Monday, May 20, 2013

Life is Busy


I can’t believe how long it has been since I last posted! I have been very busy between contracting for my former employer and painting; I will be the featured artist at a local restaurant in June.

Grant Park Home & Garden Tour
Our back garden was part of the Grant Park Tour on Mother’s Day weekend.  We spent several weekends before the tour doing all the things we would normally do over the course of spring/summer.  Exhausting, but worth it; we even got interviewed for an article in the AJC (although it only appeared in the online version). The garden looked lovely, and we spent two days talking with interesting people about plants, backyard chickens, and gardening in general. While our house wasn’t on the tour this year—you may remember we did this two years ago and it was a tremendous amount of work—we did have one person tell us they loved what we’d done inside.  Mr.Man jokingly told her that if we’d known she was coming we would have cleaned up a bit. Seems that with the backdoor open, she thought the house was on the tour as well.  She must have thought we didn’t take it very seriously as we were in the middle of doing laundry!

A Larger Flock
We added five hens to our flock a couple days ago, bringing us to nine. (This is bitter sweet, as we just lost our beautiful Ameraucana, Matilda.  We are not sure how she died; my daughter found her in the run with no apparent signs of injury.)  A good friend who is moving to Brooklyn in July needed to find homes for her flock, and we were excited to take a few.  So far the two flocks are keeping pretty much to themselves, with only Letty, our White Leghorn, moving between the two groups.  And, as is always the case, there is a little juxing for position, with one of my Reds asserting her dominance.  It is hard not to intervene when this happens, but as Mr. Man reminds me, we have to let them do what comes natural.

This is Ginger, a beautiful Ameraucana.

This beautiful lady is Beatrice, a Barred Rock, which I have always wanted.

Betty is a mix between an Ameraucana (which lay blue eggs) and possibly an Australorp (which lay brown eggs) this causes her to lay olive green eggs and she is often referred to as an 'Easter Egger'.

This lovely lady is Maude, she is a Lavender Orpington.

And this crazy-looking chick is Phyllis (those of you over 40 will get the reference). She is a Polish Crested hen who runs around like the Road Runner. 

They have spent the first couple of nights outside the coop—the first night, the above mention Red actually stood in the door to the coop with a menacing expression (I swear it’s true! She had her wings on her hips and I could have sworn I heard her whisper, “Make my day.”)—and as it was raining, Mr. Man and I had to quickly build a temporary shelter and roust for them. They slept there last night as well, even without Goldie standing sentry. They did make their way inside the coop today and things seem a little friendlier. We have some changes planned to the hen house and coop that should be taking place soon.

Goldie, a.k.a., 'The Boss'
Temporary shelter and roust

Friday, December 14, 2012

Rebound the Hound


It’s no secret that I love my neighborhood. I’ve lived many places in my adult life, but Grant Park is the only place where I have known the majority of my neighbors and consider many of them friends. This is the kind of neighborhood where people stop to chat while out walking the dog; where going to the neighborhood farmer’s market is as much about seeing and catching up with friends as it is purchasing wonderful, locally grown organic food; where you can run across the street to snip some rosemary from your neighbor’s garden or borrow a missing ingredient for the night’s dinner. So it is really no surprise that when the warehouse of our local pet supply store, Intown Healthy Hound, was broken into and robbed of approximately $30,000 worth of pet food that our community stepped up to help them out.

Thanks to the incredible efforts of friend and neighbor Phred Huber who organized a fundraising event last night at Hodgepodge Coffeehouse & Gallery and generous food, beer and wine donations from local restaurants, 5 Seasons Westside, Caramba Cafe, Dakota Blue, Home Grown, and Six Feet Under to name a few—there was someone who delivered endless boxes of pizza!—and many hardworking and enthusiastic volunteers, we were able to raise a good amount of money to start them on their way to recovering from such a big loss. 

It was a packed house as people milled around sampling food, listening to awesome live music, and talking to fellow friends and neighbors. And, when Phred announced we needed another $180 to meet our goal, people stepped up, opening their wallets once more to make it happen. It was inspiring! But our work isn’t done, if you live in Grant Park or one of the surrounding neighborhoods, please stop by Intown Health Hound to buy pet supplies and/or bathe your dog. And, please thank Hodgepodge Coffeehouse and the other wonderful restaurants with your patronage, and let them know how much we appreciate them and their efforts. It is truly amazing what a community can do when it pulls together!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Elusive Ezra Willis


Minnie Frances Palmer
I am a researcher at heart; give me a computer and a few free hours, and I can lose myself and all sense of time.  Over the last decade or so I have been fascinated and many times frustrated by researching my family tree.  In the first few years, I spent quite a bit of time in front of the computer, making connections, checking facts/sources, and sending off for public records.  I was able to establish a foundation of people within each of the major branches of my family from which to build on over the years.  There are times I hit a wall, and after many frustrating hours/days/weeks/months, I walk away for a time.  But, it is never far from my mind, and all I need is one hit, just one good bit of information and I’m back in, hook, line and sinker.  I sound like an addict... well, maybe I am just a bit addicted to genealogy. 

