Saturday, July 13, 2019

July 13

     The highlight of today was a church barbecue. I took some pictures but don't want to add them since they include people other than my family. We had a lot of fun. One of my favorite things about our church potlucks is eating the family recipes brought by other people. I tried a nice salad, a Korean noodle dish, some doughy ball things, plus a few new desserts. In other words, I ate way too much but enjoyed it, at least for now. We set up a volleyball net. People played volleyball, badminton, soccer, frisbee, jumped rope and just hung out and talked.  We had a few visitors who were pretty cool too.
     Tomorrow I am traveling back to Western Ma for a conference. I'll write more about it in the next few days. There are some aspects I'm eager about and a few times where I'm sure to be stretched outside my comfort zone. I wanted to stretch myself this summer so here's another opportunity. Have a great week if I decide to write when I'm home instead of while I'm away. 

Friday, July 12, 2019

July 12

Good news, it seems that my writing mojo is back. (This may be bad news if you follow me on Twitter and have gotten my million notifications of sending a Postcrossing card. Sorry). I spent some time yesterday and this morning writing thank you notes and writing some Postcrossing cards. I look forward to tossing them all in the mail today and then attempting to tackle my overwhelming "respond" pile. Thanks to everybody who has been patiently waiting. Postcrossing cards are being sent to: Russia, Germany, Canada, Japan, Finland, USA (California),Portugal, Poland, France, Netherlands, and Romania. 


  It will be nice to start receiving so many cards back once these ones are registered. I hope to have the maximum amount of cards traveling as I am allowed to. I think I'm up to 19 now. I have a few more to send tomorrow and then I'll be at the maximum.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

July 11

     I have mentioned a few times that I am involved with genealogy research for my family. Recently, I went to visit my Aunt Diane (I have 2- this one is on my mom's side.) Every line of my family seems to have some mysteries that I would like to solve. Since I have some time during the summer, I decided to bring a project home. We went through a large Tupperware bin of old photos, many of which were unlabeled. Today I spent some time with a few photos, trying to figure them out with the help of a few relatives and a few genealogy groups I'm involved with on Facebook. Here's what I've been researching today.

    We didn't know who the 2 boys were off the top of our heads. We also didn't know what the uniforms were. My grandfather was in the Army, but these kids seemed too young and that didn't look like his Army uniform that I had seen in other photos. These photos were labeled with a stamp from Alves Photo Service in 1939. After way too many hours of working on this, I think I have figured out that:
1) The shorter boy was most likely my grandfather. He would've been 15. 
2) These pictures were most likely from the Hyde Park High Cadets. My grandfather graduated from Hyde Park High School in 1941. 
3) When you're researching Hyde Park, make sure you have the correct state. In other news, the Hyde Park Alumni Association's Facebook contact in Chicago is delightful.
4) Still trying to figure out who the second boy is and what my grandfather is holding in his hand.

      The next photos (Labeled Monosson Photo), I'm trying to figure out who these people are:
   My aunt thinks the top one is my great-grandmother holding one of her daughters. I thought the bottom 2 were my grandfather's sister Dottie or his sister Eva and one of their husbands. (Probably Eva and Fred)  What do you think? This next picture shows all of them:

    On the left side: my great uncle Joe, his wife Dotty, my great-grandmother Carlye and my great-aunt Eva.  On the right, from front to back, my grandfather Ed, his dad Lawrence and his brother-in law Fred (who was married to Eva.)
      Has anyone reading ever tried to figure out old pictures like this? I'm sure I'll have more once I am finished with this batch. Do you have any suggestions for me/ All of these people have passed away. I'm talking with relatives of the younger generations, but we want to make sure we're correct about our guesses.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

