Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Genealogy: Why the Soundex Is Important

     When I first started working on our genealogies in earnest, I didn't understand the importance of the Soundex. I seemed to find all I needed on without having to learn it. But I kept seeing it at every archive and library I visited. Then I started working on my husband's missing family. We knew was that his father's parents basically abandoned him by the age of 5 and he was bounced from pillar to post until he was a teen. All he knew was his parent's names, Albert Lee and Mildred.
     I knew his dad was born in Nashville, TN and we had his corrected birth certificate which showed even though his original certificate said Lemmons, it was really Lemons. I looked at records for Nashville but found nothing. I found a marriage certificate for Albert and Mildred in Springfield, Robertson County, but no info was recorded about their parents names. I had tried the 1920 census with no luck, but at the Tennessee archives, they had photocopied Soundex info and a microfilmed roll of families for the state of Tennessee.

     The Soundex system takes the consonants of the alphabet and gives them a number from 1-6. All vowels are left out. Each Soundex code is made up of a letter and three numbers - correlating to the first three consonants in a name. Below is a chart for  you

Number        Represents letters
      1              B,F,P,V
      2              C,G,J,K,Q,S,X,Z
      3              D,T
      4              L
      5              M,N
      6              R

Notice that Y is not used, it is considered a vowel for Soundex purposes. You use the first letter of the name you are searching and then the three numbers for the consonants following - for example, the name Lemons is L-552 (LMNS) This allows the system to use any vowel in between, so you would get things like lamons, lemons, limons, lomons, lymons and any letters in between the  MN and the NS. It does give a ridiculous amount of records to look at, but when you are looking for that elusive record, it starts to matter less.  If you are confused by this, here is a link to a Soundex converter where you can put in your name and it will automatically convert it:

     With my code in hand, I started going through the 1920 state list stopping at anything that might remotely be him. Finally in Putnam County, TN, a family emerged with a widowed mother and  five of whom was named Albert L. The name looked to be spelled Lamons, but that could be a mistake, which I found it was once I was actually able to find it on  the census itself. You never know how a person sees letters and transcriptions are often misspelled. Now I had a possible county and a year of birth which fit the right time frame. But what happened to his father? Since I was already in the archives, I was able to look up his birth  certificate and found his father was a John T. Lemons and mother Mary B. Bowen. I looked in the death records and found John T's death certificate. He died in 1914 from pneumonia.

     None of this could have been found at the time without that Soundex code. Since then I have used it numerous times when looking through microfilm and really, if you notice on Ancestry and Family Search, they use the Soundex when they give you your list of possibilities. Thanks to the Soundex, I was finally on the way to breaking through this brick wall. Now I could start to look in depth into this family to see if it was indeed the right Albert Lee.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Genealogy: Are You a Collector or a Researcher


 The past few years I have noticed a trait in myself while working on our family trees that I am not very happy about. Because money is always tight in my house, I generally do not buy subscriptions to websites like Ancestry, Fold3, Genealogy Bank etc. But, when they have a few free days during certain holidays, my husband only sees the back of my head as a furiously click and save everything I can find about our ancestors. This presents a problem, I get so wrapped up in clicking and saving, I generally don't take the time to read through them, just look to find that magic name and click. Part one of the problem is that in doing so, the record I am looking at gets saved to my computer with no real name or little info as to where it came from. Part two is that I then have possibly hundreds of saved documents with little or no identifying words. These often get put to the side while I merrily continue to search as each paid site has its free day, so for the past few days, I am finally going through these documents one by one to rename them and get them into their proper folders. Unfortunately, there are hundreds to go through, making me a very bad researcher. But wait! There's more! We usually take a yearly trip to Nashville to visit friends and while there I spend the days at the state archives. Guess what I am doing???  Copying and saving (although now they have those wonderful computers you can bring a flash drive to and just, you guessed, click and save!) It recently occurred to me I hadn't cataloged the visit from two years ago, along with records from a frantic two days in Paducah finding everything I could put my hands on. So, I have stacks of microfilmed records that need to be gone through and filed with their families in my genealogy cabinet.

