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What am I?

Posted on 2016.02.10 at 12:56
When it comes to the philosophical questions of “where did you come from?” or “what are you?”, most of us American hush-puppies tend to rattle off some list of countries to identify our background. In my case, I have an unusual combo in that I am a mixture of Portuguese, Austrian and Dutch. But over time, I’ve realized that this isn’t quite true.

Take the Portuguese part, for instance. My dad was born in this country, and was fully of Portuguese ancestry. But is that quite right? The geneology reveals generation after generation being from Sao Miguel, which is technically part of Portugal, but not from the continent. Rather, it is part of the Azores. So… am I really Azorean?

Then there is the Austrian part. That comes directly from my Grandmother, Sedonia who came from Vienna. But in looking at her heritage, she had quite a mix of eastern European in her ancestry. So is it fair to say Austrian?

Then there is the Dutch part. That should be fairly simple, right? That comes from my grandfather, Maurice. He was born in Amsterdam. Only one problem. He was a Jew from a long line of Jews. And looking at his background, it looks like Amsterdam was only home to the family for a couple of generations. Before that, they were in Brazil for a couple of generations. And before that, Constantinople. Why Constantinople? Because that is where they ended up after the Inquisition drove them out of, you guessed it, Spain. So is this part of the family Spanish? Turkish? Brazilian? Dutch? Jewish? I guess you could make a case for it being Jewish except for the fact that Maurice was the last Jew of the family. My mom and her sister were not raised Jewish. His wife was not Jewish. And my sisters and I were raised Catholic.

So… I guess I am ethnically descended from the Azores and eastern Europe with Jewish ancestry. There’s really no simple drop-down box to select this when asked.

I guess I’ll just say, “white”. Sigh.

50 Year

Posted on 2016.02.02 at 12:50
February? How in the world did THAT happen? My life seems to race along sometimes with one major activity after another. I am in no way complaining as I would MUCH rather stay busy than be bored! (Trust me – a Bored Joe is NOT a good thing to be around!) But at the same time, it can really be tricky – particularly when someone wants to have a get together soon and my calendar shows that the nearest “soon” won’t be for months.

Looking at the calendar now, we are pretty darned busy for the entire rest of our SCA tenure as Barons and a wee bit beyond, as only a couple of weeks after our step-down, we will head to Midrealm to experience and celebrate SCA 50 year. Just THINKING about the event really makes me stop to think and smile. Seriously! 50 years ago, a bunch of crazy kids in Berkeley threw a medieval-themed going away party. 50 years ago, nobody could have or would have imagined the birth of a historical reenactment. 50 years ago, would anyone have imagined all the kingdoms? All the people? All the progress? All the discovery? All the change? All the living history?

Compared to many people that I have met on this coast, my own time in the game must seem like a hiccup, only starting in 1989. But still, even in my time I have seen a tremendous amount of development, change, evolution, and our own historical achievement. And I think that is absolutely magnificent! I can’t honestly say that I know what to expect when I attend 50 year. I have not had the opportunity to travel to that part of the country yet, so that in and of itself will be an experience. But one thing that I really look forward to is the humbling sense of appreciation that I expect to have when I see where we came from, where we travelled, where we are, and where we think we will be. I look forward to meeting artists who are able to create and recreate complex pieces of art that just blow my little mind. I look forward to meeting people whose reputations are larger than life. I look forward to hearing stories from “back in the day”. And if I am lucky, I might be asked to tell one or two myself.

I know there are some people out there who aren’t very pleased about 50 year. “It should have been in the West!” some would say. “It should have been at a different time of year!” others may complain. I’m sure there are other issues out there too – there always are. And I’m not going to say that people don’t have a right to complain, but the fact is you can’t please all the people all the time and the best anybody can do is to try and please as many as possible while not losing one’s mind. With that in mind, I would like to express my appreciation in advance to those worker-bees who have stepped forward to make this event happen. It can’t be easy. But frankly, what spectacular dream-come-true ever came easily to anybody?

Happy birthday, SCA! You have made so many wonderful, WONDERFUL contributions to my life. I wouldn’t be the person I am without you. And to those going to 50 year, see ya there!

