Saturday, August 20, 2011

South America Here I Come!

Today I experienced a South American adventure. My vacation was over weeks ago, but does that have to stop me from having an adventure this weekend?

It began with an email from the Volga German Roots web list. Gerardo Waimann of Buenos Aires, Argentina, a descendant of Volga Germans from Russia, sent us the following message:

“Dear members of the list:

Under the auspices of the German Embassy in Argentina, the Provincia Bank has published 3 magazines (of tourism and history) about the 3 Catholic colonies of the district of Coronel Suarez: Santa Trinidad (also named Colony I), San Jose (Colony II) and Santa Maria (Colony III).

The digital edition of these 3 publications can be downloaded (at no cost) with a click from the following URLs:
Santa Trinidad
* San Jose
Santa Maria
Another possibility to download them (in two steps, a little more complicated
for non-speakers of Spanish) is from the Volga German website of Raul Wagner:
Santa Trinidad:
San Jose and Santa Maria:

Best regards to all the VG cousins in the northern hemisphere.”

Coronel Suarez was one of the many places I visited in Argentina in 2008. When I saw this email and checked out the links, I knew I had some more exploration to do. I settled into my chair and decided to turn on television and relax next to my dog, Harrison, while I read the magazines.

As I turned on PBS , I saw Bob Ross finish a painting. I checked the next PBS channel. I normally do not watch or know what is on television Saturday morning, but I wanted some background noise as I read my email and kept company with my dog Harrison who rested in his crate. He had a hectic week as he underwent surgery, a Femoral Head Ostectomy also known as FOH.

One of the things I didn’t mention about my vacation was the Harrison incident. During a routine nail clipping, the technician called and told me Harrison had sprained his ankle. When I picked him up from the appointment, he was noticeably limping and in pain.
Since I was unable to get him to my vet on Saturday, we had to wait until Monday to have radiograms.

The ultimate diagnosis was hip dysplasia and arthritis, a chronic condition. Harrison is only ten months old so the doctor recommended a specialist review his x-rays to determine if surgery was needed.

No matter what happened when his nails were trimmed, the provider mishandled the communication and situation. They did ultimately offer to pay for my vet visit. The check has not arrived in my mailbox but I have not lost hope of receiving it. Corporate America is slow to move on reimbursements.

On Tuesday, three anxious weeks later, the specialist contacted us. The verdict was surgery. I was nervous when I dropped him off for surgery yet Dr. Drager increased my comfort level. Now that Harrison has been back home for two days, I am still nervous. So, as I watch Harrison slowly heal, I am thrilled to have a South American adventure.

From Travelscope to Rudy Maxa’s World to the Seasoned Traveler and Passport to Adventure, my mind soared across the countries. Their excursions in Argentina from Buenos Aires to Mendoza and from Chile to Peru inspired me.

As I watched some of the brief histories, I wondered why we do not learn more of about South America in school. Why do we focus on European and North American history? Didn’t the Spanish, French and English explorers settle in the southern hemisphere, too? Why does the United States act as if they were the only country to import slaves? Why can’t North Americans instinctively draw a relatively accurate map of the countries in South America? Why don’t we know our southern neighbors better? For that matter, why don’t we understand Canada better? When I traveled to Argentina, one of my fellow tourists said, “I always thought Canada was one of the United States.” I laughed until I realized she was serious.

When I see wonderful shows like those on PBS today, I understand how much I need to learn despite my knowledge of Canada as a country composed of provinces and separate from the United States. During Harrison’s recuperation over the next six to eight weeks, I will have ample opportunity to continue to explore the South American continent from the comfort of my chair. And to dream of that next trip. I have my eye on the wine country of Mendoza.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Cleaning house is a lesson in family history-Part II

Tuesday when I updated this blog, my desk was in the entryway to my home office. My daughter and I were prepared to move it to the garage and ultimately to the curb for recycling. But she was at work and I never leave well enough alone. I decided to try to move the desk myself.

I wanted to make quicker progress on my room renovation. Earlier in the day, I checked out desks online at Fry’s Electronics. While I did not find the desk of my dreams, I wanted to get to the store as soon as possible to view the desks “live and in person.”

So I edged and pulled and pushed and yanked and shuffled and backed up and tugged the desk. About one third of it was now in the hallway. As I analyzed my next move, I realized the desk needed to be propped up vertically on the short side to make it into the hallway. And, even with that Herculean effort, the top half of the desk still would be in the way of rotating it fully. Then Ashley and I would still need to navigate the turn to get it into the garage.

I decided the only way the desk was moving anywhere was to remove the top shelves. I grabbed a screwdriver and used it as a crowbar between the joints. Nothing budged. I searched for a hammer in the toolbox, the laundry room and the kitchen to no avail. (This is where I typically blame my children. But how often do my daughters use hammers? And one daughter no longer lives here. OK, let’s just not go there).

So I stood in my 120 plus degree garage and looked for any tool which could help me . My father, who had worked at the Kohler Company, had given me many tools most of which are somewhere in my house. I found one hanging on the wall and my faded memory tells me it was used on cast iron bathtubs. (Kohler is a small village in Wisconsin, located west of Sheboygan. I grew up in its shadow with three of my uncles, an aunt and many other family members earning their livelihood from the Kohler family).

Could I swing this hammer on steroids and remove the shelving? It was worth a shot.
I methodically hammered the edges I wanted to remove and within five minutes the shelves were separated. I dragged the shelf to the garage, pleased with my accomplishment. Now onto moving the desk.

When I returned and looked at what remained, it suddenly didn’t look too bad. Wasn’t this better than what I had seen on the Fry’s electronics web site? Why didn’t I think of this before?

There stood my desk, barely ravaged from the hammer, and ready for a new life. I have no idea why I didn’t just slam the tool into the desk and smash it to pieces. Now instead of buying a desk, I can spend my money on bookshelves, frames, paint or whatever else strikes my fancy. An antique Kohler hammer transformed my desk and with a few more little touches, I will have exactly what I need for my new office. I may just believe in reincarnation.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Cleaning house is a lesson in family history

I am on vacation this week. Everyone asked me where I was going for the week, and I proudly announced, "I am staying home.'

I feel less-stressed simply because I am on vacation. I go to sleep when I want and wake up when I want. But, the real sense of freedom comes in knowing I am cleaning my own house, putting my own life in order. My goal is to save only what I absolutely need, and to give away or toss the rest. And I hope to locate my copies of the Reinwald censuses.

Like most genealogists, writers and artists. I work on projects in spurts, start new projects before others are done, and continue this cycle through books, family histories and genealogical searches. Add to that some research trips, a day job, and real life day to day living, and piles of "stuff" accumulate. I define "stuff" as something important which is a part of what you experienced or know you will need later in your research. I have rooms full of "stuff."

This week, I tackle the "stuff." I have discovered some of it is really good "stuff." While cleaning out a desk, I discovered office and school supplies to outfit two children for three school years. I discovered reams of paper, a key from my house in Tennessee, software for operating systems long past, and all of my credit cards from the 1980s. I saved the best "stuff" and tossed the rest. This desk, long past its Sauder lifetime, will be gone soon thanks to the Chandler Recycling department.

I think I will miss the desk. It sits poised at the entryway of what we always called "Grandma's room." The desk is empty for the first time since 1995, the room empty since June 17, 2010. I know once the desk is out of my house I won't actually miss it, I will simply miss the thought of it being in my mother's room when she was there. She remains in my heart and that is where she belongs. She is not in the desk.

It will take more time than this week to complete, but I feel cleansed just by starting the process.