So Many Questions Have I !

Featured

Tags

, , , ,

Lady Genetta and Lord Troxenhall (Ol'Chitters) are entertaining their American Cousin Elfie this week

Lady Genetta and Lord Troxenhall (Ol’Chitters) are entertaining their American Cousin Elfie this week

Like everyone else, Mom has one heck of a busy time lately!  Add to that the excitement of negotiating a book deal…it’s small…and some other outside writing assignments, and I could certifiably categorize myself as “pooped.” Those who live here in Mom-land, would insist that I am not “pooped” but rather “looped” instead!

Here in the midst of my excitement, I find myself in need of info dear readers….

So have you ever used / experienced CreateSpace–the Amazon Self Publisher format?

If so, how did that pan out for you? Was it lovely? Did it make you pose felt squirrels, give them names and imagine that they have relatives?

I would love to hear of your experiences and/or near misses :) Come talk to Mom in the comments…my family (the ones not made out of felt) will be eternally grateful!

What Will Move You?

Featured

Tags

, , , , , , ,

So I know this seems to be an odd time to ask this but…Why?

What got you started on this crazy train? What or who inspired you to take up this cause and perhaps give your ancestors a little brush of the immortal ? We all know it isn’t easy, it is often quite thankless and frustrating. So why on earth do we kooky family history hounds chase the ever-dangling carrot?
I only need to look at this photo to know. It is my Grandmother with my Dad on her lap. Two pieces of the” oldest child of the oldest child” puzzle that have molded a big part of my life. I think she is timeless and beautiful. I remember her warmth and the tenacity that she loved us all with. I want my granddaughter (the oldest child of My oldest child) to know her as well. Today, my send off surprise for you is the beginning of my own family history journey. I want you to really truly begin writing Your story today.PD_0063


  I hope that by reading my own ‘preamble’ you will be inspired and driven to start on your family writings. Have you started yet? Why not? How about starting by telling your future readers …why I started writing this for you, my family to come…you who I never knew

The Farmer Family Tree– a Written Account

~Why I Wrote The Story~

As written in 2006

I’m a believer.  I believe in God, Country, Ghosts, and Fairy Tales.  And perhaps because of this, I also believe in the Never Ending Story of who we are, and who we will be in the years beyond.

I have also come to believe that most of the moments in our lives go floating by unnoticed and without consideration.  Although no one could take an entire lifetime of thoughts and experiences and write them out or otherwise record them, in the following pages, I have attempted to preserve the “essence” of our beloved George and Margaret Farmer.

Writing this account of their lives and those around them wasn’t something I originally set out to do.  I had heard tales for years of a written family history that Grandma Farmer had been keeping for all of us.  Before her passing, I nor any of my cousins, had ever laid eyes on this dear Historian’s work.

Two years ago, she quietly passed away at age 94 in early January. That same week, everyone in Indiana was preparing to be hit by a nasty winter storm. The worst of the worst was heading our way. An ice storm out of St Louis was slowly creeping toward us. Grocery and Hardware store business was brisk that week. As we topped off at the gas station we found ourselves nervously chatting with strangers about what was coming. Something big was in the air. The skies were deep sullen gray and the forecast was ugly when the phone calls went out to all of us that Grandma Farmer had been chosen to distract us from petty issues. She had “up and gone to her rest.”

************

With the weather forecast growing more ominous by the hour, we all gathered for Grandma’s wake at the local funeral parlor.  Margaret Farmer was one of those dutiful women who always attended the funerals of all those who she had known. No matter what obstacle or conflict there may have been, if Margaret was physically able, she would be there to “pay respects.” She did this for herself as well as any of “the family” who could not/would not bother to.

 Grandma had clearly paid her dues. If the measure of one’s life was the number of attendees at their wake, she had made the cut as local royalty. For most of the afternoon and evening the line of persons waiting to pay their last respects was “out- the -door” long.  Mercifully the weather held back in due respect of sainted Margaret’s mourners. The ice did not start falling from the sky until the line of visitors had started to taper off and then finally begun to ease.

A side room at the funeral home,just off of the main parlor, was reserved for close family in attendance to rest for a few minutes and maybe have a cup of coffee or light refreshment.  After a few hours, I found myself seated near the table with several aunts and cousins (half of my genes are from this very big and very old farm family).  Seated on folding chairs under fluorescent kitchen lights the subject turned to Grandma’s “job” as the family historian.  Some wondered aloud exactly what sorts of things she had kept track of all these years.  I, among others, had heard we were “royal” way back when.

“I wonder whatever happened to all of that stuff ?” queried one cousin.  Aunt Leslie licked the pastry filling off of her end finger and offered:

Oh I have that whole box.  Your Grandma gave it to me to keep for you kids when she moved into the nursing home.  If you-all are interested, I can dig it out and make copies for whoever would want them.

Of course we all nodded, yes, yes we would love to have a copy of what Grandma had written. And then, as I recall, the conversation turned back to the horrible weather we were threatened by, our aching feet and who would be hosting Easter dinner when spring finally came and we would be forced to spend our first Holiday without Grandma at the head of the table.

**********

Driving back into the city with my husband and kids that night, we were all exhausted.  A wake for someone like Grandma Farmer was an extra long event.  We seemed to have been related or relative to all of Boone and Hendricks Counties.  Half of Marion and Morgan Counties were there in the packed house as well.  When we were nearly home the sleet changed to ice and began splattering on the windshield.  I didn’t notice so much.  My husband is a seasoned snow and ice driver so I felt safe as we crawled along on the interstate.  Besides, I was too busy dreaming of the glittering history book I would soon get to see.  I imagined myself being delivered a dusty tome.  It would be leather bound, over-sized, with hints of gilt work tooled into it, well worn yet still visible.  I would sit down in my (imaginary) winged back chair beside the roaring fireplace (also a figment) and gently pull back it’s weighty cover.  A beam of glowing light would spring from within the pages and welcome me like a hug from across time.  It would be a transforming moment.

  At last, I would be in the presence of my Ancestors and they would eagerly whisper to me which castle to go rightfully claim as mine!

********

I will cut to the chase for you here…several weeks later a large manila envelope arrived in our mailbox;it was half mauled by the postal service. Admittedly, I had forgotten this gift had been offered on that very long and emotional day.  As Aunt Leslie promised, inside was the life’s work of my Grandmother, the former Family History Keeper.  The contents were not bound, gilded or illuminated.  In fact the history was a smallish mess of papers; it had originally been typed with care onto onion skin with carbon sheets between.

The work was started about 50 years before and at some point the originals were photo copied onto thermal (the old style office printers with the roll paper and ink drums) paper, and then again onto standard paper stock by Aunt Leslie.  The images were in various states of quality. From the thermal “age” some of the photocopies showed scars and scuffs from mishandling and paper clips.

