Saturday, December 31, 2011

One Day at a Time in the New Year

It's been quite a few years since I've made New Years "resolutions".  In years past, I resolved to "lose weight, exercise more, cut back on cigarettes, etc....", the typical resolutions that are common to many come the first of the year.  More often than not, I did well for a couple of months then my resolutions fell by the wayside. Thereafter, I began setting simple "goals" that I thought would be easily accomplished during the year.  Eventually even some of those faultered.  

This year, I'm "resolving" to forget resolutions and goals.  I will take one day at a time.  There are certain tasks I would like to accomplish but there are no deadlines involved.  I will do what I can when I can, the rest will go into my "ONE DAY" bin (which is already overstuffed).  

I applaud those whom have concrete goals in mind for the year and strive so heartily to meet them.  I've been there and done  that.  These days I prefer "simple"- the fewer deadlines the better.  

I wish everyone a Happy New Years Eve and much luck in meeting their goals this coming year!

An example of me (on the right) ;)

Friday, December 30, 2011

Headlines: A Review of News Headlines for 2011

Rather than writing a long post recapping the major headline events of this year, I decided to feature them in a slideshow.  Being the "history buff" that I am, I enjoy looking back at  news stories over the years.  These are a few of the headlines that I have had an interest in this year.

A Review of News Headlines for 2011:

Tip:  The slideshow may be paused by scrolling your mouse over the bottom right side of the screen until you see the back, pause and forward buttons :)

Susan Gail Stogner

Susan Gail Stogner (that's me) was born 1959 in Columbia, Marion County, Mississippi, daughter of Charles Laverne Stogner and Lula Sue Simmons. Married Charles Raymond Bourgoyne, the son of John Claude Bourgoyne, Sr and Lena Mary Rockforte, on 19 December 1976 in Columbia, Marion County, Mississippi.

The first few years of my childhood was spent in Marion County, Mississippi.  In the early 1960's, my Mom and her second husband, Frank Powell Sr, moved to the west bank of New Orleans, Louisiana and settled in Jefferson Parish.  It was there that I grew up, attended school and where most of my childhood memories were created.  In my senior year of high school, my parents made the decision to move back "home", to the place they grew up in Mississippi.  Of course, I followed them. With occasional exceptions, my husband and I have spent the majority of our married life in or near Marion County, Mississippi.
Most of my young adult years were spent rearing our three children and maintaining our household.  I worked temporarily when needed to help support our family's needs.  After our youngest began school, I worked full-time then decided to invest in our future by obtaining a college degree.  I continued to work full-time during my first year of college while I was enrolled in academic classes. After being accepted into the nursing program, I left my full-time job as a teachers assistant and became a full-time college student.  I graduated with an Associates Degree in Applied Science from Pearl River Community College in 1993.  I have been a Registered Nurse for 19 years now and, with only a few exceptions, have never regretted my career choice.  I feel I am doing exactly what I was called to do.

My husband and I have three children- daughters Cristina "Crissy" Fae Bourgoyne (married Ryan Wesley Curry) and Cheresa "Cherie" Renae Bourgoyne and one son, Charles Ryan Bourgoyne.  We have also been blessed with four grandsons- Damon Tyler Rowley, Coby Gerrick Rowley, Matthew Wesley Curry and Nathan William Curry.

More about my childhood memories may be viewed in the Sharing Memories section of this blog, linked with the tab in the pages section under the title.  

Resided:  1959-1965, Marion County, Mississippi
Resided:  1965-1976, Jefferson Parish, Louisiana
Resided:  1977-        , Marion County, Mississippi

See also:
Wedding Anniversaries:  My Husband & I, Celebrating 35 Years Together

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Treasure Chest Thursday: Quilted Memories

My brother Tony and his wife Dena gave me a special gift for Christmas 2008.  This was just after the first anniversary of our Mother's death.  I wrote about it in my personal blog that year.  I decided to share it here as well.  

Tony and Dena presented me with a very special Christmas gift... as I opened the box, I was nearly speechless. I was pleasantly surprised to receive this quilt. This is no ordinary quilt. This quilt was sewn from cotton pieces cut from my late Mother's "moo-moo's".

Mom stayed at home most of the time. Therefore, she dressed comfortably; she wore roomy cotton dresses which she called her "moo-moo's". Each year for Mother's Day or Christmas, I would buy Mom a moo-moo because I knew how much she enjoyed wearing them. Some of these cotton dresses were simple, yet a few were more dressy with weaved designs, embroidery or small rhinestones on the yoke. Since she rarely left her apartment, Mom would save the dressy ones to wear in public.

Weeks after Mom's death, Tony asked me to ship him some of Mom's moo-moo's. I sorted them out and chose one to keep to myself and gave one to my sister, then shipped the remaining ones to Tony. I placed the moo-moo I decided to keep in a clear plastic bag and tucked it away in a chest full of memoirs from Mom's life.

