Sunday, January 30, 2011

My Mom and Age Related Macular Degeneration

Several years ago, I made a personal journal for my mom. At the time, my dad was in declining health and so was my aunt Sadie, my mom's remaining sibling. I felt that this might help her escape the stress of her day-to-day life. I took a book and gessoed all the pages and then water colored them. I added pictures and captions on all the pages to help get her started. I also collaged and personalized the cover for my mom. When I first gave to her, before my dad's death in 2005, she started writing in it. Then life took hold, and the writing stopped.

Today, my mom called and told me she came across that journal I made for her. She looked through it as best she could (with the magnifying monstrosity we got so she could read and view pictures) and said she wanted to revisit journaling.

This is big because my mom has not only been experiencing the decline of her vision over the years, but has had a hard time recently expressing herself. When she tries to relay a story, many of the words just escape her, making it hard to understand what she's saying. Now this isn't a new thing, yet her doctors seemed oblivious. She had an appointment with her doctor on Tuesday and did mention to him her concerns about her memory. The doc immediately set her up for an appointment with someone else to do an MRI on her head. That won't be until March, but it is progress. I still will never understand why this took so long (short of me not going with her to her appointments) but it appears that it is giving us all hope.

So, when she called me today, she said she would like my help in writing more in her journal. I was so excited to hear that. We will now be able to go through her book and she can tell me the stories and I can transcribe them for her. She also said she found two books that she would like to be able to read. I told her I'd get them on CD so that she can listen to them. This was HUGE. I am so happy that getting an MRI has given my mom hope. I am just not happy that it has taken so long to do and that I haven't been more persistent with her doctors.

Otherwise, I spent this weekend cleaning. It's funny how clutter can be so stifling. I am surrounded by clutter. I did not inherit the house cleaning gene, so I decided to spend most of the weekend on early spring cleaning. What a difference that makes. I also worked on some paintings and made four bracelets today.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Effie and Ellsworth

Gotta love those old fashioned names. My very interesting great grandmother, Effie, did apparently marry a younger guy named Ellsworth. From what I can find, he may have also been known by his middle name, Elmer. I'm not sure when they married, but they are listed as such on the 1920 census. Of course, later that year (after the census) my great grandparents, George and Effie, were divorced. I just love the mysteries of my family.

In my search for Lola, my grandmother, I will try just about anything, so I decided to order Ellsworth's death certificate from the state of Illinois. He outlived Effie by three years. She died in 1931 and he died in 1934. Obviously, Effie wasn't going to be the informant on this, but I had a hope that maybe his daughter, Georgia, was. You see, according to Effie's obituary, one of her survivors was a daughter "Georgia". This was in addition to other children survivors, Lola, Bessie, Wells (Bill). Interesting fact is that Wells (Bill) wasn't actually mentioned as a survivor, but rather his wife was. Her other son, George, was not mentioned in the obituary.

Georgia was not the informant on Ellsworth's death certificate. It was his brother Albert, who died in 1940. Ugh. I spent a good portion of today trying to search for Georgia, but just haven't been able to find her yet, as far as I can tell. I did find three newspaper articles from Decatur ( and one was an announcement from 1920 about the birth of a daughter for Elmer and his wife. Could that be Georgia?

The thing that doesn't quite make sense is that in 1920 Effie and Ellsworth were living as husband and wife according to the Census. Ellsworth doesn't have what I consider a common name, but could there have been another Elmer with the same last name in the same town that became a father? Who knows. Effie did have an interesting life. I don't believe she was the mother of Georgia, but haven't even looked into that only because I don't believe she was. I just can't imagine that she would have had a child at 50 back in the 1920s. That seems to be more of a modern day thing.

I do believe is that Effie and Ellsworth (Elmer) did share a love of booze. Both had on their death certificates cirrhosis of the liver as either a cause or contributing cause of death. I really need to make that trip to Illinois to do better research.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Carving and Block Printing

It has been a while since I pulled out the carving block and lino cutters but I was seriously in the mood. Since it has been a while, I opted for a simple design. I drew a vase with flowers on a table right on the block and began to carve away.

As I was carving, I decided to add more detail to the design. This added detail may or may not end up as a part of the final product. That is what I like so much about carving - the end result is often different that the original idea.

