Thursday, April 1, 2021

Editor's Corner

By Mary E. Adair

April 2021

"Our spring has come at last with the soft laughter of April suns and shadow of April showers."
- Byron Caldwell Smith.

Peeking at the next calendar page and behold! April slips into her place in history! One can only hope she comes with fewer surprises in the weather than her sister March thrust upon the world. Personally, this editor would love to see her family members, and having had the first Covid-19 vaccination and one to go in April, she thinks travel might be a bit closer than it was this time last year!

As we begin discussing the columns, we want to draw your attention to the newest one, "Woo Woo," authored by a long time acquaintance, Pauline Evanosky. She is no stranger to sharing her experiences, having produced an online publication for several years. Don't miss her bio where she explains a bit about herself and her gifts.

Melinda Cohenour, despite continuing, mostly weather related, relocation difficulties, offers a glimmer of hope that next month will see her posting her latest DNA and family tree research in "Armchair Genealogy."

Judy Kroll's column "On Trek" glows with a precious memory as only she can express. Mattie Lennon, "Irish Eyes," has news about the popularity of Shed Associations being formed for women now, and tells us how to learn more of and about the Irish language. A new report on Living Coffins sounds feasible although surprising.

Once again "Cooking with Rod" hosts a Guest Cook, since his moving plans hit a lot of snags. This issue features Ruben Olgin's popular dessert: a Cheesecake Pie. "View from My Back Steps" has John Blair discussing interesting details about one type of visitor to his garden area.

Marilyn Carnell, "Sifoddling Along," tells about her time with the industry that still presents as the prestigious "Betty Crocker" and what it involved. Thomas F. O'Neill in "Introspective" reveals his studies about Einstein, and how his genius beliefs still stand solid in today's events.

Phillip Hennessy has two poems for April, "The Letter" and "Little Things" with the latter already set to music. Many of his poems published with this eZine have been chosen as lyrics by various bands and individuals for their recordings.

Bud Lemire, one of the Covid-19 survivors is beginning to get back to his writing again. A prolific photographer, he illustrates many of his poems with his own work. "Getting Through It All" delves into some of the feelings from having the Virus. The poem titled "Boiled Eggs" is his nod to April Fools Day, while "I Love Packages" sounds like himself again.

Walt Perryman with that Cowboy Poetry vibe (and in fact performs often at Luckenbach, Texas) shares these poems: "Sometimes I Wonder," "Morning Thought on God’s Communication," and "Your Choice."

"We're Here Today" and "Faces, Names, and Books" represent Bruce Clifford's poetic endeavors for April. John Blair sent these two: "Moving Pots, Making Choices" and "Spring 2021."

Kudos to Mike Craner, Webmaster and co-founder of this eZine, who keeps this eZine functioning with his ingenuity and consideration. Thanks, Mike!

We will see you in May!

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


Armchair Genealogy


By Melinda Cohenour


Absent While Relocating Residence


The task of moving while Winter held sway was delayed until March which sadly did not offer much respite of intolerable weather conditions. However, the moving vans are working steadily during the final days of the month, and we expect to be reunited soon with our trusty computer and genealogical records to take up the uncovering of elusive documentation and tales that we actually delight in accomplishing.

Therefore, please check here in May as we give details in the search to solve the next ancestor mysteries.

Meanwhile here is the link : Melinda Cohenour Just click my name here for a complete clickable list to my previous columns.

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

View from My Back Steps

By John I. Blair


I have two possums that regularly visit my yard, looking for food and water and shelter. Possums have long fascinated me – such apparently “primitive” mammals and yet they have survived as a species for millions of years and appear to be doing just fine right now. I wonder, what’s their secret?

One possibility is that they benefit from having built-in “eternal optimism”. It’s hard to discourage a possum. That they even found my house (with its continual supply of the things they need – food, water, shelter from weather and predators) amazes me. I’m in the center of a city of 400,000 that in turn is in the center of a metro area of 7,000,000+. And it’s been nearly 70 years since this area was rural. Possums move very slowly. They appear to have only one speed – slow and lumbering. Crossing a street is done only at considerable risk (and the consequences are often visible in the neighborhood). Yet they persist.

Persistence seems to work very much in favor of the possum. The ones who come to my patio show up even in the daytime now, which is unusual for an animal that is supposed to be nocturnal. They’ve learned that there are no serious predators here and that I’m not dangerous. I often find one just outside my patio door, vacuuming up cat chow from the bowls I place there for my outdoor cats. Sometimes I have to open the door and “speak sharply” to the possum before it leaves, slowly. And then it comes back, after I close the door and leave.

My outdoor cats have come to an understanding with the possums (as they have with the raccoons). The cats stay out of the road. And the possums pretty much ignore them.

Fortunately cat chow is not all that possums eat. They have the reputation, well-earned, of being Nature’s cleanup crew, eating just about everything, including earthworms, ticks, baby rats, mice, and the sunflower seeds I put out for songbirds. And unlike squirrels, rats, and raccoons, apparently possums are less likely to find their way into attics (although they are very skilled at climbing).

