Tuesday, November 1, 2011

And now one of my better efforts

(A picture of Abelard's brother Preacher, Dominic, at left)

To make up for the last lugubrious posting, I decided to post some of my better writing.

Some time in 2002, then-Majesties of An Tir, Nicholaus and Alyssia, for reasons known only to God decided that they would expand the sumptuary laws of An Tir to include some that they were familiar with. (That is to say, they'd moved in from another kingdom and thought we needed a dose of the other kingdom's laws.)

I was, as they say, nonplussed.

However, there is a side of me that comes out every once in awhile, who will pick apart something like that, and strip the flesh of a matter until the bare bones are exposed. His name is Abelard the Lesser.

Father Abelard sat down, and with the aid of a number of texts, including Gratian's Decretum, examined the issue carefully. This document is the result.


Unto Their Most Royal Majesties of An Tir; Nicholaus, our Undoubted King, and His Most Gracious and Renowned Queen, Alyssia:

Come now these Greetings from the humble Abelard, known as the Lesser, Clerk and Lawyer in the Order of Preachers (Dominican). God grant His Grace to Your Thrones, and long may Your names be heard in the Halls Of Valor and Good Remembrance. Greetings also, in Courtesy, to Their Royal Highnesses, Davin and Groa, that they may also see and ponder the words I offer to Their Majesties. And to Yourselves I offer: Peace, Wisdom, and Humility be granted to you, in remembrance that to wear the Crown is to be the servant of all the Kingdom, and indeed the most humble of all portions.

And now, to the business of this letter.

I have read the proposed changes to the Sumptuary customs and have spent much time pondering these matters, weighing them carefully, and reading books and treatises such as that have bearing on the matter. First, I must apprise you that though I have nearly 14 years experience in the Society, I have modern education and credentials in medieval history and law customs. I can best give information and advice from my studies. I do hope that they count for something in a historical recreation group such as the Society. Also, I am neither on the 'Steps' nor the 'Cathedral'. Friends will on occasion tell me bits of things, but I have no direct knowledge of the conversations therein, nor of what other members of the populace have to say on the matter.

There is, it would appear to me, to be two issues presented by the proposed changes, these issues being: Custom, and Purpose. I will attempt to address these in turn, for while they can be related and at times entangled, they are- at least in the light of medieval law- separate issues.

As to Custom-

The issue of Custom is to my mind raised by the wording of the proposed 'Sumptuary Customs', in the Introduction thereof, a portion:
"These Customs are a compilation of the traditional sumptuary customs, practices, and restrictions of the Kingdom of An Tir. They are presented here in writing, to preserve the traditions of Our realm, and to serve as a source of information for the people of An Tir."

Having read through the rest of the document, particularly noting the newer additions, I must argue that these are neither Customs, nor An Tirian.

Allow me to explain: Custom, in general, means a long-standing, habitual practice. In particular, it has a very specific meaning in Common Law, and when discussing sumptuary matters, the more specific meaning cannot be ignored. The Common Law consists of two parts- the Lex Scripta, or written law, which is created as statute by rulers, and Leges non Scriptae- Customary Law.

Leges non Scriptae are authoritative and original institutions that are not created by a ruling body setting them to writing, but are grown into use and thereby acquire the force of law. Within these Leges non Scriptae are laws made by Custom and Usages.

Custom as Law is subject to certain qualifications. It is not simply unwritten custom, or an oral tradition. Custom is a long-standing usage that has the force of ordinance (Lex Scripta) where none exists. What constitutes long-standing varies by place and situation. For an act, three repetitions may suffice. In other circumstances, it must be a Custom that goes beyond the remembrances of man- i.e. you might remember your grandfather speaking of observing the custom. In some places there are specific times "Before the reign of the Normans" "Before the ascension of King Richard (I)", etc. I have understood for some time that a 'generation' in the Society is about five years- in which case establishment of true Custom can happen in as little as five to ten years.

As well as length, there must be continuity. For a new custom to abrogate (invalidate) the current one, it must be practiced for at least ten years, without break. And the word 'practiced' brings up the next test:

Intention. For a practice to be a Custom, and have the force of Law as Leges non Scriptae, it must be intended to become a Custom. One does not suddenly wake up one day and find that something they did without thought is now a law. As an example, the modern practice of common law marriage- one of the proofs, should it ever go to court for some reason, is Did the Couple Intend to be Married? Were they living together with the intent of it becoming legal vis-a-vis the Common Law? (In fact this holds true in period Marriage Law as well.)

And lastly, Custom that affects all must be approved by the majority. This is not to say that there is something of democratic process, but that the people have to want to practice the thing, with intention and continuity, for it to become Custom. So it is implicit then that they consent.
If a Custom is written down such as to enlighten newcomers, etc., it must be understood that the strength of the Law is not in the writing- the obliging force and power stems directly from the long custom and use.

Now: the Sumptuary standards under discussion. Are they Custom? I believe not. As to length and continuity of practice, they do not reflect the general current practice. And the additions of course cannot be called Custom, as they are new and externally applied. And lack of current practice would either indicate that they have not been accepted, or that they have been abrogated through lack of observance. As to intention? I do not believe there has been a general intention to establish custom. And there are reasons for this which I will go into later. And the same with general acceptance. And if they are not Custom, they are not likely An Tirian.

And so to Purpose.

The basics of medieval Civil Law (that is Lex Scripta) are generally built upon Roman Civil Law. When there is no ordinance regarding something, the matter falls back up the Customs, or Leges non Scriptae. Having established that the proposed Sumptuary standards are not Custom, they must therefor be ordinance, or Civil Law. According to Isidore's Etymologies, as further recorded in Dicta Gratiani, the creation and nature of Ordinance should be as follows: proper, just, possible, in accordance with nature, in accord with the Custom of the country, suitable to the place and time, necessary, useful, clear so as to not contain hidden deception, and not accommodated to some private individuals, but composed for the common utility of the citizens. Ordinances are instituted when they are promulgated, but they are only confirmed when they have been approved by the usage of those who observe them. Ordinances are abrogated- that is, cancelled and rendered void- by consistent and persistent usages contrary to the ordinance. In light of the requirements of Ordinance and the circumstances of acceptance or abrogation, I must concluded that the proposed Sumptuary standards will not pass these tests and are likely to be abrogated.

Referring back to the Introduction of the aforementioned 'Sumptuary Customs', we find this statement:

"This information is designed to assist the populace in the preparation and use of personal regalia items. These guidelines are intended to further enhance the dignity, estate, and appearance of the people of An Tir, and should be consulted when preparing new items of regalia."

There are records of sumptuary standards in many places and times in SCA period, and they have one overriding thing in common: They are meant to discourage sartorial display, and to further broaden the visual gaps between the social classes. Sumptuary laws by their nature are restrictive, and do not encourage the populace towards the use of regalia, but instead away from it.

To explain a bit- sumptuary laws came about (and persisted) for several purposes. First, they were designed to create a visual distinction between the social orders. Heraldry in its early forms was a part of this, and in part because of that, the various Colleges of Heralds have had the responsibility for creating and maintaining the rules and standards of regalia.

Besides a visual distinction, there is an economic one. Most of the sumptuary standards that we can point to come from the time period after the Black Plague, at a time when the social orders are severely disrupted simply because of the vast numbers of dead. The economy was volatile, there was something of social 'upward mobility' happening, and merchants and townsmen were suddenly behaving and dressing like their betters. A number of laws were passed to try to control this, such as the Ordinance and Statutes of Laborers, in 1349 and 1351 in England. Both were intended to keep the lower orders where they belonged, and to restrict their ability to demand higher wages or to move about seeking a better situation. After this was a Sumptuary Statute Of Edward III, in 1363. It was a direct descendant of the statutory provisions that spawned the earlier labor statutes. The idea of this statute was not only to keep people from looking like their betters, but to keep them from spending too much money doing so- which was diverting money from more productive investments that might help the kingdom get back on its feet, and funneling it into clothing and fripperies, and not inconsequentially, into the weavers and merchants not of England, but of Lille, Bruges, Arras, Venice, etc. There was also more than a little of a sense that the People would spend far too much on frivolous things if they weren't prevented from doing so, and must be prevented by their betters.

