Monday, December 02, 2013

Vanilla Sugar

Last year, I set out to make my gift giving even easier than baking a ton of cookies and passing out tins. I found a site, that I can't seem to find again, that had a list of a ton of things you can make in jars and give as gifts; things like muffin or cookies mixes, spice rubs, hot chocolate. Among them was this little gem: vanilla sugar. I had never heard of it before and the recipe is incredibly easy. I couldn't find any vanilla beans, however, so that instantly took it off my 'easy to make' list. But I spent the next year casually searching for a store that carried vanilla beans, knowing full well I could have just ordered them online and been done with it. 

My mother, who I had informed that I was hunting for vanilla beans, found some at Mom's Organic Market. Based on her description, it was one whole bean cut in half for $6. She also found them at Costco, of all places, 10 whole long beans for $11. I'll take it! I already had mason jars on hand from an earlier concoction, and two unopened bags of granulated sugar (not including the open bags!) in the pantry. The recipe I followed called for one bean to two cups of sugar. My jars held almost exactly that, but I used just a touch less than two cups of sugar so there was room to shake things up to mix. 

Gather your beans!

 First, slice open your beans length-wise. I was reading something that said to use the back of your knife. I'm not sure why, but that's what I did. It was more like pressing the dull edge into the flesh of the bean, and it sliced right open.


Next, you want to remove the seeds. I was expecting vanilla to be something like green beans: a long bean pod with little beans. Not so. It's more like sticky black dust. Again, use the back of your knife to scrape off the seeds.


Good vanilla beans should be moist and fragrant, not dry. The moisture made the tiny seeds very very sticky. They stuck to the cutting board, the knife, and my fingers. It made me think of glitter and how it gets everywhere!

A pile of tiny, sticky seeds

I then sliced the bean in half, so they would fit better in my jars, and put the bean and seeds in the jar. If you use raw vanilla seeds for cooking, save your bean pods! You can throw them in your sugar without the seeds and they will still impart their lovely vanilla flavor.

In the jar

For my first jar, I put the vanilla seeds and bean in the jar and poured the sugar over it, mixing occasionally. The seeds will clump together though. In subsequent batches, I slowly poured my sugar into a measuring cup and mixed the seeds with my knife as best I could. Then that mixture gets poured over the beans in the jar.

There's sugar in the jar!

Next, cap your jar, give the thing a shake and leave it to marinate! It is recommended to shake the jar periodically so the seeds and vanilla flavor from the bean get distributed thoroughly. According to my readings, it will take about two weeks for the vanilla to permeate through the sugar and be ready for use.

Jars of vanilla sugar!

You can add more sugar to your jar as it starts to get low and shake it up every now and then to mix and incorporate the flavor. Some sites say the beans should be replaced every two years and some say they can stay in the sugar indefinitely. My beans had a two year expiration date, so I'll probably follow that. We'll see how it goes.

I'm excited to try my new sugar! But I have to give it time to get to its full flavor. Some of these jars are probably going to end up as gifts. I need to make some labels. And I still have five beans left, but I'm out of jars! I think I'll try vanilla extract with the rest of my beans.

I know this isn't actually a cake, but it could be used in cake. That counts, right?

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Sitting to Write

But write what?

I feel like I've been very silent on the goings on in my life of late.  But what is there to report, really?

My house, while still under contract (that same one from October) hasn't actually sold yet. This isn't news if you've been following my updates on Facebook. Our first closing date was November 15th, but my buyer took so long getting the inspection and appraisal done that the septic and well tests were delayed (because my Realtor said we weren't going to spend the money on them until we heard that the buyer was happy with the asking price when compared to the appraised price, because the buyer could have backed out after appraisal and I would still have to pay for those tests, get it?). So, settlement got moved back to November 27th. On November 22nd, I heard from my Realtor again who was very angry as she reported to me that we would not be going to settlement on the 27th and we wouldn't have been ready even if we had those tests done because there was some problem with the buyer's loan. Something about additional paperwork that wouldn't be ready until mid-December. We were assured that the loan would be ready by then, so the new tentative date would be December 13th. Unfortunately, I'm out of money to pay the mortgage now. Someone, and I know not who, mentioned renting my house to the buyer for December so her rent could pay my mortgage, but no one thought that was a good idea. On November 26th, I called my Realtor again and she reported that my buyer got a shiny new lender and this lender was on the ball and everything was ready to go: the only reason we weren't closing was because of the Thanksgiving holiday. I now have a new contract addendum that states settlement will be "on or before December 6."

The truth is, I'm so thoroughly stressed about this whole mess I can barely think of anything else right now. It's messing with my sleep. It's one of the reasons I'm not eating very well (more on that later). I'm putting on fake smiles when people ask how I'm doing. It's hard to get excited about anything. Now, everyone is in holiday mode and I'm just meh. I can't see over this hurdle. Mortgage, from the Old French: mort - dead; gage - pledge. Dead pledge. It surely feels like this pledge will be the death of me sometimes. Still, I've admitted that I'm swimming in a great big pool of stress over this, and I sometimes even answer with "not fine" instead of fake smiles when asked. That's got to be progress, right? Though, this particular stress is more numbing than anything. I'm not used to my body handling stress this way. I'm not sure it's an improvement over other ways my body tends to deal with stress.

Sure, there is a plan: sell my house, buy our house, plan our wedding. But everything moving forward from here starts with selling my house. Or otherwise detaching myself from that mortgage responsibility. Selling, of course, is ideal because it means some money in my pocket to put towards those other two points of the plan and saving my credit. But this is it. I'm out of money now. If it doesn't sell this month, foreclosure will commence.

Another reason I haven't been eating very well is because my oven blew up. Again, if you're following along on Facebook, you already know this. I was preheating the oven to roast a delicious pan of fresh vegetables when it started to growl (the oven), then to hiss, then to smoke, then there was a POP! and it spewed some sparks and more smoke. I turned it off, grabbed the fire extinguisher, then opened the thing to find a good three inch piece of the bottom element had burned off. This, for some unknown reason, took out the range too. The only thing that works is the broiler element, and that does not help us. I told Dav I couldn't handle the added stress of a non-functioning oven right now, and he said he'd deal with it and I didn't have to worry about it. That's great, but I do have to worry about how to cook decent meals without a working oven or stove. We bought a few microwave dinners and have been eating out a good deal. I've been trying to get things I can make cold or heat in the microwave so I can still cook, mostly. I'm hoping the toaster oven can roast some Brussels sprouts for us this week, but we'll see. And then holiday baking, which has been my gift of preference for several years, comes to a halt before I even get started. Dav replaced the burned element and it still didn't work. I'm still not sure if the landlord is going to service it or replace it, but she knows about it and I got the impression that a replacement will happen. But then, the blow up was almost exactly a month ago. My year to fit into my wedding dress is not off to a good start. I really am trying not to stress about it, I have enough stress around me right now.

