Who do YOU think you are?

Who do YOU think you are?

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Did you see the new genealogy reality show last Friday night?  Who Do You Think You Are? has sucked me in!  The episodes take celebrities on a search for their ancestors, with some pretty amazing results.

My thoughts in no order:

*  all of the featured  personalities are celebrities – not just everyday folks

* the celebrities’ stories could be my stories or your stories – they were everyday folks before they were stars

* the show only presents the exciting results – not the hundreds of hours of work done by professional genealogists to achieve the results

* it would be awesome to have those resources

* the emotions are real

* as I got caught up in her story, I forgot Sarah Jessica Parker was a star

* to be physically present in a place where an ancestor has stood creates a strong bond and sometimes overwhelming emotion

* I want to know my ancestors and some details of their lives

* genealogy is addictive!

Tune in tonight at 7 p.m. MST on NBC to watch Emmitt Smith’s family history unfold.  Check out the website for past episodes.  You’re gonna love it!

Content with my cans

Content with my cans

As part of my personal accountability plan, I have listed on my project page all the rooms of our house that need a deep cleaning.  Okay, so every room in the house is on that list – this whole place needs some attention!  But at least I have a starting point. . .

In an effort to stay on task and clean one room this month, earlier this week I recruited Don to help me bring some order to the food room.  As I finished up today and admired the neatly stocked shelves, I began to muse about this underground room in the far corner of the basement.

Gray walls and blue water jugs - a vision of loveliness!
Gray walls and blue water jugs - a vision of loveliness!

Our food storage room is not a pretty room; the gray cement walls are set off nicely by the gray cement floor covered with orange shag and yellow sculptured carpet pieces left from another decorating era.  Cobwebs collect dirt in the corners, and the ceiling is accented by metal heating ducts.  The only real color comes from the labels on all the canned goods, so of course nothing matches.  And it’s cold in there!  A screened vent to the outside allows the room to be cool in the summer, but really nippy in the winter.

Lining up an apartment?
Making plans to meet a friend?

The shelves sport a little graffiti – phone numbers or addresses engraved with a ball point pen by my youngest brother Tom.   When all the family was home, and his bedroom had been given to a married sibling with children, Tom pulled a roll away bed into the food room and set up housekeeping for the duration of the family visit.

Because of its remote location in the far corner of the basement accessible only through the laundry room, I often neglect or completely ignore regular cleaning and maintenance of the food room.  Flour spills commonly adorn the orange carpet, evidence of restocking the kitchen canister from the big buckets downstairs.  Sacks and boxes of groceries dropped just inside the door may create an obstacle course through which we carefully maneuver to retrieve a can of tomato sauce.  One lone and sprouting potato could be resting on the trunk of Christmas decorations.  It’s very easy for me to pay little attention to a room that we only dash in and out of, one that never hosts a family gathering or sees a visitor.

Tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, and beans, oh my!
Tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, and beans, oh my!

But in spite of its lowly status, the food room is central to our household.  It is the foundation of many family meals.  “Go get a can of chicken broth from the food room.”  It is cold storage for Christmas goodies.  “The Special K bars are in a Rubbermaid container on the right side, middle shelf.”  It’s our own convenience store, conveniently located in our own basement.  “You forgot green chilies for the enchiladas?  That’s okay.  They’re on the left side, middle shelf.”

I’m certain that our kids have their own memories of that cold, simple room.  When they were younger, I know they used to sneak treats out of an infrequent stash of junk food.  Occasionally the room was stocked with cases of soda or candy bars that had been on sale, and I would find evidence of their not so discreet pilfering in abandoned wrappers on the shelves or floor.  Brittney tells about talking to Peter on the phone while they were in high school and hearing him ponder what canned food would taste best cold, right off the shelf as he anticipated an evening snack!

Buckets of flour and
Buckets of flour and sugar supply some of the basics.

