Early Memories

So, apparently last week I didn’t make any blog posts at all. That violates just about everything I’ve read about maintaining a successful blog. Sue me.

I guess I really should spend some time deciding what I want to accomplish with this blog. I don’t particularly have any goals to monetize it. I have no thought of making it into some kind of money making enterprise.

Nor do I want it to become  a place where I just post random facts, or random rants. I do want it to have some kind of structure.

Mostly, I think, I want this blog to be a way to help me examine different aspects of my life, and to help me build some kind of personal discipline. I have felt for years that I lack personal discipline, and I’m trying to build that quality into my personality.

Monday is, according to plan, the day I make an autobiographical post. The last post in that series described my Grandmother Butterfield. In a logical world I would next describe my one of my Fletcher Grandparents, but I’m just not ready to do that. I need to think very carefully before I tackle that kind description. It would be huge understatement to say I have conflicting feelings about them.

So, I’m going to skip around a bit. It’s my autobiography, I can do what I want. Deal with it. Tonight I think I’m going to talk about my earliest memories.

The very first thing I remember is just a fragment. I couldn’t have been more than three or four, but I remember being on a paddle boat, the kind you can rent at resorts, on Lake Okaboji.  I don’t remember anything else about the trip. I just remember being on that paddle boat with Mom and Dad. I don’t remember getting on it and I don’t remember getting off of it, I just remember sitting between them as we paddled across the lake.

And now that I think about it, I realize I must have been even younger than I thought, because my next memory is of Christmas at the house in Platssmouth Nebraska. I know I was three when we lived there. And I don’t actually remember Christmas, but I remember Christmas Eve. Specifically, I remember standing at the top of the stairs, and yelling down to Mom and Dad, to see what they were doing. I know now, that what they were doing was assembling Christmas presents. Mom loves to tell that story.

My next memories are of the apartment in Bellevue Nebraska. I was four when we moved in there, and from that point on my memory is more or less continual. I remember swimming in the pool at the complex. Remember learning to ride a bicyle. I emphatically don’t remember learning how to stop the bike: According to my parents the only way I could stop the bike was by riding it into a bush. No, I don’t remember that at all. I do, however remember playing in the creek bed near the apartment.

I remember the day my sister was born. I wasn’t really sure what was going on, I just knew I got taken to my babysitter’s place, and that Dad seemed to be really excited about something. I do remember the day we brought her back to the apartment.

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October 8, 2010: Cormac’s SCA Origin

According to my new blogging schedule, Friday is the day I blog about the SCA. Last Friday I talked about Coronation. This week I think I’m going to describe how I came to join the SCA. It’s a strange story, but some people might find it entertaining. So, here goes…

I am not exactly sure when I first heard of the SCA. In my mind I knew of the organization some time before I started college. I vaguely remember reading about the Society many many years ago; but it was a story about a group far away from where I was. I thought it was kind of an interesting idea, I mean I love studying history, but like I said, it was far, far away.

I do know that while I was in college I saw some folks in “funny” clothes, and even funnier armor beating each other with what I thought were baseball bats on MSU’s Drill Field. I was intrigued, but no one I knew was involved, and at the time most of my time was spent finding ways to avoid my classes and get as drunk as possible. Amazing how many ways you can find to do that if you are properly motivated, and I was.

Now, let’s skip forward from 1990 to 2002. I had recently moved to Memphis, and my only hobby, my only social interaction other than work, was playing an 0n-line game called Everquest. In the game I had met, and started spending far, far to much time socializing with a lady from Madison Wisconsin. I’ll skip the gory details, nobody wants to hear them, and I certainly don’t want to remember them, but eventually that Lady decided to move to Memphis, and we were going to be together always. Yeah, right.

Now, I mention She Who Must Not Be Named, because over the course of our many months of conversation, and face to face time (Believe me, there was not nearly enough of that. Not nearly enough.), she had mentioned that she had been member of the SCA for years up in Wisconsin. We thought that might be a cool thing to do when she moved. It would be a way for us to spend time together, and to meet some other people to socialize with.

Now, as our plans evolved that Spring, it was eventually decided she would move the last week of April. She would, in fact, arrive in Memphis the last Thursday in April. I had done some research, and found out that the local SCA group, The Barony of Grey Niche, was holding their spring event, Beltaine, that very weekend. We decided to attend. She made me a very basic tunic, and brought it with her when she headed south.

Eight years later, I still remember that day perfectly. Perfectly. We arrived at the Piersol group camp some time between 9:30 and 10:00 AM that morning. It was  a gorgeous spring day, not to cool, and not to warm. A pleasant breeze was blowing. We trolled in, and although I didn’t know it at the time, the ladies that trolled us in, THL Caitriona Campbell, and THL Luca, would, in time, become two of my closest friends. After we trolled in, we left the Museum Shelter, and headed down toward the main field.

