Leave No Trail Behind

I was trying to sort out a two-word anagram while in half-sleep Sunday morning. Bouncing off the hollow space within my brain, two young girls ran about in their circa 1950’s church-best clothing. Full shirts, petticoats, ankle socks and patent leather shoes, small straw hats topped hair that curled to their shoulders. The anagram was floating away while the two girls pushed me forward and out of my dream. The imps reminded me of two dolls I’d played with as a child, one was the good girl, the other was the bitch.

In my slumber, I tried to arise from bed and find paper and pen to write out the two words. I’d figured out the spelling of the anagram and the solution. Of course, by the time I actually awoke the words were gone, along with the girls. The answer haunted me all day.

For three years I’ve been working my way through my husband’s family tree. His genealogy is extensive. While still a child, he’d been brought up on an oral tradition of stories and history passed along by his grandparents and the elders of his large family. His family roots were planted long before the extensive research available on the internet. When I started an Ancestory.com membership and began work on his family, those stories, did in fact, point to the very places in his family’s oral traditions. They had kept the stories alive for more than four centuries. Geneology is my addiction. I’m heavily invested in all types of research. Once uncovered, facts are to proven. Additional research, outside of Ancestory.com is opened, with scribbled penmanship, notebooks, outlines, beginnings, endings and do-overs. Researched notables and historic side adventures diagramed.

I time-traveled early 3,000 years into the past and wondered what did these people talk about, dream about, wonder over. Did they even think they would leave a legacy that centuries into the future hundreds, thousands, of their descendants would be curious about? Did they know they were creating historical moments in time?  Were they capable of knowing there would be such a thing in the future as the study of  their history?

The past has become more important to me than the present. My husband’s past is my present. My past only extends to my grandparents. They left no photographs, no notes, no names. With extensive research I’ve only managed to uncover the names of the towns they were born in and their birth dates. They’re from Eastern Europe, ravaged by wars, small villages, records lost or not yet uncovered and posted online. I have an emotional connection to their past but I can’t access it. Although I’ve tried to find it. It remains illusive. I long to know these long gone people who can’t possibly connect with me. In knowing their past I  find comfort from my lack of acceptance with my own present.

In real life, my past was closed down, pulled from me, taken away, or unattainable. My life, as that of my own family genealogy, mirrors a life of no trail left behind. Less than ten photographs of me exist prior to me by the age of fifty. I remember each one, even those not in my possession. I don’t even appear in my high school year book. Since then there are a few photos of my back, a couple of carefully crafted telephoto shots, some highly Photoshopped pics, and a couple of professional engagment photographs.

I have no problem with the difficulty the two dream girls faced attempting to pull me into the present. It’s been several years since I lived in the present. The past couple of years I’ve fallen even deeper into the past, distancing myself from any possibility of leaving a legacy of accomplishment in anything.

Unlike the genealogical deep roots of my husband’s family tree, my family planted seeds of maladjustment that rooted firm and unshakable. Two years ago I set my goal to give one last shot at hitting my life’s target goals. When the deadline passed a year ago, I wavered and let myself ride through it – knowing nothing was going to develop. Midway through last year I started this blog.  I found a way to use a small bit of my old talents, brush off my rusty skills, and push on. When the past year ended, after thirteen years, I closed my business website and its Facebook page. I’d finally accepted that a family clash a few years ago, that ended my  photography business and its income, had  also ended any hope for a future as a photographer.

My legacy is to always lose what I’ve worked towards. There has always been someone stronger, wealthier, more popular, or connected, to shut me out, down, steal, lie, or ignore my contributions. I’m terrified of being noticed, acknowledged, having nothing to say. I’ve become an empty vessel,  a waif unto myself.  I’m further down the trail by learning how to cover my tracks. No one will know I passed this way. I will leave no trail behind. I will move silently among the stream of internet transfer information and only that trail could show I actually existed. It will be rare indeed that anyone will ever seek it out and follow it back to it’s source.

Daily Prompt: Don’t you Forget About Me

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Operation Migration – Whooping Cranes – Update: Florida arrival completed.

The flight started over three months ago approximately 25 miles northeast of my house. Eight five-month old Whooping Crane Chicks took their first flight away from their secure home pen and started a long, slow, flight to Florida.