Many of the more complicated sumptuary laws (such as those in Renaissance Italy) are distinctly economic- only someone with such-and-such an income may wear this kind of fabric from Lucca, or the number of pearls on an woman's gown may not exceed X unless her husband holds a certain position in the town. One could know one's economic (and by extension, social) class simply by 'reading' their dress. This went of course all the way down into the underclass, where prostitutes were required to wear striped hoods or bells on their tippets- and if they attempted to dress like a higher, more respectable woman (this seems to have involved wearing the veils of a proper married woman), the offender was beaten severely in the public square.

There is a sideline of sumptuary standards that may actually have more to do with the Society than rules about a prostitute's red shoes or pearls of a Roman matron's headdress; and that would be rules for regalia. The regalia guidelines are not meant for daily wear, or festival, or even attendance on a king on a hunt. Regalia are emblems- outward tokens of merit and achievement. They appear to be specifically designed to control what is worn in Royal Court occasions- Coronations, royal weddings, royal baptisms, elevations, the opening of Parliament- not necessarily where one wears the highest fashion, but where the rigid, codified formal attire is worn. (Even today, when you see the robes and chaplet worn as they were 300 years ago- no longer fashion, but now costume.) In this context- and only there- the rules are very specific and detailed.

So, this is known: sumptuary rules prevent people from dressing as their betters, thus reinforcing the social order, and redirecting the economy to more useful things, and it serves a visual cue for specific roles at court.

Now perhaps to look back at An Tir.

Do we actually have a problem with people dressing as their betters? I have not seen behavior that appears that way. And because of the balance of Society awards and individual personae, it would be very difficult to ascertain if there genuinely was a problem. Are people outspending themselves and ruining the kingdom's economy? I dare say that is between their checkbooks and themselves. Indeed, there are a number of clothing and fabric merchants in An Tir who would be glad of the business. So if is not social or economic, the crux must be ceremonial. And there we find it our matter.

The proposed sumptuary standards are not necessarily about sumptuary matters, but are specifically about regalia. And we must examine it with these questions in mind: Is there a problem which must be addressed by this document? Are these matters important? How will they change the visual and social aspect of An Tir? Are these rules An Tirian, and if not, what do they accomplish? To whit: do they follow the precepts of Ordinance?

The section addressing crowns, coronets, and circlets, is standard, with only minor modifications.

The section regarding chains also appears to be standard and unchanged.

The section on Collars of Estate is new, so we ask- is there a problem with these collars that must be addressed? .Having only seen a couple of them, I was not aware that they were an issue. They would be appropriate only with a fairly narrow band of personae. Is it truly important to create guidelines? Does anyone really need a rule? Does making a rule encourage people to make a Collar, and how does it do so? If they want one, why haven't they made one already? And not having seen anything like this in An Tir, where does it come from and how does it benefit us?

The section on chaplets has similar concerns, even more so. Chaplets of fur (of any sort) are specifically ceremonial regalia. You don't wear them to dinner at your Auntie's. They are worn in court, when receiving foreign dignitaries, etc. If anyone in An Tir had them, they would wear them twice a year- at both coronations. There really is not another appropriate time and place. However, that is a very big if. Does anyone in An Tir have a chaplet of fur, much less ermine? I have never seen one. And the only ermine I've ever seen was on Mistress Tessella's tippets. This bit of regalia would be very self-limiting due to expense. And it is not appropriate to wear one if the king is not doing so. Also, like the collars, it is appropriate for a very narrow time and place. The chaplets do eventually freeze and become a 'costume' regalia, but they were worn by the actual court during a very short period of time. This happened also to a particular sort of sideless surcoat, which turns up on portraits of queens long after they were fashionable. Shall we add them to the list of things to regulate?

The chaplets are also not native to An Tir- the notion has been imported from somewhere else. Since it is not in use, and not likely to be in common use (I know it is in the sumptuary laws in other kingdoms, but I asked around- it is not in use there) so why create a rule regarding something that is not used? How will we be benefitted by doing so?

As to spurs, I seem to remember that at one point the specific rule had been that knights may have spurs with rowels, leaving pick spurs to the populace. I being a man of the church, have no particular opinion.

About belts. Here is one item of regalia that has a special problem. It is also a necessary item of clothing. Belts of white have been reserved since time immemorial (and yes, white belts for knights are period- as per careful study, I have concluded that not all knights wore white belts, but if you find a period picture of a man wearing a white belt, chances a very good that he's a knight!). Red belts have, by Custom (and I do mean Custom in the legal sense) been set apart for squires. But the green and yellow belts have been only intermittently used in other kingdoms, and while they have been introduced here, they have not really been accepted in general use. My guesses at why are these- knights and squires both wear belts as part of their ensemble anyway. Laurels and Pelicans may or may not wear belts, and are more likely to have very elaborate clothes that require special waist-wear. An apprentice or protege may not wear a plain leather belt for similar reasons. Many Laurels and Pelicans have their own favors or livery to make note of their students with. Is it truly necessary to mark people with belts in this manner? What does it accomplish? It is my firm belief that if this was meant to be, it will grow into Custom. If not, it will not. In the meantime, do we wish to restrict the clothing options of those of the populace who are not of the Chivalry or in a specific relationship with a peer?

Now back to Purpose.

I have been given to understand that it was Your Majesties' intent to encourage sartorial display, to encourage creation and regular use of regalia, to enhance our experience in the Current Middle Ages through pomp and panoply. I understand and applaud that intent, if that was indeed your meaning. But I cannot believe that the way to best encourage something is to regulate it. I believe that the best way to encourage something is to do it- and do it well. Put your household in livery, have banners and gonfalons made. Think about how to encourage the populace to research the regalia that would be appropriate for their persona, perhaps by the creation of an award, not specifically for persona, but for display of such. I, for instance, may not wear regalia- it would be most inappropriate for a Dominican canon. But I know a woman who has taken her award medallions and mounted them on a fine baldric with gauds and bells, as is appropriate to her early 15th c persona.

It is of course entirely Your Majesties' prerogative to consider my words or to disregard them. But I must add this: As they stand now, the 'Sumptuary Customs of An Tir', being neither Custom nor An Tirian, and specifically noted as not statutory, are quite likely to be received with a most time-honored Custom of An Tir- that is, being ignored. And I do not think that would be any benefit either to Your Majesties, or to An Tir.

Written on this the feast day of St John the Evangelist with the assistance of my scribe, Arundel, but signed by mine own hand,
In all Honesty and Reverence, I remain,

Father Abelard the Lesser, Order of Preachers (Dominican)

They decided not to implement the laws after all. I'm sure this is just a coincidence.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The worst paper I ever wrote.

Ok, I've mentioned it in a number of places, so I am offering it up here, so others may view it's full horror. And sorry, but the footnotes can't be copied. I don't know why.


Bite Me:

