Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Editor's Corner

March 2017

“It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good"--Proverb.
That proverb has been quoted and mis-quoted and revised many ways, but since March is the month most maligned for Wind, it brought to mind an incident when your editor was about ten years old walking home from her piano lesson when one of the infamous West Texas sandstorms blew in. Bent forward, making her way down the sidewalk and trying to shield her eyes while hanging onto her sheet music, she was surprised when a five dollar bill blew against her leg then into the shrubbery between the walk and the road. She was able to snare it before it blew away again, and immediately turned up the walkway of the house she was in front of, to knock on the door. When a lady answered, the money was offered to her with the explanation that it was found in front of her house. The lady seemed astounded that it had been brought to her, and adamantly declared it was not hers, and could have blown in from 'Timbuctoo' for all she knew. She was just as insistent that Finders are Keepers and thus that five dollar bill padded the bottom of your editor's piggy bank for a few years. The Good from that ill sandstorm, indeed.

Yes, Piggy Bank - one given at Christmas by our Taurian mother to each of her (then) three daughters, a large ceramic. cheerful looking pig decorated with painted on flowers here and there. One sister, the Virgo, emptied her piggy each day, counting up her savings while the other sister, the Sagitarian, emptied her's or never even put the coins into the piggy, as she was forever buying little gifts for friends, a shiny hair ribbon, or a comb, or a tri pack of number 2 lead pencils, seldom buying for herself. The Virgo requested a new "bank" for herself next Christmas, a little working cash register all her own. Our allowance was a healthy 50 cents a week, which being a raise from 25 cents, made us happy.

Thomas F. O'Neill brings up the differences in cultural humor in his column "Introspective." LC Van Savage talks of the origin of the name for sandwiches in "Consider This," and her article spotlights the clarinetist Brad Terry.

"Armchair Genealogy" by Melinda Cohenour could give Lemire some tips on "Following the Trail" with her column discussing the ethics of research into family. R od Cohenour's "Cooking with Rod," will light up your tastebuds with a quick and easy homemade version of Chicken Fajitas.

"Relections of the Day" by Dayvid Clarkson gives us a glimpse into his personal life and how he gleans hope and peace from his days. Judith Kroll's column "On Trek" features her essay on the "Sun."

"Irish Eyes" delves into more serious subjects, but always with Mattie Lennon's sense of humor intact, as he discusses final options. One of Bud Lemire's poems, "Making the Difference" follows the same path, and his other poems are: "Growing Old," "The Swinger," "The Color of Life's Music," "I Lost My Marbles," and "Following The Trail," mentioned above about scouting his family tree.

Bruce Clifford adds two poems for March: "It's Not A Blessing," and "It's Never Too Late." Barbara Irvin brings us a verse detailing her drinking habits, with "Tea."

John I. Blair submitted six poems, one that has been updated from an earlier appearance in Pencil Stubs Online, because it is about a health matter that recently landed him in the hospital again for ten days - "Uncomfortably Numb - Again." The other five are "Autumn bulbs," "Nothing Interesting," "Needing People," "If Trees Sleep," and "Driving the Streets of Carmargo in My Mind."

Mike Craner, without whom this ezine would have never made the web, deserves many bouquets for his expertise and patience. Not easy keeping this little ezine able to continue its mission of encouraging writers, experienced and beginners, and to promote reading.
See you in April !!!

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

What are the Ethics of Genealogical Research?

      Genealogical research, as is my oft-repeated refrain, is a rewarding avocation if not a full-time vocation. Through the decades as your author has meandered through online records, personal family documents, Family Bibles, books dedicated to preserving the memory of one or another of our ancestors, photographs both owned and loaned and discovered, it has come to my attention that not everyone follows the same set of “rules” as pertain to the ethical usage of materials in one’s own tree. So just what are the ethics surrounding use of materials generated by others? Obviously, one cannot have existed through all the lifetimes of all the characters that inhabit our family tree. It would be impossible to create a tree from the limited viewpoint of one individual person’s contact with their inner circle of relatives – no matter how large the family might have been! Thus, we all build upon that vast pool of knowledge that has been made available to us through the endeavors of those who went before us and from those whose paths of research trod those same footsteps as our own ancestors’.

