Blogkeeping, Part 1: Format and Categories

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For starters, there will be is a new static home page (which I need a pithy name for am calling First Look) that will (hopefully) change weekly with prompts, topics/themes, quotation, etc followed by a week’s (M-F) worth of content in the writing space. Each day’s columns are still undecided and may change depending on the season and subjects.

Second, all feedback and suggestions are welcome.

Third, I have way too many tags and categories. I will be whittling my categories down to just a few since I think my writing is not as far-flung as the categories would suggest. Several categories also overlap, and that kind of minutia is really what the tags are for. I use the tags to break down the subject into what drew me to it in the first place. Categories should be a bit broader and cover more than one tiny subject.

At the moment I’ve decided on 12 categories; an even dozen:

Home– includes apartment, garden, decor, buying, surviving buying, etc.

Fandom – includes fan works, propriety and derivative works, pop culture, celebrity, music, cosplay, community

Food – includes drink, recipes, kitchen hints & tips

Kids &School – includes parenting and education, kids say, all ages

Medical – self-explanatory, includes women’s reproduction

Mental Health – I feel that this needs a separate category from medical, although many issues overlap

Money – money related including shopping and saving money

Photos – photo posts or posts that contain my own photos

Social & Political– includes media, LGBT+, gender & race, sex education (but will overlap with medical and kids & school), politics

Spiritual – includes religion, organized or otherwise and atheism plus spirituality

Travel – tips, essay, photos, advice, tour book type posts

Writing – process, business of, resources

There will be a temporary tag of 2016 Sarn for those special writings that I’m determined to concentrate on and refuse to procrastinate on (this year). I posted about this on Friday. I mentioned then that I would explain that odd category name. I should think that 2016 is self-explanatory. Sarn is Welsh for causeway. Or roadway. Since this year is very much a new path, or an extended journey with celebrating (not sure yet?) my 50th birthday year and the year of mercy pilgrimage. Wales has long been my spiritual center place for almost three decades. This happened randomly. When I recently converted to Catholicism, I chose St. Elen of Caernarfon as my patron saint, and took Elen as my confirmation name. There is a place in North Wales called Elen’s Sarn. St. Elen is the protector of travelers and roads.

I’ve combined a few of these things, as you can see, to create my new category for those writings that need that little extra push to get moving and motivated for.

Next up will be my FAQ.

What Am I Working On?

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I sometimes wonder…

Am I a writer or an author?

A blogger or a freelancer?

A memoirist?

A dabbler? Professional?

A nobody?

Sometimes, I don’t know what I am or what I’m doing here and elsewhere. Maybe one day it will come to me or all fall into place or whatever it’s supposed to do.I know that there are things pulling at me, and I have stories and half-written anecdotes and notes since my high school and college days. Fan fiction gave me a language and a society – a camaraderie that is often not found, even in the writing groups I’ve attended. Not belonging because of the subjects or the philosophies or the age difference – I tend to be either the oldest or the youngest. Neither one is preferable. They are both on the outside looking in.

Some of my writings are avoidance; conversely, some of my writings are avoided, each with a labyrinth of excuses and reasons, one more valid than the next.

I recently heard something on one of my favorite television shows. It’s funny to admit or even to say out loud to those who aren’t in the fandom and therefore don’t understand the inspiration that I get from this program and its cast and crew.
This isn’t the first time that their words have helped me move forward with a less than tangible hand to hold and shoulder to lean on.

“You wanna know the secret to living a long and happy life? Follow your heart. You do that, all the rest just figures itself out.”
– Mildred (played by Dee Wallace) to Dean (played by Jensen Ackles)

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Fandom Friday – The Walking Dead’s Mid-Season Return

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This is an excellent article that includes commentary, interviews, photos, and a video interview with Norman Reedus and Andrew Lincoln. The video also includes some behind the scenes antics from their (Norman and Andy) TV Guide Cover shoot.

There are also SPOILERS. You have been warned.

For example, some of the pics show people who are alive that might be questionable when last we saw them.

The Walking Dead Returns With Chaos, Brutality and ‘the Biggest Hardships Ever’ – TV Insider

I will share my favorite part from the article – consider this a behind the scenes spoiler – in the first half of season 6 when Daryl gets his bike and crossbow stolen, Norman said he was pissed; like, really pissed. That’s his bike. No one rides that bike but him!

On a meta note, I can’t imagine that he doesn’t get it back. Classified Moto just custom made that bike for him on the show. Check out these behind the building of the bike that aired/posted when the character was putting together the pieces that Aaron salvaged on screen.

Tea for Tuesday

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A belated birthday gift from my bestie! Fandom blends from Adagio Teas. My first choice for this morning is The Walking Dead’s Daryl blend.

