I’m more than halfway done with my 2016 #BustleReads Challenge. As a reminder, this challenge is supposed to push my boundaries and help me find books outside my comfort zone that still appeal to me. Here’s my first update if you want to see books 1-5 in the challenge.
6. Read a Feminist Sci-Fi Novel:
I went into this book blind, knowing only that it was supposed to fulfill my feminist sci-fi book of the year, was highly rated, and written in the 1970s. I really wanted to know how it could meet all that criteria and honestly I was hooked from the very first sentence. This book has an incredible and gut wrenching plot but beyond that this is a book about people. People can be ugly, they can be brave, they can sacrifice, and they can push on. The people and their relationships with each other really showed you how loyalty, love, and trust can be tested. Combine those qualities with the plot and it’s a fantastic read from Octavia Butler. 5/5 stars
7. Read a Contemporary Collection of Poetry:
I tried to sit with this book and slowly read it. I read the first part, an introduction to the family and their dynamics, then put it aside and went to bed. The book stayed in my mind all night and day and when I sat down with it again, I read the entire thing. I took time to savor some poems, reading them aloud.
Each poem is straightforward but not quite simple. There are four real parts: a broken childhood, the loss of a brother, the loss of a friend while coping, and the loss of a loved one in the midst of it all. The poems are narrative but by the end go out on a hopeful note. Some favorites: “The Gate”, “Practicing”, “Without Music”, and of course, “What the Living Do”.
I read this book after my grandmother died earlier this year. It helped me feel some things I had tried to push aside and helped me acknowledge how messy death (and life) can be. 3.5/5 stars
8. Read a Graphic Novel Written by a Woman:
Like most kids raised in the 90s, I had an obsession with Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Through the Woods fits the spirit of those stories but it’s paired with hauntingly beautiful art. The book is just 5 short stories and each story has its own artistic style. The art in “A Lady’s Cold Hands” was so good at contrasting the claustrophobic feeling of parts of the plot with the vastness of the project that lays before the narrator. There’s an image of a wall that should be simple but it says so much.
The stories pray on our own insecurities and fears and still stick to popular legends and tales so while new, they seem familiar. This wasn’t the first graphic novel I read during the year and it wasn’t the last but it was definitely the most beautifully illustrated. This book really took me from appreciating graphic novels to really connecting with them as a storytelling device. 4/5 stars
9. Read a Book Set in Africa, by an Author from Africa:
I really enjoyed reading this book. I loved the variations of storytelling this book followed. The plot was not always linear, there were folk tales and Biblical lore surrounding the plot, but the story always moved forward. The writing was rich and immersive. I haven’t fully processed all of my feelings towards this book because it hits at major themes including war, cultural differences, coming of age, LGBT romance, and family and that’s a huge combo. Somehow including all of that doesn’t weigh the book down and only enhances it. I realized while reading this that I don’t know if I’ve ever read a full fictional novel by an African author and it was a gap that really made an impression after finishing. 4/5 stars
10. Read a Memoir from Someone Who Identifies as LGBTQIA:
I didn’t know what to expect out of a graphic novel memoir. Would it be too distant? Would it still feel like the memoirs I like? Luckily Fun Home really does crossover the genres well. I knew of Alison Bechdel but didn’t know her full family history so every time Alison felt shocked, I felt her shock with her. The graphic novel format really helped it to feel more immersive.
At times the writing style assumed you were just as well read as she was but in the end you could use context clues to gain the message of what comparison she was trying to make. The graphics in here wasn’t quite as “artistic” as some of the other graphic novels I read but it felt more authentic and didn’t try to be something it wasn’t. It worked.
The message of confusion and mixed emotions over so many of her childhood activities really resonated. Even when Bechdel conveyed her ideas that she thought she reacted in this way for this reason, you could still hear her doubt, that “I think” scribbled in the background. It really connected with me for that reason. Looking at the LGBTQIA angle, there’s a really interesting dichotomy in the story that helps you understand how confusing coming out of the closet can be. 3.5/5 stars
Do you ever get in a reading funk? There are some times I just get bored with a series or a writing style or can’t handle escapism fiction or another nonfiction book. I graduated with an English minor and remember needing a reset after college but now I fear I’ve veered too far off course yet again.
Enter the #BustleReads Challenge. It’s just 20 books across a variety of categories so you can choose what fits your personality while reading more diverse books. I’m more than halfway through the challenge and I thought I’d give a preview of what I’ve been reading.
