Thursday, 22 August 2013

But... You're Pagan, You Should Support Me!

Another one of those *headdesk* moments.

All over facebook, there are protest posts about the page Witches Must Die By Fire

This page is dreadful.  Witches are equated with Islamic Jihadists and both are Satanists and therefore evil and must die by fire - caused by prayer from the faithful and backed up by tabloid stories about women giving birth to birds, mice and frogs - daily.

It's almost tragic, the way all the protest posts direct more people to this page and then they comment and send private messages - which the page's creator then publishes publicly on the wall.  I'm sure that most of these people really think they're helping their cause by baiting, arguing, belittling and frankly, sounding like whiny children.  Posting some of the light and fluffy Wiccan stuff that makes me nauseous as proof that he's wrong doesn't help them either.

When I read through the page, I found myself laughing at the amount of crazy shown by the page's creator.  The story quickly becomes clear - an ex-lover was a witch and this person takes no responsibility for all that's wrong in their life so it must be the doing of the witch and the devil.  One of those perpetual victims who has chosen Witchcraft as his nemesis.

I saw a hilarious CNN iReport about it - you can see it here - that is so filled with teen angst type whining "Why aren't they doing anything about the big bad meanie who says awful things about us?" This has been supported by this petition, asking facebook to stop ignoring violence and hatespeech about Pagans.

So anyway.  I'm in a group (well a couple actually) that is usually very common sense, no knickers usually get knotted and as long as you remain polite and on topic, you can express an unpopular opinion without all the histrionics that seem to abound in many Pagan groups.
Someone posted about this page and announced that they've set up their own page to counter it. I thought about it, thought about which group I was currently in and answered it. (This is not a direct quote, just what I remember of it).

I struggle with this kind of thing.

It seems perfectly okay for Pagans to say all sorts of things about Christians (and Satanists for that matter) and to suggest they die by fire is quite mild compared to some of the suggestions I've heard from Pagans over the years.  But when it's the other way around it's not?

For the record, I don't personally think it's ever okay to belittle, demean or threaten anyone based on their religious choices - in either direction.

Good on you for standing up for what you believe in, but why would facebook remove it?  All the drama is getting the page more views and the ads are seen by a wider audience.  Nowhere on the page does he incite or suggest violence, there really isn't anything any different to the bs put out there by WBC or on Pagan groups about Christians.

All this will achieve is more people go there and comment and the troll gets fed.

I went off and had my dinner and watched Big Bang Theory with my husband and didn't think much more of it until I went back onto facebook to check a couple of things to do with calendar orders.  There was a notification to say several people had commented on that thread.  Clicking on it seemed to freeze my facebook.  Eventually, I refreshed and tried to find the group to have a look.  The group had vanished from my sight and abilities to find.  OMG I had been banned!


I spoke to a very good friend who is also an admin on that group and asked her if this is what had happened.  This morning I found out that a real shitstorm had followed my comment so one of the admins deleted the thread and banned all concerned.  I'm told I was an accidental banning because my post wasn't inflammatory and stayed within the group's clear rules.

I really wish I could see the shitstorm.  I wish I could see what was said and then point and laugh.  I've seen this kind of thing before though.  Apparently, by being Pagan I'm supposed to just automatically support another Pagan who thinks they've been wronged.  The worst one I think I ever saw was from a failed art student who was claiming religious discrimination was the reason she was failed.  I only read through the evidence provided by this art student and her husband and still couldn't see any grounds for religious discrimination.  Unfair treatment, sure, but not religious discrimination and I said so.

I was treated to a barrage of abuse about the lack of support from the community and basically, "You're Pagan, you're supposed to agree with me and support me regardless of whether or not I deserve it".

As I've learned though, common sense and objectivity never go unpunished in Pagan Circles.  You're supposed to just accept the word of some random stranger who uses the same word to describe themselves as you do.  Thinking is bad, checking facts is evil and Gods help anyone who can actually see both sides of the situation.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Trade Me Trolls

Every time I think I've seen the worst society (and our modern education system) has to offer, someone comes along to surprise me.  Sadly, much of it comes from Trade Me customers.

