Friday, December 28, 2012



Sophia was 9 this past November and Brandon, 12 in early January.




Grandma's Surprise 70th Birthday Party









Sunday, December 23, 2012


As the end of 2012 approaches, I'm preparing for 2013.  Among my tasks was copying photos to an external hard drive.  As I cleaned up the files, deleting photos saved in multiple locations, I got sidetracked looking at the pictures.  

Brandon has grown so much in the last year:  taller by several inches, a voice that's gone from boy to man and other physical characteristics of a 12 year old about to be a teenager.  The change has been so dramatic that I decided to share photos taken annually at or around Christmas.  

Brandon was born in early January 2000, and Sophia was born 34 months later in November 2002.











This last photo was taken at Dawn's and Bob's September wedding and illustrates so well how Brandon, still 12, is changing from a boy to a young man.  Sophia is losing the little girl look and becoming a very attractive preteen.  Still, there are those fleeting moments when both reject the requirements of approaching adulthood and fall back to playful ways.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


It was a year ago this past summer that Dawn and Bob met via and realized early on that they shared something special.  When I spent time with them as their relationship evolved, I saw Bob treat Dawn with respect and thoughtfulness.  Bob insists on opening doors for Dawn.  On one occasion when Dawn was distracted while we talked, she opened the car's passenger door and got out.  As Bob came around, she looked up and saw the frown on his face.  She turned, opened the door and got back in and he proceeded to open the door so she could exit!  All that to say Bob treats her like a queen, not a char woman.  

Equally impressive, Brandon and Sophia are not merely her children, they and their well-being are important to Bob.  He's been the dad-on-site to Brandon and Sophia for several months.  He doesn't replace their dad, but he's willingly stepped forward to provide ongoing guidance and love for them and support for Dawn in their discipline.

It was on Christmas day 2011 that Bob asked Dawn to marry him.   Bob's only expressed desire regarding their marriage was that they have a real wedding, one with guests and a reception.  So the first of the arrangements to be made was finding a location for the September 22 ceremony. At the same time Dawn searched for and found the perfect wedding dress.  And she set about losing weight that she was uncomfortable carrying and would require extensive dress alterations if not lost. 


Rachelle and her children

Thanks to the help and organizational skills of her good friend, Rachelle, the days leading up to and including wedding day were orderly.  

Michelle and Brett

Brett and Michelle flew in Thursday and on Friday Brett and Bob picked up their tuxes.  Friday evening family members of both Dawn and Bob who had arrived in town for the wedding shared dinner at a local restaurant.  

While Dawn did "bridely" things such as having her hair done on Saturday,  Bob and I shared responsibility for Brandon and Sophia, getting them to their football games and then dressed for the wedding.

The ceremony was held in the company of fifty guests.  Sophia was flower girl and Brandon was Bob's best man.  

The ceremony ended with Bob, Dawn, Brandon and Sophia pouring individual vases of four different colors of sand into a larger container, symbolizing the blending of the four individuals into a family.  

The guests then moved to a larger room for the reception and dancing that followed.  Tim, Rachelle's husband, selected tunes to dance to while Rachelle continued adding to what became over 500 photos of the day's events.

In the days following the wedding, Grandma Sherry (who with her husband Terry are regarded as Dawn's other parents) and I discussed the wedding atmosphere and decorations.  We decided that it was 'casually elegant'.  I still remember the looks on Bob's and Dawn's faces afterward -- captured so well in this photo.  

Saturday, July 21, 2012


Early this year Dawn asked for any information I could give her so that she could begin building the Family Tree.  She was curious, and the internet makes searching for historical information easier and easier.  However, she lacked the time to sit for hours combing through records.  So, with her permission, I took over the task.

My mother's family has always been a mystery to me.  Questions that were asked weren't answered.  And for some reason, I never learned about my father's family either.  I don't recall hearing any stories from either side about "the good old days."  In the months that have followed my initial search, there have been some unexpected results, but all have been interesting.

