11 September 2013

Grandma's Book of Remembrance

In different hours, a man represents each of several of his ancestors, as if there were seven or eight of us rolled up in each man's skin,--seven or eight ancestors at least, and they constitute the variety of notes for that new piece of music which his life is. -Ralph Waldo Emerson 

My sister Beth is noted for her ability to get things done, tackling big jobs and accomplishing them in a short time. When she called me and offered to help organize our family history records, I was excited at the prospect. The sheer volume of the work that had been done by our Mormon pioneer ancestors and family members was overwhelming to me. My mother was an avid family historian, and she had taught me about careful record-keeping as she checked and rechecked the earlier work. But her untimely death from cancer had left us with much of the organizational work undone. Now Beth's vision of a more usable family history book included the gathering of our family stories into one book. My desire was to make it as accurate and complete as possible. Her drive to complete a hard task complemented my training in slow and careful research. Because of our mother’s love for the work of family history that she had passed to us, we agreed that the appropriate place to start was with a book about her parents.

Mom’s influence was obvious as we worked. It seemed that the book should be dedicated to her. As we recognized the enormity of the job we had undertaken, Beth and I enlisted the help of our other sisters. There are eight of us altogether. Each sister contributed what she could. We met on a regular basis and each of us assigned ourselves to the next task on our organizational chart. We transcribed handwritten histories and journals, sent for death certificates and patriarchal blessings, researched the facts of our ancestor’s lives, and tracked down family photographs and stories. We felt that we were making slow but steady progress.

But we had not reckoned with the iron will of our maternal grandmother, still living at age 93. Grandma had always been a record-keeper. In her old age, instead of counting sheep at night, she named her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren by birthdate. She never forgot a birthday of one of her numerous posterity. When any of her 33 grandchildren had a baby, Grandma was sure to call to get the vital statistics firsthand. As a young married woman, she had even served briefly as a ward clerk in a small LDS ward when no man (the usual choice) was available for the job. Although she was now nearly blind, she wasn't sure she wanted any of her pictures or historical memorabilia to leave her possession while we copied them.

Beth’s tenacity prevailed, however, and eventually we organized some of the stories that we had collected into a book that could be read to her. At that point, her vision of our project exceeded ours. She told us that she wanted finished copies of the book made for all of her children and grandchildren. She would pay for the copying. They were to be a Christmas present from her to her descendants, both present and future. Grandma's age never limited her ability to look forward rather than backward.

Beth and I in 2002. Since the events recounted in this story,
 which took place in 1993, we have continued to collaborate
on many different family history projects.
Throughout the whole project, we received many spiritual blessings, even miracles. Now, however, as Grandma's challenge encouraged us to quicken our pace, our spiritual experiences were also increased. We met each week to report our progress and receive further assignments, and we also shared some of these experiences. Our faith and determination were strengthened. One sister, who was transcribing some of our great-grandmother's letters, told us she could hear the writer's voice as she typed. Towards the end of her task, she had merely to turn on her computer, and she felt Great-grandma there. Another marveled at the marked increase she suddenly noticed in her typing skills. We felt the presence of angels with us and with our children as they played happily together, enabling us to accomplish the work we had committed to do. We bonded with these great men and women of the past. We pondered their lives and contemplated our own. We became more accepting of ourselves as we recognized the value of our ancestors' daily struggles and resulting strengths. We felt it an honor to be a part of this sacred endeavor.

Towards the end of the summer, Beth and I felt an increasing urgency to finish the work. Though.Grandma's plan was to give them as Christmas gifts, she feared she would not be around when December came. Her health was deteriorating day by day, and she called us often to check our progress. Finally we set a date to take them to her. Though it seemed we could not possibly finish in time, we knew that we could not fail her. We dropped everything else and worked continuously for three days and nights to finish. The last night, we slept in shifts to prepare for the eight-hour drive to her home in Las Vegas, Nevada.

