Fragile Family Friday – January 22nd

January 22, 2010 at 01:12 | Posted in Carnival of Genealogy, Fragile Family Friday | Leave a comment
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Today I have decided to add another category to my Carnival of Genealogy blogging: Fragile Family Friday. There are times we realize more than others how tenuous and fragile the threads of family are that bind us together. So I am instituting this new category to highlight those moments. I won’t promise this will be an every week occurrence but rather I intend to save it for those unusual times that deserve to be remembered. So today’s post is a bit unusual for my normal posts but one I think we should take to heart. Family ties can be fragile for a whole variety of reasons. Sometimes, the connection isn’t a clear one but family always referred to a person as a member of the family. Or perhaps it was a step parent or child accepted without question. Or as in this instance perhaps it deals with the concept of we are all one family ultimately. We as genealogists (even we amateurs) often say we are amazed and saddened we didn’t pay closer attention to stories we heard concerning family when we were children. We usually have lists of questions we would ask if possible now of our ancestors if ever given a chance anew.

This week as my sister and I worked on a memorial tribute to our aunt, we poured over old photographs. We chattered away with all the expected questions: “Where was this taken?” “Who is that?” “What’s his first name?” “Whatever happened to them?” Aside from the typical scenario, all of us are in the midst of another tragedy. This past week Haiti was decimated by an earthquake. As with most natural disasters such as a library roof cave in last year in Germany or the earthquake in Abruzzi, Italy, we can only imagine the terrible loss of vital records. Haiti is such an economically poor nation and many of its people do not have a solid education. She has already often suffered with massive hurricane damage so it is not to be expected that reclaiming lost vital records will be a priority for them. The thousands of orphans will have a potential to be adopted but certainly will not have the option of tracing family through unsealed court records given most are now lost forever.

Most genealogists applaud the tremendous efforts of the LDS to microfilm and preserve records from around the world. This time we will most certainly not be able to rely on stored records. So for this Fragile Family Friday I want to propose a suggestion to all of us. Right now there are many organizations collecting funds and that should take priority for now. But we genealogists should consider another donation – that of our time and knowledge. We can help future Haitians who would want to trace their family trees. As with the slavery generations of the US, many times we will stumble across snippets of information in other unrelated records. Keep a separate folder or computer file for these tidbits. Remember to note the sources too. Someday we can all submit these to recreate many of those lost records. It will be a case of indirect information but for someone hoping to find any trace, it will be meaningful. Another way to help is to volunteer your time. Many of us live near immigrant communities. Many of us work with Haitian immigrants. Maybe a group can form to make a short trip together to one of the communities a bit further away. All of us have plenty of knowledge of how to fill our pedigree or family charts. This is the time to gather as much verbal information from elderly members as possible. Maybe they can recant the names of a family who lived near them. Perhaps dates will be sketchy or unknown but names or partial names remembered along with the town. Bit by bit we can help these wonderful people reclaim a proud heritage. We can do this now before a generation is lost forever. This is something we can do at little expense financially but it will produce an invaluable gift to future generations. Family is fragile – we can teach how to protect it in a very special way.

Treasure Thursday – January 21st

January 21, 2010 at 01:29 | Posted in Carnival of Genealogy, memories, Treasure Chest Thursday, Wenz Hammerlee | 8 Comments
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This week my sister and I sat together for hours literally working on a labor of love for family. My posting here has been sporadic of late as I have had to deal with one family situation after another. The Good Lord has kept His Eye on all of us and we have come through most of the storms, but I can’t and won’t dare to say we have been untouched because that is the one thing I can assure you is true. We have been touched deep to our core as we have dealt with family& medical emergencies, especially during the holiday season, including the loss of a much loved aunt. With her passing we now have lost the final of four siblings – my dad, two brothers, and his sister. My dad was the first to pass away back in 1983 and it is still as fresh and painful as yesterday. At times like now he is missed even more as this was a final chapter for us in some respects.

