So excited…

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In recent year, I have been working on my family tree.

When I grew up, I knew none of my extended family. My father left when I was three and, aside from the day he came to sign papers to allow my step-Dad to adopt me, I saw hide nor hair of him until I was 25 or so. Even after he dropped back into my life, he was very closed-mouth about his family. Aside from the odd comment such as “I don’t want to have them drag my bones back to the family plot when I am dead…” to explain why he didn’t want his sisters from knowing where he was, he remained silent about them.

I didn’t even know until he arrived back where my half-brother and sister Harry and Peggy were. He put me in touch with them and Harry and I visited him out in BC where he had moved to. No one knew where our half-sister Shari was.

My Mom was able to tell me a few things about the family, about his parents and brother (Delroy, who died in 1975). I knew the family was from somewhere in Iowa and Harry sent me some photos he found amongst Hutch’s (His real name was Basil Elwood but he, for obvious reasons, he preferred to be called Hutch. Even his children called him Hutch.) belongings after his death. Dad would be pleased to know that rather than sending his ashes back to the family plot, Harry sprinkled them near Clinton, BC which was where Hutch was sprinkled (unfortunately, not in Red Canyon where he wanted to be sprinkled but in a snow drift at the entrance because it was as close as Harry could get to the canyon in the middle of March.

After Dad died, I had moved to New York City and finally set about trying to find my relations. After sending out a whole bunch of letters (no internet to speak of at the time) I was contacted by my cousin Allan and I finally went out to meet the family there for the first time in 1996.

Sadly, my aunts Hazel and Harriet had died, Hazel in 1992 and Harriet just 6 months before I found my family.

I had tried to find Shari before I left but was so sad not to have done so. A week after I got back, I got a phone call and it was Shari!

In 1999, Shari, Harry, Peg and I all met in Sioux City and had a family reunion. Since then, both my cousin Allan and cousin Ina (named after my grandmother) both died, along with my Uncle Bud, Harriet’s husband. Aside from the copies of photos sent by my brother from our father’s things, and some photocopies of old family photos, I had nothing tangible that tied me to my family.


Comer and Houchins families, 1904 or 1905

Undated copy 1

Comer and Houchins families, 1906 or so

Ina Adair lee And Dell Roy Houchins with baby "Hutch"

Grandparents, Ina Adair Lee and Dell Roy Houchins, with my Dad

In the years since my Dad died, I have been making a concerted effort to do my family tree. Despite my knowing more about my mother’s family than my father’s, I have managed to find out more and now have a substantial family history done. On my father’s side, one branch of the family goes back to  the early kings and queens of Scotland and is linked to most of the early royal houses of Europe.  Their descendants were founding fathers and movers and shakers of Jamestown! On the other hand, the first Houchins to set foot in America did so as an indentured servant.

More recently, I have found that my Great Great Grandfather, Joseph Baker Houchins served in the American Civil War. In fact, I discovered the name of his unit and that he had received a medal from the state of West Virginia. I even found out who owns it.

Even more exciting… the owner offered to sell (at a very reasonable price) it and the records that he obtained from the National Archives including his military record and a copy of the marriage certificate for Joseph and Angeline (My GG Grandmother had to submit a copy in order to obtain her widow’s pension.). I agreed to buy it.

He sent me photos of the medal.


The medal and box


Side view showing Joseph B.'s name engraved on it

I can’t tell you how excited I am!


The medal is on its way!



Today, we went to the clinic to have my Mom’s leg looked at (infection is less and the doctor said it is looking good!). She had fallen when getting down from a chair that she had climbed on to close the curtains and scraped the front of her leg so badly I had to take her to the hospital…

While AT the clinic, we were on our way out when she said that she was “feeling a bit dizzy”. She was very pale, so I sat her down and went back into the office and alerted Dr. J and nurse/receptionist. We whisked her back into the examining room and got her lying down and Dr. J (who I DO like this doctor!) was able to test her BP, blood sugar, and listen to her heart WHILE she was actually having one of her turns. This is the first time in 4 years (at least) of these events that a medical professional has been able to see exactly what is happening AT the time she is having one of her “turns”.

