Thursday, February 4, 2016

More than God and Watermelon: What Doing Family History has taught me about my Grandma


See this newlywed couple?
These are my grandparents, William McKinley and Lila Mae.
My father's parents that passed away before he was married to my mother, so I never met them.
I didn't know much about them a month ago. Hardly anything really.
Lila Mae died of breast cancer when my father was just 8 years old.
She was 38.  She liked God and watermelon. And that's all I knew about her.
This is the only picture I have of Lila...she looks happy, doesn't she?
I have seen one other picture of her in another relative's home-
the first time I saw it, I just stared.  I think I looked like her when I was her age.
I've always been curious about her. 

I knew even less about her husband, William. He was a boarder of her family's home in the depression. He was a risk taker and a gambler.  He doesn't look like a gambler to me. He looks like a lovestruck fool in this picture, doesn't he? He looks like he just won the lottery of love, with his beautiful bride, doesn't he?  That's what I see.  He died of lung cancer when my father was around twenty years old.

My father didn't speak about his parents.  I think it's because thinking of them makes him cry.  That's not a manly thing to do where he comes from.  So he doesn't talk about those tender things.  Well, he didn't when I was a kid.  Now, he has severe dementia and lives in an assisted care center. so his memories, even if they were suppressed, are probably gone.  

To know so very little about a generation of family just two steps back from my own is sad.

I'd been thinking about family history alot last year. I wanted to create a family tree art drawing or painting for my grandkids and that one impulse, blossomed into a beautiful journey that I didn't plan.
Truly.  I have listened to people for years talk about family history, with tears in their eyes and wonder what the draw was for them?  I wondered how they had so much time to waste "on dead people"...when my life was so FULL of the living people in my home--meals, car pools, mountains of laundry, and toilets to be scrubbed--how on earth could I "sacrifice" my down time for genealogy?  I thought it would be too hard to find my nearly invisible relatives. 

How wrong I was.  It really started last summer when my niece came to visit and we got to talking about family and roots.  We took a trip down to the Family History center and it was SO eye-opening, to see how easy, how accessible family history records are these days.  We covered a good amount of years while she was here.  But then school started, life got busy and I got distracted.
Then, I got that itch to do something artsy for my grandkids earlier in January, right after Mr. Wonderful had his knee replacement surgery.  I had to be home with him all day long. School was out until late January for me, so suddenly I had all that time on my hands!

I opened up my Family Search and Ancestry accounts to find more leads/hints for new information on my ancestors than I could've imagined!  I thought I'd find my 4 grandparents--both of my parents' parents.  Once that was done, though, I kept following the hints/leads and that one decision lead to over 60 hours of family history research in one week!  I found over 200 names, going back 5 generations on 2 lines! This experience has opened my eyes and touched my heart-- it feels like my ancestors want to be FOUND.  That's the only way I can describe these feelings.  They have helped me along, pointing me in the right direction...helping key words/names/dates stick out and grab my attention during my search.  It has been such a rewarding experience, seriously.

After such a fantastic week, I let all of my cousins that I am in contact with on facebook, know what I had been doing and what I'd found.  See, many of my cousins' parents are deceased, and along with their passing, the stories are gone.  We've got names and dates and places, but man! alive it was SO endearing to see my great-grandfather's signature on a marriage certificate!  That's all the evidence he left behind.  No journals to be found, no letters, nothing.  But I still belong to him.

I got stuck on Lovestruck Willy up there.  I didn't know his parent's names.  None of my cousins knew either.  We have one living Aunt Patricia, whose in her 70s.  I haven't seen her since I was 21 years old.  But I got her number and I called her up hoping for something to go on.  She said that William's father went by a nickname and his mother's name was Nancy. And that's all she had.
Before I went back to Ancestry.com, I said a prayer.  Straight up, I needed help to find these people.
I was so delighted--truly, deeply moved--to find his parents in the leads/hints there for me. Since then, I have gone back to my 6th gr-grandfather on that one line. 
And found distant cousins I never knew I had! 
I found William and Lila's marriage certificate. And their names on census' and other records.
I found out that William had a 6th grade education; Lila, an 8th grade education. She was one of 6 kids in her family. William also had brothers and sisters. He was a "junk dealer" on one census.
I'd always heard that William would leave the house in the morning with a dime in his pocket and come home with a pocketful of money in the evening. Now, I understand why.

