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.

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Sunday Singalong - February Follies


For the first 21 or so years of my life, I dealt with weather in Illinois (northern suburb of Chicago, right by the lake - well, about a mile away - where we had a certain shelter from some of the worst of Midwest weather experiences . . . The "Lake Effect"). Still, moving west and living in California for the last almost 50 years has meant I haven't needed any lake effects to protect me from the snow. Winds are another matter I won't address here. Anyway, that said, it's no wonder that I have accepted the first 2 months of a new year with some annoyance . . . even in California, the weather can get a bit, well, annoying. (I don't mention the last month or so of a year because all the excitement of the holidays does have a way of tempering the temperatures.)

For about 13 years (from 1998-2011) I hosted a video watching party at my home over groundhog day weekend. People would come from a large number of places (yup, even had some visitors from the UK a time or two); we'd spread out the sleeping bags, and laugh throughout much of the nights. While enduring some of the worst of the California weather, I had some of the best times. There's nothing like friends to get one out of the doldrums. I miss those days, but also know that, as I'm getting older, sleeping in a sleeping bag on the floor has less and less appeal. But good times can never be downplayed. I may not have "February Follies" as in times past, but the memories bring back laughter and provide a different type of warmth. Do any follies (not necessarily connected to February) come to mind?

So, I'm afraid that, when I think of "follies," I am also reminded of times, which some people I know have had, as a result of a little bit too much imbibing. Now, I'll never admit to that being me, though there was a time when it might have been (not sure I remember those times, though). And that automatically triggers thought of the performances of my friend, Tom Paxton, and his composition "Wasn't that a Party?" Sadly, I could not find a YouTube video of him performing this live, but I did locate an authorized copy of the song in that format. In fact, the entire album on which it was first recorded by Tom, is featured, so I am linking that here. All the songs on that recording are fun to listen to (the first time, or hundred-and-first time): 

"Wasn't that a Party" from

New Songs for Old Friends



Your turn: any follies you can think of, with the songs that express them?

  


Sunday, January 29, 2023

Sunday Singalong - Critters

 In just a few days it will be my favorite holiday, and the one that determines our atmospheric fate for the next month and a half. It's all a matter of sunshine on February 2 . . . while we might enjoy a bit of sun (for a change?), this is the day when we cheer for clouds because, only if the sun is hidden and a shadow cannot appear, will we enjoy an "early spring" 6 weeks hence. For those who are into the numbers, that date will be the 16th of March. Should the sun be shining on February 2nd and a shadow visible, our prognosticator friend will head for the burrow to get some more sleep (I calculate that to be 1-1/2 months). OK, call me cynical. 

However (don't ever start a paragraph with "however," just FYI), my experience, from growing up in a Chicago suburb and spending the first 21 years of my life in Illinois, I have concluded that, very often, when we have had a mild winter that seems to be behind us by early March or even late February, we get hit with "both barrels" and those who jumped the gun (pardon the references to fire-arms) by removing snow tires and storm windows, regret that move. I am remembering a particularly nasty storm in March 1967. It's an easy one to remember because, on St. Patrick's day that year, my parents and I hustled off (via train) to California for a couple of weeks. Behind us we left a 3+ foot height of snow in the yard and when we got back, not a flake remained. But I digress . . . big time. (No, I don't recall the groundhog's prediction that year . . . maybe I'll get around to checking one of these days!)

So, rather than suggesting we share some songs about weather, I'd like, instead, to learn about "critter" songs. Certainly a number of songs about little furry things (or scaly or feathered ones) appear in the children's songs of our youth (or someone's youth), but there are also a number in the collections of songs for parents. Yup, I have a number of critter song favorites, but I want to keep even closer to the topic and suggest the song "Groundhog." It's not expressly a children's song, but is considered such among some folks, I'm sure. The problem we have with that song is that instead of honoring and revering the critter, the goal of the singers is to catch, cook, and eat it. Something I'll bet horrifies Punxsutawney Phil.     

Regardless of the groundhog's reaction, I have enjoyed this song since I was about 8, maybe earlier. We had neighbors - George and Gerry Armstrong and daughters Becky and Jenny - who recorded this piece and did perform it in live concerts as well. 

So here is a link to the Groundhog song as sung by George & Gerry (lyrics here, with link to a live recording from 1963. . . there's a rather long intro on the recording and it's hard to hear, but the music comes through great . . . instrument: Appalachian dulcimer).

https://home.lyon.edu/wolfcollection/armstronggroundhog1299.html

 


Sunday, January 22, 2023

Sunday Singalong - New Years, New Plans, New People

I have determined how to handle my blogging! A new idea (for me) has come into my head (yes, almost all my blogging friends are already wise to this): Just do the writing as the ideas come to mind and schedule the appearance in the blog for the most appropriate time. 

I know it's a little late for "new year," but, at least in my world, the year stays "new" for at least a few weeks. We've had a lot of rain in Southern California and, while everything feels water-logged, it also tends to feel somewhat new (OK, in some places the slick of mud covering almost everything probably gives it more tarnish). I remember, as a kid, doing summers in some wooded location in Wisconsin or Minnesota, the rain seemed to wash off the dirt and leave the trees glistening . . . maybe that's my "picture" of my yard following a good washing . . . even if it is not quite as I remember. So, as long as we are dealing with the rain and then the resulting (or consecutively) appearing greenery, it's still a "new" year.