Her blood pressure was 84/45 (up very minimally from 80/45 on Wednesday) just before her “turn” and up a few points again, after.

His opinion is what I have felt for a long time, that it is her blood pressure being way too low. Earlier in the week, her family doctor and the cardiologist removed 2 of 4 blood pressure medications. This doctor has told her to stop ALL her bp meds for the next few days.

She sees Dr. S tomorrow for her flu shot, so we may have a bit if a chat about this, at the same time.

Hopefully, THIS will give us a better idea about what is going on.

On another note, a friend informed me this evening my cousin in Iowa has a recurrence of his Protstate cancer and that it has spread to the bone in his leg (I didn’t know he had had a first bout of it). He was on the way to the clinic for a treatment when his leg simply “broke”. He now has pins in it and is walking with a cane.

However, I am thinking of my neighbour who died a few weeks ago. She had bone cancer and she fell and broke her leg, and cancer cells were released into her body.

My cousin is a lovely person and one of the few cousins of his generation left.  My cousin, Ina and her brother, Allen, died a year apart from each other, both suddenly. She died of a congenital heart defect that runs in our family and he died of complications from diabetes.

This cousin has been so wonderful about sharing our family history with me. He is handsome (I call him a “gentleman cowboy”, of sorts). He’s handsome and charming and one of the nicest people I know. He is also yet another person with cancer that I know and/or is related to me.

He and I have been emailing back and forth recently about some family history and he said nothing.

PhotoHunter: “Tied”

The theme this week had me stumped for a bit. However, in the tradition of Archiearchive (though certainly not as… inventive…), I am going for the “loosely connected” contribution.

Theodore Tugboat, Halifax Harbour

Theodore Tugboat, Halifax Harbour

Theodore Tugboat managed to remain safe and sound through Hurricane Juan and we see him tied the dock in Halifax Harbour. He might be tied to a bollard like the one below.



Bollard, Galop Canal, Cardinal, Ontario

When my friends, Gilles and Gordon, tied the knot, they had the Rainbow Banner which went right round Fellowship Hall at the First Unitarian Church of Ottawa. Same-sex marriage is legal in Canada, I am proud to say.

Rainbow Banner

Rainbow Banner

My father would never tell me anything about his family and until my 40s, had no connection to anyone on his side. I was finally able to find my relatives in Iowa, as well as long-lost half-sister. Now I find a past and that I am tied to a long history (which includes many of the royal families of Western Europe, especially Scotland, Saint Margaret of Scotland, being just one!). Below are the Comer and Houchins families on the occasion of my GG Grandfather, Joseph Baker Comer’s 75 birthday, and Beulah Comer’s 1st birthday. Joseph B. was a Private in the 7th  North Virginia Cavalry during the American Civil War.

My GG Grandmother, Angeline Smith, (who reminds me of Toad of Toad Hall) sits beside him.

On the left hand end of the second row are my other GG Parents, Tom Houchins and Elizabeth Ellison. My G Grandparents, Harvey Houchins  and Mellie Comer are just to the right of the severe lady (Dessie Dickerson, Mellie’s sister), and my grandfather, Delroy Houchins) is in the back row (the boy with the “big hair”).

Comer and Houchins families, 1904 or 1905

Comer and Houchins families, 1904 or 1905



It was low tide in Malagash, New Brunswick, when I snapped this photo of the moon low on the horizon. It was also October and we were camping. We woke to front on the ground and inside as well as outside out tent. Breakfast was at Tim Hortons, that morning!

Moon, Malagash, New Brunswick

Moon, Malagash, New Brunswick

Finally (maybe)…

After a couple of years, they THINK maybe they have gotten to the bottom of Mom’s fainting spells.

In the last while, she has had various monitoring devices attached to the which have annoyed and discombobulated her but which seemed not to have shown the “experts” anything unusual. In fact, the one I had the highest hopes for did not catch the one episode she had while wearing it and 5 minutes after handing it in, she had another one.