I don't like surprises of this sort.  I'm quite happy in my ignorance of the idiocies and unrealistic expectations of these people.

The most recent example was a customer who made a purchase Monday last week.  Thursday, she emailed to ask where her purchase was.  It was answered.  Saturday, she emailed again to say it still hadn't arrived.  Our reply asked for patience as rural post takes a bit longer.  She responded with she doesn't live rurally, so that doesn't work as an excuse and on Tuesday laid a non-delivery complaint with Trade Me.

I sent her item a few days ago, but hadn't been near the computer to send her an email.  So I emailed her today to let her know it was on it's way and pointed out that while she may not live rurally, I do.  I've driven into our nearest town and posted parcels fastpost and they've still taken a week to arrive.  In the interests of staying polite (I've been a bit touchy lately) I signed off as I always do with "Blessings".

I got an email back that simply said, "Thank you.  Bless yourself."

I posted neutral feedback stating that she had unrealistic expectations.  She posted bitchy feedback and comments to my feedback - "Oh I don't give a toss about your feedback and your lady emotions. Live long and prosper. BLESSINGS"  After that, I changed mine to negative feedback.

My son looked at it and shook his head. "Mum," he said, "You're being trolled."   Trolled on Trade Me?  Over a $5 sale?  This is a new low for teh interwebz.

And frankly, we have 350 positive feedbacks from 276 separate customers (that's a lot of repeat business in there) and a rating of 99.3% positive, she now has 15 from 10 and a rating of 90%.  Do I care that she's trolling?  Not in the slightest, not hurt, not angry, not having "lady emotions" (whatever the hell that's supposed to mean) and I'm not taking it personally.  I'm just generally disgusted at the behaviour.  My teenagers (who like to troll on facebook) have better manners than this - and they're better trolls.

In all honesty, I've had times when I don't send parcels out for a couple of weeks.  Sometimes it's because it's such a small item that "I'll do that one shortly, it'll be quick" type of procrastination drags on for longer than it should.  Sometimes, I've had it all packed up and ready to go, but keep leaving it on the bench when I drive into town.  I could put it in my letterbox with cash for the postie to pick up, but I don't usually have cash to use.  Sometimes, I just have too much other stuff going on.  Today, all my best laid plans went out the window when I stepped outside to find my pigs had escaped and were eating the angelica in my herb garden and cleaning up all the spinach and ruby chard from my vege garden.  It took me hours to find the fault in my electric fencing and then round up my lovely pigs and try to get them back in their paddock (ever tried to make an adult pig go where it doesn't want to?).  This time though, while I was probably a few days later than I should have been in sending it out, I think that her little tantrum really was unreasonable and a symptom of the expectations of instant gratification that really are a problem in our society.

I've had the odd customer issues in the past.  There were the parcels sitting on my deck waiting for the courier to pick them up when the earthquake of February 22nd happened.  I was a week without power, 3 weeks without post or courier services and had a whole lot of bigger concerns going on.  Most of the customers were fine.  Send it when you can, they said, so I added something extra to their parcels as thank yous for their patience.  One asked for a refund and then posted negative feedback because the sale wasn't completed.  Luana had been in touch with her very quickly, but this wasn't good enough.

There was a lady who bought our calendar and then asked if she could send it back for a refund because she'd bought heaps of fairy calendars for $5 and couldn't see why we charged $25 for ours.

There was the trader (who has done this to me repeatedly) who buys stuff on Trade Me but has big major dramas and will definitely be paying me next week - this can and has gone on for six months on more than one occasion.  Now as someone who seems to have constant dramas over the last couple of years, I'm generally sympathetic but I'm not stupid.  I know it takes longer than six weeks between finding that you have gallstones and having the surgery.  The urgent waiting list is more than twice that long.  Keep your lies simple (or better yet, tell the truth) or they'll trip you up when you forget what you've already said.

