Monday, September 28, 2015

Monday Musings ~ A Time to Rest

In the late hours of night, when the house is still, I retreat to my office and close the door, breathing in the quiet I’ve craved all day. It is here, in this room, surrounded by so much that makes me who I am, who I’ve been, that my thoughts and words and emotions come together. Sometimes, words come effortlessly, rhythmically, like dancers gliding across the ballroom floor. Other times, I lean my head against the back of a chair, the words swirling and spinning in a cacophony of fragmented thoughts, all over the place, too scattered to come together in a cohesive way.

And then there are times when words get stuck in my throat, when I’m forced to sob them out into the air, where they rise to the ceiling, then settle into the corners of the room, to visit me again on another day.

Thoughts. Words. Emotions. We are made up of these things.

Lately, my thoughts and words and emotions have been pondering how life simply takes a lot out of us, sometimes taking more than it gives, and how finding places of rest is essential for body, mind, and spirit. 

We all know what it's like when life gets heavy, when unexpected burdens fall on us. In those times, the heart is overloaded, feet like concrete blocks, from the added weight. In such times, rest is needed for unloading, for ridding the heart of excess baggage, for emptying out.

And then there are times when life is desolate, barren, the music silent. In those times, the heart aches to be whole again, to hear music again, to glimpse a ray of hope. In the barren times, rest is needed for filling up, for finding beauty, for replenishing.

Rest is not a sign of weakness or surrender or laziness. Rest is a necessity and without it, the fire seeps out of our spirit and leaves us shriveled and depleted. The journey becomes harder and longer.

No time to rest, you say?

It is possible, I believe, to slip into a room, or step out into a sunny day, or starry night, if only for a few minutes, and come away with a rested mind and a peaceful heart. Isaiah 26:3 tells us how: “He will keep in perfect peace all who trust in him, all whose thoughts are fixed on him.” In John 14:27, Jesus said: "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you: not as the world gives. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." And then we find this invitation in Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. ” 

Dear friends, as I write, night has deepened. The laundry has been folded and put away, the dishwasher hums its evening song. From somewhere inside, I feel strength rising for tomorrow’s demands. I know I am up for whatever the day will hold, as long as my burdens, my thoughts, and my trust are in the right place.

Until next time, sweet kindred spirits, thanks for sharing this quiet space of reflection with me. It means ever so much.


Friday, September 25, 2015

My Darling Arabella ~ Six Months and Growing

Every woman believes her grandchildren hung the moon. 
I'm no exception, which is why I hope you will understand as I shamelessly post a host of random photos from recent weeks with my darling Arabella, my sweet cupcake. 

We haven't mastered the duo-selfie yet. 
Seems Memaw can't remember where to look.
It's a bit like the blind leading the blind.

But we sure have fun trying.

Is your shopping buddy as cute as mine?

Arabella seems to love when I play the piano and sing to her. Generally, she sits quietly beside me in her swing, watching and absorbing it all. One day this week, however, she was quite animated during my mini-concert, so I asked if she’d like to play and, well, I’m pretty sure she said she would. As I held her, I couldn’t help but think how special, that she was putting her tiny hands on her great-Memaw’s piano. 
Mildred would be thrilled.

She is the garden, when my flowers have gone to seed. 
She is the music, when life has lost its song. 
She is the sunshine, when skies are gray. 
She is the cure for everything. 

I hold her close, yet gently, with gratitude and love.

My cup overflows.

Until next time, dear friends, may your weekend hold sweet moments and quiet spaces.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Family Tree Continues ~ Are you Ready for the Finale?

Yesterday, I shared the life and times of my 3rd great-grandfather, Dr. Abner Elkin Fant, a beloved physician in his day. I shared about his Civil War experience as a surgeon and how his 19-year-old son, James, became a prisoner of war following the Battle of Mobile Bay. James died a few months later, while imprisoned in Elmira, New  York.

There is more to tell about my 3rd great-grandfather, and I promised you a surprise ending, but first I want to share a little about my 2nd great-grandfather, Quitman Davis Fant. (I love his name.)

Quitman was the son who followed his father into the field of medicine. Dr. Quitman Davis Fant was the maternal grandfather of my maternal grandfather and what a handsome man he was, as you can see below.

Tragically, Quitman came to an early death, dying from injuries received after a neighbor became angry over something having to do with cattle and a fence. Quitman's death came four years after his father passed away. He was only 36 at the time of his death. One of his daughters, Kate, was four years-old. 

Kate would grow up to become the mother of my maternal grandfather, pictured with him above, and in a better photo in my previous Family Tree post

My mother declares that Kate was perhaps the sweetest woman she ever knew, who just happened to be her beloved grandmother.