Last week, she was put on a blood pressure monitor which she was to wear for 24 hours (which OHIP doesn’t cover and for which we had to pay $100 out-of-pocket).

We were called in to the doctor’s office yesterday and it seems that aside from the first hour when Mom’s blood pressure was elevated slightly, it showed that her blood pressure was “way too low”.  After discussing it with her cardiologist, they removed two of her blood-pressure medications.

Hopefully, this will have an effect on her and she may feel better and have a bit more energy.

Poor thing has been lolling about with no desire or energy to do anything except drag herself to the kitchen or up the stairs to the bathroom. I have been afraid to take her anywhere because every time I do, she has a “turn”.

I certainly don’t like the idea of going to the theatre or anywhere when I’m not with her. If she had one at the theatre, getting her down to the floor and getting her water would be impossible and if she were out with anyone else, they wouldn’t know what to do and would likely call an ambulance, not to mention that unless you get her on the floor with her feet on a chair, she actually goes out and throws up which is awful for her.

With the exception of the time at the restaurant where I was so worried about upsetting the other diners and ended up upsetting them, anyway, when she passed out and was sick and the paramedics came, I have always managed to get her to come round without her actually going completely out or getting sick. It is so upsetting for her to have to go to the hospital and, really, completely pointless because she is completely normal by the time she gets there and they can’t figure out what happened, anyway. And then she comes home sick and disoriented and not quite herself for several days.

If I act quickly and get her feet elevated and some water into her, she comes round and is right as rain almost immediately and never suffers from the “wobblies” for days and weeks after the way she does if she actually gets sick and passes out. If she actually goes out and is sick, I do call an ambulance.

It is just too upsetting for her and I refuse to put her through it if there is no benefit.

On another note,

I will remember this whenever my mother asks me the same question for the 100th time…This a Greek short film made in 2007

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Critical thinking… or lack thereof…

Today’s “big news” is “Balloon Boy was a hoax”…

And, the usual upshot of this is that the media and the public is howling for blood.

“We were duped!”

“The police didn’t do their job!”

“It’s the media’s fault!”

The fact is that everyone is to blame for this (except for Balloon Boy, himself. He’s a minor and it is hardly his fault IF his parent’s concocted this whole “show”) — If, indeed, it turns out this is a hoax.

God or Nature gave humans a brain. We have it not just to keep our ears apart. It is there to enable us to think and to make sense of the world and to survive.  That entails “Critical Thinking”. Unfortunately, most of us seem to use our brain, if we use it at all, more to keep our heads from imploding.

We don’t think, let alone think critically.

We use our brains the way water finds it’s way down hill. Whatever the most convenient path to a conclusion, that’s the one we take, even if it results in us accepting the most nonsensical and ludicrous possible outcome, that’s the one we chose and “By Gum!” that’s the one we are going to stick to.

Even better when someone else comes up with the “results” so we don’t actually have to do any thinking for ourselves.

Why should we be surprised that 1) someone tried to pull one over on us and 2) succeeded on pulling one over on us?

And, quite obviously, this was not exactly a methodically thought out “hoax”. Else, it wouldn’t have depended on the involvement of a small child who would easily spill the beans.

The police obviously didn’t think it through, either. Consulting with experts might have clued them into the fact that the balloon probably wouldn’t have been able to ascend to the heights it did with the child in tow. Using their brains might have given them the edge on the less than stellar planning of the parents. Just looking at the balloon might have given them pause to question. Did it actually LOOK as though it was carrying a weight?

The media didn’t bother checking facts or hesitate for one second to authoritatively tell the public that a child was aboard this unlikely vehicle.

The public, always willing to jump on any bandwagon, no matter how shoddily built or how absurd, went along for the (usual) ride.

Even after the fact, talk shows lined up to interview the child. His parents were more than happy to parade their child in front of the media. And, surprise, surprise, the child said something that didn’t fit the scenario. “We did it for a show”.

