Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Continuing the countdown!

These guys are awesome and as a "zebra" I appreciate a bit of Christmas on the Serengeti.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Week and All That Jazz

Christmas is five days away, Ian and a friend are arriving on Christmas Eve and what does our householder have planned?

With the announcement that we'll be having guests for Christmas dinner my plans changed from chicken stew for the two of us to turkey and all the trims for four. I don't mind a bit, in fact I'm looking forward to it. One meal of turkey a year I can manage. But it does mean my late week market basket will be piled higher than I anticipated.

I'll also finish the painting in the kitchen that I didn't finish before. I don't know, motivation fled, or energy escaped or something... but I need to take care of that last remaining bit of brown linen wall.

We are now officially festive. Yesterday, I unGrinched and put up the Christmas tree (all 18" of it!), wound a pine garland around the molding over the sofa, put the salt dough ornaments we made in 1979 on it, and brought out a few of my favorite old toys.

Gifts, not much. I got a stocking stuffer for each of the kids, but we have followed through with our decision to make a KIVA loan each month, and support a few other charities, in lieu of buying Christmas gifts none of us really needs.

Outside, we've had another snowfall. Flurries were predicted and two inches fell. More snow is expected, so barring a sudden warming spell, our Christmas will be white, unless you count the colours of the birds which come to the seed I throw out for them each morning. A covey of 20 quail make a significant dent in a the birdseed budget, but I love their silly ways.

Let me see, where have I put the paintbrush?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Countdown

And what can we say but, "Look for the bright spots and enjoy them to the fullest!"

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Rerun

But everyone loves the familiar at Christmas right? I love this song and clip from the British children's Christmas show, The Snowman

Sunday, December 12, 2010

What's Past is Filed in a Manila Envelope

I sat down today to do a job long postponed. As a genealogist for more than 30 years I have amassed an enormous collection of documents, maps, pedigrees, papers, bad photocopies of old pictures and a collection of family letters dating back to 1966.

This "mess" is loosely organized by surname into brown manila envelopes, tattered and pushed to the limits of their ability. For the past several years my horde has not fit into the two foot deep file box I have lugged along with each move. I had a stack of eight or ten "extra" envelopes piled beside the file box in the cupboard.

I spent the day sorting, discarding material I'd copied (just in case) which turned out to be an unrelated line, weeding out duplicate sheets - when we gained the ability to print our own documents at home it was always "better" to print two, three or four copies rather than one. Never know when you'd need an extra family group sheet for great-uncle Jeremiah Kast and his 21 children. Best safe than sorry!

I have reams of papers other people have sent, hoping we would have a link. Sort sort sort, toss toss toss.

The most difficult were the letters. No one writes real letters any more but we used to generate a steady flow of letters. I had several large envelopes absolutely groaning with hundreds of letters. Some were written to my parents by their siblings, there was a single letter from my father-in-law written shortly before he died, and many - dozens - from my sister, brother, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, aunts, and cousins. Reports of marriages, births, deaths, the gossip of small family scandals and an occasional triumph, the march of time captured in the neat or spidery scripts of writers who are almost all now returned to the quiet well of creation from which they sprang, to quote the Tao de Ching.

Most precious, I have a two-line letter from my father, who was one of the most intelligent men I have ever known, but who was almost completely illiterate. He was severely dyslexic, but in 1910 they just said he couldn't learn. In grade four he was removed from school and put to work in the fields. I had folded this little bit of paper away years ago, and thought its power might have diminished. It has not. He struggled so hard to write those two lines. It seemed a precis of his life.

The time will come when my sons will look at all this and shake their heads, and they will probably throw the whole collection away. Some genealogists leave their neatly catalogued family collections to the local library to flesh out the county history. There is no "local" of any consequence with my ancestors. They came from the four corners of the earth, rolled through state after state like tumbleweeds, moved with the seasons, took only their appetites and (most likely) left unpaid bills behind. The descendants are prosperous these days but I remember the terror in my parent's voices as they talked of trying to raise a family through the Great Depression.

There's 500 years of history in that file box, stories and journeys which began in France and Spain, in Shropshire and Wiltshire, Germany and Holland. Some whose ancestors came across the Bering Strait 20,000 years ago and who stood on the Eastern shore and watched the newcomers arrive. Don't be rough with them boys. Even if it's just for my sake. [Edit: Older son insists he is not the beer-swilling Nascar obsessed lout portrayed by his mother in this post, but a highly sensitive soul who appreciates his rich family history. He's a good boy, as is the younger one. Maybe they'll flip a quarter for the box of documents - I'll leave it to them to decide if it's the winner or the loser who babysits mother's paperwork through the next generation. grin ]

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

KIVA Loan for December

This month our KIVA loan goes to 22 year old Azizov Sohib in the former Soviet republic of Tajikistan. He is married and has a small child. For more than five years Sohib has been running a joiner’s shop manufacturing wooden doors and window frames.

Hard-working young people like Sohib are the future of any nation. I admit a soft spot for those who produce beautiful joinery and carpentry, as both my father and brother were master carpenters who produced beautiful cabinetry, furniture, clocks and even houses. So, as a small remembrance to my brother Hall, who recently passed away, and my dad Charlie, who left us in November of 1985, a loan to a young man who carries on the tradition of beautiful woodwork.

Sohib is respected as a good worker in his neighborhood. His business generates a stable income allowing him to support his family and improve their living conditions. Now he needs to purchase additional materials for his manufacturing shop. For this reason he applied for a $1395.00 (USD) loan. This is Sohib's third loan, which he promises to repay his loan in a timely manner. He thanks everyone for their support.

Tajikistan has a rich history. It was along the Silk Road and the boundary of Alexander the Great's empire. The poets Omar Khayyam and Rumi were from Tajikistan. The country is home to communities that still speak the ancient Sogdian language, epic mountain passes, and a civilization that dates back to the 4th millennium BC. And, even today, it is a complex mixture of the Islamic faith, Soviet culture, New West culture and Central Asian traditions.

Tajikistan is now the poorest of the former Soviet republics. The civil war, which ignited soon after its independence from the U.S.S.R., further damaged the already weak economy. In addition, 93% of the country is mountainous and only 7% of the land is arable. These conditions have resulted in high levels of unemployment and have forced hundreds of thousands to seek work in other countries, mainly Russia. While the people of Tajikistan are working to improve its agricultural production and manufacturing sector, nearly two-thirds of the population still live in abject poverty. But with hard work and a little help Sohib and his family will not be among those living in poverty.