Sunday, May 10, 2020

Mother's Day in the Lockdown Bubble -- How Our Tribe is Faring based on a Ten Question Survey

The survey says . . . . our tribe is faring farely well. 

I woke at six a.m. this morning to begin analyzing the results of our full moon Covid survey in order to share them with you today, my geek gift to you, this Mothers Day of May, 2020.

If you haven't taken our Covid-19 lockdown survey, you may do so right here because I will continue to collect responses until I have a larger sample size.  It's a simple ten-question survey that takes an average of four minutes to complete.  And, when you are done, we kind of have a picture of what's happening to our tribe.  One hundred twenty-five people responded.  That's enough to draw a picture of what's happening to our tribe, Covid-wise.

From the 125 respondents (our initial sample survey size), more than 4 of 5 respondents are living in places with lockdown orders in effect.  The various answers from those who said neither 'yes', nor 'no', seem to indicate that everyone is living some form of lockdown, some on hard lockdown, some on soft-lockdown, some essential workers living with those on lockdown.  It is also interesting that it seems a good number of people who answered don't know their legal lockdown situation and are just locking down to be safe or protect others (the curve flattening thing is working without law enforcement ushering folks home).

More than half of our respondents are on lockdown with others (54%), while approximately one in four who answered the survey are locked down alone (26%).  Twelve percent of the respondents are essential workers and, thus, not locked down.  Unlocked up (?) 

Sixty-one percent (nearly 2 of 3) respondents have received lockdown assistance from their governments. 

Approximately 70% of the respondents received stimulus checks (as of  May 8th, 2020) and 12% received or will receive unemployment.  3.2% received low-interest loans.

When eighty percent of the people of our enclave are collecting unemployment, but twelve percent of our respondents indicate they are collecting unemployment, either everyone is working or people just don't know how to go about dealing with our government agencies.  I suspect some of the people who aren't getting help don't need the help (like my son who makes a lot of money), and that's fine, but it is sad if people in need aren't getting it because they don't know how to not take no for an answer. 

Sister Mary Ellen:       Sister Kate, I tried to file for unemployment and they wouldn't let me.

Sister Kate:                  When did you do that, Sister Mary Ellen? 

Sister Mary Ellen:        Sunday afternoon.

Sister Kate:                  Right, when 30 million other Americans were trying to file? 
                                     You try at 6 a.m. tomorrow morning, and then let me know.

Sister Mary Ellen:        Yes, Sister.


Brother Nix:                  Sister Kate, I know you said I could file for unemployment, but I can't,                                                  because I'm self-employed.

Sister Kate:                   Oh for f****'s sake.  You don't want the free government money
                                      while you can't run your small business?  Did you get wealthy
                                      while I wasn't looking, Brother?

Brother Nix:                 No, Sister, (kicking stones with toe of shoes), I just . . .

Sister Kate:                  You just go in there again, say you are unemployed, say you worked for
                                     your business, and go through it like that's your money.  You know that
                                     is your money, right?  You pay taxes, right, Brother?

Brother Nix:                 Yes, Sister

Sister Mary Ellen and Brother Nix got their government assistance for tough Covid-times.  And Sister Kate didn't hear from them again. 

Some of the comments made it very clear that people are confused.  I tell my folks that if they want that money, they have to show the universe and get up early, try more than once, never take no for an answer.  Eight of eight people who applied for unemployment are getting it.  The business qualified and got a payroll protection loan from the SBA.

If you worked 4th quarter 2019 and paid taxes, and you worked 1st quarter 2020 and paid taxes, you should be getting unemployment unless you are wealthy and if you are wealthy, you don't need the help.
Question 5  How has the lockdown changed my daily work life?

This is a bad question, or my choices weren't good.  With half the respondents replying 'other', I had to count and format the comments resulting from the 'other' category to see where the tribe sits, workwise.

Approximately 1/5th 'no change, already working from home'.  Approximately 1/5th retired, approximately 1/5th working, 15% on furlough (approximately 1/6th), 8% home with the kids (1/12th),  and ten percent includes overworked and underworked health care professionals, caretakers and students.

Question 6 Measuring Transience - Has the lockdown changed your living situation?

Nearly 82% of the respondents said 'no change' in living situation.  That's good.  We have seen people coming and going from our place, seeking refuge, seeking solace, and we wondered if it was happening elsewhere.  The comments reek with separation sadness, "I can't visit my girlfriend", "I can't see my grandkids", but otherwise, this respondent group has food and shelter, it seems.

Question #7 - What do you do with your extra time?

4 of 10 people, according to our small survey, are investing more time in meal planning and cooking, more time in prayer and spirituality, more time cleaning and organizing, and more time sleeping and resting.  This is the healing of mind-body-soul going on here, you know, right?

I know I pray more when certain sisters are cooking. 

I certainly pray more loudly when it is time to clean and organize, kind of like this, "Mother Goddess, don't let me kill the people who mess this up when I'm done."

The comments that came with Question 7 were like the people they represent.  Varied and contrasty.

