Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy 2016!

We have friends visiting from Arkansas, so we went to Niagara Falls to watch the fireworks for New Year's Eve.  Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Genealogy puzzle

I'm figuring out my family tree the hard way, by not using Ancestry or other for pay genealogy search companies.  I'm having great success with my mother's side of the family tree.  Riding high on the success of that, I decided to try figuring out my father's side of the tree.  I had delayed doing his side for two reasons:  1. I had the tree back to 1904 when my father's grandparents came here from Sweden, and anything further would either require using a paid service, or reading comrehension of Swedish; and 2. For some unknown reason, all my father's family emigrated here with the name of Olsson, but by the 1910 U.S. census, they all had taken the last name of Silverstrim.

Now the family story of this was that my great-grandfather, Magnus Olsson was coming to join his brother, Nils (later changed to Nels, then Nelson).  Magnus brought his wife and about six of their kids with them.  That checks out on the Ellis Island immigration forms, because Magnus clearly states that he is coming to join his brother, N. Silverstrim.  This is the first instance I've found of anyone in my family using the name Silverstrim.

So then I ask family members where Silverstrim came from.  The family members say that Nils was serving in the Swedish Navy and jumped ship when they got close to America.  Somehow he either got on board or was picked up by another ship carrying Jewish immigrants, and Nils changed his last name to Silverstein or Silverstrim to blend in with the Jewish immigrants and to hide from the authorities of the Swedish Navy who were looking for him.  This occurred in 1889.

Okay, all this is sorta plausible, initially, but where I question all this is, after he gets into the U.S., why did he continue using the false name?  Swedish officials didn't have authority to search for him  on U.S.soil.  Then, when his brother, Magnus and family come to join him in 1904, Magnus says he's coming to join his brother, and gives his name and address.  Surely if he were worried about being discovered, he wouldn't have wanted Magnus to put his information on the immgration paperwork.  Maybe since it was 15 years later the Swedish authorities weren't looking for him anymore?  So why not go back to his name of Olsson?

Then the story gets stranger.  In 1904 Magnus and family come into the U.S. with the name of Olsson, but by the 1910 U.S. Census, they have all changed their names to Silverstrim.  Why would they do that?  Family members say older family members told them they changed their names to blend in, in the U.S.  Olsson is a much simpler and more common name than Silverstrim, so that story doesn't sound plausible to me.  I know from a Swedish genealogist that the first Silverstrim in Sweden was a Polish Jew.

So now I'm trying to work my way back further, which might require a paid service, and trying to figure out this whole name change business.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas

I'm not quite sure how Blogger did this, but this is a photo of my dog, Lambeau, from last year in Maryland when we had snow, and Blogger has made it into a snowy GIF. Cool. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Latest Distraction

In between working on my on-line class, applying for jobs, wasting too much time on Facebook, crawling slowly through the writing of my book, and writing short stories for a magazine, I have been building my family tree.

I've had a number of surprises.  I come from a very poor, and poorly educated family.  As far back as anyone can remember, our family have been poor farmers and factory workers.  I fully expected to discover we all came here as endentured servants, and to be fair, one did.  What I didn't expect to find was any kind of wealth, education or power in my family tree.

I began tracing my mother's side of the family, because I already knew my father's family came over from Sweden in 1904.  I had avoided tracing my mother's side because I knew it would be difficult.  Nobody saved anything, knew anything, or ever asked about their family history.  When I was about ten years old, I asked my great-grandmother on my mother's side about our family history.  She said she thought we were English and Pennsylvania Dutch, but other than her parents' names, she couldn't recall much about her great grandparents.  The one time I looked at my great-grandmother's tree, I discovered her maiden name, Tyrrell, was the same as an English family of some prominence and infamy, but I didn't know if there was any connection or not.  The other side of the family tree also presented me with an immediate dead end, and I didn't want to invest hundreds of dollars subscribing to or any other registry to track down information.

Well, through diligent, and sometimes stubborn pursuit, I have traced my mother's parents' ancestors back in all directions.  My mother's father was a Lurcock, and his entire family line is Dutch, upon Dutch, upon Dutch, upon Dutch.  Not Pennsylvania Dutch as I was told, because that is German, but true Netherlands' Dutch.

