Friday, December 31, 2010

The Incredible Journey :: Favorite Places

September 1, 2009 through December 19, 2010. One year, 3 months, and 18 days. 58, 727 miles. 38 States and 4 Canadian Provinces. 23 National Parks-Monuments-Seashores.

It has been an amazing ride! “What's your favorite place?” is the question I've been asked the most. It is a difficult question to answer but some places and “adventures” do, for various reasons, stand out from the rest. But I can honestly say that there hasn't been anyplace that I haven't enjoyed. Sure, the weather is sometimes uncooperative, the facilities might not be the greatest, and weird things that you have no control over do happen. But it is all part of the adventure! Even if I could, I wouldn't change any part of it!!

Niagara Falls. New York. I played the part of the perfect tourist by going to The Cave of the Winds and riding on The Maid of the Mist. And I had great fun doing it!

Maine. Visiting my cousin whom I hadn't seen in over 15 years. Kayaking. Acadia National Park. Driving along the beautiful coast.

Assateague Island. Maryland. The horses. The Sunrise. Quite simply, a most wonderful and relaxing place.

Big Bend National Park. Texas. It was here that I got my first taste of “real” hiking. And it was here that I discovered I was physically capable of more than I thought. And it was here that Mother Nature really turned it on – 80 degree temperatures one day and snow the next! I loved the range and diversity of the landscape. The mountains and the desert.

Chiricahua National Monument. Arizona. A delightful surprise with challenging trails. I was so enchanted by this place that I visited it twice! The first time was in the second week of March with a return visit six weeks later.

Death Valley National Park. California. Beautiful wildflowers. Sand dunes. Desert. Mountains. And a surprising up-close encounter with a coyote.

Grand Canyon National Park. Arizona. Specifically The Bright Angel Trail. I met my friends Sue and Fred for an unforgettable journey into the Grand Canyon. It was my first night sleeping out in the open, beneath the stars. And my first overnight backpacking hike. It was challenging and at times I wasn't sure I would make it back up to the rim!

Zion National Park. Utah. Angels Landing Trail. I surprised even myself with this little hike! Challenging. Frightening. Thrilling.

Hovenweep National Monument. Utah. There was a mystical quality about this place that captured my imagination. Thought provoking.

Mesa Verde National Park. Colorado. The cliff dwellings were indescribable. Not far from Hovenweep, they too had a mystical quality about them. At times I felt that the Ancient People were walking alongside me.

Montana. After ten months on the road, I was in need of a break. Thank goodness for friends! Susan and Don allowed me to rest and relax in their vacation home in southwest Montana for almost the entire month of July! Then it was north to Glacier National Park before heading even further north.

Alaska! The culmination of a long-awaited dream. The Big Adventure. A seemingly never-ending drive through Canada. Soggy weather. Denali. Kayaking. Glaciers. Whales. Bears. Unforgettable.

A special highlight of the Journey was being able to meet other Genealogy Bloggers in person: Apple in Snowville. Denise in St. Augustine in 2009 and again in 2010. Carol in Pensacola. Kathryn, Steve, Sheri, and Craig in California. Sheri for a second time in Stockton. A bunch of bloggers at the Southern California Genealogy Jamboree and at the Family History Expo in Pleasanton. And, last but not least, Miriam in Spokane. There was one other blogger that I met with but for some reason it never got posted and for that I apologize – you know who you are!

left photo: Miriam, footnoteMaven, Becky, Kathryn, Cheryl, Denise, Elyse
right photo: Thomas, Joan, Becky, Randy, Miriam, Craig, and Susan

A "Page" for "The Journey 2009-2012" has been created that lists the States and some of the places I've visited. It can be accessed directly from the tab at the top of the blog.

I know that a lot of you - my readers - have come along with me on this journey across our marvelous country and I'd like to know if YOU have a favorite place, adventure, or photograph that I've posted. What did you like the most? Was there something specific that didn't you like? Tell me about it!

Good News... Bad News...

I've been putting off writing this post for the past few days... writing it down is somehow different than just talking about it... writing about it makes it more real.

