Friday, November 30, 2012

I'm Wealthy Beyond Imagination

I've looked at this picture in my computer folder of things to blog about a dozen times and each time I passed it by thinking I've already blogged about this. But after feeling like that wasn't correct and doing a search of old posts, I'm fairly certain that this pictured fell through the cracks and so this post aims to correct that situation. I suspect that when I took that picture I had a blog post laid out in my head in such a convincing fashion that I began to believe I've already written it. Does anyone else have that problem?

Before moving, we quit going to auctions a year in advance. I suppose when one is planning on paying someone to move all your stuff, it seems prudent to not add more stuff to move until afterwards. After we moved, we were so busy with settling in and getting things arranged (and still have a basement with lots of boxes not yet unpacked) that we couldn't justify adding more things to it. But sometimes you need a break from life and my wife and I enjoy going to auctions and finding gems in other peoples cast off belongings.

About a month ago, we hit up an auction just down the road from us as a spur of the moment deal. We were driving by and it was going on. We stopped to check things out and saw a few things that we might bid on if the price was right. However, there were yards of trinkets on folding tables that had to be sold first and anyone familiar with auctions know that means there is a lot of time waiting for that to happen.

While waiting, they came to two long tables full of books. On that table was the box full of piano music seen in the picture above. Little Abbey is starting to play the piano and that box would keep her engaged in that endeavor for some time to come. I bought the box of music for $7 and was in the process of setting it aside when they started selling the books.

The books were sold buyer's choice meaning the highest bid could pick the book(s) they wanting paying their bid times the number of books they took. Generally this goes around a few times while people snap of old school annuals, rare cookbooks and some classic books. Then the auctioneer would proceed to portion off a good part of the books and sell them all together. As I walked back to the table after moving the piano music away from the crowd, they were doing this latter part and the auctioneer was trying to get a dollar from the crowd. On instinct alone, I raised my hand and ended up with a huge pile of books for $1. As I was debating what to do with all of them since they weren't boxed and my car was a long ways away, I heard that the rest of the books were bought in two lots for $2.50 each. Then I heard my auction number and realized my wife had bought the rest of the books. Great minds think alike.

We immediately sold someone a book they wanted for a dollar meaning our total outlay of cash was $5 for the pile of books which I then had the pleasure of carting off. I ended up dumping the box of music in the car and using that box and numerous trips to cart off all the books. A guy who paid for another table of books prior to ours decided he didn't want his books so he told me we could take them too. Since I already had the back of our vehicle stuffed full of books, I sorted through them and took maybe a third of them.

Back home we dumped them in the pile seen above which doesn't look nearly as impressive as it was since I took the picture above the pile. We sorted through the books putting the books each of us wanted in a pile. In the end, we had only four shopping bags of books that we had either read before or had no interest in reading. Those we will try selling at a yard sale next spring or give them away to a local goodwill store. Those that we plan on reading have been squirreled away like nuts before a hard winter and will be metered out gradually over the next several years I suppose. I feel very wealthy indeed. Now I just need to get cracking on those bookshelves to hold all of my wealth on display.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Please Think Twice About Using Wells Fargo Mortgage Services

I've written about this subject a few times in the last five months which since when I write about a company and my dealing with them normally means bad things have happened. Here is a quick summary of what they have done:

1. Botched up the purchase of my new home by not sending the paperwork in to the underwriters until the week of the closing date despite having it all completed for 12 weeks prior.

2. Botched up the purchase of my old home by screwing up the loan of the guy buying it not once but twice. Never once would they communicate with us saying that there was a delay. We always had to call them to find out that the loan was being rewritten yet again.

3. Messed up my escrowed insurance and told me I wasn't insured. After jumping through all the hoops, they said I was insured and things were being fixed.

4. Messed up my escrowed insurance by refunding me all the money that I placed into it for insurance. When I questioned them as to the reason for refunding it to me, they said they shouldn't have because I was insured but their national office hadn't yet fixed it for some reason. They assured me they would fix it... again.

