Thursday, June 30, 2011

Engaging Children In Genealogy With Play

It's summertime and the kids are out of school. One's getting married, two are off working on the Cape, the three middle ones keep themselves entertained with friends, and the three youngest follow me around saying, "play with me!"

My "play" is everything related to family history. I love going to cemeteries, talking to new friends about what searches they're on, or making charts to make one more part of the research process easier. Even when I'm not researching, my mind is on "them".

I can't tell you how many times my little ones have asked, "family history?" when I'm working or daydreaming. But you know what's funny? I feel my ancestors' presence when my children really need me or just want to play with me. It's as if they're watching to see how I treat them. What choice will I make? More often than not I imagine a giggle and a bit of encouragement to disengage from the past that goes something like, "Don't worry, I'm not going anywhere. Go play."

This morning I thought it might be fun to bring both worlds together every once in a while. What if I got my fix talking about  their Great Great Great Grandpa Charles and how he might have played marbles as we learn how to play with them? It would be fun to see where the conversation would go. Maybe they'd be able to relate a little more to him?

I did a quick search of games that early Americans would have played (and still do). All of the games were simple. Most needed just a good imagination and things you'd find around the house.

These are NOT my children! But they are cute.
I can do this. And I know it'll be fun. The possibilities are endless. Family history at it's best brings the joy of life and living from the past into the present. This is just one way to show my children why I'm so in love with this work.

And the next time I bring out "The Chart",  I'll point to a few more names and be able to say, "Remember when we threw spears at those melons? Maybe some of the Skar children did that!" And they might ask, "Where's Hawaii?", and "Did they go in an airplane?" And I'll smile and say, "Let me show and tell you..."

What games did you play?

Traditional Games of Norway (and other countries)
Traditional Games of Hawaii

Sunday, June 26, 2011

She Says It's Impossible

I met a woman today and asked her if she was from India. She told me she was. I've never helped anyone with Indian ancestry, but I'm seeing a large population of Indians here and wondered how difficult it was to research and document her ancestors' histories. She said it was impossible. Why? I asked. Because her husband's last name, for instance, is the same as his father's first name. And that pattern, she said goes back as far as she knows.

So, has anyone helped anyone with their search through their Indian ancestry? I've Googled some questions and it seems that there ARE a lot of resources. Maybe she never tried? Maybe, like so many people, the task to start is overwhelming?

Can you let me know what you've done? And where and when do the potential problems set in?

Thanks a bunch.


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Family Reunion Chart

Free Download
Use this chart to send out your updated research to family who wants to know what you've learned about your ancestors. Send it through the mail when it's too hard to get together, or bring it to pass out at your next family gathering, large or small. Remember to put the children in  (if you can fit them in). My children are always asking, "Where am I?"

Enjoy and share!

Cousins Chart

Here's a brand new chart to help you figure out your relationship to your ancestors siblings' children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, etc. Fun stuff. Enjoy and share!

Free Download

Sorry it's sideways! It's upright when you follow the link to see it.

Forgive Me If I Slip Away

I came across this song this morning, listening to my YouTube playlist. It matched my mood perfectly.

I couldn't understand nor put my finger on the intense sadness I'd been feeling since I woke up at 4am. Nothing I did to chase it away was working. I searched through census, birth, marriage and death records trying to figure out who was who. Which record belonged to my ancestor? Why are there so many people with the same name? All I felt was confusion and hopelessness.

I had to stop fighting it. It was what it was. I was looking into pain-filled lives.

 I went with it, and here I am wondering about two people and how life MIGHT have been for them. As far as their story, all I know is what I've been told.

One is my dad's mother. My grandmother. I remember a woman sitting at a kitchen table, staring into the floor, right over my head. She was my grandfather's first wife, born in 1913. Or at least that was the year she was adopted into the family. My dad was a little boy when his parents divorced. Turns out she was a lesbian. There was a lot of pain and a lot of drinking. Emotions were out of control, I heard. She was out of control, I assume.

