Saturday, June 25, 2011

Highlights from my Great-Great-Grandfather's Memoirs

Today I received a real treasure. My mom's cousin passed along a copy of my Great-Great-Grandfather's Memoirs to us. I just finished reading it and am truly grateful that this amazing bit of family history is in existence and in my hands. I don't know if anyone else will find the following highlights of any interest, but I'm gonna share them anyway!

George was born in Germany in 1857. There is a pretty detailed description of growing up and living on a farm, how hard yet simple a life it was, and lots of stories of his neighbors and fellow townspeople too. There is also a lot of talk about various wars and the military service of various relatives and eventually his sons. He had eight children with his first wife, my Great-Great-Grandmother Margaretha, and three more with his second wife, Rosina. He talks about the heartbreaking death of Margaretha, and reading it brought me to tears:
"Then it was on the 6th of May, as we awoke early to begin the day's work - I did my usual, and went to the stalls to feed the cattle and clean the stalls, while Mother dear cooked breakfast. When I came back from the stalls, she told me that she felt very bad and couldn't do anything more, and I told her to go lay down. When I came back from the fields, she still wasn't feeling any better, so I called the doctor... who promptly diagnosed pneumonia. Just days before we'd been in good health and had so cheerfully planted red beet seeds and all sorts of vegetables together - we'd come home late and laid down to rest all in good health. Now, I made sure to be very punctual in giving her her medicine, and the doctor came every day. But it was all in vain - 9 days later, with a broken and bleeding heart, I had to close her loving, trusting eyes. She was just 38 years old. Her birthday was on the 14th of May and she died on the 15th of May... 1859-1897. When I had seen that all hope was lost and the end was near, I gathered up all 8 children, ages 3 1/2 to 17, and brought them to her death bed to say their good-byes. That was a hard, cruel hour for me!"
He goes on to describe his grief and the relatives who helped him through it. It was surprising to me to see such emotional writing coming from a man in that time period. Next he describes how his son (my Great-Grandfather) ended up in America:
"One year after Mother's death and after his confirmation, I allowed the third oldest son, Heinrich, to move to America. Friends who had emigrated to America years before and were living on a farm in Creston Ohio had written to me and asked me to send two of my sons to them. Since no one else had the desire to go, he went alone. Oh how my heart ached as I sent him off - off into the big, wide world... so young [he was only 14!], and so alone. He, however, headed off in joy, singing along his way. For his welfare, I pinned the address of his final destination to his chest so that anyone would be prepared to help him find his way. And so he arrived, grateful and good condition."
Eventually Heinrich (Henry) settled here, got married, and sent his wife's uncle to Germany to convince George and Rosina to come to America. Just a few years after they immigrated here, World War I broke out, and they had three grown sons back in Germany and one grown son here in America, fighting on opposite sides of the war. This is a perspective I had not thought about before.
"I was so pleased that my son, Martin, who'd been drafted and was supposed to go overseas, refused to fight against his brothers and did not go along. The law allowed him this because he had been born in Germany. He did have to deal with the mockery and ridicule, but he held fast and did his time here on the land."
Then he goes on to describe his feelings about the war and what it was like to be a German living here at the time:
"On Good Friday, the 6th of April 1917, America declared war on Germany, and stepped in, full force. Oh how the lies and deceptions were spread about the Germans, just to stir the folks up. And they believed it all, and prosecuted the Germans wherever they could! I can never forget how they 'sat on top of us', and how we had to duck down and swallow the many curse words: Murderers and such... and more of the same - that's what came at us from all sides. On the street, you couldn't speak German or they'd spit in your face. ...Many church communities had their preachers stirring up the hate and the lies against Germany and its Kaiser. And the disgraceful pictures of the Kaiser and the Germans were passed around - especially through the Cleveland newspaper, The Plain Dealer. One German newspaper after another had to stop appearing. All Germans must get registered, and they were required to have their passport with picture and thumbprint with them at all times... etc. etc. Enough of that - it disgusts me just to think about it."
I found it really interesting how he seems to refuse to believe in the atrocities that were being reported. He must have loved his mother country very much. I imagine that would be a hard thing to come to terms with. I wish he'd have written more, later on, after the war was over. I'm curious about how his views may have changed (or not?) with the passage of time and when the evidence of the Holocaust really came to light.

