tea, books, & shenanigans

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Yesterday evening I posted, hinting at an exciting opportunity that I have been given.

My friend Jess is the owner and proprietor at the Rogue Crusade, an online shop with a physical store in Gallipolis, Ohio. It’s a home away from home for geeks, people who love gaming, D&D, cosplay, LARP, and anything that falls within that general sphere. Jess is a graphic designer with a vision, and the shop has quickly become one of my favorite places to spend time. Recently, the back room of the shop was completed to the point where it’s been opened on a limited basis for private parties — mostly game nights and D&D.

Recently, Jess contacted me about leading a book and tea club. Of course I said yes! From there, it was on, with plans falling into place. A little bit of research and tinkering later, I had a list of books, and a plan to increase our Tea Enthusiasts levels over the course of the next year or so. There is a List of Books, and a Plan to Increase Tea Knowledge. All we need now are members. And then? There will be Tea and Shenanigans. And books. Also dressing up! If you want to, wear your Steampunk/Victorian/Elven princess/dapper dandy/book-of-the-month-themed costume. Otherwise, come dressed up in your Sunday best. This is a monthly opportunity to play dress up as adults, so don’t be shy about leaving your jeans and t-shirts at home!

If this is something that you’re interested in, please visit the shop here to read more about it there. I will be providing regular blog updates over there regarding Tea and Shenanigans, including a full list of books, brief synopses of each book, and notes about the teas that we try. You absolutely do not have to be local to participate; simply order the book with us, and when we send it out to you, you’ll also get a sample of the tea(s) that we drink. Soon there will also be a Facebook group, to bring all of our members together. The button at the bottom of this page will take you to the event page at RogueCrusade.com, where you can sign up. It’s $15, and that goes toward the cost of the book and refreshments. Our first book is “A Wizard of Earthsea,” by Ursula K. Le Guin, to honor the memory of one of the greats.

Happy reading!

teaandshenanigans

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books books books

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I invested a good chunk of time in 2017 on Goodreads. Of course, a good chunk of time for me probably amounts to a total of two hours for the year, overall, but still. I had set a reading goal, and by God, I was going to meet it! (And I did! My initial goal was 50 books, then 75, and ultimately 100. I read 100 books.) I read almost exclusively on my phone via the Kindle app, and so I made sure that whenever I finished a book, I marked it as read in the app before I moved on to the next book.

This year, I’m being kind to myself. My goal is still set at 100, but I am mostly doing just to see how many NEW books I read this year. I re-read a LOT of my favorite authors. It’s like going back to an old friend and getting a long, familiar hug, so I don’t plan to stop any time soon.

I’m really excited about this year, though, because I’m doing something I’ve never done before. The best part is that it combines two of my favorite things: books and tea. And yes, there will be friends involved, but that’s a bonus.

If you’re local* (Southeastern Ohio-ish in general, and Meigs/Gallia/Mason/Jackson counties specifically), and you like tea parties, books (particularly those within the general umbrella of sci-fi/fantasy/mystery/Steampunk), and playing dress up —

STAY TUNED.

Tomorrow I am going to tell you about a Thing I am doing, and I want you to be involved. But I have to do it tomorrow, because all the links are easier to get to when I’m on my laptop. So. Tomorrow. All will be revealed, and shenanigans will be had.

*(Actually, if you’re not local and you like all of these things, come back tomorrow anyway, because there are plans that include people from Away.)

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(blogmas) the pounding of my heart

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The holidays bring with them anxiety, and this year has been no different. Uncertainty, the pounding of my heart, the weight that sits in my chest – a demon that ever has its claws in me.

When it comes, words are difficult to find, even harder to string together. And so, once more I fail in a task I set for myself. But because I am trying, and because I will keep trying, I forgive myself, because 2018 is another year, another chance to start again.

Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Happy Kwanzaa. Happy New Year. Peace be with you. I wish you joy.

I’m going to try again in 2018. Practice kindness to one another.

Blogmas! Christmas giving

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I’m tired, y’all. Sub teaching is exhausting. But its’s blogmas, so here I am.

The holidays herald not only a time of year full of warm memories with family and friends, but the inundation of people and organizations asking for donation. It’s easy to get overwhelmed or angry with the amount of people who seem to be standing with their hands out.

But it is the season of giving. And honestly, many of us wouldn’t know  where to give if charities and people wanting to do good for others didn’t point to those who need our help and say, “Here. Give here. These people need your help. These children deserve a happy Christmas with the same things more fortunate kids take for granted. The animals in this shelter and that shelter deserve love and comfort while they wait for their forever home.”

