Category Archives: family

Random News

Trip to the Mountains

Jeanie and I spent this past weekend in the Mtns of NC.  Our main purpose was just to get away and take a break from the pressure cooker that life has been lately.  This was our first time at a Bed and Breakfast and I think we chose well.  The Mast Farm Inn is an old house that has been restored as a B & B.  They treated us very well!  We used to live up there and still have lots of friends in the area, but we chose not to let anyone know we were coming.  We just didn’t know what the weekend would hold.  We did end up visiting with several good friends.  Other highlights:

  • cimg4742a.JPGcimg4736a.JPGI visited my trees.  Last year I wrote about my job planting trees.   There was one particular site that was near where we lived that I have visited many times.  They have gotten rather large!  I wonder if they will be harvested anytime soon for lumber. (click the photo to see it larger)
  • cimg4763a.JPGWe have wonderful memories of hiking at Price Lake, so we took a trip around “memory trail”, which was a muddy mess in one section.  It was cloudy and cool at first, but by the time we finished, the sun was out and it was a beautiful day.
  • Since the sun came out, we visited the Lynn Cove Viaduct.  I also worked on the construction of this bridge for several months, which I also wrote about last year.  It is very cool to visit something so much bigger than I am, but that I played a small role in building.
  • I started reading Reaching Out, by Henri Nouwen.  I wanted a book that would drive me to reflective thought and meditation.  Nouwen usually does that well.  This was no exception.  The timeliness of this message in the place I am in life is remarkable.  It feels like Nouwen is interpreting events, thoughts and stirings that I have had over recent months and years.

Finished “A Thousand Splendid Suns”

My sister-in-law recommended this to me (and loaned it to me too).  A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini reminds me a lot of his earlier work the Kite Runner.  The setting is Afghanistan as he follows the lives of two women from different backgrounds, but who’s lives come together.  Both stories have helped me to understand a little better about the history and ways of life in Afghanistan.  If nothing else, when I hear anything about the Taliban, I now have a vivid picture of some very evil men.  I recommend both of these books by Hosseini’s.  Thanks Cathryn.

Erin’s Latest Accomplishment

I am so very proud of all of my daughters.  They are each making their respective marks on the world in huge ways and I am proud of them all.  Every once in a while, one of them just takes things completely to the next level and I cannot ignore it.  I will not belabor the point and I’m getting too choked up to describe it anyway, please check it out for yourself here.  Can’t you see me in her?

Mini Family Reunion – End of Day 4

sommerville-courthouse.JPGThe last day

This morning I learned what a second degree burn looks like… and feels like.  We began the day with a hearty Hardees breakfast.  We were squeezed into a little booth and I was on the inside.  About the time I sat down, Debbie got up for something and I decided to make a dash for some hot sauce or mustard to spice up my chicken biscuit.  When I got back to the table, I sat down to scoot over and knocked Debbie’s hot coffee over into my lap.  My lap felt like it was on fire, which I was trying desperately to escape. The booth was such a tight squeeze that I couldn’t easily get out and the coffee was burning!  It seemed to keep pouring in  s l o w  motion. After I jumped out of the booth holding my soaked shorts up off of my knee, I kept saying I was ok.  It didn’t hurt.

Aunt Judy looked at my leg and said, “No you aren’t ok, you skin is peeling off!” Dr. Harry calmly led me to the bathroom where I splashed cold water on my leg for a few minutes.  One of the Hardees employees was also a nurse and brought some anticiptic spray.  With Dr. Harry’s ok, I accepted it.  It was great to have a doctor in our company.

It stings to the touch now, but I have successfully avoided touching it much so far.  Tomorrow is a regular “long pants” work day, which should be fun.  Not the best way to end our time together, but it was certainly not the worst way either!

Final Thoughts

I am so thankful to have had this time of reconnection.  To be with mom as she relived so many childhood memories, to see the places I’ve heard her speak about so many times over the years… To hear the stories that Aunt Judy remembered from her trips to Alabama after they moved to Charleston.  Our family stories are full of tragedy and comedy for sure. It will take a lifetime to process all that I learned.

