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A Lesson from the Ancient World

Posted on 2017.01.18 at 12:25
Thousands of years ago, people of all classes stood and watched in horror as one of the greatest temples ever built to the ancient gods burned to the ground. As legends tell us, the man who intentionally set the fire wanted to show his power over the gods and have his name known everywhere for all time. However, ancient judges were not stupid. In addition to sentencing him to death, they also made a decree that anyone who even spoke the name of the man would also be sentenced to death.

The result? His name is lost to history.

In a couple of days, this country will bid a fond farewell to the Obamas – a family of grace and dignity who led as best as I believe they could despite adversity, despite prejudice, and despite the “Party of No” blocking them as much as humanly possible. And sadly, we issue in a new era that has me very nervous. It’s no secret that I don’t trust the new administration. It’s no secret that I don’t like the new administration. And it is no secret that I am NOT the kind of person to bury my head in the sand when faced with adversity. So instead, I plan on meeting every problem head on and putting the spotlight where it belongs…with one exception. Starting now, I am going to do my best to do as the ancients did, and utterly IGNORE the person who is going to be inaugurated. Rather, I will shine the spotlight on the nutjob apologists such as Kelly Ann Conway, the blatant homophobes such as Mike Pence, and the white supremacists such as Steve Bannon. These are the people who are doing (and I’m sure will continue to do) REAL damage to this country, and they need to be called out on the carpet! As more and more Deplorables join the cabinet, I plan to hold them accountable for their actions. And to be fair, if they do good, wonderful! I will praise them accordingly. But I hold no false illusions or hopes. But as for the person who will be inaugurated, I will try my best not to speak his name, to ignore every tweet, and instead to shine the light on the problem rather than on the media storm. Why? Simple – he can’t be fixed. He doesn’t care. He is simply a narcissist who wants attention, attention, attention - whether it is good or bad matters not to him. So my friends, I pose this thought to you - just imagine if nobody cared about his tweets? Just imagine if nobody commented on his appearance? Just imagine if nobody paid any attention to the things he says? Just imagine if he walked down the street and nobody noticed? He’d go utterly mad! And as the spotlight shifts to the people he places in power, and they begin to get more attention than he does…. Oh the fireworks show that will create!

So my friends and family out there. As we all march together in the next few days in trepidation, and anxiety; let us don our Pussyhats, carry signs, make our thoughts know, show grace under fire, and dignity before deplorability. Let us demonstrate non-violently. Let us shine the spotlight where it needs to shine. But let us not play into the hands of that individual. He has taken enough from this nation already. Do not give him the one thing he wants more than anything – do not give him your attention.

Regardless of his net worth, he is not worth your attention.

Opinions are like….

Posted on 2017.01.09 at 12:35
I think it fair to say that as we look back upon 2016, many of us feel a sense of, oh I dunno… distaste? Nausea? Resentment? Anger? Division?

In addition to what seemed like an unbelievable number of celebrity deaths one right after another; we faced an election that tore this nation apart and shocked the crap out of many of us on all sides. And as if that wasn’t all enough, I also observed a tremendous amount of Facebook lash-outs. And with all of these things in mind, but particularly the last one, I write this post.

This past weekend, I attended an SCA coronation. And in the middle of the day at some point as I stepped out of the hall to get some air (as I was starting to feel utterly wretched) a friend of mine asked to speak with me. Much to my surprise, I received a bit of a scolding about a past incident. Given that the incident described was from at least a year ago, I cannot honestly say that I recall ANY of the details. But, that isn’t the point. I trust this individual, and I listened when she reminded me that my words have power and told me that my words have influence on people. Now, I have a confession to make. I have a really hard time taking that last part seriously. Why? Because truthfully, I just don’t see myself as having any more or less say on things than anybody else. I’m just a person – one of many. Why would my words have any more sway or less sway than another person’s? And why should my opinion carry any more weight? But that is just my belief. Who knows? Maybe she is right? So with that spirit in mind, here are some words that I hope we can all carry with us into 2017.

It is time to heal the rifts. People are going to have opinions. And people are going to voice their opinions. For better or worse, I believe that this is one of the things that makes our country great. But an opinion is not a barrier or a restraint upon you unless you – yes YOU - allow it to be. People are going to have opinions about politics, or fashion choices, or religions, or TV shows, or who you love, or what you do on your weekends. That is just a given. And some of those people are going to publicly voice their opinions – social media only furthers enables people to do this. You have no control over someone else voicing their opinion – nor should you, truthfully. But what CAN you control? How you react to it.