      For purposes of properly crediting the work of those who have laboriously gathered the names, dates, and stories and then taken the time to put that information into a permanent record, we should always make sure we reference the historian’s name and refer to whatever title they used to preserve those memories and document those facts. This step is not only a common courtesy (often, actually, one necessitated by law), but also a valuable step to make sure we always know where that tidbit of information arose. Who gave me that photograph? What did they have to say about how they gained possession of it? What was written on the back or the margin of the photo itself? Was it enclosed in a letter and, if so, the perennial W’s of any good reporter’s arsenal come into play: Who, What, When, Where and Why?

      My family tree is maintained on, a wonderful site that furnishes access to millions and millions of original documents. It links to other family trees where the name and dates of birth, etc. appear to match. You can review page after page of handwritten Census records from 1790 to the most recent one made publicly available (always a lag of 70 years to ensure no living person’s personal information is made public without consent). You can read stories posted by others about common relatives and link that story to your own tree. But, here is where ethical questions frequently arise. It is always upsetting to find your own researched story or compilation of facts – facts you spent hours digging through libraries, or online sites, or books, or reviewing interviews with relatives to dig up and put together in a cohesive and meaningful fashion – offered up as a NEW story – WITH SOMEONE ELSE’S NAME ON IT!! Wow! What an affront! How dare they? But, this happens to me frequently as the duration of my research and numbers of stories shared publicly on my tree proliferate. There is a little quirk on Ancestry that posts your own name to stories that you find and Save to your own tree. It behooves us to take the extra time to make sure the person who originally shared that story is given full credit.

      And, this brings up another question of ethics. A number of years ago, I was merrily saving photographs made available publicly through Ancestry to my tree. I was absolutely delighted to be able to put a face to the name! And, then…I got a message from a cousin. This cousin was one who had not been introduced to me and whose name was unknown to me. Our relationship would have been quite a mystery had not it been clear she “owned” some of “my” relatives! Now, this gal really was angry with me for saving three or four of the photos she had saved to her Public Tree. She demanded to know HOW I was related to HER ancestor. And, when I offered my lineage, she questioned it. (I had to smile recently after my DNA was posted at the site and she showed up as a close cousin.) Every one of these photographs, of course, post to my tree with a notation by Ancestry that it was originally shared by … And shows any number of other folks who had also seen the pic and decided to save it to their own tree. She thought I should have messaged her privately and asked permission to use the pics. Here, I differ. Had she provided them to me via email or snail mail or by hand, I certainly would have asked permission to then post them to Ancestry. But, with those pictures attached to a tree not made Private by the site’s own rules, those pictures were fair game. At other times, I have received messages from other researchers who either saved some of my shared pics or who noticed I had saved theirs. We made one another’s acquaintance, shared a bit of our own background, exchanged information and helped one another research. No issues – nice contact – pleasant all around.

      If, of course, the tree has been made Private at Ancestry, you will see that a photo has been saved to a particular person’s profile but will be given a notice to contact the owner of that tree to request access, or to see the picture, and permission to use. Protocol established by the site being the rule here.

      These common courtesies are, perhaps, rather obvious. But, another question of ethics arises in the neat application that permits users to Message one another. This is a nifty little tool. I have mine set up where I get an email message notifying me someone has sent me a Message on Ancestry. The ethical question arises in how one responds to these messages. My personal attitude is that I “do unto others as I would have them do unto me.” In other words, I take the time to really read their message and then refer to my own research to try to respond with a truthful and accurate bit of information. This leads to a lot of distractions, of course. But, it also may provide that one clue to your own brick wall that has been eluding you for so long. I am always drawn into the mystery that others share with me. I may not be timely in my responses; however, and that is the ethical question I must address to myself. Am I overly rude in not immediately sending SOME kind of response – even if it is only to say the answer must await another day?

