February 10 2018

Privilege (Five Minute Friday)

I consider it my greatest privilege to be able and be trusted to keep the family history.

I was taken with the idea of genealogy research when I was in the fourth grade and first learned about our family a bit when my older sister had to do a fifth-grade project about our ancestors. The next year, I had the same teacher and eagerly looked forward to learning even more than my sister had known about the family tree to use for the assignment. I remember my mother calling her sister, to ask about the specifics for her family and my dad’s mother to get details about his family. I remember there was some confusion getting all the details for my dad’s family because the chart was confusing to my grandmother. What we got was a few generations of names and dates, maybe as far back as my great-grandparents on both sides of the family. But that was enough, and I was hooked.

My interest never wavered, but there wasn’t a lot I could do as a young kid. Once I was in high school and had some pocket money of my own, I began researching in earnest. There was a shop in town called Ye Olde Genealogie Shoppe that put on all-day conferences with well-known guest speakers and they were not terribly expensive so I told mom I wanted to go. She said I could if I would pay my way. I assured her I would. I explained that I would also need a ride to and from the hotel where the conference was being held. I asked if she would be willing to go with me and drive if I was to pay both our admission costs from my own money. She agreed and seemed interested, but not as obsessed with it as I was. We had fun going to many of these events throughout my high school years. We spent time going over what we had learned and comparing our notes. When I was in college and finally had a car so I could drive myself, I spent many a Saturday downtown at the Indiana State Library. I would pack a lunch and bring lots of change for copies. I spent so much time combing through the microfilms of census records with my head almost inside the little cave-like machines squinting to read the strange handwriting and using a pencil to fill in the forms for the census with the entries for the ancestors I found. I just couldn’t get enough. I wasn’t interested in social studies or history of any kind, that was dull and boring, but when it came to MY family, MY ancestors, I was doing research because I wanted to not because I had to. This was more intense than homework and more difficult too, but I didn’t care. I loved it! I felt like I had won the lottery when I discovered some new tidbit or another ancestor’s name. I read books that I bought at the conferences or the local bookstore. The library didn’t have much available back then. I had to limit the time I spent on genealogy so my grades in the college courses wouldn’t suffer. I longed for school breaks so I could focus on genealogy.

When I got married in 1986, my husband seemed so lucky because his grandmother lived right here in town. I was much closer to his grandmother than my own. We went swimming with her in her apartment complex pool and she would patiently answer my questions. I got the privilege of wrapping all her Christmas gifts for a few years. I just loved having a grandparent so close. I only remember meeting one of my grandparents, my maternal grandmother, and she lived so far away I only saw her once or twice a year for an hour or two. I was in heaven! My husband and I had been having Sunday dinners with his parents, his brother and his grandmother for years by the time we were married. Our first house was less than a mile away from her apartment so we often picked her up and took her back home from the Sunday dinners. I learned that her father was an amateur photographer. She had albums full of his photos. When we looked at them, I turned them over to read the writing on the back but where others would have written the dates, location or the names of those in the photo, her father had written film speeds and f-stops. I quizzed the family on many occasions to get names and dates and specifics on births, deaths, and marriages. I can’t imagine what they thought of this nosy new family member, but I didn’t let that bother me. I had loads of new ancestors to research. I wanted to know them all and find them all. His family was from states I had never had reason to research before, exotic places like New York and Pennsylvania. I wanted to know how they came to live in Indiana if their families were from “back east”. So I asked. I think they liked that I was interested in them and their families. They let me scan photos and bring them back the next week and then take another batch. After all, I was family now and would willingly share the scanned images with anyone who wanted them.

Gradually, as time passed, more census records were released. I remember when the 1910, 1920, 1930, and 1940 census records were made available to the public. These were released 72 years after they were taken, so researched had to wait ten years in between these big releases! Oh, how exciting it was to be able to find people on the census that I actually knew and had met! I loved searching through the microfilmed newspapers for obituaries when the people stopped appearing on the census records. City directories were fun too. When I noticed that my grandparents’ families lived just a few blocks from each other I began to speculate on how they met and what their courtship might have been like. Many people thought me strange for wanting to spend all my extra time and money looking for and making copies of these old records. Social security death records were indexed and you could send for a copy of the social security application once you found it in the index for only $7 each. This was a bit pricey back in the day, but I cut corners and saved my spending money to use for making copies at the library and to send off for my record copies. This was before the Internet and then during the early days of it. Not much was indexed and even less was online. Few had emails or web pages so we wrote letters and sent checks when we wanted information and we waited, and waited and watched the mailbox day after day for the record copies to arrive or for some possible distant cousin to answer our letter. It was so different then, back in the old days before DNA testing and Internet databases.

