Thursday, December 27, 2012

my side of the family

A family Christmas gathering Dec 26th 2012
Yesterday, the Finlayson side of the family gathered for Christmas.  The food was abundant and delicious.  My sister Irene made a white chicken chili that was incredible. There were lots of hugs, chatter and laughter.  We spent hours catching up and exchanged gifts later in the evening.  It was a very enjoyable evening.

Part of Christmas' past would be the opening of the gifts from Columbia, SC.  Year after year we'd all open the cardboard boxes filled with little mementos that our aunts and uncles thought we'd each enjoy having.  Last year, right at Christmas, our aunt Jennie Llew passed away.  She was the last of my father's siblings.  It was the last Christmas that Gina and I would send a parcel Columbia way.

Last night the Elrods brought over a video made back in 1986 of our different families wishing our relatives in Columbia a merry Christmas. Robby ventured from house to house with his video camera capturing all the families in our natural habitat.   Robby recorded Irene with a very young Carrie. Wes was just a baby.  The camera then focused at the Noojin household with Florrie and Dan.  The next segment was from 2624 Scenic Hwy.  Dad was talking to the camera, wishing his brothers and sisters well and talked about the true meaning of Christmas.  Mother sat beside him.  Cindy and I were there too.  The scene then went to Southside, AL where Brook and Jennifer were showing off their Christmas decorations as well as their then business next door Green Garden.

The highlight of course was seeing and hearing dad again.  It was the first time my daughters had ever seen their grandfather.  My dad died back in 1990, not long before Gina and I were married.  I couldn't make out all of what he was saying on the video because there was a lot of commotion in the Wood house last night.

There was also video of Columbia.  There they were, all sitting in Jennie Llew's living room on Wateree Avenue; Florence, Rutha, Pat, Murdoch, Jennie Llew and Wofford.  They were all very much alive back in 1986.  I teared up a little.  I smiled.  It was good seeing them, and hearing them going at one another.  Jennie Llew sang a song, Murdock was coaxed to sing Amazing Grace (not knowing the words) , and Pat sang a few hymns.

While the video played on, the attention went to boxes that my sister Jennie had lugged  from our cousin Beverly's house in Columbia.  Beverly ended up with a lot of items after the death of Pat and Jennie Llew.  I can't explain it, but it was a special moment for me.    For a moment we were seeing faces of loved ones now gone - hearing their voices once again. 
For a moment, we were opening gifts from our dear Columbia kin again.

It wasn't sad.  It was just so very sweet.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

finding John Young Wofford

John Young Wofford 1842 -1863
Years ago my aunt Jennie Llew Finlayson Guyton gave me a mystery photograph of a young Confederate soldier.  The only thing that Jennie Llew could tell me about him is that he was a Wofford.  This photograph was among my grandmother's Jennie Wait Foster Finlayson's belongings.

This photo was a mystery until this evening.

Meet 2nd Lt. John Young Wofford, oldest son of my 2nd great grandfather Dr. Benjamin Wofford and Julia Ann Woodruff.  This was apparently passed down to my grandmother from her aunt Martha Wofford Wait.  If you recall, I posted earlier that my grandmother was raised (along with her siblings) by their aunt Martha Wofford Wait.  John Young Wofford was the brother of Rebecca Mullinax Wofford (my great grandmother) an Martha Jane Wofford Wait.

I spent some time online tonight and uncovered a good bit of information about him.  John enrolled in 3rd South Carolina Volunteer Infantry the  April 14, 1861. He shows up on the muster roll June 14, 1861.  Engagements until his death are as follows:

Mitchell's Ford, VA, July 18, 1861
1st Manassas, VA, July 21, 1861
Held Yorktown Line, VA, Mid-April- May 3, 1862
Williamsburg, VA, May 4-5, 1862

Skirmish near Fair Oaks, VA, June 18, 1862
Savage Station, VA, June 29, 1862
Malvern Hill, VA, July 1, 1862
Maryland Heights, MD, September 12-13, 1862
Antietam, MD, September 17, 1862
Fredericksburg, VA, December 11-15, 1862
Chancellorsville, VA, May 1-5, 1863
? Gettysburg, PA, July 2, 1863

3rd Regiment of South Carolina from Spartanburg County, SC / Company F.  Wofford family information states that John Young Wofford died July 2, 1863 (Thursday) and was buried in Jordan, VA.

