Friday, November 30, 2018


“I'm breathing . . . are you breathing too? It's nice, isn't it? It isn't difficult to keep alive, friends just don't -make trouble-or if you must make trouble, make the sort of trouble that's expected. Well, I don't need to tell you that. Good night. If we should bump into one another, recognize me”

― Robert Bolt, A Man for All Seasons

Well, here we are. Hullabaloo seems to be over. The riot gone quiet (Yes, that is a hair band joke) and just the streets left to sweep up, the chairs to stand straight and with a little paint this will all be perfect again, no?

No. It is damned hard at the end of time of drama and controversy to look around at the mess of it all and find within yourself the will to start repairing the damage. You are just so very tired and just want to not be responsible for a little while. Shouldering the burden of public disputes, remaining civil and then trying to also man the brooms in the cleanup is a lot. We all have real lives and real problems and work and family and pets and whatnot- and then we have our weekend clubs. This is not the most important part of our lives, but it does take up a very important part of our lives: our free time.

The SCA (or insert any club, gaming group, sport, hobby, association, church) is where we devote our down time. Sandwiched between work and life, our time for play is supposed to refresh us. But what do we do when emotional fatigue and stress has made our fun hobby into that which we start to dread. Skipping that meeting sounds good. Staying home from the event because you don't feel 100%, brilliant! We can find our excuses anywhere.
Collar of estate and coronet of Master Taliesynne,
a 40 year SCA member. Photo taken at his memorial. 
The time after commotion is where clubs can experience their biggest attrition as the officers and those who fought through the controversy question the use of their free time. Those folks are also generally your influencers, prominent members who are connected with large subsets of your group. When we lose these influencers, we also tend to lose their friends. In the SCA that can be whole households, mundane family, associates, local groups, guilds and more. It turns out there is a big wide world of extra-curricular hobbies where people can spend their weekends.

It truly is not the intent of these noted and respected people to lessen the group by the lack of their presence. Indeed, they are likely trying not to bring the club down with their poor mood and lack of motivation. Yet, it does shake the group terribly. The retention of leaders and repositories of club memory is just as important as the retention of new people who keep the club fresh. We need both continuity and wonder to make The Dream come alive. We need the old stories told around the fire and the spark that lights within someone who finds their place and chosen family. We must kindle, but we must also re-kindle.

So, I went out looking for what recommendations are made for long term membership retention. I learned some things. Let me lay some new knowledge on you and as you read these: consider how they could connect to the SCA or your group- not just how they seem meant to be for business. First- most articles and resources believe that long term retention starts at the point of new membership.

Original helm of Master Taliesynne
from his memorial
When Does Retention Start?

Membership Services Inc offers an article titled: The Secret to Long-term Member Retention is in the Welcome
  • Resell them on the dream that encouraged them to buy. Repeat the transformations you promised within your sales letter and never take their excitement and motivation for granted.
  • Communicate the lingo and language they must have to become insiders. Your welcome kit’s written materials and audio should include backstories and an explanation of vocabulary your new members will need to know to feel part of the club.
  • Inspire your members to believe in your program and in their own abilities. Tell success stories of your past clients who have succeeded in your program so your new members knows it can also happen for them.
  • Establish community values. What do you stand for beyond just taking your members’ money and in exchange, giving them your stuff? Include your values to establish an emotional connection with your new members beyond the return on investment they receive from your membership.
  • Motivate to action with your biggest breakthrough. Save your advanced concepts and planning for later in your program. Start your members with what will give them the fastest-possible return on investment to inspire belief, engagement, and excitement.
ClubRunner suggests the following steps

