14 August 2012

Tuesday Tip - How to Write a Blog for a Year

I don't know...it just happened!! Holy smokes, I CANNOT believe that it's been a year since I started this blog. I know it's a rather arbitrary milestone, but still. There are 89 of you who follow me, another 18 through NetworkedBlogs, and those that get it by email. Wow. Heck, I didn't think that anyone would read it, and that's the truth.

So, how've I done? You've been very generous in your comments on my posts, and I try to respond to each one. I'm pretty sure you know I put my heart into what I write; I can't really do it any other way. But I'd love to know if there are things you'd like to hear more about, or less about. I recognize much of this has become more personal than I ever intended, but hey, it's my blog and it's my genealogy. 50 years from now I want my 4th cousin 6 times removed to have a decent picture of who I am, because this'll probably be the only way that'll happen. But if you don't want to hear about my fitness pole dancing classes, or what my terrible trio of the feline variety are up to, well, I'll understand, but you'll have to tell me.

So, quick recap for those of you who may be new. I've been doing genealogical research for 16 years. I've been an Archivist for the last 8 1/2 years or so. In January, I gave my first Archives presentation to a genealogical group for the Town & Country Public Library in Elburn, IL and started in the ProGen Study Group program. I attended the Midwest Geneabloggers Meet up in March, and I'm hoping to attend again in October. I met my 2nd and 3rd cousins who live in Cincinnati last December because of this blog, and stayed with one of them again while I was doing my own research and attending NGS 2012 in Cincinnati in May as an Official Blogger! I received a grant through OpenSNP to have my DNA tested at 23andme. I've taken one trip to Michigan for a personal archives client and will be going back over Labor Day weekend to finish the first part and (hopefully) begin on a second portion. As of today, with the exception of the huge interruption after finding letters written by Varina Howell Davis (much more on this later), I'm 95% finished processing my OWN material so I can begin the process of filling out applications to Ohio Genealogical Society Lineage groups (First Families, Settlers & Builders, Century Families, Society of Civil War Families) and The First Families of Hamilton County Ohio. I have one scheduled speaking engagement in November, and I'm hoping that I'll be able to do more speaking in the future. Whew!

I struggle to be able to define how far my genealogical research and research skills have come in the last year. I thought I had a clue what I was doing. Heh. As with applying common sense to how we handle older genealogical material, or ANY old material for that matter, having an understanding of how to do that and learning technical aspects of the correct way to do it are two completely different things. So, I'm learning. And it's fun but, I gotta be honest, it's challenging. Those darn source citations are gonna be the death of me. But I don't know how many times I've looked at my own old database (I started a new one last year that is technically correct) and wondered, 'where the HECK did I get this information from?!' I've moved the lines that are important to me back several generations, but not without the generous help of some of you. There have been lots of random acts of genealogical kindness, small and big, that have helped me. So, I try my best to do the same. What's more, I gained an incredible group of diverse people from all over the world and, I've come to care deeply for many of you.

If you would've asked me a year ago what I would've thought was going to happen in this year, NONE of this would've been on the list. It's incredible how genealogy has opened up another world for me. But, there is NO way that I could've done it without all of you. I've found an incredible amount of support in the genealogical community. As with any community, it hasn't been without it's bumps in the road, but those are behind me and will stay there. My focus is on the future, and helping the genealogical community to be better. *I* want to be better. A better Archivist, a better Genealogist, and a better Community Member.

You can find me on Social Media: Twitter = @ArchivalBiz ~ Facebook = laura.lorenzana ~ Google+ = Laura Cosgrove Lorenzana

Also, stay tuned for another *small* announcement about how I want to help all of you take better care of the material that you have, that might come into your possession, or that your client's might have. It's time we all took better care of what we've worked so hard for! Tell me how I can help you do that. Thank you for being here and I really hope to see you next year!!

12 August 2012

Sentimental Sunday - Memories of Being a Mom

Anyone who follows me on Social Media knows I've been cleaning up my spare bedroom/office. I've come to realize that no matter how hard I try, I'm attached to my material. This is a good thing, as it makes me feel more confident in my ability to help my clients. I will have been in their shoes; have empathy for those moments when they simply can't put something away without telling the story that's attached to that particular item. Pulling stuff out of boxes and getting it organized isn't just hard from a physical standpoint; it can really take an emotional toll.

I had saved the most challenging container for last. (As an Archivist, I always do the hardest first; makes the rest a breeze). I had one large plastic (yes, I admit it, plastic) container full of old greeting cards, ticket stubs, school work, and manuals. 

I was doing OK until I came across a random loose photo of me with my kitteh Butch. I was lying in the grass holding his tail as he strained to get away. It was a weird game he'd started and it was something he loved to do: have me 'pull' his tail. The picture was taken about four years before he died. Interspersed between a few of the pages below it were a few more pics: one of him with my husband and one of him walking toward the camera. *sigh*

I was fairly certain that the rest would be innocuous, but I was wrong. Suddenly, staring me in the face was the manual for a light weight stroller and a booster seat. It's really a struggle to even begin to put into words the feeling that these two ordinary pieces of paper evoke. They represent something lost, something found, and something lost again, forever. 

