Friday, December 30, 2011

How Did I Do? Looking Back on My Genealogy Goals for 2011

Looking Back on 2011 Genealogical Goals

1) I want to continue exploring new software and apply what I learn to my blog posts. I have been exploring Google Earth and how to use it to create "tours" from one place to another where my ancestors lived -- particularly in the East End.  I'm also trying to learn how to upload pictures I have to their site.  I've also edited some recordings that included my family singing "Happy Birthday" to my niece 24 years ago.  I incorporated this sound track into a photoshow I created.

2) Linking to GeneaBloggers has increased the traffic to this blog and enabled me to benefit from others who have a passion for blogging about their family history. I want to try to read as many other blogs as time will allow. Due to the introduction of Google+ during 2012, I feel like I'm beginning to cultivate a real community of bloggers.  We read each others' posts and provide support as needed.  I'm so grateful to my Geneablogger buddies.
3) I have six ancestors who served in the Civil War. Since 2011 marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, I want to tell what I can of their stories and recognize their service. I wrote up posts on three of my six Civil War ancestors.  I also submitted my research on them to the Ohio Genealogical Society's Civil War Lineage Group.  They were approved.  I have three more to go.

4) Hopefully, I will collaborate with our local genealogical society and public library to help teach others how to set up a blog and share their own family histories with the rest of us. This is one of my proudest accomplishments.  I taught a 4-part course on creating a family history blog in conjunction with our wonderful Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.  About 10 people stuck with it.  I'm already scheduled to do two "overview sessions" on blogging with two local genealogical groups.  I hope to teach another course in 2012.

5) I want to treat myself to the Ohio Genealogical Society conference to be held the end of March in Columbus, Ohio. The conference coincides with my birthday. I hope to be accepted as a member of their Century Families and Civil War lineage groups based on applications already submitted. I also submitted an article for a Writing Contest they sponsor annually. If I "win" my article will be published in their quarterly journal.  My article did not "win," but it was good enough to be published in the OGS Quarterly.  I attended my first OGS Conference with my cousin, Barbara Pharo, in Columbus, Ohio.  I really learned a lot and look forward to attending my first NGS Conference in 2012 since it is being held in Cincinnati.  I also qualified for the Century Families lineage groups at both the county at state levels.

6) I hope to overcome my distaste for formal citations. For Christmas, my husband gave me a a copy of Elizabeth Shown Mills book, Evidence Explained. Maybe this will make this task more tolerable.
I did NOT overcome my distaste for writing formal citations.  However, I discovered that my genie buddy, Liz Stratton, was only too willing to help.  I also learned a lot from the OGS Quarterly Editor,
Margaret Arnold, who helped me properly source everything for the article they published.

7) I still have a couple of ancestors I need to flesh out -- Elizabeth Kinley Jones was Pennsylvania Dutch. Her husband, Alexander Jones, was allegedly born in Chillicothe, Ohio -- something I need to prove. I would also like to prove when John Cronin and Lucy Cronin died in Kentucky -- definitely brick walls for me. I was able to prove that John Cronin died two years before my grandmother was born, proving once and for all that he was NOT her father.  You can search this blog for John Cronin.  It's a very interesting story.  I didn't make any progress on the other three ancestors so I'll have to continue researching them in 2012.

8) I hope to go to the Ohio Historical Society as I read that they have put together a substantial amount of information re: Ohio units in the Civil War. This may give me a fuller picture of the service of my ancestors.  I went to the Ohio Historical Society and was unable to take full advantage of their collection.  However, I was able to get the Mental Health records for my great-grandfather, Charles C. Gross.  I also visited the Columbus Metropolitan Library and know that they will be a tremendous resource for me in the future.

9) One of the biggest accomplishments of 2010 was meeting and collaborating with a second and third cousin I met through Ancestry. I hope we can continue collaborating in 2011.  I hit the jackpot meeting my cousin, Barbara Pharo.  Not only did we attend the OGS Conference together but plan to attend the NGS Conference in Cincinnati in May 2012.  Due to a last-minute cancellation, I was able to go on a 17-day vacation that included an 11-day cruise.  We traveled through parts of Germany, the Netherlands, Ireland, Spain, Portugal and Italy.  I got to know Barbara's two daughters, friends, and her brother-in-law who also went on this trip.  WHAT A GIFT!!!

