A while back, while looking at historical pictures, I came across one that bore an amazing resemblance to my grandson, Chris Petersen. I realize that a lot of people say that some people remind them of other people, but even my family agreed that this young man looked like Chris at that age. I have no idea who this boy is, or if he is related to Chris, because the picture doesn’t tell his name…just his occupation, which was quite interesting. The boy is, what is known as, a Powder Monkey. I had no idea what that was, and after doing some research on it, I’m thankful that powder monkey is not an occupation we have today, and thankful that my grandson never had the opportunity to be one. To me, it seems like a very dangerous occupation.
Powder boys were used during the 17th century on warships. A powder boy or “powder monkey” manned naval artillery guns as a member of a warship’s crew, primarily during the age of sailboats. His chief role was to carry gunpowder from the powder magazine in the ship’s hold to the artillery guns. Sometimes he carried bulk powder and other times he carried cartridges, to minimize the risk of fires and explosions. The function was usually fulfilled by boy seamen of 12 to 14 years of age. Powder monkeys were selected for the job for their speed and height. They needed to be short so they could not be seen, and could move more easily in the limited space between decks, while remaining hidden behind the ship’s gunwale, thereby keeping them from being shot by enemy ships’ sharp shooters. Some women and older men also worked as powder monkeys. I realize that this might have seemed like a good idea, but as a mom and grandma, I would be terribly worried if that were my boy on one of those ships.
While the Royal Navy first began using the term “powder monkey” in the 17th century, it was later used, and continues to be used in some countries, to signify a skilled technician or engineer who engages in blasting work, such as in the mining or demolition industries. In such industries, a “powder monkey” is also sometimes referred to as a “blaster.” It seems that just about any occupation that carries the name “powder monkey” is a dangerous one. As to the boys who did this work on warships, well…their bravery is amazing. They must have see death around them. They knew the risks. Still, they saw a need, and knew that their contribution would help their country. They were patriots, and as with any soldier, they have my respect. They should never be forgotten, because they were soldiers too…in every way.
My grandniece, Siara Harman is a tiny little girl, just 4 feet 9 inches tall, but don’t let that fool you, because she is one tough cookie. She works out, and she’s really strong. After high school, Siara spent a year in Great Falls, Montana going to school, and representing the college as a cheerleader. During that year, she worked out and cheered at a pace most of us would find exhausting. Nevertheless, Siara took it all on stride. After that year, Siara returned home, mostly because she missed her family, I think…especially her mom, but also to continue her studies in her home town.
Siara is the type of person who takes time to decide to commit to most things, but once she does, she is all in. After her mom, my niece, Chantel Balcerzak remarried, it took Siara 18 months before she started calling her step-dad, Dave Balcerzak, “Dad.” Her brother, Jake Harman was much quicker to accept his step-dad. Nevertheless, once Siara committed to calling Dave “Dad,” she was in, wholeheartedly, and as far as she is concerned, Dave is her dad. Commitment, while not forthcoming, is something Siara takes very seriously.
Over the years, Siara has had a number of boyfriends, but once again she was very slow to commit to any of them. Siara was in two serious relationships before her current relationship, but once the conversation turned to marriage, her mom could always tell that it was, “Nope, not yet.” Her heart couldn’t move in that direction yet. With her fiancé, Nick Olsen, things would be different. While she and Nick have been dating for a while now, it took Siara only two week to tell her mom that, “No matter when he asks, the answer is yes.” I guess that when it’s the right one, commitment is easy. Siara and Nick will be married this summer.
