Monday, November 30, 2009

Royal Mutts

The more and more I researched my family's genealogical heritage, the more interested I became in tracing Halle's. I started with a one-page list of names that Brad's mom graciously provided and I've been able to trace it back to the 1200's! One of Halle's ancestors was first hand on the Mayflower; another was a master swordmaker who made swords for Jefferson Davis and Leonidas Polk.

There are so many stories that are hundreds and thousands of years old that Halle needs to know. I started a blog last week called "Royal Mutts" to focus on my own genealogical records, and I have only one post written so far, but I intend to add stories from Brad's side tonight and just as frequently as I add mine. Don't worry, I'll make distinctions along the way.

It's so tough to choose one story at a time! One thing is for certain: Genealogy is a feverish race where the generations and ages fly by, and hitting a dead end always feels like a tiny little tragedy. We'll find you someday, fiftieth-generation grandfather of mine. We'll find your story.

And now, on to Royal Mutts! Starting with an ancestor to many English royals, Rollo, who makes me feel a lot less like a black sheep! Rape, pillage, and human sacrifice are some of the earliest historically significant pillars of our origin - if that doesn't alleviate some karmic baggage, I don't know what could.

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Tribute to Mark Shumate

"Smile real loud!"

On Tuesday morning, our very close and dear friend Mark Shumate passed away, painlessly, receiving expert hospice care in the comfort of his home. Brad and I attended his memorial service tonight, where he and Jeff (Mark's best friend since toddlerhood) played "Two of Us" by the Beatles, a song that Mark and Jeff used to play together.

It was such a fitting song, too, and the whole idea moved me. I am so proud of Brad for being able to hold himself together to honor Mark this way. His memorial service was a very difficult moment for both of us but Brad and Jeff did an amazing job. They actually smiled to each other and made it a joyful tribute. Mark would have loved the idea.

If you're not sure which song it is, here is a video:

To honor Mark in my own way (one that doesn't require coherent public speaking: he would understand), here is a short list of some of the things I am thankful for this holiday season:

I'm thankful that Mark saw me as kindred and let me get to know the real Mark.

I'm thankful that Mark drove real slow, often took the long way home to my house and allowed me to have more time with him as he regaled me with hilarious stories. He paid scrutinous attention to detail and put the listener into that moment. He couldn't tell a punchline without cracking up for a while first.

I'm thankful that Mark was a principled person and knew me well enough to hold me accountable to my own principles. A real friend won't always have your back, but should be expected to be honest and genuine and have your best interest at heart.

I'm thankful for the rides he insisted on giving me home. I'm thankful that his concern delivered me safely to my own doorstep night after night.

I'm thankful for the positivity and sunshine Mark showed me whenever he could tell I was stressed out or frustrated. I'm thankful for all the countless times he listened to me and offered his sympathy and hugs when I was down.

I'm thankful for Mark introducing Brad, and with him, my future, to me.

I'm thankful that Mark called the hospital looking for me, when I gave birth to Halle, to congratulate us and to see if there was anything we needed.

I'm thankful that Mark's battle with cancer was short and that his passing was so peaceful. There really isn't a better way to go.

I'm thankful that I was able to be at his memorial service in the company of the people he spoke frequently about with so much tenderness and love. I'm thankful that it was the kind of service that one of his best friends could wear a KISS t-shirt in his honor.

One year you wrote in my birthday card, "it's just another trip around the sun, Raezin". The journey you're on now, though, is taking you far from us and we will miss you so. But as the song goes, "you're coming home."

Run away home, Mark.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Monday, November 23, 2009

Halle's Christmas List

We sat down together and compiled the things she would like for Santa to bring her this year. Here is the result:

1. Apple
2. Moon
3. Elmo
4. Apple
5. Elmo
6. Elmo
7. Apple
8. Boom!

Very frightening, indeed. I don't know what kind of villainous comic book evil she is planning, but it doesn't sound pretty.

The Family Tree

Four of my ancestors (the Nevilles) have effigies at Staindrop Church, County Durham, UK.

Big thanks to my Dad for giving me access to all of his collected genealogical data on! I've always been fascinated with family history and I hope to do some work (detective work, that is) on Brad's side of the family for Halle. I don't know if I'll be able to get nearly as far as my Dad did for a branch of our family.

