Friday, March 25, 2016

Happy Maryland Day!

March 25th celebrates Maryland Day, which commemorates the anniversary of the March 25, 1634, landing of the first European settlers in the Province of Maryland, the third English colony to be settled in British North America. On this day settlers from "The Ark" and the smaller "The Dove" first stepped foot onto Maryland soil, at St. Clement's Island in the Potomac RiverLater the colonists and their two ships sailed further back down river to the southeast to settle a capital at St. Mary's City near the point where the Potomac flows into the Chesapeake Bay.

The settlers were about 150 in number, departed from Gravesend on the Thames River downstream from London. Three Jesuit priests were collected from Cowes on the Isle of Wight in England where they avoided having to give the oath of allegiance and supremacy to British King Charles I.


As many of us learned in 7th Grade Maryland State History class (thank you, Mr. Davis), Cecil Calvert, the second Lord Baltimore, founded the colony under a charter that the King granted on June 20, 1632. They wanted to establish a colony where Roman Catholics, as well as everyone else, could practice their religion.  

The King gave the colony to the Calvert family as a gift, on the conditions that the King was paid an annual rent of two arrowheads and that the colony must be named after his wife, Queen Henrietta Maria. It was called “Mary-Land” or Maryland, as it is known today. The celebration to commemorate this event began in Maryland schools in 1903 and it was made an official state holiday in 1916.


Maryland has various state symbols, such as:


Maryland's flag bears the arms of the Calvert and Crossland families. Calvert was the family name of the Lords Baltimore, and their colors of gold and black appear in the first and fourth quarters of the flag. Crossland was the family of the mother of George Calvert, first Lord Baltimore. The red and white Crossland colors, with a cross bottony (symbol having a bud, button or a kind of trefoil), appear in the second and third quarters.

Monday, March 21, 2016

One Year House-iversay!

Having bought our cute little house in the north section of the Lincoln Square neighborhood a year ago on March 16th, our One-Year House-iversary of the day we moved in and started living here is March 21st.  It's been a great year in our home and we absolutely love it! With not many exceptions, our weekends have been spent both inside and/or outside the house, adding our touches and making our already-cute house even cuter, in ways that only WE can do.

It was exciting to initially walk through the house with our realtor, Susie Kanter from Dream Town, who was amazing at giving us tips and suggestions about what we could do, and really helped us see the potential in the house.  She helped increase our excitement and interest.  PS - we love Susie!

On a late-afternoon walk around the neighborhood a few Sundays ago, Kevin and I  tallied up what we have actually done to the house in the past 366 days (considering we are in a Leap Year), and we were impressed by how much we've accomplished.  While the house has caused us to be a bit less social, the work we continue to do on the weekends is paying off in both short- and long-term ways:


A lot of time was spent upgrading a space we've never had before - the garage!  When we first moved in, just about everything we had to store went into our rather large 10'x10' laundry room which only housed a washer and dryer (more on that later).  Admittedly, the garage needed some love.  The structure is sound, but the original non-automatic wooden bi-fold garage doors had seen better days.  So we spent a few weekends scraping the old paint off the doors, then Kevin wood-puttied the hell out of them, doing the same to the side entrance door.  I contacted the Historic Pullman Foundation to find out the names of the three paint colors they require homeowners to use (a dark olive green, a lighter green, and a brick red.  Interestingly, they don't have names for them, but they did send me paint chips in order to buy matching colors).  Since our house is red brick, we chose to use the two shades of green on our garage doors, the window trim, and the front porch and steps.  Then we added fascia and gutters to the garage and moved all of our storage into it, which still left room for the car and for Kevin to create a workbench and tool storage area.

We removed a few trees, pruned the rest, and then pulled out a fugly holly bush in the backyard.  We put in new edging pavers around the flower beds and the sidewalk, and replanted flowers in one section of the garden and vegetables in the other.  We reseeded portions of the yard and managed to get grass to grow where there had been none.  After we stained the wooden deck, the backyard was basically complete . . . for now.


In the front yard, we painted the porch, ceiling and steps in the Pullman green colors, secured a flower box on the porch railing, pulled out another fugly holly bush and replaced it with azaleas, mulched the shrubs and the Crabapple tree, and power-washed the front sidewalk.  We scrubbed the rust off and repainted the mailbox and Kevin made a new faceplate for our house numbers.  The glass-block window on the porch had a closed-off vent window in the center, and we replaced it with a piece of clear, textured stained glass.


