Author Archives: Bettina Colonna Essert

About Bettina Colonna Essert

Illuminated Magdalene High Priestess and facilitator of empowerment and healing circles for girls and women, including a monthly Red Tent Temple. BA in English, minor in anthropology. Waldorf homeschool mom. Reiki master, cranial sacral therapist, herbalist, menstruvist, feminist, epicurian.

Herstory, Week 1

Before class read: The Yellow Wallpaper. Watch: Becoming Jane.

Consider what it was like to be a woman during the Victorian Era.

Did women and men work together?
Did women work jobs outside the home and receive pay?
What were the expectations for women during this time period?
What were the expectations for:
clothing; behavior; education; skills; life path; work; religion?
Has anything changed for women today?


Categories: homeschool | Leave a comment

Dear Rosetta Stone, I hate you

There are very few things in this world I hate but Rosetta Stone? You are quickly achieving the top of the list.

Last year, on May 26th, I ordered a *Lifetime Family Pack Italian Online Program* from you. I received 5 codes to go with this subscription. 2 of them were quickly activated by my daughters. Just 2 weeks ago, I attempted to use a 3rd code so that I could enjoy learning Italian, too. Oddly, *the codes had expired*. Maybe I missed it in the fine print, the part where it must have told me that even though I was paying for a *Lifetime Family Pack Italian Online Program*, the codes would expire (in under a year) and that I would have to email, message, make telephone calls and open 1,001 doors in an effort to claim what I have already paid for…and then? I’d be given only 12 months access.

This customer service hellhole is ridiculous. Your expiring customer codes are ridiculous. The fact that your CS reps refuse to provide me the same product that *I have already paid for* is worse than ridiculous.

It doesn’t seem too much to ask that I have access to the product that I paid for, does it? Not to any normal person or any ethical business, it doesn’t.

I’m activating the codes for the 1 year subscriptions, not because I think that what you have provided me is adequate, but because its the *only* thing you’ve provided, besides unprofessional customer service and rude emails.

I will *never* recommend your product, based on this fiasco, which would have been incredibly easily fixed by simply providing new, lifetime access, customer codes for the 3 not-yet-activated accounts I had left, but no, I’ve spent a minimum of 15 hours futzing around with this over the past 2 weeks to no avail. Typically I bill at $50 per hour. I’ve now spent over $1,000 on your product with very little result.

My review on Rosetta Stone: The product was only provided for a few months after purchase, rather than the ‘lifetime’ promised; the customer service people made ineffective efforts and after weeks of trying, finally provided me with a replacement product that is good for 12 months, rather than the ‘lifetime’ I paid for; the turn-around time was extremely slow for online contact, email contact and the telephone contact was ineffectual; the emails were rude; no clue about the product as I’ve only just gotten access to it today.

Categories: homeschool | Leave a comment

Easy English at Home

My daughter, Martina, is following along with the Easy English class from home. Here is her pojack of the same poem the class used.

I am not the wind

I am not the wind

that fluctuating fickleness.

And I am not the dainty flower

which is beautiful weakness personified.

And I am not the sparkling snow

that is childhood joy killed by the warmth.

Nor am I the leaves nor sands nor clouds

which shift and fall and break.

No, I am none of those disappearing

things, not ever.

by: Martina Rose, 2/20/15

Categories: homeschool | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Easy English, Poetry, Day 1 of class

Today the students did a beautiful job of ‘pojacking’ a piece written by Mary Oliver called, “I’m Not The River.” Pojacking is hijacking a poem that you admire and using the structure, rhythm, rhyme scheme or other elements of the original poem as a frame for your own piece of writing. It is a great way to build confidence for reluctant writers…and not so reluctant writers. It is also a very non-assertive way to learn a few rules about poetry without actually discussing them.

We did discuss many things about writing in general and about poetry before we began but I won’t bore you with those details, here is the original poem by Ms. Oliver:


I’m not the river
that powerful presence.
And I’m not the black oak tree
which is patience personified.
And I’m not redbird
who is a brief life heartily enjoyed.
Nor am I mud nor rock nor sand
which is holding everything together.
No, I am none of these things. Not yet.

and here is what the students came up with based on her poem:


I am the war god
that fearless, mighty force
And I’m not a brittle twig
Which is weakness personified
I’m not the aurora
who is a dark night brightly lit
Nor am I a puppy nor wax nor fat
Which are kindness, softness, love
I shun those things. I fight, I slay.
I go to war.

