Blog Caroling: I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas

This is a repeat post from last year, when footnoteMaven started the tradition of blog caroling. It is just as relevant this year. To join in, visit her blog.

The footnoteMaven invited us genea-bloggers to go blog caroling. We’ve been posting favorite carols and sometimes a bit of history to go along with them. The Maven also posted a spectacular Choir of GeneaAngels graphic with links to our blog carols here.

Boy, it’s hard picking out a favorite, since I love most Christmas carols, both religious and secular. Also, being a bit late to the game, some of my favorites were already picked. For instance, Craig at GeneaBlogie posted “Silent Night.” I’ve always loved the legend of how the German pastor and church choir director created a song they could play accompanied by a guitar when their church organ was damaged by hungry mice. Additionally, this was the song that briefly stopped World War I…until December 26th, 1914, when indignant officers insisted that the war must go on.

Terry at Hill Country of Monroe County, Mississippi also blogged about another fave of mine, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” Although I knew the history behind this song, I forgot that it was written by Longfellow, one of my favorite poets. And then my Salvation Army background gets a boost when I think of “Silver Bells,”

inspired by the imagery of Salvation Army bellringers standing outside department stores during the Christmas season. [1]

What to pick? What to pick? At a school sing-along yesterday [17 December 2007], I was reminded of a very favorite Christmas song first introduced by Spokane native Bing Crosby in one of my favorite classic movies, Holiday Inn:

The sun is shining
The grass is green
The orange and palm trees sway.
I’ve never seen such a day
In Beverly Hills LA.
But it’s December the 24th
And I am longing to be up North.

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know.
Where the treetops glisten,
And children listen
To hear sleighbells in the snow.

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas
With every Christmas card I write.
May your days be merry and bright
And may all your Christmases be white. [2]

While Bing was born on the west side of the state, he grew up in Spokane and attended Gonzaga University until the siren call of the entertainment industry drew him to California. In fact, when I was pregnant with our son, we used to live across the street from his sister’s home in what is now the City of Spokane Valley. I often wonder if, as Bing sang this song, he thought of snowy days in Spokane, sliding down the hill at Manito Park or skiing up at Mount Spokane?

[1] Wikipedia contributors, “Silver Bells,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed December 19, 2007).

[2] Berlin, Irving. “White Christmas.” Lyrics. White Christmas, single. Decca Records, 1942. Lyrics007, (accessed 17 December 2007).


Forty Things About Me

I got tagged by a couple of people for this meme, and I didn’t particularly want to play (reminds me of the MySpace surveys my daughter loves), but what the heck.

1. Do you like blue cheese? Not particularly.

2. Have you ever done something you regretted? Yes (sheesh, dumb question!), but that doesn’t mean I live my life full of regrets.

3. Do you own a gun? Break into my house and find out. And yes, that is exactly the kind of answer someone with the last name of Midkiff would say.

4. What flavor of Kool Aid was your favorite? Never cared for it.

5. Do you get nervous before doctor appointments? No.

6. What do you think of hot dogs? 100% beef are fine. Onions and sauerkraut please.

7. Favorite Christmas movie? It’s a Wonderful Life followed by Holiday Inn

8. What do you prefer to drink in the morning? Coffee, black, not too strong, and the occasional hazelnut latte.

9. Can you do push ups? Yes, I can. The question ought to be: “Should I?” to which I would answer, “Not unless I want my orthopedic surgeon and physical therapist to kill me.”

10. Favorite hobby? Crocheting and cross-stitch. Genealogy is my life, not a hobby.

11. Do you have A.D.D.? I do believe so. Maybe even on occasion it’s ADHD.

12. What’s one trait you hate about yourself? See number 16.

13. Middle name? Joy

14. Name 3 thoughts at this exact moment? a) I really don’t like these kinds of memes; b) I should get to bed; and c) I can’t think of anything else.

15. Name 3 drinks you regularly have? a) tea (all kinds); b) Diet Pepsi; c) an occasional glass of wine

16. Current hate right now? I don’t believe in hate.

17. Favorite place to be? Home.

18. How did you bring in the New Year? Noisemakers, party hats, and rum and cokes.

19. A place would you like to go? Only one? Hmmm…it’s a toss up between Salt Lake City and Western Michigan, both which would yield me lots of genealogical rewards.

20. Name three people who will complete this: No clue

21. Do you have slippers? Yes, but I never wear them.

22. What shirt are you wearing? Dark blue “Willard Elementary 2002, est. 1908” with an American flag

23. Do you like sleeping on satin? Doesn’t matter.

24. Can you whistle? Yes, and I can also whistle between my fingers quite loudly, a feat I used frequently when I was a camp counselor.

