A Day in the Life

Homeschooling and Medieval Living

The Story of My Name

I recently came across a new blog. It is called the Daily Post. This is idea number five from 5 Posts to Write Right Now. 

My name is Sonja. There are two different versions of how this name came to be – depending on which parent you ask. According to my mother, my dad was smitten with the ice skater Sonja Henie. According to my father, I was named after his childhood neighbor Sonja. Either way, I got a Norwegian name.

There are some drawbacks to this name. There are no key chains with my name on them. I have one, but it was specially ordered. Even then, people would look at it and say “Your name is ALNOS?” Funny. Ha Ha. People usually spell it Sonia or Sonya. I once had a classmate who spelled hers S’onja. That was quite interesting. Then, there are the mispronunciations. It is pronounced Sahn-yu (short u). Most commonly, it is either pronounced Sahn-ju or Son-yu (long o). One of my aunts actually calls me Sahn-dra. That was a new one. But she has always been hard of hearing so I just let it go. Plus, she is a very sweet woman over the age of 90. I figure anyone who has lived that long deserves respect. 🙂

When I became a teen, I joined the Society for Creative Anachronism, a living history group that recreates the Middle Ages and Renaissance periods. As part of creating a believable persona, we all choose a name that could have been used during the period we chose. I chose Ireland in 850 AD. I thought I would choose a name that would not be mispronounced at all. I chose Kate O’Hara. I chose it because it reminded me of my two favorite characters (Kate from “Kiss Me Kate” and Scarlett O’Hara from Gone with the Wind).

I then later found out that the spelling of Kate was not used until around the 1500’s. So I chose the more common spelling for my era – Cait. OK. So now I was Cait O’Hara. Not too different. It stilled sounded like Kate. Everything was good. One thing a member can do is get the name registered with the College of Heralds. This means that a group of historians (who study heraldry and naming from our era) will look at my name and give me information about it. It then gets approved and put onto a roster. This becomes the official spelling for all awards and such throughout our time in the group.

So, I am sitting at the table with a herald. He pulls out his tomes of Irish names during the 9th century. He then informs me that Cait is actually a nickname for Caiterina. OK. I am good with that so far. People can still call me Cait (AKA Kate). Then he drops the bombshell on me…I have been pronouncing it wrong for the last 20 years. It is actually pronounced Koyt. Caiterina is pronounced Koytrina. Darn. That is nowhere near where I started. What was I going to do? The solution was simple – I would keep mispronouncing it. I have been “Kate” for so long and I will continue to be “Kate”. Take that College of Heralds! 🙂


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Coming Down

Hold On

All through that long ticking up toward the top of the ride you know it is coming—the rush and the swoop that is your reward for laboring up the hill. The vacation after months of hard work. The publication of the words you’ve struggled over. The performance of what you’ve been rehearsing for hours on end.

How has your labor allowed you to enjoy the downhill slope?

via Daily Compass – Inspiration for your spiritual expedition.

For the last three years, I have been a Minister of Children in the Society for Creative Anachronism. It is a volunteer position. During that time, I wrote a handbook, chaired a committee, and added to the office as a whole. There was not much documentation or training for the office. I created that. I worked with countless others to flesh out the office. I have a certain pride in that. I worked more for that office than I did at home or at my paying job. I spent weekends away from my family as well as countless hours at my desk – writing and creating. For all the work I put into the office, I received many awards.

The term of this office was for two years. Because it is a hard office to fill, I held it for three. Finally, this last January, I was able to turn over the reigns to a new officer. It was a truly bittersweet moment. It was lovely to feel the work off my shoulders. I am now able to be with my family without worrying about my other duties. I am confident that my successor will do an outstanding job. But, I am sad to see it end. While in the office, I met so many wonderful people and saw so many happy children. I really enjoyed teaching the children about history and culture. It was a truly joyful experience. I will miss it.

How has your labor allowed you to enjoy the downhill slope?

