Answers that never came…

Every day I run out the mail box or jaunt by it on my way home. Every day that letter doesn’t come again. My thoughts are plagued with questions. “Did I take it too far?” “Did I push too much?” Then I convince myself that he just hasn’t had the time. In a follow up to my research and interviews I sent my grandfather a letter. I asked some pretty simple questions. I felt like they were unobtrusive but pushed enough to garner answers that would further my own goal for this project and allow him to share the sentimental aspects of his heritage.

Question 1: Can you share with me a recipe that you grew up eating and a memory that surrounds it? This question seemed so appropriate because the one and only way I even knew of my Czech/Bohemian heritage was through cooking. Every year when I see my grandfather for a holiday his comforts seem to come from these Bohemian recipes. As well as, my memories of my great grandmother often center with her around the kitchen and cooking. As well, my grand father and his father were bakers. My great grand father owned his own Czech bakery which I found out through newspapers. My own grandfather worked most of his life after the military working in a Chicago polish bakery.

Question 2: Do you remember any specific traditions or customs that your parents brought over from Bohemia?  This question I hoped would reveal things that were important to him growing up. Because frankly I don’t know any of them. I know the food traditions. But if there are Czech traditions that my family carry out I am clueless of their origins and clueless if they have meaning.

Question 3: Did your parents ever talk about their adjustment to the United States to you? Now this one I realized might push the envelope some but I fully expected him to just ignore it if he didn’t wish to answer. This question would pry at the reasons why this heritage has remained a secret. Which is something I honestly can only provide an academic answer too. That still saddens me since I feel like that goal of this project and the one question I could not get answered other than through historical research.

Question 4: Do you think there are any important things I should share with my girls about your parents? The truth is my memories are vague and of an eight year old girl. Most of the time I became lost in translation due to the heavy what I believed to be slavic tone. But I want to share this with my daughters. Every holiday I replicate recipes to the best of my abilities for them to at least taste that heritage. But I want stories. They have stories of all other aspects of my family. But this that is so rich and so close is untouchable at times and that is difficult.

For many years my correspondence with my grandparents took place via letter writing and we always carried a sentimental bond that way so I believed this might be the best way to finish off this research. But I haven’t heard from him yet. It has been almost two weeks since I sent him the letter. I am hoping that I am not hearing because he is busy or not feeling well. He did under go an emergency gall bladder surgery about a week before I sent the note and I know he wasn’t feeling very good even after.

So my research on this project has to fill in the gaps that I cannot communicate either because people are deceased or because I cannot get those that I can talk to confirm. The way I have filled in those gaps is similar to what I read in part 3 of Beyond the Archives. I just allowed history to parallel with locations, times and people where I could and when that didn’t work I tried to rely on the stories I had been told and when that didn’t work I tried to let the archives tell me the story. But the reality is some things still remain and likely will continue to remain a mystery. I have to find a way to be okay with that.

I started this project all starry eyed and hopeful that I could answer every question out there that I had or every mysterious story I have been told. I quickly learned that I cannot uncover the truth to every story. But I certainly did uncover some very important truths. And that cannot be lost in what I did not find.

The Writer – For My Daughters

The Writer  by Richard Wilbur

In her room at the prow of the house
Where light breaks, and the windows are tossed with linden,
My daughter is writing a story.

 I pause in the stairwell, hearing
From her shut door a commotion of typewriter-keys
Like a chain hauled over a gunwale.

Young as she is, the stuff
Of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy:
I wish her a lucky passage.

But now it is she who pauses,
As if to reject my thought and its easy figure.
A stillness greatens, in which

The whole house seems to be thinking,
And then she is at it again with a bunched clamor
Of strokes, and again is silent.

I remember the dazed starling
Which was trapped in that very room, two years ago;
How we stole in, lifted a sash

And retreated, not to affright it;
And how for a helpless hour, through the crack of the door,
We watched the sleek, wild, dark

And iridescent creature
Batter against the brilliance, drop like a glove
To the hard floor, or the desk-top,

And wait then, humped and bloody,
For the wits to try it again; and how our spirits
Rose when, suddenly sure,

It lifted off from a chair-back, 
Beating a smooth course for the right window
And clearing the sill of the world.

It is always a matter, my darling,
Of life or death, as I had forgotten.  I wish
What I wished you before, but harder.

Don’t like to brag….but just gotta.

