May 5, 2017

From Social Media to Book

Floods in our parent's basement was a regular and messy occurrence during heavy storms. The water would easily reach calf level always resulting in damage. The family cedar chest held pictures and videos which we frantically laid around the house to dry and perhaps to save. A hard back book was found in the midst of the cedar chest treasures after my father's death in 1980 ... it was a previously unknown diary written by my maternal grandmother in 1938 during a period of her life when she lived with four of her children and husband in the woods in a cabin in Marquette, Michigan. This was a winter to be remembered with the heavy snow and rain around the country throughout the year. New England was hit by a category 3 hurricane, one of the worst since 1869, on September 21, 1938, destroying the home of Katharine Hepburn. Edna Olsen wrote about her experience with the winter blizzard of 1938 - equally hard and violent - in this book.  

I played with the idea of creating something lasting out of this diary: a children's book; printing out pages from the diary and sending to family; allowing it to rest and be forgotten. I kept these ideas in my heart and thoughts for many years, never forgetting.  

In 2016, I was in a class led by a life coach ... my "take" from this was a decision to have focused goals for the next year - ones that would take my full attention until completion. I played with an idea of putting Edna's diary on Facebook, page by page, date corresponding to the date in the book, and to post to all my Facebook family, including "friends". My biggest concern was: would my "friends" enjoy seeing these personal posts from an era so long removed from our memories? I thought - yes, maybe.  

My steps in preparation for this endeavor began at the end of 2016, and included:
  • Typing Edna's written words, verbatim and including her punctuation, in a Word document.
  • Deciding to put on social media's Facebook - believing this was one of the best ways to reach people, family and friends.
  • Receiving permission to "post" diary from Edna's daughter.
  • Searching my photo library for pictures to use to compliment the writing of the day.
  • Editing these pictures for clarity and presentation.
  • Inserting selected pictures into the diary entry.
  • Posted author’s poem the eve of New Year’s in preparation for the diary.
  • Began Facebook with a short synopsis on the first of January, 2017 as written in the diary.
  • Daily posts coinciding with day of month author wrote in diary. 
  • Allowed for all to see these posts. 
  • At the end of each of Edna's entry, wrote a little explanation, idea, or posed a question.
  • As time progressed, I collected comments and drew more by asking for memories.
  • Continued daily posts making sure they were written in the morning for continuity of those who followed and posted.
  • Near the conclusion of the diary began cutting and pasting posts, including friend and family comments, and inserted that day’s photo into a Word document. 
  • Made decision to center all pictures in document to give it an aesthetic appearance. 
  • Edited comments for redundancy, deleting a few, tightening up the person’s punctuation for readability trying to preserve the essence of who this Facebook person is.
Continued editing and sharpening project.The idea of creating a book out of this Facebook document occurred to me around this time. Previously, I was considering sending family the link to the Word document - but a book would give friends and family a hands-on experience and memory of Edna Olsen's diary and posts from many people. My next steps when this decision was set in
stone were:
  • Contacted the Michigan State University library for information on self publishing: formatting, size, font, cover art.
  • Saved full document on 3 sites (computer, thumb drive, passport). 
  • Met with MSU Espresso Book Machine Coordinator to share intent and set up appointment with cover designer. 
  • Brought thumb drive to appointment. 
  • Worked on-site with coordinator to format for 6 x 9 book, spacing, setting up font, paragraph breaks, picture sizes and pagination. 
  • With the coordinator's expertise designed and prepared a cover for book – front, binder, back; selected pictures to include on cover and wrote a synopsis of book. 
  • Included my logo "Barefoot Norwegian Publishing" on back cover. 
  • Selected the number of books to start with by estimating those who I thought would be interested in receiving a copy. 
  • Signed copyright page for 100 copies. 
  • Coordinator created one copy of the book for me to review, edit and/or change. 
  • Took this prototype home and scoured for any errors and submitted to coordinator. 
  • Received corrected book and cover documents from coordinator via email. 
  • Reviewed and approved. 
  • Printing of books begun and completed.
  • To make mailing less expensive purchased book mailing envelopes and invoice book from an office store rather than the Post Office.
  • Took envelope with book to Post Office for mailing amount.
  • Contacted family for interest in receiving book, wrote out invoice, included within pages of book to receive book rate
  • As orders came in, each book was mailed. 
Diary of a Cabin Dweller

March 3, 2017

Eating Roads in Hometown USA

In the beginning there were roads, and they were good.