From words of hope:  life is fair, hang in there, words that make us smile.  To words of despair, that call us to prayer . . . "severe depression  . . . creatively frozen".  Most of the words, however, reflect what we are doing here . . . more time gardening, yoga practice, sewing, knitting, reading, writing, praying, making things, fixing things.

Q9 If you believe in magic fairies, what would you ask them to bring you right now?

The highest-scoring category (no pun intended) was the 'ounce of good weed' answer to the question of what you would have your magic fairy bring you right now.

Q10 Have you developed any new routines since lockdown happened?

The good news is that 45% of the respondents day they implemented healthier habits and only15% say they adopted some unhealthy habits.  18% they are sleeping better, but 21% say that sleep is harder for them to come by.

Here is a link to our favorite song, May All Mothers Know That They Are Loved (Circle of Women)

Support the sisters this mother's day by making a purchase from the Sisters' store.  The month of May brings two new products, the fresh sweet-grass braids burned for abundance and the cotton washable designer masks.

Sisters of the Valley LLC
3144 G Street, Suite 125-205
Merced, CA  95388
209 626 6003 MTW only during shelter in place

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Hemp Seeds and Politicans

No, we haven’t resolved our business banking challenges. 

Yes, Congress has passed the Safe Banking Act (for cannabis and hemp businesses), but the Senate hasn’t yet.

No, we can’t grow our operations here in Merced County. 

Yes, we’ve already moved ¼ million in sales a year north to another enclave in another town.
Yes, we’ve replaced 4 of the 5 people who quit during the shit-storm, but those jobs were created for women two counties away, because, you know, it’s still a ‘no’ to having a business permit from the county.

The hold-up on business banking is because we don’t have this permit.  We have banks in North Carolina, Nevada, and Arkansas who will take us as clients if we just had that little piece of paper.  So our growth and progress is being stalled by Merced County.  

A politician from Washington DC came to see us this week.  Someone keenly interested in hemp for the planet and the people.  I won’t say if it was a congressman, a senator, or Trump, but it was one of them . . . and the entourage.

“Hook up with a University”, the visiting important person said.

“I would love to do that, Senator, Congressman, President” (can’t say), “But the problem is the Universities themselves are engaging in a tremendous amount of corruption in regard to researching hemp and cannabis.”

“How’s that?” person-of-political-influence says.

“I will give you two recent examples.” I explained.  “One is our very own UC Merced, where a $5 million grant from an anonymous pharmaceutical company was endowed on them to prove that cannabis smoking leads to cigarette smoking.”    

The politicians roll their eyes.

“Yes, and it’s soooo very interesting that $5M was awarded but $3.5 million made it to the study group.  So there’s shit upon shit here.”

The politician nodded.

“Next example.  New York Medical Research facility.  Asking to purchase a bulk lot of our CBD oils for their study. Further questioning determines that they care far more about their money than the study, and want to give chronic pain users 3 mg a day of CBD.  Or 6, if they feel generous.  3 mg in the morning and 3 mg a night.  That is 1/10th of the starting dosage for people in pain.  I explained that the dosage was far too small and didn’t take into account the size of the patient.  They didn’t care.  We said ‘no’ to supplying them because they are trying to prove CBD won’t help, by giving the least amount possible.”

The politician person was perturbed, but not surprised.  Sadly. 

Every attack on us this year was solved by throwing money at it.  That’s how capitalism works.  The cease and desist, ka-ching, the movement of wholesale to another enclave, ka-ching, the quitting of two finance people who both left me surprise bills, $12K vendor bill and $8K legal bill, ka-ching, lost health insurance (it turns out Anthem Blue Cross doesn’t take payment in cash), stacked up taxes that couldn’t be paid (will be paid, but even being late on all this is something we didn’t engineer!), opinion paper from the attorneys -- ka-ching.  Mastercard compliance needs us to have an office in London and it can’t be Southampton where Matt is, where the money could benefit someone in the enclave, NOOOO, it must be a WeWork office and no one in our shop benefits from that . . . .the lawyers, the fix-it guys, the list goes on.

Every job became a work-from-home job and 4 of the 6 sisters were moved off the farm in order to stay compliant with our farm mortgage, to keep homeowner’s insurance.

All of these things together caused financial chaos we are still reeling from.  We never shut down our store, we never have had any problems with our credit card processors, and we only paid salaries in cash for one week.  We never switched to cash sales as the universe seemed to encourage us to do.  

As I told every tax bureaus and professional who would listen, ‘If we have to go cash, that’s the same as shutting down, because I can’t put the sisters at risk!’

Three things are in the works to help us set ourselves right after the storm.  One, my ex-husband is likely to come through with a settlement from our court hearing in September.  Even though I have to fight for every dollar he hid, I do like to say to people ‘Do you like the farm?  My ex- bought it for us!’  And now, I am hoping this last court round awards enough to pay the debt we incurred this year and perhaps build us a greenhouse.  I can just hear it now.  “Do you like the green-house?  My ex- bought it for us!”