Photo courtesy of Laura Cosgrove Lorenzana 2012
The first loss was my niece, Krystine. When she died, she was a 25 years old mom to two boys, 5 & 3 1/2, and a daughter, 10 months. Krystine died in her sleep of postpartum cardiomyopathy, a frightening disease that acts quickly and has no (currently) known cure. The Loss. 

As Krystine's Aunt by marriage, I think that people thought I'd somehow be less sorrowful over her loss. Having known her since she was 8, and loved her from the moment I met her, nothing could've been farther from the truth. But her blood family was in complete shock, and I took the responsibility of trying to organize things very seriously. 

I was the one who went out, the day after she died, to the bookstore to get books on the loss of a parent age appropriate for the boys. Their Grandma, in her grief, had told them that their Mommy had gone to sleep and that she wasn't going to wake up. I knew she wasn't able to process the loss of her own child, let alone explain it to Krystine's very young boys. And I knew that this moment, losing their Mommy, would have a life long impact on them. It was never going to be positive, but I was going to do everything in my power to make sure that it hurt as little as possible. So I bought the books, sat down alone with the boys and we figured it out together. C.J., the 5 year old, already seemed to completely understand what had happened, but Matthew, who was still shy of his fourth birthday needed to read the book with me before he was able to understand. It was one of my most heartbreaking experiences to watch as his little face showed confusion and then complete understanding. The Loss. And the Found.

It was that moment that I think I first realized for a moment what it must feel like to be a Mom. I was unable to have children of my own, so this was new territory for me. I just wanted to protect them from what was happening, even though I knew I couldn't. Protect them no matter what. And, that night as my husband and I lay in bed together crying over the loss of his 'little sister', his niece, he wondered aloud what would happen to the kids. Krystine, and her husband Jose, had come to us shortly after C.J. was born and asked us to be his guardian if anything happened to the two of them. We didn't hesitate to say yes. And after Matthew was born, Krystine and I had had a conversation about the fact that if anything happened to her that she would want her Uncle and I to take care of the kids. With her poor husband inconsolable at the loss of his wife, we couldn't help but wonder what was going to happen to her three children. 

Well, Krystine's parents were as inconsolable as her husband, so my husband and I suggested that we take Emilyn, the baby, so that preparations for the services could be made without the distraction. After all, a 10 month old is a ball of energy not to be constrained, and we all knew she didn't understand what was happening. At the same time, she was clearly feeling the sorrow in the house, so we packed up a few of her things and brought her out to our house. My husband had grown up changing Krystine's diapers, and those of her cousins, so he was an old hand at the baby thing. I, on the other hand, was like a fish out of water. But I loved every single frustrating moment. And, in our haste to get her out of the house, we didn't have everything we needed. So, we went to Target and picked up a stroller, a booster seat, some utensils, bottles, sippy cups, stuffed animals, clothes...I'm pretty sure there was a point where my husband looked at me and said, "Enough." Heh. The Found.

I found my inner Mom. And then I had to put her away. Because, in the end, the kids went to live with my niece's in-laws during the week and her parents on the weekends. Like children of divorced parents, they're transferred back and forth. But, they are loved, very, very much. Except we never get to see them anymore. Unless it's one of their birthdays. Because, you know, that's how it is. Their Dad takes care of them and they're just our grand nephews and niece. The Loss. 

All this, from two pieces of paper. Yep. I DO understand how hard it is to go through your Grandmother's things. Or your Dad's. Or your own. So I guess the question is, should I save these things? Or should I hold the memory in my heart and give the rest away?

08 August 2012

Wordless Wednesday - Oh. My. God! What a Surprise!!

Joan Wersel Cosgrove with James (Jim) Cosgrove and Consuelo (Connie) Johnson Beightler at surprise wedding shower hosted by Cosgrove family in September 1954. From the personal collection of Laura Cosgrove Lorenzana

02 August 2012

Thankful Thursday - A Half Century's Worth

In case you haven't heard, on August 1st I celebrated my 50th birthday. Yep, that's right. Somehow I've survived this long. And it hasn't been without it's near misses; in 1991 I had a pulmonary embolism that by all rights should've killed me. But, I decided I just wasn't ready to give up the ghost and here we are 21 years later and I'm still sucking O2. This was by far the most challenging birthday for me, for a wide variety of reasons. I have never experienced the level of angst associated with a birthday as I did with this one. I think I've uncovered why I felt so unsettled turning the Big Five Zero.

