Advent Calendar - Update on the Hilarious Christmas Tree

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Nancy, Sandy, Mary and Susan '71

Hey all, my sister found a picture of us girls in Singapore in front of the hilarioius Christmas Tree from my previous post. I just had to share this with you all.

Have a glorious Christmas with many blessings, love, family and the true meaning of Christmas. Jesus came to this world to save us all!

Advent Calendar - Christmas Stockings

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas Stockings
Growing up us girls did not have Christmas Stockings. The only time I can think of that we had them was when we spent Christmas with my Dad's parents. (previous post)
When he was young and growing up my Dad remembers his Mother opening up her stocking on Christmas morning and pulling out hand held mixers and spatula's holding them high up in the air in excitement. Plus she had about 5 oranges she would pull out. They were good fillers. She would pull out other items Dad remember seeing in the kitchen. His Dad would pull tools out of his stocking. Funny.....
My boys however have grown up with stockings. Their first Christmas their Aunt cross stitched and embroidered beautiful stockings for them. They are still in use today and are now 26 and 23 years old. They hang every year and are packed away with the Christmas stuff.
Don't you love the photo above? It was taken from They have some great clipart. Check them out!

Advent Calendar - December 17- No Christmas Tree?

Today I have the pleasure of a guest blogger. This is a story I remember my father telling me so I asked him if he would write it down for me and he did! I just love this true story and I hope you will too. It reminds us of Christmas's past. Thanks Dad. You're the best.

No Christmas Tree?

It was a December afternoon in 1936. Snow was on the ground in Atlanta, Georgia where I lived with my Dad, Mom, and my older brother, Ron. Christmas was but a few days off, and we did not yet have a Christmas tree.
Although I was but 4 years old at the time, and had little reason to consider it, I’m sure that the term “discretionary income” was an unknown figure of speech within our struggling-just-to-get-by depression era family. There was even some talk of our doing without a Christmas tree this year, the mere mention of which was totally unacceptable to my big brother of 12. Donning a jacket, he whispered to me, “Put your coat on! Let’s go. We’re gonna have a Christmas tree!” He looked wise and determined. I idolized my big bro, so without hesitation, I did as he said, and off we went.

“What’s under your jacket?” I asked as we headed down the alley away from the house. He unbuttoned it a little and revealed Dad’s hatchet tucked inside. “We are equipped!” he said. We made our way purposefully to scrubby woodland located about a quarter of a mile from the street we lived on. My brother had passed that way often when walking to and from his 6th grade classes.

“OK come this way,” Ron said, and I veered with him to the left off the main pathway. Shortly he looked in both directions before spreading the wires on a barbed wire fence to let me crawl through, I had a tinge of apprehension. But hey, this is my big brother, so what’s to fear? It’s gotta be OK, right?

We shuffled along through scrub pines and various bushes until my brother said, “Look, ain’t she a beauty?” And a beautiful fir tree it was—straight, erect, and symmetrically filled out. “It’s real pretty,” I said, but it’s too tall for our living room, isn’t it?” “Naw, it’s just right!” he assured me. Within a few minutes he had felled the tree, and he said, you take the small end and I’ll take the trunk end. He grunted and so did I. We quickly learned that a damp snow-covered Christmas tree weighs much more that we had imagined. “OK, so we’ll drag it,” my brother said. We both grabbed a hold and started dragging. By the time we got it off the property through a place where the fence was down, we were winded 3 times. By the time we got it home, we were totally spent.

“Where did this tree come from,” Dad asked. “Oh, over there someplace,” Ron replied with a vague gesture. I could see Dad seemed rather worried, but we soon proceeded to erect the tree, and after nailing some leveling slats to it, my brother said, “OK, now we’ve only got to cut those three feet off of the top where the ceiling bends it over.” That’s about when we heard a sharp knock on the front door.

Dad answered the door. We heard a man speaking loudly in an agitated manner. “I’m here to talk to you about a tree stolen from my property!” he said.

Dad invited him in. The upshot was that indeed the tree had come from private property, and our drag marks in the snow had led the owner right straight to our house. The fact that the property was not currently being used for any useful purpose was quite beside the point. He explained this terms not uncertain. Even my brother was beginning to get the point.