You look nice

Posted on 2016.02.02 at 06:48
Before I start going into this post, let me just preface it by saying I am NOT trying to bait anybody into an argument about the extreme views of chauvinism and double-standards of behavior. If anything, it is just the opposite – I’m looking forward to more people finding a happy medium.

Last night, I found myself watching the news where they were covering the story of a woman whose online post about cat-calls went viral. In a nutshell, a woman posted a picture of herself all bundled up in her winter-clothes, talking about a guy who paid her a compliment on her appearance. Now, I don’t know the full story and acknowledge that it is quite possible that the way in which he paid her a compliment was rude. That is entirely possible. But what stuck out to me was the way in which she responded. Basically, she went on a bit of an extreme (at least I saw it that way) about how she was not dressing up to make HIM happy and how he needed to stop expecting women to dress up just for his pleasure, etc. OK, from a philosophical perspective, I get that. In fact, after a really good discussion with a friend of mine in the SCA on that very topic, I have gained an appreciation for the fact that many women are indeed treated (whether men mean to or not) as if it is their job to dress in a way pleasing to men. I get that. I get that loud and clear. And I’m not defending bad behavior here. But on the other extreme, I really want to point something out – sometimes, a compliment is a compliment – nothing more. And because the pendulum tends to swing to the extremes, it gets to the point where as a man, I get really nervous saying ANYTHING to a woman about her appearance because she might find a way to turn what is meant as a compliment from one human being to another into an act of sexism. Does this happen with women that I know? Not a lot – but just enough to make me really uncomfortable. And ya, that annoys the crap out of me.

I think there are many times when what a man MEANS to do is to just express a pleasant positive affirmation to a woman along the lines of “you look really nice today.” Now, is that what he says? Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. But I think sometimes what a woman HEARS is something along the lines of, “Good. You dressed pretty for me today.” And that is often not at all what he is trying to convey – but it is very much how she interprets it.

Come on – let’s face it. People can be prickly (both men and women). And in daily banter there are lots of ways of interpreting things. If, for instance, a man says, “Oh you look nice today” to one woman, she might HEAR “Oh you look nice today” and nothing more. In fact, I think most women will hear just that. However, another woman might HEAR, “You look nice today… unlike other days”. And yet another woman might HEAR, “Sexy momma! I want a piece of that.” And to be fair, I think all of these interpretations are valid as it depends on HOW he said it and what kind of personality the man has. Is he typically a gentleman? Or is he typically a lecherous asshats? Is she a rational person? Or is she looking for drama and interested in filing a harassment complaint?

So where am I going with this whole stream of consciousness? Well, very simply, I just want to make the point that sometimes, a compliment is just a compliment – something said on the spur of the moment, without a ton of thought beforehand, to express one’s reaction to something. And while some guys are indeed chauvinistic pigs, a compliment from a man to a woman does not immediately put a man into that category. And yes, there are SOME women who do that – not all, but some. And it is that extremity that I am really trying to address here. Thoughts?

“…for a long winter’s nap”.

Posted on 2016.01.27 at 12:33
Regardless of what December holiday you may or may not celebrate, most of us are familiar with the scene described in the famous Clement Clarke Moore poem. For many of us, the mental image of a “long winter’s nap” conjures up visions of snowfall outside, a big living room hearth glowing warmly from a roaring fire, fuzzy soft warm pj’s, a favorite quilt or comforter, hot cocoa or tea; and of course sleep.

For me, sleep is a somewhat flakey ally. It isn’t like I am actually an insomniac. It isn’t like I cannot sleep. Rather, my body just doesn’t like the idea of 8 hours of sleep from 10pm to 6am. Despite loving nature, my body just doesn’t want to correspond to the rhythms of nature or the farming cycle. What DOES my body typically want? 8 hours of sleep just like most other people – but from 2am to 10am. And is that the way it works? No. Not for most jobs, or lifestyles. So compromises must be made and sometimes, naps have to be incorporated.

