Sunday, January 29, 2012

Roses In December

"God gave us memories 
that we might have roses in December"
~ J.M. Barrie, Courage, 1922 ~

We met her on moving day, December 1, 2011. Her persistence won our hearts, and against my husband's wishes, she became a daily visitor. I relish the memories of watching her sleep on my son's bed as if she was a lifelong member of our family. "We can't afford to feed one more!" he would say. But he was commuting for work and was gone for the better part of the day. So she came when he left. Then her brother started dropping by. They looked so much alike.

One day we all noticed that she hadn't come that day and hadn't been around for two weeks. Maybe she'd been forbidden to come. Maybe something was wrong.

While I was researching James Crossman Johnson, Uphard and Elizabeth's third child I was startled out of my trance by a knock at the door. A young man stood bent over a huge dog who was straining to get through the crack I'm made between me and them as I slid open the door.

"Sorry! He used to live here!" he said as I closed the door a bit to protect two worried and very curious children who stood beside me.

I really wanted to get back to my research of James. He was born in October of 1845 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Up until the interruption by my neighbor all I knew was that he was born in Cambridge and crossed the Mystic River twice, first to live in Malden where he was five, and then to live in Somerville where I found him at 15.

My neighbor friend asked if I'd seen his black cat. 

"Yes! She came over all the time up until a couple of weeks ago!"
"No, that's his sister. She was hit by a car and killed two weeks ago. Have you seen her brother?"
I pushed the sliding door closed between us, leaving us to grieve the loss of our friend, and slowly made my way back to my research with a heavy heart.

My first thoughts after the shock wore off were of gratitude. We'd had some really fun weeks with the little kitty who cried to come in to eat our food, to sleep and to play. It would have been so easy to shun her, and to shoo! her home. But it felt right to let her in. 

And we were blessed with memories.
No regrets.

We'd been given a gift with no promise of how long it would be there for us to enjoy. Turns out it was a very short time.

I finally knew where our friend had disappeared to. But where was James? I'd done grave, census, marriage and death searches to name a few. said that he belonged to 8 family trees. I checked them all out and they all say that he died on December 23rd, 1862, in New Orleans, Louisiana, as a soldier in the Civil War. Not one of them had documentation. I added that date to his record with no proof as well because I knew I'd want to figure out whether it was true or not.

This much I know. He disappeared after the 1860 census. It was possible that he enlisted in the war at 17 because even young children served as drummer boys, etc. 

His parents were left with the memories of their brief 17 years with him as they saw Christmas come and go and welcome another New Year. It would be their first year without him. His October 7th birthday would come and go without him from now on. All of the holidays and special occasions would notice his absence. Those who mourned his passing would rely heavily on memories created with him to buoy them up through the drought they'd feel without him.

The human mind is a wonderful thing. We are blessed with the capacity to remember unless and until nature decides we've had enough and relieves some of the burden of sorrow and grief.

My lesson this week came from an unexpected source. An innocent little kitty who offered friendship, connection, and, yes, memories. 

I'm left with a question.

How many blessings like that have I literally and figuratively shut the door on?

And how many "roses" will I have collected to help me to enjoy the Decembers that will inevitably come?


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Remember... a family history blog: With His Spoken Word

Remember... a family history blog: With His Spoken Word:

If you landed here you should be here,,, sorry. Betsy playing with stuff leads to problems sometimes!

With His Spoken Word

Guest post by Caroline Pointer ~ Genealogist and Family Historian

When she’s not being transported back in time and being made awesomely complete by ancestors’ stories, Caroline M. Pointer is the author of her personal family history blog, Family Stories, and the author of her professional blog, For Your Family Story, where one can find out what happens when genealogy meets technology. She has a new blog launching on 31 Jan 2012 called where one can find out how to write effective blog posts.

With His Spoken Word

I was in awe.
No, that’s not right.
It was more like I felt completed.
Yes, awesomely completed.

I was awesomely completed when I put that CD in my laptop’s drive and heard his voice.

My husband’s Great-Uncle Donald, who is now 91, wrote and voice-recorded his memoirs and gave me copies of both a couple of years ago when we went up to Iowa for the annual Pointer Family Reunion. He also gave me copies of the Pointer family photos as well as copies of newspaper clippings his mother, Pearl, had saved all of her life, all of which he had digitized.