Obviously, I haven't reopened my Etsy store yet like I said I was going to. Most of my yarn, like almost everything else in my life, is packed away in storage. And by storage, I mean Dav's mom's basement and in various rooms in my parents' house. Our family have said they are happy to help us, for which I am very grateful, but I don't like my crap being in their way like this.We just don't have the space for it all right now. So, reopening my store and trying to make some extra cash is just going to have to wait. I am yearning for my yarn, though. Yearning for yarn.

I'm kind of doom and gloom today, but it's really not all bad. My betrothed and I keep a pretty cozy and harmonious home, despite the fact that this one is temporary and so much is in this crazy state of transition. I'm still holding out hope that I'll be able to come back Friday evening at the latest and declare that big looming obstacle out of my way. Then we can sit down and work out what we can actually afford on a house and get the search started. It's not all bad. Really. No matter what happens, I'll get past it, and there's a small voice in my mind that every now and then gets a little louder and reminds me that things usually do work out for the best. It's hard to listen to it right now, but I know it's there. Just waiting for the inevitable "I told you so."

Friday, November 01, 2013

Covering a Year

It was a year ago Samhain night when I started daily veiling. My collection of suitable veils in color and style has grown quite a bit, and the ritual of choosing and coordinating my veil to my outfit has become part of my regular morning routine. My veils include scarves, tichels, snoods, tube bandannas, headbands, and hats. I do not cover when sitting around at home or among relatives (to include the future in-laws) unless we plan to go out somewhere. I tend to reserve more open veils like headbands to situations where I'm in the company of family and not-family, and times when I want to show off my hair but still be covered. Remember, I veil to cover my crown chakra, not my hair (though most of my hair also gets covered more often than not). This is what I've observed in a year of veiling.

You may recall, dear readers, that I accurately predicted that my previous boss would have an issue with my veils. I fully believe that her prejudice is the main reason why I ended up in the laid off group. One of the questions she asked me was if I would accept a position at a new company if they told me I couldn't wear my veil. My answer was no, of course. So, in the last year, I went to a job interview veiled and not one person on the interview committee asked about or even mentioned my covering at the interview, and still have not even now. I've been working there three and a half months, and only two people have asked about my veils - out of curiosity. Unlike my prejudiced former manager, no one cares. And this job requires me to be far more of a public face than the last one ever did. No one cares. And that's the way it should be.

I have found that other ladies who veil are more likely to talk to me than before I started veiling. Even silly things like asking me a question about a product while we're both standing in the baking section of the craft store. One in particular I remember was a lovely lady wearing a simple black hijab with sparkly pins holding it in place. I rarely see other versions of veils than hijabs, really. I started looking for, and thus noticing, veiled people when I started my research, but it started happening far more often when I started veiling myself.

Sometimes people ask, and sometimes I just bring it up in conversation when conversations go that way. I haven't really met with a whole lot of animosity or prejudice to my choice (with the exception of said former boss). Most people in my circle have been really supportive, if they express caring at all.

I'm going to continue to do it. I may not always. One day, my journey may lead me down a different path but, for now, it still feels right. Sometimes, I feel like I miss fancy braids in my hair, but I don my veil anyway and don't regret it. It makes my mornings easier, as I don't have to focus on my hair any longer than putting it up and picking a covering for the day. And if I want to do something fancy for a special occasion, I may as I choose.  Sometimes, a fancy headband over my style satisfies both needs.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Stuff Stuff Stuffy Stuff

I know, that doesn't really say much. I've been writing out this post for months.

The last you saw of me here was that I was laid off, and struggling to keep my head above water. I did it, I knew I would.

I moved back to Maryland at the end of June, and my house has been on the market since. It's under contract now, which is a very good thing because I'm almost out of money. I found an awesome, if part-time, job that I very much enjoy, but it's not going to pay for the house.

The post started out tons longer than it's going to end up. All the things I was going to tell you about what has been happening in the past several months isn't important now.

So, a week ago today was my birthday. The weekend just before that was spent at the Maryland Renaissance Festival, as has been my party tradition for the past 20-some years. My birthday party did not, in the slightest way, go according to plan.

You see, this happened.

We talked about getting married sometimes. Hell, we live together, it's like being married! But nothing was real or official or some other word I can't come up with. Nothing was expected, and I wasn't taking it for granted that it would just happen some day. And then some day happened.

We had been going about the faire as usual. I was a little irritated because I had plans for how I wanted to spend my day and those plans just weren't happening. The important people I wanted with me were not around (yeah, I'm talking about you, Fox and Fae) and even my dad, who is responsible for this whole tradition, was scarce. I wanted to see some shows and do some shopping and it's my day to spend with the people I want to spend it with, dammit! Dav was with me, of course, but he had friends there that he wanted to spend time with. But we're from different worlds, you see. Dav and his friends hang at the Dragon, I'm a White Hart girl. Someone's got to do the giving if one of us is going to be with our 'group.' The day just wasn't going the way I expect my party days to go. I hope I didn't appear as irritated as I was with that, at least. I'd rather be agreeable and flexible than not.

It was late afternoon, I was shopping and the shop keeper was busy with a bunch of stuff and Dav later told me he was getting very impatient. I picked up on a bit of that, and he explained it was because his mom and another friend would be leaving soon and he wanted to spend some time with them before they left. We did eventually end up at the Dragon with the group. Another issue is that his group hangs in the smoking section and, as sensitive as I am to that evil migraine-inducing smoke, I stayed as far away as I politely could.

So, he came back to where I was sitting and pulled me with him a bit saying there was something he wanted to show me that he thought I would really like. He took me to a mostly out-of-the-way place behind the chapel and maneuvered me into just the right position so his lovely friend Rachel could take that photograph at just the right moment. Then he said "we didn't meet at faire, but we met because of faire" and took a knee and took out a box said a few other things that my brain simply did not retain. "Will you marry me" was in there. I know I said some form of yes, but I don't know what else. I feel bad that I don't remember more of the details of that moment. I was joyfully crying, he was joyfully crying. Whatever irritation I was feeling that day had no more reason to be. For the next two days, I was subjecting everyone around me to cheesy grins and joyful tears.

