Friday, March 5, 2010


I Could Be With You

plays on my headphones and suddenly

I can’t breathe.



Breathe, I tell myself.

The guitar strums and plucks as if

Someone wants to reach inside and pull me

Back into his arms, back into the days when things were gloriously simple.

He smelled like soap and his shampoo reminded me of sweet coconut.

His smile was big, his hands were strong.

He was honest. He was brave. I trusted him easily. I loved his laugh. We laughed a lot.

The song changes and the Master decides to test the waters

Of the Coast of Colorado.

Oh, dear Lord, what are you trying to say to me?

Are you trying to push me back to drive-in movies

and shores of the Great Salt Lake, smoking cigarettes on the trunk of my car,

Where dreams were so easy to dream since our lives were endless?

I would have a house with a porch swing.

I would have 2 children.

I would have a career I was proud of. Maybe a dog.

Nothing I had planned back then came true.

My heart aches, physically aches as if it’s bruised walls are crying.

My God, it gasps. What have I done?

If this is all there is…

If there are no second chances…

Did I throw everything I could have had away?

Or …

was it ever really in my control to begin with?

He’s here, but not really here. He’s a ghost, a fragment of a carefree teenage love.

He’s by my side when I see something that reminds me… an American Flag, a soldier in uniform…

He’s there if I ever need to talk, but what else is there to say

that hasn’t resonated through both of us already?

I can’t even find the words.

His eyes look the same, but I’ve only seen pictures.

And yet, for all this separation, cruel and intentional on both of our parts,

I know his heart is full of experiences

I could never have given him.

What did I have to offer

That would take breath and soften heart?

In the end, not much, I suppose.

A life that feels counterfeit is what I am left with.
An older face I almost don’t recognize in the mirror in the morning.
With a beautiful love at home from someone who is not him.
A life I enjoy and rich experiences and amazing people.
And a heart that is open – except for one small place –
A teeny-tiny place that I tell no-one about.
A place where I am 16 and beautiful and in love and certain that we will change the world.


Time to get a new playlist.

©2010 Connie A. Anast

Rev. Connie A. Anast

Awarded Best of 2009 Utah Wedding Minister!

Mail Bag

By Mail Bag

Editor's Note: An interesting article from our Mail Bag.

Onions, Remedies and Legends

RedOnionPreBaking.jpg Pre-Baking Onions image by dadacheese
Give it a try....nothing to lose.
Maybe.... who knows? Read on.
A friend of mine told me a story about how when he was a kid
he was in the hospital & near dying. His Italian
grandmother came to the hospital & told a family member to
go buy her a large onion & a new pair of white cotton socks.
She sliced the onion open then put a slice on the bottom of
each of his feet & put the white cotton socks on him. In
the morning when he awoke they removed the socks. The
slices of onion were black & his fever was gone. The
following story that someone sent to me might have some
truth in it & we are going to try it this winter.

In 1919 when the flu killed 40 million people there was
this Doctor that visited the many farmers to see if he
could help them combat the flu. Many of the farmers and
their family had contracted it and many died.
The doctor came upon this one farmer and to his surprise,
everyone was very healthy. When the doctor asked what the
farmer was doing that was different, the wife replied that
she had placed an unpeeled onion in a dish in the rooms of
the home (probably only two rooms back then). The doctor
couldn't believe it and asked if he could have one of the
onions and place it under the microscope. She gave him one
and when he did this, he did find the flu virus in the
onion. It obviously absorbed the bacteria, therefore
keeping the family healthy.
Now, I heard this story from my hairdresser in AZ. She said
that several years ago many of her employees were coming
down with the flu and so were many of her customers. The
next year she placed several bowls with onions around in
her shop. To her surprise, none of her staff got sick. It
must work. (And no, she is not in the onion business.)
The moral of the story is: buy some onions and place them
in bowls around your home. If you work at a desk, place
one or two in your office or under your desk or even on top
somewhere. Try it and see what happens. We did it last
year and we never got the flu.
If this helps you and your loved ones from getting sick, all
the better. If you do get the flu, it just might be a mild
Whatever, what have you to lose? Just a few bucks on onions!
Now there is a P. S. to this, for I sent it to a friend in
Oregon who regularly contributes material to me on health
issues. She replied with this most interesting experience
about onions:

Weldon,thanks for the reminder. I don't know about the
farmers story, but I do know that I contacted pneumonia
and needless to say I was very ill. I came across an
article that said to cut both ends off an onion put one end
on a fork and then place the forked end into an empty jar,
placing the jar next to the sick patient at night. It said
the onion would be black in the morning from the germs...
sure enough it happened just like that; the onion was a
mess and I began to feel better.
Another thing I read in the article was that onions and
garlic placed around the room saved many from the black
plague years ago. They have powerful antibacterial,
antiseptic properties.

Medicinal Properties of Onion: This Humble Bulb Deserves Far More Respect Than It Currently Gets! |
From mouth odour to teary eyes, the onion is a much maligned vegetable. But there are far more health benefits afforded by the onion than we know.
The onion is amongst the oldest of all cultivated plants and has its origins in Central Asia. For over 4000 years, Central Asian, Egyptian and Indian traditional systems of medicine have recognized the medicinal properties of onion, which is why it forms an inseparable part of the diet in these countries.
Along with garlic, leeks, chives, scallions, and shallots, onion is a member of the lily family and bears the scientific name Allium cepa. Today, onions are the world's second most important horticultural crop, with an annual retail value in the United States of more than $3 billion. In your garden or grocery shelf, onion is available in many forms – red, green, yellow and white.Each of these types have a different ‘flavour’ and differ in their pungency.
Onions are rich in thiosulfinates, sulfides, sulfoxides, and other odoriferous sulfur compounds. The cysteine sulphoxides like allyl sulphoxide are responsible for the onion flavour and the eye-irritation that invariably occurs when one cuts an onion. The red colour of onion is due to anthocyanin while yellow due to quercetin.
A General Tonic : Keeps You Fighting Fit!
In early America and China, wild onions were used as a treatment for cold, cough, asthma, angina and breathing problems. Today, the WHO recognizes the use of onion extracts in providing relief from asthma as well as ulcers, scars and loss of appetite [1]. Onions are carminative, melt the phlegm and oil extracted from them is volatile. Many cultures believe that onion juice rubbed all over the body, or given orally brings stamina and vitality.
It's Cool, Dude!
Onion is said to have a ‘cooling’ effect on the body. Traditional wisdom recommends higher consumption of onion for people with more ‘body heat’, such as those suffering from skin eruptions. In villages of India, onion and jaggery in water is often taken to cure fatigue after a long walk under a hot sun. It also reduces thirst and the ill-effects of a sun-stroke.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Thinking Out Loud

By Gerard Meister

The Trouble with Men

Women don’t know it, but when they’re out of the house their husbands spend most of the day looking for things that they can’t find. Often, this frustrating quest is particularly exhausting and is one of the reasons men need frequent naps. Women, on the other hand, know where everything is. This is understandable. After all it’s their nest that the husband or lover (sometimes one and the same) lives in.

    “What did you do all day while I was gone, dear?” is a frequently heard phrase around the house, particularly mine.
    “The first few hours,” I replied, “absolutely flew by. I finally settled on the title of the article on the Amazon rainforest canopy that I’ll be pitching to National Geographic: ‘Truculence in the Treetops.” You don’t think it too alliterative, do you? I could go with, ‘Macaques: Truculence in the Treetops.’ After all, people who read National Geographic know the difference between a macaw and a macaque, or should anyway.”
    “Of course they should, dear. Did you make yourself something for lunch?”
    “No time. I was too busy looking for that damn rejection letter from The New Yorker. Did you see it anywhere? I turned the house upside down.”
    “Did you look in the accountant’s file? I seem to recall that the rejection letter and our income tax return came in the same mail. You might have mixed it in.”
    “I checked every single file in the cabinet, there’s no letter anywhere,” I said, adamantly.
    “Give me the file, let me look,” she said, just as adamantly. “Why here it is, darling,” she said in a thrice. “You accidentally stapled it to the amended return the accountant filed for us in ’98.”

