Friday, January 30, 2009

The Times They Have Changed

Last week I shared that I had picked up my family’s genealogy research. I am very fortunate to have many clues of our past, since my relatives tend live long. Even in the 1800’s they tended to live into their late 60s or even into their 80s. My relatives have also pretty much stayed in the same areas for generations. So far I can trace my family before the War of Northern Aggression (or to some of you the Civil War.)

In my quest for documentation I have been requesting copies from the court clerks and state offices. I have found that while the state archives have copies of much of the documentation the county clerks or local historical societies actually hold the originals. I have also found that the local sources have a much more reasonable rate for a certified copy of these documents. Can you imagine a relative’s 1850’s marriage record for $2.50? While the state archives will charge $10.00 or more just to see if they retain a copy. If they don’t you have just lost your money.

Not only do the documents I receive hold a key to my family’s personal history I have been given a glimpse into our country’s history. For instance, the current argument about seperation of church and state and the mind of the founding fathers. Just yesterday I received an official marriage license from Hawkins County in the state of Tennessee. The date of the marriage license is September 13, 1887, and begins with To any Minister of the Gospel, having the care of Souls, or Justice of the Peaces for said county-GREETING. Yes, that’s right—to a minister of the Gospel, not to a minister of the Koran or any other religous writing.

Wikipedia defines gospel as:

"In Christianity, a gospel (from Old English, "good news") is generally one of the first four books of the New Testament that describe the birth, life, ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus. The four canonical texts are the Gospel of Matthew, Gospel of Mark, Gospel of Luke, and Gospel of John, probably written between 65 and 100 AD. They appear to have been originally untitled; they were quoted anonymously in the first half of the second century (ie 100 - 150) but the names by which they are currently known appear suddenly around the year 180.

While Merriam-Webster defines it as:

  1. often capitalized: the message concerning Christ, the kingdom of God, and salvation bcapitalized : one of the first four New Testament books telling of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ ; also : a similar apocryphal book : an interpretation of the Christian message
  2. capitalized : a selection from one of the New Testament Gospels
  3. the message or teachings of a religious teacher
  4. something accepted or promoted as infallible truth or as a guiding principle or doctrine
  5. gospel music

While the Merriam-Webster definition does show that gospel can be used as teachings of a religious teacher the times it is capialized is when in reference to Christianity. Even the certificate for my grandparents who married in New York it states Be it known that on the 17th day of July in the Year of our Lord 1936.

It appears that the further I go back in time the more I find these references to our Christian heritage and not less. Many of the early records that the state archives hold are family Bibles and church records.

Even if the documents weren’t relatives, I would be fascinated with the language and formality of the documents. I am also amazed that the forms are filled out in such a cavalier fashion. The wedding license for one groom lists his name as M.M. Horner. It is only through his daughter’s death certificate do I find that his name was Milton. In another wedding license I find the name of the groom’s father is spelled incorrectly while the official certificate lists Dunkin it should be Duncan. Sometimes my grandmother’s maiden name is listed as Reese and at other times as Reece.

It’s a great big puzzle and I love seeing if the puzzle pieces fit. It can be very frustrating when the pieces don’t fit, but when that missing piece is found it is wonderful. With all the available information on the internet there’s no better time to begin a search for your past.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Getting Ready for the Game

Our church gets together to "watch" the Super Bowl. I say watch, but it tends to be more of glancing at the game. Just enough watching in order to know who's ahead. In fact, one young man the year before last got very upset because there was "too much noise" and people weren't watching the game. The guy went home around half time when he realized he was the only one who had to listen to every word the commentator had to say. The fun of a Super Bowl party is just getting together with friends and even good natured cheering for opposing teams.

Everyone brings food and all evening people go back and grab a bit more to eat. There is usually so much food that the table is covered in crock pots and desserts.

I usually take my tostados. It's a wonderful and easy dish that reheats well. The only problem is that it's so good none ever makes it home.


· 3 lbs ground beef, browned
· 3 large cans refried beans
· 3 envelopes taco seasoning mix
· 2 8oz. cans tomato sauce
· 1-1/2 cups water
· shredded cheese
· Scoops tortillas

Combine the ground beef, refried beans, taco seasoning, tomato sauce and water in a slow cooker.

Cover. Cook on low for several hours.

Use the scoops as spoons and top with the shredded cheese.

So if you're looking for a great football meal this is it!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Finally Snow

This morning we finally got more then five minutes of flurries. This snow fall lasted just over an hour. Since there was no school today, due to teacher work day, David happily ran outside to play in the snow.

