Souls Carried by Inanimate Objects

Grandpop's WWII bracelet

Grandpop’s WWII bracelet

Connecting with the past is something that’s intrigued me since I can remember.  The idea of tangible objects being held by another person, in another time is overwhelmingly fascinating to me.  I used to think it was only the ancestry aspect, because I find so much joy in genealogy.  But it’s more than that.  For an old soul, being among old items, with or without a direct connection, allows the mind to wander and dream.

Not every old item leads me to a faraway daydream.  I don’t find old paint cans mesmerizing but as I stood two feet from Van Gogh’s Postman the other night, I envisioned him standing just in front of me.  I could almost see his left arm poised in mid air while he determined the next vibrant stroke to complete the subject’s whiskers.  I saw his right hand Continue reading

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Hi friends, it’s Mae

Hi bloggers of the world, longtime, no write.

You know, this blogging thing messes with me from time to time. Sometimes I can’t wait to write. Sometimes I have a million ideas and sometimes I just can’t sit at my desk and get my fingers moving. Sometimes maybe I don’t feel like expressing myself because this has been a strange and cumbersome year for me, even though I’ve been grateful to have a healthy helping of wonderful moments too.

I’ve failed to write each and everyday, but I’m thankful I haven’t failed to complete all of my goals. Maybe some have just needed more of my attention than others.

I’ve been writing handwritten letters, found a new career path, tried to be a better friend. I’ve read, done a lot of antique shopping, old fashioned living and wandered around various local farmers markets and festivals. I’ve spent time de-stressing because I want to grow a family and that hasn’t been easy thus far, at all.

I’ve bought a lot of organic food since we’ve chatted. I’ve taken some time to spend with family far away and gotten in touch with things that I’ve been talking about doing, but hadn’t quite gotten to yet.

I’ve realized that somethings you can really want and get, if you try hard enough, but other things are just out of our hands, no matter how much you try and do everything you’re supposed to. So I’ve spent a lot of time reconnecting with my faith because sometimes that’s what we really need, instead of taking the advice of everyone I know when I can just ask the big man upstairs directly.

Onward and upward, I say. Here’s to getting the old fingers on the keys and finishing this year out with a bang. Thanks for sticking with me.

Old Soul Works for Free

I’ve started as a volunteer for a local Historical Society.  Mainly because I need the experience to advance myself in a direction I’d like to go.  I find it nearly impossible to get the experience in the history and genealogy fields without putting in the time for free.  I’m ok with that, particularly since I never did an internship in college and it seems that is the way to go these days.  I’m eager to learn and I’m hoping they see some sort of potential in me so I can eventually sign on as a regular fixture.

I tried to tell them I’m an old soul, so I had a lot of historical knowledge first hand already, but they said, well, they didn’t say anything.  No, I didn’t really say that to them, but I’ll bet a lot of old souls are drawn to that field simply because there is something familiar to reel them in.  Maybe it’s not obvious and maybe some of these people just love history, but I always wonder how stories of yesteryear fascinate some so much and others could really care less.

None of us are the same and thank God for that.  Although there are a few people I’d have liked to clone; if I were into that modern technology sort of thing.

Take Care of Your Feet

Warning: This is a ridiculous lady rant about shoes. You’ve been warned. Paragraphs may imply awkwardness and whiney personality. It does not have “Whitney” writing as my spellcheck insists on telling you.

I spent almost four hours dodging fellow shoppers and navigating two shopping malls, traffic and a random shopping center after work tonight. Countless department stores, shoe stores, teen, sophisticated, hipster, skater, sport and anything-apparel type stores later, I found a decent pair of shoes. I didn’t have crazy criteria; somewhat stylish, comfortable, flat and with an ankle strap. I prefer non-man made material and I didn’t want to wear something resembling my grandmas cruise apparel from the early 90’s.

I learned a couple things tonight:

– All athletic shoe stores carry exactly the same brands, styles and colors. If you’ve been in one, you’ve seen them all.

– All retail employees ask how you are but they don’t listen to your reply. I learned you could respond with an array of ridiculous answers and they will still say, “great, if you need anything, let me know.” Well, salesperson, I can tell you right now that you are not the kind of person I can rely on, considering you think that my dog dying is great. (My dog didn’t die, but it still would not be great.)

– Old people know how to take care of their feet. Is it wisdom or refusal to cram their feet into awkward confining foot-shackles any longer? Either way, they have quite a selection to choose from. My younger feet even seemed old when I tried a couple on. Eek, glimpse into the future?

– Young people will pay for a flat piece of plastic, covered in cheep vinyl, with a piece of fibrous rope glued to it and be happy about it. My heels cringed thinking about wearing them for more than ten paces. And that’s coming from a kid who wore “jellies” in the 80’s.

