Looking Back – Monday Madness 9/28/09

September 28, 2009 at 00:01 | Posted in Carnival of Genealogy, family history, Madness Monday, memories | Leave a comment
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One of the hardest things for me in blogging is to look back over my life objectively. It’s not that I don’t – especially every time we hear another horror story or train wreck of a celeb life story. I consider myself normal (most of the time anyway) and reasonably attractive (except if you catch me sans makeup and curling iron). I even consider myself relatively intelligent (although my sons will swear in every argument that I am not, convinced I know NOTHING). I’m even friendly and mostly happy so why is it so difficult to look backwards objectively?

My childhood was an extremely happy one. By most standards it was a blessed one too. The only thing I was ever denied was a horse of my own and my parents were probably right about that! My toy box was full, my book shelves, over full, my closet over stuffed, and the food pantry was too.

My mother was more than just a stay at home mom. She kept an immaculate home that I still can’t match even at her age now. She was a sensational cook. Her cooking skills were written up in the newspapers on more than one occasion and her parties were the ones everyone wanted an invite to. She was an award winning floral arranger and an artist. Her poetry was honored and treasured. Name the organization and she served in some official capacity at least once for them. All of this while never neglecting her family or husband. I still wonder how she found the time and the energy to accomplish half of what she did so effortlessly and unselfishly. Amazingly she was not one to toot her own horn; rather, she was humble and gentle. Her friends adored her and her enemies? Well I doubt she had any – at least no one admitted to being one!

I’m not sure I can say the same about myself although I am embarrassed to call attention to myself usually. I’m sure I have managed to make a few enemies along the way although I do have wonderful friendships that I have kept since childhood. I wasn’t a perfect child by any means and I know I tested my parents and their limits. My parents gave us limits and standards and moral codes and spiritual values to live by. My grandmother passed one gentle spiritual statement on to her children that my mother in turn passed to us: If the Lord were to walk in the room right now, would you be embarrassed? Well, He’s already here! That pretty much settled most issues for me before they became issues.

I am willing to brag about being a good wife and mother. I’m learning to be a good grandmother and a decent mother in law too. I’m a very good sister in law. But all of those titles are the result of having a great husband, good sons, darling granddaughters, precious daughters in law, and awesome in laws. As I look back it is hard to find anything to complain about. Rather I am astonished at how it all sounds unreal when I find the truth is more impressive even than my memories. I have been and continue to be blessed and grateful for those blessings!

Treasure Chest Rethink 9/17/09

September 17, 2009 at 00:02 | Posted in Carnival of Genealogy, family history, family research, genealogy, Hints and Tips, memories, Treasure Chest Thursday | 4 Comments
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It’s hurricane season here in Florida again. California is still suffering though wildfires. And of course overseas many of you also worry through tsunamis and earthquakes too. How many of you consider from time to time what you would save if you had only minutes or less to evacuate your home? What if you weren’t hone and unable to save anything? I used to tell my family to save as many photographs as possible – everything else could be replaced. But overtime my opinion has changed sharply. Our family research has consumed over ten years of my life now. Every bit of free time I could, I would spend searching online or reading the rolls of microfilm as the local FHL. I’ve finally written a family history book and have started more. There’s also the tree itself in book format filled with photographs and timeless bits of history and timelines. Then there are notebooks full of all my research, color coded and cross indexed to ease my research. And photographs! Wondrous old photographs! And crisp clear new ones! Thousands of photographs literally. So all of this has meant I needed to rethink my strategy. First, I have begun the long process of scanning and labeling with names, dates, and locations all of our photographs. Then they are grouped and saved to a CD as well as backed up to a portable hard drive. Each of our sons has been given copies of all that are finished so far. I figured they would enjoy the ones from their childhood so I also gave them the originals applicable to each of them. (Helped clean out a cabinet too!) I have already scanned and labeled all the original documents and certificates and backed those up in similar fashion. Each son has been given complete sets of all family history I have completed to date and the books as well as photographs. So everything is protected in quadruplicate by a set going to each son in addition to my own backups. But I still wanted to preserve my own notes of the unfinished research. So I purchased a large plastic tub that seals tightly against water. It is kept inside my room in an easily accessible place. If we are hit with flooding, I have a chance to save everything. Everyone in my family knows about this plastic tub. All my CDs of photographs and certificates as well as the notebooks are kept in here. So now my family has their orders clear: save mom’s plastic treasure chest! Grab the laptop and grab the chest! Our lives obviously come first because they are irreplaceable – but the laptop and plastic treasure tub come closely behind!

