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Gym fails

Posted on 2016.05.25 at 12:37
Pulling into the garage this morning at work, I had to take a moment after parking simply because I was giggling far more than I should have been at the conversation taking place on the radio. Today’s topic happened to be “gym fails”. This wasn’t a judgey conversation. Rather, it was an invitation to make fun of oneself. The dj’s talked about embarrassing moments that they had experienced, and they invited people to call in and fess up to their own gym oopses. And I just couldn’t stop laughing!!! Why? Well, for a couple of reasons. One, because I think one of the most therapeutic things in the world is to laugh at oneself. And two, because I’ve had my own share of said fails. Like what? Oh I dunno…


1.Sweat – Ya know those Rorschach tests? (the ink blots that supposedly unlock subconscious images in your head). Well, when I sweat at the gym, the sweat on my chest forms a rorschach – of ovaries. I’ve had a few friend comment to me how when I sweat, it looks like fallopian tubes, etc. And I can’t argue that.


2.Wall-smack. Ya know when you are strolling around the pedestrian section of the gym, and a Really, Really, Really hot guy jogs by you? The moment is perfect… until you smack right into a wall losing all sense of dignity in the process. I’ve smacked into a wall… stumbled off the treadmill, and once almost fallen down the stairs.


3.Joint-CRACK! There’s nothing like being in your own zen moment during yoga. There you are, in the middle of the classroom, slowly twisting yourself into a pretzel with the rest of the class. And you just KNOW you are the star… until in a moment of total quiet, something in your body gives and you hear this CRACK bounce off the walls, even to the point where the instructor says, “Ouch!”


4.Dumbbell tripping over the dumbbell. Always remember where you put your weights – especially if you JUST put them down on the floor and foolishly you take a step right into them and…. Faceplant!



These are just a few examples of how I have almost seriously hurt myself on more than one occasion just being silly, not paying attention, or from suffering temporary blindness as a result of Hot Guys (which I believe is a serious and yet-undiagnosed medical condition). But more importantly, this illustrates something important that I think I need from time to time – I need to remember not to take things so seriously and to just laugh at myself.


So how ‘bout you? Ever done something absolutely preposterously silly in public that you feel like sharing?

Behold! The Princes of Northshield!

Posted on 2016.05.16 at 20:39
When I heard the news, I tried (unsuccessfully) to fight back the tears. The Kingdom of Northshield had held their Crown Tourney. And low and behold, when one fighter stood alone in the middle of the field, thus becoming heir to the throne, his inspiration stood unique within the known world – for the first time, a Kingdom has two Princes and will soon have two Kings.

As I look back to the very lengthy and contentious discussions within the SCA about Inspirational Equality and whether we should consider lifting the ban on same-gender entrants into Crown Tourney, I cannot even begin to recount how many hours I spent drafting letters, writing posts, replying to questions, etc. While I hoped, I dared not put too much hope in change. For these discussions coincided with our own step up here as the Barons of Gyldenholt –also a new concept for the SCA, and one that has come with its own unique responsibilities and challenges.

When the Board decided to allow a change to the wording in corpora, I took it as my personal task to try and set minds at ease as much as was within my power. Some believed the wording went too far. Others believed it did not go far enough. And while I myself wasn’t 100% satisfied with the compromise that was reached, it did allow for the possibility of future change. And that was enough for me. After all, such a thing would most likely not happen for years and years, right?

In my head, I had a vision of what a crown tourney in some kingdom somewhere would look like. There would be a fighter inspired by his or her true love who just happened to be of the same gender. Then, as the final blow was struck, the crowd would rejoice in happiness for the two. There would be a hug and a kiss. And the crowd would cheer. Sure, this image may strike some of you as a bit too full of bluebirds, unicorns, and Hollywood orchestral accompaniment. But a guy can dream, right? Well, as reality would have it, the SCA now has its first ever pair of same-gender Princes. I do not know the gentlemen whatsoever, other than by excellent reputation. I know that they are not a romantic couple, so I can only assume that they must be good friends and good working partners.

So… is this the end of my dream? Absolutely not!

For me personally, this whole entire discussion was never about sexuality. Nor is it about what I personally want. Heck, if the dream were up to me, the SCA time period would run from 1450 – 1520, be strictly Italian, and every event would feature dance and period food. Add on that the Kings would be a romantic couple who just happened to coincidentally look like Hugh Jackman and Joshua Sasse. But here’s the thing – it isn’t about me, or you, or any one person or group or household or barony or even an entire kingdom. It is about all of us, and having the opportunity to experience different perspectives, different ideas, different cultures, different insights, different interpretations, and different aspects of history. Don’t care for a particular reign or pair of monarchs? You don’t have to – skip that reign and come back next time around. It really is just that easy. The calendar of monarchs is much like a huge buffet – nobody expects you to want to try absolutely everything that is on offer. And even if you do, you won’t like it all the same.

I can’t help but find it just a little bit wild that as Giles and I approach the end of our tenure as the first same-gender Barons that Hrodir Fyrste and Yehudah Tarkhan will begin their reign and thus, the next chapter of Inspirational Equality within the SCA. Is there any guarantee that Their reign will be smooth? No. Will absolutely everyone be happy about it? Certainly not. Might some people even decide to disappear for a reign? It is possible. And this is different, how?