Female mystics, Eucharistic Devotion, and the Corporeal Christ

Woman is to man as body is to soul- in one phrase the sum of much of the philosophy and theology of the Middle Ages. Men were largely seen as linked to the mind and spirit, able to transcend the physical and think creatively or meditate; to worship and interact with God on purely spiritual level. Women on the other hand, not only inhabit but are imprisoned by their bodily nature. They are only a little above the animals, having souls but mostly unable to reach beyond the body, and so trapped in the bodies they inhabit, are by their very nature unable to grasp the supernatural. The divine is invisible, ineffable, ephemeral, and cannot be touched in the bodily sense; so a creature with such a thoroughly grounded bodily nature, with its corresponding desire and need for the physical connection will be denied the desired interaction: for the un-bodied God cannot be reached, be touched, or be connected with by a bodied female.
Given that impasse, with the gulf between the world of the body and of the spirit, visions of God and interactions with Him would then remain in the realm of the symbolic, containing something of the unknowable. However, with some of the female mystics it is their bodily nature, the very thing that holds them back from the realm of the spiritual and therefore from complete union with God, i.e., the body, becomes the vehicle by which they can attain it. In the same way that one who cannot climb up a tree with an armload of lumber, could build a ladder with the lumber, so to scale the tree and reach its branches, so that very nature which distanced them from God became their means of communing with Him.
In the Genesis account, God walked in the garden in the cool of the evening, with the man and woman that he had created. They could commune easily and experience pleasure from this time because there was yet no gulf, no breach in the relationship of spirit and body. When Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, it was a reach for knowledge, which is in the realm of the spirit. Eve's attempt to grasp something of the spiritual through an act of the physical severed the two worlds, and created the division between them.
The phrase "Woman is to man as body is to soul" can also be read as "Woman is to man as humanity is to God". This separation of body and soul and of humanity and God was created by a bodily act, the physical act of Eve. Thus, the act of reparation must of necessity be a bodily one, an extrinsic act of salvation.
The person of Christ , by his very nature and existence, is the bridge between the two worlds, a curious inhabitant of both the liminal and the substantial. While fully God, he is given a body and takes on a cloak of humanity through the woman Mary; through her female body he is given a part of Mary's femaleness, and deep connection with the bodily nature. Thus , as the female body provided the agent of separation of body and soul, or of humanity and God, it is a female body that is the agent through which is provided the means of salvation.
A female mystic might see Christ as that ladder- as the tangible body used to bridge the gap between God and humanity, and indeed the Church saw him in that capacity. From his conception, which moved his existence from solely in the spiritual into one where he fully inhabited both spiritual and physical worlds at once; to the Passion, where he hung between those two worlds until the weight of them pulled him asunder and separated again the spirit from the body; he is that sole link and only connection between the earthly and the holy. Because it is particularly the bodily nature of this link that makes it efficacious, the body itself becomes particularly important. Every member is a rung on that ladder, and every wound or drop of blood imbued with meaning.
In the world of the medieval mystic, the corporeal presence of the risen Christ was embodied in the Holy Eucharist, that small wafer given to the communicant at Communion. The wafer was not just a physical representation of Christ's body, but it was Christ's body; and because Christ was not just a link to God but was also fully God, the eucharist was doubly important. It was sustenance, both physical and spiritual; it could feed the body while it nourished the soul.
Many of the female mystics of the medieval era showed great devotion to the eucharist, and quite a few reached a point in their devotion where they abstained from all other foods. Some reported it melting and tasting like honey in their mouths, others that it turned to blood or to meat that they needed to chew. Others, denied communion for any number of reasons, found that communion was given to them through miraculous means. Still others found their mouths suddenly filling up with the desired wafer, so that they were given their communion without the hand of the priest bestowing it.
The act of communion- that blend of communication and union (it is by no mistake that the recipient is known as the communicant) is central to the mystical experience. In the receiving of the eucharist, that link is established that crosses that liminal space between the earthly and the divine. The physical body of Christ is present in the wafer as is the divine presence, so that when the recipient eats the eucharist, her body and Christ's body become one; she has achieved a brief moment of true union of the corporeal and the spiritual. That the incorporation of Christ into self and self into Christ could be repeated was a mystery, but because of that it was sought repeatedly. The obvious metaphor of sexual union is however only workable on one level- that of the physical, of the wafer mixing with the communicant's body. The total union of the body to the spiritual belongs to the realm of the ineffable.
The bodily nature of the female was in the medieval view of a double nature: more than simply partaking of nourishment and excreting the excess, it could also excrete food. A woman producing breast milk became both eater and the eaten- taking in food and then becoming it herself. Breast milk was also thought to be made of blood, some sort of distillation or by-product of it. Perhaps in part because of this, the close associations of women's bodies with blood via menstruation, and of the production of milk, women were seen as intrinsically linked through their bodily natures to food, to milk, and to blood. It is then not surprising to find so many female mystics to be preoccupied with Christ's bodily nature, or that their preoccupation would be with his body as food, his blood as drink, and the wound in his side as like a breast to nurse from. Indeed as women were linked to the bodily by their excretory and reproductive functions, Christ is linked to the bodily through its salvific function.
It is not only Christ's body that they are preoccupied with, however. Frequently we see the female mystic not only appropriating Christ's body as that connector or touch-point to reach a union with God, but we see her using her own body as an extension; in her own devotional experience, or as part of another woman's devotion, as an adjunct to Christ, an intercessory link to yet another body. Catherine of Siena is well known not only for abstaining from food and sustaining herself only on the eucharist as part of her devotion to Christ, but also for licking the open wounds and sucking the pus from lepers, and sucking at the infected breast of one afflicted woman. In this she becomes not an agent of the bodily, reaching towards the spiritual; but the spiritual reaches through her, using her as an agent to connect with the bodily, much in the way that Christ provides that bridge. This is one expression of the imitatio Christi; not simply in the imitation of his sufferings, or of his life, but of his very existence as agent of reconciliation.
These women are also seen as becoming instruments of their own salvation, as intercessory agents for themselves. This is seen in instances where the particular sin to be expiated was particularly identified in or with a portion of the body, the penitent would administer punishment to that member, such as fasting to remedy the sin of gluttony, or self-administered beatings or mutilations to erase former pleasures. Through this sort of purchase, the mystic is again extending her body towards God, using the same body that sinned as the agent of the remission of that sin.
Whatever body it is that reaches across to bridge that space between the physical and the spiritual, the greatest emphasis remains on the point of contact. Like Michelangelo's hand of God touching man, it is that contact that makes the connection, that allows the communication. Both portions, the physical and the spiritual, are needed for a successful connection to be made between the two worlds. As an electrical current needs a contact to complete a circuit, so the heavenly needs the bodily to contact: hand to hand, mouth to mouth, mouth to breast, flesh to spirit. Through the bodily nature of Christ, the ineffable nature of God can be known to humanity. Humanity, through that union with Christ gained by the eating of the eucharist, can communicate with and be known to God.

And this pile of bovine exhaust... got an A.

I lost a great deal of respect for academia after that.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Am I still on planet Earth?

These have got to be the strangest flowers I've ever seen. Thick, waxy magenta petals, and a hard teal ball in the center. They grow on a tree that is a few blocks down from me, on 26th, and I'm told that it is a 'clerodendrum'. Very strange looking plant. Pretty, in it's own strange way, but it is the sort of thing that you have to stop and look at, because it looks so unreal!

I've been walking regularly, which is why I've seen these flowers. I found that from here to the T at Dekum, and back, is one mile. So I've been walking a mile. If I pop a tape into my Walkman (old-school, I know) and walk to music, I can keep going and not think so much about what hurts while I'm doing it. I have been ahving some problems with shin splints off and on, and the bad knee, but at least I'm out of the house for a half hour or so, and moving about.

Life continues to be unreal. I'm still feeling lousy. The sleeping thing is off and on better- the new sleeping pills help some. I'm having problems again with the twitching thing, so I'm upping the gabapentin for a bit to see if it calms down. (But no levo-dopa. I have no desire to puke on a duke again!) My doctor says that considering the stress I'm under, I'm doing pretty well. Well, that's an awfully big 'considering'...

The situation down south is still not resolved and the babies are still not home where they belong. I have made some careful contacts that may result in some movement on this, but we don't know what may or may not happen. In the meantime the kids are having problems with Support Enforcement. That I can't help with. The whole mess is just so frustrating and makes me so angry, and all I can do is sit up here and worry. And pray. It's frustrating, because I'm still so very angry about it, especially towards one person, and I'm still having a hard time dealing with it. Someone suggested that i pray for that person. And I just can't. And I feel guilty for being so angry, and I find myself sitting in church, during the Prayers for the People, and the general Confession, and the tears slop over... How do you forgive someone who continues to hurt you, and deliberately so? How do you pray for someone you've come to hate? I haven't found anything in Alcuin that can direct me, and Aquinas is like wading through waist-deep mud lookig for a lost tricycle- I might stumble across something, or I may simply have to wait until the mud ebbs away...but I need some resolution before the mud ebbs.

In the meantime, I bought a rocking horse for the girls, and hope to have it done for their birthday. It's currently on my work table upstairs. The room smells of stripper and paint, but I can run the fan. It's kind of nice to do something different for a bit.

I'm working on a tunic for James, and embroidering the yoke and cuffs, in a style similar to the pattern on Queen Arnegunde's gown. The tunic is a lovely teal blue, and the embroidery is in a dull mustard gold, a cranberry, and some warm sage green. It's looking really nice so far. I've mostly been working on it on Tuesdays, at the ladies group at church. I love going- it's informal, I can chat and get to know people, and it is just a nice time. We're also holding Evening Prayer on Thursdays, and I've been going to that too- a nice break mid-week. Last week a bunch of us went out to dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant afterwards, and that was a lot of fun.

Still working my way through a bunch of Carolingian theology (pre-destination!) and more modern stuff in The New Yorker. Sometimes I'm reading because I can't sleep, and sometimes I fall asleep reading! Wish my body could make up it's mind!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Oh Sleeper, where art thou?