As a family historian and story-sharer, if you will, eating roads had been a story etched into our lore and a fun one to share.  No one as of yet has come close to believing me, thinking I am as full of hot air as Garrison Keillor is in his elaborate tales of his beloved home in Minnesota.  As a child of a storytelling family, separating fact from fiction has been my pursuit, and, knowing how children adopt memories from stories, a thrilling search for the truth.  It is true that our family ate roads in our hometown of Marquette in the 1950's.
Marquette road in background Donald
and his sister, Janice Olsen

I have enchanting recollections of eating the road in front of our home on Baraga Avenue.  This memory includes the tarry smell, the gooey pebbly consistency as a piece was picked up and rolled in a ball, along with the rubbery warm taste in my mouth.  My older siblings and several relatives, being of a more advanced age, obviously ate more roads than I chewed up.  A relative shared her memory of roads that would bubble up in the summertime heat, picking that substance up, chewing it because it was like bubble gum with rocks.  She contacted Marquette's retired road commissioner, Johnny Depetro, asking if he knew anything about the composition of the roads in Marquette during the 1950's.

Depetro wrote back, saying, "The street and block on West Baraga Avenue you are talking about was made of a macadam material named after a Scottish engineer J.L. McAdam (1756-1836).  The material consisted of small broken stones used in making roads, especially such stones mixed with tar or asphalt.  Some of the streets paved in the late 1940's and 1950's in Marquette that have not been reconstructed still have macadam material in them and have held together for many years or far longer than expected.  But is no longer being produced, due to the expense.  So, as the older streets are reconstructed, they are repaved by a new asphalt material that is much cheaper to make, but does not have the life span that macadam had.  This is called progress.  It was not uncommon for kids seeing that warm loose gooey tar on the top of the road to make a little tar ball to chew.  Not eaten or swallowed, but usually done because of an 'I double dare you to make a tar ball' and that is how we get to remember some of the fun things we would do, as young kids."

So, as confirmed above by Johnny Depetro, in the beginning there were roads, and they were good.

What kind of materials did you find to eat in your younger days that evokes a wary eye when you talk about it?

February 25, 2017

The Dancing Girl

The cold and penetrating freeze of winters' Siberian wind whipped through the open bus door, causing our eyes to tear up and drop ice onto our laps.  We sat inside the mini-bus in Perm, Russia, waiting for our interpreter to return:  my husband, Les, our six-year-old daughter, Addie, and our newly-adopted children, Ksenia, 11, and her brother Evgeni, age 13.  Dima, our driver, tinkered with the bus engine, yet again, with the hope it would carry us to our next destination.  Suddenly, Ksenia sprang out of her seat and jumped off the bus, engaging her entire body in a freedom dance.  I was enchanted with the beautiful smile on her very white face, which was framed by soft blond hair.  An unwelcome chill passed through me.  My new children.  Our new children.  
Zhenya & Ksusha at orphanage gates, Perm, Russia
Evgeni & Ksenia at orphanage
picture by Joe & Diana

Orphanage gates
Children at the gates of the orphanage
In June of 1996, we had been given a picture of the two children as they stood by the gate at the orphanage, which captured our hearts and led us to seek adoption.  One picture of the boy, Evgeni, standing by the gates with one shoe on top of the other in a pose of sadness burned deeply in our hearts.

Court house in Perm, Russia
Evgeni & Ksenia in courthouse hallways
The memory of meeting our soon to be daughter and son in January 1997 will always be vivid, especially Ksenia's first glimpse of us walking through the heavy doors of the orphanage.  I can still hear her squealing in excited high-pitched Russian as she ran down the hall.  She announced to the staff, to the other orphans, and anyone who would listen, that her new Momma and Poppa had arrived.  

