happy (belated) international women’s day!

I’m going to apologize up front about the delays of this post because let’s face it, this should have been posted last week.

I also wrote most of this last week but got busy writing an essay and sewing 200 plastic balls (like the ones you find in a ballpit) together into a dress for a party with the theme ‘anything but clothes.’

But! On the bright side, this won’t get buried now under all of the other IWD posts!

Happy (belated) International Women’s Day!

*I’ll wait while you call your mom, aunt, grandmother, sister, cousin, or friend*

Right.  It’s that time of year again for my annual ‘angry feminist rant.’

When I was a young kiddo, I used to replace the heads on my little medieval action figures so that my princess character could be the knight and fight the dragons.  (This was probably inspired by reading Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness Quartet.)  As it was, all the female figurines wore dresses.  Not only was it impossible for them to be put on the horses, they didn’t have scabbards to store their swords!

Honestly, it was tragic.

To my young brain, you obviously needed a both a horse and a place to put your sword to go on quests and slay dragons.

This story might seem a bit silly when you just think of my childhood bedroom floor littered with a bunch of male-bodied knight figurines with female heads, but at the root of it was my desire to see the women I wanted to be when I grew up.

And it really, really sounds cliché writing it here, but reading the Hunger Games at thirteen changed everything.  It was one of the first books I read with a recognized female narrator in an action role.  I had, of course, read female narrators before in Tamora Pierce’s books but a large part of the plot is that Alanna disguises herself as a boy in order to become a knight.  None of the other characters are aware that she is a girl and most of her interactions and decisions in the plot are based around maintaining her status as a boy.  That is, until the fourth book where she reveals her secret and establishes herself as the biggest badass in Tortall.  Honestly, ten-year-old Kennedy was amazed.

But, with the Hunger Games, for the first time, I was getting an upfront first person female perspective on the action and the adventure.  Not just second hand from a male narrator. While I adored Harry Potter and worshipped at the feet of Percy Jackson and the Olympians and as much as Hermione and Annabeth were central characters, they weren’t the narrators.

They weren’t the ones controlling and driving the stories.

Which, I guess, brings me to the point of this post: The importance of female driven stories.  If young girls see or read about someone who looks like or acts like them it gives them someone to believe in.  It shows them something tangible to remember and to hold on to.

I’ll always remember the feeling I had walking out of the cinema after seeing The Force Awakens or Wonder Woman. Watching Rey wield a lightsaber or Diana Prince walk into No-Man’s land was symbolic in more ways than one.  And, what made them such compelling characters was the fact they were distinctly female as well.

Which is why I was so excited to see Captain Marvel last Friday.

Carol Danvers has been my hero since basically forever.  I’m not going to claim any hipster status here… but I was a member of the Carol Corps before it was cool.

I won’t spoil the film for those who haven’t had a chance to see it yet, but I will say that Captain Marvel is the film I wish I could have had when I was eight or nine years old.

It is a film written for women by women.

It shows how emotions are not a hindrance to success and that if believe in yourself, you don’t have to prove anything – to anyone.  (That and the film touches on important themes about fear mongering which is a lesson, I think, a lot of people should learn for themselves.)

Frankly, I’ll always be a little jealous of girls today who get to grow up with so many more stories written for and about them. (That and how none of them have to brutally maim their toys.) But, I am beyond excited to see what happens next.*

Higher, Faster, Further, baby!

(*What’s happening next is Carol Danvers is going to show up in Avengers: Endgame and Thanos is not ready.)

 

shetland

This past week, Ben, Alven, and I took the train from Edinburgh to Aberdeen and then the overnight ferry from Aberdeen to Shetland.

Considering the events of the week before which included learning I’d lost a friend I’d known since childhood, my parents calling to let me know my faithful dog of 12 years was gone as well, and then deciding to move back to America this August for a Masters – getting away seemed like the thing I needed to do.  The trip was planned quickly, with ferry and train booking happening Thursday to leave Saturday.

Shetland, if you are interested, are the northernmost islands of the UK.  The islands are very close to Norway and have a very strong Norse heritage with plenty of archaeological sites.  One of the really significant ones is Jarlshof which has everything from Bronze Age, Iron Age, Viking, Early Medieval, and Late Medieval on one site.  If you’re interested in the complete history here’s the Wikipedia page.

But, anyway.  We spent the week traveling around the Mainland and working on our dissertations.  All three of us brought work with us, so it wasn’t a total escape.  But the change of scenery was something I dearly needed.