He sat me down that day and went over with me every single photo and told me any stories that he knew about each one. To see the faces of those I had researched for so long was amazing. I mean, I had all their facts, but Great-Uncle Donald had their faces and their stories.

But I think what moved me the most – in fact, awesomely completed me – was to hear his story on his memoirs CD. I closed my eyes and just listened to him tell me his story. And the more he spoke, the more his stories came alive. And to be perfectly honest, there were times I may have had a tear or two in my eyes.

As researchers, we search and find facts a lot of the time, and we may have a photo or two, or perhaps a newspaper article, but when we listen to someone’s story as they tell it, it seems to come alive and it’s like we’re there as it’s unfolding.

As Great-Uncle Donald spoke, I could smell the farm animals.
I laughed at their stubborn goat on top of the car.

I could hear the cows moo as Great-Uncle Donald herded them to a different pasture.

I could hear Great-Uncle Donald and his brother goofing off in that swimming hole by that pasture.

I wiped the sweat from my brow as Great-Uncle Donald and his brother Wayne picked corn.

Dust got in my eyes making my eyes water as I listened to Grandpa Williams and Uncle Sim argue as they walked down that long dusty road.

I was right there on that morning when Great-Uncle Donald learned his father, Harve, had been accidentally killed. I could feel his sorrow and grief.

I was there on the ship with him sometime before 6 Jun 1944 when he and his unit knew something big was going to happen that would change the world. They just didn’t know when or where. I could feel both their fear and courage.

I was there when his older brother Lester was buried at Arlington Cemetery after dying from a brain tumor during World War II. And I was there when he learned his brother Wayne’s plane had gone down somewhere over the Brazilian Jungle during that same war. I felt Great-Uncle Donald’s anguish and sorrow.

With his spoken word, Great-Uncle Donald had transported me back to his family story. And this is why it’s so important that we, as researchers, keep in mind that behind those documents, that behind those facts, and that between those census lines are where our ancestors lived and where their stories are lying in wait for us to find them.

And when we’re lucky enough to find and hear those stories, well, they make us awesomely complete.

 Caroline Pointer is a lot of fun! One of my new favorite games that she created is The 48-Hour Ephemera Challenge. (here). There are 116 members to date. Be the next one to join!

"A new ephemera piece is posted every Friday night and you have 48 hours to work with others in a forum atmosphere to figure out the story behind the piece using clues from the piece and online resources."

Caroline can be reached at, but she can almost always be found on Twitter as @FamilyStories , Shades' E-Magazine In2Genealogy Column, and Houston Genealogy Examiner

Other posts to check out from Caroline's blog:

They Had Balls
Was It Really Worth It?
Smiling Big & Laughing Hard
NBC'S Who Do You Think You Are? Preview of Season 3

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dream's End

View from Vincent's sanitarium window, Arles
Starry Night, Vincent van Gogh, 1889

"Dreams are like may never touch them, 
but if you follow them they will lead you to your destiny."

I am one of five children. When I got married I didn't have extreme desires for children. I actually couldn't stand babysitting when I was growing up, and I didn't ever crave holding babies. They actually scared me!

So of course I ended up having nine children. What's more interesting is I can never adequately answer the question, "Why did you have so many?'

No one asks, "Why only one, two three or four?" But pass that magical number and you've traversed the Continental Divide between the normal and the not-so-normal.

Still, I have always relied heavily on my mother's experience with firsts such as projectile vomiting that scared the pants of me (not really) when my two-week-old daughter gave a smashing portrayal of the possessed girl in the movie 1973 movie, "The Exorcist" (never watched it...but heard all about it!), or full-blown temper tantrums that occur when you have a cart load of frozen food at the checkout of the super market. Her wisdom has pulled through every time!

Elizabeth Ann Wheeler had her first daughter, Elizabeth Ann when she was eighteen, two and an half years after her first child William was born in 1841. All together Elizabeth Johnson had nine children and was not as lucky as I have been. None of mine have died. But her daughter, her namesake had to have been taking it all in, processing, learning, and making decisions for her future based on her experiences while she was young.

My children have reported to me over the years that they aren't too sure about having children. Either that or they say, "When I have my OWN children they'll NEVER do That!" Yeah, I said that, too.

I love the, "When I have kids I'm going to:
  • let them stay up as late as they want
  • eat as much junk food as they want
  • NEVER make them go to school
  • NEVER give them chores
  • let them wear any style of clothes 
  • let them do whatever they want with their hair...."
  • ETC.

