Tag Archives: family

Happy And Blessed Thanksgiving – Practicing Gratitude

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”  ― Epicurus

gratitudeI am writing this several weeks before it will post.  It has been a gloomy few days and even though I hate to admit it, my grumpy level goes up when the sun hides.  This tends to press my gratitude level down.  I would not do well in Alaska in winter.

So I decided to go ahead and do a Thanksgiving post.  Thanksgiving was our extended maternal family’s reunion gathering as a child.  We usually went to the farm where all the traditional comfort food converged from a eight county area onto one table.  If there were strained relationships they were set aside for the day as far as I could tell.

This breaking of bread among family served us well.  I only remember the laughter, the stories (that got bigger each year) and the fellowship.  It was expressed gratitude that we had family.  I know it was far from perfect, but even in that, I learned gratitude in the face of the imperfect.  I learned that one does not depend on the other.

Choosing Gratitude

So today I am revving up my gratitude meter.  This year, we are gathering the extended family at my aunt and uncle’s home.  Not on the farm this time, but the family will be there.  Things are far from perfect.  In fact, there are some real challenges many of us are facing, but we still have much much to be thankful for.

Here is a start.  I apologize up front if my list seems superficial to some who may read this in much worse situations, but here I go.  I am grateful for:

  • hot and cold running water
  • several modes of reliable transportation
  • heat, gas and electricity
  • a warm, clean bed
  • a washer and dryer and clean clothes
  • for a loving husband of almost 40 years
  • for a loving church family and friends in several languages around the globe
  • hopes, dreams and plans that my Lord superintends on my behalf
  • ……????

Now, it’s your turn.  In the comments put one (or more) thing you are grateful for.   Let’s see how far this can go.

And oh yes, if you are traveling, safe journeys!



The Practicality, Mystery and Beauty of An Attic

attics“As the years pass, I keep thinking that our greatest lack today is attics.  Modern homes never have them, with the result that young people live only in their own generation, feeling no intimate connection with the past.  Their roots will go deeper if their homes have attics?”

from “More Than Petticoats” – the chapter on Maude Frazier, an early Nevada educator

When we were house hunting in anticipation of our move from California to Kansas, I made a list of features I wanted in a house.  One of those was amble space for a proper library for my husband’s bibliophile habit.  We also wanted a home with some history and character.  We were weary of So Cal subdivisions, one story, no basement, no character houses.  It was all so, well, boring!
Our time in Europe had awakened my Kansas need for the character and history of an older home.  Our Realtor understood, and scoped out homes in the older “classic” neighborhoods of Wichita.   She did find it curious that before the kitchen and bath decor or number of bedrooms we headed for the basement and/or attic.  We needed serious space for this library.
Early Attic Dreams
The house I grew up was a two story frame with the second story almost attics like.attics

It had a real attic but it was not usable for anything other than getting to the flat part of the roof.  I was only up there once or twice since it had to be accessed with a ladder from the upstairs hallway, but sleeping among the gables in my second story bedroom brings back cozy memories.

The vision of a proper third floor library, a retreat among books drew us in.  When we first looked at the historic home we eventually purchased, it was the attic that clinched the deal.  My husband’s books still rest in boxes up there, patiently waiting for the home they have been promised.  We have a vision, and even plans drawn up, but other necessary steps seem to extend the path as we travel toward that dream library in the sky.

Continue reading The Practicality, Mystery and Beauty of An Attic


Finding Lost Family Members – Or Not….

Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing – Wernher von Braun

In a post about a circa 1907 family reunion on the Rightmeier homestead in Jewelllost family County, Kansas, I mentioned a great great uncle, August, we had lost track of.  A friend who has a gift for finding lost family  on the Internet decided to poke around for me.  I was humbled that she took time to do this.