July 2nd, 1863 was the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg. The southern dead were removed to cemeteries in North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia between 1871 and 1873.  It is possible that John Young Wofford died at Gettysburg or wounded/became ill while still in VA.  His regiment fought in Chancellorsville in May.  Records indicate that he died in the presence of a comrade who had stayed back with him as their company moved forward.  With this new piece of information, it's more likely that Lt. John Wofford never made it to Gettysburg.

To my siblings, John Young Wofford was our great grand uncle.

UPDATE: 23 FEB 2014

An additional tidbit of information I just found out is that 2nd Lt. J.Y. Wofford died at JONE'S FARM. Another CSA officer died at Jone's Farm that day too - W.J. Poole.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

dealing with the unknown

I'm poking around my mother's side of the family tree via  I found an interesting letter to my third great grandmother.  This is my grandmother Irene Covington Davidson's g-g grandmother who was Mary Ann Harris whose husband was John Richard Duval.  This letter was written to Mary from her sister in-law Lucy Joanna Duval Cantley (John's sister) during the War of Northern Aggression.  It's always interesting to read letters from this era in our nation's history.  It's a snapshot of what life was like for our ancestors.

Palestine, Texas
September 3, 1861

My dear sister:

I, with heavy heart, sit down this evening to try and write a few lines to you.  I hardly know how to commence.  I might as well come to the point, where is John?  Has he gone to the battlefield?  I haven’t heard a word, only what some of the boys wrote back here, that he had passed through Richmond some time before they got there.  I have been so uneasy about him.  Mat (James Mat Harris, Mary Ann’s brother)  wrote in his last letter to me that he had not heard anything reliable and he had written to you to know something about him.

Mary, do write to me as soon as you get this because I’m anxious to hear.  I am in hopes that he is at home with his family.  It is alright for men to fight for their country, but sometimes we are selfish creatures.  Mary, if John is at home, ask him if he has forgotten his sister.  If he has gone, ask him to write to me to let me know where he is so I can write to him.  Nothing would give me more pleasure than to receive letters from all of you.  I haven’t had a line from any of you in such a long time.  My son, John Cantley, has written to Joanna twice but has not heard from her.

Mary, I realize that you might not know who has gone to the war from here.  They are: (James) Mat Harris, Buck Duval (Richard Park Woody Duval), Rick D., Joe Duval (Joseph Dabney Duval) and a great many more of our acquaintances.  It is distressing to see married men have to leave their families and to the battlefield with little hope for their return.

Elizabeth (Elizabeth Harris Duval, married to William Anthony Duval) and Ann (Lucy’s sister named Adrianna married to Mat Harris) never knew what trouble was before their husbands went to war.  I feel sorry for them.  Ann was taken sick the week after Mat Left and lay sick at home for three or four weeks. Brother Billy (William James Duval) got a hack and brought her to my house.  I sent for a doctor for her.  She stayed here three weeks and went home last Sunday.  She was able to ride home in the buggy.  Her baby was quite sick while she was here and not well yet.  I’ve heard from her once since she left.

Elizabeth and her children are living with Uncle Capts (William Jennings Duval).  She and her children haven’t been well for sometime.  The children had chills when I was out there last week.  I went that far with Ann.

Mat wrote to Elizabeth and me, begging us to stay with Ann as much as we could.  I have never been down there.  She sent twice before she came up here but all my family, both white and black, has been sick this summer except myself and Charlie (Lucy’s son, Charles Lockhart Cantley).    There has been more sickness this year than we have had since the year 52.  Mary, Billy’s wife, is sick at this time.  Uncle Capts is also sick.  He has been for four weeks.  I feel uneasy about him.

Sister Virginia (Half-sister Susan Virginia Duval) had a fine boy.  He was born the 16th of August 1861.  I haven’t heard a line from her in five months.  I don’t know the cause.  I have just heard from Ann.  Her baby is still sick.  Elizabeth went down there yesterday to stay awhile.  Elizabeth’s second child is still sick.  She thought maybe taking the children would help them.  Elizabeth and Ann said they would write but it takes all their time to write to their husbands.  They say for you and all the other relatives to write to them.  Thought would write when Ann was up here so one would do for both.