Les, our daughter Addie, and I were led into the children’s home and taken to an office where the gracious director met us.  Our interpreter snapped a picture to capture the moment of the formal meeting of parents and daughter to two new children.  We wrapped our arms around our soon-to-be children in a big hug, breaking the language barrier with smiles and giggles.  They were beautiful and tiny:  One gangly red-headed boy and one very white blond girl, siblings, both standing shyly with their heads down.  We would have to wait for what seemed months for eye contact from our son.

Our future, in my rosy, naïve thoughts, was filled with happiness.  It wouldn’t be long before we could bring our children home to America to live safe in our embrace. 

In America, Les and I felt excited and brave anticipating this pilgrimage; we took Russian language classes and placed notecards with cyrillic and English words describing items around the house.  But we  did not feel as emotionally strong on this foreign soil in sub-zero weather in frigid January.  The Ural Mountains separated us from Siberia, yet its winds reached deep into our coats. 

We had an unreliable van, traveled roads with pits so deep they could swallow any vehicle, and were surrounded by machine gun-toting soldiers, unfamiliar foods, and were continuously stared at with suspicion.  My concern was not totally unfounded.  A month before, a couple within our agency adopted two children from the same orphanage.  On one of their treks from the children's home, without the kids, a truck careening down the icy road crashed into their van, killing the couple. 

Adding to our insecurity in this foreign land, our translator encouraged, admonished us, to speak quietly in the apartment, explaining that he was frankly unsure what would happen if the neighbors discovered Americans living in the complex.  We were instructed to keep a low profile, not bringing any attention to ourselves.

Evgeni "Zhenya", Addie, Ksenia "Ksusha"
Our experience with those helping with the adoption, however, was refreshing.  These Russians were exceptionally hospitable and caring, both for our welfare and the comfort of our six-year-old.  Older women on the streets would stop, turn around, and lecture us in Russian, saying that our little one was “too cold.”  Sometimes they were even bold enough to kneel and wrap more clothing around our child.  This endearing act was strangely comforting at a time when I felt so vulnerable, especially with our young daughter in tow.
Addie at apartment
heading to the

On the van between the orphanage and Perm's court
We traveled daily in the rickety bus to the orphanage in the high mountains.  Then, back to the agencies where passports and visas were processed and to the Embassy to complete reams of paperwork.  The old green bus required constant care and repair by the driver.  The roads were slick with ice, and the deep potholes tossed us back and forth in our seats.  The bus slid this way and that as it climbed the tall hills of the countryside along the Kama River, where the children lived, into the distant forests west of the Ural Mountains.

My daydreaming was broken by Ksenia’s exuberant, free-form, almost defiant, dance outside our bus in a busy section of Perm.  She threw her arms up to the sky, and raised her face to the bright sun with a smile so wide that my breath caught in my throat.  I sat there silently, filled with unpleasant thoughts bordering on regret.  Our new fledging circled the bus, as though oblivious to us, yet appearing to dare anyone to interfere with her dance by her sharp, lowing movements.  She appeared to be on the adventure of her life, and of ours together.  Yet, all I felt was a strange sensation of fear.

What have we done?  This girl child was already testing boundaries, and neither our interpreter nor Evgeni, our shy new teenager, had the ability to tame her and force her to return to the safe confines of the vehicle.  I could almost see her running down the street full of her new-found freedom, away from the orphanage where she had spent her adolescence, away from us.  I was frightened. Les and I cuddled our six-year-old daughter to keep her warm as Les and I cuddled our six-year-old daughter to keep her warm as we watched Ksenia dance and laugh, tempt and pull away, over and over and over again as she continued circling the bus.  Her normally white face was now red with cold.

Our dear Russian
helper with Addie
On the street corner, several Russian soldiers stood by silently, each holding a machine gun.  With what appeared to be steel-cold eyes, they watched our Ksenia in her dance of life.  What would it feel like if one of the soldiers entered our vehicle and shot us just for being there?  Would it hurt worse to die in a country where many of the people seem to despise us for being Americans?  How would our family react when they got the news of our violent deaths?  Our new daughter and new son are Russian, had been raised by Russian parents and Russian orphanage staff.  I prayed, silently, hoping they were not taught to hate us.  

