Bits and Whatnots

The Enchanted Forest

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I’ll be vending at this event in June, so stop out and see me at my Hooker Shop! I’m hosting a book signing there as well, if you’re looking for an opportunity to pick up a signed novel.

It’s always the scent that strikes me first.

Turkey legs, deep-fried pickles, chicken sandwiches and so many other delicious treats are being prepared for the busy day ahead. The aroma drifts on the breeze and mingles with that of leather and incense and fire and trees and dirt and I can taste the beauty of it all on my tongue as I walk in from the lot.

I’m hitching up my long, bright skirts and dragging my wagon filled with goods as I step through the side gates. To my left is King Henry’s camp and the group is sitting around a fire, cooking their breakfast as they murmur about yesterday and make plans for the day ahead, laughing as they begin to eat. Their tunics are tossed over the ropes that square off the boffer fighting pit (No. I won’t tell you what a boffer is. You’ll just have to come find out for yourself.) The stunning and ever-present white husky stretches out on the ground nearby, their blue-eyed guardian.

I step past the Pirate Captain, smile and nod good day to her as I continue down Gypsy Lane. Through the woods I see flames twirling through the air, and know the Fiend Fyre Charmers are lighting up for their act. Further down, the Gypsy Raqs are practicing a dance on their wooden stage, laughing and elbowing one another in jest. Merchants are opening their shops and we wave to each other and remark on the weather as we go about our work. Around the corner, I hear Sir Dan neighing for a snack or a pet on his noble brown head. Children of the cast and vendors are running up and down the lanes, half-in, half-out of their costumes and giggling furiously.

The trees whisper, rustling in the breeze as they reach for the sunshine above.

Sounds are becoming louder, rowdier; the music and laughter and voices blend into one harmonious melody as I turn to look out of my shop.

And – like Alice down the rabbit hole – I’ve fallen into an extraordinary new world.

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It’s 11 a.m. and the gates have opened. Guests sweep in, some in costume and some in street clothes. Long, beautifully crafted skirts swish against the packed-dirt paths. Small children run, squealing to meet the mermaid or the Fairy Godmother. Evil Queen Lilith rubs her hands together, cackling hideously as she chooses the victim of her next spell. Gypsies gracefully shake their hips in time to music, twisting their bright scarves in the wind. Faeries Bloo and Pixx twitter their secrets to the Pied Piper while Klemm Flemm the Troll guards his bridge with a riddle. Oh! And look! Queen Anna and her court have arrived! (Quick! Curtsey!) Oh my! Is that….Prince Charming over there visiting with Pucker-Up Polly? Nelly Newsworthy will have fun with that little bit of gossip!

Down the lane, I can hear the blacksmith explaining his trade to interested passer-by. Guests stop to admire pirate hats and swords, medieval gowns and hand-fashioned jewelry for sale. Some take a crack at spinning wool on the old wooden wheel in the Viking Encampment.

I hear the faint strains of a harp in the distance.

It’s another time, another place. It’s fantasy come to life.

It’s the Mid-Michigan Renaissance Festival, and it’s pure magic.

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Mid-Michigan Renaissance Festival originated in 2008, the brainchild of Vincent and Toni Knoll and two other partners. It is held in a beautiful forest where the roots – pun intended – run deep: this land has been in Toni’s family for well over one hundred years. With the help of many hands from both Toni and Vincent’s family and the Renaissance family, the woods were prepared for the magic to begin.

The first festival was held in October of 2008, and by 2010 Toni and Vincent had become the sole owners. In order to take advantage of steadier weather conditions, they decided to change the festival to June. Heartbreakingly, in the spring of 2011 Vincent became ill and just two days before opening day and at the far-too-young age of twenty-nine, he passed away. Vincent was a big guy with a generous heart, and before he passed he asked his mother to take his money and make the festival the best she could. Knowing how much Vincent hated the noise of generators in the woods during Fest, she used his money to install electricity in the forest. In this and in so many other ways, his memory lives on.

Now, about the festival – what’s so great about it? Oh my friends, I could go on and on. You like food? They’ve got food! Delicious, mouth-watering food! Stop by the Black Dragon Inn for turkey legs and soup bowls, Hickory Hut will be serving up their award-winning barbeque, and the Golden Gryffon Pub will be offering beer and wine as well as entertainment, such as the Pirates and Wenches band.

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Once your belly is happy and full, stop by the various vendor shops filled with marvelous eye candy. From silversmith to stained glass, crocheted creations and beautiful jewelry, renaissance garb and leatherwork, you’ll certainly find something that strikes your fancy. As you’re strolling along the beaten path, pop over to one of the psychic and wellness vendors to learn what mystical secrets are in store for you.

