Monday, August 24, 2009

Poison Ivy

As a child, poison ivy was out to get me. I was sure of it. Just the thought of uncontrollable itching, greenish white berries, or the dreaded clusters of three shiny green leaves was enough to terrify me. It was my worst fear -- more scary than spiders, a dark room, death, dogs... or clowns.

I tried to be the tough girl, so my fear stayed a big secret for a long time. I wanted to be stronger, faster, and braver than everyone else. No big sister, big sister's friend, or neighborhood boy was going to have anything on me. My pride went deep, and it caused me to do things I might not have done otherwise. I climbed trees (only one boy could go higher), touched a lot of garter snakes (my sister wouldn't go near them), and rode my bike faster and further.

If I was afraid of something, I didn't want anyone to know. Poison ivy was like that for me. My fear was so great that even the mention of the plant caused me to tremble. This next story shows that staying out of the woods didn't help me much either.

I was excited to start my new 4th grade school books. One book was my Nature Reader put out by Christian Liberty Press. I enjoyed reading books with Mom and eagerly pulled out the small red volume -- until I saw the beginning chapter. Our first lesson was on poison ivy!

Suddenly, I didn't want to read anymore. I stalled, pleaded, and begged. Despite my best efforts, my dutiful, homeschooling mother finally got her way. I can vividly recall sitting on the couch with her while overcome by secret terrors. Poor Mom, she had no clue why I was so reluctant to do my school. I held the book gingerly as though the poison would seep through the pages and cause my hands to itch just from reading about the plant. I had to read the words poison ivy -- out loud --and more than once. Could I make it? My skin crawled at the thought.

Somehow, I got through the four short pages, but I was so hot and nervous I couldn't comprehend what I was reading. To make the itching sensation worse, there were questions at the end. I had to discuss poison ivy? The first question was, "How will you know poison ivy when you see it?"

I couldn't answer the question. My mind was too full of fear to remember anything in the chapter, and I couldn't force myself to voluntarily say poison ivy. Mom made me go back and find the answers from the chapter, so I had to read most of it all over again. The root of my fear can be summed up by some of the descriptions in the book.

"Poison ivy grows in thickets along the edge of the woods or roads. It usually grows like a shrub, from one to two feet in height. Sometimes it grows like a vine, clinging to a fence-post or to the trunk of a tree by means of little rootlets."

You mean it doesn't look the same everywhere? How will I recognize it?

"In early fall the leaves turn red and yellow, and are so beautiful that people may stop to pick them, not knowing that they are poisonous."

Oh no! I like to collect fall leaves!

"Wherever the leaves, stems, or berries touch a person's skin, tiny pimples form and become very sore. They itch badly, and, if the skin is irritated, the poison spreads."

Worse and worse. It spreads? I am itching already!

"Some persons suffer from the plant, even if they do not touch it."

How can I stay away from it then? It will get me anyway! It will sneak up and grab me! What about when I am at my friend's house? I think she has poison ivy in her back yard, but where? How far away do I need to be? It will catch me if I even get close!

"There are several remedies for ivy poisoning. A simple one is to apply a lotion of one part of fluid extract of grindelia in ten parts of water. This will stop the itching and soothe the pain. Sugar of lead is another remedy but this must be used very carefully to avoid lead poisoning, which would be worse than the ivy poisoning."

Grindelia? That is no help. I have no idea what that is, but I don't think we have any. And sugar of lead? How is that different from pencil lead? Poison ivy must make you miserable if people risk lead poisoning over it.

So it went. The Nature Reader played with my fears and made them even worse. On the other hand, it gave me much needed information about the plant I wanted to avoid at all costs. Later, safe from people's notice, I got my school book out and read the chapter again. I wanted to be prepared. Know your enemy!

I have never had poison ivy for real -- for which I am grateful -- but I wonder, how exaggerated were my fears? How bad is it? Does anyone have a poison ivy story? I have many more -- for someone who has never had a physical reaction to the plant!

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Reality

I wrote this post more than a year ago on July 22, 2008. I was going through a lot of emotional uncertainty at the time, and I stayed up late one night to write the following. Somehow, I never posted it. Perhaps it was too personal. Whatever the reason, I found it this week while looking through my blog archives and it encouraged me. Here goes...

