Sunday, July 31, 2016

The 2017 Annuals have arrived!

Every year around the beginning or middle of July, the next year's Annuals (almanacs and calendars) from Llewellyn go on sale, and I get my copies.  I always love the cover artwork!


For 2017, I have written three articles:

* Pagans and Mental Illness (Witches' Companion)
* Raffia Projects (Herbal Almanac)
* Wicca Your Way: The Eclectic Path (Magical Almanac)

Here is a photo of the Raffia Crafts article, where you will learn all about raffia and its history, cultivation, and use.

I have also included directions on how to make three crafts using raffia: an altar-sized broom, a mini herbal wreath, and a raffia "corn dolly."

Even though the Herbal Almanac is not metaphysical per se, there is a lot of good information in here that is useful to Pagans, like my three crafts!


This is a shot of the back of the Witches' Companion.  See my title at the top of the list?



And last but not least, there is the "Wicca Your Way" article.  In this one, I told the story of Eclectic Wicca and its various aspects through a series of interviews from five different people.

This reveals the similarities and differences between those that follow the Eclectic path, as well as dispel certain myths.  I also think it makes for an interesting read to hear from five different perspectives on the subject.

It's always so exciting to see my work in print, even after six years of writing for Llewellyn.  And because two of my articles are a bit edgier and more controversial this year, I can't wait to see how they are received. If you read any of them, I would love to hear your thoughts!


Monday, January 4, 2016

My reaction to an article posted about children's play.

OMG I don't even know where to start on this one. It's all true! And WAIT... there's more! These are all really hot button issues in my Child Studies program. The decline of play, the rise in importance of "academics," the diagnosis of mental illness at younger and younger ages... it's all connected. This is a VERY long post, but if you are interested, here's why...
The "sense of personal control" idea in the article is dead-on. What is not stated is how this comes to be in the first place. What we see in very young children is that their view of the world is mostly due to what they learn or model from their parents. And what this means is that anxious, depressed parents typically raise children who are more anxious and depressed. And unfortunately, our current lifestyle vs. the one cited in the article (1960s) is most definitely more stressful. Parents, as a result, feel less and less like they have control over their lives and care more about what the article calls "externiality," which also includes extrinsic goals, such as a greater value on materialism (external) and less value on personal worth (internal). This just means what we already know, which is that people who are anxious and depressed usually look outward to validate themselves because they are lacking confidence in themselves. And just like the article states, this trend is rising at an alarming rate through children being so constantly exposed to media. (As an aside, media usage in children is also being cited as a reason for the decline in empathy and ability to relate to others on a pro-social level, but that's a whole other topic for another time.)
So... what does this have to do with play? Quite a bit, actually. On it's simplest level, play is how young children learn. Baby animals (dogs, cats, cows, dolphins, you name it) all play because it's how they develop the skills they will need as adults, and humans are no different. Here again is the emphasis on pro-social behavior. Human beings are social animals. We do not do well in isolation, and in fact up until a few hundred years ago (vs. the hundreds of thousands of years that we have been around as a species) to live apart from our kind was to die. We are hard wired to want to be around each other and to want to get along, because for most of human existence we have had to depend on our group or tribe for survival. Play is the main way that children learn how to communicate, solve problems, and get along with each other, the way humans have done for millennia. Now here comes the current trend in education, which is two-fold:
1. Academics have become so important, that schools have cut into play time (free-choice activities, P.E., creative arts programs, etc.) in order to concentrate more on these.
This is a vicous cycle that keeps feeding itself. It is mostly based on test scores (which, again, standardized testing and the Common Core Standards just being part of the problem, but that's for another time) which determine how well a child is doing academically. However, in our pursuit of better test scores and so-called better academic performance, we have taken away everything about school that is FUN. In pressuring children to perform better, we have also removed the "well-rounded" approach that education used to have, which not only made school fun but was also valued as integral to a child's well-being. I see more and more people trying to justify P.E. and recess programs as being necessary "to combat childhood obesity." Ok, yeah, sure, it does that. But it also provides a break and an outlet from all the testing, all the homework, all the "nose to the grindstone" studying that kids are supposed to be doing because they are being told that they are not performing well enough. Well, guess what: the more they are forced to learn without reprieve the worse they will do because they will get burned out and stop caring. This also ties into the "sense of personal control" issue, and it's just common sense! Keep pushing someone to do something without encouraging or rewarding them, and they are either going to rebel, feel miserable, or stop giving a shit altogether.
2. Play and exploration have become so strict, so regulated, and so controlled, that they hardly even resemble "play" or "exploration" anymore.
I HATE having to explain and/or defend this idea, because Americans as a culture are just not willing to hear it. "Safety" has become the number one priority in education because we are such a litigious society, and no one wants to get sued. Therefore, as the article states, "protecting" the children is rapidly eroding some of the key benefits that children get from play, such as the ability to explore and learn, to problem-solve, to become independent and self-directed, and to feel some control over their lives by nurturing their own interests and learning competency (for example, a child that learns to climb a tree without falling because he has to teach himself to go up the tree, and does so at his own pace and comfort level.) With such tight control over what is supposedly "free" time, it's no wonder that children feel helpless, dejected, lacking a sense of control over themselves, and even depressed. Faced with these circumstances, fewer children even want to "play" during recess or outdoor free choice, but instead plug into media (music, phones, iPads, etc.) because at least in that realm they actually have "free choice" over what they do.
See how destructive these cycles are, and how they are all interrelated? I understand where the confusion comes from, when you look at all these factors as isolated events instead of as pieces of a larger whole. But once again, this is what we are taught from a young age that holds us back from understanding: the linear thought process. Examples are - cause and effect, a + b = c, step-by-step progression, etc. The "well rounded" approach that I talked about above is an example of non-linear thinking, and the "whole child" approach is even better: it tries to integrate many different aspects of a child's life into his/her instruction, including temperament, cultural identity, personal experience and/or competence, and interests. Obviously this is much more difficult at the elementary and above levels, which is why those of us in Child Studies think that it is so important and so beneficial to try implementing these ideals among toddlers and preschoolers. Ignorance in these areas is forgivable, but what I can't stand are educators that, it seems to me, are capitalizing on these current trends by operating "Academy" schools for preschoolers and kindergartners. What I have seen is that among that age group, "academics," such as knowing the alphabet or the rainbow or being able to count is something that can easily be learned later, but that what we call "social competence," such as knowing not to hit other children or knowing how to take turns is only accomplished through play, and cannot really be taught.
Thank you so much if you have read all of this. I am in a Child Studies program, and a lot of this is probably uninteresting to you or seems like information I have regurgitated from my classes. The reality is that I worked with children for years before I went back to school, and what I am learning supports what I have seen with my own eyes, which is why I am so passionate about it and want to share it with anyone who will listen.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

