Monday, April 30, 2007

Connected to My Roots

This last week, I haven't been my usual self. I've felt disconnected to my usual routine... but extremely connected and "caught up" with several items that have been on my to-do list.

Well, that isn't entirely true, either. I must admit, I have an addiction. I've become addicted to researching my family tree. There. I've said it. "They" (the 12-step program originators) say that the first step is admitting that one has a problem, right? (Well, I don't think admitting it is really going to stop me any!) I've only been "at it" a few weeks, but I have been told that I'm much farther than most after several months or even years. I keep digging and digging through census reports, courthouse records, and baptism journals. Online resources are abundant, and I am thankful to have a good amount of information through the oral histories that I wrote about last week. I've found names that are even more unique (Bernhardina, Conrad, Sivilla, Cordelia, Hester, Garrison... goes on and on), and I'm intrigued by the hunt. I think that's the part to which I'm most addicted. The hunt. One must search and search and search to find an answer - even trying different spellings for names - to see if the next clue can be found. Last week, my eyes and head were hurting, but I kept going and realized that one family branch's name (Folkenroth) was spelled 7 different ways in the U.S. census/ population reports throughout the 1700s and 1800s. I also discovered that many who track the Stremmel family tree are missing that Folkenroth branch. You see, my great-great grandfather (Adam Stremmel) was raised (at least part of the time) by my great-great-great-great grandfather (John George Stremmel) because my great-great-great grandfather (also Adam Stremmel) died in his early twenties from intestinal inflammation. His wife (maiden name Folkenroth) then, soon after, became remarried, and because of a scribbly-written name on a census, many researchers don't realize there were two Adams: the father and the son. Clear as mud, right? Needless to say, it has been interesting... and the farther I go with each branch (I'm on 8 or 9 generations with some), it has become more difficult (and FASCINATING!) If anyone is at all interested in genealogy, I plead with you to IMMEDIATELY call your oldest family members and set up a time to ask them a few questions about your family (their grandparents, their great-grandparents, their neighborhood schools, the maiden names of the women in the family, etc.) I hope to meet with several great aunts and uncles in the next two months.

Last week, one of my indirect bosses for Human Resources (who is also a good friend) was in the office for a site visit, and she gave me the most beautiful flowers. With her visit came some work, but it was nice to catch up with her and keep busy. It was also nice to return home each evening to see the gorgeous bouquet. (This picture does not do it justice!) White, yellow, peach, pink and orange roses.

With the genealogy search and the HR files, I forced myself to take the weekend off from any paperwork. (I had to force myself away from the computer and fight the urge to print off more family records reports.) And, my bouquet gift inspired me to get out and get the yard in shape. So, while continuing with the Zimmerman baby watch and keeping my phone close by at all times, I turned off my brain and got ready for some manual labor. I went outside, opened my garage (which is currently filled with plant pots and auction furniture), and immediately realized that one of the neighbor cats (pure white one that chases bugs in my yard) had been stuck in there. Her cries were so loud, and I felt terrible. I cannot remember the last time I had the garage door open. MAYBE a week and a half ago? No matter the situation, it was not good. I ran as fast as I could - down the street - to the owners to see if they could come rescue the kitty. They weren't home, but other neighbors ran back with me. Thankfully, the cat had come out and was crying in the bushes. We all got a glimpse of her, but she wouldn't let us near her. She didn't look starved. But, she didn't look or sound well at all. So, I set out some food and water for her, and hopefully, she's back on the road to recovery. I'm not sure how many lives she has left.

After that shock, I returned to the work plan. After scraping, painting, raking, sawing, trimming, more painting, even more raking, and much stooping over to pick up sweet gumballs that are plaguing my grass, the yard made a miraculous turnaround in twelve hours. (Even though I felt like I had lost twenty pounds, my body was not as fortunate.)

Then, yesterday, I continued with planting and more mulching. Last year about this time, two special people helped me with the process... and the experience was just not the same without them this year. But, I did my best. Here, my bright green window boxes are ready to be installed, and I hope the pink and purple petunias will soon be overflowing the boxes. There's something wonderful about working with the earth, isn't there? I love it. (I just don't like the part where I try to remove the earth from my fingernails.)