July 10

    I'm finding that I kind of wish the boys were home on some days instead of at park. I make a to do list in my head but then spend most of the time looking forward to them getting home. I know there are some people who are begging their kids to get out of the house all day, but I don't often have this much free time during the school year and I feel like I'm wasting it.
       Today I worked out, dropped the boys off and worked on some genealogy stuff. I learned a little more about my grandmother, who was one of my closest relatives but had a hard life growing up. I also connected with people who aren't directly related to me, but were definitely considered family by my nana.
       The farmer's market in town opened again today. It's in a new location, which seems better than the first location. Unfortunately, I'm not finding a lot of things I want to buy. I love that there are farms there with fresh, local vegetables and flowers. There were lots of jewelry vendors there, which I'd buy for a gift, but not on a weekly basis. Lularoe, Tupperware and Pampered Chef also made an appearance. There were a few food trucks, which was a fun addition. A few booths that caught my attention were:
- A local church, just saying hi, giving out coffee and cookies and collecting for Amirah.  Apparently they're coming every week and collecting for something different each week. I wish my church did something like this.
- A woman who made her own soaps. They smelled delicious. I may go get one next week. I have a friend who might enjoy a soap as well.
- A cute older couple who made birdhouses.
- A new shop selling mini-bundt cakes. They had samples and were delicious!

        David and I enjoyed walking around for a few minutes. I'll try to get back there a few times this summer. After a delicious dinner of chicken cutlets with spaghetti, I took a short walk around the block. I live in a suburban area but it's not really congested. Ironically, 1 block away I could be on a highway or in the middle of cornfields (not common for most of Ma.) I often see small animals in the yard- various birds, rabbits, groundhog, chipmunks, skunks,  and squirrels. We once had a deer, a coyote and a turkey- at different times. Today on our walk, we came across a gang of turkey youth. Luckily, they were happy to let us pass without coming after us.

    I need to plan better for tomorrow. I guess one positive thing is that I got back on track with logging my food. :/

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

July 9

    I spent a lot of the day driving home and just appreciating the opportunity I had last night. I feel very blessed for special things like being able to afford to give my children different experiences, but also blessed for things most people think are average- always having enough food for my family, a safe place to live, a (reliable) car, kids (also without any issues that we have no control over), etc.  I feel that it is so easy to spread negativity and I am often guilty of this. I like to try to pay just as much attention, if not more, to how lucky I really am. I'm sure it's a lot nicer to hear about too.

July 8

    So, today was kind of a dream come true for me. There's a composer I like named Jason Robert Brown. I have known about his music for about 20 years now. He's written my favorite musical and everything I've ever read about him/heard from him (both music and his personal thoughts)  has something I've enjoyed.  In addition to this, about 15 years ago, I asked him to help my choir at school by donating something to raffle. He asked if he could personally donate instead. Then he was extremely generous. I was just happy that he had taken the minute and a half to answer me, never mind to help a stranger. Honestly, I could go on for pages about things I respect about him.
      Well, last night he did a concert in Massachusetts and Matt insisted that I go. This was kind of a "bucket list" type dream of mine, so when Matt encouraged me, I didn't take much convincing. The concert was in a small theater and I splurged a little for tickets that were way closer than I would normally consider. Ironically, they were less expensive than what I would normally pay for some of the cheapest tickets for a musical in Boston. The concert was about 3 hours away so Matt suggested I stay there for the night. Since Tim is a musical theatre nerd too, and I didn't want to be alone, I invited him along.
     I was looking forward to this day since the day I ordered the tickets. I dropped David at the parks program and then Tim and I headed out. It was about a three hour drive. The area we stayed was really beautiful, right down the street from The Appalachian Trail. We rented a room on AirBnB. 

    On the side that I took the pictures from there was a nice sliding door and a wraparound porch. We were also to use the backyard, which was gorgeous. It had a tree house, a little sitting area and a hanging swing. The owner had a beautiful garden where she grew peas, broccoli, garlic, flowers, etc.  If Tim wasn't with me, I would've sat outside and read for hours. This place was perfect for us to have a quick stay in.
     Because I was overly excited, we left super early to explore, eat dinner and get to the concert. I wasn't sure if I would actually meet JRB, but I had always wanted to thank him- in a personal way- for helping me as a young teacher. I asked Matt if he would be willing to make a candy basket for him as a gift. He put together a basket with 2 types of fudge, a caramel pop, pecan patties, etc. It was awesome. In true Jen fashion, I wrote a quick note explaining who I was (We've connected a few times online.) and saying thanks. I dropped it at the theater 3 hours before the show in hopes that he would actually get it. 
       Then Tim and I walked around picturesque Pittsfield- which was not picturesque at all. It was pretty run down and a little scary. Actually, to be fair- there were some beautiful churches along the main street. Many of the stores were closed at the times we were walking around. There were many people who seemed to be mentally ill or possibly addicted to something that were walking around. (People walking around yelling at nobody or talking to themselves, people pushing carts that look like they held all of their possessions, some people that look like they've been through a lot of tough times.)  In addition to this, when we were eating dinner we saw "Breaking News" that someone had escaped from jail and was evading police in the same city. Eeek. Even JRB commented (in a not so subtle way) that the city was a bit sketchy.When I think of the Berskhires, this is not what I pictured. We did find a yummy Mexican restaurant, called Titos. It was delicious. Tim had 2 burritos, beans and rice. I had Pollo Feliz. It was chicken in some cheese sauce with spinach, Spanish mushrooms, onions and peppers. It was so good. I liked the decor there too.