This all becomes part of my Treasure Chest of Memories and Emotions. Aunt Beverly passed December 17th, 2009. She is the wife of my Uncle Clifford written about in an earlier post “The Policeman and The Case of the Silver Spoon.”  This beautiful woman had the sweetest shy smile, yet was so beautiful she could easily have been conceited. An accomplished businesswoman, a medical professional, she was also a wife and mother with many varied hobbies. This gal begged my mother to teach her to sew and then went on to even tailor men’s suits for her husband. Her sewing room was one of the best stocked and most organized I have ever seen. Later she would encourage me to sew more and even taught me to smock! When my sister and I were younger, she used all sorts of scraps of fabric to sew us a huge box of doll clothes one Christmas for our Ginny dolls. I can’t imagine how long she worked at this gift but there were probably close to a hundred little outfits for us! We had the best dressed Ginny dolls in our group of friends!

So my sister and I spent our day putting together a tribute for Aunt Bev’s Memorial to be held next week. But long after we finished I sat late into the wee hours going over old family photos and remembering so much of my childhood and the stories I heard about the childhood of these four siblings. How my dad loved his brothers and sister! He loved his parents too but it was his great grandfather and his siblings that stole his heart! Even when there were family disagreements ( and of course there were), to the end of his life he hurt and rejoiced for and with his siblings and loved them dearly! It was by his example we learned the meaning of family and to appreciate the rich history of our roots. We weren’t nobility or famous or even very rich – yet each member held a valued place in the family itself and thus an important place in our hearts.

So now my family has shrunk in the physical sense but my treasure chest of memories and emotions is ever rich and overflowing as I think of them. I know they are all happy to be once again sharing a laugh, a tear, a hug – and we may miss them but can’t help but be happy knowing they are together again!

                                                   

Wordless Wednesday – January 20th

January 20, 2010 at 18:55 | Posted in ancestry, Carnival of Genealogy, family history, family research, genealogy, memories, Wenz Hammerlee, Wordless Wednesday | 4 Comments
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Bicycle fans

Bicycle fans

This is 3 members of my side of the family. Yesterday I spent an emotional day going through old photos – this is a favorite.

Day of The Dead – We Remember Il Morti

November 2, 2009 at 11:03 | Posted in Amore di Italia, ancestry, Bits and Pieces, Carnival of Genealogy, DiCrocco, family history, family research, genealogy, Italy, Itri, Italy, memories, Tombstone Tuesday | 2 Comments
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Mama e Papa

Mama e Papa

 In Italy, All Saints Eve or Day of the Dead is  day of remembrance and honoring the dead. There is some slight confusion or mingling of the two days – November 1st celebrates the saints and November 2nd is to actually honor the dead. I figured today I would explain to those not familiar with some of the Italian traditions about cemeteries in Italy. Land is at a premium in Italy – available land is needed for farms and housing. Each town though has a walled cemetery usually set outside the main part of town. Inside the walls of the cemetery are considered consecrated land having been blessed by the priest. There is usually an area where smaller metal or wooden crosses adorn the graves of those who cannot afford larger headstones. Headstones in Italy are often works of art with beautiful sculptures on them. Many also have an encased photograph of the deceased. The walls of the cemetery usually are also crypts for those who choose not to be buried in the ground. After approximately 20 years families will reuse the graves for others in the family. Bones of the buried are moved to what is called a bone room housed in the basement area of the chapel. This may seem morbid but is actually a matter of family honor. On this day once a year, everyone goes to the cemetery and honors their deceased ancestors! Flowers are everywhere including at the chapel. Families visit the graves often and bring flowers but this is a special day for everyone. Mass and prayers are offered up for all of the deceased. Sadly we Americans do not have anything of this nature and it is a shame. Our children are not taught to remember those who have gone before us. There is not an emphasis put on valuing what our ancestors did for us. In a land such as Italy where children understand that land and homes have passed from generation to generation, children learn of the sacrifices of their ancestors on behalf of family. It is the respect for family and history that endears Italy to so many of us. It is the call upon many of us to want to return to this sense of family and remembering with pride and gratitude that we understand forms the underpinnings of a civilization that will survive instead of merely exist until something else comes along to replace it.

