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Still running on low brainage, and recovering from a wonderful long weekend at war. To tide you over, and also give you a really excellent perspective of what I do on the weekends, here’s a couple of fabulous short films made about the SCA by a very talented lady. Please to enjoy.

 

 

vimeo.com/176280231

 

vimeo.com/196029359

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By the time I was a teenager, I stood 5’9”, weighed 175lbs., and wore a C cup. Seeing the expensive writing on the wall, my mother signed me up for sewing classes. I was less than amused. I don’t remember much of the classes beyond resenting every moment I had to be there. I do remember my final project, though: a jacket and pants made of dark blue denim covered in red, white, and blue stars and fireworks. It encompassed all the basics learned to that point: zigzag and straight stitch, seams, hems, topstitching, collars, pockets, zippers, buttonholes. It actually turned out pretty decent. I think I may have worn it once or twice. I have no idea what happened to it after that. Probably out-grew it, like so many other articles of clothing before and since.

Despite my mom’s best efforts, I didn’t do much sewing afterward. Most of my clothes came from the men’s departments in stores, because that was the only place I could get stuff wide enough AND long enough. Back in the ‘70s there wasn’t anything out there for tall women, and what little was out there for the “fatties” were disgusting polyester floral disasters called “muumuus.” Originally a comfortable Hawaiian export meant for anyone, they became shapeless bags identified with bon-bon eating, soap opera watching, hair-in-curlers, rude fat women everywhere. I shunned them like the plague. So it became boy jeans and t-shirts for most of my wardrobe. Something still true to this day.

 

white-plumeria-red-muumuu-2

I love looking like a florist just exploded on me.

 

I discovered the SCA in college and tried making a few costumes, mostly to disastrous results. There weren’t any commercial patterns then for historically accurate clothing, so we either had to adapt an existing fairy princess pattern, or do one entirely from scratch with just measurements. You know, like real tailors still do it. Measurements or not, if you don’t understand the basic engineering requirements of dressing the human body, you’re not likely to get the desired result. I tried making a pair of drawstring pants for a male friend of mine using just written instructions and measurements. We ended up with the crotch hanging at about his knees. A few years later MC Hammer was dancing across MTV in them. I guess we were a little ahead of the times, instead of behind like we were trying for.

As I got older and went from college into the job market, I learned my tomboy wardrobe wasn’t going to fly in the professional office. In fact, my first real full time job after teaching actually had a dress code. Men had to wear suits, ties, and dress shoes. Women had to wear skirts or dresses (at least knee length) with heels. No dress slacks, no pantsuits, no flats. After a lifetime either barefoot, in flip-flops, or in tennis shoes, trying to manage heels and a dress was more of a challenge than dealing with office politics and a receptionist’s phone board.

I broke down and bought a nice Singer Merritt sewing machine (which I still use), muddled through the pattern selection at the local fabric store, and came up with a couple passable wrap-around skirts and some slip-on blouses. No zippers, no buttons, because I suck at those. As the eighties progressed there were more options for plus-sized women, and I started to be able to find decent clothes wide enough, but still not long enough. I got used to letting out hems and wearing skirts low on my hips to make the length requirement, and usually bought short-sleeved blouses, or rolled up the “long” sleeves that only reached to about 6” above my wrist.

 

tallncurly_tallgirlshoppingTallNCurly.com

 

As I moved on to other jobs – and the ‘90’s – most places let go of the skirt and heels requirement for women. Finding appropriate business attire for a woman of my vast talents was still a challenge, but since I sat at a desk most of the time, my capris-length slacks and slip-on flats brought little notice. Even now it’s nearly impossible for me to find things wide enough as well as long enough. You can either be short and wide, or tall and thin, not anything else. A lawyer I used to work with had been a ballerina in her earlier life (and still danced regularly for herself). She was barely five feet tall and a size 0. Just a tiny thing, though quite the formidable legal opponent. She and I would commiserate on how hard it was to find business attire for our respective sizes. I haven’t seen much improvement in the market since then and if I were ever to start a clothing line, those are the niches I would go for.

As it was, I didn’t do much sewing then. That would have meant dealing with buttonholes and zippers, two aspects of most modern sewing projects that I just loathe. And that’s probably why I’m not very good at them. I also became more involved in the SCA, which meant any sewing I did do was for costuming. Since I developed a persona from the early 10th Century in northern Europe, most of the clothes are fairly simple to construct. They also lend themselves well to the decorative stuff I really like to do, like embroidery and narrow wares weaving.

While in the beginning I was still heavily dependent on commercial patterns, over time I took advantage of costuming classes offered at various events and picked the brains of those who made costuming look easy. The first major step to more regular success was learning how to make a duct tape pattern. In a nutshell, you take a crappy t-shirt, wrap yourself in duct tape, mark out the appropriate pattern lines, and develop your pattern from there. It took several attempts, but I finally started getting consistent results. The next step that really helped me was sitting down one-on-one with one of our better costumers and getting a personal class in pattern making. She drew pictures and talked in engineering terms, and the light went on.

