Friday, May 15, 2015

What My Ancestors Can Teach Me

Recently, I've been rather addicted to the show Who Do You Think You Are?. There are episodes from the UK and South Africa. When I run out of US episodes, I watch some from the UK and South Africa. I'm certain there is quite a bit of staging involved. These people didn't just randomly happen upon this one relative who has an amazing story. However, the stories themselves are real stories of real people. So a few weeks ago I got a trial account from Ancestry.com and looked to see what I could find. As it turns out I could find a LOT of stuff!

Photo Credit: Scott Ableman


A few quick facts: I am lots of English and lots of German. I am a bit French, Dutch, Irish, and Native American. And more than those discoveries, I found that out most of the branches of my family extend back before the Revolutionary War. I am very American and have been for a very long time. I also found out that I have a pirate in my lineage. He barely escaped a slave revolt in the Caribbean which took the lives of his wife and two children. That should probably make me sad, but he was a pirate, so I don't know what else he expected to happen. He came back to America and found a new wife which lead to a new family. There were various DAR records, which leads me to believe that a few fought in the Revolutionary War. I found the name of the Cherokee, Wood Trailkiller Pack, who had been rumored to be in the family tree. I also uncovered another ancestor that might be a Native American. I found large numbers of ancestors that were from Virginia and North Carolina. A few that were from New York and New Jersey, but those found their way down south as well. I found a woman that became a Quaker after her first husband, my relative, died. That made me proud. From what I understand, she was charged with a crime because she didn't get married the 'proper' way. I think she got married the Quaker way which wasn't acceptable. I am so proud that she stood for her faith. She believed in equality of the sexes and of the races. I cling to the hope that more relatives are like her and less like her son. I found that he was a slave owner. I think it was only two. I really just want to go back in time and rage at him. They were human beings! Didn't he know that? He could have made another choice. He could have made a better choice. I haven't the courage to look at who may have fought where in the Civil War.

The most exciting person I found was Thomas Farmer. Thomas Farmer came to Jamestown in 1616. He was considered an Ancient Planter. He came over as an indentured servant and was eventually given land by the Governor of the colony. I am amazed that my ancestors have been in America for nearly 400 years. I am simply amazed at how 'American' I am. I suppose that explains why I am so interested in US History and passionate about how we are presenting ourselves at Americans. I am amazed at how this man could have left everything he knew to come to the whole other side of the world knowing he probably wouldn't ever be 'home' again. That must have taken a great amount of courage and stamina. And not only did him come halfway across the world, he came knowing he would have to work for someone else. He wouldn't even have his own land, but he came anyway. And now here we are 400 years later a rather successful happy American family. I can't say that I know what Thomas' goals were in coming to the New World, but I think it is something like what we enjoy today.

In the minimum amount of investigation I did, I found people I was proud of as well as people who I was ashamed of. I guess that is what family is really like. I found rumors that turned out to be real. I also uncovered people that we had no idea were a part of our family.

It seems crazy to think that something that happened so long ago could actually have an influence in my life today. But part of me understands why the land of North Carolina feels so familiar. I understand why I am so passionate about who America is. I understand why I love bratwurst and why I think the Union Jack is pretty amazing. Maybe that's over stating it a little. However learning this history of my family has impacted how I understand who I am.

Now I wonder what other stories these names and dates hold. I guess I have a lifetime to find that out.

Friday, May 8, 2015

More Ramblings on Identity: My Daughter and I

Let me start this by saying I am such a judgmental person. Most of the time the words stay in my head, but they still come. So yes I am a judgmental person. The other day I was dropping my son off and my judgmental opinions reared their ugly head. There was a perfectly coiffed and fabulously put together mother dropping off her daughter. I was rather sloppily thrown together and needing to wash my hair. (It's been a long week.) Her daughter had a sleek bob. It was blonde, but seemed to have some brunette underneath. I wondered if that was natural or it was dyed. Then I wondered if that mother would dye her daughter's hair. And that led to several other thoughts.



Eventually these thoughts led me wondering about the identity I'm helping to create for my daughter. I'm not a girly girl. I do make up every now and then. Actually since writing this, I'm doing make up more than I used to. I do a little something with my hair, but spend very little time on it. I don't think I'm going to change much. I just find other things more important to spend my time on and thankfully my husband agrees with me. I'm relatively pleased with myself as a woman. I will admit that too often I feel like I have to choose between sleep, reading, or prettying myself up time. I think most women of young children would agree.

And that brings me back to my daughter. The type of woman she sees me being will influence the type of woman she becomes. I don't spend much time on myself and my 'look'. So I figure it is safe to assume I won't spend much time on hers either. Is that what I should do for her? Is that being a good mother? Or should I spend more time on her 'look'?

I'm not sure if this makes any sense, but suffice it to say that being the mother of a girl isn't easy. It has me wondering about many things about myself, women, and my daughter.



