Keep Calm…and Don't be a Jerk, ok?

Author Archives: Bri

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, which as I discovered yesterday is a desirable way to write Blog posts according to the “slow blogging movement.” (google it, it’s very interesting.)

I’ve been thinking about the internet, and facebook and sharing and living. We live in a time of unprecedented information and access. Especially if you live in the 1st world. It has never been easier or faster to find and get online. Quite a few people have the internet in their pocket via the smartphone. (myself included.) I love the internet.

I distinctly remember not having it as a little girl. We may have had dial-up,  but that was mostly so mom and dad could check their e-mail..I think. Us kids had a few simple games we played via floppy disc, and later CD-Roms, but that’s about it. I distinctly remember turning 13 and sitting down with my Dad at the computer to create an e-mail address. (horseychic@juno.com) I don’t remember who or if I e-mailed anyone in those early days, but it was a huge step in my book. Now I had an e-mail address, now I could do stuff online! And I did, I made all kinds of websites with freewebs, I learned all about Ireland intent on becoming an Irish citizen. (Even going so far as to look up the legal requirements to become a citizen. My plan was to marry an irishman, that seemed the easiest route.) We got highspeed internet when I was about 11. I had a Xanga blog, and a Myspace. I didn’t get my first cell phone until I was 16, and it was a tracphone, I could play snake on it and make really quick phone calls. I got a facebook account when I was 18. Oh how things have changed.

So here’s the thing about facebook, I hear and read a lot about how facebook is bad, facebook is addicting, facebook is a lie, facebook  invades your privacy. People who spend time on Facebook are avoiding reality, setting unrealistic expectations, etc etc etc. This all may be true for some people. But those people will find things like that in their lives facebook or not. I for one love Facebook, I am delighted that I live in a time where keeping up with friends and family is as easy as clicking a button, I’m delighted that Facebook allows me to share aspects of my life that no one would see otherwise, it is a wonderful tool. Yes Facebook shares your information with advertisers…but uh. that’s nothing new. Everybody does that, it’s part of being online. Who cares??! Assume as soon as you go online companies are collecting information, and then using that information to create new products. So what? They have families to feed too. There comes a point where you have to accept that A. our lives are not very private anymore, B. Nobody actually really cares what you’re doing most of the time. If you want to share lots of boring vacation photo’s, do it! Someday you’ll look back on that and be glad you did. Facebook is an instant scrapbook.

Facebook is a time-suck, yeah if you don’t have any self-control. Facebook isn’t making you stay on and read your newsfeed, at all times you wield the power to close your browser and turn off the computer, don’t blame facebook because you can’t quit. Facebook users avoid reality. Maybe, but not anymore than anyone else browsing the internet, playing video games, or watching movies, or reading books. That is one of the most beautiful things about the internet, it allows us to step outside of ourselves, outside of our small lives and tiny towns and become world travelers, to become scholars, and artists, it allows us to explore our creativity, our spirituality, our sense of humor, our taste buds. It challenges the way you see and interact with the world, it brings the world together in what is all at the same time a small but infinite space.

I get really tired of reading/seeing articles and posts about the evils of facebook, the evils of the internet, the evils of photographing your life. Urging people to ditch the internet and live in the real world, condescending to those of us who value Facebook and the internet. (Though ironically all these articles about “unplugging” are online…) Everything in moderation. What these articles are addressing I think is a personal disorder, the inability to self-discipline, which is not a problem for everyone. If you have a touch of common sense and self-control I think you can handle being online.

This is why I use Facebook, why I don’t mind putting parts of my life online; Ever since I was girl I thought it to be quite important to document my life as a normal non-famous human being for my children and grandchildren, for future historians. I’ve kept an irregular journal on paper and online since I was about 13, with the intentions of passing it on to my children. (When I do research about these people who’s houses I interpret in the summer, who’s lives I represent, I would LOVE to be their facebook friend). Facebook, the internet, journals, photography, the computer, all of these things allow me to store my life experiences, my memories out there in the wild world so some day when I’m gone my Grandchildren and Great Grandchildren will still be able to get to know me. They will feel a connection to something bigger than themselves. I have always had this strange strong sense of connection to both those who came before me and those who will come after. So before you think of Facebook and the internet as the big bad wolf, think about the future, think about the historians of 2213, is it really such a bad thing that humanity as a whole is able to capture life and living in these moments of history? I think not. And I for one will continue to share, post and upload these bits and pieces of my life.