What no child ever thinks about is the inability to have children or the sacrifices they will be required to make just bringing them into the world.

I guess if they knew they'd never dream.

I wonder if Elizabeth Ann the daughter dreamed of having a family? She may have been just like I was, married to be married. If children came they came. If not, so be it.

She got married when she was 25, the same age I was when I tied the knot. Her husband, Theadore Lyman Palmer was just a few years older than she was and was providing for them both as a teamster in 1870, a year after they were married.

The next time I see them is 10 years later. No children had been born, but one was obviously on the way.

I know because I found Elizabeth, age 36, on a US Federal Census Mortality Schedule.

Cause of death? "Peurperal Convulsions" , aka Eclampsia, brought on by carrying and / or birthing a child. From what I've read there are warning signs of impending danger: headaches, swelling of the feet and ankles, and cloudy urine. These days doctors are so careful and can drive any woman crazy with all of the tests every month and eventually every week as childbirth nears. It can really get annoying. Now I understand better and I'm humbled. But these mild symptoms may not have worried Elizabeth or Theadore. Elizabeth had her mom, who'd had nine children. Perhaps there was no concern just excitement as her delivery date neared?

The end of that particular dream, if there had been one, ended tragically in January in 1880. Theadore is listed as "Widower" later that year in the US 1880 census. He's forty and still living in the same place six months after his wife passed away. Life went on for him, but I can't tell how. For now he has also been relegated to the RTE (Roaming the Earth) pile because I don't know where he went after 1880.

I had one more unexpected thought as I finished my research on Elizabeth's death. The physicians are listed by name on the Mortality Schedules. My heart broke for them. I never forget that there are always secondary people who suffer in a tragedy. These are the ones who have either caused an accident, directly or indirectly, or have been affected but forgotten while the primary players are comforted and mourned with.

What of the physicians? 

There were about 33 deaths in Melrose, Massachusetts as of May 31st ( can't tell exact amount because of cross-outs) with 7 (the handwriting is atrocious!) different attending physicians. That's an average of at least 4 deaths per doctor in  six months. Sure, they could walk away and go home and keep living.

I just wonder the cost.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Lucky In Love? Ask His Wives

"You can't always control who walks into your life, but you can control which window you throw them out of."
~ anonymous and / or your spouse? ~

What a day I had yesterday! 

I went from sluggish and semi-depressed to Energizer Bunny all in a matter of minutes. Why? Because I found William Henry Harrison Johnson (1st son of Uphard and Elizabeth: here and here ). I'd all but given up. 

Do you want to know how many William H. Johnsons there are? I can't tell you because I don't care about any of them but mine. But for a while I had mine unmarried, serving in the Civil war, and dying in Pennsylvania.

Want to know how I found him? Through his mother's maiden name on I often use that site to cross-reference my other searches or to look for missing documents that I can't find on But I never thought to look for Elizabeth Wheeler because she was married and a Johnson when she had William.

What I remembered?

Researchers and family history enthusiasts treat people as individuals, and if they know the maiden name they always put that in the record instead of the new married name.

But on to William's story. 

We already established that his mom was 16 when she had him, and that he was named after our 9th president who died a month after William was born. His 4-yr.-old brother died when he was 10, but he got a new Edward the following year, so I guess it all worked out.

I can't imagine what would be going through his head when at sixteen his parents seemingly go off the deep end and start naming their children George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. Wasn't he the firstborn? The one who was supposed to get the special name?

He got married to Ellen when he was 21, and that marriage lasted for 29 years and blessed them with six children. 

And then she disappeared. 

No big deal. Sometimes it takes me forever to find a death record. And when I don't find one they go in the "Roaming the Earth" pile and cause me to pay attention to every stranger that opens a door for me or gives me a random smile.

Then I started reviewing the available documents (for free I might add) on and I saw a pattern. Could be an innocent one or a disturbing one depending on who you are and if you are a single woman living near William and running in his circles. 

See, William remarried three times after Ellen disappeared. And none of the other wives / marriages (who knows?) lasted long. The first made it for five years, the second for three, and the last for two and she was only 34 when she got married! William was 57 and that was the youngest he ever went. The others were his age or one year younger.

Me? What did I think about that? I was in a mood and I'll give you my two scenarios. 

