Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Advent Calendar - Dec 7 - Holiday Parties

I preface this by saying my mother is going to strangle me for posting this story.

When President Jimmy Carter was in office, a distant relative of ours lived in the D.C. area.  She was very active in her church and called my mother to see if she would like to go with her ladies group to sign Christmas cards at the White House.  My mom was thrilled!

As a thank you, the ladies were invited back to a special reception in their honor.  They were able to tour the decorated rooms and have lunch while they were there.  My mom was served a glass of punch and proceeded to go into a coughing fit.  She didn't realize the punch had alcohol in it.  A good bit of alcohol.

The server started patting her on the back, trying to help her catch her breath, but at the same time kept trying to offer her more punch, not realizing that was what started the whole mess!

We have a lovely photo album at home, with one of the Christmas cards, signed by the President and Mrs. Carter.  There are pictures of the decorations, including Amy Carter's dollhouse.

Alas, there's no picture of Mom drinking punch.

Advent Calendar - Dec 6 - Santa Claus

There are pictures, of me, meeting Santa Claus.

I am screaming my lungs out.

Mind you, I was a little over one year old.

My favorite Santa Claus memory has more to do with a friend of mine and her family.  Every year, she would have her two children leave cookies and milk for Santa before going to bed, like all good children do.  In the morning, the milk would be half gone and the cookies reduced to crumbs.  There were sooty footprints from the fireplace to the tree where presents would have magically appeared overnight.  Reindeer prints were made in the backyard, if snow was back there.

But the best part of all?  Santa would leave a note for the little ones.

The look on their faces when the note was read was worth every bit of getting up at 5 a.m. to be there with them when they got up.  When they were younger, they were shocked at how Santa knew about achievements from the past year, as well as squabbles that had taken place between the two of them.  He always left instructions for the year to come, as well.

Ok, so maybe I misjudged Santa when I met him.  He sounds like a pretty good guy to me.

Advent Calendar - Dec 5 - Outdoor Decorations

As a little girl, my family would take a drive to the next county over and visit the Cecil County Christmas Tree.  I remember ornaments as big as basketballs and a tree so tall, you couldn't build a house high enough to hold it.  So in lieu of MY outdoor decorations, I share with you:  Cecil Holly Tree

Advent Calendar - Dec 4 - Christmas Cards

Even though it's been ages since I've sent out regular Christmas cards (thank you email!), I love receiving them.  Especially ones from friends with photos, or even better, letters.

Yes, I'm one of "those" people.

I love when I get a letter from someone telling me what's happened in their lives, and their family, over the past year.  Life is so busy these days that a lot of everyday events miss being shared, especially when you don't see some friends due to distance.  It's sweet to hear the pride in a mom's voice as she tells you about her child graduating or getting married, or that a grandchild came to visit for the summer!

I have, on occasion, sent one of these Christmas updates via email and was amazed at the responses I received.  Friends who I haven't heard from in years were emailing back, asking about specific events or inquiring about something that wasn't mentioned.  It was a great re-connecting agent, if you will.

In other words, if you're short on people to send a card to, or have an urge to send a Holiday Letter, feel free to drop one in my inbox!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Advent Calendar - Dec 3 - Christmas Tree Ornaments

Over the years, my family has amassed a rather large collection of ornaments.  Some were there before I was born, brought from Christmases in Chicago.  Others are craft projects by me or my sister, fashioned in school or church, and looking more worn every year they've been drug out of the box.

You can look into the boxes and tell what we've collected over the years.  Churches, pineapples, and lighthouses for Mom.  Penguins for my sister.  Soccer and baseball for my nephews.  Barbies, angels, pigs, snow globes and Starbucks for me.

Some ornaments show places we've been:  Chicago, Las Vegas, Williamsburg, Myrtle Beach, and more.

Others are from friends who have traveled and thought of us.

There are fragile, hand-blown ornaments that get hung at the very top, for fear of being bumped off the tree and broken, and then there are those that are safe to be on the bottom branches, even if the cat decides to play with them.

You can usually tell which of us decorated the tree by what ornaments make it to the tree, and which ones get left behind in the boxes.  Some years we've set up a second tree in the family room to put the more fun, pop-culture type ornaments on it.

Every year we say that we're not going to put all of them out, and yet, not including certain ornaments feels like you aren't remembering the sentiment it represents.  Therefore, there are always more on the tree than originally planned, and yet, still plenty more in the boxes that could be displayed.

Maybe we need three trees this year.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Advent Calendar - Dec 2 - Holiday Foods

I think my most vivid memory of food in regards to Christmas is that the women were always afraid there wouldn't be enough and yet it seemed to last a week.

When we celebrated at home, the table was so crowded that you barely had room for your plate and silverware.  You had to watch your arm movements or you'd end up with an elbow in the gravy!

