About Me

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Lake Mathews (Perris), CA, United States
Born in Illinois, I grew up in Wilmette, a northern suburb of Chicago. I have one sibling, an older brother. I am married, for the 2nd time now, to Butch & got 4 children in the deal. They have gone on to make me grandmother 25 times over & great-grandmother to over 20!. After many years working in industry, I got my bachelors and masters degrees in speech communication, & was a professor in that field for 13 years. I retired in 2001 & returned to school & got my doctorate in folklore. Now I meld my two interests - folklore & genealogy - & add my teaching background, resulting in my current profession: speaker/author/entertainer of genealogically-related topics. I play many folk instruments, but my preference is guitar, which I have been playing since 1963. I write the "Aunty Jeff" column for the Informer, newsletter of the Jefferson County NY Gen. Soc. I work in partnership with Gena Philibert-Ortega & Sara Cochran as Genealogy Journeys® where we focus on educating folks about Social History. More about that: genaandjean.blogspot.com. More on our podcasts: genjourneys.podbean.com. More about my own projects: Circlemending.org.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

Well, it's New Year's Eve and I haven't written in over a week. I can see that I handle blogging as well as I do diary-writing.

Growing up, my typical New Year's Eve involved listening to my favorite radio program on WFMT in Chicago - the Midnight Special. When I lived in Illinois, it was a much-anticipated experience that, when I moved to California, was probably the element of mid-western life that I missed the most! The Midnight Special program plays a variety of selections, primarily folk music, but including show tunes, comedy, farce, and all sorts of things, including live performances, guaranteed to keep a body awake until Midnight ... and beyond (especially on their New Year's Eve edition, which, in my youth, extended until about 5am ... I'd go to sleep with the radio on).

After moving to Calif., I occasionally would be surprised by my brother (still in Illinois), who would record the New Year's program for me, but only the first 2 or 3 hours of it (until he ran out of tape or went to bed, or both). Sometimes I would get those recordings right away, but more often than not, he would send them to me for Christmas the next year! But when the Internet came into my life, I discovered that the Midnight Special was broadcast live on the web! Both their regular Sat. night programs and their once a year event was just a mouse click away ... for a couple of years. Then they made it a "by subscription only" option. This was because they put the live show (well, 2 of the 3 hours of their Sat. version and a little more of the New Year's program) on XM radio. Actually, the Village (the XM station that carries the MS) airs the Sat. night program the following Thurs. and then again on Sat. but last year I discovered, much to my surprise and delight, that they decided to air the New Year's Eve show live! I got to listen to almost all of it! What a delight (especially since the subscription I had to the station was somehow corrupted on my computer).

Well, it's New Year's Eve again, only this year, my beloved Midnight Special is not being aired live on XM because, with the recent merger with Sirius radio, the XM station, the Village, has been pre-empted for a month to play holiday music. It is a very quiet New Year's Eve for me. I understand that, beginning on Jan. 2, the Village will be back on the air and that there will be a "catch-up" of Midnight Special programs. I do hope that it will include the New Year program, even if it's a few days, weeks, or months after our ushering in of 2009. At least it won't be a year later, as it was when my brother taped it for me. Well, I hope not.

Happy New Year.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Beware of Dangerous Vegetables

I make a mean turkey soup, and proceeded to do so on Sat. Actually, I fixed our holiday turkey on Friday & froze the meat (this way all the mess of the turkey is out of the way & I don't have to deal with it on Christmas ... besides, I'll need the space and cooking equipment to do the ham!). I then fixed turkey soup on Sat. for a music gathering we had. Everything was going along great until I got to the zucchinis. One of them cut my thumb. No, I don't mean I cut my thumb with a knife while cutting the zucchini; the zucchini cut my thumb (I was washing it with a vegetable brush and my thumb was too close to the surface of the vegetable and peeled some of the skin ... right underneath my thumbnail ... ouch!). Well, I was able to complete the soup making (it was delicious ... and will be for some time as we are freezing about 8 quarts of the stuff), able to play my instruments throughout the evening (it was my right, or picking, thumb), and able to do all the cleanup of everything before going to bed. Then it hit! The pain was incredible and the thumb was officially infected. I'm treating it effectively, but I am still somewhat incapacitated (as far as dexterity in the kitchen and other areas are concerned), so Butch is helping with a lot of that. Hmm, interesting way to get out of doing cooking and baking during the holiday: claim a vegetable attacked me and now I am helpless!

