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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Good News

The most FAQ I'm asked is , "Are you writing another book?" I try to avoid a direct answer until the book is near completion because people expect to see it long before it is on the market. Today, I am finally ready to admit I've been writing another book.
I started researching a story nearly two years ago. I wrote a couple chapters late in the spring of 2009 but paused for summer. I dug into writing in earnest in the fall of 2009, paused again for the summer of 2010 and finished it in October. I had three options for publishing and there were pros and cons with each one. It was not easy to make the decision. After praying and consulting several other people, I decided to submit it to Christian Light Publications which has published four of my previous books.
Yesterday I was notified that the manuscript has been approved for publication and I will be receiving a contract in the mail in about a week. Then the work begins to turn the manuscript into a book. Based on past experience, I am not expecting it to happen in six weeks but hoping it will be released sometime in 2011.
As soon as I admit I am writing a book the next two FAQ are, "What is it about?" and "What is the title?" This one is a true story about a Stauffer boy who ran away and joined the army during the Civil War. Unless we change it (which has happened before) the title is Aaron's Civil War.
Having a manuscript accepted for publication is a satisfying feeling but it is also sort of a let-down because the fun is over. By the time a new book is published it's history for me and I need another story for the next fix.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Ghost of Christmas

Christmas is almost over. I still have to clean up the basement from Saturday. Once that is finished I will consider Christmas 2010 is history. We made a lot of good memories again this year. We do give gifts to each of our children and grandchildren but maintain the one-gift policy we have always had. I don't think they would be any happier with six or more gifts than they are with one.
I had a lot of fun buying and filling purses for the seven-year-old girls, Kayla and Lauren. There was no doubt Kayla appreciated her purse. She carried it around all day. Later in the afternoon I heard her tell someone, "There's only two things missing, a credit card and a cell phone."

It is a blessing to have a family that can get together, have a good time without any arguments taking place during the day (even if there are differences in opinion), and all go home happy. As we were eating dinner I looked at all the faces around the table and said to Leroy, "It is so good to have all of them under our roof at the same time, but I sure am glad I don't have to feed all of them every day!" To see all of your children have become responsible adults, able to take care of themselves and the next generation, is one of the best old age benefits. And now I shall go in the basement and savor the memories while I deal with the ghost of Christmas past.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ancestor Tracking

Hunters are sometimes in dangerous positions when they are tracking game. Tracking ancestors is a time-consuming sport but I never thought of it as anything dangerous. Until Sunday.
In the process of trying to track down some unrecorded deeds, we went to a farm at Bowmansville. I did not know who the current owner of the farm is but knew it is the place Ulrich Burkholder purchased from Hans Musselman in 1764. The previous owner had all the deeds descending from Ulrich. I hoped the current owner would be able to tell me what happened to those deeds when the previous owner died in 2002.
As I feared, the owner, Karl Martin, told me the old deeds were sold on public sale. What a shame! I was a couple years too late. Karl had a few deeds he purchased at the sale but the oldest ones were not among them. He graciously called several people he thought might have an idea who bought the oldest deeds. We were told that one one Karl's neighbors had bought them. Karl called him and then handed the phone to me to tell him what I'm trying to find.
Before I finished my story the neighbor said, "Oh yes. I have them here somewhere but I mislaid them."
I jokingly said, "Well, shall I come look for them?"
He said, "Sure. Come on up. I'll put my vicious dog away and meet you at the end of the lane."
As it was now dark, two of Karl's boys went with us to show us the way. We followed the man in his long dirt lane and into his house.
I explained again what I wanted and he repeated that he has them but doesn't know where they are at the moment. His wife took my name and phone number so she can let me know if and when they find the deeds. Our host launched into a long discourse about various subjects without connecting the dots. The longer he talked the less I believed anything he said. He seemed to have a distaste for Mennonites. I was getting nervous and wondering how we are going to get out of there graciously. All of a sudden he stuck out his hand, said good by, and dismissed us. I was ready to go!
We took the Martin boys home and went in the house to give Karl a report on the visit. THEN we learned this neighbor is an eccentric guy who lives almost like a hermit on that hill. He does not trust anyone. Going up there without an invitation is running the risk of being shot, especially at night.
Although I didn't bag any game on my tracking adventure, I did escape without being harmed. Given the attitude the man has toward Mennonites, I'm not expecting a call from him. I suspect he wanted to see who I was before he remembers where the deeds are and he won't be looking too hard just to satisfy the curiosity of a ancestor tracking Mennonite. I hope next time I think twice before I make jokes about search and rescue missions. But wow! What an adventure!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Card

I sent out photo cards this year. For all my cyber friends who didn't get on by snail nail or email, here is yours.
Left side--Dale and Tawnya with their six children, Marcus (16) Austin (15) Dallas (13) Chenelle (12) Kayla (7) Justin (5)
Center left--Gene & Amy, Center back--Gerald Center front--Leroy & Romaine
Center right--Daryl & Velma, Right side--Richard & Cheryl Miller with their three children, Jeremy (17) Josh (15) Arianna (11)

The photo was taken at the springhouse on the Conrad Weiser Homestead about four miles from our house. If you don't know who Conrad Weiser was, click here and learn.