I drew the design with my trusty Pitt Pen brush marker and was a bit surprised to see the ink smear as the blade came in contact with it. This was the first time I used a Pitt pen on the printing block and wasn't expecting it to smear so much. I have used Sharpies and pencil in the past and both smear, but not to this extreme. I'll post pictures when it's done.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

New Year, New Paintings

With the arrival of the new year, I have decided to really spend some time focusing on art and marketing my work. On Sunday, I spent time working on the below mixed media pieces, but I also learned (thanks to my good friend Kelly) how to add my Etsy Shop to the sidebar of this blog and how to put together an Etsy Treasury (I expect to have that finished this week)! A Treasury is a "member-curated" shopping gallery and a way to create lists of items you like as well as promoting those sellers.

Kelly even encouraged me to set up Skype so I could see her walk through the various steps of setting up a Treasury and she gave me tons of helpful hints! This was so helpful and made setting things up go so much faster than us just trying to talk it out over the phone. Kudos to Kelly!

The other thing I did was create a Facebook page for my Etsy Shop. When I began to "Create a Page" in Facebook for my shop, I followed the really easy instructions and then entered the name of the shop, Cat House Prints. Much to my surprise, Facebook would not allow me to use that name. Apparently something to do with the word(s) that might be offensive! I laughed because anyone using Facebook knows that there is a lot of "potty mouthing" going on there, yet "Cat House" might be offensive! True, cat house is an old term for a brothel, but it is also a house where cats live. Needless to say, I called it Kris' Etsy Shop. Not so clever, I know, but at least that wasn't offensive. I now have to enlist Kelly's help again to add the "like" button for that page on this blog.

The elements of each mixed media piece were cut from paper and colored with color pencil and brush markers. The canvas boards were painted. Then it was time to attach the pieces to the canvas board with gel medium.

Once the gel medium dried, I then went in with more paint, pencil and brush marker for added details.

The next step is to list them as prints in my above-mentioned Etsy shop. I also have a few other pieces in the works that I plan to list - building the inventory.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Reflecting on 2010

Happy New Year! Every new year, I feel simultaneously excited and melancholy. I'm excited about the coming year and the opportunities to grab hold of. However, I am always melancholy as I reflect over the year and what didn't happen for whatever reason, or things that did happen that were not on my list. So 2010 is no exception.

I started 2010 optimistic. I was deep in my search for my grandmother, and I decided that I needed to take some creative workshops. I did take some creative workshops - drawing, soldering, metal etching. They were all fun and well worth it.

I also began to get quite good at researching my ancestors and finding living descendants of them. That was both scary and exciting. I reached out to several and that has proven valuable. To date, no one I've established contact with knows anything about Lola. I found the living people once I found obituaries. I would then search on-line obits and Facebook. I even found someone via her website. I have received some pictures of two of Lola's brothers and am anxiously awaiting pictures of Lola's father, George!

In summary, the living people I've been lucky enough to find and establish contact with follow:

NM - A fourth cousin of my dad. She is a descendant of great great great (is that right) grandmother Leah. Leah was the mother of Wells and Wells was the father of Effie (my very interesting great grandmother) and Effie was Lola's mother. This woman had been searching Effie's family for her tree and gave me a lot of information that I was then able to run with.

WP - Her grandfather Adolph and Lola's brother William (aka Bill) were both adopted by the same family in Iowa. Turns out, WP and my sis and I were all looking for Bill. Bill outlived his first two wives and was survived by his third wife. Once I had the names of the wives, I began the search and found three people.

Bills' second wife Edith had a brother Arthur. Arthur had a son Charles and a son AS. I found Charles' obit and found his daughter via Facebook. She gave me contact info for AS. We have talked on the phone and I have sent him pictures. Will need to re-establish contact with him in the new year.

Bill's third wife Ann had a sister Ellen. They were very close. Once I discovered (thanks to WP's detective work) that Ellen was now gone, I found Ellen's daughter and had the opportunity to meet her earlier in 2010. We shared stories and pictures and she gave me pictures of Bill and Ann. She also sent me some pictures from their wedding day. Turns out, AS and Charles were in the pictures.

LB - Lola's brother George died in 1968. He had lived in Chicago and my sister thought it would be good to search newspaper archives for Chicago to see if we could find an obit for George. Score! We did and it mentioned George's daughter Betty and her husband. I then searched for Betty and her husband (Google search) and found Betty's husband's obituary. The kids were listed and a Google search led to LB's business website. I called her on Easter Sunday! I know that was a call that truly caught her off guard but we remain in touch via Facebook, as I do with WP and some others I've yet to mention.

