Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Editor's Corner

 


By Mary E. Adair

September 2021

“Let’s strive to be better in September!” ― Charmaine J. Forde


September arrives this year on the heels of Hurricane Ida, a sopping wet gal who blew in on the highest winds seen in the southern USA, causing the weather forecasters to strive to keep a proper worried demeanor while their calculator minds were adding up the stats that were sure to break records, and records have been broken. One, thankfully being fewer lives lost, possibly because of those same weather forecasters diligently warning people far ahead of the actual event thus giving even the procrastinators time to make their safety arrangements.


Our authors hardly mentioned the weather, but with the inevitable Universal consciousness that always presents us with serendiitous moments, both our columnist Pauline Evanosky (Woo Woo) and poet Walt Perryman (Just Rambling Thoughts) urge everyone to watch less TV. Peace of mind and time to do other activites being the core of their advice.


Bud Lemire's poems for this issue are "Dana, My Friend," "Take Time," "Your Profile Picture, and "Be Fair Mask Up." Walt Perryman, our 'Cowboy Poet' at Luckenbach, has one poem titled for that fair community, and two more besides the one mentioned previously: "Hospice Nurses" and "No More Crying."


John I. Blair sent one poem, "Plans" which fits many of us. Bruce Clifford shares three of his titled: "Saints and Sinners," "How Long," and "Please Give Me a Moment ."


Mattie Lennon (Irish Eyes) expresses his interest in the new book from Pauline Clooney and includes some of her own life amd experiences. He adds news and some remembrances about a friend, now 91 and going strong. Marilyn Carnell (Sifoddling Along) intrigues us with the names still being used for townships in her corner of Missouri, the SW corner to be exact which is where MacDonald County is located.


Thomas O'Neill (Introspective) entertains us with a loving tale about his grandfather Red O'Neill, an Irishman who lived in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. Rod Cohenour (Cooking with Rod) gears up with a couple of "keeper" recipes and an adaptation of a Italian dish he calls "Halos and Horns."


Judith Kroll (On Trek) who gives great advice, reminds us that we are all One. Melinda Cohenour (Armchair Genealogy) continues to help with the technical data and how to master it while chasing DNA shared matches that Ancestry collates with their vast resources. John I. Blair (View from My Back Steps) found more enticing pics of various plants one might encourage if they choose to "reWild" their garden as he is doing with his.


Mike Craner and wife Susie, dear friends, support and assist in our efforts to keep this informational and entertaining publication viable despite the many demands, business, family, and personal in their lives. I admire and bless them every day. Thanks, Mike, for keeping our pencilstubs perking along.

We will see you in October!

Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.
This issue appears in the ezine at www.pencilstubs.com and also in the blog www.pencilstubs.net with the capability of adding comments at the latter.


View from My Back Steps

 

By John I. Blair


Rewilding my Garden

From ragged lawn to dense woodland – that’s the trajectory my urban yard has been on for the past 35 years. When we bought this house, it was for the often charming interior with its large family room, massive fireplace and hearth, built-in bookcases, and window views. But the window views at that time were of a, frankly, rather ratty St. Augustine grass lawn, a scattering of poorly chosen and poorly cared for shrubs, and a couple of dead trees.


I’m not accusing the previous owner of being a gardening slob –he was, shall I say, gardening challenged.


Being at the time in my energetic and ambitious mid-40s I immediately took on the job of converting that scene into a network of richly planted flower beds, accented by some new trees and a variety of ornamental shrubs and vines. It took years and a toll on my spine, but I got ‘er done, only to find that a garden that ambitious took almost daily maintenance – weeding, watering, trimming, replanting. And after 20 or so years of inevitable changes in my garden, I began to reconsider what I was doing.


I was “rewilding” my yard.


The concept of “rewilding” is one that evidently has been slowly developing over the past half-century or more, mostly in Europe, but also in America. Books in my home library such as “The Language of Trees”, “The Cast Iron Forest”, “The Natural Habitat Garden” and more immediately Isabella Tree’s “Wilding” about the work she and her husband have been doing with their old estate in England, plus Paul Jepson’s and Cain Blythe’s recent book “Rewilding” have strongly influenced my outlook on what an urban garden should be doing to improve the general environment, including its wildlife.



aristolochia-fimbriata


“Rewilding” is all about ecological recovery, not about growing cut flowers or establishing a miniature botanical garden. Though that was fun for a number of years.


