Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My New Year's Resolutions

This is the time when we review the past year and devise a plan to make the new year better. If you are so inclined, you might make resolutions to guide you through the next twelve months.

This has been a great year for me. My family has enjoyed good health, we are all speaking to each other, and no one has been financially ruined by investing in gold mines in Timbuctu. So, instead of making a whole list of promises, I will limit my list to two items:

1. I will speak kindly to others and hope they will be inspired to do the same. Together we can make this a kinder, gentler world.

2. I will continue to find joy in living and wish the same experiece for others.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Another View from my Window on the World

The view from my Window on the World changes from hour to hour and day to day. Above is the view this evening as the sun started to set. The entire tree appeared to be alive and glowing.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Loaned out

I've loaned all my words out. They will be returned later and I'll talk to you then.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas, Caroline

Everyone has a favorite Christmas gift - the one that stands out from all the others. Maybe it was a doll or a fire truck or a fishing pole. My favorite gift arrived in a red Christmas stocking on Christmas Day 1999 and was better than any store-bought gift could ever be. On that day, my funny, talented, sassy granddaughter arrived with a flourish and turned our world upside down. She puts the sunshine in our lives and gives us great hope for the future of this world.

My name for this very special child is Baby Dumpling, but since she will be nine in a day or so, it is probably time to cast that name aside and call her by her birth name, Caroline. She is becoming a young lady now and the play dinosauers and My Little Pony have been replaced with online games and computers. She has a great future and her Pop-Pop and I are so proud to be a part of her life.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

What Gift Would You Choose?

If you had the ability to give a gift to the people of the world, what would it be? Don't count peace - that's a given. We have to have a process to achieve world peace. Would your gift include an element of that process? Think about it. Now, what would your gift be?

My first thought was that each of us be able to experience pure joy in living. My next thought was the ability to think before speaking - to pause and reflect on how our words will affect others before they are spoken. Perhaps if we hestitated before speaking there would be fewer disagreements and, therefore, a happier world.

It is difficult to know which I would choose. How about you?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Scary Thought

After using the same calendar for almost a year, I just realized it is a calendar for 2007. The scary part is that I don't believe I missed an appointment all year.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


From childhood I wanted a sister and as much as I begged my parents, it never happened. They never told me if I had anything to do with their decision, but I prefer to think not. My second choice was a real, live monkey - I didn’t get that either, even though they could be special ordered through the Sears & Roebuck catalogue. That’s true; I am not lying. Page 305 - I had it memorized.

Being denied a sister and a monkey, I set out to find a replacement for one or the other. Fortunately, the sister won out.

My dad’s sister and my mother were best friends and, naturally, my aunt’s daughter became my best friend and the closest thing I had to a sister. We did a lots of things together, even dressed alike. My aunt would buy enough material for dresses for my cousin and I and my mother, an excellent seamstress, would make the dresses - one for my cousin-sister and one for myself. There we were - dressed alike and proud of it. When people asked if we were twins, it was “Yes, ma’am, we sure are!” Of course, everyone in our little village knew better but played along with us.

As we grew older, our lives took different paths and I moved away. But, when I was back in town, Watch out! We picked up on our conversations like we had never been separated. I cried when her baby died and then her parents and her brother. She shared my grief when I lost my parents and brother.

It wasn’t all crying, though. There were lots of fun times too. The ones I best remember are those that happened when we were children, especially the times when our grandmother babysat with us. Grandma had “fainting spells,” which usually happened when someone crossed her and it seemed like the more we acted up, the more spells she had. We could be chasing each other through the house, having a grand old time and then, plop! There she went, but a little sweet talk and promises to be better usually brought her around.

Grandma carried a little bottle filled with some dark, magical elixir called “nerve medicine.” Heaven forbid, if it should ever be misplaced. Well, misplaced it was one night when my cousin, Grandma and I were making fudge. Imagine our chagrin when several drops of that potent mixture somehow found its way into our candy. We were one group of happy campers, let me tell you. I’ve always wondered if Grandma had any part in the misplacement of that nerve medicine.

