Saturday, February 27, 2016

Census Records are the Best!

It's been a LONG time since I've written a blog post...but since I gave a large group of people the address to this blog, I thought I should update it! Today I had the opportunity to present at our local Family History Discovery Day.  It was so much fun to be with so many people who love family history as much as I do!  It's fun to pull out some of my craziest family history stories and know that other people will value the work that was put into finding them. :)

Today's classes were on African American genealogy research and taking an in-depth look at US Census records.  Census records are my favorite!  On just one page, you can recreate a pretty clear picture of what someone's family would have been like at a moment in history.  For example:


From this 1920 census, you get a picture of a young family, with a hardworking father (Emmett) and a mother at home with a toddler.  You see that they are making ends meet enough to be in the process of owning their home (they have a mortgage), and they seem to live a pretty simple life.  Now, when you look ten years down the line...


...you find that it has all fallen apart!  Emmett is in the Lima Hospital for the Criminally Insane!  How did he get there?!

We can find clues to that when we look further back  in the census records as well.  In 1910, Emmett is in the US Coast Artillery Corps, just prior to World War I. By using these census records as starting points, we can find more information on Emmett's military records and legal records. His military pension application shows that he came out of the war with enough injury to be called an "Invalid," and other legal documents use the technical term, "Lunatic." From what we know now, he likely had PTSD, and that affected him and his family enough that he was eventually institutionalized, and committed (or attempted to commit) crimes that landed him in the Lima State Hospital.  All of that information, mostly from a few census records.

I think everyone has some crazy stories in their families that can be confirmed with records.  Some of them are funny, and some of them are emotionally difficult to accept.  But these are our families, and it can also give us a context for who we are and why our families are the way they are.  So here's to census records, keeping it real since 1790. :)

Before and After, Part 5: The Living Room

The Living Room
The living room didn't need as much work as the rest of the house.  Mostly I just wanted to finally have my family history wall!  My grandmother had one in her house, and from the time I was very little, I admired it so much.



So I finally got around to putting up pictures of family.  It feels good to have it up as a reminder of some of the people who are most important to us, including my grandma.


Before and After, Part 4: The Master Bedroom

The Master Bedroom
So while this was being transformed, Jon and I moved into the guest room so I could work on the master bedroom.  Looked pretty straightforward - pull down the mirrors, strip off the wallpaper:


But this room happened to have textured wallpaper that had been painted over twice!  And the walls hadn't been primed before putting up the wallpaper, so yeah...
  


This stuff is not coming off the walls.  AND there are patches of mold.  So we closed the door on our bedroom and have been sleeping in the guest room for 2 months.  Hopefully this will get finished in the next month, before we have family coming to visit!

Update:
We ended up having to rip all the walls out of the room to get rid of the mold.  We had new drywall put up, and then I painted.  It is much better.

Before and After, Part 3: The Dining Room

(I am just now posting this series of posts from almost 5 years ago!  But better late than never!)

The Dining Room
This room needed to be done, because we use it all the time.  I am not a fan of mirrors but the people who lived here before us loved mirrors - they were in the dining room, the master bedroom, the backs of all the doors, BOTH showers...so all these mirrors had to come down.


All of those spots on the wall are places where the mirrors were attached and took chunks out of the drywall. So I sealed them with a drywall sealer, then went over them with joint compound.  I had to sand each one and wipe down the walls, then sealed the entire wall with drywall sealer.  I primed it and started the painting process.  It took several coats of paint to make the wall look uniform, because the sanded spots were smoother.  But it turned out.

Yes, I am proud of that wall.  (And I cut those mirror panels from the wall mirror in the bathroom that we just had re-done.  Proud of that, too.)

Before and After, Part 2: Bathrooms

(I am just now posting this series of posts from almost 5 years ago!  But better late than never!)

The Master Bath

We agreed on re-doing this bathroom before we bought the house.  The grout in the shower had deteriorated completely, the faucet handle was falling off, and it sort of reminded me of my middle school gym locker room.  Once the contractor pulled off this layer of tile, he discovered ANOTHER layer of tile (the people who had the house before us must have loved layering!), behind which were rotted out support beams from hurricane damage that was never repaired.  But it all turned out in the end:


 



The Downstairs Half-Bath
We weren't going to do anything with this room for a while.  We just kept going upstairs when we had to use the bathroom.  But then I kind of had a bike accident and tore my ACL and needed to have surgery and not go up the stairs for a few weeks.  So this bathroom had to be remodeled, and fast.
You can't see all the damage, but the cabinet is completely rotted out underneath.  The toilet had leaked so much that the bolts rusted out and it couldn't even be attached to the floor anymore.  It was a mess.  So we found some contractors who could get it done quickly.
They gutted out the room and put in a new subfloor in one day.  They came back and tiled the floor in the evening, and the next morning I put two coats of paint on the walls.  In the afternoon they came back and installed the cabinet, toilet, and mirror.
So that is where I crutch to and from now as I'm recovering from my surgery.  Perhaps I just needed to sit down for a while.  Because I don't think I'll be ready to pick up another paintbrush for a LONG time.