The blend consists of Mambo, Honeybush Vanilla, Mocha Nut Mate, Cocoa Nibs, and Cloves.

I use about a teaspoon and pour the boiling water over my strainer. I give it a taste and almost always add sugar, two teaspoons. With the mocha and cocoa, I think it would be very nice with a bit of milk, but our house is short of milk at the moment.

What I love most about these teas is that they almost always taste like their description on the tin.

This blend is smooth, enough caffeine to perk me up when I didn’t really want to be perked up, but morning has come, so… The cloves, vanilla, and cocoa give it a hint of the holidays, but not out of place in the cold of January.

Despite being really strong flavors – cloves, vanilla, and cocoa – they are very subtle in this blend, and no aftertaste that I sometimes get with flavored tea. This is also a black tea base, which is my personal preference.

Reviews from at least four more fandom blends to come including The Avengers, Supernatural, Doctor Who, and Harry Potter.

Can’t wait to try them all!

A Call to Claim Each Other

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Today marks the end of the the Week of Christian Unity. As called upon in Peter, “to proclaim the mighty works of the one who has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light,” we can join together under the ecumenical banner of Christian unity.

From that joining we can move to the other faiths we have common-ness with as well as those we have no commonality with.

Interfaith and acceptance isn’t changing one’s beliefs, but including everyone regardless of their religion or non-religion as I’ve expanded the thought, and whatever else separates us.. 

Recently I attended a gathering sponsored by the Interfaith Community in my local area. It was described as “moving  beyond  tolerance,  and  beyond  coexistence,  to  affirmation,  acceptance,  mutual  support  and cooperation  among  peoples  of  faith  …  literally  to  claim  each  other as sisters and  brothers  of  G-d.” While this was faith-based, that is no reason to think that non-faith people or faith groups not mentioned by name are excluded from this type of conversation.

The presenters included a Rev. B, Rabbi K, and Imam G. In addition to their religious titles and education, the rabbi and the imam are also professors at a local college and hold degrees in religious studies. In the audience were several people I had seen before at workshops and retreats including our Bishop Emeritus, who championed interfaith cooperation and acceptance (including with the Jewish faith when it was an unpopular position to hold) in his thirty-seven years as Bishop.

The next thing I should mention is that this gathering/lecture had not been planned in the two months prior to the date. It became apparent that this type of gathering and discussion was needed with the onslaught of anti-Muslim rhetoric that is becoming prevalent in our country today as well as the tremendous rise of anti-semitism across this country and globally.

This will serve as my thoughts interspersed with my summation of the gathering and a paraphrasing of what was said by many in attendance. The only statements that are verbatim will appear within quotation marks.

I’ll begin where the Reverend began:

Sarah Palin endorsed Donald Trump for President. We chuckled and eye rolled, but we were stopped cold when we were reminded of another disenfranchised group courted in the same way as Palin/Trump that gave rise to someone we all remember – Hitler. Megalomaniac. Demagogue. This was not hyperbole; or ironic. This was very serious. This was something to think about.

An austere beginning, and then he (followed by the Rabbi) continued with this quotation:

“Silence is sometimes betrayal.” – Martin Luther King

We cannot sit idly by and hope that it gets better, or that someone else will stand up for what is right; to speak out for someone else.

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out –
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out –
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out –
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.”
– Martin Niemoller

Martin Niemoller was a Lutheran Pastor who spent eight years in a Nazi concentration camp. Some of his statements prior to that can be problematic, but he never shirked from discussing them or the changes in his views formed by the turning point of having survived the concentration camps.

If we’re not standing together, we stand apart in fear. We’re all concerned for me, but “I want them to stand with me or I’ll be standing alone.” [Rabbi K]

We must remember that we are all individuals, and individuals are approachable. We can’t dismiss a whole group of people, and that includes the ones we don’t agree with; even Fox News.

We must acknowledge that everyone has a conscience; a heart; mind; they are individuals.

It can be challenging to be a person of faith. It can also be challenging to be an American. It is also challenging to be a person who doesn’t have religious faith in this increasingly divisive to those who are different.

With the Patriot Act, we decided it was okay to profile, to strip individuals of their rights. Whenever we’re reminded of Japanese internment camps or McCarthyism, we’re told that we’ve moved beyond that bias.

But have we?

We must remember that our social – political – economical interests are all intertwined. Our destinies are intertwined on a global level. The world is too small to be isolationists; or imperialists.

We need to look for an interfaith, grassroots, educational movement of inclusivity.

Looking at the middle East, it’s imperative to remember that context is paramount. The Middle East is a land bridge on the way to Europe. Without it being home to the three major religions in the world, it would still be a land in strife. The political division by Europeans didn’t help matters in much the same way that the partitioning of Africa has come to a similar head in recent years.