  • Respond and receive promptly. New members need to feel included and welcomed as soon as they join the club. There’s no such thing as too much communication! New members want to know what the club is all about and quickly learn about its culture and practices before spreading the word. Make this a club effort by ensuring each member is involved with the new member's induction. 
  • Demonstrate personal interest. If club executives don't show that they care about each member and the value he/she brings, it will cause the member re-evaluate the reason for joining and second guess participation. Pay attention to member attendance records and follow up with new members with a personal phone call when they miss a meeting. Use ClubRunner's Customized Attendance report to generate a view of meeting attendance to immediately see trends and act upon them.
  • Deliver uninterrupted service. Constant and consistent meetings, communication and activities validate the club's purpose and goals. Make sure that new members are added to your ClubRunner member list to begin receiving the club eBulletin and other messages, and follow up with them to ensure that they are receiving these emails.
  • Provide up-to-date resources. If there's supplementary information that will help to educate members and assist them to be an evangelist for your club, which will ultimately increase your membership roster. Maintain a members section on your website where they can find documents like bylaws, past events, and other useful info to gain a better picture of your club. 
  • Members' needs change, so does the need for ongoing research to evaluate their response. With non-traditional communication and marketing methods on the rise, don’t be afraid to step out of the familiar routine. Try different ways to create awareness about your club and activities so members will know that the club is informed about and taking advantage of current trends.
  • Illuminated manuscript at the Cloisters. This is the stuff that
    hooked me on the SCA before I found it.
  • Membership Audit. Provide avenues where you can receive feedback about your club (i.e. Conduct surveys, firesides, and assemblies) to determine success. You should audit members (new and long term), officers and the membership committee to get a well rounded response of your club success.
Do these totally answer the question of how to deal with emotional fatigue or leadership fatigue? No. But it gives some places for us to start trying. 

Biz Locker Room says the following about leader fatigue: 
  • "Leadership is draining under the best of circumstances, but long-term tenure at any organization coupled with mounting adversity can lead directly to leadership fatigue. Quite often, the overwhelming stress created by setbacks leads rapidly to a further decline in performance."
Where to Start?

So where do we start when our officers and long term influencers are the ones who have grown tired and disillusioned? Here are my personal thoughts formed from over two decades working and volunteering with not-for-profits:
Medieval carving of St Fiacre
from The Cloisters
  • We need to treat them kindly. We need to offer them the same care, attention, compassion, kindness and welcome that we offer to our newest members. We need to put on the kid gloves for a while when we have exhausted long term members and officers. They are people too.
  • We need to assume positive intent.  After a period of turmoil, it is too easy to keep looking for more worms in the apple. Instead, we need to look at the rest of the tree. These are the same people who have dedicated years and even decades to the club. That deserves some respect and also means they should be considered the same wonderful leaders they have always been- but they might need a Snickers or someone who remembers that they are a good person who has worked hard for a long time and that means something. They are tired, grumpy, likely need a hug and probably would appreciate some coffee.
  • We need to celebrate the little wins. This is so important. It costs nothing. Telling someone that they look nice today, that their new dress is lovely, that you appreciate something they did or just appreciate them being around. 
  • Your words and deeds are important. It does not matter if you are the Crown or at your second event- your honest words are important and can make the difference to someone. This can be everything to someone who has had a crap day and is considering just staying home for the next event.
  • We need to apologize and admit we need space. Sometimes our exhausted long term members and leadership get grumpy. The say something that hurts someone else because they are in a crappy mood. It happens. We're all just people. When that happens and you realize you are upset, explain that you have had a rough day and ask for space. Apologize for your comment and admit that it was unkind and unfair. Checking yourself goes a long way toward avoiding later guilt.
  • We need to do what we love and kick it old school. What did you do before you were this
    tired? What did you plan to do before you even arrived at an event? What excited you? Go do it.Take an event and go to the kitchen as a prep cook. Just sit and sew. Cook over an open fire. Throw knives. This is ::your:: weekend or vacation time. You should get to enjoy it. 
  • Meet someone new. Seeing the wonder of the SCA through the eyes of a newcomer is a special kind of magic. Go introduce yourself to a new person. Don't use titles, just your name. Hi, I haven't seen you before. What's your name? Are you having a good time? Anything you want to try? Here, meet my friend so-and-so- they like to (insert activity here).
  • Just be kind. Take a moment before you speak or write and ask- is this kind? When you give this thought and treat people with kindness, they will often return the favor. Even if they don't- you weren't part of the problem. 
  • Share a meal. There's nothing quite like a potluck picnic or feast with friends to help us catch our breath.
  • Why so serious? Don't be afraid to be silly sometimes. Be a human. Crack a joke. Laugh. Have fun. Let yourself unwind. No matter how important you are in the SCA, it's still a Saturday and we are hanging out in the woods in funny clothes. Maintain perspective and a sense of humor.

