Digging Into Your Past

There’s a new show on TV called “Who Do You Think You Are?”  The genealogists are all abuzz over it.  Apparently, it is quite well-done with some interesting insights into ways to trace your ancestors.

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that the Commander is quite the amateur genealogist.  We’ve got the first show in the series saved and plan to view it and I’m excited to watch the stars featured on the show as they get a glimpse into their past.  The picture above is a glimpse into my past.  It’s the town of Stein-am-Rhein, where my maternal great-grandfather came from.  It’s located in Switzerland, a country that I’ve visited often.  And when I first saw pictures of this town, I felt an almost mystical tug.  How to explain that?  I felt like part of me was looking at “home.”

When you were growing up, did you ever have fantasies of finding out that you were related to some famous person from history?  Aw, come on….admit it.  Or was I the only child who dreamed of past ancestors?  I didn’t know anything about genealogy back then but I spent many a day sitting around farm tables listening to the elders tell family tales.  I heard stories of ancestors being smuggled out of countries so they wouldn’t have to fight in Prussian wars and stories of my great-grandfather trekking up the Mississippi River all the way from the Gulf Coast to Minnesota as a boy, to settle along the St. Croix River.

I heard how he later fought in the Civil War, came back with a new bride, helped establish a small prairie town in Minnesota and later the town bank, became a councilman, and eventually retired to Florida when the cold of those Northern winters got to be too much for his aches and pains.  I daydreamed that I’d find out someday that his Florida home still belonged to our family.  How wonderful would it be to walk around on that veranda and imagine the relatives that had walked those same planks before me?

I wondered how many other ancestors loved animals and the country like I do.   My grandfather certainly loved his farm and that love was passed down to me.  I also inherited his love of solitude and open spaces and his reluctance to socialize.  But Grandpa would be one of the last to leave when you could finally pry him off the farm and to a gathering and I’ve inherited that tendency, too.  How fascinating it would be to find documents and first-hand accounts of other ancestors to find out what types of personalities they had and what other quirks they exhibited.

As a kid in school, if I couldn’t come up with an interesting ancestor, I’d make up a connection.  I once told my 4th grade teacher that I was related to Daniel Boone and brought an old red satin nightgown to class for “show and tell” which must have belonged to my mother when she was young, telling the class that it had belonged to Daniel’s wife.  I think that was the year that I also told the class that I was descended from the Wolf clan of the Vikings because we had “Wolfgrams” in our family tree.  Well, in my defense, my dad’s people DID come from northern Germany and I think we probably DO have some Viking blood in there somewhere.  In fact, I suspect we have a few “beserkers” in our ancestry since both my dad and I seemed to possess that trait when REALLY angry.

And that brings me back to “Who Do You Think You Are?”  Wouldn’t it be something to really find out who those elusive ancestors were in our past?  What made them tick?  What were their personalities like?  What were they passionate about?  After all, if to know the past helps us to understand the future, then to know our ancestors “just might” help us to understand ourselves a bit better.


Ain’t No Sunshine When You’re Gone

So the other day I noticed that one of my medications was running low.  Time to call in for a renewal.  It was one of those automated phone lines and I was expecting to hear the voice tell me when I could pick up my refill.  Instead I heard the words, “This prescription can not be refilled until March 17.”    What?

I looked at the pill container and realized, to my consternation, that I had been taking two pills per day, instead of the prescribed one pill per day.  Yikes!  When did that happen?  I knew that I had been taking one a day because I remembered the conversation with my doctor about switching the time of day to take the pill from breakfast time to suppertime.  But I also vaguely remembered loading up my weekly pill organizer with one pill for breakfast and one at dinner.

Luckily the pill in question was an anti-anxiety pill that I had started taking way back when my son had decided to become a missionary and go live in slums around the world.   It was about that time that I’d started having anxiety attacks and bouts of weeping, sometimes at the same time.  I mean, his dad and I had figured that he was going to be a mathematics teacher, for goodness sakes.  He’d thrown us a real curve ball  and since I’m not the calmest person on the planet, it had hit me particularly hard.

I was diagnosed with “General Anxiety Disorder” – who knew?  I thought everybody worried as much as I did about everything.  But with the help of medication, I discovered what it was like to live a fairly normal life — at least one that didn’t involve constantly imagining doom and gloom.  I wouldn’t want to live a totally normal life.  How terribly boring!  But back to my story.

Here I was, puttering along, feeling great and every so often, wondering why I wasn’t crying my eyes out at the thought of our son, daughter-in-law, and grandbaby leaving soon, only to discover that it was probably because I was on a double dose of “happy pills.”   I called up my doctor.

“You see, I think it started when my allergist said to cut back to one Allegra-D a day and that pill is a white pill just like the other medication,” I explained.  “I’m used to seeing a white pill in the organizer for morning and evening.”

“Dee,” she said.  “Usually we just have this problem with our elderly patients.”

“I know, I know,” I chuckled. “I guess I’m going to be a holy terror when I really get old.  But will it kill me to suddenly halve my intake until I can get a new prescription?”