Mary, when you write tell all that have gone to war.  Joanna, why don’t you  write your Aunt Lucy?  Do write for it does me so much good to read a letter from you.  You always give me all the news.  Have you got your piano and sewing machine yet?  Ben T. (Lucy’s older brother, Benjamin Turner Duval) has bought Lou (his wife Louisa) a sewing machine.  I expect to go there to make the boys some pants this week.

I will close.  Give my love to all inquiring friends and relations.  Mary, as soon as you get this, do answer.  I don’t sleep for I am so anxious for John.  If he had gone, tell him to write to me.  You know that I love him with all a sister’s affection. If I am never permitted to see him, I hope to meet him in Heaven where there will be no more separation, and I ever expect to love his wife and children.  Does Martha Webb live down there?  How is her health?

I tell you, the war has made everything so high.  I went up in town with Sis Duval today.  It is out of all reason.  It was bad enough for me before they raised all the goods.  It is so dark, I can’t see to write any more.  John, my son, must take this to the office.  I haven’t forgotten that you promised to send me all the families pictures.  If John is gone, I beg to you to send me a picture of him if you have one to spare.
I still remain your sister, Lucy J. Duval Cantley

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Peter Jackson's creative license

Today Gina and I drove down to Birmingham for dinner and a movie with my family.  Katie has been anxiously waiting to see The Hobbit and we made it a family outing of it.  We knew we had read enough of the book together to cover what was to be covered in the movie.  What surprised me about The Hobbit movie is how much Peter Jackson added to the story.  I had been wondering how anyone could take J.R.R. Tolkien's children story and turn it into three installments.  Now I know how.  Jackson's made lots of stuff up.

Normally, I'd lean toward sticking to the original telling, but the overall movie was well done. Here Jackson attempts to make The Hobbit a bigger story with clearer connection to the rise of Sauron.  It's even more of a prequel to The Lord of The Rings story that followed.  There are plenty of events that happened in this movie that simply did not transpire in the book.  I don't know if Tolkien would've appreciated the continuous string of liberties taken with his creation.

I didn't mind it.  I enjoyed the show.

Decades ago I saw Stanley Kubrick's The Shinning before reading the book.  It's the movie that got me into reading many of the books of Stephen King.  I remember at the time making it a point to not go out directly and read The Shinning.  Rather I read The Stand, Salem's Lot, The Dead Zone and Fire Starter before coming back to experience The Shinning.   I didn't want to read The Shinning because the movie was still fresh on my mind.  I wanted to give it some time before I delved into it.  I wanted to enjoy the story fresh.  I remember when I finally read the book...I discovered it was NOTHING like the movie.

What I felt about Stanley Kubrick's Shining is that it's a great scary movie.  It's a wonderful telling and creepy to the core.  I appreciate Kubrick's loose version as much as King's original telling.  Both are different but equally artful and thrilling.  Both works are classics.

I feel the same way about Peter Jackson's version of The Hobbit.  The disclaimer within the credits state that the movie is based on Tolkien's work.  You are cheating yourself if you merely watch the movie and not experience the book.  I enjoyed Peter Jackson's first installment in spite of all the embellishments.  Both are artful and thrilling, but the book is the better ride.  If anything, perhaps Jackson's version of Middle-earth will introduce a new audience to the Tolkien's books.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Kelsey and The Hobbit

Beorn by Tim Hildebrandt
Our family has yet to see the movie The Hobbit.  School and sickness has kept us from going to see it as a family.  I started a reading of the book over a month ago and the going has been slow due to set backs in our lives.  Gina's mother, Mrs. Hale, ended up in the hospital throughout November and ended up in a nursing facility for much of December.  The girls had school, so most week nights were ruled out as reading nights.  The last few weeks Gina and I each had a bout with the flu.  The girls wanted to read further, but we were slowed down all along the way.  We were hoping that we would finish the book before the movie was released.

It's okay.  The Hobbit is to be told in three parts and I'm sure we've read enough to cover the first installment.  I was concerned when we started reading that my youngest daughter, Kelsey, might not enjoy the story.  I was concerned that she might be too young to pick up what all was being read to her.  This was not the case.  I may have to recap a little to clarify what was read, but she seems to be enjoying it just as much as her older sister.