As I said, Siara is a tiny, short little girl, and I recall that a few years ago…before she was “fully” grown, she told me that she wanted to be 5 feet 7 inches tall…an impossibility for our little Siara, who is full grown at 4 feet 9 inches. Knowing that she would never achieve that lofty goal, I told her to wear high heels, because that was going to be the only way she would ever be taller. She took my advise, and these days, with heels she is over 5 feet, anyway. Siara has decided that she is not going to take that chance with there kids, so she is going to marry a tall man. Of course, it wasn’t his height that won Siara’s love, but rather his heart. Still, Nick’s height was not a negative to Sara, even if he practically has to pick her up to kiss her. The really good news is that since Siara loves a very tall man, her kids might have a chance to be taller than she is. I guess that’s some consolation to Siara’s height dilemma. Today is Siara’s birthday. Happy birthday Siara!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
The first time I saw my cousin, Michelle Deraas Carlson, I thought, “What a teeny little girl she is!!” It’s true that Michelle, who is my cousin by her marriage to my cousin, Dave Carlson back in 1981, is a little girl of less that five feet, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that she is a fragile little girl. You would find that you are wrong, because Michelle is one tough lady. No, she’s not a fighter…she’s a personal trainer at Fitness Edge North in Duluth, Minnesota, which is owned by her sister-in-law, Julie Soukup.
If you choose to hire her to get you in shape, you will find that she can get the job done. Now, she will tell you that this won’t be easy…and you might want to quit, but if you don’t give up, you will find yourself looking a great as she does. Of course, she’s not one to brag…that part was all me. I’ve never had the privilege of using Michelle as a personal trainer myself, because I live too far away, but I have done…or at least tried to keep up with…some of her workouts. I had the opportunity to do some of her workouts by going to her Facebook site recently, and I could see that I was going to have to work very hard if I was going to be able to keep up. She is in great shape, and her workouts will wear you out…unless you are in pretty good shape too. At the time I saw her video, I was recovering from a broken shoulder. I was not able to do all of the exercises she did, but I hope to be able to in the future.
Michelle is definitely a short girl, but she embraces it. Like many of us who are short (although maybe not quite as short as she is) being short is not a bad thing. We might have to have someone reach the stuff in the cupboard that is far beyond our grasp, but we don’t have to worry about having someone standing in front of us in pictures, because with our short stature, we always have to be in front, or the camera would miss us altogether. Michelle might be the shortest person in her family, but they all love her just the way she is. She always has a smile on her face, and she is there to help with anything that is needed. It doesn’t get any better than that in a family. Today is Michelle’s birthday. Happy birthday Michelle!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My Aunt Virginia Beadle, my mom’s second to the oldest sister, was born in 1930 in the middle of the worst depression in United States history. Unemployment had increased from 1.3 million in October 1929 to 3.2 million by March 1930. Money was scarce, and people had to make due with what they had. Of course, like any parent knows, children don’t wait until you can afford them, and in those days people had large families. My Aunt Virginia was the second of nine children born to her parents, George and Hattie Byer. Like most families, the children can have very different features, while still looking very much like brothers and sisters. Such was the case for my aunts and uncles. They all looked different, and yet very much like siblings.
Some of my aunts were tall…or at least to me they were. Their dad, was over six feet tall, so it stands to reason that some of the girls would inherit his height, or at least a little of it. My mom was 5’6″ and some of her sisters were taller, but Aunt Virginia wasn’t one of those. She took after her mother in height. My grandmother was 5 feet tall in her tall days, and I would guess that Aunt Virginia was no more than 5’2″ tall. I think though, that the thing that always stood out to me about Aunt Virginia was her dark hair. I always felt like it must look like shining black silk. Some of my mom’s siblings were blondes and some brunettes…some even dark brunette, but I think Aunt Virginia’s hair was the darkest, and it gave her an exotic look in my mind.
These days, my Aunt Virginia is even smaller than she was before. When I saw her at the cemetery on Memorial Day, at my parents graves where she and her sister, my Aunt Sandy Pattan were coming to add their decorations to ours on my parents graves, it occurred to me just what a tiny woman she is. I am only 5’2″, but I felt so tall next to her. Still, there was enough love inside her to fill up a much bigger person than she was. The love overflows, Aunt Virginia, as it does all of my aunts and uncles. Maybe that is what makes them all seem so much alike. Today is my Aunt Virginia’s 86th birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Virginia!! Have a wonderful day!! We love you!!
