Melancholy Monday

February 28, 2011 at 19:43 | Posted in Amore di Italia | Leave a comment
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I am feeling a bit melancholy today. I worked my usual long week and did not rest enough so it is easy to blame it on lack of sleep but that wouldn’t be totally honest. Rather, truthfully I have been thinking a great deal about my childhood and my folks. Somehow someway they always managed to instill in me a sense of peace, contentment, and trust that everything would be fine. My parents did not have perfect childhoods or live in the lap of luxury but they were secure in the love of their families who then along with my parents showered my sister and me with that same love unending and unwavering. As we grew up, we understood each family faced problems but they faced them together with love and concern and respect.

My parents knew the pain of The Depression, WWII, and the fear of my father being called back for the Korean War (thankfully he wasn’t). Then came the fear of the Cold War, or Nuclear Holocaust! That shared the stage and news along with Segregation and race riots. Then came peace riots as a result of the Vietnam War. Even then through all of the upheavals and traumas, my dad remained calm and stable. We went to church on Sundays, school Monday to Friday, and knew my parents would sit down to dinner with us every night. At one point my father wrote a long letter to Senator Barry Goldwater. This quiet man who rarely raised his voice – and I am not sure I ever heard him pray out loud in public – warned that refusing children the right to pray at least in silence to themselves in school would herald a sad slide downward for our country. He felt that no matter what church one attended, if the children did not remember to start their day with a prayer and The Pledge of Allegiance, The USA would regret that fall someday. After all, these were his reasons for spending time in the Pacific Theatre in WWII – to assure his daughters would never face a US without freedom and liberty! What a blessed heritage he left us.

With all the turmoil and distrust and political upheaval in this land of ours along with all across the world, I often wonder how he would react. Even as he watched the Chicago Riots with me and scenes from Vietnam, he would always speak softly telling me America was better than that. He would remind me that I went to church so why would I doubt what the outcome would eventually be. Even when we faced a serious health threat with an infant son, my dad spoke softly and reminded me that God already knew the end of the Book!

I happened upon this video clip today of another man from that same era and he too spoke softly – he would more often use humor to make his point – but this clip reminds me of the strong quiet men who knew what being an American stood for.

Is Spring Far Away?

February 10, 2011 at 10:13 | Posted in ancestry, Bits and Pieces, Current Events, family research, Gardening | Leave a comment
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One of the wondrous things about this time of year is how spring fever hits many of us. I realize a goodly portion of the country is now hitting cabin fever levels and are snow weary because you are still digging out while tentatively watching those weather forecasts! But many of you are pouring over those seed catalogues and planning gardens. When we lived up north we longed for the first hibiscus and then daffodils and tulips and crocus. I loved walking in the woods to find lady slippers, jack-in-the-pulpits and my all-time favorite wood violets, especially in yellow! When I no longer lived in the woods I turned to small African violets in every color under the sun to fill all of my window sills. I literally have over 60 plants at one time. When we finally moved to Florida my green thumb became very brown and dried out. I could not get anything approaching flowers to grow. Oh, I went every spring and bought all the pretty petunias and pansies to fill the yard. Then came thorny bougainvilleas that had wonderful flowers but horrid thorns. Eventually I learned that this area loves lots of lush greenery but few flowers. I adjusted and went for the mid-tropical look like everyone else. I attempted vegetables but never reached the bounty that we had enjoyed in the northern climate. Sand does not always like vegetables and they aren’t real thrilled with sand either. So it took me time to adjust once again to another learning curve. I wasn’t willing to give up, I just had to find a new approach.

So it is with our families and genealogy research. Sometimes those ancestors are so buried we don’t see where they are. Sometimes the timeframe is off from what we think it should be. And sometimes an ancestor was thriving where we felt he or she should – so we need to change the soil. We need to change the nutrients perhaps. Or the climate. Or the location because of too much or not enough of whatever it is they don’t want. It is easy to dismiss advice of our elders or those who have gone before us. We even equate those simple comments as the ramblings of an old fool – or the stuff family legends are made of. But stop and think for a quick moment. Maybe that favorite dish – that recipe we make because grandma made it because great grandma also made it. Was it adopted by the family because it was gleaned from an old neighbor or friend? Does it not make sense in that we’re Italian but it seems French or German? Try expanding that view a bit – did they move to Germany to follow a lover or perhaps a new job opportunity? Maybe there you will find a missing ancestor and can start anew to trace another branch?

