Monday, December 19, 2011

Monday, Monday ....

This weekend's update was going to be great, believe me.Tim felt relatively well and even made it to church Sunday morning for the first time in weeks. The IV fluids they gave him at the doctor's office on Friday really set him up well for his weekend Interferon injection and customary oral meds.

After church he was fatigued, but not much else. He slept on and off the rest of the day.

I breathed easier, feeling like we'd turned a corner dealing with the side effects of the Hepatitis C treatment that is supposed to go on until May of 2012. Staying hydrated is key and Tim seems to dehydrate at a more rapid rate than the usual patient. The two IV fluid treatments he had last week really made a difference in how his body reacted to all the meds this week.

Then came this morning.

Oh, Monday, Monday ...can't trust that day.

Charley came to wake me up around 6:40 and he wouldn't leave me alone even after repeated commands.

At the moment I turned my head to check the clock, my phone rang. I missed getting to it, but immediately checked the 'missing calls' feature -- to find that Tim had called me. That was alarming, to put it mildly. I checked our enormous king size bed -- no Tim. Got up, put on my robe and slippers and checked the kitchen -- where he should have been eating breakfast and having his morning meds. No Tim.

Then I heard groaning coming from the TV room and darted in there to see Tim lying on his side on the couch, white as a sheet and groaning continuously. He could barely talk, he was in so much pain.

I didn't even know where to start.

Breathlessly, he told me that he couldn't eat so he hadn't taken the one medication that requires food with it. He'd been up since 5:30 with the pain -- his joints, his muscles, his skin, and, most alarmingly, his kidneys. He was also horribly nauseated again.

After a dose of pain and nausea meds  plus some water, he eventually felt well enough to eat two scrambled eggs and to take the missing medication -- he was late with the dose, but it couldn't be helped.

Then I assisted him back to bed, where he is still as I write this. I've been checking on him about every hour, and, except for the ache in his kidneys, he is feeling much, much better. So much so that he felt compelled to inform me that he would be better off sleeping and not being awakened by me to see how he's feeling -- but he said it with a little smile on his face and a loving tweak of my hand.

We have no idea why the change came and why the side effects were so fierce today after such a good weekend. Last week's labs showed no sign of kidney distress, although we do know that he is becoming anemic from the treatment. The doctor will see him tomorrow morning and we will discuss the situation.  

For now, though, he is stable and relatively comfortable.

Monday, Monday .....

- Catherine
PS -- the best thing about Facebook is putting out a prayer request and having 30 people respond! What a blessing for both Tim and me!! Thank you, all!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wednesday Hodgepodge

It's Wednesday and that means it's time for a little more information about me than you might ever want to know. You're welcome.
With thanks to Joyce over at From This Side of the Pond, away we go!
1. Do you put Christmas decorations in every room of your house? If not every room, what rooms do you decorate? I decorate the living room, mainly. My mother did it that way and I've just never thought about doing anything beyond that one room. Plus, if I did, then I'd just have more stuff to dust! I will say that Number 7 decided he'd like a few things in the family room where he spends most of his free time, so he set up the Christmas village down there this year.

2. If you could visit one of the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden) which one would you choose and why? Now that is something I've never considered. I've seen some views of Iceland while watching HGTV's Househunters International, and it looks intriguing. But I think I'd probably prefer to visit Norway and the fjords.

3. What does the word faith mean to you? Faith with a small "f" means believing even when you cannot see tangible proof.  Faith with a capital "F"  is my relationship with my Creator and it is the ONLY thing that truly and deeply sustains me through life on this earth.

4. You can go back to your childhood for one day...what day and age would you choose? I would be five years old on Christmas Day. I don't remember who gave them to me, but I received white fur earmuffs and a white fur (hand) muff that year. I just loved them and I can still remember them very clearly. Also, Christmas Day was always a gathering for everyone on my mother's side of the family and it was a day that we kids could count on some peace and harmony in our household.

5. When did you last have 'punch'? If it's not too much trouble share your favorite punch recipe. I made punch for my son's wedding in October. It contained mango-peach juice, orange juice, lemon juice and ginger ale. Optional is some champagne or white wine -- which I didn't do this time since it was for kids as well as for adults. I floated sliced lemon and lime in the top.

6. Do you fill stockings at your house? Are stockings opened before or after the bigger gifts?  We never did stockings at home as a kid because my parents couldn't afford that extra bit for Christmas -- and because neither of them had had stockings as kids, they didn't think we really needed them. My grandparents had stockings for us when we were very small, but I think that ended by the time I was 6 or 7 because my recollection of them is very hazy. As an adult, we did stockings while my daughter was growing up, but we don't do them any longer. It's kind of sad, but my husband just isn't into the Christmas scene enough (he grew up not celebrating Christmas at all, so there were no traditions for him).

7. What takes your breath away? Those precious moments when you see major growth in your kids. This is what my God-given job as a parent and step-parent has been about, and when I see one or more of them suddenly make a breakthrough in maturity or excel at something or surmount a challenge, I just want to jump for joy!

8. Insert your own random thought here. Randomly speaking, I finally made it into the Christmas spirit after taking my Aunt to the local civic symphony and my granddaughters to the local production of Nutcracker this past weekend. I'm ready!!

If you want to join in the online fun, answer the questions on your own blog and then go to Joyce's blog to link yours with everyone else!

- Catherine

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Bullying revisited

[Warning: Rant]

In March of 2010 I wrote this:

I'm a little tired of the bullying Facebook status updates that end with "Post this on your status if you support (fill in the blank)" or worse, "I'm proud to support (fill in the blank). 97% of people are too afraid to post this on their status update. I dare you to be among the 3% who will." or words to that effect.

Stop bullying me.

There are many ways to support something -- not just through a Facebook status.