This class is going to be AWESOME! Even if some of the students don’t realize it yet.


Categories: Easy English, homeschool, language arts, ObX, Weekly Summary | 1 Comment

Pink Tent #3

For our 3rd meeting, we focused on Sizes and Moods, two things the girls have expressed a great deal of interest in. In honor of one of our attendees and my Shamanic Priestess friend, we did not do full body dancing. Instead, we played a song and did ‘Thumb Dancing, with Slight Upper Body Movement.’ It was hilarious and fun and everyone participated which isn’t always the case with full body dancing! By the end our thumbs were exhausted and we were all giggling like crazy people.

Our story for the week was The Descent of Inanna. I used Starhawk’s version from Circle Round. It was perfect–long enough, written in a way that was easy to read and understand. I explained to the girls that being women means we all make this descent into the underworld and that it is well and good for us to do so, that having moods, even dark moods, is to be honored and expected and that these moods are nothing to be ashamed of. I read a couple of excerpts from Circle of Stones that ask “How would things be different…” if we had a woman who would sit with us when we were sad or angry or depressed, if we had someone, a woman, who would sit with us and just honor our mood and our feelings?

We took a few minutes during which the girls could ask questions or to allow them to process before moving on to…

Sizes! This was much more fun. Each girl in turn described what she had learned about the sizes and shapes of her grandparents and what her parents sizes and shapes were. She then told us what she expected her own size to be when she is completely finished growing. Patricia, my co-leader even brought a scrapbook for her daughter with photographs of both sides of her daughter’s family (Mom’s and Dad’s). It was very cool and interesting and I think it really helped the girls understand why some of them are Pixie-like and others more Amazonian.

We adults tried really hard to get out of there at the end of the first hour so that the girls would have plenty of time to talk among themselves, which they never do! The girls had their time for chatting and snacking while we leaders chatted in another room. The girls really enjoy their time with each other and want more of this space to simply be with one another to talk and giggle without any classes or sports or other agenda.

To end we did a grounding meditation. We have been doing yoga but because our space is so small, there really is not room for it. The meditation did seem to ground the girls and we ended on a sweet, peaceful note.

I’m not sure how the Pink Tent mamas feel about the girls staying for longer…or how we leaders feel about it, either. It’s a good sign, I think, that they are enjoying one another so much and are building a trusting community of friends.


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Pink Tent #2

At some point there must be a more creative way to discern between the Pink Tent posts! This will be short, like our meeting.

It was a dark and rainy night. There were late cookie deliveries and two frenetic, stressed out leaders and there were 6 girls waiting…

This time the girls were a bit less trepidacious than at our first meeting but there was still a bit of tension. We opened with music by Mumford and Sons, danced a little, and sat down for the story of La Mariposa, from Clarissa Pinkola Estes book, Women Who Run With the Wolves. It was a long read given that I began with some of the body image stuff from the beginning of the chapter before moving into the actual story. The girls managed to mostly stay with me, though.

Then Patricia took over and we addressed the ‘G’: growing, changing bodies. We did some talking about topical things then moved to self-image (‘I’= image. If you read the first post, you may remember that our topics for discussion are G.I.R.L.S. G-growing,changing bodies; I-image/self image; R-relationships; L-love/hate; S-stuff!)

Once chatter died down, we moved on to Stuff, then we did the ‘flooding’ in which each girl is told one nice thing about herself by each of the other girls. This is a challenge but they love it! Rules are that it’s okay to repeat yourself or the other girls; you have to make whatever you say an honest compliment; there can be no sarcasm; there is no negative self-talk when you’re trying to think of something; take your time!; keep it real. From a personal perspective, I really see my own girl trying to live up to the kind words her peers have for her.

After this, the leaders leave the girls to snack and chat, hopefully on-topic and definitely as a group and not as little clusters or pairs. We try and give them 45-50 minutes for this but we had a slow start and thus they didn’t get enough time–and they were vocal about their need for more of that! It’s good to know that there will be a next time and that it’s okay to be a little less than perfect because we get a do-over.

Patricia led us in an earth salutation which may have helped some girls ground more than it did others. They were a giggly bunch as they headed out the front door.