First, he was a pusher. And his wives just happened to be near an open window when he was feeling the urge. You see I understand that one. I'm trying to watch myself, but I do tend to push and punch arms when feeling a need to add an exclamation point to get my point across.

Second, he was a carrier of a deadly communicable disease that he contracted a year or two before Ellen died. Maybe Typhoid, or Small Pox? The years match.

Today my mood has shifted. I'm a bit more humble. I really like William. I don't know why his wives died. But I can see that he was a catch and he liked being married. He just kept doing it!

The surprise for me, the thing that woke me up, was that his mother helped me to find his story and his wives. Each of those women was blessed to have had him in their life even if it was only for a short time. I could tell. 

It was as if the records were whispering to me. 

They were teaching me that , yes, everyone is an individual. Our lives will be made up of individual choices that intersect others' lives. The names we are born with are significant. They are a starting place. 

But they are also enriched and changed by the relationships we choose to have. They add dimension to who we are. Don't they?

The last record I have of William is the 1900 census where he is finally listed as "Widowed" and "Father-in-Law" to the head of household with his youngest daughter and her family. I literally took a breath and sighed when I saw that. He was only 59 and he was done. Seven years later he passed away, finally to see his wives again. What a reunion!  

I found it interesting that the women in William's life made him who he became to me. He was lost, and then he was found.

(I just really hope he didn't throw them out a window.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I'm Bored!

William Henry Harrison, Ninth U.S. President, 1841

"See  Mine Eyes?!"

"But you're a moooommmm!! You HAVE to tell me what to do!" 

That mantra was whining out of every mouth of every body writhing painfully on the floor and couch hoping that I would come up with something to put it out of its misery. 

Playdoh? Coloring? Can I read you a story? Watch a movie? Do some homework? Sleep? Eat? Take a bath? Play with shaving cream? Clean the house? Your room? 

NO! NO! NO! 

"Well, then you're on your own." You'd think I'd sentenced them to 10 years of hard labor.

About 16 years ago, when we had only four children I ordered trophies for each family member and had them engraved with a unique personal trait or attribute, one for everyone.

Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy! Know what I chose for mine?

"Cruise Director"!

Well, this week I quit the job. And they're all going through withdrawal. Betsy awesomeness withdrawal. It's NOT pretty!

But I have plenty to do. I want to write. Right? I love to write. Don't I? I'd even decided to continue on with Uphard and Elizabeth Johnson's children. The couple was featured in the last post, "Sweet Fifteen". I had nine new research projects and plenty of time and nowhere to go! What fun!

I got nothing. For days and days on end.

When I complained to a friend about my dilemma I was shocked to hear, "You're just not feeling them yet." Yeah. I was. And they were boring me. How do you write a story that you can't connect to? That doesn't excite you at any level?

I left for the bus stop for the second time today with no story yet. And that was draining me. Kindergartners won't be dropped off until the smiling face of a parent is seen. That had already happened once this year (poor Kenny!), so I hustled myself down the sidewalk, bracing myself against the bitter wind, thankful to have something to do. 

And I promptly got lost in daydreams of the Johnson family.

 Who names their child Benjamin Franklin? George Washington? Or William Henry Harrison? Uphard and Elizabeth Johnson. That's who. But why?

That was my question as I walked. 

Elizabeth nearly knocked me over with her "Duhh!" "Betsy!" she scolded, "You of all people should understand!" Elizbeth is very cute and full of energy. Too young to be cooped up inside with nine babies if you ask me!

The thoughts started flooding in. "Uphard is out with the horse and buggy. Again." "It's wintertime and I can't get anything done even though I have nowhere to go!" "I'm supposed to keep them all busy so they don't kill each other. But I've run out of ideas." And finally, "This is great! Getting outside was just what I needed!"

I did understand. Finally. 

Why the names? Why not? It was entertainment. Something to talk about. To be moved by. William Henry Harrison, America's ninth elected president and the Johnson's first baby's name, was sworn in and dead a month after Elizabeth's first child was born. Imagine. New baby named after a new president. Then the guy dies and the nation grieves every time you tell someone your baby's name. Not funny. I know.

This little family was beginning to amuse me. Benjamin Franklin showed up twice. First as Uphard's brother and then his son. Either they were very patriotic or they were forward thinkers. 

"Honey. Just think. On those long, cold winter days you can tell them ALL about good old Ben and George! You can warn them to wear a hat and coat in the middle of winter, or else...well they might end up like, you know, William! Dead and gone!" "Sweetie! Imagine! You'll never run out of things to talk about with them!" "The kite story! You can teach them about lightning and electricity!"