BEST.PRESENT.EVER.




See these shoes?  These are VINTAGE Spanish Leather riding boots.  Super cute, super witchy, and definitely one of a kind.  The last time I saw them I was crying as I threw them into the trash with about seven other pairs of shoes that my dog had destroyed because she was left alone too long during my emergency surgery.  That was on October 2nd. 

On my birthday, November 1st, I opened my present... and found these boots!  I was amazed, and thought for sure my husband had somehow found a pair that looked just like them, but it was even better than that.  After watching how upset I was when I had to throw them away, he pulled them out of the trash when I wasn't looking and took them to a shoe repair place.  They somehow managed to reconstruct THE ENTIRE TOE that had been chewed off one of the boots.  Let me tell you, I sure bawled my eyes out then, too!  This is seriously one of the most thoughtful things anyone has ever done for me, and I still can't believe that he did this.  It never even occurred to me that the shoe could be saved.  THANK YOU CM!  I LOVE YOU!

Monday, November 9, 2015

GMO Labeling Research

This is a research paper I wrote recently on the need for labeling of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) which are sometimes called "frankenfoods" for good reason.  I am very passionate about food safety, purity, and sustainability, and I believe the American public has a right to know exactly what it is they are eating - especially when their food contains unnatural and potentially harmful ingredients like GMOs.

Mandatory Labeling of GMO Foods

      We live in an age of information, where through the internet we have the instant gratification of being able to learn about almost anything we would ever want to know.   Therefore, it is makes sense to arm ourselves with as much information as possible when making life decisions, especially when said decisions are as important as what kinds of food we put into our bodies.  I believe that this is especially vital when having doubts about what exactly is in the food that we eat and whether or not the food is both nutritious and safe.  The safety aspect is the number one priority, for who would want to knowingly consume something that can prove harmful to one’s health?  Currently in the United States there are many food producers who use GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in their products, and because they are not required to disclose whether or not they are used, it is likely that we are all consuming these controversial ingredients on a regular basis.  Most recently, a law was upheld in Vermont that would require the labeling of GMOs and although specific groups, such as the Grocery Manufactures Association, are fighting this law, it appears that it will go into effect on July 1, 2016.  This would make Vermont the first state to require labeling of GMO ingredients and GMO foods.  However, I think that there should be mandatory labeling of GMOs across the entire United States.  It is important for citizens to know exactly what they are consuming, and it is their right to make purchasing decisions based on this information,