The writing style of this book is unlike others I’ve read but it really drew me in. I recognize it’s a translation and I’m not sure if I gained or lost something in translation but I found the writing style enhanced my reading of the plot. At times I found the plot confusing jumping between times but in the end I think it served a purpose. The book covers a transition to adulthood from adolescence in a quick way physically but it takes the long way round on the emotional shift. The book made me think about my own friendships and how they drift apart and how sometimes you’re not fully ready to move on. I think the bigger lesson about emotional availability and being tied to the past made me question if it’s worth it to dwell in the past or more important to process it and move on. The writing was nice, the plot at times a little confusing, but it was the kind of book I couldn’t stop thinking about when I put it down each night. 4/5 stars
2. Read a Young Adult Book by an Author of Color:
I’m not typically into contemporary young adult romances but I read this book as part of a reading challenge and found myself pleasantly surprised. At times I found the characters a little immature but it’s a young adult book so my expectations are adjusted accordingly. I liked Jenny Han’s attempt at discussing culture and the connections with it but at times they fell a little short. I think the part of this book that surprised me was that it was a romance but the real love story involved that of a family. The book is fun and a little whimsical while bringing back some nostalgia. 3.5/5 stars
3. Read a Work of Post-Apocalyptic Fiction Written by a Woman:
This wasn’t so much a post-apocalyptic book as it was a tale of those before and those after. I felt the idea of basing these stories around one man’s life made the book far richer. Tie in the other media references like King Lear and “Survival is insufficient” and you realize how rich the text really is. You can survive a crisis but you must learn how to live again and how to go on and this book isn’t afraid to touch the many ways people respond in crisis. I tend to only read post-apocalyptic fiction written by women (as opposed to men) so this book felt similar in tone to the others I’ve read. 4.5/5 stars
4. Read a Book About an Indigenous Culture:
I was very emotionally invested in this book nearly from the beginning. I feel like it’s the kind of book I would have been forced to read in school and hated but reading it now with the knowledge I’ve gained since school really enhanced the experience. This is a good book, a little preachy at times, and kids in school might hate that. As an adult who has read other works by Sherman Alexie, I enjoyed it and could connect it to other writings I’ve enjoyed. I felt like it really covered the feeling of being immersed in the Native American culture and what it meant to the narrator. 3.5/5 stars
5. Read a Book Before You See the Movie:
I went into this book thinking it was just a book about a serial killer and came out realizing this was almost 2 books in one. The book is very heavily focused on the 1893 World’s Fair and Larson managed to splice in the stories about H.H. Holmes in a very informative way. Unfortunately I felt like the storylines were too separate and didn’t parallel as I had hoped once I got into the concept. It was still intriguing and well informed but unfortunately I wanted more. This book was optioned for a movie but still very early in pre-production so I may have jumped the gun in reading it for this challenge. 3/5 stars
Well, 2015’s reading list didn’t go quite as I planned. My goal was to catch up on some series so I could move on and try some new authors. I do some of my best reading on my lunch break but I tend to get interrupted so I read some fluff books then and some new ones on the weekend.
Despite the repetitiveness, there were some standout books I read in 2015.
A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson
This was such a tough book to choose because I read it immediately after the partner book by Kate Atkinson, Life After Life. Without spoiling too much, Life After Life is the tale of one woman and her Groundhog Day-like reality but set during WWII and a big family that you’ll fall in love with. A God in Ruins is the story of one of the family members and how his life goes after the danger of WWII has passed but without life necessarily getting any easier. I really liked Life After Life with its touch of mystery and magic but A God in Ruins manages to have some magic and more reality too.
In The Woods by Tana French
There’s something you should know about me: I like mystery, crime, and all things Ireland + Scotland + England. This book ties to much of that together. I avoided Tana French because I did not need to start another series and I knew she had one called “The Dublin Murder Squad” which sounded a bit too cheesy for me. In The Woods had me hooked by the end of the first chapter. It had an unresolved mystery immediately and then jumps into the present solving a current mystery. It gets deep and gritty and doesn’t stop along the way. It was so hard to pick a Tana French book I liked best but this is the one that starts them all.
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
I think this is the most out there book I’ve recommended and also one I couldn’t put down. The book starts with a family history for you can’t appreciate the main character(s) without knowing the women behind them. It’s not a spoiler to tell you Ava Lavender was born with the wings of a bird and obviously that makes her different. What surprised me is how much that didn’t matter. This book was a fairy tale of a different kind full of the ugly parts of the world and the most beautiful.
