Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘history’ Category

It’s a cold, snowy day here in Michigan. Schools are closed because the roads are treacherously icy, so I had the luxury of sleeping in, although I do have fifty author projects from 7th graders on Google Docs to grade. There are fifty more projects waiting for me back at school, but that’s for another day. I’m feeling nostalgic right now.

On days like this, I say a prayer for those who work outside. I didn’t always get “snow days” off, but I’ll take them. I remember what it was like to work outside: in the cold, the snow, ice storms, pouring rain, tornado warnings, scorching hot heat waves. I did that for several years in my twenties and early thirties. I loved working with the farm animals, especially the horses, and people who take care of animals don’t get snow days, or heat days, or any other weather days. Animals need to be fed, watered, their stalls cleaned out every day, no exceptions, and I took pride in being “tough enough” to do it, although there were some pretty miserable days. Those days taught me a lot about work ethic and about myself. I had some pretty awesome mentors who were incredibly patient with me.

No photo description available.

Doing winter chores, whether at the farm or the carriage barn, was always an adventure. I remember my bangs freezing in a solid block from the breath vapor rising out of the woolen scarf wound around my face when the temperature was -5°. I was terrified that they would just break off with a snap. That was also the winter I got a giant lump on my forehead from slipping on the icy platform and hitting my head on the frozen metal water pump we were trying to turn on, fingers and toes uncooperative and numb. Eyes and noses would run in a constant stream from the cold. If any of the cows were being milked at the time, we would fight over who got to do it because that meant putting your hands on something warm for a little while, although it sometimes meant getting hit in the head with a frozen manure tail. On those brutal days, it would take more than an hour for the shivering to stop once we got inside, even with several cups of coffee.

No photo description available.

There were the spring and summer mornings when the tornado sirens would begin to go off, angry black clouds swirling around in the sky, the animals getting panicky. I was still terrified of tornadoes then, and I tried, unsuccessfully, to not let it show. Afternoons when it poured rain, the mud/manure mixture squelched up into our boots, through our stockings, weighing down the hems of the skirts and petticoats or the overalls we wore with sludge. The stains would never quite come out. One spring, the cellar of the farmhouse flooded and I sank almost to my knees in the dirt floor. My work laundry was always done separately from everything else and often had to be rinsed out first.

There were god-awful summer days when the actual temperature would be over 100°, our long sleeves and random pieces of hay glued to us, sweat trickling down every crevice, and people would complain that we weren’t offering carriage rides. My face, forearms, and hands would be a deep tan, but the rest of me was a pasty white.

No photo description available.

Spring lambs

All of these things were great adventures, and I could go on and on for days about all of it. Working in those conditions could be rough, but we bonded with each other over it all and made for some fabulous memories. I wouldn’t trade any of those experiences for the world, and it makes me appreciate days like this much more.

I miss it, working outside, but I’ve developed Renaud’s Syndrome and I can’t work in the cold for long anymore. My heart goes out to those who are working outside on days like this: mail carriers, construction workers, first responders, and the ones who work with outdoor animals to make sure they’re as comfortable as they can be in this weather. They all have their own war stories to tell, I’m sure.

Thanks for reading mine.

Read Full Post »

I’m sitting in Boston Logan Airport, having gotten here in plenty of time for my flight, and so I thought I’d write a little about what I’ve done the past two days. It actually started back in November when I planned my trip. For those that don’t know, my husband and I are genealogy nerds. We’re totally into ancestry.com, dusty old papers, and everything that goes with it. My Great-Aunt Kay sparked my interest in our family genealogy when I was a teenager and I’ve been hooked ever since.

I’ve known about my Salem relatives for a while and we did visit Salem as a family (4 out of the 5 of us) in 2018, but I really wanted to go by myself and spend some time in libraries and in the town looking to see what else I could find out. We don’t have school this week and I had a Delta gift card burning a hole in my pocket, so I booked a tiny room at a hotel in the middle of town and very impatiently waited for the next two-and-a-half months to pass, as evidenced by my frequent Facebook posts.