My dad was telling everyone who crossed his path. People he knew well, people he knew a little, people he didn't know at all. He had known for two weeks that this was going to happen 'some time.' Dav and I drove together two weeks prior and he hung out while I was working. Sometime during the course of that day, he pulled my dad aside and asked for his blessing. And dad told him his chances of getting a yes out of me were probably pretty good.

I called my brother that evening, even before talking to my mom, because that's not the kind of thing I can tell my mother over the phone, you know? We stopped by the house on our way home, under the ruse that I had to pick something up but forgot my key so she wouldn't go to bed before we got there. We walked in and I said "I lied. I don't have to get anything. We're getting married!"

Honestly, marriage is one of those things that I never hoped for or dreamed about. It was something that I always thought I'd never have, so I told myself I didn't want it. And then my relationship with Dav started happening and I started wanting things that I'd spent years telling myself I didn't want, or didn't need, or didn't deserve. Someone very special to me taught me that none of those things are true, just by being the wonderful person he is.

I'm going to marry that man.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Changes Come in Floods

If you're my friend on Facebook or see me more than once a month, you know that I was recently laid off from a job I worked for near 10 years. The official reason was that the company that bought my former employer found my job to be redundant and obsolete, and apparently they couldn't place me elsewhere in the company (they told a friend who was also laid off the same day that she could apply to current open positions. Apply, as in start over. Yeah.). Anyway, I'm now finding myself unintentionally unemployed for the first time in my life. It's an experience I never wanted, and hope to never have again. But for now, living must continue.

And that's kind of a thing all its own, because there is now zero income to pay for my mortgage, or my electric bill, or my cable, or my groceries. Despite my best efforts, I spent (still spend, really) a good part of my now unoccupied days drowning in my own despair. Given my history, I recognize that I'm in danger of finding myself in a deeper depression than I've ever known. I'm fighting it. I really am. Really. It's hard. It's a daily thing. I'm working on it. Ups and downs. The day after I got the news was pretty bad. It's been a while since I've been that bad. The truth is I am not ok. For all my going through my days like nothing is wrong, most if it is a lie. My stress level is through the roof. I am not ok.

But I've been dealing with the chemical imbalances in my brain on my own for decades. I know a thing or two about stress and depression. I understand that this is stress that I've never had before, but I will deal with it on my own as I always have. At this point, that's all I can do.That's all I have to work with.

There are a few things in my list of activities that release feel-good chemicals in my brain no matter how I'm feeling when I started. Finding the will to do those things is its own challenge, but once I do them, I always always always feel better. Even if it's just for a moment. Those moments keep me going right now as it is.


I'm not kidding, reading really does help, but it's not just any kind of reading. It is something very specific. What helps me feel good is getting settled and set into bed, with my cats in their preferred sleeping positions around me and I read aloud to them. But not just any story, it doesn't work with a Terry Goodkind or George R R Martin novel (I might argue that those two write things that are stressful in general anyway), or even a Shakespearean comedy. It has to be a fairy tale, a silly children's poem, some story that I remember and love from my childhood, or something with the same flavor as those stories that I remember and love from my childhood. My default go-to is Yertle the Turtle by Dr. Seuss. Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree is a close second (anything by these two usually work).

This book belonged to my brother and somehow found its way to my bookshelf.  It has since been returned to him.


This one is tricky, because the inspiration to create something is usually not there at all when I'm very depressed. If I have one moment of muse, I have to take it right then and there, or it will go away altogether. Painting, sculpting, writing, or, at the very top of my list, crocheting usually do the trick. If I can bring myself to get started. That's the hard part.

Make something fun, like a crocheted Ewok.

Oh, cooking. Cooking is an adventure all its own when I do it, and I have to be prepared for the consequences. By those, I mean the kitchen in need of cleaning when I'm done. The joy from the creation of food usually is enough to ignore the kitchen for a couple days. But, like being creative as I mentioned above, I have to find just the right motivation to do something new or wonderful or delightful or creative.  But usually once I get going, I find myself in the zone. Baking delivers the best happy-brain result, but I have to be mindful of the guilt afterwards - guilt if I can't find anyone else to eat it!

The cake is not a lie!


I recently discovered this one. It's silly, because it's been in front of me forever. It's kind of like reading, though. Not just any game will do. Something old, something that I really enjoyed as a child delivers the best feeling during and after. I spent the last two days fighting off a migraine and, when it wasn't consuming me, I was playing one of my top three most beloved games ever. It amazed me how wonderful it made me feel. I was even contemplating how calm I was during a boss fight I was losing. For some reason, just dusting this sucker off brought a nice happy buzz and none of the stress that losing boss fights usually bring.

Go 16-bit for the best result!
None of these tricks really solve my problem, of course. But they help me through my days that are getting more and more stressful, especially as my next mortgage payment looms.

I said "changes come in floods" and they do. My boyfriend, who recognized that my house and my job are the only two things keeping me in that state, asked me to move in with him. He's searching for a house of his own and with my job gone, and my 3-year First Time Homebuyer Tax Credit requirement almost up, the time is just right. It is, and I can't even find the right words to describe all that it means to me. But now there's the added stress of moving this summer, getting my house ready to sell, how long I might have to still pay for it while I'm trying to sell it, where will we live from here. More stress. It's good stress, change is good, and hoped for beyond imagining, but stress nonetheless. Additional stress from my parents who have opinions about things and me living with my boyfriend (and selling my house to do it) doesn't fit in those opinions. Floods of changes. Of possibilities. Of stress. Of dreams. There is adventure in here and it is exciting and wonderful and unexpected and amazing all at the same time. I know I said earlier that I'm not ok. I'm not, so much is still uncertain. But I know I will be. I will be.

Friday, April 26, 2013


I came across this article today that talks about American-born women, one of whom is the widow of the slain Boston bomber, who chose to convert to Islam, hijab and all. It's a brief account from each of them, but they are all saying the same thing: it was their choice, there was no brainwashing, they found the beauty in the faith and made it their own.

I think American culture needs to hear more stories like this. The opposition that these women face is born of fear and ignorance. I had a conversation with my dad on Sunday that gave me some pause. My mother is a self-proclaimed bigot, but my dad has always struck me as being very open minded and accepting. When I converted from Catholicism to paganism, I worried about what my mom would think but I told my dad. He never took Communion at church so I knew he wasn't Catholic and I figured he might be more understanding about my change. He said he had read a bit about pagan faiths and knew I wasn't devil-worshipping, and he also agreed that it was probably best not to tell my mom. I talked to her sister about my choices as well and how she thought my mom would react. I knew that she didn't go to church at all. My aunt agreed with us at the time. Some years later, she told me that she thought mom would accept me no matter what because "you are like her best friend." That made me happy. My mom is generally an awesome person, but we don't agree on religion and politics so we just don't talk about those things. But I'm getting away from my point.