     If I were a responsible researcher, I would take the time to initially save those records with identifiers and also make note on a research log of where I found them. Then I would actually look at them to transfer the information to my family trees. I would look to see if there were any snippets of info I might easily miss like a neighboring family with the same name and make note of that. I would need to do that at the archives as well, because a few times I have come home bemoaning the fact that I missed something on the copied record and could have dug into it more deeply while I was still in Nashville, instead of waiting a year until our next visit...or forgetting about it and repeating it all over again.

     This year, I will make sure I am more attentive to what I copy and take the time to really discover what might be found in that elusive record!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Live Long, a nonagenarian's story

SO, I am once again trying to do some genealogy blogs and I came across a new challenge for the year - a different challenge each week, maybe this time I will actually stay with it! The challenge this week is to write about an ancestor who was long lived, like a centenarian. I don't have any on my mother's side, I don't think anyone made it to 90, but I do on my biological father's, along with several who made it to their 90's. I was going to write about 4 of them, but that started looking really dumb and convoluted, so I will mention that my great uncle Paul, who was a tailor for along time in the garment district in New York, lived until he was 106, and he was still playing with a full deck when he died in 1981!  If I have to live that long, I sure hope I emulate his healthy mind!

Antonino (Anthony) Rotante was born 15 Jan 1909 in New York City to my great grandparents Pasquale Rotante and his wife Grazia Brocca.  This is according to his birth certificate, but there is a story that goes with this that is a bit different. Apparently he was really born 28 Dec 1908, the same day as  the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Messina, Sicily which is where his parents were from.
In Sicily, you were conscripted into military service at the age of 18 and she figured if she changed the date of his birth into the next year, he would have a year longer before he had to enlist in the US Army! The midwife had no problem with this and Uncle Anthony did not learn of his real birth date for a very long time.

He had a normal upbringing, but as he became an adult, he was fascinated with Jazz and Blues music. It became an obsession of his which he put to good use writing for a magazine called Record Research and he was considered a "Blues" authority. He is mentioned in several books: Lightening Hopkins: His Life and Blues by Alan Govenor states "...Prior to the publication of Charter's book The County Blues, accompanied by the release of his Folkway recordings of Lightening Hopkins in 1959, little had been written about the subject...the first attempt at a Lightening Hopkins discography was compiled by New Yorker Anthony Rotante and published in the British magazine Discophile in 1955.
The Blues Encyclopedia by Ed Komara and Peter Lee says "in a companion magazine to Jazz Information, Blues Research was managed by Anthony Rotante and Paul Sheatsley."

Some of the articles he wrote for Record Research included "Edith Piaf, the early years, Polydor Records 1936-1944" (June 1983), "Maurice Chevalier on Pathe-Salabert Labels" (Nov-Dec 1975) and "The King of the R&B Labels"(Apr-May 1969. I found some of his articles here:

Along with all this, he worked for the city of New York in the Budget Bureau and worked specifically for the Mayor's Office under several administrations. I know one of the was John Lindsay, but am not sure of the others.

He was very interested in genealogy and in the 1950's took a trip to Messina to see if he could find any family records. Because of that terrible tsunami the day he was born, there were no records to be found. Even on our last visit he was pondering if there was any other place else he could look. Just recently I found some digitized records from Messina on as many towns had to send records on to the church or state record's agencies.  I found his father's birth info and am hoping over time to be able to delve deeper into this part of my family.

I did not meet him until he was in his early 90's as I did not grow up knowing my father or his family. I was amazed at how clear he was at that age and that he was computer literate! He loved that my son was a musician and wanted to introduce him to good jazz, so he mailed him several cassette tapes and articles about the different types of jazz they showed. We corresponded back and forth for several years and when he would come up to NY from his retirement home in Florida to visit his daughter, we always met for lunch. He finally passed away at the age of ninety-eight. Just before he died, he donated  his rare collection of Duke Ellington records, tapes, books and other memorabilia to the African American Research Library and Cultural Center and his other collections to The Archives of Blues and Jazz, both in Fort Lauderdale,  surely a wonderful legacy to leave behind.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Eat, Drink, Thunder

So, many of you are aware of my love for the show Celtic Thunder. Why? I think because the show lifts my spirits and gives me a measure of happiness. Who would think a group of young Irish men could cause so many people to hold them dear, but they do. If you think I am maybe a bit strange for posting pix of them on my cover of Facebook, trust me, there are people way way more "obsessed" than I am, but you know, all things considered, if these guys make their days happier, I say what's the harm? I think there is a preponderance of older widowed ladies who are made to feel young again by these guys. That they are gracious enough to sign autographs and pose for selfies with them, is just another reason why they are loved. Think about this though - they are my Yankees, my Jets, my Nicks, my golf obsession, get the picture? We think nothing of people who follow these sports, can name all the team members and their stats and miss family time because they are planted in front of the TV getting a "fix". Am I right? You know I am!