10) Finally, I hope for continued good health, an improving economy for all, and more time devoted to exercise and other priorities. I am thankful for my many blessings and look forward to 2011. Here is wishing all who read this a happy 2011!  I certainly did not do everything I needed to do in terms of exercise.  After putting on a few pounds cruising, I became discouraged and lost any motivation I had.  But tomorrow starts a new year, and I really do want to do better in this category.  I remained healthy as did my husband.  We will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary tomorrow.  I have a two day old grandson.  I hope we've turned the corner with this horrible economy and the extended suffering of so many of my fellow countrymen.  What will 2012 bring?

Grandma Kathy and Andrew

Tim's 60th Birthday!

My brother, Tim, was looking forward to what I might come up with to celebrate his 60th birthday.  Tim was born on December 31, 1951.  He provided my parents with an additional tax deduction.  Tim was the third of seven children. 

Although I have many pictures of Tim, including one of his favorites, I had an unexpected interruption to my schedule with the birth of my grandson, Andrew, two days ago.  So I guess Tim is just going to have to accept this post for his 60th birthday.

2011 was a good year for Tim, depending on your perspective.  He was diagnosed with a malignant tumor in his kidney.  However, with the removal of his kidney, he did not even require chemotherapy.  We're hoping that 2012 will be a year of good health news.

Tim has grown from this freckle-faced young man to a proud husband, father, and grandfather.  This is a picture of Tim and his wife, Dusty, at their son's wedding last May.

 Wishing you and your family all the best in the year to come.


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Adding a New Branch to the Family Tree

Today at 6:04 AM my daughter, Liz, and her husband, Roland,welcomed their second son into this world.  It was quite a surprise to all of us because she was only 32 weeks into her pregnancy.  She went to the hospital from work yesterday hoping that the contractions she was experiencing could be stopped.  After a few hours, it became apparent that we were going to have a baby.

Andrew Zoltan Varga
So let me introduce you to my second grandson, Andrew.  He was doing well enough at birth for his father to be able to take this picture within the first couple of minutes after his birth.  He weighed 4 pounds, 13.6 ounces and was about 16 1/2 inches long.  He was able to breathe on his own from the very beginning. The nurse assigned to him initially thought that his due date had been miscalculated as he was doing so well for a 32-week baby.

Liz and Andrew

So we are feeling very blessed.  Hopefully, Andrew will continue to grow stronger and be able to join his Mom, Dad and big brother, Ian, at home.

He is a miracle!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

This One's for You, Karah!

Bill and Karah

In the previous post I commented about how difficult it is to include every family member in the blog.  (Isn't this blog supposed to focus on ancestors?  The dead people never complain).  At any rate, after doing my best to include everyone, my niece Karah, posted a "tweet" that asked what she had to do to be featured on the blog.  (She's not the first -- my cousin, Tony Scardina, has even given me suggestions for topics that would include him.  On the Jones side of the family, Rose is the first-born and Tony is the last-born of the cousins.  He thought a post on "bookends" might be a great topic).

Karah wondered as to whether or not she would need to either get married or have a baby to make the cut.  Well, I've always felt bad about family members who have birthdays within two weeks of Christmas -- you just know they got a bum deal growing up.  In my family, at the risk of accidentally not remembering someone who qualifies for this unfortunate designation, I have to include Rian, Linda, Jeanne, Patty, Sarah, Karah, and Tim.  (Let me know if I forgot to list you and I'll edit this).  At any rate, our foremothers and forefathers really seemed to enjoy spring.

Since I can't do a post on everyone, I'm writing one for Karah -- she'll just have to represent the group.  Karah is 29 years old today -- that great time in everyone's life where you've gained the confidence to be comfortable in your own skin.  That's Karah! All is well in her young life and she promises to start writing about herself on a blog called Karahon5th.  Karah lives in a condo on 5th Street in downtown Cincinnati and is living the life of a young, single urban professional.  In hindsight, what I wouldn't have given for an experience like that.

So my sister-in-law, Linda, provided me with a lot of pictures of Karah growing up.  For those of you who read the Christmas letters posted by my brother, Tom, Karah is his youngest daughter.

We happen to have in our possession a copy of a recording my mother and other family members made to send to my sister in Miami, Karen, for her birthday.  They began the tape on January 1st, 1988  -- 24 years ago.  How I love hearing my mother's voice.  The Joneses do more than sing "Happy Birthday, " adding a few additional songs at the end.  On this 1988 recording, I was able to edit the tape and capture the family singing to Karah -- a few days after her 5th birthday.  I put it together with a "photoshow" that you can see by clicking on this link. Note: You won't hear the family singing until the second half of the show.  Maybe that's a blessing.

