Authors and Musicians Corner NOT at the Dublin Irish Festival

All my festivals were canceled this year due to COVID-19. Soooo, I put this together. I hope you’ll come to this live Facebook event. The schedule is up with a vast variety of authors and musicians to entertain you!

My First Motherless Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day Without a Mom

It feels kind of weird. I imagine it would be worse if the stores were fully open because I’d be seeing little things to get my mom. She loved little things, multiple packages to open, no matter what was inside. Tissues? Great! A new tube of deodorant? Very thoughtful! Something, anything green? Perfect! Anything with the Reds logo? Love it! That was my mom.

Still Celebrating!

There is still a lot to celebrate. I’m a mom. I’m a grandmother. I adore the mothers of my grandchildren. I have a terrific mother-in-law!

I have been blessed beyond measure without a doubt!

But…

I’m the little one.

I have wonderful memories about my mom. It took me awhile, though, to allow those memories to surface. My mother had dementia and grew increasingly difficult to deal with in her final years. She was still loving and pleasant, just not all the time.

There were difficult moments as I had to make difficult decisions for her. There was family strife while making those decisions. I was frankly exhausted from not only the tension, but also the 2 hour drive each way when I went to visit her or to take care of business for her. When she passed away last summer just a few days after her 90th birthday, I felt as though I’d already traveled through most of the grieving process. As her memory faded, I lost bits and pieces of her and of our relationship. I honestly at that time could only remember the bad times. Even before this happened to her, the memories were of arguments or her lack of cooking skills or her willingness to enable certain family members who took advantage of her. I came to terms with that when I realized that it would take time to remember the “old” mom. And it did. The good memories finally came through. Like this one:

And this one:

And lots more because she was so goofy!

So that’s why I’m celebrating Mother’s Day not with tears but with joy.

Take My Advice

If you still have your mother and/or your grandmothers (any family member of a previous generation for that matter) ask questions. Take notes.  Make videos. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say, “I wish I would have asked her/him about xyz.” Celebrate Mother’s Day that way. Even if you think you’ve heard the stories before.

Questions you might ask:

Was there ever a time when you remember people having to adjust because of a pandemic (polio, flu, something else?) What changes do you remember taking place and how did that make you feel?

How did you meet Dad (Mom, Grandma, Grandpa…)?

How did you get engaged?

What is your earliest memory?

How was your family affected by The Great Depression? (WWII, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, the Recession?)

What meal was your favorite growing up?

Tell me about the first car you owned. (House, pet…)

Did your parents force you to go to church when you were a kid? Why or why not?

What are your memories about watching the first moon landing? (Day JFK was assassinated, 911…)

Using questions will help guide the conversation so that you don’t hear the same things over and over. Try to think about the things you may be curious about later.

Celebrate Family

Photo by Stationery Hoe on Unsplash

However you define family. There are lots of ways, but you know who the people are you’re closest to. Many of you have been spending time in the house with them, and others you’ve kept in touch with by email, video, and over the phone. Get yourself a journal and start recording those memories, including your own. Are you keeping a pandemic journal? If not, start today! Future generations will want to know what we thought about and how we handled 2020. Write down your thoughts because in the future someone may forget to ask!

How Will You Celebrate Mother’s Day in 2020?

Happy Homebound Easter!

Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

Rethinking How We Do Easter

Easter Egg Hunts? Easter Bonnets? New Clothes? Ham Dinner with Hot Cross Buns?

Easter 2020 is going to look much different for us. We may still be able to hold on to some traditions. A hunt can happen with ten or less people. You can still cook and dye eggs. But you won’t be walking into a church most likely (and shouldn’t) or have a huge family gathering. Not this year.

But like the Grinch who couldn’t really steal Christmas from the folks in Whoville, the Corona Virus cannot steal Easter. Others have tried. You know the story. Kill him. Roll a huge stone across the entrance of his grave. Post soldiers. Jesus rose anyway.