When we arrived, she was being cared for by her family members, and we were greeted by our sister Brenda, who is a nurse that specializes in hospice care. Our car was loaded with boxes of photocopied pages of family history, but we were saddened to find that Grandma had taken a sudden turn for the worse. She faded in and out of consciousness and was very weak. We felt a strong desire to be close to her, and we started laying out our papers on her bedroom floor to collate. Round and round her bed we went to pick up each story in order. Soon, though, her steady stream of family visitors necessitated moving our operations to the dining room table where we wrapped each copy of the thick book of loose leaf pages in plastic wrap, ready for distribution to Grandma’s family members. We knew that she could not wait until Christmas to give her gifts, but as always, her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were a high priority. She was determined to follow through on this project. She had made it hers as well as ours.

We tiptoed in to tell Grandma that the books were ready. She smiled and thanked us in a weak voice. She was aware of what we were doing, though her usual supervisory tendencies had been curtailed. A few days later, as we drove back to our homes in Utah, we grieved at the knowledge that we had said our earthly goodbyes to our beloved grandmother. It seemed that we had facilitated her passing in finishing the task she was so intent on completing. She was waiting for us, we told each other. In less than a week, she was gone. At her funeral family members received their Christmas presents from Grandma early, and our sadness was tempered by the knowledge that our offering to the Lord and to her posterity in her behalf, her family Book of Remembrance, had been "worthy of all acceptation" (D&C 128:25).

March 21, 1998, revised September 11, 2013

13 August 2013

12 August 2013

Vacation Writing

To write, go on vacation. You can either stay home or travel, but I've found it most important to take some time out. Set a time and place for relaxing, thinking and letting the thoughts come to the surface. Often I throw away the first thoughts and words that serve to prime the pump of memory. But I keep coming back to the writing spot and make a time to meet myself there.

Deer friend from Cub River Canyon, Idaho
It's like the deer I keep meeting this week in the cabin in Idaho where I'm staying. Every day when I go out for a walk, she's there. Sometimes she runs away through the trees as soon as she hears my footsteps on the gravel. Sometimes she stays there for a short look. One day she looked for a long long time while I stayed as still as I could. She lowered her head a little and looked at me for awhile longer. She was mostly hidden by the leaves and the shade, but I could still see her. Then she lowered her head even more and looked again from a different perspective. Finally she moved off a little ways into the underbrush, then turned and gave me another long stare. I didn't have my camera with me that day.

When my camera is out, she seems to back off more quickly. So do the butterflies I attempt to capture in a photo. But like my memories, even though they are not exactly replicated in a photograph, the deer and the butterflies and the grasshoppers and the wild turkeys are stored in my mind and may peek shyly out of my writing when the time is right.
Driving along the road I spotted this piece of machinery
that spoke to me of my Johnson roots in Preston, Idaho

It's summertime and the living is easy. Schedule a vacation from the everyday and let the memories come out of the scrub oak to meet you.

21 July 2013

My Sister Gets Born!

Here is a piece of my autobiography. I was only two at this time, but these feelings are recorded in my heart as "meditative memory." 
My sister and I 

Today my mother and my baby sister are coming home! I can hardly wait to see my little sister. She is too little to play so I am going to help my mama take care of her. Her name is Jill. Daddy and I get in the car and he drives us to the hospital to get Mama and the new baby. Mama comes out of the hospital and she is riding in a chair with wheels on it. The nurse is pushing her. Mama is holding my little sister. She is little.

Daddy takes the baby and Mama gets into the car. I really want to hold the baby, but Mama and Daddy say I have to wait until we get home. At home I sit on the couch and Mama puts her pillow on my lap and then she puts my baby sister on top of the pillow. When I look at her, I love her. I love her so much. The love is so big that I know I loved her from before we came here. I’m so glad to see her again. I missed her. I’m sad too. There are hard things here and I don’t want her to get any hurts. I’m her big sister and I will take care of her. 

19 June 2013

Who Am I?

I sat waiting for the family prayer to mark the end of the viewing and visiting shortly before my Aunt Doris’s funeral. I reflected on the renewal of my acquaintance with my deceased mother’s family members. I thought about my mother’s brothers, my four Christensen uncles. Their old age was becoming more obvious.  I had enjoyed the visit with my cousins. My cousins from this family are mostly in the grandparent part of their lives nowadays. Our lives are busy and our interaction comes rarely, except on the superficial level of social media. Today I met some new cousins—twice removed—since they are my cousins’ grandchildren. Until now I only knew those cute little twin babies and the toddler with the wild hair from my Facebook encounters.

