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GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS PAST

This picture (to the left) was taken in 1954; location – Japan when my parents were stationed at Tachikawa with the Air Force.  My impression has always been – what a sad tree!  I believe this was the only type of tree that would work as a “Christmas” tree – short of buying an artificial tree from the Base/Post Exchange. I hadn’t been born yet but my sister and brother were the children who had “visions of sugarplums” for that year’s Christmas.

This picture (to the right) was taken about 1968 when I was a little over 7 years old; location – the house I grew up in east of Dayton, Ohio.  I obviously have some teeth missing!  Those pants were not purple – from what I remember – but blue. This is the artificial tree we used – it was only a year or two old because I remember having live trees when I was very small.  Mom used this artificial tree at least until the time I was 18 years old and then I think she gave it to my cousin. This tree is set at the corner of the living room and formal dining room. From what I remember, this was the same location it was set year after year. During my childhood, Christmas dinners were always at our house. Those who attended included my maternal grandparents, my sister, her husband, and two kids, my brother and his wife (and later their son), and sometimes my brother-in-law’s parents.

This photo (to the left) was taken in 1991 either before we left or after we returned from Christmas Eve services at our church. This is one of the very few pictures I have of our family by the Christmas tree. Boy, my husband and I look so young!  Our youngest was a few months shy of two years old and our oldest was a month away from 10 years old.  Our second daughter had just turned eight and our son was six and a half.  Over the years, our tree has moved “around” the living room.  We had it in this location for a few years and for the last 10+ years it has been in the opposite corner.  Our Christmas tradition since this photo was taken has rarely changed. There were some years that we went looking at Christmas lights after church. We’ve always had a meal of “finger food” late in the evening – I’ve made sausage balls, cheese and crackers, stuffed shells, deli meat sandwiches, fresh vegetables and dip, and more. The last couple of years we have had Wing Stop chicken wings and tamales from our local tamale factory. The first year we decided on wings, the restaurant was open until 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve so we picked up the order as soon as church was over. Last year it closed early, so I had to go pick up the wings and fries and try to keep them warm the rest of the day. The french fries did not fair very well – so I don’t think we’ll do that this year. On Christmas Day we’ve had the traditional dinner – turkey (and sometimes ham), dressing, mashed potatoes, homemade giblet gravy (and turkey gravy from a jar for those who won’t eat the other kind), green bean casserole, Christmas cauliflower, scalloped corn, and pies.  There were years that I started making cookies in the middle of December and other times, I just don’t bother!  I’ve made homemade chex mix for gifts to friends and family. The last two years one of our daughter’s has had us to her home for the Christmas dinner. Our oldest daughter hasn’t been able to be with us for Christmas in over seven years. For the last 5 years, we’ve enjoyed being with all four grandsons.

The only picture of our family with my mom was taken at my sister’s home in 1999. Our kids ranged from almost 10 to almost 17. That year we had Christmas dinner at my sister’s home and my contribution was my Christmas cauliflower and something else! See the red plaid skirt that I’m wearing? I wore this at almost every Christmas from 1978 until just a few years ago!

GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS PRESENT

Although this photo was taken in 2008, this could be a photo from today. The Christmas tree is in the same spot – although our present tree is a new artificial tree – and I haven’t added any garland to it. This year I will use strands of beads as garland. Our Christmas this year will begin on Christmas Eve when we attend our Worship Celebration at our church of over 20 years. Then we’ll come back home and eat our “finger food” dinner, culminating in the reading of “The Night Before Christmas” (a tradition since the children were all small) and the Biblical Christmas story. We’ll set our presents out under the tree after the grandkids go to bed and then later, Santa will arrive. He’ll find a cold glass of egg nog in the fridge in case he’s thirsty and a couple of cookies with a note to him on the kitchen table. This year Christmas falls on a Sunday – the first one in six years – so our morning will be very early! I have always had a family breakfast before presents are opened and this year, I think I will have a crock pot breakfast casserole that has cooked through the night. After we eat, it will be time to dig into gifts and take pictures. At 10:30 we’ll be at our church, celebrating the real reason for Christmas. Then it will be home to finish cooking the dinner. Hopefully, I’ll get the turkey in the oven before we leave. One of our grandson’s might not be with us that day – perhaps late in the evening. The kids will be playing with new toys, probably have new movies playing on the TV, and the aroma of delicious food cooking.

GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS YET TO COME

In the future, I hope that we can still enjoy our grandchildren – and further into the future – our great-grandchildren – and our children and families at Christmas. Wherever we are, we’ll still decorate a Christmas tree – big or small. Some of our traditions may continue and some will be replaced with new traditions. We’ll still have some of our tree ornaments – especially the really nice handmade ones that the kids and grandkids have made. Pictures will still be snapped and food will still be eaten. I may prepare a traditional Christmas dinner, yet I see myself changing it in my golden years – especially if there are only my husband and I sharing the holiday together. No matter the year, we’ll always remember the joy of Christmas’s past and the true reason we celebrate the season!

Merry Christmas!

(written for the 113th Carnival of Genealogy: A Charles Dickens Christmas)

all photos – digital and print – held by Wendy Littrell

 

 

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Volunteer as a noun is defined by Dictionary.com as:

a person who voluntarily offers himself or herself for a service or undertaking or a person who performs a service willingly and without pay.

Volunteerism is defined by the same source as above as:

the policy or practice of volunteering one’s time or talents for charitable, educational, or other worthwhile activities, esp. in one’s community.

I pondered how being a volunteer and volunteerism correlated with my family history and genealogy.  I can remember many activities that my mother took part in that would qualify as “volunteer”. 

  1. Girl Scout Leader
  2. Church Council member and President
  3. Church committee member
  4. Parent Teacher Organization member
  5. Substitute Teacher (when it was all volunteer)
  6. Working at school carnivals and community festivals
  7. Helping to coordinate her alumna banquets
  8. Driving elderly friends or church members to church, church functions or back home
  9. Hosting women’s or club functions or bridge parties
  10. Driving her teenage daughter (me) and friends everywhere

As a member of several organizations (Parents Without Partners, American Legion, FOE Auxilliary, and a Square Dancing Club), I’m sure she put in a good many volunteer hours.  Through the church, even when she was ill and couldn’t do very much, she still volunteered to cook chickens that would be used for the Tuesday night dinners the church held for the community.

My mom saw volunteerism modeled by both of her parents who were very active in community organizations.  My grandparents either separately or together were members of the National Association of Retired Federal Employees (N.A.R.F.E.), American Legion, Eastern Star, and Daughters of America.  My grandfather served on the Council for the Village he resided in and worked hard toward the merger of the towns of Fairfield and Osborn in Greene County, Ohio long before they did merge to become Fairborn.  He also was a Boy Scout leader for many years and a member of the Masons.

My mom’s brother also saw the modeling of this type of volunteerism of his parents and became very active in the community as an adult.  He helped organize the Battle Creek (Michigan) Hot Air Balloon championships; was a member of the Masons and the Lions club; member of the Battle Creek chamber of commerce who started the Leadership Academy; helped with Battle Creek’s sesquicentenial celebration leading to the formation of PRIDE INC., of Keep America Beautiful; and many other activities.

Researching the many volunteer activities and the organizations my family members have been involved, has led me to the conclusion that they were very giving people and have passed on this sense of helping others.  I have spent a good number of years wondering if “no” is part of my vocabulary. 

At the age of not yet 50, I have been a Girl Scout Leader for two of my daughters; spent many years on the Christian Education board at church and the Cemetery Board; have now sat on the PTA as a board member and officer for 4 years; helped with one of our community organizations via our church by helping to make lunches for low income families during the summer; as a coordinator, treasurer and public relations chair for a parent organization; and other activities.

So how do I pass this on?  Will my volunteerism or that of my mother, my uncle, and my grandparents impact the lives of my children, grandchildren or the great-grandchildren yet to be?  And how does one go about volunteering without it being all about them?  Helping others – either within a structured organization or individually – is not to make a name for oneself.  It shouldn’t be done with the thought that others will think more highly of you.

