Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Sunshine Award





"A day without sunshine is like, you know, 
night."

~Steve Martin~




Thanks to Elena Patrice of Websitesgiveback for including me in her list of the 2011 Sunshine Award recipients. I love a good laugh! Elena exudes a happiness that always lifts me up. I admire her vision to support and promote businesses and help all of her readers with her insightful business tips. She's just a lot of fun!


I read a lot of blogs and many of them have already received this award. The ones I've chosen to highlight are ones that may not be well known or get many visitors. But they make me smile. Enjoy.


To accept this award you have to jump through a few happy hoops:


1. Thank the person who gave you the award. (You can skip this one with me!)


2. Answer 10 questions. ( I think the giver should make up new ones. It could get interesting!)


3. Pass the award on to 10-12 Sunshine-worthy bloggers ( It's hard to keep the list to 10/12!)


Here's the incredibly inspiring list of 10 questions:


  1. Favorite color: Today it's green, even though I'm partial to black and white.
  2. Favorite animal: Camels because they spit randomly, and giraffes..they're just cool.
  3. Favorite number: I cheated: the #8 turned on it's side for "infinity".
  4. Favorite drink: hot cocoa from real cocoa, homemade.
  5. Facebook or Twitter: depends where I can find you today.
  6. My passion: Each of my multiple personalities chose one: ballet, drawing, writing, reading, family history, eating, laughing, gardening, and the ocean.
  7. Giving or receiving: Again I cheat: both if it includes hugs and kisses!
  8. Favorite day: Today...I managed to wake up alive.
  9. Favorite flower: Carnation...or any flower that makes my head spin when I smell it.
10. Favorite food: Just about anything edible that doesn't have sour cream dolloped on top.


Sunshine Worthy (in no particular order)


 1. Billy Coffey ( blog )- An inspirational writer I found when I first joined Twitter.
  2. Julie Gouche ( blog )- Love her family history-related posts. Julie's just cute!
  3. Stan Faryna ( Podcasts, blog ).Mind-blowing and epic! Leader, businessman, gamer and gifted writer.  
  4. Nisha Varguese ( blog )- A woman who sees a need in the world and fills it. Love her!
  5. Aaron Biebert ( blog )- An all-around good guy and great leader in business.
  6. Johnathan Bell ( blog )- His mind was imported from another planet! I always laugh when reading him!
  7. Christian Hollingsworth ( blog )- A truly dedicated young man who's going places with business and music. Watch for his album!
  8. Peter Kevin Connell ( blog )- Peter's Heritage History blog is just funny!
  9. Shelley Lundquist ( blog )- Shelley has a calm, grounded spirit!
10. Yomar Lopez ( NJAB, blog )- Yomar is fun! Love his energy!
11. Palmoilfreesoap ( blog )- New Zealand home-based business. They have goats! I have no idea how I found them on Twitter. But they are doing good things with their passion!
12. Jane Furey ( Ezine )- My favorite friend from Australia whose blog for and about women (and now men contribute, too) is the classiest. I love her sense of humor!
13. Alice Pyne ( blog ) She has a bucket List and wants to trend on Twitter. A real sweetheart!


There you have it! Now go have a good day. 




Thursday, December 29, 2011

Behind the Smile





"Always wear a smile. 
The gift of life will then be yours to give."
~Rabbi Nachman~




There's a lot going on in Mona Lisa's head. Don't you think? The same can be said of all women. (Not sure about men. I'm not one!)


After pondering the life of Hannah and Michael Earles' eleventh and last child, Margaret, it hit me why I was having such a hard time getting into her head and figuring her out.


She and I, if we were to sit and to talk, and we have, could relate so well. When I looked at the details available to me of her life she seems like a very ordinary woman who lived a very normal life. But then I noticed two contradictory entries on the 1900 and 1910 census for her and her family with Michael Hussey, and I started to see, better yet to feel her soul; what's going on behind her eyes.


I won't bore you with the details of dates and names of children and where they were born and under what circumstances. But here's a brief overview:


  • Margaret and Michael were married and had their first child in 1882. Yes, the same year for both, nine months apart. Was it a shotgun wedding? Probably, say my instincts.
  • By 1900 they had eight children, only six of whom were still living. Besides Edward there was another death of another child, a little girls who lived a few days after birth.
  • The 1910 census says they have eight children with seven living.  
WHAT?!!!