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“To make possible true inner silence, practice:

Silence of the eyes, by seeking always the beauty and goodness of God everywhere, and closing them to the faults of others and to all that is sinful and disturbing to the soul.

Silence of the ears, by listening always to the voice of God and to the cry of the poor and the needy, and closing them to all the other voices that come from fallen human nature, such as gossip, tale bearing, and uncharitable words.

Silence of the tongue, by praising God and speaking the life-giving Word of God that is the truth, that enlightens and inspires, brings peace, hope, and joy and by refraining from self-defense and every word that causes darkness, turmoil, pain, and death.

Silence of the mind, by opening it to the truth and knowledge of God in prayer and contemplation, like Mary who pondered the marvels of the Lord in her heart, and by closing it to all untruths, distractions, destructive thoughts, rash judgments, false suspicions of others, vengeful thoughts, and desires.

Silence of the heart, by loving God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength, loving one another as God loves; and avoiding all selfishness, hatred, envy, jealousy, and greed.”

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This post, like my last one has been percolating in my head and in conversations with my husband, a close friends. My intention is not to open a can of worms, but to try to understand and articulate my thoughts on this aspect of humanity.  So please, read only with an open heart and an open mind.  I have given a lot of thought, done a lot of research, and prayed about writing this. I feel strongly that I cannot be quiet, nor can I stand by while such hatred and judgement is passed out in the name of God. I write this from a place of love, I write this from the place of a faulty imperfect person, I am trying (and probably failing) to write this without passing out judgement on those who believe differently than I. But write this I do, because I have to stand up for what is right, what is true, what is love, what is kind, what is good.

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This whole thing started last week when my cousin wrote a post comparing the Sandy Hook shooting to abortion. More or less stating that it wasn’t right for the country to mourn the Sandy Hook victims while abortion is still legal.  This was the first I’ve heard of this parallel being drawn, and after much research have since discovered that this idea was created and is being perpetuated by the pro-life movement. This idea bothers me. The Sandy Hook shooting was horrible and tragic. One man chose to take the life of 20 children and their 6 caretakers. ONE MAN; took the life of 26, and then his own. Why should the president be condemned for offering his prayers, his tears, his desire to protect these children? (Who were loved, and cared for.) I commented that it’s not fair to compare the two. Abortion is a deeply personal decision, it is made by the mother alone, it is made before the child even draws it’s first breath. I said it’s not fair to use the Sandy Hook kids as a political platform, not while their families still grieve for them. And so began my interesting journey into the ongoing debate of pro-life vs. pro-choice. You are welcome to pop over and read the disappointing “discussion” that ensued from that comment. The only answers I received were non-sensical, non-relevant, non-bending. I had hoped for a more intelligent debate, but this was not to be the case. So off I went to do some research!

This has been a very enlightening journey, to be fair I scoured websites from both sides. I looked up the bible verses most used by pro-lifers to support their side. Pro-choice doesn’t  tend to quote the bible. Nonetheless I reviewed those biblical principles of faith upon which my beliefs rest; and found confirmation that we are not meant to perpetuate such condemnation upon others. Also in my research I found interesting information supporting the biblical value of the woman over that of her unborn child, and the lack of solid biblical footing these Pro-life folks have.

