14 April 2018

All Things Restored: Miracles from RootsTech 2017

I made this video March 1, 2017 to celebrate finding Animoto. Today I worked on it a little more with my year's worth of experience. It's really just for me. RootsTech 2017 was when I first purchased the Animoto video program. It had been my heart's desire to be able to put a video together ever since my daughter died in 2005. She was an expert at videos and it was one of the things I had sorely missed since she left us. I stood in the Expo Hall of RootsTech, transfixed, as a woman demonstrated it to me. As I stood there, the short video she was making was rendered in a few minutes. I remembered my deceased daughter Rachel at the high school all night long, rendering her beautiful videos. Suddenly Rachel was there beside me in spirit, encouraging me to "Go for it, Mom." Unexpectedly, my frugal hesitant self didn't care how much it cost. I asked the salesperson if even an old woman like me could learn it. "Yes," she replied.
I went home and began my video-making journey. Videos for my sisters were some of my first projects. I loved being able to express my feelings in this new way. This video celebrates the miracle that Animoto became for me. I even put in part of my sister's "healing time" video just for fun. The cameo of me and my daughter Rachel at the end grabs my heart and reminds me of the miracle of having all good things restored to my life.

29 March 2018

A Plan for Happiness

July, 1981: I was happy and grateful to finally have my mom living close by. I planned to ride my bicycle to visit her across town since I didn’t often have a car available. But baby Nathan was a wiggly two-year-old, and I worried about putting him on the back for that long ride. Still, my husband Jim was home for parts of the summer, and he took over some of the childcare along with my older children. Carl was 12 and Anna 11. I considered them nearly grown and well able to supervise Mark, 9; Amy, 7; and Rachel, 5, as well as the baby. My handicapped son Andy was once again living in the Developmental Center, and that relieved me of his constant care. I made as much time as I could to spend with my mother. We were working together on a history of her great-grandfather, Asmus Jorgensen, and her own history, pre-marriage.

Earlier that summer, when Dad first brought Mom to Orem, he dropped her off at my house. Then, wonder of wonders, Dad put earnest money down on a house just a block away from us. I had worried constantly about my mother’s health, and the wish I had to be close enough to check on her every day was finally fulfilled. Dad went back to Logandale to finish their move. Mom stayed in my bed since Jim was working out of town, river running. In fact, the pain of her arthritis made getting out of bed nearly impossible for her. The six-hour trip north from Nevada had been made lying in the back of their van.

My memories of those days are mixed. My heart was bound to my mother. She was my best friend and I loved being with her. My children were our entertainment. They knew how to be quiet and not to jostle their grandma’s bed. Her smiles were their reward. Alyce, my neighbor, came and played our piano for us. Hymns, one after another, and the classics. Alyce made beautiful music from our old upright. But counterpoint to this happiness was the worry of her illness, growing worse each day.

Mom was in pain, too much pain, limiting, excruciating, severe pain. We called her Salt Lake doctor, on the verge of help with her arthritis, surely. But then the surprise came. Mom had cancer. And it had spread into her bones. No wonder she couldn’t stand to have her bed touched or wrinkles in the sheets. No wonder she was unable to sit, stand or move. Even lying in bed was painful for her.

An operation removed the worst of the cancer and after a hospital stay, Mom was able to come home from the hospital. Dad had moved their belongings north, from southern Nevada to central Utah. But the location of home had been changed. The house next to us was no longer an option. Medical bills necessitated temporary shelter in our old house in south Orem, conveniently vacant. Dad worked all day in the back yard there, screening rocks from the dirt. He went back to Nevada, still settling their affairs. When he was gone, I stayed all night with Mom. She wasn’t sleepy, being bed-bound all day. One memorable night she wanted to talk. I was tired, and I kept drifting off. I had worked hard in the house and yard. I had picked cherries and canned them, preparing for her winter needs that would never come. How I wish I had been able to stay awake that night. Like the apostles of old, I fell asleep and could not watch through the night with her.

During that long night she asked me to find her patriarchal blessing. The living room of the small home was filled with files and boxes of belongings, but I dug through and retrieved it to read to her. “I’ve done it all,” she said wonderingly. I guess she had, though I argued to the contrary.

August came, and the watch was over. Mom’s earth life was finished August 2, 1981.