After venting his anger about the matter, however, he began to cool down a bit. Seeing the petrified looks on our scared faces probably helped. He then noticed that the tree was way oversized for the room and that its peak was bent over and pointing due north. He suddenly began to laugh, and finally he wished us all a merry Christmas. But upon departing, he raised an index finger with greatly assumed authority to us boys, saying, “Remember boys, you’d better check who owns the property before you cut any more trees!”
Actually, we boys stood well reminded of an excellent business lesson that Christmas. We also had the biggest tree on the block!

Melvin R. Lyon

Advent Calendar - Christmas at School

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I wrote this article for my sister who was needing some articles for a project and thought it appropriate for today's theme. Christmas at School.

Christmas in Indonesia

By Mary Lyon Hellman

Just after celebrating my eighth birthday in December, 1963 I and my three sisters found it was Christmas time in Bandung, Indonesia. Wait a minute. THIS is not Christmas!! It was boiling hot and humid. We were clothed in ordinary shirts and shorts. No snow, no Christmas lights all around town or on our neighbors houses for that matter and not one Santa Claus in sight.

I remember our school having a Christmas program for all the missionary parents of the kids that attended which consisted of about 10 to 15 kids in grades 1-8. As we stood up front my eight year old voice projected just a tiny squeak. You see, I was thinking of the parents! Spending Christmas in a foreign land away from their parents or siblings, the old farm in Iowa or in South Dakota where snow and the sights and sounds of the season were in no shortage. Here we stood belting out Christmas songs in the heat of the humid evening as our parents looked on with admiration. My voice cracked because I was near tears for them! They must have been proud of us kids trying our best to make them feel at home.

The highlight of that Christmas was receiving boxes from our Grandparents from back home. How delighted we were at receiving brand new coloring books and crayons, and books like Black Beauty to read. How thoughtful of them to think of us so far away. The excitement of getting boxes of Jello and cake mixes was amazing. They were put aside for very special occasions.

My family made it thru that first year and continued through another year in Indonesia, two years in Japan where we had a white Christmas and six years in Singapore where we swam in the local pool every Christmas day. Our tree there was made out of white plastic with just a tiny tint of blue. We thought that was really cool.

These are my memories of Christmas’s in the mission field. I will remember these all the rest of my life.

December and the Miracle of Birth

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I just cannot help but tell you about our new Grandson! He was born yesterday, December 13th in Berrien Springs, Michigan, to our Son Nathan and his beautiful wife Emily.

What a miracle birth is. Judah Samuel weighed 9 lb and 11 oz! What a big boy, my goodness.

Of course - here is a picture of Judah. We are celebrating life and all joy that comes with it. It is exciting I will be traveling there next month to give him Grandma hugs and kisses. What a special Christmas gift this year.

Super Sister Sunday - Christmas in Japan

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas Eve? Huh?

Before heading overseas my family always opened Christmas gifts on Christmas morning. Yes the memories come back to me as we tried to spy at what Grandma and Mom were doing in the bedroom on Christmas Eve. I especially remember one year when we just would not settle down and go to sleep. After we managed to actually see what Grandma and Mom were doing. They were making up our Christmas stockings! I was quite shocked actually and a little disappointed at that. Anyway we would try to look and then run back to bed as soon as we heard someone coming towards the door.

One time that same night, I managed to get back into bed before Nancy. Dad saw her and came over to her bed and this part really sticks out in my mind even today. She was silouetted with the light being behind her and Dad. Dad lifted up her legs to give her a swat on the bum and it was hilarious! She did not bend her legs! She looked like an ironing board, super stiff and super straight with her legs going way up into the air. One swat and no more ironing board. She promised Dad she would settle down. She finally did.

Back to the Christmas morning thing. When we moved to Japan, Nancy remembered the first Christmas we were there. On Christmas eve we went to neighboring American homes to visit them. We were shocked to see they were all opening their gifts! On Christmas eve! We quickly went home and did not visit any more of our friends.

So, the next Christmas we opened our gifts on Christmas eve and did that ever since.

The Lyon Sisters, 1964 Mary, Susan, Sandy and Nancy

Here we are in Japan with a very spindaly tree. It is awful! Of course did not notice at the time.

