Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

I have been rather quiet lately and that is mostly because I haven’t had much to say (If that could be possible). Since my last post, I have not yet written my letter to Metropolitan State Hospital, nor have I taken a trip there to present the letter that I haven’t yet written. I will do this sometime before the year is over.

Some Lola/family updates – I have recently reached out to some family members and have heard back from them. It is still early so I haven’t yet had pictures or stories, but I fully anticipate that in the near future.

Bessie (Lola’s sister) - I found and established contact with a great granddaughter of Bessie’s niece by marriage, Grace. She was able to put me in touch with her aunt who was raised by Grace and my sister and I are now waiting for information on both Bessie and her mysterious husband, Ben. As I write this, I have not been able to find any record of his death, nor can I find anything beyond the 1942 WWII draft registration he filled out.

George (Lola’s father) – In an interesting way, I found living relatives connected to George’s widow, Grace (yes, many Grace’s in the family). In the 1920 census, George was living with Grace and her two daughters in Decatur, IL as a boarder. George’s whereabouts in 1910 is still a mystery to me, but I was able to find him in 1915 (a few newspaper mentions); his 1918 WWI draft registration; the 1918 WWI draft registration of his son, George, listed him as nearest relative. By the 1930 census, George and Grace were married and her daughters are no longer living in the home with them. The man I reached out to is the grandson of Grace’s daughter Mary. I found him, along with his mother and brother, mentioned in an online family tree when I did a Google search of his grandmother, Mary. Once I had a name, I searched Facebook and found him and sent him a message. I also sent one to his brother. He is going to bring my request to his mother’s attention. She was a young girl when George passed away, so she may remember him or at the very least have pictures!

So now, I sit back and wait! That’s the hardest part. I have found and reached out to so many people and think about how cool it would be if someone did the same to me. I haven’t yet had that experience, but I would be SO excited, and that is probably because I did not know of these people nor did I grow up in a home where their pictures lined the hallway walls. Wanting to know “where you come from” is an interesting thing.

Do you have missing pieces in your family? Do tell me, I'm not alone! Welcome your comments.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

State Hospitals and Brick Walls

In my search for my grandmother, Lola, I have hit the dreaded brick walls again. I have been able to find and make contact with living family members that I never knew existed, and am now waiting to hear back from them. I hope that they might know something about my grandmother, but I am also looking forward to learning about the family that I never knew, whether or not anyone knows about my grandmother.

Today, I decided that my next recourse is to yet again, reach out to Metropolitan State Hospital (Norwalk State Hospital). This time I shall do it in writing. I have followed their instructions in the past – instructions to contact them, but to no avail. All I was told was that I’d need a court order. When I asked how to go about obtaining that dreaded court order, no one is willing to tell me.

I need to write this letter and take a day or two off, go to the hospital and hand it to someone, someone that I can actually make eye contact with. Someone that can look me in the eye and tell me that I need to get a court order. You see, according to their instructions:

Unfortunately, due to state and federal confidentiality laws, information that can be disclosed is strictly limited. In most cases, these confidentiality laws prevail over any request for patient records from an entity, including family member, other than the patient him/herself, even if the patient is deceased.

I can’t help but wonder just who these laws protect. I somehow doubt the patient is the protected party here. Patients in the past, were easily committed and then subject to hideous treatments (shock treatment and the like) and oftentimes were women, committed by spouses that just didn’t want to deal with them when they felt the need to stray. I also wonder if women that were abandoned by their spouses, left penniless, to fend for themselves and their children were subject to state hospital induction. Imagine having children, no income, and spouse that split. That might lead the neighbors to think your behavior is “crazy” and you just might need to be taken away.

All this aside, there is no reason to prevent family members from having information. My grandmother did live and she was in a state hospital. I CANNOT find any indication of her life beyond a 1932 city directory yet I know she was alive after that. The last time my father said he saw her was when she was in the hospital and at the urging of his first wife. I figure that was between 1939 and 1942 as they married in 1940 and were divorced by 1942. I cannot find my grandmother’s death certificate. It is possible (yet I am not convinced) that she was released from the hospital and moved away or remarried and died under a different name. Of course, I feel, I will never know this if I cannot get any information from the hospital.