That conversation with dad on Sunday surprised me. After a very busy weekend, we were just seeing the news from Friday that the second bomber had been caught. My dad went into a (calm) rant about Islam and how the bombers must have been part of some group that brainwashed them into doing the horrible thing that they did. I was really surprised to hear such ignorant statements coming from my dad. I tried my best to correct them, blame the people not the faith they happened to be a part of. He seemed to listen but I don't think I changed his opinions at all.

When even someone as generally accepting as my dad can form these negative opinions based on stereotypes of an entire group of people, there is something wrong. It's certainly more than I, as one person, can change. We all need to make an effort to understand.

There is so much of this article that I could quote that I'm just going to link it and encourage everyone to read it and maybe we'll remember that bad people are everywhere and in every faith and that does not make everyone bad too.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

One Year Ago Today

was a Saturday. I don't remember if I went to rehearsal. I do remember cleaning the heck out of my house Friday night. I do remember telling my dad, who was staying with me on weekends, that he had to be elsewhere for the better part of the evening. I remember cooking dinner, though what I made I couldn't say, I'm pretty sure there was asparagus. The exact dinner is really irrelevant.

I had a date. He brought a bottle of wine and a couple movies: Gremlins, which he knew terrified me but I was willing to see, and I think we also saw the Village that night. He warned me when the scary, jump out at you part was coming. And I spent the evening in his arms.

It was the first of many evenings spent that way. Pretty much weekly, and also weekendly (that's my word, shut up): dinner, made or picked up or gone out, and then sitting together with something on the telly. I remember one time we sat there together on that couch and talked all night and never got around to turning the TV on at all.

And it's not all TV. Sometimes it's parties, corn mazes, theater, karaoke, little local cons, a trip to Connecticut. It's been a wonderful year.

We don't really see each other as often as I wish; sometimes the distance between our homes is poignant. But we do what we can and I'll happily take what I can get. Any time with him is time well spent. He is kind and patient and understanding and handsome and gentle and affectionate. He is one of the most beautiful people I know.

This day marked our first year. I got to spend the day in his arms or by his side, where I most wanted to be. We didn't do anything special, and that's just fine. Being with him is what I needed.

Our first year. It's been so wonderful. I look forward to all the years to come, and I know each one will be better than the last. I love him, and I am so lucky to have his love.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Tackling Depression

A couple dear friends of mine have recently written about their experiences with depression. Lots of people have it, have had it, or will have it. Everyone has an opinion on it, and only those who have experienced it really know. We really know that it's not just feeling down or bored or lazy. It's not just feeling sad. It's not just mood at all. What's really going on is that a person with depression suffers from a chemical imbalance in the brain. All those chemicals that your brain produces to make you feel happy don't get produced as much in a person with depression, or they get absorbed and metabolized too quickly. That is how depression happens. We don't need to reach a certain age or have a certain event happen to be depressed, just our brain not doing with those chemicals what it should be doing. Yes, age and events can trigger your brain to not treat those feel-happy chemicals the way it should, but that is not necessary for one to have depression. This is important and everyone needs to know this. I can point to an event that was a 'cause' for me, but not everyone can and many don't have one at all. That's why antidepressants can work, they are drugs that adjust those chemicals in the brain. But the really important thing to know is that it's not going to just go away.

Anyway, I'm not really here to go into what depression is on a medical level. A friend of mine posted an article on her Facebook page that I thought was worth a mention. Just based on the title, 21 Tips to Keep Your Shit Together When You're Depressed, I thought this was going to be another list of 'just be happy' sparkles and unicorns and rainbows. I was pleased to see it was more of a counter to that sparkles and unicorns and rainbows list. Number 19 made me stop reading that and start writing this: "Depression will lie to you. Depression will try to tell you what others are thinking. That you are unloved and unworthy, that others think little of you or don’t care – or even wish you harm. You are not a psychic. Keep repeating that. 'I am not a psychic'. Repeat. The only way to know what another person is thinking is to up and ask them." It's a lot like what my friend Enid wrote on her blog: "DEPRESSION HAS BEEN LYING TO YOU. Depression tries to tell you that you're worthless, you're bad, you're stupid, you're blah blah blah de fucking blah blah on and on and on it talks so damn much about so much bullshit and it's all LIES. Christ on a fucking cracker, it will not shut up. It goes on and on blah blah blabbity blah and you're not good enough and nobody cares and nobody understands and blah blah blabbity BLAH the world would be better off without you, your friends, your family, they'd be better off without you blah blah blah OH MY GOD, DEPRESSION, SHUT UP."

I never really thought of it that way before, but it's very true. Depression tells you that you are alone, that no one cares, that nothing will ever change or be better, and that you deserve to feel that sad and helpless and alone, and you don't deserve to feel anything else.

Like most people, those chemicals in my brain fluctuate. Quite a bit. Generally, I'm a happy person. I have a job, I have a home, I have family who care for me and a boyfriend who loves me. There are some days when all of those things I have are so far away from me it's like they're not there at all. I can't control when that happens, I can't change a habit or do something different to keep that at bay, it happens because it's in my brain. Now, I've come a long way from the time when I wanted to end my life. I remember that well. It seemed things were fine; it was 1997, I was graduating high school, going to be the first person in my family to go to college, I was acting which I loved, and I wanted to die. A friend of mine saw some signs and was concerned and told my mother. My mother asked if everything was alright. I lied. I told her everything was fine and my friend was being silly. Then I worked on my plan. No one really cared, not my friend who was concerned, not my mom who took that information seriously. Depression told me so. And I had a plan. And then I realized I needed help, fessed up to my mom about lying about actually being ok, and she got me some help. I don't know what changed my mind about asking for help. Not a clue.

