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Archive for December, 2014

Another Year Over…

…And deeper in dept. Oh well. Life goes on. I’m looking at doing some changes to this site come 2015. Drop by and see what’s happening. Until then, may the New Year bring health, happiness and success to you and yours.

Happy 2015

Bright Blessings,

Cheri

* Celtic border from Celtic Frames and Borders CD-ROM and Book, copyright © 1998 by Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, N.Y.
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For my followers in the Northern Hemisphere:

Winter Solstice

http://www.magickaschool.com via Google Images (original link appears to be dead)

And for the Southern Hemisphere:

For the “Can’t We All Just Get Along?” Crowd:

And for those who insist on being Politically Correct:

And to any I might have missed:

iabholiday2012thumb

http://www.iab.net/happyholidays12 (Go visit the page: it’s animated!)

 

Blessed Be.

Cheri

 

 

 

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The holiday season seems to be the time of the year when most people think about helping those less fortunate. I’ve always had a problem with that, because people and charities need help year round and I’ve watched as many of them suffer through the “dry” periods of spring and summer. While the rest of us are off enjoying whatever jobs, vacations, or families we might have, homeless are still homeless, food banks still need food, and cancer still kills.

The other thing that has always bothered me is that I usually don’t have the money to help most of the organizations I want to support. And not having my own transportation right now makes it difficult to volunteer with any of them. (In Southern California, no car means you might as well be in jail – though public transport options are improving, they still have a long way to go.) So, I’m going to do the one thing I can do, and that is let you know about some organizations I think are worthy of support, in whatever manner you deem reasonable.

Doctors without borders     http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/

This organization has been at the forefront of the Ebola crisis in Africa. Their volunteers have spent exhaustive hours in confined quarters, taped into special suits to help with one of the most devastating outbreaks of the disease ever experienced. Many of them have themselves succumbed to the virus, with several losing their lives despite the best efforts of colleagues. These outstanding medical personnel also risk themselves in areas of armed conflict – such as Syria or Sudan – or natural disasters, giving aide to anyone who needs it, regardless of affiliation. As most of my readers already know, I don’t believe health care should be a for-profit business. Medecins Sans Frontieres is the embodiment of how everyone should be treated equally, with no thought to religion, geography, or ability to pay.

Water Org     http://water.org/

Second only to air as absolutely necessary for survival, clean water is often the most difficult resource for humans to control. According to the organizations’ own fact page, there are over 10 million people in just the so-called “developed” countries (USA, Canada, Europe, etc.) that do not have direct access to safe drinking water. And millions die every year from water related diseases. Clean water should be a right, not a luxury.

Habitat for Humanity     http://www.habitat.org/

People helping people build a safe place to live. You can donate everything from your money to your sweat equity. And with that donation, a family can begin the steps toward improving their lives in a healthy environment. If you’re like me, and want to give someone a hand UP instead of just a hand OUT, this organization is a good way to make that difference real.

NAMI     http://www.nami.org/

My on-going battle with depression is no secret. And I’m hardly alone. Nearly one quarter of the US population deals with some version of mental illness at some point in their lives. Sadly, the stigma associated with these diseases is still an ugly reality. From the average person on the street, to learned professionals, discussing mental health issues continues to be taboo. Sorry, we can’t just “get over it,” and it’s not “all in our head.” It’s long past time we got over that thinking. If the brain isn’t working properly, neither is anything else.

AmpleHarvest Org     http://www.ampleharvest.org/index.php

I wrote about these guys a couple years ago (“Charity”). They help pair locally grown produce with food banks. We gave the group we found through them about a hundred pounds of tangerines our little tree had so graciously gifted us. It was good to know that some really delicious fruit wasn’t going to be wasted, and that the beneficiaries were able to have a healthy treat in the middle of winter.

Wikipedia     http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page

This may seem a little incongruous, given the health and humanities organizations I’ve highlighted above. But just how often have YOU visted their pages to look something up? I know I’m guilty of using it a lot and it seems only fair that I shout their praises, in the hopes that they can continue their ad-free and impartial existance. Part of the greater initiative to bring free education to the world by their parent, Wikimedia Foundation, when you think about it, it’s not so incongruous after all.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and certainly not the only organizations I try to help. There are so many opportunities to pay it forward in our world, and I charge you to go find the ones that work for you. If you’re in need of help making a decision, John F. Wasik of the New York Times wrote a helpful guide highlighting what to look for in a charity. You can read it here. Additionally, there are a couple of organizations that track and/or rate charities based on a variety of criteria. You can check them out through their links below.

