Ireland’s Wicklow Mountains

Sometime in the night, hurricane Ophelia departed Dublin, like an unwelcome guest. Her banshee shrieking ceased, and in the morning, the day broke on my second full day in Ireland with glistening sunshine, like Mother Nature was trying to sooth the wounds Ophelia imparted yesterday.

The day began with a leisurely drive along the coast to the south of Dublin.

I knew Brian and I were going to the Wicklow Mountains, but I didn’t realize there were really two ranges, the Dublin Mountains and the Wicklow Mountains, and they hug the coastline in many places. Truthfully, before this trip, I never realized that Ireland had mountains. I think of Ireland, green fields and Shamrocks.

The nice thing, for the Irish, is that these ranges of stunningly beautiful mountains aren’t remote – meaning they are only an hour or an hour and a half away from Dublin – but feels like a million miles.

Keep in mind that yesterday was a hurricane, and this morning’s temperature was 45F, with a real feel temperature of 42 – so I really wasn’t sure what we would find.

I was floating on the edge of sleep again, as Brian drove along in the glorious, warm sunshine when I heard his voice in the distance say something about swimming. Surely, I was dreaming…

The Forty Foot

The first place we stopped was the “old swimming hole.” Of course, I thought Brian was kidding when he suggested that I look to see if someone was swimming today. No one in their right mind would be swimming. It was freezing cold. Both in the water and out, PLUS, all that storm debris was everyplace. Brian has a great sense of humor.

But then, he suggested again.

Did Brian think I was born yesterday and fell off the turnip truck?

Well, OK, I’ll look, just to humor Brian.

Ahem…

Yep, those things bobbing around in the water are people. By the way, in the background, the church spires of Dublin in the distance. I barely noticed the spires.

Now I don’t know exactly how to mention this politely, so I’m not going to try.

It’s nude swimming. Now, if this was the south of France in the summertime or the Caribbean perhaps, I wouldn’t have thought anything about nude swimming,.  But Ireland, in October?  Seriously?

And these swimmers aren’t kids either. There was no one under 60. I met one man today, Patrick, who was 86, and yes, Patrick was swimming, or at least he was on his way to swim…in his speedo which I think got removed at water’s edge. And Patrick claimed he wasn’t cold. I touched his arm, and he really wasn’t cold. He bid us a quick goodbye and said he had to hurry up and get into that frigid water before he got cold. HUH???

Do these people have antifreeze in their veins.

And they do this every single day, rain, shine, sleet, snow, hurricane.

This area used to be for gentlemen swimmers only, but a few years ago, women staged a protest, a swim-in, for lack of another word, and now both genders swim daily, year round, 365 days a year. In their birthday suits.

They do try to be quite modest when “changing,” so not to cause traffic accidents or shock American tourists.

Then there was this guy who was dancing, for lack of any better description. Actually, kind of dancing and yoga combined with a very loose towel hula skirt. Or maybe this was interpretive dance. I took a video of his great reveal, but I can’t share it with you. 

You can swim in the buff, however, you CANNOT take your dog swimming, so don’t even think about it. Rules are rules, after all.

By now I was fully awake and in desperate need of coffee, but none was to be found. Is Ireland, between hurricane Ophelia and our recycled teenaged swimmers, actually an alternate reality? I was beginning to wonder.

And you want to hear what’s worse? Brian knew them. All of them. By name. Except for the dancer who Brian says is new. But Brian swears he doesn’t know how to swim.

I, I , I just don’t know quite what to think😊

The Coastline

Nature continued to amaze and delight today.

In this picture, you can see Howth across the bay. I was standing on top of that hill taking photos of the lighthouse below in a hurricane 24 hours earlier. So, we’ve literally come full circle. What a difference a day makes.

This Napoleonic watch tower, built around 1804, was later the home of James Joyce when he wrote Ulysses. These watch towers, all within sight of each other, dot the coastline.

Our next stop at Colemore Harbour was punctuated by beautiful old boats on the ramp among homes of the rich and sometimes famous.

Another watchtower, this one on an island.

This view looking south shows the Wicklow mountains, where we were heading. I never realized that Ireland had mountains.

Mary Herrell’s death wish makes a lot more sense now. She said that when she died, she wanted her body to be placed on top of Herrald Mountain in Wilkes County, NC so her soul could fly back to Ireland. It’s no wonder Appalachia felt so much at home to these transplants.

Now, if Mary would just have told us her maiden name and where she was from in Ireland….

The Wicklow Mountains

Castles, old and new line this route. This is where Enya lives.

Most roads in the mountains are small and only wide enough for one car. People simply go slow and share, with no honking of horns or road rage.

Then there’s your obligatory ram standing beside the road. Better than in the road. By the way, in many places, there are no fences.

Sugarloaf Mountain.

The Powerscourt Hotel complex was originally a castle. Can you tell?

Beautiful, sheltered courtyard.

Look at these spider-stompers!

The formal gardens were beautiful, but the tea and scones beckoned me.

We had a proper tea. I had a pear and vanilla scone, and Brian had a currant scone. No wonder we didn’t eat lunch until 2:30.

Sheep grazing in the shadow of the mountains, beside the hedges of rosebushes. You’re looking at the rose hips. This area looks a LOT like Scotland.

Unlike Appalachia, there are few little creeks and brooks here, so imagine my surprise when we came around the corner to this beauty. I think Brian said this waterfall is 420 feet high and it’s stunning.

The rock at the bottom actually has a large hole where you can see the water on the other side.

Next, we drove along the bog fields where little grows except heather.

Here’s a closeup of yellow heather.

Brian knows the horses and they come to the fence when he makes whinnying sounds. He’s pretty darned good and says he has known these horses for 20 years now. The white horse, Mr. Ed, does not allow you to feed the brown horse nor does the white horse like to be petted. “Feed me, but for heaven’s sake, don’t touch me…or anyone else either.” Reminds me of my cats.

This amazing highlands property is owned by the Guinness family. The lake has actually been engineered to actually look like Guinness beer.

The black granite at the bottom of the lake makes the water look black, and the family had millions of tons of white sand brought in to look like Guinness “foam” around the edges when it’s drawn from the tap.

What do you think? Did it work?

This entire valley is owned by the Guinness family and is breathtakingly beautiful in it’s stark ruggedness.

Did I mention Braveheart and the Viking series were filmed here? I need to watch Braveheart again.

It’s simply stunning everyplace you look.

On to the pub for lunch. I just love this painting on the ceiling above the fireplace. And I love Irish pubs too!

And the Guinness stew, to die for. No picture of the stew. I thought of it too late.

A monastery, now in ruins, was founded in the 6th century by St. Kevin in Glendalough.

A chiseled cross was supposed to offer protection and stop everyone…except the Vikings didn’t understand apparently.

The cemetery is still in use or at least was until 1900 or so.

However, the abbey is in ruins.

One man lived to be 106. Imagine that in a time before antibiotics or any other type of modern medicine. He had to have been both lucky and genetically predisposed to longevity – not to mention a lack of Viking invasions during his lifetime.

I love that tree line on the far hill.

This stone tiled building may have been a kitchen.

The tower as viewed through the ruins of the monastery.

It seems that life in this part of Ireland revolved around sheep, land, the church and either whiskey or beer.

I hope that someone has cataloged these stones for Find-a-grave.

This area of Ireland is known for its woven wools.

Headed back to Dublin at the day’s end.

I can certainly see why Mary Herrall wanted her soul to fly back to “sweet old Ireland.”

Tomorrow, New Grange, Knowth and Tara, land of Niall of the Nine Hostages, my ancestor.

Meeting Ophelia in Dublin

If I was an Irish lad or lass,
I’d think today was a blast.
Ophelia was a gift
No working on my shift.
Of course.
Of course.

I’m no fool.
There’s no school or car pool
No busses or planes.
Too windy to ride,
I’m taking this in stride.
Must stay at home,
For safety’s concern…
Of course.
Of course.

