Christmas Gifts

One of the best parts about working is being able to mix with a diverse group of people and age groups. I am lucky enough to work closely with someone a lot younger who makes everyday so much more fun because she makes me laugh. She is serious about her job though and can outsell me any day of the week; she pursues her potential customers with such tenacity that I tell her they will have to get into the witness protection program to get away from her! She has lots of great stories about herself growing up and this is one of my favorites and it’s the perfect time of year to tell it. Merry Christmas!

At Dayna’s house Santa Clause placed the Christmas presents under the tree on Christmas Eve. Dayna had an older sister so there were two separate piles: one for each girl. Dayna loved Christmas and the thought of those presents sitting under the tree was too much for this inquisitive, mischievous girl to handle. What if she just crept down the stairs and had a peek at some of the gifts Santa had left? So very, very carefully she tiptoed down the stairs and there before her eyes were two large piles of gifts. Santa always left Dayna’s pile to the right and her sisters to the left side of the tree. She moved closer to her pile and couldn’t resist the temptation to just lift the paper up and take a little look inside one of the presents. What she saw under the wrapping paper wasn’t exactly what she had been hoping for; indeed a globe was definitely not something she had asked Santa for .The Peek A boo Doll wasn’t what she wanted either (she thought it looked pocessed with those huge wide open eyes). She moved over to her sisters’ pile and found two perfect gifts, a stereo and roller skates. Now this was more like it. Dayna realized what had to be done and switched her unwanted gifts with the gifts that were so much more to her liking from her sister’s side. What a Christmas she was going to have!! She went back to bed happy in the knowledge that all would be well tomorrow. The next morning came and everyone was up bright and early. Mom and Dad were sitting on the couch with their cup of coffee when the girls walked into the room. Before she had even reached the tree Dayna could see that something was seriously amiss. The gifts have been moved back to their original piles…Santa must have seen everything! Would he ever bring her Christmas gifts again? At that moment she vowed to herself that she would be sooo good for all of the coming year (which, of course, only lasted a few days). Her Mom and Dad, of course, were the picture of innocence! It was indeed a Christmas quite unlike any other.

Free Genealogy on the Web

There are many people who don’t like the notion that companies are making money off our ancestors. I couldn’t agree more. Also, what gives Governments the right to ask me to pay for my own family’s records? There is yet another grass roots movement on the web to undermine these corporations and I love it. Free databases are springing up through the tireless efforts of like-minded people. Praise goes to those volunteers who are working diligently to enter the data. The idea that individuals are working away like an ant colony is exactly in tune with modern developments on the web. There are millions of people independently working to take back what is their own. Following is a list of my favorites:


WorldGenWeb Project -The mother load


FreeBMD -UK Roots-web project

UK Census On Line -Census Roots-web project.

UK Parish Records -UK Roots-web Parish Records.

British Isles GenWeb Project -The UK mother load.

US & Canada

MyHeritage -You will find databases here that you don’t even know exist. The search is free. The search engine results will show a long list of databases, not all will be free and some will surprise you.

Ellis Island -Free search for immigrants.

The Olive Tree Genealogy -Very hit or miss and not totally free.

Genealinks -US marriages site.

Ancestor Search -More free stuff including passenger lists. This is a genealogy search engine and the results often seem to end up at Fine if it hits you.

GeneaBios -US site for historical biographies.

StumbleUpon -This is a social networking site with a genealogy group. People in the group like posting their favorite links. Not all free of course. You do have to join (free) to access the groups.

Personal Blog Sites

Personal sites with all sorts of information and great links:



The Genealogue


If you know of other sites I would really appreciate you letting me know.

