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My DNA doesn’t show that much Scots, but as they were recent immigrants to America, I have a very strong connection to my Scots heritage. Dad used to joke that we were more Irish than Scots, but Mom would point out that the correct hyphenation of our particular heritage was “Scots-Irish”. He would turn around and remind her that the Irish taught the Scots how to walk – by giving them wheel barrows.

I get to a point where I think I am close to finished, then I find more items that need to be scrapbooked or saved in acid-free archival sleeves. I ran all over town today trying to find the right sized scrapbook sleeves that are also archival and acid-free. (The ones I wanted were on sale at Michael’s, my last stop.)

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Above is the scrap book I am creating out of my mother’s scraps. I found more to go into it and I ran out of archival inserts – again. Ill have to run down to Michael’s tomorrow to get a second scrapbook and one more packet of the archival sleeves. Mom just became two scrapbooks (Well, three – I also possess the scrapbook she made for herself in the 1950’s). I tried to keep everything she saved although I did have to parse out a few newspaper clippings that made no sense at all in the timeline of Mom’s life.

When scrapbooking for the dead, honor their scraps. I don’t need her to come back and haunt me because I left something important out. She saved all that stuff for a reason. Right?

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Letters. Old letters, land deeds, Naturalization papers, wills… I need a second binder and more acid-free sleeves. These cover from the 1860’s when my Scottish ancestors immigrated and through 1992. I guess I have to include the letters I wrote Mom in 1991-1992 because she saved them.

There are letters from Newton Brown, Gertrude McDermid, George Andrews, and myself, not to mention Great Grandmother’s entire collection of Letters From Dale (I blogged about them – actually transcribed them – in 2015 if you care to search my archives). I can’t touch the letters from Dale without feeling Great Grandmother’s deep sorrow (it’s an Empath thing) as Dale died in the big Influenza pandemic of 1917. He had Scarlet Fever).

George Andrews and my mother had a correspondence going as George (a cousin) was doing extensive genealogical research in Scotland. Much of the information I have today is because of George Andrews.IMG_7127

The above scrap book is full of all the miscellania from Great Grandmother Melrose and Grandma Melrose. There’s nothing else to put into it, and while it is bulging, I feel to need to get a second albom – there are three empty pages in the back. It’s complete.

The box it is sitting on is full of the paper dolls (I blogged about them in 2013). They are the reason I bought an archival type scrap book in the first place: to preserve my mother’s childhood. I’ll need yet another scrap book and a ton of acid-free archival sleeves for those. With the nicer weather coming on, I can’t promise I’ll get that task done soon. It’s a rather huge task.

I’ll probably tidy up the family tree on the Scots side before I move on to the more complex side of the family tree: the Irish/English/Everything Else side. One thing I have learned from doing this bit of scrapbooking is this: I cannot do straight line genealogy. The family is too complex and cousins are too important to ignore. If I did straight-line genealogy, I would lose Great Uncle Dale (who died at the age of 22 and never had any children, but whose impact on the family overshadowed my grandfather (the younger son who survived and fathered three beautiful girls).

Great great Uncle Newt Brown alludes to a relationship with John Brown of Harper’s Ferry fame. Great great Aunt Gert was a half-sister to Newt and Great Grandmother Mary Brown Melrose, but her letters are influential.

It’s crazy (maybe) but I feel so rooted in who I am when I go through all of this miscellania. I only hope my children want to keep this history alive.

 

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“I know what I’ll do! I’ll put together that scrapbook of Mom’s memorabilia. She’s only been dead since 1995…”

I’ve been stuck in the Vortex for the past four days. First, there was the sorting out all the scrapbook materials between my mother, myself, my father, and my mother’s family (Great Grandma Melrose saved everything and her sister, Great-Great Aunt Gert was a prolific writer of letters to both my mother & grandmother). Mom was pretty good at collecting things herself, as am I.

As was my father, his mother, and his father’s mother. But I wasn’t dealing with Dad’s stuff just yet. Or mine.

I have scanned over 42 documents of varying size, from old letters to land deeds – anythng too fragile to take to a printing place and try to copy.  I use Scanbot, an App on my Smartphone. It allows me to scan multiple pages as .pdf files and will automatically send those to my Google Drive, inserting them in the folder I want. It does take a lot of time, but I’m not standing in a printing place, trying to unfold delicate documents and keep them from falling apart. Using Scanbot, I could take several photos, combine them, and save them. While they loaded to my Drive, I carefully put the documents into acid-free clear sleeves so they can be stored safely.