Slumps and Rises. Contentment and bliss. Things change so quickly sometimes, and my emotional state can go from up in the clouds to quite a bit below them. I don’t think I am ever without joy. I have Jesus and He is more than enough. My family loves me and provides a closely knit circle of friends, and I know that no matter what, God has a great plan for my life.

I have never known overwhelming despair or sadness. I only have moments when I know all is not well in the world. This usually has to do with members of my extended family that are unbelievers (I want all of my loved ones to know the Lord and be with me in heaven someday) or when I consider my country and the messed up politics and amorality of my nation. Then there are the big questions about what comes next in my own life. It is hard not knowing how everything will work out.

My own little bubble of a life is mostly smooth sailing. Don’t get me wrong; I have troubles and trails. My character needs to conform to the fruit of the Spirit, and situations in my life perplex and confuse me at times. Discouragement threatens, but does not destroy, my joy. The weight of decisions and responsibly make me wish I had a clear road ahead of me where I can see everything in my future… I also wish I had the patience to deal with the reality of a foggy road full of sharp turns.

Ultimately, I know I have the best Guide around. When I look at the big picture of my life, I know I am truly blessed.

God loves every one of His children, and that love wraps around me like a big handmade quilt. The Bible tells me that He is my Provider, Father, and Friend. He is also my Master and Lord, and this gives my life purpose. He is my Purpose. When I have a bad day, a hope falters, or plans are thrown out and reworked, I know that Jesus is right beside me as the Holy Spirit guides me past my disappointment or exhaustion (mental, emotional, or otherwise) into a bright future that is beautifully orchestrated for my good.

For I know the plans I have for you,
declares the Lord,
plans for welfare and not for evil,
to give you a future and a hope.

(Jeremiah 29:11)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Trip Log -- Day 14

Day 14 had one purpose: to get home. We drove across Arkansas and into my home state of Oklahoma. The terrain gradually became more familiar -- more homelike. I was glad to see Oklahoma was still green. The temperatures had been above 100 degrees for much of the time we were gone, but it was not bad when we returned.

Home! Dad had been counting down the hours, and it was so good to see him again. Reunited at last!

None of us took any pictures that last day. We didn't need or want any. Between my brother, mom, and me, the Moore family has thousands of images from this one vacation alone. Enough is enough!

Our schedules were almost back to normal the next day. Suitcases were emptied and put away. Clothes were washed and hung up. I went back to work at the library. I spent time with my friend. My math book was uncovered and prepared for my Tuesday call with my CollegePlus! coach.

Vacations are nice, but I am glad to be home.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Trip Log -- Day 13

We had a head start on Saturday morning when we woke up in Morristown, Tennessee -- 58 miles closer to home than we had planned. This worked out perfectly. Our main goal at this point in the trip was to get home, but we were more than willing to plan a few extra stops if we had the time.
We had the time, and I had a certain destination in mind -- Andrew Jackson's Hermitage in Nashville, TN. We were going through Nashville anyway, and it was our opportunity to visit another president's home. I visited the homes of the first six presidents -- could I add the seventh to my list?

1. We visited George Washington's home in 2008 -- near my aunt's home.
2. John Adams' home was a homeschool field trip when I lived in MA.
3. We visited Thomas Jefferson's home on the way home last year.
4. James Madison's home was the day before.
5. We toured James Monroe's home after Monticello last year.
6. John Quincy Adams' home -- same trip as the 2nd.

Well, we got to go. I had no mental picture in mind when we went to The Hermitage. Unlike some of the other presidents, I have no great admiration for Andrew Jackson. I do approve of some of his policies. He is the only president to pay off the national debt and he opposed the national bank. On the other hand, he is responsible for the removal of the Indians and the Trail of Tears. Also, he wanted to do away with the electoral college. He is a difficult man to like (from my limited historical perspective). He married his wife before her previous marriage was ended, and (unlike the Virginia presidents) was a harsh slave owner.

