A Conversation About Cars with a Five Year Old Girl.


We were driving and the conversation between the Mr. and I turned to what kind of car we would like as the ultimate car (I already have mine), and what color we liked best on a car. To include Addie I decided to ask her what she thought about a car. The conversation went like this:

Me: Addie, what kind of car would you like when you grow up.

Addie: A Jeep. A pink one.

Me: What if you don’t like pink when you grow up?

(I got the look that says Nana is crazy and has lost the plot.)

Addie: Nana, I’m a girl. I will always like pink.

Me: Not a lot of cars are pink, they might be hard to find.

Addie: (In a some what annoyed tone.) Well, I can have it painted pink.

Me: Why do you want a Jeep.

Addie: Because my Barbie has one. I want one just like hers.

Me: Because you are a girl?

Addie: No, Nana. (Very annoyed now since I am not getting it.) I want one because I have blond hair.

Me: (Working hard not to show amusement.) Oh, so your car has to match your hair?

Addie: Yes! (Relieved I finally got with the program.)

Me: So, what happens if your hair turns brown when you get old?

Addie: Isn’t it obvious? I will just dye it back to blond.

Me: (Think to myself, Obviously? She’s five!) Oh, Okay. I guess that would work.

Addie: Yep. I have it all worked out in my head. It will be perfect.

Me: Well, that’s planning ahead.

Addie: Of course. That’s the smart thing to do.

The conversation turned to her favorite Barbie and why and that she needed to find one that could ride a horse and a Barbie horse to go with it. I saw a Christmas present list being formed as we spoke. She cracks me up with her grown up vocabulary and word usage. She listens to us too, planning ahead is our biggest thing.

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It Is An Obsession


Genealogy started out as a hobby 40 some odd years ago. I got into it because my mother had always been involved in it for all of my childhood. Back when she started working on her family lines in the late 1950’s, it was a great deal harder to get information past her parent’s and grandparent’s generations, even with access to a family bible or other sources within the area. It took hard work digging through various libraries and court houses to find documentation to prove information was truthful. Letters had to be written and sent off to all sorts of people while following possible leads, and it took weeks, sometimes months, to get anything back. Most leads were dead ends, leading my mother right back to where she started. It was a long hard slog to get things sorted and the needed documentation to back it up.

It got easier with the advent of the computer age. Contacting the right people and various governmental departments became as easy as sending an email. It still took weeks to get information back, but it eventually found its way into the mailbox. Then along came sites designed just for genealogy buffs. It all started with the LDS Church and their site and spread from there. Eventually the grandmother of all sites, Ancestry.com, became available for a price, and people flocked to join. But just because it was on line didn’t mean it was always correct information. In fact, it just became harder to sort the truth from the gossip.

Here’s the deal, without documentation from or concerning the people you are researching, all you have is family lore, gossip, and something your twice removed second cousin’s half sister’s dad once said, to follow. Dates, name spellings, even names themselves are often wrong. And once it is taken as family history gospel, it just keeps getting repeated over and over, even if it is wrong. Documentation consists of things like birth, death, or marriage certificates. Baptismal documents, tax roles, census rolls, personal letters written to and by the people you are researching, even things like pay stubs can give information that will lead to the right information. All government documents are also gold to genealogists who are seeking the truth. Anything else is simply family stories that are unproven and will remain so until there is documentation to prove it.

I was fortunate to travel and live abroad. More than one weekend was spent following the family history trail. In England, I was able to visit one of the traditional family houses belonging to my mother’s family lines. Valence House, as it is now called, is in Debenham, England. It used to belong to the Bonham family, one of which immigrated to the young country called America in the 1600’s. The rest of the family stayed in England. It was a thrill to walk into a building where my ancestors walked. When I told the docent that I was an American relation, he pulled out the charts he had, I pulled out the charts I had and we found our connection. He practically did a Happy Dance, then took myself and my family into the rooms that were off limits to the public. It was amazing to stand in the library/study of Thomas Bonham and realize the deep connection I felt to the room. My biggest regret was that during our stay in England, I didn’t get to go to the Stanway House in the countryside where other relatives lived.

When I tell that story today, believe it or not, I actually have “cousins” who question its validity. Yeah, it shocks me too. Why would I lie about something so vitally important? I have found that some people simply cannot admit they might have something wrong in their information as well. By heavens, they are right and EVERYONE else is wrong. Even if we have documentation that proves them wrong Some people simply always have to be right. Kind of sad, that. Of course, when one becomes addicted to a hobby, no one wants to have to go back to the beginning and start all over. But I know I have on many occasions.

