Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Glenhaven's Son Enirich (A Short Story)

     A bit of a backstory first.  Since July 2017 I have been working on a D&D campaign with a few friends of mine.  Instead of doing a pre-written campaign I thought I'd homebrew it, thinking that we would play a few months.  Well, it's been over 6 months now and the story continues on.  Well, I'd come up with this sort of neat backstory that has been going on behind the scenes that my players will probably never discover.  So instead of letting it disappear into oblivion as the campaign continues, I thought I might jot it down into a short story that I might share in the future with the group once the story of Enirich ends.
     First off, you pronounce it "Ein-Rick", and he's a young man in his late teens/early twenties and I really feel for the guy, but as you read on you'll see why.  My players, however, see him as a re-occurring bad guy that they have to kill or get rid of somehow.  But in his point of view...well, I thought I'd share his point of view with you today....  Enjoy!

     The small town of Glenhaven was situated in the northern most lands to the south of the Black Mountains, in a small valley where the Black Oak Woods ended and a small stream fed the farms and made the land rich.  The mountains to the north, some two thousand years ago, swarmed with a breed of elves those that called themselves "Drow" but the Drow came out of the mountains into the dark woods and some of them set up a small town which was a haven from their lives in the darkness.  These Drow kept a mine filled with gold and other riches, and kept themselves wealthy as needed, and they eventually traveled to Southern lands and one family set up a city around a canal some five day's south.
     Humans of this area were peaceful with the elves, and for a few thousand years they remained at peace.  But the Drow were dying out, and those that were left behind in Glenhaven bestowed upon their human friends a secret to the mine that was the font of their gold and wealth.  They had hoped, as they departed this world for the next, that the humans would share the wealth and continue to live happy, prosperous lives in this land so close to the magic lands they had left so many years before.
     As it happens, however, human beings are petty, cruel, and jealous creatures and the ten men who were told the secret to the mine fought viciously for ownership of the mine.  Eventually only one family knew of the secret location and they would spread the wealth to others in the town, but in essence, the mayor's family guarded it with their lives and would not tell anyone of the location. 
     The Morden family would keep the secret for generations, until two sons were born.  The eldest, Mark, inherited the fortune.  The youngest son, Richard, was told that he would not get the secret unless something happened to his brother.  However, upon the death of their father, Mark, being a good man, shared the secret of the mine with his brother in return that he would stay and be the constable of the town and help keep its secret.  Richard, in his younger years, agreed to this arrangement and the town of Glenhaven was peaceful for a decade.
     Soon, Richard welcome his son Enirich into the Morden family.  His son was weak and got sick often, and for awhile they feared he would not make it past his fifth birthday.  Richard sent to Caspian, the town's wizard, for medicine, and eventually the young Enirich would become stronger as he grew.
     Mark, the Mayor now, also had a child, but his daughter Maribel, would be strong and willful and because she was in line as the heir to the mines, Richard became worried that he would lose the fortune if she married someone from another family.  He started training Enirich to follow in his footsteps as the town Constable, but the young man was still weak from his childhood.
     Enirich was sent south to the larger city where a soldiery school he could attend in hopes it would strengthen him.  Enirich did well at school, he grew stronger and fought to earn his stars as he spent a few years in training.
     After he earned his first star, he and a bunch of his buddies went out drinking at the local bar, the White Stag Inn.  They were fairly inebriated when a stranger came to share their table with them.  Enirich told him about the town where he grew up and that there was a secret Drow mine where there was tons of gold and his whole town was rich but that he wouldn't inherit the treasure because his cousin Maribel was.  So he had decided he'd just become the best solider he could and that he wouldn't bother to ever go back to the city.  He even held up a letter that he had penned to his mother telling her that he wasn't going to return.  The stranger said he was headed to Glenhaven himself and that he would be happy to deliver it for him and save him the money for the caravan post.
     Not being a very bright individual when drunk, Enirich gave over the letter to the stranger that evening and then went back to the dorms.  In the morning he had a hangover and had forgotten the incident.
     Meanwhile, the stranger continued up to the town, but as he drew near Glenhaven, his appearance changed....to look like that of Enirich.  He was, unbeknownst to everyone, a doppleganger.  And when he arrived in the town, he sought out the Constable Richard Morden and his wife Marge, and admitted to them, as Enirich, that he had quit school and had a plan to win Maribel's hand in marriage and that he would then inherit the mine.
     The Constable welcomed his son back with open arms and they never questioned his return, and since the actual Enirich chose to stay behind, they never knew their son had been replaced.  Instead they followed this new, smarter Enirich, and gathered up the tools to take over the town.  Enirich worked on wooing Maribel, but one day, as she used a mirror to brush her hair, it revealed to her Enirich's actual form (for it was magical, left behind by the Drow, but she had not know this) and so she turned him down, stating that she was going to marry the stablehand Matthew instead.
     When the doppleganger realized that she had seen him for what he really was, he decided to try to poison her.  But as the poison was taking hold, a group of adventurers came into town and helped Caspian with a cure.  Angrily, Enirich had to come up with a way to kill Maribel another way, but to get everyone else on board.  So he started a rumor that every one hundred years a member of the family would have to be sacrificed to the god of the Drow to keep the town prosperous.  He enlisted the help of a group of cultists that he had known during a previous journey, and they helped to convince the town of the truth of the rumor.
     It took a bit of convincing, but eventually the whole town believed, even the Mayor Mark (although it took a lot of magic and threats to do so) that Maribel must be sacrificed.  Unfortunately for the doppleganger, the cultists were found out by the adventurers who came into town and they came back just as he was plotting the murder of his 'cousin'.  The sacrifice failed, the adventurers came into the town and managed to kill the doppleganger...but also the Morden family who were under his magical control.
     The only person who knew the doppleganger's true nature, besides Maribel, was Matthew, who's father, the Stablemaster, had hoped to also gain access to the mine.  He had spent many years playing both sides of the Morden family, and had fingers in both sides, hoping to either get in on the Constable's scheme, or to marry his son off to Maribel.  However, he also discovered upon searching the house of the Constable, that Enirich had written a letter that he had stayed in Waterfordshire.  So the Stablemaster sent word to Enirich, thinking the boy might still be alive.
     And thus, a week or so later Enirich discovered that a group of murderers had killed his mother and father and that the town he loved was in tatters.  He initially thought of returning there, until lo and behold, the murderers in the Stablemaster's description were in Waterfordshire!  He didn't think he'd find them so quickly, as murders tend to hide and not stand out in the open as this group did.  But he discovered a small urchin boy following him, and when the boy admitted to who hired him, he brought him back to that same small inn where it had all started.
     That was when he came face to face with the murderers.  They looked innocent, a black haired elf, a tall cloaked male, a dwarf cleric and a black dragonborn, but these were the murderers, he just knew it, and when he talked to them, they didn't deny his allegations.  Rather, they started to argue with him that his family were all evil, that they had done terrible things...his parents, do something evil?  How twisted were these people?  But the General and the Constable in this town refused to arrest them as they had been helping with an investigation.  Instead they said they would send word to Glenhaven to investigate.
     Enirich sent the fastest messenger north, praying that the murderers would not escape town before he got back.  He paced and hoped and prayed and the town was filled with zombies and a necromancer was ravaging the town but Enirich could only think about his family and how much he missed them and had wished that he had not sent that letter, that he had gone back to see them just one more time.
     When the messenger returned less than a week later, he told the tale of the adventurers who killed his parents without stopping to think that they might be under a spell, that they had killed other townsfolk who had also been under the spell.  Enirich went with the messenger to relay the information right as these 'adventurers' slayed the necromancer and thus became the town heroes.  He thought, perhaps, that they were maybe good after all...maybe he was wrong, maybe they were innocent, that they were only doing what they thought was right...
     But they disappeared that night with a bunch of pirates and were gone without facing their trial.  Enirich was upset, he had been fooled...the whole town had been fooled.  They'd saved the day, killed the necromancer, saved the town from hundreds of dead zombies wandering the streets, and how could a bunch of heroes be murderers?  The Constable and the General decided that it would be unwise to follow them, to let it go.
     Enirich couldn't.  He knew it wouldn't bring his family back, but after weeks...he just wanted to see justice had, to know the truth, to see for himself what these people were about.  So he asked a friend, another solider named Gerald, to accompany him as he placed wanted posters down the Main Road to Centralia.  Eventually they had to end up there, as everyone ended in the central city.  Gerald agreed, and as they traveled south they formed a band of rag-tags and mercenaries and other travelers, hoping to make some of the gold that Enirich promised on his wanted posters. 
     They traveled at a good pace, but it slowed as they gained more of their band.  And then as they came to the small Tinnigel Village, a group of three men came running in, telling him that they had just seen the murderers from his wanted posters.  They formed a larger band from the village then, and headed at top speed to follow them.  He hired on a ranger, and half-orc merchant also decided to tag along to see what money he could get once the reward was had.  They traveled a few days, following the horse tracks.
     But then, they stopped.  He wasn't sure what happened, but the Ranger investigated what seemed to be a murder scene...but discovered it was a ploy, and as they spread out to see if they were set up for a hijack, discovering nothing, they traveled on.  That evening they came to a small caravan clearing set up outside of a town that had been destroyed recently by a traveling group of gnolls.  Setting up a guard and enjoying a peaceful evening with a few other groups of travelers, a strange creature appeared in the clearing.
     Suddenly a great wave of water washed into the clearing, knocking Enirich and a few others to their backs, and from another direction a small storm erupted, sending the clearing into darkness as the campfires were blown out.  The creature roared and moved to attack - killing the first man that came after it.  Chaos ensued as Enirich tried to get to his feet.  He came suddenly face to face with the dark-haired elf that had sent the urchin to spy on him.  She told him to stop following them, to leave them alone....
     "Leave you alone?!  You killed my family!  My mother, my father, in cold blood!"  Enirich attacked, hitting her with his sword and then getting knocked back again.  The elf showed no mercy as she attacked him, and Enirich suddenly realized he was no match for this woman.  He fumbled for his bag, as he'd been given a special scroll in case he ever needed to escape.  He turned to see Gerald fall, as other innocent bystanders ran from the clearing and a group of six men were knocked dead instantly as they huddled in fear.... he was outmatched...and he would never be able to revenge his parents like this.
     The scroll.... he read the words, praying with all his might that Caspian had not failed him in its creation.  And then he stepped forward, and stepped out into the woods some thirty feet or more away from the clearing.  From there, he ran.
     Enirich didn't look back, but he knew from the sounds behind him, that it wasn't long before the men who had followed him were mostly, if not all, dead.  He regretted sending these innocent men after these powerful murderers.  Scared, he ran until he came to a burned out building that still smelled from fire that had caused it to fall.  Enirich hid within the fallen beams and shivered as the storm passed overhead and fell asleep, scared for his life.
     In the morning, buzzards swarmed overhead.  He decided to find the main road again, and followed it from a distance in the woods.  Alone, scared, and not sure what to do, he continued south, hoping perhaps, that the knights in Centralia would somehow be able to help him kill these murderers before they reached the central city and wreaked more havoc there.  He also hoped he might find some of the others that escaped... there were witnesses this time, after all.