Either someone wrote down the wrong figure or a child was resurrected from the dead!

This discrepancy bothered me for over a week. Yes, I understand the possibility for human error. But the hand-writing is so clear on both records. My conclusion? 

Margaret was doing a Betsy! 

The more I contemplated her life and saw what she had to deal with the more sense her frame of mind made to me. She was answering questions while her mind was on other things, more important things. Catch her in a mistake and you'd get that look that says, "Wait a minute. What?" And she'd laugh at the private joke that if said aloud would prove to the world that she shouldn't be put in charge of things unless the outcome wasn't too important. But she'd take on more and more assignments, juggling all the way.

Our little talks, Margaret's and mine, have become pretty funny. They are just like all of my conversations with my women friends. We're not crazy, we women who mix up our children's names or stare blankly at you when you ask if we "remember when" when you recount a favorite memory of one of them, and for all the tea in China we don't know what you're talking about. We're just dealing with the incessant tornado in our heads that's whipping up and swirling around information that gets harder and harder to grasp as the winds of life deposit more and more of what others deem important and necessary for us to remember and to act on.

Margaret. I see her saying, "Bring it on. What more could happen?" as her husband dies a month after the Stock Market Crash of 1929. "Everyone has to die. Now's as good a time as ever!" 

She really makes me laugh with her and for all of the women of the world who seem so normal..until you sit down and they open up about how utterly ridiculous (and good) their lives are. They may be fulfilled or not, but one thing seems consistent with all of them. Those with a sense of humor, even though life throws them punch after punch, they eventually get to that place where, if you get them together with other women, they'll admit they're a bit nuts!

I had one final chuckle as I looked at the 1930 census, the only census that asked:

"Do you own a radio?"

Thank goodness Margaret did! I picture her sitting in front of it listening to updates on the War and the Depression. At least she wasn't in it alone anymore! Her world was expanded. There were people out there! There was a world outside of her little family. I liked that she was still "head of household" and that two of her children lived with her. They worked at the lumberyard. She didn't. I'll bet she wanted to, just to keep busy. But that would require bookkeeping or filling orders, both of which demand more than people skills. Funny how math and organizational skills fly out the window when there's someone interesting to talk to standing in front of you.  

I imagine Ruth and Thomas coming home, seeing her in front of the radio, rocking her 65-year-old body as she listened. They'd ask her what's new and she'd update them on the latest. 

But ask her where she put her glasses or if she'd checked the mail, and be persistent enough and WWIII would start in her head.

But she'd just smile her smile and ask, 
"Whad'ya say?"

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Pearl of Great Price



Hannah Earles, mother of 10 boys, five of whom had died by today in 1863, sits and waits and wonders with me. She is a great comfort, as are all of the women in my life. 

Christmas is four days away. So is the birth of her 11th child. The Civil War is in full-swing. One of her boys may be consuming her mind and splitting her loyalties between the living and the almost-here. Gifts and decorations, as well as holiday treats are wanting, adding to the stress of carrying a baby to term while managing a household of rambunctious boys. They range in age from 2 to 11-years-old. And it's wintertime! 

Some women are made for little boys. 

Or perhaps living with them molds the woman into someone special. One who learns to live with the energy and vitality with which boys bless a home. Where wrestling for manners, combed hair, and a soft answer become daydreams over the years.

Hannah. I feel for her. She's 39 in 1863, and must be worn out. My 9th child was born when I was 47. But it was summertime and I knew it was a little boy. Every time I think about her I see her rocking, back and forth, and back and forth, listening and waiting for signs of impending change in her body and home.

But that's not the worst of her mind-numbing stresses. Grief would turn her journey through the holidays and childbirth into a dream or a nightmare, depending on how close to the edge she was. Her mother, the closest living female to her, passed away six weeks earlier. She'd helped raise her youngest children, and been her support through the deaths of at least two of them.

 And now she was gone.

So Hannah rocked and rocked and rocked. And as she rocked she'd watch and wonder how to do it all over again like she had with ten others before this one. She'd sing to herself and her little Thomas who was just 2-years old and still in need of his mother's comforting arms. The mood of her home depended on her pulling herself together and selflessly providing some holiday cheer. Because that's what moms do.