A few mixed-in older papers were brittle or were marked with smudges from hair oiled hands touching them long ago.  There were inked-in notes about new kids born in to the family.  Even spouses were added in and marked through by hand and then sometimes replaced by a different name and dates. There were notations galore on the margins. Odd things were recorded; like the name of a cousin circled with “redhead” penciled above and underlined twice.

I wanted to cry when I saw it. This was not what I had expected by a long shot. It was a wreck. Mostly on common, modern paper. Barely legible. Wow. Bummer. A pile of papers dotted with names and numbers. The End.  

I had to know more.

Once I started researching and then finding…suddenly everyone kept looking at me and saying

Maybe someone should write that down….

Recipes of the Family — an exercise in recylcing

Featured

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Does anyone else's family do this? Identify the pie by trying to carve a pic of the fruit into the crust?

Does anyone else’s family do this? Identify the pie by trying to carve a pic of the fruit into the crust?

 When this post was originally written a couple of years ago for my other blog, it was during the Easter season. But, it’s a food post, and I’ve gone from abusing my hands via typing to torturing my fingers with apple peeling, potato prepping and Turkey wrestling. I’m grabbing a moment between pies and jello molds, and dish scrubbing, lots and lots of dish scrubbing…

For me this post pretty much describes my self imposed martyrdom and pity wallowing induced by any and all food holidays…Have a happy Thanksgiving (and count yourself lucky if you don’t have to spend it at my house!)

Easter is just around the corner.  Last year was kinda fun, as my sister and I dragged out box after box of old family photos and held a full out scanner fest.  But as the Bunny fires up for egg painting this year, my nerves feel a bit jumpy already.  I will once again be challenged (expected, assumed. pressured) to bake the traditional Slovenian treat for our family…the Potica.  For those of you with no Balkan heritage…it’s “Po-teets-zah.”  For me, it’s a  Panic Attack.

Now this is by no means the first time I’ve made the Potica.  It’s been my job now for several years since my Grandma quit baking it.  Apparently this skips a generation, so my aunts and mom just crowned me Princess Potica and before I knew it…I was in charge.So,  I make it for each of the big family celebrations, and then, kind of like Jesus, I take a beating for it.  Let me clarify that ~  I make the complicated yeast and nut delight, and then sit back and listen to everyone else critique it, and wax poetic over the Poticas (the real Poticas) of days gone by.

How I haven’t spent a holiday in jail yet I do not know.

Oh, I get it.  I really do.  I understand why I am the one who is saddled with the honor of carrying on an old country tradition.  I can bake. And I am really good at it.  I had my own coffee house for several years, and baked everything that went out the door.  But the problem with Potica (and in your family it could be aunt Nell’s potato salad) is that there is only one right way, one right recipe, and one right presentation that can be accepted and deigned as perfect.  Unfortunately, no one who went before me actually wrote the damn recipe down for “the real Potica“, exactly as they made it “when it was perfect“.

Let’s revisit that last line:  I want you to experience it as I hear it each time I offer up a Potica.  Say it for yourself aloud

with your nose crinkled up,

as if you are chewing an adult aspirin,

and it is stuck to the back of your tongue and you only have scalding hot coffee available to wash it down with..

now say the words.. like the real Potica, when it was perfect….

Is there a tear in the corner of your eye as if you have just been deeply harmed and dissappointed?  Good.  You’re getting the general tone of voice they use for Potica critiqing.  We can continue now

When my oldest daughter was receiving First Communion, we had a little ceremony a couple of days ahead of time, where each family was to involve their child in baking a loaf of bread and then bring it to church with all their classmates and their families for a special blessing of the loaves.  For Caitlin, I thought it would be cool, and perhaps more special to her if together we made Potica.

Since this was a sort of last minute thing, I went to the internet and trolled for some recipes.  This was the first time I had actually seen the word spelled out.  Luckily, I hit a site where the pronunciation was spelled out phonetically so was close to how I had “searched” for it (this was way before Google).  I looked through until I found a recipe (in English) that sounded about right.  We sifted, kneaded, rolled, filled and baked with delightful anticipation.  The smell in the kitchen was heaven.

Blessing of the loaves day was probably a little traumatizing for Cait.  Many of my Mom friends had chumped-out (having never baked bread before) and had purchased the frozen, thaw and bake stuff.  Their loaves were glorious mounds with buttery gold crusts. The Pillsbury Doughboy bakes up like a champ every time.

To be safe we made two so we could choose the best looking one to show off at church. Unfortunately the better of the two looked like a pile hemorrhaging cinnamon raisin bagels glopped together.  Not stellar.

After that “experience” I started checking around within the family for a good recipe.  Oddly, no one ever seemed to be able to put their hands on one.  That was probably 20 years ago.  Eventually,having learned my lesson, I gave up asking. Clearly, some family things are strictly on a “need to know basis.” As the older women in my family line all began passing on to their reward, the Potica making pool got smaller and smaller.  When Grandma Jean announced that she would be taking up residence in a rest home, suddenly, the baking baton was passed on to me.  Sans the recipe of course!

The Official Point of Holiday contention, and badge of worthiness as a cook ~ The Potica

The Official Point of Holiday contention, and badge of worthiness as a cook ~ The Potica

 Luckily, my friend Karen gifted me with a well worn and dearly loved cookbook that had belonged to her Aunt Udi.  Udi had been the Potica maker for her family.  Karen naturally had no idea which of the more than 2 dozen recipes for the bread was Udi’s favorite, so I have been baking my way thru the book holiday after holiday.  With of course, all the feed back I can stand.

I’ll be on version #18 soon, wish me luck. Maybe someone should have written that down…

It’s Not Where They’re Dead, It’s Where They’re Honored

Featured

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

Where better to read Little Orphant Annie than atop his tomb from a bronze book  inscribed with the famous last lines

Where better to read Riley’s poem Little Orphant Annie than atop his tomb from a bronze book inscribed with the famous last lines

Taking kids to a cemetery for the first time can be a tricky business. I always wanted mine to visit their ancestors and loved ones, and I didn’t want them to be terrified and jumpy while they were there. I’ve always tried to put the emphasis on the grave markers as a way that we honor people, rather than a way to mark where their bodies are now.

Recently, I decided that my 1st grade granddaughter (I like to refer to her as Doll-baby) was old enough to be intro’d to leaf viewing at the graveyard with Grandmama. So, last week over her Fall Break from school, I resurrected (sorry, there are just too many terrible puns to resist on this topic) an old tradition from when her mommy was small. We loaded up the car, the dog, and ourselves and headed to the old city neighborhood surrounding Crown Hill Cemetery.

We passed through the ornate brick and iron entrance gates and drove by the Victorian era mourning station. For what seems like miles, the larger than life (haha) winged angels, obelisks, fancy tombs and little cave-like crypts are lined up in rolling winding rows. They look like randomly placed sculptures set in an outdoor gallery. The bleached white marble seemed to glow against a backdrop of red and gold maples.

