When I look at this selfie I see the new blue shirt that I bought (it's pretty cute...and reversible!). I wore that shirt to participate in the usual Sunday morning happenings: breakfast, some shopping, and Starbucks. Sunday is the perfect day for early morning adventuring. Many in my hometown are either still sleeping, or they are reading themselves for church.
I also see the weird blue brick of the house I've lived in for the past five years (and was a nomad to and from this house for two years before that).
This house is the house that I fell in love with the idea of having a dog (because of Thor) and got my first dog (Bronson). This is the house that I went to when I ran over a cat (and drove weeping the entire way). It's the place I went when my grandmother died.
This is the house of backyard, portable grill s'mores, deer meat hamburgers, and a hand-me-down patio swing.
This is the house of DIY renovation projects, microwaves ramen dinners, and LOTR marathons. It's the place of family history discoveries, laughter, frustration, and love. It's all of these things, the day to day, that make a house a home. And that's what I see when I look at this picture.
I had a thought, an epiphany if you will, about a series of blog posts (that I hope will be easier for me to do than the 365 blog post topics, which were pretty challenging). This is also a little journal for me, because so much changes even week by week and its easy to just let moments slip by.
I was wondering, as I looked at some pictures, about what the people in the pictures were doing the moment the pictures were taken. What was happening in their lives in that moment? So then I started thinking about it. I'm going to take a picture a week and explain the picture. It will be interesting to see where I am in a year. So, here it goes:
I've got three minutes before I have to leave for lunch, where I will sit with friends and laugh and joke. This afternoon I will go tend my garden. I will wear rain boots I bought from Wal-Mart that have become my gardening boots. I will gather squash and beans. I will check corn, okra, and peas. I will paint today. I will plan other paintings today. I will smell cigarette smoke and chemicals and paint and tap water and I will be happy with it. Because that smell means Katherine. I will come home and cuddle a baby. I will read to her and feel her little, sleepy body get heavy in my arms.
These are the moments, or the day, that have been captured with this picture.
I found an amazing recipe (found here - and you should definitely make it) when I was on Pinterest the other day. The recipe came with beautiful pictures and a delightful recipe. Then, this happened:
Me: When is the next socially appropriate holiday so that I can make this dang cake!?
My friend: Tuesday.
Tuesday it is. I shall name it Bourbon Cake Day. And it will be glorious.
The more I thought about making this cake I really had to wonder what was holding me back from it. The answer I came to was this: nothing really (other than a small worry about diabetes because of the amount of sugar I've been eating lately...I need to be healthier). So, I decided that I was going to go ahead with Happy Bourbon Cake Day (which fell on Tuesday, June 2 - also my parent's anniversary) and ran around the house marking all of the calendars. I even started announcing it with authority (which mostly confused people, but some of them appreciated it).
I think it should be noted that I don't really know anything about bourbon. I mean, I know that Kentucky makes a lot of it. I also know that Wild Turkey is something that I try to avoid - it's just a little too rough for me. So, went to the local liquor store and bought some of the cheapest bourbon I could find (I'm only cooking with it, so I don't need the good stuff..it should be noted that when I opened it to smell it my eyes water a little, so I apparently got some pretty rough bourbon). I followed the recipe. I made this great graphic (see picture above). My friend made this other great graphic (see the epic e-card below). I ate cake.
All of my excitement for Happy Bourbon Cake Day was completely justified. I had a great day today, a great time making the cake, and a great time posting pictures and updates about a completely made up holiday. I'm really glad that I went ahead with Happy Bourbon Cake Day. I can't wait until next year - for the first Tuesday in June. I'd like to make it a bigger deal. Like with a cook out and a cake. And randomly taking mini-bourbon cakes to people that I know. This has become a new family holiday. And it's delicious.
Happy Bourbon Cake Day did make me wonder if my family/ friends are the only ones with a holiday that they've made up. I doubt it. Do you have any special holidays or traditions that aren't officially recognized?
