Christmas 2020, Part III

I hope you are all having a good Christmas season (in spite of the pandemic). I am enjoying some of my new Christmas presents – mostly books – that should further expand my mind and imagination.

First off, I am rather fond of my beard, and if you have a big beard, you need to properly attend to it. Thus I have now added some Grimfrost (a great Swedish Viking company) beard products to the Viking helmet and tunic I recently bought (my blog posts about my new Viking helmet and tunic can be found on the “Categories” list to the right under “Vikings”).

My beard care Christmas presents – beard care is important!

I also love my research into history, folklore, and philosophy. Vlastos was a great ancient philosophy scholar, and I look forward to his insights on expanding upon the Platonic theory of celestial motions and theory of the structure of matter. The Venerable Bede and Gregory of Tours will allow me to enter the minds of figures in the Anglo-Saxon period (c.410-1066), and The Anglo-Saxon World will provide a larger overview of the period. Neil Price and Jackson Crawford are important Viking scholars in the areas of Viking archaeology and linguistics, respectively, so Children of Ash and Elm and The Wanderer’s Havamal, combined with the Viking historical atlas will further expand my Viking knowledge (building upon the MOOC I am taking from the University of Iceland on the Icelandic Sagas). The Makers of Scotland provides overviews of the Picts, Romans, Gaels, and Vikings, giving an insight into their cultural interactions. Finally, Claude Lecouteux writes great books examining medieval views on household spirits, land spirits, and rituals, so this book on ancestor worship and medieval views of death will add to my Lecouteux collection. I, of course, use all these books for the Castles & Crusades game world I am developing, which has a mythic European feel.

Some of my books from Christmas

Trudvang Chronicles is a great RPG from Sweden. The books are almost worth purchasing simply for the evocative artwork of Paul Bonner and Alvaro Tapia. The game itself is a very atmospheric and challenging Norse/Celtic game of shapeshifters, dimwalkers and blótkings, using its own unique game system. I supported a kickstarter early this year for a conversion of the rules to D&D 5E, and although I am enjoying much of what I am seeing so far in the preliminary edits that have been released, I have also noticed that in the conversion process, the game seems to be losing some of its edge (D&D 5E is a more easy and light-hearted game of epic heroes, and as such struggles with being able to present Trudvang’s mysterious, melancholic, grim, and challenging playstyle). So I have gotten the source material to consult when the 5E conversion falls short. Jorgi’s Bestiary is also a unique monster book, since every monster entry spans several pages, yet only a small portion is game stats, most of it is descriptive text accompanied by great sepia toned black and white art, so in some cases I can use stats from the C&C Norse/Celtic/Slavic/Germanic Codex books, and then augment them with the text and artwork of Jorgi’s Bestiary in my narrative descriptions during encounters.

Trudvang Chronicles, a great Swedish RPG

I love scenic calendars! We should (hopefully) begin returning to normal in 2021, and I would love to return to Europe for a holiday. These calendars allow me to dream of return journey’s to favorite places, as well as opening up possibilities to yet undiscovered locations.

Hopefully, in 2021 I will be able to return to one of these places.

Well, that is it for now. In my New Years blog I take a final look at 2020, what it has meant to me, and what I am looking forward to in the year 2021.

Christmas 2020, Part II

Christmas – a blizzard hits Minnesota leaving 9 inches of snow in 9 hours. And I put on beard ornaments for the first time as part of my Christmas gear.

I wanted a White Christmas. Even though Minnesota should’ve had nearly a foot of snow by this time of the month, there was no snow outside. But things were about to change – a blizzard was about to arrive the day before Christmas (23rd), and where I lived 9 inches fell in about 9 hours. However, since it was a blizzard we had wind gusts of up to 65mph, which is why when you look at the photos below you’ll see part of my patio empty of snow, and other parts with drifts three feet high.

My patio at 11 am on the 23 December.
My patio later that evening.

On the morning of the 24th I awoke and was excited for the new day – presents and food!

Christmas morning just out of bed. I can’t wait to open my presents.

Getting dressed I put on beard ornaments for the first time. I think this will become a regular part of my Christmas kit in the future!

Dressed for the day with my Krampus shirt and beard ornaments.