Crown Hill is a big place. Covering over 550 acres, and currently just short of a quarter of a million interned, the cemetery has 25 miles of paved roads within it’s gates. With no road signs and so much to look at, it is an easy place to get lost in. To find the way to our destination (the famous “Strawberry Hill”) we follow a white line discreetly painted along one of the of narrow lanes winding through the graveyard.

The hill is the absolute best place I know of in Indianapolis for fall color viewing. It is unofficially the highest point in the city. From here, the view of the downtown skyline and all the rest of the panoramic scenery is breathtaking.  And it ls from here that Mom begins her sneaky, slipped-in-before-they-notice-what’s-happening local history lesson. Doll-baby has expected to go trekking with crazy Grandma to see the pretty fall colors at the big city cemetery.

We are really there to soak up a little poetry and culture without getting spooked.

Here, scattered across the landscaped sections lie a US President, several “Veeps” all sorts of Senators and Ambassadors, a bunch of Union Generals, athletes, pillars of industry and society, gangsters (yep, over there that’s where ol’ John Dillenger is),the man who played Uncle Remus in Disney’s movie Song of the South, and even a Gypsy King and some race car drivers. It’s really quite the assortment at rest, eternally planted here together.

James Whitcomb Riley, Booth Tarkington, Kurt Vonnegut and that “Fault in our Stars” kid Augustus Waters are all buried here in our local cemetery (well, not Augustus really, he’s just a fictional character). I, like many of the “old timers” of Central Indiana, often refer to Crown Hill Cemetery merely as “out at 38th Street” and usually call the most swanky and coveted section of Crown Hill “Strawberry Hill.”

True, we are headed up the marked lane to see the city from it’s highest point, but we are also going to visit and leave a little gift for Mr Riley. It’s a tradition whenever you scale Strawberry Hill. And though I am not creeped out by graves and burial grounds, I sure would never want to get that way by snubbing tradition!

220px-Mary_Allice_Smith, _c_1863Famous for his poem about goblins who would come and get misbehaving kids, Little Orphant Annie was a poem often read to children around Halloween– or bedtime when ill behavior warranted.

Crowning Strawberry Hill, James Whitcomb Riley’s tomb has the best spot available out of every inch available in all of the massive cemetery.

“Annie” was a real girl who worked as a housekeeper and sort of nanny to the Riley children. She is pictured here in this photo from 1885. When her father went off to fight in the Civil War, her mother had already been dead for many years. When he was killed in action, little Annie was orphaned (or “orphant” in Hoosier talk).  Her name in real life was actually Mary Alice, and the poem written about her was to be titled “Little Orphant Allie” but it was misread during typesetting and became famous instead as “Annie.”

Amazingly enough, Mary Alice wasn’t aware she was the inspiration for “Annie” for several years, or that James (or Jim as she knew him) had spent many years searching for her. He ran numerous ads in Indiana newspapers trying to find her and reconnect. In about 1915, just before his death, “Annie’s” daughter happened upon one of the advertisements and contacted him. You can read about it in Mary Allice’s obituary.

If you are unfamiliar, you can click on the poem’s title above if you’d like experience the sort of dark humor Mom was raised with. Those who are not at least partially fluent in “Hoosier” as a language will probably have a pretty tough time understanding the written words. So, for your convenience, enjoyment, and usage if you ever find yourself in need of a way to snap those pesky grandchildren in line…here’s an actual recording of Mr Riley, the old coot himself, reciting “Little Orphant Annie” around 1912.

220px-James_Whitcomb_Riley,_1913The recording is also a bit tough to understand between the accent and the poet’s age when the recording was made, and likely his general condition. It seems that JW was an enthusiastic imbiber. So maybe he sounds a little slurry because he was a little sloshed?

I do recall times in my own childhood when by chance or by well planned attack, our Grandparents would somehow end up with all 9 of us grandchildren for the weekend. Occasionally things got a bit rowdy. I have flashbacks to scenes of our Grandpa  (ol George the Methodist aka “The Dog Nab”) loudly reciting the lines of the Goblin poem in our direction. Then he would shew all of us, still white faced and breathless up the terrifying narrow stairway to our beds. In present times, this would probably be considered emotional abuse enough. However, the real abuse started when the snarling, howling gasps and whistling grunts started to waft up the steep stairwell as he slept denture-less and his snores crawled up from the master bedroom below us.

 Sweet Jesus! We were all sure goblins and werewolves roamed those hallways at night!

wpid-20141027_144353.jpg

We ended up having a wonderful and educational day. We gathered loose change up from the car and participated in the Riley Tomb tradition. Doll-baby thought that was really cool. Her class was always collecting soda tabs for “Riley.”

The tradition? Well it seems that although Mr Riley was widely known, well published and dearly loved by children and adults alike, he died completely broke. When the children of the city heard that their beloved spooky poem writing favorite was buried without a marker, they began coin drives until one could be purchased. Funds poured in from around the world and in 1922 the cornerstone was laid on the Riley Hospital for Children, in no small part funded by the coin drives of his young fans. Today, the Riley hospital is a beacon of hope for the sickest children from around the nation. And that’s why the tradition of leaving coins on his tomb lives on today, a hundred years after his passing. The grounds crew gather the money each day and deposit it into the Riley Children’s Fund. 

Maybe those ol Goblins did more good than they could ever know!

So Write Like It’s Your Job

Featured

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 

 

1350926148067

Write like it’s your job? Who’s job? Mine? Yours? Maybe it’s just L. Frank Baum’s job to entertain us all. In his short career, Baum wrote just under 60 novels, 83 short stories and a couple hundred poems. He did all this within a 25 year time span. He created new worlds, wrote about politics, women’s rights, and all kinds of socio-political topics using friendly little characters and totally manual typewriters. He foretold some pretty awesome inventions and changes in daily living while selling the heck out of all these kiddy books!

So, what keeps you from sitting before your spell-checking, no white-out needed, multiple tab opening keyboard to write down a little story about Uncle Roscoe and his prize winning Blue Tick Hound Dogs?

If you follow along on the Mom blog here, you’ll know that right now I’m deeply immersed in NaNoWriMo. If that means nothing to you, the quick description is this:

Every November for many years (about 15 I think…wiser NaNo’s please feel free to correct me) writers can commit, totally on a voluntary basis, to writing 50,000 words, over the course of 30 days, yeilding 1 rough manuscript with room for 0 excuses. It is the Hell-dive we call National Novel Writing Month–NaNoWriMo  for short. So I’m doing that!

There are of course incentives for finishing early (like having a clear path through the house when all the relatives land expecting Turkey and all the fixins on November 28th!). To “Win” the NaNo, one simply completes the aforementioned task…get 50K semi-coherant words written down within 30 days. It’s a hoot. Or a form of self flagellation :) What I have learned from writing for many years with or without participating in the fall NaNo frolic is this…

In order to be successful, all you have to do is Write Like it’s Your Job!