      Novice researchers will blunder through, as I did and as I’m sure others did, without even considering documenting their source in their eagerness to build their tree and discover their ancestors. Your author had to go back after initial efforts and take the time to locate the source document and make sure a citation was attached to the facts arising therefrom. The observance of ethical interaction brings at least two benefits: it preserves for the historian the source material for each fact AND it may well pave the way for a mutually beneficial ongoing, long-time interaction with others who have common ancestors and, therefore, common research goals.

Family HistoryLibrary, Salt Lake City, Utah

      A photograph of the Family History Library facility in Salt Lake City, Utah. Inside are volunteers from the Mormon Church who dedicate their time to assisting visitors. There are computers, books containing materials related to family histories which have been donated to the Library, and file folders containing genealogical research housed within the library as well. Many computers are made available to researchers, in addition to photocopiers and microfiche machines. This facility hosts thousands of visitors annually and provides access, online, to the troves of family history research materials.

      With these issues in mind, please do undertake your research as you would any friendly interaction – with common courtesy, mutual respect, and a willingness to share. That one connection may be the one to put the chisel to your own personal brick wall.

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Cooking With Rod

Quick and Easy Chicken Fajitas

This is for all of you out there who are searching for a quick, delicious, homemade meal! Even if you don’t have the time to do anything but eat and run most of the time, here’s one for you that will not only stay in your timeframes effectively, but it is guaranteed to fill you up and give you absolute satisfaction. And, what’s more, it’s so simple – it’s fool-proof! 

This recipe is also flexible because you can substitute other meats for the chicken: strips of flank steak, yummy big shrimp, nice fat polska or Italian sausage meats, even shark if you’re of a mind – but my favorite is Chicken! The cooking times for the substitutions will change, of course. So here’s what you’re gonna’ need to feed four people (or more) rapidly, on a budget:
Bon appetit!

  • 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken tenders
  • 4 Tbsp. red chili powder
  • 4 Tbsp. ground cumin
  • 2 Tbsp. garlic powder
  • 2 Tbsp. onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp. ground black pepper
  • 2 large red bell peppers, deseeded and cut in strips
  • 2 large green bell peppers, deseeded and cut in strips
  • 1 large or 2 medium sweet onions, cut into strips
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • 1 dozen flour tortillas (fajita-type, large ones about 7 or 8 inches)
  • 1 lb. shredded Mexican blend cheese (cheddar, Jack, Colby)
  • 2 cans refried beans (I use non-fat)
  • Garnishes: fresh avocado or guacamole, sour cream, cilantro leaves, radish slices, pico de gallo, salsa roja, chili con queso, salsa verde (your choice and preferences) and a side of Mexican rice, if you prefer.

  • Directions:
    • 1. Rinse chicken strips and place on paper towels to dry. Season well with the blended seasonings (just add to a measuring cup and whisk together). Maker sure all tenders are coated on all sides.
    • 2. In a large preheated sauté or electric frying pan, that you sprayed with non-stick cooking spray, place the chicken tenders being careful not to crowd them. Cook for 3-4 minutes per side until chicken has lost its pink color and firmed in texture.
    • 3. Add onions and bell peppers (you can add one Serrano or jalapeno pepper sliced and deseeded if you want a bit more spice). Cook on medium to medium-low heat until the vegetables are crisp tender and the onion has become translucent.
    • 4. If necessary, you can add about a half cup of liquid (water, lime juice, chicken broth, tequila) to steam the skillet and stir up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan at this point. Reduce heat to low to prevent scorching.
    • 5. In a covered casserole dish, place the 2 cans of refried beans, stir to fluff, add onion and a touch of cheese on the top. Cover the dish, place either in the oven or microwave just long enough to heat through and melt the cheese.
    • 6. Take the dozen flour tortillas and wrap tightly in aluminum foil. Place in a warm oven while the beans are heating and you are dishing up the fajita mixture. This should only take about 3-4 minutes total. You don’t want the tortillas to dry out, merely to be warm.
    • 7. Serve with the suggested garnishes, sit back and await the appreciation of your dinner guests!
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    Reflections on the Day

    A couple of evening reflections

          Reflecting this day on the power of words; both written and oral. My Sister gifted me with an incredible compliment on Facebook. In one fell swoop she brought tears to my eyes and my heart to its fullness. With a few gracious gathering of words she enabled me to realize just how wonderful this journey is and how much I value her.