She assured me that I’d survive although I might be a little more emotional than usual.  Oh boy, just in time to say “goodbye” to the kids.

OK, kidlets…listen up!  I’m giving you fair warning.  Momma might need some extra help with this pill organizing when she’s old and gray but for now, I’m doing just fine, thank you very much.  Could you pass me a kleenex?

You Know You’re a Spinner When…

1.  Bags of fiber are outnumbering your commercial skeins of yarn.

2.  You walk around with wisps of fiber attached to your clothing.

3.  You are constantly on the outlook for patterns that call for a total of  100-300 yds. of yarn.

4.  You are at the fast food restaurant and when someone orders a wrap you instantly think of “wraps per inch.”

5.  You find yourself explaining to a puzzled hardware employee why you are looking for a certain weight of cotton string to use for a drive band and realize he or she doesn’t have a clue what you are talking about.

6.  You can actually tell someone what Sleeping Beauty pricked her finger on AND show them pictures of a similar device.

7.  The idea of limiting yourself to one spinning wheel seems ludicrous.

8.  Even if you are a little “fluffy”, you have muscular calves.

9.  You can name at least four different breeds of sheep.

10.  You’d rather wax your spinning wheel than your floors.

11.  You’d much rather go to the MD Sheep and Wool Festival than to the Mall of America.


12.  You realize that this list could go on and on but it’s cutting into your spinning time.

I’m the Bag Lady!

No particular reason for inserting this picture except for the fact that it cracks me up every time I see it AND that the Commander is in this little vignette of my day.

Today, after church, a group of us trooped down to the Fellowship Hall to volunteer to stuff 5,000 bags with brochures that will be hung on doors around our community soon in an outreach campaign.  We listened to the instructions which consisted of….1.  Find a partner and 2.  One of you put the brochures into a specific order and the other hold open the bag for the brochures to be stuffed in.  The bagger was supposed to keep count and when there were ten filled bags, the bagger was supposed to tie the bags together with a ribbon so there would be groups of ten filled bags.

A friend and I grabbed the brochures and empty bags and we started our assembly line going.  She assembled the brochures and I handled the bags.  After we’d been doing this for awhile, the Commander showed up.  I told him we’d be done in a bit but he sat down and started grabbing brochures and stuffing them in bags and then throwing the bags on my pile.

“Honey, how many bags did you just put on there?  I’m trying to keep count,” I said.

“I don’t know”, he replied and kept on stuffing and slinging them.

“Well, hold on.  I have to have just ten bags in a group.  Don’t keep putting them on here.  Start your own pile,”  I suggested.

He switched gears and began a pile of his own but when he came up short and needed another bundle of brochures, he reached over and grabbed a set from a neighboring team.  Now I happened to have observed the other team carefully arranging these brochures in groups of ten.

“Honey,  you can’t do that.  You just messed up their piles.”

“What difference does it make which pile it comes from?  They’re all the same brochures,”  he answered.

“But now they have a pile that is going to come out short,” I replied.

He looked at me and then reached over, grabbed some of our brochures and plopped them back on the other team’s pile.  I looked at his pile of filled bags.

“You have some bags with the brochures facing down and some with them facing up.  They should all be facing up, don’t you think?”  I suggested.

“Why”, he challenged.

“Because it looks neater that way,” I countered.

It was a stalemate.

I glanced over at the other team, who were giving me the old fish eye.  “And that’s why you never have two leaders on the same team,” I told them.

“Look, Honey.  I’m the bag lady.  Why don’t you go around and collect the filled bags or something?  We’ll be done here shortly.”

Once he’d gone, I turned to my partner and said, “We just don’t work well together.  We both have really strong ideas of how things should be done.”

“But your marriage has worked well,” she said.

“That’s because we learned a long time ago that we just can’t work together on anything,” I laughed.  “It’s even uglier when you get us both in the same canoe.  Lord have mercy!”

Friday’s Fave Five Eats and Treats

friday fave five spring, originally uploaded by readndee.

It’s Friday already and time to list five highlights of my week. And once again, it’s been a great week. I have no problem coming up with five things to share with you.

1.  A big highlight was receiving my Schacht Matchless Double Treadle spinning wheel.  These beautiful wheels are made by the Schacht Spindle Company based in Boulder, Colorado.  I’ve had my eye on one for a long time and finally was able to place my order.  I didn’t mind the wait (good things are worth waiting for) and was thrilled when she (I’ve named her “Valentina”) arrived.  I’ll be posting more about her in my next post.

2.  I enjoyed a great cheeseburger and fries at Five Guys Burgers & Fries. My son and daughter-in-law had never been to one of these restaurants so I had the fun of introducing them to their tasty offerings.  The Commander and I think that Five Guys makes the best cheeseburgers in town and their fries are pretty awesome, too.

3.  I have a new camera.  I had purchased a fancy Canon PowerShot SX20 IS before the kids came home for their visit and I ended up hating that camera.  It was too heavy and much too complicated for me.  Plus I didn’t think that it took very sharp pictures despite having 12 pixel resolution.  It’s now going to be sold and I am much happier with a cheaper and simpler Canon PowerShot A480.  It does everything I want it to do and I think the picture quality is much nicer, too.  But don’t go by the above picture.  I snapped that with my iPhone.