He’s a master at using the courts to delay, as evidence by the fact that this is our 12th year of litigation . . . . so plan A, though sweet, and just, has to come with Plan B and Plan C.

Plan B is to raise $30K by selling our metaphor dolls and if we can do that, we take some stress off the business.  They are kind of expensive, but all hand-made by the Sisters.  They are called ‘metaphor dolls’ because they are metaphors for throw-away women.  We find them naked and forlorn at flea markets, clean them up, give them spiritual, choice-filled, purpose-driven lives, and (unlike the real weed-nuns), they smile allllll the time!

Plan C is the hemp seed crop that will be harvested in front of Dutch filmmakers the end of the month.  We are designing the seed envelopes now.  All these seeds came from clones from Big Bertha, who sprouted suddenly, out of line, on her own, without intention, in the backyard in the Spring of 2018.  By the Fall, she was the tallest and grandest and she was the plant that Nesta crawled inside on Ollie’s music video, Sex, Weed, TV.  She was amazing and forgiving, and we abused her for film because she grew out of line.  There is a lesson in here.  She wasn’t important to us – because she grew out of line. 

I remember the day that Rudy said, “Sister Kate, look” and he pointed to a little plant on the ground that was struggling to meet the sun, only about six inches tall.  “How did that get there?” I asked.  He shrugged.  “Just happened, I guess.  Random seed, wind, it happens.”

We just stood there for a moment staring at her.  “I guess you should put a little fence around her so that no one steps on her.”

“She’s out of line.” Rudy said, pointing to the rows of plants that were geometrically symmetrical.

“So am I.” I said dryly.  “Most of the time.”  Rudy must have liked my answer, because he took real good care of her and she grew up to give us over 12% CBD and less than ½% THC, as well as thirty clones that became our long season crop for 2019.  

By the way, we didn’t set out to make a seed crop.  Because of the hemp ban, because of the cease and desist, and because of the loss of banking, all in the same month, we really thought we were going to have to shut down the business and move entirely to another county.  One doesn’t put a crop in the ground if they are planning to leave.  It was mid-July before we planted and we decided that because a plant crop would not be abundant, and because all the plants were clones of Big Bertha, we would engineer for a seed crop.  That’s how we got here.  Hoping to make lemons from lemonade.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

On the Path to Hollywood

When Jackie Huntington first reached out to us, over a year ago, to ask if we would consider being in and hosting on our farm Ollie and Nesta, to make a music video, we listened to the music and immediately fell in love with Ollie.  We didn’t know who the artist was, when Jackie first approached.  We guessed Taylor Swift or Halsey.  We debated about it for weeks, as we listened and thought about it. 

More than one good, strong, Sister came to us as a result of watching Jackie’ Refinery 29, her short documentary on us.  There isn’t much Jackie could ask of us, that we would deny her.

We often accept requests from odd places (the Charlo Green show), and sometimes regret those decisions, but in this case, I convinced reluctant and saintly Sister Sierra that the song isn’t really about having sex and smoking weed and getting couch-locked.  I convinced her that the song is about what happens when one doesn’t have a purpose-driven life.  She accepted that and we agreed to hosting and playing our part in Jackie’s production.  (Merced county should thank us for the people we bring into the valley.  People who rent camera equipment, trucks, and stay in hotels, eat at restaurants, and fuel their cars, locally.  Just saying.)

Our next interaction with Ollie, and her manager, Evan, was in the release party for the Sex, Weed, TV music video in December.  We got to know Ollie a bit better on that trip.  And our next interaction was just this past weekend, as we came to Hollywood to rehearse and perform as the Supremes to her Diana Ross.  Ollie is a sweetheart and it was touching to form a circle before our performance and pray together, for blessings from Mother Goddess, for her success, and so the Sisters didn’t trip and fall on our asses with all the cords and equipment on the small stage. 

It just so happened that on our way down to Los Angeles, we stopped in Santa Barbara to attend the film festival and answer questions after the two showings.  I was so thankful to have Sister Alice and Sister Sierra by my side, happy to sing with me for the audience, a Randy Rainbow song, ‘All About His Base’.

Our first showing was sold out and our second showing was very well attended for 8:20 a.m. on a Sunday morning.  Breaking Habits (the movie) was well-received.  The audience had great questions and it was fun to answer them with Rob Ryan standing next to me, the award-winning producer of our documentary film.

“The film shows a picture of you with two boys, where is your other son?”  Easy.  He’s an engineer on the coast and has kept his social media distance since his university days, when I was Sister Occupy.  He has a career to protect, is all. 

“Can you speak numbers? Numbers of Sisters?  Numbers of sales units?”  Easy peasy, as well.  I did.  I gave her the best numbers I had readily available in the filing cabinet in my head, annual history of gross sales, salary ranges, and explained how I now have to guess at the number of sisters because other orders are growing and other sisters have been given the authority to bring in others, in other countries, like Canada and the U.K. and New Zealand.

“Is there anything about the making of the film that either of you would like to share?”  (Don’t go there, Brother Rob, I whisper, and he smiles, relieved that we don’t have to pick at the still-tender sores of the difficulties we traversed to get to this point of standing on that stage, taking questions from a kind, considerate, and educated audience.)