Missed the live transmission?  Check out earlier flights via YouTube. OM will probably post a video of today’s last flight in a few days, so please check back on YouTube.

If you’re interesting in learning more about Operation Migration and keeping current with news on this year’s eight chicks, check out OM’s often humorous, daily blog journal, In the Field.

The final portion of the flight of eight endangered Whooping Crane chicks raised in Green Lake County, Wisconsin this summer, and trained to fly following a UltraLite, (personal aircraft) has been safely completed. UltraLites, piloted by costumed handlers, serve as surrogate parents to teach the endangered birds their migration route. Destined for a backup to the natural (remaining wild born) Whooping Crane flock which migrate between Canada and the Texas coast, the UL trained birds wintering in Florida, will  return north next spring without human intervention. Once taught the migration route it remains imprinted for life.

Now in Florida, the cameras are off. The two live video feeds are:

http://www.ustream.tv/flyingcranes

Live and awaiting the birds arrival at the St. Marks, Fl wintering pen site. This feed will be down until training begins again with new chicks next summer in Wisconsin.

http://www.ustream.tv/migratingcranes

If you missed today’s  live transmission check back at this link. The camera feed could be working at St. Marks, Florida while the birds are adjusting to their new home. Next summer it will again be transmitting 24/7 at the Wisconsin pen site.

For more information on the Whooping Crane, one of ten rarest North American birds, please visit these sites:

https://www.savingcranes.org/

http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/

http://www.operationmigration.org/

http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/lands/wildlifeareas/whiteriver.html

http://www.fws.gov/refuge/st_marks/

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OMG – I’m officially a senior citizen or Live long enough this happens

My mentor!

It took less than thirty seconds to realize I was now a senior citizen. Not that I didn’t already know that my birthday had put me into that category. Renewing my driver’s license this August and looking at my new seven-year mug shot firmly drove that home.

Each visit to my doctor’s office requires the explanation that I’m not paying my bill with Medicare part D. My husband’s younger than me by several years, still working, and I’m covered by his employer’s medical insurance plan. The law states they can’t throw me out of their coverage because of age. One added benefit of having married a younger man. I’m more Miss Kitty at 100 than cougar.

Last summer I reunited with a Ohio cousin I hadn’t seen since I was eleven. We met at the house of a third cousin who hadn’t seen the Ohio one since she five or so. Our paternal grandmothers’ were very close sisters, but the families drifted apart sometime after my grandfather died in 1956. That would have been shortly after the three families had last visited.

While looking through the old photo’s we had each brought, stories exchanges, genetic similarities, and attempts to trace our ancestors, my long lost Ohio cousin looked at me and said I resembled my mother. That was the aching proof that my youth was gone forever. For the majority of my life, I’d resembled my father. Until he’d reached his late sixties, my father was tall, lean and physically fit with a youthful face younger than his years. When he did age, it seemed to happen overnight.

My mother already appeared to be old by the age of thirty. I only remember her laughing once during her lifetime and there are no photos of her smiling. Until now, the only part of me I inherited from her was her over-sized, Belgian-French nose, which is a direct genetic link to my material grandfather. I’ve since been told by distant cousins that the ‘nose’ did appear in other branches of the family, but in mine it only landed, like a piece of Mount Rushmore, in the middle of my face.

I grew up with dad’s sorta roundish baby face, plump lips (before they were stylish), and a body built along the lines of a couple of six foot long 2″x 4″s nailed together. I was also thin before that was fashionable. I guess I was years ahead of the curve, or the ‘curve’ was years ahead of fashionable me!

When I was in my thirties I was turned away from bars with an legitimate drivers license. In my mid-forties people were still asking what college was I going to. Applying for jobs (back in day when it was still required to put your age on your application), I would be turned down for lying about my age. I’ve had a couple of friends, one who was a few years younger than me, that were asked numerous time if they were my mother (ouch).

There’s something about aging that seems to hit innocently from the young. Mine was the first time the bag boy at the grocer called me mam.  Possibly he was simply raised to have good manners, but I hadn’t been told in a couple of years, “no, you don’t look that old!”. Time was creeping up.

