Goal 5: Work on documenting and preserving family history

This month I got an Ancestry subscription. I just started working on compiling the family history. As of now, my parents, husband, and all of my children took the DNA test along with me. We are still waiting for some of the results. I just started a family tree with my mom online.

It seems like yesterday when I was walking around cemeteries with my grandma. We stopped by the family home of my great-great-great grandparents. I never would’ve figured it out if my grandma didn’t know where it was. We talked to distant relatives and found out that my ancestors were involved in politics, art, community theater, and had a love for cats. Not all that unlike our family today.

It is so wonderful to hear stories instead of just names and dates on a headstone. Next month my grandma will be gone for 10 years. You don’t know how much I wish she was still here.

Now I’ve decided to work on this project with my mom. It is amazing how quickly time flies past. I want to hear her stories and preserve them for future generations. I want to make them living characters in my mind. I want to attach names to faces in the black and white photos. I want to give everyone a story. That would be much more exciting than names and dates.

I want to take the stories I remember and that have been handed down to create a wonderful story for future generations. Today I found out that my 5th great-grandpa was hung. Such interesting stories. Too bad my ancestors didn’t have WordPress!

Oh boy!

A couple of weeks ago, my best friend Cindy told me that she is going to be a grandma!

Oh boy! (Or girl!).

And so it begins…My first friend to become a grandma.

My daughter’s best friend is going to be a mom.

And so it begins…Her first friend who is going to be a mother.

And so it begins.

And so it begins…

That’s life!

 

Ancestry vs DNA

A couple months back I shared my AncestryDNA results.

I was frustrated with it because all of my genealogy records compiled by my great aunt pre-internet, and even the research I did myself, did not match the DNA results like I was expecting. The genealogy records showed a strong German heritage, the DNA results did not.

It was very confusing for me because my records did not match the DNA results. Which records were right then??

Without really realizing it, I had identified with my German roots. After all, I was called a stubborn German by relatives. It’s no wonder why I enjoy German beer and sauerkraut. My grandpa and great aunt spoke to me with German words. Strangers remarked how German I look.

Then when the DNA results came back with 10% German, I felt like I lost part of my identity. It was part of who I thought I was. It was the connection that I had with my grandparents. They are long gone and I am not even me anymore. I lost all interest in genealogy at that point.

Then a couple of weeks back, I received an email from Ancestry stating that my DNA results have been updated. Apparently now I am mostly Germanic European. They were even able to pinpoint the region in Germany from my genealogy records. What??!? How confusing is that?

The good news is that now my records match. Otherwise who would I believe? Science or a long line of family tradition and record keeping?? I was really doubting the family records. There were a lot more questions than answers.

Maybe I’ll dive back into genealogy again. It has been about 10 years since I started digging for my roots online. I bet a lot has changed since then with the information that is available. It would make for a great hobby on a cold winter’s night.

 

 

The nursery

A few days ago, I posted about trees. Sounds boring, I know. Sometimes I have an idea that scratches around my mind that I want to write about that leads to more ideas, and yet more until it takes root.

Today I am going to write about trees again and family roots.

I just want to be upfront with you right away…I do not have a green thumb. I’ve killed every house plant that I’ve ever had. Once I got a chia pet for Christmas. I ended up regifting it because it was too much pressure.

My grandpa had a nursery located on the edge of my parents property when I was growing up. Most of the trees in the photos that I posted the other day were of trees that came from my grandpa’s nursery. My grandma came to my house and helped me plant those trees. My grandpa passed away the year we bought our house. Even my grandma has been gone for almost a decade now.

We are thinking about moving in the next year. It seems silly to say that one of the things I will miss the most is my trees. It is one of the last connections I have left to my grandparents now. I remember painstakingly deciding where to plant the trees with my grandma.

Thinking about the trees again made me think about growing up. Oftentimes my grandpa would remove the trees that weren’t thriving. He would put them on a pile to discard. When I was a young girl, I decided I would rescue one of the dead trees. It was a little pine tree with brown needles. I planted it in my parents backyard. I watered the tree everyday, but it still looked dead.

Then one morning I went outside to check on my tree and it was alive with leaves of brilliant green. I did it! I saved my tree. Things went downhill after that with my green thumb. I don’t know who replaced the tree. It probably was my grandma, but I will never know for sure..

Then my memories started taking me down a darker path.

