~ from cats, dogs and nature to the flowering of body, mind and spirit ~

Friday, May 11, 2018

Road Trips and Ancestry

On a recent road trip to visit family in Virginia, traveling from St. Louis, Missouri, and heading east on I-64, I decided to research the counties we would be driving through to identify which of our ancestors might have lived in those locations. We had fun reading about our ancestors and the locales. I'm sharing the following because I thought it might give others some inspiration as well -- why not invite your ancestors along on your travels?



In Washington County, Illinois, our 2nd great-grandfather John William Frederick was listed with his parents and siblings in the 1860 census for Richview. John was age 11 at the time and had been born in Pennsylvania. His father Valentine Frederick had emigrated from Germany and was working as a saloonkeeper in Richview.

Perry County, Indiana, was the home of our 5th great-grandfather Henry Rhodes (who had been born in Kentucky, just across the Ohio River), his wife Elizabeth Barnes, and their seven children. Their son Thomas married Monica Alvey before moving to Missouri. Both Henry and Elizabeth died in 1863.

As we drove through Shelby County, Kentucky, we read about our 4th great-grandparents Mary Guthrie and Jacob Bilderback. Mary had been born about 1760 in County Cork, Ireland, immigrating with her parents, and married Jacob about 1786 in Kentucky. They had at least five children and it was their granddaughter Rebecca who, in 1854 in Indiana, married our 2nd great-grandfather Robert Tribble.

It was in Cabell County, West Virginia, that our 4th great-grandparents James Lemay and Nancy Hughart were married. Nancy's great-grandfather had emigrated from Ulster, Ireland (he was Scots-Irish) and one of Lemay's ancestors had emigrated from France early in the 18th Century (Pierre was likely a French Huguenot). In Greenbrier County, West Virginia, family tradition provides a wonderful tale about our 6th great-grandmother Ann Morris Maddy Parsons (our ancestors are from her first marriage to James Maddy). Seems she was a tough and independent woman, and, during one trip across the mountains and the Shenandoah Valley, Ann was accosted by a man intent upon stealing her money. However, she turned the tables on him and sent him over a cliff ... the same one he was going to toss her over after stealing her money. It is also said that, "in later years she went by the name of Granny Parsons. She was a midwife and a practical nurse, and was always perfectly fearless, riding a big black stallion, going on her errands of helpfulness at all hours. People in the scattered settlements of those days, hearing the thunder of flying hoofs in the dark hours of the night would say, 'there goes Granny Parsons to help someone in trouble.'" She is said to have lived to the age of 104.

Then, of course, there's Virginia. Like many Americans, we have a lot of ancestors who arrived first in Virginia before eventually migrating across the continent. For instance, in Augusta County, our 5th great-grandfather Captain Gilbert Christian (of Scots-Irish descent) had three sons who were prominent in the early community and the family received a 1,600 acre grand in 1739. In Albemarle County, we have our 6th great-grandfather John Small who emigrated from Scotland in 1724. Then, in Goochland County, we find our 6th great-grandparents John Salmons and Naomi DePriest, the descendants of early 17th Century immigrants (from England, Ireland, and France).

Our family imagined and talked about what the journeys for our various ancestors might have been like, too; after all, they were venturing into wilderness whereas we had a paved highway. We traveled in two days the distance that would have taken them weeks if not months. Can you imagine?!

Friday, March 30, 2018

Writing and Perseverance

So most of my family and friends know that I'm a writer. Writing is a primary focus in my life and I take tremendous pleasure in doing so. In spite of setbacks and rejections, I keep on writing because I enjoy the process (even the hard parts of the work) and feel compelled to put the stories and ideas in my head down on paper. I study in alternation with my actual writing, always attempting to learn more about my craft. That said, it's often difficult and even depressing at times to keep creating.

In those times when I'm feeling dejected, I'm relieved that I maintain strong habits for support and inspiration. One of those helpful resources is listening to podcasts about writing; they are an easy way to feel like other people share my pain ... and I can listen while I'm cooking or cleaning or doing other household tasks.

Phew. Okay, that was a long-winded way of getting to the point, which is to share a new podcast that I just found and am delighted with. Specifically, Episode 111 on The Creative Writer's Toolbelt with Andrew J. Chamberlain, titled "Do you know what your book is really about? Cutting through the noise with book coach Jennie Nash."