 

IMG_1453

100% cotton flannel fabric for new lounging pants. #joysofworkingfromhome

 

Since then I’ve developed patterns for a shirt, a coat, a padded gambeson, and a pourpoint (a vest or coat to which armor is attached) for my husband. For myself I’ve done long and short tunics, a Viking apron, a coat, a bodice, and recently fumbled out some pants. I still make plenty of mistakes. I break needles, tangle thread, jam my machine, miss-cut fabric, and swear a lot. But I’m better equipped now to trouble-shoot all that, and my husband and I are starting to look more like our actual historical selves and less like a Disney Princess version. Plus the pouches and shoulder bags I make are popular sellers at our merchant booth, so I can technically say I’m a professional at it. But don’t ask me to make any costumes for you. Trying to dress the gorilla I married and myself are more than enough frustration for one lifetime, thanks-very-much. I don’t need to loose that on others, too.

So, thanks, Mom. It only took forty years, but that sewing class finally did pay off. Even if not in the way you’d originally intended.

Darius & Elana at Dreiburgen Ann 2016

We don’t do sun… (Photo courtesy of Wyatt the Odd)

 

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The last couple weeks were pretty busy for me. We spent a week camping in the wilds of Arizona for one of our SCA events, which meant the week before was planning, packing, shopping and swearing, while the week after meant sleeping, unpacking, cleaning and more swearing. Like a lot of long-time historical re-enactors, we don’t necessarily camp so much as we move: full period tent with porch, four-poster bed, lights, nightstands, kitchen, etc., etc. It’s quite a bit to deal with and invariably leads to the desperate, tired discussion of why-the-hell-are-we-doing-this-again as we go into our sixth hour of set-up.

While most of the time we do manage to settle in and appreciate what we have, this latest adventure proved to us the real value of our encampment. Saturday of the event had been projected to deliver a little rain over the course of the day, so we were prepared for some damp. That morning gave us a bit of a thunder burst and left the hard packed desert ground wondering what to do with all that wet stuff. The event staff quickly deployed straw to soak up the worst of it and the clouds were intermittent through the rest of the afternoon. All the dust from the previous days was washed out of the air and it was nice and cool. We enjoyed our afternoon, had chicken noodle soup for dinner and were looking forward to a successful evening as part of the event’s Moonlight Madness on Merchant Row.

The deluge hit right in the middle of that. And by deluge, I mean build your boat now ‘cause if this goes on any longer, you’ll be floating away regardless. Not too concerned despite the watery force, we closed up shop and retreated to the main tent. The rain kept coming. We discovered the porch over the main door – not exactly to spec because of a set-up glitch and a week’s worth of wind – was dribbling rain down right into the middle of our exit. A small puddle developed there, but we were mostly able to step over it – right onto the soaking tarp and carpets that made up the floor of our merchant area under the porch. Further investigation found that the road in front of our tent was featuring Viking longship races instead of the usual pedestrian traffic.

So we secured everything as best we could, got the stuff off the ground we didn’t want to get wet, and went back inside. Hubby fired up the propane heater, I fixed us hot chocolate and we lounged under the canopy of our bed listening to the rain pound us from outside. When we purchased our tent, we made sure to get the heavier grade canvas with the UV protection and water resistance, so while we did have some other minor water intrusions due to seam leakage or wicking through a grommet down a pole, those happened during the hardest of the rain and didn’t cause anything but a conversation point.

The real problem came a little later. There’s something about cool air, rain and the nearest privy being fifty yards away across a raging river that turns an otherwise deep-sleep worthy night into Baby Bladders R Us. I won’t go into details, but I’m thankful for my husband’s outstanding MacGyvering to get us through that. The portable tent privy has now jumped to the top of the build list. Yup, one more thing to pack, but some things just have to be done.

We were able to get through that adventure because we had planned ahead for various contingencies. There are some things – like rope and a good multi-tool – that always go camping with us, whether or not we actually have plans for them. Good preparation is invaluable to making it through any situation and allowed us to survive the desert’s watery assault with little difficulty. If one were to extrapolate along the logical course, good preparation would be just as invaluable to writing projects. Of course, one would have to be logical to start with…

Despite my anal-retentive, perfectionistic, obsessive-compulsive organizing in just about every other aspect of my life, my writing is an attention-deficit schizophrenic with oppositional defiance disorder and issues of self-worth. No matter how vague or meticulous my planning may be, what eventually comes out on the page is rarely even in the same ballpark. I was one of those kids that would write my paper and then do the outline for English class, because every time I tried to do it the other “proper” way, the final product wasn’t close enough even for a game of hand grenades.