This weekend will be a memory that I will cherish as long as I live.  I am thankful to Mom for inviting me and to Aunt Judy for driving her as well as driving us all around the country.  Thanks also to all the family in AL for putting up with us.  I am especially thankful to Harry for coming up with the idea and initiating everything.

Mini Family Reunion – End of Day 3

Quick Highlights from the day

Especially because it has been a long day and we’ve seen, told and heard an awful lot today.  Todays new Characters are:

  • Everett Stidger – My first cousin, once removed – Son of Eldon Stidger who was my mother’s mother’s brother
  • Sue Stidger -Everett’s wife
  • Kari Stidger -My second cousin – Daughter of Everett and Sue
  • Laurie Lorance – My first cousin -Daughter of my mother’s brother, Jack (sister of Debbie and Linda)
  • Tre Lorance – My first cousin once removed… in the other direction – He’s Laurie’s son

Today, we invested a couple of hours at Everett and Sue’s house.  They had a huge box of family photos for us to go through. The funny thing about genealogy is that no one other than your siblings has the exact same interests as you, but there are many intersections.  When you start trading information; stories, photos etc.  you find out that they have a lot of stuff you just don’t care about.  Such was the case today.  They had some real good photo finds for us, but we had to wade through hundreds that just didn’t matter… to us.

After Everett’s, we drove out in the country hoping to be able to find some places that my mom and her family lived when she was a youngster.  We found two places that brought back floods of memories for her and my Aunt Judy.  Lots of questions and stories along the way too.  It’s going to take years to assimilate all that I experienced today.

First search was for their home in Sommerville, AL.  We drove all the way into town, through town and back out of town with no sign of the courthouse, which was our big landmark.  Turned around and drove back into town, more slowly this time.  Going on mom’s instincts, we turned on a certain road and there was the courthouse where she and her siblings went to school. Right across the highway was the area where her house was.  She started telling stories one after another.  I was so glad to get them all recorded.

We left there to go off in the country to find the place they lived when my Aunt Judy was born.  Once again, her memory proved to be exceptional.  We saw the place where there house was and the cotton fields, the creek where they played as children.  It was magical for me.  I know it must have been over the top for mom.

After that, we headed down the road looking for a church that they had attended some time after that when they had moved a few miles away.  We found the church and mom determined that her house had to have been just up the road.  We drove slowly looking for a chimney because this house had burned down while they were living there.  We turned into a driveway and slowly made our way.  Looking off in a field, I saw what looked like some old masonary, so we decided that this must have been that house.

Leaving that area, we headed back to my Aunt Jan’s to meet Laurie and Tre.  It was great to spend some time getting to know them.  Tre took Harry and me on a tour of the house and the yard.  We looked at everything there was to see.  While we were there, I was remembering my Uncle Jack and some of the tricks he would play with me when I was a youngster.  I thought of the little trick that included a story about two little blackbirds named Jack and Jim.  As I played it with Tre, he was just as bewildered at how the trick worked as I had been at his age.  Everything comes full circle, doesn’t it?

My favorite parts of this trip has been reconnecting with my living family.  It was great to spend so much time with Mom, Judy, Debbie and Harry.  It was wonderful to get together with all the others too.  The stories that we shared with one another was worth everything and more.  I heard some of the funniest and most tragic stories imaginable.  These are not only the stories of my ancestors. They are the stories of my life too.  I look forward to reflecting on these stories over the days, weeks, months and years ahead.  First though, I have to drive back to Charlotte… and that’s tomorrow!  Gotta get some sleep now.

Mini Family Reunion – End of Day 2

Highlights from our day

Here we are… the foursome who dropped in on an unsuspecting Alabama. (Jim, Mlou, Harry, Judy)


In keeping with yesterday’s  post, these are the new players from today:

  • Jan – My aunt – Married my mom’s brother Jack
  • Debbie – Jan’s daughter and my cousin
  • Linda – Jan’s daughter and my cousin
  • Rena & Ray Obarr – Rena is my 1st cousin once removed – She is the daughter of my grandfather “Pop” Lawrence’s sister
  • Patsy Lamme – Rena’s sister and also my 1st cousin once removed
  • Beverly & Lewis Smith – Beverly is my 1st cousin – Daughter of my mom’s sister Louise

We started our day with a visit to Aunt Jan and Debbie.  This is a photo of Jim, Debbie and Harry (standing) and Mom and Aunt Jan in front.


