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)

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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.

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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

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 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

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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

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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

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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

The Day of the Office Chair

cimg4427.gifIt was just another day in my geeky programmer life.  I got up and rode my bicycle to work.  At that time, my work location was such that I could ride the 4 miles to work without riding on any streets.  When I arrived, my boss asked me if I wanted a nice office chair for free.  I must have had a look of bewilderment on my face because he began to explain.  “You see, I got this nice chair a while back, but my wife doesn’t like it.  You can have it if you want it.  It’s in the trunk of my car.”  I said, “sure.”  So we went to his car and drove out to my house to drop off the chair.  I am sitting in the chair as I type this.

Along the way, we chatted about this and that… nothing important.  When arrived back at the office, the guards in the lobby were all looking at a small TV screen and talking about something that had captured their attention.  They said a plane had flown into a buildng in NY.  I dismissed it thinking that was a strange accident and how silly it was that folks got so engrossed in something just because it was unusual.  It didn’t have anything to do with me, for sure.  As we entered the workplace, I noticed that folks were huddled in little groups.  Someone had a little black and white TV and several were gathered around it.  By this time they were saying that a second plane had flown into a building.  My first thought was that this was no accident. My interest was piqued.

I tried to find something on the internet news sites, but they were all jammed up and unresponsive.  So I thought I would try one of the newsgroups since most people didn’t know what they were, I expected them to be accessible.  They were accessible and a flurry of activity.  I began reading the news and opinions about what happened, whether it was really an attack and by whom.  I was taking everything with a huge grain of salt because of the nature of an unmoderated newsgroup and then I saw a post from someone saying that the pentagon had been hit.  I thought to myself that the alarmist crazys had taken over the newsgroup and decided that it wasn’t reliable enough to be worth reading.  I returned to my work.

Somehow, I got news that they Pentagon part was true and that it was definitely some sort of attack, but I continued to emmerse myself in my work.  Jeanie was was sleeping in. She had been up the wee hours of the morning delivering newspapers and had returned to bed.  She woke to the local talk radio station going on about the events assuming that all of its readers understood the context.  She was completely in the dark about the events.  She called me to find out what in the world was going on. An hour or two later, I got an email telling me to go home due to the events of the morning.  I had an appointment to give blood that day and my first thought was that I should keep that appointment because they were going to need blood, so I went to the collection location, but it was deserted.  So I went home.

I remember feeling shell shocked.  It wasn’t long before I had seen enough of the news on TV.  The repeated images and the incessant talk about the same thing over and over was getting to me.  I needed a diversion.  A few weeks earlier, I had started a project to create two large natural areas in the front yard.  So I methodically walked to the garage, picked up my tools and started mindlessly raking and digging.

Seven years have passed.  The natural area is part of the yard now and looks pretty nice, I think.  It was several months before I gave blood again.  There was such an outpouring of donations from folks who wanted to be a part that  I thought (correctly) the Red Cross wouldn’t be able to handle it all.  After donations started to drop off again, I began donating again regularly (and I still do). The office chair still holds my butt up off the floor.  The world is upside down from the repercussions of the events of that day, September 11, 2001.  My heart still aches for those who lost loved ones.  I still love hearing the stories of what folks remember about that day.

Thanks to my “Dull Geek ” friend.   His story prompted me to write my story.

Political Angst

ostrich-sign.gifI am truly dismayed by the whole political process.  So many people I love are doggedly on one side of the political spectrum or the other.  I am not.  I want to hear the real issues and solutions, but they are buried so deeply that I cannot hear them or trust them and it cuts both ways.  As long as I can remember, my solution has been to avoid politics altogether.  Like the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand, I have chosen to ignore all the rhetoric and all the news.  Today, I ventured out and read some of the political articles in the newspaper.  Yikes!  There seem to be three varieties of articles:

  1. Promises from each side saying that they have the answers that will save this country (or continue to keep it safe).
  2. Attacks on the “other side” saying that they are lying or deluded.  Their way won’t work, or their record shows that they don’t mean what they say or… The underlying message is that you’d be stupid to vote for them.
  3. Exposure of the untruths in the promises and attacks from previous days whether unfounded promises, out-and-out lies or comments one side has taken out of context against the other side.

