Category Archives: Blogging

Downsizing

 

Downsizing day
Copyright Norma Gillespie, 2023

I just hired two men with a truck and trailer to move about 25 boxes, bags and tubs of miscellaneous things to the local Mission Thrift Store. Took them one hour in total to remove things from my apartment, drive across the city and unload everything. Cost $200 cash. They did a good job.

Oh, what a freeing experience. As an older senior, I no longer need or want these things.  One spends a lifetime gathering things to make ones life more enjoyable. I am at the opposite place now, letting go.

It is a situation that many seniors are facing today. What do we do with all the things that no body else cares about,  as we do? Give some things away, was my answer. I am down now to a core bit of furniture and personal affects, some of which I have recently replaced for better ones. I feel very happy that the things I gave away will bless other people, and generate funds for an organization to help people across the world. No junk involved. All were good things with value.

My downsizing continues this winter, as I got through three boxes of photo albums. I have already started. I scan each photo to my laptop to review it, maybe crop it a bit, then save to USB storage device in various folders of my life. Some photos are also being added to a book I am writing.  I also use a second backup system to preserve these pictures. The empty photo albums and cardboard boxes will go into the garbage or recycling.

Most of all, l  I know it will be a lot easier for my son when I move on to the next realm, and he has to close everything down and say his final goodbye.  I am comforted that some of the things that really matter to me will be preserved into  the future. It is more than physical possessions. Memories do matter.  Time matters. People matter.

Whatever you are facing, you can find a way. It begins with little steps day by day.  Give a little, save a little, build a little. Then watch an amazing thing happen. You change and grow into something better.  It may be inside of you, not outwardly for awhile.

Downsizing is making room for opportunities and experiences that will change your life and mine for the better.

Serenity Prayer
Serenity Prayer

 

 

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The Delights & Difficulties of Aging

Each of us has a story. The busyness of life may slow down now.  Some interests remain the same our whole life. I did not know as a little girl planting my first dahlia bulbs, that gardening would remain a pleasure over a lifetime, as does music, travel and research. Genealogy or researching family history arrived later when I finally found my Father’s grave in my early twenties. I wondered who the woman was buried beside him, as she was not my mother. Ah, the shocks of life that can propel us in directions never planned.

In many ways the choices we made define our history, and become the memories as we age. The things that I did that gave pleasure I embrace; the negatives I block now and ignore in order to enjoy my life. I have learned this is necessary because the pain of the past can overwhelm me at times.  Not pretending everything is okay when it is not, but turning to God for forgiveness and healing and strength. Sharing experiences and knowledge now so that others may learn from them and be encouraged.

What mediums do you like that helps express yourself to others, to the world?  You are important, and God loves you deeply.

One positive of being a senior is naturally the pensions and investments that fund our lives.  The strain is lessened, not having to work for someone else,  or run a business,  unless I want to continue . Hopefully, I am freer to choose what I want to do every day to fill in the hours, the days, the years to find ways to fight off boredom and yet feel fulfilled. I can continue to work or not to,  as I choose. Family relationships may  have extended,  and this is a time to enjoy grandchildren. We can go home when the day is done and leave their care to others.

If we have a partner, this is our time to explore new adventures in a time frame of  our own making. Different goals, a different focus maybe than work-work- work,  to provide for the family. One can spend some of one’s saving to enjoy life as one wants to, hopefully wisely budgeted so they will  last. This can be a time of greater freedom to do whatever we want to.

Reality says that not everyone will face aging in the same way. Some will be more prosperous and happy, and some people less so. There are those who find  aging very stressful and upsetting, because it is a time of loss of those we care about, and the rhythm of our daily pattern may change.  Loss of employment income and transitions to a pension life can affect the quality of life one has as a senior, who may find themselves poor.  Many find that  life is a struggle in retirement years,  while others simply do not.  That is why planning earlier in life will enable one to fund the things that bring more freedom and enjoyment.

Time becomes more precious when it is fast running out. But it also challenges one to greater efforts, even if getting tired arrives quicker than before. Who cares if one needs another nap, or wants to work half the night when most people are sleeping. Senior sleep patterns may change.  Weekends may become like any other day.  Each day brings its own rewards or difficulties, and they mesh into a blur,  as they pass so fast now.

Memories become more and more important as we get a lot older, because they give us comfort through times of struggle. Not everyone cares about the past as deeply as some people do.  Those of us who preserve history are the story tellers of our generation.  Sadly,  the loss of memory is an alert that the physical changes in our body are occurring  over which we have limited or no control. The Internet is full of ideas how to prevent that as long as possible. Not everyone develops dementia, but let us pause for a moment to learn what does happen to a lot of aging seniors, who may not themselves yet realize or understand the significance.

Minor loss of cognitive thinking may occur over a long period of time and not interrupt our daily lives very much.  It may not even be noticed by those who around us.  The general public may not know or care  about aging and its natural changes, and so not recognize it in every day settings. But aging and dementia are progressive. Death arrives for everyone. Love of others, sometimes medication and many other things can help slow it down or give great comfort. Let’s look at what is available here in Canada.

Specially designed equipment  helps a senior continue living in their home as long as possible. Walkers, shower seats and bars, bedside rails, all  wonderful helps. Each person is unique to themselves, meaning someone’s response to any change is very personal.

The Canadian government has put in place lots of helps for aging seniors to assist them in their home. Some physical equipment can be rented. A transit bus for the disabled is available to pick you up at your home and return you from shopping or appointments.  Many stores offer discounts for seniors,  starting at age 55 and up.

About $8,000 is currently available per person to pay  County health organizations to fund a  full,  physical assessment in ones home by a Physiotherapist, Occupational Therapist, Dietician, and such like to help plan an intervention strategy for an aging individual. These  professionals then return to the home to assist as needed, salaries covered by this provision. There is also government money to pay for home care for some people post surgery.

Canada has a wonderful health care plan, with OHIP here in Ontario covering prescription  drugs for free for many seniors, depending on income, or using a low sliding scale for others. No charge for visits to doctors as many times as needed. Hospitalization visits are also controlled by similar guidelines and include blood tests and scans, emergency and other medical care for citizens, even surgeries, without any charge to the patient. Medications for a senior can arrive monthly  in one’s home in bubble packs for safety. No charge,

Having been involved in two,  sudden, health crisis in two other countries of the world for my child and myself,  I remember the shock of being charged  a fee as soon as I walked into a medical clinic and hospital long ago,  before seeing a doctor.  I was later given a bill for several thousand dollars before I could leave. Travel Insurance sounds great, but it costs a lot to buy. One may have to pay out before submitting a claim.

Aging seniors may lose interest in the things that gave them pleasure all their life. What about the senior who wants to tell the same story over and over again,  perhaps without realizing it.  This and other things may embarrass family members and friends. They may then distance themselves perhaps out of feelings of shame, guilt, or even anger.

Early signs of brain damage can lead to a person getting confused in familiar settings,  or being unable to respond as sharply as they did before in other ones.. This may lead to the loss of a driving license, a need for a hearing aid or cataract surgery to be able to see properly.

Now where are those keys? I always keep them there, says the senior. The caregiver reaches over and lifts the keys from their usual spot.

In stages of deterioration,  the person may fight care aggressively, or become passive, even secretive,  not wanting others to know, perhaps fearful of losing their independence. Hiding their difficulties from the family doctor and children. By the time a person arrives at more advanced aging, they may be sleeping for longer periods of time, stop learning,  and lose interest in most things.

The person will have gradually lost their awareness of their surroundings. Those diagnosed with dementia will probably have left home for good,  to be cared for in a protective environment.

A resident in the Alzheimer Unit starts rummaging in other people’s drawers, so common a practice. Staff usually find the gathered things to return them to their owners and wait for them to be shuffled around again in the unit. Each resident finds their own cubby hole somewhere where they stuff the things they collect. This is normal behaviour for dementia patients, but shocking for family members who come to visit. It is not a reflection on your family values. He or she is not stealing!  Curious, rummaging, and looking for something, then hiding it in one common spot from others.

Seniors may wander from their homes and may not be able to find their way back. The police may get involved, upsetting the family even further.  Putting alarms and lights on outer doors, may help. But more than one senior has died, frozen outside in winter because staff or family were too busy to notice they had disappeared. It should not take tragedy to spark changes, but so often that seems to be the norm.

Let the person suffering dementia enjoy a path of freedom in the living area by moving furniture so there is a never ending circle where the person can wander at will. Be friendly.  Be helpful. Be calm.

Finally, you may have to install black and white floor tiles inside in front of outer doors to help stop the person. Yes, a puzzler to many– but it works.

It is only in  severe dementia or disease, the person may gradually lose their vocabulary, not knowing what words mean anymore,  and be unable to understand instructions.  In time in severe dementia, a person may become catatonic. This may never happen to you, nor myself.

Time– a lot of life is needed to adjust  to changes we cannot stop, but we can search out the best ways that fits our growing need.  Some people  run out of time,  because of a heart attack, a stroke or advanced cancer diagnosis. Fortunately, many seniors can prepare for the limitations that age and disease bring upon us.

What about those that do not? People with dementia  are wandering the streets of this world, afraid of shelters, afraid of dogs, afraid of the police. If stress is too prolonged in anyone’s life, especially if damage to the brain is occurring,  schizophrenia may develop—-hearing voices that are upsetting. That puts these people in great danger.

Is it really a surprise that some seniors become depressed and withdrawn, especially after their spouse dies, maybe forcing  a move because of reduced finances and weakening bodies. Being alone all the time takes adjusting.  What if one feels no longer recognized as a person of worth and value. A person may lose status in family settings and feel useless. Not always true. But, if the person believes it,  that becomes their reality. Anxiety increases. Social isolation can develop. Reduced physical exercise means increased weakness.

Grief can overwhelm such a person who is suffering terrible loss. Others may not identify it as such. Grief has stages of its own, says the professionals. Some people withdrawn into themselves while others get angry, and may lash out in bitterness and frustration.  It takes a long time to come to acceptance at what has happened, and if the mind is damaged, that may not be possible without a lot of intervention, or not at all. For some, the loss is too much, leading to suicide.

If safe to do so, we can help by simply being there, quiet reassurances in companionship, possibly doing something together for pleasure. Some seniors need someone to drive them to appointments, to help with shopping, even laundry. Although there are people doing this as a business, not everyone can afford to hire them or want that. Thank you to all of you who are caring for others in practical ways.

Professionals  should have ongoing updates to educate them about aging, dementia, and other types of difficulties.  Easy to say, not so easy to implement, especially in sudden crisis that the police may face, as an example.

Money problems may suddenly become a huge issue, as costs continue to escalate. Pensions rarely move up more  than a few dollars each year. Family members may start worrying what it will cost them to be involved. Making sure a will is in place and current is important for after death issues, but what about a Power of Attorney for care now, when the senior starts to have serious difficulties? Planning will relieve a lot of anxiety.

Despite the ‘difficulties’ and awareness now of people’s various realities, hope continues because there is still joy and happiness available as we age. Sometimes we have to fight for it.

Each of us needs to put in place ways to enjoy life, despite limitations. Use them as a springboard for something wonderful. I found a new joy in filming veterans from the last Great War, and sitting with those British women together to talk about their war experiences. My local library had sent me out to film old buildings and interview senior citizens, as the library developed their heritage focus. I even took a photography course, and was given equipment to use, all of which was new to me in my younger senior years.  That was fun.

Social times are still very, very important. I learned how to develop this website in my senior years. I  did not have a clue how to do it,  as  many others do also. I have learned how to travel the world without having to go there, because of so many U-tube videos and documentaries by others. With Google Earth,  one can view almost any area in great detail.