So it was for me as my mother in law accepted and welcomed me to her family. I was never treated as only a daughter in law but I was loved as a daughter, a member of the family! Of course family has disagreements and times of strife but they are always family, always there to help, to liten, to offer advicde, to love! Famiglia!

Data Back Up Day November 1st

November 1, 2009 at 04:28 | Posted in ancestry, Bits and Pieces, Carnival of Genealogy, family history, family research, genealogy, Hints and Tips, memories | Leave a comment
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Today is Data Backup Day. In honor of this Geneabloggers is sponsoring a contest for all bloggers writing on the subject. Whether or not one is interested in contests, one should worry and therefore learn how to back up their data! We live in Florida – home to hurricanes and tornados. Anyone using a computer is running a risk of losing their information if they don’t take time to back it up! My personal desktop computer finally died an unhealthy and untimely death when least expected to. I have had several laptops over the years also die at inopportune moments! This journey became a forced lesson in backing up data for me! My present laptop is obviously a more secure one with hard drive protection against sudden shocks and drops. It is also password and fingertip scanned locked. Those afford a slight security advantage while travelling. However if stolen, my information could conceivably disappear too! SO I have taken time for contingency planning as if I were a major company. After all my genealogy, my books, and my blogs are my life’s work! First I use USB flash drives. Each is labeled and dedicated to a specific file type. Some contain all my photographs, some genealogy files, some research documents, etc. I also back up and save all files to CD. Each CD is labeled and stored away safely. Finally I also use a portable hard drive to back up all files. That is what I keep for myself. But the reality is that if I kept all of this just at my own home, it would be destroyed along with computers in any weather disaster or fire. So I have gone a bit further. Each of our sons also has copies of photographs and genealogy files as does another family member. Also some files are stored online. Recreating all of my work of the last 15 years would not be easy but it could be done as a result of contingency planning. All of this also includes my blogs. Each post is saved along with photographs and accompanying work sources! Printed copies of all my work also exist and copies kept my more than one person. Will I ever need to use any of this? Will I ever need to use any of this? Perhaps not although thanks to computer crashes, I have used it before. Waiting until I did need it would have been too late! I am now actively scanning all older family photographs. I have saved all our children’s photos but now I am scanning older generations. I realized we own some of the only existing photographs of deceased family members. One disaster would mean these would be lost forever to future generations. My scanning will include old 35 mm slides as well as making some digital captures of old movies and VCR tapes. This is of course very time consuming but well worth the memories they will provide for the future generations. They probably will not have access to old 8 mm projectors or 35 mm slide projectors. Even VCRs are disappearing from most homes! Passing on DVD copies of these older relics will allow great greats to hear as well as see ancestors! This will bring family to life for them in ways I can only wish existed for me of those from one or two hundred years ago! In doing this, it will be important to not trust only one original copy. Disaster can strike at any time and it would be a shame to not be able to save these memories! Think in terms of sudden storms or wildfires such as California has suffered through – or perhaps earthquakes! No area of the US is safe from some form of weather or climate emergency – in fact every country has such disasters! Be prepared! BACK UP THOSE PRECIOUS RESEARCH FILES AND PHOTOGRAPHS! Back up all of your work including blogs and remember to save a file with source data too!

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!

Review of Family Tree Builder by MyHeritage

September 13, 2009 at 14:42 | Posted in Bits and Pieces, family research, genealogy, Hints and Tips, Reviews | 13 Comments
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Let me begin this post by stating I am not paid nor am I employed by MyHeritage. This is a personal review of a program I use for my research.

