Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My New Year's Resolutions

It's that time again - time to review the past year and make resolutions for the new year. I only had two resolutions to keep in 2009 and I'm not sure either was kept. I vowed to speak kindly to others and hope they would do the same. I also vowed to find joy in living.

Sometimes my mouth works faster than my brain and I speak without thinking. So, Speak Kindly and Thoughtfully goes on my list for 2010.

For the most part, I did find joy in living, but have also found that as I get older, I dwell on the past more than is necessary. While I treasure my family and friends, I miss those who have already passed on.

In memory of my mother, who passed away three years ago in early December, the following photograph is shared with you. My mother, myself, my daughter and granddaughter represent four generations as captured in 2003.

One new resolution is being added. I promise to learn sometime new in 2010. It might be a new skill in research or perhaps in technology.

Oh, oh! Another resolution. I am determined to become a better photographer. I love taking photos, but need to learn better techniques.

That's enough with the resolutions. These will keep me busy for at least a year.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Caroling in Jail

A story on the local TV news station Christmas night caused me to do some thinking. A group from an area church went Christmas caroling in the county jail. They sang traditional songs of the season to men who are behind bars because they broke the law. The men were shown looking through glass windows and bars at the carolers.

I could not help but wonder what these inmates were thinking as they heard "Silent Night, Holy Night," and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." Were they thinking they, too, would be home if they had not done something illegal? Were they wondering how their behavior had affected their families? Were they sorry for what they had done? Would being in jail over Christmas act as a deterrent to breaking the law in the future?

Did the caroling help the prisoners or did it just make them bitter? What do you think?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Merry Christmas

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a New Year full of peace and joy.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Different View

I live on the far east side of the city and my view of the river has become ordinary. So ... I went on the west side of the city for a different view.

This is what I saw:

And this:

And I turned a bit and saw the football stadium of my old high school.

A different view is good. An enlarged view (by clicking on the photo) is even better.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Wonderful Type Writer Machine

Most of us would be lost without our computers. We have forgotten that it wasn't that long ago that we had only machines that printed letters. They did not calculate, sort, store or do any of the other functions we rely on our computers to do.

These machines, called type writers, were new in 1876 and they promised to revolutionize the business world. The following article appeared in the Evansville Journal of the 21st of March 1876.

For several days there has been exhibited in the reading room of the St. George Hotel a mechanical invention called the "type writer," which is wonderful indeed in its accomplishment and really establishes a very important principle in combining the two departments comprising the "art preservative" - writing and printing. It is a handsome and small iron-cased box, with several rows of keys arranged like a key board of a piano, each key representing a letter of the alphabet, a punctuation sign, or a figure. By manipulating these keys with the fingers, the various characters are printed on paper, and instead of miserable chirography you have a handsomely printed sheet of paper. The keys may be worked more rapidly than you may write, and it is claimed that with the aid of the machine, one may write with three fold rapidity.

The invention is wonderful and worthy of close inspection. These machines are rapidly coming into vogue in this country among the classes of writers who have a great deal of writing to do in a very little time. The mode of operating does not cause any of the "cramped" feeling in the fingers, which frequently ends in what is called "pen paralysis."

We've come a long way.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Well, here I am - the same place as last year - without words as I wait for part of my family to arrive for Thanksgiving. So, if you don't mind, I'll do other things to occupy my time and mind while I "worry them home." In the meantime, I hope all is well in your world and you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Changing Shapes

Nothing stays the same. Buildings, like people, grow old and their shapes change. This is what happened to a building in Pontiac, Michigan, where my family spent a lot of years. But first, let me tell you how the building came to be.

After serving as Chief Engineer of Oakland Automobile Company, the predecessor of Pontiac Motors, Benjamin Jerome Sr. opened Jerome Motors on South Saginaw Street in Pontiac, Michigan in the early 1930s.

As a dealer of Oldsmobiles, Cadillacs and LaSalles, the company managed to remain open through World War II, when automobiles took a back seat to the war effort by concentrating on selling used cars.

The photo below shows the dealership as it looked during the early 1950s. Busy place. Note the showroom facing South Saginaw Street on the left side of the photo.

In November 1967, ground was broken for a new facility "at the top of Woodward Avenue" and the business moved. The old building was used for other purposes and the first changes to its shape were made.

The building that housed the original dealership still stands in Pontiac, but South Saginaw Street is now called Wide Track. The showroom has been enclosed, but the lines and architecture identify this as a structure from the 1930s. The business was sold in 1985 and the dealership was moved to Rochester Hills.

I love the clean lines of the building.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Up, Up and Away!

I’m not crazy about heights, but I’ve always thought it might be fun to go up in a hot air balloon just to see the world from a new angle. The following article in the Evansville Journal of Wednesday, 1 March 1876, has me wondering if maybe I should keep my feet on the ground.

Earlington, Ky., Feb. 28, 1876 – Professor Perry attempted to ascend in his balloon here on Saturday, but the distance was short, as in the rise the balloon caught on a corner of a building and after gaining an altitude of about 100 feet, his flying car began suddenly to descend and lodged in a tree only 100 yards from the starting place. The gentleman came down on a ladder, glad to reach Mother Earth once more.

The craft sailed off and fell in a neighboring yard, where it frightened an old lady and a darling baby nearly into spasms. The old lady ran into the house and called for help as only a frightened female can do. A little camphor and some thorough argument on the part of her friends convinced her that a planet had not arrived from on high.

So much for the balloon ride.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

On the Menu

This photo will prove that my town has an establishment of haute cuisine. Nourishment for the gourmand, you know.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Old Woman Blues

I've been shamed! I've been slandered! Twice within the past week I have been called Miss Brenda. Can you imagine? I know; calling a person Miss whatever is supposed to be a sign of respect, but for your elders! Couldn't they have chosen another way to show respect - like opening a door or some other simple gesture. Oh no! They had to call me Miss Brenda - out loud, too! Those two words were like a stab in the heart. I'll never recover - might as well get some old-woman, black lace up oxfords, a hair net and find a rocking chair. I'm done.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Autumn 2009

I know, I know. It's too early for the leaves to be turning. That usually happens toward the end of October. Tell that to Mother Nature. She seems to have a mind of her own these days. The photo above was taken along the Western Kentucky Parkway, probably Hopkins County, Kentucky, this afternoon while driving home from the dedication of a monument to Revolutionary War soldier Longshore Lamb and his wife, Sarah, in Caldwell County, Kentucky.

It was a chilly, damp, blustery day until about 2 p.m., when the sun came out and the temperature went up. Mother Nature isn't done with us yet, though, as she is sending the temps down to 40 tonight, reminding us that she is in charge and we are only along for the ride. Well, at least it isn't snowing ...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Gaggle of Canadian Geese

How many Canadian geese make a gaggle? I don't have the slightest idea, but this morning I met up with a bunch of them in an area near my home where new condos are being built. After squawking at me, they turned and scurried toward a pond. They aren't my favorite of the geese family as they have an attitude and leave messy calling cards, but they made an interesting picture on an otherwise ordinary morning.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Remember 9-11-2001

Many of us can remember where we were and what we were doing when important events occurred. 9-11-2001 is a perfect example.

I was just pulling into the parking lot of the post office when I heard an announcement on the radio that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Maybe it was a hunch that something momentous had happened, but whatever it was, I dropped my plans for the day, turned the car around, and went home and turned on the TV. Along with the rest of the country, I watched as the nightmare played out over the next few days. In spite of a feeling of helplessness and anger at what had happened, there was also a renewed sense of pride in our country and the way we dealt with the events and our grief.

Those of us who have lived a good many years have witnessed other events that have changed the world, but none as quickly or as completely as 9-11. It is hard to believe it has been eight years.

In memory of the approximately 3,000 people who perished, let’s take a few minutes to reflect of what happened, how it changed us and our world and pray it never happens again.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Only For The Gourmand!

For those who prefer fine cuisine, now being served at Hardee's, corner of the Lloyd Expressway and Bell Road, Newburgh, Indiana 2 September 2009. What's next? Spam souffle?

Monday, August 31, 2009

One More Tree

I just had to add one more tree from my collection. This is Angel Oak near Charleston, South Carolina in 2008. It is about 1500 years old - seriously! It's amazing! Click on the photo for an enlarged view.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Collecting Trees

I collect trees. No, not literally. Trees fascinate me - all kinds of trees. I like them when they are bare, showing their bones during the winter and I like them in all their finery during the spring and summer.

You've seen several photos of the big tree that shades the cemetery in my neighborhood. It's a special tree to me, but there are others equally special.

This one is located in a park in Charleston, South Carolina. Is it a palmetto? I'm not sure, but isn't it magnificent?

Below is a new one to me and is located in Oak Hill Cemetery in Evansville. I suspect wind and ice have sculpted it into its present shape. But isn't it regal? All it needs is an eagle's nest in the top.