Seriously, if you're buying stuff on Trade Me, be realistic, be honest and don't buy something if you really don't want it.  If your kids were playing on your account and hit buy now by accident or with no intention of following up (I've had that one come to me before) then let me know.  I'm happy to let it go.  But don't dick me around and expect me to remain nice about it.  I've got much better things I could be wasting my time on.



Thursday, 1 August 2013

Cauldrons 2013 Yule Calendar and Other Stuff

This years Yule Calendar is finally done and at the printers, in time for Imbolg, only a Sabbat late.  There have been many dramas and hold ups and I swear something happens every year at Calendar time, but except for when the earthquakes happened and we decided to make it a Yule calendar, it’s never been quite this late before.

I don’t want to sound as though I’m making excuses, but please let me explain the lateness this time.  And be aware from the start, this is a blog post that will go into some darker aspects of my life lately.  I don't need sympathy, or understanding or anything.  I just need to be able to put this out there for anyone else who may go through the same thing.

Last year, we began work on a companion diary for the calendar but one that does a normal calendar year.  So as I was working on the second half of this year, I was working on this calendar too.  For some reason, I thought I’d done the whole thing except for artwork.  I then forgot all about it in the joys, sorrows and plain hard work that is lifestyle farming without all the gadgets.
A customer contacted me towards the end of April to ask if there was another one coming.  It was quite the wake-up call and one that I’m grateful for.  At the time, my sow had given birth to her first litter of piglets and then abandoned them, I was fighting to keep them going and ended up with just one (who is still living in my bathroom 3 months later).  My son had been living at his father’s which had just turned to complete custard and I took him back via the CYFS system (a long and convoluted story - needless to say, I have a young man on the autism spectrum who was hurt and angry at the world and those who were supposed to be looking after him).
Luana got on to Stacey, our artist who is now living in Canada with the new love of her life to get the artwork under way and I found I still had six months worth of astrological and moon information to calculate and input, a years worth of feasts and holidays to research and enter and then go through everything to double check and make it tidy. 
Customers started to order and some began to pay even though I’d let them know it wasn’t ready yet.  I got all of my part done, I received the artwork (which as always is stunning) and placed all of that.  I just didn’t have cover art.  I emailed Stacey and waited.
I sent her a message a couple of weeks later, she hadn’t received the email.  Then halfway through July, I said something to Luana, who got busy and created something wonderful from photos and bits that we had from previous works.  This was the one thing that I had the least control of, it took the longest to get sorted and meanwhile, I’m being contacted by the customers who’ve paid to politely ask if I’d received their payment (in other words - “where’s my fucking calendar?”)

During this period of three months, my son has attempted suicide four times.  Two were serious enough to require hospitalisation and a lot of to-ing and fro-ing from Christchurch to visit him and meet with various professionals.  He’s finally getting decent help from the mental health system, which I am eternally grateful for. But it’s been a hard road.
He’s slipped through the cracks, being diagnosed as “just behavioural” for most of his life.  I’ve had Psychiatrists that I didn’t feel took anything we said seriously and as he didn’t relate to them at all it was a total waste of time and energy.  We now have people who pick up that he’s on the Autism spectrum from a 20 minute chat with him.  We now have people that he can relate to and don’t just dismiss him as a difficult attention seeker with a lousy mother.

The first hospital stay was at the start of June.  I trucked along, staying strong for him and the rest of my family.  I expected I’d have a meltdown, but it never happened.  There have been moments that no mother should ever have to endure.
He chose to overdose on paracetamol.  Many people still believe paracetamol to be harmless, but it’s not.  A small overdose isn’t an issue it’s true.  But taking 45 500mg tablets can be fatal if not treated very quickly.  Paracetamol, in large doses like this one will cause liver failure.  If it gets to that stage, there is nothing that can be done for you.  All the best doctors and hospital staff can do is make you comfortable while they watch you die.  If it’s caught in time, however, there is an antidote that flushes it out of your system before it affects your liver.  It’s just not particularly pleasant while it’s doing it’s thing.