So this has pretty much become my sleep: I sleep for three or four hours, then I wake up and can't get back to sleep. I'm not quite among the living, but I'm not asleep either. Eventually I wake up a bit and can do stuff, but after a few hours, maybe three or four or five, I crash. Bang. I fell asleep sitting at the table at an event the other day- during court, including the hurrahs. I can fall asleep sitting here at the computer. I suddenly nod off in odd places (no, I am very careful to not be driving when this is happening). But not in my own bed, when I want to.

Obviously I have become a house cat.

Boring reading sometimes help, though it doesn't help with staying awake- just with drifting off. Sometimes I can put on my headphones and put in a tape and go to sleep (Sting's 'Soul Cages' seems to do the trick lately), but there's a click when the tape ends and sometimes that wakes me up.

I've tried staying up all night to try to 'reset'. Well, I fall over at about 6 pm, sleep for four hours, and then wake up in a daze, not sure where I am or when I am. A couple of weeks ago I woke up about 6, and couldn't figure out if it was am or pm. I had to bump the little day/time thing on the computer to find out. It's really disorienting.

I'm drinking very little caffeine these days, only Saturday and Sunday morning, so that isn't the problem. I'm not up watching violent or stimulating tv, because I don't watch tv.

I do have plenty to worry about though. Worried about David and Lydia with the the babies. Worried for Annie and her job situation. Worried about Stephen and school (or not) and his overall life frustrations. Worried about James and his job and finances and finishing school. Worried about Wanda's health. Worried about Fjorlief's health. Worried about my own health. Worried about politics and the economy...

My doctor's solution of course is sleeping pills, and the suggestion of a support group. Support for what? Is there a support group for worried grandmothers of children in foster care? Or for people who want to find funding for a loved one's schooling? Or for frustrated Democrats who don't see anything good at the end of this tunnel?

Disrupted sleep is a common hallmark of Fibromyalgia, so I'm trying to reassure myself that this is not uncommon, and that others have felt this way. Doesn't help me sleep though.

Camomile? No. And it tastes like weeds. Lavender? Nope- I'm allergic, and the headache and nausea is not likely to help. Valerian? Nope, not a good combo with my meds. Ball peen hammer? Hmmm... there's s a thought. Well, probably would give me a headache.

But talking about it makes me want to nap...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My computer ate my life.

Yeah. Between email and Facebook, my hours have sort of been sucked away. Working on revamping my habits, but it's a lot harder than one would think, especially since so much on my research and such is online. It's way too easy to think "I'd better check my Facebook while I'm here", and six hours later I'm hungry and haven't showered and other things I needed to do (phone calls and such) have slipped off. On the other hand, there's quite a few people I've gotten to know better because of it. Like everything in life, it's a trade-off.

In the meantime, stuff happens. I was sick and missed most of Sport of Kings. I managed to get there Saturday night, saw Eleanor de Sackville's Pelican elevation, and got to seen Korwyn, which was really nice. (I don't get to see him but every year or two.) Caught up with Raph and Kerie-je (a lot of 'organ recital'!) and schmoozed with Amalric, who is cute as ever. :-)

September Crown was kind of fun, even though it was way too bloody hot. I went out for the Laurel meeting on Sunday and stayed for court. We elevated Keeva (the correct spelling for her name I'm not even sort of going to attempt- it's Gaelic-something), put someone on vigil whose name escapes me at the moment, and put Khalja on vigil, with one of the best deer-in-headlights response I've seen yet. She's going to be elevated at Summits Eleventh Night, which I was planning to go to. Should be cool.

Getting home from Crown was a challenge, as Wanda and I both forgot that she had a new locking gas cap. So I found myself in beautiful downtown Kalama, Washington, with cash in hand and no key to the gas tank. I tried the payphone, with my debit card- don't EVER EVER EVER do that- they charged me $29 and some change for the call, and it didn't actually go through- I could hear Wanda, she could not hear me. In full panic, I walked over to the Chinese restaurant next door, explained my situation, and the lady there pulled out her own cell phone and let me call home. (If you're even in Kalama, eat at the Lucky Dragon! They have nice staff, and according to the online review, outstanding food!) Wanda and Dan came up to rescue me, and Wanda and I drove home feeling rather silly. There is now a key to the gas cap on the ring of spare keys.

The guy who won Summits Coronet is from Corvaria and I don't know him at all. Not royal garb to make! Yay! I am taking some time off from other people's stuff (except the last of Gabriel and Sumayya's) and doing some for James and myself. I made myself a new Frankish gown in black and sort of an olive-y gold, and I'm really happy with it. Just finished an olive tunic for James with a subtle black and gold trim. Have more to finish for us, and then I think I'll make some clothes for Teh Babieez.

Teh Babieez are still with David's mother. This has gone on way too long, and I am mulling steps to affect this. Carefully, as I don't want it to look like a pissing war between Cindi and I. But she recently apparently (I've had no actual notification, just word from the kids) that my visitation has been restricted. If she thinks she can push me out of the picture, she is wrong.

The BIG NEWS in life lately is that Phil and Annie have decided to get married! I am very excited about this as I like Phil. They are planning to have a simple civil ceremony in New York, then come out here to Oregon for a BIG party/reception. No date set yet, but probably Summerish next year. Good, because we need time to make a pretty dress. :-) I told her she could have some of my silk. :-) And maybe I'll have time to make a proper Mother of the Bride dress this time.

Things at church are still wonderful, with one exception- Father Lin accepted an interim position in San Francisco. It has been a bit hard for me, as I had finally come to trust him, and I have a hard time with that. Our new rector is Carolyn Litzenberger. James says she's cool, and he had pretty good judgement about that sort of thing. She's a History Professor in her day job, and does Church history and Early Modern. We had a delightful talk Sunday after service and I think I'm going to like her.

Tuesday morning knitting circle at church was bordering on the absurd. Most everyone was missing, partly because one of the ladies passed away Tuesday morning and some of the others were helping with the family stuff. So Elinor and Marla and I went downstairs and poked through some of the little rooms and closets and such. We hit paydirt when we found the closet full of weird craft stuff. More beads and sequins than you can imagine. After that we had a little potluck. There was leftovers from Sunday, and I'd made a mushroom tart, and Gary cut up a bunch of melons and we had just sat down when this... guy, came to the door. Tallest black man I've seen outside of a basketball game (I'm guessing 6'5", 6'6"). Now things veer off into the Twilight Zone: He had a shofar and he wanted to come blow it for us. (Marla says he wandered in about this time last year- seems he fancies he's preparing us for Rosh Hashanah.) So he loped down to the front of the pews, where the sound is sweetest, and blew the horn. It was actually kind of cool. He sang some stuff in Hebrew. He stayed for lunch, and said the very strangest things... and even funnier, he was sitting next to Bill See who is mostly deaf and not necessarily all there, and the complete misses in cross-talk was hysterical. I was laughing so hard I got coughing and had to get up and stagger off for a bit. I ducked out not long after that, because I was feeling pretty crummy and needed meds. But all day long I was like What the hell was that?

I guess it was Life telling me to have fun and enjoy the unexpected. :-)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

On the beach!

Annie and Phil were out for a few days' vacation on the west coast, so last Wednesday I left the house at 6:15 am (really!) and drove to Eugene, were I filled the car with Minnicks (all three of them!) and one Cohen. Then we drove out to Florence, to the Oregon Dunes.

This isn't one of the pictures they took (because they haven't uploaded them yet) but this is were we were, and that is what it looked like. The sky was clear blue, and it was GORGEOUS.

We spent most of the day there, mostly laying around and playing in the sand, grilling sausages and eating chips, and drinking IBC root beer, and some hard cider. Was a good day.

Only bad part for me was getting up and down the dunes from the car, and the sunburn. I shouldn't have gotten burnt, as I was wearing jeans and a long-sleeved shirt and a big straw hat. But I fell asleep , and the rolled-up hem of my jeans pulled up while I was sleeping, and I got burned on the ankles, left one worse than the right. (More on this later...)

We eventually went back to Eugene, dropped off Stephen and Lydia, picked up the rest of Phil and Annie's luggage, and headed north. We got to Albany just in time to get burgers and onion rings and shakes at Burgerville. Then we went to Portland and took our sunburnt and sandy selves to bed.