Some years we would go to a family friend's house for Christmas dinner.  There were so many people that we ate in shifts.  Usually the men ate first since the women were still working on things and, of course, so they could watch football.  The women would eat second and take a more leisurely approach, chatting about family events that had happened over the year and catching up with each other.  This would of course develop into the ladies cleaning up while the men were in the living room, mostly dozing.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Advent Calendar - Dec 1 - The Christmas Tree

For some reason, we've always had some sort of drama surrounding our Christmas trees.

When I was young, around 4 or 5, my father, sister and I were disassembling our artificial tree.  It was the kind where the pole in the center was made of wood and the branches were twisted metal at the base. I was eager to do more than just put the pieces in the box, so I begged to help pull the branches out of the tree.  I came across one branch that didn't want to release itself.  I braced myself and pulled with all my might.  The branch came loose and the tip went right into my face, about an inch under my right eye.  My father came over and was assessing the damage when my sister said, "I'll get the peroxide!".  That was when I started screaming.

The scar has mostly faded, but I still take every opportunity I can to remind her that she was what made me cry that day, not the injury!

Another story I've heard, but don't remember for myself, has to do with us getting a real tree that was too big for our living room.  My father trimmed it, but not enough, so that when he went to set the tree upright in it's stand, it put a small hole in our ceiling.

The most recent adventure we had with a real tree was in 1988 when I was home from college for the holidays.  My mother, sister and I went to a farm to select a tree.  This place had the option of cutting or digging your tree.   As we trudged through the snow, staying close together to try to keep warm, my sister and I noticed that Mom had "disappeared".  We turned around to find her on the ground.  She had tripped over a hole where someone had dug a tree and the snow had covered it over.  That injury led to Mom needing surgery a few months later.  Whenever we even consider getting a live tree, one of us will bring up our last trip to the Christmas tree farm and the suggestion quickly fades away.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Mobile Monday - What to do with a week off

Every year I take a week of annual leave for my birthday.  Some years I need it more than others, such as this year.  After all, I did turn 40 and that requires some reflection.

Oddly enough, my trepidation about getting older didn't stop me from doing a little graveyard research.

One of the joys of modern technology is that, even though I didn't plan ahead and take my camera, my Blackberry was all the camera I needed to capture images of tombstones.

Can't get the information clearly with a picture?  No worries, I texted the name, birth date, and death date to my email address.  Another option would have been to use the address/contacts feature and store the information.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - A tale of two Helens...

I've run into an issue when researching my grandmother.  See if you can figure it out from these pics:

The Helen Meadows on the first stone is my grandmother.  The Helen Meadows on the second stone is the lady my grandfather married after my grandmother passed.  Needless to say, it's thrown a wrench into my research.  For example, I can't find my grandmother's death record.  The "other Helen" keeps popping up.  It looks like I need to roll up my sleeves, get out my magnifying glass and do some digging!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Those Places Thursday - Baltimore, Maryland

I've always associated my father's side of the family with the state of Virginia.  It never occurred to me that my family might have been in Maryland before I was born.  Funny enough, according to my father's birth certificate, he was born in Baltimore, and upon further investigating, my great-grandfather's draft registration card for World War II had his address as Baltimore.

I've been going through old pictures and keep going back to one of my grandparents and my father when he was a toddler.  They are standing on a sidewalk, my father barely as tall as my grandfather's knee, and there are "row homes" behind them.  I wasn't sure where the picture was taken, if it was their home or a relative's, and if they were standing in front of the house or in the backyard.

A couple of weeks ago, my brain finally put the two pieces together.  I did a search for the address on my great-grandfather's draft card and was lucky enough to find a map where I could zoom in and look at the street view of the houses.  When I rotated the street view to the houses on the opposite side of the street, my heart stopped.  There were the houses that were in the background of my picture.  They've been updated, but the main structures still look the same.  My grandparents had been visiting my great-grandfather that day, with my father.  I'm left wondering who took the picture; was it my great-grandfather?

So now I'm left readjusting my mindset.  My father's family weren't just in Virginia, they were in Maryland way before I was born.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday

In an attempt to find information on my mother's side of the family, I searched for the library system from her hometown. Not long after I sent an email to their "contact us" area, I received a lovely email pointing me to a website.


I have found so many birth, death, and marriage records on that site and have had so many blanks filled in that I indeed consider that a great treasure!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A new branch

I've always been interested in my family history and have recently started working on my family tree past the first few generations.  Needless to say, I've unearthed some interesting information as well as some unexpected connections.

To be truthful, I have blogged before so this isn't an entirely new adventure, however, the topic is still somewhat new to me.

I have a friend that shares this obsession/passion with me and is my genealogy mentor.  She is a wonderful person who puts up with my random remarks of "Deb, you'll never guess who I'm related to!"  You can find a link to her blog on my page.

Please know that I realize I do not know everything about genealogy and I welcome any comments, suggestions, gentle nudges, and the like.