The fact is, the sun will still rise. The Heralds will still announce court. And the pressure will be on them just as it is every other combination of people who sit in thrones to inspire and to remember to do what is necessary for the good of the group. And I have absolutely no reason to believe that this pair will do anything other than that. So has my dream of “the first same-gender Inspirational Equality royals” been shattered? No. Much to the contrary, I believe it is about to be realized.

Privilege

Posted on 2016.05.11 at 12:48
Something I’ve been thinking about in recent times is the concept of privilege. In a lot of ways, this phrase has become a rather foul word to me, simply because it is used so dismissively by a number of people. Just for the sake of argument, let’s say I become involved in a discussion with my co-worker, “Mike” who happens to be African-American. Mike believes he was turned down for a promotion because of his skin-color. I say that while anything is possible, I really doubt that is the case because the person who got the promotion has more experience. (Makes sense, right?) Mike then turns around and utters some complaint about my white privilege showing. WTF?!!!! Yet, for me, there really is no rebuttal once the race card has been played.


I’ve run into this frustrating situation more than a few times in the past because I appear white, because I am a male, because I have an education, etc. And what am I supposed to do? Apologize because of my skin color? Apologize for being male? Apologize for working my ass off to get a degree? The thing is, I get it. I know that there is inequality out there. I really do see it. I know that women are treated as lessers and often don’t receive equal pay. And if and when I see injustice before me, I speak up about it. The same goes for any BS inequality that I see. But it is critically important to view each potential instance of abuse on a case-by-case basis. If a white person is promoted over a black person, is it racism? Or is it deserved? If a man is promoted instead of a woman, is it because of sexism? Or is it deserved?


I’m well aware that our society does tend to bestow some individuals with an inherent privilege based on things like gender, age, skin-color, religion, and other factors. I don’t like it, but I recognize it. And I think it is important to educate people about it – not by attacking them when the privileged person is able to move up; but by encouraging people to be aware of privilege and simply treat everyone as equals. Take a promotion, for instance. I just want the most deserving and most qualified person to get the promotion. Whether that person is male or female, black or white, gay or straight, Jewish or Muslim, or whatever is none of my concern!


But then there are some people who still don’t get it. Are they being stubborn? Are they stupid? Are they jerks? Perhaps some are. (In fact, I’m pretty sure that some are!) But IMHO, I think it is much more simple – there is no reason for them to understand it – it is nothing they have ever experienced, and nothing that they relate to from a personal perspective. Is it fair or logical or right to expect people to understand something that they have never really learned, experienced or witnessed?


As controversial or horrible as this might sound to some, I’m really curious about conducting a social experiment. What do you think would happen if some Hollywood director out there took some snippet from history and simply reversed the roles? Take a movie about the women’s suffragette movement, for instance. Imagine if the movie covered a plot from history exactly as it happened, but changed one detail – have it be women who always had the vote, and have men be the ones fighting to have it. Do you think it might drive home the point? What if someone remade “Roots” exactly as the original, but changed it around such that blacks were free-men, and whites were slaves? How would people react? How about a holocaust movie where it is the Jews running the camps and the blond-haired/blue-eyed Germans are sent to the showers?


Some of you reading this might instantly have a kneejerk reaction that such an idea is stupid or tasteless or wrong. But ask yourself – why? Such stories all have one thing in common – some segment of human population treating another segment of the population unfairly. And I would argue that one of the reasons that some people don’t understand the concept of privilege is simply because they’ve always had it and never experienced an instance where they didn’t. But if the shoe is put on the other foot, things might be different.


Maybe… just maybe… this kind of a concept might provide that experience.


What do you think?

Coming Out – the Aftermath

Posted on 2016.05.10 at 12:41
In the past, I have written a bit about my late and unique coming out story. All of us who have tried really, really, really hard for years to be “normal” and “just like everybody else”, only to finally be true to ourselves have had our own version of this story. Some have been moving and heartwarming tales of unconditional love and acceptance (such as mine), while others have been truly tragic and devastating. The fact is, the fear of stigma is what keeps so many of the GLBTQIXZYETC community in the overly crowded closet. And ya know what? That closet is suffocating. So why would anybody ever want to be there? Simple – fear. Fear of what? Anger, violence, judgment, rejection… the list goes on and on. Even those of us who felt really confident that our friends and family would be accepting, the fear of the unknown is paralyzing, as is the fear of change. Because let’s face it – once that closet door busts open, it can never be shut again.


When I came out, I don’t know if it was really what I wanted to do. But the pressure had been building for so long, I didn’t know what else to do. My marriage was in shambles. Divorce was simply waiting for the judge to make it final. And my life really carried no meaning for me. I was in a career that I detested – but I was there because I believed it was where I was supposed to be. I was living in a nice house that was too big for just one person – it was meant for a family that I no longer had. So what was I supposed to do? Start looking for a new one? Already downtrodden and feeling like a complete failure, the pressure to start again down that same path was too much. But I didn’t know why… until suddenly I did.


