9

And You Thought Latin Was a Dead Language

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I saw this cartoon on The New Yorker website today and had to laugh because I knew my high school Latin teacher, Mrs. Maruxa Cargill, would have appreciated it.  Our Latin II class was very small, maybe 10 students.  I adored Mrs. Cargill, a petite, classy intellectual originally from Argentina, who taught Spanish as well as Latin.  To bring the language alive for her students, every year she organized a Latin Banquet where we all dressed in togas, competed in games, and ate a lot of pizza.  Often in her classroom I was chosen to read aloud from “Winnie the Pooh” in English while she followed with the Latin version from her book “Winnie ille Pu.”  Fun times.

So it wasn’t too much of a reach (for me anyway) to connect this continuance of the famous phrase “veni, vidi, vici” (I came, I saw, I conquered) to another one—“rock, paper, scissors.”  And, of course, we come to the episode of “The Big Bang Theory” where Sheldon adds to it in the form of—“rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock.”

And here it is:

4

Kiss Me, I’m 18% Irish!

Several months ago, I popped for a DNA ethnicity test kit from Ancestry.com.  Because I’m basically a cheap person, not trashy cheap, but fiscally, I waited until the cost had gone below $100 to do it.  I think it was money well-spent.  I thought I knew where many of my ancestors had come from, but it still was a bit of a surprise when I got the results.

It turns out I’m quite the mish-mash of “European-ness.”

25% Western Europe—which mainly translates into France, a whole lotta Dutch, and Germany.

21% Finnish/Western Russia—this was a shock because my maternal great-grandparents emigrated from Norway.  I did some research and found that, ethnically anyway, they were related to Finns who had migrated across Sweden because of their “slash and burn” agricultural style, finally coming to rest in the Hedmark region of Norway near the Swedish border in the early 1600’s.  Could have knocked me over with a feather.

18% Irish—I’m still researching this one.  I’ve found a few ancestors from Ireland, but the jury is still out.

12% Great Britain—This includes ancestors from Wales and a few from Scotland.

12% Scandinavia—A lot of people who have British DNA also have some from Scandinavia.  It appears that the plundering Vikings also liked to settle down and start families after a long day of rampaging and pillaging.

10% Iberian Peninsula—This is the real head-scratcher.  This area could also incorporate parts of France, besides just Spain and Portugal, so that would make sense in my genealogical paper trail.  At any rate, I say “Olé!”

And then there are trace amounts (1%) each of Eastern Europe and Italy/Greece.

Whew!

This whole thing re-energized me in my ancestor research and resulted in finding out I had many Dutch ancestors who were the first settlers of New Amsterdam, which is now New York City.  There even was an on-going lawsuit for years by descendants of one of those families (of Anneke Jans) who claimed they were the true owners of Manhattan and wanted restitution for what was rightfully theirs.  The judges in the case said there were too many people involved (millions of descendants) to render any kind of do-able compensation and the matter was dropped.

Gee, I had my heart set on moving into The Plaza.

 

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6

Shove The Pig’s Foot A Little Further Into The Fire (And Other Fun Tunes)

Appalachian flatfoot dancing!  Just the coolest thing ever.  I am going to learn this, y’all. Got my tap shoes ordered and my instructional DVD on its way.

Be sure to watch Charmine Slaven in the second clip when she starts dancing while playing the guitar at about the 1 minute mark.

 

3

For My Dad, On Veteran’s Day

Here are some photos of my dad from an earlier post I did on my family history.

I find this photo particularly poignant.  I managed to date it to Dec. 25, 1942 from the headline on the newspaper my Dad is reading.  He would be going into the Coast Guard soon to serve during WWII.  He had the opportunity to get a job at a factory that supplied the war effort and essentially sit out the war safely at home, but he wouldn't do it.  He didn't feel he could face his children if he didn't "do his part."  My Mother (on the right) is about 2 or 3 months pregnant with my older brother.  My Grandmother is on the left, lost in thought.  To me, this scene reminds me of a Norman Rockwell painting.

I find this photo particularly poignant. I managed to date it to Dec. 25, 1942 from the headline on the newspaper my Dad is reading. He would be going into the Coast Guard soon to serve during WWII. He had the opportunity to get a job at a factory that supplied the war effort and essentially sit out the war safely at home, but he wouldn’t do it. He didn’t feel he could face his children if he didn’t “do his part.” My Mother (on the right) is about 2 or 3 months pregnant with my older brother. My Grandmother is on the left, lost in thought. To me, this scene reminds me of a Norman Rockwell painting.