The first time my family and I attended Mid-Michigan Renaissance Festival was the summer of 2011. We were thrilled to find a reasonably priced, family friendly festival so close to home. Walking in, there were signs at nearly every vendor shop paying homage to Vincent Knoll, who had just passed away. My soul was deeply touched to think these people from all different walks of life — many not even local – would stand together to show such respect for this man. But as I’ve gotten to know this little community better, I’ve come to realize they are more than friends, and more than just co-workers. These people have formed an extended family of their own, and this relationship only heightens the easy familiarity between cast members and merchants. Combined, it creates a welcoming atmosphere that draws guests right in to the Ren Fest family. At this time, Toni is the legal owner of the festival, but there are many others who own it in their hearts.

My family: Ren Fest family

This year, the festival will be held the last three weekends in June, and each weekend will have its own theme. The first weekend, June 14th and 15th will be Fantasy and Steampunk, June 21st and 22nd will be Pirates and Wenches, and the last weekend, June 28th and 29th will be Viking and Gypsy weekend. Please keep in mind that just because there are themes doesn’t mean you must adhere to them, or even that you are required to dress up at all – just come out and have fun!

The sun is bright, the breeze is sweet, and your imagination is waiting.

Won’t you come join us?

Just remember…if Evil Queen Lilith catches you and begins to chant, it’s better to just close your eyes and wait until the spell has been cast. You’ll never get away from her….muahhaha.

Further information regarding admission, merchants, and entertainment can be found on the website at http://www.midmichiganrenfest.com.

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Bits and Whatnots, Grief

New Year, New Me (and other things I won’t be doing).

THAT day has come. That one day we all sit down and decide on our goals for the New Year, maybe even write them down to keep ourselves on the straight and narrow. We’ve come through half of Winter by now, and see Spring just ahead of us, a time for new beginnings. We’re going to lose weight! (No but for real this time!) We’re going back to school! We’re putting in for new jobs! Cleaning the attic! Organizing the basement! Helping the needy! Sewing all our own clothes! Composting! Recycling more! Running a marathon! Everything! Everything we’ve ever wanted to do in life, here it is! Right in front of us! Every thought requires an exclamation point!

It’s all there! We just need to reach out and grab it….we’re right on the cusp of…….

Nah. Nope. I’m really not.

I’m not doing it this year.

This last year has, quite likely, been the hardest year of my life. Last year on New Year’s Eve, I was looking ahead to spring, to fulfilling my resolutions, to marking To-Do’s off my bucket list. I spent New Year’s Eve with my family, and looking around our home, I was filled with hope, and pride, and ideas, and…..and well, just that sense of New-ness, of wiping away the year before and focusing on gettin’r done in the coming twelve months.

And then.

And then that bright, shiny New Year knocked me flat on my ass.

We started the New Year with my husband very unexpectedly losing his job. It seemed like that was just the beginning of a downward spiral, a dirty snowball of Fate getting fatter and fatter as it flew down the hill of 2013. Before we even caught our breath, there was an accident – my sister-in-law and nephew spun out of control on an icy road and a pick-up truck DROVE THROUGH their tiny car, slicing it in half. Our hearts collectively stopped for a beat of time, until we knew the two of them would be okay. Not the same as before, but alive, and that meant all the world. We stopped to breathe deeply. My sister and I cried together in the Emergency Room, and hugged each other as we waited for our sister-in-law to come out of surgery. Again. And again. And again. We talked about the exciting news in my sister’s family: her first grandbaby was to be born in July. Due to be born the same week as Royal Baby George, we laughed and said her little grandson would be the best thing in the year, the one special thing we could look forward to. We loved the name that had been chosen for him, and we talked about how he would be chubby with blue eyes, maybe, and long lashes like my nephew. We made plans for the baby shower, and sometimes during our talks, my sister would reach back and rub her shoulder. She said she’d slept wrong, maybe, or pulled a muscle when moving out of her old house.

March 1st, the baby died. Our family was heartbroken. My sister wept and wept and the pain in her shoulder worsened. She wasn’t sleeping well, she said, she was so upset about the baby, and sad for her son and his girlfriend.

In April, we learned the shoulder pain was a mass in her lung. She was so afraid. We all were.

I would lay awake at night and think, “I can’t lose my sister. I can’t lose my sister.” I would read, and watch television deep into the night, but the phrase kept repeating.

In May, she started chemo and radiation. There were complications. Things went bad. Quickly.

Her long and beautiful hair came out. Her weight plummeted. She seemed confused. And then one day, she couldn’t get out of bed.

That foul disease had metastasized. To her other lung. To her brain. To her bones.

And in the blink of an eye, my beautiful sister, my only sister, was gone.

I never imagined we could survive it. Every day I woke up and thought, “This is the day the world will stop,” because I simply could not imagine it would keep going without my sister in it. For so long, my only feeling was a blessed numbness, a surreal feeling of limbo. Days came and went. I shoved reality away. I filled my mind and days with nonsense. Anything to keep busy, to stop myself from thinking.

Somehow, life went on.

My husband changed jobs again.

There were new medical diagnoses and decisions about treatment plans for some of my children.