That point, that almost no return point, I haven't been in a place like that in a good long while. But there was a time, it was two years ago November. It was bad. I was the worst I had been since that day in 1997. I didn't want to die, not like I did then, but I did want to hurt myself, and on some occasions I did. I've never been a cutter, but it's easy to explain away a few bruises. I was already well practiced in that anyway and mysterious bruises crop up on me all the time (I just bruise easily, I've always been that way). So I did that, I hit myself with things until there were bruises, until I could feel pain when I just lightly touched them. I used a variety of things, one time it was the metal hammer from my toolkit, the butt of my Phantom pistols on my mantle, the poker I use for the woodstove. I once heard it described, in relation to cutting, that the pain you cause yourself is feeling something other than the things depression is telling you to feel. I hit my legs, my arms, my torso, my head. Just to feel the pain of a bruise. I have never harmed myself like that before or since. But I honestly cannot promise that I never will again.

My friend Jade reminds me that the village doesn't go away once the child is raised. There is a reason why humans need groups of others around them, that's the way we are built. If you think you need help, that's when it's time to ask for it. And don't wait. Having worked on coping with my depression on my own for years and years and years, I can tell you that it's hard, so very hard, and I really don't recommend it.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

What They Say


The big topic around the Internet a few weeks ago was the Steubenville rape case. I actually started writing this then, but then I got sick and then time went on, the media focused on other things, and it sat unfinished. But it still has to go somewhere, so here it is. Back to the case, I was not following it closely. I wasn't reading tweets or looking at videos or paying a whole lot of attention to the details of the case. But it was there, just outside my vision - something to pay attention to without diving too far in. Diving in meant memories, you see, and they're hard enough to get out of my head on a good day.

But still, I was interested in the verdict as much as any woman, as much as any crime victim, should have been. "Delinquent," which means guilty on the juvenile side of court, and a year or more in detention. Good. Very good.

And then the country reacted, and it shocked me. News agencies talked about the case, but not about the victim and how she would hopefully get a sense of justice, or maybe find it easier to heal and move on. No, about the criminals, boys but still convicted criminals. Before I go into that, I feel I should point out that I have a fair amount of empathy for people who do wrong - Monty's plight should be evidence enough of that. At the same time, Monty never physically hurt anyone, least of all me. For whatever he is, even his own kind of monster, he is not a rapist.

That puts me in an interesting place, because someone somewhere must love these children and love them still even though they are monsters. That means that somehow on some level I must understand why someone would still love these boys, would speak on their behalf, would mourn their bright futures now gone. I don't. I don't understand it. They're rapists. And that makes me feel like a hypocrite.

But it's not without cause, without reason. I'm going to share something here that I've shared with few. Even best friends who know me well may not know this, and some acquaintances who know me barely know this already. Funny how that works sometimes, but I digress. This is coming out now because, the raw truth is, I'm not as healed as I thought I was.

I was raped. By two different men in two very different times of my life and two very different ways. There was no scary man in a dark alley. I wasn't wearing short skirts or high heels or drunk. And neither of them was just one incident, but a period of time, over and over.

The first, I was a child and he was a teenager, not older than those boys from Steubenville. My conscious brain blocks a lot of it out, I was so very young, but memories I thought long buried have ways of showing up when least expected and certainly not desired. It went on for a period of years. He was my best friend's oldest brother. Any time spent with her meant possible time with him. And it wasn't just me. He molested his sister too.

What I remember most about that time of my life is what happened after my best friend and I were convinced by another friend to tell our parents. I don't even remember how she got us to that point, or why we told her at all. My friend went first, and when she came back out, it was my turn. She was in there a long time. I told my mother while she was washing the car. I don't remember her reaction. I do remember my embarrassment.

What followed was doctors, a whole slew of them. Months upon months with medical doctors, years with mental doctors. I remember the very first appointment after. The doctor was some old balding man, he wasn't our regular doctor, I guess he was someone that maybe the police told my parents to take me to, but I don't remember any police. He treated me like an object and talked to my parents like I wasn't even there. Sure, there is very little I would have understood at that age, but why couldn't he even address me like a person instead of treating me as a thing on his examination table? I mean, to go through what I went through and then they bring me to a scary man doctor who couldn't even tell me what he was going to do before he touched my body? And every subsequent evaluation was like that, even when I saw other doctors at that facility - get on the table, doc does his thing, and then talks to my parents like he was discussing a new couch he bought for his living room that he couldn't get through the door. What was burned into my brain was a whole bunch of adults standing around looking at me and looking very angry. I thought I had done something really terrible and I wished that I never told anyone it happened at all. I wished I never told anyone. And if that boy was ever punished in any way for what he did, I never knew, and I still don't know to this day. In a lot of ways, that hurt more than anything. Our paths still crossed fairly frequently, our families were still neighbors after all. There was never a time when he just wasn't there (i.e. serving a sentence somewhere). And I still had to go to those joint family functions. My parents never let me just stay home.

Through a series of events that are largely irrelevant here, I stopped going to therapy. I knew I still needed help. I grew into a depressed teenager and wanted to take my own life. No one would want me, you see. I was damaged, and when I told people, boyfriends or regular friends, a lot of them left me. I was too messed up to deal with. Not worth the trouble. I entered my adult life mistrusting everyone, never to be sure who was going to stay with me or who was going to try to help me or who was going to decide I was too much trouble and give up. Everyone in the boyfriend capacity gave up. Some I never told at all, so when those relationships finally ended, they had no idea why I was broken. And I was always the reason why we didn't work.

Sometimes, I denied how much the scars of my past affected my present, but the truth is they never really stopped, and affect me still. Some days are worse than others, naturally. I've come a long way, mostly on my own, though. I've forgiven myself for the thing that was never my fault to begin with. I accept that the guilt and shame I felt and the responsibility I felt I had were all because he put those thoughts there. That boy knew what to say, what to threaten, exactly how to put the blame on me - blame that I carried in my heart for years and years and years. I know that now, I see what he did. I know it wasn't me. I forgive myself for those feelings, they weren't mine.

But before that, I shelled myself up pretty well. Never sure who to trust, doing my best to protect myself from further hurt. That slowly turned into doing what I thought my partners wanted. I had been left, abandoned so much, maybe I needed to change and then I wouldn't be alone and then I'd have those things - that family - that I convinced myself I would never have because I didn't deserve it.

The next one; he was what I thought I wanted. He was gorgeous, he paid attention to me, he made me feel special. He was also narcissistic, manipulative, controlling. I didn't see that then, it didn't come out until later.

One of the arguments I heard out of the Steubenville case was that she was drunk. That must make it ok. She was drunk, she couldn't give consent, and lack of yes means yes.

It doesn't. I shouldn't have to say that. Lack of yes means no. Only yes means yes. If there is no yes, the answer is no. And having said yes before, to anyone for any reason, does not automatically mean yes now.