Touring his home and grounds was a unique opportunity to get to know the president better. The home is in wonderful condition. The carpets, wallpaper, furnishings, books, paintings, etc. are original. In many ways, it was as though the Jackson family was away for the day, and we were given the privilege to see inside. The portable audio tour was a big hit with me, so we spent a couple hours wandering the grounds with earphones on our heads.

We drove several more hours that afternoon and evening. Our goal was to spend the night in Memphis and have a good meal. My dad told us over the phone that Memphis is known for its barbecue, so we used our GPS to help us find a restaurant. But how were we to find a good place? The GPS doesn't know good BBQ from bad BBQ!

We randomly picked one from the list. The directions landed us in a neighborhood we weren't comfortable with and next to a "place of entertainment" we were definitely not comfortable with, so we decided to leave and randomly pick a new place.

I know you can't choose a restaurant by its name, but that is all we had to go on. Some said "So-and-So's Delicious BBQ" or "Someone Else's Best BBQ" or Third Place's Memphis' Favorite BBQ." We decided not to try a restaurant that had to tell us they were the best. We wanted the actual best. So, we randomly chose Neely's Bar-B-Que.

The decision had been made, and we were on our way when Susanna realized that there is this family on the Food Network named the Neelys, and aren't they from Memphis? Don't they do BBQ? I didn't have a clue. I knew who she was talking about, but I don't watch their show, and I didn't have a clue where they were from.

We arrived. It looked like a normal BBQ place -- which means it doesn't look like too much on the outside. We went inside. We could hardly believe it when we saw the posters inside for the show Down Home with the Neelys. Their baby pictures were in the lobby, and the dining room was full of photos of the Neelys with other Food Network stars.

The food was good too. It is sweeter than our favorite BBQ places in Oklahoma, but it was delicious. My only regret is that I wasn't hungrier. I shared a plate with my mom, and it looked like we barely touched it! I had some of the leftovers for breakfast, so at least I was able to spread mine out over two days.

Our hotel was over the Arkansas border in West Memphis. It was our cheapest night of the trip, and there was good reason for the "great deal," but we were happy knowing we would see Dad the next day and have our own beds to sleep in.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Trip Log -- Day 12

We woke up on Friday, July 17, full of anticipation. The hotel was the nicest of all the hotels we stayed in, and we were about to visit the home of James Madison -- our 4th President and Father of the Constitution. We arrived early and in time for the first showing of a short film about the Madison family and home. After the movie, we were off to see the house!

Montpelier has changed ownership many times since Dolley Madison was forced to sell the home after the death of her husband. Much to my surprise, the restoration of the home dates to this century. After much research and labor, the home is architecturally the same as when James and his wife Dolley lived there, but the inside is still a work in progress. I enjoyed experiencing history through the tour guide, grounds, audio tours, and cemetery. It was even a drizzling wet morning while we viewed the Madison family graves -- we could just imagine we were in a "typical movie funeral." Here are a few pictures... James Madison's home was not the only thing I was excited about. It was the fact that I was about to go on a dream-come-true genealogy trip to the Orange County Courthouse in Orange, Orange, Virginia. If I had to choose ONE place in the United States to go on a genealogy excursion, it would be to Orange, Virginia. I practically stumbled onto it! With my family's blessing, I made my plans the night before using my genealogy computer program and family websites.

My ancestor, Benjamin Head, owned land in Orange county, Virginia in the 1700's and was probably in the local militia during the Revolutionary War. His son and daughter-in-law (more of my ancestors) were married in Orange County. I have decades of family history wrapped up in Orange county, and blessedly, much of the research was spelled out in an easy to replicate list prepared by a distant relative who doesn't even know I exist! I made a hasty list Thursday night of the eight or so records that were my top priority and hoped to get at least a few of them.

We drove the short drive back to Orange to visit the courthouse after we were done at Montpelier. Mom and David decided to stay in the car, but Susanna came in with me to help.

I love genealogy, and my job involves helping others do their genealogy, but I have never been inside a courthouse to locate genealogy records. My family doesn't have ancestral roots in Oklahoma, and we don't travel much. Can you feel how excited I was to be in ORANGE, VIRGINIA? I must be excited, because I don't write in capital letters!