I also put together 98 pages of scrapbook – my mother’s clippings, saved poems, and loose memorabilia. I didn’t bother with the fancy scrapbooking they do nowadays: I scrapbook the old style, like my ancestors did. No special notes, just things of importance to my mother – and no judgment of what she saved. I’m talking about things she saved from the mid-1940’s until her death.

The land deeds were items Mom collected on various genealogical trips back to Wisconsin to trace her father’s family (Melrose). She also has copious notes she shared with a cousin & fellow genealogist who traced the family back into id-1500’s Scotland. That was no mean feat as the family preferred certain names: Philip Melrose would beget John Melrose who would beget Philip Melrose who would beget John… And often, one baby would die so they would reuse the baby’s name on the next son so there were two Philips in one family but only one who grew up to beget the next John (or two).

It gets further confusing because my Great-great-great Grandfather Philip Melrose married Euphemia Brown in Scotland before immigrating to the States. My Great Grandfather Philip Melrose married a Mary Brown, no relation to the afore-mentioned.

They often had very large families and often more than one marriage (I had to explain this to my husband who found that odd: the first spouse often died, so there was a remarriage and a blended family of half-siblings. My Great-great Aunt Gert (the letter writer) was the half sister of my Great Grandmother.

Genealogy is not just collecting the names of one’s ancestors, it is also about finding the stories. I’m fortunate to have a Family Bible handed down through the Melrose clan and the scrapbooks created by women – and men – who felt their history should be preserved. The collection of deeds and war records tells other stories. The letters, homey and warm for the most part, detail day-to-day events as well as the hobbies and interests of the people who make up my DNA pool.

Great-Grandmother’s brother, Newton Brown, surveyed much of Wyoming in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Great-great Aunt Gert had a U-Pick in Vancouver, Washington (and I am forever addicted to Boysenberries as opposed to any other variety of blackberries because she allowed me to just pick and feed my at little face). Great Grandmother saved every one of Dale’s letters, detailing his life in Oregon and subsequent death at Fort Lewis in 1917 (scarlet fever).

 

And that’s just my mother’s side of the family. That file cabinet in the photo above is the information I have on my father’s side of the family, dating back to the earliest ships to sail for the Colonies from Great Britain.

Oh, yeah, Mom’s side can be traced to the Mayflower as well. The Melroses were recent immigrants, coming here in 1860, just in time for the civil unrest to drive them to the wilds of Wisconsin (besides, the weather in North Carolina wasn’t fit for the Scots — so says a note that I scanned today). The first American John Melrose had to sign a document stating her would not choose sides in the war between the states.

I do need to sit down and work on the actual name-collecting part, where I fill in the blanks on a family tree that includes the names of half-siblings, second spouses, and distant cousins. But my brain is dead currently, and all I can do right now is bind everything up into scrapbooks and acid-free sleeves in a binder. I think I need a fire safe for the Wisconsin land deeds.

Mostly, I just want to get as much of this digitized as soon as possible.

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I am a collector of sticks. It’s a terrible habit, I see an odd-shaped, twisty branch on the ground and I am compelled to pick it up and bring it home. I pick up rocks, too. And interesting baubles. Often, my sticks get incorporated into something creative, but sometimes they just get hauled back out to the yard and tossed into a pile of other sticks I never quite found time for.

That doesn’t narrow down my inventory. It just clears out the ones that no longer spark a bit of “Hmmm…What can I do with that?” or “Wow, that looks magical!”

Take Mr. Leprechaun, for instance.

I painted him years ago, but never quite found the *right* place to display him. He doesn’t stand very well. Last week, I decided he’d look mighty fine hanging on my vintage mirror (which is actually a piece of something greater – I only found the mirror). A little wood glue and – TADA! (Yes, that is an old locker. I stole it from my son when he left home.)

The Dragon and her dragonets took a lot more work to put together than the Leprechaun – he’s just painted on a naturally curved piece of wood.

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Her legs and curves are a nice piece of wood, but her head is polymer clay. The nest is a half-shell of a large oyster, decorated with beads. The dragonets are polymer clay, but their shells are dyed silk moth cocoons. Beadwork added as decoration.

Again, she was created long ago and I never could quite figure out how to display her properly. Shutting her in a box never seemed right after all the work that went into painting, gluing, and imagining.