Too unsafe to go out
And walk about.
Except to the pub
For some grub,
Good company,
And Guinness
Of course,
Of course.

Ophelia’s winds are harsh
And will blow you right into the marsh,
So don’t walk or ride,
Just kinda slide,
Holding onto whatever you can
Or find yourself a stout man.
On the way to the pub
For that lovely pub grub.
And to discuss why you have to stay home
Cause it’s too dangerous to roam…
Of course.
Of course.

Ok, so my Irish ditty writing could use some improvement, but go easy on me.  After all, I did survive a hurricane in Ireland. And, I learned exactly how the Irish handle a weather event like this.

First, they refer to the windy day as being a “fresh day.” Yea, it’s fresh alright, it’ll blow the stink right off of you, along with exfoliate at least the top layer of skin.

I’m sitting back in my hotel room now, listening to the wind batter the side of the building, blowing objects from other buildings into this one. I swear, the rafters are lifting up and down, slamming like the screen door just before my mother yelled at me, “don’t slam the screen.” Too late! Wham, again.

Many places, especially along the coastline, were shuttered with plywood today and noplace, and I do literally mean noplace except for a couple pubs, was open. It’s not like Brian and I didn’t try.

I know I’m part Irish now, because I was determined to make lemonade out of lemons.

You see, that’s what the Irish do. That is pretty much their approach to life. Not just Ophelia.

Ophelia Makes Landfall

This is by far the weirdest hurricane I’ve ever weathered.

While the hurricane was striking, there were bands of rain, which is typical, interspersed with bands of sunshine, which isn’t.

The wind was very warm – also very unusual.

There were no thunderstorms or tornadoes, at least not yet.

But the wind.  My God, the wind. It was truly brutal – registering gusts as high as 119 MPH. The worst storm Ireland has seen in 50 years.

Brian and I discovered an elderly man laying on the sidewalk. Brian pulled over, stopped, we got out and tried to help the man by recruiting two other men walking along to try to help him to his feet. The man was in quite a bit of pain, and it became evident that he had badly hurt himself. We gently lowered him back on the sidewalk, as there was no place else to put him, and called the ambulance. Of course we stayed with him and tried to bring him some comfort. The police and firetruck arrived within a minute or so, and about that time a huge gust of wind came along and blew me into a police officer who was standing beside me, nearly knocking us both over.

I apologized profusely. I mean, assaulting a police officer isn’t something I normally do.

Enter the Irish sense of humor.

His partner, who witnessed the event, of course, says, “Brian always has that effect on women.” I was embarrassed. Brian (yes, the third Brian of the day) then very kindly took ahold of my arm so that I wasn’t blown elsewhere with a much less soft landing.

The wind was just that strong.

Jim Cantore strong.

The. Irish. Are. Such. Genuinely. Nice. People.

Brian

Let me introduce you to the first Brian, Brian O’Reilly. You can’t get more Irish than that!

He’s amazing.

I found Brian through a series of referrals before my arrival in Dublin.

He’s a professional tour guide, taxi owner and driver.

In other words, if he’s not working with individuals, or hotels, he fills in the time by doing general taxi work.

He drives a nice mini-van with the driver’s seat on the “wrong side” by American perspective.

The perfect person to make lemonade with.

Unfortunately, many of the things he had planned for me today, we couldn’t do. We had already regrouped once from the countryside to Dublin city, because of the weather. Brian said they never get hurricanes here, so he truly didn’t think this one would strike.

Many people felt the same way initially, but last night the TV was full of doom and gloom, trying to convince people to stay home and be safe. This storm hasn’t deposited a lot of rain, but the winds have been devastating. It’s like straight-line-winds for hours on end.

Trees, branches, roofing materials – all flying around.

So, in essence Ireland shut down and told everyone to stay home. Of course, everyone welcomed “Holiday Ophelia.”

That means that there were only two places people were…home and the pub.

The Pub

The local pub in Ireland is a public gathering place.

And just because you’re not local doesn’t mean that you’re out of place. They just immediately adopt you and inside of 10 minutes, you’re one of them, exchanging stories like you’ve always been there.

Ok, here’s proof.

This is my new friend, Edna. We had SO MUCH FUN. I drank my first Guinness. Yes, that’s it in the baby glass. I wasn’t at all sure that I liked Guinness, but I do.

She was an experienced, expert Guinness drinker.

The Irish have traditions for everything, and drinking Guinness is no exception.

For women, newbies or “pansys,” (their word, not mine), they add a couple drops of black current to Guinness. It makes the Guinness slightly sweet and more palatable for those who have not yet acquired the taste. Edna, my new friend, asked the bartender to do that for me.

He looked at me deadpan and said, “No. You drink Guinness neat or not at all. It’s against our religion here to sully our Guinness with anything.” He paused for a minute, then looked at me and said, “Well, drink up.” I did, and liked Guinness. It tastes like a slightly smoky beer. He smiled and said, “See, you didn’t need any of that pansy stuff,” turned and walked away, leaving Edna and me in stitches and shrieking peals of laughter.

Yea, I know, all of you who know me are saying to yourself, “I can’t believe this, Roberta, in a bar.” However, pubs are not the same as bars. Pubs are local and safe gathering places, probably originating as fires around which our very ancient ancestors gathered in the evenings to share some fermented something-or-other and revel in tales about the wooly mammoths they had seen that day.

Plus, I had Brian with me, or better put, he had me with him.

Now here’s a shocker. Not all of the pubs were open, which simply made the ones that were more crowded, and more interesting. Somehow ironic that everyone was gathered around the TV, moaning about damage and danger reports and discussing why it was too dangerous for them to go to work.  Of course, going to the pub was just fine.  Why would you ask? Makes perfectly good sense.

And friendly?  You haven’t met friendly until you’ve met the Irish. Let’s put it this way, I got hugged and kissed goodbye (on the check) by Edna’s lover (her word, not mine), Brian, (the second Brian), on the way out the door.

They don’t do the cheek kiss thing as much here as they do on the European mainland, but they obviously have adopted that custom at least partially. Or Brian was getting cheeky with me, one or the other. Pardon the pun.

Ok, enough about the pubs.

Howth

Ophelia was scheduled to arrive in Dublin between 1 and 3 today. She was a prompt guest and is obviously staying overnight because she’s still here and the winds have not abated one bit, as of midnight.

Brian is a native Dubliner and we decided, based upon his experience, to visit a beautiful fishing village north of Dublin in the morning, because a fishing village in driving rain isn’t fun – and that’s what we expected in the afternoon.

Howth is on the Bay of Dublin and where the fishing fleet is located. Seafood doesn’t get fresher than at this famous restaurant, literally at the end of the dock. Of course, it was closed.

On the wharf, the warehouses are interspersed with little shops.

I desperately wanted to eat at the Octopussy Seafood Tapas restaurant, but they weren’t open. And weren’t planning to open, given the weather, although they did have to stand outside and discuss it for several minutes.

Another local place that looked like a lot of fun!

I wonder how much this storm cost Ireland.

One place warned visitors that they had only a skeleton crew today.

The Pier West Art Studio was open, albeit boarded up. Perhaps this cupid’s head is a good luck piece. My friend who lives on the Outer Banks in North Carolina has a good luck angel strapped to one of the support stilts of her house. Maybe this is the same kind of protection.

Speaking of art, we saw this beautiful chain saw carving along the way.

The views from Howth were spectacular.

I love seaside villages anyway, but today, with the weather event, Mother Nature was truly putting on a show!

I must admit, I found this warning to be quite humorous, especially since it was cobblestones that laid me low previously.

The red sign tells people that the pier is close today due to weather. Well, duh, you can barely walk and stand upright, but somehow, people managed and walked the pier anyway.

Brian and I kept to the edge away from the water and didn’t walk beyond the sign. Neither of us was interested in pulling the other out.

