An Earth Day Tribute

They say that whatever it is you want to become, you should start by practicing it often–daily, if possible. If you want to be a surfer, surf. If you want to be an artist, create art. If you want to be an astronaut, reach for the stars. So… If I want to be a writer, I must write. Often. Whether what I have to say is of any interest to anyone, or not. As long as it is real and true to who I am. As a writer, I must consider my audience, too.

Today is Earth Day. If this day has any importance to you, then you have probably done something to recognize its importance, or to celebrate this wonderful rotating and revolving orb on which we live. Perhaps, you have set goals for doing more to save the planet. Or maybe, you have gone out and bought an electric car to reduce emissions and save our precious air. Whatever you do, big or small, I commend your enthusiasm and your efforts.

For my part, I decided to write about the Palo Verde tree. In my humble opinion, the Palo Verde tree is magnificent in its uniqueness. I absolutely love its beautiful green bark and glorious canopy of blossoms. Do you know why its bark is green? Two-thirds of its chlorophyll is in its bark, and only one-third is in its leaves! Did you know that their seeds and blossoms are edible? Did you know they can live up to 100 years, and some are as old as 400? Did you know they are the primary nurse plants for baby saguaro cactus, providing shade and shelter from the hot summer sun? Did you know that the pollen of a Palo Verde tree is sticky and heavy, making it more difficult for this pollen to travel far in the wind? I just learned all this about my favorite tree for Earth Day.

And here is an original poem about the Palo Verde, in honor of April being National Poetry Month. Hope you enjoy!

Palo Verde, green stick of the desert–
Thick, amber syrup oozes from your hearty trunk
And twisted, gnarly branches embrace you fervently.
It is Spring! Season of renewal, rebirth…
Rejoice! Reach those long, arthritic fingers
In praise to the glorious Sun,
As brilliant-yellow, sapphiric blossoms
Adorn your massive crown in majestic magnificence.
Green goddess of arid Sonoran climes,
We welcome you–hope-filled and awe-inspiring.

Hello, Again, Hello

It has been two years since I last posted to this blog. So much has happened, but I won’t go into all that right now. Suffice it to say, I feel like I am beginning a Neil Diamond song, as I make this return to writing on my blog. “Hello, again, hello. Just writing to say, Hello.”
I planned to begin writing in January, starting out with new goals for the new year, but it still took me almost four months to gather up the courage and the determination to actually write something. Guilt, fear, hesitation, inadequacy, unimportance… so many negative thoughts kept me away.
When I began my blog, I was inspired by another blogger and fellow genealogist–Michael Lacopo. Today, Matthew McConaughey is my inspiration.
I was in Walmart when I saw his new book, GREENLIGHTS. I read his words on the inside flap and was instantly hooked. On page 2, he wondered, like I am wondering right now, who would care whether I write or not. I am sure all of Matthew’s fans will be reading his book, though. After all, he’s MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY!
For me, though, maybe that’s not the point. Maybe the point is… I enjoy writing–poetry, prose, family history articles, lesson plans, Power Point presentations, whatever. Do I have anything to say that is worth reading, worth learning, worth sharing? I don’t know. I hope so. I guess time will tell.

Swedish Death Cleaning

I just heard about this technique of “decluttering your house before you die to relieve the potential burden on your children” from my daughter. (Of course, that is my over-simplified version of the idea.) Even though the name sounds a bit morbid, I completely agree with the concept.

Despite my efforts to eliminate “stuff” from my house on a semi-regular basis, I still have too much clutter. I blame it on lack of time, but I know better. I am a great procrastinator. If I am not in the mood to do something, it doesn’t get done. If I procrastinate long enough, eventually something important becomes urgent and has to get done. That is where I find myself now. I am feeling a sense of urgency.

My mother-in-law passed away earlier this year (29 January 2018, to be exact) at the age of 95. She was a child during the Great Depression and, like many others of her era, she had a tendency to hold onto everything. While her kids were growing up, she kept two houses–one for the school year and one for vacations–fully stocked with cooking supplies, furniture, clothes, etc. In 1979, they moved into the last house they would share in this lifetime. Everything from both houses went into that one house. Seriously, everything…

After she had a stroke, she came to live with us, her son and me. However, we still kept her house and took her there to visit whenever we could. Over the ten years she was with us, we gradually began to eliminate unnecessary items–food beyond the expiration date by up to nine years, clothes of her husband who died in 1997, some of her clothes and most of her shoes (almost 100 pairs), empty bags, etc. I guess you could say, we had begun the technique of “Swedish Death Cleaning” on her behalf–she was alive, but couldn’t do it for herself. It was overwhelming to see all the stuff that she had collected over time.

Now, as we get closer to the anniversary of her passing, we are feeling an urgency to finish cleaning out her things–donating, selling, distributing to family members who want them, and trashing what can’t be reused somehow–in order to put her house on the market. If only she had started this process years ago! But, the death cleaning doesn’t stop there. Once we have finished preparing her house for sale, we have our own possessions to eliminate in preparation for a move and down-sizing of our own. This will be a major step toward doing some death cleaning of my own. I can’t wait to be free from the burden of stuff! I know my descendants will appreciate it, too. Time to let go!

For more information about Swedish Death Cleaning, you might want to read about it here:

The Simleness Family’s Oakland Connection

Today, as I get ready to head down to Oakland, CA, for a conference on Saturday about The Great Migration, I am thinking about the members of the Simleness family who made Oakland their home for so many years.

The immigrant ancestors of the family, Ole and Britha, arrived in America from Norway in 1889/1900, and they settled in Hayward, Freeborn County, Minnesota. They followed their first-born child, who made the journey about six years earlier, and  were accompanied by five of their eight other children. The last three immigrated later. This couple’s youngest child, Isaac Simleness, my husband’s grandfather, was the only child to be born in the United States, just a few short months after his parents’ arrival.

About ten years later, Ole died of lung fever. All except the two youngest were out of the home. By the early 1920s, Bertha, along with four of her children and their living spouses, moved to the Piedmont area of Oakland, California, leaving behind forever the harsh, cold winters of southern Minnesota. Isaac Simleness and his wife Josephine were among them.

Isaac and Josephine raised two children in Oakland–Everett and Janet, both graduates of Piedmont High. Everett enlisted in the navy after Pearl Harbor was bombed, not yet eighteen years of age. He was stationed at Humboldt Bay in Northern California. There he met, fell in love with and married the love of his life, Peggie Jean Hibbert, on 19 June 1943 in Eureka, Humboldt County, California. After discharge, Everett and Peggie moved back to Oakland where she gave birth to their first two sons in 1948 and 1949, barely over a year apart.

Over time, members of the family either died or moved away, but the family’s connection to Oakland still exists in the history of the Piedmont area and in the memorials  to those who lived out their lives there. Bertha Simleness, Sina and her second husband Alex Milton, Mary and her husband Peter Fosse are all buried in Oakland’s Mountain View Cemetery.  The ashes of Jan and her husband Bill Pray are interred in the Columbarium near the cemetery.

It has been a while since I have been in Oakland. I hope to be able to pay my respects to my husband’s ancestors while there.