When I first got a text from his friend to tell me he’d taken this much, I checked and found the empty cards and rang an ambulance.  Part of me didn’t really believe he’d taken them all, I thought he may have flushed them down the loo and was being dramatic, but I couldn’t take the chance.  Having the blood test results come back to me and tell me that he did in fact take that volume and had truly intended to die (he didn’t know there was an antidote at that point) was one of the most awful moments for a mother to face.  Sitting at his bedside while he slept (and occasionally vomited) on my own in the Emergency Department at the hospital at 2am didn’t make it any better.
I spent that week at a friends place in town, being close enough to come and go from the hospital and youth inpatient ward and not needing to worry about looking after my seven year old daughter or run around after my husband.  It was great that my friend looked after me, made sure I ate and that I got enough sleep and space, but it made coming home harder.  I wanted to be able to just let go - it was all over and I could have my meltdown, except I couldn’t.  My daughter also needed me - she didn’t know exactly what had happened, only that her brother was sick and nearly died - and my husband needed me.

This time, as in, I brought him home from hospital yesterday, he sent a goodbye text out to a lot of people.  While I was waiting for the ambulance to arrive, I received calls from the School counsellors from two different schools who’d had students come to them in a panic.  I received frantic calls from his youth group leader and my ex-husband.  I’d been in a meeting when I’d received the text (which I wouldn’t normally look at straight away, but did this time).  I’ve had people out the wazoo offering help and support and I’m grateful for it.  But.  Sometimes all the offers feel like another burden.  I truly am grateful for all the people thinking of us and offering to help, but I’m sick of my phone constantly going off with yet another call or text message. In a way I almost feel that not to take up these offers is to seem ungrateful for them, like it’s rude of me to not need these people to do something for me.  I hadn’t told a few people that I probably should have just because I don’t want to have to deal with any more of this.  I also just don't know how to tell some people without sounding as though I'm fishing for sympathy or something.

I haven’t coped quite so well this time.  I’ve had some pretty dark moments and thoughts that would horrify you if I shared them.  Then I feel shocked about them and feel guilty and a lot of self-loathing.  I’m scared for my son, I’m worried about my youngest daughter - she’s not stupid and is asking questions that I don’t know how to answer.  I’m worried that with all the evasion about why or how he’s sick, she’s going to start thinking that an apparently well person can very suddenly get sick enough to nearly die.

I’m tired of being everyone’s rock.  I’m tired of needing to be strong for everyone else.  I’m tired of being someone that others depend upon so much. I’m worn out.  I have animals that are being neglected because I just don’t have the energy to be caring for them too and I have no one else to rely on.  I could call on some people to help, but they’re not going to be up for feeding out hay on a daily basis (and this is a wheelbarrow load of hay per cattle beast) so therefore, nine trips up and down my farm.  The friends that have been supportive are starting to tell me what I should do.  That’s not actually helpful, in fact, it’s pissed me off.  Which starts up another round of guilt and shit.  My mother seems almost hurt by the fact that last time I didn’t go and stay with them. I just don’t need that.

In this time, I also paid the publishing company for my book, I sent the manuscript to Luana for proof-reading and editing.  I appreciate that she’s doing this as a favour, in her spare time around her busy life.  I want it finished, but don’t want to hassle her about it.  The fact that it’s taking so long makes me doubt that what I’ve written is any good.  She keeps telling me that it’s great, but I’ve written this one the way I talk, which doesn’t work so well in a book.  I’ve received daily and weekly calls from my publishing consultant asking where my manuscript is.  It’s great that they don’t just take the money and vanish - this is one of the reasons that I chose to go with XLibris after all - but when I’m in the midst of dealing with other crises it felt like just another burden, another person needing something from me that I wasn’t able to provide.  Then my husband starting hassling me.  So what’s happening with the book?  It’s been months, we could have been earning interest on that money, why did we pay it back then when you weren’t ready for it?  Because the money would have been needed for something else, fence posts, pig feed, the power bill, something.  And I would have been sitting here not doing it again.