It’s finally fall! I have some upcoming work projects keeping me busy, some DIY I have to start on, and a week off of work finally scheduled. September was almost as busy as this month.
There’s a new restaurant in St. Louis that keeps getting all the buzz. Southern has hot chicken and soul food sides. There’s almost always a line out the door but I got out of work early just before Labor Day weekend and managed to get some of that spicy food. Sadly the mac & cheese was already gone but the mashed potatoes won me over as did the greens. They serve banana pudding here but sadly I didn’t have space. I’ll just have to stop by again.
September had the second from last Food Truck Friday. I had some more Seoul Taco (my husband and I are addicted!) and went to the storefront version again on the weekend. We rounded out the meal with some seasonal cupcakes.
The husband and I celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary this month. We went to The Restaurant at The Cheshire. I went a little crazy and got a prime rib and yorkshire pudding. Totally worth it. The pork belly appetizer is to die for. Seriously, pork belly is my new obsession.
I went to my first music festival. Loufest 2015 was a pretty fun time and with beautiful weather I couldn’t have planned a better way to spend time other than listening to music in Forest Park. Next year though I would love to see more women artists but I enjoyed what I did hear and have to say that Pokey LaFarge was one of my favorite sets of the weekend.
I made it to a Cardinals day game with the husband. We even got to see a win on our afternoon off work.
Anyone read Tana French? I started the Dublin Murder Squad books in September and fell in love with the series. In the Woods and The Likeness were both original and yet familiar to me and the writing style was beautiful. There’s mystery, relationships, and intrigue.
My husband nearly gave me a heart attack hanging this sign but we finally have our first piece up on the brick gallery wall. I’m going with a rustic travel vibe here so my maps will go on this wall too.
My IKEA trip got me planning the guest bedroom/studio. Sometimes I have trouble seeing the purpose of a space. Do I design for myself or for guests? Do I go with something that matches the rest of the house or a space that has its own personality? How often will people really sleep over at my house? I am debating bed v. daybed v. no bed. I’m debating nearly built in shelves from a store v. finding the right vintage pieces v. making my own look no matter the source. I’m debating pink, gold, green, blue, gray, and white. I have some firmer ideas but it’s hard to know where to go.
In an effort to make progress on the guest room/studio, I started cleaning it out. The space has been holding doors from other rooms, a bed no one will ever use, a dog and her crate, all the clothes that can’t fit in our real closet, all the art we don’t have frames for, and all the boxes of craft supplies and books that aren’t in the office. Since our office makeover comes first, I have to clear out space here to fit the office gear. So far I’ve managed to bundle 3 bags for donating and another bag to be discarded but it’s barely a dent. I go back in soon.
On the Web
Overdue for a vacation? I know I am. Here’s what happens when you don’t get away.
Doctor Who is back! Here’s one list ranking every Doctor Who from best to worst. I’ve only seen doctors 1, 9, 10, 11, and 12 (and the War Doctor) so I can’t compare them all.
My neighborhood is being overrun by squirrels. They’ve taunted us, one touched my ankle, and one may have left pizza in another neighbor’s tires. My friend Bethany shared this gallery of squirrels and their pizza when I shared my theories of a squirrel mafia.
We’re trying out our weekend hiking routine we like to do most falls. There’s something about a car ride, a hike with the dog, an outdoor picnic, then back home to curl up and nap on the couch, followed by dinner from the crockpot. This might be why I’m not making progress on the rest of the house. October will be our first month (and spoiler alert: we already did one) but I’m open to some good trails that you might like. 2-6 miles is our target and within 2 hours of St. Louis, give or take.
My curly girls will understand: I did 2 days of an outdoor music festival and my hair didn’t frizz or get out of control. I’ve been using Davines Love line and it is amazing. Pair it with some squish to condish technique and plopping and my curls aren’t going anywhere.
With my overflow closet getting cleaned out, I am doing the unthinkable and inventorying my closet. What’s the oldest shirt you still wear regularly? Not just some T-shirt from a concert or something you wear to clean in but rather something you still keep in your rotation? I have several pieces from 2009 and 2010 that still make appearances. It makes me think about fast fashion and buying lasting pieces. When you’re like me and deal with career changes and weight changes, it can be twice as hard. What brands do you find you can trust to last year after year?