For a while, it seemed that the bullying had stopped. But it has started again in spades.  And I am sick of it it. THINK about what you are saying, please!!

For the record: Jesus is my Savior. And I'm not ashamed to say that. (Note that I started this paragraph with that statement.)

But the use of Matthew 10:33 -- but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven -- as a way to guilt people into posting about Jesus on Facebook or anywhere else is just plain Wrong.


It isn't Jesus asking me to affirm Him -- it's you. A human being. And also for the record, my refusal to yield to your bullying and repost your status about Jesus does NOT in any way translate into my denying Christ. God is NOT a bully. Ever.

No one knows if Jesus would have had a Facebook page. In fact, if God had wanted his own Facebook page, he'd have sent Jesus now -- in the age of Facebook -- and not then, in the age of, well, rude mangers in dirty stables.

So, can we stop the bullying? At the start of this school year there was a much copied status on Facebook that challenged children to think about what they were saying to and how they were treating their fellow students at school.

The adults need to read that one again.

Bullying someone is no way to evangelize the world for Christ.

[Rant off]

- Catherine

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wednesday Hodgepodge

Today is Wednesday and Joyce over at "From This Side of the Pond" has provided us with seven thought-provoking questions to answer, plus one opportunity to express anything random.

And away we go ....

1. Will you be hosting any house guests between now and the end of December? Does that thought make you happy or crazy? Do you do anything special for your guests to make them feel at home? How long should a house guest stay? I am not hosting anyone this year. The kids in Canada aren't able to come visit. And with Tim in treatment for Hepatitis C, our Christmas season will be much quieter than usual. 

2. Walter Elias Disney was born this week (December 5) back in 1905 ...what's your all time favorite Disney movie? Here's a list in case you're struggling...and yes, you have to pick one. All time favorite remains "The Little Mermaid."  Buddy Hackett as the seagull is hilarious, and the music is some of the best ever produced for a Disney movie. ("Now I stuff you with bread. It won't hurt 'cause you're dead!")

3. What was the last thing you purchased that you realized was a mistake after the fact? A 7" refurbished tablet/e-reader. I purchased it for my hubby because he doesn't like the Nook that I bought him last summer, however the refurb tablet needs a firmware update and, at the moment, refuses to connect to any wi-fi. Word to the wise -- don't by refurbished tablets.

4. What percentage of your Christmas shopping is done online?  It depends on the year. This year is squarely in the 1/3 range. Some years it has been as high as 2/3, actually!

5. Amaryllis-snowdrop-poinsettia...your favorite winter blossom? I don't have any favorite winter flowers, I guess. Do holly berries count? I like them a lot.

6. What is one thing on your personal Christmas wish list? I think we all want peace on earth so let's make this answer an actual item. A Caribbean cruise. Fortunately, I am in charge of all Christmas lists, including my own, so this wish will be fulfilled in the spring!

7. If you could only use one word today what would it be? Exhausted. (I had absolutely not a wink of sleep last night.)

8. Insert your own random thought here. Randomly speaking, my aunt, on a good day, is a total hoot. I went to visit her after dinner yesterday and I started out in the usual way. "What's new?" I asked. Without batting an eye, she answered "New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire ...."  Then she gave me a sly, mischievous look. She cracks me up!
If you wish to play along, Dear Reader, you should answer these questions on your own blog and then link up with everyone else over at Joyce's blog post.

- Catherine

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

When life becomes messy

I don't think I've been this disorganized in my entire life.

I clean my office and two days later it's utter chaos. Papers everywhere.

I clean my house (or hire someone to clean my house -- thank you Erin!) and within four days it looks like a rubbish heap. Clothes, shoes, stuff everywhere.

I'm afraid to get the mail because there is so much more paperwork to do with Aunt Muriel's affairs (both health and financial) now added to the mix of paperwork that haunts the average person.

Word to the wise -- if you are approaching the age for Medicare, get your filing system organized now. Scan and keep copies of everything health related. And be prepared for any and all phone calls about and to Medicare (Part A, Part B, Part D, Part XYZ, etc.) to be a minimum of 30 minutes long while you go over and over and over everything again and again and again. (Get the picture?)

It's getting to me, this disorganization.

I'm purchasing organizing thing-a-ma-bobs like crazy in an attempt to keep up.

It ain't workin' honey.

Seems you have to actually take the time to organize as you go -- time that I just don't seem to have if I'm also to have something that resembles a healthy life (you know -- exercise, racquetball, time spent with friends, etc.).

I'm not whining, really. I love my life. Love my hubby, love my aunt, love my job. I just need an extra four hours in each and every day for the rest of my days on this earth.

Is that too much to ask?

- Catherine

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


There are blessings that just take your breath away -- I'm sure you know the kind that I mean. On Sunday, what started with small group prayer ended up as a mass effort to get our property ready for winter. "Many hands make light work" is the old saying -- so very true.

Here's the back story: Tim began his Hepatitis C treatments last Friday, including his first injection of Interferon. He was, as expected, very, very sick after the injection. He tried to work outside for a while on Saturday morning, but by afternoon his headache was so bad that he could barely function. Add to that chills, severe joint aches and muscle aches, and you get the idea.

On Sunday morning he could barely get his head off the pillow and I went to church an emotional basket case.I couldn't imagine how Tim could manage to get through the next 24 weeks of treatment if every weekend was going to be this horrific.

At church our pastor called for small group prayer in between the worship time and the sermon. He invited anyone who wished to have prayer to raise their hands and then encouraged everyone around those folks to gather around to pray.

Without thinking, I immediately raised my hand.

Dear friends gathered around me, beautiful prayers for comfort and healing were offered up and hugs were exchanged.

And then the blessing snowball began!

