Posts Tagged ‘grandma’

Holidays and family history

Friday, December 28th, 2007

I’ve spent much of the last week traveling to Binghamton, spending time with my friends and family celebrating Christmas. It was a really nice break and I enjoyed all of it – the food, the parties, the presents – with the exception of missing my brother and Michele (who spent Christmas in Switzerland this year) and my cousin Jeff and his fiance (who were in Ohio).

Each year, it seems like there are a few truly memorable gifts that are given or received. Last year, Chris and I made “Fix-it-Club” hats for my dad, Carol & DJ, as part of the “club” that was founded based around DJ’s propensity to break things, and my dad’s skill at fixing them. And last year, Michele gave all the women in my family bracelets in support of Breast Cancer Research, in memory of my grandma – it was our first Christmas without her, and the first Christmas Eve that we celebrated in my lifetime that wasn’t at her house.

Vintage Christmas Postcard

This year, three gifts top my list. Chris gave me two of them – a flute, which I mentioned to him in passing that I would like to start playing again; and tickets to see the Nutcracker in Boston. We went to the show last night, and it was fun and magical, just like it is every time I see it. If you live in Boston, go next year! It is worth it.

The other gift was something that I got from my Aunt Mary, and is incredibly special. The back story is that when my grandma was alive, she used to have a collection of about 50-100 old postcards that she would pull out from time to time to show people. My grandma had a ton of information bits like this – she would clip articles from the newspaper or find old photos and she would keep them in a drawer in her living room and would show us various things when we came to visit. She also would write all over these pieces of paper in her cursive scrawl, I think to try to make sure that she remembered the names of the people in the photos for when she was telling the stories about them.

Vintage Thanksgiving Postcard

So for Christmas, my Aunt Mary framed this collection of holiday postcards and gave a bunch to all the people in my family. SO COOL! I love these things. She knew that I would love them so she gave me six – I’m still trying to decide how best to display them. My favorite three are pictured in this post.

Vintage Valentine's Day Postcard

The coolest thing about the postcards, though, is that you can still read the backs of them. All of these were sent to someone (an ancestor of mine, possibly?) named Miss Frances Jennings from Candor, N.Y. That’s all that can be found in the address line – I guess you didn’t need too much information to get the postcards to the right house back in 1909, when sending a postcard cost only 1 cent.

Thanks to the Internet, I was able to do a bit of research on the people who sent and received the postcards. This is all speculative, because I can’t be sure that any of the people in the postcards are 100% definitely the people who I found on the Internet, but it’s interesting either way!

Back of Christmas postcard

The back of the first postcard (pictured above) provides a huge hint – which is that J. Herbert Jennings, Jr. was somehow associated with Miss Frances Jennings (likely her father). And I managed to find out some information about a J.H. Jennings Sr., namely that he was the local druggist at Candor Corners in 189? (random fact: at some point, the store burned down). It appears that he may have also been the town supervisor, the chief office in town, from 1894-1896. He married Matie Wells on December 21, 1871, in Oneonta, N.Y. I think that this is the father of J.H. Jennings, Jr. and the grandfather of Frances Jennings.

Some sad news for the Jennings family on September 29, 1904, when Mary Augusta Wells (the proper name of Matie?), wife of J.H. Jennings, passed away. In 1933, it appears that the Jennings were still in business and that both J.H. Jennings Sr. and Jr. were still living in Candor, based on the information in this old phone book.

Thanksgiving postcard back

The postcards were all sent by different people, but at least two of them seem to be from family members in Seattle, Washington – one from Auntie Ric (pictured above) and the other from Cousin Mable. They are postmarked with a stamp from the World’s Fair Seattle 1909, which appears to be the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, a fair that was put on to publicize the development of the Pacific Northwest. I have no idea if the relatives were involved in that World’s Fair, but it’s wild to think that they were in Seattle in the early 1900’s when Seattle still looked like this and there were no airliners to take you there from New York:

World's Fair Seattle

One of the most interesting people in the Jennings family line is Eleanor Jennings, whose obituary says that she was born on May 1, 1924, to J.H. Jennings Jr. and Daisy Wales Hunt Jennings. Eleanor graduated from Candor High School in 1941 and in 1944 magna cum laude from William Smith College. She wrote a book about her family and their role in Candor called Echoes from Yesterday. (I am trying to get a copy.) She also taught and travelled extensively, and published both prose and poetry. She had a half sister named Frances Mary Jennings, who I believe is the Frances from the postcards.

