“Pooch Finds a Home”

I’ve been thinking about, pondering, mulling over, etc., writing a new blog post. Everything but actually writing it. I was at a bit of a loss as to where to begin, as I didn’t expect to be in this place.

To be frank, my love of genealogy took a few hits over the holidays. I am still in a bit of a slump. Reassessing why I’m doing this and for whom. I think it’s beginning to feel fun again, in fits and starts, but there’s just not very much wind in my sails.

So, I think I’ll ease back into things and tell you about the story of Pooch…

A while back, my mother gave me a stack of notebook pages clipped together, with a story written in my grandmother’s hand. It was the beginnings of a children’s book about the dog that came to my mother’s family one Christmas Eve, when Mom was still a little girl.

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I thought it was pretty cute story, and I remember my Mom talking about Pooch often, so I thought it would make a fun gift for my grandchildren.

Nanna Wells didn’t finish her book, though; she only completed Chapter One and had a sentence or two of Chapter Two. What she did have, though, was enough, so I ran with it.

The work on the story was fairly straightforward. I’ve read a LOT of children’s books in my life and knew where I wanted to take the story line.

But, then things nearly came to a stand-still. It only took about five minutes to realize that I was woefully inadequate to the task of illustrating a children’s book. And, what’s a kids’ book without illustrations?

Boring, that’s what it is.

I didn’t even know what illustration style to use! Just go look at any random handful of kids’ books, just look at the illustrations, and you will quickly see exactly what I mean. There is a HUGE variety of styles of illustrations, from simple line drawings to complete landscape scenery paintings, and everything in between.

So, I did what I always do when confronted with my ignorance: I checked out a few books from the library and dove in. Chibi-style illustrations seemed the easiest style with the shortest learning curve, so that’s what I decided. After all, I wanted this book done by Christmas and didn’t have an endless amount of time to make that happen.

I drew out my little doggie poses on paper, scanned them, and then used Photoshop Elements to clean up the drawings and add watercolor effects.

Here’s the cover:

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And, here’s the first page:

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And, here’s a picture of its debut:

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I think they liked it; I know I did.

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My Nanna

My mother’s mother, Vida Bula Gard Wells, known to me as Nanna, had a huge influence on me growing up.

She was a formidable woman in both body and spirit.

In body, she was a life-long corset/girdle wearer, so her hugs weren’t soft, but rather like hugging a tree trunk. In her later years, she permed and colored her hair into a curly red cap that didn’t move. I never saw her in pants; she was always in a dress with stockings and proper shoes.

In spirit, she was determined, strong, and smart. She attended normal school and became a teacher. She held a steady job through the Great Depression, while my grandfather was self-employed, and the family depended on her regular and sufficient salary. In 1935, she drove herself, her mother, and my 14 year-old mother across the country to Kansas at a time when most women didn’t have a driver license, let alone their own car.

She was born in 1896, and married my grandfather in 1920. She was 24; he was 19. I suspect this caused a bit of a stir.

She was a terrible cook, but thankfully, she often took us out to eat when we visited.

For lunch, we went to the five-and-dime, where I would get a club sandwich (Three slices of bread! Bacon! Little toothpicks with red, yellow, or green cellophane toppers! Bread cut into triangles!).

For dinner, we would all get into her big car and she would drive us to LA’s Chinatown, where we always went to the same restaurant. It was fabulous! A dozen or more different, and to this country girl, exotic, dishes arrayed out on the table. Egg drop soup. Chow mein. Little cookies with messages. Almond cookies with a single slice of nut in the middle of their crusty tops.

She was a life-long member of the Methodist church. On Saturdays, she would arrange the flowers for the next day’s service, and I often was allowed to tag along. Strangely, I don’t remember ever attending a service with her.

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I loved her, but I do wish I had loved her better. I miss her now.

Pooch Finds a Home

A while ago, my mom gave me a stack of yellowed note papers, clipped together. It was the beginnings of a story that her mother, my grandmother, scribbled down years and years ago, the story of their dog Pooch.

I knew right away that I wanted to make this into another book for my grandchildren, so I was eager to get home and begin. The first chapter told the story of how Pooch came to live with my mother’s family; the second chapter had only scant beginnings, but was about the friends Pooch had in his new neighborhood.

There was plenty of story in what was Chapter One to round it out to become a single story/picture book. So, that’s what I did!

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I came away from writing this book with a MUCH higher esteem for children’s book illustrators. Go take a quick gander at the artwork in a random illustrated storybook, and then think about the work, imagination, skill, and dedication it took! Amazing!

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The photo above is my mom, Bula Helen Wells Keene, with her beloved Pooch.

‘Til next time!

A Quick Update

And, here it is: my long-wanted DAR certificate.

I am so happy with this, as it wasn’t easy to get. But, more so, I’m so pleased that my mother and my daughter joined with me. We have consecutive national numbers, three more generations in this family where each generation, as far as I can go back, has served this country and its military. The freedoms we enjoy today came at a cost to someone’s family and loved ones. I don’t want to take that lightly.

And, it fulfills my homage to my Nana, who influenced me greatly as I grew up. She was an amazing, strong, rather fearless woman. I loved her deeply. I only wish I had done this while she was alive. I know it would have meant much to her.

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So, thank you, Nana, for helping me to see that who my people were in the past is what has shaped who I am today.

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The Long-Lost Birth Certificate: Found!

I’ve been working on gathering all the necessary paperwork, i.e. birth, death, and marriage, for me, my parents, and my grandparents. One of my goals for 2016 is to join the Daughters of the American Revolution, and these certificates are necessary. I was able to get copies of everything, except for two: birth certificates for my mother and her father.

My grandfather was born in South Dakota in 1901, and his birth was apparently never registered there. I do have an affidavit written by his mother 39 years later, attesting to his birth. I’m not sure yet if this will suffice for the DAR.

As for my mother, well, it was quite the run-around! I ordered it with several others from the Los Angeles County Recorder’s Office, for $28. For my $28, I got back a letter saying that there was no record of my mother ever being born in LA Co., and that I should request it from Shasta Co.

Shasta County???

We had always been told that she was born in LA, in the newly renovated maternity cottages that would one day become part of LA County Hospital. Shasta Co. made no sense whatsoever. My mom and siblings were just as puzzled.

It was about this time that I noticed that on My Heritage, on the record page for Mom, was the California Vital Records Index, saying that sure enough, she was born in Shasta Co.

So, I spent another $38 (for the certificate and the online electronic payment service charge) to order said certificate from Shasta Co. And, for my $38 I got back a letter saying that there was no record of her having been born in Shasta Co., and that I should try the state vital records in Sacramento.

Grrr….

Turns out, genealogy can be expensive!

But, yay! This story has a great ending!

I’m just back from a visit with Mom, and guess what she has had all along? Yes, her birth certificate from the city of Los Angeles! The city! Not the county. So, perhaps, if I had begun my search at the state level, I could have saved a bit of money.

Or, if Mom had remembered that she had it, tucked away in her lock box… but, that’s another story.

This photo below is of my new-born mother, with my grandmother, at the maternity cottages in Los Angeles. I am amazed that in 1921, someone took this. Now, it’s common place, but this is the only photo like this I have among thousands of family pictures.

I think it’s lovely.

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