We Are Family

Happy Throwback Thursday, friends!  One of the projects I mentioned working on prior to my most recent absence from the blogosphere was that I had uncovered some pretty cool genealogical finds within my family, and two in particular that I want to share today.  Now, I fully recognize what a boring subject ancestry can be, especially when you’re talking about someone else’s family, but I think if you’ll stick with me here, you’ll see that it’s worth the read. 

Honestly, when I started looking into my family’s history, I didn’t really have much interest in genealogy at all, but I took on a project following the death of my Grandma (who raised me and was really my mother).  I wanted to do something to honor her which would also help me deal with my grief.  She was really proud of her parents and siblings, so this seemed like the logical choice.  First, I researched and then designed a book that showed both Grandma and Granddaddy’s heritage and how each branch of their families relocated and such until the stars aligned for the two of them to meet.  Most of Grandma’s family started in England and made their way to North Carolina.  Many of Granddaddy’s family originated right here in America since his mother was half-Cherokee, and I picked up their trail in South Carolina.

The cover of the book I made

Grandma and Granddaddy met as teenagers in a small town in North Florida where she was born and had been raised and near the town where he was born and had been raised.  During my lifetime, neither of them seemed to know a whole lot about their own ancestors past the names of their grandparents.  That’s why this first cool thing I’m about to share makes me particularly sad that they aren’t alive anymore for me to show them…

I found numerous documents backing up the trail of where each family had originated and moved further south through the generations… And that’s when one particular document seemed familiar while I was researching her family… Because I had already seen it when I researched his family!  Turns out that Granddaddy’s mother’s father’s father’s father and Grandma’s mother’s father’s father were both residents of a small town in Georgia in the 1830s, and both were Privates in the same regiment under the same Captain in the Indian Wars there!

(Of course, it goes without saying, I don’t like the injustice to the indigenous people, and I don’t even understand it considering Granddaddy’s mother was half-indigenous herself, but how cool is it that their ancestors knew each other!)

(To add to the weird coincidences found throughout history, when I later did research for my next-door neighbor and made her family’s genealogy book, I found documentation where her 3x great grandfather sold land to my 4x great grandfather —  in a city approximately 200 miles from where we both live!)

Finally, growing up, I always knew Grandma – whose maiden name was Milton – was related to John Milton the poet (born in 1608), and we also knew she was not a direct descendant of the poet.  I was able to crack the code and find documentation to show how we’re related – with Grandma being the poet’s first cousin 9 times removed.  (That’s not the cool thing yet.)  Turns out the poet’s paternal grandfather had one son that was the poet’s dad, one son that was Grandma’s 9th great grandfather, and one son that was among those missing in the lost Roanoke Colony.  (Still not the cool thing yet.)

John Milton, the poet

Now, fast forward from 1608 to 1807 when another John Milton was born in Georgia.  This John Milton ended up being the fifth Governor of Florida during most of the Civil War.  (He was a very prejudiced man and killed himself upon learning that the South lost.)  Several sources claim this John Milton was a direct descendant of the poet John Milton, though I’ve also found some conflicting documents that seem to indicate he was actually the 5th great grandson of the brother (that was also Grandma’s direct ancestor) of the poet’s father.  At any rate, I think you can imagine that either way, we’re going back as many as ten generations from Grandma’s children to wherever they and the Governor John Milton’s family meshes together.  (Now we’re finally going to see the other cool thing.)

Which is why it’s so strange that being separated by a few hundred years, a couple of continents, and a few generations, Grandma’s son, my own Uncle David, is the living doppelganger to the aforementioned governor!  What do you think?

The governor is on the left and Uncle David is on the right.  The truth is, if Uncle David wasn’t wearing the hat, his hair and hairline at the time he was that age also looked exactly like the governor’s, but the only other non-hat photos I had of him at that age were of his profile.

