Thursday, October 1, 2020

Editor's Corner


By Mary E. Adair

October 2020

"Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting, and autumn a mosaic of them all." --Stanley Horowitz

So many clever utterances have been and should be said of this season of the year. Even where it makes little difference, still the trees scatter their leaves recklessly, those same leaves they clung to tightly when summer storms drenched them and the winds whipped them mercilessly. And our gracious God showed someone how to make rakes.

We welcome the poetry from an author new to our pages but well practiced in the art of weaving words. Walt Perryman whose bio made this editor chuckle, and whose rhymes bear truth and serenity in their meters, has shared these for October: "Worry," "West Texas," and "Without My Cell Phone."

Bruce Clifford, with more hours at home has sent three poems: "What Are We Missing Here," "Within the Inside," and "The Cost." Bud Lemire has included pictures with his poems:"My Photo Book," "The Year of the Passing,"and "The Kitchen Tool." John Blair calls one of his poems "Another Cat and 'Window Poem," and the other is "Little Miracles." Your editor offers her status update titled "Another Day in Isolation."

We are missing the "Armchair Genealogy" column from Melinda Cohenour who is a bit under the weather and thus abed, but we have a delicious sounding recipe of hers for Italian Pork Chops that her husband shares in his column, "Cooking with Rod." The columns by Melinda may be accessed with this link:

Melinda Cohenour

Other columnists are Marilyn Carnell, "Sifoddling Along," with a focus on names and pronunciation of same; LC Van Savage, "Consider This," penned a "Final Wishes" verse. Mattie Lennon, in "Irish Eyes" gives us an interesting introduction to the author of "Why the Moon Travels." He includes a vintage explanation of the ages of man (and woman) and announces his home town is in the news again.

Judy Kroll's column "On Trek" declares though now safe that the Oregon fires had forced evacuation and much concern. Thomas F. O'Neill, like the teacher he is, has much to say about the students past and present and expresses in his column, "Introspective," his satisfaction with having the opportunity to begin a new school year with eager new students. John Blair notices the least of creatures and gives a sensitive report on some that share his garden, car, and home in "View from My Back Steps."

"Mike Craner Ramblings" discuss some deeper meanings on viewing a brick and its author may cause you to look at such common items differently. He also wears the Webmaster hat and is co-founder of this eZine for which this person is thankful. So we are winding up and putting in motion October days, and not a single Halloween remembrance or poem in the issue.

Look for us here again in November!

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Cooking with Rod


By Rod Cohenour

If anyone in the world knows how to "eat well," it's the Italians. My lovely bride shared a recipe with me that I still tout as one of the most delicious and most decadent one could ask for. She just calls it Italian Pork Chops by M. It is impossible to go wrong using this recipe. Once you've tried it, you'll agree and just keep coming back for more.

Surprisingly, the use of tomato soup rather than standard spaghetti sauce makes for a perfect flavor ... with the soup approximating a rich, thick and flavorful base as would result from simmering fresh tomatoes all day long. Add the spices, Bell pepper and green onions and you've got a great Italian sauce.

Serve with a nice crusty bread, a simple salad and Italian dressing. Try it ... You'll LOVE IT.

Bon appetit~!



  • 4 boneless pork loin chops, about 1" thick
  • 2 Tablespoons oil
  • 1 cup seasoned flour ( just sprinkle with ground black pepper, and a sprinkle of Italian Seasoning, whisk)
  • 1 large bell pepper, deseeded, cut in 1/2" pieces
  • 1 bunch green onions, diced (use green tops as well as bulbs)
  • 1 large (14.5 oz) can tomato soup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons Oregano
  • 2 teaspoons Marjoram
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Fresh sweet basil leaves, chiffonade cut
  • 1 lb spaghetti, prepared per direction on pkg
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 1 Tablespoon dried parsley
  • Fresh grated or prepared parmesan cheese


