Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Family Wiki

One of the effects of reconnecting with cousins is a renewed interest in my family of origin. I know a lot about them already, but obviously there is much more that I don't know.

My cousin, Sarah, and I have traded a few stories about our grandfather, and in the course of our catching up, we decided it would be good to have a website where everyone could contribute their memories and stories and facts about the family that we come from (my grandfather was one of seven children).

So, I started a wiki for the family. Each of the seven siblings (i.e. my grandfather's siblings) will have a page, as will the couple that all of us have in common -- my great-grandparents. We all have access to edit the wiki pages and add what we know about the various family members from whom we are descended.

Sarah's mom, my Aunt Jan, contributed some interesting stuff today -- including one important fact that I never knew: my grandmother had a brother! I thought there were just the three sisters (she being the eldest), and I do not EVER remember hearing about an Uncle Ernest!

This blows me away. In theory, I should have known this man, as I knew my grandmother's sisters, but he may very well have died before I was born. I'm hoping my Aunt Jan will write more on the wiki and fill in that gap.

And I'm really hoping that more family members will contribute what they know because I think this promises to be a very interesting exercise for all of us!


It's Saturday and my to-do list is much longer than I'd like it to be. How's yours?

I'm still waking up on East Coast time, which actually isn't a bad thing because it does give me a couple of hours of peace and quiet before the day really begins. Of course, it means I'm dead tired by 9:00 at night, but there are always trade-offs, I guess. I enjoy the stillness of the house before everyone else gets up, I must say; it gives me a chance to get myself oriented for the day.

Today's list includes vacuuming, steam cleaning the floors, making a batch of tomato sauce, making gluten-free pizza for dinner, baking a gluten-free chocolate cake, and the domestic equivalent of "all other duties as assigned." In this case, both the "assignor" and the "assignee" of those duties would be.... me. (Except, if I see my hubby looking like he needs something to do, I'll happily assign him something from my list.)

This weekend is a brief respite of nesting in the midst of a busy work and travel schedule. Tomorrow we'll be going out to watch the Super Bowl, but otherwise, I intend to be At Home. The kitchen will smell marvelous with the tomato sauce slowly simmering in the oven, and the family room fire will be roaring. We won't even notice the 10 degree weather outside -- well, except for when the dog insists on his daily walks and playtime.

I'm still thinking over and processing my recent visit with my cousin, Sarah, and I'll be posting that blog entry pretty soon.

Happy weekend to all!

- Catherine

UPDATE Saturday night: got it all done! My floors are so clean you could eat off of them. The chocolate cake was so amazing that we ate an enormous portion of it tonight -- so a much smaller portion than anticipated will be going to the Super Bowl party tomorrow. All of tonight's dinner was gluten free -- the pizza and the cake -- and it was all wonderful, if I do say so myself (and I do). Ta da!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


[Fair warning – this entry is a rant.]

The world seems to be enamored of the escape clause these days. “I’m sorry, but….” Or “I’m grateful, but….” In other words: I will acknowledge what’s going on here but in no way am I responsible for my action or words, and your efforts aren’t good enough to satisfy my vanity.

The latest example I’ve seen on a grand scale is that at least one of the passengers on the recently ditched US Airways jet is contemplating a lawsuit against US Airways in order to compensate his emotional suffering as a result of the accidental loss of both engines due to a bird strike. Apparently, US Airways is responsible not only for its jets but for the natural ecosystem around them and the environment in which they fly. Uh huh. Who knew the airlines had such all-encompassing power?

We live – and have always lived – in a world in which not everything can be under the control of human beings. Accidents happen. US Airways was in no way negligent in this incident. How can anyone, in good conscience, sue them? It’s not as though the airline has been silent or is ignoring the situation. They’ve sent each passenger a check for $5,000 up front plus they’ve set up an insurance mechanism by which passengers can recover more of the replacement cost of their belongings. It won’t be perfect, but is it fair to bankrupt a corporation because Mother Nature completely screwed up the careful preparations and planning that were made for everyone’s safety?

The passenger’s lawyer is quoted -- actually quoted – as saying “We’re grateful [for US Airways efforts at restitution], but….” [meaning: it won’t be enough until we have millions of dollars]. Puh-leeze!

If you have to put the word “but” in the sentence, then you’ve negated what went before it. Thus, you are not grateful. Not at all.