 

My mother found her own hunky dude in the form of my father, Jack, seen here on his Coast Guard ship during WWII.  His ancestors came to this country from the Alsace region of France, probably in the early 1700's.  (That region typically veered back and forth between the control of France and Germany until finally coming under French rule in recent times.)  My Dad's relative during the Revolutionary War provided meat to the troops, so we qualify for membership in the DAR for that "patriotic assistance."  They say an army travels on its stomach....

My mother found her own hunky dude in the form of my father, Jack, seen here on his Coast Guard ship during WWII. His ancestors came to this country from the Alsace region of France, probably in the early 1700’s. (That region typically veered back and forth between the control of France and Germany until finally coming under French rule in recent times.) My Dad’s relative during the Revolutionary War provided meat to the troops, so we qualify for membership in the DAR for that “patriotic assistance.” They say an army travels on its stomach….

 

Jack Coast Guard

When I was a kid, my Dad would let us play with the semaphore flags he had brought back from the war. Sometimes he would demonstrate how to send certain messages and occasionally, with a mischievous gleam in his eye, he would spell out words that we knew had to be “naughty,” but we didn’t know what they were. My mother would just say, “Oh, Jack!” and laugh along with us.

 

My parents' union was "blessed" first with the arrival of my brother, Tim, in 1943 and then with me in 1947.  Get a load of the noggin on that baby!

My parents’ union was “blessed” first with the arrival of my brother, Tim, in 1943 and then with me in 1947. Get a load of the noggin on that baby!

Dad passed away in 1998 at the age of 82.  His generation had to deal with the Great Depression and WWII.  They had a job to do and they stepped up and did it.  Many never returned to their families.  We were among the lucky ones.  Thanks, Dad.

6

Silhouettes 101~or~Go With the Flow

In my last post I opened my big mouth and said I would show what my cutting process entailed.  Up front, I want to say that very often the scissor artist (well, me for sure) has to deal with mistakes.  Things get lopped off or over-cut and that’s just part of the challenge.  So when I chose this silhouette of a boy and girl riding a kiddie jalopy, I’d hoped this one would come out in what passes as “perfect” for me.

It didn’t, but I’m using it anyway.

By way of disclaimer, this silhouette is one of the group of 1920’s kids that I used to do exclusively in pastels.  Cutting this one in black belatedly showed an error in its design, which I “fixed” after it was finished by gluing a very thin piece of black paper to cover the back of the offending area.  It just didn’t “read” right for me, but now it does.

Hey, poop happens.

Anyway—to begin—this first photo shows the design printed on the back of the silhouette paper.  (This paper happens to be 8″x8″ square, which isn’t a real convenient size because trying to get it to go through my printer correctly is a challenge in itself.)  But we move on.

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The next photo is the paper after being trimmed with just regular kitchen shears.  The idea is to remove enough excess paper so you can get as close to the design as possible.  At the top are my Gingher scissors next to a ruler for size context.  You can see that they are very pointy.  As Martha Stewart says, it’s a good thing.

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I think the most important tip for cutting is to be sure to start with the smallest inside cuts first.  The reason for that is the more paper you cut away, the floppier the silhouette gets, so you wouldn’t start with cutting the border outline first.  Having enough uncut paper around the small inside negative spaces (the spaces created by the solid positive spaces) is really necessary.  If you had to go back and cut those areas after most of the other ones were removed it would be difficult.  The paper would bend or tear and….just trust me.  Cut the small spaces first.  I pierce the middle of the space with the tip of one of the blades and then start making tiny cuts toward the outline, following it until the entire space is cut.

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After cutting the smallest inside areas, I usually work outwards by cutting the ones that are a little larger.  Here I’ve done all of them except for the wheels.

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Next the wheels.

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Then I cut the large inside space between the wheels.  You can see that I did this in pretty much one piece.  The grass was cut using a kind of slashing cut, not in one continuous cut.  Whatever works, I say!  Also, if I’d cut this area first before the insides of the wheels, imagine how hard that would be.  Oy.

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So then, I like to start cutting the border outline with the heads.  That’s usually the most difficult part and I like to get it out of the way first.  Also, remember, I still have a little more paper left and that helps keep things from getting too floppy and unmanageable.

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I finish up by cutting the remainder of the outline, removing the bit underneath that’s still shown here.

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I always go back and tweak things here and there.  That’s where I decided to add the piece under the girl’s leg to make it “read” better.  As I said, this hadn’t occurred to me before with the pastel silhouettes, but it was more obvious with the black one.  My own worst critic.  But, you know, it’s okay.  It’s the overall impression that counts.  Hand-made art has imperfections.  As RuPaul says, can I get an amen up in here?

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17

Happy 2014…..Whatever

Timothy Egan of The New York Times wrote a piece today about “Words for the Dumpster.”  These are words that have been so overused and misused that they need to be dropped from our vocabularies because they have lost all meaning—if they ever had one.

