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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Empty Nesters

Our six children arrived in a fifteen-year span of time. This year it will be twenty years since the first one left the nest. The last one will be married in July at the age of 27. Some of our friends have been empty nesters for many years and we are about to join their ranks.
Gerald bought a house in January and started moving into it in February. The first couple weeks he was still here about half the time but now is spending more time there than here. He still brings his laundry home and sleeps here once in awhile. And he is quite willing to accept cooked meals and baked things to take with him. His room here has not changed much except that his clothes are gone. His desk and other things will not leave until closer to the wedding when the house is more ready for his bride to join him there.
The house was a one-owner built in the 1940s by a man who died last September at the age of 101. He lived with his son the last eighteen months of his life so the house was empty for nearly two years. Kelly is finishing her degree and will graduate in May so she does not have a lot of time to spend at the house. This month I've been trying to go about once a week to do some serious cleaning. I tackled the kitchen first so it would be fit to eat in there. Now I'm working on the upstairs.
Having Gerald move gradually is making it easier for me to adjust to an "empty nest." I am getting some practice in cooking for two and getting used to not having anyone else around when we get up in the morning. No more talking in whispers because someone is still sleeping.
I felt blessed to be able to have children at home for more than forty years but the inevitable is coming to pass and it's time to let go. It is good to know our children are all able to take care of themselves. But our nest is not really empty. There are still two of us here.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Pot O' Gold

Have an old freezer or refrigerator you want to get rid of? If you live in the area served by First Energy electric utility companies (MetEd, Penelec and Penn Power) you may be able to cash in on those old appliances. They will send someone out to pick up the old appliance for recycling and pay you $50 to boot.
We had an old upright freezer that I had not used for years because I didn't need it anymore and it ices up within a few days. We never got rid of it because it is such a pain to drag it up the steps out of the basement. When I saw the ad in the paper offering to take it off our hands for recycling I knew this was a deal I couldn't refuse.
The guys were just here, hauled it away, and gave me a receipt for a $50 check which will be mailed plus five free light bulbs. That's my little pot of gold on St. Patrick's Day!
You can get more information about the program here

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Can't Win 'Em All

I was still missing two bits of information I wanted for the article I'm writing on the Burkholders for the historical society's publication. Where are Christian Burkholder's son, Daniel, and his daughter, Barbara, buried?
After a long search that twisted and turned in several directions I found some leads. I'll spare you all the details of the chase but eventually I found both Daniel and his sister in Warwick Township, Lancaster County. (They were born in Earl Township which is just a hop and skip away.)
Barbara was born in 1772 and married Christian Weber. Not much is known of their family but I managed to find some documents related to the settlement of their estate in 1844 and 1845. They had a son Christian and daughter Ann, wife of Christian Zug, who lived in Lancaster County and a son Henry in Ohio. If they had other children, these three were their only surviving heirs. I have not found any trace of Christian and Barbara's burial place.
I suspect Christian and Barbara may be buried in the Burkholder cemetery at Lititz where her brother Christian is buried. That little family cemetery was vandalized and nearly destroyed when a development was built around it. Christian Burkholder Jr.'s stone is one few of the stones which remain intact. If Christian and Barbara Weber are there, their stones are long gone. Sigh! Can't win 'em all.
Daniel was born in 1770 and married Elizabeth Hess. In 1811 he was ordained a deacon for the Mennonite churches in Warwick Township. He died in 1856, two years before the Hess Mennonite Church (now owned by a Dunkard Brethren congregation) was built so he obviously could not have been buried there. My search eventually led me to the Hess Family Cemetery which is now within the Pebble Creek development about a mile down the road from the church.
I stopped at the little cemetery on my way to Lancaster on Tuesday and found two field stones clearly marked "Elisabeth Borkholder May 3, 1839" and "Barbara Borkholder 1844." These fit to be Daniel's wife and daughter. He recorded Barbara's death date as Nov. 19, 1844 in the family record in his Martyrs' Mirror.
(The first stone below is Elisabeth's and the second one is Barbara. The white coating is ordinary flour which I rubbed on the stone to make the writing stand out and be readable.)
The stone next to Elisabeth was lying down half buried in the ground and unreadable. I was sure it is Daniel's stone. I determined to go back with some help to turn it over and see what is on the other side.
This morning Leroy wanted to go to Lancaster County for some parts and was willing to help me dig up that stone. After all the rain we had this week the ground was soft and he was easily able to lift the stone with a crowbar and block of wood. He poured water from a jug while I operated the scrubbing brush. No luck! It was another field stone and the bottom was as blank as the top. It appeared the stone had originally been covered with a layer of plaster which has nearly all fallen off taking the writing with it. The writing on Elisabeth and Barbara's stones was etched right on the stone and proved to be more durable than the "nice" coating of plaster. Unless someone can prove otherwise, I am convinced that is Daniel's stone.
I have uncovered a lot of information in my research for this Burkholder article. Some of it changes commonly accepted stories that the documents prove are incorrect. I guess I'll just have to be satisfied with what I could find and leave a few questions for someone else to answer someday. You can't win 'em all.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Trash or Treasure?