And I'm sure that she succeeded. She probably felt like she'd fallen short of her self-imposed expectations. But she'd made it. 

And then, as an unexpected gift, on the day after Christmas, after every one else's needs had been seen to, it was her turn. Providence would shine on her as she walked alone one last time through the valley of the shadow of death, reappearing whole on the other side with another sweet spirit to enjoy.

Only this time, number eleven, she looked into the eyes of her first baby girl, Margaret. 

Margaret. Greek origins.  aka, "Pearl".

Can you imagine the wondering awe?



Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My Social Media Experiment



When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child;

Turn back the clock. It's August 2010. My days are full of joy. I'm happy and managing life and its stresses peacefully, wisely. I read a lot, take long walks with my children, garden in the warmer months and enjoy friends and family more intimately when the cold weather keeps me indoors more often. A lot of my time and energy is focused on my passion for family history. When I find someone who needs help with their family history research I do what I can.

but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 

Enter social media. New things to see, hear, read and opportunities to grow. I'd only used the Internet to connect me to information up until the point that we moved away from my social connection to family and friends. The only world immediately available to me to replace my social life (or so I thought) was through the Internet. 

Problem? I assumed both worlds were the same. They aren't. One has bodies you can see, smell, touch, and hear. The other only has words and images. Even video is limited to exposing the true essence of who and what is seen. It's staged. The world that understood who I was, the one that saw me wash dishes, fold laundry, make dinner, and read bedtime stories even though I was exhausted from overwork and battle fatigue, wasn't invited onto my computer screen unless I wanted it there. Nor could it shout to the new world of cyberspace how much it loved and missed me.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face:

I think I know you. You think you know me. Words express our thoughts, and our desires. We tell virtual strangers stories about our lives, hoping to uplift, inspire and learn. I see pictures of you that you use for your profile, and others that you post on Facebook. I try to discern who you really are. But there is that impenetrable glass that never allows a true understanding or true connection.

I hold in high regard those few who actually go to Blogworld and other social media conferences where there's an opportunity to see face to face. That's a healthy way to use and continue in social media. Where there's a balance between and a link to both worlds. Where fantasies and illusions are replaced by real living, breathing human beings who have hopes, dreams, problems and stresses like everybody else.

Now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

No matter what I've said about how I feel, what my dreams, goals, values and standards are, social media is limited to never exposing to you what my life is really like. And that's not important unless what you're looking for is a deeper friendship and connection. 

If you're quick to judge and slow to discern AND unwilling to find common ground where values and standards are discussed and respected hearts can harden, making relationships difficult. Typed words are very limiting and easily misunderstood. 

Patience, respect, and a sincere desire to understand another's words over time with a lot of questions back and forth are required.

And now abideth faith, hope, and charity, these three;

Do I believe there's value in social media? Yes. I believe it has enormous capacity for good. But what I think I've learned is to use it for the good of those whom I can interact with in my family, neighborhood, and community. or for the good of YOUR family and community.  

I believe we are the agents of change, the bridge-builders. Anything less than that vision leaves idle minds that could be engaged in service to self-serving relationships that can depress and discourage because they are shadow-like by nature, never really real. 

My hope is that I can learn how to use these magnificent tools to do a work in the world that is uplifting and inspiring, and tangible. I feel like I'm starting to see clearly how it can work.

Used wisely it will  build connections of trust and usefulness within our real life communities. But if it uses us, it has the capacity destroy us, our families and our other relationships. 

but the greatest of these is charity.
1 Corinthians 13:11-13

Charity, the pure love of Christ; the love that allows for understanding of differences, teaches and encourages respect, aspires to everything good and beautiful, and yearns to be the  bridge between the haves and the have-nots are things that encourage me about social media. 

When we shift our selfish desires that seek our own gratification to magnanimous ones that want to connect for the purpose of helping those who live in our homes and communities, we'll be the recipients of peace in our hearts, knowing who we really are to the world and in the world and for the world.

And when our focus shifts from what WE need and want to what we can give, we will see so many more opportunities to share WHO we know with those who have a need to know THEM. 

