Friday, November 14, 2008

A Perfect Game

Article published Nov 13, 2008 - South Bend Tribune


It wasn't until his opponent faltered that Ben Ellam realized he could be perfect. Ellam, a senior and captain of the Clay High School bowling team, made history for his bowling team by throwing a 300 in a sanctioned match against Penn at Chippewa Bowl last week. Bowling since the age of four, the beginning of the match was just like another day at the alley for Ellam. He and his opponent squared off and went pin for pin, dropping strikes one after another until the eighth frame. With only two frames left to finish, Ellam watched as his foe left an open frame. He wanted to take advantage of the mistake and grab the lead in the competition. As easy as his first seven strikes, Ellam delivered yet another perfect ball. However, it was when Ellam returned to wait to pitch his next ball, reality finally sank in on him. "I just wanted to beat him," said Ellam. "He missed in the eighth and I really started to think about it. "What Ellam realized was that he was a few more rolls away from a perfect game. "I knew I had a great shot -- I wasn't too worried," said Ellam. "Everyone else seemed more nervous than me. "Unlike a baseball team that shies away from pitcher with the no-hitter, Ellam's teammates kept things as usual. And it was this sort of strategy that helped him through the first seven frames, so Ellam stuck with it. He was focused more on keeping up with his opponent, so that he really did not think about how good he was doing in the overall match. So now with things getting more tense, a little chatter from the team helped him keep his mind off the situation. As the final frame arrived, and a soft alley, Ellam approached his lane and blew up the pocket. Two quick strikes with one remaining. On his final ball, Ellam found himself with a moment of doubt as he threw his last shot. "There was one pin that wobbled and I didn't think it was going to fall. It was like it was in slow motion," recalled Ellam. "I started walking away, I thought it was going to stay up. I watched out of the corner of my eye as I turned. "The pin did finally fall and Ellam was perfect. "I was relieved, glad it was over with," said Ellam. "This was my second 300, but it was sanctioned, so this one was better. It counted for something. "With a perfect game under his belt during sanctioned play, Ellam has it in the back of his mind about rolling another each time he steps to the hardwood and looks down the lane. "I think about it all the time. It's all I think about until I miss one," joked Ellam. "Then I just relax and bowl. I am good for this year. I got it out of the way. "His real goal for the remainder of the year is to help his team to a fourth consecutive conference title.

Monday, November 10, 2008


I have been doing Genealogy research on Mark's Ellam side of the family since Ben was in 1st grade. So I guess I've been at it for about 12 years or so. It was his great-grandparents that immigrated from England around 1911 leaving the bulk of the Ellam family behind. I, however, have been able to trace the family back to the 1700's and Mark's 5th great grandfather.

And I've never take a trip across the pond to do the research.

The internet is a wonderful source of information as are sites like and But, it's the wonderful volunteers on internet boards who have been my biggest help. And, 99% of the time, at no cost to me. I felt compelled to give back but wasn't sure how.

A couple of years ago I ran across the site RAOGK (Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness). Volunteers from around the country and even from around the world sign up and offer to do research in their home counties for those who can't make the trip themselves. I immediately "heard" my calling and asked mom to join me. We've been volunteers for a year now for St. Joseph County and are currently the only volunteers for this county. In other words, we stay busy! But we LOVE it. We've had some of the most amazing experiences and learned so much about the history of South Bend by digging into the archives.

Sometimes the requests lead us to strange places like this past week's trip to Walkerton to take a grave stone photo request. The records for this particular cemetery were gathering dust in someone's basement. And that someone invited us into her home to take a peek. Sometimes the requests touch our hearts. Like being asked to please visit a someone's grave by a relative who can't make the trip and to "please tell the deceased that they are loved". We do it all. And it pays off for us in terms of the help we receive in our own research. What comes around goes around so they say.

There are those people in my life that don't understand my interest in genealogy or why I love old cemeteries and they all ask the same question.