With today’s access to information, it is so much easier to get our hands on documents, photos, and to exchange all sorts of information. DNA has changed the way a lot of people look at genealogy. It used to be something only the old folks and the spinster aunties bothered with, if anyone did at all. Now even the younger hip generations are finding an interest in where they came from and who they are. While DNA is an overview of a person’s history, the details are in the documents that follow the family history. For instance, I know that my DNA says I have English, Irish, Scandinavian, African, Jewish, American Indian, and several other types of people in my blood lines. I am also 4% Neanderthal, and more of my family comes from Northern Europe than anywhere else. All of that is interesting, but it still doesn’t tell me who those people are as individuals. For that, I have to dig through a lot of information and then document it all to prove that it is MY family line.

My mother laughs at me when I whine. She had to do all of this by hand on her own while I have access to millions of records and people. But we agree on one thing, no one gets into our site on Ancestry. I am willing to give information on a case by case basis. Why? I got so tired of people simply data mining my site, without so much as a thank you. I got tired of people wanting to argue with me about information, even when I could patently prove that information with all the documents under the sun. I got tired of working so hard, and people saying, “Well, when you get it all figured out, I would love a copy.” But, they sure aren’t willing to do any of the work themselves. So, my mother and I agreed to share carefully, one name or connection at a time. It used to bug me when people were like that, but one person too many finally pushed that annoyance button one time too many. Ask me nicely, as the private sites on Ancestry say, and I might help you out.

Having vented all that, I am still addicted to my hobby. And I still have to go back and start all over on certain family lines all the time. It is frustrating, it is exciting, it is amazing, and it is always interesting to dig around in the past to find dusty documents and stories about the people who make up my family history. One word of advice, if you want your future generations to know about you, write a journal, send letters, or, today, write a blog so they know your words, thoughts, and feelings about everything. Cut and dried documentation is a good thing, but knowing you personally takes something more.

Back to banging my head against today’s brick wall, I know that there is a document somewhere about that guy. No one lives to be 86 without someone knowing something about them. Really, genealogy is an obsession.

Going to School with Mrs. Graham


When I started school, it was in a small country school in the middle of nowhere Oklahoma. The school had grades one through eight in four classrooms. Two ages per class. In mine, there were both first and second grade students. Mrs. Graham was our teacher. She also taught many of my cousins, and my sister. She was wonderful and we all adored her.

Mrs. Graham was probably in her early forties when I was in her class. She taught until she was into her seventies. Three generations from the families in that area passed through her capable hands, learning to read, write, do math, science, art, and history. She was firm, fair, and dedicated to teaching all those little mush headed kids the basics of education. After two years in her class, you could do all those important skills, and spell too.

She didn’t have fancy computers, loads of resources, and special papers to hand out for homework, the only homework we ever had was learning the spelling list for the week. She didn’t have pretty cut outs and things to make bulletin boards with reminders, handouts for kids to take home to parents, or expensive products to teach with. She had a chalkboard, Big Chief tablets, pencils, crayons, a few pair of scissors, and an old beat up mimeograph machine that never quite had enough ink. But we all learned anyway.

What she did have, however, were parents that taught us to respect Mrs. Graham, or they would be all over us about it. I never heard one student talk back to her, smart off to her, or disrespect her in any way. None of us would if we didn’t want our parents to know and make sure we never did it again. What she did have was an innate ability to understand how children learned, and how to ignite our imagination through stories, ideas, and a firm belief that each and every one of us was brilliant in one way or another. What she did have, was a vast store of knowledge that she was willing and able to impart to all of us, even the rowdy boys who were more interested in rough housing than learning their spelling words. What she had was the support of the parents, the admiration of the other teachers and the administration, and the love of her students.

She wouldn’t recognize the modern classroom today. She wouldn’t understand how students can get away with literally doing nothing and still move on to the next level. She wouldn’t understand teaching a child to pass an exam instead of teaching children to learn the basics of reading, math, history, and science as a platform for the building of an educated mind. She wouldn’t understand the focus on feelings instead of a focus on encouraging each student through a purpose driven agenda designed to help them learn to help themselves learn. She wouldn’t understand the disrespect students, parents, and the administration have for the teachers who are down in the trenches working with hateful, angry, bored students every day. Teachers like Mrs. Graham are a phenomenon of the past.

Back when education meant that children were truly learning, it wasn’t uncommon for a young man or woman still in their teens to be teaching an entire community of students in a one room school with children from ages six to seventeen. By the time those children were ready to go to High School, they were proficient in all the basics, plus they could speak, read, and write in either Greek or Latin, or both. They were familiar with and could quote great works of literature, they understood complex mathematics and science theories and practices. They knew the history of their town, state, and country along with world history from the ancient ages to the present. Today, most High School students can barely read, write, or have the skills needed to pass the state exam required for graduation. Students are less intelligent, capable, or determined to excel in their studies. It isn’t just an inner city issue, or a poor issue, it is endemic throughout ever socio-economic level within in every type of community. More children are falling to the lowest common denominator of sloth, failure, and self aggrandizing entitlement than ever before. And no one cares enough to stop the fall, because today, we no longer have teachers like Mrs. Graham. We no longer have teachers, parents, and administrators who see teaching as more than a babysitting service provided for their children, because teachers are no longer allowed to teach, they only facilitate the process of regurgitative education. The students pass the state exam and promptly forget what they learned. They don’t build on a solid foundation of the basics, they simply pass through the system and wonder why life is so hard for them when they graduate or quit school as soon as they are old enough.