Wordless Wednesday 9/16/09

September 16, 2009 at 11:03 | Posted in ancestry, Carnival of Genealogy, family history, Wenz Hammerlee, Wordless Wednesday | Leave a comment
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Wordless Wednesday: My dad with his granddad

Dad in Baby Carriage

Dad in Baby Carriage

Dad as Toddler

Dad as Toddler

It’s Saturday Morning Again

September 4, 2009 at 22:51 | Posted in Bits and Pieces, Carnival of Genealogy, family history, memories | Leave a comment
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It’s Saturday morning once more. Time to take the old bus downtown. My mother would take my sister and I shopping Saturday mornings in Bridgeport. Lerners was one of my favorite stores. I was always fascinated by the tube system they had to send orders to the office. Easter was always the biggest excursion next to Christmas shopping. We would shop for our new dresses, spring hats with matching shoes and purses and a new spring weight coat. There would be little corsages of silk flowers to match our outfits like bunches of violets that we would pin often to our hats or purses. Those we would shop for at Kresge’s or Woolworths. Then it would be time for lunch. That meant sitting at the counter in Woolworth where my feet would not quite reach to the chrome foot rests. Packages would tuck into the little shelves below the counter. Even now I can remember the fun of a root beer float with a big hamburger platter with yummy French fries smothered in ketchup.

Later the big new Mall would come to Trumbull. That meant easy parking for my mother and we could shop in comfort and safety. The city had begun to deteriorate and my dad worried about crime. We began to shop E J Korvettes and Reid’s Department Store. Later still even Howlands would desert the city for one of the newer strip malls. It was there my mother would purchase that first “basic little black dress” for me before I left for college. It was a classic sheath by Jonathan Logan design that never went out of style. By then my mother was shopping interesting boutiques in Westport such as Ethel Walley’s. My dad was active in the community and there were many functions to attend. At Ethel Walley’s we would sit on long couches and dresses would be brought out for us to see one at a time. My dad would help her choose several to see her through the busy social season. Right before I left for college I too chose several to take with me. The bigger plus for me was that I rated most of her cast offs while I was in college so I was always appropriately attired for all the formal dances and fraternity parties.

Times have changed and we no longer shop fancy boutiques. Ross and Marshall’s are favorites now for great mark downs! Even still, I find myself missing those rides on the bus and those great French fries smothered in ketchup!

Nanny’s Knick Knack Shelf

September 3, 2009 at 08:12 | Posted in Bits and Pieces, Carnival of Genealogy, family history, Treasure Chest Thursday | 4 Comments
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I can remember visiting Nanny’s house. It was painted gray and it had a huge front porch – or at least it always seemed huge to me then. I can still remember the dining room, probably because of so many photos taken at that table of family gatherings. I can also remember the old kitchen with its big stove and double sinks. Most of the memories of the old house are fuzzy because I was so young then. Later Nanny would move to “The Apartments” where my parents lived as a young married couple. Later still she would move for a while to our home in Easton and then with a daughter in Florida until she remarried. Then she moved to a beautiful old brick townhome back in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Through all her moves, I can remember three things as constants in her life. The first was the can of evaporated milk with its metal lid that punched a hole for pouring in the top of the can. It always sat on her kitchen table with the jar of instant coffee ready for everyone to use. Then there was her blue willow teapot. So old its glazed was crackled and much too fragile to use but it was her mothers. It sat on the shelf, a reminder to her of her childhood. Now it sits on my shelf, a link to generations gone.

And then there was the little knick knack shelf, a corner stand made of mahogany. Standing about 5 foot tall, it fit snugly in a corner with its tri-corner design, narrowing as it went from the floor to the top. The sides and top were ornate scrolls. When Nanny didn’t know how to keep me busy, she would give me a cloth with old fashioned paste wax. I would set about dusting and polishing all the intricate scrolls. I never saw this as a punishment or chore but rather I loved to trace the edges with my fingers over and over. It was pure pleasure to go up and down each side. I could spend hours lovingly polishing and dusting for her. And foolish little child, I would always say to her, “Nanny, someday will this be mine? Promise?” I have no idea if she liked that little curiosity but it made all the moves with her from house to house to apartment. It was always in the corner of her living room and always used in spite of other furniture that came and went.