Once out of the house, men are confronted with a different set of problems. Mainly, they don’t know whom they know, at least not without a wifely clue deftly delivered: “Oh, you remember Mrs. Gerbson, dear. She sat behind us on the bus when we took that tour of the Grand Canyon in ’89.”

Gadding about unescorted, some poor guy minding his own business will likely run into the kind of situation I did when I nipped out to the market to buy a jar of pearl onions. Marching down the condiment aisle with me was a woman I had never (or so I thought) seen before, but when our eyes met she came alive.

    “Hello there, how’s Marilyn?” she asked with a broad smile.
    "Uh, … mean my wife, Marilyn?" I asked. (Caught off guard, between the gherkins and the pickled beets, it was all I could muster.)
    “Yes, of course that Marilyn,” she said. “You don’t remember me, do you,” she concluded after a moment’s thought.
    “Well, now come to think of it, you do look familiar,” I said, giving her that all-knowing grin I affect when my back is up against the Alzheimer’s wall.
    “That’s not surprising,” she said, pleasantly. “We belonged to the same Temple on Long Island.”
    “Of course,” I said, lying through my teeth. “When did you join our Temple?”
    “The same year you did,” she said, pointedly. “1963. And as a matter of fact I just attended a wedding with your daughter, when her friend Dawn got married.”
    “Oh, so you know my daughter Ellen, too,” I said, thinking I was getting onto familiar ground.
    “No, Ellen is your older daughter,” she explained. “Dawn is friends with your younger daughter, Andrea. The tall, slim blonde one,” she added, hoping it would help me clarify the order of my children.
    “Yes, of course Andrea. The tall one. Heh, heh; I don’t know what I was thinking,” I said, hoping a sinkhole would swallow me up.
    “Well, make sure to give Marilyn my best,” she said, apparently giving up on me as she moved on.
    “Marilyn,” I said, as I burst through the door. “You’ll never guess who I just ran into.”
    “No, who?” she asked.
    “Come to think of it, she never mentioned her name,” I replied. “But I’m sure you’d know her. What’s for dinner?”

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

A Tall Texas Tale That Is True

Rattlesnake Cave

I was born into a family of 6 brothers and 2 sisters and our Daddy worked for the Gulf Oil Company. We lived in what is called a “tank farm.” That is where the families of the men who work for the oil company live in houses provided by the company. They are all in a row out in the country close to the oil wells and the big oil tanks. It was a lot of fun growing up out there because we were all friends; there were about 12 families living there.

Our family was kind of a novelty because of so many children. The bus picked us up really early in the morning and we rode to Wickett to pick up other kids and finally to school. This was way before television so we made up games and we played baseball and football with our brothers and other boys in the camp. There was one other girl besides my sisters so we had to get along with the boys. We also ran track and we had the hurdles to jump. I could jump the low hurdles but not the high ones. My sisters and youngest brother and I each had our place to stand by the different hurdles and if one of the older runners knocked one down we “got” to pick them up. We thought we were really special because they let us help them.

One of the neighborhood boys, John Allen Taylor, had an old jalopy and he would take us all riding around the tank farm. That is a wide-wide circle that goes around an oil tank and it is sloped so that made it even more fun!

During the summertime my Daddy would let one of us at a time go back to work with him after lunch. That was a VERY big treat because he made us feel special by having some time alone to spend talking to him and seeing what he did for a living. He gauged the oil pressure and other things in the big, big tanks that held the oil.

We also had bar-be-cues, picnics and ice-cream parties and this was lots of fun too because all the families got together. We took hikes, but not alone. You always had to have more than one person because there were lots of rattlesnakes out in west Texas.

Sometimes we had very, very bad sand storms. The sky would turn red and the sand would be so bad that you could not see more than a few feet away. It was very eerie and kind of frightening … but you got used to it. For some reason they do not have as bad storms out there any more.

We went to church; of course everyone else did too. It was funny sometimes because there were so many children that occasionally one of us would get left at the church building in town and we would have to go back for them!

One of my brothers, Oscar, loved animals and he raised FFA club calves. He loved his calves so much that when they were to go to the Fat Stock Show held each year … and that’s where they sold them, Oscar would sleep out there the night before and he cried where no one could see him when it was time to tell them goodbye. He always named his calves. We always had a garden with lots of vegetables and we also raised some chickens so that we could eat them. My mother was the best cook in the world!

I have given this background story so that you can see a little of what it was like to grow up in west Texas in a loving family atmosphere. About 4 miles from our house there was a big, big cave and everyone around our camp and town of Monahans called it, “Rattlesnake Cave” because it was the home of probably hundreds and hundreds of rattlesnakes. When you came upon the cave it was obvious what it was and you could walk in but then after a while of walking, the opening became smaller and smaller and you had to get down on your hands and knees to go further.

One day one of my brothers and two of his friends, Charles Hutchison and Eddie Sampson, decided they would “play hooky” and go to Rattlesnake Cave. They did not tell ANYONE where they were going. They took off and roamed around the countryside for a long time and then got to the cave. They began to go in and after they went a little way, Eddie decided he didn't think he wanted to go any further. He told the others goodbye and he walked home. From the cave to his home was about 5 miles. The boys had spent a lot of time exploring before they got to the cave so … by the time the boy who decided to go home, it was dark when he got there. Eddie ate his supper and was tired and went to bed … but still he did NOT tell anyone where the other two boys were.

Well … my brother, Pete, and Charles went further and further into the cave. They had not brought flashlights with them but just a big box of matches to light and see where they were going. As I said, the further they went into the cave, the narrower it got. After a while the boys realized they were in trouble. The matches were gone and it was the darkest dark they had ever been surrounded by. They could feel the RATS run by them and flutter against them. Before their matches were gone they had seen the rats and they were as big as CATS, but being TOUGH boys, they weren't afraid. And we had all been brought up with the rattlesnakes and knew to fear them but had also been taught that you are supposed to leave them alone. And being young and naïve, they hadn't been afraid of things. Quite some time passed and they realized they might just never get out of the cave. The fact that no one except Eddie, the friend who went home, knew where Pete and Charles were was beginning to sink in. They decided to pray and they began singing songs that they learned to sing in church and they cried some too… not knowing really what was going to happen.

Meanwhile back at the Walters house … “Where is Pete? Didn't he get on the bus this afternoon?” “Who was the last person to see and talk to him?” All the questions began to cause fear in the hearts of Mother and Daddy and all of us kids. My Daddy had the flu and was very, very sick. Brian, my brother who is two years older than Pete, began making phone calls to classmates of the missing boys. It was over quite a period of time that someone came forth and said Pete, Eddie and Charles had played hooky. Calls were made to Eddie's house and his folks said he was in bed asleep, BUT … Charles’ parents said he was missing. Through many phone calls and piecing stories together it was decided to ask Eddie’s parents to wake him up! He sheepishly admitted he played hooky with them and that they had gone to Rattlesnake Cave. Everyone, upon hearing this, became very fearful for the lives of Pete and Charles.

Word spread quickly all over the Gulf camp and throughout town and soon there were literally hundreds of people out at the cave with flashlights and equipment for going into the cave. They shined their car lights toward the opening of the cave and different people would go and yell to see if they could get the boys to answer, but they were too far into the cave to hear anything. The tension grew as fear grew that they might not be alive. My Daddy got out of his sick bed and went out with the other folks to find his boy. . Jim is my brother two years older than me and I know he remembers all of this. Laura and Linda are both younger sisters and I'm not sure exactly how much they remember, but it brought a house full of neighbors and friends to wait with Mother and the younger children.