Trees are everywhere and collecting them is fun and inexpensive. Just look around. I bet you can find collectible trees too.

Monday, August 24, 2009

More Hyacinth Beans

I promise these are the last photos of my hyacinth beans (lablab) on the fence. This photo shows them reaching for the sun from the outside of the fence.

And this one is a close up of the pods on the inside of the fence. The pods will gradually dry up and become brittle. Then it is time to break them off the vine and free them from the pods. The seeds inside the pods will be planted next spring.

I love the color and the fact that they are just a little different from most vines.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Chunk Out of My Tree

The effects of the ice storm of last January are still evident. This photograph of "My Tree" amuses me. It looks as if someone/something has taken a giant bite out of the tree. Nature is always changing, isn't it?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

All gone!

They're gone, all gone! My thoughts and words have disappeared! I'll return when they are recovered!

Update 16 August 2009: No, no! My words have not been deleted from this site. This is just my way of saying my plate runneth over and I haven't had time to sit down and write. I'll be back ... just busy right now.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Hyacinth Bean or Lablab

My sister-in-law introduced me to lablab, sometimes called hyacinth bean or Egyptian pea vine, a couple of years ago. The flowers and bean pods were pretty last year, but not nearly as full as this year, even though I only planted 6-8 seeds. I just learned that this vine and its bean pods are used as food in some parts of Africa.

In the first photo, taken from the back yard, my giant tomato plant has competed for the prize for runaway growth, but the lablab seems to be leading. The second photo is taken from the street side of the fence. Click on each photo for an enlarged view.

I'm rather taken with this vine and hope to harvest enough seeds to plant again next year.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Trouble and Migraine Get Bathed ... Sort of

For ages the family felines have been smelling just a bit ... well, gamey. It was time to make them clean and pretty again.

I decided to tackle the event logically. First, a bottle of waterless shampoo was lined up on the counter with a clean brush and a nice, fluffy towel, just in case the little darlings got chilled during the procedure. Nothing is too good for the furry children, you know.

Trouble, the smaller cat, was first. She likes to be brushed so this should go quickly and smoothly. Oh oh! One squirt of the shampoo and Trouble was on my shoulder and down my back like a flash. Dashing through the house like a animal possessed, she scooted under a chair in a spot only big enough for a flea to occupy. Tugging her first by a paw and then by the tail, she hissed and showed a side of her normally sweet self never seen before!

Ok, let her rest. Surely Migraine, aka Fat Cat, would be more cooperative. Located in her usual summer sleeping spot in the bathtub, she barely opened her eyes at me until she heard the shampoo bottle go squirt, squirt! Out of that tub with speed not seen since she was a kitten, she raced down the hall and around and around the family room, landing somewhere out of sight. Ah ha! There she was! For a cat who can barely jump from the floor into the bathtub, she was trying to sprout wings and land on top of the china cabinet!

Well, the little critters did get bathed - somewhat. Trouble has a clean and fluffy tail and Migraine has the prettiest, cleanest head you ever saw, but I smell like a wet cat.

I learned something today. Bathing cats is hard work and is not for the weak and aged. I think I'll go take a nap.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Modern Day Hero

People say we don't have heroes anymore, but that isn't true. Just last week we saw on the TV news that a young man rescued a three year old child from a burning SUV on a California freeway. Going in through the sunroof, he unbuckled the dangling child from her car seat and dashed to safety with her in his arms.

What makes this rescue so special is that this young man, John McDonald, is my nephew, who I saw for the first time in over 20 years at the Jerome family reunion in northern Michigan last week. The family is so proud of him and what a pleasure it is to know there are still unselfish persons in this world.

John can be seen in the reunion photograph below. He is the first person in the back row standing next to his proud aunt.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Family Reunion: Many Accents, One Family

They had never been together in one spot at the same time. They came from Philadelphia, Los Angeles, San Antonio, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Charleston, Evansville and many towns in the Detroit area. Some spoke in the fast, clipped manner of the East, some in that lower Michigan accent and still others in the softened tones of the South. Some were blonde, some gray, others bald. It didn’t matter that some had never met and others had not seen each other in many years. They have one thing in common. They are family.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Summer Is Here!

Summer is here. How do I know it’s here? Let me count the ways ….

1. Having three mosquito bites on one leg and two on the other. Is it the scent of the soap or lotion or am I just a good target for these little vampires?

2. Having to wear real shoes when flip flops are much more comfortable.

3. Being hissed at and scolded by the cats when the door to the deck is closed after the early morning coolness has worn off.

4. Seeing the potted plants on the deck beg for a drink by hanging their heads most pitifully. Thirsty little beggars, they are.

5. Meals of meat and potatoes sounded so good in the winter, but they have lost their appeal when the thermometer reaches 90 degrees.

6. Thinking of 101 reasons to skip the gym, number one being opening the car door to 125 degrees heat hitting me in the face when I already glisten and glow and have the scent of dirty socks after an hour of exercise.

7. Listening to the neighbor train his dogs outside, using his loud, Chicago voice, and refraining from complaining.

8. Feeling the dry, prickly grass on my bare feet as I gingerly make my way to turn on the water sprinkler.

9. Having to iron because all of my summer clothes are 100% cotton.

10. Having a new book to read and a tall glass of sweet tea to enjoy as I curl up in my favorite chair.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Happy 4th of July!

There's more than one way to fly the flag on this 4th of July weekend! As you enjoy the weekend, think about the reason we celebrate the 4th of July.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Last One Standing

I never wanted to be the last one standing. If it were left up to me, my parents and brother would still be here with me. Life, however, had other plans and they are all gone now.

The natural order of events has the children outliving their parents. My father passed away over 30 years ago and, while his death was hard on my mother, she accepted the loss and went on. “Losing a child is different,” she used to say. Mother had not stopped mourning the loss of my brother when she died two years ago.

Today was my brother’s birthday. I find myself remembering little things we did as children and later as adults before his death in 2001. The memories are there, but they are becoming soft around the edges. That is unsettling.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Tombstone Art and Symbols

I attended a class on "Tombstone Art" this afternoon. Our instructor discussed the meanings of different tombstone symbols and he had a variety of examples as shown on stones from Oak Hill Cemetery, one of my favorite local hangouts.

He told us that for a figure to truly represent an angel, the figure can give no indication of the gender. The angels represent “messengers from God” and often hold a wreath, which symbolizes victory over death. Other popular tombstone symbols are the cross and anchor, which signify Christ as the “hope we have as an anchor of the soul.” Different flowers have different meanings, with the lily, which is common on tombstones, symbolizing purity.

We were also told that some more modern tombstones have symbols that have particular meaning to the decedent. In view of this, I have decided that on the back on my tombstone I want a large glass of sweet tea, a couple of cats, a computer and an open book. That just about says it all.

Oh, the photo above was taken in Fernwood Cemetery 2 June 2009. There is no indication whose grave it is marking, but I figure it must have been a good person as there is a variety of religious symbols on the tombstone.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Funeral of Gypsy Queen

The following article appeared in the Evansville [Indiana] Courier, on the 2nd of April 1894, page 4.

Mrs. Harrison's Burrial [sic].

The Largest Funeral Procession
Ever Seen Here.

The remains of Mrs. Isaac Harrison, better known as the "Gypsy Queen," were interred at Oak Hill cemetery yesterday afternoon. Never has a larger crowd assembled at one time in that burying ground than on yesterday afternoon. Many people who were present through curiosity were unable to get within hearing of the services which were held at the grave. The drive-way, from the gates of the grounds to the grave, were lined with people, and estimates made place the number at from 6,000 to 10,000.

At the grave the ceremonies were simple and appropriate. Dr. E.G. McLean, of the First Cumberland Presbyterian church, delivered the funeral address. He spoke of the good Mrs. Harrison had done among her people and how she was loved and revered by them.

At 2 o'clock the procession formed at Lake Park and several thousand people were gathered there at the time. Buggies, carriages, cabs, moving cars and every kind of vehicle that could be used in transporting people were to be seen in the procession, which was one of the largest, if not the largest, seen here in years. There were about fifty Gypsies in attendance. The remains, which have been in a public vault for nearly five months, were carried to the Harrison family lot and the last ceremonies were performed. Beautiful music was furnished by the double quartette composed of Misses Nellie Cook, Hae McMcCutchan, Sophia Schenck and Cora Smith, and Messrs. Harry Scott, Elmer McCutchan, Wallace Cook and Julius Jorgenson.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Death of King of the Gypsies

Isaac Harrison
Born 1837
in Scherfield, Eng.
Killed Dec. 1, 1900
at Martin Station, Ala.

Elizabeth S.
Wife of
Isaac Harrison
Born May 17, 1831 in England
Died Sept. 20, 1895

Father and Mother Have Gone to Rest
The Ones We Loved So Dear
A Place is Vacant in our Home
Which Never Can Be Filled

Tombstone of Isaac and Elizabeth Harrison, King and Queen of the Gypsies, Section 23, Oak Hill Cemetery, Evansville, Indiana.

