Finishing Things and Good Deeds

This will be fairly short, as I woke up on the couch and for the life of me, could not think of anything today, that would be worth pouring out for you.  I did find however, a couple posts in my “drafts”.  One of them is called “Following Through”, which I found really hilariously ironic because it appears I started that post on 1/16/2012 – just about three months ago.

This 365 post is one of the few things I’m proud to be sticking to, regardless.  If I’m not writing here, I’ve been writing for a blog called Sprouts and sometimes I end up posting twice a day here to make up for a busy Saturday or something along those lines.  Damn, this is a boring post, but I cannot be defeated by this goal.  Then I got a blogger award about a half hour ago, about how people should really see my page because I’m great.  Jacob, I’m extremely grateful you thought of me and here I am with nothing to say tonight.

So the start of “Following Through” is below.  I wonder if I felt too much pressure to commit myself to good deeds.  No, I try to do those anyway, even when it bites me in the ass.  Funny though, one of our local DJ’s, on a loud rock station no less, mentioned how he found a daily blog about good deeds and urged people to visit it.  I then realized there is nothing solid about my blog to initiate being declared as the “go to” for anything, but random thoughts and odd reasons to post pictures of Ireland, my long lost love.

So why post it now, you ask?  Because I’d like to get to bed.  I will likely come up with a rousing “did you ever notice” post tomorrow and mention how I do something like an old person, and you will hopefully not decide to remove your subscription in the meantime.  So without further ado, here’s my unfinished post about following through:

Continue reading

Top Annoying Things This Month

In an attempt to be less serious this evening, here is a simple list of things that are so minor they shouldn’t even be mentioned.  They aren’t pet peeves.  They are just moments that make me yell “Dammit!”  I hope maybe you can relate to a few and then I won’t feel so crazy.

  • Sneezing after I apply my mascara.  I did this twice last week, probably because the spring weather approached us early and the dawn of allergies.  I tried to keep it in, but instead of trying to fight it too hard and allowing my eyeballs to pop out from the pressure, I went with it.  I looked like I belonged in the Clockwork Orange.  I should’ve rocked the derby at work that day.

  • (Stares at open dresser drawer with eyes wide)  “What do you mean I’m out of underwear??”  Ok, maybe it’s time to start buying colors that fit into all three of the laundry color piles.  I’m required to wear clothing that my company has us buy and so is my husband.  It’s ALL navy blue.  Just like our jeans.  We primarily rush to get these done and the other colors get a little neglected.  (Just in case you’re wondering, though you likely aren’t, I didn’t go commando.  I found something very small and uncomfortable to wear and put laundry on the top of my “to do” list that day.  What am I, single?  Who wears these things?)
  • Really, did I just make a Lawrence Welk reference to be funny?  What am I, 90?  I’m an old soul, I know.  Thank goodness hubby is.  But every now and then I let something slip around the late 20-somethings (who act their age) and they just stare.  “What?  I don’t get it.”  If only Gram were around, she’d laugh.  I was later reprieved when SNL started doing skits about the Welk show by the way.  Justice!  Next I’ll start sharing the highlights of last night’s Jeopardy.  Oh wait, I did that too.  The good news is, the clip was all over YouTube so it must’ve been worth mentioning.  Lots of self-justification going on here, huh?
  • I’m a good person.  I work hard.  I help others.  I rush to take out the recycling before I get in the car for work…and I step in my dog’s crap.  All I had to do was drag that bin from the backyard, get it to the curb and boom, gone.  No.  Not today.  And we’re wearing your sneakers with all the little grooves in them.  Wonderful.  We’ll just get the keys out of the car that’s warming up and change.  Don’t worry though, if you step in crap early, the day will only get better.  And it will.
  • When sunglasses drop on concrete, is it required that they only scratch right at the eye line; that miniscule space on the big lens that your eye lines up perfectly with?  Thanks.
  • Mythbusters tested it, and I don’t remember if the myth was busted or not, but I can tell you; buttered bread or anything with substance will fall face down.   I don’t need scientific testing to agree.  Also, spaghetti sauce will get on your white shirt.  I would like to get in on that study and just eat pasta all day to see what happens.  They can supply the clothes though.
  • Last but not least, as I sit here with my drooped shoulder, I will address depth perception.  Mine is completely off when I switch from contacts to glasses.  Worse without either.  I will get ready for bed, don my glasses and run into a doorjamb with my shoulder.  Maybe it is because one is set for astigmatism which causes a slight fishbowl effect.  Still,  I do it all the time and I constantly forget to anticipate it.  But, on a lighter note, I feel like I look thinner when I see myself in the mirror through my glasses, so I won’t say it’s a fair trade, but it softens the blow.  Boo.  Bad joke.

Luckily for people in real life, I don’t walk around lamenting about these things, but since they managed to collide recently, I thought it was worth sharing.  As always, if these are the least of my problems, I will take my Clockwork Orange-self and run into a wall a few times to set myself straight.  Life is still pretty good.

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.

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/ )

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.