Instead of a normal blog post I decided to make a video to attempt to capture the week.  The video is at the end of this post because I want you to read everything first.

I’m going to be honest here, I fell in love with Shetland.  Everything from its remoteness to rainbows created by the crashing waves to the ancient stone brochs and finally to the long roads to the edge of cliffs.  It felt like there was something familiar about it nagging at me the entire time.

Back in August of 2015, I began the long process of packing up my life and moving to Scotland.  That process included picking and choosing what parts I wanted to take with me and what parts I would decide to leave behind.

Maybe I am a sentimentalist, or perhaps that is just a nice way of wording Kennedy-is-a-hoarder, but one of the things I packed and moved across the Atlantic with me was a worn copy of Selected Poems of H.D. and a typewritten note by one of my English teachers.

A portion of that note reads:

Dear Kennedy,

In his poem ‘Tollund Man’ Seamus Heaney writes:

 Out here in Jutland // In the old man-killing parishes // I will feel lost, // Unhappy and at home. 

I would never wish you unhappiness, however, I know that desire is in you to find a home in the lost places, in history, in poetry, in the bog, in the ruin, amoung the relics.

So my wish for you is an unending quest often satisfied but never for long.

If you’re a nosy reader of my blog here you’ll probably recognize those verses from my About page.  They’ve been there since the beginning.

The book is one of the few I keep close within arms reach next to my bed.  The others, if you’re curious, are Tomorrow is Now by Eleanor Roosevelt, The Art of War by Sun-Tzu, The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.

I have thought of those words often, I’d admit.  When I received them at age 18, I knew that it would be something that would plague me for years and I think my English teacher knew that as well.

Living in Scotland these past four years has become that ‘unending quest.’  And truthfully, my English teacher was right.  It has been satisfying – but at each turn I make, I discover something new and once again I am… on another unending quest.  Traveling to remote places, exploring in wet and windy weather could make someone feel lost – but again, and not to sound like pretenious piece of shite, I have never felt more at home.

I am so close to finishing my degree with only two essays and my dissertation left.  Especially after the events earlier this month, going to Shetland this past week allowed for me to escape everything and find my next move.  It also showed me a place I would happily return to and live unbothered.

 

 

 

 

a logistical plan

Since you’ve last read about my life I’ve made a few decisions.

If you remember from my last post – I had two offers for graduate study.  The first, continue here at the University of Edinburgh for the Human Osteoarchaeology MSc.  The second, return to Lawrence for the Museum Studies MA.

This past Sunday was a beautifully sunny day in Edinburgh.  To sort my thoughts and make a decision, I went for a run in Holyrood Park.  I thought back over the last week as I threw myself down the grassy hills and up rocky paths.  Finally, I found myself at St Anthony’s Chapel overlooking the beautiful gorgeous city that has taught me so much.  St Anthony’s was built some time in the 15c and pretty much the only thing that remains is the front facade with a doorway and two windows.

The window to the right of the doorway has always been a great place sit and think.

Over the past four years, I’ve found myself at St Anthony’s a lot.  It’s fitting, I suppose,  to gravitate to a chapel dedicated to the patron saint of lost things to make all my biggest decisions.

So, I weighed my options in respect to my major concerns:

  • Program suitability and how it fits with my general life plan: 1) do something good for someone other than myself and 2) tell stories
  • Job prospects after / phD
  • Stability but ability to continue to travel and excavate

Below are my condensed notes.  Trust me you don’t want or need to see all the flow charts.

Stay in Edinburgh.  The program is something I love.  The subject is a direct link into the past in ways I can’t really describe.  Logistically, I would get to live in my flat another year.  However, a masters in Edinburgh would lend itself directly into a phD.  I don’t know if I want to do everything back to back.  I also want to do something good for someone besides myself before I find myself behind an academic desk.  A masters at Edinburgh would be in a subject I love, a city I love, but might be too narrowed and would put me right into a phD.

Brexit has complicated matters as well in respect to companies who can sponsor work visas and minimum income required to apply (which falls outside of the graduate jobs range).  As someone who has watched current immigration trends in the UK and researched all types of visas, it’s not like the movies.  You can’t just pack up and move to the UK.  There’s not really a guarantee even with a phD.

  • Best: Get a job after masters, work for a few years, phD.
  • Likely: Complete masters but do phD based on current job market.
  • Worst: Do masters, don’t want to do a phD straightaway, can’t find a job, have to leave Scotland.