(First draft - I may have to revise this later, so I apologize for the choppiness of the writing and any errors... I'll try to work on it some more later.  And of course, also when the game progresses I'll add more!)

Monday, November 6, 2017

Rant: On Being Married to Someone Who Tidies but Doesn't Clean

Good afternoon everyone!  Time to start a new series (or rather, at least a new category or something) on my blog about marriage and ranting about life with another person.  Oh sure, there's plenty of those out there, and I'm probably going to throw out some wild accusations and ridiculously blatant "everyone does this" statement, so I want to preface this entire blog by saying -

These things happen in my life and I've heard a lot of the same things happen to other people too, but if this doesn't actually apply to you - ignore it - and be glad that you aren't one of those people my blanket statements are referring to!  Kudos!  You have fought the preconceived notions and have won!  Huzzah!

Meanwhile...I've been noticing some things about my own marriage and as I creep ever so closer to the ten year mark (and thankfully have overcome that dreaded "seven-year-itch" thing that our parents used to talk about) some of them have started to bother me more than others.  And not too long ago I read a short blog about women oftentimes drawing the short end of the stick on things.  I've had this discussion before and have had arguments about it and frustratingly brief moments where I've had to trash my entire rant because I've needed to re-word it.  This time I'm not going to talk about jobs and women in the workplace, but rather women and their lives at home.

First off - I don't have kids.  I think I've established that already, it's a choice my husband and I have made over the years through dating and marriage, and even though neither of us would stop a child from coming into this world, neither of us have encouraged it either.  That said, we do have four cats, and before you parents out there go - that's NOT the same! - I will beg you to remember that there are a lot of similarities even if there is a point where those similarities diverge and I won't even begin to argue that point.

I will say, however, that having cats is similar enough in some respects to having kids that I'm going to tell you about a story that has been happening over the last few months.  If you have kids, I'm sure you've had a moment or two like this yourselves.  Cats, much like children, are sensitive creatures, and if you throw something at them that is much too different for their little brains to comprehend, they're going to really throw you for a loop.

In this case, my "middle" child, Tenchi decided that he didn't like the scented litter that we started buying.  That's the long and short of it, but in reality we decided the house started to smell because some cat was peeing at the backdoor, presumably because of the outdoor cats that were peeing on the outside of said door.  So...bring up a litter box, and the peeing stopped happening except for in the box.  Huzzah - problem solved!  Oh, but the smell... so we changed litters thinking that it would be at least a bit nicer for our house guests not to have to smell cat pee every time they came into our home - and for awhile, everything seemed to go okay.  But then the pee started appearing again... EVERYWHERE.  Pee in the kitchen, pee in the living room, pee in the laundry room, pee on the COUNTERS...  And every day I'd spend an hour of my time tracking down the pee and cleaning it on hands and knees, and then finding MORE a few hours later somewhere else and it happened day after day after day, until one day I found myself sobbing inconsolably in the bathroom just not knowing what to do.  Long story short - we did solve the problem was the litter...but then the cat wanted MORE boxes with that litter, and in different places around the house...and we're still dealing with that annoyance, but at least it's not in the living room and on the counters!

Okay...so, what does this story have to do with marriage?

My husband, and I love him, I really do.... didn't clean up ANY OF THIS PEE.

He'll pick up the random hairball.  He'll even pick up random food pukes.  But he won't CLEAN any of it.

What do I mean by CLEAN?

I read a very interesting blog (as I stated earlier) that husbands typically will "tidy" but they won't "clean."  So when a man says "I cleaned" what he means is he's put two or three dishes in the dishwasher, but there's still those three pans on the stove still, or that crockpot soaking in the sink.  To him, "cleaning" means the minimum amount that needs to be done to, say, have counter space available again.  He won't see those three other pans or the fact that there are coffee stains all over the counter top.

Now...remember what I said before, men can and have bypassed this little quirk, and on the flipside, there are many women who do exactly as I explained about "tidying" rather than "cleaning".  So, please do not come after me with pitch forks and toilet bowl brushes...I'm rather speaking of my own personal encounters with my husband.

So, when I find hairballs around the house, I get down on my hands and knees with the Resolve carpet cleaner, I peel up the hairball, discard that, and then start scrubbing with paper towels at the stain that's now also on the carpet.  When I find pee - I get down on my hands and knees with the Nature's Miracle until I can't smell the pee anymore.  When I find a line of puke on the wood floors, I take out my soap and water (or Bona hardwood cleaner) and scrub until the spot is gone.

Example of my husband from yesterday:  "Looks like the cats spit up here on the floor."  He points at the spot I've been watching the last few days to see if he'll actually clean it up.

It's still there, two days later.

He picked up a hairball the other day.  Took me three days to finally decide I'd get down on my hands and knees and scrub up the rest that he didn't touch.