So now here we are three and a half months later and I get a letter in the mail from Wells Fargo that looks very suspicious to me as being from their insurance department. (Note I have refrained from using their name up until today to give them the benefit of the doubt.) When I opened the letter is basically stated that they have repeatedly notified me that I have no insurance on my house and because of this, they have automatically insured my property and that they will be forcing me to pay the premiums! Like hell they aren't!

So I have repeatedly called my insurance company and they have repeatedly assured me that I was insured and indeed the paperwork they normally sent me states that fact. I have also repeatedly called the mortgage broker in my local branch of the bank but she doesn't seem to know what is going on which isn't surprising since she single handedly botched both mortgage transactions. She always throws blame on my insurance company, corporate office, the people who bought our old house or me for doing something wrong. It has got me nowhere.

This time I'd had enough so I called the corporate office for insurance directly and spoke with a lady listened patiently as I explained how screwed up this whole process had been. She asked the proper questions and put me on hold a few times as she called the local bank and also my insurance company. Finally after a half hour, she had fixed the problem... again. She said that when I had cancelled the insurance on the house that I had sold and no longer owned nor wanted to pay insurance for, the bank had written in their records that I had cancelled the insurance on my current house. According to the lady, my insurance company had faxed them the proper insurance information showing that I hadn't cancelled the insurance for my current address to them not once but twice. She had them right there before her eyes. Yet despite having evidence to the contrary, someone somewhere had decided it was just easier to let the situation slide.

So now I wait to see if my insurance has truly been fixed... again. I somehow doubt it because they refunded me all my hazard insurance money that I paid into the system and I dutifully deposited into my savings account. So when my next insurance payment comes due in December, there will be no money in my escrow account to pay for it. I have questioned the bank on this a couple times but they don't seem to know how to deal with that situation. I will not ever do business with Wells Fargo again.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Shattered Bulbs and Cedar Trees

In our family during the Thanksgiving holiday, we do something different. Some go shopping, others watch football, and we go Christmas tree hunting... in the wild. For some reason, probably due to being thrifty, our family has always used red cedar trees as Christmas trees. They are native to our area and grow in abundance in old pastures and draws. They are free for the taking and is a renewable resource because for every one we picked, ten more lived to see another day and often more because the following year they got too big to be used.

After years of picking red cedars at one farm, we will generally switch to another farm to find more smallish trees to pick. This was probably the last year we will pick a red cedar at the current farm because we were literally down to only three choices that had any shape and would fit inside an average house.  Since we only have one daughter of voting age, there was a unanimous decision by her in which tree to choose. Back in my youth with a younger brother, we often had to resort to flipping a glove (thumbs up or down) to decide. But since it was unanimous, my daughter pointed and I 'liberated the cedar from its earthly toil' as Pablo over at Roundrock Journal would say.

Back home we set it up in our stand and give it lots of water to drink. We always pour a good amount of green food coloring in the water which after a days time, greens up the tree considerable from its generally brownish green state we found it in. Then we let it stand for a day to absorb enough water so that the needles aren't so prickly.

By Friday evening or Saturday evening, our tradition is to then decorate the tree. Little Abbey was chomping at the bit to help with the decorating this year and pulled her most prized decoration from the boxes that I hauled up from the basement. She pulled out a gold colored bulb that she had painted when she was in preschool with some words. Excitedly she walked over to the tree and hung the bulb only to have it fall to the tile and shatter into a thousand small pieces. She retired into her bedroom to cry it out while I swept up the debris and then went to give her a pep talk. Eventually she regained her Christmas spirit and rejoined the tree decorating.

I've never understood why people pay hundreds of dollars for trees imported from other parts of the country. Although I understand why people go the artificial route, it has never been that way for my family as I continue the tradition that my father started when I was young. My oldest daughter enjoys it so much and perhaps my newest daughter will too, that they will carry it on with their future families. Perhaps in a few generations, there will be a run on red cedar trees in this neck of the woods.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout

... wouldn't take the garbage out. Or so goes the classic Shel Silverstein poem. Though the poem really didn't specify why she wouldn't take the garbage out, I suspect that in today's well packaged world of products, it was simply because she couldn't fit everything she had in the garbage can.