I'd love to know more about Lila. But now at least I know her and her people. Her mama's name, her birthplace, where they came from, and that she had a big Southern family.  When I think of her, I feel more connected to her now. Maybe it's because I am a Mother to many--I know what it's like to have a big family.
Do I wish I had a journal or ANYTHING with her handwriting on it??  Oh yes. Yes, I do.
But I have her eyes.  And I have always loved watermelon. And God.



Friday, January 29, 2016

My Adventure as a College Student 101

How is it nearly February 2016?!

Man, I'm older n' dirt.  I think I've figured out why old people say, "Time Flies"--it's because we forget most of the time in a day anyway.  We wake up in the morning and wonder what day it is, because we forget anything past 24 hours ago.  True story.

Which is a great intro into my little recap of my first semester as a College Student.  How'd it go?
So. Stinkin'. Cool.
Really. Truly. Loved. It.

What'd I Learn? That getting A's requires late nights, early mornings, attention to detail, and giving more time to homework than you think you're going to need.  Learned real quick that research can't be "skimmed over" if you're being authentic and IF you really wanna learn something new everyday.

Oh and forget about a social life.  Ha! I think I can understand why my yahoo's college grades weren't so great before they got married compared to after they were married.  I can't imagine trying to score grades and a date for the weekends at the same time! No way. I didn't even have time to go to lunch with friends.  My own Chiropractor told me, and I quote, "Dawn, C's get degrees. Don't overdo it."
Pffft.
I didn't wait 36 years to go to college to settle for C's. No way.  And how does one gage what's good enough for a "C" vs an "A"?  That doesn't compute in my old-woman noggin.  I'm more of a "Go Big or Go Home" kinda gal.
So I did.  I went BIG, HONKIN' BIG.  I finished with a 4.0 for the semester GPA for all four classes.

I worked hard. I had fantastic teachers and great classmates. I was older than ALL of them.  I told them right up front there'd be some hits and misses as I adjusted to cramming new information into this old brain of mine. I'd already accepted that things might slide by me once in awhile, but that was no reflection on my determination to do well nor their teaching ability or my regard for them as teachers.  I was just gonna do my best and that was all I could do.

My experience was STELLAR.  I loved going, I loved the material I was learning (except for the Access part of Computer Literacy--that sucked so bad-- I told my professor that it did too--and he agreed, so that was nice of him.), I loved the unexpected benefits of how learning new things affected my life in meaningful ways--even discovering that I really enjoy drawing.

My classmates who are DECADES younger than me--I'm literally old enough to be their Momza--were sweet and kind to me.  They asked me to be on their teams, and gave me the best compliments and encouragement. Gentle. That's the best word I can think of to describe how I was treated by both my professors/teachers and classmates.  Everyone was gentle with me.  I also brought treats often for the classes, so that might have helped. haha.

I was mindful of their young minds and tried my best to be a great cheerleader for them too--most of the classmates in my Interior Design program are young, young, young women.  Beautiful young women--and so I took opportunities to encourage them and appreciate their unique talents or even they way they looked on certain days--complimenting whatever I could to build them up.

It made us all feel great when we were together.  And seriously, I learned alot from them too.
I highly encourage anyone who might be reading this, that if you're thinking of going back to school but wonder if you're too old--PISH POSH!!! DO IT!!!!!!!!!

I saw this quote and had to draw it...so I did! It's true, friends. You gotta get on the dance floor! That's where all the action is...sitting on the sidelines is only fun if you're cheering someone else for a season.  Take your turn.  People will wait for you and cheer for you too.

Which brings me to my AWESOME family--they were my supreme cheerleaders!  Mr. Wonderful didn't make a peep when the house went un-dusted for months at a time, and when I couldn't remember the last time I mopped the kitchen floor, or when he went off to bed alone and left me in the study to do homework to my hearts' content.  He often said how proud of me he is...and my yahoos were the same!  Our conversations revolved around how we're all doing in school.  Did I tell you that there are SIX of enrolled in college??  True story! Six!!!  