Of course, this, coming from a small child, could mean anything. It could have meant that he associated the cameras with TV shows and his reenactment was “for a show”. No, obviously, it MUST mean that the whole scenario was “a show”. Of course, it seems it likely was.

Adults brought up short by a child’s words and the media circus starts falling all over itself to blame everyone else for being “taken in”.

There’s a children’s story most of us remember. It, too, is about a hoax. A ludicrous, fanciful, nonsensical farce so unthinkingly silly that it couldn’t possibly work but does… until undone by the words of a child. “But he’s not wearing any clothes!”.


Humans are so ready to believe the most nonsensical and absurd scenarios rather than use their brains, ready to accept “facts” presented rather than learn the REAL facts for themselves, and then blame everyone but themselves for falling for nonsense.

People are ready to believe that hundreds of people could “manufacture” a moon landing, and then every single one of them could maintain complete silence for 40 years. Somehow THAT scenario is easier to believe than the one that had man ACTUALLY walking on the moon.

People are ready to believe that Iraq had nuclear weapons despite ample evidence to the contrary presented to them, both before and after that fact. Yet, they are also willing to believe that their own President would actually be willing to kill several thousands of his own citizens in order to bring about a war that was already inevitable by virtue of the nonexistent nuclear weapons.

Further, they are willing to believe that many of their own citizens would go along with this “conspiracy” and murder fellow citizens and remain silent, despite seeing the evidence before their own eyes.

Some of these same people actually believe that the Holocaust was “faked”.

I honestly despair of a world which consistently accepts the most idiotic conspiracy theory without once asking any one of the 5 W’s — Who, Why, What, Where, and When.

Yes, people have come up with actual conspiracy plans and have perpetrated them on us. Bush did it with his “weapons of mass destruction” nonsense which, had people actually listened to the actual experts would have avoided this terrible war in Iraq. Anyone who doubted was “A’gin us” and obviously an America-hater.

Instead, the masses fell for this one hook line and sinker and then made up an even more insane and diabolical “conspiracy” to blame the same person who pulled the wool over their eyes with a simple plan.

They never once ask themselves “Why?” or, if they do, come up with an equally nonsensical “Reason”.

Why would Bush need to murder thousands of innocent people (or as some conspiracy theorists would have us believe thousands on non-existent people) when he already had the war in the bag with his faked satellite images and arm-twisting of various countries in the UN Security Council? How would he buy the silence of the thousands of people who would have been required to keep Schtum about a conspiracy on this scale? No, easier to believe the most nonsensical and complicated and fiendish scenario rather than believe the simplest truth. America was attacked in its heart, in front of our very eyes and that in the days preceding the attacks, the media had been reporting that an attack was forthcoming (A fact… and a fact forgotten even by the media who had broadcast it).

Humans have an amazing brain and yet spend most of their lives not using it.

We have a capacity to do all sorts of good for the planet and for our fellow human beings. Yet, we spend most of our brains’ resources foolishly. Wasting them on conspiracy theories and hoaxes,  either believing in fake ones or allowing ourselves to be fooled by real ones.

If the majority of us took the time to use our brains, we wouldn’t have a media that spent all its energies trying to entertain us or falling in line with the politicians. We wouldn’t have politicians so willing (and able) to pull over on us the most blatant of scams. We MIGHT even have politicians we could trust and for whom we could be justly proud.

We wouldn’t be spending time and energy on the “Balloon Boy Hoax” or one fraction of a second even considering either the nonsensical “Moon landing” or the truly offensive “9/11” conspiracies.


On a personal note….

It was several hours between the writing of this and posting it. Those several hours was spent at the hospital with my mother who thought that, rather than call me down “all the from upstairs” it was a good idea for an 85-year old who can’t stand on a firm surface without risking taking a tumble to climb on a chair some feet away from the patio door in order to close the curtain.

She fell and took a few yards of shin off, necessitating a trip to the hospital.