I've never been able to really put that answer into words but this morning I ran across a piece of paper I copied from somewhere that answers it perfectly. Sadly, the author is unknown. But it describes perfectly why I keep looking for "dead relatives". They aren't really dead to me. They all have stories to tell and I'm anxious to hear them all.


We are the chosen.

My feeling are in each family there is one who seems called to find the ancestors. To put flesh on their bones and make them live again, to tell the family story and to feel that somehow they know and approve.

To me, doing genealogy is not a cold gathering of facts but, instead, breathing life into all who have gone before. We are the story tellers of the tribe. All tribes have one. We have been called as it were by our genes.

Those who have gone before cry out to us: Tell our story. So, we do.

In finding them, we somehow find ourselves. How any graves have I stood before now and cried? I have lost count. How many times have I told the ancestors you have a wonderful family you would be proud of us? How many times have I walked up to a grave and felt somehow there was love there for me? I cannot say.

It goes beyond just documenting facts. It goes to who am I and why do I do the things I do.

It goes to seeing a cemetery about to be lost forever to weeds and indifference and saying I can't let this happen. The bones here are bones of my bone and flesh of my flesh. It goes to doing something about it.

It goes to pride in what our ancestors were able to accomplish. How they contributed to what we are today.

It goes to respecting their hardships and losses, their never giving in or giving up, their resoluteness to go on and build a life for their family.

It goes to deep pride that they fought to make and keep us a Nation. It goes to a deep and immense understanding that they were doing it for us. That we might be born who we are. That we might remember them. So we do.

With live and caring and scribing each facts of their existence, because we are them and they are us.

So, as a scribe called, I tell the story of my family. It is up to that one called in the next generation to answer the call and take their place in the long line of family storytellers.

That, is why I do my family genealogy, and that is what calls those young and old to step up and put flesh on the bones.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Proud Mama

This past weekend Andy and his girlfriend Mollie attended a Sweet 16 birthday party for one of Mollie's friends. The dress code was formal. Since I wasn't home to see Andy get ready for the party Mark took pictures for me. Mark did a good job and Andy cleaned up well!

I didn't get a photo of Mollie in her dress but I don't want to leave her out! Here they are on Saturday at the Bowling Tournament.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Ellam Brothers

Bowling at Clay High School has a reputation to uphold. We are always the team the rest of the conference are gunning for with good reason. We've won conference the last 3 years in a row and should have no problem taking the title again this year.

The year before last one of the members of the girl's team won state and was elected the female bowler of the year in the state of Indiana. Last year one of our coaches was named Indiana High School Bowling Coach of the Year. A well deserved honor.

But this year Clay has a secret weapon.....The Ellam Brothers.

They were both on varsity last year but with Andy just a freshman he didn't bowl on a team with Ben much. But not this year. So far for the first two season scrambles and this past weekend's Tournament they have bowled together. With tremendous results! They are kicking it and taking names!

And mom and dad are having a blast watching!

Friday, October 17, 2008

It Could Be Worse.

On Tuesday I had lunch with a friend. During the general “kibitzing” we did about our children she made a comment that has stayed with me all week and bounced around in the back of my head.

It Could Be Worse…..

And it immediately took me back to a day 6 months ago when it was worse. So much worse.

But that’s the end of the story, not the beginning.

In Sept. 2001, just a week or so after 9/11, Mark, Ben, Andy and I moved to Tampa, Florida. It was a difficult move for all of us. Mark was moving to the Corporate Office, the boys were moving to a new school and I was leaving behind my family and friends. After a couple of weeks just sitting in the house and going stir crazy I made a call to the boys new school and practically begged them to give me something to do! That afternoon the President of the PTA called and saved my sanity.

Her name was/is Grace and she immediately put me to work in the school volunteering. Grace was also my neighbor and soon my friend. She took me and the boys on a tour of Tampa along with her two boys Joe and Josh. (Joe was a couple of years older than Ben and Josh fell right in between Ben and Andy.) We had a blast and Grace and I remained close. As our boys moved from the Elementary school to the Middle School Grace and I stayed involved in the schools and our love of scrapbooking kept us close.