What I had been gradually doing, by default, as I aged, was just letting things grow that were there and that seemed to thrive without much interference on my part. But that’s not as simple as it sounds in a world where plants (and animals) from all over the world can come into your yard, whether they go well together or not. It’s one thing to welcome oaks and elms and hackberries, coralberries and beauty berries, dogwoods, and redbuds into your home environment. But what do you do about the Asiatic jasmine, Asian honeysuckle, Siberian privet, Chinese wisteria, crepe myrtle, etc. that you may also have there? We are the heirs of hundreds of years of a gardening tradition that welcomes plants based on how pretty they are rather than how well they fit into the native ecosystem where you live? How do plants that evolved for millions of years on the other side of the world fit in with birds, insects, and animals that did not evolve in those same places – that, in fact, may not even be able to utilize your foreign plants as food sources or even recognize them as potential food?



Symphoricarpos_Proud_Berry_coralberr


Have you ever noticed that apparently nothing eats the leaves of privet bushes? Or of Asian jasmine? That may sound like a fine thing – it means they grow very well in an American garden. But what also means is that our native wildlife goes hungry in the presence of what’s often a jungle of exotic plants. Not just the “pests” but also the butterflies, the birds, the bees.


The number of birds in the United States and Canada has declined by 3 billion, or 29%, in the past 50 years alone. And that’s just one example of the devastation we’ve been living through, often without even noticing it more than just marginally. “Gee, we sure used to have more robins and goldfinches around here when I was a kid.” Yes, you did.



callicarpa-beautyberry


And one of the worst offenders here is the almost universal “worship” of the “perfect lawn” – usually made of grasses that aren’t even natives of North America (like the almost universal St Augustine grass common here in Texas).


There is solid scientific evidence that much of the world prior to about 40,000 years ago was a range of savannahs rather like those in South Africa, with a scattering of woodlands and a lot of scrublands and prairies – all maintained by a huge number of “megafauna” animals like giant bison, mastodons, mammoths, rhinos, camels, horses, deer, elk, antelope. And then much or most of the megafauna animals disappeared – likely as the result of overhunting. Our killing off the bison herds in the Great Plains was just the last of many similar events.



Real-tree-deer-hunting-dogwood


So, how does that apply to my suburban backyard? I obviously can’t keep sheep or deer on my ¼ acre lot with its small house. But what can I do?


What I actually have done (and they are baby steps, to be sure) is to encourage the growth of more native plants such as oaks, redbuds, coralberries, beautyberries, wild roses, Mexican petunias, spiderwort, snailseed, greenbrier. I’ve almost completely eliminated my former lawn areas, with just a gesture toward a small lawn in front to keep the neighbors happy. I’ve planted a lot of native perennials and shrubs such as lyreleaf sage, Louisiana irises, Mahonia, Dutchman’s pipe, and hollies.



Mexican-Petunia


As a consequence I have almost year-round flowers, I rarely have to water artificially except for spot watering around a few of the smaller flowers. I have native butterflies such as pipevine swallowtails, a variety of bees and bumblebees and birds.



Spiderwort


And in recent years I’ve been regularly visited by raccoons and opossums, in addition to the fox squirrels that have always been here thanks to the profusion of nut trees in this naturally wooded area.



Carolina-Snailseed


All the rich foliage in my little garden has almost certainly had a positive effect on the balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide in the immediate area; the soil in my yard (where I never throw away a single leaf at any time of the year) has been regenerated from what was, in some areas, bare yellow clay to a thick layer of sandy loam filled with huge earthworms and other insect life, returning all the nutrients to the earth after they have passed through the plants. It may be a “messy” yard, but it’s a healthy yard. And both fun and rewarding to live in.



Sawgreenbrier


While you may not be ready for the near-jungle I have now, you might consider the concept of “rewilding” yourself and how it might be applied to your own yards and gardens. Pic below is of a Post Oak Grove.


Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

 

Armchair Genealogy

 

By Melinda Cohenour

The Quest is Ongoing

This month has been both fulfilling and frustrating. With more than 100,000 DNA matches, it is a struggle to identify relationships for my own DNA test not to mention my efforts to properly manage two additional tests.


That being said, the process of investigating the matches and learning about my relatives is filled with both boredom and with occasional glimpses of some really fascinating lives.


