Sunday, December 27, 2015

Trill Goes on Sale December 27 thru January 2

Hi, all! 

Just a quick up-date. Trill is going on sale December 27, Sunday for $0.99

And if you want a nicely read bit of it, go and visit my good friend, Shelly Arkon at her Vlog post.

Below, find reviews that aren't seen at Amazon.

Vampire Ascending/Ascension @ Two Fur-Peeps

All Things Me

Trill Book Page @ Creativia

And a Teaser Tuesday

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Traditions: Their Pagan Beginnings

I remember growing up and gazing at the lights and decorations on the tree. Oh. And all the presents underneath. It all goes hand-in-hand when Christmas comes around.

The word Christmas comes from the Old English Cristes maesse (Christ's Mass), and was first used in the eleventh century. In German the word is Weihnacht (holy night). Then there are other familiar and not so familiar words, depending upon your upbringing. There is the French Noel. And then there is the word Yule which is from the Anglo-Saxon geol, which means feast, primarily the feast of the winter solstice. Ah, which brings us around to the beginnings of why Christmas is celebrated at this time of year to begin with.

It is impossible to determine the exact date of the birth of Christ. There is no mention of a date, and scholars point to the fact that Jesus was more likely born in the spring, since the shepards were there with the sheep. It is one main reason some do not celebrate Christmas (or birthdays) at all--I need not mention who, do I?

The choice of December 25th came about because the Romans celebrated the Mithraic feast of the Sun-god, and Saturnalia was also celebrated at this time, and the church, in wanting to turn the people away from these pagan observances, turned it into a day of adoration of Christ.

The Tree:
Dancing around the Christmas Tree

The Christmas tree seems to have come from early modern Germany... (where it is today called Weihnachtsbaum orChristbaum) with predecessors that can be traced to the 16th and possibly 15th century, in which devout Danish Christians brought decorated trees into their homes and danced around them.
The Christmas tree has also been known as the Yule-tree. There are numerous speculations as to its origins. Its 16th century beginnings "are sometimes associated with Protestant Christian reformer Martin Luther who is said to have first added lighted candles to an evergreen tree." But many of the 18th and 19th century traditions seem to point mostly to the lower Rhine of Germany.

Britain took it up after Prince Albert, who was German, married his cousin, Victoria, and from their the custom became more widespread.
The trimming and lighting of the Christmas tree seems to have its origin in the medieval German mystery plays, when a tree, the Paradeisbaum (tree of Paradise) was used to symbolize the garden of Eden. Back then it was fruit, nuts and cookies--and eventually candles. But then the plays were suppressed by the church, but somehow the tree was snuck into the houses. It is believed that the Christmas tree is directly from pagan tree worship, which can be traced back to ancient Rome and Egypt. By the nineteenth century the custom had spread from Germany to most of the countries of Northern Europe. Then, was introduced to England in 1841 by Prince Albert of Saxony, husband of Queen Victoria. Later on, German immigrants brought it to the United States. So, yes. The use of evergreens to decorate the house at Christmas times is very pagan to be sure.

Mistletoe, Yule log, Poinsettia:
 Another pagan tradition. The mistletoe was sacred among the British Druids and was believed to have many "miraculous powers".The Romans considered it a symbol of peace, and at some point or another, kissing under the mistletoe became popular custom. According to one legend, Christ's crown of thorns was made of holy leaves, and this is where the Christmas wreath came from.

Poinsettias were discovered in 1828 by a Dr. Joel Roberts Poinsett, growing in Mexico, where the plant was known as the "flower of the Holy Night". The Aztecs used it to produce red dye and for medication to reduce fever. The claims that the plant is highly toxic is only urban legend, however, if eaten by a small child or animal, they may become very sick, so, remember if you have one in the house, keep it out of reach of small ones.

The Yule Log can be traced back to the German tribes of Northern Europe, and was part of their winter solstice observance. Let's face it, you need a huge log to last a whole night of the longest night of winter! Sometimes the whole trunk of a tree was chosen on Candlemas Day (February 2) and stored to dry out until the next winter solstice. On Christmas Day the Yule log was dragged into the house, and kindled with the unburnt parts of last years log, saved for this purpose.

