WWII Era

 

 

This is the first in a series of posts about what would happen if the world suddenly stopped and you were transported to another time in our history. In the first installment, we will go back approximately 75 years to a time when World War II was in full swing and the country was finally beginning to recover from the Great Depression.

 

The Absence of Electronics

 

The first thing you notice is that most of the electronics that you depend on to connect to the world do not exist – no computers, no iPads, no smart phones, no TVs. Phones exist, but you likely have a party line that you share with your neighbors. Long-distance calls are rare, expensive, and really poor quality.

 

News comes from the newspaper and a battery-powered radio (if you are lucky enough to own one). The rest of your news comes in the form of hand-written letters. Matter of fact, you write several letters per week to family and friends. Of course, letters to servicemen, particularly those serving over seas, are of top priority.

 

Letters

 

For men who are serving in the military, letters are the primary connection to people back home. You try to keep the letters cheerful and upbeat per the government’s guidelines. You are not to share any news that might be depressing or negative except if absolutely necessary. Then you are to keep it brief and factual.

 

Letters are also your only connection to your loved ones in the service. You spend lots of time praying for their safety and praying for the next letter to arrive. That letter tells you that they were at least alive several days to a month ago. The letters are often short and lacking details of where they are or what is happening as such information is strictly forbidden and will be censored if a soldier dare write about it.

 

Strong Connections

 

You are very connected to the people around you as you are all in the same situation. Nearly every person has a son, grandson, nephew, brother, uncle, or father that is serving.* You all know the pain of separation and nearly everyone knows someone who has died in the war. You and your neighbors are a family and support each other.

 

Friends, family, and neighbors provide both emotional support and day-to-day support. You share ration coupons despite it being technically illegal. Your kid’s feet are growing and they need shoes. Without the coupons, you will not be allowed to purchase the needed shoes. Meanwhile, you don’t drink a lot of coffee, so you give those ration coupons to your friends so that they can enjoy their coffee.

 

You also work with the schools, churches, and other community groups to support the war. You are all one community. The community collects scrap metal with people giving up things that really aren’t scrap for the sake of helping the war effort. You are connected to everyone else. The entire country has the same goal – you want the war to end so that all your loved ones can come home.

 

You know sacrifice. Yet, you know that others have sacrificed more than you. You feel blessed that your sacrifice has not been greater.

 

And In Your World

 

Coming back to the present, the questions for you are: Could you live in a world without electronic communication? What would you do if you had to write letters and wait days or weeks for a response? How strong is your connection with your family, neighbors, and friends?

 

In the next article “The Day The World Stopped – The Civil War Era,” we will dive into life over 150 years ago.

 

* Note: There were a few women that served in the military during WWII. However, this is written with a focus on men, as a vast majority of those that served were men.

 

The Art of Forgiveness

 

 

It is easy to gripe and complain about everything from work to family stresses to world politics. However, it is much more gratifying to seek out the good in everyone and everything along your path. It is easy to say, “But, so many things really are wrong with the world” or “Nobody gives good service” or “This person isn’t pulling their weight.” All of these things may be true, but seeing all the negative in the world serves no purpose.

 

Implications

 

This does not imply in any way that you do something reckless. You can’t  just assume the other person is a good person. You still need to be aware of your surroundings and follow your intuition about people and situations. However, it does directly imply that you should look for a speck of optimism in the most hopeless situations.  Likewise, your should find something positive to hold onto in everything – even bad experiences.

 

Experimenting

 

Try experimenting with looking for something good, positive, or optimistic. Start with simple easy situations. When a restaurant’s service is slow, don’t grumble and complain. Instead, realize that you are being given time to enjoy your companions. Alternately, if you are alone, you can spend the time relaxing. 

 

If you are in a rush and this happens, realize that you may be getting the message to slow down. You can also consider that perhaps you are learning that this restaurant is not a place to go for a quick meal, which may be useful information in the future.