At any rate, this weekend I motored up to Rutland, Vermont to see the Very Best of Show. I have never reviewed the show and experience here, and I do tend to look at it from a performer's eye having been on that side of the boards in days past, so if my review is not how you saw the show, just know its okay for people to have differing ways of looking at things and responding to them! Several people who won't get to see this show asked for this, so here it is.

I got there early just to orient myself and had a chance to have a quick chat with Keith
 and then a short while later, Damian came out and signed my "Thunderhead" shirt - it was the last signature I needed - actually a replacement signature as for some reason the first one he did back in June washed out even though it was a sharpie. Lastly I managed to say hi to Colm before he went out for a run

I decided to do more than I usually do and got the meet and greet and VIP passes. I have already been to a sound check, so I didn't feel that was necessary. The meet and greet was set for 6pm. It was in a rather small room which not everyone could fit into, so the overflow was in a room next to it. PBS did apologize for such a small place, but I felt bad for those in the other room who basically had to stand and try to see over each other. They did supply water, coffee and tea...and a cash bar! I don't think anyone bothered with that. At about 6:30 Ryan and Emmett were ushered into the room by David Munro, the musical director, and we were allowed 10-15 minutes to ask questions. Then we stood in a line to get an autograph (which I didn't bother with) and a photo with them. Gone are the days of appetizer types of food, a  good half hour or more with the guys and a chance to personally interact. For me, I wouldn't do it again unless I was a first timer. It was a lot of money for a very little bit of time. The one interesting tidbit that we learned was how Emmett, the first American born in  the group, managed to find his way into Celtic Thunder. Apparently, David Munro was looking at you tube videos and found one of a master class by acclaimed mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato with Julliard student Emmett O'Hanlon. He called producer Sharon Browne and told her "we need to get this boy" - and they did! So for all you who think you tube uploads don't bring attention, I guess you would be wrong!

The theater was small by most standards, only sat a little over 800, but that meant my third row seat was really close as there was no orchestra pit. Gently the strains of  Heartland started and in they came with the now famous black slickers. I have to admit the pounding of the drums certainly stirred my heart as the guys entered the stage one by one.  I am not going to go every song they sang, but there were some I wanted to comment on. It was lovely to hear Damian singing with them again and those two years on Glee really made a difference in him vocally. He now has so much control of his instrument and sang with passion. His rendition of Buachaill on Eirne was beautiful. No longer was he the young lad just standing in place singing the song exactly as written, but a man giving his own interpretation of the song and doing it masterfully. Of course, we did get a "blast from the past" as he sang Breaking Up is Hard to Do, complete with leather jacket, skinny jeans and old fashioned mic. We all had a good time, and Damian, I love you, but dancing has never been your forte!

 Colm had everyone singing Black Velvet Band pub style and made us tear up with Katie, sung simply, as he sat on a stool. Ryan sang Ride On which I have to say for me, has been done to death!
The poor guy sang it for at least 4 tours and I was so glad when he got to sing something new in Mythology. But, since the fans picked the songs for this tour, I guess not everyone feels as I do - I would rather have heard Brothers in Arms or Desperado. Neil sang Noreen and had everyone enjoying his "duel with Declan O'Donaghue on drums and John O'Brian on the bodhran. 

I was really happy to hear Keith do Mountains of Mourne as it is one the songs that drew me to Celtic Thunder when I first saw them on PBS. Back then, his voice was lilting and almost pretty, now it has matured and it allows him to sing songs like Now We Are Free, which was something I almost wish I stood up and shouted Bravo! to - it was that good.