I'm sure you've heard the old adage, "One man's trash is another man's treasure." But by what criteria do you decide if your (or someone else's) hoard is trash or treasure?
Yesterday was my volunteer day at the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society. The first job of the day was to help sort a huge pile of "stuff" that had been donated to the society. A certain gentleman (whom I'll refrain from naming) died recently and in preparing for estate sale his family donated his collection to the historical society.
I helped prepare for my mother's estate sale and know how much work is involved in getting ready for sale in a short time. This family did not have time to go through everything but neither did they want to throw away something that might be valuable. They solved their problem by donating the entire collection to the society. They probably walked away feeling they had done a good deed and placed the collection in good hands. The feeling of the staff was a bit different. What they got was not a treasure chest of goodies but a pile of work.
To begin with, the collection had been stored in the attic of a building with holes in the roof. Enter heat, rain, bugs, dirt, and whatever comes through holes in a roof. The papers were wet, dirty, and infested with bugs. The archivist who received the materials surrounded them with plastic and let them set out in the cold a day or two in hopes the bugs would freeze to death. A pair of silverfish can multiply in a hurry and have no respect for ancient paper when they are hungry. Any kind of paper-eating bugs cannot be tolerated in a historical society. They turn treasures into trash in short order.
After a few daty in the "freezer" the deceased gentleman's collection was moved into isolation in the basement. Then the "fun" began. First, the archivist had to determine what kinds of materials were thrown into the boxes. Now they are slowly being cleaned and sorted. I spent all morning cleaning and sorting just one box of "stuff" and there is a stack of about twenty more boxes waiting their turn. Every piece of paper must be wiped and books shaken to dump out bugs and eggs. After a box is cleaned and sorted the archivist will decide what is worth keeping and file it in an acid-free box. THEN it will finally be ready to be preserved in the archives.
When I was about half done cleaning the box I was working on I asked the archivist, "If he thought this stuff was worth keeping, why didn't he take better care of it?" He had no answer. Can you think of one?
In all fairness, there are some little treasures in the pile, but it is a lot of WORK to sort through the trash to find them. What am I trying to say here? If you think your papers are valuable, organize them in some fashion and store them in a safe place. Otherwise they become a pile of trash. Your trash may not be the historical society's treasure.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


We're back! Our week of summer in Nicaragua was a nice break from winter. The trip down on February 21 went smoothly and we arrived in Managua on time. It was snowing when we left home and in the 90s when we arrived in Managua. Joel Heatwole met us at the airport and took us another two hours north to Leon where we stayed for a week.
The four men and two women in our group were split up and lodged in three houses with mission staff. We stayed with Nathan and Angie Miller who are from Nebraska. I think we had the best accommodations with a nice room and our own bathroom. (Age has its benefits!)

Paul and Gloria stayed with Richard and Andrea Burkholder (from PA). Merle and Ed stayed with Delmar Martin (from our church) and Joel Heatwole (from SC) in their bachelor pad. Merle and Ed slept on cots on the front porch (below). That should tell you something about the weather.