Bad News...The results from the biopsy a week ago Wednesday (12/22) shows that Mom has rectal cancer. According to the doctor, the tumor is a “large” one so she's had it for a while. The symptoms she had were diagnosed as something somewhat minor (hemorrhoids) so it was a bit of a shock when the doctor told us last week that he was sure it was a cancerous tumor. The biopsy has confirmed that diagnosis.

Good News... Mom had a CT Scan this past Monday (12/27) and the results came in on Tuesday along with the news of the biopsy. The cancer appears to be “localized” to the tumor. It has not spread to her liver. In fact, the doctor was “surprised” to see that her liver was in such good condition. She's had other tests in the past year that, considering the fact that she is 82 years old, show her heart and kidneys are also in good shape.

The cancer is by no means an immediate death sentence. Mom is borderline diabetic, has memory issues (diagnosed as dementia), and is very weak (uses a walker). She has had frequent episodes of falling in the past year but, thankfully, has not had any serious injuries from the falls and it has been over a month since the last fall. Various tests have found no cause but I suspect a sudden drop in blood pressure to be the culprit.

The Treatment... She goes in on Monday (01/03) for a consultation with a radiologist in Fort Wayne. The doctor said she would have radiation treatment five days a week for six weeks. Radiation is not a cure. His goal is to shrink the tumor to relieve the pain and bleeding and make her more comfortable. At this point we don't know what “stage” the cancer is in. We might know more about that after Monday. There is a possibility of surgery after the radiation but the doctor doesn't want to do it unless it is absolutely necessary. It would mean removal of part of the colon and the rectum and she would then have to have a colostomy bag.

My plans? To stick around as long as I'm needed or wanted. Family dynamics being a slippery slope, I don't want to step on any toes or make things any more difficult than they already are. As for my plans, the bad news is that I'll miss attending the RootsTech Conference in Salt Lake City in February but the good news is I now have some time to review my genealogy database and perhaps even do some local research!

In the past few days my blogs have gotten a little bit of a facelift. Long overdue but rather minor changes. I've pretty much ignored Whitley County Kinexxions over the past two years and that isn't going to change any time soon, but it is still out there and occasionally gets some visitors. The data files on my soon-to-be-defunct website have been transferred to the Genealogical Society of Whitley County website. After nearly eight years, my website has outlived it's usefulness and will drop out of cyberspace the first week of March 2011.

My thanks and appreciation go out to each and every one of you who have commented and provided moral support with your thoughts and prayers these last two weeks. Thank You.

I'm going to steal a wonderful quote for the New Year from Bill West who got it from Cheryle Hoover Davis:

"May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art -- write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself." - Neil Gaiman

May you – my readers – have a safe, healthy and happy New Year and may 2011 be a Great Year!

Kinexxions :: Carnival of Genealogy Contributions

100 (There's one in every family!) He was a Rascal... - My Grandfather Charles Wilson Wiseman

87 (New Years Resolutions) Ain't Makin' No Resolutions!
84 (What has the CoG Meant to You?) Something Better than Good
78 (Pony Pictures) Not exactly of the "Ride 'em Cowboy" genre..
77 (Disasters) The Year Without a Summer
76 (Summer Vacations) 'Twas the Summer of '59
74 (Swimsuit Edition) Sorry, no bathing beauties here!
73 (The Good Earth) Tillers of the Soil
69 (Rewriting History) The Best Gift - Ever!
68 (Women's History Month) Three Women
66 (iGene Awards) The 2008 iGene Awards for Kinexxions
65 (The Happy Dance. The Joy of Genealogy - hosted at Kinexxions) Making Connections
64 (Winter Photo Essay) Ah, the joys of winter!
63 (New Year's Resolutions) A Little Over-Optimistic? Perhaps.