          Often we see the beauty in others or the kindness of their actions yet rarely step up and communicate our gratitude. A few kind words, spoken or written, have an incredible effect on the recipient. It strengthens them and gives them the courage to carry on. Never let the idea of ‘I should have said something.’ or ‘I really should tell them how much I appreciate them.’ be a constant in your life.

          The other day I received a note in the mail; yes ‘snail mail’, from a Friend I have yet to meet in person. It was on nice stationary and hand written. Here is what I envisioned. They had to purchase the stationary, to think of me, take the time to put thoughts to pen, purchase a stamp, and go somewhere to mail it. As much as the words inspired me the process was the true treasure and measure of this person. So take the time to comment when you are moved, compliment freely, and don’t restrict it to those that you know. The next time you notice something about a stranger that you like …. Say it…. Hell… maybe go out and buy some stationary. Be mindful, pay attention, and you will be amazed.

          Sleep well, dream deep my Friends. With a very humble bow of gratitude to my Sister.

          It was a dark and stormy night. HA!!!, always wanted to write that. It was truly a wet and rainy night, with deep orange and red leaves playing tag as they dance and roll down the street. Winds blowing so hard it moved my car over half a lane. I had to get three different folks home from the hospital tonight. I admit it was stressful, not the best conditions to be driving in. But you see with kidney disease you don’t get to choose the weather, doesn’t matter what day of the week it is, or if a day is a holiday. It is a hard task master. Yet what I have discovered is the genuine gratitude these people have for something so simple as a ride home. This always fills me with warmth, fills up my compassion meter, and delivers me to a happy place. With this swell of feeling, I can so easily shed my challenges of the day and prepare to rest easy. It is during this time when I am so full that I would like to share it with all, so that you can shed the toil of the day and go ever so peaceful into the night.

          Sleep well, dream deep my Friends.

          Driving home this evening in a light fog that revealed the night in a mysterious costume. I slow my pace along country roads, winding towards my sanctuary, with the odd street lamp separating the darkness with an off yellow light. A veritable joy to behold such a mystery flowing before me in wonderment I cannot describe. This time generates an emotion that mere words cannot define nor could it be exactly shared. It seems that when we stop looking into the mirror and turn the mirror around we allow the world to reflect upon itself. We see the bountiful beauty before us. We take the time to be in the moment simply receiving the energy, all else is forgotten, as my soul prepares for rest. Pay heed my companions, with reverence, greet this restorative time with a quiet mind and a quiet heart.

          Sleep well, dream deep my Friends. Humble bow,

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

    Irish Eyes

    Septic Tanks, ®Pringles, And Con Houlihan

          The only information I seemed to pick up in the month of February appeared to be pertaining to death in some shape or form. First I heard about the Dublin woman who when getting her affairs in order and preparing her will, met with her funeral undertaker to talk about what type of funeral service she wanted, etc.
          She told him she had two final requests. First, she wanted to be cremated, and second, she wanted her ashes scattered over Marks and Spencers.

           " Marks and Spencers !" the astonished man said. "Why Marks and Spencers?"

           "That way, I know my daughters will visit me twice a week."

          Then I was talking to a Wicklow singer/songwriter, who wouldn’t dream of telling me a lie.

           He told me of how he was asked by a funeral director to play at a graveside service for a homeless man in an isolated area in the backs of Wicklow. He had no family or friends, so the service was to be at a pauper’s end of the grave yard. Or the “poor ground” as we call it around here. Not being familiar with the area south of Roundwood the performer got lost.