Our main floor is "upstairs" which contains our open-concept living room, dining room, kitchen, and small office space.  There's also a full bath and pantry/closet.  We didn't have to do too much to this level except paint.  The previous owners had painted the entire space in flat sage green which made it look dingey.  So we whitened it up and brightened up the kitchen.


We decided to install a water meter which meant moving the water main access, which just so happened to be under the bed in the guestroom.  The previous pipes, we discovered, were PVC that had been artistically painted to look like copper; this fooled us, our realtor, our home inspector, and even the plumbers at first.  To bring it up to code, all the PVC had to be replaced.  Bigger project than we anticipated, but everything needed to be re-routed and the 2-feet thick concrete in the downstairs made it impossible for the new pipes to run underground.  So we ended up with a bit of a steam punk look in the guestroom.  The pic on the left below is from the original listing; OUR guest room is on the right.

Most of the inside work we've done has been on the downstairs level.  First thing, of course, was painting.  Again, the previous owners had used the same flat sage green in the den and a flat light blue in the two bedrooms.  Flat paint - why?  Why, why, why?  So we chose a light shade of grey and freshened up the white for both rooms.  Kevin sewed curtains for our bedroom windows.  And after that, we carpeted the entire concrete downstairs with charcoal carpet tiles.


Our plan is to embark on the most aggressive project to date; switching out the tiny full bath on the lower level with the larger laundry room next to it.  Along the lines of "you don't really know someone until you live with them" in this case would be "you don't really know your house until you open up the walls".  It's going to be interesting, and it's going to require A LOT of jack-hammering since the downstairs floor is solid, and I do mean solid, concrete. In order to move the plumbing for the new bathroom, we will need to bust up the concrete in order to plumb the new space. I'm not particularly thrilled about the mess this will make, but you gotta crack a few eggs to make an omelet, right?  Someday...

It's been a really fun year, working on the house and making it what we want it to be.  We've done just about all the work ourselves, but I need to take a minute and thank Kevin's parents, Pat and Dianne, for driving out and pitching in a few weekends.  They've helped with the yard, the garage, and have offered to pitch in on the eventual bathroom renovation.  It's always great to see them, but when they show up with tools and workclothes, it's even more appreciated.  It's been great having them helping us out now and then.

Reflecting on what we've done this past year excites us as to what we will accomplish next year.  Oh, and there are still MORE projects, like new concrete sidewalks in the backyard, new fencing in the front yard, and a slight renovation in the downstairs den.  And I think Kevin wants to spend more time creating his work space in the garage.  I'll update on those projects too.

For now, we will keep plugging away, learning more about our little 120-year old house, ourselves and each other.  When we chose this house, we chose "wisely", and it's fun to see what we can turn it into.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Farewell, Judy

When someone dies, it's not uncommon to hear friends and loved ones talk about how kind and special the person was.  It's so not uncommon that one has to wonder how genuine those reminisces are.  Is it possible that there are that many kind and special people in the world?  I personally can count on one hand the number of people in my life who would and have been considered kind and special.  And one of them lost her fight to pancreatic cancer today.

Judy Carter was my mother's best friend.  She, her husband, and three sons lived across the street from us for about 40 years.  They are family, really.  We even went on vacations together.  It was nothing for them to cross the street and just walk into our house or come over to sit on the deck.  Judy would frequently come over to the house in the mornings in her robe with her tea and sit and talk to Mom for a few hours.  They exchanged gifts every Christmas.

To say Judy was kind and special is an understatement.  She volunteered for her church, her kids' schools, her community, and did it all with a constant smile on her face and a cheery disposition.  I can't recall ever seeing her in a bad mood, although I'm sure she had them.  When I would drive home to visit Mom and Dad while living in DC, or drive a rental car from the airport since moving to Chicago, Judy would greet me in the street with a hug, almost always being the first person I would see when I arrived home.

She was devoted to my mother's happiness and sanity, and worried about her as Dad's health declined.  I know Judy did everything in her power to support Mom, even if it was just to talk.  Judy was that kind of person.  She did things for you without provocation.  Every Christmas, she would send over her special candy cane cookies that my sister loves.  Judy constantly had a compliment for you.  She used to ask me to make her bulletin boards for her classrooms.  She was always telling me how talented I am and what a good artist I am and what a lovely voice I have.  She didn't have to tell me any of these things.  On paper, Judy was just our neighbor.  But in many ways, she was another aunt or cousin or older sister to me.  And despite not seeing her over the past year since she was diagnosed, I can't help but feel a great loss in my world.  I can't imagine the loss my mother feels today.