I guess, given my “Elk wrangling” of last Autumn, I don’t have a lot of room to talk. But it reminds me of a friend of my ex-husband’s who had to sit down with his parents and tell them not to be doing “stupid things” after his mother, aged 89, fell off the roof while shovelling snow. “I don’t mind going to the hospital if you have a heart attack or a stroke. I am tired of rushing there after you’ve done something stupid.”

PhotoHunter… Free Week

Hmmm… Whatever we want…

My thoughts went immediately to the Benevolent Postcard Society. I jumped at the chance to join this little venture when I first heard about it.

“A postcard exchange and art project in one, the aim of the Benevolent Postcard Society is to bring a smile to its members through the random exchange of postcards from September 2009 to September 2010. At the beginning of each month, members send a cheerful, amusing, inspiring, pretty or quirky postcard to each other — either handmade or readymade. At the end of the year, all the postcards exchanged will be collected and published as a book, the final result of a year’s sharing of good karma through random acts of kindness.”

You send a card, you get a card. Unfortunately, joining is not possible at this point. We are hoping we can do it again next year. So much fun!

September was the first mailing and I have to admit I was a bit conservative and sent out a postcard that I had bought back in 1973 and never mailed.

Omonia Square, Athens

Omonia Square, Athens 1960s

In return, I got…



This month, I sent out…

"June Bride"

"June Bride"

This was a detail from one of my found object sculptures, called “June Bride”. I had digitally “played” with the image, by manually rendering it within my program (basically, rubbing the surface as you would a chalk drawing) and then playing with the colour. I love this piece.

I was late in getting it off, as I was in quarantine and had to wait until I could get someone to come over and bring me ink cartridges for my printer and take the postcard to mail for me. I was really worried as to whether or not my printer was actually going to produce a photo. My sister bought it three years ago and when I first tried to print photos, I couldn’t get it to print anything but horrible pixillated images. No matter what I did, it simply would not print a photo.

So I just used it for printing letters.

With trepidation I tried it and while some of the images didn’t seem to print out in the same colour values or density of colour, it was working. I printed out a number of favourite images as postcards but this was the one I settled on. Unfortunately, so far, I am unable to find an adequately thick postcard stock that is the right size and I settled for the freebie 5×7 photo sheets that come with Canon photo papers. They look great, but I don’t know if the card will survive the mailing.

I haven’t heard from the recipient, yet and am still waiting for my card. But since mine had to go to the UK (and was almost a week late in being sent off) and mine could have come from anywhere in the world, it could take some time.


On Thursday, I got a call from some vehicle finance company asking for my mother. Figuring it was just one of those cold-callers for the new scam of selling useless finance and insurance for cars to people gullible enough to want something for nothing (which this is the opposite of… nothing for a lot) , I said “No thanks!” and hung up.

They called immediately back and said that, in fact, someone had put us down as a reference to finance their car loan. This “someone” is the same “someone” for whom we have (well, my mother, anyway) been getting calls from a bank (major Canadian financial institution) because they have skipped out on repaying a loan and the bank wants to know where they are.

As this “person” is the wife of my brother who is part of the reason why my mother is in the financial situation that she is in, and neither one has never taken ANY responsibility for their own part in their own life-situation; and since moving from their last address not bothered either to call my mother but once and not given us a forwarding address, I haven’t been able to give them information they don’t already know. Nor, I might point out, has either one of them bothered to ASK before putting my mother down as a reference.

AND, as my 85 year-old mother little needs being harassed by a bank that she may or may not have actually given her consent to be a reference for and certainly is not in the state of compis mentis to GIVE informed opinion on the relative financial and personal responsibility of my brother and/or his wife, I have, on behalf of my mother asked them to stop calling. They assure me they will…. and then we get another call. Next time I will tell them that they can talk to my lawyer….

So, I “cheerfully” said… “Noooo… That won’t happen…” when they woman at the other end of the line suggested my mother might give a reference.

I then emailed my sister to bitch about this.

In the midst of this email bitchfest, the phone rings.

It’s my brother.