If you have ever moved, you know that you generate quite a bit of refuse that needs to be thrown away, namely packaging materials and things that you really don't have any reason to hang onto anymore. With the size of my city provided garbage and recycling can, I figured it would take me a year of putting what I could with my normal weekly fare to get rid of it all. So I loaded up the van and took a load to the recycling center and paid to dump the rest at the county dump. I was caught up in one fell swoop.

Then two things happened and I haven't yet recovered. First, I bought a jointer which arrived in a crate nestled in layers of thick custom molded Styrofoam layers. It took me nearly an hour to bust the Styrofoam into small enough pieces to fit into a garbage bag efficiently and in the end, I had eight of them not to mention enough cardboard to fill up my recycling bin for the next three weeks if I didn't recycling anything else in the meantime. So I dedicated a corner of my garage to storing that refuse until I could get rid of it in our once a week pickup.

Several weeks went by and I got rid of most of the Styrofoam (I think I still have one bag left) and all of the cardboard. The cardboard is the hardest to get rid of because our recycling container is about three cubic feet in size. I had gotten rid of perhaps a third of the jointer cardboard when the closet system I recently installed arrived in fifteen different cardboard boxes. Every box was full of a myriad of different cardboard layers and crush zones. I'm back to having the next six or seven weeks to recycling planned out just to rid myself of cardboard assuming I don't add any more to it of my own. I may have to just load up the van and make another special trip out to the recycling center to get rid of it all. At least it is free minus the gas, time and effort of doing it.

All of this is just a long way of saying it seems like society has gone mad with packaging. We don't eat a lot of prepacked foods so we produce less garbage than many of our peers but anytime I purchase something non-grocery related, it seems excessively packaged. I often get a cardboard box full of smaller cardboard boxes, Styrofoam and multitudes of individually packed pieces in plastic pouches. I end up with three cubic feet of refuse to recycle or throw away for some small item that took up a fraction of that space. I guess it is the selling companies insurance against vindictive Fed-Ex drivers videoed on Youtube doing the shot putt with packages.

Back on the farm, we burnt what we could which reduced the load that needed to be taken to the landfill but at the cost of adding to our environmental woes by sending who knows what chemicals up with the smoke. Here in the city, I'm restricted as to what I can do and burning trash is not an option. So in the end, I make due the best I can and try to reduce my load by recycling all that I can, three cubic feet at a time.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Heating and Air Conditioning

One of the things I always look at when buying a house, something I have had the pleasure of doing twice, is the heating and air conditioning units to see what their condition is like. So when I looked at this house, I noticed that the air conditioner looked to be ancient and the heater looked to have been replaced but still a couple decades old. Of course the owner said both worked in tip top shape and had no problems heating or cooling the house.

We moved in on the hottest day of the entire year as it turned out and turned the thermostat down to try and keep the place reasonably cool despite the open doors. The temperature inside immediately started climbing. When the moving trucks were gone, the air conditioner kept on running through the night and into the next day only bringing the temperature down 5 degrees in that time. Since all our stuff had been sitting in a hot moving truck all day and was a large heat sink, I figured it might take some time but on the second day, the air conditioner was still running.

Thinking it was low on freon, I called in a guy to check that which he did and said was fine but in the course of that, we found that the coils were completely plugged with several inches of grass clippings. I cleaned those off and the air conditioner functioned fine the rest of the summer. But while the heating and air conditioning guy was there, I had him inspect the rest of my system and learned some bad news. The heater was indeed over 20 years old and worse, when it had been replaced, the coils which should have been replaced at the same time hadn't been due to whomever cutting corners. So the new heater was trying to use 40 years old inefficient coils to exchange the heat. Overall, my system was found to be about 75% efficient.