Strangers stopping by to buy trees. Grandpa coming over in his truck. The smell of fresh dirt. Fertilizer. The musty smelling plastic bags the trees were sent home in.

Strangers in our yard. We must be alert. We worry. Are there children? Are there little girls? I give my mother a report. Keep an eye on Matt while I walk over. We could prevent Matt from going places where he could hurt someone, but we could never warn the strangers that came into our yard unaware.

I never felt safe. It would probably shock you if you knew how many times we had to worry about the safety of outsiders. My brother Matt is violently autistic/schizophrenic. We couldn’t control Matt but we did our best to push other people away to protect them.

Today I sit in public places with my back to the wall…always watching. I notice when patterns are off. I do everything I can to be a protector although I am never needed anymore.

It is strange how thinking about something neutral like trees could take me back.

Enlistment?

Last night my son told me that he was planning on enlisting in the military after high school.

He has been talking about it for the last couple of weeks ever since we started watching a Vietnam War series on public TV.

My dad was in the Vietnam War.

Times have changed a lot since the 1960’s.

But really have times changed that much?? After watching several episodes about the Vietnam War, it really hit me for the first time how hard the 60’s were. A president assassinated, political unrest throughout the country, violent war protests, young men drafted…

Times were tough for my family then…My dad went off to war while my mother went off to college..While her then boyfriend was at war, her mother died. She had to tell my dad in a letter…he missed the funeral. My mom’s college finals were cancelled because of bomb scares and there were violent war protests out in the streets. My dad saw his buddies die next to him. I can’t even imagine.

My grandparents had to send their only child off to war…My great-grandparents sent their only grandchild off to war…several decades before that all of their children were in the military for WWII.

Today was my grandpa’s birthday. He passed away the year my son was born. Even though they did not have the opportunity to get to know each other, they are a lot alike. My grandpa was full of piss and vinegar. Before I was born, he was a bit of a bad ass. He rode around on his Harley with a cigarette hanging from his mouth. Although he was a small man, people didn’t mess with him. He wasn’t afraid to stand up for what he believed in. My grandma was the only one that could tame him.

I see my grandpa in my son.

My grandparents were wonderful people. They are a big part of the reason why I am sitting here typing this today. They insulated me. I would be a huge mess of a person if they weren’t a big part of my life growing up.

I feel proud of my son. I think this is the right move for him. He would thrive with the structure and discipline the military would offer him. It’s just the mom in me that feels worried.

 

Boot thief

I am going to take the kids to see my mother-in-law this weekend.

The last time I visited, she accused me of stealing her boots. She said that someone, possibly my daughters or I, took her boots and left a pair that looked just like hers behind.

I really didn’t know what to say. Why would I steal my dying mother-in-law’s boots?

I admit, my relationship with my mother-in-law Martha has been rocky at times.

I am structured and overly responsible. Martha is spontaneous and irresponsible. She is usually late and she only does what she feels like doing. If she doesn’t feel like doing something, she won’t do it. She might cancel out last minute after she made a commitment. She usually has good intentions.

She once cancelled out of going to her grandchildren’s birthday party because it was going to be too hot outside and we were having the party outdoors. Or it might rain or might snow. Or she spent all her money at the casino and didn’t have enough for gas. Or she had to work. Or she was sick. Or the hot water heater stopped working and she couldn’t shower. Or the car broke down. Or she needed to go shopping instead. All of these excuses have been used.

Some of my biggest pet peeves are when people don’t do what they say they are going to do or when they cancel out last minute without a good reason.

Most of the time, I didn’t argue. The handful of times that I did over the past 20 some years angered Martha enough not to talk to me for years. Martha is always right. It was never her fault. It’s not worth arguing. I just nod my head and smile if I disagree. It is not worth having my children not have their grandma in their lives over.

I am a peaceful person that avoids conflict, but is never at peace. I am the one that is upset. I am the one that is hurt.

I have learned over time to lower my expectations. I am not upset that she accused me of stealing her boots. Martha is a difficult person. Paul and I talk about the things that bother us so it doesn’t fester into something bigger.

Really, what does Martha care if I am upset??

She is the biggest owner of rose colored glasses that I know. She is happy. She talks of all the things she is going to do when she kicks this terminal cancer. She is happy while she is getting chemo. She thinks she is getting better. She has always lived in her dream world of lies. She is happy. She is happy. She is happy..

I am a realist and I am completely miserable.