            The Grocery Manufacturers Association, which includes food industry giants such as ConAgra, Cargill, Kraft, General Mills, and Coca-Cola, wants to block the GMO labeling law and argues that it is unconstitutional under the First Amendment.  According to Eduardo Munoz at RT News, they also maintain that the new law “imposes burdensome new speech requirements on food manufacturers and retailers” with regards to labeling.  For the moment, U.S. District Court Judge Christina Reiss has ruled against the Grocery Manufacturers Association.  RT News reports “the court also found that the ‘safety of food products, the protection of the environment, and the accommodation of religious belief and practices are all quintessential government interests,’ as is the desire to promote informed consumer decision-making.’”  If mandatory labeling of GMOs were to go into effect across the nation, the labeling law would not ban the manufacture or use of GMOs; it would simply require products to be labeled as containing them.  Top genetic engineering companies, such as Syngenta and Monsanto, would not be regulated in their research, development, and production of GMOs.  Rather, the food producers that use the GMOs would be the ones required to label them appropriately.  As such, the cost would be shouldered by each grocery company that uses them, not the GMO producers themselves.  Moreover, companies are constantly changing and updating the packaging on their products, and the labeling laws would not go into effect for at least a year or more, giving these companies ample time to comply. 

      Food companies argue that mandatory GMO labeling will drive up the cost of groceries.  Yet according to justlabelit.org, “Requiring GMO food labels would cost a mere $2.30 per person per year, or less than a penny a day.”  This is a small price to pay for companies to offer consumers more detailed information about their products.  Scott Faber goes on to point out that “what’s really at stake is whether food companies like Land O’ Lakes and PepsiCo will be required to tell consumers something they’ve spent more than $100 million to hide.” (AgMag). Won’t spending all that money also drive up food costs?  Besides, grocery manufacturers would only need to change their labels if they decide to use GMOs in their products.  Items that contain no GMOs would not be affected, such as organic foods, and producers always have the option to switch to non-GMO ingredients.  This helps regulate the grocery industry by requiring transparency in manufacturing practices.  Those who do not wish to comply with mandatory labeling could switch to safer, more traditional ingredients – otherwise they should be forced to let the public know that GMOs are in use.

This brings me to my next point.  Mandatory labeling laws are also necessary because grocery manufacturers do want to be able to hide what type of ingredients their products contain.  The Federation of American Scientists claim that the “FDA considers most GM [genetically modified] crops as ‘substantially equivalent’ to non-GM crops. In such cases, GM crops are designated as ‘Generally Recognized as Safe’ under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) and do not require pre-market approval.”  If the FDA assures us that GMOs are safe, then why aren’t there more companies voluntarily labeling their products with GMOs?  In fact, an even better question is why aren’t the biotech companies that produce GMOs “proud” to advertise them?  Why won’t they stand behind these supposedly beneficial products?  This skittish behavior on the part of GMO producers is a huge red flag that something is wrong and that the American public is not being told some crucial information about the use of GMOs and GMO products.  This was very apparent when California had Proposition 37 on the ballot in 2012.   Prop 37 was much like Vermont’s mandatory labeling law, as it would demand that all products containing GMOs carry a label stating as such.  Again and again biotech companies have historically had a problem with this kind of divulgence, and this was no exception, as they were attempting to stop GMO labeling from becoming law in California the same way they are doing it now in Vermont Unfortunately for Californians, they succeeded in defeating Prop 37 due to a massive disinformation campaign launched by biotech companies, chiefly Monsanto. A press release on the website carighttoknow.org reveals how millions of dollars were spent by Monsanto in defeating Prop 37, which failed to pass because of their claims that food costs would go up an average of $400 a year for families (Malkan).  However, this was said under the assumption that food producers will switch to costlier organic or non-GMO ingredients rather than change their labels.  Taken directly from the Official Voter’s Guide, Monsanto also claimed that "37 is full of absurd, politically motivated exemptions. It requires special labels on soy milk, but exempts cow's milk and dairy products. Fruit juice requires a label, but alcohol is exempt. Pet foods containing meat require labels, but meats for human consumption are exempt."  At first glance, this does seem confusing and somewhat irrational, which is exactly what Monsanto wanted. 