The challenge of technology has brought my relationship with my son so much closer. He now teaches me, a little chuckle,  as I remember the frustration of homeschooling him in Grade 3. He introduced me to AI (Artificial Intelligence), which is like an extremely fast search engine.  I use it to find answers quickly for anything I want to know. I didn’t like it at all at first, but gradually I changed my mind.  I am not a techie person, and the mind is simply not as sharp as it once was….so what?  Learning is a life long habit, and why it is so important to help each other extend that as long as we can.

Some seniors are hesitant about the changes that are happening., even uncertain about the World Wide Web. Learning to operate a computer and explore the Internet  opens up a whole new world of interest.

We all need to take courage to be ourselves in a world that promotes the outer image and possessions  more important than the inner life.   As physical beauty naturally fades, we can still enjoy fashion, makeup and exercise to feel good about ourselves. Most of all,  may we cherish the things that really do matter at any stage: faith, family and love.

Enjoying Kindle ebooks  brings a world of reading ease to our lives without having to hold a heavy volume. I enjoy crossword puzzles, and keep a volume on my desk to work at, which even builds new vocabulary.

What a delight to recently see an older couple riding on a bicycle built for two. Laughter, one of the delights for any age. There are movies to watch, and various programs offered in senior centers and communities across our country. Put on lovely music in the background to lift your spirit and surround yourself with things that bring back happy memories. Think about the happy times in your life. Focus on them, and ignore the rest.

Why not go on a Memory Trip? Aging seniors are dancing and singing  and putting on performances, dressing up– it really is a lot of fun.

What about a bucket list of things to do before you die?  I did that at age 65, and it took me four years to accomplish. Little miracles can happen, as someone gave me one of those dreams. You never know what might be right around the corner in your life that you have longed for.  Do not give up.

There are both positives and negatives regarding the transition stage before end of life care in a nursing home, which can be fully covered by a subsidy. Private Retirement Homes for seniors, who want to maintain an apartment with their own furniture and things around them, may be able to get a private suite with bathroom.

What is so helpful is that these Retirement Homes offer  housekeeping and laundry service, meals with others,  and social activities, and many safety protocols specific to aging. There is usually a hair salon, and sometimes a garden with raised bed in which to grow things for summer enjoyment.  Cost in Ontario is currently between $3,000 to 5,000 per month all inclusive.

The move to retirement homes need not to feared, because staff in them offer many programs of interests, including shopping or day trips. Faith services and singalongs can be enjoyable. A lot depends on our attitude towards aging and deliberately choosing to enjoy every day life. Find fulfillment within yourself, and not expect others to do that for you. We can live within our limitations, and overcome the challenges we face.

If you are close to age 80, one alert of importance. Some life insurance policies end at age 80, and funds may not be there for your cremation and or funeral if you no not plan NOW to replace that loss with your own savings.  If you are a spouse about to be widowed, check your financial picture. Yes, you may get some of your spouses’ pension but an adjusted amount. All loss of income for a senior is a serious moment. Hopefully this is not a concern,  but with the rising costs today, it is simply a reminder that changes are coming we cannot stop, but can overcome with planning.

Hope is that a cure might be found in our lifetime to end dementia. Remember,  not all seniors experience the negatives listed.  Until then,  thank you to everyone who provides the care, compassion and education. Knowledge is important, but without deeper wisdom to be more practical in handling the daily responsibilities and strains, we need to explore ways to improve the quality of life to the very end for everyone.

But it also means valuing people at all stages of life, and that is being seriously eroded now for seniors,  an alarming wake-up call.  The Pandemic wiped out several million older people, and few grieved that loss except their families. I am not an activist, but this is a topic of deep meaning for those of us in our senior years.

Bringing comfort to the suffering may be a struggle but also the greatest reward for your life.  If we can help somebody, then our living shall not be in vain.

Remembering my Mother

MABEL ALVERIA MILLER GILLESPIE

Mabel Miller Copy
Enjoying life on a walk as a single woman
Mabel Miller wedding July 8, 1943
Mabel Miller wedding July 8, 1943
Our family when young
Mabel with her children: Sam, Norma, Glen about 1950 or so.

 

Mom and her three children, Bancroft Copy
Glenn, Norma, Mom & Sam in Bancroft, about 1984 – photo copyright by Glenn

 

Mom with her sister Winnie & Dave Copy
Mom with her sister Winnie & husband,  Dave Ross

I love you, Mom….thank you for a life well-lived, even in your own journey of sorrow and sadness. I know I was a challenge as a  teen. You showed us how to find joy in little things, and gave and gave, giving up your needs and pleasures to help our lives be enjoyable. Thanks for those books as gifts: The Hardy Boy series; Nancy Drew Mysteries,  cause their adventures became ours, and gave us entertainment when we  had none  unless we made it ourselves. I love murder mysteries to this day, not any violence,  but rather the unravelling of clues.

I now understand why you loved your radio at bedtime in your senior years,  because we had never had one. Sorry, Mom, for causing you so much worry. I am often thinking of you as I head to Coe Hill and talk to you as I work on our grave plot together.  Wish my  grandchildren could have known you. I am so proud of you, and glad you are taking care of my four babies &  Kieran in Heaven. Thanks.

 

 

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Sifting Thru’ The Trash

Strange comment to begin a post. I am not fond of recycling, as I was forced to use six bins at one point in my life. Currently garbage goes out once every two weeks in this area, at a cost of $2.50 a bag, and only one bag allowed per household. Stickers to buy are available at many locations.

Garbage Truck
Garbage Truck

But my mind is not thinking of trash in this regard. But rather, things that have built up over a lifetime in one’s mind that pull us down into the mire. Truth is that,  what we think about can become our reality, even if it is not actually real. So much of life is perception. How we think about  ourselves; how we see others.

Rather than focusing on that, what ways can I get rid of the negatives in life that discourage me?  The trash of the past, failures, misunderstandings, and even allowing people, events, feelings into my life that I should not have. Is there a way to bag it all up and get rid of it?  Do I have to pay a fee?

Well, some people go to professionals.  Most of us do not want to face things in life that makes us look, or feel a failure. But failure is supposed to be success turned inside out, meaning of course,  it can be a blessing, not a curse, if we choose that road. Yes, I do believe in this, but maintaining a good attitude takes work. Occasionally I balk, and sabotage my own good efforts.

Part of the answer must surely be knowing who one really is, and what makes one unique. Apart from our jobs, our bank accounts, our possessions, our education and so on. We each have strengths and weaknesses,  so it is very important that we go through life as a worthwhile and valuable human being. That can be lost, but also restored. It helps to find a positive thought about yourself every day. Say it out loud to yourself,  about yourself and make it something true and  complimentary.   Never say anything negative about yourself, and block thoughts like that in your mind.  Yes, we can control our mind.

I also think if we are grateful for what has happened, our change of attitude will give us a lot of peace and contentment. Let us begin to accept that no matter what has happened, we are still here, and we can be better for any suffering we experience. Accepting it,  rather than rebelling against it. The other response of bitterness and hatred is a dark road to death.  It does take time, just as any healing does. Choosing every day to enjoy life. Ask God for help, and focus on doing something good for somebody else.

Upsets come when least expected, and some may cause a flashback to a painful event. Some even rip away the scar tissue built there. But, I know as a medical person that regular application of a soothing medication will bring about healing again. What medication? Make sure whatever you choose that it will not hurt you, punish you, put you down, or shame you.

Close up image of ointment tube with squezzed product
C

I listen to a lot to Bill Gaither Gospel video tapes, cause music is very soothing and uplifting. This is music I really like–lots of country and bluegrass– with  marvellous messages.  Joyce Meyer’s  sharing helps me learn about God better and how to apply His teachings to my life.   I read the Bible a lot,  cause people can only help so far. I am inspîred and challenged, and I need that a lot.

Some of us may go through life with a few scars. Let them be  memory chips of  worthwhile battles. Something to be proud of and not feared. If attacked and wounded emotionally, physically or even psychologically, retreat. A wounded soldier knows to do that, as his strength falters. Not fleeing,  but withdrawing in order to heal and recover, and regroup.  There are some battles we should not try to face alone. Gather around you people who like you, and who will provide a sense of security and happiness through regular fellowship. Stay away from those who hate and want revenge and  plot evil.

soldier resting

One more thought. Can garbage of others be a gold mine for us?  I mean, can I learn from the struggles of others, how to apply self control and discipline to my life?  Having a better diet is known to affect our mood. What am I eating? Stop and take a hard look. Then make changes. If our body lacks basic chemicals, such as domaine and seretonin, we may need medication to function normally. So,  work with a doctor to ensure your body is able to function as it should.   Block, repel, get rid of anything that wants to hurt and wound or discourage us again. Throw out the garbage of bad habits and replace it something lovely.

Personally, I am grateful today because I have found that seeing my own need draws me closer to God.  I am encouraged when I read these words:

For I know  the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD. Thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Then you will seek Me, and find Me. when you search for Me with all your heart

Jeremiah 29:11-13 The Holy Bible

Let me be borrow from Amal Clooney’s recent speach, that originated from former First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt:

It is better to light a candle,  than curse the darkness.”

 

aboutme classic horzline

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When Old Friends Come To Visit

Wish this was a who-dunit, like an Agatha Christie plot.  It is personal delights of a visit by someone in my past. We were part of a trio of single girls, 42 years ago. I tend to think old friends are treasures  of the heart. Let me introduce her.

Virginia and I graduated from college and marched the streets of Toronto with about 200 others for our Nursing celebration in 1981.  We have lived apart since then, going in different directions as life unfolded.

Nurses marching 1981
Copyright Norma Gillespie 2023

Family & Friends at my Nursing Graduation, July 1981

My Nursing Graduation Friends & Family
Copyright Norma Gillespie, Glenn Gillespie 2023

I had already travelled extensively, was well into my late 30s, and after this graduation, soon settled into married life, raising  children, and working part-time in my medical career. Somewhat younger, she left for a military life, serving in Bosnea, Sri Lanka (Ceylon), etc, and various Canadian postings as a Mental Health Nurse. Never married, but did find a partner,  who  just died in 2018. She had disappeared from my life.

It was on my vacation to the Maritimes in 2019, that I thought of Virginia, sent her an email. Guess who met me in Moncton, New Brunswick train station?  She had driven miles to find me. I hadn’t seen her since a college reunion years ago. After hugs and exciting greetings, we went to a nearby Irish pub for lunch. There was a live band that was delightful, I got my favourite restaurant meal:  Fish and Chips. Satiated, we walked along a street to to look at antique cars, as there was a rally in the city. We drove to a local park and sat and talked until it was time for my train to depart.

Since then we have chatted over the phone many times. Now in June 2023, I got a message Virginia was coming to Ontario and wanted  to visit. I was thrilled, and tore around to get my home ‘spick and span’, planning meals, and bringing in a few things I needed. I love to entertain.

We both now live alone but in different provinces. Adventures in life have slowed down a bit now– just as our walking pace has. She loves the bagpipes and everything Scottish.  I can whip up and down the keyboard in flair as a pianist, and love the Irish part of my heritage. I’m Scottish, too, but she shines on that side far more than I do. We are both Canadians, and proud of it.

She’s Catholic: I am Protestant. Politically, fairly close, but not about its leaders.  None-the-less, it is amazing to discover how much we do agree with such different personalities. I am fairly outgoing; she is quite reserved. In the past winter months, we have had three-hour phone conversations about touchy, touchy things: try politics, religion, money,  relationships, Trump…..especially finding out where we have travelled, and so on.

Not many people have a friend, as I do,  who can talk about Afghanistan, where we have both been, but at different times. She gives me insights about military life, and I provide challenges to all of it. Although interested in military  matters, I  stay away from its dangers. I have also had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, so we spent quite a bit of time exploring mental challenges and insights.

