Digging Deep:Finding My Roots

My father, Richard Long

One of the many treasures found in my father’s box of mementos.

Over the past week I’ve taken over the task of weeding the flower beds along the front walk. It seems that the garden is constantly overrun by various plants that send out runners–ivy and wisteria, lily of the valley and strawberries (I’ll admit I don’t “weed” the strawberries out, because I prefer harvesting the little berries). As I’ve been out there in the dirt pulling up these invasive plants, I’ve been reminded of my family more than once. We’re a large brood, constantly expanding and sending out roots to new corners of the country–something that I’ve become even more aware of sense developing a passion for genealogy.

I’ve long had a passive interest in my family history–in grade school this manifested in attempts to draw out family trees and asking my grandmother for some names. As I got older, I’d occasionally ask about our lineage–where exactly the “Irish, English, German and American Indian” I’d been told was my ancestral heritage came into play. A few months ago, I decided it was finally take the dive and do some serious research and investigation. In part I was driven by an innate sense of curiosity, though I can’t deny that having a new baby also played a part. There seems to be something about having a child that kindles a new interest in family and origins. Since then I’ve made a few vague efforts to reach out to family for more information and spent a lot of time digging around digitized microfilm looking for clues from the past. On April 26, 2012, my father Richard Long passed away after a 21 year battle with COPD. Since then, I’ve been researching with even greater passion. It reminded me of how fleeting our connection to the past can be–how I need to make more effort to reach out to those around me before it’s too late.

My father didn’t hold onto many things–he wasn’t one for accumulating possessions. However, he did leave behind a box with some old family photos (most of which I’d never known existed) and a few letters and documents. For a family historian, it was like discovering a treasure chest. My mother loaned the box to me so that I can archive the contents and make copies of some of the photos. Among the contents was my grandfather’s wallet, with photos, licenses, and business cards still inside. While looking through them, I discovered a business card with some information written on the back. Information that I found quite exciting!

This exciting tidbit of information?

The name Edw. O. Long Jr, with an address and phone number. Followed by the name Eddie Long III with a phone number and the note of Reading, PA. First this was exciting, because it confirmed that I was correct in my genealogical conclusions. The second reason that it was exciting is that my father’s family has  a lot of estrangement and poor communication–so the prospect of him having a cousin out there who might be able to tell me more about my grandfather or even great-grandparents was like a dream come true. I went online and did a quick Google search for Edward Long III, only to be met with sadness. This man whom I was so eager to reach out to had died 19 May 2012 in Hershey, PA. His obituary did reveal that I have second cousins out there, Anthony, Summer, and Gina. It would be nice to talk to them some day.

I’m still a novice when it comes to genealogy, though I think I’m already learning quite a lot. Most importantly is to remember how quickly our links to the past can disappear. Also, when your family tells you that you’ve got American Indian ancestry, if you’re me, there’s a good chance that the more you dig, the more you’ll discover everyone’s German. But that’s a story for another day.


Stop and smell the flowers

bumblebees enjoying spherical flowers in the garden

Pregnancy and impending motherhood has caused my perspective to shift quite a bit over the past several months. While I tend to consider the impact of my actions on others, in the past I mostly had just myself to worry about when making decisions about my life. Now that I am engaged and preparing to raise a child, I find that I am much more aware of how my choices will impact those around me. This means that physical, mental, emotional and spiritual self-care have all become more highly prioritized in my life. If I am unable to care for myself, then I wonder how I will possibly be able to be an effective partner and mother.

One of the best ways to care for oneself is to slow down and actually be aware of our choices. Often I find myself rushing through life or going through the motions, then feeling frustrated when I discover that I’ve not even been conscious of the decisions I was making. Even though I have decided that I want to stop relying on potato chips as my fallback snack, I will find myself devouring a bag once more. Usually these things happen because I have forgotten that it is alright to slow down once in a while, that I don’t always have to be accomplishing some task or another.

This summer M and I have started container gardening–nothing big, just a few plants. We planted basil, dill, spinach, lavender, orange bell peppers and cucumbers. Our dill and spinach have already gone to seed, possibly because of the heatwave we had recently. The peppers got eaten up pretty badly by slugs, but we’ve gotten that under control and the plants are making a valiant return. The rest seem to be flourishing. Today, when we went out to check on them, I decided to bring my camera with me. I’d been wanting to take some photos of the plants for a while, but never seemed to get around to it. This evening I finally reminded myself how much I enjoy taking photos and how much I’ve enjoyed growing these plants. By taking the time to capture images of the beauty in the garden, I was able to deepen my own appreciation. I was also able to slow down for a bit and live in the moment.

Some people call this practice of slowing down, being aware, and living in the present “mindfulness.” Sometimes I use that term, too. At this point in my life, though, my primary goal is just to remember to stop and smell the flowers from time to time.

Day One

I’ve heard tell that any day can be Day One. So why not today?

Every day we are given the chance to start fresh, to work towards being the person we want to be, to break free of old habits and embrace the new. By starting this blog, I am marking today as Day One for me and creating a space where I can track and share my accomplishments and reflections. It is a place for me to chronicle my journeys and maybe sometimes my stumbles. It is where I can share the things that make me excited, as well as the things that spark my ire. Since my interests are constantly shifting, the only theme I commit myself to is the exploration of personal growth in whatever form it might take.