Marcus Joy Christensen
An older couple from my aunt’s LDS ward approached me. Although I have never lived in that Las Vegas neighborhood, my grandparents and many of their descendants are long-time residents. This couple wasn't family, however, and they were curious about who I was. “You look like you could be Doris’s sister,” the woman said. I quickly explained that I was her niece, since she had married my mother’s brother. In doing so, I mentioned that my grandfather was Marcus Joy Christensen, patriarch to the clan. Before his death in 1987, he was also their stake patriarch.* They nodded; they knew my grandfather.

We talked for a moment and then the man, Brother Brown, lingered. “I want to tell you something about your grandfather,” he said. “I had a son who was very quiet. I felt I didn't even know him and certainly didn't understand him. That is, until the day we went to Brother Christensen’s home to receive my son's patriarchal blessing. The blessing was very beautiful,” he continued, “but what I remember most was your grandfather’s tears after he finished. He put his hand on my boy’s shoulder and told me, ‘This young man is just full of love.’”

“The Spirit bore witness to me that it was so,” Brother Brown said. “Your grandfather knew my son better than I did myself, and it was through the Spirit. I’ll never forget that experience.”

Who am I? Who are you? There are times when glimpses of our identity come forth—a blessing, a funeral, or some other deeply revelatory moment. However, it may also be possible and certainly beneficial for us to have that opportunity on a more frequent basis.

Autobiographical writing enables me to both see myself and allow others the same privilege. The process of looking within is not always comfortable, but it is generally rewarding. My thinking becomes more organized and less scattered. Insights come to me from the same source as the insights my grandfather received in his calling as patriarch. I see the turning points in my life. I understand why I believe and think the way I do. I am closer to knowing just who I am.

*A stake patriarch is an ordained priesthood office in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This person, assigned to an LDS stake, is called upon to give once-in-a-lifetime spiritual blessings with prophetic insights to members of that ecclesiastical organization.

02 June 2013

Sock Fights: A Solution to our Laundry Problems

Following is a portion of my memoir writing describing my "middle years" as the mother of a large family. It describes my search for a solution to a common laundry problem - sock matching. Eventually, the problem was solved, but only after the children got old enough to leave home or take care of their own laundry.

In our large family, sometimes the inevitable family fights were serious, but sometimes they were all in fun. For example, when the socks flew. There were ten of us living in the Stubbs Family Residence at one time, and I often feared that the laundry would take over the whole house. It certainly had me running. When we moved into the house on 448 East, I was excited by all the cupboard and counter space in the laundry room. But the long expanse of counter was too inviting to ever remain empty of miscellaneous piles of personal or family belongings. In an effort to organize, I used recycled orange and gold colored plastic recycled hospital tubs received from our hospital visits and then added some stacking bins to line up along the counter next to the dryer. I labeled each small bin with the name of one of our family members.
Our "new" house at 448 East
The idea was that when I folded the laundry, I would put the person’s clean clothing in the bin and they would put it away. It sounds like a good idea even now, but it didn’t really work. In fact, the laundry problem ballooned even before it got to that stage.

The gathering of dirty clothes was first. The older children were supposed to bring their clothes out to add to the huge pile I was collecting near the washer and dryer. Then I would sort the clothes into piles by type and color. In our old house there had been a built-in hamper in the bathroom, and I loved it!  For some reason, it seemed to encourage the children to feed their dirty clothes and towels into it.  By contrast, in our larger house with our ever-increasing family, I struggled to find any good spots in the multiple bathrooms and bedrooms to place receptacles for the constant flow of dirty clothes and used towels and linens, and we all struggled to remember to put our clothes in them. More often than not, whoever made the attempt to gather up the dirty clothes would find it hard to tell whether the clothing on the floor was dirty or not.  There was always the possibility that the clothes on the floor just did not get put away or had been thrown on the floor by a child making a hurried clothes choice in the morning. Many times the clothes just got caught up and recycled over and over in one eternal round.  Like a TV detective in one of Jim’s favorite police shows, I often spent time trying to determine if an item was really dirty. The inspection and interrogation process got ridiculous at times.