I mean seriously – THINK about this. If somebody tells you that you are going to fail at something, I can guarantee that you will – IF you allow that opinion to impact you. Ask yourself something – what is more important to you – someone else’s opinion about something, or your own opinion about yourself? So going back to my earlier point about words having meaning – if indeed my words really do have an impact upon people, my hope is that you take this message to heart. You are important. Your own goals and values and ideas and thoughts do matter. So whether or not I or your parents or your spouse or your neighbors or church members or anybody else around you approve/disapprove or like/don’t like whatever it is that you are doing – that is just an opinion and nothing more. Don’t let yourself be held down by what others may or may not think. Don’t waste your wonderful talent, time and energy reacting to someone else expressing their opinion. Instead, just go do what you want to do and enjoy it.

2016 burned up so much time and energy in flame wars. My hope is that 2017 is spent trying to mend the hurt, come together, and to respect one another. Opinions will still be voiced – no question about that. But how will you react to them? That’s up to you.

On Feasts in the SCA

Posted on 2016.12.29 at 22:30
By definition, the Society for Creative Anachronism is an educational not-for-profit organization devoted to the study of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. “As a living history group, the Society provides an environment in which members can recreate various aspects of the culture… of the period… we sponsor events such as tournaments and feasts where members dress in clothing styles worn in the middle ages and renaissance and participate in activities based on… period.

Based upon the above snippets, all of which come directly from the governing documents of the society, I’m sure you get the gist - ours is a game about history. We dress the part. We learn the part. We act the part. And we experience the part. At least that is what we should always be striving to do. Yet, there is one area where in my experience in this organization, I feel like I am frequently (MUCH more often than I find acceptable) banging my head against a wall to remind people to put the history into our game - and what I am talking about here is feasts.

I count myself very fortunate in that my home barony here in Caid takes feasts and period cooking very seriously. Yes, I have played a role in this development. But over time, it has just become part of the local culture – and I couldn’t be happier about that. But often, when I travel out of the Barony or out of Kingdom, I really never know what I’m going to get. Maybe the feast will be period (and I LOVE it when it is!). More often, the feast is “period-inspired”, which is to say a mix of modern and historical. And yet other times, there just isn’t even an attempt to do anything remotely historical. And yes, that bothers me. That bothers me a LOT! Why? Because, to be perfectly honest, there just isn’t a good excuse to not at least make an attempt – not nowadays when we have such a wide variety of books, sources, websites, and resources. Seriously gang – think about it for a moment. An SCA Feast is an actual activity of the SCA. Why should we expect any less attempt at history with a feast than we do anything else? And every time I hear somebody whiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine that doing a historical feast is just tooooooooooooo haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaard, it makes me want to scream. So with that in mind, I have a few observations to make about feasting in the SCA:

“Period Food Tastes Yucky”: Luckily, it has been a while since I’ve heard this line of utter bullpucky stated. But taking this statement at face value, I just have to shake my head. With over 1,500 years of culinary history to investigate from multiple countries, I find it nothing if not the height of arrogance to completely dismiss all things prior to this modern age and culture as “yucky”.

“Doing a period feast is just toooooooooo haaaaaaaard”: Oh kiddies. Sitting in my rocking chair with my cane for a moment, lemme tell ya. At a time, this might have been true. Trying to find the information was not exactly easy. Heck, when I started, there wasn’t exactly a market for historical cookbooks. And in those days, before the world wide interwebz, you’d actually have to go to this thing called a book store to get a book. Did historical cookbooks exist at book stores? Of course not! So we had to either use these ancient portals called libraries to find copies of copies of university publications. Now fast forward to today. Not only has there been a huge renewed interest in historical cooking, but several books have come out in a variety of forms. Some are facsimiles of original texts. Others have been discussed, analyzed and redacted for you. And others down n out lay out the feast for you. Frankly, it couldn’t be made any easier nowadays if it was spoon-fed to you. (See wha I did thar?)

“How will your feast accommodate my allergies?”: OK, guys. I get it. Really, seriously, I do. I consider myself fortunate in that I am an omnivore without allergies. But I realize that not everyone can be. Some people really do have to work around anything from mild to severe health issues related to diets. And that utterly sucks. But, like anything else, that falls upon the individual who has the issues. In my experience, most people who have allergies (and off the top of my head, I’m thinking of everything from yeast to dill to mustard to meat to wheat to rice to barley, etc), have been exceptionally polite and have simply asked me prior to the feast what items they need to avoid. But every now and again, I have run into someone who expects – EXPECTS – that they will be given some other option simply because of their allergy. (Oh… millennials!!!!!) Or, to get more to the point, I have run into some people who magically expect that because they have a not-so-common allergy that I, as the cook, am supposed to A. Know that; B. Expect that; and C. go the extra mile to make some other dish JUST IN CASE someone has a problem with a key ingredient. To put it bluntly – no. Just… no.

