Thursday, August 28, 2014
Rat kings are formed when a number of rats become intertwined at their tails and get stuck together with blood, dirt, ice, excrement or simply knotted. The animals grow together forming one large beast.
The earliest report of a rat king comes from 1564. Historically, the rat king was viewed as a bad omen, and probably with good reason. Rats carry a number of diseases, perhaps most notably plague, so it is understandable that people would associate bad luck with a large cluster of rats. Diseases tend to arise more readily when animals are confined close together, so the location of a rat king could be a breeding ground of disease.
Specimens of purported rat kings are rare and kept in some museums. The largest well-known mummified rat king was found in 1828 in a miller’s fireplace at Buchheim, Germany. It consists of 32 rats.
Depending on the source, the number of reported instances varies between 35 and 50 finds.
The occurrence is particularly associated with Germany, where the majority of rat kings have been located. In April 1929, a group of young forest mice was reported joined in Holstein, Germany, and there have been sightings of squirrel kings. Most rat kings show formations of callus at the fractures of their tails, which according to proponents show that the animals survived for an extended period of time with their tails tangled.
Sightings have been sporadic in modern history, with some rat kings being reported alive. The most recent claim comes from an Estonian farmer’s discovery in the Võrumaa region on January 16, 2005.
Monday, August 18, 2014
Thursday, July 24, 2014
My sweet wonderful Dad passed away 5 years ago but he still surprises and delights me. He left me, literally, about 14 boxes of assorted papers and pictures. The assorted papers cover everything from his military service to warranties on a screw drivers. He was always interested in genealogy but Ancestry.com hadn't been invented yet and old time research without the Internet was time consuming. A few of the boxes he made a special effort to hide, squirreled them away in the crawl space of my parents' home so my mom wouldn't throw them away. These boxes had all the old photos in them.
Many of the photos don't have any markings or notations on them. I went through one box of interesting photos but they were all unmarked. But just for the hell of it, I made a quick pass through the box one more time. And then I found it......an old photo which says in my dad's handwriting...."Ma's Ma and her brother Casimer." There's also a Lithuanian hand written note which Google Translator basically translates as: Mama sends greetings.
And so...Ursule...my great grandmother and I ....meet.
I was jumping around like a cat with a bunch of hot fleas when I discovered the notation....doing that happy little dance that means you found something extraordinary. I believe I also gave out the "Genealogy Whoop," that special cry of joy when you find a family link. What luck....how I wish I could hug my dad for that simple little inscription he left me which I can verify in the very faded Lithuanian text.
My great grandmother. I've been staring at her on my home screen for a full day now. She quite a woman....dressed in that rabbit fur coat (my hub reminded me that Ursule means bear but I don't think that's a bear pelt). She's wide....real wide.....with enough bulk to stop a truck. And that babuska! Wow....no small dainty thing for great grandma...that's one sizable scarf.
But she has a good smile....and looks rock steady.....actually she looks very North African Berber to me....my hub says she looks Indian...as in American Indian (who came from Siberian-Mongolian-Euro Asia stock).
She looks strong.....tough....but that smile makes her look generous not mean. I immediately liked her. She looks like someone I'd love to know and talk to.....
Ursule...Ursule.....so nice to meet you.....I am your great grand daughter.
Saturday, July 19, 2014
I wish I could sing....I wish I could draw.....but I guess I'll have to be happy painting furniture.....
When my daughter returned home for a visit last fall, she was hoping to find a new desk chair ...something sturdy, solid hardwood....and snazzy. We didn't find anything...but we passed a garage sale and spied this chair with good lines but an awful color.
Besides the shocking pink color, the chair had a broken stinky cushion that was orange and pink and shades of disgusting plus a broken side rail.
Finally refinished the chair after Hub fixed the leg and cut out a new seat.
I like painting furniture.....but you have to be real patient..... which is very hard for me.
Sand, prime.....let dry....sand, prime....let dry.....sand...paint ...dry...sand ....etc etc......on and on till the finish is hard and perfect.
On top of ordinary patience, I need geographic patience as the humidity in the south right now makes drying times drag on forever. And if it ain't dry....you can't move on to the next step.
