Wednesday, August 19, 2009


As promised, this blog is going to be sporadic at best…so here’s the first post I’ve made in almost 6 weeks.

So I’ve been doing some genealogical research recently. It’s something I’ve tried to do on and off for about 7 years. I started earnestly researching around last Christmas. I’m not sure why…I guess I felt like I needed a new research project after writing my thesis. Thanks to, I’ve really been able to find a lot of information going back on some branches of the tree all the way to Jamestown in the 1620s. I’m most interested, however, in tracking the Adams part of the tree. Here is where I’ve run into some puzzling dead-ends. I think I’ve been able to track it back to my great-great-great-great grandfather.

I wonder who these people were? What they looked like? Census records state what the adults’ professions were: farmers, carpenters (one was a coffin maker), teamsters (as in stagecoach driver). All salt of the earth kinda people. All could read, which is somewhat of a pleasant surprise considering how low literacy rates were in rural areas of Tennessee in the 1800s. Most of the men died young. Even my grandfather died at age 47.

I’ve also uncovered some fairly sad things. My great grandfather registered for the WWI draft one week before my grandfather was born. That’s the last record I have for him. He didn’t die in the war, but what happened? The next record for my grandfather is that he lived with his great-grandparents at the same address where the Germantown CafĂ© stands now. His mother lived across town with another fella and later moved to Cincinnati while he stayed in Nashville.

None of this information defines me as a person, of course. But it is a part of who I am, isn’t it? To borrow a lyric from Ben Folds, if my great-great-great-great granddad made someone’s great-great-great-great grandaddy’s slaves, it wasn’t my idea. (Some family history seems to indicate that maybe they were slaveowners, but I seriously doubt it…they were probably too poor.) That said, I’m proud of my heritage. If I have Confederates in the attic, I’ll be proud of their service…misguided as it may have been. Just like I am proud of my ancestors who stepped on a rickety wooden boat and traveled 30-40 days across the Atlantic to face hostile Native Americans, indentured servitude, starvation, and disease to make a better life here. The least I can do is to try to find out who they were and try to preserve that information for my daughter.

What impact am I making? What mark am I making today that may or may not be studied by my great-great-great-great grandkids? Will I just be a number in a census ledger, or will they be amazed at the mundane facts of my everyday life, like I’m amazed at the mundane facts of my ancestors?

What about you?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Perdido: the finale

It's always a bummer when a trip wraps up. Packing up, cleaning up, loading stinks. But, we do have the memories of a truly great vacation. It was relaxing, and most importantly it was a lot of fun to see Ellie thrive in a new environment.

I cashed in my Father's Day gift and went deep-sea fishing. I was only going for 4 hours, but when I got there they said they cancelled the 4 hour that morning and only offered the 6 hour tour. But they gave it to me at the 4 hour price since no one called to let me know. It was rough out there, choppy waves (4-6 ft). Kids on either side of me lost their breakfast overboard. Fun. Luckily, I took Dramamine, so I was in good shape. I caught 4 fish total. One was a big 10 pounder. I think I've got about 7 pounds of meat off of that one. Very fun trip and a great Father's Day gift.

We're wrapping up now and I need to get my rest for the return trip back. Let's hope it's a smooth ride back. By the way, Ellie told the beach and ocean "Bye-bye" this evening. It was cute and sad.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Perdido, Day 3

Another relaxing day at the beach. That's been a good trend on this trip: taking it easy. We went to the Gulf Coast Zoo this morning, which was much better than I expected...and pretty cheap too. Ellie really enjoyed it. She got to see a bear, some tigers, and got to feed a donkey and some goats. She liked feeding the animals, but didn't like them touching her. It was also fun to see her hear the animal noises that we've been working on for the last year or so.

After that it was back to the condo for nap (both Ellie and me). That heat was nearly unbearable today. 100 degrees easy. The scorching sun made me reevaluate my plans for taking a 6 hour fishing trip tomorrow. That would put me out there in the ocean, with no shade or quarter, during the roughest part of the day's sun. I decided just to do a 4 hour tour which puts me back onshore at 12:00. I'm really looking forward to it: it's my Father's Day gift. I'll be happy with a few pounds of snapper or even some triggerfish.

After supper we went back out to the beach. A spot shower cooled things off some. Late afternoon really is the best time to be out there. You've got the place to yourself and it's cooler. Ellie made a sand castle and made a friend who is also staying at the condo too. I'm so happy that she likes to get out in the ocean. Of course she doesn't know about all the creepy things that live in it...and once she comes to that realization she may change in the future...but right now she could care less.

Off to bed, gotta be up early to catch the boat. Good times.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Perdido: Day 2

As the old saying goes, even a bad day on vacation is better than a good day at work. Today was definitely not a bad day, though. Went down to the beach around 10:00 or so; this time we were ready for Ellie to go a little deeper into the ocean. Theresa doesn't like getting into the ocean: too many critters for her. I, on the other hand, find that the best part of the beach. Ellie did really well out there. Of course I hung onto her the whole time (and she held onto me) and she had a lifejacket on, but near the end she was wanting a little more freedom...and even let go of me for a little while to kick her legs and so on. Good times. I'm glad she's not afraid of the ocean...but that also means we'll have to keep an eye on her. At one point I thought how cool it was to be out there with my daughter. I have a lot of fond memories of me and my mother digging around for sand dollars, snorkeling with a diving mask while looking for fish, and riding the waves in as I swam. Now I've started making new memories...and more importantly watching my daughter make her own. Well, she probably won't remember much of this, but she certainly will in the future.

It was mercilessly hot today. I spotted a bank clock that said it was 108. I don't think it was THAT hot, but it touched 100 easily. That meant that we had a short morning beach session and went back after the sun started going down.

