Monday, December 28, 2009

The Monkey Army

I left you hanging with the last post and the promise of tales of monkey armies and Cortez to come. Since then I have been consumed by holidays, travelling, babies and finishing the rough draft of my essay. With all those behind me now I have a moment to make good on at least one part of that promise and hopefully entertain you with a strange tale encountered amongst the pages of 'the Decades.'

There is no better way for me to put forth this tale than to simply provide the passage itself for you to read.

"Many amusing things might be told about the monkeys, but they are also dangerous in the mountains the governor, Pedro Arias, has crossed, and which he daily renders more accessible by breaking down the rocks and burning the dense forests. The leaders of the monkeys (for they march in troops and are not courageous when alone) call together a great multitude of different breeds when they see a band of white men approaching, and give vent to horrible cries, springing from tree to tree, following the men wherever they can and amusing them with a thousand gestures and grimaces, especially the longtailed monkeys. Sometimes they descend almost to the tree-trunks, but as soon as they see preparations made to attack them with bows or firearms, whose power they understand, they re- mount to the tops of the trees with the rapidity of the wind, uttering furious cries and gnashing their teeth.

They are so quick that they are able to escape the arrows shot at them by seizing them on the wing, as though they were being offered to them; but they are unable to avoid the projectiles of firearms. It is consequently by means of these latter that many monkeys are killed, especially the little ones which are less careful. Whenever they see one of their number stricken to the earth wounded and about to be captured by our men, they tremble and lament so loudly that the air is filled with their complaints. They make more noise than a thousand roaring lions or whining tigers. Here is a sufficiently curious detail. Each monkey, when he climbs a tree, takes as many stones as he can carry in his hands and mouth to throw from the top branches when the Spaniards stop to shoot at him with their bows or muskets.
One day an archer aimed his arrow at an old female with a very long tail. The animal feigned not to see it, half closing her eye; but hardly had the arrow left the bow than she severely wounded him in the face with a stone, which broke his teeth. The unfortunate beast was punished for its cunning, for the moment the stone dropped the arrow killed her. She was eaten with great satis- faction, for did the men not eat toads or still worse, when driven by the pangs of hunger?"

Maybe it's just me but I felt such emotion when I read this tale! The animals marching together against the invaders, the old female knocking the teeth right out of the soldiers mouth (seems like justice doesn't it?) You were pulling for the monkeys weren't you? Mad when you read the female was killed and eaten? Sad to hear the little ones were shot? Me too. The Decades will do that to you, tug at your emotions and make you feel frustration, remorse, anxiety even, over events long past.

Though I am done with the rough draft of my essay the decades have forever changed my perception of history, not just the events that transpired during the New World explorations but history as a whole. How many years have I believed a history taught to me only to find parts false? Howabout not known things at all that seem critical to any human being seeking knowledge of history? Especially the history of the Americas. Everyone should know this stuff, this book should be the required text and reading of _____ grade. (Take your pick of age level:)

I may reveal more of the book in future posts but most likely I am done recounting the Decades of the New World. I hope you enjoyed the little bits that I shared in this blog and that you have a better understanding of the events that transpired to bring us all to his land. Thank God I was born in 1978-
My next project is working on letters written by Lincoln and Washington so stay tuned. Who knows what I'll uncover:)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Fee Fi Fo Fum

Todays topic is Magellan and his fantastic voyage.  Although perhaps not so fantastic to him since he never made it home, poor guy:(
Leaving Spain with 5 ships, the Trinidad (his flagship), Concepcion, San Antonio, Victoria, and the Santiago, Magellan embarked on his famous journey with 257 men.

The men stopped to wait out the cold months after entering the Gulf of Bahia, staying with the natives in huts on the banks.  After this they continued on and discovered giants in Patagonia!  These giants were described as being 2 cubits taller than a tall man.  From what I can gather there are different cubit measurements.  I think it is the first known unit of measure and is mentioned in the bible when Noah was building the ark.  The Egyptians used it, the Romans, Greeks etc.  I would equate 2 cubits to be just shy of 3 feet so you can imagine that the Patagonians were 9 feet tall (that's assuming a 'tall' person in Spain at the time was 6 feet.)  They were nomads who had no laws or houses and wore skins and carried spears. An interesting little known fact, it is from this description of giants that Shakespeare based his character Caliban on in 'the Tempest.'