Karah -- I'm sure I join in with the rest of the family in wishing you a wonderful birthday with many more to come.

Aunt Kath

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Addendum to "Why I'm Grateful"

To all of my patient family and fellow bloggers who've been reading along with me this month:

OK -- here's the deal.  When you come from a really large family (note: I only have one child), you worry about acknowledging your love for ALL of them as equally as possible.  So what did I just do?  I put up a post on what I was grateful for in 2011 without including a great-nephew born in 2011.  My sister alerted me of the oversight -- I fixed it.  Then my brother, Tim, came by and jokingly complained that other brothers pictured in the collage had "bigger" pictures than his.  My sister, justifiably, noted that I had not posted a picture photoshopped by a colleague that included a few members of the family who could not make it last year.

If you don't know my siblings, including my "favorite" sister, please know that they are doing this in good fun.  This is along the lines of "no good deed goes unpunished."  So I'm putting up the photoshopped picture.  It differs from the others in the following ways:

1) You can see my sister, Karen, peering in the window from the outside along with her daughter, Courtney.  They live in Miami and do not come home for Christmas.
2) Karen's son, Michael, is photshopped into the middle of the picture.
3) My nephew, Brian, married Shannon last May.  She is pictured in the wedding dress.
4) My nephew, Greg, who was there for Christmas but missed Christmas Eve has also been added.
5) My great-nephew, Ben, who was not yet born at Christmas has been added as a "thought" above the picture.
6) My sister's colleague, who did all of this wonderful work for us, took the liberty of photoshopping President Obama into a picture on my brother's wall.  You would not have found that picture on my brother's wall -- perhaps on mine.

So now, I'm finished! Ted and Sally, Tim and Dusty, Karen and Bill and I have not mailed out Christmas cards, so I couldn't put them in.  Mark, who's Christmas cards the past couple of years have been a masterpiece, tweeted that his were mailed yesterday.  So I think I've included everyone.  If not, I'll help you start a blog so you can tell everyone all about it. 

With love, truly, to all of my wonderful family.  BTW -- one kid is so much easier!


P.S.  I am really grateful to have everyone in the picture.  Just don't email me that someone in the picture is more visible than you. 

Why I'm Grateful This Christmas

As the Jones extended family prepares for Christmas 2011, I want to followup on the theme of gratefulness.  There have been some changes in the family during this past year.  My nephew, Chris, and his wife Sarah, added twin girls to the family.  Isabel and Violet are the first set of twins in the family since Harry and Joseph Vonderheide born 150 years ago.  I've yet to meet my newest nieces, as they live out-of-state.  But I can tell you that their grandparents couldn't be happier.

Dan and Carol holding Violet, Quentin and Isabel
My daughter, Liz and her husband, Roland will be adding a son to their family in the next two months.  Since I'm already the grandmother of the perfect grandson, Ian, I'm very much looking forward to this.

My brother, Tim, was diagnosed with a malignant tumor in his kidney.  He underwent successful surgery to remove his kidney.  Tests showed that the tumor was self-contained and he didn't even require chemotherapy.

Tessa, Haley and Sky

My nieces, Tessa and Haley, are attending a Cotillion given by the Bachelors here in Cincinnati.  It is a Christmas Ball for debutantes. 

Ian and Bill

My husband, Bill, continues to amaze everyone, as he is still with us after two triple-bypass surgeries and multiple heart attacks over the past 35 years.  We look forward to celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary on January 1st.

In a family this size, I could continue this list and inevitably leave out some important things -- so I'm going to quit now.  What's important is that we are all here, love each other and are forever grateful to the parents who raised us.  If there is any sadness, it is the fact that they died too young to see all of the fruits that have resulted from their labors.

Finally, I want to thank my brother, Tom, for his willingness to share his Christmas letters with all of us.  Posting them every couple of days allowed me the chance to slow down, think about what is important in my life, and prepare me, as Advent should, for the true meaning of Christmas.

Just a few extra pictures --

Quentin and Santa Don
Mae and John

My sister, Karen, just contacted me and let me know that I forgot to mention Ben -- a son born to Mark and Carol during this past year.  He is the grandson of my brother, Tom (Guest Blogger), and I didn't realize that Ben was not in any of the pictures in that series, including the family picture Mark sent me.  Mark promises to get a family picture together soon.  So for now, here is one of Mark and Ben.

Mark and Ben

Merry Christmas to everyone from Jones Family Matters.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

We Are Grateful!