So daughter Sandi and family will arrive tomorrow (Tues) and I have almost everything ready (well, as ready as it's going to be now). When I was a kid, my mother used to bake about 12 different kinds of Christmas cookies (double and triple batches of each) and my grandmother baked stollen. Me? I went to the store and tried to find stollen (good luck! I settled for a streusel cake) and looked at the cookies, but decided that the pies Sandi is bringing and the cheesecake we bought, plus all the leftovers from Sat. night's party, should be enough to satisfy the sweet teeth of everyone! Nevertheless, I do remember a time when I did a lot of holiday baking and really enjoyed it. I just don't have that energy any more. I am grateful for the baked goods that friends, neighbors, and family give us. But after my zucchini incident, I think I will just steer clear of the kitchen as much as possible over the next few days. Sure glad the turkey is done!

Happy holidays!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter Solstice

Today is 21 December, the Winter Solstice. It is also the anniversary of the day my parents married, back in 1940 ("the longest night of the year," my father was always quick to add ... though they selected that date because it was convenient for all family members and at the semester break for my father, who was a math professor at Illinois Institute of Technology - the wedding took place in my mother's home town of Milwaukee, Wisconsin). Both my parents are gone now, but I decided to look back in Mom's diaries to read what they did on their anniversary 40, 50, and 60 years ago. It was essentially the same each year: they were preparing for Christmas and the arrival of one or more of their parents. Mom baked, cleaned, and shopped. Nothing overly memorable for an anniversary. There were no notations of anniversary gifts, given or received, by either parent (though in 1968 there was a mention of my giving them salt and pepper shakers ... well, I was 17 and it was a needed item). I do remember, very distinctly, that on their 25th anniversary (1965) we went to the Kungsholm restaurant/miniature opera theater in Chicago and were treated to a puppet show of gigantic proportions! (Information on the operation can be found on the Web and looking at the results of my Google search for "Kungsholm, Chicago" brought back memories.) Mom & I enjoyed it but my brother and father would have been much happier staying at home and playing cards or Scrabble. That was also the occasion of my first taste of caviar (I didn't like it).

When my parents married they didn't have to spend any money on flowers to decorate the church: it was completely decked out in holly and poinsettia plants. One advantage of marrying close to Christmas, I guess. They looked very happy in those old wedding photos and I still have their guest book (though it suffered a great deal from a fire in their storage facility a few years later) and left over invitations. They kept everything.

So, happy anniversary, Mom and Dad ... I remembered!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

5 days and counting

Hard to believe: we are only 5 days from Christmas. It is only 3 pm here on the West Coast on the Sat. before Christmas and it has been a busy day. No last minute Christmas shopping for us, no. I do my Christmas shopping throughout the year (most on the day after Christmas of the previous year) so everything is wrapped and ready, as far as that goes. This year daughter Sandi & family are coming out from Atlanta,GA, towing a 5th wheel loaded with Sandi, hubby, and 4 kids, ages 9 to 21. So it is a packed truck that is heading west! We are so excited to be able to share this holiday with them and have plenty of "camping" space for their rig on our property. They plan to arrive on Tues. I already received a text message that they are well on their way.

Tonight is the annual holiday meeting of the Riverside Folk Song Society, so we are hosting it here for the 2nd year in a row. I enjoy it, as I don't have a long drive home ahead of me and it inspires me to get the house cleaned and decorated. We even cooked a turkey yesterday (for Sandi, et al. on Christmas) and today we have a huge vat of turkey soup cooking for tonight's gathering. It smells wonderful. And, another good thing, I won't have to deal with turkey carcass after dinner on the 25th.