Even worse than “I’m grateful, but…”is the phrase “I’m sorry, but…”. It’s a sorry excuse for an apology. In fact, it’s not an apology. An apology is an expression of regret and of taking responsibility for one’s actions. “I’m sorry, but….” does no such thing. A real apology sounds something like this (choose two): “I’m sorry. I truly regret that. I will do my best to make sure it doesn’t happen again.” A genuine apology is a short declarative statement of regret that acknowledges the damage that was done – with nary an excuse in sight. The explanations about the situation may come up in a later conversation between the two people, but explanations become nothing more than excuses when they are attached to the apology itself. Either you are sorry or you’re not. Either you take responsibility or you don’t. The addition of “…but…” means you’re still trying to justify and excuse your actions, or, worse yet (and far too common),actually trying to place the blame on the person to whom you are ostensibly apologizing. “I’m sorry, but… [your actions were the root cause of mine, thus it’s really your fault].” Wake up! The apology isn’t about you – it’s about the person whose relationship you claim to value.

Further, it doesn’t matter what your intentions were. Whether or not you intended to cause offense or pain, the end result is the same: there IS offense and/or pain, and you were responsible for it, whether you meant for it to happen or not. Do you care about the other person? Then make a genuine apology and save the explanation for later. On the other hand, if you don’t care, then I guess the phrase “I’m sorry, but…” is perfectly correct. Because, really, you’re not.

I once had someone say to me, “I’m not going to apologize because I didn’t intend to cause a problem.” At least the person was honest, but the truth is, whether he/she intended it or not, there was damage done. And that damage has yet to be undone because this person thinks their intentions somehow trump their actions.

I am completely unapologetic about this issue. Take responsibility and make your sentiments genuine, please! As a society, we’ve devolved to an extremely low level of personal accountability and an even lower level of gratitude. It’s pathetic and it is no wonder we have such a problem living together peaceably. All is vanity (so says Ecclesiastes 1:2). How sad.

[Okay, rant over.]

Monday, January 26, 2009

Lost photo

So, I got some great photographs of my cousin, Sarah, and her family this weekend, as you can see in my Picasa web album.

When I visited cousins Karen and Jim earlier this month, I took a digital photograph of them -- just one. I did upload it at one point to my computer. Do you think I can find this photograph? I cannot. I've looked everywhere in my hard drive and on the memory card of the camera, and it is nowhere to be found. All those bytes of data.... vanished.

The wonders of technology.


With luck, I'll get more pics the next time I see them (hopefully in April).

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Cousins, Part II

I’m in Baltimore today, visiting with yet another "long lost" cousin. This one is my first cousin – and we are the only female first cousins on this particular side of the family. In the odd way of some families (such as ours), we have been out of touch for nearly 20 years.

There will be another (longer) blog post when the visit is done, but suffice it to say that I am finding with Sarah that same familiarity of “home” that I found in the visit with my second cousins, Jim and Karen, earlier this month. Cool stuff!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Horses, milestones, and tombstones

I don’t know where time is going these days, but it’s astounding to me that 10 days have gone by without my posting another entry in my blog.

We spent the weekend at a two-day horse training workshop -- my husband, my youngest, our nephew and his daughter, and a dear friend who’s as nuts about horses as we are. It was an excellent clinic done by Clinton Anderson. Without doubt he is the best teacher I’ve heard yet when it comes to explaining how to effectively work with your horse. He’s also very generous with his knowledge and his experience -- and even with his merchandise (a lot of very valuable prizes were given away during the workshop). Many famous horse trainers use their tours as nothing more than an advertisement to get you to buy their very high-priced club memberships and DVDs. While Anderson’s DVDs aren’t exactly cheap, most of his merchandise is actually moderately priced, and he really does teach you a great deal in the course of the workshop itself. I’ve come away from other horse training workshops feeling inspired – I came away from Anderson’s feeling like I really know something about working my horse. Big difference. And I can’t wait to try it out.

My husband purchased one of the Clinton Anderson DVDs as a gift for me, which is great. But you should know that Tim is still trying to worm his way back into my good graces after the debacle of my 50th Birthday party. The story is this: My June birthday usually passes with little fanfare since it is a hectic time in my work year. When my daughter, Abbi, came home from Korea last August, I naturally planned a party for everyone to come over and visit with her before she headed back for her second year of teaching English. Unbeknownst to me, Tim decided that this event would also be my 50th birthday party. Only problem – I did all the planning and buying, and I did most of the food preparation. When Tim stood up to give thanks to God before the meal, he suddenly revealed that this was my 50th birthday party. That was news to me, and also news to a few of Tim’s kids that he’d forgotten to notify (they were at the party but didn’t know about the intended surprise).