They finally decided to tie a really long rope around the waist of someone willing to go into the cave and if he found them he would jerk on the rope. They ran into a problem very soon because every one who tried to go in would get to the point where the opening narrowed so that they couldn't get through. Someone remembered that a man in town, whose name is Grady Kidd, was a VERY small and short man and someone went to town to ask if he would be willing to go in. He came back with them and went in. After many hours Mr. Kidd found Pete and Charles and brought them out one at a time to a cheering and relieved crowd of people. It was near morning by the time both boys were brought out.

Our family doctor, Dr. Kunstadt, checked the boys and pronounced them in good shape, though shaken, nervous, tired and hungry. He asked if the boys would be punished whereupon my mother said, “No, the boys have been punished enough!” And this from a little lady that could really swing a switch to all those kids when we misbehaved.

Someone asked Pete if he was scared and he said, “No, I knew my Daddy would come and find me.”
Pete (pictured below) is now deceased and Charles Hutchison, the other boy in the cave, died in a car wreck while in high school.

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


All About Lent

From a Catholic Viewpoint

Before I begin let me say that I got this information from the Catholic Church teachings, found on line. These instructions and doctrine of Lent are strictly Catholic in origin, and come directly from those teachings. Next let me say that in my belief and searches to confirm my beliefs: Jesus did not die on a Friday. He clearly stated that He would be in His grave three days and three nights; Friday to Sunday is not a three day period. That is only a day and a half. Friday night, all day Saturday, and Saturday night. He arose early Sunday Morning. In order to get the three days and nights Jesus said he would have, He would have to have been Crucified on a Wednesday. Then He would have spent Wednesday night, all day Thursday, Thursday night, all day Friday, Friday night, all day Saturday and arise early in the morning of Sunday. That is three days and three nights. This is only my belief and not to be taken as Gospel, however it only makes sense if the words of Jesus are to be taken as the truth. So let’s get to what the Catholic Church has to say about Lent.

Historically, Lent is the forty day period before Easter, excluding Sundays; it begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday (the day before Easter Sunday). In recent years, this has been modified so that it now ends with evening Mass on Holy Thursday, to prepare the way for Tridium. Sunday was excluded because Sunday is the day on which Christ arose, making it an inappropriate day to fast and mourn our sins. On Sunday we must celebrate Christ's resurrection for our salvation. It is Friday on which we commemorate his death for our sins. The Sundays of the year are days of celebration and the Fridays of the year are days of penance.

Lent got its name because that is the Old English word for spring, the season of the year in which it falls; this is something unique to English. In almost all other languages its name is a derivative of the Latin term Quadragesima, or "the forty days."

It is forty days long because it is a traditional number of discipline, devotion, and preparation in the Bible. Thus Moses stayed on the Mountain of God forty days (Exodus 24:18 and 34:28), the spies were in the land for forty days (Numbers 13:25), Elijah traveled forty days before he reached the cave where he had his vision (1 Kings 19:8), Nineveh was given forty days to repent (Jonah 3:4), and most importantly, prior to undertaking his ministry, Jesus spent forty days in wilderness praying and fasting (Matthew 4:2).

Since Lent is a period of prayer and fasting, it is fitting for Christians to imitate their Lord with a forty day period. Christ used a forty day period of prayer and fasting to prepare for his ministry, which culminated in his death and resurrection, and thus it is fitting for Christians to imitate him with a forty day period of prayer and fasting to prepare for the celebration of his ministry's climax, Good Friday (the day of the crucifixion) and Easter Sunday (the day of the resurrection).
Thus the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: " ' For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sinning ' [Heb 4:15]. By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert." (CCC 540).

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which is the day on which the faithful have their foreheads signed with ashes in the form of a Cross. It is also a day of fast and abstinence.

Under current canon law in the Western Rite of the Church, a day of fast is one on which Catholics who are eighteen to sixty years old are required to keep a limited fast. In this country, one may eat a single, normal meal and have two snacks, so long as these snacks do not add up to a second meal. Children are not required to fast, but their parents must ensure they are properly educated in the spiritual practice of fasting. Those with medical conditions requiring a greater or more regular food intake can easily be dispensed from the requirement of fasting by their pastor.
A day of abstinence is a day on which Catholics fourteen years or older are required to abstain from eating meat (under the current discipline in America, fish, eggs, milk products, and condiments or foods made using animal fat are permitted in the Western Rite of the Church, though not in the Eastern Rites.) Again, persons with special dietary needs can easily be dispensed by their pastor.

Is there a biblical basis for abstaining from meat as a sign of repentance?

    Yes. The book of Daniel states: "In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia . . . ‘I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.’ (Daniel 10:1-3)
Isn't abstaining from meat one of the "doctrines of demons" Paul warned about in 1 Timothy 4:1-5?
    Short answer:

    Not unless Daniel was practicing a doctrine of demons.
    Long answer:

    When Paul warned of those who "forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods" he has in mind people with the Manichean belief that sex is wrong and certain foods, like meat, are intrinsically immoral. Thus the spiritual ideal for many modern New Agers is a celibate vegetarian, as in the Eastern religions. We know that Paul has in mind those who teach sex and certain foods are intrinsically immoral because he tells us that these are "foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer" (1 Tim. 4:3b-5).
    Sex and all kinds of food are good things which are why the Catholic Church has marriage for a sacrament and heartily recommends the practice of eating to its members, and this is precisely why it is fitting for them to be given up as part of a spiritual discipline. Thus Daniel gave up meat as well as wine, another symbol of rejoicing, and Paul endorses the practice of temporary celibacy to engage in a special spiritual discipline of increased prayer (1 Corinthians 7:5). By giving up good things and denying them to ourselves we encourage an attitude of humility, free ourselves from dependence on them, cultivate the spiritual discipline of being willing to make personal sacrifices, and remind ourselves of the importance of spiritual goods over earthly goods.
    In fact, if there was an important enough purpose, Paul recommended permanently giving up marriage and meat. Thus he himself was celibate (1 Corinthians 7:8), he recommended the same for ministers (2 Timothy 2:3-4), and he recommended it for the unmarried so they can devote themselves more fully to the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:32-34) unless doing so would subject them to great temptations (1 Corinthians 7:9). Similarly, he recommended giving up meat permanently if it would prevent others from sinning (1 Corinthians 8:13). Thus Paul certainly had nothing against celibacy or giving up meat -- even on a permanent basis -- so long as one wasn't saying that these things are intrinsically evil, which is what he was condemning in the "doctrines of demons" passage. Since the Catholic Church only requires abstinence from meat on a temporary basis, it clearly does not regard meat as immoral. Instead, it regards it as the giving up of a good thing (which in less economically developed regions -- including the whole world until very recently -- was expensive and thus eaten at festive occasions, making it a sign of rejoicing) to attain a spiritual goal.
On what basis does the Church have the authority to establish days of fast and abstinence? On the authority of Jesus Christ. Jesus told the leaders of his Church, "Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:19, 18:18). The language of binding and loosing (in part) was a rabbinic way of referring to the ability to establish binding Halakah or rules of conduct for the faith community. It is thus especially appropriate that the references to binding and loosing occur in Matthew, the "Jewish Gospel." Thus the Jewish Encyclopedia states:
"BINDING AND LOOSING (Hebrew, asar ve-hittir) . . . Rabbinical term for 'forbidding and permitting.' . . .
    "The power of binding and loosing as always claimed by the Pharisees. Under Queen Alexandra the Pharisees, says Josephus (Wars of the Jews 1:5:2), 'became the administrators of all public affairs so as to be empowered to banish and readmit whom they pleased, as well as to loose and to bind.' . . . The various schools had the power 'to bind and to loose', that is, to forbid and to permit (Talmud: Chagigah 3b); and they could also bind any day by declaring it a fast-day ( . . . Talmud: Ta'anit 12a . . . ). This power and authority, vested in the rabbinical body of each age of the Sanhedrin, received its ratification and final sanction from the celestial court of justice (Sifra, Emor, 9; Talmud: Makkot 23b).
    "In this sense Jesus, when appointing his disciples to be his successors, used the familiar formula (Matt. 16:19, 18:18). By these words he virtually invested them with the same authority as that which he found belonging to the scribes and Pharisees who 'bind heavy burdens and lay them on men's shoulders, but will not move them with one of their fingers'; that is 'loose them,' as they have the power to do (Matt. 23:2-4). In the same sense the second epistle of Clement to James II ('Clementine Homilies,' Introduction [A.D. 221]), Peter is represented as having appointed Clement as his successor, saying: 'I communicate to him the power of binding and loosing so that, with respect to everything which he shall ordain in the earth, it shall be decreed in the heavens; for he shall bind what ought to be bound and loose what ought to be loosed as knowing the rule of the Church.'" (Jewish Encyclopedia 3:215).
    Thus Jesus invested the leaders of this Church with the power of making Halakah for the Christian community. This includes the setting of fast days (like Ash Wednesday).
To approach the issue from another angle, every family has the authority to establish particular family devotions for its members.
    Thus if the parents decide that the family will engage in a particular devotion at a particular time (say, Bible reading after supper), it is a sin for the children to disobey and skip the devotion for no good reason. In the same way, the Church as the family of God has the authority to establish its own family devotion, and it is a sin for the members of the Church to disobey and skip the devotions for no good reason (though of course if the person has a good reason, the Church dispenses him immediately).
In addition to Ash Wednesday, there are other days during Lent days of fast or abstinence.
    All Fridays during Lent are days of abstinence. Also, Good Friday, the day on which Christ was crucified, is another day of both fast and abstinence. All days in Lent are appropriate for fasting or abstaining, but canon law does not require fasting on those days. Such fasting or abstinence is voluntary, like a freewill offering.
    Fridays are considered special days of fast because Jesus died for our sins on Friday, making it an especially appropriate day of mourning our sins (just as Sunday, the day on which he rose for our salvation is an especially appropriate day to rejoice) by denying ourselves something we enjoy. During the rest of the year Catholics in this country are permitted to use a different act of penance on Friday in place of abstinence, though all Fridays are days of penance on which we are required to do something expressing sorrow for our sins, just as Sundays are holy days on which we are required to worship and celebrate God's great gift of salvation.
    Acts of Repentance are special acts on Fridays, thus the Code of Canon Law states:

