Family updates

I updated the genealogy section of the site; this long overdue update added in all my living Brackbill second and third cousins. I had never had a chance to transcribe the Brackbill Book, the 1989 compilation of our family tree from Great-Grandfather Harry on down, and so I was in the embarrassing position of having tons of information about people born in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries and no representation of my living cousins. The updated genealogy has been uploaded to the site; as always, please note the caution about the Freeman data.

Holiday with friends

We had Shel and Erik over last night and inaugurated our second floor guest bedroom, which has been “just” a storage room since we moved in. By “inaugurated” I mean we shoved some boxes in the storage space under the eaves and pushed the others out of the way; it’s not remotely close to being finished, but it’s a start. Maybe I’ll hang pictures up there this afternoon—in time for Charlie and Carie, who will ring in the new year with us, to have the option to stay there rather than dodge drunk drivers on the way home to New Hampshire after midnight. And Esta and one of her fellow seminarians will join us week after next. As I said to Greg over IM last night, we’re turning into quite the little bed and breakfast. Y’all come.


Today I’m thankful for a whole bunch of things, including:

  • My wonderful wife
  • My family, including my amazing mother, who’s on a pilgrimage to Guatemala this week—this being the first time she’s been out of the country in 30 years
  • My in-laws who are with us enjoying the day
  • Our dogs, who have I think finally given up on getting at the turkey now that it’s been put away
  • Our house, even though it’s too damn warm in here after baking a pie, roasting a turkey, and doing countless other stovetop and oven dishes
  • About a bajillion bloggers
  • You, my readers
  • This blog, which makes me keep my brain exercised and keeps me honest

Distributed census records

I periodically get email questions from people who have come to my site by searching Google for their ancestors and have found my genealogical records. (In fact, I’m currently working through a backlog of six questions, some of which have sat in my inbox for six months…the shame.) Anyway, in looking up some information about a distant cousin, I found out that there’s a regional repository of census microfilm in the Boston area at the Frederick C. Murphy Federal Center in Waltham. Since driving to Waltham is cheaper than paying $20 a month for access to the records, I may have to make a little field trip…

Happy Birthday, Dad

My dad hits one of those milestone birthdays today (the Beatles one, for those of you playing along at home). After the excitement earlier this year, it’s especially good to be able to wish him many happy returns.

Of course, today is also the 35th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing—serendipitously enough, given my dad’s thirty-something year history as a NASA employee. That (unfortunately pop-up laden) page on, in which the moon mission is discussed in the context of a return to space, carries a little of how I feel today. The significance of a birthday or anniversary like today isn’t what went before, but in what is still to come. In both cases for today, I’m feeling pretty good about what’s coming next.

Many happy returns, Dad.

No catfish, just blueberries

Doc Searls: And the living is easy. Doc writes about his childhood summers in Brick Township, New Jersey, just a few stoplights away from the part of Lakewood in which I spent my Independence Day weekend this year. I was probably even in the parking lot that now sits over where the Searls family played hide and seek fifty-plus years ago. When Lisa visits the beach with her parents this month, she’ll go to Mantoloking (mentioned in Doc’s post from last year about summers at the Shore).

For what it’s worth, Doc, I’m with you on the fresh blueberries. Only my version was late July/early August harvest in southeastern Virginia. For many summers we’d visit a berry farm in Gloucester, across the mouth of the York River from Yorktown, and fill a 16″ by 30″ by 24″ Igloo cooler half full of blackberries and a smaller one full of blueberries. The tradition (started as a birthday gift for my dad, later moved to my Mom’s birthday because the blueberries were riper) lasted from about the time I was 10 or 12 in the early to mid 80s until just before I went to grad school in 2000. That fall my parents sold the house in which I grew up in Newport News, Virginia, and moved to my dad’s family farm outside Asheville, NC. To the best of my knowledge, they haven’t found a pick-your-own place there yet. But I still keep my eyes out for the first blueberries every summer, and am still quite capable of devouring several quarts of them without blinking or losing stride.

(Fellow Jarretts, I can’t remember the name of the farm we patronized; feel free to jump in on the comments.)

In-laws in-town

Lisa’s folks arrived last night from New Jersey, somewhat stiff but otherwise no worse the wear for their six hour flight. The dogs had not forgotten them from Christmas and were in such a transport of ecstasy to see them again that it was very hard to get them to go to bed.

It’s quiet this morning, but I know that won’t last. I don’t know what Lisa has planned for her folks today, but it probably has something to do with gardening…

In other family news, my father appears to be making a good recovery, and my aunt has successfully made it through her second knee replacement surgery. I think I still have a sister in seminary, but as she hasn’t blogged in over a month it’s hard to tell. sideways smiley

Learning to pray again

I wrote earlier that I joined a church choir after years in semipro vocal groups because I wanted to explore my faith more. I didn’t realize that I would get an opportunity from a completely different direction.

My dad had a minor heart attack (now there’s an oxymoron) last Sunday. He spent the past few days in the hospital while they first verified that it was, in fact, a heart attack and not a stomach condition; then tried unsuccessfully to clear the build-up in the minor arteries where the attack took place. He’s home now and relatively comfortable, thank God, but I think we were all pretty scared for a few days.

