Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Joys, Challenges and Lessons Learned

When I think back about the things that had the biggest impact upon who I am now, getting married and divorced ranks up near the top.  I went to an all girls high school and wanted to be a nun -- hard to believe now.  I think it really had a lot to do with my strong sense of social justice and a true desire to serve.  But it also got me in trouble.  I was socially awkward, had no desire to date (what would be the point) and really didn't feel comfortable initiating conversations with men.

It didn't take me long to realize that I wasn't going to be a nun.  I fell in love with my Spanish professor, new feelings I didn't know how to handle. Shortly after Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the moon, I was back at home without a real plan.  Of course, I continued going to college, able to pay as I went by working as a cashier at Krogers.  Working and going to school left me little time for socializing.  There was no such thing as a football game or dance.

I joined a support group, trying to get a handle on who I was, and met the man who would one day become my husband.  After five years, we did marry, build a home and have our daughter. We were divorced 3 1/2 years later and I was now a single parent of a one-year old living in an apartment.  Everything I thought I knew changed during this time.  In three years of counseling, I really, for the first time, got in touch with who I was, my values, and ended up much stronger in the end.  The worst experience of my life probably had the biggest impact on who I am now.  It was a good thing.

I was a teacher, not so much by choice, but by expectation.  It was a time when most women had three career paths:  business (usually in a support position), education or nursing.  Of the three, I luckily chose the "right" one for me.  Teaching was the most rewarding and most challenging career I could have imagined.  The occupation gave me a lot of flexibility.  Over the years I taught 5th-6th grade math/science, became an Assistant Principal and Supervisor, worked as an Evaluator and ended my last seven years where I began -- teaching.  After 30 years, I cobbled together a second career that included managing a science program, working for Miami University organizing science workshops for teachers, and working for the State of Ohio with online courses designed to assist teachers in incorporating technology in their classrooms.  That's where I learned to blog.

It's amazing to me that I've neglected to mention my health.  I've certainly had my share of issues.  At the age of 39, I developed ulcerative colitis -- a serious illness that dominated the next 12 years of my life.  I've also had six orthopedic surgeries and have both hips and knees replaced.  One of my replaced knees became infected two years post-surgery and had to be removed.  They literally "glued" the top of my leg to the bottom while I underwent 12 weeks of self-administered IV antibiotics.  My reward for surviving this -- a second knee replacement.  A few years ago I had a hip replacement.  My femur fractured two weeks later.  Reward for this was a second hip replacement with a much longer rod and screws and ties.  So what is amazing is that I literally feel blessed because I've had good health insurance and can do most of what I want to do.  These issues don't dominate my life now, although they have played a significant role in my adult life. This probably explains why health-care related issues so concern me.

Next month, I will be 63 years old.  I feel like I know who I am and what my values are. I have a wonderful husband, daughter, son-in-law and two beautiful grandsons.  I live comfortably.  I've had the opportunity to travel. My biggest concerns are the instability we see in the world as well as world-wide financial instability. I  also am concerned about the ever-increasing disparity in income in our country and the poverty so prevalent around the world.  I wonder if we are naively on the edge of a Third World War and do not recognize it.  I hate the attitude that teachers and other public sector employees are somehow a drag on everyone else and unworthy of adequate compensation. I wish for everyone else that they have the opportunities I have had -- never being hungry, never without health-care, never without the love and support of my family, and never without adequate income.  

Have you got me figured out?  Let me just say that there are still a few "sticky notes" that are hidden under the pile.  After all, I feel like I've still got a few good years before my story will end.  I have to leave you with a few questions.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Who Does She Think She Is . . .

My niece, Rian, posted in the comments from the previous post that she "is still a work of art in progress." That comment spoke to me because even at my age, I could say the same.  All of us are the sum of our parts. There are certain events that have happened during my lifetime that have heavily influenced my current world view.  So to help my descendants give context to my life, here are some of the events that have influenced me.