Tony delivered the box of Mom's dresses to a lady who designs memory quilts. He had quilts made for each of Mom's children and for Dad. What a loving and thoughtful gesture! As I opened the gift and unfolded the quilt, reflections of Mom were envisioned through my eyes. As I ran my fingers over the colorful squares of cotton, I remembered Mom wearing the various dresses. I remembered her favorite everyday moo-moo's were the green and blue plaid one and the rust colored one. I remembered she wore the black and gold paisley dress, or the black and white floral one when she went to town. The blue and white striped moo-moo was a sailor design with small sailing boats embroidered on the yoke.

I will treasure this memory quilt for the rest of my life. Thank you, Tony and Dena, for your thoughtful gift and for bringing back a part of Mom... through memories that will last a lifetime.

From my personal blog, originally written December 15, 2008

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wednesday's Woman: Mary Louise Landry Rockforte

Mary Louise Landry Rockforte was married to my husband's "Uncle Peter".   She was also my husband's Godmother.  We simply called her "Aunt Mary".  

My husband and I always enjoyed our trips to see Aunt Mary.  When she found out we were coming, she would usually plan to cook one of her delicious cajun dishes, like Crawfish Stew, Gumbo or a Mirliton Casserole.  Oh my, now that woman could whip up some cajun dishes! We never left her house hungry- maybe "miserably overstuffed", but never hungry!  

We usually spent an entire day with her, sipping on her strong (and I do mean STRONG) coffee and catching up on all the latest "family gossip".  Aunt Mary seemed to know a little bit about everyone.  She probably knew so much because of all the years she was one of the top Avon representatives in the area.  She traveled 5 days each week, going door to door, taking Avon orders and making deliveries, and she did that for many, many years.  I can only imagine how much information she amassed on local families during that time.  

For several years, Aunt Mary spent her spare time doing crafts- she loved working with yarn and fabric and had tons of craft supplies in one of her spare bedrooms.  She would sell her handmade items to individuals and at local craft festivals.  I still have the beautiful personalized Christmas stockings she made for each of our children; they became part of our Christmas decor for many years. 

After she retired from the Avon business, Aunt Mary became heavily involved in researching the family history.  Walking into her kitchen had become like walking into the public library.  Bookcases lined her kitchen walls, from end to end, and the shelves were stacked with notebooks filled with information on the family surnames.  Aunt Mary is the one who ignited my desire to begin my own family research.  She was my very first teacher in genealogy.  She spent hours upon hours thumbing through the diocese records and through books at the library.  Aunt Mary was hopelessly hooked on genealogy, much like I am now.

Aunt Mary was a strong, vivacious woman who was also outspoken and opinionated, much like my own mother.  Perhaps that is part of the reason I liked her so much :).  One never had to guess what Aunt Mary was thinking. 

I really miss her.  I miss spending the day with her, talking about our progress on the family research and exchanging information.  I miss her enthusiasm and her warm smile that always greeted us at the back door.  I miss her delicious cajun meals.  However, I can't honestly say that I miss her strong coffee, whew!  Coffee creamer and half-n-half would only disappear when poured in the muddy waters of my cup.  Just imagine, my Mississippi family thinks that I make strong coffee- they know nothing :))

Sometimes when I think of Aunt Mary, I imagine her being in heaven with her notebook and pen handy- scribbling down information on the surnames of the Saints.  I would be willing to bet that she knows all of the latest news up there :)

Christmas stockings made by Aunt Mary,
photo taken in 1998

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday: Susie Simmons Ramshur

JULY 1, 1916
JUNE 18, 1974

Susie Simmons Ramshur (maiden name Johnson) was my maternal grandmother.  Her grandchildren called her "Granny".  She was laid to rest in the Pine Burr Church of Christ Cemetery, Lamar County, Mississippi.

I was 15 years old when Granny passed away.  I can still recall the events surrounding her death.  Mom and Dad had planned a family vacation to Tennessee that June of 1974.  We were all excited about the trip, for it wasn't often that we could enjoy a family vacation.   Mom and Dad had planned to "pass through" the state of Mississippi, stopping briefly in Columbia to visit with Granny (our family lived in Louisiana at that time).  That's when Mom found out that Granny was in a hospital in Hattiesburg.  Our family spent the next couple of nights at Ms. Irene's house in Hattiesburg.  Ms. Irene was a family friend that Mom and Dad had known since the early years of their marriage.
The grave situation of Granny's illness was made clear to me when Mom called all her children into the living room at Ms. Irene's house.  I remember the solemn look upon Mom's face while she tried to tactfully explain how sick Granny was.  She struggled to hold back her tears, but in the end she failed and a few tears escaped her.  For a few moments, we didn't respond.  We didn't know how to respond, what to say, at a time like that.  I remember feeling hurt, not only because Granny was so ill, but because my Mom was hurting.  It was a rare occurence to see my Mom tearful, or even tactful, and it was something I wasn't exactly prepared for and didn't know how to respond to, except with silence.  