Lately I have been watching our political unrest and stress with growing concern. I decided to plant the vegetable garden for a few reasons. Obviously I want better food in order to be healthier. I want to protect my family from the growing economical issues and inflation hitting our food budget. Most of all I wanted something, anything to take my mind away from all the stress. I wanted to shut out the world and find some peace and quiet for a few short hours. So I garden. I dug the dirt until muscles ached. But I worked the soil until it was ready for my new plants and seeds. I added things the soil lacked. I turned it and tilled until the soil was blended and accepting for my seeds. I set up little starter pots to plant my seeds. Each little pot holds one of two seeds until they germinate. I started with fancy store bought pots but gradually I ran out and had to adapt with other solutions: used plastic containers, old cans, old washed out flower pots, even old newspaper cones. Each choice is another learning experience of what works or not. Within two weeks I am already seeing seeds sprouting, little green shoots peeking through the dirt. This is how my spring fever is being fed now. I can’t wait for what I can’t hurry. It is a process as old as time but it happens in spite of our best and worst efforts. Spring brings new beginnings. And each generation does the same. As we mess up the world around us, the plants adapt and learn to grow in spite of us. Some call it evolution, others call it survival of the fittest. No matter what we do, life goes on in spite of us.

Family does the same. We may walk away but the family exists anyway. We cannot deny those who have gone before us. So it is with the current world situation. Dictators and presidents and kings may try to change people. They want to control them, maybe even eliminate them at times. Yet the hearts of men continue. The desire to grow, to find something better, to find a way to exist is in the hearts of all men. We may not like the choices or even understand them but ultimately man does continue and does find the better way. That is why instead of fighting the dirt it is better to amend the soil, to give it nutrients and fertilizer and water to let it enable the plants to grow bigger, stronger, more nutritious for us or other living creatures. We need to learn from history, not change it to suit ourselves. There is a reason history repeats itself. The bible puts it another way: there is nothing new under the sun. To every thing there is a season.

For now I am working the garden, pulling weeds, watering new plants, watching the sprouts push through to daylight. Spring means new life. So it is for all of us, for all of the world. It hurts to watch when we cannot stop certain things from happening but we know also that these plants have lived for thousands of years and so has man.

This brave little tomato sprouted off a plant that was brown and dead looking. It was left over from last year and spent the winter outside unprotected even through the freezes that seemed to kill off so many of our tropical plants in the yard. It survived and grew new green shoots, then leaves flowers, and now a small roma tomato! The plant proudly boasts more new flowers too scattered around the brown seemingly dead branches. It has decided to live no matter what my opinion of it was.

Channeling Family, the Master Gardeners

February 6, 2011 at 07:06 | Posted in Bits and Pieces, Italian Cooking, Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Both my husband and I were blessed with family who could grow anything! My mom was a past president of her local garden club and won awards for her flower arrangements. Taken for a walk, she could identify every flower, tree, and weed. Eventually she also gave public slide presentations of plants of the bible. She guest-lectured in so many churches and schools, we lost count. Ask her how to grow something and her answer was to tap it in the packet of Root Tone ™ and then in dirt! My husband had an equally talented mother. Although she never did guest-lectures, there wasn’t a plant she could not grow. Along with the ability to grow plants came an amazing ability to understand and know how to use herbs to heal. She also was one of those clever folks who knew where and how to find mushrooms safe to eat as well as all other sorts of edible wild foods. She inherited that gift from her father. His skills as a farmer were the stuff legends are made of. Family and friends still tell stories of his farm. The farm was on a mountainside in Italy and many thought he got the worst end of a deal. The acreage was full of stones, large stones. Working the land by hand, he tilled and composted and tilled some more in-between the stones. In time those small patches, worked much like our one yard garden plots would yield the best results of anyone. His children were warned to be careful of his plants when he set them in – after all they were what the family would have to eat.

Now we have decided as a family project to start gardening more aggressively than in the past. Although we have had great gardens we have not done so in many years. We had planters of flowers and container gardens of tomatoes and some herbs but now we have decided to really garden. Rising food costs and a need to pay closer attention to our diet means a vegetable garden is a positive for us!