Before and After, Part 1: Bedrooms

(I am just now posting this series of posts from almost 5 years ago!  But better late than never!)

We moved into our home almost four months ago!  We have been working (and working, and working...) to fix things and make it into a home that reflects us.  The only reason I have the time to blog about it now is that, in the middle of repairs and renovations, I had a bike accident and had to have knee surgery.  So now I have time to post the "Before and After" series of what we've done so far.

The Guest Room
We started with the guest room.  I thought it would be easy - throw on a new coat of paint, put in the furniture, and finito!  But, alas, it was not so.

I went in ready to paint, but there was a lot of prep work to do.  If you look closely at the right corner of the first picture, you will see wood two-by-fours attached to the wall.  I pried those off, and that's when I realized that the wall was covered in wallpaper that had been painted.  That made it into a much bigger project.  After stripping the first layer of wallpaper (with the help of my friend's daughter, Vanessa), we discovered ANOTHER layer of painted wallpaper!  We stripped that layer, and found some sort of chipping primer underneath.  It turned out that most of the room had to be skim-coated with joint compound, then sanded and wiped down, before priming or painting.


After three weeks of work, the room was finally ready for furniture.

I'm so glad I mostly finished this room, because we eventually had to move into it when I started on our master bedroom.  But that's a completely different disaste- I mean, story.


The Second Bedroom
I still wanted to keep working after turning my bedroom into a disaster area (that story will come in a later installment).  So I worked on the most straightforward room in the house:


No wallpaper, no mold, no fuss.  It was such a bright color of green that it would have been better if I had put on two coats of primer first, but it still worked out.  I just ended up putting on two thick coats of paint, which I probably would have had to do anyway.

I also primed, painted, and caulked the floor boards.  It ended up turning out pretty nice.  This room will be a baby room (I guess we probably need a baby for that...), and I picked this color because it coordinates well with colors for both a boy or girl.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Buying a House, part 2

"In life, all good things come hard, but wisdom is the hardest to come by." - Lucile Ball

We learned that lesson during the process of trying to buy a house.  I never, ever want to have to go through this again!  But in the end, we did learn some good lessons:

1. If possible, don't buy a house from a bank.
Banks are not people.  They are banks.  They don't care if you have to move out of your apartment and be homeless for anywhere from 1-3 weeks before they let you move into your house.  They don't care that the sod they put down and promised to water because they wouldn't fix the sprinkler system (and then didn't water) is crunchy and brown.  They don't care that you don't have anywhere to put your moving truck (because you are technically homeless), so when you put it in your new driveway after closing, they chew out your realtor because they haven't received the last $900 check from the title company, and they make you move your truck again until the check clears.  They don't care that, when you move the truck out of the driveway, all of your bookshelves break into pieces because you moved some of the things supporting them out of the truck already, since you thought it was YOUR house and YOUR driveway.

Yeah, I needed to get that out.  For a much better experience with buying a house, I would highly suggest going the normal route with a homeowner selling their own house.  There is so much more room for reason and understanding, and for getting things fixed before you move in - like the sprinklers, and the dishwasher, and the fridge, and the A/C, and the washing machine, and . . .

2. God will still find ways to take care of us, even when others' choices affect us negatively.
So, that was my complaining rant.  But the truth is, even with all the craziness the bank put us through, God still took care of us.  Many of our friends and several young men from church came and helped us pack up our moving truck in 45 minutes.  Jon's brother, Ryan, and my mother-in-law, Lucile, came over and helped us clean.  Our bishop said we could keep our moving truck in the church parking lot, and since he's a cop, he had the local police patrol periodically to make sure our stuff was still there.