Volunteering in the name of genealogy should take on the same thought process.  If you are in the position to help someone – whether it is spending an hour at the local libary looking up obituaries or a census index; going to a nearby cemetery to photograph/transcribe a few headstones; or pointing someone in the right direction – you should.  Just because it is the right thing to do.  Someday you may need that type of help.  Very limited. Very specific.

I don’t know how much I’ve contributed to other’s research however I have received communications from very, very distant cousins or people researching the same surname as I am, and I’ve at least responded or sent them my own communication.  If nothing else, I hope they feel that they aren’t out in the genealogy research “world” without a paddle – that someone else has read their query or message board post.

I’ve been helped immensely by volunteers.  Not only has a kind lady taken pictures of the requested headstones for me but she photographed other family members’ headstones and spent several hours at her local library researching the names and sent me news clippings.  And she didn’t want one penny for her time or her postage.  That is a volunteer – being selfless and not thinking about what was in it for her.

Two of my relatives in my Johnson line along with myself have pooled our resources and research and share everything about our shared lines that we find – including questions about whether we are on the right track. 

That is volunteerism through genealogy.

Another definition of Volunteer is someone who signs up, enters, and serves in the military.  Even though our service men and women do receive pay from the government, by offering to sacrifice themselves in order to assure our freedom – that is still volunteerism.

I’ve had many ancestors and family members who have volunteered in such a way.  My grandfather for WWI, and went on to serve until the Korean War.  My dad and his brothers who served during WWII and even beyond.  Cousins who served in the Viet Nam War.  Children of first cousins who served in the first Gulf War.  A great-grandfather who served in the Civil War.  Others who serve now – although not in a battle zone.  This type of selfless sacrifice has also been passed down through the generations.

Humanitarian?  Philanthropic? – they all add up to VOLUNTEER!

This post was written for the 88th Carnival of Genealogy.

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The 87th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy concerns “GeneaResolutions”.  I looked back on my post for the 63rd Edition – I Resolve To . . . in order to see what I had listed as my resolutions concerning genealogy for 2009.

I had listed that I wanted to scan more documents, photos and the rest of my slides – did not quite get there!  I did scan some newly discovered photos but did not get a chance to scan much and certainly did not get my slides scanned.   I wanted to organize my files – absolutely did not do that!  For one thing they are in another room that is being used by another family member and it’s very difficult for me to get to them.  As for my online files, in between being out of state for six weeks this past spring and dealing with a new baby in the house, a lot of my genea-resolutions from last year never got done.

I had also resolved to blog more and take part in more carnivals.  That didn’t happen but not for lack of trying.  I also have not worked on my Graveyard Rabbit Blog – at all this year.

So this year I won’t be as ambitious (which is one reason I don’t ever make personal New Year’s Resolutions!).  So here they are:

  1. Leave comments on each genea-blog I read.  How do the authors know we’ve visited if we never say “hi”!
  2. Write at least one blog post every two weeks – since I know I won’t have time to write every week or every day.  I am going to try to write several posts to be published throughout my “down” time.
  3. Pick another branch of my family to research – this will get me out of the rut of looking at the same people and getting the same results. 
  4. Write one biography on an ancestor in the next three months.
  5. Write another chapter in my “Goul” family history.

When the year is up, I want to be able to say that I completed all five of these resolutions!

(CoG Illustration courtesy of footnoteMaven!)

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Extra! Extra!   Read all about how the case of Chase began at the town on the river spending days of childhood on the water and wandering through a haunted graveyard.  Though independent from birth, there was still time for the furry and feathered family members or calling on dear St. Nicholas.  Often taking time to share, show and explain traditions or statistics on age in the books for genealogy.  When friends would meet Mom, they understood her senior moments talking about the great Texas snow. Often explanations would be given about the American political road map with exclamations of “What a bunch of hooey!”  However, when we get together for the Carnival, I resolve to only say, “Oh Yeah! Oh Yeah!” and we are not just horsin’ around.


Carnival:

  • Cruise?
  • Rides and Games?
  • Rio?
  • Parades?
  • Mardi Gras?