So, this guy, who was so wonderful at the beginning, eventually turned into something very different. He thought that dating meant yes all the time. No meant I needed convincing, and he eventually learned exactly what he could do to drive me to give in and get it over with rather than hold my ground. Then he convinced me that I needed him, that I would never do any better than him, that I should be happy with him because I'd be alone forever without him. He told me what our future would be like together, with him running everything and me doing what he said. And I stayed because he was the best I could ever hope to get. He told me so.

Being in control made him feel manly. Leaving bruises on my skin made him feel manly. And when they were in places I could not hide, I made up stories of how they got there so no one would know. Good, convincing stories, because I am an actor and that comes easily. Even people who knew the stories were made up didn't know what was really happening. I hid that part too. And I stayed because he was the best someone like me could ever hope to get. He could do better than me, even, so I was lucky I had him to take care of me and tell me what to do at all. As long as I gave him what he wanted, whenever he wanted it. And if I didn't, he'd remind me of just how much I needed him, of all he did for me, of how sad and alone I was without him.

Eventually, I got tired of fighting and gave up even trying to say no most of the time. Sometimes I still said no, but it didn't last. It was exhausting trying to fight him off- you know, in a playful way that wouldn't hurt him because he was my boyfriend and had a claim to my body simply by being my boyfriend. A few times, I even told him how his behavior made me feel and things would change for a little while, but they always went back. I was miserable, but I stayed. Because I knew I was broken and I couldn't get any better, I didn't deserve it.

You see stories all the time about battered women who keep going back to their abusers, who don't press charges, who eventually end up in very bad places -or dead- because they kept going back. Every time one of those stories comes up, almost everyone asks "why doesn't she just leave? She's not happy, he's abusing her, just get out. Why didn't she do that?" I keep my mouth shut. She doesn't just leave because she can't. She is not mentally capable of leaving. He told her she has to stay, that she's worthless without him, that she's got nothing if he's not there to provide it. She stays because he is clever and knows just what to tell her to get it permanently in her brain that she must stay. I know this because I was one of them. I know this because I stayed. And I knew better, I knew I was miserable, and still I stayed.

And he was one of the ones that I never told while we were dating. I can't say he had that to hang over me or use against me. He didn't need the ammunition because I was already broken. I did eventually get out. The unbelievable possibility of something better came up and I got out. I told him after that, while he begged me to come back. He, of course, did not see things the way I saw them. I told him why the way he treated me particularly hurt me the way it did, and he said he would have done things differently if he knew from the beginning. I don't believe it. That basically says everything he did was ok if there was no past trauma, but in the face of past trauma, it was not. Wrong. It was all not ok no matter who you are or what's happened in your life.

I seem pretty together now and for the most part I am. Except when I'm not. It was something that I won't go into in recent weeks, in addition to the news, that made me realize I'm not really ok. I wasn't as healed as I thought I was. The relationship I had after that guy suffered for it, in part anyway, and I didn't realize that until long after it was over. I'm still broken. Maybe I was re-broken and just didn't realize how much. It's not really fair to the important people in my life, but I know it's there and I won't deny it to myself and that's a start.

That's not the only thing I know. I know I am beautiful, I am smart, I am clever, I am creative. I know how to take care of myself and how to be happy with my own company. I also know it's ok to depend on others from time to time and that some of them want me to. I know that love exists, that I can love and that I can be loved. I know that broken is not wasted or useless or out of chances. I know that hurt is not incapable of healing.

Monday, April 01, 2013

No Sloof Lirpa Today

Those who know me know I'm not a practical joker. I tend to find many common April Fool's jokes trite and tiresome. Among these, the I'm pregnant pranks, the I'm getting married pranks, the famous person you really like is dead pranks (that one is particularly cruel, really. Poor Jeff Goldblum has fallen off that cliff so many times, I hope he never goes to New Zealand so as to not tempt Fate!). My own little joke then becomes to make you believe that I fell for your joke. Unfortunately, that really ends up funny to no one but me, but pleasing myself is what it's all about anyway, right? Anyway, I learned long ago not to believe a single thing I see posted anywhere on the Interwebs today. If you have some real news, tell me tomorrow.

But I'm not really here to talk about April Fool's Day and how it's not a tradition that I really get behind. I'm here to tell you about a brief adventure that resulted in the slaying of a perfectly innocent frying pan in a terrible, fiery passion.

It all started today, when a lone woman wanted dinner. She had a long day at work and it was well past her regular dinner time, so she was tired and wanted to make something quick and easy and yummy without slaving over the stove forever. It's a simple wish, really, one I'm sure we can all appreciate from time to time. So, she decided to make a nice and simple meal that she fondly remembers her mother used to make for her and it was called Egg on Toast.

The recipe is simple: egg, bread, butter, and whatever seasoning you like for your egg. Today, that was salt, dill, and cheese. Our fearless hero heated her frying pan, gave it a spritz of cooking spray for good measure, and browned two pieces of buttered bread, one at a time, for the pan was small. She then shook salt and dill over the pan (this gets your seasoning cooked into the bottom of your egg) and without warning, the butter and cooking spray that was heating in the pan turned brown and sizzled, then foot tall flames jumped forth from its black, non-stick surface. Smoke billowed and filled the tiny galley kitchen. Luckily, our hero has experience with flaming geysers of bacon grease from her job at the Virginia Renaissance Faire (and it occurs to me, dear readers, that I've never shared that story with you. Huh.), so she calmly moved the pan off the heat and let the flames burn out. What followed was simply a matter of turning down the heat, re-greasing and seasoning the pan, and cooking the rest of her dinner.

The first egg to hit the pan charred on contact and left quite a bit of eggy residue, but the second egg came off just fine. A little underdone because sticking to the charred pan was a concern, but still edible on a perfect piece of toast.

Now, it occurs to our hero that murdering that frying pan and then proceeding to cook her dinner on its charred remains probably wasn't too bright. She has no way of knowing if any of those too-black bits on her egg were just bits of egg or bits of burnt non-stick coating that she has since consumed. This is why she has declared the frying pan dead, she can't trust the non-stick surface after it had a few good seconds of active flambé. The plastic spatula appears to have not survived the ordeal as well.

But, the good news is she did not burn the house down. Now we'll just hope she doesn't get sick! 