– Lastly, I’m old. I’m not even 30 but as I shopped, I found myself in an undefined category. I saw professionals in gorgeous and costly shoes, twenty year olds with canvas wrapped loosely on their feet and old people with cushy leather clod-hoppers that have bulbous soles and unflattering bulky shapes.

I’m going on a trip where I will do a lot of walking, out of dozens of stores, I found one, just one part of sandals that were well made, comfortable and not from grandma’s or little cousin’s closet. Do I ask for too much? Is it too much to try to avoid blisters and pain but still care about appearance; is it too often one way or another? Such a silly argument, I know, but there I was thinking that I couldn’t be the only one that didn’t want to limp this summer with irritated and abused tootsies.

If only I could make Hush Puppies trendy for my generation. If you had a grandma who dressed up, you will know what I’m talking about.

Trust me…they do look cute on, I just don’t feel like being a foot model tonight.

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Grandmom’s Spoons Are Better Than Yours

When you were little, did you ever stand by your Mom or your Grandmother at the kitchen counter, fascinated that they could effortlessly create something edible out of powders, liquids, chunks of produce or meat?  If you’re lucky, you did.  Even if they kept busy and didn’t explain what they were doing, it was fascinating to watch a grown-up with a flair for culinary creations.  I look back at these moments and find myself wishing I had asked more questions.  More importantly, I wish I had written down the answers I did get.  I will have to do that with my Mom next time I see her.

I am lucky that I come from a line of avid cooks and bakers, male and female on both sides of my family.  I will admit that the cooking bug may have skipped a couple people here or there, and the prominently Irish population opted for very plain dishes with minimal seasoning, but it was all good food.  I don’t remember a meal that I wouldn’t eat or that I disliked.  I trusted their ways, even when I was picky.  I remember wondering why hamburger meat was shoved into a green pepper or a plum into potato dough, but the final result was wonderful.  Now I can really go for some plum dumplings; those would be from the German/Hungarian side.

To coincide with my memories of the women in my life and my old soul, I wander through antique stores whenever I have any free time.  My favorite section is where you’ll find cooking tools because there are so many gadgets that don’t only look fascinating but are also so functional.  I try to decorate my kitchen with cooking tools, but only the ones that I can use and that do not appear to have lead paint chipping off the wooden handles.  True, they can’t be put in the dishwasher, but their style and efficiency are worth it.

The tools range from aluminum to copper, and the detail and quality can’t be matched by the goofy plastic options you’ll find at Target.  They were devised for a cook, for an avid homemaker who spent a lot of time in the kitchen.  The well used kind are just as promising as the mint looking ones, but they prove how well they can last.  The spoons have just the right shape for scooping, holes for slotting, edges for scraping and angles to maneuver into difficult corners to mix.  The mashers are sturdy, the grater’s lip lies across my bowl and my handled strainer lays on the edge of the pot so I don’t have to dirty a big awkward bowl style strainer.  My ball jars hold excess rice and beans and are gorgeous on a sunny day because they are an aqua blue.  And my favorite metal spatula is the only thing I can use to not break the yokes when I flip my eggs.

These may have been massed produced at one time, but clearly they’ve lasted for generations, at least a couple lifetimes anyway.  The worn handles make me daydream about how many cake batters were mixed and if the owner is gone or has just “upgraded” to new stuff.  I see “Made in the USA” stamped into the metal or funny patent names on my tools and more than in just the kitchen, I’m reminded of what the US used to be.  We used to make stuff.  These things are so simple, but make life so easy.  I like not using plastic or imported cheap materials, containing chemicals we will find are recalled in a couple years.

I wonder how many nifty things from my family had gone by the wayside and ended up in an antique store corner or in the trash.  (I also wonder why I just wrote nifty.)  I’m not a hoarder but I am sentimental.  I have such an appreciation for what used to be, but without letting that hinder my acceptance of what is current; well, maybe just spoons.  So what if I use a seventy year old spoon and listen to big band?  I did get this recipe off our iPad, so we’ll call the war of generations a tie…this time.

Hockey and Sweeping; Two Completely Separate Topics

That was close.  Technically I skipped two calendar days of posting, but it is still Thursday night to me, ha ha!  I, as always, have old fashioned excuses that consist of classics like “disheartened Philadelphia Fan Syndrome” and “I helped with yard work so I’m tired” disease.  If you don’t want to hear my sports rant, skip to paragraph three.

Wednesday night was just pathetic, in every sort of way.  From my recent re-blogged post, you know that as a Philadelphia fan, “we” as fans are a part of the team; except when “we” are losing.  It instantly turns to “they” with sailor-like language and rampant anger.  I start to exclaim things that I normally wouldn’t say in the presence of my Dad.  After the loss, “we” returns in the form of continued anger, hostile questioning of play and heartbreak with fellow players, I mean, fans.

