Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Editor's Corner

September 2015

"Unity is strength... when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved." -- Mattie Stepanek. 
Collaboration in its best form for me is when the authors get their work in to be published and it does get released on time. Welcome to poet George Nelson aka geniii, long time chat friend from Spirit Web Chat days - the original chat from Switzerland. He has two tone poems this issue, reflective, whimsical, and the kind to set you to dreaming: "Alchemist" and "The Winds."

Bud Lemire, both poet and photographer, illustrates some of his poetry for September: "It's The Right Move," "Sweat," "The Journal of Life," "The U.P. State Fair Again," "The Ballad of Mike and Bev," and "Fun -eral." The last one there is not depressing but more of a 'what-if' idea.

Phil Hennessy shares another link to You Tube for his poem, "The Words" along with some background on its composition. "You're Looking Right Through Me Again" comes in from Bruce Clifford.

New column this month with "Armchair Genealogy" done as only she can, by your editor's youngest sister Melinda (Carroll) Cohenour. Enjoy! "Introspective" arrives from China authored by Thomas F. O'Neill, giving us some insight into life there. Dublin, Ireland, home of Mattie Lennon our "Irish Eyes" author, is filled with interesting personalities which Lennon brings forth with humor and respect. The "Cooking with Rod" Column with new author, Roderick Cohenour features Arroz con Pollo with his precise instructions including tips gained from long experience.

The article is by our co-founder and webmaster Michael Craner on "Veterans – The Unique Family." Good reading, and with a personal understanding, being a veteran himself.

Rebecca Morris' serial "The Adventures of Ollie Dare" continues with Chapter 5 "Ollie-Dare Goes Camping" for this issue. Share this with your reading youngsters.

Thanks again to Mike Craner for his expertise and patience that allows this little ezine to continue its mission of encouraging writers, experienced and beginners, and to promote reading. TV has done a lot to discourage reading as a pastime, but we are holding fast.

We will be looking for the return of Nancy Park and John Blair, both who let us know Summer activities were at the top of their priorities for the August issue, but expect to be refreshed and ready for writing soon.

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.

Armchair Genealogy

      Genealogy is my passion. I dream of my ancestors and the fascinating lives so many led, the people they encountered, the struggles they faced and the impact they had on the history of our world. Every day I research I find some kernel of wonder, a source of amazement or a chuckle. Some of the stories uncovered leave me in tears but more often my thoughts turn to pride.

      Genealogists create their family trees in a number of ways. Some want “Just the facts, Ma’am” as Sgt. Joe Friday was wont to say – bare bones, direct bloodlines only, names, dates of birth, marriage and death and a list of the offspring. However, one of my favorite researchers is a cousin descended from our common Bullard progenitor from centuries past, Joseph Bullard (some list as Major Joseph Lindsey Bullard, choosing to use his rank as a Revolutionary patriot as well as a middle name attributed to him). This researcher, our modern day Joseph Bullard, does an awesome job, preferring to paint a full portrait of the life and times in which the ancestor struggled with the adversities and met the challenges in his or her path. To my knowledge, this cousin has confined his research to the study of maps, history books, paintings, family documents, court records, newspaper accounts and other documentation for only four individuals thus far: my 5th great grandfather Joseph Bullard, his son John Bullard (4th great grandfather), John’s son Isaac Bullard (next younger brother to my 3rd great grandfather Henry), and Isaac’s grandson, Paris, the researcher’s own direct line ancestor. Of course, he lists seven generations descended from Joseph Bullard, the Patriot; however, the full narrative texts replete with illustrations enlivening each narrative are currently confined to these four individuals. The treatment he has chosen creates more than a sketch, fully a rich tapestry that places the reader in the very midst of each generation’s culture. (See: bullardgenealogy.com )

      My preferred method of research falls, haphazardly – I fear – somewhere in the middle of these two widely opposing processes. First of all, our family tree was an inherited body of work from four primary family groups. My sisters, Mary Carroll Adair, Jacquelyn Carroll MacGibbon and I worked together to build our fledgling tree using the photocopied works handed down to us by our mother, our maternal aunt and their mother, our grandmother Joslin. We had materials from family historians concentrating on four surnames: Bullard, Hopper, Joslin and Godwin. Mary and Jacquie took turns reading to me while I entered the data into our very first digital family tree software application. It was laborious, yes. But, it was also tremendously fun. We marveled together at some of the names, the bits and pieces of history that had found its way into the photocopies and, admittedly, we argued a bit over some of the data and where it actually fit.

