On the SCA, Goals and Peerages

I still remember how excited I was when I bought my first piece of SCA armor. A helmet which, though it now has a different bar grill than it sported 17 or so years ago, I still wear today. I remember how terrible my first armor was; how I couldn’t lift my arms above my shoulders in it and I remember my very first fighting goal. That goal was to earn the distinction of “she doesn’t completely suck” on the field. A simple goal. A decent goal, if not very concrete. I knew that it was attainable and I knew that I could count on the guys that I fought with to tell me when I had achieved it.

As the years went by and I got heavily into the SCA, I found myself squired to a wonderful Knight and graciously tutored by several other peers. I saw something that I wanted. I’m not sure that I ever used the words “goal” and “Knighthood” out loud in the same sentence, but it was certainly implied. And here I am, many years later, having finally found the right words to describe what I wish I had been able to articulate a decade and a half ago.

Being a peer in the SCA, whether a Knight, Laurel, Pelican, or Master of Defense is a fine and lofty aspiration. It is a right and proper thing to hope for and to work toward. It is, however, a lousy goal.

When we decide to make something a goal, we should have measurable steps to attain that goal. We should be able to readily identify when we have reached that goal. Above all, a goal should be attainable through our actions. Now, here’s the thing. You and I have the power to do many great and wonderful things in the SCA. We have the power and ability to increase our skills and our wordfame. We have the ability to make ourselves into a paragon of chivalry. We do not, however, have the ability to bestow upon ourselves a peerage. We simply cannot control that piece of it. There are many factors that go into the decision to make someone a peer or not and many are completely out of our own hands.

If we fall into the trap of considering a peerage our goal within the SCA, then we have opened ourselves up for disappointment and have almost certainly robbed ourselves of part of the joy of the game that we play. I have seen many wonderful associates become incredibly frustrated with the seemingly moving target of peerage. How many times have we heard the words “keep doing what you are doing”? Which isn’t really even advice, even though it is often meant well. I’ve seen the disappointment when someone knows that they are being mentioned among the pertinent peerage, and the expectant hope…dashed by a few courts without hearing their name called. And then there is the bitterness. We all know those folks who have become bitter because they simply don’t know what else to do to achieve this goal that they have set for themselves. Perhaps the problem is, in fact, the goal.

That being said, we can and often should have goals for ourselves. We should strive for excellence in our chosen path(s). We should carefully consider what that means to us that is totally within our power and make those things our goals. Peer like qualities are a wonderful example of this and apply to all disciplines. This is something very dear to my heart and is, quite honestly, the first thing that I think of when I consider what it means to be a Knight. What does being a Knight or one of the other peerages mean to you? Now, make THOSE things your goals and your focus. Make that what you work toward achieving.

When I consider what was in my heart all those years ago, I know that the goals that I should have spoken for myself were as follows:
1. I will be a person who comports themselves with honor and grace at all times.
2.  My motives will be above reproach.
3. I will improve my skills in armor such that I am a killing force to be dealt with on both the tourney and melee field.
4. I will learn the ways of melee combat, battlefield awareness and leadership and will support my brothers and sisters to the best of my ability at all times.
5. I will learn to pass along the knowledge that I gain to others.
6. I will own my mistakes and learn from them.
7. I will do all of the above to a standard such that I earn the respect of others.
8. I will do nothing to bring shame or harm to my Knight, his family, my household or my Kingdom.
9. I will look damn good while I do these things.
10. I will have fun and I will try to help others also have fun.

Maybe your list is completely different and that is perfectly ok. I notice that winning tournaments isn’t actually on  my list. And I’m ok with that. I always have been. Because that isn’t what is most important to me. For me, it’s about having a good time and acting with honor and grace. Perhaps winning tournaments or A&S competitions is on your list. That’s great! Though, I will say that if winning is a goal, take care that you do not allow that goal more importance than your honor. We can each have our own goals and aspirations. Just make sure your focus and what you are trying to accomplish is within your own power…lest you be disappointed and lose out on the joy that is this wonderful hobby we share.

Don’t forget to have fun!