After many years of being a widow, Grandma decided to court with the boyfriend she had rejected before she married our grandfather. She was in her 70s at the time and, in our eyes, way over the hill - so far over that if she looked backward, she couldn’t even see that hill. Boyfriend would arrive, dressed smartly in a white shirt buttoned to his chin, pants with creases sharp enough to cut through butter and shoes so shiny you could count your freckles in them. Grandma was dressed finely too, but she always was a sharp dresser, usually with a lace handkerchief tucked in the sleeve of her dress. There they sat, side by side on the sofa, exhanging chit chat, smiling and being sweet to each other until it was time to have coffee and dessert (Thank the Lord, it never included any candy we had made!). How do I know all this? We were peeping in the window, of course. Grandma looked after us so we looked after her.

This was supposed to be about sisters and I got off track, but you get the picture. My cousin and I remain very close and never run out of things to talk about. I don’t hold it against her that she is older than I and she doesn’t hold it against me that I’m smarter than she. We get along just fine.

Published 16 December 2008, Rambling Thoughts ... Out of My Mind by Brenda Joyce Jerome.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Window on the World

Every house I have ever lived in has had a special window through which I can watch the world. Each has been my “Window on the World” and has been part of what I do best - sitting, dreaming and planning. If care isn’t taken, though, I would sit there for hours, thinking about what has already happened and planning what will happen in the future.

The house I live in now has a great Window on the World. The view through the French doors of my dining room looks out over the deck and toward a large, ancient oak tree, which stands guard over an old cemetery just past my house. How lucky can a genealogist be - a cemetery right in the neighborhood! This one is extra special as it has markers for Civil War veterans and some of the early families of this area. It is well maintained and there is a marker listing all known burials. If you squint with one eye and close the other, you can see a tombstone peeping over the grass in the photograph above. Better yet, just click on the photograph for a closer view.

This old tree stands tall and proud during the winter when its bare branches wave with the winter winds. In spring and summer it is dressed in its finery of green and the upper branches sway with gentle breezes. Its appearance may vary from season to season, but it is a constant in my life and grabs my attention each time I look outside.

Having a window on the world is a good thing. I bet you have one in your house too.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Michigan vs Indiana

When I first moved to Michigan, I heard people talk about going Upnorth. Where on earth was this place called Upnorth? Then I realized it was two words: Up North and it wasn't a town, it was the entire region north of Midland and Bay City. You see, Michigan is shaped like a mitten with a scarf waving across the top. People live in the U.P. (Upper Peninsula), Up North, the Thumb or Down Below, which is what people Up North call everything not Up North, in the U.P., or in the the Thumb. The Thumb is the part that resembles ... well, you get the picture. I'm sure there are other parts of Michigan, but those are the main divisions.

People in Michigan have funny names and eat funny food. For example, people living in the U.P. are called Yoopers and most Yoopers like pasties. No, not those miniscule things that twirl and which, so I am told, are often worn by dancers in certain places not frequented or mentioned by ladies. I'm talking about the thing that makes up the main food group of Yoopers.

Pasties were introduced to this country by immigrant Cornish miners who worked in the copper and iron mines. They are sort of like western Kentucky fried pies, but with meat and potatoes instead of fruit. Maybe they would taste better if they did have some fruit, 'cause the way they make them in the U.P., they are good for nothing but bear bait.

Even though Michigan was the birthplace of Domino's Pizza and has 1,001 fine dining establishments, I was really glad to get back to Indiana where real food can be found every day in the local supermarket. Imagine my delight after returning to God's Country to find real pork brains ready for frying up for brain sandwiches. Another counter had dressed squirrels. I'm not sure those little skinned darlings were for sale, though. I figure some real smart hunter had placed his prizes in the supermarket cooler because his own cooler was chock full of deer meat and pork brains.

The sad thing, however, is that progress has come to my town. Our little market is 20,000 feet bigger and is graced not only by seafood, soup and salad bars, but also a wireless coffee shop. And it's huge - any market that requires a map to find your way in and out is too dadburn big. And they don't even have pork brains or squirrels in the coolers. Can this be progress?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

What a Dilemna!

