A Warm Day in September may be the Best Time to go to Valley Fair!

When I was 19, I lived in Virginia Beach, VA. My friend, Carlos, and I both loved theme parks, so we both bought a season pass to Busch Gardens Williamsburg & Water Country USA. The day I got my pass (I had the day off work, he didn’t) we were having so much fun he decided to call into our work sick. The bad news was… our BOSS was also at Busch Gardens. Oops… Well, 14 years later we are still friends, and when he came to Minneapolis, this past weekend, we both decided to get new theme park passes. I purchased 3 GOLD passes, which includes unlimited admission for the rest of the 2018 season and ALL of the 2019 season. The pass also gives you FREE parking, and FREE admission to ValleySCARE, Dinosaurs Alive, and Soak City. In addition, I was able to sign my daughter up for the Pre-k pass, a FREE pass for kids 3-5. My friend, who is visiting, signed up for the Cedar fair Amusement parks Platinum Pass; this pass allows him entry into 13 parks around the country; his lifestyle allows for him to travel frequently, so this pass was perfect for him.

Our day at Valley Fair was not preplanned, at all. We literally decided at 10am to go and were there with preregistered passes at roughly 11:30am.


We immediately stopped at Dinosaurs Alive. My 5 year old is fascinated with dinosaurs and currently wants to be a paleontologist or a professional skateboarder when she grows up. I had zero expectations of anything we were doing, and I hadn’t been to Valley Fair in over 3 years so everything was new and fun. The moving dinosaurs were a bit of a surprise. The kids and I pretended we were in Jurassic Park. I personally liked all the dinosaur signs through-out the exhibit.


We made our way through Planet Snoopy, and were sure to get my daughter on as many rides as she was tall enough. She is a daredevil. So she was pretty bummed her brother got to go on bigger roller-coasters, but she wasn’t tall enough. 48in seemed to be the height requirement for most of the rides (outside of Planet Snoopy). Luckily, for my daughter, she is roughly 45 inches and is growing like a weed (we are giants in our family). I told her she may be tall enough by next summer. My son was only brave enough to try the High Roller roller-coaster; he did it twice.


Unlike my daughter, I am a chicken and have a serious fear of heights, but lately I have been working on going on higher things. I made it on the High Roller, Renagade, and even the North Star Swing. There are a lot of rides at Valley fair that can continue to scare the crap out of me. Honestly, getting on the rides was almost scarier to me than the actual rides themselves. As my friend and I walked to get on the North Star, we both were wondering what kind of crazy things we were doing in our 30s. My husband was bummed he missed watching how scared I was getting on (he was with the kids on another ride). Chains, a metal-bar and a seat-belt were the only things holding you on this swing which took you 230 feet into the air. It went way faster than I anticipated, 40mph is what I’ve now learned.

The Great Pumpkin Fest was an awesome surprise to me. I have only been to Valley Fair 3 times before (once when I was 13, 23, and 30). So deciding to go the weekend Halloween festivities started, on a 75 degree day, with barely any lines anywhere was AMAZING. Our family LOVES Halloween! The Great Pumpkin Fest was a huge hit for both of my kids. While my daughter was singing and dancing on stage with Sally Brown, my husband had allowed my son to enter Pigpen’s People Washer. Once my son was out…. I asked him what his plans were with his very wet everything. Our friend took him to the bathroom to stand under a hand dryer. I was very thankful for the warm weather because he dried out pretty quickly. The rest of the Great Pumpkin Fest had mazes, games, and trick or treating (many of the kids wore costumes).


Seriously, going to Valley Fair on a weekend in September was an awesome choice. If you plan to go more than 1x in the year, I absolutely recommend getting a season pass, but make sure you sign up on line before you go so you aren’t charged $17 in parking.


How Our Dog Almost Died After Her First Camping Trip

The weekend started out just like the first time we went camping, as a family of 4; except, this time we were braving it and bringing our dog for her first camping experience. We were trying another campground, and meeting my sister, friends who were visiting from England, and my husband’s best friend. When we first set up, I was very amused at the difference camping life is with small children and a dog compared to bachelor life. We set up and started grilling; skies were clear and we thought the impending storm was going to miss us. It didn’t. We scattered to grab what we could, secure everything, and move as much of the food (and whatever would fit) underneath the canopy.


Our dog took shelter underneath the picnic table, her favorite is to sit under people while they are eating to try and sneak whatever food is dropped. The kids gathered in our mini-van and watched a DVD. The thunder was growing closer, and the CRACK of the lightning even startled the adults. Many of the campers near us left in their vehicles for the night, but we decided to stick it out for at least one night. The evening was pretty uneventful, aside from our friends’ having a hole in their air-mattress. My daughter and dog snuggled in tight with me, and my husband got the top of our camping bunk-bed cots (I guess, my son called bottom bunk).