 Emmett belongs onstage at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City, plain and simple.His voice is way too big and doesn't seem to mesh well with the others. It may have been the acoustics in such a small venue, and it wasn't too bad when all six were singing, but during That's a Woman, he effectively drowned Ryan out each time they were counter singing. I didn't like his Danny Boy. That just belongs to Emmet Cahill. It's funny how two people can have essentially the same range and be classically trained but have such a different sound depending on the timbre of their voice. Emmet Cahill sang it with almost a reverence and beauty and Emmett O'Hanlon had vocals that were just too "bright" for this song. I noticed on the cruise he had to hold his mike about 12" away when he sang with the others, maybe some sound board adjustments will help next tour.

  He is amiable like the others, has great stage presence and fits well with their overall "messing about" during some songs, but when he sang Recuerde Me, he was in his wheelhouse! Here, he could sing with abandon and fill all the spaces and it was amazing. 

Of course George Donaldson was greatly missed and the guys did a lovely tribute of his song Life with You along with a funny anecdote by Neil about his less than stellar dancing abilities. White roses were raised by many at the end of the song.

One cannot go to a Celtic Thunder show without appreciating the fun songs they do, and the other night was no exception. I have to say Neil has the most impeccable sense of comedic timing. His drunken man in Seven Drunken Nights had everyone roaring with laughter! It was nice to see a little change-up with Emmett starting the song and Keith ending. About mid song things got a little crazy - every year they seem to ramp up the clowning  on this song and at one point Ryan was pretty much writhing on the ground in front of Neil's shoes while Damian was trying to close his body over them - he fell and Emmett starting kicking his kneecap and maybe just hit it a touch to strong and Damian let out a facial yowl! He moved his leg to try to keep it from getting hit again but was having a heck of a time holding his pose as they all had frozen when the audience started laughing. Emmet bent down and pretended to wipe the sweat off Damian's brow and then they all lost it - Celtic Thunder  at its best! They also got into it during Place in the Choir. Damian was singing the bass part and they all went and sat down on the edge of the riser. He went back to join them and  they wouldn't let him in - lots of shoving ensued until finally Emmet fell off the riser. Ryan fell backwards and came up laughing so hard he could barely sing. These are the moments many of us wait for. 
 Finally the show was over and we waited by the stage to be picked up for the VIP experience.
 There weren't a lot of us waiting, so it was pretty intimate. I am sitting in the front row for this one. Instead of us asking them questions, they turned  the tables and asked us trivia questions about themselves. If you knew the answer  you got a drink cozy with Celtic Thunder on it. There were some I didn't have a clue about and one in particular where I thought, oh my gosh Linda, you spend entirely too much time on the internet! I won twice, so I gave my second one to the gal next to me - then things just started getting funny when a lady started mugging in the doorway just as Keith was reading his question -I started laughing out loud and others joined me and for just a split second Keith looked a little annoyed  that we were laughing at him - then he turned around and realized why. As with the meet and greet, it was only 10-15 minutes long and then there was a photo op. You also received a rubber band bracelet and a signed program, so that was nice. David Munro had us sign a large banner - I have  no idea what they plan to do with it though. Would I do it again? No, an awful lot of money for a very short experience. That being said, I do see other celebs charge 3-4 times what Celtic Thunder charges, so in that respect, you could call it a deal. I think maybe because I have been fortunate to meet them so many times, its just not important enough to me. I don't need more autographs, and I won't die if I don't get a photo with them. They still are pretty good to the die hard fans who wait by their bus till late at night to stop for an autograph or photo. If I were to pick a place to spend my money, I think it would be for the sound check. Although you don't get to speak with them or have a photo op, its usually 30-45 minutes long and you can take as many pictures as you like - just my humble opinion. Here is a little video of the VIP experience:

It's funny, as good a time as I had, I think my thunderhead days may be drawing to a close. Will I see thee next show? I don't  know..probably, but nothing extra. I think the reason I got so deeply invested was that I was pretty much house bound due to my knee problems and now that I am up and running, I find I have less and less time to spend on Facebook, the Celtic Thunder groups and the internet in general. I am so grateful they were there during that time - it surely gave my life a lift and brought a smile to my face. I truly hope they can "keep on rolling" a few more years. The average life span of a group is ten years and they are already at around eight with several changes in the lineup. I think Sharon Browne, the producer has an incredible eye for not only talent but eye candy too, which has served her well! I hope all the "lads" will be able to continue their respective careers afterwards and for a long time to come.