(I have to admit, as strange as this is, I can’t take credit for actually discovering it.  Uncle David was up at the Florida State Capitol Building and, while waiting for his wife, stood in the corridor minding his business when some tourists came up to him and wanted to shake his hand.  They told him what a magnificent actor the state had selected in portraying the former governor.  Uncle David was perplexed until he looked over his shoulder and realized he was standing directly in front of a portrait of his cousin the governor.)

Let’s talk:  Do you know of any unrelated people who met long before their descendants also met?  Do you have any family members who look just like another distant family member?  Do you think Uncle David should try to pick up some extra income standing around the State Capitol building portraying the former governor? 

Checking In

Greetings, friends!

I hope and trust you are all doing well.  It’s been a while since I last blogged, and at the time, I’d been discussing some of my life’s new changes.  One of the changes since that time was that I started taking chemo pills for my Lupus, and they made me so sick and sore!  I was on them for sixteen weeks, and they were causing me so much pain, I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t walk well, and it was excruciating to use my hands.  About six weeks in, my rheumatologist actually increased the dosage because she thought the Lupus was the problem, not the medicine.  But I became much worse over the next ten weeks, so she took me off everything except the drug that protects my organs, and I got Cortisone shots in my shoulders and wrists.  Fast forward a week, and I’m currently feeling the best I’ve felt in the two years since I was diagnosed!  There’s still a bit of pain, but it’s not nearly debilitating as it once was.  Anyhoozle, I’m not here to focus on that today, but rather to share some cooler things…

I mentioned the time before last that I’d been working on decorating the new house (as well as remodeling, renovating, remediating, etc.!).  From my medical status mentioned above, you can probably guess that I’m growing increasingly frustrated that this project hasn’t moved along faster than it has.  I’ve got several rooms in various stages of repair and decoration, and I have several art projects in various stages of completion.  Two of them will require a trip to the beach for sand and shells to complete, so I’ve been quite anxious to feel good enough to venture out.

Today’s post will just feature a few of the projects that have been finalized.  Nothing as far as the remodeling is completely finished yet, so I don’t yet have before/after photos of that hard work.  Anyway, here goes…

As you can probably be able to tell from my living room, Joanna Gaines is my hero!

The only clock that is actually running is the red one.  Actually, they’re not all clocks:  One’s a barometer, one’s a thermometer, and one’s a hygrometer.  The other clocks are all set to different “secret codes.”  (The codes aren’t that secret, and in fact I’ll share them with you now:  They’re set to birthdates of all of us in the house and a couple of important anniversaries or dates to remember.)  Above the clocks is one of those 1990s shelves they call “dust catchers.”  I intend to drywall that closed, but we’re considering leaving a secret door when I do and putting a time capsule inside since the wall is themed with time.

The initials are also for the people in the house, myself, my sister Michelle, and my son Jeremy, the “C” is four our last names, and the four is because we have four cats  The four was white when I bought it, so I painted it and added the diamonds.  The “C” was orange, so I painted it.  My sister’s “M” was purple and wood colored!  That was a little trickier to paint.  Jeremy’s “J” was a lot rustier than I wanted, so I cleaned it up quite a bit.  And my “R” was plain white.  After I painted it grey and sanded it to grunge it up a bit, I covered it with chicken wire to give it texture.  (Don’t worry; it’s nothing psychological like I feel caged. LOL!)

This bit of work was a bit trickier.  I went to the library and copied an old map book of the area where my new house is.  (Back when this map was printed, my yard was actually part of a large phosphate pit!)  I then printed the map sections out in red and, here’s the tricky part, I made the canvasses.  My sister cut the wood for the frames (I hate using the chop saw!), and I stapled then gessoed the canvas to the frames.  Then I painted them black, ripped the edges of the maps, and Mod-podged everything.  And to finish it off, the old-fashioned key is where my house would be built a couple of decades later.

Moving on to my bedroom, it has (or rather will have) a writing theme.  Or, as I like to call it, a “writerly” theme.  [WARNING: THIS PART MAY ANGER SOME AVID READERS.  Because I have transferred my library almost exclusively to digital, I gave away a bunch of books a few years back, but I saved some favorites, knowing I’d be using them for art.]