In addition to this ongoing quest to identify my DNA matches relatives, I am also dedicated to breaking down the critical brick walls that have blocked completion of five distinct lines of descent. These efforts have been detailed in a few prior columns. This month I've focused on attempting to identify the biological father of the woman who gave birth to my first grandchild. The exciting news is that I've had a breakthrough.


The closest non-paternal match for my grandson's DNA test was identified generically as a solid 1st or 2nd cousin. For those of you familiar with DNA testing, you will know matches are listed by what is statistically the most common relationship. However, as I've written before, depending upon the number of centiMorgans, the length of matching segments, and the percentage assigned the match, multiple possible relationships exist.


In this case, the close match reveals 1st – 2nd Cousin | Mother's side13% shared DNA: 917 cM across 34 segments. Sound like Greek? Let me provide some information.


A centiMorgan is a unit used to measure genetic linkage. One centiMorgan equals a one percent chance that a marker on a chromosome will become separated from a second marker on the same chromosome due to crossing over in a single generation. It translates to approximately one million base pairs of DNA sequence in the human genome. Source: https://www.genome.gov/genetics-glossary


CentiMorgan is named after an American geneticist named Thomas Hunt Morgan. He worked on fruit flies, and he defined the capacity of one part of a genome to separate from another in going from one generation to another. And that's important because in every generation chromosomes exchange pieces of information, and that's called recombination. And that's important for introducing genetic diversity into the population. And it was necessary to define a rate at which this happens, and so that's where this term centiMorgan comes from. "Centi" means just one-hundredth of, and so if a "Morgan" represents the total recombination where all markers of one part of a chromosome will become separated from all others, then a centiMorgan is the length of DNA over which that happens only one out of a hundred times, or one percent of the time. So one percent recombination equals a centiMorgan. It depends on individual genomes what the distance that a centiMorgan represents, and in individual genomes is different from fruit flies and zebrafish and bananas and humans, but given the recombination rate in humans, it represents about a million base pairs in the human genome.

Source: https://www.genome.gov/genetics-glossary/CentiMorgan (Christopher P. Austin, M.D.)


What's a Genome?


Genome is a fancy word for all your DNA. From potatoes to puppies, all living organisms have their own genome. Each genome contains the information needed to build and maintain that organism throughout its life.


Your genome is the operating manual containing all the instructions that helped you develop from a single cell into the person you are today. It guides your growth, helps your organs to do their jobs, and repairs itself when it becomes damaged. And it’s unique to you.

Source: https://www.genome.gov/About-Genomics/Introduction-to-Genomics


DNA testing has become the subject of many television shows, movies, and books not to mention the proliferation of websites providing avenues for personal elucidation regarding your genetic makeup and relation to matching tests.


But, DNA is tested for many purposes. Here is a synopsis of those tests and their use:


What is genetic testing?


Genetic testing consists of the processes and techniques used to determine details about your DNA. Depending on the test, it may reveal some information about your ancestry and the health of you and your family.


Predictive testing is for those who have a family member with a genetic disorder. The results help to determine a person’s risk of developing the specific disorder being tested for. These tests are done before any symptoms present themselves.


Diagnostic testing is used to confirm or rule out a suspected genetic disorder. The results of a diagnostic test may help you make choices about how to treat or manage your health.


Pharmacogenomic testing tells you about how you will react to certain medications. It can help inform your healthcare provider about how to best treat your condition and avoid side effects.


Reproductive testing is related to starting or growing your family. It includes tests for the biological father and mother to see what genetic variants they carry. The tests can help parents and healthcare providers make decisions before, during, and after pregnancy.


Direct-to-consumer testing can be completed at home without a healthcare provider by collecting a DNA sample (e.g., spitting saliva into a tube) and sending it to a company. The company can analyze your DNA and give information about your ancestry, kinship, lifestyle factors and potential disease risk.


Forensic testing is carried out for legal purposes and can be used to identify biological family members, suspects, and victims of crimes and disasters.


In prior columns your author has explored exciting advances and successful identification and prosecution of violent criminals. The recent identification, arrest, and prosecution of one of America's most prolific rapist/murderers known by several monikers but most recognized as the Golden State Killer was covered in this prior column: Armchair Genealogy on Pencil Stubs Online, pencilstubs.com


Remember: "A centiMorgan is different from the physical units we use in everyday life, such as inches or kilometers. It is less of a physical distance and more of a measurement of probability. It refers to the DNA segments that you have in common with others and the likelihood of sharing genetic traits. The ends of shared segments are defined by points where DNA swapped between two chromosomes, and the centiMorgan is a measure of the probability of getting a segment that large when these swaps occur." Source: https://www.familysearch.org/blog/en/centiMorgan-chart-understanding-dna/


As has been said, the greater the number of cMs and segment lengths, the closer the relationship. Also, the possible relationships are fewer as the cMs increase.


