Saturday Evening in Bavaria Musings, Living room edition

I’ve not done one of these in a while…

Rainy-day Playtime: 

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Sharkbait in the playroom, on the aerial hammock

Tea of the Day: I’m not sure.  My son made a cup of tea for me this morning, and by the time it was cool enough to start sipping, the cat was drinking it.  It must have been epic.

And in other news: One advantage of being in Germany at the moment is how very far away I am from the news in the US in some ways.  Thank the gods…

But even so: I feel for those of you much closer.  As it is, I have this feeling that I can only describe as a cross between hamsters in a wheel running nowhere and that feeling when you know your car is running on fumes, your fridge is empty, and you still have two days till payday.  I can only imagine how it feels to be dealing with the crazy up close.  And to change the subject because I know so very many people are so very burned out at the moment….I’ve been…

Weaving: If you follow me on social media, you may be aware that I’ve been making potholders!  There’s this awesome little yarn shop in the Ansbach Alstadt where I picked up a nifty round loom and have been using scrap yarn and dyed fabric to make potholders.

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There’s also been a bit of crocheting…  But either medium, I’ve been doing quite a bit of escapism via fantasy (books, games, shows, and just plain old imagination) and crafts.

Weirdly, without even trying…I’ve lost about 35-40 lbs since moving.  I’d say it from less stress, but that’s a lie, the stress has just been different.  I think its actually from the relative lack of preservatives in food here (while we have access to the commissary on base, there’s only a handful of things we get there) and the incredible lack of fast-food availability.  I didn’t *think* we had it that much, but with two kids in afterschool activities 4 days a week, we probably had it more than I realized.  Plus, we walk a lot more.

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Panoramic view of Ansbach

An Optimistic Closing Quote (one of my favorites): I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice. (Theodore Parker)

…eventually (addendum mine)

the family that slays together…

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Just over a year ago (the end of 2018 over the kids’ Winter Break), Scott (AKA: The Hubby) and I busted out one of the moldering skills of our misspent nerdy youth (before it was cool man!) and transformed our family into a costume-wearing, accent-wielding, foam weapon toting band of comedic adventurers of Faerûn.

Today, we parent an adolescent half-elf druid and a pre-teen dragonborn barbarian. …Except when we parent a moon elf bard and a grung pirate.   It gives the hubby and I no choice but to make household chores “taking the trash out from the keep to avoid the plague” or “dishwashing at the inn because you ran out of gold.”  We watch shows like Critical Role like other families watch football and the kids watch YouTube animators like Puffin Forest and Dingo Doodles like the Saturday morning cartoons of my back-in-the-day.

In our adventures, we have taken out a thieves guild, rescued small children from a troll, saved a village’s hunters from a roving band of evil goblins, and more.  But more practically, playing Dungeons and Dragons (we play 5th edition) was a bit of a no-brainer as a family activity:

  1. Players work together for a common goal with individual motivations and have to resolve conflict collaboratively, or they all potentially pay the price.
  2. The game is heavily steeped in imagination and creativity as skills that are frequently overlooked in other games in both character development and during the progression of the game itself.
  3. There’s a huge opportunity for customization and creativity outside of the game that gets them doing stuff they’d normally bypass as “not fun,” from painting tediously tiny minifigures, learning to sew making costumes, writing backstories and reading big fat books (in the immortal words of Sharkbait: “Who knew instruction manuals could be this fun, mom?!?”).
  4. Playing and planning games teaches them strategic thinking, cause-and-effect, organization and planning (both in-game and out), conflict resolution, “public” speaking, storytelling, improvisation, and more;  and
  5. It’s a fun way to spend time together creating valued memories.

mimics&weretigers…As a parent, I value anything that gets my kids to read more, draw more, find ways to entertain themselves without having to hear the words “I’m bored,” and to enjoy spending time together.  As the parent of a kid with ADHD, I value anything that helps teach him to appreciate the value of the tasks he often finds difficult (and therefore tedious) and encourages him to develop the social skills that he so often finds challenging.  As a mom, whose creative outlets often feel stymied by adulting and parenting, I appreciate that I have the opportunity to engage in the former without feeling like I’m shirking the latter…also, I flirt with the hubby’s character, and there’s some good that comes from that as well when the kids aren’t around.

And…don’t just take my word for it…if it’s not something you’ve thought about or considered before… Anecdotal information and some preliminary studies suggest that kids that play RPG games like D&D do better in school, even when they have struggled in school and discuss the mechanisms by which such games may do so.  It’s being used as a form of therapy,  for teaching social skills to kids like mine, etc.

Don’t get me wrong, there are challenges to playing with kids vs. playing with other adults, especially when it comes to adapting to playing with kids for the first time, running an entire campaign of just kids (The Hubby and I hosted a campaign for our kids and their friends–6 to 8 preteens most sessions–until we moved to Germany over the summer), and in running a campaign with multiple kids with ADHD or other challenges (luckily there’s advice for that).  There are simplified character sheets for kids, official books geared towards teaching kids the game (I’ve not gotten these because my kids love the official manuals, but I can see how they might be great for kids with reading challenges), and even choose-your-own-adventure style books.