The Most Honest Post I’ve Written

The only person in my family that knows about this blog is my husband.  He’s pretty supportive, though he doesn’t say much and even if his way of support is portrayed in the form of a challenge.  He challenged me that I couldn’t do this 365 blog when I first mentioned it.  I’d like to believe that what appears to be lack in faith, is instead his way to push me.  My Irish and Philadelphian roots are built with stubborn and defiant characteristics.  I used to think these were flaws, but they make me who I am, so I will not shy away from them if that’s what I need to survive.  In fact, those “flaws” are the reason I’m writing you.  He said I couldn’t, therefore I do.

There aren’t a lot of things that I think I’ve done necessarily right in my life.  I had so many dreams when I was a teenager and a surprising amount of adults to supported them, particularly people who had no real investment in me.  There is nothing they’d gain from my success.  They just cared.  I never thought about it before.  Teachers, co-workers, older friends all took the time to mentor me, without request and without agenda.

I’ve told you before that I’m an old soul.  My favorite memories are sitting with my Grandmoms and just talking.  These are some of my earliest memories and with two gone and one left, I see this part of my life slipping away.  I expected encouragement from them, but instead I got simple friendship.  I could actually consider them people I loved, respected and wanted to spend time with.  We’d laugh and talk about things that matter, not just superficial weather or sports talk.  When I think back though, even though they were incredibly important to me, they weren’t my motivators.

As I got my first job at a Hallmark store, I was enveloped by the family of people who owned and worked at the store.  They saw me through some of the harder times and though many were much older in experience and years, they counseled me without me even knowing it.  They encouraged the school-skipping and concert going city girl, and led me to believe anything was possible.  I continued to find people like this wherever I went.  Maybe I was a project or maybe I actually was as special as my parents said, but maybe I was just blessed with meeting the right people and accepting such unlikely friendships.  There I was, in California and my closest friends had children my age.

I didn’t sit down to write this blog, I had another vision in mind.  I started thinking about my plans.  I gave up so many plans to be logical when I was about twenty.  I gave up the steps I needed to take to fulfill my dreams, and instead kept dreaming with no real track to ever get there.  That’s changing.  Whether it’s logical or not, is not my concern anymore.  I’m going to be putting my husband and I in a financial situation that falls into a category of the unknown, possibly stupid.  I’m going to be leaping from a steady job to who knows what.  It’s scary.  But I can’t help but feel that I owe it to myself and to every person who gave me the reason to believe I was good enough to get what I want.  I’m doing something because I want to and for the first time, it’s not out of defiance.  Whether or not I find what I’m looking for, I can at least die saying that I tried, instead of feeling like a coward.

 

Photo courtesy of gettingsmartonline.com

How Do You Get Out of a Slump?

My writing has suffered as of late, but I refuse to give up.  I can tell that it’s suffering because not as many people are reading it either.  I’m mentally preparing for some pretty big decisions in my life and that has launched a grenade into my creative thinking brain space.  I’ve learned that there are few things that don’t fix this struggle:

  1. An ice cream and cookie diet.  One, it makes everything feel messy, like my keyboard, my phone, my face.  I’m not a slob; I think that eating unhealthy food just makes everything feel gross; including the extra pound or five.  It’s really only made me feel worse about myself and worry more.  This does not lead to creative brain activity.
  2. Diving into a romance trilogy.  As hereditarily impatient as I am, I must finish a book immediately after starting it.  So, last week I cracked open a romance trilogy about Irish sisters and it’s consumed my free time.  I honestly find solace in reading things like that now and then because I get a cheap giggle and get all sappy without making my husband watch a terrible chick flick.  Plus, I’ve always been one of the guys, so these allow me to be a girl without publicly announcing it.  Oh wait, I just did.  Regardless, these books only make me long for something, which makes me restless.  This one is making me Ireland-sick.  It’s not my home, just a place we’ve spent a month, and that I long for regularly.  This could lead to daydreaming and hence inspiration though, let me mull over this one.
  3. Neglecting friends.  This is never a good idea.  When I’m feeling uninspired though, I become a hermit and increasingly lazy.  Do not think about looking at my house right now either.  Where did all these clothes come from by the way?  Have I always shedded this much?  What a mess.
  4. Lacking a theme.  Months ago, I initially hoped to focus on being an old soul.  It has made an appearance through several posts, but for the most part, this blog has lacked consistency.  It most likely just emulates my mind’s patterns. I simply have too many interests.  That should be the biggest goal, to lay down a solid foundation and finish out the rest of the year right.  If you’re been reading this, I’m more than open to any ideas or inspiring thoughts on how to do that without creating a mundane goal.

Well, as one not to dwell too long, tomorrow I’m going to hesitantly go to a happy hour, socialize with some friends, eat healthy and finish that trilogy before I go to bed so I have free time this weekend.  Ok, that last part is a lame attempt to justify staying up late and appease my curiosity.  But I do it for my craft.  Maybe I’ll even dust on Saturday.

Then, with a clear mind, I’ll recreate myself.  How do you find inspiration, especially if you’re writing a 365 blog?