One of the weirdest phenomena that I have noticed about American culture involves behavior in restaurants. For the most part, I think people are taught to use “Please” and “thank you”, and to show one another respect and courtesy. But for some reason unbeknownst to me, when people walk through the door of a restaurant, they transform. Suddenly, Bob is no longer just Bob. Bob becomes the Lord of the Manor. And the food-servers who work the restaurant are no longer Sally and Fred. They become the lower-class servant/slaves to Bob, Lord of the Manor. And if Bob finishes his ice tea and Sally isn’t there to refill it within seconds, Lord Bob gets angry! If Lord Bob’s steak arrives and it shows a trace of pink which is not what he envisioned in his mind, Lord Bob will read the riot act to Fred; as if Fred purposely went out of his way to offend Bob. The level of talking-down-to that occurs in restaurants appalls me sometimes. But what does this have to do with SCA Feasts? Oh, it has EVERYTHING to do with SCA feasts! Why? Because something about this rude “I am being WAITED ON HERE!” mentality often spills over to SCA feasts. I have seen people become livid at their server because a dish comes out cold. Aside from the fact that that particular dish may have intentionally been served cold, the server had nothing – NOTHING – to do with its preparation. Further, that server is a volunteer – not someone (barely) paid to put up with your abuse. Then let’s talk about the food itself. Did you read the menu before signing up for feast? If you did, and you bitch and whine the whole time that there is nothing being served that you can eat, whose fault is that? The people in the kitchen who are again VOLUNTEERING to bust their humps to feed people? No. It is yours. Volunteers deserve – DESERVE – your politeness and respect. And if you really think you can do better – PROVE IT! The proof is quite literally in the pudding.

So what if you really are a picky eater and/or have allergies and/or don’t like waiting for things to arrive at your table and/or don’t like period feasts? Simple – go to the Sizzler instead. Seriously! I do not mean that in any way, shape, manner or form as an insult or as a flip response. Sometimes, that really is the better option for everyone. You will be happy, as will the people who don’t want to sit around listening to you grouse. The SCA Feast experience, just like fighting or dancing or singing or fencing; can be a wonderful experience but really is NOT going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Heck, it can’t be. The people in the kitchen are not custom cooking dishes based on your individual order. They are cooking several dishes that they are hoping you enjoy en masse. Will you? Who knows? The same dish put in front of three different people will most likely get three different reactions. And yes, this is why many cooks often prefer to play it safe by doing modern foods. But if there is nothing else that I can convey in this post, it is the fact that American-Restaurant-mentality needs to be left OUT of SCA feasts. SCA Feast is NOT a restaurant experience! It is NOT, “We’ll have it your way”. An SCA Feast is the vision of the head cook. And hopefully, you will enjoy most of the things that you try. But there’s just not a guarantee of that.

So where am I going with this feasting rant that discusses various issues and potential problems? Well, very simply, I want to see a change across the board when it comes to SCA feasts. I want the food served to all be documentably SCA period – all the time – at every single event. Is it possible? Absolutely! Do we have the ways and means? Absolutely! Will it be to everyone’s tastes? No. But frankly, neither is any other SCA experience. It isn’t hard to find modern food – the restaurant around the corner has some. But an individual who attends his or her first SCA event should at least have a reasonable expectation to be exposed to history in each of the activities presented at an event – and yes, that includes the food (or at least it SHOULD).

For those of us who love and admire and appreciate history and historical experiences, we are being deprived of an SCA encounter that we wish to experience and have a reasonable expectation of being able to experience. So please, if you are a cook and are at all involved in preparing SCA feasts, please bear this in mind and add the one ingredient that many feasts are missing – history.

Bring on 2017

Posted on 2016.12.28 at 12:46
As 2016 approaches its end, I cannot say that I will look back upon it with fondness. With so much strife, and war, and politics, and passings and violence; it will be nice to see the ball drop and the calendar page flip. Even if nothing actually changes, just visualizing some positive developments makes me feel a bit better.

In 2017, I see a lot of challenges – nothing I can’t get passed – but challenges nonetheless. And while I’m really not big on resolutions, per se, I do like to set myself some tests – milestones if you will. Let’s see how well I do with them all:

Politics – No, I don’t like the pending transition in the White House – not one bit! But, what’s done is done. I sincerely HOPE the President-elect and his administration do right by this nation. I will not actively obstruct what he does simply because he does it. (I’m not a RepubliCANT after all), but I’m also not going to roll over and take it if I see them trying to pass legislature to limit my rights, or the rights of those around me.

Rest – While I reserve the right to Not Like It Even One Little Bit, I get it. Sometimes, I just need to step back and rest. And with surgery on my horizon, I will have no choice but to take at least a couple of days to sit on my butt and do utterly nothing.