Return to Lawrence. Again, the program is something I love.  I basically grew up in museums.  The program would also keep my academic interests more broad but still specialized.  I’d be able to work in a variety of heritage fields.  Logistically, I would live at home for the duration of the program.  The program has a required internship component.  I’ve already found internships at the Met Cloisters in New York City to apply for.  I also like the flexibility of the final project which would allow me to make a historical documentary!  A masters at KU would allow me to take time out after, get a job, do something good for this world, and collect my thoughts for an eventual phD.

Brexit and visas are not a concern.  I can always continue my summer fieldwork in the UK and it’s not like if I move away I move away forever.  If anything, getting a good job in America will give me the professional experience to re-apply and get jobs back here in Scotland when things settle back down.

  • Best: Get a job after masters, work for a few years, phD.
  • Likely: Get a job after masters, work for a few years, phD.
  • Worst: Live forever in my parents house (yikes)

So, I guess if you’ve read this far into my general life rambling you’ve probably come to the same conclusion I came to myself: Museum Studies MA at the University of Kansas.

I said both options out loud and the Museum Studies MA just sounded right.  But, I would be lying if I said it was not a bit sad when I realised how much I would be leaving behind here in Edinburgh.

This city has become my own as much as I have become part of it.  I really don’t know the words to describe my love for Edinburgh.  Trust me, I’ve tried and all that’s come of it are some shitty poems and four drafts of a fantasy novel.

But, I do know that just because I may be moving away doesn’t mean I won’t ever be coming back.

I spent the next few days thinking over my decision.  It was not one I took lightly.

Tuesday morning I spoke with my personal tutor about it and he agreed.  Both were very good choices, but a little job security doesn’t hurt.  On Wednesday, I went to speak to the course organizer and thanked her for the offer.  It was really important to me that I went to speak to both of them as they had helped me immensely over the years.  I mentioned that I would like to return to Edinburgh in the future for a phD and they told me to get in touch when I do.

So … that’s me in August.  I’ll be a Kansas Jayhawk for the next two years and then … who knows.  My phone call with the Peace Corps went well and I have more information about applications.  I’m also weighing a few other options.

I’m going to write a larger love letter to Edinburgh one day.  I hope to express everything these past four years have given me.  Honestly, the confidence I have found in this city is why I know returning to America is best choice for me now.  I’m excited to see what lies ahead ‘across the pond.’

But, for the next week I’m bouncing to Shetland. Byeeeee.

 

3 drinks.

Monday night, I went to Sandy Bell’s to listen to live folk music with Tuva, Erling, Gregor, and Alven.  I had one drink for an old friend, one drink for a faithful companion, and one last drink for the future moving forward.

I’ve learned that words can never truly express enough, and I’m never quite sure if I even say the right ones.  And truthfully, the scariest part is you don’t know when your words might be your last.   But, I hope that I’ve shown the people around me how much they mean to me.  It’s something I fear that never do enough and as I realized  is something I should probably do more.

My dear friends both old and new, you have taught me so much.  I deeply adore you all.

So, I guess, now, I’ll speak about the that second drink.

I knew when I left home after Christmas that I probably would never see my slobbery, stubborn dog again.  My dad had told me for months that Mulan was on borrowed time.  At 12, she was well beyond the life expectancy for a large breed such as a Newfoundland.

Monday in class at 5.30 pm I felt something in my chest.  I’d be the first to admit that I haven’t been as religious in recent years as maybe my parents would hope.  But, sitting in class then I knew something had happened.

Thirty minutes after the hour, my beautiful, loving, slobbery sod fell asleep at home surrounded by those she loved and who loved her.

Mulan was hard to train and never graduated puppy school.  She never did what you asked her to do but she always did what you needed.

And for that I am so, so grateful.  I am thankful for the time that I had her and the life she shared with me.

Her favorite season was fall, just as the leaves began to change and the temperature started to cool.  She’d go outside and sit under the trees and let the wind blow her fur with two long strands of drool dripping from her jowls.

She was gentle.  So, so gentle.  Last December, when my dad found a half dead kitten on the porch, it was Mulan who stuck her head in and breathed hot air onto the the kitten’s face until the kitten gasped and my dad realized that my mom would just have to deal with another indoor cat.

To know the love of another creature who expects so little and offers you everything is truly a gift.  To know that love and see it in their eyes is blessing beyond measure.

I will miss her forever, but, if someone offered me the chance, I would do it all over again.  Without hesitation.

Mulan, I love you to the moon and to the stars.  I love you beyond the stars and wherever else we will go.

