A June Wedding

Ashley and Spencer's wedding ceremony on June 8.

No matter how stressful life currently is, a wedding flashes me back to my own vows, and suddenly I feel the magic of starting a life journey with another soul again. This is what I witnessed yesterday when Chris and I had the pleasure of attending the wedding of our eldest niece, Ashley. I love weddings, especially those of people close to my heart. They come with the happiness, the smiles, and the reminders of how blessed I am.

The month of June derives its name from Juno, the Roman goddess of marriage. It was thought that couples who married in June would be blessed with prosperity and happiness. Did you know that? I didn’t until I found it on a library website.

I am more reminded of the quote from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers:

Oh, they say when you marry in June you’re a bride all your life,

and the bridegroom who marries in June gets a sweet-heart for a wife.

We’ll have to wait a few years on that bride all your life bit, but I know that Spencer already has a sweetheart for a wife 🙂

Last week, after meeting with my team in Atlanta (I’ll write about that another time), I flew into Syracuse where Chris picked me up on his way back from Massachusetts. We spent a day with Mom in NY before hitting the road to Ohio. The weather was great, the traffic relatively light, and it was doughnut day so we each got an unexpectedly free doughnut with our coffee for our travels. That’s how perfectly the trip started.

The wedding was on a farm, and everything was beautiful. It was cloudy and warm (but not hot), and it did not rain. It felt unusual wearing flat sandals with my fancy dress, but I was happy for the warning that it would be an outdoor ceremony on grass. No balancing on my toes to keep heels from digging in 🙂

We wondered what familiar faces we might see and had the normal doubts of where it was proper to sit. Even that worked perfectly. Tim (the bride’s father) and his mom were there greeting people and told us to go sit with family anywhere in the first two or three rows. No bride or groom designated sides. Love that. Let all family and friends interweave.

Surrounded by trees, guests mingled and chatted. There was a beautiful flower-strewn arch in front, and the bride was supported by her three sisters and some friends. Those girls are as close as any sisters I know, and their love for each other just radiated.

Couple agreeing to go through with the ceremony and vows.
You sure you are ready to go through with this?

The officiating pastor was the groom’s dad. I wish I recorded the part where they agreed they wanted to continue with the ceremony even knowing they were pledging to stick together even if they get sick or get old. “Still in?” — “Yes!!!”

Marriage isn’t easy, and that was not hidden in the main message. But it is a beautiful thing. One of the greatest gifts ever. After the ceremony we went in to eat some delicious food and enjoy a lot of dancing. We got to talk with the girls and family, and the evening went by super fast.

The thing about marriage and love is something I also find about having children. You love until your heart is completely full, and feel like you couldn’t possibly love more. But somehow you do. Each day, it just grows.

A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.

—Mignon McLaughlin

I truly hope someday Ashley and Spencer are at the point I am now. Attending weddings 27+ years after their own “I do’s” and knowing that it was one of the best decisions ever.

Escalator Fun

Chris riding escalator next to cart.

I give all you city people permission to laugh at me. But I was completely gobsmacked during a recent shopping excursion to WalMart (of all places). We were in the Albany area and had to grab some stuff. Walking in, we commented to each other that we hadn’t ever been in a two-story WalMart before. Then we casually went on filling up our cart with food.

After we were nice and stocked, we stared at each other in an awkward “Hey, well, we obviously weren’t thinking” moment. The rest of the items we needed were upstairs. What was the best option?

  • A) Both check out together, walk to the car, unload the food and come back for the rest? It was a warmish day so we weren’t sure if we wanted the dairy products to sit in a hot car so long.
  • B) Split up and have one take care of the food while the other grabbed the up-stair items? Not ideal since we wanted to discuss purchasing choices.

We edged the cart forward, leaning toward Choice A and deciding to just shop fast then we noticed people were actually taking carts up the escalator!!! There was a mechanism you pushed the cart onto, and it rode up right next to you (actually, it kind of beat us to the top).

Human and cart entries to escalator.