We cleaned up, the next morning, with our English friend, Salome, having to constantly tell our dog to get out of the rubbish (garbage). We moved my sister’s canopy to attach it to ours (after our bachelor friend took down his tent and belongings in less than 10 minutes to head to a softball tournament). My son loved pointing out we now had a living room, kitchen, and bedroom. I think these pieces all together are bigger than the first floor of our house. A few walks and naps were taken, and eventually Salome and I headed out on a bike ride. The afternoon and evening turned out beautiful, humid from the storms, but a fantastic day for weather. The adults played a fun game of Phase 10, with a break in between to take the kids swimming and make dinner. Then we all turned in for the evening.


The next morning, we were all anxious to get home, so we started taking everything down (which took way longer than the 10 minutes of our friend the day before). I told my son his job was to hold onto the dog’s leash so she didn’t get away. Eventually, I sent him on a walk down the path where we were camping, with two other children and another adult. They returned to let me know our dog had diarrhea; I went back with the two boys and cleaned it all up. Overall, I thought besides the crappy ending with my dog (literally), it was a great weekend.

As we got home, I started coming down with a head cold. Then Monday, I had a tummy ache. I also learned one of the other kids (not mine) had a gastrointestinal flu. I went to bed at 7:00pm to try and kick the sickness I was feeling, and of course my dog followed me as she always does. Tuesday, at 2:30 am, my dog woke me up to go to the bathroom. It’s unusual she needs to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, but we also don’t go to bed at 7:00pm often. I let her out. Then she woke me up at 4:00am to do the same. I knew I would need to inspect in the morning and probably take her food away. Maybe she got into something. The humans were all feeling better, and my dog was acting completely normal. She turned her nose up at me when I tried to offer her bland rice. I took the kids to their ice-skating camp, and stopped by my sister’s to say our good-byes to our friends from England before they flew across the pond. On our way home, as we stopped for lunch, my husband messaged me that our dog was vomiting. I told him we were on our way. As I opened our front door, our dog was standing at the top of our stairs, wagging her tail as usual. Then she laid down and puked again.


I called our vet. They had me check her gums, I was asked what was going on, and they were trying to fit her in to see them. I was called back a few hours later, my dog had just drunk water, and I was told it was a good sign. The vet didn’t have any openings that day, but we set up an appointment to drop her off for monitoring the next morning. I had already called the Emergency Vet, and knew if we were going to get in… we would wait until 6pm. 2 more hours. THEN my dog puked up the water. She was very lethargic. She was breathing loud. She was in pain. I didn’t know what was going on. I sat on my living room floor, crying and singing to my dog because really I was out of options.

Once the Emergency Vet opened, we knew she need to go in and loaded her on the floor of our van, so she would be as still as possible. As we checked in, there were a few people in front of us. They checked her gums and instructed us to sit down. I actually wondered how sick you really needed to be at the emergency vet because I knew my dog was doing terribly. About 15 minutes later, the vet walked over because she said my dog looked significantly worse, checked her gums and immediately asked to take her back. I started to hand her to the nurse, but I realized I was wet. Initially, I thought my dog had urinated on my dark clothing, but I quickly learned it was blood exiting her rectum. My dog was rushed to the doctor, and she was immediately placed on an IV. The vet came in briefly and told me my dog was in a bad place. She asked about anything my dog could’ve gotten into. I told her about camping and about the 1 bone (EVER in her whole life) we allowed her to nibble on for a few minutes. I got a brief lecture how bones are bad (I know this. Horrible mistake.) A Vet Tech talked me through what was going to happen (and handed me a $1500 bill) before I was instructed to go home for the evening. My dog was to stay in the Doggy ICU. Then she asked me, “Do you have a DNR for your pet?” OH MY GAWD!!! I had NEVER thought of this. Never due to the fact I thought my dog would live forever and ever, but I seriously thought by dog would live another 4-6 years and die of natural causes.

The Veterinarian called at 11:15pm with results of her X-rays and blood panel; my dog was diagnosed with Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis (HGE). No signs of bone or anything else inside of her. Her glucose and liver levels weren’t normal.  I was instructed to pick up my dog at 7:00am and she would need to be transported to her regular vet for continued monitoring. She was showing signs of improvement, but she wasn’t out of the woods yet. They would recheck before I was to transport her in my makeshift mini-van ambulance. I showed up at 6:45am. I was given puppy pee pads to cover my vehicle in the chance she had bloody diarrhea again (thank goodness she didn’t for many reasons), and I brought my dog with her little IV in her leg and bag of fluids to the next vet. My dog spent the entire day at her vet. She continued to get better, and showed signs of improvement. Her glucose was improving, but now her kidneys were showing concern. I was to wait out the afternoon to see if she would get to come home or we would go back to the doggy ICU. After our 5:20pm appointment, we learned our dog would get to come home; although, she was still very weak.