I am not in a place where I can give monetarily to the places I want to support. But I can point people in the right direction. If you want to give directly to a family in need, please consider checking out the Bloggess’s annual James Garfield Miracle. Or look at Project Night Night, which gives homeless children a canvas bag with a blanket, book, and stuffed animal.

Give time to a local shelter. Donate to a food bank. Go into Wal-Mart & pay off someone’s layaway order. Your giving doesn’t have to make a splash to make a difference to someone who needs a blessing right now.

Update: One Simple Wish is another organization that is worthy of your help. There you can help to fulfill the wishes of kids in foster care, or who have aged out of the foster care system.

Blogmas! (Favorite presents)

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Yesterday I wrote a list of topics to cover for blogmas, just so I don’t have an excuse to say, whining, “But I don’t know what to wriiiiiiiite!” Well, I do. Thanks to many, many blog posts with blogmas ideas — many of them with the same ideas, I have a list, and it’s a good list, Carl. (I’ve never seen Walking Dead, sorrynotsorry.)

When I was little, I really, really, REALLY wanted a preemie Cabbage Patch Doll. Like. I wanted that doll like I’d not wanted anything before or since (besides a steady job and universal insurance and equality for everyone ever, but whatever). We’d gone to Kentucky to visit family friends, and they had two little girls, and one or maybe both had one of these preemie’s, and I just fell in love with it. I don’t know how often I told Mom and Dad I wanted one, but I know I had to have done it more than once.

middletondollOn Christmas morning, I woke up and there were presents! Under the tree! Yay! Santa came! I opened my presents, but alas, there was no preemie Cabbage Patch Doll. There was, however, a Middleton Doll under the tree for me. (Sidenote: The Lee Middleton Doll Factory was based out of Belpre, OH, and as a child I went on a field trip to the factory at least twice through school. The factory is no longer open, and the store attached to it is likewise closed.) Accompanying the doll was a letter from “Santa” telling me that he ran out of the Cabbage Patch dolls, but that he had a very special doll for me instead. Her name was rose, and I still have her. She’s on the top shelf in my old bedroom, gathering dust with a few other dolls that are more collectibles than playthings.

The next Christmas, though? Oh, that next Christmas. I cried when I opened the present, because I finally had my preemie, and she was beautiful. Her name was Marie, and she was one of my favorite dolls for years. Unfortunately, I think she’s languishing in the basement with other toys. I need to find her.

Of course, as a five or six year old, I didn’t understand the ramifications of what being premature meant. I only knew it as a cute, small baby that I wanted to love. Prematureness in babies is absolutely a serious condition, and there are many babies who don’t survive being born too early. I wish I had known then about the ramifications of popularizing premature babies as a “cool” thing to have then.

As an adult, the thing I’ve wanted for years and years was a KitchenAid standmixer. In 2015, that was my present from Santa, and I can say that it is amazing. I don’t use it as much as I want to, but when I do, it works like a charm. I’ve made cakes, cookies, bread, and even butter in it.

Tell me about your favorite Christmas or Hanukkah present! What good things are you giving this year?

Blogmas! (Family Traditions)

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Five days into December, I decided that I wanted to do Blogmas, that month out of the year where you blog every day. Well, really, it might as well have been six days into the month that I decided, but since it was still technically the 5th, I’ll go with that. I have a bad habit of starting writing projects and then abandoning them. Nanowrimo, blogging, tumblr, bujo, physical journals, livejournal, insanejournal, dreamwidth — I’ve sat down with good intentions for all of them, and then did not follow through.

I always justify not starting, or by starting and then stopping, by telling myself that (in this case), it’s so close to the first of the year that it doesn’t make sense to start until then. Start new! Afresh! A blank year-slate! Or it’s Wednesday, the middle of the week. Start Sunday! At the latest on Monday. And then the day or the year comes, and I don’t, and then my brain tells me that I HAVE to start on a first, or a Sunday, or a Monday, and so I don’t do it. And then my blog lays dormant for a year minus 2 days, and I feel guilty because I’m not doing what I told myself I would do.

All of that leads me here, to Wednesday, December 6, when I am starting Blogmas 6 days late, but I’m going to do it anyway, because it’s been too long since I liked Christmas, and I want to again.

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2016’s tree

Growing up, we never decorated for Christmas right after Thanksgiving. But when it was time, it was time. Mom had all sorts of little figurines to put in the windows, and she replaced candles with red ones and put (fake) holly and mistletoe around the bases. She had a Christmas Card wreath to put all of the cards we received. It wasn’t until I was a full-grown adult that we got an artificial Christmas tree; up until then, it was always a real one, decorated with ornaments Mom & Dad collected over the years. Mom liked the look of little red bows on the tree, so we always put those on. Even now, we put them on when we put up the tree — it’s a way of keeping her with us even though she’s gone.