I know, I know~ There’s that whole “life” and responsibilities thing. Well guess what? Try explaining that one to your boss and see how many buyers you get for the excuse you’re selling! If you want to write, need to write, feel it and believe it in your bones that you were born to write…you just have to make time to write. Or else no one, not even you, will ever know the difference.

How many blank sheets of paper go wanting and wasted by those who were meant to write the next great American novel? Who but you could give Alex Haley a run for his Roots? Nobody but you has walked in your moccasins Powhatan and Pocahontas, so get on that Memoir and let your story be known! Honor your own need to tell the stories, whether fact or fiction or fantastic vision or expose by taking control and managing yourself. Be the boss, look over your shoulder, reward a good day’s work, and don’t be too quick to forgive a lackluster performance or a string of uneventful and unnecessary “personal days.”

Is it a dry day? No way to start, nothing dazzling rearing it’s head, pushing your fingers to glide swiftly with flair across the cosmic keyboard?

Tough @#$%.

I like the old saying used in retail and restaurant work:

If you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean!

If your day-job is that of a switchboard operator (do they still have those?) and you are scheduled and paid to work 8-5 Monday through Friday with one hour each day for lunch, it doesn’t really matter whether or not the phone rings. If and when it does, while you are clocked in, you better be chipper, proficient and professional when you respond to the chiming bell. Your dedication to writing needs to be revered in the same manner. On a day when nothing worth noting passes through your head to your empty pages, you need to side step the urge to “lean” and busy yourself with the opportunity to “clean.”

That’s the real life, real world, school of hard knocks truth of writing for any sort of long-term project. It has to have your full attention. You have to treat yourself like an employee, set expectations,  and work full speed to get the job done.

Any day where there is just not a word to say (and yes, those are real) is a day made for cleaning. Not literal–unless you make a pigsty of your work space–but cleaning up your prose. Do some edits, spend some time with Grammarly, catch up on your correspondence with distant cousins, seek out a nice map of the home town of your pilgrim forefathers, surf the web for museum collections of clothing common to a time period you’re working on. Re-read your stories and improve your sentence structure or descriptive word usage. Sort or scan photographs, do a little more research, go out to the closest family cemetery and walk around. Take some photos of former family homes, do some research on Aunt Zelda’s flatware that’s been handed down to you.

Like finding the base of your family heritage all the way back to the Garden of Eden, writing the story is a work with endless opportunities to be fuller, richer and more rewarding. 

Even if the only shift you can manage for your job as a writer is a scant 20 minutes per day, don’t squander the time with the equivalent of break-room chatter, laziness or habitual leaning like the perpetual “ne’r do well” (look that one up some day when there’s nothing to do). Use and cherish every opportune moment to get your Genealogy stories written and make them come dancing off the page.

Time spent writing stories down for those who come next is never wasted time or work unrewarded.

By the way, did you happen to notice someone missing on the photo above? I cannot seem to find my Lion finger puppet, he’s usually right here on the desk with the others. Maybe during my next break I’ll ask the dog…wpid-2014-11-04-12.31.55.jpg.jpeg

 

Homes Are Family Too!

Featured

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

Home is where the heart is & Homes are family too

Mom visited the Biltmore this week, and almost stayed!

Mom visited the Biltmore this week, and almost stayed!

This week I’m away from home visiting the lovely Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville, the Smokeys…it’s all just breathtaking! I’m not sure how one differentiates the names and the ranges from all the others, but I’m loving each one I see. Driving here with Lucky Ducky Daughter (who will be living and working here over the next year) I was fascinated by all the houses that are, or were, someone’s home.

Homes are a huge part of all family history. They’re one of my favorite images to add-in to a story when writing about a relative. Whenever I go “traveling” to do some research, I always stop at the cemetery to snap pictures of family grave sites and headstones. Then, wherever possible, I try to track down and photograph the ol’ homestead they lived on.

Sometimes it works out great…yep, I’m gonna spend the next few years concocting some sort of family tie to the Vanderbilts so I can stake claim to the Biltmore.

Some efforts are thwarted (like when closing time comes and they escort you to the door you’ve already explained simply must be yours in some way or another!). 

Kidding (?) aside, I have arrived at recorded addresses on many occasions only to find an empty lot, a four lane highway, or a new Walmart. One home, the first address after the Old Country that I have been able to trace for Hubby’s family, is no-longer standing. Imagine my surprise to find that the entire neighborhood is now occupied by Slugger Stadium in Louisville!

Do I photograph the “fails”? Heck yes! 

More than anything, when I find a home that is still intact, I am tingling with excitement. A home place can speak volumes about the people and the time they lived there. Sure, those tombstones photos are important as hard evidence of a life. They tell about our people from a calendar’s perspective of point A to point B. But the softer tales found in the nuances of “home” are the ones I am always driven to chase harder.

A building speaks quietly of so many things. The dweller’s wealth, status, position and/or lack there-of can be quickly inferred. Was the house modest when compared to others on the street? Was the family with only one child hoping for many more when they built or bought the 6 bedroom turreted Victorian? Were the materials inexpensive and readily available, like locally made brick, or were there great slabs of Indiana Limestone transported across four states to North Carolina? Is it sited in an area that was once surrounded by farms but now in the middle of tract homes? Or, is it one of a long string of addresses within a relatively short span of time?

I want to see, photograph, and touch the house and it’s lawn when possible. I want to look around at the view from the kitchen window and walk through the rooms to get the feel of being in the space. So, I take pictures from the outside, chat with a neighbor out for a walk, knock on the door and introduce myself when it seems safe to do so. If not, I jump to plan B.  I can often get a photo record of sorts by searching the address on Google Street View and flagging it as a favorite on Zillow.

I use the Google Street View and Zillow trick when the home is far away or situated in what is now considered a “bad neighborhood.”

 Yes, it’s an unfortunate reality of our modern life. Nowadays, slowing your car to take a picture of a house can get you shot.

At some point, the home may go on the market. If/when that happens, I will get a little notification, and God willing, there will be photos of the interior. Granted, it’s not the same visceral experience of actually walking through the front door after feeling the porch railings with my own hands and hearing the floors creak and the screen door bang shut as I go into the backyard…but it’s a quick flash closer than I have been before.

Zillow usually includes the year of construction on their postings, and a link to the satellite view of the property. Often, with old homes, from the overhead photograph you can see the outline of smaller buildings that are long gone from the property. You might find the outline of a well house, old shed or detached garage. Why a former structure is gone can be an interesting stand alone story in itself. Perhaps the cause was a storm, an addition to the house, or a celebration of indoor plumbing at last!

Lovely old farmhouse in rural Indiana

Lovely old farmhouse in rural Indiana

PD_0059

New house, finished up as time and money allowed. They worked on it for years.

Whoops! There's that Biltmore place again!

Whoops! There’s that Biltmore place again!