Our container gardens (some of them – a great way to use old tires – I know some folks are worried about using tires but we have done this for years with great yields and no seeming problems.

Our rosemary bushes here are a year old now. We also have eggplant, green bell peppers and pineapple growing around this small loquat tree. They all seem to be happy together – and this little loquat tree is loaded with fruit already! Behind this established garden plot is our new one – much larger to accommodate lettuce, fava beans, zucchini, Italian greens, and garlic!

This was one of my husband’s more clever ideas executed by our sons. He bought forty foot of 5 inch aluminum rain gutter (approximately $5.60 something at Lowes) and the gutter end caps and brackets – also support brackets for the middle portions. We hung it along our fence line and filled with dirt – plenty of room for strawberries, chamomile, and radishes! Below we have prickly fig cactus and small blueberry bushes! The radishes have already started to sprout in a week’s time.

I will post updates as we go along all season!

The Tongue IS Mightier Than The Sword!

January 30, 2011 at 00:55 | Posted in ancestry, Bits and Pieces, Current Events, family history, genealogy, Political Opinions, Spiritual Walk | 1 Comment
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This is another one of those posts that isn’t sure where it belongs. It is alternating positions from genealogy to politics to religion and back again. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of your dear readers (all 1 or 2 of you) could not make it fit elsewhere! Within the families I research there were at various times several family feuds taking place. Seems someone managed to find a reason to be distrustful or even downright hateful over someone or something else. This amongst families who prided themselves on being “god-fearing” decent folks! Consequently researching those families at times I am met with a branch pruned off our tree when it should still be flourishing.

Back on my honeymoon I had a missed opportunity to take a photograph of a family member – an elderly person so I should have known better. Foolishly I thought I would have another opportunity but of course that did not happen. I not only did not get that photograph, no one recalled her correct name. Were there valid reasons for the family rift? Sure. Was it worth not keeping family together? No. Thanks to younger generations learning that painful lesson, we are all benefitting from reuniting the family. I was blessed to have someone find me on a social networking site and even sharing photographs with me. Cousins are getting to reunite and getting to meet newer family members. It’s nice.

One of the other families has a member who took off for an adventure. They never wrote home again or called. Several of us are looking for that person – we have been for a couple years now. No trace, no mentions anywhere. It’s as if they never lived. It is hard to understand why they no longer wanted family. Stranger still that family did not try to keep connected with them because no one could point to a specific problem. Even the family stories never included a remark about this person. Just gone?

One family member decided to marry someone not approved of by the parents for the odd reason of being from another town. “Those” people weren’t as “good”. Or some such foolishness. The marriage lasted through the birth of several children and well into their eighties. Theirs was an incredible love story when men were not so openly professing their devotion to their wives. They stand holding hands in the only known photograph taken just before his death.

I have unfortunately also seen family feuds amongst the church family. Back a few generations most family members didn’t have the option of leaving one church to go to another one. Here in America rural communities usually had one Protestant or one Catholic church. Later there would be more choices and larger cities would also offer others. In Italy most towns only had one parish priest and one church so folks learned to get along or not attend. Sadly now churches seem to splinter frequently or people jump from church to church each time something or someone upsets them. Further those disagreements often take very public and very messy turns especially when the preacher or priest is involved in the disagreement!

And then we come to those public families such as blogs or politics. Nothing sets me on edge, teeth jarring, nerves screeching like fingernails scraping on a blackboard like flame wars on blogs. How is it we can all find ways to banter and chat on a forum, everyone getting along even as they may disagree about problems and solutions until some unknown spark sets off a maelstrom of epic proportions? Suddenly one poster will call out another and off everyone goes huffing and puffing. Name-calling is usually only the least of it. Worse are the threats to drag someone through a “Joe the Plumber” scenario. Google bombs are created to publically harass and humiliate. If Google isn’t enough we can then also subject them to YouTube recordings to live forever in the bowels of the Internet. Some have even had the distinction of driving weaker victims to suicide via the social network. I personally love to read all sorts of blogs and follow all sort of political viewpoints. I tend to lean conservative on most issues but thanks to incidents within my own life, I often understand and even (Horrors! Gasp!) agree with some liberal views also. The last election cycle was a wonder to behold. Members of the conservative family have taken great delight in devouring their own young. The slightest difference of opinion has no room for acceptance.