The next couple of days we did the whirlwind tour of Portland- mostly eating our way through. We went to the Cameo for breakfast, then to Powell's, where Phil seemed nonplussed that they had a map to get around in the store. (Really, you need one the first few times.) Then we went to Voodoo Donuts and got bacon maple bars. Then we did some thrift shopping, and went home for a bit. That evening we went to McMenamin's Kennedy School for dinner with Karl and Linda (AKA Malcolm and Morwyn) which was yummy yummy. Friday we went to the Cup & Saucer for brunch, more thrift shopping, a trip to the Powell's on Hawthorne, and then back to pack up. I was not happy to have to take them to the airport (they even less so, because the weather was nice here but 102 degrees in NYC) but was very glad to have seen them. (And Phil is a peach, BTW. Teh Girleez were right. :-) He's cute, too.)

However, the sunburn on my left ankle didn't get better. In fact, it got worse. It got darker, almost fuschia, and was really, really sore. Tuesday it suddenly blistered up (I could practically watch the blisters forming), and the blebs were looking really nasty. I called the doctor and went in Wednesday, a full week after I got the burn.

Well, it wasn't just a sunburn. Apparently some opportunistic bacteria saw its chance, and now I have a lovely case of cellulitis. The area is pretty big, too. So we're throwing big antibiotics at it, keeping it propped up as much as possible, and watching it carefully.

Like I needed another thing, right?

I did manage to pass on a rush costume job. It was an area I'm not familiar with, and doing a short-notice job on something I don't know isn't a good idea. And I need a break. I have a couple of things left to do for Gabriel and Sumayya, and some stuff for James and I, and a couple of small things on the list, but nothing pressing. So I'm going to take some time off and just do... mostly nothing for a bit. I can't sew with my foot in the air anyway.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A few notes on the 'recent unpleasantness'-

Otherwise known as AN TIR-WEST WAR!

(psst- the title is a joke. I could have called it the 'War of Southern Aggression'!)

I got down there Thursday evening, after a six-hour drive, most of it in the Coast Range. The drive is lovely, but Zippy doesn't like it much, and ate a lot more fuel than she should have. In her defense, she was heavily loaded.

It was actually still light when I got there, but it took awhile to get Amalric to make a decision (bwahahahahahahaaa!!!), so it was pretty dark by the time the worst of the set-up was done. I did have help (thankyouthankyouthankyou Tristan!) getting set up, which was a very good thing, as my back was still very unhappy at that point.

James got in later Friday than I'd anticipated, but we managed to break all speed records and got the bath up and running quickly. It actually fell together beautifully. Tadhg served as Gabriel's herald/narrator, music was provided by Galeran and Rhi, and Karyn helped with the roses/rosewater and a bunch of the fetching and toting. I'm not sure who all carried water, but it got done.

I really wish I'd had the presence of mind to ask someone to take pictures, but I was busy, you know? So picture in your heads- the pavilion, lit with candles, the curtained bath enclosure inside, and in there, a small table with candles and a statue of the Virgin, a small chair, and the tub, which is draped inside with white cloths, and strewn with rose petals and herbs. Inhale deeply- rosemary, sage, lemon balm, mint, and rose water. Mmm... on the other side of the pavilion from the bath enclosure is a small altar, with a crucifix and candles, and a small pre-dieu (kneeling bench).

The site had been mowed, but not raked, and I don't know how many times I went through with the whisk broom, trying to keep things neat. (There's still hay all over inside my car!)

When Gabriel and his friends arrived, they stopped outside the pavilion, and I passed out the ceremony handouts. They had the ceremony itself, as well as the Latin parts written out for those who don't know them. Tadhg led us in the recitation of the Nicene Creed (in Latin), and then read:

"Before you is the Bath of Courtesy and Bounty. As you enter and dwell therein, reflect on your need to cleanse your body henceforth, from impurities of sin, and any dishonorable ways of life~ you shall leave any such impurities in the water, and as recalling the baptism of infants, you will come out of the water with clean conscience, emerging clean and pure as an infant from the font."

Then Gabriel came inside, knelt and recited/read the Pater Noster, then stepped inside the enclosure, knelt and recited/read the Ave Maria. Then he undressed and got into the bath, with the help of a friend who was his attendant.

While he bathed, Tadhg read:

"Think on these things as you ready yourself for the vigil before you.

As a Peer of the realm, you must be freed from wickedness, so to win a place in Paradise.
You must be willing to shed your blood in defense of God, and of the Crown you serve.
You must often contemplate your own death, and thereby avoid pride.
You must keep your body pure and avoid liscentiousness.
You must hasten to action with the love of God and the honor of the Crown in your heart.
You must preserve this inseperable pair of virtues~ Justice and loyalty.
And always be ready to return your soul to God, rendering fair account for your deeds."

(The mention of liscentiousness evoked giggles from the rabble waiting outside. And guys- I will GET YOU for that! :-P)

Then we read a Psalm- 61, to be exact. Then while Gabriel was dressing, Tadhg read:

"Hold close these virtues: hardinesse or courage, loyalty, and prowess. Be always courteous and generous; be of fair speech. Ferocious shall you be against evil, while frank and debonair to friends."

Closely followed by: "And now remember this: Every new peer should make a good beginning. Remember these words here tonight, and Godspeed you to your new life."

When Gabriel was dressed and ready to leave, he knelt for the last Pater Noster, and while I don't have a photograph, I remember it the rest of my life: a handsome young man, dressed in his layers of white tunics, with the black hose and brown shoes, and red mantle (as is specified in the texts), kneeling with his chaplet in his hands, reciting the Pater Noster. My knees went wobbly. Awesome in the fullest sense of the word.

(The ceremony is crafted from portions of Geoffery de Charnay, Le Livre de Chevalerie; the anonymous Ordene de Chevalerie; and portions of Ouevres de Froissart and Li Romans de Durmant le Galois. It was not easy to put together something that was meaningful but acceptable for SCA- albeit very unofficial- use. Every time I come away with something to tweak for the next...)

After he left to go to the rest of his vigil (all the way across the street!) and try to stay up all night, those of us left then emptied the bathtub and put the bed back up so James and I could get some sleep!

The next afternoon was the court that Gabriel was knighted in. Here's some photos of the proceedings:

Coming in to court-

Poor kid looked like death warmed over (he actually was ill, not just tired). There was a bit of sniffling when he said good-bye to his knight:

He received his chain, and then the white belt and spurs. And then swore his oath- and to his surprise, our King bade the other Kings present to witness by laying their swords on him also. It was an epic moment, very epic:

Gabriel said that made him shake all over, and not just because there was that much live steel at his neck!

Of course the last thing...

I of course had to high-tail it out of court as soon as that was done, because we had to do the prep for Mathilde's bath! Having just done one, the process went even quicker. Well, not the heating of the water- that depends on physics. But moving stuff around and the other prep went quickly. The script was the same, Mathilde's friend Rhi, who actually has some training in liturgical chant, did the readings, and chanted the Psalm instead of reading it. It was pretty spiffy!

Court the next day was pretty special. I was asked to speak for her during the ceremony, which is quite an honor. There's a picture of me talking:

The only picture I have of her (sorry Mathilde! Blame your friends who didn't take pictures!) is this one, which is lovely nonetheless:

After that was done I hopped out quickly (actually James was waiting to help me up the hill, because he's a sweetie that way) and went back to camp, because it was Sunday night and there was company coming for dinner! I was worried about how much time court was going to take, so I left Kelly with detailed notes and she cooked while I was gone. When I got back, it was nearly done! (Kelly is TEH AWESOME!!!) We ate dinner and I tormented Amalric some more (tip: he won't doze off at the table if he's worried that you'll stick something in his ear ;-).

Monday of course meant breaking camp (just when I was getting comfortable!) and packing it all up and hauling it back out. James and I went in to Gold Beach and got a late lunch (food that I didn't have to make or clean up after! Woo-hoo!) before we left. We seriously considered going down to play on the beach but it was already getting fairly late and we both had a long drive ahead of us.

On the way home I passed the Paul Bunyan statue at the Logging Museum in Myrtle Point, midway through the mountains:

And then it was pull in the coolers, throw the laundry downstairs, and fall over. Done.

Until Sport of Kings, of course. :-D

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Three Things!

1. I has a new desk chair! Well, new to me. And mostly new. Found it at Goodwill- it had been a return at Target, why it was at Goodwill, I don't know. But it is mine now! Fairly stripped down, no padding, VERY low back. I have to sit up- can't lean back. I figure this is actually likely to be good for my back. It was a little more than I wanted to pay, but it was still in the box, unassembled, basically brand new.

The box said it was *koff* orange, and I will admit that was a selling point. Turns out to be more of a Chinese Red than orange, but I like that too, so we're cool. :-)

And if it helps my back, we're waaaaay ahead of the game...