Good Deeds Entertainment informed us that the highway 101 was closed in the early afternoon of the day of our red-carpet walk, and that the red-carpet walk has been postponed.  Their representative also asked if we could stay another night.  I was so relieved.  I feel like I personally prayed away the red-carpet walk.  “Glen Close had to turn around go back to Los Angeles, but she’ll be here tomorrow night and the red carpet is on for tomorrow night if you can stay . . .”  I was so relieved we had to be in Hollywood for a rehearsal and couldn’t stay.  I wanted to confess that I prayed away our red-carpet walk (as much as I would have liked to meet Glen Close), because it’s unhumble and, frankly, stupid, in my opinion.  I get that Hollywood does it, and I get why they do it, and it’s not stupid at all for Glen Close, it’s logical, but it’s illogical for sister servants to be doing that kind of stuff.  I would rather smoke five joints on tv and pass out on a red carpet, then walk one.  Maybe my other sisters don’t feel the same, but I made it go away, anyway.  Or Mother Goddess did.  Same result. 

When we finally arrived at the Bardot Theater in Los Angeles Monday night at nine p.m. for our performance, we had all had sick stomachs all day, and alternated trying to get our attention off of the upcoming performance, and gathering to practice.  Our job was to sing Nesta’s lines in the “Sex Weed TV” number and the chorus for “Please Don’t F*** Up the Whole World, Mr. President”.

We had to rap these lines:

                All I ever do is trying hearing you out when you have a problem you know you can bring it to me.

That’s the first line.  No punctuation.  No pause, one breath, one long sentence with three little ones in it.

                Tired of 9 to 5, too much time this regular life is taking from me.
                I gotta slide, when I’m low, I know you’re coming like medication for me.
                High, take a ride, I am so over this week.

A nice man named Mark, whisked us out of the crowd and gave us a personal tour of the theater.  We saw the den where the rat-pack once hung out, the stage where the Jerry Lewis show was filmed, where the Hollywood Palace was filmed, and where Judy Garland performed.

We had time to kill and after practicing on that same stage for a half hour, we went into the room that was a private lounge for those very stars, not more than forty years ago. 

After all the excitement of practicing on a world-famous stage, touring the behind the scenes bungalow of the stars, we sat quietly in Jerry Lewis’ dressing room and wondered how we got here.  

“They say, look at what you were doing when you were seven years old, and that’s your destiny or calling.”

“What were you doing, then?” I asked Sierra in response to her profundity. 

“Oh, I was wanting to learn guitar, but my mother was troubled and she used it as a weapon against me so I wasn’t much encouraged.  But I liked music.” Sierra answered.

“I was gathering up the neighborhood children, with a white pillowcase on my head to mimic Sister Cecilia and organizing musical talent shows.” I confessed.

“Funny thing,” said Sister Alice wistfully.  “I was organizing my dolls and teddy bears to be my audience and stage-props as I performed musical commercials.” 

We laughed.  And then it was quiet again.  The brothers were somewhere out of earshot.

“But now we have gone from singing about sex, weed, and tv, to saying the ‘f’ word and shouting ‘asshole’,” Sister Sierra mused aloud, ever protecting our image – ever-protecting our name.

“Do you think people are really bothered by that, when our president is putting children in cages?” Sister Alice countered.  "We aren’t supposed to swear even when swearing is called for?”

“It feels like a slippery slope,” I said.

“What, you think if someone lays out a line of cocaine here, we’re going to lean forward with rolled up dollar bills?”  Alice asked, making the two of us laugh at the image.  “You girls worry too much,” Alice lectured.  “We are taking on the tough issues, and the Goddess has our backs.”  She was right.  “And anyway,” she added, “This is Ollie’s show.  We are simply back-up to her music.  When we do our own music, we don’t use any of those words.”

We spent the next ten minutes walking up and down staircases that seemed to go somewhere, but it was an optical illusion.  It seemed every route led to locked doors.  We started to get frightened that we would miss the performance and made our way back near the main stage where we started, to get help getting out.

We formed a prayer circle for a second time, Ollie, Sierra, Alice, me, and said a final quick prayer that gave us the courage to bounce onto a stage that had hundreds of people cheering us.  Maybe not hundreds.  It just felt like that many.

When we sang, we put our hearts into it, for Ollie, for Evan, for the musicians and musical appreciators gathered.  It was a magical experience for all of us, and this time, we are very happy we swallowed the fear and walked right into it.  Ollie and Jackie have promised to join us on the farm sometime in the next two moons, for a quiet retreat, as the anti-dote to the glamour and glitz. 

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Sister Mary Batshit Crazy

While I was living in Amsterdam, I wrote a book called ‘Thigh Freedom’, and what I remember from that is that my heroine of the story smoked a joint and the publishers made me write that out.  That was only fifteen years ago.  Now I fend calls with offers for movies, films, documentaries, animated series, on the very subject.  Now foreign governments ask us to come speak at their conferences on the subject, mainstream media asks us to smoke a joint for their cameras before they leave.  The Chamber of Commerce visits the farm and they all take selfies with the plants.  How much the world has changed!

