Monday, November 30, 2009

More odd shades of grief

I miss my mother. This morning I drove down to Salt Lake City, getting back to my regular work schedule of two days in the Salt Lake office each week. I ALWAYS talk to my mother right after I get on the Interstate in Idaho.

This was the first time I'd made the drive since returning from Pennsylvania after her funeral.

I miss my mother when I'm driving.

I also miss her in the little, funny things of life. We shared a similar sense of humor (which it took me to adulthood to understand, quite frankly -- but that is another, much more angst-laden blog post). So, it doesn't surprise me that, even as her body was shutting down this life on earth, there was a humorous moment along the way.

Background: The timeline of my mother's illness and decline is that she was still up and around for several hours each day until the four days before she passed. She passed on a Sunday. The last time she was on her feet was the Thursday morning before. By Thursday afternoon, we knew she wouldn't be getting up again, and the hospice nurses made arrangements for a hospital bed to be brought in on Friday. And so it was, and mother was able to walk the five steps from one bed to the other, and that was pretty much it for her.

On Saturday morning, she woke me at 5:15 or so -- I forget why. Her eyes were still closed -- she was so weary at this point -- but she motioned to the hospital bed that she was lying in and said something I couldn't quite catch. After asking her to repeat it another two times, I finally realized that she was asking me, "Did he bring this in by himself?" Of course, my rejoinder was, "Did WHO bring this in by himself? Gus?" (meaning her husband). "No," she replied, "your father."

Well, now... that's a wee bit awkward.

In the split second that followed, I realized I had three options. 1) Remind her that she had not been married to my father for the last THIRTY FIVE years (what ARE you thinking, Mom???), 2) Remind her that my father had passed away nearly three years ago, or 3) Assure her that, indeed, he hadn't brought it in by himself. I opted for #3 and smothered a smile. If Mom had been up to it, she'd probably have enjoyed the humor of my situation there.

And when I remember that moment, I miss her so darn much that I can hardly breathe for a second or so.

- Catherine

Thanksgiving Weekend 2009

I think a list is the only way to describe what I've been up to for the past four days.

1. Thanksgiving Day -- about 80 people and a ton or so of excellent food. Oh, and the family football game played in cold but beautiful weather.

2. Preparations for my sister-in-law's wedding. Tim's five sisters put together a beautiful wedding, from the flowers to the food to Luci's dress. I was a willing worker bee, but we soon discovered that making corsages is not my forté. Instead, I went to work on the food platters, and that was a much better venue for my.... ahem... skills.

3. Shopping at 5:00 a.m. on Friday -- not necessarily because I wanted to, but because my usual insomnia had me up at 4:00 and I thought to myself, why not? As it turns out I scored two pre-lit artificial trees that my sister-in-law had hoped to add to her wedding backdrop (for a measly $30 each), plus some very nice silk poinsettias, also for the wedding, at 50% off. Skipping Wal-Mart, I opted instead for Fred Meyers, a store that is similar to Target (we don't have a Target -- we just have Freddie's). Everyone was very nice as we stood in line outside and chatted. Inside, the employees were terrific and the customers very civilized. I headed for Joann's Fabric Store from there, in time for their 6:00 a.m. opening. People RAN into that store, and it wasn't until I got inside myself that I found out why -- the Cricut (a cutting machine for crafters) was on sale for $75. Fortunately, I already own one of those. The other reason folks ran into Joann's was because fabric was deeply discounted for the morning only -- a very large variety of fabric was marked down to something like $1.00 per yard for the first six hours of Friday morning. I was very glad I didn't have to stand in line for fabric cutting - it snaked around the inside of the store.

4. The wedding was beautiful and went off nearly perfectly. My sisters-in-law outdid themselves, I think.

The bride and groom.

5. Leftovers at my parents-in-law's house yesterday, plus another football game played by the cousins. I love the way the older boys try to include the little kids as much as they can. There were plenty of dazzling passes, to be sure, but there were also plenty of instances where the little kids really got to try to play the game.

6. The distribution of this year's profits from our family's fair booth at the State Fair. We began the meeting with prayer, and there were some difficult conversations as we debated priorities and the division of the money. In the end, consensus was reached on all counts, and everyone was satisfied with the decisions. (And we are still all friends.) We chose to focus, as our outreach, on supporting the work of the Gospel through missions, setting aside some funds for any of our kids going on mission trips this coming year. The rest of the money we made on the booth was put toward financial needs within our extended family. The work at the fair is very hard, both physically and emotionally, but it becomes more than worthwhile when the end result is that we can help to take care of God's work and our own family.

7. Monday morning, here we go!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Friday's Fave Five

Another week and another list of highlights!