People – The older I get, the less I have the patience to suffer fools. I don’t mean that to sound arrogant. I’m not referring to people who just do not know or have not experienced life. I’m talking about people who just love to bait and fight and make life difficult for others – effectively, trolls. I don’t care if you try to convince others (and maybe even yourself) that you are really a fighter for social justice or a defender of bullies – if you go out of your way to PICK fights and torment people, you yourself are a bully and a troll, and I’m not wasting my time with you.

Art – I have some personal projects that I Really, Really, Really want to work on as soon as my own helium hand gets out of the way. Note to self – stop volunteering to do things for other people so much! I want some cool things, too!

Non-SCA travel – I know, right? What a concept! But yes, in 2017 I want to do some travelling around where I am NOT worried about how to carefully pack my coronet, and how much space my garb takes up.

Health – I am soooooo looking forward to getting back to the gym, working out, losing my belly, and getting healthier. It’ll be a bit. But I’ll get there.

Work – I hope that 2017 is a year for positive change. I want some challenge and some positive change – not just the challenge that comes from having to constantly reinvent the wheel.

Relationships – I need to work harder to foster even stronger relationships with friends and family.

Happy New Year, everyone. Bye “Felicia 2016!

Pulse – Six Months Later

Posted on 2016.12.21 at 12:37
It has taken me a few months to process a lot of the milestone events of this Seriously Terrible Year. Never before have I felt like every newspaper and every television report have just continuously whacked me across the face with some sickening report about man’s inhumanity to man. Truthfully, it has been impossible to keep up with all of the issues. They are all important. But they often happen right on top of one another, making it impossible to devote one’s attention to just one issue. On one day, it is a BlackLivesMatter day, as we are all reacting to (yet another) very real and very obvious case of racial injustice and violence. On another day, it is WomenMatter, as we see yet another case of blatant sexism and misogyny that goes by without a blink. And on yet another, we turn to some form of ReligiousMinoritiesMatter as we learn of a family or community of faith attacked in some sort of despicable hate crime. Of course, there are more – many more. And to me, it all matters – every single bit of it. While I have learned that the hashtag is about putting the spotlight on the problem that needs today’s attention, there just seem to be more problems on a daily basis than there are available spotlights. This certainly doesn’t lessen the problems at all – they are very real. It just means that in any given day, there are too many important social issues competing for the same limited spotlight – and that is nothing if not pretty damned depressing. Why is the story about the crime against these ten people only on page 4 of the paper? Because the story about the crime against these fifty people is on page 1. And over time, what used to make me scream now can barely get a sigh, because it is all just too much.

For me personally, this year gave me false hope about what it is to be gay in America. And by false hope, I mean having the rug pulled out from under me. As many of you know, this was the year that my hubby and I stepped down from our roles as Barons in the SCA. Now for those of you not in the SCA, this was a unique thing for us in that there had never before been a same-gender couple sitting in some role of nobility in our organization, which has been around since 1966 and is now an international organization. To say that we felt a weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee bit of pressure to be successful would be an understatement. But thanks to the love and support of a truly selfless Barony and appreciative Kingdom, we had a fantastic four year tenure and felt really pretty satisfied by the time it drew to a close. On that Saturday afternoon of June 11, 2016, when the tears flowed down my face as I realized that it was finally just about over, I felt a sense of peace and acceptance that I had never felt before. I thought to myself, in our weird little geeky world of historical make-believe that consists of people of all ages, all ethnicities, all religions, all walks of life, all over the world; we were accepted exactly as we are.

Two gay men… WERE ACCEPTED!

I didn’t feel like people were uncomfortable with us as a loving same-gender couple. I didn’t feel like people felt that they HAD to be polite to us because of our hats – they were polite to us because they liked us as people. I felt like maybe if I was able to see a change that had never happened before in 50 years of our own little micro-history; maybe… just maybe… this was a sign of a much bigger scale of change happening in our country. Maybe America was beginning to mature? Maybe, I naively thought to myself, the very real stigma of being gay in America was beginning to fade. And with that thought in mind, the tears flowed and I enjoyed a day feeling free from stress, free from burden, and free from that feeling of having to look over my shoulder. Finally, FINALLY I felt a sense of freedom.

That feeling came crashing down around my shoulders the following morning.

The day after we stepped down was supposed to be a completely fun and carefree day. My brother-from-another-mother, Chuck, had come down for the event and was staying with us. Together, we planned to be terrible-twinsies up at LA Pride. We got a hotel room so we could head up there, watch the parade, drink until we got stupid, and pass out without having to drive home. But as I sat down to breakfast that morning, I learned about what happened the night before. For on that day, the deadliest mass-shooting rampage in U.S. history happened at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. I didn’t even get a full 24 hours of being able to feel good about what had happened during the afternoon because suddenly I found myself mourning the violence against my community.

