Thursday, December 30, 2010

Crazy Windy

Yesterday we had another huge rainstorm pass through. It rained long and hard. Once the rain stopped, massive wind kicked in. The wind was so strong it reminded me of the wind in the city I grew up in. Growing up, it would be so windy that our backyard fence would blow over on a regular basis. The wind was also so strong growing up that I can remember walking home from school once, into the wind, and then suddenly laying on my back on the ground. Yeah, I blew over!

Last night, according to some news reports, the winds were gusting at 60 - 70 MPH in some areas. I'm thinking it was gusting almost at that speed at my place. I began to hear the wind and the trees blowing and for a moment thought it was rain. I then went out to my patio and noticed that the tarp draped over a patio chair (thanks to painters that never picked it up) had blown off the chair. I should tell you that the patio, where not fully enclosed, is pretty enclosed and generally protects from the elements. I knew the wind was strong when I saw that tarp on the ground.

Flash back a few years ago. Rain and winds were the norm and one night while sitting on above-mentioned chair in rather enclosed patio, I began to hear an eerie sound that I can only describe as "scraping". I looked around and noticed that all of the tall and huge trees in the complex courtyard were moving back and forth in the wind and thought that the scraping sound must have been the trunks scraping against the awnings of the upstairs units. This noise and weather continued throughout the night and in the wee hours of the morning, I recall being stirred out of my sound sleep by a noise. I immediately fell back to sleep, but when I did get up that morning, got ready and began to head out, I noticed that a very tall palm tree had crashed to the ground, with the top of the tree laying on the ground outside my bedroom window.

So, last night, I heard that same "scraping" sound while in my kitchen and did open the sliding door to the patio to listen. I didn't hear anything at that point, so I was really unable to determine just where that sound was coming from. This morning, as I was hitting the snooze button on my alarm, I became aware of the sound of work going on outside. The loud sounds of saws and power machines and noisy vehicles. I kept thinking, "what the hell are they doing so early?" The city I live in has an ordinance that states loud work cannot begin until 8am, yet this was well before that.

When I finally did get up, shower, feed the cats and get coffee, I opened the kitchen window blinds and saw the cause of the early morning noise. A huge tree in front of my kitchen had blown over, completely blocking the street. It landed on two cars parked across the street. No one was hurt.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Update on Bessie

The Christmas Holiday has come and gone. Actually, it seemed like it snuck up on me quickly and was over in a blink of an eye. I can't say that this year found me with the holiday spirit at all. I don't like feeling that way, as I've always loved holidays, and this one in particular.

My grandmother, Lola, had an older sister Bessie who died in 1976. Once I had a copy of her obituary, I began searching for the named survivors. In this case it was her two "nieces" Lillian and Grace. From my research, I was able to determine that Lillian and Grace were nieces by marriage, but I feel that they felt more like blood relatives (my speculation here). After hours of research via my favorite on-line tools ( and, I was able to gather names and begin the search for living descendants. I found them and did reach out. I did hear back from a great granddaughter of Grace who put my sister and I in touch with her aunt and after a few messages back and forth, communication stopped (probably due to busy schedules).

We also reached out to Lillian's grandson (or who we believed was Lillian's grandson). Several months after sending a message, we heard back from him! Lillian was his grandmother and he has an aunt living in Illinois that does know about "Aunt Bessie" and believes she has pictures of her (she is in possession of Lillian's pictures)!

I am so excited about this! I'm so hoping for pictures and to find out what she may know about Bessie, as from what I can gather, Bessie had a long history with that family. I have always believed that someone, somewhere knows about my grandmother's family, even if it is only information about individual family members and not the entire family saga. I am beginning to piece together the saga myself, except of course, for Lola.

More to come on that as the grandson said he'd try to find out more about the pictures this coming weekend! That should be a cool way to start the new year indeed. A little over a year ago, I didn't even know about Bessie and now I might get pictures and more information about her life.

As excited as I am about this, I still do not know any more about Lola, thanks to the brickwalls. The other drag here is that my goal was to find out what happened to Lola and translate that into a really interesting book and then be on Oprah (probably a goal shared by many). This really interesting book would also tell the stories of Lola's family members as they have turned out to be quite fascinating (in my opinion), especially my great grandmother, Effie, as well as tell the stories of the journey and the people I've met along the way. I thought it would be so cool to have everyone that I've found who descends from my grandmother's family, on that episode. But, not to be. Imagine my horror when I found out that the current shows are the LAST shows. Need to now rethink that goal!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Song of the Week - 21

So another long period of time has come and gone since my last "Song of the Week" post. Actually, too many periods of time are passing in between any posts lately. This past weekend went by fast (as most do). Friday night started off with a fabulous Christmas dinner party for the department I work in. It was a very nice evening. Besides that, the weekend found me sleeping, working on cleaning up a few of my images so that I can relist items in my Etsy shop, listing a few new prints, running errands. Then suddenly it was Sunday night. Where does the time go?