Granted sometimes we have valid reasons to walk away from a loved one or family member. I just wish we would try to find it in our collective hearts to think long and hard before we say or do things that amount to pruning that branch off the tree. Admittedly I am not a super green thumb but I have learned one lesson over time. When you carelessly whack off branches too aggressively without care or in the wrong season, the tree dies. Soon that branch rots where it was pruned and the whole tree trunk is infected and dies.

Perhaps it was best said long ago – “The tongue is mightier than the sword.”

Frugal Friday – Soup to Warm the Soul!

January 7, 2011 at 02:20 | Posted in Amore di Italia, Carnival of Genealogy, Italian Cooking, memories | 2 Comments
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Cold winter nights often bring along flu and other respiratory symptoms. Nothing feels more like “Mama’s love” than a pot of warm soup. Val’s mother knew how to stretch her meager coins to feed her large family. Her tricks included never letting anything go to waste, growing her own vegetables as much as possible, and baking lots of bread. Even the stale bread was used in a meal of soup – a few pieces of stale bread could be broken into the bottom of a bowl and hot soup would be poured over it and then topped with homemade goats cheese. Needless to say, Mama always made her own broth from scratch but we now use one such as Swanson’s Roasted Garlic as a time saver without sacrificing flavor! No one ever felt they were not being fed!

Here’s one of the family favorites for a cold night:

Escarole and Bean Soup

6 cloves garlic minced 1 sweet onion chopped

2 – 15 oz. cans cannellini beans         1 qrt. Veg. or chicken broth

2 large bunches chopped escarole

Cook and stir onion and garlic in very large pot with a bit of olive oil. Do not brown. Add stock, salt and pepper to taste (remember broth is usually salty already).Add chopped escarole and beans – cook until escarole is tender – best when still slightly crispy. Serve with lots of grated cheese and Italian hot bread!

L’Epifania January 6th Treasure Chest Thursday

January 6, 2011 at 03:46 | Posted in Advent Calendar, Amore di Italia, Carnival of Genealogy, Fun Reminders of Italy, Spiritual Walk, Treasure Chest Thursday | Leave a comment
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Happy L’Epifania!

I brought these treasures home from Italy and Germany – I hate to even take them down, preferring to leave them to grace my kitchen year round. No – they are NOT kitchen witches, although often mistakenly called so. These are replicas of La Befana also called Nona Befana.


She was according to legend an old woman who was constantly cleaning her home, something typically Italian I might add! When the three Magi came by searching the Christ Child she was too busy. Then her heart spoke to her and she began to search too.


Now she roams the earth each January 6th searching as did the Magi for Him! Let her help keep Christmas alive a bit longer for all of us each season!


Christmas Memories

December 22, 2010 at 18:27 | Posted in Amore di Italia, family history, memories | Leave a comment
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Christmas is always my personal favorite – and fortunately I married a man who also loves the holidays. Growing up in Italy Valentino approached the Holiday Season a bit differently than most Americans. The emphasis was never on extravagant gifts but rather on family and sharing love, hospitality, and spiritual values with those around him. He doesn’t remember a tree being the central theme but rather the presepe – nativity – was the center of the family holiday. Later there would also be a tree that family would pose near. But it was the large nativity display that he most eagerly awaited setting up every year. Coins would be saved to buy a figure or two whenever they could afford. These were the old composition figures, many wax-coated to make the colors shine. The display would consist of all of Bethlehem as they thought of it. There would be many shepherds and their sheep scattered all over the mountain on the way to the crèche.

When Valentino and I first married, he was reminiscing about his childhood presepe and my parents were soon interested. We lived with them in Connecticut the first few years. Dad asked if Valentino would build a display for everyone to enjoy. We shopped until we found the perfect set – naturally it was from Italy, a Fontanini! Made of a safe polymer in old fashioned wood tones, it was the perfect choice for an outdoor display. Valentino built a small display right near the front entrance and covered it over with pine boughs and set small twinkly clear lights like stars all throughout them. The ground cover was sand with white flour roads to move the Three Wise Men along their journey day by day closer and closer to the crèche. Scattered about were small wood huts and shepherds with sheep. What a sweet memory – but sadly Florida hurricanes years later would ruin our few photos!