It's not a Renoir...but I think it turned out pretty nice.
Sometimes you have to be grateful for small artistic skills.
Wednesday, July 02, 2014
Tomorrow morning, I'm mailing my DNA test into a "Family Finder" company. I sent in both my parents' DNA before they died so there's really no need to send a sample from me. All the DNA the company will need to find matches is already sitting in their freezers because I'm the daughter of my parents.
It's illogical for me to think I'm not the daughter of my parents. I've seen my hospital birth certificate. I believe I have a picture of my mom pregnant. She was a a thin woman so it's hard to tell if there's a bump under her blouse or just a draft upwards from a breeze.
My husband tells me I look just like my mother and some people tell me I look just like my father. I am not a blonde living in a family of swarthy people. I am a blonde living among other shades of blondes with various shades of blue eyes. I have a solo picture of myself at birth and pictures of myself as a toddler among my family. My mother's good friend, Marge, who has also passed away, told me several times the story of my first visit to her home as a baby--wrapped up like a "little pea in a pod of blankets."
So despite evidence and documents and stories....there is a small part of me which wonders if I'm adopted....because my mother told me I was adopted.
In the five years since my parents both passed away, I've started some genealogy work on the family and I've rediscovered and contacted some first cousins and cousins. My mother always made it difficult, if not impossible, for me to communicate with them when I got older. I never understood why my mother didn't want me to communicate with them. After I discovered my mother had manipulated her birth certificate and was 5 years older than what she told people (including the DMV), I thought the reason she kept me away from family was because some of these relatives would remember my mother's real age. The age thing might be a part of the puzzle, but I also discovered or validated that my mother had some psychological problems.
I've always wondered....worried...that the strange behavior I saw in my mother was just my perception of her and her actions. But in talking to my first cousin, she described my mother's behavior towards me and my father and I knew for the first time....it wasn't me...it was her.
This was both a liberating and painful concept to discover. It answered so many questions.....it provided a reason for so many things in my life....but it still hurt. In a particular disorder, one I believe my mother had, it's not uncommon for a person to tell outrageous lies to people, especially to someone gullible like a child, and then be shocked that the child didn't understand it was a joke or a tall-tale. In essence, the shame is not placed on the trusted adult who told the story but gets turned back on to the child for being gullible enough to believe it.
That's exactly what happened to me.
When I was little my mother told me several times that I was adopted. She had this elaborate story of how she and my father went to the orphanage and how my mother picked me out whereas my father picked a red-headed boy. My mother, of course, won the selection and I came home. My mother also told me dramatic pregnancy stories...how difficult her labor was....how long...how she suffered. But as a child, I did not understand biology well enough to know that the orphanage story was wrong and the doctor sitting on her belly story was right. Eventually....I figured out I wasn't adopted.
Which never erased the tiny doubt that I was......
So although I agree....it's absolutely illogical......it's not necessary....its batty......I am sending in my DNA tomorrow and in a month I should discover my mother is my mother.
I know of no other way....to erase a very old lie.
Saturday, February 08, 2014
Wednesday, February 05, 2014
Obviously, the Gods of Winter have grown senile.
We're supposed to get a little ice, a little snow maybe once or twice a season down here in the South.
Not this year.....round after round....and they say there may be a snow storm next week???
I have one poor dogwood tree that fell over for the second time in the last month. My son and I will try this afternoon to right it and tie it up again. I have even used salt on our driveway and some on our deck which is as slick as an Olympic ice track. I've had to actually wear coats ...not just fuzzy vests when going outside.
Gods of Winter.....Hellllllooooooo...we live below the Mason-Dixon line ....and this is not what we do here in winter....no matter what that shaggy muskrat vile animal named Phil says we must do for the next 6 weeks!
Thursday, January 23, 2014
So I sign up for Ancestry.com for 6 months...one of those discounted memberships that let's me see the world. It's time to do some genealogy work on my family and my hub wants to participate too.
Now you've all see those ads for Ancestry....find your family....hit the little green leaf and off you go....whooosh down your ancestry lane finding your Renaissance great great great great great grandfather etc etc.