For all of their childhood years, my daughter Amy just wanted to be different than her big sister, Corrie. Corrie played the violin, so Amy wanted to play the clarinet. If Corrie wanted to watch Bugs Bunny, Amy wanted to watch Mickey Mouse. It wasn’t like they fought about things, because mostly they didn’t. The girls got along very well, and were always good friends. Amy just didn’t want to be mini-me to her big sister. I suppose that because they were born so close together…just eleven months apart…they seemed to be the same age by the time they could both walk. Corrie had the distinction of being the big sister, and everyone knew it, because Amy forgot to grow. At just 4’10 (which is hard for me to say, because we always thought it was 4’11, until her husband, Travis proved us wrong), there was little doubt in anyone’s mind that she was the youngest. Of course, they would have thought that if she had been the oldest too, so I guess, for Corrie’s sake it was a good thing that the shorter child was also the younger child.
For Amy, who never really felt like she was the younger child…but rather felt like they should be equal, there always seemed to be something to prove. It wasn’t exactly like a competition, but rather an opposition. She didn’t want to compete to be the best at the same things Corrie was doing, she just wanted to be her own person. That is why, no matter what the situation was, Amy wanted to do the opposite of Corrie. If Amy couldn’t be the oldest, she would have to be the opposite. There were the natural things that worked out in Amy’s favor too…being shorter, being blond while her sister was brunette, even needing glasses for distance vision, while Corrie needed them for near vision. Yes, these two daughters of mine were as opposite and opposite could possibly be.
You would naturally think that there would be nothing but fighting in our household, with all this I want to be different than her opposition going on, and sometimes you would be right. The argument was mostly with their mother though. I saw nothing wrong with both girls playing the violin, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth, and Amy quickly informed me of the error of my ways. I would have even dressed them alike, but that was also a no no! So, I learned to see these two little people, as two very different individuals…not a bad thing I suppose. And, while Amy did everything in her power to show her individuality, she loved her big sister. And, every so often, I would catch a little look…usually so subtle that it went unnoticed until years later in a picture, that told me that while Amy didn’t want to be mini-me to Corrie, she thought her big sister was pretty great, nevertheless.
I have known my brother-in-law since he was six years old. He was such a cute little boy, and he absolutely adored his big brother. Bob and Ron were the only boys in the family, and I guess to a degree that meant sticking together…especially with 4 sisters in the family. Ron is 14 years younger than Bob, so anything that Bob did was cool as far as Ron was concerned, right from the very start. Maybe that is why Ron thought I was ok too, when I came along. Of course, I don’t suppose it hurt anything that he got to go along on dates…or at least the ice cream ones.
When Bob and I got married, Ron was seven. He was excited about it, because by then, he and I had become good friends. In fact, I became a goal of sorts to Ron. Now, I know that sounds odd, but the goal was to get as tall as I was. For those of you who know me…well, you know that tall is not a word that could be used to describe me. At 5’2″ tall, it doesn’t take long for a boy to pass me in height. Nevertheless, that was Ron’s big goal.
Every time we went out to my in-law’s house, Ron wanted to measure to see if he was as tall as I was yet. I can’t tell you how many times we measured over the years, but I can tell you that it was a lot. I always humored him, telling him that he was getting up there. And he always loved it when the measurement showed that he had gained some height. He just knew that he would get there the next time.
As the years went by, Ron began to realize that this goal of his was going to take some time. It was at that time that he began to measure less, but still he didn’t quit. The measurements were more like every month or so. And as the months went by, I could see the writing on the wall. Very soon Ron’s goal would be met, and he would find out very quickly that 5’2″ wasn’t something to write home about.