I love this type of relationship. It is so rare to find someone you can really talk with about deeper things. I throw in a few new ideas to stir the pot,  like subjects outside her field, especially prophesy involving the Middle East and future events. I love Old Testament History and research it a lot, especially the different empires that ruled the world.  She has a degree in History, if I remember right, but over a life-time, our interests sometimes change. I hated History in High School, but now it is a focus in my senior years. She has shifted to her Scottish roots and bagpiping. I love visiting cemeteries and filming tombstones, but doubt that would interest her at all.  We talked about taking a trip together.  I suggested a Scottish Tattoo here in Ontario or Scotland. She already has dates to participate this summer with her New Brunswick pipe bands.

She arrived by noon, texting me from across the street she had arrived. We hugged and smiled.  Intoducing her to my apartment didn’t take long, and the first order was of course, Tea, please!

Having lived with the British in India, I knew the pôt has to be warmed first, and then hot water added to the tea. Any milk comes later. I even found my knitted blue and white tea cosy for the teapot. We laughed over my comment about this. They say it tastes different, but I can’t tell. I hardly ever drink tea.

Virginia visiting May 2023
Copyright Norma Gillespie, 2023

Here is Virginia on my sofa. Disgusted to find the photo slightly blurred, as I  must have jiggled my cell phone. Only photo I took, so learn a lesson from me, and take lots of pictures. She did. I was too excited and much too busy.

We relaxed later with a quiet walk around the block in my neighbourhood.  Yes, she did play me a tune on her bagpipe chanter. When I made the comment, we may not see each other again at our age, we both were quiet for a moment. One never knows!  She spent the night, and after a hearty breakfast,   drove away the next morning, in that long, long drive all the way East to her private life in Fredericton. Some time later, she texted me that she was safe,  and grateful for our time together.

Sharing these memories is my way of preserving  history, and trust  you enjoyed this visit with us. Looking at that group photo above brings back many other memories of other people who have meant  a lot to me over the past. Wherever you are, you are remembered, and you are appreciated!

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Making A Wreath for Mom’s Tombstone

Every spring and often in the fall, I enjoy the trip to visit Mom’s grave in Coe Hill, Ontario, and my little grandson’s in Kettleby Cemetery in York Region. With the costs rising up and up to buy wreaths, I decided enough is enough, and learned to make my own. Here is my method and how to do it,  so you can see how really easy it is.

One can make other things from fake flowers, like having seasonal wreaths for an entrance door.  I found a lovely cherub vase and made a display for my bathroom.  There will be a selection of other things at the end of this posting for ideas,  and how Colour affects our lives.

STEP ONE

Gather Supplies:  

Basic Supplies
copyright Norma Gillespie, 2023

Left to right, back to front:

A tombstone frame.      Underneath some sticky  tape (many colours, but I like black).  In front:   metal cutters 

The Middle:   A block of foam;    glue gun (and several sticks of clear glue)

Right hand side:  Your choice of fake flowers and green leaves 

Other decorative ideas can be:  ribbon, moss, stones– to name a few ideas,  as you get creative.

STEP TWO

Decide on a colour theme.   Everyone has a colour pallette perhaps without knowing it. We instinctively like some shades over others.  Each of us is an individual with our own tastes and choices to make. Some people have studied this area so much they have made a professon out of it. I did not follow that path,  but I certainly did a lot of crafts over a lifetime. This one came to me only as a senior. Busy working to earn a living, I  appreciated buying a nice wreath every year for my Mom’s tombstone. Never gave a thought to the cost of that tombstone, let alone the wreath on top of it. Oh,  has life changed.

In Ontario, retail fake flowers range  from $2.95 to over $50 for one item. They are sold as a single flower on  a single stem,  or a small group of 3 to 5 flowers in same colour theme, or a blend of different colours .   All stores have ongoing additions during the year. Because my Mom’s favourite  colour was pink, this spring I have chosen to make her wreath in that colour palette. Also, why I tend to add flowers as a part of this website.

I only used single flowers, all of which were $2.95 at Walmart. I had all the other supplies, including the white stems, green leaves, a foam, and moss, all Dollar Store items I replenish yearly. My total cost this month for Mom’s wreath was for  6 single stem flower  at $2.95 each 6 =17.71 + 2.30 (13% tax) =$20.00.

I was paying $85.00 for a prepared ones well over 5 years ago. I believe tombstone wreaths are still available,  but probably well over $100.00 now, but have not priced them this year.

THEME:     Peonies.    The additional flowers in the photo  of Mom’s wreath are to go in the Memory Garden below her tombstone.  Because I no longer live in that area to care for the garden, I have had a  difficult to use perennials or even annuals to provide continual colour. Too cold; too sandy soil, etc, etc. Not enought moisture most of all.  Hence I am adding gorgeous fake flowers this year to do that.

This wreath has moss around the foam block.  I added it simply using a glue gun. Touch the foam surface or black tape  a bit, then push in the moss. Sticks easily. However, I have not yet tested its ability to handle summer storms. I have always used ribbon around the foam before now.  Yes, I do like ribbon because it helps hold the form all around the outside horizontally. The finished wreath has to be viewed from all sides once on the tombstone. Note: end of July visit finds a lot of the moss gone on the wreath, so obviously not a good choice for out of doors. We learn by experience. The principles remain the same, but the personal touches on many tombstone wreaths are lovely this….increasing a lot in St MIchael’s Cemetery. All improve the overall look and express love of people buried here.

STEP THREE

Flowers for Moms wreath
copyright 2023, Norma Gillespie.

 

Putting it together:

Tombstone wreaths are usually built quite low and stretched out horizontally.   Although there are principles used in creating wreaths, such as triangles and the angles associated with it, it remains the creator’s choice in its appearance. Will it be able to withstand storms during the summer months? Winds and rain can hit it pretty hard sometimes. Lots of trees nearby.

Sit the foam block on the framework lengthwise, and wind the sticky tape around the foam and frame several times to tie them together: left side, middle and right side. Depending on the width of the tape, this should leave clear foam block areas still visible. Some people do choose a very wide tape and cover the block completely. Having looked at them, I have chosen not to do that. The foam piece will not be seen once you have completed covered all areas.

I have never lost a tombstone wreath yet in many years, and I make several for those I love. Mom’s wreath is put in place usually in May and later removed in early October of each year. That is summer season in Canada.  Reverse those months to your summer season on the other side of the world.  Because the fake flowers fade a bit over the summer, I always use new fake flowers in each wreath.

Be careful not to make more than one hole, possibly two stem holes in each piece of of the sticky tape around the foam, (which would weaken the whole thing). You can have far more than just six flower stems,  as I did in this wreath. I tried to use wire in the beginning to wrap the wreath to the frame, but it just cuts right through the foam block, so wire is not recommended. Rremember, I have had time to make a lots of mistakes making wreaths, and have learned from them. Do not be hard on yourself, and and just work at it, and enjoy the journey. That is true of life.

Measure each flower stem first (eyeball it against the foam) and cut off any length not needed. Otherwise, you will have long stems poking through the bottom of the foam. A few stems will go almost all the way into the foam, but most should go no further than three quarters way inside.  I like to build the top on 45 degree angles, left and right,  with a shorter 90 degree top flower stem inserted, then fill that space between the key pieces,  so they blend well.

Insert one stem at a time into the foam block. I began with one stem on the top corners  in this wreath and alternated two rows on top. I had already planned to lengthen  this wreath by adding green leaves on the ends.  You can certainly use flower stems for the ends to lengthen the appearance, and then cut the top flower stems much shorter.  Each stem can be of varying heights, but a slopping trend is very attractive, bringing the height of the flowers from a peak to the very ends.

Other Ideas

Bathroom cherubs
Copyright Norma Gillespie, 2023

Here is my bathroom container. I can see in the picture that the left side needs to be rejuvenated a touch (move some flowers) The other side has more blue flowers.

Now a wreath below, that uses a lot of fake flowers in a circular plastic frame.

Pink Wreath
Copyright Norma Gillespie 2023

I added that pink butterfly (it attaches by a clip) cause I found lots of decorations with a clip in a bin at Christmas in a store. My,  this  photo make the wreath look red, but it not. Various shades of pink and touch of darker rose.

Long grape vines in a circle, with an almost bare look to the wreath, can offer a completely different style. Flowers and greenery can be any colour you prefer.  Ribbon is a classic addition.

Purple Wreath
Copyright Norma Gillespie 2023

I have this wreath in my living room,  as an  assessory theme colour of mauve. The ribbon  on this wreath needs a touch on an iron, I think, but this wreath has been hanging there quite a while. The drapes on the windows are a darker purple, like the ribbon.

 

Understanding Colour & Combinations

 

Colour Wheel

Colour Wheel:  The principal colours are: Red, Yellow, Green, Blue and Purple. Five Intermediate hues: Yellow-Red (YR), Green-Yellow (GY), Blue-Green (BG), Purple-Blue (PB), Red-Purple (RP). When a color is void of hue it is called a Neutral, such as Neutral Gray or Neutral Black.

Pair your key colour with the colour sitting on the opposite side of the color wheel. Red and green, blue and yellow, and orange and green are examples of  harmony.

Here are some complimentary colour palettes:

  • Yellow, red, and blue.
  • Green, orange, and purple.
  • Teal, magenta, and gold.
  • Royal blue & peach (trending) …
  • Blue & pink (classic) …
  • Charcoal & yellow (classic) …
  • Red & yellow(classic) …
  • Lime green & electric blue (trending) …
  • Lavender & teal (trending) …
  • Cherry red & off-white (classic) …
  • Baby blue & white (classic)

How does Colour Fit Into Our Life?

There are many ways in which studies have shown how colour can affect us positively, or negatively. People have a natural attraction to a certain palette of colours for their clothing and assessories. Certain shades can brighten our overall look, or tone it down, even make us look washed out. Lighting,   or lack of it,  can affect that overall appearance. Do we not seek sunlight when wanting to get a more accurate look at something?

Have you noticed how many SUVs are in Burgundy?  Add a touch of grey or black trim, and wow,  Why is white such a popular vehicle colour?  White vehicles pose a  danger to me of disappearing into a ditch during snowy winter and not being found.  My vehicles have spun around a few times on icy spots.   Add the black trim to a white vehicle, however,  and  suddenly I notice how  fashionable and appealing it really is.  I will never buy a vehicle unless I really like its colour.

Car manufacturers know this about women, perhaps slightly less so for men who check  engines and power, even noise ( zoom-zoom-zoom responds to the gas pêdal of my neighbour’ latest car with its double exhaust). Do you prefer Florescents or Pastel? The one adds sparkle and excitement, while pastels quieten. Some people love the limelight, parties and fame, and they are the Extroverts, who  often are our leaders. They can step into a situation with charisma and take control easily. Other personalities, however, prefer to watch, remain aloof, and quiet. The Introverts, whose inner life is full of thinking and observation. They see life through a different filter. The greatest musicians were introverts,  pouring their feelings into masterpieces. So colour can  reflect how we feel,  and how we act. So often we don’t even realize it.

Yes, Colour reflects our personality. Testing said I am a Gold/Blue for a strong Traditionalist, and a light Melancholic Personality. Is this not revealed in my  love of music, a need to create beauty, and a spiritual tone? Although friendly and outgoing, I do prefer Psychology over Mathematics ( I think I gritted my teeth all through Algebra in High School).  I prefer the Arts to  Science, but glad for both. The  personality of a Blue hints of a sensitive, caring nature. Blue is the colour of choice for an outfit for a  Job Interview.  Colour may even reflect how others see us.

Browns and Grey personalities, even some Greens, prefer intellect over emotion, and use research to make our lives better. We need all types to bring out the richness of life. We are a blend of traits in our personality, even though one may seem dominant. Colour can reflect how we view the world.