The fear of coming out was so real to me. I knew my friends and family well enough to know that everyone would be supportive. But still… does anybody really KNOW how someone else will react until it actually happens? Look at how many teens outted themselves to their “loving” families, expecting support, only to have said families throw them onto the streets. I really didn’t believe I would run into any rejection. But until the conversation is had, I was a basket case of nerves. But even after the difficult conversations took place, I noticed something that made me incredibly uncomfortable – change.


Change in just about any capacity always makes me squirm. Heck, I am an Aries with a control-freak streak a mile wide! But I couldn’t control the changes that I saw around me – changes from within, changes in how my friends and family behaved, changes to my life in general, changes in social circled. It was all a bit weird and a bit much. Almost immediately, I noticed all of my friend-dynamics changing. Many of my acquaintances were the same. But when it came to my real circle of friends, I began to grow a little bit apart from some while I grew closer to others. And it seemed almost random. Suddenly, a few straight friends that I had known for years seemed to view me differently. I was no longer their friend Joe, but their gay-friend, Joe. And in some ways, I understand that. But in other ways, it bugged me. I’d like to think there is more to me than just that. But I get it. Because I was more open about myself, they saw a different side of me that they had never seen before. And apparently, it really stood out.


The post coming-out transition was not comfortable. It wasn’t bad. But for me, it really was a journey through an unknown forest. I had some very good friends who were there to talk and to watch over me. But I had to travel it alone. Going through a second puberty in one’s 30’s is NOT fun! But there I was, once again as a geeky teenager trying to figure out social norms. I visited bars. I met new people. I asked a lot of really embarrassing questions. And I awkwardly laughed a lot – mostly at myself and my own clumsiness with this new culture and new set of behavior. But who was I? Was I still me? Was I now this new “Gay Joe”? Who was I supposed to be? I remember one time walking through a hotel lobby on a late Sunday afternoon still wearing the tight fitting clothes I had been wearing in the bar the night before. A throng of Japanese tourists were flocking into the hotel, and several of them just stared at me and giggled (Oh so subtle!) That was when I too laughed at myself as I learned the oh-so-important-lesson that “Saturday night’s clothes just do NOT look right on Sunday morning”. So… was that the guy I wanted to be? I just didn’t know. I don’t believe in shame. I don’t believe in regret. There are merely life lessons. And this was a new crossroad for me. Who was I? Who was I going to be? There was no way in hell I was ever going to go back into the closet. So now that I was out, where was I going to go?


The rest of my story you all know. Giles and I cemented our relationship. I made the crazy and incredibly risky decision to tear up my roots and relocate cross-country, and I haven’t looked back since. I count myself one of the truly lucky ones in that right off the bat, I found what I was looking for. But that is a very rare instance. So many other people – wonderful, loving, caring, nurturing and productive members of our society face adversity because of fear – some of the fears are strictly internal and irrational, while other fears can be very, very real.


Please friends and family near and far – please help remember this. There is no cookie-cutter for people. We are all different and unique. And it is our differences that make us all wonderful in our own ways. Only when we end fear and stigma can we all be free. Who cares if someone loves another of the same sex? Who cares if your neighbor wears a turban or a yamaka? So what if someone else’s skin color is a different shade or if they speak different languages? And if your neighbor, “Bob” walks out of his house in a dress, and you wrinkle your nose and gasp, I hope it isn’t because he is wearing a dress, but rather because he chose one that is the wrong shade of blue for his complexion even after you repeatedly told him to go with something more sky-blue to bring out the jewel tone in his eyes.


There’s so much hurt in the world – so much judgment and so much shame. I think it is time instead to embrace love. Let’s all learn to laugh more – at ourselves, at our mistakes, and at the gentle-natured humor of our supporters and friends. Let’s learn to differentiate between a joke and truly mean-spirited actions so that we can concentrate our efforts where they really should go. And for heavens’ sake, let’s celebrate our own unique abilities to express ourselves, and our ability to love others.

ADD Brain and Insomnia

Posted on 2016.05.03 at 19:43
I often joke about having “A.D.D.Oh Shiny!” That would explain how and why I am constantly on the go, and working on different projects and thinking about how to fix or improve or cook or whatever. On the one hand, it has some advantages – I get a lot of done in the course of my day. But on the other hand, it can be a massive pain in the ass! How, you ask? Well, I’ll tell ya!

Some nights, I will go to bed physically exhausted but I can’t turn off my brain. And thus, I don’t sleep. Take yesterday, for instance. It was a very intense day at the office! Working in County government, it seems like we have two modes: “Calm and quiet”, or “Put out a massive fire” mode. Rarely is there anything in between. And because of the time of year and where we are in the fiscal cycle, right now is the latter in more ways than one. And when you add on the fact that we are understaffed… let’s just say it is intense. Following work, I figured I would head to the gym to a yoga class. Yoga frequently clears my mind and works my body enough so that I can sleep like the dead that night. Um… not so much. I had a new instructor. And let’s just say, she wasn’t at all my favorite. She mumbled through the entire class so much that I could not understand a single thing she said. I would frequently have to turn around or look up to see what she was doing – not always easy when you are faced the other way bent into a human pretzel! So by the time I left, I was a sweaty mess, but feeling extremely frustrated and tense.