I remember going to the hospital with Mom the next day.  The silence within me still lingered.  It was lunch time and Granny was sitting on her bed, picking at the food on her plate, complaining about how bad it tasted.  Granny was different- she seemed distant and somewhat confused.  I hugged her and told her I love her but she didn't respond like the Granny I knew before then.  She appeared weak, frail and older than I remembered her.  I turned away so Granny wouldn't see the tears falling upon my cheeks.  I could tell that Mom was struggling to stay strong, and I wanted to stay strong for her but the emotions within me were so strong that I didn't know how to handle them.  Before then, I had not lost someone so close to me, someone I loved that dearly.  Neither had Mom.

That was the last time I saw my Granny in this life.  I don't remember how many days or weeks she was sick, but I do remember getting the phone call that she had passed away.  My Mom and her siblings were devastated.  It took a long time for Mom to come to terms with the passing of her mother.  I didn't understand the depth of Mom's pain until I lost HER. 

I am fortunate to have so many wonderful memories of my Granny.  She tended to spoil me a little bit and we had a special bond between us.  I plan to share some of my memories of her in future posts. 

Death may take away from us the physical presence of those we loved, but death may never take away all the memories. 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas 2011

I hope everyone has had a Christmas season blessed with the spirit of Love and filled with wonderful memories. It's been a busy few days with ongoing preparations for Christmas dinner.  I cooked a traditional dinner with turkey, cornbread dressing, vegetables and desserts.   It was delicious, but I ate more than I should!  I will definitely avoid scales this week :).  The day was spent in good company with daughter Cherie and her sons-Tyler and Coby, son Ryan, sister Sandy and daughter Lennae.  My brother Frank Jr visited this afternoon.  I'm sharing some Christmas photos of family members (from their facebook albums):

My grandsons, Nathan and Matthew (sons of Ryan & Crissy Curry)

Nathan & Matthew again

Terry Lucas Powell (my sister-in-law) with her grandchildren Alisha, Nathan & Conner 
(children of Jennifer Powell Hall)

Jennifer Lynn Powell Hall (niece)

Alisha, Nathan & Conner Hall

John (J.C.) & Seth Bourgoyne, sons of John & Suzanne Bourgoyne

Brianna, Brooke, Brittan & Patrick Bourgoyne, children of Patrick & Melissa Bourgoyne
(great-nieces and nephew)

Anita Kay Smith Stringer & Wayne Stringer (cousin)

Kathy Lynn Smith Ratcliff with grandson Aeden (cousin)

My grandson Coby and son Ryan, what a couple of outlaws!

Lennae unwrapping her gifts (niece)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Mama's Bourbon Balls

A post from my personal blog,
originally written December 03, 2009

shhhh... keep the secret inside these walls
mama's been making bourbon balls!
cookie crumbs and cocoa smeared on her dress
powdered sugar everywhere, oh what a mess!

the smell of bourbon still lingers there
all through the kitchen and in her hair
sticky corn syrup all over the floor
on the wood cabinets and even the door

walking a little tipsy, her mind a haze
she talks in riddles and stares in a daze
i won't tell dad but surely he'll know
when he comes home and watches her show

she'll giggle like a school girl, and then deny
that she's been dipping into the bourbon rye
next morning she'll wake up and shyly blush
wonders if we remember, but we keep hush


Now I don’t mean to give readers the wrong idea here- Mom rarely drank alcoholic beverages. For a few years, she drank socially when attending Christmas and New Years parties. I wrote this because I so vividly remember the years that she traditionally made bourbon balls. All jokes aside, our entire kitchen and living area smelled of bourbon for a couple of days. She made several batches of bourbon balls, wrapped them in cheesecloth and placed them in tin cans, sealed tightly, to absorb the fermenting richness of the whiskey. Mom said it was important for the balls to “soak” for about 2 to 3 weeks. She gave them as gifts to her friends and family. 

I remember the trips we made to visit other relatives during the holidays. While traveling, Mom brought along her tin can of bourbon balls and would occasionally open the can to retrieve one. We always knew when the tin can had been opened because the whiskey aroma swooshed over us in the back seat. We often joked with Mom, telling her to lay off the whiskey or pretending we were getting drunk in the back seat. She would just look at us and laugh along. She once allowed us to taste a sampling of her bourbon balls- once is all it took for me, yuck! I didn’t care for them at all and wondered why anyone else would. But, Mom enjoyed making them, and I enjoy the memories of her joyful giving. 