    After dinner, we walked around town and tried not to get mugged. Ha ha. Just kidding, sort of. I noticed that I got a missed call from the theater. Wondering that was about, I called them back only to learn that the tickets I bought were considered VIP tickets (AKA- expensive ones.. lol) and included a meet and greet reception with JRB. My heart skipped a couple of beats while I thought, "Well, at least now I don't have to awkwardly come up with a way to greet him if I run into him." I really feel bad for well-known/famous people who have to live with people wanting to talk to, photograph, or record them whenever they're recognized. I have never had a desire for that in my own life. Anyway, we got back to the theater and learned that Row A was removed because the theatre company there was performing Into the Woods and had a stage extension. This was our view. I'm not zoomed in. Ah!!! So close. He had his band with him. It was him, his drummer, a bass guitarist, guitar and fiddle.
       This concert was the quickest, most musical 1.5 hours of my life. I LOVED every second of it. These guys are all legit musicians. It was nice to show Tim a group of musicians who perform sounding EXACTLY how they do in recordings, if not better. He was especially wowed by the fiddle player. I could not wipe the smile off my face the entire time. In addition to the music being awesome, JRB seems to be exactly what I thought he'd be like. He has a great sense of humor. He's super intelligent and is a real family guy. (His wife is also a composer by the way.) This was us after the concert and before feeling all panicky about being able to say hello. We actually talked to the guitar player behind us and then to the fiddler. They're also really nice guys.

     The reception was a meeting with champagne and some appetizers. I don't drink and didn't really fit in this crowd either, who I guess might be used to being the "VIP- I get this because I have enough to buy it" type. So, I patiently waited for the vultures to step away from the food and then away from JRB. When Tim said hello, he asked if he had gotten the basket and JRB said that he and the band really enjoyed devouring it before the show. We chatted for a few minutes and I asked Tim to take a pic. Last week, I mentioned that Tim had seen a picture of his dog and fell in love. He mentioned that his dog was downstairs and offered to let Tim meet him if we were willing to stick around for a few.
    Not wanting to hog his time, I thanked him again and stepped to the side.  Then I looked at the picture. Dang. I was really hoping to have a nice picture with him. Oh well, right? I look nice in this one, even though I'm blurry. Can you feel my joy radiating from me? (I think you could fairly call me a fangirl here, even though it's a total respect thing.)  
      True to his word, he signaled to Tim and I and asked if we wanted to say hello to Miles. While I was there I asked if I could get another pic since the first one was blurry. I think I actually like this one better. 
      This was seriously one of the happiest days of my life. 

Sunday, July 7, 2019

July 7

     For someone who does so much genealogy research, I certainly do not host many family activities. I can't believe I forgot to take any pictures tonight. After church today, we hosted a cookout for my dad, my sister and my niece. It was a low key day. We just had hot dogs, hamburgers, steak, chips and dip, a yummy cornbread salad (a recipe I got from a friend years ago and is outside of my normal taste in food), chocolate cake and drinks. We had a firepit  in the yard and just relaxed for the afternoon. It was a really wonderful day.
       I'm also EXTREMELY excited about the Jason Robert Brown concert I'm going to tomorrow night. I have dreamed about hearing him perform in person some day.Those of you who know me personally might know that I "look forward to things" but I'm not super dramatic about my emotions. I'm surprised at myself. Last night I was so excited I could barely sleep. The funny thing is, if I got a chance to say hello and meet him, I don't know if I would feel too shy to, which is also kind of ironic. Ah, I just can't wait. Maybe I'll write after the concert tomorrow night. Have a great week!