I just started the Spring Semester two weeks ago...the classes are more intense and I see that my first semester was a great introduction, but there's some real potential for stress in my Drafting for Interior Design class--yet my Professor is, in kid-lingo, "da bomb.com"...she is brilliant, accomplished, witty, helpful and a really great teacher.  I know I can trust her to help me along and be successful.  The very definition of a "teacher".  

OK OK, so here's something SO Stinkin' Cool:  Last semester, as I wandered down the Art halls, admiring all the progress of the students there, with their work blazing on the walls, I thought, "Man, I would LOVE to take Art!"  Well, when it was time to choose classes for this semester, I sat with the Interior Design Department Chair, Sarah, and on the schedule was an Art Appreciation class...I flat-out told her that I didn't want to learn about artists, but I really wanted to learn about ART.  So she worked it into my program.  And, holy smokes, I had this little celebratory moment today as I walked into school, down the Art hall and saw my first drawing out in front of God and everybody hanging on the wall...I did a little jig right then and there.  Talk about little moments when things come together in such a perfect way!  I did it!

I've been practicing drawing a bit this winter, so here's some of my latest.  Usually, I hear a thought or a song lyric that catches my heart and I go from there: 
*Watercolor!! My first effort!!



*this one is a play on an LDS saying, "Return With Honor"--our family says, "Return With Tacos"!


I love the sentiment in this one...it's true.


*WIP...obviously not finished.

And lastly, I'm working on this one...it's a new song out by Tim McGraw.  I just heard it yesterday morning and HAD TO get it down before I even got out of my jammies:




Good words to live by, eh?


So that's just a tiny, itty bitty taste of my life.  I'm totally addicted to Family History as of late.  Another post for another day.  But seriously people...find the names and dates and places of your people AND ALSO their stories!! Oh man, their stories are what it's all about, I tell you.  The stories.
Amazing, brave, loving, stories.  People stories.  And for cryin' outloud, folks, WRITE YOUR STORIES DOWN!!!!!   
*More on that soon!

OK...so that's my story for now...I'm living, I'm learning and boy, am I loving it.







Sunday, January 17, 2016

How to Write Your Own Life Story

My Personal History: A Written Portrait

  • Name 
  • Date Today
  • I was born on 
  • in
  • My Parents:
  • Father’s Name
  • Father’s Birthdate/Place
  • Mother’s Full Maiden Name
  • Mother’s Birthday/Place
  • My Brothers and Sisters

  • My personal appearance- height, hair, eyes, family characteristics:
  • My home now is at
  • I live with (family, friends, pets)
  • Our relationship is 
  • Other close family members or children are 
  • How do I feel about them now? 
  • I spend most of my time now doing (career, play, sports, hobbies?) 
  • How do I feel about this? 
  • What would I do if I had more time? 
  • Who are my friends and why? 
  • Recent major events in my life 
  • How have I grown this past year? Why? 
  • What advice would I give my loved ones? 
  • My philosophy on Life: 
__________________________________________ (My Signature)
___________________________________________(Printed Name)












*trace your handprint on the back of this sheet. Attach a picture of yourself as a young person and now.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Spirit of Christmas: Where There's A Will, There's a Way!

In my Interior Design Textiles class, students were invited to make a Christmas stocking out of sample fabric and fill it with treats and toys for children who are not living at home this Christmas season because they've been neglected and/or abused in their own homes.
I took my sewing machine to school one day to help make the stockings for students who don't have sewing machines. Now, I'm not a great seamstress. Basically, I'm good at sewing square things: pillowcases, quilts, table runners, curtains...see? square things.  A stocking is pretty straight forward, so I thought I could do that.
Well, I didn't really like how mine turned out at school.  I looked at it with a critical eye--my "mother eye" and thought about the child who'd be receiving it. It was all wrong--too small, the fabric wasn't Christmas-y-- I knew I could try to do better. I had fabric at home that more suited for this craft.