Tonight we spent some time with Beorn and then had to bid farewell to Gandalf.

"Good-bye! Be good, take care of yourselves-and DON'T LEAVE THE PATH!"

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Harrisons of Our Past

Note: I did not write the following text.  I found while digging around on  My father's ancestry records indicated that our family might be connected to two United States Presidents.  There was also mention of the connection via some Columbia, SC records that came my way.  My great-great grandmother on my father's side was a Harrison.  Nothing concrete to connect these Harrison families, but a few yellowed notes here and there.  I set out hoping to find out if were or were not akin My question was answered.  No.  We are not related to Presidents Benjamin or William Henry Harrison.  Nevertheless, the story that I did come across was very interesting and thought I'd share it with you here.  These are not my words or my research.  I am just fortunate to have stumbled across this information and now place it in your path to enjoy as well.

The Harrison family has its origins in England. Beyond that, the exact origins are unknown. At least three different genealogists have tried to uncover English records for this Harrison family. Best guesses are that the family is from either Cambridge or London. But neither of these theories are supported by solid evidence. What is clear is that our line NOT connected within America to the "famous" Harrison line, which includes two presidents and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. 

Our story starts with Andrew Harrison Sr., who was born sometime between 1640 and 1660 in England. He immigrated to Virginia colony sometime before 1683. Records indicate that Andrew Sr. came to the colonies under a "headright" contract with a colony official named Cadwallader Jones. The Headright system was established by the colonial government as a method of solving the colony's chronic shortage of laborers.  Passage to the Americas was not cheap, and often those wealthy enough to afford passage did not wish to pay for a number of servants to accompany them.  The headright system gave these future landowners a bonus of 50 acres per person they paid to bring over from England.  Many wealthy landowners saw a business opportunity, and established headright contracts, where the landowners paid for the passage of an indentured servant, who then worked for a set amount of time afterwards until the cost of the passage and the cost of the land was paid to the landowner, at which point the servant was freed and received title to the 50 acres. 

Location of Andrew Harrison's Plantation in Virginia.  If this is how Andrew Sr. came to Virginia , then within a few years Andrew Sr. had made enough to free himself of the debt, because he is listed as a freeman in the mid-1680's. Further, in 1686, Andrew Sr. and some friends entered the lucrative headright business themselves. Andrew Sr. purchased several thousand acres on Golden Vale Creek in Essex Co, Virginia (Now Caroline Co). He lived on 130 acres of the land, and used the rest for headright contracts.  At one point he owned 1800 acres as part of his plantation. All this land is now part of the Fort A.P. Hill military training center near the town of Bowling Green, Virginia.  Andrew Sr. was probably a wealthy man by colonial Virginia standards.  He was a tobacco plantation owner, with several slaves and indentured servants, and he (and later his son Andrew Jr.) served in the office of Constable for his part of Essex Co. for a number of years.  Holding an office in the colonial government speaks to the fact that Andrew Sr. was a man of wealth and privilege.

A tobacco plantation, like most colonists, Andrew Sr.'s life revolved around tobacco. The rise and fall of tobacco prices governed not only the wealth of the planters, but also the stability of the government.  At least twice during Andrew Sr.'s life rebellions occurred in Virginia colony directly related to tobacco laws imposed by the British.  It is likely that Andrew Sr. or his son Andrew Jr. were involved in at least one of these rebellions, when in 1714 a group of planters burned British-controlled tobacco warehouses in Williamsburg, where Andrew Sr. took his tobacco to market.  Andrew Sr. was one of a group of planters who sold their tobacco to private warehouses run by free black merchants, who offered better prices than the British government. When the British government tried to ban private wholesalers, the planters rebelled and burned the British-controlled warehouses.  We have no record of Andrew Sr. or Jr. directly participating in any of these rebellions, but it is likely that they were somehow involved as they had a large stake in the matter.  

