Doing The Things 2017: Goin’ Places

It’s no secret that – if I have the time and funds – I enjoy travelling.

Last March, I visited Cuba (just after about-to-be-former President Obama, but around the time of the big Rolling Stones concert in Havana), touring the central part of the island with a small group.

Despite the crappy trip manager in charge of our group, it was a fun experience, and I appreciated both Havana and the smaller towns I had the privilege imag0897.jpgof visiting.

My next trip wasn’t until November, when I spent a weekend in Montreal – with a huge group of people I knew – for a friend’s birthday.

I’d been a couple of times before, but this time was different. It was my first time visiting Montreal in the fall. And we arrived the day after folks learned that Leonard Cohen died, so you could just sense the mood in the crisp November air.

It had been 13 years since my last visit,  but this felt like the first time that I actually walked around and took in my surroundings.

Which brings me to right now.

For the last couple of years or so, I always want my ideal travel intentions to be trips that take me out of the city, out of the province, and out of the country (not necessarily on the same trip).

So, I’m getting off to a running start in 2017.

On Friday, while events unfold south of the border, a group of friends and I are hot-footing it to Montreal.

Yes, I was just there. But months before my friend’s birthday plans – at my last birthday – I had already decided I’d be celebrating my 40th birthday differently.

Admittedly, I’ve found the whole planning/reserving process for accommodations and restaurants stressful. I’m used to organizing travel plans for myself. But I hope from here on in, it’ll be fun and easy.

Then about three weeks after that, I’ll be headed to Asia for a two-week tour. And by “Asia”, I only mean one country, which I’ll reveal later. But it’s somewhere that’s been on my travel list for at least 15 years. Let’s see how I handle finally being there.

As for my out-of-town adventure? We’ll see what the year brings. I’d love to check out an area like Prince Edward County, but where I’ll end up is anyone’s guess.

What are your travel plans for 2017? Will you be staying local? Are you knocking any destinations off your “to-go” list? Planning any road trips? I’d love to hear what you’ve got in the works!

**Photos posted above are mine. Please don’t use without permission.

 

 

 

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Doing The Things 2017: My Well-Being

In the back of my mind, I earnestly thought I was going to start 2017 on the right foot, food-wise.

Who was I kidding.

What actually started my year was a ton of holiday leftovers: turkey, ham, shortbread cookies and homemade Jamaican patties from my mom …

And two sandwich bags full of homemade lemon loaf and French toast (which I normally never eat), brought home from a New  Year’s Day brunch I attended.

The post-holiday food festival continued with dinners out – my Kryptonite, because greasy restaurant food is soooooo tasty. Add to that a wicked sweet tooth, which is a challenge all by itself. So of course, my waistline is paying dearly.

I have to get my appetite (and bank account) in check. I also don’t want to encourage my body to start growing more fibroids so soon after my recent surgery, because of my eating habits.

And after two tiring days in supermarkets and my kitchen this is, I hope, the start of my rehabilitation:

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I want to give myself less of an excuse to hit the food court/vending machine/fast food joint when I’m at home or work. I don’t cook sophisticated meals, plus I hate the amount of time it takes to prep food for meals. But perhaps keeping my freezer stocked with something, anything, could slowly reduce (not eliminate, because that’s impossible) my terrible food habits, and help me to enjoy cooking, not see it as a huge chore.

(One future goal: to cook and freeze a meal or two before I go travelling, so that when I return, I don’t spend my post-travel recovery period eating burgers and pizza, as I have in the past.)

In the exercise department … my physical activity has been non-existent during the last five months (save for walks). Two or three of those months were due to post-surgery recovery (hence the walking). The rest was because of a complete lack of motivation (save for exercises during my physio appointments).

So last Tuesday afternoon, I got off my backside, put on my workout clothes, and trudged to a fitness class. Then on Thursday morning, I huffed and puffed my way through another class.