The hospitality of the Russian people was heartwarming
All these thoughts made my heart beat faster while I watched my prancing new daughter’s continued spinning on the cobbled and icy street.  She smiled exuberantly at us, while her brother sat oblivious to her antics, playing with a car we gave him at the orphanage.  Yet, fear had its hold on me.  We even stumble to pronounce her name correctly, I thought.  She giggles when we try, and coyly repeats it for us for us to struggle with again.  Yet, she is now our child.  The brusque but fair female judge granted us the adoption.  Her gavel unhesitatingly trumpeted her decision.  Our children are so unaware of what challenges and homesickness they will face in the land of freedom.  Their grief, real pain, an intense fear of being abandoned, yet again, could be acute.

Our van drivers took
Addie under their wing
and had her help with
the repairs
Suddenly, a positive thought surfaced.  Maybe, just maybe, Ksenia was dancing because she was happy – truly happy. Life had been difficult – at times horrendous – for these two children. At bedtime they would cry and hold their tears up to Heaven with the hope that a family would adopt them someday.  They both seem to recognize the fact that that they were probably too old to be wanted by anyone.  How would it feel to be so totally alone in the world?

Then again, maybe Ksenia was a wild child, a child of the streets with no care for boundaries.  Maybe she was a survivor, abandoned once, and at the ready to discard us starting with the dance of rebellion.  Will she terrorize us in America, I wondered?  What if they try to harm us in retaliation for what they have been through in their short lives?  But we signed the legal papers agreeing to the adoption.  No turning back.  My thoughts were gloomy.  I silently whispered:  What have we done?  This girl-child cannot be controlled, she seems so unmanageable.

My frenzied ruminations were broken as the bus engine angrily sputtered to life in the frigid air.  My apprehension diminished and my fears softened to love as our new and precious daughter returned to the bus.  Her rosy cheeks literally glowed – a contrast to her chalky white skin.  She shared an angelic and happy smile, melting my hesitant heart.

Our dancing child snuggled up against Les, Addie and me, laying her little head on our shoulders.  As she took my hand in her cold and tiny one, my fears dissolved and my own tears fell with a prayer of gratitude.  I kissed the top of her beautiful blond head.  I love you (Я тебя люблю), I said, mispronouncing her sweet name.  And she giggled.
Ksusha A. Geissel writing in her diary

February 20, 2017

Diary of a Cabin Dweller, Nearing the End - Winter 1938 - Part 8

A treasure was discovered in this 1938 diary from my grandmother, Edna Olivia Olsen. Written during a difficult winter beset with one of the worst blizzards in UP history, illness, and trials - she shares her daily diary entries with us as she is living in a cabin in the woods .. in Marquette, Michigan.

Sunday, February 20, 1938
Captain Richard Olsen's wedding with Donald Olsen, best man

"Dicky was quite sick today. Was up practically all nite. Couldn’t sleep & then the squirt started throwing up – sleeping in my good bed with me. Had an hour to sleep to be exact between 5 & 6."

On a mattress, maybe on Presque Island, family play(me – the family is aware that Edna and Emil lost their son, Clayton, to diphtheria and having any of their other children sick, must have been scary. Picture is of brothers, Richard and Donald Olsen at the 2nd marriage for Dick – first wife, Fran, had died. Dick is a captain for the great lakes in this picture. One of the family outside on a mattress playing with their child, almost looks like outside of a building on the island in Marquette. My father, Donald, fishing - he was in love of this sport.)
Donald Olsen fishing

Jan Olsen and Eric Olsen
Monday, February 21

"Slept from 10 til 2 today & do I feel better. Russel isn’t feeling so hot today so I’m keeping him home from school today too. Emil is on this crazy night shift & the tip toeing & whispering is getting me down. If it keeps on I guess I’ll ring Newberry & have them reserve a room for yours truly."