I tell you, this world is full of people who are sick and dying and who desperately need my help. Two days ago I received a most urgent message from Mr. Walter Ross, who is ill with a life-threatening disease and must find someone - like me - to assist him in finding the heirs to a fortune in South African diamonds. All I have to do is send my bank account numbers and he will deposit a huge amount of cash in my bank while the heirs are being located. Once these heirs are found, Mr. Ross says I will receive $2 million to use any way I choose. Can you beat that!

Then today, Mrs. Vivian Walter, the wife of Edward Walter, wrote me that her husband, who worked with Chevron/Texaco in Russia, deposited 7.5 million pounds with a bank in Europe before he died. If Mrs. Walter is unable to activate this account, the funds will be confiscated so she urgently requests my help to stand as beneficiary of the funds. Poor woman is in a hospital in Russia receiving treatment for cancer.

I think I will hurry and write each of them a lovely, long letter and tell them no one needs that much money when they have friends who will take care of them. They can catch the next flight to my hometown. I'll whisk them right to my house and I'll take care of them ... for a modest fee, of course.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Another Time Out

I think I've talked (typed) too much today. I'm temporarily out of words.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Habits Die Hard

It's snowing this morning. Actually, it is a sort of rain/snow mixture, but it's enough to remind me that winter is almost here.

The first snowflakes always bring back memories of the many years spent in Michigan, where the winters were long and harsh with quite a bit of that white stuff. When we first moved there, I had visions of the snow gently falling while I read a book in front of the fireplace and sipped my cup of hot chocolate. Well, let me tell you, that was just a dream. The truth involved wet, smelly boots, mittens draped in front of the fireplace, snowsuits that had to dry out before the next outing - you get the picture. Not exactly a scene from House Beautiful!

Taking a hint from neighbors, I soon learned to stock up on canned goods and fireplace wood that would see us through days and nights if the electricity went out and we had no heat. It was not unusual for us to receive a foot of snow in one day, which was lovely if you didn't plan to go out. Fearing a fire or other catastrophe, the sidewalk was first cleared and then, like Santa, it was "up on the rooftop," to push the snow off onto the ground. Snow tends to melt in sunlight and then freezes when the temps drop. It likes to back up under the eaves and seep into the attic and elsewhere. There is nothing like waking up in the middle of the night with a drip, drip, drip in the light fixture over your bed.

The most popular person in the neighborhood was the county snow plow operater, but after he had made one run down the road, we still had to clear that hill of snow left from the snow plow at the end of the driveway. The most unpopular person in the neighborhood was the fool who lived two doors down and who always managed to get his car sideways in the road, preventing everyone from getting in or out of our dead end road.

In the event that school was dismissed, the neighborhood kids spent the day making tunnels and snow forts. Moms spent the day hoping there would be school the next day.

I don't have to worry about wet snowsuits and boots anymore and there is not usually much snow here in southern Indiana, but when those first flakes fall, I still go into that "emergency mode" and check the pantry to make sure I have all the necessary supplies, just in case.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Day After

I survived another Friday-after-Thanksgiving shopping excursion. My daughter reminded me we began this tradition 30 years ago, when she was only 11 years old. On the best of days, I do not like shopping in malls, so whatever possessed me to start such a tradition is beyond my memory and comprehension. Maybe that was the "martyr" stage of my life.

My daughter went to bed early so she would be fresh and bright for the early morning event, but she miscalculated the time difference and was up, showered and ready to go at 2:30 am. I had not gone to sleep until after midnight and, thus, did not have this problem. So, she napped and I slept on until 4:30.

At 5 am we joined the crowd outside a major department store then wound our way throughout and found goodies we could not be without. The only problem was these "goodies" were all for us - no gifts for family and friends. Time to move on!

Leaving that store, my daughter went in and out of almost every store while I moved from bench to bench down the aisle. She is a real bargain hunter, cutting out the newspaper coupons and figuring out which stores have the best deals.