Emily, Cassy and Dan suddenly offered to come over that afternoon and do the outdoor work that was falling sadly behind with Tim's ill health. As much as it makes Tim uncomfortable to accept help, I thanked them with all my heart and said we'd love to have them come over, and I offered a big pot of Black Bean Chili in exchange. The agreed upon time was 2:00. As I left church, I ran into my "adopted NJ brother," John. He gave me a hug and I half-jokingly asked him if he wanted to come over and rake a few leaves that afternoon.

After I'd told him that Emily, Cassy and Dan were coming over, John then set to organizing a real work party for the afternoon -- unbeknownst to me. Our Pastor even announced it in church after I'd made an early exit to go home and check on Tim!

When I got home Tim was up and around, though wobbly and weak. I informed him that Emily, Cassy and Dan were coming over in the afternoon to help rake up the leaves and get things done. Tim's reaction was uncertainty at first, but I insisted that we needed the help. Eventually he began to think about how to organize things effectively so that we'd get as much done as possible.

It was then that I shot a text message to all Tim's kids and told them of the working party. Shortly after that John called to tell me he'd been organizing and that a few more folks from church would be coming over.

By 2:00 there were some 15 people in our yard!

They raked leaves.

They got on lawn mowers to cut and suck up the leaves.

They threw Charley's toy more times than I can count.

They dug fence posts for the pasture.

 They roofed a storage shed.

In addition, they chipped branches, helped rake leaves that had fallen from our tree into the next door neighbor's yard, and shook and collected the last of the apples from the trees.

By dark, two months of work had been finished in just four hours, and our property was ready for winter.

With the work done, we all converged in the warm house (where my Aunt Muriel had been waiting for us) for a hearty dinner of Black Bean Chili with all the delicious trimmings -- sour cream, shredded jack cheese, and fresh cilantro.

Our deepest thanks go to Emily, Sam, Cassy, Dan, Balin, Don, Dustin, Corbin, Casey, Doug, Alex, Chrissy, Scott, David, John, Rhonda, Kali and Kari.

Tim's stress level is much, much lower, which will help his treatment be more effective.

We love you all so much! Thank you for this blessing -- it took our breath away!

- Catherine

Friday, November 18, 2011

Today I'm going to refer you all to the "Pioneer Woman Cooks" blog post for the day.

Oh. My. Goodness. I can't wait to try it!!

And in other news, since Thanksgiving is around the corner, that means Christmas approaches. Apparently Black Friday sales are starting at midnight this year so that those who are not in a food coma after their Thanksgiving dinner can go shopping. The greed of this country never ceases to amaze me. It's bad enough that there would be fistfights in WalMart at 5:00 a.m.. Now you could take a bottle of your Thanksgiving dinner beer with you and watch the local brawls all night long.


Greed and avarice aside, a friend of mine shared this Christmas song video with me this week, so I thought I'd pass it on to you. Tim Hawkins is hilarious!

Enjoy! And have a great weekend!

- Catherine

Thursday, November 17, 2011

No excuses? No way ...

I'm not going to excuse myself for being a slacker blogger of late.

Well, okay, yes I am. Of course I am.

Writer's block seems to have been a part of this situation. I have made more than a few attempts to write something. I still think in "blog bytes" (you bloggers know what that means), but I couldn't come up with an actual blog post to save my life.

Okay, excuses over.

I'm intending that this is the first of resuming regular blog posts.

Yes, I know the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

But I don't believe that intentions vis a vis blogging apply to that situation.

The update:
  • I was on the East Coast for meetings a week or so ago and got to see two of my cousins while I was there. That is ALWAYS a favorite part of my visits because I really do love spending time with these cousins. Although we live 2000 miles apart, they are friends as well as family, and that, for sure, is a special gift from God.
  • I came home from this trip with a truly lousy cold. 
  • My hubby will start treatment for Hepatitis C tomorrow. There is a new medication now that improves his chance of a cure to over 80% (compared to about 40% with the previous treatment medications). Our insurance companies have agreed to the expense, and we'll revisit the situation in eight weeks to see if the treatment is actually working. If it is, then another 10 months of treatment will follow.  If the treatment isn't showing signs of being effective, then it will be discontinued. We are praying!
  •  I've spent this month updating my Facebook status each day with one thing for which I am thankful. It's been an excellent exercise. Added benefit is that many of my FB friends are joining in, which has made it even more fun. 
  •  Charley doesn't like it when I am away and he has been incredibly clingy after my last (9-day) trip. It's hard to have a puppy mentality in an 85-pound body.  Especially when that 85-pound body insists on crawling up to sit on my lap!
Talk soon, Dear Reader!

- Catherine

Monday, October 31, 2011

The thief

One thing that is most difficult about living near my Aunt Muriel is that her memory takes her, most of the time, back to long past events and situations.

She's talking about people I have known and deeply loved who are now gone. Like my mother. And my grandfather.

She's talking about people I wish I could have met. Like my great-grandmother. And my Aunt Florrie.

Sadly, this sets up my grief cycle to some small extent all over again. A small flap of the tough skin that has developed over my losses keeps getting probed every time I visit with Aunt Muriel.

Yet I cannot, of course, ask her not to mention these people. Her memories of the long past are pretty much all the memory that is left to her. Recent events are forgotten before the day is over. Even the memories of the last two to three decades of her marriage and of the homes she shared with Uncle Bob are all but gone. When she talks of New Jersey she nearly always places herself in her childhood home in Newark or at the Long Valley farm where she and her siblings spent all of their childhood summers. To Muriel, the years of the 1920s-1950s are only yesterday.

I have seen a lot of Aunt Muriel in the last month and some of my very unwelcome depression is returning to me -- partly because these people, no longer part of my life, are ever before me in conversations with Aunt Muriel, and partly because I see Aunt Muriel's sense of the present and her short-term memory growing worse with each passing week.