Some have called me a pessimist and I would argue. But I would admit I am not an optimist. I want to have both feet on the ground. I want to know the facts. I want to know the truth. I see the world as it really is and sometimes that bothers me.

Is such honesty worth it? Try as I might, I can’t seem to change.

 

30. What I hope to be remembered for

Day 30: List 10 things you would hope to be remembered for.

Do you ever wonder what will happen to Facebook or WP 100 years from now? Do you ever wonder what will happen to all of our old posts, comments, and pictures?

A few months back someone shared a post entitled ‘a picture of grandma’. It showed two pictures side by side. The first picture was a black and white from the early 1900’s showing a women dressed very modestly with her hair up in a bun..then the picture on the other side showed a woman from our modern time..she was taking a selfie in nothing but short shorts and a push up bra with an unmade bed in the background.

At first I laughed, but then I wondered what it would be like to have my great-great grandchildren literally see every part of my documented life.

Generations beyond ours will be able to know everything about us. We are the new pioneers for creating future genealogy records. (Hey, I just found my grandma’s blog). Facebook and WP will probably charge tons of money to grant our descendants access. Have you ever wondered why both are free now?? Ha ha ha. JK!

What will it be like to know what grandma ate for breakfast 75 years ago? I wish I knew more about my ancestors..Maybe not that much info, but still!

My grandma passed away after delivering her eigth child when she was around the age that I am now. I know nothing about her. I don’t even know her birthday. I know nothing about her personality. My mom said that her parents were very happy together and that I would’ve loved her mother. That’s about all.

When I was a little girl, I had 2 great-grandmothers that were still alive. I sure heard a lot of stories about them. I wonder if it was because they were unusual women for their day or if people talk more about the living. Both of my great-grandmas had strong personalities and just happened to outlive the rest of my great-grandparents that I know nothing about.

A decade ago, I got into genealogy to learn everything I could about my family history. I took a class at the local library. I went to several archives. I scoured old records. I found a couple of old newspaper articles. I went to cemetaries. I got a computer program and a membership to Ancestry. I scribbled all my findings onto a family tree.

Even though I got back as far as I could, I could only find birth, marriage, and death dates. Just the facts. What I really wanted to find out was who they really were.

I want to be remembered by my writings. I want my great-great-grandchildren to read my blog and understand me. That is what I want to be remembered for. I am hoping to give what I wanted to receive. I want to be more than my dates on a faded piece of paper.

4. Ten things to tell your 16 year old self

Day 4: List 10 things you would tell your 16 year old self, if you could

  1. Spend as much time as you can with your grandparents. I hate to tell you this, but friends come and go. Your best friends now won’t even be at your wedding. Soon something is going to happen that will push the friends you have now away. Enjoy the times with friends in the moment. Remember that your grandparents won’t be around forever. They are the greatest source of stability in your life, not your friends.You will never regret spending a lot of time with them.
  2. Your strong work ethic will get you very far in life. However, don’t put work or your long to-do list above your relationships. Take the night off of work to go to your brother’s high school graduation. The $30 you earned that night will never make up for the regret you will feel for the rest of your life for not being at your brother’s only graduation.
  3. I know that you are dealing with some pretty hard things to handle and you feel like you are all alone. These are the hardest years that you will ever face in your life. Hang in there, soon it will be smooth sailing.
  4. Don’t think that you have to be perfect, or even good, at something before you are willing to try it. You don’t have to be good at something to like it either. You don’t have to be perfect. Quit being so hard on yourself. It was a big lie when you were told you had to be perfect. Put yourself out on a limb. Try something new even if you are not good at it.Who cares if you fail?
  5. Leave home when you turn 18 and do WHATEVER it takes to not go back. In fact, move far away. Do not take responsibility for your parents problems. Do NOT agree to be your brother’s caregiver. You should not be giving your brother a shower on a Saturday night. You should be out living your life doing the things that young people do. For once in your life, be carefree. You will already regret not having a childhood, don’t regret not living while you’re young too. Soon enough you will be tied down by your own responsibilities.
  6. Don’t be a caregiver for your brother or anyone else for that matter. Be a little more selfish. Do the things you want to do. Allow yourself to be stupid and make mistakes that you can learn from. Hold out for the library job you will be offered instead of turning it down to be a caregiver. You did enough care giving as a child. This will not be good for you.
  7. Buy an expensive pair of running shoes and start running. Trust me. You need a healthy way to relieve your stress. It is a lot cheaper than therapy and all those bottles of pills that never helped you anyway. Soon you will enter adulthood with enough baggage to travel the whole world. Once you realize their weight, you will have a lifelong struggle with depression, anxiety, worry, and anger. Running will help you get through all the years of repressing your feelings that you couldn’t handle.
  8. Keep writing down everything you experience and don’t stop. It is worth making time for. Some day it will make for a helluva story.
  9. You have to forgive the people that have hurt you for your sake. Pity their weakness. Eventually you will no longer be able to outrun all of the things that you are hiding from. It is going to take a long time to face your demons. You will spend a lot of time reflecting. But eventually you will have to let go..forgive..and trust that God has a bigger plan or purpose for your life. Be a beacon of hope for those that struggle around you.
  10. Try not to worry so much. It annoys me and the others around me. I don’t like it. I want you to relax. Please start working on that now so we can get over this someday.