    "All Fridays through the year and in the time of Lent are penitential days and time throughout the universal Church" (CIC 1250). And, because it is the time leading up to the commemoration of Our Lord's death for our sins and the commemoration of his resurrection for our salvation. It is thus especially appropriate to mourn the sins for which he died. Humans have an innate psychological need to mourn tragedies, and our sins are tragedies of the greatest sort. Due to our fallen nature humans also have a need to have set times in which to engage in behavior (which is why we have Sundays as a set time to rest and worship, since we would otherwise be likely to forget to devote sufficient time to rest and worship), it is appropriate to have set times of repentance.
Lent is one of those set times.
    Appropriate activities for ordinary days during Lent Giving up something we enjoy for Lent, doing of physical or spiritual acts of mercy for others, prayer, fasting, abstinence, going to confession, and other acts expressing repentance in general.
Is this custom of giving up something for Lent mandatory?
    No. However, it is a salutary custom, and parents or caretakers may choose to require it of their children to encourage their spiritual training, which is their prime responsibility in the raising of their children.
Since Sundays are not counted in the forty days of Lent, does the custom of giving up something apply to them?
    Customarily, no. However, since the giving up of something is voluntary to begin with, there is no official rule concerning this aspect of it. Nevertheless, since Sundays are days of celebration, it is appropriate to suspend the Lenten self-denial on them that, in a spiritual and non-excessive way, we may celebrate the day of Our Lord's resurrection so that that day and that event may be contrasted with the rest of the days of Lent and the rest of the events of history. This heightened contrast deepens the spiritual lessons taught by the rest of Lent.
By denying ourselves something we enjoy, we discipline our wills so that we are not slaves to our pleasures.
    Just as indulging the pleasure of eating leads to physical flabbiness and, if this is great enough, an inability to perform in physically demanding situations, indulging in pleasure in general leads to spiritual flabbiness and, if this is great enough, an inability to perform in spiritual demanding situations, when the demands of morality require us to sacrifice something pleasurable (such as sex before marriage or not within the confines of marriage) or endure hardship (such as being scorned or persecuted for the faith). By disciplining the will to refuse pleasures when they are not sinful, a habit is developed which allows the will to refuse pleasures when they are sinful. There are few better ways to keep one's priorities straight than by periodically denying ourselves things of lesser priority to show us that they are not necessary and focus our attention on what is necessary.
Is the denying of pleasure an end in itself?
    No. It is a only a means to an end. By training ourselves to resist temptations when they are not sinful, we train ourselves to reject temptations when they are sinful. We also express our sorrow over having failed to resist sinful temptations in the past.
Is there such a thing as denying ourselves too many pleasures?
    Most definitely.

    • First, God made human life contingent on certain goods, such as food, and to refuse to enjoy enough of them has harmful consequences. For example, if we do not eat enough food it can cause physical damage or (in the extreme, even death). Just as there is a balance between eating too much food and not eating enough food, there is a balance involved in other goods.
    • Second, if we do not strike the right balance and deny ourselves goods God meant us to have then it can generate resentment toward God, which is a spiritual sin just as much as those of engaging in excesses of good things. Thus one can be led into sin either by excess or by defect in the enjoyment of good things.
    • Third, it can decrease our effectiveness in ministering to others. Fourth, it can deprive us of the goods God gave us in order that we might praise him.
    • Fifth, it constitutes the sin of ingratitude by refusing to enjoy the things God wanted us to have because he loves us. If a child refused every gift his parent gave him, it would displease the parent, and if we refuse gifts God has given us, it displeases God because he loves us and wants us to have them.
Is that balance the same for all people?
    No. For example, with the good of food, people who are by nature physically larger need more food than people who are physically smaller. Similarly, people who have higher metabolisms or who do manual labor for a living need more food than people with slower metabolisms or who have less active lifestyles. The same is true with regard to other goods than food. Thus St. Paul speaks of this in regard to the good of married life:

    " I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion " (1 Corinthians 7:7-9).
    Thus some are given the gift of being able to live without the good of married life in order that they may pursue greater devotion to God (1 Cor. 7:32-34) or to pursue greater ministry for others (2 Timothy 2:3-4), as with priests, monks, and nuns. God gives these people special graces to live the life which they have embraced, just as he gives special graces to the married to live the life they have embraced.
Aside from Ash Wednesday, which begins Lent, what are its principal events?
    There are a variety of saints' days which fall during Lent, and some of these change from year to year since the dates of Lent itself change based on when Easter falls. However, the Sundays during the Lenten season commemorate special events in the life of Our Lord, such as his Transfiguration and his Triumphal Entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, which begins Holy Week. Holy week climaxes with Holy Thursday, on which Christ celebrated the first Mass, Good Friday, on which he was Crucified, and Holy Saturday -- the last day of Lent -- during which Our Lord lay in the Tomb before his Resurrection on Easter Sunday, the first day after Lent.
Researched by Leo C. Helmer

By Leocthasme 
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Editor's Corner

March 2010

" Anything worth having is worth working for, and is of lasting value. . . Unless you do not particularly want your dreams to come true, you can't afford to know the meaning of apathy. You must continually be on the scene with the muscles of your mind toned. "   --'Cherokee Feast of Days' February 20, Joyce Sequichie Hifler.

This is the month for St Patrick's Day which many observe in the USA with joy and celebration of their Irish heritage, no matter how lean that part might actually be of the blood running through their multi-nation veins. Your editor boasts of a quarter Irish compared to as small a percentage as Seminole which weighs in at 1/16th. Along with English, German, French, and Cherokee, the Irish doesn't leave an identifiable appearance, but it is right there in her heart. The cooking Editor Helmer, on the other hand is possibly half Irish and is as mischievous as a leprechaun. Perhaps that accounts for some of his inventive, ingenious recipes, and his personal take on some classics.