I won’t give a running commentary about my trip, I know it is much more exciting to me than to others, but there really is a lot of cool stuff in Salem and in the surrounding areas. Such as:

  • Figuring out a good MBTA route. I LOVE putting routes together and when they work, it’s even better. To get to Salem, I took a plane to Boston, the commuter train to a bus depot in Revere, and then a bus into Salem proper. Today, I did the reverse to get back. Everything connected just the way it was supposed to and I’m just waiting on the plane. BTW, Delta is awesome.

    Image may contain: indoor

    Catching a train

  • The bus is a great place to get to know real people.
  • I love how the Hawthorne Hotel took my request for a not actively haunted room seriously, even if the room was a little haunted anyway. It was okay. We (the ghost and I) had an understanding. I was, however, on the floor where the haunted room was supposed to be but I never saw anything.
  • The Salem Public Library is so cool, especially the reference staff! Check it out if you are ever in town.Image may contain: night and outdoor
  • I had a psychic, who had no knowledge of me, tell me that I am supposed to write books and to quit screwing around and get to it. Feeling personally attacked, but she’s right. As soon as Menagerie is done.
  • I talked with some super-nice people. A lot of them had accents. Delightful.
  • Like any city, Salem has its delinquents. There are roving bands of foul-mouthed teenage skateboarders that you just need to avoid. No biggie.
  • The PEM Reading Room (aka The Phillips Library) is a fantastic resource.
  • The architecture. I love New England style houses and buildings and because I took the bus and commuter rail, I got to see a lot of them. True, some of the newer stuff there is that ugly, generic, cheap, box store look that we have here, but not in the downtown areas. They either keep the original buildings or build new to match the rest. I love the way that a lot of the old buildings are re-purposed and not just torn down. It looks and feels so much better.
  • If you go to Salem, you simply must try a little restaurant called Bella Verona. It’s very tiny, so they’re probably crowded in the summer, so call for a reservation. The food and service are wonderful Another great place is the Flying Saucer Pizza Company.

    Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting and indoor

    Bella Verona

  • I got to hear a steady stream of a one-sided conversation in Chinese in my ear for about 15 minutes straight this morning. You guessed it… on the bus.
  • The history! Omg, Salem is a treasure box of history and not just about the with trials. It’s maritime history is extensive, one of my own grandfathers was a sea captain there. Everywhere you go, there are buildings more than two hundred years old. I love it so much.
    Image may contain: house, night, sky, tree and outdoor

    The Judge Corwin House, aka The Witch House

    Isn’t it funny how you connect with some places and not with others? There’s no question here: Salem is in my soul now. I plan to return many times.

Read Full Post »

I used to think I was a country person. At the time, I was working on a farm with some pretty amazing people. I plowed and harrowed fields with horses, fed chickens, milked cows, helped to shear sheep and butcher pigs, pumped water, and cooked on a coal-burning stove. Those were some of the best years of my life. At that time, I thought I wanted my own farm with my own horses, chickens, and sheep. (No cows or pigs. Cute? Sometimes, but being almost impaled by a cow horn, charged by hungry cows/angry bulls, and having to unearth a buried feeding trough for the pigs every day were all pains in the butt.) Ideally, it would be a historic farm, from 1880 or earlier.

Over time, as I grew and traveled, I learned that I really didn’t want that country life. I realized that I loved those years on the farm because I loved the people and what I did. (And the horses. I also loved the horses.) But I got to go home to a heated/air conditioned home every night with a shower and a microwave, so it wasn’t a completely immersive experience. And I traveled. I visited cities, big cities: Dublin, London, Edinburgh, Rome, Florence, Venice, among others. And do you know what? I love big cities, especially big European cities. I adore them, actually. London was the first place that I actually felt at home in my life, at peace. I belonged there. I can’t tell you how badly I want to be there right this minute.

Do you know what sounds heavenly? A life where Marty and I have a small flat on a high street in London with a small balcony. I’d write for a living. No car. There’s the Tube, so driving isn’t necessary. Stopping at a Tesco to pick up something small for dinner, or takeaway from a small restaurant. Fish and chips, perhaps, because we have a yen for it, no matter if it’s touristy. Strolling past Tower Bridge, the Globe, or St. Paul’s on a crisp spring evening. Sitting in St. James’  or Hyde Park and just soaking up the history. Watching tourists with umbrellas stroll around Piccadilly Circus and going to have dinner and a drink at this wonderful little Italian place on Kensington High Street, then going to bed knowing that I can do it all again the next day. My heart is in London.

