Mom’s Summer Camp: Week 3

So, this week at “summer camp” we did have some additional visitors.  I am helping my sister while she completes her internship for her masters in education.  By helping I mean I am watching my niece and nephew.   Mister Carter, as we call him, is sweet as pie!  He just wonders around with his 30 minute cookies (cookies that take him 30 minutes to eat) and smiles and plays.  Madison does Madison.  Her free spirit attitude and care free tendencies allow for imaginative play and curiosity…but also make her very hungry!  That girl loves to snack!

Those days, we stayed home.  Too many kids, not enough adults to take them out into public without pulling our hair out.  Also, not sure if my car fits that many car seats.  Who had all these babies?  Oh yea…I did.

So, first on the agenda I deemed this week “safety week”.  You know, community helpers and the sort.

fire and police

Our first trip will be to the Norfolk Police and Fire Rescue Museum.  My son currently is obsessed with firetrucks and police cars.  He watches videos of them online and has added three new “bire trucks” to his collection this week thanks to Grammy and Pop Pop.

The Norfolk Police Department was established in 1797.  It is one of the oldest forces in the United States and has had a long history of service. The Norfolk Police Museum, established in 1919, is the oldest museum in Norfolk.


Norfolk Fire-Rescue was established in 1871. The Norfolk Fire-Rescue Museum, was established in 2004.

The purpose of this building is to document and preserve the history of NPD and NFR and those who have served the departments.  Plus side, the museum is open to the public and FREE of charge.  That’s right, you get in for free.

The museum is located at 401 East Freemason St, Norfolk, VA 23510

Next, we will visit Town Point Park in downtown Norfolk on Waterside Drive.   Recently Waterside has had a makeover.  They refurbished the building and added new restaurants and attractions down town.  I remember working there at the comedy club when I was a teenager.  Times have changed.  Also, just opened: the Ferris wheel!

This is a beautiful waterfront park located downtown and plays host to many local events throughout the year.  My favorite is the Bayou Boogaloo over the summer. The Waterside Landing fountain is designed as an interactive fountain for kids of all ages. It’s a splash pad! The fountain creates a fun atmosphere for water play and it is one of the few free water play attractions open to the public in this area.  The North Gate fountain is located next to the Half Moone Cruise Terminal and features a Norfolk mermaid sculpture set within fountains of water, and surrounded by a seating wall for public enjoyment. A variety of public art elements are placed throughout the park, including the Armed Forces Memorial, the Homecoming statue, a restored 19th century cannon retrieved from the river, a large Navy anchor, and a new installation of tiled images capturing Norfolk’s military and maritime past.

Our next outing was scheduled for a trip to Fun Forest Park in Chesapeake or Chesapeake City Park.  This park has been around since I was a kid and it still is enjoyed by many today.


The park sits on three acres and is deemed the ultimate children’s playground, imagination center and family adventure area! It was originally built in 1995 by over 1,800 volunteers from private, public, and community sectors. The playground has an are that features a dragon, three-way underground telephone, shaky bridge, dolphin tunnel slide, and many more challenges for the older child. A new section was built by volunteers in 2011 after fire damaged a section of the playground.  That didn’t stop the play though!

Many of the attraction’s feature paved paths, slides, swings, picnic tables and benches. There’s a wall decorated with tiles of hand prints, messages, and signatures of early contributors.

Fun Forest is located at 900 City Park Drive, Chesapeake, VA 23320

A trip to the Chesapeake City Library was in order for a Coding Class.  Unfortunately, I did not get to sign Caitlyn up in time for this class.  I still wanted to share it because I thought it  was going to be such a neat class for her to be introduced into the world of coding.  She is a big lover of video games and technology.   It would have been a cool experience for her and might have opened up her eyes into how things worked behind the scenes.  Next time!

