My Nancy Drew Epiphany

I believe I had a true epiphany yesterday–an awareness of self. (So glad we can still get these, no matter how old we get!)

Could it be that my love of family history research is rooted in my childhood’s memory of and love for Nancy Drew books… and the mysteries one can solve through proper sleuthing? I believe it is true!

Beginning at about 3rd grade, I believe, a group of girlfriends and I formed a sort of neighborhood Nancy Drew Book Club. We would each buy a different book in the series, pass them around until everyone had read them all, then repeat. Not only was our hunger to read Nancy Drew books sated, but it was done at little individual expense. We couldn’t wait to get our eyes on the next suspenseful tale!

Nancy was an ingenious teenage detective. Her powers of deduction and logic seemed masterful to this 8-year-old girl. I would imagine myself in her place as I read through each mysterious adventure and process of logical reasoning in order to solve whatever crime was at the root of the book’s plot. I wanted to learn those skills, to be as clever and bold and strong-minded as Nancy Drew. [Mathematics, the field I studied in college, is also about logic, reasoning, analysis, and problem solving. Curiouser and curiouser.]

My father seemed to understand my interest in solving mysteries. When I was young, he would often give me puzzles to solve–riddles, mind puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, all kinds. Again, the emphasis was on solving a problem from clues and piecing together evidence to get to the underlying “truth.”

Logic. Reasoning. Analysis. Evidence. Conclusions. Solutions. Truth. Aren’t these all elements of the Genealogical Proof Standard?

I understand now, for the first time, how Nancy Drew and my father developed my capacity for thinking logically. I owe them my deepest gratitude for laying the mental foundation for both of my adult careers–a teacher of mathematics (among other things) for 37 years, and now a Professional Genealogist.

Thank you, Nancy! Thank you, Dad!


By all indications I have a serious case of senioritis. With just two more courses to complete by December 16 for NIGS (National Institute of Genealogical Studies) in order to receive my certificates in German Research, American Research, and Professional Learning, I am feeling like a high school senior. Lack of motivation. Easily distracted. Procrastinating like crazy. Falling asleep while doing assignments. Watching the clock for the end of my study time. Watching my phone and hoping someone will call. Playing puzzles on my iPad longer than I should.

I started this journey during the fall of 2015 and completed 62 online course in less than three years, while also completing ProGen, GenFed 2017, several institutes, and taking care of family. Not bad for a retired school teacher in her 60s! But, I can’t stop now…

Time to let another kind of Senior-itis kick in. What’s that, you say? It has to do with taking advantage of all the benefits that come with acquiring the status of being a “Senior Citizen.” Better coping skills learned from years of experiences. Time and opportunity to pursue a dream.  Emotional and intellectual maturity. Pride in all that I have accomplished already. Willful determination to complete what I began, because I know I can!

Time to finish those last two courses! I can see the light at the end of the tunnel… Looks like a celebration lies ahead of me!


Swedish Death Cleaning

I just heard about this technique of “decluttering your house before you die to relieve the potential burden on your children” from my daughter. (Of course, that is my over-simplified version of the idea.) Even though the name sounds a bit morbid, I completely agree with the concept.

Despite my efforts to eliminate “stuff” from my house on a semi-regular basis, I still have too much clutter. I blame it on lack of time, but I know better. I am a great procrastinator. If I am not in the mood to do something, it doesn’t get done. If I procrastinate long enough, eventually something important becomes urgent and has to get done. That is where I find myself now. I am feeling a sense of urgency.

My mother-in-law passed away earlier this year (29 January 2018, to be exact) at the age of 95. She was a child during the Great Depression and, like many others of her era, she had a tendency to hold onto everything. While her kids were growing up, she kept two houses–one for the school year and one for vacations–fully stocked with cooking supplies, furniture, clothes, etc. In 1979, they moved into the last house they would share in this lifetime. Everything from both houses went into that one house. Seriously, everything…

After she had a stroke, she came to live with us, her son and me. However, we still kept her house and took her there to visit whenever we could. Over the ten years she was with us, we gradually began to eliminate unnecessary items–food beyond the expiration date by up to nine years, clothes of her husband who died in 1997, some of her clothes and most of her shoes (almost 100 pairs), empty bags, etc. I guess you could say, we had begun the technique of “Swedish Death Cleaning” on her behalf–she was alive, but couldn’t do it for herself. It was overwhelming to see all the stuff that she had collected over time.

Now, as we get closer to the anniversary of her passing, we are feeling an urgency to finish cleaning out her things–donating, selling, distributing to family members who want them, and trashing what can’t be reused somehow–in order to put her house on the market. If only she had started this process years ago! But, the death cleaning doesn’t stop there. Once we have finished preparing her house for sale, we have our own possessions to eliminate in preparation for a move and down-sizing of our own. This will be a major step toward doing some death cleaning of my own. I can’t wait to be free from the burden of stuff! I know my descendants will appreciate it, too. Time to let go!

For more information about Swedish Death Cleaning, you might want to read about it here:

My Mother’s Hands

Whenever I think about my parents, both passed on for over a decade, thoughts of my father come into my mind first. He always seemed larger than life to me. He was the one I wanted to please, to make proud. My mother was more reserved, but she played an equally important role in making me the person I am today.

My mother’s hands were always busy. She kept our home clean and comfortable. She cooked, canned, and baked, filling our house with the most delightful aromas. She sewed a lot of our clothes. She maintained the household on a strict budget, but I for one never wanted for anything. Like all stay-at-home moms, she was also resident nurse, chauffeur, playmate, teacher, disciplinarian (until Dad got home), and so much more.

Even when she had “down” time, my mother’s hands were busy creating one handcrafted item after another. She always seemed to have a ball of yarn near her with which she would work, knitting or crocheting, tirelessly and lovingly, into this afghan, or that sweater, or those slippers, hats or scarves. She embroidered and did latch hook, creating both wall art and items for use in our home. She painted by number and enjoyed doing jigsaw puzzles. She learned the art of ceramics and made serving dishes for her holiday table. Once she made a quilt top, wedding ring pattern, out of fabric remnants, but she never finished it. (The work of finishing her quilt is now in my hands, but that is a tale for another time.)

Her talents for handcrafting, cooking, and keeping house have passed down to her daughters and granddaughters in varying degrees, but my mother’s hands continue their work through each of us, just as her mother’s before her, and on through the ages of women who I call ancestors.

What do you remember about the work of your own mother’s hands? How has her work influenced your life? Let your family know of this legacy. Write it down.