Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Fight Like A Girl (and Kick Butt!!) - The Saga of Lyndsie - Part 23

I had written this post in honor of International Women's Day, but have not had a chance to post it until now. Better late than never, I suppose!!

This day has been significant for me since I was living in Italy at the age of 20. I remember walking around Perugia during my lunch break from school, shopping and getting coffee, and a couple of men handed me some flowers. It was a bunch of purple flower and something else that reminded me of a daisy.

At first I said, “No grazie. Non ho soldi.” (No, thank you. I don’t have money.”
But the man insisted, “Prego, prego. É la festa delle donne.” (Please, please. It’s Women’s Day. )
At the time, I didn’t understand.  I had never heard of “Women’s Day.” I had to ask a shopkeeper what Women’s Day was.
“You Americans don’t know International Women’s day?”

And I hadn’t known. It was never something that was ever mentioned when I was growing up (or if it was, it wasn’t made enough of a big deal that I remember it).  I remember thinking at the time how great it was to have a day that is recognized internationally to celebrate women.
As there are many influential women in my life, I would spend some time celebrating them here. Please be aware, this will not be an exhaustive list because time and practicality dictate that I will not get to them all.

However, before I start, let me briefly share a short history of International Women’s Day from Wikipedia. The first women's day was observed in February 1909 when 15,000 women marched through the streets of New York demanding improved pay, shorter hours and voting rights. The day was mostly celebrated by socialist movements and communist countries in the following decades. In 1975, the United Nations proclaimed the year International Women’s Year and christened March 8 as Women’s Day. There is a much richer history of this event, but you can find all that information on the Interwebz.

Influential Women to me: 

1.       My Grandmother, Leslie Jagiello: All the women in my family are amazing and I am proud to know them. However, if you want to see someone that has a fire burning inside her, you just need to turn to my grandmother. She is over 90 years old and keeps saying she’ll live to be 100. She is stubborn, silly, intelligent, a hard worker, and very loving parent & grandparent.  She loves babies and bourbon. She took me on so many adventures when I was a child from cruises through Annapolis harbor, to farther away retreats in the Bahamas. 
She has showed me just how strong a woman can be even after enduring heartbreaking hardships. She inspires me every day with her actions – she never acts her age – and her (sometimes) outspoken-ness. She is never afraid to be herself. And, even at 91, she is beautiful. I am looking forward to being a feisty, whisky-drinking, laughing, travelling old lady, just as she is. 

2.       My Mom, Marian (Jagiello) Clark:  If knowing my grandmother wasn’t enough to understand the strength women have in my family, then knowing my mom would hit it home. She is definitely one of the strongest women that I know. I mean, after all, she had to deal with ME as a child. :P As ½ of the pair that raised me, I learned a lot from her including how to be open-minded, tolerant, kind, loving, fashion-forward, and to take care of myself (emotionally, physically, and in life).  Her continuous challenging has made me strive to be a better person and has set my own expectations of myself high. She’s silly as hell and I kind of love it when she gets drunk at social gatherings and dances.  She’s also seriously good at sewing – a trait that I unfortunately didn’t inherit.  Again, she’s beautiful. I got good genes!

3.       Women Fighters: I want to say first that I am always in awe of women fighters (fencers, heavies, martial artists, MMA etc.) but I would like to highlight three in this post from the SCA.
-          Tatiana Bonieux (Goss): Tatiana is an inspiration for so many reasons. She is a five-foot-nothin’ fencer who is just totally fierce.  She will stab you in the face before you realize she’s even moved. More than once she’s stabbed me and I have fought on for a few moments before I realized that I was dead. Much how I imagine a real sword fight going with her in fact…Recently, she got her Master of Defense peerage and since then she has just exploded. I am so excited to see her living up to the role with both her mentoring and her personal growth.  Not that she didn’t have these qualities before – she always has – but since the MoD-ding she is no longer just a (very) skilled fighter but has grown into a peer.  Her support of the fencing community and fencers individually is inspiring. Every time she says “Good job, Lana!” I know she means it. And every time she apologizes for maybe missing something, I know she means it. Tatiana, in addition to being fierce & fast, is also earnest, humble and very positive. All of these qualities are those that I fully admire.

-          Mahara Vandale (Jennifer Thomson): Mahara has been an inspiration, not only for me, but for an entire household.  House Vandale was formed in 2013 but the formation was really only official in name. Before that time, people flocked around Mahara and her husband, Tom, and they created a community. Any who knows me, would know that community is something that I value very highly. Mahara is inspiring because she is always welcoming to anyone who wants to be a part of her life.  She is also a talented fencer and artisan. She’s always willing to help and support her friends and even her acquaintances. The most notable thing about her personality is that she is easily delighted and excited about the cool things in the world, and that her friends are interested in. I have learned a lot from her in her prowess and positive attitude.