The cM measurement is actually given as a sum of all the various segment lengths that match. The closer the relationship, not only will the combined length of all segments be greater, but the lengths of the individual segments will be greater.


In one example, two charts demonstrate that definition. pic


Source: https://genetics.thetech.org/ask-a-geneticist/centimorgans-vs-shared-segments


Here you see a typical Parent/Child relationship where 23 matching segments are lengthy and, when combined, add up to 3,718 cMs.


When one considers that 3.2 BILLION base pairs containing some 30,000 genes make up the human genome thus creating our 23 chromosomes, we can begin to comprehend the complexity of our genetic constitution. Another factoid:


CentiMorgans: length of DNA


The length of a piece of DNA is measured in centiMorgans. The total length of all your chromosomes combined is around 7400 cM.


Since a person inherits half of their DNA from each parent, you share about 3700 cM with each parent. The exact number for each parent/child relationship can vary slightly, but not by a lot.


Each human inherits 50% of their genetic makeup from each parent, each of whom similarly inherited 50% from each of their parents ... meaning you will inherit roughly 25% of your genetic makeup from your grandparents.


The following illustrates a typical DNA result for Grandparent/Grandchild test:


Source: https://genetics.thetech.org/ask-a-geneticist/centimorgans-vs-shared-segments


Given all this complex information concerning DNA test results, it requires more than the test result numbers to substantiate a confirmed relationship given ONLY the numbers.


All this to introduce my recent breakthrough investigating the close (VERY close) DNA match for my grandson. There are several possibilities as defined by Ancestry:


"Possible DNA relationships"


This table shows the percentage of the time people sharing 917 cM have the following relationships:


Percent Relationship
99%
1st cousin
Great-grandparent
Great-grandchild
Grandaunt/granduncle

Less than 1%
Grandparent
Grandchild
Half sibling
Aunt/uncle
Niece/nephew

Less than 1%
1st cousin 1x removed
Half 1st cousin
2nd great-grandparent
2nd great-grandchild"

Finally, the breakdown of possible relationships based on centiMorgan quantity came from my DNA matches on Ancestry. Source: Ancestry.com.


Now, it is necessary to examine the match using vital facts, documents, and LOGIC. Much as detectives must use the scale of Motive, Opportunity, and Means, to advance a theory of NPE (non-parental event) mating we genealogists must determine Proximity, Age and Dates, and Potential commonality. In other words, build a tree, research FACTUAL documents, and make sure the suspected mystery biological parent shared time and space with the known parent and that they could logically expect to have joined with that known parent to produce a child.


That's where I now find myself - at the crossroads just in advance of naming the suspected father! Stay tuned, I shall write a few notes to the closest Shared Matches in an attempt to gain knowledge through personal stories should I be fortunate in making contact. In the meantime, please take advantage of your opportunity to do your own Armchair Genealogy.


Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

Cooking with Rod

 


By Rod Cohenour

Saints and Sinners?
Heaven and Hell?
Wings and A Trident?
Halos and Hooves?
Angels and Devils?
Halos and Horns?

No matter how you name it, it is magnifico ... delicioso ... Perfecto!!

Italian cuisine is as varied and wonderful as any on this planet. One of my most well loved dishes is one even the Italians swear is hellaciously warm. The dish? Creamy tender chicken breasts, seasoned to perfection, nestled in angel hair pasta and smothered in a sauce that can only be described as "Heaven gets a little naughty!"

As usual, this is a meal perfected in collaboration with my wife who enjoys being a foodie as much as do I. This is our take on the classic Chicken fra Diavolo or Chicken with Brother Devil's Sauce.

Although we set forth the spices and herbs I used in preparing this dish recently, my wife has a fail-safe recipe for her homemade blend for Italian seasoning. The recipe (included below) makes enough seasoning for many uses and keeps well. Mix this up and you can simply use a bit to season the chicken before adding it to the skillet as well as the bit used to enhance the sauce.

