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, June 25, 2023

Sunday Singalong - Summertime, and the Living is Easy


It is obvious to me that whoever wrote those words was not living in Southern California in the desert areas. Granted, the heat may discourage folks from getting out and doing some "living," but "easy"? I think not! And if you have no way to cool yourself in an effort to survive the 100+ degree heat, the unbearableness is likely to change those words to "summertime and the killing is easy." Seriously, dying from the heat is not unfounded. So far, I've survived. I'm not an ocean or beach girl (hate sand, always have) but living in the mountains means snow, so I guess I'm in a good spot. So, heat or no heat, I'm in for the long haul . . . at least for another year! No predictions beyond that.

Our desert home, Lake Mathews, CA

Summertime songs . . . so many, where to go: pop, show tunes, folk, C/W, ragtime, jazz, . . . I'm usually one to fall back on the folk genre because I'm most familiar with it (traditional or contemporary) and I've made it my mission to "introduce" y'all to some lesser known (in many circles) songs that are performed by some of my favorite artists.

I remember our summer vacations . . . the family car had no A/C and, because Mom had had her hair "done" just before leaving, opening the windows more than a crack was forbidden! Sweating in the car in the summer was a given. Showers at the destination were also a given. But as years went on and I eventually got my own car (used, of course), looking for something with air conditioning was not even considered. It wasn't until I got my 5th car (after living in California for 5 years and passed on that option for any previous vehicles . . . what was I thinking?) that considering comfort and vehicle value over . . . any- and everything else was not even a question! (The influence of California summers likely played a major part.) So when I hear this song by Tom Paxton, I remember the many hours I spent sweating at the wheel and praying I'd get to my destination sooner, rather than later.

Georgie on the Freeway, by Tom Paxton, released in 1965. 

Any summer songs and/or summer memories? 

Monday, June 19, 2023

Belated Sunday Singalong - New Stuff


I got a new laptop. Not my idea. Apparently I run a couple of programs that will no longer work when a certain date comes along (allegedly before the end of this year). Initially I thought I'd wait until black Friday (the one in November), but that was bumped up to the "school's back in session" sales, but then it felt imminent (there are the tell-tale hints like, well, not closing down when told to and closing down when not told to). Next thought was maybe a Summer Solstice sale but I'm not seeing many of those and we are just 2 days away from that important date . . . it's just not recognized as it used to be. So I ended up doing my purchase at a Father's Day sale (OK, there was no such Father's Day event and the machine wasn't on sale, either, but it had to be put into play quickly, if I am to keep upcoming bookings), so it arrived on Saturday. It's Monday (you can guess what I was doing on Sunday and writing a blog was still just a dream away, and I was trying not to let it become a nightmare . . . too late - not writing the blog, writing the blog on the new machine). I finally learned how to turn the device off. Well, that was after having to go to Google to find out how to turn it on! First time I've seen a "power" button on the keyboard! And, as usual, that start button also works for "stop." 

And the keyboard. Oh, dear. White markings (letters, numbers, punctuation) on silver keys! Can you say "What genius designed this color combination?" I learned to touch-type a very, very long time ago, but positioning of certain keys makes that education null and void. And it has a 10-key pad, that I don't need, so space that could be utilized otherwise is wasted on me. But, watch . . . I will probably find that number pad handy somewhere along the line. I am glad that the keyboard is backlit . . . I'll probably see the markings better at night. I forgot to double check the size of the computer (I'm terrible at estimating that little detail) and really didn't think how large 17" is. But while having to buy a new sleeve for the machine is annoying, this very, very large monitor is amazing. I think it is going to come in very handy for seeing all the mistakes I make because I can't see what keys I'm actually typing.