A few years ago I attended a photographers weekend getaway. It was the second year in a row I’d gone. The previous year I’d had a terrific time, lot’s of laughter, new friends to make, great photography. The second event seemed to drag on forever. Their was a lot less laughter, the weather sucked, people were not inclined to friendships, and the photographs were terrible.

One of the weekend organizers took candid shots of the breakaway groups during sessions and I saw myself in a couple of them. I was so shocked at how much I’d aged, how much time I’d spent trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear that I gave it all up. It would be the last time in my life I’d waste time trying to ‘look my best’. Since looking at those two photos I’ve only bothered to wear makeup once or twice a year. Now my hair is almost always in a ponytail. I’ve given up trying to battle gravity, genetics, and things that need fixing but aren’t in the budget.

Yesterday, a Tuesday, I drove north forty-five minutes to another town to shop for groceries.  Our normal shopping town had a very nice, high quality, meat, fish market and deli. Unfortunately it closed a few weeks ago. The next town north supplied some of his products so it became the logical place to replace some of the lost products. One of the disadvantages of rural living, nothing is convenient.

Wearing very old, worn hiking boots, over-sized wool socks with the tops slouched down, black leggings and a hooked parka left over from the days I was 45 pounds heavier, I grabbed a shopping cart and entered the store. I’m currently in my Buddy Holly stage of life. Trying to find glasses that look good on my lopsided face is a zero return so I’ve opted for plain black frames that darken in bright light. Of course, they never lighten either, so I figure wrinkles and bags under my eyes are pretty well hidden most of time. I recently cut my own bangs, and I’ve cut them crooked. Trying to correct the problem made it worse. Oh well, at my age, what does it matter. I had to untangle my pony tale from the snap on the back collar of my coat so most likely it looked like half a dozen dogs have just come from greeting one another in the park.

My husband wants me to wear a sign pinned to my back while shopping that reads, ‘medicated for your When I get oldown protection’. I tend to get frustrated with the people that park in the middle of narrow isles and ignore oncoming traffic. At least early on a Tuesday afternoon, there weren’t any children playing gotta have, gimme this, where did momma go, or the family of seven all shopping using one cart with separate check-outs in line. It actually was pretty simple. I actually laughed at the bellowing cow mooing over the store speakers in the product section as I entered. Why the cow moos in produce and not meats I’ll never understand. Is it related to manure, makes fertilizers, which grows healthy produce? Doubt it.

Shopping done and ready to check out I’m actually directed by a young man to a empty isle. I think this is a first for me. There’s even get a second person bagging my purchases. This is service. The cow is still mooing in produce. I’m telling the young man how pleased I’m am with my shopping experience and the wide variety of products they had available, that it will help with my love of Hungarian cooking. He explained his school trip to Austria last year. The first day they served his class Austrian food and he loved it. He was looking forward to experiencing more European cuisine. The second day he sat down to dinner and they were served chicken nuggets and french fries. The remainder of the class trip all they got to eat was American cafeteria  meals. He was so disappointed. Probably the only trip he’ll make in his life and he’ll only have one memorable meal.

As my grocery bill  totaled I noticed a credit popped up on the bottom of the screen. He tore off the receipt and handed it me. “Have a nice day,” I said to him and walked to my car. After placing the bags in the trunk I opened my wallet to look at the receipt and figure out what the credit was for. My regular grocery store states, “Amount saved today” – this read, “Senior Discount 5%”. OMG – I’d been caught in public, not even asked, blatantly exposed,  the best days are behind me, I qualify without asking … I’m over the hill!

Wikipedia defines Senior citizen as: It is used in general usage instead of traditional terms such as old personold-age pensioner, or elderly as a courtesy and to signify continuing relevance of and respect for this population group as “citizens” of society, of senior rank.

Sorry, You’ve Been Disconnected


What’s in my name the Daily Challenge wants to know. That’s a difficult question because my family disconnected from the rest of our relatives since I was eleven. That was the year both my grandfathers died and the war between my mother, and her perceived right is might started and never ended.

I can answer two-thirds of that question because my parents told me the story of how I got my first and middle name. The first name chosen for me was Cassandra. My father picked it. I’ve no idea where it came from or why he adored it. I would have ended up a Cass, Cassie, Sandy or since I’d been bullied well into adulthood, the Ass. However, my mother in her wisdom, didn’t think it was a proper name to yell out the second story window when calling me home and decided on Charlene after my father Charles. I hate Charlene, and been various spellings of Charlie, Charlee, Charley, and finally Charly since grade school. Dad was Chuck.