1. Thanksgiving day with the family -- most of our kids, all of Tim's siblings, my parents-in-law, countless grandchildren, great-nephews and great-nieces, and, of course, the Family Football Game.

2. The excitement of my sister-in-law's marriage (the wedding is tomorrow). We are so happy for them both!

3. My camera -- the lowliest of the Nikon DX series (a DX40), but an amazing camera nonetheless. I am so glad I treated myself by purchasing it two years ago.

4. The gas fireplace (stove) in our family room -- nicely toasty on a cold day!

5. New friends who came to Thanksgiving dinner with us. A family of 5, they came to our church last week for the first time and we got to talking for a few minutes with them at the kids' activity later that day. Upon finding that they wouldn't be going home (3 hours away) for Thanksgiving, we invited them to ours -- which they declined because they'd already been invited to another Thanksgiving dinner. Only it wasn't "another" dinner -- it was ours -- because they'd been invited by our nephew and his wife. We had a great time getting to know them better yesterday.

This meme is hosted by Susanne at Living to Tell -- you can link up your list with her's by visiting her blog and using the "Mr. Linky" thing-a-ma-bob at the end of her Fave Five post.

Have a great weekend!

- Catherine

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Grandma's evening out

Two years ago I started a tradition of having an evening out at Christmastime with my granddaughter (and eldest grandchild), Kali.  She was 7-going-on-8 at the time, a good age to start this kind of thing. We both like to dress up, so what better choice than a local performance of the Nutcracker?  That first year, she slept through most of the second act, but she enjoyed herself immensely, being out for a grown-up evening.  I had a blast, too. 

The tradition has continued, and last night was our third Christmastime outing – once again to see the Nutcracker.  (Last year we saw a production of A Christmas Carol, brought into town by a professional touring company.)  Off we went, last night, to see a Nutcracker performance put on by a touring company of The Moscow Ballet, and we got to see it in Pocatello's amazing Stephen's Performing Arts Center.  The Stephen’s PAC is a fabulous venue, reputed to have some of the best acoustics in the country. We had seats in the topmost balcony area, right on the railing – a great view of the stage.

I don’t know much about The Moscow Ballet, but Russian ballet companies, in general, have quite a reputation, given the history of ballet in that country.  This was a regional touring arm of The Moscow Ballet.  The principal dancing was really excellent, the costumes were lovely, and the minimalist set (just two elaborate backdrops) was imaginatively designed.

Kali fell asleep again this year -- just the last 15 minutes -- but no matter.  We thoroughly enjoyed our evening “at the ballet,” as we airily pronounced it, dressed in our Christmas finery. I loved making another memory with my eldest grandchild, and I am looking forward to the day when Granddaughter #2 (we have only two so far) is also old enough for such activities.

Kali already wants to know what we’ll be seeing next year. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Random Dozen -- the Wednesday meme on Tuesday this week!

The weekly Random Dozen is a day early this week so that we can all be happily getting ready for Thanksgiving and the resulting food coma. If I don't see you here later this week, then please let me wish you a Happy Thanksgiving now!


1. Are you sticking to traditional Thanksgiving foods this year, or are you being culinarily adventurous?

Traditional. My mother-in-law (who is a caterer) always hosts the meal at her home, and we (“we” being about 70 people) are gathering there. I am in charge of making the gluten-free stuffing and the gluten-free dessert for my hubby, his sister, and one of our guests. I’ve experimented with a Sausage-Apple stuffing recipe from my cousin (thank you, Dot and Karen – what a fabulous stuffing!!!). I think it’s a real hit, even with gluten-free bread and gluten-free cornbread as the foundation. Can’t wait to serve it to those who think they will have to go without stuffing on Thanksgiving Day! Ditto the chocolate cake that I’ll be bringing.

2. Tell me something concrete that you're thankful for. (Something you can literally touch, see, etc., not a concept like "hope.")

Automatic air freshener. You walk by and it automatically squirts scent into the air. Neither of the male folk in my house seem to be capable of picking up a can of air freshener and spraying it at.. umm… appropriate times. So.... automatic air freshener in an apple/cinnamon scent = problem solved!

3. You knew the flip side was coming: Share about something intangible that you're thankful for.

The depth and breadth of my husband’s love – he may not be perfect, but he is truly a man after God’s own heart and he has taught me a great deal about love.

4. Share one vivid Thanksgiving memory. It doesn't have to be deep or meaningful, just something that remains etched in your memory.

Last year’s family football game on Thanksgiving Day. The autumn sunlight, the expansive view of the mountains in the distance, and the fun all the cousins had as they played the game…..

5. What is one thing that you know beyond a shadow of a doubt is going to happen this Thanksgiving because it always does, year after year?

