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!

Taking the best of the blizzard

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On Saturday, the mail didn’t come.

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After round one of the blizzard, my son’s car was almost covered with snow.

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After round two, the blizzard won. There were reports of the blizzard collapsing roofs.

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It took 4 hours to shovel out after the first round.

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We had to shovel out twice after that. Tonight my son is digging out his car.

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Climbing snow drifts is a good workout.

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This has been the 2nd biggest snowstorm ever recorded in our area. The biggest snowstorm recorded occurred back in the 1800’s, before anyone now living was even born.

This might be the biggest storm of my lifetime.

It is exciting to be a part of history.

Although, at this point, I just want winter to be over.

Journal 5, part 3

It has been a rough week of posts here, hasn’t it?? Here is the funny post that I promised…It is akin to my parents stories of walking uphill to school both ways.

10/10/1990

I am feeling tired today. Last night I watched a movie at my friend’s house. Her mom rented a VCR and we had to take it back to the rental place by 10 PM. We left her house at ten to ten. On the way there, the car broke down. We knocked on a couple doors, but no one answered. We walked back to her house which took almost an hour. By the time I got home, it was 11 PM. That sure didn’t help my cold any..

Young folks, times were hard growing up. Watching a movie wasn’t as easy as perusing Netflix for the perfect show. From this journal entry, I am going to assume that the VCR rental was for my friend’s birthday which was a few days before the journal entry date. We watched Gone with the Wind and Adventures in Babysitting (great old movie BTW). I had no recollection of this event before reading about it…the previous day’s journal entry mentioned the movies that we were going to watch. I vaguely remember walking back to her house on quiet country roads late at night.

You were pretty much screwed if your car broke down in the middle of nowhere at night if no one answered the door. Forget Uber. Of course, sometimes you were screwed if someone answered the door. As a teenage girl, it was creepy going into a stranger’s house to use their rotary phone. It was also creepy allowing strangers into the house to use the phone. I think it is something the kids of today are told not to do…allow strangers in your house or go into a strangers house.. Of course, kids of today don’t need to worry about taking rented VCR’s back or leaving the house without someone having a cell phone.

Even going to the movies was complicated. We had to watch the newspaper for the new listings. Or sometimes we would call on a Friday night to listen to a long automated message stating the new showings. Sometimes the phone was busy.

Remember having to rewind the VHS tape after viewing? That took almost as long as the movie. The rental tapes would be plastered with stickers that said ‘Be kind, rewind’ and other obnoxious things. Then upon returning the movie to the store, the clerk would always pop open the tape case while glaring at you with an eyebrow raised prejudging if you were an evil offender that didn’t rewind. If you were a few minutes late (probably due to rewinding) with the rental drop off, you would be fined a couple bucks.

I can almost imagine the fines my friend received for returning the VCR the next day. Maybe the cops were called. Uh huh, car trouble you say…I bet your dog ate your homework too..

I never had to worry about renting a VCR at our house. We always had at least 10 VCR’s in our house at all times. Unfortunately, none of them worked or they ate tapes. My dad repaired them as a living and was always doing favors for neighbors on the side. People would literally stop by with their junk…broken VCR’s, stereos, TV’s…Discombobulated machines laid on our table and were strewn all over our house for months. My dad was a procrastinator. By the time he fixed the broken machines, the people forgot about them or were on their third one. But he charged them next to nothing.

I wonder how much time we wasted on video tapes?? Almost as much time as we spent waiting by the phone…

How did we ever survive???

 

 

Election Reflections

I tried to stay up last night to see how everything shook out. I think I made it until midnight right after the commentator said that what we will witness tonight will be something we will tell our grandchildren about. No such luck, future grandchildren, I fell asleep after seeing our state of Wisconsin turn red. This is the first time this has happened in my state since I was a little girl.

My 18 year old daughter went to vote the first time this year. I want to tell her that it is not always this exciting. This is the most exciting election that I have ever seen. I have never been more interested in what the state of Pennsylvania thought before..

I can’t remember the first time that I voted. It probably wasn’t right after I turned 18 like my daughter did. The first time I remember voting was when I was 22. It was the Clinton versus Dole election year.

I remember 1996 like it was yesterday. It was right around the time that the 80’s hair styles were settling down. The cars were small and boxy, not curved like they are today. Growing up with a family that ran a small town automotive business, I could almost identify every make, model, and year of the cars on the road back in those days. It was expected.