      There were mistakes in those original works. Redundancies had occurred as the creators of the histories had either lost their own place in whatever source documents they were using, or typed the same page again after stopping for a day or a week or a month before picking the work up again. Or, maybe they merely worked from oral histories, old letters, best memories of surviving relatives. For whatever reason, my research has resulted in some surprising disillusionment in many cases as I discovered family lore was not always substantiated by documentation.

      And now we come to the reason my tree is a mixture of lineal descent, painstakingly listing names, dates of birth, death, marriage and descendants and … stories. Wonderful stories discovered as I strove to document the lineages first entered. For it is imperative that the genealogist seek to document each fact entered. In today’s world documentation is at our fingertips through the Internet. Just type in a name, a date, a fact and thousands upon thousands of possible sources are offered at the click of your mouse. This is both incredibly helpful and, at the same time, fraught with opportunity for mistakes.

      My chosen method has been to work from my own core family as the starting point, with facts, names, dates and so forth that are known to me and familiar. My siblings, my parents, grandparents and children, nieces and nephews. For my purposes, there are certain sites used constantly all day long: Ancestry, Find A Grave, Family Search, RootsWeb and Google. These are my primary resources, a mixture of relatively cheap and free tools available to me from my “armchair” (you know, that chair with the wheels and arms that sits in front of your personal computer if you are not hooked up with a laptop or notebook computer?)

      Ancestry now has available to its subscribers literally millions of scanned original documents: census records from 1790 forward, including those from states, Indian enrollment lists such as the Dawes registry, military registration cards from the Civil War, each of the World Wars, the Korean conflict and Vietnam, marriage, birth and death certificates and a myriad of other sources. You can even find your more modern ancestors’ names in city directories complete with street address, often the trade or occupation of the primary and the spouse’s name. Never merely enter the data. Take the time to click on the original document. This is particularly informative with old Census documents. Our ancestors did not have the ease of mobility afforded us today. The field of potential mates was relatively small and usually included those whose families traveled cross country in those westward bound wagon trains with our ancestors or living with the neighbors whose farms were enumerated immediately before and after our own folks. The US Federal Census has evolved through the centuries along with our government’s most pressing need for information. The 1790 Census came about as a result of the recognition that the government needed to know the pool of families in each state from which soldiers could be drafted following the Revolutionary War. As tensions with other countries flared or waned, the census questionnaire varied. Perhaps taxation was the most pressing need; thus, queries about values of real and personal property appeared. Then it became clear familial relationships were becoming more difficult to ascertain as the population grew and our forebears migrated in search of richer farmlands, gold, adventure or to protect their family from hostile forces. Search those census records. Be alert for familiar names. I usually scan the immediate page, then at minimum look at the preceding and following pages.

      Find A Grave also affords the researcher immense data. This is the modern armchair genealogist’s answer to the work started by local genealogical societies from centuries past. My grandmother, Carrie Bullard Joslin, finished her chores, doffed her cooking apron, donned her sunbonnet, packed a picnic lunch, grabbed chalk and graphite, onionskin paper and lightweight construction paper and headed to the local cemetery. There she would trace the headstones for hours. She was not alone in this endeavor. Thousands of devotees provided their local historical society with these etchings, which would be turned into lists and made available through local libraries and to their memberships. Today’s tireless contributors use their iPhones and digital cameras to photograph the cemetery entrance, their GPS and maps to provide coordinates and directions for those off-the-path family cemeteries and pics of headstones. These are then researched at home in an attempt to find and utilize obituaries, family trees and other sources to provide as full a list of the persons who have found their final rest in that particular cemetery. Beware. Not all the information is accurate. Not even those dates etched into the stone. Be sure to document these dates by other sources as well. My hat is off to the volunteers who have enriched our lives with their work in this regard!

      Google and other search engines do the work for us across the ether. In the old days, one had to drive to NARA offices, libraries, cemeteries, courthouses and other places to search for hours in the indices for family names, scan microfiche, then handwrite, or pay for photocopies of selected pages. A full day’s work may contribute not much more than a name, a single fact, or nothing. Today, the armchair genealogist has available thousands of potential treasures. I caution again. Never, enter the data without attempting to cross-reference factual content with actual documents to ensure you are not putting someone else’s story into your tree.

      Similarly, the other Internet sources (RootsWeb, Family Search, Fold3, etc.) are replete with the work of other researchers, books that may contain reference to your ancestors, photographs others may have shared, or mention in historic documents.