All I can say is that I hope just one of these employees has the same experience and realizes what it is like being absolutely denied any information. Yet, on the other hand I know that they’d know how to avoid their own tricks and get information they needed. What a shitty system.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Thick Lentil Barley Soup on a Rainy Night

Probably like most people, I grew having warm comfort foods for dinner on cold and rainy days. My mom was famous for throwing soups and stews together for a yummy meal on a cold night. She was also famous for her ironing skills. I never got the ironing gene, but I did get the cooking gene.

After the heatwave of last week, this week's weather is a welcome change. It is something insane like 50 degrees cooler this week than last Monday! It has been cold, cloudy and rainy. Love it. I really love to cook in this weather. I decided to make my thick lentil and barley soup with drop biscuits for dinner. That is a hearty and warming meal and suits this cold weather well.

This is one of the dishes I just kind of made up so there aren't many "measurements" here. The spices and seasonings are by taste. Start with a Dutch oven and add olive oil, 2 stalks of celery chopped, 4 cloves of garlic chopped, one chopped onion and 2 carrots chopped. Sautee until soft.

In the meantime, rinse and drain one cup of lentils and one half cup of barley.

When veggies are soft, add the drained lentils and barley to the Dutch oven and stir. Then add 32 ounces of vegetable broth plus 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Also add a can of sliced mushrooms.

Now for the seasonings and spices. I use black pepper, dried oregano and basil, a pinch of salt, and cumin. I just sprinkle it in, eyeballing it, really. Simmer and cover, cooking on low heat for about 45 minutes. Note - no cats were harmed in the making of this soup, nor was any paint added to the recipe!

I also add Braggs Liquid Aminos. I swear by Braggs and use it almost daily in my cooking. It is an all purpose seasoning and a soy sauce alternative.

After 45 minutes (and during the cooking) taste it and adjust spices and seasonings according to taste.

I also made a batch of drop biscuits. This is an easy thing to make. Use one and one half cups of Heart Smart Bisquick and half a cup of soy milk. Mix and drop spoons of the batter onto an un-oiled baking sheet and cook at 450 degrees for 9 minutes.

Serve up in a bowl and enjoy! This recipe will not only leave your kitchen smelling good, but leaves plenty for leftovers.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

What a Week

This past week was a trip. We had the most horrific heatwave in Los Angeles. The past weekend was hot, but NOTHING like Monday was. OMG, if I ever imagined hell, that was it!

Busy and stress filled week at work, although it did fly by. I know I'll get my work "groove" back, but the new job is so different from what I'm used to that I'm in constant "fear" of screwing something up.

I actually heard back from the granddaughter of Lola's first cousin, Hazelle! I had sent Hazelle's son a Facebook message, explaining who was and why I was reaching out to him. A few days later, his daughter sent me a Facebook friend request. I have sent her pdfs of the obituaries I received for Edna and her family, but am not sure if they were received and do need to follow up on that. Actually, I've sent pdfs to a few people and only heard back from one that they were received.

Also this week, I began to notice on my tree that there was some "Member Connect Activity" involving the family of my dad's first wife, Fern. Someone related on Fern's father's side of the family added documents to her tree, but also added the profile and pictures of my dad and his wives! I was so excited to see that! For so long, no one has had my family on their tree, so this was very cool.

We lost two legends this week, Eddie Fisher and Tony Curtis. Tony Curtis made an appearance on one of my favorite shows, The Flintstones. The Flintstones had a milestone anniversary this week - 50 years! To this day, I cannot find a cartoon that quite lives up. The creativity of that show still entertains me and to this day I record and watch it.

Happy 50th Flintstones! Funny, I had a 50th this year too, and so have/are many of my friends!