Within the family:

  • Being the first-born of seven children, five boys and two girls.  The first four of us were born in less than four years.
  • Being the product of a "mixed marriage" (non-Catholic father and Catholic mother), and all that implied in my earlier years.
  • Attending Catholic schools from 1st grade through high school.
  • Growing up in a family with a strong work ethic and an underlying assumption that we would all go to college, etc.
  • Being a part of a large extended family, especially on my maternal side.
  • Although there wasn't a lot of money, I never missed a meal and was never without a necessity. 
Within the world:
  • I was always greatly interested in the space program from the time that Russia launched the Sputnik through the U.S. putting a man on the moon.  I wish we still had a vision for space, innovation and exploration that we could afford.
  • I was heavily impacted by the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy.
  • My generation was heavily impacted by the War in Viet Nam.  I think it took a toll on my ex-husband  who fought in the infantry. I tend to be a pacifist. I hate war.
  • I've always had a strong sense of social justice and a desire that all Americans be treated equally and have some of the same opportunities that have made all of the difference for me.
  • As a child who grew up in the idyllic 50s and came unto my own as a young adult of the 60s, I am a part of the Boomer Generation.  I have always believed that when we as a group were ready to retire, we would then be thought of as the problem.  I'm seeing that more and more.
In the next (and final) post on this topic, I will discuss the challenges I've experienced in my personal life.  So, dear descendants, do you think you have me figured out?  Can you put me in a box?  I hope I've convinced you that it's hard to really know someone.  As my sister Karen asked, wouldn't you love to be able to ask your own parents what they believed and what influenced their ideas?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Just the Facts, Ma'am . . .

How Does It Happen So Quickly?
As genealogists, we delight in uncovering "facts" about our ancestors.  Those of us with a particular love of family history try to place our ancestors in "context" by familiarizing ourselves with the history, economics, living conditions, and social realities of the time.  The reality is, however, that we often try to build a plausible story based on a few precious facts that we have uncovered.

Typical information about an ancestor might include birth, death and marriage dates, number of children and a list of residences.  From Census documents we may be able to assess an ancestor's overall financial situation, occupation, year of immigration, etc.  We can determine whether or not they were literate and probably have a pretty good idea of what religion they practiced.  But then what?

I, like many of you, want to get inside their heads, understand their world view and learn what may have motivated them to stay put or move on.  It occurred to me that interpreting the "facts" is more than a minor undertaking. Let me demonstrate how tricky this can be by sharing some of the facts of my own life.

  • 1949 - born in Cincinnati, Ohio to John T. and Virginia Jones
  • 1950 U. S. Census - my parents now have two children.  We are living in an apartment in Wyoming.
  • 1950 - Move to first house in Golf Manor
  • 1960 U. S. Census - parents had 7th child and we are living in a house in Pleasant Ridge.
  • 1963 - Graduate from 8th Grade at Nativity School Pleasant Ridge
  • 1967 - Graduate from Regina High School, Norwood
  • 1970 U.S. Census - still living with parents in Pleasant Ridge and attending college at the University of Cincinnati. Education Major.
  • 1972 - Start first job as a teacher at Bond Hill School.
  • 1976 - Marry Robert J. Hellmann
  • 1977 - Build first house with husband in Landen, Warren County, Ohio
  • 1978 - Give birth to daughter, Elizabeth Ann Hellmann
  • 1979 - Divorce.
  • 1980 - U. S. Census - living in apartment in Symmes Township with daughter, single parent.
  • 1987 - Marry William E. Reed
  • 1990 - Living in home in Pleasant Ridge
  • 1999 - Buy home and relocate to Kenwood, Ohio.  Daughter spends college-semester abroad.
  • 2001 - Retire from Cincinnati Public Schools but continue working.
  • 2010 - Still living in Kenwood, daughter married, one grandchild.
OK -- so now you've got more information than most genealogists have about their ancestors.  Pretend you are my great-grandchild.  What will you decide about me?  What were my hobbies?  What was my religion?  My politics? My financial situation? How did I feel about being a wife, parent and grandparent?  What about divorce? How was my health? I'd love to see what they decide about me.  Will it be accurate?  More clues tomorrow.