Our dog couldn’t move without us moving her. We placed doggy diapers on her for leakage, and we were helping her to drink small amounts out of a cup. We have no idea what caused for our dog to contract Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis. It may have been the garbage she got into while camping, or maybe something unrelated after we got home. I am so glad we decided not to wait for our initial appointment at our regular veterinarian and decided to go into the Emergency Veterinarian because if we would’ve waited, she wouldn’t have made it.


Next month will be 8 years since we adopted our dog. She was 5 months old when we got her; she had, sacredly, come to Minnesota from a shelter in Oklahoma. We have been lucky and only have had her regular check-ups and grooming appointments, so far. She’s been the best dog with our kids, and I am so thankful we have more time with her; I know others aren’t as lucky. Needless to say, we’ll be a little more strict and aware of what our dog is getting into.


**I am so happy and thankful to report our dog is doing amazing, and she has quickly made a full recovery (and out of diapers).***



3 Suggestions to Have the Best Birthday

I feel as though I am still on vacation, writing this, but I haven’t gone anywhere. This birthday, my 33rd birthday, I was so fortunate to have so many people I love in the same place. If you want to celebrate a birthday, or any random day, in the best way possible, here are some suggestions:

I. Have a long-time friend (my sister’s college roommate) fly in from England, who you haven’t seen in 15 years, with her child.

In November, 2017, my older sister’s college roommate, Salome, booked tickets to visit Minnesota for the first time in 15 years. I met Salome when I was 14. She never made me feel like a friend’s little sister; she always treated me as a friend. The last time I had seen her was when she came to Minneapolis, when my older sister and I moved to Minneapolis, in 2003. Since Facebook allows for me to know what it is going on in her life, it didn’t feel like it had been 15 years since I had seen her. During this time, my sister, myself, and Salome all had children of our own. Salome’s son, Freddie, and my son Caleb are 1 month apart.

After an 8 hour flight, Salome and Freddie landed at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport; 3:45pm Central time, 10:45pm London time. Ignoring jet-leg, they came to a get together at my Uncle Matt’s. As Caleb and Freddie both shyly hid behind both of their mom’s, listening intently to each other’s accents and differing words, Freddie smiled and starting flossing. They were instant friends after that. My mom was curious how Freddie knew how to floss dance; I exclaimed that they have the internet in England, too. 😉

II. Offer to host a party, in your backyard, and have it rain

Salome visiting over my birthday also happened to coincide with the 1 year anniversary of learning of my mom’s younger sister. After 33 years, I celebrated my birthday with my new aunt (who my dad dreamed looked exactly like my grandfather only with really long hair; luckily for her, she is much prettier than that mental image).  We had many people travel near and far; it’s not every day you celebrate a birthday in which people travel to get there by Airplane, Car, and Bicycle.

I offered to host a build your own hot dog bar. The ease of being able to prep ahead of time was super helpful. I chopped up all the toppings and purchased side dishes from Costco. The hotdogs, we placed in a crock pot and finished them off on the grill.

We were excited to host in our newly almost completed backyard. We haven’t had much space to host a bigger group, so it was nice that we would be able to. A family walk was taken around to show off the changes happening in our neighborhood. Then, it started to downpour. For a while, roughly 20 of us crammed into our small living room and kitchen; however, the kids found it far more exciting to run around in the rain. A family dance party broke out, in my living room. My mom and I completed our eyebrow challenge which we agreed to the week before, and many of us ended the night with a competitive game of Catch Phrase.

III. Try New Things: Foods and Experiences

I was super fortunate to have breakfast with my mom and step-dad the morning after they arrived in Minneapolis. My kids had their last day of camp, so I had very rare, much needed adult time. I suggested the Hen House Eatery because they are known for their gluten friendly options, and I cannot consume gluten or dairy. It didn’t disappoint!


The day of my actual birthday, a group of us went to Fort Snelling for the first time. I wasn’t aware of the full history surrounding this place, and couldn’t believe it took me 15 years to check it out. (Earlier in the summer, my family upgraded to a Minnesota History Membership after visiting Split Rock Lighthouse – we plan to get to as many History locations in our state as possible.) After Fort Snelling, we ventured to Fort Snelling beach…another place I hadn’t been to in the Twin Cities. We had a picnic and let the kids swim, until the sunny skies released another downpour.


The evening of my birthday, we had a lovely birthday dinner at Hai Hai. This restaurant opened in NE Minneapolis, the end of 2017, and was named one of the best new restaurants in America according to Eater.com. Definitely put this on your list to check out. I told my son a good birthday present for me would be for him to start trying new foods.

The morning after my birthday, I had previously scheduled to try Reiki for the first time, as my birthday present from my husband, needing to get my chakras aligned. After originally knocking on the wrong person’s door, I made my way to the home of the massage therapist/Reiki practitioner. As I lay on a massage table with alchemy bowls playing, I could feel the sound waves moving through my body. The therapist placed her hands gently on or above different areas of my body; I could feel the energy moving through me. She then placed her hands on my head, I could feel where my varicose veins were removed and it almost felt like the energy escaped out of my feet. When she placed her hands on my feet, I seriously felt air leave my ears. And as she stood with her hands above my stomach, my intestines started to move and my stomach started to growl. Most people may think I was only hungry, but I had recently eaten AND I have suffered from IBS almost my entire life. My experience with Reiki was incredible. I will go back. I offer you a suggestion if you ever want to try it: don’t have any expectations because everyone has different experiences; you get out of something what you put into it.

