Friday, April 14, 2017

The Virtues of Being a She-Wolf

One of the things I love about the Internet: even when the MonSter is out to make me bedridden, physically miserable and mentally bored out of my skull...I can have the cure for that last illness delivered straight to my door. Being too ill to hit a bookstore is no longer an obstacle to my never-ending book obsession. 

I am particularly grateful for this when I find myself stuck between a very specific rock and a hard place...the rock being a nasty attack of the trigeminal neuralgia and other MS-related ailments. And the hard place? Having nothing new to read to help get my mind off of the war my autoimmune system is waging against me.

And so there I was, in that precarious and unfortunate position: with pain at an 8 on the 1-10 pain scale, and I had turned the final page of my latest literary acquisition just last night: Elizabeth Norton's wonderfully enthralling biography, "Elfrida: The First Crowned Queen of England." 

Who is Elfrida, you might ask? Well, she is the latest leading lady in this "Royal Women I Know Next to Nothing About" phase I've been in these last few months.

Prior to reading Norton's book, the the only things I knew (or thought I knew) about Aelfthryth (called "Elfrida" in the book as a modernization) were: 

A) She was the second wife of King Edgar the Peaceful.

B) She was the stepmother of King Edward the Martyr and the mother of King Ethelred the Unready.

C) She ordered and participated in her teenaged stepson's murder in order to put her own 10-year-old son on the throne...and install herself as Queen Mother, quite possibly the highest position of power a woman could aspire to in the tenth century. 

Both and are correct...but C? That one is no longer the fact I once assumed it was, thanks to Norton's incredibly enthralling and well-researched book. It's one of those books where you feel disappointed when it ends, as it so skillfully envelopes you into this ancient world. It does what all truly good books, films, plays, and television shows do: it leaves you wanting more.

Even if I hadn't been left wanting more when I finished "Elfrida" last night, I most definitely would have (and did) this morning, when I woke up after almost four hours of fitful sleep by intense pain in my face, head, back, legs and feet. Oh, cruel MonSter and your devilish timing! What was I to do now?!?

But then, to my joy, the doorbell rang, and a beautiful new book about yet another queen who was possibly maligned by history fell into my eager and very grateful hands: "The Lady Queen: The Notorious Reign of Joanna I, Queen of Naples, Jerusalem and Sicily" by Nancy Goldstone. 

I know even less about the subject of my latest purchase, Joanna I, than I did about Elfrida. In fact, I know only enough to recognize her as one of the rare women of the Middle Ages/Medieval period who challenged the conventions of their society that demanded women remain in their male-appointed place and leave power and politics, war and law, and even literature and music, in the hands of men. Women like Eleanor of Aquitaine, the Empress Matilda, Queen Boudica, Isabella of Castile, Queen Regent Amalasuntha of the Ostrogoths, Christine de Pizan, Hildegard of Bingen, Isabella of France, Jeanne d'Arc, Matilda of Tuscany, Empress Theodora, Saint Ludmilla, Aethelflaed Lady of the Mercians, Olga of Kiev, Edith of England, Michitsuna No Haha, and Emma Queen of Franks. Women who deserve to be every bit as well-known as their male counterparts, like Alfred the Great, Henry V, Hannibal, Saint Benedict, Charlemagne, and Richard the Lionheart. 

It is said by memes and t-shirts everywhere that "well-behaved women rarely make history." And like most cliches, there's some truth to it. Some of the historical women I named above were amazing, and some of them were disastrous. Either way, they made history...and were likely to be labeled by the men who overwhelmingly were in charge of writing those histories as a "She-Wolf." 

It was meant as an insult, but I think we should re-claim the term, and make it a badge of honor. In centuries of male-dominated wolf packs, sometimes a She-Wolf would emerge and reign supreme. 

I will now, hurt and exhausted, gladly curl up with my new book. The MonSter I fight in real life can't triumph over the She-Wolves battling in the pages within. Into the world of Joanna I of Naples, Jerusalem and Sicily I go. I wonder what I will learn this time?


Wednesday, March 01, 2017

For Those Left Behind: The Horror of Vandalized Cemeteries

I woke up yesterday morning and proceeded in my routine as I usually do: pray; read my daily Bible verse; check blood sugar*; take morning medications, read the news.

And what I read shocked me...and frightened me;

In short: a Jewish cemetery was once again vandalized, An occurrence which, while not quite becoming terribly nonetheless not unheard-of in Trump's America.

So why the shock and fright? This one was in Philadelphia. The city in which my mother-in-law was born, raised, and educated. The city where, while both studying at Temple, my in-laws met, fell in love, and were married. And the city where, not even a decade ago, her elderly parents died and were buried.

My in-laws are Jewish, and my mother-in-law's parents were buried in their beloved hometown.

Worse, my mother-in-law recently underwent a serious surgery which required a hospitalization and from which she is still recovering, and in a good deal of pain. Should her patents' graves be vandalized, it could, in her current state, be enough of a shock to send her right back to the hospital. She is a kind and good-hearted woman, and loved her parents deeply. It would devastate her.