Someday.

Where does your heart lie? City, country, or suburb? Why? Comment below or on FB.

Read Full Post »

Do people fit the meaning of their names? When I was pregnant, I was obsessed with not only what names I liked, but what they meant. I must have had at least five different baby name books, including an Irish Gaelic baby name book. Marty vetoed every one of the Gaelic names, but, to be fair, I also vetoed many of his, like “Lobo” or “Charlie” (Our last name is Brown; it wasn’t happening.). If we did have a girl, though, I would have fought to the death for Aoife.

Have you ever looked up the meaning of your name? Apparently, mine is Latin and means “youthful” and “downy-(soft) haired”. I can dig that, although I prefer “Julia” or “Jules” to “Julie”. I don’t feel my age. I certainly don’t act like it. Soft-haired? Well, I have a lot of hair. Left to its own devices, it’s crazy wavy, but it can (sometimes) be tamed and soft.

Some names have meanings that make me wonder if parents looked them up before bestowing them on their children. For example, the name Brendan sounds lovely and Irish until you learn that while one of its meanings is”prince”, it also means “smelly hair”. “Cecelia”, my Grandma Ruth’s middle name that I absolutely LOVE, means “blind”. There are actually websites devoted to baby names with terrible meanings such as https://closeronline.co.uk/family/news/worst-baby-name-bad-meaning-girl-boy/ and https://nameberry.com/blog/good-names-with-bad-bad-meanings Perhaps the meaning doesn’t matter so much to them, which I can understand.

If you don’t know the meaning of your name, check out https://www.babynames.com/ and see what you think.

So, what are your thoughts? Does your name fit you or not? Comment on Facebook, Twitter, or below.

Happy Holidays to everyone celebrating something this time of year!

Read Full Post »

I love Halloween, I always have. Deciding what to be was (and is) always something that started back in September, sometimes even August. I went trick-or-treating until I was 20 years old, legit. The last time I went out begging for candy, at 20, I dressed as Paul Stanley from KISS and my friend, Tom, was Darth Vader. We had a blast. These days, I love dressing up to pass out candy, I love dressing up just during the day itself, just because.

I also love the origins of Halloween. I love the mysticism, the ancient traditions, and the legends. I love black cats, stories of witches and ghosts, the story of Jack O’ Lantern, and the feeling of spookiness that permeates the season.

Image result for free black cat and witch images

What I never got into were the slasher movies with blood and gore. I’m still traumatized from seeing Friday the 13th when I was seven. I was at a sleepover where my friend’s mom had no limits on what we watched. I never told my mother about it and I still can’t shake the horror at what I saw. I also saw Poltergeist before I should have. Young kids should not see those movies, you know? Parents should pay better attention.

When I was a teenager, I saw plenty of those movies but I never got into them. They’re not my thing. I know plenty of people who do enjoy those kind of horror films and enjoy being scared in that way, but it’s not for me. Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers don’t signal Halloween to me, but I know they do for a lot of people. I do enjoy scary movies, The Sixth Sense is a favorite, but of the psychological variety, not knives and chainsaws. I just don’t get the violence aspect.

So, what kind of Halloween person are you? A traditionalist person, like me, or one who needs their Jason fix? Maybe you’re a combination of both. No judgement here, I am just curious to see who likes what. Comment below or on Facebook and Twitter.

Image result for free happy halloween images

Read Full Post »

This Monday, October 14, is designated as Columbus Day in America. It’s not okay. Christopher Columbus was a vile human, as evidenced by his own journals, the journals of his crew, and by general history.

Let me preface this blog by saying that I am an Italian-American (among other things), 1/4 Siciliana, but I do not play the game of supporting a heinous historical figure just because he’s from my part of the world. Not cool.