We ended the weekend with swimming and dinner, hosted by my always aunt and uncle before they flew back to Denver. The long weekend was amazing, but wore this old gal out. This year, I plan to live as my best self. I do not have expectations of what may lie ahead, but I can tell you I have a LOT of fun planned for the coming year.

Psychic Revelations: My first Trip to Baltimore OR WAS IT?? (Part 2 of 2)

I have always had very vivid dreams. I was 10 when I started having dreams of my deceased family members. In the dreams, I felt like my loved ones were visiting me, long after they had died. I truly felt they were with me. It wasn’t until I met my sister-in-law,  I really opened up about my dreams because I learned from her to watch for signs. I had one free tarot reading done, 7 years ago, in which everything came true. I was gifted a  medium reading on the phone, about 4 years ago. However, my Baltimore experience had been vastly different, and I felt the need for answers. I decided I would pay for a reading. So I walked into a shop, a shop which was actually the store front of this woman’s home. I weirdly felt more comfortable seeing her kidsIMG_0058 because before my father-in-law passed, we talked to him and to my kids… to watch for signs.

After chatting with the Psychic for a few minutes, and her offering us a cheaper deal; I love deals. My sister and I agreed we would both do a tarot card reading. I wanted to go first. I am a pretty timid person, so when I decide to do something I jump right in so I don’t back out.  I sat down with Mrs. Kay and the following unfolded. Mrs. Kay asked me if I had recently lost someone close to me. I had. My father-in-law passed away a few months before this reading. She asked how long I’d lived in Baltimore. I told her I was only visiting and it was my first time there. She proceeded to tell me she didn’t believe this was my first time there and asked if anything seemed familiar. I answered yes, but I used my poker face because I didn’t want to let on what had happened to me only a few hours earlier. She then told me I had an old soul. That she could see I had lived 7 lives since the 1700s. “No wonder I’m so tired all the time, I thought to myself. My soul has been busy.”

Mrs. Kay had me shuffle cards and chose some, then she laid out half of the deck (this is what I agreed to in what I was paying for). She told me I was a really good person. Which is true, I think I am too. She told me she saw moving boxes in my house; my husband was seriously emptying out our storage unit at that very moment…into our house. Mrs. Kay told me my husband loved me a lot, like more than I probably realize. I responded that wasn’t a surprise to me. She told me I was going to live a long life, but I needed to get my chakras aligned. She told me my heart chakra and crown chakras were off. She explained to me my ability to love out was full, but my ability to love myself was troublesome. She saw deep depression, and I needed to take care of myself. She was right, but again I didn’t want to let her know too much. HOW DID THIS LADY KNOW THIS? She told me my crown chakra was off and I needed to balance my spiritual connection. Mrs. Kay saw things there is NO way of her knowing. It was wild. She told me dates and colors that were lucky for me; I’m still waiting to see what those do for me. She also told me there was a spirit with me. She asked if I knew who it would be. I said one person it could be would be my father-in-law. The spirit isn’t a male, she said. The only other person, I truly felt it could be, the person I felt like had been with me the entire trip so far….”My grandmother, I said.”

After we finished up, my sister went in for her reading. Her reading was much different than mine. My sister wasn’t told her chakras were off. They weren’t. She instead was told she had a purple aura. Mrs. Kay asked my sister if she had recently had a Spiritual Awakening. She had. My sister had spent 10 days in Guatemala on a yoga trip, just a few months before, and had attended a Mayan Fire Ceremony. Nothing about past lives or anything of the sort to what I experienced. However, my sister also had been blown IMG_7069away by her experience. My sister and I finished up our evening shopping the local stores and having dinner at 13.5% Wine Bar (our mom bought us dinner since she wasn’t able to join us on our trip). We then walked back to our Airbnb, to spend the night on the property owned by our 6th great-grandfather, in the early 1800s.

The next morning, my sister and I headed to Ellicott City, MD. Ellicott City was started by our 7th great-grandfather, Andrew Ellicott, and his brothers; these three brothers built Ellicott Mills, and were responsible for getting farmers to plant wheat instead of tobacco. As we neared Ellicott City, my sister says to me, “Well, I’m just going to turn off the GPS because you probably used to live here.” I was able to navigate to the Historic Downtown, but I believe with help of street signs over past memories. As we got to Downtown, we saw signs for the Ellicott City Spring Fest. They were having a huge art festival and we had no idea. I joked how they were throwing us a welcome home celebration.