For years I used a software that I purchased. Every year I had to buy an upgrade if I wanted to stay current and I thought that was necessary. Then I started to read others on various websites complaining about prices and software glitches. A few folks mentioned losing entire files and that was frightening considering the amount of work I put into it. I also started reading other reviews on software out there and began to search to find another choice. About four years ago I came across MyHeritage known as Family Tree Builder™. They offer a free download as well as Premium service. I am going to be very honest here. I am cheap! I use the freebie download and am much happier with it than with the premium software I have paid a lot of money for!

 

Home page 

Home Page

Home Page

One of the issues that personally interested me was to find software that would be translatable to another language. We have most of our family still overseas and I wanted to be able to share information with them. This program allows you to choose any of over forty different languages! I took CD files of our GEDCOM to Italy, downloaded the free program to family computers and easily imported the family files. One click later I changed the language to Italian and viola! Now family could enjoy the research and continue on with more of their own!

This free program allows you to publish to a web page for your family. By a one click again, it automatically adds the family file to the website along with any photographs (more about those in a moment). You are limited in number by the free program versus the premium program. I still have been able to use this and get great results.

The nice part about the publish feature is that you can fix the personal setting to automatically update each time you work on the program offline. When finished adding your information, it signs you on and uploads the new information. No complicated FTP or other upload programs! When using this feature, you can also set the online preferences to be open so others can find you or make the site as private as you wish. I use a combination to keep living people’s names private but still be discoverable for potential matches out there. And yes, I have found family this way!

 

publish_en_us

publish_en_us

See those great little photo thumbnail shots? You can transfer as many photos as you choose or documents into the photograph folder and easily make a thumbnail of the favorite one to each person! I LOVE this! In one afternoon I transferred over 250 photos and assigned them to the proper person. That fast, that easy! My only complaint here? I wish it allowed an oval shaped crop of the photos and perhaps allowed some changes such as making photos sepia toned. It does accept any edit such as that if you did it ahead of time and then upload though. In addition to the ability to upload and organize photographs and documents, you can also upload videos. I haven’t tried that yet but am planning to soon.

Another nice feature is the maps portion of the software. If you enter as much information into the location fields for births, marriages, and deaths, the program searches worldwide locations and shows them. This is nice to familiarize everyone with where family originated and to trace their immigrations. It is especially nice for anyone compiling family history stories to be able to add this information via screen shots to your work!

 

maps_en_uk

maps_en_uk

One other feature available through the web is the toolbar. Now I know many folks do not like toolbar add-ons but this can be easily turned off or on. I happen to enjoy it allows for easy look-ups of SmartMatches™- a feature I have used to locate several great ancestor matches! Additionally there is a Family Chat™ feature. There is an easy to use event reminder to give alerts of special dates for family.

 

Family Toolbar

Family Toolbar

For the average user this software has a clean look and easy to navigate toolbar and buttons. For someone as a more advanced genealogist, this software also offers more in-depth features such as varied forms of making pedigree charts with as much or little information as preferred along with both ancestor and descendant charts. The area for notes allows as much or as little detail as one prefers. The citation/source area is easy for the beginner while allowing more detail for someone such as myself going into specifics of the sources. Again let me emphasize that some of the more detailed features are available only in the Premium version but I have yet to be totally stumped and left wanting in the free Basic version. I love the clean lines of the Family Group sheets that imbed a thumbnail photo of each person and follow with the notes entered on each person. The Pedigree chart also allows one to set number of generations and the amount of information you want to print. This is a great feature when printing to use for additional notes in my case.