I moved to this southern Indiana city the summer I became 11 and it wasn’t long before I heard our city was the summertime residence of a caravan of gypsies. I understand Rom is the politically correct name today, but in my child’s mind they were gypsies and that is the term that was used. Anyway, according to what was said, they wintered in the South and came to Evansville when the leaves began to unfurl and the breezes became warm. It was said they camped in a park, but I never saw the vehicles in which they traveled.

When I began working at the downtown branch of our local library during my early college years, another employee used to regale us with stories of her friendship with a gypsy fellow and the places they went and the fun they had. She made him sound very glamorous and full of life.

A couple of years ago I decided to do a little investigating to see if the stories I had heard could be true. Most of the information I found came from newspaper articles and obituaries.

It was said that Isaac and Elizabeth Harrison were the King and Queen of the Gypsies and even though both died elsewhere, their bodies were brought back to this city and buried in Oak Hill Cemetery. It was also said that when the families came here, they all camped at a park, living in their colorful wagons until it was time to head South for the winter.

In every article I read, it was stated that the Harrison and Stanley families were highly regarded and Stanley Avenue in our city was named for one family member. I am still tracking down information to verify these stories, but I wanted to share a little about the King and Queen of the Gypsies now. Each family has its sorrow and shame and one such event in the Harrison family was the death of Isaac in 1900. Below is the newspaper account, which appeared in the Evansville Journal, Tuesday, 4 Dec 1900, page 1.

Of All the Gypsies in the United

Isaac Harrison Killed
Saturday at Selma, Ala.

Well-Known in Evansville Where
He Camped Every Summer.

He Was Slain By His Son.
The body Brought Here and
Placed in a Vault.

Elaborate Funeral Ceremonies to
Be Held Next Spring.

The remains of Isaac Harrison, leader of all the gypsies in the United States, and who was killed by his son, Harry Harrison, at Selma, Ala., last Saturday, arrived in Evansville yesterday and were placed in a receiving vault at Oak Hill Cemetery. The burial will be made next spring and the funeral ceremonies will be of an elaborate character.

The body was escorted to this city by Mr. Harrison’s oldest son, Richard, Maria Harrison, daughter of the deceased, and Mrs. Will Harrison, his daughter-in-law.

They brought the first news of the tragedy which will arouse all of the Gypsy camps. In Evansville, the announcement will cause great regret, as the murdered man was well known to a large number of citizens as an honest man.

The murder of the old man was a most distressing affair. It seems that Harry Harrison and his oldest brother Richard had not been on speaking terms for several years, Harry believing that their father was partial to Richard.

The sons had a quarrel in the camp at Selma about 10 o’clock Saturday morning and the father attempted to make peace. He separated the sons and Harry securing a Winchester rifle shot his father in the abdomen. The wounded man was given every attention, but he lived only a few hours. The murderer escaped, but is being [illegible] by a sheriff’s posse which started out from Selma. He is about 35 years old.

Isaac Harrison was born at Sheffield, England, sixty-four years ago, and had been a resident of the United States since 1860. He was very successful as a breeder and seller of horses and in trading and leaves a fair-sized fortune to his children, Richard, Valley, Will and Ben Harrison, Maria Harrison and Mrs. Belle Stanley. The latter is with her camp somewhere in Florida and the burial of the remains will not be made till she can come to Evansville, which will probably be early next spring. Mr. Harrison’s wife, who was known as the queen of the gypsies, died in Ohio five years ago. Her remains were brought to this city and buried in the Harrison lot at Oak Hill after a ceremony of great pomp, according to the gypsy rites.

The son Harry will, of course, be ruled out of all camps and the other children have offered a reward of $500 for his capture.

The Harrisons and Stanleys intermarried and came in the spring of every year with Isaac Harrison to Evansville, where they made their headquarters at Lake Park. Their winter camp has always been in Alabama, and the party escorting the leader’s remains to this city returned to Selma last night. They were deeply affected by the tragic death of their relative.

Mrs. Maria Harrison stated that she and her baby would make their home in future with her brother, Richard.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Hazardous Duty

Never let it be said that genealogy is only for the old, the weak and the faint of heart! Why, I can tell you stories of being chased by wild animals, attacked by killer insects and I even survived a dangerous earthquake! What? You don’t believe me? Well, let me tell you the details.

I have this friend in Kentucky who shares my given name. We also share a love of locating and recording abandoned cemeteries in her home county. To get to our destination on one such trip, we parked the car, climbed over a fence and started off across a pasture toward the top of a hill, the logical spot for a family cemetery. About half way across the pasture, these big beasts - cows, I believe they are called - started chasing me. They ran, I ran faster. Looking over my shoulder, I saw my so-called friend doubled over laughing. “Stop, Brenda. They are running after you because they think you are going to feed them.” Humph! I knew that. I was just running to get a little exercise.

Another day, the first day of April, if I am not mistaken, we were in another part of the county recording a cemetery that was nothing more than a large clump of woody brush in the middle of an old corn field. We both sat down on fallen tombstones to record inscriptions. Apparently, some predators that live in such an environment found us and decided to go home with us. The next day I called my friend, “Brenda, do you itch? And do you have red bumps around your waist and ankles?” Yep! Those killer insects (aka chiggers) had attacked both of us.

Neither of those events was quite as scary as the morning I sat in the basement of one of my favorite Kentucky courthouses and witnessed my first earthquake up close and personal. First the metal stairs began to rattle and moan. Then the floor above my head started to wave - just like it is does in the movies - and then the windows rattled. Well, if I was going to be taken out by an earthquake, at least I was in my favorite place and doing the thing I loved most. I worked on until the county clerk came downstairs to check for damages and found me happily transcribing records. It seems the employees upstairs had run outside when the rattling began, not knowing that I was still in the basement.

You have to be made of tough stuff to be a genealogist and I believe I have passed the test.

Friday, June 5, 2009


How often have you heard “Beauty is only skin deep” or “You are as old as you feel?” Have you wondered where those statements originated? Sorry, I don’t have the answer. I can tell you, though, that many of these statements have become such a part of our speech patterns that there is a special name for them – proverbs. By using these proverbs, we are repeating a script written long ago and used so many times that these words are now accepted as truths and are part of our culture.

Are they really true? Who knows? Maybe there is a kernel of truth, but has anyone ever tried to test them to see if they are valid? Because we humans like to repeat ideas and words that tickle our fancy, these statements may have just been passed from one person to another, from one side of our country to the other. Repeating something over and over makes it true, or does it?

How many of the following proverbs are part of your vocabulary – and beliefs?

  • Red sunset at night, sailors’ delight. Red sky in the morning, sailors’ take warning.

  • A dimple on the chin means there’s a devil within. [Often accompanied by a twinkle in the eye!]

  • He can’t see the forest for the trees.

  • The acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree.

  • Every path has its puddle.

  • If you lie down with dogs, you will get up with fleas.

  • Never start a project on Friday as it will never be finished. [My Kentucky grandmother swore by this proverb!]

  • Can you think of a new proverb? How about these:

  • A child praised in his youth will honor his parents in old age.

  • Speak rashly, apologize slowly.

  • If you have one or two or three, please share with us.

    Tuesday, June 2, 2009

    No Thoughts Or Words

    There's a thief in the house and all of my thoughts and words have been stolen. I'll return when they have been recovered.

    Wednesday, May 27, 2009

    Can You Believe This?

    If this just doesn't beat all! Do you remember how I was pulled out of line at the Charleston, South Carolina airport for having two bottles of Sticky Fingers Barbecue Sauce in my carry-on luggage? Getting those two bottles home cost me $15 in luggage fees - a steep price for bottles that cost slightly more than $3.00 each at the grocery. Well, over the weekend I was tooling through my local grocery right here in Newburgh and what do I see in a display case at the end of an aisle? Yep! Sticky Fingers Barbecue Sauce! Two bottles for $6.00! Can you believe it? No luggage fees and less expensive! Some days it just doesn't pay to try to pull a fast one on airport guards.

    Friday, May 22, 2009

    Memorial Day Memories

    My mother, Lavern Croft Joyce, at the tombstone of her parents, Herman Reeves Croft (1896 - 1970) and Nettie C. Vaughn (1897 - 1958) in Salem Cemetery, Livingston County, Kentucky Memorial Day 1959.

    One of the greatest things we can do for our children is to teach them how they fit into this world – the place created just for them by their ancestors. When I was growing up, parents and children cleaned and decorated family graves together on Memorial Day. With every pulled weed or flower placed on a grave, a memory of each relative was invoked – a nickname, a special trait, the color of their hair and how they fit into the family. I learned about Great Aunt Eddie Vaughn Pittillo and how much I resemble her in appearance. I learned who made the concrete border for little Edith’s grave. I learned that the red hair running through the Joyce family comes from Great Grandmother Mary Ann Smith and that she smoked a pipe and used Star brand tobacco. I also learned that her father, Hugh Wolstenholme, "washed his hands in the clouds" when he crossed the mountains. Those stories should not be forgotten.