The Leprechaun and the Pilot

Today is a day that I’m not feeling particularly inspired by anything.  To the picture files we go!

I found this picture, taken from one of those old razor phones, about four years ago.  It is the epitome of my husband and I.  You can almost sum up how much fun we have together by this picture, but I promise we’re not too weird.  We just like to have fun.  I think my Mom was the original recipient of this picture.  This pretty much seals the deal regarding whether or not our family knew we were meant to be.

My husband and I met in San Diego, before we reached the drinking age.  This meant that we were in that stage between high school and the San Diego bar (meat market) scene.  It also meant our dates had to be creative because we are both old souls who were far older than the candles on our birthday cakes.  He began taking me to “fun” places right off the bat.  We went to theme parks and ran around like kids.  It was good for us, particularly me, because I knew how to have fun but I can easily find myself becoming too serious and stiff if I’m not forced into playing.

I’d say within the first month, we started picking up silly hats wherever we went and posing in pictures with them.  The last time I checked, we had three Rubbermaid tubs full of hats and random costume gear.  Needless to say, we’ve since taken most holidays and definitely Halloween a lot more seriously since we met each other.  As a matter of fact, we’re currently in preparation of our favorite Leprechaun making his appearance next week.  Our friends tease us, but they agree they wouldn’t want us any other way.  I like that we are not so straight laced when we want to be, that we can loosen up and not take things so seriously.

We came across these particular disguises in preparation to our move to the East Coast, my original home.  You can tell by the fuzziness and randomness captured, that we never intended to actually publish this picture anywhere, but I can’t help but smile when I see it.  He’s wearing a couple key pieces to his famous Leprechaun costume, and I’m wearing a child’s pilot cap we bought in an airport.  The rest is just unfortunate, before my nose job and before I began waxing.  I love that hat.

Note for Philadelphians:   If you run into us on St. Paddy’s Day, and you’ll know who we are, do say hello.  If you are a slutty drunk girl who is pretending to be Irish, restrain yourself from asking to take kinky pictures with my husband.  You’d think I wouldn’t need to say that.

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.

I Belong to Nowhere

I visited an old friend last weekend and she was asking what my husband and I were up to, and if we had any future plans.  I told her that depending on what happens with my career, we wouldn’t be opposed to moving to Europe or some authentically historic American town, but we’ll see what happens.  She said how she could never do that, just pick up and leave, but it’s something that we have grown accustom to and maybe it’s slightly hereditary.

I’m an avid ancestry enthusiast.  Every key member to my family tree, at least going back a few generations, had the same defining quality; the ability to be fearless and never look back.  This to me is a quality because I admire their courage and ambition, to pick up from their place of birth and independently find a new home in a new state, country, continent, etc.  And they did it alone.  They all did.

This is a blessing and a curse because combined; these adventurous ancestors gave me life.  Had they not, I don’t want to say “ran away”, but rather “looked for better opportunities”, I wouldn’t exist.  It’s a curse because, as a researcher, it’s very difficult to track them.  I run into possible distant connections and it appears my ancestor was always the black sheep who left and never wrote home.  There never seems to be hostility or a tragic story that I’m aware of based on family stories, they were just ok being independent.

That being said, I began frequently re-establishing myself early and being the “new kid” by changing schools throughout my youth.  Not by my choice, but my parents, due to transportation, tuition, educational factors and eventually a move just before high school.  I settled in well for the most part at each place and sought my own adventure to California after graduation.  I never truly felt like I fit in anywhere. Though I did find myself back in New Jersey a few years ago, close to family and old friends, I really don’t feel that I have a home.  The town I grew up in until I was 13 would probably be the closest thing to a “home” feeling but most of the people who lived there are gone or have passed away.  If you remember, I was friendly with the elderly people.  Sure I had friends that were my age, but they’ve since grown and moved too.

Today we live in a town close by, which feels like a neighborhood that people grew up in, finished school, started to grow their own family and then moved back in.  There is a sense of community, but not for me.  I am friendly with people here, but my roots weren’t here.  I think it is why I find the idea of moving anywhere that feels comfortable, so appealing, because I don’t need to stay anywhere out of obligation.  No one else in my family has.

My husband and I are the same way.  Having grown up in Iowa, and then joined the military, it caused his zip code to change more than a few times.  We come from heritages that we didn’t technically belong to.  My family has strong Irish and German tradition, but I don’t necessarily belong there.  My family for generations lived in Philadelphia and I was even born there, but then became the first to be raised in the suburbs of New Jersey.  Although it’s only minutes away, I didn’t grow up in a row home with a corner candy store or play baseball on the asphalt, so I can’t claim that as home either.  I grew up in a house where people had their own space and minded their business.  They were people looking to remove themselves from city culture; maybe culture altogether.  I don’t want to come off as ungrateful, I’ve had a fortune life with loving parents, but the circumstances have just left me feeling a little lost as an adult.

We aren’t tied to anywhere and maybe we’re not quite sure where home is yet.  I suppose we’ll have to find it together and make it that way ourselves.  We can be the “new kids” together.