This is the final post written by my brother, Tom.  This particular post was written ten years ago, but I decided to publish it last.  It just seemed to be a good way to finish up this series.  The message is one of "gratefulness."  As 2011 comes to an end, I am grateful!  Thank you so much for reading and commenting on these posts throughout December.  I join with my brother in wishing all of you a blessed and Merry Christmas.
The Jones Family (minus the Munis), Christmas, 2010

2000 years ago the angels appeared to the shepherds in the Bethlehem hills and declared, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior who is Christ the Lord." Well the world has not been the same since.  We all celebrate Christmas in our own way and with our own reverence to God our creator.  Although we are different in our celebration, there is a thread that is common to all.  The Holiday Season is a time to reflect on our blessings, enjoy family friends and food. 

God has blessed all of us with special gifts and all too often it is easy to take for granted those that we have.  I can remember my grandfather telling me the greatest gift one can have is their family.  Well, I was one of seven children with five of them younger than I was. Frankly, I just didn’t understand that comment.  Another elderly family member would explain to us that our health was more precious than any gift we could have.  Well, as a youngster, I had caught a cold and even the flu once or twice but I just didn’t see health as that big a deal!  The minister would tell us our greatest gift was world peace, but what did that mean?  And of course, we would be reminded of the gift of being born in America, yet everyone I knew had that gift.

Today the youthful innocence of years passed seems to be a lifetime ago, but I look back fondly on those memories.  Now I am the one who stands in the gap at the head of our family, as my grandparents and parents have long ago passed.  Although I consider myself to be young at 51 years  (now 61) I can tell you that this holiday season I will be grateful for my family, health and the freedom afforded by these United States of America.  And for me, a savior who is Christ the Lord.  I hope I never again take these gifts for granted.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Do You Believe This?

This is the tenth in a series of Christmas posts written by my brother, Tom.  Pictured is his granddaughter, Savannah, and our youngest brother, Santa Don.

Savannah and Santa
One morning, my 4 year old granddaughter (with as much seriousness as she could muster) asked her father, "Dad is Santa Claus real?  I want to know.  Tell me the truth!"  Her first clue came because she had recently returned from multiple Christmas events where Santa had appeared in one form or another.  These events included a gala at my brother's home where the Santa looked suspiciously like my youngest brother.  As she sat on his lap she mentioned that his beard looked fake.  Although age four and a half seemed a little young to break the traditional story line, her persistence demanded that he come clean.

Instead of being disappointed, she instantly became an arbiter of all truth.  Immediately she saw through the Tooth Fairy, Easter bunny and her Fairy Godmother.  One afternoon, shortly thereafter, while I was walking with her through our backyard “secret forest trail” where the elves had constructed a wreath and hung it on an old fence post,  I pointed out the withering vine-covered wreath and reminded her that it was made by elves.  She promptly informed me “Papa, I really know you made the wreath." That quickly, we were all adults. Where did the childlike fantasy go?

In 1897 Virginia O’Hanlon wrote to the New York Sun to ask the truth about Santa Clause. Her letter was a sincere plea for the facts.  I wished our response could have been as clever:

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist… The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see… Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

God’s gift that we celebrate this Christmas season is his Son.  God’s Son during his public life made a statement to a grieving woman. Then he asked her,“Do you believe this?”  I think this question is just a valid today in our questioning and doubting world.  This holiday season I ask that you share this verse with your friends and family. It is the reason for our hope.
John 11: 25-26

Friday, December 16, 2011

This Time I Won't Cry

With a week to go before Christmas, I am filled with anticipation of our annual family gathering.  My brother, Tom, and his wife, Linda, will once again be hosting it.  But according to the Turner Schedule, we will be missing many of our children and grandchildren as they were here on Thanksgiving.  Enjoy this ninth post in our series of Christmas posts.

In the Book of James we are told “our lives are like a mist that appears for a while and then vanishes”.  When I think of those who have passed before us over the steady beat of time it is easy to understand the truth of that verse.  As Christmas approaches each of us observe family traditions, look back over fond memories and forward to the day.  Christmas is a marker every year helping us to reflect on our “time in the mist”. 

Ask 10 people what traditions they remember as the special day approaches and you will get 20 different answers.  There’s the trip to the country to cut your own Christmas tree, baking cookies, shopping downtown with lunch at the quaint diner. Others wryly admit that their tradition usually involves being stuck in traffic or at the airport traveling home.  Regardless of the answer, it always seems to amaze everyone how quickly yet another year has vanished.