I think about her and I feel so sad. I just wish I could go back, wrap my little girl arms around her and let her cry if she needed to. I can't imagine how life was for her. Was she confused? Did she have even one friend who would listen? I didn't get to know her. But today I feel her pain.

The second person who sits with me today is my husband's uncle who I met on a visit to the family farm in New Hampshire years ago. He was so quiet. All I know is that he worked on the farm, never married, nor had any children. A few years after I met him he committed suicide. I was shocked. What sadness was he holding that he didn't share?

This morning I've concluded that these two people might be the hardest to get to know. Some people just don't want to talk about a person whose lifestyle or death is shameful to them.

But, they are just like me in so many ways. We are different in that I'm not ashamed of nor unwilling to be open about any part of my life. All of it is part of my story. All of my feelings, choices, talents, and weaknesses. I want to be known for the whole of my experience while here amongst the living.

So, no matter how uncomfortable people might be with the true story, I'll try to do it justice by telling it the way it was.

I hope with all of my heart that as they sit beside me while I uncover their stories we can laugh, and cry and heal.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Stuff: A Window to Their Soul

I was picking up stuff again this morning as everyone got ready for their day. I was starting to feel the frustration build, repeating what I've done for the past 25 years, every day, when I noticed a different thought trying to creep in through my cluttered brain. Isn't it all of this stuff that lets me know who my kids are? Evidence that they've been here? And what about my ancestors? Isn't that what I'm desperate to find to enrich their personal stories? But most of their stuff died with them. Just a thought. And I thought of this post I'd written last winter. Just think about your ancestors when you read it and how helpful it would be to get a glimpse through the windows of their homes to all of their stuff! The stuff that made them feel comfortable, important enough, and like life was good just the way it was.

Connor, almost three years old, stood in the doorway to my bedroom, arms outstretched, head tilted with a quizzical grin on his face. He was covered head to toe in shaving cream. I said, "Honey! You have to stop getting into people's stuff!" He shrugged and said, "But I don't have any stuff!" A month later, for his birthday, we gave him a big wicker trunk with a hinged lid full of his own "stuff". Just little things in his own box that he could go to when he wanted.

I love that word. Stuff.

One dictionary gives two definitions that seem to contradict each other, or at the very least could be from two different points of view:

1. property, as personal belongings or equipment; things.

 Obviously this refers to MY  stuff.

2.worthless things or matter.

Just as clear to me as a mother who wants order in my house, this refers to all YOUR stuff!

It has been very challenging to manage all the stuff that nine children and two adults can collect. I look at the coats and shoes, scarves, mittens and hats and realize that most of what I don't like about winter is all the clutter. I've become a master of cleaning out extras and giving them away. I can't stand having anything stored either. Clutters my brain.

But that's where the conflict comes. What I consider extra and unnecessary you can't live without. I would just as soon live in a tent and be a nomad because then I could wake up to live. Since I'm the only one in the family who likes simplicity, I wake up to manage all the stuff in the house. I'd rather wake up and draw or go for a walk. But when you have stuff you are responsible for and to it. The way I care for my things shows gratitude. So, knowing I can only balance so much, I'm pretty careful about what I let into my house.

The Absolutely Won't Work In My House List includes but is not exclusive to: marbles, Legos, and board games or anything that has a lot of parts or pieces. My children go to their friends' houses to play with their toys!

It's not that I haven't felt attached to stuff myself. But the older I get the easier it gets to see what's keeping me from doing what matters most.

As a child I collected things that other people would throw away because I felt sorry for those things being unloved. Gum wrappers, black licorice, black gum drops, black jelly beans...the list goes on. We all have reasons for collecting. Most of the stuff we have elicits memories of a person or time of value. Now I can make a clean sweep of a room and know instantly what's just collecting dust. And I no longer feel attachment of any kind to the material thing because I have a memory of it somewhere in my brain. A snapshot.