-          Yazida bint Zarif (Yaz Ostrowski): A true renaissance woman: talented, creative, martial, generous, sarcastic, and kind. She taught me so much when I was a punk kid just starting out. To this day I still have some of her hand me down garb! She showed me the joy that was the SCA with a healthy dose of reliquaries, cooked babies, cat training, and other shenanigans.

Future Blog Topics

1. Shut Up and Let People Enjoy Things
2. No means No
3. Livin' the American Dream
4. Why do We Hate Ourselves?
5. She/Him/He/Her/It
6. Just Label It!
7. You Should Dance
8. Culturally Mis-Appropriate Post
9. People are All Secretly Voyeuristic - they want to know shit about your life
10. Talk Dirty to Me
11. Food Talks - Why are people so offended when you refuse food from them?
12. Say it to my face - Sarahah and all its bullshit
13. SCA Vs. Steampunk vs. Cosplay
14. Lunch breaks
15. My first camping event
16. My first midwinter

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Life Before My AoA - The Saga of Lana (SCA Newcomers addition) - Part 1

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about newcomers to the SCA and how to recruit and retain them. In trying to come up with ideas on this topic, I have started thinking back to when I was a newbie. I have also been analyzing conversations I've been having to people not in the society. 

So, I have decided to write a series of blog posts about my experiences as a newcomer in the SCA and my thoughts around the subject. Here is part 1!

I recently got in touch with an old friend through Facebook. After a brief exchange of pleasantries, “Where are you living now?” “What do you do?” “How’s life?”, I started talking about the SCA. After a few messages where I rambled to her about events, fencing, and the arts I was doing, I had a striking realization.

What I do for fun isn’t normal.

Normal people play baseball and make quilts. Normal people watch football, sing in choirs, go to shopping malls, collect knick-knacks from vacation, and read books.

Normal people do not dress up in “funny clothes” that they made with their own hands and hit their friends with sticks on the weekends. Normal people don’t research historical recipes for glue and then go make it in their basement after buying exotic material on the internet. Normal people don’t even realize that something like the SCA could exist.

My physical therapist is one of those normal people. She likes skiing and travelling. She reads non-fiction biographies. She is also incredibly fascinated by my pursuits in the SCA. So much so that she asks me about it almost every time I see her.  And while she always is excited to hear my tales, there is something about how all the pieces interact that doesn’t quite register with her. To her, the SCA is this gigantic exotic thing that people don’t really do—like being in a play all the time.  

The individual aspects of the SCA seem to be easier for her to understand. For instance, fencing. That’s a sport in the Olympics, so she can picture it. There’s also costuming. Everyone has done Halloween, right? But the moment that you put costumes together with fencing…the imagination starts to become stretched. Then add costumes + fencing + medieval rapiers + alternate names & personas + honorific titles + fictional place names that overlaps a real city? Mind. Blown.

You know what? I bet this is how newcomers feel when they dip their pinky-toe into the Society. Thinking back to my own beginnings in the SCA, I realize that I was a much more reticent participant than many newcomers these days. I fenced for a year—a year—before I went to my first event (Caer Galen Midwinter!). This means one year in a Triplette fencing jacket. One year with a pistol grip, cup-hilt epee.  One year without garb.

Before my first event, I realized that I needed a medieval dress and name. I had no idea how to make any of that stuff. Or even where to go to learn. Luckily for me, my mom liked to sew and had years of Halloween-costume experience. So we went out and bought a bunch of the prettiest synthetic fabric we could find and a McCalls or Butterick pattern and set to work making the epic dress.

This is me and a friend in my first 2 SCA dresses that I ever made (she's in #1, I'm in #2).

Note: Not actual boyfriend
For a name: I spent about 5 minutes researching a period version of “Lana” because it sounded cool. And I wanted a tiger on my device. Cuz Tigers. Also swords. Cuz Swords.  I didn’t think at all how hard that would be to reproduce or even that I would do such a thing, because…who does these things?

Apparently people in the SCA!

I have come a long way since then (currently one of the heirs to the baronial coronet of Caerthe) that I have almost forgotten what this beginning feels like. That is, until I talk to anyone outside of the SCA.

I appreciate these interactions because it allows me to almost see the SCA from an outsider’s perspective. It helps me come down to their level (not implying that they're stupid but it gives me compassion for their lack of understanding) and explain things in a way that a non-Scadian would understand. This comes down to even the wording that I use. Instead of saying “baron/baroness” I will start with “local leaders” etc. until the concept of medieval reenactment actually begins to sink in.