When we made the move to Florida we knew it would be even nicer to build this tradition for our children. The temperate weather here and a big covered entrance meant we could enlarge the display year by year. The boys anxiously awaited their trip to our favorite Christmas store to each choose a new figure to add to the display. It became a family affair to set up the display – usually taking a long weekend to get everything in place. Valentino would take the time to share the wonderful bible stories of Jesus’ birth in simple enough terms for the boys to understand. Soon many of the neighborhood children would want to listen too. Year by year the display grew larger and more elaborate as more shepherds and then angels and townspeople were added. Then we began to find that some smaller children were dropping by when we weren’t home to play with the figures. The Fontanini figures are unbreakable but the money we had invested in them had grown considerably. Fontanini had started a collector’s club and offered special limited edition figures that we had begun to enjoy. Sadly it became obvious we would no longer be able to make the display an outside one. About that time we moved to a newer home and gained a huge family room with plenty of space to set up the display. I discovered a group of collectors online and our involvement with Fontanini and all things Italian nativity related grew into an almost obsessive compulsion! Then we were able to visit the actual Italian factory on a trip to Italy! What a joy! The Fontanini folks are some of the warmest and most enjoyable people. They treated us to a tour of the facilities and gifted us with a few special figures that were never sold in America! Now our display is still huge but inside so we can enjoy it all hours!




May You all have a very Blessed Christmas Season and Happy New Year!

Three Signs of Fall

November 6, 2010 at 02:43 | Posted in Bits and Pieces, family history, memories, Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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There are three signs for me that say Fall is upon us! Nothing says fall like beautiful the beautiful changing colors of leaves and flowers and of course pumpkin patches. When younger I delighted in the crisp piles of leaves we played in – frustrating my dear father who was attempting to rake them! What fun it was to jump and bury ourselves in those leaves. They always had a wonderful unique scent to them. I knew it meant soon we would be having bonfires to roast marshmallows.  We would often go to the local farm where we could choose a wonderful chrysanthemum plant in glorious fall colors. They had rows and rows planted and would dig them up and put in a clay pot, any size you wanted. We would bring home several huge pots to put out near our front door on display until after Thanksgiving. Hanging on the front door would be big bunches of multicolored Indian corn tied with a big straw bow.

But the most fun was to climb over all the pumpkins in every size imaginable until the perfect one was found. It had to be huge of course and just right to carve a face! I am too old to climb over the pumpkins as I did when young but instead I can enjoy my grandchildren as they hunt for their perfect pumpkins!

We always opted for the traditional jack-o-lantern smile with teeth and triangular shaped eyes. Now my own sons are so much more creative than me.

No silly faces for them – now we have wonderful spiders and scary faces as well as BOO!


This is my entry to Three Signs o’ Fall contest by She Who Blogs

Treasure Chest Thursday September 11

September 9, 2010 at 01:04 | Posted in Bits and Pieces, Carnival of Genealogy, Current Events, family history, memories, Political Opinions, Treasure Chest Thursday | Leave a comment
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This date is a horrid one for most Americans. Where September used to stand for end of summer, back to school, first whiffs of Autumn leaves and bonfires, it has now become a remembrance of the shock for baby boomers to taste a war-like scenario on US soil. Our sense of security, of world power via being loved and ‘right’ has been shaken. For many it has meant a long drawn out process of rethinking who we as a nation and as individuals are. This time has also seen a change in the country’s economic status affecting al of us. It has also meant reassessing what is important to each of us going forward. For me, it has meant a reassessment of our countries politics and policies as well as a reassessment of our place in global issues. It has brought about a deeper commitment to spiritual values and what they should mean on an everyday basis in addition to my own personal internalizing. More importantly it has brought about a deeper appreciation for what family means to me personally as well as a deeper appreciation for what our ancestors went through in their lives.