So I went home, got out the red quilted fabric and set out to make a nicer stocking.  I finished it up, adding some decorative stitching and some white furry fleece. "Yes! This is more like it.", I smiled at the production and then I looked down on the remaining fabric...eyeing I thought, I wondered how many more can I make?



Six. I cut and sewed for a good couple of hours and tried to make each one a little different, just in case more than one went to the same displaced family of children.
After I finished making them, the reality hit that I can't possibly afford to fill these sweet little stockings on my own.  What could I do?

I little thought came to my mind, "Ask your friends to help."
Yes! I have terrific friends.  But which ones should I ask?  Everyone is So busy this time of year, I didn't want to burden anyone.  I sat still for a moment, waiting for names to come to my mind.
When a name surface, I quickly texted that friend and asked if they'd be willing to help me fill these Christmas Stockings for a child in need.  Every single friend I asked said "yes"!

About this time, I remembered my sweet friend Laurel, whose mourning the loss of her infant son, Owen, who died from SIDS last year.  Their family created a little movement called "Owen Forever Smiles"--encouraging people to serve one another in a variety ways, dedicating their service to the memory of Owen, their happy, smiley little guy.  I contacted Laurel and just let her know I was doing this service with Owen in mind.  Her response was emotional:
Once again you are my inspired beautiful angel friend! I have been so emotional all day, and really deeply missing my little Owen and Hannah. Then you posted this, and your kindness and your giant heart hugged me on a day I really needed it. Thank you! I want to be as kind and wonderful as you! I love you! Thank you!  This stocking is beautiful- you are always so talented!  
 See, she didn't just lose one child at birth, she also lost her firstborn, Hannah, at birth due to complications of diabetes.  Laurel is an angel of a mother.  She also adopted two other children a couple years ago and has two sons with her husband.  The heart of a mother through and through. I love her and feel so honored to know her.


SO, with her blessings, I went ahead and shared that with my stocking-filling-friends.  Everyone was so gracious at the dedication of our service for children in the name of a child.  Perfect.

Well, last night I went around to collect the stockings. I wasn't expecting what I received! My beautiful friends filled those stockings--every little bitty inch--and some overflowing capacity! Crammed with toys, treats, socks, toothbrushes, gloves and hats, books, jewelry, clothes,and so much goodness.  I came home, unloaded it all on the dining table, and Mr Wonderful came in to see. I got pretty emotional feeling so grateful for the opportunity to do good--with the help of my generous, lovely friends, for children who need so much more than this.  It is a poignant feeling--to give and still want to give more than one is capable.  Have you ever felt that way?

I decided that next year, I will do more than just six stockings for CASA of Pikes Peak Region. I will do 30.  And writing that out, seems so small, so insufficient.  Maybe I won't set a limit. Maybe I will just set that as a goal and seek to exceed it.  I just know that this feeling is something I want to grow, and I can do it with the help of others.

The lesson(s) I learned from this experience are many, but I guess what I hope sticks with me is that I can do more with what I have, when I combine my talents with others' talents and I just have to be willing to ASK.  I'm amazed at the company of women around me.  Truly.
Now, having emptied the contents of each stocking, I need time to figure out how they expertly stuffed all their gifts into those stockings!  Again, where there's a will, there's a way!!

My best encouragement to anyone reading this is simple:
  Catch the Spirit of Christmas by Giving It Away.






























Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Ten Things on Wednesday



1. School is awesome. I love going. I love my classes and my teachers. I love what I'm learning.

2. But sometimes my brain hurts because it is filled to capacity, and I have to step back and change gears.

3. Fall is here in the Rockies. Crisp mornings. Yellow leaves. Pumpkin Spice cocoa. Yum.

4. I've discovered that drawing is my stress relief.

5. I'm taking art classes next semester.  Drawing and Watercolor.

6. I am possibly more excited about that than the Interior Design classes I'm taking.

7. Six of us in the family are in college this semester.

8. My other business venture is about to start and I am Super Stoked about it!

9. I am surrounded by amazing women in my life right now--they inspire me to show my best and I love it.

10. I am mostly done with Christmas shopping.