So I quickly looked up the obituary for my husbad's Popop, who died shortly after his wife. And sighed with relief to discover it was not the cemetery in question.

Hard upon the heels of that relief, came the sympathy. I knew that somewhere, someone else's daughter-in-law was finding out the opposite. Somebody's spouse, child, friend, was desperately trying to figure out how to break the news to loved ones. Those somebodys were devastated. They were struggling to understand why this atrocious crime was committed, who did it, and would they ever be brought to justice.

And like me, they were wondering how many more times it was going to happen in a country where its prejudiced underbelly now feels emboldened and encouraged to perpetuate such atrocities. All over the country, millions of somebodys are wondering what will be next. Where will they next strike. And above all: how bad is it going to get,

It seems every new day brings us stories of disgusting rhetoric on social media, of horrible crimes committed; people attacked, marginalized and traumatized based on their skin color, their religion, their sexual/gender identities, their disabilities, their  ethnic backgrounds and countries of origin. Sometimes, it's only their perceived minority status, with people attached because they appeared to be Muslim, they looked like an illegal Mexican, they were suspected of taking a penis into a female restroom. Increasingly, the headlines that read as if this were 1957, not 2017.

Vandalizing cemeteries has always been a cowardly and sick crime, compounded exponentially when hate is the motivation. It is an attack on people's grief, on their losses. We are none of us immune to loss and grief. We have all lost people we have loved. I've lost two in little over a year myself. It's a pain that we all share, with which we all should be able empathize. It is part of the human experience.  Which is why those who perpetuate these kinds of crimes are generally reviled by society. It's abhorrent, morally reprehensible act that dehumanizes the criminals who partake in it. Possibly they are amoral or sociopathic, and lack the ability to empathize or acknowledge that others have genuine feelings. Maybe their hate has consumed their humanity. It's not something I understand, or want to understand.

I want what I think most Americans want: to have the graves of loved ones respected and untouched, to allow those we have lived and lost to Rest In Peace, and to allow us a safe and honored place to memorialize and mourn our dead. To have others treat our grief as we would treat them and theirs.

Is that really too much to ask?

*I was diagnosed with type II diabetes last year. I will make a post on it sometime in the near future.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Throwback! Salem Tattoo Convention: 2014

PLEASE NOTE: I wrote this post shortly after visiting the tattoo convention on May 30th, 2014. Life has gotten hectic since then, and the post slipped my mind...until I opened the Blogger app and saw the post still sitting there, unpublished. Sorry about that! Better late than never....


The Male Unit and I love tattoo conventions. He had a rare Friday off work (after being named Employee of the Month!), so yesterday we headed out to Salem, the capital of Oregon, and the first Salem Tattoo Convention.

The convention was held at the Oregon State Fairgrounds building. Parking was close by, and at $3, a fair price. In addition, the convention featured many classic cars which were fun to explore and admire.

It was a pretty good turnout, with artists from Oregon, Washington, California, Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Manchester, England. The emcee was entertaining, the contests were enjoyable and the company was fantastic. A local roller derby was on hand (and on skates) to help give out prizes to the winners. 

My only complaint was the complete lack of air conditioning...not a good thing for heat-reactive me. I made a rookie mistake by not calling ahead of time. It was made worse by my choosing to take a cane and leaving my wheelchair at home. My feet & legs are so sore...but it was so worth it.

I have a convention tradition: I always get a butterfly tattoo. I'd like someday to be able to count how many conventions I've attended by counting butterflies! And yesterday was no exception. My other butterflies are on my legs, and are blue & purple. This time, I wanted a Monarch in all its orange & black beauty. I also decided on a different body placement: my first chest tattoo. 

After making the rounds and going through many photo books, I happened upon local Portland artist AJ. I love supporting female artists and was glad to come across one with exceptional skill. I was quite surprised to learn she'd only been tattooing for three years. Her level of proficiency usually takes years and years to achieve. And then I saw in her book a tattoo of morning glories. For years, the plan has been to have morning glories on vines on my left leg from foot to hip (I have them on my foot and ankle thus far.) AJ's morning glories were amazing. I was sold. 

was immediately at ease with AJ and truly enjoyed talking with her. She reminds me of Joan Jett: a kickass, take-no-prisoners rawk empress. She has lovely tattoos along her jawline, and an impressive portrait of the late Amy Winehouse on her leg. 

It wasn't just ink talk: AJ's had an eventful life! I enjoyed hearing her talk about her days in the military and life in a post-Katrina Louisiana gulf coast town. I had read how the small towns and cities devastated by the hurricane were ignored in favor of rebuilding New Orleans, but it was interesting (and poignant) to hear it from someone who lived it first-hand. 

While doing the prep work for my butterfly, I talked ink with AJ's assistant. At one point, I mentioned that I intended to get a treble clef on the knuckle of my right ring finger in honor of my orchestra teacher in elementary school, Mrs. Oldham. To my surprise they offered to throw that one in! I had not intended to get that particular design today, but thought, "What the hell. Sounds like fun!" 