This is where I’ll start, to re-establish a routine. Upcoming travel plans will disrupt my exercise schedule until March, but some activity’s better than none, right?

It’s going to be tough. I’m going to fail. Hell, I’ve already failed this week.

But if, for each time I fall off the wagon, I can cut down on the amount of time it takes me to hop back on, those will be small victories I’ll gladly take.

2017: Do The Thing.

When I last posted, I’d just written about the latest in my family research, and had threatened to write about my latest travels.

The would-be distant relative never told me what he found out.

And then I didn’t write anything else for almost 8 months.

Oops.

So, here we are. Two days into a new year. And time to write about things I’d like to see happen this year.

Since I haven’t said much of anything for about two-thirds of the last year, I thought I’d first refresh my memory by re-reading what I’d written around this time last year.

I wouldn’t say that the goals I had were impossible to achieve. But given how many, man, was that ambitious.

I did end up visiting Cuba and Montreal, and went car-camping one weekend with friends, so that was okay, travel-wise. I did make more meals for myself, but also ate my fair share of fast food in equal measure.

The ukulele I had borrowed from a friend about 3 years ago (as a resolution-on-a-whim) only made into my hands a couple of times. I recently returned to it to its rightful owner – which she gifted to her 4-year-old son, who’s starting lessons this month.

And a number of my choices and intentions were affected by surgery I had in last August to remove fibroids (17 of ’em).

Exercise and food choices – for at least a few months – took a turn for the better … but partially (okay, mostly) prompted by the co-worker who asked me one day in May if I was pregnant. After some reading on my own, I decided to approach my exercise/food challenge as a way to prepare my body for surgery and recovery.

Meanwhile, things regarding my career took a backseat because of the amount of time I needed to take off work.

On the creative side, I did do a bit of writing (even if was mainly on this blog, and only for a few months), and worked on the podcast project with my friends did carry on for a couple of months, before a lengthy hiatus. We just recently tried to pick things up again, but it’s been much slower than last season getting back on the horse. We’ll see how things turn out for this new season.

All of this to say, there were some small successes, and some failures (or, perhaps, goals deferred).

Recently a fellow member of a Facebook group I’m part of, asked what our New Year’s resolutions/intentions were for 2017.

Some posted little things. Others posted bigger, more long-term goals.

I thought about it for a bit, then wrote: “If I tell myself I’m going to do something, actually *do* it — not say, “You know, I should really do x”, and then dither until I lose interest/don’t do it at all. Just do better, in general.”

Because it doesn’t matter if I say, “I’m going to finally de-clutter that box I’ve wanted to unpack for the last 3 years”, or if I say, “I’m going to volunteer for that soup kitchen whose mandate I admire”, if what then follows is inaction.

If I ever ask myself or my friends, “Do I want to go to the gym?” or “Do I want to cook instead of ordering take-out?” it means I don’t really want to do it. So I shouldn’t waste my time with the psychological dance.

But my goal/intention/whatever-you-want-to-call-it for 2017 is to Do The Thing – even if it’s the tiniest of tasks.

If I’m looking at a pile of old magazines and saying (either out loud or to myself), “I should really go through those and toss some out”, then what’s my next step? To keep staring at the pile, or get off my backside?

If I’m looking at myself in the mirror and think I should lose 20 pounds (like I did a few years ago), then how should I tackle how to get there?

Do I want to travel to, say, Ethiopia? Yes. So what I am going to do to get myself there?

Look, I’m not saying anything revolutionary. There will be days when I don’t want to do any of The Things. At all. But that’s fine. That’s the joy of being an autonomous adult.

But I hope I realize those are probably days to take a breather from Doing The Things and Take Care of Me.

As long as I don’t go overboard and take approaches to things that might get me closer to success to failure, then perhaps to Do The Thing is to finally succeed.

Even though none of us really know what 2017 really has in store for any of us, I hope this is the year that you finally Do The Thing you’ve been putting off, and that you triumph.