We drove around a bit to find parking, and we ended up parking in the Court House lot. We walked past an Underground Railroad site, and I wondered how many of my ancestors helped with the Underground Railroad, aside from my 6th great-grandfather, Elisha Tyson. Timing couldn’t have been more perfect because we walked up to one of the shops a minute before it opened. We IMG_7073shopped in local stores, one of which had 3 levels of knick-knacks, it was as if Christmas and the Renaissance Festival had a baby. We checked out the tents and music, for the art festival, and had lunch at the Ellicott City Brewery.

The last thing I had wanted to check out before we left Ellicott City was a house called Mount Ida. Mount Ida was initially built for William Ellicott, my 6th great-uncle; unfortunately, he died young, and the house was eventually acquired by Judge John Shoemaker Tyson, my 1st cousin 7x removed. After Judge Tyson and his wife passed away, their three daughters inherited the house. It is said the ghost of the last daughter to pass away, Ida, is still heard in the house today. We gps’d directions to Mount IMG_7078Ida, from where we were walking, and it took us some really weird way, hiking up back streets with no sidewalks. When we finally reached the house, I realized we could see our car. We had almost parked directly in front of the house, which members of our family on two different sides had once owned.

We walked the roughly 300 feet to our car, and we headed back to the Airbnb for meditation and relaxation before heading to meet up with my husband’s cousin, Nikki, that evening. We walked back to the area we had been the previous day and met Nikki at Café Hon for drinks and dinner. My sister asked if we would be interested in going to an Improv Show across the street, in which she had seen an advertisement for the previous day. We agreed. We had to walk through a busy bar, then up the stairs, to where the Improv Show was to happen. We were the ONLY people there aside from the people performing. In one skit, they asked the audience for a weird phrase, and a kid sitting next to me yelled out, “JOHN!” John is not a phrase. The entire skit, they just said John, over and over. I felt in that moment, my father-in-law, John, had come to make his spiritual presence known as I was sitting with his niece.





After the Improv Show, Nikki headed home and my sister and I stopped for a night cap at Rocket to Venus. An Irish gentleman, probably my mom’s age, approached me and asked if I was interested in cowboys. I looked down the bar to see a young man, in a cowboy hat, had just bellied up to the bar. I laughed and had to tell him, I was married, and I really didn’t think my husband would appreciate me being interested in cowboys. The man that approached me and his friend sat next to us, they were regulars of the establishment. We told them why we were in Baltimore, the historical discoveries of how we had gotten there. Then the first man tells me I have to hear his friend’s story about being contacted about his ancestors. The man was very hesitant, but finally decided to share with us ….

His family discoveries were not as uplifting. Apparently, his grandmother and some German Nazi had conspired to kill his grandfather. They succeeded. His grandmother was wanted for murder and disappeared. This gentleman’s dad was raised in an orphanage. A few months before meeting us, someone in Germany had contacted this man as he was writing a book of these events. He found out what happened to the grandma. Grandma had moved to Arizona and started a different family. Yikes!! I now IMG_7102knew why he was reluctant to share his story, especially to strangers. My new Irish friend gave me a print of his art, told me to hang it on my fridge, and it would bring me good luck. It’s still there. I’m always looking for extra good luck!! We said our good-nights and retired to our Airbnb for the evening.

Our last morning in Baltimore, we locked up and headed for one last fun breakfast before heading to the airport. I sure hit the jackpot of experiences when I chose the Paper Moon. The service and food was incredible, and the décor definitely made for a lasting impression. As we made it to the airport, my sister and I see the man who sat next to us on the flight to Baltimore. He says me, “how was lunch in Baltimore?” IMG_7094


**Update** After our trip, I have some sad news. On May 27, 2018, I was contacted by both Julie and Nikki, and Ellicott City was flooding. I couldn’t believe I had only been there the month before, and now this beautiful city was destroyed. Then in June, I was contacted by Julie, the Flour Mill which was located below the summer home of Elisha Tyson (below the Airbnb where we stayed at) was going to be destroyed for High Rises. I do not believe in coincidences. I believe you are where you are supposed to be or the forces of nature work against you. My sister and I not only had the opportunity to get lunch together, which is a rarity in itself, but we have the most amazing memories from simply agreeing to go to lunch in Baltimore. Someday, we’d like to do dinner in Germantown, PA and visit our ancestors before Elisha Tyson. Lastly, I finally made an appointment to get my chakras aligned.

“Life is short. Take the trip. Buy the shoes. Eat the cake.”

American History: My 6th Great-Grandfather the Abolitionist

Growing up, I didn’t think much about where my maternal side had come from. We lived in North Dakota, and my mom, grandmother, and great grandfather had all grown up there. It wasn’t until making an Ancestry.com family tree and a constant unraveling of discoveries, I have not only been able to put names into my family tree, but I have been able to put stories and photos to match who these people truly were. The following story we travel back over 200 years.