          When he finally arrived an hour late he found that the funeral undertaker had already gone and the hearse was nowhere in sight. There were only the diggers and crew left and they were eating lunch.

           He felt badly and apologized to the men for being late. He went to the side of the grave and looked down and the vault lid was already in place. He didn’t know what else to do, so he started to play. The workers put down their lunches and began to gather around. He I played out his heart and soul for this man with no family and friends. He played like he’d never played before for this homeless man : “The Wicklow Mountains High,” “Sunrise on the Wicklow Hills, “The Blackbird of sweet Avondale” and many more lesser-known tunes from the Garden-county.

           As he finished with “ Among the Wicklow Hills,” the workers began to weep. They wept, the singer wept, they all wept together. When he finished he packed up his guitar and started for his car. He told me , “Though my head hung low, my heart was full. As I opened the door to my car, I heard one of the workers say, ‘I never seen nothin’ like that before and I’ve been putting in septic tanks for twenty years.’ ”

           Then when I read of how Fredric Baur, who dreamed up the original ®Pringles can, was so proud of the achievement, he wanted to go to his grave with it. So when Baur died his children buried the 89-year-old's ashes in one of his iconic cans.

          This prompted me to contact Stephen Power , a Limerick man who has invented the Urn Tower. Stephen’s Urn Tower , the first of its kind in the world, becomes both the Head Stone and Niche for holding Cremated Remains. It comes in a variety of default sizes to hold from one to four urns. The original holding capacity can also be increased by the addition of an extension niche if required. This approach also offers more privacy to visiting family and friends. It Provides for a more personalised and affordable memorial. It can be moved to another location at a later date should the need arise

    Urn Tower

           It solves many issues faced by cemetery providers in dealing with the problem faced by them in the areas of remaining capacity of existing cemeteries not being sufficient to meet growing demand. Often this problem has been imposed on them where current infrastructure is inadequate to meet the changing demand.

          The Urn Tower increases Cemetery capacity by enabling the use of existing ground previously considered unsuitable, allows for wider selection of cemetery sites as interment is above the ground and is modular thus allowing cemeteries better match demand with supply.

    His Master's Ashes

           A recent report found that the cost of dying has risen seven times faster than the cost of living. In Ireland, a new grave can cost from €500 to €14,000. This does not cover the extras such as opening the grave, monument fees and headstone costs and that is assuming there is space available in your graveyard of choice. Using Urn Towers affords a considerable cost saving compared to traditional graveyard burials

           Cremation rates are growing by up to 20% every year. A growing population and the influx of people to cities and towns is putting pressure on graveyards. Many graveyard managers are running out of space. Cremation offers some relief on these issues. Some families scatter the ashes in places where the deceased person had some attachment however, other families would prefer to have a permanent place to visit and remember a loved one who has chosen cremation. Urn Towers offer a real solution for this very modern dilemma.
    Credit for details (and more info) from

    * * * * *

          Oh, all my February reading wasn’t about death. I read “In So Many Words”, a collection of articles by the late, great, Con Houlihan. It is sadly out of print but sometimes available on Amazon. I would strongly recommend it. Who else could write about his grandfather taking flight from Caherciveen to Castle Island, “ . . .to avoid being charged for sheep-stealing, seemingly he didn’t fancy the alternatives of the hangman’s rope or transportation to Australia.”

    The late Con Houlihan

           And referring to fishermen he said, “You meet a better class of rogue by the river.” Essentially a sports writer Con wrote, “ . . . the proliferation of Soccer in this island is about the best thing that happened to us since the arrival of the potato.” And of Rugby he says that it is,” as much a part of our culture as bacon and puds and cabbage and the clay pipe.” He points out that he doesn’t mind a person not being interested in sport but when they boast about t heir indifference it was too much for him, “They seem to regard it as a symptom of intellectual superiority.” We hear a lot about the Irish “Character” a term used to describe a colourful native but Con more or less describes him as, “Someone who borrows money from you and then proceeds to bore the trousers off you.”

    If you can find this book please buy it.


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