Saturday, May 26, 2012

I'm on the Bandwagon

This is day 10 of our current eating plan, based on Dr. Joel Fuhrman's book "Eat to Live". We're eating fruits (unlimited allowed), vegetables (also unlimited allowed), legumes, and nuts. Six weeks of this.  The eating plan is based on the most nutrient-rich foods per calorie.

It started with Art's upcoming knee replacement surgery. He wants to get his weight down about 20 pounds. Also, we both would like to get off our bp meds.

It hasn't been a fun experience so far. I really miss eggs, cheese and butter. But surprisingly, not sugar or meat. And this morning, eating a bowl of oatmeal topped with fresh blueberries, I think about our former Saturday morning ritual, breakfast at our local diner, where I'd order a three-egg omelet with hash browns and a buttered English muffin. We'll probably do that again, but not for the next 44 days. And, frankly, I'm not hungry enough to get even halfway through such a breakfast.

I have a couple of blogging friends who dropped ten pounds last year over a period of time. I remember their comments about increased energy and smaller clothing.  Except for right after my divorce,  there hasn't been a time in my life when I've lost weight effortlessly. And, though I am reasonably active as far as walking and exercise, when I pair it with unmonitored food consumption, I get muscles along with fat. It's not the weight loss I'm after this time for my appearance, though. It's the health benefits.

Anyway, I'm on the bandwagon. Not thrilled yet, but on it.

On Tuesday, I take my Professional Standards Evaluation (PSE) test for my mediation coursework. It's a mock mediation to demonstrate the skills I've acquired so far. If I pass the first time, I'll need to do 12 mediations as a co-mediator with a certified person, and then I'll be just about certified. I love this mediation work. It seems to suit my talents and my interest. I'm a complete believer in the importance of being useful in my life, and I think this will do it to a large extent. I'm a little nervous. I'm actually reluctant to even post this, because if I don't pass the first time I'll have to admit it to my blogging community. Achiever, you know, in my past life.

I'll focus on the present day for now, though. Finish my oatmeal and blueberries, go to the gym for time  on the elliptical trainer, return to my yard for some weeding in the sunshine. This afternoon I'll spend a couple of hours preparing for the PSE. Sounds like a good day to me!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Family time in California

My weeklong trip to California with my sister Alyx was so good! After three days visiting our old friend Elinor, we went to Inglewood (near Los Angeles) for a first-time-ever visit to the graves of our mother's parents, Ethel and Myron McNeal.

After a daylong computer search and two trips to the Los Angeles County archives in Norwalk, we discovered the location of the grave of our mother's grandmother Alma McNeal, and visited her in Monrovia (also near Los Angeles). For the Monrovia visit, we bought three roses: one for our mother and one for each of us.

Mom was very close to her grandmother Alma but never visited her grave. She said, "She isn't there." Mom was very afraid of topics around death, maybe because her dad, Myron, died when she was nine and her mother, Ethel, died when she was 18. I can't recall ever attending a funeral when I was a child. And as an adult, I didn't learn about the deaths of my grandmother, my uncle or my aunt until several weeks later. It just wasn't a topic for discussion in our family.

I've done enough genealogy to have an idea of some of the circumstances of my family. When we were standing by our grandparents' graves in Inglewood Park Cemetery, I told Alyx the story of how our grandmother's mother died when our grandmother was three weeks old, and how by the time she was four she was living with her older sister Irene and Irene's husband Ned. I hadn't realized until last week that she was buried, beside her husband, in the same plot as Irene and Ned. I wonder if my grandmother was dependent on her sister all her life.

And our great grandmother Alma, divorced from her husband, is buried next to her sister and brother-in-law, who had moved from Colorado to California in 1909. After her divorce in the 1920s, I suspect she moved to California as well, to be near family.

The best part of the trip, though, was the time I spent with Alyx. This was our first time traveling together without our mother or our husbands. We stayed with two sets of friends (in Santa Barbara and Lake Arrowhead) and in two hotels (in Whittier and Ontario). We had a grand time - from the splurge to upgrade our rental car from the midsize sedan I booked to the Cadillac SUV we ended up with, to the early morning airport dropoff on Wednesday, when I came home, we talked and laughed and ate and talked and pondered and ate and teased and talked and geocached and grave visited and watched TV and ate. We had a few mild squabbles but we talked through every single one of them.

Not bad for two women who never had much of a personal relationship until our mother died in 2008.

This is my sister Alyx. After half a lifetime in California working as a marketer in the healthcare industry, she moved to Alaska three years ago. At age 56, she's just finished her first year of nursing school at the University of Alaska in Anchorage.

Here's to you, Sister! And thanks for the California memories.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Quiet time

I'm in California this week with my sister Alyx. For the last three days we've been in Santa Barbara. We're visiting our deceased mother's oldest and dearest friend, Elinor, who will be 92 on Sunday. Elinor lives with her niece, Becky, and Becky's family. She has a caregiver during the day. As with many elders, Elinor is growing more and more frail, and her sharp mind sometimes takes a break into forgetfulness or even confusion. But she is still present much of the time.