    By noon we were ready for a break of sandwiches and ice cold drinks, welcome treats as it was sure to be hot and sunny on Memorial Day in southern Illinois and western Kentucky. And then it was back to work and we continued until the grass was trimmed, weeds were all pulled and each grave had a bouquet of flowers stuck in a Mason jar or coffee can. There was a sense of satisfaction when we packed up and headed for home.

    I worry that when I am gone, my children will no longer visit the little country cemeteries and, oh, how I hope they don’t forget the stories of their ancestors.

    Tuesday, May 19, 2009

    Powerful Words

    Words are powerful. They carry a punch that can make a point or tell a story, but they can also sting and hurt, even when unintended.

    We have all said things we later regret and sometimes an apology is not sufficient to alleviate the angst our words cause. What may begin as a fun conversation can quickly deteriorate with a few ill-chosen words. In cases such as this, what do you do? Move on and forget the friendship? Apologize, knowing it isn’t enough, but hope for the best? Mark it up as a lesson learned?

    I’ve been playing with words all my life and I still get into trouble for not expressing myself the way I want. What is intended to be witty or funny, ends up sounding disrespectful or arrogant.

    "I'm sorry" doesn't seem to be enough. If only words came with an eraser that could eliminate those that hurt even after they have been spoken or written.

    Monday, May 18, 2009

    A Very Special Visit

    I recently had one of those soul-satisfying experiences that you know will never be repeated, no matter how long you live.

    You have heard me talk about my cousin/sister several times so you know that we are closer than fleas on a dog. This visit, though, showed just how many things we share – from memories to favorite foods.

    This trip was scheduled for a time when we, just the two of us, could do what we wished with no deadlines. We did other things, too, including contributing toward the stimulation of the economy at a nearby casino and we saw a performance of Riverdance, traditional Irish quick step dancing.

    The best part, though, was the day spent in the town of our birth, the little town built on hills that overlook the Ohio River. We visited the place where my family lived in an apartment from the time my parents sold our house until school was out at the end of fifth grade and we moved to another state. We visited Big Creek, where we used to swim in the cool, dark water and where baptisms are still held. We put flowers on the graves of our grandparents in the Joyce Cemetery ‘way out in the country and tried to visit old Pleasant Hill Cemetery down the road, but knee-high weeds and the threat of snakes kept us from getting a close-up view of our great-grandfather Joyce’s tombstone. We meant to visit Central Cemetery, where our great-grandparents, Reddick and Mary Ann Smith, are buried, but, both of us being directionally challenged, we got lost. We will save Reddick and Mary Ann for another day.

    Then it was back downtown to see the changes wrought by time and the economy. The movie theatre and Tiny Pritchett’s restaurant are both gone. My father’s little jewelry shop is still there, but boarded up. The old post office building is something else now. Goetzman’s Department store building is still there, but has a different use. One thing that has not changed is the line of rail tracks running down Main Street, leading toward the river. They were used to carry fluorspar to be loaded on barges for shipment – a constant reminder of when this was a thriving mining town.

    We crammed in a lot of activities during our three day visit, but the best part was the laughing, a bit of crying, and reminiscing we did. My cousin/sister and I have a special bond, you see. Her mother and my father were sister and brother and her mother and my mother were best friends. From our earliest days, we spent as much time in the other one’s house as in our own.

    In addition to being relatives and close friends, we share other things – like the same mottled skin that runs through the Joyce – or maybe it is the Smith – family. Both of us have a fondness for Ritz crackers and cheese. I took my favorite Win Schuler’s cheese spread on the visit and, without any prompting; she pulled out the box of Ritz. Sisters just know what goes together, you see.

    I would not take $1,000,000 for this visit. I have not laughed as much or as long as when we, both talking at once, recalled when she and my brother climbed the cherry tree and I tattled on them after eating the cherries or how, long after dark, we fearlessly roamed the neighborhood playing hide and seek or how Trick or Treating was not confined to just the night of Halloween.

    We shared a lot of the past, each event triggering the memory of another. The memories of this visit will keep me warm for a long, long time.

    Thursday, May 14, 2009

    No Talking Today

    Sometimes you feel like talking; sometimes you don't. Today I don't. We will return to our regular programming soon.

    Saturday, May 9, 2009

    Happy Mother's Day To My Daughter

    Caroline and McKayla Bohanna, Easter 2006, Charleston, SC

    Once a year we pause to thank our mothers for all they have done for us. My mother passed away almost three years ago and I still miss her. One of the things I miss the most is her validation of my role as a mother. She was quick to praise and hesitant to criticize and she was so proud of her grandchildren.

    This year, however, I want to pay tribute to another mother, who is also very special. She is a young, busy mother who has little time for herself, but always has time to spend with her daughter. This very special mother is my daughter, my first born child, the one who captured my heart as an infant with her wide awake blue eyes and crooked smile. It was amazing watching her grow from toddler to teenager - this book-devouring, basketball-dribbling sprite of a child. Life with her was never dull.

    We always knew she was special as she never wanted to do anything with her life but work with mentally challenged children. This field requires great care and compassion - qualities she has in abundance. She has been a teacher for many years now and still has the same concern for her students.

    But most importantly, she is a mother now and it seems she has inherited the loving characteristics of her grandmother. So, on this Mother’s Day, I want to honor not only my mother, A. Lavern Croft Joyce Workman, but also my daughter, McKayla Ann Jerome Bohanna, - both very special people.

    Monday, May 4, 2009

    What a Trip!

    Sometimes life is just too funny to be believed. Last week I flew to Charleston, South Carolina to visit my favorite daughter and her family. Flying has changed a lot since 9-11. I know the new rules and regulations are to keep us safe, but sometimes I just wonder ...

    Before going through the scanner at the airport, you place all of your carry on items in tubs, including your shoes, and then show your photo I.D. to some kind of airport employee. Fine, no problem. Then you walk 2 feet and show the same I.D. to another employee. I could not resist asking him if it was possible to switch identities in that short distance. Poor young man, he stuttered, rolled his eyes and said, "Aw, just forget it. Go on." It isn't often you can stump a man in a uniform!

    Coming home was another story. I created a little excitement for the other passengers. You know that you can take liquids of 3 ounces or less in carry-on bags. I learned that does not include two bottles of your favorite Sticky Fingers barbecue sauce carefully tucked in the side of your luggage. Speaking gently and in that soft southern manner, a nice young man let me know I was in trouble. I could give up the sauce or check the bag, which carries a $15 price tag. Furthermore, he would have to escort me away from the scanner and the other passengers and watch while I walked back to the ticket counter. Well, I would just have to pay the fee 'cause no way was he getting my barbecue sauce and for free, no less! No siree, Bob! Sometimes you just do what you have to do.

    Tuesday, April 28, 2009

    Trouble in Charge

    I am going to rest my voice for a few days and make some memories with my granddaughter. While I am resting, Trouble the Cat will be in charge. Behave yourselves. Trouble sees all and tells all.

    Thursday, April 23, 2009

    Love Affair With Words

    I’ve had a love affair with words most of my life. Not just talking words, but also writing them. I don’t always succeed, but the intent has been to share information or convey a feeling. A word alone, but with the proper inflection, can ask a question, give direction or display emotion. Playing with words is like stringing beads to make a necklace – one bead (word) at a time. Sometimes you can get your message across with one word - or a few - or it may take many.

    You can make your necklace in person, face to face. The meaning of each word depends on the inflection of the voice and the facial expression. If talking on the telephone, you retain the inflection but lose the facial expression. The hardest way to communicate, in my opinion, is by the written word. Am I stating my feelings exactly as I want? Am I leaving too much up to the imagination of the reader? Does each word carry its proper importance? Am I worrying too much about all this?

    This blog was started as therapy for myself – to string all those words together in order to record long ago happenings and express my feelings about certain events. It wasn’t long before I realized that I wasn’t writing these words just for myself; it became a way to communicate with my granddaughter so that she would know the things I did as a child, as a young mother and now, as an older woman (I hate that phrase!), the things that are important to me. Maybe she will know her grandmother as someone besides the cookie baking-holiday cooking-story reading person she sees only a few times a year.

    If other readers joined this journey along the way, that’s fine, you are welcome to come on along. But do yourself a favor. Start your own blog to record your life’s journey for your children and grandchildren. Tell them who you are behind those glasses and gray hair. Tell them about your hopes and dreams and why you took one path and not another. You don’t have to be a great or even a good writer (I can be a witness to that!), but you have to be honest and tell it as you remember it and not as you wish it had been. Sharing your life story is sharing one of the most valuable possessions you own.

    Tuesday, April 21, 2009

    Spring Cleaning!