Many of the cars sported the bumper sticker ‘Dole for Pineapple’. Shortly after, the Packers won the Super Bowl and most of those cars sported the ugly Packer flags that would extend from both back windows to flap in the frosty air. Those were the days with the Packers flags and Dole for Pineapple bumper stickers! Our state hasn’t been a red state since way before that time..

I remember voting on a paper ballot. Do you? I remember taking my paper ballot to a musty smelling booth covered by a sheet that wasn’t see through. Then years after that we had a ballot that we had to connect the lines with what seemed to be invisible ink. We waited a long time in silence so intense that you could hear a pin drop. No cell phones accidentally rang.

The first time I was introduced to voting was with Aunt Grace. I asked her who she was voting for after she took me along with her to vote. She said, “Alissa, we do not talk about religion or politics. But we own a business and we are Republican.”

Many years later, a Presidential candidate visited our small town rural church on my confirmation day. I wanted to put his sign in our yard because he came all that way to see me. But he was a Democrat. A friend of my brother also had a mother running in local politics, but we didn’t leave her sign in the yard either since she was a Democrat. It probably didn’t help that she let her kids run wild and they always came asking for food.

It is my own personal opinion that a lot of people headed out to vote for Trump not necessarily because they liked him, but because of their dislike for Hillary. Or maybe it was from all of the people posting about their Obamacare premiums doubling or tripling in price. Who knows?? Predictions don’t always translate to predictable outcomes. It was a pretty close race.

Ever since I have been alive, the country’s pendulum swings from one side to the other every few years. It doesn’t seem all that shocking to me. Although, apparently it is for some people, since I heard that the Canadian immigration site was down.

The funniest thing I heard on Facebook was from an African friend of mine. He said that his uncle came over to America and now he might get deported. They all were pretty happy about it since he hasn’t called or wrote home in awhile. Hhmmm, okay..

I am glad that the election is finally over…

Regardless of what the next chapter brings… I am going to trust God and try my best to do my part in making America great..

 

Treasure or trash?

While cleaning out my grandma’s house a couple days back, I thought I stumbled upon treasure sitting next to the dumpster. This is always a bad assumption. It was a pretty cross necklace that had an ugly charm of a surfer attached to it. The ugly charm went in the trash and the necklace went around my neck. I imagined it to be a priceless family heirloom. The necklace contained the letter W and a crown. Since my grandma’s maiden name started with a W and her family came from England, I imagined a remarkable family crest. Since it also had a couple of dates on it, I checked my genealogy records for a match seeing nothing but the year of death in common for a great great grandpa with the last name W. 

About eight years ago, I started scouring genealogy records when they first came online. I got as far back as I could. But the information did not give me the answers I was seeking. I wanted to know these people, my people. What were their personalities like? Who were they? Who am I? I trudged around libraries, archives, and cemeteries with my grandma. I did find that her great grandpa was a settler in the area. He cleared out his own land and became a part of small town politics. Pictures show him as a wealthy man. He loved cats and his family was involved in theater and art. And that was about it. 

When I was young, only two great grandparents were alive. My dad’s grandma and my mom’s grandma. My dad’s grandma used to be a school teacher. She was a harsh, hard working woman that tolerated no play or sass. Any bad behavior would result in an ass whipping out in the wood shed from her. Even though she passed away when I was about five, stories of her put fear into me.  My mom’s grandma was a different story altogether. She was a chain smoking alcoholic. It is rumored that she drove a taxi cab in Chicago and smoked cigars. She passed away when I was in middle school. I remember her having a cigarette in one hand and a drink in the other.  You could hear her coming when the ice rattled in her glass. She hated kids, if we didn’t get out of her way she would holler. I only have one great aunt left. Soon these memories will be gone. 

Yesterday I decided to research the necklace I found. With the help of Google, I found I was in possession of a Prussian iron cross that was handed out to military personnel in the beginning of WWI. Hmmm, I even found out that this was the third iron cross issued by the Prussian government. It was a cross received by Adolf Hitler. The fourth edition of the iron cross had a swastika on it. I was beginning to feel very uneasy about my new treasure. This was not what I was expecting to find. Although my family heritage is German, I was really confused because they immigrated to America before 1914 the year on the cross. 