I wanted to show you how I use some genealogy resources in a typical case to do my research for the family trees. I’m going to highlight the life of my maternal great grandmother to show you how I pull information.
My first source of information was through my family. From family members I knew that my grandma and great grandma had the same name, Celeste, and that my great grandmother was born a Chrismer and married a Boschert. I was told growing up that my great grandmother died while giving birth right around my grandma’s first birthday. She had a son who was a bit older than my grandma. When my great grandmother died, my grandma went to live with her aunt and uncle, the uncle being great grandma’s brother (a Chrismer) and the aunt being great grandpa’s sister (a Boschert). My grandma didn’t even realize she’d been adopted until she was school aged and someone outside her new family told her. I had no idea what had happened to my great grandpa or the older son after that.
So that’s a heck of a starting point.
My first step was to search Find A Grave. My grandmother had purchased a headstone for her mother in Saint Charles Borromeo Cemetery in Saint Charles, Missouri. It was pretty easy to find my great grandmother here by searching by last names. Here’s her Find A Grave page. To my surprise it listed her name as Celesta Boschert (nee Chrismer). The gravestone itself listed 1897 as her birth year and 1920 as her death year. The Find A Grave page lists a date of birth of 11/18/1897 in Saint Charles, Missouri and a date of death as February 11, 1920 in Orchard Farm, Missouri. The page also lists a husband, Anthony Peter Boschert, and parents, Harry and Zita Chrismer. There are no source citations for these life details so I print the page and use them as a starting point. Nothing is confirmed in genealogy without an original source and even original sources get it wrong. Like I said in my tips post – Just because it is written doesn’t mean it is true.
My next step took me to the Missouri Death Certificate database. Most Secretary of State offices have helpful resources online. It took a couple searches (TIP: always check maiden and married names for women in your tree!) but I found her under Celete Boschert, death certificate # 8735. This death certificate contains a host of information. It confirms she died in Orchard Farm, Missouri on February 11, 1920. It confirms she was born in Saint Charles, Missouri but this shows it as November 18, 1896. She was a white female age 23 years, 2 months, and 23 years of age when she died. This would have been calculated based on DOB which now appears to be in dispute. Celeste was the daughter of Harry Chrismer and Zita Baumann who were both born in Saint Charles, Missouri according to this. So now we have a maiden name for my great great grandmother. My great grandma was a Housewife and had been attended by the doctor from February 3, 1920 to February 11, 1920 before she died at 8 AM on February 11, 1920. Her cause of death was influenza with a word I can’t quite make out (maybe pneumonia?) and ‘labor’ as contributing factors. This confirms the family tale that my great grandmother died in childbirth.
On a hunch, I searched by last name (Boschert) and year of death (1920) and found another death certificate. Certificate # 8734 was for Unknown Boschert. The baby died at birth on February 10, 1920 and died as a result of premature birth caused by influenza and pneumonia in the mother (confirming that word I couldn’t fully read in the previous death certificate). This matched with what my mom knew and confirmed it had been baby girl.
I had confirmed a few details by this point. My great grandma died in Orchard Farm, located in Saint Charles County, Missouri, and was said to have been born there too. Her date of birth was in dispute. I had some parents names and a spouse’s name for her but no word on the older child. So I took to the census. The census is performed every 10 years (though some states did it more often) and you likely won’t find anything for 1890 due to a fire in 1921. It’s a horrible loss and one similar in loss to the 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center which held 16-18 million military records for Army and Air Force personnel. Another note about census records: Ancestry may give you some free information from census records but they want you to have a paid account to view the physical document for all years, with the exception of 1880 and 1940. For other years, if you don’t want to pay I’ve found that Mocavo gives you the ability to view them for free. You’ll still want to find a way to save the records on your own, but this is a good start for researching. Searching for my own great grandmother in the census meant I should be able to find records from 1900, 1910, and maybe 1920. For all my relatives, I like to make a spreadsheet where I log what years I should be able to find census records for.
If someone hasn’t been born yet, I gray out the year (for example 1880, 1930, and 1940 for Celeste) and for years I can’t find a person I highlight them in yellow so I can continue searching at a later time (like for Anthony in 1940). I like to document how old a person was in each census year and what address or area they lived in by year. It helps for fact checking later on.
I first find Anthony and Celesta Boschert together in the 1920 Census. They are spread across 2 pages so I’ve spliced them together for a quick visual.