I've come to love doors. Doors that I can close to a room that holds all the stuff that seems like trash to me. I know what's behind those doors. But by closing it I make everything behind it your responsibility. What's funny is that periodically the person living in the room goes through the room purging and cleaning and sees and enjoys their space differently...for a while.

 I heard an organization expert say yesterday (paraphrased), "Without exception, when the living room is cleared of all the stuff and clutter, children come in and dance."

So I have some stuff that enriches  my life. Art supplies, some hard cover books, a copper collection that shines in the sunlight, as well as  journals and family history. For now that's all I can think of.

And last week I caught my 5-yr. old dancing in my living room! So...I'm getting close.

I would love to know what enriched my ancestors' lives. Were they pack-rats? Neat freaks? Collectors? Did their mothers sigh under their breath every day, picking up the evidence that they left behind that they'd been there...and were no more?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Dad...You Are Loved!

My dad hasn't been out of bed for two years. That is except for the birthday dinners that the nursing home has thrown for the residents who've had a birthday during the month. Then he dresses and gets rolled down to the dining room for dinner, cake and ice cream. Only, he rarely eats, and doesn't talk about much either.  Almost every time I visit him I leave crying and  committed to visiting him more often.

My dad has never talked much. He loves the treats we bring and the high-fives when we leave. The gap between the two is probably fifteen minutes. That's all any of us can tolerate.We are always so excited when there's a tidbit of news to share that can chase away the awkward silence.

So I wonder what makes me sad?

I'm pretty sure it's memories.

I'm not so naive that I didn't know that there was gossip about my dad. That he didn't pay his bills like he should have, that he was a dreamer thinking the next job would be the ONE, and that he liked pretty women. Sometimes that hurt knowing that other people were looking at him, silently criticizing him. My hero.
There's a reason I look at him as my hero.

He loved me. He made me feel pretty. He acknowledged me when I walked in the room. "Hey Bets!" or "Hi Honey!". Such simple things to do. But they made a difference in my life. He'd wake me up at four in the morning to go lobstering or fishing. We never talked much. He didn't ask about my life or my dreams. But we shared time together. That was enough. And he never ruined that time we spent together. He never tried to teach me anything. And he never criticized me. He told me I was good luck for him because, he said, we always caught a lot of fish together. He taught me to carry them by their gills. We'd usually give our catch away to his friends at George Wests' Market on the way home. I don't remember ever keeping any. He was always so generous. Actually, I think he needed to stop in and talk, so he gave them fish when he had them. I loved those times fishing with him!

When he wasn't sitting tucked into the corner of the living room couch with the latest novel or newspaper, he was either at work, working on the house or garden, or playing with us in the back yard or the beach.

He would take us to the beach during an approaching thunderstorm. Such a rebellious thing for a dad to do because ...well...lightning...over water. Not the best mix some would caution! My mom was a little worried. But my dad never worried openly about anything. Maybe he did worry. Now I know that adults can hide worry very well. He just never gave me that impression. Getting into the car, all sandy because one of my brothers had kicked sand in my face (an accident he claimed), my dad just told me not to make a big deal out of it. He said it with a little hug as he wiped the sand off and hustled us into our seats. Times like that annoyed me. I just wanted him to punish someone for something! But he never did.

Free time with him was spent playing ball in the back yard. Sometimes we had a cookout. Mostly he took us to visit his friends. Some of them had kids. There was always food and beer. One cookout got a little crazy and toasting marshmallows escalated into a marshmallow fight. Shocked when one landed in my hair, my friend and I ran back to my house to get it out. When everything we tried failed, we cut the patch of hair down to the scalp. We HAD to get back to the party! I knew I was in trouble when my friend couldn't stop laughing. What were my parents going to think? It took two days for them to notice it. We were cooking out again and I stood near them on purpose, bent over the grill so that they couldn't miss it. The suspense was hard. My mother saw it first. She almost fainted as she gasped "Ohhhhh!". "What's wrong?" asked my dad. When he saw what she was pointing at with her free hand he laughed. Did he take ANYTHING seriously? I expected so much more. But that was the end of it.

