In American Civil War

Civil War Muster: Dancing as a Lady

During the second half of my Civil War day I got to live a completely different life. In order to live out a girlhood dream of mine, I had secured two dresses and two hoop skirts of the Civil War era fashions for my and one of my best friends Dawn to wear to the military ball. Dawn had been following me around all day, taking pictures and videos and getting a behind the scenes look at being a soldier. However now, the both of us together got to dress as ladies and went to dance at the ball. 

At the ball we surely had a ball! For about 90 minutes prior to it we participated in a workshop where we learned some Civil War era dances and got some practice in. This was a lot of fun and while the dances could be a little complex, with a little bit of repetition we had it down well. Dancing in a floor length dress with a large hoop skirt underneath was a very fun challenge. I kept stepping on it, as it was a tad too long, but over time I learned how to pick it up but still have  a good time dancing.

I knew I wanted to take part in the Civil War Muster because it would be an interesting thing to do and it would be a fun time. All the years I had witnessed this event as an outsider, I was thrilled to experience it up close and personal. I didn't exactly expect to having feelings of sadness for the real men and women who fought this cruel and senseless war. I thought about our crippled and fragile nation, the humans being torn apart by brutal weapons, and lives that people had to give up to settle some differences in opinions and lifestyle. 

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In American Civil War

Civil War Muster: Serving as a Soldier

You may remember last year I interpreted an American Civil War nurse at the Ella Sharp Museum. At that event I met a person who would later bring me into the world of Civil War re-enacting, but this time on a whole other level. Piece by piece he put together a uniform of a Union Army member, all meant for me.

Why would a woman re-enact a Civil War soldier? Well, for one, I was extremely interested in getting the most up close look at the action. Secondly, and more importantly, was I wanted to put myself into the boots of women just like me, who in their own time risked their lives to disguise themselves as men and take part in the fight for the Union. During the Civil War, women were not allowed to serve in the military in any way. In fact, at the very start of the Civil War, women were not even allowed to be nurses. However, there were a strong and stubborn few who secretly took on aliases to fight for their cause on both sided of the Mason-Dixon Line.

My day began at 8:30 a.m. when I joined the ranks of my company for a morning battle drill. This was my first experience with any kind of real re-enacting and I was nervous. I can not stress enough how nice the men of my company were to me. Men from all over the mid-west came together to re-enact and so we quickly became friends. I was told in the beginning that someone might pull my arm to help me get into position once in a while. That was an understatement. I had Daniel behind me who was my Corporal, shoving me around like a rag doll practically the whole time. I couldn't have been happier. Everyone was calm and precise, but authoritative and strong about what I needed to do. I wanted to do things as correctly as I could. I was truly in the flow of the company and I was going to go wherever they took me.

This put me in position to feel what it was like to be a soldier. Over time I stopped even concentrating on the idea that I was a woman soldier, but rather just that I was a soldier at all. I was easily able to imagine some of the feelings they may have felt. Fear, nervousness, being unsure. Not to mention hot, dirty, dehydrated. I felt all of those just in one day in their shoes. 

However, I also felt the positive feelings as well. Most of all was the comradarie with my fellow soldiers. I have to state once more, for the record, how nice people were to me. It was so fascinating watching people who are so passionate about something, do what they love. There is so much protocol, and they knew it all, but they were so willing to share it and not intimidate a newbie trying to do her best.

I loved the diversity on the field as well as the range of ages. Soldiers ranged in ages from young teens to 60+. I wasn't the only newbie on the field, there were a couple of teen boys near me that were in the same boat. As I studied people's faces I knew that these were the exact same faces of the real men that fought the Civil War. We may think that people looked different in a different time, but I think the truth is they looked exactly the same. Panning the area, I knew that these exact same men could have fought the exact same war, depending on when they happened to be born. What's more is that I was thinking about what these men do in their "real" life. Who are they? What do they do for work? What do they look like in 21st century clothing? 

In this short weekend I met so many interesting people, had interesting conversations, and learned A LOT though experience. Am I ready to invest in a Union uniform, not exactly, but I have a feeling my first battle won't be my last.