Unfortunately, once the laundry was gathered up, a new problem arose. Since the laundry room was really just a narrow passageway connecting the kitchen to the carport door and the basement staircase, it became nearly impassible when it doubled as the spot where I sorted clothes into different colored wash loads.  While one load was washing, the other piles would be walked through by anyone needing to get from the kitchen to the carport or basement and vice-versa.  Soon the clothes would be hopelessly tangled into one big mess, and the kitchen and laundry room floor would be ankle deep in clothes. It was not good for either the clothes or our morale.

I often thought of what my mother had told me: how much easier it had been to do laundry in the “olden days” with a wringer washer and clotheslines. In those days, she said, a woman just kept working at the job all day until it was done. But this happened only once a week. In stark contrast, in my home, the piles on the floor never got caught up. Every day, we continued to add to the laundry, and since I believed I could “forward the wash” in my “spare time” without really focusing on the job, day after day ended with the same mess covering the floor of the laundry room passageway and spilling out onto the kitchen floor as well.

And then there were the socks. The laundry was my chore, but I drew the line at matching socks. The continuous washing, drying and folding process created a never-ending supply of unmated socks. We kept them all in a big laundry basket and the children often rummaged for the pair they wanted. On occasion I decreed a family sock folding day. No one liked to fold the socks. They had to be sorted into boys and girls styles, then by size, and finally into matching or nearly-matching pairs. When Grandma Stubbs came to visit, she took on the job. The kids were thrilled but I was embarrassed that I always had such a big basket of unfinished laundry.

In our family council we brainstormed ideas to solve the problem. To encourage the children to put their socks in the wash in pairs, I purchased some “sock locks” for the purpose—little round plastic rings with teeth that grip the socks and keep them together. (They still sell them on-line.) It seemed like a great idea, but those little plastic rings proved as hard to keep track of as the socks themselves.  Besides, they took some effort to use, especially on stiff, dirty socks. Eventually, I began to find them indoors and outdoors, upstairs and downstairs, under furniture and in corners—and seldom in the company of even one sock, much less two. 

My husband Jim is an optimistic person with an often unexpected and upbeat reaction to life experiences. His sense of humor has always been a welcome relief to family stress. One day the kids and I were almost finished dutifully matching and folding socks.  Jim walked in, looked at the huge pile of folded socks, picked up a pair and threw it at one of the boys. That pair was thrown back at him and before I knew it, the living room was thick with airborne stockings. At first I was frustrated, but “Dad’s goofy mood,” as my daughter Anna put it when she was recalling the incident, allowed me to see the humor in the whole thing. Suddenly the chore was fun, and we were united as the family who invented sock fights. After that, the kids knew that every sock-folding endeavor just may end up in a flurry of thrown socks. We repeated our sock fights so many times that even the younger children grew up enough to get their chance to play the game. Sock fights didn’t really do much to help with the laundry, but they relieved tension and made life in a big family with lots of laundry and other work a little less stressful.

It was sometime later that during one family council that Jim, like the true helpmate that he is, pledged that he would always safety pin his socks together.  His example never did catch on with any of the kids, but I thought it was a great idea, and he and I have continued to use safety pins to keep our socks together to this day, thirty years later. And since he retired, Jim is now the one who does laundry. After a period of adjustment, when I let go of “my way” of doing the laundry, I thoroughly enjoy the luxury of a live-in “washerperson.” Although Jim’s approach and my approach to solving a certain problem may differ, I have discovered that we are most blessed when we work together and remember to appreciate the unique talents we each bring to every situation we face.

10 May 2013

Writing My Personal History

I'm spending some wonderful vacation time in
West Palm Beach. Is there anything more inspiring
than a sunrise over the ocean? 
I woke up yesterday morning with an idea. My writing energy these days is going towards writing my own personal history. I joined a writing group. I took a class on writing narrative history with a deadline assignment of 40 pages. My history is progressing, but I have neglected this blog. So what if I put some personal history writing here? Why? Why do I want to publish? I believe the desire is within each of us to be understood, to be heard, to be listened to. And when I read other people's history it sparks thoughts for me. I hope the same is true for you.
(PS "Gentle" feedback is helpful.)