I felt numb. I seriously just felt like I was in a fog. I couldn’t cry immediately. I couldn’t process. I just felt…. lost in a haze. What was I thinking, PFFFT?!!!!! Stupid me! I had felt like maybe… just maybe… America was beginning to grow up. What was I thinking? I had felt like maybe… just maybe… America was starting to step away from prejudice and judgment. What was I thinking? I had felt like maybe… just maybe… I could feel SAFE in this country!

Am I overreacting? No. Because as I have stated time and time again, the fear is very real.

Chuck and I had considered cancelling out trip up to LA simply because we didn’t feel very festive. But damnit, that is exactly what the extremists wanted. So NO! We were going to go! As we arrived in LA, we listened to the radio telling us updated news from Orlando. But then the story switched to a tangent, telling us about LA police who had stopped a suspicious looking man in the LA area with a backpack of explosives heading for LA pride. “Chuck,” I said. “Not only is that happening right now. It is happening here – RIGHT here.” For as I drove, I knew that the street where they just apprehended the man was the one we were about to pass. Had the police not intervened, what might have happened? Would I be posting this right now? Or could I have been another statistic in the roll of victims of violent crime?

West Hollywood is an extremely gay city. The crosswalks have rainbows. There are resource centers all over the place for gays and lesbians. It is the home of LA pride. It is full of gay bars. It SHOULD be our safe space. But IS it? Heck no. Just yesterday, I read about a guy who was attacked in WeHo by strangers who decided to gay bash. He doesn’t remember the details, but instead woke up in the hospital with a severely broken jaw among other injuries, and about $4,000 worth of unplanned medical bills. WTF?!!!!! The threat is VERY real. And the sad reality is that, as the Pulse shooting showed, there is no such thing as a safe space – not for gays in a gay club, not for blacks in a church, not for women in a misogynistic nation, not for minorities. If you are not a white straight Christian Republican male, you have no reason to feel safe here – because you are not.

I apologize to you, dear reader, if this post seems like a total downer – and I know that it IS a downer. But if I leave you with no other thought in your head, I hope the thought is this – I am not being paranoid. I am not overreacting. The threat in this country to people who are “different” from the standard-American-norm is Very, Very, VERY real. And with this new administration coming in, I have every reason to believe that it is only going to get worse.

Foolish me – thinking that maybe we had evolved. Foolish, foolish, idealistic and optimistic me.


Attitudes and cyber-bullying

Posted on 2016.12.19 at 12:35
Hello world. I know I haven’t posted a whole heck of a lot lately. Truthfully, I needed to just step away from it all for a while. I’ve had a lot going on in my life (mostly good, but busy nonetheless), and online stress was giving me a headache. Why online stress? Well… yah… you see, I’ve been suffering a terrible plight as of late. I’ve had to deal with one too many trolls.

I really don’t quite understand the phenomenon. Maybe it is because so many people on all sides have become so passionate about the politics in this country that it has resulted in quite a number of people speaking out LOUDLY about their beliefs. OK. In and of itself, I don’t have a problem with that. But I don’t care for what I view as personal attacks or topic-kidnapping just to be a troll. Further, I have ZERO tolerance for people who have become chronic cyber-bullies while donning the masks of “defenders against bullies”. I have seen this quite a bit on several of my posts over the past few months, and I’m sick of it. Despite my attempts to be chipper, positive, and try my best to steer people towards considering Happy Topic Whatever; along would come a troll who would latch onto a sentence or phrase, twist it around to mean something completely different, and BOOM, a huge ugly tangent fight would erupt. And ya know what? I’m just done with that.

So I’m setting up a few new rules for myself, for my blog, and for my posts going forward:

1. Stay on topic.
2. You are entitled to your opinion, as long as you remain polite and respectful in your tone.
3. If I perceive you to be actually trying to pick a fight either with me or with someone else on my page, I will call you on it. You get one chance after that to behave like an adult. If you then act like a child, you will be blocked and/or deleted.
2017, I fear, is going to be just the beginning of a VERY bumpy ride (if not worse) for this nation. I don’t need any more stress than what I feel we are already in for.

Dreams...

Posted on 2016.12.01 at 12:40
For the past few weeks, I have been a wee bit of a mess. My right knee has been flaring up like a futher-mucker (I will ALWAYS curse that f&cking cement barn floor at Pennsic all those years ago for destroying me!), and I have had to drastically cut down on any kind of work-out. I’ve felt tired, had less energy, less concentration, and been operating on a short fuse. Fortunately, I think I’m coming out of this annoying phase, and starting to feel significantly more like my old jolly self. And I think this was marked by a particularly significant event from the other night – a really productive sleep. Now, what does that mean? I’m glad you (virtually) asked!