    There are some things a woman is born to do. Men aren’t capable of doing it, but women are mistresses of it. I’m talking about that yearly procedure designed to rid us of the old, the dirty and the worn out. Spring Cleaning! I grew up in a household where this ritual was faithfully followed and to fight it was to invite scorn from the top – Mother!

    My mother was the mistress of cleaning. She could yank down the winter drapes, clean and polish the windows with Glass Wax and hang the summertime sheer curtains in no time flat. Then it was on to the floors. Mother was on a mission to get the house in tip-top condition. I can see her now: Broom in one hand, dust rag in another, eyes fixed on the next project … and her weary followers bringing up the rear.

    All this activity was not confined to one day. There is no way on God’s green earth that the entire house could be cleaned to Mother’s satisfaction in one day. No, she usually managed to drag it out over a week. It didn’t matter if it was a week of the most glorious weather possible, we were doomed to spend the whole week cleaning. Mother was the southern Indiana version of a Whirling Dervish during Spring Cleaning time.

    During this week, meals were “thrown together,” as Mother would say. Sandwiches prevailed while kitchen cupboards were emptied, dishes washed, fresh shelf liner put down and clean dishes returned to the cupboards. The job of cleaning the cupboards was usually relegated to me as Mother said it was “good practice.” I was never quite sure what I was practicing for – I didn’t plan to make cleaning cupboards a career, but I would never dare tell her!

    In Mother’s world, there were people who were “clean” and people who were “not clean.” Now, this didn’t mean that the “not clean” people were dirty – it just meant that you might spot a bit of dust on the end tables or a slight smear on the mirror. Now, if you were really, really “not clean,” it was never stated outright. Mother would say, “That’s not a place where you want to sit down.” That was all; not an impolite word said, but we knew what she meant. Only twice have I heard Mother utter those words and, honey child, hogs would have been right at home in both places!

    At some point in Mother’s life, she vowed to be one of the “clean” people and, in doing so, she brought me along with her. To this day, I can not ignore those springtime twinges that force me to dust, shampoo, sweep and clean. I would rather die than be thought of as “not clean” or have someone say they could not sit down at my house!

    Friday, April 17, 2009

    Meet Grandma

    I've blogged a couple of times about my Grandma - remember, the one who put her nerve medicine instead of vanilla in our homemade fudge? While sorting some photographs today, I ran across the above photo taken in 1904 of my grandparents, Lycurgus Mino Joyce and Beatrice Mary Smith, and their oldest child, Lacey Hebbert Joyce. Without a doubt, this photo was taken in Hardin County, Illinois, where they resided.

    Grandma was born 18 November 1877 and passed away 5 September 1968. L. Mino Joyce was born 3 February 1878 and died of pneumonia 10 February 1921, leaving Grandma to rear four children by herself. Grandma did remarry, but not until she was 70 years old.

    Besides the eccentric behavior, Grandma left behind memories of a quirky sense of humor and red-blonde hair, which many, including my son, inherited. Wait until I tell my sister/cousin how much she resembles Grandma!

    Wednesday, April 15, 2009

    Song of the River

    Most of my life I have lived on or near water. I was born in a little southern Illinois town that is nestled up again the Ohio River. Not realizing that it is happening, the river becomes a big part of your life. You learn to monitor its moods. Will this be the year when the river will spill over its banks and destroy homes and crops? Will this be the year someone will misjudge its strength and lose his life? You learn to listen to the river and pay attention when its attitude changes.

    We never swam in the river, choosing instead Big Creek, an ice cold country stream, as our swimming pool. No waiting in line or admission price to pay, we romped and splashed and had a good time. Contamination and pollution were not problems – we never even considered the possibilities, but that was a simpler age. Then we moved to southern Indiana, close to, but not on the river. Our town was built on the river, though, and since the beginning, the river influenced our lives – from transportation to entertainment. It is still true today.

    I lost track of the river for several years while living in a large metropolitan area, but then, after I was married and had children, we moved to a house on a dead end road with a small lake or what we called The Pond. It was not the same as a river, but it was still water and it still played a part in our lives. This was where my children learned to ice skate, swirling and twirling and playing hockey. It was also where my children fed the ducks, caught fish, threw them back in and caught more. The Pond was their playground, but we always respected the dangers hidden under the surface.

    Then, much later, we moved back to southern Indiana to a house overlooking the Ohio River. It was good to again be close to an old familiar friend. The Ohio is muddy and often smelly, but it sings its own special song that calls out to you.

    I don’t live on the river now, but I visit often, watching the barges chug back and forth, and the sun winking off the water. I miss the river when I don't see it and I miss hearing its song.

    Sunday, April 12, 2009

    Whatever happened to ...

    Life changes constantly – sometimes quickly and sometimes so slowly we do not realize changes are occurring. Thinking about these changes makes me wonder.

    Whatever happened to …

    Sunday afternoon family car rides? And sometimes followed by an ice cream cone at Dairy Queen?

    Sunday family dinners that included the grandparents, parents and all of the children – and all dressed in their best clothes?

    Jackets and ties for all males above the age of five on special occasions. How many men even wear jackets and ties to work today?

    Doctors who looked mature and not like they were just out of high school?

    C.B. Radios? Remember “Come on back, good buddy?”

    Black patent leather shoes for little girls? And rubbing Vaseline or a cold biscuit on the shoes to make them shiny?

    Ribbons in little girls’ hair? We called them “bow ribbons.”

    Polishing shoes? Every home had a shoe shine kit.

    Dances that had names and you needed a partner to dance?

    Saturdays at the movies and spending no more than $1.00 for an afternoon’s entertainment?

    Showing respect by not calling your elders by their first names?

    Catching lightning bugs and putting them into an old jar with a lid?

    Tying a string on a June bug and watching it fly?

    They say change is good, but wouldn’t it be nice to experience all of these things just one more time?

    Friday, April 10, 2009

    Easter Memories 1976

    How long has it been since you wore patent leather shoes? They seem to have gone out of style, but, in years past, every little girl had a pair to wear on Sundays and important occasions.

    Although it is age toned, this picture is a favorite. My children, McKayla and Tim, are caught forever on an Easter morning in 1976. I can see the eye-rolling and hear the sighs, but indulge me, children. At my age, one is allowed to reminisce.

    Monday, April 6, 2009

    Come Sit And Dream With Me

    A cold front blew through yesterday evening, causing the temperature to plummet from over 70 to the upper 30s. The calendar says Spring, but the weatherman says Winter. My solution is this: Let's "Play Like" it's Spring and sit on my deck. We can have a glass of sweet tea, listen to the birds sing and dream of the return of Spring.

    Wednesday, April 1, 2009

    Pass the Peanut Butter!

    What do your eating habits say about you? Are you what you eat? That’s what the experts say, you know.

    Diets have been around almost forever. Way back in the 1830s some people advocated a bland diet, which was touted as the way to avoid gluttony and, get this - immorality. The motto was “If it’s bland, it has to be good for you.” Well, that didn’t last long. People were too fond of their salt shakers and some of the followers of this diet passed out from starvation. I bet the immorality part didn’t work either.

    Then, in 1864 the first low carb diet was created. It told us to avoid starches and sugars. I guess that meant you had to avoid hard tack, but you could eat lots of goober peas. Oh wait – that’s a song, isn’t it?

    It wasn’t until the early 1960s that the first honest-to-goodness, realistic diet came along in the form of Weight Watchers. This diet stressed counting all those nasty calories and the avoidance of such in order to lose weight and be healthy. Those who start the Weight Watchers diet either fall by the wayside or become fanatics. And in my book, there is nothing worse than a convert to Weight Watchers … except maybe for an ex-smoker. They are a fanatical lot, too.

    The worse diet of all is the one that insists you eat nothing but meat, eggs and cheese. It leaves some of its followers with constipation, weakness and bad breath. None of those is very appealing, if you ask me.

    One of my friends swears that an ounce of dark chocolate will reduce your blood pressure and relieve your stress. The only problem is she has gained five pounds so now she is on the Beverly Hills Diet and is as cranky as a constipated bear and her blood pressure has gone through the roof. Sometimes you just can’t win.

    As for me, I’ll stick to my diet of Ritz crackers and Win Schuler's Bar-Scheeze and sweet tea. For dessert, just add a spoonful of Jif and you’ve got a meal fit for a queen.

    Friday, March 27, 2009


    I live on the north side of the Ohio River, in the southern part of the state. This area is a mixture, you know, because ‘way back in the mid-1800s, Germans by the boatload crossed the ocean and headed this way. Once they got here, they proceeded to spread their names all over the land, names such as Weinzapfel and Gitleheimermeister. Well, maybe not the last one, but you get the idea - some real funny names. It was enough to make our old dead grandpas roll over in their graves.