 

Likewise, try giving a positive word or a smile to people that you encounter. Smiling and saying, “Hello” costs no more than scowling and ignoring people. That word or smile may make the other person’s day and it is guaranteed that acting in a negative way will do nothing to benefit anyone – especially you.

 

Additionally, notice small things (and big things) that people do – mowing the lawn, helping with a problem, cooking dinner, or taking out the trash. These are all positive things in the world. When you really look for the positive, the world changes into a much better place than it seems if you let all the negativity overwhelm you.

 

Transformation

 

As you find more and more positive things in the world, you may find yourself transforming from a critic to a cheerleader. You will find yourself expressing gratitude more often, you will be on the receiving end of more smiles, and will find more and more positive things in the world. Most of all, when you replace a negative thought, action, or word with a positive one, your energy level is raised and your heart is satisfied.

 

the search

 

 

In the previous article “Family Connections,” I discussed some of the reactions when people learn that one or both of the parents that raised them are not their biological parent. In this article, I explore the connections and feelings that often arise during the search for a person’s birth parents.

 

Now, rare cases exist where the person takes a DNA test and immediately finds their birth family, everyone loves each other, and they live happily ever after. However, that isn’t the norm.

 

Expectations

 

A person shouldn’t expect anything other than a rollercoaster ride when looking for a birth parent.  Emotions will go high when the person sees a DNA match. Then, they will fall through the floor when the match does not respond to messages or hides all their information. This process may repeat several times.

 

Likewise, the person searching may contact a DNA match, who puts them in contact with other family members. Just when they start building a strong connection, someone else does a DNA test and it blows a hole in the theory of who the birth parent is. Now, they are left dangling.   They feel connected, but they aren’t connected the way that they think they are. In some cases, they may not be connected at all.

 

News of a mis-connection can be almost as emotional as learning that one or both of your parents are not your biological parents. This is especially true in cases where the new connections were supportive and welcoming, while the parents that raised the person are deceased or the relationship with them is strained.

 

The Process

 

The process can be lengthy and the result is not guaranteed.   It is very easy for people to become too excited, which often scares off DNA matches. It is equally as easy for people to become frustrated, lose interest, and just give up.

 

The best possible approach is a slow, steady approach where the person makes lots of connections. This allows emotions to be more even while allowing the person to build relationships with people that are related, if only distantly. Building connections with these people helps the person learn information that is useful in solving their parentage puzzle. Possibly, more importantly, these connections help the person to feel connected to family.

 

The final article in this series “Found, Now What?” will discuss the ability to connect with birth families and the associated emotions.

 

family connections

 

 

As a genealogist, I have become involved in helping people find their birth parents. It is always an interesting journey and although there are various common scenarios, each journey is unique.

 

The Reactions

 

Some people who have found out that one or both of their parents aren’t who they thought they were express no interest in identifying and meeting their biological parents. These people usually feel a strong connection with the parents that raised them. Often their perspective is that there is no need to find out who their biological parents are given that they will always consider the parents that raised them as mom and dad.

 

Other people report always feeling like they were adopted or never believing that their dad was their biological father. These people are not at all surprised when a DNA test reveals that their intuition was correct. Many of them report feeling disconnected or like something was missing in the relationship.

 

Other people fit somewhere in between these two perspectives. Some are surprised, but embrace the possibility of connecting with more family. These people still view their parents as their parents, but are open to learning more about themselves and their roots. Some people that fall into this category are people who grew up as only children. They are excited at the prospect of finding siblings.

 

Another reaction is to feel lost and/or angry. In these cases, people feel as if they no longer know who they are. For these people, learning that one or both parents who raised them are not their biological parents is devastating. It can take time and professional counseling to get through this very personal crisis.

 

Connected?

 

To me, it appears that some people sense the lack of connection all their lives. But, others want what is comfortable or desire a connection with the parents that raised them so much that they fear knowing about their biological parents. Yet others are comfortable with any and all connections. It is a very personal situation and is unique to that person.