‘Thigh Freedom’ (by the way) is a modern-day story where the heroine is trapped in a miserable marriage (I had to do something with all that divorce angst) and she reads a novel about her ancestral heritage and learns that pre-Christianity, according to Celtic lore, the month of May is the month where all married women get to exercise their ‘thigh freedom’ and cavort with other men – only married women with other married men (so as not to upset whatever was going on with the young courting folks). 

It was custom and culture and if babies sprung from such unions, they were raised by the woman’s family, along with the other children, without a thought to genetic origins.  The idea captured my imagination (just for being so radical), and I wrote a modern-day story where the heroin decides that every tenth year of marriage, for the whole year, would be her thigh freedom year.  It seemed more practical.  More adapted to current times.  And she embarks on a journey which ultimately lands her back with her husband, living happily ever after.

In my own divorce situation, there was no happily-ever-after, so I poured my energies into that book as a form of therapy.  When the interested publishers told me that I had to take all references to weed out of the story, I lost my ‘zin’ for publishing it and it has sat on a shelf, since.

Xaviera Hollander, a friend from Europe, loved the book and encouraged me to get it published, but I didn’t have time.  I was distracted by a raging custody battle and the re-settlement of my children in America after nearly a decade in the Netherlands.  

Eighteen months after returning to America, I found myself poor and frightened in a strange city, as I chose poverty and escape from Kentucky over staying trapped in a state that was presented to me as a temporary landing place.  My ex- talked me into moving to Kentucky from Europe (good God!), by convincing me that we would only live there temporarily.  But when I got to Kentucky, he informed me that I am penniless, he seized all my business funds, I should go ahead and divorce him, he said, because he had all the money and had decided to make his retirement permanent (with three children in middle school), and decided I could support us on my own.  He knew I would file for divorce -- he stole over a million dollars from my business, a business I founded and worked in, while he stayed at home and played house-husband with a housekeeper, cook, a gardener and a driver.    

In the end, he wanted the divorce to happen in Kentucky where the courts favor their Kentucky boys.  I call Northern Kentucky ‘the penis fly trap’ for the way the men of that place trap Yankee women.

This was only one of two very dark and frightening periods of my life.  It was in this period, that Xaviera called and offered me an advance for ghost-writing a book for her.  It was a sex tip book for men, using the best of the best quotes from her 32 years publishing her ‘Call Me Madame’ column in Penthouse magazine.  Her tips for men are wrapped up in the philosophy that women have three clits:  a brain clit, a heart clit, and a body clit.  The heart clit has to be made to feel safe, the brain clit has to be made to feel ‘unsafe’ or challenged, and the body clit will follow.  That’s the nutshell of the wrappings, but there were great quotes from modern-day celebrities on the subject of sex and love.  My personal favorite is Sharon Stone’s:  Women may be able to fake orgasm, but men can fake whole relationships.  Boom!

Just this fall, I published my own story, the Accidental Nun.   A two-year project that took four years to come to fruition.  The sex-tip book with Xaviera was purely for the money.  The ‘Thigh Freedom’ book was purely for the therapy.   The Accidental Nun was an attempt to de-mystify my journey.  Two of those books made it to market.

Like many other people, I have wounds I carry and try to heal.  I have been betrayed twice by men I completely trusted, an ex-husband who stole from me, abused me, and then by a brother who pretended to rescue me, but made me homeless in a fit of temper and then stuck with it.  All of that formed me, however, and gave me the courage to set out and create a Beguine Sisterhood. 

Although I am living a life of celibate devotion, I still love men.  I wouldn’t want to build anything without them.  I wouldn’t want to live without them in my life.  We have Brothers here now who take their jobs with us seriously.  They are grounded, respectful, protective.
I see the actions of my ex-husband and my brother a sickness in our society, where men beat their chests and make women and children homeless over pride.  All over a false sense of pride.  I want our children to have it a little better.  I want a world of less suffering.  And I certainly don’t believe that men have cornered the market on bad behavior.

On the farm now, after much turmoil, peace and serenity have finally arrived.  I didn’t realize when I set out on this journey five short years ago, that a large part of my job would be sorting out the bat-shit crazy from the regular-every-day crazy in order to keep us marching forward, harmoniously and peaceably.

Our first two farm managers had severe drug problems that were well-hidden from us.  I call them Brother Tweeker 1 and Brother Tweeker 2.   It works like this, I hired them when they had both been poor for a long time and, thus, were clean.  And they were fine for two to three months.  As soon as financial stability came, however, they began indulging in hard drugs (not together, these were consecutive hires).  One we called out as soon as raging became a part of his normal activities with the sisters.  It appears he raged when he ran out.  And he wasn’t particular about who or what he raged about. 