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Small cup hooks & a ribbon solved my problem.

All well and good, but the hardest one to deal with has been the shrunken head. I mean, how do you display a shrunken head?

How do you make a shrunken head in the first place? Carve a vague face into an apple and hang it up to shrivel and dry.

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The results can be quite amusing. I highlighted the head with flesh-colored paint, beads for eyes, and the seed pod of a tree peony painted to look a bit like a joker’s cap, glued to a stick wrapped with fake vines.

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I added the praying mantis and the pink blossoms this year. Don’t freak out: I had nothing to do with the death of the mantis: I found it in that state. I expect she laid her eggs and died of old age and exhaustion. I’ve had her preserved in a wee box for years until a week ago when I decided not only do I need to clean out things around here, but I needed to add her to the shrunken head. She’s heavily coated with clear nail polish as are the flowers (but I forget what plant they are from, only that they stayed pink when dried).

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I hung the shrunken head above my computer desk where she can smile at me while I work.

I used a tiny carabiner clip and a cup hook, then a pin to keep her hanging straight.

My husband is going to freak when we move out of this house and we have to fill all the holes in the wall. I’m like a sixty-year old teenager when it comes to hanging things on the wall…

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It’s not that unusual to have flowers in the Portland metro area by Valentine’s Day, but it never ceases to amaze and bless me when the first flowers peek out of the mud and from under the cover of old flower heads and un-raked leaves.

Don’t get me wrong: we try to keep the lawn leaf free over winter, but there are some advantages to leaving the leaves in the flower beds until early Spring, and most of those advantages are beneficial to invertebrates and insects. I’m not so fond of the local invertebrates (slugs are a garden pestilence in the Pacific Northwest), but I am extremely fond of the insect life harbored under those nasty oak leaves. I haven’t raked them out of my flower beds just yet (next week probably – I do have to stay a step ahead of the native slug population and the best way is to not provide them with hiding places).

We had two fifty-degree sunny days this past week. I got out and dead-headed all the plants I didn’t get to last Autumn. Again, I deliberately didn’t deadhead some things as they were still providing seeds to the birds. We gained a new sparrow family over the winter: the golden-crowned sparrow. I’m certain that the stalks of seed heads played a huge role in keeping them here over the winter. I also kept the insect suet well supplied and the hummingbird feeders full, although there were days we were lax in refilling the black oil sunflower seed feeders. In a word: squirrels.

We welcome the squirrels and even have a peanut feeder for them (and the scrub jays), but they are greedy and voracious… and obese.

Today was a good day. I’ve been under the weather, down, and feeling disjointed. That’s good for me creatively, but not good for me spiritually. Weeks of rain take their toll and being a confidant for struggling friends also wears on the heart (but I wouldn’t change that). I’ve managed to take control of my art studio and have been creating like a whirling dervish, but I *NEED* the out-of-doors to give me a reboot.

I was up early. I wanted to go walking, but I’d forgotten to lay out clothes the night before and didn’t want to wake my husband up (note to self: always lay out clothes the night before because I get up early and he sleeps late). I did eventually go on that walk. Something about the act itself that clears the mind, fuels the imagination, restores the soul… and leaves all the muscles drained for days afterward. The price we pay.

I finished dead-heading the garden afterward, having already accomplished half of that the other day. I made mental note about which flower garden spot to start weeding in on our next pleasant day. I put out nesting material for the birds.

Then I picked flowers from my garden, the very first blooms! Granted , I only picked four half-open daffodils, two stems of Forsythia, and a very vibrant wallflower (Erysithium linifolium). – but the first vase!

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(That’s a stock photo from Pixabay of a wallflower like mine).

So – Happy Valentine’s Day.

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I got to thinking about Mr. Tack today. I can’t say why, but maybe it came out of a conversation I had with my cousin’s wife about buying dogs from breeders. We both have done that and will continue to do so. We both believe in rescue dogs, too. What we don’t believe in is 1) puppy mill puppies and pet store puppies and 2) people who try to guilt you because you purchase a dog from a reputable breeder. There are reasons people shop for and purchase dogs from breeders.

There is no excuse for purchasing a dog from a puppy mill or through a pet store. Rescue a dog from a kill shelter. Rescue a dog from any shelter. Research and find a purebred or hypoallergenic breed and find a reputable breeder to buy from. Never let your dog go, even if you move away. This is a lifetime commitment (the dogs’ life. Or cat. Or horse. I’m guilty. Never again.