No fishing boats out today.

As the day wore on, about noon, the sea and sky became more menacing. Brian said he has never seen waves like there were today, although they don’t look bad in this little cove.

Given the wind on the top of the hill where I was standing, I couldn’t get closer to this lighthouse by the sea. By this time, the wind was driving the sand mixed with rain in sheets that felt like sandpaper on your skin. Dublin city was across the bay, if you could have seen that far.

Brian knew all of the good places to stop for photography.

On the way out of town, we drove up into the village of Howth itself and discovered this stunning old church ruin with its cemetery intact.

This is just so Irish. A church ruin, a tiny old cemetery and it’s all tucked quaintly beside modern homes and utilities on a steep hillside just above the sea.

Have I mentioned that all signs here are in Gaelic as well as English? A dual language provision is actually in the Irish constitution, based on the fact that the English had tried to eradicate the “Irish heritage” by eliminating the Gaelic language, not to mention the Catholic religion.

Today, Gaelic is taught in the schools and Brian’s grandchildren attend a school where the children are taught 75% of their studies in Gaelic and 25% in English.

Many Irish buildings are quite ancient by US standards.

Everything in the old country is, well, old. They literally use everything until it can’t be used anymore. At that time, depending on the structure, what it is and where it is, they either tear it down or abandon it. Buildings currently in use are often hundreds of years old.

If these old pub steps could talk…

And these steps, across from the ruined church, literally leading no place. However, at some time they clearly led someplace and I’d love to know that story.

It was time to head back to Dublin. Even though we were only about 10 miles north, it felt extremely rural, like we had crossed a time barrier into an earlier domain.

Back in Dublin, we discovered that all of the Starbucks were closed. Heresy, I tell you. Chocolate shops all closed too. Imagine! What’s a woman to do?

Find a pub, of course. The Irish answer for everything. We did find a nice pub for lunch.

Deviled Lamb Kidney’s anyone?

I’ve already introduced you to Edna, of course. Ahh, our lunch was too short but what a fun experience. In Ireland, everyone speaks to and talks to everyone else. It’s catching. I’m doing in too, but in the US the same behavior would be view as borderline predatory.

Next, we tried to visit various gardens, museums and even the Guinness Brewery, but everything was closed. So we drove to see the sights.

I think Brian told me that this was the Irish Parliament building, but I was fascinated by the gate.

Notice that there are many green leaves on the ground because they are being stripped from the trees by the wind today.

Notice too that right this minute, the sun was out, but the wind was still intense and unrelenting. It was a very, very odd weather day.

Brian says this is the most photographed door in Dublin.

The Irish refer to this as the “Pepper Canister Church,” smack dab in the middle of the street.

Today, no tourists or competition, so opportunities for wonderful photos – and no traffic either, which was rather uncanny. Brian indicated that normally traffic during the week is neck to neck all day long in the city. Did the Rapture come to pass and I got left behind in Ireland with Brian?

Did you notice the rainbow? I can’t find the words for how bright and intense this rainbow was. It was actually startling as we turned the corner, like fire in the sky. 

I suggested to Brian that perhaps we should find the pot at the end. I mean, after all, we ARE in Ireland.

This rainbow lasted for quite a long time, but then, was gone as quickly as it had appeared.  A beautiful end to an exciting day, making lemons out of lemonade!

Ophelia wasn’t an invited guest, and hasn’t left yet, but she assuredly didn’t ruin the day and perhaps made it more memorable. How many other people can reminisce about their Irish hurricane?

Right now, aside from the actual physical danger of the winds blowing you over, like that poor man, and flying debris, the biggest problem is that almost half a million people are without power. Trees blowing over have taken many power lines with them. Furthermore, phone carriers are impaired and TV and internet are spotty, at best. The mast that holds the equipment is snapped in half outside the hotel.

Tomorrow, if possible, Brian and I will visit the coast south of Dublin and the Wicklow Mountains. From the sounds of the wind right now, maybe not. Unless it stops, we may have to find a way to make more lemonade!

Second Act Quilt – 52 Ancestors #169

A second act. Act two. What is it?

Aside from the second act in a play, a more contemporary usage of the phrase is a second career, often undertaken in retirement when one is less constrained by earning a living and putting food on the table each week. Hopefully one feels freer to follow a passion or love, without particular regard for financial reward or gain.

But people aren’t the only “beings” with a potential second act.

The recent hurricane tragedies have been ripe with stories of rescued animals. I’m an unbelievable soft touch for our furry friends and not only do I actively involve myself with animal rescue, and have for decades, I also support several groups, particularly in situations like the recent devastating hurricanes.

Aside from living sentient beings, sometimes inanimate objects such as quilts have a second life too. Although, I have to tell you, making and distributing “care quilts,” I have always felt that a quilt had a special calling to help comfort and cure people. Those of us constructing them are simply hearing that calling and cause those quilts to be born, so to speak. Midwives, in essence – not the story, only assistants in the process.

Sometimes, giving quilts and others a second life or opportunity helps to heal both the recipients and the donor.

In the Beginning…

I grew up quilting with my mother around a quilting frame in the local church basement with the Missionary Circle. Although somehow, in that time and place, the irony of sending quilts to Africa escaped me. I think it was the thought that mattered, at least I hope so.

I also made quilts by hand with the scraps from making my own clothes. I didn’t feel underprivileged at all. I loved the “custom clothes” I could make, generally out of remnants from the sale bin. I also loved using the scraps for things like matching doll clothes made by hand with no pattern. Later, as a teen, I made quilts with those scraps, often taking my quilting bag along when I babysat for after the kids were in bed.

When I was in college, I didn’t have time to either make clothes or quilts, but after I graduated and started a family, a few years later, I returned to quilting. There was something soothing and having moved away, quilting connected me with my roots, both figuratively and literally.

For (at least) hundreds of years, women have made quilts for utilitarian purposes, for warmth, to salvage any possible piece of fabric which was expensive both in terms of labor and cost, and to bestow as gifts on those they loved. Wedding and baby quilts are legendary.

Making a quilt was and still is quite an investment in terms of both money and time. For those who don’t know, quilts cost hundreds of dollars and hours, both. Trust me, it’s a lot easier and much quicker to take half the amount of money a quilter invests in a quilt and purchase a very nice gift card.

If someone makes and gives you a quilt, I guarantee, it’s a gift straight from the heart or they simply would not bother. But not everyone understands, cares or treats quilts as gifts of love.

The Quilt Disrespecter

My former mother-in-law comes to mind.

In the early 1980s, in-between a career, a young family and animal rescue work, I managed to make my former, now-deceased, mother-in-law a quilt, in the colors, fabric and pattern she selected. She asked that it be tied instead of quilted, so I tied it with little knots instead of the more traditional quilting. I enjoyed making the quilt, working alone mostly late at night after everyone else was long asleep, and gave it to her as a family gift for Christmas.

I was the “second wife” in a very conservative, religious family who wasn’t happy about either their son’s divorce or a second wife, and I hoped that the quilt would help thaw the ice a bit.

My mother-in-law put the quilt on the bed immediately, but the next time I saw it, it had a very large prominent stain. I asked her what happened, and when she told me, I was able to help remove the offending substance. The quilt was whole again, none the worse for wear. I was a bit bothered that she hadn’t seemed to care enough about the quilt to ask me about the problem before I noticed and asked her. But I shrugged it off as nothing.

I didn’t see the quilt again, and I wondered about it, but all things considered, was hesitant to ask. I didn’t want to rock the boat and she wasn’t exactly warm and friendly.

Rescuing Sister-in-Law

I wasn’t the only black sheep in the family, and well, us less-than-pristinely-colored-sheep had to hang together.

A few years later, after many slights, such as being “forgotten” at Christmas, even while sitting in the same room as everyone else exchanged and received gifts, I had given up entirely on the idea that I might even be treated as marginally human by my mother-in-law. I attempted to “make nice” as my mother would have said, for the sake of my husband and children.