The man who replaced him, Brother Tweeker 2, had the same thing going on, minus the rage.  First two to three months – just fine.  Then financial stability comes from working and then come the hard drugs.  He didn’t rage -- he just started doing bizarre things like showing up on the farm on a Sunday afternoon and putting a lasagna in our oven (!) when it was 105 degrees outside – without a word to anyone, with just a nod, like it was normal and expected.  They weren’t crazy. They were addicts.

The bat-shit crazy came from the wanna-be sisters who came through here.  Over the first two years, I had to dismiss many Sister Mary’s.  Sister Mary Natzi Vegan, Sister Mary Full-On Wiccan, Sister Mary Got-Any-Oxy?, Sister Mary – May I Sleep with Your Son? Sister Mary Polyamorous, Sister Mary Platitude, Sister Mary can’t wake up and Sister Mary can’t shut up. Of all of them, the last was probably the most intolerable to me.

As we stand at the precipice of launching our second sister farm, I can’t help but wonder how the other sisters who will be managing the crazy they must juggle -- their own and others.  These are very crazy times and the energies of the planet reflect that.  Yet, it is vital to the growth of the sisterhood that we manage the people well.  That we select the right people.  We cannot be sidelined by individuals, when we have a global calling.  We will be criticized for our focus.  So, what?  Some will say, why didn’t you help rehabilitate those addicts?  Why didn’t you put medicine on those women?  The answers to that are easy for me.  Firstly, they didn’t ask.  Secondly, we do not exist to conform to the individual needs of the enclave.  We have a higher calling.  And we can’t be distracted by anyone other than our own people, when and if they need us. 

We spend all day, every day, getting the word out about CBD, taking calls from sick people, helping them figure out their path with the natural medicine.  We need strong people around us to help us fulfill the mission.  We are all broken a little, and we all need a healing place to live and work.  We require a healing place to work.  But that doesn’t mean we are Lourdes.  We don’t do miracles.  We are ordinary women who are on a serious mission.

Speaking of Lourdes, this past summer I had the opportunity to impersonate my own sister.  It was a hot August Saturday.  We try not to work on weekends, as we consider that a form of slavery.  It happens, sometimes, but it’s not our normal.  Our normal is the farm is very quiet on the weekends.  This Saturday, the doorbell rang to the abbey.  I was in shorts and a wife-beater t-shirt.  I quickly put a scarf on my head (as if that made up for the rest of me showing) and answered the door.  I saw a big tour bus parked outside and people with walkers and canes getting out. 

The bus driver apologized and told me his tour wanted very much to stop here to meet the sisters and he complied.  I had no idea how they got our address, so I was stunned at first. 
“The Sisters aren’t here today,” I said in wonder, trying to figure out how many people were on that bus. 

“Where are they?” an elderly Asian woman asked. 

“I don’t know.” I said, extending my hand to the bus-driver, to the old Asian woman who was, apparently, the ring-leader.  “I am Sister Kate’s sister, Shari, visiting from Wisconsin and I don’t know.  I think they went into the city to run errands.”

The woman had to adjust her cane a bit to extend her hand.  “Very nice to meet you, Shari, but we really wanted to see the Sisters.”

“I’m sorry, they aren’t here.” I said again.  The woman was very aggressive and persistent, making me repeat over and over again, that the Sisters weren’t on the farm – that no sisters were on the farm, and that I didn’t know where they were.  When she asked the fifth time, I said in exasperation, “I really have no idea what those bitches do on the weekends, I’m just watching the dogs for them!”  She finally admitted defeat.  I guess that was just un-nunly enough to do the trick.

I gave them the office number, asked them to please schedule their visit and sent them away with a tin of salve each, so they weren’t too terribly disappointed.  My sisters and brothers who are right now starting or figuring out how to start their own sister-farm, are you ready for this?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Hadewijch in the Castle

We believe that we have plugged into a sacred, healing energy stream that is flowing thickly around the planet.  Like reaching up and pulling on a cord of a moving train or tram, we reached up and connected to a higher calling, a pulse of holistic healing, a pulse of returning to ancient ways, that is a comforting drum-beat, growing bigger and louder and more significant to our lives with every passing day.

What we are doing with our new age order of Sisters is not something we created.   It is something we plugged into.  Everything about us is cultural appropriation.  We appropriate everything good that our ancestral mothers learned and practiced. 

We believe in the family values of the stoner culture.  Stoners have had to hang together and protect their own culture for one hundred years of persecution.  Stoners have had to make sacrifices to get along with people and society, a society where conventional wisdom says that cannabis is bad and cannabis smokers are bad.  Stoners have always tolerated this baloney, because they look kindly and patiently upon the ignorant and think, ‘yes, it was once conventional wisdom that the earth is flat.  It was once conventional wisdom that women have smaller brains then men.  It was once conventional wisdom that if you masturbated you would go blind.  But we live in an age of science and your old-paradigm views are adorable in a na├»ve, throw-back kind of way, but untrue none-the-less.’

Stoner values respect and revere the ability to protect boundaries and familial privacy.  Stoner values hold transparency in high regard and secrecy in suspicion.  Stoners respect knowledge and science.  Stoners are generally compassionate, to people and to the planet.  