25. Would you be a pirate? Raping and pillaging are illegal.

26. What songs do you sing in the shower? Whatever’s in my head at the moment.

27. Favorite girl’s name(s)? Melissa, Melinda, Melody and Melanie. Unfortunately, I only had one daughter, so the last three never got used.

28. What’s in your pocket right now? Lint and air

29. Last thing that made you laugh? Thomas’ comment about liking his men ground up and in the freezer (it makes me laugh no matter how many times I’ve read it)!

30. Favorite bed sheets as a child? Peanuts by Charles Schultz

31. Worst injury ever? Rotator cuff tendons tore up by a bone spur (I’m currently recovering from surgery for this, if you haven’t already heard).

32. Do you like where you live? My house, yes. My neighborhood, so-so.

33. How many TVs do you have in your house? Three, I think. Unless the old black and white one from my teen years is still in the basement, then it’s four. I don’t hardly ever watch TV.

34. Who is your loudest friend? Nuess (and all her friends will name her their loudest friend, hands down, too!…we love you, Nu-Nu!)

35. How many dogs do you have? See number 3.

36. Does someone have a crush on you? Oh, I’m sure someone, somewhere does. Not that I’m vain. Really.

37. What is your favorite book? That question is impossible to answer. I just love to read.

38. What is your favorite candy? Real German chocolate. I’m more of a pastry lover, though.

39. Favorite Sports Team? Not really a sports fan. But it is fun to go to the local hockey game: “Go! Chiefs!”

40. What song do you want played at your funeral? I’m not planning on attending, so it doesn’t really matter. My favorite hymn always was “I Come to the Garden Alone,” but having “Amazing Grace” played on real bagpipes would be fantastic!

Full of Gratitude

Julie Cahill Tarr of GenBlog challenged the Genea-Bloggers to post two things for which they’re thankful. I’m a little late to the game, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to express my gratitude over the events in the past week and a half.

First, I’m thankful to all those people in my life who have been so wonderfully kind and thoughtful to me lately. Going into surgery was a Big Deal, as it was my first surgery ever and my only real hospitalization other than being born and giving birth.

  • *Thank you to Dr. Christopher Lang and his surgical team for doing major repair work on not one, but two, tendons (I just discovered this in my followup appointment yesterday!) as well as filing off that painful bone spur, leaving me with only four tiny incisions that are healing quite nicely. Thank you to Naomi, the intake nurse at Holy Family Hospital who was so warm and caring, and took the time to make sure I was comfortable and anxiety-free before surgery. Thank you to all the other staff at Spokane Orthopedics and Holy Family who made my medical experience a positive one.
  • *Thank you to my husband, Norm, who was a surprisingly good recovery nurse (lest this sounds like a back-handed compliment, if you but knew the Midkiff inability–it extends to his siblings and daughter–to withstand even the thought of blood or bodily fluids, you would understand my gratefulness for assistance with things like changing dressings, etc.)! Also, thanks to my children, Missy, for her willingness to run errands and fix meals, and Matt, for help with lots of household chores.
  • *Thanks to Brenda (my daughter’s future mother-in-law 😉 ) for taking me to the hospital early on surgery morning after my husband had to work the night before, for the meals cooked and goodies baked (I swear my next surgery will have to be a tummy tuck!), and for taking my teens to their home now and again to give me some needed time to myself.
  • *Thank you to my friend, neighbor, and walking partner Kristy for the delicious meal and thoughts and prayers.
  • *Thanks to the staff at Garry Middle School for their cards, e-mails, phone calls, prayers, visits, and meals; special thanks to Diane, Monica, Kelleen, and Judy, as well as to Pat, my sub. It is wonderful to look forward to going back to work again. I miss you and the students!
  • *Thank you to Norm’s and my family members who also sent e-mails, phoned me, visited, sent prayers and thoughts my way, and sent yummy care packages!
  • *Thanks to members of the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society and the Genea-Bloggers who have sent good wishes via e-mails and comments.

I feel blessed to have so many caring people in my life!

Secondly, I am grateful for quality medical care. We know the frightening and stressful experience of what it is like to live without medical insurance, and so we are doubly blessed that between my husband’s and my employers, we can now pick and choose the providers that are best suited for our family’s needs. I’m also grateful that we live in a country where medical service is close by and of high quality. I feel very blessed that my employer allows me to accumulate sick leave and that because my husband and I work opposite shifts, it has allowed us over the years to always have someone home when the kids are sick, without using up a lot of our own sick time. It is because of this that I am able to take off so much necessary time from work to fully recuperate.

Eight Musical Things about Me

I’ve been tagged by Thomas, Amy, and George to participate in the “Eight Things about Me” meme, and I thought I’d sort of copy Jasia (imitation being the most sincere form of flattery) and stick to one theme. My theme is musical instruments, ones I either mastered or attempted to learn.