WHATEVER Long ago, “whatever” was a cover for inexpressive ignorance — Hitler invaded Poland and then, whatever.  Now this word reigns as a facile dismissive:  I know it’s Mother’s Day, but whatever.  For the fifth year in a row, “whatever” was just rated the nation’s most annoying word in a survey done by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, beating out the hardy perennials “like” and “you know” and “just saying.”

The ever popular “whatever” was a mainstay of my mother’s lexicon.  For a nostalgic look back at that, here’s my post “The Mother Who Didn’t Cry Wolf!”

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21

Things That Go Bump…

Halloween is fast approaching, and even though it can’t begin to compare with the sheer bowel-wrenching scariness of the current government shutdown/debt ceiling debacle we have Ted Cruz to thank for, I thought I’d give it a nod with a ghost story from my past.

About seventeen years ago we moved into an old house in Texas which was built in the late 1800s.  It was constructed partly of limestone blocks that had been hand-quarried and featured an upstairs room running the length of the house.  This had served as a sort of dormitory for the boys in the family.  The house is quite small, but it held two families of ten kids each over the years.  When we moved in, it was just the two of us and we marveled how those early folks had managed to thrive in such small quarters.  By the time we bought the place, all the modern conveniences were there, but outside there was a remnant of an old outhouse.

A reminder that we had it pretty good, so no complaining allowed.

Eight months prior to our move to Texas from California, we had to have our 16-year-old long-haired Chihuahua, Lolita, put to sleep.  We had one other Chihuahua, Pepe, and a mini-Dachshund, Rudy, who made the trip with us, along with four big Collie-mix dogs.  All six of them and the two of us traveled together in our Econoline van.  When we stopped at rest stops it was like the clown car at the circus.  We opened the back doors and the dogs just kept on a’coming.

About a month after moving into our new (old) house, we’d turned in for the night in the bedroom downstairs.  Not long after turning out the light, we heard the sound of a little dog running across the wood floor.  It came from the adjoining dining room and ran toward the door to the porch, which was at the foot of the bed.  It stopped there, scratched the door two or three times, and then ran back across the room.  This happened several times over the course of the next hour.

Pepe and Rudy were soundly asleep under the covers.  It wasn’t them running through the room.  The big dogs were outside.  The hair on the back of my neck stood on end.  What the…?

Just about every night thereafter the same routine occurred.  Sometimes it started right after lights out, and sometimes it wasn’t until one in the morning.  A couple of times, soon after turning out the light, I would hear the “ghost dog” (as we’d started to call it) get up from the sofa near the bed, shake its ears enough so I could hear them flap and then jump down to the floor.

We had become friends with one of the “kids,” now in his late 70s, who’d grown up in the house and we nonchalantly inquired if the family had a little dog at any time in the past.  He said no, they hadn’t.

Then it dawned on us that when we moved we’d brought along Lolita’s old dog bed.  Why, I can’t say.  And then we realized that we’d stuck it in the dining room which was serving as a catch-all until we could get everything sorted out after the move.  That’s where the activity seemed to be emanating from.

So we took the dog bed and put it upstairs in the dormitory room.  It wasn’t long before we would hear ghost dog come clicking down the stairs on her nightly run.  She also was heard rustling in the wastebasket next to the desk upstairs while my husband was working there.

I took to sleeping with a little flashlight I called my “ghost buster.”  Whenever the activity started, I would take the flashlight from the table next to the bed and scan the room on the off chance I’d finally see something.  All it did was stop the activity—for a bit.  Some nights I would hear her drop what sounded like one of our other dogs’ Nylabone chew toys on the hardwood floor.  When I lit up the room, there was nothing there.

Other nights, Lolita (by this time we figured it had to be her) would bonk around under the bed like she used to do when she slept in her dog bed under our bed back in California.  We would even hear her tripping over the extension cord on the floor.  Sometimes Rudy and Pepe would look up after hearing her, but they never growled or seemed disturbed by any of it.

This went on for almost a year until the terrible day that Pepe was bitten by a rattlesnake and died hours later on my bed.  We were grief stricken.

Maybe a week or so later, we heard two little dogs running around upstairs, like they were chasing each other.  There was more rustling in the trash and just double the activity in general.

Then, the noises gradually subsided and finally stopped altogether.

I’d had a dream (or visitation?) from Pepe the morning after he died.  He used to wake me up by standing on my chest and licking my face.  That’s what I awoke to—or dreamt I was waking to.  He was backlit by white light and I was crying, I was so happy to see him.

Then he faded away and I realized I was awake and he was gone.

But maybe he wasn’t.  Maybe he hung around with Lolita for a while before they both went off to doggie heaven together.  Maybe…

Happy Halloween

Lolita swami

LOLITA SEES ALL…KNOWS ALL…