We left Jan’s and headed out to visit family and a cemetary (I guess they are both technically family visits).  First visit was to Ray and Rena’s house.  We asked them if they had any family photos and they said they didn’t.  They said that Rena’s sisters; Patsy and Shelby had taken them.  After Judy pressed a bit harder, they pulled some out.  Admittedly not the best stash, but their were some that we might never have seen.  One was a photo of my parents that I had never seen before.  It was taken when they were either dating or newlyweds.

Mom, Harry, Rena, Debbie, Jim, Ray


 We left Rena’s and stopped off at the Hough Cemetary where some of my mom’s mother’s family is buried.  Their last name was Stidger.  The family name was changed from the original German, Stitcher name.  Presumably, the family occupation at some point was stitching cloth.

After Hough Cemetary, we headed just around the corner to Patsy’s house.  We visited with her and her friendly little pooch.  Patsy claimed to have no photos.  Unlike Rena, she held firm when pressed by Aunt Judy.  She gave all of hers to Shelby.  One day I’m going to have to visit Shelby with my trusty scanner.  Patsy and Judy had some pretty revealing stories about their teenaged exploits.  I wonder what the statute of limitations is for starting a forest fire…

Debbie and Pat


We found my cousin Beverly at home with hubby, Lewis.  I had never met Lewis before.  They had some great stories of their sons, Chris & Michael.  Michael is a missionary in China.  You can sure see the pride they have in him.

Beverly and Lewis


We hoped to play a trick on my cousin, Linda.  Linda works for a check cashing company and the plan went something like this.  Harry and I were going to burst into the business. I was to be an impatient caretaker of Harry who was slow like Rainman.  I was going to open the door and fuss at him saying that we needed to get some money for the fair (which was right next door).  The joke was on us.  Thinking they closed at 5:30, we arrived about 5:25, but it was closed at 5:00.  Rats!

We found a nice local restaurant (Three Guys Grill) to refill with some  much needed nourishment and headed back to the hotel to scan the photos we borrowed from Rena.  While visiting and scanning, Linda came by to say hello. Here’s a photo of all the 1st cousins who were present.

Debbie, Harry, Linda and Jim


It has been a good, long, full day.  I couldn’t be more thankful… or more tired.  Good night!

Mini Family Reunion

mini-family.jpgThis morinig, I am in Arab, Alabama celebrating an impromptu mini family reunion.  Before I left, I set my Facebook status to “on my way to a mini family reunion.”  My friend, Robert posted this comment, “I thought only dwarves could have mini family reunions.” I miss working with Robert.  What a sense of humor…  I digress.  My cousin Harry, who lives in San Diego, called my mom in Summerville, SC and her sister Judy in the DC area and asked if they would meet him in Alabama to teach him about our family history from this area.  Mom invited me to come along and here we are.  I am going to try to write about the trip as we go and I will introduce the people who join us as we meet them.

  • Mary – My Mom – lives in Summerville, SC
  • Judy – My Mom’s sister- Lives in VA near Washington, DC.  Her husband, John is a retired Navy Admiral.
  • Harry – Son of my mom’s sister, Bonnie, who died in 1989 – A navy doctor stationed in San Diego.  He just returned from a deployment to Afghanistan.
  • Me – the rest of this blog is devoted to defining who I am

I drove from Charlotte to Atlanta and stayed the night with Jeanie’s mom Wednesday night and came the rest of the way yesterday.  When I arrived, Mom, Judy and I talked about what we wanted to get from this trip.  In essence, what was our vision for the trip.  It was good to hear that we were mostly here for the same things, to

  • Reconnect with family who lives here
  • Reconnect with our family history
  • Reconnect with each other

Until I typed that list, I didn’t realize how much this is a time of reconnection.  We had some great times yesterday telling family stories from the distant past and some more recent stories.  I love listening to these stories, but I also realize that I have a terrible memory.  My solution was to bring along a recorder to have an audio recording of these stories.  Maybe one day I can transcribe the stories for myself and my family.

arab.gifWhile I was out jogging this morning, I was wondering how this town got the name Arab.  It is nothing like I would imagine Arabia to be.  Wikipedia helped:

The name of the town is pronounced “AA-rab” and was an unintentional misspelling by the US Postal Service, in 1882, of the city’s intended name, taken from Arad Thompson, the son of the founder Stephen Tuttle Thompson.