I will look at that heavily laden buffet, I will dive in face first, and I will overeat. And then I will kick myself for doing so. It’s a gift.

6. Do your pets get any leftovers?

At my mother-in-law’s house, I don’t know because all the dogs live outside. If we were at my house, absolutely yes. And Hank would know that and be doing his best to look like he’s not begging when he really is. Me: “Hank Williams Jr! No begging!” Hank would then turn his limpid brown eyes upon me, let his ears droop, and I would be vanquished in an instant. That dog has my number.

7. Does your family pray before the big meal? If so, do you join hands while seated, stand, repeat a formal prayer or offer a spontaneous prayer? Who does the praying?

My father-in-law gives thanks before the meal – it is always spontaneous prayer.

8. Will you be watching football in the afternoon? If not, what will you be doing?

We won’t be watching the NFL, but we will be watching our own family football game out on the lawn.

9. There are two distinct camps of people on this issue: How do you feel about oysters in the dressing/stuffing?

I’ve never had oysters in the stuffing, so I don’t know how I feel about it. As long as I don’t have to feel FOR the oysters….. (couldn’t resist, Lid!).

10. Do you consider yourself informed about the first Thanksgiving?

Well, I think so. But it’s not something I’ve studied very much, I must say.

11. Which variety of pie will you be enjoying?

There will be a huge variety of desserts at Thanksgiving – I will probably have a small taste of several, including, but not limited to, pumpkin pie.

12. Do you feel for the turkey?? (This is a humorous throw back question related to the 12th question in another Random Dozen!)

We-ell…. while I didn’t feel for the fish in the previous Random Dozen, I do feel for the turkeys a little bit. Turkey farms can be horrendous places, quite frankly. But I eat it anyway.

If you want to play along with this weekly meme, copy and paste the questions into your own blog (and supply your own answers, of course). Then go to Lid's blog at 2nd Cup of Coffee and use the little "Mr. Linky" button at the end of her Random Dozen post -- that way you can link in your own blog and also read those of others. Kinda like a coffee klatch online!

- Catherine

Monday, November 23, 2009

It's Monday morning in the country

The title is a phrase used over and over again by one of our local radio morning DJs (just substitute the correct day of the week, of course). Funny, that it's all I could think of this morning, and I haven't listened to the radio yet today.

My weekend was a mixed bag of things. The to-do list was an Epic Fail. Not a single thing on the list got done.

On the other hand, I experimented with gluten-free Sausage and Apple stuffing and it was a big hit with the family! So, with my experiment a success, I shall be supplying the gluten-free stuffing at the Thanksgiving dinner my parents-in-law are hosting. I'll also make a gluten-free chocolate cake (using Bob's Red Mill cake mix). I hate to see my hubby and his sister go without the good stuff on Thanksgiving. And, actually, that stuffing is a big success even in its gluten-free form!

My husband was diagnosed with Celiac in December of 2007, so we have been nearly two years on the gluten-free diet in our house. He was so sick before his diagnosis that he thought he was dying. And, actually, he was -- of malnutrition. Celiac is an auto-immune disease that affects the intestinal tract to the point of rendering it impossible for the body to derive any nutrition from food. Tim ate, but his body didn't benefit because of the advanced stage of his auto-immune response. His 5'9" frame was down to 130 pounds and he was cinching his belt in to keep his size 32 jeans on. Within one week of going gluten-free, he felt good again. Within three weeks of going gluten-free, he began regaining weight and his skin color went from pasty gray to normal. He'll never be able to go back to eating wheat, barley or rye (or any products that include those grains or their derivatives), but he eats well at home, and, increasingly, out at some restaurants, too.

Hmmm... Celiac isn't what I'd intended for today's blog post. But there it is. By the way, if you suspect you or anyone you know may have this problem, there is a simple blood test that will show the indicators. The doctor will want a biopsy if the indicators are positive, but the initial test is an easy blood draw. Celiac isn't something you catch, either -- it comes down through DNA, especially through German and Irish extraction.

And please don't be afraid to prepare food for someone who has celiac. There are plenty of free resources available on the Internet that are helpful in explaining the situation and suggesting meals. Plain meat, potatoes and vegetables are always okay (it's what you dress them with that you have to watch). If you ask questions of someone in the know, you won't go wrong.

- Catherine

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Saturday to-do list

The Saturday to-do list is long, long, long. How did this happen? I'm not even sure where to start. Tim is outside raking the last of the leaves and I'm debating between cleaning out my closet or cleaning out my office. I'm afraid either one could take me all day, so whichever job I start, the other will probably remain for a future to-do list. Stay tuned to see which one wins...