Graduation day


This past weekend, it happened. My oldest child grew up and graduated from high school. It was a very busy weekend with a whirlwind of activity which I am sure to write about in the next couple of days.

I just wanted to let you know that I made it through the whole graduation ceremony without crying. Phew! I started the day by putting on lots of black eye makeup. I told myself that I can’t cry because I would look like a raccoon for the pictures. So we took this before picture just in case. Then both Paul and Angel admonished me in advance about not taking too many pictures. I admit I am rather trigger happy when it comes to taking pictures of important events.

During the graduation, the choir sang a very touching song. The mothers in front of me were recording it and crying. Paul nudged me several times about getting out in front and taking pictures. I didn’t want to cut off the crying moms. I also felt rather irritated with Paul bugging me about taking pictures when he said earlier not to go overboard. Although, it ended up being a blessing since it probably stopped me from sobbing my eyes out.

I did my fair share of crying over graduation the past couple of weeks.

I decided to make a conscious effort to be happy for Angel. She has such a promising future ahead of her. That is something to be happy and excited about, not to mope and cry about. But bets were placed anyway whether or not I would cry.

The great news was that all of Angel’s grandparents were able to make it to the graduation. We were very surprised to see Martha there. She decided to skip her chemo appointment in order to make sure that she felt good enough to go. She realized how important it was to Angel to be there. I am thankful for that!

Afterwards, we had a small pizza party at our house to celebrate. It was a very nice day!

Time to move on

The marathon is over, now it is time to move on to next weekend’s big event. Graduation! My daughter will be graduating from high school. I think that I finally accepted the fact that she is ready to move on with her life without us. Over the past couple of weeks we attended her last school play, a musical that she was in, state solo and ensemble, and her last choir concert crying a little along the way. Last, last, last, and last. I don’t want to be sad about this anymore! I want to be excited about all of her new adventures in life. First, first, new, new, new..

Throughout the last several years, my mom, Paul, and I have supported Angel though all of her events. Last night Angel expressed some sadness over the fact that some classmates have two rows of family come to support them. At her last choir concert, Angel had several solos with only 3 family members there to cheer her on.

She is worried that her grandparents won’t even come to her graduation. Besides my mom, I don’t think that her other grandparents will go either unless we try hard to convince them.

My dad volunteered to work at a food stand this whole weekend. If he can do that, I am sure he could take off an hour to see his granddaughter graduate. When I mentioned attending graduation to my mother-in-law she said that she probably couldn’t afford to go. She can’t afford to drive a half an hour to her grandchild’s (free) special event? Pathetic!

Year after year, we listened to lame excuses for not attending the parties/events of our children. I don’t feel good, it is too hot outside, it is too cold, it might snow, it’s raining, I don’t have money, my car broke down, I have a casino trip planned with the girls, I can’t take off of work, I had to go shopping but I will stop by after your event, my water heater broke and I couldn’t take a shower, etc… This has been very hurtful.

My dad isn’t any better. He doesn’t make lame excuses, he just doesn’t go.

But how can we expect our parents to be good grandparents when they weren’t good parents? It is very disappointing. They can blow off all the other events, but I think a graduation is a big deal. I am planning on giving my dad a call and Paul is going to call his mom and step-dad in an attempt to try to convince them that they should go.

We’ll see what happens. If they decide not to go after we tell them how important it is for them to be there, I am ready to write them all out of my life…

We really shouldn’t have to try to convince our parents to attend our daughter’s graduation, should we??