If you chose none of the above, you are correct!!!  In the blogosphere, the word carnival takes on a whole new meaning – well sort of!  Generally a blog carnival is a repository for many contributors’ blog posts centered around a chosen theme.  In the genealogy blog world, there are several types of “carnivals” in which to participate – Cabinet of Curiosities”, Carnival of Central and Eastern European Genealogy, Irish Heritage and Culture, and several others.

Three years ago, Jasia who authors Creative Gene wrote Carnival of Genealogy, Edition 1. This Carnival is now in its 84th Edition. The topic for this edition is “What has the Carnival of Genealogy Meant to You?”

Creative Gene was one of the first Genealogy Blogs I bookmarked and read each day.  Soon, I was clicking on the links to others’ blogs and soon bookmarked several of them.  I read with interest the CoG’s and soon realized that not only were others submitting articles that more people would read but sometimes connections were being made.  I knew that if I were to get more than just a few readers (and possibly some connections, too), I should participate in the CoG’s.  I enjoy writing and knew that should I undertake a project writing biographies of my ancestors, I should start writing and reading others’ articles.

My first submission to the CoG was for the 47th Edition, published on May 3, 2008 with the theme “A Place Called Home”.  My entry was The Town on the River. Wow! After some research and writing and re-writing, I had an article of which I could be proud! Jasia even extended a warm welcome to me and encouraged everyone to welcome this “newbie” to the Carnival!

Since that first entry, I’ve participated in numbers 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 78, and 79 (see top paragraph – all my titles are incorporated into the opening!).  There have been a wide variety of topics and several others besides Jasia have hosted.  I have not hosted a CoG – that is something I would have to look into and make sure that if I do volunteer to host that I have the time to make sure it is done properly. 

I’ve had several favorite topics.  Lately I haven’t been able to find the time to put in research in order to write an indepth post for some of them.  My favorites have been: The Case of Chase written for the 53rd Edition. The theme was “Carousel” – any genealogy topic was fair game. I had spent quite a bit of time on my article and included pictures and documented evidence information. This article brought four comments from others – two of them descendents of the man I wrote about – people I didn’t think existed! Another favorite entry was Independent from Birth for the 51st Edition.

I’ve read articles in the CoG that have touched my heart, sparked an interest, and given me new research techniques to think about and investigate.  Unfortunately, I’m unable to think of just one that would be the all time stand-out – there are so many talented writers and enthusiastic genealogists for me to pick just one!

I generally encourage my readers to check out or submit articles to the CoG.  The more the merrier!  And it’s always wonderful when someone new begins submitting articles.

The Carnival of Genealogy has enabled me to go above and beyond just gathering names, dates and places.  I have delved into the lives of those that I’ve written about – trying to capture their emotions, joys, and hardships.  Reading others’ articles has given me new avenues to investigate and research when hunting for that “brick wall” ancestor.

The impact on my life has been two-fold.  One – I’ve been able to meet new friends and some distant cousins.  By reading some of the articles and seeing a common surname, I’ve made connections.  The second aspect has been aiding me in becoming a more thorough researcher and writer.

I’d like to extend my thanks to all of the genea-bloggers who have commented on my articles; who have pointed me in other directions for information; to those who capture my interest with their thought provoking, informative and heart-touching stories; and to Jasia who first introduced me to the Carnival of Genealogy!  You folks are great!

And for all of you who think you can’t write an article for the CoG – just try it once!  You may learn something new about yourself!

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The topic for the 79th Carnival of Genealogy is Family Reunions.  Since I have posted several topics about this subject, I won’t repeat! 

My first post was Family Reunions. This was an article concerning preparations for the big event. I also included information about the reunions I attended as a child.

This post, Past Reunions, concerned the newspaper articles and a Reunion Minutes book that was kept. It never ceases to amaze me the gems we find in news articles or through our ancestors’ careful note taking!

In the article, Wilt Cousins, I mentioned the reunions my maternal grandmother’s side of the family had each year and added more information about those in that branch. Toward the end of the article I urged everyone to document the pertinent points of the reunion – who, what, where, why, and how. If our ancestors had done this, we might not have so many questions now!