Now that I am experienced in the cart escalator endeavors, I think in the future I will opt to hold my seltzer since it had a bit of a bumpy ride, but otherwise the process was extremely smooth — even on the way down with a card table and chairs overflowing the cart.

Chairs in cart going down escalator

The experience reminded me of when we country folk used to travel to visit my parents on Long Island (where I grew up). I would take my sons to the mall where we would budget at least ten minutes per visit for the kids to ride the escalators. We had to remind them to not whoop and holler on the way up and down. Now I can relate to how hard it was for them to keep quiet when it’s all so much fun 🙂

A Relatively Perfect Day

David, Uncle John, Me, Aunt Anne and Chris

For many, it was a normal Friday. A day to get through before the weekend kicked off. For us, it was kind of like a holiday. You see, may aunt, uncle and cousin’s son were coming to spend a few hours with us in our Massachusetts haven (amazing how close that word is to heaven). Why would they go many hours out of their way to visit us? Because they love us. Which made the day even more incredible.

Expecting them around noon, Chris hit the slopes, trying to catch some runs before it began raining too hard. A tough time of year for us slope-fiends. We embrace the warmth and beauty of spring, but know the fun time on our sloping playground is limited. Then I got a message that they were close, even earlier than expected. Bonus!!!

David, Aunt Anne and Uncle John

It was a bit drizzly when they arrived, but amazing sports that they are, they popped up their hoods and walked outside for a tour of our little ski center. A soaking wet Chris passed us as we headed out, and we said we’d join him soon.

We walked past a small waterfall, which was pointed out to Aunt Anne, since she loves waterfalls so much. Then I showed the lift she vicariously rode on with me and the run we went down together. Strolling past the coffee shop and firepit area and shop, we headed back to the room for our now signature luncheon of egg sandwiches (a fun machine Hudi and Mollie gave us makes those).

Aunt Anne eating our traditional lunch - Egg Muffins
Aunt Anne eating our traditional lunch – Egg Muffins
A few fun finger foods with family
A few fun finger foods with family

Of course I had to take a picture of the handsome chef as well 🙂

Chris making egg muffins

We have to make the sandwiches one at a time, which might bother some, but we were all of a like mind that this gave us plenty of time to talk and catch up on each other’s lives. I shared my new favorite drink of seltzer mixed with berry tea, and Uncle John shared his train magazine. I swear the man knows everything there is to know about railroads. I particularly love how be brought us an article about the new train bridge in Letchworth, a park near where we used to live.

Train Article in Magazine

Aunt Anne is a big fan of Chris’ art so they spent some time looking at the pieces in our place, and Chris showed her some of the processes he goes through in creating — sharing drawings and such. A very pleasant time!

After lunch, we hit the pool and hot tub. And I got a nice pic of this wonderful couple and some other treasures.

Aunt Anne and Uncle John

I particularly enjoyed having the bonus of seeing David. While he and his brother used to spend time with us every other year, his life got busy with college and all (and our kids grew up and moved out). It’s been a bunch of years since we have seen him. Back in the day, we charted him on our growing wall, and he was so small, you couldn’t even see Chris’ name on the wall above him in a standard picture.

Just look at him now! All grown up.

David is as tall as Chris now
David is as tall as Chris now

Although not so grown up, he won’t take time to play in a pool when given a chance (see images of that on Aunt Anne’s Blog post). She got the action, I got the residual hair style, haha 🙂

David's fun hair after a swim
David’s fun hair after a swim

They had to continue the journeys so we wrapped up the day with some coffee final smiles for the gift of our time together. I love this image of Aunt Anne particularly because it shows the twinkle in her eye that is familiar to me. And Uncle John is grinning as if he’s already working on coming up with a new pun. I feel the beauty of their souls really shine through.

Visits with relatives really are the best.

Enjoying the Slopes with my Aunt and Cousin

Part 1

Warmer weather hit the Berkshires and Chris and I were ready to really enjoy our “weekend” days (Thursday and Friday). Added to the fun, today I got to share the experience with relatives, including my aunt who also loves snow and mountains. I think a lot of you already follow her, and if not, you should check out her site 😉 She is a brilliant writer who takes everyday life and makes it super fun to read about. Anyway, today she joined us on the slopes — virtually. And my cousin joined in later as well.