The months that followed seem foggy to me as I look back. Depression stalked me day after day. Our son Andy died October 4. Mom was constantly in my mind and heart. I was convinced she had called Andy home. My dad was severely depressed too, and I worried about my younger sisters. I wanted to be there for them, but he had shut me out.

In January 1982 we discovered abuse in our home. My sweet young children had been victimized. The darkness seemed overpowering.

Finally April dawned. The second Sunday in April was Easter Sunday. That Easter morning my mother was once again in my thoughts. I envisioned her in her casket, where I had last seen her. But then, in my mind’s eye, I saw her open her eyes, sit up, stand. She was rising from the dead, resurrected whole and well. We embraced. The wonder of that vision stayed with me throughout the day.

Later, at church, I sang in an Easter cantata. As I sang the words, “Oh death, where is thy sting? Oh grave, where is thy victory?” my heart burned within me, and my eyes to filled with tears. I felt those words. I would hear my mother's voice once more and feel her arms around me. My son, Andy, would no longer live in his small atrophied body, but would stand strong and straight and tall. I knew through Christ all wrongs would be righted and all things restored to their proper order; loved ones would be reunited and all death overcome at last. The Easter holiday gained a meaning for me that I had never seen or felt before.
I celebrate this season again this year with those same words that mean the world to me. “Death is swallowed up in victory. . . . Oh death, where is thy sting? Oh grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55). No more. No more.

10 July 2017

Golden Wedding Anniversary

My grandparents, MJ and Hazel Christensen, at their 50th.
I remember my grandmother's golden wedding anniversary very well. My mother made her a cake. We all dressed up and went to the party. I was awed by the fact that my grandparents had been married 50 long years. A desire was born in me to reach that milestone too.

In June this year it happened. We have now been married for 50 short years. On July 4th we celebrated with a family party. We had lots of family type fun. My granddaughter made me a cake. My daughter and son-in-law produced an awesome Kahoot! trivia game. We stayed up late and talked. I played volleyball with my volleyball playing daughter. We modeled our silly hats to celebrate the silly looking wedding veil I wore 50 years before.

We played ping-pong and my river-running sons took everyone who wanted an adventure white water rafting. Finally, I tossed my dried bouquet to the singles in our group and my 14 year old granddaughter caught it.

Around the fire that night we shared our love and commitment with each other. Each member of the family read a paper plate full of positive comments that the others had written about them. Then Jim and I talked about how much we love each other and our children and grandchildren.

And the day passed. And the celebration is now over. I don't really feel any older. It's kind of the same feeling I had when I turned 70 at the beginning of June. It seemed bigger in the looking forward than in the looking backward. I still haven't arrived. And our marriage hasn't "arrived" either.

How to hold onto some of the magic? Be aware, write, record and share. Today one of my favorite ways to do that is to produce a video. For this occasion, one wouldn't do. I made two:

Jim and Joy Wedding Video
Fifty Years of Family
Here we are last year at our grandson's wedding

Here we are 50 years ago.

13 May 2017

My Mother Line

My sister Jill once asked me, "Do you know your mother line?" She quickly recited several generations of daughter to mother. I hadn't thought about that before. I did know that my mitochondrial DNA was German. And so is my mother line.

I have pictures for six generations of mothers back. I love them all. As I celebrate Mother's Day this year, I'm thinking of those mothers. I know what it's like to be a mother. Our lives are all different, yet in this we are the same—mothers with daughters and granddaughters.

I made a video to celebrate my mother line. It's posted on YouTube here.

Do you know your mother line?

24 February 2017

A Photo Valentine Gift for Me This Year

A treasured photo taken in
Lyndon, Kansas, Feb 13, 1885 as a
Valentine. Alas, I don't know who
it could be.
We sat, entertained, as we watched a slideshow featuring family members of various eras engaged in similar activities. But the surprise ending caused a universal groan. "The problem is we don't know who any of these family members or friends are," the presenter explained.

I have many unidentified photos myself, some old, some new. Precious antiques or unidentified babies, they have lost their value when they are not labeled. As I scanned photos, I carefully scanned both front and back, but even then sometimes the two get separated and often the back of the photo still doesn't tell the whole story. I have tried to painstakingly add borders in Photoshop to write on, but there are other drawbacks to that. Some photos from my dad and my grandma had identification written across the front. That was a mixed blessing.