And I’ve been seriously praying again. Not bargaining, as I prayed when I was younger (you know: “God, if you’ll only get me through this test I promise I’ll be good”). Not raging, as I might have done in my angry teens and early 20s. Just talking to God about how I’m feeling, my hopes and fears for my dad and my mom, and asking for strength.

The blogosphere has helped too, between AKMA and Real Live Preacher. But the biggest help has been being with other people every day who don’t shy away from talking about faith and about their challenges and fears and joys and dreams. Hey, who says Presbyterians are the frozen chosen?

Christmas wrap-up

We’re leaving Lakewood in a few hours and driving back to JFK to start our long flight home (fortunately, it’s direct to Seattle. I don’t think I could handle connections with the dogs). My parents and Esta left yesterday for Pennsylvania.

It’s been simultaneously a relaxing and exhausting vacation. Relaxing because it was nice to get away from everything, out of the rain, and to spend time with family and with the dogs. Exhausting primarily because of the dogs. After this week we are finally ready to declare Stage 1 of Jefferson’s housebreaking complete (Stage 2 is getting him to go on command). Unfortunately, we weren’t at Stage 1 at the beginning of the week…

I managed during a Monday trip to Princeton to find time to get to the Princeton bookstore, where in 1990 as an early action admittee I bought a Princeton sweatshirt—and a T-shirt from Moscow University. This time my findings were more modest: remaindered books from Joseph Brodsky and Jerome McGann, and a British Library book about great books of the past 500 years. About which, more in time.

Christmas itself was unexpectedly generous: Esta gifted me with a hardbound Charles Addams collection and the Smithsonian Book of Newspaper Comics, both freebies from a professor of hers, as well as the Three Colors trilogy on DVD and a copy of “Have You Fed the Fish?” And my long-suffering wife replaced my broken 1st generation iPod with a brand new slim 10GB model.

And Jim Heaney came down from Mahwah for an afternoon yesterday, with pictures and the long awaited explanation of his Appalachian Trail nickname, “Mothman.” Apparently a week or so into the hike, he was holding a small flashlight in his mouth and washing dishes when a moth flew up his nose. There you have it.

The best present, of course, was the company. It’ll be hard to get back to real life.

Blog less, email more?

I’ve been a little quiet here lately—but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing. I had a backlog of email from people with questions about my genealogical research: lots of interest in the Brenneman family, for whatever reason, plus an assortment of Freeman and Jarrett questions.

I should probably instrument the genealogy pages to see how many people find my site through them. I’m afraid I’d find that they draw many more readers than my blog does, though. 🙂

Slow week, for some

Sorry for the lack of posting recently. I think getting caught up after BloggerCon has meant that I’ve run out of blog material for a while. Esta has the opposite problem: she’s been crazy busy and learning a ton at school, but her blog host is down. Hey, sis, want to guest blog here for a while?

Happy birthday Lisa

Today is my beautiful wife’s birthday; please spare a minute to wish her a happy day. Our big celebration will actually be a few weeks from now, coinciding with our anniversary, when we return to Boston for a little visit and mini-vacation.

The best part about the trip

Since I have just come into our house and have all but collapsed prostrate on the bed, I’m tempted to declare the ability to nap at 3 pm on a Monday afternoon the best part of the vacation. Of course, I’d be lying. It’s somewhere in between a fresh ear of corn just picked out of a field and steamed/roasted over a fire, laughing with my grandfather, and having my young first cousin (once removed) grab my index finger with a chubby fist… and then attempt to maneuver said finger to his mouth where he could eat it. I swear, the child almost had his feet in his mouth at one point.

Heading back

poppop and esta
More detailed notes, including Rough and Tumble, soon. For now a quick link to photos of the picnic and the Brackbill farm—and the newest cousin, my cousin Catherine’s son Johnathan. And probably the best picture I’ve ever taken of my grandfather, right.

I’ll get to post this entry, started in Baltimore where I had WiFi, when I get home. Right now I’m waiting in Chicago, which is obstinately WiFiFree, and so have a chance to look over some of the photos I took this weekend with my phonecam. The major thing that strikes me (and has probably already struck any more photography-savvy readers of this blog) is the color balance problem. The Nokia 3650 appears to do some image processing, including at least color and level correction—what I see in the viewfinder before I snap the photo isn’t exactly what I see afterwards. And the results can be uneven. I already noticed this with the Tradiscantia photos I took in my garden last weekend, and am noticing it more with the series I took of the farmhouse. Though I took the photos from more or less the same vantage point, the color of the grass is dramatically different in the photos I took from the tree shade than the ones I took closer to the house. Not ideal. And there doesn’t seem to be a way to turn it off either.

A small regret: the picture I took of the dedication stone in the center of the farmhouse’s wall didn’t come out clearly enough to show the engraving. I could only see a little from the ground, but it was something along the lines of “Hershey, 1857” with a good deal of text before and after. I never noticed it before, and when I asked my mom about it she confessed she hadn’t either. Something to check out another time.