At the base we met up on Facebook video from my phone. Any video service would have worked, but this was easiest at the time. I popped in my earphone and held the phone as we went to the ski lift and journeyed up. We showed her the slope we planned to hit, a hotel where a relative had stayed recently, our home and a windmill we would see closer in a bit.

This image was actually taken at the end of the run. It's David and Aunt Anne checking out the slopes.
Actually an end-of-the-run shot

She was very patient as I got off the lift and strapped in. We were able to talk even when the video was shaky, then it was time to hit the hill. I went down a relatively easy trail that I knew I could handle. It was a good day for this. Warm, slightly slushy and some patches of ice, but not terrible, and no crowds.

Our piece of paradise is Jiminy Peak Resort in the Berkshire Mountain Range in Massachusetts (answering her questions from her post here). As I went down the mountain, I kept the camera facing away so Aunt Anne could see the run in front of us. She got to see Chris playing around, demonstrating proper snowboard techniques (not my heel-side only stance). I did explain people who do it right mostly point straight down and not keep going side-to-side as I do. haha.

She saw the mountain coaster, the alpine slide and the pool and hot tub in front of our place. Also seeing how close we are to the slopes. When I was nearing the bottom, my cousin’s son, David, joined us for the run.

It was really fun for all of us, and they agreed to let me take the screenshots above. I hope we can do it again sometime.

This was the Ski Tracks app stat summary for our run together:

In her blog post, Aunt Anne commented that I was telling her about toes and heels. The rest of this post is kind of about that. Once upon a time, a bit over 24 hrs ago….

Part 2 of my fun slope days this “weekend”

Yesterday (Thursday) the slopes were unbelievably perfect for a person of my skill level. As Chris pointed out, you could point straight down and not worry about going too fast.

Ice was rare, and the sun was shining. The rides on the chairlifts were like basking in the sun on a beach (but a bit more fun). I heard robins and phoebes and saw some buds on the trees. And even some friendly faces in the woods 🙂

Small stump with a smiley face
If you look closely, that little one has a smiley face etched on it. Kind of reminds me of a tree Gumby.

This is always a bittersweet time of year. Summer temps and longer daylight are wonderful, too, but it’s sad to say goodbye to all the beautiful snow. So we are grabbing all of it we can.

This season I was really working on turning right (toe-side) better.

As you can see in this pic, I’m a rather embarrassing heel-rider. Can you tell which part of the board is closest to my heels?

Bottom of a snowboard

The toe-side turns are kind of starting to happen. I don’t have video from today, but I was able to do it at a much faster pace than in times past. Here are some video clips from last autumn and yesterday. Feel free to mute. Some people like the sound of snow scraping, but it can be annoying if you aren’t in the mood.

Here is a clip from November:

And here is a clip from yesterday (March 14, 2019):

Please note how stiff I was and how flat the terrain was in the first video compared to the second video 🙂 I’m working on relaxing, bending my knees and leaning down the hill before I turn.

If you want to see the entire top half of that run – here it is. Beautiful views at the start:

Jumping back to today. I saw this video of my turns last night. I do see how my right arm is winging out and is quite tense. Today I practiced going down the hill with my right hand pinching the left side of my jacket as if it was in a sling to train myself to not count on it for balance.

Chris noticed I was much more relaxed when holding the phone for my aunt so in my final few runs, I let my right arm hang down, but pretended she was on the other side of a camera and focused on keeping it smooth. It’s really working. Yay!

The Views Here Blow my Mind Regularly

Windmill at hill top
Zephyr, the windmill at hill top
Mountain view
Chris enjoying the view
Clouds and mountain
Clouds extending the mountain view

Yup, God done good! And I’m so thankful to be able to be out enjoying the gifts given.