Speaking of tempests, I should note that upon arriving at the entrance to the strait a great tempest arose and threw one of the ships upon the rocks breaking it to pieces.  Thus, the Santiago was lost leaving 4 ships. Shortly after this Magellan had to deal with threats of mutiny but that tale is pointless and I won't go into it except to say he quelled the uprising though arguably never recovered the men's faith in him and respect.

To read the account of navigating what became known as the straits of Magellan is truly nailbiting.  Never knowing what lay beyond the horizon or around the bend, surrounded by immense mountains, discovering a passage that cut strait through the bottom of South America, Magellan displayed bravery and perseverance.

No GPS, no maps of reference, nothing but the stars and ones own instincts to guide you. I'm amazed by these explorers.

After entering the strait and coming into an open sea area the ships dropped anchor for a bit.  When they drew up their anchors to carry on one of the ships, the San Antonio, was expected to follow.  Instead it turned around and headed back to Spain and upon arriving slung nasty accusations, the details of which are not mentioned in Martyr's account, against Magellan.  Martyr did not yet know at the time of his writing what punishment would be handed down upon the deserters but he was sure it would be harsh. So now we are down to 3 ships.

The ships entered the strait on the 21st of October and came out on the 5th of December at which time they set sail across what was referred to as the South Sea (the mighty Pacific!)

Oh those poor souls!  They sailed 3 months and 20 days never seeing a thing but water and sky!  Starving, hungry, burning under the immense heat of the Sun, and going literally nuts, they came upon two deserted islands that were barren of anything except sand which they rightly named the Unfortunate Isles.  Forced to drink seawater which they said stunk so bad they had to close their eyes and plug their noses when they drank it, and mixing a 1/3 salt water into their rice to make the fresh water last, these men carried on.

Finally they came upon some islands that are thought to have been in the region of Tahiti.  The natives there had a serious problem with 5 finger discounts, so much so that when the Spaniards weren't looking they stole just about anything they could get their hands on including one of their boats, not a big one mind you that would be pretty hard, just a small vessel used to go ashore.  The Spaniards realized it was gone, went after the natives, killed a few, and got the boat back.  Minus the killing, the image of natives waiting for the Spaniards to turn their backs and then grabbing stuff and running off is kind of amusing.  The Spaniards aptly named these islands the Ladrones (now know by the name Mariana Islands)which means thieves or robbers.

                                               Now in the area of Indonesia, China, Phillipines etc...

The largest of these Islands is Borneo and it is surrounded by two smaller islands, Matam and Zubo.

It is at Matam that Magellan lost his life when he tried to capture the capital and was greeted by the islands King and his people all armed and ready for battle.  I have read elsewhere that Magellan's men did little to help him and literally watched him die but I can't say if that is accurate.  If it is shame on them, what a crappy crew he had.  Although all this mutinous behavior does make one wonder if perhaps Magellan might have been a bit of a jerk.  Who knows? Either way, the voyage pressed on.

If I were to try and relate the happenings between this point and the arrival back in Spain of the last and only ship to make the entire journey I would probably not do the men who survivied it justice.  It is sufficient to say famine, fatigue, thirst, and the untimely capture of 18 men by the Portuguese (who hated the Spaniards with a passion and the feeling was mutual) when they stopped to ask for supplies, etc...Of the 257 men who set out on 5 ships, 31 men returned on the Victoria having completed the trip round the world.

The men survived a trip of what they claimed was 14,000 leagues though the author says the Earth itself is only 8,000.  He wagers this may be due to the sailors being ignorant of a more direct route.  14,000 sea leagues is roughly equal to about 42,000 miles.  Keep in mind that the ship they were on was so full of holes that it required a constant slew of sailors throwing out water to keep it from sinking.  I'm getting tired just reading about this journey.