In 2005 Grace, Terry, Joe and Josh were transferred to Boston. And I mourned the “loss” of a very good friend. Although with Grace, she never really leaves your life. If I saw her tomorrow we would pick right up with our last conversation and carry on as if we had never been separated by distance.

In 2006 Mark, Ben, Andy and I moved back to Indiana and with the adjustment of that move I began to lose touch with some people, Grace being one of them. Then in April of this year Grace and I reconnected by way of the internet. We had a great time catching each other up on our lives and the lives of the boys. Joe had just finished his first year of College and was still living at home. Josh was in High School and still having a hard time adjusting to the move. But the boys were still very close. Every Sunday Joe and Josh would go paintballing at the local park and then have dinner together at Dairy Queen on their way home.

On Mother’s Day of this year, Joe and Josh had gone paintballing and stopped at Dairy Queen as usual. Grace was in Texas visiting her mother for Mother’s Day and had called Josh’s cell phone to talk to them. As she said goodbye she told Josh “you know I love you boys”. “Tell Joe Joe to be careful”. And the line went dead.

At that moment a drunk driver came across the center lane of the highway and struck the boys head on. Joe died instantly. Josh was pulled from the car and taken to the hospital and thankfully has recovered.

At least from his injuries, but not from the loss of his brother whom he adored.

At the funeral Grace said “Joe always said he wanted to live with us forever. Forever turned out to be 19 years”.

I know for those of us who knew Joe and even those who didn’t, he isn’t far from our minds nor are Grace, Terry and Josh. Joe was a delight and I feel privileged to have known him.

It is important for me to remember when life gets me down to be thankful for what I have. Never take anything for granted. Stop and look around as I run through my days and take a moment to appreciate all I have been given. Because, sadly, as much as I sometimes feel overwhelmed and frustrated…….

It Could Be Worse.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

5 Things

1 thing I did today:

Took Ben to have his wisdom teeth pulled. The bottom two were coming in sideways and the top two were coming in at an angle. Can't mess up his $5000.00 smile! I'm thankful that he did well but will be happy when he is fully back to normal.

2 things left on my to do list today:

1. Let Ninja out AGAIN. Dog sitting ends tonight!
2. Make dinner. Pancakes and eggs. I hope Ben can eat okay.

3 secret wishes I have:

1. That Ben will choose Manchester for college.
2. That Andy will take pass his drivers test.
3. That Mark will continue eating healthy and exercising. I want to keep him around for a long, long time!

4 things I'm looking forward to this weekend:

1. Scentsy Party at Patty's
2. Archives Alive! at IUSB
3. Lia Sophia party on Sunday
4. Amazing Race!

5 things I need to accomplish this winter:

1. Complete Ben's High School Scrapbook. Or at least get it up to date.
2. Paint our bedroom.
3. Figure out how to use Powerpoint
4. Plan Ben's graduation party
5. Lose 30 pounds!!!!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Indiana State Bowling Results are in.......

and Andy's team took FIRST in state for Division 2. He and his doubles partner ended up 10th in State.
Ben and his doubles partner (a fill in since his normal partner didn't show up) took 7th in state for Division 1.
Way to go boys!
Just between you and me, don't you think the First Place Trophy should have been a tad bit bigger? :)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

And the rain keeps falling down, down, down.....

It started raining on Friday and we have gotten over 7" by today, Sunday. We even made the Weather Channel yesterday!

Our little pond has turned into a small lake. We did need some rain but this is ridiculous!

EDIT: Over Fri/Sat/Sun we received 11.45" of rain from the remnants of Ike. That is a record setting amount of rain for South Bend. Some of our family and friends are without power and water. A couple of roads have sections that washed out and many have caution High Water signs taking them down to one lane. Where is all this water going to go?!?!?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

His Last First Day

Every year I take a picture of Ben and Andy to document their first day of school. I clearly remember Ben's first day of kindergarten and taking his picture before he got on the bus. (And then following that bus in my car to make sure he made it there okay.....a whole two blocks away!)