Although the kids have left home and our choices of food have changed in the last 20 years, our food room continues to provide peace of mind and encourages us to heed the counsel often repeated by our prophet.  Because of its design for a specific purpose (my parents were genius to include a cold storage room when building this house), with shelves lining those gray cement walls, we are able to buy in bulk and maintain a supply of food right here in our own home.

“. . . I wish to urge again the importance of self-reliance on the part of every individual Church member and family.

None of us knows when a catastrophe might strike. Sickness, injury, unemployment may affect any of us.

We [the Church] have a great welfare program with facilities for such things as grain storage in various areas. It is important that we do this. But the best place to have some food set aside is within our homes, together with a little money in savings. The best welfare program is our own welfare program. Five or six cans of wheat in the home are better than a bushel in the welfare granary.” Gordon B. Hinckley, October 2002 –  complete talk here

Our inventory revealed that we’re doing okay on vitamins,

Can't forget the vitamins
Can't forget the vitamins

but we’re a little short on toilet paper.

Absolute necessities
Absolute necessities

Home to lots of good food, plenty of memories, and (unfortunately) a rare mouse, our now clean and organized food room is a little corner of happiness to me!

An insider's view
An insider's view


Loving my work

Loving my work

I realize that I am very fortunate to be able to spend my days in projects that are dear to my heart.   Family history in all its forms  – genealogy research, written histories, preserving pictures – can keep my interest for hours and days on end.  And although I quit a part time job to pursue this unpaid work, it doesn’t feel like my JOB.  If it’s fun and fulfilling, it doesn’t really count as work, right?

Sometimes I find my self almost apologetic when stumbling through a response to the question, “Do you work?”

“Well, sort of, but not really.  I do family history.  My husband and I feel that preserving our family history is really important. . . ”  Even to my own ears, my wandering explanations of family history, genealogy and scrapbooks don’t seem convincing.  My job is to scrapbook?

And the casual conversation really turns awkward when the questioner struggles to make sense of what I’ve just said.  I imagine her thoughts, “Your job is to scrapbook?”

As a result of my skewed perspective that work cannot be enjoyable, I put off starting projects that I want to do and need to do, because I keep thinking I should be doing something IMPORTANT.  I have to fill my days with WORK.  Fun activities come after the work is done.

In years past, I have compiled scrapbooks for Emily, Nathan and Peter.  I’ve found the time between obligations of work and family to organize and display their histories.

I started Emily’s book just before she was married, and completed it about a year later.  This month I’ve scanned each page, so I have a digital copy of all that hard work.

7th Birthday - 1982
7th Birthday - 1982

It’s been fun to study those pictures again and laugh at fashion, style, and personality from days gone by.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

I’ve been working on Peter’s pictures for years.  When I first started, an experienced scrapbooker suggested that I start with the youngest child so I wouldn’t have so much catching up to do.

First job at Toddy's
First job at Toddy's

So Pete’s has been a work in progress, and with a couple more pages to document his post high school years, it will be ready for the scanner.  I know Brittney’s anxious to have the finished product.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

Nate’s albums went home at Thanksgiving, 2009.

1981 was a great year for Nate
1981 was a great year for Nate

Nikki’s excitement was very rewarding for me, and I got excited to keep going on this project.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

Mark (but mostly Kate) is still patiently waiting for his personal record to take its place on their bookshelf.  But this week I’m moving forward with the idea that it’s okay to spend my day in activities that I love.  I’ve finally started his albums, and I’m doing it in the middle of the day during prime work time.  Imagine that!

1979 - our third in the series
1979 - the third Butler baby

I love my work!

Making Tracks

Making Tracks

January - the beginning
January - the beginning

After an inspiring phone conversation with Emily yesterday, I gave some serious thought to my goals and my somewhat haphazard efforts to attain them.  I have an hazy idea of my big picture, but wonder if I am spending my time in activities that will help achieve that.  I felt a little anxious when I realized that my plan was vague, and my path leading to that plan was poorly marked and wandering.  Because I work best in an organized environment, I knew I needed a tangible, visible method of tracking my progress.