When I got home, I found Keith had finally announced his engagement to Kelsey Nichols. It was nice to hear he had found his special someone and I wish them all the blessings life has to offer! 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

#TBT The Class of '68

As part of the baby boomer generation, our lives were much easier than those of our parents. We entered a safe world with Ike as president and TV up and running. We watched Miss Francis on Ding Dong School, Romper Room (remember romper, bomper, stomper do and doo-bees?) Howdy Doody and Pinky Lee. We girls played with Tiny Tears and Ginny dolls while the boys were busy with erector sets and Lincoln logs. Many of us had a ping pong table set up in the basement with Lionel trains and villages on it. Davy Crockett reigned supreme with both boys and girls caught up in the craze of coon skin caps and fringed jackets!
But, in 1955 small changes happened  that would change our world. Rosa Parks, a colored woman (and I use that phrase as that was what was used then) refused to move to the back of a bus in the Jim Crow south and it caused a stir that had a ripple effect. Things were changing around the world as well with a "Cold War" between us and the Russia. Soon we were in school and learning how to "duck and cover" in case we were hit with a bomb. I never did understand how crouching under your desk was going to protect me! I imagine it was done to make us feel safe.
  Did we even understand what a "cold war" was at that age? I thought it      was because it was cold in Russia and they started it! Do you remember
  learning to read with Dick and Jane?
   In the midst of this, we were still enjoying TV and now were graduating
   to Make Room for Daddy, Father Knows Best, tons of cowboy shows,
    Lassie (remember ee-ok-ee) and My Three Sons.
In New York, well probably this was only shown in the city and on Long Island now that I think of it as it was on a local station, we had some talents of our own such as Sandy Becker who hosted Wonderama and the wacky Soupy Sales - some children's shows! When I look at them now, they were disguised as kid's shows, but there was a lot of adult content - especially with Soupy. Sandy was just flat our weird - watch his Hambone and tell me what you think! We also had Officer Joe Bolton, Captain Jack McCarthy, Paul Winchell and Jerry Mahoney, Andy's Gang, our host of all things scary, Zacherly and the one and only Chuck McCann.
We had some shows that would never be shown today like  Amos and Andy and a few others that were seriously questionable by today's standards!
No one from our era could forget the Three Stooges - I watched an episode recently and was kind of shocked at how violent it seemed - every one was getting kicked, hit and stuck in the eyes, but it came off as funny.

We had some unforgettable comercials like Good and Plenty (plenty good), Bonomos (o-o-o- its bonomos!) and Ipana (brusha, brusha, brusha)/ We enjoyed bit-o-honey, Sugar Babies, Sugar Daddy's and our parents made us drink Ovaltine.  Ray Kroc opened the first McDonalds in Des Plaines, IL.

In 1957 in Little Rock, Arkansas, another rumbling was felt as nine black students, were integrated into an all white school. The Governor, stopped them from entering, but President Eisenhower intervened and they became part of the first integrated school in  America.

In 1958, the hula hoop was invented and the first Barbie rolled off the assembly line. We now were enjoying comic books like Superman, Archie, Richie Rich, Little Lotta and Classics Illustrated while Lik-M-Aid became the candy of choice. And a young man named Elvis of all things was taking America by storm!

In 1960 Khrushchev came to America, took off his shoe and pounded on the table in the UN to
 make a very strong point and we were shocked!
That summer, the first aluminum cans were introduced and Psycho hit the theaters scaring the bejeebers out of everyone! At Christmas all the kids wanted an Etch-A-Sketch.
In 1960, JFK was inaugurated and Camelot began. Alan Shepard became the first man in space and in May of 61 Kennedy sent 400 Green Beret's to a place called Viet Nam. That summer, more rumblings were heard in the south asthe Freedom Riders met with horrific violence in Birmingham, Alabama. In Germany, construction was started on the Berlin Wall and Communism was a real threat to the world.
On the lighter side, girls were now in love with Dr. Kildare and Dr. Ben Casey and were listening to Bobby Rydell and Bobby Vee. Bob Dylan deuted at the Cafe Wha? in Greenwich Village and the times they were a-changing.