62 (Three Wishes) Just Three Wishes
61 (Traditions) Holiday Traditions and Memories
59 (Politics and Our Ancestors) Did they get involved?
57 (Read it in the News) Found 'em in the Newspaper!
56 (Genealogy Library) Indispensable Bookshelf
55 (Show & Tell) The Sisley Family Bible
54 (Family Language) Say What?
53 (Open Topic) The Case of the $12 Box Coat
52 (Age) Live Long And Prosper...
51 (Independent Spirit) Robert Quillen
50 (Family Pets) Buster, Rover, and Bootsie
49 (Swimsuit Edition) Two Stylish Ladies
48 (Mom: How'd You Get So Smart)Lessons Learned
47 (A Place Called Home) A Place Some Ancestors Called Home
46 (Inherited Traits) Why I am the way I am?
45 (Cars) Cars - A Necessary Evil
44 (Tribute to Women) Aunt Jane
43 (Technology) Genea-Techie Stuff
42 (iGene Awards) The 2007 iGene Awards for Kinexxions
41 (Dinner with Ancestors) Who, What, When, Where, Why?
40 (Living-Relative Connections) Connecting With Kin
39 (New Year's Resolutions) The Two Faced Monster 2007-2008

38 (The New Millennium) New Year's Eve 1999
37 (Wish Lists) My Genealogy Wish List
36 (Open Topic) Are You Prepared? I'm Not.
34 (Halloween & the Supernatural) A Night Not Soon Forgot
33 (Weddings) Nothing Special - A bit of a Mystery
32 (Wartime Stories) Dad and the 511th
31 (Family Myths) Michael & Christenia Fisher and Armenian Ancestors?
30 (Genealogical Conferences/Seminars) Genealogy Conferences
29 (Moral or Legal Dilemmas in Genealogy) There are no easy answers
28 (Surnames) The Phend Surname
27 (America/Independence Day - hosted at Kinexxions) Independence Day - No, Not the Movie
26 (Dads) Grandpa Vic
25 (Creative Genes) Necessity is the mother of invention...
24 (Mothers) Mothers and Grandmothers
23 (School Days) Scott School and Crow's Corner School
22 (Open Topic) The Battle of Shiloh (Pittsburg Landing)
21 (Funny, Foolish, Family) A bit of humor for April 1st
20 (Tribute to Women) Grandma's Story
19 (Shelter from the Storm) The Homes of my Youth
18 (Tips for Specific Research Areas) Five Sites in Northeast Indiana
17 (Giving Thanks) Who was my inspiration? How did I get into this?
16 (Food & Family Recipes) Carnival of Genealogy - food!

Originally posted on November 12, 2009. Last updated December 31, 2010.

Monday, December 20, 2010

It's Not Over...

I was so looking forward to spending the rest of the year on the beaches of Padre Island in South Texas, soaking up the nice, warm sunshine! And traveling further west again to explore places that I missed the last time through... but sometimes, life throws you a curve ball, and "plans" change.

The Journey has made a U-turn and is on Indefinite Hold. After several very nice days in the Texarkana, Texas area (one day was in the mid-70s!!), I'm back in Indiana.

I'm fine – it's my Mother – she has some medical problems that are far more serious than we were originally told. She goes to the doctor on Wednesday for a scope to determine the size of a tumor in her colon and to take samples to send off to see if it is cancer. We probably won't know anything definite until after Christmas. Once we know what it is we will know what course of action needs to be taken. And we'll do what needs to be done. And hope and pray for a positive outcome.

In the meantime, I'll have the wonderful memories of the many fantastic places I've been these past 15 months and the dreams of the places yet to be seen... It's Not Over!

Big Lagoon State Park, Pensacola, Florida
November 18, 2010

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Family Tree Magazine 40 Best Genealogy Blogs

The nominees were announced for the Family Tree Magazine 2011 “40 Best Genealogy Blogs” earlier this week. My congratulations go out to all of the nominees...

Voting closes at midnight on Monday December 20th, so you still have a few days to make your selections. Five nominees are to be chosen in each of the eight categories: Everything, Cemeteries, Technology, Heritage Groups, Research Advice/How-to, Local/Regional Research, New Blogs, and My Family History. Family Tree Magazine will announce the results in their July 2011 issue.

Thomas MacEntee has a comprehensive list of the nominees, which includes the name of the person who writes the blog. Quite a few blogs that I'm not familiar with made the list. And quite a few that I thought should be there aren't. But that is the nature of lists and open nominations. You can't vote for kinexxions since I haven't been blogging about my genealogy this year (and, no, I didn't expect to be on the list) but you can cast your vote for those you deem worthy of the honor. So, Go Vote!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Gone to Texas...