Yet for some odd reason, I am happy to say, this week has been really weird in that I have been nodding off early. On Monday, by 10pm, I was crashing hard. And last night, it was even earlier – like 8:30 or so. Could it be aging? Could it be just pure exhaustion? Could it be some very, very mild illness? Could it be the reality of returning to the gym after about a week off? Or is it a seasonal thing? I dunno. But in truth, I don’t know that I care. I just know that there is something wonderful about crawling into bed and immediately feeling warm (but not too warm), snuggly, and comfortable – like that feeling you got as a kid when you tried on a pair of flannel pj’s that had just come out of the dryer.

Whether your winter involves snow and extreme cold, or the sunny and very mild conditions like we get here in So Cal, I hope you all are able to slow down your pace this winter season, enjoy the quiet, beam at the promise of spring, and above all – enjoy your long winter’s naps!

Getting Busted

Posted on 2016.01.20 at 12:31
When I was a kid, I suffered a very rare and unusual condition known as the goody-two-shoes disease. Oh sure, I could be bratty when I wanted, and I had my fair share of whiney hissy fits. But when it came to actually being bad, it just didn’t happen. As I grew up, I must have annoyed and frustrated the crap out of my family. For whatever reason, I always lived in absolute terror of Doing the Wrong Thing and Getting into Trouble. I wore my shoulders for earrings and all I could think about was studying and making good grades. I was not exactly a “fun” person. My sisters did their best to try and get me to lighten up. They wanted me to swear occasionally (which I wouldn’t do) or drink (which I also wouldn’t do). Finally, by my teen years, I was beginning to lighten up a bit. On the weekend, at the beach, I would do like all the other members of the beach gang on the causeway and drink beer. It was just the regular thing to do. And I have to admit – looking back, it felt good to feel like I was a part of a group. Maybe it was ok to just let loose a little bit and be one of the gang? Well… fate has a very interesting way of waiting until you feel comfortable before pulling the rug out from under your feet.

In my last semester in High School, I found myself in an awkward predicament. I needed an elective to fill the last spot in my schedule. And nothing was available except for one of three things: auto repair (soooo not my thing), wood shop (whyyy didn’t I take that instead?) or choir. Geek that I was, I knew a lot of people in choir, so I chose that. And ya know, I actually did somewhat enjoy it. Even though I didn’t know didley squat about music or sight-reading, at least it was a break from study, and should have been an Easy A. And it would have been, had it not been for the County combined choir performance. For weeks, we had been rehearsing for this group concert. It would be held on a Saturday. We all gathered during the day to practice, and then split off for a few hours before coming back to the performance. I joined my friends, and suggested that we go and see a movie. But they had different plans in mind. We found the nearest liquor store where the tallest and oldest looking one of the group (our valedictorian, mind you!) went in and got a bottle of vodka and some horrible mixer. And I wanted to be part of the gang. So I had some. I drank in moderation. But the same could not be said for all of us. One of our party got so drunk, she could barely stand. In fact, we got to the concert venue at the last minute, and all but had to carry her into the theatre. Needless to say, because of the state she was in, we all got busted. And while I didn’t know what was in store for me, my world began to spiral!

Now, I don’t blame anybody else for my actions. Then, as now, I took responsibility for my actions. But to this day, I still don’t see what I did as that extreme. I was underage, yes. Yes, I broke the law – no moreso than I did every weekend with my friends and family. But because it was considered a school function, it was treated the same as if I had shown up on Monday morning drunk. And my school had a No Tolerance policy.

The Monday after the concert, I had sunk into probably the single deepest depression I have ever experienced in my life. I did a BAD THING! And I was going to get punished! How would I face my friends?! How would I face my family?! (My parents were away for a week up north dealing with a sale of the family business). How would I face my teachers? My sister, 3 of 5, stepped in to be parent/guardian while mom and dad were away. And she was doing everything in her power to get me to cheer-up. But when it came down to it, I felt completely destroyed. I had always been such a good kid. But now, I felt like a complete screw up. And the punishment was only yet to begin!