A good part of the success I have had in building our family tree is attributable to my cousin Ideal’s help.  Our family visited with his often when we were children.  The last time I saw him we were in college.  As I recall, on my 21st birthday I went to a bar to celebrate being “legal”, and Ideal was there.  Not only did he buy me a beer, he bought several, contributing to a memorable hangover.  Then the college year ended, I graduated and my family moved away.  At the same time, our mothers had a falling out and contact between the families ceased.  When I began the ancestry search, my lack of knowledge and the possibility he (and his sister, Jeannie) would have information to share that could shed light on so many questions was the impetus to reach out to him.  

Thanks to Google, I’d located him years before.  But now I wrote to him, hoping that our mothers’ disagreement hadn’t affected our relationship.  I mailed the letter, eager to reestablish our family ties and hoping he could supply helpful information.

A week after mailing the letter, he called!  He had tried to find me and my brothers but been unsuccessful.  He didn't know my married name and neither brother is on Facebook or can be found with a Google search.  We talked for an hour, each of us telling the other about our lives over the past 49 years.

Iva, Bert and Grandma
Fortunately his mother had collected many photographs of family members during her life.  Before contacting Ideal, I had found birth records on that indicated our grandmother was not an only child as I'd thought.  She had a brother.  Confirmation came in a 1900 photograph Ideal has -- three young people:  Grandma, her brother, and, apparently, a sister, as well.  Their names were written on the photograph.   Now, even after several months, while there are later photos of the sister (with her husband and their daughter), I have been unable to find the date or place of her birth.  On the other hand, I learned that she was married a second time.

Great-grandfather Jonas

The search for information on Grandma's father, Jonas, has been slow and the rewards, scant.  There is a record of his marriage.  He and wife, Jennie, left the area in Ohio where they’d been raised and moved to Michigan where he was a logger.  Years later, the 1880 census shows they were in Iowa, where he was a plasterer.  And then there is no census data on the family for 30 years.  Apparently in that time, Great-grandmother Jennie passed away, for once Grandpa Jonas is “found” again, his marital status is shown as “widower.”

Great-grandmother Jennie

Jennie was one of ten children and apparently she remained in touch with a brother and sister whose photographs remain.  In fact it was through identifying who those people were that we realized their sister “Nancy J.“ was, in fact,  our great-grandmother, Jennie.

Mom's four older siblings

Mom had five siblings, four sisters and a brother who died when he was 10 and Mom, 3.  I have always thought his name was Orlie.  The Ancestry web site yielded the name Orla, which was also the name of a paternal uncle.  

Mom's Dad

Grandpa's brothers, Fred and Orla

What? My grandfather had brothers? AND sisters?  Why did I never know that?  Perhaps because Grandpa and Grand- ma divorced before I was born and my contact with him was infrequent.  I don’t recall ever hearing references to his extended family.  But now there are pictures of two brothers and two sisters.

Maternal Grandparents

Aunt Stella, Aunt Janette and Mom

Uncle Fred, Dad, Aunt Clara

Dad was the oldest of three children.  Although Clara died in her late teens or early twenties, I have been unable to find a record of her date of death.  

Grandpa was a grocer

Mom and Dad

As a young man, Dad played softball
Mom modeled early in their marriage

Tracing the family tree is made more difficult by the various spellings of surnames and even the given names.  I found Jonas’s surname spelled four ways and his given name, two.  He’s also confused with a brother, John, who died in infancy a year before Jonas was born.

I have enjoyed putting together our family puzzle, looking for the links that confirm relationships.  The ability to copy information of many ancestors that others have gathered in creating their family trees has obviously been helpful and  welcome.  I have verified that the children listed to any couple were born before the mother died (occasionally a researcher slips up!) and born after either parent was of an age to beget offspring.

Both of the branches on my mother’s side have been traced back by others to the 1500’s in Europe.  Unfortunately such data hasn't been collected on Dad's family.  His maternal grandfather came to the United States from Germany.  Until someone adds information gained from German records, that branch stops with his birth in 1854.  Similarly, there doesn't appear to be any work done on the paternal side of Dad's family prior to the birth in 1803 of Dad's great-grandfather.