As a child I grew up hearing stories about my parents growing up during the depression years. My mother talked of her father traveling out of town for work returning home on the weekends. She also told of their wonderful gardens where they grew much of their vegetable and herb needs. My dad told about not being in school yet but following the bigger kids as they collected lumps of coal dropped by trains to take home for family furnaces. He also told how at the same age he followed the bigger kids to bread lines and to get potatoes. His parents hadn’t sent him, but he caught on quickly from other kids and knew it meant more heat or more food if he participated too! Valentino grew up in post war Italy. His family had struggled before, during, and after the war. His mom’s family were farmers so they grew plenty of food whenever and wherever possible. They would work the bits of soil between rocks to plant one plant per spot if necessary. They owned several small pieces of land meaning they would work one area for one crop and go to another for another crop. It meant a several mile walk daily to tend their food supply. Recently the Publics grocery store near our home was torn apart to undergo remodeling. All of us in the neighborhood have complained that it means a drive of an extra two or three miles to the next store. Only one other neighbor and I attempt to grow any vegetables at all – and we are struggling at it! Our herbs are wonderful but we seem not to be too successful at vegetables other than tomatoes or peppers. I suspect my tomatoes grew at some sort of bargain price under ten dollars each but I might be wrong! On the other hand my rosemary is a bumper crop and I have enough to supply most third world nations with rosemary and basil! I think my ancestors would all be mortified – especially my in-law ancestors!

So as I reflect back on the 9/11 tragedies and the lives of my ancestors, I am grateful for what our family passed on to us. I am blessed we lost no one in 9/11 or the subsequent war. I am blessed that our family passed on a spiritual foundation for Valentino and I to pass on to our sons and now to our grandchildren. And as I contemplate the US and her place in the global view, I am grateful that I was raised in a nation that in spite of her faults is still a wonderful place to raise a family without fear of a knock on the door at night or worse.

Terrific Tuesday

August 10, 2010 at 22:52 | Posted in memories, Spiritual Walk | 1 Comment
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When life seems the bleakest or we are at our lowest points, we have only to be quiet long enough to hear God gently speaking to us. I have not been a regular at posting the last couple of months as we have gone through some family issues that needed our full attention. The Lord was there as I felt this pain and feared at times I was alone. He always let me know in small ways that I was not alone. Each time a small prayer was answered, I counted it as a tiny step forward closer to Him.

Indeed He quickened my heart to a simple lesson. We had traveled to Venezia and toured the glass factories. The artisans took a lump of sand onto a long pipe and then put it into the ovens. They would turn the pipes as they blew the wonderful glass sculptures into amazing creations of fragile glass. Every so often they would take the molten glass out of the fire to twist a piece here or there with special tongs and pliers. Finally the beautiful piece would be finished but then surprisingly they would return what seemed a perfect piece back to the fire one last time. And there was the secret of the firey furnace – the glory hole. For it is in this last fire that the glass is perfected, purified so to speak – strengthened so it would not shatter on its own.

So it is with us. We too go through a fire of tribulation at times in our life. How many times do we cry out, “Enough!” At times it seems as if we should not have to bear one more trial, one more bit of pain. It feels as though this fire will never end when once again we feel thrust back into the furnace. But it is there that we are cleansed, purified, yes, even strengthened. If we listen, if we hear, if we learn… there God is sustaining us, prodding and tweaking this lump of sand and clay to a perfect form, a wondrous creation to behold. It is there we find that we have an inner strength to face anything knowing that we know God is there with us and we are not alone.

For our family it has been a long time going through this trial but we have held to each other. Rather than being torn apart and shattered by this experience, we have been strengthened as a family. We have been purified and cleansed in the sense that no matter what the world has thrown at us, no matter how bad things appeared to be, we drew closer together. We found that all the little issues, the dumb things we disagree over, were unimportant in the bigger things. We found a strength as a family that astonished us at times as we found we are better together against the world if need be! Our trials are not over but we have had enough small victories to know that we will survive and be better for all of this. That is the true meaning of family for me. And that is why I share this on a genealogy blog. As I researched back in our family and marveled at this family that made it through wars and worse, I often considered if we could manage to stay together as they did. Now I know that the same courageous genes flow through all of us and that we are truly bound by our love for one another and for family. Tomorrow as we all sit together at the dining room table to share a meal, I will be able to gaze on all the faces of family and know – we will always be bound by this love of family – and I will give thanks to Our Father for gathering us together and holding us there. I pray this for each of you!

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