Here is Kate in the later years of her life. I am blessed to be the recipient of a quilt she made around 1923. You can see it and read about it in this post here.

And now—drum-roll pleaselet me pick up the cliff-hanger from yesterday. I'm so delighted that I'm not the only one interested. :) 

As I stated in yesterday's post, while reading about my 3rd great-grandfather, I kept looking for something to make me feel linked to him, in a personal way.

And I found it! On Page 77, something leaped off the page and smacked me in the face. It was there that I came upon a quote from a book entitled, Editors I Have Known Since the Civil War, published in 1922, written by R. H. Henry, the owner and editor of the Clarion Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi for 50 years. In his book, Henry wrote this about my 3rd great-grandfather:

Dr. A. E. Fant was leading stockholder in the West Point Citizen and became its editor while enjoying a large and lucrative practice, not that he cared for the work but because of necessity. He wrote well, and his reconstruction editorials were among the best to appear during the days that really tried men's souls.

Suddenly, I let out a little whoop. It appeared that Grandpa Fant was not only a respected physician, but also a newspaper owner and an editorial writer, although a reluctant one it seems. Finally—a common thread! Grandpa Fant was a writer! If you've read my profile, you will know why I instantly felt a kinship in my spirit.

This discovery led me to wonder how possible, or impossible, it would be to locate a copy of R. H. Henry’s book. I rated it right up there with turning water into wine.

Thus began my long search. The Internet was in play in the early 90's, but it wasn't the first place you considered looking. A lot had yet to be done to make it the beast it is today, so at every opportunity, I wandered through antique shops and used book stores, looking for the book, Editors I Have Known Since the Civil War, by R. H. Henry. I soon discovered it was an impossible dream, at best. I solicited the help of family members. I called rare book dealers. None held out much hope.

In time, my zeal to find the book petered out. After all, 1922 was a very long time ago. Finding it would be like finding the proverbial needle in the haystack.

So, imagine my absolute astonishment when, a year later, I opened a birthday present from my twin sister and discovered a green hardcover book entitled Editors I Have Known, by R. H. Henry.

Stunned, I looked again at the book’s title. And then I looked at Gayle. She was smiling. I could hardly believe what I was seeing. “Where on earth did you find this book?” I asked. “Where? And how?” For some reason, my voice shook and tears sprang to my eyes.

“Believe it or not,” she said, “I found a rare book dealer on the Internet, put in a request for this title and a copy turned up—God only knows where or how. I paid for it, and they mailed it to me. Can you believe it? Happy Birthday!”

For the longest, I sat hugging the book to my chest. It felt like a long-lost relative had been found, and I had to admit, the whole thing was pretty amazing. Who would have ever imagined that the technology of today would provide a bridge to an unknown literary work of 1922? I have a feeling Grandpa Fant would be impressed.

Since that time, we've been able to procure additional copies of this special book. My two copies share a prominent place in my home and remind me of those who came before me, and all it took to get here.

Until next time, dear friends, who do you think you are? It just might surprise you what you discover. Thanks for hanging with me. I hope to hear your ancestry stories soon.


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Family Tree Continues ~ Are You Sitting Down?

Are you sitting down? This is not how this blog post was supposed to begin, but I must tell all three of you who may be slightly interested that, between the time of my first Family Tree post two days ago, to now, I have, thanks to the amazing, discovered the names and certain details of my 6th and 7th maternal great-grandparents! And guess what? My 7th great-grandfather, Christian Bernhard Kehr, was born May 21, 1704, in Prussia, Germany! 

May I pause and just say, Guten Morgen Liebe Freunde. That is to say, Good morning, dear friends. (Yeah, Google helped me with that, but hey, I've just discovered my German roots. Give me a minute.) 

Christian Bernhard Kehr, along with his wife, Anna, immigrated to the United States in 1733. Their son, my 6th great-grandfather, John (Johannes) Kehr, was born in York, Pennsylvania on May 21, 1738.

Of course, this means nothing to anyone not related to me, and maybe means nothing to anyone related to me (hehe), but I've certainly been having a blast, as you can tell. 

I fully expect to discover even deeper roots, as a little green leaf has already appeared by his name, but for now, onward with the scheduled Part II of my family tree saga. :)

My interest in genealogy came about quite unexpectedly. I was not particularly looking for myself—nor for the branch from which I sprouted on the family tree—the day in 1993 when my mother handed me a soft-bound book entitled, Ancestors and Descendants of Dr. Abner Elkin Fant, a work of genealogical research compiled by my second-cousin once removed, as the genealogy groupies might say.

Even though Abner Elkin Fant, born in 1816, happens to be my 3rd great-grandfather, on my mother’s paternal side, I was—with all due respect—not particularly interested in ancient history. As I saw it, dear old Grandpa Fant had little to do with who I was or what I had become. I could take him or leave him.

