Thanksgiving is Coming Soon

November 18, 2011 at 04:53 | Posted in Bits and Pieces, Italy, Political Opinions, Spiritual Walk | Leave a comment
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In only a mere week Thanksgiving will be upon us again. Already preparations are under way – house cleaning is in my forefront of necessary evils! Thanksgiving is of course, an American holiday. The first Thanksgiving was celebrated back in 1621 by the Pilgrims with their new Indian friends who helped them survive the first harsh year in a new land. At least that’s the nice story we were always taught in school. The sad reality is that the story is not quite the accurate – or should I say – the full story! Governor William Bradford documented in his diary (Freedomworks) that the original Plymouth Colony was set up to be worked and shared equally amongst all of the Puritans. However that didn’t go quite as planned. It took about 3 years but by 1623 a simple change enacted by the Governor changed the outcome. A parcel of land was given to each family for them to work and use as they saw fit. What they yielded was their own instead of having to split amongst everyone. As a result folks began to want to produce more and to succeed. As a result 1623 was a year to be grateful for most of the Pilgrims and their friends. In my opinion this is actually a better story than the whitewashed one. Funny how history repeats itself – now if we could just learn those hard lessons?

But I digress – this is about how we see Thanksgiving in our family. It is not an Italian holiday in the sense of the American one but October 4th was the Italian harvest Festival Cerelia named for Ceres. She was the goddess of agriculture, grain, and fertility. La Festa del Ringraziamento (Festival of Thanks) is the reference to many religious days for various patron saints in Italy. These are all usually celebrated with family, friends, food, parades – and originally offerings such as first fruits of a harvest in thanks to the saint. The menu choices might not be quite the same but the joy of family and friends together over a splendid table is the same! For example they might offer ravioli con la zucca (pumpkin ravioli). Our family loves the wonderful roasted or smoked turkey – but our stuffing is made with Italian sausage. One of our favorite side dishes is lasagna! And of course we set out a huge antipasto for everyone to indulge themselves with. This week I will work on starting to make some of the cakes ahead of time – we enjoy several different ones all made with the great shaped pans I brought home from Italy. There are fancy fluted ones, tall layer cake pans in pyramid shapes, and fancy bundt style pans. Each lends itself to a shape that matches well with the type of cake batter and ultimate frosting or decorations used. Some are doused with Italian liquors or others sprinkled with sweet confetti candy. These line up next to the traditional pumpkin or mince pies in addition to an apple and a key lime pie! For myself, I cannot bear Thanksgiving without my mom’s creamed onions – and I am so grateful she is still with us to celebrate and well enough to make another batch of creamed onions!

So as I am cleaning house all week, knowing in no time the muss and fuss of cooking will begin, I find myself complaining that I have so much stuff to clean and so many rooms too! Then I realize how grateful I am that I have a home large enough to accommodate all of us when so many are homeless through no fault of their own. And then I resent that I have to work the night before instead of being home to get enough sleep before I start on the turkey and all the vegetables. And then I realize how blessed I am to have a job when so many do not. I think about how much food I must prepare and for how many people ( usually 26). Then I count again my blessings – I have enough food to feed my family and extended family! I have a beautiful family – and they all want to be together out of love, not obligation. And then I know the reality of my story – Count it ALL joy! I am truly and wondrously blessed!

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.

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.”