And, now time for that third drink and a decision.

I have been accepted into two Masters programs.  The first, here at the University of Edinburgh for the MSc in Human Osteoarchaeology.  The second, back in Lawrence at the University of Kansas for the MA Museum Studies.  I’ve also received a very positive email back from the Peace Corps recruiter I emailed prior to the government shutdown who wants to set up a Skype meeting/interview.  And finally, I waiting on the outcome of a few internships I applied for.

Chances are, I will complete a Masters before embarking on any other work – but I want to gather as much information as I can.  At the moment, I’m getting my TEFL certification and plan to double down on learning a foreign language this summer.  It’s actually quite lazy that I don’t speak more than just English.

Which, leaves me with a lot of choices – none of which I realized are bad decisions.  I’ll just have to figure out my next plan of action and move down the field from there.

I do know two things however. I’ve always known them, but I think this week just made it a little bit easier to define them.

First, forty years from now, I don’t want to think about what I have done and realize that I simply waited for the storm to pass. If anything, I love thunderstorms.  But, I’m not throwing myself into a thunderhead for the sake of making history.  I honestly could care less.  I’m not a white man, my chances at being taught about in school are already slim. I’d do it because it is the right thing to do.

Secondly, I want to tell stories.  That might be in a museum or as a novelist or maybe as a documentarist.  I’m no quite sure yet, but I know I want to tell stories I believe in. And, sure, I’m not in a place right now to do that.  I’m still collecting the stories I want to tell.

But, I guess, what I learned this week is this: I hope those closest to me know how precious they are to me.  There will never be enough time, but what you learn from the time you do have will guide you forever.  Just like the rainbow I followed this morning which led me to one of my favorite coffee shops.

 

 

 

 

*stress-fess begins and other haps*

For how many contact hours I have this semester I should really be writing more.

Things around Edinburgh have been in that weird stage of ‘IamextremelystressedbutalsostrangelycalmshouldIbeworriedaboutthis?’

If you know the feeling you know, and if you don’t oh, my sweet summer child.

Apologies for not writing as much, but in reality, I don’t think you’d find my general bouncing and bopping interesting.  However!  I was convinced otherwise by a few devote readers of my illustrious list of mild inconveniences to detail more about the mundane facts of my existence.

Since you’ve last heard from me:

I went to the Cairngorms with the EUMC.  We stayed a cute lil bunkhouse because Scottish winter is very cold and there isn’t enough sunlight to justify camping.  I went running without any knee braces and suffered no ill side effects.  I’ve been rehabbing my knees religiously because I don’t want to have to wear braces anymore.  I also walked to see some prehistoric standing stones.

I started a 120 hour online TEFL course.  This will let me teach english as a foreign language.  Just more options, I guess.

I submitted my second essay for Early Medieval Sexualities.

I went to see The Favourite and Mary, Queen of Scots. I don’t know why 2019 has become the year of historical female power dramas but I’m living for it!  The films aren’t totally historically accurate, but honestly, sometimes historical purists need to calm down and enjoy themselves ffs.

The EUMC had our Burn’s Ceilidh.  Burn’s Night is a Scottish holiday to celebrate the poet Robert Burns.  Each year the lads and lassies of the EUMC write crass poems about each other to be read aloud at the ceilidh.  My poem was about how I find skeletal remains more interesting than living people, and I mean, I could be offended… but, it’s true?

I woke up the next morning with sore arms and bruises from being 1) swung around during ‘strip the willow’ and 2) purposely throwing myself and my dance partners at other people for funnies (Sorry Alven, Erling, and Ben).  Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise: ceilidhs are a contact sport set to fiddles and drums. And. I. Love. It.

I’m still plugging away at my dissertation and the last of my coursework.  At the moment, I have three essays, a presentation, and my dissertation.

BUT! Everything is done by 8 April.

It’ll be a stress-fess for the next two months – but it has to get done, so it’ll get done.

All the work has to get done because my loving parents booked a holiday on 9 April. I was told this was booked in the same vein as when my dad sent me my Christmas present right before exams.  Physically, the gift was an Xbox, but, you see, this was only a metaphor for the actual gift: a lesson in self-control and discipline…

But! I will be free from uni soon.  Then I can spend my days working on my novel, and finally, have some peace.

 

 

 

hap newt year!

yikes, another year in the books and to be honest, 2018 was pretty amazing.