Last, but not least I am working on getting a tour of a fire department on the schedule.  I know our local fire fighters will take kids on tours around the department and let them see the vehicles for field trips and large groups, so I am trying to nail down a day where I can take Grant to see a “bire truck” up close and personal.  Hopefully just a phone call will allow that to happen.  He will be so excited…or completely terrified.  Either way, it will make for a great photo!

Thanks for reading this week!  Join me next week as I share what we are going to be doing in our local area for “Independence Week” and check out my instagram for more photos from our outings in this post @mypastlifeblog


Living History: A Miniseries

I’m back!  I had a wonderful little break.  My father came home from his eighth hospital visit last week and my husband came home from an eight month deployment yesterday. It was a very special meeting because he got to meet his son for the first time.  It has been a pretty happy week around here.  Let’s get to it!

If anyone knows me, they know that I am a proficient list maker and I love the moment when I can mark things off my task list.  It started the other week when I published my top ten genealogist websites that I have used during my research.  So, here is another task to mark off the list; the introduction to my miniseries “Living History”.

During this series, we will explore members of my family history as individuals.  I will share photographs I have uncovered and stories I have learned as well as a few facts.  These photographs you will be able to find on instagram @mypastlifeblog.  These family members may be still living or a part of the past.  Not only do I want to share my family, but I want to share yours as well.  I believe the biggest part of doing a family history is also being able to share the information you discover with everyone.  I know that I get super excited when I find new information and want to share it.  I probably talk about ancestry the way my daughter talks about Minecraft.  The rush of finding a new fact is always exhilarating and I can’t wait to share my discovery with anyone who will listen.  It makes me proud to know interesting stories about my family’s past and I want to be able to have you, my readers, be able to share your stories too.

I am opening up a part of my life to share yours.  So, find a photograph and gather your story line and share it!  You can email the details to myself at .  Once I receive your submission, I can share on the blog page!  It’s as simple as that.  Not only do I want to post about the facts of your ancestors life, but also a story about them.  I’m looking for something that only has been passed down in the generations.  You know, one of those “We walked ten miles barefoot in the snow to get to school” stories.  Share their story, share their life and send in a photograph for publication.  Include yourself in the photo as a proud descendent.  Whatever you feel comfortable with.

To kick off this miniseries, I will be sharing the stories of my parents and how they met.

My father, Norman David Ferguson, Jr was born in Allegheny County in Pennsylvania on January 21, 1950 to Norman Ferguson and Doris Jean Lightener.   When he was just a baby, his family moved to Norfolk, Virginia.  My grandfather, who had been in the service was provided a job in Norfolk painting cars at Phillips Oldsmobile.  Later, my father would be joined by his brother, James, and two sisters, Lisa and Amy.

My father would tease his mother from time to time that every Friday night during his childhood she would make baked beans and biscuits and he would watch Annie Oakley while riding on his rocking horse.

My dad was the first at Azalea Garden High School to have a Beatles hair cut and he also drove a motorcycle.  Typical 1960s badass.


He enlisted in the Marines when he was only 19 years old and served during the Vietnam War on a ship named the Coral Sea.  He worked on the flight deck, replacing and repairing windshields on aircraft, an A6 Intruder I believe.  He told me that on the first day they shaved your heads at boot camp and on the second day everyone had to go for a three-mile run.  And no one had the nerve to drop out of that run.

Two days after his tour of duty in the Marines, my father became a police officer for the city of Virginia Beach.

On his first call as a police officer, he was riding around with an older cop.  They were called to the scene of a young man who was threatening suicide.   They parked a few streets over and went to the home of the young man.  He was yelling and stuck something out of the front door that looked as if it were a rifle.  Then, the man’s mother yelled out “it’s just a broom!” and they moved in.  My dad remembers that he was quite slippery when they went to arrest and drag him to the squad car because he had taken a razor blade to several spots on his arms.  My father had to pull his weapon on his first day of duty with the police force.  But, he said in the 31 years on the force he only ever had to draw his weapon three times and never had to shoot.