There was a man on a news program the other day vehemently defending Columbus, his basis being that he was Italian and Italians should be proud of their heritage. Um, excuse me, but why should any nationality be proud of its criminals? Again, not cool. Here are some valid reasons to not celebrate Columbus Day:

  • He did not prove the world was round nor did he discover America. That had already happened.
  • He enabled and encouraged rape of native women. From one of the journals of his crew: “While I was in the boat, I captured a very beautiful woman, whom the Lord Admiral [Columbus] gave to me. When I had taken her to my cabin she was naked — as was their custom. I was filled with a desire to take my pleasure with her and attempted to satisfy my desire. She was unwilling, and so treated me with her nails that I wished I had never begun. I then took a piece of rope and whipped her soundly, and she let forth such incredible screams that you would not have believed your ears. Eventually we came to such terms, I assure you, that you would have thought she had been brought up in a school for whores.” Sick. Disgusting. Reprehensible.
  • He opened the Atlantic slave trade by forcibly capturing approximately 1,500 Taino and attempted to bring them to Europe to offer them for sale. Many died on the way over, the rest were sold as slaves in Spain.
  • He ordered the torture and murder of natives. Natives were hunted for sport, fed to dogs, and punished in horrible ways for not being able to find gold.
  • He and his crew introduced widespread disease into the New World. 
  • His arrival was the beginning of the genocide of the Taino.

As with all history, we not only have to look at the good, the bad, and the ugly, but to designate which is which. Columbus definitely fits into the later two categories.

My suggestion? Instead of celebrating a rapist and murderer, why not celebrate Indigenous People Day? Or celebrate Bartolomè de las Casas, a Spaniard who devoted his life to helping the natives in the New World. Or just ignore Columbus Day. These are all good options.

This is a really good link if you want to learn more: https://theoatmeal.com/comics/columbus_day

Peace.

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Confession time… I’m a snob. Yep, a full-fledged snob. I freely admit it, although it can be embarrassing at times, but owning our faults is a good thing, right? Except I’m not altogether sure that I’m wrong on this.

What kind of snob, you ask? The worst kind, as it turns out.

I’m a history snob.

I wasn’t always this way. I didn’t know any better when I was a kid. It really didn’t start kicking in until I was around sixteen and I started learning about real period clothing (By the way, period clothing means clothing specific to a certain time period and has nothing to do with that time of the month, in case you were wondering.). I began modeling for my friend, Jackie, who owns her own period clothing company, and learned what was accurate and what was not. It turns out that a lot of so-called “historic clothing” is not historic at all. I had had no clue. I realized that my 5th grade costume for the field trip to Greenfield Village had been a total sham and I cringed in shame. The seeds of my snobbery had been sewn.

When I started working at Greenfield Village, it steadily got worse. A group of farm friends went to see the new movie, The Scarlet Letter, starring Demi Moore. For the length of the movie, our boss pointed out every inaccuracy, down to the hinges on boxes. I was fascinated, and a little irritated. Why did they (meaning Hollywood) do everything wrong? Why couldn’t they do it right? Ugh. I was turning into an early version of the snob I am today.

It only intensified. I read, I studied, I went to museum conferences and learned so many cool things about clothing, social customs, animal husbandry, farming and farm tools, and of course, my forte: historic hair styles.

I regret nothing.

My snobbery is the reason why I can’t get into shows like The Tudors. I hate twisted history, especially when the real history is so much more exciting. I mean, seriously, if people really read the story of the real Tudor family it would blow them away. It has all of the things people want on Netflix anyway: sex, knights, sex, beautiful princesses, sex, murder, sex, betrayal, sex. You get the idea.

My big problem with inaccurate history is that people believe it. It’s not their fault, they don’t know any better, and the “history” is presented in such an attractive way that they think it’s really cool and spread it around. This is how rumors get started and we get stories like George Washington chopping down the cherry tree or we make a rat like Columbus into a hero or wear god-awful Civil War-style clothing.

Shows like The Crown and Downton Abbey give me hope, though. There is such attention paid to detail and social norms of the time and I find it refreshing. Of course, they’re not perfect, but they give a much truer portrayal of life in those times than many other shows and movies.

So there it is. I came clean with one of my (many) issues. There are no support groups that can help me and I don’t think I’d go anyway. Now, it’s your turn.

What are you a snob about? Time to ‘fess up.

Read Full Post »