Saturday, April 29, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 12

The writing prompt for this week involves hobbies.

Do you like to dabble in lots of different hobbies? Is so, what are they? Or do you have one primary pastime that takes up most of your free hours and energy?

Kodak Instamatic
Hobbies are very much a part of my life. Some of them, such as needlework, carry over from when I was younger, but others I became interested in as I got older. Taking photos is something I've done since my sister gave me a Kodak Instamatic camera when I was in grade school. I progressed to a 35 mm film camera in college, and now work exclusively with digital cameras. I joined a female photography group, and have met some exceptional women and enjoy participating in the group photography shows. I am super excited and proud that my photos will be appearing in an upcoming print and ebook on reducing stress!

Michael and Anna Cramer
My interest in genealogy started when my mom died unexpectedly in 1989 at the age of 69. At that point I realized that if I wanted to capture the stories and memories of the older generations in my family, I better get started. Since that beginning in 1989 I have taken many genealogy research trips, spent hours digging through online files, connected with relatives that I didn't even know I had, and submitted my saliva for DNA analysis. I also enjoy doing research for other people, and am currently looking into the family of a man who was supposedly possessed by the devil. I'm pretty happy that his name is not in my family tree. Pictured here are my second great-grandparents on my dad's side.

50th Anniversary quilt
I began making quilts back in 2002 when I got the crazy idea to make my mother and father-in-law a quilt for their 50th wedding anniversary. No pressure! I had important photographs and documents reprinted onto fabric, and then used some quilt squares that my mother-in-law's mother had made and incorporated those into the quilt. I hand embroidered dates and their names onto the border. Since that first quilt, I have made close to 30 quilts. While quilting strains my mathematically challenged brain, it also brings out my creative side in ways I didn't know I possessed.

pickleball shirt
My latest hobby fortunately combines fitness as well as fun. Two years ago I was introduced to pickleball, a court game that includes elements of tennis, badminton and ping pong. The ball resembles a whiffle ball, and the paddle is like an oversized ping pong paddle. It is touted as the fastest growing sport in America, and it's not just for old people anymore. A lot of younger players have discovered how fast and strategic the game can be. I try to play 3 times a week, and for me getting to socialize with people is just as important as the workout since I have my office in my house.

The best part about all of my hobbies is that each one of them is something that I can continue to do the rest of my life, assuming my health and eyesight remain good.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 11

My husband and I are preparing for an epic travel adventure, so this particular writing prompt struck a cord with me.

If you could make a good living doing the one thing you love most in the world, what would it be?

Because I love to travel and often photograph and write about my experiences, I would absolutely love to be a travel blogger. I know a number of people who do actually make a living doing exactly that. How great would it be to have someone else pay for your travel expenses in return for providing photos and reviews of the places you have been?

I already am a top reviewer for TripAdvisor as I use that site extensively whenever I am planning a trip, whether in my own town or abroad. So I have always felt it was important for me to contribute reviews as well to help other travelers. But I don't get paid for that, of course, and that is what makes the site so valuable. The reviews are honest opinions from people who visited, stayed or ate at the places listed on the site.

But if an opportunity came along for me to have my expenses paid in exchange for blogging about where I've been and what I did there, I would jump at the chance!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 10

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday, and I will be hosting 13 or 14 of my extended family members for dinner. It seem apropos, then, to use a writing prompt that deals with holiday traditions.

Which of your holiday traditions have you carried on into adulthood? What new traditions have you started?

When I was a child, Easter was a big deal. It was almost as if Santa was visiting for a second time, coming dressed in a white, fluffy suit with big ears and a pom pom tail. My mom and dad had a good time with Easter, carefully filling our baskets with all our favorite candies and green, plastic grass. Then they would hide the baskets, and my brother and I would feverishly dash through the house trying to determine where that wily rabbit had hidden our goodies.

Easter ~1958
The bunny always left a brown, wooden bowl filled with dyed eggs and candy on the kitchen table for the "adults" in the house. There was quite an age difference between my older brother and sister and us younger two siblings, so perhaps that was the bunny's way of making sure the older two didn't feel left out. Or maybe mom and dad just wanted to make sure they got some candy, too.

After breakfast we would don our Sunday best and head off to Mass. The photo above is of our family before Easter Mass in Chicago, circa 1958. I'm in the front with my brother Joe on my right. In the back row is my sister Kathy, my mom, and my brother Ken. Dad was usually the one taking the pictures, so he isn't in this shot. I'm the only one who looks happy. Maybe my Easter basket was the biggest that year!

