Friday, December 30, 2005

Keeping Out of Trouble

I've got a new project and I invite everybody to take a look at what I'm doing.

Some time ago I created a virtual cemetery on my website of the graves of relatives that I have visited and photographed. The only downside to that particular portion of my website is that you have to find the website by luck, search engines, or word of mouth. I wanted to also post my photographs in some general site that is more accessible to the casual family history surfer.

I finally found the right place. Thanks to a mention in Family Tree Magazine, I discovered Anyone can post a memorial, burial, photo, or bio with a few clicks of a keyboard. I've already uploaded over 50 photos, created 20 or so new burial records, and delivered virtual flowers to the graves of relatives who were already in the database. I had the satisfaction of being the first to enter burials in the Jackson Cemetery in Franklin County, Arkansas. I corrected a mis-entry for my great-great grandparents and got them entered in the proper place. I'm adding photos to existing entries. I'm having a lot of fun.

I will be adding a few burials at a time until I get my own virtual cemetery duplicated. I am delighted at the opportunity to provide photos of not only the tombstones, but also of the people buried there, in the hopes that some distant cousin will be able to visit the graves that they might otherwise never see.

We genealogists are a determined lot. We will take every opportunity to convert others to the addiction that is family history.

Stop by and drop off some virtual flowers. (Hint: search for Horace Hodge in Texas. Once you find one burial I've entered, you can click on my initials and see a list of all the burials I've entered, or a list of all the photos I've uploaded.)


Thursday, December 29, 2005

Little Surprises

It's funny how you can live with stuff for years and then suddenly come across something you've never seen and find something to add to the family archives as a result.

I knew the story behind the item. Grandmother Lucy had written about it in her memoirs:

"When old Highway 20 came through [Horace] worked helping build the road bed. They were still using mules and scapers to move the dirt. When I met him in March of 1928 he was working on the railroad. Section Hand. Laying cross ties and rales for $2.08 a 10 hour day. He never knew what it was to have any money to spend. He had to bring his pay check in and give it to his mother. He gave me a wrist watch for Christmas before we married. He told me after we married how he managed to pay for it. He worked on the railroad all day and then walked to town and cleaned and swept up a cafe at night for 50 cents a night. "

One day recently I was looking for something in my mother's dresser and came across a box with a watch inside. I had never seen it before, that I could remember, and when I asked Mother about it, she told me it was the watch her father had bought for her mother when they were courting. I have no idea when she gained possession of the watch and had no idea that that particular family treasure had been located for some time in the house with me. Needless to say, it has been moved to the china cabinet where other heirlooms reside.

The second surprise was a tiny newspaper clipping that was tucked inside the box. It was brittle with age and the full text was missing, but it was enough to tell me that at some point there had been a notice in the paper announcing the marriage of Lucy Mason and Horace Hodge.

So, yesterday, with a little time on my hands, I wandered down to the Bastrop Public Library and started reading the late 1930 editions of the Bastrop Advertiser on microfilm. I found what I was looking for in the November 20th issue, located in the middle of a column of personal notes from McDade:

"Same old 'Doxology' -- Dan Cupid 'stept' into McDade last Thursday evening, stealing from her midst one of her favorite sons, H. G. Hodge, wafting him on 'Love's wings' across to Red Rock and there was joined in the holy bonds of matrimony to Miss Lucy Mason, one of Red Rock's attractive daughters. Congratulations."

How much of these small bits of history we miss because we don't know to look for them. I have spent many hours cranking that old microfilm reader at the library. My family has lived in Bastrop County for generations and I can be assured that any time I start browsing the Advertiser, I will find mention of relatives in the personals columns. Indeed, in the brief two hours I spent yesterday looking for this particular item and for a couple of obituaries, I found several passing mentions of family members.

On January 18, 1918, for instance, I found the only printed mention of my great-great grandmother Mason's death:

"Deaths. Mrs. Mary Smith, died at Cedar Creek, December 18."

Thanks to the personals column of February 9, 1917, I found a printed mention of the death of Mary Brock McAfee, my great great step-grandmother:

"Mrs. Charles Weber of Carmine returned to her home Monday after attending the funeral of her mother, Mrs. McAfee, who died out at "the Lake" last week."

These three finds were enough to justify to me the time spent getting a backache yesterday. (Bastrop Public Library has a lot to learn about ergonomic work areas.) Such small finds, you might say. To me, they are buried treasure. That's the fine line that separates us genealogists from normal folk. Only genealogists can hyperventilate at the sight of familiar family names that leap out at us from blurry images in a darkened room.

Little surprises. They keep me digging.


Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Past

There was a television show on early this morning while I was sitting on the couch, drinking my coffee. It was a nice little retrospective on the toys of my childhood. I had some of the toys mentioned and brother David had some of the toys. But some of the more popular ones we did not have. Two of these were the official Barbie and GI-Joe dolls. They were probably a little pricey for the family of a Baptist preacher. But we had some really nice knock-offs.

About 1958, I would imagine.

I guess it was probably 1960 when the Barbie craze really hit. That year I got two teen dolls for Christmas. One was a very close Barbie copy, received from my grandparents. The other was from my aunt and manufactured by the Uneeda Doll company. I played them both to pieces. The first eventually lost the use of her legs. The second I still have, a little battered but, in my mind, remains much prettier than the actual Barbie issued the same year. (The show this morning gave an original Barbie price of $3. Try to find one of them now for that price.) I also received a huge wardrobe of home-made fashion clothes for my dolls that beat the heck out of the store-bought outfits. I still have most of those clothes, too. Some made by my aunt, some by my mother and a few hideous efforts of my own.

David had a knockoff GI-Joe made by Marx, named Stoney Smith. He later added to his collection two more action figures by Marx, Chief Cherokee and Daniel Boone. I think I was a little jealous of those three dolls (excuse me, action figures) because they came with a load of scaled accessories. Even then I was fascinated by things miniature. All three were left behind in the church nursery when we moved from Smiley. A couple of years ago I hunted down a vintage Chief Cherokee for a present for David and coughed up around $80 for the doll, the box and the complete set of gear. My parents would never have left those toys behind if they had known.

One year I received a "life-sized" doll, who could walk. If you held your mouth right, that is. She is still with us, too, and periodically gets new outfits to wear at Christmas. How I wish I had some of the other dolls of Christmases past, like my Betsy Wetsy.

Linda, Cindy, Joyce, Janice, about 1959

One of the toys that I especially remember from Christmas long ago was a top with a big bubble that contained a tulip. When the top was spun, the tulip opened and a ballerina spun in the center. Of course one of the first things I had to do was try spinning it upside down and the ballerina fell out of her place. (Toy manufacturers were not that smart back then and did not anticipate what children would do with their toys.) Upset me considerably, but my grandmother bought another one to replace it and I never tried that again. I have no memory what happened to that toy, but in trying to locate one on EBAY I discovered that it was made by J. Chein, whose tin toys have become quite the collectibles. I have yet to find one in working condition, but I've seen quite a few come on the market that mention that the bubble is cracked from the necessity of having to get inside and put the ballerina back in place.

An Ebay posting

One of the big Christmases was when I got my first two-wheeler. Another Christmas of note was when I got my first watch. Then there was the Christmas when we got board games. Two of the games we had were the tv tie-ins for Bewitched and Gilligan's Island. Again, I have no idea what happened to them, but they are fetching pretty pennies on EBAY these days.

This is just an ad that mentions both games,
and they are asking $25 for an opening bid.
I've seen the games go for upwards of $200.

It occurs to me that I might be in a good position to retire if I had just had enough sense to save my toys and their original boxes. But I played my toys to death. Which is why I and so many of my generation are out there looking for replacements of items that gave us so much enjoyment around long ago Christmas trees.

Ah, the good old days. Playing with pristine new toys while the smells from the kitchen become unbearably tempting. Now I cook on Christmas and the only toys under the tree are for the dogs. (With the occasional vintage toy that pops up from time to time for one of the adults. Usually me or David.) I invariably end up making a mental trip on Christmas Day, back to the days when we travelled either to Elgin or Gladewater and spent Christmas in the company of the kin folk who aren't with us anymore. Thank goodness the memories are.


Friday, December 23, 2005

Ray Owen Burch, 1912-2005, Rest In Peace

Word just came that my cousin in California died this morning. We met about 4 years ago, a connection made through the marvels of the Internet. Ray was the first cousin of my grandfather Hodge and belonged to a branch of the family that pulled up their Texas roots in the 1930s and moved to California. A few years ago, Ray and his wife Marykay came to Austin for a visit and I was able to spend an afternoon with them.

Ray standing with me at left, Marykay seated at far right

Ray did not know our branch of the family existed until our correspondence began. He was most generous with his memories and provided me pictures of his mother Rosa and his brothers. He and Marykay quickly adopted me as family. We emailed back and forth until his health began to fail last year.

Ray was 93 years old, so I knew the time remaining for him was short. However, it is never easy to hear of the loss of an elder member of the family. Ray was a true gentleman with charm running out of his ears. I knew him for a brief four years. I'll miss him forever.