Photo by Brenden Crane




A place kind of like home

I’m sitting in bed upstairs in my quirky old house in Upstate New York. I’ve had to Google a couple times to determine if the Capital region qualifies as upstate, but most sources agree that it is indeed. When a friend suggested that I move into their rental property in New York state, I was dubious. I had very clearly stated that I was giving the universe a vote in where I moved next and so was looking for a place with a compelling argument to live there. I kinda thought that would still be in Massachusetts, or maybe New Hampshire. However, the universe seems to have it’s own agenda. I thought I would like it better than living in Boston, but I didn’t expect to love it here. I was wrong.

The Hudson Valley, the Catskills, the Adirondacks, the Taconic Mountains…this area has so much natural beauty going for it. I’m constantly blown away by the sights as I am driving around the area. So many gorgeous old homes and barns here add to the landscape. I drive past quirky lawn art, gorgeous gardens, apple orchards and genuine farmstands…some just a rolling cart full of flowers and veggies with a money box sitting on top. The honor system…well, that’s something you don’t see every day.

And there’s my house. A darling Victorian that’s in the process of being restored to it’s former beauty. That’s what suckered me for sure. The chance to help give this old girl some love. And so far, it’s coming along nicely. And I’m delighted by my fancy dining room turned sewing studio and my attic that’s all 100 year old wood planks. Even the beastly old decommissioned boiler in the basement makes me happy in a strange way.

So yeah…for the first time in a while saying the words “I’m home” feel like the truth. I don’t know for how long…but at least for a time, it’s enough.

Don’t wish I was there…or do I?

“When my blood runs warm with the old red wine, I miss the life that I left behind
When I hear the sound of the black bird’s cry, I know I left in the nick of time.”
These lyrics from Peter Bradley Adams song “The Longer I Run” resonate so hard with me some days.

I’m here because I chose to be. I started over. I took the reboot option and left everything I knew to find a new life. And it’s hard…and I have to remember that it’s ok. I struggled the first couple of months and then I was texting with a friend and she said to me “You know, you ARE allowed to be lonely”. And that was when I realized that I didn’t actually know that. I had been telling myself that lonely wasn’t an option. I chose this. I chose to leave “home”. So, I had to deal with the ramifications of my actions. One of these was the fact that I didn’t really know anyone here. It was part of starting over. And I didn’t actually know that I was allowed to feel this until she said that.

So, here’s the thing…you are allowed to miss the people that you left behind. You don’t have to just suck it up and be stoic.

You are allowed to feel homesick for a place that no longer feels like home.

And that’s OK.

I miss what that place once was for me. Leaving was the right decision and I know that with all of my heart. It was no longer home and I had known that for a long time. Still, it’s ok to miss what it used to be. I’m allowed to feel. I’m allowed to wish I could just say “I’m coming over” and show up in my pajamas and steal a beer from the crisper drawer and plop down on a familiar couch and do nothing. It’s ok. I’m allowed to miss the things that I left. It doesn’t mean it was the wrong choice to leave.

I’ll say it once more – I’m allowed to feel sad and lonely and homesick for the place I left.
And so are you.



Falling in love with Rockport

Yesterday was scheduled to be another GORGEOUS Spring day, perfect for a quick adventure.  So, Friday night, I looked at Googlemaps to determine where I would head. I decided to continue my theme of cities on the Eastern shore, and somewhat randomly picked Rockport, MA from the options. I need to make a post soon that goes into my ridiculous decision making process, but suffice it to say that places called “Bearskin Neck”, “Motif #1”, and various and assorted galleries on the strip called to me.

So, I woke up Saturday and decided to forgo breakfast intending to eat after the hour long drive to get there. For some foolish reason, I also decided to listen to the message on my phone telling me to update my system and that it would only take 20 minutes! I was smart enough to glance at the directions first and so decided to head out sans GPS once I had showered and made coffee for the drive.

I hadn’t quite realized just how much of a safety net my Googlemaps lady had become, but I was confident that I could make it to Route 128 without her while she studiously updated my apps. You will be pleased to know that Highway signs still work, and so I was well on my way by the time she came back to be my navigator. This was far more thrilling than I think it should have been, but there you go.