In 1962 the oral polio vaccine was introduced and Walmart and K-Mart opened. In February, John Glenn orbited the earth three times and the Space Age began in earnest. JFK sent 8,000 more troops to Viet Nam and the first death there was recorded. By6 the time we graduated 6th grade, prayer was banned from school. In the fall of '62, I entered Hauppauge Junior-Senior High School. The school was in the last stages of renovation and we struggled with lockers and having one class in the A wing and the next class in the C wing causing us to run across the lot from door to door as we made a shortcut over. We were introduced to gym uniforms,lunch lines and being low man on the totem pole. Girls spent hours saving gum wrappers to weave into a chain the height of the boys they were crushing on. The Jetsons premiered, we watched Twilight Zone and many of us hurried home after school to watch American Bandstand.

In 1962, the Stingray was introduced, folk music became popular and we all knew Puff the Magic Dragon. In the spring, our English teacher took us to our first Broadway show. For $5.95 we got seats in the balcony and completely enjoyed the show Oliver!. 
During the summer, on August 28, 250,000 people,both black and white, marched to the Lincoln Memorial and heard Martin Luther King give his "I Had a Dream" speech. 16,000 soldiers were now in Viet Nam as "advisors"  teaching warfare to the South Vietnamese. Patti Duke had a popular TV show and the Beach Boys had us all singing along.

On November 22, our lives took yet another turn as we sat in shock on the school bus having heard Kennedy was shot. The next day the nation mourned and LBJ was sworn in.

The Beatles came roaring in on a plane in February of '64 and stole our hearts when they appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. The British Invasion had begun. Before long they were quickly followed by Herman's Hermits, Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Dave Clark Five and the Rolling Stones. On February 25, a cocky young man named Cassius Clay beat Sonny Liston and shook up the world of boxing.

Ghouls invaded our TV sets with The Addams Family and The Munsters grabbing our attention. A cute young witch named Samantha also flew in!  During the long lazy summer we listened to our favorite DJ's; Murray the Kand his swinging soiree - who kept talking about submarine race watchers -I was clueless, and our own Cousin Brucie on WABC.

In 1965 LBJ was once again sworn in and in February Martin Luther King and 2,600 black people were arrested in Selma, Alabama. A few days later, Malcom X was shot and killed in Harlem. In March there was more terror as 600 Civil Rights marchers were clubbed and beaten on Bloody Sunday in Montgomery, Alabama. We had a short respite as we all marveled at Ed White's walk in space on June 3rd, but by August 11, huge riots broke out in the Watts district of L.A.. After 6 days of rioting and looting, 34 were dead, 1,000 injured and there was 175 million in damages.

In late August, I went with some friend to see the World's Fair - what a marvel! We spent a wonderful day trying new foods, learning about technological advances and doing fun things like getting an analysis of our hair color. Later that day we hopped on the subway for a short ride to Shea Stadium and saw the Beatles. I think we hardly heard them due to the screaming, but we screamed along and had a ball! There were a lot of dance crazes in the early 60's - the twist, stomp, hitchhiker, jerk,swim, frug, chicken, mashed potatoes, and the locomotion, but none were as silly but fun as the Freddy!

 On November 9th we had a huge blackout and those of us lucky enough to have a fireplace snuggled nearby to sleep.

In 1966 things started to change faster and faster and the world seemed to sour. There was a sniper in a Texas town, the Boston Strangler escaped and Richard Speck killed a group of nurses as they slept in their dorm. In Viet Nam things escalated. This was becoming a TV war and we were shocked by the image of Nguyen Ngan Loan killing a  Vietnamese soldier.
Music however was soft and fun and we daydreamed with The Lovin Spoonful and the Mamas and the Papas. Our clothing preferences were changing with girls wearing gogo boots, hip hugging mini skirts and sporting haircuts designed by Vidal Sassoon. Timothy Leary, a professor at Harvard urged us to turn on, tune in and drop out and drug use skyrocketed.