 I discovered one of my earliest ancestors up the Lurcock line was a Director in the Dutch East India Company and he along with other family ancestors came to the Americas very early in the 1600s and settled New Amsterdam, before losing it to the British, who changed it to New York.  A number of my Dutch ancestors were part of the Dutch Reform Church in America. In addition to settling Manhattan, they also settled parts of New Jersey.

Looking up the Tyrrell line of my family has brought me to the Tyrrells of Connecticut, who are part of the English Tyrrell family.  I'm just trying to find which son's line to follow back.  The Tyrrells from my research were Barons in England before that title was done away with, and they were Counts in northern France.  Their biggest infamy (that I've found so far) was one Walter Tirel III who was responsible for the death of King William II of England.

Continuing up the family lines I came to discover I have no fewer than 8 direct ancestors (more if you count aunts, uncles, and cousins) who came over on the Mayflower:   The Fullers - Mr. & Mrs. Edward Fuller and their son, Samuel Fuller; our endentured ancestor - John Howland; The Tilleys - John Tilley, Joan Tilley, and daughter Elizabeth Tilley (who would go on to marry John Howland); and Richard Warren.  What I've learned about these first band of rag-tag ancestors is that they were religious nutters, but some of them, survivors.  A number of my older Mayflower ancestors died during the first winter from cold, hunger and disease, but their kids survived and procreated like rabbits.  Recently PBS did a program on the pilgrims and they featured a story on my ancestor, John Howland, who apparently fell overboard, but was miraculously rescued from fairly certain death when he grabbed onto one of the lines on the ship.  So thankful that dude was determined to survive.

Another surprising find for me concerns slavery.  Since I knew my father's family came over from Sweden in 1904, I knew none of them were here for the Civil War or held slaves.  Thinking as I did about my mom's side of the family that we were poor nobodies, farmers, and lived up North, I never thought one of my ancestors would be a slave owner, however, much to my surprise, one of my ancestors was reported to have gone to fight in the Revolutionary War "with six of his sons and two of his slaves."  Oh, and I have numerous ancestors who fought in the following wars:  The First Pequot Indian War, the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the U.S. Civil War, WWI, WWII, the Korean War, and I think that's enough wars for any family.

I did discover numerous "cousins" in my family tree, such as the Roosevelts, the Bushs (hanging my head in shame), the Baldwin actors, George Washington, and possibly all the way back to Charlemagne.  This family search for ancestors has become my latest hobby.  When friends invite me to come play Bejeweled or Words with Friends, I tell them I can't, I'm playing, Find my Ancestors.  ;-)  I have promised M that as soon as I tie up this Tyrrell line, I will give it a rest for a while and get back to work on my book. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Summer vacation in Maine

We took a week vacation in Maine this summer, in the midst of our big move to NY, the scenery was lovely. Enjoy of few of the shots I've finally gotten around to posting. We were in the Bar Harbor and Acadia region of Maine. It was beautifully sunny and cool the week we were there. We couldn't have asked for better weather for our vacation.