Then click on the Virtual Tour link on the sidebar and take a tour of the buildings on the Homestead.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Roses in December

Yesterday I finished my 63rd lap around the sun. No wonder I'm puffing to keep going! There have been some speed bumps along the way but in comparison to some people I've had a smooth ride. I have already lived longer than my father did and if I go beyond 66 I will outlive my mother too.
I spent the day in one of my favorite places---the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society. It just happened to be my regular day to volunteer. I've never had a dull day there yet. One of the interesting events in the day was the donation of a Friendship quilt from the 1850s. It was all white with names and dates on the blocks. It was in very good condition and had been handed down through several generations of the family.
When Leroy came home he brought a dozen red roses. He forgot he gave me a dozen white roses for Valentine's day and said that will do for every event in the year. That's the advantage of having an older husband! I'll take another dozen. He can never go wrong with roses, especially roses in December!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Swiss Letter

I touched a piece of Switzerland yesterday!
My Burkholder ancestors immigrated to Pennsylvania in 1754. They were with a group of other Mennonites immigrating from the Jura Mountain area of Switzerland. Some of the group did not have the funds to pay their passage so they were loaned the money from the Poor Fund of the church in Switzerland. The letter listed the names of those who received aid and the amount they were given. It stipulated that the money was to repaid to the Poor Fund so it could be used as intended to aid poor members in Switzerland. The letter was addressed to the church leaders in Pennsylvania. An identical copy was made and kept in Switzerland. The letter and funds were entrusted to Ulrich Engel, the leader of the group of immigrants.
The poor immigrants who had received aid settled in Brecknock and Cumru Townships, adjoining townships in Lancaster and Berks counties. (The county line runs through Brecknock Township.) They worshipped with three congregations known as the Muddy Creek district. None of them had a meetinghouse at that time so all worship services were held in homes or in Christian Good's mill. In time, all three congregations built meetinghouses known today as Bowmansville, Gehmans, and Allegheny.
The deacons of the Muddy Creek district administered their own Poor Fund and kept account books (beginning in 1744) of the benevolence funds. The records include repayment of passage loans and assistance to pay them as well as records of other needy people who received aid for various reasons. The records were written in homemade books made of sheets of paper stitched together with thread and folded to form a small book.
The 1754 letter from Switzerland and the deacons' Account Books were passed from deacon to deacon of the Bowmansville church for about 200 years until someone finally realized they should be preserved at the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society.
Yesterday I opened the box that contains these valuable pieces of history and saw the original letter and record books. I actually touched something that came across the ocean on the ship with my ancestors! To prove I kid you not, here is the first page of the letter, written in German in Switzerland in 1754.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


I came across Leonard Cohn's Anthem this morning. I'm not very good at abstract thinking so I've have been mulling over the lines, trying to figure out exactly what he is saying. Here are some excerpts:

The birds they sang at the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don't dwell on what has passed away
or what is yet to be. . .
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

I think what he's saying is that we live in an imperfect world and cannot expect a perfect life. But the imperfections and flaws in life are beneficial. There are lessons to be learned from
*the sadness that comes from disappointment
*the agony of defeat
*the solitude of isolation and loneliness
*the grief of death

There is a perfect world but we have to leave this one before we can enter into it. Meanwhile, I hope the cracks in your world bring light into your life.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Cyber Monday

Did you ever hear of Cyber Monday? I just learned about it this week.
I felt rather smug about my hassle-free online Black Friday purchase of a GPS. It was ordered on Friday and delivered on Monday. THEN I heard about Cyber Monday on the news. I did a little research and found out it is something that started about five years ago. Cyber Monday is for online shopping what Black Friday is for shopping in stores. Special deals are offered on Cyber Monday just like stores offer Black Friday deals.
Naturally, my next move was to go to the website where I had ordered the GPS and check if they were offering a Cyber Monday deal on the model of GPS I had just purchased. You guessed it! I could have gotten it for $7 less if I had waited until Monday to place the order. I paid seven bucks for a lesson in online shopping. In the future, if I want to make an online purchase for a Christmas gift I will wait until Cyber Monday.
My pain eased a bit last evening during a stop at a WalMart. Out of curiosity, we looked at their GPS prices. The model we bought online would have cost $70 more at WalMart. I guess I didn't lose too badly after all.