And so Magellan died before fully realizing what he helped achieve.  Would he be surprised to know his name lives on, covering the front of a billion GPS systems telling people where to go so they don't get lost.  In fact if you google 'Magellan' your #1 return will be the GPS system and not the great explorer.  It's a sign of the times, not enough people care about history.  Before I get on a soapbox I'll end this and carry on in my next post with a hilarious tale of a monkey army and the end of the Mayan's brought on by Cortez.

    (Oh what a tale. Image from the movie Apocalypto, which I highly suggest watching again if you've already seen it or watching period if you haven't seen it at all.  Really amazing movie that Mel Gibson did not get enough credit for)


Monday, November 30, 2009

Of Civilization, or Lack Thereof

If someone asked you to describe what you think the natives of the new world looked like, the kind of shelters they lived in, what their clothing looked like, what would you say? Would you describe naked heathens who lived in huts.  If you did you'd only be partially correct.

                                            (Image from the movie The New World by Terrence Malick)
There was another side to the new world that included civilizations who had built cities, erected grand monuments, written books, were fully clothed in beautiful garments and jewelry, and valued scholars and knowledge as much as the neighboring cannibals valued chaos and war.  Of course now that 2012 is upon us you may already have recognized the culture of which I speak, the Mayans.

                                          (Photo: Hansjoerg Klein-The Pyramid at Tikal)

In 'the Eight Decades' I have read the first written accounts in English of Mayan civilization.  The Spaniards were amazed to find that the Mayans were not only amiable and welcoming but also very intelligent (arguably more so than most of the sailors who first encountered them.)  Apparently upon landing at the shore of the Yucatan the Spaniards were greeted by natives.  With no interpreter present the Spaniards tried to glean the name of the land by gestures to which the natives replied "Yucatan, Yucatan."  The Spaniards assumed this was the name and it has been called that ever since.  However, 'Yucatan' in the native tongue meant roughly "I do not understand you."  The actual name of the land according to the natives who lived there was Eccampi.

It is a sad fact that contact with the Spaniards brought about as much destruction as construction.  Libraries of books were destroyed by Bishop Diego de Landa, a nasty little book burner brought to the Yucatan to teach the natives about the Catholic Church.

He gained the trust of the Mayans by showing interest in their culture and heritage.  They allowed him to view their sacred texts, which he then had burned deciding that they were full of nothing but superstition and the devil.  The number of books burned is argued over, some say thousands others say a more exact figure of 27, but even if it was just one, oh what a loss!  Only 3 or 4 books survived.  The Mayans tried to recoup their losses by rewriting from memory what they could but just imagine if someone burned the only copy of the bible and it then had to be rewritten by memory.  All those teachings and observations done by different people over years and years...the amount lost would be unimaginable. Thus it was this way with the Mayans.

But wait! What would a history lesson be without a little blood? And as in all stories pertaining to the new world, there will be blood.
As fabulously advanced as the Mayans were, they still believed in the seemingly primitive act of human sacrifice.  Sacrificing boys and girls to the creator was a regular practice done at harvest time and other necessary times of the year.

                                                          (Image: Encyclopedia Mythica)

Boys and girls were encouraged to volunteer for such a treat and if no one did then a slave was taken and fattened up like a Christmas goose before being offered up.  The Mayans feared if they didn't do this then the creator would let loose a plague of locusts (they pop up all over the place don't they?) or hail on them destroying their crops.  An odd correlation between that belief and the Christian belief of revelation don't you think?  Considering this civilization was completely separated from the bible and yet both believe in a creator who wanted proper adoration or else humans should feel the wrath!

On a lighter note, the Spaniards did observe a baptismal like practice amongst the Mayans.  At the age of one year boys and girls were carried to the temple in a grand ceremony where they were then sprinkled with water over there heads.

To be continued...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Of Ocean Currents, Pearls and Such

I often wondered why the voyages of early explorers seemed to be so haphazard.  Granted, to begin with they didn't have a destination because they didn't even know what, if anything, was out there. But on return voyages it would seem their lines of travel would have a little more purpose and direction. Today I learned why they didn't, or rather why they did but it just didn't look like it.