I went to cemeteries and walked the rows searching for specific names. We knew tricks for getting the best photos of the headstones. Yes, I have an album full of headstone photos. When I learned how to write HTML and create web pages, I created virtual cemeteries with photos and transcriptions of the headstones along with the info on where the cemetery was located and any other information or maps to go with it. I wanted to share my research with distant cousins I had never met. It was like leaving breadcrumb trails for them to find and those crumbs led them back to me. I shared photos of ancestors, school class photos from my mothers’ grade school years. She had written all the names on the back when she was an adult. I knew not everyone would have copies and if I added the names, the search engines could find them.

I spent about thirty years consistently immersed in my hobby, then I had to return to the world of working full-time again in addition to parenting and running the house and just that quick, time to do research vanished. Now after about ten years away from it, I realize I really miss it and want to immerse myself in it all over again. I am a different person now with new and different hobbies. The way genealogists do research is vastly different than it was ten years ago. Many of my beloved relatives are no longer here to pester with questions and I know what a great opportunity I lost when they died. I find myself realizing I took the privilege of knowing them for granted and never considered that it might one day be too late to ask the questions I hadn’t yet thought up. Now more than ever, I understand that I am one of the older generation. Now, I am the one the younger ones will need to come to in order to get their questions answered and I want to be ready if and when they do. Oh, I really hope they do. I hope to infect them with just a bit of my enthusiasm for family history.

Having family is a treasure. It is a privilege to know them and to remember them and to honor them by making sure they are not forgotten.

This post is part of the weekly Five Minute Friday link-up!
The prompt this week is: Privilege
The assignment: Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation. Just write.

Ok, obviously I got a little carried away and went well past the 5 minutes…it just couldn’t be helped.

February 10 2017

The Importance of Family Dinners

The Importance of Family Dinners

If you have children, you most likely already know how important it is to eat dinner as a family. We did this almost every night when the kids were growing up. The kids were allowed to help get dinner on the table by helping whoever was cooking or by setting the table. We would let them help plan menus for the week and voice what they were “hungry” for. Each child of course had favorite meals. We would talk about how it wasn’t good to eat the same thing more than one day a week. How we should try to plan a variety of different meats or even some meatless meals throughout the week. Eating together as a family affords opportunities to bond and many teachable moments.

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January 12 2017

​SMART Goals 2017


Ok, we have a new year and that means I need to bunch of new goals. I have been setting goals for years, but it seems I write them down, post them to the group that asks us to set the goals and then proceed o forget all about them until December when I dig them up and look them over to see if I have managed to actually, accidentally get any of them done. Usually, the only ones I got accomplished were the ones I would have done anyway because I certainly wasn’t deliberately trying o get any of my goals done. I decided that since I found this shiny new obsession called bullet journaling, that perhaps I would do well to really think about my goals before setting them this year and once they were recorded in my bullet journal I should actually try to actively get them done this year.

So I saw some folks in the bullet journal community talking about the importance of setting SMART Goals. So I, of course, Googled it and came up with lots of helpful websites and graphics. I decided I liked the looks of one of them so I saved it and tried to stick to what it said when it came to creating my goals this year. I will include the graphic in this post in case you want to see if the goals you have set for yourself are SMART Goals.

So, I won’t bore you by telling you what makes a smart goal because you can read them for yourself in the colorful graphic.
I split my goals into categories. I’m not sure why, but I’ve done this a few times before, so decided to stick to the established system this year because it seemed like a decent idea at the time.

1) Do a cabin weekend
2) April trip
3) Annual Hockey Trip for the kids’ birthdays

You are probably saying that these sound easy enough and you’d be right. I actually marked the first one off after New Year’s weekend because hubby and I decided the cabin was the way we wanted to celebrate the new year. (See my previous post and pictures of the cabin.) We already have the April trip planned because we planned it during our trip last April. The hockey trip is a matter of hubby and the two grown kids settling on a NY Rangers game that fits everyone’s schedule and is somewhere in the midwest. We actually did the 2015 trip in March 2016 and the 2016 trip in November 2016 because that was the way it worked out with the NHL hockey season schedule.