1. Piano – I started lessons with some books my grandmother (I think) sent me when I was a girl in Alaska. The trouble was, we didn’t have a piano at home to practice on. I would stay after school and use the school’s piano. I quickly got bored, and never advanced learning beyond reading the treble clef (reinforced by the band instruments I later learned to play). Whenever I look at bass clef, it’s like trying to read a foreign language or writing with my left hand: I can do it, but it takes too much concentration to be of any use. These days, I can pick out a tune with my right hand and accompany it with a few chords on my left (this also translates to playing the organ, of course). This is a skill I would like to someday improve.

2. Flutaphone – When we first got a music teacher for our Southeast Alaskan elementary school (someone who flew over from Ketchikan a few times a month), like most beginning band students, I learned to play the flutaphone. The fingering translates very nicely to a recorder, which has a much nicer sound to it than a flutaphone (sorry, Bill!).

3. Flute – I loved the idea of playing a flute; it has a nice, graceful sound to it, and being a girly-girl little girl, I of course, attempted to try it. Two problems: I got dizzy trying to make it create a sound, and my hands and fingers were too small to create the necessary fingerings (I still have the smallest hands of any adult that I know!).

4. Clarinet – so of course, the next instrument to try was the clarinet. I could reach the keys just fine and it was another natural segue from the flutaphone and recorder. I played clarinet in elementary school (5th – 7th grades) and then again in high school band (9th and 10th). I attended a small private school that did not have music classes in 8th grade.

5. Cornet – this was a huge switch for me. The cornet is nearly identical to the trumpet, but it has a shorter, more open bell and produces a mellower sound. This was my first introduction to the brass family, and it was done (where else?) in a Salvation Army band while I was in college. Not only did I practice on my own, I actually took trumpet lessons at Spokane Falls Community College to improve my technique on the cornet. Sometimes I would practice on the bugle at Camp Gifford (a trumpet-like instrument without valves; notes are created by a change in lip position, and so only certain tunes–like Reveille and Taps–can be played on it).

6. Flugelhorn – yes, Virginia, there really is an instrument by that name. Another British-style brass instrument, it looks like a cross between an alto horn and a cornet and is held in a horizontal position like the cornet. However, the flugelhorn has a larger bell AND a larger mouthpiece, the latter making it much easier to produce sound without so much tension in the embouchure (cheek and lip muscles). It also has a fourth valve for alternate fingering ease. I absolutely loved playing the flugelhorn because not only was it easier than the cornet (whose high notes I could never quite attain), but many times the music written for it was a soft counter-melody that gave me a little glory as a “soloist” without the anxiety of putting me directly in the spotlight. I played this instrument with The Salvation Army Western Territorial Band in the 1987 Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade, a very high honor. The Pasadena High School Band and The Salvation Army Band are the only bands that have a standing invitation from the Tournament of Roses Parade. All others are accepted by special invitation only.

7. Altohorn – After I learned flugelhorn, if there was an altohorn player absent during band practice or a performance, I would occasionally substitute for them. This instument, held vertically, looks like a small tuba and is just a little larger than a flugelhorn. The Salvation Army Bands are based upon the British brass bands where the fingerings for the instruments (with the exception of the trombone) are identical for all the notes. This allows for easy switching and substituting when running short on players.

8. Autoharp – Someone donated a couple of instruments to The Salvation Army church my parents were pastoring in Southeast Alaska when I was a girl. Using music where the chords were already written in, I would strum the strings with my right hand while pushing down on the marked chord keys with my left. Oh, yes, a concertina was also donated, but other than playing around with it, I couldn’t really utilize it during actual congregational singing.

There you have it: eight things about me. If you’re reading this, consider yourself tagged!

It’s All Randy’s Fault!

This is what happens when you don’t have time for blogging. A meme comes along, and everyone tags you for it, thinking you haven’t been tagged yet. When you find a moment to participate, there isn’t anyone left to tag! 🙂 Randy Seaver over at Genea-Musings started a Tag meme on Tuesday, and it has swept through the genea-blogger world. It’s actually a fun one (i.e., I don’t have to think to hard; therefore, I can write it quickly!). Thank you to Paula, Tim, Lisa, Denise, William, and Kathryn (and any one who tags me before I publish this) for tagging me!