  • Reynior Tyson 1658-1745
  • Matthais Tyson 1686-1727
  • Isaac Tyson 1718-1796
  • Elisha Tyson 1750-1824
  • William Tyson 1782-1863
  • William A. Tyson 1807-1897
  • Lewis Tyson 1843-1922
  • Robert Tyson 1873-1955
  • Victor Tyson 1899-1977
  • Patricia Tyson 1936-2012
  • Natalie Darling 1960-
  • Kelcie Knutson 1985-

My grandmother was very good at keeping everything. Luckily for me, she held ontoIMG_0843 family heirlooms, family documents, and lots of photos. Sometimes she would write on the backs of photos; more often, grandma would write on an envelope or index card and put the photos inside or attach it somehow. Some families have a Rolodex of recipes… some families have a Rolodex of family information. I never was able to read her writing, so rarely do I even try. Typically, when I see my grandmother’s writing, I ask my mom or aunt to translate.

Over the years, members of my family and extended family compiled documents, news articles, and stories. Folders were made with copies of everything. I received my first folder of family information in my early 20s, and for over a decade it sat in a plastic tub with old photos from High School that I moved from one apartment to another, and then sat in my img_0840-e1531768623969.jpgbasement for half of a decade. The second folder I received after my grandmother died, and joined the first folder, in the same tub. Never to be read, until this past year. But something tells me my grandmother had other plans and is somehow guiding me to look into my family history. I like to believe that my ancestors are sitting in Heaven, helping to control what I find out — a sort of mixture of Disney Pixar films Inside Out and Coco …. making sure my ancestors aren’t forgotten by using Ancestry.com to get me to bring them to life again.

Following an email I received after an Ancestry.com DNA match, I had to look further into my family. A woman named Julie, from Baltimore, contacted me on ancestry messenger to thank my mom (I manage my mom’s DNA) for taking the DNA test because the match helped her solve something in her family tree, which she’d been trying to solve for 20 years. My mom’s DNA helped her to confirm her own suspicions of her family tree. We learned Julie was born with the same maiden name as my grandmother, and she let me know how she was related to us: a great-grandfather of hers was brothers with a great-grandfather of mine, to break that down, Julie is my 7th cousin 1x removed.

In one of her emails, the following sentence came flying off the page at me. “As I am sure you know Elijah Tyson was a great Abolitionist.” I was aware Elisha Tyson was in my family tree. The end. That’s all I knew about him. IMMEDIATELY, I took to google and typed: “Elisha Tyson Abolitionist.” Pages and pages of stuff came up, including: a Wikipedia page, a book written about him, articles written about him in the 21st century. by Robert StreetApparently, my 6th great-grandfather, Elisha, was a very well-known abolitionist. He had become extremely wealthy in the milling industry, real estate, and trade. Yet, what really drew me in was the following: I found out this  great-grandfather of mine used his own home, as part of the underground railroad to hide free African-American slaves who were being held illegally, AND he used his own money to help free them. I read he was highly regarded by African-American slaves, they referred to him as Father Tyson, and at his funeral over 10,000 slaves marched to show their respect. 10,000 people marched at his funeral….. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? Why hadn’t I ever heard of this man?

Google also displayed a house. A summer home for Elisha, built somewhere between 1790s and 1804, which a family had purchased in 2005, and spent half a million dollars restoring. THEN, I found the most miraculous thing,  an AIRBNB was attached to the restored house, where the servants once lived, and had once been owned by my 6th great-grandfather. I knew I needed to go to Baltimore.

The morning after I learned of the Airbnb, my older sister called me as she often does on her way to work. She asked me if I wanted to make plans to go to lunch. I said, “I want to go to Baltimore.” She responded, “They probably have lunch there.” So I proceeded to fill her in on what I had learned about Elisha Tyson and the Airbnb. She told me she had two weekends in the coming months available, and to check into the Airbnb. I messaged Robyn, the owner, immediately. Robyn was very quick to respond, and one of the weekends my sister was available was open. I chatted with my sister, and by that evening I was booking the Airbnb and she was booking us an experience on Spirit Airlines. I realized I had roughly one month to learn whatever I could about my ancestors before we jetted off to Baltimore.

I decided it was time to start going through the family stuff I had. I dug out old documents. I ordered the book Life of Elisha Tyson, the Philanthrpist by John Shoemaker Tyson. In addition, I was fortunate to receive an email with a bookreport the daughter of the AirBnb happened to have recently written. I also made sure to tell Julie we were coming, with hopes of meeting her. I mentioned we were staying at the Airbnb. She proceeded to ask me which property it was at. This is when I learned there were TWO homes of my 6th great-grandfather’s still standing. The second home of my 6th great-grandfather’s was located at Jericho Farm, in Kingsville, MD.