You Are Not Alone

See that little lamb in the picture above? He seems to be alone and a bit startled. The photo reminded me of the parable of the lost lamb. Here are Jesus’ words from Luke 15: 4-7 NIV:

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

If Jesus is your friend, you can’t stray away too far for Him to find you. These are tough times for some, really dark days for others. Even if you are isolated, you are not alone. Remember 911? Churches were filled as people thought they better get right with God because tomorrow might be our last. It’s a startling revelation when we understand we are not in control of everything. It need not be startling or even scary because there is One who is in control. Trust brings peace. Fear brings uncertainly and panic. I recommend trust.

Photo by Neal E. Johnson on Unsplash

How Should We Celebrate Easter?

In my opinion the church was never meant to be solely for celebrating. We do need worship, but that is for God. I hope you are worshiping online this Easter. Or reading an inspirational book, or walking in God’s nature to worship Him.

But the church, the true church is not closed. It can’t be. It’s the people. That may seem hard. I mean, how can you be the church if you cannot BE with people? This pandemic has come at a time when we aren’t, most of us anyway, truly isolated. We have the internet. And there is always the phone and letters.

Photo by Billy Pasco on Unsplash

My friend’s mother who is in her 80s loves to minister to people. She’s still independent and drives herself to functions and helps out those in need. Now, however, she is one of the most vulnerable and must self-isolate. She takes short walks in her neighborhood and drops off notes of encouragement in her neighbors’ mailboxes. That, friends, is being the church. I’m sure many of you reading this have done things like this, perhaps through neighborhood Facebook groups, or you’ve called out to your neighbors from a distance to greet them. It’s simple, often low-tech, but it means so much. Jesus is alive because we carry Him to others in our actions and our words.

What Will Come After?

I’ve seen people discussing this on social media. How will this change our habits and our outlook on life? It will, for sure, I think.

We won’t take for granted being able to shop whenever we want. We won’t take for granted the ability to go to a restaurant, a movie theater, a sporting event, church. We won’t take for granted hugs and whispers, and group dinners. And hopefully, we won’t take each other for granted. This has become a forced Sabbath, a time to reflect and grow closer to God, and in a strange way, closer to each other.

Photo by Vonecia Carswell on Unsplash

In this 2008 video a woman who lived through the 1918 pandemic explains it better than I can because I’m not on the other side yet.

Please Comment. What Will You Stop Taking For Granted?

Travel Treasures

Beyond Souvenirs

When you travel, do you bring home a souvenir? I think most people do, especially when traveling to a new place. I did buy several gifts on my trips to Ireland, and some things for myself. But that’s not the kind of souvenir I wanted to talk about today.

Collecting

First, be sure it’s okay to do this.

My cousin Scott Brown (pictured here) collects jars of dirt from various baseball parks he has visited. The picture above is from the farm where baseball legend Mordecai Brown grew up. Below is from the site of the old West Side Grounds in Chicago. Don’t worry. He asks first.

His is a pretty unique collection. It literally grounds his memories of these places that are special to him. (Pun intended.)

When I was in Ireland on my last trip, my husband and I spent some time walking some beaches on the west coast. It was April, a very unusually chilly April for Ireland, and we were alone on these beaches. They were not beaches that you might think of in America. They were pretty wild and lonely. Not that no one ever visits, they do. There were carparks (translate: parking lots), but at this time they were deserted.

@CindyThomson

@CindyThomson

I picked up a rock. And then a shell. And then a few others.  I did not want to part with them so I brought them home, just a small collection, mind you. My husband found a piece of sea glass. I’ve never found sea glass before. I keep these things in a glass box on my desk. I’ve taken a photo of them spread out for you.

And where they usually sit:

Unexpected Result

Did you know that rain takes on the scent of what it lands on? There’s much more to the science than that. You can look it up. I did and had trouble interpreting it all. My brain doesn’t work that way, but it’s true. Rain of itself does not have a smell, and yet we can all smell the rain. I sincerely believe I smell Ireland on these rocks. It’s a fresh smell, hard to describe. In any case, it’s a sensory experience that takes me back there, not unlike what Scott’s collection does for him.

Do You Collect Travel Treasures?

Let me know in the comments. Since this is a time right now when no one of us are able to travel, these collections help us remember special times in our lives.