Thankfully, tomorrow is the Sabbath and I intend to keep it that way -- i.e. restful. That means football and my two best guys - yeah!

- Catherine

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday's Fave Five

This weekly meme is hosted by Susanne at Living To Tell the Story.

Can't believe it is Friday already. I'm looking forward to next week, spending time with the family and eating, eating, eating. Oh, and football games, shopping trips, eating, and my sister-in-law's wedding!

In no particular order, these are five favorite things from the past week.

1. Getting to spend a whole evening with my dearest friend in all the world. Every time I see her, I am reminded of how much her friendship has meant to me for the past 25 years.

2. Snagging a free upgrade to fly First Class home from Newark to Salt Lake City. Once again, it ain't about the meal -- it's the acreage.

3. Coming home from a trip to the comfort of my husband's arms. He really is the best!

4. A new chicken recipe that yields gravy To Die For! Oh, and the bird was mighty tasty, too.

5. A phone call from my stepdaughter on a really blue day.

AND, bonus....

6. Being able to cook away my blues. I like to cook, and I've discovered that, on the bad days, it helps me to prepare a good meal. That's how we ended up with an amazing Lemon Chicken dinner last night, and I ended a blue day in a pretty good mood. I'm thankful for a good kitchen and a nearby grocery store.

I've been away for five weekends straight -- the longest ever, I think. I cannot wait to have a normal, family-style weekend, starting tonight!! Have a great weekend everyone!

- Catherine

Addendum for those who are intrigued by the Lemon Chicken recipe (which I got from my friend, Sara, and which uses the cooking method of my cousin, Karen, -- so it's a little bit of a hybrid, and I thank both of you!).

1 whole chicken (the recipe calls for an Oven Stuffer Roaster type, but those are hard to come by in our town, so I used two plump fryers)
1-2 whole lemons (1 small-ish lemon for a plump fryer, probably two small-ish or one medium lemon for an Oven Stuffer Roaster)
Olive oil to brush on and in the chicken.

for the Rub:
1 T kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 T garlic powder

for the giblet broth:
chicken neck, liver, yukky stuff, etc.
1 onion, chopped coarsely
about 10 sprigs of fresh parsley (or dried equivalent)
2 garlic cloves minced
sage and/or poultry seasoning (or what-have-you - bay leaf, maybe?) to taste
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 250 degrees (TWO fifty -- it's a slow oven).

Remove the giblets from the chickens and reserve to make a broth that you will add to your pan drippings for gravy. (If you hate working with the giblets, then you could use canned chicken broth for that part of the gravy-making and skip the whole giblet thing.)

Brush the chicken(s) with olive oil.

Wash the lemons (do not peel), and prick each one all over with a fork (probably 8-10 times).

Combine the ingredients for the rub.
Rub inside the oiled chicken and under the skin of the breast.

Insert the whole lemon(s) into the cavity of the chicken and tie the legs closed, tucking the wings underneath as well.

Roast UNcovered until done, 5-6 hours at 250 degrees (yep, that is a SLOW oven).

In the meantime, combine giblets and the other broth ingredients with enough water to cover.
Simmer the giblets for at least 3 hours or more.

When the chicken is done:
Remove the chicken(s) to a cutting board and tent with foil to rest while you make the gravy. Remove the lemons and discard.

Pour pan drippings into a gravy separator
Reserve enough fat to make a roux with flour (ratio is 1:1). I used 2 T of each.
Cook the roux for a minute, then add all of the de-fatted pan drippings.
As it thickens, you can add giblet broth as needed to get to the right consistency. (I didn't use all my giblet broth last night -- will use it when I make more gravy tonight from the chicken broth I made today and the fat that I reserved.)

The lemon oozes/sprays juice all over the inside of the chicken while it's cooking. The meat is very juicy and the dark meat in particular has a just a slight hint of lemon to it. What's so wonderful about the gravy is that it has this very, very subtle lemon flavor to it -- very fresh -- but it's also very chicken-y. My husband and our guest couldn't get enough of it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Odd shades of grief

Woke up sad and can't seem to get out of my own way this morning. I have no patience with this process. I've got stuff to do - work, home, family (not necessarily in that order).

I don't have time to sit here crying over last night's dream that my mother and I were on one of our fun trips together (we loved traveling together). I don't have time to weep over the ending of the dream, when I realized that she was going to have go home and die again. Again? Yes - in the dream I knew that I was on borrowed time with her. The added grief at the end (after our lovely trip) was that I'd been at her home with her for her "first" death, and now, because we'd been traveling, I didn't have enough vacation time to go back to her home with her again, for the event that we surely knew was coming.

I woke up sobbing and I've been sitting at my computer ever since, with a short foray to the kitchen to get the oatmeal going for breakfast. Because there is still life to be lived here.

