Sunday, January 25, 2015

Family History, Pregnancy Loss & Me

Don't worry, everything with our baby is wonderful. 
Still pregnant and happily gaining weight each week.

(Don't mind the fan and humidifier at my feet. Just there to make sure I breathe at night!)
But not every pregnancy is so lucky.
 In two weeks it will be the one-year mark since my first appointment with the OB/GYN. I was finally ten weeks pregnant and they'd see me and I'd get the adorable ultrasound showing the little human growing in my belly.

Except it didn't happen that way. 

Instead we cried for what felt like weeks. I am still not sure if that was the worst day of my life, or if two days later when I had the D&C was worse. I think that traumatized me a bit more. I wouldn't wish that experience on anyone. Or the experience of receiving your first bill from the hospital where they list your procedure as "abortion" because technically a miscarriage is called a spontaneous abortion. If a woman already doesn't feel guilty about her body rejecting her baby, telling her she had an abortion will do the trick. 

I don't think I could ever come close to an adequate explanation of how heartbreaking miscarriage is. The initial shock and sadness is one thing, but it feels like the pain will never go away because of the constant reminders. Seeing your friends announce their pregnancy's on Facebook is rough. Not really a jealousy thing. I was genuinely happy for my friends--but it's hard when being happy for someone else reminds you of the worst experience of your life. When you get pregnant, you're immediately inducted into this club and it is exciting. When you miscarry (or lose a pregnancy/child/spouse in some other way) you join a club that nobody wants to be part of. Fortunately, this club is full of incredible people that bring a lot of strength. I'm grateful to have found some of those people in my family history during this time.

I've mentioned before that my grandma has a little brother that died of diphtheria when he was 6 months old. The picture below is one of the only pictures of Joseph Hays.

(Pictured with his oldest sister Dorothy)

This picture is so cute. Sleepy and having fun!
 Based on his size, though, it probably wasn't much longer until he passed away. The next picture is of my grandma Katherine with her mother Grace in 1928. 

I don't know Joseph's birthday, but based on when my grandma was born I'm pretty sure he hadn't been born yet. Still, somewhere around this time this young mother lost her child. The plans for her first son's life were gone. I've thought of her many times during the last year. As difficult as our miscarriage was, I cannot imagine losing a child that I had been able to meet and begin to raise. 

Looking through pictures of her I wonder how she handled the grief out there alone in the country. I had people to talk to and the internet to read other peoples' experiences. When my body was freaking out afterwards, there were a ton of websites where I could look for answers. I feel like not having these things would have been unbearable. Even getting pregnant again was scary. Finding out I was pregnant brought on some pretty intense anxiety. Back to the internet and books and friends I went, trying to figure out how to manage the anxiety. I still have some anxiety every time I walk into my doctor's office, fearful of bad news. Grace had several more children afterwards. If I had anxiety after, I wonder what she felt? Did she fear every time one of her kids had a runny nose? With all the worries I'm sure she had, she was a strong woman. I have only a couple memories of her from when I was very small, but I'm told she was a wonderful woman who worked hard and loved her children.

(Grace Hays. No year or location on picture.)

Grandma said that her mother never really talked about her loss very much, which doesn't surprise me. Her daughter Dorothy ("Dot") lost her first husband in World War 2 and her daughters and my grandma said Dot didn't talk about that either. I feel like back then people had so much work to do they couldn't take the time to grieve when something hard happened. It's good to not wallow in self-pity, but I think it's so sad that people frequently kept it all to themselves.

(My great-aunt Dot, her first husband Kenneth Atherton, and my grandma Katherine)

I think we can learn a lot from our ancestors and their grief. During the last year I've thought about Grace and Dot many times, both admiring their strength to continue on and wishing they'd had people to talk to so they didn't have to bear the burden alone. Before ours, I knew people who had miscarried and thought it was sad, but I never really considered the extent of that pain. As I reached out to a few people, I found out about others I knew who had gone through their own heartaches with starting a family. People served me and made a difference in my life, though most of them probably don't realize how much. The other day I glued into my journal all the cards people sent me after they found out. I went back and read my journal from last February and just bawled my eyes out. A year later and it is still so fresh. Reading those cards again brought comfort even now. 
Because of all this I've felt a desire to be more actively compassionate towards the pain others endure, to be a little more careful of what I say on Facebook, and try to make myself more approachable when people need someone to listen. Hopefully I can be for some what so many others have been for me and teach my daughter the same thing. Loss can be lonely and isolating, but it doesn't have to be.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Making memories...a litle late

It feels like it has been forever since I worked on family history! I went to a Family History Conference in October and it was awesome! Then our scanner stopped working and my morning sickness started...that was fun. Now that I'm feeling a lot better and we bought a new printer/scanner, I'm ready to get back it! Though I haven't done a lot of research to report on, I did want to include a couple things.