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In Self Reflections and Refinements

Improvements to Cash's Corner

Thanks to all of you for reading this blog! If you can believe it, I have been keeping this up for eight years this month! I was so reluctant to start it in the first place, thinking no one would want to read the random thoughts in my head. 

However, years later I hope I have inspired, educated, and entertained with the words that flow so easily out of me. I've lived in two countries with this blog and gone on numerous trips. But, I've also shared my thoughts about living, travel, and so much more. 

As you know, I made many videos when I lived in Japan. As much as I have loved blogging over these years, I really enjoy "vlogging" too. (video blogging) It's something that I want to continue to do. 

I put my videos up on Facebook and they were easy for friends and family to see, but now wanting to get a little more organization with them, I decided to upload them all to YouTube so I can create playlists and keep them more organized. Right now I am in the process of uploading all my videos from Japan to a channel there. I have chosen to disable commenting for all my videos. While my videos are searchable and public so anyone can view them if they really want to, I still see this as just a way to share videos with family and friends. YouTube viewers tend to be pretty honest in their comments (a.k.a very mean and rude), and it's just not something that I need to open myself up for. I don't have a dream of becoming a YouTube sensation, I just want the people in my life to hear what I have to say. 

I'm still working out the best technology and techniques for filming my vlogs. So bear with me, if the sound or filming quality is not that great. The cell phone microphone is not that great so it's probably best to watch my videos on a computer with good speakers. I'm researching better options for sounds, but with no job right now, I don't want to incur much more expense. 

To get to my YouTube channel you can click the picture link on the right side of this blog. Thanks again for reading and watching! 

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In Self Reflections and Refinements

Mentally Filing a Decade

Me at age 20. Maybe some foreshadowing going on there! ↑

Now that I'm 31, I can fully look back on the completed decade of my twenties. My twenties is when I flew from my parents nest and made my first 2nd home at Michigan State University. It is when the dream of becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer was born in me, and I spent the next three years with tunnel vision set on Peace Corps. It is when I lived abroad in Morocco and struggled to a point that it made me strong. It is when I rested, relaxed, and was nourished by the Jackson Community. It's when I decided I had to go away again and I made yet another second home in the country of Japan. 

At the start of the decade I told people that I just wanted a different kind of life. Going to college, getting a job, getting married, and having kids was not the timeline I wanted for my life. I started down that path of "a different kind of life" but eventually I think I got back into the same lane as most people and began thinking again I wanted what society wanted for me. 

It was only recently that I remember saying that original statement. And it made me wonder why I kept thinking that I was going to have to wedge myself back into that common track. But if you've watched me through my twenties you might have noticed my life has not been average. Why was I thinking I should eventually give that up?

One thing about being so addicted to seeking and having new experiences is dealing with having so many. From my time in Morocco, to the various work situations I have had, to my vacations in the U.S., to my life as an English teacher in Japan I have a lot to fill my brain. And I'm only 31!

Coming back from Japan and moving back into my old place meant I had to look at all my past belongings, most of them from my twenties. Looking at some of them and the things I kept, I wondered do I need this anymore? I started to realize those things weren't my memories and my memories could be kept compactly in my mind. As I've changed, the needed belongings in my life have changed, and some things just don't serve me anymore. 

Along with lots of organizing of my things I am now thinking I need to begin some mental organization of my memories. I need to work out a filing system in my head because I don't want any of them being pushed to a back shelf only to collect dust. My memories are invaluable and I want to easily be able to access them to never let how far I've come go far from my mind. 

So it's going to take some sifting, some categorizing, and a little dusting off to fully make sure everything I've done to make me who I am is always right there for me. And when I look back on it, it's proof that it just might not be possible for me to drive on the track that society wants me to. I want to be stronger in my ability to resist its rules for where I'm supposed to live, in what type of building, how I'm supposed to earn money, and who I'm supposed to spend my time with. I'm getting better at it. 