It is a rare occasion when someone can be described truly as kind and special.  And Judy is that rare exception.  Whatever happens to us when we die or wherever we go after we leave Earth, that place has been made better by Judy's arrival, and we who remain will have to find a way to deal with the loss of her.  St Patrick's Day will be forever changed for us, because it will now reflect another saint in our eyes as well as be the day we all obtained the most kind and the most special guardian angel.

Monday, March 14, 2016

More Irish Ancestors!

Last year, I introduced you to my mother's ancestors from Ireland, John and Jean Anderson. While my dad's lineage is mostly German, Mom's is a bit more diverse with some German, English, Scottish, and Irish.  The Andersons are not Mom's (and thereby, my) only Irish ancestors.  And while The Andersons came to America in 1722, there are still a few others who came to this country from Ireland more recently.

Mom's paternal great-grandmother, Elizabeth Delaney, is the child of two Irish immigrants, Patrick William Delaney (born in 1815) and Mary Cain (born in 1823). Both were from County Kildare in Ireland, which is located just west/southwest of Dublin city, and came to this country during the mass Irish migration, ostensibly to escape the Irish Famine, the dire economic conditions that destituted families, and social and religious persecutions.  

Most of the ships carrying Irish immigrants to America were well-built and adequately supplied.  And although sailing across the Atlantic in the 19th century presented many challenges, most Irish ships brought immigrants safely to America to begin their new lives.  Irish immigrants typically began their long journey from Irish ports in Dublin, Newery, Cobh (Queenstown), Limerick, Belfast, Londonderry, Galway, Waterford, Liverpool and Silgo, and typically arrived in the North American ports of New York, New Orleans, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Newfoundland.

Patrick and Mary wed in Ireland about 1841.  It is believed that Patrick and Mary arrived together in New York Harbor in 1849 aboard the ship, the Stephen Whitney (predating Ellis Island which wasn't created until the early 1890s).  He was 34; she was 26. By the time of the 1850 Census, they were living in Essex County, NJ, in the Newark East Ward.  If Mary had given birth to any children by now, they had not survived in Ireland or the voyage.

I've found no record (yet) of Patrick having any other family that came to America.  Two of Mary's siblings, Peter Cain and Margaret Cain, had also come over (not sure if before or after Patrick and Mary's journey) and landed in either Philadelphia or Baltimore, most likely the latter.  Mary's parents stayed behind in Ireland, but when her mother, Catherine Cain, died in 1848, her father, Thomas Cain, left his Irish village of Ballysax Little and came to America later that same year at the age of 44.  He arrived in Baltimore and connected with Peter and Margaret, both of whom had eventually settled very near where my parents currently live in Maryland.

In 1855, with two children and pregnant with Mom's great-grandmother Elizabeth, Mary and Patrick would leave the northern New Jersey area where they had settled and move to the Cain homestead in Cokeyard, Vale Summit, Maryland.   Neither Mary nor Patrick could either read or write.  Patrick was a laborer according to the 1850 Census, and after moving to Maryland he would work the rest of his life as a coal miner, a profession shared by so many of my ancestors.  Mary would be a home-maker and baby machine her entire adult life.  She would go on to give birth to 10 children in total, 6 of whom lived past childhood:  Mary, Thomas, Elizabeth, Margaret, William, and Patrick, Jr.  The latter would live with his parents until they died.  All the children were literate and educated.

By the time of the 1900 Census, Patrick and Mary had been married a long time; so long, in fact, that they couldn't remember the year they got married.  Under the question of "How long married", the census-taker's response was simply "Don't Know".  They died just over 1 week apart in 1902:  Patrick on February 28th and Mary on March 9th.  If they married the year before they came to America, they would have been married for 61 years.  They would leave their 6 children and 42 grandchildren.  Patrick, Mary and Thomas (Mary's father) are all buried in St. Michael's Cemetery in Frostburg, MD.