Gifts & Cards:
The practice of exchanging presents at this time stems from the ancient Roman custom called Strenae. During the Saturnalia Romans used to give "good luck" gifts (strenae), of fruits, nuts, pastry or gold to their friends on New Year's Day.

In England, the feast of St. Stephen, on December 26th, is called Boxing Day. In medieval times, the priests used to open the alms-boxes and distribute the contents to the poor. It later became customary to give Christmas "boxes" to servants and public workers. In Germany these gifts are called Christmas bundles. In some European countries children are told their gifts come from the Christ child. In others St. Nicholas brings them. Today, Santa somehow goes to each home throughout the world and delivers them in one single night. Well, that's the magic of the season I guess.

The first Christmas cards were commissioned by Sir Henry Cole and illustrated by John Callcott Horsley in London on May 1848. I've read that this could be disputed. But so can the invention of the lightbulb.

However the traditions got started, it's obvious that over the centuries they've been refined and re-defined by those who practice. Does putting up a Christmas tree make you a pagan? No. Not unless you bow down to it. I think it's all the matter of what your belief system is. I love the look of a real tree, hung with ornaments and the lights. Oh, and those specially wrapped presents underneath makes it all the more special!

Here is hoping you have a very Merry Christmas, no matter what your faith, or how you celebrate it.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Santa Claus

from an old Coke ad

Of course you know who that is. And possibly you know him by other names like Old St. Nick, St. Nicholas and the name Sinter Klaas (which we know as Santa Claus), came from the Dutch. So, obviously, the jolly old elf was brought over by the immigrants from various European countries, and certain traditions which have long been observed. The customs actually date back centuries to when the historical St. Nicholas actually lived... but more about that in a bit.

In Europe they called him St. Nicholas and celebrated his Feast Day on December 6th, with festive sports and gifts for children. Once the idea spread in America, his visit was soon popularly associated with Christmas, rather than the aforementioned day. And his whole appearance eventually differed from the Dutch St. Nicholas, that it had become exclusively an American creation.

St. Nicolas was bishop of Myra in Asia Minor (Turkey), of the Byzatine Empire in the 4th century. He had a well-known reputation for kindness and generosity, which then gave rise to many legends that made him the most popular and revered of all Christian saints. One well-known legend says he gave a bag of gold to each of three poor daughters of a pious Christian on consecutive nights to provide dowries for marriage and saved them from having to turn to prostitution--[what a cruel world it was back then].  It was also said that he "restored to life three young students who had been cruelly butchered and placed in a salting tub by an evil innkeeper."-from Collier's Encyclopedia & Wikipedia.

A popular custom in America, where Christmas became a holiday for children, it was easy to plop Santa Claus in the guise as the bringer of gifts to children. The history of December 25th as the Nativity of Christ has it's own historical story. Evolving from midwinter festivities ranging from various feast such as Epiphany, which is on January 6th (which Armenian churches still observe), the Jewish Hanukkah Feast of Lights, and the Yuletide Feast of the Winter solstice (Norse, Briton, Saxon), have all combined for celebration of some sort during this time of year.

Of course the association of Santa Claus with snow, reindeer, and the North Pole does suggest a Norse, or Scandinavian tradition of the Yuletide season. In Clement C. Moore's poem, "A Visit from St. Nicolas the eight tiny reindeer could fly from roof-top to roof-top" is without a doubt one of it's better known stories.

We didn't have a chimney for Santa to come down, but we always had gifts somehow dropped off on the front porch on Christmas Eve. I knew later that while we were distracted elsewhere in the house, one of my older brothers would go around to the front, make some sort of stomping noises and go "HO-HO-HO", and be gone. The gifts were probably already there.

Where did the idea of him coming down the chimney come from?