Betty with children, Blair and Donna Turrell(me – a lot going on here: a possible move, illness in the family, high snow drifts, isolation, and, living in a small cabin with her husband sleeping during the day.  Pictures: Betty Turrell with children Blair and Donna – Betty lived in cabin during diary. Edna and Emil’s youngest two, Eric and Jan Olsen – both born after the diary was written. Jan Olsen Summersett jumping rope at our Olsen family reunion on Presque Island in 2014.  What is something that intrudes on our day and freedom?)
Olsen Family Reunion - Janice Summersett jump roping
Tuesday, February 22, 1938

Mimi Lambert, Gretchen Lambert & Alfreda Fredrickson Olsen"Can’t get in a lick of washing on account of Emil sleeping. Guess I’ll get ready & go in to Bill’s tomorrow & help her with her ironing & ask if I can take my washing in Thursday." 

Donald Conrad Olsen 1940(me - I think having grandpa sleeping during the day in their small cabin has intruded on her writing as this is a very short post compared to her previous entries. Picture is of my mother, Alfreda Fredrickson Olsen with Mimi and Gretchen Lambert, Marquette 1944. Donald Olsen, 1940. My brother, Stephen Olsen at camp, 1964-66.)

Stephen Olsen at camp in Marquette

Wednesday, February 23, 1938

"Went in with Emil today – did all of Bill’s ironing (she wasn’t feeling so good) in return for which I will take the bulk of my wash in tomorrow with all my rugs & do them. Emil called for me at 12:20. On the way home I was so sick I was almost out. Hope I feel better tomorrow as I’ve got a peach of a washing to do."
Peggy Malmgren and Alfreda Olsen 

(me – I almost feel lazy compared to my grandparents! What a time to have lived – joy and heartache and tons of work. Grandma wrote people and places she had business with in her diary, and some may no longer be up there but interesting to hear these names and remember: Farrell’s, Kiltinen, Co-op, Gately, Montgomery Ward, Gamble, Queen City Garage, Coal Consolidated, Drs. McCann, Johnson, Hambajen. Does anyone know where Queen City was? We had our family 5K race in August 2016 along Lake Superior and Queen City Running on Baraga near Front set it up for us.  Is this one and the same?  Picture of best friends – Alfreda Olsen and Peggy Malmgren at Jan and Frank Summersetts. So much love and laughter and stories there.)

Thursday, February 24, 1938

"Emil tells me I moaned & groaned all nite. Got the kids off to school & went back to bed til 11 o’clock, then got up & got ready to go in with Emil to do my washing. Grandma was at Bill’s & I nearly passed out. Everything went beautifully though – Emil very politely, well well ma – hello there, but he hurried right out, he had to see a man about a dog!" 

(me - I know the family had a variety of dogs and wonder if they were getting ready to move, so time for a new dog? Picture of Eric Olsen, youngest son of Edna and Emil, with his Coast Guard "mates" setting up a buoy. Emil Berger Olsen, dressed up and looking pleasantly at the camera.)

Friday, February 25, 1938

"In again today – was awfully sick while I was doing the washing – but feel better today. Borrowed 150 from bank today – spent $25 on a dining room table – 6 chairs – china cabinet & 2 rockers. Made out check $107 – for Jim & that pays up our camp. Spent the evening at Billie’s. Emil came for me at 12:20."

(Me - Today we say farewell to Edna Olivia Olsen - 4/12/1899-10/27/1975 - and her family as this is the end of the recorded diary for 1938 – pages are missing so it is our loss to see what happened with the family. But we are richer for her sharing life in the cabin in the woods of Marquette during this tremendously wintery 1938. Her humor, frustrations, concerns and care for others was evident. Those who knew grandma were treated to her character, spirit and strength. We share memories of her and grandpa, fondly, but with a mix of amazement that they were ours!  Edna and Emil went on to have two other children, Eric Randolf Peter and Janice “Jan” Catherine Olsen (Summersett).  We are blessed to have Aunt Jan and Uncle Frank to share our lives with now! Eric died on the Ides of March 2015. David Olsen wrote: "Emil Olsen and Edna Olsen sailed on the Great Lakes. He worked at the Piqua - a factory in Marquette that made wooden products, like bowling pins - and at Cliffs Dow, a hardwood charcoal/chemical plant, also in Marquette.  He was the janitor there and was fired for participating in a strike - later rehired, retiring around 1958. They also worked at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island and were both extras in the Jimmy Stewart/Eve Arden movie, "Anatomy of a Murder". Emil also made spending money during the fall/winter by trapping beaver, muskrat and weasel - ermine. Emil taught his grandson, David Olsen, how to trap, skin, stretch and dry pelts. Emil also made wreaths to sell for $5 apiece during the winter. I missed all of them, grandpa, grandma, my dad, uncles Don, Dick, Eric and Aunt Betty." 