Alabama has always been a special place for my. My family is from Arab, Alabama. It's a tiny little town in the northern part of the state. My maternal grandmother's birthday was May 2, her sister's was May 3, and then my aunt's was May 4! Talk about a series of birthdays (and that's not the only grouping of them in my family!). This year was very special. One great-aunt was turning 70 and another was turning 80! So, my aunt and I made the decision to fly to Alabama for this awesome birthday party/ mini-reunion. The event also fell on Decoration Day. Decoration Day isn't something that's done in Texas, but maybe it should be. This is a mostly Southern event, and allows for families to gather at cemeteries to remember their ancestors and maintain the graves. There's even a cemetery that has a pavilion to encourage family meals or interactions after Decoration. It's a really cool tradition, and this year I was able to participate!
My family is wonderful. They asked my Aunt and I what we wanted to do - even though we had come just to visit and celebrate our aunts. It's not often that I get to travel to that neck of the woods (the last time I was there was 2012...maybe). One thing that I love about my family, even if the visits are infrequent, when you visit with them they treat you like time hasn't passed. They are always loving and always inviting. I told my aunts, uncles, and cousins that I'd like to go see King's Chapel where a lot of my ancestors are buried. Sent with flowers for Decoration Day, we drove to the cemetery.
I had been told that the foundation for Andrew King's house was close to the cemetery, so we went hunting for it. It was quite an adventure, let me tell you! I was definitely not wearing the appropriate foot (leopard flats) and was stomping around in the Alabama woods (read: SNAKES! OMG! THERE COULD BE SNAKES IN LEAVES!). Everyone was a really good sport about it - despite the poor footwear choices.
Unfortunately because of the tornadoes of 2011 there were still a lot of downed trees. Finding Andrew's house proved to be impossible. Luckily my cousin had taken pictures of the foundation when he was there in 2009-2010! He was able to send them to me, so even though we didn't find the exact location of Andrew's house, these pictures softened the blow. And I'm not giving up. I'm planning on finding that site, that place where my 4th great-grandfather made his home.
There are countless ways to identify a mother. She may be an "Omm", "Madar", "Mama", or even a "Mum". She is that woman that cares for you, loves you, and nurtures you. She is that female parent. She doesn't always have to be a biological figure. Adoptive mother's come in all shapes and sizes.
I love looking through pictures and finding pictures of mothers and their children, grandmothers, and their grandchildren, or aunts and their nieces or nephews. And so, on this Mother's Day, I want you to think about all of the special ladies in your life. They don't all have to be your mother. They don't even have to be biologically related to you. What memories do you have of them or what stories do you have to tell?
I think about all of the women in my life who loved me and guided me. Women who were invested in me. I often think of my Nonna - my paternal grandmother. I was her first grandchild (and extra special, if I do say so myself...at least until my little sister was born and then we were two extra special kids). If I were to tell me children (or really anyone about her) I would say that she was the kind of woman that called everyone "Darling." She never swore - she was a real lady - but she would say "Oh my stars!" She always wore high heels, and even her house shoes were wedges. I remember visiting her and trying to be taller than her ( she was maybe 4'11'' or 5'0'') and one day I actually was. She had a pink cake ready every time we saw each other. Once, when my mother was in Dallas on a business trip, Nonna let me have some cake for breakfast. She would let me try on her red lipstick ( I guess it was Cover Girl...the logo seems really familiar) and her heels.
More than anything I remember her endless patience with me. Her soft, soothing voice. And the thousands of different ways that she let me know that she thought of me and she loved me. I try to remember the was that she and the other women in my life have showed me that their love - especially when it comes to the littles in my life.
So, call your mother. Call your aunt. Call your friend's mother. And tell the women in your life how important they are to you, and what a difference they've made in your life.
It's been a while since I've actually sat down and worked on family history. This weekend I logged onto ancestry.com and started looking through family members. I've noticed before how interesting it is that my family (both my maternal and paternal lines) seem to live in the same geographic areas even though my parents didn't get married until the 1970s. Today I focused on Elizabeth, Pennsylvania. I started out by making a Google map (red is my maternal line and blue is my paternal line) to see just how many different families were living in the same area. Then, I broke down the family further on a time line (see below).
I realized that my dad's family had lived in the area since 1725. There was even a member of my mom's family that lived there in 1800. This means that Richard Menown (my 6th great-grandfather on my mom's side of the family) lived in the same town at the same time as Samuel Wylie (my 3nd great-grandfather on my dad's side of the family). The last time that I visited Elizabeth, Pennsylvania was in 2006. In 2013 there were about 1500 people living in the little town. The population hasn't varied much since 1850 (at least). It is, therefore, likely that Samuel and Richard knew and interacted with each other.