1) Get 6 hours of sleep a night
2) Drink 6 cups of water a day
3) Continue using MyFitnessPal app

None of these is easy for me. I usually drink only water after work, but almost never drink water earlier in the day because I need my caffeine fix and so I drink my unsweetened iced tea instead. Yes, someday I will need to break the caffeine addiction, but this is not the year for that goal. I log into MyFitnessPal daily when I am at home, if nothing else, to record my weight each day. I am trying to do better about recording what I eat and drink in the app because I know when I do so regularly and stay within the caloric recommendations, I can lose weight. The sleep thing I have been trying to do better about since before I had kids (25 years ago) and it just isn’t happening, but I continue to try.

1) Clean out my home office
2) Declutter the landing
3) Declutter my clothes

My office is an eight-foot square that was, in a former life, a breakfast nook. It has a built in china cabinet, an L-shaped desk, half of which has a hutch attached to it, three file cabinets with six drawers of files and four drawers of assorted junk between them and my desk has one of those long drawers for pens and such too. I am very good at cramming a lot of stuff in a small amount of space, unfortunately. Most of the stuff is just there at this point and needs to be gone through, sorted and decluttered. The clothing can always use a good culling. The landing is full of furniture waiting for the master bedroom to be gutted and rebuilt from the studs out. Seriously lofty, those goals!

1) Do some genealogy
2) Take three writing classes 
3) Read for thirty minutes a day

I was looking at the website just yesterday to see what classes are being offered at the local writers center. Reading is not hard, but I don’t always make time for it every day and I really should. I used to do genealogy all the time, it was my passion from the time I was in fifth grade until I started working full-time over ten years ago. I miss it, I can’t remember where I left off so jumping back into it might be difficult.

1) Pray daily
2) Read 15 inspirational fiction books
3) Crochet 26 hats to donate to charity (12 of 26 done)

Ok, so I already pray daily, but perhaps I should expand my prayer list a bit. I prefer to read inspirational fiction but want to make sure I am reading mostly in this genre. I attend three crochet/knit meetings a month where I can usually get an entire hat crocheted, but I don’t always get to attend the meetings and don’t always finish a hat at each meeting. I have already completed four hats this year toward the goal. Hats are my thing, I rarely deviate from the one hat pattern. Carpel tunnel could be a serious issue in achieving this goal.

1) Finish one of my previous NaNoWriMo novels
2) Publish something
3) Participate in NaNoWriMo (and hopefully win again)

In case you haven’t figured it out already, I LOVE NaNoWriMo! I have participated and won for the past four years. I have four unfinished manuscripts (just over 50k words each) to show for my efforts along with one Camp NaNoWriMo unfinished manuscript (just over 30k words) and a non-fiction book as yet unfinished. Thus, goal number one. Once that is completed, it would be nice to actually publish one of those six books. That goal could also mean writing and publishing a short story or article of some kind. Come November, I will be writing another 50,000 words on some new project.

So those are my 2017 goals for what it’s worth. The thing I’m not good at it checking in on those goals occasionally and planning to make sure they get accomplished. If you have any tips or tricks for how to actually get yourself to accomplish the goals, please contact me by email or leave a comment.