So for the first time at a convention, I obtained two tattoos instead of one (not to mention a design that was not a butterfly.) 

Speaking of the Male Unit...while I was getting prepped for my chest butterfly (which kinda sounds like a bad late-70's prog rock band), Jonathan was getting some ink of his own, courtesy of Lance from Aardvark Tattoo (also a local PDX shop.) 

For years, he has wanted to get tattoos in honor of our three kids. He finally began to work towards that goal, with a fiery forearm tattoo to symbolize our firstborn, Phoenix. 

When he finished, he came by AJ's booth and watched as she was putting the finishing touches on my butterfly. Because of its location, this meant Jonathan saw my new tattoo before I did. The look on his face told me all I needed to know: it was fabulous. 

When I got to look at last, I had to agree: it truly is beautiful. I love it, and can't wait to get more ink from AJ! 

A funny realization hit my husband on the drive back to Portland: for the first time in our loooooong relationship, I now have more tattoos than he does! As far as I am concerned, this means he needs a new tattoo for Father's the spirit of fairness & equality. 

Thanks to everyone who made this convention possible, and a special thanks to AJ and Lance! You both ROCK!

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I am going to mama-brag for a moment, and as a result I will no doubt embarrass my daughter, Serenity Singer. But I am her mother, and it's my prerogative. 

She reminds me so much of my own mother, whom I lost to breast cancer when Wren was just a toddler. She inherited my mom's gorgeous, dark green Irish eyes. Wren does exceed my mom's eyes in one aspect: the naturally dark, curly lashes she gets from her father. They remind me a bit of Elizabeth Taylor's. 

She also inherited my mother's elegant hands. When I was a child, I would watch my mom write and just be fascinated by her hands: long, graceful fingers and natural French-tip nails that many women would (and do) pay a small fortune for! I am so glad to get to see those hands again, in her granddaughter. 

But those are just the externals. Where my daughter really takes after my mother is in her nature: kind-hearted, a loyal friend, a sardonic sense of humor, a love of cats and books and tea. And above all, her sensitivity, her generosity, and her strong sense of empathy. 

Sometimes, it's like a piece of my mom remains here, in her granddaughter. And I am thankful to G-d for it. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

No Words

Sunday, August 28, 2016

In Response AND Silver Linings: Drive-Ins & Their Legacy

I'm SOURCE:'s "6 Reasons Why Drive-In Theaters Are Never Coming Back" by Evan V. Symon:

I am a big fan of Cracked magazine's website. I have their app on my iPad, and while it does have room for improvement,  it's one of a short list of sites I read regularly as a result of what I call my "Insomnia Internetting." I also frequently view their uploads on YouTube (including a dissection of a "music video" starring the Dreaded Feldman*)


This article originally made me quite nostalgic...some of my happiest childhood memories were made at the Dixie Drive-In in Northridge, Ohio. 

My dad lived nearby, and both A) loved movies and B) hated indoor theaters. I've seen dozens and dozens of movies with my dad, and not a single one of them were viewed in a Cineplex. 

Vivid and precious are my memories of the Dixie, and so very treasured in my heart. As a result, I plan to get a memorial tattoo for my father (who died in 2010), and it is based on the shooting star from the Dixie's iconic mezzanine:

The very first movie I remember seeing was at the Dixie: "Sleeping Beauty." Later, I would see the movie that changed my life there: Disney's "Sword in the Stone."

Reading this article was bittersweet: sweet because of all the cherished movies, and bitter that future generations won't know how wonderful the drive-in theater experience really is.


After that wave of powerful memories with a twinge of regret, I suddenly switched gears entirely: I started laughing. 

Why? I realized that, thanks to my electric wheelchair/scooter that I rely on for mobility...every movie I see is a drive-in movie! 

And that includes last week's trip with my daughters and their father, making yet another movie memory themselves: "Suicide Squad."

I wonder how they will look back on our favorite theater, the Bagdad, and how different the movie-viewing experience will be when they are making memories with their own children. 

am kind of hoping for a Holodeck-type system...preferably with fewer glitches than the "Next Generation" had to deal with.

I'm sure using the Holodeck won't be cheap, but if I can get a program to take my future grandchildren to experience watching a movie at the would be worth every dime.

I can close my eyes, and picture it so clearly: driving in as the sun goes down ($5 a car, please) on a warm July night, with fireflies dotting the air and the smell of popcorn and hot dogs all around, laying out a picnic blanket, turning on the speaker, and watching a screen as big as a house come to life. 

do hope it's a Disney movie that maybe, just maybe, will inspire dreams in those little ones...just like Disney and the Dixie did for me. 

Until next time...

*Here's the link, and I strongly recommend it. You'll laugh, or I'll eat my hat, rope and all!

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Friday, July 01, 2016

Two Kinds of "Star Trek" Fans...

I'm battling insomnia and a kidney stone; fortunately, I have tons of photo apps to keep my mind off of the pain. I thought I'd share this meme I just made here. And FTR: I'm a Salt Vampire fan myself! 

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