Today feels to me like a final goodbye to my grandparents, Edna and Emil Olsen, our aunts and uncles.  But I'm so thankful to have lived these two months with grandma's voice each morning through her diary ... from the winter of 1938, in the cabin, in the woods, in Marquette.  I can still hear her ....)

February 18, 2017

Ready for "Murder"

Ksusha Geissel in her coat of many colors
A daughter was visiting us while my family was watching a selection of the syndicated murder mysteries.  She pointed out that one of the suspects was too old to have murdered someone in the way described.  I told her that the suspect was only in his late 40s and asked:  "Do you think I’m too old to murder someone?"  Her immediate, somewhat sheepish response, was a quick, “no, but you would get winded.”

Perhaps her response points to the fact that, yes, I am getting older although I still have some zip left, daughter!  Sure, I get the occasional ache and may groan during the motion of standing, yet I consider myself rather young at heart and challenge anyone to say I have an old soul.  Plus, if I wanted to murder someone, which had not occurred to me until she brought my “lack of breath” to my attention, I can accomplish the task, and not get winded. 

This murder talk reminds me of this year’s journey or killing off - murder, if you will - a part of me that I find cumbersome. 

These are some of the ways in which I try to age with grace
  • To aim not to be discouraged with the process of my aging
  • Making sure to embrace each day
  • Absolutely include daily fitness activities - whatever strikes me at the time
  • Plan fun and challenging activities
  • Write an encouraging bucket list, and act on it
  •  Jot down daily “to do or to don’t” lists – the satisfaction of crossing an item off makes my heart beat faster
  • Make sure to smile at and be patient with young ones who think you are pushing close to death after the age of 35, because frankly, we probably thought the same thing at their age.  
If murdering is in my future, I’ll work on being in the best shape possible, so windedness is not a hindrance.

