Growing Trees—CoronaLife Day 558

I have reached a milestone in the genealogy book—I finished the text! It is compiled, and indexed and 92,000 words long. I have a date with the proofreaders, and then off to the races.

In the meanwhile, I am working on the inserts for the book—photos, trees, chapter title pages. I thought I had finished the trees already, but I was wrong. A month or so ago, my mother had asked for a detailed tree of her maternal side of the family from her grandparents down, including all aunts and uncles and their children and grandchildren. I made it for her, and then thought I would include it in the book (the private version, not the public version, as some of these people are living).

Of course, then I thought I should do the same for my mom’s paternal side, just to be fair and complete. Only two of the aunts on that side had children, so I thought it would be fairly easy. Famous last words. One branch we had lost touch with, so it took a lot of digging to find out what happened to them and to get down to the required generation. I still don’t know when the aunt herself died, although I have clues. The other branch was easier because we knew the people, but I had to do some research to find birth and death information.

So all that tree-growing took much more time than I expected, and has taken up the bulk of my week thus far. But now I have completed that and can say for sure that this time I have finished all the trees! I began pulling the photos I wanted to use, and I can clean them up in a couple of days. The chapter title pages may or may not be a headache—it depends how easily the graphic I got to use for it can be manipulated. In theory it shouldn’t be hard, but you know the saying, “I’d love to live in Theory, because everything works there.”

So that’s my latest project update. The proofreaders won’t get to it until November, but that gives me plenty of time to work on the inserts and get them ready to go. I will likely do a cover design, too, but that is harder to do until I know the exact dimensions and get the cover template from the printer.

So how are your projects going?

RIP Zippy—CoronaLife Day 551

The day we knew was coming arrived on Thursday. Zippy the fish expired in the night.

He was a true survivor. Bought on November 8th, 2020, as one of 3 fish, the other two succumbed to a mouth fungus within 2 days. Zippy avoided the fungus and roamed the tank at top speed, thus earning the name Zippy.

Zippy was our pandemic fish, helping my daughter navigate the isolation of quarantine and remote learning. He enjoyed being read to, especially Harry Potter, and my daughter says he was a good listener during her lonely times in the pandemic.

He developed an internal tumor, as one of our other fish had. He grew rounder, and his swimming became more difficult, but he never failed to come to the surface for his breakfast. This was a big change from when we first got him, when I didn’t see him actually eat for weeks.

As he grew in size, swimming tired him out. We would find him resting on the bottom, or on a plant leaf, or on the sponges of the filter. His favorite spot was the top of the bubbler, where he could set down and let the bubbles wash over him like a jacuzzi.

He still struggled to the surface for a single nibble of food, but then he would sink like a stone to the bottom. He spent more and more time at the bubbler, and we knew it would not be long. He showed his survivor streak, though, because he lasted several weeks longer than we thought he would.

Then Thursday morning came, and he was not in his usual spot atop the bubbler. My daughter spied him, in a front corner of the tank. True to form, he was considerate enough to die at the front of the tank, where he was easily found, instead of in amongst the plants.

My most lasting memory of him occurred about two weeks ago. The tank was having a bacteria bloom, and the water was so cloudy you couldn’t see the back (and it’s only a 5 gallon tank!). I was wondering if he was in there dead somewhere, when he came charging out of the fog toward me, with that particular wobble they get when they have a tumor, but in that moment it looked like a swagger. A little slow motion and dramatic music and he could have been a superhero fish, charging out of the mists.

RIP, Zippy, you will be missed.

Finding Our Footing—CoronaLife Day 544

We have a few days of school under our belts now, and we are starting to find our footing. I am getting used to having time to myself again, after a full 18 months of remote learning/summer. So far I have not been using my time wisely, but that is typical for me at the beginning of the school year. It’s almost like having so much free time paralyzes me with choices. But I know that will settle down.