No telling which heritage or environment nuance instills the love of Nature which is most often expressed in the appreciation of wild flowers. This is indeed the season to start finding them as even the deserts bloom when there has been enough moisture. As this is written, five inches of snow lies upon a wide area of this part of the desert, the second snow this year, and a goodly amount of rain has also occurred. Of course, in this area precipitation is measured by hundredths of an inch, which totally freaked out the native St.Louisian who abides here, since he was used to our annual rainfall (9 to 11 inches) falling within 24 hours in Missouri. We are already ahead on that statistic for this time of the year in the weatherman's estimations. So the wildflowers should be outstanding this Spring.

When you do spot wildflowers you may want to use this link to help identify them:
Wildflower Field Guide This guide focuses on desert plants but there are many others to be found via the internet. The Chilopsis linearis, or Desert Willow is one of the flowering trees it mentions. The Desert Willow which has been growing in our yard since 1965, is shown in full bloom (and also one view in late August 2008 before the windstorm which took out some of the limbs) at the bottom of this column. Receiving more water and being protected from nearby trees, this tree has grown far more than those you will see alongside the roads and interstates, and the colors of the small orchid like flowers are much more vivid. The first blooms usually appear locally the first week of May, but always has at least one flower by the eighth of May. It was used as the logo of the original AMEA Publication, "Hobbies, Etc."

Peg Jones, in her column "Angel Whispers" salutes Spring from her Boston perspective. One can have beauty around them with a bit of effort and the blessing of the angels.

Leo C. Helmer goes even more Irish this month with "Cookin' With Leo," and Thomas F. O'Neill ("Introspective") discusses same sex marriages. Mattie Lennon shares a new release with us in his column "Irish Eyes" then announces a personal credit concerning one of his plays. John I. Blair in "Always Looking" offers some research data on chasing down family names, beginning with an unusual one. Great work, John. Eric Shackle continues the Dog wars in "Eric Shackle's Column," Gerard Meister tells "The Trouble with Men" in his column "Thinking Out Loud."

LC Van Savage discusses Opera like you've never heard it done before in "Consider This" then adds an editorial type column we show as an article, "A Tiger And His Stripes." Leo C. Helmer researched the subject of Lent, and presents a thorough discussion in his article, "All About Lent."

We are pleased to show a Story this issue from our own locale. In fact, it is somewhat of a 'legend' that conversation always gets around to at reunions. This "Tall Texas Tale That Is True" comes from the sister of one of the participants, Lily Jo (Walters) Abston who answered my request to use it with, "Thanks! This is exciting for me." Then she added, "Interesting thing happened yesterday ... the grandson attending Texas for grad work was on a bus on his way to class when the plane flew into the building. Grant immediately took photo with phone, put on Twitter and then CNN, AP, and Yahoo got in touch with him asking if they could use photo and give him credit ... Of course, he said yes so his name was all over the Internet! He is married to Colt McCoy's first cousin ... if you are a football fan, you'll know who this is!" For those who aren't as familiar with Texas football, here is a link for Colt McCoy at NFL combine. This is one of about 854,000 links for Colt McCoy that came up when we googled his name.

Mike Craner, webmaster, has been hard at work and we are now carrying the ezine in a new 'blog' format at which many readers prefer. However we shall maintain the ezine here at as the main vehicle for our publications.  Pencil Stubs Online is also on FaceBook and you can become a fan by going to this url PSO on Facebook or click on it from the sidebar if you are at the blog version.

Bruce Clifford is making good use of our new Blog format and has posted some of his poetry for the March issue there already. You'll find these poems for March, "The Right Thing" and "I Don't Mind," and Clifford's also showing his youtube song, "Watch Me." "Thirty Years Gone," has a nice ending and "In My Dreams," sounds like it goes with my opening quote. "The Limit" is a poem of someplace many of us have reached. "Leprechaun Lament" in honor of March 17, and "Time to Vote" thinking of the March 2d primaries are by yours truly.  John I. Blair's half dozen begins with "Bricks" and he adds "Haircut," "Limb," "More Courage Per Square Yard," "Pain," and "Old Fence Lizard" which has an illustration.

Pauline Fayne, the new poet featured this month, is only new to Pencil Stubs Online, not to publication of her work, with "A Farewell for John B Keane," having been published in her book, "I’m Fine Really," Stonebridge Publications 2005. (see her bio).   LC Van Savage published a book of poetry, "LC'S TAKE - POETRY I." back in 1998 and we begged to publish "My Ghost" from it, so we have it also.
See you in April!

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Desert Willow in full bloom, May 2008

A Tiger And His Stripes

So Tiger Woods has issued The Big Apology. Well now, that’s fine. I’m personally so relieved after waiting all this long time. I mean come on, he owes all of us an apology, right? Wrong.

Frankly, I have a few questions regarding this Tiger Woods issue, and here they are; First, who cares?? Why do people get themselves tied in knots over the sexual escapades of celebrities? Why are we so fascinated? Why do we think we’re entitled to know about these things in full, vivid detail, and why do we actually think these famous folks, after they get busted for doing things that are no one’s business, have to get themselves tearfully, sometimes sobbingly in front of multiple TV cameras and confess their so called sins to the world? And, age old question here; are they sobbing because they’re genuinely sorry they did the nasties, or because they got caught?

First of all I think it was really unfriendly of all those women with whom Tiger fooled around to blab to the media. Before he got caught by his wife or by anyone, they were perfectly content to be his invisible playmates, not imaginary, but invisible. When this stuff exploded all over the news, I’ll bet those chosen gentlewomen suddenly began to think hey! Book! Maybe a movie they could actually star in! Pots and pots of money for the accepting! And so they called in all the nice, friendly media folks and spilled their copulatory beans (sorry) and I say shame on them! Shame! Those ladies were perfectly willing to enjoy some arcane slap and tickle with the greatest golfer the world has ever known and to keep their blabbatory mouths shut, until suddenly, El Tigre got caught with his paw in the cookie jar. The man got himself netted because like lots of powerful, wealthy people Mr. Woods thought he was above getting caught, that no one would tattle. Well, lots did, Tiger got slammed and all his very, very, very friendly chaise chums suddenly felt compelled to do the right thing, to help out, and shoot off their mouths, even if it meant a mother, a wife and 2 small kids might be badly hurt. A lot. Talk about kicking a golfer when he’s down.

See, I personally think les affaires de coeur are private matters, to be kept between committed partners, their families, their gods and ultimately, their lawyers. Why is so much ink and air space wasted on the philanderings of anyone? And do you want to know what else I think? Probably not, but here it is; I think many of the tut-tutters, the finger pointers and the folks so shocked, so gasping in outrage at Mr. Woods’s behaviours have done or are doing the exact same things he did and does, or dearly wish they could, only of course they’d have to do it with a lot less cash and in a lot poorer digs; by the hour motels up the highway for example, as opposed to exotic resort hotel suites in exotic ports of call. Hey, everything’s the same between the sheets whether they’re nasty old worn out ones at 90 count or pure satin at 500 count, right? Right? OK, not. Well maybe. Do I know?

It’s not as if Tiger took money from innocent people. He probably laid out (sorry) more on his gal pals than we’ll ever know, and hello, why are we entitled to know anyway? Does Tiger Woods owe us anything? Hardly. What he does owe people who pay to watch him is a great golf game and he’s always delivered. That’s it. What Peck’s Bad Boy does after he showers and departs the locker room is absolutely no one’s business.

And please tell me, will you refuse to buy a car or a watch or a golf club or anything else that the Tiger has endorsed because of what you’ve learned about his genitive goings on? Oh come on, a good product is a good product regardless of who’s doing the hawking. My advice to these huge sponsoring now nervous companies is to take a deep breath and fuggedabowdit. Move on. Your products will not go into the WC because TG’s name has been attached to them. Knowing human nature, I’ll wager it’s quite the opposite. I suggest that even now in the heat of all this uh oh, American consumers would love to be seen tooling around in a nice, new Tiger Woods sponsored Buick.