Advent Calendar - Other Traditions - Eggs!

My mother was proud of her Swedish Heritage. Her grandparents came to Iowa from Sweden in 1890.

At Christmas time and for special occasions Mom remembered her mother making coffee at Christmas, brewed in Swedish tradition with eggshells to achieve a silky appearance. The eggshells were put directly into the coffee grounds.

I do not recall any other traditions in the family.

Happy Holidays

Advent Calendar - Christmas Gifts for the Sisters

Friday, December 10, 2010

Living in Singapore during our teenage years, my sisters and I went to a dressmaker who sewed our dresses. You would pick out a dress you liked from a magazine, buy the material and take it to her. She would wonderously make up the dress for a very small charge. Usually in just two or three days. This lady made all of our formals for the banquets we attended. It was awesome. year I decided to have dresses made for my sisters! Three of them to be exact. I poured over some magazines to find the perfect dress for each of them. Then off to "People's Park" I went, the place where you buy material. There were vendors on two huge floors with ton's of fabrics to choose from. I bought material and embelishments for each of my sisters and took them to the dressmaker with the pictures, telling her what dress is for what sister. Since she had the exact measurements for each sister it made a perfect surprise! Wah-la! Dresses for the sisters.

The best part was when they opened their gifts and saw their new dresses. What fun!!!! They were shocked. What made it even better is the fact they liked the dresses and wore them regularly!

Advent Calendar - Grab Bag - The genealogist dream gift to give

Thursday, December 9, 2010

This is a true story that happened only last Christmas. Christmas of 2009. This was the most rewarding thing I have ever done with genealogy and to top it all off it was a gift given!

An Unusual Christmas Story

On the Friday before Christmas, 2009, Nanette Ringering and I planned a gift wrapping party at my house. She, along with Heather and Rachel and me wrapped and wrapped. Lots of ribbons and bows, wrapping papers scotch tape and bags. We had Christmas music playing during this festive time of the year and of course the Christmas tree lights were twinkling on the tree. It was fun to watch Rachel looking and ooohing over the packages. (10 months old)

The mail arrived and in it was a package from my sister Nancy Kyte that included some old photographs of our ancestors. After exclaiming over them and sharing them with Nanette, she teared up and said “I’m so happy for you Mary, but I’ll never have that.” Nanette had been adopted by our familyi at the age of two weeks.

Six months earlier Nanette – from now on I’ll call her Sis – asked me to look for information on her birth family. She had given me the name of her birth mother, Dana Stygar, and where she was born. At that time there was not much to look up. I found some items of interest but had a hard time confirming them. It looked like the maiden name was Young and her mothers maiden name was Judd from old census reports. I put the information aside.

The Sunday before Christmas my Dad, Mel Lyon invited my family, Mike & myself, Kirk, Heather and Rachel, and even Sis and Steve Ringering to meet with him and his wife Phyllis at the Hometown Buffet for a good meal. Good it was indeed. We had a great time.

While I was getting some food at the buffet Steve Ringering came up to me and stated "the best gift you could ever give Sis would be to find out about her family." I told Steve I would find my information from six months ago and see what I could do. Sis had told Steve about the pictures recieved from Nancy.

The next day, three days before Christmas eve, I worked on it. You will be amazed at what I found on such short notice! Upon checking out of which I am a member, I found a family tree that mentioned a photograph from 1939 of Dana Stygar. The birth and death dates totally matched! Since the tree was set to private I could not look any farther. So I sent out a message to the creator of that tree mentioning that I had a sister in law had who been adopted, and gave the name of Dana Stygar and her statistics. Sometimes on these things people take awhile to look at their messages on a board like that.

On this same day, I googled Dana Stygar. The name popped up on Facebook and I thought, no way, Dana Stygar is dead, but checked it out anyway. The profile picture of Dana Stygar gave me a shudder. It was a profile picture, and the eyes, cheekbones and nose looked very familiar to me! No way! I sent this Dana a message as well and hoped to hear form both her and Barbara Stygar – the creator of the Ancestry tree soon.