    1. Heat oil in heavy skillet. Rinse chops to remove any bone dust. Dredge chops in seasoned flour. Brown quickly on both sides on medium high heat. Lower heat.
    2. Mix soup, water (used to rinse out can), Italian seasoning, and spices. Pour over chops in skillet.
    3. Top chops with Bell pepper and green onions. Bring just to a simmer and cover tightly. Cook, without stirring on low heat for about 45 minutes.
    4 Prepare spaghetti, drain, add butter and stir to coat pasta. Cover and keep warm.
    5. Check chops to see if tender. If not cooked through and tender, may need to continue cooking for up to 15 minutes
    6. Toss spaghetti with parsley.
    7. To plate: top spaghetti on individual plates with a chop and then sauce. Sprinkle with parmesan and garnish with sweet basil.

Best served with hot crusty bread, a crisp salad and creamy Italian dressing.

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                                 By Thomas F. O'Neill

The fall semester of teaching here in China started quite early due to the low cases of the coronavirus. The Chinese government is however worried that a second wave of the virus might hit China this fall. That being said, the semesters go by very quickly and all my classes take on a personality of their own due to the students in my classes, every class becomes uniquely different

The new students seem quite curious and somewhat reserved when they first appear in my classroom but within a few weeks, they open-up and are full of questions. They each hold various opinions about everything under the sun. I enjoy the lively discussions about culture in general and the role language plays in our cultural development.

When foreigners like me enter a foreign land where English is not the native vernacular a part of ourself seems somewhat cut off and I mean that literally. This is especially true in China because the Chinese do not use a written alphabet, they use symbols that go back thousands of years. Long before us, Schuylkill County coal cracker folk in Northeastern Pennsylvania walked the earth.

We take our native language for granted each time we turn on the radio or the TV. When we go out to see a movie or watch a live performance in a theater part of the enjoyment comes from our language.

I tell my students at the beginning of each semester, “When I first arrived in your country; I was an illiterate immigrant because I could not speak or read your language. I still have difficulties, but I have learned enough Chinese to overcome some of the language barriers.”

My students always asked me when I first arrived in China how I get around the City not being able to speak Chinese fluently. I explained to them, some technological tricks I used in communicating with the Suzhou locals. “I use the Google translator on my Blackberry Cell phone,” I would tell them, “but sometimes I still stumble because Suzhou people have their native dialect and simplified Chinese doesn’t always cut it.”

Ten years ago, I told my students a story about a frustrating experience I had at a China Mobile office. “No one at that office could speak a word of English,” I told them. “I got so frustrated that I called a China Unicom customer service number that has an English support line. I politely asked the woman on the phone if she could please translate for me. The woman I was speaking with was 2,900 kilometers away in Beijing, China.”

When the students stopped laughing, I continued the story. “What made the situation even more amusing, China Unicom, as you all know is China Mobile’s major competitor. I politely told the woman on the phone what I needed from China Mobile. What I needed was China Mobile’s office address in Chinese. So that the next time I needed to put money on my phone I could just show the taxi driver the Chinese address. That would be the most simplified way of getting there. I talked slowly to the China Unicom English customer service woman. Then I handed my phone to the woman sitting in front of me at the China Mobile office. The woman doing the translating was quite helpful but somewhat confused as to why I was asking her to translate for me I was after all in Suzhou China, in a China Mobile office of all places.”

The students laughed at that story and various other stories of my inability to communicate in Chinese. A hand shot up, “Teacher” a female student asked, “why don’t you take the time to learn Chinese?”

“I realize now,” I said to her, “I need a tutor to help me with my language impediment.”

“I don’t see why you don’t learn Chinese” Donna my prized student said to me.

“The number one cause of failure in life is procrastination,” I said to the class, “I need to stop procrastinating and take the time to study Chinese, especially, when I consider the fact that I want to remain living here.”

On my last day of teaching for that school year back in 2010, Donna came up to me after class, “Mr. Tom,” she said, “you are the fattest teacher I ever had and the funniest person I’ve ever known. I’m going to miss you very much.”

