Tag Archives: #AtoZChallenge

Crayon basket – #atozchallenge

C is for Crayon basket. Third of twenty-six posts in the April 2017 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme “Whispering Chimneys: My Altamont childhood” — where my genealogy journey began. Wish me luck! 

Today’s coloring craze is all about taking time out with a meditative practice that sparks creativity.

Thanks to the crayon basket and my babysitter Lois, I took a deep dive into this practice at about age six.

I’m not sure where the crayon basket came from. Maybe it was an old Easter basket that became too small for a growing toddler —  or possibly it once held one of my grandmother’s African violets.

Crayon basket. When other forms of entertainment failed, my parents or grandparents would get out the crayon basket and coloring books. Photo: Molly Charboneau

But I still remember its tight wicker weave, gingham lining and small handle — easy for a child to carry — and the wonderful waxy smell of well-used crayons.

Crayons of last resort

When other forms of entertainment failed, my parents or maternal grandparents — who lived with us — would turn to the crayon basket and coloring books. And when they went out, my babysitter Lois showed me how coloring should be done.

Lois lived with her mom in a house on triangle of land where two roads intersected. We passed her enchanted abode — green with vines and shadowed by trees — on our weekly Sunday drives to St. Madeline Sophie Church.

Sometimes I rode along when my grandmother picked Lois up — always happy that she was coming to babysit. Lois was quiet and unassuming with a touch of gray in her hair. Best of all, she colored like a true artist!

Coloring master class

“Let’s get the crayon basket,” were the magic words that transformed me from a raucous youngster to a rapt pupil as Lois thoughtfully selected her coloring book page and began.

When I colored, the crayon lines showed or I had spots that were darker than the rest.  But not Lois.

She slowly and patiently filled in each space with completely even swaths of color — never a waxy buildup, never a stray mark outside the lines, never a section missed.

“How do you do that?” I’d ask her, eager to learn the technique.

“Watch carefully,” Lois would reply, her mesmerizing hand moving back and forth — evenly distributing the flawless color and teaching me how it was done.

Up next: D is for Dandelion wine: An ancestral brew. Please stop back!

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Birds and bees and Aunt Rita: My first genealogy lesson – #atozchallenge

B is for Birds and Bees and Aunt Rita: My first genealogy lesson. Second of twenty-six posts in the April 2017 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme “Whispering Chimneys: My Altamont childhood” — where my genealogy journey began. Wish me luck!

When you’re a child in a house full of adults, you learn to listen closely to what they say — and to hold your own in a conversation.

During one of their dinnertime chats — when I was about five — I stumbled into the birds and bees and got my first genealogy lesson.

Gathered around the dining table in our farmhouse kitchen were me, my mom and dad, my mom’s parents (who lived with us), and my younger brother Mark.

Saving the Laurence family line

At some point, the adults’ conversation turned to the Laurence family name — an anglicized version of my Italian great grandfather Peter Di Lorenzo’s surname.

“It’s gonna die out,” my grandfather said. My mom was married, so she was now a Charboneau. And Gramps’s brother, Uncle Joe, had two daughters and they were married, too. So that was it — no more Laurences.

Everyone seemed sad about this, and I was too. Then I remembered my mom’s single sister.

“What about Aunt Rita?” I asked. “She’s still a Laurence. Maybe she could have a baby.”

Knowing looks and smiles were exchanged around the table. My grandmother spoke up to correct me.

The stork could save the day

“No, honey, Aunt Rita can’t have a baby,” she said. “The stork only brings babies to ladies who are married.”

By: William Creswell

“That’s not true,” I responded. “The stork brought a baby to a lady on T.V. and she wasn’t married.”

What lady on T.V.?” my dad blurted out, his face getting red.

“The one on the show Mom watches,” I replied.

Suddenly the smiles and knowing looks were gone and all eyes were on my mother.

My effort to save the Laurence name was soon drowned out by a louder discussion about what I should or shouldn’t be watching on television.

And I was left wondering why everyone was so worked up. All I was trying to do was keep the Laurence family going.

Up next: C is for Crayon Basket. Please stop back!

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Altamont: My first childhood home – #atozchallenge

A is for Altamont: First of twenty-six posts in the April 2017 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme “Whispering Chimneys: My Altamont childhood” — where my genealogy journey began. Wish me luck!

Altamont, N.Y. — R.D. 1 to be exact — was my first childhood address. How I ended up there is an interesting tale.

In the early 1950s my parents and maternal grandparents decided  to buy a large house, move in together and start a family business. Sounded like a plan…sort of.

“We didn’t really know what kind of business, just something we could earn money at,” Dad told me.

My parents lived out-of-state then, and I was just six months old. But Dad quit his job and they headed back to upstate New York where they had grown up.

“I can hardly believe it now,” Dad said. “There I was, twenty-six with a wife and a baby, and I was essentially unemployed.” Even more amazing, Mom was on board with this scheme.

“We packed you in a picnic basket and off we went,” Mom told me. A picnic basket? I asked.

 “Actually, it was a wicker bassinet you could put in the car,” she explained. “Everyone used them back then.”

That’s me standing on the porch of our 1850s farmhouse near Altamont , N.Y. (circa 1954) . My early life on the farm, where I lived through the first grade, contributed to my sense of family and heritage. Photo by Norman J. Charboneau

Finding the farm

Our first destination was my maternal grandparents’ house in  Gloversville, New York — my mom’s home town.

That’s where we spent Christmas in 1950.

Meanwhile,  my parents started shopping around for a home big enough for the five us and the future family business. They looked in nearby towns, but the houses were small for the price.

So they widened their search into the country and that’s when they found the farm. Dad captured their excitement in an essay he wrote years later.