Not wanting to spend lots of money on a heating system on the hottest day of the year, I let things ride for awhile. But when fall came and I kicked on the heat for the first time, the fan started up and sounded like a jet engine of a place that was taking off a runway. The system runs pretty well and has easily kept our house warm despite the 40 year old coils in the heat exchanger largely due to it being twice the size it needed to be. I could see it in my bills as they were almost as high as I normally saw in my old house in the dead of winter. To top it all off, the whole house humidifier on the side of the plenums didn't work. I found the wire controlling it cut and fixed that but it still didn't work. I traced it to the valve, the most expensive part of it, being bad. Not only that, it was ancient and didn't work well judging from all the rust I saw inside the plenums where water had run. I finally made the call and said the system needed to be replaced.

After doing some figuring, it was really a no brainer. A brand new two stage burner heating system 98% efficient would pay for itself in energy savings in about 16 months. (Note: This is after tax rebates from the government and refunds from the energy company.) A new air conditioner could pay for itself in about the same time frame. This would also include the cost of a new whole house humidifier, something my skin, throat and sinuses crave during winter. The guy said he could have the new equipment by the following week and it would take two days to complete. I said go for it.

Four weeks later, the day we ended up heading to the hospital, they showed up ready to work. I left the door unlocked and said have at it. They did their thing and did a beautiful job of the installation of both the air conditioner and the heater along with the whole house humidifier though I am still waiting on the promised new thermostat which is much better quality than my box store special and can run a two stage heater efficiently. My current thermostat can run one stage of the burners but not both. As turns out to be the norm for this outfit, they promised me they would be out on Monday to install the thermostat and here it is Wednesday before Thanksgiving and still no word of them. Fortunately I haven't paid them a cent yet so I have the upper hand. The new system works great, doesn't sound like a jet engine taking off. My throat and sinuses are whispering sweet I-love-you's to me as I speak. The only thing that remains is to see the effect on my heating bills to verify that the payback will happen as quickly as calculated.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Baby Abbey - Celebrations

I'm not sure why we didn't suspect it. A few of you may recall that six and a half years ago, Little Abbey came into this world early and due to the earliness, we ended up spending ten days in the hospital before coming home. All is good now but back then.... I still shudder when I think about the whole experience. Also, my wife looked exactly like she did back then before going into labor, like a over stuffed ball that was about ready to pop. Not to mention that last weekend she began to 'nest' by getting everything in the nursery ready to go. Still, when last Thursday morning rolled around and my wife popped her 'plug' after breakfast, we still weren't ready.

I got Little Abbey ready and put on the school bus while my wife called the hospital and took a quick shower. We went up to the maternity ward to get checked and found that she was already dilated 3 centimeters and thinning. One way or another, we were having a baby again, about three weeks early. Calls were made, things organized and three hours later, Baby Abbey made her presence into this world.

Because my wife ended up having a C-section the first time around after 20 hours of labor, a small birth canal and too big of a baby, this time was a mandatory C-section at least at our local hospital. It was nice because my wife didn't have to wear herself out completely before giving birth. I think that was a huge difference because this time around, Baby Abbey, a girl by the way, came out screaming her lungs off and was a very healthy baby. Saturday afternoon, everyone came home.

I suppose I should say a little bit about the picture above. It is one taken right before we left the hospital. When Little Abbey was born, we were given a large bag full of freebee items. The hospital decided in the ensuing years to change things up and get rid of that large bag and instead fix up a 'Celebration Dinner.' We could choose between chicken kiev and steak, salad, potato and desert, topped off with a bottle of sparkling white grape juice. As you can expect, the steak ordered medium rare was well done and rubbery. the green beans needed a spoon to get up off the place and the mashed potatoes, well they could have been used as stucco. The desert wasn't half bad though. But that item in the foreground, Baby Abbey, made it one of the best meals I've ever had.

Little Abbey is happy as a clam being a big sister, Mrs. Abbey is doing well despite having just been gutted for a second time in six and a half years and me, Ed, well I'm happy that my family is doing well. I'm also making plans to fix up the bathroom in the basement as the MAN bathroom since I will soon be competing with three girls.