Grey is a difficult hue. Some shades I like and some I don’t.  The lighter it is, I think of Silver,   reflected in statues on the lawn or a choice by some in jewellry. Grey walls has been popular of late, but for me they proved depressing.  I lived eight years in a bedroom with  soft, yellow  painted walls  and never wanted to change it. I even owned a yellow Vega years ago. Yes, I like yellow. Such a happy, uplifting colour.

Why do companies spend a small fortune to  develop one colour as its signature Identity?  Orange for Home Depot; Blue for Walmart, and so on. Red and White for many newspaper websites, who want to grab out attention. Did you notice what two colours I chose for this website?  Blue and Green.

Colour can stimulate,  or calm a person. Hospitals, doctor’s offices and addiction treatment centres use specific colours on walls, etc to help control situations.  Touches of accent, like a stonger colour of pillows on a neutral colour sofa, can add a hint of spark to a quiet,  comforting,  living room palette. Yes, colour can control us in our behaviour and our reactions.

In Gardening, cool, calming colours belong in  a resting place on the  deck or balcony, or even the front entrance to welcome visitors. People contantly judge situations,  and may feel welcome or not, just by the entrance to a  house.  Colour is a selling point in real estate. Strong, dominant reds and oranges belong to the play yard  where they support the enjoyment of activities.

If wondering what colour to use in any setting, pause to consider, “What will the purpose be?”  

Yes, even the colour used in wrapping of gifts affect how they are received.

As a birder, I want to attract hummingbirds to my  feeder. I know they prefer red, orange and pink flowers with tubular structure so that is why a birder may position the red feeder in a  garden area that has with red flowers, like Salvia, and shrub combinations where birds and other animals can hide for safety and rest, retreating into darkness.

Black is perhaps the best selection for anyone  who seeks privacy, safety, and why it is the chosen choice for those who want a slimming effect.  Black is powerful. It is not considered a colour.  Hollywood uses black to establish a mood in movies. So do individuals,  as they face the social world. Black is the most classic choice of all. You will either like it, or not. Colour causes reactions in ourselves,  and in other people.

Designers want to  introduce new shades every year, be it in vehicles, furniture, clothing and accessories. Fashion fluctuates every year it seems, but in the cycle of colour, the principles remain the same.  A touch of sparkle in one’s hair for a Christmas party, might be fun, but another person would be horrified at that.  Just laugh at the world sometimes, and do your own thing.

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Love you, and miss you so, Mom – photo at Lake Louse, Alberta in 1968. She came out for my graduation from college. Her only trip West.

Mom 1968 at Lake Louise, AB[4881]
Copyright Norma Gillespie 2023

The finished wreath at Coe Hill on Mom’s tombstone:

Tombstone Mabel Gillespie
Copyright Norma Gillespie 2023

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Planning A Family History Vacation

There is a lot of pleasure in planning any trip.  I thought I would take a look at what’s out there for those who love researching family history. Quite the surprise to find lots of activities to consider. I need to have an idea where I want to go before I can arrange the rest. It’s winter here, and I’m wanting a summer vacation this year 2023. Too many conferences to think of listing and not so sure I want one. However, here’s one I find interesting:

Traveller
Traveller

Terri OConnell is offering a New England Cruise this fall for Family Historians from her website. Don’t know her,  but this trip catches my attention. Sailing from Boston to Quebec City for seven nights on the Holland America Lines. On board will be a genealogy conference. Lot of ports to visit during the days including: Bar Harbor, Halifax, Sydney; Charlottetown; and Quebec City.

Cabins start at $1,659 ($237 a night), and genealogist is David Allen Lambert. Conference a bit extra cost. I’ll give this one serious thought. I’d probably want to visit Grosse Island where hundreds of ships arrived during the Irish Famine, but could do that afterwards. There are Gillespie children buried on that island. I think of those grieving  parents, so full of hope when they left Ireland, but forced to leave their babies they just buried, almost immediately,  once their ship passed health inspection.

It would be Boston that I might enjoy the most, having never been there. The movie,  Far and Away, starring Nichole Kidman and Tom Cruise, focused on the struggles of the Irish in the 1800s  arriving at Boston, and the longing for their own land.

What about a simple three-day trip in the area where one lives?  My Dad left home when he was about 15, and got work on a boat going up and down the Rideau Canal. It links Ottawa with Kingston here in Ontario, Canada.  I’ve been thinking why not do that trip, as I remember my Dad. He married in Erie, Pennsylvania. I could drive there and see if I can find the house where they lived. I found them on USA Census.

I have also discovered that I can take a train from Toronto, here in Ontario,  for a day trip to New York City, stopping briefly at the US border. Lots of Canadians enjoy shopping in Buffalo.  Spend a day or two exploring New  York  where the train ends. Hotels pricey. Then board Amtrax train service from New York City and enjoy a day travelling  north through the countryside of New York State (13 hours) to Montreal, Quebec. It has just reopened after the Pandemic.

Lots to see in this historic city, especially the famous cemetery and view. A Via Train will take you swiftly through the Ontario countryside back to Toronto,  with a free snack on board. $500 for train costs, and $500  for everything else is a simple holiday for a $1,000 I am considering. That’s current prices in March 2023 and may climb closer to summer travel and additional accommodation and food costs. The train trips can be done in reverse direction of course.  Meals available on board,  and culinary delights await,  exploring  in the city that never sleeps. Another train  could take one to Washington, DC from NYC, so one can widen the adventure in many directions.  Just need to update my passport, get someone to care for my garden while away, and have fun fine-tuning the details.

Oh yes, my son and wife are off to Thailand for 12 days the first week of April. They fly over the Atlantic and Africa to land in Yemen, about 200 miles south of Dubai in the Middle East. The final flight take them across India to land in Bangkok for the adventure of a lifetime.

I remember mine, London to India overland in 1968, That is 55 years ago before war erupted and destroyed much of what I saw. We travelled by land in a truck before there were many roads, even none sometimes.  I remember fording rivers, surviving mountain trails at night, running ahead of the vehicle at dawn for the pure pleasure of it, laughing with others. Later,  I hid in a broom closet to escape the violence of a mob. Adventure?  Oh yeh.  Let’s challenge ourselves this year to have the best time of our lives.

I haven’t visited my Dad’s grave in many years, so maybe a day trip to the west end of the City of Toronto could happen. There is a famous restaurant near that cemetery I would love to visit for a specialty meal. Lots of historical places to visit in Toronto. Years ago I lived in the city on two occasions. I used to bike all the way from the Lakeshore beaches to Allan Gardens, and one would hardly know I was in a Metropolitan city because of the gorgeous trees, shrubs and flowers.

I am a gardener, and blending that with genealogy makes an even better vacation. A dream vacation for me would be returning to England to visit its great gardensm  and doing a little family history sleuthing on the side.

Planning Stage:

Since prices  leap in summer, book your flights as soon as possible.  Otherwise, set a notification on flights you like, so  price drops will be emailed to to your inbox. Wait too long and they may not drop at all. Just know the baseline price, and go from there. Prices change every week. You can save a bit if you stay over a weekend, and consider flying on certain days, like Tuesday.

Never fly on the same day you expect to leave on a cruise, for example because of delays and cancellations. I like to arrive even two days earlier so I can do a city tour, etc. You can hire a company to take care of all details for an itinerary, as my son and his wife did for their honeymoon in Europe. A wonderful trip, but he soon learned to use Uber taxis in Italy. They still think Santorini Island, Greece was the highlight.

Different focus for different folk, as it has limited appeal to me. I’d be off looking for tombstones somewhere, or visiting museums and historical sites. I’d be exploring little shops and trying another culinary experience. I always go on a  guided tour of the area where I am visiting,  and enjoy chatting with local folk.  I love train travel the best of all. All these experiences broadens one’s horizon and experiences.

Choose accommodation soon  and get it booked, after scanning over the Internet what is available in the area where you are going.  All types of rooms fill up fast for the summer months. Read the reviews, as they help  me a lot. Check the deposit rates if renting a vehicle, as it may have doubled. Here in Ontario, companies are now insisting on a minimum three- day rental or more. It costs a lot more if you want to drop off a vehicle somewhere else than from where you rented it. There may be an upper age limit to rent a vehicle in some places, like Britain, but you may be able to get around that. Carry an International Driver’s License with photo. I get mine at CAA,

As senior, I have to think of the weight of everything I have to carry, and how far I have to walk. Safety is also a concern for a female, especially if travelling alone. I never take stairs, so is there a working elevator?  What about air conditioning?  You do not always get what you are used to  at home.  I got a glowing report on the internet about a place on the ocean in Mexico,  but when we got there with our young children, my husband tried to turn on the cool air and discovered the electrical chord wasn’t even attached to the air conditioner. Fortunately, there was a lovely breeze as we opened the shutters on the windows, and the pool was lovely.

I remember the frustration in Mexico trying to find a hotel with a bath tub for my children. When I asked locals for recommendations,  they sent me all over the place, not wanting to let me know they didn’t have a clue. I came home convinced I would make a fortune opening a laundry business in Mexico. There weren’t any laundromats. Hotels charged a fortune, and hand washing clothes wouldn’t dry before we had to leave.  I expect others have figured  this,  too, and improvements have been made in these two key areas for a traveller, but I won’t be going there again.

Not everyone in a family may appreciate a vacation with genealogy as a focus. So try to blend it with something else for the main interest of the person who is going with you. Have occasional breaks from each other from time to time. What about a fashion show that the wifey might really love,  while you go the Archives to chase some records? It is better to find things to do together,  of course,  but once in awhile doing something you both love can create a happier day.  Of course, vacations should fit those involved, and each family will have their own pattern of how they like to do things.

When thinking of a gift for Christmas, I bought my son a drone with camera. He’s planning on taking it with him this July when he goes to Europe.  The boys are practicing using it, too.

Cameras can be simple,  as the one on a cell phone. Adding a tripod and movie camera might open up an opportunity to make a movie for a U-tube channel when you get home.  Pleasure, and adding to your pocket book can go hand in hand on a vacation for u-tubers, although most of us experience the opposite. Be sure and record memories of your vacation because memories become more and more important as life goes by.

 

 

 

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Starting A Business

Starting any business involves similar steps,  and then branches off into specifics relating to a country’s rules. In  Canada, there is a difference in registering a business Federally, or Provincially. All this is explained on the Business Registration website. The type of business has to be defined, whether it will be Sole Proprietorship, Corporation, Non Profit or Limited Partnership, to name the common ones. Titles may vary in different countries. Each type of business has its own guidelines to follow,  as set by the country in which you live.

There may be full protection from creditors, or none, should the business falter and fail.  Having Business Insurance to protect you against a law suit needs to be seriously considered. People get upset about all kinds of things today. They may challenge even your right to operate. Health Inspections for the food industry guard our health. But if you own a small restaurant, one bad review can end your success because of the costs and publicity involved.

It takes about five years for a new business to become financially viable and sustainable. I was told this when I began my genealogy business, one that I had for many years, and from which this website sprang. Changes occur over the years, even the type of equipment and supplies you will need to run the business. One of the most important employees  or contract persons you will need is an IT Technologist, who will set up all of your communication links, especially your company website and then manage it. I get about 17 hacks a day from around the world against this simple website, people wanting to control it for their own illicit purposes. Why bother with this small site? I often wonder. But be prepared that others may fight against what you want to do.

So, It is very important to gather around you people with the skills you do not have and why ongoing education is important for everyone, especially as you age. What about attitude?  Some business leaders resist change, and that can make employees they hire with modern training very frustrated. I struggle with this one myself.  New does not necessarily mean better, but it does to some people. How to find the balance takes sensitivity and insight and that is not learned easily.  People problems can be the most difficult of all for business situations.