Thursday, December 22, 2005

A little of this, a little of that

What a day. On the way home last night, I decided there was no way I could last until next Wednesday for a massage. I threw myself on the mercy of my massage therapist and got an appointment for today. The good news is that my back is not so much a pretzel tonight.

Tomorrow I take little Coco in to see her doctor for a similar adjustment. Little brother tried one of his judo throws last night and she came up hollering and has been limping ever since. Hopefully we are only dealing with a pulled muscle.

Otherwise, I am done with Christmas shopping so there is no way I'm going anywhere near a store where there are people who haven't finished. For a change of pace, I headed to Smithville, stuffed myself full of Tex-Mex at La Cabana, and then ambled on downtown to visit one of my favorite antique shops, Dream Train Antiques. I picked up an anniversary plate for Elgin, and rescued several antique photos at the new shop across the street.

This rescued ancestors thing I've got going is beginning to get out of hand. I have a pile of new old photos acquired last weekend at the Elgin Antique Mall that are waiting to be scanned. Today I picked up another love letter and three more photos. I've reached a point of having to expand the rescue area of my website to better organize the collection I've acquired. I sure hope these folks appreciate being rescued.

My adventures ended up today with a ride back to Bastrop through Rosanky, a drive I don't remember ever making before. I love back roads I haven't driven before. I particularly enjoyed seeing a field full of goats, one of whom was standing patiently while her little one availed himself of an afternoon snack. I think I'm a country girl at heart, which I confirmed by taking the test you can find here: .

Now the best part of the day. Everyone has been fed, I'm sprawled in bed with the laptop, and the puppies are snoring all around me. Day 1 of a 5 day stretch to be pretty much as lazy as I please. This is the best part of Christmas for me.

And as a footnote here, I am three days away from hitting my 1 year anniversary at the blog game. I wasn't sure I would be able to keep going, but I've enjoyed jotting down my thoughts. It's the closest I've ever come to having a diary. Think I'll keep going.

See you later. Same time, same channel.


Thursday, December 15, 2005

Just for the Record

The other things I find attractive in a man:

Stability (hold a job and manage money well)
Loyalty (to a fault)
Concern (for the greater good, i.e. humanity, animals, environment)
Humor (the right kind of course; bigot humor and coarse humor is not allowed)
Intelligence (not necessarily the book learned variety, but that's certainly nice to have in addition to street smarts and good old common sense)
Old Fashioned Values (like my Grandpa Hodge had)
Manners (yes, open the door and pull out my chair, and help little old ladies in and out of cars)

That's the list for now. And some others that pass my physically attractive criteria:

Robert Redford (I like those craggy au naturel looks and he wears jeans really, really well)
George Strait (true cowboy material and a great voice)
Tommy Lee Jones (another true cowboy--I sense a trend here)
Harrison Ford (before he got that blasted earring)

Still thinking...


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

It's all in the Voice

I'm a confirmed old bachelorette, but I still get asked from time to time about what I look for in a man. I always get the feeling that the asker has in mind that surely there is somebody out there for the old crone. And there probably is, but he's going to have to find me. I'm not looking any more. Of course, if I fall over an attractive guy, I'm not saying I wouldn't take a second look. I'm not dead, after all.

I remember somebody years ago trying to zero in on what kind of guy I find attractive. They were coming up with names like Tom Cruise. (Ick, ptooie!) The prevailing opinion of the folks around that day was that I would be attacted to a suit. I laughed about it, but I couldn't really explain what kind of guy I did find attractive. Then old friend Marianna hit it on her first guess.

Keeping in mind that this was a few years back, she looked at me for a minute and then said, "I'll bet you like the older brother on Simon & Simon." Yep. I found Gerald McRaney 10 times more attractive than Jameson Parker, who played the yuppie younger brother in a suit.

My mother always said she liked men with a little dirt under their nails. I think I agree, but my definition is I like men who aren't afraid to get dirty when there is work to be done, but who can clean up good when the occasion calls for it.

Now that I've beaten all the way around the bush, the subject of this essay was supposed to have been about voices. Because that is one of the first things that attracts me to a man. I was reminded of that this week because I acquired a CD collection of the music of Mickey Newbury. I can't remember when or where I discovered his music, but I had been looking a long time for CD replacements for the albums I've had since college. He had one of the most arresting voices I've ever heard and he wrote wonderful songs, too. (Sadly, he passed away about two years ago, so the wonderful talent and that fantastic voice have been silenced.) I don't know if the man was handsome, plain, or ugly. He looks pleasant enough, judging from his album covers. But that voice! The man was attractive, mark my words.