Mama's Apron

This is a post from my personal blog, 
originally written December 04, 2009:

mama's apron, significant memory
etched in stone, wrote into my heart
so much time spent wearing this piece
of woven fabric, each morning to start

plain and white when first tied
dirty and dingy when last untied
smears of holiday preparation evident
of her hard labor and loving pride

cake batter and sweet frosting
mince meat and cranberries too
vanilla flavoring and egg nog
cream cheese and whipped butter goo

cooking was one of mama's great loves
from the time she was just knee high
talented to the point of perfection
practice made better try after try


This was the only photo I could find of Mom in one of her aprons, and it was taken back in 1983 during Christmas dinner.  This apron was clean... she apparently had just put it on, LOL.  

As mentioned, cooking was one of Mama’s great loves… she enjoyed experimenting with various forms and textures of ingredients, trying this and that, until the dish was nearly perfect to her liking. During the holidays, she poured her heart and soul into preparing a meal fit for a king. Honestly, her kitchen would look as though a tornado went through it. Evidence of her cooking would be on the counter tops, the cabinet door handles, the floor- and of course, her apron. I would just lovingly giggle and help her clean up. 

A few years ago, Mama was attempting to demonstrate a lesson to me on preparing dough and cutting it to make dumplings. She was famous for her chicken and dumplings… she made the best dish in the south, no kidding! Anyway, we had such great fun through this experience- she laughed at me as I tried to imitate her perfect pattern of rolling the dough out thin and cutting it just so. Come on, who were we kidding? I could never make dumplings like Mama did. But, I had fun trying. The experience that day was captured on video by my son-in-law, who made a special CD for me and presented it to me after Mom’s death. Such a bittersweet memory now! Tears flow each time I watch it… tears of longing, remembering her in that dingy old and tattered apron with smears of this and that on it, remembering watching her in that messy kitchen doing what she loved best… cooking for family and friends. How I treasure those memories!

A Pioneer Christmas, Part II

How did other pioneer families celebrate Christmas?  Further reading gave me some clues:

"In the pioneer days, the home was decorated with green branches and homemade decorations.  They did not have a big Christmas tree because there was no room  for a large tree in their small homes.  Pine cones, nuts, berries and popcorn chains were hung on the tree. Figures or dolls out of straw or yarn were made.  Cookie dough ornaments and gingerbread men were also hung on the tree.The Christmas dinner was planned and preparation of the food began weeks ahead of time. The Christmas goose was fattened up and the plum pudding was left to age in the pot until  Christmas day. There were chores that began months before Christmas -  such as making the gifts  for the family members ( corn husk dolls,  sachets, carved wooden toys, pillows, footstools and embroidered hankies ). Scarves, hats, mitts and socks had to be knitted. Girls were able to knit before they were six years old. Boys would make boxes for presents. If there had been a good harvest that year, presents were placed inside stockings. The stockings were hung on the fireplace. Cookies and fruit might also be found in the stockings.Christmas Eve was a night for singing carols and telling stories around the fireplace  Christmas Day the whole family attended church and returned home to a Christmas meal. Then it was time to visit friends and neighbors". 

Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote of the preparations for Christmas on the Kansas Prairie: "Ma was busy all day long, cooking good things for Christmas. She baked salt-rising bread and r'n'Injun bread, and Swedish crackers, and huge pan of baked beans, with salt pork and molasses. She baked vinegar pies and dried-apple pies, and filled a big jar with cookies, and she let Laura and Mary lick the cake spoon. "That very Christmas, Laura Ingalls was delighted to find a shiny new tin cup, a peppermint candy, a heart shaped cake, and a brand new penny in her stocking. For in those days, these four small gifts in her stocking were a wealth of gifts to the young girl.  

"Christmas for many in the Old West was a difficult time. For those on the prairies, they were often barraged with terrible blizzards and savage December winds. For mountain men, forced away from their mining activities long before Christmas, in fear of the blinding winter storms and freezing cold, the holidays were often meager. But, to these strong pioneers, Christmas would not be forgotten, be it ever so humble.
Determined to bring the spirit of Christmas alive on the American frontier, soldiers could be heard caroling at their remote outposts, the smell of venison roasting over an open hearth wafted upon the winds of the open prairie, and these hardy pioneers looked forward to the chance to forget their hard everyday lives to focus on the holiday."

Basalt Regional Heritage Society

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Pioneer Christmas, Part I: Journal of Susan Fenimore Cooper

Moments ago, as I was sitting here in my recliner reflecting upon Christmas memories, I began wondering- How did the pioneers celebrate Christmas?  What were their holiday traditions?  How did they make preparations for the holidays?  I wanted to know so I did some "snooping" on the web to find the answers.  