 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Life: Just About Now

I don't want the week to go by without saying anything here. I have a few blog post ideas running through my head, but neither of them are ready for publication yet. In an ideal world, I would have time to sit, think, and write. Then a great post would emerge. However, that has not happened yet this week. Nor will it happen today. So here I am writing a post about why I can't write a post. So I'll just tell you a few things about my life right at this moment.



Ben is downstairs playing with his Lego's. I'm so glad we have that space for him to play down there, so we don't have to step on them and so he can feel like something is his special space.

Lily is in the kitchen playing with pots and pans that she pulled out of the cabinet. She is in to everything and it is exhausting! But I wouldn't have my little explorer any other way.

Drew is playing a video game that Ben abandoned halfway through. He finished a monster load of dishes earlier, which is his least favorite chore. He knew I was stressing about it, so he did them for me. I love that man!

I'm thinking about a couple special friends. One just had a beautiful baby girl and now gets to be a SAHM of two. I know how happy she is about that and I'm happy for her. Another friend found out she was pregnant this week after a long hard road of trying. I'm so happy for their family.

Yesterday we went to a book fair at Ben's school. I picked up a couple more books. They were buy one get one free, so it was my duty to get a couple. My list of books I'm dying to read is now much higher than the time I have available to read. Oh the problems of a book worm.

I put in a Scentsy order this morning. I have been able to put in at least one order every month for the last several months. I'm so pleased that I can do this for fun and not take too much time. I'm also pleased that my house, laundry, hands, etc. always smells so amazing!

I have managed to carve out a few hours the last couple weeks to enjoy some wonderful Disney movies. And for fun I've started taking pictures of those movies and adding quotes to it. Then I post them on Instagram. I believe that means I'm making Disney 'edits'. So if you follow me on Instagram and you aren't excited about it, I guess you'll have to start getting excited. I'm not going to be only doing edits, but I'm going to post some every so often for fun.

There are some lovely flowers blooming in my yard, so every time I go outside I get to smile. They are one fabulous benefit to spring.

 While both kids are playing nicely and the chores are done, I believe I'm going to make a cup of coffee and read a few pages from those books I mentioned. Life is pretty good.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Ramblings on Identity

One of the benefits of teaching high school is spirit days. Once or twice a year there are several days with various themes. This week is spirit week at the high school where I teach. Tuesday was Culture Day. In the last few years I have sharply limited my wardrobe, so I don't have many dress up clothes. This called for some creative thinking. So I was going to represent a subculture, punk. I got red hair paint and a t-shirt from my husband. I pulled out my make up and bobby pins and got to work. I rarely do my hair and make up and certainly never with an end goal in mind. I was a bit concerned about how it would turn out. In the end I had nothing to worry about. I did a pretty great job. (I did not do such a great job on the photo.)



When I was done, I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, "I could get used to this." I really liked the way it looked. It felt like this is really me. If I didn't have to live up to the expectations of family, friends, co-workers, etc., then I would dress like this more often. A part of me thinks that is really annoying and wants to rebel against expectations. However I realize that I wouldn't want to pay for that many salon visits or the make up. The part that really makes me the saddest is my son's response to me yesterday. He didn't want to look at me because my eye makeup was 'weird'. Also he asked if I could 'paint my hair brown' when I got home. So even if I got over my frugality and fear of disappointing people, my son wouldn't like it. I know he's 6. Most 6 year olds and him in particular don't like change. And if I did it long enough he would get used to it and tell me I look beautiful, like he does on normal days. So it isn't a permanent thing and it isn't a judgment against me, it is him being 6. However it still makes me sad. It leaves me wondering. Who am I really? Is that person okay for my current cultural settings? Do people like me or my presentation of me?

I know that those closest to my heart, already know that the crazy hair and make up suits me. They wouldn't expect anything less. And I love you so much for giving me that freedom to be myself crazy looks and all.

Last week I took two tests which if I pass will allow me to teach English. I was nervous about the tests at first. As studying time went on I came up with several fun ideas and started getting excited about it. In fact, I'm still excited about it. I haven't found out my scores yet, but I feel good about them. I also feel good about the possibility of becoming an English teacher at my current high school. At some point in the excitement, I started wondering why I was excited. A new challenge is exciting for me.

So then has my current work become stale and not challenging? Evidently it has. Why? Because I wasn't challenging myself. (And I have a plan to fix that for my Spanish classes.) So does that make me the type of person who needs a challenge to be really engaged in what I'm doing? I guess so. Does that mean I'm someone who can't be satisfied with where I am? Um... I hope not, but maybe. I don't want to be that kind of a person. I want to be someone who is satisfied with where God has put me. I don't want to need a change to excite me about life. On the other hand, I don't want to be so satisfied that I stop reaching for better.

