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