Our wonderful friends, the Nietos, allowed us to stay with them for a week.  We had a super-comfortable bed to sleep in, amazing food to eat, their 5-year-old daughter to entertain us, and scripture study with their family in the evenings.   There was no better way to be homeless. :)

We had friends invite us over for dinner, help us unpack the truck (in only 30 minutes!), and share mangoes from our very own mango tree.  All in all, for the trial that we had to go through, God inspired many people to help us and support us in what could have been a really awful time.  It brings to mind a quote from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland:
"When we speak of those who are instruments in the hand of God, we are reminded that not all angels are from the other side of the veil. Some of them we walk with and talk with—here, now, every day. Some of them reside in our own neighborhoods . . . Indeed heaven never seems closer than when we see the love of God manifested in the kindness and devotion of people so good and so pure that angelic is the only word that comes to mind."
3. Slow-burning coals burn longer.
Moving is a stressful situation, no matter what the circumstances are.  For me, when I combine the stress of moving and the dust of moving with my allergies, I get problems.  Add to that being around several people who were sick, and BAM, you've got Kristen writing this post from the couch she hasn't left in 3 days except to go to the doctor.

Well, that's not entirely true.  I left the couch on Saturday when I got impatient from being on the couch for a full 24 hours.  I spent half of the day Saturday unpacking, priming the mailbox post, buying a drill, changing the locks, and generally wearing myself out.  By 6pm I was back on the couch with a fever and feeling worse than ever.

With all the time I had on my hands on Sunday, since I could barely get myself off the couch for water refills, I spent time pondering on something that my very first bishop, Wayne Brockbank, told me a few months after I got baptized.  I was so excited about church, and I wanted to do everything all at once.  I was taking 16 credits in college, working 2 jobs, serving in a calling, and taking extra religion classes at church - four, to be precise.  He sat me in his office one Sunday and said, "Kristen, slow burning coals."  I had no idea what he was talking about.  He then explained to me that coals burn longer when they burn slowly.  In other words, he was telling me that if I kept up my overzealous pace, I would get burned out and wouldn't be able to do any of it.  He finally talked me into only taking one religion class, and I had a semester that was much less stressed out than it could have been.

Fast forward to this week, when, in my enthusiasm to unpack boxes and put together my house, I pushed through sickness, overdid it, and ended up burned out and sicker than I needed to be.  I guess I have to learn this "slow-burning coals" lesson over and over.

Well, for all of that, we still got our house.  We love it, and even though there is much work to do, we feel good about making this our own space and raising a family here.

So without further ado...

 
                    The exterior, freshly painted


                                     Right after closing


The kitchen

 The mango tree and backyard

The garage

Living room/kitchen view

Living room/dining room/stairs

Master bath shower - needs some work :)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Buying a house

My great-great grandfather, William Sherman Booker, knew that it was important to own your own land.  He was born just before the end of slavery in February of 1865, and spent his formative years working alongside his father, Daniel, sharecropping to help support the family.  When he started a family of his own in 1887, he was also a sharecropper, renting land and equipment from others to farm a small plot, and slowly going into debt.  But somehow he turned his financial situation around, and by 1915 he had saved up $350 to buy 21 acres of land (that would go for about $80,000 today), thus securing a place to live for his family that no one could take away from them.  I thought of him when Jon and I felt like it was the right time for us to buy a house.

As much as I love modern technology and comforts, I wish there were some things that were still as simple as they were back when my grandparents got married.  After Charles Demps and Nellie Booker had been married married for 2 years, in 1935 he wanted to provide a place for them to live.  So he saved up some money, bought a plot of land for $30, had it recorded in the deed books, and proceeded to build a house on it.
Now, I understand that there are safety protections in place nowadays that weren't there before, but seriously, I think we have printed out an entire ream of paperwork for the house we are buying.  We feel like we are signing our lives away!!!  There are contracts and addendums to contracts, disclosures, buyer information forms, acknowledgements, applications, and agreements.  They come from the realtor, title company, mortgage broker, home loan company, homeowner's association, and homeowner's insurance agent.  It is crazy!

But in the end, we should have a house, a place to raise our children.  Even though our house will have been made by builders 20 years ago and not by our own bare hands, we can still build our family on the same principles that our predecessors lived by not so long ago - faith, love, hard work, service, and self-reliance.  And even though we have to jump through hoops and kill a tree for all the paper to do so, we feel like by owning our own small plot of land, we are following in the footsteps of those who made it possible to be where we are today.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Cambridge Chronicles, volume 4: Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving is a pretty big deal for me.  I love to spend time with friends and family, remembering all of the blessings in my life and creating new memories.  This year was very different, however, since Thanksgiving is not celebrated here in the UK.  So Jon and I came up with a plan to make the weekend special: we would go to the pub down the street that has been advertising for their Christmas turkey dinner (served all month long), and we would get a Thanksgiving dinner for two with all the trimmings.  Then we planned to catch a ride to London with someone from church on Friday night and spend the weekend sightseeing.  Sounded like a fantastic, memorable weekend.