Here’s my Year in Review:

January

Traveled northward once again for Hogmanay at the EUMC Bothy.  Went skiing in the Cairngorm National Park and tripped over flat ground.  Ordered a sleeping bag with arms and legs.

February 

Tuva and Erling invited me to Norway and abandoned me in a snow drift outside of a mountain hut while they went inside and ate cinnamon rolls.  Jokes aside, I got stuck all on my own.  The Beast from the East hit Edinburgh and the university was closed for a week amidst faculty strikes and bread rations.

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March

March was essay season and I sort of stared into the void for most of it.

April 

The end of third year, a trip to Berlin to see Gregor and Sophie, my 21st birthday, and the last university exam I will ever take in my life. Get wrecked.

May

I take my Theoretical Archaeology exam and run/swim away to the Highlands.  The EUMC has its 75th Anniversary Dinner and then we kick off for the Road Trip.  We spend nearly a week on Skye with no rain and about a 100,000 midges.

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Some scrambling.

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June

Dad visited, I went to London with Besty, worked on some dissertation stuff, started at Bamburgh as an Assistant Environmental Supervisor, and then back to Chester for more work in a medieval kirkyard.

August 

Flew back to America and meet the family for a well needed holiday.

September 

Roseneath came to Kansas.  Gregor’s plane was never going to Chicago and he landed in Newark.  We meet a Bud Lite corporate rep who gave us 12 free pitchers.  Returned to Scotland for the start of fourth year.

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October

Completed less work than I would have liked but went back to the Lake District one final time to see a Roman Fort.

November 

Built a model of an iron age Round House and cooked Thanksgiving for forty people. And went to the EUMC Bothy together for our last Bothy Trip.

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bothy trip year iv.

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December 

Had my last essays, EUMC Christmas Dinner, went to see Hoizer in concert, flew back to America early, spent Christmas with my cat, and flew back to Edinburgh with my sister.

I’m back in Edinburgh until term starts in the next few weeks.  Currently I’m finishing the second of my four essays for Early Medieval Sexualities, a presentation about my dissertation, and still writing and researching for the dissertation. My courses for this semester don’t change drastically.  Only ‘Architectural Archaeology’ was a semester, the rest are full year.

Edinburgh has a massive city wide party and instead of driving up north, this year the flat, some friends, and I stayed home.  My parents sent Crosby to Edinburgh for New Years here as well so my friends and I made sure she had a good time.  We watched the fireworks shoot off from the Castle in the Links and it was a pretty great start to New Years.

So hap newt years!

 

quick update for those interested.

hello friends.

a few cool things have happened the last 10 days since my last post besides only playing Skyrim in the flat.

I had a writing seminar with one of my favourite authors – Maggie Steifvater.  It was five hours of learning about her writing process which has honestly inspired me to get back more into my own writing.  She discussed plot, characters, and pacing.

I have a really bad habit of working on a manuscript and then reaching a point where I have the story finished in my head but not on the paper and I get bored.  This has happened with a 70,000, 40,000, and 20,000 word manuscript. tl;dr: I have commitment issues when it comes to writing and going to a writing workshop with one of my favourite authors helped me a lot.

But!  I have a urban fantasy novel (about 10,000) and a futuristic sci-fi (about 40,000) which I’m working on right now and I’m really excited about them.

Yummick X-mas Dinner.  This year the EUMC headed out to The Advocate for a nice dinner and then out for a evening of dancing and debauchery.  It was the last Christmas dinner with all of us together so it was a little bittersweet.  For those on facebook you can see the album there.

Hozier in Glasgow.  Ellie, Caitlin, Sophie and I took the bus over to Glasgow to see Hozier at the O2 Academy.  I love smaller venues because they make for a much more intimate show.  I’m big fan of being able to actually feel the drums through the floor and the speakers hitting your chest.  If I’m going to shell it out for a concert – I’d prefer not to be in the nosebleeds.  Seeing Hozier in a smaller venue and being near the front was incredible.  Cha girl got taken to church.

So yeah other than that I’ve been doing a bit of Christmas shopping and then it’s back to America in a few days time.

yikes, my dudes.

It’s been a whirlwind month.  November was here and just like that bottle of Dalwhinnie single malt whiskey I drank at the Bothy in the course of a single night… it was gone.

(I’m not going to comment further or defend myself, but just know that I had a great night and in the four years of living in this country cha girl has learned a few tricks about alcohol consumption and optimal pacing.)

Apologies for not posting in a month.  November hit me like a ton of bricks and between uni work, a cold, and seasonal depression because it gets dark in Edinburgh at 3 pm… it’s been a long month.