Dementia is the terrible thief that is taking my Aunt. It robs her of enjoyment in the present, simply because she cannot remember the next day how much fun she had or that she even did anything out of the ordinary.

Dementia is what causes her to tell me she is bored, even though I know she was just in an animated conversation with another resident out in the day lounge of her assisted living facility.

Dementia is beginning to nibble at her assurance that I am acting in her best interests because she cannot always remember how I came to be her niece (that one fact -- that I AM her niece -- is still with her, thankfully).

Prayer and a conscious striving to revel in the present are my only defenses. Dementia is cruel.

- Catherine

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Raising Charley, Part V (?)

We were on our last camping weekend of the year, enjoying each others company and the peace of a weekend away. Friends drove the half hour to meet us for a nice dinner and a great evening out together in the little town where we were camping.

We walked the three blocks back from the restaurant to the campsite, all of us stuffed to the gills. Lots of chatter. Lots of laughter.

As we neared the RV, I saw movement at the lighted window over the kitchen sink. Puzzled at first, I finally realized it was Charley standing up on the kitchen counter!  "Lovely," I thought to myself as I hurried toward the RV, "another scolding for Charley." At the door, we found water steadily dripping out from underneath. And I could hear more water streaming from somewhere underneath the RV itself.

Upon opening the door, a cascade of water poured out, with more still coming. I stood motionless, trying to wrap my head around what I was seeing. How could there be a flood in the camper? We hadn't left anything on. Had a hose or fitting broken open somewhere? What on earth happened here?

Number 7, bless his teenage soul, leapt into action, grabbing the rubber broom and using it to push water out the door. Tim went one way and another, trying desperately to find the source of the flood. And all the while the water continued flowing out of every sink, out of the shower, and out of the toilet (don't worry -- the black water tank was still sealed off).

Finally Tim grabbed the cap on the gray water tank (shower and sink drainage) and opened it. Gallons more water flowed out of that hose than could possibly have gone into the tank in the 24 hours we'd been there.

But we remained puzzled. And frazzled. Still we could not find any breaks in the water lines. But what else could have caused the flooding?

Then I remembered that Charley had been up on the kitchen counter when we came home.

And it dawned on me that Charley had to be the source of our problem. Sometime during the evening the dog got up on the counter and managed to flip the kitchen faucet handle from the off to the on position. Water poured down the kitchen sink drain into the gray water tank. And the rest is history.

He weighs 80 pounds. He stands at least three feet tall while still on all fours. He's nosy and slobbery. He's thick as a plank. His tail is lethal. He can ruin your slacks in one second flat with his humongous wet nose. He means absolutely no harm at all and he's a teddy bear inside and out.

Charley is a force of nature.

We're still cleaning up.

- Catherine

Hodgepodge Wednesday

1. Have you ever been 'asked' to report for jury duty? Were you chosen to serve? If not, were you happy or disappointed? Twice in my life I have been notified of jury duty. The first time I was a young mother and they were still allowing that as an exemption from duty, so I didn't have to serve. The second time, my employer wrote a letter asking them to postpone the duty because it would fall during the annual summer conference that I run -- the county exempted me and never asked again.  The first time, I really didn't want to serve. The second time, I'd have been happy to come back and serve in the Fall if they had asked me.

2. On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being very), how mechanically inclined are you? Give an example to back up your answer. I believe I've never come to my full mechanical potential because my husband takes care of all of that for me. Thus, in my underdeveloped state of unrecognized potential, I'd say I'm a 2 on a scale of 1-10. I can use a screwdriver effectively.

3. Beets-cabbage-cauliflower-butternut squash....of the four, which is your favorite fall vegetable? BUTTERNUT SQUASH!  Ahem. Pardon my shouting. I really (really) like butternut squash, followed by cauliflower and then cabbage. Beets not so much.

4. What do you recommend to overcome self-pity? First, prayer. Follow that with service to someone else along with a healthy dose of uplifting/fun music.

5. Do you enjoy classical music? Yes. I took my Aunt to the symphony a couple of weeks ago and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We do have a classical station on the local radio scene, however I don't listen to classical on a regular basis -- I prefer popular music most of the time.

6. October is National Book Month...what's on your reading list this month? Mrs. Dunwoody's Excellent Instructions for Homekeeping (I've just started that one). I also have The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff lined up, as well as Patchwork: A Story of 'The Plain People.' I just finished an excellent book entitled Annie's Ghost: A Journey into a Family Secret, by Steve Luxenberg.  This is a fascinating true story that is part family history research, part coming to grips with family secrets, and part redemption of a young woman put aside and forgotten in the early years of the 20th century.

7. What is your idea of 'cute'? Something that is pleasing to the eye at the same time that it evokes a cozy feeling in your heart. How's that? No one has ever asked me to define "cute" before!

8. Insert your own random thought here. Randomly speaking, Charley-o is a year old now and remains as much a puppy as ever. Unfortunately all that puppy-ness is bound up in an 80 pound body that stands three feet tall when he's on all fours.  Life with Charley is never dull, that's for sure.


- Catherine

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Well, here we are again!

I have a blog! Good heavens, yes I do!

Greetings from our annual last-camping-trip-of-the-season. It's partly cloudy, as usual. It's cold, as usual. And we are happily squirelled away in our cozy camper on this October weekend. As usual.

Okay, we had some electrical malfunctions when we first set up last night, resulting in a VERY cold camper this morning because the heat had gone off. But we finally found the problem and got it fixed. So life is good again. A big thank you to the guys who work at the service garage next door to the campground -- they provided us with replacements for the fuses that were blown.