As seems to be my norm, I decided to spend the extra 5 minutes going the route that skirts closest to the ocean, so took 127A up to Rockport. Oh man, it was so pretty. I kept finding myself wanting to turn right and go down little roads that seemed to end directly in the ocean. Finally, I could take it no more and turned, patently ignoring signs that loudly proclaimed “Residents Only. No Outlet”. The Lawful part of me fussed, but the Neutral part of me assured her that if we were quiet and respectful all would be well. Well, Ms. Neutral was right because the road ended in a “Public Way” to the beach that was clearly well trodden though it crossed in back of a few people’s lovely secluded homes. And then I found myself on the pristine rocks, with a view of the vast ocean, a few Lobster boats, a lighthouse in the distance and nothing but the sound of waves and the chatter of birds hanging out in the sunny cove. Beautiful, Wonderful, Perfect. I envy those people that live there just a little.

After spending a little time there, I went on to Rockport.  First stop, Bearskin neck. Only…what is this? This town? Oh, my God, you guys…this perfect little spot near the wharf, a maze of narrow streets flanked by all of these amazing little independent shops in lovely historic buildings. Galleries galore, quirkly metaphysical and clothing shops, potters, restaurants, Helmut’s Strudel shop with the most AMAZING cinnamon rolls (cue belated breakfast here), starfish and sand dollars and everything that I ever wanted a New England port town to be. And just like that, I am madly in love with this place.

I finish up my cinnamon roll (and take a photo of a nice couple as is my sacred duty as a single traveler) and walk out on to the breakwater that protects Rockport Harbor. The word Idyllic does not go amiss here, but neither words nor photos do it justice. There is a little red fish shack dubbed Motif #1 which claims to be the quintessential New England coastal view, more often painted than any other building in the US, and possibly the world. It was the only thing that seemed underwhelming to me in the town. I mean, it’s a cool building and all, but honestly I was a little more taken with the little sheds that seems to have just been chucked onto the boulders with little more than a concrete block here or there to level them and with the fishing boats floating beside them. I wander down side streets, take several paths down to the smaller wharfs, inlets and beaches and I feel myself relax into the life of this small working town.

When I stop for a lobster roll, I am surprised to see a fellow dragging a crate of lobsters straight off the boat and through the restaurant to chuck them in the tank of live lobsters that are being made into my lunch. The folks here are friendly and genuine. I compliment several artists on my strolls through galleries and they look legitimately appreciative that I take the time to say something nice. Everywhere I look are picturesque views of darling houses, little gardens, benches, reminders that this place isn’t just here for my entertainment…it’s here because the people who live here love it here.

My brain goes crazy imagining a life here in Rockport. A life of art, and beauty and community in this little town. A life lived in a little cottage, friends coming to visit and write novels in my guest room, the occasional trip out on a fishing boat just because…and I realize that’s one of the things that I love about finding new places that I enjoy. I love imagining the kind of life that I would have in that place and what kind of person I would be if I lived there. Having a glimpse of that “other me” gives me insight into who I am now and who I could become. For an afternoon, I can explore that other life of “what if” and that, my friends, is pure magic.

Sunday in Portland, Maine

It’s been a dreary, muddy several weeks here in New England as Spring starts to take hold. Sunday was forecasted to be Sunny and warm, so I decided to drive up to Portland, Maine since I hadn’t been there yet. As you cross the Piscataqua River Bridge from New Hampshire, a sign joyfully proclaims “Welcome to Maine. Vacationland” Another just past the bridge says “Maine, The Way Life Should Be”.

I have a theory that you can tell a lot about a state’s people by their Welcome centers. Well, nothing against New Hampshire, but you should probably just hold it until you get into Maine. I think Maine’s Rest Stops are second only to Vermont’s in both beauty and availability of information. If you are into brochures, you are in for a treat. And the people that work there are very nice and helpful.

Your GPS is going to tell you to stay on 95 almost all the way into Portland. Trust me on this and piss that lady in your phone off by hitting Route 1 instead. You don’t have to follow it all the way up, but at least take it through Ogunquit and Wells. What are you into, Antiques? Holy cow, you have a ton of options. Miniature Golf? Well, you are in for a treat. Candy Stores? Beaches? Bakeries? All these and more are available in plenty. You cannot possibly stop at all of them and hope to ever actually make it to Portland, but you should at least stop at a couple. Expect to see houses, barns and churches from the last 300 years along the way. I’ll be honest, the drive up was probably the best part of this short trip for me. So, don’t rush it too much…enjoy the journey.