Ocean currents prevent ships from sailing in a direct line, in fact one current was so strong, near what is modern day Antigua, that it took them the whole day to sale one mile.  Yikes, sounds like traffic on 696 :)
This fact would be obvious to any modern day sailor, and I confess I did know about ocean currents I just never gave a second thought to how they affected travel, only to how they affect the weather.

      (image courtesy of   It's dizzying isn't it?  Makes me feel like I'm being flushed down a toilet.

Amidst these choppy waters was a group of Islands referred to as the Margarita (this is how it was written in the book), which is the latin form of the Greek word Margarites meaning 'pearl' (that's for you my dear sister-in-law:)  This island was so full of pearls that it drove the Spaniards nuts and they would send home barrels of them weighing hundreds of pounds to the King and Queen.  HUNDREDS of pounds! The natives of course didn't care because pearl and gold held no value to them other than ornamental. Plus there were so many they knew the Spaniards couldn't possibly deplete the supply...right?

Moving on, today I learned of a species of giant fish called Manati by the natives.  There was a story of a fisherman who caught a baby manatu in his net.  Apparently these creatures were very intelligent and loved the company of men, so the fisherman kept this particular one, feeding him Yucca and special bread for several days at which time he put the Manatu, which he now called Manu, into the lake by his house.  From then on whenever the natives would go to the shore and call out to him he would come up hoping for yucca or some other treat.

If you hadn't figured it out from the get go this animal was actually a Manatee:)  I'm embarrassed to say despite the obvious phonetic relationship between the words and the spelling being essentially the same it took me a while to figure this out.  The description of the animal was as follows; a large animal like an elephant, shaped like a turtle but without a shell and with a head like a bull.  I spent so much time trying to imagine if they were describing the Loch Ness monster I couldn't see the answer staring me in the face:) Deep in my research was I;)  My mind is way too sci-fi for it's own good, but I digress...

Who wouldn't want one of these?

This cute sidebar is a rare occurrence in the chronicles of the new world.  Martyr goes on to talk about how the natives, despite the king having declared them all free, were still being forced to work in the gold mines and, being unnaccostomed to hard labor, were dying in large numbers.  Those that didn't die were either extremely ill or took drastic measures (women used herbs to induce abortion so their children would not be forced to live a life of servitude.)

It isn't known for sure what the original population of Haiti and Cuba were, estimates of 12 million seem unlikely, but whatever it was 25 years after the Spaniards arrival the population had shrunk to 14,000.  Between 1507-1513 it shrank from that to 4,000, and by the year 1750 not a single native remained. (MacNutt, 1912)  They essentially were worked into near extinction.  I say near because even though it is stated not a single native remained many of the Spaniards took native brides and had children.  So they live on in that sense.

Before you feel too bad about what happened to these people remember, these natives were tortured, extorted, enslaved, murdered, eaten, sacrificed and oppressed by each other long before the Spanish arrived.  I only point that out because it would seem a serene place until the Spanish came and ruined it but that's not entirely the case.

While 'bringing Christianity to these poor souls' may have been the mantra of the Spanish the truth was they stayed and conquered for gold, pearls, silver etc...and by doing so at the point of a sword they have forever stamped themselves as oppressors.  It doesn't help that they convinced natives the reason they were all getting sick from the diseases the soldiers brought to the new world was because the hadn't converted to Christianity.  The story isn't simply black and white but many shades of grey.

(image courtesy of New World Encyclopedia)  Sorry if this is disturbing but this is reality.  It was not a serene place.

Thus concludes my history lesson for the day.  Stay tuned for a change in topic as I post numerous pictures of cute babies:)  xoxo

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Lesson in History Part Deux

Off to the library today...

The beautiful Clements

I continue to chip away at the remarkable book I'm to write an
essay on.

Today I read more of the third decade.  Here is one of the important things I learned:

When the natives ate they used their right hand to eat a piece of maize or bread and at the same time their left hand to eat meat or fish.  Having no napkins or cloth with which to wipe their hands they used the soles of their feet, their hips or sometimes...their testicles.  Ha ha.  Ah the new world, such a wonderous place.  How can I work this entertaining morsel into my essay?