St. Patrick’s Day at Home

Celebrating During a Pandemic

On the Hill of Slane
From My Visit photo©Cindy Thomson

The Irish are social people, that’s for certain. Pubs, sessions of traditional Irish music, parades, plenty of Irish dance and music. But make no mistake. They are also creative. Much of St. Paddy’s Day today in 2020 will be celebrated online. Need an authentic recipe for an Irish meal? No problem. The Irish American Mom has you covered. Check out what the Irish eat.

Here is one of I expect many free online concerts. The Gothard Sisters

Watch an Irish movie. If you haven’t already, search for

Philomena

The Quiet Man

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Brooklyn

The Secret of Kells (learn more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Secret_of_Kells)

To just name a few!

Read!

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

You knew this was coming, right? And not just my books (although I hope you’ll read those and post reviews!)

Here are a few Irish books by Irish authors I’ve enjoyed (and this is a huge variety!):

Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly

Ellis Island by Kate Kerrigan

The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry

The Tea House on Mulberry Street by Sharon Owens

Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt

Anam Cara by John O’Donohue

The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter by Hazel Gaynor (born in the UK but living in Ireland)

Anything by C.S. Lewis

Maeve Binchy books

….I better stop!

Join a Group!

Have you joined our readers Facebook Group? We would love to have you join us!

There are many interest groups on Facebook. I belong to some on Celtic Christianity and Irish Genealogy. You are not alone.

Learn About St. Patrick

St. Patrick’s Cathedral New York
Photo by Drew Beamer on Unsplash

My final bit of advice to keep you occupied this St. Patrick’s Day is to do some studying up. I think Patrick’s story is inspiring. Did you know that he first came to Ireland (that’s right, he’s not native Irish) as a slave? He escaped. Later became a bishop and then willingly returned to a land that he felt was dangerous for him to return to because he felt called by the very Irish themselves. Called to come and help them find faith in God. You can read more in this past post.

You can find a chapter on him in my book.

The Roots of Irish Wisdom by Cindy Thomson

Whatever you decide to do this St. Patrick’s Day, try to include some remembrance of the man’s legacy. I think it’s important for today’s world.

Afterthoughts

If you missed it, read my first post on this here.

About that Dead Files episode shot in my town and in downtown Columbus. If you missed it, fear not. You can see it by clicking the link below:

https://dai.ly/x7sbj75

Everything is Shorter than it Was

Huh? Well, there was more to my interview than made it into the episode. That’s to be expected. Some things end up on the cutting room floor, as they say. There was actually some stuff I thought was pretty interesting that didn’t make it in so I thought I’d share some it here.

I was not aware of all that would be included. I did not know the family or what their issues were. I did not know what other “experts” would appear and what other evidence they found. The producer had mentioned a plane crash, so I wasn’t surprised by that part. Not much was said about the Geis family. Theirs was a tragic tale than touched me, but it didn’t fit in that well with what the medium sensed so out it went. She did say she sensed an older woman needed care and maybe cancer. But that was about it. If you want to hear more about them, keep reading. But first, the Shambaugh family.

Too Much Death

Thanks to my friend Michelle Levigne for this literal screen shot!

For many families in the late 19th and early 20th century, infant deaths were sadly quite common. If you’ve done some family research, you’ve most likely encountered this fact. In 1900 in some cities in America the infant mortality rate was as high as 30%. People had more children then. Birth control was not widely available, and what people did have to use was not very effective. My grandmother was born in 1900. She was one of nine children. Children died of diseases now curable. There was no understanding of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) but it still occurred. We believed at least one of the Shambaugh babies died from SIDS. She simply stopped breathing. That was something in the interview that ended up on the cutting room floor.

A Shambaugh grave marker, likely from someone related, at Pataskala Cemetery.

The focus on the show was the fact that there was too much death in and close to the property. For the Shambaughs that meant three of seven children died and not long after, Mr. Shambaugh passed away from a painful kidney disease. You will see on the show that I said, “And then she died.” She died 13 years after her husband. Something else that didn’t make it? She was much younger than her husband. I think it should have been included because in the walk through Amy did note “young woman” (if you’re lost at this point about “walk through”, remember to read my previous post linked above because I explain how the show is set up). In fact, I think Amy said it more than once and Steve pointed out that Lizzie was 47 when she died. (Something people have been stringing him up for on social media, haha! That’s young!)