I was looking through my wedding pictures a couple months ago and was reminded how bummed I was that my grandma was too sick that day to be able to attend any of the festivities. I was thinking how disappointed I was that I have no pictures of me on my wedding day with one of my favorite people. So a few weeks ago I surprised my grandma by showing up at her house with my wedding dress and told her we were taking pictures. She told me I was crazy, but she let me take pictures with her even though she said "I'm in my dungarees!"

My little brother Travis came with me too. He was in Paraguay when I got married, so he'd never seen me in my wedding dress either. We're such models, so we took a few pictures too.

He's married now too, so he was showing off his bling.

It may seem kind of silly or pointless to do this almost three years after my wedding, but I loved it. I know family can't always be together for every big event, but I'm so glad that I have these pictures now. She has been part of my life for some pretty huge events and I'm glad I got to include her a little more in this one. Even if it was a little late and I'm somewhere around 8 weeks pregnant in it :)

Also, who doesn't love putting her wedding dress on?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

That one time my grandma told me to stop whining like a baby...

Okay, so she didn't exactly say that. It was more like she unintentionally taught me a lesson that told me that.

My grandma has mentioned several times to me that her family was poor and her mom sewed all her clothes her entire childhood. I know she said she was poor, but I figured it was like how everyone thought our family was poor when we were kids. "We didn't go to California four times this summer like that girl at school--we're poor." Or, "We don't we have a pool like everyone else--we're poor." That kind of thing.

A couple weeks ago I asked my grandma about the Great Depression. She was a child throughout the 30's, so I asked if she remembered if it had much of an impact on her family. She said it didn't change a thing for them and I asked if it didn't affect her area very much. She said it did, but her dad had always spent their extra money anyways so they weren't any poorer than they were before. That's sad for a couple reasons, but the thing that stuck with me was realizing how poor they really must have been. My grandma's family was so poor that the Great Depression had no effect on their finances. Wow. Another thing that stuck out to me was that I'm sure it must have been very hard being so poor, but you'd never have guessed there was anything wrong based on my grandma's attitude. 
Check out the smiles:
 Grandma's confirmation day. So cute! She kind of looks like my little brother in a dress, which cracks me up.

 Grandma and Roberta Heritage
 Grandma and Joyce Blenco
 Grandma and Mildred Heritage
 My grandma rocking a crop top. Work it ladies!
Always having fun!

That's really how my grandma has always been. She loves life! She's never been a complainer, even though things in her life haven't always gone her way. She laughs and smiles all the time, which is probably why so many boys always wanted to date and marry her (True story, she's kind of a player).

This is where the "stop whining like a baby" lesson comes in. As 2014 was beginning, I distinctly remember telling my husband that this year was going to be the greatest--and I really believed it. That lasted for a month. Starting in February, this has become just the worst year. So many disappointments and heartaches. One of those years where you kind of dread something good happening because every time something good comes up, it basically gets stomped out within a few weeks. Honestly, I have not handled it that great.

Grandma grew up through some really hard times and yes, there are some that she doesn't like to talk about at all, but she is one of the most positive women I've known. I'm not one to believe that you should always, always put on a happy face. There are some pretty bad things that happen in life and I think it's healthy to let yourself grieve, be mad, irritated or whatever feeling you need to express. Her happiness reminds me that I don't want to stay stuck in those feelings. Tonight I was talking to her and she was telling me about some of her health issues she's working through and said "I just go to bed and think that it'll be better in the morning." Even though I know she's frustrated, I also know her positive attitude is sincere. 

As cliche and Sunday-school as it sounds, the best way to have that is to remember the good and potential for good in my life. Through all of the painful, frustrating things that have happened this year, there has been a huge blessing--I have come so much closer to my husband. I wish these things hadn't happened to us, but I am very grateful for getting to know him in ways I think only trials can bring. I think that makes 2014 still a win for us. Better yet, there are still 2 months left to go! So whether we have a good day or a frustrating day, my goal is to go to bed and think that it'll be better in the morning.

My grandma, the awesomest lady that ever awesomed!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Fun Research Databases

I have found a few things that have made the family history research a little more interesting lately.

The U.S. School Yearbooks 1880-2012 database on was really fun to look through. I found my grandma's senior year picture in the 1944. 