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Apple Blossoms

We think of the harvest as coming when the apples are ripe in the fall, but apple blossoms provide their own kind of harvest, in ephemeral moments of beauty.

What moment of joy or beauty have you harvested recently?

Yesterday, I was able to attend an SCA meeting. I have not attended one in months. Since I have a new closer route, I was able to pull it off. I saw many friends I have missed. I also won a door prize (the movie “Ironclad”). It was an awesome night.  We talked about Gulf Wars and worked on the meal plan. My friend Sybil french braided my hair and I laughed so hard. I have missed being able to be with my friends. I used to go to events and meetings and other activities. Lately, I have not been able to because of lack of funds. I have to borrow the gas money just to get to work. I am hoping this closer route will be better and I will no longer have to borrow money. We will see.

Anyway, to concentrate on the positive…

My friend Aingeal said that she had some garb for us. That is great! Now I won’t have any gaps in my wardrobe.  And my friend Floria offered me some garb in exchange for my working for her at Gulf Wars. I can’t wait until then. We are going to have so much fun! I have such wonderful friends. I love them very much! They invited me to Scribes and Illuminators on Sunday. I am going to try to go. I will also drag my kids along. Meg loves to paint and Iain likes to visit with everyone. We usually sit around and paint scrolls. When someone in the SCA is called into court to receive an award, that person receives a beautiful scroll to go with it. These scrolls are hand-painted, scripted with calligraphy, and tailored for individual people. It is very time consuming but worth it. The last award I received was the Sable Crane. There was a gorgeous scroll that went with it. It was done all in Celtic design. I created a persona I use for the SCA. The SCA re-creates the era between the Fall of Rome and the death of Queen Elizabeth I. When you join, you choose a name and persona of someone who might have lived during that time. I chose Caiterina O’Hara, born 810 AD in Sligo, Ireland. So, when I received a scroll in a Celtic theme, I was overjoyed. Someone took the time to create something so precious just for me. The picture below shows this scroll. I have also included a photo of Their Royal Majesties Aaron and Amelot of Ansteorra. It was such a wonderful event. I have really missed them. For more info on the SCA check out the link in the upper right. Want to know even more? Feel free to contact me or comment here. I love talking about it. It is a passion of mine.:)

Sable Crane scroll and pendant.

Sable Crane scroll and pendant.

I accept a service award from Their Majesties.
I accept a service award from Their Majesties.

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Gulf Wars and the SCA

Me in a period Viking costume

At Gulf Wars, I become Caiterina O’Hara, in Viking costume

Today, I will delve into my love and passion, the SCA. The SCA is the Society for Creative Anachronism. From the SCA website:

” The SCA is an international organization dedicated to researching and re-creating the arts and skills of pre-17th-century Europe. Our “Known World” consists of 19 kingdoms, with over 30,000 members residing in countries around the world. Members, dressed in clothing of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, attend events which feature tournaments, royal courts, feasts, dancing, various classes & workshops, and more.”

In March, I will be attending my fifth Gulf Wars. Gulf Wars is a week long event where the members of the SCA gather together in Lumberton Mississippi to enjoy the classes, combat, and fun of the Middle Ages. There are usually about 4,000 people in attendance. It usually takes place during the week of spring break (this year, March 10-17, 2013). You don’t have to be a member to attend, but you do receive a membership discount. For the week you are there, you must wear an attempt at pre-17th century clothing (that we call “garb”). There is a Page School for children ages 5-12. We also have teen activities nightly and a Wee Ones quest for those under five. For the adults, there are classes, dances, parties, chivalric combat, rapier combat, archery, hounds, falconry, jousting, shopping, bakeries, food merchants, bardic circles around the fire, fancy courts, and much much more. It is the most fun my family has all year.

I have been asked by several newcomers what to expect at their first Gulf Wars. So, I am including my experiences. Keep in mind that this view is from a member of Staff. It will be different for a fighter, royalty, artist, or virtually everyone else. This is my typical week.