I have to be honest, 100% of the official pro-choice websites are professional, well documented, provide information about everything from safe sex-ed, adoption, raising it on your own, abortion. They are full of stories of women (and men) who each made their choice. Not all of them choose abortion. Contrary to what the pro-lifers would have you believe. Women make these decisions for a HUGE variety of reasons. They come from all walks of life, they are all different ages, races, tax brackets. NONE of them took that decision lightly. But they are all glad to have had a choice. There are many stories from older women who remember the days before abortion was legal. Stories of botched illegal abortions, of women who died because of physical complications with the pregnancy that could have been saved with an abortion, stories of women who died having tried to do it themselves with a coat hanger, stories of women who were shamed, scared and abandoned. These stories should scare the crap out of any woman, or man who has loved a woman. Making abortion illegal will not stop abortions, it will simply return us to the dark ages when women are not trusted to be responsible for themselves. (By the way, 95% of the pro-life websites I visited were disorganized, full of hateful phrases, and full of stories of well-off, well-supported (usually married) people giving their deformed babies a chance to live. Bless them for sacrificing their lives for the child, but not everyone is lucky enough to be in such a stable environment)

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So here’s my questions for the pro-life crowd. You say that we are alive from the moment of conception. Until that baby is born it CANNOT survive without the mother. (Unless we get into test tube babies, which I assume you are against)  So for 9 months the mother must give of her body, blood and emotional spirit. Would you be so cruel as to ask the rape or incest victim to be reminded daily of the sex she was forced to have? Have you no compassion for the pain and un-love she is already feeling? Should we not comfort and console her, let her know that she is not alone, and if she does not have the strength to carry on she won’t be forced to? I’m sorry, but carrying and giving birth is a deeply physical and emotional experience, it shouldn’t be done just for the sake of it.

What about the women who have done everything to prevent a pregnancy through contraception. (which I understand you are also against.) You HAVE to understand that the reality is, people have sex outside of marriage. They just do. They always have and they always will. Just because YOU believe it to be wrong, doesn’t mean that everyone else does. Rather than condemn these “whores” (as some of you have so kindly called them) the loving thing to do is make sure that they are safe. Provide them with a solid education, tell them about STD’s, about pregnancy, about birth defects, give them the tools to make smart decisions. Teach them how to properly use contraception so if they ARE going to have sex, at least they can protect themselves from infection  and pregnancy. This goes for the boys too. You say these women are whores, but last I checked a man has to be involved in order for a girl to get pregnant. Shouldn’t you be teaching your men to be good and honorable, to stand by their women no matter what? (Interesting enough, according to the U.S. Census men ages 15-44 have an average of 5 sexual partners. Women; only 3. Who’s whoring it up again?)

Speaking of men. How can you expect a woman to care for and raise a child all by herself? The sad reality is that a lot of these men leave the women they impregnate. Heaven bless the woman that has a good support system of friends and family in place that would help her raise the child; but she is not the majority. Many of these single mothers rely heavily on government assistance in the form of welfare, food stamps and public housing. The very programs that you protest against. Angered that your tax dollars would go to help those in need. Is this not the very thing that we are called to do? To help those in need? And all those women upon whom you forced motherhood will desperately need help. Why should the young woman just starting her life be condemned to a life of poverty, of struggle? Her children condemned to be raised on crap food (food stamps hardly cover healthy food), without their mother around much, with no father, with no money for college. Most single mothers work multiple jobs just to make ends meet, a lot of them don’t get the chance for a higher education. My mother-in-law raised my husband on her own and she worked herself nearly to death doing it, he spent much of his childhood alone. It is by God’s grace that he turned out as well as he did. You who are so adamant that these children be born, yet abandon them as soon as they are.

“Well there’s always adoption!” you say. There are thousands of infertile couples who want babies. Have you ever looked into the adoption process? It is long and arduous and EXPENSIVE? Who the hell is getting all this money the parents fork over? (truly I don’t know. Many parents cover the medical costs of the woman, but that doesn’t add up to the total sum of money they ultimately pay to adopt a baby) Adoption may be the choice for some women, and bless her if she has the strength to do so. But I ask you this, if there are so many eager parents out there, why are there still 420,000+ children in the foster system? Because they had the misfortune of getting older. How selfish to only adopt babies. The children who are already in the system desperately need the love, care and stability that most of these hopeful parents claim to offer. There are still people old enough to remember orphanages. (Which still exist in the world) big huge buildings full of children who have no mother, no father. Do they not desperately need our love?