I am not really a bragger. In fact, I was pretty much raised that most accomplishments and brags are meant to be kept to yourself. If you did it you did it at a time and place where it would normally be warranted. For instance, graduation or celebration of a major accomplishment. But I have three awesome little ladies that deserve all sorts of bragging and while I appreciate the occasional mom brag post I know no one wants to read a post every day about how great my kids are. They are great. I know they are. You know they are. But I have to brag today, so if you don’t like my kid is so wonderful posts…look away! NOW! Cause it is happening!

My daughter (#1) got handpicked by her music teacher to participate in a very unique program that is ran in Northern Indiana and is taught by the Foundation for Art and Music in Education. All of this week she is attending a workshop working FAME’s composer in residence who has composed music all over the US and for the Fort Wayne Philharmonic for more years than I can count. Every year 30 fourth graders from around this portion of the state are given the opportunity to work one on one with this composer and create a piece of music that will be featured in the annual FAME festival in the spring.

All this week they work with the composer to create pieces first on just hand instruments from all over the globe and eventually that transitions into state of the art musical applications that are carried through on an Apple Imac and keyboard. Special permissions are given by many involved so these kids create signature pieces that is individually theirs to claim and they will own the intelligence rights to after. After this week the composer begins work with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic and the Fort Wayne Youth Ballet creating a number to the piece that these children compose.

Then during the annual FAME Arts Festival in the spring, that features children’s art work and special musical numbers from children from all over the state a special banquet will take place and this piece will be performed. It is an performance that tickets have to be purchased and most people are invited specifically because they have contributed to the arts in this area. If you want to keep up on what this group will be doing you can keep up with their FAMEous Composers Blog here. It is my understanding that after we hand in our releases today this site will share the already numerous videos and photos of this project and they will continue to do so.

It is just such a cool opportunity for my girl and to see her surrounded in all this technology is just where she wants to be. Anyone that doesn’t know she is my teckie! Impressed by it all and wants it all. I have a feeling a Mac and Ipad will be on her Christmas list (she doesn’t want much does she?). Yesterday as I watched her work with these awesome musicians and create these wonderful sounds I was able to sit back and just really enjoy seeing her. I knew she was smart, but she is so smart it blew me away! I was super proud to say the least.

~~~~~~

Not to be outdone by sis # 2 has some pretty amazing accomplishments. As most of you readers know the beginning of the school year was hard for her. Transitions in her life suck. They suck for her and they suck for everyone around her. We finally accomplished many hurdles I believe. Her tests scores on the computer consistently showed declining  numbers or issues that seemed to need addressed. I was told my # 2, who tested higher on intelligence than myself in all her testing was reading at a beginner level and risked falling back. Hard to hear to the parents who decided to let her skip a grade. We knew it not  true as she has tested much higher than in the past in different circumstances. Thankfully, with time (which I have no patience for) we worked through the anxiety of the situation and tried to take the pressure off as much as you can when it comes to testing and my girl showed them all.

Through coping mechanisms and IEP meetings, emails with teachers we were able to create a less pressurized environment that allowed her to shine like I knew she could. It is hard though to explain to your seven year old that she isn’t like her peers. That she cannot just sit down and randomly take a test. Instead she has to prepare mentally for such a task because she deals with this other problem or as I like to call it “crap”. But like the rockstar she is she showed them and showed off to all of us and did better than all of us expected. And that is what I love about her.

Socially we are still struggling, but we are trying to work on this slowly but surely. She has been interested in attending church so we have been going. I haven’t gotten her to Sunday school, but she has a few friends in there and I believe that too will happen. Although she prefers no one talk to her and look at her which makes it awkward and leaves me feeling like I need to place a sign on her saying she struggles with this. Instead, I just smile at them and move on. We have tried talking to her about how it comes across, but she just won’t do it. She is going to be starting piano/keyboard lessons soon. Her therapist really thinks if she wants to do social things we should encourage her.