By the time I got home, I had a pretty full list of items on my “to do” list. So after having dinner, I quickly got to it, and worked on chipping away at my list. So by 10:00pm, I was finally done with all my errands for the day and ready to go to bed, so tired I struggled to get up the stairs. And as I collapsed into our uber-comfy bed, I welcomed sleep. But…. No. Why? Because my five-year old brain was still so hyped up from the day.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but here is what happens to me. When my brain is on hyperactive mode, one of a couple of things can happen. Sometimes, I will replay an entire instance from the day, with every painstaking detail, as if I am reliving it. It doesn’t matter if it was a negative experience, or even a boring experience. If that is where my brain takes me, I am held captive. Other times, I will get stuck on a song. And it will play over and over in my head for literally hours. And as time goes by, sometimes the song will play FASTER in my head than it should be (for us old folks, it is like playing a 33 at 45 speed). And when it is REALLY bad, I can turn physically nauseous just because of the speed that my brain is travelling. It is like the picture in my mind’s eye is going so fast that I give myself motion sickness.

To my completely uneducated mind, this sounds like I have A.D.D. And ya know what? They have meds for that! So I went in for an evaluation a couple of years ago. And the result? No. The doctors effectively said that if I didn’t have it as a kid, it is impossible to have as an adult. Um…. I ain’t no doctor. But I can tell you that this didn’t happen to me as a kid, but it happens to me as an adult, and I DON’T LIKE IT!!!!!

I don’t like the fact that booze keeps me awake and that caffeine calms me down. Why? Because frankly, I can’t have booze at work. That’s why! The caffeine helps to wake up my BODY (circulation, heart rate, etc.), but it slows my brain down. Booze does just the opposite. My internal chemistry is not being my friend, and it frustrates the beejezus out of me sometimes!

Save Our Children!

Posted on 2016.05.02 at 12:42
Those who refuse to learn from history are damned to repeat it. While this old adage applies in so many ways to the life lessons and travesties of human history, one of the most repetitious examples of this phrase involves the high degree in which people fall into the trap of scapegoating the minority.

Let’s face it folks – one of the single most successful ways to bring the majority of people together is to unite them against a common enemy - typically a minority. We all learn this early on the playground. The class bully targets the weak kid (or funny looking kid or small kid or different kid) and begins picking on him. Soon enough, the other kids join in. Why? Because they don’t want to be the next victim. So by joining in on the abuse, it keeps them from standing out. Unfortunately, one of the very earliest lesson that the vast majority of us learns is that Different Is Bad! Sadly, regardless of country, or religion, or age, or time period; this terrible behavior seems to be something that humankind as a whole repeats over and over. The Nazis were masters of this type of unification-through-hatred by targeting any minorities viewed as degenerates – Jews, Gypsies, Poles, Blacks, homosexuals…. Almost universally, people in today’s world are taught that such behavior is horrific and should never be repeated. Never forget! Right? But guess what? We still do it. We still do it a LOT. But what is sad is this – often we just don’t realize we are doing it.

In 1978, state legislator John Briggs (who sadly represented Orange County), introduced the Briggs Initiative. What was it designed to do? It paved the way to ban gays, lesbians and even their supporters from working in California Public Schools. Preposterous, you say? Far-fetched, you say? Nobody would support such a thing, you say? Well, here’s the thing. Briggs didn’t just advertise it as a piece of legislature to get rid of degenerates. Oh no. He couched it in propaganda fluff. Joined by Anita Bryant, they introduced this hate-filled-legislature in the package of “Save our Children.” While the average parent may or may not care about a get-rid-of-gays package, anything that is listed under “Save our Children” gets their attention. Of COURSE we want to protect our children, right? But here’s the question – save them from what? Don’t you need to clearly identify a threat first? No. Making an accusation and creating paranoia is sadly all that is needed to start such a movement.

A platform like “Save our Children” begs this very question. You see, Mr. Briggs completely skipped over identifying an actual problem. But he did a really good job at stirring up and creating paranoia as parents who had not previously been concerned all of a sudden were up in arms ready to “Save Our Children” against the gays and lesbians who clearly CLEARLY had to be some sort of a threat, right? And ya know the truly scary part? This initiative almost passed! Had it not been for the work of people like Harvey Milk and others who stuck their necks out on the chopping block, it probably would have passed, and gays and lesbians would have been codified into law yet again as some sort of public threat for something that they did not do and have no interest in doing.

“Yah Joe. But for cryin’ out loud, that is almost 40 years ago, already. We are better than that, right?”

No.

How many times have people done horrible things in the name of (insert religion here)? Blind followers are typically the biggest threat to humanity, simply because they really, really, really believe they are doing the right thing because the authority-in-charge told them so. Heck, the whole propaganda campaign of Prop H8 was based upon scare-tactics smoke and mirrors hidden behind signs reading “Save Marriage” and “Protect Family”. Now, how in the world my legally marrying my husband has ANY impact upon someone else’s family or marriage was never discussed. But it didn’t have to be discussed or justified or backed up with any research. The paranoia juggernaut had been created, and enough naïve voters in California were scared into making the wrong decision for what they thought were the right reasons. Diabolical, no?