My in-laws sold their condo and were in the process of moving to a senior facility. My sister-in-law, married to another son, herself a family outcast as well, was helping my in-laws pack and move.

In the garage, she found the quilt tossed in a corner on the floor. She knew I had made that quilt for “Grandma” as we called her, and she picked it up and asked Grandma what the quilt was doing there.

Grandma replied she was either going to throw it away or give it to Goodwill.

My sister in law picked the quilt up, looked at it and stated, “there’s nothing wrong with this quilt,” but my mother-in-law said that it was “old.” It was less than 5 years old, maybe 3 or 4. Hardly old by any measure I can imagine, let alone in quilt-years. Quilts when cared for even marginally last for decades.

My sister-in-law, bless her heart, told my mother-in-law that if someone makes you something and gives you a gift from the heart, the VERY LEAST you could do if you don’t want it anymore is give it back to them. My sister-in-law picked up the quilt, told my mother-in-law that she was giving the quilt back to me and put it in her car.

Hurt Feelings.

I can’t even begin to tell you how hurt my feelings were. Not only was the quilt I had made for my mother-in-law, with the fabrics she selected, so I know she liked them, tossed away like an old rag – by proxy, I had been discarded as well, again.

It was just one more hurtful chapter in a book, but having your gift of love rejected in such a demeaning way was especially degrading.

I folded the quilt up and put it away. It hurt.

Over the years, every now and again, I’d run into the quilt again when cleaning out a closet. I always felt bad, and then I’d find a different place to put it away out of sight. Out of sight never worked for very long, because I’d always find it again a couple years later. DANG!

Fast Forward

In 1993, my life changed catastrophically when my husband, her son, had a massive stoke. She died shortly thereafter. I was dealing with a horrific situation, still raising children, and needless to say, I had absolutely no time for anything except trying to make ends meet for several years.

Nearly another decade later, as I moved prior to remarrying, I found that quilt again. AGAIN! Once again, I felt terrible, for a whole bevy of reasons, and put it away – but it wasn’t going to stay put away forever.

This past summer, I began my own “downsizing” initiative, going through things, giving things away, finishing projects and otherwise taking stock of where I am and where I’m going.

And you’ve guessed it, I found that doggone quilt again.

But things have changed. I can now look back more with pity and sorrow instead of pain. With the cumulative wisdom and distance of another two or three decades, I now realize my mother-in-law’s rejection of me was far less about me than it was about her. I wish I had understood that then.

The quilt was her weapon in a cold war of sorts in which I was an unwitting witness as well as an unwilling participant.  Her own personal ongoing battle in which both me and the quilt were collateral damage.

It was never about me, or the quilt, really. In retrospect, the situation was profoundly sad – but someplace in the past 15 years or so, she lost the ability to hurt me anymore. She had died, leaving an unfortunate legacy, one I certainly wouldn’t want, and I had moved on.

Instead of quickly putting it away, I laid the quilt out on the table this time, took a look and realized it needed some mending. I wondered what I would do with the quilt. I wasn’t going to use it myself, but I wasn’t putting it away again either.

Hurricane Harvey

Then, hurricane Harvey descended on Texas, and in particular, Houston.

I have family and very close friends in Houston, and I prepared a box of “care quilts” to send. I’m sure that they have been put to good use.

That done, a few days later, I returned to my sorting and saw the quilt laying on the table. I realized that the quilt needed a new home, one that would hopefully love it the way it had never been loved, and that correspondingly, hurricane Harvey victims needed assistance. Many had lost everything.

About this time, my friend told me about her cousin and others who had been flooded out of their homes when the reservoir floodgates were opened to relieve pressure on dams. The devastation and tragedy in Houston seemed never-ending.

I told my friend about the quilt and that I would gladly ship it to her if she would find it a good home, someplace where it would be used, loved and appreciated.

Act Two

I opened the quilt and realized that other than a few places where some of the seams had begun to separate, that there was only really one damaged area. One tiny L shaped tear in the fabric, about an inch long.

I cut a “patch” in the shape of a heart and mended the quilt. Somehow, I thought that was appropriate. A broken heart made whole.

I hand repaired a few other locations, reinforced the binding since that too was now 30+ years old, and thought about how much comfort this quilt had been waiting for so long to give someone. Then, I gave the quilt a bath and held my breath that it would survive the washing machine. It did, just fine!

It’s not perfect and it’s not new, but its soft fabric is ready to comfort and warm someone. Maybe it will remind someone of their loving grandmother, or another quilt that comforted them. I hope so.

When I make quilts as gifts, or as “care quilts,” I take their picture when finished, say a prayer for the recipient, and sent them off on a life of their own. These quilts too have a purpose and destiny, just as people do, albeit one that I’ll never know. I give them wings and send them on their journey.

I am blessed and finally healed by being able to send this quilt off on its own healing mission. I was only the technician, although it certainly took long enough for this quilt to find its purpose. I pray that whoever receives the quilt can feel the love that this “pre-loved” quilt has to give, and receives the blessing of the positive thoughts that are sent along with it.

They need it, the quilt needs it, and so did I.

Just like people, and animals, sometimes “pre-loved” is the best.

It’s now known as “The Second Act Quilt.”

Sometimes the second act is far better than the first and just what the doctor ordered!

Bon voyage my friend…

Worldview of LeVar Burton

On February 10, 2017, Levar Burton gave the keynote at Rootstech. I wrote about LeVar’s speech at that time, but the video link was removed so most of you never got to see his incredible session. The link has since been permanently (I hope) added here.

I implore you to watch this 22 minute clip of LeVar’s presentation. I guarantee, you’ll leave with a…oh never mind the sales pitch… just trust me and watch the clip:)

I’ve heard a lot of speeches and presentations and I have two words about this one.

Best. Ever.

It’s incredibly inspiring on so many levels. Especially, especially, LeVar’s secret “one minute exercise.” Nope, I’m not telling you. You’ll just have to watch, but here are a few quotes from LeVar:

“I could easily have been one of those statistics…..”

“My mother had hopes for me….and expectations…”

“My mother taught me that there are no limits to what I could accomplish in my life except those that I myself impose.”

“I would be…frustrated with the unfairness of that injustice.” 

“Two most important words in combination in the English language….’What if…’”

“…lifechanging.”

“That upon which we focus our imagination is what we manifest in this realm.”

“We stand on the shoulders of those who have come before us.”

“Close your eyes and bring into mind someone who saw you and recognized your brilliance and helped bring it into being.”

“None of us get through this thing called life on our own.”

“God and time are synonymous.”

“Unless we can be still we will never hear that voice of God within.”

“Pay attention, because if we’re not paying attention, we might miss something that is incredibly important that is key to us delivering our gift to the world.”

Your One Minute Person

Please enjoy the video, and when you’re done, tell me in the comments who you brought into your mind in your “one minute of silence,” and why.

I’ll go first.

My step father, because he told me, literally, that I could do anything I set my mind to and to never let anyone tell me otherwise. And he meant it.

He made me recognize the power of possibility and that it resided within me. I never understood the magnitude of that gift in his lifetime, and I sure hope he can hear me now. He changed my life in an instant by empowering me to change my own. It’s the best gift he could ever have given me.

Genealogy, Identity Theft and Equifax Update

Yesterday, I wrote about the Equifax breach and how genealogy can be tied to that breach in the article, Equifax Data Breach, Genealogy and You.

It appears that some folks may not realize how the combination of the Equifax breach AND your genealogy info can be tied together to compromise your online and financial security. I should have given a specific example. This is really, really important, so I’m writing an update today.

This situation is WAY MORE IMPORTANT than your genealogy itself.

I cannot believe those words just came out of my mouth.

It has also come to my attention that banks and other institutions may not use the same types of security smeasures around the world, so people outside of the US may not be familiar with how we do business here.  However, in the past day, this breach has extended beyond the US, so please, read on no matter where you live, even if you read yesterday’s article carefully.  There’s more you need to know today.