I am not a fan of new things. I mean, I understand the concept of "techno-years" (like dog years: 1 human year = 7 techno-years . . . I had my beloved, retired laptop for 4.5 years . . . makes it 31.5 years old . . . that still may be underestimating). And having a nice shiny machine with that "new computer smell" just can't be matched. But I've learned a thing or 2 and don't have time to expound, but will say that if you and the person you spend your life with need to replace computers at the same time, DO NOT get identical machines! Both my computer and the one my husband used developed the same issues at the same time, so when I might otherwise have smoothly and slowly made the transition, that was out of the question. Now I have 2 dinosaur machines (techno-saurs?) from which I needed to snag programs and files from. That's OK, sleep is highly overrated.

So, have you received something new recently, or recall issues with a new item in your life? Any songs that come to mind about new things . . . or old ones, for that matter?

I am partial to this one by Guy Clark (released 1995), recorded in 2016 

Stuff that Works

Monday, June 12, 2023

Sunday (OK, Monday again) Singalong - Early morning gray in So. Cal.


Here in Southern California we experience a couple of weather phenomena: May gray and June gloom. The days suffering from these "maladies" start out overcast and sometimes a bit uncomfortable for folks with breathing difficulties (though I don't think we'd call it "smog," exactly . . . but I'm sure air pollution is not absent totally). They don't bother me, and the reason is simple: as can be imagined, days that start without a full-fledged sun appearance often don't get much over 80℉ even in the middle of the afternoon when the day is at its hottest. Out of curiosity (and to test my memory), I checked what the temperatures were at this time last year and, as I had thought, it was running much hotter beginning in late May and moving into September, with most days in the 90+℉ and a few (more in the latter two months than in the earliest of the spring and summer) in excess of 100℉. I remember the complaining started earlier and occurred more frequently during those days and I was not looking forward to more of the same this year, but I have been pleasantly surprised. Nevertheless, I have found myself singing more weather-related songs, and most of those focusing on warmth rather than cold, which we did experience significantly in our colder months (January through April and even continuing into May) when rainfall measurements were record-breaking (rain is the hallmark of So Cal winters, especially in the desert region, where I live). 

So here's a "gray day" song to match our June gloom days:

"Even a Gray Day," Tom Paxton, ©2019 (from his album of the same name . . . couldn't quickly find a live performance of this one, but that may be because he doesn't do it in concert very often)

Any weather songs come to mind for you?

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Sunday Singalong - Growing our Food by the Moon


Is everyone ready for Summer? Last night we were graced with a full moon – the Strawberry moon, according to Native Americans of the Algonquin, Ojibwe, Dakota, and Lakota tribes. It stands to reason that the month strawberries ripen should have a moon named for them, but I’m in Southern California where our strawberries are ripe for the pickin’ starting in April, or even before (much depending on the rainfall in the prior months). This year, our intense rainy season is costing strawberry growers in California an estimated $200,000,000 (yup, 8 zeros)! In Central California, the overall yield has been dropped by 50% to 70%. Of course, this means that the price of strawberries is out of sight and it might be cheaper to visit that strawberry moon than pick up a pint of the fruit. In spite of all that, the belief is that the flavor of the berry is not affected and may even be better and the berries larger – I’m not sure why; I only know what I read on the Internet, where all truth is . . . _________ (suspect, or some other appropriate word). The FreshFruit Portal website explains some of the particulars. I just know that the state’s strawberries, sometimes even showing up as early as Valentine’s day, have missed that holiday, and probably a couple of others.

Library of Congress
unidentified photo, unrestricted use

Well, where are we going with our song topic of the week? I’m glad you asked. I thought that, with all the gardens being planted in the last 2 months and into this one (of course, where I live, produce can be, and is, grown year-round), a song about fruit, veggies (does anyone even use the word “vegetable” any more?), and herbs would be quite appropriate. Even if you aren’t planting your own garden, the chances are you will be eating at least one thing produced in the ground. And one of my absolute favorite garden songs is called (ready for this now?) “The Garden Song,” by David Mallett. Fun to sing, enjoyable to listen to, and even somewhat inspirational.

Released in 1975, performed here live in Virginia on 8 April2016.

Any favorites on this general topic to share?