My family (consisting of my husband, my 14 year old daughter, my 11 year old son, and myself) usually arrives early (the Friday before) and we help with set-up. When we arrive, we go to our encampment area (about a mile from the main activity area and Page School) and set up our tent. We usually camp with a group called Loch Ruadh. This is an SCA group based in Benbrook, Texas. Our tent is a 10 X 20 garage pavilion that we bought at Sam’s (for around $200). I love it. It looks medieval without being a real pain to put together. There are some who camp in an actual medieval period tent. They are gorgeous to look at but rather expensive (usually around $1500). Then, we unload our van and set up camp. We take the normal things you usually take camping. We have our cots and bedding, tables, chairs, camp stove (with two large propane tanks), ice chest and box with food for the week, lanterns, garb for the week, and toiletries. After set up, we then go to see the Event Steward. This is the person in charge of the event. This year, it is Master Erik of Telemark. He then lets us know what all needs to be done on site. My entire family pitches in. My husband usually helps set up pavilions. I am the Page School Department head, so I go to inventory and sign out the supplies for the Page School. My daughter acts as runner and messenger. She is 14 and knows the site layout well by now. She also looks for her friends from last year. My son is 11 and usually helps me out  at the Page School. We will continue this routine until the Page School opens on Tuesday morning.

We usually take a break on Sunday and help out at the front gate. Site officially opens at 7 am on Sunday. So, we all get dressed up in our fanciest garb and help out at registration. My husband and I sign people in. My daughter answers questions and directs people. My son runs doughnuts and coffee to the volunteers and those standing in line. We usually have so much fun that we usually don’t leave until well after lunch time. I would love to stay even longer but I have the Page School to check on.

On Monday, we help out around camp. Many Loch Ruadh people get there on Sunday or Monday. So we help them set up and get camp all laid out. We have a communal kitchen and dining area. We set up the tables and make them look pretty.  We visit with friends and enjoy ourselves.

On Tuesday, I arrive early at the Page School pavilion. I get ready for our 10 am opening. I make sure that the coordinator for the day (my friend Nan) is there and ready to go. At ten, we sign kids in and direct them to their table. This year we will go see the opening ceremonies (a parade with pageantry and horses), followed by medieval indoor games. We break for lunch from 12-1. After we sign everyone back in at one, we have outdoor games until three. After the kids are all picked up, my kids and I head back to camp to check in with everyone. I like to hear how they spent their day. Terrence usually fights with the other chivalric fighters. My husband usually hangs out with the blacksmith and learns how to make some beautiful tools. He will also help build a period building. Many others take classes on weaving, scroll painting, book binding, costuming, woodworking, cooking and many others. At six, we gather for our communal meal and visit with each other. Afterwards, my family heads down to the Page School for teen activities. On Tuesday, that includes an SCA 101 class. This class teaches them what the SCA is all about. There will be talks on youth combat, Arts and Sciences, and service within the SCA.

On Wednesday morning, I check in at the Page School to make sure things are going well. Then, I see if there are any classes in the Arts and Sciences area I want to take. If not, I go to Merchant’s Row and visit with my friend Floria at the Spinning Toad. She sells cloaks and garb at her shop.  I usually work some for her in exchange for free merchandise. There is a lot of bartering in Merchants’ Row.  My husband takes the kids for some archery and they usually stop off and watch the combat for a bit. My daughter goes off in search of friends. After dinner that night, we head back to the Page School for the Teen Scavenger hunt. They will walk around site and get various people to sign their bingo sheets. They have to find people like “Someone who has been to every Gulf War” (this is the 22nd one) or someone who is a Knight, or the King of Ansteorra, etc. While they do that, I attend Midnight Madness. It takes place from 7-11 pm. There are great bargains to be had. It is sort of a huge retail party on Merchants’ Row. We all meet back at the Page School around 10 to see how everyone did. We give out prizes and have a great time.