    Then, along comes that nasty old War Between the States over on the far side of the river and some people from Kentucky decided to pledge their allegiance to the place where the Germans now lived. They, too, jumped on boats and came a’calling. So, now we have people who say “Guten Morgen” and others who say “Hi y’all” ... all in the same neighborhood. On top of that, we got the “Guten Morgen” people eating their pig’s knuckles, burgoo and pork brain sandwiches and the “Hi y’all” folks savoring their catfish and hush puppies. Talk about a mess!

    Well, as folks are likely to do, they intermingled. And thereafter they populated this village with little Southerners with German names! Now we had Weinzapfels eating catfish, doing hee haw dances and we also had Southerners drinking beer out of steins and using German slang. Lord a’mercy! I tell you, it’s enough to make you down right confused about who you are.

    And you know what? I just heard that a whole bunch of Italian people are coming in this direction. I sure hope they are bringing their pizza and ravioli with them. Then we will really be whistling Dixie in all kinds of accents! No wonder they call this area Heavensville.

    Monday, March 23, 2009

    For Genealogists Only

    Those of you who know me know that I am a genealogist. Not just on weekends or vacations, but an every day genealogist - in and out, through and through, forever and always. This didn’t happen overnight. It started innocently with just a question or two and took years of nurturing and seasoning to reach my current condition.

    From the very first moment of wondering about my ancestors, I have been consumed with learning what they did, where they did it, and why they did it. “It” could be almost anything; if “it” was about them, I wanted to know. For those of you who don’t understand this malady, you may as well go on and do something else. You will be bored reading my story.

    Maybe it is a case of simply being nosy, but I think curious is a better word. So, I am curious - very curious - and the only way to satisfy this curiosity is to find out as many answers as possible. That is what I have been doing for the last 40 years. Yes, 40 years of searching through musty records in courthouse basements and tramping across fields, up and down hills, often through wet and knee-high weeds in search of old family cemeteries. When genealogy gets hold of you, it gathers you up and takes you on the ride of your life. Don’t even try to fight it; it won’t work.

    As a beginning genealogist, I schemed to think of ways to slip in a brief stop at a battlefield, family cemetery, or courthouse during a family vacation. After a while, it just seemed normal to include these little side trips on our agenda. In fact, I believe the family began to expect a part of our trip would be to some remote place. They thought it was to satisfy mom, but they were learning too. My children grew up becoming acquainted with our country’s history by visiting the places where our ancestors reared their families, fought their battles and buried their dead. We traveled to far away states searching for information, experiencing history where it happened. I hope it meant more to them than reading about an event in a textbook.

    In years past, you could spot a genealogist because we always had a notebook and pen. Today we still carry these items and that’s really the only equipment you need to get started, but a laptop and digital camera are awfully handy too. Times may be different, but the quest is the same - to learn about those who came before us and, in doing so, to learn our place in the world - the place where our roots are located and the place we can call home, whether we have ever resided there or not. We even have our own special language - containing words such as testate and intestate, sources and citations, DNA and dower rights. If genealogy sounds like something you would like to do, come on along. Grab your notebook and pen and let’s go!

    Wednesday, March 18, 2009

    Learning Experience

    Rearing children is a risky business and is not an occupation for the faint-hearted. Just when you think you’ve mastered the job, up pops something totally unexpected. I guess, though, you could call rearing children a learning experience.

    My son is hard headed and always has been, being well acquainted with baseball bats and hammers. One summer day, while hammering a stake into the ground to erect his dad’s old Boy Scout tent, he brought the hammer a little too far back and down to take aim. His big sister, being chief caregiver of the family, ran inside to tell me what had happened. With blood streaming down his face and dripping onto the ground, his only comment was “I thought I was sweating a lot.” I learned something that day - hammered heads bleed a lot.

    Then there was the time he got hit by a bat while playing baseball during recess at school. The principal called and my husband promptly drove our offspring to the Emergency room. Later, after getting our daughter from school, I raced to the E.R. to check on the little fellow, fearing all the while that the doctor would have dreadful news. There he lay - most of his forehead bandaged, a weak smile on his face and then he spoke, “Mom, do you have anything to eat in your purse?” I learned another lesson that day - getting hit with a baseball bat makes you hungry.

    This male child has always marched to the tune of a different drummer. When others walked, he ran; when others slept, he was awake. From his earliest days, he wanted toys that made noise, had wheels and could be driven or pushed. I should have known right then he would end up on a race track. Just barely 16, he started racing - on a track, in a car and against drivers much older and with a lot more experience. I believed him when he promised me he would not go faster than 40 miles per hour. Hummph! He never explained that he would only do that in the corners, but on the straightway, it was hell bent for leather to reach the next corner so everyone could cram their cars into a tiny space and then fight each other again to get to the next corner. The lesson of the day - racing is all about speed; it’s not for the old and weak.

    I hope those frantic days are behind us now. My son grew up and has become the responsible adult I hoped he would be in spite of a hammered and battered head and zipping around a race track. These days he is more inclined to work in his garden or take his dog, Keystone, for a ride in the Jeep and his racing is confined to watching it on TV. And not a day too soon, if you ask me. I’ve learned just about all I can take.

    Sunday, March 15, 2009

    Spring's A'Coming!

    I’m happy as a clam! It is almost time to start digging in the back yard. Yesterday was a dreary, drizzly day so my outdoor plans were put on hold. However, it was a perfect day to visit the garden department of a home building center. Half of the county must have had the same idea as the store was full. Maybe everyone else is tired of winter and anxious to get spring started.

    My purpose was not to buy plants, but I could not resist the perennials and herbs right inside the door. It took about 10 seconds for me to choose two kinds of lavender and a pot of rosemary. One of the lavender plants is the ordinary kind so often found in herb gardens and flower beds. The other is a bit different but still smells lavendery. Both have those pretty little purple flowery heads.

    I don’t have a lot of garden space, but made one bed around the raised deck last year and planted iris, Shasta daisies, columbine, lamb’s ear and echinocea (coneflower). I plan to fill in with moss rose around the steps and add the lavender and rosemary wherever I can. This may not be a conventional garden, but the flowers and colors are appealing to me and I especially love the old fashioned flowers. The most pleasure, though, is in digging. I love to dig. There is something therapeutic about it. Maybe I should include a sandbox in my backyard landscaping.

    My sister-in-law in Pennsylvania introduced me to dolichos lablab (sometimes known as Egyptian pea vine) last year and I had pretty good success with seeds planted next to the privacy fence. They climbed up to the top of the fence and provided a nice, showy display of purple flowers and pods, which rattled when the breeze caught them. I collected the seed in the fall and will plant them after the danger of frost has passed. This time I’ll plant them closer to get a thicker display. I have never seen lablab seeds locally, but did find them at the Burpee site.

    I know the calendar says spring arrives March 20th, but what’s the harm in giving it a poke in hopes it will come just a few days sooner. Besides, the weather forecaster says it is supposed to be 70 later this week. Armed with my trowel, I’m ready!

    Thursday, March 12, 2009

    County Fair

    4-H was a big part of my life while growing up. My friends who lived on farms raised cattle or had other farm projects and those of us who weren’t farm kids had food or sewing projects. If 4-H had included genealogy projects back then, I would probably still be a member.

    As soon as school was out, we began preparing our entries and looking forward to the county fair, which was usually in the latter part of the summer. The fair lasted about a week and we were there all day, every day. We planned what we would wear, including those new, fashionable Bermuda shorts with knee high socks, all in anticipation of the most exciting event of the summer.

    Once the fair started, we would park ourselves on the bales of straw which formed the outer boundary of the cow barn. That is where we ate our lunch, flirted with the boys and watched other fair goers. Sooner or later, every visitor was bound to pass by and we were ready to wave, squeal out a greeting and be very teenagerish. We got a first hand look at who was together and who was not. This was better than keeping up by telephone any day.

    Our county fair was an old-fashioned one. It had lots of exhibits, but no carnival rides. There was a special program every night with the most important program, of course, being the crowning of the county fair queen. Each queen contestant had a sponsor and it was considered an honor to be chosen as a candidate. The winner of the county fair contest went on to be a contestant for Indiana State Fair queen. Now, that was big time!

    My only foray into queen contestanthood started off very nicely. All of the contestants gathered in a room in a concrete block building on the fairgrounds for a pep talk and some instructions . We were given directions on walking gracefully without loping or swinging our arms like gorillas and how to stand in our high heels with our toes pointed just so. This was not always easy, especially for the girls who were more accustomed to driving a tractor than wearing high heels.

    In our grand entrance we were to ride on the back seats of convertibles - two girls per car. We positioned ourselves just so, placing a big smile on our faces and prepared to give that queenly wave. There we were - perhaps ten of us representing all of the young womanhood in our county. Perfectly posed, ready to let our fans, especially our moms and dads, admire and adore us.

    The convertibles started moving forward slowly, slowly with the contestants waving and smiling. All went well until my carriage hit a rock, a big rock. Big enough to cause you-know-who to lose her seating on the back seat and slide not so gracefully to the floorboard. Too embarrassed amid the snickers to climb back on the seat, the rest of the ride to the stage found me huddled on the floor.