The Waltons
Christmas Vacation
It's a Wonderful Life

One of my favorite traditions is watching the TV classics that have become mandatory viewing at the Jones household each season.  Whether it is Chevy Chase in “Christmas Vacation” or The Waltons “Homecoming” or the 1946 Classic “It’s a Wonderful Life," these shows are a part of our annual tradition.  Each time I watch Chevy Chase begin his shenanigans with the house and tree decorations, I say "I’m not going to laugh."  But sure enough -- when the squirrel jumps out of the tree and the resulting slapstick turmoil destroys the house, I am beside myself with laughter.  Jimmy Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life” has to be my favorite.  When we see how George Bailey has influenced the little town of Bedford Falls through his life and how his friends come through for him, I cry, even though I’ve told myself, “This time I won’t cry.”

On Christmas day, as our family gathers around the table to celebrate our traditions and thank our creator for our blessings, I will pause to think of my family and yours and how grateful I am for all of you. But this time I won’t cry.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hold You Papa?

This is the eighth in a series of Christmas posts written by my brother, Tom.

I was stunned! My granddaughter asked if she could hold ME.  Just that quickly I was transported back half a lifetime remembering my own kids asking the same question.  We would frequently ask our kids, “Do you want me to “hold you”?  It just seemed natural for them to ask “hold you” when they wanted to be held. How many of these phrases have we all heard while raising our kids and now grandkids? Most are lost to time.  I wonder what I said to my parents and them to theirs.

We all have fond memories of mispronounced words and backward phrases that seem to come out of nowhere at just the perfect time to humorously cut the fog of everyday life.  They bring a smile to our faces and sometimes become a part of the families’ exclusive lingo.  Here are a few of ours that we have kept through the years and turn heads when outsiders hear them.

One early morning while my daughter’s curls were all over the place, she exclaimed, “My face is in my face.”  Also, “The bright’s awful sun today.” And my kids' favorite while listening to long rambling stories… “Get to the dot, Dad!”  Some innocent questions become too real and bring a tear when you realize how quickly time moves. “Dad, when I grow up do I have to live in Cincinnati?” 

Christmas brings other memories with almost every ornament rediscovered in the musty box safely stowed since last year.  Ornaments made in kindergarten with the painted name of a favorite childhood dog or cat or ornaments given by special friends and family who have passed on.  Even the storage boxes used for decades from that favorite must have game or toy, now long gone.  All of these deliver a flood of fond memories.

The Scripture tells us that Mary the mother of Jesus “treasured all of these things, pondering them in her heart”.  I think at times we make statements that our heavenly Father finds amusing like, "Hold You PaPa?"   Michelangelo in his famous painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel may have depicted it best.  The portrait shows Adam casually reaching to touch the finger of God, but what we may not always notice is God’s response to his child.  God is leaning over at his fullest extent with angels holding him to keep him from falling!  Quickly we see who is more interested in whom.  In the Christmas season we celebrate God reaching for us.  It is demonstrated in our Father’s greatest gift ...“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”  Isaiah 7:14.                                 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Won't Be Home for Christmas

This is the seventh in a series of posts written by my brother, Tom.  His son, Mark, and Mark's wife, Carol, are indirectly responsible for the "Turner Schedule"  becoming the new "rule" as our children start their own families.

Christmas at the Jones household is straight out of the Hallmark Hall of Fame rule book.  This is the way it has been since I was a child, and the traditions have carried forward to my children, now grown.  Regardless of circumstances, heroic efforts must be made to arrive smiling with grandchildren and presents at the appointed time. 

Mark, Savannah and Carol (Turner) Jones
Mark is the son of the author, my brother, Tom
You can imagine my dismay when one year I was told that two of our three children were going to go on the “Turner schedule”.  The “Turner schedule”, what’s that? I protested.  “Its simple Dad” explained my son.  “It is named after my wife’s family, and they alternate every other Thanksgiving and Christmas with their in-laws.  All the kids and in-laws maintain the same schedule, that way we don’t have to spend half the day on the road and we can relax and enjoy each others' company for the day.”  My daughter, that year having spent hours of delay in a massive snow storm trying to arrive home for Christmas, loved the idea and immediately signed up for the same plan with her husband’s family.  (Note: the grandchildren would be on the same schedule as their parents!)

I knew that the rules had changed and that Christmas, my favorite time of year, was going to be very quiet every other year.  My wife assured me that things would be OK, and besides we could celebrate Christmas as a family on a convenient weekend anytime in December or even January.  I recognize right from wrong…and this was wrong!