2. I also found a pitcher- pumpkin orange, of course, and it caught my eye. But I stopped dead in my tracks when I realized the pattern on the side was A Laurel Wreath. O.M.G. And then I picked it up and saw that inside the Laurel wreath was- Thea will like this- a Bee. One was Nifty, the second was Oh Yes!, and the third... FATE! It went home with me. ;-)

3. Today was Father Lin's last Sunday- he is leaving to take an interim position in San Francisco. Apparently this sort of dropped in his lap and the timing and everything was just right. I however... he and Marla are the first clerics I've trusted in years. Decades even. (Father Augustine doesn't count- he was my Professor, not my pastor.) It takes a long time for me to feel comfortable and supported, and now I have to get used to someone else. Mother Alcena will be filling in for a bit, and I'm getting to know her a bit, but still, this is really hard. I cried my way through the service and then cried some in the parking lot before I left for brunch.

So I expect to feel a bit discombobulated for a bit. I hate change, and this one is going to be hard.

I have stuff about the War, which I will write up later, maybe after I've had something to eat...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Oh, my aching back!

I once read that it is the duty of Time to keep everything from happening at once.

Well, Time is a slacker.

I'm trying to get Gabriels' gown done for his knighting, as well as two linen tunics, some braies and two sets of hose. Before the 30th. I also need to prep for two vigil baths and get myself packed for An Tir-West War.

Is that enough to deal with?

Apparently the Universe says no.

My back has been bothering me a bit over the past couple of months, possibly because of time upstairs sewing and too much time in this desk chair. And then I went to Egils, which necessitated packing my garb, wrestling all of the kitchen gear out of the basement, packing and loading all of the various boxes, wrestling all of the bed parts and tables up onto the roof of the car, doing it all in reverse to set up camp, doing the camping thing including teaching two classes and hosting a dinner party, and then undoing all of that, loading the car again, and driving home.

By the time I got home I was in so much pain it was all I could do to shove the laundry sacks out of the car and down the stairs, the coolers into the living room, and with superhuman (for me) effort, unloading the roof stuff into the garage.

I spent the next few days with heat or cold packs, ibuprofen or Aleve, stretching, alternating my shoes every day, changing position frequently here at my desk... everything I could think of. The pain is at the waistline on the left, and slightly above, right where a Barbie is jointed at the waist. But by the 2nd I could hardly move and went to the doctor.

Well, she thought it was muscle strain, which would make some sense, and sent me home with muscle relaxants, some more stretching exercises, and instructions to do what I'd already doing.

So I did. The muscle relaxants knock me out- I slept and slept and slept. (This is of course at the expense of time in the sewing room). I tried moving carefully, and occasionally would feel a little better, and try to make up for it- by doing laundry, seriously vacuuming my room, trying to unload more of the car... which was stupid. So this Monday (the 20th) I called in and went in that afternoon. It had been 2 1/2 weeks and I really wasn't getting better. Well, we poked and prodded, and bent me around, And then she said "You know, the area where it hurts the worst is more ligaments than muscle. I think you have here an actual sprain."

Oh. Joy.

So we're trying different muscle relaxants, I'm not supposed to lift anything more than a pound or two. PERIOD. And they're going to try to schedule some physical therapy.

In the mean time, one week from tomorrow, I need to be in the car, headed to Gold Beach, with all of my tourney gear and a pile of clothes for Gabriel.

I'm doomed. I need another month at least. But I don't have it. So as soon as I can get something to drink and my shoes on (a task, as bending over is verboten), I'm headed upstairs to work on the elevation tunic.

Wish me luck.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Five Things in Two Hours!

1) I drove down to Goodwill on Grand, hoping to find a red cardigan (for church Sunday- if I have it, the weather will be nice. If I don't, it will rain, and rain on the Rose Festival will be My Fault and the torches and pitchforks will soon be coming down the street...) AND... found the cardigan I wanted ($7) AND... A PAIR OF BLACK AND WHITE SLINGBACKS!!!! Not necessarily classic 'spectators', but definitely in the ballpark, in fact probably better for the clothes I want to wear them with. After months, finally! And $7. Can't beat that with a stick!

2) On the way there- I was on MLK, heading south, and just before you get to the Morrison bridge, the left lane merges with the center, and the lane off of the bridge merges into where the left lane should have been. I was in the center lane already so I wouldn't have to change lanes. And suddenly, off of the bridge lane pops a bicycle, AND IT TURNS THE WRONG WAY! I hit the brakes and laid on the horn- girl on the bike looks about 20, wearing a very short dress, flip-flops, and no helmet, GETS OFF THE BIKE, PICKS IT UP, and then proceeds to dart back and forth between my lane and the left lane. She finally saw a break (I hope) in traffic and crossed the two right lanes and headed off to wherever she was going. In the meantime, I'd swallowed my gum.

3) Coming back- it's just after 4, it's hot, the rest of the ships came into town today, and the Rose Festival traffic is definitely kicking in. So I'm heading north on Grand, second lane from the right, and I remember all of the construction happening around Burnside/84/the Max lines. So I think I will change lanes to the right and take Hawthorne (well, Belmont, in the one-way grid) east and skip the traffic. I turn to look and find that no, there's a car right there in my blind spot. I speed up slightly and put on my blinker. Now, I must explain the nature of the other car. It is red. It is a convertible. Its top is down. At its highest point it is maybe waist high on me. And it is being driven by a guy in sunglasses with a comb-over that you could spot from Mars. He and The Donald clearly share hairdressers. At any rate, seeing my blinker gives him an idea! Suddenly he must pass me on the right! He zooms forward, and his hair goes WHOOF! as he passes me. (He needed sunscreen up there...) But perhaps because his car was so low and that he was too busy trying to get one car-length ahead of me in heavy traffic, he failed to see... the motorcycle cop ahead of me. Heh heh heh. Zippy heads east while Mr. Comb-over gets a talking to. :-D

4) Took Belmont to 20th, and headed north again. was waiting at a signal at... Burnside? Anyway, there was a gas station on the right. There was several cars in the queue at the red light, and there was a guy in a pickup trying to get out, so I left room so he could go out after the guy in front of me. But no good deed goes unpunished, right? An absolutely HUGE black Cadillac Escalade comes up behind him in the driveway. stops, and then pulls out and around (basically taking cuts in line) the pickup, pulls out in front of me, and then stops. Because he is making a left turn and the traffic on the other side is not clear. I laid on the horn for the second time of the day. The traffic ahead of me at the light has now gone, but the pickup and I are trapped by the idiot in the SUV. He finally sees a break and pulls through, and the pickup and I get to pull up to a new red light. :-P

5) On 33rd, just south of Alberta. Nearly home. A row of bicyclists is on my right, and I'm very aware of them. However, they earned the third horn blow by pulling up to the intersection, hitting the little 'WALK' button vigorously, and then TURNING LEFT IN FRONT OF ME! Idiots! Firstly, those signal things are not instantaneous- you have to wait for them to cycle through the signal. And second, bicyclists are not pedestrians! WTF!!! They want to use the bike lanes but then use the sidewalks and crosswalks when it suits them! ARGH!!!!

It may be just Stupid Bicyclist Day in Portland- a bike rear-ended the Mayor today, when he stopped (legally so) for a pedestrian. Maybe it's the weather. Anyway, I don't want it to look like I'm really dumping on bicyclists. In general I find Portland bicyclists to be decent, law-abiding, safe folks. I just found the idiots today I guess.

And that was my adventures today!

Thursday, May 12, 2011


First a couple of links:



They're both basically discussing the same issues, with perhaps a slightly different twist.

I've been thinking about this quite a bit over the past few days, and actually over the past few years, come to think of it. The swiftness of some self-describe 'Christians' to dispose of some of the most fundamental teachings of Christ for the sake of political expedience or just plain vengeance is alarming. In particular the 'fundagelicals' willingness to support cruelty, torture and murder to support secular and partisan political goals is deeply disturbing- particularly in the light of their clamor to be the public face of Christianity.

I am very uncomfortable with the killing of bin Laden. Part of me wants to say that it was an ugly thing but had to be done. But the idea of sweeping in and murdering a man in front of his family is abhorrent. And as I pointed out to Wanda (we had a, uh, vigorous argument on the issue) the other day, we think of ourselves and present ourselves to the rest of the world as a nation of laws. But there was nothing legal about what happened, by our laws or anyone else's. Either we are a nation of laws, or we are not. And expedience does not overrule this concept.