I stopped at Bread and Roses Bakery and Harbor Candy shop in Ogunquit. Both are spectacular and worth checking out! Southern Maine knows what’s up when it comes to sweets! And since you are stopping anyway, wander over to Ogunquit Beach while you are at it. It’s a beautiful spot. Say hello to the Mermaid weather vane and go for a nice stroll. Then mosey up Route 1, just keep the sea to your right shoulder. You’ll probably see some awesome Totem poles and maybe catch a glimpse of a tiny waterfall between buildings. The whole area from York to Kennebunk is beautiful. There are some great restaurants including The Maine Diner, which is right by Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Wells. The Wildlife Refuge is an awesome and educational stop. I’ve been there before and highly recommend it.

I thought about going down Hwy 9 to further follow the coast, but decided to pop back over to the Turnpike lest I not actually make it to Portland. So, fast forward to downtown and Old Port, which was the primary part of Portland that I actually wanted to wander through. I lucked out and parking was free on Sunday so that was a nice perk. I found a spot a couple blocks away in metered parking.

I’m going to tell you that I started at the pub, but I’m going to save that part for last because it ended up unexpectedly being the highlight of my day. So, let’s skip to the part where I tell you that Portland is full of lovely red brick buildings from the 1800s and cobblestone streets. I learned that much of the city was destroyed by fire in 1866, which is why a lot of the buildings are Victorian even though the town itself was settled in the 1630s. Make sure you walk down one or two of the wharfs and take a gander at the boats. The stroll through the area is lovely. There is a nice park where the beautiful weather had many people just hanging out on benches in the sun.

The shopping in this area is fantastic. There are several kitschy small businesses to check out like Shipwreck & Cargo (which has tons of touristy pirate themed stuff in addition to some actual really cool historic sailing finds) along with some fancy places like Portland Dry Goods. My favorite was the Maine Potters Market which held the works of several potters in the area. My wallet was sorely tempted by some gorgeous pottery there. I decided not to purchase anything just because I’m currently packing up to move, but I suspect I will not be so strong if I visit again. There are several cool looking coffee shops, restaurants and spectacular gelato.

A gem of Portland is the Eastern Promenade. This park spans the point of the peninsula on which Portland is situated. You can walk along the rocky beach, collect seashells, play on the playground, picnic at tables and benches scattered around the extensive park or just lie in the sun on the grassy hill. It was the first warm sunny weekend of the Spring in Maine, so there was a lot of sunning on the hill happening that day! There are also a few plaques with info about the old earthen fort that was on the hill. Oh, and did I mention the cannons? Because…cannons! You may also spot The Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Company & Museum. They do a historic train tour of the area that looks super fun.

As I was walking through a gazebo on the hill I noticed a package lying there and walked over to read the note attached. It was a brand new sleeping bag left with a note for anyone who might be living in the cold. “I am not lost. If you need me, please take me.” I love this. People doing concrete things to help strangers who might need it. Proof of good people in the world.

OK, now back to the pub. Remember what I said once before about being open to experiences that don’t end up how you expected? The first thing I saw when I was walking toward Old Port was the brightly painted Brian Boru Pub. Now, at this point I could use a restroom so I figured I would stop in to take care of that and maybe have a Sunday morning pint. I figured I would go on my way, find a lobster roll for lunch and wander the warf area. Well, I opened the door and was delighted to hear a jig being played by a live band right in front of me. Brunch was being served and I found myself unable to turn down cheap but delicious mimosas and a fresh Pollock sandwich. And for that hour and a half or so, this pub in Maine felt like home. My plans would wait. Right now perfection was sitting on this wooden bench, eating delicious food, drinking the best mimosa I’ve had in ages and listening to the 3 person Quebecois band, T-Acadie harmonize. An elderly gentleman in front of me proclaimed loudly on a break “I don’t understand why there aren’t hundreds of people here! You guys are the BEST!” Several of the songs they did were sung in French and just before I left, they sang a version of the Sailor’s Prayer that I had never heard before. I was enraptured. This was one of those moments of magic. In that moment, I knew these people whom I had never met and I loved them just a little. This is what I was there for…

“I will not lie me down, this rain a ragin’
I will not lie me down, in such a storm
Though this night be unblessed,
I shall not take my rest
until I reach another shore”






Defining an Adventurer’s Spirit

Adventure. It’s something that a lot of us want more of in our lives, but it can seem a little big to wrap our heads around. So, let’s talk for a minute about what adventure means to us. It’s the exciting and unusual for sure…but I think it’s more than that. Openness is the beginning of adventure.  We must be willing to step outside of our routine lives, to push the boundaries of our comfort zones if not leave them entirely.