      Another essential element for me is my printer/scanner. I have begun a project to scan in photographs from old albums. It is a tedious but rewarding project for sure. Many times I cannot identify the faces that look out at me from these yellowed, dog-eared pics of old. Often my attempts have been foiled by the practice of gluing down the photograph in the album, effectively obscuring any notes that may have been made on the reverse. And, to my dismay, I waited too long to begin this process, having lost my mother, her sister and their mother in years past who may have been able to provide those missing facts.

      This brings me to my final (for today) hint for you armchair genealogists: Scan those photos now. Include names, dates, places. Identify, identify, identify. Purchase a digital image editor. Such software provides immeasurable aids to make your photographs clearly legible. Higher resolution scans produce photos that can be viewed as a much larger pic without losing details. Water stains, tears and other damage can often be repaired. The software and a little practice using it is well worth the investment.

      Finally, simply enjoy your efforts. My mixed bag of bloodline relatives and distant in-laws, 8th cousins and so forth has filled my memories with some incredible characters. Most recently, a maternal great-grandfather of my grandmother’s eldest brother’s wife…who happened to be a Lenni-Lenape native American who became known as a Delaware (by the white settlers), a Chief of his tribe who spoke seven languages including perfect English, negotiated with the United States government, made several trips with John Charles Fremont at the behest of the government to California, fought in the Mexican War under Fremont, saved Fremont’s life and the life of his other close friend, Kit Carson, was a personal friend of President Abraham Lincoln and…of Sam Houston. Wow. James Sa-Gun-Dai (Secondine). Look him up. Stretch your imagination. Enrich your life. Become an armchair genealogist, or at the very least, an armchair historian and researcher.

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Cooking with Rod

Cooking with Rod

         At this time of year, all of us are fairly busy. Time for the kids to return to school, lots of changes in moving from relaxed Summer activities to more involved preparations for Fall and Winter.

         It is also the height of chile season. New Mexico cuisine is unique and I was blessed to grow up in the Land of Enchantment and to have been influenced not only by its incredible beauty but its artistry and culinary delights. This is one of my favorite classic New Mexico recipes made simple but retaining the authentic flavor of New Mexico, and prepared with love.

         This simple recipe is one that is sure to please you and your loved ones. Prepare, serve and sit back awaiting your compliments!

Easy Arroz con Pollo

  • 4 Breasts of Chicken, boneless and skinless
  • 3 Tbsp red chile powder (reserve 1 Tbsp)
  • 2 Tbsp ground cumin (reserve 2 tsp)
  • 1 can refried beans (can use low-fat if desired)
  • 1 large bell pepper, diced
  • 1 medium white onion, diced OR
  • 1 bunch green onions, diced using both bulb and green tops
  • 1 8 oz brick of Pepper Jack cheese, freshly grated
  • 4 fresh Hatch Green Chiles
    or if not available 1 can Hatch roasted, peeled green chiles
  • 3 cups Instant rice
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with Hatch green chiles (or use Rotel or store brand)
  • 3 cups water
  • Cilantro leaves, if desired (adds a wonderful freshness to the dish)
    Prepare fresh Hatch chiles: Rinse, place on broiler pan under broiler until skin is wrinkled and blackened (this char is essential to the flavor.) Place warm chiles in a plastic bag, seal and set aside.
    (TIP: make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after handling the peppers and do NOT touch lips, nose or eyes.)
    Prepare chicken breasts: You may wish to spread the chicken breasts out and press them down to ensure the surfaces cook evenly. To these chicken breasts you add 2 Tbsp red chile powder and about half the ground cumin, thoroughly coating both sides with a thin layer of each. Once you have thoroughly coated the chicken breasts with the seasonings, set them on a baking sheet with a rack or a broiler pan and set them aside. Leave for the moment to permit the seasonings to be slightly absorbed by the chicken. While rice (see below) is being prepared, bake the seasoned breasts in 400ยบ oven. Depending upon size, the chicken should be fully cooked in about 30 minutes. (TIP: Chicken is fully cooked if juices run clear when pricked with a meat fork.)
    Mexican Rice