Friday, August 10, 2018

On Public Enemies and the Wars Between Us

This picture of a kitten is just here to be soothing.

Well, it has been a couple of weeks. A lot of things have happened, words said and actions taken. As we can never go back to the time before this, this is now our reality. A big damn line was drawn in the sand (or dirt, Pennsylvania actually has that) and sides have been taken. Here we are. And yes, it sucks.

The issues of bigotry, racism, intolerance, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia (and dozens more distasteful isms and phobias) have now been addressed in public, as they relate to persons in the SCA. It's been rough, it's been ugly at times. It's been eruidite. It's been inspiring. It's been a galvanizing time. It has also sorted most of the SCA out into a few distinctly defined groups.

  • Group One: It's 2018 and this is not ok. We don't want this in our club and won't tolerate it. We will fight, and we will take a stand. Yes, we are generally quiet nerds but right now we are mongooses (mongeese?) and want to eat some cobra faces. Cobra faces are delicious.
    • My message: Go, Fight, win- but do it with honor and keep a civil tongue in your head. Stay on the high road or you become that which you protest. Go, you crazy mongeese and #IStandWithDavius beautiful people.
  • Group Two: This makes us reasonably uncomfortable but we dislike conflict and wish you
    The day Trimaris got MoDs.
    It was really nice.
    would all stop shouting. Sure, it would be nice if those things went away- but that's hard and we'd like to get back to medievaling please. Perhaps we'll write a letter later. We can deal with this quietly.
    • My message: Look around at what is happening. Do you want more people to medieval with? Then make this a better place for them to be, a place where they are comfortable and welcome. It's time to do the thing. Start writing that letter and actually finish it. Mail it. Then go paint some awesome silk or something.
  • Group Three: Oh dear, not in front of the children and new people! We don't want them to see all this strife. This should happen quietly and behind closed doors. Just take this back behind the tents and don't let anyone see!
    • My message:  They already see it is happening. They are very smart. How about we wrap this up and show them a resolution so they can know what kind of club we'd like them to join. Show them what you are willing to do to make this club a place they can be proud of. Sometimes airing the dirty laundry means people get to see you ditching it into the dumpster. That's not exactly a bad thing, because now your laundry is clean or it is gone. 
  • Group Four: This does not effect us and we don't care. Shut up. We have a tourney to fight and you are in the way on our field. Scram.
    • My message:  Ah, thanks for being most of the problem and not caring about the society around you. Society. Once again, Society. If you want to come and fight and drink and feast you need to pitch in now and again and support the society that makes those events happen. Now would be a grand time.
  • Group Five: F^%$ you, snowflakes. Suck my ::content redacted::
  • My message:  Allow me to show you the door to 1938. It's right this way. I think you will be very happy there and no, of course I'll not be coming along. You don't like me, after all.
Davius receives words from
Queen Cecilia during his
elevation ceremony.

I think that covers the major reactions I have seen, and the words I have desperately wanted to say to them.

Unfortunately, these issues have blown up in the most public venue of the SCA: Pennsic War. Or, perhaps, PennsiCon because so little of it is really like an actual SCA event. Over 10,000 people are there while these events unfold. Unfortunately, this particular issue that surrounds a King and his adherents, a reportedly racist Candidate being elevated to a peerage, and a Dissident: a guy who thinks he's a normal fellow, but is actually a cult of personality.