The Doctor of the Family lived here. Now it's a Bed and Breakfast

The Doctor of the Family lived here. Now it’s a Bed and Breakfast

These are just a quick sampling of some of the homes in my family tree. Blogger, Tasia, has an amazing video clip…super short…that she did as an introduction to old the homes of her ancestors. I think it’s amazing! And though it’s only seconds long, the unforgettable images prove that pictures are wondrous paintings to express simply what words can sometimes struggle to report.

Do you include the homes in your writings? They all have such incredible stories–bought for $500, farm in our family since the original land grant, their apartment was a stylish address for newlyweds, the Palm Sunday Tornadoes leveled the barn, they raised 15 children here– it’s all priceless, and enriches our written stories.

Don’t let distance, fear, disappearance or “someday” get in the way of a good 1000 word picture to add to your stories.  Get out there! 

Be the one to write it down!

ps~ don’t miss out on the links–click on Tasia  above to see the 47 second clip of her emotionally charged blog intro, and the link follower Ruth Rawls shared to an Ancestral home across the pond that she recently found via a trick like my Zillow thing.  Also, in the same chain of comments see the house here in Indianapolis that Mom obsesses over where Clark Gable had dinner! All really worth a clique!

Praise the Saints and Dish Up the Dirt

Featured

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

wpid-img_20140825_103611.jpg There’s always a black sheep in every family.

If there isn’t…well, somebody must have scared ‘em off long ago !

There was a certain aunt in my hubby’s family who was evidently removed from the planet at some point.  I stumbled upon her on an early census.  She lived at home with her parents and two brothers until she was about 20.  Then all of a sudden she is married, and widowed within about a year.  Hmmm.  His death certificate (signed by her) states his cause of death as homicide, fatal gun shot wound.  His body was claimed by his parents and I as far as I can tell, was hauled back to Tennessee.  See ya Robert !  That’s around the time that Aunt Mary walked off the face of the earth.  Poof!  Gone.

Now heaven knows, my bloodline is not Saint-laden.  I am probably descended from more than my share of bootleggers, moonshiners, batterers and hatchet murdering types than I care to claim.  A couple of them even got caught!

Honestly, one end of my gene-pool had a real “thing” for smacking others in the head with a hammer. I can’t imagine it was their fault. Maybe hammers were just laying around waiting in those days…maybe it’s what most women carried in their handbags…maybe they didn’t know how to “use your words” to settle differences. I’m not really sure, but as far as I’ve found, none of them ever seemed to have been ever proven directly fatal.

Some tales are a bit less violent, but illegal nonetheless. Like the bootlegger faction of the family who warehoused their stock on underground shelves dug into the sidewalls of the outhouse. Bathtub Gin was the (out)house specialty. When a buy order came in, one of the kids was lowered down the hole–yes, that hole–by rope to retrieve the merchandise.

I would like to think that the customers sat on the front porch  or maybe stood around on the curb chatting while their order was being filled from the “stockroom”. But, who knows, maybe they didn’t give a…

Well, you could guess where that was about to go!

So think aloud around the table today and dig up a few of your “less than suitable for Sainthood” stories. You could start by Googling some names of cousins or other “contemporaries.”   They could be more recent than you think!

Who knows what you may or may not find. But if it’s ‘juicy’…you know what Mom always says:

Maybe someone should write that down!

 

6 Things Every Writer Needs

Featured

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

0171

In a departure from my norm on family storytelling, I’ve decided to share something that I think is a pretty big deal in any sort of writing. Recently in my Writer’s Group, we brainstormed an invaluable list:

 6 Things Every Writer Needs

The beauty of this compilation is that we are a highly diverse group writing everything from CNF (Creative Non Fiction) to Poetry, to Screen Plays, to Educational Materials, Memoirs, and on and on. Our voices and styles are vastly different (some lyrical, some concise, some babbling…me) But we were able to distill our lists down to six key elements, and then to start holding each other accountable for creating our own perfect environment for productivity while honoring our chosen genre.  We meet every other week and do a check in with the group over how close we are to honoring and providing for our writerly needs. In short, this has made a huge difference for all of us!

Now a word of caution before you peruse the list…This is not open license for dilly dallying and lamenting that you simply cannot write because you’ve made no progress past numbers 1-3 (yet). The idea is to have a vision of your perfect writing situation and to mindfully work toward that as you keep chugging along with less than ideal circumstances.

Shall I pull out the JK Rowling card? She was a single mom, on welfare, who loaded the babies up in the stroller, went to the corner coffee house and started writing down this big story thing that was in her head. There was no MFA, no Macbook, no Scribner, no editor, blog platform or fan base. There were only stolen moments when the kids were lulled to sleep for their naps by fresh air and the soothing buggy ride along the bumpy sidewalk. It seems to have worked out well for her, wouldn’t you agree?

*So here it is* Pay Attention* It’s for your own good* Do it*

1. Tools  Readily usable, reliable, in good repair, comfortable tools. I waffle between the soothing sound of a pencil skipping across paper, and the ease of spellcheck on my super light weight laptop. I also cannot leave the house without my smart phone and portable full page scanner. I’m picky about my pencils too. They either have to be all black, old fashioned wood with pink eraser #2s or a Pentel 0.5 mechanical. Why? Couldn’t tell ya…they’re just comfortable and don’t annoy me when I’m writing.

2. Inspiration What starts a story out for you? Is it a conversation with a cousin? Seeing old photos? A daily prompt from a book or webpage you like? How about your journal, or the writings or possessions of a family member–an heirloom that you admire in a case, or use everyday. For some it’s a place, a date or an occasion. Others write methodically from a task list. They have a neat outline of what they want to say and can go down the list working one subject at a time and feeling a great deal of accomplishment. Some look for contests or open calls for submissions and can write inspired by the given topic. Maybe it’s something you notice on the ground, the funny title of a book, or a childhood memory. Pinpoint your inspirations and gather them up.

3.  Space Oh this is one that’s a bee in my bonnet. The beautiful red cabin above is my oasis, nestled in a meadow of wildflowers, just at the edge of the woodland, a bit disheveled..OK…there are buckets all around to catch the drips when it rains…it is my land of sweet creative repose. My mind unwinds into dazzling sentences and the prose created while there, though lightly written, is unnoticeably heavy in deeper meanings and rich detail.  Or, maybe that’s my dream sequence and this is a photo from Lady Grace (click on “red cabin” to see more of her fabulousness) that she let me borrow and drool over as I patter away on my Chromebook, from the love-seat, in my family room, with an obese Golden Retriever hogging more than his share! Yes, space is my bugaboo.  Right now some of my best writing is done on a legal pad balanced on my knee under the steering wheel as I’m headed down the highway.

A little hint here…if you’re ever behind a grey Volvo on I-65, give it room!