Let me say here and now that I had a great time at my party and that my husband said very nice things about me. I love Tim dearly – he’s a very good man. But, as a point of wifely honor, I have yet to let him forget that I catered my own 50th birthday party, in stark contrast to his, which was quite an extravaganza arranged by li’l ole me. I told him that I was going to put it on his tombstone for all to see: Here lies Tim, who let his wife arrange and cater her own 50th birthday party.

I have to say, the Clinton Anderson DVD was an inspired attempt by my husband to get back on track. It’s something that I definitely wanted – and also something that Tim and I will be able to share. All to the good.

Maybe I’ll let him off the hook in a year or so. We’ll see……

In the meantime, my horses are going to love this.

- Catherine

Friday, January 9, 2009


I met up with a couple of “long lost” second cousins the other day. I’d been looking forward to this reunion for several weeks and was very excited about it. And I thought sure there would be a terrific blog post immediately coming to mind after the reunion. I even anticipated beginning that process on the Metro while riding back to DC from our lunch. But, surprisingly, I had no immediate desire to blog about it.

I think I needed time to digest it.

And so I have. And here’s what I think:

First, I think I have some awesome cousins!

I last saw Jimmy (my apologies, Jim – you will forever be “Jimmy” to me) when we were in high school. That’s about 35 years ago. Truthfully, I would not have known him if Karen hadn’t said to me, “That’s Jim.” But when he opened his mouth to speak, I finally saw the resemblance to the boy I’d known. We’ve both had lots of life experiences in the 35 years that have gone by. Jimmy’s life certainly agrees with him and it is always a great joy to see that in someone. He did a five-year stint in the Navy after high school, got married, went to college, had a couple of kids, and now he hangs out in the swamps of Virginia (okay, he’s a distinguished “wetlands biologist” – but wetlands are swamps to me).

I am in awe of Karen. She has homeschooled all five of her children and she’s done it thoughtfully and well. She grinds her own wheat. And she’s a grammar nut (said with much affection) who writes with considerable grace and elegance. I know that because I keep up with her blog. I last saw Karen about 18 years ago at a family function in New Jersey that neither of us can actually remember – except we know that we were both there, she with her youngest baby and me with my 6-year old daughter (both of whom are named Abigail, by the way). Cannot, for the life of me, remember what kind of function we were attending! Anniversary? Memorial service? Funeral? Have no idea (very sad, that).

The second thing that I think is this: there is something that is not tangible but is nevertheless very comforting and real about families. I can’t attribute it just to DNA because I’ve seen firsthand how adopted children can be part of a family so completely that the DNA doesn’t matter. In other words, “nurture” is just as powerful as “nature” and plays just as great a part in what makes a family. Part of this indefinable something, I think, is that we three cousins grew up in the same State, in the same general area, at the same time, and so we were shaped by the same society. And part of it is that we are, in fact, descended from the same family culture. Each family is unique in the way they live – Jim, Karen and I are products of that same experience.

We have some of the same ways of speaking. We have some common viewpoints (and many that diverge, too). I can hear echoes of our parents and grandparents in the ways that we look at life. We have ranged far and wide in our adult lives and have been out of touch with each other for a very long time, but when we sat down together there was a unique feeling of home that just cannot come from anywhere else. I’ve blogged about home before. Being reunited with my cousins reminds me again of who I am; they are part of the experience that formed me. They are unique and interesting individuals. I hope and pray they will continue to be part of my life’s journey.

- Catherine

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Travels with Catherine

Here we go again.

Getting to DC was a nightmare -- of re-routing, weather delays and mechanical delays. 16 hours, one $400 travel voucher, and 2,000 bonus miles later, I finally got to DC. And now, on the eve of my scheduled return home, I’ve just discovered that the airline somehow dropped my return trip from the system!

I am on the phone right now trying to reinstate the flights of the original itinerary. Apparently when they rerouted me on the outbound itinerary (from home to DC), they dropped the rest of the trip. Hel-lo?!

I’m on hold. I’ve been on hold for a long time now. The representative came on a few minutes ago to assure me that they are taking care of it and that it will only be a few more minutes while they get it back in the system.

She just came back on again to ask about my address -- apparently they couldn't make sense of it. No wonder. They had the zip code of my old condo in Bountiful and the street address of my office in Salt Lake City. The real pity is that over a year ago I changed the address for my account to my Pocatello home address. How they ended up with such a mess in their system is beyond me. When I told the rep that I'd changed my address over a year ago, her response was "you must have done that online." Well..... if online is my only resource for making a change of address, why doesn't it translate through the rest of their system? Hel-lo?!

What the....?