2014: A Look Back

Branagh as Macbeth in 2014

My Bucket List item – completed in 2014!

Even though I took the year off from blogging, my new year’s eve wouldn’t be the same without my look back at the past year.

Since this is a genealogy blog, first things first – genealogically speaking, it was a very good year. I met several new cousins and discovered some new ancestors. I even attended a conference – the Southern California Genealogical Society Genealogy Jamboree! One of my finds was the 1834 birth record of Jan Pater – I’ve known the approximate year and town name from his marriage record for years, but I had difficulty finding the little village – until earlier this year. Thanks to that find, I also found his 1833 marriage record of his parents, Hilary Pater and Agnieszka Kochanoska – my 4th great-grandparents. On another side of the family I finally located the marriage record of my 2nd great-grandparents (one of my 12 goals for 2012 – better late than never), Jan Kizeweter and Marianna Ostał. This was no easy feat for two reasons: they moved frequently and each of their several children was born in a different town, and, to make it more confusing, Jan would occasionally use his middle name for official records. But, now I know where each was born and their parents’ names, and records are available for both of those towns that go back a bit farther.

Besides finding more ancestors farther back, I also found some new information about my great-grandparents. In one case, I tracked down details on a sister of my great-grandfather after finding her husband’s death record. In the other instance, I found out that my other great-grandfather had a half-sister I didn’t know about thanks to some family postcards from the 1910’s.

With cousins Mary and Judy in California

With cousins Mary and Judy in California

But the best part about this year in terms of genealogy was that it was the Year of Cousins! I had the opportunity to meet many cousins! First I celebrated the birthday of my mom’s first cousin and met four of my second cousins for the very first time. On my trip to California, I met two of my mom’s second cousins and one of my dad’s first cousins. I had a wonderful time meeting all of them. I also tracked down some second cousins on my dad’s side and we can’t wait to meet.

The rest of my year was exciting in other ways, too. I made a new friend that brightened up the arctic blast of a winter we had in January and February by forcing me off of my sofa to explore my own hometown. We saw many wonderful things and shared many great conversations and that time together has created a cherished friendship.

I crossed off a Bucket List item this year! I wanted to see Kenneth Branagh perform Shakespeare live. I figured that one day far in the future I’d travel to England and see him – probably when he was old enough to play King Lear. But suddenly he was appearing in New York City for the very first time and I seized the opportunity to see him as Macbeth. Three good friends and I were mesmerized by a performance that could best be described as an “experience” rather than merely “seeing a show.” The tickets were expensive, but watching rival Scottish clans have a sword fight in the rain and mud just steps away from your seat? Priceless!

My travels this year didn’t take me out of the country, but the trips were still magical. I went to southern California specifically to meet my cousins and attend the Genealogy Jamboree conference with my old (and new!) friends. While there I also had fun looking through family photos, tasting at wineries, touring San Juan Capistrano, and hanging out on Laguna Beach. I spent a fun weekend walking around New York City and a week in southern Virginia where I hiked on the Appalachian Train and rode on the back of a Harley-Davidson.

Besides seeing Branagh in Macbeth, I saw a great production of The Comedy of Errors at the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, VA. In my own city, I saw a fun play called Incorruptible and went to Mary Poppins with my mother and two nieces. I went to four concerts that were all absolutely amazing. First was an acoustic Rob Thomas concert with my genea-bestie Lisa Alzo in Atlantic City. Next was a fun time seeing Reilly and Maloney for about the fourth or fifth time (on possibly their last tour of the East Coast). In June, I saw the amazing singer-songwriter Dan Wilson of Semisonic fame on his Words and Music tour. It was so good, I’m seeing him again in February! Finally, in December I saw one of my absolute favorite bands: Sister Hazel. I’ve been a fan for almost 20 years and seeing them perform live was really special.

2014 was a year in which I fell in love, discovered fun things about my own hometown, watched someone I met become a saint, celebrated my father’s 80th birthday, spent a lot of money beautifying my house, had my first job interview in ten years, discovered that I remember how to play the guitar after a 25-year break, and learned that if you do something for 100 days it becomes a habit. Fortunately it was a good habit: I now write every day. Maybe I can work on other healthy habits next year!

I enjoyed several books by Deanna Raybourn, Jill McCorkle, Harriett Evans, and Kate Racculia as well as Liane Moriarity’s What Alice Forgot, Felix Palma’s Map of the Sky, and Charlie Lovett’s First Impressions. My television favorites were both old (Rome) and new (Outlander).  My soundtrack of the year would definitely include John Legend’s “All of Me”, O.A.R.’s “Peace”, One Republic’s “I Lived”, and Barenaked Ladies’ “Odds Are”.

McAfee Knob on the Appalachian Trail

McAfee Knob on the Appalachian Trail

The biggest lesson from this year is that having a positive attitude is one of the healthiest things I can do and goes a long way towards being happy. I can thank one friend in particular for helping me cultivate the habit of thinking positively. He also taught me that we are how we treat each other and nothing more. Be kind; it’s worth it!

I learned that I’m not too old to make new friends. But unfortunately I also didn’t do my best to maintain the friendships that have sustained me for, in some cases, 35 years of my life. Next year I definitely want to be a better friend, and I hope to be a better aunt as well and spent more time with the four people who mean the whole world to me.

I’ve spent some time this December reflecting on 2014’s gifts and challenges. I found some deep questions to help me reflect, and one asked “If you had to describe your 2014 in 3 words, what would they be?” My answer: smile, enjoy, hope. I did all three, and as I welcome a brave new year I pray that I can continue to smile at life, enjoy relationships and experiences, and hope that my dreams will come true. Thanks for sharing the ride with me!

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