The "gladiator games" have been going on all day. That's what I call the play between Hank Williams Jr. and Charley -- gladiator games. Teeth are bared but tails are wagging. They clash chests together, then one grabs the other with his teeth, there is snarling, and then they break apart and it starts all over again with another chest clashing. Tails still wagging. They've wandered all over the campground today, taking their gladiator games with them. I hope they sleep like logs tonight!

I've happily spent most of the day indoors, working on some of the finer details of my family history research (it takes time to search through the 1910 census schedule for the entire city of Newark, NJ!).

The guys have been to the mineral hot pools in town. I like the pools, but my hot flashes don't, so I've avoided soaking this year. Sigh. Soaking IS really relaxing, but the horrible hot flashes aren't worth it to me at this point in my life. Terrible to get old!

Instead, I kept the dogs company and allowed them a few more bouts of gladiator games outside.

Life has been crazy lately, and having this weekend completely off is lovely. What with trying to take care of my family, trying to spend time with my aunt and take care of her financial affairs, trying to get back into racquetball, and trying to work 40 hours a week at my job, I am completely tapped out. I might sit down at 8:00 at night and watch something I've recorded on the DVR, but more likely I'm heading to the bedroom and a good book before turning out the light.


But God has brought me to this moment. And here I am, somehow surviving.

In all the hulaballu, I have managed to put up some 25 pints of peach jam and 24 quarts of frozen corn off the cob. We still have apples on our trees out back and, although most are wormy because we didn't spray properly, there are enough for me to put up some apple sauce or apple butter. Just hope I have the time to get to it.

Last weekend I sold one of the horses and purchased another -- one that will be more suitable for me to ride. Since then, the weather has been awful, so I haven't had the opportunity to try her out yet. I have played a bit with her in the pasture though, and her temperament seems quite lovely. Looking forward to this new baby in our herd!

Think that's the brief catch-up.

Hope you too are enjoying your weekend!

- Catherine

Friday, September 16, 2011

Grave matters

I finally fulfilled a longtime dream of visiting a particular cemetery in Newark, New Jersey.

Before you think I am off my rocker, recall that I love family history and have done extensive research on both my father's side and my mother's side. (If you don't recall that, then please take it on faith -- I do and I have.) Cemeteries are a significant source of family history.

For many years I have wanted to visit the family graves in Fairmount Cemetery. Unfortunately, it isn't the safest place in the world. The Central Ave. side of the cemetery is pretty much okay, as is Central Ave. itself. But the South Orange Ave. side of the cemetery is, apparently, a thief's paradise. As is South Orange Ave. itself at that end of the city. And, of course, it was the South Orange Ave. side of the cemetery that I was going to be needing.  So today I finally had the opportunity -- after some 20 years of waiting -- to drive up there, get a staff escort, and take photographs of the family graves.

I die happy.

Well, that's an exaggeration, but it really has helped my research by confirming many facts and giving me a couple new clues.

All but one of the graves were on my mother's side of the family.

This is the grave of my great-great grandmother.

See the birth year of 1840? Ha! 1833 is more like it. Mary Ann made herself younger by a few years with each census that was taken -- she claimed to be 78 years old in the 1920 census. By the time she died, her children weren't sure what year she'd been born. So they made a guess.


In reality, she was 90 when she died. I have other documentation to prove it.

There is one lone grave at Fairmount that is from my dad's side of my family -- he was my great-great grandfather and he is buried in the Soldiers' Plot (row on row of government-issued headstones).

He was a Civil War veteran who served for three years, coming home from the War in 1864 to find his wife had died some eight months earlier, leaving their young son motherless. Within 10 years, he married a second time and fathered two children in that relationship, but the marriage ended in divorce and those children were lost to the family after that.

Wounded four times during the war and plagued with dysentery, he apparently became an alcoholic. His wounds, of course, went with him for the rest of his life, along with kidney disease and heart trouble. He bounced in and out of the NJ Veteran's home three times in the first decade of the 1900s, finally passing away in January of 1910 at the Little Sisters of the Poor charity home in Newark. The U.S. Government buried him.

It's a sad tale, but when I talked about this man's checkered existence with the historian at the cemetery, he was not at all surprised at how things had turned out. The 54th Ohio fought at Shiloh, at Gettysburg and at other incredibly bloody battles. That my great-great grandfather lived through it all is a miracle in itself.

They misspelled his last name on the headstone, although it is spelled correctly in the burial records held by the cemetery association. No dates, but that's okay -- I already know them.

I feel sorry for this man. I wonder what kind of temperament he had naturally and how it was changed by his experiences in the Civil War (did I mention that he was also captured at one point and then escaped about two weeks later?)  I think about how his son, my great-grandfather, must have wondered about his father. It seems, from the documentation that I've seen, that theirs was never a close relationship. I feel bad about that too -- my great-grandfather lost his mother when he was less than three years old and then grew up with a father who retained terrible injuries and problems from his service to our country.

Despite the desolate childhood that he endured, my great-grandfather was remembered fondly by his grandchildren (my father among them), so he must have been one of those people who could "re-write the script," as it were.  Good for him!

I love a cemetery on a beautiful, Fall day -- especially when there are family history treasures to be discovered.

- Catherine

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Later

My post for 9/11 was about my experience of that day in 2001.

Now let me tell you about my experience of that day 10 years later, for it is a tale worth telling.

Our pastor started our church service this morning with a few words of remembrance, etc. Out of the blue -- to me -- he asked my Tim to pray for our armed forces. Right after that, the music team (including me) got up to lead worship.

About the second of the four songs, I noticed that Number 7's face -- down in the congregation -- was red and it looked as though he was upset. During the music, I glanced over a time or two, saw him leave the room and come back again, and saw his father cradle our boy's head in his shoulder. Somehow, though, I wasn't losing my focus (thank you, God!). But I was somewhat concerned.