4.  Support I could have easily called this community, feedback or cheerleaders. Don’t cringe. I know most of us who write are rather solitary by nature. We were the kids in the family who could entertain ourselves. But let me say this–Do not try to write in a vacuum! I know it sounds like you’ll have your ideas stolen and dreams quashed, but sidestep your shyness/anxiety/fear and join some sort of group to support you as you write! It could be as simple as a local genealogy club, a critique group, or a class series on creative writing. The blogging community is a great place to look for help too. For women (sorry guys) there’s a great group I belong to called The Story Circle Network. Having fellow writers (not relatives) critique your work and help you along the way is the best thing you will ever do as a writer. Doesn’t matter what your talent or experience level is…do it!

5.  Organization and Techno Savvy  It’s just a fact of our modern lives that we are busy, connected, constantly interrupted and short on time. To be serious about writing, you have to value the writing you do. I keep print outs of all of my submitted pieces, including blog posts and guest posts I do in binders separated by what they are. Some are Chapters for my book, some are short stories and essays, I even occasionally pop out an accidental poem. I keep a note on the printed page of where they are out for review, what the status is, and what my publication rights are, and what I was paid for it/ when it was rejected.  I have a big wall calendar too where I note submission deadlines and when mine was sent and how (electronic or mailed). But most importantly, everything I write gets saved in multiple ways. I copy all the docs onto Word, Google Docs, Google Drive, Drop Box, WordPress, and onto flash drives, and of course slip a hard copy into my handy dandy 3 ring binders.

6.  Accountability  Did I hear you mumble “Ouch!”? This is perhaps the biggest one of all…accountability. There’s an old saying “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” and I would add that the desk drawer is loaded with the empty pages we’ve never begun writing on! Writing can be quite self directed and introverted, and because of that…easily neglected. You must make it a priority in your day (you would be amazed at what you can get done in just 10 minutes with a kitchen timer ticking at you!). Accountability is also, across the board, mandatory in every one of the other 5 needs we’ve listed. You must set goals, share them with others, and be responsible for achieving them. Otherwise, your family history, your great american novel, your spy thriller, or your weight loss cook book will just pave the road…while you burn your favorite candle, sharpen those black pencils, and listen to Pandora.

Without “Accountability” I would loll around in my red cottage moving rain buckets and thinking about redecorating instead of tackling the book I’ve been assigned to review, the approaching column deadline, or the blog post I should care about. Let’s look at that cabin again ~ sigh…0171

Yep, I’m accountable to getting that too!

 

 

 

For the Love of What I’ll Never Have

Featured

Tags

, , , , , ,

The most beautiful face in the world is the one I can only recognize across time

The most beautiful face in the world is the one I can only recognize across time

Today’s work is about what we have lost.  It’s a wish list of sorts, or maybe put another way, its a love letter to the ones we probably can’t have.  I don’t use real names in my posts to protect family privacy etc.  This photo is of my Grandmother a few generations back who immigrated from a small country in the Balkans. I refer to her in my blog posts as Grandma Urbanski.  I gave her this name because she lived and worked in the city (thus the Urban part of the name) and the” ski “just makes sense with the other surnames in the area.

I count her as one of my Lost because unfortunately, there is almost nothing of her left behind. Oh, I will never give up searching for more scraps of Grandma U, but the chances of finding anything more than her grave marker or this photo from her Naturalization Papers are pretty dim.

I am not ungrateful, having this photo alone is so very meaningful to me.  But, I wish that I could also see the face of her husband, of their 8 kids when they were young, or even another one of her.  The saddest part of this is that the artifacts of her life were not blown away in a storm or great calamity.

Her own children destroyed the entire contents of the house after Grandma and Grandpa Urbanski died.  Not out of dislike for them, but even worse it seems, out of the shame of them.

I know that they came here on a steamer ship, likely in the underbelly as 2nd or 3rd class passengers. They were young and newly married. How brave, adventurous and hopeful they must have been! They spoke no English and upon arrival and through the ends of their days they persisted in their “Old Country” ways.

What I would have found marvelous and fascinating about them, their own “first generation born here” children found insufferably humiliating.

These foreign born, huddled-masses parents who worked ceaselessly until the day they dropped were a complete embarrassment to their own children~the very ones they were working so hard for. I guess I would be angry at that generation of ungrateful offspring if it weren’t such a commonality across the board with all the “new Americans” and their children around that time.

Take some time today and write about who and what you feel is lost to your family.  Maybe it’s a story like mine. Maybe it is about the native tongue that you regret never learning. Perhaps you miss a certain food and don’t have any trace of the recipe. Or maybe you just miss your own Grandparents. Mine were all incredible and simply larger than life to me when I was a child. I was fortunate enough to know one of my Grandmothers, Gramcracker, well into my adulthood.  What an experience! To know her as a Grandma, and then, as an adult to know her heart as a woman.

I wish to know my lost Grandma “Urbanski” as well. I think she’s the one I’ll never give up on <3

 

 

 

Schmoozing and Boozing

Featured

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

My, my…how fancy and devilish!

Schmoozing and Boozing

the Night Club my Grandparents owned

‘John Dillinger Drinks Here’ could be the subtitle on this old business card.  My Grandparents owned this bar, reportedly frequented by gangster John and his band of guys and their ‘Molls’ who were “Wild and Woolly and Full of Fleas.”


So who lives in your family tree?  Most of us don’t really have a famous relative, but you can bet that every branch has had a little brush with fame or scandalous rogues somewhere along the line! Think about that “one” story always itching to be retold. You know, the one that gets passed around the Thanksgiving Dinner table each year. Once the heavy carbohydrates and Turkey-tranquility begin to take effect, the stage is set for storytelling time. Waistbands get loosened, dessert is served with a second (or 5th) glass of wine. Guards are lowered and tongues start wagging…Have your pencil sharpened and in ready position!

 The movie star Frances Farmer used to come into my Aunt’s dry cleaning store. Imagine that–right here in the heartland of farm crops and auto racing. I wrote a bit about how Aunt Mitz did Movie Star cleaning and pressing in another post written about my Uncle Joe. Frances had her own whale of a tale in general. If you aren’t familiar with what this poor woman suffered in the wake of Hollywood glitz, read her biography. It’ll rival most nightmares Tinsel-Town could ever conjure.

And if it be nightmares you seek~ are there any connections between your family and a famous crime…

…or victim

or perpetrator…

…or unsolved “doing”

that went on near enough to your world giving you all the heebie-jeebies?

 A lot of my dad’s family was out working the carnival and county fair circuit with Sylvia Liken’s parents the summer the teen was brutally tortured to death by a woman they paid to watch over their daughter while they were working out-of-state.  Oh, and the real “kicker” if you aren’t familiar with the sad, sick tale was that Sylvia’s “caretaker” Gertrude also included  a bunch of the neighborhood kids in the crime. Gertrude invited them in to practice judo moves, do cigarette branding and urinate on the poor girl.