Nash left me feeling like I really was part of a tribe. She pointed out much of the hard work and obstacles that writers have to overcome in order to bring a complete book into the world, and I definitely felt less isolated. They are similar for any writer, not just the famous authors making beaucoup bucks in their deals with the big publishing houses.

For instance, a ton of people like to write but only a small number of them actually get past writing the first few chapters because it can be terrifying and overwhelming, from the fear of what others might say to the complexity of organizing the material into a coherent whole. And, for Indie authors (whether you shop around for an agent and/or publisher first or go directly to independent publishing), add to that the need to even do all the legwork of visual composition from formatting and layout to cover art and then uploading the product to an independent printer. I'm not great at any of this, but I've done it, not once but six times, with at least five more manuscripts in the pipeline. And those of you out there who are writers, you know what I'm talking about.

So, if you're feeling a bit discouraged and need some inspiration to keep writing, I recommend The Creative Writer's Toolbelt. You'll feel much better after listening!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Lower-Class

I've spent a significant amount of my time these past three years in researching my family history, which includes studying American history. How could it not? Many books have helped me along the way, some of which I've noted previously, and here's another one that rakes the muck from one's eyes: White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg.

BRILLIANT. RIVETING. DISTURBING.



Now, granted, every author has their own agenda when writing a book, whether it is fiction or non-fiction, because each of us is seated within the context of our own lives and culture. That should go without saying, but it seems to be a missing piece of modern dialogue ... so I say it upfront. Nevertheless, I found Isenberg's White Trash riveting.

Using class as the lens through which to view American history opens up an important perspective regarding the society we live in now. It's easy to say "oh, sure, we all know that the poor have been and are looked down upon" but this book brings the reality home in a more visceral and disturbing way. We need to see and FEEL the shadow side of our own history if we want to continue evolving our society for the betterment of all humans, all life.

Most of us were taught the pretty image of the first colonists in Virginia and Massachusetts, those seeking religious freedom or increased fortune. And, yes, they comprised a portion of the early population, although some statistics reveal them as less than fifty percent of settlers. The rest? They represented "England's opportunity to thin out its prisons and siphon off thousands; here was an outlet for the unwanted, a way to remove vagrants and beggars, to be rid of London's eyesore population." These were children as well as adults. The indentured masses were fodder, most of their offspring filled the same niche.

I'm an American mutt with a solid 350-years of ancestral footprints embedded in the soil of this continent. My roots go deep, the bones of thousands of my ancestors are buried here, their blood spilled across the land as they toiled, migrated, gave birth, fought, and died. Many of those ancestors are the ones that the elites and upper-classes would have referred to as white trash, rubbish, rednecks, hillbillies, and more. As time and settlement expanded, I would guess they were often like the individual who "though coarse and ragged in his dress and manners ... at times described as hospitable and generous, someone who invited weary travelers into his humble cabin. Yet his more favorable cast rarely lasted after the woods were cut down and settled towns and farms appeared. As civilization approached, the backwoodsman was expected to lay down roots, purchase land, and adjust his savage ways to polite society--or move on." Unfortunately, many of these woods-families couldn't afford to buy the few acres they had been living on, barely getting by. I can imagine this is one of the reasons my ancestors came to Missouri when it was opened up to homesteading in the early 19th century -- it was their chance to own land, even if some of it was thick woods on rocky ground suitable only for subsistence farming.

For hundreds of years, if one didn't own land or property, you were inferior. As Isenberg sums it up: "The British colonial imprint was never really erased either. The 'yeoman' was a British class, reflecting the well-established English practice of equating moral worth to cultivation of the soil." How is that reflected in our so-called modern society?

This book provides a wealth of insight about the American class system that has been present from the beginning and still exists, whether we want to see it or not. Surely we can do better.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Death Comes Suddenly

Phoenix - June 18, 2006 to January 27, 2018
The following was written in sections through the years; it is provided here as a memorial to our happy-go-lucky Phoenix, who died Saturday, January 27, 2018.
# # #
What a little treasure! He's the newest canine addition to our family, having been adopted at ten weeks old on August 27, 2006. This little guy was very mild-mannered and an absolute joy to integrate into the rest of our dog and cat family group. As you can see from his puppy photos, his ears took longer to come up than Pooka’s did! It had been six years since I had a puppy to raise so I totally loved every single minute -- even his crying when he was in his crate!