More talk today of the fearsome dogs the Spaniards used in war, and sometimes on unruly natives.  This is just feeding my fear of dogs by the way.  Today however, Martyr gave a little background on the dogs.  They were once called Mollosians, an ancestor of what we know as Mastifs, or possibly even Rottweillers, it's not known for sure.  Mollosians were fiercly trained dogs in Epirus, a city in ancient Greece, that were used to guard flocks of sheep and also for hunting.  Eventually aiding Greeks and Romans in wars and ultimately the Spaniards who I now have the pleasure of studying

Scary eh?

These dogs were sweet and loyal but when told to attack by their Spanish masters,by a simple finger point and utterance, they became like the hounds of hell.
Vasco Nunez used them to rip apart some grossly disfugured ( "dirty and gnarled" as he called them, so that they were "barely recognizable as human") and abusive caciques (village leaders)  who had abused their power and had raped many women and terrorized neighboring villages.  On this day I say yay for vicious hell hounds!

Peter Martyr, who is the author of all that I'm reading, back tracks a lot.  So today, even though I was reading the third decade which was taking place about 1514, Martyr skipped back to tell more of Columbus' 4th voyage in 1502.  I love Columbus.  Such a misunderstood explorer.

Despite reports to the contrary Columbus was not a violent racist.  He was very much a pacifist and tried everything in his power to bring peace to the new world.  He was smart enough to know that more could be accomplished if the natives were friends and allies who willlingly shared knowledge and information about the topography of the new world and all it's contents, rather than waste precious time at war with them.

It is unfortunate that the time period and certain circumstances made this impossible at times.  Many of the men he left at stations around the newly discovered Islands committed such atrocities that the author (having gleaned all information from Columbus himself) dared not elaborate except to say that they were more savage than the native cannibals.  Yes, cannibals...they were rampant in the new world as well.

Columbus had to spend a good deal of time defending himself to Isabella and Ferdinand also, as there was no end to the usurpers who wanted to see him fail and would send letters to the King and Queen claiming falsehoods about poor old Chris.  Doing so in person meant sailing all the way back to Spain (around 26 days voyage) and then spending time home followed by stocking up and organizing a return trip.

A map of the four voyages of Columbus

Think of all the valuable time lost, thank God we have modern communications such as cell phones, land lines, e-mail, UPS, Fedex etc :)

And that concludes my short history lesson for the day. xoxo ;)

My view on the way to my car.  Even on a dreary day like today it's still a beautiful.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Trick or Treat

There was a little cloud of sadness over me Saturday as I walked my two sons house to house continuing the time honored tradition of trick or treating.  They had a great time, Desmond riding in the stroller for much of the trip and Miles walking away from every house stating "My bags not full yet momma, it's not full."  The cuteness of these statements did nothing to keep me from seeing my own life flash before my eyes as my 3 year old walked up the steps to a house I once had slumber parties at.

You see, we went to the neighborhood I trick or treated in as a child.  I loved that I could do that but at the same time felt a little grief stricken as I realized how quickly the time had gone by since then.  I don't feel like it was that long ago that I stayed the night at the Robb's or walked to the Erskine's from my best friend Nikki's house.  I don't feel like it was that long ago that Miles was too little to trick or treat for that matter.
But alas, those days are behind me.  And happily there are still a few parents living in those beloved houses, proof that those days really did exist even though they may seem like a far away dream now.

Buzz and Woody

Here he is telling me his bag isn't full.  Of course he didn't realize Matt was periodically dumping his goods into Desmond's bag so that it wouldn't be too heavy to carry.

                                                Daddy flying Buzz to the next house:)

Despite my mood swings ;) it was a great Halloween.  Now, what to do with all this candy?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Potatoes in the New World

Here are some pics I haven't shared yet.

It's bedtime...holla!  Notice the peeled border in the background?  I will never again put something like that in reach of tiny fingers.  As soon as Miles could stand up in the crib he started to peel the border and when Des came along he did the same thing.  Looks real classy right?  I refuse to fix it until we move into our own house.