How to Use a Website to Tell Your Genealogy Story

From Feb 27-March 2 I had the privilege of talking about website creation while working at the WordPress.com booth at RootsTech 2019. Genealogy is so interesting, and the stories that come out of research are incredibly fascinating. During the conference I gave a talk about Using a Website to Tell Your Genealogy Story.

All the options I am writing about here can be done using a free WordPress.com plan. It’s important to note that one of the great reasons WordPress.com is perfect for compiling genealogy information is privacy policies. Entire sites can be private, or a site can be public but certain pages and posts can be private. This is described more on our privacy support page.

Disclaimer: The examples I used are not factual. Parts of some are, but I mish-mashed/fabricated names and geographical locations for the sake of privacy.

How can a website and/or blog help you tell your genealogy story?

Take a moment and think about the information you would like to share with others if you were writing a book. What is most important for you to pass on?

With websites, if you can dream it, you can almost always make it happen.

When I was a child, I remember learning that my aunt was delving into our family history. This was at a time where people didn’t have ready access to computers so she was doing all her research by scrolling through hard-copy records. It was an amazing gift for our family.

List of family names.

I saw the list of names, and it was kind of cool.

That is something that can be shared. After many trips to a copying center where I copied stacks of documents and mailed them to family members, I can really appreciate the thought they they can go to a site and download a copy easily.

I did this using the File Block.

File Block in the Editor.

Now my family can have easy access to those records and can download the file whenever they want.

Download button showing on published page.

What else can we do?

Something that really stood out to me when I was a child was the visual of our family coat of arms.

Family Crest

How I loved seeing this. It made me feel like I really was a piece in a big puzzle — a part of something awesome. Not only did I have a family, but we had a common goal. Yield not to adversity.

I want to share that on my site so all our family members can see it. But I also want to know more about it so I’m going to ask family members for input then share responses in a future post.

Contact Form on Family Crest.

This adds more to my genealogical story.

Last year while I was here at RootsTech I was talking with a person about the Contact Form, which I used to create that response form. The person came up with the idea for using it for photos from family events she could not label. Brilliant.

Family photo and questionnaire on favorite memories and people in photo.

A comment section can be used for that as well. Create a post with an image of a special event (maybe last year’s reunion?) and ask people to share their favorite memories from the event. The same can be done with the image of a person.

Letters delivered through door mail slot.

Decades went by and technology changed. As did family reunions. I bet you can relate. Years ago it was all about playing with cousins seen once or twice a year. Relatives sometimes kept in touch by phone or an occasional letter, but communication wasn’t constant. Reunion time was spent re-creating the family connections and re-discovering common interests.

But then social media happened.

Icons showing social media.

Suddenly reunions weren’t about re-meeting but became more focused on bonding. This opened opportunities for stories about family history. Very cool stuff. Suddenly, the names on that original family tree became real.

Another person from last year told me they were taking advantage of the option to schedule posts so they could write a post for each family member they were close to. The posts would come out on the family member’s birthday. What a gift to that person, and to the rest of the family as well, as they get to know a relative better.

Showing how to schedule posts with the scheduling tool in the editor.

This bonding can happen with a website, too. As family members talk, share treasures and reminisce, the bond grows stronger.

Imagine how this can build over time! Unlike a book, a website can continue expanding, and facts can be edited and added on to as time progresses without having to go back to a printer.

Think of the things you might share:

Poem from the early 1900s
Letter from a World War II foxhole.

Poetry from a century ago? A letter written from a WWII foxhole? Now treasures an entire family can appreciate.

With the search tool on a website, the treasures are easily found. And the menu is also a handy tool for sorting. You can set categories to highlight different branches of the family tree.

Search widget on the site.

Those can even be color-coordinated to show the family branches.

Use colors to show family branches in the block editor for the paragraph.

With WordPress.com, people can have more than one site on an account. Some families might choose to have a site for a father’s line and another for a mother’s line (or other family members). These sites can be interlinked from the menu as well.

Showing sub menu items

Searches and menus are very handy tools for telling a genealogy story in an organized fashion.

As with a book, aesthetics are important and you don’t want to overwhelm people who come to the site to learn about family treasures. You can use sub-menu items to highlight other fun family items for sharing.