Moving Along…

Mr Penney (as in J. C. himself) once stepped in during a busy lunch time shopping rush and helped my aunt ring up customers.  When Steve McQueen was a kid he lived with his mom and grandparents around the corner from some of my kin.  And yes, John Dillinger hung out at and loved Granny Kate’s hot stew from her Wooden Shoe Tavern.

Abraham Lincoln and my Great Uncle Jimmy were law partners, or at least classmates in “lawyering school.”  Well, that’s how the story went for years until I started doing some math and blew that tall tale all the way to China. The truth can be a bitter, bitter pill for some. And of course, my husband’s birth-brood (along with every other old South family) is related to Daniel Boone AND Davy Crockett :)

Then there are the ones I haven’t chased down yet–Like our familial claim to Warwick Castle. Or the one about some sort of half Royal love child with Franz Josef Hapsburg, or maybe it was his heir Franz Ferdinand, you know, the guy with the whole Sarajevo/1st shot fired in WWI thing.

Why not shake up your Family Tree with a little something spicy and exciting? Take some time this week to recall the lore and to tell about the famous and the famous near-by. Those who you may claim as your own or those who may be mingled-in-with your ancestors can be a very juicy spit of a story. Big connection, made up, misinformed or one heck of a stretch, all of them are a thread in the tapestry of our own family story

 Maybe someone should write that down…

 

 

 

Dreaming I’m Naked at School (again)!

Featured

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

1557540_282521591894983_1026699579_nThis dream that I’m naked at school is one that has haunted me off and on for years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few weeks ago, I experienced one of those “nightmare come true” type of things.  Like everyone, I have a recurrent dream about high school.  I am in the halls, between classes, and utterly lost.  I’m not sure where I am supposed to be, which class is next, or what books I need to wedge out of my locker.  In fact, I don’t even remember which locker is mine.  When my favorite teacher Mrs Goodwin suddenly appears, I feel a bit of relief.  I credit her with herding me through the hallways when I was physically there, I know I can count on her in a dream.

BJ Goodwin was a feisty little women.  She kept a pair of old lady spectacles perched on the tip of her nose. If displeased, a spontaneous twitch would make the reading glasses hop. This in turn caused the dangling chain to flash like an angry snake’s warning.  Kids at my school were sure she was older than God Himself and had schooled him on the whole “wrath” thing.

Her knowledge of grammar and punctuation was above reproach.  After just one semester in her writing mechanics class, if she didn’t fail you for fun, one could fight to the death, certain of victory, over the uses of there, they’re and their respectively. Good old Mrs. Goodwin was the stern mistress of the Language Arts wing.  I concurrently adored her and feared her.

Meanwhile in my reliable dream:  I notice I’m missing more than my schedule, I’ve forgotten my clothes too.  Yeh, that’s right~ Mom is naked in the school hallway!

That’s where I usually wake up gasping in panic.  Phew! Just a dream~I check the clock to tether myself to reality and then I roll over and call it a night…until the next time

On June 23rd my nakedness nightmare crossed lines and came fully into the realm of the real world.   My silly-naughty-mess-method writing style was inadvertently put on display right here in the (virtual) school hallway.  It was as mortifying as any episodic public nakedness could be.  Both me and the oft-dreamt-of Mrs Goodwin were rightfully appalled.

I had a deadline...A couple of months ago I signed up for a tantalizing peer review workshop for new manuscripts. When I received notice that the session was full and that I would be wait-listed, frankly I just forgot about it.  I promptly put my fledgling novel aside and went on with Mom-life as usual.  On Sunday, three days before the beginnig of class I was notified that a seat had become open.  Along with my $135 fee, all I had to send in was the first 10,000 words of my work. Oh Crap.

With no time to waste, I was flying on the keyboard.  When I say flying, I mean that I was using barely coherent language, purely phonetic spelling and shards of sentences.Sequences of letters encrypted in a code only decipherable by me and fully lacking any graces of the English language…that’s the track I was on.  The ideas in the story were coming faster than the words could land onto the screen.  I had to get 10,000 spectacular words out of my head and into a readable format to be able to participate in the coveted workshop. And messy as it was, it was at least working until~

A nagging question and answer vignette with Mrs G began playing in my head:

Me:  Ugh~ why do you assign us  homework if you aren’t having a test? Why do I have to do all of this writing, no one is ever going to see it? What difference does a gerund make in my life? …and on and on

Mrs G: Because it’s for your own good…If you slack off and fall short of your potential  you’re only cheating yourself…  Homework isn’t for me, it’s for you…I may be able to push you to greatness but, I am sure as hell not willing to drag you there!

Yes, she would say stuff like this, she cussed in class.  Scandalous and titillating! This was, after all, in 1970’s rural Indiana…we didn’t have HBO yet.  Mrs Goodwin is still roaming about in my head to this day. I recall the slavish due diligence she demanded for a simple five paragraph essay…outline, topic sentence, thesis sentence and on and on.  Her rants were epic and known far and wide across the Language Arts hallway of our school.  Most famously she used to lecture us: Tell ‘em what you’re gonna tell em, Tell ‘em, and THEN tell ‘em what you told ‘em…  Just thinking about those classroom bouts of deconstruction and cadence unnerves and exhausts me still.

And grading scale?  Well, if you were lucky, she didn’t like you.  If she didn’t like you, she deemed you unworthy of her time and countenance  (recall that she was old like Moses).  So, that meant that you could fly under the radar with nice solid papers written to mirror the rubric.  However, if she liked you…Katy bar the door!…turning in a paper was like leaning headlong into a shark tank.  My papers came back with grades like C- and D+ on generous days.   She decorated each assignment with red pen remarks like “pedestrian effort” or “the library has a thesaurus to lend.

In all fairness though, the grades she entered onto my report card and transcript were all A’s.

You see, Mrs Goodwin operated on two grading scales. There was the one for assigned classwork and the one that she set for individual ability.  She liked to mess with your head if she saw promise in your writing.  She loved my writing and abhorred my sloth-y attitude so it went pretty ugly most days in class.

The perfectionism of BJ Goodwin stayed with me for years.  My school essays were spot-on “A” winners every time. Often those essays got me in to places that my GPA wouldn’t have allowed. However, to sit down and try to write as I do today was unthinkable agony. Family stories have too many captions and side-notes to fit the formula for five perfect paragraphs.  So, for the longest time, I found the task so overwhelming that I would spend weeks grinding away at a single story to share on a special occasion, or give up without really starting.

Enter: NaNoWriMo

A few years ago, I took a leap of faith and tried my hand at the November writers’ ritual. In order to stay up to speed with the rigors of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) I had to let go of writing so “rigidly.” The best description I have for the method I slid into is that it’s sort of like writing War and Peace during a slow motion train wreck. It’s really simplistic and frankly a lot of fun.

I just write.