I knew then that this day would come eventually. The day I would be taking his last first day of school picture. I had no idea then how quickly that day would arrive.

Reality has set in......our son is a senior.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

My First Tag

Thanks to Kim I've been tagged for the first time! So here goes:

Ten Years Ago: Well, I was 35 years old. Ben was just 7 and Andy was only 5. Andy was getting ready to start kindergarten at Swanson and Ben was entering the 2nd grade. I was working part-time in my parents business and Mark was still working for American Door. I never could have imagined that a couple years later we would be transferred to Tampa and would spend 5 wonderful years there. Nor could I imagine that we would ever return to South Bend.

Five things on today's to do list:
Since we just got home from the lake and college visits my to do list is LONG…
1. Laundry
2. Grocery Shopping – Ben claims we have NO food in the house.
3. Abby’s birthday party
4. Pay Bills
5. Make a list of things to do for tomorrow!

Snacks I enjoy: Depends if I’m craving salty or sweet. If it’s salty I’ll go for Cool Ranch Doritos. If I’m looking for something sweet then it’s Oreos and milk all the way!

Things I would do if I were a millionaire: Pay for college for Ben and Andy and buy a lake cottage. I’d also donate to Hospice….

Places I have lived: South Bend, Indiana (including a house in Mishawaka and current home in Granger) and Tampa, Florida. I also spent a year in college in North Manchester, Indiana.

Hey, that was fun and a quick way to get a post in!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Martha Jean Stephens

My grandmother died last week. She was 86 years old and had been in a nursing home for years. Although it was not unexpected it still hurt.

At the funeral on Friday the Chaplain invited anyone who wanted to come up and say a few words about grandma. I had no intention of speaking but somehow I felt moved to share my memories and found myself standing at the podium.

I really don't remember everything I said. I spoke through tears but I spoke from my heart.

It's only now, 3 days later, that I'm wishing I had said more. There are so many things I should have said, and would have said, had I been prepared.

And I'd like to say them here.

Thank you grandma for the purple satin hat you kept in a "dress up" box when I was young. I loved that hat and have more than a couple of pictures of me wearing it.

Thank you for saving your McCall's magazine so I could cut out the Betsey McCall paper doll every month.

Thank you for waffle cookies in the tin stored in the oven. And for homemade noodles drying on newspaper on the kitchen table.

Thank you for Christmas Eve's at your house with pork tenderloins and pickled eggs. Thank you for letting me ring that little bell you kept on the Christmas tree and for giving me that bell when grandpa died. It's the most precious ornament on my tree every year.

Thank you for letting me "help" you wash the dishes when I was young. You had that sprayer attachment on your sink and I loved rinsing the dishes with it. I remember mom telling me to be careful and you saying "oh, she's fine". I wonder now how many times you had to change your clothes after I helped.

Thank you for teaching me to play cards and for teaching me how to win. Thank you for sharing your love of the Chicago Cubs with my sons. Although Ben wishes you would have picked a team with a better record of wins!

Thank you for loving me unconditionally. Every child should have someone love them the way you did. And thank you for loving grandpa. We all know how much you missed him after he died.

And that's where I'm finding peace. Knowing you are with grandpa now. And all your sisters and brother and parents and grandparents. And that I'll see you again someday.

Goodbye grandma...I'll miss you.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A New Milestone

Both of my boys are now teenagers and closer to leaving home than I like. Ben will be a senior this year and Andy will be a sophomore.

Looking back I can remember every milestone they reached: first word, first tooth, first step, first day of school. And the truly glorious ones of learning to tie their own shoes, potty training and the ability to dress themselves!

As they've gotten older the milestones are not so life changing but they still mark the passing of time. First day of high school, first prom, first job and the first time they drive away in the car by themselves.

Today a new milestone was passed for Andy. Today he got his learners permit. And I was driven home from the license branch by my 15 year old for the first time.

One more milestone for both of us to face. My baby is growing up and getting closer to stepping out on his own. I hope we are both ready.