With the exception of when my brain is spinning so fast that I just cannot settle into sleep, usually I sleep like the dead. But “sleep” does not always equate rest. For me, there are times that I know I am in bed, eyes closed, and I zonk out. But when I wake up – regardless of how many hours I have been asleep – I still do not feel rested. My body feels exhausted. And mentally I feel like I am exactly in the same place as I was when I closed my eyes – same stresses, same thoughts, same anxieties, same boredom, or whatever. It is like all I did was close my eyes for a second, as opposed to being asleep for ten hours. But then there is what I call truly productive sleep. That is when my brain takes me off on a vacation. I end up in some exotic place or circumstance or situation that is sooooooo incredibly different than my every-day life that it feels like a total vacation. When I wake up, I have to take a moment to ask, “Where am I? Who am I? How did I get here? Where are my solid-gold shoes? What happened to my pet dragon?” etc. Those are absolutely THE BEST! And the other night, I had one of those. And I’ve been feeling great ever since!

In my dream, I was somewhere else (no idea where) and someone else (no idea who). But neither of those things matter. What does matter? I was working as some sort of world-class archeologist. And when I arrived at my top-notch lab, I saw a big cube (the size of a dishwasher), of dirt that was taken in situ from a tomb or some dig in an ancient city. Nobody knew WHAT the block of dirt contained. But it was my job to dig through it and uncover whatever treasures there might be. And treasures there were! I began to brush away slowly at the dirt, and ancient Egyptian artifacts began to reveal themselves. Sometimes I immediately recognized what the object was and fully understood them (say, a broken statue of a particular ancient God); other times, the object was a bit more vague (say, a ring with gems and unusual markings that I was not able to identify); and then other times, the object was completely unrecognizable to me (say, what looked like a piece of a machine). Around me, amateur archeologists observed me working behind windows. I could hear the gasps from the students as I began to uncover new items. This was a HUGE discovery, and I knew I was being booked left and right to make appearances and give lectures on the meaning of the objects and the main dig.

So, what did this dream mean? And why did my brain specifically program in a combination of items that I completely understood, partially understood, or didn’t understand at all? I can’t say that I really know. And I’m sure there must be all kinds of psycho-analysis involved in it. But ultimately, I don’t care. All I know for sure is that when I woke up, I felt refreshed, energized, happy, and ready to go and face the world!

Those are the BEST!!!!!

Girl on Girl Action!

Posted on 2016.11.17 at 12:20
I figured that might get your attention!

As I was going through my Facebook feed this morning, trying as hard as I could to avoid any posts about politics, I noticed something wonderful – a meme going around for and by women challenging other women to post pictures of themselves in an effort to build up and support each other.

Yeah!

What I liked the most about the meme is its opening admission, “All too often, we women find it easier to criticize each other rather than building each other up.” I’m so glad y’all said it! Cuz’ lemme tell ya – I see it – a LOT!

Now, don’t get me wrong – I am not passing the buck to women. Yes, I know that there are plenty of men out there who treat women like they are unequal and work hard to just keep them in the kitchens. But as a man who (all humor aside) is sensitive to this sort of a thing and speaks up to other men when I see what I view as really inappropriate behavior, I am just FLOORED when I see women do it to one another, and I find myself at a loss for words on what to do. Seriously – women can be just so MEAN to one another! Far more vicious and personal and direct than what men do. And I see it – not just a little, but a LOT!

In my professional life, I see it all the time. Women are fine, as long as they stay in the background. But if a woman steps out, becomes assertive, and starts to really push for some change or some aggressive plan, I can see the looks on the other women’s faces. Gods forbid, a woman volunteer to chair a committee or take on a project. It is almost like the other women in the group are all voicing, “How DARE she step out of line!” And what I don’t understand is, why?

In my family life, I certainly see it. Nobody, but NOBODY can get under the skin of one of my sisters quite like any other one of my sisters (or my mother). And at this point in my life, I have concluded that there is literally nothing I can do about it. When one of them vents to me that another one has pissed her off, I try my best to help and encourage one not to let the other get under her skin so much. But old habits die hard – or will never die. Heck, I’m nearly 50 and I’m the baby. I don’t see this changing. They’ve been that way for as long as I’ve been alive. And what I don’t understand is, why?

In my hobby life, I see it. The SCA is supposed to be a wonderful and ideal world based on courtesy and chivalry. But we have our own weird little culture and traditions and types of behavior. And yes, in the SCA, I have seen women be incredibly critical of other women. If a woman hasn’t been around all that long, but suddenly has a fighter ask to fight for her, I hear the catty comments from women of, “Crown Chaser!” being said about her. I never hear the same of a man. If a female artist is assertive and really tries to get people to look seriously at her art, I hear the catty comments from women that, “she is clearly campaigning for her laurel”. I never hear the same of a man. If a woman tries to actively pursue taking on an office (as opposed to being asked to run the thing), I hear the catty comments from women that, “she obviously wants to suck up to the pelicans.” And I just don’t hear that of a man. And GODS FORBID that a woman show strength or really be assertive about something – then she is just being a bitch! Now sure, these are generalizations – and yes, there are exceptions. But in my experience I have noticed this more often than not to follow the same pattern. And what I don’t understand is, why?