I saw pavilions set up around the fighting field. I saw beautiful, multicolored flags, and pennons,with people’s heraldry. I saw a lot of gorgeous women (hey, I’m a guy,I notice these things),  and I saw guys that positively made me look small, in armor, and being perfectly accepted.

I guess I should point out that prior to becoming a member of the SCA I was used to being the largest person in any group of people I was likely to be a part of. I’ve been overweight all of my life, and in the past I’ve had … self esteem issues because of that. Those issues are mostly gone now, and what few remain are so …trivial, because of my involvement in the SCA. Hell, that day I was far from the largest person there. I may have been in the top five, but only barely. What is important, though, was that these large guys were not ostracized, or sidelined. They were accepted, welcomed. No one paid any attention to their size at all. This was the first time I had ever been in a group like that. It made an impression, let me tell you.

SWMNBN wanted to attend a coif making class, so after looking around the field for a while, and looking around the hall for a while, we headed down to Cabin Builiding B, where the class was being held. I don’t sew, and have no interest in learning to sew, so while she was in the class, which was taught by Vickie and Doc, I just kind of hung out on the porch, and talked to people. Again, I had never, ever been to any kind of event where I was among so many friendly, open people. I met Raven , and a few others.

After her class we went back up to the field to watch the fighting. The Silver Torc Tournament was over by that time, but easily a dozen people, both men and women, were taking part in pickup fights. I had no real desire to fight myself but I was thrilled to be watching those that were fighting. I was amazed that it was up to the honor of each combatant to determine what was a good blow. No judges. No referees. What a concept.

The day passed all to quickly. Eventually it was time to go to take a seat for Court. As we sat in the hall, I asked SWMNBN what the significance of the of the various banners were. That is when Lady Blue, and Lord Brendan, turned around, introduced themselves, and started explaining which banner was associated with what household, or peer. I began asking a ton of questions, which they answered. They made an effort to explain what each of the awards were for as they were presented in court. Oh, and let me tell you, I just thought I was impressed with the organization prior to court, but during and after court, I knew I was impressed. Something about seeing the joy on people’s faces when they received an award, but more importantly seeing the joy on the member of the audience when people received awards just really, really impressed me.

After Court, Blue and …his SCA name is Brendan, but he introduced himself as Neal, and that is still how I think of him, invited us to sit feast with them. During feast they told stories about their involvement, the local group, local notables, and just generally did their very best to make us feel welcome. The feast itself, was…well it full of what I am convinced was very good food, but just not the kind of food I really liked. Apparently the dishes were not to Blue’s taste either cause as the last remove  was cleared away, she and Neal invited us to the Shadow Legion Camp for what she called “Legion Feast at it’s Finest”. That is how I was introduced to Kane, Illissa, and the Shadow Legion.  Damn glad I was.

We stayed at the Legion camp until very late that evening, but eventually it was time to leave. As we drove home that night, SWMNBN asked me, “what did you think of it all?” My answer was simple; I loved it. I wanted to know more. I wanted to be part of it all. I remember telling her, “I want to be part of running something like what we saw today. I want to be part of making it possible for people to have as much fun as I had today”.

By November of that year, SWMNBN was gone. Our relationship was over, and a lot of really bad stuff had happened. But of all the things she did, all the hurtful things she did, she did introduce me to the SCA. A lot has changed; I know a lot more about the organization, and I’ve seen some of the bad things as well as all of the good things. I’ve met, literally, hundreds of people; most of them good, some very bad, but even the bad ones are (usually) better than the people I meet in the regular world. Yeah, a lot of things have changed, but I”m still here. I still want to be part of the SCA, I still want to be part of running something that enables people to have as much fun as I had that day.  I pray to all gods, great and small, that I always feel that.

October 7, 2010: The Turtle Moves: Moves the Disk World.

It is time to visit Cormac’s Library. I do so love to read and have loved to do so since Mrs. Kokendorfer taught me how in the first grade. In the far to many years since, I’ve read voraciously, in all genres except romance. Just never got into romance much.

Roughly 15 years ago my friend Lee introduced me to the works of Terry Pratchett. I don’t think I’ve thanked him enough for that. In the years since I have read all of Sir Terry’s works many times, and each time I’ve gained something new fro the experience.

Pratchett writes, mostly , in the fantasy genre, and unlike most fantasy writers, he write truly funny, and thought provoking satire. It takes great skill as a writer to make someone not merely smile, but to laugh outloud, and Pratchett has that talent in spades.

Most of his work is set on the Disk World. This is a place where magic is real; you must accept that as a given. Unlike writers like say Robert Jordan, Pratchett doesn’t go to a lot of effort to explain the magic, it just is. Over the course of 38 novels, Terry has fully developed this world into a truly interesting and unique place.