First thing on Monday morning, I walked into school early and went to speak to my choir director to apologize. He was kind and gentle with me, but told me that he would be reporting the incident to the principal. After all, he had to follow the rules. I apologized again as the tears began to flood, and he told me not to be too hard on myself. In no time at all, I found myself in the principal’s office facing a 5 day suspension – something that an honor student like myself found completely crushing! Of course, I had the option of getting it reduced slightly… IF I voluntarily entered a six-session alcohol and drug counselling program. KMN!!!!!! I had never ever felt so humiliated in my life!

Facing the prospect of failing the entire last semester of my otherwise all honor-roll high school experience, I enrolled in counselling. But not until facing each of my teachers and personally apologizing. One by one, the teachers all told me to let the punishment be enough and not to punish myself. I just cried and cried – utterly devastated at what I had done, truly believing that I had destroyed my life! I found myself kicked out of the National Honor Society. My GPA crashed. My grades dropped. I lost scholarships. I felt completely worthless. And to add insult to injury, I had to take six weeks of alcohol and drug abuse counselling. By the second session, even the counsellors in the group pulled me aside to say how absurd it was for me to have to be there, but to just ride it out.

For weeks solid, I felt like a zombie. I cried every day, feeling destroyed by my own choice and the reality that it caused. I felt like the world’s biggest let down. And to this day, the scars feel very real. I still have to wonder - what if, in some parallel universe, that choir director had said to himself, “this was an optional field trip on a Saturday? These kids broke the law, but on their OWN time – not in school. Is it really for me to report to the principal?” I guess it really doesn’t matter. Regardless of what I might imagine, he had to follow the rules, right?

So now as I am not all that far from fifty, I look back at the one time in my life that I made a really poor decision and did a Bad Thing. I didn’t follow the rules. And I paid the price. As for that choir director, whatever happened to him? Oh, he died in prison years ago. Apparently, he gave a lead part in a high school production to some teenage girl after she agreed to have sex with him. He only got busted decades later when he tried to pursue her again, after she was married with kids. So when she reported him to the cops, he lost his job and his pension, going directly to prison for statutory rape, where he later died.

What can we learn from all this? Sometimes, choices can have some pretty extreme consequences!

Faces of Death

Posted on 2016.01.14 at 13:47
“Wow guppyman!” you are probably thinking to yourself. “What a cheery header you have there!” Well, I know it isn’t exactly pleasant. But I think it is something we need to talk about – all of us. What I am talking about, plain and simple, is about this – drug use.

As most of you know, in my professional life, I work for County Healthcare on the administrative side. I have a lot of programs that I work with, including several in alcohol and drug abuse. Even when days get frustrating, and I find the light of the sun being blocked out by red tape, what keeps me going is the reminder that in my own way, I am helping people. And when I visit my programs, I see it. I see hardened faces who have very colorful back-stories who are doing everything they can to try and turn their lives around. And many of them do! But not everyone gets the chance.

On mornings when I walk in to work (don’t hate!), I am reminded often than not everyone is quite so lucky. As the sun is rising, and I leave the house and stroll leisurely a couple of blocks south, I often see different examples of what I have come to refer to as the walking dead. It is near impossible to guess the age of various people, as drug use, poverty, abuse, and homelessness leave many people wrinkled, sunburned, dirty, and aged well beyond their years. Every now and then I will look into the young eyes of a person whose body has completely gone to hell. There is no acting here. The desperation is very, very real. Just this morning, I passed a girl who may have been in her 20’s, with the deteriorating body of a woman much older. Her face (which was probably quite pretty at a time) showed the open sores indicative of meth, as did the sunkenness of her eyes. So many people turn to drugs as an escape from their problems, not realizing that they could be surrendering their independence, success, health, memories, stability and lives to the never-ending greed of meth.

Seriously – I know life can be rough. I know that we all need an escape now and then. I know the temptation can be very real. But to quote one of the walking dead that I used to see regularly, until he disappeared one day (most likely another nameless, homeless body found in a cardboard box), “It just isn’t worth it. It just isn’t worth it. It just isn’t worth it...”