And this brings me to one of today’s most ridiculously charged issues – transgendered people and bathrooms. Let me be clear here. Transgendered individuals have been using bathrooms all along. And guess what – I’m not aware of a statistical study that shows there has ever been a problem. Are there some bad transgendered people? Of course! There are bad people in every single classification. But are they the majority? Hell no! But suddenly, thanks to legislature in various states designed to “Protect our Children” (Gee… sound familiar?) people are once again getting fired up about a problem-that-is-not-actually-a-problem all in the name of “protecting our children” who are not actually in any danger from this particular population.

More and more, as I read viewpoints, I am stunned at the absurdity that some people are saying – even some very good friends and family of mine seem to have sipped some of the paranoia-Kool-Aid, and it ticks me off. Think people! THINK!!!!!!!!!!!!! Think for yourself! Are there actually situations where children are molested by perverts in the world? Yes. Of course. But ya know what? The vast majority of child-molesters have not resorted to cross-dressing and stalking bathrooms. Stop the paranoia! Bathrooms are not about sex. They are about really, really, really, really needing to pee NOW!

In my opinion, there seems to be too much of a sense-of-entitlement out there. Ignorant people have stated, “I just don’t want that person using the bathroom with me.” Um… guess what? A public bathroom is just that – public. You don’t have the right to screen who gets to pee any more than I do. If you don’t want a Jew to use your bathroom, do you think you have the right to ban them? A black? A gay? A Russian? A Syrian? A Mexican? Frankly, if a person born as a woman realizes that nature messed up and that she is really a man in a woman’s body, how in the world does this impact me? I don’t care if that person uses the same bathroom as I use. Because it is about peeing. And if a child walks in to pee? So what? If it were up to me, we would just have community bathrooms and that would be the end of it.

Some days, I get so angry that the Mayflower ever landed in Provincetown centuries ago. Why? Because it brought some of the most uptight and puritanical (in the literal sense) human beings to have ever drawn a breath. And all these years later, America the Brave is really America the Overly Uptight! For such a suppressed culture where music and video and television and movies are so carefully censored to “protect the children”, and we are taught that nudity of any kind is shameful even before we learn to speak, we sure as hell seem to go out of our way to turn everything into a sexual situation. And ya know what? I find THAT to be the most shameful thing of all. So frequently, we as an American culture turn our bodies and our expressions of love into something dirty and shameful. We all have bodies – and they are nothing to be ashamed of – unless we allow ourselves to create an artificial sense of shame. And that’s what we continually do.

So where am I going with this whole thing? I’m not trying to tell you WHAT to think – you need to reach your own conclusions. But I am trying to encourage you to question HOW you think. When a petition or a movement comes your way bearing a title such as, “Save Our Children,” you need to ask yourself – are our children actually in danger? If so, from whom? And can you prove it? Ask questions. Demand FACTS - not rumors or suppositions or paranoia, but facts. Because who else do we need to “Save the children” from? Who is next to be targeted? 30 year olds? Blacks? Protestants? Redheads? Buddhists? Chinese? YOU?!!!!

Please do NOT let yourself get played by politicians with an ulterior motive.
Please do NOT allow yourself to become a victim of a smoke and mirrors scam.
Please do NOT forget that what makes America unique is that it is based upon the premise that all people are created equal.

If you really want to “Save our Children”, save them from the asshats who are trying to manipulate you into becoming a bigoted accessory to their schemes.

Barons' Feast

Posted on 2016.04.27 at 20:40
OK, I will admit it. I’m getting a little bit nostalgic. This past weekend marked the last Barons’ Feast where Giles and I wear the coronets of Gyldenholt. And as much work as it is (which I will NOT miss), I’m going to miss being able to share my foodie vision in this particular venue.

Typically, I have put together a menu from different sources – often either from a similar time period but different countries, or all of one country, but different time periods. This is the first time in ages that I can remember doing everything all from one cookbook. And ya know, if I do say so myself, I’m pretty damned proud of the results. Every dish seemed very well received, and people were receptive to try even things that were a bit different.

Here are the dishes that were made and served:

Date/raisin fruit “Cornet” (a rolled fruit-pastry)
Home-made farmer pork and sage sausage
Tort of fresh peas, favas, and haricot beans
Tort of asparagus
Nut and cheese tortellini in sage/butter sauce
Turkey meatball soup
Sourdough Bread & herb butter
Salat
Bread points and dates
Home-made cheeses – mozzarella, brie, and aged cheddar
Charcuterie: duck prosciutto, pepperone, boar sausage
Stuffed nut/garlic cabbage leaves in wine and butter sauce
Fingers of beef & pork braised in grape must skewered on rosemary skewers
Stone fruit crostatas

So now, for the final weeks of our tenure as Barons, we look forward to finishing up some of our long-term projects for the Barony, enjoying a few more events with the rest of the Barony, and then passing the torch to our heirs. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the job of landed nobility in this crazy little club of ours is NOT an easy job – it really isn’t. But with the right people and the right mentality, it can be truly magnificent. Gyldenholt is such a wonderful group. It is truly an honor to represent the Barony, recognize people’s efforts, and to encourage everyone to enjoy playing in this big, crazy family of choice.