There is one person that I return to time and again, one who frustrates me above all others—Ezra Willis, my maternal grandmother’s father.  He was not a presence in her life, and on top of that, she didn’t like to speak much about the past.  When she did, she recounted stories that have left me baffled.  

My grandmother Rosa was essentially an only child; at least the only child born to Ezra and her mother, Minnie Francis Palmer.  There was another child, but unfortunately he didn’t live long, dying within the first year of life.  My cherubic great-grandmother had two subsequent husbands, but no further children. 

Rosa Willis
Once Rosa told my sister that she had had a brother and that they lived for a time in a boarding house in Chicago.  When it was time to move on, my grandmother’s mother (Minnie) didn’t have the money to pay what they owed, so she left her son behind in servitude.  According to my grandmother, she never saw him again.  Now the only son I can find, in all my years of research, is the son who died within a few months of birth.  See what I mean about baffling?  There is no one to confirm this story, not even my own mother who had never heard this before.  

My grandmother also told me she had a [half] brother named Eugene.  I even have a picture of them from when he visited my grandparents’ farm when my mother was still a girl.  Who was Eugene’s mother and did he have a family?  If so, where were they?  You can see how this might nag at someone like me.  I have been able to continue my research past Erza, finding his father and mother—Billy Willis and Almina Lavanway (I tell you this only to help in following along)—and each of their parents, and even their parents’ parents.  Finding a woman’s maiden name can sometimes be a challenge, as most often they are listed only by their married name.  But, they did sometimes give a son or daughter their family name as a middle name; this tradition has made my research possible. 

Eugene Willis and Rosa
So, why do I keep coming back to Erza?  Because I want to know what became of him—he was born in 1880; that really wasn’t that long ago.  Even if he only lived until he was sixty, it would have been 1940; you would think I would be able to find something about him.  And, I want to find my grandmother’s brother Eugene, whom she named a son after.  After his marriage ended to Minnie Francis, Erza seems to disappear.  The only grandfather my mother ever new was George Watson, Minnie’s third husband.  Even then she only knew him as “Grandpa Watson” (it took a bit searching to find his given name).  Thank G*d for the Federal Census, truly a genealogist’s best friend.

Recently, I have made what may be a breakthrough; although I hesitate to get excited—and definitely won’t add any information to my tree until I can do more work to connect some dots.  I have found an Ezra B. Willis who was born in Michigan (where my Ezra was born) around the same time as my Ezra.  This Ezra excites me (I know, I know) only because he had a son, you guessed it... Eugene!  

Ezra B. moved around a lot, which could explain why he’s been so elusive: from Michigan to Colorado where he married Edith (surname unknown) in 1909 and had a son named Clarence; then to Kansas where he married Rosemary Woodward in 1920 with whom he had Eugene (born in Missouri in 1922), Rosella, Joseph and Jesse; and then to Oklahoma where he married Catheline (surname unknown) and had two further children: a son, Billy (remember, Ezra's father’s name was Billy) and a daughter, Joaquita.  Eugene and Rosella are listed as living with them in Oklahoma in the 1940 Federal Census.  This was before birth control and men tended to have children well into their older years; Ezra is close to sixty at the time of the census and his wife is 23, just five years older than Eugene.  

So far there is more argument against this being my Ezra than for, like the fact that Rosa would have been 20 years older than him, but until I’ve exhausted all available resources, I at least have a possibility.

Dedicated to my grandmother: Rosa Mae (Willis) Otto, 1902-2001.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

What is a Father?


According to Wikipedia a “father (or dad) is defined as a male parent or individual progenitor of human offspring…[t]he verb "to father" means to procreate or to sire a child from which also derives the gerund "fathering".”  Is providing DNA truly what makes one a father…a “dad”?  Or is fathering more about nurturing a child, providing for them, encouraging and guiding them? 

On Father’s Day every year, I think about this relationship.  For me, a “dad” is not the progenitor of human offspring; he is the person who loves and cares for a child.  This stems, of course, from my personal experience; from my relationship with the man I called dad and the relationship my daughter has with my husband, whom she calls dad.  Most people who know me understand that when I talk about my dad, I’m referring to my step-father, Bill Paden; the man who loved me as his own, took me with him on gigs, helped me get my first job, taught me to drive, and walked me down the aisle. 

He had a ready smile, a love of music, and a great sense of humor.  I remember many a night accompanying my mother when he played the piano and saxophone with, first, Joe Penny and the Penny Pinchers at the Elks Club or local watering hole—somehow I always managed to be admitted—and later, with the Wind Jammers.  He would get lost in the music, pounding on the keys with abandon, eyes closed, foot taping, head swaying to the time of the music; always with a huge grin on his face…always.  People loved him; he was gregarious, outgoing, and friendly—he never met a stranger.  He also had a joke for every occasion and loved a good practical joke. 

He was not my father, but he was my dad.  I miss him.