One thing I discovered we have in common is our opinions of schooling... his education lasted from age 7 to age 14, and he describes his sisters bodily dragging him to school against his will, which gave me a chuckle. Later, he listed "the school laws" as one of the biggest things he disagreed with when he came to America. He says, "What is with this schooling that goes until the age of 19? This is the destruction of the youth..." I was really surprised to come across that snippet! GO Grandpa!

One area where we disagree is religion. He was apparently a very religious man, and at the very end of his memoirs is a series of biblical quotes, and then stories from his life illustrating how life (in his opinion) proved the bible right. They're mostly stories of what he perceives as "bad" people getting their just desserts (aka Karma). He must have decided that since he was preserving these memoirs for his descendants, he wanted to pass on some spiritual guidance as well. I think he'd be more than a little disappointed in me in the religious department. Oh well.

If anyone has actually made it this far - thanks for reading along! Like I said, I find this stuff tremendously interesting, but I don't know if anyone else will. When my kids are older, these memoirs will be a valuable learning resource for them... what better way to make history real than to read about the lives of the actual people you came from? We are so, so, so lucky. How many people have a sample of their ancestors' voices like this? The memoirs are a tremendous genealogical resource too - there are lots of names, dates, and even addresses of three places he lived that aren't too far from here. Sometime soon I'm going to drive by each of them and see if they're still standing and maybe take a few pics if I feel like I can do it without bothering anyone. I'll post an update if I do.

EDIT: Mom just brought to my attention a glaring error I made: the Holocaust was WWII, not WWI. Duh.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Blogging is pretty nifty

Okay, so my favorite new pastime is hunting out new and interesting blogs to read. If you look over at my blogroll, you'll see that it has grown quite long. Most are about homeschooling; all are at least about some facet of parenting. I really don't know how I'm going to find time to homeschool my kids with all of this great stuff to read about homeschooling! For anyone else who is also diving into the blogosphere, whether it be to read others' blogs or to put your own blog out there, here are a few directories I have come across:

The Homeschool Post 2010 Best Homeschool Blogs
Another list of Best Homeschool Blogs
Homeschooling_Bloggers_Haven Yahoo Group
Evolved Homeschooler Wiki
Secular Homeschool Blog List

There are some really amazing and fascinating people out there in the world... thank you internet for connecting me to them so that I can receive humor, information, and inspiration from them!

EDIT: Found one more: Hip Homeschool Moms Ultimate Homeschool Blogroll

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Marriage Protips

Today is our 15th wedding anniversary! And this fall we will actually have been together for 20 years.... which is pretty wild considering that we are both in our 30s. AND - we still LIKE each other! We aren't perfect but we do have a happy and strong marriage, so I thought I'd share some advice, for anyone who's interested:

1. Be nice to each other. Yeah, it really is that simple. Be kind and considerate to each other. Treat each other with respect. Do little things to make the other person's day easier.
2. It shouldn't feel like work. People are going to disagree with me on this one, but whenever I hear someone say that "relationships are hard work" I really think they are wrong. It has never felt like "work" to be with my husband. Work should feel like work. Marriage should (mostly) feel like taking a break.
3. Do your own thing. It is perfectly okay to have your own interests and be independent people. That's what works for us anyway. Being married doesn't mean you must be joined at the hip. If you each do different stuff sometimes, then you'll have interesting things to talk about later.
4. Be faithful and honest. If you can't trust each other, what's the point?
5. Don't sweat the small stuff. I have known a lot of couples who argue over the tiniest little things. Ask yourself, "In the cosmic scheme of things, is this really a big deal?" Seriously - just relax.
6. Thank each other often.
This could really fit under the "be nice to each other" heading, but I honestly think that frequently saying "Thank you" is just as important as saying "I love you." It takes very little effort to acknowledge and appreciate the other person's efforts. I thank Shane all the time for getting up and going to work so that I can stay home with our babies, and also for little things he does around the house. He thanks me often too.
7. Be friends, and be a team. Whenever I see something interesting or funny, my first thought is usually, "I gotta tell Shane about that." He's my best friend, and we still have great discussions about stuff. I love that he calls me in the middle of the day to tell me (read: rant) about something he heard on the radio... even after all these years, he still calls me. Also, all of our stuff is our stuff (not mine or his), all of our bills are our bills, all big decisions are made together. We are a united team - it's us vs. the world.
8. Laugh!
For us anyway, one of our main lines of communication is humor. Even when one of us is bothered by something, we usually find a way to joke about it and get the point across in a lighthearted manner. Also, the more private codes and inside jokes you have, the better.
9. Sex.
Okay, I'm a pretty private person and this is something I don't discuss with other people much. I'll just say - I think it's a good idea to marry someone you like having sex with. There, now I'm blushing.
10. Don't give up too easily... BUT if the relationship is really bad, and you're truly miserable, then it's okay to move on. I really think that people sometimes just give up way too easily these days, and it makes me very sad when I hear that a couple is splitting up. The best marriage advice I ever heard was when I asked an elderly couple from my parents' church what was their secret to being together for so many years, and they replied, "You just stay together. That's it." Simple but profound. That being said, I also see people who are truly, deeply unhappy, with irreparably bad marriages, who stay together anyway - out of convenience, for the kids, for fear of being alone, whatever. I do NOT get this. Life is too short to spend huge chunks of it being miserable. (And being in that kind of atmosphere is not good for the kids either, so that's a bad reason to stay.) You deserve to be happy. It is okay to let go and move on if you're in the wrong place. Especially if someone is abusive - either mentally or physically - do not walk but RUN away! Being alone is infinitely preferable to being with a jerk.

So, there you go. My two cents on marriage. I am really so grateful for everything that we have - we may not have a lot of money, but we are very, very rich in ways that matter more. I am often pleasantly surprised by how we have grown more alike over the years, instead of apart as some people do, especially couples who got married as young as we did (I was 19, he was 21). One of the best things about our marriage right now is the way we are totally on the same page in the parenting department. It means so much to me that Shane is 100% on board with this homeschooling lifestyle we have chosen. Hmm... one more thing for that list: pick the right person to marry in the first place. Fortunately for me - I did. :)

Sunday, June 12, 2011


If I had had my camera handy, I would post an image here of a treasured moment from my day. But since it wasn't handy, I'll just have to describe it. A big, strong daddy, with his grinning little blond boy on his lap, driving an old red tractor (1957 Farmall Cub). The little boy's hands are on the wheel, and he is steering the tractor, weaving from side to side around the yard, with a bit of guidance from Daddy now and then. The air smells like pine trees and freshly mowed grass. The weather is perfect, just a bit cool, a relief from days and days of oppressive heat and humidity.

Today was an all around good day. Nothing special, just a nice, laid-back day of all of us hanging out together in the yard. Max had a great time this weekend helping Daddy do all kinds of "man stuff" - yesterday they finished planting the garden together, and today Max hung out around the garage while Shane tinkered around, and then they collected sticks and loaded them into the tractor cart, then unloaded them by the fire ring. Max watched as Shane built a bonfire and then helped toss sticks onto it. While they were doing that, I strolled around our property with Emmett in his spiffy new (to us) backpack carrier, given to us by a new friend from one of the homeschool groups we joined. We have just over three acres, and it's sort of shaped like a bowling alley; it's about as wide as a good-sized double city lot, but it goes really far back, and is partly wooded with some winding paths, so it feels very private and peaceful and secluded. It's what most attracted us to this place when we bought it. The house is kind of small and just OK... but the yard is paradise. I know my boys are going to have all kinds of fun together here as they get older. Eventually we'd like to build a tree house in "the far back" as we call it. I've always wanted one myself, and they are gonna have to kick me out of it often! Anyways, after Em & I took our mini-hike, it was getting late, and he was getting tired and fussy, so I put him to bed. I came back out and we made an exception and let Max stay up well past his bedtime, the three of us just sitting by the fire watching the sky getting darker and the moon rising and getting brighter.