I stood shivering at the bus stop waiting and listening, trying to conceal my smile. I was cornered. Young, sweet Elizabeth. So direct.

"As if THAT was going to help!" "Names!" "Hmph!" "A horse! I want a horse. No buggy. Just room for me. A one-seater if you know what I mean!" I did.

She swished her skirt and we both looked down the sidewalk towards the school an half a mile away. That look. I've seen that look. "See mine eyes?" she winked. A little mischievous. But never serious. Freedom was at the blinking lights beyond the school.

For a moment we were both out of there. On a cruise. Laughing.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sweet Fifteen

"Be careful what you wish for... might come true."

My children often ask how wishes come true. I tell them that if they'll say them out loud they have a better chance of getting what they wish for. 

But there's also something else I've been contemplating for a while that I should probably tag on to my advice to proclaim their heart's desire to the world. And that is that wishes, once they hit the vast expanse of the human mind, even before they see the light of day, take on a life of their own.

Elizabeth Ann Wheeler turned fifteen on March 19, 1840. She was living in Boston, Massachusetts with her mom and one of her seven older siblings. She was the baby of the family. Wonder what SHE wished for as she blew out her birthday candles? Maybe her hopes and dreams included a 25 year-old Uphard Crossman Johnson of Vermont?

By Uphard's 26th birthday in July of that same year she would be pregnant, and by October 10th, three months later, they'd be newlyweds. 

"We would often be sorry if our wishes were granted."
~ Aesop ~

That's what I want to ask Elizabeth and Uphard. Any regrets? Would you do it all over again?

William Henry Harrison Johnson was born 10 days before Elizabeth turned 16. What an adjustment she would make first to married life and then motherhood! Little Elizabeth was born 2 years later and was followed by James two years after her. 

Six more children came to bless their family before Elizabeth turned 39. And of those nine only four would outlive both parents. Edward they buried twice. The first died when he was four. His namesake when he was thirty-eight, six years before Elizabeth passed away, eleven after his dad, Uphard. I can't imagine the heatbreak losing a four year-old! On Independence day no less!

They'd been married thirty years in 1870. Uphard supported his family as a carpenter in East Cambridge, Mass. when the census-taker came strolling along in the middle of June. 

I looked at the bottom of the census record where a space is left for "Total Insane"... as in, how many insane lived in the neighborhood, not were they totally insane! 

Can you imagine how your neighbors would answer that one for you? Do you know how many times I've had to chase a naked baby down the street in every season, or threaten a teenager with certain death if the snowbank they were jumping into from the second story of the house didn't kill them first? Not because I was worried. But what would the NEIGHBORS say?!!

The space was empty. No one was talking!

Did the census taker REALLY ask that question? 

And if so, who answered it? I can see Elizabeth staring at Uphard, hands on hips, waiting for his reply with lips clenched and eyes that said, "Watch what you say, Buddy!" And Uphard's eyes shifting between her and Mr. census-taker pleading, "Help me! Please?" as his mouth cheerfully oozed, "No crazies here!"

There should have been another box to check:

  • Would an extended stay on the premises make one insane?

And a child would be required to answer. 

Because if anyone would ask Elizabeth or Uphard they'd get the thumbs up, everything's fine here. There had been enough sorrow from death and impending war service to shake even the surest foundation, never mind one that may have begun at the end of a shotgun as a sweet fifteen-year-old girl and her beau tied the knot.

Seems to me they did very well, all things considered. 

And if there was ever a wish to be had it's that no matter what life gives you, you accept it graciously and enjoy the ride having done your duty setting it in motion.

That phrase doesn't sit right with me. If you're going to make a wish, to dream, why not go for the gusto? Be careful? Makes no sense to me at all.

I like Elizabeth.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Great Expectations

"For my ways are not your ways, neither are your thoughts my thoughts, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts."
Isaiah 55:8-9

Sometimes you just get lucky and you find what you didn't know you'd lost.

I'd chosen a new family to work on, Charles and Anna Sophia Carlson and their four surviving children of eleven, G. Irene, Walter A., Meda G., and Carl Anders, my dad's paternal grandfather. I've written about Charles and Anna a bit, and my great grandfather, Carl Anders. But I can't find G. Irene and Meda G. after a certain age. I've concluded that they never died, but are roaming the earth, doing good deeds and random acts of kindness.