Oh my gosh, how I hate this.

- Catherine

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Random Dozen -- the Wednesday meme

Here are this week's questions in the Random Dozen, thanks to Lid over at 2nd cup of coffee. If you want to play along, copy the questions to your blog, answer them, then go to 2nd Cup of Coffee and use the Mr. Linky thing at the end of the Random Dozen post -- you can link in your blog with everyone else's blog and also use that feature to read the answers of others (which is quite fun).

1. If you could master one sport, what would it be?

Horseback riding. I am the world’s worst rider, but I truly love my horses.

2. When you make a major purchase, do you go with your gut instinct, or do you do research to make an informed decision?

Research first (love the Internet!). Then, if I still have trouble deciding, my gut.

3. There is an old kids' game that says you can find out what your movie star name would be by using your middle name as your first name and the name of the street you grew up on as your last. What is your movie star name?

Elizabeth State Highway. Not very glamorous or cool, I'm afraid. (Actually, it should be Elizabeth State Highway 35. But that is just weird.)

4. Would you rather give up your favorite music or your favorite food?

Hmmm….. depends on what mood I’m in. But probably, I’d be less likely to want to give up my favorite food (I always have music playing in my brain anyway -- can't shut it off).

5. There are two types of banana preferences. One is pristine yellow, almost to the point of being green; the other is spotty and more ripe. Which is your preference?

Neither. Raw bananas (at any stage) give me a hellish stomach ache, so I don’t ever eat them.

6. Your favorite tree is?

Red maple (for the fall foliage, of course).

7. On a scale of 1-10, how tech savvy are you?

A 7, I think. I can’t do much with network administration, but I can work through quite a few problems on my computer, I can edit and upload photographs and documents, and I can use a webcam and VoIP software (how about that for tech savvy!).

8. Has H1N1 touched your family?

Both husband and youngest son had it at the same time in October. I have escaped thus far.

9. Are you an analytical person, or do you just accept things the way they are without questioning or scrutinizing?

Depends on the issue. Some things are too overwhelming to try to analyze, so I don’t even bother. But, overall, I suppose my tendency would be to think it through if I can.

10. Is your personality more like that of a dog, cat, or Koala?

I have the loyalty of a dog but (sometimes) the aloofness of a cat, so that’s another toss up among my answers today. (Koalas, from what I understand, are not as cuddly as they look and can be quite ferocious if cornered in the wild -- I really do like to think I'm not that.)

11. Do you keep in touch with friends you made years ago?

Absolutely! There is one friend with whom I’ve never lost touch – we graduated to email when it became readily available to both of us in the late 90s. I stay in touch with other old friends (whom I’ve recently found again) through Facebook.

12. You are checking out at a grocery store. In the express lane, there are more people than the regular lanes, but of course, their load is less than those in the regular lanes. Which lane do you choose (assuming you qualify for the express lane) and why?

I’d choose the scan-it-yourself ("u-scan") lanes, of which my local grocery stores have at least four in each store. Those lanes tend to move pretty quickly, even when the store is crowded. But if “u-scan” isn’t an option, then I’d choose the conventional Express lane because the line does keep moving with the smaller orders. It drives me a wee bit crazy, when I’ve got a small order, to stand for a long time behind someone who has a week’s worth of their family’s groceries on the belt. At least you have the illusion of fairly speedy progress in the Express lanes, even if your actual time in line isn’t cut down.

- Catherine

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Stages of Grief

Dear God,

I’ve read before that there are stages of grief – some say three, some say five, some say seven – whatever, it’s all the same concept: Grief is complicated and is (often) a lengthy period of working through a wide range of emotions, making progress and then backtracking, making progress and backtracking.

I’m tired of the grieving process already. I am not sleeping well (which You already know, since I’ve been talking to You about it). I wake up in the middle of the night feeling just flat out sad. Not even specifically thinking about my mother – just overwhelmingly sad. Days are better because I have things to keep me busy, despite the sadness.

The experts say that the grief one feels after a loved one dies shouldn’t be put off, shouldn’t be swept under the carpet or denied. You must expeeeer-ience (Nora Desmond drama here) the grief to move beyond it.

With all due respect to the experts, this is an expeeeer-ience I could live without.

I. Don’t. Have. Time.

It used to be that there were specific things one did socially that helped to mark the grieving process: wear black clothing and/or a widow’s cap, refrain from going out in public for a set period of time, wear a black armband, etc. I’m beginning to see some wisdom in those artificial constructs, because they seem, in my opinion, to help the subconscious mind benchmark the process as it unfolds, and provide a glimmer of hope in that life will return to normal at a specific point in time – normal clothing, normal social interaction, etc.