True that was how old she was when she died—and that’s young to die—but she died 13 years after her husband. She would have been a very young mother when some of her babies were born and died.

One last note about Lizzie Shambaugh. Her death notice states that she died in 1913 in Franklin County. Her husband died there on the property in question, but she did not. That is said by both me and Steve and in the reveal Amy says this woman might not have lived in that very house. Still, not being into this paranormal stuff, I don’t know if folks believe a dead person can haunt a place that is not the location where they died. Maybe that happens. In their world and in their understanding, that is. In the narrative we originally talked about, we discussed how after all that death on this property, Lizzie Shambaugh packed up and got out of town just a few years after her husband died. Steve mentions that briefly in the show. Amy speculates that this woman may have had mental problems and was sick. I’m sad about that. I get caught up in the human stories I research and this was no different.

The Geis Family

This is a more recent family that lived at the address where Feliza and Kevin now live with their grandchildren. But not the very house. Ellenor died three years or so before this house was built, at least according to the information I found on the age of the house. Why the previous owner would tell Feliza that Ellenor died right there in the living room is beyond me. Even if it were true, why say that? That’s not exactly a selling point. I don’t get that.

However, what a terrible tragic tale the Geis story is. Both Ellenor and Paul Geis were injured when they were hit by a drunk driver in December of 1979. Ellenor had it much worse than Paul did. They filed a lawsuit against the driver. The show was going to report that, but again, that was cut out. You can read about that here. There is no evidence of a ruling on that lawsuit that the show ever found. Yes, they looked. Yes, they did a lot of work that was never used. It doesn’t appear the Geises ever got anything. Another thing that got dropped was their occupations. Ellenor worked at a lab and Paul was a gas station attendant and probably held other jobs later in life. Their lifestyle was severely altered as a result of this accident through no fault of their own. Ellenor died just over three years after the accident. She did develop cancer in the area of her injury. I don’t know what her medical report looked like but in the lawsuit she claimed the cancer occurred because of the injury. The show had found some evidence of an auction that showed that Paul sold off what he and Ellenor had owned, suggesting that they did not get a settlement from the accident.

That’s basically all we learned about the Geis family. I think it was brought into the show because someone told Feliza that a woman named Ellenor had died in the house, which wasn’t correct, and Feliza said in the show that she believed the presence, or one of them, was Ellenor. Ellenor died in Georgia. But she’s buried in Pataskala cemetery. In our interview, Steve had said, “So she came home again.” And I repeated that. That was cut because it wasn’t needed for the show, but i thought it was a fitting end to this part of the story. Paul Geis died in 2003 and is buried beside her. Again, I felt bad for them. I was pleased, however, to learn that Ellenor was not blamed for any of the paranormal activity in the house.

(I also thought it was good they did not blame the client’s nephew who had reportedly killed himself for haunting the young boy in the house. Seeing the young man’s photograph, Amy said, “Oh, no.” Glad she said no. I can’t image the pain the family would have dealt with otherwise. You can see that in the episode, which I think is a statement that this show doesn’t want to hurt people.)

Genealogy Research is About the Dead, After All

There are probably many stories about every property. Why do some people believe their homes are haunted? I have no idea. But they do because The Dead Files has not run out of material and are now filming their 13th season.

Amy says she talks to dead people. I listen to dead people. Not actual voices, but I listen by uncovering details about their lives.

on Unsplash.com Roman Kraft
@romankraft

The Takeaway

This is just my opinion, but I think we all need to learn the stories of the people who lived before us. If we listen to the stories of their lives, appreciate the pain and sacrifices made, we can learn and appreciate them so that their memory never dies. I think it’s a mistake to think we are the only ones who have dealt with whatever problems we are experiencing. Pain, sorrow, death… all a part of the human experience. Acknowledging that teaches us that we are not alone. The survivors had to press on. We have to too. And knowing that they did, that Lizzie survived the death of so many children and then the sudden death (it came very quickly) of her husband and lived for 13 more years tells us that it’s possible. I don’t know how well she coped. If any of her descendants find this I’d love to hear more of the story. But she did carry on. By selling her land. Perhaps by moving in with relatives or finding employment. There is ALWAYS more to the story.

