My Nancy Drew Epiphany

I believe I had a true epiphany yesterday–an awareness of self. (So glad we can still get these, no matter how old we get!)

Could it be that my love of family history research is rooted in my childhood’s memory of and love for Nancy Drew books… and the mysteries one can solve through proper sleuthing? I believe it is true!

Beginning at about 3rd grade, I believe, a group of girlfriends and I formed a sort of neighborhood Nancy Drew Book Club. We would each buy a different book in the series, pass them around until everyone had read them all, then repeat. Not only was our hunger to read Nancy Drew books sated, but it was done at little individual expense. We couldn’t wait to get our eyes on the next suspenseful tale!

Nancy was an ingenious teenage detective. Her powers of deduction and logic seemed masterful to this 8-year-old girl. I would imagine myself in her place as I read through each mysterious adventure and process of logical reasoning in order to solve whatever crime was at the root of the book’s plot. I wanted to learn those skills, to be as clever and bold and strong-minded as Nancy Drew. [Mathematics, the field I studied in college, is also about logic, reasoning, analysis, and problem solving. Curiouser and curiouser.]

My father seemed to understand my interest in solving mysteries. When I was young, he would often give me puzzles to solve–riddles, mind puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, all kinds. Again, the emphasis was on solving a problem from clues and piecing together evidence to get to the underlying “truth.”

Logic. Reasoning. Analysis. Evidence. Conclusions. Solutions. Truth. Aren’t these all elements of the Genealogical Proof Standard?

I understand now, for the first time, how Nancy Drew and my father developed my capacity for thinking logically. I owe them my deepest gratitude for laying the mental foundation for both of my adult careers–a teacher of mathematics (among other things) for 37 years, and now a Professional Genealogist.

Thank you, Nancy! Thank you, Dad!

My Mother’s Hands

Whenever I think about my parents, both passed on for over a decade, thoughts of my father come into my mind first. He always seemed larger than life to me. He was the one I wanted to please, to make proud. My mother was more reserved, but she played an equally important role in making me the person I am today.

My mother’s hands were always busy. She kept our home clean and comfortable. She cooked, canned, and baked, filling our house with the most delightful aromas. She sewed a lot of our clothes. She maintained the household on a strict budget, but I for one never wanted for anything. Like all stay-at-home moms, she was also resident nurse, chauffeur, playmate, teacher, disciplinarian (until Dad got home), and so much more.

Even when she had “down” time, my mother’s hands were busy creating one handcrafted item after another. She always seemed to have a ball of yarn near her with which she would work, knitting or crocheting, tirelessly and lovingly, into this afghan, or that sweater, or those slippers, hats or scarves. She embroidered and did latch hook, creating both wall art and items for use in our home. She painted by number and enjoyed doing jigsaw puzzles. She learned the art of ceramics and made serving dishes for her holiday table. Once she made a quilt top, wedding ring pattern, out of fabric remnants, but she never finished it. (The work of finishing her quilt is now in my hands, but that is a tale for another time.)

Her talents for handcrafting, cooking, and keeping house have passed down to her daughters and granddaughters in varying degrees, but my mother’s hands continue their work through each of us, just as her mother’s before her, and on through the ages of women who I call ancestors.

What do you remember about the work of your own mother’s hands? How has her work influenced your life? Let your family know of this legacy. Write it down.

First Day of Fall

Happy Autumn, to all!  One of the purposes for my blog is to share topic ideas for writing one’s life story. I think it can be overwhelming, intimidating even, to sit down in front of a blank computer screen or a blank piece of paper and try to write your entire life story from your earliest memory to the present. Writing in chunks is easier, and writing prompts can aid in that writing. So… as today is the first day of fall, what are your feelings or memories about this season? Which season is your favorite? Why?

Fall is my most favorite season. It signals the end of summer’s unrelenting, unbearable heat. (Hallelujah!) It means that school is in session. (I am one of those people who always looked forward to school.) It brings to mind all the days when I walked or rode a bus to school as a child, driving my car to high school, college days, and all of those First-Day-of-School feelings I had when I met my students for the first time each year. I love the changing of the colors on the trees. I love to watch the leaves drift down to the ground in a light autumn breeze. I love the breeze! I love the crunching sound as I stomp on piles of leaves that collect on the road. I love the musky smell of the dew in the mornings. I look forward to Thanksgiving and the special way it has of bringing families together, one way or another. I enjoy the warm, aromatic tastes of fall foods–fresh-baked breads and cookies, soups and stews, roasts in the oven. Autumn is definitely a sensory experience!

I hope this inspires you to Show Your Tale!

The Driving Gene: The Journey Begins

Our genetic make-up defines many of our physical characteristics: hair color and type, eye color and shape, skin color, basic body shape, and so much more. It can indicate our propensity toward certain diseases, and it can explain personality traits and quirks. For instance, if I can prove the work done by others before me, I may be able to blame John Howland, the man who fell off the Mayflower, for my inherent clutziness. That would explain a lot!

I told a cousin the other day that I think my love of driving is genetic, as well. Dad loved to drive. Unfortunately, as my sister and I can verify, he didn’t like to stop much. I don’t mind stopping every couple of hours, but I tend to keep it to less than 15 minutes when traveling alone.

Today I drove the first, and shortest, leg of my 27-day journey–from Willows to Sacramento. I don’t mind flying, but driving has its perks. You can see much more of the natural beauty of this great country, and do it so much better, from the window of a car than a plane. You can travel with anything you want, as long as it fits into the trunk of your car, and the extra space inside. (I actually had a lot of free space this trip!)

As I was driving I saw the usual signs of spring in the rural Northern California countryside. Dust was flying in fields where tractors worked in prepartion for planting rice. Almond and walnut trees were dressed in their brand new spring-green frocks. The tall weeds in the medians were waving their green tassels in an April, kite-perfect wind. The pastel blue sky was speckled with families of puffy-white, cumulus clouds. A beautiful day for a drive!

Do you prefer to drive, or fly? Maybe you prefer trains. (I have only been on a few short train trips.) I bet your family would be interested in hearing about one of your trips. Come on. Go ahead. Take a chance. Show Your Tale…