Entries in the journal of Susan Fenimore Cooper, written from 1848 through 1849, describe family preparations and anticipation of the Christmas holiday.  The family resided in Otsego County, New York.  Susan's journal became a published book, Rural Hours.  Highlights from her journal written December 1848:

December 19th- While walking outdoors, Susan describes a "cart standing in the woods filled with Christmas greens for her parish church".

December 21st- Her journal entry states, "It is snowing a little, we may yet have sleighing for Christmas", she hopes.  She writes a description of "female industry" in preparation for Christmas- "It is a very busy time within doors.  For the activity in the rural housekeeper's department is now at its height.  A variety of important labors connected with Christmas cheer are going on.  Cake jars are filling up with crullers, flat, brown and crisp; with dough-nuts, dark, full and round; and raisined olecokes.  Waffles, soft and hard, make their appearance on the tea tables; mince-pies, with their heavy freight of rich materials, are getting underway; and cranberries are preparing for tarts.  Calves'-head soup and calves'-foot jellies are under consideration; turkeys and ducks are fattening in the poultry yard while inquiries are made after game birds and fish from the lake."  She continues, "there is a dawn of the kindliness and good-will belonging to Christmas perceptible in the kitchen and pantry; the eggs are beaten more briskly, the sugar and butter are stirred more readily, and the mince-meat chopped more heartily than on any other occasion during the year".  

After describing the preparation of traditional holiday fare, Susan turns to other "Christmas tasks." "Greens are put up in some houses. And, of course, Santa Claus must also be looked after. Santa's pouch and pack must be well filled for the little people, with this or that nursery-book, sugar-plums and candies, puppets and toys." She gives special emphasis to the appeal of home-made dolls, "such as those huge babies of cotton and linen with pretty painted faces, and soft, supple limbs. The rag-babies or, more properly, Moppets, are always pets with little mammas, for no other dolls are loved so dearly as these. But it is not just adult women who make Christmas presents; many little slips of womankind are now busily engaged upon some nice piece of work, with bags, purses, slippers, mittens, what-nots all getting a more finished look every hour". Whether by grownups or children, it is female handicraft that Susan celebrates as Christmas nears.

December 22nd:  "We shall doubtless have sleighing for the holidays".

December 23rd:  "Winter is out in its true colors at last.  It is a picture postcard day.  Merry bells are jingling through the village streets.  There are cutters and sleighs with gay parties dashing rapidly about.  It is well for Santa Clause that we have snow, if we may believe Mr. Clement Clark Moore, who has seen him nearer than most people, he travels in a miniature sleigh with eight tiny rein-deer".  

December 25th:  "Christmas must always be a happy, cheerful day," she affirms; "for even when the sky is cloudy and dull, the bright fires, the fresh and fragrant greens, the friendly gifts, and words of good-will, the 'Merry Christmas' smiles, create a warm glow and humble backdrop for the exalted associations of the festival, as it is celebrated in solemn, public worship, and kept by the hearts of believing Christians". For Susan, the religious context is uppermost, for it is a time to celebrate the meaning of "the Nativity of the Prince of Peace in pious devotion and with deeds of charity to the poor and afflicted". Next, she says, is the importance placed on children. "Other religions have scarcely heeded children," she states, yet "Christianity bestows on them an especial blessing. The unfeigned, unalloyed gayety of children makes Christmas merry," she concludes .

I enjoyed reading Susan's journal entries, for I could nearly place myself there midst the festive activities of the holidays.  The joy and excitement she expressed in her writings brought back memories of the feelings I shared many years ago in anticipating Christmas.
Susan's family was fortunate enough to enjoy all that the Christmas holidays had to offer during that time in history.  Other pioneer families celebrated Christmas differently, depending on their financial resources and locality- more about them in Part II.

Christmas Memories: A Very Special Tree

In years past, I loved to decorate our home for Christmas.  Some years I decorated more than others, depending on my work schedule.  Christmas 2004 was one of my favorite of all time Christmases.   I was in a jolly good mood and went all out with decorating our home.

Oh, Christmas Tree!

the entire dimension
from stand toward bow
rows of tiny lights
hundreds aglow

flicker in rhythm
to holiday music here
lifting our spirits
bringing good cheer

sparkling greens
and candy apple reds
jazzy blues play
in glittery beds

colorful ropes of 
diamond shaped beads
encircle the globe
of forest green tweeds

woven fabrics
of sparkling braids
fall from the crown
in glistening cascades

upon the very top
a festive delight
shimmering bow trimmed
with silver starlight

alive with color
and dreamy thought
under this joyful treasure
gifts we brought

come christmas day
our hearts will release
the spirit of giving
and divine peace

our christmas tree, 2004

Originally written December 02, 2009
a post from my personal blog

Follow Friday: Friday Finds: Family Research Blogs

My favorite finds on the web this week:

Amy Coffin at The We Tree Genealogy Blog published a post in 2009 listing 52 ideas to Jump Start Your Genealogy Blog.  I plan to incorporate some of her great ideas into my future blog posts.  Her blog is full of useful information and creative ideas for anyone doing family research.  