On Thursday, I again check in with the Page School before heading off to classes and meetings. There is also archery, the siege target competition, rapier combat, classes, and jousting. While we are out, we usually stop in at the bakery for the wonderful fresh baked meat pies and pastries. There is also a place that has the best peanut butter, jelly, and bacon sandwiches. They are a lot better than they sound. The water bearers give them out to all the combatants. The fighters need the protein to keep them going between battles. We then watch as various battles (with over 1000 people per side) rage on. I stop in at various pavilions and visit with several friends from other Kingdoms. (The SCA is a world-wide organization. Therefor, there are people there from as far away as Australia and Canada. I love hearing their stories from home.) That evening, we return to camp for dinner and companionship. We look at all the finds from last night’s Midnight Madness and hear various war stories. After dinner, my husband and children go off to teen activities (Open Gaming) while I attend Ansteorran Court (my home kingdom). During court, many friends receive awards and make announcements. Then, it is off to pick up the family and head home for some story-telling and singing around the camp fire. There are many traveling bards at Gulf Wars. They usually stop by our fire for s’mores, warm drinks and song.

On Friday, the Page School has a Meet and Greet with the hounds. The teens have an Equestrian 101 class. In the afternoon, there is the great Ravine Battle. Thousands of men and women rush the ravine to come together in a deafening array of clanging armor, clashing swords, and swishing arrows. It is definitely a sight to behold. This is followed by more archery, shopping, classes, and dinner at camp. After dinner, we go off to the Teen Social. The teens gather for games, chatting and visiting. Those interested in dancing will attend the Grand War Ball afterwards. For the adults, there is the Known World Party with a Roman theme. Then, it is a walk back to camp to rest and visit.

On Saturday, I have officer meetings while my husband works on woodworking and blacksmithing. My daughter hangs out with her friends and my son watches his dad at the forge  (across the street from our camp). We get together for lunch at the cafeteria, then head off for the volunteer raffle. At four, we attend the Great Court and Closing Ceremonies. Afterwards, we head back to camp for dinner. I like to go dancing after dinner, so I head up to Bede Hall for the last ball of the War. Later, we all gather around the campfire for more singing and story telling. This will be our last night at war and the atmosphere is somewhat melancholy. We all talk about what went well and what we need to do to make next year even better.

Sunday morning sees most of us up early for packing and loading up. My husband gets our van (from the parking lot nearly 2 miles from us) and comes back to load it.  At nine, I have a post war staff meeting. Afterwards, we help everyone with last minute loading and tying down. We all head out as site closes at noon. It has been a lovely war and we can’t wait until next year.

For more information on this event, check out the website or comment below.

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The New Year for Trees

From The Daily Compass:

Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish New Year for trees, begins this evening. You might not think that late January makes sense as a time of beginning for trees, since in many places they are still dormant and leafless. But in a climate like that of Israel, you can see buds starting to form this time of year. It’s still a considerable wait until leaves are out, let alone until harvest, but all of that is implicit in the first little buds.

What buds do you see in your life that might lead to a harvest down the road?

In the past, I have always thought of Erin as being the breadwinner. He would be the one working. I wanted to be a SAHM. That is all that I have ever wanted. I want to homeschool my kids, take care of the house and do SCA stuff. Then, he started school. He looked at all the jobs he wanted and saw that he needed a degree. So, he is now going for his Associates in Computer Science. He will then transfer to a four year college and get his Bachelor’s in Comp. Sci. OK. I can deal with that. In fact, I had decided that I would do what I could so that he could go to school. That has meant me going back to work. I have not worked in years. I thought I had no profitable skills. Then I looked at what I was doing in my spare time (as a hobby). I was creating and editing websites, writing handbooks, creating and editing policies, managing youth officers, creating Excel and Word documents, creating Moodle classrooms, and training youth officers. It seems like I should be able to pull something workable out of that. Now, just to find something I can do in the DFW area. I would like to work from home if possible. But those kinds of jobs are few and far between (or they are scams/pyramid schemes).