Samuel's son James (my 2nd great-grandfather on my dad's side) also lived in Elizabeth. He had a farm, had buried one wife, and raised a family with another. He would have lived in the area in 1800 (when the census records for Samuel show him living in Mifflin, PA).
It's strange to think about these two families living in the same small community. Another family member, David Findley (my 6th great-grand uncle on my mom's side...his sister was Jane Findley. Jane's granddaughter married the grandson of Richard Menown.) is on the 1790 census as living in Elizabeth, PA too! How funny that all of these families were living around each other, but their descendants didn't marry each other for generations (and by that point they were living somewhere else). My parents got married in 1979 - that's 165-167 years after their ancestors died - the same ancestors that lived in the same tiny town 1,476 miles away from where my story begins.
Growing up, my grandparents always had a garden. They would mostly grow peppers and tomatoes, but they also had peach and apricot trees (which we enjoyed a LOT). I've been talking to my grandfather about having a garden this year. I don't think that he's had one in at least 5 years - maybe longer than that (Grandma died in 2010).
Well, this year I bought peas, beans, okra, tomatoes, and sweet corn. I can't really say that I've ever had my own garden. When I was a kid I grew some herbs...but it was NOT a vegetable garden. With some instructions from my farmer friend, I found a hat and dug my rows. I guess we'll see what ends up happening!
One thing I know for certain: I'm pretty proud of my little garden, and I feel like Grandma would be too. I can't wait for the plants to grow!
My cousin wrote:
When I think of Peepaw, I think of...
I love his memories because they are so close to my own, even though he and I are over a decade apart in age. When I read his list of memories, I couldn't help but reflect on my own childhood. It seemed that my grandparents had a list they had put together:
Successful Grandparent 'To Do'
- No TV (okay, a movie every now and then)
- Checkers, Chess, and Toys
- Colored pancakes and waffles
- Local honey (to make it that much sweeter)
- Must involve grandchildren in craft projects/ expose grandchildren to craft projects
- Spent a LOT of time outside
- Go on walks with a red wagon (little legs get tired)
- Have jelly beans accessible at all times
- Give outstanding back rubs
- Read to them
- Hug them
- Use aloe vera and witch hazel on cuts and scrapes
- Pink lemonade and deli sliced turkey only
Like my cousin, my sister and I were also taught to play chess by our grandfather. The pieces that he used had been made by his own father! Unlike my cousin, my sister and I never defeated our grandfather at chess (or checkers...or any other game now that I'm thinking about it). My grandparents house is full of antiques, paper weights, and art. I think a stained glass window that my grandfather made is in every room of the house.
I love that the things that mean so much to me: pancakes, waffles, walking, and the work of Beatrix Potter also meant so much to the other grandchildren. My grandparents made all of our childhoods magical. We were all so treasured by them. I've come to realize that not everyone has grandparents like that. When I think about the stories I will tell to my children about my grandparents they are shockingly similar to my cousins. I hope that I can be the kind of grandparent (or parent!!) that they were. What a legacy!
2015 has been a great year for genealogy so far! I try to make a list at the beginning of the year with some goals to accomplish (I think being a better blogger should definitely be on there...it isn't right now, but I'm going to add it). At the beginning of the month I sat down with Brian Kelley and we talked about my great-grandfather. Brian runs a podcast series called "I Remember" - it's excellent and can be found here.
I was so excited to be able to talk about Ezra. When he asked me to do a podcast I wasn't really sure who or what I wanted to talk about. My family is full of amazing people (as I'm sure yours is) and trying to find one person was kind of hard. I decided on Ezra Frantz, my dad's grandfather, because of the information that I have on him. Ezra provided his own narrative through family papers, letters, and a short history that he wrote about his business experiences.
Since the podcast I found out that my family does have some of my great-grandfather's cotton buckles (excellent)! My Dad found some of his grandfather's patent applications as well! Yes, 2015 has definitely been a great year for genealogy so far. I can't wait to see what other unexpected discoveries I find!
Check out the podcast below!
I love family history and the various ways that it can be approached by researchers! I hope that this blog is interesting and inspiring!