Accompany the Halos and Horns with some crispy garlic bread and a chilled antipasto salad, melt a few slivers of mozzarella on each chicken breast if you choose. Dare to prepare.

Bon appetit~!

Halos and Horns


Ingredients:

  • 1 large or 2 medium bell peppers, diced medium
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • Butter flavored PAM style spray for skillet
  • 1 lb, 13 oz (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes in tomato puree, unsalted
  • 1 10 oz. can diced tomatoes and green chiles (Rotel style or use Rotel)
  • 1 can 28 oz unsalted tomato sauce (plain or opt for fire roasted or Italian style with more peppers and onions. Reduce Italian spices listed below if using the Italian style sauce, however. Taste test.)
  • 3 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 8 breasts). Best option are flatter pieces of fairly uniform size for even cooking
    SEASON NOTE: Use Ms Homemade Italian Seasoning on chicken breast pieces before adding to skillet. OR use the following mixture of spices and herbs:
  • Dash of red pepper flakes if you like the heat.
  • 1 Tbsp granulated garlic
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp fresh ground peppercorns
    PASTA NOTE:
  • 1 lb pkg angelhair pasta
  • Water as per pasta directions
  • 2 Tbsp sweet creamery butter (or margarine)
  • 2 Tbsp dried parsley (reserve 2 tsp for garnish)


Instructions:

1. Spray 16" electric skillet. Heat to 350°. Add bell pepper and onion to saute. When onion has become translucent, add canned tomato trio. Stir to blend. Sprinkle some of the Italian style spices over sauce. Stir. Cover.

2. Season chicken breasts with spices. Place breast pieces evenly around skillet. Chicken pieces should be partially submerged in sauce. Lower temperature to about 300° (medium heat). Cover skillet and allow to simmer about 20 minutes, turn chicken pieces. Cover. Allow to simmer about another 15 to 20 minutes. Chicken is done when thickest part is pierced and no juice or CLEAR juice emerges. Turn off heat. Cover to keep warm while plates are prepared.

3. Prepare pasta per package directions while chicken and sauce are in final cooking stage. When tender, drain. Add butter or margarine and toss. (This prevents pasta from becoming sticky and clump and imparts a delicious flavor.) Add about 1 Tbsp dried parsley. Toss.

4. To plate, spiral angelhair pasta on dish with a slight lip (this is a saucy dish). Top with chicken breast. Spoon fra diavalo sauce over chicken and pasta. Sprinkle with dried or shaved parmesan cheese. Garnish with dried parsley (can opt for fresh basil leaves, parsley, or green onion tops as your garnish.)

Serves 4 or 8, depending on appetites. (See pic below.)

Best served with a crusty bread, chilled salad with dressing of your choice, and a cold drink, tea or lemonade are especially tasty.

* * * * *

Ms Homemade Italian Seasoning Blend
  • 2 Tbsp dried oregano leaves
  • 2 Tbsp dried sweet basil leaves
  • 2 Tbsp dried parsley leaves
  • 2 Tbsp granulated garlic OR 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp cumin OR 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp marjoram OR 2 tsp ground sage
  • 1 Tbsp rosemary
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp freshly ground peppercorns (fine grind)

Using a small food processor, add rosemary to break up the little needle-like leaves. Using on/off method (pulsing) process until stems and leaves are chopped to a palatable size. Add oregano, basil, red pepper flakes, and ground peppercorns. Continue pulsing until of a medium grind.
(NOTE: I prefer to have the leafy dried herbs in larger size; I don't even process the parsley and if my oregano and basil are stem-free I don't process them either).
Empty food processor into a small bowl. Add remaining herbs and spices. Whisk together. Put entire mixture into a clean DRY jar. Seal with tight-fitting lid.
Store in a dark, cool pantry or cabinet. Makes about 14 Tablespoons seasoning. Should store safely for up to 6 months if kept in airtight container in the cool, dry shelf or spice drawer.
Use to make herbed chicken, spaghetti sauce, to season grilled vegetables, a salad dressing, lasagne - any dish calling for Italian seasoning.


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Woo Woo

 

By Pauline Evanosky

How to Find Time for Dreams
and Ideas to Implement Them

Sometimes, I think, it is difficult to feel balanced. I refer to the times we live in as being dangerous, fraught with worry, and for the most part depressing as all get out. But if you think about it, the times when others lived would likely have been the same.