When my husband and I started our family we continued on with the Easter basket tradition, hiding the baskets from the kids just as my parents had done. And there was a bowl of candy on the table for the adults. But we added a new tradition by hiding dyed eggs outside. One of us would slyly sneak out with the eggs while the other got the children ready for Mass. When we got home from church, we would send them out to look in the yard. They loved it! But one year there were hardly any eggs left in the yard. We could not figure out where they had all gone. But just as we were scratching our heads over it, a big black crow swooped down from the sky, grabbed a colored egg, and took off. Those devils!

The next year I purchased a couple bags of colored plastic eggs, and we filled those with candy and hid them outside. Problem solved, and I think the kids enjoyed the candy-filled eggs way more than they ever did the hard-boiled, dyed eggs.

The picture below is Easter 1993. The kids found their baskets, we dressed up for Mass, and then they went on their egg hunt when we got home. And once again the dad was taking the picture, so he isn't in it. Though the days of Easter egg hunts are long gone, it's so nice to be reminded of the fun times we had when the kids were young.

Easter 1993

Friday, April 7, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 9

This week the challenge question involves leaving home for the first time.

When you first left your parents’ home, was it to attend college, pursue a job, or embark on military or humanitarian service? What was it like to be out on your own for the first time?

My first time leaving home was to attend college. I had never been away from my family before other than a few overnight stays with friends, a couple of weekend girl scout camps and a class trip in high school to Washington, DC. On any other longer trips I was always with at least one of my family members. As the baby of the family, I was very close to my parents and siblings, but college held a world of new opportunities in my eyes. Though I did not get to attend the college of my choice (my dad's decision, and the topic of a future post), I was happy that a number of my fellow Hoover Husky high school classmates would also be going to Iowa State.

A good friend and I applied to be roommates, but the lottery used back then did not allow that to happen. She was at one end of the campus, and I at another. She and I packed up my car with our belonging the summer before freshman year and headed to campus together. Neither one of us knew our respective roommates. The picture below shows me with some of my fellow dormies. I am in the center of the front row, and my freshman roommate is right behind me.

Iowa State 1974 
It was difficult for me at first, and I made many weekend trips home that first quarter to see my parents. I missed them terribly, despite the fact that my older brother was currently a junior at the same university. Eventually I began to make new friends, and saw some of my old high school acquaintances around campus. One of them invited me to attend a rush party for Little Sisters that was taking place at his fraternity. Being selected to be part of this Little Sisters group at Alpha Sigma Phi was a turning point for me at Iowa State. I found a whole new set of friends, both male and female, and an entirely different way to become involved with the university.

The first three years of college I lived in a dormitory, but senior year I moved off campus into a mobile home with one of the other Little Sisters. That was a great experience in preparing me for independent living, with rent and utility bills to pay as well as groceries to purchase and cook. No more meal plan in the dorm!

Renting the mobile home and sharing a small space with another adult also prepared me to become a wife, I believe. And as one of the fraternity brothers married this Little Sister thirty-eight years ago, I'd say being out on my own for the first time worked out pretty well!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 8

My husband and I met with an attorney this week to create a new will since our last one was done in 1987. While that document is certainly sufficient in most respects, I doubt that anyone would be able to easily find the executor. He was a trusted friend of ours at the time, but moved to Texas a couple decades ago. I have no idea where he is at now, or if he's even alive as we lost touch a long time ago. Since death is on my mind, it seems appropriate for this week's story to relate to it on some level.

Do you know where you’d like to be laid to rest one day? Will you be buried near relatives and ancestors, or in the place you lived most of your life (if the two are different)?

Being laid to rest - isn't that an interesting turn of phrase? Since you are dead, you aren't really resting. At any rate, my husband and I have talked extensively about this. My parents are buried in a cemetery 350 miles away from where we live. His parents have their funerals planned and their cemetery plots paid for up in Minnesota. We never considered being buried in either of those locations. To me the point of having a gravestone is for those you leave behind, to visit, grieve and pay their respects. I think it made a lot of sense when families lived and died in the communities in which they had been born. Our children live far away, and we don't even know where we will end up living following retirement, so it makes no sense to pre-pay funeral or burial expenses in our city.

The other consideration for us is that we have worked in the "green" industry for over 20 years, so we are very sensitive to sustainability. Cemeteries are not necessarily the best use of land, though the owners are paying more attention to environmental issues these days. Cremation and green burials come to mind, and certainly cremation is the route we will both choose to go. We just haven't come to any decision about what will be done with our cremains. Maybe keeping them in an urn makes the most sense because then they will be portable. For now, it is enough to know that we both wish to be cremated.

While the environmentalist in me knows that cremation without a burial plot is the right thing to do, the genealogist in me cringes a bit. Burial records and tombstones are sometimes the only proof you can find that an ancestor lived and died. What is the replacement when someone is cremated? Will the funeral homes share these records as they often share burial records? It is something that gives me pause, for sure. It won't prevent me from being cremated, but my inner genealogist will shed a little tear.