I thought we might have snow last night since our deer family came out early in the evening looking for food. Yes, not only have we brought Roger the rabbit into our home, now we have a family of four deer that explore our backyard for food. When it was really cold last week we found the family within a few feet of our back door. That is when we started to put apples on the back patio every few days. Yesterday when I peeked outside around 4:00 pm I saw the deer were already eating their dinner.

A turkey is roasting in the oven and after dinner we will sit by the fire and enjoy a good movie. I just wish that "Fireproof" was out today instead of tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A View Of The Past

Last week while on Facebook I found my high school best friend, Cindy. We spent the next hour IMing to catch up with each other since our marriages. I found it funny that our personal hobbies have gone along the same path. She was using her day off to research her family history.

About twenty years ago I began researching my family's history. I loved not just discovering the dates of my forefathers lives but also getting glimpses into their personal world. One of my great great grandfathers was a blacksmith. I found two ancestors that had been murdered.

My quest into my family's past brought me closer to my Great uncle Russ. Uncle Russ was the family keeper of history before me and he was very glad to be able to pass along the past into my hands. He wrote me letters that included names and dates but he also gave me a priceless gift of personal stories.

Rich and I took our video recorder and spent a week with Russ and his wonderful wife Nell. During this week Russ couldn't wait to tell his personal memories on tape for future generations. Russ knew that when he died all the stories would have gone with him if we hadn't begun this project.

My great-great grandfather, John Russell Hamilton
The stories were wonderful of days gone by, days of when coal was king and our family lived and worked in the Virginia coal mines. Russ even drove us through the mine town and showed us where my father lived and told us about how the miners lived.

He told of his grandfather's body being laid out in the livingroom with the bullet holes in his chest after he was murdered. Russ did not have vital records or documentation, but the information he passed along was very valuable. Russ had many dates that I have been able to document. I have even acquired a copy of the trial from the man that murdered my great-great grandfather. In 1996 Russ passed away and I am so thankful that my project brought me closer to this special man. Russ lived just long enough to meet our David that had been born just the month before Russ' death.

With David coming into our lives I placed my genealogy research away. I had reached a point that made it neccesaary to invest more time in order to dig deeper. But the time was no longer available with a baby, then active toddler, then child to raise.

My great grandmother, Lexie Hamilton

Over the last year I thought many times "I would love to pick my research back up again." After my conversation with Cindy I finally pulled out my research.

In the intervening years I had received some more information from my grandfather that I would love to delve into. I pulled out my research over the weekend and made my first foray into and Oh my, what a different world it has become! With just a little bit of work I was able to obtain information that years ago would have required a trip to the local courthouse at the other end of the state, then hours spent pouring over dusty old books.

One of the documents that I found this weekend gave me a bit of info that helps back up a family story. I had been told that one great grandfather died from drinking a Coke. The story goes that in the days when Coke contained cocaine my great grandfather worked in a grocery store and during a break drank a coke and died of a heartattack due to the cocaine. When I received his death certificate the cause of death was unknown. I was amazed that a healthy 34 year old man dying unexpectedly would not be a cause to investigate. But, I was able to locate his WW1 draft registration card listing his job as working at Harden grocery store.

Not evidence, but I thought it was interesting. I also found others working on the same branches of the family tree that I am. However, I have found that many don't use proper sources to back up their research. I also found several that have wrong dates because of their lack of sources. I know demanding documentation causes my work to take longer and makes it harder to do, but it also makes me happy to know that my work is accurate.

I look at this research for not just my own enjoyment, but as a legacy for future generations.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Exciting Meeting

Last night we braved the freezing weather to attend the high school guidance meeting. We were the first to arrive so I got to speak to the head of guidance from the high school. I spoke with David's current counselor about my concerns for a late-in-the-day physical education class. This was a mistake that had occured last year when P.E. was the second class of the day. They couldn't understand why after second period David was so hyper and had problems calming down. They felt maybe a change in meds was in order. But when I brought up the fact that second period was gym—that was no big surprise for me.

This year gym was scheduled for sixth period which has increased his abibly to make it through the day. The head of guidance at the high school let me know that when David receives his schedule, if I am not happy with the time that Physical Education is scheduled she will be happy to change it with just a phone call.

The meeting started a little late and I was surprised to see that only about 25 parents were in attendance. As the meeting went on more parents showed up, but still a poor showing.

My first question is "Can I go to high school too?" The programs they offer at David's future school are amazing. The school is nationally known for it's drama department with classes in acting, dance, playwriting, directing, theatre design and costuming. A large music program, architectural drawing, and auto body. Some of the more amazing courses are dental careers, medical assistant, and emergency medical technician. Two of the electives David is interested in are Culinary Arts and Video and Media Technology. Lots of AP and dual credit courses are available (credits that count for high school and college).

