Archive | December 2015

Discussion: Is Jesus’ birth worth celebrating?

manger-620x412This morning I found this fascinating article entitled “Is Jesus’ birth worth celebrating?”  In it Valarie Talerico takes us beneath the surface of the Christian celebration of Jesus’ birth and looks at the inherent messages about female sexuality.

“A woman used is a woman soiled. A woman raped is a woman ruined. A girl who explores her body with a boy is a licked lollypop.  A divorced woman shouldn’t get married in white. Only an unbedded and so unsullied female—a virgin—could be pure enough to birth a perfect child, the son of God.”

The article goes into depth into the cultural and religious history behind these ideas that a woman who has never been sexually touched is superior to all other females.

Looking deeper than the article does, I must point out that these same cultures and religions often employ rape as a sort of weapon:  once used by the rapist, a woman is considered wholly unsuitable for marriage.

Though rape is a traumatic experience for the girl or woman, in societies and religious traditions where female conduct reflects on her male owners, the intent of the rapist is revealed to be more an attack on the men in her life, a way of dishonouring them through her.

Boudicca artist concept chariotThat is, in fact, the primary reason why Roman soldiers raped Queen Boudicca’s daughters:  they were sending a terrorist message that just as they ruined and shamed the Iceni (to rape their princesses is to shame the entire tribe), they were perfectly prepared to shame and terrorize any Briton daring to stand up to them.

And so we must examine in our own hearts what our values are and what we really want them to be.  Do we want to continue to measure a woman’s worth based on how many male genitals have touched her body and in what fashion?  Do we want to continue to weigh a person’s worth based on another person’s behaviour or experiences?  Do we still want to confuse service/nurturing with subservience and demand women treat themselves as inferiors to men?

Libby bird iconOr do we want something better for ourselves, our families, and our societies?  Do we truly believe in the equality of all people and the rights of every person to act according to her or his own conscience and convictions or will we persist on judging and condemning others for choices and circumstances that differ from our own?

Will we take the dark road of hate and judgement or will we take the harder road of love, acceptance, and peace?

I cannot answer that question for you; only for myself.  I choose love and peace.  I choose to accept you just the way you are — free of judgement.  You are wonderful just because you are you.

 

Merry Christmas!

–Laurel A. Rockefeller

 

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Five Facts about Queen Mary Stuart of Scotland You Probably Did Not Know

Mary Queen of ScotsMerry Christmas and Happy New Year!  As the holidays begin to wind down a bit (Yule was Monday Night/Tuesday) I thought I would share five things about Queen Mary Stuart of Scotland (1542 -1587) you probably did not know which I learned researching and writing “Mary Queen of the Scots” for the Legendary Women of World History Series.

  1. Queen Mary was born in December. The 8th of December to be exact.  Upon learning of his daughter’s birth, King James V predicted the ruin of his dynasty because she was a girl instead of a boy.
  2. Queen Mary’s love of her life (as evidenced in the poetry she wrote in French), King Francis II of France was incapable of having children.  As much as Mary loved him, too many generations of close marriage resulted in birth defects making children impossible for the happy couple.  As dangerous as the political situation turned out for Mary after Francis’ death in 1560, had he lived longer the situation would have likely become far worse for Mary and for Scotland as a whole.
  3. Lord Darnley was the healthiest suitor to Queen Mary–but not her first choice.  Understanding her duty to remarry following Francis’ death, Mary actually considered many possible suitors from across Europe.  The 16th century royals however were especially plagued with health issues (including King Edward VI of England whom Henry VIII tried to force Mary to marry).  Unwilling to marry beneath her class, Henry Stewart (also descended of Queen Consort Margaret Tudor) was Mary’s best chance at producing an heir.
  4. Protestant reformer John Knox was both her dangerous enemy and her friend.  True to the complexities of Mary’s court and her life as a whole, Queen Mary found John Knox to be an amiable companion when hunting or shooting her bow despite his efforts to impose radical Protestantism onto Scotland and depose Mary as queen.
  5. Queen Mary’s return from France transformed Edinburgh Castle into the bright and beautiful place it is today. Prior to Queen Mary’s reign Edinburgh Castle was a cold, dark, and dreary place.  This was in sharp contrast with the glittering palaces of Paris where she grew up and eventually reigned (briefly) as queen.  Partially to make Edinburgh Castle a proper and comfortable home for herself, Mary commissioned numerous improvements, adding beauty and glamour that was previously absent in Scottish courts.

 

Mary Queen of the Scots web

Learn more about Queen Mary Stuart in “Mary Queen of the Scots,” book three of the Legendary Women of World History Series.  Available for kindle, Nook, iBookstore, and in paperback on Amazon, Createspace, and at a retailer near you.