The shopping certainly wasn't the highlight of the day for me, but the morning break for breakfast and the companionship were. In spite of the tired feet and aching back, it was a fun day and another to add to my stock of memories.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

After a 500 mile drive, my family is here for Thanksgiving. As I wait for them to arrive, I know that I can not go about my regular routine and remain above the concern about where they are, if there is a lot of traffic and when they will arrive so I usually plan a marathon of baking. It relieves my stress and provides them with some of Mom's cooking. All of us are winners.

After the flurry of bringing in suitcases, hugs and how are you's, we all settle down to catch up with each other. Since we talk almost every day you would think we knew everything going on in each other's lives, but there are so many things that can't be expressed over the phone or by email - a smile, a chuckle, an arm around the shoulder.

Tonight the travelers are either in bed or shortly will be. The television is off and the house is quiet again. While I love the noise of my family, I love more the peace that comes from knowing they are once more safe and where I can see and touch them at will.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Time Out

Some days you feel like talking; other days you don't. This is one of those days.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Directionally Challenged

I am directionally challenged. In other words, I get lost - a lot. It doesn't matter how precise the directions are, I will get them turned around, upside down, or they will simply disappear. I have a drawer full of directions to the homes of friends I don't visit very often. It must be a family thing as my cousin has the same problem. We have joked about leaving a trail of bread crumbs when we leave home. We may joke about lacking a sense of direction, but it really isn't funny.

Last spring I planned a day trip to a library about two hours from home. It is said that if you do something 21 times, it becomes a habit so getting to the right town was no problem as my family lived there for several years. And since the older members of the family had staked out a claim to the E.R. of the local hospital some time ago, getting to that place was a cinch.

The problem was getting from the hospital to the library. Map Quest provided directions, listing all the streets and telling me when to turn and the distance from one turn to the next. One problem - it didn't make allowances for detours.

The first detour came about because of a house fire. The street was blocked off and a policeman politely gestured for me to stop, back up, turn around and leave. Ok, I can do that. The next street over should take me to the same street on which the library was located. Another problem - street repairs with no through traffic. By the time I had backed up and turned around again, I was hopelessly lost.

I finally got to the library, but only after humbling myself and asking directions at a dry cleaners. It's really strange - I can drive to every courthouse and cemetery in western Kentucky without a hitch, but I get lost going anywhere else. Wonder why that is?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

My Take on Commercials

I know television commericials are supposed to convince you that you can not live without their products. Isn't it funny, though, how some commercials have just the opposite effect?

One commercial that turns me off is the one for Geico Insurance. Any company that has a talking, slimy green lizard as a spokesperson won't get my business. No, sir!

The other commercials that make me want to upchuck are the ones featuring Billy Mayes. What an annoying piece of work he is and what junk he is peddling! I'd like to slap Billy Mayes silly and he can stick that junk you-know-where.

What commercial would be most likely to get my business? How about one advertising digital cameras featuring a good looking fella leaning sightly toward a tombstone as he photographs the inscription. After he clicks, he would look toward the camera and say one word very softly - "Buy." Now, that would get my attention and would make me run out to buy that camera. Or how about an SUV that has special see-in-the-past headlights that can pick out family cemeteries and old roads? That ought to revive the auto industry!

Did I mention that I am a genealogist?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Last Meal

For the first time in nine years, the state of Kentucky executed a man by lethal injection last night. If you believe in legal execution, he got what he deserved. Never again will he kill two children, attempt to kill another and rape their mother. He professed sorrow at what he had done and resisted attempts for appeals so it appears he was ready to die.

I have mixed feelings about death by execution. Even when a horrific crime has been committed, I'm not sure that the taking of one life can make up for the taking of another. However, there is one aspect of executions that leaves me speechless ... well, almost.