Charity Navigatorhttp://www.charitynavigator.org/

Charity Watchhttp://www.charitywatch.org/index.html

From sending off a check to some huge charity, to volunteering at the senior’s home down the street, or even patronizing the artisans at the local craft fair, any and every little bit you do that makes this world a better place to live is an investment not only for today, but for the days to come. It’s up to us, now, and all year long.

© 2014   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

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    I have occasionally mentioned in these pages my (not-so) secret second life as an historical recreationist. I’m not ashamed or embarrassed to admit I run around in costume various weekends pretending to be someone else, but it just never seemed something I needed to talk in depth about here. I’ve recently come to the decision that maybe it’s time to offer a little more on this alternate facet of my life. It’s been with me longer than just about anything else in my adult life, and is a large part of the reason I am who I am.
Darius & Elana

Me and my man in costume.

Way back in college, some friends turned me onto role-playing, specifically Dungeons & Dragons. That was in the early days of the game, and us poor college kids who were far from home and had little money spent a lot of time lost in the fantasy worlds created by each other. While I’d been writing since junior high school, it wasn’t until I started running our college games as the “Dungeon Master” that I really learned what it took to develop a story and keep it interesting. And it turned out I was pretty good at it, as people kept asking me to run the games so they could play. It was also occasionally frustrating, as I really liked to just play, too, but I consoled myself by pitting my intellect against the players’, challenging them with puzzles and mysteries of ever growing complexities. Our classmates were getting drunk at parties and street racing, while we sat in a dorm room rolling dice and living in a world crafted from imagination. A lot of fond memories from that time. I still have all my First Edition game books. There are some collectors out there that would practically kill for them, but I have too much sentimental attachment to let them go.

Then one day a friend mentioned a group he had run across in a park in his hometown. Said group was dressed in funny clothes and several were actually in armor, bashing each other with makeshift weapons. We found there would be a large assembly of them at the Texas Renaissance Festival, so we made a pilgrimage to meet them. It was a cold, rainy day and the fair was lightly populated. Those people in the funny clothes gave us a dry space to hang out, warm drinks and good conversation. We discovered kindred souls, people who were a little geeky, a little shy, and a lot too smart for the mortals around them. Our mutual love of fantasy and science fiction and role playing and all those other things that “normal” people just didn’t seem to get brought us all together into one cohesive group. That was the fall of 1980, and I’ve been part of that group ever since.

The Fighting Tannenbergs

I’m in green, hubby’s in the middle in black. We made a great team.

It’s called the Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc. (“SCA”), and it was formed in Berkley in 1965. Originally intended as a one-off fantasy party, it has morphed into a not-for-profit historical education and re-creation organization that spans the globe and boasts some 30,000 paid members. The focus is on pre-1600AD Europe, and members develop “personas” for themselves of people that “could” have lived (but not actual historical persons) at some point during the studied centuries. I’m an early 10th Century Saxon landholder, living on the Baltic Sea. My husband is a late 15th Century Prussian mercenary. Others we know are Roman soldiers, or Spanish sailors, or Norman archers. And others still are just what we call SCA-generic: no particular place or time, but enjoying learning about as much as they can all over the spectrum.

Things we've made

Some things we’ve made.

The SCA is a hands-on participatory group. We try to recreate the clothes, armor, arts, food, dance, music, whatever of our respective personas and then share our knowledge with others either as exemplars or via classes and demonstrations. Being a bit of a tomboy, I also jumped into armored combat. Yup, I put on armor and beat other people with a stick. Full contact, full speed, not choreographed and the best aggression therapy available on the planet. A few years ago I took a break from fighting to have knee replacements, and while recovering really got into needlework and weaving, something I’d only toyed with in passing before. I’m much better at those arts than I ever was at fighting, but now that I’ve had to completely retire from combat because of the detached retina, I’m realizing just how much I’m going to miss bashing my friends in the head.

The SCA has been more than just a hobby for me. It’s a second life, a place where I can be the real me and not that corporate stooge who took too long to figure herself out. I gained confidence. I learned how to speak up for myself and others. I honed skills as a public speaker and a leader I might not have been able to elsewhere. I held officers positions, organized events, taught classes, and fostered those who were new. I met my husband on the battlefield and we were married in a pagan ceremony at a major event – an event we haven’t missed since. Most of my best friends are also SCA members. We are a community of intelligent people who value the ideals of honor and chivalry in a world where none of that seems to matter anymore.

Darius & Elana Wedding 2

Our wedding ceremony.

Nobody questions a little girl who puts on a foofy dress and tiara, but they tend to look sideways at an adult doing the same thing. Adults are supposed to be serious and hard working and responsible. But research has indicated that adults need to play just as much as children. It releases tension, builds social connections, keeps our minds sharp and boosts creativity. My entire life is so very different than it might have been had I not put on a costume all those years ago and pretended to be a sword-maiden fighting monsters. And so very much better.