Favorite Christmas Song Collections

Christmas music is an important part of family gatherings all over the world and as traditional as the tree and all the trimmings. Most people have one song or carol that says Christmas more than any other. The biggest selling Christmas Song ever is Bing Crosby’s recording of White Christmas, which has sold over 100 million copies around the world. Here is a list of Christmas music worth listening to from all genres and some of my favorites:

  • The Great Voices of Christmas. This is my personal favorite and the one that says Christmas to me. Luciano Pavarotti and Leontyne Price are among the artist on this album of classical favorites. Beautiful voices and wonderful music make this a must for my collection.
  • Simply The Best Christmas Album. I like this one because it’s a mix of classical Christmas favorites from Bach and Vivaldi and standard Christmas favorites from a variety of artists. Great album with over 2 hours of music
  • Peace On Earth / Little Drummer Boy [CD-Single]. Performed by David Bowie & Bing Crosby. A very unlikely pairing produced another one of my favorite Christmas songs. It was originally performed on a 1977 Christmas special and is a beautiful rendition of a classic song. Simple but great.
  • Christmas Time Again. I wanted to include a rock’n’roll Christmas album and this is a great one. The album has plenty of typical Skynyrd here but it also has some surprises. I liked the sensitive, acoustic instrumental treatments of Greensleeves
  • A Rock N’ Roll Christmas. Another one for the Rock “N” Roll fans. Nice mix of the punkish Father Christmas (Santa gets beat up!) by The Kinks, Chuck Berry’s bluesy “Merry Christmas Baby.” and Elvin Bishop’s funky arrangement of “Silent Night”. I liked Jon Bon Jovi’s version of “I Wish Everyday Could Be Like Christmas”
  • A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector. Darlene Love, The Crystals, The Ronettes, Bob B. Soxx And The Blue Jeans, contribute on this timeless album. A classic oldie from 1963 and one that I bring out every year.
  • If Every Day Was Like Christmas. Whether you are an Elvis fan or not you’ll appreciate this album. It includes all of the Christmas songs Elvis recorded. I particularly like his version of “Silent night”
  • Now That’s What I Call Christmas! If you want an album that has it all then this is a great Christmas album. It has a good selection of the old and new and is another that gets lots of playing time.
  • Diana Krall: Christmas Songs. A great album for anyone who likes listening to Diana Krall s sultry smooth voice singing holiday standards like “Let it Snow “ and “Jingle Bells”
  • A Very Special Christmas. This album was released in 1987 to benefit the Special Olympics. In my mind it’s also the best in the series. Some of the great performers on the album include Whitney Houston, Stevie Nicks, Sting and Bruce Springsteen.

Happy listening!

Empty Nest Syndrome — One Man’s View

There appears to be a category of men that exhibit empty nest syndrome when kids leave home. Some men do, some don’t. Humans span the full spectrum of behavior. I care about my kids and this makes me wonder why I didn’t suffer the syndrome at all. Looking back to the era I came through, dads were expected to be different. Men were the breadwinners, head of the household and disciplinarians. Times have changed and for the better. Roles are more balanced, rather than me having my job and her having hers. I found it easier as my kids grew up and could communicate better. It was harder for me to deal with the young babies than it was dealing with a young child telling me about something they did at school. The ties became stronger as they got older. Then it became an issue of “what will they do next” rather than looking back to what was. Although I was a single wage earner and striving in my career for the longest time, I enjoyed being involved in sports and school activities. (Even the homework!) As I reflect on this, I think there are four main reasons for me not experiencing the syndrome. First, there is great satisfaction in seeing my children continuing on with their lives independently. Second, I am a forward looking person, always planning and looking forward to the next stage. It’s probably the Engineer in me. But this has a tendency to make me view life like a child views Christmas. There is nothing wrong with today but I can hardly wait for tomorrow. I look forward to their tomorrows. Thirdly, my wife is an awesome person who prepared herself long before the kids had left. She had plenty of time since we had four kids and the process of emptying the nest was long and slow. Because we started to have the time, and we both wanted it, we started to reconnect in a different way. That helped me tremendously. Our lives started to change. There was no steep drop off to overcome. Last, we prepared ourselves for a new life. You can see some of the things we did in related posts below. Bottom line is this; change is inevitable and constant. If you spend your time doting on the past then life is passing you by as you dote.