Since admittedly, most of us have less knowledge of Islam and Muslims, it might be important to hear some unbiased facts about the Muslim faith and the Koran.

The Koran is 1400 years old and as I mentioned context is paramount. It has its governing and foundational verses. There is an academic and literary process to analyze and interpret the Koran. There is a freedom to choose, a G-d given free will that contributes to the analysis of the Koran.

The first thing to know is that Muslims have an understanding of the people of the book – those people who are “receiving of the Word/Scriptures from G-d.” [Imam G] This includes all Jews and Christians. The Torah came first, then the Gospels, and then the Koran.

Any “bigoted dialogue of other faiths, such things are in completely contradictive with foundational verses in the Koran.” [Imam G]

Whoever believes in G-d – Jews, Christians, anyone, be happy in this life and in the next.

We’ve followed a mixed path, but we have a common G-d. We have shared foods. We believe in marriage and building families.

Warfare is “never based on religious difference.” It is a last resort “for the protection of human rights and justice.” [Imam G]

All three of the Abrahamic faiths believe in salvation, families and marriage, and the protection of our places of worship.

Looking at the Pillars of Islam, where is jihad mentioned? Does Islam equal jihad? It does not. It’s not even in the top ten of the pillars.

Education is where it begins to bring us together and refuse to let us be separated. We need to heed the call to claim others, to protect others because if we don’t eventually we’ll be someone else’s other.

Postscript: This morning as I was finishing up the editing, I came across this Washington Post article discussing how a college student of the Muslim faith continues amid anti-Muslim rhetoric and the pressure to “fit in” as an American from both inside and outside her family.

Roe v. Wade (1973)

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Today is the 43rd anniversary  of the Roe v. Wade decision. That’s the decision that maintains a woman’s right to choose; to do with her body as she feels; It gives her privacy. It gives her autonomy. Many people herald it as a pro-abortion decision, but any of us who have contemplated abortion know that it is not. We know that no one, NO ONE, is pro-abortion.

Read about abortions before this landmark decision for some perspective.

As a country, we’re okay with the death penalty, even in cases where the convicted party is mentally disturbed – not the Charles Manson crazy, but developmental disabilities like Down’s Syndrome and mental ages that are well below their chronological age.

As a country, we’re okay with war; perpetual war since 2011.

As a country, we’re okay with torture.

We’re okay with domestic violence and victim-blaming where women are involved. Where men are involved, we reduce them to women.

We can’t even pass a VAWA that includes ALL women.

What is going on here?

I read something recently from someone who I respect, who is pro-life, who is a good-hearted, loving, peaceful person describing abortion (in some instances) as a convenience. Women don’t want to be inconvenienced. I strongly take issue with that way of thinking; that stereotype. Women who have abortions because of economic reasons are not doing it as a convenience. These women, for the most part are living in poverty. They have children and are often single parents. There is no universal child care option for them to get steady work or they work several jobs for part time hours. They are living in abusive situations that they can’t escape because they have no control over their own money and/or bodies.

Women would choose to avoid pregnancy rather than terminate it, but increasingly this option (birth control) is being taken away because corporations are people, too, my friend. The owner of Hobby Lobby is against contraception for religious reasons and chooses to force his employees to follow his religious beliefs instead of allowing them the freedom to follow their own religion.

The sooner the people in this country realize and accept that this country was founded on the principle of not only freedom of religion, the freedom to practice individual religions by individual people as well as, and in addition to the freedom to be free of religion entirely, the sooner these arguments will be null and void. We need to stop inflicting our beliefs on others. This country was founded on our differences; we should embrace them.

When my church does their prayer of the faithful, they almost always include a prayer for life, from conception to natural death. Very rarely, but sometimes, they reference abortion directly, and my mind invariably wanders and prays for the women; that they continue to have the freedom of choice; that they have the support, the autonomy, the health care and the reproductive rights that they should have in a free society.

We should be supporting women who choose abortions instead of terrorizing them.

The most recent act of terrorism in Colorado Springs that targeted the Planned Parenthood there killed a woman, not having an abortion, but supporting her friend, a man on his cell phone on the street, and a policeman/security personnel. This is horrible, and the fact that many of us hand-wave it away as collateral damage is more than a little disturbing.

The sooner we get back to our basics of bodily autonomy and religious freedom, the sooner we can move on as a country to more important things – stopping our military involvement, the quagmire, eliminating the gender gap in pay and rights, giving Americans the right to have access to health care that is actually healthy and affordable.

Women, when left to their own devices will make the right choices and the right choice is whatever they feel is right for them, not what you feel is right for them.

In all matters.