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, April 30, 2023

Sunday SIngalong - Cures and Ills


Did you walk yesterday? I mean, did you walk for any special causes? So many causes need to be recognized, need to have fundraisers, need to be eradicated. Yesterday (29 April 2023) is a day for Pancreatic Cancer awareness. This does not mean that, once April 29th is over, we no longer need to be aware of this disease, it's that large amounts of money, particularly for the PanCan organization, was raised to create awareness-raising.

I am not going to get on a soap box about this, or any disease. Goodness knows, there are many that are ravaging our communities and destroying families. But those same diseases are bringing folks together with a combined desire to do what is ever possible to make the disease researched and eradicated.

I’d love to say that pancreatic cancer has never touched my life, but off the top of my head I can point to at least 3 good friends and 1 good husband who succumbed. Watching a loved one taken, oh so slowly, by the cancer monster (whatever the cancer may be) is devastating. Nothing has given me such a helpless feeling as that. So, what is there to sing about here, you ask? Sometimes the mere singing (together, but even privately) can lift spirits. My husband and I used to sing together (often รก cappella and without any plan to do so . . . we’d be talking about something, watching a TV show, or just doing a task together and we’d be struck with a song, usually inspired by whatever was happening . . . yeah, sort of like a musical . . . though I don’t recall ever running up a hillside and singing about the hills being alive with music). And I remember sharing music with my friend Pernell Roberts (once, during a lengthy visit, we did some singing together, even though his body was already frail from pancreatic cancer . . . still, he sang, though just a but, preferring to listen to me sing to him). Music ties us together.

So, what song today, and on what theme? How about illness. But it does not need to be a sad song, it can be something that is uplifting. Maybe something that helps you forget an illness (bodily or societal). My choice (and this has taken some time to select):

"Me and a Couple of Angels," by Tom Paxton, ©2002 on Looking for the Moon 

written for his sweet wife, who was ill and holding on to Tom, their 2 daughters, and three grandsons.

Midge died 1 June 2014 of pneumonia, following a long bout with an autoimmune disease. She was 69.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Sunday Singalong - Earth Day (should be every day)


Another year goes by, and still, we deal with pollution and worse in the world. What will the state of things be 2 or 3 generations from now (not daring to think any further). I like to watch old westerns. Have you ever noticed that when the folks in the old west had something to discard (a cigarette butt, a wanted poster, a letter from …anyone) it was just tossed into the street? A street was, by today’s standards, quite tidy (considering the horses and what they left behind), at least in the TV shows. I know that, in some places (the bigger cities, for example), there were street sweepers (people, not machines) whose job it was to sweep up the manure. It was a non-stop job. Didn’t pay well, but steady work. I would guess that the cigarette butts, dodgers, and letters from their gold seeking loved ones, off in California, Nevada, the Dakotas, Alaska, were all swept up by those whose job it was to remove such refuse. I can’t help but notice that the streets near where I live do not have a 24/7 street sweeper. Not even an 8/5 sweeper. 

Thinking back to small towns, those who have sidewalks in front of their establishments are expected to clean up the area, even if the property is public (remember The Andy Griffith Show where Floyd is often found sweeping in front of the barber shop, as is the person with the mercantile, etc.). When was the last time you were in a town or village and saw such activity going on? I can count on no hands how many I’ve seen folks thusly engaged in the past, ah, my whole life. Yes, at times I’ve seen a street sweeper (large vehicle with worn out brushes turning and allegedly sweeping the refuse into an on-board bin) . . . and I’ve seen the trail, after they recently passed by, evident by the thin line of dirt and small items – cigarette butts, bottle caps, candy wrappers – that weren’t big enough to get swept up in the activity.

When folks pine for the good ol’ days, maybe part of that is remembering times when the air smelled cleaner and the streets were swept (though some of the residue from the sweepers trying to keep up with the horses may not be as sweet-smelling). Maybe someday, instead of no longer “needing” the song I have selected for today, it will be more true to life than not. I hope that won’t be the case.

This piece (yup, by Tom Paxton), “Whose Garden was This?,” was written for the promotion of the first Earth Day (1970). I’m honored to say I was in that crowd, at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and heard its debut. It was expanded some over the years (see second link), but the message remains the same: If we don’t do something, then it will be our epitaph. Sadly, he is still feeling it necessary to perform this frequently.  