First, I gave careful consideration to my goals and dreams for my life and wrote them down – because a goal without a plan is just a dream.  Then, building on an idea Emily uses, I created a personal system to track the activities that are important to me and will lead me in the direction I say I want to go.  A handy Excel spreadsheet  – because who doesn’t love a great spreadsheet – allows me to see at a glance if I am making progress towards my targeted aspirations.  As Nikki posted about exercise, personal accountability is key.  One check mark  on a list is gratifying, and a whole page of them can be cause for celebration!

In addition to my monthly tracker, I have created a list of projects I want to complete this year.  That list includes things like painting the cedar chest, making Nikki’s Christmas stocking, and completing Mark’s scrapbook.  Those will be added to my monthly list as I am ready to tackle them, but not all at once, because that just overwhelms me.

And last, but not least, I’ve created a list of things I want to do before I die.  I dream about a visit to the villages in England that were the birthplaces of my Berrett ancestors.  I get really excited at the thought of a cross country road trip in a small RV – check out the Roadtrek and you’ll want one too.  Several other dreams have a place on this list; just seeing them written makes them more realistic to me.  I’m excited about what I can accomplish.

So I’m on my way, and February promises to be awesome!

A blank slate just waiting for me!
A blank slate just waiting for me!

“Because how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
– Annie Dillard, author

Resolved . . .

Resolved . . .

to be

mindful

of

time

right now!
right now!

making time for Sam - Christmas 2009
making time for Sam - Christmas 2009
iCal on my computer
iCal on my computer - looks like I'd better schedule some fun

food

Thanksgiving table - 2009
Thanksgiving table - 2009

Family Thanksgiving - 2009
Family Thanksgiving - 2009

money

current contents of the piggy bank that lives under the bed
current contents of the piggy bank that lives under the bed

relationships

bedtime story - Jack, Charlie, Katie
cousins' bedtime story - Jack, Charlie, Katie
Thanksgiving rolls with the grandkids
Thanksgiving rolls with the grandkids

at the top of Trail Ridge Road - August, 2009
with my most important relationship at the top of Trail Ridge Road - August, 2009

looking forward to a productive and rewarding 2010!

Christmas Prelude

Christmas Prelude

Joyce with Lynnette - 8 months old
Joyce with Lynnette - 8 months old

By 7 p.m. on that Saturday night, the hospital room was quiet, dimly lit, and very peaceful.  Dad was napping on the extra bed, and I had pulled a chair close beside Mom’s bed.  Her breathing was slightly labored, but she was resting peacefully and stirred only occasionally.  I knew her time was short, and I wondered how much longer she would be with us.  The lights of the Christmas tree on the table cast a soft glow on the room.  Christmas carols playing from the bedside CD player provided my favorite kind of background music.  I hummed along with “O, Holy Night,” remembering how Mom would often break into song with the Tabernacle Choir at her favorite parts!  How Mother loved Christmas!

I looked at her in the bed, her physical body tired and worn out, and my mind and heart were filled with memories of so many good times.  My mother was one of my best friends, and I felt so grateful for the relationship we shared.  She was strong – yet sentimental, outspoken  – but sensitive, and exacting  – while at the same time gentle.  She had supported and encouraged me throughout my life, even if she did think I was crazy to take up skiing when I was almost 50!  She had given me a lot of guidance – some asked for, some not – and I knew that her passing was going to leave a void.

But more than what we had shared and what all of us would miss, I wondered about her next step.  She was going where none of us had yet been, nor could now.   What was it like to die?  I wasn’t concerned so much about physical pain or discomfort, but particularly curious about the transition from this life to the next.  Where was she going?  How would it feel?  Who would she see?

I picked up a copy of The Book of Mormon that was lying on the bedside table and began to read where the pages fell open:

“Now concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection — Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life.

“And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.”
– Alma 40: 11-12

The room seemed sacred, my heart felt peace, and the Christmas carols were as a prelude . . .