Posted on 2016.01.14 at 13:45
Having returned to reality (sadly) after a fantastic weekend with friends and SCA-family, I am finding each day more and more grueling when I read about the state of this nation. To be clear, I am a registered Democrat. But does that mean I automatically follow the party-line? No! I think for myself. I am a fiscal conservative/social liberal. I don’t care what party someone belongs to. I just want the most qualified person in office who is going to serve the greatest good. And while this rant may read to some as anti-Republican, it isn’t intended that way. Rather, it is anti-WACKJOB!

How, how, HOW can anybody in their right minds support Trump? Seriously! The man talks a ton, and likes to be in charge. Um… that hardly qualifies him to hold the nuclear codes. He is good at pushing the buttons of the uninformed, which is what worries me – the uninformed can still vote. And if he says something like, “Vote for me. If the other guys win, they are going to take your guns”, it seems like the Bubbas of this country rally. Ignore the fact that the 2nd amendment was written at a time when “taking up arms” meant muskets. Don’t pay attention to the fact that the concern at the time was having British Redcoats simply walk into your home and claim it as theirs as long as they needed it. Somehow, thanks to some really clever political spin-doctoring by gun owners and gun manufacturers, the spirit of the 2nd amendment has been twisted to allow private citizens to own arsenals. Now don’t get me wrong – I have no problem with the average citizen having something at home to defend themselves if that helps them sleep at night. While I’m not a fan of guns, I support my neighbor’s right to have a gun. But that’s the key - >> A << gun. Not a semi-automatic, flame-thrower, bazooka launching, anti-aircraft missile! Now I know the response. If we make it illegal for the average person to have weapons, then only the criminals will have weapons. Yes, that is sadly true. But I don’t know if I have the right answer. This is unfortunately a problem of our own creation. Had people back at the time realized that the production of so many personal weapons could and would lead to this problems, maybe it wouldn’t be so commonplace today to read about random gun violence and shootings of innocent victims.

So where am I going with this? Simple – I support stronger background checks. I want the law to do everything possible to keep weapons OUT of the hands of those who are likely to misuse them. Do I want to prevent a single woman who lives alone from being able to defend herself against attack? No. But I don’t ever again want to pick up the paper and see another headline talking about another random mass-shooting.

I am proud to be an American, and am thankful every day to have the freedoms and liberties that I have. But my fear isn’t of the government – it is of my neighbors. And that isn’t right.

Being Right

Posted on 2016.01.04 at 12:32
Now that we have made it through to another new year, it feels nice to sit down, put virtual pen to paper, and get philosophical for a bit. Today what I want to talk about is the reality and perception of being right.

How important is it that we be right? And what does right indicate? Does it indicate dominance? Superiority? Wisdom? Consistency? In the back of my head, I hear the advice of one of my yogis who said once, “when faced with the choice of being right or being kind, be kind.” And yes, I can see a lot of wisdom in such a thing – particularly if the discussion or argument really just isn’t that important, and a victory would be of minor consequence while upset or hurt feelings would be of major consequence. But what leads to the overall NEED for people to be right? While I can’t answer for other people, I can only look at my own actions.

For me, my earliest memories involved being the small child in a world of adults. In addition to my parents, my sisters were all older and grown-up. Because of the circumstances of living in a small tourist town, I found myself more often than not surrounded by people who were older – after all, a schoolroom only had about 20 people max, and most of the people in town were adult tourists. As a result, I found myself schooled a lot by people. I wasn’t a bad kid at all, but it seemed to me that someone was always correcting me on something – gently and politely, but a correction nonetheless. I now know that the adults in my life were just trying to be helpful and educate me. But the reality is, it made me feel stupid. It seemed like no matter what I said or did, there was always going to be a correction. Was there anything – anything at ALL that I could possibly do right? Apparently not. So frankly, why even bother? Eventually, this led to me truly cherishing those times when I was right and the other person was wrong. Why? Because, it just so rarely seemed to happen. And for me, being right gave me such a happy feeling that I strove more and more to be right. It meant I was able to take my place with the adults!

Enter teenagedom. While not a troublesome teen at all, the need to be right drove me to a very obnoxious extreme – the “can’t ever be wrong” teen. You see, even if I made the wrong choice or did the wrong thing, it wasn’t my own fault. It was always because of something someone else did. If I forgot to do something, it wasn’t because I didn’t write it down – it is because someone else distracted me – that sort of thing. Looking back now, I feel bad for anyone who had to put up with that pendulum swing part of my life. But then came college. And the pendulum swung back the other way – FAR to the other extreme.