I have a busy career that demands all of my faculties be in working order. I have a husband and son who need me to be in the game at home. I have grown kids who, in varying ways, need me as a fully-functioning member of the family, too. And I have the sinking feeling that I am just in the beginning of this grief thing, with no mile markers to guide me on the trip.

Frankly, there isn’t time for grief, and it scares me and frustrates me to think that I’m going to have to make time, whether I want to or not. Absent the man-made markers that we used to observe, what is this going to look like as it plays out in my life? Brain fog? Uncontrollable weeping? Lack of interest in life? Wishing for death? All of the above? It’d be easier to wear black clothing for three months, a black armband for another three, and then call it good, thank you.

I’m a little bit like my mother in that I want to plan it all out so I know what to expect and when. What is this going to be like – I want to know. Now. And I want it to be over. Now. I’m looking forward to the day when, as Roberta Temes states in her book, Living with an Empty Chair, “Life is no longer one frantic anxiety attack.”

Temes separates the grief stages into behaviors:

Numbness (mechanical functioning and social insulation)
Disorganization (intensely painful feelings of loss)
Reorganization (re-entry into a more 'normal' social life.)

My Father, as You already know, right now I’m into Disorganization -- with the occasional retreat to Numbness. Here’s to Reorganization coming soon, yes?

And maybe I’ll go find myself a black armband, too.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Saturday meeting

I have a whole day meeting today.

And so I must not blog.... I must not blog..... I must not blog....

- Catherine

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday's Fave Five

It is Friday the 13th, it's so windy I think the roof might come off this hotel, and I am in New Jersey -- my home state and a land of people who use their cars as instruments of rage and frustration. I think if you can successfully get on and off the NJ Turnpike in North Jersey at rush hour, you should get a medal for bravery and sheer nerve.

Oh, but this is supposed to be a Fave Five, isn't it.....

Happy stuff.


Well, in no particular order, here we go:

1. The prospect of seeing old friends while I'm here.

2. The fact that I got upgraded to First Class for the flight from Salt Lake City to Newark yesterday. It's not even about getting a real meal -- it's about the seat room and leg room. Ahhhhhhh.....

3. A cup of good, strong tea on a windy, stormy morning.

4. The remarkable progress toward recovery that my friend, Kelly, is showing -- the doctors were able to drain the tumor on her liver, and the liver is starting to show signs of life. She still needs a transplant, but this is miraculous, folks! She can actually go home for a while, they think.

5. The laughs I've had this week -- I so need them! (Today's laugh: If you're on Facebook, check this out: scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the link that says English on the lefthand side. In the resulting window, choose "English Pirate" as your language. Too funny!)

Happy weekend, everyone!

- Catherine

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mouga Schouch

I love family history research. I started working on my family tree back in the 1980s – when you had to travel to far flung official places in order to research the various and sundry records that are now gathered so neatly together on Thank you, LDS Church. Yes, I have the deluxe membership, and I am amazed at how much information is available now for research.

One blogger, in a comment yesterday, said that family history research is like putting together the pieces of a puzzle. She’s right -- and that combination of puzzle and family history is what makes it so intriguing to me. The thrill of the hunt – and what you turn up are your very own ancestors!

My great-great-great grandmother was Mary Ann Schanck, nee Hall. She was married to Jacob Schuyler Schanck, a farmer in Monmouth County, New Jersey. In trying to trace their son, William Gordon Schanck – my great-great grandfather – I must, of necessity, trace Mary Ann and Jacob as well. A specific thorn in my side is that I’ve had no luck locating William in the 1860 U.S. Census, so I pushed back further to look for Jacob and Mary Ann in that same census – for perhaps William, then unmarried, was still living at home in 1860. Alas, I could not find Jacob and Mary Ann through an search, either.

I knew they had to be there because another record had told me so – but that record came from a compiled index, so you can't view the original entries. I was going to have to access the actual 1860 census schedule in order to see the names of everyone living in the household. So I went back to my old sleuthing techniques, pulling up – through -- the entire census schedule for Freehold, New Jersey, in 1860. 98 pages long. That’s a lot of people to read through (and they aren’t alphabetized – the census was written down house by house).

But I was equal to the task.

Lo and behold, I only had to go a mere 16 pages in, and there they were, plain as day on line 27: Jacob S. Schanck and his household. No William, although the other sons, Nelson and Schuyler, were still there. Ah well. I did notice that Mary Ann’s name was rather badly handwritten, but that didn’t explain why Jacob’s household didn’t come up in a regular search of Ancestry’s database for the 1860 census.