When my baby brother died things changed. Death can make a difficult life really hard. I've found it rarely makes things better. My parents divorced around that time, and life as I'd known it ended. I sat on the front porch telling one of my friends that something REALLY bad had happened. "Did someone die?" she asked. "Worse," I said. " When I told her about the divorce I meant it. It was worse than someone dying. I was so upset and felt so helpless. I sobbed uncontrollably to my mother as she sat on my bed, tucking me in for the night. I was so desperate to have her feel my pain because I knew if she could feel what their decision was doing to my insides she'd stay with my dad. But that didn't happen. It was all matter-of fact living from that day forward. I saw him on weekends and half of each holiday day. My dad became the fun one, the one who'd buy us treats and take us on trips camping. But I missed the normalcy of having him living with us, his bedroom down the hall from mine. I missed the nightly backrubs which ended with at least two of us kids rubbing his back,waiting for the "beep" which was the signal to stop. I waited forever for the signal. He'd almost always fall asleep

When he started shipping out on oil tankers I wouldn't see him for months at a time. But he'd call ship-to-shore sometimes. I was in college when I'd get a random call from him wishing me a happy birthday or just to say hello and that he missed me. Those calls meant everything to me. Because he was my dad. No other reason. I loved hearing his voice and knowing that he'd followed through with a thought about me with a phone call.

He called me often after I got married and when we moved to Maine. I hung up on him one day, two times in a row, when his speech was slurred and I thought he'd been drinking. He was actually having mini strokes which culminated in another larger one which paralyzed him on his left side. He took care of himself for years, relying heavily on my sister until she died in 2005. Two years later he started the nursing home period of his life. Which brings me back to the present.

I will always claim that I believe I was given the best father in the world. I don't feel like my relationship with him lacked anything. I think that's because I always knew he was doing the best that he could. He gave me a foundation of love that I stand on often. Love was expressed simply. He taught me to laugh and to forgive. He showed me by example that worry gets you nowhere, and that things always work out. I feel grateful for the sweet spirit that he is. I have dreams of him in which he's whole, emotionally and physically. I like those dreams.

So, I'll continue to visit him, and yes, I'll still cry when it's time to say goodbye. But I know a little better now that those tears are triggered by the wonderful memories I had of him in my childhood. They are not tears of regret of what might have been. What I was given was enough. And I feel rich.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Connecting the Dots to Relative Strangers

Hostages: Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle, both from Seattle, were aboard the Quest with the Adams when it was hijacked. They were also killed
So, I had my grandmother on my mind and thought I'd get her file out and work on her story for a minute.  I thought it would be a good time because dinner was well on it's way to being done and the house was pretty quiet. I called my mom to confirm the location of the cemetery where she had been buried. Easy. I found it on Google Maps, street view, Old Greenwich, Connecticut.  My heart skipped a beat. It looked so quiet.

I called my mom back and asked who else was buried there. Turns out there were four others. My mom's parents, my sister, and my brother. 

We had a quick conversation because dinner was being served. I wasn't hungry for food. The dead were calling and I had feet in two worlds again. I knew it was time to put Evelyn's file away. There was always later.

But then, out of the blue, she said,"Did your brother ever tell you about the Ridleys?" That familiar, quiet voice told me to pay attention and follow my heart. I'd never heard of these people. And how had my brother made a connection in Seattle that I was unaware of? I hung up with my mom. looked up my brother's number, and dialed.

My heart skipped another beat when my brother answered the phone. I speak to him once a year. Maybe. I love him. There's no excuse, so, I won't go there. But, I'd promised a trip to the library after dinner to three of the kids, and we reluctantly said goodbye. For the first time in almost a year I didn't get any books at the library. I just wanted to get home and learn more about a family line that I'd just uncovered.