This breach doesn’t just relate to existing credit card accounts and establishing new accounts, but relates to your bank accounts, tax refunds and government services that you might apply for in the future, including Social Security and Medicare benefits. You don’t want some crook stealing your identity, filing for your taxes and applying for benefits, which means you can’t.

The Perfect Storm

Here’s an example of how this breach creates the “perfect storm,” for the crooks anyway, which is your worse nightmare come true.

In just three steps, made much easier by Equifax (thanks), your money can be gone.

Step 1 – In the Equifax breach, your social security number and address (along with other personal information like account numbers) was part of the information that was stolen.

Step 2 – Let’s say that at your bank, you use your social security number or your old street address as your password. Through the Equifax breach, the crooks now have that info, so they try both of those and voila, now they have progressed to your security questions, because the bank was smart enough to realize that the sign-in request was not coming from your home computer.

Step 3 – Let’s say you have established two security questions at the bank. Your questions are your mother’s maiden name, which is freely available in your family tree, and your grandmother’s birth location, which is also available in the same source.

Poof – the crook is in and your money is gone.

Yesterday, when setting up a credit freeze at one of the three credit reporting sites, six of the 8 security questions I could select from were genealogy related and readily available in online trees – surnames, middle names and birth locations.  Obviously, they don’t know about online trees and how easy it is to obtain that information – and they need to fix that security loophole. Even if you don’t have an online tree, you may well be in someone else’s.

Security Questions

In some cases, security questions can be selected by you. Don’t just pick the easy ones you can remember. Pick something that absolutely CANNOT be found online in any way associated with you. Your first pet’s name, for example.

However, if your first pet was a goldfish named Goldie that you accidentally flushed down the toilet and you published a blog article about that traumatic event – that’s not a good choice either.

Your first boyfriend’s name? Did you marry him or someone with the same first name? Then not that either.

So, what to do if you don’t get to select your security question and it’s something like your mother’s maiden name?

Lie.

Yep, tell a lie. It’s OK. Your children will thank you when you don’t have to live with them when you’re old and impoverished because your money was all stolen and your social security benefits too.

Make something up – but remember your lie or write it down someplace safe (i.e. not on a yellow sticky postit in the bottom of your keyboard at work) – because your access to your own account is tied to that information.

Passwords

There’s all kinds of advice on password selection. Strong passwords require a lengthy string including upper and lower case of both alpha and numeric characters.

Of course, you can’t possibly remember these passwords, so you will write them down and that too can be stolen. But, chances are that password in your house is less likely to be compromised than information associated with you available online – at least in my house.

Password cracker software runs through thousands of possibilities in the blink of an eye. That’s why most sites today lock your account after some number of erroneous tries. Bummer if you’ve just made a mistake.

Don’t use the same password for multiple sites either. If a crook compromises one location, the first thing they are going to try is a second location.

Storing your password list in your cell phone probably isn’t such a good idea either. Someone asked about password “safes” offered by some vendors. I’ve never used them. Think about how attractive those would be for hackers. Use at your own risk.

Worse yet, personally identifying information, like what was obtained from the Equifax breach, is used to reset passwords, so you can easily see how a crook could use info they have obtained from Equifax to reset your passwords.

If your bank and brokerage accounts offer something called two factor authentication, that might be a good option. Two factor authentication requires information plus something you physically have, generally meaning your phone. Access to your account then requires both the password and pin or token issued from something physically in your possession. Yes, I know this is a huge pain. But having your identity stolen is a bigger pain that never ends and thanks to Equifax, more than half of the country is now at a much higher risk than ever before.

Back to the Equifax Breach

In addition to what I wrote in yesterday’s article, you need to know the following things:

  • Even if the Equifax site tells you that your data has “probably” not been breached, don’t believe them.  It has been discovered and reported by multiple news agencies (along with my personal experience) that if you enter the same data, exactly the same way, multiple times, the Equifax story changes relative to whether or not your data was breached. Do not take comfort if the site tells you that your data has not been breached. I don’t think they actually have a clue. Assume that it has been breached and take appropriate measures.
  • Even if your credit has supposedly not been breached but your spouses has, much of your account information is the same, so consider your account breached too.
  • Equifax says that this breach now extends to some people in the UK and Canada, but no further information has been provided. For safety’s sake, assume you are one of these people whose accounts have been breached.
  • Equifax originally required you to waive your rights to join a class action suit in order to take advantage of their free credit monitoring for a year if they tell you your data has been breached. They have now recanted that position and their website now says the following as of noon today:

Options for Protecting Yourself

Because the Equifax breach has such long-term and permanent ramifications, meaning that while you can change things like your e-mail address and close a credit card account, you can’t easily change things like your name, address and social security number. Those are much more difficult and together, readily identify you as you – or the crook as you.

So, you need to accomplish multiple goals:

  • Know if fraudulent activity has taken place
  • Monitor to know if fraudulent activity is taking place
  • Prevent crooks from obtaining credit in your name by using the credit reporting services
  • Prevent bank accounts and other financial accounts from being compromised
  • Protect your assets like tax returns, social security and other benefits for which you may today or someday be eligible

The bad news – there is no one single way to do all of this, so you’re going to have to make some decisions and take multiple steps.

I’ve compiled information in the following chart. Please keep in mind, I’m not a lawyer nor a CPA – so please educate yourself and only use this as a guideline – not gospel. Plus, things change and right now, Equifax is changing their story daily – and it takes days to sign up for their credit monitoring service. I was able to freeze my account yesterday.

In the article, Equifax Data Breach, Genealogy and You, I discussed Credit Monitoring Services, Credit Reports, Fraud Alerts and Credit freezes, sometimes called security freezes. The chart below represents my understanding of how these services work together to protect consumers.

Safety Goals Credit Report Credit Monitoring Service Fraud Alert Credit Freeze Comment
Has fraudulent activity already taken place? Free once yearly for all 3 services, Equifax, Experian and Transunion Typically a paid service that provides credit reports to you periodically. Sometimes provided for free when your data is known to have been involved in a breach. Does not report past events Does not report past events
Monitor to know if fraudulent activity is taking place No, only deals with events that have already taken place No, only deals with events that have already taken place Free service for 90 days that requires a lender to contact you to verify your identity before issuing credit in your name.   You must renew every 90 days. Allows consumers to freeze their credit.   Consumer must unfreeze when they are applying for new credit, then refreeze. You must freeze at all 3 agencies for this to be effective.
Prevent crooks from obtaining credit in your name through credit reporting services No, only deals with events that have already taken place No, only deals with events that have already taken place Yes, but expires and consumer must renew every 90 days Yes, doesn’t expire but you have to remove freeze when you want new credit.  Must freeze at all 3 agencies to be effective.
Prevent bank accounts and other financial accounts from being compromised Not related to bank accounts Not related to bank accounts Not related to bank accounts Not related to bank accounts Use strong passwords, change passwords often, do not use  security questions where answers can be found publicly or in credit reports, read the links below to know what to look for
Protect your assets like tax returns, social security, etc. Not related to this type of protection Not related to this type of protection Not related to this type of protection Not related to this type of protection Stay hyper-vigilant, file as soon as possible, read the links below to know what to look for

Additional Resources

You can read what the IRS says about identity protection at this link:

https://www.irs.gov/identity-theft-fraud-scams/identity-protection

Here’s what the Social Security Administrations says about identity theft:

https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10064.pdf

God forbid you ever really do need to change your social security number:

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0248-do-you-need-new-social-security-number

Here’s the FTC’s document about identity theft, what to do, how to report identity theft and a recovery plan.

https://identitytheft.gov/

From the FTC, signs and signals of identity theft.

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/topics/identity-theft

Again from the FTC, a scam alerts site.