And as to apologies, OK, maybe those sleazoid politicians who go in search of the wee diversion now and again on our nickel by the way, maybe do owe the public an apology because didn’t they get elected on the I’m-pure-as-new-fallen-snow platform, and didn’t they promise they were great, staunch family men who would never do anything untoward? That they’d lead us all to prosperity and peace? Yes I know, women too occasionally wander down the untoward path. But one doesn’t really hear about women doing it much. Either they are too clever and don’t get caught, or for them it’s just too boring or tiresome to do the hanky-panky dance.

In case we can’t be simply content knowing that the Golfer Woods slipped way down off his moral high horse, we now have to pick apart his apology thing. When will it ever be enough? Now it appears we have to give deep consideration as to whether Mr. Woods will be exploiting his children to win back the sympathies of the American people. Oh for the sweet luvva. And, it makes me squirm to think that he and his handlers decided he had to stand in front of the world to humiliate himself and “explain” that he’d been a bad, baaaad boy. Why? He knows it. His family knows it. Let them work it out.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking. There are young people out there who really look up to Tiger Woods and he’s not sending out a very good family message, so perhaps from that point of view, he should speak out if only to tell these kids that he did a bad thing to his family and that should these young folks happen to attain great fame and wealth this should not entitle them to heap pain and shame on those close to them. Will Tiger’s extensive extra maritals give young athletes or wannabe golfers permission to serial cheat on their spouses? Again, do I know? Do you? No. People will do what they do, always have, always will. And if men can’t keep it in their knickers and women can’t keep it in their bloomers, well then, do these failings really have to be such a huge part of our daily news? Personally, I think not. There are far, far more urgent news stories on which we should truly focus our concerns.       

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Email LC at
See her on incredibleMAINE, MPBN,
10:30 AM Saturdays


Late last night
My son called.
He’d heard a crack
And crash upon his roof.

I jammed a ladder
Into my little car
And rattled miles
Past sleeping houses.

In his lightless yard
I propped the ladder,
Told him to hang on tight,
And clambered up.

There on the sloping shingles,
Under the shadowed mystery
Of great pecans and mighty oaks,
Lay a dead and rotted limb.

From the clean break
Across its dry stump
I could see
It had been ripe to go;

But though the fallen member
Was wide as my right arm
And ten feet long,
It did no major harm.

A bit of careful hauling
Got it off the roof onto the lawn;
And then I swept the small debris
Over the edge and down

Where it fell on my son’s head,
As, charmed by the sight
Of me at work,
He had forgot to move.

Making my way home
Before the dawn
I thought about relations
Between trees and urban folk.

Our tidy, foursquare,
Architectural abodes,
Are, for the most part,
Made of forest corpses;

Yet we long to nestle them
Among live trees,
Which unmistakably
Are never tidy.

We are intruders,
Clearly lucky
We don’t get beaned
On a regular basis;

And when I work
In my own shady garden,
Sometimes I look up
And praise the trees’ forbearance.

©2003 By John I. Blair 
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Yesterday in my greening garden
I pruned back roses, piled up leaves,
And planned what I ought to do this year
To shape my shaggy flowerbeds.

But while I was scraping mud away
From the half-hid path of orange bricks
That meanders through the garden’s tangles
And explores its angles, my thoughts slid.

This, I said, is my garden walk.
(I talk to myself while gardening.)
It’s laid of old bricks that I picked up
Beside the railroad track downtown.

Long ago they were molded in Mexico,
Then salvaged, shipped here in a railroad car,
Carelessly spilled onto the ground,
Found by me and hauled on home.

When they were new these Mexican bricks
May have been used to build a church,
A school, library or hospital;
Now all I can show is a rough-paved path.

But the bricks evidently do not care;
They know they’ll glow in the sunlight here
Just as well as in Saltillo,
Coahuila, Puebla, Mazatlán.

©2003 By John I. Blair 

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More Courage Per Square Yard

More courage per square yard
Than on any battleground
Can be found here
At the rehab center, every day –

People with no use for guns,
Their primal tool a steel will,
Determining to keep on living,
Step by step by step;

And if steps do not prove possible,
Hand over painful hand,
Or with the aid of levers, wheels,
Whatever living may require.

When tossing a balloon
Lightly through the air
Within a ring of gentle smiles
Becomes sweet triumph,

I’ll sing that triumph
Louder, prouder,
Than for any general
Parading down Main Street.

©2010 By John I. Blair 
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Always Looking

Fun With A Name

All my fairly undistinguished life I have possessed one highly distinctive item – my middle name. Among all the people I knew when I was a boy, there was only one other who shared that name – my father. Eventually I learned that his father before him had borne the same name, and a couple of my older first cousins. When, in the course of time, I had a son of my own, he inherited the name as well.
The unusual name? Ival.

Most people can go a lifetime and never know an Ival. Maybe an Ivan, or (for girls) even an Ivalene (popular in Alabama). But Ivals in this country number at most in the few hundreds today, and probably were even rarer in the past.

Now it can be useful to have an unusual name. It’s handy for keeping your all-important governmental files straight, and even your “permanent record” at school. In high school it once kept me from being confused with another John Blair, who was flunking English when I was acing it. The world is fairly full of John Blairs, and even John I. Blair is not that uncommon. (One of the wealthiest men in American history was John Insley Blair, the 19th-century railroad magnate, who may have named more towns than anyone else in history – all of them along his rail lines.) But I’m the only John Ival Blair I know of, today or at any other time.

Left: Ival Melville Blair, age 14

I have never been able to trace the name Ival further back than my grandfather. In college I tried to research it, using the resources of a major research library, but drew a total blank. For years I’d given up.
Recently, however, newly retired and with time on my hands and the Internet as a tool, I have tried again. And as always with genealogy research, it’s been a learning experience far beyond just the name.
A “popularity” search on quickly told me that, as a first name, Ival was most popular in the states of Ohio and Missouri. I wondered what that meant. Many names, both given and family, do have a distinctive distribution like that. Often this has to do with migration patterns; equally often the cause remains a mystery.

Then a lucky hit in a Google search gave me an article about the history of Ival, or Ivall, as a family surname, which was news to me. As a family name Ival may have originated in the eastern Scottish highlands south of Moray Firth. Since Blair is a Scots name, this seemed an interesting coincidence at the very least.

One tantalizing fact I also discovered is that there was a Saint Eval, of obscure life in the 6th century, who is honored with a lovely medieval rural church in Cornwall to the west of St. Columb Major. That was also a bit confusing. I have a family branch from St. Columb Major, but it’s on the other side of the family from the one that names kids Ival.

And I learned that Ival can be either a man’s name or a woman’s name, which lends support to the notion that it originally was a family surname. Many families have, or had, a tradition of naming children after related, or neighboring, families. For example, my great-grandfather William Patterson Veale was named Patterson after his mother’s family name.

Then a second cousin of mine came up with the information that my grandfather Ival had had a first cousin who also was named Ival. What did they both have in common? Their mothers were sisters. That gave me a hunch that perhaps the name (at least in my family) came from the two sisters’ family, which happened to be the McWilliams family, which had lived in the general area of northwest Missouri and (possibly) southeast Nebraska, at least in the mid-nineteenth century decade to which I had tracked the name.

Along the way I identified, and communicated with, a couple of other non-related Ivals, each of whom also had wondered about his odd given name. We made common cause, and shared data – always an excellent route to enlightenment. One of them, an administrator at an Oklahoma university, revealed that he actually had been born in the same small area of western Oklahoma where my grandfather had lived, my father had spent his childhood, and three other kinfolk named Ival (after my grandfather) were born. But he’d never personally known any of the other Ivals from that county. His father, who was also born in that area, had also been named Ival. The coincidence seemed very great! Working back from birth and death dates, I developed a working theory, still to be proved – and probably unprovable – that this Ival’s father had been named after my grandfather, who was a generation older, lived within 10 miles, and had traveled the county as a harvest machinery salesman and hence was probably a well-known figure in the area. Stranger things have happened.