~~~~~~

And then we have my # 3 whose vocabulary is expanding in such a fast way I am just astonished. She is in the cute toddler/kid talk phase where things come out the way she thinks they should and they aren’t necessarily always right. Unfortunately, she picks up everything and the bad part of being the last of the brood is you quickly realize the bad things the older part of your brood are saying. When we put her to bed at time sometimes we hear, “Awww dangit! I not want to go to bed” or “Stupid tv not work right” when we won’t change the channel to her shows. We try and correct it as best we can but admittedly chuckle to ourselves because it is quite obvious her sisters are teaching her this. It is never us. (WINK)

She knows most of her colors and is extremely obsessed with what everyone’s favorite color is saying, “What your favorite color is?”  She also delightfully shares with everyone what their favorite color is after she hears it. Over and over. Her favorite show is Mickey Mouse and has been for awhile now and she adores Minnie and Daisy. She can count to 15 if accept 11teen and 12teen. After that is go awry and she jumps around. She knows larger numbers but I am sure doesn’t understand how she knows them or that she is saying them.

~~~~~~

All I have to say is damn I am one lucky broad to have three such wonderfully smart unique girls. With each of them being so uniquely special in their own way. I am just overjoyed and filled with love for each of them!

Pumpkin Goo Galore!

Each year works about the same with Halloween a week away we FINALLY carve our pumpkins. #1 adores carving hers and gets more creative with each year, #2 refuses to carve hers hates the squish! So she draws faces on hers long before the days are even short and cold. This was #3’s first year to give a whoopdy-do about carving of the pumpkin and she is in love!

# 2 is noticeably absent because she refused to be any part of the eweeyyy gooey mess! We went to church!

But in case you missed seeing the little bugger

Her own unique style and all!

The rest are shared at Flickr

Is it Frank, Francis or Frances?

In the last two months I have spent countless hours squinting my eyes, trying to connect names, birth dates, addresses and pictures with these stories I have in my head. While the journey has been amazing and made me cry sometimes. It has to have been the most infuriating task I have ever attempted. But infuriating in the most successful and emotional way.

As I have said in previous family literacy posts this was not a section of my family that I had the luxury of pushing the tiny little leaf off of ancestry.com. Instead, I drew the tree and added branches and sometimes even took them away. I have confused father for son and daughter for mother. Almost all of my piecing together has come from obituaries and whatever I could flesh out of the archives in my search.

Now I have sat here all day trying to tie up lose ends and organized this pile of papers that is now (and I am not joking) 500 pages thick. I wrote notes off to the side, I printed whatever I could, I saved whatever I could not print and I still feel so overwhelmed. I know the awesome story that lies within these papers, and I know the awesome story I have within my head from family stories. I know the scholarly research I did to back up what I could and now I say, “How the heck do I put it all together?”

I know it will come to me and I know I am overwhelmed because this story has not really ever been told. But I know the importance of sharing it. I know the happiness it has brought me when I hit pay dirt and the sadness I felt when my info well ran dry.

In the  beginning I wondered how my family could not tell their story. I questioned if there was some big deep dark secret that must be kept quiet. But now that I am on the other side I find myself extremely protective of this story. And I am writer and story teller so I know the importance of carrying that on. But I want to do it respectfully in a way my own children will be proud but also, my dad, my grandpa and his relatives. All I have are these memories of an 8 year old, but now I have newspapers that fill in what they did, and interview questions that share a little more. It all tells a mostly complete story. I just have to do it justice.

Now it is time to begin to write. Though normally at this point it would get easy for me this project not so much. It is hard to put it all together and to know what is important and where. But I know after a few hours alone with my research and work beside me it will come together. The hard part is going to be figuring out who is Frank, Francis, Frances, Joseph, Josef, Marie, Mary and Mary Rose because all these names seem to be used interchangeably with one another.

I am gonna share a few of my major finds because of either extremely sentimental reasons or because I cracked another language.

I cannot even read this but I believe it is proof of my great great grandmother’s Antonie and her brother Johannes existence pulled from Czechslovakian records database

My father at a under a year and following is his birth announcement in the Brookfield Magnet

Lastly, my great grandfather’s naturalization record

Saturday Sharing….

Well today’s post is coming much later than expected but I have thoroughly wrapped up in my family history project and had to finally remind myself that I cannot solve all my families mysteries in 16 weeks. Though I certainly gave it the ol’ college try.  I am currently planning a post that will discuss how that project is going.

Today’s Sharing Randomness

For this week’s sharing I would like to highlight Why I Write Campaign…so if you would like to read why other’s write related to this campaign and some famous authors thrown in click here for the google results.

Today we tackled typical Hoosier Fall fare in the form of chili. The recipe I made I pulled from food.com but it was so so and not really worth sharing if you ask me. It was certainly good and edible but it was blah! The girls gobbled it up. I ate half a bowl and decided it wasn’t worth the calories.