Friday, November 6, 2015


So I've begun working on writing a book. It will be fiction, I suppose science fiction because it does have time travel and other worlds in it. Being at the very beginning, it still remains to be seen whether 1. I'll be able to finish it, and 2. whether it will be any good or not. I puzzled over writing a book for a few months. I struggled to figure out whether I wanted to write an academic history book, or something creative. Writing about history would have been much easier. The stories are already there, you have to dig in and look at it from another perspective, or turn up new documents to be interpreted. If I wanted to be sure to complete a writing project, I should have started a history book. Even so, I waited, until a scene popped in my head. I knew I wanted to write that scene, but I also knew that particular scene couldn't be the beginning of the book. I had to create the back story. I had to have at least one chapter leading up to it. This is where I got stuck initially. How do I write a scene that is believable? In all the writing courses I had taken in the past, and even the one book I completed previously that an editor looked at, I was always told the same thing, my dialogues and character development are good, but where are these people, what do the rooms they're in look like, what are they feeling, smelling, tasting, touching? In other words, I sucked at the scenery and background for my stories. So this time, I made it a point to work on that. The initial scene that I came up with, I wrote in February of this year, and there that scene sat while I cleaned out and packed up our old house in anticipation of our move. I began working on my first chapter in earnest at the beginning of August. From August through the end of October, all I did was work on that first chapter, fleshing it out, filling it in, letting it lie, then coming back to it again with fresh eyes. I got the first chapter almost done, but then I couldn't think where the story was going next. Then came another little scene, that nicely closed that chapter. Then I was stuck again. What happens next? Do I follow those characters into another scene? Do I start the next chapter with other characters, more of a back story, what? I was thoroughly stuck, so I went back and read that first scene that I wrote back in February. I had already decided, that even though I liked the concept of that scene, it couldn't play out that way in the story. So as I'm re-reading that February scene, I decide to copy and paste the meat of it into the book that I had started. Surprisingly, it became the beginning of the second chapter, and has now expanded beyond what I had written all those months ago. I'm finding this process to be very interesting. I haven't taken the time to write anything of any great length in over twenty years. I was never sure I had it in me to write a good sized book. The other book I'd completed in the past was a Harlequin sized romance. I didn't like it, even though the publisher said if I could work it into a mystery, they would likely publish it. By that time I had re-written it so many times, I was bored with it and moved on to something else. I wrote a complete screenplay. I did that over a semester while I took a screenwriting class. It played to my comfort zone in that it was mostly dialogue. So, writing this current book, I am squirreled away in my basement, all by myself, with my thoughts, and I won't show anyone what I've written until I've completed it. I don't want to jinx myself. I take that back. I have an editor who is supposed to look at my first chapter and give me pointers about any problems in my writing, before I write a whole book full of them. She's been swamped by work, so I handed over the first chapter to another person, just to see if my writing is too confusing. Neither person has gotten back to me, so I'm left wondering if they're both really busy (they are), or let my insecurities run wild that my writing is so horribly shocking, that they just don't know what to say. Being left to one's own thoughts is as bad as being left to one's own devices. There is no end to the trouble you can dream up. Okay, this was my mental break from the creative process. I must get back to work.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Happy Halloween!

UPDATE: We were told to expect about 45 trick-or-treaters. We got over 80! Next year we hope to add more. :-). Happy Halloween!

Well, here we are, our first Halloween in our new house. It's taken me a couple weeks to get all the Halloween stuff up. A lot of it isn't up. Nobody else in the neighborhood decorated that much.

Everything is classy, clean, minimal. They mostly put pumpkins around their yard, never carved into Jack-o-lanterns, and sometimes set atop a bale of hay, to allude to a folksy, charming nod to Fall. It's lovely . . . Yawn. I have seen 3 houses that have more than pumkins or hay. A couple have craft store folksy scarecrows that are so not scary in the least. One porch has spider webbing on it and a single ghost hanging on a flagpole. I'm told they don't get many trick-or-treaters in this neighborhood.

Here's an idea for attracting trick-or-treaters, decorate, turn your lights on, and they will come. I know I go overboard for Halloween, but if you build it, they will come. And Halloween is such an exciting part of childhood. If you're young, there's the wonder of being up past bedtime, being outside after dark. When you're a little older, there's the friendships and memories made with friends as you scramble to come up with costumes, hoping to see that person you have a crush on, while you're out that night, having laughs and scares, and wonderful stories to share at school the next day.

If you're a little older, it's your first taste of freedom, that one night a year, where you're allowed to run the streets of your hometown. So I resist giving in to the "trunk or treat" in parking lots, "because it's safer," it's "easier." I stand firm against the religious co-opting of the night and turning it into a docile "Harvestfest," taking all the pagan elements out of it. It's Halloween damn it! There's supposed to be an element of danger, fear, and fun. So I'm building it again this year. I don't know how long we'll be here, but while we are, I will show them how it's done. My neighbor confessed, her teenaged son loves our decorations. She said he always begged her to decorate like this when he was little, but she never did. It was too much work. Well,I'm showing her son how it's done, and I hope when he has a family, he will decorate his home how he always wanted it when he was little.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Saturday Night Live & Guns

SNL is hit and miss on their comedy, but last night, so many of their skits were good, that I wondered if they had gotten a new writer.  One segment I thought was funny, and on the pulse of what is happening in this country, was their gun skit.  Click the link below and enjoy.

Guns and SNL

Saturday, October 3, 2015

 I first saw these electrical towers on a Facebook post.  The post said that Iceland was going to erect these artistic giants in place of the normal towers.  I thought it had to be a hoax, as so often things on Facebook are, but, I found an architect's page that makes me think this is real, sort of.