As soon as I got home I reviewed what my brother had told me..He told me of Bob Riggle (not Ridley). They had been friends. And second cousins through some part of my father's line I have yet to figure out.( A few marriages for my grandfather makes things confusing!) I wanted to do that research later and stay focused on my grandmother. But then I realized I was working from the same file of one family group. So, I stuck with it. And I was rewarded. I googled the news story  and saw his picture, read the story, googled his obituary, and just sat in awe at the emotions that overcame me.

I barely slept. That "other" world wouldn't go to rest. I swear they were thrilled to have someone pay attention to them! They just kept reminding me of how the dots were connecting, and to remember 'til morning so I could write it down until I had more time for a deeper look into their stories.

So much happened in about 45 minutes. Here's a quick "map" of my journey and what I learned.

Took out Dad's mom's file and reviewed it. Noticed a cemetery on the death certificate.
Called my mom who told me the real location of the cemetery, and made a comment about a new person.
Called my brother who told me a great story.
Googled the news story.
Googled the obituary.
Found a ton of distant relatives.

Pretty great experience for me. But, the heart of it is different than what you see on the surface where all the facts show up.

What I had confirmed once again for me was that I'm moved by pictures of people and cemeteries because they are visual reminders of a life lived. Those visuals trigger other memories of people, places and times past. All night I kept telling the voices to please let me sleep. But the stories were too strong. So, I pondered boats and early mornings fishing with my dad, and my brother who lives 3,000 miles away and is leaving on a fishing trip to Alaska in a couple of days. I would've missed the opportunity to talk to him if I'd waited.

There's so much to tell, and time is short today. However, there's one more thing that I think is worth saying. I felt a shift yesterday as I thought about my family history. 

It's amazing how much you learn in a short amount of time when you focus and follow your heart. I went from thinking about what more I could do or say to help people fall in love with this work to deciding to show how that happens by exposing my own research journey.

I surprised myself!

I'd started out with my grandmother and ended up walking with a "relative" stranger, connecting the dots! 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Last night  took my daughter to get a dress for graduation. I started talking to one of the sales clerks, of course, because she kept following us around and seemed bored, too. It took about 15 minutes of conversation before I pointed at her, laughed and said, "You're the checker at the grocery store who's working two jobs and going to school for early childhood education! I remember you! Do you remember me?!!!" She laughed and said she did, but I'm pretty sure she didn't. You see, I'd met her a couple of months earlier while paying for groceries, and, of course, got as much of her life story out of her before we had to say goodbye, have a nice day, see you around...the stuff people say all the time when real life calls.

It was way too short of a conversation. But it turns out it was a pretty good start!

 And  guess what? We'll recognize each other quicker the next time our paths cross.

It takes time to get to know someone, even your ancestors. The more often I study a document the clearer a person becomes, until, literally, they are unforgettable. The more little nuggets of their story I can collect, the better chance I have of remembering them and desiring to get to know them better.

I don't know much about the Skars in my father's family line except that they came from Norway to work in the sugar plantations in Hawaii in the 1800's, they eventually made it to Washington state, and that there's a burial ground that my relatives visited this year that holds the graves of my great great grandparents. And there was a family farm that burned down, a death from appendicitis on a boat en route to the doctor, and someone was a goat herder. Fun stuff.

For now it's like looking into a snow globe at a world frozen in time.

But, at least I remember!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Why Is Family History Easy?

Do you ever find yourself agreeing to a statement that doesn't actually sit right with you? My gift of discernment has become sharper with age. Like cheddar cheese!

Nope. Don't know these people. But I wish I did!
Yesterday I listened to someone say,"Life is hard for our kids." My heart caught and I reflected on how many times I've agreed with that remark. But I don't believe it. Life is just life. You take a step at a time. The hard part is falling in love with it and getting out of your own way to enjoy it more.

So it is with family history. It's not hard. Might be that you're just not in love with it. Yet. That's my job.

In my last post I told you that a few of my children taught themselves to play an instrument. Why? What motivated them? My take on it was that there was someone whom they admired and they wanted to do what they did. But it was the thrill of success that hooked them. And the process.