 

Nanny's Knick Knack Shelf

Nanny's Knick Knack Shelf

Then came the morning that Valentino and I along with my parents were making the big move from Connecticut to Florida. That last morning Nanny came with her husband, Grandpa Bob, to say goodbye. I suspect she worried if we would see one another again – although we did the following year after our second son, another great grandson for her, was born. We were struggling to fit everything into the moving vans. Even with the huge trucks, two households took plenty of room. Grandpa Bob opened the back door of his car and there was the little knick knack shelf laying across the back seat. Nanny insisted I had to take the shelf with me. She had saved it all those years for me. It was her reminder of our hours together and she wanted to know it was safely in my home and not get lost later in the confusion of breaking up her home when the time came.

I can’t imagine this old knick knack shelf having any great monetary value for anyone else. To me it is priceless. It sits proudly in the corner of our living room now. I still find immeasurable pleasure in tracing the scrolls as I dust and polish them. I smile and think back to those moments of quiet pleasure in my childhood. With my smiles are a few tears too as I think of Nanny, someone who I knew loved me unconditionally. She loved me enough to not let go of a little old knick knack shelf until it was time to pass on to me for my home. For all her faults, Nanny loved me and that shelf is my reminder each day that her love still encircles me just like the never ending circles of those scrolls.

Surname Saturday – My Side of the Family!

August 28, 2009 at 19:12 | Posted in Amore di Italia, ancestry, Bits and Pieces, Carnival of Genealogy, family history, family research, genealogy, Surname Saturday | Leave a comment
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Thought I would throw out a few more names we are always searching – but this time they are from my side of the family. My maternal line hails from Scotland and then Ireland – we are looking for Hyndman, Brown, Nelson, and Fleming there. They were in Edinborough, Glasgow, Johnstone, and a few later in PA.  My paternal line were from Germany. The surnames we are searching are Wenz, Schutte, Schatz, and Nagel amongst others. If any of those sound familiar, email and let’s find out if we’re connected or not!

The Policeman and the Case of the Silver Spoon

August 22, 2009 at 19:39 | Posted in ancestry, Bits and Pieces, Carnival of Genealogy, family history, genealogy | 2 Comments
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One of those crazy earliest memories of my early childhood is my Uncle Clifford. It was always a toss-up in my mind as to who was more handsome, Uncle Cliff or Uncle Harvey. Even as a little one I knew they were both very handsome but Uncle Cliff in his wonderful police uniform usually won the toss-up! We always had wonderful family dinners together, everyone gathered for the Holidays. My dad was a big believer in family and loved entertaining everyone. My mother would make fantastic dinners with enough food for an army. Even her buffets were sumptuous meals. She used pure white damask linen tablecloths that I would watch her iron until no wrinkles were left. Then she would set out stacks of her beautiful china and her prized silverware. Plastic and paper plates were never used inside – only rarely and then only for picnics!

  

Uncle Clifford

Uncle Clifford

               I was about four years old the Christmas I tagged after my Uncle Cliff at one of these dinners. This was the era when women would dress in their best right down to their high heels and men wore suits and ties, even to family dinners. Uncle Cliff, where did you find the patience to tolerate a little one hanging on your every move? As we all progressed through the buffet line juggling plates over-laden with food, I was in awe as Uncle Cliff tucked his silverware in the suit coat breast pocket near his handkerchief. I was sure no one else in the entire world could possibly be that smart!

Soon enough the evening came to an end and family were leaving. One of my aunts was helping my mother clean up in the kitchen. This was before automatic dishwashers, mind you! My mother could not sleep if there was a dirty dish or glass in the sink. Every piece was washed, dried, and put away. Silverware was counted as it was slipped back into the silverware chest. She always worried a piece might get tossed accidently and this had been a special wedding gift! Sure enough – the count was wrong and a spoon had gone missing. They searched kitchen, dining room, and living room looking for it. And then began the messy task of looking in the garbage! I tried to explain that Uncle Cliff had the spoon in his pocket! The two women looked at me mortified! Uncle Cliff was no thief!? What was I talking about? I was in tears now. My Uncle Cliff WAS TOO SMART! He had the spoon in his pocket! My poor mother was so confused by my carrying on! A few minutes later Aunt Bev called. They had made it safely home and then Uncle Cliff realized he still had a spoon in his pocket. Aunt Bev knew Mom was probably searching everywhere right now and wanted to reassure her the spoon was safe! Mom told her I had insisted that Uncle Cliff had the spoon and everyone had a good laugh as Uncle Cliff explained. I was finally appeased as everyone agreed with me that my Uncle Cliff was indeed a clever fellow!