It makes me so happy that Max - and Em too, when he's bigger - are going to grow up with all of these wonderful memories of living here, surrounded by nature, hanging out with Daddy and learning how to be men. They really are lucky, lucky boys. I am especially thankful today because Shane hasn't been feeling great lately - he's been struggling with chronic pain issues for years and has been exceptionally miserable for the past few weeks - but yesterday and today he's had a couple of much-needed good days. Hopefully this trend will continue!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Monday, June 6, 2011

Dear Metro Park System: I love you!

In the past week, we have availed ourselves of our local Metro Park System three times; twice we went walking at two different parks, and today we went to one of their free "Nature for Kids" programs and it was absolutely wonderful. Today's topic was pond creatures. After a brief instructional / safety lecture, we were given long-handled nets, colanders, and little tubs of water. We scooped our nets in the pond, then dumped the contents into the colanders and poked around in them with plastic spoons to see what kinds of creatures we had captured. Any creatures were then gently picked up with the spoons and put into the tubs of water. We were given laminated cards with pictures to identify our finds. Each group quickly collected lots of interesting specimens! Here's our tub (Sorry for the low-res photos - I have got to start remembering to bring the good camera with me instead of relying on the cell!):

We collected snails, tadpoles at various stages of development, dragonfly larvae, damselfly larvae, water boatmen, fishing spiders, and our most exciting find: a water scorpion! Here he is:

After everyone had time to collect their critters, the volunteer had us all bring our tubs together so we could all inspect each others' finds while he told us a little bit about each creature. From him we learned that the water scorpion got its name from its long thin tail - but it doesn't use it to sting, it's actually a tube which is used like a snorkel! It just hangs in the water with its snorkel butt tube sticking out, and waits for yummy things to swim by underneath it and then it grabs them and sucks their blood out. As the volunteer was explaining this to us, our water scorpion had captured our poor dragonfly larva and was having it for a snack. Max thought this was very cool. Here you can see the predator and his prey:

"nom nom nom..."

Here's Max scooping up a snail to investigate.

And this little girl found this a ginormous fishing spider!

All I can think about right now is how my best childhood friend and I used to go swimming in this murky pond on her parents' farm all the time... the gunk at the bottom was so thick, you would sink to your shins with each step. I can still smell the funky smell that the water left on us, that we would immediately have to go shower off. Anyways, I knew there were lots of things living in ponds, but now I can't believe we were swimming with all of THESE guys, and more!

Every so often, I feel like the picture I have in my head of how we are going to "do" homeschooling comes into sharper focus, and I definitely see us spending a LOT of time in our Metro Parks! Today I sat down with my "Programs & Events Guide" and a pen, and circled many more fun things for us to do. I also have a goal of seeing every park - there are 15 of them - and when the boys are older, I really want to do a "Walk in the Woods" - style trek along the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, (nearly completed) which stretches about 100 miles, from Cleveland to New Philadelphia.

It's funny - this is the time of year when school is just about out for the summer, and here we are - on a Sunday no less - going out and learning stuff! How crazy is that?

Friday, June 3, 2011

ACKKKKK! Quick rant...

I was just watching one of those cheesy crime dramas - I'm generally not a fan of them, but I somehow got sucked into this one. Anyway, the serial killer in this show turned out to be a homeschooled teenage boy. The investigator says to the killer's mother in a voice dripping with shock and contempt, "Mrs. So-and-so, do you KNOW what social isolation can DO to a child?" I was still sitting there with my mouth dropped open about a full minute later, well into the commercial break. There really aren't words to express my indignation... just, frickin WOW.