I had heard of metadata, the information about the photo that is actually saved within the electronic image, but how to enter that metadata escaped me.

That mystery was solved when I attended a Pictures and Stories class by Alison Taylor. (Recording available here.) I could enter data very easily in the Properties/Details space in Windows or I could use my Adobe Bridge program (free download) to even add metadata to a lot of photos at once. Alison's blog gives further details on Bridge which I found easy to understand and duplicate. I just followed along with her. It does take a little time, but for the first time ever, I feel that I am efficiently organizing my many images of photos and documents. Thanks so much Alison!

19 February 2017

Writing and Publishing Resources

Buffalo Story (Barajas Family)

15 December 2016

Floating Island Pudding: Just like family stories, versions of this family recipe abound

[Uncle Don Christensen's description:]
When I was a boy my mother, Hazel, sometimes took me with her when she went to Idaho to see her parents. We would ride on the street car in Salt Lake City and then get on the Inter-urban train for the ride to Grace, Idaho. We were picked up at the railroad station by one of mother’s relatives. We stayed in Preston at mothers’ parents’ home at 77 North First West.

Grandma Harriet Johnson with some of her grandchildren
The first thing I would do was ask my grandmother to make a floating island pudding. This was a favorite with me and all of my cousins. It was similar in taste to a deep dish apple pie, but Grandma made it in a dish pan. She would roll out the dough on the table to make the crust; this was about 10 to 12 inches wide and about 20 inches long. She then filled it with sliced apples and spices and
folded it up into a tube. This was placed in the dish pan like a big doughnut. Then in the middle she added more spices and a lot of butter. This was then baked in the oven until nice and brown. We all enjoyed eating it with cream or ice cream....

[My mother Anne Christensen Whitney's version:] 
Harriet Emaline Lamb Johnson
Elizabeth Zimmerman Lamb

Here is something that was handed down from your 2nd great grandmother that you can hand down to your great-grandchildren. It is from Elizabeth Zimmerman Lamb to Harriet Emaline Lamb Johnson to Hazel Johnson Christensen to Anna Christensen Whitney etc. One thing this floating island pudding has meant to me has been love and caring and a warm house with a good smell on a cold day. It has been a favorite in each generation.
Anna Christensen Whitney holding Joy
Harriet Johnson's daughters: Edna, Hazel and Hattie
Grandma (Harriet) said to make the crust—make a light biscuit dough a little shorter than usual but not quite as short as pie dough. (increase shortening) Roll the dough out to a rectangle and put the sliced apples on the dough. Bring the crust up over the apples (that you have sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar) and form a ring. Put in a deep pan—cover with boiling water, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar again. Dot with a big piece of butter. Bake about an hour at medium temperature (375 degrees). 

Anne gives us a clue about the country of origin of the recipe when she references our second great-grandmother, Elizabeth Zimmerman of German descent. This must be a German dish.
Hazel Johnson Christensen's children:
back - Vern, Don; front - Carl, Anna, Paul

[Last but not least, my sister Marilyn Prestwich gives us this updated version.]
Here's the recipe written for today’s cooks by Marilyn Prestwich, Anna’s daughter:
Combine 1 3/4 C. flour, 2 1/2 t. baking powder, 3/4 t. salt. Cut a little more than 1/2 C. shortening into the flour mixture with a pastry mixer or two knives. Add 3/4 C. milk a little at a time until dough is pliable, but not sticky. Roll dough out into a long rectangle, wide enough to fold over the apples, and long enough to form into a circle.

Slice and peel about 5 apples. Place apples in the middle of the rectangle. Sprinkle liberally with sugar and cinnamon. Fold dough over the apples, pinching together at the top. This is the dumpling.
Place a large kettle next to the dough and place dumpling in the bottom of the pan in a circle.
Add enough boiling water until the dumpling is barely covered. Sprinkle with more sugar and
cinnamon. Slice 1/4 C. butter or margarine thinly and place them on top of the dumpling circle.
Bake about an hour at 375 degrees.
From Hazel Johnson Christensen: Her Ancestors, compiled by The Bert N Whitney and Anna Christensen Whitney Family History Committee (Provo, Utah: 2011)