Genealogy and Politics

January 23, 2011 at 00:26 | Posted in Carnival of Genealogy, Current Events, Political Opinions, Somber Sunday, Spiritual Walk | 5 Comments
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This may seem like a strange blog entry for a blog about genealogy but I felt compelled to not ignore this news story. This doctor was one who wanted to make money and I question his morals given the methods of his clinic. I am not going to recount all the horrific details – you can read here and there and more and still more for yourselves. Yet it is too easy to say he is a mass murderer or that this is about a serial killer saving trophies and not about abortion. But it is all of that and more/worse. Our news outlets are trying to avoid deeper discussions and I understand the political reasons even if I disagree with them. Abortion is a deeply personal issue (or should be) that is often guided by what is politically accepted rather than by spiritual reasons. I would suggest gently here that women should spend more time reflecting on their views in spiritual terms no matter what religion they practice or adhere to. I understand that women wanted control of their bodies and the rights to their freedom of choice – along with increased personal advancement in careers and finances and socially. I really do get it. I was a young college student through the Vietnam era as women began advocating and marching and protesting to gain all those freedoms and rights. I personally have been subjected to the glass ceiling and career choices and all of that because I was a woman. Matter of fact I had a wonderful father who advocated for my rights before it was fashionable to do so. My guidance counselor in high school insisted I had to take a typing course although I wanted another elective in a foreign language. I was taking one language but wanted a second course. The counselor repeated to me over and over that I needed typing. That night at dinner my father and I talked long and hard about my choices and limits. The next morning he went in person to the school and he publically informed the principal and entire staff of his decision for his daughter. Now mind you, dad was a well-known and well-respected local businessman so everyone did give him a listen! He told them all very calmly (no yelling and no obscenities) that his daughter would indeed be taking a second foreign language because she had no need of a typing course to “fall back on”. He wanted them to understand that his daughter would not be falling back on anything – she was going to be the executive hiring the secretary to do her typing and by the way – he would probably be a very nice fellow who would not only type but answer phones politely!

Well years later I have not forgotten the faith my father had in my abilities but I do understand how young women may be brought to a point of feeling they don’t have enough choices or chances. So my point is now not whether or not abortion is a right or a choice or an option. Rather it is that have we become so convinced that it is such a “hot potato” to even discuss, that we now shy away from the bigger questions? Why was no one asking the tough questions about this clinic in Philadelphia? Why was it assumed all those poor women and sadly young gals wanted those abortions? Why were authorities so sure that because it was an abortion clinic there was no need to have health inspections or oversight of any kind? What about licensing for the workers? Why were there no suggestions of follow-up care? It is easy right now to lay blame on liberal politicians and officials in Philadelphia, but really? Does your state regulate and inspect and follow up? What agencies are supposed to be involved? Who actually knows to whom violations are reported? Are there easily found numbers? Are those phone numbers posted where patients and family or friends can see them?

Lest you think it is easy for me to judge without walking in anyone else’s shoes – my husband and I have been there too. We were broke and expecting. A doctor diagnosed me with cancer. We had no health insurance. Well actually we had some but it was rotten self pay insurance. The doctor decided my best alternative under the circumstances was an abortion/hysterectomy. I didn’t agree. Medical insurance got all the “out” they needed to not pay – I was rejecting the doctor’s advice. Second and third opinions matched the first doctor’s choice. Then I went to a doctor who had a spiritual relationship with God that allowed him to offer me another opinion. I had an alternative even if there were no medical guarantees with it. I at least had a choice. I took it and my son was born the day before Christmas 26 years ago. He was our best gift ever! He suffered no ill effects so we were doubly blessed in opposition to what we had been warned to expect. Now he is the father of two beautiful girls himself. So let me bring this back to genealogy. Consider what your family tree and legacy would be if all those women in your family tree chose to not continue a pregnancy? Consider also if you honestly feel they would have been better off if they had? I am not going to tell you what my personal opinions are because that is for each woman to choose for herself. Hopefully it will be a choice she makes after being given all the options. Hopefully she will have someone to pray with, to talk with, and to cry with if need be. Is that then where we need to start this discussion over? Are we throwing more and more money into what is considered politically correct in order to avoid dealing with other issues? Why are we not correcting errors in our educational systems? Why are we not fostering improved parenting? Why are not offering more counseling? Do we want to create a bigger nanny system or do we need to? Lots of questions and I am not setting myself up as an authority with all the answers. But I do have more questions. Have we, are we doing all we can to not shy away from the “hot potato” parts of this discussion? Are we so afraid of what is politically correct that we have forgotten the real people paying the ultimate price for a politician wanting one more vote? I am reminded of one simple verse: “Jesus wept…….”

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.

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