I started a new semester at school, but apathy quickly overwhelmed me. I quit attending one class three-quarters of the way through the semester, and utterly failed the other one. I haven’t even checked my grades yet, but I know there will no longer be a shiny 3.9 in my G.P.A. spot.

I don’t understand why I don’t care anymore. I just don’t.

One of my mom’s best friends died. I called her “Aunt” all of my life, and when I dropped in at the funeral home, I felt an odd hollowness in my belly, as if a chunk of my childhood had been somehow yanked out of my memory.

I started a new job. Within just a few months, I was injured and am still off.

The physical pain coupled with the emotional pain leaves me so exhausted, I wish I could just sleep and sleep and sleep.

I force myself awake because I have a family and I want to be there for them. I know they are still hurting, too.

But I have a hard time really feeling present, regardless of what I’m doing.

I want to do something, anything, that will make me FEEL.

But that would require effort, and I am quite tired.

Life keeps moving forward, and my children seem to grow older by the day.

It looks like there may be another job change on the horizon.

Changes keep coming. We keep adjusting. Sometimes my eyes overflow with tears and I don’t know why.

Last New Year’s Eve, I would never have imagined everything that would have transpired in the coming months.

That’s probably a good thing.

Still and all, there were some good things. I crossed a few items off my bucket list.

In 2013, I was excited to publish my first and second articles.

I started this blog. Having a regular reason to write has helped me keep my sanity.

I found a Super Awesome Someone willing to edit my book.

The creations I design were accepted at a Renaissance Festival, and I had the pleasure of dressing as a pirate wench, and sometimes as a gypsy, for an entire month last summer as my friend and I manned our “Hooker” shop…..hookers o’ yarn, we were.

My husband and I celebrated 20 years of marriage.

I learned people, even total strangers, will give and give and give if they know there is a need. I was blown away by the support and love shown by others when my sister was ill.

My oldest child began her Senior year of High School.

I’ve reconnected with old friends and made some new friends (including a Wicked Witch, some Giants, a few Gypsies, and a crew of Fire Flinging Belly Dancers…..WHAAAT? YEAH, I KNOW PEOPLE.)

I survived both the Mid-Season Finale of “The Walking Dead” and Icemaggedon 2013.

I learned my heart can be ripped from my chest, and I won’t die.

Knock me on my ass? I might stay down and nap for a minute, but I WILL get back up and keep going.

So, nope. I’m not making any New Year’s Resolutions this year. I’m not even making plans.

I’m just hoping.

I hope I wake up every morning and get out of bed.

I hope our marriage grows stronger.

I hope I don’t miss the changes in my children a year will bring.

I hope my Mom is still around next year on New Year’s.

I hope I get a few steps closer to publishing my book.

I hope I graduate in May.

I hope the physician I am waiting to see can fix my back. I hope I don’t need surgery.

I hope I don’t hear the word “Cancer” again. AT. ALL.

I hope I can help someone who needs it.

I hope I never forget to say, “I love you”.

I hope I have the opportunity to publish more of my words.

I hope.

I hope that in 2014, I no longer feel numb.

“Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes.”

A million years long.

A blink of an eye.

Poetry

“Faire, Faire, Baby” (My Ren Faire parody of Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby”)

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“Faire, Faire, Baby”

(Yes, you may share this. No, not without my name and link attached to it. I would seriously LOVE it if one of my Ren Faire friends would pick this up and actually perform it! 🙂 )

STOP!! Pirate up, and listen!

Faire is back, casting auditions!

Smokin…holdin’ on tightly

Joustin’ on horses, manly and knightly!

Never gonna stop

Yo….ho, yo ho!

Pull out your swords

And let’s go!

If you got a problem

Take it to the King

Once you get it settled

Join with me and sing

Faire, Faire, baby

Bum bum bum bada bum bum

Let’s go to Ren Faire, baby

Bum bum bum bada bum bum

There’s dancers

Swingin’ on stage

Hands to yourselves, boys

(One’s underage!)

The Queen’s Court

Bow to the Crown

On hands and on knees

Get your nose to the ground!

And mermaids

Splashing their tails

Better not touch

You might end up in jail!

There’s pirates!

Sailin’ on ships

More belly dancers

Swingin’ their hips.

If you got a problem

Take it to the King

Once you get it settled

Join with me and sing

Faire, Faire, baby

Bum bum bum bada bum bum

Let’s go to Ren Faire, baby

Bum bum bum bada bum bum

There’s Scotsmen

Kilts sway in the breeze

Hitch it up higher

And give us a tease!

This days hot!

You know what we need?

Slip to the pub

And order some meade!

There’s witches!

Casting and chanting

Corseted wenches

Breathless and panting.

It’s Sunday!

Rest in the shade

Cannon’s gone off,

Time for cast to get…….

………………

Paid.

If you got a problem

Take it to the King

Once you get it settled

Join with me and sing

Faire, Faire, baby

Bum bum bum bada bum bum

Let’s go to Ren Faire, baby

Bum bum bum bada bum bum

(More verses may be forthcoming. Stay tuned!)