Long Live Gyldenholt!






Advice

Posted on 2016.04.19 at 12:30
With the key turning in the door, I instantly feel a sense of relief just being back in my own home and away from the office. Oh, what a crazy day! Back-to-back meetings, intense phone calls, deadlines, emails, and the occasional head-thunk after fixing someone else’s screw up. But there’s still so much to do – housework, exercise, making dinner, errands. Sigh. Seeing my hubby, we give each other a kiss and ask about each other about the day. As I begin unloading the annoying details of my day to just get the frustration off my chest, he says the one thing that makes my hands roll up into fists – he gives me advice.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!

Don’t try to tell me how you *think* I can fix the problems that I understand better than you do!
Don’t interrupt my venting!
Don’t treat me like I am incapable of handling my own life!
Just let me blow off some steam so I can get on with my day. Is that asking so much?!

When I have explained this very type of situation to pretty much ANY of my female friends, almost unanimously they laugh and tell me, “oh Joe. You are SOOOO the woman in the relationship!” Yah… ok. I get it. And I’ll embrace it. And over the course of years, I have had to learn that when my hubby or someone else says, “Have you tried…” it really is their way of trying to make the situation better. Yet, to me, it is nearly impossible not to hear, “You are an idiot and need me to tell you what to do.” I don’t know why I have such trouble listening to or accepting advice, but I do – particularly when it is unasked for.

So with that in mind, I’m going to try to do some self-therapy here by freely dispensing some unsolicited (im)practical advice to everyone out there in the world wide interwebz:

1. Allow yourself to do something completely and utterly stupid and ridiculous from time to time. A silly movie or cartoon, for example. A weekly dose of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” can do wonders to help banish the overly serious.
2. Talk about your mistakes. Heck, post them! Offer yourself up as an example of what NOT to do. Sew a sleeve on wrong? Admit it and laugh over it! Burn the rice by leaving the heat on too long? Fess up! Nobody is perfect! And laughing about it with friends is so much better than internalizing it and beating yourself up for just being human.
3. All things in moderation… except on those days when you really need to go whole hog. Let’s face it. Most days just call for a little bit of chocolate. Other days call for the whole candy bar. You can’t be young and pretty and skinny forever. Life is too short not to allow yourself to (over)indulge now and again.
4. Walk. Too often we drive – even when the destination is close by. Take advantage of the fresh air and just take a little walk. And while you’re at it, stop to smell the roses, listen to the birds sing, and say “hi” to the people you pass on the street.
5. Learn the language of your significant other. Just as my hubby hears “I need help with my work problems” when I vent about the office, and I hear, “you are incapable of fixing your own problems without my help” when he offers advice; it is crucial in a relationship to recognize that there are three points of view: What that person means to communicate; what that person actually says; and what you hear spoken. While those three things are connected and related, rarely are they identical. Learning to translate is the key to a happy relationship.
6. Allow yourself some “me time”. While everyone is different and requires different levels of people-interaction, we all need some time to just be by ourselves. Now and again, treat yourself to some quality time with yourself.
7. Listen to a song or an album you haven’t listened to in a loooooooong time. It may sound hokey or strange or cheesy now. But maybe it’ll take you back to a fun time in your life and gift you with some wonderful memories that you haven’t experienced in a while.
8. Know the difference between a “Friend” and an “Acquaintance”. The former are your family-of-choice who help define you as a person. The latter will drift in and out of your life at random and can completely leech your time and energy if you allow it.
9. Nurture. Whether you be a parent or a pet-owner or a gardener or a sibling, there is something so rewarding and redeeming about taking care of someone/something else. Its good karma, and just plain nice.
10. Laugh! Life is too short to be serious all the time. So crack a joke and try to get a smile off of someone. Maybe your joke will get some laughs. Maybe it’ll fall flat. But who cares? At least you are showing them (and yourself) that you don’t take yourself too seriously too often.

So please, feel free to agree or disagree with the above silly list of unsolicited advice. It reflects no more or less than some thoughts going through my hungry mind over lunchtime. But it is, nonetheless, a good reflection of how my random-mind works. Have a great day everyone!

Letters of Recommendations – an SCA post

Posted on 2016.04.06 at 12:50
Greetings all y’alls out in the interwebz. Within the society, I am honored to be a member of two orders of peerage, the Laurel and the Pelican. As part of the responsibility of this order, it is my job (like all other members) to seriously consider candidates who are called to our attention. And this isn’t always particularly easy. Why? Well, for several reasons really. But before I expound like I usually do, I want to put out a caveat.



I do NOT speak on the behalf of any of the Orders!!!!!! What I offer here in this post is simply my own opinion. You may agree with me. You may disagree with me. But it is nonetheless, my opinion. And as we all know, if you get two peers into a room together, you will have at least three strong opinions!