Maybe historical fantasy isn’t your thing. But something out there is. Computer games, line dancing, Scrabble, basket-weaving, splashing in fountains, whatever. Go find it. Go play. Tag!

Home Away From Home

Home away from home.

© 2014   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

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 “Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

            Alfred Pennyworth, The Dark Knight, 2008

 

Ferguson, MO.

Michael Brown, black teenager, deceased.

Darren Wilson, white cop, resigned.

Yup, another shooting. More outrage. Protests that turned into riots. People injured. Businesses looted. Buildings damaged. Cop cars burned. Fingers pointing every which way but where it really matters. Seems like I just wrote about something like this.

Oh, yeah, my article about the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin situation, just about a year and a half ago (“Why?”). Just substitute the names as you see fit and you’ll get the gist of what I was going to write for this article, before I remembered that I’d already written it.

You see, the real problem is we don’t learn. The plague of confirmation bias that has eaten through nearly every aspect of our lives leaves people on all sides of the problem unwilling to do anything to change. They are convinced they already have all the right answers, if the world would just listen to them. I have several very intelligent, very educated friends who are so sure of their stance on one side of the argument (“Wilson is a murdering nutbar.”) or the other (“Brown was just another thug who deserved what he got.”), they have defriended people on their Facebook accounts for even broaching the idea of a different opinion. That kind of attitude just leaves us talking to the mirror.

Sorry, folks. It’s just not that simple. It’s another case of the complete truth only being known by two people, and one of them, sadly, is dead. That’s why we have to depend on the evidence to tell his side of the story. In looking over the documents released by the grand jury on the case, the preponderance of the evidence sides with Wilson’s account of the incident. You can’t convict someone just because you believe he’s guilty, no more than believing in creationism makes it true. This is why we have the system we do, because too much damage was done under other versions (Salem Witch Trials, anyone?).

And, of course, it’s a huge racial issue, on top of the militaristic cops versus poor people scenario. Is there still racism in the US? You betcha. Discrimination of all forms is alive and kicking, in oh so many subliminal ways. I’ve experienced it as a woman, as a fat person and as a witch. Just because I have big boobs doesn’t mean I’m stupid, just because I’m fat doesn’t mean I’m lazy, and just because I’m not Christian doesn’t mean I sacrifice babies and worship Satan. But it sure seems that a lot of society out there thinks so, and just won’t be told otherwise.

I’ve also seen the discrimination blacks suffer – from their own families. I had a co-worker years ago who was articulate, educated, professional and well mannered. She had worked hard to get to that point and was working equally hard to make sure her children were the same. She told me how her family accused her of selling out, of “not being real” and trying to be “white.” They teased her mercilessly about her good diction, her professional attire, and her desire to continue her education. The fact that she made good money, and was on her way up professionally only served to prove to them how she had abandoned her heritage.

Since when did being educated, articulate, professional and courteous become bad? Why is it when a person of color wants to accomplish something for themselves and their family they are accused of being ashamed of who they are, by their own peers? Does this mean people like Martin Luther King, Jr., Colin Powell, and Condoleezza Rice aren’t really black? It seems to me that the whole racism issue isn’t just in the hands of whites. We all need to stop pointing out and dwelling on the superficial differences and start talking about the common ground every living human shares.

Toni Morrison, a Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning novelist, made some very poignant comments about race during her recent appearance on The Colbert Report. She does not want to be referred to as an African American author, but just simply an American author. She goes on to state there is no black race or white race, only the human race and the concept of racism is an artificial construct. You can check out that video here.

Another moving statement comes from Prince Ea, an award winning rapper and activist who has lived in St. Louis his whole (young) life. He is wise beyond his years, and his answer to some of the issues surrounding Ferguson can be seen here.

And Dr. King’s niece, Dr. Alveda King, has condemned the rioting in Ferguson, supporting my own belief that rioting is not protesting, and only undermines the legacy of peaceful change for which MLK and others worked so hard.

Yeah, I’m a middle-aged white woman, with my own issues and biases. I’ll never be able to fully understand what non-whites go through just to live in this country. But I hope I can keep learning and improving myself in this regard. I hope to be able to help erase all those special designations we keep attaching to ourselves, so one day we can all look at the facts of a situation – and only the facts – while leaving all those hyphenates that carry so much baggage behind.

I hope. But the real tragedy here isn’t that a young man is dead. The real tragedy is that – after all the hew and cry and hand-wringing and finger-pointing and emotion wrapped up in a racially-socially-economically, cop vs. civilian, white vs. black raw nerve of an issue – we’ll still do nothing to actually change things.

 

© 2014   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

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