I just submitted my final essay for the semester, an lil 3,000 word piece about the appeal of sexual renunciation for men and women in the first to fifth century Roman Empire.  It’s for my Early Medieval Sexualities course.

Turning in that essay marks me as finished for first semester!

Because I am smart and only took classes with coursework, I don’t have any upcoming exams.  I have work to do over break on my dissertation… but for all official purposes I’m on holiday.

*cue crying*

Since our last meeting, a few important events have occured.

1. Democrats flipped the house and elected a RECORD number of women and people of color. Including Sharice Davids of Kansas District 3 – one of the first Native American Women in Congress!

2. I traveled northward once more to the EUMC Bothy.  The Bothy trips is (and will probably always be) my favourite meet of the year.  We filled the trip with a record high of nearly 50 Yummicks and booked it out of Edinburgh on Friday night to secure spots on the highly coveted alpine bunks.  I spent Saturday reading a few articles for my EMS essay and Sunday helping out with bits and bobs around the Bothy.  Once a Bothy Secretary always a Bothy Secretary I guess.

Saturday night was as to be expected and cha girl lived the tell the tale.

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bothy trip year iv.

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3.  We hosted 40+ at our flat for Thanksgiving.  Gregor, Erling, Tuva, and I hosted our very own American Thanksgiving and invited all our friends around for food and comas!  Thanksgiving is always a special time of year for me and I tend to get over sentimental and cry a lot.  Having spend Thanksgiving outside of America and my family for the past four years doesn’t make it much easier.

Per tradition, before we tucked in everyone had to say what they were thankful for. Me?  As I looked around at my friends I said that I was thankful for the hope that I saw sat around our living room in Edinburgh.  I was thankful for the hope I saw for the future.  I was thankful for the hope vested in my friends from all over the world.  I was thankful we were all able to sit down together for meal.  Looking to each one of them, I know, that together my friends and I will overcome the bigotry, hatred, and fear seemingly everywhere these days.  Even when things seem the darkest, I hold onto that hope I saw in my friends faces.

“Hope is like the sun. If you only believe in it when you can see it, you’ll never make it through the night.” – Leia Organa

Other happenings?  I went to the Botanics to see the Christmas lights and went to the Murrayfield Ice Rink for some Ice Princess Antics.

Other happenings coming up this week!  I’m taking the week to chill out.  I’m going to catch up on the books I’ve been reading and work on my writing.  I have three pretty major events which I’m really excited for as well.

One of my favourite authors, Maggie Steifvater is doing a surprise writing workshop in Edinburgh this week.  She’s in Scotland for a personal trip and decided to host an impromptu event.  It’s an informal event with lectures and Q&A about writing novels with fantasy elements.  I’m honestly really excited to go.

The EUMC is hosting its annual Christmas dinner as well.  It’ll be a great evening with everyone and a little bittersweet as well for most of us it’ll be our last Christmas dinner all together.

And, then the next day it’s off to Glasgow to see Hozier in concert!

I’ll be punting around Edinburgh until my flight back to America on the 17th but after all the hard work I’ve been putting in this semester, I’m glad I’ll be taking some time to enjoy Scotland this December.

okay, one last time. promise.

If you’re fed up with me using my blog to promote the 2018 Mid-term elections, rest assured… this is the last time.

Today is Election Day and if you haven’t voted yet – shame on you.  Honestly, that’s not meant as a joke either civic negligence isn’t cute.  Your vote matters, not just for yourself but for everyone around you.  I’m going to sleep early tonight with an alarm set for even earlier tomorrow morning to watch the results come in on boring as C-SPAN unless I can find a way to watch something else.  Yay, time zones.

But. Just one last thing I’d thought I’d say before this election.  America, I believe in you.  I believe you because you’ve seen this before and you’ve seen worse.  And, while it might knock you down a few times you’ll get back up.

America, I know you will.

While I was thinking about how to write this post I stumbled across this:

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This is the Columbus and its register. It was built in 1924 by Schichau Shipyard in Danzig, Germany.  It weighed 32,581 gross tons.  Measured 775 (bp) feet long and 83 feet wide.  Featured steam turbine engines with twin screw. Service speed was 23 knots. It held 1,725 passengers (479 first class, 644 second class, 602 third class) and on January 1, 1926 it arrived to Ellis Island.

Herman Meiwes, my great-grandfather, was the 21st passenger on the Columbus.  He was 24 years old.  From New York, he traveled to Chicago were he met my great-grandmother, Elizabeth Thumann.

