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.

Travel in the time of COVID—CoronaLife Day 488

This past week, my family traveled to North Carolina to visit family and attend my niece’s wedding.

The wedding was beautiful—full of love and fun, which is no surprise given that the happy couple are loving, warm, generous, fun people. Everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves.

We had a great time at the wedding, and it was wonderful to visit with family we hadn’t seen since Christmas 2019.

But traveling with an unvaccinated child is fraught these days.

Rest stops were in and out fast. Meals on the road were eaten in the car. Hand washing and masks were a must.

North Carolina as a whole was only 38% vaccinated when we went down. The area we visited is likely below that average. At the wedding, only 3 people were masked—my immediate family.

So while we had an absolute blast at the wedding, I am hoping we don’t pay a high price. I am counting the days until we are past the 14-day incubation period.

We returned home to find our state’s case rate rising, the transmission rate at 1.08, and the dreaded Delta variant exploding.

I’m so sick of this.

Mask up. Maintain distancing. Get the vaccine. I don’t know about you, but I am ready for this to end. At the current rate of vaccination, we will not reach herd immunity until March 2022. A full 2 years after the world shut down.

Let’s kick this thing to the curb, so we can all breathe—and travel—freely again.

Vacation – CoronaLife Day 481

Since summer requires a vacation of some sort, I am taking this week off.

Everyone enjoy yourselves and stay safe!

I’ll be back next week.

Memories That Aren’t Mine—CoronoaLife Day 474

I have been working this week on putting together photos for a family gathering we are having. As I go through these old photo albums, every picture is like an old friend. I remember the people in them, and the stories behind them…except that I don’t.

Some of these photos are from when my great-grandparents were young. They are my grandparents growing up. They are my father and his siblings as children. They are from when I was too young to have memories of those events.

Yet I remember them.

Not actually remember, of course. But I have been told many of the stories of these photos, and as the family historian I know who most of the people are and where and when they were taken.

The photos below, for instance, is of my grandfather giving me a stuffed rabbit at Easter. I don’t remember it. But I have been told about it enough to feel like I do.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

My family lived in Germany at the time, and my grandparents flew over to visit. It was only the 2nd time they had seen me. Looking at the photos, I obviously was thrilled with the bunny, and my grandfather delighted in giving it to me.

My grandfather died when I was 3 years old. I have no actual memories of him. But I still have the rabbit, his well-loved ears floppy and his bright burnt-sienna coat faded closer to tan. And I have the picture, and those together connect me to a grandfather I never knew.

Every picture is a connection across time and space. I never saw my young grandmother in the play pictured in the album, but I was in the theater for many years and know how it felt. I never knew the house where my father and his siblings played with their cousins, but I remember playing with my cousins at family houses. I wasn’t at my grandmother’s graduation, but I have graduated. I was not there for these exact events, but the emotions are familiar, resonating down the years, weaving me into the tapestry of my family history.

As the family historian and a storyteller myself, every picture is a window into an entire world. I don’t know who will carry that world when I am gone. So far no one has stepped forward to pass the stories on to. Perhaps those stories will be consigned, as most of our memories are, to the dustbin of history.

But until then, their stories live, and the people in them live. The Egyptians believed that you never truly died until the last time someone mentioned your name. Maybe that’s what drives some people to want fame—a quest for a type of immortality.

I am not so arrogant to think that my family’s names will live forever. But for now, I am the keeper of the flame, and I am honored to hold their lives—and their memories—in my heart.

Summer Brain–CoronaLife Day 467

A weird thing happened this week. My daughter ended school last Thursday…and my brain went on vacation.

I have been oddly unable to focus or scare up too much motivation this week, even after a decently productive week last week.

Some of it may be my change in sleep schedule–or lack thereof. With no need to get up for school, my daughter and I are sleeping in, making up for the sleep deficit we’ve been running on for months.

The advice is usually to keep to a regular schedule, and I expect that I will settle into a new sleep routine shortly, but right now it feels really nice to not have to get up at a certain time. To really SLEEP.

The last week and a half has been very social, too. Lots of people. As an introvert with more than a year of quarantine behind me, the sudden re-immersion in society has been stressful and exhausting.

So I am giving myself permission to let my brain be on vacation this week. Next week I will have to get back to reality.

School’s Out!—CoronaLife Day 460

We have made it. Today is the last day of school. After this, we will be free of scanning, printing, posting, and Google- Meeting.

Remote learning is not for everyone. Many students struggled to stay engaged. My daughter was not one of those. She thrived academically. She had the best grades of her school career, and her standardized test scores were off the chart.

Socially was another story. Already shy and awkward, the isolation did not help. She really missed her friends, and even frequent phone calls just didn’t fill the void. As an only child, the lonliness was sometimes intense. When we swung by the school the other day, she yelled, “Mom, there’s people! Real people!”

Re-socializing next year should be fun.

But this year—this crazy, disorienting year—is finally over. We close that chapter and start another, this one a more-normal-than-last-summer summer vacation. My daughter is already wondering how she will fill her time, lamenting the loss of that everyday contact with her teacher and classmates.

We will find ways to fill the time, hopefully using the time to heal and rest from the enormously stressful school year. Hopefully there will be more outdoor get-togethers with her friends. Then she’ll be ready to dive back into regular school in September.

Will I be ready to get back to a real routine? To have enough time to myself to think, to breathe, to create? To finally start putting this pandemic behind us?

Time will tell. I hope so.

RIP, Aunt Nancy – CoronaLife 453

Last week we lost my Aunt Nancy. While her final passing was drawn out, her initial decline was quick and unexpected. After years of her health at a certain status quo, the slide caught us all off guard.

My Aunt Nancy was a fixture in my life. I have many memories of my family gathering at her house in Springfield. It had a tree in the backyard that was perfect for kids, with low-hanging umbrella branches and a very climbable trunk. I could scale it and stick my head out of the canopy and feel oh-so-tall. Her house was a ranch, and to a small child felt sprawling, with mysterious rooms around each corner.

Her house may have been mysterious, but it was always full of love and welcome. Family meant the world to my aunt. She positively glowed when we were all gathered in. When Aunt Nancy attained the rank of family matriarch after her mother and grandmother had passed, nothing pleased her more than having us all congregate at her house down the shore and eat and talk for hours.

Like most people, my aunt’s life was not always easy, and she kept regrets and disappointments locked in her heart. But her heart did not harden with them. Aunt Nancy was a generous soul, always ready to help the family. She was supportive of my genealogy efforts, and occasionally slipped me something to help defray the costs of my research. She treated my daughter kindly, too, asking her about herself, hanging up the pictures she drew for her, and giving her a pink bunny that my daughter took to bed with her the night we heard my aunt had died.

In a world where kindness and generosity are dwindling, where families are drifting apart in the hustle and bustle of life, my aunt stood firm in holding together her extended family. I do not know who will pick up the mantle, to wear with the same pride and love she did.

The mysterious house is now sold, the huge tree proven to be a dwarf variety, and my aunt has passed on. But her warm generosity and fierce love of family remain, a part of me always.

Rest in peace, Aunt Nancy. You have earned it.

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