Now, in general, I think we’d all be happier people across the board if we would all make a point to Just Be Nicer to one another and to show everyone respect until and unless there is a specific and pointed reason not to. (And yes, I fully admit that I too really need to work on this more). And yes, I really hope to see women work together and help build each other up. I don’t know if you agree with the observations that I have made in this post or not. Perhaps you think I’m full of it (and you can think that). Perhaps you think I am exaggerating (and you can think that). Or perhaps you never gave this any thought at all. If nothing else, I hope this DOES give us all something to think about and perhaps talk about.

So what have you all observed? Do I stand alone in my observation?

Serenity

Posted on 2016.11.15 at 12:52
In Eastern philosophy and religion, the bodhisattva Quan Yin (or Guan Yin or Kwan Yin, etc.), is designated as the Goddess or human(ish) personification of compassion and serenity. While she may be depicted in many ways, I find myself particularly drawn to the rendition of Kwan Yin standing peacefully, while slowly pouring water from a Jade vase – symbolizing the passage of time and the calmness of each moment. Much like a fountain, the tranquil flow of water from the vase symbolizes many things – life, the passage of time, change, or tranquil movement. But above all, the controlled and steady cascade of water represents peace and serenity.

As we drift through life facing the stresses of adulthood, from time to time each and every one of us needs to have a bit of serenity. Some may find it in a good book and a comfy chair, others in a bubble bath surrounded by candles and soft music, and other still a nice walk in the woods or drive in the countryside. For me personally, serenity often evades me. I am a victim of my own self, really. I have so much trouble winding down. Every little thing catches my attention. Did I finish that particular project? How could I have responded to someone differently? What is on my agenda for tomorrow? Did I check the cats’ water bowl? Is the front door locked? What was that noise? Is the alarm clock set for crack of dawn? Are the magazines stacked nicely on the coffee table? Etc., etc., etc. Sadly, and rather frustratingly, I find it very difficult most of the time to find my bliss and enjoy moments of serenity. But in so many ways, I count myself lucky. Why? Because the scarcity of it, makes it all the more special in those moments where I find it. It is like a very special gift. And for me, serenity has occurred more in particular places than in circumstances. For instance…

When I was a child growing up in Provincetown, serenity was easy. Some of my earliest (and somewhat spotty) memories transport me back to the harbor beach behind our house on Commercial Street. Off season, the fog would roll in thick and impenetrable. And in those days, as had been the case for centuries before, the fog could mean certain peril for ships relying on clear visibility. Thus, the light houses would sound their fog horns to warn passing boats away from the shore. But in the stillness of a calm morning in the fog, there was no threat… no harsh peril… no ships travelling. There was simply me – a little boy sitting quietly in the sand – alone in the fog listening to the fog horn. Everything remained perfectly still. Perhaps occasionally a seagull would sound off in the distance. But enfolded in the fog, I found myself blanketed in serenity.

In my thirties, when I travelled to Ireland, a stop in Kildaire was nothing if not mandatory. The drive to Kildaire was in and of itself a pleasure. I had never seen so much uninterrupted green in my life! The land around Kildaire is known as “Brigid’s Mantle,” and has the national status of being protected land – not to be touched or developed. The town of Kildaire is as quaint and cozy as one might expect for a little Irish Hamlet, with ruins, mossy stone walls, old churches, graveyards, and more women named, “Brigid” on the tombstones than I had ever seen. But looking back, nothing could have prepared me for the experience of visiting Brigid’s Well. A natural well dating back beyond memory, Brigid’s Well is nothing if not a magical place, with such a living feeling of energy and healing and calmness. As I strolled down the road from the churchyard to the well, I could feel a change in the air. And even in the crisp and moist breeze, I could feel something transform. Turning the corner to the well, it felt otherworldly. The breeze suddenly just… stopped. The cold damp air suddenly felt, comfortable. And there, surrounded by trees and branches wrapped in ribbons of every color representing prayers, spells, wishes, and offerings; stood the well – as it had stood for centuries, covered in moist and vibrant moss. The water, pure and clean, flowed. And on the smooth and round rocks within the well, I could see shiny coins, and offerings to the Goddess/Saint. Visiting this holy place felt like such an honor. And as I walked away, having splashed my face with some of the holy water, I felt such a complete and utter sense of… you guessed it… serenity.