Adulthood was scary for me! Being out of my parent’s house was a lot more challenging than I expected. And I realized quickly that I was going to have to learn to stand on my own two feet. And naturally, I found myself having a lot of self-doubt. And that self-doubt included right vs. wrong. Earlier in life, things seemed so much more black and white – typically because there was often someone around to clarify. But in adulthood, things aren’t often black or white. It is more like east or west – both of which have their own consequences. So which way should I turn? I DON’T KNOW!!!!!!!! And the self-doubt that I experienced must have stood out like a tattoo on my forehead. Whenever I made a choice, and someone else stood nearby to offer criticism of my choice, I immediately second-guessed myself because I had no confidence in my own instinct. While I wanted desperately to be right, I was honestly never sure if I was right if someone else who seemed confident cast doubt. And in my adult life, this turned into one of my biggest challenges.

Over time, I learned to gain confidence and place less value in being right. After all, it really is all a matter of perspective. If you buy a pack of gum because it sounds like a great flavor, only to find out that it tastes disgusting, have you really lost out on anything by being wrong about your hunch? No. But if you see the light changing, and decide that you have enough time to get through it, blast through a red, and get a ticket (or worse!) the consequences are clearly much bigger.

Life, in a nutshell, really does come to choices. And in life, there will be plenty of times that we are right, and plenty (more) times where we are wrong. But I think what defines us as people is what we do in each situation. Are we going to be gracious winners? Poor losers? Stick-to-our-guns people? Flexible? A little of all of the above?

When you look at your own life and your own values, what do YOU think is most important? Being right? Being kind? Going with the flow? Something different?

All I want for Christmas is...

Posted on 2015.12.28 at 12:39
We all have our quirks, right? Call them what you will - annoyances, pet peeves, oddities, eccentricities… we all have them. And there’s nothing quite like the holidays to bring many of them to light.

For me, one of the main ways I cope with holiday stress is to cook. While cooking stresses out many people, I just love it. I find my zen while balancing timing and dishes and what burners are available and which pot should be used for just what. I get into my element. But at the same time, I also become massively territorial. I just don’t want anybody else in my kitchen while I am cooking! Why? Well, for lots of reasons – safety for one. Distraction for another. But more than anything, I think it is because it takes away from the “Ooh Aah” moment of the presentation. Having someone there in the kitchen at my moment of plating the main course is akin in many ways to having someone standing over your shoulder as you are wrapping their birthday present. It just ruins the moment! So while I could go off about this subject for a while, I decided instead to channel my energies into something more artsy. So here for your enjoyment, I give you…

I don’t mean to sound rude,
Or like I’m always bitchin.
But please will you kindly go away from the kitchen?

You ask how you can help,
Wanna know what I’m wishin?
That you would please… NOW… get OUT of my kitchen!

I don’t care about the gossip,
Or what anyone is dishin’,
I’ll gladly listen later – once we’re outside of the kitchen!

I can’t talk to you now!
I’m really on a mission.
So pick up on this clue – get the hell out of my kitchen!

I haven’t been subtle.
Just in case you’ve been fishin.
Here is your message – get the fuck out of my kitchen!

There’s not enough room!
Your presence causes friction.
So for your safety and mine, back the fuck out of my kitchen!

You run by to the restroom.
You speak loud while you’re pissin.
Oh for the love of god already! Why can’t you stay out of the kitchen?!!!

You see the little kitty cat,
And you stop to give it a-scritchen.
Both YOU and the damned CAT can both GET OUT of the kitchen!

These recipes are complicated.
They call for high precision.
Which I cannot give them ‘til you leave the kitchen!

I nearly burned the sauce!
Some courses I gotta be switchin.
Distraction makes problems for me in my kitchen!

This doesn’t taste right.
I made some omission!
What did I forget when I got sidetracked in the kitchen????

The mallet comes down hard
As I tenderize the chicken.
This might be your head if you don’t get out of the kitchen!