I’ve included several photographs scattered throughout all the articles – a mixture of very old to new.

Oftentimes reunions aren’t just large everyone-from-each-branch type of events.  More than not they are get-togethers for scattered members of the family when they come together for graduations, births, weddings, and funerals.  Such was the case for my family this past spring as we gathered for my Mom’s memorial service. 

P5060623

My first cousins – Jane, Judy, Jack (siblings), and my sister and I.  Two of our cousins weren’t able to attend and of course, my brother, was in our hearts.  We are the ones, now, to move forward and make sure our parents and grandparents and all those who have gone on before us, are kept in our hearts and memories.  We will be the ones to share stories, to reminisce and provide family “lore” for our children and grandchildren.

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The topic for the 78th Carnival of Genealogy is: Pony Pictures.  I spent a lot of time watching the other neighborhood kids get their pictures taken on ponies instead of having mine taken.  I remember each summer a man would come walking through the neighborhood with the animal and coming on up the driveway wherever he saw kids playing.  One of my friends had three siblings so to save money, the parents put 2 kids at a time on the pony.  Running home, I found my parents working in the yard.  Breathless, I exclaimed that I wanted my picture taken on a pony.  When it was pointed out that it costs money for the picture, my hopes were dashed.  We just didn’t spend money on useless things.  Besides, what I really wanted to do was to ride on it – not just sit there.

I was 17 when I actually got to ride my first horse.  I went with my sister’s family to a relative’s (on her husband’s side) country house in Paris, Texas.  She had several horses and some ponies.  The first time I got on the pony, it promptly ran at a lower limb and knocked me off.  Fall off – get back on.  After riding around for awhile on that animal, I got up the nerve to try to ride a horse.  Wow – it was harder than it looked!  I sure didn’t get my riding skills from ancestors who had rode horses before me.

My maternal great-grandfather, John “Lafe” Johnson, had horses.  I don’t have a picture of him riding them. (*UPDATED 8/13)  *He also had several work mules.  The photograph below is one with him and 2 of the mules. (This large picture hangs on my hallway wall.)

P8120683

Gr-Grandpa Johnson with 2 large mules

My grandmother’s Uncle Dan (Stern) had horses – he used them to pull the wagon.

When my kids were young, we took them to Scarborough Faire Rennaisance Festival in Waxahachie, Tex.  There were elephant and camel rides so the oldest three got to ride VERY LARGE animals!  No horses for them – that would just be kid stuff compared to a camel & elephant!

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Unfortunately life has become rather stressful as of late so I haven’t written any new posts.  I’ve missed the last two Carnivals of Genealogy as well as several Tombstone Tuesday’s and Wordless Wednesdays. 

I have done quite a bit of research in the last few weeks which has provided some new information and areas still to be checked.

As soon as Easter is over, I will (hopefully) be posting again on a regular basis!

But for now, head on over to West in New England and read the 69th Carnival of Genealogy. Kudos to Bill West for hosting this edition and to all the genea-bloggers who contributed!

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The topic for the 66th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy is “Nobody’s Fool”. I’ve been so tied up with many activities lately (unfortunately one included a friend’s memorial service) – so I haven’t had the chance to write an article. However, the person I think of when I hear the words, “Common Sense”, is my mom.

I’ve written a couple posts about her that you can read here (“What a Bunch of Hooey”) and here (“On the Spot Education”).

Mom is my “common sense” warrior! If she thinks it’s a bunch of – well – “hooey” – she probably won’t even let you finish your sentence!

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The 65th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy is “The Happy Dance. The Joy of Genealogy” and will be hosted by Becky Wiseman (one of my distant cousins!) of Kinexxions.

I’ve had several “Oh, Yeah!” moments.  One of them I wrote about in A Goldmine – about discovering a box of letters written by my grandparents to each other when they were courting in 1916 and during 1918 when my grandfather went to Signal Corps Training and during his overseas duty during WWI.