The next morning I woke up early. 4:00 a.m. and could not go back to sleep. So I got up and headed for the coffee and settled down at the computer. Oh my……..BOTH ladies replied to me! Barbara Stygar it turned out would be Sis’s sister in law. Barbara said this was interesting because she tried to find out about the girls, but was told she needed to get a court order from Sacramento to open up the records. What? Girls? I imediately went back to Ancestry and sure enough there was a Elizabeth born the same day as Sis with the same mothers maiden name. Oh my – this was exciting. Barbara sent me some photo’s of the mother and siblings of Sis that confirmed she was Sis’s mother. We have been in contact every day since! I sent Barbara a photo of Sis as well and she was shocked at the resemblance of her mother-in-law.

From Dana, I found out she was named after her Grandmother! Only two years ago she took back her maiden name (Stygar). She is the daughter of Sis’s Eldest sibling so she is 41. I never would have found her if she had not changed her name. Then – I found out Dana lives in Gresham! After conversing with her via e-mail now, I sent her the photo of Sis in which she replied “She looks just like my Grandma!” Dana and I met at Coffee’s On and spent one and a half hours together on Christmas Eve morning! She was a tall lady, big, but had those familiar features of Sis’s. It was amazing!

The day before I had taken the photo’s of Sis’s bioligical Mom and brothers, gotten 5x7 prints for them and frames for Sis. I also made copies for Dana that she loved. Plus, a total list of all the siblings. Sis’s birth mom had a total of 12 children and I was able to put them all in order of birth thanks to Barbara Stygar down in Modesto, California.

Here is what happened Christmas Eve. The Hellman’s all arrived at my house between 5 and 5:30pm for our Christmas celebration. Food was everywhere. We were all digging in. Then the doorbell rang and Dana, her friend Troy, their 5 month old son Patrick and Dana’s 17 year old first son arrived. They came in giving me a box of chocolates. The Hellman’s all thought is must be someone from the church and did not pay any attention really. Then I slipped Dana “the gift” and I asked everyone to cram into the family room. I asked Sis to sit down which she did reluctantly. Dana went to her and said “Nanette, Christmas time is a time full of surprises and family, and on behalf of my family I would like to present you with this gift.” Sis was understandably nervous. She opened the box and the first thing she saw was a listing of “The Children of Dana (Young) Stygar” with Dana’s birth and death date. Sis was the last, and a twin. The tears started falling, then she saw a picture of her Mom holding her first born with a huge smile. Sis’s dimples, eyebrows and nose for sure. I asked Sis if she knew who that was and she said through tears “no……my mom”. Then I told her Dana was her niece and they both cried and hugged and cried and hugged, and we pretty much all were a mess.

Dana and her family stayed for about 45 minutes. Dana is excited to have an Aunt that lives nearby because she has never lived close to any family. Dana and Barbara are in contact with each other again through this, and she has spoken with her Dad Joshua who remembers being in the military and hearing his Mom adopted out a girl. Her twin is a mystery.

As for myself, I must say this has been the most unbelievable and rewarding gift I have ever done for someone. To think that all of this information came down just a few days before Christmas is unreal. We now plan to try and get those court records open.
by Mary Hellman, 2009
Nanette Ringering, Dana Stygar, Christmas Eve 2009
Postnote: Sis and Dana have been in constant contact through this year. Dana's father Joshua passed away this year unexpectantly.

PLEASE HELP! If you or someone you know was born on April 11, 1961 in Los Angeles, California and had been adopted out please contact me! The adoption would have been a private one and not through an agency. The birth name would have been Elizabeth Stygar. It would be awesome to find Sis's twin!

Advent Calendar - Christmas Cookies

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Who does not like Christmas Cookies? My sisters and me would make a tipical sugar cookie recipie but the most fun was decorating them with frosting and sprinkles. As teenagers, we made cookies with these cookie cutters. The snowman and the tree were the most fun to decorate. We always had a lot of fun and giggles as we saw how each other decorated the cookies. More great memories of "sister time."

As young children and living overseas I do not recall making Christmas Cookies. I'm sure we must have made them but it does not stick out in my mind.

What does stick in my mind are the Sour Cream Drop Cookies my Grandma Lyon used to make and send to us. I remember these cookies when we were very young before going overseas. When we came back to the US she would mail some to us.