That is, until all of our plans fell apart.  First, the pub told us that you had to have FOUR people for the meal, and you had to book significantly in advance.  Then the hotel that we booked (significantly in advance) near Buckingham Palace emailed us to say that they had accidentally double-booked our room, and that there was no space for us.  In fact, there was no space for us ANYWHERE in London for under £120 a night (the equivalent of $187.22 per night).  Then our ride called and said he pulled his back and didn't know if he'd be able to take us.  REALLY?!  Could EVERYTHING fall through?!?  Yes, it could, and it did.

At first I thought I could run out on Thursday night, grab a chicken and some potatoes and pull together a Thanksgiving dinner for Jon and myself.  I quickly decided against that.  So this is what we did for our Thanksgiving dinner instead:

We went to YO! Sushi for dinner!  That will definitely make for one of our most memorable Thanksgivings ever.  Jon has been telling me for years about his years as a kid in Japan, and how the restaurants would have bowls of sushi going by.  He ate his fill and loved every bite of it.  As for Friday, we decided to brave the traffic around London, but did a completely different activity than planned:


We decided to go to the temple on Friday night, stayed in a hotel nearby (that didn't cancel our last-minute reservation!), and spent most of the day at the temple on Saturday.  It was definitely refreshing and renewing to spend a significant amount of time in the temple.  And the temple cafeteria even served turkey, mash (mashed potatoes) with gravy, and stuffing, which Jon happily devoured. :) (I opted for fish and chips.  I can't get enough!)  So even though it wasn't the glamour of sightseeing around London, it was a wonderful weekend.  And in all honesty, it is probably better that it worked out this way, since today the temperatures were below freezing and windy.  I don't know if our Floridian blood could have handled it.

So this Thanksgiving, I am very grateful that God had a different plan for us this weekend than we did.  I'm grateful to know that God is there and that He knows me (and all of us) individually, as His sons and daughters, and that I can turn to Him for guidance and strength.  I am thankful for the gospel of Jesus Christ and how it joins me together with people in just about every country in the world, of every background and culture, in a bond of faith and friendship.  There truly is so much for which I am thankful.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cambridge Chronicles, volume 3

Jon and I had a lovely weekend here in Cambridge. We did one of the most touristy things there is to do around here: punting. Now, lest you think we went off learning how to kick an American football through a goalpost, I shall explain.



A punt is a flat-bottomed boat used in shallow canals, and is propelled using a long stick that pushes against the river bottom. It's an activity that is best enjoyed during the summer months, but since we are here in the winter, and they were offering the tours, we went for it.


It was really pretty along the river, albeit cold. The tour took us through several of the colleges that are around Cambridge (32 in all!), so we got a bit of education on the history and architecture of the area. It was well worth it.

We spent the afternoon walking around the city centre (that's how it's spelled here), and then in the evening we went to a free brass band concert at a church on our street. It was held at St. Giles Anglican Church, originally built in the year 1092!!! Most of it has been rebuilt, but they did keep some elements from the original structure. They had refreshments during the intermission, so we got to sample a traditional Christmas Pudding (it's pretty much coffee cake with dried fruit, nuts and a creamy layer in the middle). We had a great time.

Today we went to church and enjoyed the Primary program (little children are so sweet and HILARIOUS!), as well as a "munch and mingle" after church. We had some traditional, homemade English foods, like mushroom soup, carrot and coriander soup, Swiss rolls (okay, so I'm guessing that's Swiss), some sort of yummy sandwiches with cheese and dried fruit, as well as various breads with butter. We also got a chance to talk with several of the ward members and make some friends. Among them, we think we found the spiritual fraternal twin of our sister-in-law, Jessica (imagine for a moment that they have the same hair color):














Not only do we think they have some similar facial features, but they also have similar laughs and mannerisms. Being with our new friend, Esther, is very much like being with Jessica - which means lots of fun!

In other news, I am still trying to find a place to mail some letters. I guess I have been spoiled for much too long, because I assumed that I would be able to drop mail in an outgoing box near the apartment, or that there would be mailboxes or small post offices around. Alas, it is not so. I have been walking around Cambridge for almost a week with addressed letters, just waiting to find a place where I can mail them. I think I have to go all the way to the city centre just to mail them, but of course I didn't find the post office when I was there yesterday. So if you had a birthday recently and you don't get a card until mid-December, it's because I didn't find the post office until I got back to Florida.

We are just over 1/3 through our stay here in Cambridge, though it doesn't feel like we have very much time left. Hopefully we can enjoy some of the Christmas festivities coming up over the next few weeks!