So, back to Mr. Tack.

Someone abandoned him in Paradise Valley, Nevada, in the mid-1960’s. We were between dogs. Our childhood pet had been hit by a car and killed: Butchy, the dog of seriously unknown parentage. Butch was a legend and not a dog to be replaced easily.

Mom was a dog lover and needed a dog.

Mr. Tack was a pestilence in the small berg of Paradise Valley. Dad was the Forest Ranger who occasionally went out there and connected to the residents and ranchers. He was apprised of the abandoned dog (this was during the 1960’s before most rescue animal groups existed). He coaxed the dog into his truck and brought him home to surprise our mother, who loved small dogs.

Fifty years later, I am surprised they knew Tack’s registered name, but they did. He was AKC registered Miniature Schnauzer, salt-and-pepper in coloring. There were no microchips and anyone could deny they still owned the dog, so he was basically quite abandoned. Mom welcomed him with open arms, but he was traumatized and did not adjust to our family life.

Dad returned him to the wild, abandoning him just like his previous owner. What else did you do in those days? Go shoot the dog? Well, yes. That’s what you did. It was the mid-1960’s.

Mom moped for about two weeks before she decided she wanted to give that dog another try. She couldn’t just leave him for the coyotes to finish off or some rancher to shoot him. He needed to come home to us. He needed to be Mom’s dog.

It was months before we saw any change in him. He moped. He didn’t bark. He just hung around.

Then, one incredible night, he howled.

I don’t remember if it was dark or day, only that he’d been out in the yard for a while and suddenly there was this long howling that started and drew off, then started again. Who called him in? I don’t know. One of us hurriedly begged him inside the house lest a neighbor complain. Oh, and they did – eventually.

It was that day or night that Mr. Tack declared us his family and my mother as his person. He barked. He howled. He talked to Mom.

“Arrr rarr roww rarr arr”

She talked back. They became best of friends.

Tack became one of us kids and I could go on about his exploits. He was funny, short-sighted, stubborn, and incredibly loyal. He got out “once in a blue moon” and ran the neighborhood (and my mother scolded anyone who called to complain our dog was in their yard because she was frantic to bring him home).

He left me high and dry after a summer of 4-H obedience training. County Fair 101: your mother’s dog will decide to fall asleep in the show ring. Thanks, Mr. Tack.

He tolerated every cat we introduced to the family but ate every lizard we tried to bring home and tame. He attacked the garbage man without fail. He bit anyone entering the house unannounced, including my father. He bit me when he was tired of me trying to get him to go hiking. He was a crotchety old man.

Mom paid to have him groomed but Dad occasionally disagreed and attempted to groom him: he ended up looking sort of like a lion. He regularly nipped at his regular groomer, Mrs. Butterfield. In retrospect, I would have bitten her, too.

When my mother was frustrated with one of us kids she’d call out, “Terry Jackie Denny Tacky”. Tacky was one of us.

He died after I left for college and I do not know where my parents buried him. I know my mother cried. He was smart, funny, obnoxious, vocal, purebred, abandoned, rescued, and a sibling.

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My best friend with Mr. Tack circa 1966.

He died in the mid-1970’s. I have a soft spot for Schnotzers (Schnauzers).

 

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February Aches… and Joys

I have been so achy and tired the past three days – so much so that I am thankful I do not have a job to report to because I truly would have just called in sick. I’m not sick, I just hurt everywhere and I’m so-so-so tired. I do not have an autoimmune disease but days like these halp me empathize with those who do (oh, and my thyroid is fine – I have it checked annually because of these episodes of pain and weariness).

January was a good month: I got up early to pray 5 days out of 7 every week. I spent 30-90 minutes each time communing with my God, telling Him/Her about my people, seeking wisdom, direction, inspiration, and praying for peace – not just my peace, but political peace, peace in this broken world, and peace in the hearts of family, friends, and strangers.

I accomplished quite a bit of decluttering throughout January. I started rereading a favorite saga (The Circle of Ceridwen by Octavia Randolph). I pruned the grapevine but forced myself to do no other gardening as February is often the coldest part of winter for us here.

And then.. Sunday morning. I slept until almost noon. I dragged all day.