4.  Teaching Laura to make Moroccan Couscous. I learned to make Moroccan couscous stew when we lived in Morocco.  When Laura and Jason arrived, one of the things that Laura wanted to do was learn how to make this dish.  So today we are cooking together and already the wonderful aroma of this heavenly stew is wafting through the entire house.   By this evening, when I show her how to arrange the whole thing on the big platter that I brought back from Morocco, our mouths will be watering.

5.  Listening to Jason and Laura working together. Earlier this week, while I was working away on my computer in the craft room, Laura was helping Jason with his writing by doing some editing and offering some suggestions here and there.  It was so nice to hear them interact back and forth.  They truly are a partnership framed in love, which is what a marriage should be, and how happy I am for the two of them.

To see what others are writing about, visit Susanne’s site at Living to Tell the Story.  And if you find yourself inspired by what you read, why not join the fun and tell us what your fave five’s are for the week?

Starting Them Early

There is an old wives’ tale (or should I say…old knitter’s tale) that says if a Master Knitter puts a pair of knitting needles in a baby’s hands, that baby will grow up to be a knitter.  I’m going to see if that holds true.

Last night, I started little Mika on her way to becoming a knitter.  With the permission of her mommy and under my careful supervision, I placed a whopping big pair of nicely crafted wooden knitting needles into her tiny hands. I took special care to make sure she wasn’t going to poke her eyes out accidentally.  I didn’t think that would be an auspicious start.

She examined the needles with careful concentration.  Obviously she was fascinated by them.  And just because I never do anything halfway, I made sure to do all this in my craft room where she was sitting next to two spinning wheels, surrounded by a LOT of my yarn stash, and I also stuck a skein of yarn on her lap for good measure.

As she slowly sank into a blissful nap, I could tell that she was already dreaming of all those future projects that she was going to knit.  Perhaps she was considering different color combinations for those projects and what types of yarn would be best to use.  If I’m really lucky, she might have been dreaming of spinning up some of her own yarn to knit with.  I have only one variable in this little experiment that I’m not too sure about.  I don’t know if I quite qualify as a “Master Knitter” unless you go by length of time I’ve been knitting.  In that case, 50+ years will hopefully qualify me.  The rest will be up to Miss Mika.

And as a little “teaser” for my next post, my new Schacht Matchless DT arrived yesterday in the evening and the Commander lovingly assembled her for me.  Allow me to introduce to you “Valentina.”

Not ANOTHER Snowstorm!

Holy Moly!  The Commander told me this morning that another snowstorm is headed our way.  Snow is to begin this afternoon and then get heavier tomorrow with 4-6 inches expected on our side of the river and 6-12 inches expected on the other side of the river.  What always makes it tricky is that we live less than a mile from the river (the mighty Susquehanna River) so it could go either way where we are.  That being said, the logs are stacked in the fireplace and we’re ready to gather around with hot cocoa and watch the snow fall.  Actually, that’s our gas fireplace so the logs are fake but the effect is still lovely.  I can’t say as much for the snow at this point.  We were just starting to see some grass in spots here.  Oy!

In the meantime, I’ll console myself with the fact that my new spinning wheel, a Schacht Matchless DT is scheduled to be delivered today.  I’ve checked the UPS tracking and it made it to the distribution center right across the river yesterday so it should be on the truck today.  I’ve been busy spinning, in the meantime, on the Louet Victoria.  The more I spin on that little beauty, the more I am enjoying it.  For some reason, the height and angle of the orifice is just perfect for me.  I am finding the Lendrum, with it’s downward angle of the orifice, is harder on my back if I’ve been spinning for long periods of time.  Maybe it’s the osteoporosis and the fact that I’m starting to angle downward more now (drat) but there you have it.  With the Victoria, I can comfortably sit back in a variety of different chairs without slouching and still comfortably spin.  Just to give you a physical comparison, I’m around 5 ft. 5 inches tall but my legs are pretty long,  if you are considering buying a Victoria and wondering how it might work for you.

In knitting news, I finished the Julie H. Levy square of the Great American Aran Afghan.  I am almost finished with the Marian Tabler square, which I am knitting in a light brown heathered color.  Tonight I have another class where we will be beginning the Meredith Morioka square.  So slowly but surely our class is working through the squares of this somewhat intimidating afghan.  The trick is definitely to take it one square at a time (and getting pointers in a group setting is a definite plus).

I’ll leave you with a picture of me “entertaining” my little Mika.  I call it “Me and Grumpy.”  I still have the uncanny ability to put my granddaughter into a less than happy mood.  Someone said that this was God’s way of making it easier for me to say “goodbye” to her soon.  It would be so much harder if she were snuggling up to me at every turn and clinging to me.  Right?  Hmmm, I don’t know about that.  I think it’s going to be hard either way.

Well, hopefully tomorrow I’ll have pictures of my new Schacht to show you.  In the meantime, somebody out there has to be enjoying warm, Spring-like weather.  Enjoy it for me.