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This scenario plays out time and time again in our household.  A toilet will only get swirled with the toilet brush - but the bowl doesn't get wiped down, nor does the seat, the handle, or the back of the tank.  (And this usually only happens if we have guests come over and NEVER happens to our own toilet unless I've specifically asked him to do it.)

The dishes don't get completely cleaned and put away - there's always a pot left out, a spoon holder left dirty, a stove that needs wiped or counters with coffee stains, or some random clean dish left out - or a small bottle cap left a foot away from the garbage can.

Speaking of garbage, the whole house will only get taken out IF I ask, and there'll always be papers or other random things laying around the house that could have been thrown away too, but they'll still be left un-tossed after the garbage man has come and gone.

Litter will be cleaned out, and maybe the floor swept - but not behind the box, and no one's checked to see if there's pee on the wall behind the box or on the mat that needs to be cleaned up too.

If the lawn needs mowed, it'll be mowed - but maybe the backyard will be left for a few days or even a week.  But the trees will still need trimmed, the driveway swept, or large chunks left to grow longer than the rest.

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So, to my husband, he feels as if these jobs are "done" and I complain that they are not.  Because he has TIDIED and I wanted them CLEANED.  And oftentimes I'll hear, "well, you don't like how I do it."  Well...I asked you to CLEAN, I didn't ask you to "tidy up".  (although sometimes I will ask that when guests are coming over and at least they're tidy enough for company since I so thoroughly clean most of the time.)

And then he wonders why he finds me sobbing uncontrollably on the toilet after spending hours cleaning up cat pee.  "We'll solve it."  It's got nothing (or rather just a little) to physically do with the cat pee, but rather the hours he's spent playing on his computer game or watching TV or reading while I'm down on my hands and knees making sure the house doesn't smell like cat pee for the next game night.  Mind you, he did solve the cat pee problem mostly with buying the new litter and getting candles...but that was at most an hour or so of his time.

So...here's what I'm getting at - and let me know what you think because I'd really like to know what the answer is - how do I solve this issue of cleaning versus tidying?

       Should I just bear it with a grin and an eye twice as the stress slowly overcomes me until my anxiety suddenly over-runs my life and I have a nervous breakdown?

       Should I talk to him about it and just HOPE that he'll change his ways?

       Should I make a list of how to clean with all of the steps and hope he follows them?  Maybe my expectations are too high?  No...I'm not going to compromise on how well we clean the house or it'll degrade too quickly I just know it.

        Should I just stop cleaning and see if anything comes of it?  (HELL NO.... you should see the state of our toilet before I couldn't stand it any more today!!!  And the shower...EWWWWW)


So...how do I train him to see cleaning like I do?  Sure, I don't like it either.  Heck - if I could spend just half the time he does just wasting time when I'm home I'm pretty sure I'd be a lot happier of a person and I wouldn't have this facial twitch or so much anxiety that I literally can't move some afternoons because I just can't face the house looking like it does....  I can't stand the clutter, the mess, and I'm just happier when I'm not around it...but will that encourage him to help more?  But do so in a way that doesn't make me stress out more?  Can I teach him, but also be lenient enough to shrug it off sometimes if it's really not all that important?  A trash can left full for a week isn't a big deal... but cat puke stains all over the house is pretty embarrassing...  Maybe?

Well, that's what I have to say about that for now.  Maybe it'll make me feel better to get it out at least, even if no one reads it.  I just wish I could change him to see what I see... without him feeling that I'm being nagging and a grumpy wife who can't be pleased by anything.  I really do try to suffer in silence, but after 8+ years, with a terrible boss at work, all I want to do is come home and relax sometimes and not have to feel like I have to spend every day off cleaning the house that he's helped to destroy.... is that too much to ask?

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

A Bit on How I'm Feeling

     First off - no pictures, no stories, no how-to's, this is just me, needing to write something that's been on my mind for the last few weeks and trying to figure out if I should post it online for the world to read, or whether I should just keep it all to myself.  But, even though I've been writing about it in my journal, I'm not sure it's been enough writing, so I've decided to put it down whether or not anyone else reads this as I'm not going to just share it on FB like I do with some of my other blogs.  I may not even post it...who knows?
     I'm not sure if I have seasonal depression or not.  Typically I feel pretty good during the autumn months as the allergies are starting to lessen, the heat starts to dwindle, there's a bit more rain and I have a bit more to look forward to with cider, donuts, pumpkins and Halloween, and all of that usually makes me feel a bit more happy.  But this year it's been a lot worse than I remember and even though I usually get overwhelmed by the upcoming convention that we run, I'm also facing this terrible quandary.
     Mainly, this convention has been a part of our lives since I met my (at that time) future husband and even though he had full control over it, I let myself get sucked into this life and for awhile I really enjoyed it.  I had only a few different tasks to take care of and I got to see a bunch of people and for awhile that was enjoyable.  But even as I took on more tasks, I was never appreciated for it.  I did my best to do the graphics, get the program made, gathered artists to do the badges and got merchandise for the convention so people could take it home and remember that year.  But... I received so little thanks for it that it became a chore.
     Even though my husband really appreciated (and still does) all of the work I do for him, he won't stand up to his 'vice chair' and so I am still just the "chairman's wife" - sure, a few people know who I am, but even when I took over being the advertiser and getting a bunch of people to go out and post flyers, etc... the VC gave all of the credit to some other guy who doesn't even do a damn thing except try to sell ad space two weeks out from the convention after I've already got the program sent off to the publishers.  He's still called the "head of advertising" even when he literally has done...what?  I'm not even sure this year because I backed off and out of the advertising group entirely because I was sick and tired of not getting credit for all of the work I put in.
     Then there's the hours of time that I spent for the last some 8 years or so putting together the program to not get even one comment about the fact that I wasn't doing it this year.  No one said anything like "awww, but I'll miss the program" or "why not?"  Not even that... it sucks.  I put hours and hours into it every year to just see them thrown into the garbage or torn up and left on the floor.  So I said - nope!
     When we mentioned briefly to someone we might be quitting after this year, they said "oh, we'll miss you."  But not... "How ever will we do this without you?"  Would someone step up and continue on our jobs without us?  I don't know.  My husband worries that two things would happen - either the convention will crash and burn - or it would become more popular without us.  Both scenarios really freak him out...but I don't want to force him to quit if he doesn't want to....but I just feel like all of these years of my life have been wasted on this thing that no one will care if I just am not there in the future.
     So, what would I do with my life if I'm not helping run a convention every year?  I'm not even sure.  It's not like I'm actually friends with any of these people - I feel like they'll just drop me from their friend's lists eventually because the only reason I was there in the first place was because of the convention.  Will I finally make something of myself and do other things instead?  Could I actually do the craft show thing that I'd really wanted to do if I didn't have to worry about the convention?  What about going on vacation in the fall instead?  What about not feeling guilty that I'm avoiding doing work for a convention when I'm playing around on my days off?  Why SHOULD I feel guilty when not one flippin' other person who runs the convention actually feels guilty?
     I've been thinking about making the announcement ahead of the convention just to see if anyone actually cared to say anything to me.  But then again, maybe I'll just do it at the end.  Maybe I'll just disappear without a trace and go my own way?  I don't want to force my husband to quit because of me, but I'm just not happy anymore and that's not fair for me, right?

Well....it's all something I have to think about in the next few weeks.  I'm already in it for this year, so there's not much I can do about it right now - but I just want to feel better about myself.  I don't want to feel guilty for doing things that I want to do - or guilty for not doing things I don't want to do!  I'm tired of feeling depressed all of the time.  I just want to feel happy...you know?

So...maybe today, even though I still have things I have to do, I will instead spend my day for me.  Why not?  No one else seems to care about the convention or me except for my husband of course...  Maybe I should spend it decorating my house, cleaning up things and doing some shopping?  I don't know - the only thing I do know is that I'm tired of being the "con mom" now... the one who will "always be there".  I'd like to be more important I think... I wish someone would think that I was important.

I matter.

I want to believe I matter.