And they multiply – that’s no doubt a major part of the answer to my puzzle. Opossums usually reproduce twice a year. Once mating is done, the male, called a jack, leaves and doesn't return. After a gestation of just 12 to 13 days, female opossums, called jills, give birth to up to 20 live young at a time. The babies, called joeys, are about the size of jelly beans when they are born. The mother has only 13 nipples, however, and only that many babies survive. First come, first served, after they have made it to the pouch where they spend the first part of their lives. Wasteful, but it has worked for millions of years.

In all the time I have been observing possums in my yard I’ve never seen a mother with young. But then the little ones would be hiding in their mother’s pouch. What I believe I am seeing right now is a male possum “courting” a female. It appears very clumsy and ineffective; and the times I’ve watched, she has rejected him, being apparently more interested in feeding than mating. We will see.

Part of this, I think (very unscientifically) is the male possum’s tail. Possums have remarkably long tails. Their tail can be as long as the rest of their body – up to a foot and a half on large males. And they’re capable of holding it out perfectly straight and horizontal behind their bodies, despite it having no bones (it’s all muscle). I have been wondering if that is a way of displaying on the male’s part. “Look what a big tail I have.” Kind of like “Look what a big nose I have.” Or whatever.

I will definitely continue my voyeurism with possums as the springtime progresses. And who knows? Maybe this year I’ll get to see babies!

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



Sifoddling Along

By Marilyn Carnell

A Brief Time with Betty Crocker

Sometime this year, Betty Crocker will be 100 years old. A fictional creature of many faces over the years, she was an enormous influence on my life.

When I was in high school, I won the “Betty Crocker Homemaker of Tomorrow” prize. It was a rather ornate pin (see below) awarded to the student with the highest score on a written test for knowledge of homemaking skills. I was pleased and put it on my letter sweater to show it off. Betty Crocker was as distant as the moon so far as I knew, but Betty and I were destined to meet.

In 1967 I finished the classwork for a Master of Public Health Nutrition degree. My long-term goal was to become a Registered Dietitian. (I finally completed the requirements and passed the exam in 1974.) A classmate told me that General Mills was looking for a nutritionist. I decided to apply. I remember vividly that I wore a neatly pressed white dress and immaculate white gloves. The gloves must have done the trick, as I got the job.

It was an interesting point in time. Women were new in the corporate workplace with the exception of secretaries and the home economists who developed recipes in the seven kitchens. Each kitchen was dedicated to a purpose or product line. There was a photography kitchen, a cake kitchen, a flour kitchen, and so on. It was fascinating to find that a minimum of 12 cakes was required for a product shoot. One for the cake, one for the cut slice. No air bubbles in either. There were stand-ins for arranging the lighting and positioning and the ones for the actual photograph. It was tedious, meticulous work. I was glad it wasn’t part of my job.

Marketing was reserved for males and they were graduates of Ivy League colleges and Stanford. I don’t recall any from a state school. They arrived prepared to do only two jobs – president or CEO. It was in informal policy to assign them to menial tasks like photocopying and delivering messages to bring them back to earth. Soon women began infiltrating the ranks and things began to change. One is now a Senator from Minnesota.

As it happened, my first task was a little unusual. The company was entertaining food editors from across the country at a fancy place in Chicago. The purpose was to introduce them to new products and, of course, have a positive view of them. My boss asked me to look up the ignition point of cotton balls. (400 degrees F.) This took a little time as it was long before the days of Google. It seems that models were hired to carry various products from table to table and an ordinary pie was too heavy. Thus, the pie was to be made with lightweight cotton and presented in a delicious-looking double crust.

The second assignment was very exciting. I was to go on the company plane and host a table at the dinner. It was quite an experience. I buckled in the small jet with a boxed cotton pie on my lap that I was to guard with my life to prevent damage. There was no room for it in the plane’s storage as those shelves were filled with liquor and wines for the dinner.

Ah, the dinner. Sadly, I don’t remember the many course menu, but a couple of things stood out. I was asked about one of the appetizer ingredients. It was something I had never seen in my life. I think it was an artichoke bottom, but no one had coached me about exotic ingredients, so I nodded and smiled and said “Yes, it is interesting”. One of the editors passed out with her head in a plate. I saw that she was in no danger and let her sleep. Another slurred her thanks to “The Admiral.” It was a shocking entrance to big city life for this hillbilly girl.

My orientation required that I go through the training procedures required for each home economist hired. The three-person Nutrition Department was located in the kitchen area and since part of my new job was to develop recipes for special diets, I needed to know how to do so properly. My boss was a brilliant woman who bore an uncanny resemblance to Betty Crocker portrait number 4. She was one of the most brilliant, organized, and disciplined people I ever met. I look back and think what a trial I was for her at times with some of my off-the-wall ideas. 