Uncle Charlie’s famous eggnog recipe? Great memories.

EggNog recipe showing shortcode

Grandma’s pancakes? A family favorite.

Pancake recipe

Dad’s chicken? All now shared family recipes.

Picture of Curried Chicken

One of my favorite parts of this sort of sharing is that you an access these recipes even while traveling so the next time your family gathers at the beach house or on your ski vacation, the treasured recipes are right at your fingertips.

Menu showing sub menu items for recipes in gif

Aside from recorded posts and pages, there are also other ways families can share experiences on a website.

One family I know has a book club. This can be organized through a website, and you can add a calendar showing the date of a meeting.

There is even a countdown Milestone Widget you can add to a site to note the event. (This is also handy for family reunions).

Milestone and calendar widgets

When the time comes, there can be a group chat about the book.

Even if a family is spread out across the country, it’s still entirely feasible to start a chat using a widget to discuss a book or talk about other topics, without ever having to leave the website.

In this screenshot I used the tlk.io widget for chat.

Chat box on website

Someone can take notes and write a summary post for the family who couldn’t join to see. In that summary, there can even be a link to the book discussed

Links are one of the greatest features of a website and can be used to really enhance a genealogical story. They can be used to add details to a family story. Birth records, descriptions of hometowns, public records of events a family member was written up in.

Showing how to add links

If other family members have websites highlighting their own lives or their businesses, links to those sites fill in the gaps in the family story.

When content on a page comes from research, links are great for citations and footnotes. A simple click will lead people to original resources.

Sometimes there is nothing to link to. That’s okay. There is a tool built in to WordPress.com that you can turn on. It’s called related posts. These lead people to other posts you have written that connect to similar topics.

For example, in a post I wrote recently, I mentioned Mor Mor sewing pockets for my cousin, and the related post at the base of my current post was my article about Mor Mor from when she died. Of course, when I went to grab a screenshot, that option no longer showed. Ah well, here is another example:

Another handy way to help people experience the story you are sharing is to use images and documents to make stories real by grabbing screenshots of information you don’t want to link to that might add to a story. For example, if you wanted to write a story about a family trip on Christmas day from decades ago, you can go to a site such as https://www.weather.org/weather-history/.

Weather history for December 25, 1947 in Utah.

And take a screenshot of the weather from that day.

That way your readers will have more of a connection to the story but don’t actually have to break away from your page by following a link.

You can also connect people to stories – past and present – by using maps.

If I read a story about my grandfather from Hungary, I would think it was interesting. But if I followed a link to a page that told me about the history of the area and the cultural treasures of the area then looked at a map to see where Hungary was located in relationship to where I live, then I will feel more connected.

Maps of Hungary and NY

That’s great for stories from the past. It’s also handy to have maps that show current family connections.

Adding a map to a site shows other family members where you live. If you are traveling to an area, check the map to see if anyone is close. It’s great for a coffee and catch-up.

Map with multiple locations highlighted.

Of course, this would all be voluntary so only people who want their locations showing would have it there.

In addition to adding maps to specific stories, you can put maps on separate pages showing where family members came from in case anyone wants to take a tour through their family history.

Screenshot of DNA Explained site

That’s what Roberta Estes did. She has a blog on https://dna-explained.com and one of my favorite posts on her site is the one in which she wrote a story in the voice of her grandfather, and actually travelled to the places his story took place in.

Speaking of voices, do you have audio recordings of family history? Or videos? (Other ways of adding video can be found on https://en.support.wordpress.com/videos/).

Back in the early 1990’s I interviewed my grandmother, asking her story of the past. It was a Christmas gift for my extended family. Now I can take the cassette and convert it to an mp3 and add it to the website so we can hear her voice regale our family history.

We have videos of my father-in-law preaching from years before he died. Now we can embed them into a website so our children and grandchildren can seem him and listen to him.

I don’t have those recorded and embedded yet, but I do have examples of some fun family treasures.

I added that audio with an audio block and the video with a YouTube block.