The architect's page doesn't say anything about Iceland doing this, but these are real, in that they were entered in an Icelandic competition to design new towers.  So maybe in the end, Iceland will erect them.   

How cool would that be, to take a utilitarian piece of iron and turn it into a work of art?  I would rather look at the giants than the towers. 

Choi + Shine Architects page

Sunday, September 20, 2015

How far would you go to save a life?

I've been on the Organ Donor Registry for about 30 years.  I signed up before most states gave you that option on your driver's license.  It was a no brainer as they say, and what could it hurt?  I would be dead by the time they came to collect.

I've often thought about being a living donor.  I donated blood for years before a doctor diagnosed me with Lyme's Disease and said I shouldn't donate any more.  Although recently, another doctor tested me for Lyme's and I came back clean.  So I will probably start donating blood again, once I get off the meds for the auto-immune issue I developed because of the statins I was on.

Anyway, back to being a living donor.  Donating blood isn't that hard.  I've wondered though, do I have what it takes to donate part of my liver?  A kidney?  Bone marrow?  That involves more commitment, more pain, and more risk.  I think I might sign up to be a bone marrow donor, once I have a clean bill of health.  My thought is, what's a little pain or risk, if it means you could save a life?

Monday, September 14, 2015

All good things . . .

 I had an awesome visit with my son, daughter, and her fiance.  Plus my niece and her two children came up for an overnight.  We spent a day in Canada (despite the pouring rain) and did the boat ride up to Niagara Falls, took the incline railcar, had a fabulous lunch, hiked around, and then the next day we did the U.S. side of the Falls, a lot more hiking, and had lots of fun talking over meals at the kitchen table and sharing laughs. 

After they left today, I walked back in the house, saw all the empty chairs in the kitchen that we squeezed around the little round table.  We have a huge dining room table that we all could have eaten around, but chose to squeeze 6 adults and 2 kids around a table meant for 4.  We made good memories, but the sight of all those empty chairs seemed too abrupt for my heart, so I turned around immediately, grabbed the dog and went to take him for a run.  I'd deal with the empty, quiet house, and these emotions later.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Niagara Falls, Canada and other preoccupations

I'm still finding it difficult to find time to write/post.  Every weekend since July 1st we've either been out of town visiting people, or people were here visiting us.  That takes a toll on a person's free time.  I've loved every minute of it, but I've got work to do! 

This past weekend friends came up from Maryland to see us and we took them over to Canada to ride the Hornblower/Maid of the Mist boat up to the foot of Niagara Falls.  I took a film myself, but it was not good quality since there was so much water spraying at me from the Falls.  I'm attaching a professional video for your enjoyment. 

In between working on putting the house together, cleaning rooms for guests, then cleaning them again for the next set of guests, and working on the on-line class I'm teaching, I have begun writing a book.  It's fiction.  I'm not very far into the writing of it, because of how little time I have to work on it, but when I do get a moment here and there, I am working on it.  I'm also toying with the idea of working on a history book.  I probably won't get to start on that until well into the Fall or early Winter because I can't begin the research necessary for it just yet.  So if I seem to be absent on the blog, just know, I am still keeping busy, always busy!

Sites around Niagara Falls  -  The first Falls they show in this video are looking from Canada across to the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls on the right of those.  A few seconds later they pan across to the Horseshoe Falls of Canada.  We took the boat ride up to the base of each of the Falls that you see in the video.

Monday, August 24, 2015


Hi!  How are you doing?  Are you settling in?  Does it feel like home?  Do you miss your old house?  Have you found a job yet?  Have you started any home improvement projects yet?

Those are the most frequent questions I get asked.  I answer, fine, yes, not yet, YES!, no, we put up a new fence for the dog.  

I'm not quite sure what my truth is to those questions.

I made my favorite homemade bread recipe to make the house smell like home, but this place is so huge, that I couldn't smell a thing.  I searched for places to go berry picking, to put blueberries in the freezer for winter.  But I got too busy to get to the fields, so I purchased berries from the farmer's market, froze some, made jam out of the rest.  

Same type of canning jars, same kitchen towel, same motions, but no sense of accomplishment.

I made my favorite quiche for dinner.  There was only the slight smell of garlic in the house.  The scents dispersed too quickly.

