for us.  The paths are going to be raised, four inches of cedar chips and shavings.  The cedar is because it repels chiggers.  I have had really good results with that general technique.  In Danville, we had a lot of trouble with daily ant invasions.  As the mint I planted around the house took root and spread season by season, we had fewer invasions every year, and then none at all.  So there is progress.  I have planted two of the three little Yule trees, and I will likely plant the third today.  I did plant some tomato seeds for indoors.  I was warned, though, that it was too early, and in fact, it likely is since there is no sign of sprouting.  Sigh.  So the garden is well and truly in process.  Pete is going to come out in early February to do the work.  Around that time, I will order the labyrinth template.  I still have not decided definitively which one I want.

Ted starts his new job tomorrow; work is going well; we got the blinds on the windows yesterday.  The house feels more and more right and comfortable to us all the time.

And I am nearing the end of my Bardic course in OBOD.  In the last couple of days, I have been giving much thought to where I want to go with it, whether I want to move on to the Ovate grade or stay where I am and just be a very passive OBOD member with all that I’ve learned in my Bardic year just doing its work in me.  It is not a given that I will proceed.  And yes, my “ugly and mean” experience chronicled earlier has everything to do with this.  I can accept that the organization is not in a place where it has much oversight over its offshoots and has a policy of just letting them be autonomous.  That is just their way, something to be either taken or left.  What is presently bothering me, though, is that I think I should have heard more from other OBODies in a supportive capacity and saying definitively that what happened was wrong.  I did post on the druidry.org forum that I had had a bad experience and wondered how to go about making sure it didn’t happen to anyone else.  That post stayed up for a week.  One Druid did respond, looked into some of the specifics about the Order’s policies and the seedgroup itself, and say that I had been mistreated.  But even when I was notified that the post would be removed because it included an accusation, in the ensuing PM discussion, there was no empathy at all for me, no saying of “We should look at this perhaps” or “Sorry this happened to you.”  And that doesn’t fit for me.  Plus I am rather liking the idea of my personal process going in a less-influenced direction.  I am intensely appreciative of what the Bardic course did for me, bringing beauty, light, and warmth to my life when things were bleak after The Big Move.  But whether I want to proceed further with it is another story.  I also participated in a thread where it was suggested to me that I use rose quartz crystal as a means of spiritual protection.  I replied saying that I respected the power of minerals, but I had always been hesitant about using them due to concerns about mining practices and the conditions the miners worked in.  I acknowledged that I did own some jewelry with gemstones in it, so I wasn’t completely consistent.  And I asked whether anyone had a work-around for this concern.  To date, I have received no response to this.  I don’t like that. I think it’s a topic Pagans of all persuasions should be willing to discuss.

And I will not be seeking other Pagan fellowship.  I’ve just had bloody enough.  The patterns that I see in it are unmistakable.  They were there when I first headed in a Pagan direction circa 1994 whether or not I felt I had enough experience with it to call them for what they were, and they are there now.     There is the dynamic of, “I want to be important.”  I suspect it’s worse than in the past since right now, so many people are unemployed or underemployed.  They want a space where they can be an authority, respected, receive deference.  Even understanding this dynamic, I have not been able to be patient with it.  And with the “ugly and mean” experience being the most toxic example, there seems to be a surprising and utterly appalling desire for power over other people.  There is a sense that anyone who says, “Maybe what we’re doing isn’t right and we should look at it” is disloyal.  Yes, you are working hard to set up these rituals, but that doesn’t make you omniscient.  I created more grief than I knew at the time by pointing out to CAYA leadership that they were courting a lawsuit in certain areas and by challenging their lack of inclusion of people with disability.  I believed that by pointing these things out, I was contributing, using my knowledge and experience to save them trouble and pointing out that their definition of “Come As You Are” was by default inconsistent.  I know that I would have wanted to hear these things, appreciated the input and knowledge, just as I appreciate our tax accountant telling me to do this or that when I have it wrong.  I have seen this repeatedly in the Pagan organizations I know of with a single exception back in California.  And maybe it would have been that way with that little Druid group had I stayed there and become more involved.  Who knows.  I would love to have someone like my friend Helen back in California with whom I could celebrate full moons and the festivals.  That would be my ideal.  We will see what happens with this, but the only way I will engage with a spiritual group again is if it practically lands in my lap.  And right away, I will ask the question, “How are decisions made in this group?”  That will help me ferret out whether it’s a democratic setting or not.  But for now, back on the solitary path.

And in other newness, the household is settling around and with Bodaciouscat!  She was the one I picked on the second visit because a staff member happened to say that she had never liked the shelter.  She didn’t want to stay long in her saferoom, but did a lot of hiding when she came out.  I told her she was going to have all her feelings and that when she came out, there would be plenty of pets for her.  Her forays out from under the bed grew longer and longer.  As to the other cats, I think that is processing normally — for cats, those strange creatures with pointed ears.  We do have a problem now with all the vocalizations, but I think I’m on it; it’s way better than 48 hours ago.  I talk to her silently, communicating that we need her to be silent, that we love her and think she’s beautiful, but need quiet.  Then I started to think about where all the yowling might be coming from.  Sometimes she does it when she wants pets or food, but sometimes it’s not clear.  It seemed to me that it was coming from a place of anxiety.  Bodacious was originally found with her littermates at a dump and taken to the Rude Ranch Animal Sanctuary.  She was adopted, but returned since the other household cats ganged up on her.  So just like I did with Moniquecat whom we adopted ten days after she was dumped at the SPCA in California, I have focused on explaining to her that she is a forever cat, just like her sisters; we think she is beautiful and a really fun cat; she will always be with us.  The yowling has calmed way, way down, so I will continue with this for a while.

After what happened with the seedgroup, it is really hard for me to get up and out and meet other people.  There is an old time/bluegrass group I’ve connected with on Facebook that meets twice a month, but somehow, I always have too much to do to go to one of their events.  And I didn’t go to the Bruce Molsky workshop this weekend, either.  It’s like I’m allergic.  I think I just have to push  myself.  Sigh.  The really devastating thing is the unilateral rejection, not even so much as, “You have B.O.”  These were hubristic, unprincipled people; up to me to not let them damage me.

Onward, ever onward…