My beef with pro-life is this. It is unrealistic. It is based in religion (which means resulting laws force those with different beliefs than yours bow to your beliefs. How can you ask that of someone when you will not do the same?) It is condemning, judgmental and unloving. If you are against abortion, that’s fine. Don’t get one. But until you have walked in another’s shoes you simply CAN NOT understand what she is going through. If you’re so hell bent on forcing these babies into the world, please tell me what you plan on doing to support them and their mothers? (Truly I would LOVE an answer to that question!)

Pro choice does not automatically mean abortion. It means that each and every woman has a right to unbiased information on all her options. It means that women have the right to sex education, to contraception, to have access to inexpensive female health procedures (Like pap smears, and yearly exams) They have a right to be treated with respect, love and dignity no matter what road they choose to walk. You can not choose anyone’s path but your own.

It saddens me greatly to see “christians” behave in such an unloving manner. You claim to believe and live by the bible, but what of our New Testament calling? The greatest commandment is to love God, and to love one another. (Matt 22:37-40 & Mark 12:28-34) To not judge lest we be judged by the same standards, to not condemn lest we be condemned? (Matt 7:1-6 & Luke 6:37-38)  To forgive men their sins so that we might be forgiven of ours. (Matt 6:15)

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We live in a broken world, we are all flawed and imperfect. You may not agree with abortion, but you have zero rights to force that belief on anyone else, nor to make them feel ashamed or afraid. We are called to love. That’s all. When we are perfect sinless people then we can throw the stones. But until then unless you will speak from a place of love and support, shut up and leave those poor women alone. You do not know what storm they walk through.

I welcome any and all sides to comment, but please, be kind, think about what you are saying, use proper english, and remember that the world does not revolve around you.


This post has been percolating in my thoughts for some time now, trying to figure out how exactly to put it into words.
We are products of our surroundings, if you live in a big city, then you tend to think and act in ways the city requires. If you live in suburbia, the country, etc. The people you choose to spend time with and the community you get involved in all have an impact on you. I grew up in a home where you went to church every sunday. You just did. There were church people and non-church people. I am thankful for that solid foundation, it went a long ways in teaching me to stand up for what I believed in, regardless of what those around me believed. In these last few weeks I have come to a few conclusions. I left the church, I’ve talked about that. The western church does not work for me. It does not fulfill me, restore me or do anything to draw me closer. I gain my peace, my faith from sitting quietly in the land, being by the water or amongst the trees, spending time getting to know all the different animals and plants, to be in the fresh wild air among Gods creation. That is what restores and renews me, to spend time with the Creator in His land. I believe there is a Creator, that He can and does and has provided for us, I have learned and am learning how to use and give thanks for the gifts he has given us, to show respect for his plants and his animals, for the rocks and the water. I no longer believe that I MUST go to church every Sunday and read 2.67 chapters of the bible everyday, I think the western church has made Christianity a chore, and laden those chores with guilt and judgement. There are many for whom the church is a good and a healthy thing. But not for me, not anymore. I am not a Christian. I am a child of God, the Creator. If you need me I will be outside in this breathtaking land He has blessed us with.

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Every summer we’ve had little traditions, places that we go and things that we do. This year we have a couple camp chairs, and a picnic basket. So we go down to the beaches and sit in our chairs and have our picnic, and never do I feel so blessed, as I do in that moment. This island can eat souls alive if you let it, but if you stop for just a moment to bask in the breeze, in the natural world, it can just as easily heal souls. I left the church about 5 years ago now, because I did not see Love. God said to love Him, then to love each other. The end. If you do that all the rest of it falls into place. In the last few years as I strive for this, God has given me peace about everything. If you watch the news, and listen to the doom mongers and naysayers, how easy it is to wallow and despair, to live without hope and without love. But that is not what we are meant for. There is evil in this world, I don’t deny that, but importantly there is Love.
My first thoughts when I heard about the Colorado shooting, were oh my gosh! How terrible for the victims. Then, how terrible for the shooter. We should pray for him too, that he would know Love. So to put forth my humble 2 cents, it is not about gun control, it is not about violence happening no matter what rules are imposed. Rather it is about Love. It starts with each one of us, being love.