Most of the parents' questions dealt with how to schedule my child with the hardest classes to get them into the best college. I was happy to hear the counselors say that the students need to take the classes that will challenge the student, but it was better for them to achieve an A or B in a lower class then to receive a C or D in a higher class. They encouraged the parents to not over schedule their children. They encouraged the parents to include some enjoyment in the schedule, that colleges wanted to see a student that is well-rounded.

My concern is more about getting David into classes that earn him a diploma and grades that give him the option of getting into college. I also want him to explore in high school a class that can teach him a skill that is marketable. Many would say this is not a very high expectation but with David's issues this is more than many would expect of him.

The schools are closed today not for snow but because of the extreme cold here. I know many from the great north will laugh at this. The high today has been 21 degrees with a low of 9 degrees this morning. In our area this is unheard of so our cars and buses are not up to handling this.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

High School Already?

Shortly before school broke for the Christmas break the eight grade students brought home papers preparing parents for High School. Yes, I think as David's parent I am less prepared than David is for the upcoming changes.

I think our school system is better at preparing the students for their futures than mine was as I entered high school. I remember that we had a field trip to the high school in order to become familiar with it but that was about all. I don't remember any career assessments or meetings with counselors to schedule our classes.

You could always request a meeting with a counselor, but it wasn't necessary. When it was time to schedule, they gave us a list of the classes that were required and the remainder could be filled in as we saw fit. Then they set up tables in an auditorium and we went from table to table to try to get all the classes scheduled. Sometimes we would have to start all over when we found that a mandatory class was all filled up in the only spot we had left on our schedule.

David—almost a high schooler
Tonight the parents of eight graders are being encouraged to attend a Parent Program with Guidance counselors from the high school. So guess where I'll be tonight.
In March the school will hold a Career Fair during school hours.

But, so much changes in the years from middle school until graduation in our world it can be hard for a student to know what jobs will be even around in when it's time to enter the work force. This became clear when we spoke with our friend Ryan last night. Much of his classes deal with finances. With the economy in the shape it's in and the government entering as business partners in much of the banking and auto industries, are the principles he has learned going to be practiced in the future?

It is reasurring that David's future isn't held in my hands, but in the hands of our Creator.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

No Power To Me

Yesterday the day started with such promise. The house was clean and all I needed to do was grocery shop for next week and two loads of laundry to have everything done.

That's when it all went horribly wrong. I got back from shopping to find that the school had called and David was having a bad day. This included him turning in a library book with the cover ripped off. He then explained that I had done it and it wasn't his fault. Only, when he went to school the book was perfectly intact.

The librarian called and told us that we would need to pay for it. He later admitted that he had been horseplaying on the bus and had been kicking the book which resulted in the cover being torn off. But, this really made me look bad with the librarian.

Then a short while later the house shook and the lights flickered. Then all power went out—no lights, no phone and no internet. We looked outside and there are wires down across our small road. We looked down the road and saw an RL Carriers truck had pulled down the overhead wires and the wires were stuck in between his cab and trailer.

Since Rich was working on a big time sensitive project, we headed to Panera's to hook up on their wi-fi, only their network was down also. So on to the church for a wi-fi hookup for Rich.

I went home to wait on the power and was pleasantly surprised that they came on shortly after I got home.

Already we have had a visitor from the phone company since our neighbor's phone was out due to the down lines. They were looking for an eye witness so they would know who was responsible for the damage. Luckily I had sent Rich out with his camera and he took pictures of the truck and the damage it caused.

Needless to say I didn't get as much done as I had hoped. But, I have to admit it makes an interesting story.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

I Love Gadgets

I am a kitchen gadget collector. I am in heaven when I can roam a Williams Sonoma store undisturbed. I drool over the gadgets I see when I browse the newest cooking magazine.

So you can imagine my delight when I received a mandoline (not the musical instrument) slicer for Christmas. It came in my kitchen red color so it just proved that it was meant to be mine. It's made by Kitchen Aid and is very sturdy while being easy to use and easy to clean. It came with three different plates for slicing and adjusts to different widths.

My new mandoline
I have used my mandoline at least five times so far. Since Rich can't eat anything that is deep fried, it allows me to make home fries or chips that he can enjoy. After slicing the potatoes I coat them in olive oil and salt before baking them.