I have been upto my eyeballs in newspaperarchive.com looking up articles about my family and ancestors. It does require a paid subscription but it is well worth the money. Given I found my Dad’s birth announcement, that paid for itself.

Today I have been teaching myself all about The Homestead Act, which changed life for most of your family and mine.

Ever hung out at the National Archives? It is a pretty cool place. Or to Ellis Island? Pretty cool here too, folks!

And last but not least….Obituary Searching…Go here!

 

She’s back, folks!

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”
―Dr.Seuss

How can I not use the words of famous author Dr. Seuss who was so right? What happened here this week at MR behind is the scenes was me realizing I am only one person and I can only do so much. Somehow admitting that took the weight off. The even more ironic part is much of that took place after my mommy guilt post. I said no. I told people they had to wait and I conquered what I could as soon as I could and the world still stood. So I think we all survive this busy moment via my I took on too much moment. What happens though is you look around and realize that those that love you are still standing there and you didn’t let them down. When you just say out loud I can’t there is freedom in that.

My real hope is that now that I have been there and done that I can bring some of my ever popular MR humor  back. I sure missed that girl. She is a mover, shaker and doer. The depressed version is a pouter, crier and whiner. And while I believe all those names carry a negative meaning I certainly would argue that we all can and should name ourselves those things once in awhile. You need and deserve it. For now that version of MR is going in a drawer. She will probably return somewhere around Thanksgiving when my students turn in their collaborative research papers and I have my projects do for my masters classes. Until then Mommy Rhetoric is back in the hizzzout!

Why I Write?

I write to tell my story and because I believe that stories need to be told.

Today I am celebrating the National Writing Project’s National Day on Writing by answering the question, “Why I Write?

I write for one reason and that one reason spills into every corner of my life. I write to tell my story and because I believe that stories need to be told. From my early childhood I have had a love affair with writing. I love hearing my mom tell stories of how I love to write and she could tell so early on. Always included in my writing I would also love to play writing teacher.

But for a long time I confused the idea of writing with the idea of being a celebrity author and I let my own misconception misdirect my path. I thought that I could never achieve that kind of status. And when I would proclaim myself to teachers, friends and family I was met with much skepticism. I immediately turned that love of writing inward sharing it with very few. On the occasional paper in high school or creative writing endeavor I would get noticed by my English teacher. They would pull me aside and encourage me to go to college. At the time college just never seemed like an option. I nodded and continued on with my writing in private.

I remember being on the school newspaper in my junior year and taking home the loner laptop for stories and just plugging away on there and then a year later my mom bought me word processor that had a tiny screen that let me write and print to my hearts content. That really change writing for me. But still it was something I kept quiet. I would write publicly but it would be for my school newspaper or assignments but never for anyone to read out side of that.

Then I became a blogger and writing changed for me to something extremely public and made me gain the confidence to think, “Hey, maybe I can do this in the real world.” Next thing I know I am in a college classroom in my first writing course. Long story short, I realized everyone is a writer. A celebrity author and a writer are two very different things. And I began to believe we are all writers with a story to tell.

Now you know the rest of the story. Here I am 9 years later a degree in English with a writing concentration and I am not working on my Masters in English with a Rhetoric and Composition concentration.

To say that I love writing is an understatement. There is never ever a day that goes by that I don’t write. Sometimes it may be small, sometimes it may be huge, (thank you 13 page paper for a class today) but it is always important because writing is sharing a tiny bit of ourselves on that piece of paper.

I teach my students everyday to reject that notion of what writing means and to embrace themselves as writers. I don’t expect them all to love writing like I do, but I hope they see just how pivotal it is to their lives. And if I had a penny for every time I have been told by a student at the end of the semester, “Thanks for making writing not seem like such a chore.” Even writers struggle getting started, keeping going and ending. It is just for the sheer will to get what we have to say out that we do it. That is universal isn’t it? That is why I love to write.

Insecure Jargon

In the last week or so I have had two people make comments on their impressions of  me and how I handle things.  I was a more than a bit surprised to hear that they thought that I “had it all together”.  Shocked was more like it.  In fact, I am now considering a career in acting, because I think that is what they are seeing.

Joking aside, these acting skills come in handy when I have to be confident, because I am anything but.  I am shy and I don’t like to talk  in front of groups or even approach new people.   I get nervous talking to anyone in positions of power- I blame my dad for that one- yet,  somehow I seem to keep ending up in these situations more and more.