But I don't feel that way right now.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

What Happened Since May

      So....something happened in May after my vacation.  Or rather, maybe it started in June, a bit after my birthday?  I think that's probably about right.  I fully had plans in order to post more awesome things about the House on the Rock, thought I'd tell everyone about the story that I was writing - I'd gotten in over a chapter of writing, had a lot of ideas of where to go next and I was really on a roll with the spring planting outside too...
     And then my husband got into D&D (Dungeons & Dragons) and even though I'd played briefly back in the early 2000's, I really never got into it that much.  It was rather boring for me and really confusing and I didn't think it was something that I would get into.  But my husband bought a little figure in order to represent his character so I thought...no problem, right?  I'll help him paint it since I used to paint WH40K back then as well.  Who knew that a part of my life right after college would re-appear when I was in my late 30's?  So we bought some paint and I started my adventure in painting again but refused to play D&D myself...
     At first, of course.  I really just did the little blue guy in the photo, and then told my husband he was kind of on his own because I might help paint but I wasn't going to play, my schedule really didn't allow for it all that much anyway.  But then his friends asked if I could paint some of their minis too... so then I've got another one under my belt...then some monsters, and one afternoon I got dragged out and played my first round of D&D after some 15 years.... and it wasn't terrible.
     I think it's a bit less confusing now that I could write up my own character, had a book to look at (instead of my boyfriend in college just writing up a character for me) and then I ended up going to the local gaming store and buying a figure for myself...JUST in case I were to play again, I didn't want to borrow someone's figure to represent my character.
     Skip forward about a month later and suddenly I was buying up all sorts of figures after having painted some for my friends (even a paid commission!) and I bought a few just in case we were ever to play ourselves, and my husband had talked briefly about running a campaign himself since it sort of interested him.  Also it would allow our DM some time off for a week maybe if we ran a game ourselves once in awhile.  Meanwhile, I painted up Ellabee (the purple figure as well as the green, I couldn't figure out whether bard or fighter was more my style honestly).  And I got to play her in a few more games but then she sort of got sidelined when something unexpected happened.
     During a moment of chuckles reading something on my phone at work, I had a co-worker sort of perk up wondering what I was laughing about.  I mentioned the fact that I was starting to paint figures for D&D and that I'd played a little.  She was totally into the idea of playing herself as she'd never played before.  So a few days later we gathered up two more people interested in playing and I was freaking out because I'd never actually run a campaign and I felt that it was up to me to do it.
     So, on a rainy afternoon I picked them all up after work and we went to the local gaming store for some dice and figures, wrote up the characters and then I DM'd for my very first adventure.  It was pretty shoddy really, had a very short and quick storyline and some items to collect and a couple of monsters to defeat and I really didn't know what I was doing exactly but I'd jotted down a map and I think everyone had fun because at the end of the night they were already planning on the next night we could get together!
     Since then, my life has been eaten up by gaming... mostly.  Also the ridiculous amount of tomatoes that came out of our garden that I had to can and eat and make into all sorts of delicious sauces and salsas.  But anyway, for a good month or more we met once a week to play games and I got really excited and into it, picking up all sorts of monsters and painting them and getting ready for the next week's campaign and we finally got out of the original town that we'd spent the first three levels on and I started heading my party into the "big city" where things have halted temporarily since we had vacations to get through and recently I've had my convention to plan for again.
     We did...however, have a week where my husband ran a short campaign and I got to use a new character.  The image to the left is our little adventure this week, trying to get a dragon's egg from some guy and having a group trying to steal it from us after we'd just gotten it.  I'm still semi-confused what happened there...but it was fun and I got to play a new Warlock character I'd written up and it was amusingly amazing to not be behind the screen for once.  Don't get me wrong though, I really miss being the DM now that it's been about three weeks since our last game - we'd plowed through playing during the first gal's vacation, but the subsequent weeks it's been nearly impossible to plan since her schedule tends to be opposite of mine and I was covering her as well.
     So.... since then this has been my life.  I have most recently been working on the graphic designs and merchandising for the convention, but we're going to be doing another get-together next Friday so I have to start writing up the next campaign to get us back going again.  I have more figures to paint and things to prepare for during the week.


-----------------

    In other news, during my journey into playing D&D and DMing, I've been watching a lot of videos and listening to things online.  I ran across Matthew Colville who's been playing since he was a kid and had some really interesting information about running games which I've been super into.  My players, however, have been listening to Critical Role.  My husband listened to some of the Podcast from time to time and when we'd go on long road trips he'd played some for me but I really couldn't quite get into it.... my players though were completely falling for the characters from CR and it really just boggled my mind...
     But as I did a bit of sewing tonight (Halloween curtains for the kitchen...I'm weird) I was listening to the most recent one and realized that it's so much roleplay and not as much actual action and fighting that I kind of think I know why it's boring to me...it's a story that has very little advancement because it happens in real time unlike a standard story.  It's interesting when you're there playing it... it might be amusing...but since I'm not the one playing it, it's sort of 'meh'.  But I do remember the appeal of listening to voice actors when I was younger.  You forget where you are when you hear this voice of a character you know...suddenly you're in that show and you're engrossed in the world.
     Maybe it's because I'm older?  I've been there - done that?  Don't know.  But I thought I'd just make a note of this since it's been on my mind lately.
     




Wednesday, May 31, 2017

House on the Rock: The Carousel Collection (part 1)

The Carousel.
So, unless you live in the Midwest or you've read Neil Gaiman's American Gods, you may not have heard of "The House on the Rock" (HOTR) which isn't far from the city of Dodgeville in Wisconsin.  It was built by a man by the name of Alex Jordan, and since there's so much information on this guy out there, I won't go through too much.  Just know that they don't call this place a museum, they call it "The Attraction".  And when you start watching YouTube videos and looking at images of the place, and learning some of the secrets about it, I'm sure you'll start to see why it is definitely an "Attraction."

The largest part of this attraction, one that brings quite a few folks there (including myself) is the "world's largest carousel" (or at least it used to be, I haven't looked up to see if there's any with more than the 269 animals on this one).  What's odd is, unless you're a carousel enthusiast as I am, you may not find it more than a curiosity as no one (at least except for Neil Gaiman) gets to ride it, it never stops turning, and there isn't a single horse on it.

Okay...so that's one of the first lies they tell you, as there are actually dozens of horses on the carousel - they're all cleverly hidden up at the very top where you can't see them except in the darkness, their shadows and an occasional feather peaking out from a hole cut into the ceiling in the upper catwalks.  The miniature horses are hidden by a carpeted overhang that hides the upper workings from view, and were probably produced en masse by the workers at the HOTR.  You will see similar miniature horses on the doll carousels, but more about that in a different blog.

The second reason that 'there aren't any horses' on the carousel is that many of the strange and wonderful creatures started off as horses at some point.  The most obvious ones are some of the zebras, but then nearly all of the centaurs and other oddly mixed creatures were either created by mixing other pre-existing ship's figureheads with horses bodies or they were added by the staff.  The most bizarre of which I believe are the twin "knight" centaurs who have bodies of women and helmets on their heads, but the eyes under those helmets make them look like strange, expressionless aliens.  Maybe Alex thought everyone would be looking at the breasts on these things rather than their faces.  Even one of the employees commented that he was "very particular about getting the proportions right" on the female bodies...didn't quite care about the rest apparently.

The rest of the animals are either real carved animals from other carousels that Alex collected over the years, or carved by the staff (the bulldog is featured in many of the shop's many souvenirs and I haven't been able to find out any information about it).  Or some of them may have even been duplicates and replicas.  I saw quite a few Dentzel animals on the carousel including cats, rabbits, bears and ostriches.  There's no real way to tell which ones were the 'real' animals and which are copied, as I'll show you here in a moment, because all of the real animals were stripped and painted in the "Alex Jordan style".


Plaques in the Welcome Center.
 In the Welcome center, you'll find some of the other information about the carousel.  It speaks of Alex deciding to build a carousel, collecting up hundreds of animals and horses and then ultimately deciding not to put the horses on this huge carousel but only animals.  It vaguely mentions that the base of the carousel came from one he purchased and then modified to the six plus row carousel.  (I say "six plus" because some smaller animals are added outside of the outer row standers, plus it moves so fast it's hard to count!)  The information you read here is all you'll pretty much find except for a random small plaque lit near the carousel itself that mentions how many animals, how many lights, and what year it was installed.