My mother, Elsie Delores Brenaman, was the youngest of many children.  She was as her parents said “the last drop in the bucket”.  In my opinion she is the best drop.  She was born at home to William Floyd Brenaman and Elsie Gertrude Castine on September 18, 1958 in Portsmouth, Virginia.

Her father passed when she was only five years old.  She doesn’t have many memories of him, but she does remember that he always came home from work with candy or gum just for her because she was the youngest.  He would take her into his arms and after he passed she would cry for him.

My mother’s family was not wealthy by any means.  Having been the youngest and my grandmother not having ever remarried, money could be tight for the family.  My Granny would take my mother every year on the bus to Norfolk.  There they would visit the school for beauticians in training and receive free haircuts.  My Granny used this service often and my mother was the poor guinea pig of terrible hairdos.  She told me once that they cut and curled and styled their hair exactly the same and she thought it was one of the worst haircuts she had ever had.

My mother also has fond memories of becoming a Sunbeam through her church and attending camp.  They would bunk in cabins and be eaten up by mosquitoes but they were some of the best memories from her childhood.  She also was very proud as a kid for helping campaign for the city council.  She was in 6th grade and around 11 years old.  They passed out flyers and got to go to dinner when their candidate won.  That was a big deal back then, taking that many children out to a restaurant!


To say I am not a spitting image of my mother would be a lie.  I have even asked my daughter who she thought this picture was of.  She said “You Mommy.”  And I couldn’t agree more.

She became a teacher in 1980 and taught at private schools.  Then , in 1995 she became a special education teacher with her main focus in preschool.  One of the best moments in her teaching career was when she was able to call a parent and tell them that their daughter, who was a selective mute, was talking.  And not only just one or two words, but sentences.  It made my mother very proud of the work she was doing.   She has only recently retired to spend more time with her husband and grandchildren.

My mother and father met in college.  They both attended Tidewater Community College.

My dad explains the meeting like this…

We were both in Science class together.  Your mother was the only girl in a class of about 50 students.  I wanted to ask her out.  We attended a morning class together, so I asked her out for breakfast.  We went to Hardees.  And on our first official date…she wore these black pants; Looked like she was poured into those pants.  But she won’t like it if I mention those.

And it was happily ever after.

So, there it is.  Just the first of hopefully what will be many to come.  I hope you enjoyed this post and that you will continue to follow this blog and also follow us on instagram @mypastlifeblog.  I can’t wait to see what this miniseries will bring and also get to know the readers a little more through their own family.

Thanks for reading


In the Works

Whoa, I have so many things in the works that I couldn’t pick just one subject to write about in this week’s post.  So please, bear with me as a ramble and tell you all that My Past Life has planned for the future!

This one may be a little short and sweet today, but I will be back to the usual blog posts next week.  I have a lot of research to do for upcoming posts and what seems like so little time.  Raising two kids on your own while your husband is deployed is hard work and time consuming.  Especially when one kid is home from school on summer break already.  But, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  My family is my number one priority and what brings me the most joy in my life.  That is why “My Past Life” means so much to me and I am very excited to be pursuing the story of my family history.  So, here are a few of the things we have planned for upcoming posts and projects!




This has to be the number one thing I am excited for.  As many of you will learn in a future post about the Ferguson side of my family, I have some deep roots in Scotland.  My father’s paternal side is from North Uist on the Outer Hebrides.  It is beautiful there.  Rural and natural; untouched by modern times.   I really think they still have homes with thatched roofs.  I have been slowly planning and plotting my trip there for a few months but finally decided that my husband and I will travel there next spring/summer to research my family history and also take in as many of the sites as we can.  One of my best friends will help me plan my trip.  She recently spent about 18 days gallivanting around Europe attending Cannes and filming a documentary in Spain.  I am almost planning a “backpacking” trip across Scotland so we can hit as many places as possible in the week that we will visit.   Our first stop being Edinburgh, on to Perth, Aberdeen, Inverness, Isle of Skye, North Uist, down to Oban and finishing in Glasgow.  I think we may rent a car, and drive ourselves around so we have the freedom to travel when and where we want.  I want to stay in bed and breakfasts, hit every castle on the way, ride the Harry Potter train, see the standing stones and ride the ferry from Uig to Lochmaddy to see the place where my ancestors lived and worked and raised children.  I believe I also read somewhere that the Outer Hebrides and the surrounding area has already done past research on every household on the isles and all you have to do is go to the research center.  Let us hope that this is true and all I will have to do is copy and paste.  I swear I should start a go fund me page to supply the funds for this trip, but we will make it work.  I just received my passport in the mail a few days ago and it is already burning a hole in my pocket, screaming travel and see the world!!!


