Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Depression and the grey moods

I hate depression. It's one of those things that are unavoidable for some people. I've had to deal with it for years, not the bi-polar kind (thankfully) just the low grade grey cloud type of depression. I have noticed that I get like this when I don't do artwork. If I'm not being creative then I get the blahs. So it would be easy to just go out there and do something except often I get depressed because I'm not being creative. (What a circle!)

Over the years I've developed rules about depression and how to cope with it.

1. Let it be. Sometimes depression is good for you. It gives you time to reflect. The trouble with depression-prone people is that you get stuck in it and don't end it. Always tell yourself it will end, even if you don't believe it will end. It does. Knowing it has an end is very helpful.

2. DO something. Smell a rosemary plant. I find pulling weeds helps a lot and looking at plants and listening to the birds. Last night the neighborhood owl was out so I lay in bed and listened to him while awake. (I'm pretty sure it's a he). I listen to music a lot which helps me. Nothing like joyous music to make everything a little more livable.

3. Walk and make sure you eat. Not eating lowers your blood sugar and you get more depressed.

4. Stay away from people who walk around with tiny thunderclouds over their heads. We have a couple at work and they are annoying. If you are going to be negative that's okay just stay away from a depressed person. Or better yet you as the depressed person stay away from them.

5. Be kind to someone and go out of your way to do something nice.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Almost every morning I stand out on the corner of my street waiting for the Number 5 bus to take me to work. I really enjoy standing there because I face east so can watch the sunrise. I get to the corner about 6:50 in order to catch the early bus mostly to avoid the crowd of students on the later one. Across the street from the stop is a sycamore tree which I have come to think of as a friend. It's a beautiful tree... very tall and very friendly. Over the winter I became very fascinated with the seed pods which festoon it like tree ornaments. When it's breezy you can hear the branches clatter against each other. Sometimes, before daylight savings kicks in, you can see stars and the late rising moon through it's branches. Since we're slowly creeping towards spring (who will no doubt be over before I can realize it), I imagine the tree will be breaking out in a haze of fresh new leaves. As far as I can tell, it's the only sycamore in our neighborhood.

It's a very different population that takes to the streets at 6:50 in the morning. People half asleep walking their dogs. Bicyclists with flashing lights whizzing by you. Occasionally some of the neighbors who are also waiting for the bus stand with me. When the mornings start earlier, the birds are out in the trees or flying overhead. If you are very lucky some of the parrots who have started making Austin home will fly above you.

I've grown fond of my mornings at the stop. It's a thoughtful way to wake up and gather myself to the new day.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Opuntia cactus found around my office building. Most people call it prickly pear but this is the spineless variety so no prickles. I've tried to figure out the Latin name for it but it could be several different varieties. This particular spineless variety grows a lot as a landscape plant in Austin. It has yellow blooms.

I love plants and have been interested in them since I was a little girl. My father gardened a great deal and my brother and I were always drafted as manual labor. I have memories of sifting dirt through screens to get the particles in uniform pieces and weeding the vegetable garden when we had one. My grandmother grew geraniums in the back yard and they loved the California weather, growing to huge shrubby borders. I was often drafted to pull some and help her tame the pile. The smell of geranium plants are a pleasant childhood memory for me. I am guilty of going to nurseries and plant shops and squeezing the random leaf just to get a whiff of childhood.

As an adult, I have far less inclination to have a perfect yard though I do dream of it. Every spring I get out there and dig for an hour or two, plop in a stray rosemary or lavender bush and hope for the best. Last year we had a terrible drought (we're actually still in it) so most everything died because I refuse to water more than the suggested watering schedule says.

I have three fairly happy rosemary bushes and a few lavender which have managed to survive. I have a couple of oregano and a stray sage or two but nothing really happy and full and as green as the plants I remember from childhood. The yard is a giant patch of dry weed stalks. I feel that I have betrayed my heritage of gentleman farmers.

But things do grow here and there. I have taken to painting plants or taking photos of other people to compensate the lack of my own green thumb.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

my mysterious grandmother

My family is full of mystery which is very frustrating because most of them are going to remain unsolved. This is hard because I'm pretty curious and can't stand mysteries which is why I generally read the endings to books about three chapters into the story. At any rate, my family has stories that have no endings which really can be maddening.

One of the big ones is who is my grandmother on my dad's side and what was she like? I know very little about her. I know her name was Frieda Angermeier (though I have seen it spelt Angomier, Angirmeier, and Angermeier) and that she was probably Jewish. She was married to my grandfather sometime around 1914 (when my dad was born) and they had three boys. In 1920,Frieda and Randy (as he seemed to have been called back then) lived in Dallas (according to the US Census) but later that year had deposited the three boys in an orphanage and disappeared after separating. Who was she? What happened to her? Where did she go? No one ever spoke about her. I did a lot of digging and found her entry to the United States through Ellis Island. I found small clues on the ship's passenger manifesto.... that she had a sister name Kathi Hauerwas who in 1910 lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico (before it was a state!) and that Frieda originally was from the Augsburg area in Germany. Her father's name was Frederich (who my father was named after) and the street that he lived on there was listed. She was 17 when she came to the US and it appears from the manifesto she might have traveled by herself. (No one else on the list is from the area she is.) and she was visiting - not immigrating.
I also found an earlier ship's list that included a Julia Angermeier also from the same area and was slightly older, who was a maid so I have conjectured that she is a relative as well. But nothing else. Vague rumors from and old conversation with one of my aunts (from my mom's side) that Frieda lived in El Paso Texas in the '60's.

One of my cousins I met when I started doing this research sent me a xerox of a photo of her. He doesn't know anything either. We think it's Frieda and her mother and it's dated 1906. Was this the young Frieda? Very faintly written in pencil (among others in Swabish) is Mrs. R. Wederstrandt. My grandmother.

Monday, February 2, 2009

This is the Wederstrandt cemetery in Saint Francisville. It's behind a baseball diamond. Most of the people buried here died from a yellow fever epidemic in the mid 1850's. It's pretty overgrown and the faces of the markers are pretty worn. Some no longer have markers.

Baton Rouge

I've been trying to move things around on my old lap top to my new lap top and ran across these photos I've taken on my trips with Hal. He's a curator of a museum and used to go to these conferences. I went along with him to two different ones - and while I didn't really get to do the whole conference, ran around and took a vacation. The first one was in Baton Rouge a couple of years ago, near where part of my family lived from the 19th century until the 1940's when my dad moved to California. I still have family that live nearby Baton Rouge but I've never met them. My family moved there from Maryland where they had lived from the 1700's. My big dream is to go to Maryland and find where they lived there. Genealogy is a wonderful way to learn history.

These trips are wonderful. I have the freedom of just looking and seeing things. I generally wind up doing normal day to day stuff, going to the store and getting lunch - I generally vacation on a shoestring. I sit in parks and eat and people watch. I found ruined plantations, full of cows, gravestones of relatives in nearby St. Francisville and part of Louisiana State University's Rural Life Museum. Baton Rouge is a great city to visit - I felt really at home..