I wasn’t much better Monday, except I managed to get out and buy necessary groceries and pay bills. I also managed to drop my debit card in the local grocery store – I didn’t notice until I was a a parking lot away at the liquor store. UGH. I had to hoof it back to the store and check at the Customer Service desk where, thankfully, my card was waiting for me. And hoof it back to the liquor store because I’m not driving across the parking lot when I can walk.

Last night, I fell into the easy chair and zoned into the television to finish a Norwegian series on Netflix (Ragnarok, a modern tale about a modern Thor, dubbed in English).

This morning, I got up early – and sank into the same easy chair only to fall asleep praying.

I felt so guilty. I’ve let God down. I haven’t powered through with my early morning prayer routine. I could not keep the vigil with Jesus (which is the argument the Church uses to make us feel guilty about our prayer practices – trust me, I “came of age” in one of those churches – hence the guilt).

Later, sipping coffee and scrolling Facebook (even though I told myself I was taking a break from social media), I stumbled across this meme.

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Tell me that didn’t accidentally happen.

Thank you, Abba.

 

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We met a couple at one of our favorite Brew pubs this evening and I think they changed my life. Well, maybe. Kind of an exaggeration. I just needed a really good intro line – and did I get you? If I did, please bear with me, because this is important in the flow of life.

The brew pub we met at is about 12 miles out of our small suburb city, in a rural setting. This couple said they were from our neighborhood in our suburb city, which makes it a neighborhood thing. Trying to follow directions we discovered they live just five houses from us along two streets (city blocks do not apply here). I recognized their house by description immediately: the Rose Lady lives there.

I met her many years ago when I was walking Harvey and I even recall her inviting me into her house. She had (has) an amazing 6×6′ rose garden in the middle of her lawn and the day I met her, she was bitching about her grandson not coming along to mow the lawn as promised. I commiserated with her as she was obviously quite old and needed someone to take care of her yard for her: white haired, short, frail. I fell in love with her.

The next time I had any contact with a person at that address was at a yard sale where the granddaughter was selling thins – and she assured me that the Rose Lady was quite fine & healthy.

Fast forward to tonight and our conversation with a couple we just met at Bent Shovel Brewery and their confession that he is the grandson of said Rose Lady and they just moved in to take care of her 98-year old self. She’s still quite feisty and still gets around pretty well albeit with a walker.

Small world. I have prayed every time I have passed that house: “Please let the Rose Lady be healthy and loved”…

When I was 13 we moved to Ely, Nevada. I had a hard time making friends, but I had my trusty blue Hawthorne bicycle that I rode in figure eights in front of our house for hours. There was a tiny old Basque widow who lived two doors over from us: Mrs. Soforino. She grew roses in her front yard. Amazing roses. she would cut a bowl-sized bloom off of one of her roses, call me over, and hand me the rose.

“You give-a this to your mother, yes? Tell-a her she’s-a beautiful.”

More than once. Many times. I fell in love with Mrs. Soforino.

When I was a senior in high school, she died. I’d never been to the funeral of a person I knew but here was Mrs. Soforino’s funeral at the local Catholic church during the school day.

I’m not Catholic, but I had a best friend who was and had attended many masses. I figured I could do this for Mrs. Soforino for all the roses.. I skipped school. They held mass and then six men carried a beautiful gold  casket down to the alter and out of  the church. My nemesis, the vice-principal of my high school was one of the pall bearers.

I didn’t stop there. I had purchased a single red rose and I followed the funeral procession to the graveside burial where I handed the rose to the son of the dead woman and hugged him. We cried. His sister hugged me. The vice principal shook my hand and whispered that he was her great grandson and I had an excused absence for the day – no questions asked.

I never learned the Rose Lady’s name. She has long reminded me of Mrs. Soforino and I have prayed for her over the years. I felt a connection, you know? Hey, maybe you don’t know – but you should. The elderly – our Elders – are our heritage, be they relatives or not. I was fifteen when I fell in love with Mrs. Soforino. I couldn’t work in a senior home, but I can love seniors. They brig so much to our lives, related or not.

The Universe gave me an answer tonight” the Rose Lady is 98 and well taken care of. I’ve become acquainted with her grandson and his wife and they have promised me that I will be invited to her funeral whenever that should happen (hopefully not for another 5 years or so). They have pledged to take care of those roses out front.

If I told you they want to retire in the same small town in Eastern Oregon as we do, would that not also be amazing?

Yup. Same goals. Same old Rose Lady in common. The Universe is amazing. God is amazing.

Maybe Mrs. Soforino just sent me a Gift of Passage.

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