In the SCA’s drive for recruitment and retention, I will ask all members to do one thing. Think about your first time in the SCA…your first 5 times…your first year. How overwhelmed did you feel?
Then, take those understanding and apply them to newcomers. The next time you are talking to a newcomer or potential recruit, be mindful that this could be their first time hearing about any of these concepts. Even if they have been coming around for a little while, the Society is so vast that there are probably parts of the SCA that will still be completely new. Have patience with them. Understand that their questions on topics you’ve already explained are not because they don’t care or are lazy, but because they may not have grasped it the first time around.  

We want to set up all potential members with enough knowledge to entice them back but not with some much that they feel like they can’t commit to it all.  Save that for their peerage. ;-) 

I Don't Owe You Anything - The Saga of Lyndsie - Part 22

Have you ever noticed that some people think that they're entitled to something from you, just on the very nature of who they are? Or, conversely, who YOU are?

We've been seeing all the stories of misogyny lately where men think women "owe" them something. A lot of the time this is sex, but more often it's a smile or a conversation because "Geez, they were just trying to be nice."

Today, however, I'm not going to talk about misogyny since I don't currently have anything new to say. Instead, I am going to expound upon a subject that may be seen as even more controversial in my friend group. I will tell you upfront that if you are a parent, especially a mother, you are likely going to think I'm being stubborn, over-reactive, or just plain cold. However, hear me out, because please understand that there is always two sides to any story.

I have not met J's ex-wife yet. The first time I had the opportunity to do so, we weren't living together yet. She was picking the boys up at J's house and was waiting there. We were late driving back from Colorado Springs. I was feeling pretty car sick and decided that I just wanted to lay down and didn't want to exchange some fake pleasantries. I could have been very blatantly rude and rushed past her without a word or nod, or I could have stayed in the car to recover. I chose the latter.

The second opportunity was on Christmas Eve 2015 when she came over to J's grandma's house to pick up the kids. I was talking to J's brother, J2, and he kind of pulled me aside when she got there. He needed "help" and I think he was attempting to spare me from the awkwardness of meeting. Which I appreciate because I didn't really want to meet her anyway.

After that, she told J that she wanted to meet me (for coffee maybe? or something?). I said, "No." I was not going to go out of my way to meet her. I have no desire to be "friends" with her and honestly most of what I've heard about her is how she took advantage of J and treated him crappy. And, I mean, I know who she is so it's not like I really need to meet her.

Well, that kind of unleashed a shitstorm where she pretty much laid into J about it. Because, yeah, that makes me want to meet you more....uh no.

Why did she want to meet me? She wanted to know the person who her kids was living with. Ok, I kind of get that. You're a mother, you're protective of your spawn, you want to make sure that they are getting what's best for them. Oh wait...but the kids also have a father. Who is all the same things as the mother - protective, loving, encouraging. A father who has the ability to use his own judgement about who he allows around his kids.

Apparently I'm not too much of a weirdo, because J agreed to move with his kids into my house. He has as much good judgement as the mother does. Let's face it, his ex trusted J's judgement enough to marry him and have kids with him, so I really think she needs to trust his judgement now.

What is meeting me going to decide anyway? Does she think she gets to "approve" me?

What if she doesn't approve? What if she looks me in the eyes, "sees the darkness within me," and decides that her kids can't live here anymore? Does anyone else see how much like BS that sounds? Even if she did decide upon a "hello", handshake, and stare-down session, that I was not good enough for her kids to be around, J is still a grown man and a father, and will be the one to make the final call based on what's best for him and his children.

I'm sorry honey, but when you told J that you didn't want to be married anymore, you lost whatever perceived control you had over him...

Maybe she doesn't trust J because she is projecting her lack of trustworthiness onto him. But, at this point, that is not a decision she has the right to make. She and J both have separate lives. Lives linked by children, yes, but otherwise - completely separate.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Don't Tell Me I Look Tired (A PSA) - The Saga of Lyndsie - Part 21

At the end of a long day, a coworker said to me (as I was intently reading something on my computer), "You look tired."

My response was flippant. "Oh, no, I'm fine. That's just my face."

The other coworker said, "Yeah, you've got some serious bags under your eyes."

I responded, "No, seriously. I'm not tired. I sit all day staring at an LED screen under harsh fluorescent lights. Any natural light that does seem to reach my corner does so by the reflection of unforgiving UV rays right off my monitors. I'm not tired. I just have a body ravaged by the toils of office work. In other words, I'm old."