For years family would tease at every family gathering and tell Uncle Cliff to check his pockets. Uncle Cliff has been gone a few years but even now as I wash and dry my own silverware, I remember again my handsome uncle with a smile in my heart. Once again I am four years old tagging after Uncle Cliff, the policeman with a silver spoon!

Monday Madness Puzzle Madness

August 17, 2009 at 09:16 | Posted in Carnival of Genealogy, family history, family research, genealogy, Italy, Itri, Italy, Madness Monday | 2 Comments
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When we were married I wasn’t terribly young but I was naive. I foolishly believed life would be happily forever after, the stuff of fairy tales. We  were in love, what could go wrong? I had no idea my life would  take to so many twists and turns, it would rival soap operas and reality TV. In his early 40′s Valentino was on his way to work one morning when he was rear ended in an auto accident. Although he walked away appearing unscathed, he ended in many surgeries and permanently disabled. We were grateful he was alive and not paralyzed. More importantly our sons still had their dad! Then one early morning a few years later my world crumbled still further. My cousin was her way home from work the evening before. Stopped to make a left turn to her street, she was broadsided by an individual on house arrest (and wearing an ankle bracelet) who passed a line of cars on the wrong side of the road at over 100 miles an hour. She was rushed to the trauma center, into surgery, and into ICU. That morning I planned on visiting her only to be summoning the ambulance for Valentino! It seemed he had what we at first thought was a blood clot but later learned was a calcified piece of a heart valve that broke loose. We then were totally decimated to learn he needed immediate further surgery to repair and replace the heart valves but that the doctors gave him only a 10% chance of surviving! So now family went from ICU to CICU, back and forth in total shock as we watched, waited, and prayed for these two young and vital people to respond and pull through!

Once the immediate crisis passed and we knew both would survive, we helped them begin the long road to recovery. It was during this time I realied not only how blessed we were but also how horribly fragile life is. And then I realized it was long distance calls to family overseas in Italy that sustained me much of the time. Yet our sons did not know most of this extended family even though Valentino and I did. So began a new chapter of my life. I bought software to start work on a family tree for the boys. I wanted to put names and faces to the extended family of aunts and uncles and cousins by the dozens literally for them. Then almost without realizing it, I was moving sideways into collateral lines and adding more people to the tree. We often referred to people as cousins but I knew they weren’t really the children of an aunt or uncle. Instead I would soon discover they were in reality second or third cousins! For me this was like working on a giant jigsaw puzzle. I wanted to fit all of the names and faces together into a bigger picture so to speak. Except now this puzzle had a lot more than a mere 1000 pieces and the borders weren’t straight edges of a rectangle – these were irregular and growing wider in some places while not in others! Here and there I would have two or three pieces that fit together nicely but I was (and still am) missing connecting pieces in many places. When you try to pick up a puzzle it usually falls apart unless you use some puzzle fixative or glue. The neat part about this family puzzle is that it doesn’t fall apart! The glue that holds it together is love, unending, unwavering love!

Treasure Chest Thursday

August 14, 2009 at 09:04 | Posted in Amore di Italia, ancestry, Carnival of Genealogy, family history, family research, genealogy, Italy, Itri, Italy, Treasure Chest Thursday | Comments Off
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This is the childhood home most of the family remembers best in Itri, Italy. Thiswas not the home until after WWII as it was a replacement for the one destroyed during the war. But it is the one that holds a special place in their hearts because it represents safety, security, love, and family.

Childhood Home

Childhood Home

Wordless Wednesday

August 12, 2009 at 07:38 | Posted in Amore di Italia, ancestry, Carnival of Genealogy, family history, genealogy, Italy, Itri, Italy, Wordless Wednesday | Leave a comment
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La Famiglia

La Famiglia

Family after the War

 

View of Itri 2009

View of Itri 2009

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