19 December 2015


You may think that Holiday music or the Christmas Carols you know - the classics - have been around so long that just about everyone has heard them, maybe even knows the words by heart, and has sung them.  The truth is that "classic" Christmas songs are not the same songs that churchgoers and door to door carolers sang decades ago and in the future, someone living in 2050 may have never heard of say, Adam Sandler, singing the funny Hanukah song or understand the references to Captain Kirk.  They may have changed or dropped religion and not even understand who or why "Come oh Come Emanuel."

So, this year, when your family is gathered, keep the lyrics and if possible the sheet music to the songs they sang and include it in your genealogy project so that that your descendants can try out these songs, listen to them, think about the lyrics and the times they were sung in.

Searching the web I located this site



"This was changed by St. Francis of Assisi when, in 1223, he started his Nativity Plays in Italy. The people in the plays sang songs or 'canticles' that told the story during the plays. Sometimes, the choruses of these new carols were in Latin; but normally they were all in a language that the people watching the play could understand and join in! The new carols spread to France, Spain, Germany and other European countries.

The earliest carol, like this, was written in 1410. Sadly only a very small fragment of it still exists. The carol was about Mary and Jesus meeting different people in Bethlehem. Most Carols from this time and the Elizabethan period are untrue stories, very loosely based on the Christmas story, about the holy family and were seen as entertaining rather than religious songs. They were usually sung in homes rather than in churches! Traveling singers or Minstrels started singing these carols and the words were changed for the local people wherever they were traveling. One carols that changed like this is 'I Saw Three Ships'.

When Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans came to power in England in 1647, the celebration of Christmas and singing carols was stopped. However, the carols survived as people still sang them in secret. Carols remained mainly unsung until Victorian times, when two men called William Sandys and Davis Gilbert collected lots of old Christmas music from villages in England.

Before carol singing in public became popular, there were sometimes official carol singers called 'Waits'. These were bands of people led by important local leaders (such as council leaders) who had the only power in the towns and villages to take money from the public (if others did this, they were sometimes charged as beggars!). They were called 'Waits' because they only sang on Christmas Eve (This was sometimes known as 'watchnight' or 'waitnight' because of the shepherds were watching their sheep when the angels appeared to them.), when the Christmas celebrations began..."


15 December 2015


This morning I ran into "Bette" the best friend of "Ethel."  She was on her way to meet Ethel and accompany her to a doctor's appointment. 

Ethel is never married and childless, living in the family stead for the last 75 years,  with one brother on the east coast who comes out to visit once a year.  At this late stage in her life Ethel simply does not think she can adjust to life in a small new England town moved in or near her brother, especially because of the harsh weather there, and also feels, rightly so, that she would miss the many social advantages she has living on a fixed income here.

With our increasing population of unmarried, never married, and childless people, it is becoming more and more important for  people - especially seniors - to have best friend.  It's my suggestion that while friends are not part of your genealogy project, certainly a best friend is part of a family history, or personal history/memoir project. I WOULD ALSO LIKE TO SEE THE MENTION OF BEST FRIENDS IN OBITUARIES.

It's often said that we do not choose our family and can't be blamed for our relatives, though some reincarnationists would disagree, and that's usually the case when it comes to bosses and coworkers too. 

But you choose your friends.

Bette and Ethel originally met a church that neither of them goes to any more, though they go to another. Bette has a disabled son who she has been the lone caregiver of for years and is still working part time while Ethel has been on disability income since midlife.  The two go here, there, and everywhere together - lunches at a senior center, local museums on free days, shopping, and doctor's appointments.  This morning Bette, bless her, told me that she calls Ethel every morning and every night.

In case you're wondering, neither woman is of lesbian nature.  But it could be said that they act as husband and wife, living separately, together.

So here is another, real story of women's friendship that is a little closer to my home.