I find a few things here: the census was completed on January 27-28, 1920 so I managed to get my great grandmother on a census just 2 weeks before she died. This is a lucky break for me. There’s no address but I can see she lived in Portage des Sioux Village which is where one might find Orchard Farm Village (and it’s apparent on page 2 of the census).
- Anthony P Boschert (my great grandfather) is listed as head of house, a W/M aged 32 (DOB approx 1888). he can read/write, and is a retail merchant. He and his parents were born in Missouri.
- Celesta S Boschert (my great grandmother) is listed as Celesta again and she is the wife of Anthony. She was a W/F aged 23 (DOB approx 1897) and she could also read and write. Again, this states she and her parents were born in Missouri.
- Harry L Boschert (my great uncle) is listed as the son and his age is listed as 20 months (DOB approx. March of 1918)
- Celesta K Boschert (my grandmother) is listed as the daughter and her age is 10 months old (DOB approx. March of 1919). I know that my grandmother went by Celeste Catherine Boschert and was born in February of 1919 so this is pretty close. Remember that Enumerators often are listing what people tell them and people speak with accents and don’t spell everything out. There will be variations (Katherine/Catherine).
- John H Hoelscher, a boarder aged 33. I know nothing about this guy but it’s quite common to find this in census records.
The 1910 Census result was easy to find on Ancestry just by searching. I was able to find a specific address she lived at on this census but sadly I know the original house there has been demolished. This census record is full of people:
- Harry Chrismer (my great great grandfather) is listed as head of house, aged 40, and a blacksmith. He was born in Missouri but I now know both of his parents may hail from Maryland. This is a great lead for researching him and his parents.
- Sadie Chrismer (my great great grandmother) is listed as the wife, aged 37. Now, I already know from my additional research and family sources that Sadie = Zitta but looking at this census record one might be thrown off. There’s an ongoing series on the Ancestry blog about commonly used nicknames that will help you out. One tip that’s here is the 1910 census was kind enough to ask spouses how long they’d been married and asked women how many times they’d given birth and how many children were still living. In an age of high infant deaths, this is an incredible resource. Here we can see that Harry and Sadie have been married 16 years and they’re oldest child is 15 so it’s likely all these children are theirs together. We can also see that Sadie has 8 living children of 8 births which is rarely seen. Sadie’s parents were both born in Germany so it’s worth it to check out German nicknames too.
- Walter Chrismer (my great great uncle) is 15 here. He’s the uncle who adopted my grandmother later on.
- Celeste Chrismer (my great grandmother) and she is 13 here (estimated DOB 1897)
- An additional 6 girls, Goldie, Myrtle, Delpha, Willa, Anna, and Marie. When you lose a family member on the census, siblings can be a huge help. Parents move in with children and grandchildren, bachelors move in with brothers, too many young girls and one might be a maid for a sister. Don’t discount the siblings.
I find Celeste one more time on the 1900 Census:
We have the usual crew of Harry, Sadie, Walter, Celesta, and Goldie here. Again, in 1900 we get how many years married and how many births/living children. Somehow the math gets a little off here. Harry and Sadie were married 8 years in 1900 and 16 years in 1910. To confirm this detail, I’d begin by searching marriage records from 1901-1905 when trying to find the true number. People on census records are not always the best at doing math in their head. That’s why I refer to my spreadsheet and can see that my great grandma was listed as 2, 13, and 23 even though those intervals should be 10 years. People make mistakes. The Harry Chrismer you see here was named David at birth and his parents changed their minds and his name. It happens.
There’s a world of additional records out there. If you look at the zoomed out version of these records you can see parents and cousins living next door or across the street from family members. The library has so many free resources.
I also said in my original post on how I research that you may turn up some family secrets. Remember my great grandmother’s oldest child, Harry Boschert? Eventually I discovered what happened to him after his mom died. Harry died in 1934 at the Emmans Asylum for Epileptics and Idiots. He died from epilepsy and malnutrition. He’d lived in the home from 1926-1934. I don’t know where he went from 1920-1926 but I hope to find out one day.
My August was not a vacation but instead kept me busier than I wanted. Here’s the scoop on what I was up to.
- Do you know how hard it is to live by The Shaved Duck and know the lines are so long you can’t make it inside? It’s one of the best places in St. Louis. The smothered fries and brisket are my weakness. Miraculously one Friday night I was able to walk right in and be seated immediately. I had experienced the kind of day that only their fries and a beer could solve and I think someone knew it and cleared a spot for me.