Below is a photograph of a portion of my backyard (view from my driveway)... complete with my new birdbath and planters from Sister Velda, two new stepping stones from Aaron and Ketra, and some of my perennials that were planted at the end of this past summer. I bought several for less than $1 at Home Depot last year after we had a hot spell. The store could no longer sell them for full price because they looked so bad, and I was more interested in long-term gain for this year and beyond than how they looked at the moment. (Just a little fried at the time... but a great bargain!) Now I have some plants that are usually pretty expensive but cost me next to nothing. In the middle of the photo, you may be able to see a young sage plant with purple shoots. This bloomed about two weeks ago and has become brighter and brighter. All day Saturday and Sunday, it was covered with bumblebees and butterflies. I couldn't remember the last time I had seen a bumblebee... let alone, five at one time.

I received two of the best nights of sleep that I've had for a long time. It was hard work, but I always feel good after a day of hard work. I just need to become more motivated in initiating. So, I'm already trying to get motivated for this evening's projects. You may see the yard photo and think it all looks pretty good. You may even wonder what else I might need to work on. Well, take a gander down in the right bottom corner of the picture - right in front of the white planter. See that tiny brown gumball taunting me? Laughing at me? Well, he and hundreds (if not thousands) of his little friends are continuing to have a party in my yard, and it is time for me to end their celebration. Maybe I can provide some before and after photos tomorrow. And maybe, just maybe, I'll have another long, uninterrupted night of wonderful sleep. (Dreaming about my ancestors, of course.)


Other Mother said...

Beautiful yard, Strem! Congratulations -- your hard work is paying off.

strem said...

Thanks, Other Mother. I know my planting results looked much better last year with the help of George and Liz. I still have a long way to go, but I am happy that progress is being made. I really enjoy relaxing in my back yard... so next time you're in the area, you'll have to come over for a visit!

Siren said...

Hmmm... I think I'm going to have to get your guidance on family tree research before I move on to quilting. I KNOW all of those resources are out there, but I've been too intimidated to start digging yet. I'm still in the "gather all the family pictures and get names on them" phase. A more challenging task than I'd imagined! I'm happy to report I've got picture that go all the way back to my great-great grandparents, but that's where I've gotten stuck.

My Grandma's in Sunset for therapy before she can go home. She's the last of 9 - I think it's time to sit down with her and start getting names because so far no one else in my family can identify all the Great-Aunts and Uncles. My mom hasn't been supportive, maybe she thinks it's morbid or something. But I can't help feeling like if I don't, we'll lose an important part of our family history.

Dani said...

I'm glad to know that you are enjoying the being a historian thing. I had fun using my family history and my grandmother's geneology work on a scholarly piece on celts and southerners. Much fun. What you are doing is valuable for historians as well as rich for yourself.

strem said...

Siren, I am sorry that I failed to respond to your comment as quickly as I had hoped. I would love to help you with your search, and I hope you receive many answers from your grandma. Yes, I bet she will be able to help you tremendously. If you have a digital recorder, I ask you to consider taking it along. Those recorded conversations will be precious keepsakes. Plus, it'll help you sort out your notes later.

I'll be taking a few trips to see family members soon, and we are going to dig into some of the trunks and chests to see pictures. Hopefully, I'll be able to copy some of them. I cannot wait, and I am glad you are taking so much time to work on this step. At some point in the journey, there just aren't any pictures... because of the number (maybe some family members in other branches has them), because of the cost (some families just didn't have them made), and because of the invention (technology went back only so far.) It's funny to see some families' trees and see paintings for individuals, but I have doubts anyone in my family line would have been high-ranking or well off to have a portrait made. We'll see. Maybe if I go back far enough....

strem said...

Dani, your research project sounds great. When we catch up in person, I would love to hear about it. Thanks for your continued encouragement!!!

Sandy-san said...

You're such a busy lady! You are such a do-er... I wish I could get as much of my interests done like you do!