Before receiving my mandoline I use to slice the potatoes by hand and it took so much longer and the slices were uneven. This sometimes created an issue with getting all the fries cooked evenly. My homefries were a commonly requested item from our college students on Wednesday nights so I spent quite a bit of time in preparing the fries.
The fries are so much better then any frozen fries and are way less expensive. A little more overall work but so worth it.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Thinking Ahead

I admit it, I am a planner. I love to give to others but our budget doesn't always allow for everything I would love to do. So with a bit of planning and organizing I am able to do more.

This year I wanted to give a small thank you to David's teachers. I know that teaching isn't an easy job and want the teachers to know that they are appreciated.

But, as a middle school student David changes classes and has multiple teachers, along with the school nurse that gives him meds each day and his one-on-one specialist there are lots of people to thank. It was so much easier when he was in elementary school and only had one teacher!

So after thinking and searching for a nice, but inexpensive way to thank each of the people who touch David's life every day I finally found it. Betty Crocker's web site had a recipe for Cookie Cutter Fudge. The recipe was quick, easy and cheap. The idea is to make the fudge in the cookie cutters then remove the cutters before giving the fudge. I decided to keep the fudge in the cutter since it would keep the fudge in better shape as David went through the day delivering his gift. It also made the gifts a little nicer without too much of a cost.

I used the recipe right from their site, but I imagine any good recipe would work. They were so well received that when I found beautful cooper cookie cutters at Kroger this morning I snatched them up for next year. They are normally $2.99 each, but I got them at only .75 each!

This would also work well for Valentine's Day in little heart shaped cutters so I thought I would pass along the idea now.

Betty Crocker's Cookie Cutter Fudge

  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup peanut butter chips
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Betty Crocker® white or red decorator icing (in 4.25-ounce tube), if desired
  • Candies, if desired

Place each of six 3x1/2-inch mitten-shaped cookie cutters, or other cookie cutters in a simple shape, on 5-inch square of foil. Seal foil tightly around outside of each cookie cutter. Place on cookie sheet. Lightly spray cookie cutters with cooking spray.

In 4-cup microwavable measuring cup, mix chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, milk and butter. Microwave uncovered on High 1 to 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until chips are almost melted. Stir in vanilla.

Pour mixture into cookie cutter molds, filling to tops of molds. Refrigerate uncovered about 2 hours or until firm. Decorate with icing and candies.

Carefully remove foil. Gently press fudge out of molds to serve.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Taking His Job Seriously

With my in-laws visiting for Christmas we planned to show them many sites around town. We wanted to show them the reasons we enjoy our town so much.

On the Saturday following Christmas we began the day at the community market. We went to a coffee shop and used book store.

We then headed to the old cemetery. There were over 600 wreathes layed on graves by Wreaths Across America. The wreaths are placed by volunteers on the headstones of our nation's fallen heroes. It was a beautiful site with the starkness of winter and the beautiful greenery of the wreathes. We were not alone at the cemetery, we must have seen at least 15 to 20 other visitors. I had planned the day with a picnic basket already packed in the car, so we pulled it out and enjoyed it on the hill overlooking the decorated graves. As we were enjoying our turkey sandwiches I saw a sight that sent me into a fit of laughter.

I had grown up hearing the postal service saying "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." But we saw a mailman that went even beyond this motto. Around the bend at the cemetery came a mail truck. I just had to get this image of him delivering Christmas bills to the dead. Now how many take their job that seriously? Ok, I know he was really just delivering to the on site museum but I still found it very funny.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy 2009

Today begins a new year and I haven't quite caught up with last year yet.
We had Rich's parents visiting over Christmas and between the before-visit prep, the visit, and the clean-up following the visit I have had very little time to even sit down—let alone blog.

Their visit prompted me to completely unpack every single box that still remained from our move. I also cleaned the house and basement (where all the boxes were stored) from top to bottom. Then the decorating and planning of meals all before the visit had be exhausted before they even got here.

They arrived a few hours earlier then expected, just as I was finishing the final touches in the kitchen. Since it was Christmas Eve, I then had dinner to prepare and we all went to the candlelight worship service.

Christmas morning came bright and early with David waking us up at 5 in the morning. With the gift opening, cooking and cleaning I was on my feet all day.
After Christmas we took the opportunity to show Rich's parents around the town that we have fallen in love with. Since this was only their second visit to our home, their first visit just one month after moving to our new town, we took them to all the neat little places we have discovered.

Our guests have now all gone home and the clean-up has begun. Our livingroom still shows signs of hurricane K'Nex that are left over from Christmas morning. The decorations are still up and probably won't be packed up until David is back in school.

Even with clean-up still in progress I feel very blessed today sitting next to the fire with my handsome men beside me. My prayer is that I remember to feel as blessed and content every day this year as I do tonight.