Monthly Archives: May 2013

Searching for Little Grandma Ellen

There are stories out there in Genealogy Land that I can’t seem to crack. It’s a bummer that I started this in my ’60s, several decades after everybody croaked. I now have to rely of half-remembered comments my mother made; my mother being the only adult family member I had close contact with, and due to her personal issues it was best for me to keep my distance from her for the first sixteen years of my life.

What my grandmother did not know, what nobody knew, was her parents had a dirty little secret too! Well, maybe not really “dirty”, I have an idea much more was behind their decision to lie.

Anyway, the lie about who “Little Grandma” really was, began when Great Grandpa Morgan Bollinger (maybe got a letter and) left California and (took a train? rode a horse?) to Missouri to marry his childhood friend, my Great Grandmother Ellen, and brought her out to California.

Grandma Ellen may have built a story around the trip west, or it could be true. My Brother John told it in great detail, as it came from her lips.

“It took several days on wagon, and Indians watched them from hilltops as they passed through Indian lands and about a “Big Fort” in the distance, which John figured may be Ft. Laramie in Wyoming!”

For three years I searched for my C. Ellen Lee of Missouri’s family history, never dreaming I was looking under a radically altered name.  Then I got a letter from Lee relatives who must have observed me scratching around online.

They sent me full details of my great-grandmother Sarah Ellender Lee.

There was no C. Ellen Lee.Morgan and Ellen Bollinger kept her background, whatever it was, a secret that lasted well over a century.  I did see in her obituary that a “brother” attended her funeral, and he lived at that time (1941) in San Jose. And I’m hoping there may be descendants in his line.

I have been down so many wrong streets for a couple of years, and each time I scratched my head and tried to reach back fifty years to conjure up all the stories Mom told when I was small.

I loved the stories of The Olden Days, when she lived in San Jose with “Little Gramma Ellen”.

I never heard about her husband,Morgan, a well-off “orchardist” specializing in peaches in San Jose. I find that a little disturbing, this man who walked through her home, but was not in her life.

I seemed not to notice the fact that mom was a toddler in her grand-parent’s adult household, growing up with her teenage aunt Meta and uncle Bert. Her stories were only about Little Grandma, her surrogate mother. Nothing else.

Mom introduced me to Little Grandma through (selective) memories from “The Olden Days”. The days just after the turn of the 20th century and the kind of stories that moralize. For instance, sometime Mom did not listen to Little Gramma’s warnings about playing inthe barn  AND she got chili pepper powder in her eyes AND she couldn’t be first angel in the Christmas Play! 

Little Grandma was considered “short” probably about my height, 5 1/2 feet tall, and fair, like me. She was the mother of 3 striking black haired young Amazons, and one tall, blonde son.
Mom’s birth mother was my “Nana”,

She was the middle daughter, typically the child who gets lost in-between the fabulous first child and the adorable last baby.

But her name was Lulu, and she certainly lived up to her name . She married often, gave two of her three children away, and apparently lived for fashion and studio portraits of herself.

I’m certain the world, like myself, began to breathe again when Nana made her departure. According to her Death Certificate, she died in a psychotic episode. I could have predicted that before I hit kindergarten, had I known what  psychotic meant.

It was wonderful when Mom spoke of her childhood with her grandmother. She called the era “The Olden Days”, and her eyes lit up as she relaxed in reverie. I never questioned why she did not live with her mother like her little sister did.

It seemed normal when she spoke of Nana and her little sister Helen visiting every Christmas Day,without fail,and how very much Mom looked forward all year long to seeing them.

They lived just one hour by train in San Francisco.

My mom never recovered from that split, I can clearly see that. How worthless she (and her bother, who was shipped to the other grandparents) must have felt. Her faults make good sense. Ultimately mom did what we all must strive for: to be good enough.


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Happy Birthday JazzBo!

Happy Birthday JazzBo!