There was also an Eleanor Jennings from Candor, N.Y., who served as an alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1928, but this must have been a different Eleanor – maybe another family member? This is still amazing to me, however, as the first woman didn’t get elected to the Senate until 1932. (The first woman went to the Republican National Convention as a delegate in 1900.)

I realize that this is just a lot of rambling about the possible history of some people that may or may not be my ancestors, but it’s very cool how much of the past the Internet has opened to us now that many old documents have been scanned and indexed. I hope that one day all of the books and documents that we have stored in warehouses and libraries are archived digitally.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

My grandma's vote for innovation of the year

Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

UPS logoFor the past seven years, The New York Times Magazine has dedicated its December edition to “The Year in Ideas.” And this year, an idea won a place on the list that could have been invented by my Grandma Reyen.

Apparently, UPS has created some new software that maps routes for its drivers in order to eliminate left-hand turns from their delivery routes. From the article

“Last year, according to Heather Robinson, a U.P.S. spokeswoman, the software helped the company shave 28.5 million miles off its delivery routes, which has resulted in savings of roughly three million gallons of gas and has reduced CO2 emissions by 31,000 metric tons.”

This would have been my grandma’s favorite software EVER – she used to take elaborate measures to avoid particularly hairy left-hand turns.

How to generate customer devotion

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007

I read a blog post today that caught my eye because of the title: “Turn your customers into raving fans.”

CustomInk logoI am a raving fan, and CustomInk.com is the object of my affection. I recently used their services to make t-shirts for a charity walk that I organized. Going into it, I had a few issues to overcome with the t-shirts:

1)      I had a deadline of less than 2 weeks to get the t-shirts printed and delivered

2)      I am not a designer and had to design the t-shirts

3)      I was trying to create something that would appeal to men, women and children

4)      I wanted to be able to get input from someone else on my team to help me make the final decision, but we don’t live in the same city

I did a search on Google for “t-shirt design” and customink.com was the first listing. (Another testimony to the power and importance of SEO, but I’ll save that discussion for another blog post.)

t-shirt frontSo there are a lot of reasons that I love this company. The first thing I discovered is that they are able to rush-deliver an order in less than 7 days. Perfect! Second, their online tool is really user-friendly and fun to use. You pick the item to design (they have shirts, pants, hats, etc.) and the color. Then you head to the “design online lab.” The tool starts you off with a blank t-shirt and then lets you add text, graphics (you can upload your own or choose from their clip art library), change colors, layouts, put effects on the text…there are wide range of options. Then, to top it all off, you can save the design, email it to people to get their opinions and then start again with t-shirt backa new design if you aren’t totally satisfied. This tool managed to help me overcome all four of the issues that I was having with designing these t-shirts. That was enough to make me love the service.

But there was more. I placed my order, got my final proofs, talked to someone at the company to answer a few questions that they had about tricky parts of the design. Great. Everyone was pleasant, I felt a high degree of confidence that my t-shirts would be done on-time and that they would look great. Then came the kicker. I got the following email:

Hi Melissa,I noticed that you have designed shirts that could possibly be for a charity event. If that’s the case, CustomInk would love to donate to your team or to the charity itself on your behalf! Please let me know if your order is for one of these events. If you  would like us to pitch in and support your cause, please include information about your charity event, a link if you have one or the organization’s name if there is no link to a team web page.Warmest Regards,
Lori Mayfield
CustomInk.com

I immediately sent them a note back with the instructions about how to donate with a comment like “wow, I really love you” or something hero-worshipping like that. To which, Lori, my personal, human contact, sends me this delightful note back:

Thank you for the information, the link worked perfectly!

We try to donate to every charity event that our customers hold close to their hearts, so we are delighted to help with this event. Of course, we wish we could offer a large sponsorship, but because we do so many, I’m limited to small donations ($30). I just want to make sure you know that, even though we know every bit counts.