Of the three, the last category is the most believable, but not very helpful in reaching a decision.  These “He/she said… but this is what the record shows…” articles merely add to my skepticism. Clearly the goal of each side is to get into the White House.  Whatever it takes seems to be the rule.  I wish I knew better how to project the future of one side’s getting in over the other.

Before I put my head back in the sand, dear readers, please tell me how you cope with the difficulty of getting to the heart of the matter.  Do you have a single issue burning in you that overshadows everything else?  Do you know how grandma would have voted and make sure you don’t stir up her wrath? Do you have friends or family who tell you what to think?  Do you have a way of cutting through the crap to get to the heart of the real issues facing our country and our world today?  I especially hope to hear from those who answer yes to the last question.

The Solution

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Yes!  After much wrestling with the puzzle of life, I have now figured it all out.  In case you were wondering, you will observe from the accompanying Rubic’s Cube , the puzzle is now solved.  I have the whole Jimazing answer.  There is nothing else to say.

Now I will have to think of something else to write about.

Wink

John Brown

patriotic-treason-thumb.jpg I just finished reading Patriotic Treason, John Brown and the Soul of America .  Before reading it, all I knew about John Brown was that he was this guy who was an abolitionist around the beginning of the Civil War and that he was hanged for some violent acts that he commtted while working towards freeing the slaves, but that’s all I knew.  I didn’t know where he fit in history.  Was he a good guy or a bad guy?  He must have been a good guy because he was anti-slavery and yet he must have done something pretty bad to be tried and hanged.

I have written before here how much I am enjoying reading biographies these days.  I don’t know if it is an “old guy” thing or just a “biography phase”, but I find that I am enjoying history as I learn about a single historical figure.  It is as if I am living the history through their eyes.  Sometimes while I am reading, my mind will wander…  While I was reading this book, I was thinking about why I like biographies so much.  You wouldn’t think that I would like them because I love surprise endings.  With a biography, I know the ending before I even start the book.  and yet, somehow I enjoy them.  Learning where the subject comes from, what drives them, who loves them, what they care most about is fascinating.  Usually I pick a person who I admire to some degree.  With Brown,  I truly wasn’t sure.  So why John Brown?

290px-john_brown_painting.JPG When we went to Charlestown, WV a few weeks back for a family reunion, we visited Harpers Ferry, which is just a few miles away.   There, I became a little better acquainted with John Brown’s story.  Harpers Ferry is where he led an assault on a National armory, captured and held it for a short time for which he was tried and hanged.  When you enter the John Brown Museum,  at Harpers Ferry, you are greeted with a life size tapestry of John Brown as this wild-eyed man with a Bible in one hand and a rifle in the other.  That portrait more than any other one piece drove me to want to know more about this man.  I believe the message of Jesus to be a message of peace.  To see a man depicted as spreading violence in the name of God was very disturbing to me.

It is unfair for me to sit on my couch in the comfort of my home and criticize John Brown’s actions of 150 years ago based on 2008 mores.  While I still find much of his methodology to be disturbing, I enjoy life in a society where people with dark skin are allowed the same liberty that I enjoy; very different from John Brown’s world.  He recognized the gross injustice of slavery.  I don’t have to do anything to help free the slaves.  It has already been accomplished.  John Brown was a great catalyst towards the end of slavery.  He didn’t stop slavery, but the work that he did pushed people to get off the proverbial fence. Was his way the “right way”? Could there have been another way to end slavery than a war?  Who knows?  We don’t get to replay history and try different means.  We only get one shot at it and that’s the way it played out.

I still don’t quite know what to do with John Brown, but I understand a couple of things about him.  He was a man who took his relationship with God very seriously.   Until the very end, he was driven by the teachings of Jesus to do unto others as you would have them to do unto you, that God was not a “respecter of persons” and that whatever we do unto the least of these, we do unto Him.  For good or for ill, it seems to me that John Brown’s fatal flaw was that he answered to no one.  Ultimately, the buck stopped with him and that seems like a dangerous position for any of us.  I highly recommend this book to you.

Bent Objects

There are a few blogs that I follow that are just plain fun.  This is one of them.  It is called, Bent Objects because the author takes common household objects and personifies them with a little wire and a lot of imagination.  Hope it makes you smile too.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Prehistoric Citrus Were Very Clever Hunters

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Paper Training Our Little Dog, Frank

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[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zgDynGCzpjg]

Kicks

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!

A jimazing view of life