I got my Christmas meal from a local tavern that was offering takeaway Christmas meals during this pandemic shutdown. The amount of food was for 4-5 people, so enough for me for the next couple days. Also, from my time living in various parts of Europe, I got used to celebrating Christmas differently (which is why I do my Christmas present opening and meal on Christmas Eve instead of on Christmas Day, it also means I have an extra day to enjoy the food I’ve made and the presents I opened!).

Christmas morning meal.

Coming up in Part III: my presents (a lot of historical books, calendars, and some unique books from a Swedish RPG game).

Happy Winter Solstice! The 2020 Year in Review, Part I

It’s that time of year when we look back on the year that has gone by, hopefully, find peace and gratitude for what we can, and look forward to what the future holds. For all those reading this, I wish you all well, especially during this time of pandemic, unemployment, and uncertainty. I’ve titled this entry “Part I” since I plan to post another reflective post on Christmas and a third on New Years. In this blog post, I would like to look at a few challenges and successes (interspersed with pictures of the holiday decorations in my cozy house!).

These are some items I bought for myself in recent weeks. As they were delivered to my house I wrapped them up and placed them under my tree. I will properly open them up on Christmas.

2020 Challenge #1: The Pandemic.
This shouldn’t be surprising. I began working from home in March. In July I lost my job. In November I was hired back as a temp through December. It has now been extended through the end of January. It is currently a month-by-month process. Obviously not the most reassuring place to be, but these are extraordinary circumstances, and at least I am working. I am grateful for that.

2020 Success #1: Coming up on two full years in my new house.
I bought my house at the beginning of January, 2019, so I am just a couple of weeks away from two years in my house. It feels wonderful to have a place of my own – especially when the pandemic caused so many of us to work from home (something I embraced). My living room and dining room are my game rooms where I run my Castles & Crusades RPG campaigns (C&C is a more flexible and dynamic variation of Dungeons & Dragons). These games were run in person before the pandemic and currently are run on Discord.

My dining room/RPG gaming room.

The upper level of my house is where I have my academic library where I steadily read, research, and absorb medieval history, folklore, mythology, and philosophy (I am currently taking a MOOC from the University of Iceland on the Icelandic Sagas), both for my own understanding and also for imaginative translation into my C&C campaigns.

A portion of my academic library with my Christmas Tree

Under normal circumstances my house would be a great sanctuary for study and relaxation, but in these pandemic times it has proven even more important as I now have created a special office space for work as well.

2020 Success #2: Changes to Social Media Presence.
I am just a few days away from celebrating the one year anniversary since I deleted my Facebook account. On 31 December 2019 I deleted my Facebook account and Twitter was soon to follow. These were some of the best decisions I have made. I did not like what I had allowed those platforms to do to me – the constant need for seeking approval (through “likes”), and the constant confrontation and trolling that progressively got worse and kept me in a near constant state of anxiety and outrage. Those feelings are not healthy, nor normal. The ethical violations and manipulations of those platforms were also too much. I couldn’t make anymore excuses. Leaving them meant I did lose touch with some friends. But let us be honest, up until Facebook and Twitter, life was all about meeting people on our journey through life, and sometimes we stayed in touch with them, and sometimes we grew apart and pursued new paths on our journey. These platforms, I think, restrict our growth as persons as we keep people in our lives that perhaps no longer fit with where we are and where we are going. “The Self” (as I once tried to argue in my Ph.D. thesis) is constantly changing and evolving, so leaving these things behind refreshed my mental equilibrium, it reduced my anxiety and anger, it reduced the “look at me, look at me” narcissism that thrives on those platforms, and this in turn has allowed me to focus on taking care of myself and focusing on the smaller number of friends who are in my life and who want to be in my life. Not staring at a computer screen or phone all the time is liberating. For the first time in 10 years I am rediscovering what it is like to have “alone time,” as well as peace and quiet from the “noise” and constant “doom scrolling” that social media has instilled in us. It hasn’t been easy, but each day away from those platforms is a reminder of something special that I had lost and have now regained. This also coincided with the purchase of my new house, and that has given me a launching point for whatever new direction I choose to go on next in my journey. Obviously Challenge #1 has put a large obstacle in my path, but this can’t last forever, things can and will get better.

Well, that is enough for now. I will have some more year-end reflections in a few days. Be well, everyone.