Another correspondent was the son of an actual Ival McWilliams, from Omaha. Unfortunately for my research, there was no information about how Ival McWilliams got the name. Still working on that one. Some apparent leads can be more frustrating than informative.
And an Ival from St. Joseph, who was a locally famous news photographer, died just two years before I “found” him; making that link pretty hard to follow up on, though I have sent a letter of inquiry to his surviving family.

My point is, although after half a year’s work I still am not much closer to tracing the origins of my odd middle name, I’ve learned much more about name distribution, family connections, other people named Ival, geography, techniques of learning about given names, and one obscure Welsh/Cornish saint. So I don’t consider my time wasted. (But my wife does.)

©2010  John I. Blair  
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So far it’s nothing I can’t bear;
I’ll swear, but stay in motion
(Maybe limping, maybe weaving
Just a bit as I walk across the room). 
In truth right now it’s mostly hands;
Tomorrow may be legs and feet again
(A part of looming old age I am told).

If this were all I faced I wouldn’t care;
At facing pain I’m fairly bold.

What’s hard is losing joy,
Sometimes from familiarity—
From having been there
Too many times already—
And sometimes from despair
At my constant grieving
As I see how my beloved suffers
On her halting way through
Yet another pain-filled day.
©2003 By John I. Blair 
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Irish Eyes

The Wicklow Hills Once More

Those of us who grew up among the Wicklow hills in the last century were surrounded by plenty of material for short stories. If we had had the powers of observation and what it took to really listen we could have written volumes about our parents, friends and relatives. And about the generations long dead that were talked about.

The county Wicklow doesn’t have a great literary tradition, compared to, say Kerry. Nicholas Byrne is an exception. He was born in Seskin, Tinahely in 1937. He went to national school in nearby Kilquiggan and though he later attended Blackrock College in Dublin, like Mark Twain, he, “didn’t let his schooling interfere with his education.” He recalls how, “In the warm glow of the turf fire . . .they would while away the nights, reminiscing in their own inimitable way about the exploits of these simple people. . . That was long before electricity, the telephone, the television or even the radio invaded our homes. It’s the story of the spade and shovel, the scythe, the sickle and the horse and cart that were in daily use.” Nicholas writes lovingly about the storytellers. Of how they, “ . . . spoke with a genuineness that appealed and aroused the spirits and curiosity of their listeners. They embellished these narratives with animation to make listening a pleasure . . .”

Yes, Nicholas Byrne’s storytelling skills were forged at the firesides and in the fields around Tinahely. His experiences are culminated in his first book of short stories, Among the Wicklow Hills. This is a collection of twenty-two stories from among those hills. (Of course we call them mountains and get criticised for so calling what some people see as relatively mild land elevations. But, as I have pointed out elsewhere they’re ours, we’re proud of them and we’ll call them what we like.

As one interviewer said, “It captures the wit and humorous happenings of these simple people and their quirks and foibles at a time that is now gone forever. They are stories that never pall or drag, it’s a fascinating read.”

The only way I can describe the stories is that, “all human life is there.”
The Scull, hits home the lesson that it is very unwise to exploit or ridicule those members of society who are perceived as, “not too bright.

The Good Samaritan, while not in any way repugnant to the message of the Biblical parable, advises extreme caution when playing the role of peacemaker in an altercation which is the result of genetic “bad-blood.”

A “culchie” is an indigenous Irish person who was born outside Dublin. Which means that 72% of all Irish natives are culchies? Nicholas Byrne has a story called Culchies which is not just about the urban/rural divide but also about the importance of a trip to Croke Park in the lives of young Irishmen of rural background. In this story two pals use all their wiles to borrow a car to go to Dublin to a match. During the day they encounter a puncture, an irate Dublin mother of elaborate dimensions, potholes and broken eggs. They, also, narrowly escape having to play the role of midwives. There’s a twist in the tale that you’ll have to buy the book to find out about.

The book also has a very useful glossary (for what outsider could understand our Wicklow lingo without such a word-list?) Where, apart from places like Kylebeg, Lacken or Ballinastockan, would you hear terms like, “gomila”, “greesach” or “shiuler”?

This is a book not to be missed. Details at:

Author's Note: Oh. .and before I forget. I told you before that I had written a play, "And All his Songs Were Sad," based on the life and works of celebrated Kerry singer/songwriter, the late Sean McCarthy. Well. . I am delighted to report that it is being premièred by the Pantaleize Theatre Company, in Fort Worth, Texas, on March 12th.Mattie Lennon

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“Just give a trim all over,
Barely brush the ears
And block across the neck.

Oh, and save the sideburns
I’ve been trying to extend
These fifteen years.”

Today that’s what I tell
The woman with the shears
And buzzing clippers.

So long I’ve stayed away
My fear’s I can’t recall
How I should look.

But if she gets it wrong
There’ll be no tears;
I’ll simply grow it back.

©2007  John I. Blair 
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Leprechaun Lament

Have you ever seen a Leprechaun dance?
Seen him click his heels and merrily prance
And with magical powers generate romance
As he spears unsuspecting hearts with a lance.

He chose the victim with a transitory glance,
Brought a flush to her cheeks as no rouge could enhance,
Though he'd sought not a solitary soul to entrance,
Her heart and soul were captured by the Leprechaun's dance.
No harm meant he
To such as she
No devious scheme
Just expressing glee
He kissed her lips
As she came to grips
With his smile all abeam
Her heart did eclipse
Entrapment complete
Swift and neat
In a curious dream
All soft and sweet
With furrowed brow
She muses how
She'd thought them a team
With sacred vow
Sometimes her mind
Gentle and kind
Sings a silent scream
For now she can't find
The Leprechaun that she saw dance,
Saw him click his heels and . . .

©February 2010 Mary E. Adair

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What makes a Marriage?