 I had found an 1880 census record of an August G. Rehtmeyer on Ancestry that put him working as a “clerk in a store” in  Pocahontas, Bond, Illinois.  He was 19.
What We Found On August G Rehtmeier
  • He voted in 1890 while living at 819 W North Avenue, Chicago, IL
  • On November 24, 1887 he married Catharine Goldenbogen in Chicago, IL.  Sir name spelled Rithmeyer on the marriage license.
  • 1900 US Census shows him in Chicago at that same location with a wife, Kate and three children, Neta
  • (Nettie) (11), Walter (8) and Florence (5) Sir name spelled Rehtmeyr and occupation as a furniture dealer
  • He and Kate took a ship while cited as being a resident of Chicago and he went to Hamburg, on the Hamburg-Amerika line, a Dampfschiff (steam ship)
  • 1908 He’s married and going from Hamburg through a French port to New York
  • September 12, 1912 He, Kate and the two girls takes the ship President Grant from Boulogne sur Mer France to New York
  • 1920 Census he and Kate are living in Los Angeles on 3008 West 7th Street in a rental. He is listed as a furniture merchant and employer. The building there today looks about a 1920’s stor
    efront. It is probable they lived above the store he ran. Name shown as AG Rehtmeyr
  • Then I see him going from Hawaii to LA on a ship 1923 and he’s living in LA on Olive St in 1926. He voted in CA as a Republican.
  • Two places have his death mentioned: Jan 6 1929, Los Angeles, CA at age 67. He’s buried at Forest Lawn Glendale. He was considered American on all the ships manifests.

Continue reading Finding Lost Family Members – Or Not….

Discerning Fake News – Family History Style

fake newsThe thing that interests me most about family history is the gap between the things we think we know about our families and the realities.
– Jeremy Hardy
In a recent post about a circa 1907 family reunion on the Rightmeier homestead in Jewell County, Kansas, I mentioned a great great uncle, August, we had lost track of.  He was one of my great great grandfather’s older brothers with whom he stowed away on a ship in order to immigrate to America from northern Germany.
A friend and reader of this BLOG who has a gift for finding information on the Internet decided to poke around for me.  I was humbled that she took time to do this.  I found an 1880 census record of Uncle August on Ancestry that put him working as a “clerk in a store” in  Pocahontas, Bond, Illinois.  We currently subscribe to only the US portion of Ancestry, but my friend has the global version.
Avoiding Making Fake News
She found all kinds of neat stuff that opened up all manner of “filling in the blanks”.  I wrote a great BLOG about it, even contacted a couple of family members about it. Using  my version of Ancestry to find more details, I filled in a few more gaps.  Once done, I decided to update my family tree maker in preparation to build a tree on ancestry with all this found information.  And then I realized that the August Rehtmeyer that worked as a clerk in a store was not MY uncle August.  Opps, that pesky reality, Truth, was about to mess up all my work.

Continue reading Discerning Fake News – Family History Style


A Family Summer Picnic, A Castle And Providence

This weekend I will be joining my mother, her brother and members of three of the seven branches of my maternal grandfather’s siblings for a family picnic near Boise Idaho.  Sometime in the 40s or 50s three of  my grandfather’s six siblings moved from Kansas to this area so I only knew them by name.  A large reunion of the Rightmeier clan in Kansas in 2005 and the advent of Facebook reinstated relationships  geography had eroded.

This picnic gathering has me thinking about this branch of my family tree’s German roots.  It centers around a small village in the northern District of Lippe Germany:   Varenholtz.

A Castle

When my husband and I had an opportunity to visit Varenholtz in 1998, we found a landmark never mentioned in any of the family stories:  Schloss (Castle) Varenholz.  The castle location was the seat of a family of Knights , under Heinrich the Lion. Built to its current size in 1596 by Simon VI, the son of a staunch Catholic Count, who ruled the region and fiercely resisted the Protestant movements in the area.

When the elder Count died, the care of Simon VI, his son, was left to Phillip of Hessen.  Although the Count gave strict orders that his son be educated in the Catholic faith, Phillip did not adhere to this request and Simon was educated as a Lutheran, and later studied “at a reformed school in Strasbourg” where he became a follower of John Calvin (1503 – 1564).  It was in this way that Lippe became a mix of Lutheran and Calvinistic influence.

Regetmeir to Rightmeier

My maternal great great  grand-father, Frederic Regetmeier,  immigrated to the United States in 1864 at the age of 14. During this period, a long-term drought, along with political and religious unrest made living conditions in Lippe quite desperate.  In other words the feudal system was breaking down.

The life they knew was disappearing.  Word of the opportunities in America sparked by desperation, drove young Frederic and his brother August  to make the voyage.   In reality the brothers were stowaways on a ship to New York.  It is said they jumped ship in New York harbor and swam ashore.

Continue reading A Family Summer Picnic, A Castle And Providence

Hello Summer! Simplicity and Stones.