So here we are, the SCA is buzzing with actual discussion that was sparked by these events. Everyone in a single place. Events unfolding and then passing by word of mouth and by social media. People reacting, sometimes very far away and those reactions being heard back at the point of origin of this particular ground zero.

We have a King, a Candidate, and Dissident and with just these three people, and those close to them, this entire issue has been encapsulated, but in an incredibly public way. Everyone has an opinion, is galvanized, and we are all waiting on the edge of a precipice as letters are penned and screen shots are taken. We are caught between increasingly public enemies at an enormous war and we are all waiting for the shoe to drop. And now they are coming home from the wars, back to the fields of their own Kingdoms and they are carrying this story with them. Then, there will be no way to rake the leaves back into a neat pile.

Can we go ahead and deal with this, now? Please? It's time, SCA. Action. Honor. Society. Let's be the things we claim we are. Be the dream, not the nightmare.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Tolerating Intolerance: The Trap of SCA Courtesy

The Tree of Virtues
Give them another chance. Let's not rock the boat. Oh, he didn't mean it that way. Well, he didn't say it at an event. But she is so helpful in the SCA.

Stop right there. Rewind and consider: did you just make an excuse for someone's bad behavior simply because they are in the SCA? Are you trying to grant them courtesy and chivalry by allowing an individual a second, third or seventeenth chance? Are you apologizing for someone just because they are a peer, an officer, a longtime SCAdian, popular or well known?

Let's throw a red flag on that.

Courtesy can not be a forever one sided effort. If it is always being granted in one direction it ceases to be courtesy and just becomes an excuse that allows bad behavior. That "courtesy" has now become "permission". When you blow off the concerns of people again and again, you are granting your permission to the behavior of the offender. You have, in effect, become their agent, protector and cheerleader. Yay?

So, at that point you should really consider if you are ok with what you are now supporting. Is it racism, sexism, drunken bad behavior? Have you allowed someone to get away with a behavior that would make you wildly angry if it had been pointed in your direction? Does it make you uncomfortable? Is it starting to feel a bit icky as we break it down? Then, just maybe, you have extended too much courtesy to someone who has abused your kindnesses.

Do people make mistakes? YES! Should we forgive them? Maybe if they actually seek forgiveness and present a sincere apology or work to change their bad behavior! If they don't? Stop making excuses for them in the name of courtesy. It's a trap! It's enabling.

Is it courtesy when we allow an SCA royal peer to be embarrassingly drunk at events and make passes at women, because he had a bad day and drank too much? No, it isn't. It is discourteous to allow that behavior to be directed at other SCAdians. Some friend or peer should take their buddy aside and redirect him to his own tent, or somewhere to sober up. If he continues to act in this manner at multiple events then your buddy has a problem, not the women that think he's a drunken lecher and warn each other about him. Without correction and with this permission you have given, there is also the chance that the behavior will get worse and that one night, no will not mean no. That the argumentative drunk will get in a physical altercation. Will they put their hands on someone without permission?

Is it courtly to allow a member of the SCA to spew hateful rhetoric online and dismiss it simply because "it was online" not "at an event"? Nah. When this happens with a known member of the SCA and they continue to get away with it, they have become a representative of our group online who is being defended by other members of our society. They now have the permission of their friends to say terrible things without consequence. Potential members of the SCA see this and choose to do something different with their weekend, because we look like the wrong sort of people. People who are on the edge of the SCA drift away because of their discomfort. This "courtesy" to one person has then lost us potential membership, sometimes current members and has ripples that will affect us long into the future.

If anyone is always on the receiving end of forgiveness: it's time for them to stop doing the thing for which they need to be forgiven. If you are always helping to prop up someone who needs that constant forgiveness because of who they are in the SCA: are you being a good friend and are you being a good SCAdian? Maybe not?