Baby Abbey
Born 15 Nov 2012
Weight 6 lbs 13 oz.
Length 19 inches

Friday, November 16, 2012

Burnt Out

I'm beginning to think that the reason the people sold this house to us was because they didn't want to replace all the burnt out light bulbs. Both times we looked at the property before buying it was during the middle of the day which is why I suspect I never noticed the burnt out light bulbs but I have certainly noticed since.

After moving in, the first ones I replaced were all the can lights which were sunk in the ceiling and had the old style incandescent 60W bulbs in them. Because they weren't designed for those bulbs, the light was more like that of a dim flashlight than one meant for home illumination. So I bought some fluorescent bulbs to replace them in areas that didn't need immediate bright light and LED's for those that did.

Then I went around the house replacing burnt out incandescent bulbs on all the other fixtures and replaced the few that worked with CFL's just so I don't have to replace a lightbulb every other week. This also included buying some specialty bulbs to replace those in some appliances that were also burnt out.  About the time I got the interior of the house lit, I noticed that the light out in front of our house didn't work. While replacing that one I noticed that there was one of the motion activated security lights over the garage door. It wasn't working so I had to replace it completely.

So I thought I had got everything replaced and a couple months went by of complete lighted bliss. My only complaint was that on the back side of the house, it was completely dark except for one light on the deck that only worked part of the time. But since I had other bigger fish to fry, I forgot about those things. But one day I was up on a ladder on the backside of the house pulling the remnants of some vines from the eaves where they were firmly attached to the wood and collecting leaves that happened to fly by when I noticed something else. I had another security light on that side of the house that I hadn't seen before.

Suspecting that the bulbs were burnt out like anything else, I put an interior bulb in one of the sockets and went around flipping on every switch that I could think of that might control it. No dice. But in doing so, I discovered yet another security light on the other corner of the house. I put a new bulb in that but still couldn't find the switch. I suspected that I had the right switch, somewhere, but that the motion activation part of both lights were fried like the one I had replaced over the garage. So I bought a couple more security light replacements and replaced them. I put the new outdoor flood light bulbs in that I had bought but still couldn't find the switch.

I finally chalked the non-performance up as something not wired up in the attic and decided I would fix that when I got to my growing list of attic projects to do this winter. I turned my attention to the one light I had in the back that only worked part of the time. While inspecting it, I saw that it was actually a motion activated sconce light, something I didn't know even existed. I adjusted the controls on it and I was back in business with a fully functional light.

While flipping the switch on the outdoor sconce light off and on, I suddenly realized that there was another switch beside it that I had completely forgotten about. It was one of two switches in the living room that I had flipped on after we had moved in (and replaced the interior lightbulbs) and had not seen any apparent reaction. One I had later determined controlled some switched outlets, and the one I had just rediscovered, I had simply forgot about. Without a drum roll or any fanfare, I flipped that switch and found that it indeed controlled my two recently replaced outdoor security flood lights.

So now I am sitting here thinking I have finally got every light in this house up and functioning as intended. But if three months later I find yet another burnt out lightbulb, I won't be surprised.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Celebrating Obama's Victory With Bangladeshi Food

This past weekend, my wife and I were invited over to some acquaintances of ours who live down the street a ways. They are originally from Bangladesh and promised us that there would be plenty of authentic Bangladeshi food on hand. I was game. It was only after we had been there for awhile that we learned that it was actually a celebration party on Obama's victory. Though I would have preferred that he not be elected another four years, he did win and did deserve due credit so I joined in on the party.

Most of the people there were from Bangladesh and perhaps a few from India. My wife being a native of the Philippines made me pretty much the token Caucasian guy for most of the party. But food knows no boundaries and so I dug right in with everyone else.

