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Month: October 2018

I Just Don’t Know

First of all, it’s not true as has been stated on Facebook that Rose Mallinger, 97 year old victim of Saturday’s synagogue shooting was a survivor of the Holocaust.

That would have been really tragic, but here’s the thing, it doesn’t matter.

The average age of the victims was 74, and that’s what matters.

They were all average. That’s what matters.

As far as anyone knows, there wasn’t a famous or infamous person among them, but they were important to their friends and families. That matters.

They were brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers. They were physicians, housewives, dentists, scientists. They were described by friends and neighbors as kind and caring, good people, devout in their faith. And that matters.

Here’s what matters: they are you and me.

We’re being picked off one by one or in groups of 10 or 11 or 20 or 50, but never doubt, we’re being targeted. We’re not people to the shooters, we are reasons or statements or enemies or targets. The places we gather, our schools, our churches, our supermarkets are shooting galleries, places to make some sort of sick statement or right some twisted wrong that has been planted in the heads of those who listen to the hate that is being spewed forth by people who see us as an audience.

Hate. That’s what matters.

Is the media to blame? Partly. Are the politicians to blame? Partly. Are we to blame? Partly.

What can we do? I’ve been waiting for an answer. I’m one person, so surely there is someone more powerful, more knowledgeable, wiser, someone with more authority than me who has an answer and will just wave a wand and fix this mess, but that hasn’t happened.

Maybe there’s a group, a political party, a commission, a board of directors, a university that has an answer. Some organization or some group we can look towards to solve this problem.

Here’s what matters. It’s you and me. We’re the answer.

This is going to be hard.

The answer isn’t in laws. The answer isn’t on TV. The answer isn’t in political correctness or some candidate’s speech. We don’t even like most politicians–how can we expect them to solve this problem? It’s not a problem a doctor or psychiatrist can solve with a diagnosis of whatever mental illness we think might be the root.

The answer doesn’t start outside of us. It starts inside of us, radiates out in the way we live and teach our children, and hopefully is seen by all around us. We can’t hate our neighbor or our co-worker or the people who go to a different church or the people who vote differently than us.

We just can’t.

I don’t know if we can turn this around. At my age I’ve come to think that what I think doesn’t really make a difference. But maybe we all feel that way and that may be a little of what’s going wrong. Maybe what we think does make a difference. Maybe the way we live can make a difference. Maybe we can stop hating. Maybe.

I just don’t know.

Revolutionary War

If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll remember I’ve been following the adventures of a family named Crist who came to America in 1738. This family is closely tied with my own ancestors, the Collings family and I managed to find some very interesting accounts of life in those early days of our country based on the writings of Johann Nicolaus Crist who was given an account book by his father at the time Nicolaus and his brothers left for America.

When I last shared his adventures with you, Nicolaus had just returned from the Battle of Fort Necessity also known as the Battle of Great Meadows, where he received a very serious wound that nearly cost him his leg.

The leg wound that Nicolaus sustained affected his ability to work for the rest of his life and in his journal entry of August 5, 1754 he said, “I am lucky to have my sons.”

Nicolaus and Catherine had six sons and lost one infant daughter, obviously a painful loss as Nicolaus celebrated the marriages of three of his sons on May 7, 1763 by stating “Catherine and me finally got the daughters we never had (when) three of our sons was married yesterday. John Jacob married Regenah Cartmell, Nicholas Heinrich Jr. married Sarah Cartmell and Philip Henry married Rachel Cartmell. Rev. Henrie Dreher performed the wedding ceremony in the same Lutheran Church where Ana Catherin and me married.”

My Collings family enters the story as Nicolaus wrote on March 5, 1767: “Our fourth son George Heinrich married Elizabeth Collings today in the Lutheran Church where we got married. She was fifteen years of age today. Rev. Henrie Dreher performed the wedding Ceremony. Me and Elizabeth’s Pa, William Edward Collings growed up together and come to America on the same ship. He married Anne Elizabeth Nowlin a cousin to my Catherin. We had a feast, danced to good German music and played games all day.”

There are some aspects of this entry I don’t understand…William Edward Collings is shown in most of my research as having been born in America of English heritage. Still there is no doubt his daughter Elizabeth married George Crist and we have also been able to document that William Edward Collings was in fact married to Anne Elizabeth Nowlin.

History and genealogical study can be a very interesting and puzzling pastime!

Nicolaus and Catherin’s remaining two sons were married in 1769.