This trap of courtesy extends even down to people we allow to be routinely rude to others. We just wave off those who are offended because that is just "who they are". NOPE. No matter who that person is in the SCA, they are also a grown-ass-adult and have to take responsibility for their own behavior and face the consequences of it when it sucks. Do you get away with that at work? It that permissible in the real world? NOPE. It's even more dreadful when the person being rude or unkind is a peer, a noble or a royal. Their behavior is smeared all over every symbol that they are wearing and the memory of these incidents will stick with the people who were treated poorly or even just saw someone else being treated poorly.

Yes, we will all have bad days. We'll all be, at one time or another, the person who is "the problem" to someone else. But when your bad days and behavior turn into just "you", it's time for a reality check from your friends and hopefully from your own brain. If your behavior is permitted only by the meekness, good will, pleasant memories of yore or resistance to making a fuss of others- it is not your detractors who are the problem.

I have decided that I will not sit meekly by when I see things that disturb me. I will use my voice because it carries far. I will set a blazing neon arrow above bad behavior to make sure that everyone can see it for what it is. That is my courtesy- to make sure terrible people don't get away with terrible things. I will make sure individuals are not picked on and threatened. I will say something when I see racism or homophobia or extremism. Suggestions of violence and humor about hurting others will not be put by the side as I blithely continue on my way. I will not be that peer.

The virtues of the middle ages demand us to be champions of those less fortunate, not those who bring the sky down upon them by being cruel or drunk or using their power for their gain. It's a rough road, but when I reach the end of it, I would like to have been on the right side of history- even if it is just in our medieval make-pretend club. Even in this game, the virtues matter to me.


I think, most of all, I may need courage. 

Friday, July 06, 2018

Social Media, the SCA and You: an editorial.

Ahoy, stormy seas ahead.
Social media exists. It is pervasive and has seeped into every cranny of our society. This can be seen as both good and bad, but it does give us unprecedented new ways to connect with people and stay in touch. In the SCA, that is fantastic for letting people know about events, classes, cancellations and helping people find the other folks out there that share their geekery for "Citrus in the medieval era" and "10th century cheeses from the Anglo Saxons". Or whatever floats your coracle...

These connections allow us a deeper level of play, association and collaboration than has ever been known in the SCA. We can coordinate remarkable things because we have so many ways to stay in touch. We can find new students and teachers for any topic. We can access information for research or watch a Youtube video of someone breaking down how a particular type of sword shot is achieved. We live in remarkable times and we will only continue to find new ways to connect as technology continues to advance and enfold us.

There is a catch to this though- it becomes very difficult to just be your best self at an event, especially if your best self is very different from you in the mundane world. You may play a Knight or a Laurel on the weekend, but if you come home and spout racist garbage or hate speech on your Facebook wall, everyone is going to know that Sir X or Mistress Y might not be the type of person they actually want to hang out with, in or out of the SCA.

You can present the most chivalrous face at an event, drip with courtly love, be kind to widows and orphans and hand roses to ladies. You will likely be adored for this behavior because it is our medieval ideal. However, if you come home and post up some more-than-slightly-racist meme or make a "joke" about the Holocaust... that is the thing you will be remembered for. You will be the Racist Knight or the Nazi Laurel. Ouch.

My cat problem is well known. I share pictures all the time.
I cannot later deny that I foster cats because I am
covered in them all of the time.
We don't get to turn off our SCA personas when we leave the event and have our mundane works and words entirely discounted in our game. That wall between persona and the mundane falls the moment you post something online where anyone can see it. It is there to be seen. That's why we post things online. This sounds obvious and redundant, but it is a key point of social media that a lot of people miss.

You post things online because you want someone else to see it, read it. and connect with you on some level. This goes for anything, positive and negative. You have to make a choice after writing or copying a meme to click on 'send' or 'post'. You have to take responsibility for that choice too.

