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

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.

I’m Back…365 Consecutive Days…Not This Year

It’s been a process, but I’m back.

We’ve travelled overseas, worked our tails off and I’m officially unemployed. This is all a good thing, but it has taken a toll on my time. Today is the official start of a new life and a happier Mae.  The weight has already been lifted, though it seems very surreal. Having left a stressful and unrewarding career behind, I’m on the hunt to do what makes me happy and somehow find a way for it to pay off in satisfaction and eventually to pay some bills. I’m lucky because I have an incredibly supportive husband who would rather see my smile than my paychecks, at least for a little while.  He’s giving me the chance to do good for others and for us, despite the sacrifices that may lie ahead.

The World Is Your Oyster by Bill Frymire

I have a lot of ideas and wonderful volunteer opportunity that I start at the end of this week.  One that I’m hoping leads me down the road to a career of history and ancestry, and maybe a few other options. I’ll be immersed in the smell of old books and side by side with brainy researchers. It’s the first step toward working toward something that has appealed to me since the fourth grade. Will this be my career or will it just lead me to something else?  Who knows, but if I didn’t take the leap, we’d never ever know. Life is full of chances and I’m about to take a lot of them.

Thanks for following me to my new address; I’m so lucky to have you along for the ride.

Tell me about some of the chances you’ve taken. Was there ever a chance that didn’t pay off or at least bring you some sort of opportunity or happiness that you may have never realized?

 

Past Lives: Who Were You Before?

This post could be the one that pushes me into either crazy territory or a relatable one.  I’m supposed to be truthful and share who I am in this blog, so I’ll get on with it.

Do you believe in past lives? Whether your religion abides by this belief or not, it might have crossed your mind.

I wasn’t raised to believe that we were reborn but there is something in me that leads me to believe that maybe I’ve been here on earth before. I don’t know who I was or where I was born. I don’t even know when I was here or how many times. I know that there are things I’ve been drawn to since I was a child, and these feelings drew me despite the fact that my family never led me there.

I grew up Irish/German Catholic, in America and in the 80’s. I have had a subconscious fear of someone stealing my shoes since I was a child and I’ve been drawn to 30’s and 40’s music even before my peers went through a rap and bad pop phase. I have however, since the time I began school, had a fascination with the Holocaust.  I’m not going to sit here and say this means anything, nor will I claim any actual connection to this time, but it’s a very odd feeling. I longed for Continue reading

I’m A Brick – Part Two

Philadelphia was built by innovators and blue collar immigrants. Though we’ve housed our fair share of wealthy folk, it has never been an upscale or rich city; rich in culture and history, yes, but not in money. Like other old East Coast cities, Philadelphia was built by people like my ancestors. They mixed the mortar, carried the bricks, polished the marble and bend the heated iron.

The city has beautiful areas that are captured of Philadelphia based movie and TV sets. It also has beautiful materials left in rundown neighborhoods that share marble steps amongst trash and crumbling concrete. It may not all be polished, but it’s ours.

To coincide with my last post, here is Philadelphia and its brick.

 

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.

Living Through News

We wake up each morning to news stories that really make you think.  Today was a mix of banned bake sales, solar flares, thwarted bomb plots and cheating politicians.  Some of these are new and some are not, still they can capture our attention.

I often wonder if the world is safe or if freedom will ever truly be realized again.  I won’t go into politics because that spells disaster and I’m not necessarily looking for a debate, but I simply fear for the future at times.  But I think generations through time did this as well.  Haven’t you read classic literature that ponders and fears over changes in society?

I don’t want to live in fear.  I see bomb plots uncovered, only to recognize how advanced terrorism is, and how my family is very much their target, because we are all American.

I want to believe that if I have kids, that I can teach them healthy eating habits and still bake a pie to raise money for a carnival.

I know to never trust a politician.  If you think they are dishonest going in, there is less room for disappointment.  Hell, I think our mayor even looks slimey.

Solar flares that can knock out power grids.  Well, I don’t doubt that these sort of events have happened over time, but with our advancements, life is just more complicated as we try to make it easier.  I want to live knowing that I can survive without my computer or my cell phone if I had to.  If I had to live off my land or have a community of smart and innovative people, I’d like to think we could get by the way people did for thousands of years before us.  Still I know some people who would cry if they lost their phone charger.

I’m a news addict.  I read all I can and I listen to all I can, from all different sources and opinionated perspectives.  I like to form my own judgments and perspectives while I put faith where I know it counts; in myself and the people I can count on.  No, we aren’t perfect, but I know they have my back and I have theirs.  I can’t trust anyone else in the world to care for me.

Simple Things That Make Me Happy

I feel like my posts tend to alternate between longing (teetering on whiney) and dorky ideas.  I don’t do this on purpose, but maybe writing down things that bother me are effective enough that the following day I can look past them, at least temporarily, to see the beauty and pleasure in other things.

I sat here smiling as my pug and my husband snore next to me; (I mean, no honey, you don’t snore). I thought about how lucky I am to find joy in simple things. In no particular order, these are things that make me happy.  I welcome what simple things make you happy; there is always room to add to the list.