In some ways, I truly envy the society’s oldest and newest peerages, the Order of Chivalry and the Order of Defense. Why? Because they have much more of an even-playing field. While I’m sure both orders might discuss some subtle nuances to the fighting arts, in both orders they are really discussing one key thing – does this candidate show the same mastery of marshal prowess that the rest of the order expect? Everybody in both orders fights (or did fight at the time). They are all masters of what they do. And they all have that in common.



The Order of the Laurel is not quite so easy. Why? Because while we are all artists, you might have a dance master sitting next to a costumer sitting next to a cook sitting next to a potter. Let’s face it – there’s not a lot of commonality there. Now hopefully, if a candidate is nominated and that candidate’s skills lay in the area of costuming, hopefully the costuming laurel will take the lead, and the other laurels whose skills are in other areas will keep an open mind and listen carefully to the information provided by the costuming laurel. But every now and again, there is a candidate who comes up who does something totally different than everyone in the room who is evaluating the candidate. So… what do we do? Well, other than doing some preliminary research and/or reaching out of kingdom to maybe get some insight from experts out there in the Known World, we may be wandering around in the dark. So we pull together as best we can and look at the person in terms of what we would expect of any laurel – does the person teach? Are they known and well-respected for their art? Do they share their research? And, probably more important than anything, is the art something mediocre? Or does this person create things that make you stop and go, “WOW!”? While evaluating someone for the Order of the Laurel isn’t necessarily always easy given that we are not all subject matter experts in art form X, the art itself speaks volumes and gains attention in and of itself. Why? Because magpies that we are, our favorite color is shiny. And unless the candidate in question lied and acquired items made by someone else and tried to pass them off as his own (which as rare as this is, HAS happened in our club), that person often has earned renown for her/his art.



But then… there is the Pelican.



The Pelican is, IMHO, the single hardest thing to really evaluate with any sense of quality. Why? For lots of reasons, really. The Pelican is the order of peerage for service. So obviously, whomever gets the pelican should be known as being a workaholic, right? Well, sometimes yes and sometimes no. After all, some jobs are very public, and others are not. There are some people that you just always see working. Those are the ones who work at court (a very public venue), or they frequently sit at gate (another very public venue) or running lists at events, etc. But then there are the other things. You might not know Lord Bob. Lord Bob may very well be quiet. And even if you attended that event last week, you may never have even seen Lord Bob. But here’s the deal. The event almost didn’t happen. There was some crisis in that the site ranger did not have the right paperwork. So Lord Bob took off early from work on Wednesday to drive across county to bring his own copies of all the paperwork into the ranger office and talk him off the ledge. During the event, you may have been having fun over at the main field. But Lord Bob was busy in the kitchen rewiring the stove so that feast could be prepared. If it hadn’t have been for Lord Bob, the event would have been a disaster! But instead, you had fun. And even though you were at the event, and very observant, there is no way you would know all the things Lord Bob did – unless someone tells you. Thus, the order relies upon information from the public at large.



But here’s the problem that I run into as a Peer. If I had no visibility to Lord Bob’s actions, I don’t know about him. That doesn’t mean I did something wrong. It just means I’m ignorant about what he did because of circumstance. So help me out. Tell me about what he did. But please… please, please, please… BE SPECIFIC!



If you find yourself determined to try and make a difference and get someone recognized for that thing that you believe they should be recognized for, please do me (and yourself and the candidate) a favor – don’t be fluffy in your letter. Provide facts and details. Because without them, I cannot in good conscience cast an affirmative vote. To help illustrate my point, here are a couple of possible examples of the types of things I have read or heard about candidates, and the concerns that I have:



“Lord Bob is always working at every event.” - Um, ok. That’s nice. But what does that mean? What types of things does Bob do?



“No matter what, Lord Bob is always busy.” - I’ll bet! But here’s the thing – busy doing WHAT? Busy doing something that actually needs to be done? Or busy creating work to look busier than he really is? There are people who work hard because the job needs to be done. Then there are people who create work so that they can play savior of the day by having done the work of this project. After all, it’ll make a great addition on that Pelican-resume, right? Ugh. Please help me to discern the difference between a true worker-bee and someone more interested in a pat on the back for work that nobody needed done in the first place.



“Lord Bob serves with a smile on his face.” – While I recognize that being nice is a peer-like quality, this also doesn’t tell me a thing about what work he actually does. I don’t cast an affirmative vote based on how much someone smiles.



“Lord Bob does so much for his Barony.” - Really? Like what?



“You never see Bob because he is always off working.” - There’s lots of people that I don’t see. Does that mean that they are all just off working? Or are they, I dunno, just not attending the event?



“Lord Bob has been seneschal for four years” – OK. While that at least gives me something, tell me about his tenure. There’s lots of people who have held offices. But did they actually do a GOOD job? Or just hold the position? Yes, there is a difference.



“No matter what, Lord Bob is always involved in something.” - That’s not necessarily a good thing. There are a number of people I know in the SCA who always hold an office or run things… and I really, really wish they wouldn’t. Why? Because they are terrible at what they do and someone else always has to come along and clean up their messes. An impressive SCA resume is not necessarily a testament to quality work.