Last year, my hubby and I had the joy of visiting the Big Island of Hawaii. Our colleagues there spoiled us rotten and shuttled us around wherever we wanted to go. But one of our unexpected trips turned out to be one of our most memorable – the Valley of the Temples. Nestled away in the mountains, in between waterfalls galore, rests a memorial park focused on areas of different faiths, all congregating in the same place. Within the Valley of the Temples rests the Byodo-In Temple, a replica of an 11th century Buddhist Temple. And despite its relatively young existence, it feels like it has been there since the dawn of time. There, the air is still. There, troubles fade away. There, the coy remind you that no problem is too big a problem. There, the birds land right in the palm of your hand. There… you find serenity.

Whether you find your serenity in a particular place or in an action, finding one’s bliss can make all the difference in terms of recharging one’s drive, energy, inspiration, and sense of inner-peace.

Where do you find serenity?

On Trump  

Posted on 2016.11.14 at 12:31
On this, the first Monday after the most shocking and unexpected Presidential election in my lifetime, I feel like I’ve been through an emotional ringer.  No, the results did not go the way I had wanted or expected.  And I think I’ve gone through all five stages of grief.  Having done that, I have a polite and respectful message not only to Mr. Trump, but to all of those of you out there who supported him.
 
I seriously hope I am wrong when it comes to the major concerns I have about this presidency.  My (very justified) fear about this victory is that because he ran on a platform of bigotry (ban all Muslims from entering the country), racism (build a wall), sexism (locker room talk), etc.; and actually won, that it empowers ignorant-but-privileged-white-guys to act out in disgusting ways towards other people in this country.  I am not exaggerating when I say that in just the short amount of time since the election, I know not one or two but at least four separate people who have been threatened, harassed, and abused by such people because they were different (of color, handicapped, gay, etc.)  And ya know what?  That is absolutely UNACCEPTABLE!  And ya know what else, Mr. Trump and Trump supporters?  This type of behavior is exactly why I fought against this presidency.  Nobody – NOBODY - deserves to be beaten down by complete strangers just because they appear different. 
 
Now, I know what many of you may be saying – what about the violence being done by protesters?  And to them, I would say this – KNOCK IT OFF!!!!!!!!!!!  Like it or not, he won and Hillary lost.  Stop behaving like savages, and let’s work on making progress with what we have.  I don’t want to get into the name-calling or the back and forth between Hillary camps and Donald camps.  Why?  Because she lost and he won.  It’s done.  It’s over.  Hillary has her place in history and has been through enough scrutiny.  As for Mr. Trump, to the best of my knowledge, he won fair and square.  And unless and until someone is able to prove otherwise, he fairly won the election.  I don’t like it.  But frankly, whether or not I like it is not important.  He won.  And as an American, it is my job to do my best to work with the system.  After all, the system that I support is the one that elected him.  So no, I will not be joining the “Not My President” mob or mentality.  While I don’t respect the man (and will be really curious to see how his sexual assault and fraud court cases drag out), I respect the office of the Presidency.  And I encourage as many people that I know to do the same. 
 
But having said that, I expect – actually, I DEMAND to be respected right back. 
 
While I find Mr. Trump’s reversals and backpedaling of opinion in less than a week to be mind-blowing, I’m glad to see them.  It seems he realizes that Obamacare isn’t such a horrible thing after all.  It seems he realizes that same-gender marriage IS the law and needs to be left alone.  It seems that he has finally woken up to the fact that some of his good-ol-boy supporters have been attacking minorities and that they need to stop.  Good for him for saying that (finally!)  Now all you Bubbas out there who think that this is now AmeriKKKa, KNOCK IT OFF! 
 
No, I am not saying that everyone who supported Trump is a racist white supremacist.  I understand that there are many people out there who felt that the past eight years let them down.  I’m not going to tell you how to feel.  But I AM telling you that many people (myself included) feel very nervous in this new Trump America.  And for the many of you out there who have told me, “Oh, nothing bad will happen”, I’m counting on you to make SURE nothing bad happens. 
 
A woman should not have to fear that men will just touch and grab and take what they want.
 
A person of color should not have to fear a beating because they are of color.
 
A handicapped person should not have to fear that they are going to be beaten up for being in a chair.
 
A gay person should not have to fear for his or her life because of whom they love.
 
A devoutly religious person should not have to fear slander, ridicule, or attack because of how he or she dresses.
 
Let’s come together, Americans.  Let’s heal.  And let’s be ever vigilant.  Mr. Trump deserves a chance, and I’m going to give him that chance.  But if I see my rights or safety threatened OR the rights and safety of my neighbors, you’d better believe I’m going to speak out and speak up.  And I hope I’m not alone in this pledge.
 
I fear that more random acts of hatred and violence are yet to come.  But I could be wrong.  I HOPE I am wrong!  Prove me wrong, Mr. Trump and Trump-supporters.  In this case, I want nothing more than to be proven wrong.


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