This “R” above is made out of “Gulliver’s Travels.”  I got the initial idea from this “W” on Pinterest, but I didn’t want the flower, so I had to rack my brain to think how I could theme it to the book.  That’s when the giant nails and string hit me like a ton of bricks.

This copy of “1984” is mounted on a board, and, no, the camera mounted on the book is not real.  (Though it’s funny how many people are actually tricked by this.  What’s not funny is that when I explain that it’s just art, more often than not, the people I’ve come across then have a vacant stare because they don’t realize why a camera on a book is art.)  The backboard is just covered with book pages and a few of my favorite excerpts are outlined in black paint.

If you can’t guess from this one, it’s “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.”  The roof was a bitch to make!  I used comic book collecting backer boards to cut the individual circles, but I should have used card stock.  The thickness of the material made it difficult to work with.  I glued cut out book pages to the circles, then painted a black wash over them, then painted the edges of each “shingle” and attached them all to another backer board to make the roof.  I don’t know if you can see it well in the photo, but there’s a little bird on the roof, and a cat and a lantern in the upstairs windows.  The fence is partially whitewashed and partially dirty, and that’s Tom’s fishing pole waiting to be used on the left.  For the base of this, I actually glued sand to the wood.  (I was going to use sandpaper, but it was a little too small.)  The “grass” is floral moss.

Finally, here’s “Alice in Wonderland.”  I used the 2, 5, 7, Queen and King cards because, if you know the story, those are the key players.  I don’t know if you can see everything on the teacups, but there’s a flamingo, a key, a keyhole, a “Drink Me” vial, a white rabbit’s head, a tag that says “In this style 10/6” and a pocket watch with the numbers going counterclockwise.  I wish I wouldn’t have spread the embellishments all around, but placed them where you could see them all from the front.  I didn’t think that through at the time.

Well, that’s all for today, friends, but I hope to be back soon with some more updates as well as to check on all of you.

Let’s talk:  Would you deface a book in the name of art?  (Do I really want you to answer that?)  Have you created anything that hangs on any wall in your house?  If so, what?  Do you know why the camera is significant to “1984”?

The Storm

Greetings, Friends!

I hope you’re all doing well! According to my most recent blood tests a couple of weeks ago, I’m still in an active flare that has been going on since “at least September” according to my rheumatologist. She’s had me on a couple of rounds of major steroids on top of the daily steroids I already take, and they seem to be helping somewhat. At least my sed rate number is getting lower and closer to “normal” (which means less inflammation).

Since May is Lupus Awareness Month, I wanted to share a quick bit of info as well as a poem I wrote which will explain what I’ve been up to behind the scenes (besides completely overhauling my blog — Please feel free to take a look around and tell me what you think of all the changes and new stuff.)…

Lupus Awareness Wolf

Lupus is Latin for wolf. In the 18th century when lupus was just starting to be recognized as a disease, it was thought that it was caused by the bite of a wolf because of the distinctive rash characteristic of lupus. (Once full-blown, the butterfly-shaped rash heals from the inside out, leaving a bite-like mark.)

“THE STORM”
By: Rachel Carrera

Streaks of light stagger across ebony space,
Jagged lightning followed by the crash of thunder,
The roaring, rolling, rumbling sounds race;
In their wake, remnants of life split asunder.

The storm that rages often spins out of control,
It’s a fiery, ferocious, fierce beast,
A tsunami that crashes and crushes the shore
And demands to be free and unleashed.

All signs of life seem to be gone from within
As the cyclone swirls showing no mercy,
Causing an emotional collapse and tailspin,
The result of internal controversy.

This storm that I speak of is not in the sky
But within the confines of my person;
The disease that ravages me can’t justify
Why it causes my symptoms to worsen.

Whoever said once that life is unfair
Really did quite a disservice
To all who suffer this hellish nightmare;
I can’t think of one soul who deserves this.