The Philadelphia Flyers are in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and Wednesday night, I mean last night, was Game 4, the mother of all games; when your team is about to sweep anyway.  Now you get my title, the Flyers were up 3-0 in the series and only needed to win this game to take “us” to the next round.  There we were, going to put it to Sidney Crosby (I will omit the name calling I’d like to use) and take the series at home from the Penguins; there we were, losing 10-3.  In hockey.  High scores like this are ridiculous.  This whole series has been back to back amazing shots on goal and poor goal tending.  That night, there was not so much scoring on our end and just terrible goal tending.  If any actual Flyer players read this…venture back to my Pep talk post I did on Tuesday and get out there with some enthusiasm and take this home tomorrow or “we” will be extremely upset.  So after the game, my house was silent and I couldn’t stop shaking my head back in forth in disgust to steadily keep any blogging thoughts in my head.  Terrible.  But tomorrow is a new day and Game 5.

Tonight I helped my husband in the yard. I’m glad to because it’s my house too and I do enjoy helping him.  It also makes eating some ice cream on a beautiful spring evening feel justified.  Continue reading

How Do Dumb People Survive?

As a homeowner, I watch HGTV pretty often.  My husband and I are handy people and have successfully completed a lot of DIY projects and renovations ourselves, by planning, budgeting, compromising and seeing the value of hard work.  There is also a crazy concept of opening your mind and imagining possibilities.  Not to toot our own horn, but we bought our first house together, which was a fixer-upper and have made it into a comfortable and modern home.  We also aren’t in debt up to our eyeballs because of it.  We aren’t wealthy, but we get by, so it’s not out of bitterness that I ask this; why are wealthy people so stupid?

I see shows like House Hunters and people will say, “We have a budget of only $900,000.”  Only?  Are you serious?  Then I think, well, they must be pretty smart to have gotten that far ahead.  And then the show continues, followed by ridiculously stupid and naïve comments.

“I don’t want that first house because the kitchen was yellow and that’s ugly.”

 

Continue reading

Feminists Are Going to Hate Me

First, let me say, I am not ungrateful, Susan B. Anthony and all the bra burning women out there.  I am very aware of what women in history have suffered through and accomplished to allow me to live life freely today.  This is not meant to be disrespectful.

That being said, where is the middle ground?  Sure, I yearn to be more than a grocery shopper and dishwasher but being a good wife is no longer enough.  Since women have been allowed to enter the workplace and do as the men do, the option to do so has instead become the expectation.  Women today are still expected by many men to keep the house clean, cook and keep order but also to bear children and still work to support the family.  When did being a wife and mother stop being enough?  Is it because Americans live more lavishly that we can no longer depend on one income, or have we as women pushed for our right to choose so hard that the option to find happiness in being a wife and mother is oudated, unexpected and resented?

Of course I am glad I have the opportunity to pursue my dreams and work at any position I choose, but I also get looked down upon by society if I quit being a 50/50 contributor to our household income.  I can’t tell you how many women I know that basically work to offset child care, because it is expected.  How is it beneficial to work full-time to pay someone else to raise your children?  If you need to get out of the house and enjoy working, that’s one thing but many of them seem perplexed about it themselves.

Every family has their reasons and I am certainly in no place to judge how people manage their lives, but there are times that I wish I could stay home and bake my husband a pie, or get all the laundry done before it gets out of control.  That is the old fashioned part of me.  Being a career woman is a blessing and a curse because it is hard to contribute our best to both sometimes, though I want to.  I’m not asking to lay on the couch eating bon-bons.  (Did people actually do that anyway?)  I suppose I like the romantic concept of being taken care of and having the option to rely soley on a husband, but without guilt because that is so rare these days.  Then again, when it comes down to it, who cares what people think?  As long as it is not my husband that resents my choices and we find happiness in the way our dynamic works, I think I can be ok.

Yes Bob Dylan, These Times They Are A’Changin

Though I believe in those words from Dylan, my ideas tonight are not quite as political or complex.  I’m not one to believe fully in global warming.  I do believe the earth changes and moves in cycles as it has for millions of years.  Do our habits assist with the change, I’m sure they do, but I wouldn’t blame it totally on humans.  I mean, cow’s gas (put nicely) contributes too right?  Don’t get me wrong, I do work hard to waste less and reuse more, but it’s not because of Gore encouraged me to, its because it’s the smart thing to do.  I realize my disbelieve in Al Gore’s Nobel prize winning film is bold because there are some people who fanatically still believe in it but regardless of the reason, the world is changing.  The atmosphere is changing, the way we live, communicate, work, play and function is changing around the world.