- My grill worked overtime in August. I know things like burgers and hot dogs aren’t too exciting but this pork loin from Skinnytaste was fantastic! Even better, the leftovers made for some amazing Cuban sandwiches.
- Many people in St. Louis know Rooster for its brunch but lately it’s becoming my favorite place for dinner. It’s close enough I can walk if it’s early enough, they have parking if it’s later. Inside it’s intimate despite being huge but casual enough that I don’t need to fuss. It’s the perfect place to stop before or after a show at the Fox and a straight shot down Grand. You can go breakfast, crepes, steaks or try a nightly special. In August I had a pork belly and shrimp dish that blew me away.
- I finally made it to see Miss Jubilee and a Jungle Boogie at the St. Louis Zoo. During the summer the zoo stays open late. I brought a picnic dinner (tip: bring a chair and not a blanket) and then roamed the rest of the zoo. There were so many animals and so few people so I had an up-close personal show from the penguins, the new polar bear, and all the big cats.
- I had some doctor appointments in August so I took a half day and enjoyed some shopping with the money those visits should save me on insurance. I really enjoyed shopping at EverEve and stocked up on some fall fashions. I refuse to wear fall clothes before Labor Day or before the temperature drops so I still haven’t been able to show them off. They have lots of vests and cute layering pieces though.
- I finally made it to the Festival of Nations in Tower Grove Park. My parents stopped by my house and we all walked over to try some bites. The empanadas from Argentina and jerk chicken from Jamaica got high marks from me.
- I stalk the facebook pages of any antique/resale place I know about and when these lockers appeared on the page for The Green Shag Market, I knew I had to have them. Luckily my husband agreed. We have plans to make them even cooler and more functional so hopefully we can get to work on that soon.
- I’m saving up to do a big project involving insulation. Some of the rooms in my house aren’t insulated very well (or at all) so some ceilings need to come down and some insulation needs to go in. This means I will probably put off any planned master suite or 3rd floor improvements until the dirty work gets done.
- I picked up a drill and driver for the first time in forever this month. My basement is getting more functional by the day!
On the Web
- I didn’t realize how much Jon Stewart was part of my life for so many years until he left The Daily Show. I really appreciated this tribute to him and also its lament for the state of America.
- Ready for a sobfest? Reading about surviving the loss of a family member did me in. Even more so when I got to the end.
- How gorgeous is this home 1 year after a move? I can tell you I won’t be looking this good.
- My sweet Nova dog turned 8 years old in August. I can’t handle her getting so old but I want to say how she is a brave dog who tries so hard and loves so fiercely. I’d be lost without her.
- My grandparents moved to Missouri! They grew up in Arkansas, settled in Missouri after getting married and for some years after, then moved to Arkansas together about 20 years ago. Now they have a new place together close to my parents.
- Speaking of my grandparents, I caught my first cold in years from them the very first week they lived here. Let’s hope that doesn’t become a trend! Because of that August was not as successful as I hoped but there’s always next month.
I have been interested in genealogy practically my entire life. I remember looking at family history books and annuals and trying to figure out how I intersected all these lives. For my #30before30 list I wanted to make a family tree. I looked at a lot of different styles of family trees. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be more literal and include a tree or if I had it in me to go more modern. Etsy offered all kinds of options.
The “Traditional” Tree-Shaped Family Tree
A More Modern Tree-Shaped Family Tree
The Traditional Bracket Family Tree
An Abstract Circle Chart Family Tree
Modern Geometric Family Tree
Artistic Family Trees
My Family Tree
- Research through free documents first. Ancestry, Findagrave, Family Search, state websites, and even your attic may have hints and clues along the way
- Sometimes it pays to pay. Ancestry does have paid content but they are fantastic for building a tree and organizing your research.
- Document all your finds. You won’t remember how you knew Grandma Betsy came over on a ship or even which ship unless you save it. Find a standard to save documents and live by it.
- Just because you find a leaf on Ancestry doesn’t mean that leaf is about your tree. I bet you there were millions of Johns born to John and Mary Lastname so check your dates, locations, and then double check.
- Just because it is written doesn’t mean it is true. Just because Grandma has down in the family Bible that she was baptized in 1920 doesn’t mean it’s true. My own grandpa spells his name so many different ways over the years.