If you try to research this carousel, you'll actually come up with a lot of very strange blanks.  I was actually pretty surprised that all of my carousel resources have virtually no mention of the machine, even of it being fabricated, it's just simply not there.  I tried posing the question to the group to see if maybe someone had a hush order put on it, or perhaps they just didn't see it as a "real" carousel.  People commented on wanting to "see it" or "I love looking at it when I go to HOTR" but no one had any information on it!

Thankfully I did run into one helpful staff member who worked at the house when he was a teenager and remembered a few details that the displays didn't mention.  He said that it was a carousel bought from Detroit, MI and that it originally had only three rows.  Some of the animals even used to go up and down at one time.  He said he would be sent on errands by Alex with a large sum of cash to go buy up as many carousel horses and animals as he could find.  He also mentioned hours upon hours of stripping paint off of the garish carousel horses.

There's even a mention briefly in the welcome center's files about an "artist" named Mark Miller who created the style of painting for the carousel.  The fellow we talked to said didn't paint but had learned to dowse the horses in paint stripper and work layer upon layer off.  So the staff put in a lot of man hours into this thing followed by hours by the artists like Mark.

What I find is odd though, carousel websites don't even mention the restoration efforts of Alex Jordan's staff anywhere either.  It's rather a whole huge 'shush shush' thing.

Possible Parker carousel horse circa 1900's.

This horse sits between the welcome center and the hallway that leads down to the "attraction" itself.  Not quite sure what type it is, (my first gut instinct said Parker, but I'm not professionally trained on identification) and you can see that it most likely is missing a real tail (although some on the walls still have real horse hair tails) and there was some repair work done to it before it was painted.  You can get a good look at the detailed painting that went on here.  I really wish there would have been a better record of the painters and artists who worked at HOTR as they were pretty decent restorationists even at a time where that was only just becoming a thing.  Many horses like this one would have been carted around to various carnivals all over the country and would have been beaten up pretty badly.  For a horse to have been restored even to this level would have taken hours of labor.

Well, maybe the reason this carousel isn't mentioned anywhere is it's really impossible to tell except for in a few odd instances whether the animals are real or all replicas.  The carousel never stops spinning and the horses that hang on the wall around the room are too far up to touch.  There are a few smaller animals that are touchable (for photos) and they are definitely replicas as a knock on them gives a nice hollow sound that's more plastic than wood.  The only other reason I seem to think some of them might be replicas is the sheer sameness of them.  The two in the lobby as you walk in to buy tickets are nearly identical.

 Obviously they are painted differently, but look closely, besides the tail being in a slightly different position and the forelock coming up on one and not the other, almost all of the other details that separate them are painted on.  I'll post another further down that has similar features to the white and black horse to the left here.

Dentzel replicas in the lobby.
This is the best introduction to the "Alex Jordan" style carousel horse.  They are by all restoration standards, pretty perfect.  As mentioned in the plaques above, they were painted black to start, then lighter shades are applied in coat after coat.  I'd imagine it was sort of a 'dry brush' technique that I'm familiar with in doing miniatures.  The white horse you can see more of the black and you can see how the mane stands out on both.  Doing it this way, the bridal and saddle stand out even more because of their bright colors.  Many of the horses that are on display, even ones hung high up in the rafters almost impossible to see, have quite a few details painted on them.

I think another reason this technique was used is because of the way that Alex lit the "attraction" as everything is dark, light mostly with red or hardly at all.  When lights shine up on these animals the colors appear even brighter, casting dark shadows on them.  Of course, in daylight they look beautiful as well, and I'll post a few that are kept well away from most eyes that still have a ton of work put into them.

Admittedly, much of this is conjecture as there really aren't a whole lot of people left from that era who worked with Jordan and I really didn't get to talk to the worker there a whole lot since he only knew as much as what he remembered as a teenager.  Most of it occurred in the 1977-1980 time period, and the carousel was opened to the public in 1981.

Christmas Horse.
 Here's the reason why I have doubts on the complete authenticity of the carousel horses at the HOTR.  As you can see from the next two horses, they too (even the pegasus that had wings added) are the same carving as the one above.  Most likely they are all from an original Dentzel carousel horse (the top knot and strong features being my reason for thinking so) that Alex duplicated and then they just decorated the horses in a handful of different styles.  He must have liked this one a lot otherwise, why would these standers be unique in that they didn't ride the carousel?

Pegasus in the hall of innovation.
Not only are these four from the same mold, there's one to the left of the "Christmas Horse" to the right, as well as almost every single standing horse figure on the carousel itself (including three or so centaurs, another pegasus and another made into a unicorn) are all these exact same mold.  The centaurs are unique because they later added some extra armor or cut off their heads, but you can still see the rings and ribbons on the body and the tail is in the same position on all of them!

I'm fairly certain that just one of these animals are the real one.  Heaven knows which though!  Perhaps it doesn't even exist anymore, having been molded into oblivion.

It's entirely possible that there is a Dentzel carousel workings under the lights and weirdly shaped animals.  There aren't any "missing" carousels we know of from that period that came from Detroit, but there was one from Missouri that they lost track of in the 1960's and it had menagerie animals on it.  But, there's no way to tell as all of the outer panels have long been stripped off of the carousel.  Perhaps within the meticulous notes kept by his accountant there's mention of it, but I doubt that anyone would be allowed access to them to find out for sure.

Since I took hundreds of (oftentimes fuzzy) photos of the carousel itself, I found myself attracted instead to some of the ones that didn't make it.  Or maybe they were just more copies?  One that hangs near the plaques that talk about the carousel is one of the Dentzel cats.  These two are more examples of identical copies and at least for the one below that reside in the cafe area for you to climb on, they are most likely both fiberglass.  There are two or three more on the carousel itself.  Usually they did come in pairs but as you can see, the carvings are exactly the same.
Dentzel cat reproductions.

I got to sit on the one below as there are a few different animals that are "touchable".  At the time I didn't think much of it but I did tap it to see if it was fake and heard an obvious hollow sound when tapped.  The other animals in the room were quite possibly the same.

There is one other cat on the carousel that seems to have been carved by someone else, but I haven't been able to figure out whether it was by an 'original' carver or not.  There doesn't seem to be many other carvers who added cats, but quite possibly as the plaques mention, it may have come from Mexico or Europe.  I don't have a clear picture of it unfortunately as it was about three rows back and you get a one second glimpse of it before its whisked away around the machine.

Another odd creature you'll see throughout are dragons.  There are a few of these on the carousel as well, but none of them are "original" by any means.  If they were original at some point, it was only in the form of the carousel horse (or more likely hippocampus which is part horse part fish) body.  Look carefully at these two dragons and you'll see the horse hooves, saddle and collar are both the same.  The tails have been added and so have the trio of heads.  They're at least uniquely different and even the wings are subtly different in the two dragons.  The top dragon is in the welcome center and the other is in the hallway leading down to the attraction.  One dragon is more European and the other more Asian in detail.

Dragons in Welcome Center and Walkway to the Attraction.
The dragons on the carousel itself are different still from these two.  One is a copy of another I'll be speaking about below, and another is just a single headed dragon with a tail like the one below but larger wings.  I'm actually surprised that more of these dragons were not on the carousel itself, but perhaps they wanted to use these as show pieces.

A few other animals were treated like that too, as you'll see below, these animals are similar to ones on the carousel but have special features.

"Hidden Santa" St. Bernard.
Besides the cats and horses there are quite a few other animals that reside off the carousel.  The first is a St. Bernard, which I believe is at least initially from a PTC carving.  I'm not entirely sure as even though it says "1890" it was most certainly a repaint.  The worker pointed out that this one was painted to have a "hidden Santa Claus" in the front above the collar.  Do you see it?  Santa's beard is above the collar, his face is brown and the tongue of the dog is his hat.  Don't worry if you don't see it...I don't really either exactly although my husband said he saw it right away.  I feel like it was a "happy accident" and the imagination of someone who spent far too much time in the carousel room with the loud drums ringing in their ears!