 ˙ǝnɹʇ ʎlǝɹıʇuǝ sı ʇı ˙ǝʞoɾ ɐ ʇou sı ʎɹoʇs ǝʌoqɐ ǝɥʇ ʇɐɥʇ ʇɹodǝɹ ʇsnɯ ı ʇnq
¡ʎɐp s,looɟ lıɹdɐ ʎddɐɥ 'ǝɹǝɥ ɯ,ı ǝlıɥʍ 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


I know some of you are thinking "oh, no, is she really going to open this can of worms?" Yes, I will, because it's about basic rights and if your basic rights were being denied, you'd want someone to stand with you too.

I was pleased to see so many red equality symbols from the Human Rights Campaign among my Facebook friends yesterday. Even fan pages were showing support, and even fan pages for things that are not US-based. It was refreshing to see so much open support for such a hot topic.

I try to stay out of them, the hot topics (not Hot Topic, which is a pretty cool place to shop on the rare occasion I get to one), because my acquaintances are diverse and I try to be respectful even when I don't agree. But changing my profile picture for a couple days doesn't argue with anyone, which is really what I want to avoid. I'm not going to change anyone's mind and they're not going to change mine, so I try not to argue.

See, I'm fortunate. I'm female and I'm attracted to males and no one really has a problem with that. I'm fortunate that the right to marry whom I will (assuming whom I will also wants me) has never been denied me. Now, I've dated men of darker skin tones than I, one of them wasn't even born in this country, and there was a time when that would have been scandalous. But it's not so anymore, the laws changed and there is no problem with the mixing of skin colors in the eyes of the law. There is still a problem in the eyes of some people, and I experienced plenty of that, but we could have been married if we wanted to be. Things change. They have in the past and we can only hope they will continue to do so.

I'm pagan, I don't hide this. I'm an Eclectic Hermetic Wiccan Quaker. (There really isn't a word for what I believe, which is kinda cool when you get right down to it.) The main and supreme tenet of my belief is a part of the Wiccan Rede, "An it harm none, do what ye will." Harm none. Simple. Yes, it is impossible to go through life never harming another living thing, but it is possible to go through life without intent to harm another living thing, and intent is everything in my faith.

So, I support marriage equality. Why? Because it doesn't hurt anybody. Two consenting adults who want to share their lives and become their own family unit does not hurt me, and it does not hurt you, and it does not hurt the Earth, it does not hurt the children ( That's the truth. Simple.

The primary argument against marriage equality often sites the Bible as the reason. I'm not going to go into why I feel the Bible argument is wrong, but I will say the Bible argument is irrelevant. The United States of America is not a theocracy. If your god does not allow same-sex marriage, that's fine, just remember that your god's laws do not apply to everyone. And nor should they. My god's laws do not apply to everyone either. That is why I wear a veil and you may not and that's ok. Your beliefs are yours and no one is asking you to change them. What we are asking is that you keep them out of the federal laws, those are the laws that everyone must follow regardless of personal belief. That's really what it comes down to. If your dogma believes it's wrong, just don't do it. I don't understand why you think everyone has to follow your laws.

The other side of that is that the government can't make a properly registered and recognized church do anything. They can't make a church authority perform a same-sex marriage if such a thing disagrees with that church's dogma. Anyone trying to make that happen is not on the right path.

The bottom line: Live, let live, don't discriminate, and if it's not hurting you or someone else, it's not a battle worth fighting.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Crochet Drink Cozy and Wrist Cuff

Hello, dear readers! I don't know how many of you are hookers like me, but I decided that I need to share this crazy easy pattern with you! 

Dav had a party a couple Saturdays ago. It was an old video game and beer party! He handed me my first beer of the evening and it was cold- as beer should be!- but too cold on my hand. So, I grabbed my yarn and a hook and whipped up a cozy for my bottle. I made another one for someone at the party too. They work up fast and will also fit around a soda can or a water bottle and possibly even a travel coffee cup. It's stretchy enough to fit over some hands so you can wear it around your wrist when you're in between drinks! 

Crochet Drink Cozy and Wrist Cuff

Worsted Weight Yarn
US size G hook
Yarn needle

Gauge is not important for this project, but you do want to work somewhat loosely

Work in back loops for the entire project

Chain 27, turn

Row 1: hdc in third ch from hook and in each ch across, turn (24 hdc and a ch 2)
Rows 2 through 8: ch 2 (counts as first hdc), hdc in next st and in each st across, turn 
Fasten off, leave long tail for sewing.

Fold in half and sew the short sides together (you could also sc them together). Weave in ends.

That's it! For the two-colored green and brown one, I made 6 rows of green following the pattern above and then added the brown as the 7th row and one on the other side of the foundation chain. You could also start with brown, crochet 6 rows of green, and switch back to brown for the final row. That was the first one I made and 6 rows was a little too narrow to protect my hand from the cold of the bottle, so I added two more rows. You could also add or subtract rows as you wish. Larger handed or wristed people may want to add stitches to get it to fit as a cuff, but keep in mind that may make it too big to fit snugly around a bottle. 

About gauge and tension: I never ever measure gauge. I describe the tension as loose, but remember I'm used to amigurumi, almost everything else is 'loose' to me! If you really want to be sure, test your foundation chain around a bottle or your wrist, and add 2 ch for the first hdc. My gauge ended up about 3 hdc and 2 rows for an inch square. Finished dimensions are about 8 inches by 2 5/8 inches.

Happy crocheting! 

Legal stuff!
It is NOT okay to sell my pattern. If you wish to copy these instructions and post them to your own blog, include a link back here. You may print this out and pass it out among your friends for free. You may send people to my blog for a copy all you want.
Do not use my photographs without my permission.  
You may sell items made from this pattern, but you must credit me as the designer. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Discovery

If you're one of my friends on Facebook, you've seen that my boss has finally decided to take issue with my head covering. Her argument is that it is a hat, and we have a "no hats of any kind" policy - of which I am fully aware. I first attempted to counter that my scarves are not hats, but she maintained it was. I explained it was part of my religious observance, she wanted to know what religion, what part of it requires me to veil, if I would be ejected from the faith if I did not veil, if there were any times when I did not veil. She implied that if I were a member of some faith that she had heard of and knew had a veiling practice, like Muslim or Quaker, than it would be ok, but because I'm a member of a faith she's never heard of and she doesn't understand why I veil or think that it is important to the practice of my faith, she's going to talk with Human Resources and see what they say.