BB - BB's mother was my dad's aunt Edna. Edna was Red's younger sister. I was going through boxes of photos that I had taken from my parents' home and came across a Christmas card. This card was from Edna and contained a handwritten letter. In this letter, Edna mentions her daughters, Edna Mae and BB. Well, I immediately googled them and found that Edna Mae had passed away in 1999 just a few months before her mother Edna did. I found BB on Facebook and made contact with her. She has pictures and I can't wait to meet her and go through the pictures. You see, her mother Edna lived in (or was visiting) my grandparents in Iowa in 1920 and was on the census that year as being in the household. I know some of the old pictures I do have of my dad as a toddler came from Edna.

GJ - GJ's mother Rosetta and Lola were first cousins. I was doing some research via Findagrave and began to find Rosetta's family in the database. Rosetta's mother Grace, was Effie's sister. My sister and I reached out and have established contact with him. I was able to send him several newspaper articles on his mother and his aunts. He also offered to escort me to cemeteries when I make my trip to Illinois. I was supposed to go in 2010, but really wanted to make contact with people before going. Now that I've established contact with several people, I need to wait until the spring when the weather is more conducive to travelling.

MD - MD's paternal grandmother was Effie's sister, Edna. I knew from the obituaries of Effie and her parents (Wells and Emma), that Edna and her family lived in Laramie, Wyoming and that one of Edna's sons, Everett, died in 1943 in Northern California but was buried in Wyoming. On a whim, I searched the message boards for Laramie and Cheyenne, WY and found that someone had posted an offer to take pictures of headstones in cemeteries there, so I replied. Well that was a good decision. This woman Kathy not only took photos, but went to her library and found obituaries for Edna, Edna's husband and other family members! She was just amazing. One of Edna's daughters had a son who lives in Southern California. I found him on Facebook and sent him a message. His daughter MD contacted me and we are now in touch.

LB - Lola's father George remarried a woman named Grace. I'm not exactly sure when they married but do know that they were on the 1930 census as spouses. Grace was a widow and mother of two daughters, Katherine and Mary. One day I began a google search of Mary and much to my amazement, I found an on-line family tree that gave the name of Mary's daughter and her sons! I couldn't believe my luck. I found then one of the sons on Facebook and one on Ancestry (he had the start of a family tree). My sister reached out via Ancestry and I did via Facebook. Contact was made and LB and I have emailed and talked on the phone. She just sent me an email and told me that her cousin (Katherine's daughter) found an old black and white photo of "grandpa"! I can't wait to see that!

DL - Lola's sister Bessie married a man named Ben. I am still trying to determine when Ben died but did begin to focus on Ben's family. Bessie's 1976 obit listed two of Ben's nieces (Grace and Lillian) as Bessie's survivors. I began to focus on them and found tons of articles and names. That led to my finding a great granddaughter of Grace and a grandson of Lillian. Contact and communication has been happening, but slow. DL has an aunt in Illinois that knows of Bessie and thinks she has pictures. He is going to look into that!

So, eventful researching, yet still nothing on Lola. I have hope that someone knows something.

I also took a business trip in July to the Gulf of Mexico. I spent one week in Pensacola, FL and one week in Mobile, AL. That was busy and interesting. The other work thing that happened was I stepped into a new role, one that I've struggled with. I was quite content with my previous role and was looking forward to expanding that.

I finally listed items in the Etsy shop I opened in 2009! So far, I've only had two sales and must now focus on marketing so that I can get more sales. I also need to list more art as right now I don't have much in my shop.

I also made contact with some cousins on Red's side of the family. They also have pictures, so I can't wait to go through those. They just might have pictures of Lola and do not know who she is.

Towards the end of 2010, three of my contemporaries (a former co-worker, the son of a colleague, and a high school classmate) died. This hit me rather hard and has really made me think about my life and consider how I must make changes in order to really live life and not just "go through the motions". I am becoming more aware of the fact that I don't have my whole life ahead of me any longer and need to stop wasting it.

I also had a milestone birthday. I turned 50! Had a blast really. Some friends threw a fun-filled birthday bash for me. I haven't had a birthday party in so long that I really enjoyed it. I forgot how much fun they are.

Overall, 2010 was good. Many discoveries and challenges. I keep reading that everything is in right order. This is in spiritual literature, by the way. So, does this mean that my work challenge is supposed to be? Does this mean I was just too complacent and this is going to make me take inventory of my life? I think so.

Here's to looking forward to 2011 and what it has in store for me.