I’m thinking. “Oh, this going to be good… He’s either calling to tell me they might be calling about a reference or he’s heard that I wouldn’t give one”.

“I need to give you a heads-up….”

“S is in the hospital…”. (“S” being his wife)

Apparently, she had her gallbladder removed almost two weeks ago and seemed to be on the mend when she started having abdominal pains, was vomiting blood, and otherwise obviously becoming less and less well. “They are running tests…” Don’t know what the problem is…” It’s serious…”

Great. Now, I feel guilty… My sister feels guilty (no love lost on either side of this triangle of siblings and sister-in-law). We just lost my lovely sister-in-law, Alice, two weeks ago to cancer. This is obviously a very serious situation.

Of course, I have no real reason to feel badly about scuttling the car loan. My brother and his wife may feel hard done by and may well write me off over this but my mother’s best interests are now my best interests. My brother doesn’t call, has not one shred of understanding that his mother has dementia and that stress from what he and my niece (my other sister’s daughter) put her through financially could well have contributed to her mental state and/or could well have killed her had I not been there to help “fix” things.

“S” gets crabby with my mother (on the rare occasion in the last two years we have seen them) for asking the same questions, is appalled by our living conditions which are messy but nothing to be “appalled ” over) but not appalled enough to ask if she can help me) and takes every opportunity to make snide comments clearly intended to point out her seeming superiority to everyone else in the family. Oddly enough, no one else in the family has lost their house because the wife has refused to make any payments towards the mortgage, or is constantly in a state of debt while taking jobs for three months and getting fired or quitting in a snit because “someone doesn’t like them”.

Somehow, the rest of us, as financially strapped as we are, manage to keep full-time jobs and don’t think that the world owes them a living.

Nor, have any of us “borrowed” money from an ageing parent even as someone is begging them  not to and that, unless they stop, that parent will be out on the street with nothing to show for a career and a home and dedication to a family… and whinged “But I’ll be out on the street” without a concern about the parent.

So, why should I feel guilty?

I don’t.  I fell badly that “S” is in hospital (we went to visit her, that evening) and hope that it all works out for her. But as far as being “felling guilty” goes. I have nothing to feel guilty about.

They are in their 40s. It is time to start acting like they are in their 40s.

Today was…




I took Mom down to The Heart Institute and got her fitted with the  ambulatory blood pressure monitor this afternoon about 2:30. We went from there to the chiropractor’s and then I drove her home. I went out to Sears and bought 2 pairs of shoes for myself and then got some shopping done. I arrived home, just before 6, and went to put the groceries away and Mom started complaining about the blood pressure monitor as soon as I got in the door. “We need to take this back.”

I asked if it was uncomfortable or something and then walked into the living room to find that she had taken it off. I asked why she’d taken it off. “Because I’m done with it!”

“We have to take it back.”

I said “You aren’t supposed to take it off. It’s supposed to be left on!” We paid $100 for this test that isn’t covered by OHIP and I’m worried that we’ll have to pay another $100 to have it put on again. I am still trying to understand why she took it off. And then she says “Aren’t we supposed to take it back, today?”

I said that we are supposed to take it back Thursday that she’s supposed to wear it for two days!

“But I’ve been WEARING it for two days!”

I kept trying to tell her that she’s had it on for less than 4 hours, at this point. She’s looking at me like I’m crazy…

I told her what we did today and she’s convinced that that was 2 days ago…

I managed to get the thing put back on properly, though. Hopefully, it will STAY on for the next two days.

And every time the thing beeps before the cuff inflates, she’s asking “Is this going to go on all night?”. I explain that it only beeps for the first few hours and then before bedtime, it stops beeping and won’t beep at all before we take it off. It will take her blood pressure every half hour but it won’t beep…. It beeps again and she gets irritated and asks if it is going to go off all night long, again.

“It seems to be beeping every 2 minutes!”. It is 1/2 an hour by my count…..

Jesus and all the Saints preserve me….

what cats are really thinking « casa az


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