So we are ready for the holidays in the Hibben household. Hope you are, too.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

of Christmas, puppies, and other warm fuzzies

Well, Christmas is almost upon us and we have a new puppy at our house. Actually, he's 6 months old and has become as much a part of our lives as our older, more sophisticated dog, Buddy. The new baby is "Klondike," to recognize his unique breed: an Alaskan Klee Kai (miniature Husky). He's only 10 pounds and promises not to get much larger (we are holding him to that). To see photos and even video, go to and click on the "Dogs" tab. Anyway, I can't help but remember another time in my life when I had a puppy. I was about 11 and Lucky (a Beagle-Cocker) joined our household for all of about 6 months. He was around 5 months old when Christmas arrived. Lucky was confined to the kitchen most of the time because of his poor toilet habits. No matter what we did, he simply refused to become house-trained (or even paper-trained, for that matter). So I would play with him in the kitchen, Mom would try to prepare meals with a puppy underfoot, and all of us would try to ignore his whines to be allowed a little freedom. Well, once the Christmas tree was up we decided to give Lucky a shot at visiting the rest of the house. We took him outside first, just in case. He was obviously thrilled to be granted an evening pass and showed his excitement by (can you guess?) squatting in front of the tree before any of us could stop him. Back to the kitchen he went. About a month later we all gave up. I regret that, but I think Mom was on the verge of killing either the puppy or me and none of us were loving him at that point. Of course, this was in the days before crate training and effective methods of housebreaking dogs. I like to think that, after being dropped off at the shelter, a more patient family adopted Lucky.

Buddy (now 9 years old) came to us housebroken (we have no idea where he learned it as he was a stray, about 6 weeks old, when he walked onto our property and simply stayed). We are still working with Klondike, and he is learning (as are we ... that "squeek" he gives actually means something important!). And he loves the Christmas tree and its lights. He also seems to enjoy Christmas music. We think that this is a good addition to our home and look forward to taking him to see snow over New Years (after all, he is a miniature "snow dog"). Klondike also came with a full pedigree, which we plan to frame next to our family pedigree chart. Unfortunately, Buddy cannot claim such a recognized past, but he's just as much a part of the family. After all, isn't love the key ingredient?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

My mother would have been a blogger

I would venture to say that the journal and diary keepers of years gone by would be bloggers today (and many are!). I have been trying to keep a journal for years, often without much success. So maybe blogging is the answer. It seems as if almost everyone is blogging these days. A number of my friends have informed me that they are now maintaining blogs and they give interesting insight into their lives. So I have finally given in to the temptation and am going to give this blog thing a try. I tend to get a bit wordy at times, but will make every attempt to control myself in this forum.

It occurred to me that my mother would have been a blogger, had she lived to the point of getting involved in the Internet (and I firmly believe she would have embraced the Internet - the amount of information at her fingertips would have been too much to let pass her by). My mother, Virginia Johnson Wilcox, was a die-hard diary keeper. She rarely let a day go by without writing in her diary. And she wrote in 3rd person, taking an objective perspective wherever possible. While most people who keep diaries make it very personal, my mother's journalist background resulted in her writing about the neighbors, the news, and the environment, as well as her personal life (what she fixed for dinner, what everyone in the family did throughout their days - my brother and I often got tired of being quizzed about what we did at school, etc. - and, occasionally, her opinion of things, such as local government and our teachers). She would write the equivalent of a notebook page a day (more if life was eventful). I have all her diaries (she died in 1994 and the last entry was less than a week before she died, unexpectedly) and they are some of my most cherished possessions. When my brother and I would argue over some childhood issue (when a beloved pet died, who was the true owner of a shared stuffed animal, where we got some item, etc.), Mom would look it up in the diary and, sure enough, she could almost always settle the disagreement. Yes, I think that, if she were alive today, Mom would have been a blogger. And, when I find myself at a loss for words (yes, it could happen), perhaps I will put some of Mom's more interesting diary entries here.