The Occasional Graveyard Post

So, my family has dug graves for three generations now*. I’m sure if you skip back through the centuries there is a lot more grave digging going on down the family tree, probably with a peak around 1347 or so. Anyway, turns out this recent family business is a tad outside of the norm in the modern age- but it took me a long time to actually see it as that.

Cemetery photo 2

Growing up all of us kids used to ride along with our dad and/or uncles on Saturdays for the grave digging jobs. I spent many a sunny summer day playing hide and seek among gravestones, and getting pushed into fresh dug graves by my brother. That part right there is a rite of passage in the family- getting stuck in a grave for an hour or so- ah childhood! We were taught to be respectful and to stay silent while the funeral itself was going on- and to be quiet and efficient in lowering caskets with the hand cranks after the grieving family had left. And we also learned that covering the grave dirt was important. I don’t know why actually- but there was always a big square of green astroturf to cover the grave dirt. Was it upsetting to the families to see? Never understood it, but never really thought about it either- it just was.

I enjoyed old graveyards then and still enjoy wandering around them today. But they have to be old to be interesting; today’s headstones are the 70’s ranch house neighborhoods of graveyards- all the stones the same shape and size, just slightly different colors. Ugh. Give me the scary, head bowed angels, the statues of baskets of fruit draped in mourning cloth, the spires and obelisks, the huge crosses. The statues of tree trunks for monuments for the Woodsmen of the World… the taller the tree stump the higher up in rank the members were. The graves under huge oak trees. The ones with seashells covering the top. The tiny fences. The photographs behind glass in the 1980s headstones have all faded in the sun or been water damaged- but the images from the 1890s somehow printed on white ceramic ovals are still pristine- photos of people dead over a century are clearer than those of people I could remember- if I had but known them.


Those old ceramic photos (at least around this part of central Texas) are generally dour German immigrants. Little ovals of the wife on one side of the headstone and the husband on the other- glowering disapprovingly at all the generations that have followed them. Every once in a while there were exceptions though. There is one grave in the old section of the Boerne cemetery where the image is of a husband and wife together… smiling and hugging. In the 1890s. How scandalous! And how they must have not cared- it was their death- they did what they wanted with it! It made me smile when I saw it. Proof of a happy marriage through the ages.

In my travels as a salesman in South Texas I’ve taken a few lunches wandering old graveyards with a sandwich in my hand. Sometimes you need 30 minutes of just being outside,wandering under trees and not answering phone calls, you know? Weird, weird, weird- I know that too. But I’ve never minded graveyards or found them creepy. I try to put the words to the feeling I get from those really old ones. Death minus grief equals peace… that is the closest I can get to it- though it isn’t exactly right. And I guess the familiarity from my own past plays in there too.

And I just found out this past week that my grandfathers slogan in the early days of his grave digging business was “We’ll be the last to let you down!” Which I find brilliant and would tell him so- if we as a family hadn’t dug his grave and already been the last to let him down. Oh well- he knew he was hilarious- he didn’t need me to tell him.

*Pretty sure this makes me an Untouchable if we go by the caste system in India.

Talking in My Sleep


So, turns out I have had somniloquy, also known as sleep talking, on and off for… pretty much ever. (And how cool is the word somniloquy? Right up there with slumber and credenza.)

I’ve been doing it since I was quite young. I remember the look on my Mom’s face when she tried to wake me up once when I was in high school and I angrily tried to convince her about something having to do with the baseboards… that I was totally calling sparrows. There was angry and emphatic pointing accompanying this as well. Come to think about it that’s not a good example- that’s one of the times I STARTED talking in my sleep and then quasi-woke up in the middle of it. I got told to go back to sleep. Immediately.