Genealogy — Sometimes You Just Get lucky

I have said before that you really need to spend time on the more recent ancestors to make your data as solid as possible before moving on. Do not take anything for granted, not even your name. I was on various databases searching for my grandfather. I couldn’t find any trace of him other than what my father had told me. In the end I decided to call government offices in Edinburgh, Scotland. This was the greatest experience. First, I had to leave my phone number because I went straight into their messaging system. “We will call you back,” the message said. I live in the USA so I’m thinking “yeah right”. Sure enough the phone rang about 30 minutes later. The Scottish records office had called me back. I was impressed. This was a Saturday morning and what followed was 30 minutes that would save me so much time, effort and frustration. Between us we were able to deduce that my great grandparents spelled their last name slightly different from the way I do. My grandfather, who somehow forgot the spelling of his own name, transposed two letters, which made him impossible to find by simple database interrogation. One of his two wives had corrected his marriage certificates and death certificate so that his name was aligned with his parents, but not to his children or me. The upside of all this is that in a 30-minute phone call I had unraveled the mystery of names and, for the first time, truly known which Scottish Clan I belonged to. That was a great moment. I often talk about hitting a brick wall with ancestors. This is a perfect example. If I hadn’t spent the time and the money I wouldn’t have even understood my own close ancestors, let alone be able to determine ancestors further back

Zara Phillips

Body piercings are not unusual in this day and age but we do not expect to see them on the British Royal family. Zara Phillips isn’t a name that many will recognize here in the states unless you mention her famous mother first. She is the daughter of Princess Anne, granddaughter to Queen Elizabeth. She was in the news this week for appearing in an English commercial that showed her in what many consider a less than royal light. (I think that she had mud on her face) I’m sure that didn’t faze her though. Zara is accustomed to controversy. Her very name caused a stir when it was announced and she has been ruffling feathers ever since. In accordance to her mother’s wishes Zara grew up without the title of Princess. She inherited her parent’s love of horses and excelled in racing, gymnastics and field hockey. She became the European and World Champion in Equestrian Eventing and voted British Sports Personality of the Year for 2006. Her school life was fairly sheltered but a pierced tongue and navel and some wild trips abroad made her the topic for numerous British tabloid headlines. Zara is blonde, attractive, smart, athletic and very photogenic and has become something of a media darling She has a rebellious attitude, which has gotten her into trouble but is generally admired by the press and public. She is able to do something that Princess Diana did so well; Zara is able to connect to the people and bring a breath of fresh air into the stuffy world of royalty .She has changed the tide of public opinion and her popularity with the people in the streets is, surprisingly, echoed by The House Of Windsor. Her willingness to take risks and embrace her philosophy of ‘You only live once so you should do as much as you can’ has proved to be a popular mantra. She lives this philosophy and doesn’t rely on her famous family for support. She is a go-getter with charm and a great sense of humor. So what of the future? It’s true that her more famous cousins, Prince William and Prince Harry are the true key players in how the future will play out for the monarchy, but Zara has a part in this too. Together they have shown that being a part of the Royal family doesn’t mean that you have to be aloof and out of touch. Indeed, their natural charisma and willingness to be a part of a more normal life has endeared them to the public and, perhaps, that is it what will sustain the monarchy in the future. Clearly the pomp and ceremony remains popular with the tourists and provides an enormous economic value to the country. It will be interesting to see how the new royals, with their modern approach, will handle their responsibilities in today’s world. It will be a very different life to the one their parents lived.

Money Saving Sites

This has nothing to do with the empty nest but I needed a place to park my links so I can see them from where ever I may be. This site seemed like a good place. Please leave a comment if you have any others to add. I’ll check back often.