Although I still have a genealogy business registered federally, retirement has eased the  profit goal and changed the focus  to preserving history and memories.  What is your goal?  It needs to be fine tuned carefully before beginning.

How does one find the right goal for a new business?  The purpose of a business is to meet a need of many customers and solve a problem. So, what do people need? Food, accommodation…etc…Fit what you choose to do with your own interests. I saw the need for laundramats in Mexico on a holiday, but I am not into  laundry.  I have no source of power to my balcony, and I want to have pretty lights out there in both summer and Christmas and run a pond pump and heater in winter. So I studied solar panels to run power that way,  looking at  generators (noisy). I  even bought a heavy duty power bar, but none really solved my problem. A solar fountain spray worked fine in the pond in summer, but I cannot find any solar mini lights. All do not work in darkness. I do not like dealing with electricity of any kind, and hope someone else has found a better solution. So we try different things to find the right fit.

Mademax Solar Bird Bath Fountain Pump, Upgrade 1.4W Solar Fountain with 4 Nozzle, Free Standing Floating Solar Powered Water Fountain Pump for Bird

Here, then, is a business idea for thousands of people like me who have no power on their balcony and are willing to pay to get that solved.  Do not think it ends there,  because they  must be thousands of other locations in need of the same thing. Someone may have solved this, but until you discover the answer, another business might pick up the advertising end of marketing. Where is your expertise? What is your passion?  Blend them together and you will find greater success. But continue to study because you want to offer the best solution of all.

Find your comfort zone in that focus. People have killed themselves when their business failed, and this should never be the solution. Be the best you can, but during slumps just reevaluate and move on. A slow gain is far better than a rapid rise and sudden fall.  What slogan should you have for your busines? What colour?

What helped me the most were daily sessions over six weeks, in which, along with others, I developed a Business Plan. It outlined very clearly the areas of: Identification & Address; Management; Advertisement; Legal & Insurance; Anticipated Cash Flow Chart, Banking, Taxes,  and so on.  When finished, I presented it to three local business men. Their approval gave me an extended, full year of Unemployment Benefits, to fund my life during the start-up phase. This was a government program at the time. I do not know if it still exists, but it clearly identified the importance of planning. Having a  business plan to present to bankers will give you an edge if seeking a start-up loan. Everything about your business should be clearly presented in that portfolio,

There are Heritage and other grants that offer free money for your business. Money may be available to attend conferences and educational opportunities from a grant. Your local township or country may offer grants for things like producing publications they want to give out.  That’s $5,000 to tap into.  Both the federal and provincial governments offer larger amounts for  development grants for community businesses, such as how to help keep seniors in their homes and cared for, as a growing focus for our aging population.

What computer program will you use for Accounting, especially at Tax Time? Do you understand basic bookkeeping? Will you hire someone to take care of financial records, or will you do this yourself?   Do you have the skills to do that, or the time? What about employees? Do you know the rules pertaining to Workman’s Compensation claims? What about sending the Government the Sales Tax collected? At what dollar level must you charge it, but not necessarily before? I got phone calls about this from a government worker looking for my quarterly payments. Are you ready to have the government put a spot light on your life?

May I suggest if you have never started a business, that you spend considerable time studying what is available, both online and in publication. Your local library may be of great help to you in that regard. Do a survey of your market, and know who else in your area is already established in the field of your interest.  Who is your competition?  What about establishing rates, as it does boil down to dollars and cents. What will be your basic charge for various things you plan to sell or do?  What is that breaking point to cover all expenses involved? How will you support the business before your cash flow starts climbing?

What I saw during the period of developing a Business Plan was how some participants changed their original idea to another.  One of the guys who was a butcher decided to write a book how to do it, instead of opening a butcher shop. I made some changes myself. I found that initially a subscription newsletter was key to generating funds in the beginning, while I  developed other products and services..  It takes time to be get known so that people consider hiring you to help them with their family history. I am now retired, and turned that aspect of my business over to my daughter.

I remember when a family hired me (because I was also an RN) to accompany an old Jewish man who wanted to revisit his concentration camp in Europe, and write the story of his life.  All expenses paid of course. So a genealogy business may develop into something you have never considered.

Concentration Camp
Concentration Camp

Genealogy or family history research is second only to Gardening as a  “hobby” that generates millions of dollars in revenue.  I appreciate all the work being done across the world to make finding records so much easier now as I sit at my desk and use the Internet. For years, I drove and drove miles to visit every library and genealogy collection I could find. Filming tombstones was part of those travel trips.

More than one company gathers revenue from selling advertising on their website. I’ve helped someone develop a catalogue they could publish on a website and generate a bit of money that way. I could do the same, but would find it hard to control the moral issues in a lot of today’s advertising.  Developing your own website will be of great importance. Some businesses operate totally online.  None of us knows how to do any of this  when we start, so never let that stop you.  Believe in yourself and your dream. Put in places things to encourage you, teach you and inspire you. Finding someone to mentor you during the process would be especially wonderful.

Life is the greatest adventure.

 

Photo is of  Norma, working in an office in my youth. See the typewriter (central font ball) and tape recorder. My boss was publishing a  quarterly booklet by subscription.

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Publishing Your Family History

Early in 2021, my two brothers and I collaborated in writing personal stories of our childhood and young adulthood,  growing up in a village in Ontario. Canada.  It became a book, professionally printed, bound and published in a volume called, The Gillespie Family of Coe Hill, Ontario. This history preserves our memories from the late 1940s to the mid 1960s.

Even though I had already produced several booklets over the years, those were printed and combo-bound in my office (spiral spine). It had been about 10 years since I last published something.  This new effort was using a professional,  printing firm for the first time.  Although I am happy with the results, and so are others involved, it would have really helped if I had studied the publishing business of today before I began. Let me provide a bit of new knowledge I learned.

  1.  Purpose:  Each of us wants to be remembered, to find some significance in a world that is rapidly changing,  Preserving a history of the past has been mine for some time, after I retired from a medical and teaching career.  What is your purpose in what you want to create?  Will it bless someone, teach, remember the past, encourage? Those are the most valuable works to embrace. Finding your focus is important.

My own children and those of my siblings have limited or no knowledge of what we experienced growing up. Coe Hill was a farming community and people used agricultural methods that no longer exist,  except being mentioned in a few  books and the odd website.  When I suggested writing the stories of our childhood and youth,  both my brothers agreed. Suddenly we were busy sharing emails back and forth, and I started writing my own story.

We learned a lot about each other’s experiences,  some of which were a surprise.  Even though we lived in the same home, had the same parents, went to the same schools, we had different experiences and social contacts. Oh how the mind forgets as one ages,  which can be very frustrating.  What was the name of that woman who had the hair salon beside Sprackett’s Store?  Who lived in that house across the road from the Fairgrounds?   I  made a chart of our village and got help  to remember who lived where in all those buildings back then,  as a prompt.  I now wish I had added that village chart to the book. Of course most of it has now changed. Each of my siblings and I moved away at different times.

We all wanted to honour Mom, who suffered so deeply, but was a kind,  gentle woman and never got the recognition she deserved. The Dedication will preserve her memory,  with its photos of her life and a brief summary. This isn’t her story, but her influence was a positive one. Thank you, Mom. Since Dad died when I was a child, and this website honours him, he is only briefly mentioned in this project.

Mabel Miller Gillespie

My brothers and I each have our own section and chapters in the book, each section ending with a personal photo album.  I then added more general family photos, an intro and ending, and brief genealogy charts for both our parents,  as far back  has I have traced our history.  77 printed pages in the finished volume. Now we chat how we wished we had added even more memories.

There is a deep satisfaction knowing our family will be remembered in our small village a bit longer after we are gone. So, know what matters to you,  as you begin your own creation. Take time to think that through.

2. Method:

Have no computer skills? Want to simply write out your story? Well, may I suggest you instead speak your story into a microphone and record it, and then hire someone to type it all up for you. That is because it is hard to read someone’s writing or printing. Today’s audience is very selective because time is also a factor. The finished product will appear professional and attractive to interest a greater audience. I love things in print. But you can produce a book in print on a CD disk to view on a screen,  or simply record it that way as well, for those with limited vision. I love having having my Mom’s voice on tape. So, make a slight adjustment, and begin. Here are more of my tips.

I like MS Office. to provide a basic page on which to compose my thoughts.  MS Word for documents and MS Access for databases (I use both of them a lot), and along with two other programs, costs about $89 Canadian each year. On top of these are other things one needs,  like an additional virus protector and so on–each about another $40 to $69 per computer program. So, it is natural to try to use the  ones I already have to create a publication. If you plan to do lots of books, for example, then choose a program specifically for that goal. I didn’t do that.

Budget matters. I am a senior on a pension. I have enough experience and Scottish blood to know the importance of income always being more than expenses. They do come close some days, but publishing should some  from excess funds, not your cost of living ones. I cannot recommend you use credit to pay for a publication you do,  or want. Some people go crazy wanting to collect points on their cards. Let’s stay out of debt, and get rid of any you have to be freer to enjoy life and reduce anxiety.

I started typing my memories in a new MS Word document on my laptop, and retyped the drafts from arriving emails from my brothers. When it came time to send the finished computer files (one text; one of photos) to the publisher, I discovered they wanted it in a completely different format.  This was a shock and upsetting. I knew very little about the new format and how to convert my document without having to retype it again. It had taken hours and hours of work, well over a month of serious typing and lining up photos on pages and trying to get the editing just perfect.  I even printed out a copy of the book for reference,  so the printing firm would know which picture went where on the pages. Although it helped, the files still had to be changed to pdf, page number deleted, margins changed and so on.  Who knows what they will want when you start your own work.

So before you begin, several things I would suggest. Look at what others have done, even what  publishers were chosen. That is found on the copyright page just inside the front pages of any volume. That will also help you visualize how to set up that  page in your own book to protect your rights to your creation. Do you want to use a local publishing firm, or should you explore other options? Will this be a commercial volume to sell to recover your initial costs and make a bit of profit, or is it just a record in a nice format to share with family and friends, as we did?   I would suggest you find a publisher to consult with staff for guidelines,  before you begin the process.

If you want a smaller volume in finished book size,  as I did, you’d better check the cost. That became the deciding point for me  and why I changed its size. It was very disappointing initially, but a strong awareness  now of how my own perceptions and budget had influenced that final decision.

Consider if you will self publish,  or hire someone else to that for you. Businesses, like Amazon, publish books but take a  cut of the selling price. I know someone who used Amazon and they did an excellent job. I now know there are many companies who do this.  I should have investigated this before I began, but I didn’t. I  think I might consider this route to save all the hassles involved until one learns the steps involved for future efforts. That is the reality of the changes in the publication business over even the last 10 years.

I felt confident of how I wanted the book to look, its divisions, its finished size and a full colour on all the photos.  My brothers left all those details to me. I got a quote from a local printing office which was fine, until the final bill,  which was something quite different and a bit upsetting. Those increased costs came from extra work they had to do and other factors.  I must share some of that adjustment, but not all.  People have to make a profit to run a business, but even this is a learning curve. You might want to consider getting several quotes,  because this is a competitive business,  meaning use that to your advantage. There shouldn’t be much difference in those quotes, but learn in what way you can juggle giving up one feature in order to have another that you  really want to keep.

Do have a budget.  Have more funds than you expect to pay.   Keep a sharp watch on costs,  cause they add up so fast. Don’t forget about taxes, even postage and packaging, gas costs,  or taxi trips to take and pick up the volumes. Cost to travel to distribute the books,  once you have them, can add up a lot. Prices will keep climbing, so have a thousand dollars as a starting baseline for a small production of about 30 pages. Remember,  even the quality of the page, its weight 20 lb  or 28 pound, cover stock or regular printing paper, shiny or dull finish, will affect cost. Colour makes the finished look beautiful, but black and white production  is considerably less expensive to produce.