A better example is from the night before I was supposed to give a presentation on yellow roses. My husband (hot ass boyfriend at the time) shook me awake… after I’d given the entire presentation in my sleep. I’d like to think it was interesting enough that he waited till the end to wake me and not that he was frozen in horror because it was some horrifyingly surreal Dahli shit at 2am. He married me after that, but then he used to like Dahli too… My husband says it’s usually work related and surprising how clear and conversational it is- so this isn’t incoherent mumbling we’re talking about.

How do I feel about it? Shrugging acceptance? What are you gonna do, you know? I have as little control over it as I do over the fact that my mouth falls open the second I fall asleep on a plane. Actually, I DO have more control over the sleep talking- because it only seems to happen when I’m stressed and over tired. The gape mouthed horror in seat 23D… nothing I can do about that chick.

And I TOTALLY used to pretend I also had sleep walking in my youth. If I got caught up at night, I’d just mumble and shuffle back to my room and when Mom would tell me about it the next day I’d pretend I had no idea what she was talking about. Because I legitimately talked in my sleep the fact that I’d also be a sleepwalker seemed eminently plausible to her. So thanks, somniloquy- many an X-men was read by the light over the kitchen sink without fear because you provided me a solid alibi.

Oh! And I also still fall asleep holding books. As in… all the time. My husband has quite the collection of pictures of this. Sleep related fun!

From the Paper: Chaos Theory

I find the opinion pages of my small town Texas newspaper to be a daily lesson in patience. Most of the time I can be that water-resistant backed duck. But sometimes… Perhaps it’s simply that any kind of nationalism (yes, even our own) strikes me as a bad idea.  Odd to hear coming from a Texan? Who loves her state yet realizes calling it “the best” is an opinion based on bias and lack of knowledge on the others? Yup. Hi there, that’s me! Extrapolate that out to all nations, cultures, ethnicities, and races and that there is my world view. So anyone claiming to be “the best!” gets my back up, and strident whining about how everyone else should appreciate said bestedness even more so. Toss some twisting of historical fact and thinly veiled Hitler praise in there and I get all fired up. Same as the last time I wrote a post like this I’m not posting the letter to the editor I responded to here… due to possible issues with my local newspaper and because I’m not giving the author a forum for his words to go one step further in the world so maybe this is a bit cryptic. I’d like to think it can standalone in this way though let me know if not and I’ll work the next one differently.


Chaos Theory and that thing Mr. O said about 1941

Let’s talk “Butterfly Effect” briefly- and I’m talking chaos theory, not the 2004 movie with Ashton Kutcher. It gets oversimplified into this: the possibility that a hurricane in North America may be caused by a butterfly flapping its wings in China, and all of the aftereffects that result from that small action. Now, there are some problems with this theory, I’ll admit. One of the main ones: Could you really say with certainty, after the fact, which butterfly was responsible for a specific result? The other problem with the theory, as I see it, is that due to such rampant pollution I’m really not sure how many butterflies are left in China. Come to think of it, it has been a pretty quite hurricane season…

When this concept is taken out of the realm of just butterflies and applied to man it basically boils down to this: every action has an effect on the present and therefore changes the future. I’m not going to pick apart each of the claims Mr. O makes about the German influence on history… except for one. (We’ll get back to that.) I’ll just state that his assertion that “there would be no USA or Europe as we know it today (without Germans)” is only accurate if we realize there truly would be no USA or Europe as we know it today without every single action of every single one of the people of the world. Chaos theory. Butterfly effect. The past changes the future. It is a beautiful way of seeing the world and is one of the main reasons I love history as much as I do.