“I can’t tell you what he does, but I can tell you that if he didn’t do what he does, we would all notice it and be all the poorer for him not being here.” - This is almost a direct quote that I have heard more than once. Come on… Seriously. Spare me the fluff! If you are championing for someone to be made a pelican, but you can’t even tell me what the person has done to deserve recognition, don’t waste my time.



“Lord Bob got his Crescent years ago and has still been working strong ever since.” - OK. While it is good to know that there is a history of work, I still don’t know what the work is. Further, there isn’t a checklist or stepping stone. It isn’t like X amount of years after one award, one should get another. That’s not how this works! That’s not how any of this works!



I know that some of you out there in the land of the interwebs might view some of the above points as sounding overly critical or jaded. But believe me, they are really important points. Of all of the peerages, the Pelican is, I believe, the most vulnerable to fluff. Could one be fraudulent when it comes to his/her fighting ability on the heavy or light field? Perhaps – but I think it is going to be pretty hard to pull the wool over the eyes of an order focused on the one-main-thing. Could one be fraudulent about one’s art in front of the laurels? Yes. It has happened in the society. But for the most part, it’s pretty hard. There is so much scrutiny involved in evaluating an artist – including the teaching aspect.



Could one be fraudulent about one’s service record? Or could someone else BS the order about one’s service record? Frankly, yes. And while I am not saying that anyone has, there are many times where I have either read a letter of recommendation or heard someone speak on a candidate’s behalf, and I feel like I am having the wool pulled over my eyes – and that is not a comfortable place to be. So how can we avoid situations like this? Avoid fluff. Be specific. And please, provide facts. That will help me do my job much better.

Exclusion

Posted on 2016.04.04 at 18:11
I’m having a conundrum and I could use your help sorting this out in my brain. The topic? Exclusion – under the right circumstances, is it acceptable? Ever?



I was thinking about this yesterday. My hubby and I went out to dinner. Picture it – great atmosphere, nice mood lighting, wonderful food, wine…. And then the sudden and continuous SHRIEK of a toddler at the table over from us while his parents ignored the toddler to finish their dinner. It was then that I remembered reading an article not long ago about a restaurant that was coming under fire from parents because it billed itself exclusively as an adults-only restaurant. The premise behind the concept is to help create an environment where people can go out to a romantic dinner without having the atmosphere compromised by the sounds of screaming children. Do I believe that all restaurants should be like that? Certainly not! But I have to admit, as an individual who enjoys foodie experiences and does NOT enjoy the sounds of Other People’s Kids acting up; the concept sounds just as delicious to me as many of the entrée’s. Add on another concept – it is their business. If they want to open their business only to a particular clientele, shouldn’t that be their right?



But then I began to think about it. What about the bakeries out there who refuse to make wedding cakes for same-gender weddings? Well, in all honesty, I support that. I know that may sound rather surprising to some, but the fact is – it is their business. And I don’t believe a bakery is REQUIRED to take all the business that potentially comes its way. If an order is too big, they can refuse it. If it is not worth their time, they can refuse it. If the request for the cake decorating is, by their standards, vulgar – they can refuse it. So shouldn’t they be able to refuse doing a cake for a same-gender wedding? I think so. Just as I have the right to boycott them. Heck, a church doesn’t HAVE to perform wedding ceremonies for just anybody. And ya know what – I support that.



And then we have things like gay bars. Let’s face it – the vast majority of bars out there are straight bars. Shouldn’t gay bars have the right to be exclusive? One of the most annoying things in the world is when a gay bar full of gay men being gay men suddenly turns into a zoo where the gay men are like animals on display because a bridal party shows up. The bride-to-be and her “Woo Girl” bridesmaids show up and act like they should be able to cut in line and be the center of attention because there is an upcoming wedding. Excuse me?!!!! Um… NO! I have seen a number of gay bars that tell such parties to leave. And frankly, I support that! This is OUR turf. Go “Woo” in one of the many, many, many other straight bars that are all over the place! The same goes for a Lesbian bar. I don’t think men should be allowed to go into a lesbian bar. Why? Because it is for women! That’s why!



BUT… (and here is my conundrum) I recognize my own hypocrisy. Because if I saw a business that said, “We don’t serve Jews” or “No blacks allowed”, I would immediately get on a soapbox and do everything in my power to bring down such a bigoted business. And don’t even get me going on trans people and bathrooms! For cryin’ out loud – we just all want to pee! If it were up to me entirely, there would just be a huge bathroom for people! So why should a gay bar be allowed to kick out a bridal party, but a restaurant shouldn’t be able to kick out a black couple? Uh…um… uh… CUZ! That’s why! (And ya… that’s the best rationality that I can come up with).



I’m really super-duper confused right now on this issue and could use some help and clarity. I know that allowing exclusion can and does open the door for bigotry. But is it necessarily an all-or-nothing situation?



Some churches (or temples or mosques or groves of trees) absolutely ARE exclusive. But is that necessarily a problem?

Some bakeries don’t want to bake wedding cakes for same-gender couples. But is that necessarily a problem?

Some restaurants won’t allow people to bring children under the age of seven. But is that necessarily a problem?



To me, this really isn’t a black and white situation. Like so many things, I think there is a huge gray area. But I can’t decide for myself exactly where there should be a line.



What do y’all think?

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