In a few weeks time, my Ancestry.com family tree grew very quickly. I asked Julie questions regarding what she may know about people from the Baltimore area. I specifically wanted to know anything about my 5th great grandmother’s family, the Ellicott’s (Elizabeth Ellicott was married to Elisha Tyson’s son, William). Julie let me know there was a whole city called Ellicott City, MD; I eventually learned the city was started by my 7th great-grandfather and his two brothers. In addition, I learned my 7th great-grandfather’s nephew (a first cousin to my 6th great-grandfather, my 2nd cousin 7x removed) surveyed the Mason-Dixon line, was commissioned by George Washington to draw plans for Washington D.C., and taught Meriwether Lewis survey methods. I was suddenly living out American History books in my very own family.

Since my sister and I were only going to be in the Baltimore area for less than 72 hours, I made a short list of must sees:

  1. Main house/Airbnb
  2. Maryland Historical Society
  3. Jericho Farm/Jerusalem Mill
  4. Ellicott City
  5. Lunch with Julie

A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” – Marcus Garvey























Funny Reunion Mishaps: “I Hope I Get an Invite to the Next Reunion.”

Two months ago, my dad forwarded me an email about a family reunion on my paternal grandmother’s side. My dad learned of the reunion after he had been in touch with a distant cousin, who lives in Washington, after matching on Ancestry.com. My paternal grandma died when I was 8, and I really didn’t know much of her side, aside from her one sister and a few of her sister’s kids and grandkids. So when my dad told me he wanted to go to the reunion, which was an hour away from my house, I decided it was a must. The flier listed four names with the color to wear to represent which family you descended from:





My dad told me we were yellow. He said Bernard was my grandmother’s grandfather. So the Friday before the reunion, I went shopping for yellow clothes for my family. Saturday morning, we all dressed in our yellow, and trekked down Interstate 94 for Clearwater, MN. We met my dad, my step-mom, paternal uncle and aunt, at the reunion; they drove in from North Dakota. When we showed up, I was quick to notice how most people were wearing white, to represent Mathias. Within 5 minutes of being at the reunion, a woman approached me and asked if I would be interested in planning the next reunion. Mind you, I had no idea aside, from my close family members, who any of these people were. The reunion was a potluck with so much food. People had brought in old photos, that decorated a table. Stacks of binders with family information lined another table, which were made by my great-grandfather’s first cousin. My great-grandfather’s first cousin was still alive, and he was at the reunion. Apparently, his dad didn’t have him until his dad was 60.


They, also, had sign-up sheets to place your contact info. You were to put your name under the family member you descended from. My dad went to put his name on the contact sheet, while I took my kids to the park outside of the pavilion we were in. About 10 minutes later, my dad comes outside and tells me, “we are in the wrong color; we were supposed to wear white.” I responded, “What do you mean we are in the wrong color?” Apparently, my dad got the generation of the reunion wrong. Although, my dad did have a great-grandfather named Bernard, we were at a family reunion for my dad’s great-great grandfather, Mathias. I just laughed and laughed. I don’t think my dad thought this was as funny as I did because he immediately wanted to know if he had a white shirt in the car. I told him he had to wear yellow like the rest of us. We stayed at the reunion for a few more hours and parted our ways in the mid-afternoon.

Later in the evening, I decided I needed to share with my sisters and my paternal cousins the funny mix up with the color yellow. I was visiting my best friend, so I wasn’t paying too close of attention to my phone This was the following conversation:


Me: “Funny story. So I go to this family reunion on the Ritter side. My dad told me that we needed to wear yellow for Grandma Agnes’ dad’s side. Went to the reunion….we were suppose to wear white. Apparently it was a reunion for offspring of our great-great grandfather and my dad go the color wrong and the person we were representing wrong. Omg. But we did meet a 1st cousin of grandma Agnes. Miss you all. XOXO”

I received a response,

“Oh my. Look like a bunch of minions! Hilarious.”

Without looking who sent the text, I thought based on the text itself, my little sister had written it.

My cousin responded, “Hahha damn had no idea anyone was going but parents”


Then, I looked closer at my phone when I got the following text:

“You know, I’m pretty sure I’m in this group chat by accident, but I’m happy to be apart of the family”

This is when I realized I had not entered my little sister’s phone number, which I know by heart, into the text.

Me: “Hahahahah. Omg. Totally typed my sisters number wrong and you answered. Even better.”

Me: “But to everyone else… no one knew about the reunion. It was a last minute thing and ancestry match to my dad.”


“You guys look wonderful. Minus the guy in a boot. What happened man?”

Me: “Poor guy broke his foot. He didn’t know he broke his foot after a surgery that made his foot go dead. Thank you for entertaining me tonight. So funny.”

“Hey just for the laughs. Hope the foot gets better. And nice yellow shirts. I hope I get an invite to the next reunion.”

There was a series of a few more texts, then this afternoon I get a text, “Im Easton by the way, never introduced myself.”