1967 was another turning point as young people started flocking to the  Haight  Ashbury section of San Francisco living communally and taking drugs as the Summer of Love commenced. On the opposite side of this Stokely Carmichael was stirring people up with his speeches and we grieved together when three astronauts, Ed White, Virgil Grissom and Roger Chaffee died in the Apollo capsule during a flight simulation. On TV we watched The Monkees and a new star emerged in the film world named Dustin Hoffman as he met Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate.

It was 1968, and our last year of high school, and Oh! the changes. In January the crew of the US Pueblo were seized by the North Koreans. In true American style, while pressed into making propaganda photos, the crew slyly held up their middle fingers. They were treated worse after the Koreans realized what they were doing and weren't released until the winter after we graduated.
The news in the southeast didn't get any better. On January 31, we were a part of the Tet Offensive, a turning point in the Viet Nam War. On March 16, our soldiers sadly massacred the village of My Lai killing more than 350 civilians including women and children. We were horrified by the news and the photographs.
In early April Martin Luther King gave one of his greatest speeches "I've Been to the Mountain". A few days later, he was dead, the victim of an assassin's bullet.
In New York, a week later, sanitation workers went on strike and for 9 days New York City stunk to high heaven!  Luckily things were back to normal as we took our senior class trip to see The Apple Tree starring a young Alan Alda who would go on to fame in the series M.A.S.H. 
Across the street from that show Hair was opening - again, another shift in life as we knew it.As we were taking our finals, there was yet another blow as Robert Kennedy was assassinated just after winning the California primary. It seems like 1968 had only bad news, but there were things to offset the bad - Laugh In was on TV and we were introduced to a whole gallery of kooky people and no one was more kooky than Tiny Tim!

As we took our steps up to the platform to get our diplomas, some of us had flat tops and bee hives. Some had Sassoons,  some were longhairs, some had pixies and some had long straight hair to their waist, but we were united by our years together at Hauppauge High. LBJ was president with Hubert Humphrey as VP, the population of the US was 200,706,052, life expentancy was 70.2 years, the median income was $7,743 and a first class stamp was 6 cents. Unemployment was 3.81%, Green Bay creamed Oakland in the Superbowl, the Detroit Tigers beat the Cardinals in the World Series, Boston beat the LA Lakers in a close 4-2 game and the Stanley Cup was won by Montreal over St. Louis.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Welcome Back!

Wow! It has been a really long time since I have even thought about coming back to blog again. Having my knees done really took the starch out of me. It ended up I couldn't get both done at one time, so I had to settle for the end of June and the beginning of December.

Both surgeries went well although there were big differences in how things went immediately after surgery. The first time, I never was asked to get out of bed. I was on morphine the first day and then oxycodone. They tried to use an apparatus that moves your leg for you in a bicycle type motion, but they waited too long to get it on me and my legs were so swollen I'll admit I screamed. It should have been attached right after I came out of recovery. Why they waited a full day I will never know, but I asked for the doc and he decided I didn't need it. Then they thought I had a blood clot one night and  rushed me down to xray to check it - that was a little scary, but it turned out alright. The weirdest thing that happened was I had this strange sort of psychotic thing happen! A nurse was putting the morphine in my IV, but it apparently had infiltrated and was just running into the top of my hand - the pain was unreal! Then I thought all these weird things - that she was trying to kill me because I was a Christian and I was so scared and trying to think of ways to escape. When they finally realized what had happened I had settled down, but it was flat out the strangest thing I have ever gone through!

My surgery in December was SO different. After surgery, I was sitting up in bed enjoying some TV and I felt wonderful all night. They got me out of bed the next morning and to my surprise I was strong enough to make it to the bathroom while they followed me with a chair. That afternoon they brought me down to a gym and I started physical therapy in a group setting - so incredibly different - same hospital and same doctor - go figure!
Both surgeries required about six weeks in a rehab center. I can't imagine how people go straight home after one of these, there was no way I could get up and down the stairs or to the bathroom.  The place I went to was in most ways a blessing. The bad part was that the food was awful - the up side, I lost 17 lbs the first time and another 10 the second time. The place wasn't the cleanest - the individual rooms were kept pretty clean, but the halls often went a week or more between  cleanings!  The staff was incredible! I have never been in a place where everyone chips in to help. The nurses do their regular work, but also help serve and clean up in the dining room as do the CNAs. The physical therapy department was phenomenal - its why many people choose this place, because the results are that good. As with nursing, these people really connect with their patients and work hard to get them where they need to be to go home again. The first time, I had the same 2 gals for therapy. One took care of occupational therapy and one for physical. In  the beginning I thought it was kind of silly to have occupational - there was nothing wrong with me other than my knee, but as time went on, I realized how important it was to build up my upper body. She also gave me some cool toys to play with - for getting my socks on, a grabber way better than my husband's and a long handled shoe horn so I could get my sneakers on. The other gal saw to my legs. Having been so held back by pain, I had no strength in either leg - that meant I had nothing to stand up with! She worked me hard because she knew I was going to need to be in better shape next time around.