Their daughter, Elizabeth Delaney, would go on to marry John Harrison Carter in 1874 when she was 19 and he was 23.  Elizabeth would give birth to 13 children, only 9 of whom would survive.  Their oldest child, Thomas Patrick Carter, clearly named after his father and maternal grandfather, is my mother's maternal grandfather.  He was born the same year Elizabeth and John were married.  I can clearly see Granny's face in Thomas' photo.

Elizabeth and John would continue to live in the Vale Summit area until their somewhat premature deaths.  Sadly, neither of them would enjoy the same long lives of her parents: Elizabeth would die at the age of 62 and John would die at the age of 59.

 Erin go Braugh!   

Thursday, March 10, 2016

A Trip To The Theatre

Kevin and I have been pretty good about "getting our culture on".  We have access to some of the best museums in the country (hell, Kevin even lived in one of them for a month), and we go regularly to see exhibits, some new and some not.  We go to art shows, photography exhibits, wine tastings, and occasionally to a dance concert.  But what we're really good at doing is going to see plays, musicals, and concerts in all kinds of venues.  We aren't fanatics by any means, but we enjoy seeing something that strikes our fancy that ranges between Broadway shows to local productions.

In the 10 years I lived in DC, I saw 5 shows.  One of the reasons I moved to Chicago in 2005 was to get back to doing what I enjoyed doing, and going to the theatre was on that list.  So while sitting in the theatre this week waiting for "42nd Street" to begin, I started mentally counting up all the shows we've seen over our 10+ years together.  The first theatre I saw in Chicago was the day I landed in Chicago in September 2005 - to see Kevin perform in the Tangerine Family Circus at the Actors Gymnasium in Evanston.

I'm not completely certain that I've remembered all of them.  But, regardless, looking at the list below I am clearly achieving my original goal:

Troubadors (Chicago)
Blue Man Group (Chicago)
On The Town (Evanston)
Forever Plaid  (Beverly Arts Center)
Wicked (Broadway in Chicago)
Ka (Cirque du Soleil, Las Vegas)
La Reve (The Wynn, Las Vegas)
Corteo (Cirque du Soleil, Chicago)
Midnight Circus (Daley Plaza, Chicago)
Scissor Sisters Concert (The Riv, Chicago)
Two Elderly British Detectives (Chicago)
Sparrow (Chicago)
A Christmas Carol (The Goodman, Chicago)
Hephaestus, A Greek Tale (Lookingglass, Chicago)
Kooza (Cirque du Soleil, Chicago)
Million Dollare Quartet (Pre-Broadway, Chicago))
Macbeth (Chicago Shakespeare)
Keane Concert (The Aragon, Chicago)
Cousins Grimm (Center on Halsted, Chicago)
Schoolhouse Rock Live! (Mary's Attic, Chicago)
Addams Family (Pre-Broadway, Chicago)
Private Lives (Chicago Shakespeare)
Women’s Club of Evanston Revue
Avenue Q (Broadway in Chicago)
Robyn Concert (The Riv, Chicago)
Black Watch (Chicago)
The Madness of George III (Chicago Shakespeare)
Middletown (Chicago Shakespeare)
OVO (Cirque du Soleil, Chicago)
Murder For Two (Chicago Shakespeare Studio Theater)
Cirque Shanghai (Navy Pier, Chicago)
Billy Elliot (Broadway in Chicago)
The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart (Chicago Shakespeare)
Jersey Boys (Broadway in Chicago)
School for Lies (Chicago Shakespeare)
Evita (Broadway)
Characters Welcome (Upright Citizens' Brigade in NYC)
Jekyll & Hyde (Broadway in Chicago)
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (Broadway in Chicago)
Barnum (Chicago)
Big Fish (Pre-Broadway)
Catch Me If You Can (Broadway in Chicago)
Anything Goes (Broadway in Chicago)
Yo-Yo Ma (Alternatives Inc., Chicago)
Pilobolus (Arscht Center, Miami)
Once (Arscht Center, Miami)
Seussical (Chicago Shakespeare)
Newsies (Broadway in Chicago)
1970’s Revue (Fireside Theater, Wisconsin)
First Wives Club (Broadway in Chicago)
The Book of Mormon (Broadway in Chicago)
Bad Jews (Chicago)
Kurios (Cirque du Soleil, Chicago)
Memphis (London)
The Tempest (Chicago Shakespeare)
Gotta Dance (Pre-Broadway)
School of Rock (Broadway)
42nd Street (Broadway in Chicago)

and counting...