I am a fixer, I always want to fix problems that I see, so if I see others are busy or having a bad time, I certainly don’t want to add to it.  I want to cheer them up, take away the stress, fix everything all up nice and neat and put a big bow on it.  Even as I write this, I am trying to figure out how to sweeten it up!

I don’t ever want to be fake, especially to people I am close to, but at the same time I want to enjoy them and have some laughs.  I am afraid they wouldn’t be my friend for long if  all I did was mope and gripe about things.  Of course I know that they would still be my friends, but something in my head always tells me if I am not “the perfect friend”  I will lose them.  So I bottle it up, hide it as best as I can and smile.

It has one name but a monsterous meaning.

“I’d like to be the ideal mother, but I’m too busy raising my kids.” – Unknown

This post is being written in the most raw form and mostly with tears being wiped from my face. For weeks I have come here lamenting my own shortcomings as a person lately. I muttered words I was embarrassed to admit to out loud. But that isn’t what scared me. What scared me is knowing what I uttered to speak was much better than what I couldn’t say and what I was telling myself.

I have spent weeks saying, “Okay, I admit defeat. I am a wreck.” I know I am doing the very thing I said I would not do this semester. I let the pressure of getting my master’s degree get to me. I went into the very survival mode I was trying to avoid. I called this everything but what it really was…Mom Guilt. I tried to be two people instead of one. I tried to ride the fence of the working mother and a stay at home mother.

I have tried to be an at home mom and doing the things I did when I was solely home and I have tried to also being a working mom. Well doesn’t take a mathematician to add it all up.  As I drove to my class last night and I beat myself up again and apologized yet again for falling short I realized the problem. The problem is I am spending enormous amounts of time trying to please everyone else and no time pleasing myself.

As an at home mom I always felt so defensive about the, “What is your job question?” I tried to be respectful to moms who worked because I was a working mom for almost a year before I started staying home. It was hard. But now I am after 9 years of being at home I went back to work and it is a whole different arena with three kids, a job, and I am a masters student in rhetoric and composition.

I want to be that mom that is able to volunteer once a week at school and get back into my girls classrooms. I want to be the mom that drives them to each and every practice, to school and home from school. I want to be the mom that makes each and every meal from scratch with homemade bread and dessert right along side it. But things are different. I am not that mom anymore and I need to find some way to be okay with it and I need to get over the fact that others judge me because I am not that mom any more. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. I just have to find a way not to care.

Unfortunately, I am taking my inability to balance everything as a personal defeat or character defect. It is not. I had awesome times doing those things in the past but my priorities are different and even if sometimes what I do seems far less important they are still very important to my future and the future I can provide for my girls.

I made the decision to go to graduate school and be a graduate teaching assistant. When I made that decision I did have an idea of what I was walking into. A job and the life of a student. It isn’t like I am shocked by the workload. I can handle that. I am shocked by how hard I have taken the change of priorities from motherhood to working motherhood and student.

I believe society is to blame for some of those pressures. You can see it all around you. When I was volunteering my daughter’s school before often I got hugs, presents and huge big to do thanks. I volunteer now when I can which isn’t often but I do do it and it is more like, “Gee thanks.” Little do they know I volunteer countless hours as a PTO officer working on making my daughters school better and fighting for the teachers because I believe teachers are respected so little (if you are blog reader you know this). I found a way to volunteer still that worked in my schedule. In every group there are most certainly those moms that are “working” moms and the then their are the “stay at home” moms. This happens in PTO, dance, my college classes, anywhere there are children. Both groups judge each other mostly unintentionally but sometimes intentionally and I just walk away wanting to rid myself of it all because really where do I belong?

Here’s the problem for me though and what makes me cry and that is that I am neither a working mom nor a stay at home but yet I am both. I work part time and I am home part of the time. I am in neither group while I firmly remain stranded on the fence. So last year while I tried to sort out all of my new labels and identities this year I am struggling living with them and what it means for my family.

I want to run back to what I know. I want to be 100% mom 100% of the time. But the economy, our families financial needs, and the fact that I need to be getting myself experience as an instructor tell me something very different. I am gonna do what I know I can do. I am going to buck up. Stop apologizing for my short comings, cut those people out of my life who don’t get it/judge me for it/hurt me because of it and get back to being the best mom to my precious three girls that I can be. I have spent far too much time worrying about what everyone else thinks and far too little being there for them.

Starting today I am starting my very own individual movement. I am fighting for my right as a mother to do whatever the hell I want to. To ignore others jabs at me for being what they think I should/should not be and continue on not judging others for the decisions they make. I just don’t care and I don’t have the time (no really I don’t).