May 26, 1996

My daughter and I are in our grubs, cleaning house on that particular morning of Joseph’s birth. She looked like a skinny little twelve year old pushing a vacuum about as big as she, pale and tired. I was washing the windows. I still do that on occasion: an annual event that I try never to miss and often do.

I heard the vacuum stop, and looked down our hall. My nineteen year old Rebecca stood stock still, clutching her little round belly.

“Mom, it could have been a Braxton Hicks, it didn’t hurt but it was really, really strong!” She looked at me questioningly.

I put down the vinegar and glanced at my watch.

“Okie Dokie! You have your gear ready, right?”

Rebecca nodded, wide eyed. I recommended she not eat, just in case. I glanced at my watch and we continued with our chores and I began to time the pains.

They started to come quicker. She decided to shower up and get ready just in case. She didn’t look like she was big enough to deliver, my thin, worried little girl, but she sure was acting like it.

“We better go. It could be false labor but you are moving fast and I don’t want to chance it!”

I called her doctor. He agreed that she should come to the hospital. Then I called her father, and told him it was party time. I may have called the bio dad, or perhaps my ex did as he lived next door to their family.

Rebecca and I piled in the car with her overnight case. As we left town I decided to make a quick stop at a mini store to pick up a bag of lollipops for her during the labor, to help give her sugary energy. I left the car running and grabbed the first bags of suckers I saw, paid my money and dashed back to the car.

“Mommy, they are coming faster and stronger now!”

I glanced at her. Rebeccca’s face was white as a ghost. Her flushed cheeks looked feverish against the pallor, and they spoke to the thrill and excitement of the moment.

“Did you bring a towel?”

Rebecca nodded, “I already have it in place, Mom.” I nodded back, keeping my eyes on the road.

My mother delivered me in less than an hour, she had slung a towel between her legs to catch me. Good idea: I crowned in the taxi, birthed on the way to the labor room.

I stepped it up a bit, and in a few minutes we arrived at the hospital. We went in to admissions and a nurse put her in a wheelchair. I parked the car. When I got back to admissions they said they’d assigned her a labor room as the pains were coming stronger.

I went upstairs and when I got to her labor room her Dad and seventeen year old brother were at the bedside. Dad stayed by her, talking softly, encouraging her to use breathing techniques. The nurse said she was not yet in hard labor and it was better to not coach her until she had something to work with.

Brother Steve was a few feet away with his girlfriend Aja. Both were wide eyed and stone silent. Aja sported a squirrel hat, with little squirrel ears perched on top of her head; a hoodie, flannels and bunny slippers. It didn’t strike me as terribly odd. Aja had her own sense of seventeen year old style, and once she came to our house once with her younger brother who was wearing tighty whities on his head. Obviously attire was a fun-filled sport in their home.

A parade of the paternal family, grandmother-to-be, father-to-be, and siblings came through the door, mixing with nurses and our family and the doctor. A nurse asked us to leave the room for a few minutes until Rebecca could be made more comfortable for the occasion.

We waited quietly in the hall until she opened the door to allow us in. My daughter looked calm and fairly comfy; her eyes were eagerly bright and alert; her excitement palpable.

A nurse brought in a bowl of ice chips and placed it on the side table. I remembered the sacks of lollipops in my handbag and slapped them down next to the ice chips.

The clock ticked loudly as time passed. Our crowd milled around, and our resident squirrel’s head popped up here and there. And somebody was blowing bubbles. This was getting a little surreal. Wait! A lot of people were chewing gum and blowing bubbles! I thought I knew which juvenile idiot brought bubble gum to the birthing room.

The doctor came in and parched on a stool at the business end of the bed. He put a blanket over his head for privacy as he checked her and invited me to see the baby had crowned. Yay! My grandbaby was nearly out!

“I’ll be back in two minutes, she’s moving fast, this kid.” He reached for a lollipop on the way out, and returned about ten minutes later

“We’ve got ten centimeters here. We’re ready to go! Oops! Nurse, will you take this lollipop please. Baby needs to be welcomed in a more stately manner by it’s first attending physician!”