In the fourth song, I suddenly saw Tim and Number 7 walking up toward us at the front of the room. Tim motioned me to stop. Musician that I am, I made him wait until I'd finished the line we were on, and then we all came to a halt. I watched, not alarmed, but wondering.

Number 7 turned toward me and my concern was all for him at that moment. I hugged him hard and then listened in utter amazement as my strong, stoic husband announced, in a voice cracked with emotion, that our second son had just touched down on American soil after a year of deployment in Iraq.

And then we all sobbed. And cheered. And our wonderful church family sobbed and cheered along with us.

During the sermon, the pastor let us in on an important God-moment of the day -- he usually asks our sound-guy (my beloved Sammy) to pray for the armed forces whenever that is appropriate or desired as something special in our church service. This morning, our pastor felt that Sammy was not the right choice for today, and when he (our pastor) walked past Tim in the outer room, he felt God saying, "That's the one." So he asked Tim. And just about the time Tim sat down after praying, he received the text from our son that he was on U.S. soil.

We all shed tears of great happiness on a day of such sad remembrance. The irony was not lost on us -- our boy came home safe and alive on a day when so many lost their lives in the years since 9/1/2001.

We do not forget those who will never come home again. But today we are grinning from ear to ear and we are so very, very grateful for God's mercy.
- Catherine

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Where were you?

It is hard to relive the day of September 11, 2001. I, in fact, am avoiding most of the commemorative shows and events. Not because I am not moved or touched, but because sometimes you have to guard your heart.

That said, I well remember where I was and what was happening around me that day. We lived in Central New Jersey at the time - within commuting distance of NYC. Many of my daughter's friends had parents working in the city on a daily basis.

When my secretary told me about the first plane, I assumed it was a little Cessna that had gone astray. When she told me about the second plane, I looked up and said, "We're under attack!" Both of us tried to get details - she from NPR and me from the internet. To my frustration, my reliable standby website for breaking news, CNN, had already crashed from the overwhelming internet traffic. Ditto for the New York Times. Eventually I found that Princeton University had made the CNN satellite feed available on its website, and I sat transfixed with horror as the plane crashes were replayed and as the Twin Towers fell again and again and again.

My employer sent us home early, which was just as well since I had a very distressed teenage daughter waiting for me. The father of one of her dearest friends worked in Manhattan. He hadn't been heard from and there was good reason to be worried - his office was across the street from the WTC. Thankfully, it turned out that he was safe and had been making his way home all day. He walked in the door that evening, having been unable to get through with his cell phone due to the overloaded circuits.

One of my co-workers was not as fortunate. Her husband worked for an IT company that sent him to various venues each week. September 11 was his day to work at the WTC, and, sadly, he lost his life in the tragedy.

Word came round that our church would be open for prayer that evening. Many of us sat in the silence for a long time, tears streaming down our faces.

A surreal and horrifying day for all of us. As the stories of bravery rolled in, I marveled at the nobler side of humanity. I still do, and I hope it does not take another national tragedy to bring that side to the fore once again.

Where were you?

- Catherine

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Hodgepodge Wednesday

1. What is one piece of advice you would give a 'just turning' 21- year old adult?

Don't be an idiot.

2. Besides cooler weather (or warmer weather, depending on your hemisphere) what is one thing you are looking forward to this fall?

NFL football on Sunday afternoons, cozily ensconced in the TV room with my two best guys (and two best dogs).

3. What sound lulls you to sleep? 
A fan can lull me to sleep, and that's about the only sound I can tolerate.  Any other sound will likely keep me awake.

4. September is National Preparedness Month...does your family have an emergency 'kit' and/or disaster plan in place? 
Prayer is our only disaster plan. We live in an area of the country where the dominant religion emphasizes preparedness, so there are lots of resources at my fingertips. But we still don't have a plan.

5. How has your blog changed since you started blogging? Or has it? 
I don't think it has changed because it's never been about just one thing.

6. What's something you've recently learned to do on the computer?
Ummm ....  I don't know. My skills improve whenever something new comes out, but I've no idea what has been recent.

7. Is a picture worth a thousand words? Elaborate.

Yes and no. (Nothing is black and white with me!) Yes, a picture can convey a deeper and clearer sense of a situation, that's for sure. But pictures without words can be very misleading, even damaging. And words well put together can create an amazing picture in the imagination of the reader -- which can be better than a photograph.

8. Insert your own random here. Randomly speaking, I despair of the current political situation. I decry the polarization of our country. And like Rep. Jim Cooper, I think that those politicians who continually and blindly put their own partisan gain before the good of our country are bordering on treasonous activity.

I hate ending on a downer, so let me also say this -- I'm glad God is sovereign over all, and that's pretty much the only sanity in my world.

Thanks Joyce, for another set of thought-provoking questions. If you, dear reader, wish to play along, skip on over to Joyce's blog and link up your own answers there.

- Catherine

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Can Can

Today I made... and canned... both peach jam and peach butter.

What is WRONG with me???  I spent the ENTIRE day at it!

And I loved every minute of it.

And I can barely move tonight.

I must be channeling my mother. And my grandmother. And every single one of my great aunts - Ethel, Ann, Gert, Mabel, and Bert. Plus numerous cousins.

I come from a long line of canners.

We all can can!

I haven't canned anything since, like, 1980, for cryin' out loud.

So, I'm not sure the peach butter is the right consistency. But if not, it will make for a nice peach topping on pancakes or ice cream. I'm philosophical that way. It will also make for a great glaze on a pork loin.

I must admit I am really, really enjoying the sight of the little golden jars, and am looking forward to stocking them in my pantry downstairs. Some cold winter day I will walk down there and return with a jar of golden sunshine.

With a big label that says "I made this!!!"

Just kidding.

But I do have enough to give as Christmas gifts.

And that is a mighty fine thing.