Ten Years Ago, I Was:
1. a homeschooling, SAHM of an almost-8-year-old and a 4 1/2-year-old
2. younger and slimmer, but poorer 🙂
3. living without a computer or the Internet (unbelievable, I know!)
4. looking at a much smaller family tree with many more blank spaces
5. driving a different station wagon, and being owned by a different cat

Five Places I Have Lived:
1. Kodiak, Alaska
2. Fairbanks, Alaska
3. Metlakatla, Alaska
4. Kake, Alaska
5. Klawock, Alaska

(and to complete the list, there’s Colville, Washington and three communities within Spokane County, Washington)

Five Jobs I Have Had:
1. camp counselor
2. preschool teacher’s aide
3. accounts payable bookkeeper
4. receptionist/secretary/switchboard operator
5. adult family home caregiver

Five Snacks I Enjoy:
1. diet Pepsi
2. tortilla chips with a dip of equal parts sour cream and La Victoria’s Salsa Brava
3. Kit Kat bar
4. smoked almonds
5. pizza, sausage or Hawaiian

Five Things on Today’s To-Do List:
1. finish packing
2. clean the cat’s litterbox (oh, joy)
3. call in and renew hubby’s prescription
4. make sure kids do their homework over the weekend (it never ends)
5. work on the checkbook (joy, again)

Since I’m writing this before I head out of town, I don’t have time to hunt for those who haven’t already been tagged. If you come across this and wish to participate, consider yourself tagged by me.

Getting to Know Me, Getting to Know AnceStories

With the advent of so many new genealogy blogs online, Terry Thornton of Hill Country of Monroe County has challenged all genea-bloggers (newbies and old hands) to introduce themselves and their blogs. Two months ago, I wrote a similar post, “What This Blog is All About,” here.

My name is Miriam Robbins Midkiff, and I live in Spokane, Washington, USA, about 15 miles west of the Idaho border, the largest urban area between Seattle and Minneapolis. I’ve been married for 21 years, and we have two good-looking, intelligent, and compassionate high-school-age teens (one of each). By turns we are adored or ignored by our frisky middle-aged tabby, Tessa. I’ve been a special education paraeducator with my local school district for nine years, where I work with developmentally impaired teens at the middle-school level. I also teach online genealogy classes (basic and intermediate) through the local community college district and the county library district. I’m a member of the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society, am active on several committees–including co-authoring their blog–and teach and speak at both EWGS and other societies in the Inland Northwest. I’m a co-administrator at Facebook’s Genea-Bloggers Group, and have several other blogs I (try to) maintain!

As you can see, genealogy is a huge part of my life. I began this blog as an outlet for the need to write about something–anything–on a regular basis. I can’t not write! “AnceStories” was a word I coined when I created a website years ago to write the stories of my ancestors. I discovered blogging was a lot quicker and easier than creating web pages. Series are especially interesting for me to write, but I admit that I’m not always good at wrapping them up! Lately, I’ve been posting photos for Wordless Wednesday, a follow-up on the photo on Thursday, and then blogging about recent research on Friday Findings. The first day of every month, I post a Calendar of Events. I also will post press releases for genealogy-related companies, but rarely do reviews of products (non-fiction books seem to be my main exception to that rule). It’s through this blog that I explain, announce, and invite others to participate with me in Scanfest.

My brightest article was originally submitted for a military-themed genealogy writing contest and was a first-prize winner: A Polar Bear in North Russia. It’s about my great-grandfather’s service in the U.S. Army in Russia, of all places. It’s a little-known fact in American history that we sent troops there to fight against communist forces.

My breeziest ones were about Alice Teddy, the Rollerskating Bear. I got some surprising media attention for these!

Not all my articles are about bears! My most beautiful article was “One Woman: Barbara Dorothy Valk, Missionary to Central Africa, which I wrote for the 20th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy and Women’s History Month 2007. In researching and interviewing relatives for background for this mini-biography, I was rewarded by discovering she was so much more than the elderly spinster aunt of my mother that I recalled meeting only twice.

I enjoy receiving comments from my readers, and try to follow up on them regularly. Lately, now that school has started, and being hampered by a shoulder injury, I’m neither blogging nor following up on comments as much as I would like. Please know that I read all comments before publishing them, as well as any e-mails I receive; I appreciate your patience as it takes longer to respond these days. The best way to get to know me within the framework of this blog is to become a regular reader by bookmarking this blog or subscribing via e-mail or a feed reader (see upper right-hand margin to enable any of those features). Visiting my profile will also tell you a bit about what motivates me to write. While I mainly write for my own pleasure and to record my family’s history, it always encourages me when I receive “fan e-mail,” too! Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to get to know me and AnceStories a little better!

The Family Heirloom Meme is Posted

Julie Cahill Tarr of GenBlog created a Family Heirloom meme. She wanted to know which family heirlooms people would save in the event of a disaster. Eleven genea-bloggers participated (including Julie herself), and she has posted the results here. Even if you weren’t able to participate, given the many natural disasters we’ve seen lately, it is a good thing to do some planning and set those plans into motion.