Finally, that big day arrived. Ron measured, and found out that he was indeed as tall as me. I will never forget the look on his face. When he measured that day, and Ron finally discovered that he was as tall as I was, his face lit up with excitement. He had achieved a new level of manhood. Then, he looked at the rest of the adults in the room…most of whom were still taller than he was, and his expression changed. His face took on a look of disappointed surprise…it finally hit him. After all those long years of waiting and working to be as tall as I was really meant nothing at all, because it finally became very clear to Ron that 5’2″ is…well, short!!
When children are little they normally follow their age, or close to it as to the range of heights, but in some cases where you have some very tall parents and some very short parents, that isn’t always the case. In our family, we have some tall people, such as Lynn, my brother-in-law, who is 6’6″ and then you have Debbie, my sister-in-law, and me, who are both 5’2″. So, this makes for a wide variety of heights in our kids.
Corrie, my daughter and the first born grandchild, is my tallest child at a whopping 5’1″, even shorter than I am, but not unusual considering that much of my family is short and some are shorter than I am. Then comes my second daughter Amy, the second born grandchild and the one who gets to have the distinction of being the runt of the litter as the family goes, comes in at 4’11”, or midget as her husband Travis likes to call her. Machelle, my niece and Debbie and Lynn’s oldest daughter and the third born grandchild, and her sister Susan, who is the youngest of this group, come in at 5’10” and 5’10 1/2″ respectively. And Barry, fell right in line with Machelle and Susan at 5’10”, just a little shorter than Susan, but with the right shoes, who would ever know. There are two other grandchildren, JD and Eric, who were born a while after the first photo was taken, and weren’t in the second for some reason. So I guess that we are really just a wide spread in there, and not anything like stairsteps…since my girls are just little, and the rest of the kids are just tall.
There is an age distinction that will always come into play where kids and grandkids are concerned, but it becomes very hard to tell as kids get older, because you just never know how things will play out in the height arena as they grow up. It is always interesting to watch them try to stand up tall…even on tip toe to remain the tallest for as long as possible, but in some cases, that doesn’t hold out for very long. Amy was fairly quickly relegated to the basement in the height arena, and initially Machelle raced out front, even though they are only 6 months apart in age. Corrie got pushed down to second to the bottom in the height race early on too, and there they have both remained from that time forward. So other than the years when JD and Eric were little, Corrie and Amy have always been the runts. The real fight for height has been with the rest of the kids. You guys should really just learn to get along…Hahahaha!!!
Thirty five years ago today, my youngest daughter, Amy was born. She was born 11 months after my older daughter, so for 1 month out of every year, they are the same age. It is something that I think the girls have both loved and hated, but I hope that they will come to enjoy the uniqueness of it. I have always thought it was very cool. I found out that there is actually a name for that…Irish Twins…a bit of trivia that I find interesting.
Amy has always been a short girl, so all of the various nick names were applied to her. I called her Strawberry Shortcake, and her dad called her squirt and shorty. Amy also had big eyes, blond hair and little bird legs, so I called her Tweety Bird. Nick names seem to be a way of life with most parents, and they quickly become little endearing terms. I don’t think parents ever forget the nick names we give our kids. They are just so cute that they are precious memories to us.
When Amy was about 2, I started bowling on a morning league with a nursery for the kids. Corrie had a great time, but it wasn’t quite so good for Amy…at first. The other kids thought she was a “walking doll” and they wanted to carry her around…an idea she didn’t go for, so when I heard this blood curdling scream that I recognized as Amy, I went running to the nursery, only to find that she was fine, and the kids would not try to carry her around again. Problem solved. As I said, Amy was little, but very capable of taking care of herself.
Amy has long since outgrown all of the little girl stories, even if she didn’t grow tall. She is a loving wife and mother, as well as a very capable insurance agent. I am very proud of all she has accomplished. She is a sweet and loving daughter and granddaughter, who is always willing to help out wherever she is needed. There is a saying, “Big things come in small packages” and that fits Amy very well. She may be small, but she is big hearted, a big help, and a big success. And I am very proud of her. Happy birthday Amy!! I love you very much!!