But, being a dutiful daughter, I graciously accepted the book, promising to browse through it at some future date. In the meantime, I placed it on the coffee table to gather dust.

One rainy afternoon, while nursing a bad cold, it seemed the perfect time to check out the Fant branch of my family tree. Besides, it was the only book I could reach from the sofa.

With a critical eye, I studied the photograph bearing the face of Abner Elkin Fant—elongated nose, narrow face, thin neck, a pleasant expression. I searched for any resemblance of myself.

I saw none.

But in minutes I was spellbound by the rich history before me. Born to a minister and his wife in Fairfield County, South Carolina, Abner Elkin Fant attended the South Carolina Medical University in Charleston, graduating in 1836 at the age of 20. (A two-year program in the 19th Century.) His thesis was on Puerperal Fever.

The following year, Dr. Fant married and between 1836 and 1851, he and his wife produced two girls and four boys.

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, my 3rd great-grandfather was commissioned an officer of the Confederate States, and served as a surgeon in the Medical Staff Infantry Regiment. 

His 19-year-old son, James, was taken prisoner of war at Fort Morgan, Alabama, following the Battle of Mobile Bay

When I read the last letter James wrote to his father, prior to his capture, it brought me to tears. In the letter, it is clear James knows his words may well be his final words to his family.

The letter, dated August 8, 1864, begins:

Dear Father,

Having a chance to send a letter through I now write to you for the last time, I expect if this reaches you. I wrote a long letter before the siege and one after it commenced. A man is going to try and slip through by land tonight. I hope he will get through.

The letter goes on to describe in detail the bombardment of “the yanks,” a bloody siege with casualties on both sides. 

The Battle of Mobile Bay wouldn't end until August 23, 1864, when General Page surrendered Fort Morgan, one of three forts that guarded the entrance to Mobile Bay. And to think that my 3rd great-uncle was there is a bit overwhelming.

As James closes his letter, he writes:

I must close, for the two hours I have to rest is pretty near out. Farewell. Write to your affectionate son, James.

And it was the added postscript that moved me to tears. The first line is addressed to his younger sister, Alice:

P.S.  Alice please take good care of mother. I know you will. I even heard old General Page fairly cried when he saw the Yankee flag hoisted. He made a speech to the men in which he said he intended to hold the fort at all hazards. I think we can hold it until our provisions [run] out but we will have to surrender then. Please write to me anyway. Probably the letter will get here and if it don’t it will not be much trouble to write. We are seeing a hard time. Give my lasting farewell to all for I am as sure to be taken prisoner as sure as the war lasts long enough. I wish I had some gold but I know it is impossible to get it in this thickness.

James died in a Civil War prison in Elmira, New York, in freezing conditions, on January 27, 1865. This piece of my family history made me weep, not just for James, but for all of the 19-year-olds who ever spent Christmas far from home, cold and alone, knowing they would never see their families again.

By this time, I was very interested in Grandpa Fant, his heartaches, his triumphs, so I kept on reading and discovered that by 1871, Dr. Fant had moved his family to West Point, Mississippi, a city dear to my heart, a city I went to many times as a child, while visiting my maternal grandparents. But back to Grandpa Fant. It was in West Point where he was a beloved physician and practiced medicine until he was no longer able. After a long illness, he passed away in 1883, at the age of 67. 

I found my 3rd great-grandfather's obituaries particularly touching:

From the Clay County Leader, dated December 20, 1883:

DIED: At 7 o’clock on Tuesday morning, after a protracted illness, Dr. A. E. Fant. And now has West Point lost one of her truest and noblest sons. In her palmy days he was one of her most active leaders; in her political struggles, he was ever in the van. For several years past his health has been precarious, and his field of usefulness thereby greatly circumscribed. He was one of our oldest and most reliable physicians, but was compelled some time since to give up his practice, to the great regret of his patients. Now death has taken him away, casting a gloom over our community, and leaving a void that cannot be filled. The sympathies of all our people are with the afflicted family.

And from the Macon Beacon, dated December 22, 1883:

Dr. A. E. Fant died in West Point last Monday night, after long continued illness and much suffering. For many years he was a prominent physician and distinguished citizen of this country, and was well known to all of our old residents, who will regret to learn of his death. He removed to West Point about twelve years ago, and at once took a position at the head of his profession. A large concourse of people followed his remains to the grave on Thursday, and many were the expressions of sorrow over the loss of so honored and useful a citizen. Dr. Fant was nearly 70 years of age, and leaves a wife and four grown children, with whom we sincerely sympathize.

The book didn't end there, and the more I read, the more absorbed I became, imagining what it might have been like, living during this period in history.