 

If you are going through this, know that although your situation is unique, most likely there is someone out there that has been through something similar. Seek counseling if you are struggling. Also, know that there are groups of people that can help you find your birth parents if you so desire.

 

The next article in this series “The Search,” will dive into expectations when searching for your family.

 

Defining Success

 

 

I recently read Time Magazine’s article, “I Raised Two CEOs and a Doctor. These Are My Secrets to Parenting Successful Children.” It was an excerpt from Esther Wojcicki’s new book How to Raise Successful People: Simple Lessons for Radical Results.

 

Two CEOs and a Doctor

 

Esther’s daughter Susan is the CEO of YouTube while Anne is the CEO of 23andMe. Meanwhile Janet is a professor and researcher. Esther and her husband are both educators, having met at UC Berkley. Clearly, the entire family is quite accomplished.

 

Although I haven’t read her book, the article mentions teaching children trust, respect, independence, collaboration, and kindness. I agree that all of these attributes lead to well-adjusted adults and I am sure played a significant part in her daughters’ lives.

 

School Connections

 

The article, however, does not mention other key factors in raising children to become CEOs. It helps greatly when you have the means and connections to attend schools like Stanford, Harvard, and Yale. The education is not the most valuable attribute of these schools; it is the connections. The connections you gain at these schools and the image associated with these schools are what helps you leap to the top of the business world.

 

Opportunity and connection play a huge part in success as described in this article. Personally, I would rather Esther had written a book about how to raise your children to be healthy, well-adjusted adults. To me, that is being successful as a parent.

 

Success?

 

Being a CEO isn’t necessarily being successful. Yes, it is making lots of money and if that is your definition of success, then it is equivalent to success. However, the person isn’t always happy or well-adjusted. On the flip side, thousands of people are very successful in their lives without ever seeing the inside of a corner office.

 

Defining success as being well-adjusted, working hard, and doing your best includes so many more people that CEOs. Stay-at-home moms who raise amazing kids are absolutely as successful as a CEO. The same can be said of millions of men and women in a variety of other jobs.

 

You can be successful no matter your life circumstances. It is all about the person you choose to be, not your occupation.

 

 

 

 

 

This week I had the pleasure to meet a very nice younger woman. She was having some rare time on her own, as she is the mother of a four year-old and a six year-old. Still, the conversation focused mostly on our children. We talked about the inability to do anything – even go to the bathroom – alone when the kids are really young. She said that she was enjoying this age and she appeared a bit apprehensive about the teenage years.

 

Sensing her concern, I decided to share my perspective about the Terrible Twos, the Rebellious Teens, etc. I believe that although a particular child can be challenging, a lot of the behavior of children is connected to the expectations and words of their parents. If the parents expect the children will be brats or will be well behaved, they are most likely going to be correct.

 

Our expectations for our children and other things in our life drive both what we notice and how others behave towards us. We cannot disconnect our expectations from our words and our actions, which in turn affect the people around us. Thus, it is important to have the best possible expectations while maintaining a healthy balance of reality.

 

It is critical to expect our children to behave, our boss to treat us fairly, and our neighbors to be friendly. However, those objectives may not always be achieved. If we are in a situation where our objectives are repeatedly not met, we need to adjust our expectations.  For instance, if our children continually get into trouble despite our expectations, it would be unreasonable for us to continue to think they were perfect angels. We should continue to love them. However, consequences are important. Otherwise, the message is that they can get away with anything.

 

Reality based on our expectations is not limited to interactions with family and close associates. Our expectations can affect every aspect of our day-to-day experience. For instance, if you believe you are better than others, they will perceive that and treat you with disdain. If you believe people in certain jobs are incompetent, you are likely to find those that are incompetent. Alternately, you will perceive people you encounter in that job as incompetent. Similarly, if you view people at the small café in town as friendly and outgoing, people will pick up on that expectation. Therefore, the people that you notice and who notice you will match your expectations.

 

Things do happen that you have no control over, but a majority of your reality is created by each of us every day. So, make it a good one!