What you must realize is that, bless their little hearts, has transcribed EVERY individual entry of EVERY census into their own database, and then cross linked each and every entry to an image of the original census schedule (all of which are handwritten). So, when you search in Ancestry on the name of someone specific, you are actually searching Ancestry’s own database. Once you have located the entry, you can click on a link that will show you the image of the original census schedule page. I can promise you that this was a time-consuming process for the LDS volunteers and staffers who do this on behalf of their church. They’ve had to transcribe millions and millions and millions of handwritten entries from hundreds of years of records from all over the civilized world.

So, I guess they can be forgiven for turning “Schanck” into “Schouch.”

You see, now that I had the original census schedule, I still wanted to know why the entry wasn’t coming through the Ancestry database. I finally searched on Jacob's son’s first name of Nelson (which was clearly written), using no last name, specifically in that town in 1860. The search yielded two Nelsons.

One of which was Nelson..... Schouch.


Schouch is not even close as a "spelled like" or "sounds like" kind of thing (which Ancestry does provide when you do a search). Thus, Jacob had never appeared, even in the broadest of searches on his last name.

And so we come to the title of today's blog entry. Guess who got transcribed as “Mouga Schouch?” That’s right. My great-great-great grandmother, Mary Ann. Really, an educated guess at the original handwriting would arguably have yielded “Mary A.” And a guess by someone inexperienced might have yielded a literal “Mosf A.” at worst. But “Mouga?”

Mouga Schouch.

I laughed until I cried.

- Catherine. (Great-great-great granddaughter of Jacob and Mouga Schouch.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Random Dozen -- the Wednesday meme

Thanks to Lid at 2nd cup of Coffee, this week's questions:

1. What was the last song you listened to?

Go, Tell It On the Mountain (as sung by Steven Curtis Chapman). It is time for Christmas music!

2. Have you ever had “buyer’s remorse” over anything?

Yes, with our electric stove. If I could have waited another 3 weeks, the gas line would have been in and I could have purchased a gas stove. But I’d been so long without a stove that I couldn’t wait any longer (we were in the midst of redoing the kitchen at the time). And our plan was to stay in the house only one more year after the kitchen re-do -- which plan, of course, has gone by the wayside since the housing market slumped. Sigh. Should have waited for the gas line to be finished.

3. What is something in your life that you are thankful for now that you didn’t think you would be at the time of the event? (Something that seemed ill-timed, inconvenient or hurtful which turned out to be a good thing)

I’ll have to pass on answering this one. The only incident I can recall right now is too personal to our family to relate on my blog.

4. Do you watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade every year? If so, do you have a favorite float or balloon?

I haven’t watched the parade in probably 25 years.

5. Share a quote, scripture, poem or lyric which has been an inspiration to you lately.

I'll convert their weeping into laughter, lavishing comfort, invading their grief with joy. Jeremiah 31:13 (The Message)

6. This is meant to be a fun question, and this is a G-rated blog, but please share a “guilty pleasure,” something that you enjoy that’s probably not the most edifying, time-worthy or healthy thing you could be indulging in. Did I mention--G rating?

Chocolate. Very pedestrian, but it really is my guilty pleasure -- because if I don't feel like sharing my chocolate, I eat it where no one can see me. So there.

7. What Thanksgiving food are you looking forward to?

Stuffing and cranberry sauce. That’s two, I know – but you HAVE to have them together. Especially combined with a little turkey and gravy on a dinner roll. YUM.

8. What is your favorite book to read to children, or what was your favorite childhood book?

One of my favorite books to read to children is Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. One of my favorite childhood books was Little Women.

9. Do you collect anything? (Feel free to post a photo.)

Dust bunnies under the furniture. Does that count? Actually, the dust bunnies collect themselves. So, really, I don’t collect anything at all. Not even dust bunnies. (I suddenly feel better about that.)

10. Gift bags or wrapping paper?

Gift bags. What a wonderful invention! I can’t wrap a gift decently for anything – there are always lumps and bumps in the finished product. Gift bags make my gifts look gooooood.

11. Share an after-school memory from when you were younger. What was your routine like on an average day?

From my high school years: (IF I didn’t have an extra-curricular activity that kept me late at school) Get off the bus, walk back to the house, check the note that my mother would have left on the kitchen table re. starting dinner preparations for her. Next, follow the instructions and start dinner (or suffer the consequences). After that – homework in my bedroom.

12. True story: Once, in a job interview, I was asked this question and told there would be no clarifying; I simply had to answer the question: “When you’re fishing, do you feel for the fish?” So what about you? When you're fishing, do you feel for the fish??

The short answer, with no clarification is: no.

That said, this is my blog and I get to clarify if I want to. So, I assumed that “feel for the fish” means “feel bad because I am ending their short little lives by hauling them out of their home.” The answer: If we are talking literal fish – no, I don’t feel for fish; if we are being metaphorical and talking about human beings, then yes, I do feel for them.