And that’s another takeaway point. There is more to all of these stories. That’s why I thought I’d share just a little bit beyond what you saw on this episode. Now I’m curious about the other things mentioned that I didn’t know about. That doctor? That airplane pilot? And what about the dogs Amy mentioned. Yes, always more to discover.

If You Watched, What Was Your Takeaway?

 

The Day I Was on a National TV Show

Now I’m an Expert?

Sometime last year I was contacted by the production company that produces the Travel Channel Show The Dead Files. I had never heard of it before. I was told that they would be filming an episode in my town and wondered if I’d be interested in appearing on the show as their genealogy research expert. Now, that doesn’t happen every day, does it?

While the show is about paranormal activity, my part had nothing to do with that. I was just the “expert” who talks about the history of the people involved. Genealogy is my thing, and this sounded like fun so I agreed. The film crew kept referring to me as the expert. “Bring your expert in now.” “Have the expert sit here.” And so on. So weird, let me tell you!

I should add here that the show’s “experts” do not get paid. The really nice producer named Jeremy did buy me lunch, though, at The Mexican Place. (Not the actual name of the restaurant, but everyone who lives here will know what I’m talking about because that’s what we call it.)

About The Dead Files

If you haven’t seen the show before, here’s a quick summary. This year is the 12th season by the way, so it’s been around a long time! Basically, someone contacts the show and says they have some paranormal activity in their home and they need help. There are three segments to the show.  Steve DiSchiavi, a retired New York City police detective comes to research what’s going on from a detective-type point of view. He talks to “experts”, collects information, and then talks to the family. The second part involves a medium named Amy Allan who does a walk through of the house to see what she senses. I’m glad I had no part in that. It’s not that I don’t believe in the supernatural, I do. Jesus spoke to demons. They are real. But yeah, that’s creepy. No thank you. Anyway, they really do this in the middle of the night. That part you see on the show is true. Then the third part is where both Steve and Amy meet with the family. They each individually discuss their findings and then Amy tells the family what they need to do to rid themselves of this activity.

 

What I Did

Jeremy discussed with me what they’d found out and asked me to look over it. We discussed the research over the phone. I can tell you, they really do put in the research for these programs and double-check, using a lot of genealogy techniques I’m familiar with. They aren’t making this stuff up. It’s true that truth is stranger than fiction. Even so, some information wasn’t discovered, or at least revealed to me, until the day of the filming. That was because they were continuing looking for new information.

It was a hot Saturday in August. I was nervous, but Jeremy practiced with me until I felt confident I could remember all the names, dates, and details they wanted in my interview with Steve DiSchiavi.

 

Steve is a really nice guy. All the crew were very nice, polite, and patient. It was quite the experience. I’ve done television interviews on baseball topics and on my books before, but this, a full-fledged television program, was different. I kept saying, “This is just not my world.” Steve said, “It’s your world now!”

We met at a bar. We had water in our coffee cups. There seemed to be cameramen everywhere. I welcomed them to Ohio. They said they’d actually been to Ohio a lot. There is apparently a ton of paranormal activity in Ohio. Had I heard of a place called Springfield? Uh, yeah, I have!

 

I had the cord of a mic slung down under my dress and I sat on an extra cushion on my barstool because…yeah, because I’m so short! All the bottles at the bar had to be turned so that the labels didn’t show. The whole crew had to be completely silent during the filming. My glasses pushed up just right on my nose. Little details like that fascinate a novelist like me!

I made some mistakes. They just shot those parts over again. Sometimes an idea came to the producers so they decided to have me say something different. Sometimes Steve ad libbed something that he decided would work better. And there was the time I handed Steve a death certificate and he just smiled and handed it back to me. It was actually an obituary so I had to do that over again. They kept telling me I did great. They were super encouraging. At the end I told them I knew that I appeared terrified but I actually enjoyed it. Both Steve and Jeremy assured me that I did not look terrified. If I had, they would have done it over. They even asked if I’d be willing to do it again if they came back this way. Well, apparently that’s a possibility since it’s Ohio!