The buttons here are from that first Earth Day promotion and have remained in my collection. Perhaps, someday, they will no longer be true, and then valued only for their antique status.

“WhoseGarden?” – 1970  

“Whose Garden?” – 2016 (with an addition to the 2nd verse)

Your turn. Any songs about the earth, the gardens, the skies . . . you know, the things we (hopefully) value?

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Sunday Singalong - the American Dream


Tax time! Don’t we look forward to it . . . right. Well, when I married Butch, he told me he always used a tax preparer for filing his return each year. As the daughter of a mathematician, I’d never considered such a bizarre way to handle my finances. That first year together, he went to his tax preparer and I sweated to complete my simplest of simple forms to file on my meager earnings. And I noticed that, of the two of us, one was a lot less stressed than the other (even though, I believe, I received a greater refund that year than he did). Needless to say, after that, we filed jointly and always used an accountant. Over the years, we have had some wonderful folks who have been great at keeping us both honest and fairly stress-free. Fairly.

At one point, we got to get some nice (?) deductions due to the American Dream of home ownership. Over the years, we purchased 3 homes (separately, of course) to be our dwellings (this does not count the various RVs we’ve had over the decades). And, after owning that 3rd home for 13 years, we moved it to our current address in Lake Mathews, an unincorporated area of Riverside County where our zip code says we are in Perris, our home telephone exchange says we’re in Riverside, and our neighborhood children are bussed to schools in Corona. Well, try to find me with all of that info! I live on Multiview Dr., meaning, when I look East, there is Perris; when I look West, there is Corona; and when I look North, there is Riverside. If I look South, I see a lot of construction where it appears at least 3 new neighbors will soon be having a go at the American Dream, too.

(Moving the house was one thing; adding on was another; at least the photographer caught Butch and me BOTH smiling at this point in the renovation/addition/headache – 2002)

Why all that? Home ownership has proved to be an emotional roller coaster, with various demands on time and pocketbook and I started to think about the phenomenon of getting a mortgage, and then working to cover the various expenses (can’t call the lender to replace a broken window as we might have done with a landlord when we were renters). But it is still the American Dream. And I wonder what songs this might bring to mind. Yes, you are right, it’s another Tom Paxton song that was first to pop up in my head (actually, I was singing the song a few days ago and decided to write a blog around it, instead of the other way around).

“We Went to the Banker,” ©1983, on Bulletin . . . We Interrupt this Record

Any songs about homes, money, taxes, ?? 

Sunday, April 9, 2023

Sunday Singalong - Resurrecting


It is Easter Sunday as I write this and I've been enjoying music and talks on the subject of Christ and his resurrection (no, I'm not going to preach here) and the seasonal concept of "rebirth." I like to think of the world blossoming and becoming "new," even in places where many don't "see" the seasons. I've been living in California for 50 years as of this summer and can say that I have always "seen" the seasons and the changes. Granted, some changes are more subtle than others and some seasons stick around for just a moment or two - spring has been particularly brief in the last few years and the rains (AKA the "rainy season," our version of winter) have been significantly brief, also. But this year . . . this year it is quite the season of rebirth as our "rainy season" was plentiful with product - too the detriment of many areas in my general vicinity (property, houses, and people have endured large amounts of suffering because it appeared that the "liquid sunshine" would never end; no sooner was a mudslide cleaned up, felled trees were cleared away, and water pumped from homes that the next deluge would appear and here we go again. But today, in fact, much of the last week, the weather has been amazing - in the 70s and even 80s, some days; mild winds (for the most part); and finally the sense Noah must have felt when the 40 days & nights of torrents stopped and the rainbow came out (yup, even had some rainbows around here). The flowers are particularly gorgeous (and overwhelming to those with pollen allergies). The birds have been quite boisterous. All those signs that spring has sprung are evident (as we sort of cautiously enjoy the outdoors, all the while keeping an eye on the forecast - is it really over?).