Monday morning I left Columbia City. With daytime temperatures in the low teens for the 3 days I was there, I was looking forward to some warmer weather!

While I was home in October, my best friend from my college days (Indiana State University 1979-1982) found me on Facebook! (And through her I "friended" our Photography Professor and another classmate.) I hadn't seen Connie since 1985 (or thereabouts). I've driven through Terre Haute several times in the last 20 years and each time would think of her but never took the time to stop.

Monday afternoon I paid Connie a long-overdue visit. I took a chance that she would be home and not busy and stopped without calling ahead. Not good form, I know, but I didn't know I was going to stop until I got to the Third Street exit!

As luck would have it, she was home! We had a wonderful visit, though only about 90 minutes long. It was great to see her again and hopefully it won't be quite so long until the next visit!

Connie and Me. Photo taken by her daughter. December 13, 2010.

Connie's grandson, Declan, was doing his best to stuff his hand in my mouth!
He is such a cutie! Blonde hair, blue eyes, chubby cheeks. And so sweet.

Snow was on the ground, but the Interstates in Indiana were mostly clear. They had just enough moisture on them so that trucks and cars sent up a fine salty mist. My black van is mostly white right now. Driving through Illinois on I-70 there were an awful lot of cars and semi-trucks in the median and along both sides of the highway. Many were “right side up” but several were on their sides and a couple had completely rolled over. Not a pleasant sight and I was thankful that I had missed the really bad weather.

Turning south on I-57 and I-55, the temperature started slowly rising, from 16 to a high of 24! Once into northern Arkansas the snow had disappeared and the roads were dry. Yesterday afternoon I smiled as the sun came out and the temp kept going up. It was a blustery 55 degrees when I stopped for the night a little ways west of Texarkana, and 55 degrees never felt so good before!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

She Won't be Forgot...

A week ago today (December 7, 2010) my Aunt Phyllis passed away at her home in Columbia City, Indiana at the age of 88. Due to my own negligence (not checking voice mail for two days – shame on me!) I didn't find out about it until Wednesday night. On Thursday morning I left the nice warm home of my friend in northeast Louisiana and headed to the frigid north. After 900 miles, seven states, two time zones, crossing the Mississppi River three times, and 25 hours later, I arrived home safely Friday morning. Visitation was Friday afternoon and the service was Saturday morning.

But I wasn't the only one to drive a long distance to pay my respects to Aunt Phyllis – her sister, my Aunt Shirley drove from Maryland and my older brother Doug came down from Minneapolis. As her daughter Kathy said, it was a testament to how much Phyllis was loved that we would drive so far to be able to be in her presence one last time. [Update 2:30 pm - I had a memory lapse... Phyllis' grandson Jameson Mitchell and his mother Emmy flew in from California to attend the services.]

It was nice to see many of my cousins and their children, some whom I hadn't seen in many years, and their grandchildren, some whom I had never seen. Though it was sad that death is what brought us together there was joy and happiness in sharing stories and memories of Aunt Phyllis and honoring her long life, one well lived.

One word was spoken over and over during those two days that describes Aunt Phyllis – Special. And that she was. Not only was she so very special, Aunt Phyllis had the ability to make you feel special. She didn't condemn. She didn't judge. She listened. And she talked, and boy, was she a talker! She never spoke badly about anyone. Never an unkind word to or about anyone. She was kind, gentle and loving, and one of the nicest people I have ever known. She was Special.