Ask any mother ( It's my guess that we feel the same. Forgive me if I'm wrong.) who has miscarried a child. The sense of connectedness is as strong for her as it is for the one who delivers and holds her child after 10 months of waiting. The process binds us.

What I think holds people up from starting their family history is not so much their under-valuing it as it is the fear of the process and imagined commitment involved. So much like the fears of relationships, marriage and family, shifting to a new career, or following a dream to do something new.

Again, that's why I'm here.

I'm here to tell you to dive in with both feet. You'll fall in love. You don't know who or what you don't you've nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Just get a box or a bag today and start loading every important document that relates to you and your ancestors into it. Then sort what you have by generations. Do just that today.

Then pull out one of them. Sit and read it. Let your mind wander. Ask the people whose names you'll see, "Is life really hard?"

I'll bet they'll whisper to you,,"No! And don't let anyone tell you that it is. I wish I'd truly lived mine. Boy do I have a story to tell you!"

Maybe they'd quote Plato:

The measure of a thing is its reality,
 its true self; 
to fulfill its own measure, 
to be entirely what it is meant to be, 
this is to obey the law of existence."

Don't listen to the voice that says family history is too hard either. It's your family!! It can't be that hard! These are your people. Go on a date with one of them. You just might have fun and end up saying,"Where have you been my whole life?"

The only obstacles I ever had to this work were organizing what I had and seeing my work all in one place while I wandered around through paper or virtual pages of documents. Here are my two solutions. Use them and pass them on. Because people in love are fun to be around!

                                            My Family Files Box

Have fun! Enjoy the journey!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Music. It's All In the Family!

The stress of the day was thickening so I decided we all needed a swim. While transitioning from "me" time to family time I accidentally lay my artwork on top of the CD player's play button and the music came on. My mood noticeably changed, and I said to myself again, "Why don't we always have the music playing?" Don't ask me why, but, as usual, I started thinking about my ancestors. 

My mind wandered to two of them who were connected to music. One was my great great grandfather, Charles Carlson, a violin-maker who traveled from Norway to Illinois and eventually to Washington State. The second was Addison Cross, my husband's great great grandfather who was born in New Hampshire, also a violin-maker. (Something CRAZY: we live in the same town Addison lived in in 1880! What are the chances of that happening? We moved here last year and THEN found out about the rich family history in the area.)

How unusual is that? To have two violin-makers in two separate family lines, common only to my children? 

I sat at the pool spacing out, worrying my daughter because of my staring through her to people and times she has yet to be exposed to. 

And wondering.

Is it a coincidence to have generations of right-brainers in your family? And then to marry into one? Both sides are full of musicians, artists, language and dance lovers, and just very creative people. 

 Our children have had to piece together their music lessons. Our oldest daughter is a gifted flutist. She picked that up in school. Her fifth grade teacher clued me in to her spectacular voice (one that is shared with all four girls in the family). But, she had to teach herself to play the piano. Her younger sister plays by ear!

Our oldest son worked to pay for his weekly guitar lessons. He's amazing! Whenever my husband hears him playing his acoustic or electric guitar (electric is preferred!) he ends up sitting beside him until my son politely offers the instrument over, knowing it won't be back in his hands unless I catch my husband before he floats too far away and pull him back down to earth! So sad! I have to remember not to do that.

The two middle boys took up clarinet, and I could see the latent talent. But, teenagerhood was more enticing. So were the drums...another family talent on my husband's side for three generations. I LOVE drums!! These two boys, however, create really interesting piano "shorts" (that's what I call them) 
 that they play in many variations while they wait for their turn in the shower.

The three youngest come alive when the music goes on! Again, pots, pans and utensils galore make simple bands heard from behind closed doors. Usually.

 I smile when first thing in the morning I hear singing from newly-wakened voices, happily crooning from behind bedroom doors or shower curtains.