A spirit of adventure is one that looks for opportunities, one that occasionally takes a wrong turn, one who questions the world around us, one who looks for beauty in the world and always…yes always,finds it. You can and should plan for adventures, but they aren’t to be forced…you have to be open to things turning out differently than you planned. Sometimes the universe gets a vote and it may have different ideas than you do. Sometimes the adventure you planned ends up being totally “meh”. It doesn’t mean it was a waste of time. What did you learn about yourself or the world around you on the journey? That openness to find joy and beauty will serve you well especially on the times that you have to look for it extra hard. And then, when the “Epic Adventures of Awesomeness” happen, you’ll be extra grateful. And they will, even if it takes a little practice.

An adventurer makes the most of the situation, takes opportunities, takes risks, looks for new experiences and most of all, approaches every situation with a sense of wonder.  Adventures can be small things, moments away from the normal world around us or opportunities for connection to that world.

We’ll talk about ideas to incorporate this spirit into your life as we go, but the first thing we have to do is be open to the idea. Are we ready to allow time to pass without controlling it too tightly? Are we willing to see what happens and allow our hearts to guide us? Are we willing to get lost a little? Take a tumble? Get a little muddy? Step outside of our safety zone?

You get to define what adventure means to you. It might be climbing a mountain, or it might be just exploring the world around you (or within you) right where you are. The most important thing is the spirit with which you approach life.


You really can’t go wrong.


April 4th, 2017

I’ve started to write my story a couple times, but the problem is in knowing where to start. Starting at the beginning makes sense, but when I try to start at the beginning, the story starts being about other people and not about me. Other people deserve to tell their own stories instead of me telling my version of their story. So, instead I think I’ll start with today. It’s a rainy April Tuesday in Boston…there have been a lot of those lately. When I moved to the Northeast, I was prepared for the Winter weather – the snow, the ice, the frigid temperatures – but no one warned me about the mud. I’m getting a little tired of mud. It’s towing season again. Technically, that’s street sweeping season, but mostly that means that even more of my energy is devoted to finding a parking space. Because once you’ve paid $200 bucks for forgetting about street sweeping once, you never want to do it again. Just one of the fun things about living in the city. Over the last 5 and a half months of living in the city I’ve learned a lot about myself. One of the main things I’ve learned is that I don’t belong in the city. That’s ok though…the whole reason why I uprooted my life and moved 1100 miles away was to experience change. I wanted to learn about myself and the world around me, and so far I’ll call it a rousing success. There are so many things that I’ve taken for granted that I won’t any more.
Your first question is going to be, “why did you move 1100 miles away?” I know this because it’s everyone’s first question. OK, possibly their second question after “where are you from?” because it’s obvious that I’m not from Boston if you have heard me say more than a few words. There is no real short answer to that question. I keep trying to answer it without telling strangers at the deli counter my life story, but I haven’t really managed it yet. So far the shortest version seems to be, “I decided to move to New England, so I did”. And yet, that’s not exactly true.
I am 43 years old and I’ve lived in Middle Tennessee for 42.5 years of that. I grew up just outside of Murfreesboro, went to college there, got all my jobs there, bought and sold 3 houses within 30 miles of there, got married there, raised my step-daughter there, got divorced there and generally know the area like the back of my hand. It’s familiar, it’s comfortable, it’s safe (for a given value of safe) and it’s home…until it wasn’t any more. At some point in the last couple years, it stopped feeling like “home”. It stopped feeling comfortable. I needed change. I needed a reboot. Call it a mid-life crisis if you want, but I needed a change of scenery like you wouldn’t believe. I had spent a lot of time travelling in the previous 2 years, but it wasn’t enough. I knew that I needed more.
So, I started thinking about where I would go. And Boston popped into my mind first. You could say I picked it out of a hat and that wouldn’t be much of an exaggeration. My ex-husband and I had spent a few days in the area visiting his cousin years ago and I loved it. Honestly, I think we spent maybe 5 hours in Boston and a little less time in Salem, but it was enough to fall in love with New England. I spent several months trying to make other places work, but my heart kept coming back to Boston. And if there is one thing I’ve learned over the past few years, it’s to not ignore what my heart tells me to do. So, I did what any crazy wandering-hearted woman would do…I sold off or gave away about 2/3rd of my stuff, sold my house, quit my job, let a realtor pick out an apartment for me, packed my dog into my car and drove 18 hours or so to move sight unseen into a ground floor apartment in East Boston. In retrospect, maybe I should have been more firm with the realtor on my desires, but it got me here. I never expected this to be my permanent home and it’s been a fine home base from which to explore New England. When I decided to do this for sure, I figured if nothing else, it would be an extended exploratory vacation to a part of the country that I had spent little time in. If I liked it here, I would stay, or not…if I decided to go somewhere else. And I knew that if I hated it, I could always go back home to the Southeast. Moving doesn’t have to be a permanent decision.
Well, I’ve been here just a little shy of 6 months and in spite of the occasional bout of loneliness, I’m glad to be here. I love New England. It’s full of rich history. Like, seriously, you can’t go anywhere without accidentally stumbling on someplace of note. The land is beautiful. The people are utterly delightful here. They say what they mean and they mean what they say, something there is a shortage of in the world. And now I’m packing for another move…and who knows what kind of adventures. One thing I’m sure of is that it’s going to be awesome. Because I’ll make it so.