In a second volume, recently,  I developed a calendar of photos  with text to include all Gillespie family members, using both single and group shots for the top page, and fancy calendar charts on bottom of each page. My budget was considerably less than the book. I thought I might save a lot if I used  an office supply business in Canada, rather than a publishing house. I did check about adding a bar code on the back cover. I have my own copyright codes from the Canadian Government. In this case, the business said they do not add it. That was okay, since this volume is only a very small publication for family members. But I paused  over that for awhile. I expect I could still register it. But that’s just pride, and stamp of ownership.  It can also be a delicate task to gather information. Some family members may not want their photos or other information shared, even with other family members.

I took the prepared volume (this time  produced in Power Point)  saved to a portable storage device, and  faced several unexpected difficulties. First, why that program? Cause I use it a lot for teaching, for putting the words of  songs on a screen to enlarge it viewing, and so on. I didn’t want to use MS Word again, pdf was costly, and this was just trying a new approach.  I love experimenting with new ways of doing thing. Again, be selective to fit your way of doing things. There may be better ways of doing something, but that is not a deciding factor for me.

The main discovery this time was  with size adjustment, so watch for that when setting up whatever document program you use for typing. I wanted a finished product 8 1/2 inches by 11 inches folded in half for the calendar, thinking I could have the finished product resized smaller just before the calendar was printed. That didn’t work out.  I didn’t know that this company had many calendar wizards to use in designing a product, even choice of finished size, and using their wizard would have saved me cost and time.  That is, until I later did try it,  and realized it just wasn’t what I wanted for this project.

So, sometimes even if others can produce something easier, less costly, even better appearance, that does not mean it meets what I or you want. Fortunately all is fine.  I am very happy with the finished calendar. However,  it took me four trips to and from the business before I got the finished product. Many other projects can interfere with completing a  new one. So don’t be too fixed as to delivery promises.  Yes, there will be challenges, but don’t let them ruin your day.

Transferring what one does at home on a computer screen does not always transfer exactly the same to another computer. Even how you view this posting may be different than how I see it.

Also, in using a background wallpaper for the calendar cover page, the visual did not copy and transfer clearly at all, but blurred slightly. Again, another learning curve. I chose one in public domain from an Internet site. Bad choice. Fortunately, the finished look is nice anyway. Now I realize my selection was also probably too girlish for the men who will get a calendar.  A farm field might have gone over better for those living in Western Canada, but not for others. It really shouldn’t matter, since one does not see the cover when the calendar is hung up. I didn’t take enough time with designing the cover, I realize that now.

We each have a colour palette  we like. For the book cover I chose green,  to represent our Irish roots.  The calendar I wanted in pink and silver.  I am very traditional, as one can see by the design of this website. My techie son urges to me more modern, but I ignore him,  as I don’t like the modern style.   I get a lot of pleasure out of creativity.  I say let’s celebrate our individuality.    We learn far more from our failures in life than our successes, and we need both. It is perception that comes into play and focus, and that changes over a lifetime.

I was about to suggest a number of volumes for a price count for the book,  but realize the expense will change all the time. I was  accurate that the calendar would cost me half the price of the published book, even though both were finished by others.

Have a good idea how many volumes you want published and if the publisher will give a discount for higher volume. They need your business. Know the core cost per finished volume before you set the final selling price. If the volume sales are low for awhile,  you may need to adjust that  selling price over time, but that can go either way, up or down.  So consider adding advertising to your budget,  even management fees if you hire someone to market your book for you. That is what Amazon and others offer.

Perhaps ask friends to review your book before it is printed, to give their input, even editing advice.   The printing company will send you the final computer copy before printing so you can make minor adjustments, if needed.

Both my brothers told me how many volumes they wanted. I added my own count, and added a few more for the total number of volumes I wanted printed. This was a  fairly accurate count, when most were later distributed.  The publisher actually gave me two more volumes than I ordered.  There are probably details here that I never explored that you might find helpful in choosing the final production volume and details. The book was 44 double sided pages in full colour, and the calendar is 16 double sided pages, full colour and higher quality paper.  Both used the 8 1/2 ” x 11 inch size, one portrait and the other in landscape mode. Thirty-two books cost about a thousand dollars,  and 16 calendar just over $400.

Yes, it costs a lot to publish something and distribute it. I consider both projects, the book and calendar,  as heritage gifts to my family and community–to preserve history and memories of our Gillespie/Miller family.  Now each current family member can know the story of our past. Some members have never met others. Now we all get a glimpse of faces and personalities, ages, birthdates, anniversaries, and full family units. Maybe these publications will be passed on to future generations.

3. Reasons & Lessons Learned:

We did not do this to make a profit. Several people offered to pay for their volume, but in the end,  that was not important to me, meaning please enjoy the gift. A copy has gone out to our families and  friends who are still living from that period.  It was fun exchanging a personal history book with some authors I know. I even got a request for a volume from a major historical society, and still have a few more copies for future needs.

I will, however, be far more cautious in future publications and find an easier way if I do another book. Our purpose has been fulfilled. Thank you Wollaston (Coe Hill) Public Library,  who welcomed a copy and has it in their circulation library for  local families in the area to enjoy.

It feels good to leave behind something  personal of our life in that village,   other than words on my Mom’s tombstone. Not gone yet, as each day is welcomed in this journey of life.

Norma at her Mom’s grave in Coe Hill.

4. More Considerations: 

Consider who owns the copyright, the publisher or you?    Not realizing the significance of that, I did not know you can obtain your own ISBN numbers from the government website for free. The publisher was planning to charge me $30  for this, and offered to reduce this cost in our final financial arrangement.  I definitely wanted the ISBN number on the back of the book for later scanning by libraries, etc, wherever the book might be found. ISBN is very important on publications in Canada. I have reserved several numbers on the government copyright website to self publish in the future. Each county has its own rules and system in this regard.

Book cover I wanted green for my Dad’s Irish background on five lines of our family history.  I no longer like the colour red, but our Scottish Gillespie roots are also not forgotten in that background colour palette. Red for Scotland. Colour matters to some of us, as my whole library was colour-coordinated.  No, I wanted  no photo on the cover, but others often do. It’s a nice place to provide a glimpse of the book’s purpose, advertising. Even the spine can have the title across it. Want a glossy look to the cover? Just realize that all of these things cost more.

The title was so simple. It fulfilled its purpose. I never considered another. The most important thing about this publication was that it brought my two brothers and I much closer as siblings. It promoted healing between us and opened up a channel of communication we never had before this publication and remains to this day.

5. Personal memories

I miss those days so much sometimes.  I would  be sent up the  ladder in the barn and on top of the mow. With a hay fork, I grabbed  the arriving loose hay and struggled to shove it around me, stomping on it to tramp it down. I had to keep the sides built up a bit and the top level. On the wagon below, the two men shoved their forks into the pile of hay  on the wagon, as the team of horses rested. Sometimes  as the men lifted together,  they threw that dried grass all over me in fun. I would shake it off,  sputtering and dusty,  and frustrated,  as I tried to keep up, not at all pleased.

The mow grew higher and higher,  as more wagon loads were brought into the barn from the fields. Someone would drive the team,  while another walked along beside it and forked the mounds of long, dried grass up onto the wagon as it paused. Backing the team into the barn to unload again meant a welcome rest for the horses.  No baler back then. No tractor.  They would all come much later.

That barn has fallen down now and those men are gone. The farm sold,  and land broken up.   I can remember the Holstein calves in the horse stalls;  the time that Albert built the machine shed;  and when he installed the first milking machine in the lower cow stable. There was a great big vegetable garden on the way to the house, cause I helped weed it.

I learned to milk a cow by hand as a little girl sitting on a stool. But I got getting punished by a stubborn one,  who slapped her tail against my face and kicked out. Albert put the  metal clamps with a chain  on her back legs to stop that, and took over, while I moved to a gentler animal.  I can almost hear the sounds and smell of that stable in my mind,  as I pen these words.  Each cow had it own place in that long line-up on a long, raised platform. The cows would walk in,  sometimes pushing between others,  to find their spot. I would help tie the metal chains around their necks,  while they enjoyed their grain.

Years later, I worked for a modern dairy with purebred Holsteins in Prince Edward County. It hosted Japanese tours and had top of the line machinery,  printouts on each cow’s performance,  and a completely different milking system. It  was never as enjoyable as the fun I had on this old farm, and growing up in a village where you knew most people.

Many times I walked through our woods and across those fields to get to and from the farm I loved.  I often looked for cow tracks on the ground,  as I hunted for the cattle at night,  to drive them to Albert’s barn. Usually I would  meet him with his border collie, who quickly nipped a heel of a slow poke. That herd  roamed in many directions over our property that Albert rented. The cattle walked one behind each other, and their hooves dug paths in the fields and lanes as they moved over the same ground. Some of those grooves remain today.

Yes, I have loved rural living all my life,  but listen now to a city awakening  in the background. Our memories give us comfort,  sometimes. Takes a lifetime to learn to block the ones that don’t. This book is a testimony of a history that gave me some of my happiest memories in  my life.

Perhaps I will begin to scan more stories from the book for you to enjoy.  The time I drove a team of horses to the field to rake hay, when I was 12 years old. The team walked along quietly until I turned them. Suddenly they would trot off,  trying to hurry back to the barn. My feet didn’t touch the floor boards to brace and stop them.  I would hang on to the reins, and yanked the chord as fast as I could to lift those banging tines to release the hay building up underneath. The horses stopped at the fence, and I gained control again. So glad I was still okay,  as I bounced around quite a bit. Back and forth, up and down the field. No photo back then,  but here is one I found online that looks just like my experience.

One barefoot child is sitting on a hay rake behind two horses. The other child is standing directly behind the hay rake which is in a field.

A year later, I wish now I had prepared a CD  to add in a sleeve on the back cover of each volume.  The book in  different format,  so it can be viewed easily on a computer screen. I wish my brothers and I had read our own chapters out loud on the tape, as many seniors cannot read any more, eyesight failing,  just as mine is.  It would preserve our voice even after we are long gone.  Thoughts to record us live from a Zoom session never occurred to me until now, but my brothers may have balked at that.  Here it is, a simple volume to preserve memories of the past, and how it came to be.

I wish you well in your own publications.  Here are a few others from my collection from the past.

My Mom’s family history I prepared for her sister’s family.

One of three Gillespie volumes of the indexes with microfilm codings including Births and Deaths arranged in three ways, by date, by location and by first names. Handy volumes. Now all transcribed to this website. More records now in public domain,  as a new year of records is released each spring.

It was fun preparing this volume for my girl of family recipes. Both she and I still refer to it occasionally.  It represents volumes of other interests I prepared, besides genealogy.   Below is another

An in depth Biblical study from Adam to Jesus, with multiple time period charts showing listing of family linked people,  events, prophets, world history, ending with notes. Investigating the mystery of the different genealogy accounts from King David to Joseph, earthly father of Jesus. Related archaeology researched. Satisfied my own belief about  these difficulties for a Biblical scholar, but not including them in the notes provided.

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Creating A Memory Garden

I am very nostalgic about the past,  especially relating to my childhood. Recently,  I was discussing some of those happy memories and how the creation of a memory garden is so soothing and comforting. As a gardener, it is delightful to choose a quiet spot, and turn it into a special place to honour those who have meant a lot to me over the years.

I’ve done this before,  when I owned the home farm in Wollaston Township, Hastings County, on the outskirts of the Village of Coe Hill. I wanted some trees planted along the fence across from the front yard, so encouraged an old man, Archie Hannah, who lived with us, to plant one he chose.