Aunt Phyllis sometimes did silly or “stupid” things. But she was able to laugh at herself. One of my favorite stories about her involves a little night light that wasn't!
Phyllis and Walt lived in Columbia City in an old two-story house that was difficult to keep warm in the winter. During one particularly cold winter in the 1960s they purchased an electric blanket. It was their first one and she was quite pleased with it. One day while showing it to her brother Bill, after raving about how well it was keeping them warm and comfortable at night, she commented that they didn't need the night light that was on the control so she always turned it off. When Bill pointed out that the “night light” was actually a light to indicate that the blanket was turned on she laughed about it and got through the embarrassment and the story has been told over and over through the years.
Phyllis Elizabeth Phend was born in Columbia City, Indiana on September 29, 1922 and was the first child of Rolland Victor and Hazlette (Brubaker) Phend. She lived most of her life in Whitley County, graduating from Larwill High School with the Class of 1940. Phyllis married Walter Eugene Mitchell on December 6, 1942 (the day before the bombing of Pearl Harbor). She passed away on December 7, 2010 (the day after what would have been their 68th wedding anniversary).

Phyllis and Walt opened “Mitchell's Bait and Tackle” store in their home in Columbia City in 1946. They kept it going for 23 years closing it down in 1969. Walt was also a collector of post cards and old bottles, while Phyllis loved collecting buttons and old dolls. For many years they attended shows and auctions buying and selling their stuff. And since Aunt Phyllis “never knew a stranger” they always had a good time while doing it. She enjoyed it immensely.

Phyllis was the mother of five children: Kathy, Mike, Patrick (died in an accident in 1948 at the age of two), Jim and Kevin. She had 8 grandchildren, 12 great grandchildren, 4 step-great-grandchildren and was expecting 1 great-great-grandchild due in March of 2011. She was a “second Mom” to many of the kids in the neighborhood.

Mike, Kathy, Walt, Phyllis, Kevin, Jim
I think this was taken at their 50th wedding anniversary in December 1992.

March 2008. The siblings.
Patricia, William, Shirley, Virginia, and Phyllis (seated).

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

An Update...

After having arrived at my friends place in Louisiana last Friday evening, I've been off the road for a few days. I'll be here for a couple more days but am planning to leave on Sunday. Even though it has been cold here (highs in the 40s and lows in the 20s) I'm thankful that I'm not further north and that I don't have to endure the snow and colder weather! And even more thankful for friends that provide a place to stay out of the weather!

I've been taking advantage of the “down time” to work on a little project... I've decided to “dismantle” my website. It has been more than two years since I've added anything new so I think it is time to let it go. The Whitley County pages are going to be moved to the website of the Genealogical Society of Whitley County (which is now at its new location on the web) and some of the family data will eventually be moved here to this blog. Yesterday, I finished modifications to the Whitley County pages and got them sent off to their webmaster.

Now I've got to consider how and when family information will be posted to the blog. There is my Grandmother's autobiography, a series of 30+ letters written to the Berlin family in the 1860s and 70s, and a lot of obituaries that I've transcribed. Those things will keep me busy for a while ;-)

But mostly, I'm just takin' it easy.... and thinking of warmer days...

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Adieu Anastasia

Okay, this is it. The last of the photos from Anastasia Island...and Florida. I'm on my way west, towards Louisiana to visit friends for a few days...

Anastasia Island
St. Augustine, Florida
November 30, 2010

Friday, December 03, 2010

Beach Scenes

A few more images from a wonderful day at the beach! Anastasia Island, St. Augustine, Florida. November 30, 2010.

And, if it is any consolation to those of you "up North", the high temperature for the past three days has been about 60 degrees...

Thursday, December 02, 2010

This, That, and the Other Thing


I had a wonderful time visiting my niece and her family at Thanksgiving. Yes, I know that was a week ago but I haven't mentioned it yet... It took Valen a little while to warm up to me and he eventually did give me a big smile but it was ever so fleeting...

My great-grand nephew Valen and his mother Jasmine. Thanksgiving Day.


I arrived in Saint Augustine on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Spent that afternoon and all day Monday with Denise Olson. Yesterday I was a bum on the beach the entire day and today was mostly spent in two different auto shops for routine maintenance on the van (oil change, alignment, two tires). But Denise and her husband Dave and I got together for a farewell supper...

Dave said "I am smiling!"
He's really quite a character. And I mean that in a good way.

Thanks Denise, for giving up one of your days off and spending it with me! I've enjoyed my visit and it was great to see you both again.

And the other thing...

Sunset at Anastasia Island, Saint Augustine, Florida. November 30, 2010.