I have been working on an on-line class for my old employer, so in addition to house stuff, I am staying very busy.  Still, I haven't found additional work.  That may take some time.  I might finally get to work on a novel, or some other work that has been rattling in my head for years.  Now that I might have the luxury to explore such an endeavor, it feels like I'm standing in front of a great abyss, unsure how to cross it.  It's terrifying and exciting all at once.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Getting there . . .

For the last five weeks, here's what I've been doing:  week 1, moving, unpacking; 

week 2, trip to Maine; Week 3, unpack and go see my sister; 

week 4 both M's brothers and their families here, then go to Albany for a 50th wedding anniversary for M's aunt and uncle, week 5, M's parents come for a visit, clean and put bedrooms back together after previous visitors, work on on-line class, spend time with M's folks. 

Min is still planning her Spring wedding.  Here's a shot of her and L, her fiance.  She's in an arm stand, like a hand stand, and his legs are straight up against her.  I wish she would have sent me the whole picture, so you could see the balancing act, but this is what I got.  

Min is continuing her acrobatics training and modeling.  Here's a picture of her lighted hool-a-hoop act.


So it might not sound like much, but I've been very busy, and out of town way too much.  The house is now all "put together," meaning all the furniture is set up, pictures hung, stuff in cupboards.  I still have two small boxes in the kitchen to get to, and the entire basement is full of boxes for the office and craft room that need to be taken care of, plus the garage is piled high with moving boxes that need to be cut and flattened so they can be stored in the basement for any future move.  So that's a very brief description of all I've been doing. Needless to say, I've been working every spare moment, so I hope you'll forgive me for my blogging absence.  One good thing, we are having a lovely cool summer and gorgeous sunsets here at the new house.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Wedding Dress

Pat, here's a first look of Min in her wedding dress.  It needs some minor alterations, but here it is!

Little observations

My day consists of unpacking, furniture arranging, decorating, cleaning, running errands, and checking Facebook frequently to see what my friends and kids are up to, so I don't feel so disconnected from the people who mean so much to me.  It's a weird feeling, being older and starting over.  Moving was so much easier mentally and physically when I was younger.  I had the illusion of immortality when I was younger.  I didn't think when I moved, "this may be the last time I see this person."  This time though, I had to acknowledge that was a possibility.  The realization that now that I was gone, friends would find someone else to fill my absence.  That's as it should be, but it felt more like the end of an era when I moved this time.  This moment, these relationships, will never come again.  It's also another phase for me as a parent.  My kids gave me a good trial run when they both left the country to travel to other places.  It made me realize in a very real sense, they were their own people, living their own lives, that no longer included touching base with me on a daily basis.  Now that I have moved away, I have to look at their daily lives from a distance, see what they're doing, who they're spending time with, and what experiences they're having that is making them the people they will become.

Min is still doing circus training, only local now.  She models for spending money on occasion while also working on her wedding plans.  I love this child's eyes!  

B is still living the carefree life of an unencumbered, single, twenty-something, staying up late, playing video games, hanging out with his buddies.  I'm still waiting for him to grow up.  ;-). I love his sense of humor and his quick mind.  

I miss them both.  I miss my friends, but I'm very busy trying to get the house in order so I can focus on the on-line class I'm doing for the university I left behind, and trying to find other work here, trying to  find my new normal and get into a new routine.  I'm glad we made this move, took this chance, but it is an eye-opener how different moving is when you're older, as opposed to when you're younger.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Trying to find a new normal

I spent so many weeks de-cluttering, cleaning, packing, organizing, just to be ready for the big move.  Then we get to our new home and I begin unpacking furiously, moving furniture, getting new drivers' licenses, insurance, organizing our new place, only to stop everything abruptly to go on a previously scheduled family vacation.  Now I'm back home, still unpacking, meeting with fence companies, shopping for supplies, random furniture pieces, and I need to find all the cords to our desktop computer so I can finish prepping for an on-line class I'm doing for the Fall, get out a letter of recommendation, and resumes for the continued job hunt.  The dog is back from a two week dog training camp, and I still don't have my head on straight.  Every day I write a list for things that need to be done, work my way through most of the items on the list, then the next morning I start the process all over again.  I want to just sit and do nothing, but I don't know how long I'll have, to get everything organized before I go back to work, so I push through, try to get everything organized and done before the luxury of time is taken away from me.  Here's a quick tranquility break, pictures from our recent trip to Maine, then back to work!