Image of YouTube block.

If there are particular stories one might want to share, it’s also possible to turn a site into a hard-copy book for others.

Family Book

Perhaps you want to share your book with others and need them to help cover costs. Or order shirts for a family reunion.

Gone are the days where you have to call relatives and wait for checks to come in the mail as you meticulously keep a list of who gets what. You can now take payments and orders right through your website.

You can do this using PayPal on a free site:

PayPal in draft

PayPal published

Or by using Simple Payments if you have a Premium or Business Plan:

Simple Payment editor
Simple payment final

If you have the Business Plan, you can even use a plugin such as Woo Commerce to add a cart and take orders that are drop-shipped.

Not only that, but if you wanted to create some special swag for reunions you can find the most popular items or designs by setting up a poll on your website.

Poll setup

So many things you can do to share your story!

On a serious note, one question I get asked a lot is this:

What happens to my site when I’m no longer around or are too busy to maintain the site?

On WordPress.com, it will remain an active site until it’s cancelled. It’s recommended that one uses the User Role options to add a trusted few people as Administrators. They can then keep the site going if the site creator is no longer able to work on the site.

User Role options

Remember you are not alone.

You probably know this even more than I. Your genealogy story has so many facets. With our user roles, others can contribute to the family story, and you can still have the final say regarding what is actually published. A site can have admins, editors, authors, contributors, and of course, followers. Each who can contribute in their own way.

Followers can still comment and take part in polls. Contributors can submit research and stories for others to approve. Authors can submit stories and research and edit their own work. Editors can provide content review, and Admins can do anything.

User Roles explained

There are many other things you can do to tell your genealogy story. And sharing the work to get your genealogy story told can stretch across platforms.

With Publicize and Sharing tools, you can share your work to a Facebook page, Twitter feed and other social media platforms.

Publicize

Sharing

There are many other things you can do to tell your genealogy story.

If you have relatives who aren’t comfortable with browsers, they can follow the site by email so they are updated whenever you create a new post.

You can also create a newsletter for the family. Or highlight a podcast.

With upgrades, you can use plugins to embed and expand family trees or share information from some genealogy software you use. You can even get a domain that ends in .family 🙂

In this session I wanted to highlight could be done for free.

If you have ideas to share or questions on something you are wondering about implementing, please let me know in the comments. 🙂

A Special Day

Fifty-six years ago, our world was given an amazing gift. That was the day my husband was born. There are so many things I adore about this man, and I’m ever so thankful we are journeying through the adventures of this life together.

One of the greatest delights in my existence is opening my eyes every morning, looking at Chris, and seeing him grin at me. It’s the simple little pleasures, you know?

Anyway, here are some of my favorite photos of him from this past year. The images in no way delve into the true reality of his amazingness, but in them you can get a glimpse of fun and serious sides of this man I love.

A Diverse December

A Diverse December

December is a funky month, full of highs and lows. Perhaps for everyone, and certainly for Chris and me. And this year it seemed particularly diverse in emotions.

In December I:

  • Celebrated exciting life milestones.
  • Mourned for people no longer breathing in our earthly sphere.
  • Re-learned lessons I should have known and came pretty close to burn-out in work.
  • Took some time away from work/computers (hence the lack of blog posts this past month).
  • Relished in some slope therapy.
  • Celebrated a birthday, Christmas, a 27th-year-wedding anniversary with the yin to my yang (and vice versa) and New Year’s Eve. All very simple celebrations, but beautiful–with people who love me and who I love.
  • Felt lost in my own existence.
  • Started finding myself again.

At the end of November, I would not have predicted that December was going to hit so hard. In retrospect, I’m still not sure how or why it did. Perhaps it was because there were no kids in the house, and life was otherwise pretty stable. That gave me time to think about things a bit deeper.

All I can say is that it was a month lived. Highs, lows — that’s how it goes.

Here are some of the month’s highlights:

Embrace who you are and your divine purpose. Identify the barriers in your life, and develop discipline, courage and the strength to permanently move beyond them, and keep moving forward.

Germany Kent