    As you might guess, I wasn’t crowned County Fair Queen, but I have my memories of the great event. Those memories are sufficient to remind me why I never again attempted to become County Fair Queen.

    Sunday, March 8, 2009

    Seven Signs of Spring

    No matter what the calendar says, I am finished with winter and am looking for signs of spring. The following list is my indicator that spring is near.

  • The chirping of birds when I get the morning newspaper.

  • My cats sitting on the deck with their noses raised to sniff the warm breeze.

  • My internal yearning for fresh strawberries and tomatoes.

  • The “Blop, Blop” of a basketball being dribbled down the street.

  • The vibration and noise of a car radio in the neighborhood teenager’s car.

  • The first tiny buds on the pear tree in the front yard.

  • Seeing the first convertible with its top down.

  • I know it is only early March, but the grass has turned greener the past few days and I can feel the approach of spring. This is my time of renewal and hope after a long, cold winter.

    Thursday, March 5, 2009

    Apartment Life

    After living in houses for 35 years or more, I moved to an apartment a few years back. Living there was an education. My preconceived notions had apartment dwellers as young people saving to buy their first home or the elderly who had downsized and no longer wanted the responsibility of a house. What I found is that those living in apartments, at least in my complex, came in all ages and professions and carried with them all sorts of backgrounds and stories.

    This was a small complex with only 30 apartment units (10 in three buildings) and eight townhouses so it was easy to get to know many of the residents, especially those in my building. Some became my friends and some did not, but all were part of my entry into another world.

    I met a family who had lost their home and business through bad financial choices. Making the most of the situation, they had learned to re-think and re-new their lives through their five years of apartment living. They were the most “normal” of the families I met. Let me tell you about some of the others.

    After meeting a new downstairs resident, Mary, her first words to me were “I’m crazy, you know.” Five minutes of conversation revealed she was telling the truth. Mary’s daily attire consisted of a nightgown and slippers - day or night, rain or shine, inside or outside. When she was confused, she called the EMS, who had visited her at least 20 times during the time we were neighbors. In spite of her craziness, she was a good soul and had the talent of hanging bird feeders from every possible perch and birds would find those feeders within 24 hours. She said she talked to the birds to get them to visit. I believed her.

    Living next to my crazy friend was a fellow who worked for the power company. I thought he was completely normal and we enjoyed many conversations about politics, our neighbors and life in general. Then, one day I came home to find a T shaped metal rod stuck in the ground in front of his apartment. What could this be? Looking at me like I was a bit simple, he explained. He believed, because of the nature of his work, his body was becoming magnetized and to eliminate this problem, he placed both feet on either side of the pole, grabbed the handles and “grounded” himself before entering his apartment. Yeah. Sure. I think he had been spending too much time talking to Mary.

    Undoubtedly the most interesting of the whole bunch was Mickey, a young mother of two. Her youngest, a little boy named Phoenix, was born not long after they moved two doors down from me. She and her family had relocated here from California to be near her husband’s family. I enjoyed visiting with her and she seemed completely normal. That should have been my first clue. When Phoenix was just a few months old, Mickey disappeared and the gossip had it she had left her family, never to return. I knew finances were tight, but had seen no signs of a pending departure. Then, a neighbor, braver than I, simply asked Mickey's husband when she would be back. It seems our young mother was an “adult entertainer” in Las Vegas and would work in a club or casino for a few months, come home to pick up her role as mommy and wife, and then return to work when the money ran out. I wish I had asked different questions when we first became acquainted.

    Living in the apartment was interesting and I believe I learned to appreciate the differences in people. Not everyone in the complex was strange, but all had a story. You just needed to listen to hear them.

    Saturday, February 28, 2009

    The Mustard Jar

    When I was young and visited my Kentucky cousin, whose name just happens to rhyme with my own, one of our favorite places to go was her mother’s grocery store. It was in the heart of one of those little villages so common in western Kentucky. We could run across the road from her house to the store, up the steps and be inside quick as a flash.

    Having a place of importance just inside the door was the big open-from-the-top cold drink cooler containing glass bottles of Nehi Orange and Grape, 7 Up and Coca Cola, which was never called anything but Co-Cola. We drank them straight from the bottles, never needing a glass. Sometimes we would scoop up a handful of ice to rub on our faces to cool down. No air conditioning in those days, you know. The bottle opener was on the side of the cooler and you dropped your money for the cold drink on the counter.

    My aunt’s store had a special feature. She made sandwiches at lunch time. Two slices of bread, a slice of bologna or olive loaf, maybe a slice of cheese and you were in business. Adding a little zip to the sandwich was mustard, which was kept in a jar under the counter. Extra straws were under the counter too. (Do you see where I am going with this?)

    Well, let me tell you, two little girls, knobby knees and all, could slither down behind the counter and squeeze up close to the shelf holding the mustard and straws. It takes no imagination to predict what we did. Yep, we stuck the straws in the mustard jar, sluuurrp! And then stuck the straw back in the jar for another slurp. Now, this was plain old yellow mustard - none of today’s fancy Dijon or honey mustard, and it was lip puckering at its best. And giggle - oh my, did we giggle!

    When lunch time customers started to come into the store and my aunt got the sandwich fixings out, my cousin and I would top off our mustard meal with a cold bottle of pop. Then we would wander off to my cousin’s house and play house or school in the side yard.

    I never told my aunt about our antics with the mustard until just recently and she claims to have known nothing about our slurping. I certainly hope none of her customers knew either. We thought we were just having fun, but, in reality, I guess we were making memories.

    Published 28 February 2009, Rambling Thoughts ... Out of My Mind by Brenda Joyce Jerome.

    Thursday, February 26, 2009

    Chicken Every Sunday

    As far back as I can remember, my family had chicken every Sunday. Mother would get up early, fry a couple of chickens, and get the rest of our mid-day dinner ready to eat as soon as we got home from church. Many times, we would arrive home just in time to greet relatives or friends who had come to share our Sunday meal. Mother set a fine table and always seemed pleased to add a couple of places at the table or sit up a card table for the little ones.

    Our big meal was always in the middle of the day. After cleaning off the table and putting away the leftovers , it was time to relax. That meant sitting on the porch in a chair, or if you were lucky, in the porch swing, waving to passers-by or calling out a “How are you doing?” to friends and neighbors. The young ones played board games on the steps or whispered secrets under the big old tree in the front yard. All in all, it was a relaxing day - a good way to start the week.

    People don’t just drop in to visit the way they did years ago. If you wanted to see your relatives, you simply got the family together and went. If you had some extra vegetables from your garden or a pie, you took them to share. I know it isn’t considered “polite” to visit uninvited today, but it was acceptable when I was a kid. People didn’t worry so much about what was politically correct and just enjoyed visiting - invited or not. Unless you were terribly obnoxious, no one complained about your uninvited appearance.

    Life was simpler then. I don’t remember that we ever locked our doors except when we planned to be out of town over night. If we went out to do errands during the daytime, the doors were closed, but not locked. We didn’t have anything worth stealing and, if anyone had wanted to take something from the house, he would have had to face the neighbors before he got the door closed on his way out. Interested neighbors were better than any burglar alarm.

    As soon as the word was out that there had been a death in the family, neighbor ladies began preparing their food specialities for the decedent’s family. Offerings might include ham, the always popular fried chicken, fresh vegetables and a wide variety of desserts. There was usually enough food for not just the family, but also for anyone who might stop by the house to offer condolences to the family of the deceased. Mourning and eating have always been connected in my memories.

    If this sounds like life in the 1950s, it was and a fairly typical life in small towns across the country. Sometimes when life gets hectic and I feel the need to slow down, it is good to remember life as it was.

    Monday, February 23, 2009

    Along the Way ...

    I’m not going to tell you how old I am, so don’t ask, but I’ve lived long enough to learn a few things during this journey called life. Being a list maker, I kept track of what I’ve learned. You could probably add to this list. Here's mine:

  • Don’t spit into the wind and don’t repeat gossip in a small town. Both will come back to hit you in the face.

  • Never try to spank a cat. They won’t understand, but they do know how to take revenge like barfing on the kitchen counter or on that antique quilt made by great-great grandmother Smith.

  • Always be kind to animals and old people. Doing so is a reflection of your upbringing.

  • Never pretend to be something your aren’t. A fool is easy to spot.

  • Life is full of bumps in the road. Time will resolve most bumps so don’t sweat the small stuff.

  • Honor your mother and father and one day your children will honor you.

  • If you lie down with dogs, you will get up with fleas.

  • Every child experiments with something. Pray that your child makes wise choices. Be there to pat him on the back if he does and be there to lift him up if he doesn’t. Most importantly, just be there.

  • Stay on speaking terms with all of your relatives. You never know who will be asked to speak at your funeral.

  • Listen more, talk less and do not give advice. You will appear more intelligent than you really are.