Now…let’s talk the German invasion of Russia in 1941 that Mr. O states was to protect Christianity. Go ahead and look up who ordered that action, called Operation Barbarossa and why it was ordered… no don’t do it on Wikipedia! Sheesh, use a reputable source… go ahead. I’ll wait here. Found who ordered it? Little bit shocked, aren’t you, that anyone would have the absolute chutzpah to trot out anything that guy did as heroic, protecting Christianity, or anything worthy of praise? Yeah, me too. And for anyone who didn’t look that up- here’s a hint: he’s wiped a specific form of mustache off the list of acceptable facial hair for well over six decades now. Was it done to defend Christianity?  Do butterflies flap their wings to make hurricanes? Or do they do it to preemptively invade Russia to defend the Third Reich from a perceived threat on its Eastern front? Now, the cause of the invasion can actually be proven (there is, not totally unexpectedly, a plethora of very well-organized notes and directives concerning it) but the final effect is what is up for some interpretation from us today. So there you go, that gives you free reign to interpret and have opinions on the results of factual events in history… just not to misinterpret the motivations or to be piecemeal about the facts themselves.

(Image courtesty of Jean Scheijen)

From the paper: Where Would America Be Without Everyone Else?

Sometimes I write guest opinion columns in my local paper. I know the easy quip would be that I do it because I don’t want anyone to read my writing or that doing so means I should apply to AARP. I don’t give a crap though- I love it. Seeing my face and my few small words in newsprint… not to get all Hank Williams Jr about it, but it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy because it’s a family tradition. And now that I think of it, Hank Williams Jr. would probably love my local paper… his beliefs are all OVER that opinion page even if my own are usually not.

newspaper(Image courtesty of Jean Scheijen)

My guest column, titled “Where would America be without everyone else” is in response to the shark-eyeroll inducing original letter titled “Where would America be without Germans”:

I will give it to good Mr. O. and agree with the first two sentences of his recent column that stated (in summary) that October passed with little acknowledgement of it being German American History month. I’ll agree with that statement mostly because I had to look it up to make sure that was a real thing. Kudos! It is. Though it’s also Polish American History Month, Filipino American History Month, Dwarfism Awareness Month, Auto Battery Safety Month, Italian History Month, and Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual, and Transgender History Month. You want to talk about the makings of an awesome Month Awareness Parade! Let’s commit, as citizens, to making that happen next year.

And I’ll agree with another statement in that column as well: that (in summary) no German Americans perpetrated any sabotage on American soil during both world wars. But let us also not forget that they were not alone in that fact. No Japanese American or Italian American was accused of nor convicted of sabotage during WWII, as well. So let’s not claim sole credit for what seems to have been a bit of a fad of loyalty to the stars and stripes during that period by the American citizens who just happened to be of ethnic descent from our enemies.

And yes, I’ll give you that there are notable inventions by Germans that you listed in your column. Kudos again! Only thing is this: everything else was invented by…everyone else. The car was invented, yes, by a German in 1885 (Karl Benz) but electric brakes were invented by Mexican inventor Victor Ochoa in 1907. Squirrels and street-ball players salute you, Mr. Ochoa. And that must have been a pretty nerve-wracking 22 years in the interim. The telephone was invented by a Scotsman. The weather balloon by a Frenchman. The list of literally every other invention is pretty extensive so we’ll leave it at that.

But the picnic?! To have stated that the picnic was invented by German Americans?! How is that even possible? I’m pretty sure the prehistoric humans had many a picnic- which is provable by the fact that neither houses nor tables were invented yet! But even discounting that- the word picnic itself is French and dates from the early 1690s. There is a French painting by Lemoyne of a picnic in 1723 that is titled the Hunt’s Picnic.  That is years before America even became a country for there to be citizens of German descent living in. I could go on, but that claim certainly has a whiff of Gore inventing the internet to it.

If you’re special then we’re and they’re all special is my point. All cultures. All ethnicities. All nationalities. All batteries. Okay, maybe not that last one, but you get the idea. All of us are special and deserving of real respect, and so one shouldn’t presume to try to set themselves above others. And the real greatness of that fact is that it puts us all on the same playing field. We are all and walk among giants everyday that way. But the question to ponder is does that make us all giants or just raise the height of normalcy? Not to be insensitive to our fellow citizens with Dwarfism. Dwarfism Awareness month taught us that back in October.