 And my mom's from the 70's...
(Don't be mad at me mom, it's cute!)

(one of my husband's relatives in 1933)

Luckily mine wasn't in the database yet. My senior picture had some unfortunate blonde hair going on. You can see from the pictures I did not inherit natural blonde, so it wasn't the most flattering color for my skin tone.
Looking through the yearbooks was cool! In my grandma's they listed activities students were involved in and what their plans were after graduation. My mom's didn't do that, but it was a larger yearbook with more information on the clubs and activities. I thought I loved the 40's, but as I looked through the 1933 yearbook I was in heaven. They were all fun to look through and see the styles and what was going on at the time. 

Another cool database on Ancestry is the U.S City Directories, 1821-1989. This one gave me lots of really cool information. My grandma told me that her family lived in a lot of different homes in their town, but the directory gave me addresses!! I was able to googlemap some of the addresses and see the houses, though I'm not sure if they're still the original homes or if they were rebuilt at some point. I'm going to look them up with my grandma soon so she can tell me if they're still the same homes.

 I thought I was really cool when I found out that my grandparent's lived within just a few miles from each other. They're about 8 years apart in age so they would have had no reason to know each other, but I thought that was pretty cute. While talking about it with my grandma, she told me that at one point my grandpa and his mom lived in the basement of the house that my grandma and her family lived in! They were dating at that point, so when my grandpa and his mom needed a new place it ended up working out that way. My grandma said it worked out really well for them. Haha, I bet :)

The directories also frequently said where they were employed or what their job was. My grandma couldn't remember where her mom worked, but the 1946 Binghamton directory showed me. She's Grace Hays and it shows her job, where she worked and her address.

Another year's directory (they came out frequently) showed my grandma's sister Dot and her husband Ken and then a couple years later in 1944 I found them again, but it listed her as a widow because he was killed in WW2. I thought it was interesting that they still listed his name on the directory even though he'd passed away. Maybe a show of respect?

What was really cool about these things was that when I brought them up to my grandma, she ended up telling me more about the areas and what was going on at the time. This is when I learned that my grandpa bought his mom a house right around the same time he bought his own house, among other cool things I was able to record. I'm really trying to focus on gleaning as much information from my grandma as I can, so using these random databases are really helping me out! Hopefully knowing about these will help you in your searches (even if it's just to make fun of your parent's yearbook pictures)!

No journal prompt this week, I've got plenty to write about already from last week!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Changing Perspectives

I've had a really rough week at work. People have been huge jerks. I don't think I've ever sworn in my head as much I did this past week. Definitely had to mute my phone a few times so I could make some frustrated groans while people freaked out at me for no reason. Good times. As I listened to them being completely irrational, I kept thinking how I could never imagine anyone liking those people.
Oddly enough, that eventually lead my thoughts towards family history.

My grandfather Norman passed away six months before I was born. From what I heard growing up, he wasn't always the most pleasant person to be around. There were some nice things I'd hear about him every so often, but not a lot to change my opinion of him that he was mostly just a grumpy guy.

Lately my grandma has been telling me about him and I have learned a lot! They were divorced for quite awhile before he died, but she still had plenty of kind things to say about him. He definitely had his faults, but she told me a lot about his good qualities. I learned that he bought his mother a house after his parents divorced, he made it to a lot of his daughter's school events, he was a very hard worker, he didn't like talking about his experiences in the Pacific during World War 2, he really loved cigars, and he was surprisingly goofy at times. She even told me some things about him that could have contributed to his more unpleasant demeanor, which made me question some of my previous thoughts about him.

I love how pictures can show you part of who a person was. I like him a lot just based on these. As I have looked through his pictures and learned a little more about who he was, I feel like my heart has softened quite a bit towards him. We all have our problems and times when even the people we love want to give us a slap, but it's good for me to remember that there's a lot of good in people too. Here's to getting to know my grandpa :)

Right around when they got engaged. Look at those two kids--lovebirds!
I love how happy my grandma looks with him!

 I love that he's sticking out his tongue in the one above.

Okay, so I don't think smoking is cool at all and generally it doesn't look cool either, but come on--my grandpa kinda looks cool in this.

Grandma said the one above is from the picnic they took the day they got engaged. I absolutely love this picture. I wonder if it was before he proposed and what he was thinking. Or if it was taken afterwards and he's just looking at her thinking "I get to marry her." Either way, adorable and I love it.

 Another one from their engagement day. Side note, none of us inherited Papa Norm's legs. We've definitely got some Hays thighs.

Happy New Year!

Newlyweds. What goobers.