Best of luck!

Um. Wait. WHAT.

It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve heard from the gentleman from Florida – whose name is Leslie – who’d contacted me about a possible family link.

On Thursday, curiosity gets the best of me, and I drop him a line.

Leslie responds Thursday evening. Turns out he’s actually been in Jamaica for several days, and has been helping his uncle (with whom he’s staying) with some things, so he hasn’t had any time to look into any family tree-related stuff as of yet.

I tell him I completely understand, and fill him in on what (little) is happening on my end.

And that’s where we leave things.

Or, so I think.

Fast-forward some two and a half hours later. I’m firmly wedged into my couch, watching The Night Manager and gazing away at Tom Hiddleston, minding my own business, when my phone buzzes.

I glance sleepily at my phone. It’s another message from my possible relative in Jamaica.

But based on what he’s written, he’s telling me we ARE related.

Leslie’s uncle knows all about the Campbells in Hanover – in fact, he grew up with them.

That’s not all.

Leslie’s uncle knew my great-uncle Collin, who lived in Wolverhampton. He went to his funeral. He’s friends with my uncle Egton.

He KNOWS knows my great-aunt Milda.

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WHOAWHOAWHOAWHOAWAITWAITWAAAAAAAAIT.

HOLD. THE PHONE.

THE NIGHT MANAGER IS GOING TO HAVE TO WAIT. (Sorry, Tom.)

Leslie says he actually wasn’t ready for the vast number of names his uncle was just rattling off – he didn’t have a pen and paper handy – and it’s left his head swimming.
(No kidding.)

He says he’s going to visit my uncle Egton and great-aunt in a few days’ time.

I’ve asked him if he could ask some questions on my behalf. I don’t know how far he’ll get, or how much she’ll remember. But this could be a chance to take a second crack at uncovering what happened to Ellen.

Worst case scenario, she won’t tell Leslie any more than what she told me. Keep in mind, she’s 100 now. But I have to get him to try.

Perhaps along the way, I’ll learn about more names to add to the family tree.

Fingers crossed!

Update: FamilySearch & Jamaican Records

Hey again,

It’s been a busy week, but a short update:

So, just as inexplicably as Jamaican records were suddenly made unavailable to non-Mormon FamilySearch users, they were restored as of Monday (May 9)!

I can only hope that the emails and phone calls were a contributing factor to the action being reversed. But we still don’t know and may never know.

At this point, no one really knows how long they’ll be available for. But it’s all the more reason to take advantage of the opportunity, if you’re researching your Jamaican ancestors.

Yay, us!

Head’s Up: FamilySearch & Jamaican Records

Hey there,

I hadn’t planned to post again so soon BUT, if you’ve been researching Jamaican ancestors/family members — and you’ve used the free ancestry Web site FamilySearch (which is run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints [the LDS Church]) — I just wanted to give you the head’s up, in case you’re not aware:

Since Thursday (April 28), new restrictions have been implemented which prevent users from viewing Jamaican vital records – birth, marriage, and death records, and so on.

In fact, if you try to click on a record, you might get the following message:

“This image is available:

– When using the site at a FamilySearch Center

To signed-in members of supporting organizations.”

In other words, if you want to see the image of a Jamaican record which might hold key information for your research, you either have to go to a LDS Family History Centre, OR you have to be a member of a “supporting organization” — in this case, the LDS Church.

If you’re Mormon or live in a city or town that has a Family History Centre, then no sweat.

Except for one small thing … Not every city or country has a Family History Centre. And if there is one, their hours of operation may not necessarily be convenient for folks with busy work and family schedules.

So novice genealogists who have relied on FamilySearch (because they might not have the money to pour into paid sites or travelling to their ancestral homelands to do their research) are effectively cut off from this information.

I only learned about this because I stumbled across conversations about this issue in a number of volunteer Jamaican genealogy groups on Facebook. There was no online announcement on the FamilySearch Web site, nor were there any notifications sent to users who have accounts on the site.