We also hold fast to the belief that those who attempt to grow weed and attempt commerce in the cannabis space will be foiled if they go against compassionate principles applied to people and the planet.  Those who are ok with fracking, will not be rewarded by their efforts with the plant.  Those who are ok with caging children, those who protect and defend Trump and others of his ilk in other countries (Doug Ford, Therese May), those people can’t grow cannabis and be successful in the healing space.  Those who want to be billionaires just because they want to brag and be like Trump, you will fail.  The plant will not serve you, I promise.  She will choose who she serves and who she doesn’t, and you will fail if you try to cultivate her with false or shallow intentions. 

Those who judge others without trying to understand them, they will not be rewarded by this industry.  And those who are mean to women, they will – especially - be locked out of reaping any rewards on the backs of the magnificent female cannabis plant.

It was springtime in the castle and those whose lives centered around the Beguine sisters, those who farmed, made plant medicine, those who worked day in and day out to alleviate suffering among the town-folk, farm-folk, land-owners and serfs – were busy putting away their tools and chores.  It was hours before their normal quitting time, but if was a special feast-day. 

It was the feast of young Beguine sister and her man, in their mid-twenties, and expecting twin babies.  It is the custom of the Beguines to prepare the first-time parents with gifts and supplies from the tribe.  Dignitaries had gathered.  Some of the Sisters were nervous.  It was an ominous sign that the feast was to be of mixed people.  It wasn’t normal.  It wasn’t custom.  Yet, the abbess had her head turned by the tax collector who wanted to be part of the celebrations and especially, wanted to bring the business of the feast to his relative.  The tax collector had insisted on helping arrange the feast, inside the castle, at the Bear and Steer, a local tavern and eatery owned by his brother-in-law. 

“It is not customary for us to have a public celebration in the castle.  It is custom to have them privately, on the farm,” explained the Abbess that day in the foyer of the house on the farm – that day the tax collector had unexpectedly stopped in.

“You know, it hasn’t escaped my attention,” said the tax collector to Sister Hadewijch, “That the castle governors don’t know you are growing cannabis to put in your potions.  If they knew, they would put a special tax on you or, even, they could shut you down.” He threatened.  Sister Hadewijch sighed and agreed to have the baby shower in the castle, in a public place, in a place where ‘others’ might be.  “And I’m going to invited everyone from my office” said the tax collector on his way out the door.

Hadewijch sighed.  Somehow, she knew there would be trouble.  She didn’t know what form, she just knew there would be. 

It turned out to be the fact that the very-pregnant mother smoked cannabis at the baby shower that brought the town to buzzing.  It brought out all the righteous indignation of those who know so little.  The Sisters and Brothers weren’t back on the farm a fortnight before word came that the town was buzzing about the cannabis consumption that happened inside castle walls (gasp!) and by the mother with the babies in her belly, no less!  Right in the alley behind the Bear and Steer, right before Goddess Mother and the world!  Double gasp!!

The Beguine elders who paid for the celebration, the elders who agreed to make this celebration open to non-tribal members, hadn’t considered the mother-to-be’s eating disorder.  They hadn't considered that the town-folk had no reason to know that the young mother requires a small amount of THC before each meal to stimulate her appetite. 

“Do you think our taxes will be raised because of this?” asked Sister Sierra.

“Do you think those wankers are going to get vengeful?” asked Sister Alice.

“Nonsense,” said Hadewijch to the gathered Sisters and Brothers.  “Do not fear these people and do not hold these people in contempt for their ignorance but look kindly on them as if they are mis-informed children.  You don’t get angry at a child for not understanding algebra, do you?  We are a complicated order.  We are not simple, as many would like us to be.  We are like a beautiful onion with many layers to be peeled off.  We are foremost, compassionate healers.  We were gathered to celebrate more than the coming of the twin babies.  We were gathered also to celebrate the healing of the mother-to-be and the father-to-be under our own tender care, using our own natural ways.  These townsfolk don’t know that the father, four years ago, admitted himself to a recovery clinic nearly dead from overdosing meth?  Or that his meth habit was actually a step better than his addiction to cutting himself?  These town-folk don’t know that the mother-to-be is severely anorexic due to family trauma and malnutrition experienced as a young child . . . nor that cannabis allowed her to keep eating what she must through-out her pregnancy to nourish those children and bear them to birth successfully.  The town-folk don’t know any of these important facts.”

“Will you tell them, Sister?” asked a young postulant.

“No, I will not.” Hadewijch answered quickly.  “They must learn these things on their own.” 

The Elder Beguine paused and took a sip of water from a pewter mug.  Setting the mug down, she continued, “They will not know our personal stories.  They will have to find their own way to the truth.  The town-folk will never know that those babies were scheduled to be aborted.  That the mother believed she would die in child-birth, something an old, white-man castle-doctor told her years earlier.  She believed her anorexia would overtake both of them, that she would be unable to eat, and that she and they would die (at best) or they would be born deformed (at worst) and that only the herb calmed those fears and gave her the certainty and strength she needed to go forward with the pregnancy.  Only the Sisters’ assurances that we would not judge her or fault her for continuing to use cannabis as her medicine through-out the pregnancy convinced her not to abort the babies she was sure would come deformed.  The Sisters all know first-hand how she relies on the THC to stimulate her appetite before each meal.  She smokes so that she can eat like normal folks do."  Hadewijch stood up from her place at the table.