Walking my dog I got to know several neighbors, including "Este."  She lives in a large old single apartment with one pit bull, one scruffy little dog, one enormous white cat, and until recently two roommates, a married couple.  She has lived in the same place for over 20 years and with rent control this is what she can afford in her retirement.  Of course the couple both work and are gone most of the day, and they are gone a lot socially too, but recently the wife went to live elsewhere.  That left Este and, we'll call him "Mickey" the motorcycling riding fifty-something man who works full time.

A few months back Este got pneumonia and had to go into the hospital and then a nursing facility.  Mickey showed up to visit and she wrote out rent and utility checks.  He was on his motorcycle on his way to the landlords to pay the rent with the check when he was in a bad accident.

Enter, "Sharon," Este's best friend.  Sharon visited Este at the hospital every other day and when Este wanted and needed some of her things from the apartment, like her own nightgowns, of course Sharon went with her key to pick things up.  That's when she saw eviction notices on the door.  The pets, sadly, had not eaten in days.  Now Este, as stated, had paid her rent on time for 20 years but this landlord was going to evict her anyway.  (You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch.)  It was then that Sharon - and Este - realized something was wrong.  What had happened to the rent check and Mickey?

Sharon contacted the landlord, who wanted his money, money she could not come up with.  She explained that Este was in a nursing home temporarily and that she had written out the rent check and handed it to Mickey; she begged for time.  Sharon went on FACEBOOK and that way learned that Mickey was hospitalized and in need of prayers.  She went to the hospital to see him, where he lay in a coma.  She went to the place where his motorcycle was impounded, found the rent check and then delivered it to the landlord, who backed off the eviction- with only a day to spare!  In short, because of Sharon's devotion to her best friend she saved her from being a homeless senior citizen.  She now went to the apartment every day to walk and feed the animals.

I know that if you've read this far you want more of the story.  Este did return home well but with Mickey, who was now conscious, in the hospital and not working, she was still not sure that she could keep the place.  Mickey even told her that he wasn't sure if he would make it home or back to work in time.  Mickey's coworkers DONATED THEIR VACATION TIME to his recovery so that he would not loose his job.  He WAS able to make it back to work, not on his motorcycle, but in a van for the disabled, and keep his job.  Weeks into this physical therapy, he is still not able to ride it, but he wants to.  His best friend comes over on Sundays and they give it a try.

Bless Sharon!

Keeping the Holiday Spirit


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07 December 2015


A friend of mine has NEVER EVER gotten a flu shot and he is now over 60.  (I'm not sure that as a baby he got any vaccinations at all other than polio.  He wasn't born in the United States.)  He is one of the people who believes that vaccinations and flu shots in particular are unnecessary.  Some of these people believe that the government gives people diseases like cancer and AIDS in other vaccines.  To me this is paranoid thinking.

For much of my life I did not take the flu shot, not out of fear, but out of a sense that I did not need it and was so strong and in such perfect health that if I got the flu I could fend it off.  And if I did get a virus or cold or a flu I must have.

I started taking the seasonal shot in the last few years because I'm now in much more contact with the general population than I was - and that includes at libraries - and because I visit people who live in Assisted Living where there are a lot of seniors and people in more fragile health. 


I'm convinced that, although the flu shot manufacturers take a good guess at what strain of flu is making its way around the globe and could be wrong, so that a vaccination might not actually work in every case, that the LARGE NUMBER OF PEOPLE TAKING THE SHOT actually helps protect those who refuse.  When thousands of people take the shot, they cannot get or give others the flu.

Well, my friend had a couple bouts of somewhat serious illness this year for the first time.  He was afraid enough to actually go to a hospital Urgent Care at one point.  He took antibiotics around the clock for the first time and he managed to break a fever of more than 102!  At that point I urged him to get the flu shot, because I think he is slowly becoming more fragile and at risk.  He said he'd think about it.

 And he didn't do it.

Not even when I brought up some DEATH CERTIFICATES from a database and showed him that people did indeed die of the flu in the not so distant past - like in the 1960's!

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