“If it could only be like this always – always summer, always alone, the fruit always ripe and Aloysius in a good temper…”  ―Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited

summerWhen one is retired from working as an employee, you would think that the seasons, including summer, would all blend together.  I have found that while my time is more flexible, it is not entirely disconnected from the rhythm of the of the seasons

We are not big vacation takers, but prefer to do mini-trips.  Some of this has to do with the amount of travel I did with my work before retiring.  It was great.  But even then, we road warriors reluctantly tolerated the non-frequent flyers at the airports headed off for their summer adventure.

In addition, since I flew, literally, around the world for my vocation, a hop in the car for a couple of nights at a quiet Kansas B &B is so much less complicated.  I have been blessed to see a lot of places, and although there are places I would still like to visit, a good book, my journal and quiet are my version of vacation for the moment.

Summer Service

I have one trip planned for August.  To return to Mission Aviation Fellowship in Idaho.  I get to volunteer at MAF headquarters for a few days.  This is a desire I have had in my heart for many years.  It happens to coincide with an extended family picnic on my mother’s side of the family.  This trip touches several of the stones in my bridge.

Other than that, we are hitting the house renovation hard, another stone:  foundations.  Several projects are gaining traction with some summer help.  Hallelujah!

What are your plans for the summer?  Please share how you enjoy this season of the year in the comments below. 


Patent Medicines and Home Remedies in the Steinbüchel Home

In summer 1988, after moving into Maison Steinbüchel, we tackled a pile of rubbish and sand from under the apple tree beside the garage along the alley.  A trumpet vine had taken over the area, growing up into the tree,   masquerading what was in store.
Patent Medicine Bottles and Marbles

Once the vine and rubbish were removed, we discovered a large pile of sand and soil left over from a project the former owners had embarked upon.  This was moved to the front corner to form a berm flowerbed.

As we reached ground level,  we realized this was the site of an ash pit where decades of trash were burned.  What began as a clean-up project was now an archaeological dig.

 As we sifted through the dirt, we discovered pieces of china, porcelain, marbles and cute little glass bottles.  In reading the book,  “A Living Gravestone”,  that documented the lives of the family for whom the house is named.  In the book the author, one of the daughters, talks about papa’s patent medicines he kept in small bottles in his bedroom closet.  We suspect at least some of the bottles we found are from this collection. So what were these patent medicines?
Patent Medicines Yesterday and Today
Today we would call them over-the-counter medicines, but these had little or no regulation. The term patent medicine originated in the 17th century in the making and marketing of medical elixirs.  When a particular formula found favor with royalty, it was issued a letters patent so that royal endorsement could be used in advertising the potion.  When it comes to health, healing and dealing with pain we are all quite vulnerable.  If you are like me, I just want to feel good and energetic.  This has been the case down through history.  People have reached for all kinds of substances to address this basic desire.
History tells us that these formulas ranged from the ineffective to the dangerous.  Most were alcohol based (as are some of our common OTC meds today).  In the middle were formulations of herbal extractions,  essential oils and other natural aids we are rediscovering today.  Were folks healthier?  My sense is yes, if they survived the flu, typhoid and other diseases that do not succumb to these natural remedies readily.

Continue reading Patent Medicines and Home Remedies in the Steinbüchel Home

How History Makes a Difference – Three Families of Maison Steinbuchel

We live in a designated Kansas State Historic Landmark, The Steinbuchel House.  I am re-reading a book that tells the story of how three families converged to become the household that occupied this property.  From 1912 to the late 1940s, this clan shaped

Masion Steinbuchel

the story of this home.  The book is currently an out-of-print volume entitled “A Living Gravestone” by Elisabeth Guldner Wilson.  She was the daughter of Marie-Louise Hahn Stackman Steinbuchel who was the central figure in this convergence.  We were given a copy of the book when we purchased the house and have since acquired several copies including an autographed one.  You can find copies here and there, but at the moment are they are limited.  I read the book when we first bought the house and have referred to it from time to time since.  After almost 30 years in the house, this read through is even more meaningful.

Three Families
Peter Stackman
First appears in Wichita in 1872 having traveled from St. Louis recovering from a failed business.  He was a tailor by trade and during his first visit decided Wichita was not yet ready for his services, so he moved to Topeka.  While there, he applied and received a grant of 160 acres on the Arkansas River west of downtown Wichita.  This land, in part, is now where the Wichita water plant, Cowtown Museum, the Wichita Art Museum and Botanica are located.