January 5 2017

Weekend Getaway

So, the hubby and I did something really cool this year over New Year’s weekend. We decided we wanted to get away from the city and we went to a cabin for the long weekend with no television, no WiFi, and sketchy cell coverage. It was great!
We ate at the local Pizza King on the way into town Friday night. It was the only thing open besides maybe a bar or two. Even the grocery store was closed already and it wasn’t nine o’clock yet. We brought a bit of food from home, but would need to visit the grocery store once it reopened on Saturday.
The cabin came equipped with two twin beds, a queen bed and a queen sofa sleeper, but you must bring your own sheets and blankets. It also has a coffee maker and filters, a two-slice toaster, a microwave, as well as a full-sized stove and refrigerator. Hey even supply the basic pots and pans, but you must bring your own food, drinks, plates, silverware and cooking utensils. We usually bring an electric teapot and at least a cookie sheet. When we grocery shop, we try to buy things that don’t require much in the way of seasoning or condiments so we don’t need to buy all that stuff and haul it back home or throw it out.
Now you might be asking why we would want to get away only to have to cook our own meals, and have nothing to entertain ourselves with. Well, the biggest reason is to get away from the stress of work and the idea that if we are home for the long weekend, we should be working on unfinished home improvement projects. So hubby and I have been to these particular cabins numerous times over the years so we know what we are getting into and how to pack for the trip. We keep plastic tubs stocked with the bedding needed for all the beds at the cabin, so when the time comes we just grab the tub and load it in the car. We have in years past, when the kids were much younger, brought along portable DVD player and several movies they wanted to watch. The problem with that is the screen was barely big enough for one person to watch at any given time. We both brought along our laptops, hubby so he could play games that didn’t require internet and me so I could write, though I barely go mine out and did no writing. Hubby brought along two Christmas themed jigsaw puzzles that have been in the family and traditionally get worked almost every year. We worked one on Saturday night, then hubby put it away before breakfast on Sunday morning. We, of course, brought a few books and magazines to read. I brought along my crochet basket and managed to get three hats made. I also took my bullet journal stuff so I could work on the spreads for the new year. We thought we might go hiking but never got around to it. It was very relaxing, nothing planned except make simple food when we got hungry. It was very quiet, nobody visiting, no extra people around to keep us from some much-needed rest. This is the first time we have gone to this particular park without at least our two kids, who are now adults, along for the fun. It was very different this time, but in a good way. I could see a bunch of writers getting together and renting one or more cabins for a weekend to just write. It would take some planning and cooperation if six writers were to all stay in one cabin, but it could really be fun. So, if you need a chance to just get a way and have never been to a state park cabin for a weekend, you really should give it a try.
Note: The photos below were taken at Whitewater Memorial Park in Liberty, Indiana.
December 18 2016

​When you can’t find time to write…

Make a writing date with someone else who needs to write, go to Panera or some other writing-friendly place that doesn’t mind if you hang out for a couple of hours. Take out your notebook and pen, laptop, tablet or whatever your writing tools of choice are and do word sprints together. Mix it up, start with some short 5-10 minute sprints then do a longer one, maybe 25 minutes. Have a goal in mind. Maybe your goal is writing and editing an entire blog post, or writing your holiday newsletter, or a short story or article.
Have a goal and set aside some time to write with other writers. Make it a regular writing date.
We started a group after NaNo last year and we meet every Thursday night at a Panera (we rotate amongst a few local ones on an odd schedule) and we write. I get my dinner and eat it then I won’t let myself eat the 99 cent pastry I always let them talk me into until I have written at least 500 words for the night. Some Thursdays we have just 1 or 2 of us, sometimes we have as many as 8. It is sad when I am the only one to show up, but I have made the comittment to show up and write and I just do the writing sprints anyway, then maybe during the breaks between sprints, I grab a drink refill or read some in whatever book I am currently reading. When we have more people, we can chat and catch up between sprints, but during those sprints we write.
Our Thursday Nights Writing @ Panera Group has a closed Facebook group page just for us where we can post the events, let each other know which of several Paneras we are meeting at that week and also post who is going to be able to get there and who will be elsewhere that week.
Being part of the Thursday writers group has made all the difference in making me into a year-round writer instead of a November only writer. If you don’t have local friends, make a virtual date and meet via Skype, or Google Hangouts or FaceTime or whatever. Hold each other accountable, show up and write. It works. For me, writing is a group thing. I used to get really down after November because all the hype of NaNoWriMo was over and I needed that energy to write, having a regular writing date each week has made me keep writing in my life throughout the year. Make no mistake, I don’t write with the frenzy or frequency during the rest of the year that I write during November, but the meetings of fellow writers once a week means that no matter what else is going on in my life during the week, on Thursday, I will take the time to write.
Basically, everyone has time to write if they want to write. You may easily find excuses as to why you have no time, but they are just that…excuses. I have dragged my computer to work with me in November and written while I ate lunch during my 30 minute lunch break. Give an honest look at how you send your time. Do you watch tv? Are you on Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, YouTube or Twitter? Do you check your emails. Chat on the phone, text back and forth with friends? Read the newspaper, magazines or books? You can choose to do these things or you can choose to write. Not writing is a choice you have been making, I guarantee if you REALLY want to write, you will find a way to do so just like you find a way to do other things you want to do. If you have to, carry a notebook and pen with you into the bathroom and multi-task for 10 minutes a day. Ok, you’re right, I shouldn’t have gone there. My point is you CAN find time to write, you just have to want to write.
The real question here is, what are you willing to give up or cut back on to MAKE time to write? Think of all the time you would have to write if you gave up making excuses and just do it!