The truth about Prop 37 is that upon closer inspection, it actually did make sense. For example:  soy milk was required to be labeled because most soybean crops grown in America are genetically engineered – some sources say as much as 70 – 90%.  Milk and other dairy products are foods that come from cows, and cows are not genetically engineered. The labeling was also not required if the cow ate genetically engineered grain or feed, which is, incidentally, why meat was not required to be labeled – because the animal which the meat came from is itself not genetically engineered.  On the other hand, this is why pet food would have been labeled – because it also contains genetically engineered plants, such as grains, and not because it is made out of meat as the opponents to Prop 37 led everyone to believe.  The fact that pet food has meat in it is completely beside the point; it would have been labeled because it contains GMO crops.  This is also why fruit juice would have been labeled, if it came from a GMO plant.  Organic foods were automatically exempt from the labeling law, because anything "organic" by definition is not allowed to contain GMOs (USDA).  When dissected like this, Prop 37 is actually not too difficult to understand, but the deceptions persisted and Prop 37 failed to pass.

Which brings us to another question:  if GMOs are safe and are, according to biotech companies, even superior to other crops, why are these companies afraid to have them labeled? Although the FDA claims that GMO’s are safe, there is not sufficient evidence to support this.  All FDA trials have been short-lived, conducted over a few months at most.  In a paper by responsibletechnology.org, it is stated that the FDA has knowingly concealed knowledge of GMO health risks, and that” internal memos made public from a lawsuit showed that the overwhelming consensus among the agency scientists was that GM crops can have unpredictable, hard-to-detect side effects. Various departments and experts spelled these out in detail, listing allergies, toxins, nutritional effects, and new diseases as potential dangers. They urged superiors to require long-term safety studies.” The paper also asserts that “studies are rigged to avoid finding problems,” and that “In addition, to relying on untested assumptions, industry-funded research is often designed specifically to force a conclusion of safety” (Smith).  The paper goes on to describe how Monsanto publishes studies to prove that their GMO products are safe and indistinguishable from their non-GMO counterparts by using an array of underhanded research tricks.  These range from using obsolete methods and testing materials to relying on irrelevant controls and variables to deliberate misuse and underreporting of data and statistics.  Furthermore, in the same paper, former Environmental Protection Agency scientist Doug Gurian-Sherman attests that “biotech companies can determine if their own foods are safe. Anything submitted is voluntary and,” according to him, “often lack[s] sufficient detail, such as necessary statistical analyses needed for an adequate safety evaluation” (Smith).  To sum up, third party evaluations of GMOs are allowed and conducted, but most are buried by biotech companies who have much greater funding and resources to publish their own studies.  No wonder GMOs are defended as safe!

Biotech companies stand by the idea that GMOs are safe if the FDA says they are, and that because it is the job of the FDA to regulate the safety of foods and food products, the public should accept that GMOs are acceptable to use, otherwise they would be banned or severely restricted.  This is a completely circular argument.  How do we, as consumers, know that the FDA hasn’t been paid off by biotech companies to support their claims about the safety of GMOs, especially considering the fact that these companies have been proven to use fraudulent methods in their testing?  This is the main reason why it is so important to institute a mandatory GMO labeling law.  Those who are undecided about whether or not GMOs are safe might be persuaded to do their own research about GMOs if suddenly they are presented with the knowledge that all the foods they regularly eat contain GMO ingredients.  To illustrate my point, the website nongmoproject.org has an appalling statistic:   In North America, over 80% of our food contains GMOs.  If you are not buying foods that are Non-GMO Project Verified, most likely GMOs are present at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”

Although Vermont looks like it will be the first state to pass a mandatory GMO labeling law, it is highly likely that soon other states will follow suit.  Worldwide there are already twenty-six countries that have partially or completely banned the importation and use of GMOs, including Australia, France, Germany, Russia, Mexico, and even China and India.  U.S. citizens that want our country to join the ranks of those who have banned GMOs are increasing in numbers, as a search for “GMOs” on Google will confirm.  Besides the Wikipedia entry, the first page of websites to be displayed in the search includes nongmoproject.org, responsibletechnology.org, saynotogmos.org, and labelgmos.org, which are also some of the websites I have used in my research.  Monsanto’s website has this to say about their GMO products:   “We’re working to double the yields of corn, soybeans, cotton and spring-planted canola between 2000 and 2030.  The world population continues to grow and at the same time there is a limited amount of land that’s suitable for agricultural production.  To meet the needs of the booming population, we have to be more productive with our crops.”  Monsanto, among others, would have us all believe that GMOs exist to strengthen the food supply and put an end to world hunger.  However, Monsanto’s GMOs are actually patented products, including their seeds, which means that in reality they are trying to control the world’s food supply (Shiva).  For this reason alone I would support a mandatory GMO labeling law regardless of what I think about GMOs, simply because then I could avoid them and also avoid giving companies like the Grocery Manufacturers Association, Monsanto, and other agribusiness that kind of control over my life.  No one entity should have that much power, nor should they be able to tell me and other consumers how and what we will choose to put into our bodies.  