All of them have rhythm, too! It would be torture for me if they didn't! I love to dance. It's so fun when Kenny grabs my hands and says, "Mommy! Let's dance in the driveway!"

So, why the two pieces of music posted here? Just to make a point.

The first piece, Pachelbel Canon in D, is one of the last that I danced to before I was married.

The second, Bolero, is one of the last I danced to after I was married and had one child. But the version here is from an artist my husband introduced me to years ago, Jeff Beck.

Both link me to the past and move me in the present in very special ways.

 Both inspire me to remember who I am, where I came from, and how simple things like music can influence generations of people in our own families.

My question. Why were Addison and Charles both violin-makers? And what does that have to do with me?

I wondered if their craft, like so many of mine, were developed out of necessity? Wasn't there another way? Couldn't they buy one? What did it take to learn how to make one?

I've always had to figure things out for myself , to develop a skill or talent over long, sometimes tedious periods of time because that was the only way to make what I wanted come to life. I've had a lot of people offer advice and point me in a direction, but the road I've travelled has been by myself more often than not. And that's okay with me.

Could it be that what I see on the surface is really something else? A lesson perhaps.

This much I know. I wasn't thinking about music, Addison, or Charles. Then I was.

Yesterday I remembered. But I had to be reminded.

Maybe, just maybe, Addison and Charles wanted to give a gift to their families, and, like me, found a way, maybe the only way to be heard.

Accident that the CD player turned on?

Just wondering.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Where's the Time?

Since April I've been focusing on family history, making a case for creating a space for it in your life because it can transform who you are.

But do you want to know what I've been doing with my time? NOT family history! Sure, I spend a lot of my time going to genealogy meetings, creating, scanning, and uploading charts for my blog, and connecting to other family history enthusiasts. Time well spent really. No complaints.

I just find it very amusing that I have an intense desire to follow a lead I've had for my great grandmother since late March that conflicts with the rest of my day. Every day! 

Figuratively speaking, Olga's right down the road. A new friend one town over is waiting for a call from me to have her show me the documents waiting in her town's library. But I find myself bound and gagged and out of gas ALL the time. 

So, she waits.

Loose ends. That's what I keep telling myself. Just clean up those loose ends so that you can focus on the big stuff. It's hard for me not to start new projects. I don't feel overwhelmed, just a bit scattered. Like, I know that finishing one last piece of promised artwork, one more chart, and one new video could all get done over a weekend. But then I remember my Spanish and Portuguese friends who might miss some really good stuff because I write in English. So, I spend an hour or so translating my blog for them.

And the phone rings. How can you Not talk to someone? Go with the flow says my brain. Love the moment and the ones you're with.

I truly get it when people say on the one hand they want to start their family history, and on the other they've got stuff going on that they'd never have the courage to talk about for fear of looking...I don't know. You fill in the blank.

As I'm writing my 2 1/2 and 5 1/2-yr.-old children have taken a HUGE amount of clothes out to the deck in 90+ degree heat and started "washing" them in large buckets of water that they were playing in. The hose has made a lot of mud puddles, a friend called to tell me about some crazy dating experiences, my son called to tell us to pick him up at the airport next Tuesday morning, the first of my school-aged children arrived home, and my brain started to melt!!!

But life goes on.

I have to keep reminding myself that I can do one small thing today for my great grandmother so we both know I'm making my way down the long, winding, and cluttered road, with kids needing me to tie a shoe, pour a drink, solve a math problem, encourage them to get off the roof one more time, or convince them to dive feet first into the pool so that I'm not writing their life history too soon.

I think my great grandmother, Olga Dorothy Eugene DeDenonville is thoroughly enjoying my balancing act. I think she likes kids and a good laugh. Maybe we'll make it a family joke. 

Where's Olga?

One of these days I'll hear her feet stomping and her fists pounding. Funny how that'll magically make her a priority. For people like me the saying, "The squeaky wheel gets the grease" is what makes all the important stuff eventually get done. I just have a lot of wheels that squeak at the same time!

Anyone else?