Our days will feel richer because we'll have tools at our disposal that can quickly and effectively reach the previously unreachable. Even if only a small percentage of people online use it to promote their neighbor's cause or business, those threads of activity will slowly wrap around each other and bind us together as brothers and sisters, and will become more easily discerned and emulated by those who are seeking to do good in the world.

Will I continue in social media? A few days ago I would have said no. My strength was gone. I was humbled by my ignorance and naivete.  I had become so inwardly focused that I couldn't see my value, if that makes any sense at all. But I need to be connected to people to help, to lift, and to inspire, and to BE inspired!

Most of that connection will be found in real life, in my home and community. It's up to me to set up a system that works efficiently to link both worlds together seamlessly. I will decide how much time I devote to that service, and what my standards are. And my real life relationships will always have to come first. They've earned the right and privilege to be the relationships I work the hardest on every day. 

 And if I can't figure this out for myself, how in the world can I guide my children who will possibly need to use the Internet much more than I have or will?

Friday, December 16, 2011

To Thine Own Self Be True





A person is never easier to see, to remember, and to love than when he's being true to himself.

Thomas Earles Jr., tenth child of Hannah and Thomas Earles was the same as the rest of the Earles. He was a serious businessman who accomplished a lot in the lumber and shingle industry with his brothers Michael, Miles, and William. He was active in his church and community as well. He had four children, a baby girl who died at birth, and Grace, William and Joseph.


There are times I just want to shake the whole group of them and beg them to wake us both up. Do something extraordinary, something unique. Something that stands out and says."I'm me!" 


Well, it wasn't happening with Thomas, born 1861 in Wisconsin. He led a perfectly routine life it seemed, staying married to the same woman for 58 years, and retiring at 62....just because he wanted to. (I'm not saying that's a bad thing! Actually, that story might be more unusual in our day and age than any other story!)


His life seems so ordinary. Stable. Good, I'm sure, but nothing stood out as interesting yet. Nothing spoke to me. And I wanted to learn something.


But life doesn't entertain normalcy for too long. As I looked closer at his life and little family that he and Delia started in 1888, I found someone who intrigued me. Someone who marched to different music. His own. Finally!


Thomas and Delias' first son William was different. I have to wonder how certain stories and eye-witness events may have influenced the course of his life. Maybe you remember how the Earles lived in Wisconsin when the Peshtigo and Chicago fires wreaked havoc one night in 1871? (story here) I'm sure that William's dad and uncles told stories about that night and the aftermath of the firestorms that their communities dealt with for years. But what's funny, not "ha ha" funny, is that in 1909. after living in Bellingham, Washington for four years, 20-yr.-old William would witness another fire that destroyed the Puget Sound Timber Company. One where his dad and uncle were associates.


I can imagine William saying to himself, "Bunch of loonies! Family business or not, I'm not going down that road." Or:


"Burn me once, shame on you. Burn me twice, shame on me."

Why do I like William so much? Well, I was looking at his choices and I was impressed with two of them that told me a lot about who he was and what he stood for. And I admire him for them.

In 1917, when he was 27 years old and still living at home with his parents in Washington, he crossed the border to Canada and enlisted in the Canadian Oversees Expeditionary Force, making an oath that he "would be faithful and bear true allegiance to King George the Fifth", a man he'd never met in person. Seems he'd found something bigger than himself to fight for.


He was sent to France to fight in WWI, just like my great uncles, Roy and Vic Lowrie. Roy, as you remember, never came home, but was killed and buried in France. (story here)

Less than a year after enlisting, William died too, having accidentally shot himself with his own rifle. He was also buried in France, just 1/2 an hour from Roy. I don't think Thomas or Delia ever visited his grave.

What drives a person to sign up to fight in a war that's technically not theirs? To be a stranger's hero? What type of person stops what they're doing to actively engage in a cause that could cost them their life, never mind interrupt its flow for years? 

William enlisted on May 15, 1917. Two days later, on the other side of Canada, there would be an anti-conscription parade in Montreal. But by August enlistment in Canada would be mandatory. Can you imagine? What was he thinking? When the majority of people around him were fighting against the draft, he's crossing the border to sign up. I ask again, what kind of person does that?