How do you change a sense of anxiousness to a more serene existence? I think you must make an effort to do so. This is about balance.


Imagine if you lived before the telegraph was widely used in the 1840s. The only news you got was from travelers. It was likely that news would be old by the time you learned of it. I think people who lived then would not have felt the same onslaught we feel as we hear bad news so much of the time. Now, I think that takes a toll on a person.


What if you were to limit the time that you expose yourself to any sort of news? There is not much good that is on the news these days. What if we were to turn our phones off for part of the day? Jobs encroach upon people’s free time. Perhaps the co-worker or boss who is emailing you or calling you is thinking, “Oh, while I’m thinking of it I will send this request and they can think about it tomorrow while they are working.” The person receiving the call will take the energy to read or listen to your message at 8:30 pm Saturday night. Then, they are going to go to bed and at 2:00 am will awaken to think about it some more. There, you’ve managed to disrupt their sleep. So, not nice behavior as far as I am concerned. What can a person do against this sort of commonly accepted activity?


Turn their phones off and do not look at any texts or emails that come in during the times they are not working. Just do it. Granted, to get ahead you’ve got to lower all the barriers to a private life and invite anybody and everybody to rob you of the time you want to use to do something, but why? For what? Just turn your phones off, don’t look at news on the Internet, and do something else?


Do what? Everybody has something other than work to do. Or, you should. What long-lost dream have you stopped thinking about? Work has a place in your day. Dreams should have the same standing and get the same respect. If you work 8 hours in a day, you could devote 6 hours to your dreams. Then, you’ve got 10 hours to sleep and for chores. Can you carve some time out of your day to pay attention to your dreams?


I should think you could. I found many years ago that if I wanted to write while I was working a good time to do that would be to awaken at 3 or 4 am. Then, I could have 2 or 3 hours before work to spend time on something that was much closer to my heart than work was. Work paid the bills, so yes, it was important. But I did not have to allow it to be present at other times.


This is not to say that I was completely successful in stopping my mind from thinking about work-related issues at times when I was not getting paid. Sometimes, the answers to thorny problems would come to me in the dead of night just because I was calm enough to let them through.


But you get the idea. If you schedule a doctor’s appointment you will be there. If you are going to get your hair done you will plan on spending an hour or so at the salon or barbershop. You already go to work. Plan on spending some time on your dreams.


I’m not telling you what your dreams are. Imagine when you retire. Lots of people include being able to retire and live comfortably when they are young. Others do not. Imagine what you would like to do when you are retired.


Now, imagine you will paint, work on cars, carve, draw, sew, crochet, or volunteer your time somewhere. Think about those dreams. Would you like to sing? Now’s the time to get a voice coach or learn how to read music. Do you want to write? Learn how. You need to read a lot too. That all takes time. Include those activities in your dreams.


And utilize the Internet. As the years have gone on there are more and more people who have offered to teach folks all sorts of things online via YouTube.com. Not all of them cost money. In fact, you could probably learn a lot of basic stuff from free sites and then, if you want to get certified in these dreams pay some money.


Here are a few resources I already use.

Google.com is your friend. You can find out what that funny spot on your shoulder might be to a recipe for meatloaf surprise or the steps necessary to start selling the stuff you make on Etsy.com

YouTube.com for pretty much any subject under the sun. Reddit.com for community and other people interested in subjects you are interested in.

Khanacademy.com The founder Sal Khan wanted to help his niece with some math homework. What evolved has become a collection of more than 6,500 videos on all sorts of subjects. None of that costs anything. Time Magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world. So, this is worth checking out no matter how old you are. I am currently taking an Algebra 1 course on KhanAcademy.

Canva.com This is an online website that helps you create signs, Facebook posts, or whatever you want to have that has pictures in it. There is the basic free membership and a pro version that costs. There is a bit of a learning curve, but again, tons of videos on Youtube.com to get you up to speed, and if you eventually use the designs to decorate a webpage or to make flyers for groups you belong to it is worth it. The paid version is $120 a year for 5 people.

Udemy.com I wait for their sales and stock up on courses to take. Any subject under the sun almost. It is just tantalizing to take a course that normally costs $250 and only pay $9.99 for it. Take a look to see what is available, get on their mailing list and wait for a sale.

Edx.com for University courses. Yes, you can take university-level courses for free. They might start on specified dates, so do check them out.

Try to live a balanced life and allow your dreams to flourish.

Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.