Rebecca was working hard, getting tired, and her dad was annoying her. He was a birth scholar, believing he knew when and where labor pains would peak. My daughter finally sent him away in a rather unpleasant manner.

He stood by our son and glared at me and I just knew he thought this was a genetic thing, this getting all ticked off whilst in labor.

Mommy ran to the head of the bed. My daughter was exhausted,her eyes were closed, my heart broke.

“OK you’re almost there. Trust me: you WILL have this baby today! Just when you feel like you want to give up: that’s the sign! I know you have monkeys in your head saying it’s never going to happen. Trust me, I know many things! You will get to that last desperate place where you believe you just want to give up… and then take a deep breath and say Hell NO! Push that little person out!”

Rebecca nodded, squeezed my hand tight and yelled “Hell NO!”

The doc said “There she blows!”

The crowd cheered and I pushed my way past her father, my son and the Squirrel to my station.  I was in place then a little creature with light brown hair popped out, I saw how he lifted his head and stared at me, a tiny ET with wide open eyes, blinking furiously. I felt a shock of recognition run through my heart and my veins as I looked at the child I would call JazzBo.

“He’s here! He’s here! One more push and I’ll put him in your arms!” the elated Doc shouted! Rebecca gave a mighty heave, and he yelled again, “Yes! it’s a boy for sure! ” And the team, gave a rousing cheer. One so loud that our door flew open again.

“Will you all puh-LEEZE be quiet? Other women are trying to deliver too!”

The doc apologized for us all and pointed sheepishly to the sacks of blow-pops on the little table.
“Say, you might as well take a bag with you. It’s a terrific source of energy and distraction. We’re done now.”

Nurse glared at him, took the unopened bag and exited, shaking her head.

My daughter, now a mother herself, slumped pale faced and exhausted into her pillows. A nurse put Joseph in her arms and she kissed him for the first time, nuzzling his face, murmuring secrets to him. Joseph look long and hard at her. And then he turned and studied the silent surrounding faces from his Mommy’s arms.

Rebecca waved tiredly toward the table, ‘I think I’d like a lollipop now.”





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Camel Stampede, Cairo 1983


Does anyone remember when we took a mighty step for mankind: the one from the hand-held movie camera to record events nobody else wants to look at to a video-cam recorder? If I remember correctly, the family version surfaced in the early 1980s, weighed about forty pounds. We got one to take over to the Sudan.

We recorded our young family whilst on our Overseas Adventures Around the World. Hours of tape, most of which was tossed. Our adventures were often sedate and occasionally hair-raising as traveling with a three year old and a six year old can be. Our trip to Cairo was one of the best. We had planned to see the pyramids at Giza, Memphis, Khan Ali-Kalili, and perhaps take a real cruise on the River Nile. We were only going to spend three days in Cairo and move on to Tunesia and Morocco. Instead we spent our two week holiday in Cairo.

We had booked a stay at the Hotel Jolieville based solely on information that it had a children’s playground, a rare treat for our little ones. Rule one on traveling with children: if you want to enjoy yourselves, they must have many opportunities to run off energy. Hotel stairways are a good place to spend excess energy and enhance family opportunities for pleasant dining later on

After settling into our room we went to the concierge to see about booking a couple of tours for our short visit. They said they had the perfect tour guide for us, an English speaking fellow who had a family of his own. While the concierge contacted the tour guide we took the kids out to the playground to wear them out.

Larry was taking Stevie down the slide, and I was swinging with Rebecca when our guide appeared, calling for Mr. and Mrs. Sims. We met him by the monkey bars, a man about my height, short, greying hair, a trim moustache and crinkly light eyes. The kids gravitated to him immediately, and we struck up a conversation about the only “must dos” on our list: we wanted to ride on horseback at dawn to see the sunrise over the pyramids.

Our guide and good friend, Mohammed never let us out of his sight, always kept his eyes on us, my handbag, our cameras and our kids. We were constantly cautioned when we visited African countries to keep a tight hold on our children at all times. There are those who really steal people, usually children and young women.