When put in an opportunity to eat authentic regional food that I don't get everyday, I opted for the try a little bit of everything strategy. There were several types of fried things ranging from the sweet to the spicy. There was chicken, curried and roasted, lamb, goat, beef and perhaps even another dish of chicken. There was a spicy salad, some sort of sweetened flour and milk balls, some sort of gelatin like desert and puffy pastries. I tried a little bit of each and I must say, it was all very good. I think it was the beef that was a bit salty more like corned beef but still it was wonderfully tender. Best of all, rice from that region of the world is unlike rice found anywhere else. It is very granular in nature and not clumpy like east Asian rice and is spiced up.

We ate and tried talking though with at least three different languages floating around, it was hard to decipher at time. All the people from Bangladesh were dressed up in traditional attire so it was interesting to do some people watch when I found myself surrounded in a non-English conversation. All in all it was a good party and though I didn't come out on top this election, I can think of few better ways to celebrate a victory of the majority. May the next four years be much better than the last!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Done With Closets

When we went back for our second look with fresh eyes and to make an offer on the house we ended up buying, I took along my camera to take a picture of the way 'it was.' I didn't start doing that practice at first when we bought our first house but when I did, it always made me feel better looking back at how things were and see how much sweat equity in your house can do. With that said, the above picture was how 'it was' when I looked at it with fresh eyes. What I saw were sliding doors with worn out tracks and rollers that were always falling off and required super human strength to push open.

Normally I would have just fixed the roller and/or track to get them working once again but other factors that presented itself after we moved in swayed me to redoing them. You see, my wife's clothes, purses and shoes took up one whole closet and half of mine. The stuff of hers that was in 'my' closet were things that she accessed all the time requiring me to first close her door and then open mine several times a day. Also, it wasn't that she owns a lot of stuff (though it is many times what I own) but that it just wasn't well organized. The pictures below show what I mean.

This was her closet shown above, a basic two rod system. My closet looked exactly the same except two thirds of it was taken up by a prefab bookshelf that the previous owners had left behind probably out of embarrassment. I say embarrassment because they hadn't been bothered to move it when recarpeting the room and had carpeted around it leaving a square of much lighter colored carpet in its place. I think you can see that in one of the finished pictures. When I put hardwood flooring down, that will go away.  My wife used the bookshelf for her purse, shoes and jewelry storage.

I'm actually surprised that the rods held up the weight of our clothes over the last three months. Every support looked just like what you see above and below. The one above had two scabbed in pieces of woods to act as shims and a bracket attached but only the bottom screw into the stud behind. In fact, since it wasn't even touching the rod, it wasn't support anything.

This one was still in place but had only one screw (in the stud fortunately) at the bottom and an air gap at the top. The shelf above was 40 year old particle board which was about as straight as a partially cooked lasagna noodle.

The supports at the end held all the weight of the clothes and looked as you see above. Evidently they cut the rods short or couldn't get them long enough so they used the old extra screw as a shim trick and put a couple more screws in for good measure.

In the other two bedrooms, I had replaced similar closet stuff with off the shelf wire mesh closet rack that you can get at your local box store. It does a good job but lacks the flexibility to make other arrangements and also just isn't as solid as I would like it. So I set out to build my own custom made closet system. Unfortunately other projects took my time and I was looking at a month before the new baby was to arrive which will certainly cut down on project time. Also, by the time I started sourcing out what I wanted to do, I was about three quarters of the way to buying a custom designed closet system. So I ended up going the latter route and I must say I am extremely pleased. It had the flexibility to do exactly what I want and change in the future if needed, looks the way I wanted it too, and was made out of the same materials that I was going to make it out of. The closet above was my old closet, (notice the mismatched carpet) that is now my wife's closet. She needed shelving for her shoes, purses and sweaters as well as places for her jewelry. It is hard to see but I got her two belt racks that slide out on a track that come with plenty of hooks for hanging necklaces and other stuff off of it. Also there is a valet pole for hanging her stuff that she can't dry with electric heat.