Family Traditions and DNA Curveballs


Nothing in my family is traditional, but we still had our “traditions.” My dad’s parents were divorced and remarried by the time I was born. In addition, my own parents divorced when I was 4, so when it came to holidays as a young kid, specifically Christmas, my older sister and I would shuffle from one of our many grandparents houses to the next to make sure we saw everyone.

We typically would start with Christmas Eve at my step-grandmother’s (my then step-dad’s mom) house; the house literally had rooms full of homemade cookies. I really have no idea how many rooms, or tables, were actually filled, (because she was only my step-grandma a few years and it was 25 years ago) … so in my mind I choose to remember her whole house  overflowing with cookies.

Following step-grandma’s house, we would go to my maternal grandparent’s house for buffet style lasagna dinner. We would do Christmas on the main floor, with grandma; she always had bags full of treasures she would pick up from her thrifting, and a card either left blank so you could reuse it or signed, Clara, her alter-ego, filled with a little cash. Then a quick hangout with grandpa in the basement as his cigarettes filled the entire floor; enough time to grab some bar pretzels while spinning on his stools and eating some still half-frozen shrimp cocktail. My maternal grandfather would typically come up stairs to grab a plate of food, long after everyone else ate, and maybe stick around to open a present. I am guessing we got him socks.

Of course, we were home before my 8pm bed-time, so we could wake up to open presents at our house Christmas morning, the house I lived at with my mom and step-dad (step-dad from years 1990-1993). I remember one year my dad and step-mom sent my older sister and I a trunk full of everything we asked for. It was amazing; except, we didn’t get to spend Christmases with my dad, until I was roughly 10. See, my dad was in the Army, and when my parents got divorced, my mom moved us to be closer to our grandparents because we didn’t know when or where my dad would be stationed next. Luckily, my dad’s parents were very involved in our lives.


So Christmas Day, after opening presents at our house, my older sister and I would head to my paternal grandmother and step-grandfather’s house. My aunts, uncles, and cousins would all gather.  The kids would drink copious amounts of Tang, dig in the candy cabinet grandma always kept full, and find some made up game to keep us occupied before opening gifts. Then, depending on which house my grandfather and step-grandmother were living at the time (grandpa bought, sold, and rented out real-estate), we may be able to walk from grandma’s house to grandpa’s house.

Once at grandpa’s house, we always had a sit down meal with many traditional Norwegian fixings: Potato Klubb was one I loved. Who doesn’t love a potato dumpling? Lutefisk is one that was served, but I was never brave enough to try. My cousin once referred to it as fish Jell-o, and I have never thought of it as anything else. And always served was Lefse; lots of butter and sugar spread on a very thin flatbread made from potatoes. Of course we had these Norwegian dishes; my paternal grandfather was 100% Norwegian after all.

Unfortunately, a lot of our traditions on my dad’s side dwindled when I was pretty young. My paternal grandmother died when I was 8, followed by a paternal uncle when I was 9, paternal step-grandfather when I was 11, and my paternal grandfather when I was 13. All the loss left a pretty big hole in everyone’s hearts, and possibly a reason my dad really dove deep into Ancestry.com when it came out (aside from his love for History); also, a reason I was probably so interested in genealogy at such a young age.

A few decades have gone by, and new holiday traditions have started. One holiday tradition is we typically spend Thanksgiving in Minneapolis, where I live. My older sister, my maternal uncle, or I host at one of our homes. The morning starts off with a Turkey Trot in Downtown Minneapolis, for those who want to run for fun. We blend together whatever family or friends want to join for an afternoon meal. My dad has come the last 3 years. His birthday happens to also be a few days after Thanksgiving. So this past year, I asked my sisters if they wanted to get him an Ancestry DNA test for his birthday because I truly thought this would be an amazing gift for him. He was very intrigued opening it, but then he left it in Minneapolis. My little sister brought it home with her to Arizona because many of us were going to see her for Christmas. Then my dad forgot it in Arizona. I was beginning to believe he was forgetting it for a reason.


In January, after my father-in-law passed away, my little sister flew to North Dakota for the funeral, with the Ancestry DNA test. I told my dad how my husband was able to get his mom and dad’s Ancestry DNA tests done while his dad was on hospice, so he was the only biological grandparent of my kids that hadn’t taken the test. A few days later, he spit in the tube, and sent it off to Ancestry.com for processing.

Weeks passed by and my dad was starting to get nervous he did the test wrong, but alas the results were in within about a month. Remember when I said my paternal grandfather was 100% Norwegian? My dad who had been so proud of his Norwegian heritage found out he was only 18%, and there is 13% Great Britain he had never known about. Thus, the family genealogy has gotten a bit shaken up. My dad and I are able to track my dad’s paternal side to Norway until the 1500s, but that’s where it stops. Recently, my dad ordered a Y-DNA test to determine how our family got to Norway and where they may have migrated from. I cannot wait to see those results!

Families change. Traditions change. Change can be good. Change can be hard.

“Life is 10% of what happens to you, and 90% of how you react to it.” – Charles Swindoll