My out patient physical therapy started out well, it was at a place with several therapists and their helpers. Most of the time I got the helper who basically told me to do this or that exercise so many times. The actual therapist was what my sister aptly named a physical terrorist! Every so often they had to take measurements for the insurance company and of course they wanted to show good results. The problem was this guy literally leaned on my knee to make it as straight as possible. Then he bent it back as far as he could - each time I screamed, and moaned but he just kept on doing it. After that was done it took me 5 days to be able to walk again. I spoke to him after the first time because my husband was furious! The guy just said he wouldn't do it again - but surprise surprise, at the end of the following week he did - and then 3 days later he did it again. At that point I told him I was done with PT. If this ever happens to you, run, don't walk to another therapist. After I went through this I heard two of his patients had to have their knees redone!

The second time, I immediately realized this was going to be so different. The work they had done with me first time by building up my upper body strength and working on the unoperated leg to prepare it for surgery made a ton of difference.  It only took me a few days to get to the bathroom unassisted whereas the first time it was more than a week. The therapy this time utilized all the therapists, so I had different types of therapy and found I liked some better than others. I also got to use a TENs unit which helped immensely and something called diathermy. My favorite though was when they worked a type of massage into the leg to help it relax more and stretch more.

Of course, no stay in rehab is good without a complication - mine was a doozy. I got a screaming case of shingles. It started on my scalp and I kept wondering why it was so itchy and seemingly bumpy. Then it spread  to my eye and at that point I was pretty sure I knew what it was, so I went to the head nurse who looked me over and said, " I don't think it is but we can get a cream for it." I thought, how the heck am I going to put cream all over my scalp?? I asked to see a doctor and she was annoyed - but he took one look and put me in quarantine. Since it was on my eyelid, I asked to call a ophthalmologist and she finally agreed. I went later that day and while my eye was okay, she couldn't believe they only ordered a cream. "You need a strong antiviral," she said and wrote a prescription for me. I went back to rehab and the nurse refused to have it filled -  I kept telling her I needed it and she kept saying weird things like maybe you don't have good was bizarre. I went back to my room and told my hubby and he marched right out to the desk and said "You WILL give my wife the medication." She didn't even try to fight it, just said Okay. Isn't it amazing what a difference it makes when a man insists on something! I am SO grateful for him! So, there is my other caveat - if you go to a rehab place and  this happens to you, make sure you insist on your rights. The big reason she didn't want to order it was that it was a very expensive medication and of course her job is to keep costs down - really a sad situation these days - trying to be cost affective can undermine patient's care. I talked to several other residents who had the same problem with her and to fight her for their loved ones. I feel so sorry for people who don't have someone to advocate for them.

I managed to leave after only 4 weeks the second time (compared to six the first) and then had a therapist come to the house twice a week for the next few weeks. She also used this massage, so I asked her if she knew any therapists around that did this. She mentioned  a gal named Ann Rugh and I have been seeing her since. She uses something called strain-counterstrain to unblock areas that have turned into little blocks pain. It has helped my circulation so much! We also use a bike and a balance board that snowboarders use to practice during summer. Here is what it looks like
Let me tell you, it is not easy to balance on while you are swinging your hips side to side and keeping your upper body straight - talk about "feel the burn" - it doesn't take more than 20 seconds for me to feel it, but I still stay on for a few minutes!

So there you have it - my big excuse for not keeping up with this! I am determining to get back in the saddle because I have a ton of ideas, thoughts, crafts and more to share with you all. See you soon!