In 1929, Elizabeth had traveled from her home in Germany to the United States of America.  She left behind her family, her friends, and the memories of her fiancée who had been killed during WWI.  Everything she owned was placed in a single wooden trunk.  In her bag was a letter from a man in Nebraska who was seeking a German wife. Like Herman, Elizabeth was also seeking a new life for herself – one away from the dangers rising in her home country.

As it turns out, the man in Nebraska had already found a wife by the time Elizabeth arrived in New York.  She moved to Chicago and worked as a nurse and housemaid.  An honest job for a clever, independent woman with limited English.  That was where Elizabeth met Herman.  The two married and moved to Kansas where they had two daughters – Annie and Sue.

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My Great-Grandparents, Great-Aunt, and Grandmother.  1946.

In 1952, Sue married Clete.  In 1958, my grandparents had their first son, Mark, in England while they were stationed there with the US Air Force .  Back in Kansas, in 1961, their second son was born, Scott – my dad.

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My Grandparents on their wedding day.  1952.

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My mom, me, my dad, my sister, and my grandmother. 2014. (Side note: if you want to see me in the future look no further than this picture).

My great-grandparents arrived in the United States with nothing to their names but hope of a better future than the one unfolding in Germany… and through the kindness of the Americans they met along the way and their own hard work – I am here able to write this now.

And, that’s the truth.

I think about my family a lot this time of year this close to Thanksgiving and Christmas.  As their great-granddaughter, I hope to uphold the faith they had.  The faith that America would be the place to welcome them with open arms and do its best to give them the future they deserve.  The place where through hard work, they could make something.  The hope that America will continue to welcome each and every one of us with open arms and do its best to give us all the futures we deserve.  The hope that if we continue to stretch just that bit further with love and support for those around us – we can all make America the place Herman Meiwes first saw from the deck of the Columbus.

So, that’s my last election post.

I’ll see you all on the other side.

 

Agincourt 603

Happy 603rd Agincourt Anniversary and St. Crispins’ Day! It’s once again time for my yearly medieval history lecture about why you should care as much about Henry V as I do.

Other notable events today:

  • 164th anniversary of the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War which was immortalized by Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poem ‘Charge of the Light Brigade.’  If you haven’t read the poem the basic takeaway is: there are somethings bigger than yourself.
  • 154th anniversary of the Battle of Marais de Cygnes one of three battles fought in Kansas to end Price’s Raids, a series of Confederate offensives spurred by Major Gen. Sterling Price to re-establish Confederate control in the Mississippi Valley prior to the 1864 Presidental Election.
  • 3rd Year Anniversary of the Misery Meet.  For those who know, you know.  For those who don’t just imagine 25km, trench foot, a false sense of security upon arriving at a bothy that wasn’t your bothy, and walking all the way around a sea loch with your bothy in sights.

But, anyway.  I’m not going to bore you with the specifics of Agincourt… you can read the Wikipedia article for that.  In fact, I’m not really even going to write a new post because basically this post doesn’t really change year to year.  Don’t tell the Uni, but, I’m going to self-plagiarize some quotes still relevant stuff from I wrote in 2016.  So please excuse 19-year-old Kennedy, but I still think she’s pretty clever and has a lot to say.

Today is St. Crispin’s day aka the 601st anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt.

But, Kennedy! That happened soooooo long ago!! Why should we care?!?!

Glad you asked.

I believe that part of the reason a lot of people find history boring is because they cannot place themselves in ‘the world’ in which is happened.  It becomes disconnected, people lose interest, the actions of the past are forgotten.  But, by creating a relationship between the past and the present, history becomes accessible and in a lot of ways, lives again.  Keeping history alive requires people to continue this dialogue keeping it relevant and relatable.

Picture this: You’ve been walking for days.  You’re tired.  You’re hungry.  You’re sick.  You’re on the run from a group of powerful people who want you dead – a group that outnumbers you six to one.  But amidst all off this – the guy in charge is trudging right along side you.  He’s tired too.  He’s starving too.  He’s sick too.  The people who want you dead want him dead ten times over.  But, that doesn’t matter because you swore to each other to get to the end of this.  Neither of you intend to break that promise.

Those are the circumstances that faced Henry’s army at the dawn of October 25, 1415.