  • Tea, in a teacup with saucer and perfectly sweetened.  On a regular day, I drink tea unsweetened at work, just throwing a tea bag into the cleanest mug I have within reach.  (It just feels that way, don’t worry, I wash them.)  I’ve tried to perfect a perfect pot of tea; I can’t seem to do it like my Mom does, and so I make mine by the cup.  I go in phases with what type I’m in the mood for and lately rooibos wins.  Still, I wish I gave myself a moment to sit down and absorb just a moment of sunlight and a few minutes to drink tea each morning.  At the very least, I take a moment to think about the little sayings on my tea bags.  I started to save them at my desk because they are generally uplifting and every corporate cubicle can use random positivity.  Geez, now I sound like a hoarding Pollyanna.
  • Hot buttered toast and dipping it in hot chocolate.  Mmm.  I think I’m hungry.  Maybe I’m missing my Mom.  She’d make this for me when I was little, because her Mom did the same.  It came up in conversation before she passed that my Great-Grandmom used to get this when she was a kid from her Mom too.  I suppose it’s a traditional treat then.  The hot chocolate must be hot and so must the bread, and it should be white bread.  If you’re going to do this, you might as well go all out and use the soft white bread.  One day without wheat bread won’t kill you, but it might be the real butter that I suggest you use.  I know I’ve missed the boat to suggest this part, but it is particularly good on a colder morning. We still have some of these left.

Early morning. Though I have my favorites, Oscar prefers oatmeal.

  • Hanging clothes on the line.  Laundry chores are annoying but necessary.  I think this makes me happy because it has to be a beautiful day for this chore to be feasible, and that itself is a reason to smile. There is just something calming about pinning sheets up in a gentle breeze on a warm and sunny day.  Just don’t step in dog poo while you trek through the yard, it certainly takes away from the calming experience. Continue reading

Giving Life to Distant Ancestors

There is a picture that has moved from basement to garage and back again, and from rowhome to rowhome in Philadelphia.  It is a picture of a family, joined together in the family bakery in the late 1910’s.  I first saw this picture as a child and it was thought to be lost for the years since.  I’ve managed to scan it and take in the details amongst the water stains and torn paper.  My great-great-grandmother is in the picture.  It was taken in her sister and brother-in-law, Elizabeth and Michael’s bakery.  My great-grandma is there too, as a little girl.  More than just a photo, I recently learned it was a Baptism celebration for Elizabeth and Michael’s son, Nicholas.

I never met these bakery owners.  But I know they are the reason my great-great-grandparents chose Philadelphia when leaving Europe.  They made a home there and found employment doing odd jobs in the bakery.

More than finding dates and places of birth, I spend much of my time doing ancestry research, trying to put together a puzzle in my mind, trying to piece together what this person was like.  What kind of struggles did they go through?  What did they look like?  I was able to recently find a picture of Elizabeth and Michael recently, along with some records and pieces that give me an idea of who they were.  They came from Hungary, single, young and poor.  Michael was tall with dark hair and “deep blue” eyes.  He labelled himself a self-employed baker when he stepped on the shore of New York, at the age of 19.  He came from Hungary but spoke German.  Had several children, became a Naturalized citizen right off the ship, battled pneumonia in 1918 and had the highest appraised house on his block by the time he was 40.  By this time he filled out his draft card for World War II, he was gray, but still slender and still baking.  He spent the last sixteen years a widower.  He lived to 93, the year before I was born.  It makes the connection feel closer in the frame of time but there was a world of difference between our lives.  When I look at the picture of he and his wife though, I can’t help but feel like they are characters.  I like to think she was sassy.  I like to give them a story.  In a way, I wouldn’t be here today without them, distant relative or not.

Haunted By My Irish Great-Grandfather

I’ve written about my ancestry research before.  It’s something I love and hate, because it’s thrilling to find a piece of the puzzle and incredibly frustrating to find either nothing or to confirm your initial theories were false.

I found a crucial piece to our family puzzle last night.  I confirmed all the vitals of my Great Grandfather; a man I never met, my father never knew and his father barely knew.  His World War I draft card says he was 5’7 with red hair and green eyes.  He immigrated by himself at the age of sixteen from Ireland.  His ship ran ashore leaving Liverpool before coasting onto Philadelphia.  He was a steelworker and laborer.  He married an Irish girl here and housed her widowed father and two younger brothers; all of them laborers.  They lost a baby girl as an infant and died fairly young themselves.  The census says he could read and write, but the signature on his Naturalization paperwork leads me to believe he was not accustomed to holding a pen of any kind.

He left his family behind at the age of thirteen, to make a living in England as a coal miner.  After three years in the soot, he left for America.  I haven’t a clue what became of the rest of his family.  I’m having difficulty with his parents’ names and the time span of Irish records I need were either lost in a warehouse fire in 1922 in Dublin or destroyed by the Irish Free State purposely.

While in Ireland for our honeymoon, and I met with a county genealogist who gave me records from my family.  It seemed too easy.  I don’t want to say they tried to fool me, but I was fooled.  I have records for someone of the same name, in the same town but it doesn’t add up.  I’ve done this long enough to know that back then, records and dates were not consistent and often disregarded, but I’m dying to figure out the answers.  As a researcher and history buff by nature, I can’t feel settled until I can go further.  I don’t want to go harass any distant relatives; on the contrary, I’ve had Irishmen contact me in regards to possible connections.

There is simply something to be said about learning where you come from and feeling that you share some sort of trait or identity with those who came before us.  I was the only one in my family with hair that glows red and though my eyes are often hazel, they shine green regularly.  I’d like to think somewhere along the way, it’s trickled down to me alongside my fondness for Ireland.  Maybe that is a bit too romantic, but whenever my husband comments on how red my hair looks a particular day, I can’t help but admit that I’ve been dreaming of the Galway Bay.