  • If you are wrong, admit it and apologize. Failing to do so is tacky and your mama will never forgive you for being tacky.

  • Smile often. It confuses your enemies and they will wonder what you are up to.

  • Love many, laugh often, cry when needed. Never be afraid to show your feelings; it proves you are still alive.

    There’s only one chance to take this journey. Step lively and smile!
  • Saturday, February 21, 2009

    I Wish I Was Single Again ...

    I love music, but I can not sing. Most of the time there is music playing while I work and almost always there is music running through my head - a tune stuck on replay often for days until replaced by another one. A song I’ve been hearing over and over is one I associate with my mother. I have no idea how old I was when I first heard this song, but it is among my earliest childhood memories.

    My mother had a good singing voice, but she confined her singing mainly to church. The one song that I remember her singing was “I Wish I Was Single Again. If I was Single, My Pockets Would Jingle.” After hearing the music in my mind for days on end, I did a Google search to learn more about the song.

    It appears variations of the lyrics have been around since the early 1900s and it has been recorded by many different artists. One version of the song goes like this:

    When I was single, oh then, oh then,
    When I was single, oh then.
    When I was single, my pockets would jingle,
    And I wisht I was single again.

    I married me a wife, oh then, oh then.
    I married me a wife, oh then.
    I married me a wife, and she’s joy of my life,
    And I wisht I was single again.

    My wife died, oh then, oh then.
    My wife died, oh then.
    My wife died, and I laughed and I cried
    To think I was single again.

    I married me another, oh then, oh then.
    I married me another, oh then.
    I married me another, and she’s the Devil’s grandmother,
    And I wisht I was single again.

    She beat me, she banged me, oh then, oh then.
    She beat me, she banged me, oh then.
    She beat me, she banged me, and threatened to hang me,
    And I wisht I was single again.

    The last verse is a bit violent and if Mother sang it, I don't remember it.

    Mother may have heard the song when she was growing up, but I suspect she also heard it during the 1930s and 1940s, when it was made popular by Frank Luther. Although known mainly for his recordings for children, he was known also as an American cowboy music singer. I talked to my mother’s sister, who also knew part of the verses and remembers hearing it on the radio.

    So, a little mystery has been solved. Now maybe that song in my head will be replaced with another one.

    Wednesday, February 18, 2009

    I Would If I Could ...

    I would if I could ... eliminate rain on Mondays. There is nothing drearier than a rainy Monday.

    I would if I could ... make it mandatory for parents to teach - and require - their children to say the magic words, “please,” “thank you” and “I’m sorry.” Think what a kinder world it would be if we all spoke those words regularly.

    I would if I could ... require all adult children to call their mamas every day - well, maybe not every day ‘cause their mamas might not want to interrupt their yoga class or meditation experience just to hear junior tell how much he hates his job. Erase this one.

    I would if I could ... do away with greens. Who wants to eat things dogs have walked on and who knows what else they have done on those green leaves. Even a good bath in hot water isn’t going to eliminate those mental pictures of Fido on his walk.

    I would if I could ... insist that every home have flowers planted around it. Got a black thumb? Get some of those always-perfect bunches of pretties from the Dollar Store and stick them in the ground. That’s what my neighbor does - can’t beat red poinsettias still blooming on the 4th of July!

    I would if I could ... arrange the school schedule of every male student to include a cooking class and every female student to have a car repair class. Knowing the simple basics will make us all appreciate what we can’t do.

    I would if I could ... arrange it so every person on this earth has one day when they feel free enough to laugh and dance to their heart’s content without being weighed down with worries. Just one day.

    I could if I would ... be happier by not dwelling on the hurtful things that happen and remember the good deeds done every day.

    Tuesday, February 17, 2009

    Rest In Peace, Uncle Joe

    Back in the early 1990s, I was part of a three-person research team working on a project for the local Civil War Roundtable. Our project was to trace the path of an autograph book originally owned by John S. Chapman of Union County, Kentucky. In the course of the research, we became acquainted with Chapman’s grandson, Joe Chapman. “Uncle Joe,” as he was called by his great nephew, Tom Chapman, who introduced us, was a slight man, but tall with courtliness and kindness. He showed us his grandfather’s dress sword, the family Bible, and a photograph of his grandfather. He was the perfect example of a southern gentleman, anxious to please and to put us at ease. At that time, Uncle Joe, who must have been in his early 80s, was still hauling cattle to market.

    This morning’s newspaper contains the obituary of Joe Chapman, age 96, who died Friday at a nursing home in Providence, Kentucky. Services will be today at Sacred Heart Church. Rest in peace, Uncle Joe.

    Monday, February 16, 2009

    Wordless Again!

    Would you believe it - I am completely wordless today. I'll return when those words are available again.

    Saturday, February 14, 2009

    Memories - May Day

    Once upon a time, ‘way back about 1950, there lived a little girl with her family in small town America - actually in southern Illinois. One of the most anticipated events to herald the coming of spring was May Day, a day of light-hearted weaving and winding around the tether ball pole on the school playground. A select few of the students, including the little girl, were chosen to dress in bright, homemade costumes to lead the May Day event.

    The little girl’s mother, an excellent seamstress, made the little girl’s dress of bright yellow crepe paper. Crepe paper could be used to quickly fashion costumes and it was very inexpensive. Gathered at the shoulders and stitched just so at the sides to allow room for the arms, it hung free to the knees. What a sight it was! The little girl was so proud of this extraordinary costume that she persuaded her mother to let her walk home from school so that all the neighbors along the way could see how pretty she looked.

    Being a normal little girl, it wasn’t possible to walk sedately along the sidewalk. No, that wouldn’t do. So, at every mud puddle, the little girl skipped and splattered right through and did a hop and skip on the other side. Unfortunately, crepe paper does not retain its color when wet. It streaks and runs onto everything with which it comes in contact. Unfortunately, too, crepe paper tears easily. With all that skipping and hopping, the beautiful yellow crepe paper dress was soon just a few strips of a sodden mess and the little girl had lovely yellow stripes running down her legs, staining her knees, socks and shoes.

    News travels faster than the speed of sound in small towns. The mother received several calls, accompanied by snickering, from well-meaning neighbors about the condition of the little girl’s attire. Needless to say, that was the end of crepe paper costumes for the little girl.

    Wednesday, February 11, 2009

    Salad Time!

    It’s that time of year when I want - no, I crave - what I can’t have - fresh, home grown tomatoes. Never has the thought of biting into a red, juicy tomato sounded so good and so far away. It’s true that tomatoes are available from other places even in the cold, dreary days of winter, but they aren’t real tomatoes. I think they are really made out of cardboard. Real tomatoes are grown in the ground, nurtured by the sun and caressed by warm breezes.

    The best tomatoes come from John’s Island, South Carolina - down near Charleston. John’s Island is the largest producer of tomatoes in this country. I am fortunate that my favorite daughter lives there and, if I can visit during tomato season, she has a bagful waiting for me when I arrive. There is nothing better than a tomato sandwich for breakfast, tomatoes on a salad for lunch and sliced tomatoes for dinner. Yummmm - combine those tomatoes with fresh corn on the cob and a big glass of sweet tea and you have a real, finger-licking meal - no meat needed, thank you.

    Since it isn’t tomato season in South Carolina yet, I have to make do with a box of those Santa Sweet tomatoes from the grocery store. Not high on taste, they are still better than the hot house variety from other countries that are stacked waist high in the display cases.

    Wishing for spring made me think of tomatoes, which made me almost drool thinking of a good pasta salad. So what if it’s still technically winter! I am going to have pasta salad for dinner - multi-color rotini tossed with Italian dressing (fat free, of course) and chopped Santa Sweet tomatoes, green peppers, onions and a few dried cranberries. It’s not the same as an in-season salad, but it will do until spring comes.

    Friday, February 6, 2009

    I Swanee!

    People up north think folks in this area talk funny. They don’t have a clue what we are talking about. To my way of thinking, they have some learning to do.

    They don’t know what we mean when we say we are “fixing” to go to town. Why, any fool should know it means we are getting ready and will go “dereckly.” What’s so hard to understand about that?

    If I said “It’s coming up a cloud,” do you think they would know that means it’s time to shut the winders and bring in the cushions from the rocking chears on the front porch? Not on your life! They’d probably stand there with their necks all crinked up looking at the sky until rain hits them full in the face.

    And if I told them that the young couple down the street “ate supper before saying grace,” do you think they would know it means the unmarried young woman is going to have a baby? No siree!

    And they sure as shooting wouldn’t know what my old Grandma meant when she said her next door neighbor wore her blouse “hind part before” yesterday. Why, everybody knows that means she had it on backwards.

    I bet if I told them to “Come on back” as they were getting their coats on to go home, they would think I meant to come back right now. Now, you and I know that means to "come on back and see us sometime." Didn’t their mamas teach them good manners?

    I swanee! There’s no accounting for some people. They just don’t understand polite English.