I know a lot of folks don't agree with me, but if there is a voice I like even better, it is Kris Kristofferson's. There is something about that gin-soaked, smoky rasp that, to put it vulgarly, turns me on. The man is rough around the edges, top to bottom, inside and out. And sexy as hell. I recently bought an audio book simply because the narrator was Kristofferson. Don't remember much about the book, but I sure enjoyed listening to Kris Kris talk at me for 5 1/2 hours. I'm afraid if I ever happen to run into the old boy and he says "hello", it's going to get embarrassing. And considering that he's in Austin right now filming a move, it's not entirely outside of the realm of possibility. One can always dream.

There's other qualities I look for, of course. But the bottom line is that I might never give a second look to a man that by society's standards is a dreamboat. On the other hand, I might get whiplash if an interesting voice catches my attention. It's funny how such different things can weigh in a person's evaluation of another's level of attraction.

Now the second thing I notice? How he looks walking away in a pair of well-fitting jeans. Ooh, la, la.


Sunday, December 11, 2005

Does Anybody Else Remember

The Andy Williams show with regulars the Osmond brothers? Back when Donny was a cute little kid and Marie hadn't come on the scene yet.

The Danny Kaye show and Victoria Myerink.

The Garry Moore show and Durwood Kirby. And Marion Lorne. And a young Carol Burnett.

Senor Wences.

Topo Gigio.

Sea Hunt with Lloyd Bridges.

World of Giants.

Uncle Jay and Packer Jack.

Cactus Pryor's radio show.

Promotional items sold by the Superior Dairies delivery man.

Wax halloween whistles.

One television station in Austin and there was plenty to watch.

Sitting on the ice cream freezer to hold it down while your father cranked.

Seeing the initial showing of Disney's Sleeping Beauty and 101 Dalmatians.

The premiere of a new series of books with the first in the series being "The Cat In the Hat".

Seeing Mary Martin in Peter Pan on television.

Heavens, I'm getting old.


Thursday, December 08, 2005

Ice Day

Brrrr. It was 24 degrees on the deck when I got up this morning. We headed out the front door to get the paper and the dogs stopped short when they hit the frozen grass. They were glad to get back in and help me build a fire in the fireplace. It didn't take them long to get their little rears backed up to the warmth.

Ice days were always fun when we were kids and it meant a day home from school. But then you had to make the day up later. I like ice days as an adult better. I had intended to try and make my way to work once the temperature got to 32, but when the announcement came that Austin ISD and Bastrop ISD were closing for the day it became official that the office was closed as well. A free day with no obligation to work and it doesn't have to be made up. Yeehaw!

At noon, the ground is still frozen and the thermometer is hovering at 28 degrees. I ventured out to run a couple of errands, picked up some chicken for lunch, and wasted no time getting back to cuddling with the dogs. (I got to eat a little bit of the chicken, but I have the bruises to show that it wasn't easy to wrestle them for a few bites. As I was getting a drink, the last of my biscuit disappeared with Coco over the edge of the bed.)

Gee, what to do? I may have to take a nap and ponder that question.


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Heat Wave a.k.a. Three Dog Nights

My hormones are driving me crazy. More accurately, whatever controls your inner thermostat has gone completely wacko with mine. How on earth does one deal with being too hot and too cold at the same time?

Pre-menopause, I was cold all the time. My winter nightwear was generally long pajamas and socks. Post menopause is a challenge. My feet and hands will be freezing cold, but my body and head will be glowing hot. If I wear pajamas or socks, I'll be tossing and turning all night, alternately too hot and too cold. If I try to sleep under just a sheet, I'm too cold. If I add a light blanket, I'm too hot.

Add to the mix 3 little dogs who like to cuddle because they are cold and it becomes a constant cover on-cover off proposition. My solution at this point is to get everybody settled under a blanket, which gets my feet and the dogs warm, and then start the fan, which keeps my head cool. With a blanket, two of the dogs generally move away from me. Mojo always cuddles, but he's a small warm spot. When three of them are cuddling, it's like sleeping in a sauna.

Generally the pros far outweigh the cons where menopause is concerned. No more cramps, acne breakouts and PMS mood swings. So far the temperature problem is the only real drawback. But it's a doozy.

On the one hand, I have no trouble following the energy conservation guide of setting the thermostat at 68 degrees. I can forego lugging along a jacket until the thermometer dips into the 20s. On the other hand, I have about 8 pair of boots and a collection of cotton sweaters that I can't stand to wear anymore. I don't have any desire to start a fire in the fireplace. I've stopped drinking so much coffee because it makes me sweat. I've developed a raging addiction to Diet Coke because it cools me down.

