Monday, April 06, 2009

News from Miriam's World

As my regular readers have probably noticed, I didn't blog much during the month of March. All right, I posted 27 items, but most were press releases sent to me from various genealogical companies and services. I didn't participate in any of the great carnivals last month, didn't write any deep or thoughtful posts, and was unable to pull my research together enough to write about a brickwall ancestor.

Truth be told, I was in a funk. January and February saw me in a great deal of pain as I returned to to my job post-surgery in an ergonomically unfriendly work environment. By the time my medical team and I figured out what the problem was and made the corrections (by improving my posture with a office footrest and adjusting my computer station), I'd been out of the writing loop long enough that putting something together felt overwhelming. Coupled with the fear that my shoulder pain might return if I increased my blogging, I held back. Additionally, I was teaching an online genealogy class once a week for six weeks, and at my day job, we were putting together portfolios. (Portfolios are the special education substitute for the standardized state test; the student testing isn't the tedious work; it's the putting together and wording all the accompanying documents, cover sheets, and data that's a nightmare, making citing your sources a la' Elizabeth Shown Mills seem like a walk in the park. One day, for example, we tossed out 12 documents that had to have the word "with" replaced with "at" in order to be acceptable. But, as usual, I digress...)

Added to my work load and health issues was just plain old depression. We have had the most snow on record this winter, which was preceded by the third most snowy winter last year (we had only four months in 2008 that did not have some sort of snowfall). Spokanites are a hardy breed, but quite honestly, we're sick of the snow, the gray overcast skies, and the equally gray piles of frozen yuck standing around in parking lots. And in late February, as I've already shared, my husband received notice that his employer is closing the plant and outsourcing to subcontractors in California and overseas. It's not exactly been the most cheerful winter I've experienced.

Spring Break was on the horizon and down I came with a nasty cold two days before the weekend. My modus operandi with colds is that they usually hit my throat and I get terrible laryngitis. I was scheduled to make two presentations at the biennial Family Trees and Ancestries Conference sponsored by the LDS Church in North Spokane on Saturday, March 28th. Although I had already used quite a bit of sick leave on my post-surgery recovery, I figured I'd better stay home and rest up so I wouldn't be speechless for the conference. Fortunately, rest was exactly what I needed and I probably recovered much faster than if I had tried to tough it out. The conference went well (although I haven't heard the official count, my guesstimate is that we had over 200 attendees), and despite my sniffles and sneezes, I had a voice.

The first part of last week (Spring Break) was spent nagging urging my teens to complete unfinished work since third quarter grades will be posted soon, which they did with a lot of whining and resistance joy and compliance. We then left Thursday morning (amidst two inches of freshly-fallen snow) for the Vancouver (WA)-Portland (OR) area to visit my husband's family for the remainder of the weekend. I always enjoy the drive along the Columbia River because I love to imagine Lewis, Clark, and Sacajawea traveling along--and much later--the brave pioneers floating their covered wagons down the river on rafts. Washington State has such a variety of climates and geography, so there's much to see even though I've done this trip a thousand times, it seems: from the rolling wheat fields of Lincoln and Adams Counties to the vineyards and orchards of the Tri-City area, to the wild scab rock and coulees and the windy Columbia Gorge, to watching the climate change as you cross the Cascades from the dry side with sparse pine forests and sagebrush to the wet side with evergreens, moss, and thick undergrowth, to the behemoth Cascades themselves--Mt. Rainier (which you can see 250 miles away on a clear day), Mt. Adams, and Mt. Hood.

Friday was spent visiting with my parents-in-law, who grew up in Western and South Central Washington and always have interesting stories to tell of their past growing up and the present going-on in the neighborhood. My kids especially enjoy listening to their grandfather talk about the times he's gone searching for Bigfoot. My mother-in-law put on her famous turkey dinner that she always serves when we visit and we ate 'til we were stuffed. Our kids enjoyed the four cats and the dog, as well as watching all the squirrels and birds that my father-in-law feeds in the backyard.

Saturday morning, my daughter and I walked to the shopping district in downtown Vancouver, where we found a darling little boutique specializing in gently used and wholesale formal gowns. After spending months looking around Spokane and online, Missy found the dress that she loves, and I'll eventually be posting her prom photos next month on my personal blog. Later that afternoon, the four of us drove over the Columbia to the city of Portland, where Norm's aunt and uncle have a houseboat right on the river.

After a delicious lunch, Norm's uncle invited the kids to use the kayaks. My daughter wasn't eager to try them, but my son was game. We've all used kayaks before--but on a small lake with little traffic--so Uncle R gave Matt some safety lessons and instructions before letting him head upriver against the current and then floating past the houseboat downstream again and paddling back "home."

It's pretty amazing to see your "baby" out paddling a kayak on the mighty Columbia alongside tugs and other river vessels! Later, Matt and his granduncle took out a RIB, a rubber-inflatable boat, and because it was under 10 hp, Matt was allowed to drive it.

Meanwhile, I visited with Aunt C, and we talked (naturally!) about the family history. She told me a few stories about her maternal great-grandmother, Rebecca Catherine (SNOOK) WESTABY, and then asked me some questions about the Westabys, knowing that I had done a lot of research. I wanted to show her some of the family photos and documents, but her computer didn't have internet access, and I didn't have my laptop with me. However, I had purchased RootsMagic4 just before we left on our trip and had the program on my flashdrive, along with my databases. I was able to give her some family information that had been previously unknown to her. One of the people we discussed was Lynn Walker WESTABY, my husband's great-grandfather's youngest brother, who had only one leg (unsure if he was born this way or had been disabled), yet was a strong swimmer. Despite that, he drowned in Tillamook Bay in the 1920s, while a young man. More on Lynn later...

We returned yesterday (Sunday) in deliciously warm weather. It was nearing 70* when we passed through the Tri-Cities. While in the Vancouver-Portland area, I had been admiring all the blooming trees and bulb flowers that were prolific, unlike the barren, stark (snow-covered) trees and shrubs at home. We were able to bring back the warm weather with us, and I happily worked on the yard after work this afternoon, trying to undo some of the damage and debris that winter had left behind.

When I got online after returning home last night, I checked the genealogy news and was surprised to see that AnceStories had been listed in ProGenealogists' 25 Most Popular Genealogy Blogs, at Number Six! I'm honored to be listed among those who are so well-known in the genealogy world, and who write so consistently and with such incredible content. I'm certain that the main reason I'm included is because I happen to be at or near the top of many blog rolls alphabetically, so naturally I tend to be one of the first sampled by new readers. In other words, it's probably more chance than anything else, but again, I'm honored to have been chosen.

As an aside, I noticed that Joe Beine had listed on his blog some updates for his Death Indexes website, including the Portland Oregonian newspaper search. Sure enough, I found a listing for Lynn WESTABY's obituary, which I plan to order through Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness!

I'm not promising more frequent posts, deeper content, or research-motivated blogging any time soon. But I wanted to assure my faithful readers that I'm still alive and kicking, reading my fellow genea-bloggers' posts with relish, looking forward to the day when life is a little less encumbered, and my trains of thought mesh with free time to bring you more interesting reading ahead!
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