Categories: GIRLS, Pink Tent | 1 Comment

Pink Tent, the First One

In back of our house is a shed that looks like a cottage. It is small, 10×14 or so and painted pumpkin orange inside. Eventually it is supposed to become my Reiki studio and herbal apothecary space but for now the door is a little leaky and so it is used primarily for our monthly Red Tent temple and the occasional meditation when it’s not too cold. Now it is also used for our Pink Tents temples for the young women.

For our first meeting the layout was like this:

We all gathered and the girls seemed slightly uncomfortable and a little nervous. They all know the two of us adult leaders and have mostly been in classes we have taught or other groups we have led, so they were comfortable with us and yet still nervous about what we were doing. So I played some music and we danced and by we, I mean the two adults danced and the girls sort of stood there and maybe wiggled a little bit. They seemed very shy about this body movement thing but there was a lot of giggling. The dancing, such as it was, seemed to release a lot of the tension.

Then we all found a comfy spot, some on the couch, some on cushions on the floor, and I read them the story of Gawain and the Loathly Lady. This is a story of sovereignty, a tale in which the woman is whole unto herself and while there can be complaints made about how she achieves this sovereignty, still she does achieve it and that is the important thing. I spoke a little about how I hope that each of them will be whole within herself and not feel the need to have someone else in order to feel complete.

Patricia then took over and explained the G.I.R.L.S. list and the ideas for topics that we might cover in our gatherings. G=growing, changing bodies; I=image, self-image; R=relationships, (friends, parents, siblings, boys); L=love/hate, emotions; S=stuff, which includes a lot of things like sovereignty, sex (someday!) and other stuff. We invited the girls to add topics of their own under the headings and to erase those they didn’t think were important or didn’t want to discuss.

We had some dialogue when the girls asked questions, which is something that will always remain private* and then the adults left the girls to talk among themselves for about 50 minutes.

When we went back out to close, the girls had added to things to the list: crushes and modesty! Patricia then led us in an Earth Salutation to ground and the girls gathered their belongings and left. They all seemed happy and comfortable and agreed that it wasn’t as weird as they thought it might be.

I feel like our first Pink Tent was a success and that the girls all want to come back and spend this time with us and one another.

*Note: We told the girls that while the Pink Tent is like Vegas, What Happens Here Stays Here and that they should not discuss their friend’s personal revelations outside of the group, they are also to feel free to share our discussions with their parents.

Categories: GIRLS, Pink Tent | 1 Comment

The Pink Tent


A few months ago a friend told me about a dream she’d had. In her dream we were teaching a sex-ed class for the girls at our homeschool co-op. I must have blinked like a giant owl because I had been mulling and praying and thinking on this very topic for quite a while. I may have lit a candle to call in the partner I would need in this venture because I just didn’t have the bravery to try it on my own. It was the perfect synchronicity of teaching and personality styles. We were both excited to begin.

We put a lot of thought into our plan and came up with completely different things to do. They dovetailed perfectly to achieve our vision.

Her thoughts were to take a more innocent approach and address things like self-talk and feelings and to leave s-e-x for a later date. The girls who we are working with are between the ages of 11 and 13. She came up with a plan to use the world GIRLS as an acronym for topics.


She also suggested that we have each girl bring a snack that she can eat. We have a lot of girls with food allergies, so for each of them to have something safe is a big deal. We provide drinks.

My idea was to call our girls group ‘Pink Tent,’ after the Red Tent Temple we ladies share each month. The word pink may seem cliched but I think it makes sense based on the same reasoning that leads us to use the words ‘Red Tent,’ for menstruating women. Some of our girls have their moon and others do not. Maybe this is a good way to bless our pinkness without bowing to cliches? So, we call our gathering The Pink Tent.

My contribution to the girls is to open with a story, have a little discussion about it and then to get the girls up and moving, hopefully dancing and finding joy in moving their bodies for a few minutes and later, ‘flooding’ in which we all say one nice thing about each girl, in turn. It can be difficult to hear nice things and to mute our negative self-talk and my hope is that this will bolster the girls.

Then we move to our topic for the month, which will cycle through those above which my friend came up with, a few additions from me and two that the girls added for themselves at our first Pink Tent (I will blog about that later). Patricia leads this discussion and once conversation begins, we both interact with the girls.

After we’ve been together for about an hour, the two adults leave the girls to talk among themselves for about another 50 minutes. Then we come back and do some stretching or yoga to help all of us ground after an intense two hours. We then dismiss the girls to their parents and that is all.