I said to her, “you have such a bright future because your personality shines.”

She was truly my prized student for that year. Her term paper was written on the cultural differences between the Pennsylvania Coal Region and the Jiangsu Province in China. Every evening she read various Newspapers, the Standard-Speaker, the Republican Herald, and the News Item online - Newspapers that cover the Pennsylvania Coal Region.

One day she came up to me before class all frustrated with printed pages of online Blog Comments, “I don’t understand,” she said to me on the verge of tears.

“What don’t you understand?” I asked.

“The comments,” she said in a flustered voice.

“I hope this didn’t keep you up all night,” I said with some amusement in my voice.

I then read over some of the highlighted comments. I could not help but laugh not at her but the comments.

“See,” she said in an upset voice, “you understand them.”

“Those comments don’t make any sense to you because they are not proper English,” I said to her.

I pointed out to her the atrocious spelling, the bad grammar, the run-on sentences, and not to mention the lack of cohesive thought in most of the comments.

“Ignore the comments you don’t understand,” I said to her, “and use the comments you do understand.”

Most of my students have mastered formal English and they try extremely hard to learn English slang and American Idioms. They enjoy watching American and British movies and television programs, they love our western culture.

Donna said to me, in the first week of class, “Mr. Tom, you don’t have a typical American accent.”

“I know,” I said, “I have a typical coal cracker accent.” I then went on to explain to the class about the Pennsylvania Coal Region. Donna later told me that was the reason she chose to do her term paper on that area of the world. She said my manner of speech got her interested in the area.

Her term paper was extremely well-written. She was blunt about the coal region’s attitude toward illegal immigration. She compared the negative online comments about illegal immigration to the China government’s attitude toward North Korean defectors.

China before the Beijing Olympics (2008) gave North Koreans asylum in China. North Korea, however, made an issue of it and China did not want the issue raised during the 2008 Olympics. All the North Korean defectors that were caught were deported along with their family members. They were sent back to their home country to face years of hard labor.

Some North Koreans are lucky enough to make it across the China border undetected. They then cross over into Laos’ they pay people to transport them into Vietnam in riverboats. They then cross the ocean in barges to seek asylum in South Korea. This is a long and treacherous journey for many North Koreans seeking a better existence. They choose to make the journey with an undeterred determination so that their children can have better lives and better opportunities in South Korea ….. “Many Latin American immigrants cross over into America with similar dreams for their children,” Donna wrote in her paper.

I received a text message 5 years ago from Donna via the internet. She had been awarded a scholarship to Princeton University for graduate studies in International affairs. She said jokingly my class prepared her for Princeton University’s way of talking.

No words could ever express the feeling that came over me when I heard an audio message from her that said, “Thank you, Mr. Tom, for being our teacher.”

My Chinese has improved a great deal from 10 years ago and the advancements in technology have also made my life a little easier. Especially, with the advancements of WeChat, Google, and the internet in general.

I will from time to time post some other reflections about my experiences here in China ……..

Always with love from Suzhou, China
Thomas F O’Neill
    Phone: (800) 272-6464
    WeChat: Thomas_F_ONeill
    U.S. Voice mail: (410) 925-9334
    China Mobile: 011 (86) 13405757231
    Skype: thomas_f_oneill

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View from My Back Steps


By John I. Blair

There was a tragedy last week – one that could have been avoided with a bit more care.

It’s the time of year when days are warm and nights are chilly. And in these conditions one of the least visible of my year-round residents becomes more visible, starts taking risks. And sometimes meets a bad end.

There are many kinds of gecko in the world, but one that commonly occurs here in north Texas is the Mediterranean House Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus). The Mediterranean gecko is a relatively small, 4 - 5 in (10 - 13 cm), species that has become ubiquitous in certain areas of the United States. Unlike any native lizard, geckos have sticky toe pads, vertical pupils, and their large eyes lack eyelids. These geckos are generally light gray or almost white in color (they look like tiny “ghost lizards”) but may have some darker mottling. The Mediterranean gecko can usually be found preying on insects near external houselights or other forms of lighting on warm nights. When it gets cold, they creep into warmer areas like crawl spaces under houses through foundation cracks or vents. On my church building we often see them over the entry door, catching bugs attracted by the light. My son has often found them hiding under the cover of an outside electrical outlet next to his garage door that has a floodlight immediately overhead.