This is outstanding customer service and a fantastic policy for retention. Plus, it’s just really smart. I spent more than $500 with this company. The likelihood of me doing so again is high. I ordered 33 t-shirts – this means that I will tell all 33 of the people who are getting the t-shirts the story about this company (and I did!) because the company donated to our common cause. And finally, they know that they are reaching someone who has influence – the person who is in charge of the t-shirt ordering is likely someone who is making decisions for a large group of people and probably has other areas of responsibility and influence. This is really smart business. This article from Dosh Dosh talks about 9 great ways to dominate your niche, such as focusing on your reputation and developing retention equity, and CustomInk.com is doing all of these things.

See? I have become a raving fan.

 

~Today’s view:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/13799608@N08/1471632095/

5 things you can learn about being a project manager by organizing a community service project

Monday, October 1st, 2007


Pink RibbonThis past weekend, I participated in a benefit walk to raise money for breast cancer research.
My team did the walk in honor of my grandma, so a large number of my family members and friends decided to participate. And although I can’t take credit for the idea, I did end up taking charge of most of the logistics and organization of the group. It turns out that you can learn a lot about project management by heading up a charity event and organizing a group of volunteers. So if you want to become a better manager, but don’t want to practice “on the job,” it might be worth the time to get a group of people together to do a good deed. In the process, you might find out the answers to these five questions:

·         Are you are an effective leader? – To be a leader, people need to follow you. By inviting people to participate in a community service event, you can gauge your ability to lead. If people are willing to give up their free time to participate in the event that you’re organizing, you’re likely going to be able to get your employees to help you with a work-related project. Granted, in a work situation, you’re paying people and they are required to follow you, but that issue is likely comparable to the loyalty that people feel to the cause that you’re working toward with your community service project. If you have trouble getting people to participate, however, don’t despair; you can learn how to be a better leader.

·         Are you able to organize deadlines and logistics? – This is one of the most important skills that a project manager needs to have (second only to having a complete understanding of the project that they are managing). Being able to keep track of all the details of a project is the key to finishing it successfully, and this type of project will give you experience organizing the details from registration to fundraising to the itinerary on the day of the event.

·         How good are you at communicating with a diverse group of people? – This was a big issue for me because I was organizing a group of family members of varied technology backgrounds and abilities, and I was organizing everything via e-mail and the Internet. Everyone had an e-mail address, but it really differed how much each person used e-mail and felt comfortable with that mode of communication. A community service project often brings together people of different backgrounds that are organized around a common cause, and will give you valuable experience in working with diverse groups of people, whether it is their technology or ethnic backgrounds that make them diverse.

·         Do you have the ability to get other people to help you? – I organized this event from 300 miles away, so I wasn’t at the family BBQs when much of the informal discussion happened. Some people who lived in town, however, kept me in the loop about what was talked about, and one person volunteered to help get a room for us to meet in afterward. A community service project will inspire many volunteers, and will teach you to take help when it’s offered – especially if the help that’s offered is with doing something that you can’t get done easily yourself.

·         Are you a creative problem-solver? – One of the problems with this event was that in order for my team to get the official t-shirts for the walk, we had to order them 45 days ahead of time. This was simply not possible as the majority of the team didn’t even register until 2-3 weeks before the event. My backup plan was to use a t-shirt guy that my husband knows – but his lead time was 30 days. In my desperation (I wish I could say “In my creativity!”), I headed to the Internet where I found a slew of online t-shirt providers that could ship customized t-shirts within 7 days (as long as I rushed the order). This completely alleviated the stress of trying to get this done before I was physically able to. Snafus like this one are bound to come up with any project that you manage, providing many opportunities to try to think creatively about the problem to come up with a solution that won’t take all of your time and will get the issue solved.

 

 

~ Today’s view: http://www.flickr.com/photos/13799608@N08/1470099903/

Walking in honor of my Grandma

Monday, October 1st, 2007


I just joined a team of 28 family and friends in an American Cancer Society Walk for the Cure in Binghamton, N.Y.  The idea came about as a way to honor the memory of my Grandma Reyen, who had breast cancer and passed away in 2006 (she was 90-years-old, by the way, and had a wonderful, beautiful life and a huge family who loved her, as you can see from the picture…it wasn’t a sad honoring!) Happily, we were also able to celebrate two survivors on our team. Crew Cadden raised more than $5,000 for the cause (thank you to all our supporters!!) and had a great time doing it.

Crew Cadden