                                                     Daddy sneaking baby kisses

I'm feeling a sore throat and that weird swallowing thing you get when you're getting sick but not quite there yet.  Hopefully it won't go full blown because I don't have time for that.  At least that's what I keep telling my body in my head "stop it, I don't have time to be sick."

I continue to chip away at "De Orbe Novo"  and I have to say it is taking much longer to read it than I anticipated.  I usually spend 4 hours at a time at the Clements and in that time I can read about 115 pages on average.  That's 115 of the modern English translation.  Currently I am on page 294 in the modern which translates to page 94 in the actual book.  SO....there are 390 pages in the actual book.  Gonna take a little longer is my point.

Yesterday my pseudo travels took me on journeys with Vasco Nunez, who like to set wild dogs upon unruly South American natives.  Not a very uplifting topic but the reality of new world exploration is not for the faint of heart. I also read the first written account EVER of a white potato.  Of course many people still do not know that the potato did not originate in Ireland, despite the fact we associate potatoes with the Irish almost instantly.  They originated in South America!  The Spanish explorers, whose first hand accounts I am reading for my essay, were so taken by the little dirt rocks they couldn't stand it.  They called it a miraculous gift from God much like the water chestnut when eaten raw and a delicacy when cooked.  It's funny to read and try to imagine a world without potatoes, which is exactly what the Europeans had before landing in the New World.

And that concludes my history lesson for today:)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Lots of Pretty Pictures

Seems there is no end in sight to the pretty autumn pictures I keep capturing of the boys.  I think I can thank my Canon for that as well as mother nature:)  But first let me share this indoor shot of my little men.

Last week Miles decided he couldn't possibly eat unless he had his microphone next to him so he could sing while he dined on lovely pasta:)  I was happy to oblige him and am now convinced that he is on the road to music greatness.  I'm hoping more for a composer than a rock star.  Celebrities have too many issues :P

A day at the pumpkin patch.  Not to be confused with the apple orchard we seem to so frequently visit:)

My sweet little man.  I told him to pick up that big one and bring it to momma and of course he actually tried to:)

Baby Miles

    Walking through the pumpkin patch.

                   Babies Sarah, Desmond and Miles.  Cousins love to play together and eat together too:)

Everything in Moderation

Today I am contemplating the need for more time in a day.

Instead of being able to devote the 8-10 hours I truly need to work on my book, or read the Eight Decades for my soon-to-be published essay, or clean and organize all rooms of the house in which I live, or finish and fold eight loads of laundry, or go to the store(s) to pick up much needed items, or visit Border's and center my soul with coffee and paper, or any other of the bagillion (yes, it's a word if I say it is) things that one has to do in a day to simply be you.

I realize that everyone deals with this 'lack of time' frustration but my daily life is lived 98% for others so I'm entitled to a little selfishness right!?  My biggest problem is the frustration induced anger the time dilemma creates for me, which I then have a bad tendency to take out on cutie babies.

Now, let's be clear, these little men are pushing the envelope of acceptable behavior most days but they are only 3 and 1 therefore leeway must be given.

Besides, it's hard to be frustrated for long when these are the faces you're looking at:)

Yeah that's me on the left and Matt on the right in case anyone couldn't see the resemblances:) (Above)

                                                                  Brotherly love!

And on and on.  After children we are able to still do the things we love but everything in moderation.  SO no I don't get 8 hours to write, but when my mom watches the boys maybe I can get in 3.  Matt and I don't while away the weekends anymore but we do get out often enough to keep our sanity.  As for the laundry, organizing, shopping never ends anyway.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Again at the Orchard

You can't live in Michigan and not visit an Apple Orchard at least once, if not multiple times, in the Fall.  It's beautiful out with the colors changing, the weather is mild and allows you to let the kids run free just a little more before going outside means putting ones little bambinos in 72 layers of down that they can't really move in without falling over every two inches like they're doing the 'trust fall' at summer camp.
I actually love that part, it's the 45 minute outerwear dressing time before actually getting out the door that kind of  works the patience.  Anyway, Matt's Aunt Linda and Uncle Brian were visiting from Arizona, land of sand and heat, and lo and behold it was their first visit to Michigan so you know what that means.
I wish I could say it was beautiful out but unfortunately, despite the forecast calling for a balmy 60 degrees, it turned out to be more like 40.  To someone from AZ that might as well be -40:)  We still managed to have fun and in defense of the forecast I think it hit 60 about 4:00 pm for a few minutes when the Sun found it's way out from behind the blanket of gray clouds.