And the best part about playing Dungeons and Dragons today, compared to 20-30 years ago, is that it’s more accessible and cooler than its ever been!

But (to quote another childhood favorite who has made a comeback), don’t just take my word on it!

Greetings from Germany

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So…

I don’t even know if I have anyone left who follows this little blog, but if so, welcome back.

If this is your first time here, hey there and welcome!

…don’t feel bad, it has been a while since I’ve been here too…

Life has its ebbs and flows, just like the tides, and when one thing rises to the forefront, others fall to the wayside.

This blog–really writing for pleasure in general–has been one of those things.  I’m hoping that can change since we’ve become a bit more settled after some huge HUGE changes.  The biggest change, the one that defines all of the other changes, is that we’ve moved (for at least the next 2 1/2 years, but hopefully for 4 1/2 years) to Germany (specifically, the Ansbach region in Bavaria).

This is our new home:

We look forward to many new adventures, which I hope to share!

The Irreverent and Unconventional Guide to Holiday Tunes

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As a Pagan, I have a confession to make…

I love Christmas.

Ferreals.

I love it. I love the trees, the decorations, the lights, eggnog–I even love fruitcake.  Sure, we have Yule/Solstice (Happy Belated, BTW, either way you celebrate it), but it’s still weird to celebrate a what amounts to a major cultural holiday on the wrong day (even if much of the iconology we associate with Christmas has its start in pre-Christian traditions)…  It’s a bit like being the only person celebrating the 4th of July on the 1st of July.

But the thing I love the most of all is the music.  I think it because I associate it with one of the most treasured traditions of my childhood…  You see, I come from a musical family upbringing (unfortunately, I’m the least musical of them all), and every Christmas of my childhood included a rousing hour or so of various relatives pounding out tunes from yellowing pages of sheet music (I am, however, an excellent page turner) and taped together books of Christmas music on the piano..or whatever other instruments they had brought along (including the good ole voice box).

Unfortunately, the Winter Solstice just doesn’t have that many singable carols…

Yes, we have music (a huge improvement from my early days as a Pagan).  As much as it makes me smile when I hear it on the rare occasion its played radio, Jethro Tull’s Solstice Bells does eventually get tiresome on the 347th replay for the season.  And sure, there’s the ever-popular Santa Claus is Pagan Too, by Emerald Rose and The Christians and the Pagans by Dar Williams and Bring Back the Light by Gypsy, or there’s Inkubus Sukkubus’s Hail the Holly King and Solstice Evergreen by Spiral Dance and Lisa Thiel’s Winter Solstice Song…but (with the exception of Santa Claus is Pagan Too), they just don’t have the same je ne sais quois as a rousing round of Jingle Bells.  Nor do many of them possess the solemn beauty of Silent Night, though there are some lovely mostly songs  the Solstice–like this piano solo on Michele McLaughlin’s Christmas album or this demo by Peter Gundry, or Tori Amos’s Winter’s Carol:

Or, perhaps familiarity is partially to blame; after all, Oh Holy Night, which is one of my favorite Christmas AND Yule tunes, only requires a slight bit of rephrasing to celebrate the night of the Sun’s rebirth instead of the night of Christ was born.  There’s this rather lovely rendition of What night is this? and about a dozen different Silent Nights (none of which I like).  None of this, however, solves the problem of what to do with holiday music once Yule is over and everyone else is still gearing up for Christmas.

So, here’s a few songs that celebrate the holiday season (all the holidays) with honesty and a jaunty tune…in no particular order of irreverence or unconventionality:

 

And, my personal favorite…

 

So, whatever your faith may be, and with all sincerity “I bid you pleasure and I bid you cheer | From a heathen and a pagan | On the side of the rebel Jesus.”

May your day be merry, whether you are celebrating Christmas tomorrow or not.

I am not a football fan…but let’s rant about protesting protest anyhow.

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My grandfather (a WWII veteran, whom I was inspired by to join the Navy) and I once had a conversation about flag burning…I was in middle school, I think, and I remember exactly what he said to me (because I wrote it down afterwards, and I’ve reread it over the years from time to time)–“I hate the idea of someone burning the flag. I think its disgusting and disrespectful and that is why I would never do it. But I support their right to do it–otherwise, I’d be no better than the Nazis or the Soviets. And I’d like to think I’d never considered the person doing it to be disgusting or disrespectful.  I’d like to think I would think it was a tragedy that someone felt that way and I’d like to think I was man enough to ask them why and really listen to their answer, even if it made me uncomfortable.  I’d like to think that I would want to figure out how to fix things so that they no longer wanted to burn the flag.”  Given that bending one’s knee is hardly burning the flag, I think that even were he disappointed in the form of protest, he’d be more concerned with fixing the ‘why.’