The Disk is a flat world, not a sphere, It rides on the back of four giant elephants, who in turn stand on the back of the Great A’Tuin, the celestial space turtle, who swims through space toward some unknown point and unknown time. Can you see why magic has to exist on such a world?

There are four main sets of stories in Pratchett’s work: The Wizards of Unseen University, The City Watch of Ankh Morpork, the Witches of Lancre, and DEATH and other anthromorphications. In the last eight years he has also started another series of Ankh Morpork stories featuring a reformed con-man named Moist Von Lipwig, and a second set of witch novels based on Tiffany Aching. While each book can be read as a stand alone novel, if they are read in order the experience is much richer.

Over the next few weeks I’ll examine the individual books in the Disk World Cannon, starting with my personal favorite set of characters, the City Watch of Ankh Morpork. Next week we will take a look at “Guards Guards”.

October 4, 2010: Thinking about Grandma B

I do plan to keep going with this autobiography, even though I realize that I am probably the only person that is even vaguely interested in the subject. I don’t expect to to be finished any time soon, and I am quite sure that the story will probably take some interesting detours, side trips , and possibly, perform some loop-de-loops from time time to time. The fact is, as I examine some different part of my life, my history, my story, I’m not sure what I’ll discover. I am just sure that it will be an interesting endeavor.

I’m also sure, that an amazing cast of characters will appear in the story. You see, I’ve been blessed, my life has been enriched beyond my current ability to describe by some fascinating people.  Family, friends, teachers, bosses, I’ve known, and still do know some wonderful people. I will try to do them justice.

Today I want to tell you about  my Mom’s mom; Grandma Butterfield, or, as we usually called her, Grandma B.  Mable Butterfield was born in 1914 in Venus Nebraska. She never lived anywhere but Knox and Holt Counties. I’m fairly sure that she knew most of the people that lived in O’Neill; if she didn’t know the specific person she almost certainly knew their family, and probably the family history going back at least 3 generations.

I never knew her husband, Elden; he died when Mom was twenty. What I do know is that Grandma was 48 or 49 when Elden died. She had been working at the O’Neil Bakery for a number of years, and when she finally quit the job in the bakery she had worked there a total of 30 years. When she quit the job at the Bakery she got a job at a combination Hobby Store/Sporting Goods Store (the kind of store you can ONLY find in small, rural towns). She worked there for another fifteen years. Grandma was NOT afraid of hard work. In fact, I’m fairly sure that she could out work anyone until her body just simply got to frail, and that would have been in her early nineties.

Grandma B was/is a hard woman to describe easily. She would never accept any kind of charity; not even help from her kids. She could be rather stubborn (kind of like the way a mountain can be kind of tall),and she could be rather judgmental. She was extremely independent; she lived on her own, in her own home, until well into her late eighties. When her physical condition and dementia got to the point where she could no longer live on her own, and she had to go into a nursing home the closest one Mom and her sisters could find was in Atkinson, which was 20 miles from O’Neill. Grandma wanted to go home, and she literally walked out the door and started walking toward O’Neil. The facility staff found her walking about two miles from the home. Determined? YEah, you could say that.

However, she was also a woman that never once forgot the birthday of any of her kids, her kid’s husbands or wives, or any of her five grandchildren. She didn’t have any use for people that were not at least willing to work, but she was a loyal friend, and generous when it came to taking care of people that couldn’t work for health reasons.

While she could be rather stern, and harsh, she also had an amazing sense of humor; she was a person that could laugh easily, and could make other’s laugh  as well. She loved to play cards, and she played to win, but more importantly, she played to have fun.

She lived the majority of her life, in Holt County, and while she never had a great deal of money, she was able to travel literally all over the country. In addition to her traveling, she was an amazing craft person. For years we would decorate our Christmas tree each year with ornaments that Granny B had made. I think CormacSis has most of those ornaments now.

Grandma died in September of 2009. She was 95 years old, and she was a truly amazing woman. The world will not see her like again. This description has not done her justice, and I’m sorry about that. I wish you all could have known her. I wish I had known her better.

September 3, 2010: Sunday Miscellany

Sunday afternoon, and I feel fine. Well, fine, but kind of odd, actually. You see, I’m not really sure what I should be doing. I’ve had a good day, and I’ve gotten quite a lot done so far.

I woke up early, and started my day i the kitchen. I fried some sausage for breakfast. Next up was setting some chicken pieces out to thaw, and finally I mixed together the ingredients to make Velveeta cheese dip/soup. I’ve had the urge to make that for several weeks, and finally got the needed supplies. Once that was going in the crockpot, I was ready for the second part of my Sunday ritual: The Shaving of the Head.