    Prepare my Quick New Mexico Rice: Put can of Hatch (or Rotel) diced tomatoes and green chiles including all the juice in a fairly large sauce pan, add water and the diced bell pepper and most of the onion, reserving about a half cup of the onion for later use. Now add reserved red chile powder and ground cumin to this liquid. Whisk and bring to a boil over medium heat. Once the seasoned mixture is boiling, add 3 cups Instant rice, stir to blend, turn the heat off and cover. After about 10 – 15 minutes, the liquid should have been fully absorbed by the rice. Now, fluff with a fork, cover and set aside. Easy, peasy!
    Prepare refritos: Place can of refried beans in 8” oven and microwave proof casserole dish. Top with reserved onions and enough of the grated Pepper Jack cheese to just cover. Reserve the bulk of the cheese for later use. Heat in microwave or oven until beans are heated through, onion is slightly softened and the cheese is bubbly hot. Set aside.
    Hatch Chiles Prepared
    Finish the Hatch chiles: Remove the cooled Hatch chiles from the plastic bag. Scrape off the easily removable skin, cut off stem end, split each pepper and remove the seeds (also membrane if you don’t want the heat, but leave it in if you do.) Then slice into long strips. (TIP, remember to wash those hands again!)
    Prepare your plates: Spoon about ¾ to 1 cup of the Mexican Rice onto center of the plate, top with one baked chicken breast, cover each chicken breast with grated Pepper Jack cheese. Now place Hatch chile strips over the chicken breasts. Put the plate into a still warm oven for 2-3 minutes to let the cheese melt. Then add refried beans to each plate. Garnish with remaining green onion tops, stand a few crisp tortilla chips up in the beans, sprinkle cilantro leaves over the plate.
One chile on one chicken breast

         This dish is delicious served with a fresh green salad using salsa for the dressing. Serve sides of guacamole, sour cream, more chopped onions, grated cheese, tortilla chips and small ramekins of chile con queso, if desired. Cold iced tea or lemonade is a great heat reliever!

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


      I have been living and working as a Cultural Diversity teacher at the Suzhou International Foreign Language School in Suzhou, China for approximately 13 semesters now. I can honestly say, it has truly been fun and rewarding for me to teach here.

      When teaching I always try to insert humor into my lesson plans but when I first arrived in China. I quickly noticed that American humor is quite difficult for the Chinese to understand. Culturally speaking, what is humorous in one culture may not be entirely understood in other cultures. One reason for that is most humor is language based it’s a play on words and meanings.

      Physical humor on the other hand is universal and comic actors like Rowan Atkinson are very popular here in China. The Chinese, especially children, love watching short movie clips of Rowan Atkinson playing Mr. Bean.

      For me personally, I found out quickly from teaching here that I lack the proficient language ability to tell a good joke in Chinese. When I try to tell jokes to my Chinese students I’m told that I don’t have the right verbal cues that a Chinese person would use to make the jokes hilariously funny. My students do say, however, that I look funny when attempting to tell a joke in Chinese.

      When I was a kid I loved watching the old ‘Abbott and Costello’ movies on TV and part of their comic appeal was their ability to crosstalk, like in their classic, ‘who's on first’ routine. The crosstalk word play is an essential element in the ancient Chinese art of comedy as well. There is a centuries old tradition of Chinese stand-up called xiangsheng (crosstalk) and this sort of comedic art is funny in any culture.

      In most of the old comedy teams in America like ‘Abbott & Costello’ you will find a funny man and the straight guy. The same can be found in China and crosstalk is the major form of the comedy. Crosstalk began in Beijing where some comedic skits go as far back as the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644).

      In the 1960s comedy teams in America such as ‘Rowan and Martin’ used the politics of their day to bring in the laughs but here in China after 1949 political humor was band. Modern times and modern politics have altered what can be funny in China and crosstalk was re-adapted. The humor is rather vanilla; this is the opposite of political satire.

      I have learned also that after 1949 comedians in China had to clean up their humor. They had to get rid of country bumpkin jokes because the peasants were the heroes of the Chinese revolution. Of course, all the sex and bawdiness was gone, too.

      What I find quite interesting though is that many young people here in China love ‘Jiong Situ.’ In English, Jiong Situ, is known as ‘The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,’ Chinese netizens have taken to translating Stewart's show into Chinese and posting his humor online. The Chinese love posting political satire on the internet where they can remain anonymous from the internet police. Jon Stewart jokes are still a long way off from gracing Chinese prime time. His jokes are far too politically sensitive.

      A major source of internet satire in China is aimed at North Korea. In April of this year, a clip of a joke about North Korea went viral in China. Turns out jokes about North Korea are funny to both Chinese and American audiences.

      Improvisational comedy has become quite entertaining in China as well. If you have ever been to an Improv show, it's a pretty familiar scene. The audience shouts out suggestions, the players improvise a scene. Except that here in China players mix English and Chinese together it’s referred to as ‘Chinglish.’

