A Thanksgiving Like No Other

Thanksgiving 2020. Some are gathering as usual, some are not. Others are observing the holiday in a scaled down version of Thanksgivings of old. Everyone, however, is experiencing a very different holiday.

Photo by Adam Nieścioruk on Unsplash

For us, we usually don’t get together with our kids on the day. Someone was usually working or traveling to see other family or getting together at the in-laws. Even so, as the CDC is advising people to entertain no more than one additional household (meaning the people who actually live in your house) we aren’t having a sit down dinner. We are meeting our kids and their families at the Christmas tree farm this weekend to cut down trees, which will be fun but not an indoor large gathering.

Am I sad about that? Yes. But I don’t want to put too much emphasis on one day anyway, as in… you do all the festive stuff on that one day or your holiday season is completely ruined. We have to find new ways, and we will. You will too because this is a Thanksgiving like no other, and hopefully we won’t have another one like it ever. Sure, we can expect pandemics sometime in the future, but my hope is that we have learned from our mistakes and the next one will be manageable. It’s always my hope that we will learn from history. Do we? Sadly, not often enough. (If you want to compare today with what folks did in 1918, here’s an article from USA Today.)


[Boy holding large turkey]. Photograph from the George Grantham Bain Collection, [ca. 190-]. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division. https://www.loc.gov/item/2005691484/

Why this Thanksgiving Can Be the Best

Sorry to mix up holidays, but do you remember this from How the Grinch Stole Christmas?

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more!”

What if Thanksgiving doesn’t come from a single feast? What if it means a little bit more? A note, a phone call, a message on social media, a Zoom gathering? Not just on the last Thursday of November but at various times throughout the year. There will come a time when we can share large meals with large numbers of people again. Gathering over a meal is a bonding experience. An important one. But not the only one. When traditions are broken, make new ones!

Out of adversity comes strength. It is only through difficult times the human soul grows. We have that opportunity right now. Some have suffered more than others, but all have found their lives upended. What will you do in the face of this challenge? Those who lived through the last pandemic raised children that would be part of the Greatest Generation. They learned how to adapt and move on and even prosper. You will too. We all will! Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Photo by Kiy Turk on Unsplash

Birthdays

September marks my birthday month! Gosh, I’m getting old. This one is a big zero year. Oh, well! The years have brought me to a great place. I love being Grammy.

Readers of my newsletter have an opportunity to win some Celtic music on my birthday! Hopefully you found your way here through my newsletter (if not, please note that you are a subscriber) because I would like you to answer a question:

What’s the most creative way you’ve celebrated a birthday or special occasion during this pandemic year?

Need to subscribe? Go here: http://cindyswriting.com/newsletter-signup/

I can’t wait to hear your answers!

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?