I kept looking for something to make me feel linked to my 3rd great-grandfather in a personal way.

And I found it! On Page 77, something leaped off the page and smacked me in the face, but since this post is longer than should be legal, you'll have to wait until another time to hear the rest of this riveting episode of my family tree. You won't believe it. I promise it's worth coming back for, so stay tuned.

Until next time, dear ones, thanks for keeping me company, for listening to me ramble on and on ... or not.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Who Do You Think You Are? ~ The Family Tree, Part I

Have you ever watched the genealogy documentary series entitled, "Who Do You Think You Are?" I believe it just wrapped up its latest season on TLC.

Genealogy has always fascinated me. I've blogged about my musical roots on my father's maternal side of the family, and how music has influenced my life. And knowing that my great-grandfather's music is on YouTube is a thought I still find incredibly fun.

I suppose I am the unofficial family archivist. I’m a member of and have created quite an elaborate family tree. Between creating a tree for The Man's side, as well as my side, I have amassed over 194 people. I feel certain there are a dozen or more trees within "the" tree. There are so many branches you can't view them all on one screen. If you're in any way related to my family, be assured you have a branch, and it's quite possible I know more about you than you know about yourself. I am, after all, the keeper of records, the finder of facts.

Sometimes you discover things about your ancestors that make you proud; other times, not so much. There are tragic stories and stories that lift you up. Whenever I consider the hardships of those who came before, the dark days they lived through, the obstacles they had to overcome, in a time when the living was not so comfy and the amenities not so plentiful, my heart is filled with sincere gratitude. I want to reach out across the years and give them all one big generational hug. I am here because of them.

So far, the oldest family link I’ve discovered is on my mother’s paternal side of the family, and I can trace my roots back to my 5th great-grandparents. That's my great-great-great-great-great grandparents. Let me catch my breath a moment and just say, WOW! They were both born in Stafford, Virginia, one in 1741, the other in 1743.

And speaking of my mother's paternal side, here's a precious photo of my mother's father being held by his mother in 1903. What a treasure. Granddaddy was loved by all who knew him. He lived to be 95.

I simply adore these photos of my mother. 
In my opinion, she still looks exactly the same, only older.

This is one of my favorite childhood pictures of my mother with her brother and friends. Mother is seated on the bottom step, looking entirely adorable; her brother is on the top left, holding the straight-shooter. My heart melts especially when I see the simple things they are playing with.

I do believe my Uncle Ray has a chicken, or some kind of fowl, in his arms. I love the shadow of my grandmother in the foreground.

My mother with her mother. Looks like big brother got lost in the background, but I love the shadow of my grandfather in the foreground.


On my father’s side of the family, both paternal and maternal, I’ve been able to trace my roots to 1794, to my 3rd great-grandparents, one whose name was Cicilia, also called Cicily—isn’t that a lovely name? I think the names of my ancestors have fascinated me as much as anything else.

Here are my father's maternal grandparents with their family, pictured in 1910. Grandpa Carter is the musical link I've written about before. My dad's mother is standing behind her father's left shoulder, next to the tallest sibling.

Seventeen years later, my father was born. Here he can be seen on the lap of his mother, surrounded by his father and siblings. His mother's face is now tanned from years of working in the cotton fields. It was said she worked in the fields on the morning she gave birth to my dad. I'm captivated by the strength of my ancestors, whether men or women. They did what they had to do.

Well, dear friends, I hope I haven't bored you. I only document these things for posterity and there's much more to share. Later in the week, Lord willing, I will post the second part of my riveting family tree saga. (wink, wink) You won't believe how the next part ends. Seriously. You won't believe it, so stay tuned.

Until next time, dear kindred spirits, I need only look at old photos to know that I'm blessed and rich in all the ways that matter.


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Facebook ~ That Love Hate Thing We Do

A few months ago, I wrote a column about my Facebook pet peeves. I didn't list them all, of course, just those in the top tier. You can read that column at the end of this blog post, if interested. 

Facebook will always be a love/hate relationship for me. But, hey, the world isn't perfect. There's so much about it I hate, but I love keeping up with friends all over the country, especially those I haven't seen in way too long. I love sharing my highlights and sometimes my "lowlights" with friends. They laugh with me, pray for me, cheer me on. What could be bad about that? 

As for all of those quotes that get passed around, sometimes I lament over the seemingly lack of original thought these days, but there are times when seeing quotes or shared photos makes me smile or think, sometimes both. I even started saving some in a folder on my computer. 

The following are just a few good ones that I've seen lately. I've selected both funny and serious, just to keep it interesting. 

I'd be interested to know how you feel about Facebook. I'm guessing the same as I do. It's a love/hate relationship.

Here's the promised article. Until next time, sweet friends, keep on posting.

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