His army numbered just under 6,000, with 4,000 being peasant bowmen.  The other 2,000 were a mix of knights and men-at-arms.  They had been on a frantic retreat for nearly two weeks, attempting to make their way back to the Channel.  In a last ditch effort, they established camp at the top of a muddy hill.  They braced themselves at the break of dawn, expecting the worse to come from the amassed group of heavily armoured French knights, numbering nearly 36,000, waiting below.  Had Henry wanted, he could have slipped away in the night, retreated to England, and saved his own skin.

Instead, Henry stayed with his starving army, made up of peasant bowmen, because he had made them a promise.  He doesn’t even take the night to rest.  Disguised as one of them, he speaks to his troops earnestly and honestly wishing to hear their views of the upcoming battle.

Then at the break of dawn, he gave his infamous speech, later immortalized by Shakespeare, about loyalty and honesty.  Addressing his men as ‘his band of brothers’ and making a vow to fight and if necessary die beside them.  And he kept his promise.  French eyewitness accounts write of Henry fighting in the front lines.  Just to make sure you caught that, that’s the French praising the leadership and bravery of their enemy.

Against all odds, Henry won the day.  He lost 112 men.  The French casualties numbered over 12,000.

It’s not the medieval warfare that makes this story relatable but its spirit of loyalty and leadership.  Against all odds, Henry refused to give up and in the end his faith in his men and their faith in him won the day.

For us today, the historical spirit of Agincourt lives on each moment we push ourselves just that bit farther.  It’s relevant again each time we remain loyal to our friends treating them with respect and honesty.  But, the most important lesson for Agincourt is how we should treat those we work with and who work for us with that same loyalty and honesty.

Some people at this point may wonder: Henry was king of England, what did he actually owe to a group of peasants?

A lot of people would probably say he owed them nothing.   He’s their king, their boss.  He can do what he wants.  I would argue the opposite.  He is their boss and that makes him even more accountable for his actions and his leadership.  Good leaders lead by example – they are shoulder to shoulder with their people not hiding behind them.  They have to be the one to accept the responsibility.   If you expect respect, you first have to give your own.

You could say good leaders devote their lives to the protection of their followers.  They make personal sacrifices for the good of those they represent.  They do not, like a certain Republican presidential nominee [now President], disrespect based on religion, gender, or ethnicity, blatantly lie, or refuse to be held accountable for their actions.

Good leaders, good people, value every person no matter their rank or role in society.

Henry didn’t discriminate between the peasants and the nobility in his army.  This is evidenced by how the English kept their casualty records.  The 112 includes everyone from the lowest peasant bowmen to Henry’s uncle, the Duke of York.  The French list of 12,000 only includes nobility, excluding the countless others without rank.

Henry handled his army with unprecedented social equity basing rank and prestige on personal achievement not patronage or social status.

To put this in a civilian perspective, as long you work hard, remain loyal and honest, no matter your social status you will receive equal treatment and respect.

My father stresses this sense of loyalty and honesty a lot.  (He’s a US Marine and a General in the Air Force so no guesses as to why he made those two things so important.)  He was actually the person who first showed me the St. Crispin’s Day speech.

My mother also lives by this same code of leadership.  There have been dozen of times I’ve returned home late to find my mom still working.  Even though she’s a vice president of a decent sized company, she always tells me the same thing, ‘If someone who works for me is working, so am I.’

So in that small way – that’s how I’ve kept the history of Agincourt alive and relevant.  It’s not the original physical context. I’m not a medieval longbowmen.  Hell, I’m not even English.  But it’s not a stretch to say I’ve kept it in the original thematic context with some extra influence from my parents.

Dold, K. Y. 2016. ‘Agincourt 601’ Ad Caledonia. Available at: https://adcaledonia.com/2016/10/25/agincourt-601/ (accessed 24 October 2018).

I think 19-year-old Kennedy summed it all up pretty nicely, if at times going on a few side tangents.

This post was written prior to the 2016 Election and as we near the 2018 Election (in just 13 Days)… just think about how you promote leadership in your own life.  I’ve learned a lot about leadership in my ‘short and naïve 21 years.’

And sure, 1415 wasn’t some social liberated wonderland.  But, those themes of loyalty, honesty, and respect and the phrase ‘band of brothers’ translates pretty closely to ‘we the people.’ (And yes, I mean all the people… not just the people who look/act like you.)

Just think about these things when you’re out bopping about.  What have you done to help those around you?  Are you expecting the same from them as you expect from yourself?  Are you setting a good example? There’s a reason Henry V is still talked about 603 years later.

But, when you do something for the right reasons you don’t expect praise.  You do it because it’s the right thing to do.