- Talk to the older generations and find out what they know. My grandma knew nothing about her grandma till she found a letter from a relative who had passed. You won’t always get clues from the grave.
- You might find some things others will wish to stay buried. I live by the mantra that there is no bad data but sometimes kissing cousins aren’t the worst you’ll find.
- Go to your local library. The librarians there are so helpful and want to help too.
Just before my birthday I convinced my husband, my brother, and my brother’s girlfriend to come with me to the St. Louis City Museum. In case you don’t know, the City Museum is not some boring old museum. It’s a place where everyone can be a kid in a reclaimed metal jungle with slides, tunnels, and even some museum exhibits.
Since visiting here was a 30before30 goal, I knew I had to pay extra to visit the roof and see it all. The roof is only open in warm weather without rain so plan accordingly. You do get a discount on admission to the museum if you go on Friday or Saturday after 5 PM and the later you go, the more adults (and fewer kids) there will be. The museum serves alcohol and food so you can make a whole night of it.
If you’re a control freak like me, you’ll have to let go of that. There are no maps here and the museum is like a giant maze. Even if you get it figured out, the museum is “always growing” so there’s a new path or direction to take. There are tunnels you crawl through and more often than not I was having an 8 year old explain the path to a slide I wanted to take. Also, sliding is more difficult than I remembered. My husband turned out to be a champion slider while I wondered how I could make it down a 10-story slide. We opted to go up instead of down and try out the big Ferris wheel on top of the museum.
One thing I learned at the City Museum is how old I really am. When people say “Bring kneepads!” it is not a joke. My knees and shins were bruised the whole next week from all my adventures. Still, we had a blast and I’m glad I had more time to spend with these awesome people.
- For my big birthday meal I decided to try The Libertine in Clayton. They’ve recently swapped chefs and had a menu redo and while I was a bit hesitant, I shouldn’t have been. Matt Bessler has made some fantastic decisions regarding the menu. We had mussels and bacon brodo with a broth so delicious I wanted to drink it up with a spoon. My husband had steak & frites while I had the Filet ‘Oscar’. Both of us equally loved our dishes and regretted not getting the others. (I also regret that my phone must have been so hungry it ate the photos when I attempted to transfer them) My steak was like butter and the crab cake had barely any fillers and was beyond delicious. For dessert we even had some bon bons. Ben Bauer is the beverage director here and he made some great decisions to source local liqueurs like Big Os. They are launching their happy hour menu this week and I know I’ll be back.
- You all have the Skinnytaste Cookbook, right? I’m officially obsessed with it. The jerk pork tacos with mango salsa was fantastic. I’m not always one to mix fruit with my savory dishes but this was worth it. Bonus: This was a crockpot recipe and had lots of leftovers.
- I got a new gas grill and we’ve been testing some new recipes. I’m loving the burgers my husband made, the skinnytaste Asian Glazed Drumsticks got a big thumbs up. Next up: I think I need to try a butcher for some ribs and steaks. Anyone been to an STL butcher?
- I’ve loved The xx so now that Jamie Smith has come out as Jame xx in his solo act, I’m of course listening to the new album nonstop. Loud Places is my current favorite.
- Please tell me someone else out there watches Orphan Black. I watched the first two seasons as fast as I could on Amazon Prime and now I can’t wait to get my hands on Season 3. Tatiana Maslany came out of nowhere to just wow me in her roles. Her acting is amazing.
- I made it to the St. Louis Art Museum to see Beyond Bosch before it closed. I also had a great time looking at Thomas Cole’s Voyage of Life. Nothing like turning 30 to make you want to visit exhibits that cover mortality and aging.
- I managed to get the deal of a lifetime from West Elm on some new office chairs. We’re getting closer to the office being finished.
- Even better – we just got the brackets for some office shelving in the mail from an Etsy seller. I need to finalize some bookshelf plans or you know, start on them.
- Not the sexiest of home improvements but we had our air conditioning system get some new intake for the air return and I swear I feel the improvement. I’m hoping my bills do too. I didn’t want to wait on improving my heating and cooling since it’s so important in the home. We have dual systems for the house and 3 stories so we need everything to work at its best. Hopefully 2015 was our year of service calls and repairs and in 2016 we’re just in maintenance mode. We’re onto our second home so we’ve taken a proactive approach to the big issues.