On this auspicious day Mohammed takes us to see the camels. I didn’ t tell him that we had a camel souk in Khartoum and I had been out there a number of times. Mohammed informed us as we entered the arena of hobbled camels, was that they all were from Sudan! That was fresh news to me. I tried to imagine a “camel drive” rolling, rolling, rolling up the Nile. He pointed out how one front leg of each camel was bent at the knee and tied with a rope. They were hobbled so they could not get away if they were spooked. I could not imagine what that might look like, be like: hundreds of tons of animal herded for hundreds of miles, following the Nile from Khartoum to Cairo.

Larry, was lugging the video cam on his shoulder, monkeying with light, focus and angle as Mohammed and I herded kids. Mohammed’s eyes continually darted around, his hawk eye noting every one and every thing. The camels and their owners were very interested in our little party, they especially wanted to say hello to the children: Rebecca at six was tall and lean with long dark hair and dark eyes like Dad; Steven, a rolly poly three year old with a chubby face, blonde hair and green eyes like Mom.

The souk was packed with men in their spotless white gelabias, turbins or yamulkas. Everyone smoked as they milled around, sedately leading their camels, greeting each other with friendly hugs and “arm-pats”, an ancient practice from the days when greeting a “friend” could be deadly: he could be wearing an arm-knife. A friendly pat-down was required.

A fellow approached carrying what appeared to be a huge fur rug. As he got near we saw he carrying an enormous baby camel. We were speechless as he approached. He no doubt saw an opportunity to share his huge treasure, get some rest as well as some baksheesh. He very gently laid it on the ground and explained that the mother camel died giving birth to her baby. He had to feed and care for the baby, which included sleeping with it on the ground, keeping it warm until it could stand up and move. The little camel’s neck would become strong enough to hold his head and his legs strong enough to support his body and he would no longer require such devoted care. Within three days the infant would stagger upright and be independently mobile. But he still might want to sleep with the owner a while longer

We were allowed pet this sweet, soft, plush giant creature who looked a lot like ET with false eyelashes. Larry hooked up the video cam and shot some footage, and I gave the owner baksheesh for his trouble and Mohammad mumbled something about taking us back to the Hotel Jolieville to wash up again.

The day was warming up, and I was happy to feel heat as well as appreciative of the brilliant blue sky above, something I missed living in the desert dustbowl that was North Sudan. The souk by now was wall to wall animals, a sea of undulating fur, spitting mouths and honking groans. Larry was documenting the scent and decided to back up to get a little distance, broader sweep of hundreds of camels. In his excitement he forgot to check if anything was in back of him, like a camel.

In an instant he took a couple of steps backward, and his camera smacked a camel in his face. The beast screamed and rose up, standing on his two hind feet, pawing with his one free foot, and setting off a haboob, a desert sand storm of bellowing three legged camels on the run with their owners chasing them, no doubt cursing Larry.

“Oh oh, we go! Now!”

Mohammed grabbed Larry by the arm and jerked him away from his Eye Witness View.

“If any person gets hurt, if any camels are damaged, you will have to pay for them. We go now!”

We refrained from running, put the kids in the middle of the three of us and skulked out of the souk pretending that nobody would notice our little family amongst all the once white gelabias chasing after screaming, terrified camels.


On the way back to our hotel Mohammad invited us to dinner that night. His wife was preparing a special meal and we would get to meet his eight children. He said he would pick us up after we cleaned up.

“You are very lucky we got out of the souk quickly, Mr. Larry. The camels were the livelihood of the men. It is very dangerous when the camel does not have four legs to run on. For both reasons people can be killed.”

As Mohammad spoke I shivered and wondered what we thought we were doing, Americans prancing through other peoples lives, disrupting and perhaps endangering their livelihood not to mention everyones life.