Anyway… all this background is really leading somewhere. I promise. So, I looked at all my skills and I set up a LinkedIn account and sent out a resume to Automattic. I started looking for other fallback positions, just in case. I am so scared I won’t get the work. But, I have at least had the chance to see that I have skills. I can see my skills get better as I practice and work. I have done a lot of work these past couple of weeks. I have brushed up on skills that I haven’t used in a while and I have learned new ones. I hope these budding qualities will turn into something great. I can finally deal with the idea of working. I am sad that I have to, but I can do it. I just keep thinking of my husband walking across that stage with his diploma. I really hope there will be flowers that bloom.

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Studying Salvation

From the Daily Compass:

There is no one way to salvation, whatever the manner in which a [person] may proceed. All forms and variations are governed by the eternal intelligence of the Universe that enables a [person] to approach perfection. It may be in the arts of music and painting or it may be in commerce, law, or medicine. It may be in the study of war or the study of peace. Each is as important as any other. Spiritual enlightenment through religious meditation such as Zen or in any other way is as viable and functional as any “Way.”… A person should study as they see fit.”
―Miyamoto Musashi

What practice moves you toward salvation?

OK, so the theme this month is Salvation. But, I feel as if the Daily Compass is a bit repetitive. What do you think? But, I will answer this. I am trying to keep up with the Daily Compass and really think about salvation this month.

I participate in an historical recreation group called the Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc (SCA). I have played in the SCA off and on since 1988. I first found it in high school. My friends George and Talyn told me about it. They said there was the really cool place they went to every Wednesday night to hang out. They would sit around, watch knights fight in armor and talk about the middle ages (and other things). I thought I would give it a shot. I really wasn’t doing anything else so why not. I picked them up and we went to the rec center on Fort Monroe (in Hampton, VA). Fort Monroe was open to civilians and it was a beautiful backdrop to the meeting. We arrived at a two story rec center with two gyms and a game room. One gym was full of huge, burly men in various types of armor (leather, steal, etc.). The sounds of rattan weapons hitting steal rang throughout the building. I could hear the grunts of exertion and smell damp leather and sweaty men. The other gym was a little different. It contained men and women in lighter bits of armor. In fact, they looked more like costumes from the Three Musketeers.  They fought with rapiers instead of duck-taped covered rattan. the fighting style seemed more refined and plotted. Instead of heavy bangs, I heard light pings as the blades met. Then, Talyn took me to the game room. In it, there were teens and adults. All were sitting or standing in groups. There was a din of activity. Some were playing pool, some were playing cards, and some were mingling with friends they had not seen in a while. I was introduced to a Chatelain (the person in charge of new comers). She told me all about the organization and what they did. She also told me that if I needed a costume (called garb) or feast gear (medieval-looking bowls, plates, etc) to let her know. Her job was to make sure that all new people had what they needed to have fun and enjoy themselves. She told me about events that would be going on and the various local get-togethers. It was so much fun that I came back the next week, and the week after that. I was given a beautiful dress with bell sleeves, a plate, a bowl, and silverware. I went to my first event (that experience I will save for another blog) and I was hooked.

Later (Spring of 1990), I moved to Austin to attend the University of Texas. I found the group there and got back involved. I have been involved ever since. When I move, I find a new SCA group. The people are amazing.  My parents (and other non-SCA people) just don’t get why I do it. Some think I am nuts. I started out with this group and I have stayed with this group because of the people. I love them and I love the historical study. I have even taken on a Kingdom Youth Officer position (Minister of Children). In this position, I manage the Ministers of Children for all the local groups in Texas and Oklahoma.  It is daunting sometimes, but it is worth it.  I am a workaholic anyway. Since I have no work I can do from home, I do my SCA stuff. I plan youth activities for events, I contact my local officers, write reports, file, create presentations, update our website, write and teach classes online (gotta love Moodle), and write code (for said classes and website). It is a lot of work, but I love it.  Whenever I get stressed or upset, I turn to my SCA work. It is my balm, my cushion, my salvation.

I accept a service award from Their Majesties.

I accept a service award from Their Majesties.

