27 October 2015


Several months ago I realized that I was over stimulated and informed of violence.  I decided that I would stop exposing myself to repeated views of violence and try to stop reading about it.  It's not that I don't know how bad things are in the world; dead refugees,  ferry's sinking,  major natural disasters, gunmen gone crazy, and seriously evil people.  It's that I believe we are all OVEREXPOSED TO IT through the media, and through our cell phone news apps too and that it is doing something bad to us, making us numb, making us feel helpless and hopeless, making us think that the world is a very bad place, alienating us from others since we can't trust them, and making us forget the good.

I'm not sure exactly when it was that I began to feel that I had to know so much, even things that I'm sure I cannot do anything about, especially because they already happened and in places where my vote will not count.

My least favorite genre in film is Horror.  I don't want to be scared.  I don't want to be grossed out.  I do not want to see mutilation or blood - even when I know it is Hollywood fake. 

I decided that I had seem way too many murders watching psycho-thrillers, murder mysteries, and the like.  I went to a local library that possesses several thousands DVD's and it was difficult to find something that wasn't entertaining and funny.

Is goodness BORING?  A friend of mine seems to think that's true and why the media focuses on the extreme, the unusual, and a certain famous for being famous person's unusually large behind for her smallish size.

All I ask you is to think about this.  When is the last time you felt secure?  At peace?  Satisfied that you did a good job?  Looked forward to an in-person conversation with a good friend?  Saw beauty in nature?  Took a walk instead of watching the evening news?  Invited someone over for a home-made meal and conversation instead of watching a film? 

Did a good deed?  Acknowledged someone else's best characteristics or gave a sincere compliment?  Did a little something to help someone else without any expectation of reward or acknowledgement?

14 October 2015


(Check out my past posts about Halloween and All Souls Day using the search feature embedded on the sidebar of this Google Blogger!)

Did your family have any special holiday celebrations or traditions that were ethnic or their very own special invention?

I find that writing about this subject can really bring a kind of "warm and fuzzy" feeling to a family history writing project, along with all the genealogy data that you're compiling.  You can even gather your family to have a little writing group and write as individuals together in the meeting on various events, read your writing to each other aloud, and include the writing in the MEMORIES part of your book.

For Halloween you might write about the first Halloween costume you ever wore.  Could you breath through the mask?  Did your mother sew it?  Did you walk wearing it in a parade?   Did your family celebrate this holiday in any special way?   Is Halloween a holiday that is spiritual, funny, or spooky for you?

All Souls Day;  Did you go to church?  Did you pray for a relative that passed?  How old were you when you understood what death was?  What was the first funeral you remember attending like?  How did it make you feel?

Thanksgiving:  The best and worst Thanksgivings you've experienced.  Favorite foods (be sure to credit the right cook!)  The furthest you've ever traveled to attend a Thanksgiving Dinner.

Christmas:  Your earliest memories of the holiday.  How old were you?  Pictures with Santa.
The year it didn't snow.

You get the idea.

As for me, I have some rich holiday memories such as:

That my aunt, in the days before you had to go through inspections at airports, actually took a cooked ham in a roaster pan on an airplane as her contribution to a meal in Florida.  Reportedly at some point the ham beneath her seat moved and had passengers scrambling.  (She proudly walked off the plane with the roaster pan before her.)

Being six years old and seeking my first body in a casket.  It wasn't creepy exactly.  The person appeared to be at peace - and waxy.

Wearing costumes that were made for me at dancing school for Halloween too - just with a simple mask.  My neighbor who made home made candy apples - just a few for the closest neighbor kids - and gave out candy bars to the rest.  Living in a suburb where one year several hundred kids came to the door.

The Christmas that my most treasured present was something small but yearned for that was in my stocking.  The Christmas my cousin swore that she saw Santa and the reindeer from the window view from the top bunk bed.  The Christmas a loved one died.