I took a quick shower, and then it was time to put a fresh blade in the razor, lather up my face and head and go to town. I can’t really describe how good a freshly shaved head feels. What I can describe is how I feel when my head is shaved, and that is, “I feel good”. I try to shave it every weekend, and when I do, I feel better about myself throughout the week.

I spent the next couple of hours doing my weekly review and planning. I’ve been refining that process ever since I first read Getting Things Done by David Allen.  I have found that I need that weekly review and planning time. The Review comes first, and it reminds me of what I had and had not accomplished during the previous week. Knowing that tells me what I need to focus and concentrate on in the coming week.
The next step in the process is spend some time with Google Calendar. Blocking out the hours I’ll be at work is the first step. Then I make a list of any other meetings I want to attend, or tasks that have to be done during the week. These tasks and appointments are listed in the tasks section of Google Calendar. The final step is to copy everything into the notebook I take everywhere with me. I also do a daily review, which is pretty much the same process just on a daily basis.

I spent the afternoon getting reacquainted with several old friends: Jean Valjean, Javert, and the rest of the cast of Les Miserables. You see, about 15 years ago a good friend/arch enemy introduced me to that show, and for the next several years that score and Jimmy Buffet’s music was damn near the only music I to which I would listen. It’s a well known fact that I have a special place in my heart for stories of redemption, and the redemption of Valjean is one of the better stories in that genre. I found the 10th Anniversary version on Itunes and just had to have it. I loaded it on my Ipod and then spent a glorious hour or so outside, just enjoying the weather and listening to great music.

Friday October 1, 2010: Thoughts on Coronation

My plan for this weekend was to attend Coronation. We all know how that plan worked out, but I did spend a lot of time today thinking about the event. Specifically, I was thinking about what makes Coronation such a pleasant event to attend. It is one of the kingdom level events, and that always draws a larger than normal turnout. This means, of course, that when you are at Coronation you get a chance to visit with, talk to, and generally hangout with a larger number of people than you would get to do at a local group event.
All events, once they actually start, follow a set pattern, or rhythm, and Kingdom Events are no different. Tonight people will be arriving on site until quite late, the last will probably come through troll sometime between 1:00 and 2:30 AM. Tomorrow will start with the kitchen crew making breakfast for the attendees, and at some point there will be, probably, a Royal Breakfast. The real activities will start some time around 10:00 with the first of the morning Courts.
Coronation is all about the old, or current, King and Queen stepping down, and the  Prince and Princess stepping up as King and Queen. The ending of  a reign is not a sad thing, but it is an ending. The current Royals will have a final chance to present awards, and quite a lot of those will be given to the royals entourage, or to people that have helped them significantly during their reign. Then, in Gleann Abhann anyway, the King “dies”. Sometimes the Queen as well. Sometimes from poison, sometimes fro foreign assassins, and in the case of Havord’s second or third reign, by members of their own entourage. It’s a great bit of schtick, but it does have a very real symbolic meaning. The Kingdom is without a king. The former Queen, leaves her crown on her throne, and departs along with her entourage, taking with them the former king’s body (usually). At this point the knights of the kingdom come forth to guard the thrones, and the crowns, until the new king is crowned. The knights are the guardians of the kingdom in the absence of a king. The first of the morning Courts is now over.
After a short break, usually just long enough for the Prince and Princess to get changed into their finery and assemble their entourage,  the second morning court will begin. The Prince will approach, occasionally being challenged to their right to the crown by members of the Peerages, or the Kingdom Seneschal.  After asserting his right to the crown, he will crown himself. Next his consort will approach, and she will be crowned as Queen, by the King. Next their entourage will approach, and take their places, and the real work of the second court will begin. That work can best be described as “oath taking”.
The Oath of Fealty is another very important and symbolic part of the SCA, and I’ll go into more detail about it in another post, For now it is enough to say that the oath will be repeated several times tomorrow morning. First the Peerages. Some Kings call each Order separately, some choose to call all three Orders at the same time. Next to take the oath will be the Kingdom Officers, followed by the Landed Barons. Finally, the rest of the people will come forth, take a knee, and take the Oath. Over the years I have taken the Oath of Fealty as a member of an entourage, as a kingdom officer, and as a member of the general population, and in the near future I’ll take it again. Each and every time the experience has been a moving one.
Once the Oath Taking is done, the court will proceed with a few awards, but not a lot of business. Most of the business of the new King and Queen will take place at the afternoon or evening Court.
Once the second Court has concluded, the rest of the day will be taken up with a couple of different tournaments; usually for to chose the King’s Champion, and Queen’s Champion. Of course there is often a number of meetings of various Orders, Peerage Circles, and other groups. But those will be the subject of a different post.