After establishing a tailoring business which employed eight tailors, building a house with a barn on the eastern portion of the granted land, a livery stable and several other buildings in the area, in 1885 he took a trip back to Europe.  Some friends gave him the name of a family in Strasbourg to stay with.

Marie-Louise Hahn

While passing through a yard, Peter spotted Marie-Louise, just 20 years of age, and was smitten. He was quite a bit older and living in America, and on this basis, Marie-Louise’s mother opposed the marriage.  He returned to America, but began a correspondence with Marie-Louise.

After the death the mother,  Peter returned to Strasbourg.  Following a time of courtship and preparation, they were married June 14, 1887 at St. Thomas Church in Strasbourg.  After only three years of marriage, living in Wichita and six weeks after the birth of their third child, a son, Peter Stackman contracted the flu and died on Good Friday, 1890.

Herman Joseph Steinbuchel
Masion Steinbuchel

arrived in the United States around 1869 at the age of 24.  He worked on a farm in New Jersey and became a citizen on July 21, 1874.  In 1872, He applied for and received a land grant of 160 acres in St. Marks, Kansas about 20 miles west of downtown Wichita.  Realizing quickly he was not suited for farming, he became the insurance agent of the German-American Life Insurance Company of San Francisco for the State of Kansas.  He opened offices in Wichita and eventually became the agent for Mr. and Mrs. Peter Stackman.

Marie-Louise and Herman had met once in passing while Peter was living.  The Stackman’s, traveling in their buggy, met Herman as he passed by on horseback.  He was introduced to Marie as the family’s insurance agent.  It appears in the process of settling the Stackman estate, Marie and Herman became better acquainted.  She attempted to set Mr. Steinbuchel up with the governess, but he had his eyes on Marie.  Eighteen months later, on September 6, 1892 they married.  She was then 26 years of age.
Families and Providence
So the three family convergence was complete.  It is a very German-American story.  This was one of the eras when Strasbourg, France was a part of Germany. This was also a time when a large number of Germans were immigrating to Kansas, lured with the prospect of becoming land owners via the homesteading process while escaping the unstable economic and political conditions in Europe.
This three way convergence would have been highly unlikely within a European context.  The Hahn-Stackman union might have occurred as they were of equal economical social class, but had Peter remained in eastern Germany, geography would have made their meeting unlikely.  The Steinbuchel union, however, would have been unthinkable as they were from an aristocratic titled lineage in Cologne Germany.  This and geography would have, no doubt, prevented Marie-Louise and Herman from ever crossing paths.  But for  Wichita, Kansas, America.
German-American Families
My own maternal ancestors immigrated and made their way to northern Kansas during this same time period.  They came as farmers and remained farmers.  The German, French and Eastern European immigration to America during this time had a profound impact on the cultural, economic and political landscape of Kansas, my beloved state.  I sit in awe at how the choices people make when opportunities opened up impacts for decades.  As I sit in the upper parlor, where Marie-Louise retreated to, writing this series on the families who lived here, I am in awe of the juxtaposition of those choices and providence.
As the Psalmist says, SELAH – pause and think about that.
We all have “what ifs” that have shaped the very moment we are in.  Can you recall one?  Please share one in the comments below.  

Perseverance over Adversity – The Long View

perservearanceReunions and Road Trips

On an extended weekend to attend my 45th high school reunion in Rooks County, Kansas, we added a day in order to visit Jewell County.  This is the land to which my mother’s father’s family immigrated from northern Germany and homesteaded in the 1860s.  My maternal grandparents farmed there and I visited often as I grew up.  The weekend was beautiful.  The weather has been kind this summer with an abundance of rain, minimal severe weather and, for Kansas, moderate temperatures.  This meant that fields remained green, ponds and lakes full, and late summer crops were looking very happy.  It was twenty-four hours of peace and quiet.