Cheapest Gas in your Area

Enter your zip code at this site and it will give you a list of gas stations, addresses, a map showing all locations, and prices from the cheapest to the most expensive. Great site.

Shopping Comparison Sites in Page Rank Order.

My Simon




See other comparison sites listed at Google Comparison Site Directory

Google Price Comparison Directory

Google product search and shopping directory called FROOGLE


Other Sites


This site offers just one item for sale each day. The sale is over when they are sold out. There will be nothing new until the following day.

Black Friday Ads
Covers the day-after-Thanksgiving day sales and just expanded to include Cyber Monday sales. Lists current sales at stores of all kinds. It’s a great site for once a year

So what have you done today?

As you age it’s easy to settle: to settle into a life style that is comfortable, to avoid challenges, to put off starting new ventures and just to procrastinate in general. After all you have spend a large part of your life getting to this place and it is comfortable. The truth is though if you do stop being inquisitive about life you are sure to miss out the endless opportunities and possibilities that await you. Think about it you have more free time than you’ve had in years, even if you still work fulltime there aren’t as many demands on your time as before. You are probably in a more secure place financial and probably most important you are not afraid to try new things even though there’s a possibility of failure (after all you’ve done that a few times already and life goes on) So what’s stopping you trying something new?. There are plenty of role models out there who not only started new ventures in their later years but also were extremely successful. Take a look at some of these well know people and their achievements:

  • Grandma Moses was over seventy years old when she started to paint. She took it up because arthritis in her hands stopped her from doing embroidery.
  • Ray Kroc had an unspectacular career and suffered from several medical ailments until he realized the potential of the Mac and Dick MacDonald’s business, which they had already begun to franchise, Kroc went into business with them and acquired franchising rights to open a McDonald’s restaurant of his own, in 1955.And as they say “the rest is history”
  • Colonel Sanders the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) started his chicken franchising business in 1952. He was 68 at the time and went on to become one of the largest fast food chains in existence
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder started writing her classic “Little House” book series in 1932 at the age of 65. She wanted to record her memories of her childhood days. The books are now printed in over 40 languages.
  • Dr Anne Spoerry was a remarkable woman who flew herself in a small plane to the far reaches of Kenya and Nairobi to heal the poor and disadvantaged who came to her clinic. The octogenarian Dr Spoerry worked tirelessly till her death in early 1999, having left a mark on the lives of thousands
  • Philip Rabinowitz. On July 10, 2004 he became the fastest centenarian by setting set a new official record in a 100-meter sprint at Green Point Stadium in Cape Town, South Africa.” I don’t want to sit around here and do nothing,” he said.
  • Paul Newman has played many roles in his time as an actor but one of his most rewarding has been as the founder of Newman’ s Own. He started this venture at the age of 63 and has donated all of the company’s profits and royalties, which exceed $200 million, to thousands of charities. Newman is also a fan of auto racing and had his first professional event when he was 53. You can’t keep a good guy down!


  • Jimmy Carter. In 2002 at the age of 82 he won the Nobel Peace Prize. He has also continued his decades-long active involvement with the charity Habitat for Humanity, which builds houses for the needy. Not bad for an old fella!
  • George Bush Sr. Regardless of your politics you have to admire anyone who makes a parachute jump at the age of 73. He said then he had promised himself after his wartime jump that someday he would parachute for fun.
  • Rodney Dangerfield returned to stand-up after a divorce in 1962 at the age of 41. A few years later he created the “no respect” line that followed him for the rest of his life.

So what have you done today?