A young family came upon one of these mansions and was hypnotized by its ten acres of land, big red barns, and a few tourist cabins. They could find so many possibilities that they could not wait to own this historical marvel. This was the start of the great adventure!

So they bought the farm, named it Whispering Chimneys, and the great adventure has stayed with me all of my life!

Please join me daily in April for #AtoZChallenge snippets about my early life on the farm and how those formative years contributed to my sense of family and heritage.

Up next: B is for Birds and Bees and Aunt Rita: My first genealogy lesson. Please stop back.

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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A to Z Challenge 2017: Theme Reveal

When the annual A to Z Challenge begins on April 1, 2017, Molly’s Canopy will participate for the second time in the month-long blogging marathon. My theme this year is Whispering Chimneys: My Altamont childhood — where my genealogy journey began.

Last year I blogged about Ancestor’s A to Z, sharing stories of forebears on distant branches of my family tree and how I discovered them.

This year, I’m going back to my childhood to explore how my interest in family, ancestors and heritage took root — rolling out my own story from A to Z at one letter per day (minus a few Sundays) throughout April.

  • My inspiration: Genealogy bloggers who wrote about their own lives during last year’s challenge.
  • The rationale: We spend so much time searching for our ancestors and telling their stories that we forget to tell our own. As family historians we owe it to posterity to include ourselves in the mix.

Leaving an ancestral diary

Have you ever wished your ancestors had left letters or a diary — some tangible record in their own voice? I know I have, and I don’t want to be guilty of the same omission. So I intend to tell part of my own story during this year’s #AtoZChallenge.

My plan is to blog about life at Whispering Chimneys, the upstate New York farm where I lived until age seven with my parents, my maternal grandparents and my two younger brothers. Along the way, I’ll examine how my formative years incubated my heritage quest.

  • Time: The early 1950s.
  • Setting: An 1850’s farmhouse on Route 20 in Albany County.
  • Backdrop: Ten agricultural acres crisscrossed by streams and surrounded by working farms.
  • Players: Me; my immediate and extended family; and neighbors, friends, classmates and visitors who lived in a world beyond the end of our long dirt driveway.

Please take a seat and get comfortable. On April 1 the curtain rises on Whispering Chimneys: My Altamont childhood. See you then!

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Molly’s Canopy: Reflections on Ancestors from A to Z

Reflections:  Molly’s Canopy and the April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge — in which I was survivor number 1127 my first time out! Here’s a summary of my Ancestors From A to Z journey.

imageNow that Molly’s Canopy is proudly sporting a survivor badge, it’s time to kick back and reflect on my first-time participation in the April 2016 Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

Overall, a positive experience!

Because I learned about the challenge only a week before it began, I missed the Theme Reveal and had no posts written ahead. What I did have was a desire to celebrate my Second Blogiversary in style — and a sketched-out list of potential posts.

So I decided to go for it and added Molly’s Canopy to the list of challenge participants. Amazingly, when I jumped a net did appear!

Week one — described in Yes! Almost there! — was a hectic process of writing and scheduling enough posts so I could settle in for the blogging marathon on the theme of Ancestors From A to Z.

Fortunately, I was able to establish and maintain a steady pace for the rest of the challenge — keeping up with posting, doing pretty well with commenting/responding, and even stopping by the weekly #azchat on Twitter to see how others were doing.

Connecting with kindred spirits

One of the best parts of the challenge was connecting with kindred spirits — genealogy and family history bloggers and others — who care passionately about their subjects and are dedicated to sharing them with a wider community.

For an entire month, the A to Z Challenge united us in a virtual space where we moved together toward a common goal — encouraging one another as we went — and that was an empowering experience.

Speed posting and social engagement

Another plus for me was learning to speed post on a blog topic — complete with a photo and links. I typically post weekly, which allows for longer, deeper posts — sometimes in a series — examining my ancestors’ lives and the research techniques used to find them.

But not all ancestors’ stories require this in-depth treatment. During the A to Z Challenge, I experimented with shorter vignettes and discovered — through visitor feedback — that these self-contained posts can be equally satisfying to readers.

Social engagement for Molly’s Canopy showed improvement, too. Traffic, sign ups and follows on blog feeds increased, and the number of comments rose as well — even through letter Z, when we were all getting pretty tired!

Many thanks to everyone who visited, subscribed, followed and commented on Molly’s Canopy. You  made my first A to Z Challenge so rewarding!

Seeking a Genealogy/Family History (GF) category

Quite a few enthusiastic genealogy and family history bloggers participated in this year’s challenge — which was great! — but it was hard to find them without a dedicated Genealogy/Family History (GF) category.

Because GF bloggers combine specific research and sourcing techniques with history and memoir/oral history to create blog posts, none of the existing A to Z categories seemed to be an exact fit. So I suggested to the A to Z Team — by email and on #azchat — that they consider adding a Genealogy/Family History (GF) category next year.

A dedicated category would make networking easier among participating GF bloggers — especially those like me without “genealogy” or “family history” in their blog titles — and it might encourage more GF bloggers (there are thousands of us!) to join the next A to Z Challenge.

Would I do it again? You bet!

Was it worth it? Yes! Would I do it again? You bet! Like any marathon, the A to Z Challenge was not easy — it was a long, sustained trek outside the comfort zone. But it was also an instructive, energizing and affirming journey through an enchanted forest of friendly fellow bloggers.

That’s why — about two thirds of the way through — I sat down and put together a theme and tentative list for the April 2017 Blogging From A to Z Challenge.

Next year, I’ll be ready! Here’s hoping you’ll join me! Until then, stop by any time — Molly’s Canopy will leave the comment box open for you.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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