Coping with Abundance
My life story is about the abundance of gifts that I have been given. At so many times in my life, I have cried out, “Too much! I can’t handle all this.” Whether the “too much” consists of apples or grapes from my yard, children in my house, laundry that floods my laundry room and kitchen floor, ideas for a family reunion, heartache, death, pets, ephemera from the past, or bananas, my problem is always about how to handle it.

Solutions for me seem to come in three categories:
  1. Live one day at a time.
  2. Let go and trust God.
  3. Focus on gratitude
.As I ponder how to make a record of my abundant life, I’m faced with the same old problem. There has been too much of it. I’m always reluctant to throw anything away or to ignore any part of something. It may have value. The truth is that it all does have value, but I can cope with it more easily by taking one piece at a time, by trusting that God is guiding me and can make up my deficiencies, and by focusing on my gratitude for everything I have experienced.

The first part of my life—those growing-up years, my teen years and first years of marriage—I survived by taking just one hour or one day at a time. Those years involved my determination to persevere in following my dreams, to keep believing that things would turn out well. I was determined to make my life work by trying as hard as I could. And I could try really hard. And work really hard. And I did. I was given an abundance of personal gifts and an abundance of personal trials. Determination and setting high goals carried the day.  This part of my life began in 1947 with my birth. I married twenty years later, in 1967. Our early married life still carried this theme. A convenient cut-off date for this first section is 1975 when we moved from one Orem house to the other. Thus the first twenty-seven year period of my life I will call Part 1 (to be titled when inspiration hits).

The middle part of my life is the years from 1975 to 2000. We lived at 448 East 100 South in Orem during these years. They were busy years of raising a family, still being involved with my family of origin and working in my Church. Because we called the house we lived in during that time, “The Stubbs Family Residence,” that is my title for this section for now. During those years, the abundance of blessings I received included much adversity. The trials of those years also brought back some of the things I had ignored during Part 1, childhood trauma, living with an imperfect marriage partner and dealing with my son Andy’s life and death, as well as the death of my mother. I could no longer escape or ignore the reality of death, addiction and the overwhelming nature of my chosen vocation of mother and homemaker. I had to learn to let go of my need to be in control. I had to learn to trust God.

The third part of my life is where I am today, from the year 2000 to the present. My abundant life has continued to be abundant in both blessings and trials. I experienced the death of another daughter. I have come to terms with my eating addiction. The lessons continue. Today I see that my focus must be gratitude. My experiences have taught me that I can endure anything one day at a time, that I can trust God to take care of the myriad things that I have no control over, and that I am grateful for my life and my life lessons. Education has been a major thread running through each part of my life and today I can see that my best educational opportunities are those afforded me by the life I have lived and am living today. One day at a time, I’m learning to trust God and be grateful.

02 April 2013

RootTech 2013

Loved, loved, loved RootsTech 2013 in Salt Lake City. My sisters and I took advantage of being there to also do some research at the Family History Library in Salt Lake. But what I loved most about the sessions was the emphasis on family and personal stories. What a feast in the area I am most passionate about. Here are some links for you to peruse.
The RootsTech people have a great website linking us to many of the presentations (all of the keynotes) from RootsTech 2013 and you can also download the complete syllabus at http://rootstech.org/downloads. This contains a wealth of ideas from many presenters.
Association of person photo organizers. Sign up for free tips by email.
Lynn Palermo conducts the Family History writing challenge each February, but her site has much more. She has a beginnner’s page and a step by step tutorial about how to write family history, a forum about writing history, a section on Irish history, and one about conferences. You name it, you search for it and chances are you will find it here.
Check out the Reel Genie site for some exciting ways to create a family video.
Dan Curtis from Canada also has a very valuable website and will send also emails with suggestions on how to be a personal historian. He has a rich library of resources and also sends out a list of personal history links every Monday. 

13 March 2013

Remembering Rachel

Rachel Stubbs in Adelaide Australia
My niece did a guest post for my blog about my daughter Rachel's mission. She did a beautiful job. Here is the link to read her little piece of family history. http://rememberingrachel.blogspot.com/ Thanks so much Jeni for a wonderful post!

I am excited to go to RootsTech next week. They are streaming many sessions live and will also put them on the web to view later as well. I heard one of the featured speakers in a preview last Saturday. Wow! Hold onto your hats! We are going forward! The exhibit hall is free as are some of the Saturday classes. There is an phone app especially for the conference. I hope to see you there.

