Places I’ve lived include…

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Places I’ve lived include…


I’ve only lived a few places in my life, and most of them have been here in Michigan.

I was born in Manistee, which is a city anyone interested in our family history should be familiar with. Manistee was home to your Grandma’s family. While your Great Grandma Schmitzer’s house is no longer there (the one my siblings and I used to visit when we were children), there are several other homes, churches, and rocks (okay, only one rock—but it’s a big one!) from our family’s past that still dwell there. There is also an elderly man living in Manistee—90-some years old—who was your Grandma’s godfather (and also her first cousin, once removed). Your Uncle Steve and Grandma (and Grandma’s mom, and both of Grandma’s grandparents) were born there as well. Your Great Grandpa Schmitzer (the musician!) taught for many years at the Lutheran school in Manistee. He and his wife are buried in Manistee. Lots of family history in Manistee.

But there’s a lot of family history in Marquette, also. In 1984, our family (your grandma, grandpa, aunts, uncles) moved to Marquette—to the big green house on Ridge Street, just across and down the street from Peter White Public Library. Most of my childhood memories revolve around that house, that neighborhood, that Peter White parking lot where we used to roller skate around and around and around that center island until we collapsed, that white house on the corner where the funny old lady swept her grass with a broom, the Campbell’s house—which was first Sarah Jean’s grandma’s house, who was my very first best friend (Sarah, not her grandma)—where the boys played and the girls were teased, Jim’s Party Store where we used to buy Tootsie Rolls for a penny apiece, the walk down Ridge Street—through the oldest and wealthiest homes in Marquette—on warm summer days to pass the enormous green flower pot and go swimming at McCarthy’s Cove, the hill behind Parkview where we used to sled in the winter…

I have lived few other places—Hancock, Houghton, Munising—but Manistee and Marquette hold special places in my heart. I hope you always remember your hometown and all the things and people there that make up who you are.

All my love,

Aunt Sarah

Family Recipe Friday: Momma Heidi’s Hot Cocoa Mix

When we were young, Mom used to make her hot cocoa mix every winter. She would store it in gallon sized ice cream buckets. It was my favorite treat after coming inside from those cold Northern Michigan Winter days when we walked home from school. It’s still one of my favorite treats, and I’ve never tasted hot cocoa as creamy or smooth as this.

It is now my Christmas recipe. For the past few years, I’ve been making a double batch of this and sharing it with friends and family as part of my Christmas gift (along with the chocolate covered pretzels, etc). I’ve had nothing but positive feedback.

Give it a try! Let me know what you think! Of course…you may want to make a smaller batch the first time. But honestly, with seven kids at home, my momma used to make at least one full batch at a time and we’d clean her out before Spring.


  • 18 C. dry powdered milk
  • 2 C. powdered sugar
  • 4 C. Nestle’s Quick
  • 1 C. Coffee Mate

Mix all ingredients well in a large bowl. Store in an airtight container until ready to serve.

To serve: Place 1/4 C. Momma Heidi’s Hot Cocoa Mix in a coffee cup. Fill with boiling water and stir until dissolved. Top with marshmallows if desired.

Blue’s Clues

I wish that searching for family history was like an episode of Blue’s Clues. Every clue would have a blue paw print, screaming, “A clue!” It doesn’t really work that way. There’s no song and dance, no paw prints. I’m finding that more often than not, I don’t even recognize clues as they come at me. It is more often that I look at something and wonder what it means, then forget about it for some time.

Maybe it’s best to let ideas turn over in our minds for awhile before we try to make sense of them.

Still–it would be nice if, once in awhile, clues came with a song. :)


When You’re Not Looking

In the search for our roots, our ancestors and the stories of their lives, it’s easy to think we know what we’re looking for. We have a name and a birth date, after all. I’m learning, however, that sometimes the most valuable pieces of an ancestors’ life are unearthed in day-to-day conversation–not in family history interviews.

For example, I’ve been asking my mother about her dad (who died several years before my birth). She has told me some wonderful things about his life, his ministry, his talents. But during our time away for Steven’s wedding, my brother, mother, and I were discussing strange foods and types of foods we didn’t particularly like. And out of this random, entertain-the-long-moments-of-our-drive time together, mom remembered that her father always wanted Oyster Soup on Christmas Eve.

It was tradition, she said–though why, or how it came to be, she hadn’t a clue. Every Christmas Eve, Grandpa S. would direct the children’s program at the church, and then the family would come home for Oyster Soup and Christmas cookies. He was the only one who ate the Oyster Soup.

It is not a story I was looking for. It does, however, add some color to my Grandfather’s life.

But as the family history search goes, one piece of incredible information, one enlightening story, one tiny tidbit that surfaces when we least expect it–not only excites and illuminates the search, but also births a dozen infant questions.

Perhaps they, too, will be answered…when I’m not looking.


It is who we are.

It is more than lines and genes, more than long-aged traditions and fading photographs, more than mothers, fathers, siblings, and more than a name. It is so much more.

It is amazing to me how families grow. We marry, we have children, our siblings marry, we adopt, we reunite with an adopted member and her adoptive family. We grow, grow, grow. They say that blood is thicker than water, but how can that be, when we choose our own spouses? When we choose to bind ourselves to another family line?

It is made clear to me again that love is not simply an emotion. It is not merely that affability, that ease of being comfortable around people we know. It is a choice. We choose who we will love–whether we are related biologically or not.

It must be that the greatest love is freely chosen, freely given, and freely received.

And so we gathered–two families, coming together through the bond of marriage–and we simply knew. There was no question we would become family. There was no question we would love. We just did. And somehow, God–in His infinite wisdom–brought together personalities, interests, skills, and histories that were so diverse, yet they shone awkward beauty, like a young orchestra playing together for the first time.

It is the miracle of another person, without intent or effort, bringing out pieces of our own character and being that we maybe had forgotten–or had never known. It is that subtle dissonance–the tension (and resolution) of harmony whereby each instrument’s strength is exalted, and its weakness is supported by another’s strength. It is by others that we come to know ourselves; and it is by us that others come to know themselves.

It is who we are, and who we are becoming.


What’s in My Name?

Yesterday, I asked you to share the stories of your name, why you were named as you were, how you feel about your name, etc.  Because of the wonderful responses I received (both in the comments and elsewhere), I felt I had better swallow my own medicine and share my name story today.

My name is Sarah.

My father’s name is Earl, and his sisters’ names all end in “eine” (as evidenced by my Aunt Georgeine, who comments sometimes on this blog). Rumor has it that my father wanted to name me “Earleine,” to follow tradition. My mother wanted “Sarah Elizabeth,” after the women in the Bible. I love my aunts and my father, but I can’t tell you how thankful I am that my mom won that argument.

Sarah and Elizabeth are both Hebrew names, meaning “princess” or “noblewoman” and “my God is an oath,” respectively. I don’t think I wear either of these names well in terms of my character, but I do love them both.

When I was young, I hated my name. I wanted a nickname, and there weren’t any nicknames to be had with the name “Sarah.” Or so I thought. Now, it is not uncommon to hear folks calling me by any number of Sarah-derivatives: Sar, Sarie, Hahahaha, even “semmie” came from my real name.

Maybe I would have made a better “Earleine” than I do “Sarah,” but…I like to think I’m growing into my name. After all, if “Sarah” means “princess,” then that means I am the daughter of a King; and that has been the greatest struggle of my life thus far–to see myself as God’s daughter. But I’m working on it. And He’s working on me.

Pax Christi. Enjoy your weekend, all!