Almost every year since I've lived here, there have been the following comments, come April: "This is going to be Southern California's worst fire season ever!" The rationale is that, when there is not enough rain and we again reach drought conditions, all vegetation that is on the hills has turned brown and ripe for bursting into flames, almost without more than a sideways look. However, when the rain has been plentiful, especially into March, the greenery is obvious as for as the eye can see, meaning that, come summer and the temperatures (at least in my area) reach into the 90s and 100s, the multitude of fuel (even if not all dried out) means "Katy, bar the door! The wild fires are in the wind!" I know that last year, with the drought in high gear, the fires were everywhere and one couldn't go more than 20 or 30 miles without being diverted due to smoke or fire. We wore masks to be able to breathe the air as much as protect from diseases. 

And  so, as I observe the proliferation of flowers (OK, many are weeds, disguised as flowers) I think about the region being resurrected. And the weather is perfect where I am (wish I could bottle it to open deep into July or August when I'm certain the temperatures will never again be below 3 figures). Thinking of the rebirth or personal realizations or circle of seasons, etc. so many references in songs remind us that "tomorrow is another day" and we will sing again (in our hearts, if not our voices).

out my front door, today, 9 April 2023 
(likely to be a little less green in a month or so)

I am particularly fond of an obscure Tom Paxton song (yes, I do listen to other music, but I've enjoyed Tom's for so many years that his songs come quickest into my mind): "Spin and Turn." Now, I did try to find a copy of the audio, for free, but have been unable to find a link to one. It's on his album Live, for the Record recorded in 1996, I believe. It's available from Amazon as well as Tom's website. Anyway, here are the lyrics (for those familiar with Tom's music, the verses and chorus follow the tune of his "Fare thee Well, Cisco" - and if you like the lyrics and don't know the best way to get a copy of the song, let me know sometime and I'll sing & play it for you).

“Spin and Turn” – Tom Paxton, ©1996


1)  Deep in the night a baby takes his first deep breath and cries,
His momma’s tired and happy, Daddy’s head is in the skies;
The fiddler resins up her bow, And the guitar tunes a string,
The circle dancers part, To let another others join the ring.


Spin and turn, Life goes on and on.
Circles around the sun Till the final dance is done.
Spin and turn, We’ve been here and gone.

2) Early in life the young man Finds a woman who is wise,
He takes her in his arms And finds tomorrow in her eyes;
They dance around the circle Till the two of them are one,
They do the dance of life Until a new life has begun.



Old men telling children Of the world when they were young;
Children telling old men of their dreams;
Mother, daughters, fathers, sons,
Around and around, the circle runs In streams.

3) Till deep in the night an old man Takes his final steps and sighs,
Across the lake the music Echoes to the midnight skies;
While, deep within, the ancient song Is rising in his breast,
For him, the hour is late And now it’s time he took his rest.



And deep in the night a baby Takes her first breath and cries,
Her momma’s tired and happy Daddy’s head is in the skies -

Spin and turn Life goes on and on.  

Your turn!

Sunday, April 2, 2023

Sunday Singalong - 2 April 2023 - Best Memories


April 2nd . . . the day after April 1st (the Fools’ Day). But it’s the 2nd that holds the best memory for me. It was a day that “changed my life” – back in 1966. At not quite 15 years old, that is quite a deal: to change a life so young, with a change that lasted until . . . well, it’s still applicable.

Meeting my favorite actor was not just a dream come true, it was a goal that was reached. With that accomplishment (a very long story in itself), I felt I had no more amazing experiences left in my life. Yeah, well, I learned. And over the next 44 years, I have learned from those additional experiences, whether involving my favorite actor, who, over the course of the following 3 years, turned into a beloved friend and confidant, or others who came into (and, in some cases left from) my life. I have learned from, laughed and cried with, and enjoyed the company of folks of all religions, cultures, interests, etc. And so many good memories (yes, there were some not so good ones, too, but I choose when and where to let those enter my brain). Got a special friend? A special memory? A special song that brings either to mind?

I turn back to works of my friend Tom Paxton and a song I have loved since I first heard it, but that he was not that enamored with because nostalgia, at the time he wrote the piece, was not something he chose to dwell on. Still, he recorded it and sang it, and it can be listened to and even purchased from Amazon (links below).

As I’ve shared in the past, this one is on his album “New Songs for Old Friends”:

Faces and Places

Pernell Roberts & Jean Wilcox

2 April 1966, St. Charles, Illinois