In pre-Christian Norse tradition, Odin would often enter through chimneys and fire holes on the solstice.
In the Italian Befana tradition, the gift-giving witch is perpetually covered with soot from her trips down the chimneys of children's homes. In the tale of Saint Nicholas, the saint tossed coins through a window, and, in a later version of the tale, down a chimney when he finds the window locked.

The hearth was held sacred in primitive belief as a source of beneficence, and popular belief had elves and fairies bringing gifts to the house through this portal. Santa's entrance into homes on Christmas Eve via the chimney was made part of American tradition through the poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas"where the author described him as an elf.
~from Santa Claus - Wikipedia

The first published illustration of Santa was from a woodcut by cartoonist Thomas Nast in 1863. I don't happen to have access to this woodcut, but he wears the traditional hat and coat and beard, a sack over his
back about to go down a snow-covered chimney.

For a saint to be so popular in such traditions over the centuries, you have to figure the original St. Nicholas must have been the nicest guy. We now have Santa trackers, parades with him as the star of the procession, and Santa websites and schools (yes, there are such places where one learns how to act and ho-ho-ho like the jolly old elf himself).

I hope to check in a little before Christmas and shed some light on how Christmas came to be celebrated on the 25th, and maybe a few more of the traditions like the Christmas Tree. If I don't make it on the 25th, I'll work to get it up soon after.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Time I Occupy: Enter Me

I like getting the new year's calendars from our bank, and hardware store. You get what you get. But our bank puts out images from people who have gone out to our parks, and afield. There are also sayings to go with them, quotes from famous poets or writers. I like this one:

"Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."
~Muriel Strode

This week was our 27th wedding anniversary. As a tradition we always talk about the memory of our first date, for it was there that it all began, and it is this one night, March 1st in 1986 when our life really began. Thirty years will have passed coming up this coming March 1st. We have always been together, save for two times. Once, when I was in the hospital, and once when he tried to do OTR driving. We realized we could not be apart for that long. Not even for a night, and certainly not for weeks at a time. 

My husband likes to remark upon how unique I am. I did not/do not follow others. Not in the styles of dress, I wear what I like, and ignore fashion of the day. In fact, I've been a step ahead of fashion, to be downright truthful. Also I don't act the way other women act--emotionally, nor do I like to talk about others like they do. I don't go to any "hen parties". Those would just bore me to tears. Most men, who don't know me, probably are a little confused at first, but they come to grasp that I am an individual. That is what attracted my husband to me. He did not want the same type of woman to be involved with again. He'd gone "through hell". I won't get into that, as it is very personal.

On our second date, remember it was March, we went to a state park. There was still a lot of snow down, yet it got to 60 degrees then. (He can remember exactly what I wore, and that my feet got wet and we had to go back to my house to get me some dry shoes and socks.) In this white pine very hilly park, we traversed steep, rocky trails overlooking the river way below. I following him like a sheep, and he was amazed at how I adapted to such adverse conditions.He found out I was very outdoorsy, a hardy country girl. (He would later find out just how tough I was when he asked me to marry him and come out to Colorado with him. We enjoyed camping in several western states, in which it rained nearly the whole time.)

Dennis had already made up his mind to leave for Colorado by the time we'd met. He was working 2 jobs in order to leave. One week he put in nearly 100 hours in both the school bus driving (where we met), and the pizza place. He was very depressed and lonely. The last thing he expected was for his prayers to be answered.

Enter Me. 

I, meantime, was taking classes at NIU, but I wasn't really into my studies--art history. I would have worked toward some sort of degree. But I had been divorced, thankfully childless, and had had several boy friends in the years between and found no one that was similar in thought, likes, and especially someone who actually loved me.
I too had prayed. I didn't expect my prayers to be answered. 
But they were.
Of course, once I met Dennis, I was--how shall I put it? Extremely distracted. Needless to say, I didn't go any further with my studies. His proposal was one of those he popped the question: "

Today we put up our tree and decorated it. We haven't celebrated Christmas in a long time. Especially putting up the tree. I think this year of changes, with a lot of depression stemming over someone else getting a job he wanted, had his emotions in a real tangle. I helped him through, but he did it himself. Maybe he prayed again. At any rate, he took 2 weeks off after the park job ended and before he came back to driving the bus (transit) with me. He did a lot of walking. I think he did some soul searching. I told him it would help. I know it did.