22 February 2013

How to Print Your Book

My favorite printer is BYU's Print and Mail. They have been consistently kind, helpful and professional to me, and their prices are better than anyone else I've seen. Our family history committee has used their services for 5 different projects. As a result I've had the opportunity to work with Carol Holland over a number of years. She's given me loads of advice and help. That's why I'm so excited about their new video of Carol giving some basic printing advice. Click here to watch it. Her presentation applies to any printer, not just the one at Brigham Young University, although they do accept long distance electronic submissions. As I watched, I understood the whys behind what we have discovered works the best.

Some hints that I thought helpful are listed below.
1 - For a pleasing effect don't use more than about 3 different fonts. And make sure that you have the rights to any fonts you use so they will come across in the PDF file you create as your finished product.

2 - Microsoft Word can be used to lay out your book, but keep the files as small as you can to avoid having the illustrations jump around. We have used Quark Xpress and InDesign where it is not so important because these more expensive programs do not embed the illustrations into the file until the final pdf. Carol makes the point that it is good to use a program that you feel comfortable with.

3 - For printing, use 300 dpi for photos or 600 dpi for detailed fine line work. Carol recommends png though I use tif.

4 - If you think a photo may be used as a full page, such as a family group, scan as an 8x10 photo so you won't lose quality if you need to make it large.

5 - Try out a photo in gray scale if you think that's how you may use it. Changing from color to gray scale may not look the best if it lacks contrast.

6 - Proofread, proofread, proofread. Try reading the text back to front or out loud. Have more than one person read it. Be sure to look at your pdf file. You will need to okay a final proof from the printer before you order the books. Try just a few pages if you have questions.

7 - Don't turn in your application file for printing (Word, etc. where you have put the book together). It will not be the same on another computer or printer.

8 - Keep your application file for possible corrections but export as a printer file (pdf) to take to the printer. A printer file is much more stable. The printer can usually put together small files to make a longer book.

If you are planning to publish your book, don't wait until you are ready to print. Watch Carol's video now and save yourself some grief as you prepare your files.

08 February 2013

Take time or time out

I have a little reminder that pops up on my computer to relax my eyes by looking away for a minute. For me it is also to remind me to stand up and let my back take a break. News flash for the determined can't-take-a-break me. It doesn't help me if I ignore it. Too often that's what I do.

Time out in Florida--I
jumped in the pool
in my pajamas. 
So how do I get myself to take those needed breaks? In my example above, it's a break from working at the computer. I also need a reminder to take a break from my "other life" and let my writerly self sit down to the computer and put my hands on the keys. I want to write my life story, memoir, autobiography, whichever it turns out to be, but I have to remind myself to do it. Then do it. Usually when I start, I get interested (and ignore the "eyes relax" and stand up reminder). The other day my writing mentor challenged me to sit down and open the file. Only that. After FaceBook and Gmail each got a share of my attention, I did it. I opened it. And yes, it whetted my appetite.

The last week in January I took a week's worth of time out to devote to writing about my life. It was a writing retreat. I wrote. I wrote and I processed my writing with my mentor and I revised and wrote some more. We read chapters from our writing books. We read from our own life writing. It was healing (writing always seems to be) and it was motivating. The Family History Writing Challenge Forum (http://familyhistorywritingchallenge.lefora.com) is a way for us to encourage each other and to find motivation. I have joined a class that is really a writing group for amateurs to share stories and encouragement with one another. A Wednesday afternoon time writing time is now on my schedule (plus the time it takes to prepare to share).

But sometimes I need to just jump in without scheduling. Just do it. Surprise myself. Write because it's fun and because I want to. That's usually how I write a post for this blog. I just jump right in and write. Like I jumped into the swimming pool in January still wearing my pajamas. Today I am still wearing my pajamas while writing this post. That works too.

If we are serious about family history writing, we will schedule a time-out for writing, whether it lasts a week, an hour or 10 minutes. Then we jump in and write whenever we can. Let me get personal here. I just need to get going. I don't have to be overwhelmed. There is power in just doing a little bit. Today I will.