         California General Election Tuesday, November 6, 2012 Official Voter Information Guide. N.p.: n.p., 2012. Proposition 37 Arguments and Rebuttals. California Secretary of State. Web. 19 May 2015. .
         Dyke, Andrew, and Robert Whelan. "GE Foods Labeling Cost Study Findings." ECONorthwest (2014): n. pag. Consumersunion.org. Web. 19 May 2015.
         Faber, Scott. "GMO Labeling Will Not Increase Food Prices." EWG. Environmental Working Group, 24 Mar. 2015. Web. 19 May 2015. .
         Foreign, Out-of-State Companies Bankrolling Campaign Against GMO Labeling. Yes on Prop 37. Yes on 37 For Your Right to Know If Your Food Has Been Genetically Engineered, 22 Oct. 2012. Web. 19 May 2015. .
         "GMOs and Your Family." The NonGMO Project RSS. Non GMO Project, 2015. Web. 19 May 2015. .
         "Improving Agriculture." Working to Maximize Yields. Monsanto Company, 2015. Web. 19 May 2015. .
         McEvoy, Miles. "USDA Blog » Organic 101: Can GMOs Be Used in Organic Products?" Web log post. USDA Blog RSS 2. United States Department of Agriculture, 17 May 2013. Web. 19 May 2015. .
         Munoz, Eduardo. "Judge Upholds Vermont GMO Labeling Law While Case Continues." - RT USA. N.p., 29 Apr. 2015. Web. 19 May 2015.
         Shiva, Vandana, Dr. "The Seeds Of Suicide: How Monsanto Destroys Farming." Global Research. Center for Research on Globalization, 5 Apr. 2013. Web. 19 May 2015. .
         Smith, Jeffrey M. "State-of-the-Science on the Health Risks of GM Foods." 13th ser. V1.24 (2013): 1-25. Institute for Responsible Technology. Institute for Responsible Technology, 2013. Web. 19 May 2015. .
         "U.S . Regulation of Genetically Modified Crops."  Case Studies in Agricultural Biosecurity. Federation of American Scientists, 2011. Web. 19 May 2015..

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Thursday, August 6, 2015

YEAH!

When I start to doubt myself, I remember...  It's way more important what I think about me than what others think.  AND I THINK I'M A BAD-ASS!

Monday, July 28, 2014

New stuff on Etsy

After a lot of months of "hemming and hawing" and (frankly) making excuses about my Etsy shop, there are finally new things!!!!  You know where to find them - get them while you can!: https://www.etsy.com/shop/AutumnDamiana

"Mermaid's Grotto" Box with matching necklace!
Beautiful, simple, snowflake obsidian pendant on a ball chain necklace.
All four of my "elemental" beaded necklaces together!  How pretty!
Ha ha ha ha... "RUDE" bottle cap magnets for your fridge!







Saturday, March 22, 2014

SALE SALE SALE in my Etsy shop!

Happy Ostara!

I am REALLY feeling the Spring Cleaning urge this year (I can just hear my boyfriend roll his eyes in disbelief, ha ha) so I have decided to start with cleaning out my Etsy shop.  Ya gotta prune away the dead stuff before you have room for new growth!

So right now I have TWO sale sections going... the original 25% off section, with new things added, here:  https://www.etsy.com/shop/AutumnDamiana?section_id=10182300&ref=shopsection
and another section of $5 clearance items here:  https://www.etsy.com/shop/AutumnDamiana?section_id=11336260&ref=shopsection

Here are some things you will find in either section:

Pendant comes with a free chain!
One of my first mini divining kits!
I've gotten LOADS of compliments on this.
Simple, earthy, tribal vibe.
"Four elements" resin magnets.
One of my favorite mixed media pieces.