How far? 1520 BC far. No kidding. Those British nobles were sticklers for breeding!Countess Jane
Jane Neville, Countess of Westmorland

The most recent ancestor of mine to have an audience with the British court was Jane Neville, Countess of Westmorland. From Wikipedia: She was first to urge the rebels to rise up against Elizabeth I of England and yet she expected Elizabeth to pardon her when they failed. She hoped to arrange the marriage of her brother, Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, to Mary I of Scotland and put them both on England's throne. He was executed for treason in 1572 and she lived under house arrest for the rest of her life. Ouch!Ralph Neville & His Enormous Offspring

Her grandfather, Ralph Neville the 4th Earl of Westmorland, was a member of Henry VII's privy council and was one of the peers who tried Anne Boleyn. Tisk tisk! One website claims he had 18 children, another 23. His guardian as a teenager was future father-in-law, Edward Stafford, the Duke of Buckingham, who supposedly plotted to overthrow Henry VIII and was executed. His residence was Thornbury Castle, which is now a luxury hotel with 26 rooms and a restaurant. Interestingly enough, an ancestor of the Duke of Buckingham was one of the family badasses, William the Conqueror, who seized the land on which the castle sits from the first husband of his wife, Matilda.Duke of Buckingham
Robert I

Then we have Robert I, who was called both "The Magnificent" and "Robert the Devil" and fathered William the Conqueror. It is suspected that Robert was poisoned. Robert I's Castle in Falaise
This masterpiece of medieval workmanship is a rare example of a castle that was not just designed to be a defensive position but was also designed to be a place to be lived in by a family.

Go back further and we have Conan I, Duke of Bretagne, Queen Gerberge von Saxony, King Heinrich I of the Germans, Queen Bertha de Toulouse of Italy, Charlemagne, CHARLEMAGNE, and even Alexander the Great. And before that? Royalty of extinct kingdoms, such as Acadia, Austrasia, Troy, Iceni, and Teucri to name a few.King Priam visits Achilles

I also found a website that listed some of our earliest ancestors, King Priam, and traced it up to Laban, the father of Rachel and Leah. I'm not nearly as likely to believe any old website, but it would be good to know! The Red Tent has been my favorite book for years.

Links of Interest:

Thornbury Castle
Rooting for Ancestors

Sir Henry Neville, one of our ancestors, is suspected by a few scholars to be the actual author of Shakespeare's work. I personally think it's bunk, but while researching the debate I saw that Sir Henry Neville was a distant relative of William Shakespeare!

ALSO! I was able to find TWO connections to the Tudors; one through the House of Wessex and one through the Beauchamp line, through Anne Boleyn's sister Mary Boleyn, sister-in-law and mistress of Henry VIII.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


This is what happens when you start singing a song that Halle is vehemently opposed to hearing! Youtube cut the video off by a couple of seconds, but I love at the end how she puts her hands up to her head like, "Sheesh."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

To a dear, dear friend of ours.

To tell you the story of how I met Brad is to tell you about Mark Shumate, a projectionist, musician, and wonderful human being. Brad worked with Mark as a projectionist at the Janus and became really close friends with him, as well as Mark's best friend, fellow projectionist, Jeff. Their names are kinda synonymous. MarkandJeff. Years after his Janus years, Brad visits them in the projection booth. They'll jam out on guitar sometimes, and often chat in the parking lot into the wee hours of the morning.

I worked at the theater for years but I didn't get to know Mark until I became a manager. I started working nights and before I knew it, I had found a friend in him. He's so easy to talk to approachable. He soon made sure I had a ride home at the end of the night, sometimes as late as 2am on the weekends. It's tough to have a short conversation with Mark but I didn't mind that our trips home could take hours. We'd talk about politics, the theater, our families, shoot the crap, or sit and listen to Coast to Coast. There was never a dull moment and we got to know each other really well. He was the one that gave me my nickname, Raezin! He even called Mei Ling, my dog, Meizin.

One such night that Brad came a-calling, I needed a ride home from Mark. I remember Brad coming downstairs, into the backroom, and feeling incredibly anti-social all of the sudden. I thought he was a really attractive guy, but I remember thinking, "don't hit on me please! i smell like popcorn right now!"

Well, you know the rest. We've brought little Munch up to see MarkandJeff several times and they just fuss over her. It wasn't that long ago, maybe four or five months ago, when we all went up there together. Nobody knew that something was wrong then.

Mark has undergone treatment for colon cancer including chemo this month. We've been worried sick and are scared to even consider it but it's there: we might lose a really close friend of ours. Soon. We don't know how soon, or even if we'll lose him. We just know he's in really bad shape and he needs a miracle right now. It would mean a lot to us if you would pray for Mark.

We've got so much love for you, Mark Shumate. Be positive and try to hang in there if you can. You're constantly in our thoughts and we're sending you prayers and good vibes 24/7, buddy.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

11.15.09 Podcast

This is it, our very first podcast! I'd like to do this regularly but... we have a toddler, y'know? This podcast is all about our week in the sickhouse. Halle is only in the first half but makes a comeback from the sidelines with a pretty cool new addition to her vocab.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Vintage Dadaism

"I haven't said the word nipple this many times since middle school."

-Brad, when Halle was a newborn.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What Tired Looks Like Part III

Halloween Pt. Two

All photos courtesy of Fresh From Heaven, i.e. Grandpa.