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Rob and I go down to the beach in front of our house almost every night. It is our way of winding down at the end of the day, and time to spend with each other away from screens. Now I would consider myself a nature enthusiast. I ADORE going out into the woods and learning about the plants and the animals, I like to identify and learn the story of as many plants and critters as possible. Down at the beach I spend a lot of time watching the birds, there are a few mallards, a couple and a single mom with 5 ducklings. There is also a lone merganser, and the usual seagulls. There are few other birds which I haven’t identified yet, though lately they’ve been perching in the trees by us. I think they’re watching us watch them. A few weeks ago we were heading back home, and as we passed by the quiet little pond tucked in the shore, I heard an odd clicking sound. What on earth could that be? It was past dusk, nearly dark. So of course I had to investigate! As I crept closer to the pond, I saw a small black shape sitting just in the edge of the water, a little closer. Holy Crap! That’s a beaver! I was stoked. When he realized I was there he started doing laps back and forth along the shoreline waiting for me to leave so he could continue his meal.

Ever since then, when we go down there I always look for the beaver. Beavers are monogamous, they leave home when they’re about 2 years old in search of a mate and a place to settle down. I was a little worried about the beaver in the pond here. How was he going to meet any lady beavers when he’s all they way over here on Mackinac Island??? Just a few nights ago, we were heading back home again from our spot, and of course stopped to look at the pond. There were TWO beavers!!! Holy double crap! That’s fabulous. We watched them swim about their pond gathering up food and the like. At one point one of them was on the shore and the other one came up from the water and they touched noses for a moment or two before resuming their work.

Beaver’s are known for their work ethic, they spend most of their time gathering food for the winter, building and maintaining strong dams and lodges out of logs, sticks and mud. Though if there’s a good site for it, they will also burrow into the bank of their pond or river. Which I believe is what our beaver’s have done as there’s no evidence so far of a lodge. They are one of the largest rodents and can grow on average up to 60 pounds, though there’s been records of bigger ones! They are herbivores and their diet consists mostly of leaves, bark, roots and aquatic plants. I’ve seen the Mackinac beaver’s traveling along the shoreline with whole branches. They have a hard time moving on land, they sort of waddle around. But in the water they are incredibly graceful and can swim up to 5mph. Their large webbed hind feet propel them through the water, their big flat tail also serves as a rudder. They can also hold their breath for up to 15minutes and have a special clear eyelid so they can see where they’re going, their fur is naturally oily and thus waterproof.

Fun fact, beaver’s are second only to humans in their ability to change and manipulate their environment.

this is a picture of the giant beaver dam in Canada, that can be seen from space… now this was not the work of just 2 solitary beavers. There were many involved in this, but just imagine what they could do if they had our resources!

I love beavers because they are fascinating creatures, however I also have a vested interest in them, since it is because of these rodents that I have a job and a beautiful place to live.

huh? you may be thinking. Well, let me tell you about it;

The fur trade began in earnest in the 1500’s. Felt hats and other garments were very fashionable in Europe. Beaver very quickly became one of the most valuable as it was being turned into the wildly popular beaver felt hats.

This is a beaver felt hat, notice how shiny it is, they feel like velvet. The top hat shape was one of the last shapes of the hats, becoming popular around the turn of the 19th century. What does all this have to do with my job?