 Papa Norm is in the truck. He owned his own trucking business to provide for his family. Grandma said they always had enough, he worked very hard and supported her decision to work too.

My great-grandma Jennie Catherine Krause Light. Seriously, who doesn't dream of buying their mom a house? I think it's really cool that he was able to do that for her.

 He was such a cute little kid!

Journal Prompt:
What is a characteristic you hope people remember of you? Why is that quality important to you? What are you doing now to become that

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Family history fashion finds

I've mentioned before that I grew up being fascinated by the '40's because of my grandma's photo albums. As I've spent time going through them again, my 1940's romanticism is in full force! If I had a time machine, visiting my young adult grandma in New York would be my first stop.

One of the things I love about the pictures is what they're wearing and how great their hair is. Some things are timeless and are still a presence in modern styles and some...well, they might take awhile for a comeback. My grandma told me that they were always pretty poor so her mother sewed all of their clothes. I'm so curious how long she did that and if any of the clothes in these albums were sewn by her.

Picture taken at my great-Uncle Matt's wedding to Margaret. My mom's dad Papa Norm is on the right. Pretty sure the bridesmaid is my grandma's sister Margaret and her husband Walter is the far left. Look at that those dresses though! That wedding dress is gorgeous!

 How cute is my grandma?? Classic A-line skirt and check out the saddle shoes!

Another of my grandma. I would wear that today!

My grandma is 2nd from the right. Hers is my favorite dress in this picture. 

My grandma's friend Bobbie Heritage. This feels like she's on the set of "White Christmas."

My grandma as a bridesmaid in her friend's wedding. She said the ruffled part was baby blue. So cute!

This was taken during one of the summers where New York Bell sent a bunch of employees to Monticello, a small city in New York to work and had them live in an even smaller town called South Fallsburg. All of the pictures are either in work clothes or bathing suits.

Grandma rockin' a turban in South Fallsburg. There were a lot of these in pictures. Those shorts are pretty bomb too.

Grandma in the middle.I love the patterns and silhouettes of the '40s. Also, my grandma is the tallest of her friends--story of my life. Taken in South Fallsburg.

This picture wasn't labeled, but look at those shoes! Daang! Even in the country, this woman meant business!

As far as the men in the pictures at this time, they're basically all wearing military uniforms. I looove talking to grandma about all her boyfriends in the military. I somewhat imagine her life as one of the dance scenes from that "Pearl Harbor" movie with Ben Affleck. I like to tease her about being a player and I'm pretty sure she loves it, but those stories are  for another post :) Going through those pictures is really inspiring, though.  Here are some of these men in uniform!

Apparently this guy Carl had the hots for my grandma.

 This is David Blenco, he wanted to marry grandma.
 Grandma's sister Dot, John Yesinksi, and grandma.
 Dot, her first husband Kenneth Atherton, Grandma. Ken died as a paratrooper during the invasion of Sicily. Grandma says he was the sweetest boy.
 This is grandma with David Blenco and his sister Joyce, one of grandma's good friends. Saddle shoes and socks still holding strong. 
 Grandma's friend Karl Kinnon, who later died of Malaria.
 Kenneth Atherton with his mother on the left and my great-grandma Grace on the right.
 My grandpa, Norman Light. This is a great picture, what a stud!
Pvt. Samuel Bahr, Papa Norm's cousin. Taken November 1943 at 19 years old.
This wasn't labeled and grandma didn't know what it was. Maybe one of Papa Norm's pictures. It kind of looks like it's overseas in the action. If this is from the Pacific where my Norman served, I totally get why they aren't wearing their pants. Way too hot!
This also wasn't labeled and I think it's one of Norm's relatives. I did a quick google search and it looks like a WW1 uniform. Pretty sure this picture is begging to be found out who it is.

 Okay, so this one is actually the 1920's and it's Papa Norm. How cute though! His hair is adorable! It took me a little bit to notice the gun and I bet it's real.

Ok, here's one more from the 20's of grandpa. Seriously, so cute. Also, pretty sure all three of my little brothers had that haircut during the early 90's.

 I have loved looking through their clothes and seeing how they changed through the years. Especially seeing how pretty my grandma kept getting and how her confidence grew! Hopefully my kids and grandkids will have as much fun looking at the styles as I do!

My journal prompt for the week:
"Describe some of your favorite pieces of clothing you've worn. Include a picture if possible. Why did you love this? Where did it come from/how did you get it? What happened to it? Was it in style for the time? 

For my husband, it's his bomber jacket. He loves this thing and has told me repeatedly that our children will get bomber jackets. Agreed.