I am so much more aware of time now that I'm older than I ever was when I was younger. Does it truly go by faster as we get older, or are we just more aware of it? Am I at an age where I'm aware of the fact that I don't have "all the time in the world" and now it seems to be slipping away? I'm surely not the only one that wonders about this.

So Sunday evening as I was sitting on my patio, this week's song popped into my head. It probably did because I was in the midst of wondering where the hell the weekend went! When I went back into the house, I did an Internet search of the song and just couldn't believe that it was recorded 40 years ago! Wow. I remember being a kid and hearing it on the radio. I also remember my older sis having an album with this song on it. I can't really say if it was the debut album or if she had a "best of", but I do remember hearing it on the radio, her album playing on the console stereo and singing this song. Dare I say, it is timeless!

How can it be that I am now eligible for AARP, and nowhere near where my teen self would have expected me to be in life. Somehow, through the years, I lost touch with the dreams of my teen self and fell into line with the "norm" - get a job, blah, blah, blah. It's been OK as I've earned money and made some good friends along the way, but it hasn't been heart driven, and therefore, does not make a happy person. I rather, just go through the motions daily and feel depleted. I really need to make changes and soon, as time waits for no one (to quote The Rolling Stones)!

What would I really like? I would really like to draw, paint, write, find my grandmother, print on fabric, and get paid to do this. Oh, and be happy at the same time. I don't think that's too "out there" or too much to ask for. Just need to figure out how to make that a reality. I also hope that what I create in pure joy, brings that to others. In the meantime...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Great Uncle Paul

My grandfather, Red, was one of many kids. He was the son of James and Hattie. In addition to Red, James and Hattie had four other sons (George, Harry, Ralph and Paul) and one daughter (Lillie). James and Hattie divorced and both remarried. Hattie then had another daughter (Edna) with her second husband and a son (Joe) with her third husband. James remarried and I believe had more children, but I haven't quite confirmed that yet as I really have focused on Lola's family.

Having coming to a point where I'm not getting tons of information on Lola, I thought I should now focus on Red's family. I can't help but think that someone on that side of the family must have pictures of Red and Lola but just don't know who they are. I have some old pictures of Red's and don't know who all the people are, after all, so I have hope.

I knew that Red's younger brother, Paul, lived in California. Like his brothers, Paul was born in Illinois but at some point moved to California. From what I can tell, he spent his years in California (or at least most of them) in the northern part of the state. I have always heard of Paul, and the one story in particular that my dad used to tell. When my dad was young, he was going to a job interview and needed a nice jacket to wear, but he didn't have one. Red gave him one to wear and my dad really like that jacket. Apparently, Red took the jacket back and gave it to Paul. My dad was really bugged by that.

Prior to my now year long "journey" to the past, I pretty much knew Paul's name and the jacket story and that was about it. A few months back, I started going through memorabilia of Red's that I now have. He kept pictures and newsletters from the company he retired from. I also have his funeral book (he died in 1956). One day while looking through the guests listed in the funeral book I noticed "Paul, Bertie and family". I realized that was Paul because I had found Paul on the 1930 census living in San Francisco, California and married to a woman named Bertha (Bertie). They had been married for two years according to that census. Since the 1940 census has not yet been released, I haven't yet found names of the possible children of Paul and Bertie.

I then started looking through the company newsletters Red had and I suddenly noticed Paul's name with his team (he was a supervisor at the same glass manufacturing company Red worked for). I recognized him immediately from some of the photos I have of Red's with the people I couldn't identify. That was so exciting. I finally found a picture to associate with a name I had heard in the past. Funny thing is that I had flipped through those newsletters several times, but just never noticed this until that one day. Funny how that works.

Bertie died in Oakland, California in 1958. Paul died in San Leandro, California in 1971. For months, I kept thinking about ordering their death certificates in hopes of learning names of children so that I could try to find them. I considered ordering Bertie's but thought that Paul surely would have been the informant as the surviving spouse, so it was always in the back of my mind that I should order Paul's death certificate. That thought hung out in the back of my mind until Thanksgiving when I printed out the order form from Alameda county, filled it out, wrote the check for $14 and dropped it in the mail.

I got Paul's death certificate two days ago. When you order these vital records, you're really taking a chance as we know that the information is only as good as the informant. In other words, not all informants may know important facts. This was the case with Paul's d/c. Death certificates always have the names and places of birth of parents. Paul's parents names and birthplaces were unknown. The informant did know that Paul was a supervisor at the glass manufacturing company and had indicated he had been in California for 32 years. I know that isn't correct as that would mean he came to California in 1939. The 1930 census was my proof that that information was incorrect.

The d/c also listed Paul as a widower, which tells me he never remarried after Bertie's death. The informant was a Mrs. Cronin of Oakland, California. So, just who was this Mrs. Cronin? I wonder if that may have been Paul's daughter or a lady friend perhaps. However, if it was his daughter, wouldn't she have known the names of his parents? Hmm, maybe I will order Bertie's death certificate. Maybe one of the children did act as informant, and/or maybe the informant knew the names of her parents (something to build upon).