My daughter is also starting middle school, so that’s a big change for her. But she, too, is starting to find her footing in more ways than one. We are also transitioning from her walking boot to a walking brace starting today, and hopefully her ankle will be back to full strength October 1st, when the brace is due to come off.

Although I have been spending time doing a lot of “catch up” work (little things I never seemed to find time for while my daughter was home) and searching out last-minute school supplies that I didn’t realize we needed until we actually got there, I HAVE made progress on the genealogy book.

I should finish indexing the final chapter today. Whoo hoo! After that, the equally painstaking job of formatting the book properly, making sure the margins and page numbers are correct, and that page breaks do not fall at inopportune places, begins. Once that’s done, I will send it to my proofreader to catch all the mistakes I thought I caught but didn’t.

Finding our footing has been a bit harder this year, as we spent the last 18 months in a period where every day was much the same, and time seemed to stretch endlessly. Then, abruptly, on Friday, everything changed and we were back in the world. It is disconcerting and a bit overwhelming.

But we will get through it, as we do every September, and hopefully COVID will not hit our school and send us back to remote. Whatever happens, we will adjust.

We always find our footing.

A Wild Start to September—CoronaLife Day 537

Today (Wednesday), I awoke to an alarm for the first time since school ended in June. One of the perks of having an older child is that I don’t need to get up with her in the summer. She can get herself up and make herself breakfast. So I have not set my alarm for a couple of months.

This morning I did, and I didn’t care for it. Too dark out. But I dragged myself out of bed, got dressed, downed a fruit cup, and was off to the races.

Setting up for the teacher’s breakfast to welcome them back to school.

Running home to feed my broken-ankled child and myself breakfast.

Going back to school to clean up after breakfast.

Coming home and going for my 2.5 mile daily walk before the bad weather set in.

Vacuuming most of the house.

Running to the store for grocery pickup, then unpacking and putting it all away.

Finishing vacuuming the house.

Making and eating dinner.

I finally got to sit down and relax and…

Tornado warning! Tornado warning extended! Flash flood watch! Tornado-in-immediate-area-take-shelter-now-did-you-not-get-the-first-two-warnings?!

So, some time in our under-the-stairs closet, since we have no basement.

Lots of texting with my folks, who were alternately hiding in their crawlspace and sweeping water that was coming in from their patio out the garage.

The worst has passed, although it is still raining, so the flood watch is still in effect.

What a wild way to welcome in September!

In other news, I now only have 2 chapters of my genealogy book to proofread and index. My daughter hopefully will be off her crutches tomorrow. And Zippy the fish is still alive, but I am just waiting for him to pass, as he is not looking or acting well at all.

Busy Week – CoronaLife Day 530

Summertime is hard when you don’t have a 9 to 5 job, because it is so easy to lose track of what day it is. I forgot yesterday was Wednesday, and I hadn’t written this blog!

It’s been a crazy busy week for me: two meetings in my Board of Education capacity, plus a financial review with the local PTA. Lots of preparation time for those, plus the time for the meetings themselves. After so many months at home, these bursts of activity (especially in-person/social activity) exhaust me quickly.

Because of those other commitments, I have not gotten a ton of work done on my genealogy project, but I did make some progress. I now have three chapters to finish proofing and indexing. Then I will need to fix the formatting in the compiled book, and start working on the photos and other inserts. So I am edging closer to the finish line.

Going shopping for school supplies for my daughter tomorrow. We combed through her “art room” and found lots of things on the list, so it’s much shorter than it was originally. Biggest thing will be her backpack, which I waited far too long to order online and will now not arrive here until later in September. We will have to make do with the older backpack, which is still serviceable, but too small for everything she will need to carry.

In other news, Zippy the fish, although still with us, is probably not long for this world. He has been expanding with some sort of internal tumor for a couple of months (we had another fish that died of one), and although he still eats every day and swims, his behavior makes us think he is winding down. He rests a lot and “pastes” himself against the walls sometimes, as if for support. We thought he was dead yesterday, but he wasn’t—just hanging out at the bottom of the tank.