One of Andrew Sr.'s closest friends was John Battaile, a fellow headright who became his neighbor in Virginia and had remained a close family friend of the Harrisons.  John Battaile had connections to many of the elite members of Virginia colonial society, which both the Battailes and the Harrisons exploited. John had married into two very important families, the Taliaferros and the Smiths, who had received very large grants of land in the colonies and were prominent members of the aristocracy.  In 1708 John Battaile died, leaving his daughter Elizabeth in the care of the Harrisons.  Andrew Sr. was made her guardian.  Two years later, Elizabeth married Andrew Sr.'s son, Andrew Jr.  The couple inherited several hundred acres of land along Golden Vale Creek when Andrew Sr. died in 1718.  Andrew Jr. was a tobacco plantation owner like his father.  He also served as an Essex Co. constable, and later, as an officer in the Spotsylvania county militia and a road overseer for Spotsylvania county. 

The records that survive show that Andrew Jr. was well-connected and a savvy businessman. For example, in 1727, Andrew Jr. was arrested as part of a suit by a business partner, but Andrew used his connections in the colonial government to turn the tables on his opponent. The court record books of Essex Co. contain the following colorful entry: 
"Andrew Harrison, being arrested at the suit of James Gillison, in debt, and he having rescued himself by a superior force out of the sheriff's custody, order is granted to the said plaintiff against the said defendant for what shall appear due at next Court unless the defendant then appear and answer the said suit."  
The next year, Andrew Jr. began courting a group of wealthy landowners in the hopes of receiving a choice land patent. A patent is a grant of unclaimed land.

In December 1728 Andrew Jr. sold 600 acres he had bought in Spotsylvania county to a group of wealthy colonists who included the Colonial Governor, William Gooch.  In exchange, Andrew Jr. received a patent on 1000 acres along Harris Creek in Spotsylvania county, near Fredericksburg, Va.  The land was adjacent to land owned by several prominent members of the colonial militia. Andrew started a new tobacco plantation on this land, which eventually grew to 1800 acres.  The land became a part of Orange County when it was formed out of Spotsylvania. Andrew Jr. lived there for the rest of his life.

In 1747, he deeded 200 acres of the Harris Creek land to his oldest son, Battaile Harrison.  Battaile lived for a time on the land granted to him by his father, but eventually decided to get into the land business for himself.  Battaile used the land given to him by his father, as well as land given to him by his father-in-law in nearby Culpeper county to secure a large land grant in Amherst county, near Lynchburg.  Battaile moved there, where he ran a plantation and also acted as road overseer for a nearby road.  In addition, Battaile ran an inn along the road, a profession which was generally only undertaken by the aristocracy in colonial Virginia.  Battaile was also lieutenant in the Virginia militia. He died in November of 1776 at age 69, so it is unlikely he participated in the Revolutionary War, but likely did participate in skirmishes with local Indian tribes, which were being upset by rapid, illegal expansion by settlers in the Appalachian mountains to the west.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Cheaper by the Dozen

Frank Gilbreth Family
All my life I'd heard that the Finlayson family was related to the Frank and Lillian Gilbreth Family.  Two autographed books were perched upon our bookshelf decade after decade.  The two books were 'Cheaper By The Dozen' and 'Bells on Their Toes'.  The books were written by two of Frank and Lillian's children, Frank Jr and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey.  Both books were made into popular movies in the 1950's.  Cheaper by the Dozen featured Clifton Webb and Myrna Loy and Frank and Lillian Gilbreth.  Bells on Their Toes was released shortly afterward also starring Myrna Loy.

Dad said that Frank Jr was his cousin, but I never knew the lineage.  This morning I took a little time to sort things out.  Here's what I found.

Let's start with my great uncle Henry Wright Finlayson.  He started out a merchant in Cheraw, SC and moved his business to New York.  My grandfather Burruss used to work in his store in Cheraw, and later Henry would help supply goods to his younger brother Burruss' store in Cheraw.  Henry Wright Finlayson married Elizabeth Charity Proffit and had 10 children together.  One of these children was Mary 'Mamie' Finlayson.

Mamie married the Rev. Henry Jennings Cauthen and had 6 children together.  Out of six children, one was a daughter.  Her name was Elizabeth 'Liz' Cauthen.  She married Frank B. Gibreth Jr, the author of Cheaper by the Dozen and Belles on Their Toes.

So to my siblings, Liz Cauthen's relationship is our 2nd cousin.