See portrait number 4 at bottom of page.

The Nutrition Department was created to protect the company from false claims in advertising and promotion. We reported to the Company Medical Department, not marketing to maintain our independence in judgment. A major part of my job was to research and write papers and pamphlets that emphasized the nutritional value of products and where they could be used in special diets as well as daily meals. To accomplish this mission, we took an exhibit booth to several medical and dietetic conventions each year. These travels were very educational for me. I will always be grateful for the opportunities I was given to learn and advance my professional career.

Part of the initial training was to bake cookies using each of the seven varieties of flour the company made. Determined to be efficient, I lined up the bowls and added ingredients to each. I had never seen self-rising flour, so I added leavening to each batch. The inevitable happened – my cookies blew up all over the oven. I was embarrassed and spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning the oven.

Cooking in the kitchens was a sheer pleasure. In addition to having someone do the shopping for ingredients and storing them, a housekeeper was always available to wash the utensils and keep the kitchen tidy. If you needed a lot of measuring cups, there was always a clean one ready to use. The downside was that one side of each kitchen was open for two purposes - twice a day food tasting panels and frequent tours of the public led by smartly uniformed guides. The image of Betty Crocker as a professional, proper lady and cook was always in our minds. Once my hot pad slipped on a cookie sheet burning my fingers. I put the pan down carefully and dashed out the back door of the kitchen to nurse my wounds. Betty wouldn’t make such a stupid mistake.

I did develop recipes for dialysis patients who required a very low protein diet at the time. For many years, General Mills had manufactured a wheat starch product with the odd name of Paygel-P. It previously had two purposes – an ingredient in salad dressing and as a filler in oil well shafts. An enterprising doctor found that it might be useful in special diets and we had a working relationship with the Mayo Clinic and Emory University

Marilyn at the Betty Crocker lab
developing low protein recipes.

to develop foods that were more familiar than the gummy ones made with rice or potato starch. (photo).

I worked seven years at General Mills, but Betty and I parted daily company after three years. I became part of a venture team to establish a new business model and later became one of the first women to work in quality assurance; an area that previously had been staffed only by men. All of my jobs were rewarding, and I consider General Mills the best place I ever worked, but those stories are for another time.

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


Woo Woo

By Pauline Evanosky

Something happened yesterday to me. Something psychic. This little story is a glimpse into what it is like to be a channel.

My life, of late, hasn’t been all that exciting or uplifting. My diabetes is catching up with me. I’ve been wrestling with a frozen shoulder which limits many ordinary movements, like reaching into a cupboard or turning a light on and off. My back aches, my hip hurts and my knee cries out at every other step. In short, I’m a mess. It is not pretty to get old and if you have managed to enter into that time in better shape than I am you might think of yourself as lucky.

Yesterday I rubbed my face. I do that a lot. I don’t know why. Perhaps it is habit. Perhaps it is to wake myself up, just remind myself that I am here. I did that yesterday and felt across my forehead bumps. Lots of bumps. I thought to myself, “Now what kind of rash do I have?” I was thinking I should get out the scrubber and address myself to, not only my forehead, but my cheeks, my chin. Everything was bumpy. Not angry pimple bumps. These were the bumps of a piece of sandpaper. There was something horrible happening and my already low thoughts began to take a nose dive.

Then, a voice in my head said, “It’s only dry.”

I answered back, “Who?” I knew it wasn’t my guide. I could tell. Seth doesn’t generally make comments like that. Although he could, I suppose. But, I knew it wasn’t him.

The person didn’t respond. Rather a name formed in my head. Elizabeth Taylor. I answered back, “Really? Really Elizabeth Taylor?” And, a voice said, “Who better?”

I looked in the mirror closely and danged if there wasn’t a fine, ever so fine white powder on my forehead. I thought to myself, “Well, I’ll be danged.” So, I put some cream on my face and a little bit later ran my hand experimentally across the skin of my face and realized it was smoother.

I said to her afterward, “Your son was Michael?” She said, “Michael Todd”.

I’ve been thinking to myself all morning that it should have been Michael Fisher. It turns out Elizabeth’s third husband was Michael Todd who already had a son, Mike Todd, Jr. from his first marriage. Elizabeth was married to Michael Todd, Sr. for one year from 1957 to 1958 when he died in a plane crash. Eddie Fisher was a good friend of Michael Todd’s and Michael had asked Eddie to join him on that flight to play gin saying the plane was safe. Elizabeth had a cold and did not fly that day. She married Eddie Fisher in 1959. Where Elizabeth’s son Michael comes from is her second marriage in 1952 to Michael Wilding. They had two sons together Michael and Christopher. They divorced in 1957.

What I got from reading bits and pieces of Elizabeth’s history on Wikipedia this morning was that in all of their love affairs and marriages life was tough for Hollywood types. Now? I believe they are all precious to one another.

Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.
below: Portrait of Pauline, unmasked