On Friday, February 12, 2010 a gay couple Marc Freligh and Troy Litwhiler walked into the Schuylkill County courthouse in Pottsville, PA. They applied for a marriage license and were immediately denied. According to the Republican Herald Newspaper, Freligh, a member of Schuylkill County's chapter of Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays, said he and Litwhiler weren't surprised by the response.
"We did this to make the point," Freligh told the Republican Herald. "There are people who do want to get married. We made the point, and that was it."
As part of Freedom to Marry Week, Freligh said same-sex couples across the state applied for marriage licenses Friday.
Each will be denied.
There is a bill introduced in the Pennsylvania Legislature by state Sen. Daylin Leach, D-17, that would grant same-sex couples equal marriage rights in Pennsylvania, but that bill has met resistance from some Republicans and traditional marriage supporters.
Freligh, told the Republican Herald, that he and Litwhiler were in Harrisburg earlier this week rallying in support of the bill. Should it pass, Pennsylvania would join Massachusetts, Vermont, Iowa, Connecticut, Maine and the District of Columbia in allowing same-sex couples to marry.
The Republican Herald Newspaper article drew numerous online comments. Some people who are vehemently against same sex marriage used bible quotes, nature, and our nation’s founding fathers too argue against it. Christian Fundamentalists argue that same sex marriage is un-American, unnatural, and an abomination against god’s law. “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” a commenter wrote.
I am a straight male and I have been attracted to the opposite sex for as long as I can remember. That being said, I do not have a problem with same sex marriage. I am in favor of it because ten percent of our society is made up of Homosexuals. They would tell you that their sexual orientation is something they were born with and they do not view their lifestyle as an abomination against god.
I personally believe …….
    A ceremony of religious rituals and a piece of paper from the state does not validate a marriage. It is the intimacy and the inability to separate oneself from the other, in the spirit of love that validates the marriage. All couples, whether they be heterosexual or homosexual have the capacity to care for one another. Therefore their union should have equal protection under the law.
    The denial of same sex marriage is being fueled by bible thumping religious conservatives. This should be a State issue not a religious issue. It wasn’t that long ago when slavery was justified on religious grounds. Interracial marriage was also denied due to religious conservative view points. The overturning of those unjust laws did not bring an end to our American way of life.
    Allowing gay marriage in all fifty states will not bring an end to our American way of life either. It wasn’t that long ago in the Roman Catholic Church if you were openly gay you could not be ordained a priest. When there was a huge shortage of vocations for the Priesthood. The R.C. Church quickly changed its policy. Now the majority of priests and seminarians in the Roman Catholic Church are openly gay. The Roman Catholic Church is now okay with that and rightly so.
    The Anglican Church has an openly gay Bishop who is living with a gay partner; unlike the Roman Catholic Church the Anglican Church is marrying gay couples. In the United States though gay marriage should not even be a religious issue it should remain a secular issue.
    Thomas Jefferson, one of our Nation’s founding Fathers once said, “Education and a virtuous electorate will guide our nation forward.” Notice he did not use the word religion. He like most of our Nation’s founding Fathers was a Deist. The Deists during his time believed in God but not in religion. The educated back then believed religion was practicing and living within superstitious beliefs.
    The electorate during the time of Jefferson supported the free expression of religion within society separate from Government interference. Their intent was to erect a wall of separation between Church and State {not} in establishing a Christian Theocracy. In 1947 our Supreme Court the highest court in the land upheld our Founding Fathers intent.
    Religion should not be imposed on the American people cloaked as Government policy. The State by denying same sex couples the right to marry is in fact imposing religious views on a segment of society and denying them equal protection under the law. As stated before, unjust laws such as these have been overturned in the past. Woman now have the right to vote, interracial marriages are allowed in all fifty states, no one today thinks slavery is justified under religious precepts.
    Society will always have a segment of people that live within a fundamentalist mindset. However, the majority of free thinkers will allow reason and education to move our nation on a virtuous path. Two hundred years ago most universities in America debated whether some people are born evil. The common belief was we are all born with the capacity to do good or bad. We implicitly know right from wrong. It was argued, if we didn’t know right from wrong the world would be full of depravity. The world, however, is not full of depravity and not all people are depraved. Therefore we all have the capacity for good.
    Most of our founding fathers viewed the concept of original sin and Christ taking on the sins of the world as nothing more than superstitious mythology.
    A good education based on reason, logic, and the arts with a virtuous upbringing is all that is needed for a just society. Homosexual people can also live virtuous lives as married couples. I don’t think our founding fathers would disapprove of homosexual marriages or try to deny gay couples the right to marry.
Always with love, from Suzhou, China.
Thomas F. O’Neill
(800) 272-6464
China Cell: 8615114565945
Skype: thomas_f_oneill
Other articles, short stories, and commentaries by Thomas F. O'Neill can be found at the links below.

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Time to Vote

When it's time to vote
What will you stand for,
What cause fills your heart
With joy and much more.

Have you listened well
To the vocal crowd
Or clung to your choice
With no change allowed

And if/when it fails
To come out on top
Will it crush you down
Will your heart just stop

If so, you're not grown
An infant it seems
For starting over fuels
The survivor dreams

Your own truth will win
You've chosen so well
Seems almost a sin

Such experience
Enriches the mind
Then growth for your soul
Is not far behind

You'll learn to define
An ultimate choice
That thrills you down deep
And tunes up your voice

For if you're silent
It's a real bummer
And instead of wiser
You'll feel dumber

We abuse our right
By ignoring it
So march to the Polls
And there do your bit

One vote plus others
Will carry the day,
Fill the office well--
Yes, that is the way!

©2/17/2010  Mary E. Adair
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My Ghost

        I don't want to boast
But I danced with a ghost
One soft and gentle eve.

        I was all alone
Nobody was home
He was not make believe.

        He streamed through the door
I could not ignore
The beauty of this wraith.

       I was unafraid
And smiled when he laid
His sheer hand upon my face.

        "Dance with me," he said
I said "But you're dead!
He laughed like silvered glass.

        He swirled and he twirled
His skin was like pearl
His robes like isinglass.

        He held out his hand
And the music began
From where I have no clue.

        He floated toward me
I reached and could see
Through him, then through and through.

        The music was sweet
I felt my heart beat
In time with the harmony

        My ghost held me light
The moon, glowing bright,
Poured down like golden honey.

        "Why are you with me?"
I asked him and he
Said "I was lonesome tonight.

        "I wanted to dance
"Saw you at a glance
"Standing lone in the earthlight."

        "Yes I was alone,"
"My heart felt like stone
"My lover had died, you see.

        "I'm sad and I ache
"I can't seem to shake
"This mood of melancholy."

        "Ah ha," my ghost smiled
"Then let's dance a while
"And I'll get you back some cheer."

        Then he spun me 'round
His see-through robes wound
'Bout me, and he held me near.

        My core lightened then
And I asked him when
My heart would finally heal.

        He laughed as we danced
And I felt entranced.
I heard my own laugh peal.

        We danced on and on
To the edge of dawn
And all the while my ghost crooned.

       He soothed my sore soul
And made me feel whole
As we swayed under the moon.

        My heart felt so pure
I said "Are you sure
"You're really a ghost, good sir?"

        "Oh yes," said he back
"My earth name was Jack,"
And I stopped still in mid whirl.

        I looked up at him
My eyes instant brimmed
With tears of awful surprise

        "You should not make jokes
"At sad grieving folks,
"Or make up terrible lies.

        "The love of my life
"Was Jack, I'm his wife
"A fact I suspect you knew."

        "I did," smiled my ghost
As he slid round a post
And his eyes were twinkled blue.

        He grinned wide at me
Then laughed with such glee
I didn't know what to think.

        "Now, why do you giggle?"
I asked, then he wiggled
And shot me a merry wink.

        "My job here tonight
"Was to give you delight,
"To help you over your pain.

        "And a message I bring
"On an angel's wing
"From Jack, your cherished swain.

        "He says `Do not fear!
`I'm so happy here
`Though I miss you awfully much.

        `Laugh all you can
`And ignore the span
`Between us. We still can touch.

        `Call me with your heart
`And though we're apart
`I'll hear and answer true.

        `And soon, dear, I swear
`We once more will share
`All time, and our dear love too.'"

        I looked at my ghost
And said "That's the most
"Happy I've felt in a while.

        "I'm glad you saw Jack
"But wish he were back
"Here. And then I'd smile."

         My ghost looked me close
Said "Don't be morose,
"Laugh! It's what your Jack wants."

        "You know a great deal
"Of how Jack would feel,
"I think you're a dilettante!"

        "Look close at me, dear,"
My ghost pulled me near
And I peered into his face.

        I gasped "Now I see!"
My sad heart flew free!
And I wept in that fair place.

        This ghost was my Jack
He'd chose to come back
To tell me he was Okay.

        To quiet my grief.
It's now my belief
He wished to show me the way.

        "I just could not see
"That you were he
"When you swept me up to dance!

        "I thank you, dear love
"You came from above
"So I could have a good chance

        "To heal from your death
"To now draw each breath
"With joy. Oh thanks for this time!"

        It's hard to explain
How quickly my pain
Then vanished, like a rung chime.

        My ghost faded back,
My sweet, darling Jack
Left me alone in the night.

        But now I was glad
And no longer sad
Now I smiled in the moonlight.

        "Thank you," I called
to my ghost, then I bawled
But they were tears of bliss.

        I heard him call back
"Remember your Jack!
"Now catch, I send you a kiss!"

        The music got soft
While Jack went aloft
I waved and then cried out,

        "I'll see you real soon
"Please, wait by the moon
"And never, ever doubt

        "That I loved you fair
"And now I can bear
"That you're gone. I love you Jack."

        And I heard my ghost cry
As he sailed to the sky
“I love you too.   I’ll be back.”

©1998 LC Van Savage from "LC'S TAKE - POETRY I." published in 1998.

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