Something that has always stuck with me about the ocean is it's timelessness. As we would look at vacation pictures, my mom used to always remark when she'd see pictures of the ocean that the waves are crashing there now, just like they did on our trip. They'll be crashing long after we leave here too, just like they've been when the first Spanish explorers visited this island and named it, just like they've been crashing for the past 1,000, 10,000, and 100,000 years. It helps you put things into perspective a bit, I think. The ocean is so vast, so powerful, and the footprints Ellie, Theresa, and I left there today are probably gone by now...or certainly will be in the next few days. Replaced with other footprints, washed away by the tide. What does that mean? I don't know...maybe that we just need to enjoy what little time we have. The tide always comes in and takes a part of us with it...concentrate on "now" and less on what's "next."

Tomorrow: early morning at the beach, off to a zoo (a very meager zoo from what I understand), naptime for Ellie (and probably us too), then maybe a couple of hours at a water park. Life is good.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Live, on location...

Posting this from beautiful Perdido Key, FL tonight! Ellie's first real road trip went great. We left at 3:00 AM this morning (after a miserable night's sleep...maybe 3 hours for me). Ellie was wired and I was beginning to think our plan for leaving early so she would sleep most of the way was pretty dumb. But as we crossed the state line into Alabama I looked back to show her the rocket (if you've seen it, you'll remember it) and her eyes were REALLY heavy. By the time we got to the rocket, she was out. She slept until we woke her up several hours later in Montgomery. The rest of the way she was a little angel. It's amazing how a Mickey Mouse DVD will go a long way to satisfying a child. How did my parents and grandparents' generation deal with road trips without DVDs?

In any event, it was a very easy trip down. About 8 hours drive time, but it was a breeze. We arrived around 12:30 PM and were able to check right in. Just in time for Ellie's nap. We had to temper our excitement to see the beach for a little while until she slept.

We took her down to the beach this afternoon and it was really something else. She is very picky about being dirty...hates crumbs on her hands, etc. So we figured sand on her feet would drive her into a fit. She loved it! The whole time we walked down there she was saying "beach!" and "ocean!" and "water!" over and over again. Once she put her feet into the water and another wave came in, she got a little freaked out but she turned it into a game to chase the waves out and run away before another one got to her. Call it fatherly pride, but it was really cute. She cried when we took her away. But there'll be plenty more of the ocean tomorrow...although tomorrow will be a record high here (101 with a heat index of 110). So we'll have to limit ourselves.

I'll post pictures when I get back. I'm using someone else's laptop and I'm sure he won't want a bunch of Ellie's pictures loaded on here.

Anyways, it is really something else to see my child soak all of this in. It's like seeing it for the first time myself...and that's not just hyperbole.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Road Trip

It’s probably not much of a surprise, based on the title of this blog, that I love taking road trips. The destination is fun, of course, but to me the most fun part of the trip is backing out of the driveway, putting the van in drive, and setting off. The anticipation, the planning, popping in a “Road Trip Mix” CD…I don’t know why but that’s usually one of the silent highlights of the trip for me.

I’m reminded of that scene in Swingers when Trent and Mike take off to Vegas:

Mike: “Think we’re going to be there by midnight?”

Trent: “We’re going to be up five hundy by midnight! Vegas baby, Vegas!”

Mike: “Vegas!”

Both: [yelling] “VEGAS!”

We’re not going to Vegas, but we’re taking a trip down to Perdido Key, Florida/Gulf Shores next week. This will be Ellie’s first trip to the beach and only her second trip (her first trip was to Cincinnati last summer). Planning a trip with a little one is a new experience, obviously. Plus it’s an 8 hour drive without stops, so keeping her entertained and avoiding meltdowns is a very real concern. The plan is to leave around 3:00 am so that she’ll be asleep for at least a few hours of the trip. Honestly, I have no expectations on how this will go; but I am sure that we will have a great and relaxing time once we get down there.

I can’t wait to see the look on her face when she sees the ocean for the first time…or when she digs her feet into the sand. (I imagine she’ll freak out a bit: she hates being dirty) It’s going to be an experience that we won’t forget, even though she may not remember it when she grows up.

So early next Monday morning…say around 3:00 AM, if you hear someone quietly jamming to “Thunder Road” down I-65, trying hard to keep a 2 year old asleep, you’ll know it’s me.

Friday, June 5, 2009

2 Years...

My girl will be 2 years old on Sunday. All the cliches are true: time flies, she's grown up fast, it's hard to believe...etc. Really, they are true and I think you have to be a parent to truly understand why they're true. In some ways, it is sad. We're definitely starting to see her develop her independence and while that is good and a blessing in and of itself, it also is the first of many steps she is going to take towards away from us. As a parent, you go from being the center of her universe to a blip on the periphery. But that's natural and good. It means she's developed and hopefully we've done everything to the best of our ablilty and produced a smart young lady capable of making positive choices. Still, I find myself wishing that I could stop time and just live with my 2 year old for a few years like this...just like I wish I could stop time and live with my 18 month old...and my 1 year old...and my 9 month old...etc.

My wife has a line she says pretty often: this is the best stage of Ellie's life right now. She's said it when she was 3 months and every stage since then...and it's been true. While the twos have been somewhat of a challenge, it really has been great. She speaks well, she runs around like a colt, and she actually acts like a little adult most times. It's so much fun.

But as I get older and she gets older, I hope I remember what it was like to hold her for the first time in that operating room. I hope I remember seeing that little face and hairy head for the first time as the doctor hoisted her into the air. I hope I remember her first "bath" and her laying on the warming table with her tongue stuck out when she was only 10 minutes old. I hope I remember handing her off to her mom for the first time. I hope I remember it all and I hope she'll understand why I'm just a little bit sad on her birthday.