From what I can gather, one of my fellow group members sent a note to FamilySearch and was told that the decision to restrict records seems to have come from the Jamaican government – specifically, the Registrar General’s Department (RGD), which oversees registration for vital events.

Genealogical research – and the keeping of archived records – also falls under the jurisdiction of the RGD.

Right now, none of us really know why this decision was made. There’s been informal speculation as to what it could be.

Could the government be doing this because they have an concern that  Mormons are “baptizing” the deceased? Perhaps the RGD has seen the increase in demand from Jamaicans for genealogical research, and is trying to capitalize on the interest?

In any case, the result has been frustrating.

Some members of the genealogy groups (myself included) have emailed FamilySearch for answers, and are also emailing the Registrar General, in hopes someone can explain why this has happened, and perhaps open up a dialogue to find a solution to the issue.

If you’re researching Jamaican ancestors and would like to help, you can email the Registrar General’s Department to voice your disappointment with the decision and ask for an explanation.

The email address is Ceorgd@gmail.com (also CC information@rgd.gov.jm when you do) – address your email to the attention of Deidre English Gosse (who is the Registrar General).

If you can do so by Monday, May 2, it would be extremely helpful to the volunteers who are trying to get some answers from the RGD on the matter, and perhaps find a compromise that all parties would be happy with.

If you know of anyone else who’s been doing Jamaican family research, feel free to let them know about this post and encourage them to send an email as well.

Hopefully something good will emerge from this. It would be a shame to know that for thousands of people in the Jamaican disapora, this decision would put family research financially out of reach.

 

Family Tree Briefs …

Yes, yes, yes. I know I’m supposed to be writing about my trip to Cuba …

I’ve been sidetracked, and I was sick. Those entries are coming.

In the meantime, here’s some briefs for the old family tree blotter:

Mid-March …

It’s late at night. I’m sleepily TV-watching and internet-surfing on my couch, when I get an email message from 23andMe, one of the ancestry testing sites I’ve used.

Someone – who, genetically, might be a super-distant relative – has sent me a message.

He and his mother have found my name on the list of distant relatives and wonders if we were somehow related.

(The last time I got a message, it was from someone who wasn’t even in the same maternal haplogroup, calling me “cousin”. By the way, that was months ago, and I haven’t heard from them since.)

Long story short, we start exchanging messages, and share what we know. It isn’t much, but we’ve been sporadically keeping in touch in hopes that one or both of us will stumble onto something.

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IMG-20160318-WA0002Also in March …

Turns out, my great-aunt Milda’s 100th birthday did not go unnoticed.

My uncle and a couple of people went to the nursing home to visit.

And, apparently, some other relatives stopped by after that and took her some birthday cake.

I’ve been told, “She is happy and her mind is as sharp as ever.”

I’m sure she was happy for the company — and the cake.
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Last week …

I get an email from a gentleman who found me through Family Tree DNA, one of the other companies I’ve done ancestral/autosomal DNA tests with.

He asks if it was all right for him to contact me through Facebook.

(He’s the third or fourth person who’s contacted me in the last year or so. The others were fairly certain that we have family connections, but couldn’t provide any evidence or common ancestral links to back up their hunches.)

I say sure … taking it with a grain of salt, but waiting to see what he has to say.

A couple of days later, we start corresponding on Facebook. Turns out he might be on to something.

Despite a completely different last name (not surprising), he mentions that he has Campbells in his family tree. From the same part of Jamaica as my maternal grandfather’s family. Which means we may actually be distant relations.

The question is: how?

We toss some names of ancestors back and forth, to see if they were familiar. Nothing. Yet.

He’ll be leaving soon for Jamaica, where he’s spending about four or five weeks. He’s a retiree living in Florida, so he has the luxury of time.

But, it would be interesting to see what he turns up, and if he does find a link between our families, along with any new information.