Above is a photo of the famous Gilbreth family taken in the early 1920's.  You'll notice that there are only eleven children present.  Mary Elizabeth Gilbreth had died of diphtheria in 1912 at the age of 5 years old.  The books gave little reference to her death.  The family never got over the loss of Mary and continued to refer to 'the Dozen'.  They all felt that Mary was always with them in spirit.

Monday, December 10, 2012

no more santa suits

As a little boy I wanted to dress up as Santa.  Once, my father even made me a Santa suit.  He fashioned a beard using a coat hanger, masking tape and white yarn.  I took a bag of candy over to playground and gave away candy.  There was one little black boy who grabbed the bag out of my hand and tried to run away with it.  Using my Santa voice I called after him, stating that the bag of candy would be his only Christmas, and he would only get a lump of coal come Christmas morning.  A few of his young friends were close to me and ran after him, telling him what I had said.  It wasn't long till the little boy came back with the bag and an apology.

The over all experience of playing Santa that day was relatively a enjoyable venture. I have only played Santa two times in my life.  The following story took place later in life when I was in my early twenties.

At the time I was working at this screen printing shop as a graphic designer.  It was a literal sweat shop where I made minimum wage creating original t-shirt designs.  I'd arrive in the morning and pull the To Do jobs clipboard off the wall and get to work until it was time to go.  What made the job so miserable is the heater that cured the ink for the shirts wasn't rigged with duct work to allow the heat to exit the building.  The heat blew directly out of the curer into my direction.  Winters were too toasty and Summers were shear misery.

Anyway, one day one of my employers arrived with a big brown grocery bag.  He told me to quit working, that he had a more important job for me to do.  He said that his wife (school teacher) needed me to dress up and play Santa for her class at Ragland Elementary.  The guy was a real piece of work, so I didn't just jump into it.  He commenced to pulling the red suit out of the bag and told me to put it on.  I politely turned him down, and then he ORDERED me to put it on.  I went back to my desk and started working.

He started getting really irate about it, and started to threaten me with my job.  At that moment my other boss came in and asked what was going on.  Tim told him that I wasn't complying to his demand and Darryl came to my defense and said it wasn't my job.  As it turned out, it was Tim's wife who had asked him to do the dirty Santa deed and Tim figured he'd get out of his job by making me do it.

I don't know why I ended up agreeing to it.  He had been quite the bully about it.  I should have just gone about my business and let a grumpy Santa stomp out the door that day. Darryl told Tim that if he'd asked me nice, then he'd have a better chance at me helping him out.  I guess that was it.  I don't mind being asked, but will dig deep if someone demands the favor.

So I donned the suit and Tim drove me down the road to Ragland.  The school had a lot of kids from lower income family.  Tim and I walked into the building and down a long hall.  We arrived at his wife's classroom door and knocked.  His wife came to the door, little kids were everywhere.  One of them caught a glimpse of me and the class quickly erupted with "IT'S SANTA!"  The teacher pulled up a chair for me and instructed the children to quieten down if they wanted Santa to come in and visit.

I took on the roll pretty easily.  One kid after another came to sit on my lap and told me what they wanted for Christmas.  Everything went fine until the last little pupil.  She had to be coaxed to come near.  I finally got her up on my knee and bounced her a few times.  She was a sweet little girl wearing tattered old clothes.  She had pretty blue eyes that shined from her dirty little face.  I asked her what she wanted for Christmas.  My question was answered only with another question.  She looked up at me and asked, "Why didn't you come to my house last Christmas?"

Santa looked at her speechless with tears welled in his eyes.  Santa wasn't expecting to meet a child who he'd forgotten.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

we read onward

It's been difficult finding time to do our family reading of The Hobbit.  I started the book almost a month ago by reading the first two chapters. We were hoping to read the book before the movie came out.  It's clear we are not going to make it.  We all experienced a touch and go moment with Gina's mother.  She spent two weeks in the hospital and we nearly lost her.  She seems to be doing much better now.

Katie and Kelsey have been occupied with school and the Finlayson family had little time to read together.  Gina spent most of  November almost living at the hospital.  I took care of the home front, doing what ever needed to be done to keep things going.  Before we knew it, December arrived.

Today we had a family day.  We all had a big breakfast together at Cracker Barrel, went to visit grandmother Hale, and then back home to put up the Christmas tree.  The day passed by quickly.  To finish the day off, we had pizza down by the lit tree and then ventured back to Middle Earth together. Tonight Kelsey met Gollum for the first time.  We read Riddles In The Dark.

