Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Grandpa's in Jail?

Georgia was one of the first states to build a penitentiary to house their convicts and the first one was built in Milledgeville.  The reason this little fact is meaningful to me is that it is a reminder that in genealogy one never knows what one will find. In fact, if one looks far enough back they may find a convict (or two) resting comfortably on a branch of the family tree.  I found my great-grandfather (X3) living as a guest of the penitentiary from November 1, 1824 through January 25, 1826. At close to six feet tall he was a large man for the time and his crime was assault with intent to kill. The weapon of choice? A knife. This information perfectly illustrates why I love genealogy and why it is so valuable to me as a writer. There is a story here. Samuel had a daughter named Matilda, who was only three-years-old when he went to prison. Because she was the child of a convict Matilda was able to obtain land in the Georgia Land Lottery of 1827. Ironic, as family legend describes Samuel’s wife, Susannah, as being Cherokee, the very people from who the land was taken. Was this Cherokee wife the reason for the fight? Samuel fought with a knife. Hand to hand. He didn’t shoot someone in the back from long range. This was a personal, face to face confrontation. Who was the other man? What happened to him? We only know he lived because Samuel was not convicted of manslaughter. Samuel’s story does not end here. We know that in the 1840s he leaves Georgia and joins his extended family in Arkansas.  He matures, like most men do, and raises a family and farms the land. He dies at a good age and bequeaths  to his remaining children items valuable for the day: a feather bed, a couple of milk cows, some mules.  History is not made of events, it is made of stories. I love to find stories in unexpected places.  Next week I will be in Deadwoood, South Dakota. There will be a story waiting.  Peace -

Friday, November 21, 2008

I love words. I love how there are words to convey how we feel, what we hear, what we see....Its funny how powerful they can be. Of course, this is no new revelation. After all, the "pen is mightier than the sword." I went to a seminar last night. It was one of those touchy feely things that I really have no use for. At one point Kim, the woman next to me, declared she felt like she was on Oprah. Motivational speakers are an odd breed. They come in all perky and excited about something they have no vested interest in and try to transfer that perkiness to their audience. The reality is no amount of energy or positive thinking will change anything. It is far easier to want to believe that if I just go into a situation with the right positive attitude everything will be better. The truth of the matter is no great change will ever be effected without discipline and hard work. As a society we hate to get our hands dirty, but unless we get down and address the real issues and discuss the reasons problems exist honestly, and without fear there will be no change. But I digress....

While, I agreed with the premise of the seminar, that positive words help and negative words hurt I think that just touches the tip of the real problem. I have a friend who has reminded me on several ocassions its not just the words but the tone in which they are spoken. True, but I would add it is also the intent of the speaker. When I yell at my child (gasp! I know I'm not the only one) is it for his good or is to let off a little steam that has built because he/she is frustrating me. It makes me feel better. But how does it effect him? Or how about avoiding that confrontation because we simply dont have the energy to correct someone? Are we looking out for their good or our own peace?

"And God said, 'Let there be light,'". Words can create. "The tongue is also a fire. It exists among our memebers as a world of malice, defiling the whole body and setting the entire course of our lives on fire.." James 3:16. Words can destroy. "Kinds words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless." Mother Teresa. Words can last forever. "Immodest words admit of no defence, For want of decency is want of sense. " Wentworth Dillon. Words can betray our inner self. "In the end, we will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." Martin Luther King. Words can give voice and hope to the oppressed.

Words can deceive, flatter, mislead. They can also build up, correct, teach. What do our words say about us?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

18 November 2008
Okay, I see I'm not being as faithful to this little journaling process as I had hoped. A week ago today I buried a friend. He was only fifty-three years old. George was one of those people that was uniformly liked....seriously. He was one of those people that everyone clamored to be around. He had an infectious smile and his wife a warm, whole-hearted laugh. Her life has changed forever. It's interesting to me to watch how people react to their own mortality. I have had the disadvantage of burying many young friends. The "death process" as they like to call it in hospice strips us of so much....independence, ambition, the illusion of control, and yet, it gives so much. I have watched fear turn to peace, anger turn to acceptance, sadness to hope. Only with God's grace can this happen. To face the unknown foe calmly...this is truly a gift from God.
I heard a man on Discovery channel declare, "In this life we get to be what we want to be..." What a deception! We are all accountable to forces we can never understand. And, yet, in our pride and arrogance, we feel so empowered, so entitled. But I digress...the simple truth is we can't all "be what we want to be." There are limitations on every soul and the ultimate limitation is death. Whether your beliefs tell you it is the end, or simply another beginning, the truth of the matter is we will all face it one day. My prayer is I face it like George, embracing it fearlessly with both arms.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

29 October 2008

I volunteer at a nursing home once a week. Most people tell me they think that would be depressing but its not. As a society, we would like to ignore the infirm, the elderly, the unborn. We miss out on so much when we do this...but I digress. I once entered a room where the occupant had just passed away. It didn't bother me to be in there with the body talking with his family because I knew he was no longer there. Today I went with a priest to give a friend the annointing of the sick, a.k.a., "last rites." I'm a convert so I have never witnessed this before. What a beautiful thing to see the comfort words can bring. My friend has no legs and hardly no mobility and, yet, such a profound grace radiated around him as he mouthed the Lord's Prayer. I never knew Jack when he had a good "quality of life" and, yet, he brings joy and laughter wherever he goes. To watch him lying in that bed, knowing his final days are here, there was so much humility, so much trust in his God and, yet, so much dignity. So many people say, "I would rather be dead than stuck in a nursing home unable to care for myself." If Jack had felt that way I would have never known him...and I'm proud to know him.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

28 October 2008
Greetings! If you have stumbled onto this page let me offer an explanation. This is my "attempt" at blogging. I never understood blogs. It takes a certain amount of self-absorption to believe that you have something so important to say that people will want to log on every day just to read your thoughts. With that in mind, this blog was begun for a selfish purpose: to jump start my writing...to call back the muse, if you will. If you like what you read, I would be honored if you come back.
As you can see by the date above, we are one week out from the election. Politics is a funny thing....much like a sporting event with an outcome that will effect us longer than Sunday's football game. One of my favorite quotes on politics is by Mark Twain: Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress.... But then I repeat myself. It used to be members of congress were well-respected. But that was in the day they were true public servants. Now they are self-servants, dedicated to the special interest groups that fund their campaigns. But I digress...this blog will not be about politics. God knows there are enough of those out there already. It will be about finding grace and humor in the everyday. It will be about remembering to smile when your daughter asks for a hookah or finding the courage to cry when a friend is dying. There is a holiness to the every day that we must always recall. My wish is to remind myself of that...