“What about the tax collector?” asked an Elder Sister. 

“The tax collector has put us in jeopardy,” Sister Hadewijch said plainly.  “I will have a word with him, at some point.  If there are no further questions, I have much work to do and one of you should be checking up on our soon-to-be-mom.  It’s nearly 4:20 and we want her to eat a full dinner.”

When our young Sister arrived at the hospital eighteen days before the due date of the twins in her belly, she admitted naively and calmly to the check-in nurse that she had smoked a joint the day before.  I wasn’t with her.  I would have warned her that this is Merced.  This is a place that once, not long ago, a mother having weed in her system was reason for the health insurance to be cancelled and for Child Protective Services to be called in.  My millennial Sister knows the law and knows her rights as a medical patient.  She told the truth.  Her truth caused the hospital staff treat us all like trash until the babies’ toxicology report came back and showed there was no THC in their systems.  The mother smoked a high-THC joint the day before, but no THC was registered in the babies immediately after birth.  That fact made curiosity over-ride hostility with the medical staff in obstetrics.   

“Hadewijch, why are they being so mean?” asked the young man earnestly.  “Why do the castle-keepers not allow me to be with my wife, now, while they are poking and prodding at her?  Why can’t I be there to hold her hand when they give her the epidural?”

The old woman’s sympathy showed all over her face.  “I am so sorry, son,” she said.  “But we are but humble farmers and we do not have the sophisticated, fancy equipment these folks have.”  Hadewijch spoke with her hands, gesturing all the equipment surrounding them where they stood.  “Having twins is not something that should be done at home, with a mid-wife.  Those babies have taken all of the calcium, magnesium and iron out of her system.  She has preeclampsia, high blood pressure, and is at high risk of dying.  The babies are perfectly healthy, and all this we wouldn’t know if we didn’t have access to their hospital, their technology and their technicians.  You cannot expect people who are of science, who are of technology, who let those things define them completely, you cannot expect them to have compassion.  They are not un-compassionate, they just have strange, un-compassionate ways.  I see it like you do!  I see it, but I don’t care, and you mustn’t care either because #1, these are not our people and #2 right now, our people, our Sister, your wife, needs the tools and knowledge they have to spare her life and the lives of those twin babies in her belly.  We are using them, don’t forget, my son.  We are using them.  We do not have to like them or accept them, we must just use them.”

Hadewijch had noticed every slight.  When a nurse asked ‘where’s the papa’ and Hadewijch answered, ‘her husband is out making a phone call’, the other nurse corrected her, saying “they aren’t married, they just live together”.  As if she was on auto-pilot and couldn’t ever miss a chance of putting her two-Christian-cents out into the universe.  The only weddings that mattered were the ones of their culture.  She wished her young Sister had been more careful in answering.

Hadewijch noted how they refused to let anyone be with the young, frightened mother, only twenty-four years of age and fearful of dying.  Afraid of giving birth to monsters because she dabbed THC concentrates during the first three months of her pregnancy, not knowing she was pregnant.  Her eating disorder made her cycle irregular and she was accustomed to not having her period more than having it.  She didn’t learn of her pregnancy until she was half-way through and it was too late, then, to do anything about the concentrates she consumed months prior.

Now she lay frightened and scared and they make her more so by subjecting her to an interview by nazi nurses who don’t give a flip about making her more uncomfortable, by daughters-of-science who won’t allow her to have her loved ones by her side. 

Hadewijch saw it. She saw their bully tactics, which seemed brutal to all of them, to her, to Father/Brother Dwight, to the expecting young parents, in stark contrast to the gentle and respectful healing they practice in their tribe.  But she didn’t judge them for it.  She prayed for their enlightenment.  She thanked them for what they did know.  How to run a blood pressure machine.  How to check the urine for danger signs.  How to measure the baby’s heartbeats.  They have tools.  And they know things that will help our Sister through this, she reminded herself and the nervous father-to-be.  We are in their land, seeking their help.  We must respect their ways.  It is our way, she reminded them both.

After the healthy babies were born, doctors and nurses came by to chat more respectfully.  Someone finally asked the new mama why she had smoked cannabis and finally, my lovely young Sister/Daughter was allowed to explain about her eating disorder.  Those who were once hostile suddenly became compassionate.  I told my young Sister that perhaps, going forward, she should lead with that information. 

It was two weeks ago today that the babies were born and in two days, it will be two weeks since they left the hospital to live in a cocoon of love, tended by their parents, their Oma and Opa, their Tante and Ohm.  Kept secluded in a little apartment, far from noise and hustle.  They gain weight and color and their mother gains her health back.  And we are back, all of us, to working and mingling with people who respect cannabis as a medicine – one people, one tribe.