On the Web
- I remember growing up and hearing about New Horizons and the mission to Pluto but it still caught me by surprise when the photos began to come in. Pluto may have lost its planetary status during the journey there but I think it has captured my heart. Don’t forget the St. Louis Science Center is hosting a New Horizons themed Pluto party for August’s First Friday.
- I’m taking all my inspiration for home decor from this Pinterest board. Didn’t every girl grow up and want a Practical Magic house?
- I’m hugely invested in the justice and legal system so this story about life after prison really hit home for me.
- I got called for jury duty this month which wasn’t actually that bad. Two days of reading books, bad daytime TV, and eating lunch from food trucks in City Garden was pretty nice. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be picked (and not because I’m a criminal) so it wasn’t a surprise when I got sent home. So far my only days off work this year have been for a funeral and jury duty though so I need to step it up.
- I was diagnosed with cancer on July 8, 2005 so now I’ve made it 10 years past that big day. Tomorrow marks 10 years since I started chemo. I had expected surviving cancer this long to be more of a celebration but it felt more solemn than that for me. People I cared for didn’t make it like I did and there’s always a dark cloud that comes with survival. It’s a lonely world when you’re diagnosed with cancer at 19 and it’s even lonelier down the road when you don’t have all those voices celebrating with you.
- On a happier note, I turned 30 last week. My coworkers pretended not to know and pulled out a surprise birthday cake at the end of a lunch meeting. I went out with my girls to a happy hour and we got to remark on just how far we’ve all come in the last year. I had a nice dinner out with my husband and phone calls from family. My husband even made me a custom piece of art featuring our girl Nova. Then the next morning I work up with back spasms to remind me that I just can’t fight aging.
My most adventurous 30before30 goal was to go skydiving. The backstory on this is that I planned to go skydiving when I graduated high school. Except oops, I was only 17 when I graduated and they don’t tend to let minors jump. Then I thought I’d do it when I graduated college but oops, I graduated in December and had just had surgery and was the bride in an upcoming wedding I wanted to be sure to attend. Time slips away but I wasn’t going to miss my jump. So I took the plunge.
I decided to go with Gateway Skydiving Center in Illinois for my jump. They were super helpful on the phone when I booked my appointment. They let me know that you arrive, take a short little ride to the hangar, watch a video on safety, have some quick lessons, fly up in the air and jump out. That seemed easy enough.
My husband was more interested in watching me jump so he decided to come along for moral support while I did my thing. Sadly, the day of the big jump ended up being pretty cloudy so we had to wait a couple of hours to do the jump. It wasn’t so bad since it gave me a chance to chat with Jaco who would be my tandem jumper.
The part most people don’t realize about skydiving is how small the plane is. The pilot is in there and 4 other people can cram in very tightly. We were squished.
You are in the plane quite a while as you circle up and up. They opened the door right around 8500 feet in the air and then the other jumper went out. Suddenly I was up in the doorway and it was my turn to go. It’s so windy up there that I couldn’t even get my second foot on the platform. Luckily my tandem jumper helped me. The jump itself isn’t a jump so much as a lean. And then you’re free-falling for the next 45 seconds.
Freefalling is weirdly fun. There’s air flying everywhere, you can feel your skin moving around and jiggling (you can even see it in the photos above). You’re also moving faster than you probably ever have. Then they pull the parachute. It was quite the jerk for me and kind of cut off some circulation at first. I told my tandem jumper and he had me put my arms above my head and steer the parachute so I’d get the blood flowing again. It was so calm up in the air with the parachute open. Jaco helped me circle around so I could see the view of the lake and dive through a cloud. How cool is that?
For the landing, you just lift up your legs and the tandem jumper takes care of the rest.
For me the hardest thing to comprehend was that I was back on the ground. It was so strange to know I jumped out of a plane only a few minutes earlier. I felt so fast in the plane at 110 mph, freefalling for 4000 ft, and then I slowed down when the parachute opened but standing in place on the ground everything just felt so still. I couldn’t believe it was over.
The most common question I get is ‘Was I afraid?’ I was aware of the risks but I was more excited than nervous. I was afraid I wouldn’t get to jump when the clouds rolled in but the crew kept me posted all afternoon. When the airplane door opened I suddenly realized I was jumping and that caught me a little off guard since I wasn’t sure it was really time but then I was out the door. I never thought about backing down. Then again, once I was on the road driving back home, I suddenly became alarmed that I had just jumped out of a plane and kept insisting that it was dangerous and also I really needed to eat some meat. Your experience may vary.