Due to their ability to breed rapidly and strong resistance to pesticides, the Mediterranean gecko has been able to establish steady populations all along the Southern United States. Throughout Texas there are strong breeding populations of Mediterranean geckos found around cities, especially the Houston area, but there are major gaps in the population range through the western parts of Texas and into the panhandle. This leads scientists to believe that the Mediterranean gecko may need human structures and possibly cannot survive in dense native forests.

A nocturnal species, Hemidactylus turcicus can be found in cracks and crevices, either man-made or natural, throughout the day, emerging at night to feed on insects and other invertebrates. But when chilly nights come along, they like to sun themselves mornings on warm walls or masonry surfaces like patios and steps.


Bottom line is, geckos here in Texas may exist in your house and surroundings for years and not even be seen. Unless you have cats. Cats respond to motion. And when geckos come out of their hiding crevices (as narrow as a quarter of an inch or even smaller) cats see the movement and pounce. And play.

Also a Hemidactylus_turcicus

My introduction to the geckos in my house was years ago when I found a wriggling bit of “stuff” in my hallway – a gecko tail that had been shed in the manner many lizards have – shedding their tails to distract predators, then fleeing while the predator is dealing with the still-wriggling tail. Later (if they survive) they grow a new tail. Presumably there had been a cat encounter, although the cats weren’t talking.

So I’ve known for at least 20 years that I have geckos in my house, but they’re so secretive and small I tend to forget them – until they draw attention to themselves without meaning to. Last week on Wednesday I opened my car door and found a gecko running way across the floor mat in front. How it got inside I don’t know, but suspect there was a crack around the door seal large enough for it to squeeze through. Having sticky toes, it would have had no difficult climbing up onto the car from the concrete driveway. I spent several minutes peering under seats and turning up floor mats, but failed to find it, so I just went on my errand, figuring it would eventually find its way out the same way it got in.

An unnamed, common Gecko

When I got home, I searched a bit more before giving up, then went into the house and decided it was time to replenish my hummingbird feeder. That involves going down the steps to my patio, walking carefully into a narrow disused flower bed next to the house wall, reaching down the feeder from an overhead hook, then reversing my path.

But when I reversed path, looking carefully where I was stepping so as not to fall down, I saw something wriggling on the concrete patio surface. I was greatly saddened to discover I had inadvertently trod on a gecko and it was “beyond repair”. Even the gecko’s powers of tail shedding and regrowing part of its body wouldn’t save it this time.

I’m very sensitive to my relationship with the world around me. This accident really “got” to me. Carelessness about another life form while on a mission to help yet another life form had led to my causing a death in the world that could have been avoided.

I did the only thing I could think of at the time – I placed the still moving body on some loamy soil in the flower bed and gently covered it with loose loam. Nature would take care of the rest.

I can only hope the gecko in my car managed a safe getaway. And stayed away from cats and errant human feet.

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Mike Craner Ramblings

By Michael L. Craner


"That which does not kill me makes me stronger," someone once said. We know now that is not entirely true. I can still weaken you even if it doesn't defeat you.

Yet, consider a landscaping brick. You place it, give it a moderate foundation...

Rain can erode that foundation, making it weak. However, it can also erode the ground around it making the earth move in the cracks and flaws of the foundation and eventually support the brick more than it ever was before.

Now, the brick may no longer be pretty, or level... but it IS now firmly established in its new foundation and much harder to move than before.

A well-placed brick, level, and supported can STILL lose its stability and foundation because of the trials it faces. That doesn't mean the brick is no longer useful, it just needs to start over.

The difference between a stepping stone and a stumbling block is how you use them.

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