Oh, and the leftovers that could't be preserved? Toast this week!!! Does it get any better?


Friday, September 2, 2011

A favorite clip

Just the other day I got to thinking about the very funny show "I Love Lucy" and I wondered if my favorite scene was on Youtube.

Because everything is on Youtube, right?


The picture quality isn't very good, but the scene remains hilarious. It's about 4 1/2 minutes long -- well worth it to see the end!

 Have a great weekend!

- Catherine

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Various and Sundry Things

"Various and sundry" is a phrase my mother always used instead of "random," but they amount to the same thing. So, here are my various and sundry thoughts for the day.

I meant to play racquetball yesterday. Instead I bought a car. No, those two activities are not in any way related. It's just that the Explorer has had its day and I've been wanting to get something smaller for running around town. Enter the black VW Jetta with the manual transmission. I love driving this car! (I'm one of those people who really enjoys driving a stick, even in town.)

There are two family things I get to do this week!

One is to see our newest grandbaby, who was born on my birthday back in June.

The second is to visit Number 6 at his new home. Hard to believe he has his own place now!


Our Charley-monster got hit by a car last weekend but his mangled back paw is on the mend (at least, I hope it is mending underneath that huge bandage!). He is walking better and even running now and then, and the xrays showed no damage to the hips or legs -- just the paws. God is good. As much as Charley has been a handful to raise (he's 10 months old now), he has wormed his way into our hearts.


My Aunt Muriel fell this past weekend and wrenched her knee. I took her to the doctor for xrays, and there were no fractures to be seen, thank goodness.  But she'll be in a soft brace for a little while and she is frustrated by the whole situation. She worries about being a burden to me, although I've assured her over and over again that she is not. I've stepped up my schedule of stopping in to see her so that we can have a walk together (she's supposed to be up and around on the leg, not just sitting) and so that she doesn't feel depressed and cooped up. Yesterday I made Jersey-style sub sandwiches and took a picnic lunch up to her apartment at the assisted living facility. We had a great time and the subs were a nice reminder of the place that we both call home. Afterwards we took a walk outside in the breezy sunshine, enjoying the view from the hillside where she lives. I'm loving every precious minute that I have with her on this earth.


- Catherine

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hodgepodge Wednesday

Another edition of the weekly meme. Thanks once again to Joyce for putting this together!

1. Do you think the world became a more dangerous place on September 11, 2001 or did we just become more aware of the danger? How has your own life changed as a result of that day? I think the danger has been there all along and that we are just more aware. The consequence of Sept 11 is that flying in a commercial airliner has become cumbersome to the traveler. I can't travel with only carry-on luggage because my shampoo and hair products will always exceed the 3 oz. requirement for liquids. And I hate the intrusiveness of the security processes that are now in place. Moreover, I've learned that the machines go out of date very quickly and have to be replaced with whatever is the latest and greatest technology -- can we say "waste of taxpayer money?" (Does anyone still go through those elaborate puffer booths? I think not...)
2. Did you think your parents were too strict when you were growing up? How about in hindsight? Didn't most of us think our parents were too strict while we were being raised? I certainly did. In hindsight, I'd say their ideas about raising kids were correct but they really failed in the communication department. "Because I said so" is something that we heard more than once a day in our house. My parents should have taken the time to explain things to us in a little more depth, rather than taking the easy way (for them).
3. Share one random but candid fact about yourself. Randomly and candidly, I agonize over my hair way too much. It is curly and dry, and the water here in the West is aggressively hard. It's very easy for me to have a bad hair day, believe me. I hate piling on the products (at least three), but there doesn't seem to be any other way to make it satisfactory to my eyes.
4. Would your nearest and dearest describe you as simple or far too complicated? Far too complicated, I'm sure. I can be very mercurial. In some things I am very laid back and in others (probably rather random) I am very inflexible. Also, when I'm upset, I tend to become very agitated and loud for a brief time (I'm working on it!).
5. What is your favorite stadium or carnival food? Hmmmm .... there are so many at our annual State Fair that it's hard to choose just one. I love bacon dipped in dark chocolate, I love funnel cakes, I love fry bread, I love fried salmon .... and on and on and on!
6. Tornado, hurricane, many of these natural disasters have you experienced? Which event do you think would be the scariest? I've felt the very distant rumblings from a couple of earthquakes, but not intense enough to qualify as actually experiencing an earthquake. I've never experienced a tornado. Coming from New Jersey, though, I've experienced my fair share of hurricanes. Hurricanes don't frighten me, but I think a tornado or an earthquake would scare the daylights out of me.
7. Labor Day weekend is approaching so a work related question seems appropriate. Growing up, did your parents assign you regular chores? Were you paid for doing those chores? If you're a parent do you assign chores to your own children? Why or why not? We had regular chores. Our amount of allowance wasn't based on the chores, but we could end up being "docked" our allowance if we failed to get our chores done without a lot of nagging by my mother. My own daughter had chores and her allowance amount was based, in part, on the number of chores. But I don't think I ever had to nag her about one single chore in her life!
[That last question was inspired by a post Mindee wrote on Monday. Everyone go say hi to Mindee-she blogs at Our Front Door and she's funny.]
8. Insert your own random thought here. Another moment of randomness (see #3 above) -- this time I'll just say that I am experimenting with Wen haircare to see if I like it.

If you want to play along, be sure to link up over at Joyce's blog!

- Catherine

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Canine Point of View

Hank and Charley deep in conversation:

Hank (wagging his tail in excitement): This is where we go camping!

Charley (wagging his tail in imitation of Hank): What's camping?
Hank (patiently): This is when Mama and Daddy take us out on the lake!
Charley: What's a lake?

Hank (still trying to explain): It's where we go out on the boat!

Charley: What's a boat?
Hank (still patient): And we get to go swimming!