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/scam-alerts

Please note that this situation is fluid. Educate yourself and follow this in a credible news source for developments that may change your remediation plans.

Thank you to people commenting on the original article and providing additional, useful information.

Grandma’s Legacy

I apologize to my readers for this diversion these past few days with identity theft combined with genealogy. Unfortunately, because genealogists do share and as humans, we are inclined to use information we readily know, that means we’re vulnerable to the crooks – because our genealogy information is near and dear to us, and we remember it easily.

Fortunately, this is easy to fix by not utilizing our genealogy information that we so readily know.

I do love genealogy, particularly genetic genealogy, and I have absolutely no intention of giving it up. I am, however, now more vigilant. I’ve changed my personal security questions, or the answers, so that my family tree and blog articles don’t give me away.

I will be making sure that information from the past hundred years is marked as private. It not only puts me at risk, it puts anyone else in that same line of descent at risk too.

Keep in mind, there’s nothing you can do about someone else’s tree online that may include your grandmother’s birth location. This means that my preventative measure of making the last hundred years private in my tree may amount to closing the barn door after the cow has left.

I’ve frozen my credit, meaning I’ll have to unfreeze it when I apply for a loan someday for a new car. Maybe that means because of the inconvenience I’ll spend less. Hey, there has to be a silver lining someplace.

Here’s what I don’t want, for either you or me. I don’t want my legacy to be the grandma who had everything stolen and had to go and sleep on the park bench….you get the drift.

I hope you’ve found this helpful, and I sincerely hope I never feel compelled to write about something this serious again.

Let’s do everything we can to prevent that so we can get back to genetic genealogy. All of this bother is interrupting my research time!

Caveat

Again, I’m not a lawyer or a CPA. I have no ties to the financial industry except for being a consumer. Use at your own discretion. Educate yourself. Consider this a resource, not gospel.  Follow this developing story and make course corrections as needed. Changes are occurring rapidly. Presume the worst. It’s better than presuming the best and being wrong.

Equifax Data Breach, Genealogy and You

What, you may be asking, does the Equifax data breach this week have to do with genealogy?

The answer is actually twofold.

  1. Everyone who works with genealogy now lives in a technology world – or you wouldn’t be reading this.
  2. People tend to use pieces of information to secure accounts – like their mother’s maiden name, their address, birth location and other pieces of data that they can remember. Don’t. Just Don’t. I’m begging you!

And please, please read this article, even though it’s not specifically about genealogy. I spent 30 years in the technology industry, and believe me, if your identity is stolen or your finances compromised, it WILL interfere with your genealogy research, big time.

The Breach

I don’t normally discuss news items, but this security issue is mammoth, the largest breach ever, and could potentially destroy your credit and compromise your identity, either or both.

What’s worse yet, the breach itself occurred mid-May through July, Equifax discovered it on July 29th, but consumers weren’t notified until September 7th, 5 weeks and 5 days later, and then only in the news, not personally. That means that the crooks have had between 6 weeks and 4 months to use or to sell, or just hold your information to sell later.

You can read more about the breach here and here as well as a New York Times article with an update and additional instructions this morning, here.

Please do read those articles to understand the magnitude of this issue. The breach affects more than 143 million people, mostly Americans, with an additional 209,000 credit card numbers stolen as well, along with 182,000 “dispute documents” with additional information.

The US has about 260 million adults, so roughly 55% of the adult population has been affected by this breach. In other words, there is more than a 50% chance that your personal information, enough to file a tax return on your behalf and claim your return, among other things, is among thieves right now, on the black market.

And no, I’m not exaggerating.

Not. One. Bit!

AND, that’s just how many account records are known to be compromised. Equifax may not know the full extent of the breach.

If your spouse’s records are compromised, and yours aren’t, you may think one of you is safe.  But guess again – because your life, credit and resulting misery is inextricably linked together.

If one is breached, both are breached. Period. So the actual breach numbers may actually be closer to 100%, based on “breach by marriage.”

My husband and I have been working on this issue all day today (and no, we didn’t have anything better to do, thank you for asking) and discovered that our shared account numbers are listed, with both names, of course.  My accounts are his, and vice versa. Initially, only one of our Equifax accounts was reported as breached, which would have provided a false sense of security for one of us, until we looked closely.

However, later today, both accounts were reported as breached.

What Was Taken?

Equifax and other credit reporting agencies routinely track your credit history, including account numbers, as well as identifying personal information.

Information about consumers stolen from Equifax includes or may include:

  • Name and Addresses (current and old)
  • Credit History including balances and balance available
  • Account Numbers
  • Social security numbers (the hottest most desirable piece of your information for crooks)
  • Birth dates
  • Driver’s license numbers

The aspect that make this breach so serious is that it includes multiple pieces of information that should be unique to identifying you – such as your birthdate and social security number.  You can’t change those or get new ones to protect yourself – and the crooks know that.

Additional information in your file that Equifax has not said was or was not compromised includes:

  • Employer and position (current and former)
  • Employment dates
  • Phone numbers
  • Spouses name

I would presume that this too was compromised.

If you think your information isn’t at Equifax, you’re wrong, because Equifax, as well as the other credit reporting services, routinely gather identifying and financial information about everyone.

How Do I Find Out About My Information?

Equifax has set up both a telephone hotline (that is, *surprise*, entirely jammed) and a website for you to enter a partial social security number along with your surname to determine if your account was compromised.

https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/

Click on the tab at the top of the page that says “Potential Impact.”

If your data is not known to be part of the breach, you see a notice to that affect, but note that the wording is not definitive. It says:

“Based on the information provided, we believe that your personal information was not impacted by this incident.”

However, and this is a HUGE HOWEVER, when I tried this a second time, to be sure of the wording for this article, I got the opposite result for the same person, which said,

“Based on the information provided, we believe that your personal information may have been impacted by this incident.”

Bottom line, I don’t think Equifax knows for sure and their system appears to be flawed, so ASSUME YOUR DATA HAS BEEN BREACHED.

If your information is known to be part of the breach, you are given the option for free credit monitoring, BUT, you must remember to return to the site on a specific date to begin credit monitoring. Personally, I think they should be required to provide this service AT A MINIMUM for everyone, but they are not. Neither are they making it easy.

Equifax provides you with a date that you must return to their website to set up credit monitoring service. Mine was September 11th. You have to remember. They aren’t going to remind you. This credit monitoring service is initially free, but becomes a chargeable service at some point in the future AND you have to relinquish your right to sue in order to obtain this free service. So yes, strings are attached.

Furthermore, a free year of monitoring won’t help you in the future, beyond year 1, when the crooks still have your data. The crooks know this and may simply wait for a year to begin using the information. You must assume your data base been breached permanently and act accordingly.

Worse yet, a free year of monitoring at Equifax, or even permanent monitoring at Equifax won’t help you at the other reporting agencies.  The crooks can and will take your valuable information and simply use it elsewhere.

What Is Credit Reporting and Monitoring?

Credit reporting companies like Equifax gather information about you and your credit, including open and closed accounts, so that when you apply for a loan, the loan originator (the bank for example) only has to call one of three credit reporting services to obtain your information and verify that you are a good credit risk – instead of calling each of your current and past creditors individually.

Equifax is one of those services, along with Experian and Transunion.

A credit monitoring service, offered by a credit reporting company life Equifax, reports activity to you when it occurs on your account. That means if someone applies for a new credit card in your name, you are notified. That does NOT mean that the transaction is prevented. This also does nothing to stop other fraudulent activities, such as filing for your tax refund, running up medical bills in your name or charging items on an existing credit card.

Or, worse yet, using your information in your stolen Equifax account information to attempt to hack your passwords at banks, Paypal, etc.

There are other options for consumers, in addition to or instead of a credit monitoring service, such as a credit freeze or a fraud alert, which we’ll discuss just as soon as we talk about passwords and security questions.