Anti-conscription parade, May 17, 1917, Montreal, Canada

Well, one more thing that I learned about William Harrison Earles from his Attestation Papers. There was a second choice he made in life that intrigued me. The thing that warmed my soul. He wasn't a lumberman. a mill man, a politician, or a broker like his father and uncles. He didn't build and sell stuff, or volunteer in his church or community from what I could see.

He was a writer.

Kinda makes you think. Doesn't it? It made me chuckle.



Saturday, December 10, 2011

Who Is the Keeper of the Flame?


" From a tiny spark may burst a flame"
~Dante Alighieri~

Fire is a great teacher. It has the capacity to comfort and to destroy. When not tended we feel the lack. When uncontrolled we ourselves and all that we love may be consumed by it.

The Great Peshtigo fire of Peshtigo, Wisconsin in 1871, a story I stumbled upon while I was researching Miles Earles, has called to me for days even though he and his family lived an hour to the south of Peshtigo, and probably just on the outskirts of its destruction. One survivor described it days after the rain finally extinguished it:

"If one could imagine the worst snow storm he ever witnessed, and each flake a coal or spark of fire driven before a terrifying wind, he would have an idea of the atmosphere at the time the fire struck."

It had something to teach me. So I kept looking at maps and reading stories. For over a week it has been smouldering in the background of my consciousness.


The Chicago Fire was blazing the very same night, Sunday October 8th, and would receive most of the attention because Peshtigo was not as well known and news was harder to get from the "wilderness" than from the vibrant city just 4 hours to the south. But it consumed far more lives and acreage than the Chicago Fire.


So Miles and his family were between two horrific fires. Peshtigo was 1 hour to the north, Chicago 3 hours south of them. There are no family stories of that night or the effects, if any that it may have had on the Earles.


The two fires have so much in common. The conditions were perfect for spontaneous ignition and rapid spreading. There had been a long summer drought, and small fires had been smouldering for a while. The structures of both places were primarily wooden and quickly engulfed. Even though there was a bit more organization for fire-fighting in Chicago than Peshtigo, the people were overcome suddenly with tornado-like winds that engulfed every building and person in its path, and asphyxiating smoke that would choke to death those who couldn't outrun the storm of fire on their way to the river. Both fires took the lives of about 300 people in Chicago, and an estimated 2,400 in Peshtigo and surrounding areas. Estimates of the victims vary.


There were itinerant traveling preachers who were fertilizing the minds of the people of that area with thoughts of the end of the world; "hellfire and damnation". Some people who could have been saved instead gave in to these beliefs and willingly perished instead of running for their lives.


The bogs had been harboring flames five feet below their surface for weeks. Everyone was getting accustomed to the smoke in the air which made breathing and visibility difficult. They were getting used to suffering. Like a frog placed in a pot of cold water being slowly heated to boiling they were being pacified slowly to accept that it couldn't get any worse.


But back to Miles, age 14 in 1871. What had he done that Sunday? Did he go to church? Have Sunday dinner? Get together with friends? AT 9pm I'm assuming he was in bed. Did he sleep right through it? I know that part of Manitowoc County was affected. But was his? How close did it get?


Imagine hearing about and being a neighbor to these two great fires. What does that do to a teenager, or anyone for that matter? He may have visited both places, or even known people who perished. He may have watched the sky glowing and tasted the smoke that drifted and blew around him. 


It's the aftermath that keeps calling to me. Neither of these fires were intentionally set. But their destruction was sudden and complete. One day the towns and city were there, then they were gone. Chicago was rebuilt. Peshtigo, too.


As an aside, is that where his three older brothers may have been at the time? I can't find Matthew, Patrick or Stephen during these years or anytime after. They were old enough to serve in the Civil War. But there are no records of either enlistment or service, never mind death, injury, or burial. There is a Mass Grave in the Peshtigo Fire Cemetery where 350 unnamed victims are buried. I'm sure that there are others as well in surrounding towns. Is that where they ended up?


What matters to me in Miles' story is what it has to teach me about life and its precariousness, and how there are certain kinds of preparedness that we need to pay attention to before disaster strikes, which it will.


Miles may have had to listen to his parent's worry and grief over his older brothers, Matthew, Patrick and Stephen who may have perished that night. He and everyone else had to deal with the shock of massive and unforeseen destruction and loss. You can only prepare for that eventuality in one way. 