So the first day we get out account.....I sit down and look at my poor straggly tree (which currently looks like it's the prototype for the Charlie Brown Xmas video...you remember the thin little crooked tree?) and I poke around. The leaves I have on my tree which contain hints obviously come from some cousins which used the free trail for two weeks and plucked down some names of immediate family I know already. Yes I know my aunt and I know my uncle died ....not exactly helpful....and certainly not going beyond the last 50 years of family history.
Then my hub tries his hand at his family tree.....presses a COUPLE of leaves...and viola....he has at least 400 years of history on one side and maybe 200 years on the side....complete with photos from relatives who visited Czechoslovakia and took pictures of a house his family and succeeding generations lived in for a 100 years ...etc etc etc.
MUST BE NICE.
So every time he goes on Ancestry, I give him a dirty look....and say something snide like , "Adding another 100 years to your tree? finding another branch that goes back maybe a thousand years????"
As for me.....I believe I now know all of my grandmother's siblings. Hooray. Do I know all of their descendants? No....because each sibling had like 100 kids (or at least 10) and in my family....people loved to keep the same names around.....Joseph, John, Frank.....plus the same middle name too....so this makes research interesting. Am I looking at Joseph John Frank's record the ORIGINAL born in the 1880's or the Joseph John Frank record from the guy born 1910 or his cousin WITH THE SAME NAME born 1920?
Well....on my Lithuanian side, I have at least found cousins doing heroic work during World War II and being accused of book smuggling.....obtaining Lithuanian books about history and culture and smuggling them into Lithuanian after the Russians took over and banned native language books.
Ha....better than my husband's relatives...who obviously were sitting in their huts....documenting their ancestors by candlelight.
Oh this family research is going to take a very very long time........
Monday, January 06, 2014
Well, I've been working hard for a month...and my project has gotten bigger not smaller.
In December, I started going through my dad's slides and pictures. I was down to the last 5 trays of slides when I walked into our office closet and for some reason looked up at the boxes on the shelf. I had a bad feeling. It was like they were looking down at me and going "nah nah nah." I was missing slides but thought they may have gotten mixed up with the boxes in my parents' estate sale or were thrown away.
I asked my tall son to bring the boxes down.....my heart sunk when I saw the label on the top of the box marked "slides." Oh and not just a few slides.... thousands of slides.
Well, at least I knew what happened to them.
I had my son stack them next to the kitchen table. My philosophy--keep them in sight-- because if I put them out-of-sight it would be easy to let them sit and sit and sit. Let's face it ...when they're next to your kitchen table, it's hard to forget they're there.
Right after I found the extra boxes of slides....I said to myself are there more photo albums I'm forgetting about? I only had 6 more photo albums from my dad to go through...surely I found them all. Ahhhh.....there were boxes tucked away from my parents in my son's bedroom closet. So I started poking at the them...and sure enough....I found one cosmetic case, 5 mega envelopes and 8 more photo albums plus all the pictures my mother had put in frames over the years.
So why not make myself more miserable? I sat down....and said, Okay....I've gone through all the loose pictures we've had of the kids...what about OUR photo albums. So I started a hunt.....downstairs...upstairs....in drawers....in bookcases and pulled them all out....all of them. I had a son lug them to the dining room where I had started sorting my pictures. I sat down....took a deep breath....okie dokey...what do we have here.
I put them in chronologically order....and in categories....like college pictures....baby pictures.....traveling pictures.
I stood up and looked down....there was a hundred years of my family.....maternal...paternal....ourselves and our children.
Holy shit...that's a lot of pictures and it doesn't even include prints from the slides.
But in a strange way, it was satisfying. I felt like a squirrel who had found all its nuts. Nothing hidden, all out in the open....all there. 100 plus years of life.
Now I need to super organize....and maybe with all the pieces here in front of me....it's possible to do this. It's hard to be make order out of something if pieces are missing and I believe I have all the pieces.
Well....there are about 5 boxes in the garage I should peek into. I've looked once...but not very hard. It would be worth it to take one more look....maybe tonight.....and be sure....all the puzzle pieces have been put out on the board.
And now I begin again......