This one is now my closet. Since I don't do dresses, I have four compartments to store my shirts which technically means that I have two compartments and my wife has two overflow compartments. Since I don't own many pairs of shoes or any purses, I got drawers which means I can now vacate the two drawers I do have in our dresser and it is now all my wife's drawers. I also got a belt rack and a tie rack along with a valet pole for my wife's wet clothes since every stitch of clothing I own can go through the dryer. Up above both closets is the usual head space for other miscellaneous things not needed on a daily basis such as a shotgun, journals, camera tripod, etc.

I still have yet to do the doors and I'm not sure what I want to do. Right now I am thinking of some solid panel french doors on each but I may go to the more traditional bifold doors to save on space. One thing is for certain though, the sliding doors are gone and the struggle for me to hold onto my measly two shirt rods and drawers begins. I'm pretty sure my wife is ultimately trying to get me to store my clothes in the garage with the rest of my things.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Photos From My Daughter

I was retrieving photos from my camera for blogging purposes and discovered a series of six photos all of the same subjects but taken from different angles. Nothing makes me happier than finding one of these series of pictures on my camera though if we were not living in the digital age where I can take thousands of pictures without worrying about 'developing the film' instead of only a couple dozen pictures. It lets me know what is important in her life and in these pictures, it is obvious she treasures her odd collection of 'dolls'. How they ended up grouped together in her bed, I'll probably never know.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

And the Saints Go Marching... In My Family Tree?

I was researching my for now, theorized 4th great grandfather Joseph Chicken Sr. in hopes of finding some illusive clue on why I think my 3rd great grandfather Joseph Chicken Jr. changed his name to Joseph Baker. Well other than the obvious that nobody in their right mind would want to be called Chicken Jr because that sounds like some sandwich from a fast food joint.

Part of that research led me to a write up on the ship that Joseph Chicken Sr. sailed from Liverpool to New Orleans in 1849. I copied the words into a word document and saved it onto my computer for later reading since it was quite long and now, several weeks later, just read it. The writings are from a half dozen journals of people along on the ride and what amazed me more than anything, they describe everyone on board, except for the crew as being members of the Church of Latter Day Saints and they were on their way to Salt Lake City.

Since Joseph Chicken Sr. obviously didn't make it out to Salt Lake City, I don't know if he was actually a Saint or one for convenience to get passage to America. Whatever the case, the voyage was pretty interesting. The ship Hartley set sail from Liverpool on the 5th of March 1849 after being dragged out into the harbor by a steamship. She made good time though had to stop in the Bahamas for a few days to wait for favorable winds. I'm guessing perhaps drink a few Mai Thai's down on the beach too. Other than almost everyone getting sea sick on the first three days out of port, most described it as a pleasure cruise. The pulled into New Orleans on the 28th of April with the same number of people as they started with. However this was just a sleight of hand since they had one birth and one death along the way.

After a couple days in port, they set sail on a steamer called the Mameluck up the Mississippi bound for St. Louis. Unfortunately, their pleasure cruise turned into a modern day cruise ship story and somewhere between 30 and 60, depending on who wrote the account, Saints died of cholera before they reached port. Fortunately for me, Joseph Chicken Sr. was not one of those people.

From that point, most of the stories go different directions. Some of those who lost large parts of their families settled in St. Louis. Others made their way to Salt Lake City where their ancestors would save the Olympics with the help of some guy named Mitt. Still others made their way up to the lead mines of Lafayette county, Wisconsin where they would raise a family, fight in the Civil War, change their name from Chicken Jr. and whose descendants would go on to create a terribly incredible blogger named Ed. I love it when a story has a happy ending.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Finally here!

I haven't been keeping track but it seems like we are getting at least a half dozen fliers in the mail every day telling us to vote early, perhaps a call or two an evening saying the same thing, and at least one person thus far making sure that we plan to vote come election day if not sooner. I have seen lots of effort before to push the get out and vote effort on election day but this is the first election when the push has been to vote early.

In our county, we already passed the number of early votes in the last presidential election several weeks ago! If you go back thirty years ago, the numbers are staggering on how much emphasis is placed on voting early. It is almost up 1000%! I won't be one of those voting early.