Just getting through a day is so stressful
And feels like I’ve been fighting a war,
And looking in the mirror has now become dreadful;
I don’t recognize my own face anymore!

The pain with each step shoots fire through my limbs
As I place one foot in front of the other;
And the throbbing that causes my head to spin
Leaves little hope that I’ll ever recover.

But the pain is nothing compared to the dread
Of the horror that could be in my future,
Of organ failure causing my life to ebb,
And disfigurement from my abuser.

I throw up each day, though I never lose weight,
And my hair falls out by the handful;
I just want this storm to not be my cruel fate
And not extinguish my hope’s flickering candle.

This beast steals my sleep so I can’t even rest
While this battle continues inside;
My immune system is now in a state of protest,
Like an avalanche causing a landslide.

Even the slightest cold now kicks my tail
As germs stay with me like a cloud cover;
A sniffle, a cough causes a vicious gale
And I take weeks, sometimes months to recover.

I haven’t even mentioned the rash that I get
From where my disease gets its name;
It resembles a wolf’s bite, not letting me forget
To add something else to my shame.

But the thing that propels me through each passing day
Is knowing so many more have it worse,
And the lost prospect of their illnesses going away
Makes them feel like victims of a curse.

Their neuroblastoma, their Alzheimer’s, and
Their Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis,
Their aortic aneurysms, swollen lymph glands,
Their Huntington’s and cystic fibrosis,

Their cancers, their famine, their anguish and sorrow
Make my lupus feel suddenly diminished;
If they can dare dream of waking up tomorrow,
Then maybe my life’s not yet finished.

So I hold tight to my flickering hope’s candle in the wind
As I seek out a ray of bright sunshine;
And far in the distance and around the bend,
I can almost make out a dark coastline,

Where the waves come crashing as they roll on the beach
As they beat on the shore with their fury;
Suddenly, the horizon feels almost within reach,
So I force my broken body to hurry.

When I get to the dark shore, the sun starts to rise,
And the waves relax some of their mad thunder;
The faint glint of sunlight that now shines in my eyes
Gives me hope that I won’t be pulled under.

A slight brightness follows the gloomy eclipse
As the downpour now wanes to a drizzle;
No longer does life seem like an Apocalypse;
It renews hope that my symptoms might fizzle.

Despite my sore muscles and pain in my bones,
My frequent fevers and inflammation,
And the many medicines that mess up my hormones
Yet promise to be my salvation,

I am told by my doctor when this flare goes away
That I’ll soon have more good days than dreadful;
And blue skies will at that time replace all the grey,
And I can finally slay this cruel devil.

So I’ll take cover now as I wait out this monsoon,
Keep my vigil even if I collapse,
Keep my eye on the sunlight instead of the moon
And have faith that the squall will elapse.

*~*~*~*~*

So let’s talk: Did you know where lupus got its name? Did you notice I’ve been working behind the scenes to revamp my blog? What have you been doing?

#LupusAwareness

The Raven

While I was dealing with all the health issues I had this year, I was so exhausted at times that it was all I could do to make it to work.  Even reading was too much for me to handle.  Needless to say, I haven’t been as productive as I’d have liked, at least until the past couple of weeks.  However, to try to keep my writing mojo going, and at least stay in the mindset of writing, editing, reading, creating, etc., I redecorated my writing desk area with a writerly theme in mind.  (Actually, I overhauled my entire living room / dining room with the writerly theme, but I’ll save the rest to show you another time.)

desk

As I’ve shared before, my décor is a late 1950s / early 1960s motif, so I tried to keep that going while adding literary touches.  You’ll note the books on the top shelf include an old school dictionary, thesaurus, and volume library.  (Of course, they also include the “Chicago Manual of Style,” Stephen King’s “On Writing,” and Chuck Sambuchino’s “Guide to Literary Agents.” Though those aren’t vintage, they are good to have around.)

books

My mouse pad as well as my little statuette features The Raven from my favorite guy, Edgar Allan Poe.