- Catherine

Addendum: check out today's blog entry from my cousin, Karen. We have seen each other only once in the last 25 years, we don't confer on answers beforehand, yet our Random Dozen blogs nearly always contain a few identical answers. Uncanny!

Just stuff that I'm thinking about (about which I am thinking)

Tomorrow is the random dozen. Today is just a random list, and probably not very interesting. But here it is anyway:

1. My sister-in-law is getting married on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Ten years as a widow and single mother -- she deserves this terrific guy that God has brought into her life, believe me. Tim's sisters are coming home from Florida and the Thanksgiving weekend looks to be one family celebration after another this year. And I've got a song to sing! Specifically, I'll be singing "Cherish the Treasure" (originally recorded by Steve Green). This is one song I'd never heard before, not being a fan of the genre of "wedding music" -- but the lyrics are good and my sister-in-law requested it for her big day because it expresses her heart. And I aim to please, so I'm working hard to make this song into something she will remember (in a good way, of course).

2. A dear friend was life-flighted down to Salt Lake City yesterday from her home in Wyoming. Her liver and kidneys have shut down from what may possibly be a bout of meningitis. We don't know what the outcome will be -- her condition is very critical at this time. If you are so inclined, please pray for Kelly.

3. I'm fighting some depression that I assume is a normal part of the grief process. I miss my mother so very much. A friend of mine described his father's death as "the horizon tilting," in that you not only miss the person, but you are also missing a reference point that has always been in your life. That's pretty much how it feels -- the horizon has tilted.

4. Despite #3, this is my favorite time of year -- from now until January. I love the holiday preparations and planning, and I love the weather as it slowly grows colder. I especially love the luminous quality of the late autumn sunlight.

That's it for today -- a rather boring list, I'm afraid. Thanks for stopping by.

- Catherine

Monday, November 9, 2009

Monday morning reality

We are back from our trip and it's time to get back to reality here. My inbox is overflowing and I have two major meetings coming up at the end of this week. I almost don't know where to start.

Tim will be home today and I might be able to get him to run the vacuum (which did not get done while I was away) and/or clean a bathroom or two (which also did not get done while I was away).

Granted, Tim worked every day on the outside of the house while I was away -- he was painting both the siding and the trim, and I know that's a big job. BUT, the floors are crunchy underfoot. Crunchy. Crun-chy.

At lunchtime I will knock off work for an hour and get the floors under control again.

- Catherine

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Home again

We arrived home around 3:00 this afternoon after getting an early start out of Laramie, Wyoming. The drive was uneventful, and we had a beautiful day for seeing this gorgeous country that we live in.

I'm so glad to be home.

And I have so much unpacking to do that I don't know where to start.

And there is a football game on TV.

So, I will sign off here and see which wins: unpacking or the football game.

- Catherine

Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday Fave Five

1. My husband, who is a tower of strength when I am crumbling.

2. My stepfather's niece and her husband, who opened their home to me and also were towers of strength.

3. The beautiful Central Mountain region of Pennsylvania.

4. My family and friends (including fellow bloggers!) who cheered and prayed me through this marathon of my mother's final illness and passing.

5. The chance to do just a wee bit of sightseeing on our way back home across the country.

And, bonus -- but by no means last on my list:

6. God's amazing, amazing Grace -- the gift of eternal life.

Love and hugs to all,

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Prayer works!

My stepfather apologized both to his niece and to me today at my mother's funeral. This is a miracle, plain and simple.

Thank you, all, for your prayers -- I believe they got us through what has been a very, very difficult situation. My stepfather found my mother's Bible by her chair yesterday and began to read it. He told us that he found her handwritten margin notes interesting. He is, at this time, still an unbeliever. But we're planning to pray him into the Kingdom.

The funeral is over, my mother's body has been buried, and Tim and I will be on our way home tomorrow morning (driving -- and I'm so glad he's with me!). I've got a car full of heirloom china, a boatload of church music, and, residing on my right hand ring finger, my great-grandmother's cherished wedding band.

I may never see this town again, but I will, for sure, see my mother again when we are all at the feast.

- Catherine

PS: I'll be back with the "Random Dozen" meme next Wednesday -- I just couldn't get to it today.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

In Memoriam

My mother, Luella Ohl, passed away peacefully at 8:45 p.m. yesterday (it is Monday morning as I write this). Her passing was so incredibly gentle and quiet that I can't do much more than rejoice that the long battle is over and she is truly well and whole at last. She is home with her Lord, now engaged in the endless dance with her beloved Savior.

"Well done, thou good and faithful servant..."

- Catherine