30 January 2013

Keep a Research Log

Every family and personal historian has wished for better documentation--a journal, a diary or even a log book of past events. Writing would be so easy, we sigh, if my [grandfather, gg-grandmother, or even I] had just written something down about his/her/my life just as it happened.

Example of a research log. Use links to download
your own or make up one with your word-processing
software that suits your own needs.
So why do we sometimes feel that it is a waste of time to write down a daily log of our research into that person's life? As I write, I often remember just the right detail to put into my story, or I stop to look up some fact or detail that I need to understand it better. I find occasion to re-read something I have a vague remembrance of and lo and behold, there is a detail I missed before.

There are numerous articles, forms and instructions, video or written, for using research logs found on the Family Search website. I've included some links in the previous sentence that may be helpful. Click here for a convenient form or make up your own. My sister uses a log in her Microsoft OneNote to easily copy and paste internet excerpts and document links to her log. The free software program Evernote could work in much the same way.

All of the information I have gathered, past and present, can be at my fingertips if I just take a few moments to enter it on my log. If I have a question, I enter it. An idea of where to look may come later. If I have an idea of somewhere to search, I enter it. When I look something up, I finish the entry. It is so easy today to link the resulting webpage or document to the log, using a weblink or even a link to my own documents on my computer. To speed up my family history writing or memoir, to improve my readability, to establish my credibility, I resolve to use my log more regularly and completely.

19 January 2013

The Family History Writing Challenge and Other Great Posts

We have so much help for our writing on the internet these days. The following links are just a sample of some current articles and blogs available to help us write our family history.
  • On the subject of setting goals, Lynn Palermo, The Armchair Genealogist, has invited us to take “The Family History Writing Challenge” in February. She asks:
  1. Have you been writing sporadically never finishing a story?  
  2. Have you procrastinated writing your stories for too long? 
  3. Do you need that nudge to finish your stories and finally publish?
Can you see me raising my hand? I’m taking the challenge and will receive lots of great hints and help from Lynn along the way. 
Check it out here http://www.thearmchairgenealogist.com/2013/01/the-family-history-writing-challenge.html and at her forum http://familyhistorywritingchallenge.lefora.com/, then set your own goal and LET’S WRITE SOME FAMILY HISTORY!

03 January 2013

Sunrise, sunset

I shiver a little. Not really with the cold, although this is December 25 and the pre-dawn darkness is a little chilly - just a little, since I am in south Florida. But this shiver is more about my excitement for the coming day. Not since the time when I was 8 or 9, staring into the darkness for the hours leading up to Christmas Day, have I had such a hard time sleeping on Christmas Eve. Well no, what about the times as a young mother, when I lay awake wishing for my young children to awaken and see the gifts we had laid out so carefully late on Christmas Eve.

Now it is Christmas Day 2012. I've been anticipating this day for many weeks. Actually, it has been several years since I first conceived the idea of watching the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean on the east coast and the sun set over the ocean in the west. When my youngest son and daughter-in-law moved to Tampa, that wish seemed even more doable. I could watch the sun come up in West Palm Beach with my older son and his wife and then somehow travel across Florida to the Gulf Coast and watch it set over the beach there. Today is to be that day.

The internet had said sunrise would occur at 7:09 am. I had stared at my computer screen.  What was this other time 15 or so minutes before sunrise? Dawn. Yes, dawn was the real time that I should be on the beach, pulling off shoes and socks and walking barefoot onto the sand. Sunrise was just one moment, but I longed to be there from the time the sky began to lighten with streaks of pink and gold. I wanted to watch the first light play on the waves. I wanted to stare out onto the horizon at the lights of far-away cruise ships and closer barges. I wanted to see the birds skitter across the sand in the early light. I needed be able to look down and see the treasury of sea shells grow ever easier to see until I spotted just the right ones to take home and seal this memory forever.

Now the time has arrived. I am not alone. My son and daughter-in-law are excited too. Had they ever arisen so early just for the fleeting moment of sun playing peek-a-boo with clouds over the vast ocean horizon? They look at each other and laugh. Yes, there was the time they had been awake all night and celebrated sunrise together at the end of the day. And then there was the time they had driven the 20 minutes to Lake Worth where my husband and I were staying for the month of June 2011. I had been raving about the sunrise on Lake Worth Beach and they finally promised to join me. It was pouring rain that morning though, and we sat sheltered in the Florida room (porch) of the little house watching for the sun that didn't peek through those clouds at all until later in the day.