In the wanderings through social media, the Law of Unintended consequences should be considered. Will your post make someone angry? Will your post hurt someone? Will someone share your post beyond the audience you intended? Will your words go farther than you meant them to? The answer to all of these questions, quite simply, is: YES.

A wise friend once told me to dance like no one is watching but write every email as if it will be later read in a deposition in court.

That seems extreme, but it is also entirely sensible. If you mix your real life, work life, political leanings, religious beliefs and SCA life online: People will get to know all of who you are in those arenas. They will see a bigger picture than what you generally present at an SCA event. Once that happens, there is no returning to your two-dimensional SCA persona that only exists one weekend a month and two weeks a year (much like the Reserves, in a way).

You are now a whole person to everyone who can potentially see your online postings. You are, quite simply, what you post because that is the way most people will interact with you and view you. Through this lens, try to look with the eyes of someone who does not know you and review what you have put online. Look carefully at what picture it paints and how it could be taken or misconstrued.

I'm not suggesting that anyone be politically correct; heaven forfend. Rock on with your bad self and post whatever your wee heart desires. If you want to push buttons and poke bears: go for it. It's your world, your oyster. However, remember that what you say, do, post and re-post will be seen. It will be shared. People will know you by your words and deeds before they ever meet you.

My reality is: don't post anything online publicly or on someone else's social media unless you are cool with your dad, coworkers, fellow SCAdians, colleagues, and former parish priest seeing it. That is literally a part of my public audience. If I want to share something with a smaller group, I use filters to reduce down the number of people who will see a post- sometimes to friends, or friends without acquaintances and sometimes to only close friends. Filters are your friends. No, seriously, filter your 'friends'. It makes a world of difference because not every conversation needs to be a public affair.
Look, it's me in garb. Anyone on
Facebook can figure out I am in the SCA

Nevertheless, if you put it online- be certain that you are comfortable having others view your post and respond to it. Because they will. Don't feign surprise and claim that who you are in the 'real world' and who you are in the 'knowne world' should not be mixed- because you allowed them to mix online.

If you have a single photo of yourself in SCA clothing or regalia, a work polo shirt, a club gathering, a religious event or any other aspect of your life on your social media, understand this: You are now a representative of that group. Your words, posts, and memes will be applied to that group and to you.

Unless you keep your worlds entirely separate- you will be known as a whole person with beliefs and jokes and troubles like everyone else. But that whole person can never be ironed flat again and slid back into the small, comfortable box that is one facet of your life. You have provided access to more of yourself and it will not be forgotten.

Choose your words with care. They define you and will linger in some internet archive forever. And if you do not use care, they will haunt you and be passed ahead of you to color the outlook of those you have not even met.

Free speech has consequences. Lots of them. No one will stop you from saying anything. However, maybe there are times you should stop yourself. If not, prepare to be judged.

“The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”

― Omar Khayyám, The Rubáiyát 

Thursday, July 05, 2018

A Shield for Sir Segdae hua Morda

I have this buddy in the SCA, Sir Segdae. We go to events together and sometimes I am his consort when he fights in tournaments so it makes me happy when he looks good on the field.

My buddy had been carrying a boring plain green shield for way too long and I threatened to make sure he would get a new moniker if he didn't fix it.

Sir Segdae, the plain green knight.

So, turns out he a.) believed I could pull that off b.) wanted a swanky shield and c.) didn't want a crappy new nickname. So, he handed his shield over for blinging.

Thanks to Countess Ennelynne von Hessen who did the rough design work and Mistress Milesenda de Bourges who did the main cartooning and helped me with the fill painting. I like group projects. I finished the painting and detailing. (Free-handing triskeles is super fun)

Now, Segdae has a boss (center boss, actually) new shield that makes people say "Woah!" and look down at his shield when they meet him on the field. Seems that works out nicely in more than one way.

Decorative and deadly. My favorite.