That following Christmas, our family scheduled an early December weekend for our own celebration and to my obstinate surprise the day was exceptional.  All of the traditions were observed yet there was a surprising lack of hurry and hustle to the day.  No one had to rush off to another commitment, no re-arranging the day to watch a particular football game, nothing; just conversation, food, family and enjoying the grandchildren as they played with their toys. 

Well I have successfully survived several years of the “Turner schedule” and recently learned that over 100 connected family members have adopted the same schedule.  I have to admit that I now prefer the off years.

I’ve also been reminded that another family was not home for Christmas but stranded in a stable nearly 2000 years ago.  In those days Ceasar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.  And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazarath in Galilee, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.  He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.  While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.  She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

This Christmas, we will celebrate with you the birth of the Savior.  Regardless of what day or where you are, we can all focus on the things that are eternally important.
Wood Block Credit:

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Great Joy!

This, the sixth in a series of posts written by my brother, Tom, celebrates a special Christmas gift. I remember it well as I was a recipient of a similar gift. It is the Christmas I will never forget.
Photo Credit:

As a kid, I always felt sorry for my older cousins at Christmas time.  They were about 15 years older than our family of kids and when we visited during the holidays, all they had under their tree were boxes of shirts, ties, sweaters and skirts!  How could Christmas be fun for them?  Also, to my complete horror Santa would usually come to their home after dinner on Christmas Eve while they were out for a short ride.  “This way we can sleep in on Christmas morning” they would explain. Our family was in strict observance of “the rules” clearly detailed in 'Twas the Night before Christmas.
One Christmas, I was assured that Santa was going to bring me a new bicycle.  All of my neighborhood friends had cool bikes and we rode them everywhere.  My bicycle was a hand-me- down from one of my older cousins and the “cool” style had changed so drastically that I was in danger of losing status with my friends.  As Christmas week approached, I scoured all the usual hiding places but there was no sign of my new bicycle.  There was no way for me to glimpse this bicycle before Christmas morning and I was making myself sick with anticipation.

I developed a plan and got to work on the details.  I would get up at 2:00 AM Christmas morning and creep downstairs for an early peak.  I purchased new batteries for my flashlight and set out to buy an alarm clock!  Since mom always woke the five boys in our dormitory like bedroom each morning the only alarm clock in the house was next to her bed.  I found a clock at a local store and went to the bank to withdraw the $4.25 needed.  I had carefully saved my birthday and allowance money over the years and had nearly $25 in my savings account, this purchase was worth tapping those sacred funds.

On Christmas Eve, I carefully set the alarm and placed it under my pillow.  I knew that if the alarm woke my four brothers I would be in huge trouble so I was careful to conceal it.  On Christmas morning, as the sun came shining through our bedroom window, my little brothers woke me and told me to hurry downstairs, Santa had come, hurry up!  What?  I pulled the alarm clock from under my pillow and inspected it carefully.  I realized that through the night the weight of my head on the pillow must have accidentally pushed in the stop button....or hmm…could mom have foiled my secret plan? Regardless, I shot down the stairs consuming four steps at a time only to be the last to arrive.  My new bicycle gleamed in front of the tree, along with piles of other presents. What joy my parents had to see the look on my face as I saw the gift for the first time.  This was one of the best Christmas mornings of my childhood.  Later I was told that Grandpa had hidden the bicycle in his basement and brought it over after we had gone to bed.

This Christmas, I will be happy with a shirt and a sweater, I will also be thrilled to watch my grandchildren open their gifts.  Along with you, I will also remember the first Christmas when there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep.  Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!” 

On a personal note, I rememer that Christmas well.  I also got a bike that Christmas.  I remember that it was a cold Christmas morning, but Tom and I did not care.  We were outside riding our bikes on "The Court" with great abandon.  It's amazing how little I remember of Christmas gifts past -- but not that Christmas!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Santa Baby?

This is the fifth in a series of Christmas posts written by my brother, Tom.  Enjoy.

I have always had a soft spot for holiday music and often tune into the local radio station that begins playing holiday tunes in mid November non-stop through December.  It never fails to put me into the right holiday spirit.  One evening as I drove home in the early dusk that is a part of our cold wet Decembers, the song The Christmas Shoes came on the radio. It was the first time this season I had heard it.  As the music played, I listened intently:

“Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my Mama, please
 It’s Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size
 Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there’s not much time
You see she’s been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes would make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight.”