I always read with voices and dialects.  I am trying on a new voice for Gandalf this time around.  In the past I've used the voice of Sean Connery, but this time I'm giving the old grey wizard the voice of the late great John Houston.  Houston isn't a voice I've used a lot.  If The Hobbit had been made 40 years ago, I think Houston would've made a great Gandalf.

John Houston was an actor, screenwriter and director.  He produced many classics which include The Maltese Falcon, The Treasure of Sierra Madre, Key Largo, The African Queen and The Man Who Would be King.  My wife or kids have no idea who Houston is or his works.

Maybe one day when they do hear him, they'll recognize his voice as my Gandalf.

Houston would've made a great Gandalf.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

the naked tree

Gina and I have been married for twenty-two years.  In that entire time, we've never had a tree topper we liked.  Our Christmases come and go and almost every year we go without one. Usually, this time of year, I'll browse through a few ornament sections in stores to see if there's something that strikes my fancy.  Nothing.  I've come to a place that nothing will ever be satisfactory and we'll end up just going without a tree topper.  Gina feels the same.  Every now and then I'll point one out to her, and she'll say "no".  For some reason, nothing seems good enough to grace the top of our artificial tree.

Growing up, the Finlayson household had an ugly little plastic angel that must have been purchased sometime in the 1950's.  Every year we'd stick it up there, attach it to the top with a pipe cleaner.  I wasn't picky about it then.  I guess it was comforting to see it up there year after year, atop all the trees down through the years.

There were some Christmases we donned the tree with this little dollish looking angel.  It wasn't very pretty and I could never get it straight.  We had purchased it at a Kmart discount bin after a Christmas earlier in our marriage.  Neither of us liked it.  I don't know why we bought it.  For years it just stayed packed away amid all the excess Christmas stuff we never use.

Gina once made a huge bow to go up there, with ribbon that furled down to the base of the tree.  Though it seemed tasteful, it just looked like something out of a magazine.  It was pretty, but just lacked warmth.  I don't know why I've been so picky about it.  It's silly I know.  Everything I've seen seems so gaudy or tacky.  If I do find something that might do - it won't do for Gina.  

For some reason, in the back of my mind, I think of a tree topper as some sort of crown... the crowning glory of the tree.  It should be special.  Nothing seems to be that.  I'm sure our children haven't missed what has rarely been up there.  Perhaps one day when they are married with little ones of their own, their Christmas trees will go topless too.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

vast reality wasteland

What happened to TV while I was away?

About three years ago Gina and I had to drop certain amenities at our household because (a) finances got tight and we had to focus on our debt, and (b) we spent so much time at our office that we didn't have time to watch television at home.  At that time we decided to do away with certain expenses around the house that we knew we could do without.  We ditched Internet, phone and satellite television.

While we had our business, we had to have Internet, so I had access there.  We didn't miss the phone because we HAD to pay out the nose to AT&T for three lines there.  Television we mostly did without.  I had a collection of DVDs, and if we had to watch something different, or I'd (a) go to Red Box, (b) watch for really cheap DVDs to buy or (c) borrow from family members.  I watched from my own collection mostly...over and over again.  Usually television is background noise when I'm working on a project, cleaning house, and napping.

Our clinic went under at the end of August.  My family needed Internet.  My daughter is taking college courses and needed to get online.  I got real tired of driving down the road to jack some WiFi from McDonalds.  I received a basic package deal from Charter Cable for Internet, phone and television back in September and so I got hooked up.

As you can see, I am enjoying the Internet.  The phone though, I don't answer much, because I rarely get a call from family or friends.  I mostly get sales calls.  The first day - sales calls.  Second day - sales calls.  Third day - sales calls. BAH!

I am a little disappointed with the television. What has happened over the last three years since I've been away?  History Channel is now mostly REALITY fact...almost all channels are mostly REALITY TV!  I know there was reality television programs when we dropped television, but this is ridiculous.

Don't get me wrong.  There's a lot of reality shows I like, but they keep showing the same shows over and over and over again.  When I turn on the television show the next day, it's the same shows running back to back, over and over again.  Eventually something's got to change, because this isn't entertainment.