    The decision to get a Cardi pup instead of a Pem was not easy; we had considered another Pem from Pooka's breeder (because we love Pooka so much) earlier in the year but the timing of that litter wasn't right for us. That inadvertent delay allowed us to revisit our concerns with the process of docking dogs' tails and, therefore, provided us with the opportunity to get a Cardi instead for our second Corgi. We love our Pooka to pieces! However, we decided to try a Cardi and see what their personalities were like, as we already loved their appearance as well. I'd been told that they're a bit more mellow in some ways than the Pems, so it was extra fascinating raising our little Phoenix.
    Initially, I contacted Cardi breeders just to meet the breed and not to get a puppy! HA! Silly me ... as if I could do that! And Ron thinks Corgis are the best dogs ever so he was no deterrent at all. Interestingly enough, although I was thinking last Spring that we ought to get a boy puppy whenever it happened, when I talked with the Cardi breeder, I asked if they had a girl available (just curious, of course). They did and so when I was driving up for a visit, my mind was on possibly getting a girl puppy...even though I knew that I needed to keep an open mind about the girl and the boy that they had available. And wasn’t really intending to get a puppy at all right then. As it turns out, the minute I met Phoenix ... I was lost ... I fell head over heels in absolute love with this charming fella! LOL The girl, while a real cutie-pie, was not the personality I was seeking and I wasn't drawn to her the way I was to Phoenix -- and him to me. I felt Phoenix was meant to come live with us.