nevermore

IMG_0433

My printer is just the best investment ever!  I’ve definitely made use of printing my manuscripts in a different font than I type in then editing the hard copy.  It makes a huge difference seeing your work on paper as opposed to digitally.   This model is reasonably priced on Amazon (more reasonable than I’d have ever imagined), and the laser cartridges are under $30 which is less than I used to pay for ink in my old inkjet!  Better yet, a single cartridge prints around ten reams of paper with no quality problems whatsoever.

laser printer

I found these cool plastic envelopes at The Container Store to hold the manuscripts I print while I’m editing them.  (They’re great for carrying them back and forth to work to peruse during my lunch hour.)

editing envelopes

And finally, my awesome sister Michelle got me a subscription to Writer’s Digest as well as Poets & Writers.  Both are very cool (though I favor WD by far), and they both have lots of useful information that make them worth keeping after I read them.  (Those actually go in another one of those cool plastic envelopes once I’m done with them.)

Writers Digest, Poets & Writers

Anyway, thanks for visiting me at my house today.  As I’m starting to get my energy back, I hope my creativity will start flowing again and I can think of more interesting things to blog about.

So tell me, what do you have in your writing nook, and what keeps you inspired?

I Like Mike

From Antananarivo, Madagascar
To Stockholm, Sweden,
There’s no rhymester better
Than the poet Mike Steeden.

His lovely wife Shirley
Is his best friend and muse;
She’s also on his book’s cover –
Now that’s exciting news!

The humor in his book
Will truly make you convulse;
So go pick up a copy of
Gentlemen Prefer a Pulse!

Not only is it amusing, but
Its brilliance will make you think;
To purchase it, just click below
On the Internet hyperlink.

I got to help Mike with his cover
And formatting for publication;
It was so much fun, I wish I could
Make that my life’s vocation.

It’s a good gift for the holidays,
And looks great in gift wrap;
And I promise you it’s far better
Than this, my own rhyming crap.

(As promised, here’s that internet hyperlink: http://www.amazon.com/Gentlemen-Prefer-Pulse-Poetry-Lunacy/dp/1517436478/ref=la_B015WAUW8C_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1446143038&sr=1-1)

Okay, so as the poem said, I was honored to recently assist my buddy and yours, Mike Steeden, in getting his first book of poetry, Gentlemen Prefer a Pulse, published.  It comes in both Kindle and paperback versions, and features over one hundred magnificent poems by his highness, Sir Mike.  As you can imagine, the poems are not unlike those on his blog… filed with brilliance, lunacy, humor, wit, and WOW!

Of course, Mike did all the really hard work by writing it, but I contributed a teeny-tiny bit by designing the cover and formatting the paperback version.  We searched high and low for a photo that I could manipulate for the cover art, but when we selected the perfect photo, we couldn’t authenticate its owner to request permission to use it.  (A few sources said it was a French postcard circa 1920, but we couldn’t be sure.)  So finally, Mike was able to dig up a photo of his lovely wife, Shirley, taken on the Cob at Lyme Regis (the same spot they used in the film The French Lieutenant’s Woman).

Gentlemen Prefer a Pulse

When I saw this, I fell in love with the scene, and just knew it would be perfect.  So I did a little Photoshop magic, and voila!

Gentlemen Prefer a Pulse

So to conclude, GO BUY THE BOOK!  (You won’t regret it.)

Thanks to Shirley!

You all know how much I adore my our blogging brother, Mike Steeden, and his hilarious skits, not to mention his remarkable poetry.

Well, what you may not know is that his lovely wife, Shirley, is equally as amazing!  Shirley doesn’t blog with us, but I interact with her on Facebook regularly.  She’s got a terrific sense of humor (which she’d have to have to be married to Mike), and I really wish we could get her to join us out here in Bloggyville.  But I digress.

Anyway, last month, she posted this wonderful little gem on her Facebook wall, and I just knew I had to share it here with you.  Thank you, Shirley!

Let’s talk:  How many of these odd words did you ever think of prior to reading this poem?  Can you think of any more?