I have two fans in my office at work, a ceiling and a tower fan in my bedroom, and three of four vents in the car aimed directly at me. I have an extra fan I can aim into the kitchen when the stove is in operation. And just as I get comfortable one way, I'm soon switching off the fans because I've been hit with a chill. I feel like there's a tug of war going on inside.

Whoever designed women's anatomy was either crazy or a sadist. Whoever it was should be sentenced to sitting on an ice block with a heat lamp directed at their head. Because that's how I feel morning, noon and night.

Menopause. One of God's little jokes. Real funny. Reach over and switch on the fan, wouldja?


Monday, December 05, 2005

New Taste Sensation

I went to the mall at lunch today. On the way back to my car, I was contemplating what I should do about grabbing a bite to eat when I got back to my desk. About that time I spied the Pretzel Time kiosk displaying "pretzel dogs", so I stopped to get one. I also spotted a cinnamon/sugar coated pretzel. Being a cinnamon fiend, I asked for one of those, too.

The pretzel dog was ok. Nothing to write home about. Then I bit into the cinnamon/sugar pretzel and fell in love. It was a regular twisted pretzel, but instead of salt they had pressed in firmly into a vat of powdery cinnamon/sugar. Yum, yum, triple yum. I suspect I will have to make that stop every time I venture to the mall in the future. I had almost stopped at Cinnabon's, but I just really don't care for their gooey sweetness. The cinnamon/sugar pretzel was exactly right. Somebody was on a roll the day they came up with that one.

On a separate subject, I sent a company-wide email a few days ago, threatening them with coal in their stockings if they didn't take care of necessary system maintenance. One of the ladies replied with a report of a seasonal stocking stuffer she had happened across. Instead of a small lump of coal, a small sack of mini-marshmallows was provided and accompanied by the following poem:

You’ve been bad
So, here’s the scoop
All you get
Is Snowman poop!

I like it.


Saturday, December 03, 2005

San Marcos Sortie

I joined about a million shoppers swarming the outlet mall in San Marcos today. I don't usually go to San Marcos on the weekends after Thanksgiving. I know there will be hordes of Christmas shoppers there and I've reached an age where I despise crowds. But I needed to do some odd Christmas shopping myself and I wanted to get it over with.

I had a good time despite the parking shortages and the throngs of people blocking the sidewalks. There's a brand new section of the original mall (Prime Outlet), with Italianate facades and complete with a short canal where you can ride a gondola. I decided to explore this new section at the end of the day and it is probably a good thing I did, considering how much money I managed to spend in just a couple of hours.

My ongoing project to replace my wardrobe with more stylish options got a major boost today with a visit to Chico's. My only previous experience with Chico's had been unpleasant thanks to some overly predatory salespeople. But give me an outlet store and I can be persuaded to give it another shot. And I'm glad I did. I snared a great saleslady who pointed me to pieces I would never have noticed on my own. In the course of a couple of hours we enjoyed conversation about clothes, caregiving (she has taken her father into her home), cruises, and men. It was nice to have a chance to chatter with someone my own age about inconsequential girl stuff with no time constraints (little brother had rashly told me to take my time). I left happy from two hours of trying on flattering clothes and my saleslady was happy with a nice little sales commission. I'll be back as soon as my checkbook recuperates.

I got my comeuppance when I got home. Three little dogs who had been waiting an extra hour for their supper let me know they didn't appreciate the shift in their routine. Mojo sat down and howled at me, which came across as more of a good dressing down. He wasn't at all impressed with my shopping prowess. But he does like his mommy in a good mood, so once he got his tummy full he was glad to help me haul packages upstairs.

Not sure what my co-workers are thinking about my sudden wardrobe upgrade. But it sure has done my spirits good. You just gotta indulge yourself sometimes. At least if I end up in the poor house, I'll be well dressed.


Friday, December 02, 2005

Further Contemplation

What an oversight.

All Preludes, Waltzes, Etudes, Mazurkas & Polonaises by Chopin.
Symphony No. 40, by Mozart


Thursday, December 01, 2005

Friday Contemplation

Songs I'm glad we didn't have to do without:

Amazing Grace (John Newton)
Ashokan Farewell (Jay Ungar)
Battle Hymn of the Republic (Julia Ward Howe)
Faded Love (Bob Wills)
Greensleeves (reportedly Henry VIII)
In My Life (Lennon/McCartney)
Layla (Eric Clapton)
Moonlight Sonata (Beethoven)
Unchained Melody (Zaret/North, best performance by the Righteous Brothers)

Still contemplating. More to come, I'm sure.