My crazy week is at an end, and hopefully I can push through those last (fairly long) chapters in the genealogy book this coming week.

I hope the last few weeks of summer are treating you all well!

Indexing Headaches—CoronaLife Day 523

I have spent the entire day with the Norwegians.

One line of my mother’s family goes back to Norway. The connection is very far back, so far that much of it may be more properly classified as “lore” rather than provable fact, but it’s fun any way you look at it.

The Norwegian chapter is a long one, spanning some 200+ years, and is an epic adventure of the Orkney and Shetland Islands, as well as vast reaches of northern Scotland. Between the Norwegian names and the many places touched upon, it is enough to make any proofreader’s head hurt.

I am familiar enough with these people now that the spelling is not much of an issue for me. What really hung me up was the indexing. I spent pretty literally the whole day on it. Some of it was my own fault, because I forgot what I had done in previous sections.

For instance, I forgot I had put the kings of Scotland under the heading “Scottish Royalty” because I was also placing their children under that heading. So today I entered them all as “Kings of Scotland” and then had to go back and change them.

Or I forgot that when I indexed a woman as the wife of someone, I put that info in parentheses, not just offset with a comma. Luckily there were not many wives, so it was not as laborious as it sounds.

Then there are just the crazy indexing errors that are basically typos. When entering the index coding in Word, if you don’t do it exactly the same each time, it will show up as a separate person. For example, “Gans:Kerry”, is not the same as “Gans:Kerry ”. Most of the time I avoided having issues by simply copying and pasting the same code for the same person, but occasionally I’d run across someone I’d missed and have to re-type it from scratch. Or it would be a person I had entered far earlier in the book, and had forgotten exactly how I had entered him (but THOUGHT I remembered), and then when I would check the index there he’d be, twice.

I have gotten all the Norwegians indexed now, however, and can move on to my next chapter. Seven chapters left to wrap up the summer with.

An Unexpected Break—CoronaLife Day 516

So there I was, chugging away at my maternal genealogy book. Compiling and indexing until I was dizzy. Deciding who was important enough to add to the Name Index, what places I would tag in the Place Index. Figuring out how to insert section breaks and make my indexes into two columns. Coming along well and then…an unexpected break.

My daughter broke her ankle.

She broke it walking. Inside. On a flat, clean, carpeted floor. She was texting her friend, and she likes to pace while she texts, and somehow…she broke her ankle. All I know is that she started yelling, “Mom! Mom! I think something snapped!”

Sunday was the emergency room. Monday was the orthopedic urgent care. The end result was a boot and crutches. Tuesday we both recuperated. Today I went to the library to get her a bag of books to read over the next few weeks.

Therefore, I have not gotten much more work on the genealogy book this week. On the other hand, I HAVE been getting a good workout running up and down the stairs bringing stuff to my daughter, since she can’t carry anything up and down the stairs. I might lose some weight out of this deal.

My plan is to get back to the book tomorrow (well, today by the time this posts). Aside from a follow-up on Friday, things should be quiet. The ankle break was very small, so perhaps we will get the go-ahead to be weight-bearing on Friday. It would be great if we do, because my daughter has mostly ignored the crutches anyway and just hops around the house. I worry she will injure her good leg, and then where will we be?

Hopefully things stay quiet, because our Norse Lineage awaits!

Nuts and Bolts—CoronaLife Day 509

I am progressing on my maternal genealogy book, getting into the nuts and bolts of putting it together.

I realized many of my trees were too large for the page size, and some of the tree would be lost in the binding. So I resized all of them to fit properly.

Up until now, all my chapters were in separate files. So now I am compiling of them into a single file. I proofread one more time, then paste it into the compiled book file. Because the margins are slightly different (I need a wider margin on the binding side), there is usually some minor cleanup of each chapter.