Not nearly as interesting a story as I’d hoped, but it’s a story.  So many things are the way they are because of mistakes along the way… and we all contribute to them.

Everyone is ready to go.  More later


baby-ogren-5.jpg What’s more Jimazing than seeing your grandbaby’s picture?  It’s feeling your a grandbaby kicking.  Danae is 23 weeks now.  Read the photos with her blog entry here.
We had a wonderful visit with all of our family in Charleston.  As we were leaving Danae’s house on Saturday night, I was hugging her and I felt a flutter on my tummy.  I asked her if that was a kick.  She said, “Yep.”  What a great feeling!

1978 to 2008 makes 30 Years!

jim-and-jeanie.jpgI wish so much that I could travel in time back to 1978 and have a talk with a certain young man. There is so much I would tell him about life. I would warn him about some really lousy decisions that he was going to make and encourage him that some of them would actually be good decisions. I would tell him that his thoughts and dreams are important. Mostly I would assure him that his decision to ask that the pretty young lady to be his bride was a super good decision. Yes, today is the 30th anniversary of Jeanie’s and my marriage.

I still remember the surreal feeling of standing at the front of the church while she walked down the aisle. I was thinking to myself, “So this is what it feels like to get married.” That says a lot about me. Most guys, when they are making one of the biggest choices in their life, would be getting cold feet and second guessing themselves. “Is she the one? Did I make the right decision?” Not me. I was thinking about the meaning of life… what this experience feels like. I have been like that ever since… (how she could stand to live with me these last 30 years is a mystery to me)… but I’m sure thankful that she has.

June 3rd 1978 started a new chapter in the book of our lives. It has not always been blue skies and rainbows. We have had our share of tragedies and sorrows, but somehow we seemed to get more than our share of joys and celebrations. Now, 30 years later, we have four beautiful and successful daughters, two handsome sons-in-law and our first grandchild on the way? I feel overwhelmed with grattitude to God for giving me such a wonderful life. George Bailey has nothing on me.

Happy Anniversary, Sweetie!


I’m gonna be a Grandpa

grandpa.JPGIn case you haven’t heard, I’m going to be a grandpa! Danae and Mark were selfless enough to make a grandchild just for me. How sacrificial of them! She’s due in December, and I am excited… in case it’s not coming through loud and clear! She posted pictures of the little spud here on her blog.

Thanks Mark & Danae!

Fifty is Nifty

It is now 12:08 AM on the 19th, so I can say with confidence that my 50th birthday was a great day. Thanks to all of you who made it so special… I am a blessed man!  Check out this video my friends made for me…


Funeral Programs

rose.jpgOne of my hobbies is documenting my family’s genealogy. I say, “documenting” and not “researching” because my joy comes from listening to and reading the family stories and organizing all the information that others already know. I get no pleasure from doing research. I also love using my talents to publish this genealogy and family history on the web so that all can enjoy it.

I started going through papers and photos that I got when my grandmother (Anderson) died in 2005. She was faithful to keep records (letters, stories, charts) of our family history. Documentation like that is of vital importance when one is recording genealogy. Sometimes you will come up with two conflicting pieces of information and without documentation, you would not know which was more likely to be true. Interestingly, Gran was practically obsessive about saving funeral programs. They are little cards that tell the barest of details. Who died, when they were born and when they died, where the services are to be held and who will officiate. She has them from her parents, her brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles… As much as I understand their value as documentation, it seems a bit odd (even morbid) to save them.

As I was sorting through things tonight, I came across Gran’s own funeral program that I had saved. I thought about how she had passed this job to me and how I was the one now filing her funeral program. It then occured to me that someday, someone else will file my funeral program.

I don’t mean to scare anyone. This is not meant to be morbid or some kind of prediction of my demise. It is a reminder that death is a very real part of life. That’s the way it is supposed to be. For me, it helps to keep the worries of life in perspective. I wonder if Gran ever thought about that…