Charley: What's swimming?
Hank (triumphantly): And we sleep in the camper!
Charley: What's a camper?
Hank (completely out of sorts): Why don't you go inside now, Charley. Just go up the three steps to the door and go see Mama.

Charley: What steps?
Hank: Maaaa-maaaa.......!

Hank is articulate and has good manners. He's also a very good sailor.

Charley is sloppy and lovable, but thick as a plank. He never did quite get the hang of climbing the three stairs to the camper door. But he sure did love his first camping trip!

 - Catherine

Friday, August 19, 2011

Red Sails

"Red sails in the sunset, way out on the sea,
Oh, carry my loved one home safely to me."

(Old song -- anyone remember it?)

The truth is this: my husband has a new mistress. He just acquired her in July. She's a bit worn, with some age to her, but she brazenly wears red at every opportunity:


That's right, a catamaran.

He's so enamored of his new toy that he spent nearly all of our lake week with her. 

So I've taken to calling him Cap'n Tim. Do you love his little yachting cap? He's had that for over a decade now and he finally gets to wear it on a boat! And yes, that was Number 7 flexing his muscles for us. Sometimes it's good to be 15 years old.

Of course, Hank had to be part of it. He went out on nearly every ride, comfortably snoozing on the canvas.

 Sometimes they were "becalmed" and had to paddle her in. But that occurred less frequently as Tim's skills improved. This is his first sailing craft of any kind, after all.

She really is a lot of fun, given that she's my summer rival!

We're still thinking up a name ....

- Catherine

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Getting to Heaven

Yesterday I posted the first of my vacation blogs, and it was about Heaven.

But before we could arrive there, we had the usual Day 1 Experience. To wit:

Our departure had been planned for 7:00 Tuesday morning. On Monday we had shopped, repaired, and packed in a frenzy, working until 11:00 or so that night. We flopped into bed and were out of bed again at 5:45 a.m.

As usual, our actual departure was more like the Keystone Cops than the smooth procedure for which we had ostensibly prepared all day Monday. Every time I turned around it seemed that one more little - yet crucial - item had been left inside, prompting much running back and forth between our RV parked on the street and our house.

Oh yeah, the RV was supposed to have been parked in the driveway right next to the house -- because having that kind of space is one of the reasons we moved to this house.  But the City, in its infinite wisdom, chose Monday and Tuesday to pour the new driveway that goes with the new sidewalk that goes with the new roadbed in front of our house. So all vehicles that were going to be needed on those days had to be parked on the street.

Fun times.

I finally got on the road in my vehicle 30 minutes late. My friend Rhonda and her daughter followed behind me in their car. The boys were not so lucky.  They ended up about 90 minutes late, mostly because as they started to pull away from the curb -- the first time -- the back window of the camper got gob-smacked by a tree branch and shattered into a million pieces. 

Okay, not a million. 

But enough that Tim had to go find something to effect our red-neck window repair: that's right, we sported a very large cardboard advertisement for a Sony™ TV all the way through our camping trip this year. That's what everyone uses those old TV boxes for, right?

Really fun times.

But, as you already know -- we did make it to Heaven. And a few more posts will be coming soon, including the viewpoint of our two dogs.  

Talk soon!

- Catherine

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


In companionable silence, Rhonda and I sat gazing across the sunlit lake waters, marveling at the sight. 

"It's so beautiful I almost can't stand it," she observed. And in silence, I agreed. 

The view from the little beach where we had pulled up our kayaks really was superb. Tall pines, birds wheeling through the air, and the rippled blue/green waters. Paddling across the lake, we'd left behind the main beach's gaggle of small chldren and their screams and cries. Now we could hear nothing but the birds and the wind. 

The pure sunshine mirrored my feelings and I thought, not for the first time, that this place is a little slice of what Heaven must be like. The natural beauty created by God is certainly part of that, but the real taste of Heaven comes from the absence of a measurement of time. No clocks, no watches, no cell phones. We deliberately put them all away at the lake and we live only in the present. That's what heaven will be like, for God lives outside of time.

For one week each summer on this earth, so do we.

- Catherine

Monday, August 15, 2011


Today it rained, it poured, it thundered, and it lightening-ed.

And in the midst of it all, I buried my uncle's ashes.

The box containing his "cremains" had been sitting in the corner of my aunt's kitchen since August of last year.

Something had to be done.

I called the cemetery where the family plot is located, knowing that there was one empty grave remaining in the plot. The caretaker graciously agreed to open a hole in the remaining grave.

For $650.00.

Frankly, I could have dug it myself for a lot less, but there you have it.

The rain let up for about 30 minutes this afternoon. Unfortunately I was still driving to the cemetery when that 30 minute window was open. By the time I arrived, the rain had resumed, accompanied by thunder and lightening.

"Very funny, Uncle Bob," I muttered as I sat in my car, waiting for a break.

At one point the storm rolled overhead with a thunder crash so loud that I flubbed the check I was writing at the time. For $650.00.

Guess Uncle Bob didn't like the price either.

Finally the thunder moved off and I got out of my car in the pouring rain. I quickly set the box of ashes in the hole and carefully placed a tiny Swiss flag and then a tiny U.S. flag on top. The caretaker was nice enough to ask me about my uncle, and I spoke about him for a minute or so.

Uncle Bob was born in Switzerland and served in the Swiss army during WWII. He came to the U.S. in 1948, married my aunt in 1950, and returned to Switzerland only for visits after that. He was a naturalized American citizen and very proud to be so. He was also proud of his Swiss heritage. Hence my putting both flags in his grave.

My memories of him include his Swiss-German accent, his remarkable skill for gardening, and his extraordinary energy and vitality. I sure hope he made it to Heaven. I would like to see him again someday!

- Catherine