Me. Very happy to have survived my first day being 50.
So, why is it this birthday was so challenging? I think it's because it was never on my radar. When I was a little girl, sitting in my sunny, window-filled bedroom, I drew my dream home (a ranch-style home with big picture windows nestled in the woods). I thought about what I was going to be when I grew up (a Forest Ranger, of course), where I was going to work (in a Ranger Station atop a hill looking out over the forest, so I could see the forest fires). I actively wondered about being 40, because it fell in 2002. In the early 1970s, the year 2002 seemed a lifetime away. The world would be driving/flying around in Jetson's-style bubble cars and I'd be up in my station with the forest animals as my friends ensuring that everything was good. Then I'd die. Period. Huh.

Fast forward to the year I went to the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point and my dream of being a Forest Ranger vanished in the ether. I really wasn't ready to be away from home and didn't have the tools to be independent. So I failed. It was 1981. A year later I was a floundering 20 year old with no job, no education beyond high school and absolutely NO clue what work I might be able to do. I was blessed that someone gave me an opportunity that lead me on a path to regular office work. I met a boy and I was madly in love. We were going to get married and have a family and live happily ever after.  By the time I was 40, in 2002, I'd be a busy mom, wife, etc. Life was amazing. 

When I turned 30, in 1992, I was one year out of a disaster of a marriage (not to the boy I fell in love with; he dumped me...LOL), one year into a relationship with a man I was head-over-heels in love with(my current husband), and I was just getting my feet wet in the Financial Industry. I had the world by the *ahem*, on a string, and my future was incredibly bright. I was still getting carded whenever I went into a place that sold liquor because I looked so young. It was very aggravating, but even then I knew there'd come a time when I'd be thankful for my youthful looks. We (my future husband and I) planned our future out into and through our retirement and I looked forward to a wonderful life. 

My 40th was challenging. We'd suffered two significant personal losses the year before: my 69 year old father-in-law and my 45 year old cousin, Pam. I'd suffered a professional loss by being laid off from work. In the years between 1982 and 2001, I had not been unemployed. It was new territory for me and the economy was making my job search more challenging. I felt like I was adrift in unfamiliar waters. But we had a great family network, and I felt confident I would find work that would support us until it was time to retire. Once again, that time period between my current birthday and retirement was glossed over. 

I can't begin to list the insanity that has been the last 10 years. A cataclysm of chaos. I don't know why, but I often wonder. We (my husband and I) no longer give voice to the question, "What else can possibly happen?" because the minute we ask it, something else happens. And honestly, I've been too busy dodging the rocks the Universe has been winging at us to give much thought to what it might be like being 50. The short list: my 25 year old niece, mother of three small children, died of postpartum cardiomyopathy. My 84 year old aunt died a month later. My husband left a secure job to go to work for his sister, and then seven years later was forced to leave.  I haven't had consistent work. My husband's family had a falling out and they are now estranged. My parents moved in, and then out, of our house. They chose to move to Prescott, AZ even though my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. I've had 'friends' choose not to be part of my life. I've come to understand that listening to my litany of chaos is too uncomfortable for most people, no matter how supportive I am toward them. Heck, *I'm* not comfortable with the chaos I have so expecting other people, with their own chaos, to embrace mine is a little unrealistic isn't it? 

Now there's 50. It's 2012 and I'm not quite sure how things are supposed to go. There's still the chaos, but I'm learning how to manage it. I'm more physically fit than I was when I was 40, or even 30 for that matter. I'm blessed with genes that keep me looking much younger than I am. I have a couple of people in my life who I know I can count on, and I am reminding myself that it's the quality, not the quantity of relationships that matter most. I am abundantly aware now that my passion for the people in my life and the things that I do is often mistaken for arrogance and a self-centered mindset. I'm neither of those things. My only goal is to see the people that I care about be happy: I will do anything in my power to help make that happen.

I've found a voice I didn't realize I had in this blog. I want to use that voice to share my journey through this age I never gave much thought to at all. But first I feel the need to express my gratitude to those who read this. I know there's a glut of material in a huge variety of forms out there.You chose to read what I'm writing. If you were here, I'd hug you (it's what I do). Instead, accept my thanks for being here.  

I've found a niche in the work I love to do and I'm going to strive to turn it into a viable business model. It scares the crud outta me, but I have to at least give it a try. While I wish that I could be an Archivist forever, it's very likely that by the time I turn 60 I will not have my current job. But I've found a number of people who've already seen the benefit in having their own material professionally archived and it's something I feel passionately about. So why not?

OK Universe, thanks for the journey so far and the lessons along the way. I've found 50. There are plenty of women who I believe may well have had a similar sense of disorientation at this age. There's Harriet Anderson. If her story doesn't make you feel like a slacker, then no one's will. Except maybe Ernestine Shepherd. She didn't START until she was in her mid-50s and now she's a competitive body builder at 70+. These are just a couple of the women who now inspire me to find my passion and run with it (proverbially speaking). 

I am thankful. I'm thankful the Universe has made me extremely adept at dodging rocks. Not all of them, mind you. Some have found their mark and are painful. But for the most part I'm more nimble and agile than I've ever been before. Now I have to wonder what 60's gonna look like...