    Phoenix' registered name is: Blue Wagn Maxillaria Phoenix. The "maxillaria" part is in honor of this being one of the "Orchid Litter" for the breeder Lucybell Roessiger; I went searching on the internet and found there is an orchid called Maxillaria phoenicanthera that is a lovely golden color with a touch of white. It seemed appropriate since we had already chosen his name as Phoenix.
    As most people know, the Phoenix, originally from Egyptian mythology, is a sacred 'firebird' with extremely long life who can be reborn after its death (immortality and resurrection); it is believed by some that this myth derived from the "death" and "rebirth" of our planet's Sun during a Solar Eclipse. The Phoenix' plumage is bright gold and red as it is historically a Sun Bird; depending upon what source one reads, the plumage can also include purple and azure. Everything came together in perfect synchronicity for both our adoption of Phoenix as well as his naming. Ron is the one who found and liked the name Phoenix...and as soon as he suggested it to me, I knew instantly that it was perfect for our new little boy. 
# # #
    Phoenix has grown up so fast!!! He's a sweet, lovable, mellow, charming fellow; while he loves a good romp in the yard and thoroughly enjoys our long walks, he's also already becoming quite the couch potato and will settle beautifully on the couch or a dog bed. When he gets excited, though, he loves to nip the heels of Morgana and Chiana...which they dislike, of course! And that can start a ruckus! LOL While Phoenix and Pooka are still not “buddies,” Pooka at least now tolerates Phoenix. Phoenix has learned to retrieve as long as I stay excited about the game. And he rides in the back seat of our KIA (when he was little, he always rode with his harness on - secure and helped with training), while Pooka still rides in the front passenger seat. 
    From the very first, Morgana (our Smooth Collie) took on the role of 'nanny' to Phoenix (just as she had with Pooka) and they're great playmates for each other; she was incredibly gentle with him when he was so tiny, although now they play quite a bit rougher together. Phoenix was a remarkably easy-going chap to get along with even as a 7 month old puppy. At  a little over 6 months old, I couldn't stand the separation at night any longer and so finally allowed him to sleep on the bed - oh how he does love it still! 
    There is a quite humorous essay written called The Truth About ... Corgis and my, oh my, is it ever true! While I’m a total Corgi Convert (sorry Collies, but you’re too big and have too much hair for this woman to want to deal with anymore! LOL), I have to confess that there are so many truths in that essay, including, the line that these dogs “have a tendency toward something called megalomania”. Much in this essay describes perfectly the relationship I see between Phoenix and Pooka (although, to be honest, it describes Pooka's temperament more than that of Phoenix). I mean, come on, is the bone the other dog has REALLY all that much better?! LOL Phoenix has been seen to put three bones in his mouth at one time in order to keep them away from the other dogs, while Pooka sounds like a rabid Badger trying to steal one or keep it away from Phoenix! I could go on and on about this behavior which is at one time completely hysterical and at another can be annoying as all get out (when one is trying to concentrate).
    Anyway, suffice it to say that we adore Phoenix and trust that he will bring us joy and laughter for many years! LOL
# # #
     The move to Arizona in 2011 was easy for Phoenix; he doesn’t seem to care where we are as long as we are all together and enjoys our long walks together. As he matures, he is getting a little more bossy with Pooka as they jostle for alpha position, but otherwise he is still extremely easy-going, enjoys brief snuggles and exploring new sights. Phoenix and Pooka could usually be found sharing the same bed, blanket, or couch, or lying next to each other in the yard or on the floor, in spite of their sometimes contentious relationship. When Pooka died in September 2014, it was clear that Phoenix mourned the loss of his long-time buddy, so we did our best to help him through the process.
Pooka (L) & Phoenix (R)
    The move to Missouri in 2015 was also simple for Phoenix. He truly takes everything in stride, with good humor. He has always been fantastic -- and patient -- with the little stray Chihuahua (named Widget) that we had adopted in February 2014. Phoenix has never been aggressive (even when play-scrapping with Pooka); it’s not in his nature. He might try to be possessive of toys, but never in a violent manner like some dogs. Not a cuddle-dog (brief cuddles suited him but not longer), Phoenix needed to always be in the same room with me but as long as he could observe me, that was enough for him. The herding instinct in him emerged as watchfulness, rather than the need to control.
    Sadly, in November 2017, Phoenix was diagnosed with Lymphoma. We chose to keep him as comfortable as possible for as long as we could maintain a good quality of life for him (usually, the time frame for this cancer is fairly rapid in dogs). By mid-January, we sensed his time was approaching when a decision would have to be made. However, Phoenix really took the choice out of our hands; during the last week of January, he seemed to go off his food a little and was more tired, and then, Saturday morning about 2am, his system basically crashed. It was clear that an organ had ruptured (or something similarly sudden) and he was in rapid decline. I scrambled to locate a vet that would make an emergency house call for euthanasia and found one. By late evening, within less than 24 hours of his collapse, my sweet, gentle Phoenix was gone.

Phoenix (with Widget in background)

    I am having a difficult time coming to terms with the loss of Phoenix since he was not even 12 years old; I had expected him to live at least a couple more years as he had always seemed so sturdy, healthy, and hardy. But, we just never know, do we? One would have thought that I had thoroughly learned that lesson; Phoenix is my 8th dog to die in my arms

Monday, January 22, 2018

The Feel of the Forest

Have been reading the 1905 book Spirit of the Mountains by Emma Bell Miles, of Tennessee (many of my ancestors, far more than half, migrated from Appalachian TN, KY, and NC to MO), and found this paragraph particularly resonant as well as lovely:
"We who live so far apart that we rarely see more of one another than the blue smoke of each other's chimneys are never at ease without the feel of the forest on every side--room to breathe, to expand, to develop, as well as to hunt and to wander at will. The nature of the mountaineer demands that he have solitude for the unhampered growth of his personality, wing-room for his eagle heart."

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Tale of a Tortie

Well, this cold-snap, otherwise known as a temporary deep-freeze, made our stray female cat brave (i.e., desperate) enough to come to food in a carrier so that I could get her to the vet to be spayed, etc. This pretty Tortie was left behind by the previous owners of our house, and once our cats had settled in, not to mention the dogs, she made herself quite scarce these past two-plus years (we only caught the very occasional glimpse of her in the woods). We're pretty sure that Bojangles (our rescue from this past summer) is her kitten. However, no more kittens for her -- and no more being stalked by Tom either! Abundant food, fresh water, and more tolerant cats-in-residence means we may now have another member of the family; we'll see how it goes.
Stray Tortie
Mr. Bojangles

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