The first time I wrote “all crazy” like this, I understood how Brooke Shields felt in her Calvin Kleins….wow!  I do no punctuation, no tense checking, and pay no mind to pesky stuff like spell check flags.  I just type or scribble. I often catch myself figuratively talking Mrs Goodwin off of the ledge… I’m sure she would find the whole concept regressive and obscene.

The initial work I produce isn’t even remotely well written.  It feels raw and naughty! My only goal is to move the general idea of out of my head and onto the tablet (old school or electronic…I use both equally). Once one of these creative episodes I call “tantrums” has passed, I review the words I have gathered. I salvage a train of thought.  Most of the time it works out. Sometimes, even I have no idea where I was headed.

Mom note: Could this explain those ” I’m Naked at School” dreams?   Hmmm…

Personally my biggest writing challenge is keeping the subject train on the tracks. With my gnat-like attention span I can flit off into the sunset at any moment. So this “wilding” style of rough copy writing I have come to habituate works really well for me. What does happen consistently from this messy-writing thing I’ve adopted is this~ I end up with an edited piece that I can label as a story.  I also generally net at least one or two more “side stories” that can be brainstormed and fleshed out as well. Mostly I think it works out for me because I know nobody is looking.

Which rounds the corner to the point that I started out with…the “June 23rd incident of shame”

And so it happened that late last month while my fingers were having a happy party on the laptop– a slip occurred. I was really excited and on a roll.  I just knew I could get my pages wrapped up and polished before the Wednesday class.   After hours of writing, I decided I would have one last go at a character sketch before bed.  I opened the trusty Chromebook, took a deep breath, arranged the tails of my robe “just so” and went at it.

Silly, naughty, messy me… I didn’t notice that I had opened WordPress, not Google Docs.  With one fatal keystroke I inboxed a few hundred blog subscribers one of the most disjointed, random, ungroomed paragraphs ever seen by mankind.  I went to bed and waited for Mrs Goodwin to rise up from her grave and slap me with a big red F-

sigh…

life goes on

Here’s an excerpt from the whole mess (before I fixed it for my workshop of course):

So othat daywhen Annie Thomlinson pronounced my weiner dog Brut too fat, and further announced that for this and many other insufferable transgressions made by me by mere virtue of myexistence, all now valid reasons, that she could nolonger be my friend, the rest of the world went about their busiiness. The whole world, Inncluding Cindy , Sandy and for the most.part Zelda too.

And my belated apologies to those who were subjected to it.  By the time it got to peer review, it was kinda stellar.  If you found it in your inbox, sorry, my bad, it was a little shy of coherent.

So how about you?  What are your writing secrets?  Do you hold back by self-imposed perfection (I call that my inner Mrs G) or do you run loose and free and pick up the pieces later (my silly naughty mess method).  Do you simmer ideas and words somewhere in between?  Does your method serve you well…or do you need to try something new and daring? Most importantly …are you getting the stories of your loved ones and predecessors written down?

Come stand naked in the school hallway with Mom…Tell me ~what’s YOUR secret for getting the words onto the page?

My Grandpa from the Center of the World or Maybe Just Europe

Featured

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

It just doesn’t get much more exciting or exotic than this!wpid-img_20140803_122550.jpg

Finally, after years, and I do mean YEARS of poking, searching and poodling around–I finally found my Weisz relatives on the other side of the pond!  Yeah Baby!  And they come from…where else?…the proclaimed Geographical Center of Europe!

Yes, we’re talking Kunesov (or Blaufuss) Slovakia.  Although if that’s all I had to go on during my exhausting search, this whole “middle of the world thing,” I could also have searched for them in about a dozen other places with similar central claims.  Yes, per Wikipedia and a few other sources I have consulted, there are roughly 15  places with claim to being the center of the world and/or the center of Europe geographically. There’s also a “Center of the World” town in the state of Ohio.  But my bunch came from a small gold-mining region of Slovakia, where there isn’t much more than a Church plunked on a plot in the middle of nowhere. Kunesov is said to be the place where both the Black and the Baltic Sea basins rise up to form the hill.  Said hill, or “crest” is responsible for officially dividing the entire continent!  That makes Kunesov rather like an out-y-bellybutton for all of Europe. The church was built in the 14th century and is named for St John the Baptist. Poor St John is also famous for his point of “division” in another way. The lonesome little building is adorned with white stone walls and a green onion dome silently adding a touch of East meets West.
Oddly, GGGrand-Papa is sporting a commonly Jewish surname while being christened there at St John’s Roman Catholic Church.

256px-Stred_EurópyI mention the surname twist, not only because it adds to what I consider the crazy ironic stew that I am made of, but also because of the implications.  Health implications.  In researching the spelling of this name (translated it means “White”) I find that it was a common surname given to Ashkenazim Jews who were fair haired and fair complected (ala “Mom”).  Health-wise, the BRCA genes which give one a high predisposition to breast cancers and some other cancers are commonly found in people who have an Ashkenazim Jewish linked heritage.  I have always said there was no way I would have that gene, my family is all Catholic or Protestant.  Looks like I was pretty much wrong, so maybe yes there was a reason I had breast cancer after all!

Nobody get sappy, I’m fine and dandy now…”only the Good die young…” the rest of us stick around forever tormenting out heirs ;)

  Well how’s about them apples? So, the thrill of finally pinning down Grandpa White was quickly tossed to the side.  Now I am obsessed with finding HIS parentage. I can’t wait to see why a nice Jewish boy (at some point in the history of “us”) jumped sides and became a nice Catholic boy (from there continuing the history of “us”).  I really cannot imagine that his parents were amused!  I’m going to bet that “her” parents were equally “un-jubilant” over the whole pairing.

 Juicy!  Can’t wait to find that one!

So, poor GGGrand-Papa White and his lovely wife Marija from Kunesov, Slovakia have been celebrated briefly (a quick Happy Dance around my ironically “Mid-West” family room) and I am on to “Next.

Isn’t that always the way though?  As soon as one is found and solved, the door to another volume of questions cracks open…and we the Family History Hounds are Off!  Sniffing out the next empty lines on the chart, anxious to find the next fascinating story to write.

Here’s a photo from the Slovakian Tourist Ministry of the official plaque and monument in case you care to think this center of Europe claim isn’t legit (what does Wikipedia know anyway?)SAMSUNG

So how about you? Have you ever bumped into a surprise like this one?  Are any of your relatives from somewhere as exciting as the Center of the Civilized World? Dish it up and share the story please!

You can take your time if you would like…I’m off to the backyard to erect a monument stating that my driveway is the official Center of the Universe :)

And then THIS HAPPENED!

Tags

, , ,

…so the little writer rode off into the sunset, knowing the warmth in her heart for finishing what she started, and probably lived happily ever after…in the sequel <3

wpid-20141125_100414.jpg

Thanks to all of you for your kindness, support and encouragement to run off and play “hookie” for the month of November. THIS HAPPENED…Hell ya it did!!!!!!

 

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,258 other followers