ImageOur hope is provide an open-ended forum where these young women learn to support each other, in which they have access to adults who are open, accepting and non-judgmental and who will do our best to answer their questions.

Who are we? One of us is a degreed Special Ed teacher and the other has a BA in Anthropology and Creative Writing. We both teach, read and work hard to be kind, honest, thoughtful and caring. We can’t say we will leave all of our stuff at the door but our plan is to offer data and not morality and when we know our own opinions are going to come in, we agree to work on that and to talk to the girls about it.

Our goal is that every girl in this group be deeply aware of her own sovereignty and value in this world and they establish a strong support network where acceptance among young women is the norm. Here is my friend’s take on our experience.

Categories: GIRLS, homeschool, Pink Tent | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Reiki I

Tonight things went all wonky with my vision. Everything had holes. Things got kaleidoscopic. I was getting a migraine.

In years past I would pop an Imitrex, wait a few hours and start dosing with Vicodin. I was sick for days after these things. Now, when the vision gets weird, I plop into a very hot bath to draw the blood int onto the capillaries in my body, and out of my brain. I also have a homemade tincture of things like poppy seed, valerian and schizandra berries. I take some of that and the bath.

Tonight I tried something else. I asked for and received a hands-on Reiki treatment. My practitioner was barefooted and sucking on a Tootsie Pop.

You see, my 11 year old daughter is an Energy Healer. She has her Reiki I certification but she has always been a treater-of-ills. She touches animals, prays over them, has always instinctively touched things where they needed it, where they hurt. Tonight I got (another) turn. The kid has hot hands. Starting off her hands were icy. ICY. By the 2nd position, they were burning like the burners on my stove. It’s amazing what happens when she starts channeling the energy through her.

As the mom of a child who has this gift, I feel like I have to be responsible for certain things, like reminding her to stay grounded, and reminding her that it’s not her energy that’s coming into me–she is simply the conduit through which the Universal Energy flows. Before I realized that she needed these reminders, she would be limp and exhausted after trying to help someone or something. Now? She’s perky when she’s done. Maybe even more energized.

I am learning about these things. ‘Wash your hands when you’re finished and remember to think about grounding that energy, baby.” She’s learning, too. The difference is that I’m learning all about this stuff. She came into this life knowing a great deal. I’m flattered that she chose me to be her guide. It’s also kind of cool that I can do this blog post thanks to her innate ability to pour that cosmic energy through into another being.

Categories: 5th grade, Energy Healing, Reiki | Leave a comment

Diwali Oil Lanterns

Yesterday, as part of our study of Ancient India, we had a small Diwali celebration. We cleaned the house, cooked palak paneer and chicken tika masala for supper and made oil lanterns. The lanterns were easy and though this tutorial will be scantily papered with photographs, you can see that the end results was cute and, knock on wood, nothing exploded!

Use small jars with lids for the lanterns. Narrow jars hold less lantern fuel, which is a bonus, as the fuel comes in the smallest containers imaginable.
Gather your jars, hemp cord for wicking, lantern oil (can be bought from Michael’s or WalMart or your local, mom-and-pop hardware store), a hammer and either a long, narrow nail or small, thin screwdriver (for making holes in the lids).
The picnic table is the ideal place for most of this work if you don’t care if you make dents in the surface. Really, that is the important part: that you do this somewhere you can make dents in the surface. The ground will work in a pinch.
Place the jar lids, top down, on your work surface.
Using your hammer and screwdriver or nail, put a hole in the center of the lid by putting the point of your pointy implement in the center of the lid and hitting it sharply with your hammer. It is important that your holes are only marginally smaller than your hemp cording/wicking. If the holes are a lot larger, the wick will slide back into the jar. Not a good idea.
Pour lamp oil into your jars, filling the jars about 1/2 way. Cut your hemp cord so that you have about 1.5 inches more than the height of your jars. Ours were various sizes.
Put the cord up through the holes in the lids and press them into the sharp metal that’s going to be at the edge, on top. Be careful of your fingers and don’t get cut! Then feed the bottom of the wick into your jar/s and screw on the caps.
Let the jars sit for a little while, 15 minutes is good with the hemp. It is quite absorbent.
Then, light them! Voila! Cheap and easy. Just like you like it.

Categories: 5th grade, crafting, family fun, festivals, Fire, homeschool, social studies, Waldorf | 1 Comment

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