Well, every sentimental emotion in my soul welled up. The sweet selfless innocence of the little boy, thoughts of my childhood, memories of my mother, now passed remembrances of my cousins who had lost their mother in childhood.  All of these memories came flooding in an instant.  I was still dabbing my tears when the next tune that filled the silence was Santa Baby by Madonna.  In a “Betty Boop” breathless voice I hear:

“Santa baby, slip a sable under the tree, for me
 I’ve been an awful good girl
 Santa baby, and hurry down the chimney tonight.”

I was simply not prepared for the contrast of those two tunes and felt emotionally dizzy.  I needed a Bing Crosby version of White Christmas or Silver Bells to softly set me back into reality. 

As I thought about the range of emotions so many of us feel during the holiday season, it occurred to me that the extremes in those tunes are not much different than life, with one interesting note, who the focus is on.  Rick Warren’s best selling book The Purpose Driven Life opens with the sentence, “It’s not about you.”  A long time has passed since I first experienced the selfless joy of giving a Christmas gift to another.  I remember saving my pennies or working for days preparing a home- made gift that only a mother could love, but real joy came in giving. 

But think about it.  At Christmas, it is about you! The angels declared that unto us a child is born, unto us a child is given. And God declared that he loved the world so much that he gave is one and only son.  At Christmas we remember that God has given an eternal gift to us. 

Photo Credit:  red shoe -
Photo Credit: silver bells -
Photo Credit:  Nativity Scene -
Link to youtube video of Madonna singing Santa Baby
Link to you tube video of Bing Crosby's White Christmas

Monday, December 5, 2011

Stealing Christmas

This is the fourth in a series of posts written by my brother, Tom, in celebration of Christmas.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Christmas Dinner
Great-Grandpa, August Vonderheide, is at the head of the table.
Christmas Eve was always celebrated at my grandparents' house. They were rich, so we thought. We didn't realize that after a lifetime of raising children through the depression and the war, they were really "empty nesters" and for the first time in their lives they actually had some disposable income. My grandparents had 25 grandchildren who all arrived within the space of about 12 years. So when you added in parents and a few guests, about 40 of us would sit down to a Christmas banquet all at one long table in their finished basement. Grandpa sat at one end and Grandma at the other.

Grandpa's Sleigh
Grandpa was a lifetime subscriber to Popular Mechanics and his hobby was building stuff in his expansive workshop. Everything that Grandpa built was big, heavy-duty and slightly ahead of it's time.  By the time I was 10, Grandpa had built an outdoor Chirstmas display that was life-size and clearly over the top. The older cousins with our Dads would arrive on site just after Thanksgiving to begin unpacking and assembling the displays that filled most of the front and side yard of their corner lot. Music was piped outdoors from the elaborate stereo phonograph player inside the house, and visitors could view illuminated displays of Charles Dickens era carolers to Santa's sleigh and reindeer packed with presents to the manger scene under a full-sized stable.

The grandchildren in Grandpa's Manger
One day someone stole that baby Jesus right out of his crib ten days before Christmas! Not one to be outsmarted, Grandpa went to work and constructed a pressure-sensitive alarm linked to the floor boards of the stable around the crib. The alarm was then wired to the outdoor speakers, Popular Mechanics to the rescue once again. Anyone who would set foot within the stable would activate the alarm and be quickly caught. I am sure Grandpa went to sleep that night with the smug satisfaction that the new baby Jesus was well-protected.

In a simpler time before car alarms and home security sirens, in the soft quiet of a snowy December night, I am sure the neighborhood for several blocks in all directions awoke with a start when the wet and drifting snow piled into the stable and activated the loud speaker sirens at 3:00 AM.  Suffice it to say that even the fire department responded.

My grandparents have long passed, but their 25 grandchildren all live with families and traditions of their own.  We are all grateful for the fond Christmas memories and the love that they showed each one of us.  One of my favorite memories will always be Grandpa's determination to keep Christ in Christmas.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Family Traditions

This is the third in a series of posts written by my brother, Tom, that will be posted throughout December.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

One of my dad’s favorite pastimes was taking us for a ride.  “Come on kids, let’s go for a ride” he would announce with enthusiasm and seven kids would pile into the station wagon.  We watched new neighborhoods being built, office buildings, stadiums, airports and bridges.  These “rides” usually concluded with ice cream “just one dip, you don’t want to ruin your supper”.  Christmas time would take on a whole new dynamic.  Dad would watch the paper for the most elaborate displays and we would take special rides just to discover these kaleidoscopic mega displays. It was a part of our Christmas tradition.