Carol is my middle name. My Godmother, Aunt Puny, the smallest, the normal-sized, and youngest of the tall females in my mother’s family was actually named Carolyn. She named me after her, as did Aunt Puny’s daughter, and their brother, Boy, my uncle Art’s daughter. We ended up with three cousin Carols in my mother family.

My dad’s father emigrated from the Transylvania region on Hungary in 1907 with a wife name Rose and settled in the Pittsburgh area. His mother, Amalia Orban, forever after known as Amelia, came from the same region around 1911 to serve as a cook to a wealthy Cleveland family. Somewhere along the way, Rose disappeared, and in 1915 Paul Makray married Amelia Orban in Chicago, Illinois.

The only story I heard growing up was my grandparents met as children in an orphanage. But my grandmother’s entire family, sans father, was intact, and had settled one trip at a time, in the Cleveland, Ohio area. Only her oldest brother shortly visited to bring great mother over and returned to run a farm in Kosice. I’ve found birth records of all the children except the son that went back to the old country.

I was 34 years old before my father told me grandpa had a brother living in Pittsburgh, PA. I had more cousins? Immediately I called information, tracked on down, and got on the telephone (this was pre-computer days). We talked for a couple of hours, learned his grandfather had never mentioned anything about a brother either. Why? I don’t understand this.

Grandpa’s nephew kept in touch with our family. We connected with theirs. My grandmother was very family oriented. I have Lawrence Ones letters and notes from my grandfathers funeral. But there are no photographs left in our family. Perhaps my dad’s brother had them, but he was as secretive as the rest of the male clan. Eventually, through Ancestory.com I did meet a step-child, a great-granddaughter of my grandfather’s brother who is also trying to put her family together. She is having the same problem I’m getting. The Pennsylvania families don’t talk to each other either.

Sadly, the contact I had, the wonderful link between our two families, died in a car accident a few years ago. His parents are gone, as are his grandparents. His name was the fourth generation to carry the name of that young man who first set foot in American with his mother a few month after my grandfather. His father arrived a couple of years earlier to establish a foundation for the family, and when my grandfather arrived he went to his brother’s address.

My grandfather was fairly well-educated, always wore a suit and tie to work each day, owned his own business, and held patents for several items within ten years of arriving in America. It never made him a millionaire, but he produced one additional son, that did live the American dream.

After four generations we still don’t keep in touch even though at some time during the year we’re all within a couple of hours of each other. Is it a genetic trait? Only three of us related through my grandmother, have managed to put together a small family and are trying to gather some old memories and facts. One is also my cousin on my dad’s side so all the information I gather will pass to her. Her children will at least have some idea of what this branch of their family tree links back to.

Personally, I hate being disconnected. I would have loved to have had memories to share into my doddering years with wrinkled cousins and their smooth-faced offspring. Even if we tried to blend now, what would we talk about? Like original sin, original disconnection has caused a chasm as wide as the Grand Canyon. Our lives have moved on like the water over the American and Canadian sides of Niagara Falls. Reconnection would be about genealogy and perhaps genetics. I wonder if there’s any time left for friendship and mending fractured bridges.

Submitted to: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/09/02/daily-prompt-identity/

ZE PLANE, ZE CRATES, ZE CRANES

In 1978 an old television show called Fantasy Island, a character named Tatoo, came running on camera, peeping in his small French accented voice, “Ze plane, ze plane!”  At that time, an estimated one hundred or so wild Whooping Cranes were still very much on the edge of extinction in North American. Certainly, none of them ever arrived via airplane. They summered in northern Canada where they bred, fledged their young and migrated 2,600 miles to wintering grounds on the coast of Texas.

That meager flock of Whooping Cranes were the sole descendants of the last 15 wild Whooping Cranes still alive in 1940. Extinction was possible, where they would only be available as museum mounts, paintings, photographs, and romantic stories of how the largest remaining bird on this continent disappeared from the horizon on our watch. These amazing great white cranes slowly increased in number, and now labelled the Western Migratory Population they are the lone genetic lineage for all Whooping Cranes. Whooper’s bond for life and generally produce only one chick that lives. Reproduction rates are low and after more than 70 years the western population still numbers less than 300 birds.