Maybe I'm thinking too deeply into an outfit and a test, but that's just who I am.


Friday, April 10, 2015

Reading is Life

Social media is amazing for lots of reasons. One of the primary reasons is that it connects us to our favorite things online. One of my favorite things: Reading!

Photo Credit: erin m


I read glanced at an article that was something about falling in love with reading. I looked over the list and could not come up with a book that made me fall in love with reading. I couldn't remember a time that I didn't love reading. I vaguely remember running to my room to pick up as many books as I could carry to bring to my Mamaw to read to me. She sat there for as long as I wanted to read to me. I couldn't even read them yet. I was about 3. She had tons of books at her house too. Her book shelf was the first place I would go. I grew up watching my mom reading. I would even read the cereal box just to have something to read.

Reading has been with me longer than Jesus has been with me.

That was a rather stunning thought to me. I accepted Jesus at 15, so I've been with him for about 20 years. That seems forever, but I do remember my years before Jesus. I don't remember my years before reading and books. I remember Cabbage Patch books were my favorites as a toddler. I then fell in love with the Boxcar Children. Wuthering Heights and Jane Austen were my favorites in junior high and high school. I still have several Cabbage Patch books, a couple Boxcar Children, and a Jane Austen novel as well. My Kindle is full. I have two library cards that are fairly well used. My books shelves are overflowing.

It is safe to say that I love reading.

It is a comfort to me when I'm stressed.
It is a vacation for me when I can't take one.
It is a teacher for my soul.
It introduces me to new friends.
It shows me new ways of living.

Reading is life and it has been for as long as I can remember.

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Tensions of Today

This morning I find myself with a few extra minutes. I have work today, but my son doesn't have school. So I'm not getting him ready or preparing lunches. So I'm sitting down to write. I have an idea that has been percolating, but I don't think I'm ready to write about it yet. That leaves me with a few random thoughts to throw at you


Photo Credit: Adrian Berg

Today is the end of the quarter and I have one more day to hound students for missing work. Some teachers don't allow late work and some do. There's always a tension between crediting them for doing the work and teaching them responsibility. I think it is a tension that most teachers feel.

Today is the last day before Spring Break. People have asked if we are doing anything special and the answer is no. Mostly because we are both so tired. Careers, choir, youth work, soccer practice, birthdays, holidays, extended family obligations, and raising two kids have left us feeling like we are coming to the end of a long and very tiring marathon. Spring Break for us will hopefully be a time to relax and decompress. It will also be a time to study. I have a test coming up in a couple weeks and study time has been limited. Hopefully Spring Break will provide some study opportunities. There is a tension between helping out and having personal time. I'm not sure that I'm successfully finding a space in that tension.

Today is Good Friday. Some students will not be there today due to religious observances. Some people might be offended that there is school today. I am going to be there and I'm not offended by it. I'm actually thinking there might be the opportunity for some wonderful conversations today. I'm loooking forward to it. If I wasn't working today, I would probably just stay home. I don't have much of an opportunity to share with people why this day is important for me if I'm just at home watching TV. However if I'm at work, I have lots of colleagues to share with. The more people I am around today, the better the chance to share my faith in an authentic way. (And it is totally fine if you do not agree with me.) Today there is a tension between honoring Jesus and sharing Jesus.

So I'm tired, but hopeful and trying to find a comfortable space between the tensions of life. How are you today?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

How Not to Write a Title

So it has been two weeks since I wrote anything. I have been so busy! I would love to say that I was busy with some important thing. Honestly, I'm busy teaching and trying to keep the house clean. There is a little bit of homework and soccer practice in there plus extra choir practice for the Easter Cantata.

I have also been wasting time with Netflix because after all of the above stuff, I really don't have the energy to do fun stuff, like reading and blogging. And I've been missing it. I'm in desperate need of time to sit and read. I have been reading some great blogs and thinking why couldn't I do that. The answer is that I haven't been paying attention to the things in my life worth writing about.

So I now have two paragraphs about not having anything to write about. I had probably better give you something useful, hence the title. To be honest, I hate writing titles. I'm not sure how I got college having virtually no experience in writing titles. I had some awesome English teachers who taught me so much about writing, reading, analyzing text, and life. For all that greatness, I didn't learn about writing titles. I'm not saying they didn't teach it because they probably did. I didn't learn it, so I arrived in college and saw everyone titling their papers. I was horrified because I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. And I was an honor student! I couldn't go ask anyone for help. So, I stumbled through as best I could.

Today I'm still stumbling. And these are the common mistakes that I find myself making:

Capitalize the wrong words
Don't capitalize words
Use too many words
Use too few words
Use confusing words
Create a non-descript title
Create a forgettable title.


I would love to tell you how to make it better, but I have no clue. I am open to your suggestions. What can you teach me about writing titles?