February 17, 2017

8 Reasons I Take Pictures

Olsen Family Reunion, Marquette, MI 2014My childhood home was located at the bottom of a hill and when it rained heavily our greatest fear was what happened in the basement. Horrified gasps and exclamations spewed when we cracked the door open to a flooded basement – at times to mid-calf. A particularly deep water flood damaged my parent’s photo-filled cedar chest. Family pictures were barely salvageable from this soaked trunk, but placing photos individually on every available flat surface around the house saved some memories. Being a self-proclaimed family historian, I want to share the 8 reasons I take pictures. From experiences of loss from floods and fires, this is what I know for sure…
    Donald Conrad Olsen
  1. A Soulful Purpose. My father took up photography in his 50s when medical issues ravaged his body, but not his spirit. He dove wholeheartedly into this new hobby - it kept him focused, with a purpose, and he plain had fun shooting. Every aspect of photography pulled him out of a very scary and dreary time. Today, we benefit from the photo-memories left behind. For me, seeing an image of what I took the time to click, process, print is fulfilling – even the “bad” photos spur me to learn more. Sharing on social media allows others to enjoy special moments and gives me tremendous satisfaction and a semblance of pride and accomplishment.
  2. Pictures of Memorable Moments. Dad insisted on taking a picture of my sibling the day after his father died – she had been crying and refused. My father was wise and told her that a photographic record of family is important and her reaction to our grandfather’s death would be part of her history. Pictures of war, poverty, plenty, disgust, trials, indicate to me that we are human and move us into action, or possibly to tears. I am constantly on the lookout for experiences (memories) deserving to be preserved. Even when not carrying my camera, my cell phone is ready to capture history, humor, a memory, an event.
  3. Videos. Sauntering, or waddling, side to side was my father’s gait. We have an 8 mm record of his unique ambulation, learned as a toddler learning to walk while being raised on a boat. A treasure which would have been lost without video-photography.
  4. Chance Photo Opportunities. A perfect photo moment brought such emotion, including tears and smiles. My mother was resting on the sofa, chatting on the phone, when my nephew climbed on her hip. Mom smoothed his very thick black hair with loving strokes. He died young …  so this photo became even more precious as a tangible way to visualize this tender memory. Take every chance you can to click away – cell phones work well, too; be sure to download and print the timely and historical ones, before the photos are deleted and lost to history.
    Tender moments Alfreda Olsen and Corey Franco
  5. Proof is in the Photo. I’m a storyteller. An “adopted” forthright and frank matriarch refused to believe my life-stories and would insist that they were not true. One in particular, was that I was selected to a special softball team to play against some local celebrities – she did not believe me and intimated that I was “pulling her leg” – which she could not abide. But, I had pictures! The proof that I indeed played softball on this select team … against Magic Johnson, Jay Vincent and Greg Kelser. My integrity was reclaimed (and my hand mortally wounded; another story) – but only after her death.
    Alfreda Olsen always ready with a smile
  6. Pictures of Emotions. Following my mother’s death, countless people shared that mom was the most positive woman they knew. Recounting memories of mom … her humor, laughter, and bursting out with a smile when company came calling … is difficult to portray if not backed up with photographs. Taking shots of her laughing are priceless and authenticate her life, even in the midst of trials and illness.
  7. Diaries and Photos. A hard-covered burgundy diary materialized in the half-flooded cedar chest in my childhood basement. Written in a leaky pen by my grandmother, Edna Olsen, from January through February, 1938, she brought us into her “cabin in the woods” of Marquette. This particular
    Alfreda and Stephen Olsen peeking out cabin door
    winter saw one of the worst blizzards in Upper Peninsula history – and she documented living through that winter, a challenging time of blizzards, illness, near starvation, hardships, and her delightful humor. 
    Pictures of family during the 30s and 40s and of those whom she wrote about are vital to the continuation of family… and to our receptiveness and acknowledgement of where we came from and our historical strength and vulnerabilities - as seen through the eyes of a written diary and a camera lens.
  8. Traveling. Travels to Russia to adopt an 11-year-old girl with her 13-year-old brother without pictures to document this tremendous adventure would
    Zhenya and Ksusha in Perm, Russia
    have been more than tragic. The meeting of our daughter with her new sister – no words can speak to this treasure. 
    These photos are the only ones our new children would have of their home country, of the orphanage they lived in, and of their friends who lived there. Visiting new places, people and attending special events should have a visual record for all generations. The photos do not have to be perfect with the right ISO or aperture or lighting – only a documentation of 
    the event, even imperfectly.
    Adelyn Geissel with new sister, Ksusha in Perm, Russia

Diary of a Cabin Dweller with a Temper & Pigs - Winter 1938 - Part 7

Diary of Edna Olsen continues. 

Wednesday, February 16, 1938

"Did he ever find me in a temper! Dam’s & darn’s flying high wide & handsome. When I got thru he informed me he was a Baptist minister. Why isn’t there a hole handy to crawl into at such an embarrassing moment. Not only that I had actually smoked a cigarette while talking to him. Oh me – oh my, I haven’t got over it yet & never will. Oh well, such is life out in the sticks – when everything goes haywire!"

(me – can you imagine! I heard about this incident at some point in my life; and remember it. Ever been embarrassed? What was your most embarrassing moment?  Picture of Edna and Emil visiting the hospital room of one of their best friends, Alphonse -  an old farmer who helped the family tremendously over the years.)

Thursday, February 17, 1938

"Was all rheumatic after my set-to with the washtubs. I guess I’m getting old. I’m sure that I’ll be the topic of Axel Anderson’s Sunday sermon. Do I even feel small over my exhibition of temper of yesterday. Anyhow the chicken was good I had yesterday & so was the bread. Butchered today - $2.70 to kill pigs 124# 150#."