For me, one of the most patriotic things one can do in the country they love is to vote. Sure it isn't always convenient on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November but hey, hundreds of thousand have died so I can vote so why should I let a little inconvenience get in my way? There is something about walking through the cool darkness to the polling place (thanks to Daylight Savings Time) and standing in line with my neighbors to do that one civic duty. I just don't get that same feeling when going down to the courthouse to vote early or by mailing in a ballot. Granted I am new to this area and won't know most of my neighbors but I won't meet them if we never see each other face to face.

Then of course comes the after party so to speak where I get home, flip on the television and watch the results come in. Sometimes it is good news like the last election cycle when we the people voted out four of Iowa's bum Supreme Court Justices because they were legislating from the bench by overturning a law that was passed by the majority of people in the state. But mostly I just like to listen to the talking heads talk about which state much go which way for the party in question to have a chance. So many times I've heard that a few votes don't matter and yet in my short lifetime, a few votes has been all the difference more than once.

So tomorrow, I will wait for my wife to get home and we will go down to our local voting place to cast our ballots and then return home to watch the results on television. Unlike eight years ago, I think we won't have long to wait to get the results but then I could be wrong. All these early ballots are considered provisional and only counted if the number of them is more than the difference in the election night votes and since the emphasis has been on voting early, well it might be days... again.

Happy election day everyone and make sure you get out and vote so that you can legitimately gripe about the choice later on!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Funeral Wrap Up

I made it back from the funeral late Monday evening but was glad that I was able to attend it. For a day, I spent in close proximity to a score of friends who came to his funeral that had nothing but positive things to say about him. It was refreshing. 

My uncle married his wife in 1956 though no one present at the funeral knew just how they met. She suffered from some force of scoliosis that crippled her severely but my Uncle fell in love with her just the same. Unfortunately, she died from her ailments five years later which everyone agrees is what caused my Uncle to dip into depression at times. He never remarried and instead focused the rest of his life to his church. 

I learned a few things about him at the funeral which I thought I would share on here. Though my Uncle always told me he served on the U.S.S. Iowa, and I suppose that was the truth, he actually served on several ships of the same class including the U.S.S. Washington seen at the head of this post. He evidently thrived in the military and worked his way up quickly to become an aid to the navy admiral which mean that where ever the admiral went, so did my uncle and hence, why he served on more than one ship. One young lady who had befriended him and interviewed him about his war stories, told how he had to transfer between ships in a basket suspended on a cable between them. She also said that she had many more stories that she had transcribed and has promised me she would email them to me as soon as she was able. I look forward to them and perhaps I'll share some of them on here. One more thing to note on my Uncle's military career is that at some point he crossed the equator for the first time and received the below certificate. Unfortunately a camera phone and poor lighting of the funeral settings made it not turn out the best.

We held visitation which allowed our family to meet the family of his wife whom none of us had ever met. Even after his wife died, he loved her so much that he stayed in close contact with her family, including nieces and nephews for the rest of his days. I got a kick over the fact that everyone related to him referred to him as Uncle Keith. The funeral was nice and then after a soup and sandwich lunch, we drove to the cemetery where his wife had been buried fifty one years earlier. Unfortunately, hurricane Sandy was whipping stiff chilly winds so the funeral was short and sweet before we retreated back to our cars. Two navy officers were there to perform their ceremony and I am most impressed with them. Despite the fifty mile and hour winds, they were able to still fold the flag right smartly. 

As the family genealogist, I am now sorting through all the things that I learned, photographed or trying to answer questions asked that nobody knew the answers. It has been a labor of love and I wouldn't have it any other way. So my uncle is now home with his beloved wife and everything is right in this world again. Where I was saddened this weekend, I am happy for him now. I'm glad that I had nearly four decades to spend with him before he left. I am also thankful that of those four decades, the closest person to me in my family to pass has been a great uncle. Not many can say that.