War and Remembrance

They may be called the greatest generation, I don’t know about that, but I do know they made sacrifices that I can’t even imagine. In fact, it is because of their sacrifice that I did not have to. My parents were young when World War 2 erupted, but old enough to join the battle. One parent was living in Aberdeenshire, Scotland and the other one living near London, England. It could be said that without Adolph Hitler I would not even exist. Scottish troops moved down to South East England and the young people met for the first time. At this time the Battle of Britain was raging and the survival of Britain hung by a thread. The flyboys of the RAF were the only thing between Britain and invasion. Major English cities were bombed. Children were moved out of the cities to live in the country where it was safer. Men were in the armed forces and women went to work in the factories and on the farms because only the older men were left at home. Life in Britain had been turned on its head. Life as we know it did not exist. It was war and survival, plain and simple. During the North African campaign against Field Marshall Rommel, my Dad did get shot but survived. Both mum and dad survived the war; now imagine this. Millions of young men came back home from war to what? They were all looking for jobs, to get married and find a home. This huge transition occurring all at the same time in a country that is on a war footing, not in a free economy. In the ensuing years whole cities were thrown up to house the new families. These were meant to be temporary housing but ultimately ended up permanent. This is where I was raised. There really was a huge baby boom. These children were the first baby boomers. Young people married and moved in with parents until they could find something of their own. It was a total mess. Ultimately my parent’s end point was my start point. Their lives and sacrifices provided my family and I the freedom and springboard to a better future. The satisfaction they had with their lives was born out of the chaos that was the last World War, and they were happy. I can only look back with utter amazement and pride that these people were my parents. I miss you mum and dad. Wish you were here.

Holy Demolition Batman!

What are our greatest assets and some of our most wonderful and beguiling gifts, that enrich our lives and make our world a better place? They are our Grandchildren. What we tend to forget is how important they are to Grandparents. Grandparents as a whole suffer from crusty build up. It starts when our own children leave home and it gradually accumulates over the years. Eventually, it actually clouds our views, dulls our sense of humor and closes our eyes to so many things that children can see so clearly and instinctively know:

  • They are naturally inquisitive. They really want to know all about those ear and nose hairs. Why are they there and how did you get them? They even know that it’s best to ask these types of questions in front of a crowd. Never put a pack of Depends in your grocery cart when you’re out shopping with them

  • They have an inbuilt fashion sense that is totally individual. They know that old Batman suit, complete with cereal stain and mask, is right for just about any place you might want to go (school conferences, Dr’s visits and group pictures) and goes perfectly with shoes that are worn on the wrong feet. (Now you can’t tell if Batman is coming or going) Such a fashion statement!
  • Certain words are hilarious. They all center on bodily functions and are best accompanied by loud vulgar noises. You find that although this is lost during the teenage years it makes a triumphant return for the male when he reaches his twenties and remains there for the rest of his life…pull my finger junior!
  • They are kind to animals. This of course includes bugs, worms, rodents and the like and the will share their bed with them and yours too!!
  • Talking is a skill that should be used as often as possible. It doesn’t matter if you have repeated the same things or posed the question “Why” a hundred times, that’s no reason to quit. And remember that once you see mommy’s eyes rolling in the back of her head, it’s time to move to daddy. A fresh pair of ears always works wonders.
  • Mealtimes are fun. Peas can be put into all sorts of places that grown ups never think off (the nose comes to mind), and macaroni is great when worn. Most vegetables make great ammunition and corn has a great scatter effect. Ice cream and cake however have holy powers and are to be treated with reverence, eaten to the very last bit
  • Helen of Troy’s face launched a thousand ships and daddies girl can get just about anything she wants by flashing those big blue eyes and long eyelashes.
  • Most things in life can pass as toys. A cardboard box, saucepan lids, cushions, bedcovers, mummies make up and best of all, dad’s power tools
  • Love thy brothers and sisters. It’s not necessary to be obvious about this. You can still beat the heck out of your brother knowing that, in your heart you love them. And it’s o.k. to blame them for something you did. You’re pretty sure that dad said it builds character.
  • Water in a bath tub is an enemy but water out of a hose is a friend …a friend that will turn dirt into mud, flood the neighbors yard and put hundreds of dollars on the water bill.

Holy demolition Batman! It’s time to visit Grandma and Grandpa again.