She wanted to be beautiful

But not in the ways of porcelain and perfection

She wanted the kind of beauty

That comes with too many freckles and scars

She wanted the kind of glamour

That wears the sunset and the moonrise as makeup

The kind that laughs too loud

And wears the wrinkles of too wide smiles around the edges

She wanted the kind of hair

That begs for winds or fingers to tangle in it

Not the kind of beauty that belongs behind glass

But the kind that must be touched to be appreciated

She did not want the kind of beauty

That launches a thousand ships

Instead she wanted the kind

That rides the waves from the bow, the sea on her skin

She wanted the kind of beauty

That is not diminished by sweat and bruises

But the kind that shines

Like a window from her eyes into her soul

She wanted the kind of beauty

That inspires no artist to paint it

But that steals her lover’s breath

When he dreams of her skin

She wanted to be beautiful

And so she was

Snowy Beach Magic in Nahant

I dragged myself out of the house this morning in search of donuts and cider. (They were forecasting significant snow this afternoon, so some warming beverage was in order.) I had kind of a rough start this morning, so I decided to come home from Saugus via 1a, which takes me by Revere Beach. But once I got over to the Coastal road, I decided to go north just a few miles to Nahant, which is an amazing little point/island area that I really enjoyed once before. I decided a little time walking the beach in the cold would be good for me. I was delighted to see that there was a little snow on the beach. This is something I realized a few weeks ago that I have never seen and had made it a goal to catch a little snowy beach time before Winter was over. The wind was brutal and I didn’t stay out long. As I was walking back to my car, I happened to smile at a lady wrapping up her scarf and she stopped me and we spoke for just a moment. I’ve done a lot better lately at pushing against my introvert tendencies and being open to conversations when they happen. It was a lovely, brief conversation and she suggested that I check out a place further down Nahant called 40 Steps sometime. I waffled a bit on account of leaving the house without a scarf, but decided to go check it out, fully intending on coming back another day. It started snowing on my way down the point. Turns out, I had driven past 40 Steps before and I found a parking spot about a quarter mile away. Ialked back in the snow and icy wind, a spare pair of gloves stuffed into the hood of my jacket to block the wind from my cheeks. There was a couple leaving as I got there and I walked down the aforementioned 40 steps into the little bay area. It was utterly amazing there. The wind was mostly blocked because of the bay, there was no one else there, the tide was starting to come in and it was snowing pretty good at that point. And that’s how I ended up running through my Tai Chi forms there on the beach, in that little rocky bay, with just the waves, the snowy wind, the seagulls and loons for company. It was a moment of sheer perfection. Such beauty and calming energy. Precisely what I needed. I’m so grateful that I followed where the universe decided to take me today. I’m so grateful for that sweet lady who sent me along my way. I needed the reminder to listen to my heart.