Season 12 Episode 5

It airs Thursday, February 27th on the Travel Channel. I have YouTube TV and the Travel Channel is on there now. There are other services if you don’t have cable, but you may not be able to see it right away.

I hope I don’t look dumb!

I don’t know who the family is. You’ll find out when I do. I do know the location of the house. Not because they told me, but because I don’t totally suck at research. I hope the people there are not truly in distress. I hope they find what they are looking for. There are two families mentioned in my part of the research, families who used to live on that property. Some are buried in the local cemetery. The oldest family name mentioned on the show is buried there too. I came across that plot by accident when I went to the cemetery to find the grave of the woman I mention in the show to pay my respects. I do hope she’s resting in peace. As a Christian, I also hope that God brings all those involved in this episode some peace, the peace of Jesus.

My 15 Minutes of Fame?

I hope not really. I’d rather be remembered for my books. Research is my passion, though, and seeing how this show goes about researching was fascinating. Seeing a national TV program filmed was educational and fun. I’m pleased they asked me!

Happy St. Brigid’s Day!

One Legend

There are so many stories of St. Brigid that I love (hint: you’ll find many of them retold in my novel, Brigid of Ireland). But I thought I’d talk about just one today, the story of Brigid and her mother. I wonder if this is where Disney got some its ideas. It’s an ancient story of a girl who longs for the mother she never had due to some cruel circumstances.

Born a Slave

Brigid’s mother was her father’s slave. Her father’s wife did not like it that her husband had impregnated his slave, so Brigid’s mother, Brocca, was sold to a druid while she was still expecting. Brigid’s father was cunning, however, and not about to sell two slaves for the price of one. Part of the transaction was the requirement that when born, the baby had to return to him. That is how Brigid came to grow up without a mother.

Not a Model Servant

St. Brigid mosaic at St. Patrick’s cathedral in Armagh.

Brigid is said to have become a Christian because of the teaching of Patrick. Most historians believe the two saints’ lives did not overlap, so it’s probable she was converted by his followers. Brigid had a heart for the poor. In that time, you were either a self-sustained property owner—as her father was, also known as a minor king—a slave, or part of the royal house. Without any of those things, you were a wanderer living in the woods, begging when you could, hunting and foraging for your food. There were plenty of needy people around. Brigid always gave to them. The problem was, what she gave away did not belong to her. Now, it’s said that whatever she gave away was miraculously restored, but despite that, her father grew weary of her generous ways. He decided to put her into the service of the King of Leinster.

Her Father’s Sword

Photo by Ricardo Cruz on Unsplash

While waiting in the chariot alone as her father went to seek an audience with the king, Brigid encountered another beggar. Being away from her dairy, she looked around the rig to see what she might give. The glint of metal caught her eye. Under a blanket lay her father’s sword. Not an ordinary weapon, this sword had a hilt encrusted with dazzling jewels. No matter. It was the only thing available. While she was handing the sword to the beggar, Brigid’s father and the king emerged from the castle.

“You see? You see why I have to get rid of her?” her father said.

The king nodded. Being wise, as kings tend to be, the king approached Brigid and asked her to explain herself. She waved an arm toward the king’s bountiful fields and hearty cattle, and said, “If I had all this, King, this is what I would give away to those who have nothing to eat and nowhere to lay their heads.”

The king felt humbled by her answer. (Perhaps even chastised.) He declared that this special woman should not be enslaved. Instead, he granted her her freedom. That sounds great, right? But, if you look at what I said about the social structure of ancient Ireland, you’ll realize that life would have been easier for Brigid if she had remained a slave. She does want to find her mother, though. This is where I began my novel, Brigid of Ireland.

Still a Giver

Now having nothing, Brigid continued to give. And as time went on, she continued to be the hands and feet of Jesus. This kind of example inspires me. I hope she inspires you as well.

Brigid of Ireland by Cindy Thomson, ebook

Book One, Daughters of Ireland