Touchable Wolf in Cafe.
Another odd figure was this wolf that you can find in the cafe area (with the Dentzel type tiger behind it identified by the way it's whiskers form a straight line between nose and neck).  I haven't seen unusual wolves like this one before as the only one I've seen was a more recent carving and the neck and muzzle looked a bit less oddly proportioned.  It could be that this was one of the original carvings they procured or made for the carousel (there is another like it on the carousel itself, I think...it seems to be three or four rows back).  I have considered whether the creators of some of the more unusual and strange creatures created this wolf and the squirrel below.

The squirrel is one of the strange hidden gems in the carousel room.  It sits behind a horse an near a donkey that moves its head next to the St. Bernard.  I don't have a good clear shot of any of that however as the corner where the squirrel was almost pitch black.

In all of my research though, I have found no information on squirrels, although it's quite possible to have come originally from a kangaroo sculpt.  The way the feet sit on the ground and the elongated neck and slightly long ears give that clue.  However, they re-purposed it to hold the acorn and have a large, fluffy tail.  It's an odd sculpture though as it looks sort of 'off' and uncompleted, more like it was created with clay or something other than wood.  The underbelly looks almost like you can see the base of the kangaroo tail.  Perhaps it's hidden in this corner because of those defects.

Hidden Gems covered in Dust.
Above the squirrel to the left is a carousel horse that was oddly in one of the darkest corners of the place and I felt rather sorry for it.  Later on I took a picture of it from above.  (Please excuse the mermaid breasts in the photo...meant to crop those)  As you can see, even the horses hidden away in dark corners have tons of detail painted on them (lots of flowers usually) but kept in the dark I guess they don't think to dust them very often.  I think they must clean them sometimes because otherwise there would be a bunch more dust after 30 plus years!

Dentzel Bear and Goat.
Other carousel horses have much of the same treatment as this one you see.  Even when they're hanging high on the walls in the rooms above the carousel and in the adjoining doll carousel rooms.  In the picture on the right here, you can see the horses hanging above this the forgotten one on the floor.  There is also a Dentzel bear hanging there as well as a mermaid (there are quite a few mermaids scattered throughout as well as centaurs). Well, maybe I was wrong about dusting...  The camera flash really shows off the details of the horses, but also the dust!  I feel rather sorry about these poor souls hanging out on the walls being glimpsed only briefly by those people walking through the attraction.

I'm fairly certain that many of these horses were replicated too, but I haven't pinpointed any for certain yet after perusing the pictures for awhile.  Maybe these jumpers (inner row horses typically and moved on the polls up and down) may actually be originals.  Although some of them seem to barely be hanging by wire which might mean they're lighter than the typical wood counterparts.

And even though I am aware of their being European centaurs, they almost all were of a certain war hero and not a cowboy like the one you see to the left, or the pirate above the mermaid!  Most likely this was a copy of another centaur and changed to look more recognizable for Americans.  Others similar but different are spread throughout the carousel itself as well as our goat friend at the bottom.  You can see him from two different angles in the photo above and to the left.  He's a typical Dentzel (again) and the only difference from him and the ones on the carousel itself are the ones on the carousel have exaggerated horns that are almost twice as long.

Here's a peek at the other animals that aren't on the carousel (I particularly liked this photo since you can see the drums and ridiculous angel mannequin.)  To the far left bottom you can see another one of the Dentzel rabbits.  There are two more on the carousel as well as one that has a carrot in its mouth that I can't find a carver reference that matches it.  There is also a rooster and a kangaroo.  If you notice the features on the kangaroo (I wish I had a clearer shot of it) you can almost see the squirrel having come from this particular carving.  The face is almost the same, and then if they had added sloppy details to the collar, you can see where it may have come from.

PTC style dragon in the circus building.
As mentioned above, there was one other type of dragon on the carousel and that's this PTC dragon.  The Philadelphia Toboggan Company created quite a few dragons for their menagerie machines but often they were too scary for young children and not too many people bought them.  This one isn't very scary with the softer, horse-like features and it even has front "hooves" which distinguishes it from other maker's dragons.  I have a photo of one in a book I own and the tail and hooves are identical.  As you can see in the background, there is also another tiger like the one in the cafe.  Behind it resides a lion, an ostrich and a camel, all from other carvers.

Mark Miller's Initial White Mare.
I haven't even begun to show pictures of the actual carousel itself, that is just how massive this collection is!  I will show shots of the carousel itself in part 2.  These horses just come out so much clearer since they weren't constantly in motion.

The unfortunate thing about all of this, is since there isn't any information on these horses online but for what has been published by the house and a few authorized biographies, there's not much about the artists behind the hundreds of horses.  The only name we have is Mark Miller, and there was only one small nod to his name in the horses themselves that I could find as I'm unsure if he signed any of them, this white mare on the left has a very distinguishable "M" scrawled on its saddle blanket.  I wonder perhaps if this artist was tired of them calling the painting the "Alex Jordan Style" and rather it should have been called the "Mark Miller Style" as if he did most of these horses he must have been painting non-stop for quite a few years.  I think, rather, that he may have developed the style, taught a few skilled painters, and then perhaps finished off the detail work on some of them himself (like on the white mare).  Some of the fine flowers and other detailed paintings on the sides of the horses look like they were done by the same artist.  A few had the feel of other artists, but they all had extensive paint jobs done on them that would rival any carousel you see today (minus a few of the exceptional restorations that have been done).  It's just a pity that they hang upon black walls, mostly hidden from sight, collecting decades of dust.

My theory is, if the HOTR were to ever close down, there would have to be a serious consideration by the carousel horse collectors and auctioneers as to which horses were real and which were reproductions as well as what the significance of the paintings done to even the reproductions would have on value.  The market might be flooded with "fakes" that were painted beautifully, or it could be flooded with real carousel horses that were restored beautifully.  It's really quite hard to tell.  I do hope that the HOTR will stay around for many generations, but things looked a bit bleak as most who worked there were well into retirement age and it was fairly quiet the majority of the time I was there.  Would the carousel collectors be excited to see this collection out?  Or would something terrible happen to all of the hard work, either distributed out all over or destroyed by time if it were to quietly shut down and just get closed up as is?

It's a question I hope not to live to see the answer to, as I would really hate to see "vidoes of the shut down HOTR decay..." start showing up on YouTube.  I'd also wonder though, if finally the carousel would be brought out into the daylight and whether carousel enthusiasts would finally decide that they could talk about the horses and animals there.  Maybe the taboo of not talking about it would finally change if collectors started looking for the "Mark Miller/Alex Jordan Style' painted creatures.

In Part 2, I will be sharing some of the less fuzzy photos of the carousel in motion.  I hope that if you enjoy carousels as much as I do you'll come back when I post them as well!  Please pay a visit to the HOTR as it's a good way to spend an entire day and discover some of the things I won't even be posting here!  Thanks for sticking with me to the end and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed putting this together to share with you.


 (Disclaimer:  The proceeding article was written by merely a fan of the HOTR, and I'm not making any money off this blog and am using this merely as conjecture and to share it with others to hopefully get more interest in this awesome place!  The images were taken not for professional purposes but for my hobby and the handful of people who actually see this blog.  The photos are not for sale nor print, they are just to look at and you can take some of your own if you go yourself!  In fact, PLEASE GO SEE THEM YOURSELF!  This place is is awesome, even if you just go see the second/third section to see just the carousel horses, you'll be well rewarded.  I'd love to be able to share this with more carousel enthusiasts and maybe we can finally get more information on this awesome place.)



Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Rant: Equal Pay and Unpaid Labor in the Household

     So, for those of you joining me for the first time in this blog, welcome.  I've done some edits since I posted this rant this afternoon as I had some of my friends really throw me for a loop by saying I was "dead wrong" and it caught me off-guard.  I should have known that I'd get more of the same arguments that I present here in the rant below, but I didn't think I'd get them from so many of my more liberal friends.  Well, I guess a lot of people have fallen into the same beliefs that so many conservatives have as well.
      The problem is, many of us Americans have put blinders on our eyes to those outside of our circle of friends, family and acquaintances.  We stop looking at those around who have it worse than us.  We lay blame on the innocent because WE managed to get out of the situations that I'm talking about below, but there are many, many others who cannot all over the world.  If you are reading this, you obviously want to know more about the wage gap and unpaid labor, and I've changed my approach in writing this article to include links to other articles that I read which spoke of these issues within the last few years.  I have also included a more recent link to an NBC article that speaks of Unequal Pay Day on April 4.  Unfortunately, the new administration is tearing down many of the advances we made to shortening this gap, and if you don't believe it, then please go on your way because you're too closed-minded to take what I have into consideration and I really don't need more negative feed back. (Constructive criticism and valid articles are welcome however.)  I've had enough of that as a woman all of these years as it is.  I probably wouldn't have gotten the lashing I got this afternoon if I'd been male.  And now, my "rant"....


Equal Pay

     "Equal Pay Day" happened on April 4 this year.  It's how many days a woman would have worked into the next year to have made the same amount of money as a man the previous year.  If you want to read more on it, visit this article: NBC NEWS ARTICLE: What is Unequal Pay Day?  I hadn't done enough research up until today to know the true meaning of it, or had even known it existed until April 4.
      On that day, an acquaintance on Facebook posted and article and then dared all of their liberal friends to call them out on the 'fallacy' of unequal pay.  The acquaintance was male, which I sort of expected, and he called out one of his friends who was a very outspoken, liberal female in order to counter him.  She didn't, except to say that that unequal pay actually existed.  I was a bit more outspoken, but only after reading comments left by other females pointing out just how "ridiculous" it was to say that there was inequality in wages.
     I was far more surprised at the females saying that "of course I make as much as a man" and just how many blamed other women for not making as much or not working in the same fields so it was a woman's fault.  WAIT ONE SECOND.... What?  So even women have fallen for this lie that it's a woman's fault.  If she's not making the same amount of money as a man, it's her fault.  So if a woman and a man have the same job but she's not making as much, it's her fault?
     So it's a woman's fault for choosing a job that she can do for less money and that she should go out there and get a job that pays more.  It's her fault for not choosing a better job.
     Even though when I was a child in the 1980's people said "you an be anything you want to be."  But when they put a list of jobs down in front of me, never did they say, "Well, if you really want to make money you should go into a technical field rather than go into retail."  They didn't list jobs that went to men typically.  When I went to school they never said that going into engineering or the sciences was the way to go.  I was given a list with typically "female" oriented jobs like nursing, teaching or child-rearing.
     But it's 2017!  Find a new job!  You say this to me as if it's really "that" easy.  To get into those technical jobs, the ones that pay a whole lot of money it means spending a bunch of money that I just don't have, and I'm considered "middle class".  Put yourself in the shoes of a woman who is considered lower class.  Where would she get the money to go into school to get into one of these technical jobs?  What if she has children?  I researched a carpentry technical school earlier this week and found that I'd have to wait until the class period opened, then apply to a bunch of jobs, hope one would hire me, and then also find time to go to classes 40 hours a month.  If that woman has children and a household to upkeep with a husband who also works 40 hours, do you really think that she would have time to get into it?

     Before you start going all Sigmund Freud on me, please stop reading into this article as me being unhappy with my pay.  Sure, I'm unhappy, but for different reasons than the pay-gap.  I make more than all of the males that have worked with me because I have seniority and I'm good at my job.  But I did the same job a few years ago and made almost $2 more an hour until my boss screwed me over and dropped me to a "keyholder."  And like those women who keep saying "it's your fault for not doing more" - no, no it wasn't my fault.  I have a crappy boss who also had a crappy boss and they played favorites.  She's still trying to get me to step down because she doesn't like that I challenge her.  But that's another story for another time.

     Thankfully in America as of just last year, the pay gap has shortened.  Women are starting to go into more male-oriented jobs.  Men are starting to go into more female-oriented jobs.  Problems still exist with discrimination in those jobs, but I'm not here to talk about that.  There are plenty of really interesting articles on the subject including one from a man who switched his name's with a female co-worker's for a week and found himself shunted because of how men treated him thinking he was a woman.  So go read them if you like.  I'm very proud of the females out there who can really reach out and get a job and become a CEO and such.  At least they're driven, outgoing, motivated and making a name for themselves.  But, there ARE fewer company CEOs that are women than men still, and until that gap narrows a bit more, we're still looking at about $0.83 to every $1.00 that men make.  And yes, 51% of that gap is due to a difference in job types.  I won't deny it.  And I'm sure the children that are being raised now understand that they don't have to become nurses and teachers right...?
     There are a whole lot more articles about that online you can read about how low income and lower educated children make up a big chunk of those people who are sitting at the bottom of the workforce.  Can they make it big for themselves?  Doubtful.  They're in school districts who have a huge disadvantage when it comes to training them to be ready for the technological world they're living in right now and it'll will take a whole ton of motivation and a whole lot of luck for them to pull themselves out to get on that track.  Females in the lower education areas still believe that they are nothing without a man, oftentimes they'll marry young, have kids and never finish education, very few will ever go anywhere in their lives.  Would they want to?  Yes, most likely, but would they have the training to be able to do this?  No.  Without a proper education the world is closed off to them and they don't even know what could be out there for them.  That saying of "what you don't know can't hurt you" is actually false, because many of these lower income families hurt by not knowing that there's a bunch more out there.  And it's even worse in other countries.
     My own, personal experience growing up in a relatively low-middle class neighborhood surrounded with middle-to-upper class kids made me realize some things as an adult.  Yes, I was able to go to college, yes, I could have done a whole lot more to have advanced myself, but I was completely unaware of the disadvantages of the direction in college I chose.  Neither of my parents had completed any upper education so they were completely unaware of the challenges that would face me.  For them, those who went into college automatically became successful.  It doesn't happen like that anymore, but for many, we have the internet at our disposal and we can learn things about the world and jobs.  I for one would have told my past self to have at least gone into business classes if I wanted to remain in retail.  My parents never would have thought in a million years to suggest that, not because they wanted me in a 'woman's job' they just didn't know.
     Again, I can see my own, personal failures and I know how to fix them.  But because of mental problems: anxiety and depression, I have problems doing anything about it.  I've persisted and I've told myself that I need to either be happy in my job, or I need to do something about it.  And besides those poor and uneducated, there's a whole lot just like me who have it even worse to the point they can't even get a job because the world never prepared them for how cut-throat it is to "make it big".

     For now, that's all I have to say on the subject of wage inequality.  I honestly need to learn more about it, but I think it's unfair to lay 100% of the blame on women for not making as much as men.  The inequality exists and it should be addressed at the very least in raising children so that they can make educated choices on what they want to do and not let gender be a deciding factor, whether they are female or male.
   

Unpaid Labor in the Household

     So, as I thought about it this afternoon after getting bombarded by negativity this afternoon, I wondered if this topic was a completely different subject from Equal Pay.  But I still felt that it played a part, and after doing some research on the topic, found I'm not all that far off in my understanding.  I just needed to tweak my wording better to explain my feelings.  Apparently I'm not the only one who believes that the wage gap has something to do with unpaid labor in the household, but I just didn't quite have the phrasing down.  So if you're actually interested in unpaid labor, please read the following two articles from a bit over a year ago:

NY TIMES ARTICLE : 2/23/2016

THE ATLANTIC ARTICLE: 02/16/2016

     To summarize the articles: women spend more time doing unpaid labor than men do.  By having to spend more time doing these unpaid tasks, they have less time to do paid tasks like working full-time jobs.  Thus, there is more of a pay-gap because these women spend more time taking care of households and children.  They also spend less time doing leisure activities than men do.  The Atlantic article actually shows this unpaid labor gap via a graph in various countries around the world and how much time is spent by women versus men.  In most of the examples, women do more unpaid work than men.  Read it if you don't believe it.  The gaps may have shortened in a year, but I doubt that it's shortened enough to be significant.