Jacqi at A Family Tapestry has been writing a series about the Stevens family, using old letters as the foundation for her posts.  I love her eloquent writing style and the way her story flows from one post to the next, like the chapters of a great novel.  

I enjoy reading about historical and important events at and have added it to my daily reading list.

There are so many genealogy related blogs and web sites available these days which makes it  much easier  to do family research.  I sort of miss going to the library and digging in to all the books there.  On the other hand, most of my reading and research is done at night while I'm awake and most everyone else is sleeping- another reason I'm grateful for all the online resources available now.  

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Memories: Trip to the Tree Farm

Sometimes I will incorporate posts here from my personal blog.  I wrote a lot of memories of my own childhood in my personal blog and some of those memories are special enough to carry forward, here.  I have so many wonderful memories of Christmas, when I was growing up and when my children were growing up.  Situations have changed in the last few years, but a constant that never changes is the memories of that special time of the year.  Those memories include our trips to the tree farm ~

before the first of each december
a trip to the tree farm, i remember
children running to and fro
seeking the perfect tree, faces aglow

"we found one, mom!", voices shout
"no, mommy, no!", the little one pouts
an enormous task to please them all
yet joy and fun, we had a ball

after the tree is cut and tied
we bring it home, filled with pride
the children smile when at last it stands
waiting to be decorated by precious little hands


Our traditional trip to the tree farm is one of my favorite memories. This was the first step in beginning our journey through the holidays together. Once the Christmas tree stood decorated in our home, the spirit of the approaching season filled our home and our hearts. For a few years we purchased cut trees from local retailers and occasionally even used an artificial tree, but our excitement and enthusiasm didn't compare to those years we chose our own tree, right from the farm, fresh and beautifully green. 

Originally written December 01, 2009

Treasure Chest Thursday: Photo of Thomas Edward Stogner & Susan Cordelia McCain

Thomas Edward Stogner was my great-great grandfather.  He married Susan Cordelia McCain on March 19, 1895 in Marion County, Mississippi.  They both died before I was born so I never had the opportunity to meet them.  Before I began my family research over 16 years ago, I didn't even know of their existence.  Grandpa or Grandma Stogner never spoke of their parents or grandparents.  I found out later in life there were several things they never spoke of, at least not in my presence.  I wish now that I would have had an interest in our genealogy while I was younger and my grandparents were still living.  I often wonder how many family stories I missed out on because I lacked interest in our history back then.  

I was thrilled when I met Artherine Stogner a few years ago.  She and I began a conversation about the Stogner family and she informed me that she had some photos I might be interested in.  I could barely wait to see them!  I drove out to Mrs. Stogner's home a few days later and together we shared tidbits of information about our Stogner family branches and browsed through old photo albums.  One would have to be a family researcher or genealogist to understand the intense excitement I felt when I laid eyes upon this old photo of Thomas & Cordelia Stogner.  Seeing the photo "brought life" to these ancestors that I never knew.  Until that point, I had only their names and dates in my database. Mrs. Stogner also had photos of some of the other children of Thomas and Cordelia Stogner.  She was generous enough to allow me to bring the photos home so I could scan and copy them.  I am grateful to have met her- I now have a few more pieces of family treasure.  

Recently, I've met another Stogner family member online- Bill Reagan.  He and I have exchanged information and photos as well.  I will be posting some of them in the future :)  

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday: Lula Sue Simmons Powell

FEB. 13, 1941
NOV. 14, 2007

This headstone marks the grave where my dear Mother rests.  It is located in Woodlawn Cemetery, Columbia, Marion County, Mississippi.  

A couple of years before Mom passed away, she occasionally brought up the topic of grave markers in her conversation.  It was a subject which I hesitated to indulge in, certainly because I didn't want to even think about her death, let alone talk about.  She said she wanted her grave marker to depict something she treasured here on earth- her many trips to the mountains of Tennessee, Colorado and Canada, as well as other regions.  Mom was an avid traveler until she became too ill to take trips.  She would talk about her "cabin in the sky" and that her death would begin a new journey to even more beautiful places. She told me she wanted these words on her grave marker, "At the end of the road, my new journey begins...".  

Upon Mom's request, my sister and I took her "tomb stone" shopping one day. She wanted us to grasp some ideas of a design for her grave marker.  That whole experience was eerie to me but I went along out of respect for my Mother.  We went to two or three monument companies and shopped around, got ideas and quotes on the price of design and installation for a few grave markers.  Mom seemed satisfied for a while after our shopping trip.  