(me - it was not all seriousness and trials .. the family did play games and laughed a lot. I can imagine how grandma felt being in church that Sunday when the pastor delivered his message. Betcha she was waiting for her name to come up attached to the word, "sinner".)

Friday, February 18, 1938 Pay Day

"Went in today with Emil. Pay was in & paid 72.00 in to the bank – that is it was my intention but two late for the bank so I’ll hold it til next week. Cup up half of the pig today. Will bring Bill a shoulder tomorrow. I know she wants a ham – but she isn’t getting it."

(me - I have to agree with grandma in that she won't give a ham to Bill...needs to keep some of the good meat for her 5-person household. Picture of Edna holding son, Dick, Betty is on the right, Donald is on the far left, Russell between the two kids. Donald Olsen, my father, as a young man. Aunt Betty holding son, Blair.
Question to reflect on - have you ever given away something "big" out of generosity and then had great regrets?)

Saturday, February 19, 1938

"All I did today was tidy up a bit & sit & growl all day. Under my breath - Boy is this night shift getting in my hair - in fact it's getting in all of our hairs!! Hope we are moved in to town before next night shift." 

(me - we all grumble at some point. I think having the schedule of Emil working midnights and sleeping during the day was a breaking point for them. Tiptoeing around in the mornings, especially with three children, would do it for me. What makes you growl and grumble? Picture - Donald Olsen, who was 17 that winter of 1938, sporting a beard. One of the kids playing in the snow in Marquette; grandma Edna with a slew of kids.)

February 14, 2017

Diary of a Cabin Dweller - Winter 1938 - Part 6

The diary of Edna Olivia Anderson Olsen continues through the winter months of 1938. Living the cabin life in the woods of Marquette - Edna is getting real antsy to find a place to live, in town.

Monday, February 14, 1938

Russell Olsen with daughterEmil Berger Olsen holding grandchild, Marquette"Father couldn’t get his car started today. I had a tubful of clothes on to start to wash but he wanted me to go to town with him & see some houses. Blizzard raging & I didn’t feel like going – but went. Mrs. Phanief (sp) doesn’t want to do anything to the upstairs we were looking at & wants 12.50 so we are undecided – no bath, clothes closets or wood shed – poor entrance. Kinda hope we can make a deal though – well, we’ll see." 

(me - Happy Valentine's Day - or Valentinsdagen in Norwegian. I wonder if our grandparents celebrated as there is no mention of this in her diary. Emil Olsen holding his son, Eric, on Baraga Avenue ... note the radio to his left. Russell Olsen standing on the porch with sister, Jan Olsen, in the Furnace location in Marquette. Emil's mother, Laura, with her daughters, Agnes Lain and Odborg, in Tonsberg, Norway, 1943, with Laura holding her grandchild, possibly named Lucia.)

Johanna Olsen in Tonsberg Norway holding great grandchild

Tuesday, February 15, 1938

"E. comes home tonite telling me a company house is available – hope we can get it. Jepson’s trying awfully hard. Me, I’m just picking around – baked coffee cake & bread for myself & a batch for Alphonse. Want to get thru tidying up here & may iron a bit – not certain. Getting lazy in my old age – neuralgia in my back after washing takes my pep I guess. Raleigh man was here today – found me in a temper." 

(me - I am still struck by the energy of my grandparents and how difficult it must have been. Now to think of the family possibly moving into town, in the winter, huge drifts - tires me out.)

Wednesday, February 16, 1938

"Did he ever find me in a temper! Dam’s & darn’s flying high wide & handsome. When I got thru he informed me he was a Baptist minister. Why isn’t there a hole handy to crawl into at such an embarrassing moment. Not only that I had actually smoked a cigarette while talking to him. Oh me – oh my, I haven’t got over it yet & never will. Oh well, such is life out in the sticks – when everything goes haywire!" 

(me - can you imagine! I heard about this incident in the past, and remember it. Ever been embarrassed over something you said and did? What was your most embarrassing moment? Picture of Edna and Emil visiting the hospital room of one of their best friends, Alphonse, an old farmer who helped the family tremendously over the years, and whom we met in the 1938 diary.)