     Do I believe that my time is spent doing more chores than my husband spends at his leisure?  HELL YES I DO.  Okay, I've got it out there.  It's true.  Am I angry about it?  Sometimes.  Do I want to spend more leisure time myself?  Heck yes.  But I've also seen what my household looks like after I've been sick or thrown into a pretty bad bout of depression for a week.  Do I want to live in a pig-sty?  No.  Is it my husband's fault?  Yes...and No.

     One of my friend's this afternoon pointed out that I was kind of passive-aggressively pointing out my unhappiness with my husband in this rant.  (Not those exact words but let's tell it like it is, I sort of was.)
     Since I moved out of my parent's house, I have had a lot less time to do things that I would call "leisure."  I'm pretty sure there are plenty of women who find themselves in the same boat.  We have household chores to tackle because we were raised to take pride in our homes.  I know there's a bunch of women who are probably the opposite (and probably a lot of men who would rather have a cleaner household and spend more time cleaning than their wives do - so I won't discount them!)  And I'm sure there are plenty of households where both parties are either slobs or both of them like cleaning.  I'm at a disadvantage in some cases because I know I could just lay off chores for awhile and do what I want to do, but I was also raised to keep a tidy house and I also have terrible allergies which means I'll be sick if I don't do these chores on a regular basis either.  My husband was raised in a rather more lax environment where cleaning was done when necessary and he doesn't see chores the same way I do.
     That's not to say that I don't believe he doesn't do enough chores, but I do believe he spends less time on those chores than I do.  He cooks, he does dishes, he takes care of the cat litter, he takes out the garbage, cleans the toilets on occasions and will do other chores that I ask of him if I remember to ask him to do them.  When I do those same chores, I tend to spend more time doing them because I do them more thoroughly.  Some of the chores that we both shared once I have taken over entirely because I felt that he wasn't doing them to my standard.  Am I complaining about it?  Yes.  Do I believe that by complaining it will fix all my problems?  No.  Do I believe that he can change overnight to do them the same? Nope.  No-Siree.  Because many men like my husband don't see chores the way I do.  The few extra minutes that I spend scrubbing that toilet means I don't have to do it for another week, but that quick swish he does means we'll be scrubbing it a few days down the line.  I take pride in my chores as a job well done.  He sees them (I think) like a hurdle he has to over-come the fastest way he can to get onto other more enjoyable things.
     Am I going to let it get me down?  No.  Will I complain about it sometimes?  Heck yes.

     Just like so many other women who deal with this problem, we make our own beds so we have to lie in them.  That's just how it is.  But should it be this way?  Probably not.  I argued that the USA is still a Patriarchal society.  Does that mean that men are the majority?  No.  It just means that men have the advantage.  Do all men take that advantage?  No. I'm proud that my husband isn't one of those, but for a very, very long time in the USA men did (and still do in some cases).  Men have the advantage of still being the 'bread winner' because they can't have children, so the wives have that privilege.  Women were raised to do the chores and men were raised to do the work and then spend their time off at their leisure.  Let's be a bit more specific - in a Capitalistic society like ours, the men make money by selling things, the women spend the money by buying food and necessities for the home.  Do women spend more money than men?  Yeah, but we're buying things for the home and for children.  That doesn't mean women are better off or make more money than our male counterparts, men just don't have as much of an interest in shopping than women do.  We don't run the country though...white men do.

     Where am I going with all of this, you ask?  Why am I bringing all of this up in the rant on equal pay?  Well, someone called me out saying that the time spent on household chores shouldn't be brought into the pay-gap. (I did math and everything comparing if we did get paid for all of the hours we spent working paying and non-paying jobs which figured into about a $3/hr difference.)  Sure it's not like I can say to my work that they need to pay me more because I spend 20 hours a week on chores and my husband's not spending the same amount.  But I do think that I personally have lost a lot of the drive that I used to have before I had a house and chores to do.  Is it my fault?  Yes.  Did I chose this?  Mostly yes.  Is this rant all about me?

No.

     Just like with finding a job, women need to be taught equality at a young age.  But in this case, I think men need to be taught equality in the home at a young age.  I see it all over my neighborhood where the girls do chores but the boys rarely do anything.  IF they do chores, they get paid for them (like walking the dog, taking out the trash or mowing the lawn) but the girls rarely get paid for the chores they are given (washing dishes, setting the table, tidying a bathroom).  There are more articles about if it you want actual numbers associated with this.  Truthfully I was raised equal to my brother on how much money I received versus the chores I did, but it wasn't always equal between my brother and I, and I recognized the unfairness in how we were raised.  Boys and girls both must learn what it takes and learn to share responsibilities for a family equally.

     For those of you reading this who actually do share all of your chores and uphold the same cleanliness standards - kudos!  I'm glad that you've actually broken out of the cave-man era.  But for those of you who have not, do you ever think about how our ancestors basically screwed us over by perpetuating the myth that women must be homemakers and men breadwinners?  I do.

     Let your knowledge become an empowerment for men and women alike and teach them in the ways of equality.  Stop ignoring that it's not there because you don't personally see it in your own life or in those near you.  It's there.  You just have to open your eyes to look for it, and then realize that you have the power to at least try to make sure it ends with you.

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     Before everyone goes Freudian on me again, I want to point out that I completely re-wrote this rant because I was numb and depressed that my "friends" were so harsh in their arguments against what I said.  I did research and I still stick firm in my beliefs that women and men are treated unequally in many respects still today.  HOWEVER....  Before you start saying that there's some underlying reason behind me writing this, STOP.  My husband is loving, decent, and kind.  He and I share our lives and we balance our chores and work accordingly.  Am I jealous of his free time?  Of course I am.  Could I do something about it?  Possibly.  But would I suffer for that change in lifestyle?  Most likely I would for awhile until I could settle into it.  But would he allow me to do it?  Of course.  The only thing that is stopping me is ME.  I recognize that, I do not blame my situation on my husband.  I blame much of myself for suffering with anxiety and depression which I could control with medicines, but I hate to become dependent upon them.  I'm also very introverted and I would much rather be a follower than a leader.  I have pushed myself out of my comfort-zone many times in order to try to break out of this mold, but when you have problems in your life that hold you back, it's a very slow process.
     The fact that I write this blog is my way of spending time at my leisure doing something I enjoy to do.  I LOVE writing.  I went to college for it.  But I've been constantly side-lined by friends and family for years.  When I said I wanted to write in High School my guidance Councillor said "you should go into teaching instead".  When I wrote a novel and showed it to my mother, she read through the whole thing but she gave me very little feedback or praise.  I pursued writing in college and had many professors say I should continue writing.  I wrote a ton during my college years, but when I looked for opinions on my original writings from friends and family no one wanted to take the time to read all of it and no one encouraged me.  When I wrote fanfiction I got tons of encouragement but realized I couldn't make a career out of it and tried to go back to my original writing and got no where time and time again.  Did I allow myself to stop?  No.  I've been writing every day for 20 years.  
On a more personal note:  (FYI: swearing will begin in 3 sentences...)

     But out of that 20 years I keep getting slammed by my friends and family.  I get no encouragement from them.  When I write pieces about things that interest me they either get completely ignored or slammed for being wrong.  Well.... FUCK YOU.  I'm writing what I believe and if you disagree then STOP DAMN READING WHAT I HAVE TO WRITE.  Stop cutting me down like I'm a stupid-ass woman who knows nothing.  I'm sick of your lame attempts to correct me.   If you are my friend then you should consider what I have to say and then give me your opinion (with proof if you have it) and we'll discuss it in a nice, civilized manner.  Otherwise just don't say anything at all because you're not my friend if you're just going to slam me down.
      I really don't need the kind of negativity that I got in my life today when I posted something I wanted to rant about.  It's my feeling and my opinion on it, and if you don't like it, then maybe you really don't know me enough to call yourself my friend either.
     
     I'm going to keep writing, whether you like what I have to say or not.  Thankfully we still have free speech...at least for awhile.