Matt's Mom and her half-sister Linda

Desmond gave up on walking, he just wanted to eat his apple:)

Miles, on the other hand, is much more interested in picking them than he is in eating them.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Preserving Family

When I was a little girl, about 8 or 9 years old, I helped my cousin Kelly conduct an oral history of my Grandma Drow's life.  At Christmas that year my cousin Diane, who has lived out of state as long as I've been alive, sent my grandmother a "Grandma Remembers" gift.  Now, we've all seen these books or kits at Border's or Barnes and Noble.  Or maybe you haven't because you don't spend all your free time at bookstores like moi, it doesn't really matter, the point is they're out there and they are very much worth the 'trouble' of purchasing and following through with filling them out.
Little did I know at the time we were doing this how much this simple gift and short oral history would turn out to be a very precious memory and invaluable piece of family history.  That would last for years beyond my dear grandmother herself.
Bertha Catherine VerSnyder, what a woman.  As I was cleaning the basement one day I came across the printed manuscript of that day and reread the life story of my grandmother.  I read of her childhood in Leelenau, her courtship with my grandfather Fred, the birth of my Aunt Vonnie and my Dad (and ultimately all 5 of her children), and I remembered that a life was lived.  I exist because she existed, my children exist because she existed, just as she did because of her ancestors. What an amazing revelation, and how sad that more people don't cherish and try to preserve the life stories of our precious family members.
We all walk through this life for a very short time and when we are gone we will only be remembered by what we leave behind.  Some people are great scientists, politicians, sports stars, teachers.  There mark is well-documented. Others are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, no less remarkable but sadly less documented.  I had my mother fill out a book about her life and a separate one about her relationship with my Dad.  It's something I know I'll always treasure and no one can tell a life story better than the one who's lived it.

The little girl on the far right is my Grandma Drow

I love this picture they both look so young.  Grandpa was a handsome guy!  That is a nephew of my Grandparents not one of their children.

This one didn't scan very well, but it's a very debonair shot of my Grandpa and the best part about it is the notation by my Grandmother on the bottom (which unfortunately isn't visible) that says "My Man."

A great shot of My great grandma Drow (1)holding my father (#2 he was a cutie pie:), (3)Great-grandpa Drow, (4) Uncle Wally, who  looks like the relative I got my Laissez-faire attitude from:) and finally my Grandpa Drow (aka Fast Freddy) 1941

I guess what I'm hoping is that people will be more thoughtful about preservation.  In the immortal words of Simon and Garfunkel "Preserve your memories, they're all that's left you."  I hope this wasn't depressing.  I really meant it to be more inspirational and informative.:P  And because no blog posting is complete without a gratuitous picture of cutie babies...

Pregnant with Des, enjoying some final alone time with my baby Miles.  Doesn't seem so very long ago:(

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Apple Scrumping etc...

I suppose it wasn't technically scrumping since I believe that means to steal apples from a tree and B and I paid for ours, but never the less we did go to Wasem's to pick apples and try to get into the Fall groove. I love Fall more than any other time of year.  Everything smells like cinnamon and the landscapes look like they were painted by one of the masters.

Good times were had by all.  That's all for now, off to buy a Michigan shirt and get ready for the game.  Go Blue!

Monday, October 5, 2009


It's official.  I will be publishing an essay in a book for the Clements.  I am going to have a heart attack.  I wish I had a picture of myself looking like I'm having a heart attack to insert here but instead I'll put in this.