10 October 2015


The Benjamin Franklin connection is exploited for the title of this PBS video that is part of the Secrets of the Dead series.  His 18th century residence in London, which was the home of a family at 36 Craven Street was also the home of Dr. Huston, a doctor who was probably more or totally responsible for the burial of human bones in the basement.  Though Ben Franklin's experimental and scientific nature is well known, there is no way to prove he ever had anything to do with them. 

This film is about the state of the art of medical science in that era. It is about the "body snatchers,"  people who would sell dead bodies to doctors (science) so that autopsies and dissections could be performed.  Check your gag reflexes because this is a time honored practice to learn about the human body and expected in medical schools.  The "body snatchers" were not always the most moral and ethical people, however, and so by modern day standards they may be thought of as criminals.

But what else did those who wanted to understand and some day cure diseases that killed people like typhus and cholera have to work with if not the bodies of the dead?  Methods then were primitive compared to now, as were the tools to saw a skull in half.  In this society there was no concept of virus or germs and people were dying of kidney stones and gall stones, which we well understand today, as well as broken bones.  Today many people donate part or all of their bodies for organ transplants and skin grafts and there is huge debate over the ownership of sperm and eggs that are frozen for later use once the people who donated them don't want to or can't pay for them to be kept.

In the 18th century, men who were sentenced to death wrote begging letters to their families to claim their bodies before they were sold or given away, fearing the desecration even though they'd be dead.

So though Benjamin Franklin is one of my favorite most fascinating historical personages, perhaps what was more interesting was that when he returned to America, this "Second Family" he had lived with in London was brought here to live and their family tree is full of doctors, including a woman who will show you some of the family documents that link Ben Franklin and their family.

03 October 2015


Anthropology is one subject I love.  I love learning how the human developed culture, how cultures spread, and DNA is enhancing our understanding of human migration, ethnicity, and race.. 

I love knowing this life I lead is so much of the times.  Can I even really imagine the world of my great grandparents?  The ancient Greeks?  The life of a tribe in the Amazon?  Well, could they in their lives imagining air travel or rock and roll?

With anthropology we can try on what it was to live in another time and place, since we cannot yet actually TIME TRAVEL for a look-see.  But besides living there is dying.

Along with Anthropology, there is Archeology (digging evidence up and applying scientific methods and analysis to it), the two often going hand in hand.  One of the things that the Anthropologists and Archeologists look at is BURIALS.

Burials tell us so much about the person, the people.  The posture they are buried in, if they have a shroud, if there are tools or jewelry buried with them, or perhaps their pet cat...  if they were laid into the earth, had stones put on top of them, had a carved wood casket, were embalmed, had ordinary clothing on or were naked, and what direction they - and others in that graveyard - were facing; all of this telling.

One time I asked an Archeology professor, if so many millions of people had died on this earth in the past, why were there not MORE burials, more evidence of their lives.  He said most people were not buried.  They were cremated, or left out for the vultures,  or otherwise exposed.  Also many burials are now deep under the earth or the graves were robbed.  So when a burial is found and explored it can be a wealth of information.

Some of the more exciting burials I've learned about are in museums.  I saw an exhibit at the Getty in Malibu, California that had the painted cases that some ancient Greeks had been buried in, though living in Egypt.  Each had a painting of the person's face, as to be remembered in life. This was a time and place burial, influenced by both Greek and Egyptian notions.

Then there are the burials found in Hungary in which the people inside beautifully painted caskets, many who had died of TB, were found to be naturally preserved mummies.  Scientists of medicine are studying TB through these mummies.

Take a look at the stack of beautiful coffins at this link VAC HUNGARY - NATURAL MUMMIES - NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM

Reading around these Hungarian mummies, I've learned that they are known people, for whom there are records, and descendants alive.

I don't know about you, but I personally do not think I would want to see any of my dead relatives  dug up so I could see what they look like, but did you know that a son of the Big Bopper,  the 1950's rock and roller who died in a plane crash, did just that, before having him cremated?

Can you tell that it's that time of year... that Halloween and All Souls Day are not so far away?

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