I then make sure each chapter is a new section, and add the chapter header. Then I go through the laborious project of tagging each person and location for my indexes.

The indexes are driving me a bit crazy. While the Name Index is fine, the Place Index refuses to wrap into two columns, thus leaving half the page blank. As far as I can tell, both indexes were set up the same, just referencing different tags.

I did multiple indexes successfully for my father’s book, so I know it can be done. I will look back at my father’s book and see how I did it there. Perhaps that will give me the answer.

As painstaking as this part of the process is, I feel like I am making decent progress. Five chapters down, twelve to go!

After this, I need to do the artwork for the book. Cover, chapter pages, any photos I want to include. Those will also be painstaking, but fun to do.

Onward!

The Genealogical Lifeline—CoronaLife Day 502

It’s kind of ironic, to depend on dead people to keep you going in life, but here we are. In the years leading up to 2020, my creativity was a struggle. I had good streaks and bad streaks. Waves, if you want to call it that. But as 2020 approached, I rather felt like the end of the struggle was at hand. I felt more like myself and was looking forward to moving forward.

Then the pandemic hit and everything fell apart.

My hard-won emotional stability spiraled down as my anxiety spiked with the cases. My fiction writing ground to a halt. I simply could not dive deep into the creative well, could not focus as I needed to for fiction work. Not with everyone home 24/7. And I beat myself up constantly for being too “weak” to power through.

Self-pummeling aside, I needed to do something. Genealogy came to my rescue. For whatever reason, I could lose myself for hours in researching family history—even when it wasn’t mine. The escape from the stress and anxiety of the “now” was a relief.

I soon wondered if I could put that genealogical focus to writing use. So I returned to a project that has long languished on my back-burner: a family history book for my mother’s side of the family. Wonder of wonders, I found I could focus on that, too.

Working on a writing project again has improved how I feel about myself, and has given me a sense of purpose and accomplishment as I tick off the things on my checklist. In a time of uncertainty and fear, genealogy has been my lifeline.

So, thank you, ancestors. You made me who I am today, and gave me shelter so I can find my way to tomorrow.

The Quick and the Dead—CoronaLife Day 495

After being away last week, I tried to get back into the swing of things once we arrived home. We’ve had a heat wave, eerily red suns from smoke from Canadian wildfires, a tornado warning, and a heavy thunderstorm that gave us a pond in our backyard. I also took a trip to the ER with a calf muscle injury that I am 98% recovered from at this point.

So, not exactly conducive to concentrated working.

I hunkered down, however, and actually have had a pretty productive week. Since I last wrote, I proofread 40,500 words of my mother’s family history book. And still found mistakes when I went back to quickly look at something in a chapter I had already proofread. I will likely need to read the entire thing one more time before giving it to someone else to proofread. My second read-through will probably be out loud, since most of my problem is shifting tenses, and hearing it will help me catch that.

I also updated several family trees that will go in the book. Apparently, I have been working on this a lot longer than I thought, since people in the trees who have died were still alive, and children who are alive now had not been born. One chapter had no tree at all yet, so I created that one from scratch.

Lastly, I found an image I plan to use in multiple places in my book. One spot will likely be the back cover, and the other places will be as backgrounds for chapter title pages. I had wanted to use maps of Ireland and the UK in strategic places, but could not find one I liked that was not prohibited by copyright. I finally found a line drawing of the British Isles that allows use for reprinting in books with no copyright attached. I will, of course, be using attribution, as they requested.

So I am making progress. After I finish the chapter I am proofing, I have five more to proofread, and one chapter to write from scratch. It is very hard to write a family history book while you are still actively researching, because you keep finding more information to add!

Although there is much work remaining, it is work I enjoy, this strange co-mingling of the quick and the dead. Through my pen, the dead live again, and hopefully my work will live on after I am dead. Those who think time moves only forward never viewed the world through the eyes of a genealogist—the past is ever with us, and colors every aspect of the present.

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