Don’t Use Familiar Records as Part of Your Password or Security

Using information about you that is publicly available, or available in your credit report allows the crooks to crack your passwords much easier. And yes I’m referring here to passwords for financial accounts like bank accounts, retirement and investment accounts and Paypal.

DO NOT USE:

• Your mother’s maiden name
• Your address
• Your previous address
• A pet’s or child’s name or any name that can be found publicly, on any service like Intellus or social media platform like Facebook
• A hobby that is discussed publicly in any way (so genealogy, DNA, genetic genealogy, quilting and gardening words are all out for me)
• The name of a school that you attended
• Your, your parents’ or grandparents’ birth locations
• A date such as a birthday or an anniversary
• Pretty much anything you can remember easily

Let’s look at steps you need to take to protect yourself.

Twelve Fourteen Steps to Protect Yourself Right NOW!!!

Yes, I added two more steps because it’s critical to protect yourself and your family, now. Please complete ALL of these steps to secure yourself.

First, check the Equifax site to see if your information is known to be breached. Regardless of their answer, assume that it has been.

https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/

Click on the Potential Impact tab.

Second, order a free credit report, which you can do once yearly, from Annual Credit Report at the link below. Do NOT fall for scam sites that offer free reporting or your credit score.

https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action

Order a report from all 3 credit reporting companies to be sure that no fraudulent activity has taken place to date and that your report is accurate.

Unfortunately, and somewhat maddeningly, when we attempted to order our free credit report online for Equifax, the process has changed and we now have to fill out a form.  Yes, I know their system is probably overwhelmed by this, BUT, making receiving a free credit report to which the consumer is entitled at a time like this difficult is reprehensible.  Do whatever you have to do to obtain your reports, because this breach is incredibly serious.  Do not be deterred.

Third, while credit monitoring only tells you what has already taken place, placing a fraud alert on your account means that a lender must contact you to verify your identity before issuing credit in your name. However, this can only be done for 90 days when it expires. You must renew it every 90 days at Equifax, Transunion and Experian, all three. Again, the results of this breach will be very real for years, so 90 days isn’t going to help you if you forget to call and put the alert on your account every 90 days.

Fourth, put a credit freeze on your account. A credit freeze actually freezes your account at the credit reporting agencies, meaning that if you are going to apply for credit, you have to go into your credit account and unlock your account with your pin to unfreeze the account, then refreeze it when you are done applying for new credit. The credit freeze service isn’t free in every state, but typically costs under $10, if anything, and is a whole lot less than the headaches you could have otherwise. Be sure to freeze your credit at all 3 credit reporting companies. This is what I’m doing. You can read more about this process here.

Fifth, many credit cards have an option to notify you when charges are made on your account through text messaging before the end of the month when your bill is sent. Visit your credit card provider to see if this option is available, enabling you to catch fraudulent credit card activity immediately instead of later when your bill arrives.

Sixth, monitor your credit card bills closely. Look back over your accounts since April. You might want to close any accounts you don’t need or use anymore.

Seventh, change your passwords on existing accounts, everyplace, just in case, especially any that include any piece of information that even MIGHT be held in a credit report or public location.

DO NOT use any type of identifying information such as your place of birth, mother or grandmother’s maiden name, or anything else that is in any way publicly available on a social media site, your tree at a genealogy site or anything else that can in any way be associated with you.

Eighth, at tax time, file your return immediately, as soon as possible. Guaranteed, if the crooks target you, they’ll file as soon as they can and you won’t find out you’ve been scammed until the IRS tells you that they already processed your refund and it’s long gone.

Ninth, be sure, absolutely positive, that your spouse takes these steps too, because if they are exposed, so are you!

Tenth, help family members that are not technologically savvy to be sure they are protected. The elderly are often targets.

Eleventh, this could not have happened at a worse time with hurricane Harvey in Houston and Irma positioned to strike Florida. Be sure family members in those locations who are distracted presently are aware that this security issue occurred, that their data may well have been breached, and that they need to take action – sooner rather than later.

Twelfth, take action NOW. Delay may well mean money – yours – gone – in someone else’s hands.

• Thirteenth, check your children’s names and social security numbers at the credit agencies.  Social security numbers of children are considered high value items, because they last so much longer. Young children shouldn’t be in the system, but teenagers, you never know and much better safe than sorry.

Fourtheenth, never ignore what seems like a “mistake” on a credit report, such as a misspelled name or an extraneous address.  On my husband’s report, his name was misspelled, only slightly, in one “odd” entry and it turns out that someone had run up bills in his name in another state.  When the creditor attempted to collect by contacting my husband, that’s when my husband discovered the issue. This also pertains to reported unpaid medical bills on your credit report.  I know of someone who supposedly had a baby and was billed by the hospital for an exorbitant amount after her identity was stolen.

You can visit the Federal Trade Commission site to learn more about identity theft and how to protect yourself.

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0014-identity-theft

Ok, when you’re done with all that, feel free to resume genealogy research!

However, from here forward, you can never be complacent or really rest easy, because your identity truly is in jeopardy, forever.

Please note that these actions may not be the only actions you’ll need to take to keep yourself safe, now, or over time.  This story and the ramifications are still developing.  Please educate yourself and follow credible news sources.

The Last Father’s Day

The heat was oppressive. The air wasn’t moving, hanging like a hot wet blanket, engulfing you, making it difficult to breathe.

In the days before air conditioning, you woke up hot and sweaty, and that was before the sun was even on the horizon. You tended the livestock early, weeded the garden out behind the chicken house and picked whatever produce was ready by 7 AM or so, because the heat and humidity only got worse as the day progressed.

Home sweet home. The farm in Indiana.

In fact, it was so hot on the farm in summer that children were allowed to run around in their birthday suits except for their underwear, and play in the sprinkler or a tub outside, filled from the hose or the well pump. Sometimes the adults indulged in the hose too, putting their thumbs over the end to cause “spray,” or stuck their feet in a bucket of cool water. It was just that hot. 

This particular Sunday, June 20, 1993, just happened to be Father’s Day.

My life in 1993 was very different than it is today. Every June, I spent a week at Rockome Gardens, an Amish “park” in the countryside of heartland Illinois, at a Cross Stitch Festival, teaching and learning and enjoying the camaraderie of my friends.

A group of us met at Rockome from across the country every summer, like the swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano. Mind you, Arcola, the closest town, a few miles distant was so small that there was only a railroad crossing, a bowling alley and one small Mom and Pop motel. Of course, there were grain silos and an elevator along the railroad tracks, because after all, this is farm country.

By Daniel Schwen – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3448414

The area around Rockome Gardens was much like the area in Indiana where I grew up, corn, soybeans and farm after farm, so I was quite comfortable driving between the fields and avoiding Amish buggies sharing the road. Everyone waved at each other. Life was simple. I loved it there – it felt and smelled so comfortable.

The needlework show ended on Sunday afternoon, but I packed up early and hit the road so that I could drive to central Indiana in time to see my step-father, the man I knew as Dad.

I knew he wasn’t expecting me, because he knew that I was busy at the show, but I wanted to be sure to get there in time to celebrate Father’s Day.

Dad was 72 years old and had been having health issues off and on for a couple of years. A lifelong smoker, he had been in and out of the hospital with COPD. He would give up cigarettes, certainly while he was in the hospital, and for awhile afterwards, but he always started again. He thought that we didn’t know, because he only smoked when he was at the barn. I know he always thought he’d have “just one” but that one always led to another, which led to another, which eventually led to another ambulance ride to the hospital. Up until this time, the EMTs and doctors had always managed to revive him, patch him back together and home he would come with new resolve among our fervent pleas to spare his own life.

I was so grateful that Dad was still with us, seemed to be doing as well as possible, and was excited to surprise him. I had arranged with my husband to celebrate Father’s Day with him the following weekend by planting two maple trees at our house, so hubby didn’t expect me home until very late on Sunday.