So anyway.  The calendar is at the printers.  I hope to have it available to send out very shortly.  And then I think I’m going to hide from the world for a while, lick my wounds and try to recover from all of this.

Blessings until I re-emerge.


Spiritual Food Part II

We return to our story of Spiritual Food. (Part One can be found here).

In each group there became Master Chefs, they spent many years working hard to understand each ingredient that went into their food, they could smell a little mould in the onions, or know why this cake sank in the middle and how it could have been prevented, they grasped the balance of flavours and ideal texture to create the perfect dish.  It took a great deal of training and dedication to reach this status, a Master Chef was both a scientist and an artist.
There were the Sous Chefs, the kitchen hands and the wait staff.  These people studied to help prepare the food and serve it to those who were content to just eat it.  Their work would sometimes lead them to moving up to the next level and some would become Master Chefs in their time, but some couldn’t cope with the study, or lacked the ability to grasp the finer, more delicate intricacies of being able to tell when your batter was mixed just right or the merest pinch of salt was needed to perfect this dish.
There were also the home cooks.  The people who could create wonderful food at home.  Some created poor imitations of the fine food of the Master Chefs and some whose cooking could have rivalled them if only they had the pieces of paper and recognition.
Some Master Chefs wrote cookbooks, describing how to make their food and while their recipes could be recreated at home by these home cooks and many people loved what they made and were satisfied by it, it was never quite the same as having a Master Chef cook it for you.  Although, not everyone realised this.
Some home cooks were content making food their own way, using the cookbooks and perhaps adapting the recipes slightly to suit their own or their families tastes.  This worked well for them and they had a rewarding and healthy diet, their families were satisfied and well fed.
Other home cooks started to believe that the food they were making was at least equal to if not better than that of a Master Chef and tried to claim the title of Master Chef.
Some Master Chefs became blinded by their own brilliance and became arrogant, believing themselves to be completely infallible.  Sometimes they didn’t notice that this kitchen hand hadn’t cut up the onions finely enough or that the baking powder was a bit old and had lost its fizz.  Others started to charge too much for their food, making it too expensive and therefore out of reach for most people.
Packet mixes became available.  Anyone could buy a packet of Cake mix or Bread mix or Pizza dough and just add water.  The foods appeared to be just as good as those prepared by a Master Chef, but it was easily (and cheaply) cooked at home.  Unfortunately, many of them also contained other undesirable ingredients that most people weren’t aware of and slowly poisoned them.
Then came the fast food revolution.  People could order the food they wanted and have it delivered to them in a very short time.  It was fast and cheap and meant that many people came to expect instant results in everything else.  There often wasn’t a lot of nutritional value in these foods, but those eating them felt a hole was filled (in their belly) and that this was perfectly acceptable.
Many turned to the Master Chefs and accused them of taking so long and being so expensive for selfish reasons.  They suggested that the Master Chefs were out of touch with the modern world and reality.
Some Master Chefs bowed to the pressure and created buffet dining in their restaurants.  Any number of foods were available for you to help yourself to, pick and mix and eat all you want.  The sad thing was, you didn’t know who had dropped what on your potato salad or sneezed on your bread rolls, or licked the gravy spoon and dropped it back in the bain marie.  While it seemed fulfilling and many people could be fed quickly and easily, with food that was more nutritious than the fast food variety, it could also make others terribly sick and disease could spread quickly and with devastating effects.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a fix for this.  Some people will always go to a Master Chef for their food.  Some will be happy to cook at home.  Some will always want their fast food or turn to it for convenience now and then.  Some people may cycle through and try them all before settling into what works best for them.
And sadly, there will always be those claiming to be Master Chefs when they haven’t earned that title, their culinary creations appear similar on a superficial level, but the proof is in the pudding!