I was going to give up and throw in the towel again with the family history story-telling because it was getting like this with all of the rest of my ancestors. They were living in an alternate universe and were not budging to give me any clues as to their whereabouts. 

Happy to report, the joke's on them. As soon as I made the heart-wrenching decision to end the quests, I remembered that I had barely touched my husband's ancestors! So, I'm leaving mine in the dust for a while. We'll see how anxious they get to be remembered! They'll be calling out of the darkness like a child who thinks he has been forgotten in a game of Hide-and-Seek. 

For now, let me introduce you to one last ancestor from my side of the family, the ninth child to Charles and Anna Sophia Carlson, Walter A., and his lovely wife, Ethel Young. Their journey is a first for me with potential for a different sort of tragedy or lesson depending on how you look at it. 

As long as I've been researching my ancestors I've been moved by the thoughts and feelings associated with the loss of life, especially a child's. I've seen families with eleven children reduced to four due to famine and illness. I've watched others adopt and start new marriages with children blended in from both sides. I've been educated and humbled by my ancestors' difficult and unique circumstances.

But I've never encountered a childless couple. A couple who never even chose adoption as an alternative. And that, my friends, leaves me with a question. What does it feel like to have expectations dashed?

Walter and Ethel married when she was 22 and he 26, in 1905. I'll bet they thought that the children would just start coming. And I imagine their parents, siblings, other relatives and friends did, too.

It's one thing to be disappointed when things don't work out according to plans. It must be awful to bear the burden of others' expectations of you and how they picture your life would and should be.

This is a trial I can't imagine. Children came easily to me. I never had a longing for them. How does that affect a person? A couple? How does the life you thought you'd have change to what it is?

This is the first couple that I found where both spouses worked outside the home. She was a stenographer in a law office, he a stationary engineer in one of Washington State's public schools. His job as a stationary engineer, from what I gathered, was basically to keep the heat and lights going in the school. So in a way he was taking care of a whole quiver of children!

As I watched Ethel and Walter I became aware of a new kind of suffering, one of longing for what others so mindlessly take for granted. But, I can't speak for them and how they dealt with their circumstances. All I know is what their story showed me about my life... the bearing and raising of children changed me as does the breaking out of a cocoon strengthen an emerging butterfly. 

This couple caused me to reflect on the blessing of waking up every day to little beings who, while unknowingly drive me closer to the edge of insanity, have molded my heart to feel a love I could never have thought possible. 

They've tested and tried my patience. I believed I was a patient person before I had children. But 25 years with not one night that has blessed me with more than a three hour stretch of sleep, has taught me that until tried to extremes we never really know who we are. 

Their thoughtful questions have pushed me to find words to express what I believe as I've searched for simple answers to give inquisitive minds whose bodies have carried them away onto the next adventure before I've had a chance to answer.

Their ability to forgive quickly and embrace me with little arms and hopeful hearts and eyes have renewed my commitment daily to grow up to become more like them. 

The list grows hourly, daily.

But back to Walter and Ethel. They had no children keeping them up at night with illness or requests for bedtime stories and drinks that they needed to chase the monsters away from under their beds.

Their budget wouldn't be stretched to allow for cloths and shoes that were worn out and outgrown before there was money there to replace them. 

Dinnertime would be quiet and civil. No food fights, battles over elbows on the table,  or squabbles as siblings got annoyed with each other's table manners.

Small things that some people complain about.

Did they long for those experiences? When they listened to their friends and relatives' tales would their hearts ache? Or did they find a way to make a difference in other childrens' lives? Walter saw children every day at school. Ethel, probably not. 

There's more to think about, and a lot more to say. But that's between me and my Maker. It's time to take a moment to reflect on the blessings and the challenges of having a quiver full of children, and what some people would do to change places with me. 

I've been catching myself wondering about the different paths I could have chosen. I could have danced, pursued my artwork, traveled, stayed single. 

But I chose differently. I don't remember having any expectations of how it would all turn out. Like Walter and Ethel, I went on auto pilot and lived what was right in front of me as I experienced the challenges, frustrations an indescribable joy of a miraculous life that is still unfolding.

It's human to have expectations. We can try not to but we all have some. The joy in life for me, the stuff stories are made of, is seeing who I am and what I do when the journey takes on a life of its own.