The only place that afforded air conditioned comfort was a car, store or a restaurant. No place else in farm country had air conditioning, including the farmhouse that was always “home” to me, even years after moving away.

As I drove cross country, enjoying the cool of my Mom-van, back road to back road, watching the shimmering heat waves rise up from the pavement, I relished the thought of how surprised Dad would be. I had a small gift of some sort all tucked away, even though I had already send a card and gift certificate to Red Lobster.

Dad’s favorite thing to do at Red Lobster was to order something, add a side of crab legs, which he dearly loved, and then see how many meals he could get out of that one meal via leftovers. Red Lobster was a luxury he never allowed himself unless he had a gift certificate – which is why I gave him one at every possible opportunity.

As people age, they are infinitely more difficult to buy for. First, they have most everything they need. What they want has far more to do with people they love, time and visits that any “thing.” I knew that, which is why I was going home, even though it meant arriving at my own home late that night and getting little sleep before work on Monday morning.

The look on his face would be worth it!

I knew Mom and Dad were going to Red Lobster to eat after church on Father’s Day, so I timed my arrival for after they returned home. That worked perfectly.

As I drove, the baking sun gave way to storm clouds gathering on the western horizon. Heat induced summer storms were mixed blessings, as they brought much needed rain for the crops and sometimes a brief respite from the heat, but they also brought tornadoes and this was tornado alley. We learned what to watch for, and when to run to the basement and dive for safety. Tornadoes were a fact of life and I’ve lived through several.

I watched the western sky as a wall cloud approached, rolling towards me, hoping the downpour that was sure to come would be swift and fleeting, because driving in blinding rain is difficult. Many summer storms were violent, but passed quickly, leaving the vegetation refreshed and beautifully green.

I drove in front of the wall cloud for quite some time, at about the same speed apparently, but when I turned north, it overtook me and I found myself in a hail-filled downpour. In the open country, there is no place to “go” and the best you can hope for is to find someplace to pull off the road so someone won’t hit you. No one can see.

Normally, I find summer storms refreshing. I woke up to so many storms, both during the night and to gentle early morning rains when I was a kid that rainfall feels soothing to me, and so do storms, unless they are particularly violent.

But this day, the storm and the greyness didn’t lift.

I arrived “home” in the mid-late afternoon and walked in, just like I had done for decades. I knew where the key to the back door was hidden, but I never had to use it. The door was never locked. I don’t even know if the key worked, truthfully. The lock probably would have been considered antique and there was only one key in existence for everyone to share. Generally, someone was home, and if they weren’t the dog wasn’t going to let anyone but family in anyway. The front door, not once in my entire recollection, was ever used. This was farm country and that’s how farm country worked!

Dad’s two favorite places, other than the barn, were at the kitchen table and in his recliner. Beyond any doubt, he could always be found in one of those three places. This day, he was seated in his chair in the kitchen wearing his ever-present overalls. He looked up to see who was walking in his back door, and I could see the surprise on his face turn to pure joy as he recognized me.

He had no other visitors.

I walked up to him and hugged him and declared, “Happy Father’s Day, Dad.” He beamed, thunked me on the head with his thumb and tousled my hair. All was right with the world. He may have been a quiet, soft-spoken prairie farmer that time passed by, but he was the most important person in the world to me that day.

He was infinitely strong in his silence, a granite pillar, a mighty example of kindness and good. He stood steadfastly for what he believed, even when it wasn’t convenient or popular. He believed in his family, equality and what was right.  In fact, he believed in me when no one else did.  It was Dad who told me, another hot summer day, years earlier, “You can be whatever you set your mind to – and don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.” He didn’t have to say any more. He had said it all and changed my life with one sentence.

Thanks Dad.

He asked what I was doing there and I told him I had come to see him on Father’s Day. He immediately began to worry about me driving home late at night.

Yep, that was Dad.

I told him I came to visit and the drive didn’t matter. I could tell, in spite of his protests, he was secretly pleased.

I’m not sure where Mom was. She was there, I’m sure, but these 24 years later, what I remember of that afternoon was sitting at the old kitchen table and visiting with him. I don’t remember what we talked about, except the storm (of course) because farmers always talk about rain, and about what he ate at lunch at Red Lobster. I think I brought him a mug or something like that as well, and he complained that I shouldn’t be spending my money on him.

That was always Dad.

That was the same man who would patch anything and everything together with duct tape until it simply could not be fixed again, and then begrudgingly purchase a used replacement, but gave me his last $20 when I left with my young children to move away – to pursue that career he encouraged me to follow. He desperately fought tears that day and asked if I was sure I didn’t need more money. I tried to refuse his $20, but he wouldn’t let me. I later found a $100 bill tucked in my purse, which he adamantly disavowed any knowledge of when I tried to pay him back.

That was Dad.

Dad’s sense of humor never failed him. Sitting at the table that day, I recalled that one year I gave him a hairbrush with no bristles for Father’s Day, because he was bald. He pretended to use that hairbrush for years, which would always cause peals of laughter.

Dad, smiling at me as I tried to get one of my kids ready for Halloween. He was wearing a wig, so I wouldn’t “recognize” him – and to let me know he wasn’t bald anymore!

Yea, that was Dad.

We laughed in the heat that day, sitting at the kitchen table with the whir of a very ineffective fan in the background, as we recalled many funny stories, some of which both of us didn’t agree were funny. But we laughed at all of them anyway!

That was Dad. Never malicious or hurtful with his humor, but always a practical joker.

At some point, Mom came in to fix dinner, called supper on the farm. Dinner was at lunch and the word lunch didn’t exist in that world. I told her I couldn’t stay to eat. I had many hours ahead of me, on those same back roads in the rain.

Dad walked me to the car and uncharacteristically told me how much he really appreciated me finding a way to stop. He told me he loved me.

That was not Dad. He was a man of very few words, and never “those” words. Never.

I looked at him a long time, in silence, and he looked at me too. Straight in the eyes. Tears welled up. I knew how much he loved me.

I had always known.

I know he knew how much I loved him too. I tried to tell him with my actions always. As Dad would say, “actions speak louder than words.” I’ve lived by his simple “farmer’s wisdom” my entire life. It never fails me.

I tried to speak. I couldn’t. My voice cracked as I told him I loved him and I simply couldn’t say goodbye. The tears streamed down my face, mixed with sweat, in spite of my attempts to stop them. I felt his rough thumb, calloused by decades in the fields, as he tried to gently wipe my tears away.

Dad was of course sweating, not crying.

I finally got into the car. Dad stepped back a couple steps, between the house and the old building that passed for a garage, and began waving to me, very slowly. He just stood there waving. He never did that.

I knew I had to leave, but for some reason, I was transfixed in that moment in time. Time simply stopped.

Finally, I backed out of the driveway and pointed the car north. As I passed the little white church at the crossroads, on the land he donated, I braked to look in the mirror, and I saw him, still standing there watching me disappear, still waving.

I saw the storm clouds gathering again, and I knew I had to hurry or they would overtake me. I wanted Dad to go inside, out of the storm. He had already weathered too many. I desperately wanted him to be safe, and to be there went I went back the next time, waiting for me at the kitchen table.

I drove away, down that lonely grey road as the storm began. I had no idea I was crossing a divide.

The day after we planted those maple trees, my life changed forever.

That was the last Father’s Day.

It was also the last Father’s Day my husband would be with me.

And the last time I ever visited Rockome.

A year later, I would be on the other side of that terrible divide, and all I could do was to look back in life’s rear-view mirror, longing to see Dad waving. Wanting desperately to turn around and go back. Aching inconsolably for what was forever lost.

I’m so incredibly glad that I found a way to make it home on that sticky hot Sunday for what would be the last Father’s Day.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad, and thank you.

Eloise Lore, my grandmother’s sister, Barbara Jean Ferverda (at right) and Ralph Dean Long holding Spot. Garage, burning barrels and outhouse in the background.