Another moment I had was when I was looking for my maternal 2nd great-grandfather, Emanuel Bushong Stern.  As I was going through the 1850 Census looking for him in order to get information on his parents and siblings, I wasn’t having any luck.  Obviously, they had disappeared during the Census.  And then just by chance, I came across Peter Sterne living in Clay Township, Hamilton County, Indiana.  The last name was spelled wrong – with an “e” at the end of the surname but the names for known siblings was correct.  I think I jumped out of the computer chair at this find!

Another “happy dance” moment came a couple years after I had posted a query on a message board giving names of my paternal g-grandfather’s half-siblings and their children.  I received an email from the daughter of one of his nieces.  She had quite a bit of information about the Johnson line including the first wife of the man I was researching (James Wilson Johnson) who was my 2nd great-grandmother.  And my cousin was actually descended from James’ 2nd wife.  Since that time several years ago we have exchanged (with a couple other Johnson cousins) more information.

It doesn’t take much for me to do the Happy Dance!  Each tiny rock I turn over or piece of information I find that leads to bigger and better finds, is reason for me to stand up and shout “Oh Yeah!”.

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When the subject for the 64th Edition of Carnival of Genealogy was announced, I wondered what I could submit.  Somewhere in my files and books are many pictures of winter activities and snow – with some included below.  Since I’ve lived in Texas for the better part of (almost) 30 years, I haven’t seen as much snow as I did when I grew up in southwestern Ohio.  So when we have snow in north Texas, it makes news – big news! 

Local stations interrupt most of the morning and daily television programs to report on the weather – with the same scene of people sliding on ice on the highways and the same scene (over and over!) of people sliding on bridges.  I often wonder – how many times can you report the same story every ten minutes.  Nothing has changed! 

Not only do schools shut down when the roads have a hint of ice, but businesses, churches, and government offices.  People rush the grocery as if they will be holed up for weeks (maybe a couple days!).  And unless you live way out in the country, there’s usually a 7-11 within a block or two.

new-years-05

We never know how to dress in the winter time.  Case in point – the picture at left was taken on New Year’s Day 2005!  My daughter was wearing shorts because the temperature was in the 70p2020170s!

This picture was taken on February 2, 2007.  At least the snow was “pretty” instead of just wet and yucky!  Unfortunately, this was one of those days when it was non-stop news reports.

The following pictures were taken in the 60s in Ohio.  This is the front of the house I grew up in and ice coated trees.  Usually, from January – March this was the norm!   Winter time and cold weather normally meant heavy winter coats, mittens or gloves, a hat and a scarf.  Until I was in 6th60snow grade, girls weren’t allowed to wear pants to school so in winter time, I wore winter “leggings” in order to keep my legs warm.  I also had heavy snow boots that went on over my shoes.  In 2nd grade, I had a pair of red knee high boots.  These were “fashion” boots – not snow boots yet I somehow convinced myself that I didn’t need snowboots over these.  The cold seeped in and so did the wet! 60s-96

Children in my neighborhood never seemed to mind the cold weather.  We were outside all of the time building snowmen, snow forts, making snow angels, and throwing snowballs at one another.  A neighbor of mine used to go to his grandmother’s house nearby that had a really nice hill on the property.  We’d have 4-5 kids on a big sled and ride down that hill – only to have to carry the sled back up to do it again!  When I was about 7, my parents got me a snow disk.  We didn’t have any “hills” in our yard except for the pool embankment into the yard.  Even so, I spent a good number of hours just riding that thing down three feet of “hill”.

In January 1978 a Blizzard hit the midwest.  I woke up one morning not too long after we’d just started back to classes after the Christmas break and realized that I’d overslept!  Mom told me there were no classes and no one was driving anywhere.  I looked outside and all I saw was a wall of white.  We were out of school for almost a week due to the blizzard.  Since we had used more than our allotment of snow days, school didn’t end until June 20 something that year!  Then the school board decided we should start in August instead of the normal “after Labor Day” – putting our summer vacation less than we’d ever had before.  That is one thing I don’t miss about the midwest – all the snow!

So in honor of the (lack of) real winter weather here in North Texas, I took several of my February 2007 Texas snow pictures and created a digital scrapbook page.texas_snow

(Digital page and elements designed by Wendy Littrell.  Original slides or digital images in possession of Wendy Littrell (Address for private use).

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