I happen to live where once there was a thriving fur trade community. The Mackinac area was settled by traders who established trade with the Natives, and shipped them out from here to Montreal (then later New York), and from Montreal their came more trade goods with which to acquire more furs. It was in search of these furs, in search of the fortune that they brought that much of the northern U.S. was explored and slowly settled. The historic downtown buildings I work in represent the era of the height of the fur trade here on Mackinac Island, in the 1830’s right before the trade crashed. (Silk hats became vogue, beaver hats were old news) In the Biddle house, Edward Biddle was an independent fur trader who did very well for himself and his family. We have the American Fur Company retail store. The AFC was owned by a man named John Jacob Astor who was a German immigrant and an excellent business man, he made his fortune in furs, over 3 million dollars in furs passed through the island in the early 1830’s. (This is in addition to the fur trading he conducted from the western coast of the U.S. with china) Now Astor never came here to the Island, he ran his empire from New York and if you account for inflation, he’s richer than Bill Gates. (He also had the great foresight to buy the realty that is now Time’s Square, and sell at the right time.) It was his grandson who went down on the Titanic by the way. (Fun fact: my great grandmother’s uncle married Astor’s widow after the Titanic sank in 1912)

The island and the area have a rich history, and it is because of these humble little creatures, the Beavers, that this area was explored and settled and built up into the community that it is today. So I often tell my visitors that if they ever see a Beaver to thank them for their vacation, without them this land would not have been settled, the historic sites would not exist and I wouldn’t have the wonderful job of sharing that heritage with them.

 

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I loathe history.

I know..I know, that seems ironic and maybe even hypocritical of me given that I am going on my 6th year as a Historic Interpreter, and I love my job! But allow me to explain.

Growing up, history was never one of my favorite subjects…those thick books with all those dates and wars and presidents and politics. I thought that’s what history was, my Dad loved it! And he would carry on about how great and interesting history was, and we’d go on vacation to historic sites and he would read every single plaque and sign….You see, what my dad failed to teach me in my  early schooling that there are different kinds of history. I spent YEARS loathing history as it is taught for school education. Then I turned 18, and in my search for summer employment I stumbled across a job on Mackinac Island as a Historic House Interpreter, I looked over the job description, you get to cook over an open fire, do crafts, blacksmith, talk to people, dress up in costume etc, it paid just above minimum wage. Sounds good! So I applied not thinking I’d get it. Well then I got an interview! So my mom and I drove to Lansing through terrible icy roads. The interview I thought went well, but they told me 40 people applied for 5 positions…I was sure my chances were slim. A month or so later, I received a letter in the mail, what do you know, I got the job!

I called my dad to tell him, he said congrats, then laughed and laughed and laughed…his daughter, who hates history, was going to be a historic interpreter…

Well Dad, as it turns out, there is a lot more to history then dates, wars, presidents and politics. There were lives to be lived, food to be cooked and preserved, tools to be crafted, clothes to be made, goods to be bought or traded, houses to be built, food to be planted, animals to raise…well you get the idea. My point being, human beings are so much more than just a few key dates, our history is in our culture, in the WAY that we do things, not just what a few “important” people were doing.

We are doing our children, and ourselves, a great disservice by disconnecting the events of history from the daily life of history. Living history is a vital connection to the past, it allows us modern people to peek into the past, if just for a moment, to imagine life in the 20th, 19th, 18th, etc centuries.

“Living history can be a tool used to bridge the gap between school and daily life to educate people on historical topics. Living history is not solely an objective retelling of historical facts. Its importance lies more in presenting visitors with a sense of a way of life, than in recreating exact events, accurate in every detail.” – David Thelen

Now that I know there is more to history, particularly a history that I can relate to, I find it rather important to share that revelation with as many people as I can. Thankfully, I am a historic house interpreter, I talk to thousands of people a year about 18th and 19th century daily life, and love to see that “AhHa!” moment when they get it, they connect somehow to the past. Like the motto of Colonial Williamsburg “That the future may learn from the past.” Living history is of the utmost importance in teaching 21st century people a little bit of history.

So for all of you who think that history is boring. You’ve just been trying to learn it all the wrong way! Books are great, but a well-informed historical interpreter actually DOING something is even better.

Go out this summer and actually experience history, there are living history sites all over the country!

**shameless plug** though, Mackinac State Historic Parks runs some really top-notch sites as well, with well trained interpreters, full programming representing life for a variety of different people that spans the 18th-early 20th century at all of their sites. And for those of you in Michigan, it does wonders to help support Michigan’s economy.