Making cookies was a yearly tradition. As children, my brother and I were allowed to roll out the dough and cut out the shapes in the sugar cookies, and then to decorate them. These days, a lot of the time I cheat and get store-bought dough, but I try to make some every year. Christmas morning was spent opening presents as a family, then a special breakfast — usually some sort of breakfast casserole. Then we would get food ready to take to Grandma & Grandpa’s, and away we would go for the day. Before dinner a card table was set up in the living room, with a cheese ball, summer sausage, cheese, veggies with dip — just little nibbles to get us through until it was time to eat. The entire family would gather to open presents, and then it was time to eat.

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Gingerbread men from Christmas 2014. They looked amazing but were not good eats.

I have so many memories of helping to clean up after dinner, and then settling in for a few hours to read whatever new book(s) I was given that day. I was the only girl in a crowd of boys (like, 3 boys. It’s still a crowd, okay?), and was always more interested in reading than anything else. So I read until it was time to go home. Then it was home to put away all the new goodies from this year and to eat leftovers and mess around with my gifts until bedtime.

 

That’s  the basics of my Christmas memories. What are some of yours? Over the rest of the month, I’ll share more, plus favorite recipes, carols, and even look into Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. Happy Holidays!

 

when i grow up, i want to be…

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Yesterday, I was told that I should go back to school and get a degree in education.

Well.

Nope. Nope, nope, nopity nope. Noooooope.

NOPE.

Now that the word holds no meaning and even looks weird from typing it out seven times, I will elaborate. I like kids. I really do. Once upon a time, I thought I wanted them. I like being around them, and talking to them, and teaching them to read. But do I want to be a teacher? No. I know the hoops and the hell that teachers have to go through just to teach their students. I also know that I lack the patience to do this in a regular basis. I’m easily irritated. I get frustrated when students who know what they are doing act as if they don’t. I have a low tolerance for people who don’t even try to understand their lessons, and the young people I would be in charge of for school years at a time deserve teachers who have much more patience than I do.

I am very adamant that all children deserve the best education possible, and all opportunities available to them. I believe that reading is the key to unlocking every single other area of education. I believe that art and music should be taught at all grade levels, and that girls especially should be encouraged to enter into STEM fields. I believe that education, toys, and clothes should not be gendered.

I also believe that my talents will be better used for the children in my life by advocating for education reform, in programs that support and hold up underprivileged children. This is why I don’t want to be a teacher. It’s okay that I don’t want to be. I’m a substitute teacher right now, and that has shown me what I don’t want, professionally. I don’t know exactly what it is that I do want, yet, but eliminating possibilities will show me the way.

the most wonderful time of the year

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snowmen

In the years prior to my mother’s stroke, she had begun collecting snowmen. They became her new favorite way of decorating for the holidays, even though she only collected one or two per year. Her final collection was not a large one, and I’m not entirely sure where they all are.

The past two Christmases have been tough. She passed away in June of 2014, and while we put out the decorations and happy faces for my nieces and nephews, it was – and still is – a difficult time of year. But this year’s different, at least for me. I was visiting friends last month, and during a quick shopping trip to Kroger I noticed the lawn and porch decorations for sale outside the store: snowmen. A week later, I was in my own hometown for a town-wide open house that the businesses had put together. One of the shops features artwork. You know the type, the rustic art, with the cute figures and the slightly unsaturated colors, all of it painted on found objects.

There was a group of teenagers outside of this particular shop, singing carols to people as they walked or drove by. They were related to the owner of the shop, and eagerly told me of the wonder that awaited me just inside the door. They were fantastic, and cheered me, and I went in.

Without any warning I was surrounded by snowmen. The owner had chosen this year to paint nothing but snowmen and women on pallets and strips of wood and metal lids and any other surface that would take acrylic paint. It was wonderful, and all I could think was how much Mom would have enjoyed it, the whole evening. She might have bought something at that shop, and she would have loved walking from shop to shop, poking into nooks and crannies to see what was available, and finding people to talk to in each one.

And she would. Mom knew so many people, and she was so gregarious, so giving of herself. I miss her always, but I think I miss her most right now, at this time of year. I miss cooking with her, and making cooking, and planning holiday meals. I miss going shopping with her, and wrapping presents, and going with her to church on Christmas Eve.

This year is different, though. I miss her, but I’m not so soul-crushingly sad as I have been. I want to celebrate, because by celebrating, by doing the things we did together, I am remembering her, and our good times. By keeping those traditions going, I am keeping a small part of her alive. I think she’d like that.