Now, this was said sarcastically and in a kind of joking manner but in all reality I was pretty bothered by the comment. Telling me I look tired or that I have bags under my eyes says 1 of 3 things to me:
- I look like hell.
- I look old.
- I suck at doing makeup and inadvertently smeared black eye shadow on the wrong side of my lid.

None of these are good things. None of them stokes the fragile ego. Each one of them just brings insecurity down onto me. Self-doubt. Self-loathing. I've always been a minimal-makeup kind of gal (unless costuming or being fancy), thinking that my face was pretty enough (and I'm lazy). However, I find that as I get 30-year-old skin, I am using more and more makeup. Why?

So. That. I. Don't. Look. Tired.

Do people think this is a compliment somehow? Or an expression of concern?

Well, let me tell you something: to me, it doesn't say to me "hey, I care about you." It says more, "hey, I am judging you." If you're worried about me not feeling well, then I would prefer you to not contribute to my possible bad mood by talking about my (bad) looks. If you really think I look like hell and are concerned for me, then why not just say:

"Hey, are you doing OK?"
"How are you feeling?"
"Can I get you anything?"
"What's up?"
"ARE you feeling OK?"
"Are you tired?"
"Let me know if you need anything."

There are probably a slew of other things as well that would be leaps and bounds better then essentially telling me that I don't look good. Because, ok, I get that you're not outright telling me that I'm unattractive, but your essentially saying that all the effort I put into my makeup today didn't do me any favors. And let me tell you, "tired-chic" is not a thing right now.

This doesn't just apply to me, however. I am fairly certain that no one - male, female, nonbinary - LIKES hearing this phrase directed at them. Seriously, I don't know the origin of it, but it needs to die. Like, right meow.

So, if you are one of those well-meaning friends, and find yourself concerned for someone because maybe they don't look like they're having the best day ever, here is a handy cheat sheet:

Times it's acceptable to say "You look tired":

1. I'm falling asleep on the couch, with my eyes half closed.
2. I'm falling asleep in the car, with my eyes half closed.
3. I just went to the gym, ate a bunch of dinner, and am falling asleep at the dinner table with my eyes half closed.

Times it's not acceptable to say "You look tired":
1. Any other time.

Let's please try to shift the focus in our language away from looks. Let's avoid the joking talk of: "OMG you annoying, but at least you're pretty." Let's take some time and actually learn something about each other that goes deeper than just the skin.

Yes, we all want to look good. There is nothing wrong with that. And we all love to hear compliments about our looks but that is not all we want. We also, all of us, want to be treated with concern, care, and a bit of sensitivity. We want to be more than just our looks.

Friday, January 12, 2018

We All Die the Same - The Saga of Lyndsie - Part 20

Today, I can’t seem to get over the deaths from the Ventura County mudslides in California. It was only 17 out of how many thousands live there? Five are still missing. So it’s like, no big deal, right? Natural disasters happen all over the world all the time. Even now, as I was scrolling through articles about the mudslides, I came upon one that said “Hundreds Die from Mudslide in Sierra Leon.” But I didn’t even click on the link.

Yet…these 17 deaths still bother me. It’s not like I knew any of them personally. But still, each one of these deaths was a person: a child, a parent, a twin sister, a mother, a lover, a family member, a friend. Those close to the people are reeling with these deaths. To them, 17 deaths is 1 too many.

Hundreds is WAY more than 17, right? Why didn’t that give me the same sinking feeling as these California deaths?

Is it because the people who perished in Montecito had lives very similar to mine? In looking at these photos and stories of the deceased, these deaths, these people, come alive for me.  One person who died was a 12 year old girl with a beautiful freckly face, braces, and slightly disheveled blonde hair. In her memorial photo she was holding up a picture of a  anime character she drew. This girl could have been me or one of my friends.  Another photo shows an older couple, retired, living in their dream home, holding their dog. A third, a woman, just a bit older than my mother had a big ol’ smile, floppy hat and sunglasses.  They were all described as wonderful, kind, happy people. People who were the life of the party or who loved their friends and family. People with hobbies and histories.  People who died suddenly, before their time.

Maybe it’s also because these people were given the warning to evacuate – but it was only optional. The articles said that only 10-15% of the people actually evacuated because they were tired of having been evacuated only weeks before because of the large Thomas fire. And see? All that evacuation and what happened? Nothing, their houses were spared…that time. Many people probably felt that this was a false alarm too. It didn’t help that safety officials didn’t call for a mandatory evac because (as I read in one article) “it would cause mass confusion” to evacuate that many people, so quickly, again. Which makes me angry. Angry at officials who didn’t force people to leave. Angry at the families for putting their lives and the lives of their children (and pets) at risk. Angry at our entitlement to underestimate nature and think “oh, it’s not going to be me” and “I’m safe in my own home”.