After Mom's death, my siblings and I agreed to respect her wishes.  I decided upon a monument company which allowed me to custom design her grave marker using images on their computer.  The design was then sent to an artist in Georgia who "etched" the image into her head stone, a tedious process requiring time.  In all, it took six months from the time Mom's grave marker was ordered to the time it was installed upon her grave.  

I can not describe the overwhelming emotions I felt when I first laid eyes upon her grave marker.  Seeing her name for the first time on a head stone made her death even more of a reality.  In silence, I stood there a few moments and allowed myself to feel the sadness of her death.  Then I studied the details of her grave marker.  I cried.  I cried because I felt sad for her passing and I cried because I felt the grave marker was even more beautiful than Mom expected.  

Her grave maker isn't elaborate and is small among some of the others in the cemetery.  It is simple yet expressively depicts the image of an old cabin surrounded by beautiful mountains- treasures of my Mom's life.  If I study her grave marker long enough, I can nearly "see" her sitting in a rocking chair on the porch of her "cabin in the sky" where she feels peaceful in her new journey.  God bless her, until we meet again.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Wedding Anniversaries: My Husband & I- Celebrating 35 Years Together

December 19, 1976

I can not believe it's been 35 years, where did the time go?  I was merely a child when I married at age seventeen.  Charles and I had to "grow up" together.  We had a lot of responsibilities for a couple so young.  By the time I was 23 years old, I was the mother of three children.  When I married, my parents thought Charles and I would be divorced within 5 years- they were proven wrong.Charles and I have been through nearly everything imaginable together- ups and downs, financial loss and financial gain, rearing our own children as well as children of other relatives, good times, bad times, laughter and tears. Sometimes I'm surprised myself that we made it. We've come a long way, along a journey filled with bumps and twists in the road, but we managed to survive together.  A toast to us!

Military Monday: The Story of Moses Fillingame

This is my FIRST post for Military Monday.  I hold dear the sacrifices made by my ancestors whom served our country and ALL of those who gave their all for the values and freedom that our country is founded on.  

Moses Fillingame, my third great-grandfather, enlisted in the Confederate States Army in 1862, Perry County, Mississippi.  He was with Company F, 7th Battalion, Mississippi Volunteers.  A muster roll card states that he was sent to the field hospital 06 September 1862.  Moses, being too sick to return to his duties, was sent home.  Soon after Moses returned home, his wife Elizabeth fell ill.  In early 1863 (January or February), they both died from the measles.  It is not known if Moses contracted the measles while in the army or after returning home.  In 1865, the sister of Moses (Harriet) and her husband Lyman Carley filed for guardianship of the Fillingame children.  Moses and his wife Elizabeth (Anderson) were the parents of six minor children at the time of their deaths.

In addition to his military service, Moses Fillingame was a Mason with the Enon Lodge #199, New Augusta, Mississippi.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sentimental Sundays: The Spirit of Christmas

The Christmas season has always been so special to me. My parents celebrated the season enthusiastically with pure joy and warm hearts. Though they could not afford to lavish us with gifts, they surrounded us with the spirit of the season- Christmas music, decorations throughout the house, plenty of good food and tender smiles. It was our season of family, of togetherness. On Christmas day, relatives and friends usually crowded into our small home to enjoy the delicious dinner which Mom would spend days preparing. She enjoyed cooking and the holiday season brought out the best in her efforts. Everyone loved her chicken and dumplings, cornbread dressing and banana cake. How fortunate we were to indulge in Mom’s divine dishes! As the day progressed, we would make our way back to the kitchen for extra helpings. No one left our house hungry that day, for sure.

We didn’t own CD or DVD players, so when a holiday program came on television, we gathered in the living room to watch it, because that would be our only chance to see it. Our entire family sat together and watched the holiday programs. Mom usually prepared us some popcorn, Jiffy Pop, on the stovetop along with some freshly made hot cocoa- homemade with real cocoa and milk, topped with real marshmallows. We didn’t have the instant hot chocolate in packets back then. We watched dear old Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman and The Little Drummer Boy, along with others.

We didn’t receive gifts throughout the year, as many children do these days. The only days we received gifts were our birthdays and Christmas. Our parents couldn’t afford to spend much for our birthdays, yet they saved throughout the year to ensure that we had a nice Christmas. We were always thrilled when the days began getting colder and we knew Christmas was approaching. It was difficult to even sleep on Christmas eve night because the anticipation of opening gifts lingered in my mind.