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A Long Hard Month





Terrible issues came up this month. Times like this do happen and one can be hard pressed to find the energy to persevere.  I guess this is how we move along, learn to be flexible else we shatter; learn to be happy instead of resentment-full.  Yes, and quit passing the blame because it will only push us into more depression. We know we have choices in how to respond.  Let’s see, there is knee-jerk which fails and usually leaves a lot of egg on faces.   Judgment promises only to ruin our own sense of peace and frequently goes unnoticed by the “target”.  Or we can start making changes, going back to old ways because the new super ways are not planet friendly ways, harmful to all inhabitants.


This week alone I first watched Public TV heard the latest information from DNA experts whom have come to the conclusion that yes, Round Up, the weed-killing Monsanto product is every bit as bad as many of us feared, and far worse.  Scientific evidence proves that it contributes to the leap in autism over the last three decades, diabetes, obesity, Altzhimers, digestive diseases and other medical phenomena that have cropped up. Well, unexpectedly by the public, but could it have been swept under Monsanto’s carpet. 


They insist they have a quality Scientific Review process before this chemical was released?  Did they blithely put it on the market as soon as the percentages looked good enough to grab a profit?  Roundup is in most everything we eat today, any animals that are fed corn.  Hmm, think of the remarkable increase of corn syrup use.  Corn is everywhere, there is plenty of it thanks to..Glyphosphate.


Glyphosphate (RoundUp) is the ingredient which  gets rid of those pesky weeds thereby increasing profits for farmers.  We now know it is altering humans at a cellular level.  It is frightening to me, having been born after WWII and growing up in a healthy environment where apples still had spots on them and sometimes worms inside; bananas sometimes carried tarantulas in their crate; artichokes always had to be thoroughly washed under cold water to pick out the slugs and insects that are hiding between the leaves.  All of the above yucky findings are now a thing of the past unless you pick organic.  Even then nobody is sure just where else the glyphosphate has landed.   Yep it’s hard to be GoodyTwoShoes happy, isn’t it.  Consider your family and community for the changes that have been made in quality of living: tremendous increases in obesity/diabetes, Altzheimers, allergies, inflammation, autism, and various chronic intestinal diseases.




And then I watched  The Invisible War. 




We have some work to do.  And I for one am aware that what has transpired in the curse of Human Development has had it’s roots in Greed and Power. 


Greed and Power in the past thirty years sponsored the deliberate destruction of much of what we need to stay alive:  plastic instead of recyclable metal, and glass and waxed cardboard containers.  They are all going to our oceans and disintegrating, eaten by the smallest of food chain members, who in turn are eaten by the next and the next until it reaches those who carelessly tossed the plastic into the trash too, and plenty of people who conscientiously refuse to use them in the name of world health.


Greed and Power singlehandedly pulled down the world economy with the Grand Fraud Gala of the 1990- 2008.  I had a front row seat, and my fraud findings were blatantly ignored, traded for profit. 


We are doing so much wrong right now, and I probably won’t live to see the worst.  But my grandkids will and their kids too.  There is a way to pull it all in, but it requires participation no matter what kind of flag you like to carry Left, Right, Green or Tea.  We’ve got to stop putting profit first as if it is a justification for dubious financial decisions.


Our network television does not cover much but traffic, weather, murders, the recent horrors of kidnapings, home invasions, and who had the last wardrobe malfunction..  We do not get much about the rest of the world, do we, other than quotes regarding the Euro (which is having many problems resulting from American financial manipulations:  European countries invested heavily in our Crap Loans.  Small cities went bankrupt when the stuff hit the fan.


It is not going to take much bravery to assess our irresponsible activities built of the commercial fable of The American Dream.  We can and probably will be forced to stand down and recognize that while Rip van America slept, very bad guys took over.  And then we can begin the process of cleanup, prioritizing (yes, like Global Warming and stopping Electronic Waste period.)


We can do it.  And, like it or not, we will be forced.  I for one am ready to accept this challenge in as many ways that I can. 


The next part for me is to get the spouse to stop using RoundUp.  Then we’ll have to do something about his sweet tooth….






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