And that’s why I became a “pantser.” I don’t plan much of anything beyond the initial setup for a story. Sometimes I have a vague idea of where things might be going, and occasionally they actually do end up there. But most of the time, it’s anybody’s guess. There are writers out there that plan their works to the nth degree – Jim Butcher supposedly had his entire series of Harry Dresden novels outlined before the first one was even published, and is actually (mostly) sticking to those outlines – and there are writers (like Stephen King) who just sit down and start writing. Most writers are somewhere in between and it doesn’t matter where you fall on the organizational hierarchy. File under whatever works.

There are some things that we all should thoroughly plan: disaster preparedness, camping trips, fire drills, etc. And then there are those things that can just be left to their own devices, like love and writing. You might never know where you’ll end up, but it’ll be a hell of a ride.

© 2014   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

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I’m walking through some sort of encampment, part SCA war camp and part zombie apocalypse refugee camp. On my back is a beat up ALICE pack, out of which my cat is poking his head and complaining loudly. In one crooked arm I’m trying to keep control of a bunch of Really Important Things, which turn out to be cross-stitch projects. Over my other shoulder is a spiffy Barrett light .50 sniper rifle. I’m wearing a skin-tight purple outfit, which is alternately a wetsuit or a flight suit, depending on the light, while trying to find a clean bathroom in an area that looks like the bad side of a landfill.

Welcome to my dreams.

My eldest niece was on Facebook the other night, complaining about her own weird dreams, when I whipped out the one above on her. She now wants to share whatever it is I’m taking, I guess because her weird dream didn’t quite measure up. That made me start thinking about just how weird is weird, because, sadly, what I described in the opening paragraph is pretty normal for me.

A couple years ago I wrote a piece about my dreams (“Zombies In The Outfield”) that explains the variations I have, so I don’t think I need to do that again. Lately I’ve been dealing with a lot more nightmarish types than usual. Friends meeting gruesome deaths because of something I did or didn’t do. Being lost, alone and injured somewhere while being chased by zombies/aliens/screaming toddlers. When I finally get to where I can ask someone for help, I’m ignored, or, worse yet, refused. The really bad ones are when I’m dealing with all that other stuff and then realize my husband and I are no longer together, and I have absolutely no back up.

Intellectually I try to remind myself that the dreams are just a reflection of the stress I’ve been experiencing in the real world. The more stress, the more neurochemicals are fubarred, the more crazy I get. And crazy is just the price I have to pay for the really cool stuff I can do, like music and writing and stitching. The anecdotal evidence has supported the idea that brilliance and insanity are closely related for thousands of years, all the way back to the time of Plato and Aristotle. It’s only recently that science has had the tools to take a more reasoned look at the issue.

In her 1998 Roeper Review publication (“Creativity, the Arts, and Madness”), Maureen Neihart, Psy.D. reviewed the historical theories and then touched on studies searching for a link between crazy and creative. The initial indications were “…a more frequent occurrence of certain types of mental problems in those who are exceptionally creative.”  Which is what the anecdotal evidence had been saying all along, but scientists need empirical data before they can confidently make a decision. The question that wasn’t answered, though, is WHY?

Well, in a more recent article (“The Unleashed Mind: Why Creative People Are Eccentric”) Harvard professor Dr. Shelley Carson may have found that answer. She posits that “cognitive disinhibition” may be one explanation for why crazy and creative tend to stick together. We creative people just filter the world differently, using more information in different ways than originally intended. Sometimes that usage leads to extreme weirdness, like being convinced your cat is really an alien in disguise sent to spy on you. And sometimes it gives you that leap of thought out of the box and into that momentary flash of brilliance, which gives you the answer to life, the universe, and everything.

With fMRI and EEG testing – among others – we can now take a look directly into the brain as it handles different tasks. The scary thing about this is how similar the results are between test subjects that are creative, but non-schizophrenic, and actual schizophrenics. Proof that crazy and creative are just different sides of the same coin. And while the thought processes seem to be more in keeping with a schizotypal personality, many creative people – especially writers – suffer from depression, a different set of issues all together. Or so the specialists would like you to believe. My hypothesis is that all the higher functioning imaginary stuff creative people do in their minds just causes them to be even more disappointed with what they have to deal with in the real world.

So here I am, a living scientific proof that creativity and crazy are closely related. It’s a fine line I be walking, that’s for sure. I had a great aunt who was an accomplished painter, and spent the last twenty years of her life never leaving her own house and yard. I don’t often even make it into the yard most days, so she’s already ahead of me in that department. I guess I’m the crazy aunt for my generation. All I need is a weird old house full of cats and a nervous canary and my legend will be complete. Yeah, it’s my own little world, but it’s okay, they know me here…

© 2013   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

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