Hoping to maintain a species comes with knowledge that a single event, an oil spill, hurricane, or a drought causing a lack of fresh water on the Texas wintering grounds could create a life-threatening disaster for this flock. They face new problems from oil-sands, pipelines, and potential wind energy fields on the migration route.  And we cry for the yearly birds killed by hunters, those by accident, or worse, by intent and cruelty.

A little over a decade ago, a second backup group of Whooping Cranes was considered for introduction.  However, there were no native birds in the eastern United States.  This flock was going to be developed from captive birds. They would have no migratory patterns learned from previous generations passed down for millions of years by parents to their fledglings. Humans would need to intervene, but humans raising wild birds doesn’t work. Birds imprint on the first thing they set their eyes on. If it’s a human the bird will grow up and never learn how to be a bird. An entirely new science was going to be put to use, joining several different research groups with one goal.

Whooping Cranes of the Eastern Migratory Population are genetic offspring of the western flock, however, these eggs came from monitored Whooping Cranes via careful selection to maintain diversity.  All of the eggs were hatched under careful monitoring and supervision,  and when grown the birds were then reintroduced into the wild to form a second flock migrating between Wisconsin and Florida.  Different methods of raising chicks at several locations in Wisconsin are being used. Only one is monitored for the public to view via computer thanks to Operation Migration.org.

In a few days, similar words to Tatoo’s greeting will be on the lips and tips of many chat room fingers. They are a dedicated group of Whooping Crane fans,  old and new friends, known affectionately as Craniacs. Daily, for approximately six months they sit in front of their computer monitors, laptops and smartphones to watch the morning and evening antics, routines, growth spurs, and comedic errors of a yearly clutch of endangered Whooping Crane chicks in central Wisconsin. These birds, under the skillful hands of an organization named Operation Migration.org will raise these birds this summer, flight train them, and this autumn lead them behind a UltraLite aircraft skillfully imprinted as a parent bird teaching them the migratory route between Wisconsin and Florida. Next spring, a miracle happens when the birds return to Wisconsin using their own remarkable instincts.

The chicks hatched at  Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Maryland where they undergo physical testing that would undermine a candidate for the Navy Seals. Their personalities are testing to eliminate the negative and accentuate the positive. Some tolerance is allowed for chicks to establish a pecking order, as long as they don’t actually continue to nit-peck like a wife that discovered mouse breath on her husband who said he was working late at the office. After a class is chosen they’re allowed to attend a mixer and see who wants to dance and who’s going to become the wallflower. Of course, someone always trips over their own feet, another peeps and runs, one takes a firm hock sit and won’t be moved, and the sudden bully chases all the other kids around the block. Only the block is round and heavily supervised by people who look like Casper, the friendly ghost with a misplaced appendage – a single wooden crane-like head where a hand would be..

Crane chicks are never allowed to visually come into contact with humans during the nearly year-long training process. With clever manipulations and puppetry the birds own genetic code will imprint onto puppetry and even lite aircraft substituting as parents. It allows the Whooping Cranes to remain wild. Rules number one through one hundred! All humans attending to Whooping Crane chicks for any purpose present in costumes aka ‘tumes’. Imagine a construction helmet and black muck boots, covered in a hybrid of your grandmother’s white sheets drying in the summer sun and a half-blinded person wearing a backward burka in 100 degree heat while all the juicy bugs of summer jump up your petticoat.

Gotta love the dedicated Whooping Crane people. The same crew training in Maryland with the eight chosen finalists will soon be moved to Wisconsin to begin phase two of the training program. But first the chicks are gently backed into standing crates and loaded onto a private airplane where they will receive first class attention on their flight over. Sorry, no reclining seats, headphones, movies, or mixed drinks allowed for the birds and crew. The Craniac’s are free to celebrate the impending arrival of the new kids on the block in any manner they choose. Virtual parties are probably already being planned. Tissues are being stockpiles by laptops, vacation days planned, people will be calling in late, this will be a cheers and tears celebration.

ETA, July 9, 2013, 1 pm CST at

Operation Migration Whooping Crane Cam
http://www.ustream.tv/migratingcranes