      The topics at the Chinese comedy clubs are rather tame nothing to bawdy or political and I suppose that is a major reason I prefer American humor over Chinese humor. One thing I found interesting though in most of the Improvisational comedy clubs, the Chinese players do not want to be videotaped or recorded due to fear the videos or recordings will be posted online.

      I like to tell my Chinese students that in America, when it comes to political satire, such fear as to what we say or how we say it is unnecessary. We have our freedom of expression and that is something most entertainers in China envy about us Americans.

      I like telling my students that “laughter is the soul’s way of breathing,” it's also a natural healing power for whatever ails us.

      The Chinese have a saying “laughter is the shortest distance between people” and that saying is profoundly true in any culture.

      Humor has always been a perfect art form for connecting with others and I try to make the best of it in my classes here in Suzhou, China.
    Always with love from Suzhou, China
    Thomas F O’Neill
    U.S. voice mail: (800) 272-6464
    China Cell: 011-86-15114565945
    Skype: thomas_f_oneill
    Email: introspective7@hotmail.com
    Other articles, short stories, and commentaries by Thomas F. O'Neill can be found on his award winning blog, Link:

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

Irish Eyes


“Shakespeare never has six lines together without a fault."

      Now what do you think of that? And who said it? Those words were written by Dr Samual Johnson. But my friend Pat Cavanagh, a member of Mensa and an all-round genius doesn’t agree. He has emailed me a list which is entirely made up by connecting phrases and quotes attributed to William Shakespeare, and I think it is very clever. Pat asks me to give some of the credit to Bernard Levin:
“If you cannot understand my argument, and declare "It's Greek to me", you are quoting Shakespeare; if you claim to be more sinned against than sinning, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you recall your salad days, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you act more in sorrow than in anger; if your wish is father to the thought; if your lost property has vanished into thin air, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you have ever refused to budge an inch or suffered from green-eyed jealousy, if you have played fast and loose, if you have been tongue-tied, a tower of strength, hoodwinked or in a pickle, if you have knitted your brows, made a virtue of necessity, insisted on fair play, slept not one wink, stood on ceremony, danced attendance (on your lord and master), laughed yourself into stitches, had short shrift, cold comfort or too much of a good thing, if you have seen better days or lived in a fool's paradise -why, be that as it may, the more fool you , for it is a foregone conclusion that you are (as good luck would have it) quoting Shakespeare; if you think it is early days and clear out bag and baggage, if you think it is high time and that that is the long and short of it, if you believe that the game is up and that truth will out even if it involves your own flesh and blood, if you lie low till the crack of doom because you suspect foul play, if you have your teeth set on edge (at one fell swoop) without rhyme or reason, then - to give the devil his due - if the truth were known (for surely you have a tongue in your head) you are quoting Shakespeare; even if you bid me good riddance and send me packing, if you wish I was dead as a door-nail, if you think I am an eyesore, a laughing stock, the devil incarnate, a stony-hearted villain, bloody-minded or a blinking idiot, then - by Jove! O Lord! Tut tut! For goodness' sake! What the dickens! But me no buts! - it is all one to me, for you are quoting Shakespeare.”

      Since I saw you last I came third in the International Storytelling Competition at the Sean McCarthy Memorial Weekend and the advice I got from the adjudicator, Pat Speight was, “Keep telling.”
Pat is one of Ireland’s best known storytellers. You’ll find him at Pat Speight.com

      Some time ago I wrote about how John Cassidy found an old Famine-pot in the townland of Cullinboy, in his native Donegal. Well that led to research which in turn revealed lesser known facts about the Irish potato famine. CIE Writers’ Group has now produced a historical DVD, “Famine Pot.” It is in the final stages of editing and if you have even a passing interest in Irish history this documentary is for you. Details at: irishfaminepots

       One of my former work colleagues, Christy McCabe, is a thinking and innovative man. He sent me the following;

      For those of my generation who do not and cannot comprehend why Facebook exists: I am trying to make friends outside of Facebook while applying the same principles. Therefore, every day I walk down the street and tell passersby what I have eaten, how I feel at the moment, what I have done the night before, what I will do later, and with whom. I give them pictures of my family, my dog, and of me gardening, taking things apart in the garage, watering the lawn, standing in front of landmarks, driving around town, having lunch, and doing what anybody and everybody does every day.

      I also listen to their conversations, give them the "thumbs up" and tell them I like them. And it works just like Facebook. I already have four people following me: two police officers, a private investigator, and a psychiatrist.

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