I look back at who I've been, who I've been molded into, and who I want to be moving forward. After this year in Japan I think its easier to stop, take a breath, and answer that last question. Who do I want to be moving forward? After a decade of this life its finally becoming clear I need to stop the resistance in myself and just live exactly what my truth is, and not apologize for it. Not to anyone else, and definitely not to myself. 
Age 31. (Yes I know I haven't changed.)

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In Japan

Climbing Fuji San

I have no mountains near where I am from in the mid-West, but that is not the case in Japan. Mountains are a dime a dozen here in Japan, and I sure was going to take advantage of my new found hobby of mountain climbing.

Just recently I completed what is known as "Japan's Three Holy Mountains".

Mt. Haku  September 2016  2,702 meters

Mt. Tate  July 2017  3,015 meters

Mt. Fuji  July 2017  3,776 meters

Yay-I climbed all three.
But this is all about Fuji-San.

For one my my last physical challenges in Japan, my friend Megumi and I climbed Mt. Fuji. For me it was my first and likely last, for Megumi it was her 5th. Most Japanese like to climb Mt. Fuji once in a lifetime, but there is a Japanese saying that only a fool would climb it twice. So Megumi is really, really, really, really, foolish!!

Japan is more than 70% mountains and Fuji stacking up at 3,776 meters (12,385 feet), is its tallest. It has appeared in literature, art, and culture for much of recorded history. When once thinks of Japan and that iconic snow capped, funnel shaped mountain, they are thinking of Fuji-San. Fuji straddles two prefectures, Shizuoka and the more tourist traveled Yamanashi.

Megumi and I began our Fuji adventure on the Shizuoka side of the mountain. Being a weekday we experienced less people than we might have on a weekend, on a less popular trail. Fuji's climbing season is just a short 10 weeks in mid-late summer during which hundreds of thousands of people, Japanese and foreign, take to its trails.

Megumi and I split up for most of the hike. Since we both were in different places physically, we agreed to stick to our own pace and check-in with each other periodically. That was made easy by the numerous rest stations positioned on Fuji. With endurance needed as the most valuable skill on this mountain, these rest stations provided much needed reprieve from the continuous trekking. It was great for mental stamina, hiking from station to station knowing that there would be places to stop every so often.

This meant that I had a lot of time alone to think. This climb was about reflection for me, so I thought about the past year of my life and the good fortune at that was bestowed upon me. I felt truly privileged to be on this mountain, in this country, getting to experience all this wonder. From dense forest, to lush green walkways, to vast expanses of dark grey volcanic rock, Fuji has it all. 

Once we reached the summit we had rested and took in the sights before we could check into the mountain hut in which we were staying. There are numerous ways to hike Fuji, but what we did was hike to the summit, spent the night, got up very early to view the sunrise, and began our decent at 6 a.m. the following morning. In all likelihood, we could have gone up and down in one day, had we been up for at least 9 hours of hiking. But instead, we elected to sleep on a mountain top, be sheltered by its majesty and we were so glad we did. 

Much to our massive, massive surprise after our simple dinner with a few other guests in the mountain hut, we were shocked to learn there was going to be a one-time-only, surprise performance at the top of Mt. Fuji, in this very mountain hut by Japan's most famous magician, Mr. Maric! As Megumi and the two girls were were getting to know were jumping around like teenagers as they told me, I just shouted "I love magic!" I didn't know who this Mr. Maric was, but I knew I was in for an amazing treat. 

We were treated to not only one magician but two! The opening act was a magician named Hide, who owns a magic themed bar in Tokyo with an $80 cover charge. Never in my life had I seen such up close magic. Hide's mix of humor, charm and confidence made for continuous jaw dropping moments. 

Mr. Maric

Here I was, in my night clothes, huddled up against other Japanese people, in an intimate, once-in-a-lifetime performance. It was definitely one of those "this is Japan" moments. 

I left with a Hide souvenir, my very own magic origami that Hide folded and signed for me. As well as this adorable picture. 

Fuji really spoke to me and I felt honor being on it. It felt safe, serene, and comforting. I'm so happy we did this and these three mountains are within me forever. 

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