The Farm
 As a child, “We are going to the farm”, was the code for a two-hour trek in order to eat farm fresh meals, hang out in the barn and feed cows, chickens and other critters.  I also meant hanging out with granddad as he milked cows and then grandma as she separated the cream from the milk.  Eggs were gathered, gardens tended and life was enjoyed as we took care of, well, living.  I never actually lived on the farm, but visited often enough that I can still find this place I knew just by spotting the limestone bluffs one mile north of hi-way 36.  To this day I could not give verbal instructions on how to find the place, but I can drive right to it.
Bringing the Past into the Present
When I visited as a child, I was aware that my grandparents did not have the daily conveniences we knew such as. indoor plumbing or central Heat and air conditioning.  This mean that:
  • Outhouses, chamber pots and hauling buckets of water up the hill from the well for everything were lessons in conservation.  Sometimes the cistern next to the house was full which made a small hand pump on the kitchen       counter next to the sink usable, but not for drinking – ever.
  • In winter, there was a pot belly wood stove in the living room at the base of the stairs that heated the entire house, sort of.  Most of the time when it was really cold only the front room and kitchen were heated.  The doors to the other parts of the house were opened just before bed and after we had changed into night-clothes near the stove, we scampered upstairs and snuggled into bed under comforters made from scraps of wool.  I still have and use one of those comforters.
  • In summer, air conditioning was opening the doors at night, sleeping on the screened in porch and electric fans.
  • Everything we ate came from the farm or farms near by.  As I recall sugar, seasoning and spices, and tobacco (for granddad), were the primary things purchased.  I am sure there were other items, I just don’t recall.
There was no judgment or poverty thinking about they way they lived.  At least not for me.  There was always more than enough food, water, heat and air.  It just took some effort to get it and it came from cooperating with nature.
The Good Life
In my view they lived a good life.  It was not easy, by any means, but it was good.  It was built on knowing what the earth, God’s creation could and would provide when you knew what to do.  There was also knowing the boundaries of risk by respecting certain cues:
  • How to read the skies, seasons and the scent in the air for changes in the weather.  The farmers almanac was almost a text book.
  • Learning to “hear” the language of the horse in how her ears were poised.  Also, to let her know by your voice and touch when you were passing behind.  It only took one kick in my chest to remember this the rest of my life!
  • Learning to respect moving parts of machinery and how to fill a tank of gas without setting off a spark.  Stories of neighbor’s tragic outcomes were relayed to reinforce these kinds of lessons and instructions.
There is something about interacting with creation that educates, centers ones focus and brings a kind of wholeness that nothing else does.
Perseverance and Adversity
This kind of life required a commitment to stick with it.  To find a pace that is sustainable, while at the same time pressing through in certain seasons.  Seasons of planting and harvest; seasons of adversity.  One season can be anticipated the other usually comes unexpectedly.  Both can be prepared for.  The panting and harvest preparation can be anticipated, time scheduled and tools sharpened.  Seed can be purchased, ground tilled and help employed.  Adversity, on the other hand, how does one prepare for that?  Why would you even want to think about it?
There are two kinds of adversity.  The kind that challenges, stretches and, as a result, is naturally wearing.  Planting and harvesting, learning a new skill or training to run a marathon, all create adversity.  We may not think of it that way because these are in the context of a choice we made.  The other kind comes from the side-swipes in life and can range from someone backing into us at Walmart or the untimely death of someone dear to us.  Dealing with both requires perseverance.  I suggest that choosing to participate with intention in the first kind of adversity prepares one for the second kind by exercising the perseverance muscle.
Back to the Farm
You see, my grand-parents, great grand-parents and even great great grand-parents (the ones who established the homestead) were doing this without even knowing that was what they were doing.  Daily life required an exercise in perseverance so that when the second kind of adversity came, and it did, many times, they were able to keep on.  They were able to overcome and in just living life they passed on to future generations, me, that persevering DNA.  When I visit the land of my ancestors, I am grateful they endured. They laid the foundation for a solid stonebridge on which I could travel.  So here are a couple of things to consider:
First, prepare by choosing a persevering activity or goal.  Take a class, learn a new skill, step up your daily physical activity and push yourself.  It could be as simple as pressing to get to bed on time so you get a good night of sleep!  That alone goes a long way in aiding perseverance.
Second, avoid expecting the side-swipe kind of adversity, that is counterproductive, but don’t be surprised when it comes.  When it does, re-frame the unexpected by asking, what does this make possible?  The stories of good coming out of tragedy are as old as Genesis. and Redemption itself.
What activity or goal will you embrace this week to exercise your perseverance muscle?