We, in America, are fortunate to live in a very modern society. Our society is full of conveniences and technologies that make our lives easier and better.  Maybe this disaster upsets me so much because even in a society with all the technology, all the bright minds building our infrastructure, we still succumb to mother nature. We are still puny meatbags living precariously on a planet full of things that will kill us – rocks, water, mountains, mud. Not to mention all the manmade things that become killing implements by mother nature’s hand: rebar, houses, cars, power lines….

Lastly, the news coverage. While for disasters in other countries you may have articles, videos and even some survivor testimonial, American news outfits covering incidents in our own country scrutinize every detail. They dwell on the fact that the youngest person to die was just 3 years old. They post pics of the victims and backstories. They show the social media support trying to find the 12 year old girl. The bring us so far into the story that we are pretty much there. Many of the details of the articles are not actually providing more information. They are just there to jerk our emotions.

So, while the hundreds of deaths in Sierra Leon should not be glossed over, I wouldn’t fault Americans for feeling incidents like this more strongly. It happened in our back yard to people (possibly rich people) but people, nonetheless, who we can pretty much relate to. 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Obligatory New Year's 2018 Resolutions Post - The Saga of Lyndsie - Part 19

Since I spent yesterday comatose on the couch in a carb-induced stupor, I figure that today I’m going to do that “Welcome to 2018!” post. I’ve had these goals for a while now but January is a good time to tell them to the world.  Maybe y’all can keep me honest. 
Goal 1: Work out at least 3x per week. I want to be able to make exercise a regular part of my routine. I now have a gym membership so, no excuses!
Goal 2: low carb, very low corn & wheat. This is kind of inspired by the Whole 30 diet but modified to be more practical for my life. While I want to make a habit of cooking mostly meat & veggies, I am also going to add in some potatoes and rice for filler and variety. James and I did a really good job of this for a while until  we went on vacation and the holidays happened. When we were working on it, I did notice that I felt less sluggish and happier.
Goal 3: Drink water. I have already been tracking my water consumption and have cut out most sugary drinks like sodas and juices, but I feel that I still need to increase my water intake. I am going to include tea and sparkling water because I’m a Gemini and I need variety. That being said, a coffee in the morning will still happen b/c I can’t function without it.  Alcohol is a different goal so I won’t discuss it here.
Goal 4: Sober January. I am going to cut alcohol out for January, starting 1/2. The goal is to not drink until James’s bday in mid-February but if a special occasion shows up in there, I may break that for a night.

Goal 5: Consolidate my debt. Buying a house in 2017 put me in more debt than I would like to admit. 2018 is going to be the year of getting rid of it somehow. Paying it down, yes, but also trying to get it to a point where I’m not getting as much interest on some of it. I’m also going to work on not buying things or eating out if I don’t need to.

Goal 6: Have a clear goal for publishing my novel by 12/1/18. This means that either I have submitted it somewhere and gotten accepted, or gotten a ton of rejections and either decided that I will try to self publish OR keep submitting it places. I would like to learn more about this process in the upcoming year.
Goal 7: Write an average of 300 words/day (Once I start doing this, I will adjust based on how much time that takes). The writing can be anything I do to further advance myself: blogs, Toastmasters speeches, stuff on my novels, short stories, random journal entries. Possibly also job-related (as long as it's not an email)!

Goal 8: Try to fix my shoulder nerve-pinch thing. If it's not better by December 2018, I think I should work on getting a new mattress....

Goal 9: Lasik....pipe dream perhaps and goes counter to my Goal #5 but it may be worth getting in a bit of debt to do away with glasses/contacts furever....
Goal 10: Improve my fencing. This means going at least 1x/week (which is part of Goal #1) but possibly 2x if time allows. Grow more comfortable with all the off-hands, starting w/ dagger.
Goal 11: Make or trade for new SCA garb. I'm going to start w/ a Persian coat and Norse Apron Dress. Probably need a couple more under tunics and pants too. Then, if I get all THAT done, work on a new cote (in purple).
Goal 12: come up with a plan to replace the carpet in my townhouse.
Goal 13: The once-per-week thankfulness jar that I keep seeing on Facebook. I already attempt a daily gratitude journal (mostly on weekdays) but  I love the idea of writing down 1 thing you're thankful for and putting it in jar to read on 12/31. Maybe I can get James to go in on this with me and we can both do it!

So that’s it…I don’t think those are too ambitious, right? And it's not like I haven't already started some of these things... But, I guess we’ll just have to see! Here’s to 2018 being another year of growth!