Life seemed good for the families, but harder times were ahead. December 24, 1776, Nicolaus wrote: I guess that I am more scared now than I was coming across the ocean to America. We have six sons in Washington’s Continental Army. Catherin and me are doing the best we can to take care of our daughters and grandchildren. Everyone is working hard from day break until dark trying to keep things going. We have seen bad times but it is worse now. Our food that we have stored is low. It seems that every one around us is in bad shape. The only thing that we can do is pray that it will get better and soon be over. Me and Catherin are so tired and scared, not for ourselves but for our loved ones.

The Revolutionary War was a heroic fight by a young nation to win freedom from England, but it was a hard time for those whose day to day life was affected not only by the shortage of goods from the outside world, but the fact their very farms and fields became the battlefields of the war.

All six of the Crist sons likely entered the war as militia, which was something like our National Guard is today, not fulltime soldiers, but citizen soldiers who took up arms to supplement regular army forces to defend home and country. Militia usually committed to two-year enlistments.

In the days of the Revolutionary War, communication was impossible, and Nicolaus and Catherin endured the hardships of supporting themselves and the families of their sons as best they could without knowing the fate of their boys. Catherin worked to teach the grandchildren because they recognized education was important. In the words of Nicolaus, “They need to learn to read and write and arithmetic so bad. If they live through all this.”

By early 1778, his old war injury, the stress and strain of the current war and the uncertainty about the fate of his family was wearing hard on Nicolaus. At age 62, “I am putting my Account Book up. It hurts to bad to write in it. Some of our neighbors have lost sons in the war. Catherin lost her parents in 1749 and June 1750 I got word from Germany that my parents had died in February that year with pneumonia and we lost our little daughter and all that hurt. But our sons that we have raised all these years, I truly do not know. We do not know if our sons are dead or alive. They could be somewhere wounded in the cold with no shelter. We do have a shelter and fire to keep us warm and dry and food to eat. It has been so cold with sleet and rain and snow. It is so hard on their wives and children not knowing if they will see them again or not. The only thing that we can do is pray that they will be sent home to us safe and not be wounded and mangled for life that the day will be soon.”

Thankfully, Nicolaus’ prayers for his family were answered. All six of his sons returned to their families, and his fourth son George, husband to my ancestor, Elizabeth Collings, took up the duties of writing in the Account Book, so the adventures of the Crist family along with my Collings family could continue to be passed down through the generations.

Stay tuned for more adventures!

This is Serious

Your vote was bought by every person who could not vote and fought for the right. Don’t waste it.

This is a public service announcement, but please bear with me because it is a subject I am passionate about.

I want you to vote in the 2018 Midterm Election on November 6.

I don’t care who you vote for, I don’t care if you are voting against someone rather than for them. I don’t care if you only go to the polls because of one candidate or one issue. I don’t even care if you vote against my candidate, the person that I strongly want to win in the election. I don’t care about any of that.

I just want you to vote.

It’s probable that most of you reading this are planning to vote, and that I am preaching to the choir, but if that’s the case, I urge you to look around at your friends, family, neighbors and co-workers. If you see someone who seems unlikely to vote or even actively bragging that they aren’t planning to vote…please feel free to share this post or these facts with them.

I can’t tell you how annoyed I get with the number one reason given for not voting…“my vote doesn’t count.”

In the first place, that’s just stupid, of course it counts.

In the second place, what you are totally ignoring is that by NOT voting, your vote counts double. Do the math. By not voting, you have not advanced a candidate that you could surely have been “okay” with, and by not voting against a candidate you don’t agree with, you have given that candidate free rein to possibly win the election and be your representative in government for 2 or 4 or even more years.

And in the third place, here are some examples of elections where one person’s vote (or one person who did NOT vote) made a huge difference:

  • One vote kept Aaron Burr from becoming President in 1800
  • One vote made Texas a part of United States of America in 1845
  • One vote saved Andrew Johnson from impeachment in 1868
  • One vote elected Rutherford B. Hayes to the Presidency in 1876
  • One vote per precinct would have elected Richard Nixon rather than John F. Kennedy in 1960

So, don’t tell me your vote doesn’t count or won’t make a difference.

One more argument I hear is: “well, elected officials only listen to big money.” That one is certainly true. According to the website HuffingtonPost.com:

Nearly 80 percent of people with yearly incomes of $75,000 or higher voted in the 2012 election, compared to just 60 percent of those earning less than $50,000 a year. By age, voter participation of older Americans eclipses that of those under 30.