Another important point for me is the ownership of my work. I have written one book for family and am in the process of additional work. It was brought to my attention that certain sites claim ownership of any work posted to their site. There was a recent outcry by several respected genealogists that one well known site in particular was using photos posted there in advertisements without permission of the posters. Some of the site disclaimers are confusing and misleading. I therefore asked for a clarification from My Heritage. I was assured that the site does not claim to own anything from its users. Further they stated that all rights to that information belongs to the user as stated in their policies. They graciously allowed me to reprint the following:

MyHeritage.com family sites
None of the personal, private information that is uploaded or entered on a MyHeritage.com family site by individual members is viewed by MyHeritage.com staff, or distributed to others outside of your site, except in rare cases involving reported abuse of our use policies or legal statutes. We do collect some data, always with your knowledge and consent, which is used to personalize the site for your convenience and for the benefit of other family members and friends who are included in your site.

A portion of this data, particularly that which reflects members’ lifestyles and interests, may be used in aggregate statistical form to attract potential sponsors and deliver advertising messages to appropriate users. For instance we may tell a prospective advertiser that 10,000 of our members have indicated an interest in tennis, and then distribute an attractive offer exclusively to those users.

In no case is the personal information about individual members sold or otherwise shared with advertisers, sponsors, partners or other 3rd parties. And under no circumstances is this information collected or distributed in any form without your prior knowledge and consent.”

The actual publicity release for Family Tree Builder 4.0 follows:

my Heritage

my Heritage

FINAL: To be released on August 13, 2009

 MYHERITAGE.COM ADDS MAPS TO ITS FAMILY HISTORY SUITE

 New version 4.0 of MyHeritage.com’s Family Tree Builder visualizes family history in colourful maps, and offers Family Chat™ in a new family toolbar

 London, England & Tel Aviv, IsraelAugust 13,
2009 – MyHeritage.com, a leading family and genealogy Website, today announced the release of Family Tree Builder 4.0. With more than 5 million downloads so far, Family Tree Builder is the world’s most popular free genealogy software, allowing seasoned pros and beginners alike to build family trees, research their family history, add photos and videos, and obtain unique Smart Matches™ with other family trees worldwide. The key improvements of the new version include a map module, a family toolbar with Family Chat™ and extensive support for albums to organize a family’s photos, videos and documents.

 

“In recent years we’ve seen a growing number of people who want to learn more about their ancestors and where they came from”, said Gilad Japhet, Founder and CEO of MyHeritage.com. “With the new map module, people can get an appealing visual representation of their family’s life journeys. They can also map the addresses of family members, quickly find all events and photos associated with a particular place and even standardize place names using smart suggestions. This provides a fascinating new perspective for millions of people interested in their family history.”

 

The new family toolbar provides direct access to family sites on MyHeritage.com, adds powerful genealogy search and features Family Chat – a text, audio and video chat system built specifically for family use. Members also receive useful birthday reminders on the family toolbar without leaving the Web page they are on.

 

The Family Tree Builder software – free to download at http://www.myheritage.com/family-tree-builder – is already well respected by family history enthusiasts for its ease of use and excellent handling of photos and other digital media. The addition of albums for organizing photos, videos and documents makes it an even more useful tool. Family Tree Builder 4.0 also adds slideshows for showcasing family photos in appealing ways; and a new screen saver that displays family photos based on tagging and face recognition technology.

 

MyHeritage.com is a leading online destination for families, where people can find relatives, research family history, and stay connected with family members across the globe. In addition, MyHeritage.com offers automatic photo tagging technology that makes it easier to label, organize and search for digital photos, giving families another fun way to stay in touch.

 

About MyHeritage.com

MyHeritage.com was founded by a team of people who combine a passion for family history with the development of innovative technology. It is now one of the world’s leading online networks for families, and the second largest family history website. MyHeritage.com is available in 34 languages, is home to more than 33 million family members and hosts profiles of 360 million people.

For more information, visit www.myheritage.com or http://www.myheritage.com/family-tree-builder

For more information contact:

Paula Santos, Sparkpr for MyHeritage.com            

Mobile: +44 (0)779 551 8335                    

Email: paula@sparkpr.com                    

# # #

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!

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!

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