I don't think that Jesus meant for us to be killing people, and certainly not in his name. The quickness of some people to suggest that this was a triumph of Christianity over Islam is sickening. I have to wonder, given Jesus' words to Peter after he was so quick to whip out a sword and use it in the garden, what he might have said about the matter. And thinking back to the early Christians, wondering if they would have responded with violence? Violence didn't seem to be a hallmark of the early church. In fact, I don't think you really see any until Constantine and his vision of In Hoc Signo Vinces. (One of the many idiotic things that Constantine did, in my view.)

I don't know what alternatives may or may not have been available. I understand that the President wrestled over the decision for some time (much to the irritation of the Joint Chiefs), and I am glad that he gave such consideration to it. I just wish that, even in this fallen world, there had been a different outcome. At this point, I don't think the killing will ever stop. As the Dalai Lama once said, an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind. Well, I think we'd best be learning braille.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Not again...

So the past few weeks I've been feeling really 'off', and week before last I was really dragging. That Thursday I felt like I was moving through a swimming pool- my limbs felt really heavy and it required a serious effort to do anything. I spent several days in bed, figuring that if I was that tired, I must need the rest, right? Over that weekend I felt worse, and was having some of what felt like atrial fibrillation episodes. Sunday at brunch after church, one of the ladies leaned over the table and said "You look like you don't feel well." I admitted that I didn't. She looked at me a bit sternly and said "I think you should go to the doctor tomorrow." Well, I'd been thinking about calling the doctor, and maybe depending on how I feel tomorrow... "No, you go to the doctor tomorrow. Promise me you'll go."

So Monday I called to make an appointment. The woman at the appointment desk said "You know, I don't feel good about this. I think I want you to talk to the triage nurse." Ok, so I talked to the triage nurse. And she said "You know, I don't feel good about this. I want you to go to ER." I was hesitant- was she sure? I would feel really stupid if it turned out to be nothing. "Better to feel stupid that to not go if there's a real problem" Ok. So I went.

And being as how I was not thinking so straight, I drove myself to the ER.

They were packed, as usual. I sat in the waiting room and dozed. I really wanted to lie down, but they didn't have benches, just chairs. And I waited. I don't know how long it took to get me in to see the triage nurse, because there was no clock in the waiting room and I don't wear a watch, but it was a long time. I felt really crummy and _really_ wanted to lie down and was a little nauseated when they finally called me in. I had to recite the whole thing to the nurse, and she pulled up my history and took my vitals, and then instead to sending me back out to the waiting room, she walked me back to a room. Ah, finally a table- I could lie down! I had to put on a gown, but then she gave me a blanket and I curled up and dozed off.

I wasn't comfy for very long though. Someone came in with a cart, glued a bunch of wires to me and ran an EKG, and took my vitals again, and left.

Finally a doctor came in with a chart, and said, "Well, you've had an MI." All I could say was "Shit."

He said that it didn't seem to be a big one and I wasn't really in a whole lot of pain (though I had to qualify that, since the fibro has really messed put my pain perception), but when he asked if I was feeling any pressure I had to admit that I felt like I had a large cat sitting on my chest. He decided to admit me for observation.

So they wheeled me into the cardiac unit, which appeared to be pretty full, and into a room. I had to drag my sandbagged limbs off of the gurney and onto the bed. They took another EKG and brought me a snack, as it was now 8pm (there was a clock in my room) and I hadn't eaten since breakfast. And then they glued more leads to me, plugged me in so they could watch me on the machines all night.

You know, a hospital is not a place to get any rest. It's noisy (especially the guy down the hall who was pissed off that he'd had a heart attack and wanted everyone to know it), they kept coming in to take my vitals (and at one point I had just dozed off when a nurse came in- to offer me a sleeping pill), and I couldn't figure out how to turn all of the lights off. I watch tv for awhile (gave that up as a losing proposition- nothing worth watching) then tried to get some sleep.

They did an echocardiogram in the morning (while Marla was visiting me), and a doctor (not the same one) came in and told told me that the bloodwork had come back and my potassium levels had cratered. Hmm. That may have triggered whatever happened, but as my heart had behaved itself all night, they were going to let me go. So I took the script for some potassium and went home.

And went back to bed. I went to my doctor the next day, and to church, but other than that I pretty much stayed in bed for a week. Was sooo tired. Still tired. Sleeping 11, 12 hours, and still sleepy. And stupid- I'm finding huge blanks in my memory. It's coming back, but there for a few days I was having a really hard time remembering anything, which is very annoying.

I'm already pretty careful with my diet, but my doctor said that given the stress I've been under, none of this surprised her. I've got to mellow out a bit. How, I don't yet know...

So that was the end of March. So much for going out like a lamb! But April is beginning to look up. And James will be here tomorrow. And- the big news is- the parenting trainer who is working with Lydia and David let Lydia spend Tuesday in her own home, with the babies. By herself. And today David has the day off, and they're bringing the babies home for the day again. They want to see how they do at home, without Cindi. Lydia is beyond happy about this. Things are beginning to look up there too. :-)

Now if only those goons in DC would pass a budget...

Monday, March 28, 2011

Play that funky music, white boy!

(A musician playing a cythara in the Stuttgart Psalter, c 830)

He needs more hair and some leather and studs, don't you think?

So I started another writing project the other night. For some background, Charlemagne had five wives. The first, with a Frankish woman named Himeltrude, was sort of legal and sort of not- there seems to have been some sort of informal Germanic marriage, but it hadn't gone through the church, so it was only quasi official. Then it came to pass shortly after Charles became king that he needed to make some diplomatic arrangements, so wife #1 was disposed of- forced into a convent so that Charles could marry again.

The second marriage was with the daughter of the Lombard king, Desiderius, who had been doing some spear shaking (and a bit of raiding and city capturing) towards the papal states, essentially threatening the pope himself. Charles, who was bound by an oath to protect the pope, married Desiderius' daughter in an attempt to neutralize the threat.

Except it didn't work. Desiderius continued his expansionist activity and soon it became obvious that Charles would have to go to war against his father-in-law. This was, in the family-relations sense, somewhat bad form. So Charles sent wife #2, a woman who name was possibly Gerberga or Gerperga, away. At that point details become muddy. Accounts vary considerably. She might have been sent to a convent in the Frankish lands (likely to Chelles, which had ties to the royal family- Charles' sister was the abbess). Or she might have been sent to a convent in Lombardy. Or she simply was sent home to Daddy.

(Wives # 3, 4, and 5 were Frankish noblewomen- Charles did not make another diplomatic matrimonial arrangement for himself.)

Desiderius lost the war with Charles, and he himself was sent to a monastery (Charles favorite way to dispose of inconvenient persons), specifically to the monastery at Corbie, another house with ties to the royal family (a later abbot, Adalhard, was Charles' cousin). His wife Ansa, and the rest of the household was also given unto the arms of the church. Corbie was not a double house, with both men and women, so Ansa and any other women in the party (and her daughter Gerberga, if she was with her family) went elsewhere, most likely to Chelles.

I found one account (the reference to I cannot relocate, annoyingly) that remarked that a few months after she was put away, Gerberga died in the convent, *in childbirth*.

Well now!

I've not found anywhere any suggestion at all that she had been unfaithful, so if it is the case that this happened, the child was Charles'. So what happened to it?

Well, obviously the child might have died. And that would be the end of that story. But if the child lived?

Charles had a son with Himeltrude, a boy who came to be known as Pepin the Hunchback. He was excluded from the inheritance, possibly because of the irregular nature of his parents' marriage, but he was at court, and there's some indication that he was put to work in the kitchens. This situation tells me that if a possible baby of Gerberga's was a son, he would have been sent to court to be raised, and since he would have been legitimate, would have been in the line of inheritance. But we have no record of any such boy.

So if there was a live child, it was a girl.

What happened to her? My best guess is that she would have been left at Chelles to be raised, and it was possible that they didn't even tell Charles about her existence. Why would they? Her mother having been put away, there was likely no emotional ties to her father, and she would have been somewhat tainted as a marriage prospect. So she might well have stayed there, been raised, and become a nun. It is possible that she herself never knew who her parents were. Or she might have known, and not had any options but to stay at Chelles.