Aunt Elinor knew my sister and me before we were born. She and our mother were wives of young Marine Corps officers, and for a time 60-plus years ago, they roomed together while their husbands were overseas. Our two families shared many Thanksgivings and fourths of July. Elinor had two sons, Robert and James, but she calls us her "girls".

We've had a quiet time the last three days. We've taken Elinor's wheelchair and strolled at the Santa Barbara marina. We've worked in the kitchen as Alyx helped make Aunt Elinor's famous coleslaw. We've chatted after dinner about the past. We've looked at pictures of years gone by and of people who are no longer with us.

Tomorrow we leave for three days in Lake Arrowhead. Alyx has a house there that's for sale, and we're getting the last of the boxes out of the attic and the basement. It probably won't be such a quiet time. But it will be good.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Family stones

As far as I know, I'm the only person in my family, on either side, who's interested in graveyards. I had a special time with those entities on our road trip to Tennessee and Kentucky.

In western Tennessee, I met up with my father's father's people in their graves. Mt. Olive Cemetery, in Dyer, is a beautiful place, full of Horner and Flowers people - my great grandparents, great greats, and so on. Though a tornado destroyed the church several years ago, and had its way with some of the tombstones, I found my people.

In my genealogy research, the Horner and Flowers families have been extensively documented by other people, so I've known about these folks for a while. Still, it was nice to see them resting there. My grandfather lived in Dyer until he enlisted in the Army in World War I. After that he went to work for the railroad.  He retired to California and is buried at the veterans cemetery in San Diego.  I don't have a photo of that tombstone yet.

Dyer is a quiet town today. I wonder what Grandpa's life would have been like if he'd come home when the war ended.

In Wallins Creek, in Harlan County in eastern Kentucky, I found a very old grave belonging to a predecessor of my father's mother. Though it's been several generations since my direct ancestors lived there, I'm probably related to half the people in Harlan.

I knew about these gravestones, too, though they're not in a churchyard cemetery. I followed the directions provided to me and found them.

Jesse Brock's son George was my gggg grandfather; he emigrated to Ohio as a young man. I'll need to go to Scioto County in that state one of these trips to find where he's buried. I suspect life in eastern Kentucky was rough; maybe there was more possibility in Ohio - even though George went north rather than west to find a place for himself.

In Bowling Green, Kentucky, I had a graveyard adventure. That's where I found some of my mother's father's people. My ggg grandmother, Catherine Reddick McNeal, is buried in Pioneer cemetery with two of her children. I knew that from my online research. When we arrived in Bowling Green in mid-afternoon it was 85 degrees and humid.  We got directions from the desk clerk at the Fairfield Suites, where we were staying for the night. Once in the general area of the cemetery, I was at a loss. Finally stopped at a minimarket near our supposed destination. Went in. Asked the clerk where the "real old cemetery" was. She had no idea. Asked several people in line with their beer and ice if they knew. Everyone shrugged. Then one smiling man, wearing a "wife beater" t-shirt and missing half his teeth, said, "It's down four blocks, with a black fence." I thanked him.

Pioneer Cemetery's gates were locked. It's owned by the city, and some problems with vandalism resulted in a fence being put up. Across the street, in a former auto repair shop, I found a CrossFit gym, with two women working out. I explained my dilemma. One of the women, Julie, walked across the street with me. Lean and trim, she slid under a space beneath the fence and walked the cemetery looking for Catherine! After a few minutes I found a wider opening and wiggled beneath the fence as Julie took my picture. I got grass stains on my shirt - for the first time in over 50 years.

The cemetery was full by 1861, and all the old gravestones were moss covered. I wasn't able to find Catherine and her children Elizabeth and Pendleton in there, but I know that's their resting place. I wondered if a map of the cemetery existed showing who was buried where.

As we drove off, Art noticed a funeral home. I pulled in. It was closed, but there was a phone number on the door. I called it. Within minutes a funeral director called me back. I explained my dilemma. He told me I should call the City of Bowling Green. I did that. The lady there told me to call the library at Western Kentucky State, which is in Bowling Green. I did. Apparently there's no map, but they do have access to a list of cemetery residents. I had that myself, so I think I'm at the end of the line. Unless on some moonless light I take a pressure washer into the cemetery and clean up all the tombstones. I did that last year in Nebraska with my mother's mother's people, but I knew which tombstones were theirs. Maybe I'll just have to lay this issue to rest!

Not far away, Fairview Cemetery houses a number of Catherine's children, in-laws, and grandchildren. The land for the cemetery was purchased in 1861 from William McNeal, one of Catherine's children. He is buried there. I didn't realize until recently that all these people were related to my gg grandfather Robert Theophilus McNeal (he's buried in Denver). I only knew that when I found the last of Catherine's children, Drucilla, and found on her death certificate that she had the same parents as my Robert. As a genealogist, it's exciting to find a link that's been missing.

So, back home again, I'm feeling part of a large family. Even if most of them are very, very quiet.