Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Happy All Souls Day

Yesterday was for the saints, and the day before was the Eve of the Day of the Hallowed, but today is for everyone.

It’s a day to think about our ancestors and our friends and loved ones who have passed away, and remember what they brought to our lives. Tell the younger generations about them to keep the memories alive. Pass along traditions. If you’re close enough, go the cemetery and clean up the grave sites.

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Happy All Hallows Day

Also called All Saints Day

The -een of Halloween is a shortening of “evening” and hallow means holy. So Halloween is just the evening before the real holiday, the day of holy ones, or saints.

On Halloweeen

Many historians accept that Halloween has its roots in the ancient Celtic festival called Samhain (pronounced Sah-ween), which marked the beginning of winter and their new year.

The Celts were an agrarian people, so preparation for the cold, dark season began weeks in advance. Homes and barns were cleaned and spoiled or unnecessary items disposed of to make room for the incoming harvest. The crops were brought in and stored. As winter drew closer, livestock was moved to more sheltered pastures or into newly-cleaned barns. If a person had more stock than feed for them, some were slaughtered for food. The theme was much like our new year: out with the old and in with the new, planning ahead and starting anew. These preparations culminated in the Samhain festival.

One aspect of Samhain was the Celtic belief that the souls of those who died during the year traveled to the “otherworld” on this day. That being the case, this was the time of year a person would most likely encounter the spirits/ghosts of the dead. So a big part of the Samhain celebration was devoted to the departed.

Bonfires and torches were lit in their honor to help them find their way. People left out offerings of food and beverages for the same reason. Stories were told and songs sung in remembrance of the deceased, especially one’s ancestors. People would try to call loved ones to them for one last meeting before the departed were lost forever to the otherworld.

But, just as all living persons are not nice, neither were all spirit beings. The fires also helped keep away the evil ones. For added protection, people carved scary faces in turnips and other vegetables to frighten away unwanted spirits.

Samhain began its transformation into the modern Halloween in the year 601, when Pope Gregory I instructed missionaries that instead of trying to abolish local beliefs and customs they should dedicate them to Christ, and convert pagan holidays into Christian feasts, to ease the transition to Christianity.

Since paying respect to the dead was a main feature of Samhain, the feast of All Saints was assigned to November 1. This feast honored every Christian saint. The church later instituted All Souls Day on November 2 to honor all dead, not just Christian saints. Celtic peoples could now continue their commemoration of deceased ancestors and still be part of the new church.

That Church did not, however, change its creed. It still maintained theological superiority, so the leaders of the Celtic religious practices (Druids) were branded as devil worshipers, and the Celtic otherworld became hell. If any spirits were about, they must be demons.

Still the old beliefs and customs lived on; they just assumed a new guise. Trick-or-treating is a carryover from the belief that the dead are out and in need of food and drink. Costumes became popular later when people began dressing as these ghosts and engaging in tomfoolery, sometimes asking for a reward. Jack o’lanterns come from the vegetables carved to scare away unfriendly specters.

I love the idea of a day set aside to remember those we’ve lost, to tell our children about those who came before, to consider where we came from and thus who we are.

And I understand that we can all, especially children, overcome fears by facing them. Just as getting comfortable with monsters on Sesame Street can ease fears of monsters under the bed, if kids see a friend dressed as a witch or a big scary dog, maybe they won’t be quite so averse to dogs or fearful of witches in the broom closet.

But I don’t like the gory turn Halloween has taken. When I was a kid, you’d see costumes of ghosts and witches, but not things like bloody, gutty, stabbed murder victims. Why does society feel the need to get more disgusting and gross and violent? Lots of people aim for the highest shock value possible…and we get more comfortable with it.

My belief is that we shouldn’t become at ease with violence any more than we should get comfortable with a racist trying to get more shocking in his portrayals. So maybe I’ll pass out candy (or eat it!). Maybe I’ll watch a scary (not gory) movie or read a ghost story. Maybe I’ll even dress up. But not as anything that promotes violence.

What do you think about Halloween?

Glassblowing Fun

I’m a researcher. I do a lot of research for everything I write. But sometimes that’s just not enough. That’s when I employ what some call immersion or method writing. I just call it getting a little real-life experience.

One of the primary characters in one of my current WIPs is a glassblower. I researched it until I know the process pretty well, but still wasn’t sure about what a glassblower experiences: How does melted glass smell? Does the crucible crackle like a campfire? How heavy is a blow pipe or a rod?

Enter my wonderful, supportive hubby, who got me a one-on-one training session with an experienced glassblower. (Did you know there’s actually a degree for glassblowing? I didn’t. But I can just imagine many parents’ reaction when their kid comes home from college and announces that they’ve changed their major to glassblowing.)