The main purpose of the trip was to build a house for an old lady in Leon. A native, Benito, joined the work crew. The five men moved the lady's stuff out of her house and tore it down in less than two hours on Tuesday morning. They left the block wall in place and reused some of the tin for the walls but replaced the rotted wooden corner posts with concrete ones and put on a completely new roof. It was finished on Friday morning. It doesn't look like much but she was crying, hugging, and kissing them and couldn't get done thanking them. She said it is the nicest house she ever had. The old house was full of holes and must have been a sea of mud in rainy season. The floor is still dirt but now she at least has a tight tin roof over her head.

Some of the men also helped another man lay block for his house and the others helped Delmar pull the pump out of his well and fix it.

Gloria and I spent most of our time cooking for the men but we also took the bus twice into the city to go shopping. We hit all the fabric stores and 51 yds. of fabric came home with me. (Gloria had 42 yds.)
After the work was finished Friday (Feb. 25) we were free to do some sightseeing. Delmar took the men to see a huge cathederal and old prison on Friday afternoon while Gloria and I cooked a PA Dutch meal for all the mission workers and some of the natives. We made ham loaf, mashed potatoes, sweet corn, cabbage salad, jello cake, and cherry delight. We used the kitchen of the single girls on the second floor of the apartment next to the church and served the meal in the large room below. Everyone seemed to enjoy the food and the natives asked for plates of the leftovers.
On Saturday Richard and Andrea took us to see a volcano in a national park. We could drive up to the top and look down into the crater. The size of that hole was unbelievable! It has not erupted for a long time but is considered active because it is still smoking. I don't know when it first erupted but the first drawing of it was made in 1529 so it has been active for at least 500 years and probably erupted the first time much earlier. It was impossible to get the whole crater on one picture. The hole where the smoke is coming from is about as deep as the one you see in this picture.

We had supper in a restaurant overlooking a lake. From that point we could see the entire lake, across a strip of land wide enough for a city (plus some) to Lake Nicaragua. At this higher elevation the landscape was greener and this was the most beautiful scenery we had seen. The whole land is lush and green during rainy season but this was dry season so the landscape was brown and very few flowers were blooming where we were staying.

L-R: Ed, Merle, Paul & Gloria, Leroy & Romaine

We went to church with our hosts on Sunday morning but I understood only a few words of the Spanish service. Nathan and Angie invited all of our group to their house for lunch and the afternoon. Around 4 p.m. they took us on a 20-minute drive to the Pacific Ocean to watch the sunset. To me, that was the highlight of the trip. The sand was black instead of white. The sky was not as colorful as sometimes but it was still beautiful. I took oodles of pictures as the sun went down but they do not capture the full beauty of the sunset. It was a lovely end to the week and more spiritual than church that morning.

The trip home on Feb. 28 was a long, drawn-out affair due to teriffic thunderstorms in Atlanta that closed the airport for 45 minutes. We were diverted to New Orleans and sat on the plane waiting for the weather to clear. What was supposed to be a 3 1/2 hour flight from Managua to Atlanta turned into seven hours on that plane. When we finally landed in Atlanta at nearly 10 p.m. we were unable to make our connecting flight to Baltimore. We got vouchers for a motel in Atlanta and fell into bed at 1 a.m. After only four hours of sleep we got up again to get to the airport. Our flight to Baltimore was on time and it was a smooth ride. We had about a three hour drive home from there and finally reached our house about 2:30 p.m. It was the best place I saw on the whole trip!
I'm glad we could go and the memories will last as long as I do. But I am more glad to be back home and ready to settle into my own familiar rut. I went to bed at 7 last night and was not disturbed at 4 by the crowing of roosters. (I would cheerfully have wrung a few necks down there if I could have reached the crazy critters.) It was 26 this morning and we did not need a fan last night. The highs will be in the 40s today instead of the 90s but the crocus are blooming and spring is on the way.