So you see, it absolutely makes sense that the elected politicians will make decisions that benefit the people who voted for them, the wealthier, older citizens that took the time to study the issues and made their way to the voting booth on election day. Once again, making the excuse “my vote won’t count” into a huge lie!

And finally, it wasn’t so long ago that most of us even won the right to vote. Women fought hard for that privilege before winning it in 1920. The voting age was lowered from 21 to 18 in 1971. For years only property owners were allowed to vote and after the Civil War, many voters were required to pass literacy tests.

The right and privilege to vote has been a hard-won battle by our ancestors, and we owe it to them to not take this duty for granted.

It is so important for our young people, our senior citizens living on fixed incomes, our lower and middle class income earners, our working poor, our ethnic brothers and sisters, our women…so important for all people to vote, because rather than “my vote doesn’t count” your one vote most definitely counts…whether you perform that duty or whether you don’t.

So, I end as I began: I want you to vote in the 2018 Midterm Election on November 6. I promise, your vote WILL count.



Home – The House

Tools of a carpenter

I was about eight years old when Dad started building The House. Mom was expecting their third child and she was tired of moving. In their married life of 9+ years, she’d moved almost that many times, for whatever reason. We’d lived in trailers, tiny houses, rentals. I can remember some of the places.

There was the tiny trailer where I encountered The Big Puddle.

There was the four room concrete block house where I know for a fact there is a suitcase key in the crawl space, because I’m the one who wanted to see if it would fit through the crack in the floor.

There was the larger house with a long lane and a creek down at the bottom of a steep hill. One summer a group of us decided we would “sled” down the hill on an old piece of tin roofing. I went down the hill, but the tin did not. I still have the scar. I had chicken pox in that house and started school from there.

But when Mom got pregnant with our third child, she wanted a real home so Dad, an accomplished carpenter, bought an acre from his Dad’s farm and determined to build a house for us.

First, he built a concrete block, flat roof, one car garage, and we moved into that until he could finish the house. There was barely room to walk around what furniture we had, but I spent most of my time outside, so I didn’t really mind. My brother was two, he didn’t know any better.

The house took shape in an orderly manner, and I took great interest in all the details of the construction. The first walls were just wooden stakes with string stretched between, then there were trenches dug along the strings. The trenches were filled with concrete and Dad told me those were footers. On the footers, he started laying the block foundation.

Under construction

I loved every moment of watching that house grow. I thought I helped. We hammered nails into scraps of lumber, stacked broken concrete blocks and pieces of brick. Balancing on the floor joists, Dad showed me which room would be mine, and I thought it was huge. I loved the metal boxes in the walls that would become the electrical outlets because the round punchouts where the wire ran through became a fortune in play money.

Dad had always worked in construction, so building a house was second nature to him. As a carpenter, he could lay a couple of courses of concrete blocks for a foundation but he was not a bricklayer. When it came time to lay the outside brick walls of our house, he hired a professional for one day to come show him how. He and the bricklayer worked side by side all that day, spending considerable time on the corners which were a little tricky. After that, Dad did the rest.

I’ve always loved that about that house…that I watched it come to life in his hands.

The house was not quite completed when I came home one rainy day from my grandparents’ house to find all our furniture out in the yard between the garage and the house. Mom was on the warpath. You see, the flat tin roof of the garage was an engineering disaster. It leaked like a sieve and some days there weren’t enough pans to catch the water and have supper, too.

My sister was only a couple of weeks old and on this particular rainy day, her basket happened to be directly under one of the leaks. That was it. Mom declared we were moving into the house, finished or not. On that day, the house became home and a constant “work in progress.”

The House – the early years

Two more sisters were born over the next few years and I guess you could say we lived happily ever after in that house…at least, we were as happy as any normal family I’ve ever known. My brother and I saw the house built from the ground up and my sisters never lived anywhere else until they left for their own grownup homes. We grew up in that house, we went out into the world from there.

We called it The House as in: “I’ll meet you at The House…I’ll leave the book for you at The House…I’m here, I’m at The House.”

We sold the house this year. We’ve all been away from it for longer than we lived there, but Mom and Dad lived in it for the rest of their lives. Dad died in 1998 and Mom lived there until she passed in 2016, always insisting she would “never move again.” She never did.

The House – Our Home

There are a lot of memories around that house. I hope the new owner appreciates that a family lived there, grew up there, that the house was built with loving hands. There are places the builder’s hammer may have slipped, where a door might sag or stick and Mom swore it never got finished once we moved into it, but if it wasn’t a perfect house, it was a perfect home.

I hope the new owner appreciates that and I hope that new family makes a happy home and many memories there.

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