Photo Credit:  Joe Orban
My kids hated going for rides and made sure they were busy on Sunday afternoons, the most likely time for a ride"Sorry Dad, I told Shannon I would come over this afternoon and play” I would hear.  Ice cream was an insufficient motivator so I resorted to tricks to get some spontaneous rides in by taking the l-o-n-g way home from different events. Too late, they were trapped. Christmas was the exception.  Somehow everyone was excited to take a ride and look at the lights.  We developed a tradition of applauding for displays that were the most beautiful.  Our kids would eagerly point out the well-decorated homes and we would applaud in unison as our car passed by.  This practice spread to include even short trips. The tradition continued as our children grew and we became quite discriminating in our taste.

One Christmas season our daughter informed us that her college boy friend would be able to spend a few days with us during the break.  We were excited to meet him as they seemed serious and we knew that to bring a boy home to meet the parents was a real step.  “Just one request” she said as we spoke.  "Let's not do that applause thing -- I don’t want to be embarrassed in front of him."  "Well, what else do we do that might be an embarrassment” I asked sarcastically.  Can we still let our “little dog Annie” on the table after dinner to pick up the crumbs? Can I scurry from the bath to the bedroom in a towel yelling “don’t look”?  Can we sing the full 3 part Jones version of Happy Birthday on your sister's birthday that evening?  Most importantly, can mom discharge the 12 gauge shotgun out the second floor window to frighten the geese?

Well, you can be sure that week we treated her friend to a full course of Jones family idiosyncrasies and played it to the hilt.  It didn’t work though, they got married a few years later in spite of the parents antics; we even let him meet my wife’s side of the family just to be sure they were meant for each other.  I knew we were OK when that weekend I overheard him on the phone with his parents whispering “OK, Mom, but let’s just not do the Walton good night thing when she’s there."

The holidays are a great time to remember family traditions and even create new ones.  Our family tradition will always include celebration of the fulfilled promise from Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Photo Credits:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Real Meaning of Christmas

This post is the second in a series of posts written by my brother, Tom.  They will be posted throughout the month of December.

Elf from Shillito Window 
I was in the fall of my early grade school years when it was confirmed, about Santa Clause that is.  I had easily figured out the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny but Santa was big step and after all, I wanted to believe!  But undeniable evidence came one afternoon walking home from school with two of my buddies.  Ted Middleburg and Tom Forte were two of the coolest guys in my class and they were talking about the new kid in school, they didn’t like him.  As they elevated their status by putting down the new kid it happened!  “He’s so stupid he still believes in Santa Clause”.  Ouch!  There it was independent confirmation.

As one of the oldest of 7 Jones kids, I had a sacred trust to keep this discovery top secret.  My older sister verified this fact and told me she had kept it from me not wishing to ruin my fun.  She had found Christmas presents in the attic a couple of years earlier and had filled in the blanks.  Was I the only one who had been so slow to realize? 

Crowd Outside of a Shillito Department Store Christmas Window, 1970

With five younger siblings, my sister and I doubled our effort to continue the childhood fantasy for them.  Like actors in a B movie, we took it upon ourselves to explain the multiple Santa Clause’s in the stores at Christmas.  We became experts in identifying the “real Santa” as opposed to his helpers.  “Is that the real Santa?”  my brothers would ask, no, that’s one of his helpers, the real Santa is in Candy Land at Shillitos I would explain.  We even went as far as pressing my father’s boot into the fireplace ashes on Christmas Eve in order to eagerly point to the footprints on Christmas morning.
Mark Jones and Santa

Years later while Christmas shopping with my young family my son Mark looked at me and announced “Dad, I know Santa is really you and Mom”.  I confirmed his suspicion and quickly cautioned him to keep it a secret so that he would not ruin it for his younger sister.  Something happened, Mark dropped his head and he lost the sparkle in his eyes, you see, right then he still wanted believe in Santa, he needed me to keep the dream alive just a little longer he was not quite ready to have dad put it to rest so quickly.  That night as I tucked him into bed, he looked at me and asked, “Dad is Jesus real?”  I was heartsick!  In a matter of moments I had ruined the childhood fantasy I worked so hard to keep alive in my siblings years earlier and caused my son to question the real meaning of Christmas, the Birth of the Savior. 

Mark is grown now and we both have become wiser.  We can walk through the mall at Christmas and identify the “real Santa” from his helpers.  And we know without a doubt that the angles were right when they announced to the shepherds 2000 years ago “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  Today in the city of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord”.

Photo Credits:  The two pictures from the Shillito Christmas Windows were found using google images.  I could not establish copyright.