What is this business of providing the condemned man his meal of choice right before he is going to meet his Maker? According to this morning's newspaper, the soon-to-die man had rare steak, butterfly shrimp, salad, tea and banana cream pie. What?? This man is going to leave this world in a flash and on his way out he is given a meal fit for a king? Do his jailors think he will have an easier ride to the hereafter on a full stomach? Some things I just don't understand.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Sweet Tea

Somehow in the past year or so, sweet tea has become the national drink. People of all ages and nationalities drink it, although it does kind of set me back to be offered sweet tea by a waitress in ethnic dress at a Chinese restaurant.

I've tried sweet tea in all kinds of places - from high priced restaurants to fast food places and I have to admit that just about the best is Mickey D's Sweet Tea - large size for only a buck. I have spent so much time waiting in line at the local McDonald's that the employees no longer ask what I want; it's "Hi! Sweet tea - right?" Sometimes I like to fool them and order a hamburger too, but when I get home, the hamburger is ignored for, after all, the main course is the sweet tea.

Now, most northerners haven't a clue what constitutes good sweet tea. They think you can take instant tea, add water and throw in some artificial sweetener and you have sweet tea. Yuk!

To make a pitcher of real honest-to-goodness sweet tea, you have to brew the tea. I like two different brands - Luzianne or Great American Tea, which comes from the only tea plantation in the United States. The latter is hard to find outside Charleston, South Carolina, but it is well worth the trip down there just to see how tea is grown and cultivated and to stock up on this wonderful tea. Or just look it up on Google and order it online.

If you decide to make your own sweet tea, only three ingredients are needed: tea, water and sugar - lots and lots of sugar. No Sweet and Low, no Splenda - good, old fashioned, tingle-your-lips sugar! Put your tea bags in a small saucepan and cover with an inch or so of water, bring to boil and turn off the heat under the pan. Let it steep. Now, the important part. Shovel the sugar into a glass pitcher - remember, lots of sugar. Pour the hot tea water over the sugar and stir like crazy. Finally, add cold water to the pitcher and stir again. Pour into an ice filled glass and enjoy. Notice that I didn't tell you how many tea bags or how much water to use. It really depends on how strong you want it. I usually start with 3 bags and add enough water so that it looks like the right strength. You can also use loose tea, but I never get it strained right and it annoys me to find bits of tea leaves between my teeth.

My sister-in-law calls sweet tea "sugar water," but what does she know. She grew up in Michigan and lives in Philadelphia, for Pete's sake.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Lists to Make

There is one purpose to this blog: having a place to record my thoughts and opinions, which are many and varied. I've found that as I get older, my thoughts sometimes go in many different directions at once. Maybe this blog will help keep track of them and determine which are new thoughts and which are old ones rehashed. If they turn out to be rehashed thoughts, I'll just put them on my list of thoughts not to be thought again. Right?

I'm a list maker. I make lists on the backs of used envelopes, on pads of paper, on the computer and in my head. The problem is those lists never get beyond the "making" part. My grocery list remains on the kitchen counter, the used envelope list lies neglected under more current lists and the lists on the computer and in my head are soon forgotten. Is it worthwhile to make a list? I don't know, but I keep on doing it.

Heading my list of the three foods I must have is peanut butter, followed by cheese (preferably string cheese) and then yogurt. Peanut butter is my personal comfort food. I remember being allowed, as a child, to have a spoonful of peanut butter as a treat before bedtime so I guess peanut butter is tied up with my childhood memories. String cheese is just plain fun to eat! Pulling if off, string by string, allows me to play with my food in an acceptable way. I don't think anyone really likes yogurt. Those commercials lie. Yogurt is nothing more than curdled milk and who really wants to eat that? BUT, you feel good when it's finished because it is supposed to be good for you. So, that is my list of "must have" foods. If I made a list of "really, really good foods," yogurt wouldn't be on the list.

I go to an exercise class twice a week and sometimes a yoga class another day. None of the class members will ever see 50 again. We all have our aches and pains, but there is one lady who is a pain all by herself. She is 76, has no wrinkles and wears spandex shorts. Spandex! Can you believe it? And she eats funny too. One day I heard her say her favorite meal was yogurt and a pear. She didn't even mention peanut butter. I don't like her.

So, that's what I have been thinking this late fall afternoon. Maybe I'll think again soon.