In the 80's I specifically asked her if she would send me her recipe
and and few days later I received this in the mail from her in her own handwriting. I think it is a treasure now. She has been gone for many years now. (Eleanor Fahl Lyon)

Ancestor Approved Award

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Wow! What a surprise when I received an e-mail from Cheri Daniels of Journeys Past who awarded me the Ancestor Approved Award. I am excited, shocked, surprised and amazed since I consider myself new at blogging. Thank you Cheri! I will consider this a birthday present. (I'm a December child)

This award comes with the requirement that you pay it forward the following two ways.

1. List 10 things that you have learned about your ancestors that surprised, humbled or enlightened you.

2. Pass the award to 10 other genealogy bloggers.

So here are the 10 things I have learned about my ancestors.

1. Even though my great grandpa (Andrew Davis) is a brick wall I have been able to figure out where he was born from his Civil War Military papers, that he was wounded in the war, and that he was a flag holder in the Grand Army Parade. His parents are still a complete mystery.

2. My great grandparents who came from Sweden had a child that died before she was two years old. It was a thrill to visit all of their gravestones in Crown Hill Cemetery, Ruthven, Iowa.

3. I was amazed to learn from the obituary of my great great great grandmother (Anna Quivey) that sixty teams (of horses) followed the procession to her burial in Hazelwood Cemetery, Grinnell, Iowa. This is a cemetery I visited and was able to actually stand beside her gravestone. It is an amazing feeling to stand where so many ancestors stood mourning their loved ones.

4. It was thrilling to actually see a photo of my great great great grandfather Linus Quivey. This came from a fourth cousin I found. He was on a horse!

5. The new cousins are fantastic! I just love finding the cousins and comparing information. Three new ones cropped up this year.

6. It was a mystery how my great grandfather David H Quivey died at the age of 30 years old, leaving five children and a wife who never remarried. He died of typhoid fever. This coming from a dear fellow genealogy lady in Iowa who did some research for me.

7. Another great great great grandfather John Merritt, came to Iowa and staked his claim on a parcel of land by tearing off a big chunk of bark from a tree and writing his name on it. He then went back to New York to bring his family to the newly discovered land. It is awesome the bark and claim was still there, waiting his return. This information came from a new cousin who had really done some fantastic research. I will post about this later because it is such a cool story.

8. It is fun finding relatives even my father has never met from different sides of his family and am able to tell him about them.

9. I enjoy sharing the finds with my sisters, who are thrilled they are not the ones doing the research, but love hearing the stories.

10. I love finding out where my ancestors are buried and especially if I can get a picture of their gravestones. Future generations will not have that option since so many people are cremated these days and their ashes scattered.


Here are the blogs that I chose to pass the award to.

Advent Calendar - The most unusual ornament!

Friday, December 3, 2010

When Mike and I got married - way back in '75 - we hardly had any money and lived in a little shack on his parents 10 acre property. The shack came with the property when they bought it and the in-laws had not yet moved out there as they were waiting to put a mobile home on it to live in.

Anyhow - the first Christmas season - Mike took off one day with an axe. It was cold so he chopped down the first doable tree he found. It was a scrawny little thing, but it did fine for our first Christmas. We did not have ornaments so we put lights and a whole bunch of tinsle on the tree. It was missing one thing. A topper. What were we going to put on the top of the tree?

Mike had a great idea. He took some cardboard and cut out a perfect star that was about 5 inches in diameter. Then he covered it with tin foil. It looked great, but how was he going to get it on the top of the tree? Then the most hilarious idea popped into his mind. He took the round cardboard part from a tampax tampon and pasted that on the back and wa-la - it slipped perfectly on the top spike of the tree! He even put a hole in the very center of the star so we could put a little light in it.

The weirest thing of all? This year will be the 35th christmas we have used this star! Wow!

Advent Calendar - Holiday Foods with Cranberrys

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Christmas tradition food.

At Christmas time we always remember and serve Grandma's Cranberry Salad. It is supposedly a Swedish recipe perhaps from Grandma's mother who came from Sweden. We really enjoy it and most of us girls make it every year for our families. Here it is.

Grandma's Cranberry Salad
1 lb ground cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 can crushed pineapple
1/2 lb marshmallows
1/2 pint whipped cream

Mix - Set - Done!