And when you're in shock you will have to draw upon your well which had better run deep. Because your emotional and spiritual survival will depend on it as time ticks on and conditions worsen and try your soul. What CAN you do?


 Make sure you have "oil in your lamp".


There are perfect storms waiting to be ignited in our lives that we have no clue are looming on the horizon, and there are at least two ways we can choose to respond to their destruction. One is to move on in faith, and to rebuild. The other is to let it consume us and thwart our contribution to the world.


The Earles family consistently chose the former. I can tell because they kept functioning and producing. 


The question I am confronted with is how and why does one do that? And what does that have to do with Miles?


He, like the rest of us, is an individual with a mind and a life of his own. But he was also a member of a family and multiple communities. He stayed close to his brother Michael, working as a superintendent of one of Michael's logging camps in Washington State.  They took care of each other and each other's families. 


The Earles' parents, Thomas and Hannah, had wisdom born of experience that would give them the ability to see patterns of the ups and downs of life that they had to have passed on to their children. I can feel their sadness and their pain as once again they had to dig deep to find the strength to reassure their children that there was hope in the future, and that it was their responsibility, as long as they had a breath in them, to walk into that new world.


Perhaps they taught their children about fortitude and strength. More than likely they drew upon their own spiritual knowledge and passed that on. They had to have found an anchor in something higher than themselves to navigate successfully such hard times as the Irish Potato Famine, the loss of five of their children, and now these destructive fires.


They had to have had something to offer them. Some sort of faith to keep walking forward.


My question today, one that I thought I'd answered, but am now revisiting is:


How prepared am I? 

How well am I fulfilling my stewardship to

 my family and friends as a light in the 

storms of life that will come?


 How do I respond to sudden loss of family, friends, money, possessions or reputation? Am I an example of humility and quiet strength, or do I seem more like a balloon circling around and around in the throes of death when pricked by a pin?


How do I describe the "event"? Pain and suffering need to be acknowledged and enjoyed. But there is also a place for opportunity and rebirth. Both take their own time and make their own way. Patience and faith are required but ofttimes unwelcome friends. Quiet living are the best examples and strengths to offer.


I have a strong impression that Thomas and Hannah Earles were all of the above and more. They were the keepers and igniters of the flame.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

What Money DOES Buy




"There is only one class in the community that thinks more about money than the rich, and that is the poor. The poor can think of nothing else."
~Oscar Wilde~

I don't have a lot of time to write because we're finishing up loading the truck and cleaning the house. Leaving New Hampshire is heart-wrenching even though we're going back to Cape Cod, my favorite place on earth.


One thought has been consuming me as I've been studying the lives of Thomas and Hannah Earles' children. I'll get back to studying more about Miles Earles, the next in line of their 11 children to get a story. But, for now, an observation:


Some say money is the root of all evil.
Some say money can't buy happiness.


I say money is whatever you think it is until you don't have any. And then you know how important it is to keep you housed, clothed and fed, and give you hope for an education of any kind.


Money buys you freedom from discomfort. 


The Earles children, so far without exception, worked very hard to provide for their families. The boys all married younger women late in life and died relatively young. From what I can see so far, their families were left fatherless but comfortable. The widows never list an occupation on any census record. And unless she moved to be with family, she stayed in the same house that she'd lived in before her husband died.


Bits and pieces of family stories are starting to make sense as the puzzle pieces are put into place. I remember talking to my dad about his mother Evelyn and some mine she owned with her sister, Elizabeth. Now I read about Michael and Miles both being involved in mining (as well as lumber) and wonder if when Evelyn's father Michael died her uncle Miles provided for the family by investing in the mine for his nieces' sake.


I'm seeing patterns, comforting ones, of how families, at least this one, took care of each other. There seems to be a calmness as I study their lives. I see how they lived, what they did, and what was going on in their lives when they died. But as traumatic as a death is and the upheaval and temporary chaos it can create, there still seems to be peace in this family. There's a palpable "flow" to their lives.


My conclusion? 


Money bought part of that for them. 


When I catch myself wondering if that's true I think back on times in my life that money would have smoothed the way for grief to be "enjoyed" fully. 


Money is symbolic, of course. Today it feels like there was a perfect balance between men living their passions and providing for their families' comfort while living and after they passed. 


Just something to think about while driving home!