Katie C. took me step by step through the creation of a Christmas ornament. Then it was my turn! With Katie’s help I gathered melted glass from the furnace, turned it in the glory hole, added color, swirled the design, the blew it out. I had to leave it at the glassblowing shop in the annealing oven, but they mailed it to me when it was ready. Isn’t the ornament pretty?

It was a fun experience, and I now have a much better idea of what my character experiences while he’s creating his masterpiece.

Banned Books Week

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. ~Evelyn Beatrice Hall (This quote is often misattributed to either Patrick Henry or Voltaire. It was actually written by Hall in her biography of Voltaire and was not meant to be a direct quote of something he said but rather a statement that conveyed his viewpoint of someone’s critical review of his writing.)

We humans learn by exchanging ideas. From the time we were small tykes, being taught how to hold a fork or a pencil, or zip our coat, we’ve gained information from other sources. If we’re wise, we try to plumb the depths of wisdom of many sources, and compare and contrast these viewpoints, sounding them out against what we know to be true and right, to arrive at our own conclusions.

What would our life be like if this were not the case? Think about countries that do (or did) not enjoy freedom of speech. In North Korea, the populace thinks of their leader as some sort of benevolent god providing for their needs. They believe this because without free speech there is no one to tell them otherwise. Without freedom of speech, no one may compare the luxury their leader lives in to the scarcity his subjects must endure. The people are not free to look up information from other sources, because both the putting forth and the taking in of information is dictated, not free.

Why were slaves in America – and other places also – not allowed to learn to read or write? Because this would give them too much information, and thereby power. The way to keep people submissive and trod down is to deprive them of knowledge which might provide hope and lead to action.

There are a great many things I wish had never been said or written, things I believe have led to harm against the innocent. But who would I trust to decide what things should or should not be expressed? The government? How long would it be before another McCarthy found fault with my – or others’ – unwillingness to give obeisance to someone with whom I disagreed? Religious leaders? Which ones?

Who would want to allow anyone to express any thought, idea, or belief at all, including things they disagree with and embarrassing stories about them and facts that would undermine their authority? Well, our Founding Fathers for starters. They understood that that’s what is necessary for democracy and freedom and progress.

And that’s also why I oppose censorship and celebrate Banned Books Week. There are many “banned” (or challenged) books that I won’t read. But that’s my choice. There are also many I have read, including Little House on the Prairie, Huckleberry Finn, the Holy Bible, and the Quran. I’m sure I’ll read others in the future. And I’m sure I’ll learn something from them. I hope you will, too.

Music for Writing

Back on my old blogging site, one post mentioned some superb musicians we heard while on vacation: “We heard some beautiful music at a concert by the Four Strings Trio, very talented ladies from the Polish Academy of Music. They don’t have a website yet, unfortunately, but I’ll be watching for it so we can get their CD. They played classical, of course, but also popular tunes, jazz, Celtic, and more.”

Good news! They now have a Facebook page and TWO CDs!

It’s a rare privilege to hear them in the US, as they live and play in Poland; but for a few weeks each summer, they board the NCL Pearl and delight cruisers with their magnificent performances. Sure hope I get another chance to hear them live.

Until then, I love to listen to their CDs as I write. The right music has been scientifically proven to help creativity – and this is the right music. If you’re looking for something to give a little extra spark to your art, consider getting a 4-Strings Trio CD.
(I’m not paid to promote them or get a kickback or anything. I just truly love their music – and that it’s good for my writing.)

A Different Kind of Project

The projects I usually post about on this blog relate to writing, researching, editing, and the like. Today I’m going to talk about a different kind: a kitchen remodel.

Hubby does lots of kitchen remodels. Sometimes I help. We just completed a job that I consider one of our top 3 kitchen remodels. This might be partly due to the fact that I love old farmhouses, and the client we did this kitchen for wanted her kitchen to look like an old farm kitchen. To that end, she had a list of specifics:

  • Wood that is fresh and new but looks old and like it’s been refinished several times
  • Mixture of natural wood and paint
  • A big farm sink with cut in drain-board
  • Countertops that look like old cement counters
  • A section of very tall cabinets together with small recipe drawers, reminiscent of old Hoosier cabinets
  • Drawers – lots of them. Big ones.
  • Decorative woodwork
  • A big island with a small bar
  • Another bar toward the dining room
  • A plate rack
  • A cubby for cookbooks
  • Old-fashioned hardware

Here are a few photos. How do you think we did on fulfilling her list? (These pictures were taken with an old cell phone, in a hurry, while talking, so they’re not great. Still, you get the idea.) Is this a kitchen you’d want?

island

Island with bar. Other side has large drawers and a cabinet.

sink

Big farm sink. Notice the drainboard on far side, and the cute little drawers.

far side

Love the old hardware. They really complete the look.

drawer bank

Gray countertop, big drawers.

crown

Hubby created every piece.

back of bar

Dining bar. Cookbook cubby on far end.