My husband has shared several sunrises with me. In the Lake Worth summer, we loved to wake up early, put some coins in our pocket for the meter at the beach, take the 5 minute drive and then walk down the sandy beach to the water's edge together. He set up his chair and I walked up and down in the sand and into the waves with him as my anchor. We gathered shells, watched the colors and the light play on the horizon and the water until we thought our half-hour was up on the meter. Then we climbed back into our son's old loaner car and headed back to our home away from home where the duties of getting our three granddaughters to drama camp that morning awaited us.

But today! Christmas Day in West Palm Beach! My husband and I and our son and daughter-in-law climbed into their newer car, a compact two-door maroon colored Ford named "Bippity-Bop." Daughter and I in the back and son and husband up front. We arrive in 10 minutes and head for the beach, laughing in anticipation.  I am torn between walking slowly down the beach, enjoying every moment and racing to the water, tumbling quickly into the day's adventure. The water seems cool to my feet at first and I stop to roll up my pants for the waves that I know will eventually creep up my legs as I can't resist just one more step out.

We take photos, but I know there is really no way to capture this moment - this moment? No, this is more than a moment. It started not at 7:09, but 6:45. Well, maybe in 2011. Or was it even earlier than that that I dreamed of sunrise and sunset over ocean? My daughter's photos from Australia? My youth trips to California? Or maybe even farther back to earth's beginning. The sun bursts forth at last and the sky grows more gold. Then clouds play across its face and the sky is colored in front of us, behind us and on all sides. I spin around, laughing at the joy of being alive today. I gather shells, trying to stay conservative in amounts gathered, and my son finds a perfect white feather for me. I carefully wash them all in the warm waves of the southern Florida salt water, and we head back to the car.

Next on our agenda is to dispense with the wonderful business of Christmas morning. The morning's start hovers over our gift-giving and gift-receiving with the sweet spirit of love and laughter until at last we load the car and head for Tampa. Actually Lutz, Florida. December days are short and we know we have to  be there by the internet-researched time of 5:42 pm, sunset on Florida's west coast. But the day seems timeless and the hours pass quickly until we pull into the parking next to our youngest son's apartment building. Merry Christmas! More gift-giving and receiving, dinner's aroma is rising from the crockpot and there is a moment when we question if today is the day for further travel.

It's an hour to the beach, the western Floridians tell us. But the recommended spot is Treasure Island Beach and the whole idea continues to catch at our imagination until we hurry to the cars to seek our goal there. Yes, our goal. The dream we are chasing is no longer just mine. Husband, son, and daughter-in-law are fully invested from our early morning events and the younger couple are quickly enlisted. They knew our plan and were waiting to join the fun. We are racing the clock and Tampa traffic to arrive in time, to a beach from our daughter-in-law's rich treasure trove of childhood Florida memory. I ponder the time.  We calculate that we will arrive just at the designated time, without the anticipatory dawn to sunrise minutes we experienced early that morning. It's enough, I decide to myself, and at last we are here, walking out onto the sugar fine white sand.

The clouds had been gathering and threaten to block our view, but they break just at the point of the setting sun, and the rich oranges and pinks peek through to streak the sky. We gasp at the beauty; we compare the beaches and the colors. We pick up rich treasures of sea shells once more and turn to head back home to Lutz. "Wait," my daughter-in-law stops us with her delighted cry. "Look back." Ah, there's more to see and experience. We can't go now, the show is just beginning. Like the sunrise this morning, the sunset is more than a moment. The sky again is colored all around us as we turn in every direction. And the colors play through the clouds, more intense and then finally, less so.

The wonderful Christmas of my dreams is over. But is it? There is a long evening ahead and then many more days of fun and family. A true story has no beginning, I have heard, and no ending. And that is the beauty of it. What will 2013 bring? I'm working on a new dream for this year and you are too. Maybe our dreams will bring us together for days of delighted and shared joy. Surely we will record them to remember and to re-live. I hope so.