The Christmas season remained my favorite even as my own children were growing up. I would begin decorating weeks ahead of time- putting up the Christmas tree, adorning the fireplace mantle with greenery, candles and colorful ribbons, stringing lights around the exterior posts of our house, placing holiday figurines upon shelves in our living room. Mom and I would plan our holiday meal and I would watch my grocery list grow longer… and longer. While Mom continued the tradition of preparing the chicken and dumplings and cornbread dressing, I usually prepared side dishes and desserts. We always expected a fairly large crowd for Christmas dinner, so we did a lot of cooking days ahead.

My husband and I didn’t purchase gifts throughout the year for our children either. Birthdays were simple and spending kept to a minimum, until Christmas. Except for a couple of years when we were financially strapped, we usually provided our children with the gifts they most desired. I absolutely loved wrapping gifts and finishing them with a glittery hand-tied bow.

I miss those days so much. I miss Mom. I miss Dad (he now lives in Texas with my brother). I miss the excitement and preparations surrounding the holidays. I miss the anticipation of watching my children open their gifts- the smiles, the laughter and the play. Yet, I still have the wonderful memories- the photos, the videos, and the heartfelt warmth that comes with the longing to be there, to do it all over again. There will be very little shopping done this year, due to financial constraints; our Christmas dinner will be meager compared to the feasts in years past; opportunities to spend time with extended family have become a thing of the past.

Despite it all, I will continue to celebrate this special time of the year, only in different ways. After all, it isn’t about ME, or anyone whom I love here in this earthly home. It’s about JESUS CHRIST, my Saviour, and HE is the reason for the season. I’m thankful that I am here, yet another Christmas, to celebrate his precious birth.

This was re-posted from my personal blog, originally written on December 03, 2009.  

Sunday Morning Church: History of Religion in Mississippi

This is my FIRST post for Sunday Morning Church.  Using this meme, I plan to write articles related to church history and religion in the South, the religious movements during the life and times of our ancestors and family stories related to church.

Today I am writing a brief history of religion in the state of Mississippi, just touching on some of the highlights.  Because most of my relatives have resided or now reside in Mississippi,  I think this is a good starting point.

In the 17th century, the few Europeans in what is now Mississippi were Roman Catholics living under French and Spanish rule.  After the growth of the cotton culture in 1815, thousands of European-Americans began arriving into Mississippi, most of whom were Protestants from Southeastern states.  The migrations brought rapid growth in Protestant churches, particularly Methodist, Presbyterian and Baptist.

During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, revivals of the Great Awakening initially attracted the "plain folk" by reaching out to all members of society, including women and blacks.  Plain folk refers to the middle class of white farmers in the southern United States before the civil war.  Also called "yeomen", they owned land and had either no slaves or only a few slaves.  Most of them were Scotch-Irish Americans or English Americans.

The  "Great Awakenings" brought widespread revivals led by evangelical Protestant ministers, a sharp increase of interest in religion, a profound sense of conviction and redemption on the part of those affected, a jump in evangelical church membership, and the formation of new religious movements and denominations.  Three "waves" of the Great Awakenings are identified by historians and theologians:
The first wave began in 1720.  In the late colonial period, most pastors read their sermons and engaged their parishioners' minds with a particular theological argument or interpretation.  Leaders of the Great Awakenings wanted more than that.  They wanted to elicit an emotional response from their audience.  They hoped that, in response, their parishioners may display the works and evidence of saving grace.  Eventually the religious movements ushered in the development of democratic thought and a belief of free press.  This helped create a demand for religious freedom.
The second wave (1800's) of the Great Awakenings was strongest in the western states but brought about new denominations such as Seventh-Day Adventists, Church of Christ and the Latter-Day Saints movement.  
The third wave (1880-early 1900's) was characterized by new denominations, active missionary work and the Social Gospel approach to social issues. The social gospel movement provided a religious rationale for action to address concerns of many Americans who were affected by poverty and their poor quality of living. Activists in the Social Gospel movement hoped that by public health measures as well as enforced schooling so the poor could develop talents and skills, the quality of their moral lives would begin to improve. Important concerns of the Social Gospel movement were labor reforms, such as abolishing child labor and regulating the hours of work by mothers.

After the Civil War era, religion became even more influential as the South became known as the "Bible Belt".  Christian church attendance across the denominations is higher in the South than other areas of the United States.  In Mississippi, many associated with the Baptist denomination and as of today, the state has the highest number of Baptists in the country at 55% of the state population.

Other percentages: 
Religion in Mississippi: 86.7% Christian (82% Protestant, 4.7% Catholic), 10.8% No Religion, 2% Other Religions, 0.5% LDS

According to a poll conducted by The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, Mississippi was ranked the most religious state in the country.  The forum states that "The state comes in No. 1 across all categories evaluated: the importance of religion in the lives of residents, frequency of attendance at worship services, frequency of prayer and belief in God."  The complete article can be read here.