Createspace shoppers receive 25% off the paperback with coupon code XC3LXRCF.

Biography includes comprehensive bibliography, extensive timeline, and translations of Roman Catholic prayers from Latin to English.

Ghosts of the Past: the Dark Side of Medieval politics

Ghost of the Past Chinese webLast week the Ghosts of the Past debuted in Chinese language edition thanks to the careful work of some of the best translators in all of Beijing.  One measure of feedback I received from my editor was just how dark and sexy the book was.  Given my well deserved scholarly reputation as a historian, Ghosts of the Past and its equally saucy sequel Princess Anyu Returns might seem out of place from the rest of my work.  Out of place until you look deeper into history and explore the treacherous realm of sexual politics that was the experience for most medieval noble and royal women.

Life for women has always been somewhat of a treacherous experience filled with dangers.  With few or no legal rights or protections, women rarely decided for themselves who to have sex with, let alone marry.  Instead the men in their families, their governments, and their religions held almost complete control over their bodies.  Among women of high social status this meant that women’s bodies were tools for gaining wealth, power, and social status by those in position to use them.

Ghosts of the Past cover webThis social and political reality for women underscores the sometimes brutally dark sides to Beinarian society.  Sex and childbearing are tools the villains (both female and male) use at their leisure to impose their will on others, advancing mysterious agendas that only become clear after Princess Anyu Returns from her exile.   These agendas add spice to both Ghosts of the Past and Princess Anyu Returns with twists and turns around every corner.  Villains use sex and violence freely to achieve their goals, predating on the innocent and using every method at their disposal to thwart the heroes and heroines.  They are just as likely to kill as seduce and use offspring created at the expense of their enemies as weapons against them.

It is a dark, dystopic realm where only the bravest dare tread.

Are you brave enough to travel there?

 

Find the Ghosts of the Past in English on Amazon, Barnes/Noble, Smashwords, and iTunes or in Chinese on Amazon, Chinese Amazon, and Douban.

Myopia Epidemic: Get Outside and Play

This morning twitter gifted me with a fascinating study published this year in Nature magazine entitled, “The myopia boom: Short-sightedness is reaching epidemic proportions. Some scientists think they have found a reason why.”

Myopia2The study reports alarming and very dramatic increases in myopia (the scientific term for near-sightedness/short-sightedness) worldwide with Asian myopia rates now well over 90% compared to 10-20% just sixty years ago.

Intriguing in the analysis is the finding that time spent outside correlates with myopia with the highest risk for developing myopia among children and adolescents spending the greatest amount of time indoors and the lowest risk experienced by those spending the most time out of doors.  Activity level was surprisingly not a factor, but light exposure is.

Our eyes need light, especially unfiltered, natural sunlight in order to be healthy.  We need to get out of doors and play.  And on nice days we need to move our classrooms out of doors, something I am pleased to say my teachers did from time to time, especially in springtime.

So get outside — even when the weather is a less than ideal — and help preserve and protect your sight.  You deserve nothing less than healthy eyes.

The fine print: why the Rite Aid brand helps my skin better than Aveeno

Hives are painful.  Hives are common.  Though sometimes they have a clear cause, often the real cause of hives cannot be tracked, even by painful allergy tests.

Since August of this year I’ve been daily attacked by hives, especially at night when dozens of welts erupt all over my body.  At first I did nothing.  Then I tried cream after ointment after cream before going the classic route and picking up a bottle of plain calamine lotion from Rite Aid.  But that lotion is very runny and without anyone available to apply it to my back, I’ve been suffering.  That is when a friend suggested I try Aveeno’s Anti-Itch concentrated lotion which is creamy and easy to apply.

AVO-03690-1

This lotion costs around $12 for only 4 ounces — per ounce more than double the cost of the store brand calamine.  So I had high expectations for it.

To my shock however it does not work — at least not compared to the calamine lotion from the drug store.  This despite the known benefits to the skin of its oat complex and the excellent reputation of the Aveno problem.

A look at the fine print however is revealing.  Because when you strip aside the brand image and look only at active ingredients the answer becomes obvious:  it only contains 3% calamine and 1% pramoxine.  That means the lotion relies mostly on the oat complex the brand is famous for instead of the calamine solution that families have used for decades to successfully address skin diseases and conditions.

By contrast the Rite-Aid calamine lotion contains 8% calamine and 8% zinc oxide, both of them tried and true ingredients for healing and soothing the skin.  Though runny and a bit inconvenient to use, the lotion works — reducing pain and deterring scratching so the skin can heal.

And when that fails another very simple remedy helps me with the pain and swelling:  ICE PACK.