Precious little men:)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Will Work For Free

Yes, you read that right.  I am currently working for free, otherwise known as volunteering, at the Clements Library at UMich.  So far the two days a week that I have been able to drag myself away from my babies and try to reintroduce the adult part of my brain to the land of the living have been very exciting.  Well, exciting for me anyway:)
I have been lucky enough to get my hands on some pretty priceless manuscripts including a ship's log from the early 1700's.  There was an interesting diary entry from the author about a service he attended in Spain.  It was in Oviedo and the priest there told a story that day of a chest full of wonders that came to rest at the church.  Well that piqued my interest to say the least.  I did a little research and found out that the chest indeed existed and is still in the church to this day.  It was said to have contained the Sudarium, also known as the cloth that covered Christ's face from the cross to the tomb, hair from the Virgin Mary, a few pieces of money that Judas got for betraying Jesus, thorns from the crown of Christ, and the list goes on and on.  Basically anything that could ever have had any value in Christianity was in this chest, placed there by the disciples of the Apostles when they left Jerusalem.
So that was pretty cool...
After that I worked on a very small diary written by a 16 year-old girl who, along with her boyfriend and another couple, rode motorcycles on day trips in 1914.  On the surface this would seem unremarkable until you factor in the date and her age.  A woman riding a motorcycle at any age in 1914 was pretty rare let alone a teenager.
So now I'm on to British Papers from the 1770's just before American independence.  In it there are questionnaires that were sent out to the Governors of the colonies asking about everything from population to agriculture, imports/exports/, number of white citizens vs number of black and so on.  It was really interesting to read responses from the Governors who all praised the Queen in their letters (of course) and gave such detail in their responses that the fear the people had of the British was presented in a way I had never grasped before.
After I finish the British Papers it's on to letters, letters, and more letters written by Lincoln, Washington and Jefferson.  I can hardly wait!  Hopefully I won't get sidetracked onto something else but no matter what they give me I'm sure it will still be interesting.  Now if only I could figure out how to get paid for this...come on job  opening:)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Miles Turns 3 and other Breaking News

Well, I officially am the mother of a 3-year-old.  I can hardly believe how fast time is flying by.  I panic when I think about it too long.  Miles' birthday party went off pretty well, as usual I felt scattered throughout the entire party and then stressed for a while after it was over about what I could have/should have done better, who I didn't get to talk to, how I forgot to pass out the kids party prizes (and subsequently had to drop them off at their houses the next day:)  Que sera!

Unfortunately most of the pictures turned out dismal, probably because I didn't take them (a fact I won't repeat in the future), and therefore it is difficult for me to share many of them because they don't convey Miles' excitement and happiness which is what you really want to see right?

Here he is channeling Mick Jagger (note the obligatory hand on the hip whilst grasping the mic!)  Thank you Susan for the mic and guitar, he loved it!

                                                        Now it's a group effort..

Two days later Mile's got to have birthday party round two with his bff Simone.  Which means the dynamic duo of Desmond and Thayer were brought together to wreak havoc and cause mischief.  Capturing them on film could win me some money some day (Have you seen the garbage that wins money on Americas funniest videos?? I think I could beat their "winners" any day of the week filming myself performing a sock puppet show) and I pledge here and now to not be as unprepared in the future as I was that day.  But I did manage to capture some great shots of the kids playing in still life and something about a frozen moment in can be so much more magical than a movie depending on the eye of the viewer.

                                                                    Cute little buddies!

Thayer coming at me to see the camera!

So the kids had a blast together and it was a beautiful fall day but the week was far from over as we had a wedding in Pittsburgh to attend.  It was a great trip!  A very rare road trip with both my brothers and my mom (Matt was there too of course).  I haven't laughed that much in a while and it made me miss my brothers.  I often wonder what life would have been like if they had never moved away...

To my dear sweet baby Miles:  I love you so much I wish I could freeze every day with you and have them all repeat forever and yet I love watching you grow into such a happy, polite and hilarious little boy.  So maybe don't freeze, simply slow down a little:)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Raspberry Picking

I took the boys to Makielski's Raspberry picking a few weeks ago.  Miles loved it and Desmond is...well Desmond is 1 so he ate dirt and fell a lot:)

                                                                  My little men...

Still a wobbly baby

This was a really nice day with my boys.