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Archive for December, 2012

2012: A Look Back

Another year has come and gone! That means it’s time for my annual look in the rear view mirror before I look forward to all that 2013 has to offer. In some ways, this was a tough year for my friends, my family, and myself. My father was in and out of the ER and nursing homes more times than I can remember and my mother was occasionally sick too. Several of their close friends are suffering from serious illnesses. My parents’ house was in a state of disrepair for months due to a leaky pipe. There were several deaths this year: two co-workers, the mother of one of my best friends, two of my college professors, and a distant cousin who frequently commented here on this blog. I had some relationship disappointments and ended the year with a rather unexpected major surgery. But, despite all of the bad stuff, I managed to maintain a positive outlook and be grateful for all of the good things in life. And there were many, many good things…

My great-grandmother!

My great-grandmother!

Genealogically speaking, I didn’t devote that much time to research but I managed to make some great finds with the little time I did spend on it! I continued to find Polish records online including my 5th great-grandparents’ marriage record from 1820. The release of the 1940 census was long-awaited, and even though it didn’t reveal anything I didn’t already know it was a lot of fun to find my parents and all of my other relatives. I was thrilled to receive my great-grandmother’s naturalization papers and see her photo. The biggest surprise of the year was learning that my 2nd great-grandmother, Elizabeth Smetana Miller, immigrated to the U.S. and lived here for over 20 years before her death in 1944. I think I’m still surprised by that discovery! I had the opportunity to meet my 2nd cousin Carl and his sons from the Bergmeister side. I also got to meet Bill, a “cousin of my cousin” who is descended from the sister-in-law of one of my dad’s uncles. Finally, a surprise phone call from my father’s 76-year-old cousin – one I didn’t know existed – allowed me to connect her via telephone with her 67-year-old half-sister to share memories of the father that neither knew well (one due to divorce, the other due to his death at a young age).

I had a few personal goals for the year, but I only made progress with three of them. They were: have a more positive outlook, cultivate my relationships with friends, and get back to exercising. My new outlook, old friends, and five months of regular exercise all helped considerably when I was faced with my first-ever hospital stay at the end of November for a colon resection. It’s funny how things work out that way…

My nieces and nephews

My nieces and nephews

Looking back over the year, I was rather successful at trying to have a good time. I had many fun lunches, happy hours, and dinners with several different friends. I even cooked a bunch of dinners at my house and I was amazed every time that somewhere along the line I learned to cook without realizing it. I spent several holidays over at my brother’s house and spent some good times with my nieces and nephews watching Star Wars, going to the beach, and just having fun being silly. I finally broke the bad record of previous years and made it to the beach not just one day, but three different days! I hope my beach is still there since Hurricane Sandy hit that part of my state really bad in October. I finally made it to a Phillies game, attended a special event at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, saw my favorite Gene Kelly movie on the “big screen” again, and “won” an online auction to have lunch with my newest celebrity crush (we’re still scheduling the big event). I surprised myself by taking 10 undergraduate college credits in a subject I despise during a 7-week period, and despite spending one week in Europe and one week in the hospital I somehow managed to get a 3.55 average.

My travel time was limited this year, but I did go to Georgia twice for work as well as two new places: San Antonio, TX and Phoenix, AZ. The only trip I took for personal travel was special: after about fourteen years of promises, I took my 17-year-old niece on her first trip to Rome, Italy. It was trip #5 for me, but that didn’t make it any less special. We both had a great time and I hope it was as memorable to my niece as it was to me.

The Pointkouski chicks learning to cook in Italy

The Pointkouski chicks learning to cook in Italy

I like to remember my “entertainment” favorites every year as well as personal events. The two television shows I fell in love with this year will always be among my favorites because they’re just that good: Firefly and Leverage. Yeah, I don’t know what took me so long to find them either. I went for long periods without taking the time to read anything, but then I managed to read about 33 books between Memorial Day weekend and the end of September and found a lot of great authors in the process (Chris Ewan, Mark Mills, Pam Jenoff, Michael Curtis Ford, Sarah Jio, Isabel Wolff, Karen White). I especially enjoyed John Scalzi’s Redshirts, Kate Morton’s Forgotten Garden, and Felix Palma’s The Map of Time. In the world of music, I loved Matchbox Twenty’s new album, North, especially “Sleeping at the Wheel”. I also really liked P!nk’s “Blow Me (One Last Kiss)”, One Republic’s “Feel Again”, Lifehouse’s “In Between the Raindrops”, Sara Bareilles’ “Gonna Get Over You”, and Train’s “Feels Good at First”.

2012 brought me back to Rome - those coins thrown in the Trevi really do work!

2012 brought me back to Rome – those coins thrown in the Trevi Fountain really do work!

Last year I said I was ending the year a lot happier, healthier, and content, so that’s how I started this year. Although spending the last month recovering from surgery has been a struggle to stay happy, healthy, and content, I think I’m on track to a much happier, healthier, and contented new year. And the world didn’t even end this month as “scheduled”! What’s on tap for next year? Well, there are more ancestors to find, cousins to meet, birthdays to celebrate, dinners to enjoy, friends to cherish, places to travel, books to read, people to meet, photographs to take, blog posts to create, music to play, exciting things to discover, and family to love. That, my friends, will make for a very good year!

Happy New Year to all of my family, friends, and faithful readers! I wish you peace, joy, love, and good health in 2013!