What the fuck? Are you deaf?
You’re ignoring this eviction.
I’m seriously not kidding! GET THE FUCK OUT OF THE KITCHEN!

I’m holding a knife!
And I have a premonition.
Blood will soon be spilled if you don’t get out of the kitchen!

You say I’m too stressed.
YOU’RE THE ONE WHO CAUSED IT while hangin’ in the kitchen!

Fuck it. I just ordered pizza. I’ll be under the kitchen table with a bottle of wine.

Reflections upon the Eve of Christmas

Posted on 2015.12.24 at 12:21
So I feel like it has been a while since I last posted. Holiday laziness? General apathy? Nothing to say? (Oh gods! The day that I have nothing to say, we may as well pull out the casket!)

I guess in addition to the typical business of working on projects and all of the holiday preparations, I have also just been observing things. In these past few weeks locally and around the world, there is a high sense of unease. Sadly, the whole idea of people picking up guns and shooting random victims is becoming so mainstream as to almost make me (and many of you, I am sure), desensitized to the whole horror of it all. Every time I turn on the news, there’s another report of a rogue cop gone bad abusing his authority, leading to some massive protest. While such things are rare in the big scheme of things, the media sensationalizes it so much that many people out there are losing faith in the system. And then, of course, we have the complete farce that is the Republican front-runners for President. No, I’m not bashing the party, as that consists of many people whom I don’t even know. But I am bashing the embarrassment that is Trump, Fiorina, Bush, and Carson. I could go on about each of them at length, but let me just summarize my disdain for them all with a single “ew!”

But despite all these things, I am going to be self-centered right now and take a look at my own life. My career is pretty stable right now. After the horrific time I had last year at work, this year has calmed down, stabilized, and become significantly calmer. I am supposed to get a (very slight) raise this paycheck. And I really, really like my boss. Health-wise, I am having to deal with holiday pounds and the realities of middle-aged spread. But compared to many my age, I still have more energy, more accomplishment, and get more done in a day than the rest. My hubby is just wonderful and makes me smile every day. One of his single greatest abilities, I feel, is his calming effect. When I go home to my hubby, there is never drama (at least not from his end). Unlike the fiery Portuguese temper that I have, he is always, always, ALWAYS calm and mellow. And unlike anybody else I have ever met, he has an uncanny ability to help to calm ME down. I don’t know how he does it, but he does. I can come home all angry and furious over something, and just vent about it and scream. And he’ll smile or laugh about the absurdity of it all, and suddenly that Great Big Ginormous problem… just doesn’t seem like all that big of a deal at all.

Our roomies are like family – it’s just that simple. We giggle. We bicker. We share all kinds of details about our lives. We lean on each other. We take care of the pets together. We host parties together. We do chores together. And we share our lives. David (and David) and Tim have become an extended family, and I love them!

I’ve met some truly magnificent people this year. (I’m lookin at you, Steven!) In life, so many acquaintences come and go (as they should, truthfully), but every now and again, you randomly run into a real friend that you just click with and you know is going to be around in your life for good. And such a thing is a blessing!

My SCA family continues to grow not only in closeness, but in breadth. One of the things I find so incredible about the SCA is that you can go just about anywhere in the world, and you will find a local branch or chapter so excited that you are visiting, that they will bend over backward to provide you with hospitality. It really inspires me to step up my own game in terms of hospitality and hosting.

To all of my friends that I have locally that I keep near and dear, what can I say? I really would be nothing without you! You are my strength, my recharge, and my ability to laugh off the challenges. Thank you for letting me be myself much more than I ever am while just walking around otherwise.

And to my family back east – yes, we have time differences and distance. And yes, we all bicker like… well… like family. But when it comes down to it, one thing that we all have in common is our alpha stubbornness that has come down through the generations. It is that inner strength that helps us each to combat whatever challenges we face each and every day, and to always survive, triumph, move ahead, and cook! Thank you all for helping to mold me into the person I am today. I like me, and I hope you do too.

No matter what your faith or whatever holidays you celebrate, I hope you have a wonderful holiday full of hugs, love, success, inspiration, creativity, celebration, and rest!

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