This situation of course is ripe for a fictional account. :-)

I've only just started, and still in the initial plotting stage, and beginning to set up her situation, her history, and a taste of her emotional makeup. And I'm trying something I've never done before- writing in the first person. Oddly, it feels right. I think it is going to work. And just for a taste:
I don’t remember anything of my early childhood, only a blur of images. The sky seemed always to be pale and thin, and the wind bit as we walked from the chapel to the cloister. It was only as I was old enough to be schooled that I remember things distinctly– the sound of the bronze bells, the rough wool of my blanket in the dormitory and the cold hands of a sister pulling my gown over my head. Sometimes we had to break the ice in the basin before washing in the morning, and on Saturdays when I washed my limbs, my flesh rose in bumps like the skin of a plucked chicken.
Don’t look at yourself child!
Why can I not look, sister? It is my own body.
It is flesh, and the flesh is sinful. Only the soul can be pure.
She scrubbed at my knees until they were raw and the tears stung my eyes. I did not look at my knees to see if they were bleeding.
Was I happy? I don’t really remember. I hated Sundays, spending most of it kneeling through the long Mass and a sermon I could barely understand. Only a little less did I hate the Hours, up in the night and in the early morning as the first fingers of pink dawn crept above the horizon. I hated the grey porridge and hunks of brown bread. But what else was there? I knew only the life I had; I had no understanding or aspirations of the world outside the grey walls.
I was treated as well as any other child at Chelles; clothed, fed, taught my letters and Latin grammar. Sister Aethelberga told us stories from the Holy Scriptures, Sister Ansa beat us if we made a mistake in recitation. Occasionally the Abbess would pat my shoulder and slip me sweetmeats.
Ermengarde, You are well-born. Someday you might be great in God’s work.
Yes, Mother.
Somehow I doubted this, as I suspected that would require me to be better at Latin than I was. But these thoughts I kept to myself. I was too fond of the sweets to disappoint her.

It feels... bleak. Which is what I want at this point.

In other news, I'm not feeling well, which in a way isn't news, but there it is, I'm planning to call my doctor tomorrow.

David and Lydia don't have their babies back from the state yet. There's enough pain there to smear over half the state. At the last hearing the judge directed that they both have psychiatric exams. This is ok with them, but it took three weeks before they were even scheduled, and the appointments aren't until the end of April. They also have to meet with a parent trainer, where the babies are at David's mother's home. Lydia is a bit apprehensive still, but is beginning to feel more comfortable with the trainer.

At the moment they're having difficulties with David's mother. There are issues with visitation, which is particularly hard on Lydia. And apparently the girls are being fed more and more formula, supposedly because it is 'easier' for David's mother, who apparently hasn't got enough room in her freezer. She's also convinced that Lydia can't provide enough milk for twins. We are not agreeing with this- When Lydia is away from the girls she's pumping her milk and storing it in her freezer. She has a half-size chest freezer (about the size of a washer or dryer) that is half full of milk for her babies.

All of this is just killing me, mostly I think because there's really nothing I can actually do to help them. Lydia is trying to be strong, but she so aches to have her babies home that it is hard for her to keep the rest of her life on an even keel. And David is still so angry that he's having stomach problems. And there's nothing I can do. And it seems to be my mantra these days- "I don't know what to do..."

But I am happy at church. I haven't been able to get over whatever barrier it is that I can't get past to take communion, and I still occasionally have the urge to bolt. But that is becoming less frequent. So I'm taking the step and on April 10 will be formally received as a member.

I'm beginning to get back into sewing, and I'm working on getting my new SCA name and a badge registered. I'll really be Liutgard, which feels good.

And the violets are blooming! Spring is here!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I haz teh angry...

Ok, first the good stuff: Lydia had her babies, December 1. Anastasia Marie was born first, and was 4 lbs 1 oz. Ilyana Rose was 4 lbs 3 oz. They're beautiful, no problems except that they were small. And they are beautiful. Well, as beautiful as one might be when one looks like Winston Churchill. :-)

The not-so-good stuff is VERY not-so-good. I can't go into the whole mess here, but the thumbnail sketch that through a variety of things (including what appears to be some inappropriate collusion between two parties), David and Lydia lost custody of the girls. They were made wards of the court, and are now in foster care- specifically in the care of David's mom. We had to turn the girls over one Christmas day, from the hospital. They have not yet even been to their home.

I cannot express how heartsick the kids and I are about this. But after the initial shock and numbness, I've found myself dealing with some serious anger. Angry at the situation and the things that contributed to it. Angry at several people who I felt were very unfair. Angry at the two who I feel are playing dirty.

I don't like feeling angry- it makes me very uncomfortable. And I certainly don't think of myself as a violent person, yet I find myself wanting to strike out. I'm very protective of my friends and family, and here's something so devastating, that strikes at the very heart of my immediate family. I've joked about 'opening up a can of Molly Weasley Whup-Ass', and 'reaching for my can opener'... but it is only partly a joke.

I don't know how to deal with anger. I've spent most of my life suppressing it, feeling like I can't express it, until I explode- sometimes on the person who deserves it, but frequently not. At 46, I still don't know how to deal with anger in a healthy way. And I don't have the faintest idea how to change that.

It's the sort of thing that one would think can't be settled through one's faith. That presents me with some problems. I've been attending an Episcopal parish near home since May. I started going because James is so active in the ECUSA- I figure I'd better get used to it and feel more comfortable in church, or it will cause problems between us. I am feeling more comfortable- for years I could not stand being in church, the memories were so negative. But the services are different enough that I only occasionally have to grip the pew because the urge to bolt for the door is welling up.

The problem is, I'm still feeling... wobbly on issues of faith. I'm teetering on the edge of a militant agnosticism ('I don't know, and you don't either'), and as I sit during the prayers of the people and confession, I don't know if anyone hears me, or cares, or if saying 'I'm angry, and I feel it's wrong, and I want to stop, but I need help' is what I should say. I mean, I've always thought that true repentance requires an intention to stop doing whatever it is that you're repenting of. And I'm not sure that's what I'm doing. Especially when I'm angry at someone who is not likely to stop what they're doing, and probably intends to continue pissing me off. How do I forgive someone who knowingly hurts me and my loved ones?

So that is what I'm grappling with- me and my stomach lining against my anger. Here's to hoping I can resolve this soon. In the meantime, if anyone has any ideas for me, drop a line in the comments, or email me (address is in left column). I'd appreciate the input.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

About 'partying'...

An Tir's Twelfth Night Coronation was last weekend, conveniently enough here in Eugene. I went, though I only made it for the Laurel meeting and the butt-numbing court. (Honestly, I think an hour or two break between last court and coronation is a good idea- especially for those of us who really can't go for six hours without food.) After court, James and I took off. Changed our clothes, got dinner at McMenamin's High Street Cafe, and saw a movie. ('The King's Speech'- and it was GOOD. Colin Firth richly deserves the Oscar that he's going to get.) And then we went back to our room, feeling rather Garbo-like ("I vant to be left alone.")

There's a lot of people I would have liked to have seen and visited with, and I was a dork and didn't make it down to the A&S room as I'd planned. I was tired and considering the past few weeks' stress, crashing really was not unexpected.

The strange thing was though, is one of my friends told me this week that she'd tried to find me in the evening after court, and after asking around, was told by several people that they 'didn't know where she was partying at'.


This really has me thinking about events and what we expect is enjoyable. I didn't think that I had any sort of reputation for partying, and it occurs to me that that was why no one had any idea where I was at- precisely because I don't have a reputation for partying.

My idea of a nice evening at an event (mostly camping) is throwing a big dinner party (period food, natch), with plenty of food, some carefully chosen wine, and ypocras and maybe some sherry with the dessert course. Besides the usual group of friends, I like to invite new people, some simply grabbed earlier in the day, to mix things up a bit and expand my circle of friends. I've been told that invitations to my dinner parties are prized.

There's no 'partying' at my parties. no tequila shots, no boozewhacker and iced drinks, no 'tiki viking' or 'toga' themes, and no throwing up in the bushes. There is, however, stories, discussions on research and theories and ideals, and sometimes conversations about what we do as a Society, why we play, what we think about peerage, and what it means to us to play this game.

To me, this is a Good Time. What alcohol is consumed enhances the food and our enjoyment of it. It may be something of a 'lubricant' to the conversations, but the booze is not the point of the party.

Is this why people didn't know where I was? Because they couldn't imagine where I would be and who with, because I don't 'party' per se?

Made me think. And I thought the rest of you would be interested in what I think. (I may be overestimating myself in this, but hey...)