I love America more than any other country in the world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.

–James Baldwin (among the greatest writers of the 20th century)

The NFL anthem protest is not disrespectful–and I say this as a veteran–it is within the strongest traditions of this nation; indeed, the right to protest the failures of this nation to live up to its promises IS what makes this country great. This nation was founded on the very notion of protesting the status quo to overthrow tradition for tradition’s sake when that tradition is being used to deny the natural rights of mankind.  And of those rights, the very First Amendment (its actually six rights in one amendment) gives us the right to assemble peaceably, to redress grievances, and to speak freely. Don’t get me wrong, I joined the military primarily for health care and education benefits, but the only reason I take pride in that services is because I do believe in the duty to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic (and sadly, most of those enemies are domestic, wrapped in a flag, waving a gun, and toting a Bible).

Kneeling before the symbol that represents the failed actualization of this country’s ideals to certain segments of its population is far more respectful than blindly obsequious posturing before it as some metric of patriotism.

I’m more astounded at what this says about the American character than anything.  We’ve effectively said “Hey, we’ll watch your murderers, your rapists, your child and spouse beaters, your animal abusers…we’ll give you money for permanently disabling people through traumatic brain injury.  And its not just football–we’ll pay sports figures so freaking much their players can fucking build schools and shit, because our society can’t be bothered to just pay for schools–for our future’s fucking basic education,” (It is possible to think Lebron James’ actions are amazing AND think that the fact that *this is what funding good schools has come to* is a terrible stain on our national character–they are not mutually exclusive ideas).

But, you know, we white people just can’t seem to handle the idea that there might still be some aspects of our government and society where we aren’t living up to the values of this nation. Kneeling silently during the anthem–we can’t handle that. It’s somehow just the last straw, a bridge too far for far too many. I mean really, how pathetic is that? The NFL never even really required teams on the field until the DoD bribed them into it (maybe), and all of the sudden we are going to act like this is some travesty of unpatriotic behaviour? The only unpatriotic thing I see is the burying of thousands of heads in the sand over the very real problems this country still has with regard to equal protection under the law for all Americans.

And as a veteran (yeah, I’m gonna play the veteran card), you know what else really pisses me off about the conservative snowflake crowd?  Don’t fucking tell me how patriotic you are and how much you love this country when you are exploiting my fucking service and deciding for me what disrespects my service.  Especially if you haven’t served.  I mean, if they really want to respect my service, they should stop electing people that get us into shitty wars, stop voting for assholes that cut VA funding, and stop using shoving their interpretation of their Bible up my vagina.

This “its disrespectful of the service of our military, blah, blah, blah” stuff pisses me off immensely. How dare someone else tell me what disrespects my service?!? As a veteran, I put more stock in the Constitution I took an Oath to protect and defend than I do a piece of fabric that half these yahoos deface and misuse regularly as a fucking rag for their sweaty head or a piece of fabric to hold their boobs at the pool. Let’s face it, they only care about “disrespect” when its something that makes them uncomfortable–like other people wanting to actually have the same level of civil rights in practice that they take for granted.

And another thing, if taking a knee is SO disrespectful to the flag that its a reason to boycott football and deface Nike products, where the fuck were these bigots when it came time to decry Tebow’s disrespect of Jesus every time took a knee to pray?  And really, that shit actually took place during gameplay.  Don’t get me wrong,  I can think of half a dozen reasons to boycott football and Nike…but peaceful protest is not one of them, whether I agreed with the reason for protesting or not (though I do) or the method of protesting or not (while I would not choose the same for myself, I completely respect not only their right to do so but I also respect the manner in which they have chosen to exercise that right).  After all, it was a veteran (and NFL player) that suggested kneeling in the first place–

 But I thought kneeling was more respectful, and I will say that being alongside his teammates was the biggest thing for me.

And, you know, people – in my opinions and in my experience, kneeling’s never been in our history really seen as a disrespectful act. I mean, people kneel when they get knighted. You kneel to propose to your wife, and you take a knee to pray. And soldiers often take a knee in front of a fallen brother’s grave to pay respects. So I thought, if anything, besides standing, that was the most respectful. But, of course, that’s just my opinion.

–Nate Boyer, former Green Beret and NFL player, in an interview with NPR

What little hope I have held on to, that this nation might live up to its promises in my lifetime, have been gouged out by the stunning realization (more of my white privilege)  that completely reasonable peaceful and respectful protest is somehow more offensive to other white people than the continued and unapologetic disregard for the safety of their players on part of the NFL, or the continued employment of the players who have committed rape and domestic abuse, or the exorbitant fees they get paid while teachers have to sell plasma and drive for uber to afford supplies for their classrooms and make ends meet….or fuck, the subject that has caused this protest in the first place.

I mean, you can’t just get more misdirecting than this entire protest having been turned into a racially-privileged commentary on protest instead of the subject of that protest.