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Well, it’s that time of year again…with just eight days to go in 2012 we genealogy bloggers sometimes brag write about what a great job we did in meeting our goals for the year. Then we usually come up with another list of genealogy-related fun things to do next year. I’m no exception…I’ve been doing the same for the last few years myself. But if I spell out this year’s goals and talk about how well – or not – I did at meeting them, I’d feel a bit ridiculous since, well…I didn’t quite get to most of them. Let’s just say my priorities changed throughout the year. But hey, it’s that time of year, so let me at least provide you with my TOP 12 REASONS I DIDN’T MEET ALL OF MY 12 GENEALOGY GOALS FOR 2012!

12. The world was supposed to be over by now…

11. Uh, some of my lofty goals were a bit too hard. I mean, what was I thinking? Twelve goals?

10. Several of my most inspirational long-time genealogy blogging friends (you all know who you are) took a blogging leave of absence and left me uninspired as a result. (Please come back!!!!!)

9. I was distracted by shiny things and spent too much of my free time reading my Pointer sister’s voluminous tweets.

My niece and nephews love Star Wars too!

My niece and nephews love Star Wars too!

8. I introduced the next generation to the wonder that is Star Wars.

7. I cheated on Facebook by having an actual real live social network.

Cast of TV's Leverage: Christian Kane, Gina Bellman, Tim Hutton, Beth Reisgraf, Aldis Hodge

Cast of TV’s Leverage: Christian Kane, Gina Bellman, Tim Hutton, Beth Reisgraf, Aldis Hodge

6. I spent a whole lot of time watching all 77 episodes of Leverage multiple times with great delight.

5. I was too stressed trying to complete the weekly Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge.

4. I still give up on translating Polish records that are written in Russian in under five minutes.

3. I bribed my genealogy-goal buddy, Lisa Alzo, with a case of slivovitz to stop bugging me about my progress.

2. I found out a lot of other great genealogy facts this year that weren’t on my 2012 wish list.

1. Occasionally hanging out with live relatives is more fun that looking for dead ones.

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This week’s Sepia Saturday has a kissing theme, and I have just the photo in my collection:

My parents on Christmas Day in 1955

My parents on Christmas Day in 1955

I don’t see any mistletoe in the photograph, but it was Christmas day! My parents were not married yet – that would happen in about four months. I love the detail in the background of the photo – this was my paternal grandparents’ house. Note the 1950’s decor with the flowered wallpaper and flowered carpeting, upholstered wing chair with doilies on the arms, the steam radiator, and an ashtray stand next to the chair. I wish there were more photos from other parts of the living room! (There is another of my parents and aunt sitting together on the sofa – my mother must have had a change of clothes, because she is wearing a different dress but my father is dressed the same.) I also love the fabulous velvet dress on my Mom and the suit and tie on my Dad.

I would have to ask to be certain, but my guess is that my aunt took the photograph. She was 13 years old, and isn’t it just like a teenaged sister to annoy her big brother by taking a photo of him kissing his girl? Heck, I think I remember doing the same exact thing to my brother and his girlfriend about 25 years later when I was 13 and he was 21!

2012.12W.02

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Photo by Leo Reynolds on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/lwr/3723131340/

Photo by Leo Reynolds on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/lwr/3723131340/

Since today is December 12, 2012 — and I haven’t posted for a while — here are twelve things, genealogical and otherwise, that I have learned in this past year.

1. I learned what happened to my grandmother’s Uncle Herman.

2. I learned where all of my ancestors and relatives were living in the United States in 1940.

3. I learned that my great-great-grandmother, Elizabeth Smetana Miller, actually immigrated to this country and lived here for 22 years before she died in 1944 in New Jersey.

4. I learned the names of two sets of sixth great-grandparents: Jan Pluta and Agnieszka Kramarska and Jan Redłowski and Józefa Lichańska. They were named on the 1820 marriage record of their children, Bartłomiej Ludwik Pluta and Helena Franciszka Redłowska. The father of the groom was a shoemaker, and the father of the bride was a cloth merchant who actually signed the marriage record  and gave me the oldest signature in my ancestral collection!

5. I learned quite a few death dates of Polish ancestors thanks to online records at Geneteka.

6. I learned what my great-grandmother looked like.

7. I learned a bit more about my grandfather’s missing sister and the man she married…I just haven’t blogged about it yet.

8. I learned I’m Scandinavian. Well, 46% of my DNA is… That means that my Bavarian ancestors and perhaps a few of the Poles once came from farther north. No wonder I can’t stand the cold – we’ve been heading south for thousands of years.

9. I learned that my father’s uncle had a daughter we didn’t know about. I was able to put her in touch with her half-sister, and they both learned a bit more about their father.

10. I learned once again that hanging out with other genealogists in a lot of fun (Slavapalooza ’12 was held in Philadelphia in late April).

11. I learned that sometimes you have to put social media, blogging, and the computer away and get out there and cultivate relationships in person. I was more social this year with dinners, dates, happy hours, and fun times with family and friends. When I wound up in the hospital a couple of weeks ago, my closest friends were by my side. It’s good to have friends that have known you since you were a teenager – they won’t let you get away with anything, they will make you laugh, and they will take care of you when you need it!

12. I learned to let go of negativity and find things to enjoy about life every day. I don’t have a single thing I ever really wanted in life and I’m happier than I’ve ever been.

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