Archie was a pioneer, having been raised in an isolated farm miles away on the South Road. Gradually over the years he had moved to town and lived at the opposite end of the village as I was growing up.  But he came to live next door,  when my neighbour, Harold Crosby’s wife died.

I wanted to go to Toronto to take nurse’s training but needed someone to look after some livestock I owned.  Turned out it was perfect timing,  as Archie needed a new home.  He became a Grampa I didn’t have, and was at my wedding, then later kept an eye on my toddler, a little girl who kept falling down as she learned how to walk. Sadly, Archie died in Bancroft Hospital,  age 89 after suffering a stroke. But I have happy memories together,  riding to many horsey events in his old half ton truck, with my Morgan gelding, Banner, in the back. Archie also raised pigs. In the photo, this is George, a purebred Yorkshire boar that we bought together so long ago.

Archie had built some racks for that truck.  Banner was used to standing in there, eating from a hay net tied inside, as he was. My last horse ride with him was in the fall before we moved to Alberta. My eight year old daughter sat on her pony, and I on my bigger horse,   as we quietly rode along together enjoying a country road,   then coming down the lane to the barn.  I never knew we would never do this again. My girl  is now an adult with her own daughter, and I have a tack box of my girl’s  pony saddle and other tack, just waiting for munchin to enjoy, too.

I cannot forget Harold Crosby,  who lived across the road as I was growing up. He and his wife, Gladys, and their daughter, Nola, meant a lot to me. The mother taught me how to knit, as we sat together in their living room. Nola and I loved to open an old trunk in the attic and pull out some ancient dresses and hats. Down the stairs  we would come,  all decked out with long beads of jewelry, even adding a bit of lipstick, our first makeup, which I had to scrub off before going home.

I can remember learning to dance,  as Harold showed me how to waltz around the room. Oh how we kids screamed in fun one Halloween when he wore a white sheet and chased us around outside. Naturally I would never tell anyone how scared I was at first at the shock of this ‘thing’ coming at us, with a banshie yell and wavy arms.  Yes,  Harold has a special tree in our farm’s front yard,  that he planted himself.  Wish I had added a little plaque on a chain with a name on it, one for each person’s tree that they planted. I am the only one that can still identify the trees and the planter.

I passed by the Coe Hill farm not long ago, some 65 or so years after these events,  and was so happy to see those special trees still there. Both men are long dead. But the memories are as fresh as when they first happened.

My last memory garden is a tiny spot between my grave plot and Mom’s tombstone in the Coe Hill Anglican Cemetery.   I just added a fragrant, pink shrub rose for her, Mom’s favourite colour, and some more bulbs,  which will bloom every spring, long after I am gone. I love their yellow/blue combination. I discovered a black mulch made out of rubber this spring, and spread it thickly,  hoping it would last a long time. There is no one to  care for my special place, so each visit get more meaningful now.  I’ve made a few mistakes, like not using Dwarf Alberta Spruce. Even a simple spirea bush I carefully pruned can grow into a large sized plant.

I needed help this time with planting things and scrubbing Mom’s stone to remove the algae growing on it this spring.  Not too happy with the wreath this year, but it, too will soon be gone. and who really cares but me. I do care, a lot. So make your special place the way YOU want it. These tips just give you ideas and alerts from the mistakes I have made.

What about a plaque?  Could be a simple sign hanging by a chain around a tree.  Something more long lasting might be one prepared by a tombstone company. As a genealogist, it is important to me for future visitors, that the basics of a person’s life be preserved, like full name, and dates for birth, marriage and death, and names of children. Maybe you can provide a hint as to the person’s interests in the sign design, just as one does on a tombstone.

Now for more serious gardening tips I have learned over the years. Begin with the location, and pay attention to the soil and moisture–the key things that makes or breaks success in any gardening project. You need sprinkler lines and electrical power lines in tubes installed before planting an area, especially if you want sockets for outdoor  lighting to the garden, or to run a pond pump.  If you forget, there are soaker hoses that can be laid on top, partly hidden by the vegetation, but do you have source of pressure water to use with them?  What if there is no water source at all? Add a lot of compost to help hold moisture in the soil,  if it is naturally sandy.  There is a wide range of soils across Ontario, and across North America.  Your local Agricultural Representative can help you identify your soil type and ways to improve it.

May I suggest you do a plan on paper first, and study it carefully to rule out problems before they become permanent. You can do it on graph paper,  or buy a computer program for gardening that lets you design the whole thing and see it in its full dimension on the screen. That program lets you shift things, choose the plants and see if you like their placing, and even add  accessories, like benches, music speakers, even statues, if you like them as I do.

I tend to get excited,  wanting to get started, so never did this for the cemetery, but used it when planning a garden for others.  Some of us are just more fussy about details than others, and I am a list maker. These are just hints that I found helpful.  Studying the layout may mean looking at below ground factors like:  where is it safe to dig, and should I call in the hydro to check all lines coming into the property?

The other factors are of course above ground,  like the movement of the sun and wind over the area.   Know your Agriculture Zone, so when you choose plants for the ground, you will know which ones are hardy for your area. I loved the gardens at Disney World in Florida, but none of those plants would survive here.   Zones refers to temperatures for different locations in  the layers of coldness at maximum temperature. It is coldest at the North Pole, and gets warmer as one moves south. The zones indicate that. The Coe Hill farm in Ontario, Canada  is in Zone 5, on the border with Zone 4, and has a nice range of plants for that region.

I have lost plants from winter kill because it takes time to understand annuals, bi-annuals and perennials, and their growth. I like growing new plants each year. You may have more than one Zone in your garden around the house. Areas close to the house may be warmer than those further away,  where the air currents can hit them. So if a plant is struggling in one area, try a new location, one slightly different and warmer. Now why didn’t I  think of this sooner?   Of course you can add a greenhouse to protect everything but for most of us, our memory place will be simple, relaxing, and peaceful.

Plants that prefer the shade may wilt a bit when the sun beams down on them all day. Tuck a few trilliums in a shady area to bring nature into your garden. They will spread gradually. Add lots of  other woodsy plants, such as ferns, and bulbs of various kinds.  The sun lovers won’t appreciate being hidden away in dimmer areas. Even shade has various depths, and I  am amazed at the resilience of many plants who beam at us from less perfect conditions.

So like life, taking our circumstances and not letting them dictate our attitude, our mood. One of the most moving books I have read in the memory garden (don’t forget a bench or chair), is a very old one, Hinds Feet In High Places, which is an allegory about a scared individual travelling to the mountains to be healed. The person passes through the Misty Flats, and later shelters from a storm in a cave. The wanderer feels so alone and forgotten, but  sees a tiny flower in the darkness of the cave. The flower said its name is:  Acceptance With Joy.

There can be beauty from the ashes in our life. Not all of life is success,  as we learn far more from our failures. Wood ash contains fertilizer,  produced by the furnace’s heat. All plants need fertilizer,  as their roots deplete the soil each season. What about us? No one reaches the end without having gone through some tough times. Let’s put down deep roots,  hold steady and calm, and smile at the world in thanksgiving for life itself, the beauty around us, and most of all for the Maker, who is revealed in it all.

Listen and feel the wind, its direction and strength, which needs to be filtered for your chosen spot. Trees will do that, especially evergreen ones. Shrubs can be added for their colour leaves and beautiful flowers. I happen to love colour themes in the garden, like purple leaves on Smoke Tree shrub, Ninebark or the smaller ones, which I set in a long triangle across the yard to draw the attention of one’s eye.

A winding path is delightful to some of us, but too slow for others and how you design it helps set that mood. Some want a vista in the distance, while I like a closed- in, private feel to the site. Privacy helps me relax, and think,  and shuts out a noisy world.

Seasons area important to remember, because you will want a variety of shrubs and plants that flower at different times over the summer. The yellow stems of Forsythia announce Spring in late April.                                                           

Heavily scented Lilacs in deep purple or white open in May; Bridlewreath Spirea, with long shoots of white, arch towards the ground in June.

The big blossoms of Hydrangeas begin in July and extend into August, with many varieties adding colour and texture.

I love the tall grasses that leap over my head by fall.  They also move in the breeze, swaying back and forth on a windy day.

Scatter shrubs a bit,  rather than planting in straight rows. I’ve seen a marvellous berm used to create levels of greenery. A berm is a pile of good soil of some substance, both in depth and length and height. I once designed one for a friend in Nevada and added a dry rock waterbed and curved the river out of sight.

Make it real, if you want, but think of winter and how you will drain water without damaging the line. A pond is delightful, but if you include fish, be prepared for the visit by coons and herons, and even creatures one does not want.  You can add some narrow tunnels in which fish can hide,  install water plants which bloom and cover the surface. A netting just below the waterline in the pond helps protect those living below.  I love the gentle sound of moving water, especially as it cascades over rocks and edges in the planting. Feel the moisture in the air after a rainy day or the drifting spray of the waterfall.

Any structure, be it a  solid fence, or band of trees, will affect a current as the wind arrives. It hits the wall, lifts to go up and over, then comes crashing down hard on the other side, all based on the height of that resistance. So,  give some thought how to soften that current, or redirect it. Slats between fence boards do that, as an example.

Remember the five senses when designing and creating your Memory Garden.  A lovely fragrance is important to me, especially with roses. It also means you won’t find skunk cabbage in my garden  Colour affects mood. Hospitals and medical settings use colour on walls to calm people. So pinks, silver, blues and greens are quieting, Dominant reds and strong yellows and oranges stimulate. They are fine around a tennis court, and often are in the back yard where the kids play. Keep the quieter colours in the entrance way, and where you prefer to sit and relax.

Sight,  and how to control where the eye goes in the garden,  is affected by a lot of things, some already mentioned. One can guide a person around a garden through creating openings and then blocking other areas. Each garden room can be different than an earlier one, but the transition between them can also change, or remain the same as a unifying link. Develop mystery in a garden this way, and give a reward at the end of a path, such a sit down place to see something beautiful. Imagine discovering the Memory Garden after a casual walk.  A bench along the path can be your memory garden, or an outdoor room by itself, or just a stop somewhere where you like to rest, like a patio chair.

The Memory Garden will probably be an outdoor room, but it can be several with perhaps a sitting area in the far corner, with a pond at another end with its little water fall. You don’t want to sit too close to moving water unless there is bathroom nearby.  Just the reality of life for the gardener.

Do you want a hedge around it, which can be any height to create a boundary?  I love yew hedges, but there is a danger from its seeds, which are poisonous, as are some other common plants. Keep them out of your memory garden in case a child visits. An old shed makes a lovely garden addition. At a garden show one creator had people walk through the simple shed to get to a special little garden.  Hide mirrors in certain spots to deepen the look of a small space.

You can hide an area with grasses, or create a very formal look with perfectly  lined up plants in a bed in rows of a single colour.  Or the typical English garden with its mosaic of garden perennials in multiple colours.  Each person will have their own sense of what they like, but may not know how to create that look.  Hire a garden professional to help you with that, or simply study or explore in your own gardening work.

What will happen to your special spot when you are gone and no one in the family wants to care for it?  Plan for that, if you can. All trees, all plants have a lifespan, just as we do. So consider that also as you plan and work on your Memory Garden.  It really is for you and your memories, to have a place of peace, tranquility and safety. Should you fence the area, to keep out livestock or rodents, or will you welcome some of them,  like little bunnies,  who hop by?

It takes time for nature to take over your spot dusting it with falling leaves.  Find a gardener to take over your garden when you are gone, if you can. This will help prolong the memories we want to preserve. We see this in cemeteries around the countryside.  Forget any negatives, just embrace this moment, and the pleasure it brings you.  Welcome the birds and butterflies into your garden maybe feeding them, and think of their long journey spring in fall…..they need a rest, too.