"A friend is a second self."

We lean on each other a lot. We know we are similar to those "misfit toys" in that Christmas cartoon you see every year when it comes on. Members of his family call us "black sheep". Whatever.

We are friends first. A friendship, it is said, will outlast romantic love every time. You never want to hurt your friend, nor stay mad at him. I've know women who want to hurt their husbands, or get even with them, make them buy them something expensive to "make up" for whatever they did.
I'm not like that. Neither is he. We don't hurt one another emotionally.

Not that there isn't, or wasn't romance in our relationship. Dennis was the most romantic guy I've ever known. He always thinks of me, in many ways, showing it in the things he does. He lets me do my thing, while he does laundry and does most of the cooking. He'll let me take time off from work in the summer.
Flowers in a vase, I've told him, only last a few days. It's our love that lasts forever.

This is from a wonderful anniversary card sent to us by his father:
"When you find the one
who moves in step with you,
sets the pace with you,
and looks forward to the same bright future...
...then you know you
have truly found your soulmate.
Lunch in Taos 2010

Friday, December 4, 2015

Homeland Security ala Trump

There's a real division as to how to address what can be done about the alarming rate which we have seen shootings in America, and world wide.
There have been more shooting incidents (where 4 or more people have been killed), this year thus far than there are calendar days in the year.

Some say because of lack of gun control, the wrong people can get guns.
Lots of guns and amo.
That's one side.
The NRA says guns don't kill, people kill people. 
Yeah. But a person has to first buy the gun, go and pick up the gun, load and aim it. So, this is true. Just how many freaking guns does one need anyway?

Well, let me see what the experts in the field say...

Rambo on Guns:

Donald Trump has said, soon after the Paris tragedy, and I quote:
"Had there been some guys with a gun, there would have been a shootout and probably the primary people that would have gotten whacked would have been the killers.

I work for a transit bus company, and we have had one instance of a shooting several years ago where a former student let himself into a class and shot several people, including himself. So, it's happened in my neck of the woods.
Today we were handed small pieces of print-out paper from US Department of Homeland Securty on what to do if you believe there is an active shooter in your vicinity.
Have an escape route and plan in mind
Leave your belongings behind
Keep your hands visible
Hide in an area out of the shooter's view
Block entry to your hiding place and lock the doors
Silence your cell phone and/or pager
As a last resort and only when your life is in imminent danger
Attempt to incapacitate the shooter
Act with physical aggression and throw items at the active shooter

This is only a partial list, we really have to understand, this is our world, today. I'm more concerned about someone coming back to my bus and shooting me for something I've said, or done. Only this week I observed a woman acting strange and called it in. Well, it was nothing. She was homeless, and when the police officer and a security man went through the things she laid out on the bench near my bus, they found the pills she should have been taking.
The officer said to me, "They're homeless for a reason."

Charlton Heston said in a Meet the Press interview in 1997:
"There are no 'good guns'. There are no 'bad guns'. Any gun in the hands of a bad man is a bad thing. Any gun in the hands of a decent person is no threat to anybody, except bad people."

Bad or good, anyone with a gun in their hands it can go off. A lot of children have been killed by other children by accident when they've found Daddy's gun.
Just saying.

Folks, let's face it. It's not the wild, wild west. You don't have gun slingers, or Marshal Dillon to come out to the street to meet those "bad men". There's no Rambo in the neighborhood. And even if a person happened to be "carrying", in a situation where people are being shot up I highly doubt someone who has three kids at home is going to pull out her hand gun from her purse and go all Rambo on their ass. Especially when they have AK 47's and pipe bombs. That's just my take on it.

How do you feel about gun control? Is it tough enough? Not tough enough to keep insane people from getting their hands on guns? What do you think?

Chickens lay eggs, and so do Turtles

For those of you who don't know my husband is park ranger and one of his main jobs is mowing. He has a large deck (72") Toro Zero T...