There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots; the other, wings.
-William Hodding Carter, Jr.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Baseball at the Cove

Back in 1988 the Chicago White Sox built a stadium here in South Bend for their single A feeder baseball team. When the boys were little they loved to go to the Cove to watch the games and try to get autographs from the players. We'd get there early and they would hang around the fence behind the dugout with their baseballs and sharpie pens. After the game you could stay and the kids could run the bases.

When the boys got a little older they went to baseball camp there. For a small fee, and membership into Swoops Fan Club, they got to spend the mornings for one week each summer learning the game from the players themselves. This is where Ben first developed his love for baseball.

Last year Ben got his first job working at the Cove. He was the popcorn boy on the 3rd baseline concourse. Although it didn't pay much it was free admission into the home games and free popcorn refills for his buddies!

Well baseball at the Cove has come full circle. Who would have ever thought when Ben was just a little boy that someday he would be playing an actual game on that field. As starting 3rd baseman on the high school varsity team Ben took the field last week for a game. And as I watched him run those bases as a 17 year old I could still picture him running those same bases as a 7 year old. I felt many emotions but most of all I felt.......proud.

"And in today already walks tomorrow"

Monday, April 28, 2008

Prom 2008

Here is a picture of Ben from Prom night on Saturday.

Go ahead you can say it....I know you're thinking it....How HANDSOME is he?!?!? Very, thank you very much.

Here's one of Ben and his date with the whole group:

Amazing how a group of teenage boys can clean up! I guess they had a good time. Trying to get information out of my 17 year old son is just like pulling teeth. I ask the questions and he grunts the answers! Anyway, I do know that they had dinner at Houlihan's and that the prom was held downtown at the Century Center. Same location as my Junior and Senior proms oh so many years ago. Where has the time gone?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

How I Survived Six Months of Winter

In a word....BARELY.

This is a picture of the view off my deck on New Year's Day. This is the type of winter I remember from my childhood. You know...fluffy white flakes, huge snowbanks to climb on, snowball fights and snow fort building. The type of winter we all dream of at Christmas time. Unfortunately, that's not the type of winter we have in northern Indiana.

Our winters begin in October and end sometime in April. And they are dreary. Grey, cloudy, wet, cold kind of dreary. And they last....for.....six.....months.

Now, it's no secret that I have been depressed since our move back to Indiana from Florida in 2006. But along about January this year I was so sad I couldn't take it anymore and decided to get help for this nagging glumness.

First up I went to see my general M.D. He listened to my complaints and prescribed Xanex. I got the prescription filled, went home, cut the pill in half, took it and promptly fell asleep. Now that's one way to get through six months of winter but not very practical for my life!

Next up I went to see a nutritionist. She listened to my complaints and prescribed a new diet. All organic and none of the good tasting stuff allowed. I bought the food for the diet and all the vitamins she suggested. Went home and tried to follow the plan. But honestly, how many of you eat prunes for a midday snack?!?!? A couple of hundred dollars and a week later I gave up the natural life and went back to my junk food existence.

Along about this time Mark got a letter from his Employee Assistance Program reminding him of the FREE services they offer. So I called the number and got an appointment with a counselor. She listened to my complaints and must have found the stories of my dysfunctional family entertaining because she had me come back the max amount of sessions....six. I kept going back because it was free and I kinda enjoying complaining to a total stranger. But in the end....I didn't feel any better. She referred me to a therapist.

My first appointment with my new therapist seemed promising. She listened to my complaints and my stories and actually had some good insights. After a couple of sessions she diagnosed me as having Seasonal Affective Disorder and recommended a light that I was suppose to buy and sit in front of 30 minutes a day. Off to the home medical store I went to purchase my light and got the sticker shock of my life. $200.00 for artificial sun!!! I can buy a plane ticket to Florida for that amount! I left the store empty handed and went home.

When Mark got home that night I told him the therapist recommended a trip to Florida. And so, in February I got a 5 day trip to Orlando and Walt Disney World. Instantly, the depression lifted. Now that's what I call good medicine!