Teachers go into teaching knowing that it will be a thankless profession with poor pay. Some go in all shiny and new, ready to make a difference in the lives of their students, and run right into that wall of the lowest common denominator. Many, within a year or two, are so beaten down and exhausted they end up walking away from the profession. It is easier to deal with rude people as a waitress than to put their hearts into a profession where they are insulted and belittled by everyone on a daily basis. The only real losers in the modern education models of today are the generations of students who will waste twelve years in a system that will teach them nothing of value.

Mrs. Graham most definitely would not understand that at all.

Being A Guard Angel


My five year old great granddaughter asked. “Nana, do you love Papa?”

I told her, “Of course I love Papa. Why?” She just shrugged her shoulders.

Then she asked me, “Nana, do love my mommy?”

Again, I answered, “Yes, I love your mommy. Why did you ask me that?” She shrugged again as she sat on the floor playing with her Barbie dolls.

After a few minutes, she asked, “Nana, do you love me?”

I said, “Of course I love you. You are my angel baby. I will love you forever. Why would you ask me that?”

She climbed into my lap and leaned her head on my chest. “Will you love me when you die?”

I had to fight tears. “Oh, Addie, I will love you no matter what. Even if I die, I will always love you every day forever..”

Then she asked me, “Will you be my guard angel?” I must have looked confused. “My guard angel will always help me make good choices, and you always help me make good choices.”

I got it then. So I said, “Of course I will be your guardian angel. And I will watch over you all of your life. But I don’t plan on dying any time soon. I want to be here while you grow up into a smart, strong, beautiful young woman.”

She sighed, snuggled into my arms. “Good. Because I love you, you are my best Nana. You will be a good guard angel.”

She climbed out of my lap and went back to playing with her dolls. Then she said, “Everyone is a Child of God. Even when they are naughty. God loves everyone. I think he will be happy when you are one his angels. You won’t let anyone get away with being naughty.”

I went from teary eyed to laughter. If you listen, you can hear the most wonderful things from the heart of a child.

I love my angel baby. She fills my heart with such tender love and gentle joy. So, yes, my granddaughter, I love you more than I can ever say. You are the greatest unexpected blessing a Nana could ever have. I will be your guard angel right here on earth as long as God lets me stay, and I will always watch over you until we meet again in heaven. Thank you for asking.

Spring Is In The Air


I think the squirrels in northern Mississippi have a genetic disposition to suicide by car. It seems to become a problem of epidemic proportions in the spring. Maybe it is from being cooped up in trees all winter, or the incessant rain that starts in February and lasts until May. Wherever the reason, the little rodents are out in full force just waiting for the unsuspecting motorist to come around the bend or over the nearest hill. At which point they will run into the road, stop right where a wheel will surely smash them flat, and dare the driver to hit them. Or, if they are feeling particularly frisky, they play dodge the car by running out into the road, stopping, waiting for the car to get close, then dodging one way or the other, stopping, waiting and daring the driver to miss them. They must get a real kick out of seeing the panic on the face of the driver as they swerve and slam on the brakes, trying not to run the little beasts over. They probably have parties and laugh themselves silly when a car ends up in a ditch playing dodge the squirrel with them. Cute only goes so far when they play stupid games.

Then, just when the squirrels get distracted with other things, the box tortoise and snapping turtle contingent decides that it is time to find mates – across the road of course. They don’t dare the cars like the squirrels do, nope, they just flat don’t pay attention to anything but the urge to find that woman on the other side of the street. Drivers get to play the guessing game of, “Is that a rock or a turtle?” No one wants to squish a turtle, so the swerving commences, and the occasional thump squish sound is stomach turning. But darn it, they need to start wearing bright orange if they want to cross the road in the dark, where they blend in with the tarmac.

Later come the frogs and toads. Big, little, fat, skinny, loud croaking critters, they always wait until dark to come hopping on the road, right in front of the car, when the driver is going at speed, with no chance to stop. Suicidal as the squirrels, only much less intelligent, the frogs and toads just wait for the bright light to appear before them, then jump right smack into the car. Maybe they think they are seeing a heavenly messenger, but no matter what they think, they get to meet their version of heaven. One would think the shallow end of the their gene pool would empty out, but each generation must breed a whole new crop of brainless creatures since they just keep on coming.

And don’t even get me started on insects… talk about institutional suicide. Spring is in the air, time to play dodge the critters.