I find that too many blended colours upset me a bit, as they jar rather than soothe. So I prefer a quiet, soft palette with not many colours in one place.  I also look at gardening books and  videos in my collection, such as Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island.  A gorgeous, public garden build out of rock quarry. I learned a lot during my visit years ago,  and other landscapes in passing.

What other things bring you peace,  satisfaction,  enjoyment?  My six year old granddaughter collects rocks from the places she visits,  and then paints them at home.  I gather fridge magnets from my travels. What do you have that will remind others of you in your Memory Garden?  You are also important, and what you create will reflect your interests, as well as those you are remembering.

In my travels, I have been delighted to find a little book case at the edge of a street or park, where someone puts in a few volumes for passing travellers. No charge; help yourself, or leave one in return.

What things can we offer others from our Memory  Garden? Apples from a tree: grapes from a vine; fruit from a bush or a bouquet of flowers for someone who need a lift?  Maybe a stop at a garden shed with gift items to sell, books that one writes, all passing through the Memory Garden to slow the person down, and introduce a quiet,  tranquil place.  ‘Smell the roses, sit in an old swing and watch the antics of a chickadee at the water fall. 

What a special place for the favourite things of the person you loved, Should one consider sprinkling the ashes of that person in this Memory Garden, instead of at a local cemetery? Their simple plaque may be all that is left of the person after you are gone.  What about a sign in the garden pointing to the places you loved, or indicating the movement you want people to take through your garden?

Set of 5 1 FREE Tiki Bar Decor Directional Signs Holiday image 1

I used to think about adding a foot path of stepping stones engraved with the names of Gillespies of the past,  or even a pet garden to remember our four-legged friends.  People could buy a stone to have it engraved,  or a tree with a name plate, to extend the memory   of  someone they cared about. Not every person has land in which to do this themselves.

We help each other remember the past, while making a bit of history  ourselves in the meantime.

 

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Understanding Libraries

 

As one walks into any pubic library, it can be a daunting task to figure out where to spend one’s limited time in family history research. A few libraries may have a section dedicated to genealogy and put all their volumes and tapes into that area, but many do not. There are private libraries of course, even genealogy ones, which will prove of great worth, but this is an introduction to understanding the  resources,  and location of family history related subjects.

Although there may be an occasional Gillespie author on various subjects, the author’s subject may not relate to your study.. This is not the time to enjoy the fiction section, which is usually in an area by itself with books arranged by the name of the author.

Time is often a factor regarding free subscriptions that libraries may offer on their computers for  access to big genealogy websites.   During the pandemic,  my local library only allowed half an hour visits in total. So, where might one look to access material to help in one’s ongoing search for information?

History books are listed under the wall plaque number 900, and is in the non fiction area of a library. That area uses a different coding system than in the fiction section. Most books for genealogy will be located here, not all, but a good selection. Others may be in Travel for example, or even Biographies

Hopefully, any births, marriages,  deaths and census records will be in print and indexed, There may be guides in print as  free handouts that will help you skim the library’s collection to see what is available in this location for this type of thing.  Land records, school records, area histories in book form will be of great interest, but smaller public libraries may not have those.  Look for the biggest libraries in an area for your main visit simply because they probably offer more services and content. Many delightful discoveries have been made in simple, rural libraries, so never discount them.

I once spent a week going through very early, Irish parish records  without any index while at the Mormon library in Salt Lake City.  Exhausting,  and my eyes blurred and the effort tired me. I learned a great deal the week I spent in daily visits to this huge building. It had floors for various countries of the world and all the records from there.  Many volunteers help continue the work of copying records to the main Mormon website at www.familysearch.org. The best family history library in the world, in my opinion, and certainly the largest. On their website homepage, use search to bypass the introductory wizard and pull up a world map, with links of all records to those areas.  You can also inter-loan microfilm of records from this Mormon library to their church libraries around the world, but you do not have to be a Mormon to use that service. I have found them very helpful and do not hesitate about entering a Mormon church to go to their library. Times of library hours should be on a website, or sometimes posted on the front door of the church. I am not a Mormon.

Many libraries maintain an online presence, so that you do not always have to visit a library physically to obtain an understanding as to what it’s catalogue contains.  I found many records while visiting the online access to the New York Public Library from my computer. Staff hired in libraries often includes  a technician to maintain the library website.  I have had some excellent conversations with their technicians to learn more about the systems used in that location. Systems also include the cataloguing service, which most patrons never think about.  These have changed over the years and will do so again, with constant upgrades.  If interested staff will explain the current ones being used.

I commend Cobourg Library in Ontario for developing its very own genealogy database,  which saved me hours of work looking through card catalogues. There are still some libraries maintaining records on file cards. I copied most of them in my travels over the years,  all Gillespie ones that is. But they take up so much physical space, they are are being phased out for computer usage.

May I suggest that you first chat with a Librarian as she may give you some directions and suggestions, even bring you books or videos relating to your research.  That saves a lot of time figuring things out in a strange place.  Ask her about the printer and if you need a card, which you may have to buy and add funds  to. Do the copies go behind the staff desk for later pickup?  Cash payments are rare now for printed copies. You can use only black ink printouts to save money.

A few people may bring their own handheld scanner with them, and others may prefer to use a USB stick to save files. I like the records in print, and usually found  it cheaper to print them at the library rather than doing so at home in my office until I got a bigger laser one.  It was only five cents a copy at the Mormon library but would have cost me 25 cents per page at home.  I often find information on those printed pages long after my visit, sometimes years later. So,  I always print out a whole page of information in cemetery records, instead of only the line about a Gillespie contact.

Forget hand copying records unless you have perfect script.  I did that for awhile,  until I later couldn’t read what I had sprawled.  So frustrating, cause even if  you have a copied page, old handwriting is so difficult to interpret. Always identify the source of the information you are copying. Years later you may want to revisit that record,  or someone asks you for it.

If your focus is in looking at microfilm,   the librarian can explain how the volumes in the area are arranged in the drawers, and show you how to operate their microfilm reader, if needed.

Microfilm reader - Stock Image - C018/3674 - Science Photo Library

All the books on shelves are arranged in a specific way, and there is usually a computer available that will pull up the location of any subject, author, even book title you request. Write the number down on a slip of paper, then head to the shelves under the main coding numbers, Then look more closely to the labels on the spine of each volume.  Just as 1, 2, 3 is easy to understand, so is 1.1, 1.2.  1.3 etc is also. There is a numbering order consistent throughout the library. 900, 901, 902 and sub categories for example, and volumes for history will be higher in number, especially in the 970s.

Also remember that there will be a bar code sticker somewhere on each volume, which will sound an alarm if you try to walk out of the library without checking out a book at the staff area. R on the label means reference, and these books remain in the library for viewing.

Many public libraries use the Dewey Decimal System for cataloguing their volumes, to make it easy to add more books without disturbing the others.  This numbering system gives a title for subjects.

  • 000 – Computer science, information and general works
  • 100 – Philosophy and psychology
  • 200 – Religion
  • 300 – Social sciences
  • 400 – Language
  • 500 – Pure Science
  • 600 – Technology
  • 700 – Arts and recreation
  • 800 – Literature
  • 900 – History and geography

Printed maps are normally in a place of their own but near the main tables where people sit to work.  Same with city directories and telephone books, all of which can be helpful.  City directories gave names and residences long before telephones came into being. I have many maps of Gillespie properties yet to be added to this website. Early maps indicated routes that were taken in earlier times, but these trails may no longer exist.  I have walked farms and woods trying to trace one across Western Ontario to Barrie. Remember the waterways played a vital role in early travel. So think of the pleasure paddling these waterways, retracing the steps of those who came before us, even famous explorers.  You will probably find the map of the route in the the library.

If wanting to find the route taken by ancestors, ask a librarian who may have deeper local knowledge that will direct you to the appropriate volume, video  or even web page. I was especially helped in my early beginnings of research when I didn’t really know what was available,  and felt a bit lost in far away libraries.

My local library provided photography training and the equipment needed,  then sent me out filming old buildings, cemeteries and even filming World War II vets. That was a very special time, as those people are now dead. I commend those libraries that are preserving the history in their region. We brought in local people to film who could  expand the story of the early years in our local area and tell their own family history. They also provided old photographs,  with permission to copy them. Hence,  there may be events going on linked to a library that are unknown to you in a strange place, but may prove both fascinating and fulfilling. So another reason to talk with staff.

Historical volumes from the 1800s are wonderful treasures as they often include a history of each county and a listing of every land owner on their lot and concession ID.  These volumes for Ontario are now online for viewing. Maps in print from other countries are worth while viewing as well, and a search engine on your computer should find them for you if they have been published online. Ireland maps are important in this regard if you want to locate your ancestor’s property.

Select  a desk and chair to sit down and begin reading or writing, and take a moment to glance over nearby tables because other people may have finished with a publication that might interest you. I once discovered the earliest records for Ireland this way and would have missed them otherwise.

Preschooler Girl is Picking a Book at The Library. She is a Bookworm.

 

Usually people have learned that there is a section, often a whole floor,  that is dedicated to children and youth.   Remember that children’s books can also have wonderful stories of long ago, thinking of both Ann of Green Gables in Prince Edward Island series and the Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House On the Prairie stories of her pioneering family in the Dakotas.  She lived 1867 to 1957.  Family history is telling a story about the past. We are the story tellers of our generation.

Washrooms are clearly marked, and because of the pandemic some people may still wear masks for protection. Some Canadian libraries have been very helpful in helping people with obtaining vaccination record cards, even laminating mine. I know of a library that has begun an equipment rental service for tools, all in efforts to raise funds to support their work. There are knitted hats, gloves, mitts and scarves to give away for those in need, I love the magazine racks to enjoy at leisure,  which usually has at least one genealogy and history magazines. Tables and comfortable chairs are available to rest and snack times. A television may provide the latest news.

Snacks may be available in vending machines, and some big city libraries offer cafeterias for meals while you are visiting.  But eating is frowned upon in the stacks area, although water bottles are not anymore.

If handling very fragile newspaper or other articles, you may be required to wear cloth white gloves. It is tragic to see pages crumble from age, so these items are usually withdrawn from public view and kept in carefully controlled environmental rooms to help preserve them.  They have been copied before doing that, so that the record is not lost. The best example I had of this was in Dublin at the University Library when I went to see the famous  Book of Kells and there was even a security guard to watch over visitors passing through.

In some situations, you may have to request that staff bring you material that is not available in the open research area. You submit at a service desk a request on a slip of paper to identify it, and wait for it to be delivered to you. You have to be very careful with this material, that nothing is lost or damaged.

Used books and videos are sometimes marked down for sale, if there is limited demand for them. They usually appear on a cart near the entrance, or even outside, with payment by donation, which helps buy new material.

Libraries are changing slowly, trying to stay abreast of current events and society. But controverses are challenging their right even to exist.  I want to thank management and staff of all the libraries I have enjoyed over the years as they have helped me uncover a world of knowledge and solved many mysteries for me.

This website represents the change from a physical place to a digital footprint in space.  There is much to learn about that change, May you enjoy the protection and preservation of records about family history for Gillespies and their families from across the world. We work together to do that, and as another generation disappears, who will stand forth to keep it going?

For a wider exploration of libraries than just genealogy for the layperson, here are some important links of interest.

World Digital Library of Congress

For those wanting to have a career as a Librarian, Library Science degrees are mostly at the graduate level, but several schools offer a Bachelor’s degree. The most common will be a Bachelor of Science in Library Science or Information Science.  A Master’s Degree continues the development of leaders in this profession.
The US offers several online Library Science programs so you can study from home.  These courses are also available in other countries, including Canada , but this is just information presented in a broader approach.  

 

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