I called my mom to tell her about the iron cross. She said, “That old thing?” “Your dad said he won that at the fair when he was a kid.” Mystery solved. I held a gum ball machine treasure. Too bad it didn’t make it into the dumpster after all. I learned another lesson, sometimes trash is really just trash even when you want it to be treasure. Who knows, maybe someday my great great grandchildren will stumble along this blog in the internet archives and find treasure. I wish my children would know how wonderful my grandparents were. I wish genealogy was a search were you find more than dates of birth and death. Maybe someday it will be. 

Reflections on 9/11

If you are an American and were old enough to remember, you probably know where you were when you heard the news of the terrorist attack years ago. When I think about it, really reflect on it, I remember exactly where I was when I heard all the bad news in my life. When my grandpa died 15 years ago, I answered the phone downstairs in the family room. I accused my mother of lying. I said it wasn’t true. I just spent the day with him a couple hours before it happened. I was in the kitchen when I heard that my grandma died. I was in my bedroom when I called her brother to tell him. I was in 6th grade when I heard that the space shuttle Challenger exploded. Teachers were sobbing over the death of the teacher Christa McAuliffe. The school was torn down over 2 decades ago, but I still remember the room I was in. 

It seems so strange that my children, nearing adulthood, have no memories of 9/11 because they were too young. It seems like yesterday that I was staring transfixed at the TV screen. My good friend called crying first thing in the morning telling me to turn on the TV. I remember feeling numb with shock. This couldn’t be happening. Our old neighbors stopped by later that day. I remember her sobs. The images we were seeing were horrific. Our children watched with us, not understanding. I remember watching the little children in the church nursery weeks afterward crashing little cars into toy buildings while pondering the fate of our country. Even though I didn’t know anyone personally affected by the loss, we as a nation mourned. We watched for weeks hoping that survivors would be found among the wreckage. We developed a new fear of anyone collectively different from us. We had to. We were afraid, even in rural Wisconsin. We worried that our Great Lakes would be poisoned. People in large cities were afraid. Then came the Anthrax scare. It poisoned our mail. We weren’t even safe in our own homes. Health care workers got small pox vaccinations in defense against biological warfare. People feared mass transportation, shopping malls, and traveling in general. Life as we knew it changed. 

Then came the first anniversary of 9/11. I remember exactly where I was. I was in the bathroom that day taking a pregnancy test. Right after it said positive the fire trucks went down my road full sirens blaring with flags behind them. People came out of their homes and waved. Many years have past since then. I was even invited to a wedding that day. I didn’t think that it was right. But could I say it was wrong? Life goes on. Others were born that fateful day. Friends of ours were flying out of the country on 9/11/01 to get married. They spent their scheduled “wedding night” with hundreds of other frightened travelers grounded at the airport. 

Several years back, I had the opportunity to go to the 9/11 site and museum. It was solemn, eerie, and mournful. Outside the site itself, there were people protesting their foreign government in languages that I did not know. I don’t think that I could even describe how empty that felt. I was standing next to a blackened building hearing their cries, understanding but not. Inside the 9/11 site were the names of the victims, some people had roses placed next to their names. This was at the edge of an eternal waterfall. No matter how far you looked down you could not see its ending. I just remember how silent everything was even though there were tons of people there. I don’t think that anyone kept a dry eye in the museum. I think over time our country grew stronger because of this. We pulled together. We made it through. I just wish the cost wasn’t so high. We will always remember the strong and courageous people who gave everything they had that day. 

Da bomb

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Here is some of the treasure I found while cleaning out my grandma’s house. A World War II gas mask. We also found uniforms, helmets, and war papers, etc… I found out that my grandpa had measles during basic training. All of my grandpa’s sibling served in the military during World War II, even Aunt Grace. One of grandpas brother’s watched the bombing of Hiroshima from a naval vessel. He died from cancer before I was born and it rendered him sterile. We found countless historical treasures from this time period. Seeing a gas mask is a rather eerie experience.

I would have to say that my mom’s dad takes the prize for military treasures. He is da bomb. He actually brought back a live hand grenade. I can’t even imagine how he got that safely home. My mother and her siblings found it in his garage while cleaning it out after he passed away. They posed for a couple pictures then wondered what to do with it. The bomb squad ended up coming out after evacuating 2 blocks from the neighborhood. The bomb squad said that it could have gone off at any time. My aunt was horrified after hearing that she could have died while posing with a live grenade. Now isn’t that da bomb?