We went inside the courthouse. I had my camera and list in hand, a bundle of excited/nervous energy, and my supportive sister to keep me calm and help out. We went to the clerk's office. She was out, but someone else from her office let us into the Archives. I could spend pages describing the room and my experience -- the books, tables, lighting, staff, other researchers... I will spare you the details.

It was almost too easy to find my #1 record, the marriage record for John Head and Nancy Sanford (married November 26, 1787). But how was I to get a copy? My first thought was to photocopy the record, and it didn't occur to me until the original was in my hand (behind a protective layer of archival-something-or-other) that photocopies may not be allowed.

I asked for help. A staff member told me my suspicions were correct: no photocopying. I asked about photography. She hesitated and said they don't usually allow that. I felt a sinking feeling inside me. Could it be that I would see the record, hold the record, and have nothing to take away with me? I asked about microfilm. Yes, it was on microfilm, but the machine was broken. "When will it be fixed?" I asked.

"It won't be." she answered. "It is not in our budget."

What to do? I asked again about photography. She had been way too vague for me to consider that a lost cause. I assured her that I would not use the flash. Sure enough, she answered that while they don't normally like photography, she would let me use my camera.

Yes! I began photographing the marriage records. When that was done I went in search of the inventory of Benjamin Head's belongings written in 1803 at the time of his death. It was found quickly and conquered (photographed). Next on my list were Benjamin Head's land records. I couldn't get them all, but I photographed several of them. Susanna's help was indispensable, and we found more records than I had hoped to locate in a short afternoon.

As it turned out, there was a misunderstanding about the number of photos I could take, so I was asked to stop before my list was finished. I feel blessed I got any at all. It was my understanding that I could take as many pictures as I needed (without the flash of course). It was the county clerk's understanding (once she came back from lunch) that I had permission for the one marriage record and nothing more. Oh well, they let me take my camera with all the pictures, and we left town (stopping for pizza on the way out).

What a day! We drove a good distance and spent the night in Tennessee. I will not include all the photographed records here, but here is a couple.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Trip Log -- Day 11

I have been home for almost a month now. We had a great time on our vacation. It was a blessing in so many ways -- to reconnect with family, share in the joy of a wedding, sight see, take genealogy excursions... Wow. A trip like that doesn't happen all the time.

Real life hit hard when I got back. School, work, and other responsibilities have all demanded my attention. There are many friends I have not reconnected with yet, and I still feel like I am catching up and getting back into the flow of things. I will be writing a few posts in the near future about my current events (Lord willing), but in the mean time, I want to finish this series about my trip.

So, without any more introduction, Day 11 of my family trip: Williamsburg Part 2...It has always been my desire to explore a hedge maze or labyrinth. I don't even remember when I learned of them, but they have fascinated me for years. I have been in an Oklahoma corn maze once, but a lush, green, English style maze? Never. Imagine my excitement when I learned Williamsburg has one! Finally, my chance to be in a maze! Here I am in the maze having a marvelous time! A dream come true!We had the Key to the Palace pass which allowed two days in Williamsburg and gave us entry to the governor's palace. The grandeur was amazing -- at least for its surroundings. I took many more desk photos as well as pictures of the musical instruments in the ball room. They have an organ, pianoforte, and a harpsichord. I bought the CD, Keys of the Palace performed by Michael Monaco, so I can hear what the palace instruments sound like.

My feet were thoroughly worn out when we walked [stumbled, limped, faltered] to the car. We were so happy! We had visited Williamsburg! And spent two days there! I was blessed beyond belief. Our day was not complete, however, and we enjoyed the approximately 125 mile drive to Orange, Virginia that night. Our goal was to visit James Madison's Montpelier in the morning.

I am not completely up on my Virginia geography. Our trip (and the time leading up to it) was busy, so I did as much research for the trip as was absolutely necessary. Extra stuff? Impossible. We were being spontaneous hotel planners too, so all I knew was that we needed a hotel near Montpelier. I knew the town of Orange was in the same county (Orange county), but I didn't know Orange was the closest thing to the Madison's hometown. Why is this important? Read my next post.