I do not trust her to be unbiased about it, based on our conversation. I believe she will present the matter to HR in such a way as to interject her personal beliefs - it's not important to the practice of my faith, it's not required by my faith, no one has heard about my faith anyway, and a scarf is a hat. She will fish for the answer that she wants by making judgments on the validity of my practice, instead of accepting that exceptions to dress codes for religious observance need to be made. When I told her I could have my clergy write a letter to HR, she said that was not necessary. I suspect because once I get clergy involved it becomes an official matter of religious discrimination, and she won't get the answer that she wants. I have asked for that letter anyway.

I have also asked to meet with someone in HR. Because I can't trust my boss to be unbiased, I have to be able to present my case directly. I will also write a letter for them to have on file officially requesting the accommodation of my religious dress if they're going to argue that a scarf is a hat.

I was speaking to my Plain Quaker friend, Valerie, about it. She has offered to write a letter on my behalf as well, stating why Quakers veil and quoting scripture. But I'm not Quaker. Valerie explained thus:

"In my heart, everyone's good enough to be a Quaker, they just don't know I made'em one

I figured, we have Buddhist Quakers and Jewish Quakers and Muslim Quakers, there's enough room for ever'body in my boat, LOL

We have four types of Quaker meetings--pastoral, non-pastoral, which sounds like one's in the countryside but means with a preacher, or not.

And, we have Conservative, and Liberal. Conservative is me, I'm a Jesus hugger, and Liberal, which fits in other faiths as Quaker and doesn't require a belief in Jesus.

Overall, using society's terms, we are Conservative in that we believe in protecting the environment, being somewhat self-sufficient in caring for ourselves, pretty much against killing in any form (war, death penalty, mercy killing, etc.) But we are all very liberal in that we believe in protest, following what we feel is right rather than what a law says is right, direct line to God without intercessionaries, all men are created equal (to the point we do not use titles, even Judge or Doctor)."

With me so far? It means I could be a Pagan Quaker, or a Wiccan Quaker, and I would be considered a Liberal Quaker. Then she sent me to this site and this site which led me here and here. (Click on these links, dear readers! I'm soooo excited about these!)

Frankly, the more I learn about Quakerism, the more I love it (this is true for me of Sikhism as well, but that's neither here nor there) and I'm fortunate to have such a fantastic resource in Valerie. While I'm fully committed to my pagan path, I am aware that I've had Quaker leanings for years. I'm utterly fascinated by this Quaker Paganism development and I can't wait to do more research on it!

How does this tie into my upcoming discussion with HR? If they decide I need to be a member of some known faith with specific tenets about veiling, I'll have no qualms about claiming Quaker Pagan as it fits my purpose, and I can provide a letter to that end.

But, research! I get to do more research! And I am amazingly elated about what I may find. Something somewhere feels *right* and I need to know more. I'm almost shaking with the excitement of new knowledge and discovery!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Happy New Year!


Wednesday, February 06, 2013

What Do You Say?

I've worn a head covering to work every day for three months. None of the higher ups have challenged it (and I'm prepared to fight if they do). People have started to notice, though. And noticing means curiosity, and curiosity means questions. There's nothing wrong with questions per se, but what I thought would sufficiently answer just keeps going.

Coworker, "Time to get coffee, huh?"
Me, "Yep, it's either that or a nap!"
Coworker, "Why do you wear that thing on your head?"
Me, "It's part of my religious observance."
Coworker, "Oh, what is that?"

And here's where I falter. Not in suddenly needing to describe my faith, but in that it's not something that can be summed up in the 30-60 seconds of water-cooler office interactions- especially to someone who has absolutely no familiarity with a non-mainstream religion. I could say eclectic pagan. "What is that?" I could say Hermetic Wiccan. "What is that?" I actually had to specifically tell someone who just kept tacking on the whats, "if you've never heard of it, it's not something I can explain in a few minutes."

Now, I was entirely expecting to have to field questions about my head covering, but I honestly thought 'part of my religious observance' would be enough. After all, my faith and anyone's faith is completely irrelevant to my job. If I were being asked in a job interview, 'religious observance' would legally be sufficient and I would say so under the scrutiny of further whats and whys. I'm not ashamed of my faith and I'm not afraid to talk about it when there is ample time to devote to the subject, but that's not the point. Here, where we all have a job to do and are expected to be at our desks doing it, there is not ample time.

So under more whats and whys, I start stammering out things that make me sound utterly uncertain of what I'm saying, just in an attempt to give some kind of answer that would make sense and be enough of an answer to be accepted without further inquiry. That's never worked. There are always more questions.

Me: "I'm pagan."
Coworker: "Oh, pagans cover their hair?"
Me: "um, no, they don't have to, um, I do, because it's in line with my beliefs, um, because my matron goddess asked me to." blubber blubber blubber.
Actually, once I got an awesome response to this, "Oh, so it's like a sign of devotion." Yes! Like that!

But the "I'm pagan" follow up can go several ways.
Coworker: "What is that?"
Me: "well, uh, mine is a combination of Wiccan and Hermeticism that --"
Coworker: "What's Hermeticism?"
Me: "Um, it's a - a faith practice based on ancient Greek philosophy -- "
Coworker: "Oh, and they cover their hair?"
Me: "Well, not as a rule, no, my beliefs are based on that."
Coworker: "So, why do you cover your hair?"
Start over.

Coworker: "What kind of pagan?"
Me: "I practice a combination of things that resonate with my beliefs."
Coworker: "So, it's made up?"

Coworker: "I have a friend who's into that stuff."
Ok, I'm throwing this one in here simply because I hear it often. It really has no relevance to my head covering, but it is likely to launch me into a very defensive tirade about how very offensive it is to dismiss my religion as something I'm "in to." You can be "in to" skiing. You can be "in to" gardening. You can be "in to" woodworking but stop doing that and suddenly be "in to" knitting. "In to" is a hobby, it connotes an impermanence and a recreational importance. This is not religion, and if you view your religion that way, you're doing something wrong. But I digress.

Where was I? Oh, let's go back to "what kind of pagan"
Me: {more stammering, because this answer is not accurate. Not incorrect, just not the full picture} "My faith focuses on hearth goddesses, like Hestia."
Coworker: "Oh, what does that mean?"
This one prompted the 'I can't describe it in the time allowed' response.

I think all this means I need to compose an answer, something more thorough than "religious observance" but still offers enough information to curb further questions, or to at least be able to describe enough so that 'I can't describe any more' is acceptable.

So, if I extend my original answer to "It's part of my religious observance, it's an act of devotion to my path and my deity." There's plenty of room for "what is that" questions if I have the time, and still a sufficient enough answer that "I have to get back to work, there really isn't time to go into further details here" should be satisfactory. Right?