 My Past Life Shop

Another adventure I am very excited for is the possible opening of a “My Past Life” related shop.  Here you will be able to purchase themed t-shirts, coffee mugs, totes and the likes.  I have come up with a few designs that I really am giddy over.  I think others interested in history and genealogy will enjoy them as well.  I am working on getting the shop up and running and getting the items made for purchase in the next few weeks.  I have always wanted to write and own my own business.  I like being free to make my own decisions and make my own schedule.  I hope that this shop will help me pursue my dreams of doing that and also allow me plenty of time for my passions and my family and friends.  I don’t want to be tied to a desk.  I want to go where I please with the people I love and show something to this world that I have done.  Leave my tiny mark and my legacy behind.  Whoa, not sure t-shirts will really do that but it’s a start.   I’ll let you know when I am about to cut the ribbon and open the shop!




I am working on doing a post on what it takes to become a certified Genealogist.  Also, different schools and websites that offer a certificate and classes to prepare people to become board certified.  It is going to be a lot of hard work and blood, sweat and I am sure what will be many tears to pass the board certification.  I plan on joining the National Genealogical Society.  They offer an at home study course that I would like to try.  There are also many resources for self-study that I would like to take a crack at before the board.  I will list some sites that offer free training and information on family history research that I will use to help me on this journey.

Top Ten

That also leads me to an upcoming post about the top ten sites that I use for my research.  I will highlight the best use of the websites that I have found in my research practices.  What has worked for me and what has been a bust.  Google can really be very helpful when trying to find an unconventional way to find a record.

23 and me
Stock photo of 23 and Me site.

DNA Project

My sister and I have always wanted to send in our DNA to find out more about our ancestry.  My cousin recently used a website called 23andMe and was sent a breakdown of her ancestry composition.  It was fascinating and I am happy she shared that with me.  So, send me that q-tip or capsule for my spit and let’s do this!  I have a prediction that it will say I am like 50 percent German.  So far in our research we have discovered many people in our family, especially on my mother’s side, have descended from Germany.  The Holt family is a prime example of this.  I plan on doing a post about my ancestors from Germany who came over and founded a little place in Virginia called Germanna.  I feel this will really shed some light on many of the information we already gathered.


There are a few places that I will be traveling to and want to travel to in the upcoming year.  This summer my family will be in Carolina Beach and I hope to make a stop in Bath, NC to learn more about Edward Teach.  My husband and I will also travel to Gettysburg to visit the battle grounds in the fall.  Ever since my post about my great, great grandfather he wants to take me to a place he fought and survived.  I would like to travel back to North Carolina to learn more about the Holt ancestry after the family left Germanna and was given land.  I would also like to travel to Pittsburg to learn more about my father’s maternal side and the secrets that holds.  Not to mention my sister and I will attend a conference in early October to learn more practices in the family history field.

Living History Project

Another project I am working on is to preserve the oral history in families by sharing other people’s stories through words and photographs.  I not only want to share my story and the story of people I know, but also be able to share your story.  This is still a work in progress but I hope to have my first post up very soon on my Instagram account.  Please follow me @ashleytillmanpics and @mypastlifeblog.

These are just a few of the things that I have planned this year.  Sounds like I have my hands full already.  I hope that you will stick with me and watch my year unfold.  I can’t wait to share my story and yours!


Thanks for reading!