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What We Won’t Touch

From the Daily compass:

What we are reluctant to touch often seems the very fabric of our salvation.”
― Don DeLillo

Who are you reluctant to contact or acknowledge? How might they be an agent of your salvation?

OK, I can really see how the Daily Compass goes with the CLF. It all revolves around a theme. This month it is salvation. I wrote on this a bit yesterday. I am a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism. It is a medieval re-creation group. I am a youth officer for the Kingdom of Ansteorra. I think I have been avoiding my friends in the SCA. I did not realize this at first. But I really have. I feel guilty that I do not have the gas/money/transportation to attend meetings. I feel horrible and disappointed that I cannot make the meetings/get-togethers. I really miss them so much. I avoid them because it hurts too much. But I really do need to contact them. They need to know what is going on. I think that if I just talk to them, it will begin a healing process that I really need right now. I need to get what I can done and ask for help with the rest. I have really been shirking my duties as a Kingdom officer. I don’t attend events and I have not done much work. I really need to talk to my Kingdom seneschal and let him know what is going on. I can alleviate many of my problems if I just ask for help. It is so hard to do that though. It makes me feel weak. I try to be as strong as I can. I get so frustrated that I can’t do everything. That feeling makes me depressed. Then, I get nothing done. It is a vicious cycle. So, I need to stop being upset and do something about it. Today, I will email/call everyone I need to in order to get back on track and get my work done. There is an event coming up called Round Table. It is a semi-annual kingdom-wide officer meeting. I was going to go. Now, it looks like I won’t be able to attend after all. I was so looking forward to it. I just can’t find a way to make it there. So, I will find someone who can go for me. I have not missed a single one since I took office. I teach a class and have a forum discussion. The last class had one participant. It was awful. So, maybe it won’t be a bad thing for me to miss it. I don’t know. I will just see. I will talk to an SCA friend of mine and see what she thinks. She always speaks her mind and gives great advice. I have my salvation in sight. I can feel the tension starting to fade already. It helps to get a game plan together. I look forward to the healing with anticipation and gratitude.

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Keeping Your Balance

From the Daily Compass:

Life always seems to feel like a tricky balancing act. Most of us carry on our heads the competing needs of our work and our family, our parents and our children, our communities and our own personal needs. The trickiest part of all is to come at the whole task with good humor and delight in the day.

How will you find a moment of joyful balance today?

It is very difficult sometimes for me to balance everything. The main problem is money. Everything takes money. It even takes money to work. I work a job where I drive 1000 miles a week and spend $1000 a month on gas. I am not reimbursed. Then, I have to spend gas money if I want to go anywhere – to see friends, participate in the SCA, or take my kids to see their friends. I homeschool, work, participate as an officer in a non-profit group, and take care of my family. My mom goes to doctors a lot. I need to be there for her. My husband is going to school and I need to be there for him. He seems like he just can’t do anything on his own. I am pulled in so many directions. I want to quit work so that I have more time to dedicate to my family, but I can’t. We need the money to survive. I am not joyful. I can’t be joyful when my life is so hard. I try to be. I spend time with my family as much as I can. They take my mind off of things. But, I am usually so tired from work that I fall asleep on the couch. I have no idea what I am going to do. I guess I will figure it out. Erin is trying to find work. Maybe something will come through. We will see.

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New Office

I have been active in the Society for Creative Anachronism for over 15 years now. It has been an on and off involvement. About a year and a half ago I became active in the group once again. This led to going to events and activities and then becoming an officer. In January, I became the Minister of Children (MoC) for my local group. Then, this past weekend I officially became the new Kingdom MoC. This means that I am the MoC for Texas and Oklahoma. It involves helping local officers and appointing new ones. The office lasts 2 years. I have found that I am pretty much setting the precedent for this office. There are many things that have not been decided or set up as policy. So, I am working on that. I am hoping that between doing that and homeschooling my kids, I will have enough time for myself so that I can work on my blog. Writing is something I love to do. So, I hope that I can continue to do this for me. We will see.

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