Today, on March 22, 2012 I laid on our hammock and it was 75 degrees.  It was after six o’clock, so the temperature had already dipped from today’s high.  The sun was still shining and I thought about how I couldn’t believe summer was already here.  But…it isn’t.  Summer is technically three months away.  Baseball hasn’t even seen its opening day but we are wearing shorts and preparing our garden at a time when in past years, the ground hadn’t even thawed out yet.

It’s not just the temperature.  It just feels like everything is changing so rapidly and with this, we grow more impatient still.  A slow website infuriates me.  Not long ago we’d need a phone book to find the phone number we needed.  Today, four seconds isn’t fast enough.  I can’t remember anyone’s birthday anymore either.  Google saves my arse by emailing me reminders and if that isn’t good enough, a notification pops up on my cell. My grandmother emails me “hello” and my husband’s grandmother sends me text messages about her health.  I realize this is more convenient, after all, who has time to sit on the phone with their family, right?  I hope you sense the sarcasm.

It’s a very convenient world, but it’s no less complicated and as time goes on, I’m torn about whether we’ll lose the human connection or not.  True, a text message is not as warm and fails to translate the lilt of a familiar voice, but maybe a quick message allows us to communicate more often.  I sometimes yearn for old fashion relationships and communication but I also have the ability to Skype with my Mom who is 3,000 miles away and see her regularly without paying for a plane ticket.  Remember when Spaceship Earth at Epcot was fantasy?  It wasn’t long ago that along the ride, the family of the future talked to each other over computers and saw each other on their phones.  It’s happened so fast.  I wonder where we are headed.

Old view on Spaceship Earth at Epcot, showing us the future of technology.

This post took a turn a bit from the weather, but as I lay in the hammock, before I drifted asleep, these are the things I thought about.  I awoke to the smell of fire and luckily it was my husband sitting close by in front of our chimenea, enjoying some peace and quiet on the back patio.  We sat together awhile and talked, and I suppose as long as we have good, solid moments where we still can connect to people face to face, we’ll all be alright.  And so, we’ll roll with the times, powered up and dressed for long summers.

 

(If you’re eager to get into the Spring/Summer 2012 mode, check out the post I wrote yesterday for Sprawling Roots.  I promise you’ll like it, whether you believe in global warming or not – http://sprawlingroots.wordpress.com/2012/03/22/time-to-prepare-your-green-garden/ )

Generations of Inconsistency

Studying ancestry is one of the things I’m truly passionate about.  I spent the day yesterday at an Ancestry Day workshop in Philadelphia, sponsored by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and Ancestry.com.

Yeah, I know, I’m a dork.  I spent the day with hundreds, actually, I’d say at least over a thousand old people.  I mean ancestry enthusiasts.  And I say they were old, only to add to my point that I’m an old soul, because honestly, I got along with them swimmingly.  We laughed, we joked and discussed how young people just don’t get it.  They must see me as old too; I’m only 28 mind you.  It was a swell day.

(“Swell” by the way, is a fine word to use but apparently even though I’ve tried to revive its popularity, even Microsoft Word is unsure of how I’m using it.  I’m not letting them stop me or change it to “swelling”.  That just doesn’t make sense.)

The main point of this post however, is that I’ve realized the inconsistency of my ancestors and maybe that’s why I’ve lived such with such colorful stories so far myself.  When I look around though, I have friends who have done the same thing, gone to the same church, same school, same, same, same as their parents and their parents before.  I don’t mock this, because I honestly admire tradition and all it represents.  Instead, I come from people who never really seemed to know who they were or what they wanted.  Even if they did, what they relayed the family about themselves was untrue anyway.  Despite that, I’ve found so many pieces to our family’s ancestral puzzle, but they were not the type to play along and do as you’re supposed to.

The numerous speakers gave ideas on how to further genealogical research; where to search and what kind of odd records could be of assistance.  I realized how neither side of my family had ever consistently practiced religion, stayed in the same place and joined organizations for any extended period of time.   They really didn’t leave a paper trail of any kind unless it was required for the government every ten years in a census.  Even then, like most families, the data is screwy.  The most consistent thing about my family, as found through records, is that they were inconsistent.  I realize the times were different long ago, but for research sake, sometimes I do admire the people who had boring families.  But then again, when I find a truly fascinating puzzle piece, man am I glad the people in my past were interesting.  I wonder if they were inconsistent out of choice or out of circumstance.  Still, I hope one day I leave generations sifting through my records saying, “Wow, that Shannon was a swell character”.

That’s right; I’m bringing the word “swell” back.  One day, it’ll be “cool” again.