What songs come to mind when thinking of "new"? Are there plans, people, places, perspectives, ?? There are so many! They don't all scream "THIS IS NEW" . . . but perhaps the information is new to you or to someone who expressed that to you. Some of the oldest songs, when heard for the first time, could be expressing something new, or just be new, to the listener. The first time one hears "Oh, Susanna," "Camptown Ladies," "How Much is that Doggie in the Window?," etc. may come with some "revelation" or connection to a time and/or place in the past.

I was introduced to folk music when I probably hadn't yet learned to talk! My entire family has love and appreciation and respect for music. My mother said I got my musicality from her side of the family, citing the type of household her grandmother was raised in: one where concerts were held in their home and how she, Grandma Carrie, as a small child, would put "pins in the piano keys." They lived in Bohemia (Teplitz and Bilin), where they were acquainted with some great musicians (or so the story goes . . . sadly, I've proved the story probably more a tall tale than family history, but the music love is very real). It was Mom's side of the family from which the various old instruments originated (violin, mandolin, parlor banjo, even the piano) and became mainstays in our home. 

But my father would say my love of music came from his side of the family. He learned to play piano as a youngster but preferred to play organ, which he was able to do at church. His cousin taught him all she could, then passed him on to a more accomplished musician he never named (probably because he out-shone anyone they could afford to hire). I'd like to think that I "inherited" the love, talent, interest, affinity for . . . whatever you call it . . . from both sides equally. Maybe I'm atavistic (having characteristics of remote ancestors) and the origin of my enchantment of music may not really be something one can pinpoint. Whatever, learning a new song can be a memorable experience (whether I like the song or not . . . not all memories are good), at least for me. So let me suggest my "offering" on the subject for this blog on "new" stuff, to be a song I have recently learned (new to me); or perhaps I should qualify that as "renewed."

Yes, I learned this "way back when" (in the 1960s, recorded by The Seekers; written by Tom Springfield). Interestingly, as I read the lyrics (again), I picked up a new appreciation for the words as they might apply to someone who has lost his/her life partner or eternal companion (my new role in life these days). This, then, I guess, makes "I'll Never Find Another You" fit the "new" category.  

https://g.co/kgs/QEFP7e   

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXiaC7APaAU

Your turn.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Sunday Singalong - Oops!

 Who hasn't gone along in life, figuring all is well, only to discover (what was I thinking?) that the time for a promised post (or task, or - fill in the blank) slipped past almost unnoticed until, well, too late!? Oops.

Or maybe it's more like an expected outcome comes out . . . not as expected. It's easy to plan but those plans not written down, as some believe, are only dreams (and can disappear just as fast). OK, I wrote it down. On the calendar. At the right time & place. But you know those dreams . . . I think I slipped off for a quick nap and the plans were swallowed in a dream. Yeah, yeah . . . excuses, excuses. But I have a sneaking suspicion that very few folks were sitting around waiting for Singalong Sunday last week. (Obviously I wasn't!) I am repentant . . . and I am hoping to do better, but I am putting this into the right perspective . . . you see, I have a puppy. (Yes, that has been my excuse for almost everything since last April, but it's far more my reality than I ever expected it to be . . . is it possible that a puppy - and one almost 30# - can be harder to handle than the last time I had a puppy . . . that would be 15 years ago and I had a husband handling half the responsibility, and chewing and brushing and training and mopping up. Lots of "oops" with puppies!)

In fact, it seems as if "oops" has become more a mantra of late . . . but it's more what the dogs are saying to me! Besides the puppy, I have a senior dog who is dealing with arthritis, incontinence, and an insatiable appetite for naps. Oh, yes, and a puppy (who does not comprehend how exhausted are the old ones in his environment).

So, there's today's theme for the Sunday Singalong . . .  songs that express some sort of "oops" (a regrettable decision, a mistake, an unplanned ______ - fill in the blank, etc.). Songs are full of them. And they need not represent personal experience . . . it's much more fun to look at the mistakes of others (and, as our ancestors meant when they sang such songs to their children, take the advice or example as evidence of what NOT to do . . . thankfully, I don't know of any songs telling me why I shouldn't get a puppy . . . I have a book on that subject, though).

So, here's my offering. I enjoyed this song when I first heard it, probably around 1962 when this recording of the Chad Mitchell Trio's Bitter End concert album came out. I thought it was funny. And certainly nothing like reality. Then I got older and looked at people around me. Yup, people could choose to marry for money instead of love. Then I got older still and took a look around me at some of the adults in my world (yes, I was one, too, but resisting that with everything I had in me): Goodness, people sometimes had to replace failed body parts with artificial ones. That scared me, in some ways (still does). So while the song "The Unfortunate Man" was funny when I was a pre-teen; became a reality check in my early 20s; a cause for reflection as a middle-aged, working woman (and college re-entry student); and sad commentary as a senior, I still smile when I hear or sing it, and say a little prayer of thanks that the woman in the song in no way resembles me. Yay, me!

So, for a laugh, a reality check, a reflection, or a bit of sadness, check out the lyrics:

https://genius.com/The-chad-mitchell-trio-the-unfortunate-man-lyrics

and the performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XP7gyyi-FV4

Hope the "oops" is good for some levity. We can all use that.

Share your Oops songs in the comments.