Four branches down, four to go.  Next I'll work on Roy's family tree.  I already know from hearing Park family stories that there is a Cherokee Indian in our Tree.  A cousin of Roy's has put considerable effort into gathering records and I will ask for her help when I get back to gathering data.

Although we have corresponded frequently since this project was begun a few months ago, Ideal and his wife, Judith Ann, stopped here to spend the night last weekend on their way to Indiana to visit his family and their friends.  Being with Ideal, seeing the smile I remember and hearing his laugh again have brought back memories of our childhood.  As important as finding ancestors has been for me, becoming reacquainted with my cousins Ideal and Jeannie is a equally significant reward. 

Me with cousin Ideal who has shared information and photos and his wife, Judith Ann.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


For as long as I can remember, I have chosen to keep my birth date closely held.  It's not that I don't want anyone to know my age, because even my grandchildren know how old I am.  (If they can't remember exactly, they just say I am "older than dirt"!)  It's simply the fact that everyone has a birth date, so to me, celebrating really isn't that special.

I expected my birthday this year to be celebrated as it has been the past several years:  Brett would send a card and perhaps flowers as well.  Dawn would call, sing Happy Birthday, invite me to dinner and give me a little gift.  And that's what happened this year, with the exception that she said we could go do dinner that evening, or we could have a cookout at their house Saturday.  I opted for the cookout.

Dawn called Saturday morning to say she had to run an errand over this way and would pick me up.  I told her I didn't mind driving since it's easier for me to leave when I'm ready without interfering in their routine.  But she insisted and I didn't argue.  After all, this was my 70th birthday, a milestone in decades.

 When we arrived at their house, the grill was in the driveway and Bob and Brandon were tossing the football back and forth.  They followed me inside as I told Dawn about the Jibjab e-card that Jeff and Mimi had sent.  Then as we walked into the living room, my eyes fell on one of my neighbors just as I heard the word "SURPRISE!"

Sitting there were friends from the condos where I live; a friend/coworker from the hospital gift shop; Brett; my brother Jason and his wife, Evie; brother Jeff, his fiance, Mimi, and his daughter, Brittany.  And next to them, two women who, along with me, belong to an internet group one of the progeny once described to an outsider as "The Ax Murderers and Internet Dating Club."  Seeing them, and knowing how far they had traveled to be there for me made me cry.  As I shed tears on Brett's shoulder, I said to the assembly how glad I was that I'd actually showered that morning and put on clean clothes!

What a celebration it was!  Several weeks ago, Pam, one of the day's guests, and I were discussing birthdays, and I said something about not wanting to know my 70th was approaching.  That was the party's theme.  Dawn had e-mailed invitations to the entire Ax Murderer family and several had sent birthday cards.  There were funny gifts and sensible ones.  Jason and Evie gave me a T-shirt with Three Rules of Getting Older.  There were gift cards for restaurants and merchandise.  Useful gifts included a battery-powered candle (perhaps so that if I leave the condo I don't absentmindedly leave a candle burning!)  Pam, one of the internet group, bakes as a hobby and she's good.  She brought cheesecake pops as a gift for me, plus enough for everyone else to share.

My T-Shirt with the Party's Theme
Pam's Cheesecake Pops  YUM!!

The "Haul"

I didn't get my cookout.  Wisely, Dawn had ordered food prepared for the crowd. We helped ourselves to chicken, pasta, sausage with peppers and onions and salad.  And of course  cake, red velvet with cream cheese frosting that I'd requested, and ice cream followed.

It was humbling to realize that I am someone special to many people.  Some drove from Georgia, North Carolina and Indiana to share those few hours.  Brett flew in from Los Angeles for the day.  Others, although they live closer, also took the time from their day to share the celebration -- a celebration for someone who doesn't "do" birthdays.

Thank you, Dawn.  You managed, with the cooperation of the invitees, to carry off the surprise of my life!  Although you are my daughter, you are also my best friend and I will never forget the effort you made to make this my most memorable birthday ever.